LGN 84: Turbocharged

You know how you read a blog and realize that the author is just indulging in lazy generalizations? And you suddenly feel indignant and you’re like, “Why am I wasting my time?”

Well. I’m about to be that blogger.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the women at the gym

deal with exertion and pain and fatigue differently than I do. Differently than many men do. Or maybe … the way athletes do.

I make noise when I’m training. It’s not over the top, I don’t think, but it’s there. I always have. I got yellow carded in soccer for grunting loudly when jumping (incompetently) for a header or lunging for an attempted steal. It’s the martial arts kiai. Maybe it’s that people who are moving a lot of weight tend to be more vocal.

But most of the women, I’ve noticed, are practically silent. The competitive athletes, you hear regulated and strategic breathing. Like a steam punk anthro-engine. They’re turbocharged.


Turbo engines are powerful, right. You think of a turbocharged car and you think blazing speed. The idea is that they take the exhaust from the combustion engine and use it to recycle energy back into the process of turning energy into motion via turbines. If I remember correctly from Thermodynamics 101 — something about the Carnot engine — heat engines can only achieve a maximum effeciency of 60%. (Something tells me my engineering theory is off here. Feel free to set me straight.)

A lot of the women turn their pain, fatigue and exhaustion back into energy. Somehow. I wrote a blog entry a while ago titled Pain Eaters. Now I’ve come to realize that the pain, physical and otherwise, gets turned into fuel. It gets recycled back into the system to drive the effort toward awesome things.

It’s pretty amazing. I’ve seen some of the guys do it, too. I saw one of the men at the gym do a farmers walk from Rt. 50 back to the gym. My forearms had literally stopped working. I couldn’t work my fingers anymore and I was stopping every 10 yards. He got back up to the parking lot in front of the gym, his face a visage of concentration. Then he quickly (but responsibly) dropped the kettlebells to the pavement and let all of that burn and exercise pain out in a primal roar. Literally. It was loud. And necessary.

But in general, it seems like the women deal with effort in a way that is foreign to me. It’s very internal. It’s a little eerie to me how contained they can be. What is this esoteric art?

When I’m exerting myself I have a tendency to make faces, to grunt or growl. I’m not saying it’s wrong but it does use up energy. And that’s fine but probably not ideal for endurance activities when every little bit of energy counts. (There was a study done that found that cursing actually helps to regulate pain levels. Stub your toe. %$#@! actually helps to mediate the pain sensation.)

While the athletic people are breathing like industrial billows and efficiently recycling their pain into energy, I’m burning fuel, flames rolling off me in waves and black smoke rising into the air. When you see flames coming out of an engine or exhaust it’s clear that a lot of fuel and energy is being wasted. It’s all burning off and the reservoir is quickly exhausted. Impressive spectacle, maybe, but it can’t last long. It’s like I have the metabolism of a tractor.

Is this something that can be learned and controlled? Is it a slow/fast twitch muscle fiber thing? Is it cardiovascular fitness? Can I grow turbines?

I mean, how long can you push yourself at maximum exertion levels? Or pace yourself for maximum exertion over a length of time. Level 9 or 10 out of 10. Ten seconds? Thirty seconds? One minute? Five minutes? Ten minutes?


Oh! Switching gears here. How long can you hold your breath for?

I was in a Starbucks recently waiting for an order and I decided it was a good time to see how long I could hold my breath. The results were disappointing. I wonder if anybody noticed that I wasn’t breathing. I don’t think so. I did it, like, three times. Then my lungs got tired and I was a little woozy. I figured that the Third Space would be a fairly safe place to pass out in if it came to that.

Poseidon Adventure. Aliens 4: Resurrection. That one episode of Man vs. Wild. Sanctum. Descent(?). Deep Blue Sea. Deep Rising. I wouldn’t have survived any of those movies.

I don’t know if that has anything to do with any level of fitness. Just a random question. Maybe we can create a new meme. Let’s all go to Starbucks and see how long we can hold our breath. Extra points if you render yourself unconscious and get a photo of it. Heck. You might could get yourself a free latte out of it.

Good luck and godspeed, weirdo.

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