Thursday, March 31, 2011

Searching for Balance

Hello Dear Readers,

I've posted about this issue before, but it hasn't gone away. I am still struggling to find balance in my life. When my schedule gets too hectic, my body has an ingenious way of reshuffling the deck--I get sick. That's where I've been for the past two days--down and out, sleeping most of the day but still feeling completely exhausted. Worst of all, I still get to feel like I'm letting everyone down--my kru, who had a specialized training plan for me this week; my workplace--which is in the midst of Spring Break, our busiest time of the year; my novel--which I still haven't been able to work on since the one quick rewrite I did before getting it to my editor. Not to mention that my house is a mess;I haven't seen any friends for awhile (except the ones I'm lucky enough to train with); and I never feel like my relationship gets the energy and quality of time it deserves.

As so many of them do, this physical breakdown seemed to start with an emotional one. So far, my training has been an emotional rollercoaster. Whenever I feel like I'm finally on top, and everything is great, I'm in for a crash. My kru has been attempting to pair me with people who are better, stronger, and faster than I am, and for the most part, it has been great. I've learned a lot, worked with some terrific people, and been inspired to improve my own skills. But sometimes, it's also really hard on the psyche.

Monday night was one of those times. For some reason--be it exhaustion, self-consciousness, or a combination of the two--I just couldn't get the combinations. I didn't rotate my hips enough on the cutkick; I forgot to put my arm out when I kneed; my leg checks were unsteady and weak. Worst of all, my blocks were consistently too slow, which would have been dangerous if I'd been in an actual fight situation.

My partner was one of my kru's assistant coaches, and he's a great guy who's always willing to help. But there's only so much kindly correction I can take before it begins to get discouraging. Nothing was ever right, or good enough. When I did land a knee well and remembered to put my arm out, then my target should have been an inch closer to the middle, etc. By the end of the class, I felt like a complete buffoon, which was only exacerbated when my partner expressed shock at how many years I've been training. To be fair, he was probably only surprised because twelve years is a long time, but to my self-hating mood that day, he was clearly saying, "Wow--twelve years and you still suck this much?" It's what I say to myself plenty of times, too, because as a martial artist, you never get to perfect anything. Everything always needs work in one way or another, or as The Boy told me he once heard a martial arts teacher say: "Everybody sucks. They just suck at different levels."

Lately, I've felt like I suck at many levels. I need to find a way to excel in my training without failing at every other aspect of my life. While it's tempting to put my writing dreams on hiatus for the year, I simply don't feel like I have that luxury of time.

The only possible solution I can think of is more sleep. Maybe, if I get more sleep consistently, I'll be able to fit in my writing in the morning again and have a bit more energy after muay thai. Getting enough sleep is always a challenge for me, and while I've been doing better, I've been far from perfect. Other than that, I just don't know what to do.

How does one fit more hours into the day?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Better Than A Punch in the Face

Welcome back, Dear Readers,

Well, it finally happened. Last Friday, I was thrown back into the ring, so to speak--sparring after many years of hiatus.

My kru Kelly Westerlund promised me that I'd be matched with a "trusted person", so I laughed to see who it was--my kru himself!

My fellow kickboxers told me that, during these early rounds, the kru would be testing my armor. Were my hands up to protect my head and face? Did I leg check kicks? Were my defenses strong?

It's challenging when you spar after a lot of time off. I find there are two camps of beginners: one is all offense, charging into his opponent with fists flailing and a lot of pummeling going on (very little technique in the beginning stages, so few of the punches are actually effective), and one is all defense--circling his opponent warily and trying his best to stay out of the way. It takes time to retrain the mind to defend oneself and plan attacks simultaneously. This is a skill that takes practice to develop, and I've lost it a bit. So I was in the latter camp--I concentrated on being fast and staying out of Kelly's way, making sure my hands were up at all times. I did manage to get in a couple of kicks and punches, but I know he was taking it pretty easy on me. He even let me knee him in the second round.

