“Terrible Mothers:” Sarah Connor and Hippolyta

*****SPOILER ALERT for what is supposed to be a major spoiler for Wonder Woman, although it seemed pretty obvious. Also a bit spoilery for T2 but given that you are reading this that probably isn’t an issue at this point ****

One of the things that struck me about James Cameron’s tone-deaf rants about Wonder Woman, was that in the first one he said of Sarah Connor “…,she was a terrible mother, ….” This seems a bit odd as it certainly has nothing to do with comparing her to Diana who is not a mother. It does bring home the fact that James Cameron for all his claims of being Sarah and John“feminist” does seem to be a bit fixated on women as mothers. Especially as “terrible mothers.” Remember, he turned Ripley into a “Terrible Mother” who is guilt ridden over missing her daughter’s life and finds redemption in taking care of an orphan. This is just another problematic issue.

First, I don’t really think that Sarah is a Terrible Mother, as such, but rather she’s a mother faced with a overwhelming task to raise a child she knows must face absolute hell and who she also knows she must prepare him for it. This certainly turns her into a dysfunctional mother in many ways, she was not a warm and cuddly mother, at least by the time we see them in Terminator 2. Sarah is not gentle with John, she speaks harshly to him, a harshness she knows is nothing compared to what is waiting for him  She may well have never baked one fucking cookie out in the jungle. She might have at one time. She may have once tucked him into bed with a story, but she undoubtedly included stories of how he was the Savior of Mankind, rather than to convince him otherwise. She loves her child, but she knows the truth, she’s the only one who does, and it refocuses the way she raises her child.

Before T2 happens, Sarah decided she could not have her son face such a horror, nor could she let humanity face it if it could be stopped. She set out to try to stop Judgment Day before it happens. “She tried to blow up a computer factory but she got shot and arrested.” This, of course, means John ends up with another terrible mother as well as terrible father in his foster parents. It cuts Sarah off from John when she knows he is now being told that all she taught him was a lie and that he is even more vulnerable. She wanted to stop what was going to happen to him, but failing that needs to make sure he can still grow up to be the Savior of Mankind.

When they are reunited it is with Sarah’s greatest fear not only happening but walking right  into the asylum. Primal terror kicks in to her already high adrenaline drive and she doesn’t seem to register that her son, who she is so desperate to get to and protect, is walking right in with her nightmare and her first response is to flee. It’s only her son who can bring her back to the present and allow her to adjust to the actual information that this nightmare is there to save them and a greater nightmare is now after them. She never responds lovingly to her reunion with her son, his moment of hope that she might is actually a check for Sarah scolds John after checking for injuriesinjuries followed by scolding him for risking his life for hers. It’s her job, after all, to risk hers for him. She’s on overdrive, she’s still in primal instincts which now have returned to being about protecting her child and assuring he is so far okay. It seems cold, but, honestly, it’s also understandable to me. Apparently, not to James Cameron.

Of course, Sarah returns to the decision to stop John’s (and the rest of the world, all the other children) hellish future. She doesn’t make the greatest choice for that, but she moves forward immediately, leaving her son with a guardian she believes can protect him better than she could. She likely saw herself even more expendable now that a machine can guard him.

Everything Sarah does is to protect her child but also protect the world. He must be protected and prepared to save mankind if she fails, but she will do everything she can to try to keep him from every having to face doing that. She might not be a typical mother, but I don’t see that as terrible.

Hippolyta was charged with exactly the same task, raising a child, Diana, who is the Savior of Mankind. Rather than a time traveler sent back by her child the messenger and father is the God Zeus. Like John, Diana is meant to be trained and prepared for the task ahead and if she fails it could be the doom of humanity. Hippolyta deals with this mission rather differently than Sarah.

Hippolyta lies.

Hippolyta might not bake cookies either, but I’m sure she has a servant who does. Despite being queen, she does seem to be a warm loving Mommy who cuddles Diana and tucks her Diana tucked and and being told the storyin at night with bedtime stories. Bedtime stories are designed to gaslight this Savior of Mankind into believing she anything but. To lie to her about what the God Killer is. To try to convince her not to want to train to prepare for a battle she doesn’t even know she is supposed to face. Hippolyta tells Diana the story of the Amazons, of the war between the Gods, of Ares’ vanquishing but also that she, Diana, is made of clay with no father. And she speaks of the God Killer as if it were a thing, a sword wielded by the mightiest among them, “and that is not you, Diana.” She is gentle and is dooming her child and all of humanity through her gentleness.

Hippolyta lies. I am far from the only one who has noted that Hippolyta is one of the villains in the movie.

Unlike Sarah, despite not wanting her child to face what she must, Hippolyta never chooses to try prevent it by facing Ares herself.  Unlike Sarah, Hippolyta refuses to train her child for Hippolyta and young dianawhat is to come. But fortunately, also, unlike Sarah she is not alone in knowing that Diana is the Savior of Mankind. All the other Amazons know it, but even her sister cannot turn her around, choosing to add to lies by training Diana in secret.

Even after Hippolyta catches them training and is then convinced to allow it, even while she does tell Antiope to train her to be better than even herself, she still does not reveal the truth to Diana. At every turn she claims that the more Diana’s ready to face Ares, the sooner Ares will find her. Even though the less Diana is ready, the more likely she is is to fail. She continues this even as Diana is leaving to seek out Ares not knowing she is the God killer or the real extent of her power.

Both these mothers have a horrible burden to raise a child who is meant to face horrors to save the world. Neither wishes this on their child, but it is their fate as well as humanity’s. Yet while Sarah does everything she can to make sure John is able to fulfill his destiny, then tries to prevent it by putting herself on the line to try to stop Judgment day; Hippolyta does everything she can to prevent Diana from fulfilling hers, yet never tries to take on the burden herself. Sorry, James Cameron, Sarah has nothing on Hippolyta when it comes to being a Terrible Mother.

James Cameron STFU!: Strong Women Do NOT Need Men’s Comparisons

Sarah and Ripley Shushing Cameron
By Axel Medellin –used with permission*

**Spoilers for both the first two Terminator movies and Wonder Woman….just in case you need them ***

James Cameron really needs to stop making feminist fans feel embarrassed to love Sarah Connor!

Because that’s what he’s doing with this tone-deaf attacks on Wonder Woman. Cameron apparently fancies himself to be Ares, as he sees Wonder Woman as his archenemy. Or more likely, he just thinks he’s God’s gift to “strong women” movies and just can’t take any competition, especially from a female director, while he’s apparently veiling for the Most Misogynist Faux-Feminist Male Filmmaker crown, currently worn by Joss Whedon

After that first attack on Wonder Woman in August, when Terminator 2: Judgment Day got a limited run in 3D format, Cameron was schooled by WW director Patty Jenkins. It’s clear he still doesn’t understand, as he double down on his statement a month later and got schooled by Wonder Woman (and Madame President) Lynda Carter. Never mind the absurdity that he is complaining about Wonder Woman being too sexual and an appeal to “….appeal to 18-year-old males or 14-year-old males…..” when he is promoting his future sequels that feature the females of a non-mammalian species as being half-naked with “tits.” Something he himself has said makes no sense but he felt was necessary, and very in keeping with the exploitative sexualization of native women which such White Savior Among Noble Savages trope movies like Avatar are centered on. Because, you know, at least it makes some sense that Diana has breasts, those weren’t just added in for those teen boys (many of whom seem to bitch that they aren’t big or shown enough….because, you know, for a costume based on the iconic strapless bathing suit, it’s pretty much Hoplite armor and there isn’t even any cleavage, yet you still recognize that its WW which was a great compromise and maybe one of the best things to come out this movie in the long run, as DC artist now are running with the idea)

To be honest, while I lost interest in Cameron’s work with Titanic, although my issues started with True Lies, complete with Jamie Lee Curtis’s character forced to do a strip tease, but I was won back by the underrated Strange Days directed by Kathryn Bigelow. But it was Avatar that completely made me lose any real respect for him. The racist, colonial, misogynist stereotypes are so blatant and so wrong that if we want to talk about steps backwards…well, he is the one actually running, blindly backwards. These are not the movies of the 21st century!

While he claims to want “strong female characters” he is making movies for those 14 to 18 year-old boys he thinks a pretty female lead in armor is meant to draw. T2 was really a fluke when it comes to him having female fans. And he’s losing us fast, here, because NEWS FLASH! a lot of female fans who are into T2 because Linda’s Sarah kicked ass and want to be excited for her return also enjoyed Wonder Woman and do not appreciate being told by some man that we are wrong to!

