Saturday, January 27, 2007


I think I considered quitting for about 10 seconds there. I was feeling like a total failure, like the person who trained so seriously during 2005 and 2006 had vanished and some pale and weak imitation had taken her place. I had one really tough day (a difficult class, then two people were extraordinarily rude to me, one to my face and one behind my back but knowingly within my hearing, all in the space of about 45 minutes) which actually added to my resolve, in the sense of “if I’m going to deal with this and turn it around, I need to be physically strong and mentally strong”. Teaching is not a profession for weaklings.

I discovered that the old memory card in my camera had some pics of my last day in the Jerusalem gym. I went to WalM@rt and got prints of a few of them. There’s one taken right after the last boxing class. Me and the coach and the bag. Me and the guys. My shirt is soaked with sweat and I look ridiculously happy. I’m putting that one up in my classroom, besides my “before” pic and my weight lifting goal charts.

The floor in my apartment is crooked. Not that you can tell by walking on it, but you can’t put a scale on any of the non-carpeted areas and get an accurate reading. I need to see how far I let myself go. My clothes still fit, but I’m no longer 137, that’s for damn sure. I’ll get a reading at the gym tomorrow, which will be bigger because it will be after eating two meals and drinking water and with clothes on. Unfortunately, the graduated beam scale at the gym is in a public spot and I can’t use it without clothes (well, not without causing a ruckus).

Another reason I can’t quit is my students: I’ve had a couple approach me for fitness advice. One asked if I train people, the other wanted to know how to lose ab fat. I sent the first one to Stumptuous and the second one to Tailor Made Nutrition I.

On the other hand, some of my students are still trying to argue with the “fruit, veggies and h20 only in my classroom” rule. Last week produced the following statements:

StudentA: “Ms Q, if I get an A on the next test, will you eat a candy bar?”
StudentB (different class): “Ms Q, If we all get an A on *reconsiders*… um a B+ on the Friday test, will you eat a candy bar?”

No, but I still want all of you to get an A.

I'm thinking about getting a second gym membership. I can (and do) get to my gym with no problems on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However, Mondays I work till at least 7:30pm and the gym closes at 9:00pm, and Wednesdays I have Russian class and not enough time to squish the gym in between work and class. So I'm thinking of getting a second membership to the gym by my workplace. There's a gym where I work, and I think there's discount for people who work in the same building. It's not ideal, as I am not social when I train, but I need to be training six days a week to finish this project.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Week That Was

Exercise: lousy
H20: what's that?
Green tea (unsweetened): at least 1 L per day
Nutrition (the good): spinach, tuna, green peppers, apples
Nutrition (the bad): a muffin top @ 300cal and 7g F
Work: very very long days, but 99% good. Damn the 1%.

The weekend that will be: sleep, gym, work, watch a basketball game, sleep some more.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Basketball won out over Brahms, and I went to the games rather than the symphony. The snow that started falling in midafternoon helped me decide in favor of the basketball. I could see myself driving through the snow to see my students play, but not to listen to some orchestra. I enjoyed both games very much; it helped that both the boys' and girls' teams won. I printed out three old articles (Exercise Myths 1 & 2by Cressey from 2005 and Top 10 Deadlifting Mistakes by Tate from 2002) and brought them with me so I could get some reading done between quarters and between games. There are games on Monday and Tuesday of this week also, but Monday I work late and Tuesday is a training night.

I continued to screw up my sleeping schedule: I got home from the games and I had no desire to go to sleep. So I watched Aliens on my laptop. (I got both Alien and Aliens from the library earlier this week; the latter is 21 years old...) I love that scene about 30 minutes in, after the Marines wake up from the cryosleep, and Vasquez is doing pullups, whereupon one of her comrades asks her if she's ever been mistaken for a man, she says "No, have you?". People always talk about the pullup scene in T2, another Cameron film, but I prefer this one. Finally fell asleep around 2am. Woke up at 8am which is a stupid thing to do when trying to get into the habit of waking up at 5am and going to sleep no later than 10pm.

