Back in the gym! (Autoimmune B.S. notwithstanding.)

Today, I feel the need to report that I went to the gym this morning. It felt momentous and amazing, even though I haven’t missed that much… I just missed last week Thursday and this week’s Tuesday and Wednesday. Today felt momentous even though I did what I could in the garage last week, and even though I did make it to the gym on Saturday. There are lulls in the doldrums of agony, and you can bet I’m racing to the gym when they occur!

It just felt like a long time. The thing is, as I was realizing this morning while talking to my BodyPump instructor, I have a lot of physical energy, so I feel like I’m literally jumping out of my skin when I’m grounded by stress-induced autoimmune flares such as the one I’ve been dealing with lately. My body is full of energy at the same time that it’s grounding me with joint pain. It’s like a librarian surrounding me with all the books I want to read, then setting a ring of fire between me and them so I can’t get to them. That would be a sadistic librarian. Autoimmunity makes for a sadistic body.

Maybe I’ll post more in-depth about my current autoimmune situation in a future blog post. Right now, I’m enjoying this almost-100% feeling. Things aren’t completely settled down yet; I have more appointments lined up, and lab-work pending review. I’m taking each day as it comes, doing what I can, when I can. I have a lot of writing catch-up to do, too, as a result of all of this.

I’m just so grateful for the V.A. hospital, which has been treating me very well, and for my rheumatologist there, who’s the best I’ve ever had.

And BodyPump this morning was awesome, as usual! I love seeing my people there as much as I love the workout!

 

So happy to be at the gym this morning! I took this before-workout locker-room selfie thinking “BodyPump in 15!!”

 

The rest of the week’s looking fabulous, too. Callaghan’s birthday is on Saturday, so there’ll be shenanegans of some sort in honor of that. He would love to know what’s involved. He’s not going to know until then. Heheh.

Happy Friday Eve, everyone!

Friday mental health meditation.

It’s been a hard week.

With chronic, clinical depression, you live with a continuous mental health ebb and flow. It’s usually unpredictable. When I feel the ebb, it’s easy to dwell on factors that might be feeding my mental state into the darkness.

Because while the low points usually come from nothing in particular (such are the vagaries of compromised brain chemistry), there are also times of stress responses to factors I can identify.

I recognize the counterproductive nature of dwelling on those factors, but still, it’s hard to avoid gnawing at them sometimes. This is why I constantly enumerate the things for which I’m grateful. When I catch myself going over the negative stuff, I can fall back on my long-standing practice of counting my blessings throughout the day, every day.

When I’m down, I try to dwell even more on the positive.

In other words, actively practicing gratitude amounts to depression damage control. I have other forms of therapy. Working out consistently is therapy, literally: exercise frees the body’s endorphins to help the brain make you feel better. Creative endeavors such as writing are therapy. Loving on (and being loved by) my cat is therapy. Eating well to avoid poisoning my body is therapy. I try to laugh a lot. I try to maintain a lifestyle that can help others, rather than hurt them. Now, minimizing my life is even a form of therapy. I see a shrink and take psych meds, as well, but in the daily course of living, it’s these other actions I choose to take that help the most.

I’m grateful to have the unwavering support of Callaghan and my parents, but I try to manage my mental health without leaning on them too much. I’d never take them for granted, but I don’t want to be needy, either. It’s helpful just knowing that they’re there. I have to take responsibility for myself, because what if they’re not there one day? I can’t allow myself to become dependent on others for my mental well-being. This is a survival instinct more than anything.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a selfie I thought would be amusing to take (the other day):

 

Yet another awkward mirror-selfie attempt, but hey. Hi.

 

There’s always another day, and next week will be a new week.

 

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.

 

Mind as muscle. (Working out: suggestions from a non-professional.)

This is for anyone who’s decided to start working out, has started working out, and is now wondering, “How can I continue to do it?”

I’ve been asked. There’s no single answer. I can suggest, though, that one way to stay committed to working out is to stay interested in working out, and one way to stay interested in working out is to focus – not on other people, and not on yourself, but on what you’re doing.

That’s the key: In order to follow through on your commitment, you have to stay interested.

 

Fire in stone

 

1). Here’s my first suggestion:

Don’t compare yourself to others. 

Those people working out around you? Ignore them.

2). My second suggestion is the one that’s the most important to me, personally:

Focus on the fight in front of you.

Don’t focus on all the fights, all at once. Just on the one directly in front of you right now.

If you balk at the word “fight,” remember that “fight” is a common word, and that most of the time, we don’t use it in a violently combative sense.

Fight cancer, fight fatigue, fight the urge to laugh, fight the impulse to say what you’re thinking, fight for air. Fight for equality and justice and rights, if you’re so inclined. Fight for your family. Fight to defend yourself. Fight to stay alive. Fight back.

Fighting is a mental endeavor, first and foremost.

When someone says, “You have a lot of fight in you,” that’s high praise. It suggests that you’re mentally strong. You persevere. You don’t give up. You’re brave.

Imagine taking that perseverance and bravery with you when you go to work out. Imagine setting small goals to achieve your long-term goal in increments. Each small goal is a fight. Focus on it, and you may find that your interest is held because you’re immersed in a moment that has an end goal.

Fitness goals come from somewhere. They come from your mind. They come about because you’ve thought about them. You had a thought that became a decision that led to the statement “I’m going to work out.”

That’s a testament to your strength, already! You’ve declared that you’re going to work out, and it was your mind that got you over that hurdle. Your mind already did the hardest part, so you can trust it to help you follow through.

What about confidence, though?

I remove confidence from the equation because I don’t consider it to be the means to an end. I would suggest, “Just focus on what you’re doing. Don’t worry about confidence.”

After your workout, you can exult in the confidence you’ve gained knowing that you gave your ALL to that workout.

Your confidence will increase each time, developing gradually as a result of what you’re doing. Eventually, you’ll carry it with you into your workouts without even knowing it. It becomes a force that you can access subconsciously.

