Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Left Hanging

On a related note, I've been climbing more regularly for two or three weeks now.  My climbing was also shut down considerably during the work-related insanity.  I'm not going to the gym tonight, though.  Some of it is that I got delayed at work, some of it is that it's been snowing all day and the roads might get nasty by the time I'm driving home, and some of it is that my fingers are hurting more than usual today.  I have some problem fingers (chronic overuse injury, but I've never had them diagnosed), and while they normally might be mildly achey when I clench a fist the day after climbing, one of them has been ow-y all of yesterday and today as well, and with little provocation.  Sensibly, I know I should rest it.  Honestly, though, I don't want to.

I am stoked to go climbing like I haven't been in a long, long time.  I remember this feeling of vague and constant excitement, like a diluted version of how I felt the day before my birthday when I was a little kid.  I used to feel like this all the time when I was new to climbing, and it's come back at points where I felt like I was making noticeable progress or had projects that inspired me.  I've found some new projects in Lincoln Woods which have captured my imagination lately, and one of them is hard enough and fun enough that it will probably hold my attention for a year or more.  I am loving how I'm feeling.  It's been so long.  It's invigorating.  I've been needing this.


Yesterday I went back to the gym for the first time in a long time.  Some of the strength I used to have was gone, but not as much as I anticipated.  Part of it was the usual exercise in frustration and seething hatred for undergrads here.  I waited so long for equipment that I only managed to get through half my routine before I had to bail to make a lab meeting.  It would have normally had me pissy beyond belief, but it was a leg day and I had already pushed hard through squats and deadlifts and what I did get done seemed to be enough to give me a very subtle high.  It's been a long time since I had that exercise high.  I keep forgetting that I'm susceptible to it, and keep forgetting how much I like it.  Someone remind me next time I'm acting ambivalent about lifting heavier or lead climbing overhangs until I fall too far to get back on the wall.

Also my ass is sore.  I find that post-exercise pain will evolve for me.  Most of the time it comes on slowly (and with climbing I'm pretty much guaranteed a day of grace before I start hurting), and sometimes it'll move.  So while my hamstrings were sort this morning, my pain has now settled into my sizeable bum and inner thighs.

It feels really good getting back in the gym.  I was not expecting this.  I was expecting reluctance and apprehension and self-recrimination and the heartbreak of starting all over again.  Instead I feel like I'm sliding into a warm comforting bath... the kind that makes your ass hurt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bite Me, UCrap

Yesterday I finally steeled myself and went back into the gym.  I kept telling myself not to worry about numbers, and by patient with myself, but it was still a little nerve-wracking.  I wasn't sure how I'd handle myself.  I needn't have worried.  I didn't lift well or anything like that, but I forgot how much I hate the gym crowded with undergrads, so the slow-simmering rage kept be distracted from myself.

The rage got worse when my mentally patting myself on the back for walking into the gym and my narrative about how I was going to work hard was put to an abrupt stop:

Seriously.  The place is closed all of next week.  The hell.  Fine that this University lets all the children bugger off for the full week, but closing down everything else is just asshole business.

So now I've got another wrench in my aim to create a new normal that I can live with.  I'm worried that I'll lose the little bit of momentum I have.  The boss is gone this week and next, so part of what I was hoping for was to use the freedom to establish a habit where I break up the day with a gym trip instead of saving it for after the lab (that was part of how it got pushed out to begin with: who wants to go to the gym after an 11 hour work day? or cook, or launder clothing, or do anything else for that matter?).

Aside from the fretting, how was the first day back?  Well, there was the aforementioned rage.  The crowding of the place really gets to me, because I am just not happy having to wait for a piece of space or a bit of a machine or something.  I get especially peeved when someone is claiming more than they need, like if they're parked in a squat rack to do their deadlifts or they've stockpiled dumbbells at their feet from their previous sets or if they don't clean off a bar, or if they're parked in the middle of the room to muck with their hair.  I know that expecting some 19-year-old boy to clean up after himself is asking far far far too much, but I can dream, can't I?  Lifting just might succeed where climbing has failed and get me to get up earlier in the morning.  Ha.  I shiver just thinking about it.  I'm more likely to become gregarious.

Right now my pecs are a little sore, but it's that good sore of having tried to bench more than I should have, rather than the full-body ache of nascent depression I was starting to get a couple of weeks ago, or that worrying stiff ache of my hands the day after some hard climbing.  It's a sore I am sort of looking forward to becoming reacquainted with.

