Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category.

Fitness Journey 008

So for the first two semesters I went to TKD three times a week. The workouts were pretty intense: lots of blocks and punches up and down the gym, kicks in place, calisthenics. A few times we did jumping kicks and punches down the length of the gym.

I would also walk across campus to the gym and get there about 30 minutes early. I would go through the stretching routine before class. I got pretty flexible pretty fast.

I do not remember if I did any exercise on the off days.

During breaks I would do kicks, punches and blocks in the basement.

Image from Wikipedia


Fitness Journey 007

So I transferred to UIUC. Two other guys who lived on the same floor at WIU also transferred. They were brothers who were from a town close to Macomb. They were the only two people I knew.

We got together on our first Saturday night on campus and started looking around. We saw a flier in the union for a couple of taekwondo clubs. One of the brothers learned some TKD from a South Korean student at WIU. He said, “This martial arts stuff is cool. We should do it.”

There were fliers for two clubs. One started on Tuesday, and one started on Thursday. We decided to go to the one that started on Tuesday since that would be one more day of training.

So we went to the first one. There were about 100 people there for their first day of martial arts. One of the instructors said that only 1 out of every 100 people who starts martial arts makes it to first degree black belt.

The class started with some stretches. The last part of the “warm-up” was 20 or 25 sit-ups. I don’t remember the number. I do remember that I barely made it. I thought to myself, “I am 20 years old. I am supposed to be in the best shape of my life, and I can barely do 25 sit-ups. Not good.”

I resolved to be the one person who made it to first degree.

Even though I had done some running before this, for a long time in some ways had I considered this moment to be the start of my fitness journey. I thought I was in shape, and I realized I was not.

It turns out that three of us made it to first degree. One made it at the semi-annual black belt test after me.

Image from Wikipedia

Review of “You Are Your Own Gym”

I recently read You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren. It is a pretty good book. It is full of bodyweight exercises. Very little of the moves require any equipment. I checked it out from the library and got through it in a couple of days while reading it on the bus.

The intro chapters are really good. He goes into motivation, diet and fitness in general. There is a good description of the cycle your body goes through when you process sugar and carbs in food. He also addresses a lot of misconceptions about fitness, particularly about women and weight training. At some point I will also address those misconceptions as well.

The only issue I have is that he comes up with his own names for most of the exersises, so there are some naming conflicts with the rest of the world. What the rest of the world calls a squat thrust he calls a “four-count bodybuilder”. I have seen that name used to refer to a squat thrust, but it is not too common. He uses the term “squat thrust” to refer to performing a squat with a heavy object, and pressing the object when you reach the top. I would have called that a squat press. It is one of the few moves that require equipment.

He was an instructor for Special Forces. I find it a bit odd that he keeps referring to his time in “the military”, and never states which branch he was in. I think he was in the Air Force, since he mentions Pararescue and he makes a reference either to “Lackland” or “San Antonio”. If this guy had been a Marine, he would mention it several times and probably end each chapter with “Semper Fi”. I am not going to belabor this point, but why he never uses the term “Air Force” on his site or in the book is strange. I only know that Pararescue is part of the Air Force after googling it.

All in all, I recommend this book.

Notes on “Mindset”

I read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. Her work was mentioned in the 3G Mindset book Put Your Mindset To Work.

To put it in a nutshell, people with a fixed mindset think their abilities are immutable, and that practice does not make perfect. The do not challenge themselves, and do not put in nearly as much effort into improving themselves as do people with a growth mindset. I found a good blog post that talks about the difference between the two mindsets. She uses John McEnroe frequently as an example of a fixed mindset; his losses were never his fault. She uses him as a bad example a lot. Perhaps they had a few bad dates or something.

I saw a fixed mindset a lot in the brief period I was a personal trainer, and in many conversations I have with people about fitness. A lot of people think they are in bad shape just because they are 40, or 50, or whatever. Yet these people also drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, have bad diets, do not exercise, or some combination of the above. They insist that their bad habits have no bearing whatsoever on their bad health. They just think “This is how things are.” That sounds like a fixed mindset to me.

She says that people can have growth mindsets about certain skills and fixed mindsets about others. She also says there are such things as innate talents and people do have limitations, but their limitations are usually far beyond what they think they are. I think that my mom tried to instill a growth mindset, but teachers and society were probably moreo successful in instilling a fixed mindset. Probably all those high test scores.

She talks about how to change your mindset in the last chapter in the book, and on one page at her website h They are:

  1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”
  2. Recognize that you have a choice.
  3. Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.
  4. Take the growth mindset action.

I wish there were exercises or mantras or something that could be done at the beginning or the end of the day. It can be hard to catch yourself in the middle of daily activities.