Going into your fitness endeavor trying to believe “I’m confident” is setting yourself up to focus on that. Your focus should be on what you’re doing, not on how you think you should be feeling.

My two suggestions are interrelated: If you compare yourself to others while you’re working out, your focus will no longer be trained on what’s in front of you. What’s in front of you is the goal you’re aiming to achieve in that moment. It’s your fight… use it to direct your focus and to keep your focus where it can benefit you the most.

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s go.

 

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

 

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

 

*****

Les Mills Body Combat 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*****

In summary: 68 is an intense release.

 

Us being us.

Us being us.

 

I’d give it an 8.5.

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.

Body Combat Release 67 – Informal Review!

1). I’m stoked to be here talking about the new Les Mills Body Combat release (#67), because that means the class still exists at our gym! So far, all is well in the aftermath of the great gym take-over.

2). I’ve done the new release a few times at this point, so I can say with zero hesitation that this tracklist is my least favorite of them all… of all the ones I’ve done, that is. I enjoy the workout, itself, but… the music.

I can train with no music at all, but if there’s music and it’s unappealing to me and it doesn’t motivate me, that’s a challenge. The first time I worked out to music was in Army basic training, where drill sergeants yell melodic cadences at you and you have to yell them back. The “songs” are meant, among other things, to motivate troops during company runs and marches, and they inspire a strong esprit de corps among the ranks. That experience set my standard of a motivational training soundtrack. I’m beyond hope with Body Combat #67’s music. Dear Les Mills Body Combat music-selecting team: It’s not you, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still getting in a kick-ass workout with #67. I’m just having to reach deeper to seize motivation from within, which, actually, is probably a great exercise in and of itself. So really, no complaints. I’m just saying.

3). Since the music does nothing for me, though, I’m not going to list the names of the songs and my thoughts on them in this review.

4). Someone on Facebook posted a handy meme with the number of techniques done in release #67, so I thought I’d share the info here. Within an hour, we do:

720 jabs, 294 crosses, 389 hooks, 432 uppercuts, 30 circular elbows, 36 ascending elbows, 43 back fists, 80 karate punches, 418 knees, 56 roundhouse knees, 118 front kicks, 44 side kicks, 29 roundhouse kicks, 32 jump kicks, 30 shoots, 32 lunges, 32 scissors, 88 jacks, 64 plank climbers, and 32 push-ups.

And that doesn’t even include the ab track with that one move that always makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. You know the one. That side plank thing where you lift and lower your hips a million times.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Les Mills Body Combat 67

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up

  • Jabs
  • Combinations: hook/cross, jab/cross, double uppercuts
  • Lateral shuffle to scissors (I like how they always finish the upper-body warm-up with a move to segue into the lower-body warm-up)

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up

  • Shoots
  • Kicks: side kicks; double front kicks; roundhouse kicks
  • Down on the floor? During the warm-up? Plank climbers. Gah.

Track 2: Combat 1

  • Double upper/hook combo
  • Roundhouse knees
  • Back fists; back fist/roundhouse kick combo

Track 3: Power Training 1

  • Jabs, crosses; double jab combo
  • Hooks; hook/jack combo

Track 4: Combat 2

  • Karate punches
  • Roundhouse knee/side kick combo
  • Roundhouse knee/side kick/repeated front kick combo
  • **Dying**
  • Down on the floor for push-ups/plank climbers

Track 5: Power Training 2

  • Uppercuts
  • Upper/cross combo
  • High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.): running/wide-stance running/4-second sprint intervals

Track 6: Combat 3

  • Back knee/front kick combo
  • Jump kicks
  • Lunges and jump lunges

Track 7: Muay Thai

  • Circular elbow/front knee combo
  • Ascending elbow/knee combo
  • Double knee/single knee combo
  • Running man knees

Track 8: Power Training 3

  • Jab/cross combo
  • Jab/cross/hook combo
  • Jabs (variations)

Track 9: Conditioning

  • Abs: Pulsing side planks super-setted with another torturous plank exercise, then
  • Ab-work lying down
  • Admittedly, it does help that this track is Rihanna. Rihanna makes abs easier somehow.

Track 10: Cool-down!

*****

In summary, #67 is a great lower-body destroyer and upper-body stamina squeezer… shoulders, in particular. I also feel my calves more than usual (during Track 4). The release is heavy on knees and kicks, but light on footwork. The H.I.I.T. sequence in Track 5 isn’t as killer as the H.I.I.T. in the last few releases. #67 brings new challenges, and that’s what’s awesome about it.

For lack of a pic that makes better sense here, I’ve got a selfie I took yesterday morning. This post was in progress and I was thinking how great it is that we still have Body Combat at our gym!

 

T minus 8 hours before heading to the gym.

T minus 8 hours before heading to the gym.

 

BC #67: Great release overall!

Body Combat Release 66 – Informal Review!

[This post is subtitled: “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”]

Today I’ve got a review of Les Mills’ latest Body Combat release (#66). I’ve actually done release 66 three times now, so this isn’t exactly a “First Impressions review,” but I did throw my first impressions down on paper after the first time… so it’s like a “first impressions” dragged through three classes, if that makes any sense.

Like last time, I used a voice recorder in class so I’d have an audio guide to remind me of what we did.

That being said, here’s my concise run-down of the new release (and my thoughts about it)!

*****

Les Mills Body Combat 66

Track 1a: Upper-body Warm-up (Justice Crew “Everybody” Jump Smokers Remix)

  • Standard high energy music for an upper-body warm-up.
  • Standard boxing combinations for an upper-body warm-up: hooks, jabs, crosses and uppercuts.
  • Shoots! Shoots always make for a nice segue into the lower-body warm-up.

Track 1b: Lower-body Warm-up (DJ Fresh & Jay Fay feat. MS Dynamite – and “Dibby Dibby Sound” (The Partysquad Remix)

  • Love this electro/house track for the lower-body warm-up.
  • A nod to capoeira! Awesome, as always.
  • Front lunges though. I fear for my very near future. (The warm-ups foreshadow the actual workout.)
  • Roundhouse kicks.

