Finding the fury. (Fitness post)

I don’t love cardio, but I need to do more of it – my fitness refrain over the last 12 months or so. Followers of my group fitness endeavors, remember when it was the opposite? When cardio was all I did, and I wanted to add strength-training? Now it’s strength-training (Body Pump) three times per week, and one cardio (Body Combat), the latter being consistently sporadic for one reason or another.

I don’t love cardio, but I do love combat sports training, which happens to be straight-up cardio when you do it as a group fitness class. I made it to Combat this week and realized why the focus there feels so different than my focus in Pump: it’s because my focus in Pump is inward. In Combat, it’s outward. It’s the same degree of focus, but projected in opposite directions.

This realization adds a dimension to my “I need to do more cardio” refrain. The balance of strength-training (Pump) and cardio (Combat) attracts me more in an energetic sense than a physical one. Eastern Philosophy 101.

My mental focus is different in Combat because in combat sports training, I’m focused on an opponent (hence the outwardness of it). This means that I have to first work myself up into a state of anger, or at least strong annoyance. That’s my pre-Combat prep: hone in on an opponent so I can direct my energy at a specific target. Sometimes, I’m mad at more than one entity or situation, and then I’m fighting multiple opponents.

Thus, my best cardio workouts are fueled by rage.

I get the most out of cardio when it’s combat-oriented and I’m fighting to the death. By the time class is over, I’m flying high on victory. I’m a finisher, and I won. It’s a post-workout euphoria that’s different than the post-workout euphoria I experience after a good Pump class; I need equal amounts of this euphoria in my life, and that’s the actual reason “I need to do more cardio.”

Everyone has a fitness epiphany in them somewhere. Find yours… find it to get your fitness journey started, or to refresh your fitness mojo. Whether you need to get off a couch or a plateau, finding what drives you to action can help.

 

[30 Jan. 2019, post-Combat water-guzzling]

Happy Friday Eve, everyone!

 

 

NO SUMO CAT. (Also, garage gym. And Body Pump.)

We’ve been watching the September Grand Sumo Tournament Highlights, and once again, Nenette spends the first few bouts glaring at us before leaving the room. With this behavior repeated day after day, tournament after tournament, she has formed a clear pattern and sends an undeniable message. Nenette hates sumo.

Does she really hate it, though? Maybe she’s bristling at the volume and frequency of our shouting while watching it. Or maybe she dislikes the Japanese language… we do a lot of our shouting in Japanese, because we shout the  wrestlers’ names, all of which are Japanese – including the wrestlers who aren’t Japanese. We also say the names of the winning moves. And the wrestlers’ ranks. Anyway, it’s hard to say which part of the equation she hates. Maybe she’s bothered by all of the above.

 

No sumo.

 

Speaking of combat sports, the seasons are changing, and the garage gym will soon be usable again. Measures have to be taken first: fall cleaning. The mess in there! Thick layers of dust coat the floor mats and the equipment, and somehow, there are piles of mesquite pods festooning the whole place, even the far inside corners. Monsoon season did a number on the garage this year… with the garage door closed. The mysteries of life, I’m telling you.

Now my thoughts segue into my gym workouts. Of course!

Let’s talk about Body Pump 107. I did this latest workout release for the second time on Saturday, and I have an idea of what not to do. I should not spend the entire back track fixated on the lone dumbbell sitting in the corner in front of the person in front of me. No matter how confused I am that my weights seem to be too light, I should not obsess over the dumbbell in the corner.

Here were the thoughts racing through my mind during the back track:

  • I think I’m doing this right, but how can I be when the dumbbell feels so light?
  • I’m doing something wrong. I’m not working my back at all.
  • Now I’m really not working my back, because I wasn’t focusing on the weird new moves in this weird new routine. Pay attention.
  • Is that dumbbell in the corner Jessica’s? Would she mind if I were to run up and grab it?
  • What is that dumbbell, anyway… is it a 12.5? A 15? It must be one or the other, because the 10 lb one is green.
  • Is it blue, or is it purple?
  • Whatever it is, I should go grab it.
  • No, I should not.
  • Clean and presses. Why is my bar-weight also too easy? I’m back to my original bar-weight, which is an increase from what I’d been using.
  • Maybe it feels light because I missed both Wednesday and Thursday’s workouts.
  • Should I try to increase my back weights next Saturday?
  • Did my back weights feel too light last Saturday?
  • Will I regret increasing my back weights on Saturday if I make it to all of my workouts next week and my muscles aren’t as rested?
  • Ten clean and presses in a row, though. I might regret increasing my weight.
  • But it’s not challenging at all!
  • Maybe it’s not challenging today, but it will be next week at the same weight.
  • I’m thinking in circles.
  • I’m thinking too much.
  • Is anyone else obsessing over their back weights in this release?
  • The back track is over, and I didn’t work my back. The weights felt too light. I kept messing up due to distraction. My mind wasn’t integrated with my muscles.
  • Maybe my weights felt too light because I did everything wrong.
  • I cheated myself out of a decent back workout.

Welcome to my brain.

 

May Favorites!

I’m not sure how to sum up the month of May. Mental health real talk: May was the white serial killer van creeping slowly down the street in front of your office window; you’re mesmerized by a combination of horror and morbid fascination as you wonder when it’s going to stop, and what you’ll see when it does. The van doesn’t stop, though. It keeps going, slowly, and when it disappears from view, you’re relieved, but you wish you’d seen more. Then June rolls around in the form of another serial killer van, and now you’re wondering whether you should ask for an adjustment to your depression medication cocktail.

In other words, ugh. This is what “Little Things” are for, right? Here are some of the Little Things that I enjoyed in May:

 

1). Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (Netflix)

 

 

Some hilarity was in order. We got it by watching this. BEWARE if you have delicate sensibilities. Ali does not hold back!

 

2). A Quiet Place (film)

 

 

We finally made it out to a movie, and we picked a good one. It’s immensely gratifying when a horror film turns out to be good and not cheesy at all, like this one, though I love cheesy horror flicks, too.

 

3). The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu, S2)

 

 

I probably noted the first time around that the phenomenal The Handmaid’s Tale is visually stunning, and that you could hit “pause” anywhere and it’s like you’re looking at a Vermeer painting. Season 2 follows suit.

 

4). Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix)

 

 

Netflix’ real-life crime drama docuseries game is strong.

 

5). Cobra Kai (YouTube Red)

 

 

Cobra Kai is a current day “where are they now” blast that puts you back in the 80’s because the main character is stuck there.

 

6). The Americans (FX) Series Finale (S6)

 

 

The Americans series finale couldn’t have been better, in our opinion. We’re sad that it’s over, but it had to end at some point, I suppose.

 

 

Philip and Elizabeth in the final scene of the very last episode of The Americans.

 

7). Sumo/Natsu Basho (May 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament) and Tochinoshin’s promotion to Ozeki.

 

Tochinoshin (actual name: Levan Gorgadze)

 

We’re big Tochinoshin fans, as you may recall if you’ve been here for a while, so we were thrilled to witness Tochinoshin’s historic promotion to Ozeki (Sumo’s 2nd-highest rank) at the end of his spectacular May tournament.

 

 

The wonderful tribute video above doesn’t include Tochinoshin’s most notable victory of the May Basho (for reasons of respect, I would guess), so I’m posting another video showing that match. This is his win over the formidable Yokozuna Hakuho. Yokozuna is Sumo’s highest rank. A Yokozuna is basically like a god in Japan.

 

 

8). Cherry season.

Cherry season is when Dad drives 1.5 hours to the cherry orchards in Brentwood (CA) and picks pounds and pounds of cherries and sends a big box of them to me, and then I know that we’re on the verge of summer, because I can taste it. Cherries are my favorite fruit. Callaghan doesn’t like them, so these were all for me.

 

Rainier cherries and another type whose name I can’t remember. The deep red-black Bing cherries come later in the season.

 

9). Popcorn with nuts.

 

popcorn and nuts

 

I started dumping roasted, salted mixed nuts on top of my popcorn, and it’s so very satisfying.

 

Alas, I could only come up with nine Things this time. They were outstanding. They were more than enough.

UFC-inspired minimalism musings and The Body Shop lipstick review! (Minimalism, post 11.)

Minimalism paradox of materialism: when you’re so bored with everything, you want nothing. This is a new mindset for me, one that developed naturally as I began to settle into minimalism. It used to be that if I grew bored with something, I would want something else, or I would think of something else. Now, it’s just good-bye when I’m no longer enamored with that thing.

I do differentiate between replacing something because 1.) I’m bored (“I need something different”); 2). there’s something else that I want (“something has to go”); and 3). there’s necessity… something happened to my old one, or I have to get one because I need it and I don’t already have one. With minimalism, my inclination toward #1 has melted away.

Then there are special cases of I just want that thing, like last Saturday when I bought a new t-shirt and it didn’t replace a damn thing. UFC Fight Night came to Phoenix (specifically, to Glendale). We went, and we were confronted with once-in-a-lifetime merch. It was a t-shirt that had to happen. It’s one of those shirts that if I’m still alive 30 years from now, I’ll come across it and bemoan that it’s full of holes and falling apart. The shirt will go on into infinity. Good memories will wear the shirt more than I ever could.

Come to think of it, though, I do have a thing for souvenir merch. I always get a t-shirt when we go to concerts and whatnot. We don’t go to them so often that I’ve had the opportunity to consider it since moving my mindset into minimalism. I’ve had the opportunity now. I bet the UFC has no idea that it can inspire people to think about minimalism.

Speaking of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night case and purchases made to fill an empty space (this one would be the red lipstick space): I wore one of my new The Body Shop lipsticks to those UFC fights, and I wanted to report on how it held up, because that was a long night. This is my public service announcement to you lipstick-wearing individuals: The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipsticks kick ass. I give this product five out of five stars.

I was impressed by how well the lipstick held up after eight hours of wear. The color stayed vibrant even after chewing gum, eating a protein bar, drinking water, and applying lip balm over the lipstick several times. (Granted, a protein bar is not a good indicator of how well the lipstick would wear while eating an actual meal.) I took some selfies in the car on the way home, in three different lights, as lighting fluctuates on the freeway. As usual, I didn’t filter these pics, neither did I use a lip-liner. The color-saturation shown here is authentic, and the color is visible even in the darkest light. It didn’t bleed onto my face in the absence of lip-liner, either. This is The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipstick in 125 (“Crazy Sexy Crimson”):

 

The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick in 125 (“Crazy Sexy Crimson”) – 8 hrs later

 

No retouches after eight hours! Callaghan’s surprise was real, too, and he expressed it even though I didn’t ask him about it. We got home and he said, “Did you put on more lipstick?” and I said, “No,” and he said, “Wow that stays on!” Yes, it does… especially surprising because the lipstick is so weightless and moisturizing. I added to the moisture with lip balm, as I’d said; you’d think that several applications of lip balm over lipstick would cause the color to fade and bleed. That did not occur.

The next time I purchase this lip product, it will be a minimalism-considered replacement. I would love to get another UFC souvenir t-shirt, too, but that’s much less likely to happen.

Insert snazzy title here. (March Favorites!)

Hello, and welcome to the “Little Things” I enjoyed in March. Since I’m again later than I’d wanted to be with this post, I’m offering a streamlined version of Monthly Favorites… meaning, with no further ado…

 

1). Jessica Jones (T.V. series, Netflix)

 

 

Jessica Jones is back for season 2 (Netflix), and Callaghan and I both like this season even better than the first. The writers infused the story with deeper intrigue, along with emphasis on character development. The effort left us with tantalizing fodder for speculation… we have a million questions, ideas, and theories regarding what will unfold in season three. It’s going to be a long wait!

 

2). Tabula Rasa (T.V. series, Netflix)

 

 

This series from Belgium is simply stunning. If you like horror/thrillers such as The Sixth Sense and Fatal Attraction, there’s a strong chance that you’ll like Tabula Rasa. As always, we watched it in its original language (Flemish), which I recommend. Honestly, this series was creepier to me than most horror movies I’ve seen. There was an effective wink or two at The Ring, I might add! Loved this series.

 

3). The Americans (T.V. series)

 

 

March brought season 6 of my favorite series, FX’s Cold War drama/thriller The Americans. Sadly, it’s its last. We’re looking forward to seeing how things wind up for the hottest pair of fictional deep-cover Soviet agents ever to pose as ordinary Americans. (Hyperbole totally deserved, in my opinion.) We’ll have to get our Washington D.C. Russian spy fix elsewhere on T.V. after this. Oh, wait….

 

4). The Good Fight (T.V. series)

 

 

Thus begins another excellent second season… The Good Fight continues. Its characters roll with the proverbial punches, as hard-boiled Chicago lawyers do. We hated to see the end of The Good Wife, so it’s been satisfying to watch its spin-off carry on the madness so well. We’re here for it!

 

5). Sumo March Grand Tournament (Honbasho) and rikishi Kaisei.

 

There’s a Grand Sumo Tournament (Honbasho) in every odd month, so we got to enjoy 15 days of Sumo in March. The Honbasho isn’t an organization, but it is to Sumo what a UFC card is to MMA – the combat sport’s highest level of competition. This time, we set our early sights on Kaisei, the rikishi (fighter) from Brazil. We’ve always been fans, but Kaisei came out swinging this tournament and got us all hyped about the possibility of a Brazilian (go New World!) winning the Yusho to take the Emperor’s Cup. Spoiler alert: he didn’t, but he got close.

 

Let’s get into food…

6). Archer Farms raw, unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Archer Farms (Target) raw, unsalted mixed nuts

 

Contrary to what I say sometimes when I’m waxing enthusiastic about nuts being great carriers for salt, I do cycle through periods of eating lots of raw, unsalted nuts. I do enjoy them! For weeks now – since early February, in fact – I’ve been eating a big handful of these nuts every day, usually at breakfast.

 

7). Trader Joe’s Multigrain Sourdough with Sunflower & Sesame Seeds bread.

 

Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough bread with sunflower and sesame seeds

 

I’ve posted a couple of other brands of sourdough bread here before. Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough with sunflower and sesame seeds is one that I always go back to. Trader Joe’s makes several varieties of their sourdough (plain, whole wheat, etc.), and they’re all good, but this multigrain version is my favorite! I’ve eaten two or three slices of this bread every day since the beginning of the year, though I’m just posting it now. It goes without saying that bread is always one of my “favorite things.”

 

8). Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies.

