Sunday, October 23, 2011
No, this is not me...but it will be soon... Images from http://www.briansgeniebottles.com and http://3.bp.blogspot.com.
I absolutely adore my new gym. Not to sound like a nut, but I feel like I have missed out on the past few years of living with being away from real martial arts training. My other kickboxing gym just didn't cut it and I have quickly realized that I hadn't really learned anything there. I think all of us have our little fitness niche, and for me, it is martial arts. Nothing else even comes close to igniting that fire in me. Martial arts is way more than just physical activity, though; it is a lifestyle. In a way, I feel like I've had a fresh start with this whole journey with going to my new gym. My only regret is waiting so long to find a new place, but it was the right place and the right time, so it's happening now. I have been enthusiastically hopping out of bed to get to Muay Thai for the past month, and had been tacking on boxing for additional exercise. But something has been missing and I just hadn't been able to grapple it...
I dreamed of Jiu Jitsu this week. I had done some Jiu Jitsu a few years back when I was training with a mixed martial arts team. My coach, Kru Mike, is one of the best Muay Thai instructors in the country, but I wasn't grasping grappling techniques. He wanted me to focus on Muay Thai only when I just wasn't getting it. That was fine; I really stunk at Jiu Jitsu. I don't feel that I focused on it very well, though. The gym I go to now is known for it's Jiu Jitsu program, and I was thinking that I would give it another shot at some point.
Jiu Jitsu is the class before Muay Thai. I've been watching these guys for a month now and had been toying with the idea of trying it out again, this time learning from esteemed instructors. I haven't been terribly thrilled with the boxing classes, in which I have been wanting to learn actual boxing techniques. It is more of an aerobics class, which is not what I'm looking for. The boxing trainer, Ty, also seemed frustrated with the limitations I have because of my knee in being able to do conditioning drills. Of course, ironically, my bad knee was the reason I was doing boxing in the first place. I had asked the gym owner and head Jiu Jitsu instructor, Nate, about doing Jiu Jitsu eventually when I first joined; I just wasn't sure if I was up for the challenge yet.
I came home from Muay Thai on Wednesday and took a nap. I had a dream that I was learning Jiu Jitsu. In my dream, Nate made me take him down several times (and this is a 6'+, 200+ pound guy--he was even bigger in my dream). I took him down easily and felt very powerful. I felt like I could take on and do anything. I woke up with an overwhelming urge to do Jiu Jitsu. I mean, I wanted to do it right that second. I immediately wrote to Nate and asked when I could get started on Jiu Jitsu training. He told me to show up any time, so I have my first class tomorrow. I will be doing Jiu Jitsu followed by Muay Thai 3-4 days a week. Now, I realize Nate won't be so easy to take down in real life, but I will gain some valuable skills in trying to do so, and will hopefully get very strong. I will be the only woman who does Jiu Jitsu regularly; I guess there is another woman who shows up sometimes, but women don't seem to be interested in Jiu Jitsu. Working out with the guys will be a challenge, but I know they won't go easy on me because I'm a chick, so I have to be ready to fight back. I'm fortunate in that I don't get intimidated easily...
Nate, Jiu Jitsu instructor; image from http://www.nextlevelcombat.com
Jiu Jitsu class at my gym. Image from http://www.facebook.com/pages/10th-Planet-
Image from http://www.victorytapout.com/pictures/JIU_
I got to do Muay Thai sparring yesterday, which was the first time in several years. My other gym did not allow me to spar, but the fact is, you can't learn Muay Thai without it. Sparring helps me learn my strengths and weaknesses. It is intense and sometimes nerve-wracking, but I'm happy Eric asked me to try it. There were only 3 of us (myself and 2 other male students), so we took turns. They really challenged me and forced me to think about what they were going to do. Eric helped me with blocking and counter attacks. It was an intense workout, but since it was so mentally taxing, I didn't even notice the physical exhaustion. I had a great time and will do sparring every Saturday.
