I was not feeling it at the gym last night. I don’t know what it was, but my reps and weights were all down and I was just feeling weak and unenthusiastic. I had to do a heap of switching around because machines or benches weren’t available. When that happens I just move on in the program and go back to it later, but it was really unsettling me last night.

So I stopped counting reps and ended up pulling the plug with 90% of the workout done. I was irritated that I didn’t stay to complete the last exercise, but I would have had to wait for the bench to clear and I didn’t feel like waiting around in a bad mood just to finish that last exercise. So I agreed with myself I could just cut my losses and leave to go home, have some food and curl up on the couch, hopefully to feel more with it tomorrow.

Of course I step out of the gym and it is freaking pouring rain. I had noticed the black clouds while walking to the gym and idly thought to myself there might be thunderstorms and then put it completely out of my mind. I was getting grumpier by the second but the damn rain showed no signs of letting up and in fact there was flash flooding across the road and carpark going on which guaranteed I was going to be *walking in the water* to get home. I decided to go through with it before I was left with the option only of floating home.

With neither umbrella or overgarment, I was the stereotype of soaked by the time I got home. Which was when I realised that the bloody good shower still wasn’t fixed. At that point, I truly decided to cut my losses. Unable to face a crap shower, I reasoned that the rain had probably cleaned most of the sweat off, so I dried myself, rugged up and curled up on the couch in a miserable state.

Which probably you didn’t want to hear all about, so a quick recommendation to salvage the post. After catching the movie trailer the other day, was prompted to go back and read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (link is to the Kindle version which is available for Australian customers). Love it. Gorgeous gorgeous heartbreaking book.

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It will surprise nobody who knows me well for me to admit that I am something of a clutz. If there is a way to smash myself, knock myself or cut myself from being completely uncoordinated, I will manage it.

At the moment things are at a particularly low ebb, coordination wise. First there was the falling in the small-arsed shower incident. That led to a rather alarming collection of quite vivid bruises. I don’t know what from, as there isn’t actually that much room for things to fall on in the small-arsed bathroom, but I managed it.

Then this weekend, while trying to deal with some surplus produce, I decided to whip up a couple of batches of fruit wine (in this case, a nice plum/apple and a plain peach). It is something of an artisan hobby to make wine out of all kinds of vegetables, fruit and herbs. I got into it as an extension from homebrewing beer. It is quite fun in a global sense, but choosing to prepare two batches of starter in the space of weekend when I hadn’t done it for a while had me mightily pissed off by the time I got halfway through. It is a bit fiddly and it is one of those “cleanliness is king” type pursuits so as to avoid any introduction of contaminant into your ingredients. So I was in the bathroom crouching next to the bath scrubbing out one of the big 24L fermentation vats. I stood up to carry the thing out to the kitchen, put my pretend crocs on a patch of water and go for an absolute flyer.

This wasn’t in the small-arsed bathroom so there was plenty to hit, and I ended up rapping my wrist pretty smartly against the door-knob. So now I have a quite visible and quite painful bone bruise there. I took stock this morning as I was getting ready for work and I seriously look like I have been in the wars. It’s one thing for my nieces and nephews under the age of ten to get about covered in bruises and scrapes, but it looks a fair sight less impressive on a thirty-something professional. So I opted against a skirt and grabbed the pants suit for work today and vowed to keep the jacket on.

And unfortunately my unco nature has been further supported by spending the day having to hitch up my pants, as they have passed the point of being comfortably wearable for work. While a nice problem to have, it means I might have to stick with showing off the bruises until the next size down start fitting properly. I just hope people believe me when I say I bumped into the door.

Well, adversity always teaches you something. A while ago we got around to getting a guy in to fix a few things around the house. Most significantly for the purposes of this post, our shower base had a crack in it (which we had awesomely taped over with duct tape). When he quoted for the job, the fellow had some concerns that if it had been leaking into the floor, depending on the seal underneath, that removing the base might show more things that had to be dealt with. Anyway, we gave him the go ahead, little knowing that this would prompt him to immediately come in and remove the shower, thankfully revealing no underlying structural defects. However since that time, though we have a new base sitting in the kitchen (WTF?), he doesn’t actually seem in a hurry to reinstall our shower.

