Best break for my brain: working out. (“My Morning Routine” – !)

Every once in a while, I go to My Morning Routine to peruse the site and gain some life inspiration. I went there today, and it actually inspired this blog post. I know I’ve shared a daily routine (or two) here before, but I don’t think I’ve filled in a morning routine questionnaire from this site. These questions are pretty much the same across the interviewees, but I’ll see different, additional questions thrown in here and there. I included as many of them as I could find in the few interviews that I read today.

 

1). What is your morning routine?

These days, I wake up anywhere from 5:00 to 6:30am, though most often at 5:30am. I take my morning meds/supplements, pour some coffee, open my laptop, and get into my writing.

 

2). How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I started dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing sometime in the last 12 months. The rest of my routine hasn’t varied in years.

 

3). How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

My “dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing” discipline means focusing on my project before filling my mind with anything else of substance. Before, I would multi-task my brain between writing, email, social media, news, and so on. I’ll still scroll through instagram and twitter on my phone while drinking my first cup of coffee, though. I don’t click to read articles on twitter… early in the morning, I’m only there to check for major news headlines and traffic/weather alerts.

 

4). What time do you go to sleep?

Between 11:00 and midnight, usually.

 

5). Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

No.

 

6). Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

I do use an alarm, though my internal clock (aka my bladder) will sometimes wake me up before it goes off. I never use a snooze button.

 

7). How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

If I’m working out that morning, I’ll have breakfast between two and three hours after I wake up. If it’s not a gym morning, I’ll eat four to five hours after waking up. I have the same breakfast every day. Since a month or two ago, it’s been a bowl of plain organic oatmeal (made with water) with light agave syrup and cinnamon. I also have a handful of raw mixed nuts.

 

8). Do you have a morning workout routine?

My morning gym routine is Les Mills Body Pump at the gym. I go three mornings a week.

 

9). Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

Working out is my meditation. The 50 or so minutes of continuous physical activity provide the best break for my brain. For the duration of the class, there are no thoughts in my head. There’s music and there’s someone telling me what to do, and I listen and I do it and that’s it. There’s no room for anything else. I try to stay in the workout, where there’s no thinking involved! If distractions enter my mind, I force them out. This is key to any sort of meditation practice.

 

10). Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I’m bad at checking email. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

11). Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Other than taking my anti-anxiety med and putting on my Fitbit to track the quality and duration of my sleep, no.

 

12). How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

As I’d mentioned above, I usually check instagram and twitter while drinking my first cup of coffee. That’s about 30 minutes after I wake up.

 

13). What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Cleaning Nenette’s litter box and doing my skin-care routine. I water my plants in the morning once a week.

 

14). What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, immediately.

 

15). How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

He usually wakes up at the same time as I do, and we have coffee together in the living room. He makes the bed as a part of his getting ready for work routine, and I make his lunch while he’s doing that. We’re a good team.

 

16). Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

Saturday is the day I’ll wake up at 6:30am, as I usually don’t write before going to the gym that morning. Sundays, I’ll try to sleep in until 7:00-7:30am. I write at different times over the weekend. The routine relaxes.

 

17). On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

No. If I’m not in my home, I don’t write first thing in the morning.

 

18). What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

If I fail to follow my routine, there’s a good reason for it, so it doesn’t impact the rest of my day. Whatever changes occur, my daily task list is always there to guide me through. The important thing is that by the end of the day, I’ve checked off as much of that list as possible.

 

Post-gym, seventh of June, two thousand eighteen.

 

Sorry this pic is so dark! Bad lighting and brownish walls aren’t the best for selfies, or anything else, for that matter.

 

The End.

 

Finding it within. (Fitness update, of sorts.)

We’ve been here before. You’ve heard this from me before, if you’ve been reading my blog for a little while: I want to get more cardio into my life, on different days than my usual workout days. I would love to work out five days per week rather than the four (sometimes three) that I normally do. It’s funny that for all the thinking I’ve done about this, I still haven’t taken action.

I have “reasons,” of course. Time – there’s always something more urgent to do. Transportation – I usually don’t have the car on my “off” gym days, ruling out cardio at the gym. Medical – I’m supposed to avoid the sun as much as possible because of my new medication, ruling out the outdoors (walking, running, hiking). Heat – there’s no A/C in the garage, ruling out jump-roping at home. Space – we have nowhere to put a treadmill, ruling out steady-state cardio in the house.

Being honest with myself, I know that all of these reasons amount to excuses, because there are

Things I COULD do:

1). “No equipment necessary” cardio workouts here in the house.

All I need to do is bypass the thinking about it part and go straight to the GET IT DONE part (favorite motivational motto; thank you, Funk Roberts). My workout subscription (Les Mills On Demand) offers a plethora of workouts along with Body Combat, my cardio workout of choice.

If I didn’t have that subscription, I could go to YouTube and enter “cardio workout” in the space field. My head would spin looking at the list that pops up and trying to decide which workout to try first. There are limited-space workouts, no-equipment-necessary workouts, beginner workouts, advanced workouts, 15-minute workouts, low-impact, high-impact, HIIT, Abs and core, cardio, strength-training, and you name it – all free on YouTube.

When I think about my reasons for not achieving my fitness goal of adding at least one cardio morning to my weekly schedule, I realize that they really are just excuses. I have the tools I need to get it done: Space in a room. A screen. The internet.

The awesome thing is that there are so many different get it done tools. I have one badass friend who incorporated fitness into his week by getting a bike and making a habit of riding it to work.

Maybe you have fitness goals, too, and you’re not meeting them because, like me, (insert your “reasons” here). Your budget doesn’t allow for the expense of a gym membership, for instance. Your life is a huge time-crunch. You feel unwell a lot of the time (I know it’s hard to get motivated when you’re dealing with chronic illnesses or medications that cause nausea, fatigue, pain). You feel overwhelmed by the idea of starting a fitness routine and “failing.” Sidenote: There’s no failing involved when you start a fitness routine. If you miss a day or a week, if you can only do five minutes at a time, if you can only exercise one part of your body, whatever the case may be, you’re still doing something, and that is never a fail.

There really are work-arounds for most obstacles. It’s my belief that if you allow yourself to fall in love with exercise, you’ll find them.

 

Possible mid-life crisis sighting: new glasses?! (+ 1st cardio class on new meds!)

I stepped on my glasses yesterday. They were laying on the ground, on the brick pavement part of our back patio, because I’m a brilliant genius. That’s right. Not just any kind of genius. A brilliant genius. Luckily, I was wearing cloth house slippers. The damage could’ve been worse. My expensive progressive lens sat perfectly unharmed – not even scratched – within frames that were bent like a flimsy wire hanger from the dry cleaner’s.

A few hours later, I headed to my optometrist with hopes that the frames could be fixed. While I was there, I did what people naturally do when they’re in a room surrounded by glasses frames: I checked out the glasses frames.

To my dismay, I found a pair that I really, really liked. The entire room, I lamented to Callaghan, is like the cash register lane where they stock things they know you’ll consider buying just because you’re stuck in line with nothing to do but look at them.

I do not need an additional pair of glasses. I just felt like I needed them. My replacement frames were on order (100% covered by the warranty), and I was still sitting there staring wistfully at the unnecessary glasses frames. Callaghan coaxed me away so we could leave. “Allez, allez! On y va!” He said as he walked away from me, leaving me no choice but to follow him. (Classic French husband move.)

So here’s what I’m thinking: I’ve been waiting for and wondering about and anticipating my well-earned mid-life crisis so much that now, every time I get a wild hair up my ass, I think, could this be it?

Maybe this glasses thing is my mid-life crisis, since it fits the cliché: I have this sudden, strong desire to blow a stupid amount of money on something I don’t need. (“Stupid amount of money on something I don’t need ” converted to U.S. currency = anything more than $25.00, maybe $30.00 if you include shipping and tax.)

