Friday, December 30, 2005

Dating... sizing it up (part one)

So... I just have to share this one...

I was chatting with a friend recently and the conversation rolled around to dating. He told me that he has always dated "bigger women". (We did not define what "bigger" meant.)

I asked him, "So... you've never dated "smaller" women?" (Again, we did not define what "smaller" meant. Either we both understood or it was just too awkward to go there...)

He replied, "Well... yes... more or less." He then went on to tell me that he'd had one very active year during which he dated about 60 women he'd met on line - most of them for one coffee date only. (60 women in one year -- Studly, huh?) Anyway, he said, "I came to the conclusion that there's a direct relationship between a woman's size and how interesting she is."

"Excuse me?!" I demanded, forgetting all manners and rules of decorum and diplomacy...

"Well, yeah... I mean... In my experience, the bigger women are more... well... interesting... The ones with perfect bodies, perfect hair and perfect make up are... well... boring."

I can honestly say that I've never heard such a thing from a man before.

Any man.


And being a woman who has been both "bigger" (Canadian size 22) and "smaller" (Canadian size 4) -- and continued to date / have relationships throughout my ... er... "ups and downs", shall we say... these particular comments did leave me thinking about the whole issue of size and attraction.

And at the moment, I'm not sure I have any conclusions... so I'm putting this out there for feedback. Lemme know your thoughts on this one, OK?

"What's boxing day?"

So, in answer to a comment on the last post, "Boxing Day" is what we call December 26. I'm not sure of the origin of it, so if anyone knows, feel free to post a comment about it.

Nowadays it is also a huge shopping day. It used to be a great day to get Christmas cards and wrap that were marked down to half price or less. now, some stores have mega-sales-blitzes on just about everything.

For those who receive gift certificates as gifts, Boxing Day is a wonderful day to spend them, because often you can get much more for your money, so to speak.

Certain electronics and furniture stores are famous for their Boxing Day sales. People start lining up at 4:00 a.m. or some other ungodly hour.

Alia and I arrived to the mall at 8:00 a.m. (when it opened) and later heard that some people had been lined up since 6:00 a.m. Being the pragmatic types we are, that seemed ludicrous to us... so we arrived on time and still got all the wrap, cards and whatnot that we hoped to pick up.

I used to work in retail when I was doing my B.A. and Boxing Day was a hideous day to work. All the Christmas spirit seemed to melt away, as people fought and pushed to get what they want. So, I am conscious of this now that I'm wearing "shopper's shoes" instead of "clerk's shoes"... and try to save a little holiday spirit for Boxing Day, too.

For those of you living in the States.... you mean to say... this doesn't happen south of the northern border?!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

So, this is what it feels like to relax

Last Friday most people who work at the university got to go home around lunch time. That morning at work, I was fantasizing about napping, perhaps indulging in a bubble bath or kicking back with a non-school book.

Alas, my fantasy was never realized... at least not that day...

Couldn't chill out. Instead, I felt like a chipmunk on speed (not that I'd know what one of those looks like, but we can imagine...) I zipped from one end of the house to the other, not knowing that to do. So, I sorted a semester's worth of recycling in the basement (scary stuff!) and took it to the depot. I did a b'zillion loads of laundry. Cleaned both bathrooms. Cleaned the kitchen. Put together some Christmas parcels (now known as "New Year's gifts"). Finally, about 5:00 p.m. or so, sat down and turned on the T.V. for an hour, which is just another way of saying I fidgeted, while pretending I was relaxing.

Christmas Eve was spent with friends and Christmas Day was with family. While I was at Aaron and Nicole's on the 25th, Aaron kept apologizing, saying he hoped the day wasn't too boring.

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "I'm delighted just to have the chance to kick back and do nothing!" Well, we did go for that Christmas Day walk, but that was just fun time, really... Followed quickly by some rum and egg nog and naps all around before digging into turkey. Mmmm.... turkey....

Needless to say, Christmas Day was wonderful and the blissfully warm weather we've been having made for excellent driving conditions for the trip to Red Deer and back.

Yesterday involved some serious Boxing Day Power Shopping with Alia and then, when I got home, I finally started a non-school book I've been dying to get into... Watching the English, a book about the customs and traditions of the English, sent to me by Adrian, one of my many English cousins. So far, I must say that it is an excellent read and I'd definitely recommend it.

And so, here it is... December 27... and I finally feel like I'm starting to wind down...

Now with any luck, I'll get those parcels and cards mailed off tomorrow!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday tidbits (including knee update)

Well, today was my last day at work until January 2. The university is closed until then. (Happy sigh...)

