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Monday, March 19, 2012

you were born for this

I have no idea what's going on in that picture. Sometimes I pop a phrase into google images and it gives me amazing shit. This is one of those times.

You may have read somewhere on this blog that I was not an athletic child by any means. I'm not saying I was picked last when choosing up sides, but I was definitely in the lower third, y'know? I wasn't particularly fast, I wasn't big, and most importantly, I had little to no coordination. But I was smart and I did well in school without putting forth all that much effort, so my self-esteem wasn't all that impacted. Being smart was my thing, being athletic was not.

As I got older, I did learn that I had a few more physical gifts. I was built for endurance and stamina. I could walk for miles and miles, and I was never the person whining "oh, it's too far" or "I'm tired."

In college I had a roommate who was a jazz dancer. It used to make her rage that I and our third roommate could plop down into positions on the floor that she couldn't get into as easily even with all her dance-mandated stretching. (We in turn tortured her mercilessly that this stemmed from the fact that she was a virgin and we were not.) Much later in life when I started doing yoga and found that some things were insanely hard for me (anything to do with balance) while others were naturally easy (anything that involved outward rotation of the femurs), I understood that, yes, I just had a natural hip flexibility that some other people lacked.

And then there was the whole pregnancy and childbirth experience which taught me that, for one thing, I was a lot physically tougher and had a much greater pain tolerance than I had imagined. While I was young and stupid and idealistic to have a completely natural childbirth, and from my vantage point now I'd encourage a woman in labor to take any damn drugs they'll give her, there was a great feeling of physical accomplishment. I felt like I belonged in one of those primitive tribes where you were inducted into adulthood with some kind of insanely painful endurance test. And then of course, there was the breastfeeding experience, in which I learned that my body made craploads of milk effortlessly. I used to joke that it was a shame I was born in the 20th century when wet nurse was no longer a viable career option, 'cause people *would* have paid me bank to feed their kids, for serious.

So, yeah, while along the way I *did* gain an appreciation for the ways in which parts of my body other than my brain worked pretty damn well, I also never had any kind of glimmer that I could be, or could have been, any kind of a successful athlete. I wasn't fast, I wasn't coordinated, I wasn't graceful, I wasn't big. I could be a gym rat. I could be in good shape. I could be healthy and active. But I had no athletic gifts worth mentioning.

Until very, very recently. I've been lifting weights for about a year and a half now, but it's only been since last July, around the start of this blog, when I started doing a program with more of a powerlifting component. I sorta resisted calling it that when Liz told me it was. I figured the piddly little weights I could lift didn't deserve that designation. And I sorta took it as a joke when Liz told me that I was built for squatting. (Yeah, yeah, short legs, whatever.) But it has occurred to me recently that, damn, my legs are getting really strong for my size. Not that I don't have online friends who move way more weight than me, and not that I'm basing my evaluation of my strength on all the people at my gym who are just amazed to see a woman actually lifting something. But a few months ago I just dearly wanted to squat my bodyweight and tonight I'm going for 155 for reps, which is about 35lbs more than my bodyweight. And I'm going to get it. Last week I Zercher squatted a plate. (Um, for those of you who don't know the cool weighlifting lingo, that's 135, all y'all.) My lower body lifts are just exploding.

And so it occurred to me that I have probably found the athletic endeavor that my body was meant to do. If someone had introduced high school or college Andrea to powerlifting, there's the possibility that I could have been quite good at it. Oh, my bench might have sucked, but my squats and deads could have been nice. I might have been an athlete after all, might have thought of myself that way. I feel kind of sad for myself that never happened, though I'm not quite sure what the state of women's powerlifting was in the late 70s or early 80s, and oly lifting (which is something completely different of course) didn't even have a women's division in the Olympics till 2000 (!) So, yeah, just like my failure to have a career in wet-nursing, I was probably just born at the wrong time for this shit! Alas.

Maybe I shoulda had connections.

Talk to you all at a later date after I've squatted 155, bitches.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

in honor of st patrick's day

I don't have a drop of Irish or any other Celtic blood in me, kids, though occasionally people assume I do. It's the fish-belly white skin and the freckles. Nevertheless I thought it would be culturally relevant to post some Highland Game videos in Celtic solidarity and appreciation of freakish feats of strength and, y'know, probable drunkenness. Plus, big guys in kilts. ::drool::

Sadly, though I could probably watch a man in a kilt do just about anything, finding good youtube clips has been difficult. Many of them are, well, badly, badly filmed. (I blame this on, uh, whiskey.) And then badly, badly edited. (Probably more whiskey.) In searching for these, I had to take it back--I canNOT watch a man in a kilt do *anything*. I was nexting videos left and right. What a sad comedown. Nevertheless, let me share a bit:

That one's hilarious because apparently--correct me if I am mistaken--these Games were held in Austria. Is there a big ex-pat population there or are those Austrians just looking for another excuse to go drinking outdoors? Don't answer that. Just enjoy the music.

Nothing phallic about that sport, is there?

Competitive hay bailing is apparently a thing. Who knew? ::cough:: whiskey ::cough:: Also? Someone ought to tell the guy who wanders into the shot wearing a cowboy hat with his kilt that he looks like a douche.

I'd respect those guys more if they hadn't pansied out and worn bike shorts under the kilt. Eh. Maybe it was a rule or something. Goddamn Establishment always bringing me down, man.