Track 2: Combat 1 (R3HAB & KSHMR – “Karate”)

  • Okay music. More electro/house.
  • Power upper-body combination work: punches and ascending elbows.
  • Power knees.
  • Kicks! (This track is, like, power everything.)
  • Single-leg triple roundhouse kicks at varying levels (good core work going on here with the balancing).

Track 3: Power Training 1 (David Guetta – “Titanium” ft. Sia)

  • Fast tempo electronica with high-pitched vox – not my favorite music track ever.
  • Upper-body combinations – jabs, uppercuts, etc. (Great shoulder work!)
  • Footwork – slips and weaves worked in with the striking.

Track 4: Combat 2 (David Guetta – “Hey Mama” ft Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack)

  • More electro/house; catchy song. I actually like this song a lot.
  • Grab our mats? That means push-ups….
  • Front lunges. (Oh hell – here they are.)
  • Lots of lunges!
  • Too many lunges.
  • Switch lunges. (At this point my quads are hating me.)
  • Kicks; kicks mixed into the lunges…??
  • (Holy crap these lunges)
  • Push-ups. (Yes! A break from lunges.)
  • MORE LUNGES. (*dies*)

Track 5: Power Training 2 (Chase & Status Ft Plan B – “Pieces” – Ram Records)

  • Drum & bass? Love the build-up and the lyrics.
  • Power upper-body/hook-uppercut-hook combination on speed.
  • Add footwork (scissors).
  • HIIT training – sprints! 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 6 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 12 seconds 12 seconds. 15 seconds. 17 seconds!!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-beast-mode-300

 

Track 6: Combat 3 (McBusted – “Get Over It”)

  • First rock song in the release; fast-paced, electric guitar.
  • Back kick/front kick combo.
  • Adding a Jab-cross-hook combo.
  • Side shuffle to side kick/back fist combo. (I was kind of so-so about this track until now. Love back fists.)

Track 7: Muay Thai (Scotty – “The Black Pearl” (Rui Festival Edit)

  • Sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean on electro crack.
  • Muay Thai! (Always one of my favorite tracks.)
  • Elbows and knees. (Fantastic. I’m feeling it!)

Track 8: Power Training 3 (DOUGAL & GAMMER Ft. CAT KNIGHT – “Reach Out”)

  • This must be standard high-intensity cardio music, or else I’d remember it.
  • Punches as you’d expect in a final cardio track.
  • Body shots!
  • Because of the body shot combinations, this seems more like a Combat 1 or Power Training track. Pretty great for a final cardio track! I get to work harder than usual at the end.

Track 9: Conditioning (Iggy Azalea – “Bounce”)

  • Rap; the music is more energetic than usual for an ab track.
  • Spider crawl – shoulders and core on the floor.
  • Crunch sequences on our backs (abs)

Track 10: Cool-down (Imagine Dragons – “Bleeding Out”)

  • Imagine Dragons for the cool-down. Yes.
  • Stretching.

*****

In summary: This is one of the more athletic releases I’ve done. If I were to rate Release 66 on a PERSONAL scale of 1-10, I’d give it an 8, because…

–It challenges me to work on my balance.

–The mostly electronica/house music is stuff I wouldn’t mind listening to myself while training out in the garage.

–I like the changes in levels in this release.

–The HIIT sessions in the middle mix things up with an extra hit of badassery.

Great release overall!

What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

Oh, wow… December 1st! Time to rave about some of November’s memorable Little Things. How about this for a change: I’m starting with food this time, because there’s a lot of it. The month that just passed had a culinary focus. I actually didn’t experiment with any new cosmetic-type products in November, so this list is devoid of that kind of stuff. We didn’t see any movies, either (I guess we’ll catch The Martian at the cheap seats or online when it hits the site we use), and we only started one T.V. series… but man, we’re enthralled with that series!!

Let’s dig in.

 

1). Callaghan’s 7-spice Masala tofu.

 

Callaghan's 7-spice Masala tofu with brown Basmati rice

Callaghan’s 7-spice Masala tofu with brown Basmati rice

 

Callaghan enjoys dabbling creatively with Asian flavors in his cooking, and he often comes up with concoctions that are out-of-this-word delicious. This tofu dish was one of them. I can’t tell you what’s in the sauce because it’s a secret (all I know is that it includes masala), but I know it doesn’t contain coconut anything or any kind of nut butter, which makes it unusual.

 

2). Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original).

 

Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original)

Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original)

 

In my recent endeavor to drastically minimize the amount of processed food I eat, a lifestyle change I haven’t mentioned before (I embarked on this journey in October), I’ve been on the hunt for substitutes for old staples. One thing I learned is that coconut aminos make a fabulous stand-in for soy sauce, and in fact, we actually prefer it. No lie. Coconut aminos is simpler than soy sauce, more flavorful, and healthier. Get this: Coconut aminos contain TWO ingredients, zero chemicals, and a mere 90 mg sodium! Compare that to Kikkoman’s “less sodium” (green cap) soy sauce, which contains chemicals and 575 mg sodium. 575. That’s their lower sodium version. We haven’t touched it since we started using coconut aminos (which, by the way, tastes plenty salty to us). Last night, we finally just threw out the soy sauce. Our new motto is coconut aminos or GTFO.

 

3). Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces.

 

Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces

Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces

 

I’ve been eating a lot of these unsalted walnut pieces lately. There’s something about fall that makes me crave or think about walnuts more, and when I get going on eating them regularly, I always wonder why I don’t think of them as much year-round. Walnuts in salads are great, but I also love them by themselves. They’re an awesome source of plant-basted protein, healthy fats, and trace minerals, too.

 

4). Sting ‘n’ Linger Salsa Co. (hot).

