Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Good Workout

I think I have mentioned the Voltaire quote about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good in an earlier post. It is practically my mantra at work. I've recently discovered that I should have applied it to my workouts, too.

My favorite workout is kickboxing. I took some form of kickboxing class for over five years, going from a style based on Bruce Lee's style, to pure Muay Thai, to a Kenpo Karate-Muay Thai mix. I would dearly love to be taking a kickboxing class now, but I cannot find one that fits my schedule. The weekday ones are all too late in the evening (or in the middle of the work day), Until bedtimes get easier here, there is no way I could miss one bedtime per week. That would just be cruel to my husband. Soloing for bedtimes is HARD. There are a few weekend classes that would theoretically be possible, but none of them are convenient enough to stand a chance of becoming a routine.

So, I've been trying other workouts instead. I've tried running. I don't really enjoy it, and my asthma often kicks in before I can really get my heart rate up. I've tried a workout DVD. I bought a dance workout DVD, thinking that maybe Petunia would dance along with me and thereby allow me to workout when she is in the room. No dice- she still comes over and demands "uppie!" Still, I could do it when she is not around- my husband agreed to pick the kids up one night per week so that I could get a kid free workout. Even with out the toddler impediment, though, I find that I'm too uncoordinated- I'm so busy trying to figure out the steps that I get a mediocre workout. I've looked into other types of workout DVDs, but the ones that look promising (i.e., that don't have the word "dance" in the title) all have reviews saying that they need lots of space... which I don't really have. I will probably pick one to try eventually, but I haven't yet.

Then, my sister and my parents got me a Wavemaster heavy bagfor Christmas. I'd thought about getting one before, but had always talked myself out of it, because I know that I won't get as good of a workout as I would in a class- and I won't improve my skill level as much, either.

It turns out, I was thinking about it all wrong. I was holding out for the perfect workout, when I should have been happy to take a good one. I don't get a workout that is as good as what I would get in a class, but I get a workout that is better than what I get with any other method I've tried since having kids. My skills won't improve much, but I have enough skills to workout safely and effectively, and that's what really matters. I'm not trying to turn myself into a martial arts master, after all. I'm just trying to lose a few pounds, increase my fitness, and make my clothes fit better again.

Oh, and beating the crap out of the heavy bag is excellent stress relief. How had I forgotten about that?

Also, working out in the privacy of my own garage has two distinct advantages over working out in a class: (1) I don't worry at all about what I look like in my workout clothes, and (2) I get to pick my own music.

What music did I pick? Well, since you asked.... Here is my workout playlist. I'll add comments, so it is almost like I'm playing along with the (now out of date) internet meme about listing songs that have been important in your life. But not really, because, as we have already established, I suck at internet memes.

Youth of Today - Amy MacDonald
I found Amy MacDonald via my Sinead Lohan station on Pandora. She's awesome (so is Sinead Lohan, actually). If you think about this song as being about mothers instead of youth, you'll get an idea of why I chose it to start my workout.

I am stretching and setting up my "gym" (rolling out the heavy bag, putting down the mat I boughtso I could do crunches, etc., in between bouts on the bag), putting on my hand wraps, and doing some light warm up while this is playing.

Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve
This song takes me back to Sweden, which I visited or a couple of months in grad school. This was before iPods, and my luggage was overstuffed without lugging along my music collection, so I listened to the local version of MTV a lot. This song was popular on that, and I liked it. I still love the opening string part. I once figured out how to play that violin riff. And then I forgot it. Doh. Not that I play violin much anymore!

I am doing a couple of rounds of shadowboxing while this plays. Shadowboxing is a great warm up, and also lets me think about form. I do crunches and other ab exercises in between rounds. Almost all of the rounds I do are two minutes, with 1-2 minutes in between rounds.

The Metro - Berlin
This song takes my sister back to Paris... but that's her story. It reminds me of high school, in a good way.

I am finishing up shadowboxing and doing a round of slow bag work while this plays. In slow bag work, I focus on form. I'm punching the bag, but going slowly, and trying to make sure I get my form right. I do more ab exercises in between rounds.

Violent - Stellar*
This is a New Zealand band. I've wanted to pound away on a heavy bag while listening to this song ever since I first heard it, because it just seems like the right thing to do when listening to this song. But it is also a romantic song for me. In a roundabout way, this song is responsible for getting me and my husband together. He was a visiting scientist at the company I was working at, and took a fancy to me. I was clueless about this, but I thought he was a fun guy to hang around with, so I did. I was extremely frustrated by one of my coworkers, and that made him think of this song. He had it on a mix CD (again- before iPods), so he lent me that CD. A couple of songs after this one, was the Iva Davies version of All the Way. Listening to that made me realize that the guy I was dating at the time didn't love me "all the way", and eventually I broke up with him and got together with Hubby. And the rest is history....

Anyway, this is a great song for a martial arts workout. I am doing my first round of full on heavy bag work while it plays. And then some more ab work and/or jumping jacks, depending on how I feel.