I was never really all that thrilled that he was involved at all with the upcoming Terminator reboot. Yes, I love the first two Terminator movies, but they do fall short of what they could have been and that, I believe, is completely at Cameron’s feet. I am glad he’s not hands on in this, but the problem is that he has instead built a team of all male writers, at least one of whom made a damn mockery of the character of Sarah Connor, a male director and left it to be run by two producers who also made a mockery of Sarah Connor, even though at least one producer is female. So while I’m glad Linda Hamilton is coming back as Sarah, I’d be much happier if it were with Gale Anne Hurd and William Wisher along with some female writers and a female director anxious and able to show that Jenkins success is not a fluke. I am really not hopeful this is going to be a remotely good movie. I hope she’s got an escape clause if she decides it sucks. Because with the team they have and talk of “passing the torch” I’m afraid it’s going to. I will watch it for her, right up until they kill her off.

Cameron’s insistence that he, and only he (and maybe these other men he’s gathered for TReboot) understands “strong women.” But, of course, his  mansplaining (because that is what it is) of “strong women,” only proves he does not understand women, strong or otherwise, fictional or real. A man who does isn’t going to go around telling female fans they are wrong for loving a movie that he just is not able to understand. And he obviously doesn’t.

Wonder Woman 1941
Wonder Woman in the beginning

Cameron doesn’t even seem capable of understanding that Wonder Woman/Diana is a this is a 76 year-old comic book icon that millions of girls and women have idolized all our lives. Some for 76 years even! That it’s a big deal that it took that long for the character to get a title movie or, for that matter, only got featured in a male-led DC movie just a few years ago. When Superman and Batman, the other two big name DC superheroes, have had many movie incarnations. That this movie was called a failure by many comic book movie fanboys long before it came out, on every conceivable social media forum. That we’ve been battling to get women-led comic book movies and told that they will fail, because Catwoman and Elektra, which were badly written crap (but so have been many male-led ones), failed so badly over a decade ago. That it was even under promoted until just before it’s release and yet it smashed records! Highest grossing action film directed by a woman. It is just $1 million shy of 2002 Spider-man for a comic book movie and is the highest grossing comic book origin movie of all time. That means no Batman, no Superman, not even Batman vs. Superman with Wonder Woman thrown in, has done so well.

And it is problematic that in 2017 all of this is newsworthy, is a big deal. It shouldn’t be and Terminator 2 should have led the way to change in the ’90s. But it didn’t. Perhaps in part because it was not a female-led action movie, Sarah Connor who was the protagonist Final Girl in the first, took a back seat in T2 to the story of a boy and his pet Terminator. There are no other strong female characters (“prepper” Jolanda is off hiding unarmed with her kids instead of teaming up with her husband to flank the intruders, which would make far more sense) or even any actually developed female characters at all.  This makes Sarah a Not Like Other Girls/One of the Guys trope (yes, a problem with WW after they leave Themyscira, too) The feminism of T2 is actually shut down by the badly written feminist rant that is, then, shut down by her little boy scolding her! While Sarah finished off the Terminator in The Terminator, she requires a last-minute rescue at the end of T2.

Don’t get me wrong, Sarah Connor’s arch from Final Girl to Warrior was an awesome thing. Obviously! I’ve been obsessing on Linda’s portrayal for 26 years, for crying out loud! But the movie wasn’t perfect and those imperfections make Cameron an utter hypocrite to say a single word about an actual female-led movie. Especially when there are things that are very problematic with Wonder Woman that are not the things he’s noting and things that he hasn’t done a remotely good job with. Like the Not Like Other Girls trope and lack of other, diverse, intersectional female characters after they leave the island.

It’s a big deal for there to be a blockbuster female-led action movie when female-led action movies in 2016 were at 3%, in a year that had a record-breaking, “huge” (sarcasm quotes) 29% of the 100 top grossing films being female-led, 37% over all.  Yeah, today, it’s still a big deal when women lead films at all, let alone action films. But, remember, Cameron did not make T2 female led. So….he has no business opening his mouth on this.

With such a small number of female-led action movies, we already do not have the diversity that male-led ones do.  But Cameron seems to feel that strong women only come in one type, that they should all be Sarah Connor knockoffs. This view is simplistic and one-dimensional, the idea that while male action characters can be, obviously, very varied (unless someone can find me where he said Superman shouldn’t be wearing that sexy, form-fitting costume), strong women must all be exactly alike. And, apparently, totally broken and mothers looking for redemption (he had to turn Ripley, a character he did not create, into a guilt-ridden abandoning mother who finds a second chance with an orphaned child). NEWS FLASH! the mother thing is the least interesting thing about either Sarah or Ripley for some of us.

What is interesting to me about Sarah is that she was a “normal woman” Final Girl who twisted the Final Girl trope at the end of the first movie by heading out to prepare for the future because she knows that the real monster hasn’t even been created yet. Whose arch into Terminator 2 show her as a determined survivalist. Here was a woman who had trained, prepared, organized to prepare her son for a horrible future, and then sacrificed herself in an attempt to keep him from having to face that. I fell in love and identified in many ways, sans the entire mother part, with Linda Hamilton’s Sarah. I thought both Linda and Cameron, as well as co-writer William Wisher and producer Gale Anne Hurd, were utterly awesome. I still have those feelings for Linda, Wisher and Hurd (and it doesn’t hurt that Wisher and Hurd both kindly supplied auction bling to help my chief Terminator Spotter get surgery! Thanks to The Terminator Fans. I am eternally grateful to all three! <3)

That Cameron is so focused on how beautiful Gal Gadot is has a certain creepy quality as he is comparing her to his ex-wife. But it is true that Sarah was not “dolled up.” That her hair got messy, that her clothing was practical from a modern standpoint (unlike the original bathing suit, Diana’s costume in the movie was, as I noted above, totally practical from an ancient Greek standpoint). She showed a lot of skin, though, for all the better to show the muscle (and, yes, I’d have loved to have seen more muscle on Wonder Woman, along with a beauty queen face as is standard in the comic today).

Sarah was also a “real person.” You know, as far as action film characters go. Like, say Kyle Reese. Wonder Woman/Diana is a comic book super-powered superhero, like Superman. Not even like Batman whose only super-power is that he’s rich and dysfunctional. In fact, while Superman is an alien, Diana is a fucking Goddess. Okay, the Goddess part is a recent addition to the character in the comics, but even before she was revealed as a Goddess she had been bestowed with “the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Hermes and the beauty of Aphrodite.” So being Diana's battle-perfect hairbeautiful is a canonical part of the character, although how she was drawn did change with the ideals of beauty at the time. And as either supernatural Amazon or Goddess, if she wants to come out of a battle with perfect silky hair, she can and always did.

Being a supernatural super-powered superhero, her life story is also vastly different from Sarah’s. Sarah is, I think, far easier to relate to having some sort of vague average American upbringing in the original movies. Diana was born to save the world, in the version used in the movie. Actually, Diana is far more like John Connor than Sarah, born to save the world with a sort of “otherwordly” father, but their upbringings with this understanding were different even beyond one being supernatural and the other being Earthly paramilitary survivalist and if I were to compare Sarah with anyone in the movie it would be with Hippolyta. (Something I will probably do and have now done).

Now I am personally more drawn to Sarah’s “realness”…a mortal woman of our time who turned herself into a warrior and survivalist. Because that’s what I have tried to create in myself even before Terminator 2 came out.  Diana was someone I wanted to be back as a child. Hmm, actually at the time she didn’t have superpowers, but had lost them and took up karate, although I also had some older ones. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the higher fantasy of Wonder Woman or understand that that might appeal more to other women. Especially with the great, if brief, Amazon training scenes at the beginning.

Bottom line is, many women are fans of both Sarah Connor and Wonder Woman. And Ripley. And The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo. And Furiosa, the Wives and the Vuvalini of the Many Mothers. And General Leia, Rey and Jyn Erso. And others still too few, and sometimes not all that great. And we want more. More Sarah Connor from Linda Hamilton. More Wonder Woman and not just DCEU version. More comic book super-powered female heroes. More down to earth and messy haired and variously flawed mortal female heroes…some who are butch, some who are femme, some who are women of color, some who are queer, some who are trans women…..

Yes, we want it all!

And we don’t want men telling us that we don’t fucking understand strong women. It’s insulting. We do actually know a bit more than you do about strong women.

We are strong women!


*Sketch of Sarah Connor and Lt. Ellen Ripley shushing James Cameron on behalf of Diana/Wonder Woman was drawn by Axel Medellin, who kindly granted permission for use here, and  was originally posted Tumblr 

The Real Sarah Connor is back!

Now don’t just kill her!

So, I was wrong about it being clear Linda Hamilton would not be brought back as Sarah Connor in the Terminator reboot. On Sept. 19, 2017 James Cameron announced that she will be back. I like being Sarah, heading outwrong about things like this, it’s one of the great things about tending to be a pessimist, I am pleasantly surprised more often than horribly disappointed. You might think I’m completely thrilled and you’d only be a little wrong about that.

