Choices and Priorities

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It doesn’t always suck to make the right decision. Everyone knows that when a decision is hard to make, whichever way you choose, there’s going to be regret. People assume that if that’s true, then decision that are easy to make leave no such regrets. Many times they’re correct. When they’re wrong, though, it really sucks.

There are many conventions taking place in my city this weekend. Many of which, I would greatly enjoy: games, writing, and anime are just three purposes of the different conventions. There are other conventions, which I won’t go into here, which I would enjoy even more. Instead, I’m here writing a post sooner than I had planned. Why? I made some choices long ago which I have every intention of honoring. That means those choices are a higher priority.

When these conventions came up, I had intended on attending at least part of one. Then I received word that the money I would use for the convention would be needed for something else. It was an easy choice to make. One night of fun. Following through on a commitment. I may have hedonistic tendencies from time to time, but I place a greater value on keeping my word. I would skip the convention.

Getting progress reports from friends makes me a little envious of their ability to participate. I know what I’m missing. I wish I was there. At the same time, I know I made the right choice. In the short term, I may feel excluded and even a bit lonely. In the long term, others now know I won’t compromise for short term gratification. It means I can be trusted that much more. It means I am safe. It means, when I say something, I can be believed. It means one more step in living as the person I want to be.

Facts and Tips

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I was recently asked to submit three fitness-related facts and/or tips to be published in our gym’s newsletter. I’ve gotten good responses from other trainers as well as members and clients. I thought I’d repost them here for those who don’t receive my gym’s newsletter.

1

Trainers are forever telling their clients to bring their shoulders back and down. We don’t do it to be annoying, or to give us one more thing to correct. We do it for your health and shoulder safety. By bringing the shoulders back and down, what we call “stacking”, you activate many of the shoulder stabilizing muscles. This means the stress of whatever activity you’re doing takes place where it’s supposed to…the muscles. What usually happens when you let your shoulders go is the stress is placed on tendons, ligaments, and even bone. Tendons and ligaments do not have the healing capacity of muscles, so once they’re torn, they tend to stay that way for a long time (sometimes never healing at all). Ligaments and bone do not have the elasticity of muscle. Ligaments that get stretched too much stay that way, which is one reason dislocations are very likely to be repeated. Bone doesn’t stretch at all and tends to break if you try. So when a trainer says, “Keep your shoulders back and down,” what we’re really saying is, “We want you to keep your shoulders safe so you can continue using them for a long time.”

2

One of my favorite full body exercises is easily scalable to any level from beginner to elite. I call them “log-roll burpees”. Here’s the progression:

1. Log-roll: Remember these? Kids usually do it going down hill. Do these on a level surface. Lie on your stomach, put your hands over your head, and roll.

2. Log-roll with plank: Start with a forearm plank, lie down and log-roll once, then end in a forearm plank. Repeat going the other way.

3. Log-roll pushups: Start in the up position (plank on your hands), lower yourself to the ground (1st half of a pushup), log-roll once, push up into plank on your hands (2nd half of a pushup). Repeat on other side.

4. Log-roll squat thrusts: Start from a standing position, squat to put your hands on the floor, step or jump your feet back into plank, lower yourself to the ground (1st half of a pushup), log roll once, push up into plank on your hands (2nd half of a pushup), step or jump your feet to just behind your hands, and stand up. Repeat, but roll the other way.

5. Log roll burpees: Same as log roll squat thrusts, but add a jump each time you stand up.

I like to do a set of these and a set of rows, then a brief rest, followed by another set.

3

I sometimes see people pushing themselves so hard, they end up bent over, hands on knees, and panting. That’s great. It takes focus and discipline to push yourself to that point, and you reap the rewards in the long term. Bent over and panting, however, is one of the slowest ways to recover. A far better way to recover is what we call “active rest”. Active rest involves low intensity movement. For instance, when my clients reach that point, I often have them walk a lap or two around the room we’re working in, or if there’s no room, I have them do a step touch with bicep curls (no weights). This keeps the muscles working, maintaining the pumping action of repeated contractions allowing respiration at the cellular level to be more efficient. The more efficient cellular respiration is, the faster your body gets rid of carbon dioxide, which in turn means your breathing returns to normal much more quickly.

