Sep. 4th, 2017 01:07 pm
bjarvis: (Default)
My latest obsession, karate, is progressing nicely. As much as one can progress with only three lessons under one's (white) belt.

I'm very conscious that my hamstrings are much too tight and I lack the flexibility to do this as well as I'd like. (And you are hereby invited to get your minds out of the gutter, thankyouverymuch.) A front kick, side kick or round kick can be very effective against an opponent at thigh level, gut level or head/neck level, but my best attempts could only threaten a small child. I can hit high enough to kick an adult in the abdomen, but it's going to take a lot more practice and stretching to reach their chest, not to mention their head. On the good side, two weeks ago, I was only a threat to their kneecaps, so progress is being made.

Another aspect of an effective kick is the non-kicking foot, the one on which one is actively standing. And it is an active stand, not a passive act: that standing foot has to turn so that one's pelvis can pivot to deliver more energy into the kick. Ideally, one's toes should pointed be 180 degrees away from the target, but anything more than 90 degrees is acceptable.

Once again, my flexibility and stretch, not to mention my balance, is insufficient to the task. I could get close to 90 degrees, but only this week after much stretching & practice can I get closer to 180. My balance for the kick has also improved, although I'm uncertain if that is because of repeated practice, the improved positioning of the standing leg, or both.

There is one other aspect I need to work on before I can make any major breakthroughs: I have to get more comfortable with sweating heavily. From prior experience, I know that if I overheat severely, very, very bad things happen so I'm very wary of my internal temperature. I'm used to sweating lightly at the gym, but it isn't very comfortable, or sweating a lot on the treadmill which is pure misery. The formal classes have made me sweat profusely, but I muscle through (a) because of peer pressure in a class setting, and (b) because I know the class is time-limited so I know how long I have to hold myself together. I'm more lenient on myself when I'm practicing solo at home, and that might be a bad thing.

One good fix will come along on its own: winter is coming. The basement where I've been practicing is cooler than the rest of the house but will get downright cold in a few months. This is a perfect situation for me. My other proposed fix is to set small milestones before a rest break is permitted: perhaps 15 minutes of concentrated work, or perhaps 25 consecutive kicks on each side. With a task list in hand, I can force myself to work through the discomfort.

In the interim, extra stretching and Alleve by the handful are getting me through. By Thanksgiving, I hope to be able to kick any of you in the head.

Gym Update

May. 25th, 2017 11:07 am
bjarvis: (Default)
As somewhat expected, the renovations at my regular LA Fitness in downtown Silver Spring are taking longer than they had planned. Instead of being shut down for three weeks ending May 22, they will be offline for five weeks in total, to June 5.

Since my membership expires today (May 25), I renewed yesterday at the Dulles Town Center location, after my regular workout and before heading to work at the data center. I've re-upped for one year at $179. While I'd rather renew for 3 years at a time to save money, I don't want to make a longer term commitment until I know the renovated Silver Spring location is worth my money: I definitely know the Wheaton location is not. I haven't yet checked out the Aspen Hill facility but may do so next week when life is calmer.


May. 13th, 2017 10:51 am
bjarvis: (Default)
My regular gym, not-so-affectionately known as the slum gym, is still under renovations and won't re-open until May 22. (Side note: my 3yr membership expires May 25, so their renovations will largely determine if I renew. Make it good, guys!) This week, I had a couple of visits to the data center so I was able to use the excellent gym in Sterling, VA, close to work. This morning, however, I had to go to nearest LA Fitness, AKA the shanty town gym.

It's serviceable but it's just so low, low, low class. The gym itself has a long history of not keeping up with repairs on equipment: at least 15% of the treadmills & ellipticals are offline at any given time, sometimes more, and the staff have reached a point of complacence that they don't even bother posting "out of order" signs any longer. The sauna & pool are offline again, as they seem to spend most of their existence.

My biggest complaint is always about the weight & strength equipment as that's my primary area of interest. All of the equipment is in a relatively small space so one has to take extreme care not to accidentally step into someone else's workout, or even have to coordinate your own lifts with theirs to ensure you don't collide.

There are only two bench press stations, so I worked very hard to get in precisely at 8am when they opened today and get to the floor ahead of the crowd. I did well, I was the third person to arrive. Sadly, both one & two both went directly to the bench press stations and kept them for a half-hour each. Two spent most of that time typing on his mobile phone while sitting on the bench, but refused to let anyone else tag in. (At least One was using his bench extensively and on high weights so it was impractical to tag in with him: it would take more time to offload & reload weights than we would have gained by alternating, and since he was making good use of the equipment, I can't begrudge him that.)

