Your daily dose of anti-gnosticism!


Look how delicate and lovely my metatarsals and phlanges are!

If you’re anywhere near a Bodies exhibit, I really recommend a trip.  First of all, it’s not gross at all (and this is coming from someone who covers her eyes when watching House).  I was really overwhelmed by the beauty of human anatomy each time I went, and I felt a surge of that awe again when I got to peer inside my foot on Friday.

Of course, we’re not in wacky old antiquity, where they took routine fluoroscopes at the shoe store.  These are diagnostic x-rays, and it turns out I’ve broken my littlest toe at Aikido class.

So, if people want to give me a little crowdsourcing help, I’ve been trying to become stronger by alternating between the 200 squats and 100 push-ups apps, but both are nixed during the six week recovery period.  I definitely recommend these.  I followed the 200 sit-ups one to completion, and do 200 situps before bed and when I wake up now.  And when I started the push-up app, I couldn’t do one push-up.  I followed the program doing push-ups off a table until I was strong enough to start over doing kneeling push-ups, and, after about three weeks of that, I was able to restart doing actual push-ups.

While all those exercises are kiboshed, can people recommend any upper body exercises that won’t involve putting any pressure on my foot?  Bonus points if I can outsource deciding what to do to a schedule, like I do with the apps or if there’s an easy way to gamify them.  I have access to a gym with weights and machines and stuff, but I’d like to have some stretches and/or exercises I can do at home, so there’s a low barrier to actually exercising.

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  • Adrian Ratnapala


    1) I had hoped that this anit-gnostic stuff would be be more-about-Augustine.
    2) What to telephones have to do with pushups, situps and squats?
    3) Wouldn’t 200 squats be really, really, really boring?
    4) How many pushups, situps and squats do you think Augustine used to do?

    • leahlibresco

      The iphone app tells me how many to do per day, so I can gradually ramp up. And it is super boring, but I usually listen to music.

    • jenesaispas

      He probably didn’t do much intense exercise (he is the patron saint of brewers).

  • Emily

    I took a Pilates class once that had a bunch of leg/core exercises you could do on your back or side without weight on your feet – that was two years ago and frankly I don’t remember much, but it felt like a good workout that would be easy to do at home from a book or in front of a Youtube instructional, so it might be worth looking into.

  • math_geek

    Something tells me Leah, that given your relatively small size and your fondness for large books, you could probably find a backpack/duffel bag and generate your own, slightly awkward, free weights.

    A couple books in a backpack with that little handle at the top is not a bad plan for curls and what not at least.

    Bench press (the equivalent of push ups) are slightly harder. I’ve never tried to do anything like that because A) I can do push-ups and B) It would take an awful lot of books to weigh as much as I do.

    • leahlibresco

      Thanks for the advice, but what happened to the nice bit a couple weeks ago where everyone was assuming I was tall? I liked that error!

      • There’s nothing wrong with being not-tall! I wish people would stop acting like shortness is a bad thing! (Yeah, yeah, I know that there are practical limitations involved, like top shelves, but all this shortshame has to end.)

        • leahlibresco

          I wish to be imposing. And also to wear a cloak and billow places.

          • The latter is an admirable goal.

          • Leah Snape?

          • leahlibresco

            I covet his elaborately buttoned sleeves.

        • Skittle

          As a tall woman in an all-female organisation, I tell you, it gets old being the only person who can put things onto the top shelf and get them down again. I can only hope that the next generation continues to grow taller than us, so they can start helping with the fetching and carrying.

          Also, tallness makes it awkward to find attractive clothing that doesn’t bare your midriff or leave your shoes more exposed, or long-sleeved tops that come down over your wrists. Long dresses and skirts make me sad, especially if the only nice shoes that match have heels 🙁

          Revel in your height: you can sneak into places easier.

          • And you can better fit in cars! Sedans are an issue for a family of tall or tall-ish men (and I would know).

      • Gah, being tall is awful. And I’m not even all that tall, but I still can’t find blouses long enough to cover my belly, or ankle length skirts/dresses that don’t hit my mid calf (a skirt length that makes you look fatter than you are!), or knee length skirts/dresses that don’t turn into minis when ou put them on, or big enough trousers in 32″ length (only stick thin women can he long legs!). And this doesn’t even consider aspects of the body like shoulder breadth!

