Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Last Jerusalem Deadlifts

This post and its predecessor are being posted from Ben Gurion airport (free wireless), where I am waiting for my flight to begin boarding. I did my requisite trip through the duty free shops, and picked up this cd by Fear Fact0ry. Also checked out the airport synagogue. Not bad, but the women's section is tiny (four or five seats only) and stuck behind an unnecessarily cluttered screen.

Very hectic day today. I met one of my university professors, then headed to the Coffee Mill on Emek to meet an Australian educator who has just arrived in Israel. We had a fascinating discussion on matters educational, and I also gave him my frank opinion of several of the university professors, with the caveat that his mileage may vary. I was so frank, apparently, that the gentleman sitting at the table behind me leaned over to advise me that I was in an area of town where many people know the academic folks in question (implying that I should be careful &/or lower my voice). I told him that I didn't say anything that I wouldn't say directly to their faces.

Fortified by breakfast (generously picked up by the aforementioned educator - thanks muchly!), I headed to Pardes and dropped off the skirt that H had lent me, then said my goodbyes. Then I was off to the gym for the final training session for this trip. MiC wasn't there yet, but GiC was. Only two people were training when I arrived but things got very busy by the time I finished.

Today's Deadlifts

Post gym, a mad run to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, and then home to pack the last bag. The airport cab service arrived 15 minutes earlier than expected. Kudos to roommate #2 for helping me get my things together in record time. Have you ever tried to stuff a turkey sandwich, three apples and the remnants of a yellow pepper into your purse in a hurry? Not as easy as it sounds. :-)

On the way to the airport I thought about all the things I didn't do. Either because I forgot to do them or because I didn't have enough time. Frustrating. But with some luck I'll be back here next summer for another workshop, and this time I'll give myself more time for fun stuff after the studying.

About to start boarding; got to go. Which is a good thing, because if I start thinking about how much I'm going to miss my gym...

Monday Day III: Triceps and Back

Everything supersetted with ab work.

Six reps is as low as I go on this program; next week it's back to 8 rep work sets.

Skull Crushers


I saw the 12Kg tricep bar on the floor, loaded with of weight. I asked GiC if anyone was using it. Turns out it was being used by M2, who is one of my favorite gym colleagues to watch train. I didn't ask to work in because was his last set; I waited and did a bit of extra warm up. Who should pop up to helpfully inform me that I could use the 10Kg tricep bar instead? Yes, Mr. Helpful again. "I know," I said, "But I want that bar." Two things: first, I trained here for nearly two years; I know exactly how many tricep bars the gym has and what weight they are. Second, there's a reason I wanted the 12Kg bar. The bars where you grip are thicker, which has a positive effect on my grip and forearms.

When M2 was done with his set I went over to unload the other end of the bar.
"You want the 10s?" he asks. This delighted me to no end. The day I can put two 10 Kg plates on my tricep bar will be a happy day.
"No," I said, passing the 10Kg over.
"I'll leave the 5s, you're going to use those." he said.
Yes, I will. And thank you for mentioning it. :D
See? There are lots of nice guys at my gym. And only one occasional dingbat.(And I'll give that one the benefit of the doubt that he means well, annoying as he is.)

Bent Over Single Arm DB Rows

These felt really smooth and easy. The twinge that I had felt in my left shoulder last time I did them was gone. After my max set, M2 came over to where I was training.
"What does your boyfriend think of the lifting?" he asks.
"What boyfriend?" I ask.
We had a very nice conversation. I explained that I would expect any future boyfriend of mine to be active. He doesn't have to powerlift, necessarily, but he has to be active; no couch potato clicking away at the television.
"What if he jogs?" M2 asks.
"God help us," I said, "Look, there's all kinds of sports, there's lifting, martial arts, mountain climbing..."
"Beer drinking?" M2 mimes someone on a couch tossing back beers and I started laughing. "No belly."
"Look," I said, "I was pretty big when I started this, so if he's got a belly but he's in the process, fine."
I came up to him later and told him that he gave me an idea for an ad "Needed: 1 boyfriend. Must squat x, dealift y and bench z."