 

Sting 'n' Linger Salsa Co. (hot)

Sting ‘n’ Linger Salsa Co. (hot)

 

I know I recently included a salsa in a “favorites” post… I know! But I’m back with yet another one, and let me tell you, this one makes the other one taste like glorified ketchup. Sting ‘n’ Linger hot salsa is made locally here in Arizona, and it’s completely unprocessed. There isn’t a single chemical in it, and the flavor is fantastic. We get it at the Tempe Farmer’s Market down the street… I’m not sure where else it’s available, but you may be able to find it online. This stuff is the shizz as far as store-bought salsas go, and that’s coming from someone who’s lived on the Mexican border in three different states her entire life (except for temporary overseas living situations).

 

5). Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

 

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate

 

Like walnuts, I cycle in and out of periods of keeping the kitchen stocked with bars of bitter dark chocolate. This one by Lindt has been a favorite of mine for years. I have one or two squares a day, usually in the evening, and I cherish a kind of ritual around eating them: I take tiny nibbles from the square and let them dissolve in my mouth with just a little biting with my front teeth. Somehow, this slow melting prolongs the chocolate euphoria. I indulged thusly all through November, and I don’t see the end of the cycle as of yet.

Now for the T.V. series that took off with our brains (and a lot of our free time) in November….

 

6). Marvel’s Jessica Jones (T.V. series – Netflix)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-MarvelsJessicaJonesNovFavs2015

 

What can I say about Jessica Jones? Stylish. Sexy. Smart. Badass. Beautiful. Oh, and the show itself is awesome, too, in pretty much every way. The only other comic book-based dramatic project I can think of that matches this one in all-around excellence (okay, in my personal enjoyment… I know art is subjective) is the movie Sin City. Netflix does it again!

Moving on to the objects part of the list:

 

7). Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes.

 

Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes

Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes

 

I knew from past experience that running shoes work great for me in cardio/plyometrics situations, so when we started Body Combat and I needed shoes, I got running shoes from Asics, my favorite brand. That was a year and a half ago, and the pair I got were Gel-Venture 4’s. They were amazing. Naturally, when I decided to splurge on a new pair a few weeks ago – my reasoning being that I was walking to and from work again and therefore needed good shoes for everyday street wear – I got another pair of Asics. They’re Gel-Venture 5’s now, and I honestly can’t tell the difference between them and the 4’s, though apparently the technology’s been updated somehow. I love them. Shoes aren’t my thing and I generally dislike shopping for them, but I do get excited about athletic shoes.

Yeah, if I can help it, I prefer not to wear street shoes in the gym. And yes, that picture shows me with my shoes up on the furniture. What.

 

8). Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7).

 

Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7)

Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7)

 

It might seem silly to put a pen on a “favorites” list, but this pen and I were meant to spend hours together bonding over coffee. You know the feeling. There’s that one pen that feels perfect when you write with it. For me, that’s this one.

 

9). OfficeMax mug.

 

OfficeMax mug

OfficeMax mug

 

Okay, I have a thing for mugs, and I’m particular about them. I love drinking coffee from mugs of a certain size and shape, so when I found this cheerful yellow one for $2.00 in a clearance bin at OfficeMax, I had to get it. And I had to share it with you here, because it was truly a Little Thing that added to my enjoyment of November. (By the way, this pic makes the mug look a lot smaller than it is. I was more concerned with capturing the sunlight than the dimensions of the mug.)

 

10). Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit.

 

Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit

Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit

 

We’ve been using Method hand soaps for years, but we just recently picked up the foaming one in pink grapefruit. Its sparkly, bright citrus scent reminds me of the lemon kitchen hand soap from Trader Joe’s, but I love this one even more. We don’t even care that it’s pink.

That brings this post to an end, and 2015 is about to go away, too. Next time, I’ll write my last “favorites” post of 2015! That seems surreal.

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 Release 65 – Informal Review!

The latest Les Mills Body Combat choreography launched at our gym on Saturday. (For those who don’t know, a Body Combat workout is a group fitness class consisting of an hour of cardio with choreographed martial/fighting arts moves done to high-octane music. We get a new choreography release every… six weeks, I think…?)

ETA: New releases happen every 12 weeks. Thank you, Izzy!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

So Les Mills released Body Combat #65, and I thought it would be fun to give it an informal review, because why not? I routinely blather about movies, T.V. series, food, cosmetics, pulp fiction, etc., so targeting Body Combat for my blathering seems like the next natural thing to do. I go to this class three times per week, after all. It’s kind of a big part of my life.

I went to class on Saturday with the idea that I might blog about the release, so I activated the voice recorder on my phone and left it on the floor, off to the side. I wanted to be prepared, and I knew there was no way I was going to remember everything we did after just one class if I didn’t document it somehow.

Enough of the pre-blather blather… without further ado, here’s what I thought of Body Combat #65!

(Disclaimer: These are my first impressions, and that includes the music. I may feel differently about all of it after a few more classes in this release.)

 

Les Mills Body Combat #65

Overall impression: Some unexpected combinations and variations in pacing necessitate attention to your mental game. The methodical, slower sequences feel awkward against the fast-paced, high-energy music, and at other times, when given the option to speed up without limitation, you’re again working with the timing. All of this incongruity heightens the challenges expected when learning a new release, and the choreography encourages precision in striking, for those concerned with their technique. This release features some advanced attacks (i.e. flying knee strikes and consecutive jump kicks), power moves (i.e. jump squats and explosive push-ups in the middle of the workout), and High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) (i.e. sprint options). The workout is plyometrics- and conditioning-intense.

After Saturday’s class, I went online and found the music track-list (which also gives me a guide for the workout tracks):

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LesMillsBCrelease65TrackList

 

Here are my “nutshell” first impressions of the actual tracks.

1a). Upper-body warm-up: (Decent song for an opener – “We Came to Bang”)

First impression: Kind of a mind-bender.

Warming up with your basic jabs, crosses, uppercuts and hooks

 

1b). Lower-body warm-up: (Also a pretty good song – “Levels”)

First impression: Robot-like moves? Different!

Throwing roundhouse kicks, side kicks, front kicks, and teeps (Muay Thai push kicks)

(Do my quads usually burn this much during the warm-up?)