Sparring--even in soft, safe mode--is exhilarating. For so long, I've been focused on how scary it is, and so have forgotten how it can also be fun! All the training we do...the endless punching combinations, kick drills, and rounds of free format, can get pretty monotonous after a while. Sparring is the chance to "play" with the skills we're developing and find out how to actually use them in practice. It takes time to get comfortable with the idea of hitting or kicking another person, especially when that person is a good friend. Men seem to find this easier to adjust to than women--it's very common to hear women repeatedly apologize to each other during sparring when they're just starting out. The guys never say sorry! (Except in the case of a low blow.) One of the most frustrating things to overcome is the tendency to blink when a fist is coming your way--that takes time to correct, too, but believe me--you don't want to have your eyes closed when someone is attacking you!

Overall, it was a great reintroduction to sparring. I trust my coach 100%, and for the first time in my life, that trust is actually warranted. I know he has my safety and confidence in mind, and is letting my training progress at a safe and steady rate.

Tonight's 2.5 hours of training include a Level 2 technique class, which I'm really looking forward to. I've finally come to the point where I'm excited about the work ahead, instead of dreading it. It's a good place to be.

How about you, Dear Readers? What was your most recent triumph?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obstacles in Our Way

Hello, Dear Readers.

I'm lucky enough to work with some remarkably well-centered people. They're very inspiring. I've often promised (or threatened) to write the Tao of Bert about one co-worker's ability to not sweat the small stuff and always, always maintain his inner peace.

As luck would have it, I also work with a yoga guru--a practicing Buddhist who is full of wisdom and experience. Recently, she said something that really resonated with me:

“The people who are obstacles in our way are our greatest teachers.”
She said that she sends her greatest adversaries prayers for peace and success everyday, which may be going a bit far, but I like the overall sentiment of her words. One thing I've learned with striking clarity this year is that the overall impression people give may not be who they are at all: that unfriendly person who seems not to like you is just shy; that demanding witch with a "b" is actually insecure about her own abilities.

Do you agree or disagree with my co-worker's sentiment? What has an adversary taught you? Is there someone who is giving you trouble right now who might be (consciously or not) trying to teach you something?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Epiphany in a Bag of Cheetos

Welcome back Dear Readers,

Sometimes inspiration can strike in the strangest places. I found it in a bag of cheesy poofs.

Let me explain. I have an odd relationship with chips and other snack food...or maybe it's not so odd. Perhaps some of you can relate.

When I was a kid, a bag of chips was a once-a-week treat. My mother would get me one treat from the grocery store, but the rest of the time, I ate fairly healthy, home cooked meals. As an adult, I got into fitness and muay thai training, so I continued to eat well, but I still felt guilty whenever I indulged my love for synthetic cheese goodness. Eating plans like Body-for-Life, which required me to eat very clean for six days and then "cheat" with whatever junk food I wanted on the seventh, were the worst. I was so embarrassed when I walked up to the cashier with my haul! I was all I could do not to defend myself: "you see, it's my cheat day."

Slowly, and I'm not sure how or when...I suspect it was when I went off plans like Body-for-Life and Making The Cut...I decided I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I have a high metabolism, I don't gain weight easily, and I train hard--why not? I would still attempt to eat healthy most of the time, but if I wanted a treat, I would just have one, guilt-free.

Well, the guilt-free part never worked, and neither did the "eating healthy most of the time". You know why? The more junk food you eat, the more you tend to crave. The movie Supersize Me proved that, but even after watching it twice, I still didn't get it. If you eat healthy food on a regular basis, you start to enjoy it, and love how it makes you feel. But on the flip side, if you eat a lot of junk, you get used to that, too.

The Boy and I have committed to healthy eating plans, with a weekly cheat day to keep cravings under control. I was doing well until I went to a friend's house for dinner. There were a variety of tempting treats available, including a bowl of party snack mix. I managed to steer clear of most of the temptations, but I did succumb to a few handfuls of the snack mix late in the evening...which left me wanting more.