No gym today. I am working on lesson plans, cleaning, doing laundry, doing what Marla calls shop'n'chop (tm), and also having a conference call with some of my former classmates.

I'm thinking about granola bars, which I've decided to not eat anymore. (160 days, only 160 days, is my continuing refrain right now, and I can do without them for 160 day and hopefully forever). Over the last few months I've had these and those in my desk drawer at work, mainly for my students, because these are the only bars I could find with kosher certifciation and without hydrogenated oils and HFCS. But I can't have them around me anymore (the bars, obviously, not my students).

It's stupid, really. Either I get serious and finish the project and become the athlete I should be, or I close the blog down and settle for being the no-longer-obese-but-still-overweight-wannabe who didn't have the fortitude to get serious about her nutritional choices.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Squats and an Unexpected Quote

Woke up late this morning. I had intended to wake up at 5:30am and be at the gym by 7am, but I didn't actually stumble out of my house until 7:30am or so. As a result, when I got to the gym I was an hour and a half behind on my day. Decided to do something rather than nothing, so did the squats that I couldn't do yesterday, concentrating on narrowing my stance a bit, pointing the toes more forward, and controlling the path of the right knee. Depth was good and they felt very smooth and easy.
6 x 55 lbs / 24.9Kg
6 x 85 lbs / 38.6 Kg
8 x 105 lbs / 47.6 Kg
8 x 95 lbs / 40.8 kg
8 x 75 lbs / 34 Kg
12 x 55 lbs / 24.9 Kg

Music was lousy. I need to get an mp3 player. My circa 1998 cd player is no longer working.

There are just over 160 days left till July 1, 2007, which I've arbitrarily established as the day I'll go back into the gym in Jerusalem. Scary thought, but I feel better having a definite time period in mind. I wonder what I can accomplish in 160 days (or 22.8 weeks, if you prefer).

The gym I currently train at has a spa right next door. The gym and the spa share a front desk, which makes it easy to schedule aesthetic services right after workouts. Like all spas, they have silly women's magazines in the waiting area. During my last visit they had the Feb 07 issue of InStyl3 magazine, which I never buy because it seems to be all about envy, inadequacy and underfed celebrities in peculiar clothes. I'm not above flipping through it while my nails dry, however, which is how I discovered, on page 253, an article called "Jumpstart Your Workout". One of the profiles was of singer LeAnn Rim3s. And there on page 257 was the following quote:
"My workout goal is to get stronger. Lifting helped me break through many yoga plateaus. I just benched my body weight, which I'm proud to say is 120 pounds."
Well, then. Kudos to Ms Rimes. The state of women's magazines being what it is, it is not surpising that all the pictures included in the article had her in yoga poses, with nary a free weight in sight... but maybe in a few years the powers-that-be at that magazine will wake up. For now, the quote is a good first step, however tiny.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Brahms or Basketball

Good bench/push session on Tuesday and good back-pull session on Thursday. Wednesday night was Russian class, which was moving at breakneck speed. I went in tonight and attempted a Day III Quads And session, but nothing was working. I started with lying cable rows and something under my left scapula started complaining. I moved on to squats. The 50% and 80% warm up sets were really easy. Then I tried for 8 reps at 105lbs, and somthing at the top of my left left started complaining. I stopped. I think I've been training long enough to tell the difference between "gut-it-out" pain and "cease-and-desist" pain, and these were definitely the latter. So I spent the rest of the session stretching, trying to convince my illiotibial band that all was right with the world. I did some reverse hypers using a Swiss ball on a bench. (See this article and scroll down to the 12th comment, the one by CT, for an explanation.)

I'm going to head back to the gym tomorrow and see how it goes.

