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!