Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I was actually excited to go to my saxophone lesson last week. I had put in a lot of practice time, and had some extra practice due to working at home. I actually felt pretty confident walking into my lesson, for once. My teacher Jeff is not exactly Mr. Compliments, so I'll take what I can get from him. I blasted through one of the exercises and only made a couple of mistakes. Jeff nodded, "Huh, well that was...approaching good."
I started laughing, because I know that's about as close to complimenting as Jeff gets (although I have also gotten "not horrible" and even the coveted "not bad" before). Then again, I appreciate his honestly; I don't want someone singing accolades if I haven't earned it. I liked feeling so confident from having worked so hard the week before and to be able to show that to Jeff. I knew that even if I was approaching good, I will need to start putting forth more practice time to actually be good.
It's not just my saxophone. It's my eating, It's my Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu classes. It's my other workouts. I have realized that I have been putting in as little effort as possible with all of these things. I overeat, and then I don't track it so I can pretend that it didn't happen (somehow the scale always catches it, though...hmmmm...). During my classes, I keep wondering how much time is left. I have been slacking during my workouts. I usually dread picking up my saxophone and hearing myself. It wasn't until this past week that I realized that I have been putting forth so little effort. Well, no wonder I haven't been getting far recently.
I can't even claim that I've been doing my best or trying my hardest recently. Needless to say, I am tired of approaching good. I want to actually BE good. I have been half-assing for long enough and I need to have some conviction about eating better, about practicing my saxophone more, about putting forth more effort at the gym. I have been in denial with my "I can quit whenever I want" attitude when it comes to overeating. I am not mad at myself at all, and I would not even say I am disappointed in myself, but I have reached a point where I am no longer satisfied with the changes I have made over the past year. I need to make some new changes. It dawned on me this week that I have been approaching good for quite some time now. It is time to surpass good and move on to excellent.
"A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes."
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Hah, well, I don't know about being a big deal, but I'm glad that my coach Nate took some pictures against my will over the past couple of weeks. He snuck up on me and I turned and he had a camera pointed at me. My immediate reaction was to stop what I was doing, "No, no, no, don't take my picture!"
"Why not? You're doing a bad-ass move, everyone will see it."
Now granted, I WAS doing a bad ass move, GHD sit-ups, but I am still not keen on having my picture taken. "Come on, keep going, I want a picture." So, I continued to do GHD sit-ups, and he snapped a picture. I looked at the picture and said, "No way, you're not posting that."
"What? Why not? I want to post some pictures of you guys doing your workout." I was working out with one of my Jiu Jitsu buddies, and Nate was also taking pictures of him. I let him take the pictures, but still didn't like any of them. Nate seemed genuinely baffled as to why I didn't like the pictures, and I didn't want to say, "Umm, can't you see how FAT I am?" I don't like thinking of myself like that, and I would not think anything of seeing someone working out at any size, but pictures put reality right in front of my face, and I don't always like what I see.
Apparently Nate only saw a martial artist working out. At first I just saw how overweight I am, but now I just see someone working out. So, if my coaches and my fellow martial artists view me as a real athlete, then I guess the proof is in the pictures.
GHD sit-up ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k4UQtuXnXc )
A light set of clean and press with 65 pounds.
Muay Thai class (my teacher Eric is by the bag). Unfortunately, no kicking pics, and this chick is afraid of me, so it was a very light class.
My Jiu Jitsu BFF Bob--we were practicing something, can't remember what.
Practicing sit-up sweeps.
Going over techniques.
Getting ready to roll.
Rolling--this guy was getting frustrated because he couldn't break my hand grip, hehehe...
After seeing the pictures posted on the gym's Facebook page, I liked them better. They were posted side by side with my fellow gym members, and I just look like another athlete working out. I still don't LOVE the pictures, but I do like the proof of my bad-assness.
Monday, January 16, 2012
"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."