Lat PDs to Chin (wide pronated grip)
6x50Kg/110.2lbs This one was hard, but it's also the entire stack on that machine, so I was really happy to get it again.

When I put the handle on the machine I somehow dislodged the cable from the pulley wheel. So I asked GiC for help. It took a couple of minutes and he had to take off the handle to get the cable back in place. Mr. Helpful popped up again like a prairie dog to take the handle from GiC's hands. Then, once the cable was back in place, he came back, said "I help" and put the handle on the cable. I didn't say thank you, because at this point my patience was at a near-end. If I was staying for another month I would have a little talk with this guy, but I only have one more training session after this, and I am relatively certain he won't be there for it.

Lat PDs to chest (close grip, palms facing each other)

Finished in plenty of time to shower. My pacing was very good, and some of it was that I tried to do the ab work as close to the weights as possible, as opposed to strolling to an out of the way area to do it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shopping and Training

Running around doing last minute errands. Saw one of my professors first thing yesterday morning, then went with my friend H. to do some Judaica shopping. I bought a lovely hand-woven talit on Yoel Salomon Street. Then I changed into a skirt (generously lent to me by H) and long sleeved shirt which I bought from the clearance rack of the bat ayin store by the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, and we headed to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim. I found another siddur (prayer book) to add to my collection and a lace-edged challah cover.

Got to the gym yesterday night but didn't have time to finish my session, so I went in this morning and made up the exercises I missed on Friday and Sunday. Last night I ran into the Mr. Helpful turkey again. This time he came by to tell me that my position on the lying cable rows wasn't right and wouldn't I be more comfortable if I was at a different angle to the machine. I told him that the angle in this case didn't matter. He said that I was making the exercise too hard. I asked him if he comes to the gym to rest or to work, then walked off without waiting for a response. Nitwit.

On the other hand, this morning the deadlifting guy from Thursday was at the gym while I was training, and he was doing absolutely beautiful dips with a 20Kg/45lbs plate hanging off him. I had come in just as he was finishing his bench work. The gym was blissfully quiet, and I don't mean empty. I mean everyone there was training without blithering. I'm planning the regular Day III: Back session tonight, which will leave the deadlifts for tomorrow before I leave.

I took a look at the second program that MiC gave me, the one to be used once the hip injury is cleared up, and discovered that on Day I: Chest, the regular pushups get replaced by pushups with hands close together. :-) Hello triceps.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Morning Bench

I did a half session this morning because I have several errands to run before I fly back to North America next week, and almost everything closes early on Friday because of Shabbat. Things are made more difficult by the fact that all the phone numbers I needed were on the defunct cell phone. The plan is to do the second half of the Day I: Chest session on Sunday morning, and the full Day II: Quads session on Sunday night.

Flat BP

MiC told me that next time I do BP I should do two sets at the beginning with just the bar for technique. Apparently I lost my form on the last rep of my max set and my chest went down instead of up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Deadlifts and Dead Cell Phones

Today my cell phone stopped working due to an unfortunate accident involving water, and then I got to the apartment and discovered the internet connection wasn't working. So here I am at a remarkably noisy Cafe Rehavia at quarter to midnight checking e-mail. There's no land line in the apartment since all the flatmates have cell phones. Or, in my case, had a cell phone.

Between the stress about the (now averted) strike and the stress about suddenly having no means of communication, I suspect any strength gains I made were wiped out by cortisol surges. Kidding, of course, but my concentration at the gym was off. I did get myself on track once I got to the deadlifts, though.

