The Food and Fitness Policy Discussion You’ve Always Wanted to Read

We like to think of obesity as an individual issue. We make poor food decisions. We make poor fitness decisions. And then we pay for it.

These things are true. Personally, this week I hate 13 cookies in a 24-hour span. I’ve also only been able to exercise 2 times in a 7-day span. I should pay for those decisions.

But this oversimplifies things.

Individual responsibility is a thing, and it’s not something we’ll ever fully get away from in this country. We value individual liberty too much, even if that means making crappy decisions.

Imagine, though, systemic issues. Being confronted with the opportunities to make poor decisions repeatedly and having to go out of your way to make good decisions.

That’s the reality for much of the country.

I was showing a couple of documentaries to my classes this week, which means I was watching the documentaries. One was Super Size Me (quality of the actual shooting is super low by today’s standards, but it’s still a worthwhile movie even to see how little some things have changed), and the other was Fed Up (more professional, though I could make a case that it’s actually more propagandaish than Super Size Me).

I’d seen them before, so it wasn’t anything new. More of a refresher put things back on the forefront (seriously, there’s so much freaking news going on these days that they’re going to have to reboot the matrix).

When I moved to Florida in ’09, I was the fat kid. I was carrying a little extra weight, but I wasn’t fat. But I was fat compared to the people there.

Everywhere, you have people jogging. People are biking all over the place. And there were so many healthy options for eating out. It was ridiculous. The culture was built to help people be skinnier.

And then I moved to Mississippi at my heaviest and immediately felt like one of the skinnier people there.

My time in Mississippi was great, by and large, but there’s no getting around the fact that Mississippi is one of the epicenters of the obesity epidemic, and it was easy to see how.

It’s super easy to eat like crap there. There were days that for 10 bucks (excluding tip) I could get fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, fried okra, a biscuit, and a big-ass Coke. And then I could get a refill on the Coke. And then they would give me a Coke to go. There’s individual choice involved, but this wasn’t an atypical experience because

It was surprisingly difficult to eat healthy there. When I think about my options, the restaurants largely focused on homestyle, Southern food. Even getting salads at these places wasn’t necessarily going to end with a healthy balance. The cards were stacked against you if you were eating out.

You would also have difficulty getting around if you weren’t in a car. Bike lanes were mostly non-existent. Sidewalks were only slightly more common, and as they were getting built, people would complain about them. Even the buses weren’t all that frequent compared to Florida, so walking to the bus stop wasn’t much of a requirement. Where it seemed like there were runners everywhere in Florida, runners were a much rarer thing in Mississippi.

I was also able to park SUPER close to wherever I needed to be (dealing with that in Oklahoma now). For a lot less money than I was spending in Florida, I was walking less than half the distance. There were days I was only hitting two or three thousand steps. I started intentionally parking farther away because I was hoping to work off that 10-dollar calorie bonanza I was ingesting.

And lastly, there are just a lot of overweight people there. It’s weird to say that overweight people are the cause of people being overweight, but we know that behavior is contagious. So much of what we do is ingrained culturally. We seek social approval. If you go out to lunch and everyone else orders fried chicken while you get a salad, you’re going to stick out. There might be outright jokes at your expense, there could be passive aggressive comments, and there could be plain resentment. Even if there’s nothing at all, it’s not easy to make good decisions if the person across from you is eating fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, a biscuit, and drinking a big-ass Coke.

But how do we fix these things?

We take away people’s ability to make bad decisions as much as possible, which really means public policy.

“But Q, what would your policies look like?” I’m glad you asked. Here are my requests, in no particular order:

