Les Mills Body Pump updates.

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

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

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

Here’s my progress up to this point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

history of my back weight bar in Body Pump

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it Monday yet? TGIM! (Writing-Fitness balance: on changing routines.)

This week, I let go of my Monday evening workout. It was hard. I’d been doing that class for over three years… Monday/Wednesday kickboxing, non-negotiable.

You know how I feel about routines, and you know how I feel about kickboxing. This decision was not easy.

But it was a long time coming. I looked at my 2016 planner and saw that I’d been thinking about it since early November… because I’d just tried BodyPump, which is weight-training, which I’d spent a year trying and failing to do on my own. I finally realized that nothing was stopping me from going to a twice-weekly morning Pump class. It was life-changing. It got me thinking about re-vamping my entire workout schedule.

I did it slowly, starting with switching out Saturday morning kickboxing for Saturday morning Pump. I wanted three strength-training workouts per week, rather than two.

Then I had a few Monday evenings off when the Monday kickboxing class was between instructors, and I realized what Monday really is, now: it’s my favorite day of the week. My best workday. The ideal day to stay home all day and get shit done.

Monday has become my “third weekend-day,” my working-weekend day, my relaxed yet productive transition into the week. It’s my bubble of creative energy day. It’s my fresh-start day. I wake up filled with anticipation and ready to get ALL the ideas down. I’m writing before I even get out of bed on Monday mornings. I can multi-task all day on Mondays, no problem.

I realized that it’s TGIM around here, not TGIF. I had to make changes accordingly!

Easier said than done.

Since I’m slow to see things that are right before my eyes, I first had to have this argument with myself. (We all do this, right? Argue with ourselves, weigh pros and cons, etc.?)

Here’s how my argument went:

  • Monday is my best workday now.
  • And?
  • Leaving the house on Monday interrupts my best workday.
  • Why not just stay home on Mondays?
  • Because it’s Monday. I have to go to the gym.
  • Why?
  • Because it’s Monday.
  • Really.
  • I always go to the gym on Monday.
  • Okay, but why?
  • It’s what I do! Kickboxing on Mondays and Wednesdays!! I love it!!!
  • That’s not a real reason.
  • Because… I need at least two cardio workouts per week.
  • Can you find an alternate day for the Monday cardio?
  • Well, yes. Fridays or Sundays would work.
  • Then do it.

End of argument. Why had I been reluctant – even afraid – to give up Monday evening workouts? Because changing a routine is scary when your mental health depends on the stability routines provide. But I was able to work through it.

I’ve had my boxing gloves hanging up in my office, and now that’s metaphorical as well as practical. I hung up my Monday night gloves for writing.

 

Writing-training balance: boxing gloves hanging in my office (along with my hats and kukui nut lei)

 

The process of making this decision turned out to be a good exercise (pun not intended), so I thought I’d share it with you who may also have a hard time making changes to your routines.

I followed this thought-path:

  • Recognize (when something isn’t working anymore.)
  • Think (of how to fix it.)
  • Detach (to make it easier.)
  • Consider solutions/alternatives.
  • Wait for the immediate “obstacles” to come to mind, because they will… then
  • think beyond them.
  • Think creatively.
  • Do this by asking yourself questions and answering honestly.

Some people would call this “Follow your heart.” Others would call it “Adjust your thinking.” I call it “Wake up and realize that you’re the only one stopping yourself from making changes in order to do what you need to do… you can do it.”

Making changes isn’t easy for we who need routine in order to keep ourselves stable; routine is necessary, but it can also be an impediment. It makes it hard to see when change is needed.

Now I just need to discipline myself to get my ass to the gym to do cardio on my own. That shouldn’t be difficult.

 

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!

Writing Project: Not all who wander are lost. (+ note on fitness routine!)

Er… about that big writing project I started a few years ago. I dragged it off the back burner. Don’t get all excited – it’s embryonic; it doesn’t look like anything yet. Eventually, it will look like a novel. (I hope.)

I’ve put together a loose agenda that includes a loose daily word count goal and a loose deadline. Everything has to be loose, because everything, as Heraclitus said, is in flux. You can’t nail down that which is in flux, and I’m not even going to try.

