Like I wrote in my last post, my fitness activity this year has mostly been Crossfit. And no question, Crossfit has been doing something. My pants are looser, and I have a much clearer idea of my strength and how to apply it, at least to rudimentary tasks. Recently at a party, I helped the hostess by picking up a nearly full beer keg (about 150 pounds) and moving it where she wanted — with no worries whatsoever that I was going to hurt myself.
[photo by twothirstycats (Flickr, Creative Commons)]
But at the same time I’ve been chucking beer kegs, I’ve been developing a nagging set of doubts about Crossfit, and thinking back wistfully on last year’s fitness quest (running 500 miles and 9 trail races barefoot), the way one might pine after a long-gone girlfriend. I miss that time alone on the trails, sometimes literally in the dark, feeling my way through the trees.
(Special note: when I say barefoot running, I mean actual barefoot running. Running in minimal shoes may be a fine thing, but it is not the same. Just take off your minimal shoes and you’ll see. ;) )
Crossfit criticisms and apologetics
Stay with that beer keg because it will reappear later. But for now know that my mixed feelings didn’t fit neatly into the most common critiques of Crossfit. …more
(Excuse the long intro — those dying for the interview please skip to the bottom of the post!)
I haven’t been doing much running lately, because in January I joined a gym. I thought I’d focus on Jiu-Jitsu, but I’ve ended up going mostly to Crossfit classes.
It’s a big change because Crossfit is so goal-oriented. Little could be less goal-oriented than the barefoot trail running I did last year. While yes, I did have goals for mileage and races completed, performance in minutes/mile was not really part of it. Barefoot running isn’t about acing races, it’s about the experience of running — feeling every grain of earth, hearing every bird, letting your body adapt itself to the environment.
This video captures the spirit of it. (And just in case you were wondering, it’s exactly what I would look like if I lost a few pounds, gained a few inches height, and went in for a full-body waxing. :) )
Meanwhile Crossfit is all about overwhelming numerical barriers. These girls are racing each other to finish this killer workout (check in on the struggles at about 7 minutes in):
There’s no question that the high-intensity workouts in Crossfit have been doing something for me — my pants are looser for sure.
It’s also one of the biggest trends in fitness. …more
Since moving to the Pacific Northwest years ago, I’ve become a kind of slacker athlete. I don’t want to become a complete couch potato (or these days it’s more like “laptop easy chair potato”), so I usually sign up for some sort of exercise or martial arts class and basically “show up.” That is, I just can’t or won’t get competitive. But it does help to have a goal that is at least a little bit scary.
In 2011 that goal was running 500 trail miles barefoot (note this means actually barefoot, not with minimal shoes, which aren’t the same for me), and doing every race in the X-Dog trail series barefoot. At 510 miles and 9 out of 12 races completed, I’m declaring victory.
The X-Dog running season started on a pretty easy note, with a muddy run around Hagg Lake. But the second event, the Havoc at the Hideout [where I was joined by some other, better :) barefoot runners], was punishing. Miles of hilly dirt road turned into incredibly deep sucking mud, with buried (and therefore invisible) pieces of sharp gravel. When I got to the end I was sure my feet would be mincemeat…
…But I think I had just one small cut, on the top of my foot not the bottom… and I actually felt really good otherwise. No limping around or sore muscles like other people have. I was totally comfortable in the beer line. This is the great benefit of barefoot running for me: though there is a bit of discomfort as you get used to the sensations, you learn how to treat your body better.
After the Havoc I was on my guard, and always carried an emergency set of minimal shoes in my pockets–but I found I never wanted to use them. It turns out you can run barefoot down a boulder-strewn mountainside, and it’s totally fun. But you can’t crash your way down it, like you might if you had shoes and the focus was on winning. And the bigger lesson is that your body can do so much more than you think it can, if you just give it a chance. Other than two or three cuts on the top of the foot from not picking my feet up enough on surfaces like this…
I had absolutely no running injuries this year. Well, I did tweak my calf muscle in December, running on smooth pavement, which I guess was just too consistent a surface for my trail-running brain to adjust to, but I was back running like normal a few days later. “No lost training days”– pretty good for a whole year of running.
Now I need a new goal for 2012. Suggestions? It doesn’t need to be running related.
That place (just a wee bit bigger than the one in the picture above) has three main virtues:
1. it’s smallness makes it very green, given that size is the primary determinant of a dwelling’s environmental footprint;
2. it’s nice, making it possible to live small without feeling like you are living in poverty; and
3. it’s very close to, but still quite separate from, the main house, meaning I can live a few feet from my mother-in-law and still think it’s a good thing. :)
In short, those are the virtues of the modern accessory dwelling unit, also known as a granny flat, backyard cottage, ADU, etc. Given that the nation will need to build millions of dwellings for aging 1- and 2-person households over the next 30 years, I think they are a really interesting option both socially and environmentally.
Now I’m one of the editors of a new site that’s all about accessory dwelling units — what they look like, how to build them, what regulations are, etc. It’s called AccessoryDwellings.org.
Please come check it and consider becoming a contributor. Thanks!!
Call me a curmudgeon, but I hate it when consumer products are designed to fail.
For me there is a certain quiet pleasure in having well-made things in my everyday life. You know, things that work well for their purpose, feel right in my hands, and are worthy and capable of being repaired, rather than just cast into the landfill. And so when I encounter things that don’t have those qualities–are badly made, badly designed for their purpose, and incapable of being repaired, I start to sputter with anger. Is it right that I feel personally insulted by poorly done products?