I am. But, given my nature as I’ve just pointed out, I’m also only cautiously so. There are several things that make me feel this might not be as great as it could be. Again, I do hope I am pleasantly surprised…but I think there will need to be some changes from information we have for that to happen. It, of course, doesn’t help that for 26 years I’ve wanted this and can imagine what would be perfect….and perfect becomes harder to match once you’ve built it up that long. ~:p

So here are a few things that bother me and/or hopefully will be worked on.

  1. It seems that Cameron is using the phrase “passing the torch” an awful lot in regards to bringing back both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda. He noted an (oddly phrased) “eighteen-something” actress being sought for the lead during his announcement that Linda was coming back.
    While it’s awesome to have another, even more than one (preferably more than one, really…female action characters are still often token even when they are leads still,) new female character, this sounds an awful lot like Sarah will make a brief, probably Swan Song, appearance and then be done. Or at the very most kept way in the background.  But, yeah, killing her off somehow seems likely with the whole “passing the torch” emphasis. This is not what we want!
    I can’t speak for all SCCS members, but I’m sure that most want what I want which is to see Sarah centered in this new trilogy, in the entire thing. Yes, with other strong female characters…and some show of diversity. He’s taking about the importance of a older seasoned warrior, but needs to remember that doesn’t mean it’s time to kill that older seasoned warrior. We want new characters and Sarah!
  2. Where are the female creators?
    At this point we have production designer Sonja Klaus and producer Dana Goldberg, a Genisys producer appear to be the only women behind the scenes.  There is not a single woman in the writers room! Not one! So still far from a balance and the number of those involved in horrid sequels that need to be forgotten is higher to.  “…no, not like that!” And still all men in the writer’s room.
    We have two female characters mentioned, hopefully more and not one female writer? I can tell you that without input from women female characters tend to fall flat. Yeah, even Sarah Connor could have been better written, although I think Linda’s ability to play her fixed much of what could have gone sour with a weaker actress, in the first place. That Cameron doesn’t even really get women is clear in his assessment of Sarah as a “terrible mother” instead of a mother whose need to protect might have made her less nurturing that he seems to think mothers should be. And he sort of missed the other arch, where she and John find each other again.
    If you are going to get another male writer how about William Wisher?
    But along with some women!
    Seriously, get some female writers! And while you’re at it….
  3. Get rid of Josh Friedman!!!! Now!  I mean, fine, let him “Dance with Smurfs” there’s nothing there for him to damage it’s a bad, racist idea all around, but get him away from Sarah! What he did to the character of Sarah Connor was horrific and yet not surprising from a man who said “The flinty heroines played by Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton in the Alien and Terminator movies were well done, but they’re outdated. They’re the first evolutionary step in the female-action genre. I want to see women respond to danger and solve problems differently than men. Otherwise, what’s the point.” (Philadelphia Inquirer June 14, 1995) He should never have been allowed near the character and certainly should not be again!
  4. I also do not want to see all the strong women who are prominent in this be white. Also let’s not have all the writers be white either (I do not know all of these men, so I don’t know whether they are or not at this point, but some WOC are needed to write WOC).
  5. Cameron’s comments about Wonder Woman also bring up concerns which relate directly to the issue of there being no female writers and Friedman believing all women should think the same way and that that is different than men. And that is any idea that all women should be the same ….specifically all “strong women” should be the same… even if these two men are somehow working together while having opposing views of how all women should be. Let Sarah/Linda be Sarah as she’ll have evolved. Let other women be themselves.
    Get some women to help figure out how women might actually be rather than what men think they should be.
  6. On the flip side, don’t pit different strengths against each other. Cameron’s WW rant also makes me concerned that we’ll see the “women can’t get along with each other” trope as well. With Friedman involved, maybe even make it about how a woman “who is strong in different ways than men” is better than the “flinty” Sarah.
    Just do not fucking do that!
  7. Give Sarah and other female characters a lot more depth than Cameron indicated, in his WW attack, he can understand women have.  Sarah wasn’t a “terrible mother” she was a mother focused on protecting her child rather than on nurturing him because of the extreme circumstances. Again, give Sarah a lot of fucking screen time to develop her and ….hire some female writers to help you out with that.
  8. Just don’t forget that there of the multiple fanbases for the first two Terminator movies women who are focused on Linda as Sarah Connor are a strong and loyal one. Many of us were waiting for a hero like her back in our 20s and 30s and found her an inspiration. We still want a hero like her, well,we want her, our age or older now that we’re middle age. We still know we can kick ass and we want to see someone like us on screend doing so.  Younger women start to figure out that they will get older, too, and love to see older women kicking ass so they know the always will be able to.
    Many of us loved the Vuvalini of the Many Mothers in Mad Max: Fury Road. We loved Robin Write as Antiope and other middle aged (although younger than some of us) Amazons in Wonder Woman, which we’re not happy Cameron felt a need to diss. And we were overjoyed to see Carrie Fisher back as General Leia in the new Star Wars movies, I mean, words just can’t express it (especially now, having lost this not only talent actress but a outspoken, ass kicking woman all around).
    But we don’t want to just be cheering briefly for such characters and see them mostly fade into the background and, often, die (of course, most of us want a respectful and heroic death for Leia, but wish fervently that she could have lived through the end of the trilogy). We have no intention of fading into the background ourselves, so we want to see Sarah Connor centered in these three movies.
    Kill her off and most of us will not be back for the rest of the movies. It’s that simple. Sarah Connor is the only reason some of us are fans.

Seriously, this could be the greatest thing in movie history for me. Or it could be a shit show.  Without women having direct input from behind the scenes, I think it’s likely to end up the latter, even with Linda.


20 years since Judgment Day

Today, when I start this (but likely not when I post it), is the 20th anniversary of Judgment Day.  On Saturday we went to see Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 3D, a rather big deal as the theater was 4 hours away. Also cushy with recliners.  And nearly empty so it was almost like having a private viewing with the only awareness of the handful of others a few rows behind was their laughter during quiet funny scenes.   I felt the 3D effect was well done, but then I am a big fan of 3D….it does help get my ADHD brain focused, it seems.  Something that might have helped given that I’ve seen T2 hundreds of times by now,  and usually watch while working out rather than lounging in a comfy recliner.  It was a memorable event.

Unlike, it seems my first viewing. Which seems odd for a movie I am so obsessed with. I realized this last year, when I thought about writing something for the 25th anniversary of the movie. It is one reason I didn’t, although the greater one was my focus on trying to save my dogs which meant I wasn’t writing much of anything. It seemed odd. I saw it several times that summer, but I don’t remember the first. I don’t remember if I saw it alone or with someone, although I remember seeing it with several other people at various times.

Mind you, I remember the first time I heard about the movie.  A few years ago I wrote this in my personal blog when examining the influence Sarah Connor had on my spiritual path, in the context of discussion going on in the Pagan blogosphere about pop culture in Paganism.

Never having seen The Terminator, I didn’t pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well.Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren’t taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.

You know how you don’t know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn’t known it.

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

I was into fitness before I saw the movie, working to become as strong as I could, walking a warrior path that I still strive for. To see real muscle on a female character in an action film blew me away….before I saw the movie. So just learning about it apparently superseded the actual first seeing of it….which then gets blurred with all the others. The chin-up scene is inspiring, every damn time, so the memory of the first…it just got lost in there, I guess.

Sarah's ionic chin upSeeing the scene in 3D, especially after so many viewings on my poor ancient TV that is in the gym, and the poor ancient VHS playing the poor ancient tape that I bough used as soon as it was available after renting it so many times (yup….the DVD player is in the living room….but it might get moved as the T2 tape really is on its last legs…and I do have two different DVD editions) was amazing, all the same. And from there it almost felt like it was the first time….except that I do know it line for line.  ~:p

26 years later and Sarah Connor remains my ultimate pop culture icon to this day. When it came out I did think we were about to have a great influx of physically strong female action leads in movies on a similar vein. And we really didn’t. We got a few, but most were not as relatable for various reasons.  We had super powered Buffy, corny Xena, potentially fun but not what I was looking for (tbh, the Buffy from the alternate reality appeared like she would have been much more appealing to me). We had quirky Tank Girl, which I liked but didn’t become fanatical about. It wasn’t until recently when Mad Max: Fury Road gave us not just the kick ass Imperator Furiosa but also the Vuvalini of Many Mothers who she came from and also allowed the “victim” wives to reveal their own strengths. And, of course, the new Star Wars movies offered more, including showing the strength Leia which was somewhat overshadowed in the first trilogy despite Carrie Fishers own strength and talent.