Unable to find a bag of snack mix at the grocery store, I bought a bag of synthetic cheese-flavored goodness. The first thing I noticed was how salty it tasted. Way too salty. I scarfed a few handfuls, feeling incredibly guilty, when I realized...I wasn't enjoying them at all. I'm tired as hell of putting that kind of crap in my body.

So I actually got up and threw the bag in the garbage. I've never done that before.

I may still enjoy my cheat days, but I'm finished with cheating on myself. I deserve better, and so does my body.

How about you, Dear Readers? Have you ever had something similar happen? How do you defeat temptation?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fun Friday XXIV: Personal Space

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

You know those people who are always over-sharing? The casual acquaintance that blurts out that her husband cheated on her, proceeding to cry on your shoulder; the new parent who can't stop talking about her infant's (or god forbid, puppy's) bowel movements at the dinner table; the co-worker who ensures that everyone knows the nasty little details about everyone else's life?

Well, Facebook can be a lot like that.

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I know I spend too much time on it--precious, valuable time that could be used for more important things. But as a writer, working in a department of one, I love how connected it makes me feel. I've met some amazing people on Facebook, and reconnected with old friends. It also lets me get to know new friends much faster than I would have without it. The support network that Facebook can generate is incredible. It's like a gigantic "word-of-mouth" machine.

I once dated a guy who hated Facebook. He didn't like how much it revealed about people's personal lives, how invasive it was. And to my argument that it helps you get back in touch with wonderful people, his point was that if they were that wonderful, you wouldn't have lost touch with them in the first place. (Interestingly, after our break-up, he dived hardcore into Facebook and is now busily collecting Friends, I assume.)

Facebook has definitely caused some dark days for me. I've seen photos I haven't wanted to see, heard some pretty ugly news, and witnessed a lot of people behaving badly. Remember that support network? For some people, that is license to air whatever dirty laundry they choose, writing something awful in a status update that they'd never say face-to-face.I particularly loathe passive-aggressive updates: Tina hates it when her friends aren't loyal, etc.

Still, all in all--its time-wasting potential aside--I would say Facebook has been a good thing for me. It's how I met The Boy and discovered our many shared interests. I reconnected with the little sister of a dear friend who passed away in high school, and that alone has meant the world to me. I am able to "meet" the new babies of friends who live too far away, and watch them grow up, and easily stay connected with friends on the other side of the world (or the other side of the city). As much as it's difficult to learn of that seemingly happy couple's divorce through a status update, without Facebook, I would never know and could never say I'm sorry for what they're going through. In light of all this, the dark days seem a small price to pay.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Has Facebook become too personal? Have you ever over-shared, or has one of your Friends made you uncomfortable? Is Facebook a positive or negative force in your life?

Thanks to Dr. Graham Young for suggesting this post.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Welcome back Dear Readers,

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I raise a virtual glass of green beer in your honor.

Exercise is supposed to make us feel good, right? Then why is this hardcore training regime making me feel so awful? The Boy has a theory (mostly tongue-in-cheek, I hope) that without exercise, people would rarely get injured or die suddenly. He points to all the people who have dropped dead after starting a new exercise regime to prove his supposition, and I'm starting to think he's right.

Whenever I begin to feel better--like I'm actually getting stronger and healthier, I will immediately suffer a brutal setback where I feel like hell. It's puzzling, and it doesn't make it easier to get to the gym. I hate that every week is a countdown: "Monday is the longest day, and Wednesday is the hardest. If I can just get to Thursday, I'll be able to survive the week."

It's enough to make me wonder if I'm cut out for this kind of training. Isn't this supposed to be enjoyable? One of my friends, a fighter for KWest, loves each and every class. He's happy all the time, and seems to really enjoy training, while I'm dragging my feet and dreading it.

My kru warned me that the first four weeks would be the hardest (I'm currently on Week Three), and that they would break me down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Is that what's happening now, I wonder? Or is my body trying to tell me something?

Honestly, I felt better when I was going straight home from work, relaxing on the couch with The Boy and the cats, and eating potato chips. What gives?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Challenge #5: Friendship

Happy Hump Day, Dear Readers.

