Posted tagged ‘boxing’

Stress, Boxing and Granola

May 31, 2015

There is nothing quite like hitting when it comes to stress relief.  Between work and my personal life, there are days when I feel as though I might self-combust with all of the energy built up from teaching group fitness classes, working with clients in physical and emotional pain and then, of course, my own emotional junk that seems to pile up as I ignore my own feelings while I am thinking about everyone else. Although an extra workout is probably the last thing I need, wrapping my hands, slipping into my 16 ounce gloves and throwing jabs, crosses, hooks and upper cuts brings the sort of relief that leaves me soaked in sweat, limp with exhaustion and free from every single thought that burdens me.

The drive to Peabody is long. The traffic is heavy as I sit in my tiny convertible waiting for the last couple of traffic lights to turn green. Finally, I am in the dirt parking lot of the boxing studio. Throwing the gear shift into park, I leap from my seat, gym bag in hand, and take the three flights of stairs to the gym two at a time.

I burst through the door and John, the owner of Dullea’s boxing gym and also the trainer, greets me with a broad smile and a bear hug. “Where you been?” I confess to working too much and he shakes his head. “You gotta make time! We miss you!” And I feel as though I have come home. I make my way to the back of the gym and drop my stuff beside a heavy bag. There are men and women already putting on their wraps, standing around, chatting. I see my friend Leah and her husband Dave. I see Eric and Chris. Jen comes in, looking like she has been training hard and ready for more. The room begins to fill up, but today it looks like the class will be small enough that I will not have to share a bag with anyone. Good.

I chat with Leah. She talks to me about running, one of our shared passions. She used the training plan I wrote for her to not only run a half marathon, but to become a runner like me—that is, she runs almost every day, cannot get enough of it, and well, is addicted to the feeling that comes with logging mile after mile. It’s that peaceful clarity and elation that makes us both want to run and run and run until there is nothing left but the movement of body, the breath and the stillness of the mind. Moving meditation.

We talk about the vast quantities we both eat to fuel all of our workouts. I tell her about my favorite “second supper”. Home made nuts and seeds granola mixed with crunchy almond butter and dusted with raw cacao is better than ice cream—it’s creamy,  it’s not cold, it’s satisfying and packed with nutritious calories. As we prepare for tonight’s workout, she asks if the recipe for my granola is on my blog. I feel a rush of guilt and neglect. I have not been writing.  Better get on it.

The bell sounds and we start with jogging in place, jacks and push ups. We move into plyometric squat jacks and I get that awesome sense of floating every time I squat low, then explode up into a star shape, arms and legs open wide, hovering in the air before landing lightly and returning to a deep squat. We do about 50 push ups, about 40 squat jacks, all woven into running in place, knees high, sweat pouring and puddling on the soft mats underfoot.

Drills start and I throw jabs, crosses and hooks. First in the air, then on the bag, each punch releases anger, fear, pain and stress. Each blow to the bag jars every inch of my body. Because I have not hit in a while, my hands begin to ache, then hurt outright. I don’t care. I hit and hit, free-style on the bag. Jab. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hook. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hay maker. My shoulders clench. I have to stop and wipe sweat from my eyes.

We hit the mats for core work, then flip over for about 50 Japanese push ups (which are really Hindu push ups.)

I do them all, grunting and pushing myself until I think I am going to break. Off the floor again, we start shadow boxing, then a couple more three and five minute rounds of free style on the bag. I stop bothering to think about combinations and just start throwing hooks, one after another, until I cannot lift my arms.

We spar for two rounds and my friend Danny holds the pads while John calls out the combos. I barely make it through the round. I hold for Danny and I can tell that he is going easy on me. I want him to hit hard and egg him on. “Come on! You can hit harder than that! Let’s go!” He finally lets loose for the 30 second drill and I fight to take his punches. The bell rings and we are done.

