Bend the Round

…where the madness is recorded.

Almost Appropriate February 28, 2008

Filed under: running,state of BTR — bendtheround @ 4:37 pm
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I’m back from the Body Fat Analysis and Blood Pressure Screening.

My BP is good – 109/70 – and my pulse was 58 bpm. My heart rate’s never been so low, that is awesome! 🙂 It’s almost like I’m a runner or something!  😉

The Body Fat Analysis is something the company offers pretty regularly – at least once a year, I think. They have a nurse hook you up to a little machine and it tells you how much of your weight is fat. Apparently, they had offered it in October, but I missed it. The last time I’d been measured, my body fat percentage was 30.9%. The scale goes like this:

Women            Men

Essential Fat                                        10-12%            2-4%

Appropriate for Athletes                    14-20%           6-13%

Appropriate for Fitness                      21-24%           14-17%

Acceptable                                            25-31%           18-25%

Disproportionate Fat/Lean Ratio     over 32%         over 25%

First of all, I was a little horrified that I was approaching the point at which a full third of my weight was fat. Ugh. And Yikes. Sure, women are supposed to have a higher body fat percentage than men, and I’m definitely build with a little extra padding but really… a THIRD?

So, I was very pleased with this year’s results – my body fat percentage is 24.9%! I am ALMOST Appropriate (for fitness)! Woo hoo! I was going to be a little bit depressed if my percentage hadn’t gone down. I’ve been running kinda a lot, but my weight has not gone down. I was hoping that I’d just done some strategic redistribution. If I keep it up, maybe next time I’ll be totally appropriate! 🙂

 

The Verdict & The Plan

Filed under: running,state of BTR — bendtheround @ 3:09 pm
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The Verdict: I woke up this morning with sore shoulders and a sore neck – kinda like I had slept on it funny. That’s not so bad.

The Plan: I didn’t sleep well last night, so when Matt dutifully got up and went to the gym, I stayed in bed like a lump. Good for you, Matt – you’re awesome! 🙂  I’m supposed to do a 3 mile run and strength training today. Gravity class is at 7:00 or 7:30 pm. So I can either try to jam in a 3 miler at lunch or get that run in before class.

(I will most likely run after work. Today is company Wellness Day, so I’m having my blood pressure checked and body fat percentage measured [voluntarily, and confidentially]. Between those appointments and a jam-packed afternoon of meetings, I’m not confident that I’ll have time to run.)

I’m hoping to use today’s 3 miler to listen to music on the treadmill and figure out what pace each one sets for me. I’ve mentioned before that when I listen to music, I always wind up trying to run to the beat of the music. That means that each song has me running at a slightly different mph.

I haven’t decided what to listen to yet, but I’ll post the list of what songs I checked out and what mph they set for me here later on. That’s key…the pace they set for ME. Someone taller or shorter will have a different stride. I’m 5′ 2″ – so if you’re 6′ 2,” your legs are longer than mine, so one step for you is going to be a lot longer than one step for mine. That means that a song that’s a 5.0 mph for me, might be 5.5 mph for you.

So, that’s the plan!

 

Video Game Review: Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)

Filed under: gaming — bendtheround @ 2:03 am
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There is a particular class of video game called the “god game.” These are games open-ended, and let you control the characters and/or the environment for your own purposes, be they good or evil. (Both options are fun, as far as I’m concerned.) The quintessential god game, I believe, is The Sims. I love the Sims series, and have since the first time I tried it.
Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS has gotten great reviews. It’s cute, it’s pretty open-ended, and generally sounded like like the type of god game that would be right up my alley.

I traded in a couple games I had finished (they had very little replay value, so I saw little point in storing them when someone else could be having fun with them) and picked up a used copy of the game. This might have been where I went wrong. You see, the used copy didn’t have the instructions. I never read video game instructions, and the store has an excellent return policy, so I didn’t give it a second thought. Maybe if I had the instructions handy, the game would have been more fun.

The AC: Wild World doesn’t allow you the flexibility to create your character that I expected, and while the game is open-ended, there doesn’t seem to be anything to do that I’m particularly interested in. Paying down my lazy-ass roommates’ mortgage isn’t fun. (Seriously, do those two *ever* wake up?) I have no desire to design fabrics. I’m a rotten interior designer, and lack the interest in developing that skill using the tools provided by the game. (I assume they provide some tools, but I haven’t found them yet.) The gardening could be fun if there a variety of plants and if you didn’t have to plant in squares. The neighbors are boring. Despite my characters attempt to gossip, I’ve found little of interest about anyone or anything. Apparently, I can dig random holes hoping to find fossils or something, but I missed Tom Nook’s directions on how to do this. I was frustrated by yet another long monologue on nothing in particular and was tapping away hoping he’d get to the point…he did, and I tapped right by it before I could soak in all the directions. I couldn’t figure out how to get him to explain it again, and I haven’t figured out how to do it on my own. This means that I can’t even attempt some mischief in the form of digging for treasure in my neighbors’ gardens.

