proper visualization & other muscle news

Some fresh muscle reports from the BBC

1. Out of the Duh Files comes this study from Hull University in the UK. First "smart carbs" now this, slowly the world is catching up with me: Thinking about the way your muscles work could physically boost your strength, research suggests. A Hull University team asked 30 subjects to do biceps curls and found their muscles worked more when they focused on what the muscles were doing. But lower rates of muscle activity were recorded when they simply visualised themselves lifting the weight. Full story

2. Sci-fi moves ever closer to dropping the fi: Scientists have developed artificial, super-strength muscles which are powered by alcohol and hydrogen. And they could eventually be used to make more advanced prosthetic limbs, say researchers at University of Texas....These artificial muscles are 100 times more powerful than the body's own. Full story

3. And in truly big news in biology: It has long been suspected but never proved that satellite cells which coat muscles can make new muscle. The Medical Research Council and experts at University College London have now shown this is the case, at least in mice. Full story

my arm, taken by my other arm

real writing

The dutiful writer writes on schedule,
but the real writer writes on inspiration.

- The Mighty Kat, finding profundity during a thunderstorm

Depoe Bay, also by me

Jill Carroll freed!

Whatever your microcosm holds for you today, take heart: this is a great day. This remarkable woman can continue her life on her terms.

Jill Carroll, shortly after her release, by Scott Peterson/Getty Images

photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman - CSM Staff
CSM exclusive slideshow of Jill's homecoming and reunion.

Jill Carroll released

AP reporter Mariam Fam - American reporter Jill Carroll, 28, was set free Thursday, nearly three months after she was kidnapped in a bloody ambush that killed her translator...

Our Mermaid

Story by yours truly Kat Ricker, illustrated by the talented Kate Ramunno-Finney. Also at

As soon as we pulled that mermaid up, I knew I was in for it. The kids started in, "Oh, can we keep it? I'll take care of it." I knew damn well I'd be the one feeding it and cleaning up after it in about two weeks. It was just a young one, so we tried giving it milk, it didn't want that, bought some of that formula for kittens, it didn't want that. They finally found some kind of fish food it would eat. I said give it a chance. It'll eat anything when it gets hungry enough.

The kids had a lot of fun with it at bathtime. They'd all jump in there, with bubbles and straws to breathe with, and flippers and toys. It kept them busy for a while, anyway. We took some pictures. They were real cute. Ma would put a shirt on it, and that mermaid would just tear it off. She didn't like anything, you know, binding her in or whatever. As long as it was little, I didn't see any harm.

Then when the kids started going to school, sure enough, it was me looking after her. And they get big. The bigger she got, the messier the tub was. This real stubborn scum that was just a pain to scrub off. And I could never get in the bathroom before work. And we sure were going through money on the shampoo and conditioners.

So, I had to let it go. I took it down to the shore near where we caught it and turned it loose. It just sat there for a moment, then it hit the water and whoo! You should've seen that thing swim.

We've got a cat now. I still end up feeding it most of the time, but at least it goes outside.

poem on my lifting evolution

Lean walk through Fire
- Kat Ricker

For an ectomorph
drawn to strength
and muscle,
the gymlife is a walk through fire.

Many combust,
gliding to the ground outside
settling among the ashes of defeated dreams
and burnt pride.

But this compact iron being
is born solid
and can harden
to crush diamond.

True to my bodybuilder psyche,
I forced my way through the jungle
to the stage.
Though I bled from cuts
from ignorant men born big,
I dedicated myself to this path.
Leaving my ego exposed
while I worked,
I went deeper inside myself,
learning the rules of the discipline,
fighting to fit its impersonal demands.
To my relief,
the world paid me pride.
No one questioned that I was there.
I grew bigger, men cheered,
and my perspective drowned,
surprised by the demand
to starve.
Nature glared at my ingratitude.
Death knocked,
but I clawed my way back.
My stare into the dark side shook me awake.
I sought better teachers,
I learned a healthy path.
After that, the stage
warmed around me,
joy swelled my muscles,
and my vision expanded.

From my walkabout,
lessons came like sun after a storm –
understanding my body, my self
bowing before nature’s sovereignty,
seeking balance in all things,
and stacking priorities in real order.
I live each day grateful
that I emerged whole,
setting up humility and enlightenment
on my mantle of health,
to the right and left of my trophy sword.