 

If there’s a good response to these here, I might add this type of post to my writing rotation. I might also take questions and turn them into posts.

Vacation (Finally!)

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Provincetown isn’t for everybody. It’s a great place, and I spent my summers growing up up there. There are lots of things to do, lots to see, and lots of ways to relax. But it isn’t for everybody.

It can be challenging if you’re at all uncomfortable around the LGBT(add letters as appropriate) community. If you’re homophobic to any degree, you will most likely be miserable. I say this, not to extoll the virtues of tolerance, but because it is difficult to discuss Provincetown without the topic coming up. I will not even attempt to avoid it. In fact, one of the more amusing things we encountered requires a certain knowledge of the gay community.

Bear Flag

It was the first day of Bear Week. My girlfriend and I were waiting at the Aquarium Food Court for our name to be called, indicating our order was ready for pickup. The deck was crowded, and we’d found an empty table in the courtyard just before the deck. We’d just sat down when one of the vendors called out “Bear!” Apparently someone had given “Bear” as their name.

On that day, calling out “Bear!” was somewhat akin to calling out “Dad!” in a crowded playground. For a week, bears from all over come to Ptown to enjoy the freedom of being openly bears. Some explanation of the term may be required for those unfamiliar with it: A bear is a slang term used to refer to describe gay men who are hairy, heavyset and/or muscular, and who project an image of rugged masculinity.

What does this anecdote have to do with our vacation? Plenty, though it’s not all encompassing. Provincetown is a place where self expression is widespread. As such, the level of tolerance is generally very high. There is often an atmosphere of genuine joy and lightheartedness that is not only refreshing, but revitalizing. People watching there is fascinating. It is even more so if you’re familiar with the various subcultures you see up there. If you understand the signals, keys, and symbols displayed, the depth of understanding what you’re seeing is greatly increased.

Yes, it’s crowded, which can be irritating at times…especially if you’re hungry and have a long wait at one of the many restaurants. But if you don’t take yourself too seriously, you can usually find something entertaining in just about every situation.

So what does the anecdote not encompass? The individual activities: from watching fireworks to watching whales, from exploring the National Seashore Visitor Center to some of the most–interesting–shops around, from fine dining to eating at a food court, and above all, the people watching. We did a lot over the course of the week. There were still plenty of things left to do when we left.

One thing, though, sticks out in my mind. I got a chance to visit with my martial arts instructor and his wife. It’s been many years since I had any kind of meaningful interaction with them. I’m really glad I got to speak with them. They’ve played an important, if usually distant, part in my life.

Returning to Provincetown revitalized me in ways I hadn’t expected. My coworkers noticed the changes immediately. I’m not going to try to describe them, except to say that I’m more grounded than I have been in a long time.

Relationship Representation

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With all my girlfriend and I have been through, it is amusing, appropriate, and somehow very representative of our relationship that our first culinary disagreement was over how to cook a hot dog. Those who know us are probably now laughing themselves silly.

As mentioned in earlier posts, my personality is more of a protector and teacher than caretaker. Despite my profession as a personal trainer and extensive background in martial arts, the protection I tend to provide is more emotional than physical. I try to provide a space where fear is acknowledged but pushed past, where anxiety is welcomed and soothed. When it comes to teaching, I try to teach by example. When I try to teach through words, I tend to revert to an academic style of “imparting knowledge”, which usually comes off as more than a little pedantic. So, teach by example and protect by providing emotional shelter. Though both can have lighthearted elements, they do have a certain gravitas that can come across as dominating, intimidating, or creepy.

My girlfriend, however, is a Brat. It is a title she embraces and thoroughly enjoys. She can be endearing or aggravating, impish or pestiferous. She’ll wiggle like an excited teenager, or pout like a preteen. True, she can be bull-headed, and will jump to conclusions based on emotion and insufficient evidence; but, she is also very intelligent and can present her side of an issue with much more cogency than I can. More importantly, she is very caring. She seeks to make her friends’ lives happier and/or easier. Sometimes it’s through making or hosting a dinner, sometimes it’s volunteering at an event they’re setting up, sometimes it’s as simple as making sure there’s a cold glass of water waiting for those she knows will like it.

