Coronapocalypse quarantine week 8. (Fitness updates!)

I finally have fitness updates for you who’ve asked for them, and for anyone else who’s interested!

Our garage gym is at the top of the list of things for which I’m incredibly grateful during this quarantine. The virus has changed everything about my fitness regimen, and in a good way. I’m still doing Les Mills workouts via their On Demand (online) home workout subscription, but I’m using different equipment and lifting heavier than I was before. On the cardio side, I’m solidly back into Body Combat, and I’ve added a new class. I do three days of weights and three days of cardio per week, minimum.

It’s heating up outside, but that’s what the living room is for when I go to do my afternoon cardio workouts! Mornings are cool enough to comfortably lift weights in the garage.

I’m loving doing three of my six weekly workouts “with” my friend Jessica. Since our gym closed and we haven’t been able to hang out in Saturday morning Body Pump, we’ve been hanging out on the phone during Saturday morning Body Pump, instead. We both have home gym set-ups and Les Mills On Demand. We get on the phone in front of our online class and hit “play” at the same time and put our phones on speaker. We don’t talk during the workouts. It’s an invisible companionship and accountability thing. We have to show up, because the other one is expecting us. It’s rad.

Other changes:

–The new cardio class I added to my regimen is Body Step. (Thank you for suggesting it, Jessica!) The step and four risers are the only equipment I’ve had to purchase.

Those of you who’ve been here a while, remember when I tried to establish myself in a Sunday morning step class? I made the effort because it was the only other cardio class that fit into my schedule, but I didn’t love step enough to want to give up my Sundays. It’s different now that I can customize my schedule, and also, my new step aerobics experience is insane in the way that I like my cardio. The reason, of course, is that it’s Les Mills.

Step aerobics: We’re going to kick your butt with our hardcore workout!
Les Mills Bodystep: Hold my water.

Les Mills incorporates squats, lunges, regular burpees, snatch burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and variations of dynamic planks into their step choreography… and that’s just what I’ve seen so far. They also have you pick up a weight plate or two from time to time.

In other words, Les Mills Body Step is not your grandmother’s step aerobics class.

–Body Pump: I’ve ditched the barbell, and, along with it, my February whim of sticking with light weights. I’m now lifting the heaviest dumbbells possible in our barbell-less garage, as in, “to failure” in every Body Pump track. We have dumbbells up to 30 lbs, so I can start heavy and quickly drop my weights down to lighter ones when I need to.

The luxury is that I no longer have to decide beforehand what weights I’m going to use in the next hour so can bring them to my spot on the floor. If I want to change my weights during the track, I don’t have to run back and forth to the equipment area, disturbing others while weaving around them. Body Pump is fast-paced lifting (which is why light weights are also effective), so the track would be over by the time I’d get back to my spot with the new weights. Neither do I have to worry about being that person spreading into neighboring peoples’ spaces with my cluster of weights.

All of the weights are within reach, and they’re dumbbells, so I don’t have to waste time messing with the barbell. I can do drop-sets easily, and so I do.

Dumbbell-only Body Pump is also intense and challenging because it involves more in the way of stabilization, I’ve noticed. I feel like I’m working my core a lot more with the hand weights.

 

Post-workout selfie [05/05/2020]

 

Bad lighting, I know. I’m totally washed-out here! I can’t technically explain the blinding whiteness of my right leg, but my apologies to your eyes. I’m standing in front of the open back door, peering down into my phone that was situated on a case of emergency water at about stomach-level. I’m rarely thrilled with the lighting in my pics, but I’ve yet to develop an interest in learning how to fix it, so that’s on me.

ALSO, I cut my bangs again, and I’m not hating it.

April Favorites coming 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.

 

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.

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.

 

Looking forward to fall!

Summer is fading, and I can totally feel it, even though it was 105 degrees yesterday. The sun is rising a little later, setting a little earlier. People are getting their fantasy football teams together. The snowbirds from up north and back east are preparing to migrate to Phoenix Metro. Soon, we’ll see them on their jaunty walks in their shorts and t-shirts (while we desert denizens put on light jackets.)

I love summer giving way to fall. We do have seasons here in the Sonoran Desert part of the Land of AZ… maybe not in the traditional sense, but we do. The desert just expresses itself differently. The desert is a season-rebel. It does not conform to the norm. You have colorful fall leaves? We have colorful, blazing sunsets. You have chilly, moist temperatures? We have perfect temperatures… dry temperatures in the 70-80-degree range.

I love the heat, but hospitable temperatures make certain things possible. At some point in the late summer, I start anticipating aspects of the fall, as I know everyone around here does. Some of them can’t come soon enough. Here are 10 off the top of my head:

1). Garage gym workouts.