Naturally, I have a big pile of reading to do, most of which is dense, thick stuff that no one in their right mind would spend their Christmas holidays trying to digest. But everyone knows that academic types are rarely in their right minds, so I at least have to try to look like a proper grad student. (Hee hee!)

And of course, I will be going to the gym. I was there today and it was deliciously dead. There were a few warm bodies around, but no one had to wait for anything. I enjoyed every second of it, knowing that the place will be a zoo in the New Year.

How do I know this, you ask? I only started going to the gym at the beginning of June, after all... I know, because I have been warned my just about anyone I chat with who has witnessed (in other words, survived) JiG (January in the Gym). Apparently it goes back to normal by February...

I slogged it out in the warmest months of our ever-so-short summer, when every one in their right mind was outside enjoying the sunshine. My ulterior motive was to ensure I was in the habit of going regularly and consistently. It worked. I go.

Though that does seem to show evidence that I am indeed not in my right mind. Hhhmmmm.... Must ponder that one...

With any luck, by next summer I will not be in the gym every day... perhaps only every second day. I will (like any sane person) be outside some days... enjoying the sunshine

... running.

Yes, you read that right.


I am happy to report that there is much progress on the knee front. General swelling has subsided and my twice daily routine of "new exercises for leg muscles" seems to be paying off.

My physiotherapist gave me a beautiful Christmas gift - hope. (He also jabbed me with three needles, but let's not focus on that, shall we?)

I am allowed to walk over the holidays - on a treadmill, outside, wherever I damn well please! Of course, I have to change how I walk and retrain my muscles so my knees don't roll around. But he dangled a carrot in front of me... "If you can manage that OK and you take it easy... focus on your technique... In the New Year we can get you back running again."

Merry Christmas to me! I shall strap on my heart rate monitor and go do some neighbourhood hills tomorrow, I think... Just because I can!

Christmas day I'll zip up to Red Deer (a mere two-hour drive from where I live on the west side of Calgary) to spend the day with my big brother, Aaron, and sister-in-law, Nicole. Oh yeah... and Hogan the dog... and the four cats... Must remember not to wear black! (Maybe we can even take the dog for a walk after turkey... Yay!)

Anyway, I may be away from the blog-o-sphere for a few days, as I partake in holiday cheer, but I will check in again soon...

Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and general Warm Holiday Greetings (for whatever you and yours celebrate.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I've got that Christmas feelin'... ooh, that Christmas feelin'....

A quick update:

Students' final exams - corrected!

Students' final marks - submitted!

My final essay (submitted with me wearing my student hat, not my teacher hat) - returned! (I really have officially survived the first semester.)

Christmas shopping - done!

Flat tire acquired while Christmas shopping - being repaired as I write!

Christmas spirit - finally filling my soul and oozing deliciously through my veins from head to foot (and no, I don't mean liquid Christmas spirit - though my crystal ball says there may be some of that in my future - ho ho ho!)

With any luck, parcels will be wrapped and a few cards ready by the time my head hits the pillow tonight.

Sigh... contented, blissful sigh, that is...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Shriek! It's Christmas week already! And I'm not ready!!

How did this happen, I ask you? How???

Christmas is less than a week away and I'm not ready! No lights up outside... Tree still in the box... Half the gifts still need to be bought... No cards sent to England (or anywhere else, for that matter...)

Haven't even started my annual Christmas letter yet! And usually I'm done by the middle of November, with envelopes dutifully addressed and cards written...


I still have to finish marking exams... Thankfully, they're almost done... (The exam was 12-pages, in case you are wondering why it's taking me so long! It's a common exam for all Spanish sections, so I didn't have any choice in the matter....)

Santa, can I please have an extra 5 hours in each day from now until the end of the year?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Back to having a puffy knee

Sigh... so, after a few weeks of diligently… religiously… even obsessively… following Tim (a.k.a The Physiotherapist)’s instructions of stretching, leg lifts, icing and anti-inflammatory cream… staying off the track, off the bike, off the leg press and doing my only cardio in the pool… I was delighted when he told me I could go back on the bike.

But… only for 10 minutes at a time.

I groaned.

That is not my idea of cardio. That is a warm up.

“How long have you been going on the bike?” He asked.

“An hour.” I replied.

I was shot a very stern look accompanied by, “That’s too much. Twenty minutes of cardio should do it…. but you have to work up to it. Start with 10 minutes and increase it ... gradually!”

I promised.

I was also told I could go back to the leg press, which has now been modified to strengthen only certain muscles (whose name I have yet to learn... the ones just above your knee on the inside of your leg. Feel free to enlighten me...)

And those damned squats. Have I mentioned how much I hate squats?

I loathe squats!

I had a training session yesterday. Showed Chris the new modified exercises and he was positively delighted that I’m doing squats. No kidding… His face lit up like a Christmas tree he was beaming so brightly .

