Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to be annoying at the gym

I joined my first gym in 1991.  I KNOW, I'm so old! Since then, I've belonged to many of them: large, upscale ones, tiny one room places, university gyms, and of course the workplace ones with rickety benches and equipment procured from garage sales. 

The gym I belong to now is expensive, but it's only four miles from my house, so I keep renewing my membership.  It has more than one pool, and stuff I never use, like racquetball courts and a juice bar.  It is very popular, and it's not unusual to cruise the parking lot at 10 am on a weekday and find no open spaces (who are all these people without jobs?).  Even though it's very different from other gyms I've belonged to, some things remain the same.  By that, I mean obnoxious gym behavior.  Let's get to it, shall we?

Here's how to be a gym nuisance, in no particular order:

1.  Notice that there are many, many open treadmills.  Find the one with the person on it, and get on the one next to them.  Look over and see what speed they are running.  Put yours on the same speed.  Look over frequently.  When the person increases their speed, increase yours too, and then a little higher for good measure.  Stay on as long as they do, because everyone loves a little competition, right?

2.  Ask the person on the machine next to you for a date.  When they don't seem receptive, say something like, "I wasn't asking you to get married, I just thought we could have dinner or something," like they did something wrong by not wanting to date you  (This happened to me at a gym).

3.  Correct people's form when you're not a trainer and nobody asked you to.

4.  Locate your friend on an elliptical.  Come over and stand next to their machine and have a loud conversation. 

5.  Get on your cell phone and talk a lot.  Don't bother to go to the lobby.  You're too important for that.

6.  Drop your weights on the ground when you're not at a CrossFit gym.  Do it a lot.  Grunt loudly too.

7.  When the gym is busy, hog several weight machines.  Look annoyed if anyone else wants to work in.  Leave your stuff on the machines so people won't use them.  Sit on a machine and look at facebook or text.

8.   Don't ever clean off the equipment, because you're not that sweaty.

9.  Go to the gym with the flu or some other communicable disease.  Sneeze on and touch everything.

10.  Leave your weight plates on the barbells.  The gym has staff to put them away, don't they? While you're at it, leave towels and dumbbells lying around too.

What am I leaving out?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Brush jacket's back, all right!*

A hotshot named Chet strolled by.  I peered at him.  What was he wearing?

"The '90s called.  They want their brush jacket back!" I said. 

"I found a bunch of these in the sewing loft," Chet, who was too young to fight fire in the '90s, said happily.  "They're great!"

The brush jacket used to be standard issue, along with the green pants, yellow shirt, and hard hat.  Everybody wore one, often with the cold weather liner.  We didn't have nomex fleece then, or the prevalence of merino wool garments.  We couldn't wear anything synthetic because it would melt in a fire.  We had cotton hoodies, but we didn't want to get our own stuff dirty. The brush jackets weren't especially warm or water repellant, and you had to stay on the move, but we were glad to have them.
Katie is wearing a brush jacket here in 2001. Note the handy reflective trim.
I don't remember when or why people stopped wearing them.  I did too, opting to wear a thick cotton hoody under my fire shirt, or a nomex fleece jacket.  I kept my brush jacket though; it traveled along on several moves, a reminder of the national park fire crew where I wore it.

"Let's bring them back," I suggested to Chet.  He was on board.  Billy, one of my crewmembers, perked up when he heard the plan.  "I'm in!" he said, being old enough to remember wearing them.

Will we look nerdy, as if we were wearing the old "radio bra" harnesses that have also largely disappeared from the fireline? Maybe, but we'll be having fun.  Some things should stay in the past: gaucho pants, mullets, and soul patches, to name a few.  But old school brush jackets? Just maybe we will start a new trend.