Despite the differences in our natures, we are very well matched in the areas that tend to matter the most: ideas, values, and desires. We make a very good team. When aggression, argument, or detail is needed, she usually takes the lead. When diplomacy, multiple viewpoints, or calm certainty is called for, I tend to lead. Not that she can’t be diplomatic, or I can’t be aggressive, at need; but, those modes aren’t our primary modes of thought and action.

We do lots of things together, from grocery shopping to parallel play. With my background in personal training and hers in massage therapy, we occasionally geek out with anatomy and physiology, both the straight up as well as with suggestion and innuendo. When both people understand that the “sodium gradient” can be a reference to cellular respiration AND a reference to a sweaty body, much fun can be had. It is especially gratifying that we can discuss loudly and publicly about the strength and endurance of my pollicis longus, and snicker at the horrified looks we receive. (This post is PG. The full name is abductor pollicis longus, and is one of the muscles that pull the thumb away from the index finger.)

It is no wonder, then, that an argument about cooking hot dogs is weirdly representative of our relationship. If you take the tension between the literal and innuendo, mix it with our mutual desire to make the “best product” possible, garnish it with the acknowledged absurdity of the topic, and serve it with love, you end up with a pretty decent description of our relationship.

Bierce’s Trainer: more definitions

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I really enjoyed creating the last list of odd, unusual, hopefully humorous definitions for common words used in the fitness industry. I thought I’d do a few more.

Joint — a place where two bones meet, do something fun, and hopefully develop a strong relationship

Jumping Jacks — an exercise designed to get your heart-rate up and cause cramping in the unprepared calf

Transverse — the plane of motion where being twisted is a good thing

Muscle — If beauty is only skin deep, too much of this is grotesque

Sweat — natural pheromone-laden perfume

Injury — “Do it!” they said. “It’ll make you stronger!” they said. “It’ll make you faster!” they said. Now my body has to repair itself…and it doesn’t have the technology, only biology.

Back — A place often ignored in favor of the gilded front

Pushup — pushing the ground away while you keep your body rigid

Row — Make like you’re in a pretend boat on a pretend ocean in order to create real back-ward results

Jump — A function of weight and power to temporarily fly

Blood — a river in which oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other such friends go tubing

Stability — the characteristic of moving only when you want to, despite anything gravity and physics have to say

Aerobic — repeated rhythmic movements intended to invite oxygen to a fat-burning party

Personal Training — The field where physics and biology play

Lactate — Byproduct of exertion often derided as trash, but is actually treasured by the body (see Cori Cycle)

Cori Cycle — The process by which lactate becomes the platter for carrying food to muscles

I’m Back! (Kind of)

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It’s been a little more than three years since I last posted. I’m not going to become maudlin and vow to keep it up forever. I will, however, say that I will be posting more often than once every three years.

Why the three year hiatus? I’ve been trying my best to grow my client list for personal training. I am a good trainer, though far from “the best”. I often get assigned new clients deemed “difficult” for some reason.

Sometimes it’s prehab for “embarrassing” surgery in 3 months. Lots of personal trainers get clients who are preparing for knee surgery, or shoulder surgery, or even ankle and foot surgery. So far I’ve gotten prehab clients for hysterectomies, mastectomies, and lung cancer.

Occasionally it’s post-surgery, post-physical therapy. More and more, though, my niche seems to be coming down to a couple of notable demographics: those who are more than merely nervous about coming to a gym (whether from self consciousness, recent injury, bad previous experiences, etc.) and hidden or fringe sub-cultures (transgender, kink/BDSM, Leather, etc.).

I enjoy working with people in these niches. Coaching and watching a client become confident in the gym or gain at least partial mastery of their own body is a joy. The challenges of creating programs for those with uncommon needs feeds my hunger for continuing education, analytical thinking, and creative application of otherwise common knowledge.

The downside of working with people in these niches is finding them. I’m awful at marketing and sales to begin with. I’ve always respected “no”. Trying to convince someone to purchase sessions with me beyond the initial resistance feels a lot like the sales and marketing version of date rape. It just doesn’t sit well with me. Marketing to these niches who tend to take active steps to remain hidden is even harder. I still don’t have a full schedule.

