Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Back To Start

After giving the same answer to a second person who asked if I competed over the weekend, I thought, Well now, that's about what it is, isn't it?

That's about the point where I am in life and not just the deadlift, am I seeing this right?

No, I didn't compete, I said. I'm reworking my form, which means back to basics, lifting 135 instead of 200. Getting it right with the lower weights until my body memorizes what to do, and is ready for the stress of more.

(Oh, and the shins. They're killing me. It's one thing to rule out the option of wearing a skirt the day after deadlifting, to hide the streaks of purple, but it's another to scrape yourself silly while also maneuvering a heavy bar. Eventually, I give up not because the weight's too heavy, but because my shins hurt.)

There's some fear with perfecting form--fear of pain but also of taking too long to get things right, which also becomes a problem of pride, because people seeing me lift light might think that's all I can do, and we can't have that.

Fear of failure, too. That's one aspect of boxing I miss--the constant reinforcement of the natural cycle of things. Hit, get hit. Succeed, fail.

That first time they secured my gloves, vaselined my cheeks, tightened my headgear at the crown, I knew just one thing: I could conquer the world. Not that I dominated in my first sparring session, but that I stepped in that ring, took punches and gave them. Nothing, nothing I would ever face in my life could be more difficult than what I just did.

It's a posture of strength but also of analysis, overcoming obstacles, facing obstacles--that glove coming at your head. And of taking risks. Only in taking risks--letting your hand go for a punch, which simultaneously opens up a spot for your opponent to hit--do we have a chance at winning.

"I hope you'll make mistakes," writer Neil Gaiman told the graduating class of Philadelphia's University of the Arts, in 2012. "If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something."

At the deadlift, I'm rehearsing my form and making a mess of my legs. I humbly play with fewer plates.

And life? I'm trying something new--personal training--that's also an expanded, intense, intimate version of what I've been doing for nearly three years. I'm back to start but still on the same gameboard, and I'm a little afraid. Of failure, of taking too long to get it down...of success, even, to be honest.

"Make interesting, amazing, glorious, fantastic mistakes," Gaiman had said. "Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here."

Risky, isn't it? I'm afraid. Are you taking enough risks to be afraid?

Friday, June 14, 2013

To Bruise Or Not To Bruise

Buy shin guards or stop deadlifting? That is the question. And the exclamation: my kids say the big bruise you see here looks like an upside down exclamation mark. In deep purple.

Thanks to a visit to the chiro and a session with my boss, I'm improving on my form and looking forward to moving up in weight. (Still not sure how I was pulling 200 with an nonfiring left glute.) This will not improve upon the bruising--it's a given with the move--though I'm told the shins toughen up in time. I'm also calling on my retired Adidas stingers for help; as wrestling shoes used for boxing, I'm convinced their low soles will help me deadlift. Why not?

Too many changes to allow me time to be ready for a meet next Saturday, though I haven't ruled out competing for fun. In addition to my boxing/wrestling shoes, I will surely be wearing some long pants, because man, this shin hurts.

So why do this? It's a great question, one I've been putting to some guys at the gym. Yes, usually guys, because they tend to feel as I do: we have to lift heavy stuff. I know the meaning's deeper than that, but it's hard to get at without sounding like all I care about is looks. Read back a few posts to get that idea out of your head.

I'm thankful that this is now my trade, as every exercise I do helps me help others. Experiments are necessary, which is incredibly awesome, as I love them. Ask me about the Bag O' Rice workout I conducted today--outside, in full view of the neighbors, with 50lbs of rice above my head. (You know you want me to train you.)

Do I need to know what motivates me? It's like analyzing a lover's nose to pinpoint his or her beauty. I'm just going to lift that rice, raise that bar, and bruise that shin. Maybe all next weekend; I'll let you know.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's All Good

Too busy to produce one coherent post; here are some recent developments, instead.

In the category of how often does this happen: I'm looking at graduation announcements in the paper and I say to Simon, "I snapped this girl's head back with my fist."


I used to pay to write my own college papers. Thanks probably to drinking too much coffee today, I flashed back to sitting in the sculpture room at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, where I'd hand write essays (yes) and take them back to my typewriter (egads) for a clean copy. I never did have any notions of being a writer, yet something in me knew the words would flow best around great art. So I paid to sit there.


I'm a personal trainer now. At the risk of making too much of this, it seems fitting to stop and think about how I got to this point. Most directly, I began the certification process thanks to a man at my gym who claimed a year ago that he's saving up part of his family's budget to have me train him. (If his wife is reading, maybe she can verify the truth of this, as her man is prone to hyperbole). I proffered all sorts of excuses, which held him off for some months, until the day he said something both really nice and mean, something along the lines of, "You're too scared to do what you're good at."

I realized he was right--not just with personal training, but with most everything else.

This whole process has been one of facing such fears, from studying difficult equations and physiological processes to taking a three hour, brain-numbing examination. To realizing that Oh, now I'm going to be meeting with people one on one. They're paying to be with me. Refer to Fear #1.

But mostly I'm excited for the challenge. I know I know my stuff, and it's just a matter now of getting my feet wet. I have two most excellent, very different clients waiting for me to get oriented to the Y's protocol and have at it.


All of sudden I have three new jobs. You know about the personal training. I'm also about to begin working as a coach in the Y's Diabetes Prevention Program, aimed at people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Classes will be held out in the community, in inner city churches and clinics. My experience at the homeless shelter helped land me this job, and I'm happy to get back out there and teach.

Also, I'm doing some PR writing for the Y now. Yes, all of these new jobs start within a couple weeks of each other. Busy, but all good.