Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week 3 - Boxing Classes

I am not a fan of the sport of competitive boxing. The concept of people hitting each other until they bleed (or worse) doesn't really sound like fun to me.

I will admit, though, I've clocked a couple of people in my lifetime. Two events come to mind, neither of which I'm overly proud of.

The first time I really hauled off and let someone have it occurred on a camping trip. We won't get into what I think of camping (frankly, it's somewhat on par with professional boxing, in my mind), but we will just say that I was none too thrilled with having to spend the night sleeping in a tent on the cold, hard ground. I went to bed early (hoping if I just fell asleep, I could hasten the end of the camping experience), put on my sleep mask, crawled into my sleeping bag, and dozed off. My friends stayed out by the fire with a case of beer. And when they finally crawled into the tent - none too quiet, I might add - I woke suddenly, forgot where I was, couldn't see anything (thanks to the aforesaid sleep mask) and randomly threw a right hook in the air. Despite all the factors working against me actually hitting someone, my fist connected with my friend Glen's nose. Hard.

The second time I used my fists occurred on a vacation in Rome. I was minding my own business, heading to the Spanish Steps, when all of sudden a gypsy child appeared on either side of me. Before I knew what was happening, the child on my left grabbed my arm tightly and started wailing aloud, trying to draw my attention towards her and away from my purse, while the child on my right attempted to make off with my wallet and camera. Luckily for me, I figured out what was going on pretty quickly, and realized the only way to shake the gypsy child's grip was to punch her in the hopes she would let go of me. So punch her I did, and once I was able to fight back, the two children ran off quickly into the tourist crowd. It was a little exhilarating. Until I had to admit I had just clocked a ten year old kid (on the shoulder, but nonetheless...)

Yup, I am a lover, not a fighter.

But while I would never want to participate in competitive boxing (not only could I not hurt anyone else, I am a big suck when it comes to other people hurting me), I have heard that boxing training is one of the most remarkable forms of exercise one can pursue for cardiovascular and muscle strength.

Yes, I'm still doing an exercise boot camp, and yes, I'm still doing hot yoga. Both of which have proven very effective in changing my body shape and making me a happier, healthier person. But Pan Am Boxing offers lunchtime training sessions, and there's something about trying a new form of exercise - and allowing me to exhaust myself while taking out my mid-day aggression on a punching bag - that strongly appeals to me.

So New Activity #3 = boxing classes.

Wish me luck, cue Rocky theme music, and cut to the meat locker....this fighter's out. Till next week, that is.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dancing Queen - Update

Okay, I maybe wasn't as enamoured with ballroom dance lessons as I led you to believe. In fact, after the first go-round, I was more than a little demoralized at my lack of coordination and my inability to get even the most basic steps. I didn't quite believe the statement that tango and jive were two of the most difficult dances to learn, and figured those were just kind words to make me feel like less of a loser.

I took 3 weeks off lessons, and didn't know if I would ever return.

Then, this week, I grew a set, decided not to throw in the towel, and waltzed through the door for lesson number two. Literally. The February dances are the waltz and the salsa. And in one magical hour, I was whirling around the dance floor like a natural. I'm not sure whether these dances are in fact easier, or if I just set my mind to not letting the ballroom beat me down. But I had a magical hour that I didn't want to end, and am now eagerly awaiting next Wednesday's class.

All I ask is that if you're having a wedding or black tie social event sometime this year, please think of me when you're making out the guest list. I'm finally feeling confident enough to show off some of my ballroom moves, and it's a transformation you won't want to miss!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sweaty Betty

Hot yoga is my new favourite activity. EVER.

I am not exaggerating. I regularly get tension headaches from stiff upper back, shoulder and neck muscles. Massages and regular yoga help a little. But the morning after my first hot yoga class, I woke up a brand new person. No pain, incredibly relaxed (both physically and mentally), and tons of energy.

First, the location. I've taken regular yoga classes before, at a small studio with a decidedly upper middle-aged crowd. Moksha, on the other hand, couldn't be further from the average yoga facility. It's hip, it's cool, it attracts a young crowd that results in wait lists at every class. It has energy, it has panache, it's "the" place to be for today's yogi.

