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! =)

Body Combat en Français!

My triceps are sore today, and I love it!!

Perhaps the best thing about Les Mills International is the “International” part. It means that their classes are held in 20+ countries, so it’s feasible to get in your usual workout even when you’re traveling overseas. Thanks to our friend Chantal, we were able to do Body Combat with her at her gym yesterday. She got the passes for us in advance, and we found a Thursday 6:30pm session at her gym’s Cannes location (she usually goes to the one near her in Villeneuve-Loubet). It fit into our schedules perfectly.

 

Well isn't that convenient!!

Well isn’t that convenient!!

 

I didn’t know what to expect going in. Would the instructor teach the class in French or in English? If in French, would I understand the martial arts-specific terminology in the commands? I didn’t think so. Callaghan, who usually prefers to be in the back, graciously agreed to stand near me so I could look over and see what he was doing if I got lost. I stood in the center of the second row, between two people in the front row, so I could see myself in the mirror. Callaghan stood behind me and to the left. Chantal took a place next to him, directly behind me.

Here’s kind of how it went:

1). The instructor did, indeed, teach the whole class in French. (I learned a new word, “crochet,” which means “hook.” Makes sense.)

2). He started out explaining that he was substituting for the regular person. He wasn’t the usual instructor, so he was new to everyone, not just to us.

3). Unlike in Arizona, Callaghan was the only guy in the class.

4). Some of the tracks were familiar, while others totally weren’t! And that was good. There was some music I’d never heard, and moves we hadn’t done in class before. Those were probably older tracks.

5). The instructor was high-octane and clearly trained in martial arts.

6). There was a T.V. with a running loop of fitness footage that Callaghan said was distracting him.

7). Today, I feel it in my upper body. 10 days is a long time to go without working out when you’re used to going 3x/week!

It was fantastic, and it felt AMAZING to work out again after ten days of nothing (lots of walking and impromptu fake Parkour in Paris notwithstanding).

On that note, I’ll leave you with a few pics:

 

I took some of these brochures for souvenirs.

I took some of these brochures for souvenirs.

 

The group fitness schedule is posted on the classroom window, like at our gym. Unlike our gym, though, it's packed with classes.

The group fitness schedule is posted on the classroom window, like at our gym. Unlike our gym, though, it’s packed with classes.

 

The vending machine at FitLane is all Evian water, except for two rows of snacks at the top. Something you'd never find in an American vending machine: Madeleines. There's no junk food in our gym in Arizona, at all... just energy drinks, protein shakes and water.

The vending machine at FitLane is all Evian water, except for two rows of snacks at the top. Something you’d never find in an American vending machine: Madeleines. There’s no junk food in our gym in Arizona, at all… just energy drinks, protein shakes and water.

 

A last look on our way out. Au revoir, FitLane!

A last look on our way out. Au revoir, FitLane!

 

Happy Friday, All! =)

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!

Calf Encounters of the Third Kind.

Wednesday night after Body Combat class, I met Callaghan out on the floor, as per usual. [Side note: have I mentioned that I’m doing Body Combat class three times a week now, since our gym changed its group fitness schedule and replaced Wednesday night Boot Camp with another Body Combat? I love the extra Body Combat, of course, and the instructor is excellent, but “Find another way to get someone to kick my ass with a varied workout combining strength-training, compound exercises, plyometrics and cardio on a weekly basis during a day/time slot that works with my existing schedule” has since been a lingering, problematic item on my “To Do” list. I had relied completely on that weekly Boot Camp class for strength training, and one thing I’d especially appreciated was that the class was different every time. No two Boot Camp classes were the same, so your body never knew what was coming, and therefore, it couldn’t plateau. Plus, that instructor was excellent, as well.]

[Additional side note: Word did not recognize the word “plyometrics” when I keyed it in just now. This, I believe, points to a deplorable deficit in our system somewhere. I mean, what does it say about us as a society when Word doesn’t recognize “plyometrics,” other than the obvious conclusion that the people who develop that software must not work out?]

[Another additional side note: due to a recurring rib injury I was nursing at the time, I wasn’t even able to attend the last two Boot Camp classes, so I didn’t know it was going away until it was gone. I was still attending Body Combat because there I could power through the pain to the best of my ability and simply avoid the weight-bearing (push-ups) part at the end, but there was no point in attempting Boot Camp class at all with that injury.]

Anyway, so I met up with Callaghan – he lifts weights while I’m in class on Wednesday evenings – and as we walked out through the parking lot, he suddenly remembered he had something to tell me.

“Oh I talked to John tonight!” he blurted.

“John? John who?” I was thinking, John? Jean? Who is he talking about?

“JOHN, the Beautiful Calves Man,” he answered, leaving a silent “duh!” hanging at the end.

“Oh.”

“He told me that he’s a massage therapist,” he informed me.

“So are you going to get a massage from him?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “Actually, I’m going to ask him if I can massage his calves.”

We laughed at his joke. But I had to follow up.

“To see if they’re real?”

“I’m sure they’re real,” he replied. “Why would he put so much work into his body and then get fake calves?”

I went online last night in search of a video about calf implants, figuring I should educate myself. This was the first one I found:

 

 

So clearly, there’s a niche of jokes about calf implants out there. In a weird way, though, the video gives me additional impetus to find time for another gym session each week. I’ll have to give this challenge some serious consideration.

Meanwhile, Happy Friday!

Callaghan’s new pick-up line at the gym (calves edition).