I've come to a point in my life where I'm blessed with many friends. I have co-worker friends, kickboxing friends, and friends who are closer than family. And of course there's The Boy, who is one of my very best friends, and my best kitty friends, Chloe and the Great Samboo.

Friendship is a good thing, and something I will never take for granted. I know from experience how difficult it can be to build strong, lasting friendships. Without friends, life would not be worth living.

But I've found that the more friends I have, the more challenging it is to get out of debt. Sometimes, it's just a matter of approaching friend time more creatively. For years, the way I spent time with friends was always the same: a meal in a restaurant. With some friends, even two meals in two different restaurants on the same day! And all of that dining out adds up, as you can imagine. For someone who can (and even likes to) cook, I've spent a lot of money in restaurants. Rare is the year that my restaurant bills haven't added up to thousands of dollars.

Then there's the shopping friends, the ones who always want to go to the mall or the newest boutique. Somehow, I don't have shopping friends anymore (at least not close ones). We've either parted ways for different reasons, or their lifestyles have changed. I don't mind watching others shop--sometimes it can be fun--but there's so many other ways I'd rather spend my time.

At the beginning of the year, I had to have "The Talk" with most of my close friends, explaining that getting out of debt is a priority for me, and that I wouldn't be able to meet them in restaurants anymore. Thankfully, all of them have been very understanding, although I haven't been able to arrange "face time" with some. With others, we've opted for cheap restaurants instead of cutting out meals entirely. Still others I see only at kickboxing or at work.

How about you, Dear Readers? Do you spend too much money in restaurants? What creative, inexpensive ways do you spend time with friends?

Good news: even with all these challenges, I'm well on track to being out of debt BEFORE the end of 2011! Very excited about that!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Call Me a Hack

Hello Dear Readers,

A fellow writer likes to joust with me on a subject we've been debating back and forth for years. My friend firmly believes in the merits of the Canadian publishing industry, and refuses to submit his work elsewhere, even when his manuscripts have languished, unread, on editors' desks for years. I, on the other hand, have heard enough horror stories about the "not-for-profit" Canadian publishing industry to seek agents in the United States, and even Britain. Granted, this hasn't worked so well for me either, but I'm sure that has more to do with my lack of time and perseverance. I'm confident that I will be able to obtain a new agent, followed by a publisher, once I set my mind to it.

The thing is, as much as I love writing, it's work. Yes, people--work. I get paid to write press releases, I get paid to write articles, and I've been paid to write short stories. Yes, the subject matter of my novels is my choice, and I have more freedom with the parameters, but it's still a lot of work. Some might say it's more work to finish a 400 page novel than it is to write an 800 word article, and I'm inclined to agree with them.

That's why I don't understand the so-called Canadian literary mindset that states that in order to be a "real" writer and create work worthy of exposure, you have to suffer and struggle, supplementing your paltry income with grant monies. The same people who tout this ideal are the ones who laud the great success of "Canadian" writers like Margaret Atwood, conveniently forgetting or overlooking the fact that those writers made the majority of their wealth by publishing overseas.

I don't mind being Canadian. I don't even mind being a Canadian writer, as long as my cohorts recognize that I want to make a living at writing, and that probably means being published outside of Canada. The United States is a larger market. Therefore, they have more readers and they publish more books. There is a lot more opportunity available there than here. Many Canadian publishers have American imprints, but I don't think it matters what country you get published in first. Will I be less Canadian if my books are published by an American company?

My friend doesn't think that "real" writers should expect to be paid for their work...that we should do it for love alone. Unfortunately, love doesn't put food on the table. I think that sentiment is lovely, but only when writing is your hobby, and only your hobby. I'm not satisfied with that. Do I write fiction just because I'm hoping to be paid for it? No, of course not. But am I hoping to be paid for it someday? Definitely.

If wanting to be paid fairly for my work (and I'm not talking about great riches or fame here), makes me a hack in this country, then so be it. I find it interesting that writing is one of the only fields where people are expected to work for free, just because they "love" it.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Does being published in another country make a writer less Canadian? Is the Canadian literary establishment right in thinking that writers shouldn't expect to make a living at their craft? Why do we turn our noses up at writers who are popular and financially successful? Does popular always mean "not as good"?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Failing to Plan...

