It’s like meditation while eating. But I love to wolf down my food! uhhh (whine)
“Swimming is magical.” That’s what Lauren S. replied when I emailed her with the information that swimming seemed to have miraculously cured my ailing back and hip.
Yes, I’m still referring to my little accident with lifting the bag a few Saturdays back. I haven’t been to boxing since the Wednesday night I had nothing to do but stretch, which, yes, I realize was good for me. My focus since then has been rest (yes!) and rehab (boo!).
But rehabbing in the pool was actually fun. I returned to this particular indoor pool where I hadn’t swum for a couple of years and which, incidentally, was the focus of an essay in my MFA creative nonfiction thesis. The proverbial memories of swimming before “hot dates” rushed past, as memories often do, and the screams of a baby being dunked in the water brought me back to reality. So did the black stuff on the bottom of the pool. More motivation to keep my feet off the ground, right?
My swim was slow–don’t get too excited. I focused on those muscles on my lower left side. I kicked with the board, swam freestyle, and swam breaststroke. This lasted for thirty minutes, and during every minute, I thought, why did I stop doing this? Why did I deprive myself of this?
Now, I have been swimming within the past two years, just not at this particular pool. Another gym nearby has a beautiful outdoor pool, and, in the summer, a glorious public pool near my house opens up. The last time I swam was probably in August. I was discouraged at the time because I felt sluggish. With the swimming trainers offering advanced lessons to pre-teens next to me, I felt inadequate, too. At some point, I want swimming lessons to get tips on my form and the most out of my workouts.
But I digress, you see, because now I am boxing. Well, now I’m resting, but on Monday I’ll be back at boxing. I just read that too many goals make one stagnant, too. I have a lot on my plate, though I hate to use that metaphor. In order to get good at one thing, I feel I need to drop other things. But is that always true?
For example, football players often take dance classes, I hear. And part of boxing is weight-lifting and running. It seems that, to get really good at one thing, one needs to get good at other things as well.
So how does one do that and keep his or her eye on the prize?
And what is the prize?
I think I’ve been reading too much about New Year’s Resolutions and how to keep them. I’m getting lost in a mountain of goals, being told I have too many. I don’t know how to prioritize what’s really important to me. Boxing feels good, but so does swimming, and, theoretically, there’s no reason I can’t swim in the morning and box at night–but if I pledge to do that, and knit, and write, and work, and spend less money, and eat well, will that be too much to handle?
This morning I read a NY Times opinion piece on motivation called “Be It Resolved.” Writer John Tierney cited a study led by Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Chicago that showed that “the people with the best self-control . . . are the ones who use their willpower less often. . . . [T]hese people set up their lives to minimize temptations. They play offense, not defense, using their willpower in advance so that they avoid crises, conserve their energy and outsource as much self-control as they can” (Sunday Review, 6, 1/8/12).
The website stickK.com was recommended as a place where people who really want to get motivated can commit to a goal and set up a contract. This sounded like negative reinforcement to me, but I have not used the site, so I should not judge. There, you canT put up money against yourself in case of failure–such as pledging to commit to a cause you do not support if you fail.
Frankly, I’d rather do the opposite, owing my coaches money if I fail (yay, coaches) or somehow raising money for myself for fitness events or gear, using positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. It’s just harder to figure out how that one would go.
Okay. Now, who has motivation advice for me? Swimming advice? Keeping-it-all-together advice?
I feel like I used to do this, and then met some life changes. These were mostly positive, like getting a new job, but they were changes to my routine nonetheless.
And then, of course, there’s definitely the possibility that I’m overthinking this. Do, don’t think, right?
Yeah, so I hurt my back. I’ve actually been avoiding blogging because A) I feel like a wuss and B) what was there to say? And then I realized that I NEVER run out of things to say.
What happened is this, without blame but with annoyance: I think it started with chores. F-ing chores. When I got to boxing class last Saturday, my back was sore from bending over the litter box and carrying laundry and all that normal stuff. I stretched and got ready for the circuit, which was a surprisingly quick round of thirty-second intervals of squatting, kicking, chain slamming, and the like. The worst one, though, was when we needed to lift a punching bag (apparently full of sand) up as high as we could (waist-level for me) and then slam it to the ground only to sweep it right back up again.