He tried to get me to do them a few months ago and I did try… alone… in my kitchen… simply lacked the leg strength… and balance. My legs do feel a bit stronger now… but I still hate them. He showed me a variation to try… great… endless ways of squatting!

So… yesterday I did all the usual exercises, ten minutes on the bike and the modified leg press.

Today my right knee is puffed up like a basket ball. It doesn’t hurt, but I am more aware of it than I have been since I started physio. Ice has definitely been my friend today.

I was scheduled to do cardio today, but the open time for the pool just didn’t work with my schedule, so I didn't do any cardio today.

I feel restless, but I’m sure my students will thank me… I planted my ass in a chair and spent most of the day correcting their exams, with my leg up on another chair and the knee crowned with a bag of frozen peas. Oh the exciting life of a Spanish teacher with a puffy knee!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Being jabbed with needles makes me laugh

Had my third physio session today. Tim found another tight muscle and asked, "Can I put just one needle in that?"

Of course, I found myself saying yes again. (Still can't believe I trust someone I barely know enough to stick me with accupuncture needles -- or any kind needle, for that matter -- but there you go...)

Well, one needle ended up being two. I mentioned that I can't even watch needles on TV and he said, "Good... We're helping you deal with your fears then."

Yeah... that's it....

We have figured out something, Tim and I... when he says, "Tell me when you feel it..."

Of course... I'm so out of touch with my body that there's nothing.... nothing... nothing... then I go from zero to ... (
well... let's not put a number on it...) in a fraction of a second.

What happens is that I involuntarily break out into spasms ... of laughter.

It's totally bizarre... embarrassing, almost.

Today, Tim smiled when this happened and said, "OK.... we know that when you laugh you feel it... That's good... That's our goal then... make you laugh."

Me... gasping... giggling... "Yeah... Sure... Whatever... Now -- Stop!"

Elections in Canada

Did you know we're having elections in Canada in January?

I don't often to x-blog links, but Mac put in a whole lot of hard work getting up to speed on our politics, so I'm inviting you to check out his blog:

It's good stuff, eh!

I have officially survived first semester!

I passed in my last paper of my first semester yesterday. Woo hoo!

It's worth (the other) 50% of the final grade and me being me, I'm stressing a bit about it. But... not as much as last time.

I think I spent most of the first semester stressing, actually, which, as my older brother pointed out to me, is totally out of character for me -- at least when it comes to school. I think that having been out of school for seven ... no... make that eight... years, changing disciplines (again!) and working at the doctoral level all took their toll on my confidence. But I have survived!

Not only survived, but I got through the first semester without ballooning (and actually "dropping some tonnage", as the same dear older brother put it so delicately). That's another first for me.

Going to the gym has definitely helped to keep me sane, as has the wonderful support network of friends and family I am so lucky to have– and yes, even blogging has helped!

I just have to correct my students’ final exams and then I’ll be done wearing my teacher hat for the semester, too.

Is that a light I see at the end of the tunnel?

Oh yeah, and by the way... I still haven't really started my Christmas shopping or sent any cards, so you might be getting New Year's greetings from me! Don't take it personally.... everyone will be treated equally... meaning... late -- but not forgotten! ;-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On giving up

So, before I get to the story of this post, let me give you a quick snapshot of my day:

  • Woke up late.
  • Zoomed to the airport (generously driven part of the way there by T.G.)
  • Flew to Edmonton (our province's capital city, about 300 km north of here, or a 1 hour flight) with a colleague.
  • Met with officials from our ministry of education about some research projects we’re involved in.
  • Got the 2:00 p.m. flight back to Calgary.
  • Went into the office; checked e-mail; put out a few proverbial fires.
  • Zipped over to the fitness centre for a quick swim.

Went to invigilate my students’ final exam, which happened to be in one of the big gyms at the fitness centre. (All the gyms get turned into big exam rooms at this time of year.) So… it was a busy day. Go go go… not much breathing room.

I dunno about you, but when I go on overdrive like that, I can be stopped dead in my tracks by something unexpected... Well, emotionally at least… Though I would rarely show such a thing in public and especially not at work! That's exactly what happened tonight.

All the students registered in Spanish wrote their final exams in the same big gym, along with all the students registered in some other course (an engineering course, I think).

The gym flooded with a few hundred students who all found their pre-assigned seat. The final exam began and each instructor surveyed their row of students to do a quick head count.

I saw one empty desk in my row. My heart sank. Some of you may remember the student I had who was struggling. If you don’t, you can check out the post here: Revelation. That student never showed up for the final exam. He gave up.

