No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Taking a break

Posted by Ben on Thursday, October 9, 2008

Science fiction and fantasy is some of the most intelligent writing I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve read a lot over the years (hello, two liberal arts degrees here). Offhand, some of the more engaging reads have been: Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler), To Sail Beyond the Sunset (Robert Heinlein), A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller, Jr.), and the His Dark Materials trilogy (Philip Pullman). Add to that list now: Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card). It’s been in my neverending reading queue for a long time, and I’ve heard nothing but good thing’s about Card’s writing, not to mention he’s kind of a local as he lives an hour or so northeast of Charlotte. I read some reviews of the book beforehand without getting into any of the plot itself, so I had little to go on regarding the story, but much like Ishmael and Anthem were borderline religious revelations for me, so too has Ender’s Game been for others, and after blowing through it over the course of a couple days, I wish I had read it earlier in life as I can see how this could be such a personally influential book. That’s all I’m going to say about it here—I’ll leave it to you to read for yourself if you haven’t already.

By sheer coincidence, this break into la-la land comes amid some anniversaries and milestones in telescopics and space exploration (Google style). Not that there’s anything wrong with life here on Earth (well, maybe, but I’m trying to be a little less pessimistic right now—must be the coffee and lack of sleep), but humans have always looked to the stars for wonderment, mysticism, and meaning. Some people make a scientific living from stargazing; most of us just like to look.

Of course, by now, you’re wondering what this has to do with, well, anything. Frankly, I needed a break, from my CSCS studies, from health-related issues, and from non-fiction in general, especially after the two tomes I devoured recently. Having recently joined the NSCA, I got my first research journals in the mail, scanned them, and decided I just couldn’t dive into them yet; however, not having a reading project in progress is unthinkable, so I did something just for fun. Note that I didn’t take off or quit, just sort of backed off. I feel a lot better about getting back to my hard-core reading soon, though I may delay that a little longer to jump into a pile of Eastern philosophy I’ve had lying around for awhile (The Book of the Five Rings, The Art of War, Tao Te Ching again, maybe a couple others), which might be a good segue into the condition of the mind, especially on the heels of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, before really tackling the home stretch of my exam studies. At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.

The same is true of physical training and even nutrition. Any intelligently written program will allow for short, occasional (yet planned) “back-off” periods where, while remaining active, you aren’t pushed quite so hard as during the formal training periods, the reason being that nearly all training programs involve breaking down the body in some way (obviously so it rebuilds in a stronger fashion, but too much for too long means insufficient recovery and eventual injury). That’s why I keep mentioning the importance of recovery work, from the (almost) daily practices of self-myofascial release and various forms of meditation to the (bi-/tri-)monthly back-off periods from any program. Training should be fun. Heck, simply getting up and moving around should be fun. When was the last time you went outside and just ran around? (For me, it was a week or so ago with the dogs at the park.) When it stops being fun, it stops being a priority, and more often than not, it’ll just stop happening, whether your body or mind makes the decision. Vacations certainly are nice but not practical on a regular basis, so take time to find some small way you can find escape and relaxation from a big stressor in your life—even during the stressor—for, say, fifteen minutes weekly if not daily, even if that means staying in one night and crashing early instead of tricking yourself into missing some good recovery time. Goodness knows that’s my main goal for the next few days around here.

On a side note, it’s nice to see some others commenting on that whole “no woman should lift more than three pounds” thing I ripped on in a recent post’s comments section. Some people really should be backhanded across the room.

Body bits: cheap homemade equipment, Kettlebells 101, modern life takes its toll (read: get up off your ass), a big (and funny) eye roll at the Wii, making the push-up more challenging (and fun), Tony gets his Hobbs on, tempering weight loss, a metaphor for program ADD, some knee health tips, imbalances and physical therapy (firsthand experience here, kthxbye), the government tries—and fails—again to prescribe activity guidelines (at least they got something right), metabolism may be overrated, Andrew reviews the TRX (already on my wish list), body fat doesn’t just hang around, BMI = BS.

Edibles: calories get more exposure (fast food joints, subways), people are watching you at the Chinese buffet (and likely know more about you than you do), a guilt-ridden form of vegetarianism (um, why?), bakeware to go with the cookware, baking soda supplementation (probably not a good idea but interesting nonetheless), some assumptions challenged, have some chard, some dietary tricks to consider, Mark discusses teabagging your nuts (if you don’t get it, don’t ask), cooking tome packs in the pounds, Coke (soda or pop to you non-Southerners) with or without ice, atomic cake, meant to munch meat, drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable substances, Heart Attack Grill (not affiliated with Roadkill Cafe).

Mind matters: exercise {–} intelligence, brain’s pathway for food intake discovered, stress can be hallucinogenic, never talk to the police without an attorney, citizen enforcement evolved.

Kiddie corner: a simple fan can prevent SIDS, keep those teenage girls moving, fevers aren’t always bad, the NFL gets into the role model act (hopefully some players skipped out), some progress in school cafeterias.

General health: preventive care may be over-prescribed, Leigh reviews fitness forums and unstable surface training, Andrew’s potpourri, colonialism may have given rise to HIV, drugs’ effectiveness exaggerated (gosh, no, really? shocking), local rural practice goes 24/7, the “eew” of public toilets (here’s a fledgling Google-based helper as well), antidepressants’ hand in the current financial crunch, more evidence for circumcisions’ ineffectiveness, here’s your sign, Lyle does interviews (here and here), newsflash—sample drugs may be bad for you *gasp*.

Geek-out:
—Transportation: plug-in hybrids are here (DIY), Honda Insight brings EV to the masses, VW’s Volt-like concept, emergency vehicles ready to rumble, alt-fuel Cannonball Run, Amtrak gets federal boost, aviation innovations, Columbia astronaut’s diary on display.
—Nature: toxic soil could be farmable, primal living good for environment, water filters face their own hurdles, more people than penguins.
—Tech stuff: barcoding EVERYthing, Switchblade project nixed, solar power booms, Gmail battles drunken emailing, data mining not effective against terrorism, US losing spy satellite dominance, green bulbs could make you red.
—Miscellaneous: instant suburbs, ten days that never happened, self-healing systems, why newspapers matter.

Git r dun:
—Isaac’s rules.
—Getting through the dip.
—Competing with yourself.
—A compilation by Russ.
—The story of Shun Fujimoto.

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