Tag Archives: heavy bag

Reflecting the positive

Gleason’s Gym, September 23, 2021


I admit it. Not every day is stellar.

I’d walked to the gym at my usual clip, feeling as if I’d work through my 16 rounds or so with reasonable ease, already planning out the things I wanted to work on: Moving with the jab, followed by a sidestep for a quick right to the body, left hook, straight right combination, before moving on to the next jab. As I shadow boxed, that worked for about a minute of the first round before I started to slow down.

“One of those mornings,” I thought, as I took the pace down a notch.

And yes, Gleason’s Gym was still fairly summer-hot and very, very humid, but today, the stickiness in the air seemed to be getting to me more than usual.

By the fourth round I found I needed to slow it down even more. Still feeling that I could make it work I boxed four progressively slower rounds on the heavy bag and one last attempt at a fifth, making my total nine for the day.  And yep, that was it. I knew I had to call it quits. This was not my morning.

In trying to analyze it, I realized I was still a bit unnerved by news I’d received the night before. Someone I am close to suffered a TIA* – a mini-stroke that left her unable to speak in the middle of a zoom call. She was pretty much back to her self within 30 minutes, but on the advise of her doctor, went to the Emergency Room and was admitted overnight for monitoring and further tests. I had just seen her the week before our first true outing since before the pandemic, so it all came as a surprise. At 76, she is robust, but the reality is at a certain point, things just happen.

As I walked back home, still slow, slow enough that my walk wasn’t even registering as “exercise” on my iWatch, I reflected on it all. I realized that knowing when to pull out was just as important as pushing forward. That there is a moment when the positive of exercise or any of our actions gives way to something that may be less than brilliant. That knowing one’s limits is another aspect of self-care.

So … yes, reflecting the positive sometimes means listening to your body when it says, you are done working out for the day. Time to go home.

There’s always tomorrow.

 

*TIA: A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke. A TIA usually lasts only a few minutes and doesn’t cause permanent damage. Often called a ministroke, a transient ischemic attack may be a warning of a future stroke and an opportunity to prevent it. (Mayo Clinic)

The gym is closed today

My ritual of morning is out of kilter.

With the gym closed today there’s no need to push myself out of bed at 5:30 to begin the process of readying for the gym. Gone is the symmetry of my every other weekday morning boxing workout with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore.  Of the silent walk to the gym, and brief chitter-chatter with the coffee guys in front of the court-house in downtown Brooklyn.

On different mornings, I have different looks and feelings. Mostly I’m reassured by the discipline of making it to Gleason’s Gym pretty much without fail. I arrive, wave to the early morning denizens and making my way to the locker room, transform myself into my boxer self.

It is in the locker room where I set out my tools–my well-worn rival sparring gloves, my hand wraps and my shoes, my water bottle and towel, while hanging up my work clothes for the quick shower and change after my workout.

Ready for battle, I enter the ring to begin the rounds of shadow boxing, working on my footwork and my mix of combinations, careful to always snap my jab with my right hand up.

The rounds with Lennox — four to six depending on how much energy we have.

The four rounds on the double-ended bag, or the heavy bag.

The four rounds on the slip bag or the speed bag.

Sometimes an added bit of something, sometimes not.

Each has a place in my ritual of morning.

Mostly it is all about the sweat and pushing myself and staying positive during those times when I am anything but. This past year has had its difficulties. I still mourn my father’s death in June, finding strength in my memories of him performing his 300 crunches while hooked up to the oxygen that was his mainstay as he bravely battled COPD.  And perhaps it is that memory that pushes me to haul myself out of bed, even when I’ve only managed to get to sleep at 1:00 AM. Other mornings it is the concept that #ageisjustanumber or that the pursuit of one’s passions keep one young and vibrant and vital.

