Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Two Months of Fitness

My favorite trainer was back today after being gone for a few weeks. He could tell right away that I had gone up on the size of dumbbells I using.

Back then I was working through my first case of tennis elbow and was terrified that I would hurt myself somehow. I quickly moved up from the five pound weights to eight pounds. And I would have hung around the tens for a while longer. But if there are a bunch of women in the class, then all the eights and tens get used up. So I moved up to the twelves and have gotten used to them.

I think back to month one and it seems like nothing. I was doing five mile runs then because I didn’t know what was wrong with my knee yet, but gosh it was a real struggle to get into the gym three days a week for forty-five minutes each. I never really got sore, but I was dog tired a lot of the time.

Lately, I’m doing closer to six days a week and between an hour and a half to two hours each time– plus biking to the gym and back on top of that. I suspect I’m at the point where improving my diet will give more results than spending more time at the gym. But I’m much less afraid of getting hurt at the gym now. In fact, due to a chronic knee problem I have always been terrified of the gym. Of course, weights turn out to be a huge part of the cure for that sort of thing, so my instincts were opposite from what I really needed to do for years.

I know exactly how far I can run or bike before hurting myself now. A month of time consuming physical therapy did not work a miracle, unfortunately. I don’t know what to think of that. Surprisingly, I don’t skip leg day anymore. In fact… lifting weights makes my ailing knee feel better.

Gaining a newfound familiarity with your limitations… it can be a real downer. I can’t tell you how bad I wish I could be training for a half marathon right now. But it’s off the table at the moment. And I can’t console myself with insanely long bike rides while I work through this, either. On the plus side I’ve got a pair of biceps that I just didn’t have four weeks ago. And there’s nothing stopping me from hitting the gym as much as I want. But I tell you… there’s nothing like not being able to do something that really makes you want to be able to do it.


Nerds at the Gym

I don’t wear headphones at the gym so it’s turned into a lot of time spent looking at myself in the mirror or else watching how people regular people behave. Seriously, this is the most time I’ve ever spent around people that didn’t involve a compiler or a Dungeon Masters Guide.

It’s surprising to me, though. Normal people are actually pretty nice. They find out I’m into biking and weightlifting and if they’re into it, too, they get so excited. They have to tell me about this thing that they did or some advice that they have. It’s like I’m instantly part of their tribe or something.

Now, I have never in my life given much thought to appearance. But there’s something about that moment when you catch your reflection somewhere and you fail to recognize yourself that can change that real fast. I know you’ve seen it happen with a girl you knew. Maybe you took her for granted because she just wasn’t that good looking. Then one day she shows up with her hair fixed up and a nice outfit and you can’t stop looking at her. You know the whole story… but your head just swivels around reflexively anyway.

My impression of nerds in general is that they don’t get that that sort of thing can really work in their favor, too. A lot of them got smacked down pretty hard in their school days and they’re stuck with this assumption that nothing they do can make a difference. Or maybe they just pretend like they’re not trying on purpose so they don’t have to feel bad about failing.

What’s been eyeopening for me is discovering that nerdy girls really do exist. No, not the cute girl that puts on geek glasses and then get into stereotypical male hobbies. I’m talking frumpy, pasty-white girls with absolutely no muscle tone. I’ll tell you, though… it’s not how they look that really makes them a nerd. It’s the way they act. They can’t just come into class and quietly do the exercises like everybody else. They’re always making noise: self-deprecating jokes, nervous laughter.

Seeing it from the other side is really instructive. But yeah, the biggest nerds of all are still dudes. It kills me watching some of this play out, too.

I walked into a section to do my routine one time and there was this really attractive girl there doing her thing. This trainer goes to give her some help she turned out not to need and then he just went off with this jokey faux-subservient routine. He was loud. He kept on. Some of his friends chuckled at his antics… but he was just plain dying. The awkwardness was painful.

