Posts Tagged ‘working out

26
Feb
17

Boxing as lifeline

Gleason’s Gym has been a real lifeline for me of late.

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The surety of going through my paces so to speak, the shadow boxing, pad work, heavy bag, double-ended bag, speed bag, abdominals, stretching and combinations thereof are a balm.

img_7389Even the early mornings offer solace. Up a 5:30 AM, off to the gym by 6:30 AM, in the ring by 7:00 AM out by 8:00 AM, showering and dressing, and off to the subway by 8:20 AM or so—two to three mornings a week. Then the long Saturday morning, where I can tarry and work extra rounds, and feel embraced by the easy camaraderie of people who push themselves to their physical limits.

What I also know is that I am a little sad and a little scared and a lot angered by a myriad of issues that are whirling around me. Unpacking them is complicated by a reticence to really face up to the deeper veins of truths that I would rather not face suffice to say they always come out anyway so sooner or later the reckoning will happen.

Gym life, and boxing gym life in particular, offers a microcosm of the range and power of emotion. Just the act of putting on a pair of gloves offers up so many different strands. For one, the gloves symbolize boxing itself. On an immediate basis one can think of such things as power, ability, courage, bravery, and skill. Gleason’s Gym itself calls out those concepts on the wall of the gym and on the back of every T-shirt:

“Now, whoever has courage, and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forward, lace on the gloves and put up his hands.” Virgil, Book 5, Aeneid

And yet there are other emotions. With puff pillows for hands one cannot “do” for oneself in any meaningful way. Sure, one learns to hold on to a water bottle between two gloved hands, but one cannot drink from it unless someone has unscrewed the cap. One also finds oneself being ministered to in such intimate ways. A trainer will towel off the sweat from ones face, apply vaseline, adjust ones clothing, tie a boot, wipe one’s nose. There’s a real “giving over” to allow all of that—a trust that one puts on to others.

img_7438For me the act of putting on the gloves swirls in the duality of empowering myself and giving myself over. At once I seek a kind of perfection of movement and strength, while also allowing myself those helpless feelings: That sense that I cannot always take care of everything whether that means throwing a perfectly executed one-two combination or asking my trainer to dab the sweat out of my eyes.

It’s also how I know that I cannot magically and in any immediate way change the political nightmare I feel we are living through—except that I know that my voice can count among the many and on that basis push through, just as rising three mornings a week in the predawn light and heading to the gym is a sort of metaphor for becoming something better and stronger.

Yes. I’m in the midst of a stew—as many of us are on any given day in the cycle of life, but waking up and feeling the power of the leather hitting a heavy bag goes a long, long way towards making it all a who lot better.

10
Jan
17

Stamina

stamina

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I’ve been hitting Gleason’s Gym three days a week since the beginning of September.  The usual schedule has been to get to the gym before seven—two mornings a week, putting in around 16 rounds plus 100 sit-ups before the rush to get to the office. On Saturday mornings, I put in a longish workout to net out about 20 rounds of work plus sit-ups (150 this past Saturday), including sparring with my trainer, Lennox Blackmoore.  I also take time to stretch and get in a fair amount of schmoozing.

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Len and I having been sparring for a couple of years with some regularity, but bits of minor health issues on both sides have pushed us off the mark for the last couple of months.  We’ll certainly pick it up again, but the return to more consistent pad work, plus extra rounds on the heavy bag have given me new insights into the sweet science.

14212050_10208382068522073_5102702498388978962_nThe regular training is also a barometer on all the other aspects of health—mental and otherwise, and given that my weight’s been creeping up over the last six months (seeing the doctor on that one given that I eat and exercise about the same), it’s been interesting to measure its effect on the illusive construct of stamina.

What Len will say is stamina is a matter of mind—and there’s nothing like a hard workout at 7:00 AM to test the theory because, let’s face it, some mornings have just been awful, or have had bits of awful that flower as a chrysalis into “oh what a beautiful morning,” great.

This morning’s boxing was a case in point.  Having gotten up at 5:30—after a less than great sleep—I managed to find my way through my morning “ablutions.”  By 6:30 I was bundled against the 19 degree temperature, slowly making my way through Cadman Plaza to walk to Gleason’s, but not before stopping a minute to take a picture of the buildings and the small park set against the pre-dawn sky.