Cooler weather will put our garage gym back into the equation of my combat-sports fitness training.

2). Opening the front door.

Sitting in the living room at dusk with the fall breeze coming through the screen door is one of my favorite things. In the world.

3). Roasting veggies.

Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. Sweet potatoes. Purple Peruvian potatoes. Onions. Garlic. Fall in our house smells delicious.

4). Pears.

We eat pears year-round, but they come into season in the fall, and they are rapturous.

5). Pomegranates.

Pomegranate season! The flavor of pomegranates also signifies fall to me.

6). This is Us (Sept. 26) and Stranger Things (Oct. 27)

This fall, the two T.V. series I’m anticipating are This is Us and Stranger Things. I’m seriously emotionally invested in the family members of This is Us, and, like all fans, I’ve been waiting forever to find out what happens next in Stranger Things.

I would normally look forward to American Horror Story, but its early start this year puts it more in the summer than in the fall, as far as I’m concerned. Homeland is another fall series that isn’t starting in the fall this time around. Seems that the new season won’t be out until spring.

7). Candlelight writing in the early morning.

There’s something about writing in the early morning dark with just the glow of a candle flame to illuminate what needs illuminating.

8). Fall cleaning.

I’m more eager to deep-clean the house in the fall than in the spring, and the house feels so good after it’s done!

9). Creative inspiration.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of “back-to-school” mental conditioning, but I’m more inspired, motivated, and revved-up in the fall than at any other time of the year. This is especially good this year, as I’m working on the toughest part of my book right about now. The fall magic will arrive just in time.

10). An extra cover on the bed.

For me, a heavier cover at night somehow leads to a more satisfying sleep. (By “heavier cover,” I mean the bathrobe I throw over just my side of the bed at night.)

Nenette shares my enthusiasm. Earlier this morning, I talked to her about fall, and she looked out the window like “Where is it?”

 

Late summer Nenette, awash in the early morning light.

 

Happy weekend!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday, All!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting right into it, then…

1). Jump tucks.

 

Jump tucks

 

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

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

 

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

 

Floor to feet jumps

 

3). Flying knee strike.

 

technique: flying knee

 

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

 

4). Flying punch (“superman punch”).

 

technique: flying punch (“superman”)

 

5). Flying down elbow strike.

 

technique: flying down elbow

 

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

 

6). Jumping front snap kick.

 

technique: jumping front snap kick (land)

 

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

 

7). Jumping side kick.

 

technique: jumping side kick

 

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

 

8). Post work-out selfie.

 

flying techniques practice DONE

 

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

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

The end.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let's get into it!

Let’s get into it!

 

Uppercut

Uppercut

 

Spinning back fist

Spinning back fist

 

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

 

(Stalking the bag)

(Stalking the bag)

 

Superman punch on the high target

Superman punch on the high target

 

Jab

Jab

 

(Going for angles)

(Going for angles)

 

Backfist transition

Backfist transition

 

Walking back.

Walking back.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Sparring the bag is a great moving meditation for me.

Sparring the bag is a great moving meditation for me.

 

Straight right.

Straight right.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Spinning back elbow.

Spinning back elbow.

 

Muay Thai round kick prep.

Muay Thai round kick prep.

 

Muay Thai round kick.

Muay Thai round kick.

 

Low side kick.

Low side kick.

 

Curved knee strike.

Curved knee strike.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Your favorite! The grimy walk back to the camera.

Your favorite! The grimy walk back to the camera.

 

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

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

Garage gym session! (Martial arts knuckle conditioning)

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

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

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

Because I enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

Bare-knuckle hard punching on the MMA dummy:

 

Positioning myself.

Positioning myself.

 

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

Horizontal punches:

 

Right horizontal punch

Right horizontal punch

 

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

 

Left horizontal punch

Left horizontal punch

 

Vertical punches:

 

Right vertical punch

Right vertical punch

 

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

 

Left vertical punch

Left vertical punch

 

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

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

Horizontal punches:

 

Wood board right horizontal punch

Wood board right horizontal punch

 

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

 

Wood board left horizontal punch

Wood board left horizontal punch

 

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

Vertical punches:

 

Wood board right vertical punch

Wood board right vertical punch

 

Wood board left vertical punch

Wood board left vertical punch

 

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

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

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

 

Wood board push-up, bottom

Wood board push-up, bottom

 

Wood board push-up, middle

Wood board push-up, middle

 

Wood board push-up, top

Wood board push-up, top

 

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

 

Done!

Done!

 

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

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

Strength-training shenanigans (garage gym workout!)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started with legs:

 

Squats on the left, lunges on the right.

Squats on the left, lunges on the right.

 

Then added some back and hamstrings:

 

Upright rows on the left, deadlifts on the right.