With the gym closed, I find myself up anyway at 5:29, a full hour ahead of my reset alarm clock. Up and wondering what I shall do. Go back to sleep? Scroll through posts on social media? Worry about the latest headlines in the news? The offer I saw on Facebook for an opponent to fight a former world champion for the ridiculous,  insulting and ultimately dangerous fee to the life and safety of the woman who will feel compelled to accept $2,000?

Instead, I find myself here at the dining table. Up and writing, thankful that I’ve given myself the chance to pivot and turn towards my other source of solace and sanity in a crazy world.

 

 

Missing the gym …

Missing the gym …

Gleason's Gym

I haven’t made it to the gym over the past few days, much to my chagrin. Between deadlines, work and a concert at my daughter’s school today, my plans to spend round upon round boxing on the the upper cut bag and slipping underneath have not come to fruition, but that hasn’t meant it’s left my mind.

Instead, in the moments of free time I’ve had, I’ve been watching heavy bag work-out videos and thought I’d share a few I’ve found that seem to have some good pointers.

1. Good instructional workout routines on the heavy bag: warmups, working lefts, head movement, outside work and finishing on the inside …

2. Advanced heavy bag techniques: working one hand, working in spot, “compound” attacks …

3. Freddie Roach Heavy Bag Training: footwork, balance and transferring feet, rolling and slipping, creating opportunities …

4. Uppercut bag workout with slipping under the bag

Warrior for a day …

Warrior for a day …

Amazon Warrior, Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 510–500 BC.

Some days are like that.

Arise with a grimace, fighting one’s way through dreamland to hop in the shower, cat nudged perhaps a little more firmly than intended out of harm’s way so as not to be tripped over and squashed.

Next up the whirlwind of coffee, breakfast, family wakey-wakey-time and out the door for the morning-I-can-do-this grind to work and the why-do-I-have-to-be-here mentality that makes every single interaction a grin-and-bear-it moment.

Usually at such times one longs for a huge heavy bag swaying at the threshold of the entryway to one’s workspace, preferably one that screams do-not-enter there’s a warrior inside ready to pounce with the added bonus of getting in some workout time. Or better yet with a hat-tip to a Twitter pal, a Star Trek inspired intruder alert with a phaser at the ready can also do the trick.

At heart is the sense of dissatisfaction with the state of things or as a friend said yesterday too much time pouring over the news and how the sensibilities that ensue can leave one bereft and in misery. Her response is to play with her four-year-old granddaughter. She fits herself into the lovely sweetness of playing dress-up and the humor of late afternoon cartoons, finding herself freed from turmoil and the heightened alert of thoughts and feelings overwhelmed by too many images of darkness at play in the world.

And it does seem true, we live in a constant assault of images and ideas–not so different from the tales of darkness of old which warned our forebears of what happens at the edge of the world where monsters and barbarians lay ready to pounce. In the post-industrial context of 21st Century “first-world” life, however, our cautionary tales are always among us and our sense of who is and is not a monster is framed for us by warring factions that cast a wide net for our allegiance whether it be social, political, religious, ethnic or some other mish-mash of ideas and constructs that has us all at each other’s throats.

My mother would say that when I’m in the “mood” it means I have my umbrella up against the little black cloud that follows me everywhere. She’d tease me unmercifully until I’d either descend further into my mood with a giant throated “leave-me-alone” or break the spell into peals of laughter.

At this juncture, I’m not certain if that warrior-for-the-day feeling is akin to that sort of umbrella defense, but I am quite sure that those sort of moods take on the cast of fighting the world for a bit of peace–and frankly for a piece of the world that’s free of strife, black moods and something akin to a nasty splinter that takes time to work out.

Lovely morning.

Lovely morning.

Daughter awake. Yoga routine finished. Kitty fed. Husband comfortably abed. Light full on in the sky. Warmish breeze at the window. In other words a lovely morning.

My work day is huge, to be followed by 12 lovely rounds of pounding on heavy bags, double-ended bags and the speed bag.

