To The Mat

After our flirtation with a larger gym, it was only a matter of time until we caved in. We lasted two whole weeks. Last week we discovered that Defined Fitness was offering a “sign up for $4” sale, and we jumped off the edge and into the world of the “super gym.”

Upon arriving, we discovered that I could have been a member for free this entire time. Aargh.

Wiping the egg off our faces, we sat down to explore the offerings of our new gym/home. There were classes ranging from yoga to Tabata. Not knowing a whole lot about many of these subjects, we decided to ease into the whole class thing, and picked the friendly sounding “Intro to Mat Pilates.”

Estrogen Immersion

I didn’t know a whole lot about Pilates. In my head, it was sort of “yoga for old people”, with lots of stretching. However, I did remember an article from years ago where Jason Kidd talked about Pilates being a regular part of his workout routine. I figured that anything good enough for an All-Star point guard was probably worth looking into.

Turns out Jason knew what he was talking about.

The classroom itself was very non-threatening. It was filled with yoga mats populated by 20-odd women. If there was another male in the classroom I never saw him. Because I am not real bright, I took this as another indicator that the class must not be terrifically physically challenging.

Lor scurried around the room gathering up the accessories we apparently needed for the class. A plastic ring. A deflated plastic ball. A pair of 3-pound dumbells. How she knew we were going to need these items is a mystery to me – certainly, no one ever made an announcement. But, because she is who she is, Lor was gracious enough to even bring me a full set of the Pilates accessories. After a couple of announcements from our 60-something instructor, the instruction began.

A Rude Awakening

Pilates, it turns out, is a core-strengthening discipline developed by a guy named Joseph Pilates, who initially named it “Contrology.” He released a pair of books detailing the system in 1934 and 1945. The idea was to strengthen the body not through weight-lifting, but through a series of postural exercises.

Yeah, I would say it succeeds in that.

See, the whole idea is the isolation of the core muscles – the muscles in your trunk, that all other muscles in your body eventually attach to. So, within minutes, I was being forced to do things like “tabletop position.” This is a torturous pose where you lie with your back flat on the ground and hold your legs up off the ground. The thighs are at a 90-degree angle from the pelvis. Then the calves are at a 90-degree angle from the knees, parallel to the ground. A series of exercises begins from this position, including extensions and bicycle kicks. I was barely successful at holding correct form, much less performing exercises.

Think it sounds easy? You go try it. Go ahead, I will wait.

Not as easy as it looks, is it? I was feeling the strain and trembling in muscles I didn’t even know I had. We were required to do things like forward and reverse planks. Rows incorporating dumbells. (Who knew 3 pounds could feel like it weighed so much?) And several hideous, torturous poses that required incorporation of opposing legs and arms. I have enough trouble walking, for goodness sake. I was so busy trying to keep my balance that I never really learned how to perform the exercises properly.

My Appointment With Humility

And, of course, all around me were women, on average 20+ years older than me, performing the routines flawlessly. Lor was positioned directly behind me, so I didn’t get to see if she was making me look bad as well. But I’ll bet she was.

After an hour of this, I was ready to die. Muscles across my body were twitching and throbbing. My butt felt like 2 burning globes sitting on top of my thighs. I was barely able to hold my arms up. As the class ended and the class members erupted in spontaneous applause, I felt utterly and completely spent.

Several friendly class members made a point of coming by to verify that I had never done this before. Apparently, it was that obvious. All of them had the same thing to say: “Don’t give up!” Chastened by my original assumption that this class would be easy, I went to the front of the class to thank the instructor for my experience in humility. While chatting with the instructor, I asked her about other class times.

“Well,” she told me “I do teach this class for beginners, and a couple of more advanced classes as well.

“But I think you’re in the right class for now.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Still Sore Two Days Later,

Jeremy

 

 

Training Day

First Day Hike of 2017

As part of the preparations for the assault on the La Luz trail later this year, Lor and I have made a commitment. We will be hitting one of our local hiking trails at least once a week. Not only does this get us out of the house and off the treadmill, but it also gives us some exposure to the big yellow glowing thing in the sky. With, like, birds and trees and stuff.

