I went to a step class. (Fitness updates!)

I did a step class on Sunday morning because I wanted to add another group fitness workout to my workout week. It had to be cardio (preferably kickboxing; definitely not Zumba),* and it had to be on Sunday morning. I combed the schedules for all of my gym’s Phoenix locations and found the Sunday morning “Step Plus Abs” at a location as near to my house as my regular gym. Yay!

Turned out that the class title on the schedule is a misnomer, as there are no Abs in “Step Plus Abs.” It’s just Step Plus. The instructor let me know at the beginning that it was “advanced” step.

I’ve taken step before, but I went to Sunday’s class assuming that I’d forgotten how to do it. I was right. The only familiar moves were “basic right” and “basic left,” so BASICALLY I remembered nothing.

The first person I saw when I walked in was a woman I recognized from Body Pump, who asked whether I’d ever done step, to which I replied, “Yeah, but it was a really long time ago.” She smiled mirthfully and said, “You’ll be fine, then.” I answered with “We’ll see!” while looking into the future and seeing myself clueless. Because when I say I did step “a really long time ago,” I’m talking about 25 years ago, as in, decades ago. 25 years ago, I was 25 years old. 25 years is long enough for me to forget how to do step.

The class was kind of fun. Weirdly enough, I worked up a decent sweat (not Body Combat-level sweat, but enough to roll down the sides of my face), but I still had a full tank of gas at the end of it. I was breathing normally. I was speaking effortlessly. I felt like I’d exerted no energy at all. How is it possible to sweat and also feel fresh and energized after a workout? I didn’t feel anything the next day, either. My muscles gave no indication that I’d moved my body in ways it’s not used to moving. I felt nothing.

It wasn’t a challenging cardio workout for me, but it was still cardio. Any cardio is better than no cardio! I kept going with step-knees and step-kicks when I got totally lost, so I did maintain continuous on-and-off-the-step movement for 50 minutes, or whatever it was.

I’ve decided that I’m going back to that Sunday morning step class because:

  • There’s no regular Sunday morning kickboxing class at any of my gym’s locations
  • Step isn’t high-impact, but it’s a sweat session nonetheless
  • It’s easier getting myself to a group fitness class than onto a treadmill
  • Step class amounts to some crazy-ass agility training

Agility training is an important component of fitness, I feel, and step class is nothing if not that. The instructor had us skittering all around the step bench and up across it every which way with intricate footwork in complicated patterns and switching directions and feet straddling the bench and turning and turning back and up the step and down the step and now do the same thing on the other side and so on and so forth. There’s choreography, and it’s fast. There’s terminology, and you have to know it. Your brain has to be fully engaged in order to keep up.

Step is sweat-inducing physical and mental agility, and totally different from what I normally do.

I’d still like to find a morning kickboxing class somewhere in the week, though! (And not on a Body Pump day!) I’ll keep looking through the group fitness schedules for my gym’s nearby locations, in case anything changes.

In lieu of a pic relevant to this post, please enjoy this ridiculous pic from the day my hair freaked out after I washed it and it ended up complimenting my t-shirt.

 

Basking. [18 Jan 2019]

The End.

*I’m not dissing Zumba. It’s just not something I’m interested in trying right now.

 

 

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Finding the fury. (Fitness post)

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

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

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

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

Thus, my best cardio workouts are fueled by rage.

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

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

 

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

Happy Friday Eve, everyone!

 

 

Cold virus! New Reacher novel! But mainly… (Garage gym workout!)

It’s a good thing I got this garage gym workout done on Monday, because I woke up sick on Tuesday, and that was the end of my workout week. This particular virus bypassed my nasal passages and went straight for my throat. Whether I go to Body Pump this Saturday remains to be seen… if I’m coughing to the slightest degree, I’ll consider myself contagious and stay home. Gym friends: you’re welcome.

This is the first cold virus I’ve caught in over five years, as the last one was when we were living in France. It’s been even longer since I’ve had a sore throat! Rumor has it that my susceptibility’s increased courtesy of methotrexate. Luckily, the misfortune timed itself perfectly with the release of Lee Child’s new Reacher book, Past Tense, which I’m enjoying immensely. It’s already one of my favorite Reacher novels, and that’s out of Child’s entire (substantial) body of Reacher literature! Incidentally, I love that there’s reference to sumo in one of the fight scenes. I love a lot of things about this novel, but this is a garage gym post, so I’ll leave it at that.

