Turbo heart rate – Body Combat Release 68 (Informal Review!)

Les Mills Body Combat 68 is fun. It’s a killer. There’s one part that’s a struggle for me. There’s another part that knocks the wind out of me. I love these challenges.

The music set is probably my favorite of all the releases I’ve done, not because of any particular song, but just the set as a whole. The beat match from start to finish is pretty decent, there’s a great bassline in each track, and none of the tracks annoy me too much. (The tracks have strong hooks, which means they can be either very awesome or very annoying.) That’s one thing this set has going for it: the beat manages to override any vocals that might otherwise make me want to stab myself in the ear. I do like most of the tracks, though.

You move through the cardio set in the hardcore electronic dance/club genre with flavors of drum and bass, trap, dubstep, synthpop, Eurodance, and the like, driven by an aggressive pulse with some cool remixes. I like the set’s cohesiveness in contrast to the releases whose sets take you all over the map with metal, electronica, rap, pop, hair band hard rock, etc. (I dig most of those genres individually, but mashed together in a single workout release? Not so much.) The cohesiveness of 68’s sound set keeps my momentum going; I don’t have to drastically switch gears from track to track. I looked up the music and noted that some of it hails from Down Under, home of Les Mills International. Great job, Les Mills DJ!

Workout-wise, I like 68’s footwork (agility), plyometrics (explosive power), and level changes (reflex and compound exercise). [ETA: There’s some great H.I.I.T. in this release, too.]

So let’s go.

 

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

 

(Grainy screenshots Callaghan and me in this post are courtesy of video footage taken in bad lighting.)

 

*****

Les Mills Body Combat 68

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up (“Freak” – Steve Aoki, Diplo & Deorro feat. Steve Bays)

  • Music: No-bullshit, high-octane club music for the upper-body warm-up; there’s no easing into this release with souped-up Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. It might be annoying to some, but it does the job.
  • Boxing combinations with uppercuts, hooks, jabs, crosses.
  • The level changes and small footwork involvement are cool. My upper-body is most definitely warm after this!

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up (“Break The Rules” – Anonymous Hotel)

  • Music: Same vein as 1a above. You know this excessively bright and happy music for the lower-body warm-up is meant to lull you into a false sense of security. It can only portend major lower-body mangling in the rest of the workout. And it does.
  • Knees and more knees!
  • Kicks (front snap kicks to push kicks to roundhouse kicks).
  • Down for push-ups… in the warm-up?!
  • These aren’t static push-ups, either. This is a lower-body warm-up, remember… there’s active leg involvement here.
  • Yep. The dynamic push-ups became MOUNTAIN-CLIMBERS. In the WARM-UP.

Track 2: Combat 1 (“Push” – Kronic, East Movement & Savage)

  • Music: Trap, and heavy on the drums. Great track for Combat 1!
  • Switch kicks (knee to kick). Jump kicks. Jump kicks on repeat.
  • Knees and lunges.
  • More knees and lunges.
  • Lower-body burn-out, check.

Track 3: Power Training 1 (“On My Way” – Jupiter Soliloquy)

  • Music: This could be a track that annoys me too much, but it’s saved by the beat.
  • Hard and fast upper-body combinations… uppercuts, jab, crosses.
  • Footwork (scissors) incorporated into the upper-body combos.
  • Running in place – but it’s not even the halfway point!
  • More.

Track 4: Combat 2 (“My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” – 2 Chainz)

  • Music: 2 Chainz remixed Fall Out Boy’s song, and it’s kickass. This song actually deviates from the set’s general character, but it still fits in there nicely. Great jam for Combat 2.
  • “Bring your mat close-by” is a euphemism for “We’re doing push-ups in the middle of this cardio track.”
  • Low-mid-low block combination.
  • Roundhouse kick add-on to the block combos.
  • Side kicks with a floor tap in between.
  • Double kicks, and here I face the fact that my balance has gone to shit. The tap in between the double kicks becomes a quick squat to involve more leg.
  • This is the part that’s a struggle for me. I don’t get it – my balance has never been so bad. But this gives me something to work on.
  • Double kicks become triple kicks.
  • I don’t feel the burn I’m supposed to be feeling in my standing leg, probably because I completely fail to hold my balance.
  • 2 Chainz takes over the song and we drop down for push-ups (with the same lower-body involvement we saw in the warm-up) in increasing reps.
  • Mountain-climbers. Of course.

Track 5: Power Training 2 (“Dirty” (Metrik Remix) – Dirtyphonics)

  • Music: Drum & Bass. Great vibe, and again, great music for this track!
  • Striking combos with level changes.
  • Plyometrics: Squat jumps, then lateral squat jumps.
  • This is a short but intense track.

