02-25-13 - Random Unconnected Thoughts on Exercise

Some things I've been thinking about for a while. I got motivated to write because of Thatcher.

O. It's really hard to put in a hard workout as an adult. I'm not trying to look good anymore, and it doesn't really feel physically pleasurable the way it used to, I don't get an exciting "pump" or a good rush, I just feel tired and sore. It's pure willpower now, I work out because I know I have to in order to feel like a decent human being, it's like taking my medicine. But I guess almost everything in life is like that as you get older, you know what you have to do, you just suck it up and do it, you're an adult.

It's really hard for me to put in a good workout without either sex or rage. When you're a teenage male, you divert a lot of that excess sexual energy into workouts. Part of it is a subconscious belief that the girls are going to love you if you just get muscley (which is mostly absurd, partly true, but certainly not a good return on your time invested), but more than that it's just a good use of all that physical energy, and it makes your body feel great which you can appreciate because of the constant sex drive.

I also used to be constantly full of rage. I was mad at everyone and everything all the time, and one of the better outlets for that rage was to do pushups. Now that rage is mostly gone from my life; when my nominal friends make snide off hand put-downs, I just get depressed now, not angry. In many ways anger was good, it gives you energy, it fires you up to go fight or exercise or write or change the world. Our modern society is so anti-anger, it wants to strip the power and virility from men, and that doesn't always feel great. In any case, it makes getting fired up for a hard workout much harder.

O. When I was in college I had the great opportunity to workout with some friends; we were pretty close and able to do the whole yelling at each other in the gym thing. It was fantastic; stuff like "get hype! one more, this is pussy weight, you got it!". When you're lifting and some dude is cursing at you, it sort of fills you with rage for a second, like fuck you shut up you asshole I'm lifting here, and that rage is great for giving you a boost of energy to finish the rep. I miss it and thank you guys.

O. I suspect that part of the reason I have so many injuries in shoulders and back is because of my youthful exercise program and lifestyle. I did basically no exercise through high school, and was spending tons of time on the computer, and then in college started working out and mainly did pecs & abs (pushups and crunches type stuff). The result was a disfunctional kyphotic physiology. My chest was fallen forward, and my shoulders were rounded forward so they really weren't being used right; I then did front-contracting moves that only made it worse, or at least didn't help.

If you're a young person, I highly encourage you to work now on forming a better body pattern. Life is long, but youthful body patterns are hard to break. Far too often when kids decide to get in shape they go and do bench presses and curls. If you are a typical nerdy programmer youth, what you need is to first get your functionality sorted out, do mainly back exercise and full body dynamic exercise. Swimming would be ideal. Don't start doing heavy front-body lifts until *after* your shoulders are naturally being held back. It's very tempting as a youth to focus on pecs and abs and biceps because you can make big visual gains very easily, but that's not what you need. You have to think of youth as building your foundation that you will have for the rest of your life; the growth-spurt phase for men is a unique opportunity to set up your posture and body shape, your bones and tendons will not move around very easily later on.

In the past few years I've been trying to get back into working out following my various injuries. One of my goals has been to do zero exclusively front-body exercises. No pushups or bench presses, no crunches of any kind. The backbone of my workout is dead lifts and squats (various types). I do front-body stuff only as part of full body movements (I'll do things like burpees). I try to do some back-isolation stuff too, but god that stuff feels horrible and it's hard to find good back-only moves.

Once you're older and have certain muscle firing patterns, it's incredibly hard to fix. I've been trying for 5+ years and have made only slow progress. I still can't do things like throw a ball, because as soon as I try to throw something hard my body instincitively fires the muscles in the way it learned when I was a teenager, which involves yanking my shoulder into some weird forward position that's painful now. That instinctual muscle-memory stuff is really hard to fix, so try to get it right early.

O. French fries (and potato chips) are junk food. Why exactly? What's unhealthy about french fries? Years ago people would have said "the fat"; Now people might say "the carbs"; both answers are retarded. There's nothing inherently wrong with french fries. They are a source of a large amount of empty calories. If that's what you need (eg. you just rode a stage of the TdF) then fine, eat the hell out of them. But chances are you didn't, so you don't actually need 1000 empty calories. The actual unhealthy thing about french fries is that they are just too damn delicious, which makes people eat more than they need. (and they're extremely calorie dense, so it's easy to keep eating a lot after you are actually full).