He has a key to pop in and do stuff while we are at work, and we keep finding new additions to the little pile of artifacts on our kitchen bench (apparently that is where handyman implements are stored). However the base still sits in the kitchen (again, WTF?) and we are still without a shower. And it is not like he has fixed the other things on our list in the meantime. It’s like he got two dot-points in and forgot his train of thought. We suspect some of this came from the fact that Hub stupidly said to him “it doesn’t have to all be done at once if that is impossible, we have a second shower”. Big mistake.

So for the last two weeks (!!) we have been using the second shower, which is in our dicky guest bathroom off the laundry. And we have discovered how wretchedly we have been torturing our guests forcing them to shower in that weak arsed tinker bell excuse for a shower (Sorry!). In the face of floods and cyclones and famine, the tragedy of having a crappy shower aren’t really that outstanding. However, I didn’t realise how much it puts a big ol raspberry in the beginning of my day to have to endure a craptastic shower. Add to that the guest bathroom is a tiny cramped affair, not at all suited to the more serious task of Main Bathrooming. This all came together in a major fail for me when I jumped into the shower before bed after having done some exercise and was a little too anxious to get out of the weak tepid water when finished my ablutions. Not known for my grace at the best of times, I put a foot wrong, hit a patch of water on the polished floor board and slipped. Without anything to grab for to rescue me from my position, I ended sprawled on the floor, sporting a fresh collection of ridiculous bruises and counting another reason to curse the damned handyman. I swear, there will come a day when I won’t be permitted to walk around my house without a climbing harness hooked to an anchor rope wherever I go.

The situation has worsened to an alarming degree. Tonight I have HIIT on the schedule which I normally do on the exercise bike at home, but I am sorely tempted to go to the gym and use their bikes, for the sole purpose of being able to use the gym showers afterwards. I have never showered at this gym before but such is the excrable nature of our guest shower that I have a blanket confidence that the gym showers simply must be better. I have a general aversion to gym showering, but I have a very specific aversion to showering in the hovel off our laundry.

My hovel could probably be improved of course by a quick trip to bunnings and a replacement shower head that would at least address the issue of the tepid and unreliable pressure. However, for a variety of reasons that isn’t practical at the moment. So it looks like I might be left hanging out waiting for a decent shower.

So you might have seen those dodgy holographic wrist bands that were plastered all over the place last year. They all claimed that they improved performance or endurance or general well being due to the magical power of some sort of hologram or whatever on or in a plastic band. They had footballers and various people advertising them and they seemed to be everywere. Until of course the end of December when action by the ACCC forced the company responsible to admit it was all a bunch of bollocks and they had no proof that the bands did anything for anyone except convince gullible people to spend $40 on a piece of rubber.

Hub popped into Rebel Sport in January shortly after the decision was made banning their sale and tells me he saw stacks upon stacks of these product just sitting on the desk as they were calling them all in in response to the ban on sales. He asked what they were going to do with them all and was told that they aren’t allowed to sell them, but they are allowed to give them away or if people want them. They asked him if he wanted one for free and he refused, on the basis that a useless band of rubber doesn’t become more useful because it is free.

But I have now figured out that the enterprising manufacturers have figured out what to do with those left over bands. They have apparently delivered them all to my gym for installation in a new entry scanning mechanism thing in place of our membership cards. I am very fond of my gym. My worst gym experience was with a well known franchise brand which I felt provided very little service for copious amounts of money (but you get a backpack!). It amazes me that the monthly fee on my current gym is substantially less than what I was paying there close to 8 or 9 years ago. That might also have to do with the fact that they let me get away with a student concession rate at my current gym, on account of the fact that I have a student card (for those that asked, my doctorate is on a very impenetrable area of insolvency law).

