Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Creative Workout Week

Well, friends, my goal for this month's "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" was to shake up my workout routine, and now that it's over, I have one thing to say: "Consider me shook!"

Day 1- Tennis

I started Creative Workout Week with a chivalrous tilt of the hat to what I consider to be my favorite sport. In fact, I'm such a big tennis fan that when Roger Federer has someone pretend to be him and announce things via social media, I receive them. Yeah…I'm pretty cool.

And yet, apparently not cool enough to avoid the lectures of a homeless man that set up camp next to where I was practicing my serve. Over the next 40 minutes, I heard about everything from the sexualization of the Virgin Mary to the social injustices of O.J. Simpson. But at least the weather was gorgeous!

Day 2- Cardio Barre

If you've ever taken a ballet class or two, you know that each class begins with barre exercises. It's the stereotypical vision of tights and leotards, one hand on a wooden railing, gracefully moving through positions to the tunes of classical masters.

Cardio Barre, which has taken off as a franchise here in Los Angeles, is like that vision of ballet but with a bad case of "roid rage." It's an hour-long cardio class that kicks your butt! There were several moments that I thought I was going to pass out, so I had to take a knee while the soccer mom I was next to carried on without me.

Day 3- Runyon Canyon

Though I was pretty sore from Cardio Barre, the next day I decided to go hiking. Runyon Canyon is a frequented park in Hollywood that attracts people of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. The steep trail is a challenging one, but has one of the biggest payoffs of any exercise routine: a panoramic view of the entire city of Los Angeles. From Downtown to Westwood, the scene is an inspiring one that definitely kept my feet moving.

Day 4- Bodypump

There is an unfair but popular saying that goes something like, "Those who cannot do, teach." In the same spirit of utter nonsense, I would like to create a similar saying: "Those who cannot love, teach Bodypump."

While it has the design of an aerobics class, Bodypump is actually weightlifting, and the mean lady who taught the class I attended literally yelled at people if they sat down their weights before the set was over. At first, I kept going because I was terrified of her, but eventually I found a groove thanks to a couple of songs that I could hum along to during the bicep curls.

Day 5- Rest

I'm a big believer in having a day off in your exercise routine. I would not recommend, however, starting that day of rest around 7:30 AM and ending it at 1:00 AM the following day.

Day 6- Pilates

My return to Creative Workout Week was filled with the debunking of myths thanks to a private Pilates session with my friend and official Pilates instructor. For example, did you know that the Pilates technique was originally designed for Boxers?

I also discovered that if you're doing hundreds of crunches, then you're not doing them correctly. While Mr. Pilates coached me with proper technique, I did ten crunches before I felt like my midsection was going to burst into flames.

Day 7- Bikram Yoga

Speaking of flames, Day #7 took me to the extra toasty world of Bikram Yoga, a form of yoga practiced in rooms heated to 105 degrees. The idea is the extreme heat softens your body tissues and allows for deeper stretching and sweating as well as facilitates the mental stamina required to stay in the room for 90 minutes.

The last time I tried Bikram Yoga was about three years ago. I liked it because it engaged muscles I previously didn't even know existed, but I always got nauseous in the middle of positions and had to sit down to steady my breathing.

This recent Bikram experience, however, was a perfect ending to my week because it was different than the one I had three years ago. I was a more focused, less nauseous person. I didn't have the anxiety that sped up my breathing and heart rate in the already challenging environment.

Now regardless of whether this was because of Creative Workout Week or simply the fact that I'm three years older, I left the yoga studio celebrating that though I had started this week feeling like I had hit a plateau in my life, the truth was quite the opposite. I've changed. I'm not the same person I was.

The opportunities to shake up our exercise routines are out there if we look for them. Though we can't always choose the obstacles we face in our lives, we most certainly can choose the obstacles we face in our workouts. And by swinging that racket, or climbing that hill, or withstanding that heat, we change little by little until the moment comes when we realize we've actually changed a lot.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Week- March 2012

I didn't go to the gym at all last week, which turned out to be both inspiring and depressing for me. Inspiring because the show that required me to dance around in tank tops finally closed, thus releasing me from the pressure of showing my BB guns, and depressing because the ultimate lack of exercise led to an endorphin deficiency.

My usual workouts at the gym are never all that strenuous, but I do make sure they're challenging enough to get my happy chemicals flowing, and that extra dose of self-esteem always makes my days feel a bit more accomplished. Lately, though, I've been losing a little of that muscle pumping motivation.

"Gymania," as I've previously called that strange place reeking of moldy weights and recycled air, has definitely taken its toll on me. See September 2009…

While in the past I at least had the consolation of going to the gym whenever time would allow, it's become so crowded there lately that the culture of "Gymania" is more overwhelming than ever.

Therefore, I've decided that March's installment of "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" will be dedicated to the wonderful world of exercise.

Have you ever seen the infomercials for those intense workout DVDs that promise dramatic before and after photos? No, I'm not gonna order them...I'm way too concerned about my downstairs neighbor to do power jumps in my living room. But the concept of those DVDs is that you need to constantly change up your exercise routine in order to surprise your body to greater results. And to me, that makes a lot of sense. There are so many great workouts out there besides lifting weights in "Gymania," so this week I'm going to explore them.

This era of uninspiring exercise is over! It's time to ring in a new phase of bodily exhaustion. And by next week, as long as I can still move my fingers enough to type, I'll have a full report.

