22 December 2011

circuit training day

This morning was circuits, same as Tues. Kind of out of breath though. My wife and daughter have had colds recently, perhaps it's my turn. The back ache comes and goes now. Yesterday it was fine most of the day, then sore last night. Today so far it's okay too.

Last night our daughter asked me why we talk about the solstice, which includes lighting candles (and blowing them out) and talking about the meaning and symbolism associated with the solstice through human history. We have done it on the solstice or on the 24th in different years since she was old enough to understand the concepts. I explained how it was/is so she would have a ritual or tradition to associate with the holiday. One could argue we are re-creating the Christmas holiday without using the label, which is kind of weird considering the holiday came from Yule or solstice celebrations in the first place. We started doing it so she would have a tradition. Traditions are important for children to tie them to earlier generations in a family and create connections within the human community, but difficult ... or awkward at best, for atheists to deal with within a religious society, so it was stressful for us to come up with something we could do that would be appropriate without dogma or abstract ("sciency").

18 December 2011

exercise changes

I went to the podiatrist this week. It's been about two years since toe surgery, but it's still painful sometimes. We discussed the MRI from a few weeks ago. I shouldn't do motions that use weight to bend the toe upward. Stretching it manually is okay, but lunges and calf raises are not, unless I'm wearing shoes that prevent toe bending. That's possible for lunges, but not that great, so I have to cross those two off the list. The orthotics don't seem to do anything when I wear them, but he says they are supposed to help in the long term, but shoes don't fit properly and heel cups don't last with them.

The restriction should also extend to jumping rope. I don't do a lot of cardio work, but walk every day and do rope jumping as part of circuit-training for cardio. If I reduce the walking and stop rope, there's nothing left that I currently do.

I'm supposed to do weight-bearing exercise for my osteopenia/osteoporosis. That's why I started jumping rope along with the weight lifting. I don't know what other weight-bearing exercises there is that is not impact or toe bending.

My wife, our daughter, and I did some shopping around yesterday and tried some stationary bikes and elliptical machines. No one seems to sell rowing machines in the stores. During all this I asked the wife if I should just sell the power rack as used and join a gym, but she said it was okay to get more equipment to avoid the crowded gyms and the things that go along with them.

Ellipticals seem to be the better way to go, based on various web pages, so I bought one yesterday evening that had a smooth rotation and fit us (well, the adults). It's a compact model, but still a big piece of equipment. Had to move some things around in the garage to make room for it last night and spent a good chunk of the morning putting it together. Had to make use of a hammer because a bolt wouldn't line up and a plastic fairing for a joint had broken hooks so it won't stay on. Box the ~100-lb worth of stuff back up and head back to the store or deal with it? Okay... a little fairing is not a big deal.

I tried it a few times, up to a five-minute session. My "walking" pace seems to be 45-47rpm and it's more work than walking. My back has been getting better the past few days and felt 95% today until trying the elliptical, which made it burn a bit on the tweaked side.

Give the gift of "fitness". We didn't know what to get each other this year... the elliptical answered that question. We both have shopping for the spouse done.

15 December 2011

lower back

I don't know what happened this time. I had some hip flexor pain over the weekend due to good mornings on Fri, so I read about the "proper" technique for those, then did some practice ones with no weight on Mon, using that technique but must have messed up a squat or deadlift rep but didn't notice any problem until Tues. Worse on Wed, but still not hobbling, just occasionally painful. Wed's workout was upper body, so that was fine. Looking like today's circuits will be skipped and Fri's lower body will be an upper instead.

Today is the final for my class, so will spend the bulk of the day preparing for that. I could probably skip the final and get a good grade, but would like to do well on it.

I had a second interview with a company last week. They do "bleeding edge consumer electronics" which is a competitive, fast-paced environment. Much different from the research environment. I don't know how I would do in that, plus the company is currently in our city, but is moving soon farther away than I currently commute. I will not be able to work the hours I do now and WILL have to work longer hours, so basically I would have to leave at the same time I do now, but will get home three hours later. As you can tell, this is not an ideal change.

11 December 2011

Dickens Fair

We went to the Dickens Fair today. We have gone the past ... three or four years, but this time was not in costume, just street clothes. We didn't spend very much time there, because we were not in costume and we've been there a number of times before. Same old. In costume it's more interesting because we are more of a part of it.

Over the course of the weekend I set up lights on the house and we decorated the tree inside, but since our daughter is too old to continue the Santa myth, there's not much to the holiday, so neither my wife nor I were that interested in decorating. Well, she wanted the lights up, but wasn't interested in the rest of the process.

Festive lights as images of the sun, representing the continuation of life in the dark and cold of the winter solstice, with shiny and nostalgic decorations replacing the images of the things people wished the coming year to bring don't make a big holiday. I don't know it it's because we are too detached from the rhythms of the year that we aren't into it or just because we have no family here to gather with.

05 December 2011


I've been reminded that it's been a while since I've written here, so here's a quick summary of the last few months.