I'm used to gyms piping in dance music interspersed with commercials & promotional announcements about their services. I'm also accustomed to people wearing their own iPod & earphones. I'm not at all familiar with the practice of people bringing their own portable stereos to play. Nothing quite like having 2-3 different people bringing their own clashing styles of music for all to (ahem) enjoy!

My gut instinct is to say that bringing & playing a stereo in public like that is a trashy move. In my experience, I think it's a rude, inconsiderate and frankly, low class move. Since my experience doesn't cover the entire planet, I have to wonder: is this acceptable behavior somewhere? Am I being culturally insensitive on this point, or could I "accidentally" drop a 75lb dumbbell on his stereo?

bjarvis: (Default)
I've noticed for some time that my local LA Fitness gym isn't exactly top shelf. It's OK: it has space, a broad range of equipment, a nice yoga room and a cycle room, a large basketball court, and an intermediate-sized swimming pool. Not bad, but not great.

Over the years, the carpeting has started to show its age. The lockers in the change room are in need of repair. The shower heads and fawcets in the showers are well past their prime. It's not a horrible gym, but it's far below the level of the LA Fitness near my data center, a shiny & gleaming new facility which sets a high bar.

Sadly, the only other LA Fitness convenient to home or work is the one in Wheaton, MD. It's the same distance from home as the downtown Silver Spring one I frequent, but if my preferred gym is ghetto, Wheaton is an outright slum and/or shanty town. It is a sad & miserable place, suffering from extreme mismanagement and neglected maintenance.

My local gym has been announcing renovations "any day now" for a while, but they've finally marked a date in the calendar. As of February 20, we will lose the change rooms and showers: there will be some sort of toilets made available, but I dread to think what form that might take. The gym will close completely for March 6-20 for complete renovations.

I can deal with the lack of change rooms & showers: I'll simply dress for the gym at home and have my shower when I get back to the house. The two week closer is a bit more serious: I don't want to be out of circulation that long so it seems I'll either have to find excuses to head to the data center more frequently so I can use the shiny Sterling location, or hold my nose to head to the Wheaton gym. Both options are less than ideal, but it's only for two weeks. My latest membership contract is up in May so at least I'll have a couple of months with the newly renovation version before deciding on committing for another contract.
bjarvis: (Default)
Work at the gym continues. I'm enjoying the ride --for the most part. The delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) still kicks my ass from time to time, but that's the price one pays for progress.

A level of pain will come up next May when my gym membership expires: LA Fitness no longer does annual one-time payment memberships with discounts for multiple years, but instead offer only monthly subscriptions. The same tier as I currently have (multi-club access except for the Signature gyms, unlimited usage) will cost $30/month. My existing membership was about $750 for three years, or about $21/month, so the new monthly subscription will represent a 43% increase. This doesn't make me happy. Come May, I'll have to dig a bit to see how much wiggle room LA Fitness can offer me, or I could downgrade to the $25/month single-gym option. Or I go looking for another gym.

In my physical pain, injuries come and go. In early 2015, I overworked my right medial deltoid, causing me some discomfort for a long time. I could push & pull directly in front of me for, say, low rows or light bench presses, but could not lift my arm over my head to steady the bar for squats or inclined shoulder presses. Medical exams showed it would heal on its own and it finally did: I've only recently reincorporated some of my original above-shoulder exercises into my regular routine.

Other injuries are more embarrassing. I have a wound still healing on my right shin from accidentally walking into the jutting end of an unused barbell. That one joins two other scars on the same shin for the same reason. *sigh*

And this week, I lost a postage stamp-sized piece of scalp & hair while bench pressing. I just finished a set at 160lbs when I sat up for a minute rest; I misjudged the space between my head and the barbell, scraping the top of my head against the roughed handgrip portion of the metal bar which --because it had 160lbs on it-- didn't budge an inch. It's just a minor skin scrape but damn, it hurt. And bled. And was embarrassing.

In my own defence, I have yet to have to be rescued from equipment because I trapped myself under weight I couldn't handle. I haven't dropped any heavy equipment on my toes. I haven't fallen down stairs. No ambulance has been called for me. But then again, there are many years left ahead so who knows what the future might bring?
bjarvis: (Default)
I try to be non-judgmental at the gym, but some days my resolve is weaker than circumstances require.

I've been going to the same LA Fitness for over three years, more than long enough to know the regulars and spot the newbies. I hardly notice the muscle-bound guys: I'm focused on my routines, they're focused entirely on theirs, and outside of a greeting glance or patiently waiting for equipment to be available, there's no interaction.

