Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good workout!-March 31

Man, I was humming today! Bouyed by my new Strength Shoes pill, I managed to greatly up my dosage of exercises. I increased the number of calf raises by 10 to 40, the number of squats by five to 30, and the number of knee-to-chest jumps (this time with Strength Shoes) was doubled to 10. I also did 100 jumps with both legs separately, and 100 jumps with both legs together, for a total of 300 plyometric repetitions while wearing the Strength Shoes--video of this should be posted tomorrow.
Measurable progress is what I need now. There is something liberating about such a prodigious leap in the number of repetitions, and the relative ease with which I completed all of the exercises makes me wonder if I have been pushing myself quite hard enough. Perhaps this lack of a deadline, lack of a "drop dead" date by which I will need to dunk (mentioned in yesterday's post) has brought on a sense of malaise.
I've had friends recommend measurable goals and ways to stick to them. Perhaps, said one friend, you have people donate a dollar to cancer research for every inch gained, or every quarter-inch. Or, said another friend, you have to have people bet on the date on which you will first dunk.
I gotta say, I love the wording of the second friend. Many teachers, myself included, speak about college and say, "When," not "If you go to college..." when disussing university in the classroom. In the same way, I will from now on use the certainty of the term "when" in looking forward to the day when that skinny wrist, bright orange ball in hand, climbs enough above Everest to place the ball in a downward motion into a net.
That's a dunk for all you literal people out there. A slam dunk. Word.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Strength Shoes, Day One

I finally put the hibernating Strength Shoes into action today, some two months after they arrived in an awkward-sized package. With a week off from teaching (Spring Break 2010, woo!), but not a week off from grading history projects on World War II and Japanese-American internment camps, the perfect time has arrived for the beginning of the Strength Shoes Era. The need to take some time off from the monotony of grading cookie-cutter teenage projects, coupled with five days off, has given me the perfect time to start a Phase II in my quest to dunk.
The workout was a very good one, tantalized to its peak by this new object in the mix. With the strapping on of the suprisingly un-unwieldy shoes, I felt heartened, as if this new pill would help me get well. In addition to my usual dunk workout of 30 calf raises, 25 squats with a 10lb. medicine ball, 20 rim/ceiling touches and five knee-to-chest jumps in place, I did 300 plyometric jumps with the Shoes on--100 with both legs at the same time, and 100 with each leg separately. I also hopped through 75 jump rope repetitions with the Shoes on, pleased that I didn't fall on formerly wobbly legs adjusting to having my calves so prominently platformed.
So, what's ahead? Is this dunk imminent? I wonder now if I have to set myself a deadline an arbitrary or not-so-arbitrary date by which I will dunk. My next birthday, a holiday, New Year's?
Last week, a student of mine turned in a twoweeksearly essay, written with great passion about a subject close to her heart. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, she wrote a hasty but passionate summary of the Nazi camps, her loving paean to her grandparents and her idealistic attempt to use her pen to say "Never Again."
With the words, "Here's the final draft," and a throw/flutter of the paper from her hand to my desk, she smiled, turned, and with a flourish, walked away into her cave of friends, with the Hollywood scene missing only a bar of soap and a washbasin for her hands.
Talking to her later, I fumbled through my words in trying to convince her that what she had turned in to me had in fact been a rough draft, but one stripe of a stilldeveloping road. "The only thing that makes a draft a final draft," I said, navigating clumsily into a strong-sounding aphorism, perhaps stolen from another source in my past, "is a deadline."
So maybe the Shoes are my revisions, my last touches, on the project I have been dallying on a bit too much. Maybe the Shoes arrival will force me to set a deadline for The Dunk.
Or maybe the Shoes are a panacea, a harbinger of more procrastination to come, because we all know that once the aspirin sinks in, we are now living in an altered world, and it's hard to tell where the world's devices and our personal choices intersect...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Interlude--Youth and the Young

"Youth is wasted on the young," said the great writer George Bernard Shaw, and I think yesterday's tennis partner and his sore lower body would agree. I dusted off the racket, bought for about $15 at Ross--is there anything they don't have there?--and proceeded to beat my friend 6-3, 6-3. His compliments were heartfelt, but there was an intensity and hardness of resolve that attached itself to his declaration that he would simply need "to make a few adjustments and get me next time." His forty-year-old body, though, may have something to say about that.

Do not get me wrong--forty is no advanced age. Forty is Favre, Jamie Moyer (at least 2003 Jamie Moyer), Dikembe Mutumbo (well, bad example) is an age that allows one physical freedoms that will not peter out fully for quite a while, hopefully.

But what would have happened had my friend had his incites, his mental acuity, when he was a seventeen-year-old speedster, equally adept at stealing bases, running deep routes on the football field, and leaking out early to his offensive side on missed jump shots?

What would have happened if I had possessed that killer instinct evident in so many one-point games at the local health club? What would have happened had I possessed the confidence (some might say stubborness) to shoot a three-pointer in rhythm, with my team down game point to 19 in a 21 point game?

