Monthly Archives: February 2009

Pump that Body

One of the great things about doing the good ol’ Get Active class at Yaralla gym is the variety of exercises on offer.  The format can be a bit haphazard, but we get to try all the various types of aerobic workouts that the Les Mills mob make available.  Les has some great workouts, but absolutely crap taste in music.  Of course, this is just my humble opinion, but if Les were to start using AC/DC, Guns n Roses, and perhaps The Angels music to pump up his devotees, then I’d bet there would be a lot more men in those classes.  Techno is just noise to me, I prefer music that makes you want to jump, run and scream.  The sort of music that the psych ops folk recommend to soldiers heading into battle.  Music to make you violent, and criminally insane perhaps?

Anyway, the workouts are great, and early on in the piece, I had another lesson in humility, but got a fantastic workout at the same time.  This particular day the workout was Body Pump.  The object is to work out with weights, usually dumbells, and barbells.  Great!  Let’s do this thing! 

Noting how tiny the weights the ladies around me were putting onto their bars I actually smirked.  It’s true, a real snort of derision.  Puffing my chest out a little I sauntered over to the weights bench and selected some ‘manly’ sized weights, and slid them onto the ends of my bar.  I hefted it, maybe I should toss a couple more on?  Nah, better start light.  The lady next to me goggled at the size of my weights, “Are you sure you want that many?” she asked, a look of concern on her face. 

I wanted to laugh the laugh of a man who has stared down death, but instead I merely shrugged, and said the words that have been number one cause of most Ozzie mens’ deaths, “She’ll be right.”  She shook her head and looked away.  I had another little smirk.

The class started, and as I hefted the weights the trainer looked over and called, “Um, you sure you want to lift that much weight?” 

I nodded, and smiled back at her.  She also shrugged. 

The class started well.  Really well.  I was hammering that bar up and down, over my head, side to side in time with the music, and was actually enjoying myself.  For about the first five minutes.  From there things went downhill… rapidly. 

By the ten minute mark every muscle in my arms, back and neck were screaming for mercy.  Sweat was flowing off me like a river, and it felt as if my eyeballs were going to pop out of my face and ricochet around the room.  At the fifteen minute mark the trainer called a quick break, and while the rest of the class took time out for a quick drink, and a bit of a wipe down, I dropped to the floor and started ripping weights off the end of that bar like my life depended on it…. well, it did! 

By the time the class re-started I had reduced the weight to a quarter of it’s original size, but the damage had already been done.  My arms felt as though they had been ripped off and replaced with strands of spaghetti, because I was still struggling to lift the dinky little weights that I’d left on each end. 

As is always the case when you are in an embarrassing situation, good ol’ Fate rocks up and wipes your face in it.  For some reason I glanced toward the gym, and standing there with a gaped mouth expression on his face was one of my workmates.  He looked at my trembling arms, then at the tiny weights on the ends of my bar, then back at my arms, and shook his head in disbelief.  Ok, I could see that it didn’t look good…

On my first day shift didn’t I hear all about it.  I shrugged it off, and even tried to explain, but I’d been caught cold.  I threw down the challenge.  I lifted my hand and pointed at him, wincing horribly as pain shot down my withered arm, “If you think you’re so bloody hot then, come and join in some time!”  He laughed at me.  Not one of them took up the offer.   

 Aerobics is for girls… apparently.

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On yer Bike!

This week has seen me back in the saddle again.  A couple of weeks of illness, and another two weeks off the pushie due to insane humidity levels, and rain (real live, lovely rain!) has made me become a bit too used to riding the motorbike to and from work, and up town. 

This week, the good folk at CQ had sent me all the brochures for this years Cycle Queensland ’09 Ride from Toowoomba to Toowoomba, and I must admit I started toying with the idea of doing it.  For the past month I’ve been swinging between, ‘Nah’, and ‘Maybe’.  But seeing all those photos, the ride route, and the fact that it’s through some pretty countryside… liberally sprinkled with old bush pubs, I must admit the blood started to pump a little harder. 

So, just in case, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared…  you know, just in case…  With this in mind, I dragged myself out to the shed last Sunday morning at 8’ish, threw a leg over Pubtruck and sailed off for a ride round town.  Following a tried and trusted route (no dogs) I quickly found my rythym and was enjoying myself very much.  The morning was clear and bright, the roads virtually empty of traffic, and the old girl was clicking along smoothly.  Nice. 