This week at my saxophone lesson, my teacher Jeff got mad at me. He didn't raise his voice, but he was as pissed as I've ever seen him. I'm not sure what it is about playing my sax, especially playing in front of Jeff, that makes me want to be so damn perfect. I want to hit every note perfectly, or not play at all. I totally freeze up trying to play in front of Jeff. Day-to-day, I'm not too afraid to make an a$$ of myself, but I really want to play the sax well. In any case, I kind of start to panic at the beginning of every lesson, and my attempts at hiding this probably make me look dumb. In my lesson on Tuesday, I was once again freezing, and Jeff looked at me and said, "Erin...just...PLAY."
Jeff had never talked to me sternly before, and the man is intimidating enough without the stern talk. I did my best to blast through the exercises without stopping and without worrying too much about making mistakes. Even though he had talked really sternly to me, I felt more at ease. I had driven him nuts with my desire to be perfect to the point where he snapped at me. Maybe that means I've been driving myself crazy, too. I made a sincere attempt to practice in this manner all week--just fly through the piece, not stop if I make a mistake, to just keep going.
I had an okay week at the gym--I have to say, though, I really got my a$$ kicked. I don't know if I'm getting better, therefore the guys feel okay laying into me, or if it was just an off-week. I think I am at an in-between stage with learning Jiu Jitsu--I know a few things, but not enough to be proficient, or I remember when it's too late. In any case, the guys continue to be patient and helpful. I also got in a bit of lifting at the gym this week and have found that I enjoy lifting more at the gym working out with some of the guys than being at home with a video. So, I will stick with strength training at the gym for now.
Some of the Jiu Jitsu guys and me--I'm in the purple shirt in the back row. I'm in between 2 of my Jiu Jitsu BFFs.
Mt eating this past week was okay. There was several days of "overeating," meaning I ate over the allotted calories in my tracker. However, I lost 2 pounds. I did not binge over the past week, but I burned close to 10,000 calories with my workouts, so I wanted to fuel up. On the days that I ate over my calories, it was with nutritious foods to fuel recovery. I have had good luck adding a day or 2 of higher calories amping up my weight loss. Hey, I won't argue with that.
I was at the grocery store on Wednesday and saw a beautiful bouquet of orange roses. I have almost forgotten the beauty of fresh flowers in the dead of winter. I do not normally buy flowers for myself, but I just felt compelled. They were not a reward for anything in particular...I bought them just because. Whereas I used to "treat" myself by buying a bunch of junk foods, my "treats" are now often completely non-food related, I have realized more and more.
The bouquet I bought for myself...just because.
Bouquet with my vision collage.
My vision collage--I should consider making another one.
I should just show up...play...move...do my best...buy myself a big bouquet of flowers...just because. Because it has finally sunken in that I deserve to treat myself right. It isn't that I haven't been treating myself right, but it has always been with some purpose, not just because I deserve it. I deserve flowers, I have earned the right to play my sax with some mistakes, I can choose not to get caught up in small mistakes day-to-day. Jeff put it best, that I should just...PLAY.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
"Have greater observation and less determination."
Image from http://wonderjeck.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_
I have reflected a lot about what I have learned during 2011 and over the past year and a half of being active on SparkPeople. The above quote is from yoga instructor Colleen Saidman in a video that I have. I pause to think every time I hear it. The observation contributes to the learning process in this journey for me, while steely-faced determination seems to wear me down and lead to disappointment. That quote has kind of become my mantra for this journey. I have found that just being determined without learning from the experience causes me to focus on my mistakes and makes me approach problems from a negative standpoint. With steely-faced determination, I was just trying to avoid the unpleasantness of making a mistake and the pangs of guilt from not having enough "willpower." Of course some determination is needed for weight loss or any health goal, but I have found that stepping back when that determination is not driving me towards my goals helps me see the fork in the road that will take me in the right direction.