The question is, how do I keep up the motivation for now, and what can I do in my own time and space to keep from returning to the world of overworked sloth?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Part of the Club

On Tuesday I went to my climbing gym.  I did some bouldering and discovered that more than being weaker (which I am), I am less trusting of myself and my body.  I experienced this after coming back from breaking my ankle and it's the hardest thing to deal with.  Losing faith in my own strength and abilities is hard, and the faith comes back so much slower than the strength.

It was so good being back, however.  I was reminded how much I really love the regulars there, I got into a conversation about virology with one of the regulars (there's a small contingent of science grad students from neighbouring universities), shared some chili that someone made, and bouldered with one of my favourite people there.  I adore the guy because he's Mr.  Enthusiastic:  alway psyched, energetic, positive, and having fun.  He's the sort of guy you feel you could tell anything to and he'd never be taken aback or judge against you.  If he was a lot older or I was a lot younger, I'd be seriously crushed out on the guy.

He was wearing a simple bracelet of 5 mm cordalette sealed to itself at the ends.  I noticed one of his other close friends at the gym was sporting an identical one, and so I commented and joked that I wanted to be part of the club, too.  At the end of the night Mr. E brought in some cord and a lighter from his car and set me up.  It's a simple thing, but at the time it really amused me.

The next day we traded some text messages and Mr. E said:

Just remember, on those days that you are feeling down, look at your bracelet and remember that you got people that care a lot about you and got your back no matter what :)

It's just a cute sentiment, but it meant a lot to me.  I've been struggling with a lot of stressors lately, and it even though it seems like such a na├»ve thing that a few centimetres of nylon can carry weight, I do find myself seeing it every so often and feeling a little settled in the world.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Molecular Biology Blues

I've been in a pit lately.

I can't recall when it started...  A month ago?  Two months?  It's irrelevant.  Basically I've been experiencing a marked increase in the pressure I've been receiving from the boss in terms of how much work I'm getting done.  Additionally, he's been getting almost shrill in his complaints (bolstered to a large degree by confirmation bias) about how much people are working in general.  He says "Every time I leave my office, I look to see if the lights are on in the lab and they're always off, nobody ever works late."  The most recent time he said this to me I snapped at him that it was total crap because excluding the night I left early (8:00 pm) to do laundry, I was in late every night that week.

This is not hyperbole... I'm working late almost every night, I'm coming in at least one day on the weekend, sometimes both.  Excluding a few late-evening beers with friends, a few hours of errands,  a brief visit with my parents and friends in Canada, and a hurricane-induced day off, I've been doing nothing but coming to this lab for the past couple of months.

I haven't been climbing.

I haven't been lifting.

And hence, I'm sinking into a pit.

While I was doing my PhD, I learned that climbing regularly did a massive amount of good to keep me mentally and emotionally healthy.  Truthfully, I don't think I'd have ever made it through the degree without that outlet.  I think it's not just the physical release (although it really does a lot more good for me than I'd ever have predicted), but while I'm climbing I'm having a nano-vacation from work in that at the moment I'm climbing, I really can't be thinking about anything else.  I have also been suspecting that I was getting a comparable thing when doing my heaviest lifts (although I know that my need for focus is more tenuous when I'm doing lower-weight reps).

So now I don't have these releases thanks to work pressure.  I could scream about how the students here are putting in far less time and effort that I am (true), and that it's completely ridiculous that so much is resting on my shoulders (probably true), and the boss is being an unfair asshole judging me by the standards he chooses to apply to his own overweight, high-blood-pressured, high-cholesterolled, pre-diabetic self (just whining now), but the screaming isn't going to get me anywhere better.

My old-school coping mechanisms of drinking excessively and stress-eating are also not going to get me anywhere better.

What I have to do is just simply dig my heels in and go climbing and go lifting whether the boss bloody well likes it or not.  I had every intention of doing that starting today (!!!), but of course, just as I was sorting out my gym gear so I could go lift, the boss wandered into the lab to chat with me about what I was doing and now I'm staying late again and waiting on one of the students who needs me to help him do stuff he's not familiar with.  I'm also guessing that by the time I'm done here (after an 11 hour day), I won't have the energy to go into the evening gym crowd to fight for a squat rack.  Heck, I've barely got the energy to wait on the student anymore.

But seriously.... I feel like crap.  I'm tired, my lungs are lousy, I'm dipping into lowers moods at increasing frequency, and I'm losing faith in myself.

I know this is just a big self-pity dump, and I can completely understand people having zero patience for this sort of thing, but I needed to bleat for a bit.  I also need, really badly, a little encouragement to get back into the gym.  I'm scared that all the progress I've made has completely wasted away and that I'll have to start from zero all over again.