After three years of trying to build my books, I’ve decided to get back to writing. This blog satisfies my need for unfocused pursuit of random thoughts. Another of my blogs I’m starting up again is more of a repository of a portion of my fantasy writings. I’m also getting back to writing larger pieces. I’ve picked up two books I’d put on hold. One is a sequel to one already written, the other is in a related genre, but tends to read as mainstream unless you read between the lines. I also have a list of short story ideas I’d like to start working my way through. There is also one larger piece that technically falls in the “book” category, but is non-fiction (a very new area for me).

I plan to continue posting on this blog, but it won’t be as frequent as it was while I was in school. I guarantee, however, that the topics will be just as random. I’m back (kind of) and hope to see all of you soon.

Substitute Topics

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This may be my last post for a while…at least until I get a working computer at home. Before I can do that, though I need to find a part time job. Why part time? The rest of the time this summer is going to be taken up by my internship.

You’d think that I’d have a really awesome topic ready for this post, since it may be the last one I get to post for a while. Unfortunately, while several ideas came to me between waking up this morning and arriving at the school computer lab, none of them seem to have stuck around. I’m left with a brief roster check. If you’re looking for a substantive post, this may not be it. On the other hand, you never know when substance will come out of chaos.

School. This is finals week. I had the first half of one of my finals last week (and it took the class an average of 2 hours 15 minutes to finish it). The second half of that final is on Thursday. I also have three other finals and three practicals to survive. Grueling, yes. Difficult? Could be harder, not that I’m complaining. If I approach it just as I approach other challenges, it could even be kind of fun.

I just received an email from one of my instructors concerning the internship. I need to have CPR/First Aid certification cards. My cards were in the car that got totaled. I need to have them within two weeks. Quickest way to get the new cards is to just take the course again. Fortunately it’s not that much more expensive to just get recertified. Did I mention I got certified in February? Oh well.

Social. A week after school ends, a bunch of us are going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at one of the theaters here in town. Why? Because we need to have fun as a group outside of school. I’m really looking forward to it. They’ll get to see a side of me most of them never dreamed existed. I hope I don’t shock some of my class mates TOO badly. (Though a little shock will be a good thing.)

Other than that, I’m not looking forward to the last class day of social dance. There are a few people there I’d like to keep up with, but I doubt it’ll happen. Why? Because I have very little to connect with them over. We might see each other in dance halls or something, but I doubt for anything substantive beyond that.

I find it ironic that it took until last week (i.e. the penultimate class) in my conditioning class for one of the other participants to come out of her shell. We actually seem to have much in common, at least in terms of interests. I guess we’ll have to meet outside of class. (Oh, darn.) I anticipate friendship, possibly a very close friendship, but little else. Her plans include an advanced degree in international law and becoming a negotiator. Although I enjoy traveling, my own career requires me to stay put (unless I end up as personal trainer to an ambassador or something). I’d probably feel like I was holding her back. So. Friends it is.

Work. As I mentioned earlier, I need to find a part time job. Are there part-time jobs available? Yes. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be flipping burgers. Ideally I’d like to be in the fitness industry (No. GNC doesn’t count.), but my options are dwindling rapidly. I tried at a few places last week, but they’d just finished a hiring cycle. Oh well. The search goes on.

Dreams. Believe what you want about dreams: random firings of the brain, “someone” trying to tell you “something”, or your mind working things out, I’ve had a couple dreams recently that make it difficult not to draw connections. The first could easily have been a nightmare. It involved a series of tidal waves, or possibly an invading army. Most of the people around me were running around screaming. The difference between this dream and nightmare was instead of fear being the dominant emotion, I was excited. I spent most of the dream dragging a group of four or five people around, trying to convince them this could be fun. The other one involved some random woman at a theater snuggling up to me for no apparent reason. (Yes, guys, that’s as far as it went.)

I hope to be able to continue blogging regularly, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the access necessary to do it on a schedule. I may take to putting my blogs in a notebook, then transcribing them as I have the opportunity. Goodness knows I keep a notebook handy for my stories (short or otherwise). Maybe I’ll grab one of those multi-subject notebooks and reserve one section for blogs. In any case, if you don’t hear from me for a while, never fear, I haven’t forgotten and will get back at some point. Until then, be safe, be well, and enjoy life as much as you can.

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