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bear by san

March 2017



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always winter

didn't want to be... your ghost.

This is a post about physical fitness. If that sort of thing bothers you, by all means page down!

Also, this is a post entirely about me. I support anybody's right to live in their body as they choose without judgment; this is how I choose to live in mine.

The thing about physical fitness is that it never actually gets easier. You just suck at a higher level.

So I just got back from a nice little three mile run in the snow. (Okay, 2.8 miles.) It was beautiful and cold and if it weren't for my damned glasses fogging, I would have called it a perfect outing. (I only made about 11 minute miles, but I was being pretty careful of my footing.)

Two years ago, that would have been beyond the limit of my capability. I was struggling to break 12 minute miles at that point, and didn't really start running father than 5K until last winter. Now I can run ten miles in a little less than two hours, over a hilly route. It's fucking exhausting, and I only do it once a week... but the result is that shorter runs now feel like kind of a treat. (I can run eight miles twice a week. Funny how much of a difference that last two miles makes.)

So the edge has gotten further away--but the days when I run ten miles are just as hard as it used to be to run four.

Still, it's really nice to look at livejournal posts from May 2011 and see myself saying "Someday I will run 5K at more than a shuffling jog." Because today is that someday. And the hills I'm crushing (or that are crushing me!) now are bigger and steeper than the hills I was struggling with then.

Progress. It's important to track it.

You have to push the edge, in other words, for stuff like what I did today to start getting easier.

Still, I'm pretty damned content with my fitness level at this point. I haven't been climbing much (or at all, for a month, alas) but I've been working hard at yoga and running, and my biceps are actually starting to develop that little notch at the bottom. I have tripod balance more or less down, and I'm working on turning it into a free standing headstand. I fall over a lot!

Also, new more muscular and tighter thighs mean I can do tree pose, bound side angle, and proper not-cheating crow like a boss. I am very, very fond of my massive running-on-hills quadriceps and hamstrings.

Rar! I'm back on a more restrictive Discipline, because my blood pressure had crept back up at my last checkup, and my goal now is to maintain myself at the current level of fitness (I toy with the idea of training for a half-marathon, but conveniently the Hartford Marathon is the same weekend as Viable Paradise and honestly I don't REALLY want to run more than I already do, so I'm off the hook) and get a little leaner. (I suspect a lot of my recent improvements in running have to do with being lighter--it's a hell of a lot easier to shove 190 pounds up a hill or drag it up a wall than it is to do the same to 230 pounds.)

I would really like to stay off the hypertension meds. I do not like the side effects. Family history may be against me, though...

And now it's time to do some yoga, and then eat all the things.


You are down to 190? Congratulations!!!

I love "Also, this is a post entirely about me. I support anybody's right to live in their body as they choose without judgment; this is how I choose to live in mine." it is exactly right.
I was down to 187 this summer, but there was this little incident with West Nile Virus and then a whole bunch of conventions, with attendant booze and restaurant food. So it's more like I'm BACK down to 190.

26 pounds to go, more or less!

And yeah, my body, my rules. It's worth suffering up those hills to be able to run for the bus without pain.
FWIW - I am considerably older than you and am on hypertensive drugs, a fairly mild regimen. I have seen the effects of exercise on controlling BP as I have gone in and out of being good about exercise and diet. I'm noting this primarily as encouragement in your strategy - I've found it all too easy to develop excuses for not running and keeping my weight controlled. The good news is that returning to the discipline has always helped - but I'd have taken fewer drugs if I'd been better, and I agree with your opinion on the side-effects.

So. Good work. Yes, it helps, yes, it is hard to keep going, and I'm glad to see this, not in criticism of anyone else's choice, but as encouragement to someone with a similar problem.

And, totally unrelated except to why I'm here at all, I've been enjoying Range of Ghosts. Looks like you plan to keep that up, too. Excellent!
Hey, thanks!

Yeah, I was on a couple of different things two years ago, and did not like the side effects. That's when I upped my walking-and-jogging routine to more serious running, and it helped a lot. I figure if I can get rid of, roughly, another thirty pounds then I can stay off them for another decade or so.

Hypertension contributed to my grandmother's death, and I'd rather not go out that way if I can help it. :-P
I couldn't agree more with your first sentence. Sir Steven Redgrave, possible the best rower ever. once wrote that people were always saying to him "Wow, you're so fit, you must feel great and have lots of energy!" but that in fact, training on his level, you're always on the edge of getting sick.

On the other hand I'm not to clear on why I've done 95km on the rowing machine since Thanksgiving, worked on not overeating, and my weight hasn't budged. Neither has my BP, but it's probably fair to assume that my stress level has been on the stratospheric side.
Hah! Curse you, plateaus!

