Health & Fitness Archives

July 27, 2006

A Requiem for Max

The hound and I go walking for our exercise. I try to walk a mile around the nearby park every morning, and sometimes we walk a mile in the afternoon as well.

On our walks, we often encounter the three retired postmen, and their dogs. Like a typical dog owner, I know the dogs names but not the owners: DJ, Max, and Sophie. DJ is a mid-sized black dog whose owner lives around the corner from me. Sophie is a little white barking dog. Max was a big sweetheart of a Rottie.

You notice that Max is in the past tense. About a week ago I noticed that the three retired postmen (that is what they call themselves) were now two. When I asked, I was told that it was a sad story.

Max's owner had left Max tied on the front porch while he went into Philadelphia. "He hates to be left inside."

When he came home, no Max.

After calling the animal centers, he was told that Max had almost certainly been stolen by the dog fighting crowd, who use stolen pets to train their fighting dogs to kill. Poor old Max almost certainly died a hard and painful death.

And so, I felt the need to write this for Max.

He was a good dog, a sweetheart. We will miss him.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:02 AM | TrackBack

June 20, 2006

Silent Cal Stayed Home

I feel perky this morning.

I must be back in a manic phase, because I have been working till 11:30, going to bed at 12:30, waking an hour or so before the alarm (peeing and going back go bed - I am not crazy), then running in the mornings.

Add this to a little less coffee, and I am much happier.

Anyhow, this morning the hound decided to be Silent Cal. She did not choose to run.

I got into running togs and started out. She was slow, and draggy, and sniffy.

So, after a slow walk to the first bridge, we went home and I gave the hound her breakfast.

I then ran a mile, the first mile in many many months. It felt good. It also felt like 12:00 pace but was probably 13:30 if I was lucky, but hey, speed kills.

Silent Cal stayed home.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

Ticklish Hair

This evening, after dinner, as we were taking our usual mile or so constitutional, the elder son decided he wanted "to be a runner." We spent some time working on his arm motion -- it just bugs me to see anyone run with chicken-wings -- but mostly he ran while I walked, pushed the stroller with the littler man, and managed the hound. At one point he was moving mighty quickly, so quickly that I had to jog a little to keep up with him. He looked up and announced

"The wind tickles my hair."

I really like that.

I liked it so much that I made the executive decision that my calf injury has indeed healed enough that I will go running again tomorrow, for the first time in weeks.

I want the wind to tickle my hair.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

Footwork

John Cheney, the Temple Basketball coach, likes to teach his players that everything starts with footwork; if they can get their feet in the right place then the game becomes easy.

This is a lesson that works both in sports and in life, which is I suspect part of why he spends his mornings screaming about footwork.

This morning I had a moment of good sports footwork. (I also wrote very slowly before going running, a sign of bad life footwork.) I went for a run, the first one since Saturday. I was feeling good, running slowly, and decided to up my mileage to a whopping mile and a half. I did it.

It was a good run.

Sometimes, in a good run, the mind separates into two distinct Joycean streams of consciousness. One is the body monitor, checking pacing, stride, breathing, and yes, footwork. The other looks at the world around, or thinks about problems, or wanders aimlessly.

Today the leaves were that bright green of spring, and they reminded me of the bright green spring leaves along my favorite dirt road back in Virginia. That was a 3 mile run up a dirt road to a mountaintop reservoir, where I turned around and ran back down the rolling hills. It was a great run, and when I was in good distance shape I did it as speedwork. In the springtime the leaves simply glowed with an incandescent bright green that SCREAMED about rebirth and new possibilities. I was reminded of that road as I ran today, and I miss having a body that could run those distances.

The other stream of consciousness was focusing on footwork, since I have found that footwork controls how my knees feel, and my knees are the limiting factor in my running. The following gets a little technical and perhaps a little boring.

One way to breakdown and explain running form is to focus on footstrike, the point on the foot where the foot first contacts the ground on each stride. Runners also generally expand the term to refer to the overall motion of the foot and ankle on each stride. I find that I have five possible footstrikes, and that two of them work best for me.

To find your own footstrikes and strides, run barefoot in the grass without thinking of your mechanics, then look down and notice what your feet are doing. Try going at different speeds and notice how the footstrike changes.

