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Friday, December 30, 2011

fitness gift guide, top 11 of '11

"Oh, Andrea," you say. "You're a day late and a dollar short as usual. All the major winter gift-giving holidays have come and gone."

To which I say, Feh. Valentines Day is in 7 weeks. Don't you have a sweetheart? And if you don't, isn't that enough time to work on that gym hottie you've had your eye on? Plus, you've got Mother's Day and Father's Day and, c'mon now, the fitness enthusiasts in your life have birthdays, don't they? As do you. There are lots of gift-giving and -getting days in the year. Get with the program.

Disclaimer #1: this is a list of Andrea's Favorite Things, which is kinda like Oprah's Favorite Things except without the clout. Because I like lifting and I like yoga, these gifts are heavily weighed in that direction. I don't run much, don't really bike or swim these days, have played golf once in my life, and haven't held a tennis racket since they were made of wood (srs!). If those sports and activities are more your thing, well, you're just gonna have to find you another gift guide.

Disclaimer #2: because these are *my* favorite things, things that I own and love and use or things I wish Santa had brought me, the items on it that are not unisex are for the ladieez. If you have a penis or are buying gifts for someone with a penis, not all these items will be applicable. Sorry!

Without further ado, I give you eleven for '11.

1.) the Bodymedia Fit

You people have already heard me go on and on about mine. I love it. I will warn you, that sentiment is not universal. Some people feel that theirs was inaccurate for them. Mine seems quite accurate for me. Some people feel that they only had to wear it for a few days or a week to get all the useful data they're ever gonna get from it. I feel differently, because I happen to have wildly divergent calorie burns from day to day depending on my activities, and in long term trends, I am seeing just how many fewer calories I am expending in the winter as opposed to the summer, when I am apparently much more active as far as NEAT goes. Some people disliked theirs because they feel it fed into their OCD or eating disordered tendencies. I think that's a fair enough quibble. If data is gonna make you crazy or even crazee, this product is not for you. But if, like me, you fondly think of your body as a science experiment, you might just love one of these.

2.) a digital food scale

Talk about feeding the crazee. If you (or the fitness enthusiast in your life) are either dieting or bulking, well, hell yeah, you (or they) wanna know exactly what and how much you're eating. A digital food scale is key, especially one that weighs both in grams and in ounces and has a "tare" function. I particularly like the glass topped ones, because they are easy to clean if you decide to just slop a hunk of cheese on there without a plate. Um, not that I'd do anything slightly gross and messy like that. Yeah.

3.) the Iron Gym

Want to do something at home on those days you don't make it to the gym? Or maybe you just wanna get really, really good at pullups and impress your friends and/or that gym hottie. Put the IronGym up in your doorway and grow that back!

4.) Gaiam aluminum water bottle

On days you do make it to the gym, you probably wanna bring a water bottle, if just to avoid having to stand in line at the bubbler behind some douche who's filling up their water bottle. Ahem. But, uh, yeah, hydration is key! I love my aluminum water bottle, because I highly dislike drinking from plastic. Mine, which is orange paisley and matches the straps on my minimalist shoes, is apparently no longer made, but they have other attractive options. I will also warn you on these: reviews are mixed. Not everyone loves theirs as much as I love mine. Some people have complained theirs dented easily or that the design scratched off. Mine's held up just fine. Some people feel theirs gave their water a metallic taste. Eh. I kinda like the very faint metallic taste--it's like mineral water. And it's tastier than plastic, which I hate. Proceed at your own risk.

5.) micro plates

And when you get to the gym, what happens when you go to do shoulder presses and the 25 lb dumbbells are getting way too easy but the 30s are a crapshoot as to whether you can even get them up? Hmmm, you say, if only there were 27.5 lb dumbbells in this gym... Microplates to the rescue, bitches! Seriously, these are genius, and I am envious of anyone who got these in their stocking. Sigh. There's always Mother's Day. Or, y'know, not being a cheap bastard and buying them myself. But, seriously: you or someone you know needs these.

