Tag Archives: fitness

Bumbleflex is not enough

I have a complicated relationship with running.

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It’s not uncommon for people to look at me and think I’m a natural runner. I’ve got a moderately lean-ish build and long legs. Stumpy torso, alas, but that’s another story. My walking stride is long, purposeful, energetic. Somehow, though, running has never quite taken with me. Don’t get me wrong: my body likes it. I’ve never been slimmer than when I was running several times a week alongside my regular workouts. It’s just… we don’t mesh.

My first attempt to pursue running in its own right was in my sophomore year of high school. I signed up for the winter session of indoor track (read: running laps of the hallways). Not even a week in, I contracted mono and had to bow out. It’s as if my body knew; it was trying to warn me. “This is wrong! Go down. STAY DOWN.” Every so often I’d dive in again. Gave Couch-to-5-K several shots. Usually worked at too quick a pace, ensuring I’d gas out quickly even as I just tried to get it bloody well over with. Ran a few races. Hated hills. Hated wind. Loved rain, actually. Hated all the bits that jiggled with every footfall. Couldn’t distract myself with music or podcasts or audiobooks, because every single style of earbud is incompatible with my abnormally tiny earholes.

Still, I persisted. My crowning glory was training for a half-marathon. The race was in April, so I spent the four preceding months (in the dead of a very cold, gusty, and snowy NY winter) running outdoors four times a week. I never missed a run, and I never once dropped to a walk… until the day of the race. Two loops of Central Park kicked my ass. Still: got my medal, got my banana, got my bragging rights and the certainty that I never needed to do that again.

Not long after, I set my mind to running a minimum of a mile a day for a full month. Six days in, the pain hit. My right hip radiated agony with every step. I finished my run, stubbornly, gasping and sobbing. Despite orthotic insoles and treadmill testing and carefully selected shoes and gear, my body was not having it. So, we broke up, running and I. It was rough. I have a lot of friends who are in beautifully compatible relationships with running, and assure me I just need to give it a bit more time. A bit more acceptance. I desperately envy them their love, their joy, but realize it’s not for me.

running-is-impossible

Still, every so often, I reconsider. “I’ll just run one race,” I think.

“I’ll work walk/run intervals.”

“Maybe trail running…”

I know it’s not the right fit, and yet I keep coming back. Hoping against hope that this time, we’ll find a way to make it work. And yes, I’ve been fitted for custom orthotic insoles. I’ve been matched to my (apparently) perfect shoes. I’ve stretched and taken fish oil and watched inspirational videos (Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli running after abducted hobbits totally counts). We are simply not right for one another.

And yet… I am taking part in a 40 day fitness challenge, which coincides nicely as I try to get myself in shape for a physically demanding summer. I’ve got significant weight to shed and serious strength to build. Against all of my history, all of the evidence, all of my angst, I have determined to add three runs  week to my regime. I know, I know. It’s never been good. Nothing has really changed.

And yet… maybe this time will be different.

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And yet… if nothing else, there are cows.

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Back in November, I blogged about my dislike of running. Because I am a stubborn and contrary creature, I’ve sporadically attempted to convince myself otherwise: running is great! Look how many people enjoy it! See how effortless they make it look! I could be that person!

Results were not positive.

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In spite of that, I signed up for a 5k in March which, alas, I was not able to attend. In spite of that, I signed up for another 5k: the Hard Cider Run. I reckoned I was more likely to actually attend this race because 1. it’s local, 2. part of the post-race swag is alcohol, and 3. since the course is completely off road (meandering through the orchard and surrounding trails), I can be forgiven for slowing to a walk and an abysmal finish time. Safety, you guys.

Apparently it's extremely hilly. Great.

It may be uneven terrain, but at least it’s also ridiculously hilly.

Once I’d registered, I mustered my determination. Three runs, a week, two-three miles a pop. No big deal. Just enough to get back into some sort of condition, to tweak my endurance. By the way, I signed up on April 22nd. The race is tomorrow, May 9th. That’s just over two weeks, y’all, and life gets in the way. I’ve been taking extra kickboxing classes, and I’ve upped my strength sessions, and I’m doing more HIIT, and I have to enforce one full rest day. Also, funny thing: turns out I still don’t like running. At all. I’m happy to find any reason not to do it (see the beginning of this paragraph). But really, this was becoming ridiculous. I had a 3.2 mile race ahead of me and I’d not run so much as a step. Yesterday (May 7th), I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the nearby pasture/boardwalk section of the AT for a little walk/run interval work. Yup. One session of sort-of running two days before the race. Sound training plan.