Upright rows on the left, deadlifts on the right.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The MMA dummy does function wonderfully as a bench.

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

Then arms:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Knife-hand block (prep).

Knife-hand block (prep).

 

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

 

Overhead double block – set.

Overhead double block – set.

 

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

 

Axe kick.

Axe kick.

 

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

 

Rising block.

Rising block.

 

Thrust attack with spear hand.

Thrust attack with spear hand.

 

Side kick.

Side kick.

 

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

 

Face block.

Face block.

 

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

 

Prep for double block.

Prep for double block.

 

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

 

Transitioning into the block.

Transitioning into the block.

 

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

Back to precision:

 

The uppercut.

The uppercut.

 

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

 

Punch from back stance.

Punch from back stance.

 

Lots of back stance in this practice session, actually.

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

 

Feint.

Feint.

 

La Fin.

 

Martial arts fitness workout in the garage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s jump in!

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Jump rope intervals

Jump rope intervals

 

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

 

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

 

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

 

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Coming out of a front roll

Coming out of a front roll

 

Front rolls in all directions

Front rolls in all directions

 

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

 

Shadow-boxing with weights.

Shadow-boxing with weights.

 

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

 

Uppercuts with dumbbells

Uppercuts with dumbbells

 

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

 

Keep moving!

Keep moving!

 

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

 

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

 

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

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

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

 

Crunches and punches!

Crunches and punches!

 

Crunches and punches on both sides

Crunches and punches on both sides

 

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

 

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

 

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

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

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

 

La Fin.

 

Garage gym updates and Tae Kwan Do techniques!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old camera (Samsung Galaxy S4):

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

New camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge):

 

Walking up to start...

Walking up to start…

 

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

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

 

Horizontal front chest block

Horizontal front chest block

 

Double-fisted groin block

Double-fisted groin block

 

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

 

Back fist (prep)

Back fist (prep)

 

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

 

Jump attack (prep)

Jump attack (prep)

 

Jump attack

Jump attack

 

Block to sides

Block to sides

 

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

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

 

Finished.

Finished.

 

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

 

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

 

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

What I’m Digging Right Now – December Favorites

December is over! 2014 is over! Today, I’m going to rave about stuff (aka little things) that made the magical 12th month of the year even more magical, and next week, I’m going to rave again about the little things from 2014 that topped them all for a “best of” list for the whole year.

For December, I’m starting with entertainment, because as we all know, that’s one of my favorite types of things… and a great month for that it was, indeed. Three movies knocked us out with their awesomeness in December. Let’s get right to it.

1). The Babadook (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-thebabadook

So we were scrolling through our favorite movie-watching site one night and decided to take a chance on yet another horror flick. Good call! The Babadook was intense and intensely gratifying. It more than made up for all the horror flicks that left us feeling wistful for well-crafted terror, because The Babadook is the very definition of well-crafted terror. It scared the hell out of me. It was completely enthralling.

2). Big Eyes (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-bigeyes

My birthday was two days after Christmas. We went to the movies that afternoon, because my idea of a good birthday includes a movie date. This year, we went to see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes. We’re ardent Tim Burton, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz fans, and I love movies based on true events, and I love art, and I loved that for the second year in a row, my birthday movie featured Adams and her stunning talent. Last year’s American Hustle was excellent… and Big Eyes followed suit, to the surprise of neither of us.

First of all, I was fascinated by the story, itself. Since I’d always known the painter of those pictures to be Margaret Keane, it was interesting to learn the history behind the phenomenon and take in a few details about the art world that I hadn’t known before, as well. I’m surprised that no one made a movie about this story before, but I’m happy that they waited until now, because now we have Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. I’m eagerly waiting to see how many Oscar nominations this film rakes in, like American Hustle.

3). The Interview (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-theinterview

Think or say what you want about the hype surrounding this movie or the movie, itself; we thought it was freaking hilarious. It had us rolling from that ridonkulously absurd opening scene with Eminem, and the ridonkulous absurdity continued… the actors never dropped the pace of their comedic timing. We saw The Interview on Christmas day, at home, computer hooked up to our T.V., voilà! Our first ever new-movie home viewing experience! The novelty and hilarity of it made for an extra enjoyable Christmas. I hope no one dies because of it, though.

4). Bikram yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

I’m so grateful to say that there was something fabulous every day of the short holiday break, and on the 26th, the fabulous little thing was my first Bikram yoga class in about 10 years. It felt marvelous, and I was reminded of why I’d enjoyed yoga so much in the first place. Graciously invited by a friend who practices the art at the newer Bikram establishment, I walked in without an idea of how my body would behave or react throughout the series of poses. As it turned out, my muscles still knew what to do, though at the surface level, I couldn’t remember how the mechanics of some of the poses worked… it was a strange juxtaposition.