A few years ago, when I was training with Kru Mike, my life revolved around martial arts. Every choice I made was based on whether it would affect my training. "Do I want to want to eat that? No, I'll feel like crap when I'm training tomorrow." Now that I have a routine with my new gym, I have fallen back into that pattern of thinking. It doesn't mean I will never have junk food or a drink, but almost every choice revolves around whether it will affect my training. Martial arts has a way of focusing energy on a very specific task, with a support group that wants you to do well. That was what was lacking at my other gym--no one knew my name, people were rude, no one cared. I now have that camaraderie with a group and look forward to getting to know my fellow fighters even better. I am a martial arts student, and it doesn't matter that I weigh 254 pounds right now nor that I will weigh almost 100 pounds less next year. I feel like an athlete inside and out, and soon I will look like one. It is nice to know that my fellow fighters will not treat me any differently in between. I just can't wait until I look as fit as I feel.
Image from http://www.fighterwarehouse.com
Of course, I can't do martial arts all the time. I made an effort to do yoga more often this week. My goal is going to be to do yoga nearly every day, and I've been doing it either first thing in the morning or after I get home from work. I am aiming to do at least 15 minutes at a time. I am extremely inflexible right now, but I know regular yoga will restore and improve my range of motion. I feel so much less stiff this week despite beating the crap out of my body with Muay Thai. I have been enjoying yoga and am glad I have been inspired by SparkFriends like EMRANA and VALERIEMAHA to incorporate more yoga into my life. I hope the gentle strengthening in the legs will help my knee and help keep my spinal arthritis symptoms at bay. I'm hoping that activity will continue to be easier if I have better range of motion, although I know weight loss will continue to help with joint pain.
This week I shot past the 40 pound loss mark after a couple of weeks of starting my fat-blasting phase. I'm at a total loss of 43.8 pounds--50 pounds is so close! It's pretty simple: I just have to show up to my martial arts training and work hard, and the weight will come off. Martial arts is aerobic and anaerobic training, strength and endurance, fun and discipline all rolled into a single sweaty package. All that Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu will just gobble up this body fat, and my strength training, yoga, Pilates, and walking will round it out. Of course, eating right has helped, too.
My eating has been mostly spot-on, with a few indulgences, but I'm burning around 7,000 calories a week right now, so I'm not too worried about it. I've noticed that my appetite has really regulated itself. I went out for Thai food for my mom's birthday, and even had a piece of cake, but then I wasn't hungry for the rest of the evening. That used to be unusual, as I would feel ravenous within a couple of hours of any size meal. Now I feel like I have the appetite of a lean person, and my brain and stomach communicate now (and the emotions usually agree, too). The rest of this weight loss journey feels like it is very doable because I'm not on a diet. I eat Thai food and cake, fries and beer, pizza and brownies, but only sometimes...and only when I really want them. The guilt and shame I used to feel with food is gone.
As a reward for my 40 pound loss, I treated myself to some new cloth pads from Party in My Pants ( partypantspads.com/ )--yes, reusable menstrual pads. If you've never tried reusable pads, I highly recommend this company--cute fabrics, too! (I figure any men that may come across this blog are mature enough to handle the mention of menstruation ). I switched to using these about a year ago and have never looked back. I spent about $100 on more pads, and those will last me for years.
Examples of Party in My Pants pads. Image from http://cupwire.ca/articles/40853
I blogged yesterday about seeing John Lithgow talk about his memoirs and getting to meet him briefly when he signed my copy of his book. I will always remember him saying, "Erin!" I had a great time with my brother, too--we talked, real conversation, instead of sitting in awkward silence. Exercise has brought us together, plain and simple. He started doing marathons because of me, and I am tickled to be someone's fitspiration. Kickboxing gave us time together where we could get to know each other better through movement, which led to real conversations. I finally have the little brother I always wanted; it makes life a lot richer.
This was a big ol' week for me with lots of excitement--and I'm pleased to know that it will only keep getting better. Well, I think I've covered everything--Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, losing 40 pounds, John Lithgow, menstruation...hope everyone had a wonderful week!
