I started seriously working out a few years ago, after the motorcycle accident that detached my acromioclavicular joint: The choice was hardcore physical therapy that transitions into a lifetime of keeping my shoulders and back strong, or surgery with a 33% chance of resulting in reduced mobility after three months of immobilization.

That was an easy choice.

So I worked on developing all the muscles across my back and shoulders necessary to keeping everything aligned and healthy, which in time resulted in the pleasant side-effect of getting stronger and more fit overall. So I've continued working out ever since, including CrossFit training at the Lawrence box plus setting up my home for daily workouts: heavy bag, pull-up bar, TRX device, free weights, weight vest, and so on. Except for when I'm buried in the CSSF Science Fiction Summer or otherwise on deadline, I've maintained a regular workout schedule, at least doing what I call "maintenance workouts" several times per week (single sets, basically).

But I find I lack motivation to go beyond maintenance! I want to continue to develop my body, continue to grow stronger and more muscular, and for me to achieve that requires that I set goals.

But what goals?

Aiming for a certain weight or reps does nothing for me, and I'm not shooting for any record. I can already lift anything I need to, such as heavy car parts. I can already do more push-ups or pull-ups or so forth than most of my buddies (those are always fun challenges). I'm not going to go back to martial-arts tournaments, because the really good participants are often much more ego-invested than is healthy (for their opponents). I've done a good job keeping off excess fat, and eating well is reward in itself.

Suggestions? What motivates you that I might try to keep improving my body?

Just dipping out of grading finals for a few updates:

First up, interested in being part of this year's Science Fiction Writing Workshop with special guest author Andy Duncan? Well, we still have a few slots left, so apply ASAP to ensure consideration!

Last weekend, Hastings Bookstore in Lawrence held a big event for local SFnal types. Here we are:

Here's the whole gang (left to right): Lane Robins, James Gunn, K.d. McEntire, Mary Chambers, Robin Wayne Bailey, Chris McKitterick, and Kij Johnson who dropped in on her way out of town. Check out the photos on The Gathering Facebook photo page.

Speaking of finals, grades are complete for my "Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens" course (ENGL507). As usual, those who participated most in class, turned in all the projects, and did extra-credit got the best grades on their finals, as well. Surprise! Hoping to wrap up my vast assortment of technical-writing courses tomorrow. Yes, early. Because:

I'm going to be mostly offline starting later this week, WRITING MY OWN STUFF. You heard that right: I'm going to be selfish with my time and try to get down the first three chapters of my next novel (The True-Life Space Adventures of Jack and Stella) in time to read from it at the upcoming ConQuest SF convention in Kansas City over Memorial Day weekend.

The Sinus Infection of Enduring Suffering has sidelined my CrossFit shenanigans, but I've kept up the movements at home, anyway, getting up from my desk every hour or two to do push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and so forth. Helps not only keep me from feeling like I'm losing ground but also helps keep up the energy.

Speaking of which, I'm back to it!

Did you know the Western USA (and Eastern Asia) is about to enjoy its first full solar eclipse since 1994? Excitement!

Click the image to see the Sky & Telescope article.

Here's a map of how much you'll get to see; if you live in Asia, it's basically the same but reversed; those who live in the Pacific Ocean have the best seats:

Click the image to see the Sky & Telescope article.

Bonus: What's the Higgs boson? This is a great and entertaining video.

I must be feeling heathier, because I just finished mowing the yard. To keep from irritating the still-unhappy sinues over-much, I wore a bandana around the face to filter the grass and pollen, plus a pair of shop goggles and long pants and shirt. SWEATY. I must have looked GORGEOUS.

mckitterick: Here's the 16" Meade Lightbridge Dobsonian that I bought for myself as the prize for seeing TRANSCENDENCE make print. (telescope Chris)
( May. 9th, 2012 12:45 pm)

Click the image to see the xkcd site.

Remember how excited or happy you felt when you learned something awesome for the first time? Sharing that with others is almost as fun, whereas mocking them for missing a cultural reference or cool fact isn't fun for anyone.

Speaking of not-fun, went to see the doctor yesterday. You know how I had a big fever last Thursday and felt better on Friday? Well, apparently all that was just the prelude to sinus infection - as of yesterday, I hadn't been able to get to sleep in less than two hours for days. I won't get into details, but let's just say the throat's been killing me and there's a constant tickle in the throat. Oh, and I lost my voice on Saturday night. Awesome.

When I called to make the appointment, the nurse asked, "What makes you think it's a sinus infection?"

"I'm getting a lot of blood drainage."

"Ah, yes. They're very popular right now."

The doc wrote me a 'scrip for Amoxicillin - my first antibiotics since the turn of the millennium. Not excited about that, because my last party with antibiotics (for blood poisoning - long story) ended with having to fight thrush for weeks. UGH. On the up-side, I'm already feeling better today, and it only took about half an hour of coughing my lungs out to fall asleep last night.

