Things are going great, although I need to lock in the diet just a bit tighter. Feeling optimistic about a perfect week now through the weekend.
Cycle B is hellish. How are Double Hang Times, Wall Sits, and Russian Dancers all on the same day?
Hey Balo teammates, excited to join you a week late, after a great run on Kenzai Mind. If you've wanting to try meditation, or have an off and on relationship with it like I did, check out this program. The lessons were amazing in getting me to understand a meditation practice in a different way. For example, meditation is like exercise; it has great benefits but it usually feels like hard work when you do it. That was transformative for me in shifting from a "why am I not at one with the universe and levitating after I've been breathing quietly for 4 minutes?" attitude to a "whatever happens is right" attitude. Okay, done with that plug.
However, I wasn't disciplined with my diet during Mind. That + holiday gain = significant waistline fluff. I had dropped two inches from my waistline by the end of Iron in early Dec, and my waistline has expanded the same amount by mid-Feb. Let's see if we can drop one of those inches during this program. Being on Chisel is like seeing an old friend. This is my favorite Kenzai program. I love the intensity, the brevity of the workouts, the 6-week focus, the let's get it done and then we are done. The big focus for me will be staying on diet and avoiding alcohol. I have some indulgences that I want and plan to engage in - my parents' 50th anniversary dinner this Friday night, a lunch with colleagues long in the planning next Monday, my annual St. Patrick's Day dinner party on the 17th. If I just stick to those, I should be fine. There are some other challenges that are tempting but that I will navigate - both sons' birthday party this Saturday, date night to see Hamilton on March 7, two other nights out with colleagues. Those are the types of of extras that can break a program and I have allowed similar distractions to mitigate results in the past. So strength and courage.
Here's the avocado toast that signals my start of program, and below is the mini-toast I made for my younger son because he's always coming for mine and I don't like to share.
Shit I Learned While Sitting Still GRADUATION POST
- Meditation is exercise. It feels like work and it will pay off. Some days it feels really great. Somedays it feels like crap and it's still a good idea to do it.
- It's not about eliminating thoughts. It's about recognizing though chains.
- For me, stopping though-chains is about smiling at them, letting them go, and coming back to the breath.
- That is really hard work.
- If I am consistent with it, there are payoffs. But the payoffs are inconsistent.
- Even with my busy schedule, I have time to do this 10-15 mins every morning. It's worth it.
- If I go for more than 20 minutes, cool shit may happen.
- Going for more than 20 minutes feels really long.
- I can be aware of my feelings and reactions throughout the day. I can choose to react, or I can choose to watch how I am reacting, and respond differently.
- That is really hard work.
- I still want to levitate.
I just meditated for 42 consecutive days, y'all. Plan is to keep going with 10 mins in the morning, 10 mins in the afternoon or evening, and 30 mins once a weekend. Meditation will be challenging to incorporate with my already busy mornings, but it's a worthwhile practice. Excited to see where this takes me. Thanks team for your patience, silliness, and honesty through this process.
Did the 20 minute meditation today first thing in the morning. I was really distracted today. The meditation felt long - I was very aware of time passing. Lots of thought chains that I forgot to interrupt until they were well on their way. The chains were pleasant enough though, and the experience was overall calming.
Sitting on the floor is quite uncomfortable with my hips, so I've been doing one of three things - sitting on a yoga block in a modified version of the Burmese sitting pose, sitting on a chair, or laying on the floor. The last is by far my favorite. Is there a reason why floor or bench sitting is preferred? You don't see buddhist monks laying on the floor in rows, so there has to be some wisdom there.
Went into the 25 min meditation with some nervousness as it would be the longest meditation of my life. Overall, I found the experience to be pleasant and not overly difficult. Time passed rather quickly. I caught myself in thought chains and let them go without fuss. Somewhere toward the end of the time, my eyes felt heavy and I closed them. I saw this image of a large cavern. I felt very small at the edge of this wide hole and it extended far into darkness, perhaps forever. I knew that if I stepped inside I would be completely alone, but that felt neither scary nor lonely. But I was also clear that it wasn't time to step in yet. I opened my eyes and then the timer rang.
Is that death? Maybe some form of greater awareness? Maybe just a random vision of a hole?
If you are currently on a program, then you probably missed by Kenzai Note about trying to find balance off program. Hope you enjoy and relate. If you have ideas of things that have worked for you, please leave a comment.
Here's the text:
I’ve never been good at life balance. It’s my nature to go 100% at something while I deemphasize other areas of my life. So I will fully immerse myself into my career for a couple of months, then pivot to really embracing one of my hobbies like cocktail mixology, playing soccer, or raptor bird watching (the three don’t work simultaneously – trust me, I’ve tried) for a few months. And while I always make sure that my family gets my attention, even this has ebbs and flows. Something in my life is always wonderful, and something is always on hold. I find balance not in a single moment, but over the course of a year or two.