 

Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies

 

I’m not big on dessert-type foods anymore, but I thought I’d try these “cookies” (I wouldn’t call them that, personally) because sometimes I get a hankering for chewy-sweet coconut concoctions. These are nice. They’re slightly too sweet for me, since I’m not used to sweets anymore, so I probably won’t get these again. I did enjoy them, though.

 

9). Derma-e firming DMAE Eye Lift and Moisturizer.

 

Derma-e firming DMAE Eye Lift and Moisturizer

 

I used up my daytime eye cream and moisturizer in March, so I picked these up. I use several other Derma-e products, and they’re all fabulous. These two products follow suit. I’ll definitely repurchase these! They’re vegan and cruelty-free, of course.

 

10). The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick.

I’d jokingly said that Jessica Jones inspired me to look for new lipsticks, but that was partially true. I’d been wanting to broaden my color range out from the one color I wear. I love all three shades I got from The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipstick line, and they’re all quite moisturizing, too. I love the way these feel!

This morning, I put on #240 “Damson in Distress,” a blue-toned, medium berry shade. Later, I took a selfie to show how it looked after six hours of being out, running around, talking, eating, drinking water, chewing gum, and applying colorless lip balm. I did not reapply the lipcolor. This is how the remaining lipstick looks on my bare face (I wore no other make-up today):

 

The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick in 240 (Damson in Distress)

 

(As usual, there’s no filter on this selfie; this is the lipcolor exactly as the daylight captured it.)

There’s just a hint of color remaining, but I love the faint stain as much as I love the lipstick when it’s freshly applied. I’d blotted it before I left, so I didn’t start the day with a heavy layer, either. This lipstick wears well, feels great, and the colors are great. They’re vegetarian and cruelty-free.

 

That’s it! I hope you all have a great month ahead.

 

I did one of Funk Roberts’ MMA workouts. (Garage gym workout!)

I thought I’d do something different in the garage this week and do one of Funk Roberts’ workouts.

Funk Roberts is a Canadian MMA Conditioning Coach and Certified Personal and Metabolic Trainer who creates and posts workouts on his YouTube channel. I’ve been a subscriber for a couple of years, at least, but I’ve never done one of his workouts. I don’t watch all of his videos… mostly just those that don’t involve gym equipment that I don’t have.

As an MMA conditioning coach, Funk Roberts creates his workouts to get you into fighting condition. I love his tagline: “Get It Done!” I find this to be motivating. I need to get it done. At the moment, I’m nowhere near fighting condition. I think I’m in better-than-average condition, and that’s great, but there’s a ton of room for improvement. Getting back into fighting condition is my main fitness goal these days.

When Funk Roberts posted his recent Ultimate Full Body HIIT Workout (“full body metabolic workout”) video, I thought, that’s one I can do here at home! I knew I had to try it.

I did the workout on Sunday. By the end of the following day (yesterday), it hurt to stand up straight. I went to BodyPump this morning feeling wary of the ab track and anything involving the glutes. My glutes were fine for BodyPump, but my core wanted none of it. I actually stopped in the middle of the crunches at the end and flipped over into plank, instead, because it was less sore that way.

I’ll post some screenshots of me attempting the workout, but take a look at his video, too, so you can see what I was attempting! I appreciate that Funk Roberts keeps his workout videos short. He gets to the point with no filler content and lays out the workouts with clear instruction.

Without further ado:

 

 

Here are stills of me attempting the workout, in order. I went light on the weights because I didn’t know what to expect. In some cases, I didn’t know what I was doing, at all.

1). Dumbbell Burpee Snatches.

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (1)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (2)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (3)

 

This one wasn’t difficult for me, but I felt awkward because I’d never done snatches before, and I wasn’t sure I was doing them correctly. I’ll increase my weights when I can perform the technique more smoothly. The weight I used here (8 lbs) was not challenging.

 

2). Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (side)

 

I actually felt this one destroying my abs as I was doing it. I used 5 lb weights, and while they were light for the shoulder-work, itself, the fact that you’re stabilizing yourself with your body set up like a lopsided tripod makes it a killer core workout.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (front)

 

3). Side to Side Rotational Lunges.

 

Side to Side Rotational Lunges

 

Otherwise known as absolute hell (for me) and not something I’m doing again without shoes. Yes, please laugh. I am! Seriously, though, I felt all kinds of clumsy and wrong doing these plyo twisting side-to-side lunges. I always feel like my lunge form is wrong, anyway. I’m always working on it. This is a great core workout (obliques, especially)!

 

4). Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (pronated)

 

I’d never heard the term “Zottman curls” before. As Funk Roberts says in the video, they’re done with a pronated grip (palms down). I’m assuming that this works the forearms. The 10 lb dumbbells I used felt appropriate given the speed component.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (hammer)

 

5). Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (start)

 

I loved this one! This was one of my two favorite exercises in this workout. I used the 10 lb dumbbells this first time, and they weren’t challenging. Next time, I’ll increase the weights to 12.5 lbs, at least.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (press)

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (pull-over)

 

6). Predator Hops.

 

Predator Hops

 

This was my other favorite exercise. The technique is fairly easy, so I could go faster and get more out of it. This whole workout is supposed to be done for speed, and I probably only achieved that in half of the exercises. This was one of them.

 

7). Ab Walk-Outs.

 

Ab Walk-Outs (mid)

 

Ab Walk-Outs (extended)

 

I didn’t feel that I was getting anything out of this one. It wasn’t difficult. This says to me that I wasn’t doing it correctly. I’ll study Funk Roberts’ example again to prepare for the next time!

 

8). Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (bottom)

 

This one also felt too easy, and in this case, I know it’s because the kettlebell we have is way too light. 8 lbs isn’t enough. I’ll go back to Ross and get one or two heavier ones for next time.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (top)

 

As a whole, this workout was hard. I couldn’t go as quickly as I wanted to go, and in some cases, I barely finished the third round. Here’s a walking-back pic, because a picture speaks a thousand words:

 

Dying.

 

This isn’t even at the end of the workout. This is me hauling myself off the floor and lurching toward the timer somewhere in the middle.

Based on this experience, my impression of Funk Roberts’ workouts is that they’re hardcore and well-designed. I’m definitely coming back for more! I can also incorporate some of his techniques into my standard garage gym workouts, alternating rounds of his exercises with bag-work.

I’m loving the Les Mills On Demand, but it’s always good to changes things up in your fitness routine.

 

Wrangling with B.O.B. (Garage Gym workout!)

A minor stress-related autoimmune flare has kept me out of the gym these last two days, but the garage saved me from inactivity in the meanwhile. The ironic thing is that working out is my therapy to help reduce stress, but if stress gets to me anyway, I’m sometimes unable to do my normal workouts! I know that those of you with autoimmunity issues know exactly what I’m talking about.

In the garage yesterday late afternoon, I wanted to challenge myself in ways that wouldn’t aggravate my right shoulder. I set B.O.B. to a greater height than usual, thinking I’d try to work with the height differential.

A sampling of screen shots from my workout with a 6-foot, 290 lb. dummy:

 

1). I started with a jump-rope cardio blast to get warm, jumping rope in 3-minute rounds to music from Disturbed’s The Sickness album.

 

Cardio: jumping rope

 

As usual, there’s nothing to see here, really. You can’t see the rope when it’s in motion.

 

The rope.

 

Moving on! Here’s the height differential I had before me:

 

Me vs B.O.B. (height differential)

 

I’m 5′, 4″ and 115 lbs. In this case, B.O.B. is 6′ and 290 lbs (fully filled with water)

 

Me vs B.O.B. (height differential)

 

2). I threw some kicks to see where they’d land on someone who’s six feet tall.

 

Side kick (placed and held)

 

I have short legs and I’m not flexible, so this is as high as it’d get. This is not what would happen in reality. If you’re taller than me, I’m much more likely to blow out your knee or your family jewels.

 

3). I tested my left back fist (leaving my right arm out of it). It was indeed a reach to get 6-foot B.O.B. in the face. In actuality, a person of this height would get throat-punched.

 

Back fist

 

4). I tried out some knee strikes on 6-foot B.O.B.

 

Pulling B.O.B. down for a knee strike

 

Knee strike

 

In my current condition with my right side, I can pull all day long, but pushing overhead or straight-arm lifting/extending are a problem. I did a lot of pulling in this work-out.

For these knee strikes, I jumped in to grab B.O.B. by the base of his skull, jumped back in my stance to pull him down toward me, and then came up to land a rear knee. Unfortunately, it only got to his chest. Haha. Again, in actuality in a street situation, my knee would end up lower. That’s fine. A hard knee to your solar plexus will knock the air out of you.

 

5). I found out right away that a standing rear naked choke was not going to happen on 6-foot B.O.B., so I just grappled him as best as I could, really testing my strength more than anything. In real life, I’d have to get him to the ground in order to choke him.

 

Using B.O.B.’s base to step up and get my arm around his throat

 

Even stepping up, I couldn’t twist my arm around to get a proper grip, so I just did this. (My right shoulder was fine with this.)

 

Pulling him back by the throat from the other side (sorry we went out of frame)

 

This kind of wrangling with B.O.B. made for a pretty good strength-training, pulling workout (so back and biceps, I guess).

I did a little more in the way of conditioning exercises…

 

6). Speed punches for muscle endurance:

 

Speed punches

 

Again, you can’t really see anything, but there was some speed happening in these rounds of speed punches. The goal is to stand close and hit fast, not hard. This is like sprinting in place with your upper body.

 

7). Jumping-in planks:

 

Plank

 

I kept a little bend in my elbows to avoid stressing my right shoulder.

 

Jumping in (then back out, repeat)

 

(I suppose all of this counts as knuckle-conditioning, too, since I’m always on my knuckles.)

 

8). For abs, I just did some crunches.

 

Lying on the floor (doing crunches), ha

 

9). I finished up with some stretching.

 

A few stretches at the end

 

I forgot to take a post-workout selfie, so here’s a screen-shot of one of the times I turned to face the phone:

 

(you get the idea)

 

That was it! This was a fun garage gym session. I got to sweat a little, and the whole thing was pretty instructive, too. I’m not done working with B.O.B. set to this height.

First Favorites of 2018! (January Favorites)

January was interesting… it seemed to go on forever, and yet it was a great month!

Without the usual blathering, may I present some of the “little things” I enjoyed in January:

 

1). The Florida Project

 

 

You may already know how I feel about The Florida Project if you’ve read my “non-review movie review” about it. If you haven’t, and you’d like to, it’s here. We found this to be Just a wonderful film, with the best acting I’ve seen from Willem Dafoe (whose acting I’ve always enjoyed, anyway). I highly recommend it!

 

2). Sumo – January 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament (Basho)

Sumo, Japan’s national sport, is one of my favorite martial arts/combat sports to watch. There’s a Grand Sumo Tournament in Japan every other month, and we watch them all – the “Grand Sumo Highlights,” that is. There are 15 days in the tournament, and we watch each day’s Highlights (on YouTube). Some tournaments are more enjoyable than others. We didn’t much enjoy last November’s tournament, but January’s was amazing… it was probably my favorite of all the tournaments I’ve seen!

Early on in the 15-day tournament, we were impressed with the rikishi Tochinoshin – one of our favorites – when he came out looking like he’d been training hard. We rooted for him to win the championship (Emperor’s Cup), and win it, he did!

For those who don’t know, this is Tochinoshin, the first European to win a Grand Sumo Championship since 1972!!

 

Tochinoshin receiving the Emperor’s Cup (January 2018)

 

Tochinoshin is Georgian. His actual name is Levan Gorgadze.

 

Tochinoshin (January 2018 Grand Champion)

 

 

3). Glitch (T.V. series)

 

 

Thanks to Netflix, we have access to all kinds of wonderful international T.V. series, and this is the latest we’ve started. Glitch comes from Australia with a great cast and an intriguing sci-fi mystery storyline. There are two seasons so far, and we just started the second.

 

On to food…

 

4). Cherry Pie Larabars.

 

Cherry Pie Larabar

 

This is getting predictable, I know. I still enjoy those apple pie Larabars – and all the other ones I’ve written about – but cherry pie Larabars are my favorite-favorite so far. They’re tart and just barely sweet enough to be sweet, if that makes sense. I love cherries, but these bars taste more like cranberries to me. They remind me of this cranberry quick bread recipe someone in my family used to make at Christmas. Very festive, Larabar.

Cherry pie Larabars have three ingredients: dates, almonds, and unsweetened cherries.

 

5). Lifelight meatless pastas (esp. Wild Mushroom Ravioli).

 

Lightlife meatless pasta (esp. wild mushroom ravioli)

 

This month’s favorite processed vegan food discovery award goes to Lightlife for their frozen meatless pastas. My favorite is the wild mushroom ravioli… so flavorful and hearty!

 

6). Baby sweet potatoes.

 

Mini sweet potatoes

 

We found that mini sweet potatoes come out creamy – buttery, even – and delicious after 20 minutes in the steamer. They’re a treat hot or cold!

 

7). Coconut yogurt bowl with berries and seeds.

 

Coconut yogurt with berries, hemp seeds, and chia seeds

 

You may have seen this on Instagram when I posted it recently. I’ve been enjoying plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt with a little bit of light agave nectar, hemp seeds and chia seeds (a heaping tablespoon of each), and whatever berries we have on hand. It’s so tasty and satisfying!

 

Products…

 

8). The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing facial oil.

 

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing facial oil

 

Being that I’m a skin care junkie and a devotee of The Body Shop, I went a little crazy when said establishment had their Black Friday sale a few months ago. I stocked up on some favorites, and I also ordered some new products to try.

I’ve been using these Oils of Life products since the middle of December, so I’ve had some time to decide how I like them. I like them a lot, as in, “I will re-purchase before I run out” a lot. The two products I use are the facial oil (above, #8), and the night cream (below, #9).

I’ve seen mixed reviews of the Oils of Life line. Many reviewers were turned off by the products’ fragrance, saying that they thought the scent was terrible, overwhelming, or both. This seemed to be the number one complaint about this line.

I don’t mind if skin care products are scented as long as I like the scent, and I love sandalwood and other woodsy, warm notes, so the Oils of Life products appeal to me even more because they’re rich with such a fragrance. Oils of Life, to me, smell like a Buddhist temple. Or like a man who smells great. (haha)

That aside, I’m very happy with the way these products work on my skin. I use the oil twice a day and the night cream at night, of course. I put the oil on first, then layer other products over it. I use an overnight mask over the night cream.

