Posted tagged ‘cross’

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.

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.