Archive for May, 2015

Fri. – 5/22 Flow + Langston Hughes

Let’s end the week with another day of saving yourself from sitting. Here’s your sequence for the top of every hour:

down dog to a plank, 7 push-ups, down dog to a plank, 15 mountain climbers each leg, down dog,
jump your feet to your hands, 7 jumping squats, 15 squats

Think flow. If you’re feeling frisky this Friday, do 12 or 15 push-ups instead of 7; ditto the jumping squats. Let us know in the comments how many times you remembered to get some movement into your day.

Today, in celebration of Langston Hughes, who passed this day 48 years ago…

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Thur. – 5/21 Push-ups + Sherman Alexie

Shake out your arms. Feeling good & ready to get back to the push-ups? Here we go:

20 push-ups, 10 squats, 10 V-ups
15 push-up, 10 squats, 10 V-ups
10 push-ups, 10 squats, 10 V-ups
15 push-up, 10 squats, 10 V-ups
20 push-ups, 10 squats, 10 V-ups

Break this up into as many pieces as necessary to have every last one of your push-ups be all the way down to the ground.

Our poem in day 21 of our Push-ups + Poems is by Sherman Alexie. Before he became famous for his short story collections (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, The Toughest Indian in the World) and his National Book Award winning young adult novel The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie was a poet.

The Powwow at the End of the World
Sherman Alexie (1996)

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us
how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Wed. – 5/20 Maintaining Rage + Maya Angelou

In Cambodia, May 20 is a day for remembering the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter of the country’s population from 1975 to 1979. When the Cambodian government declared the day of commemoration, the New York Times mistranslated T’veer Chong Kamhaeng as the Day of Hate. This is way off base, but not surprising: the day’s anger is directed not only at the dictator Pol Pot, but also at the United States for its role in helping Pol Pot come into power. According to journalist Tom Fawthrop, the more accurate translation of T’veer Chong Kamhaeng is “Day of Maintaining Rage.” That seems a right response to genocide.

OK, some days I’m just not able to make the connection between the day and the workout. Today is one of those days. Here’s the workout:

7 bent-over dumbbell rows
7 push-ups
7 bent-over dumbbell rows
5 weighted squats (dumbbells at your shoulders)
5 push-presses
5 weighted squats (dumbbells at your shoulders)

3 times all the way through – 4 if you have some rage to maintain and need to train up for it.

Caged Bird
Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Tue. – 5/19 Burpee border crossings + Gloria Anzaldúa

photoFor today’s Push-up + Poetry challenge, you’ll be jumping over an obstacle of your choice. It can be low to the ground (broomstick/jo/PVC pipe/barbell) or higher (a barbell with bumper plates, a bench, a box) for burpee jump-overs. My favorite is a fearless friend lying on the ground.

To do the burpee jump-over, face the obstacle, do a burpee, stand up and jump over the obstacle, turn around, do a burpee, jump back over to your original side. That’s one.

2 burpee jump-overs
10 squats
15 mountain climbers each leg

Drive through each round as fast as possible – the smoother your movements, the faster you’ll be. Following the theme from yesterday, do them at the top of every hour. You’re shooting for 10 rounds total. If you’ve not done 10 by the end of the day, do the remainder straight through, fast and smooth.

When obstacles, barriers and borders are put into place by the powers that be to keep you down and out, prepare to jump.  Our poem today is from Gloria Anzaldúa’s astounding Borderlands/La Frontera:

To live in the borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra española
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps while carrying all five races on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing
that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,
is no longer speaking to you,
that mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you
is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera
people walk through you, wind steals your voice,
you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat
forerunner of a new race,
half and half–both woman and man, neither–
a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to
put chile in the borscht
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border check points;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to
resist the gold elixer beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have shattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;

To live in the Borderlands means
the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive in the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.

Mon. – 5/18 On the hour + Adrienne Rich

This past year’s most shared fitness infographic is one that screams: SITTING IS KILLING YOU. Histrionics aside, the science is solid – those of us who sit 6+ hours a day are 40% more likely to die within 15 years than those who sit less than three. This is even if you exercise. What?!