My relationship with fitness is similar. When I am in a Kenzai program, I’m (usually) fully focused and dedicated. Fitness is a priority and I make sure I exercise even if it means I have to reschedule a work meeting, or skip the first half of my son’s soccer game. I know how to lock down my diet almost without thinking about it. I use the food scale just for confirmation.
And then after every program, I make a plan to maintain my progress. Executing that plan has never worked perfectly.
If you are reading this Note, you are not in a training cycle, but still paying attention to Kenzai. It’s likely that you too are trying to figure out how to balance maintaining health and fitness with some freedom to enjoy dining and socializing. This is the period where we don’t have to avoid the chicken wings at the Super Bowl party. But figuring out how to live a little and still prioritize fitness maintenance can be an elusive challenge.
Here are some things I’ve tried.
Generally Eat Healthy + Exercise Almost Every Day
The plan here is to stay with the general principals of Kenzai, while leaving room for the fun stuff I can’t do on program.
Pros: It tests my ability to apply the principles I’ve learned in “real life”. I actually do see how I’ve incorporated many things – veggies for breakfast, regular fruit snacks, meals that are half veggie, quarter protein, quarter starch. I usually manage to exercise every day.
Cons: Inevitably, I start making more and more exceptions. I let myself eat the cookie. I go out with friends. Isn’t it great to finish the day with bourbon and one ice cube? As my exceptions expand, so does my waistline.
The 80% program
With Kenzai membership we have the opportunity to participate in numerous programs over the year. But I don’t want to run strict in all of them. So I tell myself that I will do Chisel but I’ll be 80% on the diet. I’ve made index cards that allow for two food and two alcohol indulgences per week.
Pros: In theory, this is an amazing way to go through a program. I love having the commitment, daily lessons, and team of a program. But I like having a little flexibility for fun on the diet.
Cons: In practice, I haven’t stayed on track for more than a week. I start taking more indulgences that I don’t count as indulgences. I eat free office M&Ms, or the damn girl scout cookies people leave in the kitchen. As my indulgences increase, so does my waistline. My final blog will admit that I didn’t quite get the results I wanted, but I feel good.
Here are some things I’ve sampled when off program: fat flush, carb-free, paleo, intermittent fasting.
Pros: I get to test the programs that my friends drone on about.
Cons: I never last more than three weeks. This is especially true if the program requires me to be hungry for a portion of the day – I’m looking at you, intermittent fasting!
There’s another strategy that I could employ here. I could accept that over the course of the year I will have peaks and valleys in my fitness. I could predict and expect that in the 6 weeks or 3 months of a program I will feel amazing and get great results. And then accept that in other periods I’ll enjoy socializing, bourbon and chicken wings (I really like bourbon and chicken wings) and that my pants will feel tighter in the waist at those times. I could embrace the cycles in my fitness, because those cycles apply to all areas of my life. I could accept that there is healthy behavior which is about regular exercise and good food, but allows leeway for other things, and then there is focused fitness which is about discipline and strictness over a limited time period. Then health would be consistent, but fitness would have planned cycles. I could accept the rhythm of it all.
Sure. Maybe next year.
I enjoyed the lesson on mantras last week. I'm bummed that we are discouraged from relying on them too often as short cuts. Because, yah, letting go of thoughts was a lot easier when I had a word or a phrase (yah, I know, a thought) in my head. I used "I am present" (in breath)/ "I am now" (out breath). I found myself deliciously focused, present, easy. Then I remembered that I shouldn't rely on the mantra and stopped using. At some point I had an awareness that a moment had passed in which I didn't have a thought. Was it half a second? What it three breaths? How long had passed, I have no idea. And of course I couldn't get back there because now I was thinking about it. The next day, our lesson was on "The Gap."
FYI that was almost a week ago and I haven't experienced a gap since.
I've noticed a really cool shift in the metacognition of my emotions. I've mentioned that I'm in a period of time-limited but intense work stress. This stress hit its peak this week with multiple deadlines coinciding. I've been trying to ensure that I don't take this out on my family. But...
Last night my son was dragging his feet on going to bed. I reminded him for the third time to brush his teeth. I told him he couldn't have another apple, and that there wasn't time for reading because he had chosen to play Othello with me instead. He had a shit-fit. I was about to go into an auto-triggered response, but instead, I observed my heart rate quickening, my breath getting shallower, my shoulders hunching up. That's interesting I thought. You are having a big reaction over a 7-year old stalling his bed time. Then further: you are having this reaction because you have work to do and you need him to get to bed to get started. That's not his fault. And I chose to just not say anything for awhile. When I did, it was this, "Hey B, did you hear the way my voice sounded short and tight when I was talking to you just now?" He nodded. "That's a sign that I'm getting upset that you aren't listening. When you hear me like that you know that I might yell, right?" He nodded. "Ok, so that's a good time to really listen to what I have to say, ok?" He nodded. "If you brush your teeth right now, I will make time to read one chapter with you." And he did. And I stayed calm.