If this is it, I’m disappointed. The object of my irrational desire should be something more mid-life-crisis-ish. If this isn’t it, then what will it be, and when? Will I reach the end of my natural lifespan and finally realize that I need a Maybach? I do tend to be a late bloomer.

Totally unrelated because I wanted to post a pic and didn’t know what and I wanted to share this small victory with you, anyway: I have a selfie I took yesterday evening when I came back from Body Combat, significant because it marks the first cardio I’ve done in while.

I mean, okay, it’d only been two weeks since my last Combat class, but it seemed longer. Yesterday was the first time in a long time I could get through class without feeling like it was an exercise in dragging myself through wet cement.

Probably not coincidentally, it was my first cardio workout since starting my new medication. It seems that my new treatment plan is working! Despite side effects, I felt much better in class yesterday, and not just because I held back a little on the hardcore. Before the new medication, each Combat class felt successively more impossible; the last one was a disaster.

 

(02 May 2018 – commemorating my first cardio class since the addition of my new medication! It seems to be working.)

 

This wraps up my eventful day yesterday. Here’s to a year with improved physical condition… and only one pair of glasses.

Medical first-world problem. (Ft. See’s)

My rheumatologist added a med to my treatment plan, and I’ve been having some side effects, mainly on-and-off dizziness and lightedness, muscle fatigue, and mild nausea. I’m also experiencing THIRST, which makes no sense when you guzzle water all day. I drink a glass of water and five minutes later I’m hit with a crazy pang of thirst like I need water NOW and if I don’t get water NOW I’m going to die, as if I hadn’t had water for hours. What else… my appetite is somewhat different. I crave sweet things (which I normally don’t) and salty things (which I normally do) while having no appetite.

If this is it for side effects, I said to myself after a week, then this is nothing. This is easy. I can handle this for a year!

Then Callaghan came home from work yesterday.

A client brought me a gift, he said. I’m giving it to you, he said. He opened his backpack and removed a bag I knew very well. My reaction at the sight of it was instantaneous and visceral. I backed away while yelling: “OH MY GOD NO!!! GET IT AWAY FROM ME!!!!”

As if the bag contained roaches, right? Plot twist: the bag contained a half-pound box of See’s Candies. Furthermore, since I tend to assume the worst when I’m down, I knew that the box would contain mixed nuts and chews, my favorites… AND IT DID. To this, my reaction was: “AAARGH NO I’M DOOMED.”

At least the worst of worst-case scenarios didn’t happen. There were no scotchmallows in the box. Our neighbors would not have to hear me screaming in the street.

Callaghan’s response: “Hahahahahaha!!!! But they’re your fav – ”

“No no no no no!! Thank you, but no.”

“You mean you’re not going to eat them? Haha!”

But he knew that I wouldn’t. I was starting to see the whole thing as a prank.

 

Why. Are these. In the house.

 

I’d lost my taste for sugary sweets ages ago, since I quit eating them. I don’t want to start eating them again. I wasn’t a sugar person in the first place, but there were a few sweets that I’d crave, and the number one thing on that short list was See’s Candies. The dark chocolate scotchmallows were my downfall, as some of you may remember.

So I’m alone in the house with the box of See’s Candies in the kitchen. No, they’re not vegan. This never mattered, because I’d eat them pretending that I didn’t know. My See’s Candies weakness was that bad. 

Since I quit eating sugar, I’ve had no problem avoiding it once it was out of my system. It’s been a non-issue. I don’t even “resist” sugary things. I just don’t want them. Now, THIS. And by the way… See’s Candies aside… it’s just weird to crave something without having an appetite. For me it is, anyway.

Truly, though, I’m very grateful. A lot of people suffer horrible side effects from the medication I’m taking, even at the low dose that I take, and I’m feeling mostly fine in comparison. This See’s Candies “problem” is a new one for me. It’s a medical first-world problem.

 

The silver lining of a bad day is the day after.

This has been a week. I’m sure you can all relate to this: there is no day as good as the day after a really bad day. The great thing about today is that yesterday was a day of epic fuckery such that today can only be better. For one thing, I was able to get to the gym this morning. I couldn’t go on Tuesday or yesterday, so you can bet that today’s workout made an immense difference.

For me, everything about working out makes everything better, even an aspect as simple as setting up whatever area I use. I took this pic weeks ago when a friend pointed out how I always organize my area, with my backpack and water bottle to the left:

 

Organized crime.

 

I took this picture jokingly, but it’s soothing to see it because I see habit, and habit can be a balm. It’s a way of feeling in control; in this case, it’s a healthy way.

This post comes from a place of gratitude. Yesterday is over. Today is a new day. I have yet another doctor’s appointment this afternoon (my third this week) – one of my medical specialists – but this is a good thing. Today’s doctor will be different, and I’m very optimistic that whatever he does, the experience will be the opposite of the one I had on Tuesday. I’m talking about ophthalmology, the only medical specialty not available at our V.A., by the way.

Yesterday, man. There was just something about it. Callaghan had a Very Bad Day yesterday, too, for reasons different than mine. It was awesome that we didn’t get into it despite our equally bad moods!

I’ll try to remember to repeat this mantra on future bad days: tomorrow is a new day. Some sayings make profound sense, and there’s nothing like experience to appreciate a tired old adage as something more than a tired old adage. Everyone is different. It’s good to hone in on adages that help get us through. For me, “things can always be worse” is a good reminder, but it isn’t as reassuring as “tomorrow is a new day.”

 

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.

 

The Fitbit and my sleep progress. (New Year’s Resolution check-in!)

We’re three months into the new year, and usually by now I’ve done some sort of New Year’s resolution check-in post, so I figured why not today.

My resolution to get more sleep has been going okay. I think what’s happening is I’m approaching it in slow steps, starting with setting up the Fitbit that Callaghan gave me over the holidays. (Christmas? Birthday? I can’t remember now, so it’s “the holidays.”) Though I’d resolved to get to bed earlier starting on January 1st, it took me until the end of January to start tracking my sleep. The first time I used the Fitbit to track my sleep (the only reason I wanted it, and the only thing I use it for) was on January 30th.

I haven’t yet made the successful jump from tracking my sleep to actually getting more sleep on a regular basis. It’s been enlightening to see my sleep schedules and patterns in digital display, though, and it gives me an idea of my natural, “before success” sleep schedule.

I set my sleep goal to 7 hrs/night, to start. (Baby steps.) The Fitbit tells you when you’ve hit your goal.

Progress: I’ve been tracking my sleep for 61 days. I hit my sleep goal 8 times out of the 61.

That’s right… I got 7 hours of sleep only 8 nights out of 61, and I know that there’s been a slight improvement. Using the Fitbit has verified that my lack of sleep situation was as bad as I’d thought it was. That’s a start, right? And that, my friends, is the whole point of the Fitbit. It’s going to hold me accountable and make it difficult for me to shrug off the effort.

Looking at the Fitbit’s “benchmark” view, I can compare my sleep to that of other women my age. I almost feel weird about sharing this, but it’s of interest to me in terms of my resolution, so here’s how I compare in terms of the minutes I spend in each of the four sleep stages:

  • Awake:* overwhelmingly less than average
  • R.E.M.: above average almost half the time
  • Light: overwhelmingly within the average range
  • Deep: above average half the time

*About the awake stage, since you may not be aware (I wasn’t, until I got the Fitbit): “It’s normal to see ‘awake’ minutes in your sleep stages; studies have shown a typical adult could wake up briefly between 10-30 times per night. You may not remember waking up since you likely fell right back to sleep, especially if you were awake for less than 2-3 minutes at a time. If you wake up in the morning feeling like you had a restless night, you may notice more ‘awake’ minutes in your sleep stages as compared to other nights.”

My “awake” minutes were much less than average. They only fell within the average range 6 out of 61 nights. Also, half of the time, I got more sleep than average in the R.E.M. and deep sleep stages. The anti-anxiety med I take before going to bed (Klonopin) knocks me out, and I stay out. It’s doing its job. (For reference: I take 0.5mg, and I weigh 115 lbs.)

