Go Ballistic!

Ballistic, high intensity movements are an awesome addition to any workout.  They’re sometimes tough to push through, but they’re worth the effort.

High intensity training has plenty of press coverage so you can find lists of benefits all over the place, as well as solidly backed articles. . .

For the naysayers, I’d encourage giving it a go for a time and you will notice many of the purported benefits yourself, nevermind what others are saying.

That said, it isn’t something you need – nor should – do every workout.  The body gets pushed quite a bit during HIIT, so it’s important to also take a rest.  Two to three times a week is generally the recommendation (though don’t take it from me directly, as I’m not a doc myself.)

I personally love adding it in here or there.  Some of my favorite non-equipment HIIT exercises include:

  • Active Skater Lunges
  • Jump Squats
  • Sit-thrus
  • Bench Hops

I find that these jazz me just a bit more than steady state cardio, and are a great addition to my regular weight lifting routine.  HIIT exercises give me (and my metabolism) a nice boost, help me be as efficient as I can be with my workouts, as well as increase my endurance for Martial Arts.

If you haven’t tried HIIT before, start slow – try some jumping jacks, jump rope, or jogging in place to start. You don’t have to make it impossible (which honestly will only make you jump ship that much quicker!)  

It’s okay to take your time building up! HIIT is an awesome “bang for your buck” approach to fitness – the benefits are not only ones you’ll feel, but ones you will see.

Keep up the awesome work!

Nutrition Humor – Refund!

I’d like to appeal to the “powers that be,” whomsoever you are, that this be instated forthwith.  I, for one, am all in favor in spite of the “yeah, you wish it!”s out there.  Listen, magic happens every day. . .

“Yes, thank you.  I’d like a refund on that milkshake?  It just wasn’t as creamy, malted, or chocolate-y as I (an my stomach) anticipated.  Awesome, thanks!  800 calories for something else! 😀 “

Train The Way You (Want To) Fight

Training the way you want to fight isn’t always so easy. . .but in a way, isn’t that supposed to be the point? That we train in order to potentially defend ourselves?

The tough reality is that what your muscles remember under duress – which is going to be what you have painstakingly programmed them to do in class, lessons, practice – is what matters.  If you train to hand the gun back to the perpetrator – even with mindfulness and the knowledge that you *shouldn’t* – it may happen in real life.  Terrifying it may be, I’ve actually heard of cases in which just that has occurred… Scary.

The other day in class, our Sensei decided to do a drill combining old school (as in centuries-old Ninpo) traditional movements with a modern-day scenario and vibe.  We had to disable our opponent with a distraction or strike, get away (using those traditional techniques), get to and behind cover, and then “draw” our weapon. The drill was one of the most fun I think I’ve ever done…but I was also so incredibly excited to have another opportunity to flesh out a possible, modern situation. No matter how old movements, or kata, or patterns may be, there are gems within them that can be adapted for, and applied to the times.

I don’t carry, for one thing…so I’m not likely to have a firearm at the ready.  But the idea was what was most important here, and learning to do all of those things – without the stress – was hugely valuable.  What makes it stick? Repetition!  Memory needs to be formed so that when we ARE stressed, we can still perform those functions. Just one day of that particular drill isn’t necessarily going to help me out if something really goes down.  But…the principles and techniques ARE ones we use every day…

We learn to strike, distract, disable…that’s number 1. 

We learn how to efficiently get away, and to not injure our bodies (or injure as little as possible!) as we attempt to do so.

We learn to asses for cover and get behind it if that’s what the situation requires (versus getting away.) 

In practicing those things, our muscles learn on such a level that we work on “autopilot” after a point.  And that’s what you want!

The difficulty in this particular environment is that we don’t have real firearms, and we aren’t truly hurting our “attacker.”  On a range, in a special type of training, an individual who DOES carry can certainly practice his or her ability to draw, aim, shoot, and make the weapon safe – frankly I think anyone in a job in which carrying a pistol is required SHOULD be doing that anyway! 

For us at the dojo, we are working on handling whatever is coming at us as quickly and smartly as possible – but again, there are some strikes we simply cannot do.  In Ninpo, strikes can be highly unorthodox and nasty – breaking fingers, ripping ears, gouging eyes…it goes on.  It’s tough knowing we aren’t going 100% in this case, but we can’t exactly…  So we have to keep in mind that in real life, were our safety on the line, we can’t play the but-he’s-a-nice-“uke” (opponent / attacker) game. It’s a challenge, honestly – how do we bridge the gap, then?  I’m not sure you really CAN because none of us are out to break another classmate’s limb!