By the time I walked through the door of the gym, I was resolved to push through the tiredness I felt—but there was nothing doing, when it came to my first couple of rounds shadowing boxing.  In fact, we are talking, an “Oy, are you kidding me?” kind of creakiness as my knees crackled, my neck stiffened and barely turning from side to side, and with my supposed stamina nowhere to be found.  By the time round one with Len started, I could barely crank my arms to limply hit the pads—especially the right which earned me a cranky “wake-up, wake-up, straighten out your arm and turn your hip.”

I just nodded, wishing that I could find some pithy retort, other than to give it another go.

“Push it, push it, see.”

This from throwing the right with too much elbow sticking out from the inside.

“And turn your hip!”

“Yep, got it,” I replied, not really having got it, but figuring if I kept hitting it that way it would eventually find it’s mark.

Catching a glimpse of the clock between rounds, I did an inner groan at seeing it was only 7:35, but gamely turned to keep going at it.

By round three, it did start to make sense; it also brought me to an epiphany about stamina.  I was so busy trying to work through the task of throwing a straight right from the inside that I was starting to forget that I was tired and achy and less than enthused.  The previous workout I’d had, had been my best in weeks. I’d been peppy as I shadow-boxed for four rounds, and even peppier when Len and I went a full six rounds on the pads in the ring. Having it to ourselves meant that we really worked the corners and when it was done, I went on to the small water bag for four rounds, the doubled-ended bag for four rounds, and finished with four rounds on the speed bag before 150 sit-ups and a lot of stretching.

15107443_10208943471316792_3935173821081775570_nThe determinate in that case had been a decent night’s sleep—but for the workout at hand, something else was kicking in. Not exactly an extra gear so much as finding the space to just be. In other words, I was getting out of my own way and in doing so; tiredness, creaky bones and all of the other obstacles that had seemed fairly insurmountable began to peel away.

By the end of the fourth round I was ready to keep going—but having caught another glimpse at the clock I realized I didn’t have too much time left before I had to get going for work. Still, I remained in that moment, so to speak, as I practiced the straight right on the double-ended bag, and posed problems to myself from different angles and in different combinations from different sides.

And yes, my stamina was there. I could have kept going for many more rounds despite less than ideal sleep, and all of the other impediments that had felt like lead weights around my ankles.

I’ll be getting to the gym again tomorrow morning. With some luck, I’ll be able to pull the focus trick that’ll lead me to feeling bouncy and fit as I gyrate around the ring. And maybe if that happens enough times it’ll be more of a habit of mind than thinking that it’s only a manifestation of my physical condition—time will tell.

17
Feb
14

A day off …

A day off …

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A daily something, whether it’s work, going for a run, posting a blog piece or any of a myriad of things can bring a nice bit of order to the day–or act as a set of moments for oneself and oneself alone.

Even with that daily something, it is sometimes nice to have a day off!

Yesterday was just such a day for me–when somewhere late in the evening I realized I hadn’t blogged for the day. Yes, I could have rushed it, but the truth was–it was okay.

Sometimes that break is what we need to kick start something new.

Today, my actual day off from work (the President’s Day holiday), turned out to be a gift of another kind — one extra day at the gym.

I saw friends I rarely run into — and had another chance to box at a leisurely pace, this time going into the ring with boxing trainer, Darius Forde. With Lennox Blackmoore in my corner to coach me through it, I worked through all sorts of issues in the ring offensively and defensively — plus the different looks that Darius showed me.

The rounds on the heavy bag and upper cut bag afterwards were also something a little bit new as I worked through different boxing problems I experienced in the ring.

It got me to thinking that it’s what makes the best part of any day — working through a problem from a different angle. Rather like a piece of art — we get to enrich ourselves by creatively thinking through how best to make something work before moving along.

At any rate, as official day’s off go, it was pretty wonderful.

15
Feb
14

Back in the saddle …

Back in the saddle …

Gleason's Gym - Lennox Blackmoore

After my ring melt down last week, not to mention two snowstorms and my left wrist going all carpal tunnel on me, I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for my return to sparring this morning with Lennox Blackmoore. To be honest, I was dreading it during the middle of the week, but by yesterday, my Pollyanna attitude took over and I started to think that I had a line on how to get respectably pummeled rather than the usual total pummeling!

