Thursday, June 27, 2013

Up All Night

I pulled an all-nighter. I finished packing but I just couldn't get to sleep. I was just way too excited about my trip.

I spent some time looking at different schedules at MMA gyms and CrossFit boxes in the different states I'll be visiting. I contacted a few. A couple of them got back to me already so I was able to schedule a session.

Kuwait is a small country, and although there are many gyms and health clubs, the level of professionalism and the quality plus variety of exercise programs, trainers, and general enthusiasm for fitness leaves something to be desired. That's why going through these different websites has been so exciting. There's so much out there! I wish I could experience them all, but I think I'd have to stay in the States for a few months and earn a fortune to be able to try all the different classes!

I have to restrain myself a bit. After all, this is not a fitness vacation. It's a vacation during which I intend to stay fit, but gym hopping on a daily basis is not really how I intend to spend the most of my time.

Ok. Enough of that.

I'm a bit annoyed that I'm going to be traveling with knuckles that look like this:

The picture below is from Sunday, the day I got the scrapes from my Kajukenbo class. I didn't realize they'd turn into such horrific scars (the two pix in the top row). In a way they do make me feel kinda badass. However, I don't want to look so badass when I'm on holiday!

Speaking of badass, on Tuesday I practiced the triangle choke for the first time. It was awesome!! What I liked even more was that they demonstrated how, if a larger, heavier person has you trapped on the ground, you can use your legs as leverage and yank them right off. I know that's what Jiujitsu is about - using your body as leverage to defend yourself against a larger opponent - but this move was really, really cool! :)

As I've been getting stronger with my MMA training, and my weight training of course, I've been enjoying walking into places, taking a look around, and thinking 'Ya, I could take you down.' There's something quite empowering about looking innocent and perhaps helpless, but knowing that you are strong.

I tried to read and comment on as many blog posts as I could. I've just been so behind and I feel like I've been neglecting some of my favorite bloggers. I hope to get to you guys soon. If only I could do this during my flights - that would definitely be a good use of my time.

One other thing about blogging has been on my mind. I don't know how often I'll be able to blog while I'm away, but I'll definitely try to post when I can. I was thinking of doing a photo journal of my eating throughout my trip. However, I know that there will be some indiscretions that are not a part of my regular lifestyle at all and I don't want to be seen as promoting and encouraging eating off plan. At the same time, this is a bit of an experiment for me - figuring out to what extent I really do have a healthy lifestyle. I know when others post pictures of them binge drinking or indulging in desserts, I refrain from commenting (particularly when it's a recurrent event and not really a one-off). Anyway. It's been on my mind. I haven't reached a decision about it yet. Something to think about during the flight ...

Door to door, I'll be traveling for a total of 25 hours. Jet lag is going to be a bitch.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pre-Vacation Freak Out

First of all, I am beyond excited to be getting out of Kuwait for the majority of the summer. Temperatures are already in the mid-40's early in the day going up to the mid-50's (110-125 deg F). It's insane. Add that to the crazy driving and I tell you, I've had it.

I'm super-excited and nervous about my upcoming trip. Packing has been a challenge. How do you pack for a 6-week trip in just one suitcase? So far I'm doing ok, but I'm not done yet ... and though I set my gym stuff aside first, it hasn't gone into the case yet. I think I may actually need a separate suitcase/bag for just my gym gear. I know that I'll be getting workouts in because I've signed up for a few different training sessions already. It feels strange packing my Gi -- never in a million years did I think I would ever be packing a Gi, but here I am, preparing to get down and dirty on the mats in the States :) [I've also packed my hand wraps, a mouth guard, and of course my jump rope.]

Whenever I travel I feel like I'm put to the test as to whether or not the changes I've made have indeed resulted in me living a healthy lifestyle. Not just a temporary healthy phase leading up to a weigh in, a workout, or a monthly goal. Being able to stick to good habits and make healthy choices when I'm away from my home, away from my comfort zone, and away from my routine (no matter how chaotic it normally is) feels frightening.