  • Bans on Coke machines in places of education. This policy has been popping up, but I’d want to see it across the board in K-12 and higher education. You can’t stop people from bringing them in, but you can make it more difficult for people to get easy access to them (and believe me, I’m a big offender when it comes to Coke machines). Even dropping one can a day during the week would amount to 700 calories saved a week (35,000 over a working year). And don’t even pretend diet is any healthier for you.
  • Bans on aggressively large portion sizes. I’m old enough to remember what a large Coke looked like at McDonalds around 1990. Portions are ridiculous. But people want to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. If you can at least have restaurants serve reasonable sizes as their default, you can mitigate some issues. Yes, some people will just order more, but some people will order the smaller size and be ok. If the smallest size is too much food, you’re not even giving people a chance.
  • Daily PE in schools. Physical activity is overrated in terms of weight loss (compare the time it would take me to burn off the estimated 2,300 calories I can get for 10 bucks in Mississippi to the 15 minutes it takes me to eat that meal), but it still has huge benefits for health overall. At it’s most basic level, you increasing physical activity, but you’re also potentially ingraining physical activity as a habit.
  • Naps for everyone. This is about stress. Stress affects how much people eat and exercise, not to mention just their general well-being. We fetishize overworking ourselves in the US, including demonizing naps. Naps are great. There’s ample evidence they improve productivity, so grab yourself a pillow and a snuggie, and go crawl under your desk for 15 minutes of shuteye.
  • Taxes on sodas. This has happened on small scales, but I want to see it across the board. This won’t prevent consumption, but if you taxed Cokes like you tax cigarettes, you start to price people out of some ridiculous consumption. And if you earmark the funds for something to go toward public health, then even if you don’t cut soda consumption directly, you at least can fund other positive activities.
  • Taxes on fast food. This is mostly the same as the previous, but we know fast food is largely a big bag of crap in terms of nutrition. Those options that are big bags of crap should also be taxed. I’m willing to withhold the tax on things like Panda Express’s healthier options (think bowl with brown rice and string bean chicken), but it would have to be a case-by-case situation.
  • Required labelling of added sugar. This one is supposed to show up next year, but considering the new administration has made its main priority undoing anything resembling social progress, I don’t know if this will actually happen. Sugar as a substance is necessary, but it’s not necessary in the amounts it’s been added to everything under the sun.
  • Car-free downtown zones. This shows up different ways. In Barcelona, they’re reworking city blocks so that traffic will increasingly be cut off from driving in certain areas. In smaller areas, you could effectively close off a downtown area from driving and make it a pedestrian and bike zone. To do this means building parking garages, which is a cost, but you would get people walking around more.
  • Increased bike lanes and sidewalks. It should always be an option for you to get anywhere in town via bike or walking. There were times at Mississippi State where I would have to cross the street twice just to stay on the sidewalk. No bueno.
  • More parks. People need places to play. Green space makes a difference. Go hang out around Central Park some time. New York is densely packed, and yet that park sits there ready to give people a break from the world, whether it’s a chance for a chill walk or you want to be overly ambitious and run all over the damned thing. People need good options to get out of their homes for physical activity.
  • Adding gym memberships to all insurance plans. This is fairly common, but as we seek a goal of universal coverage, we also need to make sure it’s good coverage. Good coverage should cover gym memberships. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but you need to have access to a gym. Parks are great, but they don’t include weight rooms, usually don’t include fitness classes, and aren’t going to protect you from inclement weather. Having my gym paid for at my new job has already made it easier for me to justify staying active (because of my knee, I wouldn’t be inclined to pay for membership knowing I can’t get as much as I’d like out of my time there; counterintuitive, but if I’m spending the money then I want to get every ounce out of the gym I can, similar to the 2,300-calorie meal).
  • No junk food served in schools (K-12 or college). This goes along with the Coke machines, but I wanted it to have its own line because this has to be more than vending machines. Nearly every meal I ate in high school consisted of pizza and fries (tater tots if it was a good day). In college, I lived off of pizza, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. Yes, healthy options were there, but I wanted the thing that tasted better and gave me more calories for staying active. Kids are dumb. They aren’t programmed to make good decisions yet (and yes, college students are still just kids; believe me). Taking away easy, bad decisions at least gives more people a fighting chance.

This was a fun rant. Basically, take a look at your environment. Look how it’s stacked against you. Yes, people have to live with the decisions they make, but we can make decisions as a group to make it easier for everyone as individuals.

Stay frosty, friends.




Progress Report: Weight Rooms & Dying in Yoga Studios

It’s been a little bit since I checked in, so I thought I’d share what’s been going on:

I haven’t fallen of the weight lifting wagon yet, which is good, especially if a 45-pound plate falls on you on the way out. I’m taking it relatively easy, not adding too much weight. I’m going for higher reps more so than anything else. Still legs as priority, with some upper body and core work thrown in so that I can ogle myself in the mirror.

Side note, I’m not historically a headphones while lifting person. I didn’t see the point. But then I bought wireless headphones for running only to find out that I wasn’t going to be running any time soon. Hated for them to go to waste, so they make the trip to the gym. That said, I’ve been listening to podcasts (and one audiobook) instead of music for the most part. It’s been a good way for me to stay caught up on my backlog of episodes. 99% Invisible, Nerdist, and Revisionist History are my go-to podcasts in case you’re looking for something to listen to.