I loved the lesson this week that Meditation does not equal Relaxation. I knew that meditation was work, but I also had this notion that being in the experience is supposed to be relaxing and calming, which certainly isn't my experience. I love the analogy to working out. We know that working out gives us more energy and will help us relax and sleep better, but in the moment it can be aggravating and tiring.
Ive been experimenting with sitting positions, hand positions and eyes open versus closed. Yesterday I meditated for the first time in the Burmese position. Wow was that empowering. My hips opened up, my posture felt elevated and steady, and it was like my breath melded with the world and I became a source of light like a small star and then I felt like I was flying or levitating or something. I’m joking - the experience was fucking awful.
I have tight hips and difficulty keeping my posture erect when sitting. Floor sitting is always hell for me. I gave it a go today (I used a firm cushion) and right away my hips started complaining and then my lower back. I spent a lot of time thinking about discomfort rather than on my breath. I did have a thought(chain) that maybe sitting in this position for a little while every day will help my hips open up, but no, then I’ll just be thinking about discomfort throughout my meditation. I noticed being uncomfortable made me think about time much more. I think I’ll be sitting in a chair for this program. I'll consider it my throne as I become the Queen of Calm. Or… Is laying on one’s back prohibited? I’ve meditated like this many times and find it to be the most comfortable, obviously easy on my body, and I don’t fall asleep. Okay, rarely, but then I probably needed more sleep.
One pleasant thing today was that my cat came up to rub against me while I was meditating. I held her and pet her and then thought wait- I’m probably not supposed to have this distraction, then thought(chain) we know that petting animals has a positive physiological effect – the heart rate drops, endorphins increase, so she’s got to be a great meditation support, so I’ll take the feline assistance when I can get it- preferably when I’m in a chair.
My husband has been meditating alongside me most mornings. It's been sweet to have this connecting activity before the chaos of the day begins. He can sit in a Burmese or Lotus position just fine. Bastard.
This morning, I decided I would meditate right after getting up, and without getting out of bed. I know that can be a tricky practice because of the likelihood of falling back asleep. But I knew once I got to the living room there would be a thousand competing priorities. As I lied there breathing deep, my seven-year old walked into my room and crawled into bed with me. He's not a particularly affectionate kid- not really into snuggles, but I think he thought I was sleeping and so pushed himself right up against me and lay his head on my arm. I pulled him in and held him for the rest of the meditation and beyond. I don't think there was any best practice going on here, but damn if this wasn't the most fulfilling meditation I've ever done. I was definitely aware. I was definitely in the present.
Ok - my why - Meditation is something that I have played with on and off since high school. But I've never stuck with it. Unlike many of the physical practices that I've incorporated in my life, meditation hasn't been sticky. If there's any vehicle to get me to meditate - it's Kenzai. I trust the trainers, the community and the process. Kenzai has gotten me to eat veggies for breakfast, go into hard core training mode several times a year, warm up before exercise, stretch regularly, eat egg whites for dinner, do Yahoos jumps and the Creep in public. I'm also in a particularly stressful period right now - all career related, fortunately family and health are great, so having time to breath and be present, as well as staying focused on good nutrition and a little exercise every day will be important for me right now.
Be easy, y'all.
Okay, stop the thought chain by focusing on my breath. I got this. Here we go.
Inhale deep. Exhale 1. Inhale deep.
This is so boring. I’m bored. Oh -
Inhale deep –
but it’s good for you. Meditation is the kind of boy that you do take home to mama. It’s good for you. It’s handsome – I mean we all want to be calm and collected and fuck -
was that 4? I'll start over 1 – I mean it seems cool, shit Cecilia want to fucking levitate. That chick is crazy I love her I can’t believe we missed each other over the holidays – FUCK
Exhale (I should just start at 1 again) keep exhaling.