The sixteen year old me was tireless, skinny, athletic, crafty for my age, and limited in my game by a shaky jump shot and an almost blind belief that my job was to be a garbageman, a banger, a rebounder who controlled the paint. Though it occurred to me that a 6'2" 145lb. center was a rarity, almost as unheard of as a 6'2" 145 dominant center, my previous coaching, my upbringing, and my fragile self-esteem dictated that I stay away from the perimeter and play my role.

What is about the macho need to impose one's will on an athletic match that makes one so stubborn? This high school version of me has spawned a coach who, impressed by the sheer force with which his high school coach derided zone defense as "for weakspirited teams," has very rarely called such a scheme into action for his high school teams, maybe at the expense of a win or two? Or three?

Perhaps youth and its lingering bravado is wasted on the kinda young, too...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Interlude--What's My Motivation?

Last night, I accompanied my basketball players, most of them sophomores and juniors, to a local rec center for some Friday night basketball. Dressed in my best Crockett and Tubbs outfit, with a white polo shirt tucked into khaki slacks and black dress pants, I definitely didn't look the part of a baller. I did, however, have a set of shorts, t-shirt, and basketball shoes (with double socks, of course, stuffed into them). Gotta be ready in case a bball game ever breaks out.

As the game began, I observed that basketball first-date routine, with both teams, some players unknown to each other just a few minutes before, sizing each other up. There is that same lack of genuine personality in both first date and first few minutes of ball, with players and daters a little bit further apart physically than normal, a bit more stilted in words and actions.

As the game worn on, each player whom I knew stood out as an individual with his own particular goals manifested--or was I just a bit too analytical? My sophomore point guard went out of the way to handle the ball at every opportunity, sometimes to the detriment of the team, such as the fast breaks that he slowed up by riding the back shoulder of the willowy big man who ran the middle of the fast break, demanding the ball.

This willowy big man tried, and failed valiantly, at least three times to take a charge, flopping to the ground at the slightest contact from the one he was guarding. Governed by playground rules in which the "lesser" violations like offensive fouls, backcourt, and over-the-back are neglected unless the violation is an egregious one, the flop is that most cowardly of moves, and this big man was rewarded with silence and a few playful taunts when he demanded that his team get the ball on multiple offensive fouls.

The junior off-guard, who has been obsessive in his workout regimen since the season ended about two months ago, was loath to shoot from the outside even when the shots were wide open. He continually drove to the basket with reckless abandon at times, showing off his improved quickness, explosion, and strength for all to see, thanks to two-a-day workouts with weights and plyometrics, and long runs with a classmate who longs to be a Marine and trains like it.

The point guard is motivated by the team's need for a reliable ballhandler to make himself known, the big man by outer and inner criticism about his physical and mental toughness, and the off-guard by the defenders in previous years who crowded his jump shot with little regard for any possible drives to the basket.

And me? What's my motivation? Is it an inner motivation? If so, why have I opened up my goal, my dream, to so many outsiders (shotout to the three of you reading my blog on a regular basis!)? Is this opening up just another way of motivating myself from within, heaping on a sort of pressure to make myself more accountable to others, though they may be "Internet friends?"

Is it the thesis posited in my Introduction that I want to prove to myself that I was (am?) good, athletic, an achiever?

Watching my players on this night struggle, sweat, dive, and push themselves and their teammates, I have no clear epiphany on my goal, no way to make my vague goal to dunk completely understandable to my readers and to myself, but I do know that I miss the game very, very much.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interlude--What's Next, 4:15pm dinner at Denny's?

I was supposed to go to KRS-One two nights ago in concert. There was something rebellious in this Tuesday night outing, something vaguely liberating. It was, I think, a salvo against middle, old age, the notion of disappearing youth. It was all set to go: myself, three friends, a pre-party. As Monday approached, doubt set in--will I be too tired to "perform" as a teacher on Wednesday? Will the next day be a waste? KRS isn't going on 'til 11? Dang! That's late...he gets on at 11/11:15, goes for an hour, I get outta there at 1 am, get home 1:30, get about five hours sleep max...
A few reps of "Sound of Da Police" and "Step into a World" culled my energy and resolve. Hell yeah, I was gonna go! KRS live? Local? Shoot, I might even let it slip to my students that I was out the night before. Late. At a concert. Dare them to ask. KRS One? You've never heard of him? Let me tell you a little somethin..."
The afternoon of the concert, with the tickets still not bought (a harbinger, I can now see, looking back, and Strike One), I ran into my coworker and fellow concertgoer. We both made small talk with no mention of that night's concert--Strike Two. I received two sorrowful texts from the other concertgoers, pleading too much work, errands, but really hoping that I still go to the concert-Strike Three. My courage sapped, my will fading, I capitulated.
"Hey, man" my coworker says, "About tonight...I'm kinda stuffed up, and..."
The saddest part? I had to act like I was upset, bummed out, steely in my resolve to hit up the Tuesday nightlife like I used to.
I might as well have hit up Denny's for a late-afternoon dinner, gotten that discount, and gotten off the streets before all the "weirdos" came out with the darkness.