Monthly Archives: January 2018

Stretching progress and a little running

I’ve been continuing to stretch 12 minutes 3 times per week, so 36 minutes per week, using this very random and probably unscientific Youtube video I found.  My plan is to measure my flexibility on roughly the first of every month with a sit-and-reach to see if I’m making any progress.  The video stretches a lot of parts of the body, some of which are not tested with a sit-and-reach, but I feel it’s just a representative test, not a comprehensive one.  I would like to find some other tests I could do to evaluate if I’m making progress.

Anyway, drumroll please . . .

After one month, I’ve improved from a set-and-reach of -2.5 inches to -1.25 inches.  I’d say the measurement process has roughly 0.5 inches of uncertainty (say 1 sigma), so I appear to have made some progress.  I’m cautiously a little excited!  Even with such a limited time commitment, given my initial extreme lack of flexibility, it makes sense that I would see some gains.  It definitely motivates me to continue.  While in some ways I find my 12 minute routine kind of brutal, I am also coming to enjoy the feeling of being warmed up and “flexible” (relatively speaking) by the end.  I find it really interesting how much more flexy I feel after warming up and 12 minutes of stretching.

In other news, I ran 143 miles this month, my highest mileage month since I’ve been tracking as far as I can tell.  (I’ve been tracking since 2004.)  I’ve hit about 130 a few times, so it’s not crazy, but I’m definitely putting in some miles right now, with a half in March as my goal.  Hopefully, the miles will pay off, and if they don’t, hopefully I can appreciate the value of the process and running for running’s sake.  In running, I do think hard work usually pays off, but it doesn’t always happen immediately, and in the meantime, I think it’s continuing to do good things for my mental (and physical) health.  Also, one month of lots of miles won’t do much more than tire me out.  It’s putting together a string of high mileage months that pays dividends.


We’ve been trying to think of ways to teach L about money, and we tried something randomly which seems to be working well.  We’ve been giving her an allowance for a while, one dollar per week.  She’s figured out that that doesn’t buy much, but not much else.  I’d been promising to open a bank account for her for a while, but I’ve been somewhat disheartened by the 0 interest rates from the major banks.  BECU provides 5% interest annually, or something like that, on the first several hundred dollars you deposit in a basic savings account, so I considered that route.  However, we eventually decided that we would instead open our own bank, the Bank of Daddy as we’ve been calling it.  We found an old bank book and gave her $50 as a bonus for depositing her existing life savings, approximately $30.  Every week, she has the option of taking her allowance in cash or depositing it in the Bank of Daddy.  Further, the Bank of Daddy is very generous and pays 10% interest per month.  Yup, that’s 300% interest annually, assuming full compounding.  Fortunately, given the initial balance of only $80, the Bank of Daddy can afford to be generous.

(I did mention that like all banks, the Bank of Daddy reserves the right to change its interest and terms at any time.)

The cool thing is that even given L’s very limited grasp of math, she has figured out that this interest thing is awesome.  She has been eagerly depositing her allowance in the B of D, and she’s counting the days until her first interest payment.  She really enjoys writing her allowance deposits in her bank book with our help.  She’s totally gotten the concept of money written on paper being the same as real money.

Anyway, I’m kind of excited by how well this is going.  We’ll have to see how it sticks.

my first spin class

I went to my first ever spin class this morning.  I was a little nervous, as I am pretty much at the outset of pretty much any kind of group activity in which I don’t know the other people.  I was also a little worried about the technical details – how do you set up the bike?  Do I need to bring bike shoes?  Do I need a ticket?  And so on.  I was also a little worried about being able to complete the workout.  However, I imagined it would be low-key, and it was.  I went to a 9:30 class while B was at preschool, and as a result the class featured a disproportionate number of old people and also about half women.  (I have noticed that the Y is dominantly filled with men before 7:30 am, and dominantly filled with old people and women after 8:30 am.  I haven’t had to time to fully flesh out conclusions based on this.)

Anyway, we did 4 by 8 “Tabatas.”  That is 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy a total of 32 times.  The instructor generally told us how to set the resistance, saying either seated hill climb, or standing high hill, or whatever.  People were definitely working hard.  I don’t really take a lot of gym classes, so maybe that’s true in all classes, but there wasn’t much chatter and there was a lot of sweat.  I began to feel like I was in a torture chamber with the music blaring and people immersed in sweat and discomfort around me.

