Athletics: who gets to compete as a “woman”?

Workout notes: weights only; I had “fasting blood work” this morning. I did lift though:
rotator cuff
squats (several sets of 5, with and without weight..goblet..focus on posture) then some leg presses
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (first one was terrible)
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 8 x 170
incline press: 10 x 135
military presses: standing: 7 x 50 dumbbell, 15 x 50 (seated, supported; trouble getting into position), 10 x 200 machine
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 50 dumbbell (each arm)
yoga leg lifts (2 sets of 10), twist crunch (2 sets of 12)
head stand (surprisingly easy)

The issue of “who gets to compete as a woman in the Olympics” has popped up again, mostly thanks to success of Saster Semenya. For an overview, see here.

On one hand, I think that this is a great issue. On the other hand, the discussion of this issue has been, well, brain-dead. (example). This issue concerns many female athletes.

Any discussion of this issue (or discussion worth having) should start here: why do we have a female category for competition to begin with? I think that the reason is clear: without such a restricted category (and yes, this means “fitting into a box” of sorts), women would not be competing.

Yes, all Olympic athletes are genetic outliers and the male outliers run faster and are stronger than the female outliers. So if you don’t want “all male” competitions, you need a female category, and that means that the female category is, by design, a restricted category. If you don’t meet the restrictions for the “female category”, you have to try to compete in the “open category”.

Of course, there will be genetic variations within the restricted category; I think that anyone with a rudimentary understanding of athletics knows this.

So what should the restrictions be? THAT is where the discussion needs to be. Sadly, the discussion that I am seeing is of very low quality. For example:

Eero Mantyranta, a Finnish cross-country skier who won seven Olympic medals in the 1960s, including three golds, was found to have a genetic mutation that increased his hemoglobin level to about 50 percent higher than the average man’s.

There is “no fundamental difference” between a congenital disorder that produces high testosterone levels and a genetic mutation that produces elevated hemoglobin levels, according to a recent commentary, “The Olympic Games and Athletic Sex Assignment,” in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Yet elevated levels of naturally occurring hemoglobin do not disqualify athletes.

Again, the “men’s category” is really an “open category”; one need only be a member of the homosapien category to qualify.

God made me the way I am, and I accept myself,” Semenya told You, a South African magazine, in 2009. “I am who I am, and I’m proud of myself.”

It would seem unfair to tell her, Sorry, you can’t run in the Olympics because of the way you were born.

Again, no one is saying that this athlete shouldn’t be allowed to compete for a spot in the Olympics. However, if Semenya (or anyone else) doesn’t qualify for the restricted category (female), then they have to attempt to qualify for the open category. And if Semenya isn’t naturally gifted enough to qualify for the Olympics in the open category, then Semenya can join the club of billions of the rest of us who aren’t genetically gifted enough to qualify for the Olympics.

Let me be clear about something though: I am not qualified to weigh in on what criteria should be met for a human being to compete as a female. I am interested in the question though.

August 22, 2016 Posted by | weight training | , | Leave a comment

Grading salt mines…

Workout notes So far, weights only.
Hip hikes, Achilles, rotator cuff, McKenzie, planks, abs (3 sets of 10 of twist, crunch, sit back, vertical crunch)
pull ups: 2 sets of 15, 2 sets of 10 (one wide grip set); these were good.
bench: 10 x 135, 9 x 170, 4 x 180
incline: 2 sets of 10 x 140
military (dumbbell, seated) 2 sets of 12 x 50
military (barbell, standing) 10 x 85, 8 x 85
curls: 2 sets dumbbell (10 x 30), 1 set machine (12 x 70)
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160

Grading Over the next couple of days I’ll finish grading and then post final grades.
When I assign grades, I look at the numbers (averages) and I use the “split screen” mode for my spreadsheet; I honestly don’t know who is getting assigned what grade when I assign the letters. I am only going by performance, with the test/quiz/homework scores being the proxy for performance.

Of course, I get a few messages of students who want to “discuss their grade”. Sure, I do take care of things like addition errors, but this is rarely what it is about.
The dirty secret is that few in life want to work to improve their actual performance; what they want is a more generous evaluation of their current performance.

