Thursday, May 31, 2012


The other day, just before I went away for the weekend I bumped into the potentially caber-tossing Mediterranean (I need a nickname for him...  I was thinking Hamishopoulos, but am open to suggestions) at the gym and he showed me upright barbell rows.  I was doing the lift and he was explaining to me how it was good for developing my shoulders and he poked at me to illustrate some point.  The he recoiled and said, "Your shoulders are hard!  I wasn't expecting that."  I told him to poke some more to make sure he wasn't just jabbing some bone, but he confirmed it was muscle.

Of course, I take this as a compliment and I'm all delighted, but today I was thinking about it and had to laugh at myself.  I'm all excited over the most minute of compliments, but really, these are infinitesimally small baby steps.  You take a look at some of the other weightlifting women on the internet posting photos of their gorgeous bods, and you come to realise my weenie little boasts are the product of a pathetic mind grappling for some affirmation.

That said, I'm not discouraged.  I admire the women I'm looking at, in a large part because in most cases it's not their job to lift and look awesome.  It gives me hope that in a year or two  I won't be sporting a jello belly and I can wear a bathing suit without embarrassment.

This might be vain hope, given that I eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little; but there's still some hope.  It's pretty awesome, really.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Last night I got back from a long weekend away camping at Acadia National Park.  I spent the weekend meeting new people and getting to know others a little better, learning that my head is completely unwilling to adapt to outdoor rope climbing this year, and eating and quaffing beer like a 17-year-old boy... in other words, indiscriminately and to excess.

I often wonder and worry about how much work can be annihilated with one wanton evening or weekend.  In general I eat fairly clean, although I'm still working on better meal timing and portion control.  I've never been much of a sugar fiend, and after some finger-waggling from Tara I dramatically cut down on my fruit intake.  I do have a nasty tendency to enjoy a bit of beer or wine, but I try to keep a that limited as well.

One weekend of over-indulgence is equivalent to how many weeks of decent eating and lifting?  Do we ever get to a point where the daily good practices are more than a match for a decedent evening of a wine and cheese and a big meal with dessert?  Is being healthy a Sisyphean challenge where every slip will be indelibly marked on one's body?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bench Press

I did my very first bench press today!  Actually I did 5 of them... 3 sets of 5 of them!  Number 6 invariably involved me going about a third of the way up and completely stalling.  Sadly, these were all done with the bar alone.  No weight.

But hey!  It's a new lift!  Yippee!

The caber-tosser was there (Actually, he looks more Mediterranean, but has the body of a caber-tosser, you know?), and I asked if he'd teach me how to bench press.  He was stunned that I'd never tried it before, and when I pointed out I've only been lifting for 4 weeks he said, "Really?  You look like you've been working out all your life."

So not only did I do bench presses, but I got complimented, too...  Kick Ass!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gym Conversations

The other day I was at the gym and this guy who looked like he ought to be wearing a kilt and a beard and heaving cabers said do me, "You sure love your squats, don't you?  Every time I see you here, you're doing squats."

It made me smile, because in all truth, I am growing to love the squat.  The first time I did them I felt clumsy and intimidated and actually pestered a total stranger (who was apparently already teaching a couple of other people some lifts), if he could give me a hand.  That guy was kind enough to show me how to set up the squat cage and was there to spot me, so that helped a great deal, but afterward when I was on my own I felt clumsy and intimidated again.  Then I read the Cookie Monster's amazing post on squatting and things seemed to come together a little better.  Now, I'm still squatting weenie little weights, and still getting a little snagged at the beginning of the ascent for my last rep or two, but I'm enjoying it and eager to push harder and lift more.

I don't know what's next?  I've actually not yet tried a deadlift, or bench press, but I'm looking forward to it.  Do you have a favourite lift, or a lift you've started to love after you finally "got it"?

Monday, May 21, 2012

4 weeks

I was shocked to realise the other day that I've been now been lifting for 4 weeks.

Brief recap with added details:  I started this blog sort of as a record of my feeble attempts at self-improvement but it all started with starting to lift weights.  I'd say "bodybuilding", but that connotes images of large beefy people who are devoted to the gym and eating clean and otherwise better caretakers for the temple of their body than I think I could ever be.  That all said, for a variety of reasons I decided that I needed to getter fitter, and that lifting was the way to do it.  More than anything else I've been inspired by Feminist Figure Girl (aka Lianne McTavish), who, if you've not yet discovered, is an amazing academic bodybuilder who keeps a virtually addictive blog.  Lianne has in turn led me to Tara (or maybe I should say Tara led me to herself, by leaving comments on Lianne's blog), who give me that gentle, but firm boot in the butt that got me started.  Tara also keeps a blog and is a personal trainer who is remarkably generous with her time and knowledge, and so wonderfully accessible.