Of course, this played on my mind during the two-hour exam, but again, I’m not one to openly show such things.

A few of the students has asked me to join them at the campus bar for a drink after the exam. Whenever students invite me to join them in an after-exam beverage, I always accept. Not only is it a nice way to round out the semester, but I know that not every instructor gets invited out by their students and I’m lucky to have students who, after writing a brutal 2-hour exam, still want to see my face!

Anyway, I went to the bar, as I’d promised. The girl who sat next to this struggling student in class said, “So it looks like G. dropped out.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I figured, since he wasn’t at the final.”

She said, “He mentioned to me in our last class that he was thinking about it. He’s got straight A’s in all his other courses. He was just having a hard time with this one.”

I know. I spent a good deal of time giving him extra help, finding and photocopying extra practice activities and generally trying to help him get through.

Our last Spanish class was last Thursday. G. was there. Said something on the way out about thanks for everything. I didn't clue in that it was his way of saying, “AdiĆ³s”.

The last day to drop classes was the next day – Friday. We figured he must have waited until the very last minute and then dropped the course.

I have learned in my 12-year teaching career that you can’t read minds. Usually, we teachers have no idea what’s going on in our students’ lives or their heads unless they tell us.

Most first-year university classes are big and impersonal. Language classes are typically not. My class this year had about 30 students in it. By the end of the course, I know all their names, they know each other’s names and there’s been a fair amount of group bonding that’s happened.

So, if students drop out, it’s not all that unusual for them to let me know. Though sometimes it makes me sad, I always appreciate them telling me. But G. didn’t… for reasons I’ll never know.

Sometimes, students don’t know that their teachers care … or even notice, when they’re not there. But I do. In fact, I think most teachers who actually get to know their students do notice when things are out of the ordinary.

G. doesn’t know that I had his last assignment to hand back to him tonight and that his grade had gone up. The way he was going, he would have certainly passed the exam.

I’ve also learned that you can’t take professional things personally. Generally, I don’t. I certainly don’t blame myself for G. dropping out. Like I said, I have no idea what was going on in his head. But it does leave me feeling sad.

OK, here’s me being real… I’m sitting here blogging about it, fairly choked up…. to see someone so smart and so “together”, who had put in so much time and effort, and money (tuition and books) and just sheer determination… throw it all away at the very end.

In general, I love teaching. Just not at the moment.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Accupuncture - a first for me

So, I had my second physio appointment today. During the session, Tim (a.k.a. The Physiotherapist) said, "You're afraid of needles, right?"

I replied, "I never actually told you that..."

He said, "Yeah... but you are."

(Intuitive fellow!)

I said, "Well, kinda... but it doesn't matter. I just deal with it. Why?"

"You could use some accupuncture on this leg. It's pretty tight." He replied.

I found myself saying, "OK, yeah... sure... I'd trust you to do that."

Now, tell me... How can you trust a man, whom you've met only once before, to jab small pieces of metal into your body? (Multiple small pieces of metal!) Especially when those small pieces of metal are probably in your list of "Top 3 things I hate / fear most in the whole entire world"?

I can't even watch needles on TV.

And here I was... telling Tim he could do accupuncture on me.

Was I out of my mind?

I said, "I've never done this before, so you're gonna have to walk me through it."

He replied, "OK, no problem. You're not going to faint on me, are you?"

"Oh, no. Takes a lot more than that to get me to pass out."

And a few moments later the first needle went in my leg...

One thing I can say for sure: That is a hell of a way to learn body awareness! I think I was more aware of my body today than I have been, oh... possibly ever!

And I'm still alive to blog about it.

PS: Still barred from running and all lower body exercies (cardio, weights, etc.) until further notice... Apparently, my right knee is messed up but good.

Thoughts on "Christmas spirit"

I've seen some interesting posts on other people's blogs lately about the spirit of Christmas (one of which was apparently inspired by me!)

So, to join in the conversation... Here's an anecdote to ponder:

I was once touched by a story I heard about Mother Teresa. Apparently, she was being interviewed by a radio program in the States. The announcer said they'd like to give her a gift, but didn't know what she'd like. She said something to the effect of:

"Yes, there is something I would like. I would like for you to get up at 4:00 a.m. Go downtown. Look around. Find a homeless person who is completely and utterly alone. And convince him that he is not.”

Who knows if the story is true or not, but it does leave us with much to think about.

And the interesting thing is that… you could do this at any time of year.

About 5 years ago I started to do volunteer work. I don’t always have a lot of time for it, but since I started, I’ve never quit.

I know that at this time of year, some agency directors actually get frustrated because they are positively inundated with calls from people wanting to come and help serve Christmas dinner. They say, “Why don’t these people come and volunteer in the bitter cold of February or when it's the middle of summer and our volunteer pools are down because people are on holidays? Don’t they know that people are homeless all year ’round?”