Getting to the gym a little early, I spent four rounds in front of the mirror working on my stance before heading over the slip rope to do exactly that … slip.

My strategy was to sit lower and use my abs more to propel my legs and to hold my body taut. It also meant that my movements were smaller and I could get my hands back faster to cover up!

By the time Len came, I was very warmed up with a good sweat and when we entered the ring I felt more in control, with tighter punches and at least s-o-m-e slipping. When it came to the dreaded right hook (yep, he was fighting me southpaw again), I still didn’t know how to handle it. By the third one I just said, “let’s stop for a minute,” and asked Len what I should do.

What he recommended was that I weave under the punch to the left and set myself up to throw a left uppercut followed by a left hook.

Talk about a wow! Who knew that old bob-and-weave actually worked as a strategy in the ring! We practiced it a few times, taking us all the way through the bell, and then went back to sparring.  Admittedly I got tagged several more times with his right, but at least I tried to weave under it–and in so doing even surprised him with a few sneaky shots of my own.

By the end of five rounds I was tired, but armed with my new (old) defense, went on the uppercut bag to practice the move some more. The challenge there was timing the bag to duck under and then come up into position to set up throwing the uppercut-hook combination. It took a while, but I actually started to get it, and then used the bag to bob-and-weave on both sides. I also worked out using my “tweaked” stance to the point where my abs actually started to ache a bit by the end of my fourth round on the bag.

Old dog, new tricks … maybe, maybe not, but I certainly felt better about things. Thinking about it as I pounded on the speed bag to close out my workout, I did at least feel as if I’d pushed things along, just enough to sense that maybe, one day, I’ll look in the mirror and actually see a boxer looking back at me!

08
Feb
14

The spirit is willing the but the body’s not!

The spirit is willing the but the body’s not!

street_gymnasium_amateur_boxing_lessons

I had a bunch of things to do today (Saturday) — so I switched things around and trained yesterday (Friday), before going to work. The great thing was Len Blackmoore agreed to meet me early and after I warmed up with four rounds of shadowboxing, we hit the ring to spar.

Earlier in the week, I’d been at the gym working out on my own and quite frankly, was feeling pretty great: lots of rounds on the uppercut bag and four great rounds on the double-ended bag gave me a feeling of confidence that carried over as I readied to work out with Len.

Now I’m *not* saying that I was overly-confident or even mostly-confident, let’s just say, I felt as if I’d worked things out with my stance, with moving around in the ring and with slipping Len’s dreaded right hand.  Well as the saying goes, “the best laid plans …”

Right from the start I was able to throw punches, and even managed a few combinations, but nothing I seemed to be able to do defensively protected me from his punches. It’s not exactly as if I was frozen, not at all, but it became obvious that aside from deflecting jabs, no matter how I positioned myself, I was open to hooks and uppercuts.

It was only after my four rounds with Len when I observed him sparring with someone else–someone obviously more experienced in the ring–that I began to see how to work things through defensively by keeping my hands up higher and standing straighter in my stance. What I realized is that I was leaning forward, mistaking it for slipping a punch! Talk about an easy target–no wonder I was getting tagged at will from the right!

Thinking about it later I admit to feeling emotionally stung, as if all of the work I’ve been putting in has been wasted … but of course I know better.

I  just have to go back to basics.

Yep … its time to tweak the boxing stance.

So where to begin … again … grrrrr …. the MIRROR!

01
Feb
14

Back at it …

Back at it …

The heavy bags at Gleason's Gym

After a ten-day hiatus, I made it back into the gym today.

Talk about a shock! My conditioning as I entered the ring with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore was at about z-e-r-o!  But, that was to be expected after having fought off a lousy cold and its aftereffects.

Yes, I did manage to spar four rounds–but it was charity! Really. We were at half speed at best and I admit to feeling a bit light-heading as I shadow boxed. Giving into the reality of not being quite back to my usual level of fitness, after four rounds of sparring I took it slow and went three rounds on the upper cut bag and four on the speed bag before doing sit-ups.

Given the season, a lot of folks are in the throes of colds and flu and need to sort out just when to get back to the gym.

