Sunday, February 23, 2014

Renewing my body while tearing it down--playing the "phoenix" game and trying to win

A very long time ago, when I led youth-at-risk wilderness trips, we were often told as instructors, that we had to tear the kids down so they could renew themselves.  I hated the process.  I felt the whole phoenix obsession was bullshit and didn't think, by forcing the kids to hit rock bottom, they would naturally come out a stronger or better person.  I saw it in a similar light to how I saw/see the thought "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger".  It was Russian roulette and the cost, was at times, the kid's psyche.

As a trainer, I've spoken about this many times.  "No pain, no gain" has no room in my training regime.  Pain IS NOT GOOD!  It is, first and foremost, a red flag from the body or mind.  If you don't listen to that red flag, consequences will most certainly occur--maybe not right away, but sometime.  So here I find myself, at the end of a long winter, unbalanced in my body and weak in non-linear movements.  What to do?  First and foremost, as an active individual, I want to prevent pain.  I'm okay with feeling discomfort or "muscle awareness", I just don't want to become injured as I begin to ramp up my training.

On this quest to balance my body and prevent injury, I decided to take a "creative calisthenics" workshop taught by Ben Musholt.  I went into the workshop with a pretty good idea of what we'd be doing.  Friends of mine have been involved in capoeira and parkour for years, and although I teach yoga, I've never--forgive me for this pun--taken the leap.

I don't consider myself "body stupid", the movements I do in and out of the gym are usually calculated and smooth.  I tell people movement is like tying a rock climbing or sailing knot--if it's pretty, it's effective.  Yet "body stupid" is exactly how I felt during this workshop.  I didn't trust this collection of flesh, bones and muscle I've been carrying around for almost forty years.  It was almost as if I was being introduced to a stranger.  To get to the point, I was humbled.  And that's good!  It proves to me I need to get cracking and work on non-linear movements...a lot.  As a cyclist and runner, most of my movement is stuck on a continuous loop of forward propulsion.  Outside of teaching yoga, I rarely ask my body to twist with momentum, spin or invert.  Now, I realize what a disservice I've been giving my body and mind and things are about to change.

The morning after my workshop, I woke with some mild muscle awareness, meaning I felt muscles I hadn't worked properly in quite some time.  And yet, I headed to the gym to practice again, performing a thirty to forty minute workout, mostly on my hands.  This, I thought, could be addictive.  It's almost as if I were a child with a new toy on Christmas morning.  "Play, in all forms, will keep me young" was my mantra as the sweat began to drip from the tip of my nose.

I'm going to try and keep this stuff up during cycling season.  It's stuff I don't have to be inside four walls to perform--which is very appealing once the ground is snow free.  I'm hoping it will not only free my body, but also my mind, as I undertake hours upon hours in the saddle.  Although this type of training is not new, I still need to thank Ben for being at the right place, at the right time--here's to teaching an old dog new tricks!

You can find Ben's book, Mad Skills, here.  If possible, take one of his workshops as well.  You'll thank me for it!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

If you can't beat 'em...

One of the many splendors of winter biking!
This entire winter, I've heard what started out to be murmurs of hating winter, now turning a deafening scream of hating winter, fill my ears.  It seems as if everyone around me is in a pissy mood due to the endless "polar vortex".  Even many of the cross country skiers are waving the white flag and are hoping for a thaw.  Here's the weird thing...although I don't like winter--not one bit, this winter hasn't bothered me too much.  I've only missed riding to work three days, and that was due to ice not the cold.  I've continued to run almost all errands by bike and it's been great running again.  If I hadn't done these things, I guarantee you'd find me off in the woods screaming obscenities.  So I guess I can say, biking saved my life this winter.

I will note I am writing this post after a beautiful morning in the saddle with friends and after watching the Madison Cyclofrost.  Tomorrow, after 4-5 inches of snow, I may be singing a different tune, but until then, I can bask in the minimal warmth of the February sun.

Phill Van Asten looking like he belongs in the capitol, instead of riding around it

Who doesn't like an abominable snowman on a bike?

I must thank my fat bike friends for forcing me out onto so many winter rides, no matter the conditions. No, I still having joined the fat bike ranks, but my 45 mm cross tires get me through.  Besides, each day I have to maneuver through thick, brown sugar mush, I think about how my gravel skills are improving.
This is where I insert the saying "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger--or dumber".

Here's to hopefully only two more weeks of freezing, messy conditions, because come March, I will be ready for Spring!

Thursday, February 6, 2014


The sun sits low
with an icy glow
a rosy tinge set to my cheeks

Hoar frost starts to grow
As I weave to and fro
the wind tries to push me backwards

I hunker down and push
through the brown sugar mush
it's February in Wisconsin.