In my experience, creativity and prioritizing cancel each other out. Maybe it’s better to say that creativity often sabotages prioritizing, and prioritizing sabotages creativity. In the last few weeks, I’ve found that setting myself up for that clash (by attempting to prioritize my creative writing projects) shorts my brain connections and I wind up going around the house like a droid opening the mail, of all things, and organizing my workout clothing drawers and emptying the dishwasher and making playlists on SoundCloud and so on.  You know. A rose by any other name is still procrastination.

So instead of fixed times, my agenda holds broad ranges of dedicated writing time, and I can shift between the project, poetry, and blog posts (which includes taking pics) as inspiration strikes me.

I’m setting my focus on that big project, though. I purchased a Scrivener license to help manage the ungainliness of it. I even did the full-length version of their interactive tutorial. If it sounds like I mean business this time, it’s because I do!

Nenette’s involvement is essential because I don’t have a choice in that matter.

 

All the water is Nenette's water.

All the water is Nenette’s water.

 

I’m happy to be in a position where I have to apply time-management strategies to solely creative projects. It’s a new challenge, and a very welcome one, at that.

Also, I’ve been thinking about dragging you along on my journey… any of you who may be interested, that is. Sharing the process with you may come with a side benefit of holding myself accountable for progress. I’ll see how things develop as I establish a rhythm!

Note on training:

In addition to my writing schedule, I’ve been hammering out a workout schedule supplemental to Body Combat three times a week. I’ve started a habit of beginning my days at the gym in order to re-create the daily walk I did when I was transporting myself to a job outside of the house. Getting to work used to involve 20 minutes of fasting cardio Monday-Friday, and my body loved it. Fasting cardio is somewhat controversial and not for everyone, but it works for me, so I’ve added that back into my life by going to the gym and walking on the treadmill (and doing a little on the stair-master) before breakfast every weekday morning.

ALSO-also! I’ve been taking 30-40 minutes out of my lunch hour to lift weights in the garage. New Year’s resolution strength-training finally underway, for real! I’ll still post martial arts/combat sports posts here since some of you enjoy those, but just to check in on that New Year’s resolution – the strength-training has been going well. It’s feeling really good to stick to that commitment.

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.

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.

Because “resolution” without the “re” is SOLUTION.

Like many people, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been an on-and-off cynic most of my adult life. My birthday falls five days before New Year’s Day, though, so at some point, I finally thought, Why not turn my personal one-year-older goals into resolutions? Because what are birthdays if not opportunities for introspection and decision-making to move forward with new or refreshed goals, right? Or something like that (says my inner self-help guru to myself).

“Resolution” minus the “re” is “solution,” after all… and that stands out to me. I’m a fan of solutions.

As it turns out, I do well participating in the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s glorified goal-setting that could be undertaken on any random day, sure, but January 1 is as good a day as any, fanfare or no. If we don’t have the motivation to commit to a goal on any other day of the year, at least there’s that day!

“Goals” is a popular word right now, but I want to talk plainly about how there’s a difference between wanting to achieve goals and needing to achieve them. Resolutions, in my opinion, are goals that we need to achieve; we make them in order to reignite the mechanisms we have for growth, self-improvement, joie de vivre… whatever it is that we’re lacking, in whatever way it needs to manifest. Ultimate goals are things like contentment and productivity. Contentment and productivity are good. People who are content and productive are good for society, good for us all.

You might receive advice that’s actually detracting, usually coming from the hearts of well-intentioned loved ones. There’s the old “…but you have to WANT to do it,” which I think is psychobabble for “You have to feel that doing xyz is going to result in personal gratification, or it’s not worth the effort.” I don’t believe this. Some of my greater achievements in life resulted from goals that I needed to pursue, but I absolutely didn’t want to pursue them.

Quitting smoking, for instance. I smoked between the ages of 15 and 23. I only smoked for eight years, but addiction is addiction no matter how long you’ve had it.

I absolutely did not WANT to quit smoking. I loved smoking. Whenever I’d think about quitting, all I WANTED my next cigarette. When I finally committed to breaking the habit, I still didn’t want to. I did it because I knew that I needed to.