I strongly suspect that I should have done more homework on the game before I bought it. Apparently, I lack the patience to get much enjoyment out of AC: Wild World. Bummer. I’ll be taking it back to the store to trade in for something else as soon as it’s convenient. This time, I’ll do my research first!!

 

This Wednesday’s Excuse Is…

Filed under: running,state of BTR — bendtheround @ 1:30 am
Tags: ,

…fender bender!

At first, I thought I’d go to the gym in the basement at the office. I was just supposed to do a 45 minute tempo run and those aren’t too bad (tempo runs, according to http://www.halhigdon.com, start off nice and easy then slowly build up in speed to the halfway point, then slow back down). The thing is, the office gym is very tiny – more than two people in there starts to feel pretty crowded. Plus, if someone has put a CD in the stereo, I have to crank up the volume on the ol’ iPod so loud that I can’t help but think that it’s dangerous to my hearing. Anyhow, there were already two people in the gym, and they had the stereo blasting “Whip It Good.”  Nothing against “Whip It Good” but A) it makes me think of Mr. Smithers from the Simpsons and B) it’s just not my kind of workout or running music. So, I opted to load up the car and head for the rec center gym where I can run without anybody invading my personal space and listen to my own tunes.

There’s an unpleasant intersection just a short way from work. The highway I need to make a right turn on is very busy, especially around rush hour. There is a right turn lane with yield sign there, which is where I ran into trouble. When I checked to make sure it was safe to go, I saw that there were cars coming that I hadn’t immediately noticed when starting to turn. I slowed down to a stop at the yield sign. The guy behind me did not.

We got off onto the shoulder pretty quickly. Judging by the (I thought) not inconsiderable jolt I had gotten when he hit me, I figured my back bumper at least would be totaled. As it turns out, a Toyota Matrix can take a hit like a champ. At least, that’s the way it appears so far. The sun was going down when the accident happened, so the light wasn’t great, but as far as either of us could tell, there are just a few scratches. I’ll check again in the morning when the light is good. We exchanged information (turns out we work for the same company – he was leaving work, too) and we both left.

I drove straight home, told Matt all about it, and started laying out this post about Wednesday’s excuse for not training. I knew I was probably still in at least a little bit of shock still when I got home, and I know that shock can mask injury sometimes, so I figured it probably wasn’t a great idea to engage in 45 minutes of high impact aerobic exercise right away. My head snapped back when the car got hit, which was why I figured the damage to the car would have been more serious. Now, seriously, the back of my neck is getting a bit sore and stiff. Not a lot, just enough to make me worry that I might actually have a touch of whiplash, if that’s even actually possible. (Can you have a “touch” of whiplash? Or is like being pregnant…you ARE or you ARE NOT?) The smart bet is that I’m fine. In the morning, I’ll probably be able to chalk up the stiffness to mild hypochondria. Guess I’ll have to let you know then, huh? 🙂

 

Power of PodRunner February 26, 2008

Filed under: running — bendtheround @ 5:57 pm
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Running is partially mental. (Not mental as in crazy, though I wonder about that sometimes.) It takes a lot to keep going when you’re tired, you’ve got a stitch in your side, or you’re discouraged. If you’re going to keep going, you’ve got to come up with motivators. You tell yourself that you can slow down as soon as you get to that tree up there. Or you tell yourself, just one more quarter mile to the finish line and you’re NOT walking across the finish line! Maybe you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you decide to keep pushing for another 60 seconds.

One of my favorite motivators is music. When I listen to music while running, I automatically run to the beat. And when I get tired, I tap into the beat and use it help drive myself on. The trick for me seems to be finding music with the right beat – it’s been pretty hard. I’ve tried going through my modest collection of music and creating a playlist with the music I think has the right beat. Few of those songs have actually been right. Even when they are right, it’s nearly impossible to find more than one song with the same beats per minute (bpm) which means that once one track ends and the next begins, my pace changes. That’s not really a horrible thing, but it’d be nice to be able to stay consistent. It’s really not an impossible task, but frankly, I’m too busy (or too lazy, if you’re less generous) to undertake the job.

Enter PodRunner.