After the Tabatas, she had us do three sets of 6 minutes.  She advised starting at resistance 13 or so, and we were to maintain 90 rpm.  Then, we should increase resistance by one at 3 minutes, and then again by one at 5 minutes.  I decided to start at resistance 11 rather than 13, and otherwise followed instructions and maintained 90+ throughout the exercise.  Then, she had us do it again.

I had forgotten to check the duration of the class and kept thinking it would be over and then having to do another exercise.

The class was called spin / core, so after 45 minutes of spinning, she led us in about 10 minutes of core exercises and then some stretching.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was exhausted from spinning or because I just have a weak core, but the core stuff was so hard.  She started out with a basic plank and then you sort of rocked from side to side.  I basically couldn’t really do it.  I was toast.  But maybe if I persist, I’ll get better at it.  I’m not sure once a week is a high enough frequency for 10 minutes of core exercises to make any difference whatsoever, though.  I’d hoped my pushups were working my core, and there’s no doubt they are, but perhaps I should add some type of plank exercise to my thrice weekly strength exercises.  I think core strength is not only good for cycling and running but also for preventing back pain.  Ever since having the kids, I’ve dealt with on and off minor back issues, no big deal, but something that could potentially become worse with age.


Yes, yes, YES.  Heads obviously need to roll over the Nasser situation, and those heads need to come from the power corridors of USA Gymnastics.

To make the Olympic team in 1996, you needed to be in the top 5 at the USA gymnastics Olympic trials.  (Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu were byes as they were injured by recognized to be the best gymnasts in the country.)

In 2000, doing well at the Olympic trials was no longer sufficient to make the team.  Instead of the athletes who won the trials being on the team:

That year, a selection committee ranked the women vying for the United States Olympic team using their scores at the national championships and the Olympic trials. Then the committee, led by Bela Karolyi, the national team coordinator at the time, selected the six-member team in a closed-door meeting. The gymnasts who were not selected, Beckerman among them, were cast aside, often without explanation.

In 2004:

The two women with the highest scores at the trials are virtually promised spots, although they must show what Marta Karolyi, the women’s national team coordinator and Bela’s wife, calls ”readiness” at a post-trials camp.

The remaining four athletes on each team will be chosen by a selection committee. In some cases, those making the selections will pick gymnasts who excel at one or two events over more well-rounded ones because it would strengthen the United States’ chances for a team medal.
As of 2016, i believe the team was chosen exclusively by committee.  In other words, the way the team was chosen was 100% subjective.  In 2016, the selection committee consisted of Marta Karolyi and a coach who former competed for the Ukraine.  Excuse my prejudice, but I don’t have a lot of faith in former Eastern block coaches to “coddle” the gymnasts – aka protect them from abuse.
You might wonder why the team is now chosen by committee instead of by some objective process.  Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the roll of the Europeans can’t be ignored.  Basically, the Europeans (excepting the Romanians) are not capable of fielding large gymnastics teams filled with all-around competitors.  They have disproportionate influence in the gymnastics governing body, and have successfully pushed for smaller and smaller teams and fewer gymnasts to compete in each event.  Because of the latter factor especially, it becomes much more difficult to objectively select the best team.
What does all this mean?  These gymnasts, most of them between 15 and 19, are completely subject to the opinions and preferences of their much older, much more powerful coaches.  They are training 30 or more hours a week, living what doesn’t resemble a normal life, and they must please 70-year-old Eastern bloc coaches.  It’s messed up.
Whose head would I like to see roll?  Well, lots of them.  But for a start, Marta.  She should be out for good.  She’s so old, she’d probably retire anyway.  But nevertheless, I place a huge amount of blame on her.

strength training

I’ve been thinking for some time about wanting to add both flexibility and strength to my weekly routine.  My initial motivation on flexibility was to help with my plantar fascitis.  While my feet are still sore in the morning, overall, I’ve been feeling pretty good.

As far as strength goes, I was a little bit at a loss.  When I was in college, I did strength training with the crew team, but those workouts primarily used machines for the legs, and also lasted an intense hour.  I want a workout that’s (a) specifically targeted towards running, or at least towards swim/bike/run (b) can be done from home (does not require machines) and (c) takes only about 15 minutes.