I have a ticket to the Hamburg Symphony for tomorrow night, but my students are playing basketball. I didn't know about the games when I bought the ticket. Hmm. On the one hand, I really like classical music and haven't had an artsie evening out since the Ailey was in town. On the other hand, it's a choice between basketball played by my students or Brahms played by some strangers from Hamburg. It would be an easier decision if I had someone to give the ticket to.

Nutrition has improved over the past two days. I've started going through spinach at a decent pace again, and I replenished the tuna stash that's in my desk. So all I need to bring with me is three containers of chopped up veggies and I'm set for three meals during the school day. Occasionally, if I feel I'm getting close to the point where I can't stand the sight of canned tuna anymore, I'll bring an 6x1 omelette or cottage cheese instead. That's the good. The bad was that I went into the faculty lounge and was blindsided by junk on the table again. I set myself up for failure there, because I hadn't eaten for six+ hours when I went in there. I had breakfast at 6:30am, and then was either teaching or observing straight through to 1pm.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mags, Deads and Recovery

In a comment to the previous post M@rla asked about Women's Health magazine. I picked it up once or twice and gave up, unimpressed. I have a visceral negative reaction to the word "toning" and I'm disgusted by the mini-weights. (I realise that, as Krista pointed out, it's not easy to keep still for photographs with heavy weights, but I'm still unsympathetic. Hire a stronger model.) In addition, it seems to me that women's magazines have more ad pages per issue than men's magazines, so I'm paying for ads rather than articles. And the ads in men's magazines are more interesting: I'd rather look at cars and electronic gadgets than mascara and shampoo, thank you.

If I feel like reading a women's magazine I get Oxygen. It has way too many silly weight loss ads and fake breasts but at least the women have muscle and are shown doing squats and deads and full push-ups. In fact I bought two copies of their Feb 07 issue just because the cover model was over 40. A couple of years ago there was a Sports Illustrated for Women, but it died for lack of support. It wasn't bad, and it had athletes on the cover, but I still prefer buying the men's magazines. The women's mags seem dumbed-down and too cardio focused.

I've felt like a mid-Western version of the Karate Kid this weekend, except instead of wax-on wax-off it's been scrape-right scrape-left. I scraped ice off my car at least four times yesterday. Chickened out of going to the gym because of the sleet and freezing rain but drove there this morning in the snow, and by the time I got there the sun had come out. By the time I drove back the roads were much better. I did a Day 4: Deads & Bis session: E-Z bar bicep curls, lying cable curls, deadlifts and hamstring curls. The first two supersetted with abwork and the last two supersetted with a minute of cardio. Deadlift numbers were as follows:

6 x 60 lbs / 27.3 Kg
6 x 95 lbs / 43.2 Kg
10 x 120 lbs / 54.6 Kg (July 2006 was 176.4 lbs / 80 Kg. It's a long way back, but I have more confidence in my dead than in any of my lifts, probably because the mechanics are so comfortable.)
10 x 110 lbs / 50 Kg
10 x 100 lbs / 45.5 kg
12 x 60 lbs / 27.3 Kg

Magically, ZZTop's (She's Got) Legs came over the speakers just as I was starting the deads, and that was followed by Billy Idol's White Wedding. The part about "it's a good day to start again" was very apt. :-)

There were two guys outside the gym clearing the snow and ice from the sidewalk, which probably amounted to more physical activity than all of us who were inside the gym working out...

In the middle of the ham curls I felt like I was going to throw up, but I walked around a bit till the feeling subsided and then finished off the last three sets. Just for fun I decided to do the last cardio minute (up and down a step) while carrying a 25 lbs db. In the gym in Jerusalem the guys who were getting ready for army service would do their cardio minutes like that, except they would carry a (much heavier) sandbag. It was fun. A sandbag would be more comfortable though; the db was digging into my shoulder.