This is – for me – where the repetition comes in.  Learning to master even basic movement can take a lifetime, forget years! But in the daily (or as many days as can be managed!) practice helps solidify as many of the effective ways in which to handle a particular threat.  There are – keep in mind – an infinite number of movements available to us, and if we could study every Art and master it in a lifetime, we’d be golden.  Not the reality, sad to say!  Learning to even do a handful of “go-to”s is great – learn to do them properly, to do them well, and to do them with all shapes and sizes (some techniques are really tough with a HUGE partner!)  If you want a real challenge, do them blindfolded.

It’s a very “wax on, wax off” concept – the drills help our bodies to do these things as involuntarily as possible so, should the need arise, we actually CAN do something about it. We don’t always have the luxury of training exactly how we fight – this isn’t the Colosseum, after all – but we *can* do everything in our power to focus, to drill, and to get our muscles so familiar with the movements that they will come to our aid when we need them most.

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Giving Yourself A Break

I had a really rough week last week with a loss in my family.  It’s one of those things that I know takes a long time to “get over” – I’ve been there before.  

But. . .I’ve also had a lot of conditioning that makes me feel that I’m a burden if I’m feeling down, or that I have tp put on a happy face…even when it’s the last thing I want to do.

Part of me agrees with the idea that I need to keep going – one foot in front of the other, and sticking to my routine is more helpful than it isn’t – I get out of my brain, for one (which frankly isn’t firing on all synapses at the moment.)

And part of me feels like…let me get through this, and then I can go home and cry when I need to…because it is just as important for my wellbeing to “allow” my emotions” as it is to be stoic.

I haven’t had much energy, but I still go through the motions.  Form is integral, though, and no matter if we are doing lighter weight, or just running our “usual” on autopilot, we have to pay attention to the form.  I’ve made it a habit to really focus on the muscle that should be working when I exercise, so fortunately I’m in tune with what’s moving (and what shouldn’t be.)  I listen to my body and always try to respect when it needs a break…and to give it a little bit of a push if it needs it.

Today was one of my leg days – I have two.  I used to do EVERYTHING on one day, but it’s overboard for me at this stage in the game. Instead, I like having two manageable but challenging days that aren’t to the point that I make myself sick thinking about them (which used to be the case.)  What’s the point if you are stressing about what’s supposed to be fun and / or good for you?!

My usual Tuesday exercises include the following (I try to keep some of my rests “active” to knock out my ab work without tacking on a ton of time – I don’t want to live at the gym the way I used to back in the day!)

  • SQUATS – 5 sets, narrow and wide stance (with a reconstructed knee and no ACL in one, I opt for smith machine for these.  Yes, Physical Therapist approved! 🙂 )
  • PLANKS – 4 minutes total, main core and obliques, interspersed with squats
  • LUNGES – 3 sets each side, smith machine (free weight done on my other leg day)
  • CRUNCHES – 2 minutes total, varied, flutter kick and bicycle variations, interspersed with lunges 
  • STEP-UPS – 3 sets each side, smith machine and bench
  • BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUATS WITH DUMBBELLS – 3 sets each side
  • DUMBBELL DEADLIFTS – 3 sets of 12 to 15 (using 2 45 lbs dumbbells. If I’m at another facility, I’ll use the 110 lb bar.  Too much weight here really hinders kicking in Martial Arts!)
  • AB VACCUUM – 3 minutes total, interspersed with the three exercises above, as they fit
  • DUMBBELL HIP THRUSTS – 3 sets of 16, using the 45 lb weights.. (If at another gym, Ill use an 80 lb bar.)
  • JUMP SQUATS – 2 sets for 30 seconds each
  • BENCH JUMPS – 3 sets of 8 to 10 (IF my legs aren’t total jello)
  • KICK UPS – 3 sets of 15 (with a dumbbell if I want to add one more exercise in)

As I look at it here…it’s A LOT.  I’m even happier that I split it up!

So today wasn’t my finest – I wasn’t feeling great, and I’m incredibly over tired.  BUT…

BUT…

I went to the gym, I put on some music, and I went through the motions (carefully.)  I didn’t get upset if I couldn’t do everything as well as usual, or if I had to cut my reps.  Movement is helpful even when it can’t be as much as I normally do.  It’s SOMEthing, and that’s what matters.

We have the opportunity to melt down at any given time.  We also have the opportunity to pick ourselves up and move forward as best we can.  I choose both, and that’s okay.  One allows me the freedom to be comfortable with myself and what I’m feeling – to acknowledge that those emotions are acceptable.  The other reminds me that I’m goddamn strong, and I will get through ANYthing.  

