Testing and Nuts

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I’ve decided that postponing tests is not usually a good idea. Especially if you’re not behind in the lecture schedule. My physiology professor sent out a message last week saying that our test on Monday was being postponed to Wednesday due to many requests and his desire for us not to “have a nervous breakdown.” However, he is still going to lecture on the next unit on Monday.

I’d have preferred to take the test and get it out of the way. Now the test anxiety has another two days to build. It’s been my experience that postponing a fear-based encounter only allows the fear to grow. Not only that, but today’s lecture will be going on the following test, not an ideal situation for recall.

As for not wanting to give us a nervous breakdown, I applaud his intent; however, while his physiology is spot on, I would not say the same for his psychology. Short term anticipation (such as delaying a test by two days) only exaggerates the current emotional situation, it rarely ameliorates it.


As an antidote to this heightening anxiety, I’d like to recount something that happened in a different class. This other class is an evening class. Those of us in this class have had at least one class with the other people, and most of us have had two or three with the others. It’s been mentioned that this is probably one of the tightest cohorts in this degree program. Before class, while waiting for the others to arrive, we were discussing various and sundry things and bringing in all kinds of innuendo for the most basic and innocent of topics…bringing up memories of junior high. A giggling mood descended on the students even as the instructor called the class to order, despite the late attendance of a couple of other students.

About halfway through the class, the woman sitting next to me (one of the late arrivals) suddenly said in a voice everyone could hear: “I wish your nuts weren’t so far away.”

A brief silence of shock, then the whole room erupted in laughter. Someone across the room had been eating handfuls of mixed nuts. Someone else said, “What would your girlfriend say?” Even the instructor, possibly the most Zen man I’ve ever met, lost it at that.

I suspect it’ll take her a few weeks to live it down.

Slipping into Banality

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I sometimes wonder about me. I’m overloaded in school. I have little to no time outside of school because I’m preparing for school. And what do I do? I download and listen to lecture series on my commute that have nothing to do with what I’m learning in school. This semester, I’m drowning in physiology, struggling to keep up in performance enhancement, and relying almost completely on recall from class in program design. So I grab lecture series on Chaucer, the history of the English language, and reclaiming Europe’s lost literary tradition. I listen to these while traveling from one campus to another.

Why do I do this? I don’t know. Maybe I’m addicted to learning. I know that some of my other recent choice in audiobooks are: Slights of Mind (a book on the neuroscience of perception and stage magic), Freakonomics (a book which uses the statistical and analysis tools of economics on non-traditional subjects), and The Invisible Gorilla (a book which explores our often mistaken assumptions on how we perceive and recall the world around us).

Somebody described my activities to me as “creating a bigger net”. The analogy is the bigger the net, the easier it is to catch fish. Unfortunately, I may be heading towards an information overload. I fully expect, at some point this semester, to be found curled up in the corner of the library, giggling, and saying, “Here fishy, fishy, fishy.”

Last Week and Measures

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Last week didn’t turn out as hopelessly as I’d feared. As I mentioned in my previous post, once I realized that pride was at stake, and not my passing or failing, I was able to calm down. Maintaining that attitude through the week allowed me to keep from panicking too much. For instance, working with my faculty client for the first time. I can only liken the before attitude to “first date” jitters. Most of the other student trainers felt the same. The pride versus competency discussion took place in my mind once more and I calmed down. The first session went really well.

Every now and then my life brings in these little leitmotifs. Last time was confidence versus inertia. This time it’s pride versus competency. I suspect this one will become a major theme for the semester with other issues taking up the leitmotif slots. We’ll see.

In other news, my personal physical activity schedule continues to decline. It is something I suspected would happen this semester, but it’s nonetheless discouraging to watch. Especially since I start to feel hypocritical between my actual work out schedule and what I know I’ll be telling my client. My major saving point is that we’re eating healthier at home. My estimated Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is somewhere between 1900 and 2000 calories per day. It’s hard to imagine, but that’s supposedly just to maintain weight if I’m lying down all day. It seems awfully high to me. I would have to do one of those labs where a machine analyzes my oxygen intake and output at rest to see if that’s actually what I’m supposed to be taking in. I’d love to do it…unfortunately money is the primary issue preventing me.

