Jess - I didn't realize you are our trainer. I'm so excited to have you as training partner AND trainer.
1. Where are you in the world and whats the weather like?
San Francisco. We are moving into a great time of year weather wise. Mild, beautiful spring.
2. Are you training with anyone?
Not in person, but I've made many connections online in the Kommunity and I consider them real even though I haven't met these people.
3. Is this the first time you've used kettlebells? If so, what do you think so far?
Yes. The workouts are fine, although they seem a little bit easy so far. I'm sure I'll pay for this comment later. I know Kenzai!
4. What question would you like to ask other members (that they can answer in comments on your blog)?
What are your training weaknesses? How will you overcome them? How can your teammates support you?
Ok, I'm not even going to pretend with y'all. I'm going on vacation in the Philippines in June and it's going to be all beaches all the time. The next two months are all about getting bikini-body ready. I'm not going to use terms like fitness, health, personal growth. April and May are all about looking better (almost) naked.
I've got some assets here. I'm coming off a strong run at Chisel in which I nailed the exercises and was intentionally 80% on diet. I'm feeling in really good exercise condition, injury free, and I'm proud of my musculature - I think the latter will only get better through lifting a cannonball around for six weeks. The main focus for me is mobilizing the fluff around my mid-section. I know that will only come from strict diet over the next 8 weeks (at my age, very strict!). I'm well aware of my weak points here...
ED - NO ALCOHOL! NO OFFICE M&Ms AT 3PM! NO LATE NIGHT POPCORN! NO "BUT I DESERVE THIS" MEALS WITH FRIENDS. So here we go.
I'm challenged in that I'm on the road this week at a Fellowship, and taking my kettlebells was a bit impractical. So I'll be starting off in hotel gyms. I think I can find something to throw around. All meals will be prepared for us this week, but I think I can navigate my way relying on rice, veggies, and some plain meats. I'll just have to accept some extra oil and salt in this first week. I was able to get fairly kompliant breakfasts (shown) at the airport and at my first stop.
Excited to see this crew! Three great teammates I know from prior programs (hey Jess, Barb, Tommy!) and I look forward to getting to know you Andrew, Rouella, Michelle, Robert and Nandini.
Alright let's get to bell-ing.
Round Three Complete GRADUATION POST
Thanks team, for a great run this past six weeks. Special shoutout to Da Fish. I haven't been on a team with you before and you were definitely the soul and head cheerleader of our group with your daily posts and commenting on every single teammate's post.
Chisel has become my favorite and my go to program. There is nothing like it for both feeling like a bad-ass, as well as the efficiency of the workouts.
I attacked all the workouts, and my diet was mostly on target. I definitely stopped the fluff gain that happened through the holidays and during Mind. I didn't drop a full belt notch, but when I squeeze my mid-section the abdominal muscles are closer to the surface.
Final workout was fun, but this time I noticed it was easy compared to the three cycle workouts. In other programs like KB3 the final workout is killer. Interesting choice. Anyways, got out, got it done and then had plenty of time for a two hour nerf gun war with my kids in the beautiful SF spring sun.
I had a couple of indulgent celebratory meals this weekend (Italian! Korean!) and then it's right back on track for the next couple of weeks. I'll be weight focused on my own in the gym until Kettle Bell starts on April 8. I'm excited to try a new program and add another badge - that will be my 100% program this year with the goal of getting in bikini shape for our June trip to the Philippines. Beaches, beaches, everywhere!
Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to have a late lunch near San Francisco with two Kenzai royalty, Watson J who was in from N Carolina on business, and Tahera Z who drove up (over an hour) from San Jose.
I've "known" these two for years on Kenzai. Watson's wife Meghan was on my initial Kenzai Body team (we brought her in on Facetime and that was fun!), and I was Tahera's trainer when she did Body a few years ago, and I think I was her trainer subsequently on Run. There is something special about having the opportunity to meet Kenzai folks in person. You share this connection - commitment to health, lots of egg whites and V-sits, understanding each others likes and dislikes and weaknesses, half-naked pictures every Monday. So you have this connection but there is of course so much you don't know. It was like old friends catching up - which I guess is exactly what we are.
Thanks Watson for organizing this. Here's his take on the experience: https://kenzai.me/watsonj/blog/so-this-happened
Over the past year, three Kenzai lessons have been most influential to me. The ones on sleep hygiene, on injury prevention, and on stress busting. The stress busting lesson came up again late last week, and was a great reminder about the power of flow state. Since reading that lesson a year or so ago, I try to get into flow state a few times a week with activities like playing outside with my kids, getting into nature, raptor bird watching, cooking a favorite recipe (this one is hard to do in an uninterrupted flow state - please see afore mentioned kids).
On Sunday, I was able to get hours of flow-state with a perfect day. My soccer club had its annual intra squad tournament - a series of 4 v 4 games with a randomly drawn team. I played about 150 minutes of soccer. That's a lot. It was with a bunch of great guys so we were flowing all around. Although if one indicator of flow is that you don't pay attention to time, I admit that at the end of the day, I definitely wondered how many more minutes I could go. Happy, tired, and wet from both sweat and rain, I returned home to find that husband and kids were still out. I drew myself a hot bath and then had over an hour to read in the bath tub. I know that every parent reading this blog now wants to stab me in the neck from jealousy.
All that soccer has made the Chisel exercises tough this week, but it's totally worth it.
Another note: Mind ended in mid-February, but I've been going strong on the meditation. I meditate most mornings for 10 minutes.
I'm not actually in the valley, but damn, we've all been there with this damn egg haven't we?
Food game has been on point have Sharm's scolding last week. I've had some social engagements but have directed them toward places that have kompliant options. Last night I had some friends over and made lasagna from scratch. I make a damn good lasagna. But see pic below, I had an apple + egg white dinner with just a slight sliver of the lasagna. Also found a new great breakfast restaurant that has this "smoothie bowl" as a well as a savory breakfast porridge featuring roasted butternut squash and kale. Veggies for breakfast in a restaurant? Is the world catching up with us?
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.