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been a cold week

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s now been a 4 day stretch of temperatures about 10 to 15 degrees below normal highs and lows. So maybe that’s not super cold, but it’s noticeable in contrast to last winter and the winter we had been having here so far.

—-

I continue to do sets of squats when I get the time, every day. Yesterday, I think I ended up performing a total of 87 reps, some of them were bearhug sandbag squats, some front squats, and some back squats. It’s given me much more noticeable thigh musculature, much more than I ever had back when my primary focus had been deadlifts and I never really did all that much deep squatting.

It makes me hungry too. You start squatting 50+ reps a day with weights that maybe aren’t maximal, but of significance, it makes you hungry. And now these last two mornings the scale has come in at 156.2 lbs. So that’s about a gain of 4 lbs from the beginning of the year.

—-

4 years ago, I counted down the days to the first day of spring. It was an invocation of magic, maybe, a count against the dark and cold of winter, of the hopes that could be reached on the first day of spring. I still remember that first day of spring 2009 so clearly. It had an annoying cold start, a splash of light snow that tangled some things up and delayed what would be the most amazing moment of life later on that day, but it grew sunny. The world had such clarity that day. So I believed. I was as alive as I had ever been, I felt like power lines were plugged into my body, I felt almost like a crazy liquid broken glass and an iron resolve through all of my limbs and heart.

I remember pacing back and forth while I waited for that first moment. A moment which cannot leave me. No amount of past crying or whatever odd strange tears that might come again will ever wash that away. I never said another person’s name so loud as I said that one that evening upon the first sight. I’ll probably never again. It’s not in me to be loud. It’s not in me to love all that much. There was only that time of odd circumstance, of stray magic that nearly shattered the world I had known, and the world I’ve had to return to, if only to maintain the less than sturdy framework of sanity that I hang my life upon.

And eventually I will forget. That is the eventual function of death. But until then, I will not forget. I cannot forget how what might be the best in me, although it is meager and not substantial enough, what might be the best in me lived brightly then, cannot forget the other who brought that forth, no matter how much I may wonder now just how much it was real. But I tell myself that there is a core of good in most people, a core of good no matter how much we struggle with knowing what is real and true, how much we struggle with looking in our own distorted mirrors and knowing who and what we are exactly.

I may be forgotten. But I won’t forget.

It’s all silence in the end

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

I had a bad long wakeup last night. A little after 2, I came awake, not needing to pee, not feeling any like my blood sugar was too low or too high. Just woke up.

And I realized how silent everything becomes. Think of the other kids you knew when you were growing up. Odds are that most of them now are forgotten and silent to you. I’m not the most social of persons, but even so, there are so many people that I once talked to or knew some. And now they are silent.

There was a bit of wind at times, that could be heard rapping itself against the windows and sides of the house. Then it would subside and I remained curled underneath a sheath of blankets. Mi pensadis. I was thinking and thinking. But nothing verbal came out of those thoughts and memories. I realized that they are becoming more profoundly silent with each day that passes, every night that I sleep through or ruminate through. That’s what will happen to each and every one of us. We will all be silent, and the memories that others have of us will too fade into whispers and then nothing, a fleck of ash that gets scattered into dissolution by wind.

I did later manage to slide back into sleep, and had a wicked nightmare.

—-

I’m beginning to think there can be some good benefits to doing some squats every day. Yes, every day. I started doing this last week when I got the new sandbag loaded up and set down in the bedroom. Every morning, I get up and after I’ve had the first cup of decaf coffee, I pick up the sandbag, and squat it, 5 or 6 reps. The later, before I head off to the shower, I pick it up again and squat it for 10 or more reps. The last set is done after the shower and I just try to do 15 or more. This morning I did 25 reps on the last set Zercher-style, breaking parallel on each rep and never pausing.

Later, before heading for work, I went down into the basement to get a broom so I could sweep away the light dusting of snow that had fallen overnight. The barbell was sitting on the sawhorses and I got underneath it in a front squat position and squatted that up.

I’m not feeling overtrained so far. Mostly what I’m now feeling is a sense of growing strength in the legs, along with the rest of the body. The body is adapting to this extra workload. It sure makes me hungry at times and I’ve gone from averaging around 3 eggs per day up to 6, as one part of the extra food being consumed.