We finish with core on the floor. John bellows “Iron Cross!” and we do an isometric iron cross pyramid, which means we hold it for 10, 20, 30 seconds, then 60, 30, 20 and 10. On the floor, on the back. Head two inches off the floor. Arms wide to the sides and legs together, all two inches off the floor. I look around and from what I can see, I am one of the few still holding the pose at the end. I feel strong. I feel good. I stand, unwind the long wraps from my hands and head toward the door, both drained and exhilarated. There really is nothing like hitting. I am myself once again.

Now, the recipe for my friend Leah:

IMG_2529

 

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Ingredients:

1 c rolled oats, gluten free if you are allergic to gluten

1/2 c raw coconut butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 c each raw walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, cashews and any other raw nuts preferred

1/4 c raw sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/4 c maple syrup

3 T chia seeds

3 T raw hemp seeds

1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

1 T raw cacao powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Place sheet in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, or until nuts and seeds turn golden.

Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder (if using) and transfer to glass containers. This keeps for up to six months, if it lasts that long!

Add some dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries and/or apricots before serving if desired. I don’t bake any dried fruit with the granola, as dried fruit gets too hard in a slow oven, and I don’t mix it into the finished granola, because it adds too much moisture. I like granola crisp and crunchy.

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Second supper: Mix 1/4 c raw, crunchy almond butter into 1/2 c nuts and seeds granola. Stir in a generous spoonful raw cacao powder and some dried fruit. Yum!

 

 

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Notes from the Imaginary Ring

January 16, 2013

I love to hit.  I found myself trying to explain this to a friend yesterday.  He is a relaxed guy who definitely experiences anger and fear, and talks himself through those emotions in a constructive way.  He cannot understand how I can enjoy hitting as much as I do.

I love to make contact—either with a pad my sparring partner is holding, or with a nice, heavy bag—and I love to make contact over and over again, throwing jabs, crosses, hooks, and upper cuts.  I love to roll under a hay maker, to slip by a fast punch, ducking low into a squat, tucking my chin and bobbing down, or twisting from the waist, holding my gloves high against my cheeks to protect my face.  The smack-boom-thunk-smack-boom-thunk of my gloved fists as they slam into the heavy bag are my own rock-and-roll tune that plays in rhythm to my heart’s beat; heavy exhalations add harmony to this intimate song of release.  Give me three or four combos and I will hit you a rock opera of anger, frustration and release that will knock you out.

The brawl punch—now that is something else again.  I stand in a wide stance, almost a side lunge.  Left foot forward, toe pointing straight ahead, right foot back and to the side, toe pointing out.  Left arm extends down toward the floor with the hand flexed and fingers straight and at knee-height, as if holding someone down on the floor.  The right hand, curled into a tight fist, pulls back up to the right shoulder and then, with a bend to the back knee and a twist of the hips and waist, the fist flies down, slamming, again and again.  Right hand up to the shoulder, dip, twist, and hit.  Slowly, then faster and faster, until the sweat flies from my arms, runs down my back, blinds my eyes.  I stand up and lift the edge of my tank top to wipe my face.  I turn around, set up, and brawl punch on the other side, letting my stronger left arm go to town until the sweat flies again.

Kickboxing, BodyCombat, Kenpo karate, sparring.  I cannot believe these are part of my fitness routine on a regular basis.  I am a happy person with a wonderful husband and family.  I let the all the junk that negative people toss at me roll off my back, or shoulders, or wherever that stuff is supposed to roll off of me when it hits.  I meditate (mostly while I run).  I do a lot of thinking about life, humanity and  theology.  I really don’t get angry.  Yet I find that throwing punches releases an awful lot of anger.  And frustration.  And I find that throwing punches also releases fear and anxiety.  Throwing punches clears up some serious space.  It’s as if with every punch, the negative energy is thrust out from me and gone.  Just gone.  Until the next time.

I have studiously read about fighting—about boxing, mixed martial arts and more—and have discovered it is not necessarily  about violence.  It is about form and finesse.  About fitness and health. It is about skill, speed, and hard work.  It is about bringing your best.  It is about release in a controlled environment.  And I have learned that releasing all that negative emotion leaves room in me for more patience, more pleasure, more love.  And more room for appreciating all the good and beauty in my world.