Track 6: Combat 3 (“She Got It (Club Mix)” – Vandalism & Angger Dimas)

  • Music: Sick beat. Not my favorite track, but clearly this DJ knows what’s what.
  • Side kick, front kick, back kick combination.
  • Back kick repeaters.
  • I couldn’t count the number of kicks in this release if I wanted to.

Track 7: Muay Thai (“The United Vibe” – Scooter)

  • Music: Okay, after two years of Body Combat, I’m now used to practicing Muay Thai moves to music other than death metal and gangsta rap. Thus acclimated, I can get into this techno/Eurodance jam for the Muay Thai track.
  • Jab, up elbow, double knee combination.
  • Four knees. Two knees. Running man knees.
  • Four levels of running man knees!
  • Downward elbows.
  • This is the part that knocks the wind out of me: Downward elbows IMMEDIATELY following level 4 running man knees.
  • Level 4 running man takes a lot out of me. Downward elbows take a lot out of me. I need a brief pause to recover between the two, but there’s no such thing. So here’s the second major area I need to work on (the first being my balance): Breathing management to get through this track.
  • Ground and pound.

Track 8: Power Training 3 (“Out Of My Hands” – Olympic Daydream)

  • Music: I like the instrumental sequence, and it makes sense for this last cardio track.
  • Jabs!
  • Hooks!
  • Jacks!
  • More jabs!
  • I always like track 8. It’s an opportunity to use everything up, if anything is left.

Track 9: Conditioning (“Turn Down For What” – DJ Snake & Lil Jon)

  • Music: A classic. Great song for a killer ab track.
  • Laying on back: Criss-cross legs in the air.
  • Crunches added to the legs.
  • Laying on side: side crunches (side plank)
  • Flip back over: More. Just more. And flip over again. And again. Maybe I’m exaggerating at this point, but I don’t think so.
  • My abs hate me.

Track 10: Cool-down (“I See Fire” – Sol3 Mio)

  • Music: I looked up this song, and sure enough, it’s famous for representing the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby team. (Les Mills is a New Zealand company.) The vocals are beautiful.
  • Stretching.

 

 

*****

In summary: 68 is an intense release.

 

Us being us.

Us being us.

 

I’d give it an 8.5.

BodyCombatversary!

It’s the last weekend of March. You know what we did last year on the last weekend of March? We went to our first Body Combat class! This is momentous, guys. On March 29, 2014, I finally got off my ass and ended the longest period of inactivity in my adult life. Planners and agendas are useful like that… you can look back and note such things. I love celebrating -versaries of all kinds. There has to be one for everything! Happy BodyCombatversary to Callaghan and me!

The idea of getting established in a workout routine was hard, but it hurt my brain more than my out-of-shape muscles. I’d been sedentary for so long, and out of training for even longer. We’d actually signed up at our gym a few months earlier, but I hardly went because zero motivation. Callaghan had way more determination than I to get to the gym. When I did manage to drag myself there to half-heartedly walk on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes, all I felt was this weird mixture of boredom and accomplishment and more boredom. Like, YAY, I went to the gym, go me! OH NO… I just spent 20 minutes of my life on a piece of cardio equipment. I could have been doing laundry. The struggle was real, folks, as they say. It’s HARD to get back into habitual exercise once you’ve fallen out of it for any length of time!

Then I decided to check out the group fitness class offerings, and everything changed.

According to my 2014 agenda:

–Tuesday, March 18, 2014: I went to a Body Pump class, just to try it. I didn’t hate it, but I never went back. I think I’m too lazy to do Body Pump. The very idea of making numerous trips to the equipment corner and hauling things over to the floor and then having to quickly change the configuration of the weights in between sets and then hauling all the stuff back to the corner at the end makes me feel annoyed (and bored)! Conclusion: I’m not badass enough to do Body Pump.

(Side-note 1: You know who’s really badass? THE PEOPLE WHO DO BODY PUMP IMMEDIATELY AFTER BODY COMBAT. I marvel at all you guys who do the classes back-to-back! When I’m done with Combat, I’m done. I got nothing left.)

(Side-note 2: I really should start some kind of strength-training routine, though. Shadow-boxing with dumbbells in my garage for five minutes once a week ain’t cutting it.)

–Wednesday, March 26, 2014: I tried a boot camp class. It was super hard. I loved it. Conclusion: Yes!

–Saturday, March 29, 2014: I tried Body Combat. The word “combat” on the schedule caught my eye, and my interest perked up immediately. I hadn’t thrown a punch in almost seven years. Okay, I thought. Let’s try this! So I went, and that was it. I was hooked. Body Combat is simple: I go in and follow the instructor’s commands until we’re done, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss, no equipment! You’re in and out and home before you know it, dripping sweat and feeling accomplished.

Overall conclusion: I made a standing date with the gym for Monday evenings and Saturday mornings (Body Combat), and Wednesday evenings (Boot Camp).