This is why I find sports so appealing; when I finish a 5K or a half marathon, I get a time…a performance evaluation. I don’t go and ask the race director to “discuss my time” or “discuss my place”. When I lift, I don’t “discuss” the effects of gravity. Of course, I might discuss how to lift heavier weights or how to run faster, but that involves PERFORMANCE, and only a small percentage of students are interested in discussing performance/knowledge level. Now there ARE students who do…and surprise, surprise, they tend to be among the higher performers.

December 18, 2013 Posted by | education, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Running, sports and bullying…

This video was taken of a race (hilly 8 miler) that I did two weekends ago. At 1:23-1:28 you see me puffing up a large hill chasing a woman. I looked TERRIBLE! But still…somehow, I managed to finish a few minutes ahead of her.



Each week there are football blowouts across the nation. Rarely are they more one-sided than the 91-0 rout Aledo High (Aledo, Tex.) put on Western Hills High (Fort Worth, Tex.). Now, one parent has apparently been so concerned by the final scoreline that they took the extraordinary step of filing an official bullying report with the school district because of the thrashing.
As reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and other Dallas-area outlets, the official bullying report was filed by a Western Hills parent on Saturday, hours after the final whistle ended the most one-sided game so far this year in the Lone Star state. Texas regulations require Aledo’s principal to launch a full investigation into the bullying allegation.

The administration is then to produce a written report addressing the bullying complaint.

If it was surprising that Aledo racked up 91 points on Friday, it was no shock that their win was a dominant one. The Bearcats are among the state’s most powerful squads year-in, year-out. Friday’s victory improved the team’s record to 7-0, with Aledo now averaging a whopping 69 points per game. They’ve outscored their district foes by an incredible 77 points-per-game.

In the immediate aftermath of the most recent rout, both coaches agreed that there was no intention of the near 100-point gap in the scoreline. The two coaches spoke to the Star-Telegram about the blowout, and in a unique twist both expressed a sincere sense of regret about the way the game played out. In particular, Aledo coach Tim Buchanan spoke to multiple outlets asserting that his team’s frequent blowouts have become a source of embarrassment for the program.

“I think the game was handled fine,” [Western Hills coach John] Naylor said. “They’re No. 1 for a reason, and I know coach Buchanan. We’re fighting a real uphill battle right now.
“We just ran into a buzzsaw, you know,” Naylor said. “[Aledo] just plays hard. And they’re good sports, and they don’t talk at all. They get after it, and that’s the way football is supposed to be played in Texas.”

Sometimes “concerned parents” really suck.

But hey, I got beat pretty badly in the race shown in the video. Perhaps I can complain that I was bullied? Good lord…

October 24, 2013 Posted by | running, social/political, sports | , , | Leave a comment

Better than nothing….

I thought about doing Thursday’s run today and lifting tomorrow, but I went ahead and lifted anyway.

Weights: usual supplemental; perhaps more rotator cuff work. 3 sets of (twist, sit back, crunch, v. crunch)
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (mostly narrow grip; wide grip is painful)
incline press: 5 x 135; it hurt so I quit.
dumbbell bench: 10 x 60, I quit on the second set. I am just not ready.

military: 3 sets of 12 x 50 with dumbbells (seated)
Hammer row: 2 sets of 10 x 230, 10 x 210
curls: 2 sets of 10 x 65 EZ curl, 10 x 70 machine
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160 (shoulder friendly grip)

The shoulder: I am getting a good feel for what works and what doesn’t. No bench or incline for a couple of weeks.

Then: 3.2 miles on the treadmill: 10:22 mile 1, 19:06 mile 2, 27:23 for mile 3 (10:22, 8:44, 8:17), 28:13 at 5K.
That felt ok and gave me at least a little bit of “turn over”; I had the incline at .5.

Commentary: when I was walking to Markin one of the university athletes came running by and said “hi”. I watched her disappear into the distance: her posture was upright, legs pumping like well oiled pistons; she looked so fast, strong and healthy. I was green with envy. I thought “OMG, why do I even bother to train; I’ll never be like that.”