There was no breeze and the humidity was suddenly a solid force to be dealt with.  I quickly gulped down my first water bottle and was half way through the second one, when it dawned on me that perhaps I should re-evaluate the distance I intended to ride this morning.  Swinging off the road out of town I slipped down to the marina instead and sat in the shade of a large fig tree swigging heartily from my newly refilled water bottles.  Sweat was pouring off me by the bucket load.  It struck me that I was the only person on a bike down here this morning.  The reason for that would be that I, am an idiot.  All the other riders would have been out here at dawn, or would be holding off until this afternoon when the sea breeze kicks in. 

After re-filling the bottles I took a couple of snaps and had a good hard look at old Pubtruck.  There’s one remaining Giant CRX-4 for sale at my local bike shop.  It’s a great looking bike, got all the bells and whistles, comfortable riding position, a very practical seat, and it rides like it’s on greased rails.  The price is great, and I’ve justified buying it many times over… but, for some reason I’m still very attached to ol’ Pubtruck.  She was my first ‘new’ bike.  Not 2nd hand, not a Frankenstein built from the carcasses of other bikes, but brand spanking new. She’s been modified over the years, and has served me well as a work bike, weekend cruiser, up town courier, and occasional dirt track adventurer.  Would the new bike be as versatile?  Could I ride it out to work and get it covered in muck everyday?  Would it handle rutted tracks and hills covered in ruts and loose, snotty gravel?     

Pubtruck:  Note the milk crate 'carry all'.  Yep, practical and classy!

Pubtruck: note the milk crate 'carry all'. Yep, practical and classy!

Then it struck me; what would my grandad have done?  He wouldn’t even entertain the thought of buying a new bike while the old one was still servicable.  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” was his motto.  It is not what the politicians want to hear us saying these days.  No, they’d prefer us to spend, spend, spend in order to keep our ailing economy afloat.  Unfortunately it’s that mindset that is filling our dumps with ‘stuff’ as we chase after the latest, shiniest, most up to date, better than ever, items that we ‘simply must have’.  Could I get rid of Pubtruck?   

As I cruised along the track next to the water I gave the handle bars a small pat, “You’re safe for now old girl,” I muttered. 

She was so happy to hear this, that she threw the chain off when I kicked up to the next gear.  I returned home half an hour later, hands covered in chain grease, and a smile on my face.  Maybe I could be the proud owner of two bikes?

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Granny Aerobics

June 2008.  Monday, 8.00 am.  I’m at the gym early today, because I’m going to do another aerobics class.  This time it will be the class for beginners, but I’m not taking any chances so I arrive with time to spare in order to stretch and warm up prior to the class. 

I bump into a mate who asks me what I’m doing at the gym so early, as I’m more of an afternoon worker outerer.  Mornings are usually pretty busy down there, whereas in the afternoon I pretty much have the place to myself, plus I get to sleep in!  I tell him that I’m doing the aerobics class.

“What?  You’re doing Granny Aerobics!” he laughs.  My eyebrows lift a little, “Well, I think it’s called Easystep, or something…” 

He walks off sniggering. 

I’m having second thoughts, then think, “Stuff him!”  Making my way into the room I see a lot of older women, with a sprinkling of young ‘uns, all various shapes and sizes.  Again, I’m the only male. 

The instructor rolls in, she is young, fit and well toned.  She has a big smile, and enthusiasm to burn.  One of the ladies standing next to me mumbles, “Oh no, Death by Sheila.”

The music starts, it’s the same techno crap, but at a slower pace today.  I’m keeping up!  Some of the moves are a bit tricky, but the lady next to me is very helpful, coaching me in the right way to fling that foot, this arm, tilt etc.  I’m actually enjoying myself! 

‘Death by Sheila’ is a great instructor.  What amazes me though is the class is lathered in sweat, but she hasn’t got a single bead on her, and during the class she chatters to various people in the group, cracks jokes, and hands out buckets of praise.  We’re out of breath, and she’s just cruising!  ‘How fit is she?!’ I wonder. 

Out of the corner of my eye I see my mate sitting on one of the machines, I nod my head, and he replies by shaking his head back at me.   

After the class I’m still standing.  The stretching we did to cool down was hard, but afterwards I feel great.  Sheila comes over, “What did you think?” she asks.  I give her two thumbs up.  I ask her to show me some of the moves I was struggling with, and she’s more than happy to walk me through my paces.  Once I knew how to do them, it was easy.  Like most things in life I suppose.   

Before heading home, in a moment of madness, I find myself on a rowing machine, pulling out a couple of kilometres.  I like the rowing machine.  I like any exercise you can do sitting down 🙂

Afterwards, as I’m walking out, the music booms from the aerobics room, I turn to look, and there in the pack is Sheila, hammering out a set of steps with the other girls.  There is a new instructor on the stage.  I shake my head in amazement, and think, ‘I want to be that fit.’ 