For me, I can footstrike

  • on the front-middle of the ball of my foot, the sprinting stride,
  • on the center-back of the ball of the foot, which is my best stride for knee maintenance,
  • dead in the middle of the foot,
  • at the front of the heel of the foot, my most efficient stride
  • at the back of the heel of the foot, the strike most people use when walking and the only strike that is commonly in front of your center of gravity.
I find that my biggest mechanical problem is that my ankles roll inward, putting lateral stress on the knee. The best way to keep the ankle straight is to strike at the back of the ball of the foot, then let the rest of the foot come down until the heel lands, then roll forward and push off the ball of the foot again. This keeps the ankle straight. In addition, the knee is bent throughout the strike and stride, so that the muscles of calf and thigh help take the impact of each stride. Of course, it also means that the muscles are doing more work each stride, and as a result it is a less efficient more tiring stride than some of the hell-rolling options.

The next best is to strike at the front of the heel - the natural point when running on grass. This is a very efficient strike and does very well with the little shuffling old-man strides I have to take these days. It lets the foot roll forward and then push off, instead of levering on the ball of the foot, and it works well with using your oblique muscles to swing the hips a little forward and back on each stride, putting your core to work for motion and not just for stabilty. But, it encourages my ankles to roll inward, and so I do not let myself use this stride.

I want to try to connect my two Joycean streams of consciousness from this morning, to suggest that the mental effort of keeping my legs in good form, my breathing regular, and my pace constant somehow shaped my memories of running up and down the rolling dirt roads of Virginia. It did not, or rather anything I could say would be forced and contrived. It will be a writing day today, as I discuss the Sabbatarian movement of 1810-1817, the U.S. mails, and civil religion. I will try to keep my mind on my grammar, and on clarity, and on keeping the paragraphs to the point. That, I suppose, is my writing equivalent of good footwork.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:19 AM | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

The Interval Hound

Over the summer I tried to get back into running shape, balancing my desire to run against the pain in my knees. I found myself running about a mile every second or third day. It was fun, but my fitness was hurt by the long rests waiting for the knees to recover.

About a month ago, perhaps a little more, I was running on a hot afternoon and started messing with foot-strike. Bad idea - when I went from forefoot distance to forefoot sprint I ended up giving myself the ten-day calf cramp from hell in my left leg. I did not run for a month after that.

On Monday I was walking the hound after class, wearing sweatpants and my walk-around pair of running shoes. On a whim, we began to jog. I had to take the flashlight, cell phone, and key rings out of my pockets because they bounced annoyingly, but we ran and we liked it. Tuesday morning we did it again, this time without the pocket crap. And again Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning - I seem to be in a new running cycle.

The change between this cycle and what I did over the summer is that I am not running for any distance. Instead I keep reminding myself that I am running because I like to run, will stop and walk when I feel like stopping, and should just go play -- like fartlek only slower and with only the hound for company.

This morning the hound decided that she wanted to run intervals. No, really. She did. We were heading down the hill to the lake and I went cross-country style - arms out to the side, let the feet and legs rotate along, and perform a fast controlled fall down the path. The dog loved it and began to romp and bound at my side. So, we kept up that pace for the next hundred yards or so, then stopped to let the hound poop. For the rest of the run we alternated a fast run with a walk, stopping whenever I started to lose my wind or feel myself pushing or whenever the hound got too tired and made me drag her along by the leash. It was a lot of fun, even if the fast bits were probably only 7:30 or 8:00 pace.

My exercise pattern has long been overwork, injury, over-rest, rinse, repeat. Perhaps this time the hound will keep me under control. I do hope so. I love the feeling of running about as much as I hate the feeling of being injured.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

Final 400 meters post.

We all have things we get obsessive about. Sheila O'Malley gets obsessed with actors and directors. I get obsessed with physical activities, particularly things that can be broken down into discrete components and then perfected. I am actually afraid of the game of golf for I know that if I get hooked I will literally spend hours breaking down and rebuilding my swing.

One of the things I have obsessed on in the past is sprinting. Watching the sprinters this year I finally figured out why I have huge traps, the muscles that rise from the shoulders to the neck, despite not being all that strong. I was a high school sprinter, and the sprinting motion builds traps, and we wear the body we build for ourselves as adolescents. Genetics plus activity equals body shape.

I stayed up to watch the 400 last night. I read for class with the gymnastics turned down low, then put my work down and turned up the volume when the interesting stuff came on the TV. It was a good race, a classic battle between the two 400 strategies.