From there,
I listened to my body
and followed it
to Olympic lifting
and boxing
and walks.

Life became easier.

I stepped outside myself,
restored my heart to those I love,
and I became fuller.

Now, looking back,
the long, rocky trail was valuable
because it brought me nearer to my best.
Whether there was a straighter path
I can never know.

I worked to show others who I knew I was inside.
Now they recognize me for what I wanted to be,
I found that I am something more.

Now I see others clearly, through the lens of truth.
Envy and comparisons have fallen away.
I pride myself and cheer each struggler’s strengths.
I respect all disciplines,
knowing Amazons are the same.

I have found peace,
and I carry myself high
to cast a light of hope
for others crawling through the dark,
so they might see a different direction
is possible
through the woods.

And just this thing more
for my tribe:
Body size is relative,
but a small mind is real.

today's boxing revelations

Follow through...of course. You hear it in every sports move, from a drive in golf to a swing in baseball. Today I honed in on the subtle difference between trying to hit something and trying to push through it. The latter is where the greater power is. Enter into your target, follow through it. Don't just land the punch and pull back. Secondly, in combos moving from crossovers to jabs, the torso can get just a little twist on for momentum more like the crossover.

This is my favorite picture of Lucia Rijker. This image shows the state of mind that boxing brings to me.

black coffee blues by Jill Rice Robinson

It is my honor to present blues lyrics by my old friend, renaissance woman Jill Rice Robinson - musician, poet, versatile writer, drawing artist, woodworker, yogi, regional planner, mother, a woman with wise eyes and a wicked-strong furnace of creative energy.

black coffee blues
by Jill Rice Robinson

there were tears in my coffee
tears on my pancakes
tears on my eggs
on the day you left me we were drinking coffee
but tell you what
that was some of the best damn coffee I ever did have

I kept on drinking coffee all that day
I like it hot and dark and bitter
I don’t want the sugar
I don’t want the cream
I just want the coffee baby

when the morning’s still in darkness and everything’s still quiet
I love the feeling of the craving
I love the anticipation
the way the first hot sips will feel
passing over my lips and flowing through me
I like the little curls of steam
And the way it warms my hands
when I hold my coffee

you were real good
most of the time, and
oh yeah, I’m sad to see you go
sometimes I think about you and you rush through me
hot and dark and wonderfully bitter
like a big old swig of coffee

Maryse Turcotte lifts for gold

AP Photo/Rick Steven

Maryse Turcotte won Canada's first gold medal in weightlifting during the 2006 Commonwealth Games - women's weightlifting 53 kg category in Melbourne, Australia, March 17. The grrl rocks. Here's a great article on training with Maryse by Mistress Krista Scott-Dixon (all bow) at

Rachael Scdoris finishes Iditarod

Rachael Reaches Nome
from gorachaelgo:

At 1:42 AM Alaska Standard Time on Saturday, March 18th, Rachael Scdoris became the first legally blind athlete to complete the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. After 12 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes on the trail, Rachael and her visual interpreter, Tim Osmar, passed beneath the wooden structure, known as the Burled Arch, that marks the finish line. The duo finished in 56th and 57th place, and Rachael finished 7th out of the 20 rookies who started the race.

Having endured tempuratures as low as -52 degrees Fahrenheit and wind speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, Rachael took the worst that 1,100 miles of the Alaskan wilderness had to throw at her and kept on mushing. We salute the determination and skill that it took for Rachael to achieve her dream. Way to go Rachael!

Photo taken by Marc Dick just after she crossed the finish line, from

Pinch of Salt by Robert Graves

When a dream is born in you
With a sudden clamorous pain,
When you know the dream is true
And lovely, with no flaw nor strain,
O then, be careful, or with sudden clutch
You'll hurt the delicate thing you prize so much.

Dreams are like a bird that mocks,
Flirting the feathers of his tail.
When you sieze at the salt box,
Over the hedge you'll see him sail.
Old birds are neither caught with salt nor chaff:
They watch you from the apple bough and laugh.