You know that metaphor of meditation being the kind of boy that you take home to mama would make a good blog. Maybe I should just follow that train of thought and then I’ll have something funny to write about. Because meditation seems cool and is pretty and is definitely good for you, but is sooooo boring, so it’s like I’d rather have a fling with a bad boy like what’s a good comparison – Chisel? Kettle Bells? No Chisel is definitely that bad boy of the Kenzai programs. Maybe that’s why I keep going back to it. But I also keep going back to meditation, I mean this must be the 9th time I’ve tried to start a meditation practice, but it’s so hard to maintain because while I like having meditated, I don’t like actually meditating and WHOA
what number is this I’ll start at one again whooooooooooooo
You know it would be cute if I did this blog from being inside the meditation instead of just making that cute-ish comparison as the kids say that would be so "meta" and also is there anything that says I can’t move while meditating because I feel like if I pulled my knees to my shoulders that would feel really good and isn’t yoga or tai chi just basically movement meditation? And HOLY SHIT my timer is going off already- WOW that was five minutes of meditation it went by so quick I'm so good at this and I’m going to feel so grounded today.
Iron Clad GRADUATION POST
My fourth 90 day program is complete.
Let's get some disappointments out of the way. Despite diligent effort, I didn't gain a lot of muscle. My measurement numbers show that I was basically the same size at the start and end of the program with the exception of a two inch drop in the waistline (yay!), and a small increase in the hips and thighs (squaaaaats!). You can see from the before and after pics I posted the musculature looks the same, although I definitely lost fat. I'm also disappointed with my diet effort. I had way more slip ups than I had planned, including basically a week of poor eating at Thanksgiving. I didn't meet my commitment to myself in this way. One thing I'm learning is that as I approach 50, my metabolism is unforgiving. So I either need to bring real austerity if I want to get killer results, or just be okay with cheating here and there and be ok with decent but not awesome outcomes. I want my abs back but I love chicken wings.
Okay, that's out of the way. I loved this program. I have to admit that I felt a bit cocky coming in to it because I've been lifting weights consistently for 28 years. So I was surprised a little bit almost every day when the amazing lessons taught me more about anatomy, physiology, how each exercise works what muscle, and proper form. I've been doing deadlifts wrong for a long time.
Results: even though I didn't stick to the diet all the time, I dropped 2.5 notches on my belt. I ate a lot of really healthy food and I mostly stayed away from the liquor which is my great achilles heal. I like how I look in the mirror. I'm feeling fit, svelt, strong and mobile. I'm definitely pleased with my progress with the weights. Although a shoulder injury a month in kept me from going heavy with all the exercises, I hit PRs in squats, deadlifts, and the one I was really gunning for - pull ups. My goal was to be able to do three sets of 10. At the beginning of the program I was maxing at 3. Now I'm amazed at how easy it is to whip out 10 - 12.
My post-program goal is to keep exercising hard during the holidays with a combination of Chisel workouts and Iron maintenance. Diet wise - I'm going to keep eating healthy but allow myself to enjoy various holiday festivities. I'm planning to try Mind early in the New Year.
Thanks teammates, especially to Burnsie who is constantly motivating and humorous. Thanks to the broader Kenzai fam that is always jumping in and supporting. Coach Matt - you are the best in the business. It's always a privilege to be in program with you.
All year long it’s been my goal to hit 3x10reps of pull-ups. I’ve been inching closer to it during this Iron program and doing at least four sets every workout. But I haven’t been able to get past 7 reps on the second set.
Today I smashed through it. 12 reps on the first set and then four more sets of 10. Feeling pretty proud today.
In other news, I went to the gym yesterday, got on the cross-trainer and the opened up my Kenzai lesson which said I should spend the entire day resting in preparation for this intense week. Oops.
Final week, let’s go team!
1. I made him his own breakfast it NO he wants Daddy’s avo toast, you know little man, I measure my breakfast to the gram and I do not like giving up the few carbs that I’m allotted, get your own damn toast.
2. Pull up PR!
3. the Nutcracker is the best named exercise of all time
Like you've never had that day where you drove to a meeting in Oakland, parked in a parking garage, went to a cafe for your meeting and ordered coffee and breakfast, then couldn't find your wallet, realized you left your wallet at home, and apologized to the person you were meeting with (first meeting) who graciously bought your coffee and breakfast. Oh then you went to your car and couldn't get it out because you didn't have money to pay the parking garage. So you took a Lyft home to San Francisco and got your wallet, then took a Lyft back to Oakland, except with the rain and traffic it took 1.5 hours to get there, just so you could get your car out of the garage and then drive back home. Finally in the evening, you put both kids in the tub, and the little one poops in the tub, requiring you to move both (screaming and laughing) kids to another tub to wash them thoroughly before you do a deep cleaning of the first tub. WHAT YOU'VE NEVER HAD THAT KIND OF DAY?!
But I got my workout in - albeit I went for a 30 minute run + 20 mins of stretching because I didn't have time for the full workout, and I stayed pretty close to my grams. So success! Success? Success. ish.
I have a question on form for the Good Morning exercise. My form feels very close to a deadlift, except I'm "bowing" a little more. Am I doing it right?