I need to put more weight in the sandbag though. It’s getting too light now. If I put in another 10 or 15 lbs, it’ll be a sterner challenge again. And force my body to adapt some more again.

Captains of Crush #2

January 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This morning I finally got a full close of the CoC #2 gripper with my right hand. It wasn’t an impressive and dominant close, it was just barely pushing them together, but the gap was gone. If anyone were to ask me what made the difference, I would just say it probably helped that last week I did a couple of days where I tried to do as many single reps as possible of the #1.5 along with doing overcrushes of the #1 and #1.5 with a quarter pinned between the gripper legs. Aside from the gripper work, I also did a lot of squats with the sandbag and a fair chunk of levering with a sledgehammer, plus I also split and chopped some wood with an axe over the weekend. All of that probably helped give me the final push over the edge. Still, that’s just a single close, one that was barely there, so more grip strength would definitely be better and it would be good to get to a point where I know I can pick that sucker up almost any time I want and close it. And maybe now I ought to order that #2.5 and make that the next gripper goal.

The left hand is still lagging. It’s getting stronger, but I still can’t quite close the #1, although I’m beginning to suspect it might be a hard #1. I noticed this morning as I warmed up my hands, that the #1 felt tough in the right hand and based on that it seemed like I might not get a good effort on the #2. But I also suspect the other problem with the left hand is the trigger finger I got in it back in 2007 and which gradually healed to where the trigger disappeared last year. Yet I can still feel a bit of resistance in that knuckle sometimes and it feels like it’s there when I close grippers. I can even see that the finger doesn’t go in as full as the right ring finger when I close the tips into the palms, it sits out just a tiny bit and that might be the difference.

I did a whole lot of squats over the weekend. Saturday I also lifted and carried a bunch of stones.

Had a bad, long wakeup last night. Woke up and felt like the cold darkness of winter was pushing down on me. I was warm in the cocoon of blankets, but there was still a sense of chill to everything.

Got the coldest air of the winter coming in this week.

sand, stones, and chrome

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s nice having more daylight at the ends of the day again. It provided me the opportunity to go back into the woods after I got home and play with some stones and rocks. I found a few stones which I was able to get up on the right shoulder and press the overhead. My overhead press is somewhat lopsided presently because the left shoulder still hasn’t completely thawed. But it still felt okay enough and it should help some with pressing strength.

Then I found a couple of larger stones and the challenge with them was to get them off the ground and eventually cradled against my chest and walk with them. One of those that I found was real borderline to get into position and then I could only maintain him for about 20 steps. Finally, I had some fun with one real tough guy. Prior times I’ve played with him I could only flip him end over end, and I did that a number of times last evening. But I also took an effort at seeing if I could clear him from the ground and did do it for the first time, getting him a couple of inches clear and totally in my hands.

I picked up a good bruise on the upper left bicep at some point during that.

After that, I went back inside and made dinner. I opened up the first of two packages which got delivered yesteray. It was the large canvas sea bag and after dinner, I moved the sand from the old bag to the new bag. It’s more of a bear to lift. The old bag I had was kind of cylinder-like, and that made lifting it somewhat easier. This big new bag has the sand sit in a much larger blob, so it’s harder to get the arms underneath and then wrestle it up. Still, I was able to shoulder it and experiment squatting with it. First thing I found is that if I sat it up there without much of the sandbag drooping down below the shoulder level, it makes for a much harder squat when the weight is up high like that. This morning I figured out how to get the weight to distribute down lower and did better with it, but it still doesn’t sit as conveniently as it did in the old bag. That limited my 3rd set of squat reps to 15 this morning.

The other package was a pair of chrome Baoding balls. I played with them some last evening and more this morning, slowly improving how well I could make them revolve in the hands and fingers. It feels like they ought to be useful in improving the muscle function and dexterity with my fingers, along with maybe being somewhat stress-managing. It can be a bit soothing to get them moving around smoothly and in a rhythm.

Squats and the sandbag

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Today, I’m expecting delivery of canvas sea bag, which I expect will be a better bag than what I’m currently using for bag to hold the double-bagged freezer bags of sand. Still, the sandbag is becoming more popular with me for strength training. It’s fun somehow to wrestle with it and playing with it gives a very strong whole body workout sensation. The last two morning I’ve done sets of squats with it. Yesterday I did one set of 10 and another of 15. This morning, I did a set of 10, then one of 15 and a finisher set of 20. The great thing about the set of 20 was it was done fast, I pushed myself to knock out rep after rep without ever taking a small break to breathe at the top. The last 2 reps were done with shaky legs and what felt like pure will, no matter how much my butt, hamstrings and quads were shaking, I would power up through.

