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Health & Fitness

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: Does “detox water” really work?

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC

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Water, H20, aqua: the most basic of necessities for human life. Water is a vital part of many bodily functions, including removal of waste products, but can we make water even “better” for us as a “detox water?"

Simple answer: no.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1F2t7Vg91U/?igshid=9icqe17xmslg

H20, i.e. two hydrogen atoms connected to an oxygen atom, is the chemical identity of water. This specific formation is what separates it from other molecules, and makes it the most vital substance to human existence.

Soaking things in your water like ginger, cinnamon, or cucumbers can alter the taste but will not chemically alter the structure. Water infusions like the ones listed in the post above can taste great, but water is still H20 and will function as such.

That being said, water infusions are not bad; in fact if you’re struggling to meet your daily intake, water infusions are often an idea I suggest to patients and clients. Mixing up the flavors can bring water can elevate the flavor, making it easier to drink throughout the day!

Take-away: Don’t let social media tell you water can be changed to a magical detox; water is already an amazing life giving drink. Instead, use social media for inspiration for trying a new tasty drink that might help you get the adequate hydration you’ve been struggling to get!

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Health & Fitness

Truth or Trend: 30 Day Challenges

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC

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@DietBetch, a popular Instagram account with over 213k followers, tends to post memes that subtly poking fun at our diet culture. But recently, I was disappointed to see a post about a "30 Day Challenge" that reinforces the unhealthy, fad diet-obsessed world we live in.

This "30 Day Challenge" prohibits participants from consuming foods that many people often associate with being “unhealthy” like soda, candy, and doughnuts.

As a dietitian, I’m not going to disagree that the foods listed do tend to be higher in nutrients of concerns—like added sugars and salt, and overall calories—but, I absolutely believe they can be part of a balanced diet.

By completely removing foods from the diet with a 30 Day Challenge like this, one will simply think, “No…for this month." This purge-style challenge won't teach healthy sustainable eating habits like intuitive eating or portion control.

Take-away: Instead of tagging a friend for a restrictive diet challenge that doesn’t set either of you up for long-term success, try implementing a small sustainable change. Maybe instead of going out for fast food every day of the workweek with a friend, you both could try packing once a week and share recipes and meal ideas!

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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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