At the same time, I feel like this is a challenge, and it's a challenge that I want to win. I want to prove to myself that I can have a fabulous holiday and come back having lost weight. I don't want to just maintain. I want to come back lighter than when I left.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm putting a bit of pressure on myself. In my mind I believe I have made the change, but I really want my actions to pull through. The only thing I'm worried about is my sweet tooth. That being said, I know my tastes have changed quite a bit (a post on that will be coming shortly)  ... we'll see.

Ok, the main things I'm freaking out about:
1. Packing what I need for 6 weeks but still packing light (as light as possible)
2. Being away from home for that long (even though I love to travel, I haven't been away for such a long period of time in about 8 years)
3. Will I be able to balance working out and having fun? I did alright last year in Italy. I know I just have to be sensible. Feeling deprived doesn't come into my mind anymore (a post on that coming shortly as well), but still ... I wonder if I will be able to be as disciplined as I am at home.
4. Controlling my snacking -- I think while I'm at my destinations, I'll be fine ... it's just the 18 hours on the plane, the long hours in the car during road trips ... when I think back to my previous road trips (many years ago) I just picture bags of chips and bars of chocolate plus soda in the car. I know I won't be doing that. I just hope that if somehow the 'one one hurt' thought does creep in that I am indeed able to keep it at one and no more. We'll see. The flight should actually be ok. Nowadays you can give your preferences to the airline beforehand, and they cater to all sorts of diets - gluten free, diabetic, vegan ... so those options are much safer than the sodium-laden pastas that are often served.

Perhaps I'm over-thinking things. It helps just to write it all out.

I've been in contact with some Jiujitsu/MMA training centers as well as some CrossFit boxes. Right now it looks like I'll be able to do at least 1 session of each in each city I'm visiting. I'm excited!

My ultimate goal: Lose at least 2 kg (4.5 lb) over the next 6 weeks. I will come back lighter than I'm leaving. I will. I will. I will.

Packing update:
I managed to pack all my clothes (including the traveling tapestry, which is heavy!) in one suitcase, with 3 kg. of weight to spare ... however, I had to pack a separate bag with all my gym stuff - 14 kg (31 lb) worth! It's not ideal, but it's important to me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tempted by Boredom

The hardest thing for me in terms of leading a healthy lifestyle has been related to my issues with food. I feel like I’ve experimented with so many different ‘diets’ as well as eating/working out combinations – eating hardly anything/exercising a lot; eating whatever I wanted/exercising a lot; eating a little/exercising a little … None of those combinations were long-term solutions for me.

In the end, it was about eating clean (and proper portions which varied depending on the type and intensity of my workout) and being efficient with my training (i.e. when I worked out, I put my all into it, so a 20 minute CrossFit WOD was more efficient than a 1½ hour moderate cardio session).

Yes, that was definitely the winning combination.

It all started when I got more involved with CrossFit and I did the Whole Life Challenge last September. I have to say, the dietary changes I made have been really good. It was tough at first, but I managed to sustain them over the following months. However, I did relax a little. I found that I had to be really, really careful when I ‘relaxed’ my eating habits. I also realized that whatever I ‘relaxed’ my regime for ended up never really being worth it.

Practicing this type of eating habit for several months has helped me get to a much better place in terms of my relationship with food. I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m going forward with a much more eager and positive attitude versus one of dread and fears of deprivation (more on that tomorrow).

I think I managed my food intake – quality and quantity – quite well. The ONE thing that got me was when I was bored and around something to munch on. In particular, there was one night when I was on my own, I couldn’t sleep, and there was some chocolate in the room. I was watching TV and I mindlessly ate the chocolate. It’s not the calories or the (lack of) nutritional value of the chocolate that bothered me; it’s the fact that I ate it when I didn’t need to or even really want to. I was bored. It was there. I gave in.

This is something that I’m not proud of and definitely something that I want to keep track of in the future. I need to have more control over this silly mindlessness because really, I am stronger than that. I am more disciplined than that. At this point in my life, after all I’ve been through and tried, I really should know better. I do know better. I’m going to do my very best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Motivation

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."
Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Momentary Routine

I’ve been back in Kuwait for 5 days now … and I’ll be traveling again in 4 days. That’s not much time to get back into a proper routine. After my last trip to London, I really struggled. I let the fact that I was only around for 9 days bring me down and distract me from what I really wanted.

Not this time.

