Sunday, December 11, 2011
"Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so. All action is of infinite elasticity, and the least admits of being inflated with celestial air, until it eclipses the sun and moon."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was sick most of this past week with a very bad cold. I turned into a huge baby. I did nothing but sleep and then get up and go to work. I slept for at least 12 hours each day. Although it would have been justifiable to call into work, they make it very difficult to do so and threaten your job if you do. So, I showed up everyday and sneezed and coughed all over the office where my "supervisor" who acts like an amped-up 6th grade hall monitor would sap up plenty of germs. I almost dozed off between calls. I was a little worried about driving home from being so tired. My sinuses and ears were painful. But I downed my raw garlic, green tea, cayenne pepper, and cold medicine in hopes of driving this virus out as fast as possible.
Almost as fast as it had come on last Saturday night, my energy started to return yesterday while I was at work. When I got home, I felt great. I could breathe through my nose, I wasn't coughing, and only have mild sinus congestion. I think my body was so excited to feel better that I couldn't fall asleep. In retrospect, I should have tried drinking some valerian tea or something, but I laid in bed restlessly trying to doze off. Before I knew it, it was 6:00 a.m. and I still had not fallen asleep. I turned over and the moon was shining brightly through my window. I remembered that the lunar eclipse was going to start soon. Having always been fascinated by astronomy and all things in the sky (after all, my original college major was astronomy), I try to catch celestial events whenever possible. The skies remind me that however large my problems may seem, we are all part of a beautiful universe of which we all have equal access.
The moon was mottled through my window, but I could still see the Earth's shadow starting to creep across the surface. I don't know how long I watched the eclipse, but the next thing I knew, it was daylight. I couldn't ask for anything more spectacular than drifting off to a celestial dance. I finally felt rested.
Image from http://news.nationalgeographic.com
I never realize how truly energetic I am until that energy is sapped. Most of my days are packed with activities, and I bounce between them with the energy of a Pit Bull puppy. However, my ability to stay positive continues to be challenged, especially by my financial situation. Although I am not in the financial crisis that I was in last year, I am having more and more difficulty keeping up on bills and now have no leeway or cushion anywhere. I am going to try to do a home loan modification through my bank, and if they won't help, then looking at the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) program that would make my mortgage no more than 31% of my income. Right now my house payment is 50% of my income. I will be looking into the pros and cons of the HAMP program, but as I said, I am running out of viable options. I am also going to look into consolidating my credit cards through a reputable social services agency to help decrease the amount I am paying each month for credit cards. I am kicking myself over the credit card debt, but for over a year I feel I had no other choice between the cut in my hours at work and inadequate financial aid through school. Once these cards are paid off, I am not going to use credit cards again (and I shouldn't have the need). I have been resistant to doing debt consolidation or modifying my mortgage because I am concerned about surprises with such programs, but I no longer have any options. More than 90% of my income goes towards bills alone, and I continue to have less and less money for groceries and neccesities. I am thinking about asking Nate, my gym's owner, if he would be interested in having me do massage at the gym, and I think he might be open to that. If I can offer them for a good price, I think a lot of members would be interested. Needless to say, I am going to want to have a hot new wardrobe when I reach my goal weight, so I want to start saving now.
I did not work out all week. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. No workouts at home, no Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu. There certainly was not a point in driving my already exhausted body over the edge, so I did what it asked and slept as much as possible. I don't like not being able to work out, but I don't get neurotic about it like I used to a few years ago when I was doing Muay Thai and triathlons. Now I have a healthier attitude if I can't work out, and actually savor the rest time as much as I enjoy working out. I felt better yesterday, so I did do a workout, Chalean Extreme's Burn Intervals. It felt great to work out again. I wasn't thrown off by the change in routine of being sick and being unable to work out. I seamlessly slipped back into my routine. I will be going to Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting back to the gym. I also have written some strength training workouts that I was going to start last week, but will start this week instead. I have to say, I have written myself some deliciously evil workouts that I can't wait to try.