The following are some tips on how to go about it:

Klennex1. If you’ve been really sick with fever and an infection or if the virus that’s been plaguing you has left your muscles and joints achy and weak, you really should wait until your symptoms are pretty much done. You also don’t want to infect anyone else so if you’re still sneezing and coughing you should hold off until you are no longer contagious.

2. When you do head back, remember that your body has just been through an ordeal. And no–you are not going to perform to you usual ability, nor should you even if you think you can do it.  The body needs adequate time to recover. You will also need time to get your body back to its former conditioning–and depending upon the severity of your illness will require time, effort and patience.

Unknown3. Don’t think that you can immediately pound away at full speed. Whether it’s boxing, an hour of yoga, jogging in the park or working out on weight machines, cut your workout down to a reasonable time and cut yourself some slack when you find that your performance is off. No matter what shape you’re in a miserable cold is going to slow you down and your body needs time to get back to full strength. And, if you’ve had a couple of days of fever, your body has been hard at work fending of miserable germs–so it’ll take that much longer to get back to full strength.

4. Give yourself adequate recovery time, meaning if you run everyday, you don’t have to immediately get back to your normal schedule. Run on day one, rest a day, and then get back to it. In this way, you really are giving your body a chance to fully recover. Make certain that you are also keeping yourself adequately hydrated before, during and after workouts. The body can become slightly dehydrated even with a cold–which also takes time to recover from.

Most of all, remember to keep it slow and before you know it, you’ll be back at 100%!

 

30
Jan
14

Out of steam …

Out of steam …

http://www.indigoarchitect.com/2012/03/28/design-connects-when-we-connect/brooklyn_bridge_march_snow-2/trackback/ - See more at: http://www.indigoarchitect.com/2012/03/28/design-connects-when-we-connect/brooklyn_bridge_march_snow-2/#sthash.ANheta6T.dpuf

As with many other New Yorkers … the unrelenting quality of the cold has gotten to me and while I have nothing against the month of January (as if a month could have something wrong with it), I’ll be glad to see the end of it!

With one more day to go (tomorrow) before hitting February, my only conciliation is knowing that at least the days are getting longer. Yes, of course, how can one forget that February is known as the cruelest month–short, but still winter. At least time we will be moving forward towards the first hints of spring, even if there are a few more snowstorms and gray, dank days that linger in the low 20s.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been fairly housebound for a week when I haven’t been at work–making the 15 minutes walk from house to office dressed up in my best impression of a dark mummy with layer upon layer shrouding my head to maintain enough warm to keep my glasses foggy, but not too moist so as to totally cloud my vision, all in attempt to keep banish any hint of cold air from my lungs.

The truth is what I need is a good two hours at the gym to work through the mean “oukies” that have taken over and banished my Pollyanna smile. And, while I’ve loved binge-watching Scandal (who knew it could be soooooo good), I really do need to get motivated before I become permanently attached to the couch.

Well anyway, if I can’t be at the gym–or be in anyway fit for company–I can always try and find it in the movies.

 

16
Jan
14

Old dog … new tricks …

Old dog … new tricks …

Boxing Dog, Credit: rachaelhale

When I first walked into Gleason’s Gym a million years ago–as in January 1997–my first trainer, Johnny Grinnage started me off on the wall bag throwing the jab and eventually a seven-punch combination that went jab-jab-straight right-left hook … dip right … straight right-jab-left hook … dip left … and repeat, repeat, repeat. From the wall bag, I graduated to the mirror where I practiced the same grouping of punches — and eventually went on to the slip rope and the heavy bag.  Oh, and once I made it to the heavy bag, my first round was always left-left-left hook … dip left and repeat … dip right and repeat … and sometimes for two rounds.

What I didn’t get was any time in the ring–or the sense of *why* I was practicing those punches.

Eventually Johnny added in upper cuts, straight body shots and even some shoe-shines that had me throwing upwards of 18 punches in a row wearing 18-ounce gloves and crazy wraps underneath because he had me throwing those punches on the super-heavy bag for 12 rounds. Oh–all the while listening to Johnny admonish me *not* to throw any pitty-pat punches!

Suffice it to say, I sure did get strong! And after months of that I was in shape, but I knew nary a thing about boxing.

This went on for a while–and my relationship to boxing went in fits and starts, and was more about the emotion of actually hitting something than the fine points of the sport–and I ended up taking breaks that would last a year, two years or more.