I’m hooked.  Pity about the crappy music though…

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Aerobic Adventures

(This could also be titled, “Where’s My Leg Warmers”, but I don’t think anyone wears them anymore… in public anyway.)

The gym was doing me good, but boredom was setting in.  Then I recalled the conversation I’d had with my old mate Rob, about how he’d been Mr. Fitness in Brisbane back in the 80’s, and how he’d achieved it by doing some serious aerobics.  So over the next week I sort of kept an eye on the  ladies doing aerobics in the room that adjoins the gym.  “Yeah, I can do that,” I thought… and I probably sneered as well.  Which would explain some of the dirty looks I was getting from the sweating masses that crowded the room!

Hey, how hard could it be?

So, a week later I lined up for a class.  The instructor seemed impressed that there was a ‘man’ in the class, and asked me, “How co-ordinated are you?” 

Shrugging my shoulders I replied, “Well, I could dance a bit as a young bloke.”  What I didn’t tell her was that my dancing style looked as if was having an all out brawl with The Invisible Man… and losing… badly.  She smiled, “We’ll see in a moment then won’t we.”  I didn’t like that smile. 

Then she asked, “How’s your flexibility?”  I was honest with this one, “Shocking.  Can’t touch my toes, and haven’t stretched in years.”  The smile drifted off her face. 

The music started and we warmed up.  It was ok.  Actually it was quite enjoyable, and in no time at all I had a bit of a sweat up.  Then after the last stretch and running on the spot exercises were over things got serious. 

How’s my co-ordination?  Well, after three minutes I’d opened up a space nearly twenty feet in diameter around me.  The only person I didn’t crash into was the bloke picking up rubbish in the car park.  For some reason I seemed to be at least two moves behind everyone else, and it got worse.  The next song came on, at a faster tempo.  Sweat was pouring off me, my arms and legs were screaming for a break, and spots were appearing before my eyes. 

You can guess how grateful I was to see the clock hit 10 am.  Grabbing my towel and water bottle I made my way to the door, “Where are you going?” called the instructor.

I smiled back, “Class is over isn’t it?” 

She laughed, “No, have a quick drink then get ready for the second half.” 

It’s the closest I’ve come to crying in a very long time.  That last half an hour felt like days.  Somewhere during that time I crashed through the pain barrier and was on autopilot, flinging my limbs in a haphazard way, out of time, and synch with everyone else.  I was beyond care. 

Afterwards, as I lay on the floor focussing on my breathing, and looking at the pretty patterns the spots were making on my closed eyelids the instructor wandered over, “So what did you think?  Will you be back?  Not many men come back.”

A tatter of pride rallied, “Oh, I’ll be back,” I said in what I hoped was a ‘devil may care’ voice, but it came out as a series of croaks and squeaks.  Her grin widened, “Would you like some advice?”

I nodded.  “Come to the 8.30 class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  It’s not as intense, and you’ll learn the steps.  Most of the ladies in that class are a bit older so we don’t drive them as hard.  You’ll like it,” then she added, “I think.” 

Afterwards I staggered outside and stared at my pushbike.  Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a good idea to have ridden to the gym today.  By the time I got home I was shattered, and wondering if certain body parts would ever function normally again.  On the bright side, I had a couple of days recovery before starting the ‘easy’ class. 

Hey, how hard could it be?

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The Gym – One Year On

Yesterday marks the day, one year ago, when I first wandered into the Yaralla Sports Club gym and had my initial assessment.  I only realised this when I saw the date on the dog-eared card that records all my exercises and current weight information.

Before

Before

After the workout, I sat for a bit (in a large puddle of sweat) and had a look at the stats on the card.  Some of the initial weights are laughable now, but at the time it hurt like hell to lift them.  It’s kind of nice to have a black and white record of how far you’ve come.

The time has certainly flown, and got me thinking about where I go from here. 

At this stage I’m still enjoying the gym, which has come as a bit of a surprise.  Due to shiftwork, family duties, and jobs to be done around the house, I’m still only managing to get down there twice a week, but it’s enough to keep me fit, and make monthly progress on the size of the weights being lifted. 

The image I have of ‘The New Me’ is still fixed in my head.  It’s a picture of a much thinner, wirier, fitter, bloke than he was this time last year.  And so far, so good.  10 kg’s have disappeared, and I’m able to lift heavier stuff.  My back doesn’t hurt anymore, my knees are fine, and my outlook on life has definitely improved.  Got to be happy with that 🙂      

So, am I there yet.  Nope.  What do I need to do?  Well, this year, the goal is to maintain the strength training, but to up my endurance / fitness levels. 

same shirt, thinner bloke...