I have decided not to do any more training with Ty. The reason I hired him was to learn Olympic lifts, and although we have done some of that, he is not open to only doing Olympic lifting with me. I also found out that he is not a certified trainer, so his advertising is misleading. He states that he has studied under the NSCA and is a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), and he is not certified. He revealed this to me at my last training session, stating that he views certification as a technicality and that ultimately experience is what matters. I guess it is my fault for not asking him outright if he was certified, but I had asked him if he was a strength and conditioning coach (a title that usually assumes credentials have been earned), and he had said yes. Experience certainly matters to a degree, but as someone with in-depth knowledge of exercise science, the book knowledge does matter. This may explain some of his impatience with limitations and lack of writing individual plans for people. When I have written plans for people, it takes several hours to write the workouts. I find out where people are in their fitness, what they would like to achieve, and what they like and dislike about exercise in order to tailor a plan for them. Although I appreciate someone pushing me, I did not appreciate how Ty made me feel inadequate in a lot of ways. A good trainer has a balance of pushing someone to their limits while also being tolerant of that person's limits. I will train myself the way I would train anyone else--with a challenging program that respects the body's limitations. I think I'm capable of kicking my own ass while still being kind to myself.
I find myself becoming more resilient with age. Even with challenges to my routine or positive thinking, I seamlessly bounce back as soon as possible. I will be doing a year-end blog about what I have learned this past year, and it is probably more than I have learned in my entire adult life. Until then, I will watch the skies for the next celestial dance. The heavens may not be dancing just for me, but that doesn't mean I can't join in now and then.
Image from http://www.etsy.com/listing/42323085/origi
"Whatsoever that be within us that feels, thinks, desires, and animates, is something celestial, divine, and, consequently, imperishable."
Monday, December 05, 2011
I had said in my "Week in Review" blog that I've been in a funk with my saxophone playing for the past few weeks. I have barely played or practiced. I thought that it was because I was in a funk that I did not feel like playing. I asked MUSICALLYMINDED for some suggestions when I don't feel like playing, and she gave me some good ones. I made myself pick up my sax yesterday and just start practicing. I started a little grudgingly. As I continued to practice, though, I stopped having to force myself. I laughed when I made an awful mistake. I played for a little over half an hour and felt excellent afterwards. I was glad that I made myself get started. Just like I never regret starting a workout or getting to class when I didn't feel like it, I didn't regret playing. I felt like I had just done a yoga session or had a really good day at the gym--happy and satiated. I have probably been in a funk with my playing BECAUSE I haven't been doing it.
I tried to think back and remember if I have ever not regretted a binge. I can think of a couple of times where it really was "just that good," but only a few. I realize that I've spent a lot of time making myself do or not do certain things. Things in major areas of my life, like food. My all-encompassing food obsession left my other goals buried under a pile of frozen pizza wrappers and empty Doritos bags. My drive to get my next "fix" shoved everything else out of my mind. It's no wonder that I didn't exercise regularly or engage in any real hobby. Food was my sole hobby. The more I ate, the more I stifled my soul. Like most things that come on gradually, I don't think I will know the exact date that my mindset truly changed.
I was in the grocery store yesterday, my list clutched in my fist. I was only going to get the things on the list. I didn't like choosing between oranges and some fun fruit like a mango, but I stuck to my list. I got some whole grain pasta, tomato sauce, brown rice, and a bunch of produce. I was reading my list as I whisked by the candy and chips aisles, realizing later that I didn't have to stop myself from going down them. Normally I brace myself to have to put up a fight, to argue in my head about whether I want to or can buy some junk, whether or not to set up for a binge. Healthy eating comes the most naturally to me for the first time ever. It comes most naturally almost all of time. Sure, I've had weak moments with pizza, cake, or candy, but they are less frequent and severe than they used to be. If I have junk now, it is because it is something I really do want, and I don't eat something just because it's there.
I realized it had been months since I had walked through the grocery store with my stomach demanding one thing and emotions another. I don't get concerned about whether I can stay out of the chocolate-filled candy drawer at work--I've stayed out of it for over 2 months and have survived just fine. I don't worry about the need for a late-night trip to a 24-hour store to buy stuff for a binge. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, I kind of made myself go to the store and buy a bunch of candy. Not sure what came over me, but somewhere in my brain I knew it had been a while. Afterwards, I didn't feel guilty, but a little baffled. If I actually have to make myself overeat, then it no longer comes naturally at all. This is probably somewhat proven by my lack of tracking regularly (I am not condoning not tracking--I've just been bad about it) yet maintaining my weight over the past month. My eating naturally adjusted when I wasn't able to exercise with an injury, and I generally ate healthfully.