That last set with the 20 reps is a sign of large improvement. When I first figured out how I could use the sawhorses, and straps to let me do barbell back squats, well, I’ll be honest and admit that my starting weights were pathetic. My first set of 20 rep squats was a paltry 60 lbs. And it was not easily done. I began pausing and breathing after just 5 reps. My heart was pounding pretty good by the end. Although one good thing I can say about that set and all the sets I’ve done since with the barbell and sawhorses is that they are nearly rockbottom squats. I fit just about perfectly under the bar with the height of the sawhorses. So when I drop and do each rep, the ends of the bar have to touch the sawhorses. Every rep is deep and below parallel. They are full range. Since that pathetic start, I’ve been bumping up the weight 5 or 10 lbs at a time.

Now I’ve built enough deep squatting strength that I can do 20 unbroken reps of a sandbag with ~85 lbs in it. So I’m going to add another 10 lbs to the sandbag and work on getting to some morning where I can get that bag up on a shoulder and squat 95 lbs in 20 unbroken reps. And so on, and so on.

And now that I’ve done some more serious squatting, by that I mean being strict with form and depth, I can say that squatting is a very primal and powerful feeling. Having the weight pushing down the whole length of the body, going down to the bottom and then standing up with it, it’s primal. So’s the sandbag. The sandbag doesn’t have a convenient hold to it like the barbell. It’s a bit of work to wrestle it up onto a shoulder, but I’m getting stronger and better at it.

—-

Weighed in at 154.8 lbs this morning, the most I’ve weighed since I weighed in at around 155 late December before the flu knocked me down to around 152.

hit it straight, you can find it

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

I think it had been around 4 weeks since I last had a chance to golf going into last weekend. The weather had been marginal the prior weekends, but it warmed up last week and while things were somewhat gray and mucky on Saturday, I got in 18 holes. Sunday was okay enough to golf, but the fog was thick. The forecast had been for the fog to lift by noon, but it never did. So it never really warmed up so much on Sunday, but I still went out and played 9 holes in the afternoon.

I shot an 85 on Saturday, and 44 on Sunday’s nine holes. Was fairly pleased with how well I was swinging after 4 weeks of no practice or play and the only warmup coming around the putting green for 15 minutes on Saturday. The big challenge, and a pressure of sorts on Sunday, was to hit balls straight, because the ball would disappear into the fog after about 100 yards. You didn’t want to hit any big benders, because it would be harder to track down where the ball might have ended up. But I did that pretty well on Sunday. The only ugly tee shot came at the second hole, where I elected to hit the hybrid off the tee — I squirted it off the toe. Other strokes were lost due to a 3-putt at the second hole and a bad bunker lie at 4. Look, people, I know the course has removed the rakes from the course during winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least use your feet to smooth over where the ball was and where you anchored your feet. It only takes about 10 seconds. It maybe doesn’t do as good of a job as a rake, but at least you can make it so someone’s ball doesn’t end up in the bottom of your heel print. But after mucking around some over the first four holes of those nine on Sunday, I finished up with 4 pars and a bogey over the last 5.

One part of my golf game I’m getting excited about now is putting. It all stems from something another player said after a round we had played. He said that my swing reminded him of Zach Johnson’s swing. That might be true. I’ve never taped my swing, but my impression of how it feels and from what I’ve seen of Johnson’s swing, I think I can see how mine might resemble it. But I said putting, didn’t I? Then I start talking about Johnson’s swing. Ahhh, but since I am a golf fan freak, I have seen that Johnson has an unusual difference in how he grips the putter, and prior to me actually trying it, I’ve always respected the fact that he can putt really well.

Anyhow, that comment about my swing resembling Johnson’s got stuck in my head, and the next weekend, when I was playing on my own, it was a miserable day with my crosshanded grip. Couldn’t put the ball on line and yipped a few too. So at the 12th hole, I said to myself, “Let’s putt it like Zach.” So instead of the left hand being low and the left wrist flat, I put my right hand low, and flattened it while bowing my left wrist. From that, I drained a 15 foot putt really nice and smooth. Then the next hole, I drained a 10-footer for a par and to finish the day since it was getting dark by the 13th hole. It was a huge moment.