6.) magical miracle yoga pants

Yes, they are ridiculously expensive. Yes, they will make your ass look better than any other gym clothes you own. Case closed.

7.) UGG sneakers

What looks like a pair of Chucks but classier and more grownup and have slightly more support and, not to mention, shearling inside the heels and on the tongue, so your feet are cozy and never blister? These! And you can deadlift in them.

8.) You long-haired chicas who go to the gym know the deal. There's squat hair--a high bun so that you don't get your hair in the way of the bar. There's yoga or benching hair--a low pony or braid so there's no lump under your head when you're on your back. Maybe what you need instead or in addition is a headwrap.

You can go old skool and gangsta:

the classic doorag

You can get in touch with your holistic, spiritual side:

the hippie alternative

Or you can:

glam it up

Wearing one that looks almost exactly like that to squat today. I ain't even lyin'.

9.) the foam roller

And all of us who work out or play sports know the deal on this: you will have minor injuries. You'll tweak this and pull that. X will tighten up and y will spasm. Foam rolling is the next best thing to a massage for working out those issues.

10.) the foam roller on steroids

But if the fitness enthusiast in your life is already foam rolling and has been for awhile, they may just need to upgrade to one of these. Not for the beginner and not for the faint of heart. There may be pain involved. But it's good pain. Shut up.

11.) Or, you can just be a really, really excellent gift-giver and buy your giftee an actual (preferably myofascial) massage!

Pet peeve: as an LMT myself, I cannot tell you how much it irks, trying to find an image online of someone getting a massage that actually looks as if they're really getting a massage. By which I mean to say, with their face in the face cradle, not torqued to the side with a blissful half-smile on. But while I was doing that, I did happen to come across bonus content for my readers:

Snake massage. SNAKE MASSAGE. I did not know that was a thing. I didn't want to know that was a thing. If that seems like the perfect gift for someone on your list, well, uh, bless your heart!


Monday, December 19, 2011

bulking, the results edition

Now that I've bitched about my underwear pictures being possibly objectified, it's time to add new ones! Shall we recap? Started my bulk at 112 in mid-March, ended in mid-November at 125, then dieted for a month and am now 119. Time for the big reveal.

February, pre-bulk, post ~5 months weightlifting:

December, post-bulk and mini-cut, after 15 months lifting:





I weigh approximately 6-7 pounds more in the December pictures than the February ones, and I'm pretty sure I actually look leaner. Bulking, it does a body good! I will tell you that two years ago I would never, ever have thought my abdominal area would ever look that good again.

The plan now is to eat whatever the hell I want for the next two weeks, then resume dieting in January. Originally I thought I only wanted to get back down to 117ish, but I'm kinda curious what I'd look like at 113 now with the muscle I've added. So, we'll see. In any case, another long, slow bulk will then resume...late January, maybe?


Friday, December 16, 2011

there's nothing dirty about my muscles

Oh, kids, I am raging this morning. Apparently the IT people at the large hospital for which I work have decided this here very blog is pr0n. It's blocked on my computer. Seriously? Pictures of a woman in her underwear in which all her parts are covered, underwear that shows no more than would be revealed by a standard two piece bathing suit, and which are posted not to titillate anyone but to illustrate hard-won muscular development (or lack of progress therein, sigh), is pr0n? Maybe in Saudi Arabia or Amish country, but uh, not in mainstream America. I am appalled. Amused, but appalled.

Let me tell you something about the female body. It exists for reasons other than for men to look at. Its main purpose is NOT to arouse/not arouse guys. Do I take it as an insult if a man tells me my muscles are sexeh? No, of course not. But that's not why I'm growing them. They're for me to look at***. They're tangible proof that I'm getting stronger and stronger. I like how they feel beneath my clothes. I like how, even though I'm "a woman approaching 50", they prove to me that I don't have to let my physical body deteriorate completely. And I like to show them to my friends who also lift and who appreciate muscle, hence the OMG! underwear pictures.

