Jeff W.

Jeff W.

Kenzai Blast: T-shirt Ready | Day 3 (Member)
Kenzai Blast: T-shirt Ready
Day 3
 
Program progress:
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Hello KB3, with a special big shout-out to my fellow Pumas! Pumans! Pumani!

Did you read the headline and reflexively think it ends with an angry exclamation point? Are you wondering if I got out of bed on the wrong side this morning, and am cranky and feeling a bit hostile? Is the lack of chocolate kicking in?

None of the above. It ends with a period (a/k/a full stop). It’s an idea, not a command. Breathe… breathe.

(Gentle warning: this is a really long post. It gets there in the end, though. At least I think it does. Totally skippable by No Attention Span Gotta Check My Insta Millennials. The next one will be bite-sized, just for them.)

Heard of Tokyo’s (in)famous Shinjuku Station? Yeah, the one they love to show on foreign TV with station employees pushing people into trains (that does happen, but not always). It’s widely recognized as the world’s busiest, serving over 3,640,000 passengers (so says Guinness). Not every year, not every month. Every day.

Most days, I am at least two of those passengers. One – heading to work. Two – heading home. Some days I am even more than two, if I am going to meetings or events or a daughter’s volleyball match or shopping or a movie or to a park or… well, you get the idea.

Once upon a time I got quite stressed dealing with Shinjuku. I hated it. Cursed it. Avoided it. Then I got to know Shinjuku. And then… I got to LOVE Shinjuku.

As a place and its geography / topography / topology – it went from a tangle of over two dozen platforms spread out on different levels with a zillion exits and transfer gates and endless passageways and myriad patterns of stairs and escalators and shops and restaurants and signs and signs and signs and rules… to familiar. It helps that I have a really good sense of direction and memory for places (at the heavy cost of never remembering names, even though I love meeting people. Speaking of people...).

With all those people – it went from a zillion people (okay, only 3.64 million people – every single day), all going different directions at different paces with different bags and backpacks and purses and different worries and stresses, and in the last couple of years giant groups of Mainland tourists with humungous suitcases and parcels from BIC Camera and Uniqlo and Toto always just standing there in the middle of everything, exactly at the worst intersection or just inside the gates or at the top of the escalator, and even natives simply unaccustomed to such a busy place (especially the non-commuters on weekends), stopping and turning suddenly, and in recent years even worse is everyone walking slowly, heads down, playing on their phones, getting off the train too slowly or on too slowly or walking too slowly or bumping into everyone around them… to… well, to “Cool!” and “Happy” and even “I LOVE Shinjuku”.

What changed?

As a place – I wondered about the sheer gravity of Shinjuku, why I spend so much time here, seemingly unavoidably. And I realized that this is where I can get a quick haircut, find a cool “Tokyoesque” gift, donate blood, meet old friends for coffee and make new friends over coffee (and such is the coffee – old-style, new-style, from Doutor to Verve, from Starbucks to Blue Bottle, and more more more), volunteer at the Tokyo Marathon, buy pretty much anything (really – ski gear, guitar strings, stationery, electronics, picture frames, clothes, that weird fastener for my old jacket, and that’s just the start), see a movie, go to a bread-baking school, and even have a slow Saturday date with Mrs. W. (I won’t mention the amazing selection of restaurants and food shops while just starting the KB3 diet.) As a place, I fell in love with the complete nutso of it all, the total wacky of it all, the utter bonkers of it all, the inexplicability of how it came to be and how it holds together and is really quite clean and totally efficient and how it changes and how everything always seems to be delivered to where it should be somehow. I love the ocean and the seaside and the forest and the mountains and beautiful natural vistas. But I found that I could love this shockingly unattractive, haphazard, entirely artificial place for totally different reasons. I found that I could be more flexible in my thinking about what makes a place wonderful.