And it's a great place to view good-looking people with nice bodies wearing next-to-no clothing!! Frankly, it gives me a good excuse to wear my shorty shorts (which, now that I've lost a bit of weight, are kinda flattering) and I'm going to take advantage of that opportunity any chance I get.

The yoga studio itself? Dimly lit (really, you're doing yoga virtually in the dark by candelight - can you think of anything more relaxing?) and about a million degrees (while I wondered how I would do with the temperature - I find extreme heat draining, to say the least - the warmth and the sweat made me feel both relaxed and like I was getting a good workout).

Second, the class. Until I had this experience to compare to, I thought my regular yoga classes were the gold standard. They weren't incredibly relaxing, but they were incredibly physically challenging. In retrospect, they could more aptly have been described as a training routine for Eastern European gymnasts - we were put through our paces, but might as well have just gone to the gym to lift weights. Moksha, on the other hand, focuses on both the physicality of the poses themselves (every muscle received a workout) and the spirituality of the meditation exercises. A total body package that rejuvenated me as a human being.

I won't lie to you, though. I kinda liked being all sweaty myself. But the last 15 minutes of the class nearly drove me to distraction. I was situated with a woman on one side of me, and an incredibly sweaty man on the other. Every time I opened my eyes, I could see a big pool of sweat on the floor beside the man's yoga mat, and my imagination ran rampant. I envisioned the pool of sweat creeping ever closer to my yoga space, similar to zombies invading New York. I was helpless to stop it, there was nothing I could do. (in reality, the sweat didn't migrate at all, but its mere presence was icky enough)

In the end, though, the pros far outweighed the cons.

Verdict = despite the icky sweaty factor, the feeling of complete rejuvenation I experienced the next morning makes hot yoga at Moksha an activity that I will continue partaking in at least 2-3 times per week

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week 2 - Hot Yoga Classes

I am a germaphobe. At least, I am a germaphobe when it comes to other people's germs (though I am generally okay with my own). So be forewarned - if you're coughing, sneezing, picking your nose or otherwise emitting bodily matter around me, I will likely be frantically heading for the other side of the room.

Naturally, this aversion to other people's germs does not bode well for my enjoyment of any sort of workout activity where I am sharing equipment or space with random strangers who sweat profusely and don't take the time to disinfect our shared weights or exercise mats when they are finished with them.

As a result, in recent years, a shift in my physical activity has occurred - I have chosen to focus on running outdoors at the expense of gym time. I can lace up my runners, crank up my Ipod, shut off my brain, enjoy the beauty of the great Winnipeg outdoors, and get a great workout while avoiding other sweaty, sticky, smelly folks.

Having said that, one group workout that I do enjoy is yoga. I find the stretching helps combat my tension headaches, and the meditation helps keep me sane. And yoga too is a largely solitary activity - I use my own mat, I stay in my own space, and I focus on physical and spiritual serenity.

So when a friend recently approached me to try hot yoga, I was at once intrigued and disgusted. On the one hand, hot yoga helps relax the muscles to achieve even better results. On the other hand, the thought of working out with other people's sweat dripping all around me, or knowing that my yoga mat is covering a sweat-soaked floor makes me want to gag.

Before making a decision, I weighed the pros and cons multiple times. But I will confess that the tipping point (shallow though it may be) was that I need to lose about 20 pounds, and I'm hoping that hot yoga will help me sweat some of that extra weight right off. So for now, at least, the pros have won out. New Activity #2 = hot yoga classes.

I bought a month-long pass for Moksha Yoga, and start this week. Wish me luck, and join me in fervently hoping that the other hot yoga participants don't sweat on my parade.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dancing Queen

As you know, my week 1 "new activity" was ballroom dance lessons. So a couple of Wednesday evenings ago, I sashayed my two left feet down to the Ted Motyka Dance Studio for a drop-in ballroom class. And for a mere $8 admission fee, I received an evening that can best be categorized as all inclusive - a bit of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good? The dance studio is located in a heritage building in Winnipeg's Exchange District, and the interior (featured in the Richard Gere / Jennifer Lopez movie "Shall We Dance") is spectacular. The original character of the building was retained to create a space that is both magical to the eyes and the imagination - lofty vaulted ceilings, a large glistening wooden dance floor, character trim and pillars...I definitely recommend checking out the studio, if only for the architecture.