 

2). Combat 1: (Decent music – “Ah Yeah So What”)

First impression: They should re-name this track “A million kicks.”

Combination of strikes and kicks, including consecutive jump kicks and lowered front kicks for a major quad burn

 

3). Power training 1: (DISLIKE the music – “Lifting Me Higher”)

First impression: They chose this song because it’s so terrible, we’re being forced to exercise our minds to overcome it.

Endless upper-body strikes; running (including high knees)

It’s only track three and I don’t think I can throw any more hooks…

 

4).Combat 2: (Good song – “Enemies”)

First impression: We need a mat for this? Push-ups, like in the last release!

Combination of kicks and knee strikes, then on the floor for push-ups (including explosive push-ups)

 

5). Power training 2: (Good song – “No Problem”)

First impression: Love this Drum & Bass track!

Running, striking combinations, more running, jump squats in ascending sets

Nooo don’t take away the pause in between jump squats! My legs are done. I’m out.

 

6). Combat 3: (Okay song, but not my favorite – “The Day is my Enemy”)

First impression: This is the capoeira track wanting to be capoeira, but not quite committing to it.

Typical combination of lunges and kicks; atypical pivoting, robot-like pseudo-capoeira move; knee strikes

 

7). Muay Thai: (Decent song – “Party Monster”)

First impression: Muay Thai!

Punching combinations, ascending and descending elbow strikes, knee strikes variations, 4 levels of running man

Flying knee strikes!

 

8). Power training 3: (DISLIKE the first of the two songs – “Heart Bleeds Re-Con & Demand”)

First impression:  They’re trying to kill me with this music. The music is the real test here.

Running, striking combinations, scissors, striking combinations, jacks, running, striking on crack

 

9). Conditioning: (Okay song – “Black and Blue”)

First impression: The kind of ab track that works your neck as well as your abs.

No push-ups, since we did them in track 4… a series of “C” crunches and modified bicycle crunches (“cross-crawls”)

 

10). Cool-down (Whatever. I’m done.)

 

 

In summary, I like release 65. We had another class last night, and after a few more, the parts that feel strange won’t feel strange anymore. That’s what new releases are for!

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!

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.

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! =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

February – the month of Valentine’s, Callaghan’s birthday, new-to-me discoveries and other things I want to share with you!

Usually I start with entertainment, so let’s change it up and get right into it with food this time.

 

1). Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (cereal).

 

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds
(with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

 

Since the beginning of February, this cereal has been my go-to evening snack on the evenings I want one, and I always have it just the way you see it in the picture… a third of a cup (one serving) covered in fresh berries and moistened with almond milk. We just picked up another bag. I like it because it’s not too sweet – in fact, it’s just barely sweet – and it’s super crunchy. This is a favorite that’s going to be a favorite for a while, methinks.

 

2). Mediterranean chopped salad (with added tofu) at True Food Kitchen.

 

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.  I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.
I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

 

Here we have my official new salad obsession, guys, and I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly! This salad is a flavor stand-out as well as a nutritional powerhouse with its greens, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, feta, sprouted almonds, and lemon oregano vinaigrette. (You can ask them to hold the feta if you’re going for a vegan option. For me, it’s a rare vegan exception.) I add tofu to boost the quinoa’s protein, and it’s out of this world. One of the principles of True Food Kitchen is to use what’s in season, so the last time we went (Sunday, when I took the picture) there were green beans in the salad, as well. IT IS SO GOOD. So, so, so good. I can’t even tell you. If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of a True Food Kitchen, go there and try this salad. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve raved about food, let’s move on to entertainment!

 

3). Better Call Saul (T. V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-bettercallsaul

 

AT LAST! The series Breaking Bad fans have been waiting for finally aired its premiere, but you don’t have to have watched Breaking Bad in order to get it. The story of Saul Goodman’s legal career and persona evolution tells itself with no reliance on the BB laurels. We’re enjoying it even more than we’d thought we would.

 

4). Kingsman: The Secret Service (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-kingsmanthesecretservice

 

As in January, we only went out to the movies once in February, and only because there was a particular movie whose impending release kept us on edge for ages, it seemed. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m thrilled to say that it handily exceeded our expectations, offering up a caper of magnificent exuberance and cloaked in strategically overwrought, finely-sharpened darkness featuring great characters played by a great cast. Kingsman was action-packed, absurd in the best of ways, hilarious and just all-around entertaining in exactly the fashion you want your comic book action flick to be. The writing was terrific; many of the lines of dialogue surprised us. I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, so you’ll have to go see it for yourselves, if you’re into that sort of thing!

This brings me to a random favorite of the month:

 

5). The 4th workout.

 

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it's finally found a wall on which to hang.

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it’s finally found a wall on which to hang.

 

Awesome “little thing” number five is the fourth workout I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine.

I’ve been enjoying the training area we carved out in our garage, and in February, I made sure to get in there at least once a week (I aspire to adding another day somehow, but this is a good start)! Being the creature of habit that I am, it quickly became a Sunday thing. If you’ll remember, it all sprung from the arrival of the WaveMaster heavy bag that Callaghan got me for Christmas. I think I started working out here toward the end of January, having been delayed due to illness, but it really took off as a regular thing in February.

Every week, I look forward to my training session in the garage as much as I look forward to our three Body Combat classes at the gym. Though I mix it up and never do the same workout twice, the main elements are always cardio, stretching, abs, shadow boxing, and bag-work. As for the particulars of what I do, I just go with whatever I feel like doing. I don’t go in at the same time every Sunday, and I don’t time my workouts… sometimes I do a short session (20-30 minutes), sometimes longer (up to an hour). I have goals for the year, though, one of which is to find someone who can hold pads to come over and train with me!

Moving on to another totally random favorite thing:

 

6). Overseas, online pharmacy: InHousePharmacy.vu

 

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

 

I may have mentioned this pharmacy before, in passing, but I want to provide details now because we’re so happy with the service we get from it!