(About the pricing: this is The Body Shop, and The Body Shop isn’t drugstore cheap, but it’s not La Mer, either.)

 

9). The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing sleeping cream.

 

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing sleeping cream

 

(See above for the text!)

 

10). Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus extra moisturizing hair detangler (for kids).

 

Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus extra moisturizing hair detangler (for kids)

 

This product for towel-dried hair is just refreshing and pleasant. I found it in the kids’ hair care section at Target.

 

That’s it for January! Onward with the new year.

1st-world disappointment: Sumo’s latest scandal.

Just wondering:

Have you ever spent your eagerly anticipated 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament catch-up marathon rooting for the one competing champion only to discover, more than halfway through the 15-day September event, that he’s since embroiled himself in a scandal that would lead to his announcement of an untimely retirement?

So have we.

It’s hard to hang onto the excitement of rooting for a guy once you know what will ensue after the event.

You don’t really know what happened, though. He may or may not have slammed a beer bottle or a champagne bottle onto the head of a fellow sumo wrestler in a bar, or he may or may not have used his bare hands. He may or may not have followed the initial assault with 20-30 additional strikes that may or may not have included an ice pick, an ashtray, a microphone, or a karaoke remote control. He may or may not have sent the guy to the hospital with multiple injuries, including a fractured skull and leaking cerebral-spinal fluid, which may or may not have been found, during imaging scans, to be indications of old injuries, rather than fresh ones… all of this occurring in the presence of other sumo wrestlers in the group, wrestlers who may or may not have had some involvement, if only verbal, in the incident.

You’re a newer fan of the sport, but you’re aware of past sumo scandals and sumo’s involvement with the Yakuza; the history of shady incidents and cover-ups in the sumo world makes it hard to know what to believe amid various conflicting reports.

So there you are, catching up on September, when you suddenly learn – in the worst of spoiler alerts – that your guy won’t be completing the upcoming November event. Instead, he’ll conclude his honorable career with a sudden exit due to scandal. You’ve only known him to be a gentleman in the sport.

Thus, the sizable hairy underbelly of the sumo world emerges and casts a shadow over your fledgling fandom.

 

(screenshot) 2017 November Grand Sumo Tournament, day 11

 

Despite sumo’s formal traditions and traditional designation as Japan’s national sport, it turns out to be just like any other combat sport – or any professional sport, for that matter.

 

BOB’s first time. (Garage Gym workout!)

First garage gym workout of fall 2017!! I tried out our new Body Opponent Bag (BOB) last Friday. We acquired it just when it got too hot for the garage this year, so I’m glad the long delay is over.

Here’s what I found out about BOB: he’s taller than I remember him to be.

Here’s what I found out about me: I’m shorter than I remember myself to be.

Which I knew, actually. That’s right, Surly Measurement Guy. I stand corrected. (Pun not intended.) The V.A. recently confirmed that you were right: I’m 5′,4″ now.

[For reference, I’m 5′,4″/114.2 lbs – weight as of yesterday]

At his shortest setting, BOB’s got a couple of inches on me. I experimented with the height differential as well as with distance.

Punches are no big deal at his height, but because of his wide base, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands to properly train elbow strikes, as they’re mostly inside-fighting techniques. As evident in the pics below, I didn’t do well with elbow strikes just standing in front of him. I’ll modify for this in the future.

The work-out: I mostly practiced upper-body strikes. I worked in a few kicks, but I didn’t really train lower-body this time. For my cardio warm-up, I ran in place, alternating sets of high knees and those jumping toe-taps (?) (whatever they’re called) on BOB’s base.

This was a 45-minute work-out. I didn’t wear shoes because the mats had been cleaned, but my feet still turned black. Eh. Desert dust… a small price to pay for living in paradise!

 

Superman punch

 

First height observation: My superman punch puts me a couple of inches in the air, so my straight-right lands almost perfectly on BOB’s face.

 

Straight right, aka cross (orthodox)

 

Straight-right (aka cross, if you’re right-handed) from standing.

 

Punch to body

 

Going for a punch to the body. Self-critique: I’d drop my stance a little lower to get my head out of the way. Most people like to hit back when you hit them. If BOB could trade punches, he’d clock me pretty easily in this position.

 

(between rounds)

 

See how I’m kind of knock-knee’d? This is why my lunges suck. I’m always trying to modify the position of my feet in order to get my form right and maximize the benefit of the exercise, but I still have a hard time with range of motion in lunges.

 

Spin punch chamber

 

I practiced some spin-strike techniques; this practice makes for a great exercise in judging distance. Here, it looks like I’m taller than BOB. Optical illusion.

 

Up elbow

 

This is ridiculous. I landed these upward elbow strikes, but you can see that I’m open to all kinds of pay-back shenanegans. BOB’s wide base keeps you from getting inside where elbows are the most useful. I’ll find a way to correct for this.

 

Back elbow chamber

 

This is slightly better; with a back elbow, it’s easier to jump in to close the distance. Back elbows are useful when you want to get out of a close situation you’re losing, though. Like when people elbow others out of the way to get through a tight crowd.

 

Standing stretch

 

I used BOB as a stretching apparatus. I stretched on the floor, too.

 

Stretching (and selfie)

 

Multi-tasking: stretching and mugging for the post-workout selfie.

 

Walking back

 

The walking-back pic. I’m still doing them, I guess!

A word about food: I used to include a post-workout food pic at the end of these posts, and once again, I forgot. There will be lots in the way of food pics this Friday, though, as I’m going to do a food-centric post.

 

Looks like it’s officially off-season in the garage.

Here’s that (promised) status update on the garage gym: it’s not happening this summer. A/C installation, I mean.

We’ve had A/C and insulation professionals come to evaluate the situation, and after looking at their estimates – the total cost of the cooling project – we decided to hold off on it this year. We figured we’ve put enough into the house in 2017, and we still have some costly, out-of-the-ordinary agenda items on the books for the summer. For one thing, we’re going to be chasing that eclipse in August, a pursuit that will take us out of state. Surely some moola will be involved there.

So that’s that! It’s fine, of course. Talk about a first-world problem. We have a roof over our heads and A/C in the house. We don’t take that for granted here in the Valley, where it’s already been so hot that numerous flights had to be canceled this week. We live 10 minutes away (if that) from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, pretty much under the flight path, and it was eerily quiet for a day or two. It was like someone shut off the volume switch in the sky.

There may be a garage gym post yet, though, before October! Certain types of workouts will be safely doable in there if done very early in the morning, workouts that don’t involve much movement. Knuckle-conditioning… I could document a Part 2 of that. Stretching, maybe. We shouldn’t do more than that, even if early. After all, one wall in there is the metal garage door, which transforms the garage into an oven.

Happy Friday, All!

Fight or flight? How about both. (Garage Gym workout!)

On Sunday night, Callaghan commented that it’d been a while since I’d posted a garage gym workout. I checked my planner (in which I track pretty much everything I do). Indeed, it’d been two months since I last documented a garage gym workout.

I did this plyometrics-based martial arts workout in my garage yesterday morning, before it got hot. I did it early, so of course, 10 hours later, the after-effects were setting in; I opted to let my body rest instead of putting it through my normal Monday night kickboxing class at the gym. Not great planning on my part, but I had no regrets!

This morning, I’m mostly feeling the workout in my core, especially in my obliques (side torso part of the core). I feel my legs secondarily. This makes sense, considering my current level of fitness and the techniques I practiced. And it’s good. Something better be sore after a 1.5 hour workout!

As per usual, I didn’t record all the segments of the workout. My warm-up included jump-roping, alternating between regular skips and double-time high knees. I also did some dynamic stretches across the floor (walking knee raises and front stretch kicks). For the main workout, I stuck with basic techniques… nothing fancy (i.e. no spinning moves).

I’ll say it again: I value these recordings because they show me where my form is off. In this workout, I found more need for improvement than usual. For what it’s worth, though, I’m here with the customary pics for those of you who enjoy these peeks into our home workouts! The pics come with my usual disclaimer: I’m not a trainer, and I don’t post the pics with the idea that they demonstrate perfection. They most certainly do not.

Callaghan’s been working out in the garage, too, by the way. Maybe one day he’ll let me post pics of his workouts!

Getting right into it, then…

1). Jump tucks.

 

Jump tucks

 

Since the theme of this workout was plyometrics, aka jumping, I went through some moves like this one.

Jump tucks are done from a stationary position. You squat and jump straight up while tucking your knees and feet up to your body at the top of the jump.

 

2). I have no idea what this move is called. It’s a good core/plyo exercise where you sit back on your knees and then spring up to your feet without using your hands for support. This is not easy, and I definitely need to keep at them.

 

Floor to feet jumps

 

3). Flying knee strike.

 

technique: flying knee

 

I had nothing to actually strike here, so I practiced the technique on an imaginary target.

 

4). Flying punch (“superman punch”).

 

technique: flying punch (“superman”)

 

5). Flying down elbow strike.

 

technique: flying down elbow

 

In case it’s hard to see: it’s my left elbow striking the dummy. My right arm is chambered back for a follow-up, but I’m not sure that this is practical in terms of preparing for a counter-strike. It’s probably not. This is something to keep in mind for next time.

 

6). Jumping front snap kick.

 

technique: jumping front snap kick (land)

 

With this kick and the next, the biggest problem I see is… everything! No, really, I’d have to say that I need to work on gauging my distance, first and foremost. Since I needed the bag to be in the camera frame, I had limited space for running to gain momentum, a fact that in itself provides a valuable training opportunity: in a real-life situation, you can’t control the parameters of your environment. Granted, in real life, I wouldn’t execute this move with limited space. That being said, being able to adjust and control distance is yet a skill I’m working to hone.

 

7). Jumping side kick.

 

technique: jumping side kick

 

Now in this pic, my problem with distance is very clear!

 

8). Post work-out selfie.

 

flying techniques practice DONE

 

A few times in this series of posts, I also posted what I ate following the workouts, and of course there were the silly “walking back” pics. I’m leaving it at this for now.

And that was that! The workout didn’t seem as long as it was… I wasn’t overly affected by the increasing heat of the morning. I kept well-hydrated throughout (always important to do, regardless), and I had the garage door and the back door open for whatever cross-breeze could be had. We’re still researching A/C options for the garage!

The end.

Muay Thai 2 (Garage gym post!)

Surprised to see another garage gym post again so soon? Well, the other day – that would be Friday – our houseguests took off in the morning, and Callaghan went back to work. I could’ve done any number of useful things, but I was feeling better after a couple of days of medical shenanigans, and the garage was just sitting there in the fine spring weather.

I had no plan, so what ended up happening was a Muay Thai workout, because that’s usually the direction I go when I wing it in the garage.

Whatever the case, I recorded my workout again. That’s just the best way for me to see where I can improve. It also allows me to share a few pics with those of you who enjoy these garage gym posts. Thank you for that, by the way!

During the 45-minute workout, I practiced the techniques in haphazard sets, mixing it up at random. Instead of jumping rope, I started with a little resistance-band rowing for a warm-up.

Speaking of which, it’s already getting warm in that garage! This year we must find a way to make it survivable during the hot months.

 

Let’s get this party started.

 

rowing (with resistance band)

 

rowing

 

(dummy migration)

 

lower-body warm up with a little side-shuffling (tentatively, because of my knee)

 

keeping warm

 

round chamber (warmed up and feeling okay)

 

round kick

 

(I was mindful of how I felt during this workout; I wasn’t going to continue practicing a technique if it was causing discomfort.)

 

teep

 

teep

 

(teep pullback)

 

(down elbow dummy set-up)

 

down elbow chamber and throw

 

down elbow

 

(same thing on the other side)

 

down elbow

 

down elbow – sticking it

 

back to the bag for side elbow strikes (this one’s a jump)

 

(That whole move right there should’ve been higher. I didn’t get in close enough, so I missed my target. I cringed when I saw the footage! I threw this strike something like 30 times throughout the workout, and it was all terrible.)

 

side elbow

 

(My ground side elbow was a little better. To be fair, though, it’s hard to get in close on a bag with a base such as this one, especially with my short reach.)

 

back to the dummy for knee strikes

 

(Left side only, since my right knee had just recovered.)

(Also, I would LOVE to have a B.O.B. again, especially for knee strikes.)

 

back to the bag for speed punches

 

(I also practiced power punches and combinations on the bag.)

 

to the floor for stretches (holding a modified plank – active rest)

 

plyo push-up (top)

 

plyo push-up (descending)

 

I finished with speed punches on the dummy, sitting on the floor and stabilizing the upright dummy between my lower legs. That was a good core workout as well as a speed and knuckle-conditioning workout…. the dummy provides a more solid punching surface than the upright bag.

Oh, there’s no “walking back” pic this time. I walked away around the edge, for some reason. But there’s a “walking on” pic at the beginning, so maybe that’ll be the new tradition. Haha.

All kinds of action! (March Favorites!)

A lot (a lot a lot) happened in March. It was busy. It was painful in more ways than one. We lost our Cita, and I’ve been dealing with a medical situation that actually had me incapacitated at one point… both of which occurred in the midst of some home improvement projects we’d scheduled. It was a lot all at once, but we got through it. There were some stellar moments in there, as well, make no mistake! I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to say that I’ve been blissfully pain-free for the last week, I’m back at the gym, and my writing’s going well, albeit slowly.

So in March, the little things that provided pleasant distraction amounted to a whole lot of junk food for the brain. We seem to have something of a Marvel and Shakespearean theme going on in this post, and I also included trailers, which I don’t usually do in “monthly favorites.” Let’s get started!

 

1). Logan (film)

 

 

This well-crafted film features Wolverine at his most human – human in ways that invoke a sort of empathy I wouldn’t expect to feel for a comic book superhero. Apart from a few choice scenes, Hugh Jackman’s character wouldn’t rouse suspicion that he even is a superhero, if you weren’t familiar with his storyline from the previous X-men/Wolverine installments. You might be a bit confused, but I doubt you’d be thinking superhero. This human feature of the superhero protagonist sets Logan apart from other superhero movies and allows it to engage a broader audience than the strict superhero fandom. (Are you counting the number of times I’ve written “superhero” in this paragraph?)