The bad? I had gone straight from an exercise boot camp to the ballroom class, which meant that I was in sweaty exercise clothes and neither looked nor smelled classy enough for the dance floor. As a result, I was more than a little self-conscious to get up close and personal with my dance partner (another class member I met for the first time that evening - talk about making a great impression!!!) - fortunately for me, though, he was a very good sport about it. Next time I return, I will make sure to dress appropriately for the ballroom - and bring a little perfume!!

The ugly? Well, back to that whole lack of coordination thing.

The two dances for January's drop-in are the tango and the jive, which, I later found out from others more familiar with the art of ballroom, are not easy for even a natural to get the hang of. I'm not sure whether I felt more sorry for Mr. Motyka (our world-class instructor, who appeared sincerely baffled and concerned by the lack of connection between my brain and my other body parts) or my dance partner, whose feet must have suffered for days from the bruising caused by my stepping on him repeatedly over the course of an hour.

The only conclusion to draw from this experience is that I am definitely one of those people who would benefit from having the dance steps outlined on the floor in bright blue footprints for me to follow.

On the flip side, while I did feel my old insecurities surface numerous times throughout the class, I also felt a sense of camraderie with the other dancers learning the steps for the first time (albeit more quickly and expertly than I) and a sense of accomplishment when I did manage to master the most basic of the tango and jive steps (which have gotten practised extensively in the basement of my workplace over the past week and a half when I thought no one was looking).

Verdict = certainly a challenge for someone as uncoordinated as I, but I enjoyed the first lesson and will continue attending drop-in ballroom classes as frequently as my schedule will allow

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thank You for Holding

Sorry for the delay, folks, I've been laid up with a wicked flu / chest cold for the past 5 days and missed last Saturday's post (quite easy to do when one is unable to get out of bed). Please excuse me, and stay tuned for this Saturday's resumption. It may be a week late, but it's well worth the wait!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Week 1 - Ballroom Dancing Lessons

When I was 4 years old, my ballet teacher told my mom that I was the most uncoordinated child in the class, and that perhaps ballet was not for me.

When I was 18 years old, a 'friend' I used to go to the clubs with told me that I was the most uncoordinated person she had ever seen, and mocked me mercilessly whenever I even thought about setting foot on the dance floor.

Sense a pattern here? Needless to say, my confidence in my dance moves is shaky at best.

With good reason. After working through the self-esteem issues imposed by people such as my ballet teacher, who clearly felt - mistakenly - that honesty was the best policy, I will acknowledge that my groove style is more akin to Elaine Benes than Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Perhaps I'm underselling. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gents, it gets worse.

Picture Elaine Benes, throwing in the occasional John Travolta "superstar" move from Saturday Night Fever (yes, I cringe to say this is indeed my 'go to' move, to be relied upon whenever I am feeling self-conscious or insecure...because that's the way to fit in with the cool kids on the dance floor):

A dancer I am NOT (well, other than the polka, which my dad taught my sister and I in the basement of our house, because every good Ukrainian girl MUST know how to polka...yes, when it comes to the polka, I'm a whirling dervish of footwork and fun!!).

Bottom line, though, a dancer I am NOT.

But recently....ok, I can't just jump right into Thing #1 without giving you the other sordid part of this story.

Here goes. I'm addicted to reality television. The Amazing Race, The Bachelor and Bachelorette, The Sing Off, America's Got Talent....yes, I will out myself and even admit I watch Dating in the Dark (feel free to cringe, boo, or simply feel sorry for my significant lack of taste and obviously empty social calendar).

And recently, I've added a new show to the reality television line-up.

Dancing With the Stars.

I have no idea how or why I started watching (heaven knows, my reality tv line-up wasn't looking for new entrants). All I know is that I watched it once, and I was hooked. This show excites me, it keeps me entertained and - most importantly - it makes me want to cha cha cha my two left feet onto the nearest dance floor. Because if the extremely wooden Bristol Palin can make the DWTS final, then I can certainly give a lesson or two a whirl.

So...New Activity #1 = ballroom dancing lessons

Wish me luck...but please, no "break a leg"....with coordination like mine, my two left feet may just take you literally.