Tuesday, November 01, 2011
It's only Tuesday. So far I have made an ass of myself at the gym, an ass of myself at my saxophone lesson, and then an ass of myself at the grocery store when my card got declined. Oh wait, it wasn't 1 card that got declined, it was 2 of them. Awesome.
I am awful with money. I try to keep tabs of money in my head and check my bank account every few days, but sometimes I botch it. I had been doing pretty well, too, but I had a couple extra expenses, like car tires, and lost track. The good news is, I spent perhaps 10 minutes beating myself up about the money, not days or weeks. One of my concerns is that my gas tank is almost empty, and I want to get to the gym tomorrow. I dumped out my change canister and scrounged up as much change as I could (that was not pennies), and came up with a little over $7. That will be enough to get me to the gym and work until Friday when I get paid.
Before the grocery store debacle, I had my saxophone lesson. I swear I could palpate Jeff's frustration with me. It actually made me want to cry. I have been very frustrated with my playing, and I know I don't practice enough. On top of that, I have terrible anxiety with playing in front of someone, and I thought I would be over that by now. I am determined to be better next week and put in a lot of playing time and maybe even, Goddess forbid, enjoy myself. I'm not quite sure what to do to make myself less anxious about playing--and I don't think that picturing Jeff in his underwear will help.
Monday was not the best day at the gym. I was worn out from my first week of doing Jiu Jitsu last week. Jiu Jitsu class was okay yesterday. Then Eric had us working on Muay Boran-style striking. Muay Boran is an ancient fighting method, but because it is so brutal, it is not taught in conventional schools because the moves are illegal in kickboxing fights. Eric and my old coach Kru Mike are 2 of the only Muay Boran instructors in the United States, so I am fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the techniques. I would argue that I am fairly fit, but nonetheless, Muay Boran is meant for lean people. With some of the strikes, you launch off of your partner to strike them from above (like in the pictures below; Eric was teaching us the second one). Well, I couldn't heft my 254 pounds off of my partner. Eric had me modify, but I was embarrassed to have to do something different from the other guys. I also kept hurting myself trying to do take-downs. I was ready to tap out before my partner even had me in position because I was sore from last week, but I tried to get through it. It was not my most graceful day, and I left the gym feeling a bit defeated.
Muay Boran-style kick. Image from http://badikhassan.blogspot.com/2010/11/mu
Muay Boran elbow strike from above. Yeah, uhhhh--I can't do that right now. Image from http://www.triptourthai.net/trip/ceremony
I am going to get up early tomorrow, put on my big girl panties, go pay for gas with $7 worth of quarters and dimes, and get to the gym. And I'm going to have a spectacular workout.
And blah blah blah boo hoo...I have a car to put gas in. I have an awesome gym to go to with the best instructors I could hope for. I have a saxophone to play, and my own little house to play it in. Although I'm entitled to a slight amount of "Poor me," I must never let it cause me to give up, nor to forget how lucky I really am. I won't let feeling embarrassed or afraid derail any of my efforts. So I couldn't so a kick while flying through the air--most people probably can't. Someday I will launch into the air and do a perfect Muay Boran strike--just not this week.
"Go and wake up your luck."
Sunday, October 30, 2011
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
- John Lennon
October was easily the best month I've had since starting this SparkJourney, in large part because of my new gym and the guys who are "in my corner" there. I REALLY feel like an athlete and am treated like one when I'm there. Overall, these guys are helping me to live in the present, in the body I'm in now, while still focusing on improving myself. The improvement comes from the discipline of martial arts, not just the calories burned. After a mere 4 weeks, I have dropped 7 pounds and am starting to have actual curves (not just bulges). I just need to keep being consistent with martial arts training and do what I'm told, and my body will probably be re-shaped in a matter of months.
I find that even though these guys are in my corner, I push back a lot. Really, I'm pushing back against myself, afraid to really progress and afraid of flubbing in the process of improvement. I do it to the guys at the gym all the time and try to catch myself from resisting their encouragement or feedback. They call me out on this, but I've realized I've been pushing back against others, too.
A lot of the courage I've mustered in this journey comes from the guy who fuels my creative energy, my saxophone teacher Jeff. Jeff and the changes in my perception from playing music have been the ultimate force in changing my approach to this journey. I've learned to laugh more at myself while simultaneously acknowledging my strengths. I still get very nervous playing in front of Jeff. I'm not sure exactly what it is, if it is just that it feels awkward to have someone looking at me that closely, or just the thought of messing up. I feel naked when I play my sax, like I'm baring my soul. I consequently push back against Jeff a lot, but he seems able to trick me into thinking a different way and accomplishing the task at hand.