Poet, never chase the dream.
Laugh yourself and turn away.
Mask your hunger; let it seem
Small matter if he come or stay;
But when he nestles in your hand at last,
Close up your fingers tight and hold him fast.

cost of working out cont: climbing

My esteemed friend &dru posted his list of climbing expenses in response to my list of lifting expenses. I think it deserves its own post. Anyone compiling such a list of expenses is welcome to submit it to me for posting. This seems like a valuable project to me.

Thanks &dru. I'd love to post a pic with this, if you'd like to share one. I like that one setting off your back muscles so well, you know the one?

Climbing expenses over a 5 year period:

Boreal Diablos, $60
Boreal Zen, $90
La Sportiva Focus, $145
Five Ten Anasazi, $110
Five Ten Ascents, $120
Five Ten Zlippers, $50
La Sportiva Testerosa, $105
MadRock Flash (2 pairs), $65 per
MadRock Hookers (2 pairs), $65 per
MadRock Mugen, $80
Montrail Cruisers, $80

2 Harnesses, $50
2 Ropes, $220
Belay devices, $60
Chalk, $120 (estimate)
2 Crashpads, $280
12 quick draws, $110
3 Chalk bag, $15

Hangboard, $200 (including mounting)

Gym membership, ~$325 per year

Scaling St. Paul's Cathedral

How cool is this photo by Darrell Sapp? on so many levels...

Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Bill Schmidt, of Munhall, scales a tower at St. Paul's Cathedral above Fifth Avenue yesterday (3.20.06) in Oakland. Mr. Schmidt, 46, said he has been a climber for Mariani & Richards Inc. for 30 years, using hang riggings, or cables, to hang swings to give other workers access to areas such as the towers. Mr. Schmidt said he enjoys rock climbing in his off time. Mariani & Richards Inc. is doing masonry restoration.

Martin Lee Anderson - poem

On the videotape of Martin Lee Anderson

January 6, 2006.
It was a private hour.
One unacceptable black boy,
an irritant on your skin
you scratched
‘til blood rose in its place.
It seemed so safe,
taking care of business.
One young voice silenced
at the circle of understanding.
No sass, no looks, no memory, no future.

Then a videotape
flared up like a phantom,
your secret hour looping, never ceasing,
never paling into the shadow of the past.
He won’t go down.

Each blow, each collapse, each prop
onto the human crucifix.
The wrist, the arm. Tighter. Harder.
Blow after blow after blow.
White coat checks for life.
Grown fists pound out the last soggy light.
The eyes of the world are watching now.
Justice itself rising out of the grave
to level its jet eyes at you.
He won’t go down.

Historians are standing by.
Coroners, legislators, the law
snapped awake and stuck staring,
politicians choking at the camera,
money waiting to change hands,
keys hanging ready to fast cars
and iron doors.

But the mothers, and the fathers,
the poets, the imprisoned,
the scrubbing workers,
soldiers, lovers, homeboys,
the young already taut and trapped,
they watch your private hour.

Every person you’ve known
or brushed against,
kissed or sneered,
and those who might never have known your names…
They see for themselves.
And they judge.

He won’t go down.
And it cannot be undone.

- Kat Ricker
also at Lone Souls, the site showcasing art on the troubled teen industry theme

emergency chopper at Smith Rock, taken by me

New every morning by Susan Coolidge

New Every Morning
by Susan Coolidge (1835-1905)

Every day is a fresh beginning,
listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
and older sinning,
troubles forecasted
and possible pain,
take heart with the day and begin again.

Reed in a Willamette Valley orchard

cheerleading: give me a wha-?

Whether you're interested in this strange, sticky subject or not, this commentary on cheerleading is worth reading. Cheerleading: a sport in crisis by Steven Wells is a blazingly sharp, substantial and fair perspective on the state of cheerleading in the U.S. today. Free to read in its entirety at The Guardian's online Guardian Unlimited Sport. Published March 15.

There are so many brilliant passages in this piece, it's hard to choose a few, but here's a taste.

"Cheerleading is quintessentially American. More than that, the bright-as-a-button, perma-grinning, pony-tailed cheerleader is the shining icon of idealised American femininity. And as such she is at the centre of some of the American Culture Wars' most savagely fought brawls...

