Spring Has Sprung

Well, I got out to the archery range, anyway.


From my Instagram stream.

 

Happy Paddy’s Day!

 


From Looking Over on Flickr.

 

Going the Distance

I did a ton of swimming over the course of about a year after I had some trouble adjusting to running. I am still having trouble, but every time I come back to it, I have a slightly different problem, which I step back and resolve, eventually to uncover a new problem. (At this rate, by the time I can actually run regularly for more than a few months at a time, I expect to have among the most perfectly balanced physiques and flawless mechanics known to humanity.)

Swimming was a way to get deeply engaged while recovering from some of the problems I had, and San Francisco makes it easy. I am a little claustrophobic in a pool (as I discovered during the coaching sessions I did to help me develop a clean freestyle stroke). San Francisco has a park in the bay with a nearly 300m buoy line, and I probably did more than 99% of my meters there, starting right after my first coaching session by going outside to do my homework instead of trying to figure out the pool’s schedule. I got a lot of the same environmental pleasure from swimming that I got from running (much of which I did on trails within Golden Gate Park) – a slight sense of isolation makes me feel good, and the occasional sea lion sighting or near-miss with another swimmer was no big deal.


I had a mini-panic of documenting places I’d spent a lot of time as my move date approached. This isn’t a great photo of Aquatic Park, but I was running out of time.

I did a mix of wetsuit only and with fins, in part depending on distance. I found after a mile or so that it was easy to add distance from a physical point of view. I am basically an aerobic engine with cyclist legs, so this was particularly true if I had fins on – it was practically a case of “lie down and watch the miles go by.”

As I prepared to move to Baltimore, it was pretty clear I wouldn’t be able to continue swimming as conveniently and pleasantly as I could in San Francisco, and I gave a little thought to what I wanted to be sure to do. Fitocracy has in-site challenges for various distances for the triathlon sports – the longest swim distance is 10km. Challenge accepted.

I doubt I ever really believed I would swim that far. I was pushing my distances out, and I was joking with others about 10km being some kind of obvious benchmark, but I was never a fast swimmer, and the sheer time commitment posed risks such as getting so chilled I couldn’t operate my car afterward. Also, I never quite adjusted to how much more I needed to eat to support swimming – I struggled to maintain my weight as my distances climbed. (I’m not complaining exactly, but it was challenging enough to make me suspect swimming was not a long-term thing.)


Of course, as soon as I committed to move away from SF, I started seeing stuff like this all over the place! And it didn’t hurt that this was a typical view from my bike commute to work.

When I got my move date more or less nailed down, I looked at the calendar and figured out how many weeks I had to bridge the gap between my longest swim so far and 10km, which by then had firmly settled itself in my head as Important. In May, I had a little over 2 months to work up from around 6km, so there was a very real possibility I would fail. I tried to swim about twice a week – 1 short swim + 1 long one – and then I don’t remember what happened, but I got busy or distracted and ended up out the water for almost a month. When I got back in, I figured I’d try for 8km but give myself a pass if I only made it 5, and then give myself 2 more tries to hit the full 10km.

June 16 was a beautiful day, and as I approached 7km, I was happy to just stay in the water. I had “only 3k to go” – no problem, as I had just done it twice and then some.

I was ready to move.


I never did visit this place when I lived there. Maybe I can go as a proper tourist sometime.

All photos from my Instagram stream.

Outside the Back Door to My Building

Last fall, I moved to a part of the country that has a so-called real winter, after living on the West Coast for my entire remembered life. As luck – or something – would have it, I happened to move right before the snowiest winter in 5 years, approaching the snowiness of a 2009 season dubbed Snowmageddon.

My mother grew up a couple hundred miles north of here, and she’s been horrified on my behalf by the weather reports. I have appropriate clothing and have mostly been working from home – and I have a comfortable apartment – so I haven’t had (m)any complaints. Also, the local authorities are good at road clearing.

And when you’re not struggling with heat or transportation, even a somewhat alarming clowder of icicles right above the back door is rather beautiful.