As for running? Like I said in the last paragraph, I’m still not running. Enough said.

And I finally made it to the yoga studio in town. I’d made it to three rec center classes at the university gym. That was… interesting.

The first class was terrible. Calling it yoga is a bit of a stretch. Derogatorily, I’ve seen it referred to as McMommy yoga before. Basically, just exercising on a yoga mat. The second class was better, but that was a low bar to step over. The poses were on point, but they were out of sequence and the teacher was giving bad instructions. The third was much better, though she would hold the counts too long (it was fun to watch people collapsing into child’s pose because she would say 1, 2, say something for a count or two, 3, 4, 5). It was fine, but the class is still too short and there’s too much risk or spending time on my knee or getting stuck in pigeon for 5 minutes, which I can’t really do.

So rec center is out unless I’m desperate. That means I’ll be at the real yoga studio immediately, right?

Well, no.

There’s a problem: The studio’s schedule is a bit wonky, and the class I want to take is taught at noon. That’s after I want to eat lunch. Starting a 90-minute class then is less than ideal. Any productivity that’s going to happen has to happen before yoga, which is just weird. I’ll adjust. Eventually.

But I made it today. I’ll call it generally a win. It’s ashtanga, which I know I can do. The teacher was good, so I know I have a person I can go to as a teacher now. And most importantly, it’s off campus to lessen the risk of running into my students, thank you very much.

That said, it’s not all good. Again, the time is awful. Can’t get around that. Eventually college football games will actually interfere. Next, you can’t trust the website to be up-to-date enough to have the person who will be teaching listed. That’s problematic when you’re as picky about teachers as I am (so I don’t actually know the name of the good teacher I had class with today).

As for what happened when I actually got there, we’re now nitpicking. The place is carpeted, so it was a bit on the smelly side because it’s a yoga studio. Also because they heat the class to about 90 degrees. That causes a lot of sweating. So much so that I went through a liter of watered-down Gatorade and soaked through my shirt so much so that it was actually dripping by the end. Not a good smell. First time I was in danger of ditching my shirt in a yoga class. Nobody wants that. Not until I drop about 20 pounds, at least.

And most vainly, I was the worst person there. That’s not new. I was the least capable in ashtanga at my old studio, but this was amped up. Everyone (except maybe one) was either a yoga teacher or in teacher training. The class was more advanced as a result, so instead of floundering in my own sweat like I would have anyway, I was floundering in my own sweat as other people were fairly comfortable going much further than I could.

But all in all, it was a win. I have a studio to go to. I had Whataburger afterward. And I worked hard enough today to not feel guilty for not working out tomorrow. I’ll be happy to move at all tomorrow.

How Diamond Dallas Page, no cable, and horse blankets got me started with yoga

The first time I did yoga was a bit strange. It started with back pain. This isn’t atypical.

I’d moved to Florida and had a six-week window where I was there with nothing productive to do before I started my grad program. I was mostly lying around on a cheap futon, with some guitar playing, some reading, and a lot of TV watching to do. This inactivity led to more persistent back pain than I’d like. The kind that lingers in your lower back just above the back of your hips.

Among my favorite channels was PBS. When I got there, I didn’t have cable. I plugged in my cable cord to the jack just to see if I would get lucky and have free cable. Nope. But for some reason it did act like an antennae, and I picked up a snowy version of PBS.

For the first few days, that was all I got, so once I got cable, I kept watching out of habit. There was a lot of time spent watching Curious George’s shenanigans and time spent watching Austin City Limits. And of course there were the glorified infomercials.

One of those was for a pilates video. It talked about how it could help with back pain. I did what I do and went to a bookstore for an instruction manual. I decided that yoga and pilates were basically the same thing and went looking for both. I opted for yoga because it seemed more manly (there was one book where Diamond Dallas Page was teaching yoga, and if yoga was good enough for DDP, it was good enough for me). I at least opted for a non-DDP yoga book. If I was going to make a slightly sexist decision, I could at least get a regular yoga book instead of a broga book.

I then read the book. I looked at what it had to say, including what I needed. Evidently, I needed carpet or a yoga mat. I had neither. But I did have a rug.

Let me tell you about that rug. It wasn’t actually a rug. It was a horse blanket. I won it in one of those little kid rodeos when I was 6 or 7. I didn’t know I’d won anything until they handed me this fancy horse blanket.

