Showing posts from 2013

Books I Read This Year: 2013

Roughly 22 books read this year. I was busy. Here's the rundown: MORBIDITY Bough Down : David Foster Wallace died. Say Her Name : his wife drowned.  Proof of Heaven : he died but came back to life.  The Obituary Writer , you see what I'm getting at: it just happened this way. I was not looking to read frequently about death. Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End of the Lane was pretty dark, as well. And We Need To Talk About Kevin , my god; excellent writing, awful subject. TO COUNTER THIS, I PRESENT TO YOU MISTER ROGERS If you're feeling bad about yourself, two people: Mother Teresa and Mister Rogers. Mother Teresa soldiered through so much suffering you'll slap yourself for all your disgusting self-pity. Mister Rogers will stand you upright again, hold you against that red sweater and tell you how special you are. I'm Proud Of You by Tim Madigan is not the best book about Mister Rogers, but the stories relayed inside will buoy you. I can't get t

A Subversive Take On Holiday Eating

I sent this letter to my personal training clients yesterday. This is my first holiday season as a trainer, and I suppose I’m expected to hold forth on such topics as what to eat, what to avoid, and how, in general, to manage the temptations that come this time of year. But if you’ve worked with me for any length of time, you know that my take on personal training is just that—training the person—and that I believe in education and not the quick fix. Anybody can get you to sweat or dictate your diet; my job, as I see it, is to help you understand why we do what we do, so that you can go off and do it without me, and sustain these habits for a lifetime. Work myself out of the job, as it were. Same goes for my advice on food this time of year, and also the busyness of the holidays that may cut into your best intentions to exercise. You can find top ten lists anywhere (everywhere!) on portion control, healthy recipes, and better food choices (if you can't, let me know and

my worries

that you'll make fun of the big guys.  When a guy told me that lifting weights, to him, was like "...mmmmmm. Y'know? Like MMMMMMMMM. It just feels MMMMmmmmmm," two thoughts crossed my mind. The first was what you're thinking right now; the second, that I understand him completely. I'm not yet to the point of explaining this phenomenon at any level of convincing argument, but I will put out there the idea that some of us need to explore our world by moving our bodies. While lifting weights in a gym may at first appear limited in scope, we must start here. We must exert our strength, feel it, then process the rest of life. Some of us spend too much time doing the former and don't get to the latter. But don't make fun. You spend time on other stuff, don't you, whereas our hobby is, at base, healthy. that Jesus took Manny out of the game. Manny Pacquiao defeated Brandon Rios Saturday night with a sound beating, thank you Jesus, his first win since re

INTENSE: my halloween post

You will note that I refrained from posting my buck teeth story this Halloween. This took tremendous restraint, as it is one of my best stories, told each year to my kids as they gather at my feet near the fireplace. Something like that. The love of Halloween and its scares is rooted, I think, in a desire to touch the void, the precipice of high emotion. A safe freefall. Halloween is safe, whereas other means to this end can be otherwise. At Slugtoberfest last weekend, I found myself missing this via the route of boxing; my God, there's nothing like having someone swing at your head. I'd put boxing on the scale just between Halloween and drugs as it's unsafe, yet happening with a timed end. The holiday, then, gives me an opportunity to think through the Halloween moments of my life thus far. Times at the brink. I did this before, I believe, but I am unable to find anything on my own blog, and my memory is bad, so this will seem fresh and new to all of us. I will avoid

My Body, The Experiment: Day 26

The 40-Day program got shortened considerably, when I woke up on Day 26 and thought, Uh-uh. I did this enough. We're done here. But seeing as how I had committed five weeks to a strength-building program, I knew that before moving on to anything else, I had to test strength. With the able spotting of a bodybuilder friend (who likes to say things like "Do you know where I can find a good veterinarian? [flexes biceps] Cause these puppies are SICK!!!"), I went to the bench and pressed 130lbs, which is my all-time best but I had only done it once, and several years ago at that. So I considered this an accomplishment and sign of improved strength. I then went to the deadlift. 200 had been my max, but 195 felt reasonable, so I loaded 210 on and slowly brought the bar up. That's improvement, too. Dan John's 40-Day Program , shortened to 26, even, brought me significant benefits. Strength, yes, but also improved shoulder health. Less achy days: the regular but low-r