The idea was to squat every time you picked up the bag.
Did I squat? Probably in the first round and half of the second. Then, I got tired. And while I am one to
complain make others aware of my issues so that any later failure has been documented in a previous whine assertion of pain, I did not do so at that time, thinking that I could “work it out” on the bags.
That afternoon, I was in agony. I rested, taking Monday off from boxing. I returned Wednesday, the last class before the holidays, with the determination to work but only to the point of pain. I explained to the glorious instructors that my back hurt, so they suggested I warm up on the bags while the others completed rounds of a circuit. I made it through one and a half rounds, but I couldn’t take all the twisting.
For the first time in over a year, despite heat and fatigue and nausea and cramps and knuckle pain, this was the first time I threw in my gloves.
And that must have meant something because I didn’t even get any flack for it. Instead, I was offered a mat and help with my stretches, which I did for about half an hour.
Then, I volunteered to watch someone in the class’s four-year-old play on the playground nearby. It had gotten dark, and I could tell the father was in a tough position. I’m pretty good with kids, and I didn’t mind. So that’s how I spent boxing on Wednesday night.
Afterward, Lauren and I went out to dinner. We ate the healthiest food available at a local Mexican restaurant. We discussed school (it was the last day of her semester) and boxing and holiday parties and Hanukkah.
Afterwards, I had a knitting and bead-stringing lesson with Jill. Somehow, I’ve become someone multi-faceted. Somehow, I’ve become more social. Somehow, I hurt my back.
With that said, folks, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas. May your bellies be full and your bodies feel light.
See you next week, back in the ring.
This means that at last night’s boxing workout, there were three guys and one girl: me. I love working out with the guys. No, we don’t gossip and giggle like I do with the girls, and, sure, the guys can get a little dirty with their speech sometimes, but it’s all in good fun. They’re tall guys and can be intimidating, but they cheer me on like I’m one of them.
I don’t want to give away our secrets (if you’re in Orlando, you should come to a class), but I will offer a little peek. I kicked butt with the push-ups on the upside-down Bosu (push-ups with the hands on either side of a wobbling half-sphere) thanks to Lauren H., my former trainer.
Now, you know the guys from the Olympics who get on the rings and balance themselves by their hands? Thats what we had to do with the TRXs (yellow and black straps that hang from a bar and have two handles at the end). This is one of those upper-body exercises that guys can do but that is extremely difficult for girls. My arms quivered more than usual, but I made it up there a few times for a few half-seconds.
After a tough upper-body workout, we moved to the bags. My arms felt like nothing but air. The bags hardly moved. When I got to the uppercut and hook bag, which is basically a planet, I gave it my all, trying to get that damn bag to go away. Unfortunately, it kept coming back, and you don’t want to know the words that ran through my head.
After that came the tough stuff: intervals of nothing but hitting continuously. When your arms are spaghetti, it’s tough. I could either be intimidated by the guys who hit the bags so hard the metal structure shook, or I could take a cue from them and hit as hard as I could, which, admittedly, wasn’t as hard as usual. That happens.
Afterward, I took a trip to the pharmacy. Remember, I have a chronic illness. The red lights reading “Drive-Thru Pharmacy” glowed in the darkness, and I listened to the 2011 book review on NPR. Books used to be my life. Writing used to be my life. Four trips to the pharmacy a week following a boxing class was not my life.
Does it define me now? Of course not. I’m a collage, a mosaic, a stained-glass window. I am, and I aspire.
Someone said they were fascinated by me yesterday, and that is the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.
I share it not to brag but to affirm that life is worth living (I know, it’s a cliche, but it’s true) and that we’re all amalgams of the things we think, feel, and do.
Do you fascinate yourself? That’s the real question, I believe.
By the way, it’s my birthday, a day of introspection and reflection. Thanks for sharing it with me.