Today's Deads
The last set really should have been 55Kg or 57.5Kg, but I stuck with the blue 20Kg plates because I was working in with another person and didn't want to keep him waiting while I swapped the 20Kg for the 15Kg. He seemed reluctant enough to work in with me as it was, but warmed up to the idea once it dawned on him I really didn't mind taking plates on and off.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eight Hours Ahead

Ignore the timestamp; it's showing Kansas and here in Jerusalem I'm eight hours ahead. We had the closing dinner of the workshop tonight, even though we still have a day to go. The reason for this scheduling is so that people who need to fly out tomorrow don't miss out on the closing dinner. At the moment, of course, it's anyone's guess whether there will be any flying at all. There's a general strike looming in the public sector, and the airport is just one of the many things that could be shut down.

After the closing dinner I went to train and tried not to think about airport closures. It was a good session.

Day III: Triceps & Back

Everything supersetted with ab work.

Skull Crushers

Bent Over Single Arm DB Rows

Lat PDs to Chin (wide pronated grip)

Lat PDs to chest (close grip, palms facing each other)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fasting and Films

No workout today due to the fast, but I did train last night just as the fast was starting, so I didn't drink anything during or after the workout. Not something to do on a regular basis, obviously, but I had taken in enough water during the day and felt pretty strong during the session. I asked MiC about the curl variations because they felt too easy, and it turned out that I wasn't doing them quite right. Once I fixed the form they got a lot harder.

As part of the curriculum workshop we had a morning lecture on Dealing with Death and Loss in the Classroom. Following this I went downtown with friends to Beit Avichai, where they had a Tisha b'Av film marathon on the themes of Love and Baseless Hatred. (According to Jewish tradition, while the first Temple was destroyed due to the sins of murder, idolatry and forbidden sexual relations, the second Temple was destroyed due to the sin of baseless hatred.) I saw Neilah by Zohar Markman, Eicha by Eliezer Shapiro, one episode of the Israeli tv series Merchak Negiah (Touching Distance) about a Russian family and an ultra Orthodox family, and one part of Ruach Kadim (Kaddim Wind), about the experiences of Moroccan Jews. There were discussions with the directors &/or writers, and a lively and opinionated Israeli audience. I didn't stay for the last session, but the event was very worthwhile. All the films made me think, and I need to look into how I get permission to show films to my students. Whom do I need to call, where do I send the royalty checks and so on.

Monday, July 23, 2007

9th of Av

It's the eve of Tisha B'Av - the Ninth of Av - here in Jerusalem. Tisha b'Av is a fast day on the Jewish calendar. It's a sorrowful day, commemorating the destruction of the Jewish Temples and Jerusalem in 586BCE (by the Babylonians) and 70CE (by the Romans). Services feature Kinot - elegies, as well as the entire Eicha scroll (Lamentations).
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! Lamentations 1:1

Echoes of TurkeyGuy

Remember TurkeyGuy? (Jerusalem TG, Kansas TG) He's long gone, but fear not, there's a new incarnation of him at the gym. I'm calling this one HelpfulGuy. He must have joined in the past year, either that or he never trained at the same time I did. Last week he kept coming over to "help". He asked me twice if what I was doing (abs, usually) doesn't hurt, and wouldn't it be better to do it a different way. Then he points out the incline board and tells me I should do abs on that. I told him that that was not the exercise that man-in-charge wrote down for me. Then he tried removing weights from my bar, and I just looked at him and said, "no help". Friday was funnier that the rest of the days, because he was benching while I was doing the aforementioned deadlifts, and from the corner of my eye I could see the wheels in his head turning. Dingbat.

I'm feeling civic, so here are my Simple Rules for TurkeyGuys:

1. Do not remove weights from the bar for me. If I loaded it on the bar, I can take it off the bar.
2. Do not put weights on the bar for me. If I couldn't load it, how the heck would I lift it?
(Exception to #1 and #2: if we are sharing the rack, then obviously for reasons of speed and efficiency we'd be loading and unloading each other's weights. Except that TurkeyGuys, on the whole, don't offer or ask to work in.)
3. If we've been training at the same gym for less than six months, &/or I've never seen you do a leg exercise of any sort, don't offer me advice.
4. "Doesn't it hurt?" is a stupid question.
5. If you are using deadlift straps, do not leave them on for your entire workout. You look like a little girl's tricycle, with all sorts of ribbons waving from it.