This is NOT the recommended serving size. planning to fail, or so the saying goes.

Succeeding at a training plan like mine requires a lot of effort, not only in the gym, but also at home. On Sunday, The Boy and I spent several hours grocery shopping and cooking for the week ahead, as he's beginning a new healthy-eating regime, too.

By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but the fridge is full of good, healthy things to eat. There's nothing like stumbling in the door at 9 pm, weary and ravenous from training, and having to make dinner from scratch. At those times, I grab something quick, and if a healthy meal isn't available, something unhealthy always is. That's why it's smart to sacrifice some time on the weekend to make well-balanced meals.

For those of you who voted on whether I should choose the nutritional or the training plan from the personal trainer, I went with the training plan, for several reasons. One--Helene has seen the green prajioud test and knows exactly how to prepare my body for surviving it. I cannot say the same. Two--I already know a lot about nutrition, and do much better on a balanced diet than on one that is incredibly strict; three--my kru, the personal trainer herself, and a fighter friend who has survived the green prajioud all recommended the training option. Thanks to everyone who commented, though. You all had some very good advice and suggestions. It was a tough decision.

As for yesterday's cooking session, I made Cooking Light's healthy granola recipe to give a nutrition boost to my low-fat, low-sugar yogurt; Cooking Light's chicken souvlaki salad; Annie's Eats's easy oven-baked chicken fingers, which I thought would be wonderful on salad; Cooking Light's tomato-basil soup; and because every life needs a little balance, Annie's Eats's toasted coconut ice cream, which I will save for a special treat on my cheat day. Everything looked and smelled delicious, and I'm pumped for the week ahead! (Even though I HATE daylight savings time! Curse you, George Vernon Hudson.)

How about you, Dear Readers? Do you meal plan? Do you find it saves you time to cook things in advance? What are your favorite healthy recipes?

Let's have an awesome week!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fun Friday XXIII: Genius is Relative

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." -Albert Einstein

Happy Friday Dear Readers,

What do you think of the above quote? Do you agree or disagree? Does it have any meaning to you?

What it instantly made me think of is our educational system, especially in the elementary school years. At no other time in one's life is a person supposed to be good at everything. Say, for instance, a young student is proficient in mathematics and science. Do we praise that student, and encourage his/her passion for the Sciences? No, too often we focus on the student's not-as-great showing in Art and English, and encourage him to bring up those grades to match the others.

In university and college, we're finally allowed to specialize. And as adults, we're rarely--if ever--expected to be good at everything. So why do we put that kind of pressure on children? I've never understood it. Rare among us are those who are equally strong in both the left and right sides of the brain. As adults, we recognize that rarity, and often refer to those who are as "Renaissance men" (or women).

As a kid, I excelled in creative thinking. Anything that allowed my imagination to take flight was an instant hit, so as you can imagine, I did well in English, Art, and even Social Studies, where I expressed my knowledge of medieval history by building a castle--can't get more fun than that! By comparison, Math was "boring" and could not hold my interest long enough for me to get a handle on it. Instead, I wrote plays in Math class until I was forced by well-meaning parents to focus on the one subject that wasn't my forte.

It wasn't until I got a bit older that I found it strange. Sure, I agree we all have to know the basics. But why force a fish to climb a tree? I may know my times tables by heart, but I would never have gone into a math-related field in any case. It just wouldn't make sense.

How about you, Dear Readers? What do you take from Einstein's quote? And if you disagree with him, feel free to say so!

Have a great weekend, and thanks, as always, for being here.

Thanks to my dear friend Joce for supplying the quote for today's exercise. If you have a quote you'd like me to use (or another topic), feel free to email me at barelylucid at hotmail dot com. I'd love to hear from you!

And thanks to for the great illustration!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Will You Be My Partner?