 

 

2). John Wick 2 (film)

 

 

John Wick 2 was the other franchise installment we saw in March. The thing about Keanu Reeves is that his action flicks tend to be slick and over-the-top stylish, with plenty of theatrical embellishment to backdrop the inevitable violence. No one, in my opinion, centerpieces such projects better than Reeves. They seem to be made for him. There’s something Shakespearean about Reeves’ acting that doesn’t always do it for me, but I like the way it works in such films. John Wick 2 offers elaborate, suave eye candy for the eye that appreciates action movies. You don’t need to see the first John Wick in order to escape into John Wick 2. That’s always a plus.

 

 

3). Fortitude (T.V. series)

 

 

Fortitude is a dramatic mystery/horror series saturated with spooky intensity coming largely from its excellent pacing and the stark clarity and loveliness of its cinematography. For one thing, it’s set on the north pole, essentially, in a small Arctic town; you immediately wonder why would anyone want to live here? The sheer intelligence of this series makes it chilling. Pardon the pun.

 

 

4). Legion (T.V. series)

 

 

We started watching Legion, another Marvel-associated production on this list, and now we’re a few episodes behind as we only have so much time and other series have taken priority in the plethora of shows we’re currently watching (i.e., we discovered and got sucked into Fortitude). But we’ll catch up. Honestly, Legion’s acid trippiness kind of wore us down and we needed a break, but I wouldn’t say don’t watch this. I would say, give it a try if you like your T.V. to scramble your brain at the end of a long day.

 

 

5). The Americans (T.V. series)

 

 

It’s the return of The Americans! I just love this series about Cold War-era Russian spies. The plot, as they say, thickens.

 

6). Empire (T.V. series)

 

 

Empire also returned in March, and it’s better than ever, in my opinion. Cookie out-Cookies herself, Lucious continues to surprise without surprising (a paradox that makes his character particularly interesting to me), and the whole shebang continues to invoke Shakespeare. Where the poster says “King Lucious,” I still read “King Lear.” The series actually harkens back to Shakespearean tragicomedy at some turns, as well. Long live Empire!

 

7). Sumo: Grand Sumo Highlights (March 2017 Basho)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The March 2017 Basho (Grand Sumo Tournament) captivated us, too. Seriously, we needed all of this diversion, anyway, but we’re completely entranced with Sumo. We’ve become familiar with the Rikishi (fighters), so it’s fun to note who’s fighting who and cheer on our favorites in the matches. Somewhere in the middle of this spring tournament, I became a particular fan of Terunofuji’s; he’s now tied with Kisenosato as my favorite of favorites.

 

8). Strawberries.

 

Fresh strawberries

 

Because it’s strawberry season, and the strawberries are currently fabulous, we’ve been enjoying fresh strawberries for dessert every night. Strawberries have a fleeting season, so they’re a special treat when they’re this good!

 

9). Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs.

 

Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs

 

Honestly, I’ve been doing well in going lighter on processed foods lately. The fact that Trader Joe’s has these delicious meatless meatballs that find their way into our freezer doesn’t take away from that. Really.

That’s all I’ve got for March!

La Fin.

Medicine Ball – “Let the Good Times Roll” (Garage gym workout!)

How long has it been since I’ve posted a garage gym workout?! I think the last time was actually on a beach, and that would’ve been in November. This is long overdue.

The digs

We gave up on keeping the mat in the garage dust-free. Let’s be real: this is Arizona, where your interior abode gets dusty quickly no matter what you do. A dust-free garage in the desert? Not going to happen. It was a losing battle, especially since we don’t have a lot of time, so we finally bought some cheap, light, and flexible slip-on shoes, which we wear only on the mat. We do sweep the mat and clean it every once in a while, but in between cleanings, footwear is a must.

Disclaimer and apology

Every time I put together a garage gym workout post, I struggle to explain things clearly and then I get to a point where I say to myself, “Self, why do you do these garage gym workout posts when you’re clearly not a trainer and therefore unable to explain how these exercises are done?” (Please to note the former and accept my apologies for the latter.)

The workout

A medicine ball is a versatile and affordable piece of workout equipment, and you don’t need a lot of space when you use it! You can work with a medicine ball for 30 minutes and get a full-body strength and conditioning workout. Ours is 8 lbs, so it’s a lighter one, but believe me… after several sets of each of these exercises, that ball is heavy.

When thinking of which exercises to do, a core and body-weight strength workout came together naturally. Doing stuff with a medicine ball involves a lot of core work, as you have to use your entire body to balance. All of your muscles are engaged. With several rounds of jump rope thrown in for a warm-up, I got some extra conditioning in there, as well.

[Sidenote: it maybe wasn’t a good idea to do this workout on the same day that I had a kickboxing class at the gym!]

I swear I didn’t intend to wear a shirt that says “Let the Good Times Roll” while doing this medicine ball workout. Haha! Get it? Total coincidence.

On with the pics. Thank goodness for the pics; I screenshot the moves at each step to help make up for my lack of ability to explain the exercises.

 

1). Jumping rope (warm-up).

I switched it up during the rounds to avoid boredom.

Jumping rope (medicine ball workout)

Jumping rope (medicine ball workout)

Jumping rope (medicine ball workout)

 

Then I started with the medicine ball:

2). Leaning core twists from horse stance.

Here, I’m leaning on the bag, but I’m not sitting on the base. This exercise strengthens the core (with emphasis on the leg part of the core as well as on the obliques), and it’s usually done against a wall. Using the round punching bag instead allows for more of a stretch, but I only twist as far as I comfortably can while maintaining my stance.

Leaning core twist with medicine ball – starting position (horse stance)

Leaning core twist with medicine ball – holding the ball static in front of my solar plexus while twisting to the side

Leaning core twist with medicine ball – holding the ball static in front of my solar plexus while twisting to the other side

 

3). Burpees with medicine ball.

This exercise involves a squat, a horizontal jump back (with the legs only), a push-up, and a horizontal jump forward (with the legs only), all while balancing your body with your hands pinning the ball to the ground. Then you jump straight up with the ball, land where you started, and repeat.

Burpee with medicine ball – starting position

Burpee with medicine ball – holding upper body firm and pinning the ball down while jumping legs back

Burpee with medicine ball – land in push-up position; do a push-up

Burpee with medicine ball – jump feet back in to starting position (you’ve held the ball firm on the ground this whole time)

Burpee with medicine ball – immediately spring straight up, bringing the ball with you

 

Then you land in the starting position and do it all again, continuously to meet your goal number of reps (I do 3 sets of 10 reps).

 

4). Slam-downs.

This is self-explanatory: you slam the ball to the ground as hard as you can, then catch it and do it again. Be sure to get out of the ball’s way after you slam it down; it will bounce up, and you don’t want eight pounds (or more) of rubber ball smashing your face.

Medicine ball slam-down – top of the move

Medicine ball slam-down – as hard as you can

Medicine ball slam-down – quickly move back to get out of the ball’s way as it bounces up

Medicine ball slam-down – catch the ball; repeat

 

5). Push-ups.

I did both incline and decline push-ups on the medicine ball. Both ways are challenging, but the decline ones are killer: you need all of your core strength to balance in the push-up position and do the push-up with your toes on the ball instead of on the floor. I did them with both feet, then one-legged. I take my time with these push-ups. I have to. It’s not easy balancing on the small, unstable ball!

Incline push-up on medicine ball – top of the push-up

Incline push-up on medicine ball – bottom of the push-up

Decline push-up on medicine ball – top of the push-up

Incline push-up on medicine ball – bottom of the push-up

Decline push-up on medicine ball – left foot on ball (top of the push-up)

Decline push-up on medicine ball – left foot on ball (bottom of the push-up)

Decline push-up on medicine ball – right foot on ball (top of the push-up)

Decline push-up on medicine ball – right foot on ball (bottom of the push-up)

 

6). Under-leg passes.

This is a straight-up ab exercise that is going to be more difficult to explain than it is to do. You basically sit on the floor in sort of a V-position and pass the ball from one hand to the other, back and forth under each leg, alternating the leg lifts to keep a smooth rhythm going. Your legs never touch the ground.

Medicine ball under-leg passes – getting into position

Medicine ball under-leg passes – right leg extended, left leg up with bent knee, holding the ball in left hand and passing it under left leg to right hand

Medicine ball under-leg passes – left leg extended, right leg up with bent knee, holding the ball in right hand and passing it under right leg to left hand

 

7). Hip thrust.

Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, rest the medicine ball on your lower abdomen and push your hips straight up. The resistance provided by the medicine ball’s weight makes this simple move an effective glute exercise.

Medicine ball hip thrust

 

8). NOT PICTURED – Medicine ball swings.

(I film each exercise individually, stopping and starting as I move from one exercise to another, and I accidentally deleted the medicine ball swing part. It’s the exact same thing as a kettlebell swing, but you’re holding the medicine ball instead of a kettlebell.) If you look up “kettlebell swing,” you’ll see what this exercise looks like. I also add to it a little by slightly releasing and catching the ball at the top of the exercise after doing a few warm-up swings.

 

Walking back:

Here’s the usual derpy walking-back pic at the end of the workout. I believe I’m holding the jump rope here, as I finished the workout with a little more jump-roping.

Walking back

 

And of course here’s the post-workout selfie… only I took this one after Sunday’s garage gym workout. I forgot to take one yesterday!

Selfie from the garage gym workout I did over the weekend.

 

La Fin.

Shadow and light: January 2017 favorites!

There were so many “little things” that tripped my trigger (slang I picked up in the army) in January, I almost couldn’t decide which to include in this list. I try not to go beyond 10 because 10 already makes the “favorites” post pretty long.

I enjoy raving about productions I loved watching, and foods I loved eating (usually processed food, but you know that by now, if you’ve been here for a length of time). If I tried any new skin care/cosmetic-type products, I like to share those, too, if I think they’re great and I’m still using them.

So this list is par for the course. As usual, the food items are vegan and tasty (to me, anyway) and not terribly unhealthy nutrition-wise. The products are cruelty-free, meaning “not tested on animals.”

Let’s get into it!

 

1). Passengers (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-passengers

 

Passengers is candy, especially if you’re a fan of sci-fi action thrillers. You’ve got a guy who runs into some bad luck. Because he’s human and he wants to survive without completely losing his mind, he makes a decision that’s not the best for the other person involved… but in the end, the decision saves everyone, because the other person involved is a badass. That other person is played by Jennifer Lawrence, who does badasses pretty well. We were entertained and left the theater feeling like we’d spent a fun two or so hours that were worth whatever the tickets cost.

 

2). Hidden Figures (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hiddenfigures

 

Admittedly, we were lured to watch Hidden Figures partially because Cookie from Empire is in it. That would be Taraji P. Henson. With her versatile talent, she’s great in everything she does, but to me she’ll always be Cookie, just like Jeff Bridges will always be The Dude. Hidden Figures was high on my “to watch” list, anyway, though. I went into it already knowing that while it was a man who first went to the moon, it was a woman who got him there, so I was eager to watch the story unfold… and unfold well, it did. In Hidden Figures, we see the story (of these women and their roles in the historical NASA mission) told with focus on the social climate of the time, exemplifying ways in which segregation hindered progress. If you haven’t already seen this excellent and inspirational film, you may want to add it to your “to watch” list, too.

 

3). 2017 January Grand Sumo Tournament (Honbasho)

Sumo! We’re still obsessed with Sumo; we were thrilled that there was another Grand Tournament in January. Our question is, when will we see more Sumo incorporated into mixed martial artists’ game plans? It’s likely a matter of time before it joins the plethora of martial arts combined in MMA. Sumo is a technically intricate martial art, and it’s the most brutal one I’ve seen yet.

We wanted Kisenosato to win from Day 1 of January’s 15-day basho, and he did!! Behold the champion’s Tale of the Tape:

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-sumorikishi_kisenosato

 

 

4). The O.A. (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-theoa

 

The O.A. was our binge-watch T.V. series of the month. (Thank you, Netflix, for releasing your series’ episodes all at once.) In The O.A., we saw nods to Netflix’ Sense8 and Stranger Things, both, and we enjoyed it as much, which is a lot. If you love a good dramystery (has anyone coined that term yet?) with a sci-fi/fantasy bend, you may enjoy this one, as well.

 

5). This is Us (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-thisisus

 

Speaking of hybrid T.V. genres, here’s This is Us, a brilliant dramedy that captured our admiration and affection right from the start. It can’t be easy weaving hilarity into dramatic (sometimes heavy) scenes and situations, but these writers and actors and directors do it with aplomb. This is Us became an instant favorite of ours.

 

Moving on to products…

6). Burt’s Bees Fabulously Fresh Peppermint and Rosemary body wash.

 

Burt's Bees Fabulously Fresh peppermint and rosemary body wash

Burt’s Bees Fabulously Fresh peppermint and rosemary body wash

 

The scent of this body wash is redolent of a sauna… to my nose, its combination of peppermint and rosemary gives off a very similar rustic, invigorating, and warm aroma. It’s unusual. The first time I used it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. By the end of the shower, I realized what it reminded me of. Now I’m enraptured and I sometimes take two showers a day just so I can inhale this scent. I may have a problem.

 

7). Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm (Red Dahlia).

 

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm (red dahlia)

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm (red dahlia)

 

I added this tinted lip balm to my collection of Burt’s Bees lip products (which is getting slightly out of hand). What can I say? For over a year… maybe two… I haven’t used anything on my lips but Burt’s Bees. The Red Dahlia tint to this lip balm is similar to the Redwood Forest lip crayon that’s my go-to shade when I want more saturated color on my lips. I’ve had the tinted lip balm in Hibiscus, a pinkish shade, for a while now. I love that one, as well.

 

8). Pacifica Alight multi-mineral BB cream.

 

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

 

This one’s a rediscovery: I found my old tube of Pacifica BB cream when I was organizing my life a few weeks ago. I used it the next day and remembered everything I loved about it. Its sheerness leaves a lovely, dewy finish on the skin (not sure how this would work on oily skin types), and it feels like you’re wearing moisturizer. I plan to repurchase this product when I’ve used up this tube.

 

Now for food!

9). Larabar Fruits & Greens (strawberry spinach cashew).

 

Larabara Fruits and Greens (strawberry spinach cashew)

Larabara Fruits and Greens (strawberry spinach cashew)

 

Okay, I found this bar to be strange at first. Like apple cider vinegar water, these particular Larabars were somewhat of an acquired taste for me… but it took just one before I was hooked. This bar gives you fruit, greens, and nuts compacted into a chewy treat that’s slightly sweet, and slightly tart. It’s made of plants and nuts. If you can acquire the taste, you really can’t go wrong with this! I keep one in my bag at all times.

