Wellness Wednesday #42 – Fitness Test

buttonOne of my health goals this year is to improve my overall strength. I’ve lost a lot of strength as I’ve gained weight and since my foot prevented me from doing many exercises. I need to get that back, and to evaluate my progress, I took a specific fitness test. This fitness test is one I first came across in May 2013, back when my weight was still all trim in the 150s. Since then, I’ve taken the test six times, including this past weekend. Before this last test, the last time I took it was at the beginning of 2015. In all my previous tests, my weights have ranged from 158 to 170 – in other words, far below my current 225 lbs. That, of course, affected many parts of this test, especially the exercises that involved pushing/pulling/holding up my entire body weight. Still, I was surprised to find that despite the 60 lbs of gain, I’m not doing too badly in terms of strength.


(look at me back then!)

Pull-ups: I knew this one would be severely affected both by my heavier weight and by my major abdominal surgery in 2014. Indeed, my highest pull-up count was just before surgery with 4, and I haven’t been able to do more than 1 since then. I’m currently unable to do any, so I took my hanging time instead. It’s a paltry 12 seconds. I really want that to improve!!

Push-ups: Ditto the body weight thing. I could only do 8 push-ups. Previous tests have ranged from 15 to 32. I have a long way to go!

Toe touch: This is one area in which I’ve improved – yay yoga! I can reach 7 inches past my toes with straight legs, and hold it there no problem. Previous tests show in the 3-4 inch range.

V-crunches (no hands): This is another one affected by my abdominal surgery. My abs are just not what they used to be. Still, I managed 16 of these without putting hands or feet down, and previous numbers were only around 21, so I’m not doing as bad as I thought here!

Wall squat: I expected to last less than 30 seconds on this exercise. When I hit 1:09, I was extremely surprised. The highest time I’d gotten previously was only 1:23, and my time today was longer than almost every other test score. Woot!

Arm curls: This is a to-failure exercise, and you have to estimate the poundage to use. When I first started taking these tests, I used 10 lbs in each hand and could only do 14 curls before my muscles gave out. I later upped the weights to 15/hand as my strength grew, but I knew that wouldn’t work out now, so I dropped back to 10. Still, I got 23 curls in before failure, so my arms are apparently stronger than they were at my lowest weight of these tests. Again, yay yoga! I’m guessing all those downward dogs are improving my arm strength, haha.

There were two exercises I had to skip on this test – vertical leap and a jumping jacks heart rate test – due to my foot injury (nothing high impact! jumping is out!). Generally, though, I have a good baseline to work on, with a plan to re-take this test on a quarterly basis.

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The Stories That Have Stayed With Me

Back when I was writing about Words of Radiance two Sundays ago, I got to thinking about how some books really resonate and stick. Some books just seem to come at exactly the right time, and influence your life so much that they become a permanent part of you. I’ve come across so many wonderful books in my life, and I thought I’d bring together a list of the books, series, and stories that have stayed with me. In no particular order:

  • Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson
  • the Mistborn series – Brandon Sanderson
  • the Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  • The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clark
  • The Host – Stephanie Meyer
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • the Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • Gentlemen and Players – Joanne Harris
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Awakening – Kate Chopin
  • Possession – AS Byatt
  • The Egypt Game – Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Not every book I read and love ends up sticking. But some books simply worm their way in and become part of me in the long term. If I created a “me” bookshelf, these are the books that would make it up – a hodgepodge mix of classics and fantasy, of adult and YA and children’s books, of heavy philosophical reads and whimsical fun stories. Y’all? This is my ideal bookshelf! One to look at and bring me 100% joy!

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Sunday Coffee – Comfort Things

Bubble baths.
Harry Potter.
Board games.
Stiffs Inc.
Thrift stores.

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My Unscripted Life, by Lauren Morrill

my-unscripted-lifeAfter receiving a rejection from a summer art camp, Dee feels like the whole course of her future is suddenly off track. She jumps at the opportunity to intern for a small-production movie that’s just come to town, and finds herself drawn into more than she expects.

I’m currently reading a very heavy nonfiction book (Half the Sky) with some disheartening and gruesome stuff in it. To counter that, I needed comfort, and that’s where Lauren Morrill comes in. First I reread one of my favorites of hers, Meant to Be, and right when I finished that one, the library finally got a copy of My Unscripted Life to me. The reads were exactly what I needed – light, comforting, sappy (in a good way!), and happy. I admit, this particular book was a teensy bit over the top in terms of believability for me, so it won’t join Meant to Be and The Trouble With Destiny as favorites. However, I’m still a huge Morrill fan and don’t mind the over-the-top-ness all that much. It was just what I needed at just the right time!

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Shadows for Silence (collection), by Brandon Sanderson (audio)

This audio collection contains two novellas by Brandon Sanderson.

shadows-for-silenceShadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
Silence is the owner and proprietor of a safe way-stop in the Forests of Hell, where Shades are attracted to movement, noise, and violence. She seems a crabby matron, but in truth, she has a secret – at night, she has a secret identity, collecting bounties of criminals in order to fund her way-stop. This story takes her through the night of her attempt to capture one of the most notorious criminals in the Forest.