According to bioelectrical impedance, my total body weight is 29% fat. According to calipers done by a fellow student, I’m somewhere between 11% and 15% depending on 3-site or 7-site pinch tests. Looking at waist-to-hip ratio, I’m probably somewhere between 20 and 25%; however, according to BMI, if I were 0% body fat, I would be somewhere around a BMI score of 24 (overweight is 25 and obese is 30+). According to my age estimated max heart rate, I’m most likely already dead of an over worked heart. (Age estimated MaxHR (Gillesh method): 182 bpm; actual submax test results regularly put me over 200.) Why all of these odd numbers?

From my statistics classes way back when, the larger the population used in a measure, the more likely the distribution of results will end up as a bell-curve. With nearly all of the measures used in basic personal fitness training, the various interpretive tables and charts are based on a 2 standard deviation curve (I think). This means that for a minority of people, these tables are just plain wrong. (Performance level athletes usually have their own tables, so they don’t count as part of this minority.) The tables and charts and estimations are there both as a guide and, more and more frequently, a legal defense. The only way to determine an individual’s true maximum heart rate is to do a physician supervised maximal heart rate test. Short of that, you’re stuck with submaximal tests and age predicted equations. Most personal trainers are not certified to do submaximal tests, so they’re stuck with the equations.  Yet those equations are better than nothing. It gives an expected range recognized both by the fitness industry and by the medical industry. Work within that range and you’re protected by industry standards if something goes wrong. (Unless you do something incredibly stupid like responding to “my chest hurts” with “keep running”.)

How does this apply to me? I know I’m overfat; however, “normal” fat would still leave me “overweight”. So weight means far less than body composition (a good rule in any case). I’m roughly 100 pounds lighter than my dad at my age and probably at least 50 pounds lighter than my mother, so I’m doing fairly well with combating heredity. I take amphetamine salts for ADHD (brand name: Adderall) so my entire heart rate chart (including max heart rate) is shifted upwards (as is my blood pressure). Thus, using heart rate as a measure is dicey for me, so I have to rely on the RPE scale (Ratings of Perceived Exertion).

The major lesson here? Measures are good guides to understanding, but relying too heavily on them could lead to misunderstanding.

Anxiety Reduction

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Note: This post is basically stream of consciousness. It’s not my usual discussion type post. Just working through something.

The beginning of the semester grace period is over. The warm up is done and it is time to start pushing my mind. However you want to say it, the ^*!# hits the fan this week. The first test in physiology is today, I meet my faculty client tomorrow, initial programming is due Thursday. Am I ready to run? I better be.

Okay. Panic over. I’m not 100% ready for the test in physiology, but I think I have a good grasp of what’s going on. This first one is over homeostasis mechanisms, membrane functioning, and neuronal functioning. It’s only three topics, what’s the big deal? (Excuse me as I pause to silence the evil cackling in the back of my mind.)

Thanks to my departmental chair’s sense of humor, my faculty client and I have a few things in common, so that should be less stressful than I was anticipating. Likewise, analysis and programming for the client is just a matter of crunching numbers and taking things one at a time.

Why am I stressing out? Because I’m a perfectionist. If things aren’t done “right” they’re not done well. At least that’s the default mindset I’m fighting against. Rationally, I know that this mindset is wrong. At the very least, it ignores the whole concept of school and learning curves. I think the real issue is not merely “passing”, it’s pride. In all my classes so far, I’ve excelled. So much so that in a couple of classes, when I was wrong, the instructor began to doubt herself. As I said, the fear is not whether or not I will pass my courses this semester. The fear is that I will become less in other people’s eyes. Pride.

I’ve set myself a high standard. I don’t know if I can meet it. Even if I can’t, I doubt others in the program will think less of me. Yet there is that desire not to put it to the test. I hate disappointing myself and others.

When I started this post, I was so anxious, I could barely keep my fingers on the keys of the keyboard. Now, my heart rate is down, I’m thinking more clearly, and I can feel myself focusing on the tasks at hand. Identifying the source of anxiety as mere pride rather than passing seems to be helping.