Looking back, T2‘s Sarah Connor really should have been more of a step than it ended up being because we needed to move forward from it. I love it, I love both Sarah and Linda Hamilton….but even before seeing it so large and 3D, I knew the movie itself failed its potential as far as the character could have been. Largely this is due to the need for Schwarzenegger to be the hero. While The Terminator, in classic Final Girl fashion had Sarah start off helpless but be the one to kill the monster in the end and then twist the Final Girl formula by showing her having already started the journey to become a warrior and heading on to continue it, T2 ended with her falling short of saving her son and herself and the T800 needing to come in to save them. To be honest, I think T2 without Schwarzenegger might have been far better, to have the Terminator who helped them not be top billed, not be the hero at the end. Sarah should have been the actual lead, but was not.

The movie also fell into the Not Like Other Girls/One of the Guys trope. To some extent as this was a sort of “nuclear family unit” (you can take or leave the obvious pun in there as you wish) thing that is understandable. However, it could have been circumvented a little by more background women in roles that were not so “motherly.”  Oh, you have the security guard, but other wise you have Janelle, not a good mother but still considered by the authorities to be better than Sarah, obviously, you had the nurse and you have Jolanda.

Jolanda was, actually a poor portrayal from a survivalist stand point. The oldest child was old enough to hide with the others and be ready to defend them if his parents were taken out.  Jolanda should have flanked the three intruders when Enrique confronted them. That alone would have been a huge step. Or, you know, at least have her come out from hiding securing a long gun.

A few obviously female cops might have helped. It looked like there might have been a couple in the stand off outside Cyberdyne….but all recognizable cops were clearly male. There really were female cops in 1991.  Hell, there were in 1984 but it was made clear that all the ones in the station in The Terminator were “men with families, children.”  Given no real substantial female roles other than Sarah, I feel it fails the Bechdel Test although it’s been given a disputed pass.  After all, “Open it or I’ll pump him full of this shit!” is still talking about a man and the guard doesn’t seem to be named.  I don’t think “Get on the floor, bitch. Fucking down now!” really counts either. Her greeting with Jolanda is kind of “to the side” and not really a conversation but is the closest thing to giving it a pass.

Of course, despite Jame Cameron’s attack on Wonder Woman (something I may or may not comment on more at some point), it’s been made pretty damn clear that Terminator 2 was never about Sarah Connor lately. Even more so than it always has been. This is an Arnold movie, all following movies were Arnold movies including the one he wasn’t in at all. Sarah was incidental. The only time I have seen her character brought up while all the talk of the 3D release and Cameron’s upcoming reboot of the series has been, yeah, when it was used to attack an actual woman-led movie directed by a woman. Otherwise you’d think Sarah Connor wasn’t even in the damn movie. She certainly won’t be in future ones, instead Cameron is making sure that Arnold is in the first to pass it on to new characters. We certainly never will get anything like the once hoped for William Wisher script bring Sarah Connor back and “closing the loop.”

There are multiple Terminator franchise fandoms, really. I think the two that are hardest to reconcile are the ones focused on Future War and the one, such as the SCCS is part of, that focuses on Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton as the real lead of the first two movies. We clearly dreamed, when we still had dreams of good sequels (something some FW fans still might dream of, but I think those of us who are only in it for Sarah and only as played by Linda have given up), of far different sequels. Sarah’s story was best told in a continued battle with time trying to reset, with pushing the date of Judgment Day further into the future but still having to fight to keep it from happening. We did get a few okay, if not great sequels in that vein in comics and novels. We got one really horrible TV series attempt.  It’s clear by omission that Cameron has no interest in this sort of future for the franchise.  Of course, the reset is needed to be considered….we’re now closer to the date when the Terminators and Kyle Reese came through than we are Judgment day.  But no Sarah. No Linda.

Coming back from seeing T2 again on the big screen, 26 years older than i was when I saw it the first time. Still in awe of Linda’s strength, inside and out…and feeling a bit old, to tell the truth …I remember a long time debate with myself about the alternate ending showing Grandma Sarah 30 years after a Judgment Day that never happened.  Of course, I question the possibility of a Senator John given his mother’s felonies and his own involvement….I suppose it’s possible, he would have been seen as a kidnapped child.  But given the blame likely to have fallen on Sarah not just for what she did do with reason but also for murders committed by the T1000 and by the police (Miles Dyson’s death would be put on her and her vanished accomplice, obviously), would she ever be free and not in hiding?  Well, that might be workable.  We’ll never know.

First I was glad it wasn’t used, it could have been used to end the franchise and I had hoped for at least one sequel not long after T2 with Sarah fighting to keep the Future War from happening. And, yes, one without Schwarzenegger. But, well, we know what happened instead so. …  Then I wished to Gods they did end it there. But now I see how much of that was caught in my relative youth. Wanting to see this in my 30s with a 30something Sarah, because by 50 we’d both have withered away, right?   ~:p

So thinking about this now, just 10 years from that ending, I can’t help but think how utterly awesome it would be to have had this ending and ….go from there! To have all this “it’s completely over, all is peaceful(ish)” and then time starts to finally try to reset. And Grandma Sarah and Senator John have to find their inner warriors, and we probably find out that Grandma actually has kept prepping and kept fit all along, and fight Terminators from the future.  After all, now that I am over 50 and I am still prepping and still training, I so damn much want to watch 60 something Sarah kicking ass!

But, i can guarantee you that James Cameron is not waiting for my advice on this.  Not that he seems to be someone who listens to anyone, anyway.  But…damn…yeah, this is the sort of thing that is my total fanon now.  So I am going to leave this at that thought.  I hope those who want to see this and haven’t are able to…in the US some AMC theaters are running it tonight and tomorrow.


Saigh’s bio

Another Terminator Spotter in Need!

Me with Gleann and Grainne**UPDATE: I realized I should update that we were unable to save our Gráinne. The lymphoma was just too aggressive, she went down hill very quickly and had some sort of episode involving either a lesion or a blood-clot to the brain. She regained her ability to walk after the first one, but the vet was clear that nothing could be done. We planned to take her for her last trip a few days later, but she had another similar episode and we took her to an emergency vet in the middle of the night. We probably do not have to mention that we are devastated as is Gleann. **

I reached out to you all a few months ago to save our Terminator Spotter Gleann. Through an auction of Sarah Connor and other Terminator collectibles, a fundraiser and a little help from a dear friend, we were
able to get his surgery and he is doing great. Except for his worry over his packmate Gráinne who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the same time we found out about his condition. At the time her numbers were good and we thought it was the only cancer she had.

Not long after he was recovering, Gráinne’s symptoms started showing up, even though her blood work showed her numbers not yet that high.  Skin lesions, including on her nose, began to appear and we have now found out she also has cutaneous lymphoma.

This is still treatable with chemotherapy, however, it is far more aggressive and requires CCNU, a more expensive form of chemo.  Her prognosis, however, is good if we can get it in time.  Time is not on our side here!

Grainne's nose

In the meantime, my husband broke his leg and as a per diem EMT he has no benefits to help us through that. The timing couldn’t be worse.  We need to start chemo THIS WEEK! Should have started already.

There is no time for any auction even if I had something to offer.  Shirt sales from our shop may help with later doses, but we need help right now, too!Grainne
We do have a fundraiser up for her. Right now, due to money we spent to get her diagnosed, we need this to be at $1,400 for the first dose! Please help us out if you can!

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Terminator Spotter In Need!

I haven’t posted here for a long time.  I actually was going to post aSachbout the 25th anniversary of Terminator 2 and various thoughts on that and the upcoming Terminator 2 3D release which is supposed to hit the US market in 2017. But…

In February I lost one of my First Line of Defense Heroes, Sachairi, to old age and liver disease.   It was heartbreaking.  Then we got hit with both of our other Terminator Spotters getting terrifying diagnosis the next month at their “routine” vet visit.

Me with Gleann and GrainneGráinne, our Greyhound has leukemia.  That was the one that sounded most horrifying.  Gleann’s calcium was high….how dire that was took awhile for us to comprehend.  While her white blood count and lack of symptoms means that we just need to get regular blood testing and will someday face chemo, right now Gráinne’s condition is stable.

However, Gleann’s calcium levels are rising and over the summer we finally got the funds to find out that it is primary hyperparathyroidism caused by a nodule in one of his parathyroid glands. We need to get this removed as soon as possible, we’re already running way behind because of how long this took to get a diagnosis!

Linda photoSo we are scrambling for various ways to get up the $3,500 for surgery and after care as quickly as possible!  Along with the fundraiser below and a few of our Sarah Connor Charm School tanks and T-shirts which are currently going to this,  the awesome administrator of TheTerminatorFans.com is running an auction for Gleann of a photo I got signed by Linda Hamilton at the 2010 Chicago ComicCon and a set of all three variants McFarlane Sarah Connor action figures, NIB.   Please go to the auction and bid if you want to try to get this package and share far and wide!

Sarah Connor Action figures

And please go to and share our fundraiser link! And donate if you can. I have perks available and am looking for more.  There may even be more Terminator related items on there as well.  There are only a couple more days left from where we’d hoped to have the surgery scheduled, but it appears we may have to extend it. BUT we don’t know how long he has, before damage might be done! So please! Share and donate and bid if you can!