All is right with the world.

As for inspiration …

Lucia Rijker on the Speedbag!

Heavy bag – women’s training

Cool waters, hot heat

Cool waters, hot heat.

I’ve got summer on the brain.

Summer and the beach at dawn.  The restless sound of the surf pushing towards a new day, expectant and full of promise.

The kind of morning when a long run licks sands at your heels. Dogs and their owners sashaying about as they play chase with drift wood in between small birds flitting in and out of the water.

The thought if reminds me of how much I love summer — and working out at the gym in hot, steamy, sweaty heat.  It’s really my favorite time there, wearing as little as I can as I pound away at the heavy bag, feeling it slip towards me, and pushing it back, watching as bits of sweat first bead and then drip down where first my shoulder and then my cheek brushes it back.

Losing is no fun

Losing is no fun

As with many experiences, sports can provide terrific highs as well as terrific lows. Heartbreak losses in the ring can be devastating to one’s morale, never mind that recovery from injuries sustained is made that much tougher when the fight ends up in the loss column.

One can listen to all the jibber-jabber about being in the game for the sake of it, but there is no feeling like winning whether it’s an amateur bout, a chess game or acing a paper. What particularly stings is when the winner takes that extra moment to grind in one’s loss whether it’s trash talk in an interview or some snide comment in an email. Whatever it is — one can cry in one’s proverbial beer or get into gear for the next something head held high for having tried in the first place.

It’s the latter that feels the hardest — especially when plans have to be adjusted, strategies rethought and importantly, the inevitable shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’s have to be worked through.  I’d offer up Grandma’s advise again — about having a good cry, washing your face, and moving on — but sometimes that doesn’t quite reach the moment.  Sometimes the “screaming-mimi’s” need to take over with a good dose of the “it’s-not-fairs” before one can begin to approach anything resembling the acceptance that leads to moving on. And that’s where the heavy bag comes in handy — ’cause in those moments it’s really good to hit things as a way of working out feelings of anger, sorrow and plain old disappointment.  The point being to find you’re inner heavy bag, that space where you can release all the feelings you have without taking them out on others or expressing them negatively on yourself — and thereby find your way to getting where you need to go whether it’s sending your latest work onto another publisher, having your team scream “rematch”! or quietly working your way back into the gym to fix whatever technical flaws you found, say dropping your left when you counterpunch, that leaves you vulnerable to attack.

So have a good cry and get back at it ’cause deadlines have a way of reappearing before you know it!  Oh and remember what my old therapist Ralph used to say, “happiness is the best revenge.”

 

 

 

It’s good to hit things

It’s good to hit things.

I shadow boxed at home last night.  I put on 16 oz. gloves and boxed around the room for a couple of rounds before I pounded away at my closet door.  “Get this girl back to the gym,” seemed to be the refrain from my family who thought I was crazy.  I kept thinking how good it felt to hit things even though I wasn’t releasing much power or hitting very hard.

Hitting things is always my ultimate secret about boxing.  I love it.  I love how it feels to connect.   I love the physicality of working out on a big heavy bag and pushing in with my shoulder as I practice upper cuts.   The double-ended bag gives me a place to workout as a rhythmic dance.  It doesn’t have that da-da-da, da-da-da rhythm of the speed bag, but after a round or two, the timing is such that it starts to have its own distinctive beat.

Sparring is something else again.  It has its own magic that for me isn’t about the hitting so much as working through the space as a physical manifestation of a chess game.  Each jab is a feint, a loyal pawn that makes its way forward establishing pace, rhythm and control to set-up all the other punches, bobs and weaves in the arsenal.   To spar is to be in a pas-de-deux with my opponent as improvisational as tap dancing or trading eights with Miles Davis’ trumpet licks.

To hit something at the boxing gym is to come face-to-face with the truth.  You can’t hit and hit hard without that commitment or the emotional depths that get mined every time a punch is thrown.