Probably not; my condition probably has a code in the DSM V. In any case it flared up this year when confronted with the subject of lunchboxes. Before my kid went to school I had no idea how revolting lunchboxes could be. I had visions of him traipsing along with one of those classy stackable things like in Eat Drink Man Woman (go to 1:55 in the video below).
Of course that wasn’t going to happen. Little kids want pictures, colors, logos, characters. So last year (kindergarten) we tried two kinds of lunch boxes that ended up raising my hackles. …more
When people see the granny cottage I built, a lot of them ask, “I’ve been thinking of doing something like that on my property – how do I get started?”
There haven’t been many good sources I can refer to, and though I try to be friendly I haven’t been that encouraging. Developing that cottage was actually quite a struggle, even in the supposed progressive city of Portland. When you create a second dwelling in or around your house, like this one photographed by radworld…
… you are essentially becoming a mini real estate developer, where you take on a lot of risks and responsibilities before you get—you hope—to the rewards.
A solid one-stop source of good information was sorely needed about how to develop a second dwelling on your property, whether you call it an in-law unit, a basement apartment, a backyard cottage, a garden suite, a secondary unit, or (to use the term favored by planners) an “accessory dwelling unit” or ADU.
Of course architects and contractors will offer …more
My own alternating tread device, like most I see around on the internet, was custom made out of wood by a carpenter, and is straight. However the Arke kit uses a modular metal unit as its spine, giving it a lighter appearance, and giving it the ability to curve. The Arke kit isn’t cheap ($1600 minimum, plus >$200 extra if you want a second handrail), though custom carpentry isn’t either. Neither a custom made wood alternating tread stair, nor the Arke kit, meets most residential codes in the US so it’s a wash in that respect. What’s the better choice for someone building or modding a small house?
I finally got a chance to see an Arke Karina kit in action, …more
One of the biggest hills to climb for any human being is actually noticing what is happening around you.
It’s not an easy task. People are deeply, instinctively attracted to theories and legends and plans. They want to be part of a story that makes their existence meaningful. And no matter how deep or shallow that identity is–from being part of a 5000-year old religion to following the latest, greatest version of the grapefruit diet– the ideology tends to occlude as much as it explains. It makes us ignore the experience of our senses. And occasionally it makes us insufferable new converts, robotically parroting the party line, immune to any new input, whether we’re born again Christians or diehard Apple or Linux users. (Is anyone a diehard Microsoft user?)
That’s why I was so pleased with a new book about the hot-button topic of the day: barefoot running. Barefoot running has been lighting up flame wars on fitness blogs and the Runner’s World forums for the last year (where I admit I’ve been spending way too much time). The main topic of contention is ostensibly which form of running (barefoot or “shod”) is more natural or suited to our existence today, and less likely …more
I got my yard inspected as backyard habitat as part of a program run by the Portland Audobon Society and Three Rivers Land Conservancy. I already knew it was working because in recent years we’ve been visited by a whole cocktail party of birds, insects (including dragonflies) and the occasional bat. But it was nice to receive the “Gold” certification anyway, because I got an all-important SIGN to put on my fence.
Fireweed (native), penstemon (native), and day lilies (not) under an Oregon white oak.
Black locust “Frisia” (“naturalized” in Oregon but not native)
Clockwise from bottom left: cultured variety of ninebark (a native), strawberry bush (similar to madrone, a native), hops on gate arbor, day lilies and Oregon white oak (native), low tech “rain garden” (read: glorified bucket surrounded by rocks and native rushes) and streamside lupin (native)
This sign was the answer to a bourgeois little quandary I’ve had: how to explain to the neighbors what I am doing (or not doing) with our “garden”? Without lecturing anyone, that is. …more
Last month I finally got sick of cleaning peanut butter off DVD’s. Between me and the 4.5 year old, there probably was a whole jar of the stuff inside the dvd player, and a corresponding amount of skipping. We’d turned to online streaming services like Hulu, which sat on remote servers and were invulnerable to the mess, but they tied up my laptop every time the kid wanted to watch Finding Nemo, or Super Structures. Also, I didn’t enjoy the vibe that was building up, where there was no separation between the machine I use for work and the one I use for vegging out.
It was finally time to realize a scheme I’d been mulling for a while: making a tiny little home theater PC (HTPC) that would allow my household to go diskless. Here’s how I did it and how it’s working — which is great, even if some providers of content and software seem determined to keep users stuck in the past.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with kitchen efficiency. Not green efficiency, but efficiency in terms of work. I would prefer to spend my time enjoying food, not preparing it or cleaning up. Why does my mother-in-law’s kitchen seem like such a breeze to work in while my own kitchen felt so awkward? And how can I save work without spending $20K-$100K on a major renovation?
I embarked on my own amateur analysis of kitchen flow and modded my kitchen to match. My work began with this kitchen work flow diagram:
I’m not much of a graphic artist, but it succinctly shows why it can be so hard to do work efficiently in the kitchen: …more
Photo by egazelle of a volunteer at the recent Hood ToCoast event. You’ve got a lot that’s good about Oregon in this picture: someone who is not being paid, and yet is completely at ease standing in a burned over clearcut, in the mist, by a cone, with a backpack and a bullhorn — which they are not afraid to use. :)