The rush of paper-critiquing before Finals Week has meant I haven't been online much (well, I've been online ALL THE TIME with grading software), so I'm behind on Crossfit reports. On the plus side, I'm fully caught up on grading BEFORE finals start pouring in. *ROCK*

Here's Monday's workout:
  • Warmup: Lunges, then jumping lunges. This means take the biggest step you can (3-4 feet for my height), keeping your back-leg knee off the mat, then jump forward, switching which leg is front and which is at the back. Cross the gym, then back again.
  • Rowing machine. Just "a quick 500 meters," sez the coach.
  • Shrug-kettlebell-lifts. Pick up the kettlebell between your feet and, as fast as you can, pull it up to your chin. Your glutes and thighs should do most of the work ("Squeeze those glutes!"), and shrug your traps to pull up the kettlebell.
  • Barbell thrusts. Start with your wrists as flat back as they can go with the barbell just resting on your collar-bone and shoulders, elbows forward, and then THRUST the bar up until your elbows lock, as fast as you can.
  • Now add a drop-thrust; that is, as you push up, pretend the weight is really heavy and drop by bending your knees as you launch the bar upward, then stand after it's all the way up. This one sucked for my shoulder; I'm going to substitute something that works those muscles without causing so much rub between clavicle and acromian.
  • Box-jumps. The coach gave me a 22-inch wooden box to jump onto; swinging your arms and using your glutes and thighs, LAUNCH up onto the box, brining your knees as high as possible to avoid hitting your shins on the box. Immediately jump backwards, down. Repeat a whole lotta times.
  • Fully warmed up and form is good? Now do the WoD:
    • Box-jumps and shrug-kettlebell-lifts.
    • Just three sets: 21 of each, 15 of each, 9 of each, as fast as possible.
    • GO!
    • I can't remember my time, but OMG I was dying during the second set. Interestingly, the third set was easiest.
  • Oh, and of course a bunch of warm-down roll-outs using various equipment to stretch the muscle fascia.
  • For the first time since I started this insane program, I went home NOT SORE. Whoah, it really does get easier!

So that was Monday. Today's (Wednesday) workout was pretty much the same as Friday's, only with the added complication - after doing tripod-headstands (hands and head support you as you lift your legs) - of trying to do handstands (free-standing with locked elbows holding up your body, toes pointed toward ceiling).


Despite my frakked-up shoulder.

Last time I did handstands was DURING THE 1980s. NO, REALLY.

Oh, and I finished the WoD (burpees and situps) at least one, maybe two, minutes faster than on Friday.

Oh, and when I came home, I totally banged out a couple sets of pullups using a different grip than I normally use, because the bars at the Lawrence Crossfit gym are straight, and I don't want to embarrass myself with something I can actually do *g*

OH! And we took the Newport, because the guys who run the place are total gearheads. It was much appreciated! They all came pouring out of the gym to see it when we pulled up, and of course the first thing the coach wanted to see was the engine compartment :-D

Now I'm going to have a mimosa and watch a bit of the Dean & Sam Show™ (that would be Supernatural to the uninitiated).

mckitterick: At NASA's Moon-rock exhibit when it came to KU. (NASA Chris)
( Apr. 28th, 2012 11:12 am)
For those of you playing along at home, here's last night's workout:
  • Lotsa stretching using lacrosse balls duct-taped together to target stiff and sore areas.

  • Jump-rope. I hate jump-rope. I suck at it, and no matter how fast I whip the rope, I never seem to be able to do double-jumps. And it's frakkin' TIRING. But we did it for many minutes, anyway. *pant*

  • Core work.
    • We practiced hollowing our front by pulling shoulders toward hips, then creating a hollow in the rear by pulling shoulders toward butt.

    • When we got that to work, we jumped up to pullup bars and practiced "kipping" our core fore-and-aft; that is, swinging our torso using only shoulders, so that your head moves ahead of the shoulders as you extend your ribcage, then moves behind shoulders as you round them forward and extend the rear of your ribcage. Oh, and try to keep your feet in the same position relative to the floor as you do so. I know it sounds like it is, but this is not easy, folks.

    • Once we got down the technique, we moved to the floor and hollowed the front-core, making a V by reaching up toward the feet, balancing on the top of the hips.

    • Now rock hips-to-lower-back, using only core muscles to do so. For two minutes, I think.

  • Now do Superman!

    • Lay on your belly, then hollow your back, feet extended behind you as high from the floor as possible, hands extended before you as high as possible. Hold for a while.

    • Now, without touching the floor with anything but your core, swap from hollow-back to hollow-front as you roll onto your back and hold the V for a while, roll, repeat 5 times. Now roll the opposite direction and repeat 5 times. I kinda sucked at this, unable to avoid getting myself over without using my shoulder or elbow.


  • Headstands. I did my first headstand since high school! And that was in the latter part of the last millenium. Ahem. The technique:
    • Go into pushup pose and touch your forehead to the mat, hands about a foot or two from a wall. That gives you the proper hands-to-head ratio for the support triangle you'll use to do the headstand.

    • Walk your feet forward until you can put your knees on your elbows. Get stable.

    • Bring your feet and knees together, then - using your ass and core - lift them up until you can point your toes at the ceiling. Viola! You're in a headstand!

    • Of course, it's not that simple. Let your heels tap the wall behind you if needed, then use your glutes to slowly move your feet straight above you.

