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!

The last bro standing. (Perceptions of fitness.)

At Body Combat a few days ago, Rebecca, our Wednesday night instructor, went to close the door before starting class. She called out to the group of guys gathered on the other side: “Are you coming in or staying out?” There were five of them.

“What kind of class is it?”

“Kickboxing.”

After some hesitation, they gamely filed in and arranged themselves in the back of the room.

I don’t usually look at others in the mirror during a workout, but this time, I couldn’t help but glance in their direction every once in a while. I was curious to see what would happen. The guys seemed to be in their 20’s, and looking at them, you’d assume that they work out. But how would they fare in Body Combat?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-beastmodeorawake

 

They started out on point, striking, kicking, and keeping with the pace, doing pretty well considering they didn’t know the material. They were killing it, actually.

At the end of the lower-body warm-up, I cast an eye back there again and saw the first visible signs of fatigue. The guys started falling back as we worked through the tracks. Soon, each one was going at his own pace, which is normal… it’s how anyone, at any fitness level, can do Body Combat.

Release 65 is intense. If you go full-power when your muscles aren’t used to Body Combat, you’re going to feel it fast. The first guy to give up left the room during the second half of track 2 (Combat 1).

A little while later – I want to say it was after the H.I.I.T. session Les Mills planted in the middle of the workout – another guy fell out and left.

By then, I was totally entertaining myself watching to see who would leave next. I think it was during the capoeira track that two more made their escape.

The last bro standing started taking longer rests, and more frequently. I was rooting for him to make it to the end. The capoeira track was a quad-burner, but the Muay Thai track required more energy, and it looked like he’d exhausted his stores. Still, he powered through. During track 8 (Power Training 3), he finally waved his white towel in defeat (I say figuratively – he had a towel, but he didn’t wave it) and departed. He almost made it through that last cardio track! He’d been running on fumes, and he had nothing left; he didn’t know Body Combat, so he didn’t know that there was less than five minutes of cardio left. If he had stayed, he would have been rewarded with the abs conditioning track and the cool-down. It was impressive that he lasted that long, though!

Maybe these guys mostly just lift weights, and they’re less into cardio. Or maybe they used up all of their beast-mode at the beginning of the class, so they ran out quickly.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-beast-mode-300

 

In any case, the moral of the story…

Q: What do you get when reasonably athletic-looking bros spontaneously jump into a Les Mills Body Combat class?

A: A reminder of how Body Combat is a no-joke, super intense workout… and also an appreciation that you can do it.

The second and most important moral of the story? “Don’t judge a person’s fitness level based on appearance.”

In other words (I’ll say it again), someone’s body size or shape is no reliable indication of his/her fitness level.

You can look strong and fit, but have poor endurance. You can be overweight, but be in better shape than a thin person. You can be a thin person and have a higher body fat percentage than a heavier person. You can be a skinny person with a high enough body fat percentage to land you in a not-healthy category. You can have a Body Mass Index score that designates you as “obese,” but you’re actually a super strong power-lifting athlete or a football player or a body-builder or a fighter. You can be big and bulky, but extremely flexible. You can be “fat” while being exceptionally strong and fit cardio-respiratory-wise. And so on.

Just because you’re young and in shape doesn’t mean that you can make it all the way through your first Body Combat class as a drop-in.

The parameters we have to measure someone’s fitness level are loose at best. The fact is, we don’t know the story behind the exterior we see when we set eyes on someone’s physique, so it’s useless to judge a person based on his/her weight.

Body Combat was cancelled on Wednesday. Here’s what I learned.

My passion is martial arts and combat sports. It’s the only reason I go to the gym, as I found out on Wednesday after work when we got there and discovered that Body Combat had been cancelled (due to a misfortune that befell our instructor. Thank goodness she’s okay! That’s the only important thing, of course).

There were other choices. Another group fitness class was scheduled to start within the hour, and another class after that… not to mention the tiny detail of the gym, itself, full of weights, weight machines and cardio equipment.

Callaghan works out with weights two or three times a week on the regular, so he was game to stay for some lifting. On the other hand, he had design work to do at home, so he was also fine with heading out to get an early start on that.

On my part, all I could think was, which combat sports gyms have sessions scheduled for now, and what are their walk-in rates?

Presented with the conundrum without warning, I was surprised to find that I had ZERO interest in doing anything at the actual gym, even though I’ve been going around saying I’d like to find time to lift weights. It’s not like I don’t enjoy lifting weights, either. I do… or, I did. In the past, I’d spent years dedicated to strength-training. But I’m not doing it now, and I couldn’t see how the benefit of doing it one, random time could outweigh the benefit of getting home to my furbabies, a bowl of popcorn mixed with salty pumpkin seeds, and the latest episode of The Whispers, as mediocre a series as we’re finding it to be.

I wasn’t keen on doing straight-up cardio, either. Without being committed to a regular-gym regimen, even the idea of spending 30 minutes or an hour on a piece of cardio equipment bored me. I knew I’d be bored, too, because that was the situation before we discovered Body Combat… I’d go to the gym with Callaghan and force myself to walk on the treadmill, my mind lagging miles behind and scattered in all directions like a fragmented weight tied to my legs with many lengths of rope.

What I’m getting at here is the crux of the issue: Goals, and, driving that, Passion. I used to be passionate about strength-training at the gym, and working out on cardio machines had been a part of that picture, so I enjoyed it. There was a time in my life that I lived for all of that.

Anything I do at home is ancillary to martial/fighting arts. Push-ups (which I did do when we got home on Wednesday night), pull-ups, stretch kicks, ab-work, shadow-boxing, bag-work, even working with the dumbbells that we have – in my mind, it’s all a part of the same thing, which is not weight-lifting, even if the dumbbell part technically is.

 

This pull-up bar in the door-frame of my home office is a great way to keep from getting bored while I'm walking down the hall, haha!

This pull-up bar in the door-frame of my home office is a great way to keep from getting bored while I’m walking down the hall, haha!

 

Having a goal is a driving force, and passion works as the fuel that gets you there. You could have passion without goals, and, I suppose, goals without passion, but more often than not, they go together.

For me, getting in shape again (after years of sitting on my butt) was a by-product of indulging my passion for martial arts and combat sports. My sense of purpose in Body Combat is about making sure my muscles remember everything, and maintaining the shape I’m in isn’t a vanity-driven objective… it’s a stay-in-fighting-condition one. Likewise, when I walk to work, my purpose is to get to my job, not to “work out,” even though that mile and a half brisk walk does constitute a workout.

It’s how you look at it. Fitness is a mental game.

What I realized on Wednesday night is that these days, I don’t go to the gym to “work out.” Maybe I will again in the future, but for now, I’m going for the joy of doing what I love. This is what I’d suggest to anyone wondering how to go from sedentary to active when the thought of working out leaves you cold: Find a physical activity you love, or at least enjoy. Bowling, dancing, hiking, tennis, swimming, whatever it may be… go for it, and suddenly, that is what you’re doing to be good to your body. Rather than “working out,” you’re engaging in something you love. Psych yourself out. Improved fitness levels will be the icing on the guilt-free cake.

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.