 

10). Trader Joe’s Wild Rice & Mushroom Sausage-less Sausage.

 

Trader Joe's wild rice & mushroom sausage-less sausage

Trader Joe’s wild rice & mushroom sausage-less sausage

 

Trader Joe’s came up with this wonderful plant-based sausage that balances umami (savory) with salty in all its herbalicious glory. We love this stuff. I think there are other varieties of Trader Joe’s veggie sausages; we’re looking forward to trying them out.

That brings us to the end. I’ve already got some things on my list for February!

SHAKA beach workout in Hawaii! Capoeira-inspired! (But still a garage gym post.)

[Edited To Add: Pidgin English ahead! The pidgin words and phrases are in italics!]

It’s Friday! Howzit?!

Essential elements in Sunday’s beach workout: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a partner-in-crime with a willingness to take pics, and a nephew whose photobomb game is hilariously ON. You’ll see da pictures!

Knowing that I was going to miss three workouts while in Hawaii, I intended to slip one in somewhere. When there’s a beach in front of your rented condo, no can work out anywhere else, yeah? I mean, why would you?

Neither could I help but keep it light. No to da max this time. I was on a beach in one of my favorite childhood places, on the Pacific, my favorite large body of salt water. My workout wasn’t hardcore by any means, but whatevahs. “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” – !

Was good fun!

There was no plan other than fo’ do da kine. A little shadow-boxing. I jumped in and went with the flow, and the flow swerved in the direction of capoeira, because, I guess, the setting invited it. You play capoeira… it’s a game, not a fight. Energetically speaking, capoeira makes more sense on the beach than anywhere, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t train in capoeira for very long, but I loved it and still love it. I practice the techniques here and there. Why no do it more often? I should do it more often!

Anyway, enough talking story. Here are just a few pics from my mostly capoeira-inspired beach workout. You’ll notice that I mixed it up with a little Muay Thai:

 

Warming up: squats

Warming up: squats

 

Warming up: lunges

Warming up: lunges

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Burpees

Burpees

 

Sprawl (from burpee)

Sprawl (from burpee)

 

Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs

 

Hanging loose with my nephew!

Hanging loose with my nephew!

 

Front kick chamber

Front kick chamber

 

Bencao (push kick)

Bencao (push kick)

 

Roundhouse chamber

Roundhouse chamber

 

Ginga

Ginga

 

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

 

We had other pics that showed better execution of this esquiva, but I chose this one because HELLO, epic photobomb. (Click to enlarge!)

 

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

 

Spinning back elbow

Spinning back elbow

 

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

 

Push-ups

Push-ups

 

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

 

AH hahaha!! I seriously love my nephew.

 

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

 

(Cringing at my form here… I should be lower, closer to the ground for this one, yeah? Gah.)

 

Resting

Resting

 

I finished the workout with a dive into the water and a 10 minute swim for a little more cardio – I like frog stroke – then floated for a minute to rest. Or, I tried to float. I don’t float well. (I sink.) Regardless, it felt fantastic! Callaghan said he likes this pic because I look like an otter. I suppose this is a compliment of some sort.

 

"Walking off" - ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

“Walking off” – ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

 

All pau! Mahalo for reading.

Muay Thai. (Garage Gym post!)

On Wednesday – at the very last minute – I missed the gym. I made up for it yesterday, though, in the garage, because the heat has now dropped to manageable temperatures. At 95 degrees, it was cool enough to get in a solid workout without creating a heat injury situation for myself, as almost happened last time! I did the workout in the middle of the day, too… had I done it in the morning, it would’ve been quite pleasant.

It’s been a while since I’ve trained Muay Thai, and I was really feeling it, so that’s what I did. I focused on just a few techniques, which I mostly practiced in shadow-boxing. I did work the bag a little with some kicks, punches, and spinning elbows, but not much.

So here we’ve got a whole slew of pics, because I thought I’d include some of my warm-up and stretching. Also, I included what I inhaled ate afterward. I went into the garage when I would usually be eating lunch, so I was famished!

I started with a light warm-up of jogging around the mat, then side-skipping each direction to warm up laterally. I threw hook punches while side-skipping.

 

Warming up (side-skipping)

Warming up (side-skipping)

 

Some agility work in with the warm-up… this is also a lateral exercise, alternately crossing one foot in front and behind the other while moving around the ring.

 

Agility drill

Agility drill

 

From the ground up, I warmed up my major joints in circular movements. Hip rotations are my favorite to do before any combat sport workout; the exercise loosens you up at the core, which helps loosen the whole body.

 

Hip rotations

Hip rotations

 

Next, I did a little stretching, as in, I probably only spent three minutes on it. This is not advisable… stretching is important. I’d usually spend a good 15 minutes stretching, minimum. My entire workout was only 40 minutes long, though, and only 30 of it was actual technique practice… in cooler weather, I’d do a longer workout.

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Then I got started. I spent a minute just moving around in Muay Thai stance so I could get comfortable in the feel of it again – it really has been a while! – before starting on the techniques I wanted to practice.

 

(Muay) Thai stance

(Muay) Thai stance

 

Muay Thai stance is not the same as boxing stance. The difference starts with your hips… your hips face forward in Muay Thai (toward your opponent). You stand taller, keep your guard up higher (and it’s an open hand guard), keep your elbows out a little bit, rather than holding them in tight… and rather than standing rooted, you’re constantly moving your feet, shifting your weight (kind of like walking in place) so you can react quickly with leg techniques. You have to be able to easily lift and maneuver your front leg, especially, to check (lift your leg to guard against) low roundhouse kicks!

The techniques I worked included striking defense, like slipping…

 

Slip to the right

Slip to the right

 

…pulling back…

 

Pull back

Pull back

 

…slipping to the other side…

 

Slip to the left

Slip to the left

 

(already pretty warm at this point)

 

Changing angles

Changing angles

 

Working the teep (front push kick), which can be used in offense or defense…

 

Teep (front push kick)

Teep (front push kick)

 

Some elbow strikes… a lot of elbow strikes, actually.

This one’s the downward chop, a brutal way to get hit (this will cut you). Chambering my right elbow…

 

Downward elbow chop (set-up)

Downward elbow chop (set-up)

 

…and smashing it down.

 

Downward elbow chop

Downward elbow chop

 

Working the low roundhouse defense… this is the leg check. Also, my right hand is up in helmet guard, while my left arm guards in front with palm facing out. With your palm facing out, you can catch and grab kicks.

 

Checking (roundhouse defense)

Checking (roundhouse defense)

 

Jumping in with a flying downward elbow…

 

Flying downward elbow

Flying downward elbow

 

Not sure what was going on here; probably chambering a teep…

 

Teep chamber - ?

Teep chamber – ?

 

Front knee strike…

 

Knee strike

Knee strike

 

(working around to the back)

 

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

 

I just threw a few kicks and strikes on the bag. This is a cross punch…

 

Cross (punch)

Cross (punch)

 

Then down to the MMA dummy for some ground and pound. I also worked elbows on that bag.

 

Ground and pound

Ground and pound

 

Here I was resting, but also taking the opportunity to work my knuckles and forearms a little bit…

 

Resting

Resting

 

That was enough! Getting up to walk back.

 

Walking back (hey, I was wiped out)

Walking back (hey, I was wiped out)

 

I have to say it again: I’m so grateful to have this gym at home. It accommodates a lot in the way of working out.

 

Keeping it on the down low. (Garage gym post!)

Because of the Labor Day holiday, our Body Combat class was cancelled on Saturday and also yesterday. This gave me a great incentive to brave the garage again. Our temperatures have cooled down to the low 100’s, and I wanted to get in at least one workout over the weekend.

I had no plan until I got in there, and then, I don’t know, I guess I saw the MMA dummy and decided to do some random ground conditioning. Maybe I was also inspired by a resurrected memory of wresting in high school when an old friend reminded me about it on Facebook the other day. Fun times!

Some of this workout was inspired by wrestling, some by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve never actually studied the latter;* I used to train in Muay Thai at an MMA gym, where the schedule comprised BJJ as well as Muay Thai, so I had some exposure there. I’ve done some dabbling over the years.

In MMA, you have to deal with people trying to take you down, and you have to try to defend that and defend/escape when they’ve got you on the ground. There’s a lot of core work involved, so a workout like this is great for core strengthening. I did this workout two days ago, and by yesterday evening, my abs and obliques were super sore from top to bottom and side to side. I also feel my traps quite a bit, and, to a lesser extent, my lats. Mission accomplished!

*I’d love to get into a BJJ class somewhere. Next martial art on the list, for sure.

Without further blathering, here are a few snips from Sunday’s workout:

 

–Burpees. Lots of them. They’re a fantastic all-around, whole body conditioning exercise.

A traditional burpee involves doing a push-up from plank position. In the variation I did, the push-up is replaced with a sprawl. Rather than kicking back into plank and doing a push-up, you kick back and land with your hips down on the mat in one fluid motion. The sprawl is a technique done to defend against a shoot, which is a take-down attempt.

 

Burpee pt. 1 - Landing in sprawl

Burpee pt.1 – Landing in sprawl

 

(Didn’t realize that I got so much air until I saw this; I must have had some momentum going from touching down after a jump.)

From the sprawl, you jump your feet back in toward your hands, which are still on the ground.

 

Burpee pt. 2 - Jumping feet in

Burpee pt. 2 – Jumping feet in

 

From there, you jump straight up with your arms overhead, so your whole body is reaching upward. In this workout, I made it a jump tuck, where you curl your lower legs back toward your rear at the top of the jump.

 

Burpee pt. 3 - Leaping up

Burpee pt. 3 – Leaping up

 

Then you land and continue the steps in an endless stream of why am I doing this to myself. Those three steps done in one continuous movement equal one burpee.

–Resting.

 

Resting.

Resting.

 

–I did a few sets of shoulder rolls across the floor somewhere in here, but I didn’t capture pics of them. It’s difficult capturing shoulder roll (or any kind of roll) pics that show anything… with a cell phone camera, at least.

–This next exercise really works the core, including the glutes. From bridge position, reach up and over to the opposite side with your hips off the ground.

 

Reach-overs from bridge to the right

Reach-overs from bridge to the right

 

Reach-overs from bridge to the left

Reach-overs from bridge to the left

 

–Then I did a shrimping drill, where you’re on your back with your knees bent, pushing yourself backward with your legs and rolling over into a V shape on your side before rolling back and pushing off for the next one on the other side.* This works your core and legs. When doing it as an actual technique, it’s a hip escape.

*Apologies for the awkward description. Not my strong suit, describing exercises. THIS IS BECAUSE I’M NOT A TRAINER.

 

Shrimping drill

Shrimping drill

 

–Then I spent some time moving around the dummy, staying low while touching, grabbing, switching directions, et cetera. Just some basic grappling conditioning. This is great for lower body strength.

 

Hello, dummy!

Hello, dummy!

 

Lower body work on the MMA dummy

Lower body work on the MMA dummy

 

Maneuvering around the bag

Maneuvering around the bag

 

Switching direction

Switching direction

 

And here’s the silly but traditional walking-back pic.

 

Walking back

Walking back

 

Totally enjoyed this workout. Totally felt it the next day, and I still feel it! I think my abs and traps are shot for the week.

Functional core-training for combat sports. (Garage gym post!)

PREFACE: Body Combat was canceled on Wednesday, so I thought I’d venture into the garage to do a core-strengthening workout and document it for this category on TALC.

I say “venture into” because it’s been a while since I’ve worked out in the garage. When summer started, I hung in with the heat for as long as I could, and then I tapped out and migrated most of our dumbbells into the house.

It was over 110 degrees on Wednesday at 5:00pm, and it was even hotter in the garage. I opened the garage door halfway and left the back door open. I had a big bottle of water with ice. Still, going out there and doing anything at all was foolish.

THE DISCLAIMER: These posts always come with disclaimers (I’m not a trainer, this post is not a tutorial, etc.), and those all stand for this one, as well, but here’s one really important one that I can’t stress enough: I was reckless in working out in the garage in extreme heat. DO NOT work out in the heat!! Unless you’re doing hot yoga, relegate your workouts to a comfortable, temperature-controlled environment… especially in the desert in the summer.

THE WORKOUT: The core is the body’s center. It covers a large area, pretty much the entire torso – front, back (especially lower back), and sides – as well as the upper legs, hips, and glutes. There are probably hundreds of exercises you can do to strengthen your core, and for myself, I like to change things up frequently.

I also tend to favor exercises that are functionally useful for combat sports, and Wednesday’s core-strengthening workout was no exception.

Here’s what I decided to do:

  • Dumbbell cross crunch
  • Dumbbell bench kick-outs
  • Triangle choke leg raise
  • Reverse lunge to knee strike
  • Crunch with medicine ball throw
  • Dumbbell V-up
  • Kick-throughs
  • Plank hold (2 minutes)

–I defaulted to 8 lb dumbbells for the three dumbbell exercises, because those are the only ones left in the garage besides our 30 lb set.

–The medicine ball I use is also 8 lbs.

–Because of the heat, I only did one set of each exercise (normally I’d do three or four).

That I did this workout in a veritable oven and lived to tell about it is something of a miracle, may I add. I’m not proud of it, either. I nearly met my death by garage cremation; it would’ve been a Darwin Award.

But I’ve got these pics snipped from the workout footage, as usual.

 

1). Dumbbell cross crunch:

 

Dumbbell cross crunch

Dumbbell cross crunch

 

[I’m crunching up and twisting to the left (while punching out diagonally with the right hand) and to the right (while punching out diagonally with the left hand), keeping my non-punching hand up to guard the side of my face. This exercise is great without dumbbells, too.]

My feet are hooked under the 30 lb dumbbells for stabilization. In training gyms, we partner up and hold each other’s feet. Heavy dumbbells are a good substitute.

This works your abs, obliques (sides of the torso), shoulders, and upper back.

 

2). Dumbbell bench kick-outs:

 

Dumbbell bench kick-outs (on MMA dummy)

Dumbbell bench kick-outs (on MMA dummy)

 

[It’s a weird angle, but you can see the red dumbbell between my feet. I’m gripping the handles on the sides of the bag and stabilizing myself with my elbows with my upper body elevated while repeatedly pressing my legs forward and back from a bent position, bringing my knees as close to my body as possible each time.]

Rather than dragging our bench into the camera’s field of vision, I used the MMA dummy. This increases difficulty because the bag is round and therefore unstable.

This works the entire core.