"Weight loss is easy--all you have to do is work really hard at something you really enjoy doing."
Saturday, October 22, 2011
My brother called me yesterday and randomly asked me if I wanted to go see Garrison Keillor interviewing John Lithgow about his memoirs today. The event was at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown Saint Paul, the set of "A Prairie Home Companion." I happened to have tonight off because this was the day I was going to throw a baby shower for someone, but they decided they didn't want me to do that. Since John Lithgow is one of my favorite actors, especially after his character on Dexter, I said I would go.
John Lithgow wrote his memoirs titled "Drama: An Actor's Education" about his experiences with becoming and being an actor. I bought the book at the theater before we went in for the interview. We were in the third row right in front of Garrison Keillor and John Lithgow. I'm not terribly familiar with Garrison Keillor (what kind of Minnesotan am I?), but I knew he had a dry and witty sense of humor.
Keillor gave a wonderful introduction, and it was a pleasure to hear John Lithgow read from his book. I was a bit star-struck to see him sitting 10 feet away from me. The parts he read from his book were quite engaging and actually humble. He shared a story about reading a bedtime story to his ailing father that had me in tears. There was a Q&A part, and my brother got up and asked him if he enjoyed playing villains (he said he does).
He did stay to sign books, and fortunately I was in the front of the line. I kept wondering what to say. Do I call him John? Mr. Lithgow? Would he even care? Before I knew it I was in front of him, and I settled for, "Thank you so much for coming tonight, Mr. Lithgow. I really enjoyed it." Whew--I don't think I made an ass of myself.
Yay, I'm glad I got him to sign my book! And I got to shake his hand...
My brother and I went out for beers and food, and I actually had 2 beers, which is a rarity. I had a wild rice veggie burger and fries. Ironically, I was within the appropriate ranges for all the macronutrients today, which is unusual for me. All right, bring on the beer! (Just kidding.)
Overall, I was glad to spend some time with my brother. We had real conversation about all sorts of stuff. I'm glad that we have a closer relationship now than we have in the past. Just goes to show the bonding power of exercise.
What a cool evening!
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Adverb: (esp. as a direction) With a gradual decrease of tempo.
Noun: A gradual decrease in tempo.
a tem·po/(ä tĕm'pō)
Adverb & Adjective: In the tempo originally designated; resuming the initial tempo of a section or movement after a specified deviation from it.
This week had positive and negative aspects to it. I euthanized my 19-year-old cat Kaia on Tuesday, which was a difficult choice to make. I have realized since then that I had been really tormenting myself with the decision and now know that it was the best choice. Although losing a pet is always a negative experience, it was a positive choice for Kaia. Thank you for all my friends who stopped by my blog and gave me goodies.
I also finally saw a sports medicine doctor about the persistent pain in my knee. He believes that I have ilitotibial band (IT band) syndrome, albeit pretty severe. He actually encouraged my to do more kettlebell work, which is cool as most doctors shun kettlebells because they don't understand how to use them. He was also familiar with Pilates and yoga and encouraged me to do more of both of them. I got a cortisone injection and it does seem less painful, but still feels the same during activity. At least I don't feel like I will ruin my knee altogether by doing kickboxing, but I hope that he will do an MRI on it if it isn't improving over the next couple of months. I am also positive that weight loss will also continue to help my knee feel better. I just hope to be able to return to running at some point; I feel lucky, though, that I've been able to do kickboxing.
My eating this week has been mostly good, but I admit to a binge on Tuesday night after I got home from euthanizing Kaia. It wasn't "as bad" of a binge as some, but a binge nonetheless. I didn't eat to the point of feeling ill, though, and still got up and went to Muay Thai and boxing the next morning. Part of the reason I binged was because I didn't have any good food readily available in the house and I was genuinely hungry, so I ordered food (a slice of pizza, mostaccioli, a salad with tofu, and a vegan peanut butter bar). I need to be more vigilant about keeping satisfying food readily available in the house. I also haven't cooked in a while, at least not in large batches; with the cooler weather, I should make a large batch of ratatouille or chili.