I arrived on Tuesday morning and spent the day resting. Last time, I spent the time freaking out and worrying about whether or not I would have energy to go to the gym. I exhausted myself. I didn’t workout, and I felt guilty.

Not this time.

I unpacked, did my laundry, and I SLEPT. I was so tired. I slept for 4 hours in the afternoon and then I went to bed early. I needed the sleep. I felt much better after getting all that sleep.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning (tossing and turning from 3 a.m. and finally out of bed at 4 a.m.), I was ready to go.

I had 2 eggs with some mushrooms and tomatoes. I took my time getting ready and leaving the house (after all, I am on vacation!), and I made it to the gym by 7:45 a.m.

Some cardio and a body balance session was all I had planned for the day. The cardio felt good. I felt like I hadn’t missed anything because of all the walking I did in London. Body Balance, however, was tougher. I felt quite stiff. I didn’t stretch much over the past 2 weeks and it totally showed in class. (Note to self: get back to stretching daily!!)

Thursday was great – warm-up cardio, 1 hour weight session, and then 1 hour on the cross-trainer.

I really wanted to burn some calories so I just got on the cross-trainer, set it to interval training, and just zoned out and started sweating.

The weight lifting session was interesting. On the one hand, I felt strong. I think this is because I hadn’t lifted weights for quite some time so my muscles actually felt rested. On the other hand, I felt like I lost a bit of strength, particularly in my lateral pull-downs … but then, I’ve always struggled with those. I did 2 extra sets of each exercise with lighter warm-up weights. I didn’t want to strain myself (though I think I did when I was doing 15 kg (33 lb dumbbell per hand) dumbbell incline chest presses. It wasn’t the chest press as much as it was the movement of getting my arm in position to do the chest press). Anyway. I left the gym feeling good that I could complete those sets, but also felt a bit of a muscle strain around my left shoulder blade area. Must take care of that.

I went back to my normal Friday routine – which included 2 hours of Jiujitsu and sparring practice. Again, being away from training for 2 weeks really showed on the mats. It took me a while to both mentally and physically gear up for each move we practiced.

Yesterday I did something I had not done in a long time – burpees. I’ve been avoiding them. I’m avoiding them for the same reason that I took on this challenge – I hate them. They’re tough. They leave me breathless. I suck at them. 

This is why I must practice them!!

Perhaps I was too ambitious in my goal of completing 20,130 burpees by the end of the year, but that’s not an excuse not to practice them at least every other day, if not every single day.

The only thing holding me back is my mind – I am physically able to do them. In fact, the first 50 burpees (though tough) went down a lot easier than I had thought they would be. (Note to self: Stop second-guessing yourself and just do your damn burpees!)

So basically my strategy has been to just get back into my routine without giving it much thought. Being on vacation makes it very tempting to just sit back and do nothing but watch TV or read all day … but that doesn’t mean I can’t squeeze in an hour or two of exercise. I know that once I get started, I feel good – that’s why I try to workout first thing in the morning. At least I get it out of the way.

My food has been good since I got back. Like my workouts, I just went right back on plan. Lots of salads, lean protein, and vegetables. I bought some new spice blends in London - ones you can't get here in Kuwait - so that's helped give a bit of new flavor to my cooking.  I would say that my food is 90-95% clean. At the moment, that works for me. Gotta make the most of being home while I can. In 4 days, this momentary routine is going to seem like a dream … that’s when the real work is going to kick in!

By the way, my shoulder blade muscle strain is much, much better. Whew. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Trip #2 Summer 2013

I've been meaning to write a blog post for ages, but I just haven't managed to sit myself down at my desk and get it done. I think being on holiday from work and not having any articles to research or write has made me want to avoid my computer as much as possible! I've really missed blogging though and hope to get back into a more regular reading/commenting plus writing schedule.

I got back from my second London trip last Tuesday. The trip was really good. I got to meet up with a lot of my friends and enjoyed endless hours of walking around different parts of England. The highlight of my trip was reuniting with one of my very, very close friends from college. We hadn't seen each other for 15 years. It was fantastic to just sit down and start talking as if the past decade and half had never existed!

