Staying On Track When Away From Home

Actually…in this case, I was traveling BACK home…from my new home…for ten days to attend to wedding preparations – I therefore knew about a gym location in advance BUT…had I not, I’d have scouted one out for sure.

Fitness isn’t a once in a while thing – it’s a lifestyle.  Staying fit is a commitment to making good daily choices – keeping in mind, of course, that life is fast-paced, and sometimes unexpected.  

But when we are traveling, or need to be out of our regular routine, there are ways to keep up with some activities.  Your body – and mind! – will thank you for going the extra mile and making sure your hotel has a fitness facility, or that there is a gym, bike trail etc nearby.

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With all of the crazy things i had scheduled, fitting in my cardio and lifting wasn’t going to be easy – but I made it work.  I got up earlier than I might have otherwise, put on my spin shoes, and headed out the door. *Making the time* is a huge part of it – that’s where your commitment comes in.  Your goals are achievable so long as you seize opportunity.

I made sure that I specifically put in the mornings that I wanted to go to the gym ON my schedule, in advance – it mattered to me enough (knowing I would physically and mentally not feel myself if I skipped it!) to get there, and having it penciled in already meant there were no excuses.

Being away from home meant I was missing eight Martial Art classes a week, and regular other exercise – without making the time, I’d have fallen into a slump for well over a week, which – for me – equals a terrible mood, and a tired body.  Don’t forget that exercise boosts your energy, and happy chemicals – endorphins to the rescue! Just because you aren’t home doesn’t mean  you can’t keep up with SOMEthing.  It’s worth looking into your options ahead of time so you don’t fall into a cycle of doing zero.

 

Thankful In The 2nd Degree

I recently had the good fortune to complete my 2nd Dan promotion in Taekwondo, Hapkido and Kumdo – Our curriculum includes all three Arts, though we focus primarily on the Taekwondo, and Hapkido (both of which I adore!)  I hadn’t actually stepped foot in a dojang until my early 30’s – but despite zero background in Martial Arts as a whole, I maintained the belief that anything was achievable.   

My personal athletic history includes classical training in ballet for a decade, competitive figure skating for about sixteen years, and competitive ballroom dancing for about seven.  I supplemented my training with weightlifting and some cardio from the age of 13 on, and certainly gave other sports a try over the years (many of which, I confess, were under duress.  Still, it was to my benefit, as I learned what did…and didn’t...work for me!) 

The school I attend is run by the phenomenally accomplished Grandmaster Ik Jo Kang of Korea – not only an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, but also a 9th Degree in Hapkido, as well as highly skilled in knife throwing, short stick, long stick, and nunchucks (among other things.)  He’s most definitely a force to be reckoned with, and someone I looked up to from day 1.  

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Kwan Jang Nim (the appropriate term for Grandmaster) welcomed me warmly, encouraging me in spite of my very dancelike habits and lack of experience.  He generously took me under his wing, and I spent countless private lessons trying to learn as much as I possibly could retain.  Most Grandmasters at his level are no longer teaching, not to mention teaching lower belts – we, his students, are very blessed.

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During one of my more intense lessons, in which we practiced nearly and hour of jump kicks and combinations (yung seuk chagi), my foot rolled into a divot in the mat, changing my athletic career in less than a second.  As I took off for a spinning, jumping back kick, my knee jolted left to right, severing my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), tearing the meniscus, tearing the hamstring (at the gastrocnemius tie-in), and severely contusing the bones.  

I literally saw stars (I describe it as the Cinderella, Fairy-Godmother-effect from my skating days – spin super fast, and that is precisely what when down!)

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Kwan Jang Nim, seeing that I couldn’t move, helped me put pressure to assist with the pain (the hamstring tear was likely the most intense part – popped ACLs cause swelling, but not the dramatic wave of pain I was experiencing.  In a fit of cold sweats I tried not to be sick, and to get myself to my feet.  I was able to do so within a minute or two but there was something clearly amiss – athletes (of whatever kind!) get used to the bumps, bruises, and muscular pain – this was something different.

