What WE Feel Is What Matters Most

As an athlete, I’m often in environments where people have a heightened awareness of their appearance – in ballroom dancing, the focus was so intense it sometimes made me uncomfortable! In figure skating it wasn’t as much of a big deal, but it did matter. At the gym, I’m used to people checking in on themselves in the mirror… And even when I’m doing my own thing, I sometimes am interrupted by someone making a comment as well.

We all have different goals and what should matter the MOST is how WE feel…not what someone else thinks of us.  I remember someone saying “you know you look good” and it actually gave me pause.  I wasn’t ungrateful at all, and I certainly truly appreciated what I believe they intended to be a supportive comment – but my thoughts stopped for a moment to examine the idea. . .

To some people, we are going to look great.  But to others, not so much!  And that’s more than okay. I’m thankful to have a husband who is supportive of my mesomorphic body type. My family is also incredibly supportive, even though they don’t all “like” a muscular physique. It makes me feel good because “mesomorph / endomorph” is what I am working with – I can’t change that, and I appreciate that the people closest to me always back me up in what feels best to me.  

I *could* lose weight, gain weight, or stay where I am, but fundamentally, my structure is what it is.  As a lifetime athlete, I identify with feeling and being strong – I love having muscle, I love the feeling that I can move my own furniture, or roll my own car.  That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean OTHER people like that.  Fortunately, I ascribe to the following:

#1.) I don’t really bother myself with what someone else thinks about which condition feels – again – best to me, and…

#2.) I have ZERO misconceptions that I am perfect to everyone out there (or that any of us have to live up to that impossible standard)

As Dita once phrased it…

We could be the most gorgeous thing to one person, and not at all attractive to another.  That doesn’t mean we are too skinny, too full, too muscular, too tall, too short… Someone else’s idea of beauty is his or her own.  What matters most is how WE FEEL about ourselves, and in our own skin. 

WE need to feel good about ourselves – we deserve to feel healthy, and able, and happy.  Period.  If something in that picture is falling short, we also have the power to change it! But we mustn’t confuse what others think, because that reality isn’t our reality.

I always encourage people to be honest with themselves – are they wanting a change because HE or SHE FEELS that a change would bring about positive outcomes for themselves (feeling healthier, having more energy, feeling sexy, fitting into older clothes etc…) or is it because someone else is forcing that idea on them..?

The ball is always in our court – we have the power to decide what makes us feel our best, to have that, and to feel great in our own skin.

SaveSaveSaveSave

Overtraining

Overtraining is a very real – and alarmingly common – habit that can cause serious setbacks if you aren’t careful.  It can happen to someone new to fitness or sports simply because they aren’t as well versed with what their body can handle yet – totally understandable.  Trainers working with new clients need to be sure the work loads are gradually increased, allowing the client to work up to higher volume / frequency.  Without some guidance, a newbie may do a little too much too soon, landing them in a frustrated, overly exhausted, and often discouraged state.

But the truth of it is, it can happen to ALL of us.  As a trained athlete I can safely say that we (those of us used to physically demanding routines) still fall victim to overtraining as much as the next person.  Possibly even MORE!  

Despite that we *should* know better, we tend to push to the point of failure a far too frequent basis sometimes.  Sure, we know we need rest days.  We also know a week off can sometimes be exactly what our body needs…much to the chagrin of the mind.  But we don’t always apply that sound advice to ourselves.

I do a lot of Martial Arts classes during the week – it used to only be three or four.  Now I’m doing four in one Art (Ninjutsu) AND four in another (Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) every week.  I haven’t totally tapered off with my three-times-a-week cardio and several days of weightlifting, mind you…so it’s catching up.

The last two weeks have been EXHAUSTING.  On top of it, I turned 38.  For me “age is a number”…generally speaking.  It always HAS been “just a number.”  This morning, though, after a few weeks of feeling off my game, and physically sore and exhausted?  38 felt ancient…and distressing!

