Friday, May 09, 2008


Some 7 years ago I weighed 225 lbs (that's 102kg to the rest of the world). This was achieved through years of drinking sugared soft drinks/sodas/sody-pops/cool drinks and sitting in front of a computer for 15 hours a day. I did bike places, and in California and New Mexico I would do some hiking, but not much and not intensive. And in both those companies we had access to free candy, pop-tarts, and whatnot.

Among other things, I saw a picture of myself and decided that it was too much. One of the reasons I quite working for companies and started consulting was that I could work less. Yes, I'm one of the few people who works less as an independent than when employed. I started dancing, and going hiking more often, and to the gym. I managed to get down to about 193 (87 kg). For reasons I won't get into here, I stopped doing some of that for nearly a year and got up to around 200 (91 kg).

I've stayed around that for a few years. Before leaving Santa Fe I found a gym I really liked, Carl and Sandra's gym in the DeVargas mall. It was much better than Santa Fe Spa, which seemed mostly full of anonymous people on their bikes and treadmills. C&S stressed weight training, and I found that my body reacts amazingly well to that. A few months before is when I started really being a dancer, meaning that I was going to clubs and lessons for about 22 hours a week. I wanted to learn to do dips and other tricks and figured that the strength would be helpful for that.

In reality it isn't as important as I thought. The dips and such I do are dependent on the woman keeping her own weight. But many women don't know how to do it, so as a consequence they feel very secure with me. And then there's the waitress at Buena Vista Social Cafe in Cape Town who loves being dipped so much she throws herself backwards and expects you to catch her.

With all my travels I stopped going to the gym, and I've not been dancing as much. Only about 11 hours a week, and more of it is tango. I have a very intense, energetic tango style, but it's not salsa. I've been walking more, but burgers and fries, and yummy chocolate bars, and kebabs all are so delicious.

In the back of my mind I wanted to get back to the gym, and lose more weight. Now that I have an income, and am sure I'll be here for a while more, and because of this wonderful spring feeling, and for other reasons in my life, I felt like it was time to do that.

I started about 6 weeks ago, again with an emphasis in weight training. I like Markus' phrase "explosive power." The gym also does group classes, and I've enjoyed a few of those. One is "funk," which is more choreographed, and uses a lot of moves and feelings that I don't have from my other dances. It's an hour every Monday evening. Another is "core", which stresses the core muscles. There's still a ways to go before I'll be able to do that 30 minutes without having to take a breather part-way through. Following that is African dance, which is mostly fun. Again, new moves, but that one's not so hard, although I don't have the feeling down.

Not quite two weeks ago there was actually another guy in the funk class. I'm otherwise the lone male representation, and I put in a good showing. He was lost in the moves, and in the locker room afterwards asked me how long I had been dancing. Sometimes I forget that I really am a dancer.

I also tried out a new dance style, contact improvisation. Åsa (one of the several tango dancers I know named Åsa) suggested it to me last year. I have a very engaged style in my dance. Women like to dance with me because they feel safe even when I ask them to do new, steps they didn't know they could do. If it doesn't work out, I recover nicely too, because I pay close attention to my partner.

Contact improv stresses that connection. Not all dancers have it. Kartar, back in Santa Fe years ago, was a great help in my early years of social dance, and she's just a nice person too. She among other things helped me get over my initial worries about dancing close to a woman - the tango term is on-body - when we danced merengue. She also taught me a technique of dancing salsa with only a forehead-to-forehead connection. I practiced it and got decent at it, but don't use it much. The last time it worked out well was a couple months ago when I visited Santa Fe again and danced with Corinna. That went amazingly well. I tried it again here Wednesday last week with a woman who is a great salsa dancer, but she couldn't keep the connection going.

By now you're probably curious on what this dance looks like. There are various movies on YouTube, like this one. But it doesn't do justice. It really is the contact between the people that's key, and unless you've had a lot of practice in dance you follow it in the video. It just looks like some sort of weird post-modern art form. Which, umm, it is. You're also probably thinking it's not something you could do, because it intrudes into your personal space, or you don't know how to move like that, or it just plain looks weird. I agree. It's not something I could have done, say, 5 years ago, and for those reasons. I am a dancer now, and I know how to move a lot better than I did then, and how to be close to people, and how to keep personal space even when close. Sara says I'm always the gentleman when I'm dancing. Apparently there are some pretty nefarious people on the floor. I wonder how the contact improve people handle those cases.

Anyway, today news was that I weight myself and I'm 190 lbs (86.2 kilos). It's the first time I've been this light since the early 1990s. The next threshold will be 180 (81.5kg), which is what I was about the time I started college. I figure for now my target is 175 (79kg). There's still a ways to go for that. I've been looking at weight charts to see what a good goal is for my height but most of the ones have warnings that they are not for athletes. When do I count as an athlete? Which is another weird way for me to think of myself, just like saying "I am a dancer" once was.

Next, I need to get a bike. I had a one year pass for the tram which expired last weekend. There's great mass transit here, but to get to where I do most of my dancing requires two or sometimes three connections, and a bike would make things so much more convenient.

Swedish spring

I moved to Sweden a bit over a year ago, on the evening of April 30th. That means I came here at after the start of the Swedish spring. In my many visits here I've sampled the different seasons, but never lived through the transitions. Now I can say that I have. The only time I haven't been here is for Easter, when the witches are in their way to Blåkulla.

There's an expression that Swedes survive winter because they know that summer is coming. I now completely understand that. It's been amazing the last few weeks watching life explode. I joked that the flowers were stampeding. The changes were visible almost hourly! People have been sitting outside, and enjoying the sun, and friends are getting more and more freckled every day. I'm sitting on the small balcony enjoying the late evening sun (it's 8:30pm) set over the buildings that I almost can no longer see through the trees that so recently were bare.

It's been close, but I haven't quite dared to go out without at least an overshirt. (Geoff's old one, for those in the know.) but I've seen others stretched out on the lush grass in shorts, enjoying the day. Mmmm...