Posts Tagged ‘working out



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 …

ehs-gymclass-1930s-neg-95-1-18-cambcolln

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.

 




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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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