This week, I struggled again with overtones, which is fingering one note but using your mouth position to make another note. It is a delicate balance between breath, mouth position, and even tongue position. I couldn't hit the notes. For some reason, I can do it when Jeff plays them and I play with him, but I told him I couldn't do it at home.
"Well, are you trying to make your sax make the note, or are you LETTING your sax make the note?" I grinned, "Well, I guess I might be trying to command it." Jeff nodded, "I figured that." He told me once again to just hear the note in my head, and then just let it out. Sure enough, I did it. I joked, though, that I may try to grapple my saxophone into submission at times.
Although I have gotten better at letting things happen rather than trying to force them to happen, I do still get impatient with myself at times. Doing martial arts is helping me learn greater patience in the learning process. Unlike playing the saxophone, I don't choke (no pun intended) under the pressure. I just relax and react to what the other guy is doing. If he beats me, he beats me, and I learn from what he did to win.
My summary of my workouts this week goes something like, "I got my ass handed to me." I've completed my first full week of hardcore martial arts training, attending Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Muay Thai sparring yesterday. It was like a 2 hour boot camp workout each day. I'm sore. This week worked muscles that have not been asked to do anything in years. My knee is not painful and the soreness isn't over-the-top or anything, but I can tell I had hard workouts. I have been smiling every time I feel my abs when I go to move a certain way, as Jiu Jitsu is really working them (and I really need to work on them). This level of activity is what I have been inching towards for the past 10 months, and I am finally here. Better yet, I am here and my joints are tolerating it. I will continue to avoid high-impact movements (running, jump rope, etc.), but the results I'm getting are just fine without them.
I've talked as nauseum about how much I love my new gym, but I have to say, I really love the guys there. And I say guys because I am the only woman who does Jiu Jitsu, and there has only been 1 other woman who showed up once to Muay Thai. The women I have met when I was doing the boxing class have been very nice, which has been a refreshing change from the cattiness at my other kickboxing gym. On a typical day, though, it's just me and the boys in Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. I love the lack of pretension with being around these guys. Even the most skilled martial artists at the gym have zero attitude.
My first Jiu Jitsu class was last Monday, and the guys took it pretty easy on me (no submission holds). Play time was apparently over on Wednesday, though. I actually appreciate a "trial by fire" approach because I think it is the best way to learn something and I like just jumping right in. Because Jiu Jitsu requires muscle strength and endurance that I don't really have right now, rolling (sparring) was very tough. I was not physically incapable of doing it, but it is just a very different way of moving my body. Several of the guys commented on how strong I am, and a couple others commended me for jumping right in and going for it.
The other nice thing about Jiu Jitsu? I feel feather-light when I get thrown through the air.
I have been good about doing yoga, and I plan on doing a quick (15-20 minute workout) before I go to Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai in the morning. I have been feeling great after my workouts, and I credit yoga in part for this. I also know I am getting into better shape, as my 2-hour workouts have been getting easier. I have still been trying to decide exactly what I am going to do for strength and conditioning in my legs. My knee has been fine with 2+ hours of martial arts at a time, but I don't want to jump into overdoing it. Yesterday I had a training session with Ty, the boxing instructor, to do some conditioning work. He is a strength and conditioning coach, so I figured he could provide some fresh ideas and push me much harder than I do by myself. I never did think I would have a model for a personal trainer, though. We did a lot of floor work and did some light weight stuff. The workout was very cardio based and was aimed at building muscle endurance, which is a good place for me to start right now.
As I grunted through his one of his sets, he said, "I know, getting back in shape sucks--fight through it!" Ty actually complimented and told me he knows that I have athletic ability. Ty does not freely give compliments, so I was very pleased to hear him say that. I appreciate not just being viewed as some fat girl who is trying to do martial arts. I like to think of myself as an athlete, so I liked hearing someone actually calling me one, even though I'm overweight. I certainly didn't feel athletic when I was grunting through his workout, incapable of getting through the entire set.
Ty and I were chatting about workouts and I mentioned that I've lost about 45 pounds so far and have about 90 more to go. He asked me point blank, "How much did you weigh?" Without thinking, I said, "Almost 300 pounds." I have never told anyone outside of SparkPeople how much I weighed, nor do I talk about my weight loss with most people. So now he knows that I weigh over 250 pounds, but it doesn't matter. The way my body is right now is a reflection of how chaotic my life was a couple of years ago and doesn't show who I am now.
"How did that happen?"
"Umm...you mean how did I get to be that heavy?"
"Yeah." He wasn't asking with criticism or judgement, but just wanted to know what happened. "I don't know, I was in school, life got out of hand, I overate...I guess things happen."
He shrugged, "Doesn't matter now, you're here and you're going to keep coming. You'll be in shape in no time."
