Saturday, July 30, 2011
My knee has gotten significantly better over the past few months, and resolving the swelling in my lower leg seems to have helped even further. I have been able to return to taking long walks and biking. I have been boxing. But I have been missing my true passion, and that is kickboxing. I feel strong doing kickboxing, not to mention feeling like a major bad-ass. Most of my kickboxing training has been Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing), but I started doing a mix of Muay Thai and American-style kickboxing a few years ago. I've been a kickboxer for nearly 7 years.
I had taken a Tae Kwon Do course at the University of Minnesota in 2004, and I wanted to continue studying it. I found a class nearby and went at the time that I was told the class would be starting. There was another class going on at the time. There were guys grappling each other on the ground, and there were other guys doing spinning kicks and launching off the ground and practically flying at each other.
The coach came up to me and asked if he could help me. I told him I was here for a tae kwon do class. He shook his head and said that there were no tae kwon do classes at this facility. I picked up my stuff to leave. I pointed to the guys doing the kicking and flying through the air. "What are they doing?"
He explained that he was the coach for this team, and that they were a Mixed Martial Arts team. They were cage fighters, and they practiced a combination of Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and touches of other martial arts. He went by Kru Mike ("Kru" translate to "teacher" in Thai). He gestured towards the group of guys who were kicking and punching, alternating between looking ultra-serious and going into fits of laughter, patting each other on the backs. "Would you like to try?"
I looked at the group of very muscular guys, and looked at my own flabby body. I had lost about 50 pounds on WeightWatchers at that point, but I was nowhere near having the physique of these fighters. Nonetheless, it looked fun. "Can I just watch?"
Kru Mike shook his head. "You won't learn anything. Just try." He took me by the arm over to the group of guys and introduced me. They all shook my hands, and the next thing I knew, I was being shown how to do a Muay Thai roundhouse kick.
Kru Mike ("Mike X"), my first Muay Thai coach. Image from minnesotatopteam.com
I started going to 90-minute practice sessions 4-5 days per week. I was hooked. It was quickly apparent that I was no good at ground grappling, but I was a very strong kicker. I had to really learn how to fight back, because the guys in the group, all of whom were much stronger than me, did not hold back because I was a woman. There were 2 other women in the group, but since I had strength that matched the men better, I was usually partnered with one of the guys.
Kru Mike taught me self-discipline and lit the fire for finally learning some self-respect. I have never forgotten the principles I learned from him, both about martial arts and about life in general. He talked about his childhood growing up as an orphan in a Muay Thai boarding school in Thailand, and then going on to being a street fighter. He moved to the U.S. about 30 years ago and has been teaching Muay Thai since. The principles I learned about martial arts from Kru Mike started to spread to other areas of my life. I became more aware of how others were treating me because of his teachings. I finally started to grow a spine. Unfortunately, we lost our gym space and the group dispersed, and I lost track of Kru Mike.
Muay Thai knee move. Image from muaythaiclassic.com.
The famous Muay Thai "flying knee." Image from sarahcait.blogspot.com.
About 3 years ago, I joined another kickboxing gym at the recommendation of a friend. I was attending kickboxing and Muay Thai training at least 3 days a week. And then, last year, my knee started acting up. I could barely walk, let alone kick or throw any knee moves. I dropped my membership altogether to allow my knee to heal, and started a frustrating journey of trying to get an answer as to what is wrong with my knee. I never got a real answer, but never mind, it's getting better; that's all that matters.
I started going back to the gym in February, doing American-style boxing only. It was good to return to a very challenging activity, given the severe restriction with my knee. But at my more recent kickboxing gym, I have missed the camaraderie that I used to have with working out with a fight team. I became downright frustrated with the way I've been treated by other members. However, I will be returning to kickboxing and working out with fight team members more often. I always enjoyed working out with them. The "beginners" at the gym tend to act more like grade-schoolers out at recess, while the fight team members are much more respectful and disciplined.
Although I am still going to avoid high-impact and jumping activities for now (e.g. running, jump rope, high-impact plyometrics, etc.), I have missed kickboxing terribly. Yesterday I biked to the gym to do a boxing workout, and I wondered, "Am I able to kick?" So I tried some light kicking on the bags. My knee felt great. I did a 30 minute workout. I decided if my knee felt okay during the workout--and the next day--that I would start going again. I am extremely pleased that my knee doesn't hurt at all today and my leg is not swollen. I am going to take it easy, but I am excited to start training again.
I'm also looking forward to spending more time with my coach, Chris, who is one of my favorite people. He is very charismatic and provides that "silent motivation" that makes me push myself harder than I thought I could. He is never in our faces yelling or anything, either; he's just the type of person that makes you want to do well, all the while making me consider if I am pushing myself as much as possible at any given moment. Since I don't feel self-conscious around him, I don't feel "stupid" or weak if I have to modify because of my knee.