I haven’t noticed that my more alert mornings correlate logically to the amount of sleep I got, or to the time I’d spent in certain sleep stages. I do notice that it’s harder for me to wake up when I’m in R.E.M. when the alarm goes off. If I’m dreaming when that alarm sounds, I’m groggy for half the day, it seems. I didn’t need the Fitbit to tell me this, though.

Now to ramp up my efforts to get to bed earlier! This is where I start setting an alarm to tell me to get ready for bed. If you see me on social media after 9:30pm, ask me why.

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.

Failing at sleep. (New Year’s Resolution progress.)

Progress, of lack thereof.

Here’s one thing I’ve achieved so far in my 2018 resolution to get more sleep: I’ve acquired a fitness tracker with a sleep component that reviewers online seem to like. At the end of Month 1, that’s all I have to report… because I haven’t really used it yet.

I know.

Callaghan gave the tracker to me for my birthday. I wanted one, I said, because the tyranny of a device might be the only thing that can hold me accountable. I need to be able to look at the tracker every morning and be dismayed.

I dawdled, deciding on the fitness tracker gift a few weeks post-New Year’s. (My birthday is at the end of December.) I charged it and looked at it and said “I don’t have time to figure this out so I’m going to exchange it” and then grudgingly put it on last night, and this morning I was, indeed, properly dismayed – though not surprised at all – to see that I only got 4:58 hours of sleep. I know that it’s pretty much 5 hours, but seeing the number “4” makes it worse psychologically.

Ironically, it took me a little longer to fall asleep with the fitness tracker around my wrist. I could feel it thrumming, and from that and the tingling sensation in my wrist and hand came a sudden panic that the tracker was going to electrocute my brain during the night.

This is good. This is what I need. I’m failing at sleep, and I’m counting on this fitness tracker to deny me of my denial.

Changing an ingrained bad habit is one of the hardest things to do. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have New Year’s resolutions, right? Generally speaking?

Incidentally, I decided to wear the tracker at the gym this morning, just to see. Clearly, I need to do more studying to learn about this device. There’s no way you can burn 852 calories doing a Les Mills BodyPump class, is there? I did nothing else while wearing the tracker this morning. I put it on immediately before picking up my barbell, and removed it immediately after the cool-down. 852 calories doesn’t sound right. The Les Mills website says that you can burn “up to 560 calories” during BodyPump! I don’t know how the tracker is coming up with 852.

That aside (I didn’t get the tracker for actual fitness tracking, though I will wear it to BodyCombat, too, also out of curiosity), I do trust that using the tracker will motivate me to get to bed earlier.

Here’s to the beginning of Month 2!

Cancel your resolutions! (Staying motivated in the new year.)

We’re early enough in the new year that we’re still thinking and talking about our resolutions, or about our decision to not make them, as the case may be.

More than once, I’ve been asked how I keep my resolutions, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on that, for whatever they’re worth.

I’m not a life coach or a psychologist. I don’t have it all figured out. There seems to be no end in sight when it comes to my manner of inadvertently f*cking shit up or making a fool of myself or both, and the last thing I am is the walking picture of contentment, regardless of the (considerable) depth of my gratitude.

But I’m strong-willed when I have the passion to fuel my drive, and I do have a lot of that. In my opinion, that’s most of what we need. It’s hard to stick with resolutions in the absence of passion.

My main advice would be to cancel the resolution if you lose your passion for it. Focus your energy elsewhere! If the resolution is of critical importance, you will come back to it – or it will come back to you – once you’ve given yourself a break from the pressure of it. Sometimes that’s all we need to kick-start our second wind (or third, or fourth, or tenth): a break. Put that resolution down and back slowly away. Don’t hang onto it and worry over it and lament your struggle and your apathy and your “failure.” Just put it aside.

Yes, reverse psychology on your own self works.

If the resolution is not of critical importance, then you didn’t really need it, anyway. Sometimes, the mood you’re in when you make non-critical resolutions isn’t the mood you stay in for the next 365 days. That’s okay. That’s not a failure; that’s a realization.

Some other thoughts regarding staying motivated and not sabotaging yourself in sticking with your resolutions as the new year gets underway:

1). Deadlines hold no power. They really don’t. If you’re the kind of person who gets overwhelmed by the notion of a deadline, then try to relax where that’s concerned. Any progress is still progress. If all you can do today is get out of bed and get dressed, then you’ve accomplished something!

2). Don’t say too much – not to be secretive, but to keep something sacred within. There’s something weirdly empowering about hoarding a goal or an aspiration. Maybe it’s just that if no one knows you’re aiming for it, then no one can ruin it… no one can judge your progress or lack thereof. Having a resolution that only you know about turns that effort into something magical, a secret quest, a journey that you take alone. Share a resolution or two with others, but keep one for yourself. It’s amazing how progress toward your secret goal can help to build your confidence.

3). Helplessness is a mere state of mind. If you feel helpless, tell yourself that you’re not, because needing help and being helpless are two different things. Thinking “I am helpless” is self-sabotage. Thinking “I need help” is not. If you’re capable of asking for what you need, then you’re not helpless… if you need help and you have the wherewithal to ask for it, you’re not helpless. You’re more resourceful than you know, and you have more courage than you know.

4). Your journey is directed by you. You can make your own decisions, own them, learn from your mistakes, and move forward accordingly. When it’s all said and done, you have executive power over your own life.

5). Suffering is a fact of life; it’s a motivator, not an impediment.

 

January 2018 – Here’s to a bright and beautiful new year.

 

Another thing to remember: every week has a Friday, whatever day that may actually be! Again, you can decide what day that is. Revel in it.

 

Yawn. (New Year’s resolutions and such.)

I used to be passionate about making and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Many of you may remember that. I’m kind of blasé about it now, and maybe that’s because I have just ONE resolution for 2018, and that’s only because I’ve already resolved… to get more sleep.

Yawn. (In every sense of a word that can sum up “boring,” ho-hum double entendre intended.)

I’ve been resolving to get more sleep for a long time; 2018 isn’t the first year I’ve re-stated this. There’s only one lifestyle fix I need to make, and this is it. I know that sufficient sleep on a regular basis is essential for optimizing physical health and mental well-being. I know this. 4-6 hours per night just. isn’t. enough.

Waking up later in the morning isn’t an option. I like to be up early. The problem is that I also like to stay up late, and this is what I need to give up. I need to give up late nights. There’s no benefit to me in staying up late.

I’ll keep working on it. Honestly, I don’t know why resolutions are so difficult to keep! New Year’s resolutions, after all, are promises we make to ourselves. Why would I not do everything I can to keep a promise I make to myself? I think we set ourselves up for failure by formally setting resolutions… so I’ll end this here. I’ve said too much!!

 

Sleep is so exciting that only a pic of theatrical lighting and dry ice would do.

 

It’ll be 2018 when I post here again, so Happy New Year to you all… and good luck with your resolutions, whatever they may be!

What I ate on Monday. (Full day of eating!)

To those of you who’ve asked to see this: here’s a full day of eating. (And to anyone else who’s interested, of course.)

May I just say that it was strange spending the whole day stalking my own food with a camera?

I chose Monday so I could track a rest day (no gym).

First:

  • Yes, I normally eat five to six times throughout the day.
  • After dinner, I don’t eat again until later the next morning (unless I’m going to the gym). I like a good fast before I start my day of noshing.
  • I love food and only eat what I enjoy.
  • Other than two cups of coffee in the morning, I only drink water.
  • I’ve cut down on processed foods, but I do eat more of it on the weekends. Even then, I try to keep it minimal and nutrient-valuable to some degree. I avoid deep-fried foods, sugary foods, and empty-calorie foods.

Before I get into the dirty details, I should add that:

  • I take meds and supplements, but the only one I’m mentioning here is my thyroid medication, because that explains why I wait 30 minutes before having coffee in the morning.
  • I drink water all day long, so I didn’t bother to include it in these pics.