I started lifting with the "LiveFit" program.  I can't give it thumbs up or down as I don't have enough knowledge or experience to yet be opinionated, but I do encourage everyone to read Tara's post on the topic, but not just for the post, but for all the comments as well.  Astoundingly helpful!  After some discussion with Tara, I decided the do the workouts from the first two phases of the program, and to adopt some of the eating habits advocated, and afterwards to get a personalised program.  Without getting into detail, I'm altering this plan.

At any rate, I've realised I'm 4 weeks in.  I'm surprised, since it doesn't seem like so much time has elapsed.  I wish I could post photos of the excellent results I'm seeing, but I don't think there's anything to see just yet.  I do, however want to pat myself on the back about the whole thing.  I can't make a guess as to how long I need to be doing this before it becomes part of me, and not something I'm trying out, but still, 4 weeks don't suck. Yay, me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Am I Bitching

I had an interesting conversation this morning with someone... my hair guy, actually.  He is an artist with the sheers, and more than worth the half hour (one way) drive and hefty price.  Normally on the attitude front he's a little too woo for my likes, but today he tapped on to something that got me thinking.

We were doing the catch-up chattiness and somehow we got on to the topic of my work.  I did a very minor rage against one of the students and his dispute with the boss.  My brilliant hair guy listened to my gripe and commented (and I'm paraphrasing for the sake of brevity, I admit), "One really does most vilify the attributes of others which they most hate in themselves, don't they?"  I did originally type out the details of the issue, but I deleted them realising that what the student is or is not doing is not the point of the post, but the hair guy's read of the situation.

The comment was not directed to me or my griping at the time, but nonetheless it promptly got me thinking what is it that I most hate in other people, and what does that say about me?  I loathe egotism, but if anything I backlash against it by being extra-hard on myself and almost never even recognising my accomplishments let alone inflating them.  So I thought more about it and used my gripe against the student as my launching point.  It wasn't disrespect (see above, I think it's related to egotism).  And then I realised... in this case, and probably many others, it's laziness.  The student isn't doing his work, and taking advantage of the fact that he can get away with it at the moment.  It makes me mad.  Not just the taking advantage part (which does burn me), but just how the student has to my eyes more of less been coasting on past accomplishments for at least a year now.  I want to think that I couldn't live with myself if I had been doing that.  I want to think that I'd never milk an opportunity in that way.  I want to think that I work hard.

I want to think all those things, but damn am I ever concerned that it's not true.

Why, for example, am I blogging right now instead of going to the gym, or isolating DNA, or streaking plates, or mating cells, or uploading sequences into a database? I can't call it a coffeebreak for more than fifteen minutes, can I?  After so many months can I really continue to blame my lousy climbing on time off and injury?  Am I not a totally lazy person myself, and shouldn't I be doing more to fix that, than griping about others being lazy too?

What trait do you have that you think you avoid fixing by getting angry at others for having?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bad Week at the Gym

I had a crap week at the gym.  Both in the weight room gym and the climbing gym.  I'm just going to gripe and whine a bit, I'm afraid.

In the climbing gym I went to a "technique clinic" on Monday, and rapidly discovered that the person I talked to about it was misinformed and that the clinic was no help to me at all.  Not to say it was a bad teacher or anything, just that it was really aimed more towards the beginner than anyone else.  Not only was everything covered stuff I had learned before, it was also all stuff I had taught before.  After that I worked on some problems with little success and then a guy I knew there wanted to play add-on, which was a stupid idea because he of course promptly added on moves that were too hard for me to do.  Not much of a game.  By the end of the night I just felt weak and useless and all I wanted to do was cry.

In the weight room the week started with me missing a workout due to an impromptu meeting with the boss.  At the time I didn't think anything of it since this is the week wherein I'm supposed to do one day twice... I figured, "ah well, I guess it'll be just another 4-days on kind of week"  Then a couple of days and another impromptu meeting or two later (my boss is in a manic phase), I miss another workout.  Add to that the fact that it's now officially summer and the gym closes about 4 hours earlier than it used to and so twice I was ejected from the gym before I got everything done.

Hard not to feel like a fuckup this week...  and like a weakling....

What do you do when you miss workouts and feel weak and pathetic?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First Noticeable Change

Of course given that I'm just shy of 3 weeks lifting weights, I'm all anxious to notice changes in my body.  That's not exactly true... I wasn't really thinking I was going notice anything for months, if at all, but quite surprisingly I've already discovered an actual change.