It’s not the food that’s the problem, of course. It’s the lack of nutritional value in it all contrasted with the fact that it tastes so good!
This week, I’m looking forward to a quiet dinner out with my boyfriend, an Italian dinner with friends, a birthday party, and a work party. I want to enjoy each event without worry, but I also don’t want to sabotage my new goals.
And why did I make new goals before the holidays instead of after? For the challenge, of course!
Here’s my proposed guide to getting through the week and subsequent holiday events:
1. Keep up with exercise. I won’t be able to make Friday’s boxing class, but I can still make Wednesday and Saturday’s, and that counts. I plan to do some cardio earlier in the day on Friday instead. Done.
2. Limit my portions of the bad stuff. I hate to call it bad stuff, but it is, really. In the past, I’ve done well by heaping up the salad and fruit so that I’m more full and can’t indulge much on the less healthy stuff. While I’ve certainly been irresponsible about food in the past and recently, I’m not really a gorger.
3. Give it away! After my party on Saturday, I plan to send slices of cake home with my guests for themselves and their husbands.
4. Make the food you CAN control as healthy as possible. For my party, I’m serving a big salad, make-your-own pizzas (individual sizes), cake, and some junky snacks. This way, everyone can choose what works for them. For the restaurant meals and the office party, I plan to make conscious choices that won’t make me feel guilty. No matter what I order, it’s likely to be good when ordered at a restaurant (on the scale of healthy to fattening), right? Well, this may not always prove to be true, but I can dream.
What other tips do you have for me? Help me, please!
A new kick-ass, punk-rockin’, psycho-kinetic motivation!
That’s right, folks: my birthday is next week, and it comes just a few weeks before the national day of retrospect/introspect–New Year’s Day.
I like to get it all over with at once.
Like I said in my last post, every fitness goal I had for the past year was thrown out of whack due to my health issues (stayin’ alive kinda came first). I neither deny this nor use it as an excuse (though I believe that some people may think I do). The truth is what it is–take it or leave it–and I’ve needed to make best of what I’ve got physically and mentally and know my limits.
A bunch of people from boxing have taken about a year to train for this ridiculously dangerous mudpit race called The Tough Mudder. They had to sign a death waiver, for real. Believe me, I liked the sound of it, though I was more than iffy about having to run 12 miles. The obstacles sounded like fun, though: jump into a pit of ice water. Cool. Swing on monkey bars until you fall into another water pit. Fun! Climb up hay bales and jump over walls (etc). Then, I was presented with not only the physical challenges presented by these obstacles in the race but also some mental challenges that stopped me in my proverbial tracks.
I am extremely claustrophobic, so a dark, tight tunnel filled with strangers would not be for me.
My self-doubt. Of course I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’d lost fitness; I’d gained weight; it was easier not to try.
BAM. Fuck it.
I’m fuckin’ afraid.
I’ve been through so much this year. And I’m afraid to what–train? Fail? Well, I am afraid to die. I’m not going to deny that one.
Let’s get back to the goals, though. What is it that I DO want this year? What is it that I do want to do?
To accomplish this, I’m going to go backwards in time, and you should, too. Make a list of all your fitness-related accomplishments from the past (all those “high” moments) and those goals you’ve had. Don’t worry–just writing it down doesn’t mean you have to do it. Trust me. I’m in charge of this exercise.
1. complete a sprint tri (done)
2. complete an Olympic-length tri (not done)
3. biking 30 miles with friends before work (done)
4. working out with a trainer/friend and sticking with the workouts on my own (done)
5. study yoga (done)
6. become a yoga instructor (not done, but close at one point)
7. become a Spinning instructor (done, and I might want to do this one again)
8. complete a tri in the desert (not done)
9. compete in charity 5ks (done)
10. compete in a charity 10k
11. ride 100 miles consecutively on my bike (in one sitting–not done)
12. take a boxing class (done, wink)
13. participate in a mud race (the Savage Race is coming up)
At this point, I hope you’re feeling pretty proud of your past fitness accomplishments. I’m going to divide my accomplishments and goals into different fitness categories:
3. training (increase strength and cardio)
4. events other than tris
Now, I have to come up with a concrete goal in each of these four categories. You can come up with more than one goal in and then narrow those down, but try to have one goal for each category. It may be small or large, as long as it is specific.