There was no reluctance from that point on; I surprised myself with my 180 turn-around. I’d been against the idea of group fitness classes before I even saw the schedule, because even though I really wanted to work out, in my advanced state of workout apathy and gym-self-motivating-brain-cells-atrophy, the notion of committing myself to a workout “schedule” seemed about as appealing as escaping from jail by digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. Sunken deep in my routine of sitting on my ass, I was perversely comfortable in my little prison cell of inactivity.

Of course, doing Body Combat brought back the old obsession with actual training (the sweet science addiction never really goes away once it bites you), and this led to the equipment in our garage. We went out there to play a little late last night. Callaghan took pictures.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage... plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven't replaced my camera since my last one died.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage… plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven’t replaced my camera since my last one died.

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

Elbows on the ground

Elbows on the ground

 WaveMaster, bare fists

WaveMaster, bare fists

Now, we do three Body Combat classes per week and no Boot Camp, because the Wednesday night Boot Camp went away and was replaced by the third Body Combat.  I’m not complaining about the extra Body Combat, though I do miss the Boot Camp! In a perfect world, I’d be able to get away from work one morning a week just long enough to do Suzy’s Core, Cardio & More class (Wednesdays), or Geeny’s H.I.I.T. class (Thursdays). If I’m ever off work on either of those days, that’s where I go! Huge shout-out to those ladies, and to our phenomenal regular Combat instructors and friends Izzy, Rebecca and Amelia, and also to our sometimes-instructors Jessica and Diane!

That’s the best part… in the last year, I’ve gained much more than a higher level of fitness with increased energy, strength and balance. I’ve gained new friendships with other class participants and the instructors, themselves.  I’ve also gained something concrete to look forward to, three times a week (looking forward to stuff is so important if you have clinical depression, by the way). Each time we leave the gym, I can’t wait for the next time, and that is awesome.

Happy Friday, Everyone! =)

Gym Idiosyncrasies.

We all know that “humans are creatures of habit,” and we’re often reminded that in many cases, it’d be best if we weren’t. We’re advised to change up our patterns to stay safe. We’re warned that our routines will slowly kill us with stagnation if we don’t interject some spontaneity into our lives here and there. And everyone knows that operating on auto-pilot isn’t the ideal way to live life! Maybe so, but there’s comfort to be found in habits, routines and rituals. I’m quite attached to mine, though I know it’s true what they say… when we get set in our ways, others learn our patterns. Besides getting mired in the dreaded rut, we can become targets, if you’re looking from the dark side, or caricatures, if you’re looking with a sense of humor.

Speaking to that sense of humor side, Les Mills International posted an entry on their blog the other day, and a friend who teaches Les Mills (i.e. Body Combat) and other group fitness classes posted it on her FaceBook page. In the article, they list some of the DIFFERENT TYPES OF LES MILLS GROUP X GO-ERS.

The first type, the Front Row Diva, made me laugh right away. My “spot” in Body Combat is in the front row, and I heard that no one even stood in it when I was out sick, haha!

I would identify with the Front Row Diva if I liked to be directly in front of the instructor, or if I wanted to upstage the instructor, lead the class, or predict her moves. Or if dancing was applicable in the class, and if I could dance… or if my “dancing” was grinding. Okay, so the Front Row Diva isn’t really a good fit, at all.

But the front row part is very true. Since I use my own reflection as my opponent, I have to be able to see it, and the only way to do that is to be in front (any further back and I’d need glasses), and off to the side (so no one is in front of me).

Anyway, I thought the post was funny, and it got me thinking about my various other gym-related patterns and idiosyncrasies.

Here’s the break-down!

Clothing

–I usually don’t know what gym clothes I’m wearing until I change into them… and sometimes not even then. Sometimes, I don’t notice what I’m wearing at all unless someone (like Callaghan the other day) points it out.

Him: *sidling up to me in class* Hello, Ninja!

Me: haha I’m not a ninja.

Him: *points at my shirt*

Me: *looks down at shirt* Oh, yeah, I’m wearing my ninja shirt!

I honestly didn’t know.

This is because my method of packing my gym bag is in a huge hurry, randomly grabbing stuff out of the drawers. In the top drawer, the stack of shirts is on the left and the sports bras are on the right. My shorts are in the drawer beneath that one. I take one thing from each pile and throw it all into my gym bag without thinking about it. Auto-pilot can be a wonderful, time-saving thing, and it helps a lot that I have zero interest in gym attire. As long as my clothes are clean, I don’t care what they look like.

 

After working out last night. Random t-shirt: Raleigh/Durham Int'l Airport, North Carolina, 2008 (?). Shorts: ProSpirit Athletic Gear, no idea where or when I got them, they're SO OLD.