Quitting was every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be.

I quit cold turkey, and I never smoked another cigarette. That was 24 years ago. (I think I was successful in part because I suffered through the process without the aid of chemical replacements. This was pre-nicotine patch. There was nicotine gum, but I wasn’t attracted to that strategy.) Suffering for that victory, that solution to the problem of my compromised health, made me value my success even more. If at any point in my smoking cessation journey someone uttered those condescending words in my general direction – “You just have to WANT to quit!” – I would have had to bite my tongue REALLY HARD. I know why I’m quitting. It’s a decision that I made. I don’t need you to tell me that if I just WANT to quit, I’ll effortlessly break my addiction overnight and ride off on a unicorn into a field of flowers and happy little bunnies.

Overcoming addiction of any kind is never easy, no matter if someone WANTS to do it or not.

But I digress. My point is, make a resolution, for the New Year or on any other day. Think of it as going after a solution. Focus on seizing something that will change your life for the better if you capture it. You’re not just making a change (passive connotation). You’re taking action (aggressive connotation). So be aggressive in tackling your resolution. Be a New Year’s resolution badass. Go for it.

Another thing people commonly say: “Do it for yourself. If you do it for someone else, you won’t succeed.” Again, I disagree. I mean, I don’t think this is always the case.

Last year, my main New Year’s resolution was to go cruelty-free… for Ronnie James, my feline fur-child. As Callaghan and I tried desperately to save his life, I told the Wrah-Wrah that I’d make every effort to avoid purchasing and using personal care products and cosmetics made by companies who engage in animal cruelty practices. (Granted, this wasn’t difficult, as I’d already been boycotting a couple of big-name brands for years to avoid contributing to their human rights violations. Boycotting companies that test on animals wasn’t a far stretch from that.)

I did it for Ronnie James. He died five months into the year, but I’m still doing it. For him. For all animals, but first and foremost for him. And doing it for him has kept me motivated to stick to my resolution more than I would were I just “doing it for myself.” In a strange sense I can’t really explain, the act of consciously and continuously striving to remove myself from the cycle of animal suffering at human hands keeps Ronnie James alive.

This strategy of goal-planning works for me, anyway. Everyone is different, but it might work for you, too. It would be worth trying! Dedicate your resolution to someone who deeply matters to you. Make them a promise you won’t want to break, and you might find that it’s easier to stick to your efforts.

This brings me to Resolutionary Road, 2016! I have more than one resolution. Here’s my list:

1). Get more sleep on a regular basis.

2). Improve my French (conversation).

3). Commit to strength-training.

Getting more sleep was my secondary resolution in 2015. Since I failed completely, it’s at the top of my 2016 list. I really, really need to get more sleep. Here, again, is the difference between wants and needs: I don’t WANT to get more sleep. I WANT the opposite… I want more hours in the day. I want to stay up until 3:00am, because for some reason, I’m often possessed by a rush of creative energy at around 11:00pm every night, and I’m afraid that if I don’t utilize it, I’ll squander it. But more sleep is an absolute necessity for my health, so this year, I’m going to try to shut everything down at 10:00pm so I can be in bed by 10:30pm. I get up at 5:30am on weekdays, so this would give me seven hours of sleep IF I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. (Which never happens. But nearly seven hours of sleep would be a great improvement over the four-five hours I typically get.)

I dedicate this resolution to Mom, who always worries that I don’t sleep enough. I don’t want her to worry about me for any reason, because worrying is detrimental to her health.

For my second resolution, improving my French conversation, I simply need to speak more French. I have a bad habit of answering Callaghan in English when he speaks to me in French. The divide between my comprehension level and speaking level is now so great that it’s ridiculous! I have no excuses. I just need to speak it more; that’s the only way I’m going to improve.

I dedicate this resolution to Callaghan, obviously!

As for strength-training, I need to make that a regular part of my workout routine. I’m not weak, but I would feel better in a stronger body. Doing pull-ups in my home office doorway every once in a while isn’t sufficient, and shadow-boxing with dumbbells isn’t cutting it, either. We have heavier dumbbells, so I need to start using them.