"But this is no clear-cut conflict - it's nostalgists v authoritarians v libertarians, with cheerleading exposing the ugly ideological mess at the heart of modern conservatism...

"While the cheerleader might give us a fascinating snapshot of the American Culture Wars, Natalie Adams reckons there might only be as few as 1.8m cheerleaders in the entire country. This contrasts with probably more than 10m female soccer players...

"...until the second world war, cheerleading was almost exclusively male - and in some places male cheerleading flourished well into the 1960s. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D Roosevelt, Jimmy Stewart, Michael Douglas, Samuel L Jackson, Steve Martin and George Bush senior were all teenage cheerleaders. But nowadays it's like Billy Elliot never happened."

progress in Olympic lifts & boxing

Notes from today's great work out:

O. lifting has made me stand up straight. Doing so is critical to the whole deal, and the erector muscles have come a long way developing for heavy weight overhead. So as an adult, I can finally say I understand what it means to stand up straight - no more guessing, holding shoulders back, head up, and whatever else is general buzz for this fuzzy concept of good posture. Good posture is a powerful-looking stance, and it looks good.

Boxing - after years, today I finally got the hang of the jab. The cross is the easy one to pick up, the jab always eluded me as a power punch. Today I realized the key is standing a bit more sideways than I had been so that the arm extension executes laterally, and - here's where it is kinesthetically - eccentric contraction on the entire shoulder girdle on through the lat group. It's an expansion this way, and now that I've felt it and repeated it over and over, I can say it feels great.

Terrific lift. For the record,
1) pull-ups, chain push-ups, pulldowns, bi curls, lat/ant delt raises
2) clean & jerk - max for reps (!)
3) bagwork

nearly two hours, lots of breaktime, eating throughout. Honeystinger, chicken with veggies, Endurox

Maple, from

Maple is glad she doesn't live under the porch anymore from the wonderful photo blog

let a child guide them

One really excellent secret weapon in my lifting arsenal is kids. No, I'm not fond of them in general or anything like that. When I'm learning a new sport and the form and techniques might seem daunting, I watch the kids who are into the sport do it.

One of my favorite tools for mastering Olympic lifting is watching videos of The Illinois Aurora Weightlifting Club. I stumbled on this site early in the learning process, and I return to it again and again.

DH and I enjoy going to local amateur boxing nights. The first competitors they bring out are generally about three feet tall, and it's amazing to watch (on many levels). They usually box technically better than older competitors. No joke.

There's the obvious perspective adjustment: if a kid can do this, I can. But there's also learning. As any psychologist or educator will tell you, kids are dead serious about learning and performing well. Studies have shown kids generally inflict intense pressure on themselves to succeed, to degrees that would trump most adults doing something they're not being paid to do. If you want to see someone really grappling with not just getting the hang of something but mastering it, watch a competitive kid. And since they're not yet masters, typically, you can learn from their struggles - what the natural sticking points are likely to be, how to anticipate your own compensatory moves, what to watch out for. When you watch something done perfectly, it appears to be simple and easy, something that is inherently natural. Since nothing goes wrong, your brain has no reason to expect anything other than perfect execution from you. And while that has its place in training (visualization methods), I firmly believe that there is a wealth of inspiration and practical information to be gained from watching rough amateurs.

photo from this website - unidentified lifter from Singapore. anyone with info, please post.

Congratulations Iris Kyle

Way to go, Iris!

Iris, the incredibly nice leading lady of IFBB, took Ms International (again) over the weeked. This qualifies her to reclaim her 2004 title of Ms Olympia later this year. She's a topped-out specimen at the top of her game. The amazing shot of her above, with hair draping so prettily, was taken at the Arnold by shot of Iris and me is from last year's Arnold. Despite being shorter than me, she makes me look like a little grrrlie. I had long admired Iris for her perseverence; Lenda Murray beat her by a razor's edge for years and she just kept coming back. I'd say better than before, but that's in the judges' eyes; to mortals, she was obviously great all along.

George Formby

Today is the anniversary of the death of Lancashire-born, legendary showman George Formby. His unique singing style and masterful playing of the Banjo Ukelele are superb, IMO. If you haven't heard him, try Leanin' on a Lamp Post or A Farmer's Boy. The society (below) posts entire songs free for the listening and downloading.