This weekend’s excursion was the Boundary Loop trail at the foot of Sandia Peak.

No Boundaries

When I was looking for info on day hiking in the wilderness around Albuquerque, I was lucky enough to find the Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide website. This is actually intended to be an additional resource for owners of the book of the same name, but I found it to be so chock-full of info that I haven’t even bought the book yet. (Don’t worry – I will. Support your local author.)

Not only is there info on hiking prep, GPS, and geocaching, but there is also a great section detailing several day hikes around the Sandias. Looking at our options, I noted trails from 4 to 11 miles long, rated from Easy to Difficult. Accordingly, for Saturday’s excursion, I picked a 4-mile long “Easy” trail. No sense overdoing our first outing, right?

At the north edge of Albuquerque, along Tramway Drive, is Forest Road 333. This is actually the road that eventually leads up to the La Luz trailhead. The trail I picked is not quite that demanding. The Boundary Loop trail starts at a public parking lot about a quarter mile off Tramway, and heads up into the foothills to the edge of the Juan Tabo Canyon, then back to the trailhead.

You’ve never heard of Juan Tabo Canyon?

Yeah, neither had I.

Into The Foothills

So, Saturday morning, I began our preparations. I threw 3 bottles of water, 2 jackets, and a Leatherman into a beat-up old day pack. Lor added a couple of protein bars, some fruit, and a bottle of old sunscreen. With that, we were off!

The trail head is only about 15 minutes from our house, so it took us hardly any time to get there. Upon arrival, at first glance, I was not too impressed.

So…That’ s it?

As it turns out, there was a little bit more to it than a single trail heading straight up to a low hill. For one thing, that hill is a heck of a lot taller than it looks from the side of the road.

OK…good hike. Can we go home now?

Yeah…as it turns out, there was a whole bunch of wilderness back there behind that hill. Just waiting for us to get lost in it.

At least the view is nice…

Since this trail hiking thing is not our usual gig, I decided to use the MapMyWalk app to keep track of our progress. Mainly, I wanted to make sure we were stopping and hydrating every mile or so. As my massage therapist puts it: “By the time you realize you are dehydrated, it is too late!” We set off up the trail, scrambling up and down hillsides and following dry streambeds. Eventually, my cell phone called us to stop at mile #1.

One down, three to go!

We followed the trail up to the edge of the Juan Tabo “canyon”, which proved to be not a whole lot more than a few hundred foot drop off the side of the trail. A bit disappointed, we turned around and saw this:

Oh. NOW I get it.

That view all by itself made the hike worthwhile.

Lor did insist on taking a photo to prove I was actually outdoors, and not hunkered in front of my PC writing or gaming.

The Downhill Slope

I admit, the view from the ridgeline where we turned to head back down made me really, really wish I owned something other than a cellphone camera.

However, I couldn’t help but notice that MapMyWalk had not announced that we had reached the second mile of our hike yet. As we turned to head back downhill, finally it told us we had arrived.

The remainder of the trail was much easier, actually following a Jeep trail downhill most of the way to the parking lot. We were actually a little disappointed to discover that the total hike was only 2.75 miles. We could have easily done twice that amount. We will take the other trail measurements from the Guide with a grain of salt from now on.

After-Action Report

The hike itself was awesome. I look back at some of the blog posts about hiking from this time last year and can only laugh at how much trouble I had completing a route that was less than a mile. Now, I almost hit 3 miles and was disappointed it wasn’t longer.

We do need to make some adjustments. We both have to get some real “hikers”. I almost killed myself several times scrambling downhill in my old beat-up running shoes. Better packs are a necessity too – mine kept sliding back off my shoulders due to having no way to clip the harness together across my chest. Cell phone coverage was spotty, so a GPS unit will need to be acquired before we do anything real dramatic. This hike we could always see the city, so we could have made it back to civilization easily. Deeper into the Sandias, that will no longer be the case.

Wants? I would love to get a couple of Camelbak packs that combine hydration units and storage space. And a real camera would be awesome. We also need to bulk up the outdoor “kit” with things like a small first aid box, insect repellant, and some matches and other basic survival gear. We also acquired a fresh bottle of sunscreen to add to the pack, after our old one proved to be less than effective.