I hope I don’t sound like too much of a Scrooge if I say that I think sometimes the Christmas spirit is a bit like an infection… It festers and grows, and then you get it out of your system and next thing you know it’s gone. That sounds a bit harsh, I know... and I don't mean for it to be. I actually love the holiday season, but the fact "Christmas spirit" is just that... only around at Christmas... makes me sad.

They say, “Kindness counts for a lot”. There is, however, no time restriction put on that. We could choose to be kind to one another all the time… but we forget.

Sometimes when I go to the gym, the fellow who gives me my towel will say, “Happy Tuesday!” or “Happy Thursday!” In a way that says, “Isn’t it great to be alive today?! Let’s celebrate it.” I think maybe he’s on to something.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Snippits from Christmas party conversations…

snippit #1 – On running to relieve stress

Other guest 1 – Yeah, I run to relieve my stress.

Me – Oh, really?

Other guest 1 – Yeah… every other day or so… 7 or 8 km during the week and 18-20 km every weekend.

Me – 20 km? That’s, like, half a marathon! Every weekend?

Other guest 1 - It’s pretty much the only way I can keep myself sane.

Me – Wow.

snippit #2 – Awkward moment with a tipsy colleague

Other guest 2 (had a few too many drinks, I think…) – Sarah, you’re looking good these days. You’ve lost a lot of weight, haven’t you?

Me – Yes… some.

Other guest 2 – Well, you’re looking fabulous.

Me – Thank you.

Other guest 2 – No, really… I mean… You’re… like… wow… I mean… You’re just… adorable… I’ve always thought you were adorable, but I … wow… I … just can’t stop looking at you… I mean…

Me – [nervous laugh… surprised (because he’s so professional with me he’s almost cold and definitely hard to get to know) and also feeling embarrassed (because ... well... just because...) and mortified… (because his poor wife was within earshot and Attached Men are not my thing. Poor woman...) Finally said…] I … er… think I need a refill on my drink… excuse me…

snippit #3 – On making connections

Other guest 3 – Yeah, so my Dad’s learning Spanish.

Me – Oh yeah? Cool. Must be pretty easy, considering he’s Italian and all.

Other guest 3 – You’d think so, eh? But it’s the weirdest thing. He speaks Spanish with an English accent, not an Italian one. And he struggles with basic vocabulary words that are so similar to Italian it’s just… obvious. It’s like… he hasn’t figured out that he can transfer from Italian to Spanish… even though they’re so close…. Weird, eh?

Me – Yeah, kind of… You’d think he’d be able to make the connection.

Other guest 3 – You’d think so… but it’s like he’s never learned another Romance language at all… completely bizarre this inability to make the link.

Me – [Thinking of my own inability to make connections between things that seem obvious to others] – Well, he’ll probably get it eventually… The light bulb will just turn on one day, you know?

Other guest 3 – Sure hope so… It’s kinda freaky though…

All in all, a very good party indeed... even with a few interesting and unexpected moments, as any good party should have... and at least one awkward one, as most parties have, even though it would be nicer if they didn't.

And with that, I’m off to sleepy land. Another full day of holiday socializing tomorrow. I'm so happy/delighted/relieved to be able to go out, hang out and just visit with people. Been buried under work for far too long...

So glad the first draft of the paper is done!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Final paper is done!

Well, at least a draft of it is.

Considering that I promised myself that I wasn't going to the Christmas party that I have very much been looking forward to that starts... ooh... about now... until a draft was finished, I'm happy.

Needs to be proofread and tweaked, but nevertheless, it's done.

Off to par-TAY!

Epiphany #1 - Making the connection

You know those times when you're lying in bed on your way to being asleep and your mind is either wandering or working on a problem and suddenly there's this light bulb that goes off in your head? I had one of those moments last night.

I was mentally reviewing some new vocabulary I’d learned this week in my training session. I’ve told my trainer that he must explain the “how” and “why” of everything we do, including what muscle groups we’re working on.

I felt I needed to understand what we’re doing in order to “get it”. So, this week, we learned about the back, the chest, the shoulders and the back of the arms. I was mentally reviewing… “The latissimus dorsi… starts in the lower back and sweeps upwards… The pectoralis major goes across the front and attaches in the upper arm… The deltoids (anterior, posterior and middle) fit like a shoulder pad…”

Then Epiphany #1 happened.

“OH MY GOD! The deltoids! That’s where you make the V!”

When I was learning ballroom and Latin dance a few years back, they talk a lot about two things: “frame” and “connection”.