With all those people – I started to watch the people. To look at them… as people. And they enraptured me. The office workers, suited and booted, somehow up and dressed and looking very presentable way too early on a chilly morning, even after the late night before. The tourists, wide-eyed and excited, full of anticipation and that addictive confusion that we all have in new places. The friends delighted to share some time together. The nervous-waiting-for-their-date-ers. The couples having an argument, maybe one is crying or trying not to. The exhausted mothers and fathers and their kids… and the joyous mothers and fathers (often the same mothers and fathers!). The college kids heading out to ski or surf or simply stare at each other nervously. And then there are the really, really little kids (6 years old? 7?) heading to school in the morning in their impeccable uniform and hat and shoes and giant leather old-style backpack with their train pass attached by a springy plastic cord. And the station workers keeping an eye on everyone and everything, not only the trains and the gates and that guy who can’t get the digital phantom Suica on his new iPhone to work, but there to help the lost tourist and the elderly lady who’s just gotten turned around in the spinning waves of commuters. I fell in love when I realized this – that this is a safe place where lots and lots and LOTS of life is happening, vigorously, vitally, continuously, in an intense concentration. And while so many places in the world right now are best avoided when crowded, this place is alive with its crowd. It even rests, which I found out one very early morning, surprised to be the only person in the entire central passage (well, for a few seconds, anyway).

But there still was a big problem. How could I like the place, and feel very warm and fuzzy about all those people, and yet still DEAL with all those people when I really did have somewhere very important to go… how to not get slammed and bounced around like a pinball, jostled and shoved and bumped and, most of all, run into head-on? (Or avoid the head-on collision’s fraternal twin, the “avoiding each other left-right-left dance”.)

And then I learned the trick. And (and this is your reward for reading this far) it works well in Kenzai training, too.

Look where you are going.

That’s it. The entire trick. If you walk head down, or walk looking meaningfully and deeply into the eyes of those approaching you, hoping to silently communicate who will go to the left, invariably you will walk into people. But if you really look where you are going, over the shoulders of those approaching you, not quite seeing them but certainly not coldly ignoring them, you become a Shinjuku Moses – the crowd magically parts, the path clears, the hustle stops hustling, the bustle stops bustling. It really works. Really. (Except on those big groups of Chinese tourists, for we all know that nothing works on them. They are a happy force of nature. Those you just need to walk around, thanking them silently for keeping the retail economy afloat.)

Those of us who learned from (suffered through) the “Covey Seven Habits” will remember “Begin with the End in Mind”. I’ve liked that one for years. It works well for KB3 – we know the end (we sleep well, digestion is bang on perfect, we rock the bod and the clothes, we walk strong and confident, we inspire others to get fit, and more) – so let’s keep it in mind.

In other words – look where you are going. You are going to feel great and energized and strut-worthy sexy, you are going to look awesome, you are extending your life by many healthy years… you know this. You know where you are going. Look at where you are going as you walk through the crowds, and past the snacks and chocolate and wine and distractions and temptations and naysayers and saboteurs. If the passage gets crowded and you can’t quite see where you are going, or get spun around by the noisy crowd – write about it on your blog and we will help you right on through.

I really want a bite (or ten) of dark chocolate right now. But that chocolate is simply a harried commuter heading home to her family who happened to be there “in my way”. I gently look over her shoulder to fitness and energy and a fit bod and success with my KB3 mates. I walk past the temptation. Or maybe there are just too many reps to do. Look past them (while you do them), to how you’ll feel after 90 days of moving forward.

You know where you are going. Look at it.

Proud to be walking this path with you, I am out-of-words yours,
Jeff


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Reach – D.90+ -- A bit more flexy... and chilled 
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Hello Kenzai Reach.

Well, I think many will agree… THAT was interesting. It was Kenzai, but with fewer outwardly visible results. It was Kenzai – smart lessons, well-designed workouts, warm and able leadership and trainers, and a great community – but it wasn’t about losing weight and gaining muscle or even adding endurance. So what was it, exactly?

For me it turned out to be not so much about my body than about… well, than about me. Amongst all that breathing and holding poses and positions, there was a lot of time to think, and to not think, to just... be. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, the flexibility and resilience that we started to develop physically also started to affect me mentally, emotionally, maybe even spiritually? It created a new sense of “chill”. I’ve backed off from Reach exercises for a few days to see what would happen (also being denied any access to Reach materials until I finish this post, which was a bit of a nasty surprise). And I can feel a bit of unease forming already. Yes, I miss my Reach routines!