Otis Harris ran the way I described below. He went out very hard with a great quick start. He then drove hard on the first turn and was ahead at the start of the back straight. He worked fast down that straight, increasing his lead, then powered through the third and fourth turns and tried to hold on at the end. This is the recipe for a fast time, and he ran a personal best. Alas, he also started to lock up in the last 30 meters or so - you could see is motion contracting, his face bugging out in pain.

Jeremy Wariner, by contrast, ran a more tactical race. He did not press at the start, relaxed through the back straight despite moving quickly, and then drove hard through the turn and raced to the finish. This is an approach that usually helps a runner win the race, but does not always lead to the fastest time -- it is psychologically much easier to run someone down than to hold someone off. In his case, however, he has a wonderful built in clock, and hit the 200 split right where he wanted to and with enough energy for the finish. He also ran a personal best, and won in the last 30 meters edging Harris at the end.

It was a great race.

I was wondering why track and field is not more popular in the U.S.. On the one hand, the sprint events are easy to grasp - almost everyone has run around a track once. The athletes are visible, wearing a little less clothing than modern basketball players, and their personalities come through clearly. There are lots of breaks for snack foods between heats and between events; a day at the races can be a good time, with the same relaxation between exertion that you get between pitches in baseball, plays in football. And yet, it is not popular.

I suspect that this is because almost every event has a new cast of runners. You can not, for example, put your binoculars on the split end and watch his duel with the corner back play after play after play. You can not see a pitcher work his way out of a jam, or a jump-shooter regain his touch, or a rebounder get mad. Instead each race is largely self-contained. This leads to a lack of narrative, and so a track meet instead of being a single, coherent, athletic event, is a montage of moments, each compelling, but not all connected.

Dual and triple meets, like what you find all spring at your local high school, do have a narrative. People run in multiple events, there is a focus on points, and even the person who gets beat badly can still pick up a point for the team by coming back to third.

Come spring, check the local high-school and college schedules, and consider taking a box of chicken and some soda down to the track. Watching a race, a contested race or especially a person struggling in a race, is oddly compelling. For that matter, every town has a marathon, half-marathon, or high-profile road race these days. Toddle down and spend a weekend morning shouting encouragement at the runners. It is a good spectator sport because they can hear your cheers, your cheers mean something to the runner, and the crowd and the athlete combine to create a moment of shared performance.

I took a nap this morning after my jog. As I lay there, I dreamed about sprinting.

Posted by Red Ted at 01:02 PM | TrackBack

August 20, 2004

A different sport than what we play

More Olympics commentary.

Some of the newspaper articles at the start of the game made this point, and J made it independently while watching volleyball. The sports played in Greece during this sports festival have only a passing resemblance to the sports we play ourselves.

It can be a matter of form: the racing breaststroke is a very different movement than the recreational swimmer's breaststroke - when was the last time you lunged your head up and out of the water in order to mimic a Cheetah's body motion? The volleyball, badmitten, and other ball sports are played at a speed and intensity far removed from what you find in the average backyard.

Similarly, as I think the New York Times pointed out before the games, the motion that top level runners use while propelling themselves across the ground is both like and unlike the motion that you see from joggers in the park - different foot strike, arm motion, and hip rotation just to begin with. Top level runners are blessed with the wind and mechanics that makes it possible for them to jog at a 5:30 pace. To put that into perspective, when I was running road races I ran in the middle of the pack, generally finishing in the front third of the pack, back third of the men in their 30s. My fastest adult mile was a 6:03 in my mid 30s - just missed the 6:00 mark after training for it for a couple of months.

The mechanics, wind, and training for all these sports is both like and unlike what we do ourselves.

They start the 400 meters today, my favorite difficult pleasure. We have all run around a track, if only in grammar school. When I ran high school track I was coached to run it hard: drive into the first turn to set up a pace; come out of the second turn and try to relax while floating down the back stretch, moving fast but without pressing; lean into the third turn and begin to drive; let your momentum kick you out of the fourth turn and sprint for home. The human body is only "naturally" set up to sprint for about 300 meters, and this is a 400 meter race, so if someone has not trained correctly or has gone too fast for their training, you will see their muscles lock up in that fourth turn and it will look as if they have literally hit a wall while everyone else runs past them. The 400 is a race about guts, desire, and hard training.