Onward, then!

 

Monday, October 9, 2017

5:30am: Alarm. Get up. Take thyroid medication (for Hashimoto’s/autoimmune hypothyroidism) with a full glass of room-temperature water.

(Wait 30 minutes because of the thyroid med.)

6:00am: Coffee (Sumatra is my favorite!) with plain, unsweetened soy milk and a teaspoon of organic coconut palm sugar. (x2 – I have two cups of coffee)

9:30am: Two slices of Dave’s organic thin-sliced 21 whole grains and seeds bread, toasted and topped with creamy natural peanut butter (lots of it!), banana slices, organic hulled hemp seeds, cinnamon, and a light drizzle of organic light agave nectar. Raspberries on the side.

 

Toast with natural peanut butter, banana slices, organic hulled hemp seeds, cinnamon, and organic light agave nectar. Raspberries on the side.

 

1:10pm: Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, fresh sauteed garlic, sea salt, a sprinkle of organic hulled hemp seeds, and a lot of nutritional yeast, aka nooch. (Maybe too much nooch. My blood tests always show that my vitamin B12 is “borderline too high.” B vitamins are fat-soluble, so there’s such a thing as “too high.”) Broccoli on the side. An orange.

With pasta, I like veggies on the side. I’m not the biggest fan of veggies in my pasta.

 

(plus olive oil and sea salt)

 

Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, fresh sauteed garlic, sea salt, a sprinkle of organic hulled hemp seeds, and a lot of nutritional yeast. Broccoli on the side. An orange.

 

After lunch: A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar stirred into a tall glass of cold water.

I’m inexplicably hooked on this. I drink it twice a day, every day, after lunch and again after dinner. It’s weird because I don’t necessarily like the way it tastes, but I love it and look forward to it. It makes no sense. I’ve been drinking it for a year now.

 

Glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

 

3:25pm: A pear.

I have fruit four or five times a day. Since I quit eating sugary sweets about a year ago, fresh fruit has become an ecstatic experience… especially the fruit I eat in the afternoon. Somehow, that one piece of fruit in the afternoon makes my whole body feel energized and alive. It’s amazing.

 

Bartlett pear

 

5:15pm: A bowl of mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (somewhere around 3/4 cup).

I also eat nuts and seeds every day. Sometimes I throw raisins in there, too, but raisins are sweet, and let’s face it… nuts and seeds are wonderful vehicles for salt. They’re also wonderful carriers of trace minerals that we need in our bodies, not to mention other nutrients, a little protein, and a lot of healthy fats.

Examples of trace minerals: magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, iron, copper, etc.

(I’ll never say “no” to raw and/or unsalted nuts and seeds either, though. I do like them. It’s just that salt is my one vice.)

Walnuts! I prefer unsalted walnuts. Anyway…

 

Mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (roasted and salted)

 

8:00pm: We’ve been eating large salads for dinner four to five times per week, and cooked meals for dinner on the remaining nights. On Monday, I made our salad with red leaf lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, thinly-sliced mushrooms, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.

I love red wine vinegar on salads, but my favorite thing these days is just to press some fresh lemon juice over the salad already drizzled with olive oil. With lemon juice, I can really taste and appreciate the flavors of the lettuces and greens.

I didn’t get a pic of the finished salad, but here’s the main ingredient:

 

Red leaf lettuce

 

8:30: Small bowl of blueberries.

 

Blueberries

 

After dinner: A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar stirred into a tall glass of cold water.

There you have it… a smattering example of what I eat on an average weekday rest day.

Let me know if you’re interested in seeing a full day of eating on a gym day, or a full day of eating on a weekend day when I eat more processed foods!

I stepped on a tiny cactus and it was hilarious. (On relationship – and other – articles.)

Yesterday, we were standing on the gravel in our front yard when I shifted my weight and my left foot rolled toward the outside of its flip-flop. It rolled to the left and stuck itself onto a tiny cactus.

 

Foot, meet (camouflaged) cactus.

 

The mishap wasn’t terribly painful. It was a very small cactus, as you can see at the top of the pic, and my feet are pretty dry and callused all the way around. (Apologies if this is TMI.) It was more, you know, that moment you realize that you’ve managed to roll your bare foot onto a cactus. It was more the idea of it.

There was no need for a fuss. I just exclaimed in surprise.

Me: Ah! I stepped on a cactus.

Callaghan: Poor cactus.

I thought his response was hilarious. I laughed, and I thought, he gets me. He may have been kidding, but I shared the sentiment: poor cactus! Granted, I also thought it was funny. But still… this is just us being us. Callaghan knows my sense of humor. (He also knows that my feet aren’t delicate.)

If we were a different couple, the one of us who planted the edge of their bare foot onto a cactus might’ve been miffed when the other responded with flippant sympathy for the cactus. If we read and believe the numerous “relationship” articles people are writing, we might even worry about it. Is our relationship doomed because I stepped on a cactus and he said “poor cactus”?

I’m talking about article titles such as: “10 signs that you’re headed to divorce,” “Signs that your partner might be cheating,” “What your sleep position says about your relationship,” “How to tell if your relationship is toxic to your health,” “5 things men/women hide from their partners,” “10 things he’s thinking when you’re naked,” etc.

Do you ever wonder whether these articles are written to ring alarm bells? Maybe they’re written by divorce attorneys who need clients. Maybe our divorce-rate is higher because we read such articles. I know this is hyperbole on my part. I’m just saying.

Some of the content of such articles may be universally true, but a lot of it isn’t applicable to every relationship… a person is unique, so the anatomy of a relationship is unique. How can these articles apply to everyone?

Generally speaking, I think, reading everything in the news and believing everything we read can give us doomsday ideas. Paranoia. Maybe even self-fulfilling prophesies.

On that note, I’m running late. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Mind as muscle. (Working out: suggestions from a non-professional.)

This is for anyone who’s decided to start working out, has started working out, and is now wondering, “How can I continue to do it?”

I’ve been asked. There’s no single answer. I can suggest, though, that one way to stay committed to working out is to stay interested in working out, and one way to stay interested in working out is to focus – not on other people, and not on yourself, but on what you’re doing.

That’s the key: In order to follow through on your commitment, you have to stay interested.

 

Fire in stone

 

1). Here’s my first suggestion:

Don’t compare yourself to others. 

Those people working out around you? Ignore them.

2). My second suggestion is the one that’s the most important to me, personally:

Focus on the fight in front of you.

Don’t focus on all the fights, all at once. Just on the one directly in front of you right now.

If you balk at the word “fight,” remember that “fight” is a common word, and that most of the time, we don’t use it in a violently combative sense.

Fight cancer, fight fatigue, fight the urge to laugh, fight the impulse to say what you’re thinking, fight for air. Fight for equality and justice and rights, if you’re so inclined. Fight for your family. Fight to defend yourself. Fight to stay alive. Fight back.

Fighting is a mental endeavor, first and foremost.

When someone says, “You have a lot of fight in you,” that’s high praise. It suggests that you’re mentally strong. You persevere. You don’t give up. You’re brave.

Imagine taking that perseverance and bravery with you when you go to work out. Imagine setting small goals to achieve your long-term goal in increments. Each small goal is a fight. Focus on it, and you may find that your interest is held because you’re immersed in a moment that has an end goal.

Fitness goals come from somewhere. They come from your mind. They come about because you’ve thought about them. You had a thought that became a decision that led to the statement “I’m going to work out.”

That’s a testament to your strength, already! You’ve declared that you’re going to work out, and it was your mind that got you over that hurdle. Your mind already did the hardest part, so you can trust it to help you follow through.

What about confidence, though?

I remove confidence from the equation because I don’t consider it to be the means to an end. I would suggest, “Just focus on what you’re doing. Don’t worry about confidence.”

After your workout, you can exult in the confidence you’ve gained knowing that you gave your ALL to that workout.