Thing-a-day 27: The First Selfie

Is a selfie simply a self-portrait? Many say no, that a selfie is explicitly taken while holding the camera. So while at least one very early photographer experimented with himself as a subject, the first true selfie is these guys:

Here’s how they did it:

Snapped in New York on the roof of the Marceau Studio on Fifth Avenue, across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, this picture features five mustached photographers holding an antediluvian analog camera at arm’s length. Because this camera would have been too heavy to hold with one hand, Joseph Byron is propping it up on the left, with his colleague Ben Falk holding it on the right. In the middle, you have Pirie MacDonald, Colonel Marceau, and Pop Core.

What’s interesting here is that these five gentlemen were the photographers of the Byron Company, a photography studio founded in Manhattan in 1892, which was described by the New York Times as “one of New York’s pre-eminent commercial photography studios.”
From This Might Be The First Selfie In Photographic History: Mustached New Yorkers, Not Teenage Girls, Were the Creators of the Arm’s-Length Selfie.

So basically the first selfie was literally marketing. Now, of course, it is in true 21st Century fashion all about Brand You.

Thing-a-day 24: Hero Burger

It’s possible that more work went into the shot on the left than goes into any women’s magazine cover.

What it takes to make the perfectly photogenic burger

Thing-a-day 22: I’ll eat you up I love you so

Worth1000 has the best photoshoppery contests. I want to do one of those marvelous blog entries that is like a magical journey through the imagination, but the problem with Worth1000 and me is that I get lost down the rabbit hole, and nothing gets done for at least a day. So you will have to be satisfied with this.


From Miss Mantis, by ufosgalore

The source image is Portrait of Princesse Albert de Broglie, née Joséphine-Eléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1853). Well, the source for the room and the dress, anyway….

Thing-a-day 19: “What’s my problem?”

I’ve been collecting little bits and pieces I’ve written over and over again as people have asked me questions about food and exercise. One frustration I have with the fitness industry is that its sales focus tends to reduce solutions to THIS ONE WEIRD TRICK and other foolish formulas, single sizes that fit pretty much none, and that’s just when they’re not frankly bunk. What interests me more is teaching a person how to find the path that will work for them. Have a question? Ask me! I don’t expect to make any money from this, so I can just talk about it here on my blog, and see where it goes. Feel free to comment here or Twitter @caitlinburke.

There are lots of ways to gain and lose weight, but a single dominant feeling about all of them: that ultimately individuals just can’t control it for long.

It’s not true, of course – lots of people successfully adjust their weight and maintain it at a level they like, and there’s lots of interest in what makes them different. It probably boils down to the brain, and more specifically to beliefs, like “I believe I can accomplish this and stick with it” combined with “I know what I need to do to make it work.”

It can be hard to believe we can accomplish something even if we know what to do. Part of that comes from the wide variety of ways there are to get things done, so general principles often don’t help. Nobody seriously tells people how to make cookies by saying “Mix sugar, butter, and flour, and bake – easy,” but they don’t hesitate to say, “Eat less and move more – easy!” I believe both those things, but I’ve made a LOT of different kinds of cookies over the years, and I’ve also experimented a lot with food and exercise. And you can, too.

What does it mean to eat less?

Eating less means fewer calories in, overall. Thanks, Captain Obvious! We want to come up with something we can do – happily, every day, so we’ll have to come up with some specifics … that we can live with.

Eating is sometimes compared to fueling a car, but it’s more like budgeting. To support yourself, you need to match your means and your spending, and most of us have a basic complement of things we need to spend money on routinely – rent, food, keeping the lights on. Let’s assume we have a decent income, enough for bills + a little extra. Subtract what we absolutely have to pay out, and we are left with some money we can spend on fun stuff if we want.

Your daily intake is a budget that has to have basic components in it so your body doesn’t fall apart — so you have a place to live and can keep the lights on. Those components are a mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, plus micronutrients like vitamins (and, of course, water). Most people can meet those basic requirements in fewer calories than they need to keep their weight the same – eating mindfully still lets you have some fun. Where most people have trouble is in the quantities and the proportions, both figuring out what they should be and knowing when – and how – to say “when.”

What does it mean to move more?

