1-year BodyPump Anniversary!

It’s been a year since I started Les Mills BodyPump!

Yes, it’s already been A YEAR since the pic on the left. I took that mirror selfie in the locker room after my first BodyPump class. I took the second pic 12 days ago (also after class, but at home).

 

From my 1st day of Les Mills BodyPump (10/25/2016) to about a year later (10/19/2017)

 

(This is obviously not meant to be a physique comparison pic. Just an anniversary celebration pic.)

Thinking back to that first class, I mostly remember how perplexed I was trying to do a clean and press, feeling like I was faking it the whole time. I think it took 3-4 classes for me to solve the mysteries of that move. I also remember how sore my biceps were the day after my first class. Everything was sore, but my biceps were the worst!

I go to BodyPump 3x/week, and I still enjoy everything about it: the workout challenges, the friends I’ve made, our awesome instructors, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and the added mental health therapy that goes with working out. (I go to BodyCombat once a week, and I’m still loving that, too!)

So what’s changed in a year?

1). Surprisingly, I’ve put on muscle mass, especially in my upper body. I mean, not a lot of mass. Just enough to surprise me… and enough that I had to get rid of a few sports bras and t-shirts. Either I could hardly get into them, or I couldn’t move comfortably in them anymore, if at all. For the same reason, I also had to ditch a few pairs of underwear.

When I started, I didn’t think I’d gain noticeable size, but I’m certainly not complaining. I wanted more mass. I just wasn’t expecting it from BodyPump, alone. Who knew?

2). While I’m happy with my stronger appearance, it’s the functionality of being stronger that’s the most rewarding part to me. With increased whole-body strength, I can pack more power behind my strikes. I’ve noticed this while working out on the punching bag and the MMA dummy in the garage.

3). I’ve increased my weights for most muscle groups, though not by a lot: I’m at a 2.5-lb increase on each side of the barbell for legs, back, biceps, triceps, and chest. That’s it! Just 2.5 lbs more than when I started. I’m happy with this. It’s more important to me to maintain my form and get a full range of motion than to jump up in weight.

I have not increased my lunge weights. I use either the same weights as when I started, or even less, depending. I have no problem dropping weight if I have to in order to get the form right. I always struggle with my lunge form.

For shoulders, I’ve reached a partial increase: I went up to 5-lb plates for the plate work. Sometimes, depending on the workout, I might start at 5 lbs and then drop down to 2.5’s.

And the barbell for shoulders? Zero increase. It’s the overhead presses that get me. (I could use higher weights if we’re doing only push presses, but we never do only push presses.)

It seems to me that I have to get my mind over the plateau for overhead presses. My shoulders are not weak. It’s a mental thing. To some extent, it could be that since shoulders are last, we’ve already worked them secondarily by the time we get to them. For whatever reason, my shoulders are just gassed by the time we get to those overhead presses!

Abs? Sure, why not. (Haha!)

I’m looking forward to another year of challenges. One thing I’ll start doing, I’ve decided, is I’ll increase my weights for at least one set if I think I can do it well… then drop weight as needed. The only problem with this is that I’ll lose time and miss reps. It might be worth it, though.

Onward into Year 2!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Superman punch

 

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

 

Straight right, aka cross (orthodox)

 

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

 

Punch to body

 

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

 

(between rounds)

 

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

 

Spin punch chamber

 

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

 

Up elbow

 

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

 

Back elbow chamber

 

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

 

Standing stretch

 

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

 

Stretching (and selfie)

 

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

 

Walking back

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I found this selfie from my last garage gym workout on June 5, and it seems appropriate as a current garage gym mood visual:

 

Resignation. It is what it is!

 

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

Happy Friday, All!

All-day anniversary date! (Firing range + samurai armor.)

Wednesday was our wedding anniversary. The sub-title of this post could be: “We’ve been married for 6 years and to celebrate we went out and Did Non-Everyday-Things.” Callaghan took the day off so we could spend it together.

The first exciting thing that happened was the doorbell rang and a minute later Callaghan called out, “It’s a package for you!” as he came into the bedroom where I was getting dressed, and he dropped the package onto the bed and walked out, leaving me to think, “He got me something for our anniversary??” (We’d agreed no cards, no gifts.) So I opened it and found a Black + Decker 16v cordless hand-vac, which I’d been wanting for the longest time, and which I grabbed while running to the other end of the house all like, “Baby!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the hand vac!! Best surprise anniversary gift ever!!!!!” as I jumped into his arms, to which he replied, “I didn’t order you that.”

Long story short, we found out that my parents ordered it for us for our anniversary, knowing that I had my eye on it. It’s been one of those things that I wanted, but never wanted to spend money on.

Anyway, still. Best anniversary gift ever! Best parents ever! The hand-vac has already changed my life.

The reason we didn’t exchange cards or gifts was that we had an expensive plan for the morning: going to our favorite firing range to rent weapons and practice shooting. Even with Groupon, the whole thing cost us $140.00, and that was only for 40 minutes of shooting. Seriously, how do people afford to do this on a regular basis?! I suppose, for one thing, they own their own firearms. We never will, so we rent them when we want to shoot. Firearm rental is expensive. Ammo at the range is expensive (unlike at Walmart). Hence, the firing range is a special-occasion date activity.

In the afternoon, we went to the Phoenix Art Museum for our second date activity: the “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” exhibition. We’d known that the collection was there, thanks to some of you! We remembered it while finishing up the first season of Fargo not long ago, when we had this conversational exchange:

Me: Oh, look. Good old Lester married a submissive Asian wife.