    • Experiment with flexing your core fore and aft, letting your butt just touch the wall, then heels just touch the wall; repeat for a couple of minutes.

  • Now it's time for the WoD! A simple pairing of two movements:
    • Burpees (this video shows good form step-by-step):

    • Situps. Crossfit uses a special technique to keep up the cardio, kinda like this, only moving hands to tap the mat above your head as you lay back, then tap your toes as you crunch:

    • The full WoD is 10 burpees followed by 15 situps, repeat 5 times.


  • Then stretching using big bands to open up the shoulders and ribcage.

And there you have it: The perfect Friday-night date ;-)

Okay, for those of you following along at home, last night's workouts:
  • Warmup:
    • First, frog-walks (I think they're called), where you put your hands behind you and walk hand-foot about 50 feet as fast as you can, then walk backwards to the starting point.

    • Now stand up and run about twice as far like normal, except with each step tap your knees into your hands, held out straight in front of you. WHOAH TIRING.

    • Run back, but this time whacking your behind with your heels with each step.

    • Now fast-step running back and forth. By now if you're not seriously out of breath, you're a god.

  • After drinking some water and catching one's breath (no more than a few seconds, really), move on to learning how to do deadlifts. Here's Brandon Cox (normalcyispasse) setting a world record for this movement:

    (I am not ashamed to say that I lifted nowhere near that amount. Only gods can.)
    • Start with working on form by lifting just the bar itself, about 45 lbs.

    • Now they have you add some poundage; for me, that was 30 kg (about 110 lbs total). Work on form, especially keeping back straight, knees in good squat postion (as I described yesterday). For me, a special difficulty was not compensating for the f'ed-up shoulder; I kept using a shrug to keep the joint in place. Got better. Do 5 reps.

    • Now swap the 15 kg weights for 25 kg (total 155 lbs). Do 5 reps.

    • Add 20 lbs, 5 reps.

    • Add another 20 lbs (195 lbs total), 5 reps. At this point, the coach said he normally has people go to their max weight for 1 rep, but was worried about my shoulder and just had me do another set of reps.

  • Drink water.

  • Jump-rope time. Discovered my rope was too short because I couldn't do more than a few at a time; the handles should touch the top of your armpits when standing on the rope. Do about a million, aiming for double passes for each jump. My form was crap; you want to use only your wrists to whip the rope and only your calves to bounce up and down. I haven't jumped rope since high school, and it showed!

  • Now wall-ball. Basically, you hold a medicine-ball (soft leather ball about 18" wide, and the ones we used were either 14 or 16 pounds) to your chest, do a squat, and on the up-thrust launch the ball up about 10 feet to an X on the wall. It bounces off, and you catch it on the down movement. Repeat a billion times, all the while maintaining good form, going below horizontal to touch your bum on a second ball behind you. Whoah.

  • Now we did toe-to-ring:
    • Position a pair of gymnast rings just out of reach so you have to jump to hold them.

    • Squeeze your abs and bring your toes up into the rings above your hands.

    • Extend back down, then using a "kipping" or swinging movement, drive your feet back up into the rings. The kipping keeps up the momentum so you can do them faster and maintain high aerobic energy. The warm-up was about 10 or so.

  • "Warm-up?" you ask? Why, yes, this was all in prep for the Workout of the Day (WoD):
    • 10 toe-to-ring. Let me tell you how not-easy this becomes after the second set - which comes after 40 minutes of hardcore warm-up.

    • 20 jump-rope (or 10 double-jumps; I'm lucky to be able to do 20 regular ones in a row without tripping on the damned rope).

    • 10 ball-to-wall. Not so bad, except keeping good form is rough when you can barely stand or move your arms.

    • Repeat AMR (as many set-reps as possible): The goal was 3 sets minimum over 7 minutes; we all did 3, and the others got almost 4, but I slowed way down and barely managed the jump-rope and wall-ball of the 4th set. Wish I hadn't eaten my tuna salad so soon before I went there, as I was getting close to tasting it again....

And then we all look like this for a while:

Afterward, we did cool-down stretches (tons of 'em) and finished gallons of water.

There you have it! Interestingly, though this was KICK ASS HARD (I urge you to try this at home and see what I mean), I'm nowhere near as sore today as I was last week.

It gets better™!

Just realized that I haven't been tracking this very well. For those of you who haven't heard of Crossfit (link: Crossfit Lawrence's site), here's what my hour there last night looked like:
  • Warm-up:

    • Stretching: Most dramatic part is using lacrosse balls, PVC pipe, and bars to target sore spots.

    • Lunges: Big step forward until rear knee almost touches the mat, then step up so that back knee touches chest - hold it for five seconds! - then lunge forward. Repeat until you reach the far wall (about 40 feet).

    • Turn around and do fast running-stuff: Step 10 times per mat as fast as you can until you reach the end of the mats

    • Turn around and do inchworm-things: With feet shoulder-width apart, reach down with palms flat (keeping feet flat). Now walk out with hands until back is staight, do a push-up, then walk feet back into flat position. Repeat until you reach the far wall.

    • More stretching. My mind blanks on what we did.