Then in the weight room I saw a woman approximately my age (granny panties under shiny spandex). She was sweating all over the place and getting out of breath doing twists with ridiculously light weight (I generally don’t rest between sets; I move from machine to machine very quickly). Then I thought “THAT is why I train.”

Oh well; I am struggling with accepting age. I have to learn to live in the moment and focus on what I CAN do rather than on what I WISH that I could do.

But it is really a different mindset; there was a time when I looked forward to improvement. Now I look forward to declining at a lower rate. 🙂

But hey, it is all good. I know when I am giving a good effort and when I am not.

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Navel Staring, running, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment

Crossfit: Meh.


Hmmm, my workout is your warm up? Uh; my 100 mile (walk) PR is 23:41; so you warm up for almost 24 hours? 🙂
Ok, that was a race. But I’ve had workouts (albeit low intensity ones) that have lasted 12 hours. Typically, my workouts last 50-90 minutes (running) or 75-90 minutes (weight training). Warm up, eh?

Seriously, I was looking at stuff on the internet (and will look up warm weather marathon tips) and stumbled across some “Cross Fit Sucks” stuff. Of interest is the comments; it includes a comment from a self-described “current NFL player”.

I’ve talked about this 5 years ago.

I suppose that one point is that those who are really good at a sport might not be fit overall:

The enemies in the eyes of the CrossFit crowd are “Stairmaster chumps” (who log long, drowsy hours on the machines but huff and puff on actual stairs) and myopic “specialists” — athletes or exercisers who neglect versatility in order to refine one or two skills. The CrossFitters’ critique has chastened at least one specialist. An essay by a triathlete named Tom Demerly titled “How Fit Are We?” appeared on a biking blog, conceding that if triathletes “found ourselves in a jam that required overall physical fitness to survive, we’d probably be in trouble.” Further admitting that he could barely do a single pull-up, Demerly went on to praise the fitness of a CrossFit type he had met named Joe Sparks, who “gave a demonstration using a 50-pound kettlebell making it look like he was maneuvering a tennis ball.”

I find it hard to believe that a triathlete (one who does full ironmans anyway) would have trouble with pull ups; on swimming alone I can do 6-8 of them and that number shoots up immediately when I start weight training: (currently I can do 15 “decent but not perfect pull ups”; I don’t “kip” but the lower body isn’t totally motionless. )

But the ultimate point is this: Cross fit, bicycling, swimming, lifting, of whatever is a recreational activity for us (even if it is health enhancing). Do what you enjoy. If you like Cross Fit and can afford it, then do it. If you don’t: don’t. 🙂

I know three people who currently (or recently have done) cross fit, and it is probably not a coincidence that all three have finished multiple 100 mile races; one has won a couple of them and one has finished a 150 and a 200 mile footrace. So I wonder if Cross Fit appeals to those who push the extremes.

I doubt that it is for me; personally I am motivated by numbers (e. g. the bench press going up, the 5K time going down…ok, not going up by as much each year 🙂 ), and part of sports training is adapting to the motion, and from what I understand about Cross Fit, it changes things up to inhibit adaptation.

May 15, 2013 Posted by | training | , , | 1 Comment

Training Summary: what works, what doesn’t.

Ok, I am comparing 2012 (spring) to 2013 (spring)

What I did in 2012:
A typical training week consisted of:
3 1800 yard swims
18-19 miles of running: typically 5, 5, 8 with one tempo session and sometimes a race
20-22 miles of walking: typically 14-18 plus a medium walk (4-6)
2 relatively brief weight sessions.

What this got me:
2:34 half marathon (walking)
5K runs: 25:08, 25:14, 25:41 (BU course; long) 24:34, 25:13 (RFTC)
(25:10 average)
long (fall): 1:23:18 15K (easy course)
I also had a Wild Life Prairie Park 37:07 (4 miles)

Weights: military: 45 lb. dumbbell, incline: 8, 9 x 135, bench: 3, 4 x 175.
Pull ups: 10, 13 max.

Body Weight: about 190.

2013 spring:
no swimming
running: 35-36 miles per week (8-10, 6, 5-6, 12-16)
walking: 3-6 miles per week, one walk, sometimes a bit longer
weights: 3 lengthy, intense sessions.