Hello Dear Readers,

When I was a kid, I hated gym class. I believe I've written about this before, but the worst part was always when two students were chosen as "captains" and got to pick their teams. Whenever a close friend of mine was captain, I'd get all excited, thinking that for once I wouldn't be one of the last selected. But, alas, they still left me until the bitter end. I had absolutely no eye-hand coordination back then, and the other kids made fun of the way I ran. (They said I ran like a horse, which I still don't understand. Aren't horses good runners?)

Starting at KWest Kickboxing brought back some uncomfortable memories. Students who join the club without friends or spouse in tow have to go up to the front of the room and be matched with a stranger. It wasn't quite like being picked last for dodge ball, but it brought back some of the same feelings of dread. It was so much nicer when I started making friends and could find my own training partners, and even nicer still when I was the one asked! It always feels good to have someone choose you as their partner for the day. I still consider it an honor to be asked.

One of the conditions of my green prajioud training is that my kru has to select my training partner for every class. He wants to be sure that I am getting matched with people who will really push me past previously-conceived limits. These people, ideally, will be stronger, faster, and better than I am. There's no such thing as an "easy" class anymore.

This has put me in the strange position of having to say no to people who request to be my partner, just when I'm at the point where people are actually asking me! Thankfully, I can say that it's up to the kru, and most understand. But it seems so odd to be back at square one when, really, I'm moving forward.

After being paired with one of my club's original fighters on Monday night, I had an epiphany. I finally understood--really understood--the reason behind my coach's decree. It's not just about making me work harder, which is part of it. It's that when you train with someone who is so far above your skill level, it makes you determined to get better. I admired this person's incredible technique and power, and now I'm driven to achieve it (or the closest I can possibly come to it). It was inspiring, and he was inspiring.

Working out with friends is fun, and it's comfortable, to a degree. You know your friends are going to forgive you if you say you're really sore or tired. They'll look the other way when you have an off day. But if you want to achieve greatness in any sport, sometimes you have to leave that comfort zone behind and work with someone who's out of your league. Punch above your weight, so to speak.

You'll be inspired. Trust me.

How about you, Dear Readers? Have you ever experienced something similar?

PS...if any kids are reading this, and you still get picked last for teams, don't worry. You have lots of time to have the last laugh, believe me! Wait until you see those team captains fifteen years from now, and who knows where you'll be then?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Challenge #4: Goals

Hello Dear Readers,

It's funny, but when I was first considering all the challenges to my financial well-being this year, I never considered my goals being among them. Goals are good things to have, right? Striving to improve oneself, and all that.

But goals do cost you. For example, say you decide to take up running. You'll need to buy a good pair of running shoes. Maybe a gym membership, or a treadmill, or--if you want to run outside, some outdoor running gear. As you get more serious about your running, you may find yourself spending more on groceries. You may even enroll in a running clinic to learn how to improve your stride. And, should you get competitive, there are those race registration fees....

That's only one example.

For me, it's my kickboxing goal that is getting expensive. The gym membership is currently free, thanks to the prize The Boy won for me at the last fight night, but then I have the mandatory boxing class ($50). Lately I've been too sore and worn out after class to run after two buses, so I've been relying on taxis ($13 each time). There's the personal trainer ($250), healthy high-protein food at the grocery store, massage therapy and chiropractor bills, etc. I will eventually need to get a better pair of shin pads, too ($120). I don't begrudge any of it, and I know some of the expenses (the personal trainer, for instance) are my own choice. When it comes time to take my green armband test and fight, I'll be glad I spent the money.

My writing goals, when I get back to them, will cost as well. My membership fees to writing organizations are several hundred dollars, not to mention the cost of all those query letters, self-addressed stamped envelopes, paper, printing, etc. It seems nothing worth pursuing (except maybe love) is free.

Thankfully, I'm able to compensate for these extra expenses with freelance work, or my bottom line wouldn't be as healthy as expected.

How about you, Dear Readers? Do you ever notice that your goals come at a price?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stacking The Deck

Happy Monday, Dear Readers.

I hope everyone had a great weekend.

