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Light Years Ahead

The cult of nerd culture has eclipsed the “mother’s basement” jokes, and the losing-the-head-cheerleader-to-the-quarterback tropes. Someone who got his start building computers in his garage is now one of the richest men in the world, fan conventions are a multi-billion dollar industry, and the MVP at any company is the IT guy. (I’m lookin’ at [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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The cult of nerd culture has eclipsed the “mother’s basement” jokes, and the losing-the-head-cheerleader-to-the-quarterback tropes. Someone who got his start building computers in his garage is now one of the richest men in the world, fan conventions are a multi-billion dollar industry, and the MVP at any company is the IT guy. (I’m lookin’ at you, Mike.) It’s revenge of the nerds, baby, and now they’ve weaponized.

Tom Amoroso is the owner and head instructor at Columbus Saber Academy, and he has over 30 years of formal martial arts weapon training under his belt. By day, he works a straight-laced job with Chase, and by night, he dons the armor of a superhero, and battles villains with a nerd’s favorite weapon.

“My level of geekdom outside of here is pretty high,” he said. “But in here, these guys blow me away.”

For decades, Amoroso has been studying the blade, but before that, he was just a ’70s kid who fell in love with a galaxy far, far away. Despite the fantasy involved, Amoroso is using his skills as a swordsman to pass on his learning to his students, some of whom have become instructors themselves.

“It’s structured as a true sword art. It is cuts, blocks, partner drills, stances, distancing, timing, strategy, all built in. It’s not just hitting each other with lightsabers. But we do get to hit each other with lightsabers, too. Which is fun.”

Now in its third year of existence, CSA has done a little bouncing around before finding its home on the North Side. A large, open studio concept, the room houses racks of painted gear, fluttering banners hanging from the ceiling, and a full floor mat on which the students practice. True to its screen inspiration, the academy also teaches stage combat, which features flourishes and looping movements that would be useless in a real battle. But boy, does it look cool.

As Amoroso explains the basics of fighting styles, he casually swings a saber that has sound effects built in. [Author’s note: I found myself laughing giddily when he did this.]

“It doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, when you turn that on, it’s so cool.”

It is, indeed.

The benefits of lessons with a saber don’t end at giddy nerdery. Focusing on footwork and movement, Amoroso says that form is incredibly important.

“Fencing is a great sport to improve your legs and your knees. If you do it right, you keep the alignment with your knee, your ankle, your body all together, you’ll prolong the life of your joints, it’s not damaging. You’re moving your entire body. It’s not just your arms, it’s not just your wrists. Where you step, your hips, your shoulders, your body, all moves into that cut.”

Each class starts with a warm up of push ups and planks. Lunges and squats are incorporated into the walking movements during the lesson. But the physical benefits don’t end there. Two pounds might not sound like a lot, but swinging around two pounds for two hours will help you develop core strength, and give you a good upper body workout. Indeed, even the seasoned instructors, when sparring in full gear, emerged from their masks ruddy-faced, sweaty, and breathing heavily.

Beyond finding a novel way to work out, there is a key to the draw and success of CSA. It’s a community hub where people can gather around their favorite subjects the way sports nuts have always been able to discuss the latest bad calls over beers, or while hitting a few balls at the driving range. It might not sound like much, but for people of a certain age, this love is what used to get you shoved in a locker.

“Because we are all geeks, we get folks that are very reserved, very introverted. It’s a good place where they can just be themselves. Yes, we’re playing with lightsabers. Yes, we’re all Star Wars nerds, but we are also martial artists.”

Kids can benefit from the classes as much as kids-at-heart. Amoroso speaks of confidence-building in children, and seeing patience and control bloom in previously wild kids as they learn the routines, strikes, and blocks of the dance of swordplay. The practice is egalitarian by nature, welcoming students from all backgrounds, and of all ability levels.

“There’s no strength advantage. Male, female, age range [doesn’t matter]. It’s about understanding your opponent, it’s about understanding yourself. It’s a game of patience, it’s a game of thinking.”

Though welcoming to beginners, it takes practice to bring form to your skill set, and be able to emulate the twirling fury of the onscreen fights of light we all grew up with. As a wise little green man once said,

“Patience you must have, my young padawan.”

Columbus Saber Academy offers unlimited classes for adults and children for a very reasonable flat fee per month. They will be hosting the Midwest regional full contact tournament on September 29th. For more, visit columbussaberacademy.com.

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Health & Fitness

Truth or Trend: “His” vs “Her” portions

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC

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It’s not uncommon to scroll through Instagram and see beautiful plates of food labeled “his” and “hers.” Typically the “his” plate is larger in all portions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

But, this depiction of portioning is inaccurate and can be damaging to the way women satisfy their hunger.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmBjeBnB5jb/

Gender does not determine the quantity of food people “should” eat. From a science perspective, there are so many variables that affect metabolic rates that are not specific to sex, such as amount of muscle mass, fat mass, location of these deposits, physical activity, and more. 

For example, a very active, self-identified woman with high lean body mass can have significantly higher maintenance caloric needs compared to a more sedentary male identifying person. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxnh7yaFftA/

Take-away: Don’t let social media tell you that gender determines the amount you deserve to eat. Listen to your body and your hunger cues. Fuel your body for what you need!

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Health & Fitness

Truth or Trend: Late night eats at Steak ‘n’ Shake

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC

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Waist trainers, crash diets, colon cleanses—all things touted as the next miracle solution for weight loss. With the help of our new Registered Dietitian columnist, we’ll sort out the truth from the trash when it comes to health trends on your social media feeds, and provide healthy, sustainable alternatives for those to-good-to-be-true fixes. Welcome to Truth or Trend.

