walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Things I Have Learned (Recently) By Watching TV

First, I have learned that I am a total sucker, and that I am seriously in lust with that stupid ProForm TDF trainer bike (in part because it looks like it's half trainer bike, half 'bucking pony' machine -- like the ones you see in supermarkets). 

Also that whenever I am at a restaurant with televisions (which are inevitably tuned into sports channels, since sports are mostly at least a bit comprehensible with the sound off and less likely to incite fistfights than, say, political coverage, except on the night of any given Big Game), they like to torture me by showing the ad for said trainer bike over and over and over and over.

I get suckered in by the bicycles every time: my bikey-sense tingles, I glance up and say, "Oh, look, bicycles!" and then they switch to footage of some tool (and by 'tool' I mean 'anyone who looks better than I do in lycra, which is almost everybody ;D) riding a $15,000 bucking pony machine in some glass-walled mountain retreat (leaving the perplexed TV viewer to wonder why he doesn't just "ride up grades," as the saying goes).

Second, though I have somehow failed to figure this out during a lifetime of various athletic activities (alas, I am not that great at thinking outside the groove), counting down instead of up when doing reps of various strength or flexibility exercises makes an awesome psychological tool.  At least, it does if you're anything like me. 

I have been trying to slot some calisthenics into my routine, and also have been watching an A&E series called 'Heavy.'  I'm not into the competitive 'reality' shows, especially when it comes to thinks like Biggest Loser wherein I think everyone should get a chance to do the whole program and reap its greatest health-changing benefit) but am a total sucker for the ones where they follow the story of a person or a couple of people who are struggling with addiction or hoarding or weight issues or recalcitrant dogs or whatever -- I watch them while I fold laundry.  The folks on 'Heavy' go to Hilton Head Health to get in shape, and I noticed that at least one of the trainers there counts down instead of up.

Immediately, a little light went on inside my head (immediately illuminating a frightening accumulation of cobwebs and dust -- thank goodness it's almost school time again! :D).  I thought, "Hey, that would work really well for me!" 

Then, of course, I promptly forgot to try it for a couple of days.

Today, I gave it a whirl, and found that it works brilliantly: I don't know if I could hold the plank position, for example, for thirty seconds at this point if I started counting from 1.  But counting down from thirty, boy -- that's another story.  It's hard to give up when you're down to ten ... nine ... eight...   I haven't tried the plank position since my Muay Thai days (our beloved, sadistic, psychopathic trainers had us doing two one-minute sets of the plank back-to-back ... brutal).  Same with push-ups: I might have trouble motivating myself to do twenty of those right now if I counted up from one, in part because I used to be able to bang out one hundred, military-style, in one minute, and struggling to do twenty now is really depressing -- but counting down from ten, twice?

No sweat.

What an awesome way to trick yourself into doing stuff you aren't sure you can do!  I've tried this now with the plank, push-ups, this ball-rolling exercise for the lower abdominals whose name I can't remember, and crunches on the fitness ball (which are both harder and more interesting than crunches on the floor). 

Now, if I could just convince the cat not to interpret my fitness efforts as playtime, I'd really be on a roll.  It is very irritating to be bitten by a crazed furball in the midst of one's calisthenics.

Then again, I can't really blame him, since I tend to wrestle with him on the floor (Merkah thinks he's a dog), and how is he supposed to know the difference?  Part of me thinks it's pretty cool that he gets playful and excited when I get down on the floor.

One more bit.  In recent days, I've addressed my fear of trying new athletic things without a coach around to yell at me about doin' it wrong, and I've I learned that while one of those giant fitness/therapy balls to make your workout harder or easier, it is almost certainly going to be more fun if you use one, period.

I find it very difficult to motivate myself to do calisthenics when I'm alone.  Perversely, I love them in groups, because I am warped like that: too much gymnastics as a kid has bred in me a nigh-Japanese unwillingness to let the group down by dint of my own weakness, so in a group I will push myself literally until I puke (yes, I've actually done this: twice, in fact) and then clean up and push myself a bit more.  Alone, however, I seem to struggle to even quit folding laundry for a while and get on the floor.

The giant blue ball, however, makes everything fun.  I think I might even be able to enjoy office work if I could sit on the giant blue ball (actually, a red ball would be even better, but the one we have in the house right now just happens to be blue) and bounce around while doing it.  In fact, DD is seriously considering getting one of those fitness-ball chairs so I can use it in the office when I do the books.

Anyway, speaking of folding the laundry, I'd better get back to work.  We're in the midst of a mad rush of preparations for our ten-day siege of Black Rock Desert  trip to Burning Man.  It's so close now, I can taste it.

Mmmm.  Bar-be-queue... :D


  1. Doing a flexibility training without a trainer by your side is not exactly a wise thing, unless you know how to do things. Although it's good that you are interested in staying in shape. But it's not like you're a professional gymnast, so pushing yourself beyond the limits is not that a good choice.

  2. Thanks for your input and concern, and apologies for my delayed reply.

    I did actually study gymnastics, ballet, and modern dance for years (from age 3 through 9th grade for gymnastics; modern dance through the end of high school, intermittent involvement with dance and martial arts since then), so I'm actually both significantly more flexible than the average guy and pretty well-versed in the proper execution of flexibility exercises and calisthenics ... which isn't to say that I'm not capable of overcooking myself in an athletic sense, just that I do it by overdoing the endurance training end of things, rather than the flexibility end of things :)

    Weight-lifting, on the other hand, is less familiar to me, and as such I wouldn't attempt most exercises with free weights without a trainer at hand.

    Basically, where flexibility is concerned, I've had my own limits drilled into my head since I was literally three years old, so I'm not inclined to attempt anything I don't have down pat. Likewise, I've learned to listen to my body pretty carefully when I'm not going 25 MPH or faster on a bike :) (25 MPH is the speed at which all sense of personal limitation blows out through the back of my helmet, resulting in delusions of immortality and occasional altercations with lampposts).

    Likewise, my partner is a physical therapist, and fully qualified to tell me when I'm being a dork :) When I have any concerns about my fitness regime, I run them by him first. I figure, better safe than sorry.

    FWIW, trainers around here are pretty hit-or-miss. We don't have any real certification standards in Kentucky (though industry leaders are working on improving things), so you kind of have to find a good one via word-of-mouth and stick with him or her. I'm still in a position (that is, being a student) that requires me to spend what disposable income I have rather judiciously, so right now it all goes into bike stuff, though actually I'm planning to get back into Muay Thai and ballet and possibly into gymnastics or something similar, eventually. I know good trainers for all three of those fields, and plan to employ them as such.