Archive for May, 2013

The Contagion Theory of QF

A few years back, a New York Times Magazine cover story asked, Are Your Friends Making You Fat? The obnoxiously titled article took a close look at the work of Harvard researchers Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, who evaluated a 12,067 person social network over 32 years and discovered that obesity spread throughout the social network as if it were contagious.  It wasn’t just a matter of birds of a feather flocking together. The researchers used fancy statistical methods to show that social ties caused weight gain to travel from friend to friend. When someone became obese, their friends were 57%more likely to also become obese. Among close, mutual friends, one friend becoming obese increased the risk of the other friend becoming obese by 171%.

There are some problems with the Christakis-Fowler study, including its use of Body Mass Index (BMI) to define obesity, and its data set being limited to questionnaires where each person listed only a single friend. The study’s main point, though, is solid: within a social network, behaviors and health outcomes spread like butter on a hotcake.   

Happiness, anxiety, political beliefs, divorce, even the experience of low back pain – your friends have an unexpectedly significant impact on all these. No duh, you may say. But you may be surprised at how powerful an impact we’re talking here. Ask yourself, what’s more likely to make you happier, a $11,000 raise or an additional happy friend? Read more…

Most Awkward Summer Ever

I love awkward. It’s why we use loosely packed sandbags with weight that shifts around as we heave and heft. The shifting weight is awkward, and the instability forces your stabilizing muscles to jump in and help out. When you clean (with power, not with soap) and then push a sandbag overhead, your supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis all get tapped. The awkwardness of the sandbag puts much greater demands on these small, rotator cuff muscles than when you’re using a perfectly rigid bar weighted with perfectly balanced bumper plates.

On a physical front, stronger stabilizing muscles translate to much less likelihood that you’ll injure yourself when you move something heavy that’s not a rigid bar weighted with perfectly balanced bumper plates. That is, when you move any heavy thing in real life.

On the existential front, we work with awkward weight because life, like an under-stuffed sandbag, is awkward. Not for everyone – two people have never been awkward: (1) Dawson of Dawson’s Creek, and (2) the Dalai Lama. For the rest of us, though, our lives are filled with awkward.  Family is awkward. Handshakes are awkward. Breakups are awkward.

The point of training awkward is not to just get OK with awkward. The point is to get awesome with awkward.  And there’s no better time than summer to get it on with the awkward. So…four things to do for your most awkward summer ever:

1. Go swimming. There’s great potential for awkwardness in public pools, especially for gender non-conformers and anyone with hang-ups about their body. That is, nearly everyone. Rather than awkwardness being a reason to avoid swimming pools, make it a reason to go swimming. A few years ago, the five year son of a friend spent the afternoon staring (very politely) at me before screwing up his courage to ask (very politely), “What do you wear to the swimming pool?”  I told him Read more…

Oh Overhead squat – a dithyramb

So long as we’re on the subject of squats, let’s continue today with a dithyramb* to the single greatest exercise of them all: the (heavy) overhead squat**.

* Dithyrambs were rowdy, often lewd songs sung by groups of banqueters – mostly drunk, who may or may not have been dressed as satyrs – in honor of Dionysus. As a literary form, the dithyramb peaked in the 6th century BC, disappeared from the weight of accumulated embarrassments, then reemerged 2,500 years later as the modern rugby song.

** Overhead squats are squats performed with a heavy barbell held over your head. The balance, mobility, and core strength required to keep the weight exactly over your center of gravity as you sit into a squat and stand it back up makes the overhead squat the unrivaled champion of exercises. If all exercises were gathered in a Roman coliseum in a battle royal to the death, the overhead squat would emerge as slayer of all other exercises. Even my beloved deadlift would be left in the dust, destroyed by the overhead squat’s superior demands on kinesthetic awareness, shoulder mobility, and hip & pelvic stability.