On Saturday morning, I met with a personal trainer. Even though I have a training schedule for my muay thai kickboxing, I thought it would be helpful to have a plan for my weight-lifting and running. I've learned a lot about exercise over the years, but I'm certainly not a professional. I don't think it ever hurts to have a team of experts in your corner.

Helene is very well-regarded in my dojo. She is the wife of one of our fighters, and has trained there herself. Even better, she's seen the green prajioud test in action, so she knows what will be required of me (and my poor body!). When I mentioned to my kru that I was meeting with her, he was all for it, and praised both her knowledge and her results. So there isn't going to be a problem with conflicting ideologies.

When I met with Helene, we also discussed nutrition. She has offered to put together a 12-week plan for me that would effectively fuel my body for the workouts I'm going to be doing. During our first meeting, she gave me some tips that I found quite helpful. I learned....

  • Not to drink Diet Pepsi or other caffeinated drink within four hours of a muay thai workout, as it will sap my power (I had no idea!)
  • To flavor my water with lime & mint or cucumber
  • That grains can actually hinder athletic performance
It sounded great, and I really enjoyed meeting Helene and talking with her about fitness and nutrition. We could have talked for hours if I hadn't had to rush to boxing class. Here is my issue: as some of you already know from reading my Wednesday "Climbing Out of the Big, Black Hole" series, most of my income is going to pay off my debt this year, and high-quality personal training is very expensive. I may only be able to afford the nutrition plan OR the exercise plan, not both.

Having this kind of expert advice is, as Helene says, "stacking the deck in my favor", but if I only can choose one option, which do you think is the wisest choice--exercise OR nutrition? If it was up to you, which would you pick and why?

Thanks for your input!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fun Friday XXII: Always Changing

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

I've almost survived my first week of hardcore training...only two more classes to go, and I'm actually looking forward to them. Tomorrow morning I have a meeting with personal trainer extraordinaire Helene Massicotte before my boxing class. I'll let you know how that goes.

Today's topic is a little more serious than usual, because I've been in a serious mood all week. What would you change about yourself if you could? It's great to be happy with who you are, but I know lots of us also strive for self-improvement. So be honest--if you could change anything, what would it be? Can you change it? If so, how, and are you already on your way?

I'm sure this won't come as a surprise to anyone who has read this blog this week, but I wish I had more confidence. I can blame my lack of confidence on a lot of things--I wasn't exactly raised in a "love thyself" kind of family, to put it mildly. A string of abusive boyfriends followed, and I've always taken any criticism to heart, whether or not it was warranted. But that was then, this is now. I don't want to spend my entire life limited by my childhood or anything traumatic that happened in my past.

There's quite a few things I don't like about myself, and they're mostly related to confidence. I can be too sensitive and highly defensive--both of these qualities would dissipate if I was a more confident person. Thankfully, the process I am currently going through in kickboxing--training for the green prajioud and to fight in the ring at last--will help me immensely in this quest. I know I am going to take some very hard knocks along the way (both physically and mentally). There will be times when I doubt myself and get depressed over my lack of ability. (I've already had a mini-meltdown, and it's only the first week!) But you can't fight without confidence--it seriously isn't possible.

As my kru told me yesterday, "the moment you start thinking negative, you've already lost".

Sure, the full-body makeover will be a nice bonus, but what I'm most looking forward to out of all this is the makeover of my mind.

How about you, Dear Readers? I suspect this won't be a popular post for comments, but I hope some of you are brave enough to share.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pardon Me As I Try Not To Hurl....

Hello Dear Readers,

Those who are on my Facebook Fan Page (thank you, btw--it was a writing class assignment, but I've met a lot of nice people there) already know that yesterday was a tough day for me.

KWest instructor Grant Rutherford wrote me a letter in response to my "Use the Force" blog post. It was super nice of him, especially since he's a new dad and works full-time in addition to all his KWest responsibilities. Along with the support and encouragement was a lot of great advice.

This was how he suggested I approach every class. He said I could share with all of you, and I'm doing so because I think it's a great way to approach any tough challenge.