Back in the gym after a particularly long break (2 years), I began training with Lennox Blackmoore.

I basically started all over again–and came a very long way, but ring time was still somewhat light, and it has literally taken me until the last couple of weeks to realize that so much of what he has been showing me and teaching me for years has passed right over my head. I mean I listened, and became proficient at things like the speed bag and the double-ended bag, but I still hadn’t grasped in any kind of visceral way what my body was actually supposed to be doing.

Call me dense (as in ridiculously so)–but the YEARS I spent being told to slip, bob and weave, were never about GETTING OUT OF THE WAY for me because maybe there’d be a punch rending its way down broadway squarely for my nose, because I JUST DIDN’T GET IT.

I didn’t get the dance. The absolute pas-de-deux. The improvisational hopped-up bang-pow-bang of it all.

I mean it’s crazy!

It’s the danciest dance ever.

Move, throw, move some more, drift in, drift out, squeeze impossibly low, fight tall, fight small, stay out of range, jam in and jam out, shoulder roll back, throw forward, sidestep … CRAZY STUFF.

Get it?

It’s crazy tap dancing–but you can’t dance if you don’t know the steps.

DAMN. I’m almost 60 and I finally get it!

05
Jan
14

Gym time …

Gym time …

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Having gone back to the gym for a fairly serious heart-pounding workout three-days-a-week, I can attest to the benefits of the experience–not the least of which is the sensation of being fit.

Carving out the time for it–and then sticking to it is something else. Aside from negotiating when to go (before or after work) there’s the bit about squaring things with loved ones for the two plus hours, times whatever number of days a week you intend to go.

With that taken care of, it’s just a  matter of actually showing up!

Having offered every excuse there is to give–it’s raining, too hot, too cold, I’m tired/hungry/had a bad day/had a good day–the starting premise for success is to go even if my arm is in a sling!

I guess the point of it is having made the commitment to the gym, why cheat at solitaire so to speak. This time is for me and even when I’m tired and grumpy and not feeling 100%, by the time I’m half way through my workout, all of the excuses I was formulating in my mind *not* to go have long since disappeared from my consciousness.

By that point my muscles are warmed up, my body limber, sweat dripping in sheets of water, my face flushed from exertion; whatever resistance I may have had replaced by the minutia of slipping a straight right.

Barbara Stanwick 1930sGym time is also about making the experience a good one. After all–it is you who are making the commitment to come and workout.

In my case it has meant making certain that the trainer I work with shares my objectives and listens to what my needs are. That wasn’t always the case for me–and it took a while to understand how to assert myself in the gym. It’s also fundamental to the old boxing adage “protect yourself at all times”!

If I can make a suggestion to anyone coming back to regular workouts, ensuring that you are comfortable with your trainer or instructor is a very important part of the experience. Furthermore, just because you haven’t been in the gym for awhile or you are a novice at particular skills or breathless after a couple of rounds doesn’t mean that you are at the mercy of a trainer who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

In boxing this can mean being pushed to spar before you’re ready with a risk  of serious injury–a totally unacceptable outcome.  It can even come down to the choice of a gym or the type of activity you chose to do during your gym time. The main point is to be honest with yourself about what you hope to achieve, how much time you have to devote to it, your willingness to commit to it and you willingness to “try on” a few trainers to find the right one for you. With all of those pieces in place, the experience should be nothing less than fabulous–making each and every time you hit the gym a special treat: one that you deserve for putting so much of yourself out there in the first place!

04
Jan
14

It’s just that …

It’s just that …

Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services. (03/09/1943 - 09/15/1945). This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 513877.

The little things have a way of disrupting the big things even in the best of moments.

Take internet connectivity for one.

This has been my latest cause of uncontrollable, snarling, derangement. It is truly an “are you kidding me,” kind of thing, ridiculous and laughable all at the same time—and that’s me I’m talking about.

In the I-want-it and I-want-it-now category of things, having ON DEMAND superfast, Internet is the world I like to live in. (And no, I don’t step out of my rage to reflect on the days when 56KB modem connectivity was fast—I live in a megabyte and preferably gigabyte world!)

