Thursday, July 30, 2009

Self-help-philosphizing-talkative spin instructor vs. Snarky-disobedient-spin-partner.

Sometimes you just need a friend that really speaks her mind, even if you are continually fearing that you will be kicked out of spin class. Favorite quote of the evening:
Friend: "See he didn't say anything about no talking during class."
River: "You were talking when he made that announcement."

Winner.......snarky-disobedient-spin partner.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Be eccentric!

Well not that kind of eccentric. I'm talking about the muscle-building type of eccentric. The kind of eccentric that allows you to do exercises that you normally don't have the strength to do. Ok ok lets go back to the beginning in case you didn't get your degree in gym, like me.
In every excercise there is an concentric and eccentric component. Concentric contraction is the part where the muscle is producing force and shortening in length. Eccentric contraction is the opposite, the muscle is producing force but is lengthening. Confused? Let's look at an example. Imagine, or do, a bicep curl. When you lift the weight up from the starting position and you see that lil knot of muscle get smaller ( no sight of one? do more curls, just don't do too many) that is the concentric phase. When you lower the weight back to the starting position you muscle is contracting eccentrically.
So why do you need to know this? Working the eccentric phase of an exercise allows you to perform an exercise you might not otherwise be able to do. This is particulary useful for those just getting back into the swing of things fitness-wise or those who are building up to a more difficult strength skill. For example, like many people, particularly woman, I am unable to perform a full set of unassisted pull-ups. So instead of struggling for one and being done, I break the pull-ups into two components. The first part, I pull myself up to the bar assisted by a chair, focusing on full range of motion. Once up I hang unassisted and slowly lower myself down for a count of 5 to the starting position. Make sure that you lower yourself in a controlled manner, don't just drop.
So what other excercises can I do this with? Well......anything. If you are at a stand still in progression with a particular exercise try working on the eccentric component, especially with the more difficult exercises (e.g. pistol squats). One warning: You will be sore. For reasons not fully undersood (although there are many theories) eccentric exercises will make you more sore and stiff. However, the next time you perform the exercise soreness and stiffness will decrease. But in my personal opinion the gains made trumps the annoying soreness that makes you feel like an old lady/man hobbling around. And you can also tell everyone how sore you are from the killer workout you just did, which in turn causes them to think your a superstar of fitness.
With knowledge comes change (or at least it should), so use this knowledge to expedite your fitness goals and create the functional strength you require ( from squatting while planting your herb garden to jumping a fence while evading the long arm of the law) to live the life you desire.
I would lift my arm to wave good bye, but I'm too sore...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's in a name?

Nicknames are just so freaking cool. Most everyone has a friend or family member who is referred to more by their nickname than their actual name. And if you are like me and are nickname-less sometimes your just down right jealous of them. So how does one get an awesome nickname? Well lets first start with the types of nicknames. My favorite type is the ironic nicknames like the 400-lb Samoan referred to as “Tiny”. There are the nicknames that are an observation on peculiarity like Bill Mlkvy who played basketball for the Temple University Owls and was referred to as “The Owl Without a Vowel” (Hint: look at his last name). Other nicknames come from your childhood like George Herman “Babe” Ruth who typically left crying like a baby when older kids wouldn’t let him play baseball with them. All good nicknames despite arising from different situations.
Okay so now that we have the basics, how do you go about getting one? You may remember the Seinfield episode where George tries to give himself the nickname “T-Bone”. This is major violation of the most important rule in the nickname game- DO NOT GIVE YOURSELF A NICKNAME! Ever, not even if you think it might be the one exception to the rule. The “no-self-nicknaming” rule is probably the reason getting a rocking nickname is so difficult. You have to depend on those around you to do be creative and come up with something fantastic. Which brings me to rule numero 2- Do not be the guy/gal that continually tries to give everyone around you a nickname. It’s annoying. Nicknames are kind of a spur of the moment thing, a feeling, what the French call a certain je ne sais quoi. Here is a great example of a spur of the moment nickname.

If your friends just suck and can’t figure out something for ya the only other solution is to become an ultimate fighter. Seriously, have you seen the nicknames MMA fighters rock? Come on, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Anderson “The Spider” Silva, and my favorite Gina “Conviction” Carano.....those are some pretty intimidating names.

Good luck in your nickname quest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So simple even a caveman could do it.

The beautiful summer months have brought about multiple camping trips as of late. I am a strong believer that food just tastes better in general when consumed outside and barefoot. But ya know what makes food even mo betta, cooking it on sizzling hot coals! Something about going back to the basics (even if you are surrounded by 15 RVs) and cooking on a campfire, especially without a pot/pan, really lets you commune with nature. And lets face it when you confidently throw edible objects purposed for consumption on ambers fellow campers stand in awe, which normally makes you feel like a BAMF. So here are a few of my favorite cooked-on-coals foods/recipes.

Before you start you are going to need to start a raging fire. Okay it doesn't have to be raging, but as a slight pyro mine always end up that way. Once you have burned a few big logs you should have some decent ambers/coals. Rake the coals over to one side and the firey/burning logs to the other. Even them out a little and you know have a fantastic cooking surface better than any Sear's sales associate can sell ya on.