The newbies are easy to spot: they're unsure which equipment they should use next, how precisely to use something new, where to set the seat height, how much weight to configure, etc., not to mention the unspoken etiquette of the gym. They usually watch intently from the sides to see how a regular is using the equpiment then make their way over when the machine is free. I feel for them: it's a daunting environment but I'm so glad they found the courage to at least try. I sometimes offer to help, but I'm also sometimes wary that I might easily scare off the timid. And what they really need is a full workout plan in advance so they can use time on the floor to actually work out rather than mull over the finer points.

Every day, there are people with obvious weight issues feebly lifting weights lighter than my gym bag. My five-year-old self makes ugly jokes, but my mature self recognizes these are people who are working to improve their health and they are to be supported & helped, even if that support just means letting them alone to do their thing. When I started, I couldn't lift heavy either (some would say I still can't... it's relative). Everyone starts somewhere, and some have a longer road to walk than others. I respect their efforts, give them their space and, if we're working similar routines, ensure they get first right of refusal on any equipment I might want to use. And say hi should we make eye contact.

There are the fashion queens & failures. There are a handful with the latest day-glo branded fashions for the gym, always freshly pressed and fitted. There are also a bunch with either no sense of appropriate clothing for the gym or simply don't own any. Here's a hint: jeans and a polo shirt aren't good clothes to select for your workout.

There are the ultra shy folks. I can understand some people are so uptight about nudity (esp their own) that they want to change as quickly as possible and escape the locker room, but it's frankly wierd that anyone would go into the showers fully dressed, doubly so for going into the steam room. Who taught them to be so ashamed of their own body? It's time to unlearn that, whatever kind of body one has.

And then there are some particular characters at my gym...

There are the Smash Brothers. They either use equipment as props while they chat for hours or use the equipment so hard it breaks. These are the guys who load up a machine to a massive weight, push to their extreme, then simply drop the weight at peak, letting the weights fall to the floor or to the machine's rest state. "We're working to failure," they claim. Wrong: working to failure means to exert to the point where one can no longer complete a rep *with good form*. It does not mean complete loss of control. A loud clang or thud should only be heard in cases of medical emergency, not as part of one's regular workout. I ascribe much of the floor damage and out-of-order equpiment to these guys or people like them. They're the reason our gym fees go up.

There's Potion Guy. He brings a duffle bag of his personal workout equipment and a second duffle bag of various protein powders & supplements. He also maintains three lockers in the men's locker room, stuffed with equipment & supplies. He typically takes more than an hour and all counter space in the locker room to mix all of his supplements, drinks, slurries, cleanses and lord knows what else. In all these years, I've never actually seen him on the gym floor working out, just mixing in the locker room. I suspect that if I ever wanted some illicit performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals, he'd be the go-to guy. Now that I think of it, he's pretty chummy with the more muscular regulars...

And there's Kitten. I don't know his real name but he's mid-thirties, 5'4", nice build and totally adorable. I want to adopt him, he's just so precious!

MusclePuppy is also adorable. Again, about 5'4", tiny waist but broad shoulders giving him that classic V torso we'd all strive for if genetics allowed. MP is extremely sociable and says hi to everyone in the gym everytime he works out. He's also very, very christian so he tosses in a few blessings in his rounds. He does seem to be a geniunely nice guy and is easy on the eyes so I chat with him periodically because, yes, I'm that shallow.

And SuperModel. He's about 6'3", slim build, perhaps 5% body fat, thick black wavy hair always perfectly styled. If he doesn't work as a model, he should. SM has his particular supersets and well-defined routines, a mix of cardio and weight lifting. While I'm frequently frustrated by equipment left helter-skelter around the gym, I've come to recognize which are random distributions and which are merely waiting for SuperModel to make a return trip in the next part of his workout cycle. At least he does put his equipment back when he's done and doesn't get territorial about others using those pieces while he's in other parts of his superset.

There are many other special characters, more than I could write here. I'm glad though they're no wierder than they are.

Gym Sunday

Jan. 3rd, 2016 10:27 am
bjarvis: (Default)
Today was arms & chest day with the new routine. So far, so good.

There wasn't much cleanup today... apparently the Saturday night gym folks are neater than the Friday night folks. And that's a good thing as it allowed me to get into my workout a little sooner. The flat benches and cable crossover machines are always in high demand so I like to get those portions of my workout done as quickly and as early as possible to avoid waiting for equipment to come free.