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Sarah Connor and Other Action Heroines will Kick Ass at the Artemis Film Festival!

So yes, we’ve sucked at doing this regularly but….I had to come on here becasue I couldn’t help but get seriously excited when I heard of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival happening in Los Angeles April 24-26, 2015!

They have been fundraising to make this happen at WomenKickAss.com and now have the funds for a single screen so it is a go!  They are trying to raise enough for at least a second screen and maybe a third!  Please, if you can, help out, if not snag that link and share it around!  The fundraiser ends on March 19!

ETA: And there will be a Twitter Party on March 19 from 7pm – 8pm PST!

Because this is important!  If we’re going to get more movies with women action leads, we need to support and celebrate the effort and show that we are an audience to be reckoned with!  And it’s vital that we have more of these movies out there, because it’s not that we just want them, its that we need them!  At any age and we especially need this to grow so young women and girls can see women as equal, in all ways! We need this festival to thrive!

There will be competitions for films and screenplays and women of action films will be honored!

This includes Linda Hamilton receiving the Artemis Action Icon Award! Well, who else would it be?  Because for so many of us, even after more than two decades she just really is The Icon!

Actress, stunt woman, author Angela Meryl will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine Award and stunt  woman  and stunt coordinator Maja Aro will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Warrior Award.

You can see a message from festival founder, actress and stunt woman Melanie Wise in this video.  Please remember that the Women Kick Ass fundraiser has been extended to March 19 and therefore you still have three days to join in and make this event really take off!

The Women Kick Ass Project from Artemis on Vimeo.

Of course, if you can help out and actually go to it ….well, if I could I would! So do it! 

(cross posted at Shadow of the Hooded Crow Blog)

SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

ALWAYS check with a medical professional before starting a new fitness program or making major changes to an existing one, especially if you have any risk factors for heart disease, have joint pain or have been very sedentary for a period of time.


Srah's iconic chin upOkay, this is what you came here for, right? And now you’ve waited far too long. This makes me feel I have to write something definitive and important, but if I waited until I had something like that you’d be waiting far longer. So keep in mind that this won’t give you all the answers. It won’t give you Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor workout, because I don’t have that and because it won’t work for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all workout. And it won’t make you look like Sarah Connor, because it won’t change your genetic structure. What I do hope this will do is help you build a program for yourself or refine one if you’re already lifting that will help you build strength.
As you are likely a diehard member of the Sarah Connor Charm School, I hope that you have already gotten to the point where you are not looking for training to make you smaller and weaker. Sadly, that is still the norm for much of the training aimed at women. We are often told we must train only with light weights and high reps, to avoid becoming bulky. At the same time, sometimes in the same breath, we’re “reassured” that  “women don’t bulk up like men.” Often this part is a favorite of skinny male trainers who we’d never mistake for a T800 Model 101.
The facts are that women have the exact same muscle structure as men. Women should train the same way as men (keeping in mind we all, everyone of us, is going to be different from every other person regardless of sex). Also, most people, male or female, simply do not bulk up hugely. How big someone gets has even more to do with genetics that the magic power that Sarah Iconic chin up bicepso many men want to believe, even when they are not showing evidence themselves, that testosterone gives them. And, of course, women have testosterone too and how much does vary among us. Bulking up is hard for the majority of people, that’s why bodybuilders have to work so hard (and, yes, why some resort to steroids ….an option NOT approved of by the SCCS!). Chances are, if you are here, you hope to get big, so this fact is probably not pleasing, but it’s something some of us have to face. We are all different
The training I am discussing will get you bigger than the usual recommendations for women, meant to appease this fear we’re supposed to have but really do no more than train us to be weaker rather than stronger. There will be muscle growth, you can’t get strong without it despite the fantasies of some who worship thinness, but the real focus will be on developing functional strength. This is training to become more, not less! And while the SCCS is geared towards women’s needs, there is nothing in any of my fitness posts that are not completely appropriate for men as well.
I have often seen people insist that lifting is simple, you pick it up, you put it down; add more reps and more weight as you develop. Simple. Often these people, happily giving advice on Facebook, aren’t serious lifters and if they do workout it’s usually a basic routine sold to them at their gym. Strength training, like all training, is a science. At the very core it is about chemical reactions and nervous system responses which we’re not going to get into heavily here but hopefully I will offer enough to help you  understand why certain things work and others don’t, as well as why things might work differently for one person than another.

A Bit on the Basics

The body has three types of muscle: skeletal, cardiac and smooth organ. Resistance training strengthens the skeletal muscle, while cardiovascular training strengthens the cardiac muscle and overall health maintenance, we hope, helps keep the organ muscles healthy.  Within the skeletal muscle group there are different types of muscle fiber, the number and exact purpose of each being still not conclusively determined. However, when it comes to fitness, there are two basic types that we are aware of: Type I or Slow Twitch which are resistant to fatigue and are most active through low intensity, endurance type activity and Type II or Fast Twitch which are more quickly fatigued and are most active in high intensity, power movement. These do not work exclusively, of course, the body goes through various chemical and energy changes as various fibers kick in throughout any given movement.[1]
Why some people bulk up more than others is due more to whether we tend to have more Type I or Type II muscle. Those with a lot of Type II are going to be gifted with gaining more mass, more easily, but may also not have great endurance as someone who is a “hard gainer” because they have more Type I.  A popular fiction is that certain forms of exercise will give you a certain body type, usually with photos of people who excel in, say, long-distance running and sprinting being compared to each other as if their sports gave them the varied bodies rather than their varied bodies allowing them to excel at their sport.[2] We all have both types and both need to be trained. While strength training is focused mostly on the Fast Twitch and cardio, fight training and some portions of our strength training will be affecting our Slow Twitch we’ll see that our more advanced weigh training will also include higher repetition work along with lower repetition work.  This gets all the muscle fibers in action, over a period of time, creating truly functional strength.
The American College of Sports Medicine’s basic recommendations[3] for a healthy adult resistance program is:
Frequency:  2-3 days a week for each muscle group, with a minimum of 48 hours between sessions. This may, of course, be either 2-3 whole body workouts a week or more days a week splitting up the body for different sessions, as we’ll discuss.
Type:  Multi-joint or compound exercises which affect more than one muscle group. They consider single joint exercises optional.
Volume (repetitions and sets): 8-12 repetitions to failure (which we’ll discuss in detail) are recommended for most muscle groups for healthy adults. They recommend 10-15 for older adults and those who are deconditioned (out of shape to normal people).
The 2010 recommendation for a healthy adult was 2-4 sets per body part, with older and deconditioned adults recommended to do one.  The multi-set debate is currently raging and we’ll discuss that further as well. If you are just beginning, however, one set per body part is a good place to start, you do want to have a place to work up to, after all.
Technique: ACSM recommends everyone receive professional instruction to be sure of proper technique and safety.  Controlled movement in the full range of motion involving concentric (lifting phase) and eccentric (lowering phase).[4]
Progression/Maintenance: As you gain strength, if you wish to continue to build, then continue to increase weight to continue to do no more than 12 repetitions to fatigue, increase sets for each muscle group and increase number of days you work each muscle group (we’ll discuss why this doesn’t work for everyone. We will shortly discuss how this doesn’t actually mean “just keep doing the same thing over and over, just more” it also involved variation, which I recommend starting in on from the beginning