I dedicate this resolution to Ming, my best friend who died suddenly in 2003. Ming was one of my Tae Kwan Do instructors, and as friends, we developed a brother-sister bond that made him a member of my family. Ming was an extremely talented martial arts athlete, and his work ethic in the do-jang inspires me to this day. Improving my strength so I can be a better martial artist is my tribute to him.

 

Ming and me, 1996

Ming and me, 1996

 

Happy Resolutioning, if you do it!

Fitness routine changes afoot! (Also, what’s new with Nenette)

Fitness update! This may only be interesting to me, but I’m excited about it, so I’m sharing it. AT LONG LAST, I’m going to round out my workout routine with weights. I mean, I believe I’ve figured out how I can fit it into my day.

I hadn’t added a strength-training component to my routine yet due to limited time, and Body Combat three times a week is non-negotiable. This last week, I finally applied some serious thought as to how it could be done.

My friend and Body Combat instructor Izzy the Trainer inspired me when she posted a fitness selfie during her lunch-hour workout. She’s eight weeks post-partum, and she seriously looks like she could take the competition stage in a month! I wish I could train in the middle of the day, I thought, marveling at her drive. Then it occurred to me that my recent move to a new office put me within walking distance of the gym on campus. I did a re-con a few days ago and found that the walk is a mere eight minutes. The idea of working out over my lunch hour started to take serious shape. It is feasible. I can do this.

Still, I vacillated. There’s a small financial commitment involved, and though it’s really not much, I balked at the idea of paying for two different gyms. I got to the point, though, where I decided that the investment would be worth it.

I haven’t jumped in just yet… I’ve been giving thought as to how I could maximize the time I’d have, when and how it would be the most beneficial to work what muscle groups, how often I’d go, and how I’d manage the gym attire/personal hygiene aspect in the middle of my workday. I wouldn’t do a workout that leaves me dripping with sweat, but still, I’d want to clean up somehow before returning to work, of course.

Updates to come!

In kitty news, Nounours and Nenette have been good. We’ve been seeing Nenette’s playful side emerge, and that’s been a lot of fun. The nature of her playfulness actually calls her age into question even more… she really seems more like three or four, rather than the six years old we were told.

Here are a few pics:

 

This made us laugh... Nenette playing with Nounours' tail! He seemed to be flipping it around on purpose.

This made us laugh… Nenette playing with Nounours’ tail! He seemed to be flipping it around on purpose.

 

So many toys! Too many decisions! Just like the Wrah-Wrah.

So many toys! Too many decisions! Just like the Wrah-Wrah.

 

The gold heart tag is new… it’s her microchip tag. Her pink I.D. heart is on the other side.

 

Nounours, the blue-eyed photobomb master!

Nounours, the blue-eyed photobomb master!

 

In this picture, Nenette reminds me of Louise from Bob's Burgers.

In this picture, Nenette reminds me of Louise from Bob’s Burgers.

 

(I was slightly traumatized last night when I went online looking for an image of Bob’s Burgers’ Louise for a possible “Not Unlike” of Louise and Nenette. In the process, I accidentally traumatized Callaghan. Needless to say, I didn’t find what I needed for the “Not Unlike.” Oh, well.)

 

Nenette discovered that she loves playing with this black string.

Nenette discovered that she loves playing with this black string.

 

Tomorrow, both Nounours and Nenette are going to our vet for checkups and updated vaccinations. We also need to get Nounours’ international microchip scanned so we can finally register it to us. We’re hoping to discover Nenette’s actual age… or that she really is six.

Happy Friday, All!

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 Rats: There’s a new poster child for calves-training in town.

It’s surprising how a simple virus can change your body in just a few days.

When I concern myself with my weight at all, I look at it through the lens of the combat sports weight class system. I just prefer to view my body as a tool, as in, what can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body? From this perspective, I dropped from the Jr. Bantam class to Jr. Flyweight within a week, just from being sick. What’s more, I’ve been eating normally for five days now, and I’m still in Jr. Fly. Is this just my new weight class? Should I start re-imagining my fantasy opponents?