After every drill ask yourself honestly, was that it, was that all I could have given, or was I saving more to finish harder at the end of class to make sure I can get through it?  If you are (and most do) then you are just kidding yourself about improving, and being able to pass the green prajioud test.  Challenge yourself every round.  Yeah, your fifth round today may look like crap because you left it all out there in the first three rounds.  But two months from now your fifth round will look just like your second.  And people will notice; trust me!  And they will start using you as their inspiration to get to the next level.  Work for this.  Be someone else’s inspiration!
I knew yesterday's Level 2 class would be tough, because Joscelyn was teaching. Joscelyn favors a drill sergeant-type of instruction. He really tries to break you down so you can be built up again. However, this week my kru Kelly Westerlund has invited the Level 1s to try out the Level 2 class, so I comforted myself with the thought that Joscelyn would probably take it easier on us. And the first class was just a Level 1, so how hard could it be?

Brutal is not the word. Can you say 100 knees to the stomach, people? But that isn't when I started to feel sick. The nausea really hit me during Joscelyn's running drills, which went on forever. Apparently, "taking it easy" is not in his vocabulary, and since I followed Grant's advice and went for broke in Level 1, I really started to feel sick after about fifteen minutes of lunges, jumping knees, sprints, jogging, jump squats, burpees, push-ups, and so on. It just went on and on and on, with no end in sight. One of the things that kept me going (besides reminding myself that I was channeling Grant, and Grant would never quit or throw up) was that my kru was doing all the exercises right beside me. He's just gotten over a string of pretty serious illnesses, including pneumonia and food poisoning, and it sounded like he was having a really hard time. But he never quit. So I didn't, either.

When the cardio drills were finally over, we paired with a partner to practice our front kicks--two "range-finding" ones with our left leg, and then--BANG--a powerful one with our right. So, basically I went from extreme nausea to getting kicked in the stomach repeatedly. Fun times! As grueling as it was, the front kick is one thing that's vastly improved for me since I started training at KWest. Even at Sik Tai, my front kick was weak. I don't think anyone would say that anymore.

Once the front kick drills were finished, we did some sit-up drills with our partner. Those weren't so bad, although my partner and I were both cooked by the last exercise. I can honestly say that I didn't hold anything back. There were times I felt sorry that I didn't have more energy for Vanessa, my Level 2 partner, but I have faith in Grant's advice. I can only get better.

I apologize for the lack of writing-related posts lately. This is my first week of hardcore training, and I am struggling to find balance. But I really hope (and plan) to get back to the book next week.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Challenge #3: Never-ending Winter

Winter in's ugly.

Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers.

Pardon me for complaining, but unless you're a polar bear, winter in this part of the world really sucks. It's at about this time every year that most people I know are done with windchill, done with freezing drafts, done with bundling up like astronauts just to take a two minute bus ride. It's's already March. People in British Columbia and Oregon have flowers in their gardens, and where are we at? A balmy -30C with windchill. Talk about depressing!

So, how do the winter blues affect one's budget, you may ask? Well, in addition to scary utility bills and desperately-needed vacations to hot climates (which I didn't take this year, by the way), there's transportation costs. Those who have cars are probably driving them to destinations that are only a block away, while many others rely on taxis. I've been trying to cut down on my taxi use. Since I already have a monthly bus pass, it's an unnecessary expense. But when you wake up to a weather report of -37C, it's hard to face the idea of waiting for a bus that can never manage to be on time. Taxi!

I also suspect more frivolous items are purchased in the winter. When it's summertime and you can bask in the glorious sun or putter in the garden, and just going for a walk is a wonderful experience, it's easier to be satisfied with what you have. I've been so good about breaking my spending pattern, but even I'm finding that I'm having cravings lately...the craving to buy something new, just to cheer myself up. Thankfully, I haven't succumbed, but if you're dealing with weather like this and you have given into temptation, I don't blame you one bit.

How about you, dear readers? Do you find that weather really effects your mood? Or spending habits? Or both?

What are your best tips for beating the winter blues when you can't go somewhere else to escape them?

Thanks to for the awesome image!