Many of us sit 9+ hours a day (working, in the car, on the couch), which bumps up the risk even higher, of cancer (by 13%) and of cardiovascular disease (by 14%). Sitting for long periods increases insulin resistance, which increases your risk of diabetes by a whopping 91%. The studies are clear that an hour-long stint at the gym (or at queerfit) makes you healthier in other ways, but does not protect you from the increased risks caused by prolonged sitting.

So. Sitting will kill you. What to do about it? Last week, the NYTimes passed along a suggestion: a 2-minute walk every hour. The suggestion is based on a new study that discovered regularly breaking up long sits with “light-intensity physical activity” does the trick. Just standing up and stretching isn’t quite enough, but nor is it necessary to do a full out workout. Jumping jacks, walking around, lunges, etc. on the hour seems to be the thing. For Monday, then…

At the top of every hour, starting with breakfast (you are eating breakfast, yes?) and continuing on to bedtime:

down dog
5 push-ups
10 squats
3 lunges each leg
10 squats
5 push-ups
down dog
bear walk (check out this :09 video of a grandpa bear walking if you’re unsure how) back to your seat

In the second half of your day, do the first set of 5 push-ups one level up from your regular push-ups. When you sit back down, send today’s challenge to someone you’d like to join you in cutting the risks of sitting.

Monday’s poem is by Adrienne Rich, written as a response to Bertolt Brecht’s question (asked in 1933, when he left Germany as Hitler came into power), What kind of times are these, when/A conversation about trees is almost a crime/Because it implies silence about so many atrocities!

What Kind of Times are These
Adrienne Rich (1995)

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

Sun. – 5/17 Dumbbells out + Claudia Rankine

Sunday’s dare comes as two fragments. You can do them together, or the first fragment in the morning and the second at night.

Fragment 1:

7 times:
7 dumbbell thrusters
7 renegade rows (push-up gripping your dumbbells, left arm row, right arm row, repeat)
7 V-ups or sit-ups

Fragment 2:

max hold inversion (handstand or otherwise)
45 squats
max hold inversion

The day’s poem is also two fragments, from Claudia Rankine‘s Citizen, An American Lyric (2014). If you buy one book this season, this is the one.

Fragment 1:

You take in things you don’t want all the time. The second you hear or see some ordinary moment, all its intended targets, all the meanings behind the retreating seconds, as far as you are able to see, come into focus. Hold up, did you just hear, did you just see, did you just do that? Then the voice in your head silently tells you to take your foot off your throat because just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.

Fragment 2:

A friend writes of the numbing effects of humming and it returns you to your own sigh. It’s no londer audible. You’ve grown into it. Some all it aging – an internalized liquid smoke blurring ordinary ache.

Just this morning another, What did he say?

Come on, get back in the car. Your partner wants to face off with a mouth and who knows what handheld objects the other vehicle carries.

Trayvon Martin’s name sounds from teh car radio a dozen times each half hour. You pull your love back into the seat because though no one seems to be cahsing you, the justice system has other plans.

Yes, and this is how you are a citizen: Come on. Let it go. Move on.

Sat. – 5/16 Rest day + you

Supergroupers, we’re at The Wall on Irwin street for Saturday’s workout. Come a little early to park – the beltline has made the area a little tight on parking. 

Everyone else, Saturday is a day to recover from 100 push-ups. If you missed the 100 push-up dare/test yesterday, though, do it today. 

Poem-wise, you have all day to find the poetry in your awesome, mundane life and write something. Short or long, rhyming or not, smooth or stuttering – whatever is, put some inadequate words to it. Share if you dare.

Fri. – 5/15 100 ways + Rumi

We’re at the halfway mark of our 31 Days of Push-ups (+ Poetry) Challenge. How’s it going for you? After a day off from the push-ups, lets get back in with a simple task:

100 perfect push-ups

You have all day to do them and can break them up however you like, but try to get in at least 2 big sets. Move your hand position around to keep your joints fresh & spry. If you want to use this as a benchmark, do all 100 and time it. Let us know in the comments when you’re done, and your time if that’s relevant. Perfect means your chest touches the ground and you maintain a flat plank from shoulders to knees (or toes). As always, we have a slight preference for doing a full plank push-up from a bench than a push-up on your knees.