I have been in a funk because I have been avoiding some of my healthy stress-relief outlets. I've put in a lot of workout time, but my creative energy has been stifled by avoidance. Writing is another outlet that I have been avoiding. Most of my blogs have been my "Week in Review" blogs, and I've been having to force myself to write those. I'm glad I did, because I like how blogging serves as a journal of this journey. But today the urge finally hit me yesterday to just sit down and write.
My creative energy may not always come naturally, but at least it doesn't get buried in a food hangover anymore. I stare longingly at a mango, my mouth watering, yet have completely forgotten to check to see if M&Ms were on sale. I may not make to the gym every time I mean to, but I know the difference between being too tired to go and just being lazy. I will never be perfect, and will sometimes get into a funk, but my mindset during those times has changed in a fundamental way. I recognize the funks quickly and can pull myself out. Even if I don't get all the way out right away, I don't let myself get derailed anymore.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
November started off the bat with the challenge of injuring my rib in Muay Thai. I couldn't do any intense exercise for 2 and 1/2 weeks. Having said that, I am very glad it healed that quickly--I've heard horror stories of rib injuries causing problems for months. I got right back to work with Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, and weightlifting as soon as I felt up to it. This past week was a great workout week and I was able to end November on a high note.
Meanwhile, my saxophone playing has kind of taken a spot on the back burner. I have been deciding what to do about playing my saxophone, and at this time, I can't find a group to play with where I could dependably make it to rehearsals, let alone performances. I am also feeling financially stressed right now with setting up my home office and continuing to deal with credit card debt, so I think I need to stop taking lessons for a while. I still haven't settled on this decision yet. I really like my teacher Jeff and enjoy playing, but right now playing feels more like a stress than stress relief. Playing songs is stress-relieving, but I can't concentrate on trying to learn techniques. I have been in a funk with wanting to practice or play, and I hope it's just a temporary setback.
I will see how the next month goes and then decide whether to continue with lessons or not. Although lessons cost a lot (as does my gym membership), I make an effort to afford healthy activities. When I start working from home, I am hoping to pick up extra hours when people call in sick (which is almost daily). If I can pick up 4-8 extra hours each week, I should be able to get ahead with finances. I'm not doing horribly or anything and I'm not in financial trouble--yet--so I hope some extra work will help. One of my "luxuries" that is non-negotiable is my gym membership. I have to make sure I have the money for it--the gym is the root of my sanity.
The gym is also proving to be a great social outlet. There are several of us who are there for Jiu Jitsu almost every day and I've become pals with a couple of the guys. One of the guys has been particularly helpful with helping me learn Jiu Jitsu and has stayed after a couple of times to give me hints and practice techniques. He said he could tell that I was used to doing a striking martial art (Muay Thai) and that with Jiu Jitsu, sometimes less is more. He advised me to spend more time staying where I am and not trying to get out of the position I'm in. After all Jiu Jitsu is really about exploiting the opponent's weaknesses, so it makes sense to just kind of chill out and wait for them to create an opportunity. I've mostly been trying to muscle my way out of positions and move quickly.
His advice worked. Last Monday, for the first time, I pinned a guy in a position in which he could not defend himself, although it was not a submission. I got the guy in side control (I was on top). He tried to roll out of the position which gave me an opportunity to pin him. I had one of his arms pinned with my arms and the other with my left shoulder. My left shoulder also restrained his neck and head. If he tried to squirm away, I followed him, controlling his hips with my knees. He tried to muscle his way out of the grip I had on his upper body, and that didn't work either. Our instructor Nate watched this with some amusement.
Finally, the guy stopped moving and looked at Nate. "I can't do anything." Nate just smiled and said, "Sorry, can't help ya." The timer went off and I let go. "That was nice, wow," he said, shaking my hand. I was really happy about that--I think I might be able to get someone to tap out soon. I appreciate Jiu Jitsu more and more every day that I go.
The reason that I started going to this gym was to do Muay Thai training with Eric, someone I knew from my previous Muay Thai training. It is with some sadness that Eric will no longer be teaching the daytime Muay Thai classes. He will be teaching the evening classes, so I am going to make an effort to go to those when I can. Nate, my Jiu Jitsu coach, is also trained in Muay Thai and will be teaching the day classes from now on. While I do adore Nate and get a good workout in his Muay Thai classes, Eric is a superior Muay Thai instructor. Eric is still teaching the evening classes, so I need to make an effort to get to his classes whenever possible so I can continue to work on excellent technique. Even though Eric is the reason I started going to this gym, I am fortunate to enjoy all of the people there.