From The George Formby Society webpage:

The show business career of George Formby spanned exactly FORTY YEARS, beginning in 1921 until his death on March 6, 1961. During that period he appeared in 21 hit films, cut over 230 records, made hundreds of stage performances, appeared in two Royal Command Performances and entertained an estimated THREE MILLION Allied Servicemen and women during World War II throughout Europe and the Middle East. Although he never performed in the U.S.A. he did make personal appearances and was quite popular in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

By 1939, George Formby was the most popular and highest paid entertainer in the British Isles and was estimated to be earning over £100,000 a year. The secret of his success was a unique combination of personality, natural ability and talent coupled with the driving force of his wife, Beryl as his Manager. With his natural human warmth and friendliness, George could hold a live audience in the palm of his hand as he sang and played the ukulele in his own inimitable style. He seemed to have the ability to make people enjoy what he did, and his audiences always called for more.

If he were alive today, he would be 101 years old.

Photo also from the society website

The cost of working out: reality check

The fitness industry constantly pushes you to work out, with the tacit message that it is free and accessible to you to do so. When anyone challenges this, saying something is too expensive, the end-all salesman comeback is "How can you put a price on your health?" But money is a legitimate issue. I respect people who raise this as a concern, despite how callous to it I was trained to be as a salesman - I mean, personal trainer - by the gyms I worked for. I hate to think that this marketing axiom is driving people away from developing that part of themselves to which they are naturally entitled - and by which, biologically required.

I will always defend the cost of investing in good training equipment. No matter what you're doing, you will need certain equipment to do it. I don't mean designer warm-up suits in this season's hottest colors. I mean the tools of the trade. If you're really into something and want to continue it, even make it a lifestyle, it's worth it to invest in the safest, sturdiest, and most effective training gear you can afford. If you're into combat sports, padding is not the place to skimp. If you weight train in a fitness center, go for the gloves that will protect your hands. If you weightlift, cough up the cost of a solid weightlifting shoe.

The cost of a gym membership these days is high - $40 - $60 a month is average - and the industry is hurting, so watch out for desperate salesmen. Fees can easily go up and occasionally go down. Some small independent gyms, the few surviving, will charge about $25 a month if you're lucky. The bigger the chain, the higher the cost, generally speaking. Warning: once you make an investment like that, it can make you feel relegated to working out at the gym, but remember, fitness should be an integral and locale-flexible part of your life, because it depends on your body, not a building. Don't feel you need to join a gym to work out at all. Fitness is an eminently personal issue, and there's no reason people should put their fitness lives into public view by working out in a public gym unless they want to. I myself do part-time gym and part-time home studio, and enjoy both environments on their own merits and complain about both on their drawbacks.

But of course, setting up shop at home isn't free, either. Here's what I've spent and trades I've made. I've gotten good deals on each piece, acquired over several years. It's pretty satisfying knowing my money is going to equipment that I own, and equipping my studio with exactly what I want.

For reviews and purchasing details, see Mighty Fit Review.

Horse stall mats as flooring - 6 @ $56 ea. = 336
Interlocking flooring mats $27 (Craigslist deal)
Weightlifting platform, homemade - $157 in materials
Jerk Tables - Homemade, bought out of a gym - $300
Jerk Blocks - Homemade, bought out of a gym - $150 to cover cost of materials
Extension to platform to house squat cage - $85 in materials (two sheets of plywood, one treated)
Two treated plywood sheets for under jerk tables - $85
Squat cage $200 (Craigslist deal)
Squat rack/bench $200
Safety squat bar $400
Muscle Clamps $35
Replacement Muscle clamps three years later $35
Prolock clamps $45
Dumbbell rack $120
Dumbbells - Average price around 80 cents/pound, average sale 20% off
7' Barbell, preacher curl bar, plates and tree $20, from a guy's garage
(7' bar easily retails for $100, on up through thousands for a professional grade one; preacher curl bar easily $60; tree $200)
Three years later, the bar is trashed: bought new Pendlay bars:
7', 20 KG $300
7', 15 KG $300
4 Bumper plates (10#, 15# pairs) $140
2 more bumper plates (25# pair) $60
- Five years later, replaced these bumpers with a new Kraiburg set on free shipping sale (10, 15, 20, 25 KG), plus Schoolage 2.5 + 5 KG hi-tech bumpers - $814 tl
Bumper plate floor rack $200
Hexagonal Deadlift bar - $60 old, homemade out of a powerlifting bar; bought out of a gym
6 Platemates - swap for editing
1 25# Kettlebell $60 on sale for $45
Cable handle attachments - freelancing freebies
Tire - free from Les Schwab
Bands - gift
Replacement bands years later - $50; monogramming $30 (Got used to it from the original gift)
Chain - $60
More chain - $50
Sandbag, homemade - $24 materials
Another homemade sandbag - Tire traction kit for the bag $12 Goodwill; 25# shot $45; sand
Ultimate Sandbag $130
Alpha Strong sandball (improvement from kettlebell) $110; 25# of lead shot $45; 10# sand
15' Rogue Fitness knotted climbing rope $125
Gold Cup weightlifting shoes $85
Kanama weightlifting shoes $130, two years later
Converse All Star shoes for deadlifting $40
Vibram toe shoes for deadlifting $100
Lifting gloves $30
Different lifting gloves $10
Spare lifting gloves $10
Pull-up tower $60
Doorway pull-up bar $10
Shoulderhorn $60
Boxing stand $40
Everlast Heavybag - $20, garage sale
Another Everlast heavybag - $20 Goodwill
Cardio kickboxing gloves $20
Real boxing bag gloves $45
Glovewraps $20
Title boxing handwraps $10
Redline kneewraps $20
Harbinger kneewraps - freebie for review
Reebok 10# weighted vest $20 Goodwill
Chalk $10 in bulk
Tape $10 in bulk
Chalk bowl $10 - lovely pottery, from Goodwill
Rumble Roller (for myofascia) - $70
Triggerpoint roller - $70
Stability balls - $30
Medicine ball - swap for editing
Baseball & softball for grip device $6
Treadmill - $200
Steps - xmas gift, garage sale
Bun Thigh roller - swap for editing
Yoga mats - $4 each Goodwill
Bras - $50 ea.
iPod $300 (yes, this belongs in the list)
iPod replacement years later $300
iPod armband $30
Yurbuds for iPod $30
Multimedia stereo speaker system $30 Cyberacoustic
Upgraded stereo system with big subwoofer $100

More investments, harder to figure
Gym dues
Personal Training/coaching
Personal Training certification course, Continuing Education Credits courses
Weightlifting certification course, continuing recertification

This doesn't count all the stuff I've had through the years, just what my current set-up is. My first bench (sigh, nostalgia) was on clearance at GNC for $120. This doesn't include the massive trickling cash flow I put into the supplement industry, or general clothing purchases and gym bags, or toiletries.

These purchases bode well for my motivation; since I begrudge every expense, if I buy something, I'm damn well going to use it. I started by running. Purchasing my first pair of running shoes was a turning point in my life; I knew that if I was going to spend that kind of money, I was committed to the discipline.

So this isn't free. It isn't even cheap. No matter what you get into in fitness, it's a hobby that costs money - an upfront investment, plus upgrade and maintenance charges.

I'm posting this to generate some respect for the issue most people have today of fitting fitness into their budgets, and to give some idea of what my investment has been as an example.

It's free to sweat. Ideally, people pay you to work. So this is an exception to the natural structure of life. Don't let anyone bully you into thinking otherwise, or that this is money you must spend. Don't watch people who have achieved some degree of glamor in your eyes in their fitness lives and feel that you should be doing what they're doing, because the activity may not be available to you. That realization gives you freedom, freedom from guilt, failure, and freedom to control the direction of your fitness life. You can stumble into your fitness pursuit, as most people do, arrive at your niche organically and then cater to it economically, or, if you're at a decision-making juncture, you can lay out the costs of various pursuits and assess their availability to you. Whether you're a realist, cynic or dreamer, your personality will drive you to a path from there.


First open tulip of spring, from friends Donna, Kelly and fam.

My father

This is my favorite photo of my father. I've kept it since college. I wrote a poem inspired by it and had it all framed nicely for him for Xmas one year. It's called "On top of the world." You can see why.

My father is a great man.