Your confidence will increase each time, developing gradually as a result of what you’re doing. Eventually, you’ll carry it with you into your workouts without even knowing it. It becomes a force that you can access subconsciously.

Going into your fitness endeavor trying to believe “I’m confident” is setting yourself up to focus on that. Your focus should be on what you’re doing, not on how you think you should be feeling.

My two suggestions are interrelated: If you compare yourself to others while you’re working out, your focus will no longer be trained on what’s in front of you. What’s in front of you is the goal you’re aiming to achieve in that moment. It’s your fight… use it to direct your focus and to keep your focus where it can benefit you the most.

What you never read about the V.A. Health Care System.

Yesterday morning, I went to the V.A. medical center, where I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years… especially over the last few months. I’ve received wonderful care there. I’m a lucky veteran in that I have access to non-V.A. health care, too; I choose the V.A. over non-V.A. as my primary health care resource because I’ve found it to be a better system. In my experience, V.A. health care is superior to non-V.A. health care.

I know why you might be surprised. The media only wants you to know about the bad stuff pertaining to the V.A. health care system. Believe me, if the entire V.A. health care system was BAD, I wouldn’t be going there.

In brief, my experience at the Phoenix V.A. Medical Center has been superb.

In more detail, I prefer the V.A. health care system for the following reasons:

  • The time I have to wait to get in to see the doctor is significantly less.
  • The time I have to spend sitting in the waiting room waiting to be seen for my appointment is also significantly less.
  • The time that I spend sitting with the doctor during my appointment is considerably greater. I get more personal, thorough attention at the V.A. than I’ve ever received at non-V.A. medical facilities.
  • The quality of the care that I receive from doctors (including specialists), nurse practitioners, lab technicians, and administrative staff at the V.A. is better than what I’ve experienced at non-V.A. health care facilities.
  • V.A. doctors order labs and X-rays readily and on the spot. Since the orders are put into the computer system and the labs and radiology are right there under the same roof, I can leave the doctor’s office and go immediately to have the testing done.
  • If other testing needs to be done, the clinic in question contacts me promptly to schedule my appointment.
  • If I prefer an open MRI due to claustrophobia, the V.A. sends me to a non-V.A. clinic that does open-MRIs.
  • Doctors at the V.A. take a precautionary approach; they send orders for in-depth testing if they think there’s even a remote possibility that something of concern is going on.
  • The pharmacy, too, is housed in the same facility. I can procure my new medication in the same visit and go home with it in hand.
  • Lab and radiology test results come back in a fraction of the time it takes to get results and analyses done in non-V.A. clinics.
  • The V.A. has an online portal system that allows vets to access all of their medical records, notes, and lab results. Vets can also contact their doctors and other health care practitioners online via the My Health-E Vet system.
  • The V.A. is merciless in sending appointment reminders in the mail and calling with reminders. (This is a good thing.)
  • If I have to cancel an appointment, the clinic will call to re-schedule – repeatedly, until I’ve been re-scheduled.
  • The V.A. has a seamless phone-in system for pharmacy refills. Refills show up in my mailbox within 8-10 days.
  • The V.A. always asks me whether I’m safe and whether I have a place to live.
  • The V.A. always points me to available resources, should I need them.
  • The V.A. reimburses vets for their travel costs in getting to and from the medical center.
  • The V.A. ensures that vets have the suicide prevention lifeline phone number.

 

 

I could go on with this list, if I had time. I could offer specific personal examples, if I wanted to share details of my medical picture. Suffice it to say that I’m speaking from experience. It’s not just me, either… I don’t know (or know of) any vets using the Phoenix V.A. health care system who have a bad word to say about the health care that they receive within that system.

I’m impressed anew after the outstanding experience I had with my new rheumatologist at the Phoenix V.A. yesterday. (Previously, I’d gone to my former non-V.A. rheumatologist, who’s nevertheless also good.)

Now, at the Phoenix V.A. medical center, I have my primary care physician, my shrink, my doctor at the women’s clinic, and my rheumatologist. They’re all first-rate.

Yes. The best medical care I’ve ever received is at the infamous PHOENIX V.A.

Do non-V.A. health care systems have problems? Yes. Corruption at the highest levels occurs at non-V.A. health care systems, and patients’ risks on the ground can include negligence, poor conditions, poor treatment, scheduling hold-ups and issues, and all manner of malpractice.

I remember a case I’d read about a diabetic man who had the wrong leg amputated. It didn’t happen at the V.A.

I’ve heard about patients contracting varieties of strep and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in hospitals to disastrous effect, but all such cases that reached my attention have happened at non-V.A. medical facilities.

The thing is, non-V.A. health care systems aren’t scrutinized under the glaring political spotlights that blow up the V.A. health care system.

That’s actually another good thing about the V.A. health care system, though: since the system IS scrutinized, problems are addressed with highest priority. When corruption is discovered at the V.A., a gigantic national scandal ensues. The V.A. health care system is suddenly the worst thing that ever happened to veterans… mistreated veterans, poorly treated veterans, and veterans who aren’t treated at all. Action is taken.

Whereas non-V.A. health care system corruption and problems can go unnoticed and unresolved for years.

I’m in no way denying, discounting, or trivializing the horrendous or non-existent treatment veterans have suffered at the hands of the V.A. health care system; I’m not trying to detract from the real problems veterans have experienced with the V.A. I’m pointing out the fact that similar problems exist at non-V.A. hospitals, too, and they aren’t magnified x10,000 in the media. We hear about the V.A. because the V.A. is inextricable from politics. But from what I’ve seen, more veterans are pleased with the V.A. care they receive than not.

Speaking of medical matters, I’m happy to report that I had a great workout this morning. Here’s my gratuitous post-workout gym selfie:

 

Post-workout on a good physical day! I’ve been on a roll. I had five good workouts last week, and I hope to get in five more this week.

 

I am so grateful for my health and for the care I’m receiving at the Phoenix V.A. medical center.

Reiterating just to be clear: I’m not disillusioned about the V.A. health care system and its problems. I wanted to write this post so that somewhere, in some minuscule corner of the interwebs, there’s something positive to be found and read about the V.A. health care system, because it really is, despite its shortcomings, an excellent system.

It’s a shame that although there are many positives, only the negatives are reported. The public eye has been blinded to anything that could be positive about the V.A., which is a lot.

Thank you for reading, if you’ve made it this far.

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.

What I do for skin care. (HINT: SUNSCREEN)

Today, I’m obliging another reader request: a few of you have asked about my skin care routine, so I’ll go into it. First, let me state that as far as products go, there’s no one product that works for everyone – except – and this is a HUGE except – SUNSCREEN.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. I cannot emphasize the importance of sunscreen enough.

After my recent mole-mapping (skin cancer check), the dermatologist remarked that my skin “looks at least 20 years younger than it is, and it’s entirely because of your use of sunscreen.”

Contrary to popular belief, if my skin looks young, it’s not because I’m half-Asian. According to the dermatologist, I didn’t inherit Asian skin. I inherited English skin, which is from my biological father’s side. The key is SUNSCREEN, and also certain behaviors, which I’ll get into in a minute.

First, I’ll continue on about sunscreen, because I’m absolutely fanatical about it, and I believe that all of you should be fanatical about it, too.

(I know I’ve talked about this before. I’m happy to talk about it again. It’s really that important.)

Sunscreen (plus covering up in direct sunlight, but SUNSCREEN SUNSCREEN SUNSCREEN) could save your life. I did “tan” and unwittingly sunburn myself on ski slopes and beaches when I was younger, so I’m already at high risk for skin cancer. There’s nothing I can do about that. It’s like quitting smoking… I quit when I was 23, but the fact is that I’m an ex-smoker, and that puts me at higher risk for lung cancer (than the general non-smoking population). Point being, the damage has been done.

But it’s never too late. We can turn our behaviors around to prevent high-risk from becoming higher-risk and then hope for the best, right? Right.