 

3). Triangle choke leg raise:

 

Triangle choke leg raise

Triangle choke leg raise

 

[Stabilizing myself with my arms, I’m keeping my hips up off the floor while quickly switching my feet behind the opposite knee, elevating my hips further while doing the switch and clamping down with the bent top leg. I’m basically alternating my legs while pulsing up with my elevated hips each time. That’s awkward to explain. You can get the idea from the pic.]

Your butt never touches the floor.

This works the entire core, particularly the lower abs, and I also feel this a little in my upper body as I engage my shoulders to keep my arms pressed to the ground.

 

4). Reverse lunge to knee strike:

(This is a two-part exercise.)

 

Reverse lunge to knee strike (lunge - part 1)

Reverse lunge to knee strike (lunge – part 1)

 

[Part 1. I’m taking a deep step back to sink into a lunge, and I’m keeping my lower body facing forward while twisting my upper body to the opposite corner with my arms up and my hands together.]

 

Reverse lunge to knee strike (knee - part 2)

Reverse lunge to knee strike (knee – part 2)

 

[Part 2. In one explosive movement, I’m pulling my arms down diagonally across my body while pulling my rear leg up into a knee strike, pushing my hips forward to drive my knee up high. My arms end up on the outside of my knee.]

This mainly works the quadriceps (front of the thighs), glutes (butt), hip flexors, and obliques.

 

5). Crunch with medicine ball throw:

(Another two-part exercise.)

 

Medicine ball crunch (bottom)

Medicine ball crunch (bottom)

 

[Part 1. Holding a medicine (weighted) ball back behind my head, I’m crunching up as I would doing a standard crunch.]

 

Medicine ball crunch (top)

Medicine ball crunch (top)

 

[Part 2. Getting to the top of the crunch, I’m thrusting my arms straight up to explosively push the ball into the air, then catching it before lowing myself back down to the starting position.]

Again, my feet are hooked under heavy dumbbells for stabilization.

This works the entire core, plus the shoulders.

 

6). Dumbbell V-up:

 

Dumbbell V-up

Dumbbell V-up

 

[Keeping my legs straight and together, I’m raising them at the same time that I’m crunching up my upper body, holding a dumbbell in each hand and stretching my arms up toward my toes before simultaneously lowering my upper and lower body back to the floor.

This primarily works the abs and lower abs, plus shoulders.

 

7). Kick-throughs:

 

Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs

 

[From beast position (all fours), I’m quickly kicking each leg out to the opposite side, keeping my same-side hand on the floor for upper-body stabilization (my left leg is kicking, so my left hand stays on the floor.]

In this dynamic exercise, opposite limbs are coordinated in the movements. The left leg and right arm are in the air while the right leg and left arm are planted on the floor.

This works the entire core, plus upper body.

 

8). 2-minute plank hold:

 

2-minute plank hold

2-minute plank hold

 

[I’m holding a basic plank position on my forearms and the balls of my feet.]

I would normally try to hold this position for 3 minutes, but there was no way that was going to happen in the inferno that was my garage that day.

This works the entire core, plus upper body. Personally, I feel this the most in my upper legs and lower back.

 

And I’m done.

 

Done. Walking back.

Done. Walking back.

 

I had symptoms of mild heat exhaustion by the time it was over… my heart was racing, I had a slight headache, and I was slightly dizzy. My bad decision to do this workout in extreme heat could have earned me a Darwin Award!

It was a good workout, though.

Sjögren’s syndrome and target training (Garage gym post!)

This is a garage gym post, but first I have to tell the backstory of my eyes/vision, since they’re the impetus for this workout.

I returned to my former eye doctor, the one I saw regularly for years. Thanks to him, I now have glasses with the correct prescription. I got single-lens glasses, mainly for driving and watching movies; progressive lenses were overkill since I don’t need to wear glasses all the time.

The disappointing part of the exam was when he told me that my Sjögren’s syndrome is not in remission, as I’d thought it was. I’d stopped seeing my rheumatologist and taking my meds in 2010, and I’ve been feeling better by my own standards, so this came as a surprise. But this eye doctor is the one who’d managed my case insofar as my eye health, so he’s the man where this is concerned.

I’m not going back to my rheumatologist at this time, because I do feel good compared to how I felt before; I’m just following Dr. C’s orders, which are “Prescription use of lubricating eye drops several times a day and before sleeping and after waking up.” (I already do the latter. I can’t keep my eyes open or see anything until I put in the drops. “There you go,” said Dr. C when I told him that. “You still have Sjögren’s. It’s just not as bad now as it used to be.”)

Dr. C’s whole point is that now I have permanent cornea damage because of the Sjögren’s. Turns out that the distortion in my vision is mostly the reason my last prescription seemed so off (though it was indeed slightly off). Dr. C explained that my vision will always be distorted, even with the correct lens prescription. Glasses can help with blurred vision, but not distortion.

The distortion isn’t severe at all, but it’s enough to mean that a). My night vision will always suck, i.e. when driving at night, I’m wont to turn into driveways that aren’t there, b). My depth perception will always suck, i.e. in hand-to-hand combat situations, I’m wont to miss my target and have trouble finding my distance, and c). At the firing range, I’ll have to learn to operate as a cross-dominant shooter (I’m right-handed, but I’ll have to use my left eye as my dominant eye, which it’s not.)

The only point of the above that really matters is the first one, because, you know, it’s useful to be able to drive at night and see what’s where. What’s most disappointing to me is the second point. The distortion in my vision makes it tricky to gauge where I am and where to strike in combat situations, something I’d already noticed in training, but I’d disregarded as “I’m rusty.”

ALL OF THIS TO SAY that I’ve now taped targets onto the punching bag so I can practice for accuracy. I need to train to compensate for my handicap. And that brings me to today’s garage gym workout post.

(The ideal course of action would be to get some target mitts and have someone hold them for me, but I don’t know who I’d ask for that assistance, so tape on the bag, it is.)

I used masking tape to create X targets in three columns around the bag at low, mid, and high levels. I threw combinations and single shots for power and speed, but mainly for accuracy.

 

Let's get into it!

Let’s get into it!

 

Uppercut

Uppercut

 

Spinning back fist

Spinning back fist

 

I had difficulty hitting the targets with my spinning back fists, so I need to work on those a lot more.

 

(Stalking the bag)

(Stalking the bag)

 

Superman punch on the high target

Superman punch on the high target

 

Jab

Jab

 

(Going for angles)

(Going for angles)

 

Backfist transition

Backfist transition

 

Walking back.

Walking back.

 

Anyway, Sjögren’s syndrome is a mere nuisance at this point. I really thought I was done with that crap, but other than my eyes being uncomfortable and red most of the time, I feel just fine. The vision distortion thing is the most annoying aspect in the practical sense, but I’m not complaining. Things used to be a whole lot worse. I’m not going to the rheumy to get put back on Plaquenil, Salagen, and Tramadol. I’m just over here training for accuracy with targets on the punching bag… and spending more money than usual on lubricating eye drops.

The hilarity, insanity, and deliciousness of it all. (May Favorites!)

I’m keeping this short, but it’s very sweet. Clearly, my favorite little things about May were T.V. series, movies, and FOOD.

 

1). Empire (T.V. series) S2 finale: “Past is Prologue”

 

Cookie in Empire's S2 finale (Past is Prologue)

Cookie in Empire’s S2 finale (Past is Prologue)

 

Because this season finale, written by Lee Daniels (who created the show and produces it too, I think), was a fine example of spectacular hysteria. Empire managed to out-shenanigan itself with this one, and we loved it. I mean, just look at Cookie in that outfit!

 

2). Blindspot (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Blindspot

 

 

Because it’s a binge-worthy mystery/thriller/spy show, and we are enthralled. Why did it take us a year to happen upon this one?

 

3). The Nice Guys (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-TheNiceGuys_2016

 

 

Because I would totally see it again.

 

4). Captain America: Civil War (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-CaptainAmerica_CivilWar

 

 

Because I enjoy superhero movies with controversial endings. Personally, this is my favorite of the series. I should’ve written about it on its own, but suffice it to say, I loved this movie.

 

5). SuperStarch (UCAN).

 

SuperStarch (UCAN)

SuperStarch (UCAN)

 

Because, as you may recall I’d written (when I waxed enthusiastic about SuperStarch in this recent Garage Gym workout post), this product is a game-changer.

 

6). The veggie roll at Yogis Grill.

 

Veggie Roll at Yogis Grill

Veggie Roll at Yogis Grill

 

Because usually, I’m lucky if I can get a vegetarian sushi roll at all, much less one that’s anything more than cucumbers and carrots. I can’t begin to describe the deliciousness of the veggie roll at Yogis Grill. It’s plump with avocado, drizzled in sauce, and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and you do not think to yourself, “I’m eating raw cucumbers and carrots wrapped in rice.” Neither do you think to yourself, “I’m eating raw fish.” This is a win-win if you want sushi but you’re a vegetarian or a person who doesn’t like raw fish.

 

7). Cherries (and other stone fruits).

 

Fresh cherries

Fresh cherries

 

Because it’s the season of stone fruits, and they’re my favorites: cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums… if there’s a stone in it, I love it. This 8-lb box of perfect Bing cherries arrived early in May courtesy of my Dad, who went to pick them the day the orchard opened to the public in Brentwood, California. Yes, I’m spoiled.

 

8). Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy ice cream (coffee caramel fudge).

 

Ben & Jerry's Coffee Caramel Fudge - dairy-free

Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge – dairy-free

 

Because coffee caramel fudge is my dream flavor combination, and this one is dairy-free. FULL DISCLOSURE: I had some dairy ice cream a few weeks ago, and I regretted it immediately on all the levels, including the taste level. This concoction of Ben & Jerry’s is to die for. And yes, it’s creamy and rich. DO RECOMMEND.

 

9). Biena Chickpea Snacks with sea salt.

 

Biena Chickpea Snacks with sea salt

Biena Chickpea Snacks with sea salt

 

Because sometimes, I just want a small handful of something tasty, salty, and crunchy… but not nutrient-empty. A serving of these gives you 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber with 0 sugar, 0 cholesterol, 8% iron, and only 4 grams of fat. Oh, and 18 grams of carbs, if you’re concerned about that sort of thing. Anyway, these are nutritious and awesome, and you should try them.

 

10). Eureka! Seeds the Day bread.

 

Eureka! Seeds the Day.

Eureka! Seeds the Day.

 

Because Dave’s Killer Bread is fabulous, but it’s more expensive than Eureka! and honestly, we like Eureka! better. We like its nutrition panel better and its flavor/texture better. Seeds the Day rules.

 

The End.

 

Good times in the garage gym! (Strength-training, SuperStarch, punching bag workout.)

Thing 1: So far, the heat in the garage isn’t bothering or deterring me. This is especially great considering that we haven’t put a fan in there yet. Temperatures have been lingering around the low 100’s and it’s warmer in the garage, but I’ve been keeping the back door open and lifting weights (dumbbells) in there every day. Making progress! New Year’s resolution progress is my favorite kind of progress.

Thing 2: Some friends recently told me about “pre-workouts” – powders you mix with water to make a drink formulated to give you an energy boost during a workout. You know I had to look into this. I forayed into the bewildering world of pre-workouts and decided to try one I thought looked impressive from the view-point of science… and I’m not talking bro-science, either. This is serious nutritional science. You can take the girl out of the scientific research lab, but you can’t take the scientific research lab out of the girl, even if the girl isn’t a trained scientist.

So I ordered some SuperStarch. SuperStarch powers you with carbs, and that’s what caught my attention, being the loyal fan of carbs that I am. This drink is like my dream drink. It’s straight-up complex carbohydrates in a delicious, thick and creamy beverage. 21 grams of carbs. 1 gram of sugar. 70% of your Vitamin C DV. SuperStarch is devoid of caffeine and other stimulants, and the cran-raz flavor that I got is sweetened with stevia, my sweetener of choice. For me, this couldn’t be more perfect!

In case you missed the link above, click here to learn about SuperStarch.

Thing 3: Unholy university graduation traffic prevented me from getting to the gym in time for Body Combat on Wednesday evening, so I did the reasonable thing: I made my way back home, changed my shirt, and went to the garage to work out on the punching bag. I didn’t want to miss a workout, PLUS I’d guzzled the SuperStarch for the first time, and I was eager to test its effects. I had to use the energy somewhere!

I recorded my workout so I could provide a sampling in screen shots:

 

The bag is where I want it. It took almost no effort to get it there. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

The bag is where I want it. It took almost no effort to get it there. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

 

Sparring the bag is a great moving meditation for me.

Sparring the bag is a great moving meditation for me.

 

Straight right.

Straight right.

 

May I just reiterate here that it’s my personal choice to work the bags with bare knuckles. I DO NOT recommend this practice to you or anyone else. Do what you will, but don’t do it because I do it! (I repeat: I am not recommending that you hit things without donning some kind of hand protection.)

 

See – this shot reminds me that I tend to drop my left hand. Like Mayweather. Except I'm not Mayweather, so it would behoove me to keep that hand up.

See – this shot reminds me that I tend to drop my left hand. Like Mayweather. Except I’m not Mayweather, so it would behoove me to keep that hand up.

 

Spinning back elbow.

Spinning back elbow.

 

Muay Thai round kick prep.

Muay Thai round kick prep.

 

Muay Thai round kick.

Muay Thai round kick.

 

Low side kick.

Low side kick.

 

Curved knee strike.

Curved knee strike.

 

Straight knee strike, and now the bag is migrating out of the frame.

Straight knee strike, and now the bag is migrating out of the frame.

 

The bag has migrated out of the frame, but I'm still working it. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

The bag has migrated out of the frame, but I’m still working it. (Hashtag SuperStarch.)

 

Your favorite! The grimy walk back to the camera.

Your favorite! The grimy walk back to the camera.

 

I stopped after 45 minutes of throwing all kinds of combinations on the bag, including speed punches and power shots. I could’ve gone longer. The verdict on SuperStarch? Yeah, it blew me away. I have no basis of comparison (to other pre-workouts), but I killed my workout with this stuff!

And that concludes this edition of Garage Gym Workout chez TALC. Until next time!

Garage gym workout! (Nunchaku practice, because my ninja skills are laughable.)

My plan to do an actual garage gym post turned into a whim masquerading as a garage gym post. By that, I mean that the garage gym shenanigans pictured here actually happened in my office on the spur of the moment.