I am glad I did Reach. I feel that I have a new set of tools to help me maintain my body and my spirit. I am not quite sure how I’ll weave yoga and stretching into my Kenzai routine, but I will figure out a way. I am also thinking of attending some yoga classes with Mrs. W. It’s a whole new stretchy flexy world. Staying flexible in the joints will be more important as the years rack up.

The program was new and has a few rough edges, but overall it seems very well-conceived and presented. It needs a few clearer caveats at the beginning. As I mentioned, outward signs of clear progress didn’t seem to be very evident for many of us. Well, that’s not exactly true. I lost quite a bit of muscle tone during this program, and put on a bit of weight (nothing worrisome, nothing that KL and a dose of diet discipline won’t fix)… I was prepared for all that… but those not the kind of “outward signs” we are hoping for. I somehow expected to be much more bendy by the end. My mistake, but not a fatal one. Let’s see where I get to in a year of KL + KR.

I am very grateful to my fellow Reach trainees. I enjoyed meeting a whole new group of people. We learned a lot together, and were confused and enlightened together.

As you can probably tell, this program did not elicit the wide-eyed, gleeful, almost-hyper-happy feelings of other Kenzai programs. And that’s just fine. It’s a mellow program about an important part of our fitness recipe. Thanks to the Kenzai team for designing it and launching it. It’s off to a great start.

A bit more flexibly yours,
Jeff


Hello Reach (again)!

I asked a few minutes ago: "Have you felt an emotional change?" during Reach.

I'm not sure it's completely related to doing Reach, but I'm not sure that it's not related. Over the past couple of weeks I found that I'm much more "chill" at work and during my morning and evening commute. It's not so much that I was ranting and raving before and now I'm simply Mr. Mellow... it's more than I find that I don't have to try much to contain or control or manage or even think about my emotions when things are frustrating or people are being difficult. I feel more like the duck that just lets the water wash over its wings (an analogy I learned from a wise hypnosis therapy friend years ago).

It's kind of like I've grown a bit more Teflon-y to many of the things that I used to find myself needing to tolerate. Now I feel like there's a bit of a force field around me that keeps these things from ever becoming something I have to deal with. Does that make sense?

In other words, I'm feeling pretty chill at work and during my commute. That translates into coming home feeling pretty chill too, which makes the evenings and weekends that much more fun.

How about you?

Chilled-ly yours,

Jeff

P.S. I am proud to have become a member of Kenzai back on the 28th. It was a pretty easy choice, see how much I've gained from Kenzai and having you all as fellow trainees over the past few years, and how much integrity and talent is in the leadership of the program. I'm also excited about the mini-courses. Especially "How to do a pull-up"!


Hello Reach!

Here we are after 55 days of morning wake-up stretches, dynamic / PNF routines and evening stretches. How are you all feeling? And have you felt an emotional change, too?

On the physical front, I'm experiencing many of the same things that my Kenzai Body colleague Andy D. describes here:

https://kenzai.me/andy/blog/unexpected

Some nice surprises. I notice mine during Sun Salutation usually around rep five or six and during any evening stretches that have me bringing my upper body down towards my leg(s). The strangest thing I've noticed is not so much sudden progress. It's that the sudden progress seems to happen when I'm not thinking about making sudden progress. It's usually quite a ways into a session when I've got some good rhythmic breathing going and I just kind of let things go and relax for a moment, and almost subconsciously try to move a bit more into the stretch. And that's when it happens: a stretchier back band, a firmer downward dog, my chest weirdly closer to my knees.

I didn't make as much progress on this course as I expected, which made me realize that I expected too much. But I did make progress. And I did chill out quite a bit. I'll write more about that in part 2 of today's blog entries.

How about you? Any surprising progress this last week or two?

A bit more flexily yours,
Jeff


Reach D.49 -- no cardio?

Hello Kenzai Reach. How's your strength training Sunday going?

Is it just me, or is it strange not having any cardio today?