So, when over the past couple of weeks our Time Warner Cable connectivity s-l-o-w-e-d to a crawl, (as now—and yes I’m naming names), capriciously it seems and for no discernible reason that I can glean (and in spite of the full connectivity fan mocking me from its perch at the top of my computer screen), I am ready to scream.

“Why?” I lament.

“I need it NOW!” I rant.

And in my full hysterical, the world-is-out-to-get-me paranoia-infused sputtering, foaming-at-the-mouth “best,” I give an award-winning homage to everyone’s favorite Captain, James Tiberius Kirk, by yelling out “Khan…… Khan…… Khan….”

This because, I cannot see the weather, Google a Star Trek factoid, send a tweet, add a blog post, or watch this or that episode of Eureka on Netflix—my latest series addiction.

Okay—so OBVIOUSLY it’s time to hit the pause button here.

I mean I should know better.

Wat Suan MokkhHey, I even went to Buddhist “school”—ten days in silent meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya, Thailand.

Where is all of my “it’s just that” training?

Where is non-self?

Why am I so attached to the mosquito-bite moments in life?

As in the ring when my trainer Lennox Blackmoore’s fist connects yet again, (lightly thrown, though I should give him the right to slam me after the third time in a row when I still haven’t slipped), I cannot attach to the fact of getting hit because it only exacerbates the lack of fluidity and sight I have of what is in front of me.

I guess what I’m saying is its the essence of living in the moment.

A fist on its way to one’s left temple is about as in the moment as it gets and there are two stratagems: get hit or get out of the way. All else has no meaning.

And so it is with everything else.

It truly is “just that” and each time I get caught up in the spiral of no internet connectivity or any of the hundreds, heck, thousands of little things that can be annoying to the point of snarling, it really is getting to the silly stage.

So, is there no Internet this morning? Nope, but it’s okay. I live in Brooklyn, there’s always Starbucks.

03
Jan
14

As towering things go …

As towering things go …

Paris, 12/30/2014, Izzi Stevenson

With the coffee brewing and a day old baguette heating up in the oven, all seems to be set for the early morning … and oh yeah, it’s a snow day for the prodigal just home from a week in Paris.  Ah, the life!

The trip was momentous for her–likely life altering–having had the opportunity to see things from a different point of view and without her parents to render opinions and shape the experience as she traveled with a friend and his family.

It puts in mind that the big things in life often come in small moments that cumulatively equate themselves to momentous change. For her, at fourteen, it seems it was in experiencing the textures, sights and smells of the City of Lights along with the joy she had in discovering pain au chocolat. And yes, to state again, without her parents to filter things through–just herself going about defining each experience on her own terms.

Travel always has a way of transporting a person–but no less important are the transformative moments we push ourselves to even in the “ordinary” routine. Sometimes it is in taking the time to tarry, or in how one puts an extra something special into those parts of one’s day that are otherwise forgettable.

Creating alone time is another way. The gym comes to mind wherein whatever time one allots, one can experience something of the sacred about it. A daily run can certainly fit that bill–as can the rhythms of each round spent shadow boxing or perfecting a left hook.

Whether to time, to the number of rounds or to the body’s inner clock that seems to have a sense of beginnings and endings that are quite apart from how the mind (shall I offer up the “parent”) defines what can and cannot be done–that period can become an entire world quite apart from the rest of one’s day.

So if a trip to France isn’t in the offing, an hour or so among the plants, kneeding bread or banging away on the double-ended bag may be just the trick for adding a dose of transformation to an otherwise, cold and snowy morning.

14
Dec
13

Back to basics …

Back to basics …

Lennox Blackmoore & Malissa Smith

Stepping back into anything whether its training or writing blog entries takes a bit of getting used to!

With my manuscript for A History of Women’s Boxing at the publisher (and working through manuscript cuts)–I can attest to how difficult it is to find one’s way back to the earlier routines.

Boxing–not unlike serious dance–is a sport that requires constant fine tuning not only to keep one’s muscle-memory in tact, but to make physical sense of all of the nuances.  Throw in some old bones like mine and that savvy seems to revert back to near on zero after a few months!

For the last four weeks I’ve been attempting to turn back the clock–so to speak–to move my body into the next “space” vis-a-vis how I look to myself shadow boxing in front of the mirror. In a word … Ugh!  Well, okay, I’ll modify that.  “Ugh!” for the first three weeks and a mere, sheesssshhhh for today.