PodRunner is a free weekly podcast. Each podcast episode is about an hour long set of music at a constant bpm (beats per minute) intended for workouts. The music is all electronica/techno/dance kinda stuff. I’m probably going to insult fans of those genres when I call the music rather mindless, but it’s been perfect for running. The beat’s nice and consistent and the music isn’t interesting enough (to me) to distract me, so the music is there when I need it and I can still use my time running to think about things. The title of each episode includes the bpm, so once you identify what pace works for you, you can hone in on the episodes with the right bpm and load those up on your mp3 player.

The last time I trained for a half marathon, I did not use music to help me run. The race rules strictly forbid headphones, so I figured that if I can’t use it during the race, I’d better not use it to train. (Headphones and music ARE a distraction, which means that runners are slightly more likely to get hurt. Races have to be insured, and headphones void the race coverage in some way, I think. I’m not sure how this works… if one runner’s headphones mean that nobody’s covered or if just that runner is SOL if she gets hurt.) Every single race I’ve taken part in has had a high percentage of runners with headphones, though. I’ve never seen anybody pulled off the course because of headphones… so I thought I’d give it a shot for the upcoming half marathon. After all, it really helps me a lot.

If you’re interested in giving PodRunner a try, you can find it here, or in the iTunes podcast directory. You’ll also find that they’ve just started a new podcast called PodRunner Intervals – the music is set up to help you do interval training. I haven’t tried it yet, but it should be good, too.

 

Over the River & Through the Woods February 25, 2008

Filed under: running — bendtheround @ 7:59 pm
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Family issues interrupted training somewhat this week. My gramma hasn’t been well for the past two weeks, and her disinclination to eat is making her recovery painstakingly slow. To complicate matters, an ice storm knocked out her land line two weeks ago, so she’s without a way to call for help if there is an emergency. Mom’s got her cell phone there, but Gramma legally blind, and can’t see the cell phone to dial. Plus, she’s not comfortable enough with cell phones to dial by touch… not even speed-dial. So, Mom’s been staying with Gramma for two weeks. It’s been a very difficult couple of weeks for my mom and her siblings. Physically and emotionally draining.

I live close enough to this particular action to be of some service on the weekend. So I headed to Gramma’s place Friday after work (funnily enough, it is literally over the river and through the woods from my current place of residence) and stayed with her Friday and Saturday night so Mom could get some rest.

I think everybody involved was a little better for it by Sunday. Gramma continued to VERY SLOWLY improve…I think…and Mom seemed a bit more rested than she was when I got up there Friday night.

Sunday was supposed to be a 15K race, but because there were no 15K races available and because by the time Sunday rolled around and I was relieved from Gramma-related duties I was thoroughly exhausted… I didn’t get a run of that length in. If Matt hadn’t expressed the desire to go for a 2 mile run himself, I wouldn’t have gone for a run at all. We suited up and headed out for a 2 mile run through the neighborhood.

I’m really glad he wanted to go for a run. I harbor an extremely ambitious desire to one day be able to keep up with Matt on a run of any length. This is ambitious for a lot of reasons…he’s far more athletic than I am, ever was, or may ever be. He’s taller than I am by almost a foot, so his stride is naturally a lot longer than mine. Plus, he’s a soccer player and has been practically since he was a fetus… which means he’s got leg muscles like nobody’s business and knows how to use them. But still, I have been training and thought… maybe… maybe I could keep up for a quarter mile or so… Uh… no. LOL Not even close. I think I matched him for about four steps and he was gone, lol. I’ll admit that it was a little discouraging, but I still did pretty OK. I neglected to wear my watch, so I didn’t have an exact time for the run, but Matt and I estimated that I was scooting along at about a 10:30 pace. Not too terrible.

So, instead of 15K, I did 2 miles this weekend. Boo.

Today’s run was full of pros and cons. I did a five miler at lunch – 2.5 miles out from the office and 2.5 miles back. Four of the five miles are on biking/running trails through the woods. There are even bridges over a stream, and places where the water crosses the trail – so there’s plenty of opportunity to hop on through the water, mud, and gravel. A little tiny taste of trail running for a change. The fifth mile is along a busy road. So, I only had to suck down car exhaust for a fifth of the run, which was nice. (Carbon monoxide is an unfortunate downside of running outside in the area in which I live, so finding a trail that gives me a break from that is pretty cool.) The trail has six places where I have to cross the street. Each place has a pedestrian light, and where there are pedestrian lights available, I use them. I’ve come too close to being run down like an unobservant squirrel too many times to not follow the rules of the road strictly. It’s still not a guarantee of safety when crossing the road, but it is certainly safer than jaywalking. Unfortunately, my insistence on taking every possible precaution against becoming a grease-spot on the road is a big hit on my running time. I guess that I lost between seven and ten minutes waiting for lights. Despite this, the bulk of the run is gorgeous – there’s a lovely little stream to run next to, wildlife scurrying about, and best of all…crocuses. I spotted crocuses in bloom today by the side of the trail. That means that Spring is almost here! Woo hoo!