Of course, at a world class level, ever since Eric Liddel in 1924, the 400 has been a simple sprint and you don't see real wall hitting or relaxed running until you move up to the 800. The 400 is still my favorite track event, even though I sucked when I raced that distance in high school.

Next time you are out running and go past an open track, detour and take a hard lap. It is a difficult pleasure, but it is a very GOOD pleasure.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:49 AM | TrackBack

Ab Flab!

Ab Flab! Or, Middle Aged men and the people who love their bouncing love handles.

I went running shirtless in the park today, and while wandering back I came up with this little poll.

Under what circumstances should a pudgy middle-aged man take his shirt off:

A: While jogging in the park
B: While watering the lawn
C: While playing with the baby
D: While taking a shower
E: While having sex
All of the above
none of the above
All but A
All but B
All but C
All but D
All but E
Other

I decided not to make "Whenever he feels like it" a choice - if that is your call then simply say "all of the above."

I voted "All but C" -- the boys both have clutching, grasping little hands that pull my chest hair.

Other than that random thought, it was a nice run. Jogged a mile at 11:00 pace, then ran some running drills that exposed just how much work I still have to do. Lets just say that working on about a 30 yard grass course, I was able to finish a set of 4 striders, unable to finish either the set of 2 knee-slappers or the set of 2 butt-kickers. But I do like running drills and intervals. I am a little twisted that way.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:45 AM | TrackBack

August 19, 2004

See Lance Ride

Eric Neel of ESPN has a wonderful column talking about the new Nike commercial featuring Lance Armstrong.

The ad is simple and powerful, and very effective.

Nike has its corporate roots in college track, and their Just Do It campaign is a reminder to all of us of the pleasure that comes with bodily motion and physical activity. As Neel points out, this particular paen to exertion manipulates our emotions -- as do most Nike ads -- but it does it so well that neither he nor I mind the journey.

Of course, I run in New Balance because they are the best shoes for my knees, but I do approve of the way that Nike is combining good business with good public health.

"Just DO it" is not such a bad slogan for life in general.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:23 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 16, 2004

Deat heat with molasses?

I checked the time for todays run. I did about a mile and a quarter (estimated loop) in about 13 minutes. It works out to (probably) a little faster than 11:00 pace.

That is slow, but it is not slower than molasses. In fact, I think I could probably race molasses to a photo finish. This is good news.

The better news is that after the first half mile, which is always hard for me, I got my wind and my pace and could probably have run longer. Perhaps this weekend I will start adding more distance.

And now I get to go schedule xrays for my knees, just to see what is happening.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Olympics

Something I forgot to point out last Olympics entry.

During the opening ceremonies, one of the most effective moments whas when a runner carrying the Olympic flag circled the track, breaking paper banners along the way. Each banner represented a set of games, and as he burst the tape the announcer told the city and year.

About a quarter of the way, the runner tripped and fell forward, landing prone and looking stunned for a moment. All gasped, including us at home, and then the announcer said "1916, World War One," and we understood what had happened as the runner stood and continued.

After a few more tapes, the runner paused, deliberately knelt on one knee, dipping the flag before him in salute. The announcer said "The Second World War" and there was a pause, and then he continued.

I was struck by the difference in the two representations. The first was a sudden stumble, a shocking collapse from what had been a triumphant progress. The second was an homage to the dead, an act of conscious remembrance.

We live in the world that we remember, and I was struck by the very different ways of remembering the first and second acts of the 20th century's three act tragedy.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:04 AM | TrackBack

August 12, 2004

I am NOT getting old. Not!

I am NOT getting old. Not!

Or so I try to tell myself.

But then I run into contrary evidence, often from unexpected angles.

The cute little hound that I got when I finshed coursework now has white hair on her belly. Worse, her hips are just beginning to go - if she runs off lead she gets a little hitch in her stride.

So, no more jogging for the hound. She can still keep up with a brisk walk; if the weather is not too hot and humid she can even outwalk me. We still have many years left on this dog, and she is still playful, but she is middle aged.

And so, alas, am I.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:33 AM | TrackBack

A good run

Sore knees are pesky. Chest colds are pesky. The combination has kept me from running for a couple of weeks now.

Strollers are heavy and hard to push. Hounds are easily tired and hard to drag.