Strong As Samson

Not quite. But he's on my mind because as part of the curriculum workshop we had a field trip last Thursday: "In the footsteps of Shimshon," looking at the biblical narrative that appears in Shoftim (Judges). We didn't get back to Jerusalem till after 7pm, and by the time I got to the apartment, ate and drank something and grabbed the gym bag... it was 8:50pm when I arrived at the gym. I didn't finish everything I needed to do, so I came in Friday to do the deadlifts and ham curls.

Friday Deads (supersetted with curls)

The new program, which I will post soon, is still a four day split. The changes are: no squatting until the hip recovers; no cardio intervals (ditto), a 1/3 increase in ab work; and, the last set on each exercise is now a 4th work set rather than a cool-down/technique 50% set.

I need to do something about my abysmal pace. MiC says that if I didn't rest at all, I should be able to get through a session in 45-50 minutes, and that I should aim for 1 hour and 10 minutes, but no way should I be over 1 hour 30 minutes. I tend to take my time, and the main reason is that I love being in the gym.

Friday, July 20, 2007

By Me, Elsewhere

My story of going back to my gym in Jerusalem is up at Scott Bird's Straight to the Bar. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sartorial Offense and Defense

I wore one of my favorite t-shirts to the workshop today. One person, a former classmate whom I had not seen for two years until yesterday, decided that God appointed her the sartorial police. She came up to me and said, out of the blue:

"Your shirt is offensive to me."
"Oh?" I said.
"Do you wear that to school?" she sniffed.
"Actually I wear business attire to school," I said, "What do you wear?"
"I work with little kids, so I'm always in paint, I wear jeans and this," she pointed to her potato-sack orange dress.
"Ok," I said, thinking she would go away, but she persisted.
"I find it offensive that you wear a shirt with ways to kill people on it." she said.
"Well, if I walk down the street and see you being attacked, and I have a gun, I promise not to defend you, deal?" I said sweetly.
That shut her up for about three seconds, and I walked past her and into the room where our next session was.

You know, there's a reason I didn't keep in touch with every single person with whom I studied. This is the same genius who found it necessary to declare loudly when she saw me on Tuesday, "You're half the size you were!" Whatever. I wasn't planning to wear the shirt again, but I'm going to make sure I wear it at least once more if not twice. Maybe even to the closing dinner. :-)

Good gym session tonight. I felt really nauseous when I began, because my abs and obliques are very sore from Monday's session and this session had the same amount of ab work. Cable rows, machine bicep curls, limited range bb hack squats to bench, and leg extensions, all the while staring longingly at the squat rack. One of the taller guys was doing beautiful squats, breaking parallel, and every time I turned around he had two more plates on the bar. And I forgot to mention the Anglo guy who was there on Monday, doing textbook conventional deads with metronomic rhythm and about 360 lbs. Turns out he knows one of my colleagues from Kansas. Small world.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Landed in Jerusalem last week. Sorry for the disappearing act. Things were like a ghastly Bosch painting here for awhile (yes, I'm being dramatic, so?).

I went to the university last week to straighten out some MA details: for example, where, pray tell, are grades for papers I handed in over a year ago? The profs in question were very nice, said they would check and if they don’t find anything I can send them copies and they’ll grade them. Ok, great. I met with other profs and my academic advisor, and all was going well. Then, a day later, a form e-mail from the university lands in my inbox, saying that as I wasn’t registered in my last year, my coursework is not recorded and they won’t give me my MA. *pause* *deep breath* WTF? Where the heck did my tuition payment go then? The invisible bureaucrats slush fund? I sent them a polite Canadian e-mail pointing out that I have a receipt, as well as an e-mail from the financial person who sent me the receipt. As no one was in the office on Friday and Saturday, I had to stress until Sunday to get the e-mail that said that the issue was fixed. No apology for stressing me out for an entire weekend, of course. Meanwhile I was pacing around the apartment with smoke coming out of my ears. Roommate #1 says I should be grateful they bothered to fix it. Bureaucracy here being what it is, they could have continued to make me miserable for weeks on end and forced me to dig up every shred of paper I got from them.