    • Squats, working on form. A lot of 'em, focusing on good knee position, using glutes and hamstrings to do most of the work, and form. Dip so that hips are lower than knees, touch bum on a short medicine-ball, then push up using mostly glutes. This is a warm-up for what's to come.

  • Now some training: Weighted squats with the bar across the top of the chest, against the throat. I believe it was about 100 pounds. We did what felt like a million of these, 10 per set, each of the two of us taking a break as the other did his set (okay, we each did about 5 or 6 sets). Yes, my heinie is SORE today.

  • Now we begin the "Workout of the Day" aka "WoD" - last night's was called someone's name I can't recall done "as many reps as possible" or "AMR"; here it is:

    • 5 jumping pullups: Push off with your legs and lower slowly.

    • 10 pushups: Good form is feet close, lower until chest just touches mat, all the way to arm lock.

    • 15 squats: Not weighted, hands out front on the bottom, at sides when fully upright.

    • Back to pullup bar: That's 1 set. Repeat for AMR in 8 minutes. My partner and I did 6 complete sets, then I managed the pullups and half the pushups before time. Egad, I was dying.

  • Then the coach had us stretch our calves on a raised bar: Yowza.

  • Now a final stretching session, using a giant rubber-band hanging from the pullup bar to keep the hip in position when he placed a big weight on one leg, then we push the other knee down as far as possible. HOLY CRAP. Got a cramp in the hip here, but it lessened over time. Apparently I'm pretty stiff there.

And that's what Crossfit looks like on a typical training night early in the process. Later on, after we are approved to join the others for group WoDs, the sessions are shorter but more brutal. You don't really take any breaks between these stages except to drink a little water, because the point is to keep the cardio going full-blast. I discovered my weakness right there: Cardio.

On the plus side: Things really do get better. After my previous session, my quadriceps (front-of-the-leg muscles) were SO SORE that I could hardly walk for two days afterward. I had been doing squats not-quite-right, using too much front of leg and not enough backside, plus I haven't exactly been a fan of squats, so my prep was crap. This time, they're not so bad, even though last night's workout was MUCH harder than the one that whacked me for days.

So: Progress! Soon, I shall be in the best condition of my life. <- That right there is my goal. Also to be ready for the coming Zombie Apocalypse.

mckitterick: The ale tasting at the 2009 Kansas City Renaissance Festival. (RenFaire Chris)
( Mar. 20th, 2012 11:59 pm)
It's been lovely so far! Man, I needed a vacation.

First, kicked it off with a visit from a friend I haven't seen in far too long (hi Thomas!) on Thursday evening. Great to see you, man! Miss you!

Just beforehand, my "Science, Technology, and Society" class talked about robots, and the author of one of the stories (Robin Wayne Bailey, plus his wife Diana) paid a visit. The students really enjoyed his being there, and it was a great discussion. As a thank-you, I took them out to dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants, Ingredient, then bid them adieu before joining the Thursday-night crew at Harbour Lights, Lawrence's oldest bar (in continuous operation since the end of Prohibition). Ended the evening with some adventures with a friend who's always up for adventures. Lovely evening.

Spent a fair sum ordering parts for the Chevelle. It's going to be awesome! If only the people from Keisler Engineering get on the ball and update my 6-speed transmission quote so I can get that thing ASAP.

Also worked a bit on the Newport: made an anti-drainback valve for the fuel system in hopes of keeping the gas from running out of the carb back into the tank, so it'll start easier between runnings. If all goes well (haven't been able to test it, as we're enduring 40 days and nights of deluge here in Larryville), I'll put together a little tutorial for how to make one for yourself, saving tons of money if you can even find something that works for a carbureted engine.

The Lawrence St. Patty's Day Parade is always charming, with pretty much everyone in town participating, either by watching or driving in it: If you have a convertible, you're in. And if you ever won a beauty pageant within the past few century or two? Sit in the back of one of those converts! That part was a little weird. It was a beautiful, cool-but-pleasant day, and we sat outside most of the time enjoying good company and conversation. Ended the evening at Matt's place playing old Atari and Nintendo games (remember The Adventures of Link?) on his Wii. Also had a drunken push-up contest - turns out I can do 7 one-armed push-ups with each arm (yes, even with the damaged side) after blasting out 30-odd nose-to-floor knuckle push-ups. Absinthe is a curative. 'Twas a blast.

Got caught up with the current BBC Sherlock series. Wow, but is it amazing: great acting, great actor chemistry, great filming, great writing... just all-around fantastic. LOVE IT.

Also finished Season 2 and started Season 3 of Due South, which is even better with the addition of Callum Keith Rennie. He and Paul Gross (RCMP Constable Benton Fraser) have PERFECT timing. At a few points in their first episode together, I was laughing so hard we had to pause and rewind to hear the dialogue. LOVE IT - how did I miss this series before now? Thank you for introducing me to this often-surreal series, CR!

Getting caught up with reading through more of the mountain of nominations for the Campbell Award. Really loving Ernest Cline's Ready Player One right now: It's well-written, well-conceived, funny, serious, and meaningful. Hope it gets even better; if so, it's probably my favorite book of 2011.