If I must run, this is an acceptable view.

If I must run, this is an acceptable view.

Look, I know it’s going to be a slog tomorrow. I’m going to be surrounded by people who actually devote time to their running, who enjoy the process, who are stronger and fitter and slimmer and better and actual athletes. For me, though, it’s not about the competition. It’s about being out in the spring sunshine at a beautiful winery, enjoying the company of my friends, finishing the course (albeit slowly) without embarrassing injury, and, savoring that cool, apple-y reward*.

I make no promises I won’t go Full Dwyer afterward.
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*in a commemorative glass, no less. SWAG!

a tale of badass-ishness

Backstory:
~I love and teach cardio kickboxing.
~I am taking part in my gym’s 10 Week Fitness and Nutrition program.
~Life gets in the way. Recent gig with my band. Ren Faire stuff gearing up, big time. On call for Grand Jury Duty for the next month, over an hour away. Phototherapy for psoriasis thrice weekly. Cats and life and yard work and teaching ukulele. Freaking out and stressed and feeling all manner out of control.
~Squiggle point 3 threatens to wreak havoc with squiggle points 1 and 2.

Well. That turned into a bit of a whinge-session. Getting it onto the page is cathartic, though, so I hope you forgive my indulgence. I’m heading into week 8 of the aforementioned challenge (squiggle point 2), and I’m having a bit of a tough time gauging my results. I’m reasonably close to where I need to be, so I won’t see tremendous losses in inches or pounds. Logically, I know that. Emotionally, it’s distressing. I’m working so hard, nothing is changing, woe is me*. Doesn’t help that in spite of my best planning, there have been days where I simply can not adhere to the nutritional guidelines.

Sure, I can tell myself that stuff happens. I’m only human. So long as most of my choices are strong, all will be well. I’ve met me, though. That rarely works. My solution? Well, it’s two-fold: self recrimination and purchasing a weighted vest. As I’m currently logging a feeble once-a-week weight training session, I figured adding some intensity to my other workouts (HIIT circuits, kickboxing classes) might make up for the lack. While I can’t say it replaces another day of strength, boy howdy, it certainly makes things interesting. First time I tried it, I kept the weight at a middling six pounds** for a 12 minute circuit. Verdict? meep. Legs, shoulders, abs were shaking for hours after. Who knew such a tiny amount of weight could make such a difference?

12 minutes. 6 lbs. Good times.

12 minutes. 6 lbs. Good times.

I added it, sporadically, to my other workouts: wore it at a Small Group Session here, wore it for a full kickboxing class there. Last weekend, I loaned it to my friend (and the owner of my gym) that she might try it for her own circuit training. She did 20 minutes at the full 8 lbs.

The ante had been upped. The gauntlet had been thrown. Never mind that she is younger, fitter, and generally much more badass than I; the call would be answered, no matter the consequence.

Yesterday I was not yet ready. I did my usual back-to-back, teaching one then taking one, but sans vest. Today, I could avoid it no longer. What better day than Tuesday, my Beast Day, to get the job done? So. Taught/took the SGS circuit wearing the full 8 pounds. Taught another hour of kickboxing. Had a few hours to recover before coming back to take the 5pm class (in fully weighted vest), replete with unseasonably warm and humid weather, 30 burpees with knee tuck jumps, silly amounts of cardio, and push ups with kick through-toe touches. Taught another class after that.

Look, I might be stalled with the weight/inches/fat percentage loss. I’m not a young ‘un. These things take longer than they used to. 10 weeks might not be enough to meet the final goal. Damn if I can’t step up and assert just a bit of badassery, though. Four workouts in one day, two of which had added resistance. I’m crazy sore. My abs are trembling, and my shoulders aren’t speaking to me (well, they are, but with rather salty language). Just for tonight, though, I’m going to set that self-deprication aside. Just for tonight, I’m going to say: I sort of crushed it.