Problem was I already had a saddle pad. Why use the fancy blanket when I already had something to perform the same function? And it didn’t really occur to me to use the fancy horse blanket if I didn’t actually need it.

My brother used it as a horse blanket once or twice, I think. I’m not sure I ever did. Maybe once. Again, we had saddle pads that were more functional. I actually used the horse blanket as a blanket for myself once or twice. I was an odd kid. I’m still an odd adult.

Before my move to Florida, I looked around my parents’ house for what I could steal for my place in Florida. I’d never lived somewhere that wasn’t furnished, so I wanted some amenities from home so that Florida could at least have a bit of Texas in it (and some New Mexico, too). I had the saddle blanket sitting in the closet. I threw it in the wash (it had been used as a saddle blanket at least once, after all), and then I took it to Florida to use as a rug for my living room.

So I have a rug. This rug was conveniently about the size of a yoga mat. The book said I needed a yoga mat or a carpeted floor. Looks like I’d found the best of both worlds.

Well, instead of carpet, I had tile floors. I loved that tile. The problem with tile, though, is there’s no real traction to it. Turns out if you use a rug as a yoga mat, it’ll just slide around.

My first yoga session was spent with me tentatively getting into poses, including lunges, and praying that rug wouldn’t move far enough for me to bust my face on the tile floor.

It worked once, and that was all I asked of it. I upgraded to an exercise mat immediately, though it had some of the same problems. It still slid some, but it was kind of like playing tennis on a clay court. You learned to work with the predictable slide.

That mat lasted me five years until I went into a real yoga class. I thought I’d keep going back there, so I bought a mat and only went one more time. I ended up sticking the yoga mat under the exercise mat for traction, which worked wonders. When I started going to real classes after I moved to Mississippi, I strongly considered doing that, but I didn’t want to be the weirdo who took in two mats to class. I was already a dude at yoga, which made me stick out enough as it was. In some cases that worked to my benefit, but carrying in a second mat would not have helped.

Why am I telling this rambling story? It’s mostly because I can’t sleep, and I was lying on my rug while I drew something. So yeah, that’s how I started doing yoga. Fun fact: The exercise mat was my bed the first two nights after my move to Oklahoma.

The Gym Newbies

College towns. No matter which one you’re in, there’s a certain predictability.

Summers turn the place into a ghost town. And August brings new students and worse, new parents.

But there’s another predictability: The start-of-term fitness kick.

You see all types. There are the regulars. The people who were here before the crush, will be here through the crush, and will breathe more easily in their supersets after the crush.

Then you have the people who USED to be regulars. They know what they’re doing; they just can’t quite do it as well any more.

And then there are the newbies. They’re easy to spot. They’re tentative in figuring out what to do. No real purpose. They’re awkward in what they do (and sometimes end up on Reddit for their failed efforts). And they just aren’t strong yet. The weights are light and the muscle tone hasn’t arrived yet.

I would venture to say most regulars don’t hate the newbies or used-to-be regulars. They genuinely want them to succeed, but they also know they probably won’t.

Most of the used-to-be-regulars and the newbies will fall of the wagon eventually. Some of them will even get run over by the wagon on the way down.

And why? They don’t know how to maintain. They don’t know how to make it a part of their lives instead of just trying to add it to their lives. They’ll get busy. They’ll get tired. They’ll get bored.

Whatever happens, they stop. Every term, every year. It’s always the same. After about a month, the gym starts to empty out a little, and the community that was assesses the damage to see who survived. What comrades did they lose? What comrades did they gain? And all the while, they knew the majority of the non-regulars wouldn’t last.

And here’s the worst part: I’m one of them. I rarely survive the wave myself. I might be able to ride it a little further, but I always fall off the wagon for one reason or another.

I’ve been a part of this push a few times, and I can only think of two times where I rode the wave. Unfortunately, even then, I wouldn’t be able to sustain into the next terms. I would always fall off.

I don’t know how to fix it. All I can do is my best to pay attention to past patterns of failure and success.

One of the few bright spots for me was yoga. With the exception of a summer when I was at least lifting, I stayed consistent with yoga during my 3 years in Mississippi. And how? One, it was a part of my schedule. I literally booked it. Two, I enjoyed it. I found teachers I liked, which helped me get through it all (and when those teachers disappeared, I stopped going to class).