Well, for me, restaurant food and Those Monthly Cycles both lead to massive water retention... and sometimes my body seems to save up a bunch of weight and then lose it all at once, so I'll plateau for two or three weeks and then bang, drop four pounds overnight.

Bodies, man. Even thermodynamics can't sort them out.

On the topic of higher-level progress

I'm partial to this description: (This is about martial arts, but I think it's applicable to fitness in general, or more broadly to any kind of increasing mastery.)

"Commonly, students' ability to see their errors and technical failings
increases faster than their ability to correct them. Then the instructor
faces the problem of discouraged students who believe they are actually
getting worse through training rather than better....An analogy that may
help the intermediate student is that of 'carving a cube into a sphere'.
Training is the process of chopping off corners. Initially, the corners are
lage and easy to see--as is progress. Later, each corner cut off reveals
three new corners, albeit smaller ones. This process is endless, and while
an advanced student may appear to others of lesser experience to be a
perfect sphere, the individual is often painfully aware of the many corners
that still need polishing."
--Elmar T. Schmeisser, "The University Dojo" in
_Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching_, Carol A. Wiley, ed.

Re: On the topic of higher-level progress

Heh. Absolutely. This is what we mean when we say "Writing is too hard to do well."

Or, "A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people."

Damn impressed.

(I have the world's wussiest running partner, and a disinclination to run alone, so it looks like intense rope regime until Spring... Fortunately, I enjoy rope and it seems to work for me - without annoying the downstairs neighbor too much).
I like my jumprope, though I'm not good at it, but it does tend to shake the whole house...
The thing about physical fitness is that it never actually gets easier. You just suck at a higher level.

Isn't this the same thing you've said about writing?

Also: Wow.
Yeah. Most things, I think. ;-)
This is a very good thing, Bear. You rock like a mighty rocking thing!
All right! Yay you!

I noticed the same phenomenon about the difference that last little stretch makes (though due to injuries I could never get up to eight miles, much less ten miles) in effort when I did my weekly long run, back when I was running. Can't run now due to knees and hips, but I have other things I do.

And I heartily endorse avoiding hypertension meds if you can. My DH's meds went whacko on him this summer, and damn near stopped his heart. A very scary moment when that happened.
Go Bear!!! You are freaking awesome! I am jealous of your speed, as I am struggling with getting consistently under a sub-11 min/mile on my long runs. I can do it on the shorter runs, but the minute I head out for the long runs on the weekend, I'm lucky to stay in the 12 min/mile range.


*shakes pom poms*

You crush those hills. :D
Intervals. And short, quick runs. It took me FOREVER to get below a 13-minute mile, and when I did that was what finally worked.

Break a-- no, no. Don't do that. ;-)
Woo hoo! Go you! I think is so awesome, and how it is *all* about you, and you being comfortable with *you*.

I don't run, but I do dance. I hurt my foot about a month ago, and I'm not as comfortable in my body, partly because of weight gain, but partly because I don't feel "like me" without some sort of regular cardio. My foot is so much better though--I'll probably go out next weekend, try it again.

Best of luck to you in everything. Very inspirational.
Oh, poor foot. Get well soon!

And yeah, the cardio keeps my brain in shape.
I originally said this about classical music performance, but I am finding it just as apt with regards to fitness:

"It never gets easier. You just get more comfortable working hard."

Last month, I spent all month on the rowing machine (virtually rowing across Lake Erie, because these are the goals I will drag myself to the gym when I feel like ass to keep, apparently). This month, I'm virtually swimming from Europe to Africa, and when I got into the pool, I was astounded by how much harder I could work, it felt like I could fricking grab hold of the water and just pull myself through it. Instead of 25 strokes to make the length of the pool, it only took me 21!

Of course, it's because my shoulders are so much stronger from all the rowing... but I ended the workout much, MUCH more fashed than I normally am from swimming. Because I was strong enough to work really hard. I'm down 40 pounds, I have 90 more to go, and I feel like an Amazon.
Kick ass. *g*
There's supposed to be this stuff you can put on mirrors that keeps them from getting fogged when you shower -- I wonder if it would work on glasses? We're in the middle of cotton ginning season here (chemical coated dust, plant bits and cotton fibers in the air) and because of my asthma, I don't stir outside without one of those dust masks. I notice that my glasses don't fog at all when I wear one. People look askance at me, but hey, I'm addicted to breathing. . .
Heh. Nothing fogs my glasses faster than wearing a dust mask...