Another highlight was meeting up with 2 bloggers - Rebecca from Weight Wars and Mary from Stationery NOT Stationary. It was so wonderful putting faces (and proper personalities, voices, and laughs) with the blog posts that I've been following. We had a great afternoon together in Covent Garden. I was so moved that Rebecca took a 3-hour train trip (one-way) to come up to see me ... it was awesome :) Once again, it felt great to just sit down and start chatting as if we've known each other for years!

I'll post a few pictures of my trip, but first I want to recap my food and fitness aspect.

Before leaving for my trip I weighed and measured myself. I'll be traveling a lot this summer, so my basic goal (as always) is to just make sure I don't gain. I don't want my holiday to end with the regret of a weight gain.

I'm happy to say that I lost 1.3 kg (2.8 lbs) while I was away.
I would say that I stayed 85% on track in terms of eating clean. There were definitely a few meals that I would not include in my normal eating rotation. However, I ate only what I wanted to and only how much I needed to. There was only one instance of some chocolate that I ate because I was bored and it was there. That was the only 'mindless' eating that I did. Other than that, I think I did a pretty good job.

In terms of exercise. I was hoping to get a bit more focused exercise in, but not every part of my trip went according to plan. I didn't get as much alone time as I would have liked; plus, it was a LOT colder than I had expected. It made for being outdoors a bit uncomfortable mainly because I didn't have the clothes for it (no sweatshirt, just light t-shirts and capris). Anyway. As I said, I did what I could.

- I went on 2 outdoor power walks/jogs/runs.
- I used my exercise cards to do mini-crossfit WODs 2 times
- I hit the gym 1 time for a great weights workout
- I managed 1 day of Jiujitsu practice while D was still in town, though it was a very short session

My friend got me a guest pass to her gym - I was so happy to see weights I almost cried lol. My workout left me sore for 3 days and it felt GOOD (though not the most comfortable when the next day I walked around London for 6 hours!) Still - had a big smile on my face :) 

Other than that, I'd say I walked an average of 3 hours a day, which is a huge increase from the sedentary lifestyle that I normally lead in Kuwait.

I'll write separate posts on what I did and what my upcoming strategies are to keep up with my food and fitness over the next few weeks because I've got a HUGE trip coming up and I definitely don't want to go off track during that time at all!

So here are a few photo highlights of my visit to England this summer (ahem, winter- damn it was cold!):

had a FAB night at Asia de Cuba in St. Martins Lane Hotel 

took a road trip to the Cotswolds - it was so beautiful; just wish the weather had been better. 

a few glimpses of London

messin' around on the tube

went to Oxford for the first time - great scenery and architecture

lots of smiles in London 

aaahhh United Nude - my favorite shoe shop ... and yes, I did go home with a couple of pairs ;)

I never thought I'd feel comfortable and confident in a horizontal striped dress -- but I did! 
(Just wish I wasn't squinting in this pic)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Motivation

this quote motivates me on a daily basis

can't argue with that

there's no reason not to start (restart/continue) right now

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In the Cards

I'm off again tomorrow, this time for about two weeks. This time around I spent a bit more time preparing. There are so many great websites out there giving workouts that you can do without any equipment. I made little notecards of different workouts. A lot of them are based on CrossFit workouts. I'm looking forward to trying them. If you're looking for some workouts to do at home (or that you can do while you're traveling) check out this link as well as this one. I foresee lots of squats and push-ups in my future!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I woke up this morning with an incredibly stiff neck. I couldn't move my neck or shoulders at all. It was SO painful. I must have slept on it wrong ...

It was so annoying, because once again it felt like an obstacle/set back ... something that wouldn't make the day go as planned.

I took my time leaving the house, hoping that just moving around a little would warm up my body and loosen my neck muscle up. Over time it eased up a little, but it was still stiff.

I made it to the gym by 9 a.m., and I guess my stiff neck was really noticeable because everyone asked what was wrong. I have to say, my neck may have been stuck, but my posture was perfect all day!

I didn't want to attempt weights with my neck like that so I headed to the cross-trainer. I finished 1 hour (4.96 miles - wish I had made it to 5!!) and then did one set of squats. I know that placing the bar on the back of my neck seems strange, but I figured it was just a stiff neck, not an injury. Besides, it was only 3 sets of 15 (I completed it at 50 kg). I knew I could do the rest of the weights workout at home if my neck healed so I ended my workout at that point.

