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!

 

 

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Back at the gym again. (Fitness update!)

I worked out over the weekend! It was great. Our Saturday Body Pump instructor happened to choose one of the easier workout releases… one that was awesome to do after being out for a while.

My legs, though!

I expected to feel the workout after having done nothing for a month, but I didn’t expect to feel it only in my legs. I used my warm-up weight for the entire workout, too. Dropping my heaviest bar weight – legs – all the way down to 5 lbs should have benefited my lower body more than anything, but noooooo. (Channeling John Belushi in Saturday Night Live.)

On Sunday, I could hardly walk. Yesterday was the same. This morning, I got up and thought, geez, how could my legs forget completely after just one month of sedentary life?! My legs are acting like they’ve never lifted a thing in their lives. It’s like my legs spent a month chilling on a beach in Rio, and now they’re mad that I yanked them off their lounger and put them back in the gym.

I popped a handful of Advil for the pain before I went to the gym this morning, feeling hopeful because I was walking a little more normally than I had been in the last two days. I was ready for whatever our Tuesday/Thursday instructor would throw at us, which turned out to be release 106.

Then class got underway and I found that I didn’t just yank my legs off a beach lounger in Rio and put them back in the gym on Saturday. I also sent them to an overzealous grocery store butcher who just couldn’t wait to run my quads through their new meat tenderizer.

In class this morning, I could bend my knees slightly. That was it. Those were my squats. My range of motion was basically zero, and the pain was intense despite the Advil.

There was a pretty rad bright side, though: I put more weight on the bar for upper body when I realized that my legs were out of the picture. Doing clean and presses and power presses using only upper body strength revealed that my upper body is stronger than I’d thought it was. My thing about overhead shoulder presses with the bar really is psychosomatic. The back track in release 106 involves a lot of overhead shenanegans, and I had no problem doing it without lower body assistance using a heavier bar than I use for shoulders.

Also, I figured out my Saturday mistake right away: I’d gone as deep as I usually do in the leg track. This was apparently the wrong answer for my first time back.

As for my upper body after being out for a month? Nothing. I’ve felt nothing. As far as my upper body is concerned, it never left the gym. Weird, right?!

I’m so glad to be back.

November Favorites post coming on Thursday!

 

 

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

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

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

 

No sumo.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to my brain.

 

Fitness goal progress… small, but still progress. (+ shorter hair!)

The thing about this Tuesday/Thursday blog schedule is that I go to the gym those mornings, so when I get home and sit down at my desk, I’m still thinking about the workout.

It’s 7pm now and I just got home after being out for a few hours, but this is what I wrote after the gym this morning, for anyone interested:

(Since I wrote about Body Pump last week, I figured, why not?)

The leg track we did in class this morning was a fabulous confidence-booster! It involved just a pulse/single squats combo.* (Everything in the leg track is squats.) Pulses are always easier… unless they’re in sets of 16, that is… but today, I managed to do them deeper than before, proving to myself that I can stay down there at the bottom of the squat for every rep. This felt like a great step toward my goal of conquering the slower bottom-half squats so I can increase my leg-weight. Go me.

Goals, right?!

Thank you to all of you virtual and in-person gym buddies and instructors who inspire and motivate me!

*I’m talking about the leg track from #100, and I’m sorry if this makes no sense because you’re not familiar with Les Mills Body Pump. CliffsNotes version: I was more mindful than usual during my workout this morning, and it was awesome.

In other news, I got my hair cut short:

 

The hair, it had to go. (4 Sept. 2018)

 

On a final note, I’m sorry that this is all I’ve got for today. August Favorites coming Thursday!

 

 

My at-home industrial dance Body Combat experiment! (Cardio updates)

Well guess who finally did something about her cardio game that’s been almost MIA since 2017.

Last week, I went to Body Combat for the first time in seven weeks, guys. Seven weeks. This week was the second time. Remember when I used to go 3x/week? Yeah, so do I.

Let’s review: I’d dropped Mondays for writing schedule reasons. Saturdays because I switched Combat for Pump. That left Wednesdays. Once a week means hit or miss. This year, it’s been more of a miss.

Before last week Wednesday, I only went to Body Combat 11 times in 2018. I did the math (my talents are many – I can plug numbers into an online percentage calculator), and only 10.67% of my group fitness workouts this year were comprised of Body Combat.

Illness/hospital/medical testing. Medicinal side effects. Other scheduling conflicts. Being out of town. Class cancellations. Logistical issues. Holidays. You name it. Missing a Body Pump class here or there isn’t that big of a deal when you go 3x/week, but if you go to Combat only once a week and you miss it, that’s a whole week gone.

With the summer heat, it’s been something like four months since I’ve worked out in the garage.

Updates:

Finally, just this week, I endeavored to start a Body Combat practice at home using our Les Mills On Demand subscription. Thanks to inspiration I took from my friend Jessica (hey girl), I realized that I could do it in our dining room, which has a tile floor. No A/C in the garage, no problem.

How did I do it? The main thing I needed was a motivating factor to get through the workout without someone leading, so put a twist on it: I muted my laptop and did the workout to my own playlist. I’ve been listening to a lot of industrial/industrial dance music lately as I’ve cycled back to my first electronic music passion, so I thought, what if I were to do a Body Combat workout to industrial dance music rather than to Les Mills’ (mostly) trap remixes? (I do like dubstep and trap, by the way, and drum & bass… I’m not dissing Les Mills’ music.)