Well, of course nothing stops us, right? I'm opting for 10-15 minutes of jumprope... and maybe a swim...

You?

Rebelliously yours,
Jeff


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Hello Reach colleagues. How are you? I’ve been off the blogs for several days, but have managed to do a good job with the workouts and a better job with the diet. Not great on the diet yet. Time to re-commit to clean eating and time on the blogs, especially reading and commenting.

How about you? Feeling more flexible and supple? As much as the stretches feel great, I am having trouble sensing progress. Maybe it’s time to dig out that first day assessment and do a comparison session. More on that later this week.

Before then, I was thinking of you all after a call with… my financial planner. There isn’t much to talk about, usually – just a bit of savings and some basic investments and college savings and life insurance. Nothing dramatic.

As we wrapped up the call, we discussed how we hadn’t met in person for many years (they are in California). I casually mentioned that since I’d last seen them I’d started a new, very big and important investment, albeit many years later than I should. An investment in my health and fitness. It was a quick comment, and they didn’t ask much about it, and the call ended.

It got me thinking . Even with all the work we put into education and self-improvement and careers and planning for the future, many of us didn’t take such good care – didn’t really invest – in the “machine” that we rely on daily, and will rely on when it comes time to enjoy the benefits of financial planning and other investing. No matter what future you envision for yourself and for those you care about, won’t it be better to have a fit and healthy body ready to enjoy that future?

Maybe it’s obvious to all of you, because you are already making this investment in you, but somehow spending time early on a cold Friday morning talking about interest rates and net returns and “alternative investments” made me think again about what shape I want to be in when it’s time to reap the benefits of the hard work and some fiscal planning.

Saving money takes time and discipline. It’s boring and tedious and not the slightest bit sexy. It seems very similar to a long-term physical fitness plan. And both are very not boring, not tedious, and very sexy further down the line. One big difference, though: you can never recover years lost by starting your savings later in life, but you can recover – even discover! – physical fitness at any age, as we have on Kenzai.

Whether you are saving a little or a lot, or somewhere in between, let’s be sure that we will have the personal physical “machines” ready to enjoy the rewards. Save those pennies, do those reps, stretch into the future!

Investedly yours,
Jeff

photo credit: “Financial vs. Physical Fitness – Is that really a contest?” http://www.edelmanfinancial.com/education-center/articles/f/financial-vs-physical-fitness (note: this is not my financial planner, but they had a nice illustration that I thought you’d like)


Hello Kenzai Reach!

I hope you had a good week, feeling lots of flexibility.

Highlights for me --

-- I went on three-day company trip to central Japan, to the Kumano Kodo region. Lots of important spiritual and natural places, so we had good walks and hikes over the course of three days. Our first day found us in quite heavy rain going up and then back down 538 rough-hewn stairs in the forest to a shrine. I was very happy not to be the slightest bit winded, tired or achey -- not once. Neither knees (each have which have had some bad painful days) spoke up, and I felt terrific. I don't know if that's being Kenzai strong, Reach flexible or a combination of both. I also did workouts every morning at 5:30 am.

-- I have done a terrible job with my diet -- the worst since I started Kenzai in January 2014. An all-time low with how I feel, and an all-time high in kilos and body fat percentage (but not near pre-Kenzai, thankfully). Well, at least I know how to fix it, and it's only "down" from here. I have been having a good e-mail dialogue with Trainer Ward on this... now it's simply up to me to remind myself how incredibly good Kenzai Clean Eating feels -- and how good 9 kilos less felt (actually, it was 13 kilos less at one point!) -- and get started again. My new goal for the end of Reach is 3-4 kilos down from where I am now, totally doable if I do the diet.

-- Reach workouts feel good, and I feel progress, but not as much as I dreamed of. Let's see what happens over the next several days.

Diet seems to be a challenge for many of us on Reach. Why? Is it the program's lack of focus on it? The ability to choose between relaxed and strict? Is it doing less cardio? Your thoughts, please.

Roly-poly-ily yours,
Jeff


Hello Reach colleagues. I hope you have had a week notable for increased flexibility -- not just physically, but when facing all the daily challenges, especially the small, fleeting, pesky challenges.