Or maybe it was the pictures of Jamie Eason in a thong that got the IT people riled up.

Hint: there's nothing dirty about her muscles, either, but the fact that women (i.e. fitness models) who should probably be considered athletes make most of their money posing in quasi-pr0ny ways just shows how commodified women's bodies really are.


***I have two tattoos, both of them on the back of my body in places I have a hard time seeing, even in a mirror. I've occasionally had people question me about that, and I say, "they aren't there for me to look at, they're there for me to know that they're there." I feel similarly about my muscles; even the ones I can't see are there not for anyone else to look at necessarily, but for me to know that they exist.

Friday, December 9, 2011

time changes everything

So does money, but that's another post. But since I've got the song stuck in my head now, here ya go.

Okay! Now that I have that out of my system...

Anytime you come across a list of anyone's gym pet peeves, you can be pretty sure "old men in the locker room" is one of them. Specifically, the fact that the old men walk around stark naked having long involved conversations in the nude, sit their unclothed persons directly on the benches, and (apparently!) use the gym hairdryers to blow dry their balls. To wit:

Now, I have no experience of men's locker rooms (shut up), but my experience in women's locker rooms is much the same, if a little less drastic. The old ladies are not shy about walking around in a towel or less. In fact, there is probably a directly inverse association between how aesthetic one's body is by societal standards and degree of modesty in the locker room. Most of the teen aged and very young women won't change in the open--they either arrive at the gym fully dressed to work out or they change in a booth or a toilet stall. Most late 20s to early 50s gym goers will change in the open, but very discreetly and quickly, directly facing their locker. Then somewhere around late middle age, something seems to click and the "walking from one's locker to the showers in nothing but flipflops" stage begins. I myself haven't reached that stage yet, but I do find myself lingering more in my underwear without self-consciousness than I used to, so god knows, I'm probably headed in that direction.

And I've been thinking a little about why that is. Why, when you're in the full flower of your youth, with a body that is probably as close to "flawless" as it's ever going to get, are you so self-conscious about other people seeing it as is? Why, after everything possible has wrinkled, sagged, and developed truly fascinating levels of cellulite (sorry, but you put it out there, I'ma see it and be fascinated by it, yo), are you totally unfazed by other people looking? Well, kids, as about many many things, I have developed my own theory.

My theory is this: when you are 20, you can look at all those images in the media--the actresses and models and pop stars, all photoshopped within an inch of their lives--and think that, not only would it be possible for you to look like that, but that you SHOULD look like that. And because, as lovely as you are, you don't--not having a magical photoshop force field around you, for one thing--you feel shame and embarrassment about your body. You don't want anyone seeing the parts of you that you dislike without an opportunity for you to somehow camouflage them.

To take this out of the gym realm and provide you with one of my trademarked boring personal anecdotes (you're welcome!), when *I* was twenty, I surprised my future ex-husband on his birthday by waiting for him to get home from work dressed in nothing but satin tap pants, heels, and a long string of pearls. (It was the 80s, so again, shut up.) I was so self-conscious about that part of my body I most disliked (thighs, of course) that I would not completely expose them in daylight even in seducing someone who frankly had seen them many times before. And whose 23 year old brain was only going to register mostly nekkid chick...indicating she wants sex...awesome! anyway. Crazypants, I know.

But that kind of thing fades over time in most of us, leading ultimately to grandma making dinner plans with her friends while nekkid outside the sauna. Judging only from my own experience, I think it is because as time goes on and you see the inevitable changes in your body brought about by time (and for women, perhaps pregnancy), you realize you will not and cannot look like those images in the media. It's just not possible, who could expect that of you? So you stop expecting it of yourself. And you stop being so ashamed that you don't meet that standard. Oh, you might still unfortunately hate some or all of your body, but you stop caring so much who sees it because, Jesus Christ, how can they *expect* you to look like Megan Fox, you're 49! (or 59 or 79).

I don't know how to explain the testicle blow drying, however. I'll leave that to another blogger smarter than me.