Found On My Camera

go raw

I have a client right now who is excited about deadlifts. Seeing the weight go up boosts him, naturally, and he tries to go higher. When I worked with him this week, though, I saw that without his hand wraps, not much progress happens. Hand wraps have their purpose, but I know this man's goals, and felt he'd reach them more solidly by dropping the weight and losing the wraps for a time. Nobody wants to do that. Nobody wants to swallow their pride and lose their shortcut to success. To his credit, he agreed with me, and it got me thinking: what do I rely on? Not my gloves or wraps but in life, what do I need? Do I need constant feedback on facebook for energy? Coffee to make me happy? Compliments to stroke my ego? In powerlifting competitions, there are often two categories: equipped and raw. Equipped, you lay your wraps and gloves on the table and they say okay, put 'em on. Raw, it's just you and that heavy bar. Fight the need for equipment and go ra

I guess you'd call this "bulking"

I fell over yesterday. Same thing last week Wednesday. Boom, onto my behind. Already at Day 10 of Dan John 's 40-day workout, I should have known that increasing the weight on my overhead squat tends to make me fall over. Which surely does not garner me new personal training clients in my gym--would you pay the woman who just dodged a falling barbell, and is sitting on her butt on the floor? The idea behind this workout is a simple one of strength-building. Do the same 5 or so lifts every day for 40 days and they'll get easier, which in turn signals that you're getting stronger. Something told me this would be a great program to help a client of mine meet his goals, but one, I didn't think he'd commit to the tedium, and two, I hadn't tried it myself. So I'm trying it myself. And I have to keep reminding myself of this: that this is an experiment, designed by well-respected authorities in the strength and conditioning field (Pavel's behind it, too

Summer, when few books are read and profundity is scarce.

When the mind must dwell lightly upon passing thoughts, as a sparrow lands on a branch before it alights. Kids are calling. Work is fit in. Every year at this time I write a blog post lamenting my shallow life. I'd like to reach deep and capture those few thoughts splashing around, but the sunblock does its job. I settle into moments, instead, and these morph late August into lists--of gym shoes, highlighters, and 4oz glue sticks, which have been a school supply requirement since Simon first put on a backpack, but which don't exist, you can't tell me they do. A new phenomenon is claiming my insights and intuitions this time around, namely my job as personal trainer. Before: Amy experiences her world, sees experiences as a writer does, processes them on paper. Now: Amy meets with clients who tell her about their worlds. Ideas form and she walks them through some steps she hopes will help. Whereas my intuition before helped me see an experience from a bird's eye

Through the Looking Glass

Each time Theo and I stepped into the elevator at the Radisson in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, we were sure to wave at our counterparts in the mirror. "Are you heading to the steamboat cruise, too?" we'd ask. The door would open behind us--and simultaneously them--and we'd each turn to step further into our own dimensions. A weekend at a type 1 diabetes event feels a lot like that: a parallel universe where people are testing their blood sugars, counting carbs, giving shots. They're worrying about the same stuff we do and they're pulling out the same black pouch with the same silver meter. One offers up a carb count for that piece of pie. Another woman's kid is approved for an artificial pancreas trial, and she cries at the thought of not asking about blood sugars for just that one day. The JDRF Ride to Cure took our family to Wisconsin for three days, which we extended to five for a family vacation. Greg and Simon fell easily into the rhythm of the event, par

Almost There

Yeah, I get the calls, too. --If we send you a packet, can we count on your donation of ten dollars or more? --No, I'm sorry, but we've been giving a lot of money to another charity lately. --Yes, ma'am, we understand that there are many worthy charities asking for your contribution. By giving to us, however, you will help thousands of children struggling with X disease. Can they count on you for your support? At this juncture, during recent calls I find myself telling the telemarketer that surely their cause is worthwhile, as is mine, but that funds are limited. Sometimes I even explain that my son has the disease I'm raising money for. One woman said sorry ; another hung up. Knowing how often these calls come, I thank everyone who has followed our journey toward this very week, to the JDRF ride in Wisconsin, for your money, your prayers, your lending of bikes and bike racks, and your ears. Type 1 diabetes is one of those under the radar diseases,

A Tale of Three Complaints, filled with tickles and giggles

Three recent letters to three different companies. Which do you think I'll patronize again? To: LGS Name: Amy Scheer Message: For my 9-year-old son's type 1 diabetes, we have to count the carbs in his meal, divide it by a number (different at every meal) to determine the amount of insulin he needs, and administer a shot. Though there are many variables at play, this math usually serves us well. Tonight I served your clementines at dinner, and carefully weighed my son's to match it up with your nutrition label. An hour later, his blood sugar was dangerously low--30, the lowest he's ever been. We gave him a sugar source and he recovered, thankfully. The only questionable food we counted was the clementine, so I checked the nutrition facts at another source, which would put your carb count at almost twice what it should be. I am fairly certain that this is what caused his low, which is why I ask that you please doublecheck your nutrition facts. Some consumers simpl