Callaghan: I thought that was what I got when I got married.

Me: Ha! So what did you get? The English Rose?

Callaghan: No. I got the Samurai.

Then he quickly added, “And it’s perfect!”

And this, my friends, is one thing I appreciate about Callaghan so much. Seven years together, six years married, and the guy is still making me laugh. I have no complaints.

Such as it was that we went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Samurai exhibition.

 

“Cultivated Warriors” – (Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection)

 

 

If you can get to the Phoenix Art Museum before July 16, I highly recommend that you go check out this exhibition! It is spectacular.

The first thing you see when you enter the gallery is a large statue of the Buddha. The sight of the Sakyamuni Buddha entrances me instantaneously, so I had to linger a few minutes before going in… and, of course, take a selfie with the Buddha.

 

With the Sakyamuni Buddha at the Samurai Armor exhibition, Phoenix Art Museum 2017

 

Worth mentioning right now: the strategic play of lighting and shadow fluctuates throughout the gallery, and you’ll see this variation in these pics. Here at the entrance, it’s extremely bright. That white square on the top left of my shirt? That’s a sticker that reads “Samurai” in black letters. The light was so bright, it washed out the lettering completely! (I didn’t even try to bring out the lettering with filters or anything like that; I left these pics as-is.)

You can see the lettering here, though, with just a slight change in distance and angle:

 

Me, Callaghan, the Buddha. Not in that order.

 

Let me tell you, it took a lot of finagling with the phone camera position to get the three of us into this shot!

The reason the Buddha invites visitors into the samurai gallery is that Buddhism and its philosophies and motifs informed the design of the warriors’ armor and weaponry to a great degree; the religion was a part of samurai culture. “Buddhism was widely adopted by most samurai,” says one of the plaques inside the gallery.

Despite this fact and the fact that Buddhist warrior monks developed a deadly martial arts system that engendered all of the martial arts schools in East Asia (many of which are prevalent in the public eye today, as they’re included in an MMA artist’s arsenal), there’s still this myth that all Buddhists are strict pacifists, and that pacifism defines Buddhism. This may be due, in part, to Buddhism having become widely New-Age-ified in the hands of western seekers.

The myth may also come from the fact that Buddhists are not a war-mongering people, in general. There is a difference between being a warrior and being a war-mongerer. Being Buddhist and being a warrior are not mutually exclusive.

And so the Buddha welcomes you into the samurai warrior gallery. The exhibition consists mostly of armor, but you’ll also find weaponry and other objects particular to samurai culture. Truly, everything in this gallery is an exquisite work of art.

[click to enlarge if you wish to read the plaque]

 

Helmet

 

Like this one, many of the helmets and masks were adorned with Buddhist symbols. One plaque explains: “The adornments are influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism, a religion that greatly inspired Japanese warriors.”

Another plaque says of its subject: “The shape of the helmet is reminiscent of the cloth headdress (tokin) worn by Buddhist ascetics and warrior monks (yamabushi) who lived in remote mountain areas.”

Here are a few more pics, to give you more of a taste of the exhibition:

 

War drum

 

Family portrait, haha!

 

Did you know that samurai warriors battled with firearms as well as with bladed weapons and bows and arrows? I didn’t.

 

On samurai weaponry

 

Another plaque explains: “Though archery eventually gave way to the use of firearms in combat, the bow continued to be venerated, and archery remained a martial art that every samurai was expected to master.”

And another: “Shogun Takugawa Leyasu described the sword as the soul of the samurai.”

The exhibition includes chest plates with bullet marks and traces of sword-slashes. (Impressively, the bullets did not pierce the armor.) I didn’t take pics of those, though, for some reason. I did get some of the mounted warriors:

 

Mounted samurai

 

Even their horses sometimes wore elaborate masks!

 

I wouldn’t want to meet this guy coming out of the fog.

 

WHY SO SERIOUS? ~Of course I had to get a selfie with a samurai warrior lurking in the background.

 

Remember: this gorgeous and awe-inspiring exhibition will remain at the Phoenix Art Museum until July 16!

Happy Friday, All.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting right into it, then…

1). Jump tucks.

 

Jump tucks

 

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

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

 

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

 

Floor to feet jumps

 

3). Flying knee strike.

 

technique: flying knee

 

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

 

4). Flying punch (“superman punch”).

 

technique: flying punch (“superman”)

 

5). Flying down elbow strike.

 

technique: flying down elbow

 

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

 

6). Jumping front snap kick.

 

technique: jumping front snap kick (land)

 

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

 

7). Jumping side kick.

 

technique: jumping side kick

 

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

 

8). Post work-out selfie.

 

flying techniques practice DONE

 

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

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

The end.

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.

Muay Thai 2 (Garage gym post!)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s get this party started.

 

rowing (with resistance band)

 

rowing

 

(dummy migration)

 

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

 

keeping warm

 

round chamber (warmed up and feeling okay)

 

round kick

 

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

 

teep

 

teep

 

(teep pullback)

 

(down elbow dummy set-up)

 

down elbow chamber and throw

 

down elbow

 

(same thing on the other side)

 

down elbow

 

down elbow – sticking it

 

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

 

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

 

side elbow

 

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

 

back to the dummy for knee strikes

 

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

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

 

back to the bag for speed punches

 

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

 

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

 

plyo push-up (top)

 

plyo push-up (descending)

 

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

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