 

Martial Arts Humor – Preparation (And The Benefit Of Martial Arts in Life)

I have to say, Mr. Rogers, you let me down! 

The streets here are not exactly tame, depending on the block – happy-go-lucky mindlessness and handing out “hi, neighbor!”s is a surefire way to get in (possibly serious) trouble.

When I began Martial Arts, it wasn’t because I wanted to be “badass” or that I thought I’d need to fend of a gaggle of muggers, necessarily.  I was a lifetime athlete – primarily a performing one (ballroom dancing, figure skating, ballet, and the like) – and I wanted to up the ante.  I wanted more power, newness, and something that combined athleticism with artistry (which figure skating, for one, manages by default.)

That said, I was enamored of Martial Arts in general from an incredibly young age.  It had nothing to do with being a female, by the way – I’ve never felt that I couldn’t achieve the same thing the “boys” did, and in sports the men were more my idols than the women.  The grace and fluidity were something my body already knew how to create inherently, but the power and strength of male athletes inspired me on a whole other level.  

Martial Arts movies were common enough in our household – older brother = badassery.  And watching them, in and of themselves, made me feel empowered – imagine being able to do those things, and hold my own, for myself?!

I didn’t start (Taekwondo, Hapkido, dabble of Kumdo) until the third decade of Life, but I still don’t think that was “too late.” My current Arts are Ninjutsu / Ninpo, and Brazilian Gracie Jui-Jitsu. I feel that the combination of the former, and being in a new, and much tougher city than those I’ve lived in before, has prompted me to develop and even stronger situational awareness.  I notice my surroundings, but also am more attuned to the details – how someone is walking, if they are carrying something, if they look in shape and strong, or less able. . . It’s sort of just “there” and it makes me feel even more thankful for my training.

I can’t say whether or not my muscle memories would kick in – I certainly hope so – but I definitely know I am far more prepared than the average person, and have some chance of submitting, escaping, keeping my life. I’m also more aware in general, a direct result training with people, so I can possibly be more proactive.

It may not always be a “beautiful day in the neighborhood” much that my happy-empath spirit would like it to be. Mr. Rogers let a little me down but I picked up the slack and have trained my ass off in the last ten years just in case a “hi, neighbor” leans a little too hostile for my taste!

 

Fitness Humor – I Can Do It

Sometimes the muscles are a little over-ambitious.  They drag your ass to the gym early and push harder than *maybe* the rest of you is comfortable with.  

Enter the massage therapist, orthopedic doctors, infrared light, heat patches. . .

Gee! Thanks, Overtraining!

Clean Eating For The New Year

I’ve seen a ton of posts lately about clean eating shopping lists, so I’ll share a few sites also (below.)  It’s a great tool to have on hand when at the grocery store (which is best to go to when you aren’t hungry – I make that mistake all the time!) so I love that so many people are sharing their own versions.

Clean eating seems a lot more daunting than it is – it has always been a top “new year’s resolution” for people, but also one that seems to fizzle out.  Healthy is a lifestyle so it takes commitment – but it is more than achievable, and if you want it, you can have it!  

One of the best parts of seeing someone stick to their goals is when they start to feel “GREAT” again.  Not only do they have more energy, and feel physically better…the “looking better” (whatever that means in their terms – more muscle, maybe more toned, fitting into a smaller size etc) gives them worlds more confidence, and often a smile to go with it.  It’s awesome to see people feeling great in their own skin – everyone deserves that. ❤

But it is tricky sometimes, especially when it isn’t habit yet.  In that case, it helps to remember a few things (no one should ever have to feel discouraged!):

  • Little tweaks can make a BIG difference.  You don’t have to overhaul everything!
  • One derailment won’t cost you everything. Really, it won’t
  • Not buying it / having it at home is one of THE best ways to stay clean!
  • Portion mindfulness, and allowing yourself to digest is huge (I focus on this a lot for myself)
  • Meal prep can be a lifesaver
  • Surrounding yourself with like-minded folks is incredibly helpful
  • Be realistic.  You don’t have to drop a crazy amount of weight quickly – slow and steady is healthier, and far more achievable
  • Day at a time.  Works no matter the problem!

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Nothing feels as wonderful as being healthy – the results of taking care of yourself truly manifest in every aspect of your life. You don’t have to climb Everest either – little steps can add up to a LOT of success. 

For a few helpful shopping lists:

Pop Sugar Week 1 Clean Eating Shopping List

Ambitious Kitchen Free (Printable) Clean Eating Grocery List

Clean Eating Grocery List For Beginners by The Gracious Pantry

Pinterest (there are a multitude here!)

Eat Clean Snacks! (look it up for even more…)

To a happy, and healthy New Year!