This week was about as close to perfect with exercise as I could expect. I went to Muay Thai and boxing on Monday and Wednesday (2 hours each time) and Muay Thai yesterday. That's 5 hours of martial arts training. It will actually be a little hard NOT to lose weight if I'm working out like that; all I have to do is show up. I aim to do 5-7 hours of martial arts training a week, and this week was a good test to see how my knee would feel. It does not feel aggravated and feels fine during workouts. Eric, my Muay Thai coach, is sensitive to my knee issue and makes sure I modify if needed. There are a lot of knee strikes in Muay Thai, but my knee seems to do okay. But Ty, my boxing coach, seems a bit frustrated with my knee issue. He knows that a major reason for doing boxing is that my knee bothers me. I can do all of the boxing stuff, but no jump roping, ballistic conditioning movements, or deep bending motions. If he continues to be frustrated with me, I will tell him I don't need to be in his class if it annoys him that much. I'll see how it goes over the next few weeks. Ty is intense trainer, which I appreciate, but if there's something that will aggravate my knee, I won't do it. I'm not there to impress him. He seems to mistake my inability to do some exercises as unwillingness or defiance, and I won't let him trick me into pushing myself beyond what my body can tolerate.
I am almost done with my first round of Cathe Friedrich's STS program, during which I have been doing upper body only. My arms are noticeably different and have a lot more muscle tone. Now that I have a better idea of what is going on with my knee, I will return to lower body strength training. I will start STS again next month, this time doing lower body as well. Actually, my legs look pretty good with doing Muay Thai, Pilates, kettlebells, and band work; my calves actually look really nice, if I do say so. Doing more squats and lunges will help develop much-missed strength in my legs, though. The movements won't be as deep because of my right knee, but I still plan on doing some plyometrics to build power. I've backed off of lower body strength training for over a year, and I actually miss it. I look forward to doing more.
As usual, I felt like I could have practiced my saxophone more and worked harder. My teacher Jeff seems satisfied with my progress, though. Before my lesson on Tuesday, I realized I had barely practiced the week before, with getting ready to go out of town and then traveling. I was also not in the best mood on Tuesday with knowing I was euthanizing Kaia that night. I told Jeff I wasn't feeling the best and asked if I could work on an actual song rather than doing any other the technical exercises that I hadn't worked on. We worked on a section of a Handel piece I've been picking away at for a while.
I was hitting most of the notes correctly, but he said the piece had no life to it because I was holding back too much. I admitted how much of an introvert I am and I know that I'm very reserved. While I'm not shy, I don't tend to put myself out there in front of people I don't know well, and I feel very exposed when I play. He said, "I know, but you can still show off a bit." He marked 2 sections with "ritardando" followed by "a tempo." This meant that I was supposed to slow down during that part and play in a very showy manner, then return to the original pace of the piece.
"Uhhh...I don't think I'm really capable of showing off."
"Well, I'm an introvert, too," he told me. "Just exaggerate the playing; it may feel wild and crazy to introverts like us, but it will probably be just right. Just imagine you're saying, 'Look at me!'"
I tried playing it again, and it felt very uncomfortable to play in a show-off manner. I slowed down at the "ritardando" and played as exaggerated as possible. It felt a little forced to me to play in a way that says, "Look at me!" Jeff said it sounded much better.
Maybe Jeff is right. I could stand to show off every once in a while; I've earned it. I tend to overshoot in most areas of life, and it usually comes out just right in the end. I should stand up and say "Look at me!" more often.
"For fast-acting relief, try slowing down."
