Posts Tagged ‘strength’

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.


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.

small advances

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Last week was a bad week at the bowling league for me. Had a nightmare game where I only scored 91 and I think my high game was a 128. It seemed to be impossible to roll the ball over my targets. But while I was frustrated, I tried to keep my eyes and ears open, keep observing what I could from the surroundings. And I overheard something, something by one of the better bowlers in the league giving advice to a member of his team. He said that one being advised was not synched up, his left foot was arriving way too soon and his right arm was swinging through way too late. I thought about how my own approach and swing felt, and I realized that it was happening with me. That my left foot would slide and plant, and then my right arm would be swinging forward late. I heard that early in my 3rd game of the night, and I began trying to adjust and closed out strong enough to roll that week’s high game of 128.

So last night I thought about all of that again. I struggled with the new rhythm during the warmup. The old habit of how my body went through the sequence would try to assert itself, sometimes even causing me to step forward first with my right foot rather than the left as I’ve always done. But around the 5th frame of the 1st game I finally got my mind keyed right to get the sequence going and feel a sense of rhythm and a sort of magic to how it ought to feel. I rolled 128 in the first game.

The second game was one of the nicer games I’ve ever rolled. It wasn’t my best score ever, but it was my best bowled in a sense. I began to feel good and confident, and I had only 2 open frames. Just one strike, but I was really good on picking up the spares. The two spares I missed were because of one bad roll and the other because of a 4-6 split from when my first ball just hit that headpin nearly dead on.

The third game, I was a bit less consistent, but got a 155. It was the 6th, 7th and 9th frames where I lost focus and missed spares I ought to have made. But anyhow, I rolled a 443 series, my best series so far in league. If I can keep up with what I figured out over the last 2 weeks, I think I should be able to start rolling above a 150 average. When I have the approach right and in rhythm, it is so much easier to hit the target, or be close to it. The arm swings correctly, and there’s no sense of it being pulled across the body because the left foot planted early.


I definitely like seeing the sunsets coming later and later. The sun still sets too early, but it’s a bit of a relief now to look out a window at a quarter after 5 and it’s not dark dark. Sometimes I wonder how I survive those days of early sunsets. The darkness is suffocating, I feel trapped and nearly hopeless, not that I’m ever really all that hopeful, but sometimes it feels like that darkness of winter is so wholly destructive.

It’s no wonder then that the sun and light are often used in writing imagery for tales and poems about love. From personal experience, I can remember how there were a couple of winters when the darkness wasn’t so oppressive, it was as though there was a light from her and a light that burned inside of me, and that filled me with light, it filled my lungs with warm smooth air, that if one could breathe silk, that’s what it was. Silk that burned with a gentle fire. I had a poem which had a line, “lit the sky like silk on fire,” and I’ve always loved those words which just took fire in my head the first moment they whispered through my lips. It was an otherwise melancholy poem, imagined from an old person’s perspective talking to a longtime friend and how he has become old, but how he remembers a time when there was a moon that lit the sky like silk on fire.

But there’s no silk in my world, and there’s no silk in me. Now I feel that all I have left to me is hard, sharp, and broken. So maybe that’s the comfort now I find in the idea of strengthening my muscles. Maybe I’ll still be broken, but I’ll be a strong broken, whatever iron there is in me will become steel. I wrote a line in a poem once about becoming steel. I thought it was about what love could build in me. But love is probably never so direct, it’s a sly one and maybe prefers to break some people in order to remake them. I don’t know.

Who was that person I was 3 years ago? Was he real? Was it illusion? One thing to always remember is that unreliable narrators aren’t just unreliable to the others they tell stories to, they are often unreliable to their own selves. It’s a hell of thing about the human story making capacity. It’s just a hell of a thing. Truth is very slender and thin, and only shows through the tiny cracks, cracks which you might only see out of the corner of the eye.

Oh well.


January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Lastnokte, mi levis pezaĵojn. Faris mi tri arojn da kaŭroj kaj kelkajn da farmist-promenoj kaj tri arojn da surdorsekuŝ-premoj. Ŝajnas ke mi bezonis krei vortojn por pezaĵlevo? Muskultrejnado? Muskultrejnado estus pli generala ol la levo de pezaĵoj. Do mi pensis ke pezaĵlevo estas la plej bona. Eble. Eble mi malpravas. Sed pezaĵlevo ŝajnas okej por mi kaj miaj oreloj. Tamen, se iu esperantisto scias plibonajn vortojn, bonvolu lasi komenton kun viaj sugestoj.