When we started treating the Wrah-Wrah for his pulmonary health challenges, I researched pharmacy options and found 4CornersPharmacy.com, which recently became InHousePharmacy.vu. The “vu” domain stands for Vanuatu, the country from which the medications are shipped. Yes, we get Ronnie James’ Albuterol/Ventolin inhaler and his steroid inhalers from a tiny island in the South Pacific. Online pharmacies can be sketchy, so I first vetted it as thoroughly as I could online, then we asked our vet about it, and then we showed her the goods once our first order arrived. She approved.

InHousePharmacy.vu’s customer service is outstanding; they’re extremely efficient and professional, and they offer FREE SHIPPING to the United States (and maybe to other places… I don’t know). We’ve been using this pharmacy for about five months now, and we’re very satisfied with it, so I figured I ought to share!

On that note, I’ll finish this list with a few of the new cosmetic and skin-care products I’m loving that aren’t tested on animals, since transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products was the biggest of my New Year’s resolutions….

 

7). Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème).

 

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

 

I’ve never been a nude lip color person – I’ve always gravitated toward deeper red and berry shades, or darker neutrals – but on my quest to try all new things for the sake of the animals, I thought I’d venture out of my colorful comfort zone. Milani’s 26 (Nude Crème) is the lightest shade in their Color Statement line, and it’s the only nude lip color I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing. Callaghan was the first to give his approval (very important!), and then I got some compliments on it from friends at work, so I’m convinced! I love the lipstick’s formula, too. It feels nice, it wears well, and it also reapplies well, so it gets bonus points for that. I like it so much that I’ll probably pick up a few of my more typical colors at some point. I find Milani products at CVS.

 

8). Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero).

 

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

 

I can’t believe it took a New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free for me to find my Holy Grail lower-lash eyeliner. I’d been using one by Stila, which had been better than the Revlon one I’d used for years before that, and I just figured it wasn’t possible for eyeliners to wear really well under the eye for extended periods of time. Then I made this resolution and sprang for Urban Decay’s 24/7 eye pencil in the color “zero” (black), and wow! I’m so impressed. It’s creamy and easy to apply, and it literally wears the same ALL DAY. On the downside, it’s Urban Decay, so it’s pricey, and its creaminess means that you have to sharpen it often (it wears down quickly). I just repurchased it, even though I’m not done with the first one yet. It’s one of those things that’s worth the cost. I like an intense eye, anyway, so it’s worth it to me!

 

9). Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral).

 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral) (Black negligee from Victoria's Secret)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral)
(Black negligee from Victoria’s Secret)

 

(I couldn’t resist using my black negligee as the stage for Urban Decay’s “naked” concealer. Just work with my sense of humor here.

Aaand yeah, while I was at the Urban Decay display, I picked up this (gulp) ridiculously expensive concealer. This whole high-end cosmetic stuff is atypical of me, by the way. I’m a drugstore makeup kind of person, but after successfully replacing 95% of my cosmetics with outstanding, inexpensive drugstore cruelty-free products – I think I might focus an entire future blog post on the glories of e.l.f. – I was once again just down to the eyeliner and the concealer. (Usually when I splurge on expensive stuff at Ulta, it’s for eyeliners and concealers.)

This concealer goes on as a silky liquid, but as soon as you pat it in, it somehow vanishes while covering what it needs to cover. It’s an invisible concealer that actually conceals, and the formula is simply magic. I can’t describe it. I’m not a beauty blogger. But I can tell you my opinion: this concealer is worth the expense.

(Yes, I know that Urban Decay’s parent company is L’Oreal, indisputably the worst offender in the cosmetics animal-testing industry, but Urban Decay products themselves are not tested on animals. Urban Decay makes the Leaping Bunny list of cruelty-free brands.)

And finally, we have a skin care product!

 

10). Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin).

 

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

 

I’m pretty much there with cosmetics, but I’m nowhere near the point of finding all the good, affordable cruelty-free skincare items I need to find. However, it’s only March. I’m taking my time. I have a year to fulfill my resolution (I still have to find cruelty-free hair products, too)! I did discover this moisturizer, though, and I really love it. It wears well under my sunscreen, and it has a fresh, natural citrus scent.

Some text on the packaging:

“gotu kola stem cell + 1% chlorella growth factor – firm, hydrate, restore – clinical collagen + hyaluronic support”

And the text on the box further informs that the moisturizer is organic, vegan, and free of silicone, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, gluten, petroleum and PEG. It’s cruelty-free, it won’t clog pores, and it’s 100% biodegradable.

I’m not going to question any of that. I’m just going to go with it. This moisturizer can be found at Target, so it’s affordable, and there are other products in the same line, so I predict (I hope!) you’ll find other Acure favorites here as the year goes on!

That’s it for February! Thank you for reading, as always!

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!

200th Post! Le Deux Centième!

Well. Today marks a milestone for this blog, because today, exactly one month short of two years since my first post, I’m writing here for the 200th time!

 

Capture200

 

*throws confetti*

Of course, I got to feeling reflective as this milestone approached.

This blog began, in part, because I missed LiveJournal, which I’d more or less abandoned several years earlier. Facebook eventually replaced the social aspect of it, in a sense, but I wanted to journal again. Moreover, I was living in France, in limbo, not working, and I could feel my brain cells disintegrating while my writing muscles atrophied. I did write some poems. I also intermittently worked on a big writing project, but fiction really isn’t my forte… I missed writing creative non-fiction. And when I tentatively returned to writing in LiveJournal, it just didn’t feel the same. For me, the old LJ magic had left the room (but that had happened before I’d quit, which was why I’d quit). Something had to be done!

I went to create a WordPress account, and I was promptly reminded that I already had one. I’d just never used it. How convenient! I named it “That Asian-Looking Chick,” bought the domain and jumped in with the goal of posting two or three times per week. It’s been hella fun, and rewarding, and instructive. I never missed a week, but it wasn’t until March of this year that I fell into a twice-weekly schedule that stuck. By April, it’d evolved into a Tuesday/Friday thing, and eight months later, I’m still comfortable with that.