Thursday, October 13, 2011
The blog post by CANNIE50 a couple of weeks ago about willingness versus willpower got me thinking how I approach the use of willpower in trying to lose weight. I have tried to focus more on "wantpower" than "willpower" throughout this journey, because I find trying to exert willpower to be exhausting. Now it turns out that constantly trying to exert willpower may actually be exhausting. The book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney discusses the strength of willpower, and how it can be worn down like any other "muscle." I have not read the book yet, but I plan on getting it after reading the review that was shared with me. The book covers some of the research that has performed on willpower, a generic term used referring to exercising self-control.
Willpower supposedly makes it easier to resist temptation. However, the arguing back and forth in our heads when we are trying to resist temptation may ultimately make it more difficult to resist not only that temptation, but subsequent temptations. Just like holding a 100 pound barbell up in the air wears down muscles, we can only exert mental energy for so long. The authors discuss how willpower actually seems to be fueled directly by glucose, which makes sense, as glucose is the only useable form of energy for the brain. Research had shown that it was easier to resist temptation when people had recently had a simple carbohydrate source. Rather than being mind over matter, it seems to be mind AND matter.
We can't starve our willpower. Just like our muscles need the proper fuel to work properly, so does our willpower. I would say that the evidence of glucose being a necessity for fueling willpower shows the importance of physical activity in losing weight. Regular exercise, especially muscle-mass building strength training, greatly increases the body's ability to utilize and make glucose. Perhaps this is why the appetite seems to self-regulate with regular exercise; the mind more easily exerts its own willpower without us even having to think about it. When we aren't focusing so much on exerting willpower and thinking about what we can't have/do, then we can focus on what we're willing to do.
Perhaps another aspect is that positive thinking is a lot less exhausting than negative thinking. The words "No" and "can't" actually seem to wear down willpower even faster. It does seem that the power of willingness harbors positive energy, especially when we know why we're willing to do something, whether it be resiting a temptation, choosing to exercise, or tackling a chore. CANNIE50 talked about how momentum can be built by having the willingness to start a task and how we may then be willing to do more and more. I like this way of approaching willpower, because it focuses on what we can do rather than what we can't do. Since thinking of it this way, I think, "I can choose not to have/do X" instead of, "NO, I can't have/do X," which brings negative energy in and wears down willpower.
In any case, I find the interplay between willpower and energy to be fascinating. It's simple: self-control is easier when properly fueled and when spurred on by positive energy. When someone says, "I just have no willpower," they probably really mean, "My willpower has been worn down." Approaching this journey without relying on steely-faced willpower has made it possible for me to learn a lot about myself and find out what I am capable of doing. I have unleashed my willingness and let my willpower naturally spill forth.
I had never really stopped to think about how willpower really works, and I look forward to reading “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” for further insights. Here is a link to one of the book reviews that was shared with me by Calvin Dietz, the strength training coach for the Minnesota Gophers:
And if you missed CANNIE50's fabulous blog post "Willingness is a superpower," here it is:
"The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win."
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
My 19-year-old cat Kaia had a 2+ minute seizure the other night. It seemed that her seizures were getting more frequent and lasting longer. She was getting weaker and thinner. I would have been justified euthanizing her a month ago when I first started thinking about it, but I waited. I wasn't ready. She didn't seem quite ready. I was continuously afraid of coming home and finding her having a non-stop seizure and having to rush her in--this was not how I wanted her life to end.
After her seizure the other night, I noticed that she stopped grooming herself, a clear sign that she wasn't comfortable. I arranged with my co-worker to bring Kaia into her clinic and euthanize her tonight. It ended up not being the smoothest night--my mother and I came across a blind dog wandering in the street and had to deal with getting him to his home, and then my friend switched her shift with someone else and wasn't actually working. Kaia sat in my arms, though, until the veterinarian came in to euthanize her. I have been saying good bye to her for some time now, so I was ready. She went peacefully.
I wrote a blog telling Kaia's story about a month ago:
I will miss Kaia. I also know I gave her 7 extra years that her previous owners would have taken away, and I got to have a great cat. There is sadness in her death, but also relief that she will never have another seizure, and will not continue to become sicker. The decision is never easy, but she is at peace now.
"You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity."
-Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet"
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