But returning to the questions What can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body?  I’ve got my goals set for 2015: I want to make my body stronger, and I want it to be better-versed on the ground. I’ll try to find a place in my schedule for some kind of strength-training, as well as for some basic submission training and practice. I feel like I need to work on the basics. Also, getting stronger will get me my lost poundage back, I’m sure.

Callaghan’s been mapping out his training goals for 2015, too. I’d known that he was borderline obsessed with the whole process, but I didn’t realize to what extent until we were at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was on my birthday. We were standing in the lobby when I noticed that he was distracted as I was talking to him.

“Sorry,” he said when he noticed me noticing. “I was mesmerized.” Naturally, I turned to look at the object of his attention. The only thing I saw was this promotional display:

 

thatasianlookingchick-spongebobmovie

 

It took a few seconds.

“SpongeBob?”

“His physique,” Callaghan explained.

I looked at the display again. Then I started laughing. Then I started taking pictures. Because Callaghan was too “mesmerized” by SpongeBob SquarePants to pay attention to what I’d been saying, and come on, how many people can say that about their partners? My husband wasn’t listening to me because he was mesmerized by SpongeBob’s physique.

Later, downloading the pics onto my laptop, something caught my eye as I flipped through them. I looked closer, and suddenly, it all make sense! There it was in all its glory… Callaghan’s biggest gym pet peeve:

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

 

Callaghan must have been looking at the proportion of SpongeBob’s legs – especially his calves – to the rest of his body!

I was gleeful with my discovery. I went back to him with the pics.

“Were you mesmerized by SpongeBob’s non-existent calves?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Or were you just mesmerized by his ripped upper body?”

“I was mesmerized by his non-existent calves. Actually, no, I was mesmerized by his ripped upper body. I didn’t even see his calves!”

Okay, well. Whatever. All I have to say is, once again, my partner is weirder than yours.

And SpongeBob SquarePants is now the official poster child for not skipping leg day… especially calves!

You want to know what mesmerized me over the holidays? Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy” with Charli XCX on New Year’s Eve:

 

 

How’s that for random?

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.

1:30AM Post. File under “I’m Even a Bigger Dork than I’d Thought.”

Hi. You must be here because you wish to read about last week’s Fiasco of the Week, because you know there was one.

This one involved a stench hovering like a putrid cloud near the corner of our bedroom, near my side of the bed. I noticed it as I was falling asleep one night early in the week. It was a distinctively organic smell, so I just assumed that either Ronnie James or Nounours had had an accident or sprayed, neither of which they’d ever done (since we’ve had them, anyway), but it wouldn’t have been surprising; their demeanors had been somewhat off-kilter due to recent, albeit temporary, changes in their routine. You know how cats are about their routines.

We sniffed all around the corner of the bed, trying to identify the odor’s exact location and source – up near my pillow, where it seemed to be the strongest. We stripped the bed of its sheets, mattress cover, pillow cases, bedspread… and threw the whole shebang in the wash. We cleaned the bed’s headboard and side planks. We pulled the bed away from the wall and sprayed pet odor neutralizing carpet cleaner on the carpet, though there was no stain to be seen. Just to be sure, we scrubbed the pristine brick wall behind the bed with soap and warm water, and then went over it again with a “green” all-purpose cleaner.

The smell didn’t go away. In fact, over the next few days, it worsened.

We weren’t angry with Nounours and The Wrah-Wrah, because we understand How Kitties Are. But by Wednesday evening, I became convinced that the kitties weren’t the culprits, after all. The odor seemed to be coming from something that had died. It had that sweet/sharp cloying dead smell. We performed another exhaustive search and found nothing.

On Thursday night, I stood near the bed, utterly perplexed. We’d done absolutely everything, but the odor was stronger than ever! I couldn’t bear the idea of sleeping with my nose in the ghastly fumes another night. There was only one thing left to do. It was drastic, but it had to be done. Obviously, the odor was either coming from the carpet or the wall, and it was being very stubborn. I would have to outsmart it. I would have to move the bed to the opposite wall.

Moving the bed entailed the rearrangement of pretty much all the furniture in the room, which I did by myself, because Callaghan and Chantal had gone out to Rawhide and elsewhere.