Note the expressionlessness following the two weighted workouts. #weepinginside #rawr

Note the expressionlessness following the two weighted workouts. #weepinginside #rawr

*call the wah-mbulance
**the vest is adjustable from 4-8 pounds.

W is for Walk the Walk: Blogging from A to Z

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As some of you may know, I’m a fitness instructor at CKO Kickboxing. I’m also a woman in my 40s who loves wine and cupcakes and binge watching my favorite television showsrepeatedly. Additionally, I’m a performer/director/stage combatant/choreographer at the New York Renaissance Faire, and a singing pirate who performs at other faires and venues in the off season.

I’m busy, y’all.

It’s all too easy to let my active work life lull me into believing that’s enough: it will keep me fit, or at least fit-ish. Once upon a time, that might’ve been true, but that was back when I was young and had an off-the-charts metabolism. I thrived on a few hours of sleep a night. I ate whatever I wanted in ridiculous quantity and remained thin and healthy. Good times. Of course, it is different now, and while I try to keep on top of my own health and fitness, sometimes it bears revisiting. A fresh approach.

To that end, I decided to participate in my gym’s 10 Week Fitness and Nutrition program. The service has long been offered, but has recently been revamped and revised. It’s a much more interactive and community driven plan with built-in support from both staff and fellow participants. I don’t have a huge amount of weight to lose, though let’s face it: my belly and my back fat drive me to tears of frustration. We all have our problem spots. Still, I know what my healthiest weight/size/body fat percentage should be.  If I can get closer to that with this program, fantastic.

More than that, I want to be able to speak knowledgeably about this with our members. I want to share with them the value of the program. I want to be able to empathize with them when the’ve had an uneven day, or have made less than optimal choices, let them know that we are all works in progress. Even trainers. I am walking the walk, ten weeks’ worth, right alongside the rest of them. We’re sharing the delight of finding that, six weeks in, your jeans are suddenly looser, that you’re doing more burpees in 60 seconds, that you’re okay choosing hummus over ranch dressing. We’re sharing recipes, cheering on teammates, showing up for extra classes.

It’s hard. Seriously rough. The nutritional aspect is beastly for me, mostly because I find myself in great swathes of time where I have no recourse to eat, as prescribed, every 2-4 hours. If I’m doing a gig at a bar, I’m going to drink beer. I will get hangry and make poor choices. I don’t instinctively pair food well. But I’m re-training myself. Weekly emails from our fearless leader keep me on track*. I’m reminded that so long as my good choices outweigh the bad, so long as I’m adopting these changes and choices for the long term, it’s all good. Everyone is on their own journey. No one comes to this complete. It’s why we have such programs in the first place. It’s why we choose to better ourselves, physically and emotionally and spiritually.

I don’t want to live in a world where I never allow myself wine or a cupcake or watching the entire run of Giles and the Scooby Gang in a fortnight’s time. It simply needs to be a world where I put the work in so that everything is in balance. I’m getting there, step by step. Walking the walk, same as everyone else.

It also helps to pretend Leslie Knope is pulling for me. I really think she would.
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*fun fact: I tend to be super critical of myself. If I don’t manage something perfectly at once, it’s a clear indication I am a failure and a regrettable person. ::jazz hands::

K is for Kickboxing: Blogging from A to Z

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Once upon a time, I was a sword swinging, lance wielding, stage combatant/jouster/protector of the Greenwood/mythopoetic archetype. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked*.

I needed something physical to keep me occupied. Never having been a big one for the gym (have good intentions, join gym, go twice, lose motivation, rinse, repeat), I decided to try something different. On a dear friends recommendation, I sought out a studio that offered vinyasa yoga. Alas, there was nothing close to hand. There was, however, a little gym that offered fitness kickboxing classes: a full hour of intense cardio, bodyweight strength training, abdominal work, and – best of all – pummeling a heavy bag. I decided to give CKO Warwick a go.

Though it was eight(!) years ago, my first class remains etched in my memory. The configuration of the bags allowed me to hide in a corner (where I remained for the first several months), though I’d later realize that with such an intense workout no one was paying attention to anything except the bag in front of them. No time, nor inclination, for judgment. First hurdle was not intentionally missing the target. Second hurdle was reigning in my excitement. “Pace yourself,” the instructor told me at about minute 12. Minute 18? I was gasping. I was also hooked. So much so, in fact, that within a year I was an instructor.

