Back from a sedentary week

I visited my dad in Chicago and ended up having about six days with no exercise whatsoever — except for a long walk I took one night in our old neighborhood.

For 2011, I’ve designed five workouts for myself that cover most of the movements (or types of movements) that I want to maintain proficiency in, during this period of time in which I don’t have specific performance-improvement goals. What with running CF 206, caring for our house and yard, playing guitar, and tons of reading both work-related (currently: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human) and not work-related (current book-club book is Faithfull, which is Marianne Faithfull’s very entertaining memoir), I don’t have the bandwidth to commit to a specific improvement in strength or conditioning. My goal instead is to maintain proficiency and respectable strength in the deadlift, squat, press, clean and jerk, and snatch, plus flexibility/mobility improvements.

My five workouts are to be done during each two-week period. Five strength workouts in two weeks is both realistic timewise and adequate to my maintenance goals. Today was workout #1:

– Warm up with jumping rope and mobility work
– Chest-to-bar pull-up ladder to five and back down to 1 (A ladder means: do 1 and rest; do 2 and rest; 3 and rest; up to 5 and go back down)
– 3 x 5 warm-up deadlifts at 135, 155, 165; 5 x 3 work-set deadlifts at 200 lbs (wearing WL shoes and using alternating grip without hook grip–I have a habit of using hook with alternating grip and it isn’t necessary)
– 5 x 3 ring dips
– Chest-to-bar pull-up ladder to 5 and back down once again
– Shoulder mobility from Scott Hagnas

Because my goal is maintenance, next time workout 1 rolls around (i.e., in two weeks), I may do the same deadlift work sets instead of going heavier. During each week I’ll squeeze in other workouts/exercise whenever possible, such as in a class, but my primary commitment is to my specific five “maintenance” workouts during each two weeks.

Kipping chest-to-bar pull-up


After almost every workout I practice some handstands. Over the past year and a half, I’ve gotten slowly better at getting up straight and staying up there for a few seconds, especially since I started intentionally going all the way over into a clumsy backbend. That improved my nerve. I noticed that when I start to tip backwards, I avoid collapse by picking up my right hand, pivoting, and then bringing my feet down. This is a totally reliable safety move. I also used the right hand first in all my futile attempts to take a few steps on my hands. I started to wonder what would happen if I moved the left hand instead. One day a couple of weeks ago when Nancy and I were taking turns practicing our tumbling, I decided my goal was only to take one step with the left hand, or to use the left hand instead of the right in the pivot safety descent.
Taking a step with the left hand was hard at first. It seemed to be glued to the floor. But it turned out to be a major missing ingredient. Many times, taking that first step on the left hand seemed to cause my balance to sort of click into place. The same evening I took five steps on my hands after starting with the left. It was exciting. So now I always start with the left. Two other times, I’ve taken five steps. In turn this seems to help me to hold a handstand more often for three to five seconds.
I need to learn what exactly to do while I’m up there to hold it longer instead of just thinking, Whee, I’m still up, how long can this last? and hoping for a miracle. Meanwhile Nancy is getting good at holding a straight, motionless handstand for a really long time. She is learning to flex her shoulders to adjust the balance, something I haven’t properly attempted yet because it makes me fall. Guess I better work on that.
Megan has some impressive and inspiring handstand-method videos linked off of her March 28 blog post.

Study of 20 Subjects by 150 Researchers Finds Fidgeting Fitness Friendly; No Agreement on Implications

Warning: common-sense incompatibility ahead. Abandon all common sense now.
This just in: moving burns more calories than sitting still, and moving more can result in weight loss! How surprising. What is the value of this new, radical finding? Get overweight people to fidget more, and they can gain the degree of control over their weight that they may be missing.
A Mayo Clinic research staff of 150 cooked for and, using sensor-equipped underwear, monitored the physical movements of 10 lean couch potatoes and 10 “slightly obese” couch potatoes. The underwear—sports bras and briefs—was developed and tested by study director Dr. James Levine and “a colleague.” Dr. Levine wore the underwear around the Mayo clinic, over his suit, in order to “test them for comfort.” He says he especially enjoyed wearing them outside his clothes in the face of Mayo’s strict dress code.
Besides collecting underwear movement data, the team also studied whether the amount of each person’s fidgeting was “innate” or was itself caused by leanness or obesity. This necessitated using controlled diets to force subjects to gain or lose weight at different times.
Among the team’s findings:
-To control what research subjects eat while modifying their weight, you have to cook their every meal for months at a time as well as “have them pledge not to cheat.” This amounted to 20,000 meals.
-Fidgeting burns about 350 more calories a day than not fidgeting, “enough to produce a weight loss of 30 to 40 pounds in one year without trips to the gym.”
-Lean couch potatoes “innately” fidget more, always getting up to pace around. In contrast, the tendency to sit still also “seems to be biological…. It is the predisposition to be inactive that leads to obesity, and not the other way around.”
How this is news we can use:
Study director Dr. Levine: This offers hope to overweight people. They can make small changes “like making an effort to walk more and ride less” to control their weight. The obesity trend is due more to decreases in daily exercise for average people than to increases in eating. Putting his money where his mouth is (New York Times – use a login from here), he’s mounted his computer over a treadmill and walks while he works. Has he lost weight? He claims not to know. He was already thin.
On the other hand, says obesity researcher Dr. Eric Ravussin of Pennington Biomedical Research Center: “because the tendency to sit still seemed to be biological, …you cannot tell people, ‘Why don’t you sit less and be a little more fidgety,’ because they may do it for a couple of hours but won’t sustain it for days and weeks and months and years.” He thinks it would help if neighborhoods and shopping districts were organized in ways that would encourage walking.
Yet another, presumably highly paid researcher, Dr. Rudolph Leibel of Columbia U. Medical Center, offers the third hand: “People can be taught and motivated to change their behavior in service of their health.” He says it is plausible, but not proved, that the urge to sit still is innate.
Rockefeller U. obesity researcher Dr. Jules Hirsch uses the fourth hand to point out that studies in the 1950s already found that thin people move more than heavy ones. He doesn’t think this new study is going to help increase understanding of the obesity problem.
What about the study participants? What do they think? One of the overweight subjects, a 41-year-old Minnesota man, said he finds the results encouraging. To him, these results mean he doesn’t have to join a gym to lose weight; he can lose weight by moving around more. He’s skeptical that there’s a sitting-still gene. “I personally believe in self-determination over detrimental biological predisposition,” he said.
One more study joins the cumulative proof that, look at it however scientifically you want, staying thin is just plain difficult. Just what we needed. Well, at least the 150 staffers and 20 subjects got paid. Maybe movement-sensing undies will yet prove to be a boon to society.