For my first garage gym workout of fall/winter 2018, I kept it simple and followed a Body Combat workout from Les Mills On Demand. It was simple because it was a no-brainer; my favorite thing about a group fitness class is that someone tells you what to do, and you simply do it.

I recorded the workout track by track and crunched most of the sample pics together into frames in the interest of saving space.

Also, apologies for the terrible lighting! I tried to brighten the pics, but there was little payout in the effort. I’m in the shadows and the inadequate golden glow of a light bulb. I had to position myself where I did because I needed the mirror, though I switched directions a few times. I did my post-workout stretching near the open back door, though, so the lighting is better in those pics. I didn’t feel the need to brighten them.

All that said, here’s an idea of what you do in Les Mills Body Combat (cardio kickboxing). I tried to capture screenshots showing a range of the sorts of techniques applied in this high-intensity cardio workout:

 

[punches: jab, cross, hook, uppercut]

[defense: slipping, weaving]

[from Muay Thai: downward elbows]

[cardio/constant movement: dynamic stance, plyo, cross jacks, scissors]

[dynamic balance: repeating round kicks]

(My balance while doing these is terrible, by the way. Working on it.)

 

[from MMA: shoots (wrestling take-downs)]

[propulsion knee to push kick in two separate moves with the same leg]

[roundhouse chamber and kick – sorry about the incomplete kick pic!]

[from Tae Kwan Do/karate: blocks]

[from capoeira: escapes, ginga, front kick from ginga]

[from Tae Kwan Do/karate: back and side kicks]

[post-workout stretching and staring at the camera]

Body Combat is a great cardio workout, and I love the wide representation of martial arts styles integrated into it. I’m still getting acquainted with Les Mills’ On Demand offerings… I’m thinking I might try other LMOD workouts and record them, too.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado:

 

 

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

1). Dumbbell Burpee Snatches.

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (1)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (2)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (3)

 

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

 

2). Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (side)

 

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

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (front)

 

3). Side to Side Rotational Lunges.

 

Side to Side Rotational Lunges

 

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

 

4). Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (pronated)

 

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

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (hammer)

 

5). Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (start)

 

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

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (press)

 

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

 

6). Predator Hops.

 

Predator Hops

 

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

 

7). Ab Walk-Outs.

 

Ab Walk-Outs (mid)

 

Ab Walk-Outs (extended)

 

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

 

8). Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (bottom)

 

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

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (top)

 

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

 

Dying.

 

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

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

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

 

Back in the gym! (Autoimmune B.S. notwithstanding.)

Today, I feel the need to report that I went to the gym this morning. It felt momentous and amazing, even though I haven’t missed that much… I just missed last week Thursday and this week’s Tuesday and Wednesday. Today felt momentous even though I did what I could in the garage last week, and even though I did make it to the gym on Saturday. There are lulls in the doldrums of agony, and you can bet I’m racing to the gym when they occur!

It just felt like a long time. The thing is, as I was realizing this morning while talking to my BodyPump instructor, I have a lot of physical energy, so I feel like I’m literally jumping out of my skin when I’m grounded by stress-induced autoimmune flares such as the one I’ve been dealing with lately. My body is full of energy at the same time that it’s grounding me with joint pain. It’s like a librarian surrounding me with all the books I want to read, then setting a ring of fire between me and them so I can’t get to them. That would be a sadistic librarian. Autoimmunity makes for a sadistic body.

Maybe I’ll post more in-depth about my current autoimmune situation in a future blog post. Right now, I’m enjoying this almost-100% feeling. Things aren’t completely settled down yet; I have more appointments lined up, and lab-work pending review. I’m taking each day as it comes, doing what I can, when I can. I have a lot of writing catch-up to do, too, as a result of all of this.

I’m just so grateful for the V.A. hospital, which has been treating me very well, and for my rheumatologist there, who’s the best I’ve ever had.

And BodyPump this morning was awesome, as usual! I love seeing my people there as much as I love the workout!

 

So happy to be at the gym this morning! I took this before-workout locker-room selfie thinking “BodyPump in 15!!”

 

The rest of the week’s looking fabulous, too. Callaghan’s birthday is on Saturday, so there’ll be shenanegans of some sort in honor of that. He would love to know what’s involved. He’s not going to know until then. Heheh.

Happy Friday Eve, everyone!

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.

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

Just wondering:

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

So have we.

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

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

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

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

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

 

(screenshot) 2017 November Grand Sumo Tournament, day 11

 

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