Surprisingly, getting settled in a regular posting schedule coincided with going back to work. In the same month, Callaghan and I established a consistent routine at the gym. It was interesting how once I was anchored at a job, other things like blogging and working out sort of fell into place. It was like a “structure begets more structure” kind of thing.

I typically just glance at my blog stats and search engine terms, since the superficial layer is right there before my eyes, but in honor of my 200th post, I took a more in-depth look. Some fun facts include:

–Since Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black in June, hundreds of views have resulted from searches for the Asian girl who plays a character in those episodes, as I’ve already mentioned. Yes, the OITNB Asian girl madness continues to rage on today! It’s been five months now. (I still wonder whether Kimiko Glenn has any idea of the scope of her popularity.)

–WordPress stats include visitors’ countries. I did a country count and found that, as of yesterday, people have read this blog from exactly 100 different countries. I’m ashamed to admit that a couple of the places on the list are countries that I hadn’t even realized were actual countries. This blog has opened my eyes to the world, and that is fabulous. (Also, if I needed any proof that English is a language spoken, or at least read, world-wide? I’ve got it.)

–You’re mostly a silent crowd on my posts, except for when I wrote about the casting in the film Jack Reacher.

–A few of you have commented with helpful tips in response to my posts, and your sharing has been wonderfully beneficial. For instance, thanks to your awesomeness, we’re hooked on The Following (T.V. series), and I found my favorite Korean facial sheet masks – the Epielle ones I’ve raved about several times – at Big Lots! For an amazing price!

 

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

 

–Because of the search terms, I also know that I’m far from the only one looking for that old (1970’s) Charleston Chew candy commercial, the one featuring King Louis. I trust that if anyone finds it, they’ll come back here and share it.

So, as I reflect back to the beginning, I wanted to thank you for reading and hanging out here with me over the last 200 posts/23 months, or however long you’ve been here. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where all that time went!

Those of you who’ve been here the longest remember when I was an American ex-pat in France who had no clue that she’d move back to the States. You were here when I was an Arizona girl in Texas who had no clue that she’d move back to Arizona. You spent two birthdays with me, you share my “Little Things” (monthly favorites) joy with me, and you’re privy to my enthusiasm for pop culture and martial/fighting arts. You tolerate my kitty blather and pics (mostly Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah) and “NOT UNLIKE” comparisons. You read about Callaghan’s shenanigans, and you read my embarrassing stories. You follow my occasional cultural comparison observations. You hear me out when I feel the need to rant. You’ve been there during more personal moments, too, such as when my Mom set off on her journey to fight cancer (she’s doing really well, by the way)! And you laugh with me, which I love.

Some things I want to do here in the future? Well, I’d love to get more active as a blogger, reading more of other people’s blogs. I’d also like to mix it up more, spend more time writing about topics that matter to me profoundly. While my routine is fixed, time is actually a constraint (as it is, I’m usually up at around 5:00am to write here). I’d still like to find time to carve out for non-blog writing projects, as well – I currently have a prose piece in the works, and I’d love to pick up on the poeting – so we shall see what transpires over the next two years!

 

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

 

And who knows… I may yet divulge the story of My Most Embarrassing Moment.

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.

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

It’s the first day of April! It’s time to show you some of the things I loved last month. There was an abundance of “little things” treasures in March, but I chose nine for this list.

Without further ado:

(ahem)

1). A new phone, which means a new camera… and it’s an Android, which means Instagram. Yes! I’d thought I’d forever avoid Instagram, but I actually really dig it now that I have it. I haven’t been that active on it yet, but I will be.

 

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan's portrait of my parents, and it's my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it's 82 degrees outside.

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan’s portrait of my parents, and it’s my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it’s 82 degrees outside.

 

The reason for the new phone was the fact that my camera died at the end of February. I needed a camera, and Callaghan and I both needed phones, and Verizon was offering a Buy One Get One Free deal on Samsung Galaxy S4s, and I had additional perks due to my “loyalty status” from my former years with Verizon… so it just made sense. Now I have a camera. It’s good enough for what I like to do with a camera, which is point and click.

 

2). Flowering cactuses!

 

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

 

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

 

IT HAS BEGUN. Between now and mid-June, the desert flora will display its myriad of flowers – the different species bloom at different times. Many pictures will be taken. How I’ve missed spring here! Our two visitors from France (one is coming in April, the other in May) are in for a treat.

 

3). New glasses.

 

New glasses. Not BCGs.

New glasses. Not BCGs.

 

These are not the ones I got from the V.A. in Austin. Those turned out to be a disaster in every way, starting with an inaccurate prescription and ending with that wrong prescription being put in the wrong frames that didn’t fit. Long story short, I couldn’t wear them. This is why mall optometrists exist. I walked in, made my appointment for the next day, went back for the appointment, and walked out with this new pair of glasses that seem to be perfect. Instant gratification glasses! I mostly just wear them for driving and watching T.V. and movies.

 

4). Body Combat class at the gym.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

Over the last few months, I’ve had to face the fact that I’m just not as self-motivated at the gym as I used to be. Add to this the fact that when I join a group training situation that carries even the slightest semblance to martial/fighting arts, I feel as at-home as a bat in a cave… my so-called muscle memory knows what to do, and how to do it… and voilà! Body Combat is an ideal group fitness class for me. The instructor’s mission in life for that hour is to kick our butts. I don’t have to do anything but show up and follow along.

The Body Combat classes incorporate techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, capoeria, karate and MMA, all of which my muscles know and enjoy, even though they haven’t trained in years. The fast-paced classes focus on cardio rather than on form, but I’m loathe to execute the moves sloppily, so I end up getting a fantastic workout as I concentrate on form while trying to keep up (to the extent that my out-of-shape self can safely do. I’m careful to not exceed my limitations). We leave the class completely elated, worn out and drenched in sweat. I love it so much I can’t even tell you.

 

5). True Detective, season one (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-TrueDetective

 

Simply stated, this new series right here rather blew our minds. That is all.