My takeaway…? If you’ve put a lot of effort into improving your appearance and you don’t want it to go to waste, try this: SHUT UP. Goofy self-deprecating attempts at humor simply don’t have the effect you want it to. They really don’t.

Don’t be that guy.

In fact… flip the script altogether. Be the guy that patiently endures the nerdy girls embarrassing themselves in front of him.

It’s way more entertaining.

You Don’t Have to Be a Nerd

I have been unfit for my entire life.

Changing that wasn’t easy. Every other year or so for a long time I’d attempt to do something about it. Usually within two weeks I’d injure myself somehow. I had no idea what sort of things would yield the best results. And I had no idea how to actually get on the right track.

My advice now for nerds that are sick and tired of being nerds would be this:

  • Don’t waste your time jogging, doing exercise DVDs, and doing the stuff you remember doing in your high school P. E. class. If you are ignorant of how fitness works, there is no way you are going to get this right.
  • Join a gym… preferably one that has physical trainers that can give you constant feedback on getting your form right from the start. LIFT WEIGHTS.
  • Don’t go overboard too quickly, but try to ramp up slowly. However… if you are chronically unfit, you may find out where your physical limits are and end up in a lot of pain. If that happens to you, go to your doctor and make it a priority to get it figured out.

Here is what things were like when I got to the three week mark:

So I’m in the gym doing my routine, two sets of twenty on all the upper body machines I can comprehend. I’ve been at this for three straight weeks now. I keep going over to the dispenser to get the paper towels to wipe down each machine and I look at that guy in the mirror and I think. Ah, I just stand up straighter lately, that’s all. I look again the next time and I think… maybe I just look different when I’m doing weights because I’m flexing. Third time I look again, and I can’t deny it. SOMETHING IS DIFFERENT. I get home and take pictures for the before and after thing… and good gosh. I’ve got pectoral muscles. I’ve got a freaking chest.

Three weeks. Three days a week. A forty minute routine. It made a difference. Yeah, I was jogging and biking, too. I traded out cereal and replaced it with steak and eggs. I dropped soda and candy bars entirely.

I can’t believe it. I… I didn’t know this was possible.

And here is what things were like at the six week mark:

Okay, so it’s been six weeks since hitting the gym. I started out focusing on chest, shoulders, and back. It’s not that much difference, maybe, but I feel like a football player.

So Friday I’m walking my bike home after something went sideways on it. I walk past this mom with her lanky teen-aged daughter The girl steals a glance at me, locks her eyes right on my pecs, then looks down and away. (Hey, “eyes up here” is your line.)

Okay, maybe that’s just in my head. No big deal. Next day I head to the gym and this blonde is coming out as I’m going in. She looks at me… then she looks me up and down. Obviously I’m imagining things. But while I’m working out, I turn around and I catch this other cute blonde checking me out. Same girl twice.

Okay, so maybe this is just a gym thing. It still hasn’t sunk in.

Then I’m on the bus today minding my on business. This cute chick sits in the back sort of diagonal from me. Fifteen minutes later I glance up… and she’s freaking staring at me. I look at her with this sort of “what are you looking at” type look and just stare back… but she doesn’t look away. Her expression doesn’t change… except for just this hint of a smile.

No, this is not normal for me. This is new.

And I don’t know what I thought would happen, but this ain’t it.

What I think is weird is that it’s only the attractive ones that do this. The truly nerdy girls are… well they’re behaving like nerdy guys would. They hang back. They hide in plain sight.

This is nuts.

I see people that are like how I was. Slouching, skinny, pasty white. Creeps, basically. I look at these guys when I see them and I have to say… they don’t look particularly happy. I feel bad for them, because I know this isn’t working for them and nobody will tell them what they need to know to really get on top of things. Not their mom. Not their preacher. Not their guidance counselor. Not their therapist. And not the nerdy dudes they hang out with.