Luckily I had an acupuncture. I told my acupuncturist (who is also a physical therapist) about my neck - though I didn't need to say anything because she noticed something was wrong right away. She did some EMS (electrical muscle stimulation with needles) treatment and put some heat on my back/shoulder. It helped. She also gave me some neck stretching exercises to do to hopefully loosen it up. I really want the pain to be gone before I travel on Thursday!!


So far the week has been good in terms of my workouts. It has felt great to get back into the gym.

1.5 hours of weights - it was a good lifting session
1 hour on the cross-trainer

45 minutes on the treadmill, 25 of which was HIIT. I haven't done HIIT in a while and it felt awesome. I was happy to be able to pick up my speed quite a bit and work up a great sweat.
1 hour Body Balance class

1 hour cross-trainer + 3 sets of squats (I didn't feel better so I didn't do anymore weights at night)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Motivation

Keep working. Keep trying. 
Keep reevaluating. Keep pushing forward.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Is It Working? (Part II)

Eat Less, Move More – or one of my favorite fitness catch phrases, Eat Clean, Train Dirty.

Actually, the fitness catch phrase works better for me because I have been eating less and moving more – but my food can always be cleaner and my training can definitely be dirtier.

I’m doing the motions, but am I just going through them? Am I really pushing hard enough?

It may seem like I’m being tough on myself, but I have to be. I don’t deny that I have made progress and that my lifestyle has changed in a positive way, but once again, I’m stuck. I know that in order to get ‘un-stuck’ I have to keep reevaluating and be extra careful with what I’m eating and how I’m exercising.

This is the extra bit that I’m not doing – or at least not doing in a consistent manner . I’ve written before that being busy/feeling frantic seem to be my norms. I’m working on tackling those underlying issues. I can’t expect long-term results if I don’t change the underlying problems.

However, in the past I’d spend loads of time just planning and planning with not as much action to follow the planning. That combined with my regular life frantic schedule – travel, family visits, work – made me focus on just getting the work done. Just make sure I eat right and workout how ever/whenever I can.

This plan of – Just do it – has been working, but not as well as I’d like it to.

I seem to be gaining and losing the same 2 kg over and over again. I’m annoyed because I did believe that I was doing the best I could do (in many ways I do believe that still) however, I need to find a way to do better.

I know that I want to lose weight. My goal weight is in sight. I’m not in a rush (e.g. crash diet) to hit that number. I want to do it right and I want the weight to STAY OFF once I reach my goal.

Summer vacation, a time when I have no work, would appear to be the best time to work hard to reach this goal. However, as I mentioned in my previous post, not having structure is killer for me. Add travel to that, and it feels like chaos.

At the same time, I love to travel and I’m lucky that I’m able to do so. I just need to find a way to figure out a better way of how to work in my fitness into my travel.

So the answer to: Is it working?

For maintenance: Yes.
For weight loss: No.

I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Is It Working? (Part I)

Even though June 1st doesn't quite mark the halfway point of the year, it often feels like it is. It's the perfect time to really sit back and take a look at the past 5 months and evaluate how things are going -- has everything that I've been doing over the past few months been helping me towards achieving the goals I set on New Years?

After rereading my goals, I think I'm doing alright, but I know I could be doing a lot better.

Adopting the attitude of 'just do it' instead of obsessing over plans and making sure that I'm working in 'perfect' conditions has really, really helped. At the same time, lack of proper structure (especially now that I'm on summer vacation) has left me feeling a bit lost and a bit anxious.

I need structure. Without having to go to work, I need to establish my own structure and routine. I may not have lessons to plan or papers to grade, but I still have a lot of work that needs to be done.

My summer travel plans are also leaving me a bit nervous. Last week's impromptu trip to London was great (even though we lost the play-off final, ouch!), but it really messed up my routine in terms of exercise, food, and sleep - the 3 key components to making sure I reach my goals.

After getting back, I just felt tired and drained. I didn't want to do anything. Part of my issue is that I'll be traveling again in 5 days. It feels like that's not enough time to set up a proper routine ... but I know that's just an excuse. I've just got to get the work done. The only way to beat my frustration is to work as hard as I can so that I at least help myself move forward, even if it is a millimeter at a time.