It’s a nunchaku practice session. I would normally have done it in the garage, but that day last week it was a case of why bother with the hot garage when all I’m going to do is basically stand in one place while I get reacquainted with this weapon. It made sense to do it in the air-conditioned comfort of the house; plus, I was just taking a break from writing.

So it’s not the garage… it’s my office. And it’s not a workout… it’s a practice. Still, it’s martial arts training, which many of you seem to find enjoyable to view. I’m happy to provide!

As you may know, nunchaku are a Japanese (specifically, Okinawan) weapon. Ironically, it’s the only Japanese tradition in my martial arts background, and I never got far with it, unfortunately. That I’m rusty with the nunchaku now is an understatement. I lost track of my last set of practice ‘chuks years ago and I rarely used them years before that, so I can’t even tell you how long it’s been since I’ve last engaged. I recently got this new set online.

 

Your standard 12" foam-covered practice nunchaku

Your standard 12″ foam-covered practice nunchaku

 

I set the camera/phone on the window sill, leaning it up against the glass… just as professional a set-up as in the garage! Haha.

 

Quick glance out the window before grabbing the nunchaku from the corner of my desk.

Quick glance out the window before grabbing the nunchaku from the corner of my desk.

 

My form is poor, I know. Working on it.

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

I warmed up with some basic spinning techniques, but the ‘chuks go too fast to be seen in those, so I didn’t bother picturing them here. Here’s a slow starting helicopter spin…

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

What is up with my hand?! Even transitioning into a block, that looks totally wrong.

Please pardon the hilarious expression on my face in these pics. Let’s just say it’s from concentrating so hard on not knocking myself out.

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

Also, what the hell is going on with my stance??!!!

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Nunchaku_1

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

[**cringing**]

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

I don’t even… why am I leaning back so far??

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

Afternoon nunchaku practice

Afternoon nunchaku practice

 

If this made you laugh, then my work here is done.

So, yeah, slightly embarrassing, but there’s a reason why I’m working on this weapon again. I’ll keep practicing what I know, and I’ll learn some more.

I do have to say that the lighting in here is fantastic compared to the lighting in the garage! Natural light is the best, in my opinion, especially for a weapon like this that’s hard to capture in a recording.

Garage gym session! (Martial arts knuckle conditioning)

Knuckle conditioning for martial arts is a controversial topic. Criticism of the practice smacks of reason (pun intended), mainly claiming that it’s dangerous for the practitioner, it’s unnecessary, and it’s a waste of time.

Still, I do it. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided to include it in this series.* Reiterating for the sake of anyone new here: strength-training is one of my New Year’s resolutions; I learned last year that documenting my resolution efforts has a positive effect. (“Strength-training” now broadened to “any and all manner of garage gym work-outs” as far as documentation goes.)

So knuckle conditioning is “dangerous for the practitioner, unnecessary, and a waste of time.” Why do I do it, then, assuming that the claims are true?

Because I enjoy it.

Because I like knowing that if I have to punch someone in a situation, damage to my hands would be minimized since they’ve been conditioned to sustain impact.

Because I have no aspirations to work as a hand model, anyway.

Here’s a slew of snipped pics from video footage of my latest knuckle conditioning garage gym session. There are probably many methods and apparatuses that people use… in this session, it’s just me and my trusty MMA dummy and a heavy, solid piece of particle board covered in wood veneer (which I’ll refer to as a “wood board” for ease).

Pardon the snipping-tool ghost that appears in most of these images! I’ll make sure to avoid that next time.

Bare-knuckle hard punching on the MMA dummy:

 

Positioning myself.

Positioning myself.

 

I don’t have a rock-solid heavy bag, but the MMA dummy is heavy enough to do the job. Here I’m showing clips of work I did on its ass end, but I work on all areas of the bag. There’s variation in its density from end to end.

Horizontal punches:

 

Right horizontal punch

Right horizontal punch

 

As you can see from the position of my non-punching hand, all of the strikes I threw in this session were chambered punches (i.e. Tae Kwan Do/Karate, as opposed to boxing).

 

Left horizontal punch

Left horizontal punch

 

Vertical punches:

 

Right vertical punch

Right vertical punch

 

I start the set with the dummy close to my body. Each punch pushes it back, but I stay in the same place. This allows for striking at various distances, from close-range to fully-extended punches. I also vary the height of the punches, aiming for low, middle, and high targets. If I wanted to punch at eye-level, I’d lean the bag up against the wall and kneel in front of it.

 

Left vertical punch

Left vertical punch

 

I usually do 5-8 sets of however many punches it takes to push the bag beyond my reach, alternating slow punches with speed punches from set to set.

Next, what I call “knuckle-walking” on the wood board. This is where I “strike” (but nowhere near full-power, of course) the board with my bare knuckles. I do this from a kneeling push-up position.

Horizontal punches:

 

Wood board right horizontal punch

Wood board right horizontal punch

 

This board is an extra shelf from one of our large IKEA bookcases, by the way. They’re not making that particular bookcase anymore.

 

Wood board left horizontal punch

Wood board left horizontal punch

 

I hit the board with each fist alternately, walking my punches from bottom to top and then back down again.

Vertical punches:

 

Wood board right vertical punch

Wood board right vertical punch

 

Wood board left vertical punch

Wood board left vertical punch

 

I’ll also do sets where I twist my wrist from horizontal to vertical as I go. There are many variations on this that keep it interesting, and variations are always beneficial.

One knuckle conditioning exercise I practice regularly is knuckle push-ups, which I do because push-ups flat on my palms are uncomfortable due to my wrist inflexibility.

When I do knuckle push-ups for knuckle conditioning purposes, though, I do them on the wood board. I like to do a slow push-up and hold the position for about 10 seconds at each level:

 

Wood board push-up, bottom

Wood board push-up, bottom

 

Wood board push-up, middle

Wood board push-up, middle

 

Wood board push-up, top

Wood board push-up, top

 

That was all I did in this session. You know I had to include that silly shot of me walking back at the end…

 

Done!

Done!

 

Weather report in the garage: it’s heating up! This session wasn’t unbearable, though. We haven’t deployed any fans yet. For now, I’m just keeping the door open.

*The usual disclaimer applies: I’m not a trainer of any kind, and I do not recommend doing anything in this post without the supervision of a qualified instructor.

Strength-training shenanigans (garage gym workout!)

After dealing with pesky back-to-back viruses that both involved low-grade fever and high-grade fatigue, among other things, I made it back to the garage on Sunday. By then I’d gone to Body Combat twice since recovering, though.

I was determined to make my first garage workout in two weeks a strength-training workout, because that was the whole point of this series of garage gym workout posts: To hold myself accountable for my New Year’s resolution of incorporating strength-training into my weekly conditioning routine. So far, I’ve only done martial arts and general conditioning posts. I like doing a variety of workouts, but let’s face it… it’s time to get down to business here!

I went in thinking I’d do a dumbbell workout, but I ended up mostly using our MMA dummy. I saw it lying there and thought, why not?

 

The MMA dummy has many uses. Today, it's my main strength-training weight.

The MMA dummy has many uses. Today, it’s my main strength-training weight.

 

Do not think for a minute that I picked this thing up and threw it onto my shoulders.

Unfortunately, I can’t entertain you with the maneuverings and contortions involved in hoisting it up there. As usual, I snipped these pics from video footage. The way it works is I set up my camera (phone) in its designated place so the view of the room is the same every time I record. There was no way the MMA dummy operation was going to happen in view of the camera. The dummy weighs 50 lbs (nearly half of my weight), and it’s ungainly. I needed to find something that could assist me, and whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be in the middle of the mat. We’re careful to avoid even wearing shoes on the mat!

Looking around the garage, I spotted the chair near the back door. The chair has arms. I could place the dummy across the arms and then slip my head under it, the way you do with a bar on a rack at the gym! Problem solved.

It didn’t work as easily as I thought it would.

The chair has wheels, so after a few comically failed attempts, I pushed it back against the wall to stabilize it. Then I had to half-squat, half-bend down at an angle to get my head under the dummy. The dummy is wider than the chair is deep, which might be hard to visualize, but you can visualize me crouched over the chair, face-down, like I’m hanging over a toilet throwing up, except on my feet in a deep, twisted squat rather than on my knees, and the top of my head pinned to the back of the toilet and a young St. Bernard sitting on my neck.

(Making things more awkward was the fact that the MMA dummy is wider and heavier on one end, so its weight isn’t evenly distributed from end to end. Like a St. Bernard.)

(The MMA dummy probably isn’t made for this purpose. Again, I AM NOT A TRAINER. I AM NOT AN EXPERT. THIS IS NOT A TUTORIAL. Do not do what I do with my bright ideas.)

Maneuverings and contortions, I’m telling you. It occurred to me to change the position of my feet and pull one end of the dummy down slightly, so it would rest diagonally across the chair’s arms. I held it in place against the back of the chair with my left hand while pulling it down past my neck with my right hand, relaxing my left hand the further I got the dummy down on the right. When I’d inched it down far enough, I carefully backed away from the chair while lowering my body even more, dropping my head, and sliding my hands under and up between my shoulders and the back of the chair and reaching higher to grab the handles behind my head and adjust my stance so my feet would stay rooted under the weight.

Using my knees, I rose up to standing position. The dummy was on my rear delts/upper back, where I wanted it to be. It took at least 10 minutes to get it there, but once it was there, it was fine. By the way, the handles all over this dummy are genius!

I started with legs:

 

Squats on the left, lunges on the right.

Squats on the left, lunges on the right.

 

Then added some back and hamstrings:

 

Upright rows on the left, deadlifts on the right.

Upright rows on the left, deadlifts on the right.

 

Mind you, this MMA dummy isn’t ideal for this kind of exercise, with its weight not evenly distributed and all. I used it for my workout, anyway. Also, the deadlifts were basically a joke because the bag is so bulky that my short self didn’t have far to go between standing and the floor. Yeah… I’ll use dumbbells for that next time.

Chest: Push-ups, using the dummy to elevate my lower body (declines) and upper body (inclines):

 

Decline push-ups on the left, incline push-ups on the right.

Decline push-ups on the left, incline push-ups on the right.

 

Outside of Body Combat, where I do push-ups on my knees to keep up with the pace, I do push-ups with straight legs and my head up, military-style… and I do them very slowly, lowering myself all the way down to touch the floor (or the bag), mindfully working my breathing into the exercise.

I was going to leave it at that, but then I decided to grab some dumbbells, after all:

 

Using the MMA dummy as a bench for dumbbell chest presses.

Using the MMA dummy as a bench for dumbbell chest presses.

 

The MMA dummy does function wonderfully as a bench.

I used 20 lb dumbbells. We’re going to Play It Again Sports to get more in different weights. We want 15 lbs (especially me, for biceps), and we want some heavier ones. The 20 lbs are the heaviest we have at the moment.

Then arms:

 

Bicep curls on the left, tricep skullcrushers on the right (not really skullcrushers if you're not lying down, but for lack of a better term...).

Bicep curls on the left, tricep skullcrushers on the right (not really skullcrushers if you’re not lying down, but for lack of a better term…).

 

Lacking 15 lb dumbbells, I used the 10 lbs for the curls, and an 8 lb dumbbell in each hand for the skullcrushers. That’s a comfortable weight for me to keep good form doing that particular exercise. If I continue this routine, it shouldn’t be long before I can move those up to 10.

I also did forearms (wrist curls, both pronated and supinated), but the move is too small to look like anything on film, so I left it out. (The move is especially small in my case, with my inflexible wrists.)

And here’s the traditional pic (3x = tradition!) of me walking back to stop the final recording at the end of the workout:

 

First garage gym workout in two weeks, DONE. Also, it's getting hot in here, and it's only February.

First garage gym workout in two weeks, DONE. Also, it’s  getting hot in here, and it’s only February.

 

Let’s just take a second to think about the fast-approaching issue of heat. It was about 88 degrees F outside when I did this workout. By the end of the workout, I was uncomfortably hot. It is too early in the year for this. I was hoping to be able to use the garage gym at least through March without feeling the heat, but alas, today is the first day of March, and my mind is already shifting to heat-strategizing mode with that garage. Measures will be taken.

The next day, yesterday, I started to feel everything. I’d done some serious weight-training for the first time in years, and my body was like, WHAT IS THIS.

My abs are sore, though I didn’t do abs. Evidently that 50 lb MMA dummy on my back forced me to engage my core as I did the squats and lunges, so that was good!

My triceps, forearms, pecs, and quads are sore. My biceps, back, hamstrings, and glutes are not sore, because I didn’t hit them hard enough. My shoulders and calves aren’t sore, either, because I didn’t work them. Next time, then!

[ETA: I caught and deleted a second “glutes.” Too much editing can do that.]

I remember how I used to love that post-workout soreness when I was lifting weights regularly. I still love it. And Body Combat felt really good last night! It loosened everything up.

Silent Kiap: Tae Kwan Do techniques (garage gym workout)!

I was sick with weird ear pain on Friday, but I went to work (thinking I wasn’t contagious… sorry, work friends). On Saturday, I felt better and thought I was over whatever it was, so I went to the gym for Body Combat (sorry, gym friends).

**In my defense, I wasn’t coughing yet. Maybe I wasn’t contagious.**

On Sunday, the ear pain was gone, but I felt worse in other ways. I worked out in the garage, anyway, practicing some Tae Kwan Do. There was no one around for me to infect, and I kiaped silently in my head to spare my scratchy throat. Still, I started coughing that night, lost my voice for real, and went to bed with a headache, body aches, and a 100 degree fever. I did not leave the house the next day (yesterday).

Maybe Sunday’s garage gym session wasn’t the best idea.

Be that as it may, I had a good practice session out there, and I recorded it again because that proved to be a great way to spot my mistakes. Also, many of you seemed to like those first two garage gym recording-snip posts, so I thought I’d continue with it.

Here are some of the techniques I ran through on Sunday:

 

Knife-hand block (prep).

Knife-hand block (prep).

 

Not sure why my front foot lifted off the ground before I executed that block. See… if I didn’t record this practice, I wouldn’t have known I did that! I swear, this whole recording business is the next best thing to having an instructor here to correct my form. The mirror helps to an extent, but not as completely as recording my techniques from different angles.

 

Overhead double block – set.

Overhead double block – set.

 

For some reason, I didn’t clip a picture of the block, itself. Next time.

 

Axe kick.

Axe kick.

 

I have a bad habit of dropping one of my arms when executing this kick. I need to work on that.