Steak ‘n’ Shake; a long-standing staple for a greasy, late night bite to eat. While "Eat This, Not That!" calls their signature items “two of the most precarious foods on the planet” on Instagram, is their fear mongering all it claims to be? Stick with me as I explore the truth behind a post by the account comparing the healthiness of two popular menu items: a Single Steakburger with Thin 'n Crispy Fries v. Portobello and a Swiss Steakburger.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw_IR1_h2Ol/?igshid=1s0nzocal4f4w

First, the nutrition information provided for the two options shown in the post is inaccurate (click here to see more). Additionally, the caption claims most shakes are more than 500 calories and most salad options are 600 calories or less which is an incorrect generalization.

And while the Single Steakburger with Thin 'n Crispy Fries is the lower-calorie option like "Eat This, Not That!" says, what the post doesn’t account for are some other important nutrient factors that set the two options apart.

The Single Steakburger with Thin 'n Crispy Fries combination has 1380 mg sodium, which is 60% of the maximum recommended daily intake (2300 mg) in one meal, compared to just 890 in the Portobello and Swiss burger. The “Not this” option also boasts a higher protein content of 29 g compared to 17 g in the combination and about half the carbohydrates at 36 g v. 62 g.

Take-away

There are pros and cons to each of the menu items here, so saying to “Eat this, not that” is painting broad strokes. If you’re a patron of fast food chains, remember to review and weigh all the nutritional facts before making a decision about which one is "healthier." Or, if you’re out for a special late night treat, choose the option that is going to satisfy you!

Becca is an Ohio native and University of Cincinnati graduate who works as a traveling consultant dietitian, currently living in Juneau, Alaska. She owns Centum Cento Fitness LLC, a company dedicated to using evidenced-based practice to help empower clients to build sustainable and healthy lifestyles through nutrition and fitness.Follow Becca on Instagram!

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Health & Fitness

Twerk it! Studio Rouge combines dance and exercise for booty-lifting benefits

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Studio Rouge in Grandview isn’t your average fitness studio. Here you’ll find classes in pole dancing, aerial fitness, and exotic dancing—including the aptly-named “Twerkout” class. And it’s not just for those who want to be on stage.

The butt-lifting Twerkout class doubles as both sensuality and body positivity lessons for all. Taught by Tracy Ruby, she prides herself on being aptly coined “twerk technician,” having taken lap dance and pole dance classes at Studio Rouge before becoming a regular instructor.

“It’s so much fun to see other people who come in, not sure what’s going to happen, and find that they can do it,” Ruby says. “The idea behind Twerkout is to take ‘twerk’ and make it a workout—to give people a new dance environment where they can come and they can learn new skills. [They can] take those home or to the club or wherever they want to do their new booty-poppin’ moves.”

Photos: Stef Streb

Ruby first assesses the physical needs and limitations of the class, combining twerk moves with traditional exercises as a mash-up with the ideal butt lift.

“If you go through Instagram, you can plug in ‘twerk’ and see all these different people coming up with different moves that work really well for their bodies, but during Twerkout, there are certain moves that’ll work for one person that won’t work for another,” she says. “Our booties are all shaped differently; our bodies all work differently. When you see people on Instagram, they’ve found all these moves, put them together, and they got their booties to twerk in these magnetical, amazing ways.”

While visitors may scroll through Instagram before class to get a gauge of what they can expect from Twerkout, Ruby insists upon using repetition in areas where guests may feel they’re lacking. “You build natural muscles with, for instance, twerk, where you’re working specific calisthenics to enhance your sense of your motions,” she says. “It’s healthier. I mean you’re building your muscles. You’re not just implanting new material. We do a lot of squats in class, because that’s where you’re going to help get your leg joints, back joints and muscles in these areas to be more responsive and stronger.”

As Ruby encourages doing squats outside of Twerkout, she also stresses the importance of proper form with an extensive warm-up to match. “We do quite a bit of warming up of the spine so that your back is ready for all that we’re going to ask of it. Then we’ll go into some twerk drills, which is where the workout kind of kicks up and we’ll have some traditional exercises along with learning new twerk skills,” she says. “We will go through some core moves for twerk, that are specifically for a twerk and then we’ll start putting together some choreography […] based on those core moves, maybe adding in some new ones. Once we have our choreography built, we will run through it a few times so that you’ve got something to take with you, and then there’s a cool-down period.”

Twerkout guests may struggle during a session, but Ruby firmly assures that she won’t let her class fail. “Say one move is not working for you in class. If it’s not working for you there, keep working on it. It may just never be your move, you may not care for it. That’s fine. That happens in all kinds of classes,” she says. “Burpees, for example, [are] not everybody’s favorite. Some people are good at them and love them. Other people do not, but you can keep working at it, get better and eventually master these skills.”

Ruby indulges in plain yogurt and granola as a protein-oriented go-to snack following a session of Twerkout, and she encourages her class to enjoy any food that nourishes and energizes their bodies, er, booties. Following this downtime, she looks forward to amping her class back into gear.

“There is never a moment where I’m not encouraging you. Everybody has a moment every day when they wanna give up. My job as the instructor is to help motivate that person and everyone else to keep moving, just keep going. The studio itself is built around self-love and finding ways that you appreciate your own body and can share that with yourself and others,” she says. “Come in and see what it’s about! It’s an hour, okay? So you’re not going to spend five hours with me doing something you don’t like, and I promise you’ll have fun.”

Find out more about classes at Studio Rouge in Grandview at studiorougecolumbus.com.

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