What this got me:
25:49 (27:04 for 3.25), 25:14, 25:29, 26:12 (long, BU course), 25:48 (RTFC)
25:42 average (two same courses: + 31 for BU, + 35 for RFTC) 32 seconds slower on average. (2 percent slower)
2:01:17 half marathon (running)
1:22:46 15K split (tougher course than 2012 (fall), 32 seconds faster “en route”)
1:29:00 10 mile split (fastest in about a decade)

Weights: 185 x 4 bench, up to 15 pull ups, 145 x 10 (once) on the incline; 140 x 10 is typical.
Body Weight: 186.

Upshot: I am lighter and stronger this year than I was last year. I am slower for the 5K. I am faster for the longer distances. Walking is untested.
Piriformis: still sore at times, but a bit improved; also the back remains a slight chronic problem.

Goals: perhaps reduce the long run to 12 miles or so (once on non-race weeks); add the tempo run back (and reduce the 10 to perhaps 6-7-8), add one walk and do a longish walk on race weekends. Try to add 2 swims a week; those are good for ankles and the whole body.

Other: Monica took some photos from the Peoria Heights Half:



May 11, 2013 Posted by | running, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

Bad Arguments Don’t Imply False Conclusions

I admit that I haven’t followed the Steubenville rape case closely. I know that some of the people have posted angry rants about some of the media pointing out that the rapists ruined their own lives (they did) and about “rape culture” (huh)? And much of the reporting from the left wing media has been poor. Here is an example. Most of it is a “jocks are an entitled bunch who feel that they can do whatever they want and coaches should be..uh….

In thinking about Steubenville, thinking about my own experiences playing sports, thinking about athletes I’ve interviewed and know, I believe that a locker room left to its own devices will drift toward becoming a breeding ground for rape culture. You don’t need a Coach Reno or a Bob Knight to make that happen. You just need good people to say or do nothing. As such, a coach or a player willing to stand up, risk ridicule and actually teach young men not to rape, can make all the difference in the world. We need interventionist, transformative coaches in men’s sports that talk openly about these issues. We need an economic setup in amateur sports that does away with their gutter economy. But most of all, we need people who recognize the existence of rape culture, both on and off teams, to no longer be silent.

As for Steubenville, Coach Reno needs to be shown the door, never to be allowed to mold young minds again. Football revenue should go toward creating a district-wide curriculum about rape and stopping violence against women. And “Jane Doe,” the young woman at the heart of this case, should be given whatever resources she and her family needs to move if they choose, pay for college or just have access to whatever mental health services she and her family require. After the trial, testimony and verdict, they deserve nothing less.

“Teach young men not to rape?” Uh, well, our society teaches people not to steal, yet some do. We teach people not to murder, yet some do.
We teach people not to drive while intoxicated, yet some do.

While the campus sexual assault prevention programs HAVE been correlated with reductions in sexual assault rates (I learned this from Steven Pinker’s book Better Angels) and they should be continued, people are foolish if they think that rapes will be eliminated and that an example of an incident can be extrapolated to a whole so-called culture. That is not sound reasoning.

Now, at the college level, we do have some data:

Male athletes in big-time college programs are responsible for a significantly higher percentage of reported sexual assaults than other students, according to the first national study on the subject.

While athletes constitute 3.3 percent of the total male student population, they were involved in 19 percent of the sexual assaults reported to judicial-affairs offices at colleges, according to a Massachusetts-based study released yesterday at a sports-sociology conference in Georgia.

Sex crimes involving athletes are less often reported to campus police, suggesting that women are particularly reluctant to accuse athletes of wrongdoing unless they can do it quietly and efficiently, as the more private, campus judicial-affairs system allows.

The authors of the study are Todd Crosset and Mark McDonald, professors in sports management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Jeffrey Benedict, a graduate student at Northeastern University.

Without getting into the causes behind the relationship between athletes and sexual assault, the report provides evidence of a problem consistently discounted by coaches and administrators.

“Obviously what it warrants is the question: Is sports contributing to the incidence of rapes and sexual assaults?” Benedict said. “In some cases it’s probably coincidence. But in many cases it may be that being a player in a big-time program makes it more difficult to determine what’s criminal and what isn’t.”