Fakte, mi bonvolas ĉiujn sugestojn kaj korektadon(?), korektecon(?).

Esperanto iĝas pli multe faciliĝa por mi, sed mi ankoraŭ estas komencanto-parolanto de ĝi. Komprenas mi pli bone ol parolas mi.

Redakto por aldoni: Mi iĝas inteligenta kaj serĉis la esperanto-vikipedio por la Olimpikoj. En la artikolo pri la Olimpikoj, mi trovis la vorton, halterlevo, kaj haltero aperas esti la vorto kiu priskribas la anglan vorton, barbell. Pensas mi ke haltero estas de greka origino.

Ankoraŭ, mi pensas ke pezaĵlevo estas ankaŭ bona vorto. Eble tiel bona kiel halterlevo. Ankaŭ muskultrejnado estas bona. En multe da lingvo, estas multe da vortoj kiujn povas uzi, kaj Esperanto estas alia lingvo. Do ĝi ankaŭ povas havi multajn vortojn por uzi pri la samaj aferoj.

It’s interesting. This morning I’ve had about as much spontaneous thinking in Esperanto as I’ve ever had. I’ve certainly had times before when I’ve been thinking in Esperanto, especially when I’ve gotten deeply into some reading, but I’ve still lacked the ability to generate thoughts and series of thoughts in Esperanto. But maybe now I’m taking some first steps (unuajn paŝojn!) to a higher level of skill with the language.

So, to mark that, I worked on writing the first part of this blog post in Esperanto.

I did 3 sets of squats last night, some farmer’s walks, and 3 sets of bench presses. With the bench presses, I am using a thick book on my chest to keep the bar from dropping too far and causing stress and discomfort in the left shoulder. Eventually, as the shoulder continues to thaw out, I should be able to return to presses where the bar goes down completely to the sternum. But I’m in no hurry with that, I think I should still be doing good things for my upper body pressing strength with the book on my chest.

split pea

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I began craving split pea soup on New Year’s Eve, so yesterday morning I went to the market and bought some ham and dried green peas. The soup cooked up quite nicely. Along with the ham and peas, I also used carrots, a potato, some milk and butter, Canadian maple syrup, tabasco, salt, pepper, and paprika. The tabasco, pepper and paprika gave the soup a nice little zip to the flavor against the slight sweetness from the ham and syrup that I had used. It made for a good lunch and dinner on a chilly first day of 2013, and the remainder has been packed into containers for lunches at work for the rest of the week.


When I woke up yesterday, there only remained a faint tickle which could make me cough lightly and a tiny sliver of nasal drip. Strength wise, I felt a bit off, but mostly recovered. So I decided to do the deadlifts and farmer’s walks yesterday. The decision I made was to start the 2-week plan I had begun last week over again. Somehow it made sense. Just start from there again.

The first thing is that I don’t think I was entirely full strength yesterday. One weird effect of that was the first rep of each of the 3 working sets of deadlifts felt strangely heavy. I could almost feel the aches of the flu back on Saturday in those initial reps. But the rest of the reps would tend to feel almost progressively better. And the final result was that in the last set where I would do as many reps as possible, I did one rep more than when I had used that weight the prior week. That was the clearest sign to me that I was nearly fully recovered, and that felt good, felt good to know that I was fairly healthy again and that I could get back to work on getting stronger.

It was after the deadlifts that I got the soup cooking for lunch and dinner.

In the afternoon, I took a short walk to help me get back to the goal of taking 10,000 steps every day. The effects of the flu had kept me from that for 4 days, a stretch where the pedometer only counted 17558 steps. Then late in the afternoon I did a series of farmer’s walks and in the evening I foam-rolled and stretched.

And I woke up feeling pretty nearly flu-effect free this morning. I still have a slight sensation that I can’t take a full deep breath into my lungs without the risk of coughing, but the nasal drip is completely gone. Strength wise I feel pretty good. So I guess the flu is very much behind me now and I am glad about that.