I went back to my gym, and I'll be posting a detailed account of the return tomorrow... but not here. I'm guest blogging elsewhere and this will be my first post there.

Jerusalem is wonderful and I wish I had more time here. The only downside is that I can't squat for six months. If anyone but man-in-charge had told me this I would ignore the advice, but since he has forgotten more about training than I will ever know, I’m listening. He designed a new program for me that will take the hip issue into account. I’ve been in the gym five days thus far, and the only reason I wasn't there this evening is that we were at the workshop till 5:30pm and then had a group dinner at our teacher's home which it would have been rude to skip. More about the new program once I've gone through the entire thing once. For now, I'll just say that it involves 30% more abwork. Ow.

I took this pic on the weekend. I like this sculpture very much. I think it's supposed to be a fountain, but doesn't have any water due to conservation; it would all evaporate in the heat.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Counting Down

Neither boxing nor mma tonight; busy cleaning and packing. It will be quiet here for a bit, and if all goes well, the next post will be from Jerusalem. :-)

Thursday, July 05, 2007


More medical tests today and four loads of laundry.

The hot dog eating contest that was on the news this week reminded me of my all time favourite short story, Damon Runy0n's "A Piece of Pie": audio files of an abridged radio version here, but the full written version is much better. I was eleven when I first read it. The story describes an eating contest with a female contestant.It was the first time I had ever encountered a large - she is described as having a face like a town clock - vibrant, female literary character that ate a lot with unabashed pleasure, Miss Violette Shumberger. She also gets the man (although I didn't notice that when I was eleven). I can't think of any other such character in literature.

Good reading elsewhere:

Since I've had multiple interactions with health care providers this week the subject is still top of mind. Junkfo0d Science drills down into health insurance numbers and Asymetrical Informati0n ponders a plan and also points to this commentary, where I found this quote: "...nobody, here or in other countries, wants real insurance. Instead, everybody's idea of health coverage is to be insulated from costs." I've been thinking about this a lot lately. What percentage of my income is my health worth to me?

The Agitator on school nutrition programs.

VDH on rising food prices.

Down on the Farm

Two articles about the farm bill, both at the Renegade Lunch Lady. Found the first one via a post at The Jew and the Carrot, and the second one while browsing the RRL after reading the first.

One article was unnecessarily snarky but somewhat informative:
"The farm bill sets the rules for the American food system and helps to subsidize obesity. It rewards growers of big commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat — the foundation of our junk food nation. So, a bag of highly processed orange puff balls with no nutritional value is cheaper than a tomato or a peach."
More informative and less snarky article here.
The 2002 farm bill provided $143.3 billion for nutrition programs like Food Stamps, $16.8 billion for conservation and $67.6 billion to subsidize the planting of certain crops. Almost all of the subsidies usually go to growers of five commodities: soybeans, corn, rice, wheat and cotton. Fruit and vegetable farmers do not get subsidies.
For more facts and more in-depth analysis, check out the farm subsidies database at the EWG, as well as James's & Griswold's analysis: Freeing the Farm.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

If you're not American and wondering what the holiday is about, you can read the Declaration of Independence here.

Gym One was closed today in honour of the 4th of July, and I didn't have the patience for Gym Two with its ongoing renovations, no heavy bag and cardio hamsters. Physical activity consisted of assembling three black wire shelving units, moving the two wood shelving units, and re-shelving all my books and magazines. I met a colleague for a short study session then went home and continued the cleaning enterprise. I don't want to come back to a messy apartment. Also, while I'm away maintenance is supposed to come by and paint the no-longer-leaking but stained and warped ceiling.