I was very glad - ran a mile and a quarter, slowly but with good form. Of course, J had the kids so there was no stroller, and I had walked the hound a mile earlier this morning and then left her home so there was no canine speed brake. Running is much easier without those.

Now lets see how my knees respond.

But it did feel good to just go and run, and I seem to have retained enough fitness to use an efficient stride rather than the novice shuffle.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2004

Heart Rate and Exertion

A friend is complaining because her heart rate monitor is telling her that she is not getting nearly as much exercise as she thought she was getting.

Erm, let me share a deep dark secret with you.

Measuring exertion by heart rate is a loose approximation unless you have TWO crucial data points to work with: resting heart rate and maximum exertion heart rate. You know the first, and with that you can estimate exercise ranges. The only way to find the second is to test for it - and if you have a weak heart the test might test to destruction. So check with doctor before trying this one.

Basically, wearing the monitory, run 800 meters hard, rest 20 seconds, then run 800 meters full out as hard as you possibly can. That should spike your heart rate to its maximum.

Of course, if you can't run hard for twice around a track, you can't use this test. There are other variations, usually involving a treadmill and a doctor's office. For most of us, we don't need it. We can use the 3 basic tests.

Light: you can sing
Moderate: you can hold a conversation
Hard: you can speak a few words but not converse

Those are as accurate and perhaps more useful than any heart rate monitor in the absence of a full data set.

If you still want the monitor, check to see if it is estimating ranges using the ballpark measure or using the formula that accounts for increase over resting heart rate. The latter is more useful for folks with low resting heartrates. 54 is a pretty good resting heart rate. I think it is lower than mine these days.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

+- 25

So, over the weekend J was rubbing suntan lotion into my back. I made the mistake of whining that my comfy old swim trunks were wearing out.

"Well" she said "You have some grey hair here on your back, so you can go get a Speedo."

"No" I replied "Not yet. I am the wrong weight."

"What do you mean?"

"I am 5'7" and 175 - I am pudgy. To qualify to wear a Speedo I would have to either gain or lose 25 pounds and become either scrawny or obese."

"Hmm, good point. Gain the weight. That way your belly will hang over the swimsuit and you will look fat, grey and nekkid."

She always wins these arguments.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:36 PM | TrackBack

June 25, 2004

Better, but not good enough.

Well, my cholesterol ratios are better, but not good enough.

As usual, I don't have enough of the good stuff.

I do need to keep exercising, and in fact I need to increase my exercise levels - looks like I do get to join a gym.

But, at least it is not as bad as it was 3 months ago, especially considering that I pigged out over the weekend and then had my blood drawn on Thursday.

That reminds me - I am supposed to go running today (knees permitting).

Posted by Red Ted at 10:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2004

You go girl

I see that Martina Navratilova won her opening round match at Wimbledon. She is a mighty young 47 years old.

Everything I have seen about Navratilova's career and personal style has been both gracious and focused - she ought to be a role model for many more people than she is - and as a result she is one of the few athletes I look up to.

So, You GO girl.

And yes, it does feel odd saying that about someone older than I am.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:39 AM | TrackBack

June 18, 2004

Difficult Pleasures

In How to Read and Why Harold Bloom praises the "difficult pleasures" of great literature.

I thought about that this morning while I was taking the boys and the hound around the park. After walking for about a mile, I dumped the contents of my pockets into the stroller and jogged/ran the second mile. As I usually do when I run these days, I shifted gait and footstrike trying to find something that did not hurt my knees, concentrating on: short-strides, rearfoot strike; quick strides, forefoot strike; easy sprint strides, forefoot strike. The last was the easiest on my knees, the hardest on my wind. I am indeed out of shape.

Still, it was enough to remind me of one of my favorite difficult pleasures: quarter mile intervals on the track. I miss them. I have been unable to maintain a level of fitness where I can run quick hard quarter mile intervals; I keep overtraining or damaging my knees. As I continue to get older, I will have more and more trouble finding that level of fitness. And that hurts. Emotionally.

I like to think about having "transparent fitness" - being fit enough that I can engage in pleasurable activities without having to stop to think about whether my body can handle it. I have some of that - I don't think twice before mowing the lawn, playing in the garden, lifting the boys, or even moving boxes and furniture. But I am not transparent enough, because I can't go out and overdose on endorphins on the track.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:35 AM | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Canine Speed Brake

The hound's other title is Canine Speed Brake.