Earlier today, bought my first pair of running shoes since high school, New Balance Minimus MR10 trainers in an astounding green-and-blue color combo. They weigh less than the box they came in! Also got a pair of exercise shorts from Sears at 50% off (yes, Lawrence is losing our Sears *sadness*). I couldn't buy a pair of Nike or New Balance or other corporate-logo shorts. Can't do it.

Why did I need this equipment? Well, right now I'm recovering from the introductory session of CrossFit. WOW, but I'm beat. And I'm beginning to get hints of how sore I'll be tomorrow. I thought I was in decent shape with my regular exercise (weights, pull-ups and push-ups with 25-lb weight vest, heavy bag-work, stair-running, and so on), but boy was I WRONG. They say, "Expect to have a challenging, but short workout that might give you a little reality check on your fitness level." Reality check? CHECK: Kettle ball swings up over the head, lunges, box-leaps, sit-ups, running while carrying a medicine-ball, hardcore stretching... I just about died. Even so, we both decided to sign up for the next step: a 10-session "Elements" punch-card that includes several one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer. Seems like a great workout; can't wait for the next one! (Did I really just write that?)
trimmed for my most-recent fitness-tracking photos )
I'm in a little better shape right now, but not significantly - that's why I bought the 25-pound weight vest for pull-ups and push-ups and part of why I decided to do CrossFit, because I've been kicking ass for a long time without significant results. I'll take another set of shots after CrossFit to see how this program improves things!

Okay, and now I need to get back to finishing my little 7-questions response for Weaselmom....

Well, maybe if it's part of a hungry lion and you're unarmed and looking particularly tasty in the veldt.

But will eating red meat kill you, as so many news articles are now proclaiming, based on this study?

Turns out the answer is probably not. Mark Sisson of "Mark's Daily Apple" - the paleo-lifestyle go-to mentor - analyzes the faults in this study and especially the media's misapprehension of it, and systematically tears it down. The most salient points:
  • It's an observational study (not science per se)

  • ...based on self-reporting eating and other behaviors on a bi-annual basis.

  • Participants clearly lied about their intake, because the average person in Australia clearly consumes more than 1200 (women) - 2000 (men) calories per day.

  • ...but more important is that the self-reporting meat-eaters reported eating 800 more calories per day

  • ...any amount of which could be hamburger, which (if American eating habits are under discussion here) was likely delivered buried in special sauce, cooking grease, and refined-flour buns.

  • They also smoked more

  • ...were less active

  • ...and took fewer multi-vitamins

  • Oh, and the meat-eaters had lower cholesterol.

Why wasn't the title of the report, "Eating red meat lowers cholesterol"?

When I first saw the news reports on this study, I was a little concerned about eating paleo-style. Well, it seems those concerns were unfounded. The important hypothesis that I get from this observational study (which Mark points out is only the first step in the scientific method)?

Avoid eating fast food, eat fewer calories, get more exercise, and don't smoke.

World-shattering, I know.

There you have it: This study tells us nothing new. What people should not get out of this is that you should eat more grains and seeds - these we know are bad for human consumption (see Mark's "Start Here" page).

A new study finds that exercise reprograms your muscles and metabolism at the DNA level.

full press release under the cut )

Holy cow. So you can cause sub-cellular-level changes by just working out, improving your entire body's function. If ever you needed a reason to start exercising right now, here it is.

X-Men, here I come!

Drove the hot-rod Newport to physical therapy today, on request of my therapist, self-diagnosed gearhead. I gave it a little rev or two in the lot right outside his window, and he loved it! When I left, he lifted his blinds to watch me drive away. Driving that machine always makes me smile. Speaking of which, here's a photo from the Newport's (and my) first car show, Rev It Up! here in Lawrence, KS, a few weeks ago:

Look at that: Shorts! Ah, Kansas weather, you are a fickle sonofagun.

Therapist Rob continued to work on the tendon stiffness in my elbow and gave me stretches to deal with growing abdominal/rib soreness - turns out it's just more tendon issues. I'm supposed to do backward and side stretches on the big ball after workouts on the punching bag or anything else that really works the abs.

He also gave me a rule of thumb for rest after a workout that causes muscle soreness: Wait 36 hours before repeating the exercise to allow the muscles to heal up and get stronger; that soreness is actually little tears in the muscle, and the body deposits new proteins to heal them, which makes 'em stronger. One can do light workouts or work other muscle groups the next day, but give a break to the sore muscles.

Oh, and to my question, "Why do I keep encountering this kind of tendon issue?" he said, "How old are you?" I told him, and he smiled. "Guys like us who choose to stay active at our age just have to deal with discomfort like this."


He went on: "You make the choice to live with tendon and muscle soreness or get diabetes and heart disease. I'd rather have the occasional ache than let my body fall apart and die young."


Which reminds me: I meant to take new fitness-tracking photos over the weekend, but alas. Next weekend.

Something just came to me: Perhaps one of the (subconscious?) reasons I get such pleasure from hot-rodding the Newport is that I transformed a not-so-special late-'60s vehicle into something much more powerful and spry than it ever was before... much as I'm doing my best to transform this late-'60s Middle American into the fittest I've ever been, too, to hell with age. Both of us can get a little creaky, but we can still show the younger whippersnappers a thing or two. Hm. Something to ponder.