Observation gives me the pause to see the opportunities before me and creative ways to make those opportunities a reality. I spent the past year observing what I was not enjoying in my life, and then finding opportunities to change those things. Observation has fueled creativity, and in turn, creativity has fueled problem-solving. Opening my eyes and truly seeing what is before me has helped me see what could be. After working through some major problems last year, I finally have a strong picture of myself being fit and healthy. I can see the hint of bulging biceps, the slight cut of definition in my quadriceps, the notion of a cute tummy. Just as I believe that positive thinking and imagery can help the body heal, I believe that observation and imagery can help the body improve in general. Picture it, observe the present body, pay attention...and make it happen. I have no denial...I am making it happen. This journey has been about so much more than my body, but my body is benefiting from the power of observation, balanced with the drive of determination.
“Opportunities are often things you haven't noticed the first time around.”
Image from fineartamerica.com
I started working from home over the past week and it has been awesome. Some callers are still a challenge, of course, but I have found my stress level has decreased greatly by being away from the noise of the call center and the toxic people at work. I know that I am oversensitive to noise, lights, and other stimulation, but I got tired of trying to force myself not to be. I had to say something to my boss about the difficulties I was having with being at work. I'm glad that I did, because he did finally allow me to work from home. Rather than being determined to change myself to adapt to my work environment, I stood up for myself based on the observations I had made. I had also made the request to work from home when I was standing on my last leg at my job, but I decided I had nothing to lose if they might fire me anyways. I feel like I am much better at my job now because I am not trying to help other people while I am roiling inside. A lot of my co-workers asked if I thought that I would get bored or lonely, and trust me, as an extreme introvert, I can make it through 8 hours without having people around me. My callers are plenty of stimulation and I am glad to have the quiet between phone calls. I have also gotten little chores done, cooked food, and practiced my sax between calls. I know I will continue to enjoy working from home.
I had pain in my left shoulder/upper back area this week. Since most of my joints were achy this week, perhaps because of weather, or who knows what, I believe my shoulder was acting up because of my arthritis. Sometimes my joints interfere with my workout plans, and I am mostly at peace with that. I have also found that it is best to just show up and work through the mild pain rather than wait to be pain-free, which I haven't been in many years. I missed 2 days at the gym last week because of my shoulder issue (the pain was literally breath-taking on Tuesday and Wednesday), but I was able to go Monday, Friday, and Saturday, so that is still a solid 3 days of training. I miss the workouts, but I also miss my guys at the gym when I'm not able to go. Actually, I went on Friday just to be there and maybe do some weights, but I tried Jiu Jitsu and it went fine so I stayed for Muay Thai, too. My shoulder has been slightly tender, but fine since. I have found that working out does not make mild arthritis pain any better or worse (actually, it often improves it), so I do my best to show up and work through it whenever possible.
My eating was decent this week. I did end up having unplanned deep dish pizza, garlic bread, and cake at work because our president treated us to dinner for our last day at our old office. Social overeating is not as shameful to me as the secret binging. As a matter of fact, I made a point to enjoy every bite, and I wasn't ashamed at all. I guess between eating well the other 98% of the time, I managed to pull off a 2 pound loss this past week. I still burn major calories at the gym, it appears, even when I miss a couple of days. That just confirms my drive to not be neurotic about food or exercise. Even if I hadn't lost this week, I would call it a successful week.
"All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention."
- Rudolf Arnheim
On New Year's day, I got together with my sax duet pal Scott and we hammered out 2 hours of practice. The time just flies when playing with someone else. My playing has improved astronomically since starting to play duets. Everything is so much easier now that I have a goal. My confidence in my playing has improved a lot, too, even playing in front of my teacher Jeff. This week at my saxophone lesson I really had fun with Jeff. He has learned that he can poke fun at me a bit, and I am (finally) comfortable enough around him to really laugh. We were playing through a couple of the duets I am working on with my friend and probably spent more time laughing than playing. Although I have found Jeff to be intimidating and inspirational at the same time, they are probably different sides of the same coin.