Why?

Because that is her role as a running companion. She walks quickly, but despite being a 50lb lab mix she is not a good running dog. And this is a good thing, for she lags behind and keeps me from running too fast for our fitness.

This morning I took the hound, the toddler, and the lightweight stroller and we jogged and walked our usual two-mile route. I had to watch the left knee - it is happier if I get closer to a heel strike and an inefficient up-down-bouncy running style than if I use a mid-foot strike and the more efficient straight-ahead gait. Since the point is to run, not to run fast, I will go back to being easy on my knees.

I had fun. The toddler likes to go fast - he spent Sunday afternoon going too fast on a big wheel and then wiping out - and even the hound seemed to like the run.

Now the canine speed brake is asleep on the living room floor. They say a tired dog is a happy dog. If so, then she will be very happy once she wakes up.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:51 AM | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

Sore legs and sore head

My quads are sore today, perhaps because I went running yesterday. I will run again tomorrow, if I can manage it around participating in the community flower planting day. If not, then Sunday will be good enough - right now the challenge is to keep my knees healthy, not to build up wind and muscle fitness, so I don't have to run every day or even every other day.

My head is also sore. I am wrestling with a tricky problem in chapter three. I will go below the fold to write up what it is that I think I want to argue - I find it incredibly helpful to use the blog to explain the points I am trying to make in my work prose.

The basic problem that I have is that I see two clearly defined trends in the early nineteenth century; I want to argue that they are connected; and I am having trouble connecting them.

Both trends involve a movement away from strict religious doctrines and towards feel-good religion. This is not a new trend for me to notice. Goofs like Laurence Moore wrote about it. Ann Dougless also wrote a very smart book based on not enough evidence and made a similar argument (she looked at Unitarians and then wrote about all Protestants, so the book itself is not so useful).

The first trend is revivals. As American religion went to a revival pattern and as revivalists engaged in a remarkable churching of the American people, they used techniques of steam religion and social pressure to teach a simpler, more positive, and more optimistic faith. Basically, they told people that their salvation or damnation was not eternally decreed before time began and it was not dependent on a lifetime of faith and works; instead a person was told that they had to make an immediate decision for heaven or hell, that this decision would matter, and that their eternal fate hung in the balance and would be decided RIGHT NOW. It was a very effective way to induce emotional conversions. It also emphasized the human ability to choose God over God's power in overcoming sin. Some folks liked this and did it, a few disliked it and opposed it, and from that tension the Presbyterian church schismed. This is not new stuff.

The second trend is providential and is new. I argue, based on my reading of the primary sources, that in the early 19th century most Americans rejected the old Providential covenant which had promised that the nation would prosper if it heeded God's will and would be punished if it fell from God's path. Instead they accepted only the positive half of that deal - the nation would prosper because God had blessed it. The first half, the negative half, involved identifying and rectifying national sins, and that meant pointing fingers and engaging in a blame game, one that divided religious groups from one another. So they dropped that -- think about the reception that Falwell and Robertson got when they blamed 9/11 on American sexual practices.

The notion of providential blessings continued - that is after all the desire in the ritual exclamation "God bless the United States of America" which appears in some public rituals and almost every State of the Union Address. But, what happened in the early 19th century, was that the blessing came to be undeserved or barely deserved.

So, how do I connect the decline in negative providence with the increase in steam religion? That is what I am wrestling with at the moment. My current thought is that both notions downplay both the power of sin and God's transcendent role in the universe. If a person can choose God over sin, then free will is effectively greater than original sin, and while theologians may insist that it was only Christ's atonement that gave free will that power, still at the end of the day Arminian soteriology encourages people to emphasize their decisions and to downplay God's power.

Similarly, the decline in Providence involved a sort of wishing-away of national sin. If God will bless or punish according to a nation's actions, and he is always invoked as blessing the future, then clearly the nation is relatively sinless. Humans may be asked to choose future courses that will meet with Divine favor, but no matter what we choose we are told that there will be a carrot at the end of the road, and that the stick has been misplaced and will never be applied.

My writing challenge is thus to add these discussions of sin and human ability to the text, to square the fact that the folks who embrace post-Calvinist versions of revival theology are also folks who insist that the nation must pursue certain courses in order to maintain Providential favor, and then create a crescendo in Providential discourse that will coincide with the schisms in the Presbyterian Church and the American Bible Society in 1835-7. That last is the sticking point, although the crash of 1837 might give me the window that I need.