Thoughts: I was sucked into this story and this world immediately, and remained on tenderhooks the entire way through. Kate Reading reads this novella and does an amazing job (as always!) with all the characters. I don’t want to give anything away, but I love Sanderson’s blend of positive and realistic in his treatment of characters, and the world-building, in even such a short work, is fantastic. Loved it!

perfect-state-smPerfect State
The God-emperor Kairominas, liveborn and living in a perfectly-simulated world of his own, must leave his realm to visit neutral ground. Purpose: to have a date and procreate with another liveborn from another perfectly-simulated world. Existential crisis follows.

Thoughts: I had a really hard time getting into this one. That’s partly because it’s more sci-fi than fantasy, but it’s more than that. Kairominas (Kai) is a difficult character to sympathize with in the beginning. He feels very robotic in a way, which makes sense given the environment he’s in. There was also the audio narrator, Christian Rummel, who wasn’t bad but also wasn’t my favorite kind of narrator. I think I would have preferred to read this one in print. However, once Kai got into the neutral world and I met his date, Sophie, things started to change and I got hooked. I do admit that the whole story fell a little flat for me, though, by the end. It was okay, but I definitely preferred the other novella in this collection.

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2017 Book Priorities

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday asks about the books we meant to get to in 2016 but didn’t. Happily, I actually managed to get through my entire 2016 book priorities list, either reading, culling, or forwarding to 2017 (in the case of changed release dates) every single book. Having a list of priorities actually worked really well for me last year, and so I thought I’d do the same thing this year. This list, compiled at the end of December, includes the handful of unread books on my physical/virtual shelves, some books scheduled for release this year, my waiting Audible queue, and a handful of books I have earmarked to investigate.

  1. My Unscripted Life – Lauren Morrill*
  2. Shadows for Silence (collection) – Brandon Sanderson*
  3. Arcanum Unbounded – Brandon Sanderson*
  4. The Goodbye Year – Kaira Rouda
  5. Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho
  6. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
  7. After You – Jojo Moyes
  8. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife – Meg Elison
  9. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
  10. The Elephant Whisperer – Laurence Anthony
  11. Nim’s Island – Wendy Orr
  12. Twelve Angry Men – Reginald Rose
  13. Flicker and Mist – Mary Thompson
  14. The Young Elites – Marie Lu
  15. Leaving Atlanta – Tayari Jones
  16. Sandlands – Rosy Thornton*
  17. Phantom of the Opera (unabridged version) – Gaston Leroux*
  18. Wires and Nerve – Marissa Meyer (Jan)
  19. The Scarecrow Queen – Melinda Salisbury (March)*
  20. Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor (March)
  21. The Savage Dawn – Melissa Grey (July)*
  22. Wonder Woman: Warbringer – Leigh Bardugo (Aug)
  23. Oathbringer – Brandon Sanderson (Nov)*
  24. The Gatlin School for Vigilantes – Marissa Meyer (Nov)
  25. The Empty Grave – Jonathan Stroud (TBD)*
  26. The Elusive Elixer – Gigi Pandian (TBD)*
  27. untitled (Gold Seer) – Rae Carson (TBD)*
  28. untitled (Cormoran Strike) – Robert Galbraith (TBD)*

That sounds like a reasonable list to me, about the same as 2016’s list in size and balance. Wish me luck, and if you have any recommendations or reservations about the above books, definitely let me know!

*guaranteed reads

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Sunday Coffee – Best of the Best

img_7222If you use GoodReads regularly, I’m sure you saw the whole “2016 in books” feature that popped up at the end of the year. I never take advantage of their stats because I have so many rereads, and those rereads don’t show up in the year’s review on GoodReads. This year I glanced over it, though, and one fact popped out at me. Apparently, of all the books I read in 2016, Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson was ranked highest.

Since that was my favorite book of the year, I was quite pleased to see it ranked highest. I was a little surprised, though, to see just how high its average rating was on GoodReads – over 4.75 stars average, with over 90,000 ratings. Usually when I see super-high rated books, they’re ones that only have a small handful of ratings, often little-known books read mostly by friends-of-the-author, or childhood favorites that almost no one bothers to put on their GoodReads lists. So for WoR, with 90K+ ratings, I expected there to be enough poor ratings to drag the average down.

words of radianceI decided to take a look at something. Of all the 1000+ books I’ve marked read on GoodReads, excluding those with the handful of ratings I mentioned above, what was the highest ranked books I’ve read? As it turns out, Words of Radiance is the highest-rated book in my entire list. The only two books higher than it are a virtually unknown play with only two ratings, and a virtually unknown children’s picture book with only four ratings. I wouldn’t count either of those in a comparison. So WoR is top dog here.

Then I thought, okay, well it’s a sequel, so maybe that’s just because no one would bother reading it unless they liked the first book, which might explain the bump in ratings. I kept looking down my rating list. The next highest non-one-off kind of book on my list is Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, another sequel. After that? The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, the series opener before Words of Radiance. With nearly 150K ratings, it still rates higher than 4.6 average. I guess it’s not just being a sequel that puts WoR so high! Of course, this makes me very happy, because I love that book so much that it very possibly may have displaced Possession by AS Byatt, which has been my favorite book for over a decade now.

I wish I could get more people to read this series. I know the books are long, but they are so worth it!!!

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