When Jeff started with his teacher voodoo and tricked me into all this creative stuff, I was afraid of what I might uncover. I was afraid enough that I had thought about quitting. I am glad that I did not quit; Jeff and my sax have helped many times with my observational skills. Observation has helped me to emerge, to become the person I have always been but could not express. Observation provides inspiration that plain old determination just can't provide.
"Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it 'creative observation.' Creative viewing."
- William S. Burroughs
Image from http://rittenhouserefrain.com/tag/music/
Monday, January 02, 2012
Thanks to Diana (GEMINIS1) for the title--loved from "bleak" to chic! I had written that 2011 started off as a bleak year, but it ended up being wonderful. This year has begun on a much more positive note, and thanks to the groundwork I laid in 2011, I am ready to seriously focus on weight loss. I wrote my semi-joking blog yesterday about becoming a hottie before the predicted end of the world on December 21st, 2012. I was serious about aiming to lose 60 pounds by that day. The year 2011 was all about getting ready and straightening out several areas of my life. Now I am a much more grounded person and am ready to put a lot of effort specifically into weight loss.
I am not normally a fan of "I want to lose X pounds by X day," but I believe that losing 60 pounds by December 21st is a reasonable goal. I can lose 60 pounds without going crazy or depriving myself of food. I already exercise a lot with doing Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, yoga, and weightlifting, but I need to clean up my eating act. Food triggers impulsive tendencies for me (as does money), but I spent 2011 getting in touch with and taming my impulsive tendencies. The impulsiveness is not gone (and never will be completely), but I have improved more over the past year with my impulsive tendencies than ever before in my life. Music and martial arts have provided the discipline I have needed to help tame these tendencies, especially Jiu Jitsu.
I have always been pretty impulsive. Whether it is food or money, or just blurting something out without thinking first, I have been prone to acting first, thinking later (if at all). When I am impulsive with food or money, it leads to an uncontrolled binge. There is nothing wrong with pizza, chocolate, ice cream, cake, cookies, etc. The problem comes with overeating these foods. Granted, I used to be able to pack away a large pizza, a pound of M&Ms, a family-sized bag of chips, and possibly more, and I am physically incapable of doing that now. Cravings certainly still hit and I give in sometimes, but my eyes are usually much bigger than my stomach. Now that I know some chokes from Jiu Jitsu, I am going to imagine putting my cravings in a choke when they hit. Needless to say, I won't give them the option of tapping out.
My relationship with food improved as a whole during 2011. I generally eat healthfully, and moreover, enjoy eating mainly healthy foods. If I go a day without eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, I feel like I'm missing out. I've come up with some pretty tasty and simple staple recipes that I can make in large batches and eat throughout the week. I aim to eat less dairy, if not eliminate it altogether again, because so many of my trigger foods are dairy foods like cheese, chocolate, and baked goods. My food plan for 2012 is pretty simple, and that is to track every day, preferably before I eat anything that day, and to stick to it. *POOF*--easy, right?
I also eat some kind of treat every day, and on most days I find my piece of chocolate or whatever treat I have to be perfectly satisfying. I also do eat some junky meals, but as long as I plan ahead for them I do fine. It is the grazing on foods at work in particular that has gotten me into trouble (and this will no longer be an issue as I will be working from home from now on).
Exercise has always (thankfully) been a strong point for me. I think I have been good with exercise because impulsiveness can't really play into it. Sure, we can "impulsively" decide not to exercise, but that just leads to inaction. Now, people can certainly be COMpulsive with exercise, and I have been there. I used to be obsessive about missing workouts and would exercise for hours every day. I am back to exercising for hours on most days, but it is greatly tamed compared to before. Ironically enough, my body used to get much more beat up (figuratively). I used to become really neurotic if I missed a workout or if the workout did not go as planned. Then I was diagnosed with arthritis in my spine. I continued to push it and kept getting injured. Now I have the balance between knowing when it is fine to go to the gym and get in a solid 3 hours and when I should stay home and rest. Now exercise is my stress relief and my main source of fun; I've found that exercise is quite separate from weight loss for me. If it is a good day to work hard, I do it. If it is an off-day and I need a break, I take it. I will also no longer do exercise that aggravates my arthritis. I miss running, but I was always in incredible pain. Martial arts does not seem to put that same kind of ballistic stress on my joints. Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu have also made me much more flexible, thus helping overall with day-to-day joint pain. Despite having several bruises on my body at all times, doing martial arts is a healthy choice for what my body is able to do. The basis of my fitness program is Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu, with doing yoga, weightlifting, Pilates, and cardio conditioning workouts to support the martial arts training.