“Frame” is basically how you hold your upper body. You need to hold it in such a way that it makes it easy for your partner to lead or follow what you’re doing. Both men and women struggle to learn proper frame. “Connection” is based on push/pull principles and it is what you build in order to lead, follow and ultimately share the dance.

When you’re first learning to “have frame” as it is called, women are taught (among other things) to place their left hand on their partner’s upper arm and “find the V” with their thumb and forefinger. From there, you connect the rest of your hand to your partner’s arm and, providing your partner also “has frame”, then that is all you should need to be able to lead and follow.

Not sure what I mean? Try it with your own left hand on your right arm. You should be able to find a “V”. Naturally, some people have a more defined “V” than others, and typically, it’s relatively easy to find on most men, but not always so on women. (Many of us have weaker shoulders!) But nevertheless, I bet you can find your own “V”.

This “V”, as I discovered yesterday, is the deltoid muscle. The “V”-shape is created by the muscle tapering off at the bottom.

Why was this an epiphany? Because it was the first time I’d “made a connection” between what shoulders do in dance and what they do in a gym.

Sounds simple, I know… but some of us are slow!

The major point of wonder here is that I was able to transfer one concept or skill from one physical activity, and apply it to another! Without the "intellectual" connection of learning the muscle groups, I'm not sure I would have been able to figure it out. But they're all connected... these muscles... and physical activities. Imagine that!

By the way, here’s a cool website that is helping me to learn the names of the muscle groups:

Epiphany #2 – From “frame” to “form”

I was so thrilled with the realization that I made a “mental transfer” from the dance world to the gym world, I started thinking about it in more depth.

And another light bulb went off, resulting in... Epiphany #2.

In an earlier post, I talked about moving into the world of free weights and how I was struggling to learn the proper form for one or two basic exercises. Well, I continue to struggle… I do weight training three days a week, all of it on machines. When I’m done with machines, I grab a short broom stick and practice the form and movement for the flat bench press, and chase that with a meek attempt at practicing the form for the bent over row.

I’ve been practicing for a month... Over a month.... And I still haven’t quite gotten it. We’re getting closer, but … not quite there yet.

Last night, as I was thinking about dance frame, I realized there is a connection between this bench press thing I’ve been trying to learn, and basic dance frame.

When you’re a brand new baby ballroom dancer, one of the ways they teach you about frame is to teach you hold an “invisible beach ball” out is front of you. You “hug the beach ball”. Shoulder blades are together and down and ribs and the whole thing is supposed to be light and strong. (If it’s too strong, they’ll tell you that your beach ball is made of glass, and you mustn’t be too forceful, or you’ll break it.) Again, both men and women learn to “hug the beach ball”.

From there, you can move your arms up and down or side to side, as necessary, but “hugging the beach ball” is the basic starting position. I believe this is known as “first position” for arms in ballet (but I could be wrong...)

Men are typically taught to “create angles” with their bodies. Square this, or make a triangle out of that. Women are taught to “create curves”. Round this out, or soften that…

In the last training session, Chris kept talking about having everything at 90-degree angles.


Light bulb!

I found myself lying in bed, hugging an invisible beach ball, and drawing my arms down into 90-degree angles.

Ah ha!

This is just like having frame in dance, but I need to “move like a man”, not a woman!

My dance teacher of days long ago, David, spent all those lessons trying to get me to “move like a woman” and now in the gym Chris is trying to teach me to put everything into 90-degree angles. No wonder I didn’t get any of it. There is transfer – but I had to cross some wires (and constructed gender lines!) to do it.

As I was lying in bed, beaming silently to the ceiling, I thought “OF COURSE! What we call “frame” in dance is similar to “form” in the gym! I get it!! And … I can feel this frame… form… whatever. Of course I can feel it! How could I NOT feel this? It’s so… obvious!”

I stopped Chris today at the gym and asked him to check and see if what I thought was an epiphany actually was one (as opposed to a delusion). He seemed to think the form was better…. Maybe not perfect, but better.

I tried to explain to him how I made the connection, but he didn’t seem to really clue in. He understood that a light bulb had seemed to go off... but didn't seem to get why or how. I asked if he’d ever taken dance and the answer was as I expected… no. (I had guessed that… good trainer, though a bit of a jock, bless his heart.)

Anyway, as soon as I had it confirmed that I was not, in fact, insane, I rushed back to the office and phoned a. who not only goes to the gym now, but also has 12 years of ballet training, several years of ballroom, jazz, and African dance training behind her (so… much more of a dance background than I have.)

I explained the revelations to her and of course… she understood.

In fact… she giggled.

“What are you laughing at?” I demanded.

“Well… it’s just kind of funny… It’s all about… body movement. I mean… you’re just moving your body.”