I wonder if you have had this thought -- "That's not quite enough."

During morning stretches over the past several days I have found myself continuing past the number of reps specified. The number of reps specified just isn't enough.

It's an easy "problem" to fix -- just do more reps. And I have.

What I'm really wondering is: as we move through Reach, do we need more morning stretch reps to feel some satisfaction? I don't view this as a bad thing, not at all. But I haven't quite figured out what it means.

Your thoughts, please!

Excessively (?) yours,
Jeff


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Hello Kenzai Reach. How was your weekend? And who would've thought that strength training yesterday would be… relaxing?

I spent time over the weekend thinking a lot about the diet for this program. As I mentioned at the beginning, I started this program on a business trip, and even though I requested a strict diet, I didn't start it. I had big plans to start upon returning to Tokyo last week, but I still haven't started it. "Why not?", I have been wondering. Maybe I'm overconfident that I can start anytime, and lose weight anytime. Maybe I'm simply enjoying not doing it. But I don't feel great. And I don't want to do it halfway either. So what's stopping me?

Then I got to thinking about why I am feeling so tired. It can't just be the jetlag. Surely that has passed. So I thought back to the past few weeks. Before I went to London, I was doing Kenzai Life 5 days a week AND swimming at least five days a week, 25 to 40 minutes each time. Then in London the swimming stopped, but Kenzai Life continued, until Kenzai Reach began. This all adds up to a steady decline in aerobic activity. And am I ever feeling it! Lethargy, lethargy, lethargy. Yuck.

I think this lethargic feeling is contributing to my lack of interest in the diet. It certainly has contributed to putting a few kilos on. So what's the solution?

Not a complicated one, to be sure. It's time to add some aerobic exercise back into my life. I'm really enjoying Reach, but I need to keep the weight off to feel good, and aerobic exercise and a good diet helps.

This adds up to a simple prescription: tonight I'll cook up a batch of vegetables, and my (in)famous Moroccan Chicken, and start the diet over the next day or two. And tomorrow morning I'm in the pool.

Have any of you been feeling the effects of a reduced aerobic workout schedule? This was always my only concern about Reach. Easily solved, of course.

In other news, I had quite a laugh last night. A couple of years ago, while communicating via Skype with a friend overseas, we started to play with the funny animated emoticons in Skype. Most of them are quite complex and often entertaining. There was one that we love, but completely did not understand.

Well, now we do! Check it out.

http://static.skaip.org/img/emoticons/180x180/f6fcff/suryannamaskar.gif

If you want to send it in Skype and can't find it in your emoticons list, try typing in (suryannamaskar) and hitting send.

(And as a bonus update -- While Mrs. W and I have always had nothing in common when it comes to exercising, suddenly last night we were doing Sun Salutation together! She's been doing Hot Yoga, and learned it there. We laughed... a lot.)

Pudgy, but on the mend,
Jeff


Hello Kenzai Reach. How is your week wrapping up?

The past couple of days of Reach have been interesting for me. After reading the lesson about how the entire set of motions is the pose, and not just the "hold" part, I tried to reboot my Kenzai Body 1 & 2 brain into a new way of moving. And along the way I had a nice little realization:

How we enter a pose -- how we begin and move into it, and how we exit a pose -- and the importance of not just stopping where we are, but actually returning to our starting position... well, that's all super-crucial, isn't it?

It's one thing to read about it in a well-written lesson. But it's another thing entirely to put it into practice. And practice I must... it's not a natural approach after almost three years of "4 sets of 12" Kenzai Body strength training.

When I start from a neutral, grounded position, enter the pose with purpose and focus (tilt that bowl!), hold the pose (and extend the stretch as and when I can), then reverse and exit with purpose... wow. That is amazing. Maybe this yoga thing is here to stay.

How about you? Are you finding a way to do the "entire pose" and not just the "hold for X breaths"? It takes a lot of focus and work. No zoning out.