Yesterday, I noticed the crowds starting to swarm in around 10am or so. I didn't recognize many so I'm guessing the new years resolutioners are making their move. As much as I (and other regulars) like to pick on the newbies who come to the gym religiously for 2-3 weeks in early January then vanish for the rest of the year, I'm very grateful to them. They're at least attempting to look after their health so I'm happy to be supportive, but more than that, their purchase of memberships without consistent & frequent attendance effectively subsidizes my membership which I use 3-4 times per week. The resolutions are paying for the wear & tear inflicted on equipment & facilities by the regulars like me.

Today, there weren't so many. I've noticed that raid but not snow will keep gym regulars away. Sunday mornings aren't as popular as Saturdays generally, but especially so for those with weak commitment or unformed habits.
bjarvis: (Default)
On weekends and holidays, I tend to be at the gym for 8am opening. I like to get my workout done so I can move on with the rest of the day, the boys may not be active at that hour so I get more waking time with them later in the day, and I can beat most of the crowds to the weight floor and not have to interrupt my routine for equipment to be available.

The downside of being there very early is that you are faced with the mess from the night before:
I seem to spend the first 10-15 minutes of my workout each morning cleaning up the mess left from the night before. Put away your toys, people! #gym #gymlife #gymtime

Dumbbells everywhere, not to mention discarded water bottles, tissues, hand towels, etc.. And because it is my role & purpose in life to bring order to a chaotic universe, I put everything back where it should be.

Part of it is to resist the forces of chaos, part of it is for my own safety so I don't trip over someone else's unracked weights. A huge part though is empathy for other gym users: there's nothing more frustrating than knowing there should be plenty of 15lb or 20lb dumbbells around but none of them are in the racks or in obvious use by anyone else. A general walk around the entire floor will find the missing pieces laying about in odd corners of the weight floor, the yoga studio, the spin class, the basketball court, the strairwell, the fire escapes and, interstingly, the elevator. I collect them all and bring them back to the racks where they belong.

The staff are no doubt underpaid --even the trainers are paid a pittance-- but I would think the night crew should be walking through the gym to remove forgotten items from the equipment and clean up the obvious garbage. I don't expect them to heft around 125 lb dumbbells, but there's no excuse for not at least moving the 5 lb ones.
bjarvis: (Default)
...although my long absence from social media may have lead you to think otherwise.

I've been incredibly busy through November & December. I've been spending most of this week simply recharging my batteries. Is it even possible to have a negative energy level? If so, I had it. I'm back into positive territory but still have a way to go.

There hasn't been any great burden in the past 60 days, just a stack of little things. It's the proverbial nibbling to death by ducks, death by a thousand papercuts, and other similar imagery.

I don't suffer from SAD per se: it's not the length of the day which gets me down, the fewer daylight hours, the longer nights. Rather, winter implies the holiday season which further implies obligatory social events, all of which chip away huge chunks of my introverted self. It's the end of the calendar year so I have a tonne of end-of-year work commitments. The fall/winter season also has extra square dance classes and events on top of the usual cycle of club nights, all of which have their own time commitments (well, at least if one is to do them right).

New Year's can't come soon enough so I can get back to a normal cycle of routine and rest.

While I'm going to miss one of my major goals for 2013 and haven't yet found the time this week to even file the papers in my overflowing "in" tray, there have been some successes. The gym work was new as of July and has been going very, very well. My financial situation, generally healthy, has improved significantly, achieving my goals of starting a savings account and paying off all credit card debt. On the whole, life is stable. Now if I can just get a good night's sleep this next week...
bjarvis: (Default)
I've reached week #14 of my workout plan. It's actually taken more than 14 weeks: I had some lost weeks because of travel, conferences & overloaded schedules, but with those exceptions I've managed three gym visits per week.

And I'm happy to report progress. My weight as of this morning is hovering at 175 lbs, down about 10 lbs since I began. My percentage body fat has dropped so I'd like to think I'd have lost more weight if I hadn't gained more muscle at the same time. But how much more muscle?

Exercise Week #1 (lbs) Week #14 (lbs) One Rep Max (lbs) August One Rep Max (lbs) November
Squats 90 130 190 225
Leg Press 200 320 Maxed at 480, could prob do 520 Maxed at 480, could prob do 520
Machine Crunches 50 170 Maxed at 200, could prob do 240 Maxed at 200, could prob do 240
Chest Press 80 145 175 220
Standing Cable Pushdowns 40 125 185 200
Low Rows 120 150 165 175
One Arm Cable Curls 20 40 45 80

This is just a representative sample: I have a much more extensive workout routine than just these few. All progress is tracked in spreadsheets 'cuz I'm a huge nerd.