I said, “Yeah, I know… but I didn’t make the connection before… you know… between the dance studio and the gym… Didn’t know how to connect the two… You know… gyms are full of jocks and dance studios are … well… usually not. They’re like two different worlds…”

a. said, “I know… and I’m glad you’re figuring out that you can transfer stuff from one place to the other.”

And indeed… it would appear to be so. Or perhaps I should say… I do believe… I feel it is so.

Woo hoo!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Deep water running

Some of you have commented on deep water running or fitness classes, so I thought I'd do a quickie post, since I went to my first deep water running class today.

Let me start by saying that it's nothing like land running.

Nothing at all.

But, it isn't quite as hideous as swimming.

Except that you have this flotation belt that you have to wear. And you tether yourself (yes.... tether... with a long elastic) to the buoy line.

And lemme tell ya… you have to get that flotation belt good and tight. I thought I had it on pretty well... but no...

Damn thing came sliding up... and the front of my bathing suit went sliding down (pulled downwards by all the floatation stuff pulling upwards in the back.)

Not good.

So, there was a lot of ... adjusting... going on all class. Those flotation thingys are hard to tighten when they're wet.

As for the actual moves, it wasn't bad... except that I wanted to actually run.

Despite not having done much in the way of distance, we can safely say that I'm in all out withdrawal at the moment... Not having run a step so far this month... (I can't believe it's me writing that! Good grief. Who is that at the keyboard and what have they done with Sarah?!)

Anyway, if you try to run normally in a pool, it doesn't really work out so well... The technique is different.

As it happens, this was the last class of the semester, so I'm not going to have a chance to practice again until January.

Anyway… I guess it’s back to “swimming like a rock”, as Z. puts it.

(BTW, thanks to CM for the tip on hair and swimming caps. Smearing conditioner all over your hair from roots to end before putting on the swimming cap totally worked. Good tip.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sucking it up... in the pool

OK, so most of my correcting is done and the entire class got an extension on that final paper. Whew! A bit of breathing room!

My new friend, The Physiotherapist, not only barred me from running, but from all lower body exercises. No running. No biking. No elliptical. No leg presses. No… nothing! (Except the exercises he prescribed for me, which I’ve been doing diligently, twice a day… though probably not doing them right, but whatever… been trying…)

He said, “You can go in the pool. That’s it!” And looked at me sternly in a way that said, “And if you do anything else, I’m gonna know… and you’ll know that I know… and that won’t be good.”

So, after a few days of being grumpy about it, and working through some fairly stressful confidence issues related to stuffing my lumpy body into a bathing suit, and being seen in public in one… tonight I headed over to the fitness centre for the open swimming time.

Ooooohhhh dear!

It was bad


Correction: It was sad… really and truly pitiable.

a. tells me that her heart rate shoots up when she swims. I am assuming that this is because she actually knows how to swim. Well… so do I… sort of.

Don’t get me wrong… I like the water. Love it, actually… Spent many of my growing up years in Halifax, living quite close to the harbour and have always found water peaceful and tranquil.

In fact, I could probably survive for days in it, if I had to.

But that doesn’t mean that I swim well.

I can do it… but it ain’t pretty. My heart rate didn't get anywhere close to today's target zone. Oh well! I did what I could....

I got out there for an hour today – yup, a solid hour – in the pool… and just sucked it up.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


OK, so after the high of yesterday, knowing it was the last week of classes, I've now been buried in an AVALANCHE of work, including some new stuff that landed on me today... Of course, it's major and needs to be dealt with before Christmas break.

Oh yeah... and I had a physio appointment today for my knees. Yes... both of them.

Apparently, I won't be taking my stress out on the track any time soon.

Here's hoping I don't turn back to eating as a stress reliever. (God help me!) Whatever happens, don't let me do that, OK? I've worked too hard this semester to be healthy and balanced to give it all up now!!

I may be out of the blogosphere for a couple of days, as I crawl out from under this pile of work, but I'll be back again... as soon as I can!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Any ideas on how to stay warm?

So, I've been feeding my news addiction today...

(Yes, I should be focussing on my paper... and I'm still on a high that it's the last week of classes!)

I've just finished the last of my students' oral exams this afternoon! Yaay! Poor kids... they find it nerve-wracking... I just find it painful to listen to, mostly... but they gotta do it!

Anyway, look I found in Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail:

Brutal winter ahead, climatologist predicts

So... that would be .... more brutal than any normal Canadian winter?!

(And by the way, the question in the title of this post was a bit rhetorical. We Canucks generally know how to stay warm in the winter!)

It's the last week of fall semester classes!

Woo hoo!

Zippity do dah!

One composition left to give to students.