The gym has gone through changes. The workout is constantly being refined and reinvigorated by the amazing founders/trainers at the MotherShip in Hoboken. The Warwick branch came under new management several years past, and has nurtured a true family atmosphere and personal approach to training. And yes, I’m a seasoned instructor, but I keep training on my own, learning new things to bring to the table. Best of all, as a 40 something work-in-progress, I still adore taking classes. Eight years on and it’s still challenging, still exciting, and still makes me gasp and wheeze and groan and curse in the very best possible way.

Trying to make the you-and-your-bag selfie a thing.

Trying to make the post class you-and-your-bag selfie a thing.

These days I also round out my routine with yoga, HIIT, hiking, strength training, and – on occasion – running. You want to stay well rounded. But honestly? Nothing compares to that hour on the bag, pretending you’re training with Wildcat or Ollie or Cap or Iroh. Every flying kick decimates a henchman, every backslap/elbow/knee floors a Fire Nation soldier.

That might just be me.

But really, who doesn’t want a workout that feels like story time, that rolls by like play? If you have the chance, try it. First one’s free! 🙂

* I’m a nerd.

Then I saw that dress, now I’m a believer!

I did something bold today. Something foolhardy and mad and quite likely impractical.

I bought a dress.

Now, it’s nothing terribly fancy. It’s black with elbow length sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. The fabric is ribbed, and the hemline is just above the knee. But it’s stretchy. It’s form-fitting. It’s a size that is at my just-past-realistic goal.

Backstory: I’m just over a week into a 10 Week Fitness and Nutrition program. It’s a service my gym (CKO Kickboxing of Warwick, NY – come in for your free trial class!) has always offered, but has recently revamped. As of this launch, it was ten weeks to Memorial Day. Great impetus: get ready for summer. I’m a trainer, sure, but I’m as much of a work in progress as anyone else. So, I signed up. For ten weeks, I’m logging what I eat, when I eat, when I’m drinking water, when I’m working out. I’m setting long term goals, sub goals, choosing rewards for meeting said goals, sharing my journey with the rest of the team.

In the past, when I’ve felt fit and confident, I enjoyed clothes. I wore shorts and a tank top without throwing a big flannel shirt over the lot. I wore floaty dresses with knee-high boots. I was at ease with whatever I put on. It may be silly and shallow, but feeling at ease in clothing is most certainly a personal barometer of both physical and emotional wellness. We all have our touchstones.

So. Back to the dress. JCPenney was having a ‘Dress Event!’ I didn’t pay much attention as to the details. I wandered through, eschewing all of the styles that didn’t take wee torso/long limbs into account*. Then, I saw it. It’s not my usual style. It’s not remotely my size. Still, I thought, ‘Dress Event!’. Mayhap it’s worth trying on . I took the dress (along with a snappy little red sheath) into the fitting room. Snappy red sheath, though fine, wasn’t worth it.

Completely ridiculous dress, though? Showed off collarbones beautifully (though minor tailoring will be needed because: stumpy torso, odd distance between ribcage and shoulders. Not disparaging, here. It’s just a thing.). Fit almost perfectly. Will fit perfectly if and when I meet my 10 Week Fitness and Nutrition goals. No idea when or where I’ll ever wear it, but… DONE. I looked at the price tag: $60. Knowing, though, that there was a ‘Dress Event!’ going on, I’d probably get 15% off of that, I decided to bloody go for it.

Adorable sales girl rang it up. $9.99. We locked eyes. “Wow,” she said. “Are you sure?” said I. “Yeah,” she replied. Then, “where did you find this? I want one.” And, because it’s me, I almost told her to take it for herself. She was super wee and adorbs. But I held firm, and this is now a thing. A thing, I tell you! It is a size four, form fitting, very pretty dress. It is a goal. It is a dream. And if I fail, that’s okay. It’s a $10 touchstone, spurring me on to better health and fitness.

A ridiculously tiny image (the JCPenney website is disavowing all knowledge of said dress's existence) that is actually quite apt considering where I need to be to fit into this garment.

A ridiculously tiny image gleaned from the interwebs, as the JCPenney website is disavowing all knowledge of said dress’s existence.

*Spoiler: damn near all of them.

fit and strong in 2014 and beyond

More thankfulness today, y’all, this time of the health-and-fitness variety. Before I enumerate those blessings, I’m going to share a quick list of health-and-fitness issues, both real and (possibly, but probably not all that) potentially-only-very-slightly exaggerated.

~I was a baby-fat kind of kid. Following a growth spurt, I became a lanky, awkward teenager. I’ve never quite lost the former nor grown into the latter.

~The lanky-teenager stage brought with it an absolutely ridiculous metabolism. I could eat anything and everything, and I did, even after said metabolism changed. How I miss the ‘I can eat more pizza than you!’ gauntlet.

~The aforementioned adult metabolism change was due, in very large part, to the simultaneous decision to quit smoking/turning 30 years old. Screeching. Halt.

~Indiana Jones spoke the truth: It’s not the years, it’s the mileage. Youthful attempts to jog and trail run with bad shoes and bad form and bad attitude have left my knees unhappy. Jousting has gifted me with a wonky right shoulder and wrist. Half-marathon training/road running on uneven pavement means my right hip is seriously ouchy. I’ve got battle elbow (tennis elbow, but for stage combatants) thanks to overuse and lots of spear and quarterstaff work.

~Awkwardness is a constant: I stumble walking across a flat surface, dance like a drunken giraffe, and punch myself in the face while teaching kickboxing class. I have never been, nor will never be, a pretty graceful princess.

So. There’s all of that.

There’s also this: when I lost an activity I loved, I found another – to wit, cardio-kickboxing. I took my first class early in 2006. Within a year, I was an instructor. I’m still there, and still in love with the workout. It’s grown and changed, and as a client I’m never bored. As an instructor, I’m delightfully challenged. It’s working out that feels like play, with a healthy dose of badassery mixed in. What’s not to love?

For a while, I ran. Grudgingly. I was inspired by others who did so, and though I never found the joy they did, I realized I could implement discipline. I trained for a half-marathon: four runs a week, all outdoors, through a NY state winter. I never missed a one. Though my race time was less impressive than my training runs, I still finished. Got the job done, got my banana and my medal and the realization I could push myself through.

I ‘ran’ a Spartan Sprint. It wasn’t for time; it was to finish with the team. We helped each other over (and under, and through) obstacles. We gave a shoulder to teammates. Did burpees alongside them. Gave a shoulder – or a fireman’s carry – to those who needed it. I wept through my own final set of penalty burpees. But we finished together. Got the job done, got my beer and my medal and the realization that with my friends alongside me, I could scale walls and leap fire.

Right now, I’m engaged in an intensive HIIT course, which I posted about a few days ago. I’m so very thankful to my dear friend/workout partner for getting me involved, but good gracious – it’s making me realize how much further I have to go. Choose to go. Cards on the table: I’m 45. Many of my nutritional/portion choices are reasonable, but not all of them. I like wine. I like beer. One of my professional credentials is ‘Singing Pirate,’ for heavens’ sake. But I want to be fit and strong and capable. I want to be slim, even if I’ll never be ripped. I want to set a good example. I want to do my gym, my colleagues, and myself proud. I’m as stuck as anyone on the number on the scale, even though I know that’s a guideline at best. It’s so hard to let go of those numbers. Still…

It’s hopeful. I can clean-and-press more than I thought my battle elbow could handle. My hip, unhappy with running, can do burpees with split lunge switches. Bursitis in the right shoulder is cool with hanging knee tucks, and moderately fine with dive bombers. I’ve certainly got more range of motion than I did six months past.

I may never be a beast. I may never be a superhero*. I’d like to strengthen and define my arms. I’d love to shave some jiggle off my midsection. Decent legs? Yes, please. If I can work my way to moderately kickass mid-forties woman, then bless. I’ll be thankful for what this body can accomplish, mileage and all.

HIITmax week 6, day 3

HIITmax week 6, day 3

*though if I could, I’d totally want to be Batgirl. Or Zatanna. Please and thank you.