Honestly, though, I enjoyed the chance to get more exercise into my day. Because our queen-size bed is a sleigh bed, it’s heavy and ungainly, and I had to get all the other furniture out of the way before I could re-position it. I moved out the chest of drawers, the two night-tables, the long under-the-window table (aka the kitty window seat), my desk and chair, the corner shelving thing (no idea what it’s called), the vanity-less vanity stool (the vanity itself is outside on the balcony, having been re-purposed as a table for plants) and the clothes hamper. I shoved it all into the hallway, the bathroom, Callaghan’s studio and the main room, along with the objects that had been on the floor and on the furniture surfaces. Then I worked on moving the bed, which had to be turned around 180 degrees. I did some dragging and pulling, but I mostly sat on the floor, planted my feet on the bed and used it as a leg press. Great work-out! Once the bed was situated in its new spot, I could move all the furniture and stuff back in.

In the end, I’d basically flipped the room around, putting the bed and one of the night-tables against the wall opposite from where they used to be, and the chest of drawers, my desk and chair, the other night-table (there’s no room for a table on both sides of the bed now that the bed is against the wall with the door) and the vanity stool on the long wall where the bed had been. I returned the long, low table to its spot under the window, so the kitties could keep their window seat… it’s a tight squeeze getting around that side of the bed, but it works. I folded the corner shelving thing, leaning it up against the wall, since there’s no longer an available corner for it.

I stood back in the doorway to examine the new configuration, and I liked it. The room still looked good, and the mysterious awful odor would no longer be next to my head at night. Plus, I’d gotten an amazing impromptu work-out while I was at it. I’d worked quickly for a full hour, taking no breaks, pushing, pulling and carrying furniture, removing the heavy drawers from the dresser and hauling them out and back in, holding each one high up in front of me to get around stuff piled up in the hallway. I’d maneuvered the cumbersome queen-size sleigh bed around to the opposite wall, and moved everything else back in. I’d vacuumed along the way, working up a sweat and getting my heart-rate up (great cardio-respiratory work-out in addition to strength-training)!

I must admit, it was gratifying to discover the extent of the progress I’d made in regaining my strength and endurance since dedicating myself at the gym in Body Combat and Boot Camp classes (and the occasional hour on the treadmill) over the last few months. I was happy to feel more like my old self again while making strenuous physical effort. My fitness levels are getting back up to where they were before I moved to France – check! The bed was no longer against the wall with the horrid odor – check!

I felt quite satisfied and pleased with myself.

I went into the kitchen to wash my hands before going around the apartment to collect the random objects that belonged in the bedroom, and… the dead smell was in the kitchen. It hadn’t been there before.

It hit me the second I got there. I stood still and inhaled the offensive odor as my disbelieving eyes followed it to the counter by the sink. The flowers that Callaghan had given me 10 days ago were sitting there where I’d placed them before moving the bedroom furniture.

The dead flowers. The flowers that I’d set on my night-table back when they were fresh… the night-table next to my side of the bed. The flowers had expired, and they reeked. I cautiously bent my head to smell them. The dead flesh odor was unmistakable. There was no doubt about it. I’d found the source.

I couldn’t believe it. All along, the offending odor had come from a vase of dead flowers!

All I had to do was remove the flowers.

But I do like the new room arrangement, and so does Callaghan (who is still laughing at me for this, by the way). I’m enjoying my new office corner even more than my previous one, as well.

 

My new office corner in the bedroom!

My new office corner in the bedroom!

 

 

And I got in a great work-out.

And the room is more in keeping with good feng shui principles now that our feet aren’t facing the open doorway while we’re lying in bed.

And in the end, I did manage to get rid of the odor.

And I learned to be more mindful of flowers that have died and require disposal!

 

I put the noxious flowers out on the balcony so I could present my discovery to Callaghan when he got home. As Johnny Ringo (Tombstone) would remark in perfectly bad taste, "Smells like someone died."

I put the noxious flowers out on the balcony so I could present my discovery to Callaghan when he got home. As Johnny Ringo (Tombstone) would remark in perfectly bad taste, “Smells like someone died.”

 

They were lovely when they were alive, though.