Sad to say…I was diagnosed with a torn hamstring only.  The trauma within the patellar region was severe enough that the swelling prevented the Lachman’s test from divulging what was really going on (typically, it’s a failsafe – the knee pops forward and it’s pretty darn clear that the ACL is damaged, or no longer intact!)  We didn’t think the MRI was required – though it was painful, stiff, and swollen, I could still bear my weight.  I could still LIFT weights at the gym.  I could do everything pretty much as normal except that I “felt” like something wasn’t right.  There was a hair of instability that I didn’t believe I’d had prior and, four months later, without signs of abating, an MRI confirmed I wasn’t crazy.  (Bottom line: YOU KNOW YOUR BODY!  If it doesn’t feel right, check it out immediately!)

I read the MRI report and burst into tears…  Two months prior I had won two titles at the World Championships in ballroom – I was right at a peak age, and ready to revamp my routines and push myself as far as I could go… But in the fell swoop of one, poorly-supported moment…my competitive dreams were taken away.

I was in surgery days after receiving the news. The recovery itself was the most painful physical situation I’ve been in, not to mention one of the more trying (though not the worst) on an emotional level as well.  My parents are saints for having put up with me – the prospect of not dancing was already devastating, and to know that physical activity was off limits for months did NOT sit well.  I lost three inches around my thigh – my quad was actually concave when the swelling subsided – and about eight pounds on that side.  Let’s just say it was eye-opening.  

Perspective…

I remember meeting my friend Roger for the first time.  Roger was a Sergeant, SWAT Team member, pilot and badass Harley-rider who had been diagnosed with ALS some years earlier – he has since passed, but will ever be remembered as a hero…and an inspiration.  When we were introduced, my best friend mentioned that I was a dancer.  Roger’s face lit up like a sun and he smiled larger than the room (I have goosebumps recalling it.)  He typed (with his eyes) into his computer, “do you watch Dancing With the Stars?” “My old teacher is on the show!” I replied.  The warmth, excitement, and genuine care Roger’s face expressed nearly moved me to tears – in that moment I remembered my first day at physical therapy after my knee reconstruction…

I remember that I was asked to “fire my quad” and I couldn’t do it.  Confused, I looked at my thigh, sending the message to it to contract.  Nothing.  It was like a dead limb…and it was terrifying.  When I spoke to Roger I thought “my God…he wakes up every day knowing it won’t get better…  He wakes up and something else doesn’t work, and it won’t come back.”  There I was acting like a big baby…and my leg WAS going to heal.

That moment stayed with me, and it’s something I think about when I’m feeling down – I am SO blessed.  He would smile and tell me to be careful, despite his own circumstance – I will never forget the bravery, nor his ever-present selflessness.  He affected me so much that I agreed to do the Tri-State Trek in his honor – we knew his time was limited and I wanted to repay him for the gift of sight and perspective he gave me while he was still with us.

I didn’t have my first Black Belt at the time, but Roger and I, and one of my best friends Rick, would always share smiles and laughs about my Martial Arts training – I was determined to become a badass one day!  I would say the training (road bike) ride was exhausting and I was going to kick Rick’s butt for it…adding a “KIYAH!” along with my kicking motions.  Roger would always giggle and say that Rick would have to “watch out! She’s dangerous.”

The knee recovery derailed my competitive ballroom dancing…but I was as set on getting my black belt no matter how hard it would be, or how long it took to get there.  When I was able to finally get up one stair – ten months after surgery – my Grandmaster allowed me to come back to the school to start training again.  He was incredibly patient, and always mindful of my injury.  I took baby steps and modified where necessary – while I couldn’t do everything, I still could do SOMEthing.  I wasn’t giving up…

The only aspect of the Black Belt promotion I had some trouble with was snapping a side kick and breaking boards – the emotional paralysis you can sustain from traumatic injury can really stick with you, and it was quite prevalent at that moment!  Fortunately, I was permitted to do breaks with my hands.  PHEW!  The new rank meant the WORLD to me…because it represented my persistence, my perseverance, my dedication…  It represented that I could achieve anything I set my heart to – just like the 300 mile bike ride for Roger.  

I continued my training with Kwan Jang Nim, eager to perfect what I knew…and to learn even more – in Martial Arts, the learning NEVER stops!  I managed to tear my right knee along the way – again with a kick – but I refused to reconstruct it and kept forging ahead (despite the chagrin of my orthopedic surgeon!)  

