Friday, January 31, 2014

Still squatting; stopped counting

My ridiculously severe neck injury pretty much put an end to my 100-squats-a-day experiment, so I have nothing too exciting to report about it. On the plus side, I learned something from the attempt: The little bits of exercise you can squeeze into a busy day—like while you're waiting for the kettle to boil—do count for something. Which is nice to know if you're someone like me, who might go a week without stepping outdoors, let alone going to the gym, during a freelance work tornado.

The other interesting thing I learned is that trying to count 100 of something over the course of a day is annoying and makes me neurotic. So I still do squats now when I feel like it, but I don't try to count them. I'm sure it doesn't add up to 100 most days, but as a wise man once told me (it was Dan the Physical Therapist): "Muscles can't count."

What a revelation. Since the Ironman I've been trying to let go of tracking and quantifying and recording everything I do—although so far it's been impossible to turn off my mental swim yardage counter—but I had not really thought of not even counting the number of reps you do while lifting weight. It makes sense, though. There's nothing magical about "10."

P.S. I have a new "Use it (or lose it)" experiment to tell you about next time. Teaser!

Monday, January 27, 2014


I graduated from physical therapy last Friday, and today my neck feels almost like a completely normal, functioning neck again. (I believe, for example, that if someone sneaked up behind me and banged two frying pans together just over my right shoulder, I could react without causing myself pain. But just to be safe, don't try it.) The plan is to go back to Dan in a couple of weeks and get a diagnosis and plan of action for healing my shoulder. Until then, I'm supposed to just take it easy and try not to break any other body parts.

It hasn't been too hard to not get any physical activity, though, because on Thursday morning I got an email from Happy letting me know that his next 900-page book was supposed to go to press in less than a week, and could I please proof, cross-reference, and index it by Monday morning, kthanksbye? So I rallied some subcontracting troops and made that happen (thus ensuring that next time we will get only three days to do the work), but I haven't been out of my desk chair for four days straight. 

The path to neck recovery was laid out pretty clearly to me, but I keep forgetting how it is you're supposed to recover from your brain being broken by a work marathon. Something like, "It's okay to sit and stare a lot, and don't expect too much of yourself for a couple of days?"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A critique of the modern "cake smash"

A blog I normally enjoy is running a contest that I find so irritating I can hardly stand it. I thought about making a critical comment on the blog itself, but that's obnoxious. I thought about tweeting (apparently I'm doing that again) something witty and cutting, but there was no way to explain myself in 140 characters. And I also considered a Facebook post, but I'm trying not to drive my casual acquaintances away with over-frequent rants about nutrition.

(Wait, don't you go away! It's only loosely* tied to nutrition, I promise!)

Finally, I considered not saying anything about it to anyone at all ever, and I don't really have any good reason for not doing that except what are personal blogs with limited readership for, anyway?

The irritation is a photo contest for the "best cake smash"—you know, the picture you get when you put a piece of birthday cake in front of a 1-year-old and let them "eat" it as best they can. I do get that it's really cute when they get cake on their faces. (It's not cute on brides, though, so I still don't understand that.)

But judging from the entries in the contest, the modern cake smash is a major photo op that requires everyone involved to go insane. Here's what I learned from looking at the contest entries on Facebook:
  1. There is a big trade in professional photographs of 1-year-olds with cake on their faces (just Google "cake smash" and look). Boys go shirtless but wear oversized neckware, girls also go shirtless but get giant hair ribbons, and the frosting color MUST coordinate with the diaper/tutu color.
  2. In the interest (I guess) of getting better photos, people are putting huge amounts of cake in front of their babies for them to destroy. Full-sized, professional-bakery cakes! The kind with fancy lettering that cost money! Go ahead and dive right in, little Brayden!
  3. Finally, I wondered why so many of the children were crying in their cake-smash pictures. At first I reasoned that they might just be overstimulated, or startled by the singing of "Happy Birthday." But then I started reading the comments on the photos, and the people were laughing about how little Emma didn't much like it when her mommy SMASHED LITTLE EMMA'S FACE IN THE CAKE. (Ha ha ha! I wonder why not!) 
So, this is my own little forum and I'm going to go ahead and say it: Gluten, sugar, and chemical-filled frosting for 1-year-olds are stupid, but they are the least of our worries when there are dangerous lunatics like this on the loose raising children.

* I'm actually going to mostly set aside the nutritional aspects of giving cake to a 1-year-old because I already know how that battle goes. And someone in the Facebook comments already posted that she was "sad" to see all the babies eating "legalized cocaine," and she got RIPPED TO SHREDS by the other mommies. Too bad for the entire mommy universe that they're wrong and she's right.