Developing your program

The Sarah Connor Charm School programs (as there is no single one) follows the ACSM guidelines.  We recommend using free weights and body weight primarily, as much as possible, with machines and other resistant systems being alternative options. Exactly how each individual will implement these guidelines is going to vary and will be constantly changing. Change, you will see, is a huge key to long-term success.
Starting out
If you are lifting for the first time or just getting back from it after a long period of time, then I recommend starting with one set of exercises for each body part, of mostly multiple joint exercises so that you are working more than one muscle group at a time. You may wish to do the entire body in one day, to begin, or you may start with a basic upper body/lower body split to start. You should start by working the larger muscle groups first, like chest and back, then the smaller ones, arms and shoulders.
For the first couple of weeks do not worry about lifting to failure, focus on form and getting a full range of movement. During this time you are also learning what weights you’ll need when you do begin to lift to failure, for this is really the best and safest way to find this out. Remember, if you have not been lifting you will be progressing with any activity. You may find that, even with the recommendation to lift a bit lighter, in the first few weeks your strength will progress fairly rapidly, as you are going through both neurological and physical changes at this point.
As you become comfortable with the movement, you should continue the one set and lift for 8-10 repetitions to failure. When you are able to lift a weight for 12 repetitions then move up a weight if you can lift it for at least 6, but at this point preferably 8, repetitions to failure. For some muscles you may need to be able to do more repetitions before you find you can move up safely (there will be other exceptions as well, for some individuals, as we’ll see).  It may be best to start with two times a week, but then work up to three as long as you are doing this level and are doing your entire body at one time. 
Failure is failure. It means that you absolutely cannot lift it next time, at least without jerking or contorting the body.  And you do not want to contort or jerk your body.
Over your first few weeks, find and learn different exercises for each of the body parts. Change what you do frequently; this will be an important step to keeping both the body and the mind fresh for each workout. Not only can doing the same thing every time bore the mind, it also does “bore” the body. Our muscles adapt and find ways to cheat when they know what to expect each time you go in. . ExRx.net’s Muscle and Exercise Directory can give you some ideas if you are stuck and do not have a trainer or experienced exercise partner to work with (do keep in mind that it is advised that you do get some guidance from a professional if possible).
After a few weeks, you may wish to start some single joint exercises, especially for muscle groups that you may find you wish to focus on more. These may, of course, be areas you want to begin to build up more or they may be areas where you are realizing you need more work to build due to them being less used. Upper arms, both biceps and triceps, are in the first category for many of us, while the back of the shoulders may be in the second. 
Progression and Periodization
There is some controversy about adding sets, as studies have shown only a minor increase in improvement in multiple sets vs. single sets, with an increase in injury and a decrease in exerciser adherence. [5] However, these studies have been with those who were previously untrained, therefore indicating that the above recommendations to start do apply.  I do believe that starting with single sets is far better in the beginning, likely for the first several months and might be enough for some exercisers to maintain depending on goals. It allows the body to have somewhere to go with it for those who want to keep pushing things.  If you start with too many sets to begin with, consider how many more you might eventually have to do. That offers a lot of potential for burn out, both physically and mentally. So start with one set, then work up.
However, as suggested in Roy Stevenson’s “Single vs. Multiple Sets: are extra sets really worth it,” we don’t need to do more sets of the same exercise, but rather start doing multiple exercises for each muscle group. This allows you to start hitting the muscles from different angles or in different ways in one workout. As you started by doing and learning a variety already, you will have learned several to work with by this time. You can continue to change things up each work out, by choosing two or three different exercises and doing things in different order.
Keep in mind that while you need to work all your muscle groups, to keep in balance, this doesn’t always mean you are best off doing the same number of sets for each. This is especially true where there may already be imbalances. We do essentially everything in our day-to-day lives with our arms in front of us, in the frontal plane. In fact, reaching behind us can be a recipe for injury; this is how we are designed. Yet this also means that our pectoral and front deltoid muscles are shorter and stronger than our back muscles and our posterior deltoid muscles. And our often very unhappy rear rotator cuff muscles. All this can lead to back pain and the development of a hunched back, known as kyphosis. Therefore, before injury occurs, you may wish to do more sets of varieties of rows which counter pectoral exercises, as well as doing external rotations. And then, because Sarah, you’re probably want to work on doing chin-ups and other pull-ups, which themselves are important but do not do as much to counter the pectoral muscles. Meanwhile, make extra sure to be stretching those pectoral muscles.
Conversely, for many the lower back tightens and the abdominal muscles may be weak, leading to lordosis, or an extreme curving forward of the lower back and, again, pain. In this case lots of core abdominal work is important, again before there is a real medical issue. Frankly, I do not believe that abdominals can be too strong, we need them for everything we do. Even lying down requires them. As theses are endurance muscles, they do best with lots of repetitions, worked with no weight, continuing to increase repetitions to fatigue.  For many, the lower back muscles may do best with less and very careful training and a lot of proper stretching.
If injury does occur, then get it attended to, including physical therapy and go from there. Even some of us (me) who already felt we were doing a lot more back work than chest work find that we might not have evened the balance enough and end up with injuries which leave us doing very little and very light chest work and a lot more back work. So, listen to what your body needs, if that doesn’t work then listen to your physical therapist.
At this point, as you do increase sets/exercises for each body part, you may want to increase splitting your workouts. This keeps workouts shorter and allows more recovery time between sessions for each body part. It can also keep those who feel that “rest is nonproductive” from too many days with no training, although you need some and some of need more.
That variation has been a start in muscle confusion and muscle confusion is the real key to continued strength gains and injury prevention. Without this variety, we end up plateauing, where all progress stops. The body has learned to adapt and “cheat” once it has gotten used to a routine. Even if we try to do more of the same, it will continue to adapt doesn’t work well for our plans or our safety. Some get frustrated and give up at this point. But if we keep pushing on with just more and more of the same with more sets and heavier weights, we start going backwards, losing conditioning and becoming more easily injured.  We end up overtraining.[6]
As I noted in the cardiovascular segment, athletes often change their training in relationship to their competition, and this is Periodization is also used by those who do strength competitions of all kinds. How athletes might change things up varies between sports but also between individuals. When you are “training for life” you end up with a lot of flexibility in how to change things…and that’s really good.  Because the more changes the better, and you can even keep changing how you change things.
There are several varieties of periodization typically used in strength training. The first is the linear or classic periodization. This is a progressive number of sets and weight increases, with small variations within one to four week microcycles. Each cycle would focus on either strength (working in the  8-10 rep zone), endurance (working 12 or more reps or power (working below 8 reps). Then there is an active rest cycle, usually after th others cycle for 12 weeks. I personally find this works great for those who have great genetics and recover well, but is not enough change for others.
Nonlinear periodization involves making changes throughout a shorter period, such as a week. For example (and these are just common examples of how to change things, not set in stone), one workout for power, second workout for power, third workout for endurance for each body part. Again this is usually 12 weeks, followed by one or two weeks of active rest.
“Unplanned” nonlinear periodization as described by ACSM isn’t actually is a planned set of routines decided upon at each session by the personal trainer based on her or his assessment of the client’s physical and emotional state, with each of the routines checked off.[7]
I like to make this latter a bit more unplanned, actually. Once you have a body of exercises you are familiar and comfortable with, once you have a plan for what body parts you work when and how. You can go into the gym, or your living room, on a given day and assess what your body needs on that day to do that.  If you’re tired do lighter work and less of it. If you’re feeling really gung-ho, up the weight and lower the reps and maybe pull off a few more sets. If you’re bored out of your ever loving mind and really stressed and just hate the idea of doing what you feel you’re supposed to do even though it hasn’t been twelve weeks, do something completely different, maybe kettlebells or a Pilates class.
I also am a fan of changing up power/strength/endurance sets within a workout. Classically this is done with “pyramids,” several sets of the same exercise going either from light/high rep to heavy/low rep or the other way around. However, you can mix this up more too, especially if you are doing different exercises each set. Say, do a set of heavy concentrated curls, then the next bicep set might be a high rep hanging curl…and just mix it up different next time you’re doing biceps.
You can also vary by how you order your exercises. When you begin with the whole body or at least half your body for each session, it was recommended that you start with larger muscle groups then smaller. At this point, you are likely splitting things up so that this may not be an issue. When you combine changing order with different exercise, this adds for even more a variety. Anytime you think “I did such and such last time” do something different.
Absolutely, allow yourself plenty of rest. Rest is actually vital to progress, for it is when our muscles recover that they actually gain the strength.  Train too often, you get into overtraining and the muscles actually weaken and get smaller. How much time between sessions for any given body part is individual, but everyone needs at least 48 hours. Some of us, especially those of us who are hard-gainers, need more. A day off completely, even if you break down your body into many splits, is vital. And, again, many of us need more than that to recover fully.
Remember that between sets you should give your body several minutes, say 2 or 3 if you’re doing a light day, but at least 5 if you’re doing a heavy. You can work another or opposing body part for part of that time. Mediation, socializing if appropriate, spotting for another person, it doesn’t have to be boring. Oh, but remember, the old advice to stretch between strength sets has been thrown out the window, save that for after.
And even if you’re going for that totally unplanned periodization, do plan for periodic active rest periods with no more than 12 weeks in between. Remember that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything at all, it just means you don’t do the program you have been doing. You might even keep lifting, but doing so in a very different and easier way.  Perhaps returning to one set of low weight/high repetition. Or doing kettlebell, Pilates or Yoga. You might want to try out Sarah Connor’s Cell Circuits which I do hope to get up soon (no, really, I mean it this time! although you might be able to figure something similar on your own). You would continue your cardio training, perhaps changing that too, and, of course, stretching.  Again, if your activity levels change due to life, you should consider those changes in planning your active rest. If you are a homesteader and suddenly have a major physical workload to deal with, say in the spring or during harvest, those are great times even if it’s not been 12 weeks. If you’re finding yourself hiking through the Amazon, that’s a great time. If you’re on a business trip and lodged where there is a nice pool and you don’t usually get to swim, then do laps between meetings instead of your usual routine. Even if it’s not been 12 weeks. I discussed the importance of rest more thoroughly in Part 1, The Activity Triad.