Image from Wikimedia. The Wikipedia page for “Mindset” linked to “Systems Theory“, which linked to some pages with pictures and graphs. I just looked for one I liked. It may not have any relevant to the topic.

Fitness Journey 006

So after I started having knee problems, I started going to physical therapy. My therapist was a very attractive woman.  Sometimes when I put weight on my knee, I would go an inch higher; sometimes my left leg was longer. Things got pretty bad. But my knee eventually got better.

I did weights at the gym. It was a small gym in the dorm. I did not know much, I did not even know that I should work big muscles before the small muscles. I do not remember what I did to stay in shape in the summer between sophomore and junior years. I probably still worked at the grocery store pushing the carts. But I do not think I went to any gym.

In my junior year I transferred to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There I got even more serious about fitness and got more knowledge.



Fitness Journey 005

So I was running a few times a week in the fall of my sophomore year in college. I did not run very far, but a lot of people who were not active were impressed with my mileage.

One day I was running north on Western Avenue after running to downtown Macomb, and I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. I stopped for a few minutes. Then I restarted, and again I felt a sharp pain. I stopped again and did not restart.

I saw a doctor, and found out that I had chondromalacia patellae. When you put weight on your knee, the kneecap should move vertically. With CP, when you put weight on your knee, it moves horizontally, cutting into cartilage. The doctor said that it was because my left leg was not as strong as my right leg. He told me that I should stop running, and I should look into weight training. I was upset since I liked running, but I did look into weight training. Back then I did not know about the different muscle types.

Image from Wikipedia




Fitness Journey 004

For my second semester at WIU, I got a new roommate. Two guys on the floor did not get along, so we swapped. My new roommate was a runner in high school, and still ran non-competitively. Most of my other friends were sci-fi and D&D guys. The sort of people that today we would call geeks. Before it was popular.

He got me into running. The first few times he went with me, then I started going by myself. I would run to the center of town, the same center of town that I was not able to walk to for Thanksgiving break a semester earlier. Sometimes I would run to the town square, rest on a bench, and run back. I think it was about 3 or 4 miles total.

Once I had a chat with three high school kids who seemed impressed by my running routine. Perhaps they were stoners.

I also ran during that summer between freshman and sophomore years, and into the fall. I would put my ID in my left shoe, which might have been a bad idea.

Fitness Journey 003

In the summer and winter breaks when I went to WIU (as well as the summer before going to WIU) I worked at a local grocery store. One of my duties was to collect the carts in the parking lot. I hope I do not get skin cancer; I did not wear a hat.

Pushing all that metal probably helped make me more fit, but I never really considered that as part of my transformation from couch potato to Mr Physical Fitness. I guess that is because it is not something I really chose to do. It was part of my job.

Sometimes I would only get one or two carts. Sometimes I would push in more than a dozen. (Sometimes with only one arm. Uphill. Really.) On Christmas Eve two of us would run all over the parking lot to get carts. We would have three carts between the two of us, and there would be at least four people waiting.



Fitness Journey 002

I went to college at WIU. I was there for two years before I transferred out. There is no interstate running through Macomb, Illinois. When my sister looked at colleges, I told her that if the city did not have an interstate running through it to cross it off her list.

Anyway, I was not really into exercise when I first arrived. The first break for which I went home was Thanksgiving break. I went home a couple of days early, and a friend of mine in the next room also went home the same day as I did. We each had a pretty heavy bag, and we were pretty tired by the time we got to the station. We left before the sun came up, and there was nobody else out at that time. It was snowing which added to the drama. It could have been a scene from a movie: “I won’t make it! Go on without me!” If wolves attacked us we would not have been surprised.

I checked on Google maps, and it was about two miles. We had walked to town before, but we were surprised that we were nearly wiped out. I guess we thought that because we were young that it would be easy for us. That was the first wake up call that I had.

While we were on the platform I spotted one of my professors. So he was also skipping town early. I said hello to him, and he knew he was busted.


Fitness Journey 001

When I was growing up, I was kind of active. A little bit. I did ride my bike around town quite a bit. In the summers I would go to the pool in town once in a while.

But I was never good at sports. In the USA, that is an unpardonable sin. I also had little interest in sports. An even worse thing.

In this country I think a lot of people equate sports with fitness. Gym class had little to do with health, and a LOT to do with sports. So you had a few people doing something, and a lot of people standing around.

I think this might be part of the reason our country is so fat. A lot of people do not get the hang of a lot of games quickly. The few who do dominate the game. I think the use of sports in gym class gives people the idea that exercise and sports are the same thing, and that it is something other people do.