Aftereffects? Physically, I never reached the depth of the pain I was sure I’d experience in the following days. The day after, I felt it in my lower body, mostly in my hamstrings and hip flexors… but it wasn’t that bad. I went beast mode in Body Combat class as usual without the help of Advil (I’d been prepared to gulp the Advil in order to do Combat, but it wasn’t necessary). The following day, I felt the soreness in my upper body, mostly in my triceps, lats and along my spine… and again, it wasn’t at all as severe as what I’d thought it’d be.

In other respects, I felt great. The meditative 90-minute practice brought back everything I loved about Bikram yoga. It was energizing, centering, grounding, and I was very glad that I went.

5). XXL WaveMaster heavy bag.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

For Christmas, Callaghan offered me what he knew I’d been wanting for a long time: a heavy bag! Body Combat class has been (and continues to be) awesome, but I’ve really been missing making actual contact with my strikes; I love it, and I’m badly in need of target practice. It’s been too long. I went online and identified the bag I wanted. It’s the extra-large WaveMaster, and it’s since taken up residence in our garage.  More on this later… it deserves a post of its own! Suffice it to say for now that I’m completely stoked and can’t wait to start training here at home to supplement my group fitness workouts.

6). HeartFire Botanicals Chocolate Orange sugar scrub.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

This scrub is the creation of a good friend who recently started making and selling her own healing personal care products, and my dry winter lips love it as an evening exfoliating treatment! My lips have been so soft since I started using it. She gave it to me for Christmas, and I already swear by it. Her site is here… check it out! (I added the link to her shop in the sidebar here, too.)

7). Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Dry shampoos and I got off on the wrong foot. The one I tried last year? Turned my hair gray. I mean, it sprayed on white, and the discoloration was ridiculously difficult to correct. I couldn’t massage it out. I couldn’t brush it out. It was such an annoying experience that I returned it and assumed that dry shampoo was just something I’d do without… until I ventured to try again with this Got2B product. I’ve been enjoying the Got2B Guardian Angel heat-protectant spray so much that when I found this dry shampoo next to it in the drugstore, I sprang for it. It turns out that this brand of dry shampoo is magic in a can! It also sprays on whitish – I guess they all do…? – but my hair easily returns to its color after working in the product and brushing it out. I put it through the ultimate test and used it the day after a Body Combat class after which I did not wash my hair (I come home from Combat with my hair soaked in sweat, so this was gross). The next day, the Got2B Rockin’ It dry shampoo make my hair look and feel like I’d actually washed it. Amazing. Sold. Will re-purchase!

8). Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution Relax & Relief with Eucalyptus and Spearmint.

Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

I took a hot bath the evening I went to Bikram yoga, and it was this concoction of Dr. Teal’s that went into it. I actually wanted plain Epsom salts so I could treat the water with some essential oils I already had, but I ended up going for this one with Eucalyptus and Spearmint. It provided a thoroughly relaxing experience, and as mentioned above, the post-yoga soreness I’d experienced in the following days was minimal and short-lived. I’m not sure how much of that I can attribute to these bath salts, but at the very least, I can say that they made for a wonderfully relaxing bath!

9). Birthday flowers.

Flowers for my birthday!

Flowers for my birthday!

Poor Callaghan. My birthday is on December 27, so he has to think of double gifts for me during the holidays! When he asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I thought of the expensive heavy bag he’d gotten me for Christmas and just said, “Flowers from Trader Joe’s!” Because there was really nothing else I wanted. Callaghan’s artistic talent extends to flower arranging, and I love the quality and selection of cut flowers at Trader Joe’s, so we went there on my birthday and came home with the enormous selection of blooms he’d chosen. Later, he presented me with three gorgeous arrangements (only two are shown in the picture because the third one fell casualty to Ronnie James). I am lucky.

10). Sumatra coffee from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Okay, so I grudgingly admit that our new favorite coffee happens to be a product of Starbucks.

When I was in college, I worked briefly as a barista at a small independent espresso shop that specialized in roasting beans to sell to customers as well as to distribute to other coffee shops. I worked there just long enough – almost a year, I think? – to develop a familiarity with a dozen or so Arabica coffee beans from around the world. Of the blends and straights our Master Roaster (who was from Italy) produced daily, the straight Sumatra quickly became my favorite.

That was back in 1994. I blame my snotty attitude toward Starbucks on my experience working with the Master Roaster, but really, I never preferred the taste of Starbucks coffee. Thus, it was a total surprise when Callaghan found a bag of ground Sumatra one day in December and my Sumatra love was promptly rekindled by its excellence… and the name on the bag was Starbucks! Guess where he found it? At Target. Of course.

That wraps it up for December… Happy New Year, everyone, and happy Friday! =)