Moving on to what I do:

Behaviors

  • Wear lots of sunscreen and avoid direct sunlight. I put on sunscreen even if it’s overcast outside, and even if I’m not leaving the house that day at all.
  • Drink a lot of water (for hydration).
  • Avoid alcohol (to prevent dehydration, which leads to loss of skin elasticity and subsequent formation of wrinkles and sagging).
  • Greatly limit consumption of sugar and other simple carbs such as white bread, white rice, white potatoes, and white pasta (simple sugars age your skin from the inside by breaking down skin elasticity and causing inflammation via insulin level spiking, which also breaks down skin elasticity).
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Take certain supplements (I list mine below).
  • I eat more processed food than I should, but I do try to balance my diet with fresh fruit and veggies (for veggies, I mostly prefer greens, cruciferous vegetable, and salads).

Supplements

I take supplements every day. These include the following, which are good for your skin:

  • Vitamin A (collagen production)
  • Collagen (I primarily take it for my joints, but it has the same positive effect on skin)
  • Flax seed oil capsules (omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Green tea capsules (antioxidants)

 

BioCell collagen supplement

BioCell collagen supplement

 

Now for topical skin-care. I like to layer products. As with most everything, you’ll see experts advising this, and you’ll also see experts advising against this. Do what works for you!

Here’s what I do, in order:

Morning

  • Exfoliate
  • Eye cream
  • Mist with water
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen

Night

  • Gentle cleanser
  • Vitamin E facial oil (with serum)
  • Eye cream
  • Mist with water
  • Night cream

(I mist my face with water before putting on moisturizer because moisturizer works by locking in moisture. If there’s no moisture on your skin to begin with, the moisturizer is out of a job, and you’re wasting time and money.)

Once a week: Facial mask

Notes

  • I never rub my face dry. Instead, I press the towel onto my skin in different places, just to absorb the water. Skin hates it when you rub it with a towel. Skin also hates to be bone-dry.
  • I never go to bed with make-up on.
  • I use those white, non-latex triangle sponges for make-up application. I’ll take one and run it under water and then lightly squeeze a tissue around it, so it’s a little damp. I never wash and re-use them… I use a fresh one every time.
  • In sunscreens, I look for a broad-spectrum formula with SPF 30 and the highest concentration of zinc oxide I can find. Every single day. Rain or shine. Going out or not.
  • Any “anti-aging” products I use are from the drugstore. I haven’t ventured into the realm of prescription anti-aging products yet. The drugstore has some good products that aren’t tested on animals, and they’re much more affordable than high-end products, of course. While I have tried some high-end products, I always go back to drugstore products.
  • I keep my face make-up very light; I don’t like to feel my skin suffocating beneath heavy foundation. (<– I’m not sure how valid this concern is, but it’s my feeling for myself.)

Things I should be doing

  • I should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night (still working on it).
  • I should eat less processed food (at least I get in some fresh foods every day, too, as mentioned above).

Now to return to SUNSCREEN.

Here’s the scary thing: I’ve seen people on YouTube sharing their skin care routines, and I’m shocked by how many of them – pretty much all of them – omit sunscreen completely. They go from moisturizer straight to make-up. So while it’s never too late to start using sunscreen daily, I’m especially looking at you, younger people: Start now with the sunscreen. It could SAVE YOUR LIFE, and you’ll preserve your skin in the process.

Have I used enough repetition, caps, and italics regarding sunscreen? Good. My work here is done!

Year in review, looking ahead, and my favorite little things (2016 favorites!)

Happy New Year! I know I probably already said that, but “Happy New Year” again. This is my annual year-in-review/resolutions/favorites of my past year’s favorites post.

1). 2016 was exciting, but I don’t have to be wistful about it because the good things are continuing into 2017.

I’m still heartened with deep satisfaction from the life changes I was able to make in 2016. It was a particularly great year occupation-wise. About this, I can only say that I’m thankful every day to experience the feeling of vitality the luckiest people feel when they wake up driven and eager because they know they’re going to spend the day doing what they love, where and how they love doing it. Any work-related stress I experience is self-imposed, productive stress. I keep thinking this is all a splendiferous dream. I’m aware that I may have to wake up one day, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

Fitness-wise, adding (Les Mills) Body Pump to my workout routine was the best thing I did in 2016. It took me almost the whole year to get here, but I finally did, and I. Am. Loving. It.

The year was rich and rewarding family-wise, too. We spent lovely time with my family (between my brother’s wedding and Thanksgiving), and it was fun ending the year with my sister-in-law and her boys during their longish visit.

One thing we did with them was the annual Phoenix Zoo Lights, which is great, anyway, but so especially awesome with kids!

 

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016

 

With Legoland now open down the way at Arizona Mills (where we also went with the kids), Legos were featured in this year’s Zoo Lights:

 

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)

 

On the darker side of 2016: It was a hard year in terms of our furbabies. It involved upheaval, heartbreak, and a lot of time, effort, and money spent trying to make life good for our kitties. It’s not over, but we’re determined. Our focus at the moment is on healing Cita physically. After that, we can focus entirely on healing her emotionally, with the ultimate goal of integrating her into our household with Nenette… yes, we’re going to attempt that again. We are not going to give up.

We’re already doing what we can to make Cita’s environment as stress-free as possible – putting Feliway (comforting feline pheromones) in her air, and Bach Rescue Remedy in her water – so we’re off to a running start. Reducing her stress is helping her to heal, in general.

2). Looking ahead at 2017, I am:

–Starting out the year with an updated workout routine, doing 3 Body Pump classes and 2 Body Combat classes per week, instead of the other way around. It was time for a change, and my body is loving it!

–Continuing work on alleviating (if not overcoming) my PTSD-related claustrophobia via repeated trips to the sensory deprivation tank.

–Speaking more French at home, since I completely failed last year’s resolution and spoke practically no French.

3). I usually do a “favorites of the past year” list; continuing with the tradition, here’s my list of my favorite of my 2016 favorites!

Favorite Random:

  • Les Mills Body Pump
  • Nature’s Wick Bonfire Nights candle

Favorite Skin care, hair care, cosmetics (all cruelty-free… not tested on animals):

  • Derma e antioxidant natural sunscreen with clear zinc oxide SPF 30
  • OGX Healing + Vitamin E shampoo and conditioner
  • The Body Shop Honey and Oat 3 in 1 moisturising scrub mask
  • The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil
  • The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter
  • e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation (in Sand)
  • e.l.f. High Definition Powder in Soft Luminescence
  • e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

Favorite Foods (all vegan):

  • Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry kiwi)
  • Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread
  • Eureka! Seeds the Day bread
  • Seedless red grapes
  • KIND Nuts and Spices bar (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)
  • Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter
  • Chipotle Tabasco sauce

Favorite Movies:

  • Hush
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hacksaw Ridge

Favorite T.V. series:

  • Orphan Black
  • The Americans
  • Empire
  • The Affair
  • American Horror Story: Roanoke
  • Better Call Saul
  • Bates Motel
  • Stranger Things
  • Black-ish
  • Speechless

That’s it for the wrap-up. Onward!

I went to a big-ass party and this is what happened. (PTSD post.)

We went to a party on Sunday. It was Callaghan’s company’s “holiday soiree.”

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-holidaysoiree2016

 

(I concealed the names of the company and the party’s hosts.)

If the colors on the invitation seem unusual for such an event, it’s because the party’s theme was “early Mardi Gras.” If you didn’t know, Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold. I’m not sure why it was decided to celebrate the holidays as another holiday that takes place in February, but that’s irrelevant. Well… mostly irrelevant.

We donned the requested semi-formal “festive attire” (I wore a red dress because I was feeling the current season… I wasn’t alone in this), and we ordered an Uber.

The Uber took us to BFE (far away from us, in the middle of nowhere) with no discernible civilization around. We were dropped off in a big-ass parking lot. To enter a big-ass tent. Which led us into a big-ass warehouse. In which there was a big-ass party with roughly 800 people, pretty much in the dark, save for spot lighting here and there.