Hope you're doing well. Now I'm back to the (never-ending) grading. Who assigns them all this stuff that I have to grade? Oh, right.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (skeleton bicyclist)
( Apr. 19th, 2011 01:40 pm)
First, read this NYT article on why sugar is so dangerous to your health. I'll wait.

I stopped eating refined sugars a year ago, and within two weeks I lost 10 pounds. I also started feeling healthier almost right away. This is why: Not only does sugar (cane, corn, you name it - refined sugar) make us fat, but it also causes insulin resistance. This makes it a primary cause for diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That means sugar causes heart disease. Worse yet, because of all these effects, it promotes cancer.

There's a terrifying thought, considering that it's in almost every prepared food you find in the grocery store.

Click the image to see the NYT article.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give up refined sugar for one month. See how much your body responds.

Starting today, I'm giving up on diet soda, as well. Why? One's body sees the artificial sweetener and produces insulin in response... so the most dangerous aspect of sugar - that it promotes these diseases - can't be avoided by using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar. I've been noticing soreness in my guts, what appears from all symptoms to be a gall-bladder issue. Therefore, my body is responding to diet soda by producing insulin and increasing my triglycerides (blood fat) from artifical sweetneners.


I'll report in a month on how that's going. I hope to hear from YOU, too!

Good luck.
I've reported how I've changed my diet over the past year and the health progress that followed, right? About this time last year, I weighed 25-30 pounds more, had way less stamina, was weaker, and endured sore joints like you wouldn't believe - especially the injured shoulder. After assurance from my doctor that I could resume full-on exercise "as long as it doesn't hurt; sore is okay," I shifted from recuperation and maintenance to a strengthening program. At the same time, I cut out sugar from my diet - something that I had been eating far too often and in far too much volume. Hence the weight and blood-sugar swings. It also was doing me no good in the feeling-sorry-for-myself category.

Zoom ahead a month, and ten pounds fall away. This encouraged me to continue this process, and avoiding sugar was now easy because it no longer tastes good. I'd dropped my sugar addiction in a month and grew physically stronger, too, from upping the workouts. No longer do I experience any knee pain, either, despite a diversity of prior damage: Paleo-diet proponents suggest that eating grains contributes to joint and other inflammation. I suspect losing weight is a part of it, too.

Positive results reinforce good behavior, so I started dropping more processed carbs from my diet and adding more strengthening exercises, until over-doing things without assistance from a physical therapist derailed the strengthening part a couple of months ago (working on that now - almost done with Physical Therapy: The Sequel). Oh, and I've also stopped taking the 800mg x2 of ibuprofen daily that my doctor prescribed last year, because it was damaging my mucous membranes (noticeable as a sore mouth and stomach); I've also dropped sodium lauryl sulfate (in most toothpaste, for Pete's sake!), and since then no more irritated mouth or tum. If you'd like to stop putting SLS into your mouth, I suggest either the old-fashioned route of baking soda or, if you want to keep fluoride (as I do), the only toothpaste I could find that doesn't use SLS (or sweeteners) in an extensive search is Jason (with macron over the A and umlaut over the O), and only Sea Fresh is available in Lawrence (at the Merc, natch). Good stuff, dumb name.

Other benefits: I need less sleep, I'm hungry much less, I have steady energy during the day, and I'm a cheap drunk - re: the last, it seems I can only consume about two drinks before feeling tipsy. Not sure if the latter is necessarily a benefit, but you get the idea.

Drawbacks of this diet? Well, good luck finding ANY pre-packaged or restaurant food that doesn't include sugar. I was at the grocery store recently and decided to do a survey: Not a single packaged "food" that I examined was free of sugar, mostly high fructose corn syrup. Seriously? Stove Top Stuffing needs corn syrup? Unless you're looking at single-ingredient tins (canned carrots or something), you'll find a long list of not-food in the ingredients - and often, even canned veggies are loaded with sugar. WTF?

So that's one drawback. Another is not being able to have chocolate. Now we get around to the point of this entry. I was a true addict, like so many, but last time I tried conventional chocolate since altering my taste, chocolate just tasted bitterly sweet, sickeningly sweet. So I figured I was done for in this arena.

Then along comes Dutch process cocoa.

OMG yum. In case you haven't yet explored the wonderfulness that is Dutch process cocoa in milk, let me just say: DO IT. This concoction is pure delight. DPC is just cocoa and nothing but cocoa, ground fine. Mine comes from Penzy's, who describes it thus:

"Dutch cocoa is processed to temper the natural acidity of the cocoa bean, yielding a smooth, rich, and slightly less strong cocoa that mixes more freely with liquid. Dutch cocoa has long been the cocoa of choice for hot chocolate and flavored coffee. Cocoa can easily replace unsweetened baking chocolate."

Unsweetened Hot Cocoa recipe:

4-5 shakes Dutch process cocoa (use a shaker bottle to get just the right amount, way less than a teaspoon).
1/2 cup hot water.
1/2 cup whole milk (hot or cold, to taste; use quality, local, non-homogenized milk if possible).

Shake the cocoa into hot water, stir, top off with milk, and stir again.