Rounding it up

As I noted, there is no way to give a fully detailed plan in the scope of this, there is no one size fits all. You need to do the work, need to find what works for, by doing it, with care and consideration. Remember the difference between good soreness that comes with increased activity and bad pain that requires medical care. Be area of your posture. Consider hiring a personal trainer if you are in a position to do so, even for a short time. It is always best to work with a training partner or in a gym with others who you can count on, especially when you lifting heavy. Spotters can save your life! And if you don’t have them, be well aware of your safety situation, choose dumbbells or even machines over barbells you can get caught under. Stay safe!
You may find ExRx.net’s Exercises and Muscle Directory useful in finding a variety of exercises for all body parts.


[1] American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, Baltimore, MD, USA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2010 pg 142-143
[2] This has become a popular comparison to try to dissuade people from long distance running, especially in the “Paleofitness” realms. This is ironic, given what I have noted about the evidence out ancestors were runners in Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobic
[3] American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription , Baltimore, MD, USA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2010  pg. 168-171
[4] This seems a no-brainer, but from my own experience, I discovered that a fitness company did make a weight machine that they proudly advertised as being better because you lifted the weight but it became weightless as you lowered it. They felt this was safer and more effective, although the eccentric phase is a part of the development of strength. This company’s current weight machines apparently do not include this feature.
[5] Roy Stevenson, “Single vs. Multiple Sets: are extra sets really worth it”, American Fitness Magazine,  Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, March/April 2012
[6] Symptoms of overtraining include decrease in strength, endurance and coordination, sleep disturbances, headaches, symptoms of depression, fatigue, increased susceptibly to illness, increase injuries and a slowing of healing. Andrew C. Fry, Ph.D, “Overtraining with Resistance Exercise” ACSM Current Comment FactSheet.
[7] ACSM, Resources for the Personal Trainer, pg. 346-348
Saigh is a co-founder of the SCCS and is head of the physical fitness department. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer

Where have we all gone?

It’s been over a year since any of us have posted here. I’m by far the most shameful for this offense as I had intended to get my next installment out over a year ago now.  Life happens. Non-paid and not related to making a living in other way writing gigs do get shunted for those things which might make us a living. Until Judgment Day rearranges things, that’s still how we have to keep roofs over our heads and food on the table. I hope to get the next installment done soon. No, this time I mean it. Yeah, I do understand your doubts.

Meanwhile, you might want to check out the blog of a student who is chronicling her way through the  curriculum so check out Much Like Sarah, Exactly Like Me

SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics


ALWAYS check with a medical professional before starting a new fitness program or making major changes to an existing one, especially if you have any risk factors for heart disease, have joint pain or have been very sedentary for a period of time.


Aerobic or cardiovascular training is vital for over all health, keeping the heart strong enough to endure strenuous weight training. It is also vital for survival, both because you obviously can’t live if you’re heart and lungs are not functioning and because good conditioning can save your life and the life of those depending on you in a crisis.

It’s become rather popular in some trendy “fitness” circles to dismiss the importance of cardio training. I had one strength-only “trainer” from such a “school” try to convince me that because the heart is a muscle it is strengthened by weight lifting. This is ludicrous because not only is cardiac muscle a unique type of muscle fiber, different from both skeletal muscle and smooth organ muscle, there is the small matter that lifting only strengthens the muscles actually doing the lifting. How does one get the heart to lift? The simple fact is, the heart is strengthened by aerobic, that is “in air,” exercise.

I’ve also been told by many weight-training enthusiasts that they feel that all of their time is better spent with the weights, after all it repeatedly “gets me so out of breath and my heart racing so I just can’t see any need more than that.” This does not describe proper aerobic condition, however. When your heart is beating so fast that you’re out of breathe you’re not “aerobic,” you are “anaerobic” or “out of air.” While this training phase is a part of conditioning for a healthy exerciser, it will not build heart strength and can be dangerous for those whose hearts are compromised and unconditioned.

“Cardiovascular” refers to the fact that this training is to condition the heart and respiratory systems. I will use the term “cardio” here because it is shorter and avoid “aerobic” due to it triggering Disco music ear worms for some. However, when I use this term I am still including the entire system.

Getting F.I.T.T.

ACSM uses what they refer to as the F.I.T.T. principal for establishing training referring to Frequency Intensity Time Type. We will break our discussion down the same way.

For cardio training the ACSM Frequency recommendation for healthy adults is moderate intensity at least 5 days a week or high intensity at least 3 days a week or a combination of high and moderate intensity for 3-5 days a week.[i] The SCCS stands by this.

In regards to Intensity the AMCS notes that for basic fitness moderate intensity (64% to 70% of HRR) can help increase conditioning, however they recommend that a combination of moderate to high intensity (94% of HRR)[ii] will achieve the greatest over all benefits for a healthy adult. Again, this is what the SCCS recommends, for both health benefits and the ability to function at various intensities for survival situations. Information on finding heart rate and other ways of determining intensity are at the end of the article.

How much Time, or the duration, of a training session is the next factor. Actually, the ACSM allows for the use of time or calorie expenditure to determine duration,[iii] but as we’re not focusing on weight loss, and we want to build endurance and a high quality of cardiovascular recovery as a survival factor, I find it best to stick to the actual time. The standard recommendations are a minimum of 20 minutes for high intensity, minimum of 30 for moderate, although we are really looking for a mix and I’d recommend a minimum of 30 minutes per training session. However, we should aim to make some sessions longer, building stamina.

Remember, your cardio work out does not need to be the same length of time every time, in fact, it probably shouldn’t be. Varying time, intensity and distance can keep both body and mind fresh, after all. It can also prevent lack of time from being an excuse. If you only have half an hour to work out total, then a 15 minute run with a five minute warm-up and a ten minute cool down/stretch is better than not running. On other days you might want to spend an hour running or even longer hiking, which leads us to our last letter.

What Type of exercise is best? As a personal training I do suggest to my regular clients that there is no “best” cardiovascular exercise, except the ones you will do. This is great if your only goal is to have a healthier cardiovascular system. Keeping it fun is perhaps the number one necessity for keeping up with a fitness program. Cross-training, that is doing several different forms of cardio exercise, can keep the fun fun, as well.

However, actual training does not cross over. That is, you cannot train for foot race by swimming. Both might keep your heart and lungs in shape, but they do not condition the same muscles in the same way. Even riding a bike and running, which use the same muscles differently, do not cross over. However, there are times when your body needs a rest and a change so you can recover from a marathon while keeping your cardiovascular system in shape by swimming and many endurance athletes do this. But what cross-training can do, of course, is keep you in shape for many different things as tri-athletes who might run, swim and bike must do.

Just any cardio exercise wouldn’t work for an athlete who needs to train in the sport tha Sarah escapingt she is doing, likewise it also doesn’t work for those of us in the Sarah Connor Charm School and other survivalist types. What might we need to do, after all? Run. And walk long distances likely while carrying a go-bag, but run. And maybe bike as might be a mode of bugging out, swimming could be useful too. We should be focusing on real movement, with a lot of options. I feel that in order to prepare for post-Judgment Day, we should concentrate on things that will get us from one point to another no matter what way we might need to do that. This doesn’t mean that dancing isn’t useful as a tool of self-expression, we do include war dance in our lessons, however it is supplemental and our dancers stay running fit too.

So let’s talk about running, as I have had a few of our students claim they hate it. Some people have even claimed that “if a Terminator was coming after me I’d be able to run because I’ll be so scared adrenaline will see me through.” Sorry, but no. You’re wrong. You might think that if you are being pursued you can run as fast and as long as someone who conditions as a runner but in all honesty you can’t. Adrenaline will only get you just so far. Adrenaline will get someone who is conditioned running much further much faster. Always.

Importantly, the conditioned runner also will also be able to recover far faster when running ceases to be an option (obviously, with Terminators you need to run to cover or to a vehicle, you won’t be able to out run one long) and she must turn and fight or have the ability to Sarah runningdrive. The non-runner, at that point, should they not already have been Terminated, will undoubtedly be utterly useless; their reserves will have been used up as their adrenaline crashes. Consider if you wish to be Terminator fodder and what you might owe your companions when the shit hit the fan. Are you going to need others to carry you? Are you going to expect them to come back and rescue you? Are you going to have to depend on them to defend you while you lie there gasping like a beached whale; a beached whale that suddenly sprouted mind numbingly painful cramping legs?

Keep in mind that every person who has told me they hate running that I then trained have turned out to be doing it wrong. They have poor running posture, they often start by lifting their legs too high, they’re hitting with their heels (commonly taught as correct, but it is becoming obvious that it is damaging), they are not wearing good shoes (which can include overly structured, inflexible modern running shoes), they’re going into it with a poor attitude. And, usually, they’re expecting themselves to run at their goal to start with rather than ramping up gradually.