On Saturday, when I was at my most ill, I watched Forrest Gump again. I saw it once before back in the 1990s and liked it then okay enough, although I got annoyed a great deal by the cultural tide it created where people would often say some of the Forrest Gumpisms. Saturday when I watched it I was even less impressed with it. Some of that disenchantment was due to what I’ve learned about physical effort and well-being. One of the famous sorts of scenes from the movie are the ones where Forrest is being picked upon by bullies and his childhood friend Jenny yells at him, “Run, Forrest, run!” Yeah, I’m sure all those kids back when they used to put so many of them into leg braces will tell you about the time they were able to begin running like the wind after being stuck in braces, that they were able to run themselves right out of their braces.

Yes, I realize that Forrest Gump is fictional, but even fiction has its limits. That sort of disparity with the laws of reality in Gump’s fictional universe is unbelievable to me. It very much damages the narrative.

But later I began thinking about it more. What if? I think that many times people watch Forrest Gump and get suckered into thinking to take Forrest at his word. He is just a simple man, talking plainly about things he’s seen and done. What if that’s not so? What if Forrest is an unreliable narrator? What if the movie is a tale of things that he’s imagined, that he’s fantasized, that he’s made up and lied about?

Suddenly, if you start thinking about it that way, it’s not just a somewhat melancholy tale of a simple man who achieved a lot and loved a woman, a woman who eventually came to appreciate his devotion and married him before she passed away. Maybe instead Forrest and Jenny were childhood friends, but eventually with her growing up and growing older, she left him behind, a combination of wanting to escape the location of her abusive childhood and once gone, she never wrote back to Forrest, because she found his devotion/obsession a bit too threatening and weird. So Forrest Gump is no longer a hero. He is instead just a sort of strange tragedy, someone who not because of any really conscious fault of his own, is just not well-suited to the world. One who has not achieved any measure of greatness, but has only imagined himself doing great things — playing football for Alabama, winning a Congressional Medal of Honor, running back and forth across America 3 or 4 times, has imagined himself flawlessly loving, protecting and honoring Jenny as best he can, having had a son who is just like him but finally smart. What if the last scene of the movie was completely imagined? There was no Forrest junior. It was just Forrest returning to where his bus stop was when he was a kid, and imagining that he now is sending a son of his own off to school, a son that he and Jenny had?

Now, if Forrest Gump exists as a great movie, it is not one that sees Forrest Gump as telling a straight and truthful tale, it is one where he is seen as somewhat deluded and lying, and trying to see how many of us he can con into believing he was some simple paragon of virtue out of America’s turbulent past.


December 28, 2012 Leave a comment

I woke up about 4:30 this morning and have since found myself with a slight tickle and cough, little bit of tickle in the nose too and general sense of blah. There’s supposed to be a lot of flu going around right now and I’ve heard that one of the strains circulating wasn’t in this season’s vaccine. If it is that flu strain I’ve caught, I’ll hope that the vaccine will provide me some boost in immunity against it so it doesn’t lay me out.

It’s disappointing some because I went to bed last night feeling good after a strong workout where I squatted, did some farmer’s walks, and chin ups with isometric holds at various angles. It felt energizing almost, a bit of satisfaction at having done the work to improve strength. And even if it meant some chance that I might wake up a bit sore in places from that workout today, I wouldn’t have minded it.

I’ll have to see how I feel tomorrow morning and make a decision then on whether or not to deadlift. It will be a little frustrating if I have to cancel any scheduled workouts. It’s been a small source of rejuvenation for my mood that I can feel myself getting stronger and can see the difference in how my body looks again. Although the legs are still very skinny, but I think now that I’m smarter and more knowledgeable, I will be able to make my legs grow some more. One big part of that, I believe, will be doing plenty of deep and effective squatting, along with the work I’m doing to improve the function of my glutes. Increasing the muscle mass in my legs seems particularly more important in view of how a Danish study found a link between lack of muscle in the thighs and heart attack risk. It occurs in both women and men, so that’s another good reason for women to squat and deadlift. Being strong as you get older not only helps protect you against falls and frailty, but also can help protect the heart and metabolism.

Yuck, as I took a break from working on this, I began to feel the first bits of fever. All I can do now is hope that it doesn’t last too long and I get back to full health soon. Also getting the first sensation of just wanting to crawl into a bed, pull the covers over me and go to sleep. I like to sleep when I get sick, that seems to do more than anything else on helping me recover. Sleep seems to be my body’s way of shutting down things so the immune system can get to work.