Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hammering on the gavel

It's been a long time since I was corralled into a classroom to learn the Roman Catholic teachings of Jesus.

There was the usual ... be nice to others, don't steal, don't kill, yadda yadda yadda ... all the things that make for a good all-around person, not necessarily a good Christian.

And there's always that judgment thing ... you know, the one where Jesus says we shouldn't judge others because we open ourselves up to their scrutiny?

I came across that tonight, learning myself another big lesson on The Pit Stops of life.

I was happily blasting my cardio on the elliptical, sprinting at the bottom of the 'hill' and eagerly anticipating my round of plyos before going home to collapse on the couch.

I Tweeted one of my typically vapid observations about eye candy at the gym, to which someone responded: "Have you SEEN some of those guys at the gym? Not much going on upstairs."

To which I replied snarkily: "Yes, I SEE them all the time. But nowhere did I say I was going to ask them to split atoms for me."

It stuck with me, though, as I moved from medicine ball to fitball to balance board.

Wait a second, I've dated my fair share of muscle-bound freaks. ... from bodybuilders in my early 20s to powerlifters and your everyday gym rats in my 30s.

Rarely did I ever complain that they didn't have 'much going on upstairs.'

Inattentive? Yes. Often preoccupied? Certainly. Cheaters? Oh hell, let's not go there ...

But stupid? No.

Because as my close friends well know, I don't tolerate stupidity well.

And wait another damn second, I've been a self-proclaimed gym rat for more than 10 years. I take pride in the way my traps pop when I'm doing shoulders, I boast about my 240-pound squat as everyone on Twitter knows and I love the way my torso is starting to form a V after a few years of not paying attention to my nutrition.

Does that make me stupid?

Pardon me for a moment but I claimed my high school diploma at the age of 16 and my baccalaureate degree from a nationally ranked university at 19.

'Not much going on' does not apply here.

But yet we see a man who takes pride in his appearance and who lifts the big iron and we assume he's a big ole dummy.

Bodybuilder = stupid.

On the contrary, they know more about the human body than the average ... well ... human. They know a ton about musculature and food. And they're passionate about what they're doing.

What's funny is when I clicked through to the respondent's profile, the bio read 'Christ follower.'

I wonder would this individual look at a fat person and think 'lazy'? Or at a black person and think 'thief'? Maybe a Middle Eastern and think 'terrorist'?

Maybe not.

But it all draws a parallel to judging people on their appearances.

And maybe it's time to stop doing that.

Not for the sake of being a good 'Christ follower' but for the sake of being a good all-around human being.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The last week

I know it's only been a few minutes since I wrote Why Keep It a Secret?, but I'm kind of in a writing mood.

I really should be working on my freelance project ... but I still have a month or so before the deadline hits. And of course, I've learned over time that I work my best when staring that deadline down with a snarl.

To further Project #Skinnybitch, I'm starting off with a high intensity program that was designed for me a few years ago by an old trainer.

It's based in compound, functional movements and it was designed to get me back up and running after surgery to repair a Bennett's joint break. I had slid into second, somehow landed all my weight on my hand and snapped my thumb off. I was out of commission for more than two months.

I figured it's a good way to get me rolling through this ... keep my heart rate up and bag the shit right out of me.

So here's how Week 1 went:

Day 1 - 3x Circuit

Medicine ball thrusters, 11 lbs, 15 reps
(Note: kind of a volleyball-esque set into the wall, followed by catching the ball in squat position)
Pushups on medicine ball, 10 reps
Fitball crunches, 15 reps
Speed squats on balance board, 15 reps

Day 2 - 3x Circuit

Push press, 65 lbs, 10 reps
Asst pullup, 10 reps
Reverse row, 5 reps
One-minute hang

Day 3 - 3x Circuit

One-arm full cleans, 25 lbs, 10 reps
Dumbbell flye, 15 lbs, 10 reps
Bentover row, 15 lbs, 10 reps
Rope woodchops, 30 lbs, 12 reps
Turkish getup, 22.5 lbs, 2 reps

And now that I watch the video, I realize I was doing the Turkish getup incorrectly. Ah ... close enough. I'll get it right next week.

Why keep it a secret?

190 lbs.

That's where I tipped the scale in January.

And that's when I thought 'mother of God, what have I done to myself?'

So I set up a secret blog, inviting a few people who are in the fitness business and a couple of friends to view, comment and assist where they can. I wanted them to make me accountable.

I had some wicked steam going at first, blogging every day about my weight lifting, my daily food intake and some recipes.

