You've been quietly watching me do my own thing, and the time has come for me to say some things to you, some things I should've said long ago.
I should be spending more time with you. I take you for granted, overlook you when you should be the first place I turn. I get this crazy idea that I don't have time for you or don't really need you, and - this is the hardest part for me say - I sometimes am embarrassed by you. You're simple, you're easy, you're not glamorous and you don't stand out; I guess I want to get past you so quickly that I brush you aside when I need you the most.
You're always there for me. I don't always show it, but I do appreciate you. What I need to do is make a little time, relax, let go.
I know I can only go onto bigger things through you. I know that I'm better with you than without you, and I'm going to work on more "us" time in the new year.
What I'm saying is, you make me who I want to be, and I'm finally ready to admit I need you. You make me a better person, and I resolve to treat you with the respect you deserve.
Photo by Allyson Goble
Hurray! Bodytribe owner Chip Conrad has released this excellent video on the Origins of Weightlifting via YouTube. This is his second installment in of his History of Fitness Series.
"We explore the roots of the sport of weightlifting, which is the most popular modern version of the age old battle of strength between man/woman and gravity."
...and yours truly makes an appearance.
This is my new novel, available at this preferred eStore and on Amazon. More details are on the Daculi Witch Chronicles webpage.
The Daculi Witch Chronicles weaves history with fiction to present the story of a line of women struggling to live their lives during the Great European Witch Hunts.
Janet Wishart, accused in the Aberdeen Witch Trials; Gilly Geillis Duncan, accused in the North Berwick Witch Trials; the secret daughter of Queen Elizabeth and more find power and peril through intellect, education, beauty, forbidden love... and magic.
Their stories combine to illuminate a dark era in Early Modern Europe and the dynamics which made it possible, to highlight the strength and good in human nature which enable survival and inspire change, and to remember fondly the dreams of innocence.
This adventure flows through major moments in history, tying them together to chronicle an extraordinary family line and reinvestigate witchcraft from a fresh perspective.
If you love Olympic-style weightlifting, this calendar is for you. A beautiful 12-month wall calendar featuring powerful photographs of weightlifting images - worn bumper plates bathed in light, the platform and judge's switch at a championship meet, a loaded bar waiting in a garage gym. Grids provide plenty of space to record appointments, birthdays or training notes, while the images will inspire you every day of the year. Created by a weightlifter for weightlifters.
This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, so if you like it, buy it, and I'll make one again next year. Tommy Kono was delighted with his copy.
Do you have a white sheet?
Can you emit mysterious, spooky sounds?
Can you fly?
Mrs. Smith looked up from the
Ghost School applications.
“So, Miss Kathrin, you can fly?”
Heads went up.
“Yes. A little bit.”
“Let’s see you fly right now, then.”
They started to sense the joke.
“Well, I need like a running start,
and something to jump off of, like a chair.”
“I want to see you fly. Come on, fly around the room, right now.”
When I got home, I asked Ma what “gullible” meant.
It meant no Ghost School.
. . .
But I knew the grip of space
in the instant I tipped off a chair,
or charged off a hill
and leapt –
into air –
touching nothing at all.
For that instant
before gravity called me down
and I knew that with the right training,
like a Ghost School could give me,
I could hone this moment,
learn how to catch that pause,
turn up from that dip toward the ground
and keep flying –
a little farther,
a little farther,
until I could lift off the ground from nothing,
veer up and hover
at the ceiling
like I did in dreams.
That was worth sleeping for.
. . .
I hoped Mrs. Smith was wrong,
that somehow the Ghost School people
would pick up those forms from school
and call my parents,
and send for me,
and we could get the training going.
But Halloween passed, and I never
heard anything else about it.
. . .
For a while I walked
underwater in my dreams,
breathing just like on land.
That was worth sleeping, too,
but no match for flying.
The best were the rare times
when I knew I was dreaming, but I could still
and soared to the top of the room,
over unsuspecting heads
and out into the sky.
. . .