Notes on today's workout (Day 19):

-- Sun Salutation is becoming a bit familiar. I'm re-reading it each time to see if I can do a better job of breathing at the correct time. It is, I dare say... fun?

--The Interlocking Forward Bend felt great... until it didn't. That mysterious abs cramp from Day 7 (https://kenzai.me/geoffrey/blog/reach-day-7-nostalgia) paid me a visit again. I got rid of it by stretching backwards, and then tried again. Made it through... and was very grateful that the next exercise was Upward Dog, which stretched me in the right direction. Strange... interesting, but strange.

Any surprises?

Sun salutatorily yours,
Jeff


Reach D.16 -- Jetlagged!

Hello, Kenzai Reach.

How are those Sun Salutation reps going? I'm beginning to find my rhythm and breathing with them. It's a nice workout in itself, isn't it?

I'm back from three weeks in London, totally jetlagged. A jetlagged puddle of Jeff.

But somehow I've managed to keep up with Reach workouts. I haven't really started on the diet -- that starts for me this week (that was always the plan given the travel and work).

A few random things...

Many exercises -- forward bends in particular -- seem to be done much better when focusing on the pelvis, as we learned in our lesson. That really helped.

And I didn't know we were going to post weekly photos -- oops! Somehow, when we did the starting flexibility assessment, I got the impression that photos were out for Reach. My bad... sorry about that.

And finally... is anyone feeling any progress at all? Or are we still in the "it's early days, trust it, it will come" phase?

Patiently and sleepily yours,
Jeff


Hello Kenzai Reach!

How is it going?

For me... Today sowed a bit of doubt. I am having a bit of trouble imagining how I will get to the point where I can do a foward split. Let's see where things are in a couple of weeks.

Cautiously yours,
Jeff


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Hello Kenzai Reach.

How about those evening exercises? Loooong. I wonder how soon it will be for thirty minutes of quiet long stretches to become familiar? Well, if past Kenzai courses are any guide, in a couple of weeks we will look back and smile slyly about how easy it was in Week 2.

Surprise of the day was how much stretch and work my arms got when holding them over my head for five minutes each. I was channeling my internal Baryshnikov! (With deep apologies to, of course, Baryshnikov.)

Now I wonder how I'll feel in the mornings after a couple of days of this.

How are you?

Искренне Ваш,
Jeff

photo credit: (how about THAT for a stretch?!) http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s250/bayadere93/spagaat/BaryshnikovMikail.jpg


Reach Day 7 -- Nostalgia

Dear Kenzai Reach Colleagues:

Who would have thunk it -- a Kenzai Life workout evokes... nostalgia?

It was a great relief to my inability to truly clear my head during the Reach exercises.

A strange thing happened, though (does this ever happen to you?) -- while once-in-a-blue moon I'll get cramped up and badly taut in my calves (usually at night) and need to stretch to get rid of it (using the famous toe-pull trick), today, at the end of my crunches for the very first time ever, I got totally cramped up and taut around my waist, just below my belly button. It's like the band of muscles there just decided to go into full-tension lockdown. It hurt! It was the end of my fourth set of crunches so I just stopped and stretched. Those muscles were taut and hard and it wasn't the kind of "hard six pack" that we see on those magazine covers -- it was more like hard steel tire around my body. It passed quickly and there are no aches... what WAS that? Any ideas?

Hmmm.

I'll stretch it out tomorrow, I'm sure. But next week I doing abs work very, very slowly.

Rigidly yours (and that's not a good thing),

Jeff


Hello Kenzai Reach.

Saturday morning -- up early for your Reach workout while much of your world keeps on sleeping... impressive. Well, you did say that you would do this, didn't you.

I did a bit of research on the Shavasana. Did you know that this is often called the most difficult pose in yoga?

I've found myself finishing the pose, maybe doubling the time I'm in it, and then doing a series of arm rotations and stretches... slowly bringing my arms down to my sides, then up to my chest to put my hands in a prayer position for a moment, then up over my head for a long stretch, and then back around again. Three or four of these feel great.

I probably am losing some of the relaxing benefits of the Shavasana, though.

What do you think?

Arms up up up-edly yours,
Jeff


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