One Month From The Ride, and Getting Closer To A Cure

Theo had eight shots yesterday. He'll have four, usually, on a given day, but with meals out and lots of high blood sugars yesterday, there were more. One was at 3am. I'm tired. Greg's tired from a 2am check a few nights before. Do I want your sympathy? Yes. Because three of those shots were given at night, causing me lots of anxiety. It's difficult to talk about--you give your kid insulin to bring down a blood sugar, but then you wonder if he's just high from the excitement of the new television, and if he'll drop down too low while he's sleeping. While you're sleeping. So you set your alarm for 2, 3am, and pray he's safe until then. Some recent developments in diabetes research show remarkable possibilities. "Boston Children's Hospital Finds Root Cause of Diabetes ." On June 13, this astounding headline snuck through the internet mostly unnoticed, except by parents like us. This breakthrough won't see its theories tested on

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

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

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 t he certification process thanks to a man at my gym who claimed a year ago

First Aid

Over the past three weeks I've had some 39 hours of training. A good deal of this has been for a new position I'm taking on, as a coach in a diabetes prevention program; some was spent preparing me for my personal trainer certification exam; and it took a couple hours to learn CPR/AED, a requirement for CPTs. I've learned a great deal, and among these new insights is the idea that I and my family have been protected. From knowing too much. And facing this disease we manage every day. You have to understand that our quarterly endocrinologist appointments deal in the dailyness of type 1 diabetes. There is no time set aside to update us on possible future complications for Theo, and who would want that with the boy sitting there. So we live in this mindset of if I count the carbs in this food item, divide it by the ratio set for this time of day, administer a shot, these are our duties, this is diabetes. Diabetes is counting, multiplying, dividing; shots; carrying around a

Conferences With Powerlifters

I'm the demo model for the deadlift. As I'm setting up, a guy the size of a La-Z-Boy yells, "It ain't right 'til your shins bleed." I figure this is as good a time as any to ask for solutions to this very problem, which I'd been having. "What do you do about that, by the way? What do you wear--shin guards?" I ask. "Nothin'," he says. "So just... hamburger." "Yep."

I've Been Elsewhere.

Have you been looking for me? Sorry I've been away. This is a season of interviewing for a new job, pursuing a certification for a different job, having to schedule random other exams in order to qualify for the cert for the second job, and still working the first job in the meanwhile. And preparing for a son's debut as Crocodile Guy in the third grade musical, and working to convince older son to not wear underwear beneath his biking shorts. Speaking of biking--I'll tell you more about the new jobs later--I've been posting updates on our fundraising pages. What fundraising pages? Our family will ride 30 miles in Wisconsin this summer to raise money for diabetes research. It's personal for us, as Crocodile Guy son has type 1. We've raised four of the six thousand required for us to go, and it's been a real bonding experience for the family. Read more about it here, and give if you can: Simon's page My page

Apologetics of the Body

And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul? --Walt Whitman, "I Sing The Body Electric" I bought a 50-pound bag of rice not to cook but to lift over my head and throw to the ground. I heard of a hill and drove the twenty minutes there to run it up and down, then drove the twenty minutes back. I was asked by someone who doesn't know me well if I'm "still competing," and when it became clear she knew only the part of me that buys the rice and runs up hills, this bothered me. And it bothered me that it bothered me. So let's run up that hill together and see what's at the crest of my approaching midlife career shift, a certification in personal training after years of working in the arts and activities of the mind. I think what we'll find is that the body needs no justification. Call me a gym rat, laugh at football players on a scholarship, assume the thick-necked among

good boys/lifting/bad things

I was accused this morning at breakfast for not keeping up with the blog. "But I have nothing to say," I protested, feeling at once morally upright and also dishonest. For many thoughts have come to me, but none warranting an entire post. And now that I've ventured onto Facebook, those thoughts want to go shorthand for immediate consumption and liking. The epigraph to Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes gives credit to Ortega y Gasset for this: Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are. Yawning bunnies, Gasset. Cats in boxes, guns, Thomas Kinkaid paintings with religious sayings and also what we had for breakfast. Yummy! You like this. I regret not having spent the winter months developing a deeper mindfulness, since you have to lay dormant anyway. And here we are in April--never mind this morning's snow--and the outside beckons, or at least the guilt to get the kids moving and out there. As the wind blows leaves and litte