View the results of Creative Workout Week

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Whole New Kind of Crazy

It was laundry day. My newly purchased Tide detergent was ready to declare war on a hamper full of clothes. I gathered everything up to take to the Laundromat, but as I stepped outside my apartment, I caught sight of a man strolling down the sidewalk. He was dressed normally for a sunny afternoon in Southern California. In fact, everything about him was normal enough except for the fact that he was aggressively yelling at a person who wasn't actually there.

This, of course, immediately stopped me in my tracks, but the reason it did may surprise you. What I found far more alarming than the actual peeved pedestrian was my reaction to him. My first thought was NOT, “Oh boy, maybe I should wait until he leaves.” It was NOT, “Bless his heart, I hope everything’s ok.” And it was NOT, “Pff…psycho.” Instead I thought, “He’s probably on the phone.”

This reaction would have been different in high school. Back then, seeing a man walking down the street talking to himself would have brought to mind a mental disorder of some kind, ala Sally Field in Sybil. After all, we spent three days watching that film in Health class. Three days.

By the time I made it through college, however, I realized that the traumatized and/or unbalanced weren’t the only ones inclined to talking to themselves. This epiphany occurred when I caught myself rehearsing a Eugene O’Neil monologue aloud while walking across campus to my next class. At first I was embarrassed, but then as I gazed around, I realized everyone else was doing the same thing in his or her perspective fields of study. I wasn't so loony after all.

And now in 2012, the rules have changed yet again! Thanks to the ever-constant advances in technology, all previous definitions for traditional insanity have been thrown out the window! Inventions like the "Bluetooth" (which literally puts voices in our heads) have launched our society into “a whole new kind of crazy.”

It's a "crazy" that hides behind the fa├žades of communication, interconnectivity, and social networking. It's a new class of modern day disease so contagious it's reaching epidemic proportions! But do not fear. It's also a "crazy" that is 100% curable. So if you recognize any of the following symptoms, rest assured. There is still hope!

Privacitis- Privacitis is a condition, or state of being, in which individuals may be convinced they have complete privacy and seclusion when in reality they are on their cell phones in the grocery store checkout line. Symptoms usually include the desire to share various tawdry details about the drunken escapades of the previous evening with the entire grocery store.

Manic Message Disorder- MMD, as it's more commonly known, is classified as the extreme highs and devastating lows of email users who log into their accounts and discover either too many messages to sort through, or none at all. Thoughts may include, “Holy Smoke, fifty-six!?” and, "My empty inbox means I'm a bad person!”

Password Dementia- Password Dementia is reserved for individuals with quite a bit of internet experience. After signing up for various accounts on various websites, an individual with PD may struggle to recall which password goes with which account. This often leads to the patient needing to provide previously chosen answers to security questions in order to retrieve the forgotten password, but alas, they have usually been forgotten as well.

Narcirexia- People suffering from narcirexia slowly become more and more convinced that the details of their daily menial tasks are important enough to post online. Some of these postings may include when they are going to the gym, personal commentary on celebrity deaths and politics, and the regularity of their digestive tracks.

Now while I have no medical degree to speak with authority on any of these illnesses, I admit that I can speak on them with a degree of experience. You see, I too have fallen victim to each of these psychoses at one point or another. Embarrassing? Perhaps. But it's the truth.

The good news is, however, that the cure to all this megabyte madness is really quite simple. Human Interaction! As powerful as the World Wide Web might be, it can't hold a candle to the power of connecting with people. So, if you find yourself frustrated with facebook, go to lunch with a friend. If you're glued to a computer screen, shop at a store instead of online. And if you can't stop holding your phone, then it might be time to hold a hand.

It seems as though the world we live in continues to find new ways to make us crazy, but I find it comforting to know that no matter how nuts we may seem, at least we’re all together. No one is alone. Not really. And if anyone tries to convince you otherwise, they might just be insane.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Like Ironing

Yes, you read the title correctly. I like ironing.

My mom says I inherited it from my dad. Early on in their marriage, he made it clear that he ironed his shirts in a very specific way, so she decided it was just easier to let him do it himself.

As for me, I started ironing as a form of teenage rebellion. I know, I know, not exactly the most popular outlet for adolescent angst, but I was embarrassed that my mother did my laundry. So to declare my personal independence, I decided there and then that I would wash and iron my own clothes. That'd show her!

I soon found that I actually enjoyed ironing. It was strangely gratifying for me to see a shirt that was once a wrinkled mess steamed to perfection. And everyone at home knew it.

On Sunday mornings, my little sister would take advantage of my weekly ironing station by storming into the kitchen ten minutes before we had to leave for church with mascara and sleep smudged halfway down her face. She'd hurl a dress at me, and yell "thank you" as she ran into the bathroom to brush her teeth. This became such a tradition that when it came time for me to go to college, my little sisters gave me a matching iron and ironing board to send me on my way.

Even more amazing than these ironing themed graduation gifts, however, is the fact that while my family knows that I like to appear wrinkle-free, I know they love me even when I'm not.

Showing people your "wrinkles" can be a little scary sometimes, especially when those people are the ones you love the most. That fear can often create loneliness so terrifying that it shakes the very foundation of your personal safety. But no matter how much ironing you may do to avoid them, wrinkles are a part of life.

We all live with a fair share of proverbial seat belt marks on newly ironed dress shirts. Sure, the wrinkles may not seem ideal and may even threaten our idea of perfection, but we all must eventually trust that life would be far less lived if the seat belts weren't there at all. And if some people can't or refuse to understand that, then "home" must be the place where they do.

As I continue to hear stories of teenage suicide back in my homeland, I can't stress enough how vital it is to have a home where every family member is valued and loved, no matter how wrinkled they may seem. There is no excuse for it, and there is no substitute.

Every life has value, dear friends, so please, let us value every life.