Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for Choice

As you may have noticed on the sidebar, today is Blog for Choice day. Our mission is to explain why we are pro choice. So, here goes.

My own personal story is probably different than many other pro-choice people in that I started off in abortion politics are adamantly pro-life. Not only did I have pro-life posters in my bedroom during high school, but I also helped to form the Students for Life chapter at my undergraduate college. And, I worked for pro-life Republican candidates.

Although I seemed to be an absolutist, I was supportive of exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

I was, however, also quite libertarian in my personal feelings. I tried to reconcile my belief in personal freedom with my belief that government ought to prohibit abortion.

There was not one defining moment where the light went off, and I realized that I was wrong. It was a series of events. The more involved I got with the pro-life people the more I realized how different I was. Where I supported increased sex education and better access to high quality birth control, they were strict about abstinence. This struck me as somewhat bizarre at the time. I could not comprehend how one could oppose means of limiting the number of unwanted pregnancies.

What I began to realize was that these people were not simply anti-abortion, they were anti-sex. They were modern day Puritans out to restrict freedom and pleasure. As I became more aware of their agenda, my inner libertarian pulled me further and further away from the cause. I came to a point where I believed that abortion was morally wrong, but that it was more wrong for the government to interfere in women's lives.

And, over the years, as I have gotten older (and wiser?), I've moved away from that position as well. I am not sure if abortion is right or wrong. Life is not that simple, it is not black or white, good or bad. People who think in such absolutes are morally stunted.

What I do know is that it is morally wrong for a government to restrict personal liberty, especially with respect to such a private matter as reproductive decisions. It is wrong for me or anyone else to tell someone that she must carry a pregnancy to term. And that is why I am pro-choice.

The Bands Who Changed Music

When one looks over the course of modern music, there are only a handful of acts that truly changed the face of music. Here, the term modern refers to the post-Elvis days. These bands were so vital to the development of music that should they never had strummed a chord, our current perceptions of music would exist on a different plane.

They are, in no particular order-
The Beatles
The Beach Boys
The Kinks
Black Sabbath

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Holy Joe, Still a Douchebag

Joe Lieberman is still a raging Bush-loving douchebag. Now, Holy Joe claims he will filibuster any attempts to rein in BushCo over Iraq. Joe is part of a three person party- himself, Bush, and McCain- who actually think the Iraq War is going swell. Can we please lose the bullshit about Lieberman being some sort of moderate? He's a megalomaniacal asshole, end of story.

Common Mistakes

Although the mistakes I see weekly at the gym are too numerous to list, there are a handful that beg to be addressed.

1. Lat pulldowns. This is an exercise meant to target the latissimus dorsi, thus the upright position. However, more often than not people lean back as they pull down on the handle, turning this into part lower back exercise and part cable row. Not only is this body english bad form, but it shifts the focus from the lats towards the rhomboids, trapezius and teres major. Simply put, when you lean back you might as well be doing a seated cable row.

2. Biceps curls. This rather simple exercise is one most affected by body english and poor form. Rather than contract the biceps muscles in a controlled manner, people will rock their bodies and rotate their shoulders. I like to call this snow shovelling, because that is the motion it resembles. There is nothing wrong with cheating the last rep or two up, but if you have to sway your body and move your shoulders throughout the set, you need to lower the weight.

3. Squats. One of the most difficult exercises, and most beneficial. However, bad form can result in injuries to knees and lower backs. Too often I see people overloading a barbell and then going down about 2 inches. I'm not sure what muscles they're trying to stimulate, other than their egos. However, it is important to note that not everyone has the bodytype to go "deep in the hole." I do not go ass to the floor, because my bodytype is not conducive to such depth. I like to stay at parallel, which for me is safest for my knees and back. It is important that your legs are, in general, shoulder width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. You must maintain the natural curve in your back and keep your core muscles tight as you descend. Be careful not to let your knees travel too far over your toes, as this jeopardizes the knee. Also, do not lean so far forward that your first movement up is to straighten your back, turning this into some sort of good morning-squat hybrid.

4. Weight belts. Unless you have an existing back problem, you should not wear a belt except for on your heaviest sets of certain exercises (ie, squats, deadlifts, barbell rows). There simply is no need to strap on a belt for curls or bench pressing (unless you're a power lifter). By overusing a belt you actually weaken your core muscles as they become accustomed to the exogenous support. In addition, you're missing out on opportunities to train your core. I never use a belt, even on my heaviest squats and deadlifts (405 pounds). By losing the belt, my abs have gotten plenty stronger and I experience less back pain than ever. (Also, if I ever see another person wearing a belt while doing crunches I am going to scream.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Roid Rage

So much ink has been spilled over steroid use in the past few years that one begins to think it's our nation's number one problem. The government is breathing down the neck of Major League Baseball, the NFL suspends players, and anti-steroid zealots continue their drug war rhetoric. All the while tens of thousands of American men safely, effectively, and legally use oral, injectible or cream forms of testosterone and rHGH.

The reality of steroids, HGH and other "performance enhancing" drugs is quite different from the pitcture painted by our irresponsible and sensationalist media. We are bombarded with stories about the physiological and psychological risks of steroids. But research published in peer reviewed medical and science journals paint a far different picture. And that is steroids are safe when taken in the proper dosage range.

Are there health risks? Of course, but that can be said for nearly anything you eat, swallow or drink. One of the risks of steroid use is to the liver, especially when using oral forms. That is why injectible forms are preferable; they enter the bloodstream without passing through the liver. One of the other main risks of anabolic drugs is their effect on endogenous hormone production. But this is seen primarily, if not exclusively, in people who either take mega-dosages or who fail to cycle correctly.

This is not to say that steroids are for everyone. People under a certain age really ought not take steroids, in large part because their own bodies are producing sufficient testosterone and introducing exogenous T could be dangerous and counterproductive. They are also decidedly not for people who already have liver problems or high cholesterol. Many steroids will lower the body's HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

Yet these are problems that can be mitigated. First of all, people should have their liver enzymes and HDL levels monitored over the course of their cycle. They should also increase their consumption of healthy fatty acids and add a liver supplement (ie, milk thistle extract) to their diet. Cycles should be well planned out, with all the appropriate elements on hand, including post cycle therapy (aromatase inhibitors).

Hopefully we can come to a more sane policy towards steroids and other anabolics. Keep in mind that these are legally prescribed medications and the only reason that there is an underground supply of them is because of our country's anti-steroid policies. It's ironic that my right to determine what substances to put in my body should be limited by a bunch of trans-fat eating, alcohol drinking, smokers.

And one other myth that needs to be dispelled. Steroids do not give you muscle, nor do they make you hit homeruns. Muscle is gained by hard work in the gym, proper nutrition, clean lifestyle and adequate rest. Homeruns come from the ability to hit a 98 mph fastball or a hanging curveball. There are no magic pills or magic syringes. And perhaps American only want to believe there are, for it gives them an excuse as to why their lazy ass is on the couch while others are out growing bigger and stronger.