Our first great adventure for the year is in the bag! I know this post has been a lot more image-filled than usual. Let me know if you think it was just too much, or if you’d like to see more of the same in the future. We want to do one trail a week for the rest of the Spring and Summer, leading up to La Luz in late Summer. Heck, I might even write something up about each of the trails and put it out in an e-book or something!

‘Cause, you know, I don’t have enough to do already.

Plotting Where To Head Next,

Jeremy

 

How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm?

Two weeks ago we made an error. A minor one, but one with long-lasting ramifications.

We accepted a 3-day trial to a local “supergym”. For three days we played with shiny new machines. We experienced cardio with embedded televisions and WiFi. There were group classes ranging from spinning to TRX to yoga. After it was all over we were able to hang out in a hot tub, steam room, and sauna.

Then, on Day 4, we headed back to our neighborhood mini-gym.

It reminded me of the old post-World War I song: “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?” (Judy Garland version linked here.)

Rapid Deceleration

Heading back to the local gym felt like jumping off a bullet train into a wall of Jello. The cardio machines were now boring. All the cool new hi-tech equipment we had been doing resistance work on was gone. Instead of a pool, hot tub and sauna, our post-workout options were a couple of coin-operated massage chairs.

But, hey, they had free bagels, so there was that.

The next day, we found an excuse to not go. The following day our errands got away from us and we didn’t head back. By the following Monday, our gym attendance record was absolutely shredded. Despite the fact that we needed to be doing the work, we were no longer terrifically interested.

What Is My Motivation?

We were finally able to overcome our disappointment and head back into the trenches after 5 days of non-attendance. Interestingly, the several days off led to some decent strength gains on just about all our resistance work, so that was an unexpected benefit. But the gains were still not enough to offset our desire to be in a different setting. “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube,” my grandmother used to say, “there is no way to get it back in.”

I found myself having to no longer focus on reps and gains during the workout. Instead, I transferred my mental energy to pushing through the workout in the name of a different goal. My cardio goals were now to complete 3.1 miles a day. My strength goals were now to get close to body weight max reps on my multiple-muscle lifts, to support our upcoming return visit to Stone Age.

In short, the gym itself was suddenly no longer the experience I was looking forward to. I was now looking past the gym, ahead to other upcoming goals. The gym was now just the work I needed to do to get there.

This is probably acceptable thinking, for someone who has long-term goals to reach. But what happens to the person who has arrived at maintenance? That person simply wants to have a variety of things to do in their exercise regimen. Doing the same thing over and over is dangerous. That way lies boredom and burnout.

Creating Your Own Supergym

So, the solution for those of us who can’t afford the one-stop shopping of a supergym? Do it yourself.

We’ve begun walking to and from the local gym, taking different routes to add variety. In our neighborhood is a community center that has fitness classes. We’ve hit the local pool. And, for days when we don’t make it to the gym, we’ve added home-based exercise options. Lor has chosen some yoga video series, I have stuck with the Fitstar app.

And, yes, we’ve also begun to start re-budgeting to attend the one-stop shop we got to try out for free. But waiting until we can afford it (which may mean “never”) and slacking off in the meantime is just not an option.

If we can’t afford to buy variety, we are going to have to create it for ourselves.

Still Missing The Hot Tub,

Jeremy

 

Over The Edge

A frequent theme here on Misdirected is making sure that exercise becomes a daily part of life. Regain almost always happens to those who aren’t making a commitment to hitting the gym. (Or aerobics, or running, or walking. You get the idea.)

And, the biggest amount of push-back I get from my readers is about this very issue. “Jeremy,” people will tell me, “you don’t have a regular job and you don’t have kids. YOU have time to work out. But I don’t!”

Now, despite being disabled, I am busy as heck. Maybe a little too busy. The fact that I don’t have a “real” job constantly motivates me to push myself hard. And recently I have begun to think that I have too many balls in the air. On top of working out every day, I am writing every day. And studying for my Personal Trainer certification every day. And working on my editorial responsibilities for Fiction Vortex every day. But, surely I can handle it, right?

I thought so – until last week, that is.