The other change at the gym is that my trainer Ty quit suddenly at the gym earlier this week. I had paid for training and got a hold of him to see what he wanted to do. Ty came to my house yesterday to do a workout. (Needless to say, my house is the cleanest it's been in quite a while.) The fact that we were outside of the gym did not stop Ty from giving me a workout that almost made me puke. I have a lot of stuff at home, but the only equipment we used was my barbell, a light set of dumbbells, and my step. He had me doing burpees, which I would have sworn up and down that I couldn't do. I had also thought that I couldn't do full push-ups or renegade rows, but I can do some of both of those, too. We practiced some Olympic lifting techniques, and then called it a day.
I decided to revamp the conditioning work I have been doing (or lack thereof) to increase strength and power. I am going to be doing an undulating strength training plan for an undefined period of time. Undulating periodization, or nonlinear periodization, simply means mixing up the strength training weight and rep pattern frequently, usually by each workout or each week. There are a lot of different ways to write an undulating plan. The goal is to tax the nervous system, energy systems, and muscle fibers in different ways. For the time being, I will be doing 1 lower body and 1 upper body hypertrophy (muscle growth) workout (heavy weights for 12 reps, 2 sets each exercise), 1 endurance circuit (light weights or body weight, 30 seconds-3 minutes per exercise), and 1 power workout (Olympic lifts) each week. I believe this will stimulate fat loss and power development simultaneously. Hmmm...undulating periodization would be a great topic for a Nerdrageous Blog!
I will make a great effort to make December injury-free so I can blast through my workouts. I believe I will reach my goals of getting out of the 250s and reaching 50 pound weight loss by the end of December. That will mean I have lost 50 pounds this past year, an average of a pound a week. Considering I have had a lot of ups and downs, that is a very big number. Goes to show that even when you can only do the bare minimum for a while, persistence pays off in the end.
I liked the way my instructor Nate put it. I have been fairly forthright with my instructors about my weight loss efforts. I was sparring with Nate last Wednesday and he suggested that I should consider competing. I was flattered that he thinks that highly of my abilities. "Yeah, maybe over the next year...and maybe after I lose another 50 pounds or so..."
"Oh, you're trying to cut weight?" he asked.
I like the term "cutting weight" to describe what I'm doing. Cutting weight is what athletes do, and I'm happy that my instructors consider me to be a real athlete. I aim to end 2011 with a major weight loss goal (50 pounds lost) and start 2012 ready to cut some serious weight.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I found out today that my trainer Ty quit very suddenly on Monday. I won't go into the details because it ended badly for Ty and he ended up being escorted out. To say the least, I am saddened. I was just getting to know Ty and appreciate some of the things he brought out in me. I was just getting into the Olympic lifting, which I think will propel my athleticism to knew heights. I texted him and he says he is trying to find a new gym--I will have to decide if that will work or not. I already have a lot to juggle.
Also, as of this week, my Muay Thai coach Eric is no longer teaching the daytime classes. He is still teaching the evening classes, so I need to get my butt down there on Tuesdays and train with him. Nate, my Jiu Jitsu trainer, will be teaching Muay Thai now. He does MMA and has also trained with my old coach, Kru Mike, so I know it will still be good. I am bummed not to train with Eric more often, though; he is an exceptional Muay Thai instructor. On the other hand, Nate gives me an excellent cardio workout because he really keeps me moving. I suppose that building my endurance will have its upsides.
I was just getting comfortable in my new routine at my gym and now it's getting switched up. Ultimately, I still need to get through those doors 4-5 days a week and continue to kick ass.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I hope all of my SparkFriends had a nice Thanksgiving! Mine was pretty laid-back, enjoyed spending time with family. Also had my Tofurkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Mmmmmm...
I haven't thanked everyone individually for the comments on my "Technical Difficulties" blog last week, but I will get to you. At first I was apprehensive of sharing that kind of personal information, but I'm glad I did. I appreciated people sharing their thoughts and experiences. I also realize that I deserve so much better than sitting around waiting for some jerk to contact me, wondering what's wrong with me. Well, there's not a damn thing wrong with me. I actually filtered e-mails from him to my trash, so I won't hear from him (unless he texts me, in which case I just won't respond). I know I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I think it is very cold to blow someone off after being intimate. I don't need someone to come crawling back to me after blowing me off and then having no luck elsewhere.