Martial arts has also helped with mental focus and discipline. One of the first things that I learned in Jiu Jitsu is that making an impulsive decision will get my ass kicked. If I make an impulsive decision, I make it easy for my opponent to get in a dominant position. Jiu Jitsu is an art of subtlety and one of the best improvements that I have made is to sometimes just sit there and think about what would really be the best choice. I have tried to transfer this patience to making day-to-day decisions. Whether it is the weight of an opponent or the weight of a decision on top of me, I benefit from backing off for a moment to think about what direction I want to go.
I am also starting to learn that even when I don't make all the right choices, I am making a lot less mistakes. Eventually, those little mistakes that are not being made really add up. I've found that at some point the right choice comes naturally. I have essentially dropped my black-and-white thinking and have started paying attention to when I do MORE things right, rather than doing EVERYTHING right. I also get a lot less frustrated with making mistakes now. I had spent so much of my life beating myself up (now I let other people do it--ha!) that I did not know how to forgive myself. Not being able to forgive myself also fed into impulsiveness, because I could never just let anything go and it fed negativity that fueled bad habits. I now give myself credit for making less mistakes, making any good choice, and if all does not go well, forgiving myself immediately and moving on.
Of course, all of the groundwork in 2011 would not have happened without my awesome support systems. I have learned an incredible amount from my SparkFriends over the past year. I am amazed by the transformations I have seen. The love and support from the SparkPeople community is amazing and I am grateful to have found the best people around.
My gym has become my best in-person support system. I see the same guys several times a week in training. They have applauded my athletic abilities and have been very encouraging. Not only is it one big supportive community, some of the guys and I work out together outside of classes, too. A couple of the guys have been especially helpful in taking time to review techniques. I've also been doing weightlifting workouts with one of the guys; it's nice to be able to chat with someone during the workouts.
One of our guys wearing our school's rash guard.
My fitspiration: some of the guys from Jiu Jitsu.
My main trainer Nate (in the sweatshirt, watching) and my life-long friend Josh (kicking), who recommended my new gym to me.
Nate and student John (on the bottom) rolling. John is awesome at Jiu Jitsu and has taken extra time outside of class to help me--he has been pivotal to my training.
A couple of the guys goofing around outside of class. I'm chatting with John in the background.
My weightlifting/workout buddy Nick (on the left) after a win in December.
Tim, Jiu Jitsu instructor, overseeing rolling.
As you can see from the pictures above, these are some of the fittest dudes around. Yet they have welcomed me, worked with me, and even asked me for help with their training given my knowledge of exercise science. They treat me like they would any other fighter and don't seem to think one way or another about my weight. I look forward to getting to know these guys even better over the next year and working as a team to become more fit.
A lot of people also have a goal outfit or some outfit in mind for motivation. Honestly, I've always wanted to feel like I look really good in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I've never been terribly concerned with fancy clothes, but yes, it would be nice to have more choices for dressing up, too. But since I spend a lot of my time around other people in workout gear, I really want to look good in my workout clothes. By the end of the year I will look good in real Jiu Jitsu gear (hah, pictures are a little disproportionate):
Between the hard work I put in over the past year and the awesome support system under my belt, I know I can reach my weight loss goal this year. I will be rocking my martial arts gear with my muscles bulging in no time. I didn't set specific New Year's resolutions because I already have plenty of resolve. Now that I am in a good mental and physical spot, I am prepared to focus on really specific goals and be successful.
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