The poem for Friday is by the Persian philosopher Rumi. Each of your push-ups is one of…

A Hundred Ways to Kiss the Ground
Jalaluddin Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Thur. – 5/14 A little ninja action + Kaylin Haught

photoSometimes in the middle of a push-up challenge, you need a break from push-ups. Today’s mix includes overhead squats, using a broomstick, rake, chair, jo, dowel rod, piece of PVC pipe, or barbell. If you feel your knees coming way forward, stand 18 inches in front of a chair (far enough you have to reach back with your butt) and squat to the chair. You’ll lack depth, but you’ll save our knees.

As many rounds as possible in 7 minutes of:

15 overhead squats  (7 if they’re weighted)
15 mountain climbers each leg
forward roll
15 ninja tuck jumps

God Says Yes To Me
Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Wed. – 5/13 MOVE + Lucille Cilfton

We’ll be doing – what else? – push-ups today, but first, a word about the 13th of May.

MOVE was a self-proclaimed radical, black liberation movement founded in the early 1970’s by John Africa. The Philadelphia group adhered to a “meet fist with fist” philosophy of self-defense in dealings with the police, though the years of confrontations between MOVE and Police-Commissioner-turned-Mayor Frank “I’ll make Attila the Hun look like a faggot” Rizzo were lopsided affairs: the police beat two pregnant MOVE women so viciously in 1974 that both women miscarried; in 1976 when 3-week old Life Africa was killed while her mother was being clubbed by the police, the police denied the baby existed until press were invited by MOVE to view the body; in 1978, the city set up a two-month long blockade of the MOVE residence, cutting off water and setting up an armed perimeter to prevent food from entering.

Forced to negotiate, MOVE agreed to leave their property within 90 days. Members did move out, but the property remained open as a school. The police secured arrest warrants, which were “served” by hundreds of SWAT police with bulldozers. When the police discovered MOVE members had barricaded themselves in the basement, the fire department deployed fire hoses to flood them out. Gunshots were heard – there is disagreement over whether the shots came from MOVE members or from across the street – and the police blind-fired 2,000 rounds of ammunition into the basement. Officer James Ramp was killed, likely by a bullet fired by another police officer. The mayor ordered the building to be immediately bulldozed, destroying the ballistic evidence that would have shown it was impossible for MOVE members in the basement to have fired the shot that killed Officer Ramp. Nine MOVE members were arrested and convicted of murder and attempted murder, and given sentences of 30-100 years.

The remaining MOVE members relocated their school and residence to West Philadelphia, where they lived for 5 years. Based on some neighbors’ complaints about the group’s political messages and the “health hazard” created by MOVE’s compost, the police secured an eviction order against the group, bolstered by arrest warrants made out for a willy-nilly slate of parole violations and contempt of court violations. On May 13, 1985, the police commissioner himself went to supervise the eviction, yelling through a bullhorn, “Attention MOVE! This is America!” before ordering his officers to throw tear-gas canisters into the building. Mistaking (intentionally, according to officers who later testified upon being granted immunity) breaking glass for gunshots, the police opened fire with automatic weapons and called in a state police helicopter. The helicopter dropped two military grade C-4 bombs into the MOVE townhouse,

The townhouse burst into flames. Firefighters were ordered to stand by idly while the fire raged. Eleven people, including five children, burned to death. The only survivor, Ramona Africa, was charged and convicted of conspiracy and riot. She served her entire 7 year sentence rather than renounce MOVE.

Today is the 30 year anniversary of the MOVE bombing. Multiple official investigations have found the Philadelphia police at fault for excessive use of force and other Constitutional violations, but the City of Brotherly Love has yet to apologize or even acknowledge wrongdoing in firebombing its own residents. All of the MOVE 9 remain in prison.

As for Wednesday’s challenge, we’re doing:

5 rounds:

20 push-ups
20 bent-over dumbbell rows
1 minute wall sit or handstand hold

Here is Lucille Clifton, about the bombing, and complicity –

Lucille Cilfton

they had begun to whisper
among themselves     hesitant
to be branded neighbor to the wild
haired women the naked children
reclaiming a continent


he hesitated
then turned his smoky finger
toward Africa toward the house
he might have lived in might have
owned or saved had he not turned


the helicopter rose at the command
higher at first then hesitating
then turning toward the center
of its own town only a neighborhood


she cried as the child stood
hesitant in the last clear sky
he would ever see the last
before the whirling blades the whirling smoke
and sharp debris carried away all clarity


if you live in a mind
that would destroy itself
to comfort itself
if you would stand fire
rather than difference
do not hesitate