Ever since Callaghan started lifting weights seriously… so that would be since March… he’s been in the habit of commenting on the size of the calves he sees on men in the gym. His remarks are always in the context of the proportion of the guy’s calves to the rest of his body, usually to the effect of, “I saw this guy and I don’t understand why guys refuse to work their calves! This one guy’s upper body was massive, but his calves were like twigs! I never forget to work my calves. I don’t want to look like that.” After which we spend a half hour or so debating genetics vs. strength-training for calf muscle shape and development, the merits of various types of calf exercises, plastic surgery (faking it with calf implants) and sheer negligence in training the calves.

 

Random calves in action at the gym.

Random calves in action at the gym.

 

I’ve gotten so used to Callaghan vocalizing his observations that when he starts a sentence with “There was this guy in the gym,” I already know that the guy’s calves are the subject of the sentence. Also, I know that there’s a 95% chance that his remark is going to be unfavorable. Every once in a while, he’ll tell me about a guy he saw with well-proportioned calves. And there’s one guy in particular whose calves he greatly admires. I remember the first time he mentioned him.

“There was this guy in the gym,” he began. He’d just come home.

“…and he had skinny little calves,” I finished for him.

“No! His calves were beautiful!” he exclaimed, surprising me. He went on to effusively praise the beauty and magnificence of not only the guy’s calves, but of his entire physique.

After that, every time Callaghan saw this guy in the gym, I heard about it afterward.

Then Callaghan started working full-time and had to cut back significantly on his weight-lifting. He still does the Body Combat classes with me twice a week, but for now, he’s only lifting weights on Wednesday evenings (while I’m in boot camp class), and sometimes once on the weekend, usually on Sundays.

“I haven’t seen the guy with the beautiful calves in a long time,” he said at one point. But on Wednesday night last week, when I met up with him after our respective workouts, he gushed, “You know how I said I haven’t seen the guy with the beautiful calves in a long time? He was here tonight, and he came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I haven’t seen you here before.’”

“Hahaha!!” I didn’t know why I thought that was hilarious, but for some reason, I did.

“His name is John. He introduced himself. I asked him, ‘Wow, what do you do to have beautiful calves like that?’”

That was exactly what Callaghan said. Imagine it in a French accent. Quite a pick-up line!

“What did he say?”

“That he has to thank his Mom. So I wanted to ask if his Mom had big calves, too,” he said, starting to laugh. “But I didn’t. Although I don’t think he would’ve minded.”

So we know that in this case of the Guy with Beautiful Calves, it’s genetics at play… and maybe it’s the beginning of a beautiful new gym bromance for Callaghan. The immediate effect of this whole thing, though, which I find kind of distracting, is that now I’m always checking out the lower legs on the males of our species. Yesterday, when I was talking to a guy at work, I found myself staring at his calves and thinking, he has nice calves! I laughed, but not out loud.

Sometimes, when one door closes, another one opens – with a hard right hand.

Body Combat class was cancelled at the gym last Saturday because of the holiday. Reluctant to miss a workout, I thought, what better time to find a heavy-bag somewhere? It had been so long!

I jumped online and honed in on a Saturday cardio kickboxing class at a boxing gym near our apartment. Going as a walk-in, I could avoid missing a workout and get in a heavy-bag bonus while I was at it. Their web site said to bring your own hand-wraps, so I knew I’d be punching something.

The rental fee for an hour with the heavy-bag walk-in cost for the class was only ten bucks. I was excited. It’d been about six years since I’d touched a heavy-bag, and just as long since I’d taken part in any kind of martial/fighting arts training (Capoeira and Kali were the last. Boxing, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do and T’ai Chi – many people don’t realize it, but T’ai Chi is actually a deadly form of martial arts – seemed ages ago). The last time I’d climbed into the ring to spar was maybe 2008. My six years away from combat sports felt more like six cat years… that would be 40 human years, which is about how long it felt!

The class was fun, and I did get to work the heavy-bag. I had my old hand-wraps that I’d dug out of storage the previous week, and I borrowed some gloves from the gym. During the hour-long workout, we did cardio kickboxing drills (including punching with weights, which I’d never done before, so that was interesting, and throwing kicks), push-ups, bag-work, partner-work and abs.  It felt great. I felt great.

Until two days later, when I found myself gobbling four extra-strength Advil as we ran out the door to Monday evening Body Combat. Everything hurt. The boxing gym workout had settled into my muscles, and I literally felt it from my neck down. Trapezius muscles? RIGHT, those exist! And to quote Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “Oh. Johnny Anterior Delts, I apologize; I forgot you were there.” Pecs. LATS! Triceps. Abs. QUADS… I felt the intense soreness in my upper legs just walking.

It didn’t help that I’d forgotten to eat something beforehand, either. In addition to the post-workout soreness, my energy stores felt depleted in class that night. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love feeling that kind of pain again, and I still had a great workout!

When we started Body Combat on Saturday, March 29, Callaghan was looking for general fitness benefits, and I was looking to re-gain my skills and get back into shape after being ridiculously sedentary for over three years (NEVER AGAIN). Three and a half months later, I’m feeling immensely better, but I still have a long way to go. There’s the two Body Combat classes and a boot camp class each week, and sometimes I go an extra day to walk on the treadmill. I feel like I should be doing more.

On Wednesday, it happened again… we had tickets to see Def Leppard and Kiss, which meant ditching boot camp class. We made it up last night by doing a Body Attack class at a different gym location. I’d never heard of Body Attack (like Body Combat, it’s a Les Mills International class). It was a pretty good workout!

Here’s a picture of Callaghan and me at the concert on Wednesday night:

 

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here's this, for what it's worth...

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here’s this, for what it’s worth…

 

Happy Friday, All!