After: same shirt and glasses, thinner bloke...

 

I would like to be a runner. 

Road, bush, track.  The goal is to be able to run 10 klms without stopping by Xmas.  Yep, 10 k’s.  I haven’t run 10 kilometres in my life.  Ever.  If I can make 5 I’ll be deliriously happy!    

I chose the magic 10 because I initially selected 3.  Then immediately thought, ‘Go on, UP it!  Don’t be a sook.’  So in the spirit of male stupidity I wrote down ‘Run 10 klm’s’. 

How am I doing? 

Well, I’ve had a couple of runs to date.  Nothing flash, but it’s a start.  Timing is the key.  I prefer training in the afternoons.  Unfortunately I have two little dogs locked onto my ankles from 3 p.m. onwards (see previous post), waiting for me to slip on their leads and go for a walk, which we do around 5.30 ish.  An hour later we get back, and then I head down to the local school and do a few laps of the oval.  It’s a start.  But I’ve got to get serious. 

At this time my running style is at the Lumbering and Gasping Stage.  I’m hoping to be at Awkward, but Slightly Quicker by the end of this month. 

With a bit of persistence, March 30 will see me at the level of, Ungainly but Progressing Nicely phase. 

I can do this. 

Why? 

Beats me!  But if last year taught me anything, having a goal to work towards, a big goal, is good for my motivation, and makes for a much more interesting life.  So a-jogging we will go.

P.S: If these posts mysteriously stop…  nah, forget it!

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The Hidden Price of Drinking – Hair of the Dog

In the week before I gave up the grog, a decision was made that would affect me and my family for years to come.

My sister-in-law is an RSPCA carer, and one night she and my wife were cruising the web looking at various RSPCA sites.  No worries.  I was busy reading, while emptying a fine bottle of port, and enjoying the odd intermittent beer… and quite possibly, fistfuls of salty snacks. 

Just another peaceful night at home. 

Then they came across a picture of a bonny wee dog.  A dog called Bella who was looking for a home.

Bella

Bella

Even in my alcoholic haze I detected trouble.  Leaping to my feet I launched into a well rehearsed speech; a speech that has become known in our house as ‘Daddy’s Dog Talk’.  It basically goes like this:

“You’ve already got a dog!  A dog that all of you promised me would be walked and fed and groomed and washed without a murmur of complaint or moaning!  That dog there!”  I say, pointing to a small whining form, sitting on the darkened deck, staring mournfully through the flyscreen.  “The dog that we ‘had to have’ that sits at home waiting for ME to walk him!  Alone!  Without any help!  How do I get the choice to say NO!  Did I lose some sort of bet here?  I’ll stand naked in the main street before I let you get another bloody dog for me to walk!  And that goes for guinea pigs, goldfish, birds, and pet rocks.  If any of you bring another animal into this house, I will personally kill it in front of you!”   

This is usually silences the mob.  NOTE:  I would never kill an animal (well apart from the odd legally sized fish or mudcrab).      

But the night wore on, and as the bottom of the port bottle appeared, so too did the arrival of Greg the Magnanimous, the benevolent and kindly dictator from the Kingdom of Late Evenings. 

My wife had been patiently awaiting his arrival.  Beaming my ‘All is Well with the World’ smile, I watched as she bought up the photo of the little pup.  Turning to me, she said, “She’s such a sweet looking little thing, and she’ll be able to keep Harry company during the day.  You won’t have to walk him as much because he’ll be too tired out from playing all day with his new companion.” 

Greg the Magnanimous put his arm around her shoulders and said, “Whatever makes you happy darls!”  The King had spoken. 

The next day we went to look at the little bitch.  Greg the Magnanimous was in the land of Far, Far Away, and now it was up to Greg – Lord of the Idiots, to pay the bill.  Well, she was a nice little dog, but I had an ace up my sleeve, “What if Harry doesn’t like her?” I asked, “We can’t take her home if she’s going to be attacked all day.  It wouldn’t be fair.” 

My wife made sympathetic noises.  On the way over, I had secretly roughed up Harry and whispered furtively into his furry little ears “Kill boy!  Kill on sight!”     

And it worked!  As soon as he walked through the door of the carers’ house, Bella attacked him 🙂  Of course I pretended to be devastated…

But then disaster struck.  The little buggers started getting along.  I watched them frolic about the yard with a sinking heart.  And I knew right then that Greg (aka: Sir Easy Touch), was going to be walking two dogs every bloody day. harry-bella

Yay me. 