I found that moment
30 years later
in my living room
when I stood on the hardwood floor
before the computer screen
and clean and jerked
my preacher bar with its small metal plates,
like the tiny, animated weightlifter avatar.
This was worth waking for.
Now I chase it
on the platform.
I throw my feet apart,
and for an instant,
touching nothing at all,
Labels: art: poetry
Lately, I've been reflecting on how I define myself and what I do in my physical life. I'm coming to the idea that it may be more valuable for me to focus on defining my traits as an athlete rather than trying to validate myself as a competitor/leader/expert in any one field. (I hope this isn't some sort of cop out.) I am heartened when folks who I respect respect me as a lifter, yet in my darker moments of doubting my abilities, I wonder what they see that they are responding to. Through some deep reflection, I've come to the conclusions that I excel in strength (physical and other forms), discipline (I've been consistently working out for 20 years and under challenging circumstances), determination (I can and have pushed myself to the detriment of my health, something I have grown mature enough to avoid), and the ability to work at high levels of intensity. Something tells me this last one may be the most significant; I'm not sure how.
Defining myself by field or discipline, the typical way of identifying oneself in the physical realm, is trickier. I competed well enough in bodybuilding when I was doing that, and I'm a knowledgeable trainer therein, but it takes many years to achieve the ranks of "highly accomplished bodybuilder", and compared to a pro, I was just a rank amateur competitor by the time I left it. I train as a weightlifter and have competed respectably as far as stats go, but I'm far from exemplary in performing the lifts, so I struggle with my own legitimacy in wearing the mantle of weightlifter (a Hack with Heart - how's that?). Over the decades, I've evolved and changed and adapted my physical life to the point that it's hard to characterize who I am easily to others, yet the progression feels logical to me, and with a common, emerging thread. But I can't really define it cleanly right now - how the logic goes, what that thread is (moving to full-body force?). So here are some lists to help me sort it out. I love lists.
Things I love to do.
- Jerk - I'm good at this.
- Snatch - I like them when I can get them right.
- Overhead squat - A recent conquest I'm growing stronger in
- Overhead work with the bar, like Push Press and Jerk Squat & Recovery - I love working with weight over my head. I feel most powerful this way. The feeling through the back is sublime.
- Overhead work with other objects, like club swinging and windmills with kettlebell or bar - Newer stuff I've picked up over the past year. Don't know how good I am at it, but I'm enjoying it.
- Deadlift - Like comfort food, this is my comfort lift. Newest tasty twist is off pins.
- Powershots on the heavybag - Oh, yeah. I don't care much about speed drills; I just like throwing focused, heavy punches.
- Throwing a sandbag from ground to shoulder - Really specific, but I love that one movement.
- Tire flips - My coach uses this on me as a reward.
- Throwing things - the feeling of throwing the weight, as in weightlifting, throwing punches
- Carrying things - the bar across my back, even overhead; Farmer's Walk
- Squatting with Vibrams on (works best with safety bar squat and back squat)
- Clean - My form is in the toilet. Trying to correct my "original technique" - a combo of muscling up the bar and power cleaning. (Muscling up the bar isn't supposed to be a problem for chicks, dammit!)
- Front squat - Always so hard and uncomfortable. Will it ever feel natural?
Things I used to like the most
- Cleans, when I thought I was doing them right.
- Pull-ups of all kinds - Used to be so good at these, but I weighed less. How valid is that excuse? Now I have lost motivation and don't make the time.
- Push-ups of various kinds - Have backed off with shoulder problems, but the strength is there. I just don't take the time.
- Plyometrics - I get this now through weightlifting instead.
- Specific muscle group work (bodybuilding stuff) - Used to love the burn and pump. Now it's old news, and the whole idea strikes me as a big time-sink.
- More, more more - more volume, more load, more frequency
- Better, better, best - improve weightlifting technique and load
- Pull-ups - Like I used to. I know I'm just lazy.
- Push-ups - Like I used to. I know I'm just lazy.
- Burpees - Have you seen Chip and Tav's burpee stuff? Fabulous.