*Is "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys stuck in your head now? You're welcome.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All over the map

Interesting places I've lived because of my job:
  • A travel trailer in the California desert
  • A log cabin built by a Cub Scout and his dad, with a stream for water and a hollow tree stump for an outhouse
  • A park service ranger station in Arizona two hours away from any type of store
  • A tent in a campground in Washington, for two summers
  • A rented room in a house that was paid for by one pot crop ( I learned this later)
  • Various bunkhouses
  • A former one room schoolhouse in South Dakota
I hear people say things like "I could never live in..." fill in the blank: a big city, small town, arctic climate, etc.  This isn't really the truth.  Of course, they physically could; they just might not like it, or thrive there, or just maybe they would surprise themselves and be okay with it. 

I moved a lot, and to places I thought I would never consider.  I had to, because there weren't a lot of seasonal jobs available in the most desirable locations, and certainly no permanent jobs.  I lived in remote outposts and in one big city (Honolulu), and in more than one place where I drove up, looked around, and thought, what have I done?

Still, I adapted, everywhere I went, and it makes me curious every time I go to a new place.  What would it be like to live here? I think.  Sometimes my initial impression, especially in a large city, is how hard it would be.  So many people! So much traffic! But then I think, public transportation. Lakes with running trails.  Inexpensive gyms.  Maybe this wouldn't be terrible.

I'll probably always be a country mouse rather than a city one.  I'll always prefer mountains to flat landscapes.  I probably won't live in any more trailers or tents.  But because I did it, and found the good, hidden things in all those places, I know I could.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dry Needling: I tried it

The physical therapist frowned at my arm.  "This muscle is like parachute cord. It's all knotted up!" he said.  "And your arm isn't straight."

I first felt a twinge in my right arm a few years ago.  A fire was threatening to escape the boundaries of a prescribed burn, so I industriously pulled a charged section of inch and a half hose down the line to catch it.  The burn didn't get away, but afterward my elbow and forearm hurt.

Hmm, I thought, but as someone who doesn't normally get injured, I ignored it.  This seemed to be a good strategy at the time, because the pain went away.  Sometimes I would feel it when I did biceps curls, but a couple days of rest always seemed to cure it, until one fateful day.

An enterprising hotshot created a workout machine where the exerciser pulled a heavy rope (with the option to attach weights) using several different stances and techniques.  Really feeling the burn, I thought, as I pulled enthusiastically.  And I was, but not in a good way.  Attack of the tennis elbow with a vengeance!

In the following weeks and then months, I was heard to say "Ow! ow!" while doing the following innocuous things:  lifting a backpack, opening a door, and basically anything that involved a gripping motion.  But wildfire doesn't stop for lateral epicondylitis, and I found myself hauling heavy things, using tools, and feeling intense pain for much of the season.

Eventually I landed at the physical therapist's office.  Weeks of rest and an arm band, plus weirdly lifting weights with only one arm, hadn't really helped.  My employee raved about dry needling.  "I only had to go once and it cured my tennis elbow!" he declared.

While dry needling might sound and even look like acupuncture, it isn't the same thing.  It's not based on traditional Chinese medicine but instead is intended to stimulate muscle trigger points, areas that are knotted and contracted as a response to injury. It's supposed to help release the knot and muscle tightness or stiffness.  (It's called "dry" because nothing is injected with the needle, like a steroid).

I eyed some large needles.  "Oh, those are the ones for backs and butts!" the therapist said cheerfully.  The ones he used for my elbow are thin and feel like getting blood drawn when they are inserted.  But when the needle hits the trigger point, it causes an involuntary twitch and hurts a lot, not gonna lie.  It's over quickly though.

Does it work? I think so. I've gone three times now, and I'm back to lifting light weights with my affected arm. The pain no longer radiates down my arm.  I can't feel the knots anymore that the therapist showed me.  But it hasn't been a miracle cure, and it's still going to be awhile to be 100% better.  I have to stretch my forearm several times a day, and I bought a contraption called a  Theraband Flexbar to exercise with (it's on Amazon, if you're in need of one).

I'll report back in a couple of weeks after my last appointment. In the meantime, has anyone reading tried dry needling? What did you think?