Their Stories Leave With Them, Unless

As I turned into the parking lot of the church today, an ending felt at hand: this funeral would be the final gathering for my friend Norm, the last of the official celebrations, and though we'd still speak of him at the Y, still honor his favorite chair, in time other people and activity would fill the space that he once took up on this earth. But of course he occupied a large part of many hearts, and I'm sure that others find, as I do, that memories flow easily this week. Norm sneaking out of his chair to unplug the vacuum cleaner while I was using it. Pulling me off to the side (while I was vacuuming) to tell me I was made for bigger things. The story of sponsoring a girl's tuition to art college, just because he noticed her talent. That these memories live in me and in others is reassuring, because Norm and I had held several conversations around the idea of collaborating on a book of his stories. A war vet and successful businessman, he had some tales to tell. &q

161 digits and $425 for diabetes

You came through, peoples--you responded to the challenge and gave lots of money toward our goal of 6K . Your reward is here: a recitation of 161 digits by the boy himself. Not bad, huh? It was a happy Pi Day indeed, with pi and actual pie and a party, to boot. Amazingly, the insulin dose at lunch today came out to 3.14; it's like the calculator knew . If you didn't have a chance to give, there's still time to do so. Visit my JDRF page . Much appreciated. And a hearty thanks to all donors who stepped up to the pi plate!

Theo's Pi Challenge (time-sensitive material)

UPDATE: Pi Day is here, and we're thankful especially for the 11 people who stepped up to the pie plate and donated. Look for a video of Theo's recitation of 150+ digits within the next 24 hours. And no, it's not too late to give! Theo worked on a few extra digits just in case.  ------------------------ As you've read here before , my older son and I are riding thirty miles through Wisconsin to raise money for diabetes research, in honor of my younger son, who has type 1. And as you know from reading here, you get the raw deal from me. No cover ups. On facebook, I posted the video you'll find below; here you'll get the full story. Because there are two of us riding, we must meet two fundraising goals, totaling 6K. And while the cause is important to us, it's difficult to ask for money. Sometimes I just want to tell people what we're doing, but the telling naturally tends toward a request. And sometimes I want to turn people over and

The Value of Problem People

At the opening of the animated film "Wreck-It Ralph," the villains of various video games sit on or float above folding chairs and come to terms with the anti-hero status imposed upon them. The mantra of Bad-Anon is "I'm bad and that's good. I will never be good and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me." As Ralph will discover, bad guys have a vital role to play in shaping their virtual worlds. ************ In "I Am Bruce Lee," Jon Jones, a UFC world champion, muses on the meaning of Lee's famous fighting philosophy of "honestly expressing yourself." Gentle and soft-spoken, Jones says, almost apologetically, "I actually feel as if I'm helping people as I'm punching them in the face. I'm beating weakness out of them. I'm making them a better person." The camera cuts to Jones's elbow, then his knee, in an opponent's face. ************ "It is quite pe

Here's What Helped Me

I can't get the images from my mind: Anna on the floor in a cobra pose, Joseph hanging from the bar, arms locked out, knees together, slowly raising up and down. --Here's what helped me, Amy. --This is what the therapist had me do. I work in a service field. When I clock in for my shift, I agree to stand at the service of others, whether by instructing them on exercise form or by keeping clean the equipment they'll use. This is where my deep joy in my work derives: I use what I know to make you feel better. When I hurt my elbow, I'd talk about it here and there to members at the gym. People would check in with me, ask how I was feeling, offer earnest sympathy. Yet few of these folks suffered the same injury, so conversations often ended at sorry . But when I walked around on a shift last week with an involuntary grimace on my face, and I told anyone who asked that I threw out my lower back, the help came. Low back pain is a common complaint, and what I found wa

INTERVIEW: Lou Schuler on aging and exercise

Lou Schuler is witty, smart, and one of my favorite fitness writers. He and Alwyn Cosgrove are co-authors on The New Rules of Lifting series, and one of their recent titles, T he New Rules of Lifting for Life , hit me where I am. Lou agreed to talk with me again here, as our last interview was such a good time . Lou, I found your book right when I was kicking myself for taking up boxing at the not-so-tender age of 40. You say the gym brings out the teenager in all of us, and I've got the MRI scans to prove it. Is there a way that our spunk and fight can be balanced with the realities of aging? Our mistakes make us wise. My biggest mistake is that I started playing basketball in my mid 30s. By the time I finally quit playing, in my mid 40s, I couldn't even run or jump anymore. I had to walk up and down the court. Now, in my mid 50s, I think my hardest-earned skill is my ability to limit the damage when I tweak something, or when I'm under the weather. Ta