So, back to my friend.  As I try to translate all the feelings I have and release when I hit, he begins to get a certain look in his eyes.  It is not a look of  just beginning to grasp what I am saying, but one of complete understanding.  I see emotions cross his face, then I see him deciding that this may be something he is interested in learning.  He has some physical challenges, and my mind begins to race as I try to think of how he might find enough balance in his body to hit and get the satisfaction I have promised by description.  As we begin to talk about how he might be able to hit and how good (translation:  EXCELLENT) it is going to be, I am plotting how to prop him up against a wall so that he can try brawl punches.  I have a feeling he is going to love it.

Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.

A Little Vegan Story

January 17, 2012

Last fall I promised myself and my readers that I would write more, and include some honest pieces about what it’s like to be a vegan in a mostly meat-eating culture.  I have been mulling this one over for a week or so and am ready to write about this experience…

My friend Charlene invited my husband and me to a low-key post-holiday party.   She and her husband have a fun, eclectic group of friends, many with whom we are acquainted, some of whom are our friends as well.  I asked what I could bring to contribute to the party and was happy to make our collective latest favorite—an olive tapenade layered with hummus and fragrant pine nuts cooked in olive oil.  We dressed up a little and went, excited to spend time with our friends.  Charlene promised a couple of vegan items on her menu.  She made a delicious white bean cassoulet and amazing whole grain bread.  She even made my chocolate chip cookie recipe, complete with the Uncle Sam cereal and ground flax seed egg substitute.

We arrived, put out our tapenade, and started making the rounds of greetings and introductions.  Charlene’s husband Eric is skilled at making guests feel at home and comfortable.  He made sure we had drinks, and helped us make connections with anyone we didn’t already know.  We were happily chatting away and munching when I noticed a yummy casserole on the table.  It looked like it maybe had grated cheese sprinkled on top, so I asked the man spooning some of it onto his plate if he would mind tasting the topping and letting me know what it was.

“Why?”

“Oh.  I don’t eat cheese.”

“Why not?  Lactose intolerant?”

“No.  I’m vegan.”

I noticed Eric then, hovering nearby.

“You know”, the guy said, “Eating plants is killing, too.  Plants have feelings, so it’s (stupid? ridiculous? I can’t remember the exact wording) to eat plants as much as it is to eat meat.”

His dark eyes flashed, challenging me.

Eric jumped right in.

“Elizabeth, it’s breadcrumbs on top.  That’s the bean cassoulet.  It’s vegan.  You can have it.”

He smiled at me, encouraging me to put some on my plate.

I could feel myself shaking; the sense of being bullied overwhelmed me.  I focused on Eric.

“Thanks!  I didn’t recognize it right away.  Thanks for making something I can eat.  I really appreciate it!”

I stood for a moment beside the man who was clearly trying to antagonize me.  I made a decision.  I smiled at Eric, turned, and walked away.

When we left the party, Eric apologized profusely.  He was sorry the guy was such a jerk.  He overheard what he said to me and could not believe how rude the guy was.  He hugged me, his eyes conveying how much it bothered him to have a person in his house who would treat another person like that.  I assured him I was fine—and that it was in no way his fault.  I reminded him that no one has control over anyone else, and that people often say thoughtless things, that people get defensive over issues that come up without thinking about the other person’s feelings, views or choices.

I thought about this on the way home, and later, too.  There were many ways I could have chosen to respond to what happened.  I am happy I had not been drinking alcohol, because if that were the case, I know I would have launched into the dreaded vegan tirade that includes animal rights, killing, death, blood, cruelty, starving children all over the world, veal, hormones, sickness, cholesterol, capitalism…you know, that one.  The other choice, had I been drinking, would have been to finally put to use my mad boxing skills and surprise the guy with my amazing one-two punch, watching him crash to the floor, or perhaps face-first into the platter of sliced turkey.  Great show for non-violence and vegan life!  I could have asked him why he felt the need to attack and bully the tall, slender middle-aged woman standing beside him at a party when all she asked was whether there was cheese on top of a casserole.

