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The Rack February 26, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, Other, stronglifts 5X5.

A couple of people have asked me what sort of strength-training equipment I have in my home gym. It is hard to describe a power rack to people who haven’t seen one before. They are certainly not the sort of thing you will see if you go to your local sporting goods store and look around. I suspect that’s because they don’t cost very much money. This one was only $300 on ebay, delivered (and it was about 200lbs, so the delivery costs would have been substantial.) Once you have one of these things (below), and the bland-looking bench inside it (plus a barbell and weights), you have pretty much everything you need to begin the strength-training program that I have undertaken–Stronglifts 5X5.


Before I ordered this rack thing in January I was lifting weights using a couple of saw horses as a spotter. That was OK on squats, but when I started getting above 120lbs, the bench press began to look and feel a little scary-couldn’t use the sawhorses, they were too high. Twenty-five reps can be pretty challenging, even if you split them into five sets. Twice I had to tilt one side of the barbell onto the cement floor and find a way out from under it during a set (well, I guess it was at the end of the set). I just couldn’t see myself doing that with the truly massive weights I will eventually be hefting, so I decided to make the investment.

Unfortunately, to use a power rack, your barbell has to have enough distance between the weights so that the weights are on the outside of the rack. Olympic-size bars are perfect for this, but if you already bought regular, non-olympic weights, they won’t fit on an olympic-size bar–the holes in the middle aren’t big enough. Luckily, I found a place in Salem, New Hampshire that sold extra-wide bars for regular-size weights. So I’m still out like $500 for the whole set-up, without the weights, but since I used to spend that for just three months of tennis, I think I’m still ahead of the game.

Oh, I had one more accessory I needed, because my son began the program, too. He’s only a skinny ten-year-old (five feet tall, already, getting his height from his pop). And the stronglifts program is based on adding weight each time you work out. And the smallest I could find were 2.5 pound weights. But adding five pounds (one 2.5 lb weight on each side) every workout, when you are a tall, stick-thin, ten-year-old could be pretty discouraging. I needed some 1.25 pound weights, so I made some. I took two plastic 5-gallon paint can lids, drilled a hole through them and stuck them together with enough latex caulk to make them total 1.25 pounds. Then I taped the outside with black duck tape. Then I sprayed them with black paint. Don’t they look cool?


Next step is to paint numbers on them. My son wants them to say 40 lbs, which seems about right. They are only slightly smaller than the 50 lb weights I have.

Motivation February 22, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, DIY, Other, web 2.0.

You know those motivational posters that some people (people people, obviously) have in their offices? I don’t really want to post a picture of one of them because people are still trying to make money selling them, and they make me wince, somewhat involuntarily and think uncharitable thoughts, but click here if you really don’t know what I am talking about.

Anyway, I work in a fundraising office, so I used to see these things everywhere. For a while, mine was the only office (not including cubes, just the ones with doors) on the floor of my building that didn’t sport one of those posters. I remember wanting to ask my boss whether they were purchased with state funds, since we were on a mailing list for a company that made them.

I was thinking about them for the last couple of mornings because when I take the dog out I am confronted every morning with the vision below. It is a little hard to see with the crappy quality of my cellphone camera. This morning’s unexpected snow obscures the fact that the leaf had fallen on about two inches of solid ice about a week ago. As the leaf absorbed the sunlight it melted its way through about 3/4 of an inch of that ice. It’s a metaphor for something, I kept thinking.


But I don’t really have any idea what it is a metaphor for. The slogan above is a hipshot [My lovely wife asked me last night when I was going to post again. She has started a blog and has more excitement about the whole thing than I have had in quite a while. For some odd reason I told her I would post today. So you have her to thank.] Here’s another one:

Erosion: An unintentional benefit of being opaque.

Please feel free to suggest better ones in the comments.

Thinking about that leaf led me to think about those motivational posters, so I looked them up, and there’s a site that lets you make your own, of course. I must have missed out when this thing got Boing Boinged.

It also got me to wondering what it is that people get from these things. Do people really draw motivation from this stuff? I have been reading Darren Brown’s Tricks of the Mind, or at least re-reading sections of it, this week. He points out that motivation is a strange sort of reification. People only talk about motivation in a negative way, he says. They only use the word if motivation is lacking. All that “being motivated” means is that you are working. It doesn’t really mean anything, as such. I’m still thinking about that.

What I am certain of is that I get stuff done when I can keep my sense of humor. So whether these posters are funny in an ironic or sarcastic way, or whether the posters are sarcastic and, thus, funny in a straightforward way, I draw motivation (however fictitious the concept itself is) from them. Sort of a paradoxical sort of thing, iznit?