This is both the easy part and the hard part: “move more” means almost anything. It’s walking to and from a bus stop instead of driving door to door – or at least parking at the far end of the lot. It’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s getting up from your desk once an hour to take a walk around the office, or doing a bit of calisthenics when your brush your teeth. The hardest part about this is narrowing down what will work best for you. The good news is you don’t have to have a perfect plan from the get-go, and you don’t have to stick to the plan perfectly even after you have it.

There’s a single dominant feeling out there about exercise, too – that it’s a punishment or, if not actively painful, a distasteful medicine. No wonder people are so sedentary! Your body actually likes moving around, and regular activity has good effects on almost every health and well-being measure you can look at. Most people adapt quickly to exercise if they are consistent and a little bit organized about their approach – there is certainly no one way to make progress, and if you’re just starting out, it’s even easier to get going in the right direction. There’s a million ways to get your heart rate up and get your muscles working, so you can find a few that you enjoy.

What Do I Want to Accomplish?

Occasionally I do something unusual, like an Olympic-distance triathlon just because I have the the day off, or 46,000 meters on the rowing machine because it’s my 46th birthday. And people say “How do you do that? I want to do that.” Maybe, but probably not. I think the best way I can help other people is with my complete understanding that you almost certainly don’t want to do things the way I do them. At least not in a direct step-wise fashion. But I know how I came to understand what works for me, and I want to help others start that process, too.

Here are some questions I like to help with:

  • “How do I know what I should be eating?”
  • “Is [some particular food] harmful?”
  • “I have to eat less! How?”
  • “I have to exercise more! How!”
  • “I though this [diet|exercise] would solve my problem, but I hate it. Now what?”
  • “What does that knob on the side of the Concept2 rowing machine do?”

I’ll visit and explore those questions during the rest of the month (and, I hope, keep going).

Thing-a-day 18: Beginning of the End

So sighs a friend of mine upon discovering this page from LIFE Magazine in 1938:


View the full page — with many more, shocking photos! — at this link.

It was quoted extensively in an “on this date” piece in the Lock Haven (Penn.) Express, in 1967:

1-Piece Swim Suit Hit Shore 30 Years Ago

NEW YORK (AP) — Amid dire predictions of moral perdition, the topless bathing suit bit American beaches just thirty years ago this month. The furor was not to be believed. The city fathers of Atlantic City, N.J., home of the Miss America contest, said they would never tolerate such an obscenity on their strands. Across the country there were outraged howls. Bare bosoms? Belly buttons? And worse, Hairy bosoms and stomachs? Because the guardians of public morals were talking about men swimming in just trunks.

Until 1937, the men of America had been swimming in one- piece or two-piece knit bathing suits with more material above the belt than below. Most of the trunk parts had skirts over them, moreover. Like the topless fad for females, the mens’ craze originated on the French Riviera, spread to California and then insinuated its way to the East Coast. Life Magazine commented then that “in the more inhibited East a male costume consisting solely of trunks was, until just recently, cause for arrest on almost all public beaches and raised eyebrows on many a private one.” It wasn’t until the next year that Long Island’s Long Beach allowed men to air their chests and Atlantic City held off until the outbreak of World War

Bathing suit manufacturers complained that there was little chance for originality in design — just plain black knit trunks with a white canvas belt. The next year in its July 18, 1938, issue Life showed pictures with such captions as “trunks do little for faulty posture,” “hairy chests are becoming public,” “trunks should be privately fixed,” and “trunks should be worn high.” Atlantic City, and other hoi* outs, have long since lost their battle: The bathing suit manufacturers have discovered Heeding Madras, boxing trunks, Bermuda shorts, cabana suits and a great many other changes on the black knit trunks they thought were the limit. Will the topless fad for women spread as fast and the objections sound as silly so soon?

Yeah, so, that’s kind of a no on that last thing, although that fad remains popular in Europe and on private beaches of the West Coast — the same places this fad began!

Thing-a-day 17: Sportsball

I guess that’s a basketball.

I am impressed by the athleticism of these women, and I assume they must be dancers of some kind, who would be accustomed to some pretty fancy footwork in heels. I couldn’t find source information about this photo, and if you have some, I’d love to know more about it.

Women in the 1930s did wear different shoes for that game (and probably headgear, if any), when they meant business, though.


From the collection at Pics of Then, an individual’s collection of old photos.