My time for today’s run was 1 hour 43 seconds for five miles. That’s about a 12 min pace. If you take the waiting at the crosswalks into consideration, that’s really not all that shabby. So, I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t finish it faster. And it was nice to get a little taste of nature out here in this suburban wasteland. 🙂

The seven miles I’ve run in the past two days put me over the 90 mile mark for 2008, too! Ten more miles to go to the big 1-0-0!

 

Book 11: Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich

Filed under: books — bendtheround @ 2:43 pm
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Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book some years ago called Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Making It In America. It was an expose on the struggles of the working poor in the US. I have not shopped at Wal-Mart since reading it (there are plenty of other reasons to avoid Wal-Mart, but that’s another story). In short, I thought well of Ehrenreich for shining light on a world a lot of us are blessedly unaware of.

Bait and Switch was intended to be a similar expose on the struggles of the white-collared unemployed in the US. Once again, the author went undercover, this time as an individual searching for a job in the area of Public Relations.

In short, after nearly a year-long search, she utterly failed to find a job.

I’m not surprised by this given her methods. While she did send out copious numbers of resumes and cover letters in response to advertised positions, she seemed to spend most of her time, effort, and money on the dubious career counseling industry. Her very first self-appointed task was to find and hire not one, but several career counselors and resume writing specialists. I lost track of the amount of money spent on these folks, but it must have been into the thousands of dollars. Then she pursued every opportunity to network…with other unemployed professionals. Most of the book was dedicated to group-therapy-like meetings in which she sat around with her fellow “in transit” employees. These groups ranged from the sad, to the cult-like, to conservative Christian gay-bashing groups.

Everywhere she went she got variations of the same two messages – your unemployment is your fault, and the only way to rectify your situation is to network (often with the intimation that the best way to do this is to fork over big money for the privilege of access to the presenter’s network of contacts). The similarity of the messages isn’t terribly surprising given that she went to the same type of functions over and over again.

I work in corporate America. I got the job I have now because I was fortunate enough to have interned with the company. So, while I work in the environment the author set out to explore, I did not go through the same job search as she did. Still, it seems to me that at least part of the reason her job search was so fruitless is that she focused her efforts in the wrong area. What, pray tell, is the point of asking the jobless for a job?? Go to industry conventions. Go to industry seminars. Go to business retreats – go where there are people working, thinking about their work, and talk to them. A lot of companies these days offer monetary rewards for finding new hires. Give the people working for those companies an opportunity to earn that reward! And the advice of talking to your acquaintances about your job search does seem like a good idea. Talk to your doctor, dentist, the trainer at the gym. You never know who’s going to say “hey, my brother-in-law was just saying that his company just lost their PR person, want his number?”

What baffles me is that despite her failure to find a job using the tactic of networking with her fellow unemployed, she was unable to come up with any other methods to try. Instead, she threw more money at “networking” events and image consultants, who kindly told her that her clothes made her were all wrong, threw out all her makeup, and sold her all new cosmetics.

The plight of the white-collared unemployed does certainly seem to be a serious issue, Ehrenreich’s book is not the place to learn about that issue or what to do about it. Instead of a full exploration of the problem, the book reads like a dire warning: if you have a white-collar job, you’re DOOMED! Given that the message of her most famous book seems to be “if you have a blue-collar job, you’re DOOMED!” It seems that the very large percentage of us Americans are, well… doomed. How depressing.

It’s a shame that Ehrenreich was unable to follow through with her original intent. The subject is most certainly worth exploring. It seems practically criminal to work employees like dogs from the time they get out of college until they reach their 40s or 50s then fire them because their experience deserves higher pay…and all the while salaries for CEOs and other upper management are reported to be higher than ever. Throw in age discrimination (the tendency for hiring managers to favor younger, less experienced, less expensive prospective employers), and you have a system that is severely screwed up when viewed with any humanity. Naturally, the problem doesn’t stop there – the healthcare crisis in this country makes the plight of unemployed white-collar worker even more severe.

Bait and Switch could have made for some excellent reading, I think. Unfortunately, the narrative she did produce is not compelling reading. It’s frustrating…in the wrong way. Instead of being frustrated with the system, I wound up frustrated with a frustrated author. It brings to mind a recent book called Scratch Beginnings – a book written by a college grad who set out to prove Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed wrong…that it IS still possible to go from nothing (as defined as $25 and the clothes on his back) to supporting himself, owning a car, and living on his own.

Maybe I should undertake the white collar job search experiment myself. Quit my current job and search for another one – then write a book about it the experience. Maybe I’d make a mint…because we know that’s the new American dream.