        Revel in being a size where you can shop off the rack!

  • Saul of Metatarsus

    How is this “anti-gnostic”?

    • leahlibresco

      Looking at the structure of the bones in the foot makes me feel less resentful of the body as a meat-prison for my intellect.

      • math_geek

        Man Leah, I’m sure you are smarter than me, but doesn’t even saying “meat-prison for my intellect” make you feel the slightest bid ridiculous?

        • leahlibresco

          Yup! That’s how I try to inoculate myself against falling back into error.

      • Isn’t the whole purpose of being in a “meat-prison” to learn something that you can’t learn otherwise? So why not celebrate it rather than resenting it?

        • leahlibresco

          I’m still working on getting back to neutral. I’ll take the next bit as it comes.

  • Fred

    Don’t forget we worship the living God.

    • Mark Russell

      That Nietzche fellow killed your living god long ago.

      • Ted Seeber

        Is that the same German who died of syphalis? I’d call his philosophy morally bankrupt, but that’s an insult to those people who are morally bankrupt. I do not consider that madman to be the source of any worthwhile information.

        If whatever does not kill you only makes you stronger, then Evil Kineval should have been the freakin’ Hulk.

        • Fred

          Despite appearances Nietzsche attacks idolatry not faith.

          I would like to know how much one must excuse in the overall accounting of a people which, not without guilt on all our parts, has had the most sorrowful history of all peoples, and to whom we owe the noblest human being (Christ), the purest philosopher (Spinoza), the mightiest book, and the most effective moral code in the world.

        • If whatever does not kill you only makes you stronger, then Evil Kineval should have been the freakin’ Hulk.

          Actually science has shown that healed broken bones are in fact stronger, and it’s common knowledge and useful medical practice that small amounts of a harmful substance — a toxin, an allergen, a virus — can improve your resistance to that harmful thing. Smallpox vaccines, allergy shots, and a resistance to arsenic are all well-known and medically supported examples.

          It was formerly thought that Nietsche died of syphilis, but that diagnosis has since been called into question. Even if he had, how would that be relevant? The best person in the world can get a terrible disease through no fault of their own (viz., AIDS, hepatitis C, etc.)

  • Fred

    This Nietzsche?

    We philosophers are not free to divide body from soul as the people do: we are even less free to divide soul from spirit. We are not thinking frogs, nor objectifying and registering mechanisms with their innards removed: constantly we have to give birth to our thoughts out of our pain and, like mothers endow them with all we have of blood, heart, fire, pleasure, passion, agony, conscience, fate and catastrophe. Life – that means for us constantly transforming all that we are into light and flame; also everything that wounds us; we simply can do no other.

  • For upper body workouts that don’t put pressure on your foot try getting one of those pullup bars that you put in your doorway. You can also try wall push ups where you do a hand stand with your back against a wall and push up your whole bodyweight. If those are too hard at first you can increase the angle your body makes with the wall.

    • S. Murphy

      If there’s a fence or a railing you can get under, you can do modified pull-ups for your lats, too – heels in the dirt, toes up, keep your core straight, pull up your chest to the bar. Get a TRX or similar device and do push-ups with your feet through the loops, so that your weight isn’t on your toes. Also a lot of other exercises. You can also maybe rest your shins across a beanbag or big pillow while you do regular push-ups.

  • Steve

    Fitocracy ( is pretty great for gaming your regimen. Level up!

  • jenesaispas

    Feel for you and your sensitivity to gore, I nearly fainted at a medical museum once.

    You could do some press-ups (push-ups) but on your knees…

  • Tapji

    you close your eyes during house too? ! I wish they made that show with less disease & more existentialism 😛

  • ARM

    Yes, your bones are beautiful and wonderfully made! But can I suggest as a next step away from gnosticism, don’t support a company that trades in other people’s bodies as a source of entertainment. (And, not that I would think that even valid, documented consent would make it right to use human remains this way, but it’s been pretty much proven to my satisfaction that there is absolutely no reason to believe those bodies were donated freely – the evidence at this point suggests it’s far more likely that they were political prisoners of the Chinese government.)