Learn To Do a Handstand

I looked up some tips on handstands. All of these articles were interesting. A couple of them emphasize the need to hold your body stiff. Find the balance and hold it with the whole body, making only small adjustments. I need to remember to practice finding the right position and stiffening my body instead of kicking up any old way, barely feeling the balance, and coming straight down again.
“After an extended break from childhood gymnastics in Japan, Masako Kardos, age 43 of Laguna Beach, California has mastered the handstand…”
Look at your hands from underneath your eyebrows. Push up from the floor so you extend in your shoulders. …”
“Kicking up against a wall can help give you a feel for being upside down but should not be used for practicing a handstand. …”
“To test to see if you are strong enough to hold your body straight, lie on the floor on your back, with your arms down by your side. Tighten your body, keeping it straight along the floor. Then, have someone lift only your feet about 3 feet into the air. If you are still tight, your legs, hips, and torso all should still be as straight as they were when you were still flat on the ground. …”
Our hands become our feet, so you have to think about it in the mechanics of the way you walk on your feet. …


After being away on vacation and then having a chest cold, I went to boxing class for the first time in about 16 days. At the end of the workout, I had a pleasantly feverish, parched feeling. That sounds kind of strange, but once my system got all heated up, it was a relief to feel hot and parched rather than congested and miserable. That was Saturday. By Sunday night, my muscles were so sore, in so many places, that it reminded me of the first time Tom and I took the boxing class, almost two years ago. We were sore for about five days. The first few days it was comical in that we could hardly walk (especially up or down steps) without exclaiming “ow! ow! ow!” Last night, I did some stretching and some leaf-raking to try to work out the soreness. But it was still outrageous in that every time I stood up to move around, for the rest of the evening, I found that I was completely sore all over again.
I don’t mind having sore muscles because I know it’s temporary and is not a sign of injury, and I laugh at myself as I stiffly get up or sit down with a groan. Still, I was happy to get up this morning and find that the soreness was almost completely gone. I can’t go to the workout class tonight because of my writing class, but I did some digging in an old, weedy flower bed and planted some bulbs. (If you’re new to working out and have wondered how to tell whether you have muscle soreness or an injury, the second Q and A on this page offers some insight.)
If cost was not an issue, I’d like to belong to the YMCA as well as the boxing gym. That way, I could work out at times when the boxing class schedule isn’t convenient. Sometimes I work out by going down to the lake and jogging back up the hill, jumping rope on the patio, or doing a hand-weight routine. I like to exercise outside. But especially as the weather gets rainier, it’s fun to go to a nice facility like the Y where I can work out on my own as well as having lots of equipment available to me. That’s where I exercised before we discovered the boxing gym—the downtown Seattle YMCA had just been remodeled, and it’s deluxe!

Bike Ride

Links to two very different, inspiring writers, one who is all about fitness and one who just happens to be extremely active. This column contains ideas and reminders about good posture and creating a reliable connection between mind and body. It’s by Holly Rustick, the current Ms. Fitness Hawaii (here’s an interesting article about how she got there) and an enterprising woman who seems very down to earth about all this fitness stuff. I’d love to go to Hawaii and take her workout classes. (Dream on.)
The other writer I want to link to is a Seattle woman named Helen, who has been keeping her online journal since 1997. She has to be one of the longest-running, most committed online journal-keepers out there. On top of that, she has one of the most beautiful journals I’ve read. Her introspective pieces and her descriptions of epic Northwest bike rides are both so eloquent that I’m going to keep reading her as a challenge to improve my own writing. As an inspiration to just get out there and do something big, take a look at this entry on a rural bike ride in Eastern Washington’s desert. I found Helen via Anita Rowland.
After spending way too much time yesterday browsing Helen’s archives, which read like a beautifully detailed memoir, I was inspired to try a new and longer-than-usual bike ride today. I love long bike rides, but most of my recent bike rides have been only six or eight miles (though hilly). I want to do more exploring this summer while I have some free time.
I rode down to Montlake Ave. and the freeway, where you catch the bus across Lake Washington to the Eastside, and put my bike on the bus. I got off at the first stop on the other side and pedaled the rest of the way eastward to Microsoft to meet Tom for lunch. The route follows the north side of highway 520. It’s partly a paved bike trail and partly the shoulder of Northup Way, a fast-moving suburban street.
I rode 50 minutes from the time I got off the bus until I met Tom at his building. Based on that, my round trip door-to-door may have been about 16 miles. I want to work my way up to riding all the way around both of the lakes in one big loop. There’s a really good bike route map for the whole county, so finding the route would not be too hard—but it would be an all-day ride. I’ve got to get a battery for my bike odometer.