One paper left to hand in (well, OK, write and then hand in -- and yes, it is the other one worth 50% of the final grade... ouch!)

But who cares?! We're almost there!


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Personal training seems to be catching on...

My friend Z. just had her first personal training session on Thursday. You can check out her post “Slave drivers aren’t all bad” for the details. It’s gut-splittingly funny, in my opinion. (Even if the gut that is splitting -- as in, mine - is all jiggly...)

Anyway, I must say, I’m very proud of her. She’s much fitter than I am and yet, she’s doing this to get motivated. Oh yeah… and she’s five months pregnant.

As I read her post, I realized that we seem a bit different in our needs. She hired a trainer to get motivated and seemed to start whining after the first minute of a warm up.

Me, I’m different. I told my trainer I’d be sort-of-kind-of-interested in running and when he said, “OK… why don’t we start with 25 laps around the track?”

I did them and almost threw up afterwards.

Someone later said that maybe he said that thinking that I wouldn’t actually do it and would quit after 5 or maybe 10 laps, and so perhaps he said to do more than any sane person might start with. After reading Z’s post, I can see why someone might think that.

I need someone to train me sensibly and NOT let me go overboard. I think Z’s the normal one and I’m just wacko.

Anyway, when I’m not at the verge of making myself vomit, I kind of stand/sit/lay there, look at my trainer show me something and say, "How the ^&%$ do you do that again?!" I try, mess it up, have to try again… and on it goes.

A classmate at school has also signed up for personal training… with my trainer! In class last week, we had group presentations and the group brought snacks. His plate was loaded up with chips and dip, and I had some veggies and hummus. I said with a wink, “I see you’re getting ready to start training soon.” He replied that he was enjoying himself as much as possible before he started training.

I just thought, “Indeed… I feel an ass whooping coming on!”

Anyway, Z., I’m very proud of you! Now all you have to do is buy a 10-pack of sessions with L. just to make sure you continue!

Personal trainer recommends chocolate milk

Had another personal training session on Friday.

Yes, I went back.

I wasn’t 100% sure about it, but when you buy a pack of 10 sessions, there is strong motivation to use them up!

Chris was a complete sweetie about it and we did exactly what I asked for in the session: reviewed my training log and spent time re-grouping, re-focusing and strategizing. He answered all my questions, including some I had on what to eat before and after I work out.

The recommendation for after the work out was: get something into your system as soon as possible, within a half an hour, if possible.

What to have? Get this: chocolate milk.

When he said that, I said, “What? Are you out of your mind? I can’t believe you’re a personal trainer and you’re telling me to drink chocolate milk!”

Chris responded, “Yup. That’s what I have. It has four things that you need after a work out: simple sugars, complex sugars, protein and fat.”

Though the idea of consuming fat directly after exercise doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, I took his word for it. After my work out, I stopped by the store and got some chocolate milk.

First time in ages I’ve had chocolate milk.

And it was divine.

I think I like this new training program already.

(Note to self: Because we had a strategy session this time and not an actual workout, I’m guessing that I’ll have to be prepared work like a demon next time…)

from "plodding" to "running" to... stop

A while ago I made a decision to change how I talk about running; that is... to stop saying "plodding" and call it "running".

This was not due to a change in pace. In fact, with the revised running program I had in November, my pace got slower, as I was targeting lower heart rate ranges.

It was a change in thinking.

I figured that if I changed the word, then I might start to think and act like a runner. I might even "feel" like one. (And wouldn't that impress the trainer, if I actually felt something?)

Well, sadly, I did start to feel something. My knee. At first, I don't think it registered. Then it registered and I kind of ignored it.

Then I figured that now's as good a time as any to try to start to pay attention to my body and what it tells me through signals of pain... So I did my best to tune in.

Three weeks later I was able to identify where exactly it hurt.

And I made an appointment with the doctor.

During our visit, I learned a new term: medial collateral ligament.

"Could you write that down for me?" I asked her.

She did. Then she left the office and came back with a model of a knee and showed me where this ligament is. The model was very cool and I "got it" immediately.

Turns out my "medial collateral ligament" (or "MCL", as it's shortened to by people who know what they're talking about) on both knees is injured.

So, I'm barred from running for the next little while. Must ice and use anti-inflammatory cream. And go to physio.

How did this happen? We're not sure. Is it bad? Not really... I'm sure there's much worse... There were days when climbing stairs was a bit nasty, but no days where I couldn't actually walk.

I've been told it is a good thing I was actually able to pay attention to my body and get treatment while it's still in the early stages. That made me feel good... Trying to be gentle with this body as a I learn to push it to its limits... which means... not that far at this point!

So for now... no more running for Sarah.