O. Ab exercise has great benefits aside from looking better. It makes you more aware of what you're eating. (exercise in general makes you less eager to overeat, but ab-consciousness even more so). It makes efficient pooping much easier, you can squeeze your body down like a tube of toothpaste. It's great for posture and takes strain off the back; proper posture comes from lengthening the front of the stomach and tucking the rib cage down. It's great for sex, both in being able to move your body and also for arousal and orgasm control. I believe that deep squatting is similar, it's great for the pelvic floor and man muscles, it makes me feel like a younger man.

O. If you're having trouble with your back squat form, do front squats. I couldn't do back squats for about 3 years and tried various other things (hacks, fronts, overhead). Now I'm finally able to do back squats again comfortably and my form is *way* better than before. Front squats make you keep your head up, your back very vertical, and your knees wide. It feels really good when you do it right. I don't think you can just add fronts to your normal back squat routine, you have to completely quit back squats for a year to reset your memory of how to do the movement.

O. I've become a believer in the benefits of "light movement" (which as an arrogant youth I mocked for its uselessness). This is not for weight loss or for muscle building (aka "body transformation"), it's just to feel better. For someone who's sort of stiff and injured and constantly in a bit of pain, it's enormously helpful. Active stretching is a great thing to do, things like yoga or even Jane Fonda era aerobics moves. My goal is to do an hour of light movement every day; I average maybe 5 minutes.

02-03-13 - Prowess


Most people misunderstand physical activity.
They see a superb kayaker and think "they must be really strong"
or if they try it themselves and struggle and get tired they think "I'm too weak".
Muscles have almost nothing to do with it.
The difference between a pro and an amateur is almost entirely
the neural pathways that subconsciously control muscle firing.
A beginner athlete is using way more force than necessary to do movements,
and is firing lots of muscles that don't actually help the movement at all,
and is even firing lots of muscles that *resist* the movement.
(one of the more extreme cases of this I've experienced is punching;
almost everyone very strongly resists their own punch; in a
straight punch like a jab the bicep should be almost completely relaxed).
A pro athlete is firing exactly the right muscles at exactly the right time,
and no other muscles. This allows them to achieve the same motion with far
less effort. In a sport that also has technique (like kayaking), it is
almost entirely the technique and the neural pathways that make the difference;
in fact you can see people who are superb at some physical task
(kayaking, tennis, whatever) and seem to be able to do it for hours
but are obviously in quite bad shape.
In fact as your technique gets better, if you want to keep getting a good work out,
you have to keep pushing yourself harder, which can be difficult mentally.

02-02-13 - I miss weird things

I miss meetings. I miss producers.

It's really hard to work with people out in the real world who haven't been in a formal work environment. Like if you're just trying to coordinate some friends to do some gardening or whatever, people who haven't gone through that office social training just don't know how to communicate about tasks. You have to be incredibly pedantic, you have to be super clear about what each person expects the other to do, what the task sequencing needs to be and where the choke points are, when you'll need help or not, etc. and they find it kind of annoying and insulting. Like any time there's an issue that everyone should agree on, you need to call a meeting and clearly explain it and the proposed solution, and get everyone to say "yep we're on the same page" then you can go do it.

People who haven't been in the formal work environment are always like "yeah yeah I know, leave me alone" but then they proceed to fuck shit up by not doing what they were supposed to in the team orders. Like you were counting on them to open the door for you before you got there carrying the bath tub, and when you arrive you find them instead washing windows and the door is closed with the bath tub in your hands, and you're like WTF and they're like "oh I thought I'd do this first". WTF if you don't follow the team orders you need to check in with the group. If you couldn't do your tasks on schedule you need to say so at assignment time, don't just let them drop.

I'm sure military guys face a similar but even greater frustration when they get back to the real world and see what a disorganized mess everyone is.

02-01-13 - Filtered Look


Morphological filtering
Works by assuming a prior model for images
that models them as mainly smooth areas and edges
they inherently remove "texture"
that is, fine detail which is not edges

most people don't seem to notice this or be bothered by it
me, I notice, and it bothers me a lot
it makes everything look a bit cartoony
or playboyish
too much edge and smooth

Of course I find myself rather alone in generally hating the overly-computer-processed look that everyone favors these days. I despise false color HDR manipulations. I vomit at all the super pumped-up contrast photos used for real estate ads. I can't stand all the weird filters used on movies these days.