Poor Ty--they give him a lot of crap about the modeling thing.
He's right. All I have to do is show up. I have to let these guys push me and not push back. Now that I've been going to this gym for about 4 weeks, I can't believe how much self-doubt I had before I went. I was afraid of walking through the door because I was worried about being judged, after being treated poorly for several years at my other gym. I am learning to live in the present moment and not worry so much about what the future holds, because I now know that the future will be just fine. This week I've been fighting as though my life depended on it--and it does. With these guys in my corner, I know I'll be more fit than I've ever been very soon.
As I was dripping in sweat and panting, guzzling water, Ty turned around and pointed at me as he was walking out the door. "See you Monday...you'll be here, right?"
"Yes, I will." So I'll be back for more rollin' with the guys in my corner this week...and I'm in for a fantastic November.
"In our lives, we have two or three opportunities to be a hero, but almost every day, we have the opportunity not to be a coward."
- Spanish proverb
Friday, October 28, 2011
BAZOOKABOBCAT wrote a blog so wonderful that it brought tears to my eyes. It's about being beautiful in everyday moments. I can't find the words to adequately describe her poetic blog, but here is the last paragraph from it:
"There's no magical formula. It's not possible to suddenly say, 'Well, I've hated myself all day but I guess right now I can say I feel beautiful.' No no. That's too easy. Find ways to feel deeply. Find ways to be peaceful. Don't take things too seriously. Laugh more. Those are the moments when you'll find the way to be beautiful."
Check it out:
Monday, October 24, 2011
I went to my first Jiu Jitsu class this morning. The class was small and Nate, the head instructor, showed me some of the basics. The movements were very different from what I am used to doing in Muay Thai, other activities, and everyday life. One minute I was doing a somersault, the next I needed to use all my might to prevent being pinned. I had to break out of the guys' grips and try to pin them. They didn't go as hard on me as it was my first day (they didn't grapple me into submission, we just practiced positions), but it was still very challenging. It was hard work, but very enjoyable. Nate was very patient with me, as were the other guys I was grappling. Since the movements were so different from Muay Thai, I wasn't worn out for my Muay Thai class. I like the gentle manner of both Nate and my Muay Thai coach Eric; neither will let me slack, but they aren't the in-your-face yelling/mocking types. Working with trainers like them makes me want to work really hard.
I've realized that I will need a different approach to my overall exercise program with doing Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. Traditional weight lifting is probably not going to do a lot for me, at least not focusing a lot of my time on it. I am almost done with Cathe Friedrich's Shock Training System, but I think I am going to abandon it so I can build some functional strength. I got through the first 2 mesocycles, the first one to build muscle endurance and the second to build muscle mass. The third mesocycle focuses on building strength, but building strength in fixed positions is not going to help me much with martial arts. The first 2 mesocycles were by far more important with spurring me towards my fat-burning goals and increasing metabolic flexibility.
I keep swearing up and down that I will do more kettlebell workouts, but I keep running out of time. Kettlebell conditioning would be more functional for martial arts and build ab/back muscles at the same time. I am going to aim to do kettlebell conditioning 2-3 days a week. I will do more isolating strength training for muscle hypertrophy 2 days a week, either total body both days or do lower/upper body on opposite days. I will try to do at least one of the workouts at the gym so I don't slack off.
I have been pleased with the results of the small amount of yoga and Pilates I have been doing and plan to keep that up. Yoga takes precedence over Pilates, but I will try to do Pilates 2-3 days a week and yoga 3-4 days/week. I have been doing Pilates or yoga when I get home from work at night, and have enjoyed them as a way to unwind. I have been doing anywhere from 15-60 minutes depending on how I'm feeling. Today I realized that yoga in particular will be good cross-training for Jiu Jitsu (imagine doing an explosive bridge pose--looks like a Jiu Jitsu move). Yoga and Pilates have also helped loosen up my hips for better kicks. Of course, both will help build my stabilizer muscles in my abs, back, hips, and legs.
My schedule will look something like this:
Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai classes (2 hours total)
Kettlebells/Cardio Conditioning (about 1 hour)
Jiu Jitsi and Muay Thai classes (2 hours total)
Strength Training/Cardio Conditioning (1-1.5 hours)
Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai classes (2 hours total)
Muay Thai sparring (about 1 hour)
Kettlebells/Strength Training/Cardio Conditioning circuit (1-1.5 hours)
Yoga (no intense activity)
I'm sure the schedule will vary due to life circumstances and how I'm feeling, but that's the general picture. The great thing is, none of this really feels like exercise, it's just what I do for fun. But it doesn't hurt that Jiu Jitsu+Muay Thai=Buh-bye, body fat!
Image from http://www.muaythai-fighting.com/muay-thai
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."
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