It was weird. I’m used to listening to what the instructor’s saying. Muting the workout, I could only watch the screen to see what I was supposed to be doing. Unsurprisingly, I missed a lot as I tried to keep up with what they were doing while also trying to adapt the moves to my music. I never stopped moving, though. I worked up a sweat. My triceps were sore the next morning… very sore! Evidently, something got done.

It was fun to experiment with the music. Now that I’ve done it once, I know what to change for next week’s (industrial) Body Combat workout at home.

Meanwhile, last night’s Combat class at the gym was amazing. I’m getting back into it! Here’s a commemorative post-workout, cartoon-filtered selfie:

 

Sweat life (8/29/2018)

 

The cartoon filter reveals how I sweated my eyebrows off! Haha!!

I’m relieved to get back to regular cardio one way or the other. I’ll keep up my home Body Combat workouts, and I’ll get back into the garage as the weather cools down. Onward, then.

 

 

Les Mills Body Pump updates.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a gym post, so this week I’m making up for it: today, I’m going to regale you with my totally unsolicited Les Mills Body Pump self-evaluation.

(Garage gym posts forthcoming after the weather cools down!)

It’s going to seem like this post would only be of interest to anyone who knows, follows, and/or cares about Les Mills Body Pump, but there’s a universal “moral of the story” to it: fitness is a mental sport.

Here’s my progress up to this point:

Legs: I haven’t added weight to my leg bar since my last increase over a year ago, and I don’t know when I will…

because I haven’t been able to get low and stay low for bottom-halves* (as opposed to pulses, which are faster and therefore easier). I can handle bottom-halves when they come in sets of 2. When they come in sets of 4, I’m done after the first two. Then I fake it at mid-range. Sometimes just hearing the instructor say “bottom halves for 4” kills my mental game and I give up before I even begin and end up doing the whole set at mid-range because my mind got there first and said NOPE. NO BOTTOM HALVES. At least 50% of my problem is a mental block, I know. Maybe more.

I want to overcome this and be able to do all of the bottom-halves at the bottom before I increase my leg bar weight. I don’t like to do stuff half-way.

*Bottom-halves: a type of Body Pump evil involving dropping to a deep squat and then coming up only halfway before dropping again for the next rep, and the reps are really slow.

Chest: I haven’t changed my chest weight, either, even though I probably could. My reason for this is ridiculous: theoretically, your back weight should be heavier than your chest weight, and mine is not. Because…

Back: the history of the weight I put on the bar for the back track makes no sense. I actually graphed it out. It looks like the Big Dipper.

 

history of my back weight bar in Body Pump

 

(In case it isn’t obvious, I’m not one for precision when attempting to draw.)

My bar-weight for the back track went up from 7.5 lbs to 12.5 lbs, then dropped back down to 7.5 after a case of tennis elbow during which I did nothing involving upright rows. The broken line connecting the 7.5 to the 10 at the end means that I sometimes venture up to 10 lbs… if I know there won’t be consecutive sets of power presses. If I know there’ll be lots of power presses, I’ll stay at 7.5.

This is another mental block. I used to put 12.5 lbs on each side of that bar, so there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it now. I’m stronger now than I used to be, but at the moment, my back weight is, at the most, the same as my chest weight. For some reason, I’m reluctant to commit to even the 10 lbs. Once again, the only one in the way of my progress is me. (Note to self: get out of my way.)

Triceps: my triceps weights are the same as they’ve been since I last increased them many months ago, and I’m fine with this. There’s more variation from one triceps track to the next, so there’s no telling when my regular triceps weight is going to be almost too challenging. There’s no such thing as a 12.5 lb plate in our group fitness room, anyway, as far as I know. I suppose people will grip a 2.5 lb plate on top of the 10. I also suppose I’ll try this when I feel like the 10 lb plate isn’t enough of a challenge anymore.

Biceps: I think I need to start using 10 lb dumbbells for single-arm curls, at least at the beginning of the track. Last time I did single-arm curls, I noticed that the 7.5 lbs didn’t feel as challenging as they used to. From now on, I’ll start with 10 lbs and drop to 7.5 when needed. If I can only do half of the first set with the heavier weight, so be it. As for my biceps bar, it’s heavy enough most of the time.

Lunges: I still can’t get my lunge form right, so I haven’t increased my weights at all. If anything, I’ll decrease it (I choose my lunge weight on a case-by-case basis). I think that my problem with form might be structural to some extent. There’s a mental block in there too, I’m sure.

Shoulders: as with triceps, there’s a lot of variation between shoulder tracks, so I’m fine where I am for now. My rear delts are the strongest part of my shoulders, so I’ll sometimes go up a plate weight for those. For the rest, I’d rather stick with my current weights and make sure that my form is as good as I can make it before I increase.

As for the bar, I’m keeping my current weight until I-don’t-know-when. My shoulder bar is too easy when doing upright rows, more of a challenge when doing push presses, and almost too much of a challenge when doing straight presses. Ideally, I’d have two bars for the shoulder track.

Abs: abs are abs. I have nothing to say about them.

That’s how my Body Pump progress looks at this point. My impediments come more from my mind than from anywhere else, I think. I know.

On Thursday, I’ll talk about Body Combat and my nearly non-existent cardio.

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.