1. compete in one sprint tri this spring or summer
2. go to boxing at least twice per week unless sickness, travel, or other unavoidable issues come up (don’t wimp out on this, though!)
4. go to the frickin’ gym. Ahem. We do a lot of strength work at boxing, so I’m going to say that I need to do cardio, maybe swimming on Mondays and running on Thursdays.
3. participate with friends in either Savage Race or Warrior Dash
4. practice yoga at home for 30 minutes three times per week (to start)
Now, I’m going to borrow a tool from the chest of my friend and former trainer Lauren H., who authors the blog Lake Nona Boot Camp. You can read the exercise here (in the second para., though there’s another good ex. in the first para.). Then, please come back!
When I did this exercise, I found that, unlike many people, time was not an obstacle for me. I am very lucky for this. Now, I am involved in many activities and I like my routine, so reversion to change is an issue for me (“but I don’t WANT to go to the gym now–it’s nap time!”). Get over it. I do need to be realistic about my level of exertion, and I need to stretch a lot more (one reason for the yoga) to prevent injuries like this pesky plantar fasciaitis I have. I also have guilt about not being in the gym for so long. Ugh. I’m afraid they’ll just know all my fitness and nutritious shames when I walk throughout the doors.
But there are many things I CAN do, like do yoga in the afternoons and some cardio early in the mornings, that will make me feel good.
Last, I need to mention nutrition. In her blog post, Lauren H. makes the excellent point that you can control your nutrition even if you’re being dragged to Chick-fil-a kicking and screaming (mmmmm). Not to promote any eating disorders here, but the truth is that you have control over what you put into your body. And eating is necessary, people. You all know that eating the right thing is what counts.
A good general image is to take a plate and divide it into half and then into quarters (half again) on one side. The big half should be vegetables (cooked or uncooked, like salad), a quarter should be protein, and a quarter should be carbs. This is what a nutritionist told me, and I know there are more ways to divide a plate and think about food and I’m certainly not going to get into it with you, but it’s at least an easy, memorable image. Nutrition is definitely something I need to work on. So I’ll make two plates a day work out that way.
1. So I’ve got options for two days of boxing on M, W, F, S.
2. I’ve got cardio on M and R.
3. I’ve got yoga T, R, Sun in afternoon.
4. I’ve got eating lunch and dinner with the healthy-plate proportions most days a week (I’ll aim for 6 out of 7).
5. I will participate in a sprint tri.
6. I will train for an Olympic tri and possibly participate this year.
What will your goals be?
I’m aware that I haven’t posted for a long-ass time. A lot has happened in this past year, much of which I don’t want to share. Let’s keep it to fitness, shall we?
Taking a long break last year due to health issues affected my fitness, as did gaining weight due to lack of training and a medication’s side effects. I felt hopeless, like I was pressing up against a wall that was pressing down, and it was stronger than I was. I gained thirty pounds in three months. Yeah. I also had no money with which to hire my trainer again, so I felt lost.
Then, I realized that, while I MIGHT never reach the same size I was due to the effects of the medication, I could still make myself fit.
Just before having my medical issues (a couple of months), I’d started taking boxing classes with my friend Lauren. She was really into it, and of course I was intimidated. Me, hit that big bag? Me, hit the 230-pound instructor? I laughed and smiled the whole time. I was not fierce, but maybe I was scrappy. I went home sore and tired and proud, and so I went back.
I’ve been boxing an average of two times a week for over a year now. Some times, I get on a run when I go four times a week; other times, I take a two-week break. I do what I can. It’s hard to return after being away, though, and the longer you wait, the more fitness is lost and skill is forgotten.
Maybe you’ll see pictures of me being fierce some time soon! I’ve learned how to hit hard. I’ve learned when to pivot my feet. I’m certainly not perfect (who is?), but this is a great challenge, and I learn more every time I go.
Here’s to the rebirth of a blog!