It bugs me that so many people are being propped up in an endeavor to make do with something that just can’t work well no matter how it’s spun. But that’s the shape of it. So let me tell you what nobody else will:

Get to the gym. Go three times a week. Eat right. Go outside. Be physically active.

The only reason you wouldn’t is because you’ve decided that you’re simply not worth that kind of investment. That vibe is all over you. And everyone around you picks up on it and takes it for granted that it’s true. Even your posture communicates it.

But you really don’t have to live like that anymore. You’ll be glad when you’ve changed. And you might be surprised at just how fast things can change.

New Schuyler Hernstrom Vignette: “Varal”

This might have gotten past you, but last week Scott Cole dropped a little Schuyler Hernstrom into his Wargame Wednesday post. Check it out!

Upon of throne of broken tombstones he sat brooding. Arrayed before him were his courtiers. They perched atop moss covered markers, wings folded against bodies covered with a layer of silken fur. Their red eyes looked here and there, while their ears twitched in the cool air, always listening.

He on the throne unfolded his wings and sat back. He pondered there, pointed chin rested on clawed hand. His own name came slow to his mind, always difficult to remember after waking….


His fanged mouth spoke the name aloud, softly. He was Varal. He was a duke of the realm. He had once lorded over other lands. But now he ruled a place of graves and damp earth. The silks and brocade that once clothed him were now reduced to rotted rags. How had this happened? He could not recall. When the memory seemed close the owl would hoot, the rat would skitter, the toad would croak, and the images would slip from his mind.

There had been a woman. A dark haired beauty, forbidden to him for reasons he could not recall. The ache of her absence had driven him to dark deeds. Again the memories fled his clouded mind. Shadows of the past whispered meaningless words. The place where poetry had once lived in his noble mind was filled with an overpowering hunger. It was his curse.

Night was as day. Death was as life.

A flap of wing and rush of air and he sat atop a noble’s tomb green with mold.

His slanted nostrils supped the air and his eyes glowed with feral joy.

A living thing walked at the edge of his realm.

His courtiers took flight as Valar stood to his full height, feeling the moonlight against his body, a cruel parody of man and animal. Graceful and strong, yet woeful to the eye.

The Duke of the Cemetery took flight on leathery wings, following the scent of warm blood.

The Dragon Awards are Teh Stupid

Well, that was fun while it lasted! Here is the latest scuttlebutt from the people behind the Dragon Awards:

Alison Littlewood, the author of The Hidden People, was nominated for a Dragon Award, which asks ordinary fans what they like to watch, read, and play. It’s a fan’s choice award, plain and simple. And it ought to be a good thing.

Though she clearly has a fan base of her own, Ms. Littlewood’s book was also included on a “slate” proposed by an individual/group she didn’t want to be associated with. She worried that she couldn’t trust the nomination was fairly won. And so, she asked if her book could be pulled from the ballot.

It put us in a jam. We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them. In seven categories for literature, there were 53 different novels that represented the broad spectrum of fandom and there was something for everybody. It made an excellent reading list for fans everywhere.

So we told her no.

And then, over the last couple of days, we got an earful from our fans and others. The issue also caused a second author to ask us to remove her book from the ballot as well. We’ve reconsidered and changed our mind. This is what’s happening next.

Anybody that has ever run a lot of old school D&D should immediately be able to see why this was a boneheaded move. Make a call like this in the heat of the game and all of a sudden you find out that the players have a reason why everything in the game could maybe be ruled differently. It’s way easier to just let the game be what it is and then leave it to the players to figure out how to deal with that.

But you do see the kicker there, don’t you? If you give this request your blessing, then you have basically agreed that Allison Littlewood was put on the ballot unfairly.

Gosh, if that’s the case… then maybe there are other people on the ballot that ought not to be there. Hell, you maybe even gave out awards last year to people that didn’t come by them honestly!

Seriously, did anyone running this thing give any thought to the implications of what they were doing here?

This is asinine.