I'm thankful that I kept detailed training logs all the time I was in Jerusalem. Nothing like having quality data to prove to oneself that the project is possible. And on the subject of improving tracking and having more quality data to work from, Blood & Sweat made an excellent point last week about quantifying and tracking recovery. Go and learn.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Reality Check: The Numbers

More freezing rain and sleet. When I got home last night I was thinking of this poem by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman. I first read it when I was in 6th grade and I always think of it when winter comes.

The weather made for an empty gym this morning. I'm not complaining. As soon as the two people who were there when I arrived finished their workouts and left I changed the radio station to heavy rock. I did lying cable rows, squats, and single leg split squats with the back leg on a bench.

I promised to post the numbers, and here they are. I've included the July numbers to illustrate the pathetic-ness of the current numbers and to preclude anyone who's recently arrived to this page telling me that the current numbers are any good. As that song from the Buffy musical episode says: "I want the fire back".

Thursday's Flat BP
6 x 45 lbs / 20 Kg
6 x 65 lbs / 29.5 Kg
10 x 85 lbs / 38.6 Kg (July 2006 was 110.2 lbs / 50 Kg )
10 x 80 lbs / 36.3 Kg
10 x 75 lbs / 34 Kg
12 x 45 lbs / 20 Kg

Saturday's squats
6 x 50 lbs / 22.7 Kg
6 x 80 lbs / 36.3 Kg
10 x 100 lbs / 45.4 Kg (July 2006 was 70 Kg / 154.3 lbs )
10 x 90 lbs / 40.8 kg
10 x 80 lbs / 36.3 Kg
12 x 50 lbs / 22.7 Kg

Last night I leafed idly through my old issues of Men’s Health. The Nov 2006 issue features a back workout by someone named Myatt Murphy. Deads, pull-ups, inverted rows; all good things. There’s also an inset box with interesting number tidbits. For example: "971 - most weight in lbs deadlifted in competition by Andy Bolton in 2006". That’s out of date. I have the Dec 06 PLUSA issue and he’s on the cover with a 1003lb deadlift. Another tidbit: "29 – percentage of guys who have never performed a deadlift". Oh lovely, there shrinks the available marriage pool. I'm not even going to contemplate the percentage of Jewish guys who have never performed a deadlift. :-)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Two Days

Not enough time to get to the gym on Wednesday before Russian class, but I did go both Thursday and today. Thursday was Day 1 Chest and today was Day 2 Back. Weights were pathetic both days, but I'll post them tomorrow anyway. I don't have my log near me or I'd post them now. I have to (re-)start somewhere and I'm pretty sure they'll ramp up quickly.

Thursday the gym was busy, but by the end of my workout it was just me and one guy, who was doing endless sets of biceps and triceps and checking his arm in the mirror between sets to see if it grew.

Today I had the gym to myself for most of the workout. Probably because most people have the good sense to stay home when there's freezing rain and sleet coming down. At the end of the night I asked the trainer-in-charge to time one Tabata interval for me on the heavy bag: 20 seconds all out, 10 seconds rest, repeat 8 times for a total of four minutes. It was great. My goal now is to get to four of these, or sixteen minutes total.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Yesterday was frustrating, workwise. Today was better. Nutrition was better also. I made a 5x1 omelette this morning and took it with me for meal #2, and then for meal 4 (5?) I had a 1/2 cup of oats and a cup of frozen mixed berries. Well, they were frozen when I left the house. By the time I ate them in the afternoon they were no longer frozen. My initial plan was to add water to the oats and cook them in the teachers' lounge microwave, but I decided to put the berries on the oats and eat them raw. It wasn't bad, but cooked oats have a more pleasant texture.

I got to the gym and it was busy but not crowded. I had the rack to myself which is the most important thing. Ended up doing front squats because I read the January Q of S at T-Nation last night and they looked like fun. Looking at the pics again I don't think I've got the bar placement quite right. Next time. After the front squats I did suitcase deads and then seated rows.