On my last run, yesterday, my knee was hurting a bit at the start, and eventually built up to significant discomfort / plain by the end of the twelves miles.  I primarily blame the fact that I ran a moderately hard 7 miles, then a hard 12 miles the next day.  Basically, I have a few workouts I want to do each week, and life factors sometimes mean that they don’t happen on the days they should.  Normally, you wouldn’t want to do two hard workouts two days in a row.  In any case, I obviously need to be smarter about that, but it led me to investigate the causes of runner’s knee.  Basically, lack of strength is the culprit behind many running injuries, and apparently the ability to pound out miles does not necessarily indicate strength.

Runner’s World suggests there are a number of exercises one can do to improve this situation, so I’ve devised a little strength training routine, which hopefully will only take in the neighborhood of 15 minutes.

  • 15 plyometric jump squats (See 3:16 of this video)
  • 11 pushups
  • 10 reverse lunge with knee drive (See 0:32 of this video)
  • 8 bicep curls
  • 10 standing knee drive (with resistance band) (See 2:20 of this video)
  • 10 standing hip flexion (with resistance band) (See 2:40 of this video)

(Repeat twice, for three total sets)

So, we’ll see how it goes.

On the plus side, I ran 12 miles on my own, 8 miles of it through rain, at sub-9 minute pace without feeling that bad.  Don’t get me wrong; I was definitely working, and I was definitely tired, but it wasn’t like a race or anything like that.  So I consider it a sign that I’m building some fitness.

aziz ansari and “babe”

I ran seven miles this morning, the last of which was mostly uphill.  However, the hardest twelve minutes of my day were definitely stretching.  Stretching is seriously no joke.  I’ve been diligently spending 12 minutes three times a week, so basically 30 minutes a week, stretching.  It’s become increasingly obvious how incredibly inflexible I am, a product of the fact that I do almost nothing that requires flexibility.  Running, biking and swimming don’t, and spending a significant portion of my day sitting at a desk obviously doesn’t help.  Anyway, I’ll be repeating the sit and reach test in two weeks, so I guess we’ll see if I’ve made any progress.

In other news, I’m very curious what people think of the article in babe about a woman’s unpleasant encounter with Aziz Ansari.  I should start by saying I don’t know much about Ansari.  I’ve never seen him in any shows.  I only know he did Parks and Recreation because I googled him.  I’m not into comedians, and I really don’t care about him in particular.

My take is that he sounds boorish and inept.  It sounds like a bad date.  But this woman allowed him to take her clothes off.  To use the age-old phrase, what did she expect?  If I go home with a man and allow him to take my clothes off basically immediately, I expect that he’s going to want to have sex.  That doesn’t mean he has a right to sex by any means, but it’s a bit unfair to be surprised by him wanting it.  She also gave and received oral sex on multiple occasions during their “date.”  If I were in her situation, I would leave, and I would be upset, and I would not go out with him again.  That’s basically what she did.  (The worst night of her life, though?)  But was what he did assault?  In my opinion, absolutely not.  Was it sexual misconduct?  That’s a bit of a new term, likely invented to address this very article.  I don’t really even think it was necessarily misconduct.

As a feminist, I don’t think a woman should ever be forced into sexual acts that she doesn’t want to participate in.  That means men (or woman) should not use their greater physical strength or other types of power they might possess, such as a position at work, to induce a woman into sexual acts she’s not interested in.  However, I feel that adult women are capable of expressing what they want and don’t want, and I don’t find it flattering or helpful to suggest that a man should have to repeated ask a women, Do you want this?  How about this?  And this?  I’m 100% comfortable with “no means no.”  I don’t think we need “yes means yes.”

From the article:

“I just remember looking in the mirror and seeing him behind me. He was very much caught up in the moment and I obviously very much wasn’t,” Grace said. “After he bent me over is when I stood up and said no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this. And he said, ‘How about we just chill, but this time with our clothes on?’”

If you keep reading, they do get dressed, and then he starts hitting on her again.  And then she leaves.

This editorial in the NYTimes summarizes my feelings pretty well.

I’ve read many women who are infuriated by Ansari’s behavior and consider it unambiguously sexual assault.  That is not my perception at all, and I’m curious if I’m an outlier or what.