Milk adds all the mildness needed to make the unsweetened cocoa drinkable, and the concoction tastes like fine hot cocoa. Well, I guess it is, really, isn't it? Think hybrid milk chocolate and dark chocolate in beverage form, but without the tooth-coating aftertaste or sugary tongue-burn. Yum.

Sugar-free yet retains all the joy of chocolate. That's what I'm talking about.

Just finished my mid-day workout and thought I'd drop in to LJ for a moment before resuming grading.

Haven't done a health post in a while, so a quick update:

  • Off sugar and corn syrup since April (with a slip during the CSSF Writers Workshops).

  • Eating mostly paleo since then, too, more as time goes on, but not strictly. That is, once a week, I'll have a slice of pizza or such, just no refined sugar.
    For example, today for breakfast I had broccoli soup (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] chernobylred) with sasuage and cheese, and a glass of half-water, quarter each of apple cider and orange juice - oh, and a banana; for lunch a custom concoction of chorizo, spinach, chicken, and almonds with spicy cheese. Also a half-cup of kefir for digestive health. Dinner will likely be a big salad out with the guys, and if we're out late, possibly a slice of pizza. Other meals include fish, lots of veggies, nuts, and so forth.

  • Down to 168 pounds (from a high last winter of 195, and an all-time high of well over 200 [wasn't weighing back then], eek).

  • Today I did my first full-on, go-until-failure workout (rather than maintenance exercise) in weeks and found I haven't lost strength despite being buried in work. Even added a couple of new movements to my routine. Hurray!

  • Musculature shows better than in my last photos (and starting to get some ab definition!). (I'll post pics again next time, in the middle of grading now.) Apparently I had fat on my arms and shoulders, too. Huh.

  • Overall: Feeling much healthier, with fewer blood-sugar drops, more stamina, no joint pain (except the shoulder, natch) and all-around more vim and vigor.

  • Had to get rid of MOST of my long-sleeved shirts, and probably ought to ditch the old short-sleeves, too.

  • Ditto old pants. Which fit like clown pants. (Sorry, [livejournal.com profile] weaselmom, The Pants had to go; I was swimming in them.)
    An aside: I know what you're thinking: "Boo hoo, you lost weight and had to buy new clothes." Well, still, it's something to weigh (ar ar): cost of new clothes vs. cost of lots of crap food, health problems, self-esteem, and so forth.

  • Can't eat any pre-packaged food.

  • Most fancy receptions have nothing to eat that isn't half sugar.

  • If I were really strict, almost nothing in a restaurant would fit my diet.

Anyone else out there eating differently and seeing positive results? Got a new exercise routine?

Maybe not yet, but you're feeling like shedding poundage, looking better, and feeling healthier? Well, if I can give up sugar, anyone can! Just ask any of my long-time friends and you'll likely hear that I was the worst chocoholic around and used to suffer all kinds of sore joints and blood-sugar instability. However, like any addiction, it's a habit that anyone with a little willpower (and support) can kick. It just took me two weeks of staying off sugar to lose my taste for the stuff.

Geez, I'm starting to sound like an infomercial. Anyhow: Paleo and exercise FTW!

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (naked)
( Oct. 14th, 2010 02:21 pm)
PS: Stepped on the scale this morning and discovered that I've dipped into the 160s for the first time since my first years in college! Digital scale sez 169.8 lbs. Woohoo!

It's been a while since my last health-tracking post, so without further ado, an update. If you missed my previous post, I got started on this in late March, after my last shoulder-injury appointment when the doc told me that I could do anything that didn't actively hurt; "sore" is okay. But that if I didn't start feeling better by July, he was going to recommend surgery. No thanks. So I decided to move on from rubber-band physical-therapy stuff to full-on workouts like I'd done years ago.

While upping my physical activity, I also decided to reduce the lard that'd collected around my midsection. I figured I had about 15 pounds to lose, as I'd gained about that much since the accident. [livejournal.com profile] chernobylred was just starting a new eating plan, what with her interminable food issues, and discovered paleo eating. Since she's the cook in the house, I got to experience the benefits of eating like that, too. Now, I didn't start full-on paleo; I simply cut out refined sugar (I used to love my sweets...). With only a bit more exercise and no sugar, I lost 10 pounds by May. Good results tend to encourage greater efforts, so I started cutting out more processed foods and started exercising more - by mid-June (my last health-track post), I'd lost 15 pounds, gained muscle, strengthened my injured shoulder a LOT, and improved my overall health a bunch. I also discovered that I had more than just 15 pounds to lose....

The CSSF summer program put a pause on progress, of course, what with pretty much every waking hour spent with the Workshoppers, then Conference attendees, then Institute students, but I stuck (mostly) to good eating habits and stayed physically active if not working out. But after July (and the SF Institute) ended, I jumped back into it, almost completely cutting out grains while upping the workout routine. Yesterday morning, I was 21 pounds lighter than when I started all this in April. I'm able to wear pants only my undergrad-me could have fit into before, and the new clothes I bought last winter are just huge. Who knew I had so much weight to lose? I hear that guys underestimate how much fat they're carrying, and gee whiz is it true, folks.