Okay, seriously, that's a nicely produced overview of the kind of thing they do. I like the hammer throw. I myself would, like, clock myself in the head the first time I tried it and my illustrious career would come to a screeching halt.

And now, to be culturally appropriate to my own heritage (and just because I lurve her so very, very much), here's a tiny little Polish chick with ethnically-congruent thighs lifting some heavy-ass weight.

Enjoy whatever heavy-object-lifting or whiskey-imbibing projects you have planned, kids!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

in which i try new things, part 1

I have a confession to make.

Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It's been 35 years since my last confession and these are my-- Oh, wait. Father, do you need to use the restroom? Maybe get a bottle of water or a small snack? Because we'll probably be here for awhile...

No, no, no, no. Not that kind of confession. Though, parenthetically, I have to admit that it amuses and somewhat scares me that even though I have not attended church on any kind of regular basis since 1977 (i.e. when I got old enough that my parents stopped forcing me to go), I can still pretty much recite any of the Catholic liturgy (or at least the 70s versions thereof) by heart, while I am no longer able to access the parts of my brain that contain any math over Algebra I, most conversational Spanish beyond cooing to frightened toddlers "no duele, papi, no duele!", or what I had for lunch two days ago without looking back in fitday. If only I could remember everything I've actually learned at one time or another, I'd be almost as smaht as I think I am.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. My confession: I don't hate cardio.

Now, the whole past month of January when I was doing shit like 45 minutes or an hour of cardio after lifting in my quest to make the Random Number Generator (by which I mean to say, my scale) move in a downward direction, I hated it. Anything done because you feel you must do it, rather than because it's fun or challenging or feels good, automatically turns into a duty and is thus unpleasant. Well, except for duty sex, which usually turns out pretty well. But I'm a freak, so maybe that's just me. Forgive me, father, for I have--oh, never mind. (Damn. I think I promised Elsewhere that this post wasn't gonna devolve into a discussion of sex. At least there's no further Billy Squier in here. YET. Count your blessings, readers, count 'em.)

Cardio also usually sucks at its beginning. There's usually an element of boredom or discomfort for a bit until the chemical soup of endorphins gets stirred up, at which time everything gets Much More Pleasant. Back when I was doing Couch to 5k, an online acquaintance who was a serious runner said something to me that I will never forget. She said that the first mile almost always sucks. This was in the context of a conversation in which she posited that as one's runs get longer, they get more enjoyable. If you can only run a mile and a half, and the first mile sucks, then 2/3rds of your run was just torture. But once you can go five miles, well, your ratio of "sucks ballz" to "is fun!" has changed to 20/80. I am probably not nor will I probably ever be enough of a runner to completely validate or invalidate her theory for myself, but that conversation has gotten me to push on many times when a half mile in I've wanted to stop. I think almost all cardio is like that. Push past the initial unpleasantness and then suddenly--oh! not unpleasant any more!

But, yeah, I don't hate cardio in general. If you've read the post about my past gym-going history, you'll know that the first time I was a gym rat, circa late 80s, early 90s, I did a lot of cardio. Everyone did. That, and eat rice cakes. It was part of the zeitgeist. But now, of course, exercise fads--um, I mean scientific thinking about exercise has changed, and there's been a backlash against cardio. Do too much and it will actually make you fat! Or at least it will keep you from getting the body of your dreams. I'll admit, I read NROLFW and at least partially swallowed that koolaid. But initially severely reducing the amount of cardio I did during my first bulk made me realize: I feel sluggish and crappy when I'm doing none. And adding some back in didn't cause the world to stop spinning on its axis. So I spit the koolaid back out.

One little bit of that metaphorical koolaid stayed in my belleh, though, and that was a wee sense of sneering superiority over the Cardio Bunnies. I mean, let's be real. Is it more badass to deadlift or to go to Cardio Kickboxing? (Real kickboxing where you might end up bloody? That's in the badass column, OBVS.) So while I was happy to do my time on the treadmill, or walk or run outdoors, or even use the recumbent bikes (the ones beloved by my old dude admirers at the Y who are generally amused/horrified/entertained by my Tuesday afternoon power rack adventures!), I steered clear of the one cardio machine that epitomized for me, probably unfairly, the Cardio Bunny stereotype. I refused to get on an elliptical.

Well. Yesterday I decided that was silly. Yesterday I decided that trying it would not automatically shrivel up my metaphorical balls. (I mean, actual dudes*** use them too, and it doesn't seem to affect their reproductive abilities.) I got on an elliptical. And then I almost fell off it. Oh, hush. Getting the right rhythm down was trickier than it looked, and until I did, it was *not* advisable to look down at what my feet were doing. But get the rhythm down I did, and you know what? It was freaking *fun*. Bouncy! Like a little trampoline action going on there. And I got sweaty and endorphined-out as hell. Will do again! Without embarrassment. (Um, unless I do actually fall off. Look for that on youtube.)

Cardio bunnies of the world? I guess I owe all y'all an apology!


***I hate that I apparently have this ingrained bit of sexism that is equating certain traditionally male activities as cool and certain traditionally female activities as wussy. Not true. There are traditionally unisex activities that are far too hardcore for me to ever attempt, like say, marathon running. And there are traditionally female (at least in America) activities like yoga that I rage at people considering wussy. If you think yoga is easy, you've never attempted it.