And needless to say, no one can argue with the physique of a serious kickboxer. I dropped weight very quickly when I was training intensely a few years ago; this time I will need to make sure I'm eating enough so the weight doesn't crash off like when I did WeightWatchers. When I was living and breathing kickboxing, I didn't even want to eat crap; I focused on whole foods and clean eating, although I needed to be eating more than the WeightWatchers plan called for (I don't think they can account very easily for burning 5,000+ calories a week). This is going to be intense, but I'm ready again.
I've been very patient. I'm ready to stop chillin' and to start kickin' it again.
My trainer Chris (with the belt) after winning a match. Image from cellarkickboxing.com
Thursday, July 28, 2011
"Have your tongue more towards the tip, and try a lighter touch. Pull your lips back more."
"Try slowing it down if it gets too hard doing it fast. It's fine to start out slower."
"Try pulling your tongue back more, don't purse your lips, it'll flow a lot better."
"It doesn't look like you're doing anything crazy with your mouth or anything, I think you just need to work on your positioning."
"The fingering is pretty good, you just need to get into the rhythm."
"Having control of the jaw is really important, don't let it go all over the place."
"You know your tongue is in the right place if the back of it is against the back teeth."
"Try to blow evenly."
Yep, my saxophone teacher really pays attention to the details. I've been taking saxophone lessons for about a month now. I'm not sure why, but I thought that he might take it easier on me since I'm just getting back into playing again after a 12-year hiatus, but no, he expects to actually, ya know...WORK. My teacher really challenges me, which is something I need. But he also indicates that I over-analyze the music a lot and don't just "play" enough. On one hand, he tells me that I over-think what I'm trying to do, and on the other hand I feel like I'm doing everything wrong.
This week, my teacher wanted me to use only the mouthpiece to make a single note, to help me learn how to have better control of how I'm playing. He had a music tuner, and I could go above the note, and just below it...but I just couldn't hit it. He said, "Don't think about it, just let your ears do the thinking, and your body will know what to do." (Dammit, that's what I'm trying to do.) Still...not getting it right. It was kind of a goofy exercise, and he could tell I was reserved about making funny noises through the mouthpiece. He waved his hand, "No embarrassment, just let it out." And then he proceeded to play almost an entire classical piece with only the mouthpiece. It sounded like a kazoo on crack, and I don't know why I was trying NOT to laugh. My fear of looking stupid in front of someone else is holding me back from having fun with my lessons. I feel like my lessons should be "serious time," when I put on my game face and show my teacher how perfect I can be.
Now today, not playing in front of someone who I'm trying to impress, I hit it spot on the first time I tried. I didn't THINK about it, I just DID it. I need to change my approach to playing and stop thinking so hard, and just PLAY.
"You can't stay the same. If you're a musician and a singer, you have to change, that's the way it works. "
I'm not thinking like a musician right now. I'm thinking like a stressed-out, people-pleasing, overworked person. I picked up my saxophone again a couple of months ago because it sounded fun to play again, and I missed having music in my life. It started out being an outlet for stress, but I'm too stressed out about work to just pick it up and play. Everything I try to play sounds awful right now. I'm killing every song I try to play, and it probably reflects some of the stress I've been feeling because of my job and feeling some uncertainty for the future. These are not valid reasons to butcher the notes that someone worked so hard to put on paper. Music should be my release, and should bring out any joy I feel inside. I believe it's in there; I just need to let it out. My teacher seems to think it's somewhere in there, too.
I felt like I was doing well with working on a piece called "Sonata No. 3" by Handel. A couple of weeks ago, when I was in a better overall state of mind, the piece was starting to sound pretty good. But my over-analyzing, over-thinking, trying-too-hard brain kicked in and now I just freeze up. My tempo goes all over the place. I stumble over the notes. Plus, I get nervous playing in front of a professional (even if he is my teacher). If I stop to think about some of the humorous things my teacher says, or the phrases that I interpret like a 14-year-old boy would, I start to giggle. I relax. I am able to play, in every sense of the word. I'm telling you, I'm going to make that classical piece my bitch. And hopefully I can show that to my teacher next week when he tells me more about how to "handle the piece."
My sax teacher. Image from kingmusic.org.
"Music is the shorthand of emotion. "
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
“I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?”
Today is the first day I've had off in 15 days, and considering how much I despise my job now, it was a long stretch. I have been counting down the days until today. Then again, is it really a day off? My house and garden are utterly neglected. I could spend the next 24 hours straight cleaning and weeding and still not be anywhere near being done. I could do the grown-up thing and start tackling the house and yard work, but I'm not gonna. Today, I do what I want!