 So, during my first week off the drink I was given a daily reminder of the dangers of booze.  Every day I had to endure the sight of a delighted little dog racing through the bush, bounding over logs and generally having a great time, and it made me think…

I wonder if the family are going to hold me to my promise of standing naked in the main street?  100_1554-small2

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From Homer to Flanders, and onwards to Willie

It’s no secret that my life and Homer Simpsons’ are pretty similar.  We’ve both had our ‘issues’ and the only thing I haven’t done that he has, is go into space… yet.  But this is the way the writers of the show have cleverly written the character of Homer, to empathise with the average Joe in the street.

But there are two episodes that cut a little too close to the bone.

1.  When Homer quits his job at the nuclear power plant and gets his dream job as a ‘pin monkey’ at the local bowling alley.  Money is tight, but after he works out that as long as nothing changes then everything will be just fine.  Then Marge learns she is pregnant with Maggie.  Homer ends up crawling back to the plant where he is put back in his old job with a sign above his bench which says, “Don’t Forget, You’re Here Forever”.  He ends up covering the sign with photos of Maggie so it reads, “Do it for Her”

This was pretty much what happened to my wife and I.  I can clearly remember saying to her back in the late 90’s, “Honey we’re on the doorstep of a Golden Age!  As long as nothing changes we’ll be just fine.  You can go back to work, and I can leave the plant and get a better, but lesser paying job, etc …” A month later we got the news of a new arrival.  Both of us were devastated.  But as it turned out, the Littlest Princess has been a lot of fun to have around.  So, these days at work when I open my locker (which some kind soul has scribbled on the front “Don’t Forget You’re Here Forever”), I look at the picture inside of my children, and think “Yep, I’ll do it for them!”   

2.  Homer gives up drinking for a month.  It’s a funny show, but again, very close to the bone.  Homer gets booked for drink driving (I haven’t been charged with that ever… and don’t want to either!) and Marge asks him some questions from a survey, ‘Are You an Alcoholic’.  I laughed my head off as he answered the questions:

Q:  Do you drink alone? 

A:  Does God count as a person?

Reply: NO!

A: Then the answer is Yes!

Q:  Does alcohol change your perceptions of yourself?

'Does it ever!'

A:  Does it ever!

While I was laughing my head off at this, a person in my own house said, “Could you give up the booze for a month?”

A:  Sure!  I just don’t want to.

Real Answer:  Sure!  Maybe.  Well maybe not.  I don’t want to.  Stop hassling me!

Now, I don’t drink a lot.  By comparison to say… Barney, but the fact that I ‘needed’ to drink was still niggling in my mind. 

After my trip away, I visited the library and sitting on the shelf was a book by Alan Carr called “Control Your Drinking”.  I reached out for it, and suddenly pulled my hand away thinking, ‘I don’t need that!’  Then I thought, ‘Yes you do.’  I booked it out, took it home and started reading it immediately.  Two hours later I put it down and thought, “Shit!  I want to stop drinking.” 

I logged onto the Craig Harper Forum (http://www.craigharper.com.au/forum/viewforum.php?f=2) and wrote in the Want to Break a Habit topic:  I want to give up drinking for a month.  It was a big step, and I had a picture in my head of Homer’s shaking hand crossing off each ‘dry’ day on his calendar.  Suddenly it wasn’t so funny anymore. 

The next day at the gym I had another re-assessment.  I had actually lost muscle, added weight in all the wrong places, and found that I had made very little progress after my initial 3 months of signing up.  I really needed to make some changes.  The trainer asked me again, “Are you still drinking?”  Yep.  “Well, let’s change your routine, and I’ll get you to cut back on your drinking until you’re just having one every now and then socially, ok?”

I must have looked a little shocked at the time…

Returning home, I opened the book, read the final couple of chapters, and found that the desire to drink was magically taken away.  Not only did I not want to have a beer, a port, or a rum, but the very thought of it made me feel a bit crook.  I opened my beer fridge.  It was full of grog, and usually the sight of all that booze used to make me feel secure, safe, and ready for good time.  Now, as I stared at it, all I could see were bottles full of poison.  It was a small change in my thinking, but a very powerful change.  No desire = no cravings = no drinking.

But as a backup, I’d told my family and my friends, and had the accountability of logging onto the forum so the Want To Break a Habit gang could encourage me as I progressed each day.  How could I lose?  And after all, it was only for a month… 

I was on my way to becoming Ned Flanders, Homer’s non-drinking, goodie, goodie, but fit looking neighbour.  But, why stop there.  Why not aim for being built like Groundskeeper Willie!  Nothing like having a ‘realistic’ goal to aim for. 

I couldn’t wait to see how I looked in a kilt 🙂

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