Monday, January 20, 2014

All the updates

My neck feels much, much better, but I'm continuing physical therapy anyway. It's still pretty tender, and Dan the Physical Therapist thinks there are a couple of underlying problems contributing to both my shoulder pain and my neck pain. I can't wait to be cured and never wake up with a sore neck again. (Plus I like getting a therapeutic massage every of my life; I won't lie.)

I also can't wait to get back to yoga. And "the squat project." But in case for some reason I never do get back to it, here's been my takeaway so far: If you do 100 air squats a day — 10 at a time whenever you happen to think about it — you can achieve a whole lot of goodness with no sweat, no equipment, and not too much effort. That will be nice to remember when work gets busy again, which should be, oh, tomorrowish.

And speaking of work, I seriously love my new job with Sneezy. There are a few minor frustrations to iron out, but the work itself is tremendously fun, and I get to write headlines again, which brings me so much joy. I may even get to write articles at some point down the road, which I would love. It's also nice to have a couple of hours of guaranteed work every weekday, so that even if nothing else happens to be going on, at least I feel like my family won't starve.

Was that all the updates? I think that was all the updates.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A very good idea

I've had nagging shoulder pain for going on seven months now, dating back to when I played softball this summer. So I've been thinking about physical therapy a lot, but only in a vague way, like, "Gee, I really should go get this dealt with sometime in the indeterminate future." I don't know why seven months of pain is preferable to just doing the few simple things that start the Ball of Complete Cure rolling, but there it is. In fact, when I mentioned my shoulder pain to my dad, he told me he's had a similar shoulder problem that's been bothering him for years, so I guess it's genetic (the stupidity, not the shoulder).

Anyway, it's a measure of how much my neck hurt yesterday that I actually faced my irrational fears of both the health insurance industry and the telephone and called a physical therapist. You remember Dan, the brutal but scarily effective PT, right? He said he wouldn't be surprised if my neck issue was related to my shoulder issue, but he didn't want to even touch the shoulder until we'd dealt with the immediate problem. Fine with me. My shoulder "pain" was a mosquito bite compared with what was happening in my neck.

He ran some kind of electrical current/therapeutic ultrasound through me to relax the muscles, did some manipulation and massage, taught me how to make a cervical collar out of a pillowcase, gave me a simple neck-turning exercise to do several times a day, and had me switch to a flatter pillow. Bam. I'm not completely cured yet (got another session later today), but I slept very well, I'm not on Advil anymore, and I'm functioning to the point of considering going to yoga—although I decided against it, because Not Being Stupid seems like something fun to try this week.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


At 6:15 this morning, I flopped over in bed, turned my head to the right, set it down on the pillow…and felt a wave of burning stretch from my right shoulder to my right ear. What the heck? I wondered at first if I was having a stroke or something, but within fifteen minutes it had turned into the typical soreness of "slept funny on my neck"—only about ten times worse.

Among other things, I'm annoyed because my gym has finally added some good evening yoga classes, and I really wanted to go one tonight. But since the list of things that hurts includes "turning my head 5 degrees to the right," "leaning forward," "the impact of walking down stairs," and "opening my mouth," I think I'd better play it safe. Or maybe check myself into a hospital.

My husband kindly pointed out that, ironically, if I'd just gone to the 5:15 a.m. yoga like I used to, this never would have happened. Har har.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Part of my intention with the "Use it (or lose it)" theme for the year was to take my good intentions, which I always have a lot of, and to actually use them by doing nice things for other people, which I don't do nearly as often. (See how conveniently the theme can be massaged to mean anything I want?)

So last week I said to myself, "Self, the first opportunity you get to do a favor for someone, don't even think about—just do it." Not ten minutes later, an acquaintance asked on Facebook if anyone had any extra boxes, because her daughter was moving in a hurry and was in desperate need. Well, we have tons of big boxes in the garage from all the grass-fed meat I buy online. I figured that offering to deliver them would improve the good-deediness of the gesture—but only slightly, because the house turned out to be about three blocks from where Mik has swim practice.

The very next day, the same Facebook friend put out a request for old winter coats—her husband had learned that there were some kids at a nearby elementary school who didn't have any. I just laughed—you mean like this big pile of outgrown coats already in the donate pile?—and arranged another swim-practice-hour delivery.

What a humanitarian I am, using good deeds as a way to conveniently clean my house!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A sugar confession/manifesto

I didn't go on any strict, specific diet for the month of January, but I did stop eating my weight in chocolate candy…eventually. You know, after the candy ran out.