It didn't work. I got busy. Life and other commitments took me away from concentrating on me. And I realized when it came to eating, I didn't know what the hell I was doing.

I sucked it up and went to an LA Weight Loss. For the last three months, they have been trying to Hoover every last dime out of my bank account. Enrolment? $600. LA Lite bars? $500. Takeoff juice? $30 every two weeks. Plateau Breaker? $250 for a month.

I bought their fat burner. It made me sick to my stomach.

I tried to follow along. I really did. But I'm not good at calorie counting. I suck at keeping daily diaries of what I'm eating.

Hell's bells, I'm a busy person. I eat lunch at my desk on the fly - a talent learned in the J-biz - and I'm running from work to home to dinner to change and off to the ballpark on many nights.

Who the hell has time to write it down? And if I pull the diary out to catch up, I don't remember what I had this morning, let alone yesterday. Blame those concussions.

I meet with a different counsellor almost every time I'm there. With one, I had to review my physical activity. She asked me to take her through my average week.

I said I'm at the gym at least three or four times a week. I play at least two doubleheaders of ball a week. On weekends, if I'm in a tournament, I play a minimum of eight games over three days, sometimes as many 10 or 12. If I'm not in a tournament, I'm hiking in the mountains.

Do you know what her next question was - as she went by the book that was set down in front of her?

'Where can you fit in more physical activity?'

You can imagine my response. You'd be happy to know I refrained from swearing at her.

I am down to 173. My time with LA Weight Loss comes to a close late next week. They will try to get me to renew my weeks ... at a cost of another 800 bucks or so. I will steel myself and say 'no, no thank you.'

But here's what I've learned about myself thus far in this journey:
  • I hate orange juice. The Takeoff juice is an orange-based fruit concentrate and one must drink a full litre of it for two days every two weeks. It was OK at first but the last time, it tasted so syrupy and so sickly that I wanted to send it down the drain.
  • I need a schedule of eating laid out for me. The best I did on this program was the Plateau Breaker, which supplied me a list of what to eat when for five days. I lost almost 10 pounds in one week.
  • I need to be accountable to myself but it helps to have a support network of people to kick me in the ass. Kait and Terri are awesome for this.
  • I wanted to keep it secret because I knew there are people out there who might use my existing weight to embarrass me if they found the blog. From Camilla and Alex - two new wonderful friends in my life - I have re-learned my 'fuck the haters' attitude. They hate themselves more than they hate me.
  • I'm one of the strongest chicks I know ... squatting 240 lbs and deadlifting 205 ... for fun. My bench press lags because of a shitty shoulder.
I love the emerging new me. I look in the mirror and I see my V returning, that lovely little pinch-in below my lats. I see my stomach getting a little bit flatter and I feel it jiggling less when I'm running on the treadmill. I see the definition coming back to my shoulders and it makes me feel sexy and strong.

And I see the ball going a little bit farther into the outfield again.

I'll be on the lake next weekend and I'll be in a two-piece bathing suit. I don't know if I'm ready for a camera to be around but it sure is going to feel good.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why my dog rocks

Last night, my friend Danelle Tweeted a reason why she loves her dog so much.

And so we challenged each other to write about our dogs. Danelle's Miki, a miniature American Eskimo, and Shep are friends as you'll see in a picture down the page.

What makes Shep so awesome? What is it about him that makes me disinterested in activities that don't include him? Why do I feel awful when I leave him home for long periods of time unattended?

Shep and I celebrated our sixth anniversary together on May long weekend. I remember well our first weekend. We were both a little nervous, trying to establish our roles with each other.

In fact, he barfed on the floor next to the bed. Thank goodness I was spending the night at a friend's place in Carstairs, where our time together began.

We struggled with each other over the next year, trying to earn a place in each other's hearts and still not truly trusting each other. Was I only going to give him up like his last two families? Why the fuck won't he eat what's put in front of him?

We turned a corner in 2006, a story not meant for these spaces and one better kept between Shep, me and a few close friends in the know.