I've been doing 15 minutes on the ellipticals on each gym visit, but I have skipped or cut short that segment if I've been overheating or rushed for time. Today, I did 20 minutes. Thank god for audio books: cardio is the most incredibly boring part of any workout.

This coming week will be counted as a lost week since I'll be in Silicon Valley for work. The hotel has a fitness center but it won't be as well equipped as a full gym. I could get a guest pass at a gym close to the data center in Santa Clara but I can't guarantee I'll have any time avaialble to actually use it. We'll see what happens when I get there.

In the interim, despite some setbacks, I like the way things have been going. Now that I'm past the initial conditioning, I'm looking for something a more challenging. We'll see what Coach [profile] theoctothorpe has in mind.
bjarvis: (Default)
I purchased a membership with LA Fitness on July 12, 2013. I had been working out with dumbbells and home exercise equipment periodically for nearly a year prior, but it was time to get serious with a real workout, a dedicated schedule and a plan.

Being a nerd and a project manager, I naturally had to measure & track, well, nearly everything. Today was a self-appointed measurement & check-in date to evaluate progress, timed to conclude my first full week back after a one week hiatus while vacationing at the trailer. Just before going to the trailer, per my workout plan created by [profile] theoctothorpe, I did my one-rep maximum, seeing how much weight I could lift if only doing one repetition instead of my usual three sets of twelve.

I'm mightily impressed how much I can lift on the one-rep max. For two of the machines I use regularly, I maxed out their weight stacks but could still push further.

Here's a sampling of progress. There were other exercises of course but I won't bother you with the entire list...
Exercise Week #1 (lbs) Week #5 (lbs) One Rep Max (lbs)
Squats 90 110 190
Leg Press 200 230 Maxed at 480, could prob do 520
Machine Crunches 50 140 Maxed at 200, could prob do 240
Chest Press 80 115 115 175
Standing Cable Pushdowns 40 115.5 187
Low Rows 120 135 165
One Arm Cable Curls 20 35 45

My weight has dropped from 184lbs a month ago to 176lbs today. There hasn't been much change in my weight lately, but I'm hoping that indicates less fat and more muscle. If that's indeed the case, I'm good with it. I did notice last week as I was racking up new servers that hefting them over my head is much easier than it was two months ago. :-)

In the past 45 days, I've lost an inch around my waist & hips and added an inch to my chest. There hasn't been much change in forearms or upper arms. While my BMI holds steady at 26, my percentage body fat has dropped from 22.8% to 20.4%. I'd like to get the percentage fat below 18%, then re-evaluate how much further I'd like to go. I was hoping to see more improvement on the arms, but I suppose I'll just have to push/lift myself a little harder.

Pushing myself harder though has its own drawbacks. While I haven't vomited at the gym since my first exposure in early July in San Francisco, I have come close at least once. The trigger for me appears to be overheating: once I feel the stirrings of nausea, I head immediately to a cold shower and all is well again within 60 seconds. The cooler temperatures of winter may help.

In other gym news...

I really hate equipment that doesn't list both pounds and kilgrams. Nearly everything at my gym does, but there is one set which is metric-only. It's not hard to multiply by 2.2 to get the equivalent pounds, but that's not something I want to spend a lot of time doing in mid-set.

I'm also easily irked by the gym-goers who seem to take pride in dropping the weight stacks hard & frequently. Letting go that quickly & regularly indicates loss of control and/or look-at-me validation issues, neither of which are particularly attractive qualities. Once is OK as one tests one's limits: doing it repeatedly isn't.

Most gym-goers seem to like the Monday-Wednesday-Friday routine --that seems to be when the place is busiest. I prefer 8am Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday so I don't have to wait for equipment. I also noticed this past week there are fewer people there at 6am and 7am than I would have guessed: I thought a large number of folks would work out before going to work, and a larger group immediately after work on their way home. My latter guess has proven accurate, the former not so much. Go figure.

The men at my gym have an interesting perspective on male nudity. Our campground has open changing space and open group showers so I'm many years accustomed to walking around au naturel and showering in the open. I didn't think a gym locker room would be much different: it's a gym locker room after all, and one should expect nudity. These guys however are very uptight. Grown men wrap themselves in a towel before dropping their shorts, or wear their shorts to the shower and only remove them once their shower curtain is closed. When done, they head back to their locker, slip on their clean pants under the towel, then put away the towel. Huh? I feel like assuring them that it's ok to be a little exposed: we're all adults here. I'm fear however that doing so would send most of them instantly into therapy.

And here's where we go TMI... )

I have a number of weeks remaining on this program before we change things. Lord knows what new tortures [profile] theoctothorpe has planned for me... I can hear the "bwahahahah!" already.

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