While cleaning I listened to old episodes of Roussell's podcast: Max-Out Radi0. I started with episdoe four, which is a Cosgr0ve interview on fat loss. It answered some questions that I had after reading a few of his (AC's) articles.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Out of Left Field

Saw a new doctor this week for a physical. When I got on the scale at the doctor's office I wore jeans and shoes and had coins in my pocket. Can I project "who cares" any more clearly? I have delightful blood pressure: 90/60. I got blood work and the usual and sundry tests scheduled, and only had one surprise, which was doc saying "I want you to have a thyroid ultrasound". My first thought was, Thyroid? isn't that the excuse lazy people use for not exercising and eating clean? Then I shrugged mentally - what's another test.

In any case, I won't have the results of anything until after I come back from my trip, so I am not thinking about it right now. My standard reaction to this sort of doctor comment would be to drop everything and spend the next two weeks studying the endocrine system; that lovely physiology textbook I bought awhile back has 38 pages on it. However, I can't afford to do that; too much stuff needs doing before, during and after my summer workshop.

Speaking of the summer workshop, I received the schedule and discovered that I am leading a session on "Technology in the Classroom". Now, it is one of my areas of interest and I love teaching and I've mentioned to the people running the workshop that I could do such a session, BUT, no one had actually e-mailed me or called to say "Mich, would you like to lead this session?". They just put me on the schedule and sent it out to all participants.

The workshop days are absolutely packed. I won't have time for anything except studying and training, and it looks like training will have to be done in the morning, because several of the workshop days have evening activities scheduled.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Leaves, Branches and Trees

Stressing while counting down to the trip. Said stress is reflected in my nutritional choices, which are subsequently reflected in my skin. I could play connect the dots on my face right now. I need to clean the house, remove perishables from the fridge, get travelers checks, pack...

Met colleague this morning at Gym Two for another session. Not a useful gym visit for me on the training side. If I'm showing someone else how to use the weights or explaining why one should not structure a leg workout around the adductor machine, I can't get my own training session done. However, it was useful on the instructing/explaining side. It's good to articulate why and how I do things and I get to pay forward the help I've gotten from other people.

Gym Two had the usual assortment of characters: the bicep curling teenager with three variations of curls, no less; pair of older gentlemen doing bench and more bench in between discussions of cocktails in Cancun; and, the skinny guy with the weight belt grunting under a 95lb bench press. Can't beat this gym for sheer entertainment value. :-)

Gym One is rather empty these days due to lots of people on vacation (I hope). I'm sufficiently concerned about its financial viability that I feel uncomfortable asking them to freeze my membership for the month I'm going to be away. I do not like training in an empty gym. It's so much easier for me, psychologically, when there are other people around. I wish I had a training partner. First thing I'll do when I come back from my trip is post a little sign at both gyms looking for one.
"Acerbic Canadian seeks hard working and focused training partner who can squat below parallel without a Smith Machine. Must promise to never upright row my bench presses. Power cage bicep curlers need not apply."
Needs work. I'll get on it in August. :-)

And since I'm on the subject of procrastination, in this post by IATGN she points to this article about OCPD. I printed it out last week and still haven't finished reading and highlighting. Very very hard for me to read. Particularly this line:
An extremely difficult time making decisions (always looking for the correct choice) contributes to procrastination. Frequently even starting a task seems impossible, due to a need to sort out the priorities correctly.
Seven months to choose a new gym? Check. Five hours creating the perfect twenty minute classroom activity? Check. Stumbling through my academic career paralyzed by indecision? Check. Agreeing to write articles for a great web site and deleting everything I write before uploading because nothing measures up? Check. And this line perfectly describes my twenty+ obese years and their aftermath: "The forest is missed while examining each leaf, of each branch, of each tree."