Am I an Alt-Ac now?

23 Sep

I’ve been quiet for the last few weeks, and I thought I’d take an opportunity to explain what’s going on.

First, I took a half-time teaching position at the Huntington Learning Center. This has substantially reduced the moments I have for blogging. I was a bit disappointed to have not found a teaching position in my local area for the fall, but I’m very happy that Huntington needed someone to come help students with the writing and reading. One-on-one lessons with high schoolers is totally different than university instruction, but so far I’m finding it rewarding and interesting.

I have to think carefully about what I can and can’t say about the work, but I’m sure I’ll write a post describing the primary pedagogical differences in individual vs. group instruction at some point. The biggest thing for me right now is that I have become, somewhat unwittingly but not undesirably, an alt-ac(ademic). I’ve never been wedded to a position in the academy, but I’m thinking more about it now that I’m a few steps down that road. Only time and the job market in the fall will tell…

Second, I’ve been working hard to get my weight down. The dissertation process was, for me, a humbling journey that revealed my own proclivity to eat when I am stressed out. At the time I focused on the bigger prize, but once I finished (and in the last few months as I was finishing) I set a few new goals for the next stage of my life. I can say that in many respects I am a lot less stressed out than I was before I completed my degree.

What remained, however, was a equally daunting set of goals and aspirations. I’ve attempted to continue my research, keep writing, and get myself ready for the job market this fall. This left me with similar kinds of unstructured time as I was used to working with during the chapter writing. I sacrificed some of that time and devoted more of my energy to cooking and exercising. While I was working on the dissertation cooking was not a stress-reliever, but I’ve tried to make it more rewarding and satisfying. It sure helps that I can feel I’m contributing a bit more to the house-hold than I did in the last moments of dissertating, although my wife and I feel as busy as ever!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been diligently taking advantage of the “warmer” summer waters to go for an ocean swim 1-2 times a week. Swimming is great exercise and the ocean is far more enjoyable than the pool. It’s not anywhere as easy to arrange–you should always swim with a buddy and you really need to go in the AM before the waves pick up–but swimming for an hour with a wetsuit is much easier. You also feel a lot better seeing the progress you make as you swim along. We usually make it about 1. 5 miles or so. That’s a long way to swim, and it’s also time when you can’t really do much else except focus on your breathing, your stroke, and sighting the horizon to keep straight. It’s a kind of meditation and while I’ve never had runner’s high, I imagine it is something like that.

I also began running again. This went less well. As a big dude, even if I’ve lost 25 or 30 pounds, running is really hard on my feet and knees. At first I was doing pretty well, running as fast as I had at any point during my triathlon training last year and for much longer distances. [Losing weight made that possible.] Unfortunately, nagging near-injuries have convinced me to back off. I’ve also run into scheduling problems with work that makes running with my training buddies a lot harder. Going forward I need to parlay the desire to run into more time spent on my bicycle. Cycling doesn’t impact your joints nearly as much as running and it’s easier to stay in the zone for a much longer period of time.

Most of all, however, I’ve enjoyed a fitness class at my local gym called TRX. It’s a bodyweight exercise routine that incorporates standard elements like squats and lunges into a more dynamic format. I can tell that while my weight loss has slowed my muscle mass has increased a lot. This is typical, but it will also be helpful as I train for another triathlon next year. To end this potpourri post, here’s a TRX promotional video for those of you who have never heard of it. And yes, it’s can be really hard. I take 30-45 minute classes 2-3x a week.

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