Archive for the ‘ Ruminations ’ Category

On Working Out, Running In, Gymming Up, & Gettin’ Down

WHAT AM I DOING?

This week is my second week as a paying member of a local gym. I go every weekday, following this training regimen, as written by one Christopher McAlevy (Portland lifting afficionado & Organic Human Male), and wholly approved by Christye Estes (Seattle personal trainer & nice lady):

Workout A:

  • Full Squats @ 165 lbs. (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press @ 45 lbs/hand (3×5)
  • Lat Pulldowns @ 115 lbs. (3×5)
  • Run a 10-minute mile.

Workout B:

  • Deadlift @ 140 lbs. (3×5)
  • Overhead press (called the barbell military press on Fitocracy) @ 50 lbs (3×5)
  • Standing bent over Barbell rows @ 80 lbs (3×5)
  • Run a 10-minute mile.

I do this Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The workouts alternate, so last week was ABA, this week is BAB, and so forth. Each subsequent workout adds five pounds to every lift, so the values I stated for A will be what I’m lifting on Wednesday, and the values for B are what I lifted today. Now that I’ve written them here, I’m gonna update my note on my phone with Friday’s lifts.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I run on the treadmill according to a 5k training app, Sundays I run outside with Chris or Ezra before playing Pathfinder for the evening (remind me to write an essay on what I love about pen & paper RPGs, and why I need to start running my own game). I’m entering week six of the 8-week program, and have yet to successfully complete an uninterrupted twenty-minute run. The best I’ve accomplished so far is fifteen minutes straight before I stumbled, walked for two minutes, then ran another five. More on this, however, later.

WHY AM I DOING IT?

The simple, easiest answer to this is peer pressure. I have known my entire life that I am fat and out of shape and absolutely miserable during a PE class. And despite my misery and low self-esteem and feelings of unattractiveness and constant protestations that THIS YEAR was the year I was going to do it, I never did. I was lazy (let’s be honest, I’m still pretty frickin’ lazy. Laying down is GREAT). Content to rest. It was an attitude that infected my social, professional, creative, and even, in the end, my academic philosophies as well. I was, and still am to a degree, stagnant (BTW, hoping to hear about a job interview writing for Nike. Wish me luck on that, please).

Sometime in early March of this year, however, Christopher McAlevy, Genuine Flesh Person, called me up with a proposition: “There’s a 5k coming up in July. It’s called the Electric Run. You and I are going to sign up as a team and train together, because you need exercise and I need cardio. And to make it more even, I’m going to buy a weight vest so our running weights are the same, and I’ll wear the vest during the actual 5k.” So I signed up, and I have to say that dropping $50 on this race was probably the most motivating aspect of the whole thing, at least to get me out the door and pound some pavement. If I didn’t run, that’d be fifty bucks just gone. If I do run, and I finish in 30 minutes, Chris said he’d reimburse me for half, but I’ll probably just make him buy me Far Cry.

Within a few runs, though, Chris’ disdain became a much more motivating factor—giving up would mean his disappointment. He’d become the hate-filled father I never had.

But recently, right around the start of April, I started running by myself. I started pushing myself to limits that previously I’d only been pushing myself to because other people (re: Christopher McAlevy, Who Was Born In Exactly The Same Way As The Rest Of Us) were watching. But I also noticed that while I was getting to be able to endure longer runs, running itself was not getting much easier, even with my new running shoes. Put simply: I wasn’t really losing weight, and I wasn’t really getting stronger.

Luckily, the Albertson’s near where I live went out of business some time ago, and in its gutted carcass grew a Crunch gym, which offers a basic membership for $10/month. This was basically a Godsend, because right now there’s no way I could afford other gyms’ $30/month pricetags. So I joined, and I asked Chris to write me up the strength training regimen I laid out above, with the added 1 mile a session (though I need to up that to 1.5 soon).

So why am I doing this? I was doing this for other people, but now it’s for me. I’m doing it because I look and feel better than I did last week, and I know that if I keep doing it, next week I’ll look and feel better than I did this week. I’m doing it because even through all the fat I still carry, I’m starting to be able to see muscles moving and working. I’m doing it because I’m going to Mexico at the end of May, and I’d like to feel reasonably confident while wearing just swimtrunks. I’m doing it because last week I ran a full mile for the first time in my life. In my life. I cannot express how powerful that is for me.

WHAT I STILL NEED TO WORK ON

 

  • Endurance. First and foremost, endurance. I’m still champion-grade lazy, and when I go for a run, every fiber of my body, every bone in my back, and every neuron in my brain is screaming that I should stop and walk for a bit.
  • Portion Control. I haven’t spoken of it yet, but of course changes in my diet have been a major aspect of this whole ordeal. Cutting down on sugars and starches, focusing on more nutrient rich ingredients, goodbye soda and coffee, hello oats. The quietest, most impact-full change, though, has been how quickly I get full now. My stomach has noticeably shrunk. At the same time, my brain and my face think I should keep eating (I call this being “mouth-hungry”) in order to eat the same serving sizes I always have.