Actually, I feel a little burnt out on dating for the time-being and realize that it has been a bit of a distraction from focusing on my own personal goals. I have been tying up a lot of my time with dating, and it is getting me nowhere. So I'll return to focusing my efforts where I know I'll be satisfied: MMA. My rib is completely healed, and my knee is completely pain-free. Now I just need to do some hardcore focusing on conditioning and flexibility. I've never done a sport that really relies on flexibility, but I will do much better in Jiu Jitsu if I work on it. Also, I haven't done a lot of cardio outside of MMA training, so I am going to do more walking and jump rope workouts. I have been getting the itch to run again, but I think I will hold off on that for a bit until I'm in better shape and more accustomed to MMA training.
Yesterday morning my alarm went off in time to get to Jiu Jitsu. I rolled over and hit the snooze and dozed off. I repeated this process until it was too late to get up to go to Jiu Jitsu. I reset my alarm to get up in time to get to Muay Thai.
My alarm went off in time to get to Muay Thai. I rolled over and hit the snooze and dozed off. I repeated this process until it was too late to get up to go to Muay Thai. I reset my alarm to get up in time to get to my training session with Ty (which was not optional). I finally rolled out of bed, poured coffee down my throat, ate toast and soy milk, and headed to the gym.
I pulled up to the gym, opened the door, and 4 guys, including Nate, the owner and my Jiu Jitsu trainer, turned and looked at me.
"Where were you?" Nate asked sternly. The guys from my class were looking at me with the same look.
"What? Uhhh...well...I was umm," I stammered, then nearly whispered, "I was sleeping."
He stared at me and then slowly shook his head. "Well, don't let it happen again."
"Oh...uhh...no, I won't, I'll be here." I whisked away to get warmed up for my training session with Ty. And I had a big smile on my face.
Rather than feeling bad, I felt wonderful that my trainer cared enough to ask why I wasn't there for training. I have appreciated so much about my new gym, but I hadn't felt particularly like anyone was counting on me being there or that anyone would particularly notice if I didn't show up when I would normally be there. Now I realize that I am really part of a team and there are people who are going to call me out if I am not there. Now this journey isn't just about me, but about the community of my MMA team.
I have been doing personal training with Ty, and yesterday I started on Olympic lifts. He showed me some techniques and then had me try some. I was shocked to find that the barbell I was working with was 100 pounds. It felt light for all of the lifts except for the snatch. He wanted to see how much I could deadlift, so he had me try 160 pounds.
"Oh, wow...I don't think I can lift that much."
"Of course you can. Just walk up to the weight," he did a cocky walk over to the barbell. "Say, I'm gonna lift this sh*t. It'll be easy. This is nothin'," and then started lifting the barbell. "I think all of your limitations are in your mind."
"Okay, I'll give it a shot." I walked over to the barbell, decided that 160 pounds is nothin', and started lifting. I easily did several of them.
"Damn, you are REALLY strong," he said, a little wide-eyed. "This is definitely something you should be doing." I appreciate having my athletic abilities complimented and that I'm not just treated as that fat girl who is trying to lose weight. Ty has not ever mentioned my weight (other than discussing it the one time I brought it up) and he trains me like he would any other athlete. He expects the same level of effort and performance from me as he would from any other athlete. I was unsure about Ty at first, but I see how teases my underlying talents out of me by pushing me to my very limits. I need to have a little more of his "winner" attitude, too. Ty knows what he's good at and isn't afraid to say it. I shouldn't hesitate to acknowledge my talents, either.
Hmmm...I wonder if I could lift Ty over my head? Image from http://blog.chosenmodels.com
I plan on doing MMA training 4 days a week followed by practicing some Olympic lifts 3 days a week. I am surprisingly sore today from the Olympic lifts (good workout sore, not injury sore) even though I didn't do them for long. I've realized how truly taxing they are. I hope to develop better athletic performance as well as spurring some weight loss with the new activity. The additional cardio should help, too.
I thought my goal of getting out the 250s by the end of the year were quashed by my overeating (and, ahem, overdrinking) over the past couple of weeks. I was pleasantly surprised to see a loss of 2 pounds instead of a gain. I 100% expected a gain. Anyways, who am I to argue with the numbers? As much as I try not to focus on the number on the scale, I am always pleased to have a loss, nonetheless an unexpected one.
I like unexpected surprises, and this past week had a few of them. Perhaps being asked, "Where were you?" was the best one. You better believe my butt will be out of bed and at the gym tomorrow. I hope yours is, too.
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