Along with those who dismiss cardiovascular training all together, some, including those into preparedness, have been harping on the idea that training to do short sprints is better than long distance running. Usually this is accompanied by photos of a sprinter and an endurance athlete with the former looking buff and the latter looking extremely thin; this is one of those lovely false associations people love to make as you could instead pick a buff distance runner and a skinny sprinter to demonstrate the opposite if everyone who did the same thing all looked alike. They don’t. There is also a difference between a hard-core marathoner or, even more, 100-miler, and what we’re talking about for distance. But the key point is, this isn’t either/or. For survival you need to be able to sprint short distances quickly and do slower long distance miles, as well as be able to hike carrying a pack and any other mode of self-propelled transportation that might be needed in your own situation.

Those who propose that sprinting is the only necessary training note that short sprints are often what get people’s asses out of bad situations. I remember one noting someone they saw on TV getting up a hill when a tsunami struck (I’m not going search or pointing these people out here). This is true. It is also true that as we’ve already noted that we’re not going to outrun a Terminator and are just, yes, sprinting to a vehicle or shelter. So sprinting is important.

But say you’re five miles from where you need to be and you have no other means of transportation but your own feet and some speed is warranted. There are reasons to also need to be able to keep a slower, steady pace over a distance. There is evidence, after all, that this is how we often traveled throughout our evolution.

You also need to be able to go from one speed to the other. Say you’re jogging those 5 miles and you run into some humans who want your shit or otherwise do you harm, you need to be able to out sprint them after already running or hiking and then continue at a slower pace to create more distance from them. Or, you know, the Zombie Apocalypse folk might be right and you’re going to deal with slower zombies, but you might still need to sprint through a gauntlet of them. It’s important to have our body prepared for anything.

SCCS students also nReannn hikingeed to be prepared for the possibility that we might have to bug-out on foot for a longer distance with our packs. So walking, while carrying either our go-bags or something replicating it, is actually vital to any prepper. Taking it for runs isn’t a bad idea either as in the scenario above. It not only gets us in condition for it, but it also allows us to judge in a non-emergency situation if our packs are packed in a way we can properly manage, if our shoes are going to really work for it and how long it actually does take to get to your bug-out locations.

Likewise, if your bug-out might include biking out of the area, biking should also be a training focus. It also again gives you an idea of time and how you can manage your bug-out bag on your bike. If you live on or are often near water, keep in mind that water can be a point of departure, so swimming can be an important part of the training program as might be rowing. If you live where it snows, in the winter you may be looking at snowshoes or cross-country skis as your way and should include this in your winter training. Don’t forget that martial arts drills and heavy bag work are also very cardio when done continually (that is, not when in class when there is a lot of stop-and-go for instruction, but during practice).

Creating Your Program

So this is starting to SiegeRat hikingadd up to a lot. But as I already noted, cross-training can help keep things interesting and can help prevent both physical and mental burn-out, it’s just important that you include all the sorts of training you need to be doing throughout each week (in which it’s seasonable, for instance snowshoeing is limited to winter). Therefore, we’re still looking at doing 3-5 days a week, with those sessions divided into different activities. That division might be either different workouts or within one workout session and this can be constantly changing.

For example, after you’ve gotten your conditioning up, you could try to hit 5 days every week when possible, getting in at least 3 a week when not. You could tend to make at least three of those sessions primarily running, usually dividing that up into slow pace and sprint intervals. Some days you might come home and work the heavy bag for a while after a half an hour or so of running, while another day you might up the time out on a run and do only that. Or you could come back, change shoes and grab a pack and hike a bit. On another day or two you might bike. Perhaps another week you might bike three times, plus hike or bag work, and run only once or twice. On most weeks you might have one day a week that you have a bit more time to do a long bug-out practice hike. Then you take a hiking vacation for a week and just do that, taking a break from running and biking until you come home.

So you don’t have to do the same sequence each and every week, or the same amount of time, or the same intensity. Change things up. If on one day you don’t have a lot of time, it is far better to do a shorter session, perhaps raising the intensity. Same if you have less energy for some reason, doing a shorter session is not a fail nor is deciding to work only a lower intensity, especially if you’ve been ill. It’s a change and change is good.

Remember, if you are not already running, this is not where you start. Obviously, if you try to just jump into that amount of work you’ll become disheartened and quit. If you’re totally deconditioned, then you really need to start slowly.[iv] Perhaps aim for a few weeks of Saigh and Gleann runningdoing 20 minutes three times a week, starting with a combination of running and walking. Don’t expect yourself to run the full 20 minutes. Consider the start of your interval training to be walking and a slow run, rather than a slow run and sprinting. Push yourself as you feel ready, not so much that you’ll get discouraged. As you start running more than you are walking, start adding time and days. Start taking days where you do this same, slow ramp-up, with hiking (perhaps starting without your pack or with it lighter), biking, swimming, snowshoeing, the heavy bag, what ever you intend to become conditioned at as well.

If you’re already aerobically conditioned but doing, say, Zumba, keep in mind that it might seem demoralizing to find that that conditioning, as I noted above, won’t immediately translate to running or hiking. The cardiovascular conditioning might be there, the muscle training isn’t. You might adapt quicker, but you might want to do the above then hit a Zumba class or do it at home as well. Of course, you don’t have to give up Zumba if it’s fun but instead find ways to fit more survival focused stuff in as well. Remember nothing is either/or and the more you can do the fresher and more fun you’ll find it all.

If you find it boring out there, remember to consider survival strategies. Look for alternative routes for bug out, keep in mind whether your routes just for training are too predictable. Getting too routine can, after all, make you easy prey whether to Terminators or more human predators. Although there is none for the Terminator scenario (and I’d imagine licensing would be a problem or I’d try!), there is an app to practice for the Zombie Apocalypse which those with such, um, Machines might find a way to spice your runs up.

When it comes to running form, I do recommend a mid-foot stride with a minimalist running shoe. You may wish to go all the way to barefoot running or use something like FiveFingers shoes, but I like a regular, flexible, low-healed runner. This is especially nice for those of us who are older and might already have foot issues, as some companies like Newton Running make a variety of models which can accommodate various foot types. A running coach is never a bad idea, of course, but you can also learn a great deal on form and program development from books on mid-foot running such as Danny Abshire and Brian Metzler Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running (Boulder Colorado: Velopress, 2010 and Danny and Kathryn Dreyer, Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running, New York: Fireside – Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Finding Heart

To find your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) conventionally, you first need to determine you resting heart rate. This should be taken when you first wake up, before you really stir, so have your watch handy to time your heart rate (HR). Then calculate your heart rate with the Karvonen Formula:

220-age = estimated maximum HR
estimated maximum HR – resting HR = HRR
You will then calculate the percentages noted above for your target heart rate for moderate intensity (64%) and high intensity (94%) thusly:
HRR x % = % of HRR

% of HRR + resting HR = target HR

It is, of course, far easier to get a HR monitor, often watch-like, which can do this work for you, including getting the resting HR without expecting you to be able to count immediately upon waking. Either way, remember to recheck your resting heart rate periodically, as it may go down as your conditioning improves, changing the numbers you want to hit.

There is also Borg’s Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale, which uses a number system to have the exerciser self-evaluate how hard she is.[v] The biggest problem with this method is that unless you are already truly in touch with your body, your perception may not be completely reliable when first using it. Many people new to exercise may think they are working harder than they are. On the other hand, some hard-core types like many Sarah Connor Charm School students might push themselves too hard, perceiving themselves as lower on the scale than they are. I recommend spending some time using heart rate to become familiar with the varying intensity at first then using the Borg Scale, with occasional check-ins, again rechecking the SiegeRat half marathonresting heart rate as well.

Another quick check that I picked up along the way is speaking test. At a moderate intensity you should be able to talk but not sing. How well one might be able to actually talk can be used to vary intensity. As your intensity increases your ability to speak will diminish. Through a single training you should move from talking (or a military cadence chant, for example) to sprints of being having difficulty speaking and back down again, as we’ll discuss shortly. But only sing on the cool down.


Keep moving, keep changing things up, keep having fun, keep thinking survival and remember to cool down and stretch.

[i] American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription , Baltimore, MD, USA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2010 pg. 155
[ii] Ibid. pg. 155
[iii] ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, pg. 157
[iv] If you are unable to walk at a good pace for more than 20 minutes, then it is important that you consult a doctor and perhaps hire a fitness professional with advanced training.
[v] Gunner Borg, Borg’s Perceived Exertion and Pain Scales, 1998, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, USA
 Recommended reading
Danny Abshire and Brian Metzler Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running (Boulder Colorado: Velopress, 2010
Danny and Kathryn Dreyer, Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running, New York: Fireside – Simon & Schuster, 2004
Saigh is a co-founder of the SCCS and is head of the physical fitness department. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer