I am cheating today and combining day 19 and day 20 into a blog post. One because not much happened on day 19 and two because I have been too busy to make it to any vlogs.
After two visits to Bare Bones Boxing it is apparent that it is beneficial to be in an environment with group energy and professional trainers. The collective environment and the pre planned routine allows you to become engrossed in the experience in a way that I personally cannot achieve on my own. It is not about competing with other people in the room. It is about feeding off the collective effort of individuals trying to better themselves.
It also gives you an opportunity to observe people who are stronger and faster than you currently are. I was watching a boxer there today and I was inspired. He had clearly been there for hours already. He was wearing a jacket and sweatpants despite the fact that it was on the warmer side of cool. He was sweating and using some kind of a speed bag when I got there. He joined us for the 60 minute class and then went right back to the speed bags when it was done. He would probably be there for hours and was clearly committed to the sport. The last time I was that committed to something I was about 10 or 11 and I was horseback riding. I don’t know what I have in my life right now that I want to be that committed to. I don’t know what I would want to do, not that I could afford anything. I have done yoga and enjoy it but it is still something I must will myself to do not something I want to do inherently. I like the gym I am at but I don’t need boxing to become my life.
People who become really good at something do it for hours. They call it their addiction. Right now the only thing I am addicted to is making myself better, stronger, faster, more agile. I know I want to dedicate my new body to something though when I am ready.
I have always been inherently drawn to martial arts and I think I would be better at it now than I was when I first tried. I don’t know that it is what I want to pick back up though. I know there are even art forms I could do like Wushu that are more about performance than fighting. The martial arts world is inherently masculine and I am not sure I want that again. I think dance would actually be a more useful skill at this point in my life. Dance is not inherent to me the way martial arts is and I have never done anything like it before. It is feminine and expressive and open. It is still strong and powerful but in a different way than martial arts.
At the moment it is still more important to me to improve my body so I will continue to mull over this thought. I am still sure that the road will reveal itself at the right time.
It is the beginning of week 3 and I have already learned a lot about myself and how to keep working towards my goals. Today I am taking time to restructure the last 3 weeks of this challenge.
First of all I am changing rest days. I do not currently work hard enough consistently enough to always need a rest day on Sunday. Sunday is actually one of my days off and a perfect time to get a full work out in. By taking the day forcibly off I am not utilizing my schedule to my advantage. Today, for example, actually works better to take off. I slept well for the first time in 2 weeks, I went into work early, I got a massage and it is raining outside. The weekend is going to be beautiful and I am already relaxed so why wait until Sunday to rest? Instead I am going to use an already naturally slow day to reflect on the last two weeks and throw myself hard at training tomorrow. Throughout the next 3 weeks I will be taking rest days only when it is clear that my body is asking for one. If I go hard for two days and I feel wrecked from head to toe then I will take the third day off. If the entire week is slow and I am capable of moving 7 days straight then I will. A rigid structure of 6 days on and 1 day off is not going to help me optimize my training. Instead I found that I was dragging myself through trying to ensure that I made all 6 days happen which was leading to half hearted training. Indeed I would rather workout every other day if it meant every other day was sweaty and intense. Knowing my determination to get this right, I am not concerned that I will take too many days off.
Second, I want to better clarify my goals for the next 3 weeks. Right now I am looking to increase my upper body and core strength and slim down to about 130lbs. My goal is to create a body that I want to see in motion. Something that I want to train to do incredible and graceful things. Yoga has been my gateway to this feeling but yoga is very stationary and I want something more animated and full of feeling. My commitment to my current routine is to reach this sculpted version of me and I am willing to renew it monthly until I have achieved my vision.
Third, I am looking into a new activity to help me along towards this goal. At the moment I play with my bo and I tumble around a little bit for fun but it is unstructured and lacking in the intensity I need to lose weight and increase strength. They are also not activities I can truly commit to in the Winter when I prefer to be indoors. I enjoy hiking but it takes time and I can not always commit to the travel times. Hiking also lacks the intensity I am looking for. Furthermore, all of these activities are done alone or with Chelsea but not with a group of people challenging one another to be better. I took time today to run through my options and I settled on boxing/kickboxing. There is a gym down the street from me that does classes and I already know I love kickboxing as a way of staying fit. I have a pair of gloves already and there really is nothing like throwing a punch to let off some steam. It hits all of my markers too. Upper body strength, cardio, capable of performing in the winter and entertainment. To top it all off it might be a nice way to meet new people too.
Fourth, I am implementing a visual reward system to keep track of how many days I complete a full days training. This means that any day I strength train, go running, do yoga, and keep all of my scheduled meals (no more and no less) I check off a box for the day. Since I am adding boxing I want to mark it but I don’t want it to be mandatory. The reason being is, it is an entirely new part of the schedule and I don’t want to punish myself for it. For now, any day that includes boxing will be marked with a plus for bonus time. This system will allow me to keep track of how many days in a row I am sticking to my training and dieting schedule and hold me accountable to my goals.
I look forward to making these significant adjustments in my schedule and in my training and seeing what the last 3 weeks has to offer before re-evaluating my progress. I am starting to see where this is more than a 30 day challenge and the beginning of a new lifestyle and I am loving it.
It has become clear what I need to do in order for me to feel like I got a full workout. After my morning routine, yoga must go in the afternoon and the evening and cannot be replaced by light activity. Going into the pool yesterday would have been fine if I had been able to swim laps but the number of children made focused swimming impossible. So from here forward yoga in the afternoon must be done before any other activity as the main goal is to increase strength, flexibility, fluidity of motion and proper form. Then, if there is time during the rest of the day side recreational activities can be done. So far today has been the most successful exercise wise. I am moving the run to tonight due to the heat and as long as that is accomplished with night yoga we will have accomplished all planned exercises for the day!
Last adjustments of the day. After today I realized that in order to have a routine that fits my personal goal of increasing strength that yoga in the morning is too much. A focused strength training session followed by cardio will yield better results overall. More yoga can be added in when my personal strength goal is met. I also realized after today that I need to create some kind of standardized strength training routine for my body. I am not worried about the need to “shake it up” right now and find different things to work my body. Instead, I would like to find a set of exercises to help me through these first 30 days and then re evaluate (more likely I will end up adjusting within the 30 days). The workouts will be as follows:
Yoga Focus: Chaturanga
Yoga Focus: Boat Pose
Yoga Focus: Chair Pose
Upon completing my first set of strength training exercises this afternoon I realized I needed to change my plan slightly. The plan I posted earlier this morning included 2 strength training sessions. One in the morning and one in the evening. I want to clarify further what these sessions are now that I have felt the results of one strong workout session.
The first strength training session of the day will cycle between upper body, core and lower body. This means that every muscle group will be targeted twice in one training week. The workout will begin with gross motor movements that engage large portions of the body i.e push-ups and pull-ups for upper body. It will then narrow down to focus on each specific muscle in that area i.e bicep curls, and tricep curls for upper body. This will conclude with stretches for the areas worked and then move into the next activity.
The evening strength session will not be a full strength training workout. Instead it will be strengthening a specific pose or form related to yoga that also connects to that morning’s strength training. For example, if I did an upper body workout in the morning then that night I might focus on moving through a perfect chaturanga sequence before moving into my yin yoga to conclude the evening.
We’ll see if this ends up being too much focus on one body group in a day and adjust accordingly.
See you soon!
Sunday was my rest day and I took the day to contemplate what I wanted out of this challenge. What I want is more than just consistent exercise time. What I want is a entirely new fitness routine.
Exercise is great for maintaining health. Don’t get me wrong. But what I realized this Sunday is that I wanted more than health maintenance. I want to be fully aware of and present in my body. I want to move with power and grace. I want to be able to perform with it, I don’t know what that means yet, but it is the feeling that comes to mind when I think of a new physically capable form. I want my external body to be a reflection of how hard I work when I want something.
To achieve that goal I knew I needed to do something different than I was doing now. I spent the day researching how olympians train and maintain their bodies. While I could spend days going through the information it all condensed into one pretty cohesive thought. Make your body, your life.
Over the next 30 days I am going to try and embody this mantra as best as I can. To do so I am implementing a 6 day a week training routine and a diet to match. Sunday is both rest day and cheat day because everybody needs a day off and one day a week won’t kill you. While I may have studied the olympians, I am not training to be an olympian.
Monday-Saturday will go as follows.
Breakfast: yogurt, whole Grain and Fruit
Lifting for strength (6 reps 3 times 1 Muscle Group)
Snack: Smoothie (yogurt, almond milk, fruit)
Lunch: Salad rich in dark leafy greens w/ nuts, dried fruit, light dressing
Movement Pieces (staffing, tumbling, Tai Chi, Dance)
Dinner: Whole foods (vegetables, whole grains, protein)
Lifting (On another muscle group)
Snack break: Smoothie (same)
The number one thing I get asked as a massage therapist is what can I do to make this chronic ache, pain, tenderness, soreness or stiffness go away? In general, the answer is consistent full body strengthening and stretching, water and a balanced diet. That can’t possibly be the answer right? It is and here is why.
Our muscles take a lot of abuse every minute of every day. Even at rest they are being put in positions they may not like for long periods of time. All of the activities we perform in our day to day life have the ability to create physical imbalances in the body until we learn how to use and maintenance our bodies correctly. For example, most of my clients have desk jobs or have work that requires them to sit for long periods of time. That means for at least 8 hours a day they are sitting. That doesn’t include what they do in their down time to relax. Common areas of pain include neck, low back, tops of the shoulders, behind the shoulder blades and at the mid back. Sitting, especially at desk jobs (whether a computer is involved or not), creates rounding in the low back, tension in the front pecks, overstretching of the neck and shoulder blades and more if you want to also include the increased risk of carpal tunnel.
To address these imbalances it is not enough to create more ergonomic work areas or correct our posture. We must train our bodies to move correctly. To do this we must build the strength and flexibility for them to support themselves and subsequently us. I am not talking about extensive weight training or being able to wrap your legs around the back of your head. What I am talking about is more akin to personal physical therapy to improve your health and reduce pain and risk of injury.
What does building strength and flexibility mean? I am sure some of you have or are currently enrolled in some kind of exercise and may still be experiencing chronic pain and tightness. In fact, some of you may be experiencing pain and tightness as a result of your exercise. This is because what I am talking about is not just physical movement, it is mindful physical movement. It is physical movement with the specific intention of healing our area of need.
Let us take the desk job example from above. The areas of chronic pain are being caused by a weak core, weak shoulder muscles, a tight chest and overstretched back of neck. In order to solve these issues there are several muscle groups that need to be addressed.
Ultimately, this work takes time and dedication. By the time many of us start to work on our health we are trying to undo year’s worth of damage or neglect. This means that permanent long lasting results will take time. It can take up to six months or more depending on your daily dedication level.
Yoga is the next best way to combat body pain. The reason I recommend yoga over any other form of exercise is because it teaches us body awareness and strengthens not just our large muscles but our deep stabilizing muscles that hold us together on a daily basis. It teaches us to recognize where those aches and pains are coming from and where you need to strengthen and lengthen to get them to stop. Learning this means you can self diagnose and self correct so you can take command of your health. If you want a more extensive routine to heal from sitting, check this out: Combat Sitting Yoga
If you need help identifying the areas of pain and their potential causes and solutions you can always talk to your massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor or yoga instructor. All of these professionals are trained in kinesthetics and their information can be accessed to improve your everyday health routine.
Until next time. Namaste.
Like many people, I have a chronic anxiety disorder. Specifically, I struggle with PTSD. Because of this, many everyday tasks can become overwhelming, unnecessarily time consuming or impossible to focus on.
A few days ago I was finishing up my morning routine and thinking through what I needed to get done for the day. I still needed to walk the dogs, type out this article, do yoga, get a balance sheet done and potentially go swimming. I grabbed the dog leashes and as I did so it started to rain. Without knowing it I began walking back and forth between the door and the chair where I put the dog’s leashes on for 20 minutes. In that time, I had picked up the ipad, opened and had started typing on it. I had drapped the leashes over the chair and began typing (this article actually) and talking to my wife about what… I don’t remember. Nothing truly productive was going on in those 20 minutes because my attention had become split between a multitude of tasks. What I realized after observing the confused looks by the dogs, my bizzarre exhaustion and the bemused expression of my wife (as this is not an uncommon occurrence) is that the rain had altered my course of action. I knew that I had to adjust my dog walking time and I was adjusting but my brain hadn’t adjusted yet and I hadn’t given it the time to do so. I was spiraling in a mild anxiety loop caused by the alteration of my plans.
I had to stop, breathe for a moment, find a chair and physically sit myself down despite the hundreds of alarms going off in my brain that wanted me to do “one last thing” before I sat. Once sitting and centered all I had to do was talk to myself and reassure myself that the dogs would get walked when the storm passed and right now I was ok if what I did instead was sit and write this article. I am a flexible person. That is not the problem. The problem was that because anxiety controls my daily thought pattern the piece of my brain that should have allowed me to put down one activity and start another doesn’t work right. So my brain, unless I catch it and help it, gets stuck in “we are walking the dogs” while I am trying to transition to “we are writing this article”. Anxiety takes time but does not have to have ultimate control over your thought process.
Those of us who have chronic anxiety don’t process things the way healthy brains do. Our brain’s normal processes become disrupted. This disruption makes it difficult to concentrate and causes us to over process and ovelr think because we get stuck in anxiety loops. These can occur on micro levels like my story above or on macro levels. They can freeze our days progress for minutes or even hours at a time. At my worst I have lost an entire day frozen in an anxiety cycle that caused me to wander my home trying to organize my thoughts and turn them into productive actions. Why do we torture ourselves like this? Because in the minds of those of us with chronic anxiety these anxious thought loops are very necessary for our survival. Those of use with these disorders must recognize that these thought patterns are not a part of a healthy brain and they do not ultimately benefit us nor keep us from harm. Indeed, more often than not they do the exact opposite. Anxiety loops tend to be riddled with negative outcomes or worst case scenarios rather than more rational and realistically optimistic possibilities. The thoughts also occur with such rapid fire there is no time to reflect on the true priority or seriousness of the situations in front of us. Furthermore, the brain begins to branch into such a wide range of possible outcomes that it cannot decipher what the statistically more probable possibilities are. This kind of rapid fire thinking combined with its tendency towards negativity tends to create both paranoid thinking as well as he replaying of a singular set of thoughts rather than the progression of those thoughts. Again, the only way to break free of this cycle is to recognize your personal pattern of anxious thinking. This is not an easy task and it takes time and hard work but there are tools that can make it manageable.
The first and easiest tool at your disposal is breath control. When I find myself spinning between several different activities and sort of half moving on more than one thing at once and/or I have found myself treading water in a single spot without any really movement and/or my brain becomes too loud with all the things in my life clamouring for attention, I have to stop and literally sit myself down and breathe. Not to align the thoughts, or to accomplish anything but literally to bring my anxiety down. What is going on does not necessarily feel like anxiety. It isn’t that gut wrenching, mind racing stuff. It is the result of an anxiously programmed overactive brain. My brains inability to focus and persist on a thought is PTSD manifesting in everyday life. When I sit and breathe it sends a physiological response to the rest of my body that says it is ok, we are ok, nothing here needs to freak you out right now. It is only then that my thoughts come back together in a way that no longer feels like I am trying to run a three ring circus in my brain space. This technique can be deepened and honed into a more effective tool through the practice of yoga and meditation.
Some people may need more than the assistance of breath however. Some my need chemical assistance in the form of anti anxiety medication. This could look like pharmaceuticals or medicinal marijuana. In my opinion, medications should never be used as the sole tool for dealing with anxiety. They should be used as a way to calm the brain enough to experience what a baseline of normal could feel like. Once that has been achieved, breathing exercises, reflection and talk therapy can become a more effective tools because you know what feeling you are shooting for. If we simply medicate ourselves to alleviate the anxiety without ever addressing the thought patterns or their roots then we will only ever medicate. It is like taking cold medicine and then pushing forward. You are not healing, you are covering symptoms and then straining an already strained system.
Talk therapy is another fabulous tool for discovering the effects anxiety is having on your life and gives you access to a trained professional with a myriad of tools. Many people have had poor experiences with talk therapy perhaps as a child or maybe even as an adult. Finding the right therapist is key. Maybe you have a brain that needs to process more creatively. Find yourself an art therapist and see what kind of creative therapy methods they have to offer. Maybe you are more spiritual, there are plenty of therapists who work with animal guides, meditation, crystals and more. Maybe you like more traditional psychoanalysis. That’s fine. No matter what kind of therapy you choose make sure you like your therapist. Don’t just open a book point to something and go. Also know that it is ok if you do not jive with someone who is “highly recommended”. I come highly recommended as a massage therapist but I have had plenty of clients who just didn’t like my style. That is ok. Trained professionals give us safe space to explore ourselves and heal the pieces of our lives that are holding us back.
No matter what you do the point is this. The mental issues that haunt our lives, controlling us at times, do have ways of being healed. What it takes is the ability to accept that these things do need our attention and then the bravery and dedication to address them. Dealing with mental weight is just like dealing with physical weight. First, you have to recognize and come to terms with the fact that you may not be as healthy as you want to be. Then, you have to develop an informed plan to drop the weight. Then you have to dedicate yourself to that plan, play with it, alter it, personalize it until it fits your needs. Finally, you have to accept that at times you will fail and that doesn’t mean you give up. You keep going until you drop the weight. Progress only stops when you do, everything else if just a bump in the road on one of the most important journey’s of your life.
I paced the cage of identity we were put in at birth until I learned to pick the lock.
I listened to the creaking of the door
with it’s inflexible metal bars
and began roving like the wild animal I am.
Now I prowl through the forest
filled with innumerable metal boxes
hoping one day
you’ll pick your lock
and roam with me.
M “F” L
Boys Don’t Cry
So I shouldn’t either
Because I am not a girl
I am a boy
Don’t cry and
They will think You’re