It used to be (for at least a few months), that were I to lie on my back with my hands clasped behind my head, I could let my left arm relax, and sink to the ground I was lying on, but my right arm I'd always keep cocked up a little bit.  If I let my right arm sink to the ground it hurt my shoulder, just on the front side of where my arm attaches to my body.  It kind of made lying on my back like that unpleasant, as I could never fully relax.

I no longer have that problem!  I first noticed just last week that it seemed that my right shoulder wasn't quite as irritated as it used to be when I lay back with my hands behind my head.  I thought to myself, "naaaaaaah... you're imagining it"  But I checked again just last night.  Joy!  No pain!

May seem like a small thing, but if anyone reading has ever had the situation of having a little constant pain, you can certainly understand what I'm excited about.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Something that is completely baffling to me is the set-up of the athletic facility here on campus, and some of the rules which have been set.  Scattered liberally over the walls of the place are posters instructing people that a certain level of decorum in terms of dress is expected.  The posters specify, "NO tanktops, NO short shorts, etc".  I have even now heard tale of people who were ejected from the facility on the occasion that they wandered through the halls in a tanktop.

Don't get me wrong, I can understand the notion behind having such rules as that for modesty in dress... you want the facility to be a place for the pursuit of fitness, and not a den of carbonated hormones, blatant ogling, and meat-market shenanigans.  You want the women to feel safe and unobjectified as they trade text messages on their smartphones while strolling on elliptical machines, and the men to not be distracted from admiring their own flexing muscles in the weight room by an expanse of shoulder, cleavage, or armpit hair that someone else has on display.  This all makes sense, although a little on the puritanical side.

What completely fails to make sense, however, is the setup of the athletic facility itself.  The two rooms of cardio machines upstairs, the two free weight rooms downstairs, and even the weight machine room all have windows overlooking the pool.  The pool... where the standard mode of dress is nearly-naked, and anything an individual is wearing is typically tight.

So those hefting iron or calculating heart rates get to simultaneously sweat-soak their t-shirts and stare at exposed flesh and unhindered curves cavorting in the water.

Does this make sense?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I have been trying to thinking of something pithy to say by way of self introduction, but nothing is coming.  The truth of the matter is that at times I want to write about things that are on my mind, but I don't exactly want to share these things with people I already know.  People judge, they have expectations, and they have loads of advice.  None of these things are inherently bad, but at times I want a space from where I can speak freely without the judgement, expectations, and advice of people who have known me in the past in my actual meat-space life.  Hence, blog.

When I was younger, there were a number of people amongst my close friends who used to talk a lot about the things they wanted to do, and it often came couched in terms that indicated these things were not just ideas or desires, but actual plans.  Most of the time these things turned out to be nothing more than  talk.  Over time I noticed and was perturbed by the empty words.  I didn't want to talk like that.  I've tried hard not to talk like that, but no one has ever pointed out the times I've failed, so I don't really know if I'm successful or not.  Regardless of present success, I try to do things and then talk about them when and if they become a part of me or my life.  No empty plans.

I am, I think like many people, on a constant journey of bettering myself.  Over times the idea of a "better" self shifts and changes, and aspects of myself will invariably wax or wane in priority.  There are things that I know I am in no way able to change (How does one become smarter, for example?), and there are things that I have little motivation to change (spinsterhood does not suck).  There are also things that I feel I can and want to take on, and so here I am, attempting to make myself accountable (in whatever esoteric sense) for those things.  I know that I will never be perfect, and frankly there are aspects of myself that while imperfect to others are just fine to me.  See "little motivation to change", above, and if that doesn't work, just picture one of my hands simultaneously clutching a stein of beer and presenting the "fuck you" finger.

That said, the thing that is presently of interest to me is my physical self.  I don't think that fit people are particularly better or more motivated than the populace at large, but I feel that I can and want to become more fit myself.  I've been in a climbing rut for awhile now, and while I can blame its inception on injury and major life changes, the only thing I can blame for its persistence is myself.  I feel "fat" (used here not to reflect on weight alone), and I've decided to stop whining about it and get off my ass and change it.  Assuming that things here start to improve, I will at least be able to look into a full-length mirror without disgust.  I've tried and continue to dislike running, so I'm starting to lift.  I'm just shy of two weeks in to a weight-lifting version of couch to 5k, so I can't go boasting about anything happening to me, except that I'm pleased at myself for doing it.

So the blog starts here.  It starts with me wanting to talk about what it's like to start going to a gym.  It might be the first thing I've taken on with a feeling of "I can do better", or maybe it's just the first thing I'm writing about.  Either way, I'm talking and doing.