With just a four-month layoff, my timing became non-existent, I couldn’t muster more than 50 situps and the pad work was ugly. Facing my trainer Lennox Blackmoore in the ring was even worse! I could *barely* make it through three rounds (never mind four) of the *ugliest* looking punching you’ve ever seen!  And there was not ONE straight right that I didn’t walk in to!  Talk about humbling.

By the second week–I could at least make it through three + rounds, but my ring performance was no better even with Len egging me and shouting SLIP!  I think I managed to slip exactly one punch–well, maybe I’m being a bit generous to myself. I also managing a 16 round workout, but the situps remained pathetic.

My next step was to add two nights of training on my own after work–to at least bring my conditioning up and to focus on basics such as stance and the jab-jab-right-slip-right combinations. Last Saturday, however, was even worse in the ring–I still kept heading into the straight right, and finally in frustration, I just had Len keep throwing rights at me till I’d slip left out of the way! That seemed to help somewhat although I was still feeling bummed and even my timing on the double-ended bag was awful.

Back at it this week I kept plugging away doing rounds on the slip-rope and the heavy bag to work on those imaginary punches coming my way and spending rounds working on my stance, my footwork and throwing punches from the “slip” position. The only bright spot was realizing that my conditioning was coming back–with my body comfortably moving and working hard through all 16 rounds of work.

That all paid off today when I was able to get through four rounds in the ring with Lennox still able to breathe! As for slipping those punches–we’re talking a work in progress! He nailed me CONSTANTLY, but I did manage a few in every round and kept up with him when we shoe-shined during the last 30 seconds of the fourth round.

As for the rest of my workout, I had lots of stamina and spent a good six rounds slipping and punching as I moved around the heavy bag and the double-ended bag. The speed bag work was fun too. I was doubling-up like a demon and jumped over to the double-ended bag during the one-minute round breaks. And beyond that I actually did 100 situps–admittedly slooowwww, but at least back to my old number!

Despite the fact that my conditioning is much improved, I still feel like a physical moron in the ring and realize that it’s a matter of retraining my brain. The fact is, when I see a punch coming, I want to pull back, and that would make sense if I was stepping back with it and following it up with something, but I’m not. I’m just dumbfounded as I try to hit back and as the milliseconds of inaction tick by I, of course, get slammed with another punch!

The “Pollyanna” in me is convinced that my 59-year-old body can learn some new tricks … but even if I never really do, I at least feel good for trying.

Here’s a nice short video on how to slip a punch–and if you don’t have a slip bag, you can always follow my lead and slip the shower head in the morning.

04
Jun
13

Speaking to power …

Speaking to power …

Superwoman!

Having gotten back into my boxing groove starting at the end of December when my surgeon gave me the all clear to whale away, my body has begun to find its power again. It’s not all the time or even some of the time, but an occasional thing when I’ll come upon something that I can lift with ease even though I know it’s really heavy, or when I’m about to finish up my light run from my house to the gym and realize that I could keep going for quite a ways.

That sense of comfort with my body or the sense that it has power is not something I’ve had very often in my life. Growing up in NYC in the 1960s meant very little by way of sports–as in punch ball, stoop ball and King, a kind of hand ball where each person had one concrete square in the sidewalk as their “box.”

At summer camp I swam and otherwise did what I could *not* to have to play softball in the heat of the afternoon in a field swarming with no-see-ums. As for basketball, I was hopeless when it came to anything but drippling the ball. The only running I ever did in those days were “chase” games and aside from tap dancing lessons at the age of 12 (for three months at Charlie Lowe’s School where I learned to use my “personality”), I didn’t do much of anything until my mid-thirties when I began to run.

Jogging in the 1970sThe jogging craze that began in the 1970s seemed to pass me by. Sure I tried it, but huffing and puffing for a block or two along the East River of Manhattan on the Upper East Side near where I used to live (and admittedly sucking back a cigarette or two), even along side a boyfriend, just wasn’t for me. Aerobics in cute white Reeboks was also “not my thing,” and if I exercised at all it was disco dancing at places like The Salty Dog, where I could happily gyrate for hours at a time.