Ready to Go (U.S. Mix) - Republica
This is another song I found via Hubby. It was apparently used as an All Blacks theme song at one point. It is high energy and great for a workout.

I am doing more intense heavy bag work while it plays, followed by more ab work.

Common People - Pulp
This is a brilliant song, isn't it? Like so many Pulp songs, it manages to be upbeat and a little bit dark at the same time.

I am still pounding on the heavy bag. During this song, I throw in a round of "fast" work- a one minute round in which I just throw as many punches and kicks as I can. I don't disregard form, but I don't focus on it either. I've been mostly throwing punches- jabs, crosses, and left hooks are my favorites. This is an unbelievable workout for both heart rate and arm strength. By the end of a minute, my arms are jello. I need to add more kicks in as I get more fit, too.

Paint it Black - Rolling Stones
Apparently, this was an All Blacks theme song, too, at some point- how could it not be, given the NZ tradition of the "black out"? But I first heard it from my Dad. I've always liked it.

I go back to a focus on form for a round while this song is playing. By this time, my abs are getting tired, too, and I resort more to standing twists (and some of the other moves I learned from the abs workout on my dance workout DVD) than mat work. I expect that will get better with time, too.

Ring of Fire - Social Distortion
It pains my father when I say it, but this was the first version of this song that I ever heard. He quickly rectified that, but while I like the Johnny Cash version, this version is still my favorite. I think this goes all the way back to junior high... but I wouldn't swear to that. I had it on a cassette tape, though, and I can still see that tape in my mind. I loved it. I know I was still listening to it when I was 16, because I can remember driving around listening to the tape.

I do one more "regular" round on the bag, some ab work, and then the last 45 seconds or so, I do another speed round.

Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of - U2
To me, Joshua Tree will always be the best U2 CD. But All That You Can't Leave Behind is the CD that won me over to their newer stuff. This song dates from the time during which I was trying to deal with the slow end of my relationship with the man I dated all through graduate school- the one I broke up with before I started dating my husband. My ex is a great guy and we had some wonderful times together, but at the end he and I were, umm, stuck in a moment we couldn't get out of. Anyway, I still really like this song.

I am doing cool down, stretches, and putting the "gym" away while this plays. This gets cut short if I was late getting home, and I end up finishing my cool down stretches inside, while our leftovers heat up in the microwave.

By the end of my workout, I'm dripping with sweat (even though its been chilly here lately), and my muscles definitely know I've had a workout. I'm even a bit sore the next day, which makes me happy, because it means that I have finally figured out how to get some real exercise into my life, even if it is just a good workout and not a perfect one.


  1. You can "test drive" work out DVDs by checking them out of the library too, so you could see whether space is an issue.

    I feel hopelessly out-of-touch. I only know two of the songs you listed and one of them is the Johnny Cash version of "Ring of Fire".

  2. I'll never forget when I was in college the property manager who was "older", probably mid-30s/40 lol, said she had taken up kickboxing when she noticed while brushing her teeth that her arms had started to flap. At the time I was horrified. Now I wish I had time for kickboxing because I totally know what she meant.

  3. Glad you found a workout that works for where you are in your life right now. Great mix - our music tastes are pretty similar. Love Pulp, love Berlin - 2 bands people rarely mention in 2012, which is a shame! ;)

  4. Don't feel bad, @SarcastiCarrie! These are by no means "cool" music choices. Some of them I found via my Kiwi husband, so most Americans will not have heard them. And some are old. The one new artist on the list- Amy MacDonald- came from using Pandora to block out the noise at work. And good idea about looking for the workout DVDs at my library. For the daughter of a librarian, I can be shockingly forgetful about what libraries offer!

    @mom2boy- strangely, my arms never have gotten terribly flabby. Not sure why- maybe lifting my kids? But the back fat... ah, the back fat. I'm hoping the kickboxing sorts that out.

    @hush- thanks! The chance to listen to "my" music is a surprise win from the workout. Most of the time, I'm listening to the kids' music, or whatever Hubby has put in the car (because I'm too lazy to put anything in the car).

  5. I like your list of music - Pulp are great. Common People is such a snarky but Verve, U2, Stellar* - all good choices too!

    Boh Runga from Stellar* designs some beautiful jewellery now. My mother-in-law gave me a really beautiful little fantail necklace from her line for my birthday a couple of years ago.

    And @SarcastiCarrie, I'm feeling out of touch too. They've just had the Hottest 100 songs of 2011 on Triple J (my "pre-child that only wants to listen to classical or kids music" radio station) and I know hardly any of the songs. I might need to add listening to more new music to my list of new years plans...

  6. I test DVDs via Netflix. Like you, I lack space so most of the dance ones don't work for me as i'm too busy trying not to run into furniture! I did try something called 30 / 20 minute kickboxing. All i remember is that the instructor was blonde with a british accent and it was kickboxing-type moves that didn't require too much space.


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