No part of which agreed with my big-ass case of PTSD.

Not only that, but when we walked into the warehouse, the first thing that happened was a few metallic strings suddenly dropped from the air, straight down, and landed with a clatter on the concrete floor, right in front of my feet. Because, you know, Mardi Gras. It was someone’s role to stand on a second-floor balcony and throw beads down in front of people walking in. This surprise INCOMING situation set me more on edge, though I didn’t show it. I smiled and laughed and talked to people, and I enjoyed the excellent band. I enjoyed meeting some of Callaghan’s co-workers and their wives. I did have a good time in some sense. I focused on that. We stayed for four hours, and I was fine.

Here’s the thing: Like everyone with PTSD, I have some known triggers, and I have some random triggers that can come out of nowhere. I went into the party thinking that my introversion would be the issue, but my panic disorder overrode that completely. It would’ve been great if being an introvert was my biggest challenge.

In response to all of this, I’ve decided to book myself an hour in a sensory deprivation tank.

Yes, you read that right. I’m going to strenuously push my limits in the tank – claustrophobia is one of my issues – and that is the point.

I may never be able to enter a room without immediately looking for the exits and other avenues of escape. I may never be able to sit in a room with my back to the door. But that’s okay. That’s my normal, and those behaviors are valuable, so I have no problems there. Meanwhile, though, I would like to work on lessening the impact of some of my known triggers. Coming out of the party with this realization was the gift of the whole thing. I will act on it! I’ll let you know how it goes.

An aside: I have no pics of us or of the party, I’m sorry to say. There were roaming photographers and co-workers who wanted to take pics, so there are some images floating around somewhere… if I get my hands on one and get the permission of the people in them, I’ll post them at that time.

Throw-back poems: “Who Knows”; “Nonni” (+ writing updates)

Updates and more updates! Well, just writing updates, this time.

Update 1: My main project is 46% complete, which isn’t bad considering that November was pretty much a wash, as I knew it would be. Things should progress more quickly now that my calendar is clear of major/time-consuming agenda items. Whew! We got through it. Now back to it.

Update 2: My latest strategy in the war on sedentary lifestyle is to write while standing. At my washing machine. For at least half of my working day, often a little more. Since I’m no longer sitting on my ass all day, said ass has less of a chance of flattening out and widening in the wrong direction over time. You know what I’m talking about. A blob of cookie dough on a baking sheet is round and perky, and then you put it in the oven and it spreads out in the baking process. I’m not hyper-vain, but I don’t see how it can help anything to bake my ass, either. It’s not like I had much of an ass to begin with, so I want to save what I can of it. Moreover, it’s not healthy to sit so much.

Ahem. Onward, then!

In closing, I have some old poems to share with you today, two that were originally published in the 2011 issue of Clackamas Literary Review (Oregon). The pics are dark and murky, but then, so are the poems. Enjoy!

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_cover

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_poem_whoknows

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_poem_nonni1

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_poem_nonni2

 

 

On that note, Happy Friday!

 

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.

Let’s resist talking about each other just for one minute.

Overheard in line at the V.A. pharmacy the other day (for real, not metaphor):

Man’s voice: She looks too healthy and young to be here.

Woman’s voice (sounding snide): She’s probably just picking up for someone else.

I thought: They’re so close, and so loud. They can’t be talking about me…?

[::looks behind::]

[::sees no one but the two people making the remarks::]

And I realized that it really does suck to be talked about literally behind your back within close earshot, regardless of what the people are saying. I would have preferred that they address me directly, if they were so curious. I wouldn’t find that to be rude in the slightest.

When I turned to look at them, they were staring at me. I stared back. The woman’s eyes were cold. In fact, she was glaring. Like I didn’t have the right to be there.

Then the man said, to my face this time, that I looked too healthy to be picking up meds for myself at the V.A. pharmacy.

To which I replied, actually, yes, I’m picking up for myself. (I held up my veteran’s I.D. card, which I had in my hand. It’s required to pick up meds.)

Yes, I’m a card-carrying vet. You don’t believe me? Look. Holding up my I.D. as if I was a cop pulling someone over.

The man said, Whoa! You don’t say!!

A brief conversation about my combat service in the 1990-1991 Gulf War ensued before the pharmacist called my name.

NOTE: I was not offended. I was annoyed that I felt like I had to justify my presence there.

No one should feel that they have to validate their illness to strangers in line at the pharmacy.

No one should have to owe anyone an explanation to correct a record made because of an appearance-based judgment.

No one is safe from scrutiny.

It happens that “too healthy and young” are not hurtful words. I know that. But it was still a judgment based on appearance, and it was dismissive. It carried the insinuation that I was trespassing on sacred ground that belonged to others. Context is important. If you’re in line because you were ambushed during a ground war, it sucks to be dismissed because of how you look.

More often than not, though, people hear outright mean things when they overhear someone talking about them. People say hurtful things about others without caring. I’ve witnessed this kind of assholery; it’s awful.

The thing is, we’re constantly making judgments about others based on appearance. If that’s unavoidable because “it’s human nature”? At least don’t be an asshole.

 

lifecoach

 

When I had active Sjogren’s Syndrome, people actually did say to me, “But you don’t look sick!”

When someone found out that I have Hashimoto’s – autoimmune hypothyroidism – they actually said, “OH but you don’t LOOK like you have underactive thyroid disease.” (This has happened more than once.)

You’ve heard it all before. Invisible illness, blah, blah, blah.

Appearance: young/healthy = CAN’T BE A VET

Appearance: healthy = MUST BE HEALTHY

Appearance: heavier than average = MUST BE A LAZY OVER-EATER WITH NO SELF-CONTROL

Appearance: thinner than average = MUST HAVE AN EATING DISORDER OR A METH ADDICTION

Appearance: not white = MUST BE (insert stereotype associated with the applicable ethnicity)

Appearance: a cop = MUST BE A RACIST, BLOOD-THIRSTY PSYCHOPATH

Appearance: tattoos/piercings/other body modifications = MUST BE A DEGENERATE

Appearance: clean-cut = MUST BE AN UPSTANDING CITIZEN

Et cetera, ad nauseum. And we’re often wrong. We can get in trouble because of it. Remember Ted Bundy?

Most of us hear “Don’t judge a book by its cover” from the time we’re old enough to write a sentence. We know better, and yet we still do it! We are fallible human beings, all of us, by nature. In my opinion, since we’re born with the propensity to f*ck things up, we can at least try to be kind, decent, and respectful human beings.

(I’m sorry to come back to you with another ranty post. I prefer being positive here, but sometimes, there are things I need to say.)

Thank you for reading, as always!

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.

How I manage my mental illness.

I’ve touched on some of this in various posts in the past, but I’ve been asked to share an actual list of tactics I use to maintain my mental health.

First of all, I accept that PTSD and clinical depression are a part of who I am. Mental illness and the management of it are “my normal,” and this acceptance helps a lot.

It also helps to accept the fact that just as there are great days, there are horrible days, and days ranging between the two. Sometimes, all the meds and talk therapy and things on the list below just aren’t enough. When this happens, I try to recognize that “this, too, shall pass,” keeping it all in perspective. (I know that this is so much easier said than done. I can say it easily now, when I’m not at the bottom of the abyss of hopelessness and despair. All we can do is try.)

That being said, here’s my list… things I do to manage my mental illness:

1). I avoid alcohol (with few exceptions).

Alcohol is a depressant. It also counters or otherwise negatively interacts with medications taken for mental illness. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis is never advisable for the mentally ill.

2). I take medication and talk to my therapist on a regular basis.

Meds and talk therapy are basic, first-line tactics of controlling mental illness. It’s critically important to adhere to such a routine and to have my external resources at hand. I regularly visit my doctor at the V.A. hospital, and I know that I always have access to emergency help at a national veterans’ crisis line.

3). I work out and try to eat well (within reason, making sure to maintain a healthy balance).