The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

Last week all my scheduling chickens came home to roost at once.

As a result, I skipped three workouts, blew two deadlines, and flunked a quiz. Adding insult to injury, my sleep started to suffer and my seizure activity ramped up.

Clearly, changes need to be made.

So, where the heck am I going to find time in the midst of all these time-sucking activities?

I spent the weekend not communicating with anyone outside the house. No Fiction Vortex, no extended family members, no multi-player gaming. I needed to come up with a plan.

Schedule 2.0

So, what are my unavoidable responsibilities?

As I see it, I have two of them. Fiction Vortex has somehow turned into my employer, albeit an unpaid one currently. I have responsibilities to all the other authors on my team. Without my daily interaction, schedule management, and project planning, Ash Falls comes off the rails.

Without daily exercise, I will begin to slip back into old habits. Old habits lead (eventually) back to the 300+ pound version of myself. And the fact is, I just felt crummy last week for not working out. Clearly, the gym needs to be one of the daily lynchpins around which I build my routine.

So, Monday through Saturday, I need to be hitting the gym and staying plugged into my FV teams every single day.

OK, so where does that leave Misdirected? And my fiction writing? And my personal training certification? I apparently can’t do it all every day without it all equally suffering.

The Budget Axe Falls

Any college course I have ever taken has required at least 2 days a week of my time – a couple hours in the classroom, and 3-4 hours of study two days a week, every week. I have a little under 4 months left before I have to take my certification exam. Accordingly, I need to get myself in gear. My memory being what it is, I am still not sure how I will ultimately do at exam time. But, if I fail, I want to fail having done my best. I don’t want to fail because I treated the exam as if it was not important.

My fiction writing has suddenly become a major time-sink. I am involved in not one but two different fiction projects. This means I am suddenly on the hook for 20,000 words of fiction a month. Even at my usual rate of 1,000 words per hour, that ties up 20 hours a month, every month.

Misdirected now has an audience of several hundred people. I produce blog posts, respond to emails, and answer questions related to bariatric surgery. I have no intention of letting all those folks down.

So, my weeks will now look like this:

Monday and Friday will be Misdirected content days. This cuts my current content schedule in half, but I will start putting out larger blog posts to account for that.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will now be dedicated to my ACE studies. Just like a regular college class schedule, instead of shoehorned in wherever I can fit it.

Wednesdays and Saturdays will be fiction writing days. All day long I will work on my current fiction projects for Fiction Vortex.

So, what will I do when August comes? When I am done writing Inheritance and have taken my certification exam?

I have no idea. Probably take a nap.

‘Cause I Am Not Sleeping Enough Right Now,

Jeremy

 

(Fiction Friday:) A Perpetual Party

The Perpetuals Cover Art

Quick, what do you get when you combine two septuagenarians, a nearly naked fireman, and a bowl of Punch-a-Punch?

I don’t know either, but it sounds like one hell of a Friday night to me.

The Perpetuals, Episode 2

Next up in The Perpetuals storyline, K. Edwin Fritz begins to explore what it really means to be a dhampir. Enhanced senses are explored in new and unexpected ways. Dark figures pursue our protagonist down lonely streets. Warning – feral cats may (or may not) be molested.

Our protagonist, Ben, brings to life the idea of what it means to desire to become a vampire while striving to remain human. How does one live while a dhampir?

And, more to the point, what does a colony of dhampir look like in its day-to-day operations? What do you even call a group of dhampir? A hive? A tribe? A murder? Oooh, I like that. Let’s call them the Murder of Dhampir, congregating nightly at Ammit’s Bar and Grill.

Seriously, has anyone ever studied the sociology of these things before? ‘Cause I sure haven’t. You get bit, you get bit again, you get bit a third time, and BAM! – You’re a vampire. What Fritz is doing here is so interesting to me that I keep demanding to see his work early, moving up his timetable.

I claim it is in the name of the editorial process, but we all know the truth, don’t we?

Seriously, go read this episode. You’ll come out the other side scratching your head and saying “Huh…I never thought of that.”

At least, that’s what I did.

For less than the price of a cup of coffee, The Perpetuals Episode 2 is now available at Fiction Vortex.

Jeremy