After working out last night.
Random t-shirt: Raleigh/Durham Int’l Airport, North Carolina, 2008 (?).
Shorts: ProSpirit Athletic Gear, no idea where or when I got them, they’re SO OLD.

 

–The only gym clothes I bother examining are my socks. I have black ones and gray ones. If they’re black, I check to make sure they’re the right black ones… I have two similar-but-different types, but I can only wear one kind while working out. The other ones are thinner and looser; I can feel my feet sliding around in my shoes when I wear them, and it’s annoying.

If they’re the gray socks, I check to make sure they’re a matching pair. They’re marked with the brand’s logo in different bright colors, and while I don’t care if my t-shirt and shorts are ancient with holes in them, I do care if my socks don’t match, even if no one can see the logo because it’s on the sole of the foot! (That’s why I’m calling these “idiosyncrasies.”)

Hmm… I just realized that I’m more concerned about my socks than anything else I wear to the gym.

Changing

I change into my gym clothes in the car on the way. Callaghan and I have it down to a science:

–He picks me up from work at 5:00pm. My packed gym bag is already in the car from when I’d tossed it in there that morning.

–I get in. He starts driving. My gym bag is between us, and I’ve got it open and I’ve pulled out my shorts, shoes and socks.

–We’re on Mill Avenue in the middle of downtown Tempe during rush hour and I’m slouched in the passenger seat without a seatbelt (I know, I know!) as I slide off my jeans and pull on my shorts. (If I ever die in a car accident with my pants around my ankles, that’s why. *knocks on wood*)

–Then I put on my shoes and socks.

–By the time my lower body is changed, we’re on Rio Salado either crossing Rural or waiting at the light at Rural. I say, “Okay! Tell me when it’s safe,” and just after we cross Rural, he says, “Go!” (Every time! How does that work? So far, no one has seen me half-naked in the car. *knocks on wood*)

–I quickly lean forward, rip off my top, undo my bra, shake it off, and shimmy into my sports bra. The whole operation takes less than 30 seconds. Down to a science.

–I straighten up and pull on my t-shirt. Then, finally, I put on my seatbelt.

–Work clothes and shoes get stuffed into the gym bag and tossed onto the back seat.

–I make sure the hair band around my wrist has two barrettes attached to it. I’ve taken to pulling my hair back once I’m in class.

–We get to the gym with enough time to run to the restroom before the class starts at 5:30pm.

FUN FACT: If it wasn’t for Callaghan driving us, I’d never make it on time.

Positioning in Class

–In Body Combat, I like to be in the front row and off-center, so I can see in the mirror, and there’s no one in front of me (see above).

–In any other group fitness situation, I like to be in the very back row, and again, off to the side. If you’ve ever been in a Boot Camp, Body Attack or H.I.I.T. class with me, you probably didn’t even see me, because I was hiding in the back corner.

FUN FACT: For some reason, the idea of being in the middle of the class (with people on all sides) makes me feel claustrophobic.

Pre-workout ritual

Come to think of it, I do have a little routine I do before class starts.

–Old habits: I do a few T’ai Chi “essentials” exercises, warming up my joints by rotating them. I go through the sequence of circular motions standing up, starting with my ankles and making my way up to my hips, shoulders and head, reversing the rotation half-way through. Then I put my hand on my head and gently pull it down toward my shoulder, first to one side, then the other. If I have time after that, I might put my hands on my knees and do some knee rotations.

Besides warming up my joints, this ritual also serves as a mini moving meditation… it’s how I center myself, get my energy (chi) flowing and my breathing coordinated with my movements, and transition my mind to training mode.

I finish with some torso twists that cause my arms to swing from side to side so the backs of my hands gently hit my kidneys, boosting the movement by lifting my heels in each direction. This is a qi gong exercise in the tradition of the Shaolin monks. I’ve heard it called “swaying arms,” or “swaying tree.”

This entire little pre-workout ritual takes anywhere from three to five minutes. (In a real T’ai Chi/Qi Gong class, it would be integrated with more exercises, and it would take a full hour.)

Post-workout ritual

–After class, I thank the instructor before I leave, because I’m truly grateful for her time. I know that most of the instructors have day jobs and family lives, and I appreciate those who have the dedication and stamina to get up there to motivate us at the end of the day! (I’m not sure that I could do it!)

–I’m drenched in sweat and totally gross, so in the car going home, I try to avoid leaning back against the seat. (I DO wear my seat belt, though.)

–When we get home, I remove what’s left of my make-up (just eyes, at that point!) if it’s during the week. (On Saturday mornings, I don’t wear make-up.) Then I usually make a protein shake before jumping in the shower.

The End. And now that you know all of my gym-related habits, I “should” change some of them, right?!

Have a great Tuesday, All!