Healingfeet.com

Healingfeet.com

Up front, it’s an overwhelming sensation of feeling like I’m slowing down – like my body can’t keep up, and that my mind doesn’t even want to.  For a person who can usually push through and stay positive, that’s a tough mental place to find myself in – no motivation AND physical exhaustion. Ugh.

When I take a step back it’s so much easier to weed things out.  Is it really allergies?  I mean, there’s pollen in the air more so now but. . .body soreness?  Nice excuse.  It’s NOT allergies.  

Could it be a virus?  Sure, they’re going around…I may have caught a little something.  But WHY?  That’s the question.  

I don’t get sick often, or even much at all. . .the only conditions under which I do are – BINGO! – when I’m physically sub-par.  Too much at one time will absolutely wear you thin, not only causing fatigue, soreness and depressed emotions, but also a weakened immune system.  Running yourself into the ground is like posting a sign “viruses and colds, welcome.”  

No good.

The topic is an easy one to get into…and to write at length about.  I appreciate that there are so many articles out there, because sometimes we all need a little bit of a reminder to reevaluate.  Your exhaustion and “not feeling like it” certainly might be chalked up to “one of those days.”  But it’s important to know when it’s something MORE than that.  Learn the difference, and check back if you feel like you might be crossing the line. 

Articles:

Marksdailyapple

JiuJitsu Brotherhood

Men’s Fitness

Bodybuilding.com 

Muscle For Life

For more of my own Fitness Photos and Posts…

Triceps Workout

So it seems a bit odd but sometimes I don’t do multiple muscle arm workout…sometimes I just do ONE group.  I train in Martial Arts several times a week so for me, overtraining could become and issue.  That aside, when I am too sore in too many places, I compromise my training.

SO…the other day I was working on my tris.  Having “guns” as a woman – to me – is a great thing.  I love the feeling of being strong and holding my own.  I’m not exactly pressing 50 lb dumbbells behind my back, but I use a good amount of weight for my size, and it gives me results.

IMG_2981

The exercises I do generally include the following (though changing it up here and there IS a good thing!):

  • Overhead Triceps Extension  – Using a bench
    • I keep my feet up ON the bench deliberately to ensure my lower back is pressing down, and not arching.  I see that too much!)
  • Diamond Pushups
    • Often, I will do more reps on my knees – I have a clicky tendon in my elbows and this allows me to complete the movement without exacerbating that too much.  It’s an AWESOME exercise to target tris.
  • Dips – Weighted pull up machine
    • I do these on a weighted machine (the same one I will do pull ups and chin-ups on.)  This allows me to get a good amount of weight for the exercise, but to also be able to do more than one!  My whole bodyweight is too much!
  • Dips – Using a bench
    • Putting my hands behind me with a 90 degree bend in my arms, I do a higher number of reps for these, for about three sets
  • Triceps Pushdown
    • This can be with a cable or on a machine.  I alternate between both.
  • Triceps Extension – Using a cable
    • I face away from the cable station and extend my arms up and over my head (facing forward) to get a nice burn.
  • Dumbbell Kickback
    • I will sometimes do these standing (bent over of course, with my free arm on my knee for support) or I will lean forward on a decline bench (chest against the bench.)
  • Pulses
    • I turn lighter dumbbells horizontally, and pulse them behind my back in a smaller range of motion.  These are deceptive – they burn!  And, they get the smaller muscles I recruit less when moving heavier weight.
  • Bench Press – Close grip
    • This is great to target the tris!

IMG_2982

There are, of course, tons more options, but these are my go-tos most of the time.  I don’t have enormous triceps by any stretch, but I feel strong, and appreciate that I can move furniture all by myself! 😉

IMG_2980

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.21.24 AM

Found on Pinterest (if anyone knows the credit, please let me know!)

For MORE FITNESS posts…click here! 🙂 

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.  

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 4.23.05 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 5.24.17 PM

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!)

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 4.25.21 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 4.23.16 PM

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. ❤ 

IMG_2098

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.