The gym that I currently attend is owned by the municipal council in which I live and is very close to home. They seem to pride themselves on the human touch, being a council gym. You have to scan in every visit, but I was shocked the first time I had lapsed and not gone for a couple of weeks to get a letter from them telling me that they missed me. How sweet. Anyway, now instead of scanning in with cards, we scan in with the very cool rubber wrist bands. I suppose one reason that they had it is to replace the current wrist band system they have for people using the pool. However, I am just now very pleased that I took the time to pop in yesterday to get my new wristband now sitting in my gym bag in place of my old membership card which sat in my wallet. Cause as a result, it is one of the few things that I don’t have to have replaced since my wallet was stolen yesterday evening.

I have been a pretty keen follower of the Biggest Loser in the past, mainly because of the voyeuristic car-crash cannot-look-away nature of the whole debacle. I finally caught up last night to watch the first couple of episodes. We will see if I can invest in this season and keep on watching, but for now I will give it a go.

But the format of this season dug completely into an absolute pet peeve of mine. I know that it is bloody stupid to point out the flaws in a reality TV production, but I can’t resist. If you haven’t seen it, the current season is built around families who compete against each other to lose weight. Each family has a trainer assigned to them. The twist is that the trainers go and live with their assigned family for a week, eating everything that they eat and drinking everything that they drink. Which hello? Is ridonculous. But good television yada yada yada and you get to see people spewing from eating bad stuff rather from lots of exercise.

However. What also makes good television is showing that the contestants in their ordinary lives are so over the top out of control with their eating EVERY SINGLE DAY and EVERY SINGLE MEAL that it was giving me the irrits. So you had the one family of sisters and cousins who is eating a lunch of basically eight varieties of baked carbs – home-cooked mind you. And you have the family who cracks their first beers at breakfast (though we later find out that breakfast is at 3pm). And you have the family whose idea of TV snacks is frankfurters, sponge cake and whipped cream.

Now this (just like the binge that they used to do in previous seasons) is obviously considered good television. But it just seems to completely defeat any attempt to genuinely prompt in the audience an attitude that will “change people’s lives”. I am sure that there are people who eat McDs at every meal and have the sort of appalling habits which are depicted in the show, and maybe even these contestants fit into that category. My bullshit detector says no though.

The family that they featured the least on this part of the show revealed two meals from the week that the trainer shared – one a BBQ with what seemed like a lot of food, but apart from a bit of potato salad and white bread, seemed like a meal that was fairly adaptable to more healthy eating. The other meal that they showed was bacon and eggs – hardly the rarest indulgence going around. Poor portion control, but if those are the two most disgusting or TV-worthy meals they can come up with then they don’t particularly scream that this family is a bunch of irredeemable gluttons.

Which is probably why the blue family barely featured in this segment, with them preferring instead to focus on the contestant who professed to eat microwave pasta with pasta bake sauce, sour cream and clotted cream every day for “breakfast”. It was all a set up job obvs but they couldn’t seem to decide which way they wanted to jump. The whole story was that *everything* that these people did was horrifying. Which led to one of the trainers being pictured crying after having to go through the terrible ordeal of eating a chicken parma and some bruschetta. Seriously – if that is enough to make you cry, maybe you should take a long cold drink of HTFU.

The thing that was frustrating me is that presumably we are meant to like these people on some level. And yet they set out this idea that these fat people are obscenely self-indulgent and greedy and slack and they only walk as far as the fridge and only to get another beer. It’s like that reality is so much easier to compartmentalise than the one where people who don’t eat eight types of carbs at every meal or four types of drive-through takeaway in a day can still put on too much weight and struggle to lose it. Or the one where most people who try to lose weight generally do try to make good food choices most of the time, even if unsuccessfully. Or the reality where some sedentary self-indulgent and slack people don’t for whatever reason end up massively overweight.

And this of all shows features an absolutely brutal diet and enormous amounts of exercise – so don’t be doing the knowing glance at the two pies for breakfast, when you know darn well to “transform” them you are going to be a darn sight more radical than just introducing them to vegetables and cutting out the chocolate.