But I walked away.  Walking away did not, and still does not feel cowardly.  It felt, and still feels very grown up.  After all, it was a low-key post-holiday party.  No need for a fight or a brawl over taking it personally.  His response was not about me.  It was about him and his stuff.  Period.

Thinking about this has given me a chance to look at the way I respond when either asked about being vegan or attacked about being vegan.  I have been working on good responses for when this happens again, as I am certain it will.  I can focus on not taking it personally when someone goes ballistic on veganism.  I can explain how I feel without making someone else feel guilty or wrong.  I can be kind.

I have as much right to my choices as anyone else does.  There has to be a way to be me in the world and have that be okay.  Coexistence, that’s what I dream of.  Acceptance.  Open minds.  These are the keys to being in the world.  I have a couple of them dangling from my keyring right now.  I can save my one-two for the 600 lb. tae bo bag in the gym.

Healing the Heel

January 11, 2012

Plantar fasciitis is a weird ailment.  There are days when I have no pain at all, running my beautiful route past beaches and granite cliffs, watching the waves crash onto the rocks, breathing in the cold salty air.  I don’t even think about my heel on those days; I sort through my thoughts, make plans, or just zone out and be.  On the days when the pain is bad, I hobble out of bed, limping, afraid to put weight on that right foot, knowing the sharp, shooting sensation will make me catch my breath in agony.  I flex my foot, test a little weight, then a little more, holding onto the headboard of my bed, then the stair rail beside it, waiting for the tight band of tissue in my foot to give enough for me to walk.  I stumble down the stairs to the kitchen and by the time the lunches are made, I can walk. Usually by the time I have driven my daughter to school, the pain has subsided enough that I dare to consider six or seven miles, promising myself ice as a reward if I can get through it.

It doesn’t hurt when I am running, usually, but most of the rest of the time it’s pretty bad.  I had it in my left heel a few years ago and it lasted about 18 months.  Now I have it in my right heel and it is seriously cramping my running lifestyle.  Not that I have decreased my mileage by much, but I am still making an attempt to take care of my poor, sore foot.  I am icing and stretching the arch, the heel, the Achilles, the calves on both sides.  A body therapist is coming tomorrow to spend an hour or so trying to grind away the scar tissue.  It hurts.  I can hear the tissue as I press my fingers into it.  It is like shattered glass—sharp slivered sound  that brings tears to my eyes.  I rub through it anyway.

Extra cross-training is a bit more appealing this time around, since I have added kickboxing, boxing, and Kenpo karate to my list since my last bout.  Plyometrics don’t hurt or bother my heel either, so I do an hour or so each week of mad-high jumping in my living room, forcing my heart rate and Golgi tendons out of their comfort zones.  I have increased the weight I use for strength training, so am building more muscle.  I know it’s a good thing, cross-training, but the running addiction gets the better of me.

There is a lot of advice out there from runners, doctors, orthopedists, trainers, and massage therapists about how to manage this heel tissue situation.  I have tried ice, orthodics, resting, gait adjustment, massage.  Bio-mechanics have been cited as a possible problem.  I’m sure it’s a combination of these things, or at least some of them.  I have worn various shoes, taken time off from running.  I have to live with whatever choices I make, I know.  I’m not going to push so hard that I do permanent damage, but it is a struggle to know where to draw the line on days like today, when the sun is bright, the air clear and crisp and all I can think about is running.  I’m not going today.   Tomorrow the day will not call me like this, with its snow, slush and rain and I will have two days of rest under my foot.  Friday there is boxing and weight lifting.  By Saturday, maybe I will be ready for a long, easy run.

The Bad, The Good, and the Ugly

October 21, 2011

I’m in my kickboxing class, the only class I take.  Training numerous clients all week is fun, but I have discovered that hitting an 800 pound bag or boxing pads held by a strong sparring partner lets off steam and releases anger and frustration I never knew I had—or at least had never been in touch with before.  My teacher is a pretty, tiny woman whose husband owns their fitness business.  She is a certified boxing and kickboxing instructor who is good at what she does.  She takes time to demonstrate the left-hand version of everything; more than half of us in the class are lefties!  We talk in between rounds; she knows I am a personal trainer and respects my level of fitness.  She tries to find challenges for me during the core training segments of our class.  She makes comments about my muscle definition that make me feel great about my body.  I trust her.