    • leahlibresco

      The exhibit in London that uses animals is more ethically sourced. I’d like for the human bodies to be replaced by volunteers (I’d sign up). In the meantime, I’m torn, but I still make use of the exhibit in the same way I make use of the unethically sourced HeLa cells.

      • ARM

        Hmm. . . volunteers might make it less horrendous, but would it make it right? That seems to me similar to suggesting cannibalism might be okay as long as the meatsource volunteered. Another interesting and salient point: the regulatory bodies that govern legitimate educational use of human remains (i.e., dissections in medical schools) have pretty unanimously condemned the exhibits, and in some cases tried to legally block them. And I don’t think you can assume that the unethical “sourcing” is all fait accompli, unaffected by the customer’s present choices – this stuff is big business, and supporting it keeps the “plastinating” labs in business too.

        • leahlibresco

          I’m totally ok with people volunteering for this. Why do you think it’s more like cannibalism (where someone kills you) than dissection (where your body is of use after you’re dead)?

          • Skittle

            From your first parenthesis, I would guess you haven’t read Stranger in a Strange Land? 🙂 Which is to say that cannibalism doesn’t necessarily involve someone killing you.

          • leahlibresco

            I hated Stranger in a Strange Land.

          • ARM

            Oops – time got away from me so I didn’t reply. Like Skittle says, I’m not assuming cannibalism involves killing. Let’s imagine it didn’t – wouldn’t it still be an unseemly way to treat what was a human body? Even if (again let’s imagine) it were a super-duper food, nutritionally? And even if the person consented beforehand? Likewise, I think using human remains for general education (which, honestly, I think is giving the exhibit and its appeal way more credit than it deserves) or for prurient pleasure (which I think is a more honest assessment of why most people go see it) is not right, even if the people had consented. Teaching a future healer how to operate safely on a living person is a serious enough good that it justifies dissection I think, but providing a dilettant’s view of anatomy to the general public – I don’t think so. And even in the medical school setting, I think it’s very important that the process be fenced around with rituals and practices that remind the students not to feel comfortable and complacent about what they’re doing.

          • Skittle

            Not that you’re likely reading this, but I found Stranger in a Strange Land a very weird book, and I don’t think I really liked it. But, it did make me think about cannibalism and so forth.

            I always find Heinlein a strange mix of clever ideas, adventure, and weird morality. But if we never thought about why we disagree with things (and if we’re justified in doing so), we never find out what is true. Not that you need to be told that, given it’s one of your main threads. Urgh, it’s like a week after I put “Stranger in a Strange Land” down unfinished, and was thinking about the cannibalism stuff, and had a thought that I suddenly realised was the same thought in the same words as was in the book D-: So then I had to finish it.

  • Andy

    Adding weight will serve you better then doing hundreds of reps.

    Ain’t no exercise as powerful as the barbell squat.

    • Andy

      As for upper body, bench press (put your feet on the bench while recovering) will develop strength the best. If you’re looking for pure physique changes go for the body builder oriented routine that focuses on pushdowns (you can do these seated), and curls. It would definitely be to your advantage to include chin ups (pull downs will work if you can not do any…I like the v-handle), and chest flys (aka pec deck) if you’re going a more isolation based routine.

  • Arizona Mike

    Based on my experience in trying to retain or improve upper body lean body mass while recovering from a torn ACL (courtesy of a Judo mishap), seated exercises in a gym or at home such as the following exercises are recommended. In a gym, machines with weight stacks (the kind you insert a pin into to select the weight, such as Cybex or Nautilus) will remove the difficulty and risk of re-injury in trying to lug heavy plates over to a free weight bar. At home, a set of dumbbells (fixed or adjustable) can be used, along with some judicious body-weight exercises.