 

Rising block.

Rising block.

 

Thrust attack with spear hand.

Thrust attack with spear hand.

 

Side kick.

Side kick.

 

Pardon my dirty foot. Also, the shadow under my arm makes it look like I didn’t shave, but I did. Haha.

 

Face block.

Face block.

 

I don’t know what this block is actually called. The move blocks the groin and then the face in one continuous motion, so it’s a down block that becomes a high block as you twist into a deep front stance. It looks something like this at the beginning:

 

Prep for double block.

Prep for double block.

 

Then it becomes this (practicing from a different angle):

 

Transitioning into the block.

Transitioning into the block.

 

Tae Kwan Do is mostly structured and precise, but there are some transitions, like this one, that can be more fluid.

Back to precision:

 

The uppercut.

The uppercut.

 

A Tae Kwan Do uppercut is not the same as a boxing or a Muay Thai uppercut!

 

Punch from back stance.

Punch from back stance.

 

Lots of back stance in this practice session, actually.

Then, as in my first Tae Kwon Do post, here’s a clip of me walking over to the camera to stop the recording:

 

Feint.

Feint.

 

La Fin.

 

Martial arts fitness workout in the garage!

This is something of a New Year’s resolution update post. I said I’d work on strength-training this year. I haven’t started lifting weights yet, but my garage workouts have involved body-weight strength-training – so does Body Combat, for that matter – and that counts!

I’m going to post training updates regularly to share with any of you who might be interested, and also as a way of holding myself accountable for my resolution. I found this worked well last year when I made my resolution to go cruelty-free with my cosmetic and personal care products.

On that note, as I did with my Tae Kwan Do post a couple of weeks ago, I filmed parts of my last garage workout so I could clip some pics! My workout on Sunday morning consisted of the sort of general fitness workout I enjoy the most, which is conditioning geared toward martial arts. The strength-training aspect is significant in these kinds of workouts, though I just realized that the pics I chose don’t reflect that part as much. Go figure.

Before I get started, I have a few cautionary notes in case you want to use this post for workout inspiration:

[**DISCLAIMER** I’m not a certified trainer or a nutritionist, and I don’t claim to be either one. If anyone finds inspiration here, that’s great, and it’s for that reason that I’ll explain some of what I do in these workout posts. If you have health concerns and you’re thinking about starting any kind of fitness program, get medical clearance from your doctor first, just to be safe!]

1). I got started later than I’d wanted on Sunday morning, so I didn’t have breakfast. I had a Larabar and called it good. The simple fruit and nut combination did the job, but I would normally fuel up on something more substantial, and something containing whole grains. Eat substantially several hours beforehand, or eat something light 30-60 minutes before starting. I feel most energized when I have some combination of protein and complex carbohydrates (i.e. peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain bread) about an hour before working out.

2). Stretching was one of the things I did that I didn’t film. It’s important to stretch! Stretch at the beginning of your workout, but don’t stretch without warming up your muscles first. At least jog in place for 5-10 minutes before stretching.

3). You don’t see me drinking water in these pics, either, but I drink water periodically during my training sessions, usually between rounds/exercises. Hydrate regularly throughout your workout, but don’t overdo it. Just a swallow or two of water at a time will suffice.

4). I incorporated some punching into my abs workout, and, as per usual for me, I didn’t wrap my hands or wear gloves of any kind. This is NOT advisable. Wear gloves or at least hand-wraps when punching things. For several reasons, I usually go bare-knuckled when training in the garage. Do not follow my lead here. Protect your hands with wraps and/or gloves (either boxing or MMA) if your knuckles are going to be making contact with solid objects.

5). Also unlike me during this workout, Wear pants that don’t fall down. (Another thing you won’t see in this post: my underwear.)

Now let’s jump in!

 

Cardio. I don’t know what these are called… you hold onto the top of the bag and take quick, continuous, alternating hops, tapping the base of the bag with the ball of your foot each time. It’s like doing the leg part of mountain-climbers, but standing.

 

100 alternating foot hop-ups (or whatever you call them) on the standing bag.

100 alternating foot hop-ups (or whatever you call them) on the standing bag.

 

I like to start a workout with a few rounds of jump rope.

 

Jump rope intervals

Jump rope intervals

 

You can’t see the jump rope as I’m jumping, but it’s there. Jump ropes in motion are the ghosts of workout equipment. They can’t be photographed.

 

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

 

(These pants are weird, by the way. I don’t think I’ll be wearing them again.)

 

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

 

A jump rope is a fantastic piece of training equipment. Jumping rope conditions the entire body, and you can bring a jump rope anywhere and jump anywhere. Just make sure to wear pants that don’t fall down.

 

I stopped to pull up my pants (I hadn't worn these in a while and forgot that they don't stay up!)

I stopped to pull up my pants (I hadn’t worn these in a while and forgot that they don’t stay up!)

 

I practice front and back rolls because they’re fun and they help you to learn how to fall in martial arts situations. Always roll on a padded floor!

 

Coming out of a front roll

Coming out of a front roll

 

Front rolls in all directions

Front rolls in all directions

 

Here I’m doing what I’d said wouldn’t suffice for my strength-training goals – shadow-boxing with weights. It’s actually great if I do it regularly as a component of a complete workout. These are five-pound dumbbells.

 

Shadow-boxing with weights.

Shadow-boxing with weights.

 

“Keep your hands up and your chin down.” ~Golden rule of boxing~

 

Uppercuts with dumbbells

Uppercuts with dumbbells

 

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

 

Keep moving!

Keep moving!

 

Abs! I usually do these toward the end of my workout.

 

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

 

This is great core work. Hold the bag in place with your ankles, crunch up, and punch the bag diagonally to the opposite side. Lower yourself down, crunch up again, and punch with the other arm to the other side. You can do these without a bag, too. The important part is the twisting to punch diagonally across your body at the top of the crunch, as that works your obliques. Using your ankles to stabilize something like this bag works your lower abdominal muscles.

You can make this exercise harder by ditching the bag (have someone hold your feet, or hook your feet under something stable) and holding a medicine ball or a dumbbell as you crunch up. Thrust the medicine ball or dumbbell diagonally across your body at the top of the crunch. Alternate sides and do as many as you can.

To make it even harder, do it without someone holding your feet. In any case, your abs and obliques will hate you the next day, which is what you want.

 

Crunches and punches!

Crunches and punches!

 

Crunches and punches on both sides

Crunches and punches on both sides

 

Don’t forget to keep your non-punching hand up!

 

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

 

Bonus exercise when you’re done with your abs: Plant your foot on the MMA dummy, forcefully kick it down, and immediately jump on it to get in some ground-and-pound!

(Kidding. Unless you have frustrations to work out. Then do it.)

(But make sure your hands are wrapped or you’re wearing MMA gloves. Or both.)

 

La Fin.

 

Garage gym updates and Tae Kwan Do techniques!

Coming back around to the promised garage gym update! Since our initial setting-up in January last year, we’ve made a few additions to the garage to further its transition into a small but functional training space. We also cleared out the relics that came with the garage when we bought the house – old cans of paint and such.

Now we’ve got the basics: 63 square feet of mat flooring (we added a couple of rows of rubber tiles to enlarge the floor), a standing punching bag, an MMA dummy on the floor, a mirror (thanks to Craigslist), a few sets of dumbbells, and speakers (for blasting dub-step, rap, and metal during boxing and Muay Thai training, of course). It’s a great space for the two of us, but as many as four people could train in there at once. Maybe five. Maybe six, depending on what we do. It’s small, but it works.

The South Korean flag still hangs in the corner. When I go in to practice Tae Kwan Do, I’m entering a do-jang  (the Korean equivalent of the Japanese dojo). There’s no music during a Tae Kwan Do session. Because of the quiet and the concentration required, I find that it’s akin to a moving meditation practice. I feel at peace. Perhaps more than anything, the flag carries sentimental value, as my Tae Kwan Do master handed it down to me before he moved out of state years ago.

Another thing – unrelated, but useful – is that I upgraded my phone last week, so now I’m equipped with a camera that’s much better than my old one!

(I’ll be honest… I only upgraded my phone to get a new camera. I was content with the phone, itself, but I wanted to take better pictures, and I didn’t want to invest in an actual camera. I was eligible for a phone upgrade, anyway, so it worked out well.)

So, with this new phone camera, thinking of how I could show what the space can accommodate, I decided to record myself doing a Tae Kwan Do form (hyung in Korean; kata in Japanese – this is TKD, so it’s hyung). I recorded the video on Sunday afternoon and used “pause” and “the snippy tool” to get the slew of Tae Kwan Do technique selfies posted here.

But first, observe the quality difference between my old and new cameras!

Old camera (Samsung Galaxy S4):

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

New camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge):

 

Walking up to start...

Walking up to start…

 

I clipped this shot out of the video, so I’m blurry in movement, but notice the colors! The lighting in the garage was exactly the same in both images, and as per usual, there were no digital shenanigans involved to alter the pics. I’m in love with this camera. The phone part is pretty great, too, and yes, I’m totally raving about a Korean phone in a post about Korean karate. Coincidence.

Without further rambling about cameras and phones, here are a few of the Tae Kwan Do blocks and attacks I clipped from the recorded video:

 

Horizontal front chest block

Horizontal front chest block

 

Double-fisted groin block

Double-fisted groin block

 

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

 

Back fist (prep)

Back fist (prep)

 

(My striking fist did originate from further inside, but it looks awkward at this second of transition… )

 

Jump attack (prep)

Jump attack (prep)

 

Jump attack

Jump attack

 

Block to sides

Block to sides

 

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

 

Finished.

Finished.

 

Note that my feet are slightly too far apart in that finish.  I saw ALL of my mistakes while watching the video and pausing on the techniques, which makes the recording a valuable practice I should continue. You may see more training pics here in the future.  Just a head’s-up.

 

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

 

Anyway, our garage gym figures beautifully into my New Year’s resolution to get stronger. We’re going to add three or four sets of dumbbells to our little collection, so we’ll be able to get in some effective full-body workouts. Gotta love Play It Again Sports! We’re also going to add what we need to keep the space tolerable during the hot months.

2015 Favorites!

Today, instead of “December Favorites,” I’m diving right into my top favorite little things (some not so little!) of the year that just ended. These are my favorites of the favorites… if some of them are from December, you wouldn’t have seen them here before.

If you’re curious or you just enjoy these “Favorites” posts, read on! Here are the things I loved the most in 2015:

1). Favorite cruelty-free skin care products: Burt’s Bees coconut & pear moisturizing lip balm, The Body Shop camomile waterproof eye and lip make-up remover, The Body Shop honey & oat 3-in-1 scrub mask, Lavanila Laboratories The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40 face cream, Tarte Maracuja C-Brighter eye treatment, Alba Botanica Hawaiian facial cleanser pore purifying pineapple enzyme, and Alba Botanica Hawaiian facial scrub pore purifying pineapple enzyme.

2). Favorite T.V. series: Empire, The Affair, American Crime, Better Call Saul, Hannibal, The Good Wife, American Horror Story: Hotel, Jessica Jones, Modern Family, Scream Queens, and Master of None.

3). Favorite films: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, Southpaw, Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of No Nation, Bridge of Spies, Creed, The Revenant, Soaked in Bleach (documentary), and Tyke Elephant Outlaw (documentary).

4). Favorite cruelty-free cosmetics: Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude, e.l.f. Essential volumizing & defining mascara (black), Burt’s Bees 100% natural lip crayon in Redwood Forest, e.l.f. High Definition powder in Shimmer, Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage concealer in Light Neutral, and Flower by Kenzo l’Elixer (perfume).*

5). Favorite foods: Dave’s Killer Organic Bread in 100% whole wheat, Arrowhead Mills organic buckwheat pancake & waffle mix, any natural no-added-B.S. creamy peanut butter, Lara fruit and nut bars, fresh pineapple, fresh artichokes, pasta with garlic and olive oil, and Sting ‘n’ Linger habanero salsa.

6). Favorite random thing: New footwear for the gym… Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes.

7). Favorite random events: Setting up our home gym in the garage, adopting our little girl kitty Nenette, going to Drag Bingo, and plastering my (work) Mac with a Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat Riding a Tyrannosaurus Rex laptop sticker.

2015 Highlights: Outfitting our garage as a home gym in January and adopting Nenette on the 4th of July were definitely high points!

*****

Four images and a video clip:

We’re enjoying our home gym immensely now that it’s not 110 degrees. The heat kept us out of the garage all summer. This year, we have a plan for making the space tolerable during the hot months, so we won’t have to stop training in there for so long.

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

(I’ll go into more home gym detail in a future post!)

Meanwhile, Nenette says, “Don’t breed or buy while homeless animals die. Adopt a pet and save a life.”

 

Stocking stuffers! Nenette laying next to her new wicker ball, hugging her new mousie.

Stocking stuffers! Nenette laying next to her new wicker ball, hugging her new mousie.

 

What really happened to Kurt Cobain? The makers of Soaked in Bleach lay it all out. They don’t draw a conclusion, but the evidence, if it is what they say it is, is damning. This excellent documentary reveals details surrounding Cobain’s death that shocked us, quite frankly. I highly recommend this film, even if you don’t know or care about Kurt Cobain or Nirvana or music.

 


thatasianlookingchick.com-soaked-in-bleach_from_live-metal-dot-net

 

The final episode of Hannibal was glorious…

 

Maybe the most beautiful scene I've ever viewed in a television series. (Hannibal)

Maybe the most beautiful scene I’ve ever viewed in a television series. (Hannibal)

 

And The Affair? Its opening sequence’s images paired with the music and lyrics of Fiona Apple’s song (“Container,” which she wrote specifically for The Affair) become increasingly spooky and suggestive of clues as the story develops. By the middle of Season 2, we found ourselves replaying the opening from time to time, stopping and starting to search the images for answers. It’s haunting. It gives me chills. I love it.

 

 

(Don’t even get me started on Maura Tierney’s great performance, especially when she sings Lucinda Williams’ “Changed the Locks” in S2, Episode 4.)

HOWEVER, if I had to pick just ONE series as my current number one favorite, I’d have to say it’s Empire. If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you’ll love it, too, or you’ll at least see where I’m coming from. And Taraji P. Henson as Cookie is phenomenal.

 

*Kenzo’s perfumes aren’t tested on animals, and I’m glad because this perfume I’m wearing now was a gift. I adore the fragrance. I wouldn’t want it to collect dust.