Scheduling is what I think was the most difficult part of lifting. I don’t like crowds, so afternoons are a rough time to go to the gym. The early morning is the only other way to get around the workday, but eventually I get tired and I don’t maintain so well. And I fall off.

But what about going around lunch? I’d never given that a try, but I think it’s come to that. Luckily, this gym is closer to me that the ones in Florida and Mississippi were, so that makes walking more doable, cutting down on gas and time.

I don’t know if this will stick and I’ll get to be a regular again, but I know I have to keep trying.

Recapping the First Week with New Gym

I’m not overly fond of the general update/recap thing, especially when there is no real accomplishment (e.g., finishing a race). I prefer to have an idea to share or a story to tell. But sometimes you can learn from someone else’s process, and I suppose getting started somewhere new is an accomplishment in itself.

It all started with an idea. And that idea was that I didn’t want to die of a heart attack at 40.

After getting into a good swing of things with yoga in May and June, things got completely derailed in July as I was prepping to move, then moving (and I have some stories to tell about that), and getting settled after the move.

Basically, I stopped working out and started eating like I wanted to have a heart attack at 40 (lots of battered food). I knew this would be problematic. One, I just can’t treat my body like that without paying a price. Two, my mental health will go to crap if I don’t pick up my activity level.

So that’s where the idea starts.

Two posts ago, I mentioned some perks to the new job: free gym access and massage therapists on campus.

I technically started work last week, but I was out of state most of the week and blatantly exhausted the rest of the week. I vaguely considered yoga when the weekend came around, but I still wasn’t having it. By the time Monday rolled around, I knew it was time to do something, so I packed my gym bag and mentally prepared myself to re-enter the world of the college rec center.

Did I mention I’m not overly fond of those rec centers? There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but they’re filled with people who are 18-22. Did I mention I teach people who are 18-22? It’s just weird to see a student in the gym, especially as I’m slogging on an elliptical because my knee has vetoed running.

As I got into the right mental headspace, I put on my clothes, tied my shoes, and put on my wireless earbuds so I could roll into the gym.

I drove. It was a 1-minute drive. It’s a 5-minute walk. I’m lazy.

Not being familiar with the gym, I didn’t even really know where the entrance was or where I could park. I just assumed something would work out as I got ready to work out.

Getting into the gym is a little confusing. It’s an odd layout when you walk in. There’s no obvious direction to find anything. I’m still not sure if the weight area I found is the only weight area. Same for cardio equipment.

But that’s ok. It had what I needed and wasn’t too crowded (in between terms right now).

I had my plan typed into my phone, so I got to plugging away. As soon as I could find an elliptical that was on. I have a genuine dislike of cardio machines, especially when I can’t tell how to turn them on or if they’re already on but just sleeping. So that was 3 minutes wasted.

I finally found an elliptical machine and turns out they’re not all the same. The one at physical therapy let me adjust the length of the strides and resistance. The ones at the rec center let me address angle of the steps and resistance. I burned out my glutes in 5 minutes because I was basically doing a slow climb. Do not recommend.

Lifting was mostly an entertaining fiasco after such a long layoff. I loaded what I thought was reasonable to find out it was too heavy, then I’d go light on the next thing to avoid issues and swing the other way. And then I did single-leg deadlift and tried not to fall on my face in public. Entertaining all around.

Upper body was mostly cut the first day to avoid issues, but I got all of my leg work and most of my core work.

The next day I realized I made a fatal error: I didn’t foam roll. Whoops. Foam rolling the next day is a good way to make a grown-ass man cry.

I returned midweek but went to the other rec center (they’re adjacent to each other). The other is smaller and usually frequented by faculty instead of students, but it doesn’t have the same amount of equipment (or in some cases the same equipment). That said, it has what I need, so awesome. This went a little better because I knew where I was at physically.

And the day after that? Massage time.

The free rec center is the most important thing for practicality. But the MT on campus was the thing I was most excited about.

And it was fantastic.

Another small-framed lady like my last MT, but this one lived with her elbows digging into my muscles. Seriously, have another happy dance:

She did a great job, and I was comfortable. It took 6 months to find the right place in Mississippi. It took another 3 to find the right person I stuck with. Took me 3 weeks here.

And the bonus? I had to drive 60 miles roundtrip and pay $20 more for the same thing in Mississippi. This is a serious perk.

Two lifting sessions chased by a brutal massage session. And how do we close the week? Back in the weight room.