OTHER THINGS THAT DON’T REALLY FIT ANYWHERE ELSE

I’ve always been a “smile at a stranger” sort of guy, but I’ve been noticing that more and more often, I’m not the one initiating the pleasantries. People smile and nod at me more, and, most pleasantly, pretty girls are doing it too. The confidence boost this gives me is absolutely confounding, because on the one hand, that stranger over there, ever so briefly, considered my potential as a mate. As someone worth her time, attention, and love. On the other, surely everyone is worthy and deserving of love and companionship, regardless of their level of fitness. The idea that being physically fit(ter) somehow made me worth more, or more worthy, was slightly upsetting. The reconciliation I’ve settled on, inspired by this absolutely outstanding article which I need to remember to read every day of my life, is that I’m simply becoming better at displaying my worth. Sure, physical fitness doesn’t openly display that I’m funny, or a good writer, or a damn fine cook, or the fact that I know goddamned near everything there is to know about bulbasaurs, but it does show that I am willing/learning to commit to doing well at new and difficult tasks. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if this has positive effects in my ongoing job hunt as well.

(None of this counts at the gym. No one smiles at strangers at the gym except the people who work there, and old high school classmates you run into.)

I’m stronger than I thought I was, and I do a great full squat. Did my first pull-up in years the other day as well. No real observations on that, though.

BYE, I GUESS

I must leave you now, as I am due in Vancouver to help a little girl learn to read, and to overcome her tendency to want to give up and walk away when things get even slightly difficult.

The thematic resonances are not lost on me.

Star… etc.

I feel like I should probably talk a little about this.

Part of the reason I’m such a hesitant writer is self-confidence. I worry that anything I have to say has already been said, more articulately, by smarter people. This isn’t necessarily true, but it’s often true, and the only solution is to keep writing and saying things until I’m better at it and able to sound smart enough that OTHER people worry about chiming in because, shit, Keegan Blackler already said it. So I’ll say it.

Disney bought Lucasfilm, and will be coming out with new movies starting in 2015. That’s huge news, which, considering my muted response, probably hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

I go through canon-obsessive phases; whenever I play a new video game or read a new book or see a new movie, for some reason it becomes really important to me to know as much about the world I’ve immersed myself in as possible. I am a lore whore. When I was younger this meant getting my hands on as much tie-in material as I possibly could, these days it’s mostly just spending time reading whatever wiki is dedicated to the subject (and trust me, there is always a wiki). But because these are phases, I grow out of them. I lose interest, stop giving a shit.

I never grew out of the Star Wars phase. It just… changed. I like to think of it like this: I like Star Wars like other people like flowers or birds or a particular color. You don’t dwell on it constantly, but you might go two steps out of your way to get a shirt with a related pattern on it—it’s just that in my case, that pattern is lightsabers.

(This is not to say that I have never jumped into the deep end, or won’t do so again. I know more about that galaxy far far away than I will ever know about my own family. I know what company built TIE fighters, and what TIE stands for. I could sketch you an accurate depiction of the Solo/Skywalker family tree over at least five generations. I know the majority of the chosen names of all the Darths tracing back to Bane and Zannnah, as well as describe three-and-a-half different philosophies of the Sith—and, like, twelve of the Force. I know what Luke’s wife calls him in bed (information garnered from an actual book, actually published by Lucasbooks). I CAN NAME THREE EWOKS.)

Lately, though, I have not been immersed. Haven’t been playing a game, reading a book, watching the show, nothin’. The obsessive-compulsive pilot light is out. So the whole ‘new movies’ ‘Lucas is out of the picture’ news is still in the realm of pleasantly intellectual. I haven’t felt it in my heart yet.

BUT.

TONIGHT.

I and some gentleman associates of mine (including the ever-lovin’ Ezra Butt, who really needs to set up a professional art gallery/webcomic site I can link to) will be sitting down around a table, pulling out sheets of paper and pencils and dice, and pretending to be Jedi. We are playing the Star Wars d20 Roleplaying game.

For the mundane, think Dungeons & Dragons, but…. Imperial Dungeons & Krayt Dragons.

I’m excited. Let’s turn on that fire.

Nostalgia Holes & Life Goals

I fell down a nostalgia hole tonight, then came out and discovered it was 2 o’clock in the morning.

It started with a random thought about an artist on a card game I used to play—Magi-Nation. It was halfway between Pokemon and Magic, and I was really good at it. I wasted my Saturdays in early high school playing in tournaments out in Gresham, winning a bunch of cards that I’ve held onto for so long that they are now worth absolutely nothing. Unlike Magic and Pokemon, the game had no staying power, but it had a narrative, so I found it compelling.

I am horrified to think of the amount of money I spent on those stupid cards, and really, on every fad I’ve ever been addicted to. Warhammer was my high back in Ireland—then again when I went back on a study abroad trip. Staying on the wagon is, apparently, not my game.

On the same shelf in the back corner of my room where I found my old card binder were my high school portfolios. One look at my personal statement, and how I’m still pretty much in the same boat seven years later, was enough to make me want to weep openly. But I also know that I will not be ridding myself of these artifacts anytime soon.