The authors leave to future researchers the question of whether the culture of contact sports creates attitudes that foster sexual crimes against women.

However, what I haven’t seen (and need to see) is correction factors: is there a correction factor for, say the athlete’s IQ versus the IQ of the general student population (low IQ correlates with increased violent crime). Is there a correction factor for socio-economic background? In other words, does belonging to a sports team increase the chances that an individual will commit sexual violence? Or, is there a correlation between the person who is good at sports (especially the violent ones) and the ones who are prone to commit sexual violence?

Remember it has been shown that there are genetic factors to behavior.

Also from the above study:

But, the authors warn, “even here, reports were not uniform from school to school – suggesting that the social environment of programs may vary significantly and have a substantial impact on the rate of sexual assault.” Rates often jumped after coaching changes, indicating that coaches may have a strong influence on player attitudes, the authors wrote.

Although campus police records also showed that athletes were involved in sexual assaults at a higher rate than other male students, the authors concluded that the difference was not “statistically significant” on that basis.

Police records, however, are the least accurate gauge of sexual assault on campuses, Benedict said. As in any criminal matter, victims must file formal charges against the accused perpetrator and submit to a public, sometimes lengthy legal process.

Victims showed a preference for going through the campus judicial-affairs office, which cannot impose jail time but can offer relief to the victim by such measures as removing the alleged perpetrator from the same class or residence hall. The office also handles matters behind closed doors.

Now some might say: “athletes have a high profile and are therefore more likely to be charged falsely”. But another report talks about this:

Athletes, and some of their supporters, have also contended that because of their notoriety, athletes are more likely to be scrutinized or falsely accused than nonathietes and that no real differences exist in their behaviors. The findings here do not support this contention since the athletes in this sample self-reported higher levels of physical and sexual abuse yet none of the athletes in the sample had been publicly accused of abuse. Further, the victims of sexual abuse in this sample reported higher rates of victimization than perpetrators admitted to, implying that perpetrators do not always acknowledge the sexual abuse they commit.

So the study (the one with the data) is an example of a reasonably good article; Dave Zirin’s The Nation article is pretty much junk (one reason I quit subscribing to that rag; I mostly agree with their conclusions but their arguments tend to be terrible; it is “Newsmax for left wingers” caliber stuff).

I also looked at the Boston University hockey case and read an article about a “task force” recommendation. I found the following to be interesting:

A six-month assessment by a special task force appointed to examine the culture and climate of the BU men’s ice hockey team has found significant deficiencies in the structures and processes that are designed to provide oversight of the program. These weaknesses, in turn, resulted in the supervision of student-athletes’ conduct falling disproportionately and inappropriately to the coaching staff, whose oversight was also lacking. The task force also found that a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players, and that this, combined with the absence of sexual assault prevention training and education, led to risky behaviors.

Hmmm, ok…but…

The report concludes that the hockey team’s disciplinary history does not show a pattern that is significantly different from the undergraduate population as a whole,

Emphasis mine. Of course, in this case, “n” might be too small to make a conclusion.

Anyway: there is SOMETHING going on here even if it isn’t the “cultures” that some are talking about. I have to remember that many “know” things because they construct a model that “makes sense to them”, which, of course, is NOT evidence. This may be a result of their thinking or the data that they have access to, or their own life experiences.

I know that I am sometimes guilty of this: I’ve played sports in high school (and, ok, I sucked) and didn’t find any “rape culture” in the locker rooms. I know some elite athletes…who are….well, let’s just say that racewalkers aren’t a representative sample of athletes. 🙂

So, I haven’t been in these locker rooms; then again, neither have the ranters who think that they “know” so much.

My conclusion I am not sure as to what is going on; there is a problem but I am unconvinced that it is a “culture” problem.

March 19, 2013 Posted by | ranting, social/political, sports | , | 1 Comment

Working out: How I see myself vs. Reality

When I work out, this is how I see myself:


But there is reality:


Oh goodness……:-)

(ok, that was from 2011)

March 3, 2013 Posted by | laughing at myself, running, weight training | , | Leave a comment