I made it in the late morning, and there was no one else working out. It was glorious. The workout was kind of meh as I baby myself, including a rogue shoulder, but something is better than nothing.

And what’s on tap? Yoga class. I’d say things are looking good.

Making a Plan for the Gym

What gets measured gets done.

It’s an old adage, but it rings true. If you want to see you change, you need to document it.

But that’s only part of the battle. The other part is making a plan. You need a plan so you can actually hit your numbers.

I’m getting ready to re-enter the gym for the first time in almost two years. I had a shoulder issue (re: I still have a shoulder issue) that sidelined me, and it didn’t seem worth paying for a gym membership if there was a decent risk I couldn’t do many things. Now I have a free membership through work, so cost isn’t an option. I’m going to venture into the gym so I can try to get back to lifting and also keep up my PT exercises that I’ve completely neglected the past couple of months (in fairness, I was doing a lot of yoga, which gets the same muscles, mostly).

I can hear your thoughts: “Q, if you have a plan to succeed, what the hell do you need to tell us for?”

A couple of reasons.

The first, and the most important, telling people matters. Whether it’s something like working out (like the Super Awesome Year of the 5K) or asking that attractive gal out (winks at cute yoga girl)

I’m a lot more likely to follow through if I tell people I’m going to do it. It’s peer pressure. It’s a good version of peer pressure.

The second is I haven’t written in a while. Turns out a knee injury does wonders to derail a running blog (even a running blog about hating running; actually, at this point, I guess I should just call this a wellness blog). I haven’t been great about posting in part because I just can’t be active in the same ways that I was. I’m mostly just trying to manage things until my knee either decides it stops hating me or I get surgery.

And third, maybe this will help one of the five people who reads this far. Sometimes you hope you actually help someone out. Sometimes.

Alright, let’s get to it. Some ground rules. When I go to the gym, I’m getting the whole body. There are no leg days. There are no upper body days.

I don’t have a lot of time for lifting, and I still want to keep yoga in my routine (because my back will not allow other options).

The other thing resembling a rule is I need to keep up the PT exercises for my knee. I can’t do what I used to do in the weight room in more ways than one.

Let’s track this the way we’ll go through the workout:

First a warm up. I hate that it’s come to this: 8 minutes on the elliptical. Because it mimics running without the impact, PTs said I could do this. Ugh. I’ve also taken up jump rope, but no telling if there will be one there (and I’m not taking mine).

Next, let’s take care of those legs. This will be a few more things, so let’s see some bullets:

  • Leg press. One leg at a time. Also ugh. I’d rather just do squat. Stupid machine. I think I was going light at about 70 pounds in PT. I’ll probably up it some, and it’ll be ridiculously easy for the good leg, but balance is balance.
  • Weighted calf raises. I jumped rope for like a minute yesterday. My calves were burning. I need to do more calf raises.
  • Lunges. Multiple lunges. I’ll probably only do one or two of the varieties per workout, but these are the ones in my wheelhouse now:
    • Walking lunges – We all know this one well. It’s like the slowest way to travel from point A to point B. Seriously, crossfitters do their handstand walks quicker than you can travel doing lunges.
    • Lunge matrix – Forward, side, back. I may default to this one because it gets a lot of movement in.
    • Trail leg lunges – This just involves leaving your back leg elevated on something and dropping into your lunge.
  • Single-leg deadlift. Otherwise known as pick up the golfball. It’s not too different from warrior III in yoga. Just add weight. This one is neat because it fries my hamstring with weight and flexibility. I have issues.

Now the fun stuff. Upper body:

  • Bench. Finally. Something I know. I alternate days between dumbbell bench and barbell. I take a wide grip on the barbell and dumbbells keep my arms in tighter, so they amount to a slightly different workload.
  • Rows. Every push deserves a pull. I tend to do seated cable rows but some barbell rows get thrown in. I also do some rows with dumbbells and inverted rows, but the first two are the main ones. I have a crappy posture, so rows are a must.
  • Overhead dumbbell press. This is where I have to start being careful. This is what got my shoulder a couple of years ago, but it’s also a favorite of mine because it works the muscles that will help you look good in a shirt. I’m vain, but it’s hard to ignore that shoulders are an easy muscle to see a difference in.
  • Lat pulldowns. This isn’t where I got hurt, but I also have to be careful here because of shoulder mobility.
  • Lateral raises. Again, another shoulder exercise.
  • Shrugs. Maybe. This or upright rows, but this seems less stressful for my shoulders.
  • Bicep curls. ’cause people need tickets to the gun show. I alternate between dumbbells and a curl bar.
  • Tricep extensions. ’cause no one wants to be the guy who only does bicep curls. Might as well do them in the squat rack if you’re going to be that guy. Overhead with dumbbell and push-down with V bar are my rotations.