Except I’m worse. The skills I’ve developed in those years are not what I wish I had—though apparently younger me saw himself teaching at the collegiate level—and the ones I wish I possessed, I do not.

I’d like to be able to play the piano.

I know that you’re not supposed to reflect on your life in the dead of night, but it’s not going to be blissfully different tomorrow. I’m fat, unemployed, broke, unpublished, and achingly, perpetually single. And I know that all of those things are my fault. Because I lack willpower, and I am afraid of change and rejection. I have wasted two whole lifetimes.

I am neither happy nor proud of who I am. And that pattern will continue until I change it, until I teach myself willpower. And to do that means rigor, and rigor means goals. So here are my goals. Immediate goals. Effective immediately. Starting now:

* I will look for a job for no less than six hours, no more than eight every weekday. Until someone’s paying me to work, finding someone who’ll pay me to work is my job. However, this goal has the biggest caveat, in that this time may be butchered so I can work on the home improvements.

* I will write for an hour every day, and publish whatever I come up with here on this blog. Every day. Even if I’m absolutely disgusted by the sight of a text file after eight hours of writing cover letters. It will be sloppy and ugly, but it will get better. My mind was the only muscle I ever really had in shape, and I’ve allowed it to atrophy. That stops here.

* I will work out every day for a half hour. Again, every day, probably before I got to bed. This will include running laps up and down the nearby schoolyard.

* I will go to bed at a reasonable fucking hour, like say maybe before 3 in the morning.

* I will teach myself to play the Portal theme song on my dad’s guitar, and after that, another song. And after that, another.

* After her foodcart reopens in Sellwood, I will go there, and I will ask Hillary out on a date. But until that happens, I will stop hating myself for not getting her phone number when I had the chance. Self-loathing solves nothing, and it’s only making me mopey.

* Addendum—I will no longer internalize the idea that me being attracted to a women is anathema to a positive human experience. I have no idea how a girl might react if she finds out I like her, so it’s time I stop assuming it’ll be rejection.

* I will set this to publish at ten tomorrow morning, so that people will see it and read it and call me on my bullshit when I’m not living up to these. Because I haven’t exercised my iron will quite yet.

* I will quite now, because the hour is finally catching up to me. Good night, see you tomorrow for the first day of lifetime number 3.

MoD, and Other Things (But Mostly Dance With Dragons)

So, I lied. There’s been a bit of a delay on me getting published on the unnamed for now videogame website, but as far as I know I’m still pumping out articles, and they’re still planning to publish them.

On a brighter note, my Machine of Death story, COUNTERFEIT, has been finished and submitted. Odds are that most of you people have already read it, but as soon as I work up the nerve I’ll probably publish it here as well.

And now I return to Westeros.

Skyway Park: A Harrowing Tale

So I just went for a walk.

A Slight Exaggeration

The accomplishment isn’t that I went for a walk, it’s that I did it here, in my neighborhood, on a path I’ve never walked before. While I’m not fundamentally opposed to this sort of action, and in fact I do it all the time around my work, and downtown Seattle, and downtown Portland, and really just anywhere that’s not Skyway. Because of crime, and also, possibly, racism. But really crime. Skyway Park, located just down the hill from my house, is apparently prime territory for a gang of local roughs (I had a lot of fun writing that phrase). And, the stories are true, they were there, manning their post. But that’s not what this is about—at least, not directly.
Back in Ireland, my family moved into an in-development neighborhood (our house was actually the model for the cul de sac, and you could have a model home because all of them were identical). This meant that for a solid year at the start there, we—the local roughs—had construction sites to play, and possibly die, in. Even after that, just a couple blocks up the road was a large abandoned factory*, a canal, a highway underpass, and a longer, more post-apocalyptic-seeming stretch of the same canal. And throughout our entire stay at 6 Talbot Downs, Blanchardstown, Dublin, Ireland, any part of this was under some stage of construction. And despite the fact that everything I’m talking about is right next to a major highway, to my young mind it was at the exact halfway point between pure wilderness, and stark civilization.

Skyway Park is sort of the reverse. There’s a clear sense that people have lost their hold on it. The park, as it is, is pretty nice—a couple softball diamonds, a track around the edge, and the whole thing is bisected by three giant towering electrical cable lines that, if you stand and listen, crackle with energy—and it’s still well maintained, but there’s a definite sense that, stuck somewhere between the park and the houses that surround it is an entire world that mankind has simple forgotten about.** Fences and signs and even houses lie in disrepair, and the trees are clearly returning to claim their own. Halfway between wilderness and civilization, only this time it’s going the other way.

*One of my great regrets is that I never broke into that factory and explored it. Then again, the interior spontaneously combusted at a rate of twice per year (minimum), so maybe it shouldn’t be.

**Of course, this is actually the realm of the homeless and the drugdealers***, and the same was true of my old neighborhood in Ireland. It’s just nice to try to view it through the lens of childhood.

***I left my phone at home while I was out, and it got dark while I was writing this, but tomorrow I’ll go out and snap a couple pictures.

(Pro-Tip: If you ever get the urge to Google Maps your old neighborhood and/or elementary school on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, don’t. Spare yourself the mindfuck.)