Enough asterisk-al chatter. The dithyramb:

Oh, amidst the mighty deeds of lifters of weights,
None compare to overhead squatters
Valiant, with boldness unsurpassed,
powerful strength exceeding those of a thousand puny mens
Over your broad brave shoulders
A tunic of plum draped round your plumiest of deltoids, you
raise up your loaded bar.
Pull the bar apart! Chest up! Weight in heels!
Godlike, Read more…

You need to know squat




Last week I gave some background on why queerfit thinks of bodyweight squats as a restorative exercise. To wit, years of sitting for long stretches of time in the twin evil creations of western capitalism – chairs & couches – have put the kabbash our mobility, and the best way to restore that mobility is unweighted squats. If they’re done correctly.

A good, restorative air squat goes like this:

  1. Set up with your feet shoulder width apart and turned slightly outward.
  2. Push your butt back and hinge at your hip;
  3. then as you sit downwards,
  4. push your knees out so your heels remain flat on the ground.
  5. Reverse to stand.

That’s it. The bottom of your squat is as far below your knees as you can get your hip crease while maintaining a good curve in (as opposed to rounding) your lower back and remaining fairly upright with a big, high chest.  If your knees wobble or cave inwards as you stand up, shove them outwards.

Check out the difference:

Read more…

What’s Humanly Possible

[location change tomorrow: meeting at “The Wall” location across from the Irwin Street Market. Street address 660 Irwin St.] 

With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, let’s start with a tribute to our awesome parents who come out to QF and get their strong on with kids in tow. Here’s Elizabeth Akinwale doing 20 squats @ 225 lbs while her kid bounces around in the foreground.

Then, to get us into the weekend on the right note of awe, here are two very different examples of un-friggin-believable coordination and strength. The first is of Akinwale again, this time snatching 196 pounds. The snatch is the most explosive, coordinated movement humanly possible.  (As your inner frat-boy scrambles around for the best joke in that sentence, two points of information: (1) the snatch is an fiendishly difficult Olympic weightlifting event where the lifter grabs the bar with a wide grip and pulls the weight from the floor directly overhead in one continuous motion, and (2) I wrote explosive, coordinated movement to distinguish from the varieties of involuntarily explosiveness we all unfortunately know are humanly possible) Part of what makes this lift so amazing is that Akinwale only learned how to snatch three years ago.

The second video is of dancer and performance artist Miyoko SHIDA displaying the most beautiful manifestation of core strength and coordination I’ve ever seen. Every once in a very long while you see something that completely changes your sense of the possible. Here it is. Watch it to the end. You will spend the entire seven minutes forty-three seconds holding your breath and nearly dying of wonder.   

See you tomorrow at 10:00 at the Irwin Street wall. Come ready to amaze yourself! 

Weeks like this…

[Rain in the forecast; Saturday’s rain location at the end]

The men in Guantanamo Bay prison are there on suspicion that they were members of organizations out to destroy freedom. They’ve been kept in detention for over ten years without charge or trial. Most of them have been cleared for release, but they’re still there. There is no indication when any of them will be released, if ever. Their only form of protest left is to go on hunger strike, for which they have had their arms and legs strapped to a restraint chair and force-fed through a tube shoved down their nose.

Go freedom.

Meanwhile, a new study out of Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 44% of Republicans believe armed revolution may be necessary in the next few years. The purpose of such an armed uprising? For them to remain armed. And why do they want to remain armed? In case there’s need for an armed uprising.

Go rational thinking. Or thinking of any kind, for that matter.

And then there’s the FBI, using the 40th anniversary of a shoot-out on the New Jersey turnpike between state troopers and black liberation army members  to put Assata Shakur on the most-wanted terrorist list and double the bounty on her head.

For weeks like this, there’s Queerfit. The freedom we believe in is exactly the opposite of indefinite detention and force-feeding. The revolution we’re preparing for is not for the sake of guns. The Assata Shakur we quote is this: Read more…