For you, here is why Shep rocks:
  • When I come home from being anywhere, he doesn't leave my side for at least 10 minutes.
  • He knows how to be Srs Dog.
  • He belches like a human ... even comes over and sits beside me so he can share it with me.
  • When I've been spending too much time on my laptop, he lets me know by putting his head right on the keyboard. Or by using his snout to lift my hands off the keyboard.
  • He loves going to the vet. It's true. His Auntie Dana works there. He knows he'll see her and his best friend Tundra there.
  • We have hugs. He's tall enough to stand on his hinds and put his forepaws on my shoulders.
  • I snap him off for putting his nose on the kitchen counter. He wags his tail anyway and it goes in this big circle that always makes me smile.
  • He is always surprised by his own farts. And he comes over to sit beside me so he can share them with me.
  • When he talks to me, it's usually because there's another dog in the near vicinity, like the toy dog upstairs or the chihuahua next door. And it's half bark, half howl, kinda whiny, not at all fierce. For a big dog, he's a wuss.
  • And he becomes a total baby during thunderstorms. I saw him try to hide under the bed once but there isn't enough room. So, he cowers in the bathroom and whimpers. Big dog, my ass.
  • Chase is the most fun game. Ever. He doesn't play fetch. It's almost undignified for him. You threw the ball, you go get it. For chase, he assumes position and then runs speed laps around me. Then he gets bored and moves on.
  • His attention span makes me laugh. He seems to get bored easily. So do I. We're perfect for each other.
  • He knows how to be Goofy Dog.
  • He wants to be the That Guy at the dog park, running up to every dog and trying to make friends.
  • Patience is his biggest virtue. When the weather is crappy or I just don't feel like going for a walk, he's happy enough to just hang out.
  • He knows exactly what my ball bag means. He puts his face on his paws and gives me a look that says, 'you're going to be away all day and I'm going to miss you.' At least, that's what I think it means.
  • He knows exactly what filling my day pack means. And he gets so excited because he knows he'll be spending the day in the mountains.
  • He's the best inside spoon for cuddling. Ever.
  • He is simply the most beautiful dog I've ever seen. People have stopped traffic to tell me as much. I kid you not.
  • He has made me a better judge of character. If you don't love my dog and show him affection, I'm going to have trouble loving you.
  • He is happiest when we are together. And so am I.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Writing long form

Is writing prose becoming a lost art?

Many of us live in a 140-character word.

Often in conversation, if you haven't gotten to the point in less than two minutes, I start to lose interest in what you're saying.

I just don't have the patience to listen to anyone drone on, struggling to find what they're meaning to say.

In journalism, it's called 'finding the nut' and writing a great lede.

I started my writing career at a broadsheet. I was allowed to write and write and write and write and write ... well, you get the point.

Then I moved to a tabloid. My stories had to become a little more succinct. 'Jumps,' also known as 'continueds,' weren't cool at this shop. We didn't want the our readers forced to search around the paper for the end of the story, then find their way back where they started.

It's kind of like early UX design, I suppose.

Next stop was another broadsheet. But I found I couldn't go back to writing 40- and 50-inch stories.

There's an art in telling a story in 500 words or less. I'm sure of it. Damn sure.

And my editor, Gregg Drinnan, loved it. My short stories left lots of room for him to write more about the Kamloops Blazers!

And then back to a tabloid, a major metro, where whatever I had to write competed with an NHL club, a CFL team and more.

My 500-word stories on Junior A and Midget AAA hockey became 300-word stories ... 200 ... sometimes 150.

It forced me to an even more analytical stance on an event.

Find the 'nut.'

Get to the point quickly.

Save the 10-dollar words.

I can still drone on ... evidently ... right here on this platform.

But I find myself better able to recognize when my thoughts start to wander and I ramble on, talking about nothing or even less than that and then ...

Er, maybe I'll just stop while I'm ahead.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finding my Zen

I sleep ... truly, deeply sleep when I'm near water waves.

I grew up near the Atlantic Ocean. Beaches were no more than a 20-minute drive in three different directions. I have such fond memories of family trips to the beach, playing in the sand, feeling the hot sun and the cool, salt breeze on my face.

Many years later, after moving out west, I was having a particularly dreadful summer of stress and terrible bouts of insomnia and, when I did sleep, it was restless. I was a living zombie.

My then boyfriend planned a weekend to the Shuswap with friends for my birthday. We arrived in the late afternoon and within an hour of being on the lake, I was feeling sleepy and told everyone I was heading to our room for a nap.

Our bedroom in the cottage overlooked the water.

I threw open the window to let in the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore.

Within seconds, I was out.

When I awoke, it was daylight. The spot beside me in bed was empty and there was commotion downstairs.

The group was assembling for brunch.

I slept through a raucous party, several attempts by my boyfriend to stir me and the morning sun blasting into our room.

I slept for 16 hours that night.

There's a peacefulness in the sound of water, hearkening back to a more innocent time.


And thus, I am drawn to it. I love being near water, I love the sound of it and I love taking pictures of it.

It is my Zen.