One. I jab, straight out in front, with my shoulder rolled and my right fist curled tightly in my glove.   One, two.  I  jab again with my right fist, then pivot on my back leg and punch across with my left fist. One, two, hook— the same one-two, then I pivot back, bringing my bent right arm in front of and across my body, elbow high, the fist cutting the air with a whoosh.  Front kick, two, upper cut, that punch powered by a fast, shallow squat with my right fist pushing up and out, clipping someone’s imaginary jaw.  A fine glaze of moisture forms on my brow and she smiles at me.

“You’re mist-ified!”

Mist-ified.  That makes me grin.  I love the feel of sweat running down my back and down my shins as I throw each fist forward, punching the heavy black bag, dancing around it as if I am in the ring with a relentless partner.

“I’m thinking of running that marathon that’s starting in Rockport on October 23.  Haven’t run one before, but I feel pretty ready.”

“You should talk to Aldo about it.”

Aldo, her husband, has been a trainer for 14 years.  He has run marathons, boxed professionally, works his clients as though it’s his (and their) last day on earth.  I don’t know him, but I see him in passing when boxing class begins, and sometimes when he starts a session with a client at the end of our boxing class.

“Well, I guess I could.  My running partner thinks I’m ready.  She’s run more than her fair share of marathons.  I feel comfortable with her input.”

“I still think you should talk to Aldo.”

But I don’t.  I run by the sign advertising the marathon every morning and know I will go online and register.  I run 17 miles one day.  I get home, eat a pile of food, shower, then go out with my husband and spend the rest of the day shopping.  If I can do that, surely I can run 26 miles.

Back in class, my instructor looks closely at my face.

“Aldo doesn’t think you should do it.  He doesn’t think you are ready.”

“Really?”

I shove the words aside and punch harder than usual, wondering how he could possibly assess my readiness without looking at my training log, without watching me run.  Yet I begin to feel doubt.

Another week goes by.  I run mile after mile, throw punch after punch.  I do plyometric drills.  I throw the P90X DVD in and do the Ab Ripper segment. I can do the entire segment straight through.  Then I go out for another run.  I think about the marathon.  I do not register.

“So!  Are you going to run that marathon?”

“No, I don’t think so.”  No I am not.

I run with my friend Eric another day and we run 11 miles.  It’s easy for both of us—in fact, he tracks our pace, trying to keep us to 9:30′ miles, and we struggle to go that slowly.  We talk about his upcoming half marathon in Newburyport and somewhere during the run, he mentions not having a cheering section and running alone.  I get ready to hint that I would like to run it with him.  Before I can finish, he says it would be great to run it together.  A rush of relief washes over me.  If I’m not going to do the marathon, at least on that day I will have a race—a race I can easily do.  A race with a friend.  We run the 11 miles in a figure 8, and on the second loop, we keep trying to back off, to slow down so we can complete the distance and when we are finished, he sends me an email saying maybe a better goal for the half marathon would be 9:10′ per mile.  I go online and register right away.

So, that’s the bad and the good.  Now for the ugly.

I let someone who doesn’t even know me influence my decision to run my first marathon.  That’s not like me at all—just ask my mom, my husband, or my kids how often I take their advice.  I appreciate their advice, yes, but I make my own decisions.  Why would I let anyone plant a seed of doubt in my mind, let alone allow it to grow into an invasive vine of questions that overgrow my trust in myself?  That is the ultimate ugliness, far worse than not finishing my first marathon, or limping pathetically over the finish line.  I am in the best shape of my life.  I know that.  How could I have let that knowledge be smothered?

For now, I will toss that ugliness aside.  I an thrilled to be running the Green Stride Newburyport Half Marathon this Sunday morning with Eric.  We will keep each other company, cheer each other on, and finish proudly.  This will be my second half, so when I see the next advertisement for a full marathon, I will keep my sense of self intact and sign up to run.