I walked into the gym and the young lady at the desk asked me how I was. I told her I felt good and happy to be in the gym. She said that most people tell her how horrible it is and how difficult it is. I told her she should tell them to go home and sit in front of the tv instead. I don't really think she should say that, obviously. It was a visceral response on my part, reacting to the way I've felt since January started. I've been excited about training but also suddenly apprehensive scared. The stupid sort of scared - what if I can't do it anymore, what if I'll never get back to the strength levels I had in July 2006, what if what if what if... The only cure for that is to get back in the gym and just slog through the workout, really, and then slog through another one and another one until the stupid feeling goes away. Which is why this week of consistency is so important to me.

There were a few newbies in the gym. A mother and daughter pair working with a personal trainer, a larger lady going through her workout looking very determined. I should have said something nice to her but I was so wrapped up in my own issues. Next time I see her.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Make That Four

Long and annoying day at work. I sat in the faculty meeting saying to myself, "Just don't say anything, because you're annoyed, and anything that comes out of your mouth in the next hour is bound to be negative."

I realised at the end of the day that I didn't have elastics or anything with which to tie my hair back. I thought about going home, and knew that if I did I wouldn't leave. Home is in the opposite direction from the gym. But I headed to the gym, and stopped at a drugstore on the way to get elastics and clip barrettes. I can always use more of them. They disappear like socks in a washing machine.

Four days, four sessions. Back in Jerusalem, when someone came back to the gym after a long layoff, man in charge wouldn't let them do their regular workout for a week. They'd do full body stuff for the first week, a little bit each day, getting back into the swing of things. I'm doing that now. Today was some light bench. I concentrated on keeping my shoulders down and scapulae together. I think I forgot to watch that the other day and that's why my neck was so sore, because my shoulders were trying to push it out of the way... Also did a combination squat and single arm press with a dumbbell and supersetted that with stiff legged deadlifts. Haven't done these for ages. I was standing there thinking, do I have any muscles that aren't sore? All I came up with was glutes, so I decided to do SLDLs.

My quads are very sore, and unless I am sitting perfectly still I feel them. Sitting, standing, walking, not to mention going up and down stairs... :-) Here's to leisurely and stately walking.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Three for Three

Three days, three sessions. I went to the gym Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was so good to be back after the voicelessness, the coughing and everything else. Friday night's session was a little short. I had forgotten that they close at 8pm on Fridays, so all I had time for was six sets of bench. Saturday was squats and heavy bag and today was deads and heavy bag. I also going to go tomorrow afternoon. I usually finish too late on Mondays to train on Monday evenings, but tomorrow I'll be out at 5:30pm and I'll just go straight to the gym from work. Which means I have to pack my gym stuff tonight, and remember to take it in to the school with me. If I leave it in the car the gym clothes become freezing cold. Putting a freezing cold t-shirt and workout pants on isn't really conducive to a good workout. Trust me on this one.

An interesting afternoon at the gym today: first, there was someone in the power cage, second, this someone was a female and third, she was squatting. The real thing. You could tell by her form that she knew what she was doing. Nice! When she was on her rest interval I went over to compliment and exchange a few words. She said that she's lifted at the national level and that she was currently recovering from various injuries, including a shoulder problem and two knee surgeries. After her squats she did deads with around 155lbs, and I heard her tell the trainer in charge that getting one plate on the bar is the first step to getting back to having two plates on the bar, which is the first step to having three plates on the bar. (Amen!) For the mathematically tired, three plates per side would mean over 300lbs. Sweet. The funny thing was that I told her that my inital motivation for getting in shape was switching to teaching, and she assumed I meant teaching phys. ed. :-)

So I stayed out of the rack, and used the pre-set barbells (which go up to 90lbs) to do my deadlifts. After the deads I did lat pulldowns, and then went to hit the heavy bag again. My intensity level isn't where it should be, but I was in pain. Sore from Friday and Saturday and I also had a massive headache from 2pm onwards (and it hasn't gone away yet). I am guessing it is due to lack of water and inadquate sleep. I'm working on those.