 

6). Hannibal, season two (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-HannibalS2

 

As The Following continues to hold our eager attention, we’ve added Hannibal to our current series line-up, as the second season began on the last day of February – meaning, we picked it up at the beginning of March. It’s just as darkly sick and warped and luscious and richly textured as season one. What is this fascination with serial killers? Hannibal is so beautifully done. It’s mesmerizing.

 

7). Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner in Stingray.

 

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

 

Finally, I’ve found a retractable black eyeliner pencil capable of drawing a line that stays where you put it! I’d thought I’d also be able to appreciate it for its status as a cruelty-free product, but when I got home and got online, I found that Stila Cosmetics has been struck from the list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. The reason? “3rd party animal testing.” *sighs*

 

8). Tourni, our new sunflower.

 

Here's Tourni! It's hard to see him in this picture. He's the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

Here’s Tourni! It’s hard to see him in this picture. He’s the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

 

I met a new friend for lunch one day in March, and she surprised me with a thin, pale greenish-yellow stalk from her garden. Loosely wrapped, it appeared to be quite frail. She told me that it was a sunflower. Un Tournesol, I thought immediately. His name is Tourni! “Tournesol” is French for sunflower.

I left the restaurant with little Tourni hanging limply over the side of a plastic water cup, his vestige of a root-ball submerged in two or three inches of water. I pondered what to do with him. He looked so fragile. Our balcony is completely shaded; we have no real direct sunlight in which to grow a sunflower.

By the end of the day, Tourni was looking pretty lifeless and pathetic. Unsure of what to do, I left him in the drink holder in our truck for the night while I figured it out.

At the end of the next day, we went to retrieve Tourni from the truck, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The scant amount of dirt in the cup had absorbed all of the water, and there was little Tourni, upright, happy and spry! He looked like a completely different plant.

 

Alive and proud! I should have taken a "before" picture!

Alive and proud! I should have taken a “before” picture!

 

We brought him in and put him in a pot with some potting soil, both of which we happened to have on hand. He loves the close heat of the truck, so we set him in there during the day. At night, we bring him up to sit on our balcony with the other plants in our growing (ha!) collection.

 

9). Oil-pulling

 

Unrefined, organic coconut oil - the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

Unrefined, organic coconut oil – the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

 

At some point over the winter, an enormous can of unrefined, organic coconut oil appeared in Mom and Dad’s kitchen in California. Dad stirs a teaspoon of it into his coffee every morning. I noticed it when we were there at the beginning of March, and I was intrigued… I’d been reading about the Ayurvedic practice of oil-pulling, and contemplating starting it.

The morning we left, Mom and Dad generously tucked three jars of the oil into our luggage. Dad started oil-pulling that morning, Callaghan started that night after we got back to Arizona, and I started the following morning.

It’s now been three weeks, and so far, I’ve noticed the following two effects: 1). I haven’t had a problem with insomnia since, and 2). my teeth, while never horribly discolored, are indeed much whiter now; many people who do this practice report whiter teeth as a result.

The whiter teeth thing is great, but the sleeping thing? Incredible!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but what an odd coincidence it is. From Day One of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty minutes as a part of my morning routine, I’ve been able to drop off to sleep effortlessly. This is unheard of, and it’s been consistent. The only thing I’ve been doing differently is the oil-pulling, so I’m thinking there’s a reasonable chance that there’s a connection.

Whatever the case, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s relaxing, and the whiter teeth are definitely a bonus!

On Callaghan’s part, he says that the quality of his sleep has improved greatly, and his teeth are definitely whiter now.

Okay… that’s it for March favorites! Here’s to spring. =)

Giant Box of Kitty Litter – 1; Kristi – 0

A few days ago, I had my ass handed to me by a giant box of kitty litter, and since then, it’s been all about pain management up in here.

 

It destroys more than just ammonia if you hold it carelessly with one hand and bend over and extend yourself at a weird angle while trying to fit it into a specific spot in the back of the closet.

It destroys more than just ammonia odors if you hold it carelessly with one hand and bend over and extend yourself at a weird angle while trying to fit it into a specific spot in the back of the closet.

 

Here are the results of experiments I’ve conducted with the various pharmaceuticals lying around the house:

–Extra-Strength Advil, my preferred over-the-counter pain medication: I took four at a time and experienced no relief. When I checked the expiration date, I found that it was expired. Trash! It was almost empty, anyway, so not much went to waste.

–Extra-Strength Tylenol: I took two at a time and didn’t get any relief from it, either, which isn’t surprising considering that my brain doesn’t get the memos sent by many types of pain-killers. There’s a rumor that natural red-heads tend to be difficult to anesthetize. My biological father has flaming red hair; my natural hair color is reddish (it’s actually really red in the front, where my bangs are). When I woke up from my major abdominal surgery a few years ago (my biological mother had ovarian cancer, so I had a recommended prophylactic bilateral salpingo oophorectomy with hysterectomy, aka the “Everything Out!” women’s surgical special), we discovered that I “don’t have the receptors for morphine,” in the words of one of the nurses. Yep, I woke up feeling everything. My brain does respond to Demerol, though. Lock it up! (No, on second thought, don’t lock it up. Find it. Bring it. Thanks.)

–Aspirin: I tried taking two aspirin yesterday morning, and it also failed to have an effect. So I spent most of the afternoon sleeping.

I see no reason to visit the doctor for this, because I know from vast experience over the course of years that prescription pain-killers like Vicodin, Percoset and several others have very little if any effect on me. They usually do nothing.

The true moral of this story is that I need to get back into working out, so I can keep my lower back strengthened and protected against these kinds of ridiculous mishaps. An MRI from a few years ago revealed a ruptured disc – S1, I think – so I know that I have a weakness in that area already. My favorite way to work out is to train in some kind of martial arts dojo, so I’m going to start researching options around here.

This post was brought to you by Ronnie James and Nounours, who really do appreciate their clean litter every day:

 

Kitties at the window

 

Happy Hump Day, Everyone!