Now for the stuff I truly hate: core. If you ever see me actively annoyed in a weight room, I was working on core. Ideally, I’ll do all of these each workout. I’m already annoyed.

  • Planks. Another of the more important exercises I do because of cruddy posture from sitting in at a desk all day. Usually I shoot for 3 sets of 30 seconds, but PT introduced a new variety this round: 20 5-second holds. The time load is similar, but it just doesn’t feel the same.
  • Side planks. See planks.
  • Dying mermaids. Side plank with a dip or lift is a more common phrase. I like my PT’s label better. You start with your hip down and then lift it to a side plank. Holy crap this one will get you. And you’ll look like a dying mermaid. A sweaty, dying mermaid.
  • Plank rotations. Start in plank, open to a side plank, back to plank, open to the other side plank. Repeat. With this, I really have to watch my form so my hips don’t dip or rise.
  • Plank with shoulder taps. I like this one because there can be a speed element. I default to forearm planks because I want the core work, not the shoulder work of a high plank. This one variety forces me into a high plank, and then you’re lifting a hand and tapping the opposite shoulder, alternating hands. The big thing to watch here is that you aren’t swaying. You’re trying to keep your body as still as possible. Even tutorial videos don’t always get this part right.
  • Side planks with leg swings. If you’re still with us, you might drop your hip down and let it rest. This one involves swinging the higher leg back and forth tapping it down on each end of the swing. It doesn’t seem like much, especially if you drop your hip, but you’ll feel it after 3 sets of 10-15.

That’s it for the plan. There are some other things I still need to be doing for PT (namely a variety of dynamic stretches and lateral movements, but they all involve those elastic bands that I’ve got at home). I just need to build them into my morning routine.

Otherwise, that’s a pretty full workout as it is. I hope you found something useful. If not, I really just wasted your time and I have ZERO shame about it.

Let you know how it goes, sports fans. Adios.


Perks of the Move

Moving is stressful.

Let me repeat that, moving is stressful.

Ok, got it? Good.

When you fill out those life stress forms, moving is high on the list. And because moving usually entails other life stress, those forms generally predict you’re going to die in a week. That’s not good. Seriously, I just took the stupid test, and I feel into the highest category.

But we’re not going to focus on that. We’re going to focus on the positive.

When you’re going into a new job, you’re supposed to look into the benefits. I did no such thing. I looked at the job. I looked at the people. And that was it. After I accepted the job, then I started worrying about benefits.

Not how they recommend doing things.

But sometimes you dumb your way into a good situation. In my (until yesterday) current job, I basically got no real health benefits beyond normal insurance. I was able to see a doctor on campus (did I mention I’m a faculty member?), and that was about the max I got on the convenience scale. At my last job, mostly the same, though because there was an attached medical school, my health insurance was all basically in-house and comprehensive. But mostly just normal stuff.

The new job? It’s got some perks. The one I did know about from my interview was that the rec center on campus was free to use. Due to injury issues, I knew I couldn’t get the most out of a gym membership, so I hadn’t been going. This means I can do my PT exercises and whatever else my body allows. It also means I get free yoga classes, albeit probably not the type of classes I want to take. But they’re there (I’ll still give a real yoga studio a try in town).

That’s pretty nice. No gym fees, and it’ll be half a mile from my office. But that’s not all.

Wait for it.

They have massage therapy on campus.

I cannot adequately convey how happy that makes me. I had to convey it in gif form.

One of the things I am not looking forward to is having to find a new MT. If this works out, I’ll have one that is a 10-minute walk from my office. And it’s cheaper than what I pay now.

So they’ll be closer, which will cost me less time (about an hour just for travel) and gas (3 gallons of gas, so $6, give or take), and it will literally cost less (about $20 less for the same time). Please return to the above gif. I’m still in that state.

If it works out. It might not. But then again it just might.

I might start getting massages more than once a month. I always said if time and money weren’t an issue, I’d get them weekly. Maybe the universe is testing how much money counts as “not an issue.”

So free gym. Free yoga. And massage 10 minutes away from my desk. I think this could work out alright.