I thought a lot about that during the week, about how when I set up like that, it gave me a sensation like I was using my dominant right arm to control the putt, and just roll the ball. Plus, with the left hand bowed like that, it very much shut up the tendency of either my left wrist to break or my left side to pull my body around in a rotary fashion — a couple of glitches which have always plagued me. The next weekend on the practice green I began to be amazed at how many more putts I was sinking from 5 to 15 feet, and it’s been happening out on the course too. Anything inside of 20 feet now I feel like there’s a chance of sinking it. And I’ve been sinking more putts in that range than ever, over a number of rounds now, so I don’t think it’s just one of those fluky one round aberrations. Changing my putting style like this has finally enabled me to let my much more coordinated right arm control the stroke, control the line and speed.

I think it may effectively take 2 to 4 strokes off my putting average, and that along with the increasing confidence I feel with the full swing, will at some point combine this year and I will break 80. That reminds of another great sign with the full swing the past weekend. I had a good follow through and finish on every swing. I’m not shutting swings down anymore, which had plagued me a lot during the problem with frozen shoulder. I did have a couple of swings where I spun rather than shifting my hips forward, but I still had a full follow through.

So it’s all coming together, and once the weather starts warming up, it’ll be a matter of time before I get more fully in form, and I’ll break 80.

sandbag

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I struggled some with the deadlifts last night, part of that was because I felt a bit drained from the time I woke up. The other part of it was that my blood sugar took a big dip on me, and I didn’t become alert to that until after my second set of deadlifts. When that second set was done, I noticed a sort of blank feeling in my head along with the weakness of the pulls. So I got my glucometer and it turned out a disturbing result of 38 mg/dL. Oops. Don’t know how it happened, about 30 minutes before going down to lift the blood sugar had checked out at 85 mg/dL and I ate some peanut butter M&M’s along with a couple teaspoons of peanut butter.

Chugged down some gatorade because of the 38, but even 15 minutes later, I still felt weak and had a subpar performance. Then I worked on whipping up a shepherd’s pie with hamburger topped by mashed potatoes and carrots, and a layer of peas in between. While that baked, I loaded up the sandbag with 85 lbs and took it outside to enjoy the mild temperatures. Then it was just kind of free form. Hoist the sandbag up off the ground, wrestle it up to a shoulder, maybe walk with it some or squat with it, or walk for a bit, do a squat or two, walk more. I just wrestled with it while the shepherd’s pie finished cooking.

Then about an hour after dinner, I took the sandbag outside again and played with it some more. I probably did up around 50 to 60 squats, walked a good distance with it on my shoulders or in a bearhug position. It felt really good compared to the deadlifts. I felt that I controlled that 85-lb sandbag better than I ever have in the past. The only thing I missed doing with it was trying to press it overhead, I still can’t do heavy 2-armed overhead presses yet with the left shoulder. But no matter on that, by the time I had finished, I felt worked over from top to bottom, from the legs to the torso to the arms, it felt like every muscle had been worked over in wrestling with a sandbag like that.

I had felt inspired some to do the work with the sandbag after reading some yesterday and watching some videos of stonelifters. Now that’s some impressive strength, to see someone wrestle a large stone off the ground. Barbell strength is also impressive, but there’s something measured, cold, and scientific about it. Odd objects like stones or sandbags seem to be more like an art, a rough poetry of the body and its potential and ability. While I wrestled with the sandbag last night, I felt a stern resolve to walk more than it seemed possible, to drop down in a squat, hamstrings against the calves, and then rise back up to standing, do it over and over until when I finally walked it back inside, rolled it off the right shoulder into the crook of my right arm, then set it down on the floor. I felt alive from it all, the hard beats of the heart in the chest, the only somewhat cool air of a mild January night.

And the knowing that with good recovery, I ought to be stronger in a day or two.

I hope that by spring I will be stronger than I’ve ever been. There’s definitely some visible muscle on my body again, although I’m still kind of skinny. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a thick-looking individual, but I can still have enough muscle for it to be visible that I’m not flaccid and without muscle.