  1. Corn on the Cobb- * Crucial note- you need corn still in the husk or you will end up with popcorn*. This one is simple. Place corn on coals. Burn the crap out of it until the side facing down is black (usually about 10 minutes). Flip and repeat. Summer time has the added bonus of providing exceptionally delicious corn which allows for corn on the cobb in its simplest form. However, those who need a lil more flavor can go with the classic salt and butter. For those reclaiming resistance against traditionalism can try one of my newest obsessions Luizianne Cajun Season to, as Emeril would say, kick it up another notch. (VEGAN FRIENDLY)

  2. Banana Boats-Possibly my favorite campfire treat. If you like smores and you like bananas chances are you are going to love this one too. So here is the low down on these lil beauties. Cut the banana lengthwise leaving the banana in the peel. Stuff goodness inside. Now my classic fall backs are chocolate chunks and marshmallows because they are staples in other camping classic smores. However, don't let conventionality hold you down. Anything that melts will be fantastic in these buggers. Have some extra Reese's Minis? How bout some Rollos? Or Mini Snickers? Go wild! Once you cram all the goodness that will fit wrap that baby up in some tin foil and threw it on the coals. Cook for about 5-6 minutes or you smell some the chocolate burning (people with ADD this will be your cue). The best news is that if you put something in the there that maybe you shouldn't have experimented with you have a fire handy to burn that thing up, no evidence left. (Possibly VEGAN FRIENDLY)

  3. Veggie pack- Throw some veggies in a tin foil pack with some seasoning and you've got some natural goodness coming your way in a jiffy. (VEGAN FRIENDLY)

  4. Campfire Hobo Packs- Politically incorrect name, taste bud correct flavor. Again make a tinfoil pouch. Through some rustic vegetables inside (i.e. potatoes, carrots, onions, celery) alongside with beef cubes. Add a little water and some onion soup mix. Seal it up and in 20-30 minutes you hot bag of joy.

So next time your on your way out to the great wilderness or just your backyard try out a few and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You spin me right round, baby right round like a record, baby

Oh spin class. One of the many activities that I love to hate and here is why.


  • Bikes! Stationary or not I love bikes!Music- When an instructor composes the perfect playlist it really gives me the urge to turn that resistance knob a little more than usual.

  • Sweating- I know its not the most attractive thing (which is why I am never disillusioned by the fact that I will never find a mate at the gym), but man at least you feel like you did something.

  • Friends- Despite having crazy instructors that only want to hear their own voice, spinning does have the advantage over actual bike riding in that it is way less dangerous to converse with friends while riding. In addition, some of my friends are particularly fond of activities involving two wheels. And although I haven't taken a spin class with the one specific friend I'm thinking of, I imagine it would be enjoyable (especially since she has some life changing momentum going right now).

  • Fitness/Tired Level- Maybe the biggest PRO for spin class is the fact that no matter your fitness level you can do spin. If your having a rough day or you just aren't going full force you can easily adjust your workload.


  • It's not a real bike- Maybe it is obsession with bikes, but one of the things I despise about spin class is the fact that I am indoor. Riding my bike is the equivalent to mediation for me. I have had many "Ah ha" moments about myself and my life while riding a bike.

  • Instructors- Sometimes the most convenient time period for your workout is when your least favorite instructor is teaching. As a former group fitness instructor I understand that not every instructor is going to cater to your preferences, but man it is really annoying sometimes to hear people talk. Especially when they feel the need to talk to the entire time. As a positive this is a good time to practice tuning people out and getting into your own zone.

  • Music- Argh! I am not a fan of the techno/workout remixes of songs. Stick to the originals people.

So if you have the opportunity to partake in a spin class grab a friend and jump on. Here are some helpful tips if your a little intimdated by the spandex clad fitness junkies piling into the room with you.

  1. Don't be afraid to ask. Get to class a few minutes early and let the instructor know it's your first time. They can easily set you up without the embarrasment of trying to figure out which knobby-thingy moves your seat down.

  2. Figuring out your basic bike fit is fairly simply. Most spin bikes have three basic adjustment. First, saddle height. You can eyeball it by standing next to the saddle (seat) and adjust it to the height of your hips. Then hop on and, with the ball of your foot on the pedal, push down until the pedal is at the very bottom. When you foot is parallel with the floor your knee should be slightly bent. Once you get that squared away you need to adjust the saddle forward and backward. This is the most difficult part I think because you kind of have to find the "sweet spot" on the saddle. I usually slide around on the saddle and pedal for a bit before I decide that's the spot. Once you find it place the pedal at the 3 o'clock position (crank arm parallel to the floor). In this position you are trying to get your knee cap directly over the center of the pedal. Finally, the handlebar height. In the beginning go for what is comfortable, which is probably going to be higher. Shoot for the same height as the saddle or higher. As your fitness increases you may find that you want to lower the height of the handlebars. This will increase the demand of your core muscles to support your body. Once you get everything set start spinning. Don't be afraid to change things, even during class. These are basically guidelines that are "biomechanically" correct, however not everyone is built the same. A few millimeters of change in adjustments can make a big difference. So experiment.

  3. Those padded-ass shorts were made for a reason. A good pair of shorts is a wise investment if spinning becomes part of your regular fitness regime. Again the guys, or gals, at your local bike shop can help you out in your decision. Your looking for a good chamois that is not just a giant pad. Giant pad= feeling like your riding in a diaper. So avoid that. Also bad, chaffing....nuff said.

  4. Hydrate! Unlike riding a bike outdoors there is limited air flow. Its gonna be hot so remember to drink.

Hope this post has given you a lil spark of desire to go forth and experience what might be your favorite new activity. Don't be afraid to try something new. A lil change never hurt no one!