Flashing forward to the late 1980s, my body still woefully unexercised, I decided to take up running in a bid to quit smoking. My first runs, attempts to run around Central Park were pathetic. I barely made it down two blocks, never mind to the park, while my chest heaved in pain and spasmed from coughing fits. Knowing that I needed to rid my lungs of years of inhaling junk into them, however, gave me the motivation to persevere. The remarkable thing was that by the end of the first week of daily runs, I was able to run ten blocks and by the end of a month I began to eschew distance for time having ran for thirty full minutes. By the second month my runs were taking me the full circuit around Central Park including the famed 110th Street Hill–a run that took me an hour door-to-door to cover the seven miles. Throughout that Spring I pounded my way through the Park, testing myself with brief sprints, and feeling for the first time in my life, the power of the body.  The experience was humbling, if a little frightening, because I had spent so many years in denial of my physical sphere. But there I was, running as long as an hour and a half, my legs and arms toned, and feeling for very brief moments as if I was invincible.

Life interceded and I quit running after a while, but when I found my way to boxing a decade later, the sense of myself as a physical being began to kick back in. Even now, as I begin to live out the last of my 50s, I find the body’s capacity to renew itself to be truly remarkable.

Sometimes speaking to power has to do with embracing those parts of oneself that extend out in a giant roar of confidence and well-being. My younger self would never have believed that I was capable of saying that–which tells me that whether it’s through the pounding of feet along a path in the park or the extension of a jab in a boxing ring, the magic of finding an alignment of all the parts of one’s being is always within the realm of the possible. All one has to do is take the first step to try.

 

01
Jun
13

‘Been a while since I’ve posted …

Girlboxing …. ‘been a while since I’ve posted …

Girlboxing at Gleason's Gym, Credit: Lennox Blackmoore

The vicisitudes of life, full time work, writing a book, the prodigal’s end of middle school stuff and endless winter have seemingly conspired to close the door on daily blogging!

Riot of Roses, Brooklyn, NY, Credit: Malissa smith

Meanwhile … summer has slipped into Brooklyn with crazy warm temperatures and light that lasts forever it seems or at least well past 8:00 PM.

At the gym today, the sweat pouring off me in buckets, my arms and legs as fluid as they can ever be on this late 50s model carcus, I was reminded of how much the body in motion, even one encased in a liquid pool, can feel invincible.  Sure I was missing sometimes on my overhand left-right hook combinations and after a couple of rounds on the double-ended bag felt as if I would collapse into a heap before cooling down on the speed bag … oh yeah, not to mention the slow crickety creak of the last 25 situps to get me to 100, but it all seemed to sail through, salty taste and all, with a huge shout out to Lennox Blackmoore for reminding me to m-o-v-e  g-i-r-l when I got too static in the ring.

 

27
Jan
13

One of those days…

One of those days…

Sisyphus

It’s been one of those days.

Sure the laundry is done, a bit of shopping for the week, and even a trip to Staples for new winter term school supplies for my daughter, but the real stuff, the substantive stuff, the chapter that should have been completed 10 days ago remains … well, definitely undone.

So if I was going to blow off the things that needed doing, I would have hoped to have at least spent my time say … at the gym going another bunch of rounds at hyperspeed or swimming at the Y or reading something other than books about 18th Century gender politics, but I didn’t even waste it doing that.

BookcaseIt was time spent in a drift to nowhere: bland, blah, nothing much and before I knew it the big clock outside tolled 4:00 PM.

At that point–well, I did manage half a page on the pesky chapter–but otherwise gave up on it all and figured the best thing to do was make a nice dinner for everyone (linguine with garlic, oil & calamata olives finished with fresh parmesan, plus a romaine lettuce salad).

The family fed. Daughter back to homework and husband happily digging into a bowl of ice cream, I’ve given myself permission to drift.

And really, that was all I needed. A bit of acknowledgement. A moment to say–hey, you’re a grown-up, you work your butt off, you can take the time to do nothing if that’s what you really need.

Now that I’ve given myself that gift, I feel myself easing up a bit; not quite so steamed for not hitting my word output, nor feeling guilty for taking a peek at my Facebook page.

Given that my permission stamp was only made at around 7:00, I don’t really have much time left … but at least I have Downton Abbey to look forward to.




October 2020
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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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