And back to writing - this think piece helped.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Running Ted?

I went running today.

Well, I ran some, walked some.

The toddler, the hound, and the lightweight stroller accompanied me along our usual two-mile walk, but this time I had a fresh pair of running shoes on, non-chafing running shorts, and I ran some of it.

It felt really really good to go running again. I have been missing running, and when the walking the last few weeks was leaving my knees feeling strong I decided to run some more.

So, my wind is terrible, but it felt good to run. My legs are out of shape and hurt, but it felt good to run. My knees were a little fragile, but I stopped running whenever they tried to complain.

And, despite being dreadfully out of shape, I did get a brief moment of the sheer joy of running.

There is a sensation where the body is working, the mind is keeping track of the body's working, but the body works without conscious control - almost like keeping an eye on the gauges on a car dashboard. When that happens, you sort of float along above the ground, aware of your body but not focusing on it, aware of your surroundings, but mostly aware of your movement through space. It is like having a flying dream, only wide awake. It is an addictive sensation.

I had a brief little moment of that, while running along a gentle downhill by the lake.

We will see how my knees feel - I might take some of my 15-20 miles of walking each week and turn them into runs, but I must be careful NOT to overwork myself.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 11, 2004

I wanna donut !

I wanna donut!

Actually, I want home-made sticky buns, made with real butter and lots of walnuts and raisins, but we are restricting tree nuts from the toddler until he is closer to two years old and I don't want to eat sticky buns and tell him he can't have any.

But, it is a moot desire, for I will not let myself have sticky buns. Or donuts.

Why not? I got my cholesterol test back last week and, well, I need more exercise and a tighter control over my diet.
Total: 153 - a fine number, low but not so low as to cause aggression problems.
LDL: 103 - a fine number (or it was before the recent test study)
HDL: 28 - bad bad bad. It had been 34 six months ago, acceptable, but 28 is too low and the ratio of LDL/HDL is back in the heart attack zone.

But I still really want a donut. A dozen donuts. And pie, extra pie. And brownies with ice cream!

I get a piece of hard candy, and to go join a gym again.

And back to work.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

Gut bugs


To the tune of "Fish Heads"

Gut bugs, gut bugs,
Icky messy gut bugs
Gut bugs, gut bugs,
Dump them out, Yick!
The little man had a gut bug on Saturday. J caught it on Sunday. I got it last night. Having seen sick dogs, I can safely say that all of us have been sick as a dog over the last few days.

The only good news is that it is a quick bug - the little man is heading back to daycare today.

Stopping before I give TMI.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:21 AM | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

The hours of a day


We were up early this morning, and as I was walking the hound through the pre-dawn glow I was thinking about the rhythm of a good day. Is this a perfect day, as in the old joke where a guy's perfect day involves hourly blowjobs and lots of red meat and a woman's perfect day involves lots of shopping and a single romantic encounter? No. This was a thought about how I like, or would like, to spend the hours of a normal good day - my ideal 90% day if you will.


Wake before dawn
Run an easy 10 miles over rolling hills on dirt roads, perhaps with the baby.
Big breakfast

Spend the morning working, snack at 10:30,
Big lunch at 1:00. I really do prefer hot food at lunch - I guess I take after my dad that way.

Afternoon spent reading and having a nap. Teaching is enough fun that I would add it to my afternoon.

Lift before dinner, on a 4/day split focusin on the major power lifts. Lift heavy.

Big dinner.

Evening playing with the baby, spending time with J, reading for fun, playing computer games.

Go to bed between midnight and 2:00 am

Sleep 10 hours.

Wake before dawn and do it again.

You might note that there is not enough time for sleep in that day.

I do like to wake up early, I do like to stay up late, and I do like my sleep. I can somewhat get the three to match by having an afternoon nap, but naps are not always something to count on.

Oh, and for the record, I stopped running that many miles a couple of years ago when I ran harder than my body could handle and wracked up both knees. I stopped lifting that hard about a year ago when I decided that I was not competing powerlifting, I was getting middle aged, and the exercise was getting in the way of my sleep and my work.

I need to get back to the gym - perhaps a morning workout?

What are the hours of your day?

Posted by Red Ted at 07:40 AM | TrackBack