Harrumph.

PS Does anyone else find it vaguely endearing when after all this time reality TV contestants still seem a bit shocked when they are asked to do something they find humiliating? (What, weigh myself in front of my family and friends? I just thought I was going to do that on prime time television in front of anyone in the country who cared to turn the idiot box on!! I never imagined I would be asked to do this!!)

Well after a fantastic breakfast on Australia Day which was almost entirely within my rules, I have been working hard to recreate something similar which is within my rules as a bit of a change up from the cabbage. The dish I had was Heuvos Rancheros but there are a million variations on that, so this is the way that I have tried reconstructing it.

First some fresh pico de gallos which is basically fresh salsa. I make a version by taking half of a purple salad onion and chopping it super fine with a sharp knife. Then I do the same with a nice ripe tomato – be careful when cutting the tomato that you slice it rather than squishing it – you want it to retain a bit of texture rather than turn it into puree. Mix the tomato and onion together and leave to drain in a wire colander while you are preparing the other stuff (otherwise I find it ends up a bit soggy). This is where you can add some fresh herbs or maybe some finely chopped gherkins, but I don’t bother. If you wanted to you could chop some chilli, but for this dish I add my heat in other ways.

Traditionally you would put this on a taco or tortilla but for my purposes we omit this (though the one on Australia Day was lovely!). Then we take an egg or two soft dry fried without oil in my Jamie Oliver frypan (important that the egg yolks are runny and the egg whites are just set). Heat up a couple of tablespoons of refried beans in the microwave. Depending on your standards and requirements, you can add some chopped avocado, some cottage cheese, some of those sliced jalapenos, some vegies or some meat.

Tonight I am going with a small serve of lean beef with a little seasoning (some turmeric maybe?), topped with an egg and my pico de gallo alongside my dollop of re-fried beans. If I feel like I am being deprived I might add a few chopped capsicums to the meat. For seasoning, I will grab my little bottle of Red and have a good shake of it to taste – a little goes a long way though. The freshness of the onions and tomatoes is great against the nuttiness of the meat and beans, while the spicy sauce cuts through the creaminess of the egg.

If I can manage to “plate up” all masterchef-like I will see if I can give an idea of how it turns out.

Okay, so I have a total blog crush on Charlotte Hilton Anderson from the Great Fitness Experiment (really should update that blogroll) and had her new book on my list of things to eventually order from overseas. But when I saw that it was available in kindle format, I was so excited. I have been using the kindle app on my iphone on the train on the way to work, so I snapped it up. Anyway, still reading it but really enjoying it.

Which is pretty impressive seeing as when I found Charlotte’s blog a while back, she was one of the few that have inspired me to go back and read all of their back catalogues archive wise, so many of the chapters in the book I had already read in an earlier admittedly less evolved way. And I just am taken in by so heartbreakingly vulnerable Charlotte is and willing to talk about stuff that people don’t talk about (particularly on a popular blog).

As an example, a totally true story which probably displays my weird brain. One of the chapters talks about women and their reluctance to be naked in front of other women, even in gym showers. This totally hit home with me (I don’t even enter the changing room of my gym), but one of the reasons Charlotte mentioned for her own reluctance was that she was self-conscious because as a member of the church of latter day saints (or mormons), she wears special underwear. This completely derailed my attention on the book itself (which probably wasn’t the point of including this in the story) as I had no idea that mormons had ritual/sacred/whatever clothing. So for the next week I would intermittently be thinking “must google mormon underwear” which is a phrase that should send some interesting search engine inquiries this way. But as trite as it sounds, if Charlotte hadn’t been as transparent and open in her writing as she is, I would have not learned something entirely new to me.

So go buy and read the book. It is funny. She seems like a nice person. And she talks (once so far) about wearing unconventional undergarments. What more can you ask?