Obviously I haven't had too much to write about. The Java class I started back then is nearly finished. Our last assignment is due this week and our final is next week. I went into the class knowing some Java, but it was good to get a formal education in the language. Now if I can only leverage that with my experience programming in C and recently C++ into a new job. Haven't made much progress on that front. Paid a service to write a resume for me and have had a number of recruiters contact me for contract, web programming, or both position. None of which I'm actually interested in.

Now that's it's December, it's eight months out from my shoulder surgery. That was primarily a biceps re-attachment with some other clean up.

Back at the beginning of Sep, I started a more normal weight training program because I could finally hold a bar across my back. It was not comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, but I at that point I could do sets of squats as long as they weren't too long or too heavy. Not too long because it hurt and not too heavy because I couldn't hold the weight. At least I could do some. The physical therapist thought I was a bit overzealous, but said it's a good stretch for my arm, so go ahead.

In mid Sep I caught up on a number of articles I have been meaning to read. One of them was "Eat Like a Warrior King" by Dan John. In it he wrote about "the secret to nutrition", which was to "eat like an adult."

The highlights of the article were:

"Stop eating fast food, stop eating kid's cereal, knock it off with all the sweets and comfort foods, and ease up on the snacking. And don't act like you don't know this: eat more vegetables and fruits.

"Really, how difficult is this? Stop with the whining. Stop with the excuses. Act like an adult and stop eating like a television commercial. Grow up.

"Every success in your life doesn't call for several extra rounds of beer, a salutary doughnut, and high fives from everyone. You're an adult now; you don't need a cookie every time you do something special.

"...if you want to look good in the future, you have to start looking at food like, well, food and not a reward."


The arm/shoulder bugs me off and on. For example, in mid Oct I made it ache practicing volleyball with our daughter. I didn't hit the ball very often, I was mostly throwing it to her at different speeds, vertical angles, and distances from her. I did hit it some and caught her hits most of the time. One was a jumper, which was a mistake. I learned that reaching my arms up high to catch a ball is not a good plan. That one catch was probably the one thing that aggravated it the most.

The problem was I wanted to help her. The old man can play with her. My wife has usually been the one to practice with her, because she knows how to play, but for just practice, I figured I didn't need to know how to pass or set, but it turns out I have to be capable of catching and throwing. I'll have to be more conservative today or fess up that she should wait until we pick up the wife from the airport and they play.

Last saw my orthopedist in mid Mov. He said I should be using light to moderate weights on upper-body exercises and no push up, dips, or other heavy work like those for at least a year post op if not 18months (minimum of five more months). Anything overhead is to be limited, and people shouldn't be doing overhead press anyway. However, I've always read that overhead press is THE exercise for working on shoulder strength, but the behind the neck version was out.

A few days after that I saw the PT to get exercise recommendations. Upper body work should be in the 10-15rep range, so 6s, 5x5, etc. are out. Overhead press with DBs is okay if inclined and not heavy. No pullups. Pulldowns are okay, but not heavy and not too wide, but not too narrow either (becomes a pullup) and palms facing is better, but I don't have a bar to do that. No dips. No pushups. No overhead triceps work like French press. No bench press, but DB floor press is okay with palms facing. Lateral raise is okay if not above shoulder. Bent-over lateral raise is okay.

Took a couple pictures to see what my arms look like. The pictures confirm that my left biceps is smaller than the right. The lift numbers are more interesting. Those took a nose dive when I injured the shoulders, of course, and are recovering. I'm back up to where I started two years ago and now have to progress to ... something more.


A few weeks ago our daughter went to an evening birthday event, so my wife wanted to go out and felt like having fish. She's less inclined to be a veggie than I am, so, while I've been "strict" about my dairy-egg-veggie habit, she has some turkey or fish occasionally. We went to CreoLa, which is a Louisiana-themed restaurant near us. She's been there before, but I haven't because it has no veggie dishes. Before we went I checked the Seafood Watch chart, but afterward it occurred to me that because most shrimp comes from overseas these days, the shrimp I had was probably not from the "best choices" list and was from the "avoid" list.

My wife invited a guy over for Thanksgiving, but he came down with something the morning of, so called to cancel. She had bought a turkey breast (for him), so now we had it. I cooked it and ate most of it. Another foray into meat eating.

I learned a new saying related to shopping on Thanksgiving Friday: people buying things they don't need with money they don't have. Shopping for the adventure of it. Weird.


My wife and I recently watched "Sugar: the Bitter Truth" on youtube. It's about 90min long though. Interesting stuff about the role of sugar and high fructose corn syrup in the American diet. There's also the not so interesting details of the digestion of sugars, but discussion points out how fructose is bad for our system. As a medical practitioner, she's oohing and ahhing about how horrible those things are. If you want more reasons to stop eating sugar and drinking alcohol and sodas/pop, check it out.


I don't normally write about exercise motivation, because it's not something I think about much. Last week I read something by Frank Zane about it. He broke motivation down into five categories:

deficiency: you're not satisfied and want to change.
goal-oriented: you're training for something, e.g., competition.
success: you're responding to positive feedback and want more.
ongoing: you're feeling great from what you have done and want to continue.
structure: you're following a plan.

Success and ongoing motivation seem similar, but former is externally driven and the latter internally. The last one is for the OCD in all of us.