Friday, January 05, 2007

But He's Swedish!

Back in early December a new training log appeared on the EliteFS web site. Go read and laugh and be impressed. Then check out her stats and pics on her site and be more impressed.

Also at EFS, Dave Tate writes about Ore0s. Best quote: " Never pull the damn thing apart and dunking is totally out of question. I am not EVEN going to discuss why."

Since my hard drive died and I lost all my music, and since my cd collection is back in Toronto, I went to the local public library to find something to listen to. I'm on an opera kick. I've always liked opera, thanks to the influence of my mom, who played opera records in the house when I was a kid. One of the cds I got from the library is a compilation of tenors, and I called my mom to find what she knew about them.
Me: "Do you know anything about Jussi Bjoerling?"
Mom: "Sure, he's the first tenor I listened to."
Me: But he's Swedish!
Let me explain: I'd always assumed that my mom got into opera because she lived in Libya while that country was under Italian control. Mom speaks Italian and likes Verdi operas so I fully expected that the first tenor she listened to would be Italian. Nope. Turned out that she got into opera when she was sixteen and living in Israel, and one of her friends was studying music. My mom hates being in a position where she doesn't know a lot about a subject, and so she started researching and listening. (I'm exactly the same, by the way. I hate being in a conversation and not being able to contribute facts to the discussion.)

All this is a leadup to this site and its lovely opera podcasts. I found it accidentally by googling for "Di quella pira", which is an aria in Verdi's Il Trovatore. I was playing the Pavarotti version in the car this morning and wanted to know more about it before I decide which one to buy. One of the podcasts features twelve versions of that aria, and another features an additional 25. An embarrassment of riches. :-) I'm listening to them as I type this.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

PD Days and Expectations

I'm not a big fan of teacher in-service days: those days that we're in school but the students are not. When I was a kid they were known as professional development days. They're interesting and I learn new things during each workshop, but they usually involve garbage food of some sort: the past two days it's been soft drinks, two varieties of cookies and two varieties of cake. I could avoid the lunch area altogether but I think it would be cowardly, not to mention disrespectful to my colleagues. I should just ignore the stupid food, but for some reason the past week has involved major carb cravings. *sigh* I'm officially declaring the last two days of eating null and void. Thank god my students are back tomorrow, and I'm back into good nutrition and good hydration mode.

There's a scene in Dumas' Twenty Years After where the Comte de la Fere explains to D'Artagnan the impact that raising Raoul has had on his character: "I have corrected the vices that I had; I have assumed the virtues that I had not". Teaching is like that. I have to set an example to my students, so my nutritional choices are much better when they're around.

My home gym is growing. It's the room formerly known as the living room. Who needs a living room, anyway, especially without a tv? I got a bench from KM@rt and one of those metal shelf units from Targ3t. The former is going to be assembled this weekend, the latter is half-assembled already. No, I am not giving up my lovely non-home gym, but if the six months of Jan-June 2007 are going to be productive enough to make up for the non productive early months in Kansas, I need to add activity to my life beyond the regular evening workouts.

The theme for this month is living up to expectations. I told someone today that if my students come to me with a story or an excuse, no matter how improbable - the ferret ate my homework and the ion storm fried my computer so I couldn't reprint it - I prefer to tell them "I believe you. But I still need the homework. How quickly can you re-do it?", then to challenge their story. My life is easier and happier if I believe and act as if my students are incapable of a mean or dishonorable act. (Those of you who were in the debating society with me in the 1980s will recognize the reference.) I was thinking about this because I noticed recently that two people had linked to this blog in ways that inspire me to kick myself in the butt: I must live up to the company M@arla put me in, and conduct myself in a way that befits a member of Kris' tribe. Thank you both! I needed that.