After maintaining the rank a while, students were getting excited for the next big promotion.  But, while they usually occur at quarterly intervals (maybe more), the schedule shifted dramatically.  Kwan Jang Nim was given an opportunity to finally shoot his Screenplay– a long-time dream of his.  While we were sad we couldn’t do our promotion, we were incredibly excited for him that his dream was coming to fruition.

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Within that time, though, I met the Love of my Life…who had apparently lived just yards away from my Dojang all that time… He was moving away from our town two weeks after we met and…fast forward six months, I was following him out of state too. The promotion loomed over me – I was ready to test, but I was no longer at the school to participate in classes, to practice, to learn, to perfect… 

I stayed in touch with Kwan Jang Nim, eager to hear about any set dates for the testing.  I practiced on my own, as I always did back home…but it was so much more important without others to work with me.  My hunnie kindly “stole my wallet” many nights as he grilled dinner so I could practice my Hapkido defenses.  And I never gave up the hope of getting back home to take my 2nd Degree test.

In January I got a call that the promotion was set for early February – I wasn’t sure I could get back for the actual date, so Kwan Jang Nim…very generously…agreed to meet me privately and do my test earlier.  FINALLY, the day came, and I was overjoyed.

Seeing Kwan Jang Nim again was amazing – I realized how much I missed my classes, and the Dojang, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to “do my thing.”  The test went amazingly – I feel like I’m still glowing from the experience.  I feel so blessed, and so thankful to officially be a Kyo Sa Nim. ❤ 

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It’s funny because sometimes people assume that getting a belt is something that you just “pay for.”  There is a business aspect to many schools that allows for that to occur…but there are a lot of us who work HARD to get where we are.  We get their early, do chores we aren’t asked to do, practice on our own.  We go to class, ask for feedback, and repeat until we can’t move.  

Some of us – MOST of us – have had debilitating injuries over the years, and we push through them with determination to reach our goals.  It is EARNED, NOT GIVEN for many of us, and there is a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears along the way.  

My friends have achieved incredible things – feats I look up to with deep reverence.  Overcoming personal setbacks, in particular, is something I have profound respect for – whether emotional, physical or spiritual.  For me, this was one of those things… I refused to give up my Arts because I destroyed on knee – it had already taken so much away.  I refused to give them up when I tore the second one – my passion never diminished.  

I have modified, and persisted, and kept my eye on my goal – those two stripes will forever remind me that I have what it takes, no matter what.  Having the heart is more than half the battle – never give up on you, or what brings you joy.  

The Reward

Some days are really hard to motivate as far as the cardio goes… But as the years have progressed, I find that cardiovascular work is absolutely vital to my well-being.  It isn’t strictly physical either – I need it emotionally and spiritually as much as anything else.

The past few days made for a more intense week than I have had in a long time, though… I’m sore EVERYWHERE!  I’m not only continuing with my cardio and lifting, but also endeavoring to maintain my Taekwondo and Hapkido practice (test coming up!)  On top of all that, I also started two (to three) new Martial Arts, which are not only challenging on an intellectual level, but very much so on a physical one as well.

With Ninjustsu, JuJutsu and Brazilian JiuJitsu on the roster, that means new types of muscle recruitment AND extra exercise.  That said, I am not in a place ~YET~ where it can take place of some of the cardio sessions (I’d love it if that were the case but I still have to do my HIIT treadmill and spin time for now!)

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So despite the weariness and sore muscles, I pushed through – it wasn’t my best, and it didn’t have to be.  Getting ON a bike, or treadmill…stepping foot in a gym…it takes effort.  Just getting there is a huge hurdle surmounted, and I always encourage people at that point who feel like they aren’t doing enough.  You STARTED – you walked through the door, sat on the bike, hopped on a treadmill – that’s a big deal!  Don’t forget that you had the choice to stay home or do nothing, and you chose to be active – WAY TO GO! 🙂

Once you start, I find that you often are able to push more than you thought.  A friend of mine the other day said he hit a plateau with push ups – three sets of a certain number.  When he asked what I would do, I offered two thoughts:

  1. Get to that “I’m stuck number,” take a deep breath and squeeze out one more on each set…OR
  2. Try less reps, more sets, to pass the total number of the 3 sets combined.