It was ridiculous how over the course of last year I transitioned from "no sugar at all" to "only tiny bits of pure maple syrup and whatnot" to "a little sugar is not really so bad and can't realistically be entirely avoided" to "eat all the sugar as fast as you can, before someone else gets it."

I did not cave on my no-gluten stance, so I wasn't eating cookies, cakes, pies, and all the other junk that was so readily available between Thanksgiving and New Year's—just chocolate and lots of it. Because of that, I never felt too awful, but my pants started fitting tighter, and I got both a pimple and a nasty canker sore. I haven't had either of those in so long that I sort of forgot they existed, so I'm hoping that writing it down will help me remember to stay out of Category IV—"eat all the sugar as fast as you can, before someone else gets it"—and keep closer to somewhere between Category II and Category III.

Because I do think Category II½—"go ahead and make Paleo cookies for your family once in a while, and don't be afraid to join in when everyone is having s'mores around the campfire, for heaven's sake"—is the sane and logical approach to sugar. It's just a slippery slope, is all.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The squat project

It seems like nearly every day I come across a blog advocating some Health-Related Thing that's so important that the blogger does the Health-Related Thing every morning right after getting out of bed. (I follow one woman in particular who claims this so often that I'm not sure how she ever makes it to breakfast.)

In case you prefer different sorts of blogs and haven't heard about all this, here's a small sampling of Health-Related Things that my Internet says should be done every day:
  • Meditation
  • Drinking a glass of lemon water before eating anything
  • Dry brushing
  • Morning exposure to natural light
  • Oil pulling
  • Power posing
  • A 10-minute walk
  • 20 minutes of rebounding on a mini-trampoline
  • Massage for facial lymphatic drainage
  • Gratitude journaling
I'm not naive enough to believe these all have equal merit—or that anyone even could do all of them every day. Still, I'm sure some of it is worth the trouble, and the philosophy of "Use it (or lose it)" seems to dictate that I take the stuff I read and actually try some of it out, rather than just making a long and increasingly unwieldy mental note of it.

That's why I'm going to start doing 100 squats a day, starting tomorrow. This post says I will notice positive changes "in a matter of weeks," so I'll give it three and then report back. By then I'm sure I'll have twenty more new ideas to try, but one at a time seems like the way to go.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A little New Year's swim

I'm still planning on doing a sprint triathlon next July—either the whole thing or just the swimming leg—so I decided to apply my "Use it (or lose it)" philosophy to my gym's pool. Pretty sure I haven't set foot in there since May, and I don't think I've used the gym's locker rooms in that time either, because I didn't have the slightest clue what my lock's combination was. The "Use it (or lose it)" theme seems to dictate that I should now either figure that out or toss the lock and get a new one, so I guess I'll work on it. (I've since remembered that it had a lot of 3's…)

Swimming itself went okay, except that I did a number of yards I would not have considered worth getting out of bed for in my competitive swimming days. But that's fine. The point of the New Year's theme is that I have a ridiculous number of advantages in my life—good health and a gym membership being just two of them—that I need to put to work and stop taking for granted. And it really is SO nice to have a decent lap pool less than a mile from my house.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year's theme

I woke up this morning with two strong and mutually exclusive desires: (1) to kick off 2014 by working out, going for a brisk walk in the freshly fallen snow, cooking a bunch of healthy food, cleaning my house top to bottom, and making several exciting new lists and (2) to savor the last day of Christmas vacation by staying in bed all day reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes on my new-to-me Kindle.

So far I've managed to find a sort of balance between the two extremes, but even as a reader of this blog you'd be shocked at how many amazing New Year's resolutions I've devised and then had to reject on principle. (I am a New-Year's-resolution machine the way my husband is a novel-plot machine.) Of course I can do any of these things anytime I want, but I kept thinking it would be nice to have SOME sort of stated ambition for the next year before the glow of this day wore off. (Some of you are laughing at me right now; I'm okay with that.)

Then I remembered that Gretchen Rubin—who is basically my spirit animal now because she writes books about happiness and goal-setting and habits and recently made a casual mention on her blog that she eats Paleo—suggests setting a theme word for the year. A theme is just the thing! I set my resolution generator to work on it for several hours and have decided on "Use it (or lose it)" as my 2014 theme. This can apply to everything from my heart, soul, mind, and strength to the condiments in my fridge. A theme is better than a resolution, because it's more of a guiding force than a rule. You can't really "fail" at it, and it can be reinterpreted as circumstances demand. Future me will approve.