Friday, September 11, 2009

Things to do when you can't work out

Last night, I played the guitar for over an hour. My left index finger is perpetually sore or even partially numb these days. I think my wife is glad that I'm putting time into the guitar, even if what I'm playing doesn't really sound like music yet. I know that if I don't play it a lot, I'm going to get grief for spending the money.

Right now, my son is just starting lessons on the electric keyboard. My daughter is about to switch from playing the flute to playing the sax, although I think she really wants to play the drums. Our house is going to be noisy at times, but my guitar amp has the most power, so I'll be able to win. It's a good thing that no neighbors are close.

I know that the key for me is practice, so that's what I'm doing. Last night, I was working on the rhythm part of Jailhouse Rock. I also worked on Green Day's recent hit "Know Your Enemy". To be honest, there are only four chords needed to play most of that song, and two of them, a B and and E make up most of the song. But, one of the chords is a barre chord on the 7th fret, and barre chords are really tough for beginners. I have to cover up all six string with my index finger on the 7th fret, and do it in a way that each string is held down firmly, so that each string plays properly. Then, I have to use my other three fingers on other frets to finish the chord. The other main chord is a power chord, where not all of the strings get played. And, the fingering is very different for each of the two chords, so it takes me forever to move from one to another. So, I could play the song, but I'd have to record it and play it back at about 4x for it to sound remotely familiar.

I did have better luck last night with Rod Stewart's Maggie May, which I'm starting to get down.

Another thing I can do during my downtime is reading. With both The Daily Show and Colbert Report on a hiatus, there's nothing to watch on TV anyway, except for college football.

I tend to read non-fiction, and I tend to obsess on the topics of diet and exercise. I guess the fact that I've been a hard-working athlete for 25 years, yet I still always weigh more than I like keeps me obsessed there. I'm always searching for the "magic bullet" so I can finally get lean and be a good athlete. By the time I figure it out, if I ever do, I'll probably be too old to be competitive anyway. But, below are some books that I've read in the past year or so that I've found interesting and worth the time to read:

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes
The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Cordain and someone else
Slow Burn, Stu Mittleman
The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting, Cosgrove and Schuler
Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe
Built for Show, Nate Greene
The End of Overeating, David Kessler

There are a few others, and I even read one non-fitness book about the baseball Hall of Fame recently. That book greatly disappointed me, to be honest.

Of all the books above, the one I find most interesting and challenging is The Primal Blueprint. My diet and workouts have been greatly affected by that book, and I'm finding that my fitness and body composition are improving slowly but steadily. In many ways, the Primal Blueprint is a breezy read, but it comes to most of the same conclusions of Good Calories, Bad Calories, and it does it without the detailed science. I loved both books, but they are vastly different.

Lastly, I'm reading a lot online at the Precision Nutrition web site, through their coached eating and exercise program. My core workout schedule through the end of November comes from that program. This is my second time through the program, and the first time was a failure. But, I was the cause of the failure, not the program, and I'm finding that doing the program the right way is helping me to create some better dietary habits.

At times, I think I read too much and certainly obsess too much about these topics, but it's clear that something is wrong with the way that most Americans eat and exercise. I think it's become clear that for most people, exercise cannot overcome a bad diet. Exercise can cover up weaknesses in a diet, but to be really healthy, both diet and exercise need to be in synch.

I think another thing that stands out from this reading is that we are all different. We have different body types, different genomes, and different reactions to diets. There are certain ultrarunners who thrive on low-fat, high-carb diets. I think those diets are a disaster for me these days, and my diet tends to be based on quality proteins, quality fats, lots of fresh veggies and fruits, and some nuts. That diet would probably leave some other people feeling like crap.

But, the "Cheetos and Mountain Dew" diet is probably not good for any of us. I think.

After writing all of that, I think the guitar may be important to me right now because it stops me from thinking about everything else.

I'll get in some easy workouts this weekend, and enjoy an entire weekend with my daughter. My son and wife will be at the Penn State-Syracuse football game this weekend.


Speed Racer said...

Be careful. I broke my foot once practicing my guitar. I no longer play. It was a career-ending injury.

I've read some of those books. Have you ever read Thrive Diet (Brazier)? That book changed the way I look at food and training. And although he himself eats only plant-based foods, the best part of the book is that at no time did he tell you what you SHOULDN'T eat. Just why you SHOULD eat the alternative. Another book that I just finished and loved, loved, loved, loved, loved was Born to Run (McDougal I think). Have you read that one yet? If you haven't you might love it more than I did.

I'm putting the Primal Blueprint on my reading list right now.

Damon said...

I can see breaking something playing the guitar. It gets very frustrating at times. Yesterday, I spent an hour working on Nirvana's "All Apologies". The basic measure for the song is 8 notes, with 7 of them on the 5th string and the other an open sixth string. The note changes are easy, but after an hour, I still wasn't close on timing.

I've heard of the Thrive Diet and I knew the author was a vegan pro triathlete. Precision Nutrition is big on the concept of "subtraction by addition". That is, focus on getting the right foods into your diet and you won't have the ability to eat as many bad foods.

The Primal Blueprint is a bit of the opposite - get rid of the things out there that are bad for us, and start with all grains and sugar. Basically, I've been limiting myself to grains or sugar about once every two weeks or so, and that's been tolerable. It's been almost four months since I've had any alcohol and that's still tougher to me than getting rid of grains and sugar.

I did read Born to Run and enjoyed it, although I think the author definite took some literary license with some of the people in the book. I have started using Vibram Five Fingers for my lifting sessions and once my hamstring is healed, I'll try some running in them.