So the food adjustment has been a little interesting, particularly removing the white carbs. The results have been impressive though so I am sticking with it. I had kind of fallen into the habit of eating a carby bulk with every meal. So adjusting my eating to be basically meat and vegetables has been challenging at times. Part of it has been the fact that I like one bowl eating and typically have some rice or pasta to soak up the juices of the stir fry or curry or what have you. So as much as I am happy with the eating now that my proteins are largely fish and eggs, sometimes I feel like I am missing the texture of having a rice or pasta with my meat and veg.

And the answer seems to be cabbage. I have had so many variations on chow mein since starting this eating regime. Meat and vegies and then just stirfry down a bunch of cabbage. Texture wise it seems to mimic noodles or something so psychologically at least I am feeling like it is more filling. And it is so bloody easy. While I normally like toasting spices etc, for a quick meal after the gym or some HIIT, it is hard to go past a quick stirfry and some (good quality) curry powder thrown in. And cabbage (even a lot of it) is low calorie and high in vitamin C – particularly great if you are like me and hardly eat fruit ever.

So my basic recipe is this:

About an eighth of a head of cabbage (I tend to get the quarter head and use it for two meals).
Whatever meat you like – I use some lean mince, some chicken thighs or some tinned salmon
Other vegetables – typically onions, capsicums, carrots or whatever is to hand
Cook up the meat and other vegetables with a couple of teaspoons of curry powder, then add the cabbage as the last ingredient. When cabbage is just soft, serve it up. If you prefer, add a little water to make the curry powder more “saucy”

I am loving the gym at the moment. I don’t get there as often as I like, but I am loving the switch to strength training. My circuit takes around 50 minutes or so once I add in some cardio for warmup, and surprisingly enough I don’t feel as self-conscious as I thought I would spending all my time in the boys’ part of the gym. I am coming up to finishing the current card for my program and the normal routine would be to pony up for another fitness test and program. I think I might do that, and then if I am still enjoying things in another 3 months, I might look at adopting some of the programs I have seen around the place.

I find it odd that I would enjoy the environment of the gym with all the fluoro lights and mirrors and stuff. But I have even moved away from the over concealing baggy gym clothes as well. Because the thing about doing these exercises is that despite the ample padding, I can still see the muscles moving. When lifting weights, even my body with lots of work to do becomes strong and powerful and dynamic. And I might be fooling myself, but I feel like I can see the bits that will remain when the other currently more visible bits fall away.

I never feel that way from doing cardio – even running (which I love). All I can see is the unfit person trying to pretend that they are up to this. But in the unforgiving lights and mirrors of the scary weights part of the gym – I can see the part of me that is for the moment hiding.

It’s pretty darn cool, I gotta admit.

Okay, so thanks for those that gave me some thoughts on this (even though Andrew seems to have to battle with my spam filter to get his point across. I got myself a new helmet (just cause the old one looked a bit dorky and a new one from kmart cost all of $15 on sale). Then I went a bit silly and got myself a bike tool and a little bag for under the seat and a whole bunch of gimmicky stuff that I will never use. Hub immediately sussed me and said “Well I guess that means you are a really serious cyclist now that you have that gear).

So I have been taking some opportunities to go for rides in the quiet back streets. Newsflash!! Riding a real bike is harder than riding an exercise bike. I still don’t really know how the gears work (except for the basic fact that one way makes it harder but faster and the other way makes it slower and easier). I never really had a bike with gears – most of my experience riding was tooling around on a pushie when I was a kid.

In my practice I feel like I am getting decently competent, but I still have a real weakness with stopping and starting. Kind of a problem as I don’t really see how to avoid those things in future. Hopefully having the bike will be useful to use as well because we only have one car and we spend at least a day a week living not in the same place and when that happens I am almost never the one with the vehicular transport. I am totally tempted to get a basket to put over the handlebars. Or a pannier. Or both.

It would be nice to have a bike at our home away from home, so I was thinking of checking out getting one from here. The one I have I am looking after for my sister while she is away in Japan. Of course, I haven’t mentioned that to her seeing as she has been back from Japan for several years and I never gave it back to her. I wonder what the statute of limitations is on that.