He wrote me back to say he opted for less reps, more sets…and he beat the total by 7! 😀

My goal on the bike the other morning was 60 minutes – I normally stick it through and do 90, and I have habit of giving myself a guilt trip when I don’t get there… But listening to our bodies is what keeps us healthy – I could do a better job of that too!  As my Grandmaster says, “are you going to the Olympics?! No?  SLOW DOWN!

So I jumped on…put on the Sonos (thanks to my man!) and did it.  It wasn’t the fastest, or hardest, or all-around most ideal ride…but it was SOMETHING.  I felt better for the rest of the day knowing I got it in.  Honestly, that’s one of the biggest rewards of all – knowing you made the effort and pushed through even when you wanted to quit.  Proving to yourself that you have what it takes is like getting a trophy!

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I’ve also been doing activities like Aerial Yoga on the weekend, and one or two Martial Arts classes…so I’ve decided that there will be zero traditional cardio and weights for Saturdays and Sundays.  And when I need to sleep longer to recharge and rest my muscles…I DO IT!

Spinning With The Ninjas

I just WAS NOT in the mood to spin the other morning.  I just moved – literally moving my Life from one state to a new one – so I’ve been a wee bit exhausted.  

BUT…I don’t believe in excuses.

If I am legitimately not up for it, I’ve gotten better about giving myself a break.  But there are times when our brains endeavor to sway us with their trickery.  Oh yes…the “I’m-moving-so-I-must-have-packed-my-spin-shoes” routine (never mind that they were on a shelf out of the corner of my eye!) Brain hates cardio (so it proclaims!) but the body needs it!

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Maybe I’m gross from spinning. Definitely a “get away, mom!”

That was that – I spotted the shoes and my brain (practically audibly) went “dang it!”  

As I did, the cats went flying by – they’re quite the ninjas, when they feel like it, these two.  Jumping with grace and ease, flying through there air into full-on somersaults, and adding some comic relief with a “merowr!” tossed in here and there…  It’s a sight!

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Not only did it make me laugh, it occurred to me that these two little black fur balls had enough energy for all of us.  If they could stay active, so could I.

Where is the logic in that, you ask?  I have NO idea!

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But it was enough to say “okay, let’s do this,” don the spin shoes, and jam.  I put the iPod on shuffle and watched off-and-on the feline ninjitsu for the next hour.  Put that to Metallica and it’s really pretty entertaining.

When the brain wants to give you a hard time, don’t back down so easily.  Nothing feels better than when you get it done!

Back Spin

Back Day! 

I love working larger muscle groups – I think it’s because I feel like I get more bang for my buck on leg and back day. Or maybe it’s because I inherently know my caloric expenditure will be higher…even if marginally…on those days.  That’s always nice! 😀

The Spring (and totally unexpected, in my case!) allergies are draining my energy like a vampire on a binge, but there’s no way I’m not going to put forth my best effort!  After about 15 sneezes in a row, I got dressed and hopped on the bike, tissues in tow.

I did 50 minutes of spin sprints early – getting cardio out of the way does matter for me.  If I am aware I am doing it, I need to do it first so I can push through, and have it behind me.  There are various camps of thought on what *should* go first (as with stretching) but this works for me…and I am all for per individual.  Cookie cutter doesn’t work.

I always sneak in hanging leg raises and 2 minutes of planks as a maintenance ab routine, so in addition to that I did:

  • Dumbbell Row
  • Seated Cable Row
  • Seated Pressurized Row (on a pressurize machine)
  • Lat Pulldown (I avoid tons of lats because my wings are broad naturally.  I don’t want to totally emphasize that area, just keep it toned.
  • Standing Cable Row with rope attachment
  • Lying Lateral Raise

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I usually do a bit more but it was still a great workout – I always do at least three sets.  I finished with my stretching, which is really crucial in my opinion (certainly for what I do in Martial Arts, but also from a staying-mobile standpoint – it’s good for everyone!)