However, I hit a snag a couple of weeks ago, and maybe you have a suggestion. The tendon on my left forearm, where the muscle joins the inside of the elbow, no longer approves of exercises that require a grip and pull, like curls or pull-ups. Still bothered me last night when I tried to resume my workout schedule, even after letting the arm mostly rest. Tendonitis? Something else? I should probably get it looked at by a professional. Dammit.

Anyhow, here's some photo documentation (taken August 24 - should update this, as I'm down another 4 pounds!). cut for half-nekkid Chris )

I like that my shoulders now look even from behind!

Workout details - for tracking purposes, here's my workout circuit (until the arm started bothering me...):behind the cut for those who care about such details )

Breakfast each day is usually a spinach salad with a variety of nuts and sunflower seeds, whatever meat I find in the fridge, feta cheese, veggies if I can find 'em, and either [livejournal.com profile] chernobylred-made dressing or olive oil with balsamic vinegar. Sometimes (like today) I fry up the ingredients in a pan and toss the hot mix on top of more greens, as spinach pretty much disappears with heat. "Lunch" is whatever CR makes for dinner (our sleep schedules are very different), and dinner is usually another salad or just handfuls of veggies and nuts, often with melted mozzarella and spices on top.

Finally, I leave you with this: If I can manage decent eating-and-fitness progress even with a frakked-up shoulder and a sweet tooth, you can do it, too! Thanks so much to [livejournal.com profile] chernobylred for the encouragement and eating support - you make this seem easy! I'd love to hear what's been working for you if you've been working on your health, too.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Vespa 150S)
( Aug. 18th, 2010 11:27 am)
Getting ready to head out to the all-day English Department "retreat," where we'll do strategic planning for the coming year(s). I figured I shouldn't wear shorts to such an event.

It's been boiling hot (or in Silvergoth's - a Seattle friend - words, "hellish") here in Kansas since June, so I haven't had the opportunity to wear proper pants for a few months (except for dressy pants during the Campbell Conference). Thus this was my first opportunity to pull on a pair of pants since spring semester.

Remember how I've been working out kinda seriously since spring? It began with an effort to strengthen my shoulder post-accident and has continued with renewed vigor because I like the results overall. The newest result: My jeans, once tight, now need a belt to keep from falling off.

Woohoo! I'll post another photo and proper health-post when I have some more time.

Now off I go on my pretty Vespa, half an hour into the wilds of North Lawrence.

Last July's motorcycle accident and resultant AC joint dislocation not only put the kabosh on my goal to look like Robert Downey Jr. from Iron Man (which I'd set just two weeks prior to the accident), but also put the kibosh on exercise in particular and even moving vigorously in specific. Let's face it, I got soft and weak and gained at least 15 pounds. When moving one's arm more than a little fires bolts of pain through one's body, one resists doing things that move one's arm. I don't blame the injury for all of the going-soft-ness, of course; much of what went wrong was about the psychological fallout of feeling broken and the comfort eating and stuff that followed.

Last fall, I started doing physical therapy, and when that ended, continued doing my (simple resistance) exercises at home. Earlier this spring, I cut out the comfort eating, and that stopped the weight-gain. Then, with my doctor's go-ahead, I resumed some of my previous workout schedule, slowly upping the weight I lifted and number of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and so forth. A couple of months ago, I got really sore doing this, but with further doctor's encouragement and his prescription of using tons of ibuprofen, I worked through the pain and got to a point where the shoulder just kinds of feels sore during exercise. It's like they say: Strengthen the muscles that surround an injured joint enough, and they'll support it.

Seems to be working! Maybe it's just the change from winter weather, maybe just time away from the original injury, but I've not only gotten up to the number of reps I was doing before but finally surpassed them this week. Last summer, I could do 7 full-length pull-ups in a row and 15 nose-to-the-floor (using dumbbells to add a few inches of stroke) push-ups; today I managed 12 pull-ups and 18 push-ups, despite the injury. Over the past month, I've also lost about 10 pounds through eating better and exercising regularly. Woohoo! That pretty effectively eliminates my broken feeling. Not that I don't feel a little sore, but I'm not letting that crush my spirit anymore. And if the doctor says I shouldn't worry about a little pain, I won't!

So, without further ado, a baseline photo a la [livejournal.com profile] adammaker. I wanted to do this before, but just wasn't brave enough to post a pic with my injury-gut still showing. I've never posted such a pic before, so I'm feeling shy; this plus to protect your eyes, I'm putting it behind the cut )
I took this photo today (using a handy tripod on a box on a foot-stool...), June 23, to serve as a tool for tracking my physical progress. And to shame myself into getting into better shape *g* By next time I post a photo, my goal is to gain actual abdominal definition (let's be specific: a 6-pack!) and be a few pounds lighter, plus to continue to improve my muscle tone - and hopefully get my left (injured) side more balanced in strength with my right side. I expect doing this will serve two purposes: 1) Encouraging me to meet my physical-improvement goals, because now they're public; and 2) Shaming me into getting into better shape so I can post a photo I'm less shy to show y'all.

Okay, then! I'm back to reading stories for the CSSF Science Fiction Writers Workshop.



mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)


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