Exercise heightens our mood by way of its effect on our brain chemistry. It leads to improved physical fitness, which improves our physical health. (For this reason, more and more companies are including gym membership coverage fees in their employees’ benefits packages.) Improved physical health reduces stress and makes us feel more energetic and better about ourselves, in general. Choosing healthier food options most of the time comprises the other half of this picture.

4). I have routines, and I stick to them.

Routines are underestimated and even sneered upon. We like to say that spontaneity is critical to quality of life, and there is certainly something to that, but the fact is that routine can provide us with mental health benefits, too. Routines are valuable. They can be soothing when everything else is chaos. Routines can give us a sense of control and accomplishment.

5). I eliminate toxic factors in my life (to the best of my ability).

The word “toxic” is overused in our current vocabulary (instigated, I suspect, by self-help gurus, but that’s beside the point) – and yet, it captures this point well. In a nutshell, a toxic factor is that which makes us feel badly about ourselves. It’s a negative and destructive force and presence in our lives.

Toxic factors can include situations, places, and/or people and relationships. It’s not always possible to eliminate such factors; when we can’t, we can seek out ways to lessen their negative impact. I recently liberated myself from an utterly demoralizing situation, and that leap hugely improved my mental health and quality of life.

6). I engage my creative energy to the fullest extent possible.

If you have creative juices, let them flow. If you have hobbies, indulge in them. If you don’t have a hobby, get one. Losing ourselves in the physical act of doing something we enjoy goes beyond mere escapism. It often involves honing talents with which we’ve been blessed. The act of doing something physical that requires the creative part of our brains is beneficial to our mental health. There’s a reason why occupational therapy is a part of an in-patient mental illness patient’s prescribed agenda.

7). I have cats.

Connecting with animals on an emotional level and caring for them has proven to be a powerful stress reducer, improving our mental and physical health. Our relationships with our pets can actually extend our lives, improve the quality of our lives, and even save our lives. I can’t think of anything that can compare to cultivating the love and trust of an animal. (I say “animal,” but this applies to birds and fish, too.)

 

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

 

8). I actively express my compassion for others in one way or another, however small.

Example: I don’t have time to physically go and volunteer at homeless shelters, so I choose to do my part by providing with water. I make sure to have one or two small bottles of cold water with me when I leave the house, especially in the hot months.

We buy generic water in bulk, keep the bottles in the refrigerator, and give them to the homeless when we see them on the street or at a red light. (Admittedly, I try to identify those homeless who are vets, though I’ll give water to any homeless person, of course.) Every time, without fail, the person takes the bottle of cold water with visible – sometimes overwhelming – gratitude and joy, which they express in such an open and heartfelt manner that I’m instantly put in empathetic touch with their plight. Water is never an unwelcome thing. The person usually opens it and chugs it immediately.

Kindness is invaluable for the human spirit.

Giving water to drink means and accomplishes much more than giving change or a dollar. Giving water with a smile is an act that says, “I recognize that you’re a human being and deserving of this basic, life-saving thing. Someone cares about you and your well-being.” I don’t think it’s necessary to explain how showing compassion to the needy can be anything but beneficial to all involved.

9). I set goals for myself and plan things to anticipate.

I believe I devoted an entire blog post to this. Having agenda items to look forward to is a pleasurable thing. It can also, in the worst of times, give us a reason to keep on keeping on.

10). I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. (Still trying. Still mostly failing. But still trying).

This can’t be stressed enough: Adequate sleep and quality sleep are important for optimal physical and mental health and well-being.

11). I count my blessings and nurture my relationships with loved ones.

One word: Gratitude.

Being grateful for what we have – and who we have – is an incredibly powerful reminder that things could always be worse.

 

Keeping it real.

Keeping it real.

 

That sums it up: In addition to acceptance, meds, and professional talk therapy, I manage my mental illness by working on physical health, stress reduction, and gratitude. I try.

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!

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.

 

“Do not go gentle into that good night” (Thoughts on trolls, suicide, Robin Williams)

In any given human interaction scenario, there’s that proverbial line. Once you cross the line, you’ve entered the land of excess. You’re beyond. I think that as humans, for the sake of decency, we make efforts to not go there. We don’t want to offend.

Conversely, there’s a sub-species of human who regularly and deliberately crosses the line, a sub-species that evolved out of the masses somewhere in the mid-90’s when the World Wide Web opened for business and ushered us into a new dimension of existence. Suddenly, we could hang out in the ether. No one could see us, but we were there. And we had keyboards. They had keyboards… they of the sub-species whose raison d’être is to go there, into the beyond. Those with a propensity to offend could now do it in the most cowardly fashion: Invisibly. At some point, someone started calling them “trolls.” The name stuck, and the verb form quickly followed. Trolling is now a behavior that’s as common-place online as annoying ad pop-ups you have to “click to close” before you can read what’s on the page.

Trolls are everywhere. It’s just a fact of the internet that nothing is sacred to them. I know this, but still, I was aghast at their comments on articles about Robin Williams’ death (if I may use that event as an example). As a reader, I saw that as crossing the line of all lines. When trolls unleash their misdirected anger in the comments section of an article about someone’s death, they’re so far beyond that I can’t begin to comprehend it.

Maybe it’s naïve of me to expect nothing less from trolls who spend their days seething under the bridges of the interwebs, but really? Robin Williams committed suicide in an apparent state of confusion and despair. He was a fellow human being, an artist who devoted his career to making us laugh and using his acting gifts to enrich our collective human experience with the depth of his dramatic performances.

We now know that Robin Williams suffered with Lewy Body Dementia and a couple of other, related neurological diseases. His depression was likely a by-product of LBD, but what if he didn’t have LBT? What if he was simply, clinically depressed, as everyone assumed at the time of his suicide?

Disdain for those who commit suicide* confounds me.

Within our legal system, we have a mechanism by which murderers are shuttled away from incarceration. We informally call it the “insanity plea,” and those who use it can take up residence in a medical facility instead of in prison… because to be determined to be too mentally unfit to stand trial is to be recognized as suffering with a medical condition.

Given this, I often wonder why the murderer of one’s self doesn’t deserve that same consideration. Why do we judge the deceased who took their own lives? Why does the church refuse to bless a soul that died deliberately? The act of suicide comes from a place of inner chaos, whether from clinical depression or from neurological disorders such as those that Williams experienced. Regardless, to be in this state of despair is to be mentally unfit. If a criminal can escape prison due to being mentally unfit, why can’t a person who committed suicide also be spared? Why can’t we acknowledge the fact of mental illness and let the dead rest in peace?

 

Works of two of my favorite poets (of the many who've committed suicide).

Works of two of my favorite poets (of the many who’ve committed suicide).

 

You can’t explain such concepts to trolls. They can’t be reasoned with, but you can reason with others. You can explain how it’s offensive to speak of the deceased as being selfish, pathetic, immature, “a loser,” etc. Many of us say such things. “Suicide is cowardly and selfish. It’s the easy way out that only hurts those left behind.” In my opinion, if we’re into Political Correctness, we should deem it un-P.C. to speak unkindly of those who commit suicide.

Suicide is only tragic. 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and do we speak of them with disdain? No. For the most part, we understand that P.T.S.D. (whether from military experience or from other traumatic events) and depression go together. We reserve our disdain for civilians… but suicide is suicide. No one who commits suicide is mentally fit at the time of the act.

Trolls who emerge to spew their vitriol in the comments section of article about people who committed suicide – such as Robin Williams – are the worst, as far as I’m concerned. They’re gleeful to have this excuse to rant about politics, religion, etc. They want their hatred to be heard, and they’ll use any occasion to achieve that.

The fact is that trolls are the cowardly ones… not the victims of suicide. (This is not at all to say that those who judge suicide victims are trolls.)

People who commit suicide can no longer avoid “going gently into that good night.” Let’s honor their bravery in fighting it, rather than looking down on them for dying.

 

*****

*Please note that I don’t include extremists in my definition of suicides.