Tomorrow is leg day – I don’t know if other folks like to leave it for a weekend, but I feel like Saturdays afford me more time.  And if I eat a little bit more, I don’t feel as badly…because I KNOW I’d have killed it earlier! 🙂  

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Happy workouts to all, and if your allergies are getting you down, hang in there!  It’s okay not to be perfect, just give whatever you have and know that yes, that IS enough – you’re doing great!

X ❤

 

Zombie Made Me Do It!

I was having one of those days the other day – desperately wanted to go back to bed but…I knew I’d be furious at myself later if I did.

Starting is always the hardest, but once you get going it’s “okay…just a few more minutes…I got this…”  

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I have heard SO many people put themselves down, at the gym… And I will always counter it with “YOU’RE HERE!  Most people never made it in the door!”  

You deserve credit for putting in the effort to be there at all, and for trying.  It doesn’t matter if it isn’t your “best” day – that fluctuates, and it’s OKAY.  The important thing is that you STARTED.  You decided you were worth the self care and decided to start exercising… BRAVO.

I remind myself of the same thing… So it wasn’t 45 minutes of sprints, but I did something.  Staying in bed would have meant I did ZERO.  We don’t need lower school algebra under our belts to know we gained something in this equation!

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So just START.

Hop up, and do something good for yourself!  With exercise, we all have a goal – to be healthier, get blood pressure down, lose weight, get more tone, increase our aerobic capacity…   Whatever it is, just put your gym stuff on and GO.  You will be so happy and proud of yourself later – it really does have a lasting effect.  

When it gets really tough, grab some good tunes and get your blood pumping.  Whatever makes you feel powerful and amazing, put THAT on!!!

In my mind I was all sorts of whiny… “I just don’t FEEL like it…. Do I HAVE TO? Ugh…whine whine whine…

Well, I turned on my iPod and looked at my instructor’s face on the screen.  He said “SUPERBEAST”...and I said…

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HELL YES, I AM, ROB!!! 😀

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And you know what?  I felt a LOT better later.

Zombie made me do it but…I was the one who started.  

And so did YOU!

 

 

Superhero Cardio

I saw a great quotation on Facebook the other day – no one took credit in particular, otherwise I’d post it!  I was pretty much on the floor because I’m really not a major fan of cardio, and it was SO, SO true – I’d say about 99% of people in this circumstance would start running.  

Or jumping around.  

Or something to elevate the heart rate (if it wasn’t already up!)

(I personally have an experience not unlike this quotation…but it involved a horse, a limbo, and a gymnastic dismount into a ditch in the woods.  Pretty?  No.  Graceful?  Surprisingly, kind of.  Hilarious?  I’m STILL laughing months later!)

I’ve definitely done my share of cardio but…it’s tough fighting through sometimes.

I find that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) works best – either on the spin bike (I have a fan on mine. ~*hands on hips*~ I’m not embarrassed!) or on the treadmill (which has NO fan, and therefore is even less, er, “thrilling.”) Spoken like a true ice skater, I know. 

Typically I do under an hour – usually 30 to 45 minutes, with some warm up and cool down.  There’s a PLETHORA of literature out there about HIIT so I don’t necessarily have to go into the nitty gritty – but, though I have MANY endurance athlete friends (who are amazing, by the way!) HIIT works very well for:

  • Torching fat (yay!)…
  • Raising metabolism (double yay!)…
  • Pushing folks past plateaus quite successfully.  

My sprints are generally 20 to 30 seconds, and I vary the “rest” in between.  Might be 10 second, a la “Tabata,” or 30 seconds…even 90.  

But sprints = results…so I stick with it.

That said, cardio that I am AWARE of is never fun.  Martial Arts is great because it engages my mind more, as skating and dancing did – time flies and calories are burned!  Distance treadmill?  FORGET IT!  Distance outdoor running?  Aside from being roadkill a mile in, my shins and knees say “no thanks!”  

So this quotation gave me a real laugh…

A week's worth of cardio

 

And honestly…if it wasn’t funny enough, I breezed past this Facebook post from Gym Flow 100, and I nearly fell off the chair.

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I mean listen…the outfit might help.  I’m not saying it will be what actually BURNS the calories, but it sure as heck might motivate you to run your fastest.  *Note that it works best if you pair this outfit WITH the music.  iPods work nicely.