In an effort to practice what I preach in regards to acceptance, this essay is about my journey towards improving my health. It is the beginning of a long journey.
I jog during the summer and hit the gym in the winter; I’m in good enough shape to practice martial arts. I play a couple games of kickball on the weekends, and I like to go on walks with my girlfriend. All of that doesn’t change the fact that I’m out of shape. Fat. Cardiovascular health has been a weakness of mine since I got my first desk job. I used to spend the summers working on my grandfather’s farm, and I burned way more calories than I could eat, which if you’ve ever seen a teenage boy eat, that’s saying something. Well, I stopped burning the calories but still ate like I did on the farm. The inevitable happened, and I gained weight. I went through the mandatory denial – “Oh, it’s not that much; it’s not that bad; look, I can still run and play basketball.” Then the truth could no longer be ignored, and I began trying to improve. I failed for a number of reasons, and those reasons don’t really matter. The failure still existed. So, I began to accept that I was just a fat guy. I made up rationalizations – “Maybe this is just your weight,” “At least you’re not sedentary,” and “You do get exercise and don’t eat too bad.” I was programing my own optimism bias.
Like most Americans, in January of 2013 I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, to be better. Like most Americans, I did not follow through. I kept putting it off. Next month, I’ll sign up. Ehh, we’re busy most every day in February. Excuse after excuse. I pushed off changing. However, a deadline continued to approach. Iron Mountain Camp is looming on the horizon, and this year, I’ll be testing Pekiti Largo, which ends with a sparring component. During last year’s test, the sparring looked like a sprint. Both participants were fast, moving in and out with footwork, and swinging the stick on varying angles with varying tactics. (The Stick and Dagger video below is an example of Iron Mountain’s sparring intensity.) I had to admit that I am not prepared for that much exertion. It was time to accept that I’m out of shape. After all the work that I have been doing to ingrain the techniques, to learn the drills, and to begin forgetting the drills, it occurred to me that if my sparring was limited by my cardiovascular endurance; then, I was just mastering a drill. I’d rather be beaten in sparring because I wasn’t prepard enough than to fail simply because I was too tired. While I probably had just enough cardio to pass the sparring portion, being good enough doesn’t sit well with me. Failing the test because I didn’t know the techniques or couldn’t work the drills was okay with me; at least, I’d tried. But having just enough cardio endurance to pass seemed like cheating. Still, I recognized all of this but part of me pushed back against changing my exercise routine.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend is working out, cooking healthy meals, and running 5Ks. She’s setting a good example by losing weight and improving her health. I’m celebrating her successes but ignoring my lack of improvement. At the end of March, Sue found a Groupon for Title Boxing Club. It was a cheap way to try their classes out for two weeks, and I still hesitated. I was worried about not being able to keep up; I was afraid that I’d quit. But Sue pushed me towards getting the Groupon, and, so, I did. To let you know how popular this was, the non-Family Groupon was sold out before we had even seen the offer. I bought the family one, which ended up being great because then Sue could join me.
Due to travel for work, it took me two weeks before I could go. After returning, I had two free weeks to try it out and no excuse not to. I went to a Boxing class last Monday. It was one of, if not the, hardest workout of my life. I hated every minute of it, and it felt like it was going to last forever. The boxing portion of the lesson had combinations that I’ve worked in Counterpoint Tactical Systems. I came close to quitting. I was on the verge when the instructor came up with focus mitts on both hands. He led me through an uppercut burnout exercise, where I threw right and left uppercuts as fast and hard as I could for however many seconds he counted down. It was probably 15 seconds but felt like 5 minutes. I threw punches the entire time, and when the instructor counted down to one, I got an extra burst of energy, enough to keep going. Later, after the final series of up/downs, I didn’t think I had enough to finish. The instructor announced the final punching sequence was a jab-cross burnout on the heavy bag. I had done one burnout exercise, and I knew I could do the second. After that, the instructor yelled gloves off. It was time for core strengthening, which went by fast. Before long, I had made it through the entire class. My legs were shaking, and my arms were red. I was exhausted, happy, and proud of myself for not quitting. There was a big, goofy grin on my face. At the end of that first class, I signed up for a membership.
So, for the past week, I’ve been going to Title Boxing Club in Saint Charles, MO. It’s a cardio boxing or cardio kickboxing gym. Classes are an hour long with a 15-20 minute warmup (filled with push ups, squats, some jogging, etc.) then 25 – 30 minutes of cardio work, followed by 15 minutes of core strengthening as a cool down. During the cardio focused portion, the instructor calls out combinations, like jab – cross – lead hook – cross, and then we hit the bag until it’s time for a new series of punches. Some instructors just keep going on one combination after the next; others will put push ups or squats in between each combo. The required equipment is wrist wraps and boxing gloves. I’ve been to four sessions, and it seems as if each has been harder than the one before it. Each class has also been more rewarding than the one before it. Usually, I hate going to the gym, but I’m finding myself looking forward to that hour. I set small goals for each class, like maintaining the plank for 30 seconds instead of 15. Each goal pushes me and yet is still attainable.
As I’ve said above, this is the very beginning of a long journey. Luckily, Sue has started going to the club with me. We’re helping each other improve our health. She’s working with me to eat better. Between the instructors and Sue motivating me, I’ve started something good here. I think that I need a class setting to stick with a program. The external motivation is pushing me farther than I would go by myself. During class when I need motivation, I just think about sparring Pekiti Largo. I think about how amazing the end of class feels. I look over and see my girlfriend’s pink gloves working hard on the heavy bag. I push a little farther. I get a little stronger.