I am always amazed by people who own a house and who have children and who also go to school full time...I don't know how they get it all done. No doubt these people are driven into the ground. After being a single homeowner full-time working full-time college student, I understand a bit about what it's like to have to do it all yourself. Therefore, no day off is an ACTUAL day off. The never-ending cycle of adulthood tasks piles up, the dishes glaring from the sink, "Why don't you wash meeeee? Don't you loooove me?" The weeds in the garden waving in the wind, giggling in the sunshine, "You shan't control me, weakling human! How could you...you are a mere HUMAN! MWAHHAHAHAHAAA!" Fortunately, I pick up after myself most of the time, I yank some weeds from the garden as I see them, I sweep the floor almost every day. But I'm no Martha Stewart.
Well, even Martha Stewart kicks back sometimes.
So I am declaring to be an ACTUAL day off. Yes, I'll wash some damn dishes. I MAY even put in a load of laundry. I MAY go pull a few weeds. But I will do these things only if they strike my fancy, and most certainly not because they need to be done. I am choosing not to be perfect. And not being perfect means I can actually enjoy myself for a few hours. So what DO I want to do today?
1) Watch T.V.
2) Practice my saxophone
3) Walk the dogs
4) Do my strength training and kettlebell workouts
5) Watch more T.V.
Now, I'm missing People's Court as I sit here writing, so I have to go now. I hope that some of you out there get to enjoy an ACTUAL day off at some point.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
This past week went very well. I finally got through my head that I need to get a new job. Writing about my job yesterday really helped it sink in and helped me process it (if you read that blog, be forewarned that your computer may explode from all the venting). Well, I'm not wasting any time. I've come across about 10 jobs for which I am qualified and have a salary range suitable for my needs. I also came across a site for credentialing health educators. I feel kind of dumb that I was not aware of this certification, and I think my Bachelor's qualifies me to take the exam and become a health educator, which was what I was going to go to grad school to do. I thought I had to have a Master's degree to be a health educator, but turns out I'm wrong! I feel like I have a future again with thinking about having a brand new shiny career to go along with my healthy lifestyle.
This was also, needless to say, a big weight loss week. After several weeks of not-so-great losses, I dropped 6 pounds this week. I didn't do anything crazy. Actually, I think the weight was lost from my lower right leg.
I have had lower leg edema for months now, and my mother (who is a nurse) said she thinks I may have primary lymphedema in my legs. This condition runs in our family, so I guess it's not surprising. I wondered what was going on when I measured my right thigh at the beginning of July and it was 2 inches bigger than at the beginning of June. I knew I hadn't had the best month for weight loss in June, but really? I thought I was just rocking the cankles when I would look at my legs that looked like bloated balloons. My right foot got so swollen that most of my shoes didn't fit, and the pressure from wearing the shoes actually damaged my right big toenail. I thought my legs have just been sore because of arthritis and/or the knee problem I've been having. My mom said that she thinks my right knee hurts not because of the injury, but rather *because* the leg has been swelling up. My left leg has been getting swelling, too, but not as bad as my right. I will get evaluated when I have insurance, but for now, I trust my mom's 40 years of E.R. nursing to get me through.
My mother gave me some sexy compression socks (T.E.D. hose) and told me to try wearing them at work. My right leg felt better almost instantly. The first day I wore them, I took it off when I got home and my eyes widened. My leg wasn't a swollen balloon any more--I actually had a nice taper where my calf muscles meet my ankle. No cankle. Huh. I see now how easy it is to dismiss an abnormality as a result of being overweight. And even better yet, my leg doesn't hurt, not even the knee. Wearing the T.E.D. hose has make a huge difference.
Admit it--T.E.D. hose are HAWT!
As a result, I think I lost a lot of fluid weight by getting the swelling to go down. I can't give total credit to the edema, though; I did much better on both the nutrition and exercise fronts this week.
I tempered my exercise a bit over the past week and didn't worry too much about following a strict exercise plan. I still worked out almost every day, but modified when needed for my crazy and exhausting work schedule. The exercise highlight was biking to meet KVARNLOV on Friday, and we biked to the beach and swam for a while. I got in a solid 30 minute swim, and I did a total of 105 minutes of biking. Yesterday, however, I started my Shock Training System (STS) upper body workout, and it was evident 10 minutes in that I was too tired to complete the workout. So I will do my STS workout today.
My nutrition was also much better this past week. I ate within an appropriate range every day, which, oddly enough, actually leads to weight loss. I have actually discovered a REVOLUTIONARY new weight loss plan that I followed this week. You will be AMAZED!:
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