- Press work from behind the neck - Snatch-balance, push-press
- More sandbag work - I have much to learn.
- More kettlebell stuff - Not emulating weightlifting, but rather overhead passes and lateral stuff. More to learn.
Now that I've taken the time to make these lists, I'm surprised to see the list of things I like is actually as long as it is. Perhaps my awareness of what I don't like is so keen that I've distorted the proportions of what I like and don't to my own misconception. (I'm a big whiner.) I can see the beginnings of a plan as well. Overall, this exercise is encouraging.
So how do we define ourselves, especially when conventional labels don't fit?
It won't come as a surprise to anyone reading this that emotional stress and a general day at work can leave a person struggling to find the energy and willpower to hit the gym after work. A new study looks at why this is so and how to overcome it, and finds establishing patterns in willpower and work out schedules are keys to getting yourself moving despite energy vampires. This short article in Psyche Central is interesting (excerpt below). The study itself was conducted through McMaster University and is published in journal Psychology and Health.
“There are strategies to help people rejuvenate after their self-regulation is depleted,” says study author Martin Ginis.
“Listening to music can help, and we also found that if you make specific plans to exercise—in other words, making a commitment to go for a walk at 7 p.m. every evening—then that had a high rate of success.”
She says that by constantly challenging yourself to resist a piece of chocolate cake, or to force yourself to study an extra half-hour each night, then you can actually increase your self-regulatory capacity.
“Willpower is like a muscle: it needs to be challenged to build itself,” she says.
The study is published in the journal Psychology and Health.
Similarly, an article on mental fatigue impairing physical performance is online from the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Conversely, I've just been reading a chapter on coaching and attitude in Tommy Kono's new book Championship Weightlifting, and he presents several anecdotes about people who were troubled who started working out and ended up the better for it. In other words, Tommy didn't go into the psychological part of how emotionally fatigued/stressed folks got themselves to move the weight, but told of how much better they were once they did.
Volumes can be and have been written on such issues, and how to manage your motivation, energy and discipline despite stress. This may be the juggernaut behind the legendary success of Nike's slogan. Anyone have any techniques or insights to share on how you manage yourself?
My review of Chip Conrad's DVDs - Brutal Recess (NEW) and Strength Rituals - is up at Mighty Fit Review. I consider these DVDs exceptional. I'm not getting any kickbacks for promoting them; I just want to make sure my gentle readers know about them, and hope you treat yourselves.
Tonight I could not clean.
My feet dragged into the garage
and I yearned for the high-voltage days
I'm sure I almost always had before
But I love the feel of the bar in my hand
I know this space is opportunity.
Tonight I smashed my pinky
and clipped my tailbone
within the first three minutes.
Snatch finally came but light.
Tonight my Jerk got strong
and I felt the "perfect moment"
when my body was ready to handle the Jerk
and took it.
Tonight I felt extinguished after I made that heavy single
(Do it again!)
but went on to overhead squats anyway
(what I wanted from the start)
(For me. Just.)
Tonight I hit the bag,
losing patience with my damaged shoulder,
and knew the power of focused force
and the warning of sloppy aim
(Life lessons, always).
Tonight I could not clean
and juggled permission to quit weightlifting
with the heroism of perseverance
the threat of insanity
(performing the same motion),
And I know that somewhere,
in all of this,
is who I am
as well as who I want to be
and who I wish I could be.
Finally, I walked out
(dark now, Harvest moon)
feeling tentatively better
knowing that tonight
was just that –
Photo taken atop a mountain in Idaho this month
Form is coming along.
Now if you make it to the end of this, you'll see my note on the music. About that - YouTube disabled my original audio of Levitation by Ben Vaughn and Get Down by Butthole Surfers. So the audio that's on there now I selected pretty randomly from their stock of approved audiotracks. Had you witnessed overhead squats with Butthole Surfers, you would have nodded your head vigorously when you read my comment. As it is, I really have no idea what it sounds like that far in. I chose this one based on the first few measures.
I cleaned UP at the Clackamas County Fair! Two first places for B&Ws (still life of chain called Links to Strength and scenic of Champoeg Park), second for the lamp still life, third for B&W frosted leaves,honorable mention for aerial photo over Nevada.
Magical weekend at the Tommy Kono Open V. Took second in women's 63 KG division. Snatch 37, C&J 48. More importantly, my form has improved since previous competitions.
Stayed with the great Chip Conrad and loved visiting his gym Bodytribe, where Tommy Kono spoke the morning after the meet - an intimate group, an unforgettable hour. A lengthier post is sure to come. Meanwhile, here are some photos from the meet, taken by the highly talented Allyson Goble.
10 Things I Learned at the Tommy Kono Open
1. Having tape at a meet is like having cigarettes around smokers. People will come out of the woodwork to bum some.
2. The pull from the floor should be perfectly smooth, like diving into a pool and making no ripple. (Tommy Kono)
3. If the first pull is aligned correctly, the bar will accelerate naturally. (Tommy Kono)
4. Very few people lift perfectly (Tommy Kono). That's in the world. Period. So maybe I can lighten up on myself a little as I work on my flaws.
5. The shrug is not to bring the bar higher, but to bring the body lower. (Tommy Kono) And almost no one shrugs, sayeth Tommy.
6. In going from a 20KG bar in training to a 15 KG bar in a meet, there's really no difference (to me). If anything, some folks swear the lighter bar goes up more easily. I was anxious about using a 15KG for a C&J for the first time, but I forgot all about it on the platform and didn't even notice. Meanwhile, I appreciated the 15KG in snatch warm-ups.
7. I don't need to see the flag, the judges or the lights. I was oblivious to all three and yet was in synch with the commands due to practice, familiarity and the energy of the room.
8. My nerves are monumentally difficult to quell in a meet.
9. Various states of mind do not affect my lifting much. I have hit the same numbers totally relaxed out of a nap, joyfully kicking ass on a macho high, and fretting myself silly in supreme seriousness. So let's just lift.
10. Tommy Kono and Chip Conrad are both unique and magnificent beasts who contribute to the betterment and beauty of the world and communities around them. I did already know that, but now I realize it on much deeper levels. And I'm honored to be associated with both.
Tommy Kono on perfect practice
"People say practice makes perfect, but I say practice makes permanent. ... When someone says to me, "I haven't worked out in two weeks," I say, "Good, that's two weeks you didn't make a mistake."
I used wristwraps for the overhead squat and was staggered by the immediate improvement in work capacity. The older we get, the more help our joints tend to need from all the wear and tear. Although I firmly believe Olympic-style weightlifting helps guard my wrists against the repetitive motion dangers of my workday, I'm now looking at how they might yet benefit from some support during training. I try to avoid wraps and supports of any kind in general, because too often folks will use them in order to achieve bad form or artificially inflate their numbers. But this is appropriate use. I had no idea my lift was being held back by wrist stress.
Bend transplant Jenah Duea, simply one of my favorite boxers, placed 4th in nationals, won a spot on the US team, and brought home a team trophy for our Women's Region 12 (Pacific Northwest) team. Way to go, Jenah!!
Here's a reposting of a video I made of one of Jenah's fights this spring.
More info on Jenah
This paper was worth the wait. I could have taken a stab at answering why you, an accomplished bodybuilder who is finding a newfound love for pure strength and joy training, should work Olympic-style weightlifting into your regimen. But I've been tracking down this paper, because this writer says it so well.
Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting Paper
In the process, I stumbled onto another outstanding piece on the same subject. I'll post that as Part II.
Got a deal on a squat cage off Craigslist and spent the rest of Memorial Day Weekend deep cleaning and rearranging the gym. Finally dumping the graveyard - treadmill, attachments for leg extension/curls, bun & thigh roller, worn out bar. The sanctuary is looking pretty sweet. Also made my first video with the new version of iMovie - added a voiceover. All in all, a fun weekend.