    A sample gym workout:

    Chest: Seated Machine Press
    Back: Seated Row Machine
    Shoulders: Seated Shoulder Press
    Biceps: Seated Curl Machine
    Triceps: Seated Tricep Machine

    A sample home workout:

    Chest – continue your pushups, but simply cross your ankles so the foot with the injured toe is resting on top of the Achilles Tendon of the uninjured foot, thus taking pressure off the injured toe.
    Back – pull-ups using a doorway pushup bar, or using a low bench (a coffee table may work), rest your left knee and left hand on the edge of the bench, hold a dumbbell in your right hand, then raise the dumbbell up to your rubs, pause slightly, then slowly lower. Reverse position to work the other side. Experiment to find a position that doesn’t hurt your toe.
    Shoulders – sit in a chair and hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, press both dumbbells (simultaneously or alternating) over your head to full extension, pause slightly, and slowly return to starting position.
    Shoulders (s) – sit in a chair and hold a dumbbell in each hand, straight down below the chair seat. Keeping your arms straight or with a slight bend in the elbows, raise your arms out to the side until they both are straight out to the side, at about head height, pause, and slowly return to starting position.
    Triceps – use the same body position on a bench or coffee table as the beginning of the back exercise above, but keep your elbow locked tucked tight against your ribs. slowly straighten your arm to the rear, keeping your elbow more-or-less locked in place. Pause and return slowly to starting position.
    Biceps – Sit in your chair with a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging straight down at your side. slowly curl the dumbbells up, either simultaneously or alternating, pause slightly at the top, and slowly return to starting position.
    Depending in the weights to which you have access, start at something like 3 sets of 5 to 6 repetitions (with about a 30 to 45 second rest between sets), as you become stronger gradually add reps until you can do 3 sets of 15, then add weight and drop down to 3 sets of 5 again. Concentrate on good technique, without jerking or bouncing around, and take your time in adding weight. Think of it as a “practice,” rather than a workout, as the yogis do. Keep a log where you track your lift weights.
    Abs – continue situps and/or crunches as you have been doing.
    Broken toes are a pain. Taping the injured toe with medical tape next to its uninjured neighboring toe to self-splint it is sometimes the only thing you can do. Hope this helps you, and I wish you a speedy recovery.

    • 2nd continuing the pushups by crossing your ankles. Also, dips are hardcore + pull ups (palms facing you) and chin ups (palms facing away… i may have those backwards) work your upper body muscles in different ways.

  • Noe

    You didn’t mention chin/pullups – anyone doing chestwork really should be doing something for their spinal erectors, lats and traps – and chins help well with those. Dips also – but not the mostly-tricep ones where you put your feet on a bench and your hands beside you on another bench and lower your tuchas to the floor; doing conventional dips, grasping appropriate parallel bars, hunching forward, tightening your abs and curling your legs up, lowering yourself down. since youre using the apps from the pushup/situp guy, you know you can use surgical tubing to assist. But chins and dips are a great use of virtually all you upper body muscles (chins/pullups also hit your pecs if you go to a dead hang on the bottom, as in a pullover). Is deepwater running ok? If you really sprint in the water and not ‘jog’, it can be muscularly challenging and no-impact.

  • Noe

    If you miss pushups, it might be safe to put your feet over an exercise ball so the top of your foot and toes are ‘draped’ over the other side. With the added mobility of putting one weight-bearing point on a shifting ball, your wee supporting shoulder (and all the core), muscles will get a challenge they don’t get from the fixed range of motion of normal pushups.

  • Erik

    You can use static holds like Frog Stands and Crow Stands for your upper body. I would also recommend working on some Chins and Pulls Ups. If you can’t do them from the start either start with static holds at the top of the pull, negatives(where you lower yourself slowly), or assisted pulls(using a chair or resistance band to take some of the weight off the pull).

    As for lower body, I’m not sure of what you could do without putting much pressure on your foot. If a tiny bit is fine, then a squat should be fine since the weight should be focus on the heel when done properly. Beyond that wall sits, or wall chairs as some know them, are a great way to build up strength in the legs.

    And just so you know, at some point you will want to change your focus from endurance exercises. If you want to try and develop as much maximal strength as you can, you’re going to want to start lifting weights or learn the more advanced body weight exercises(and their progressions), along with a few gymnastic holds/movements, and buy yourself a weighted vest.