Every damn day.

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Eska Alikai classic singlet (the best tees ever – the kind where you ought to buy back-ups. They’re on sale, too, but please don’t get to them before I do), Witchery ponte leggings, Nike Free 5.0 trainers.

It’s been a while. I’m still training. I’ve stopped clean eating (I mean, I went and ate a whole pizza after these photos were taken) and it’s also been 18 months since I first stepped into a boxing gym. 18 months. My quads have officially doubled in size – or at least it feels like it. Oh, and I also I took up Bikram yoga eight weeks ago.

I know, I’m about five years late to the Bikram party but it has taken me that long to convince myself that it’s perfectly normal to contort myself in a 40C room for 90 minutes alongside clammy, half-naked individuals who have no qualms about dripping sweat on your towel. There was also a small part of me that felt Bikram wouldn’t challenge me like boxing does. Ha, how little I knew…

I was losing motivation to train at the start of the year. I went from working out four times a week to two, if I was lucky. I was recovering from a back injury with the help of my physio and my boxing training started to plateau. In 12 months, I had reached the point where there was nothing else for me to really improve on – or more to the point, nothing else I felt motivated enough to improve on. And with my work schedule getting busier and busier, it was just so hard to find the time.

When I quit my job, I knew I couldn’t keep up with the $240-a-week clinical pilates any longer, so upon the advice of my physio I decided to give Bikram a go. At the quarter of the cost, I figured I had less to lose. I’m a wimp once the mercury dips to below 10C; I find the heat much more tolerable. But being inside a torturous hot room sweating out of every single pore (I wish I was exaggerating) was an experience unlike any other.

Some poses claim to cure gout and insomnia…and I may be better convinced if I wasn’t married to a pharmacist, so whilst I don’t completely agree with some of the Bikram posture benefits, practising it has physically been the best thing I’ve done for myself since I took up boxing. The best. I can’t even begin to describe how quickly I started to see results, how flexible – really flexible – I became just after a few classes, how much my skin felt amazingly smooth from just one class, and how much it has actually complemented (and made me appreciate!) my boxing training.

I’ve been balancing two Bikram classes with 2-3 boxing sessions a week, which helps to alleviate the sedentary working-from-home curse.

And after two months of Bikram, I still don’t know if I like it, let alone love it. It’s not for everyone and it’s bloody intense – give me a pair of boxing gloves any day. And for that, I will eat my hat. It’s one of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever done but I find it incredibly heart-opening, oxygenating, awakening. I didn’t know what sweat was until I sat inside a Bikram torture chamber, but I think I’ve always been drawn to testing my inner limits. To realise how far I can go from the point where I thought it was the end has given me a reason to keep going. And if I had a choice between being sore or sorry, I’d probably be sore every damn day.

Photographs by Jamie.

Workout & Food Diary.

I’ve been meaning to put this post together for months now, but haven’t found the time nor the inclination until, I guess, now.

I’m going to lay it all out on the table and confess that my diet has gone halfway to shit this winter and so has my workouts. I say ‘halfway’ because I’m still attending my boxing classes at least 3 times a week (4 times and I’m forcing myself to go) and my diet is, at the moment, about 60-70% clean, as opposed to 90% before.

Basically, I’m not where I want to be right now, particularly with my healthy eating (or lack of).

Training

My sprained wrist is also proving to be a bit of a hinderance so it’s crazy that I’m craving working out when I know I shouldn’t – or can’t. I’m taking a rest from it tonight though because it’s only starting to come back to life after a week since spraining it and I don’t want to screw it up, just in case. I have been boxing with my right wrist double strapped and only started getting back on the bags yesterday – punching with my left arm only. I excused myself from burpees and push-ups and only skipped intermittently so as to not put unnecessary stress on my wrist. I did attend a couple of classes before the weekend and naughtily did a whole hour of HIIT workouts involving push-ups and burpees. Probably wasn’t the best idea.

6am workouts have become a thing of the past because my body just refuses to wake up at half past five in the morning. Getting up for an 8am class on Saturday mornings is proving not too much of an issue, though, so that’s my saving grace.

All that aside, I am seeing continued improvement in my endurance, strength and agility/flexibility:

  • I can run for 7-8km continuously without resting.
  • I’m lifting more weight now, on par with some of the boys in my class.
  • My boxing technique has dramatically improved thanks to my Polish instructor; punching using all of my body, pivoting on my toes, elbows tucked in and arms straight.

And here are my workout goals that I’ll be working towards in preparation for spring:

  • Proper star jumps – arms and legs at 45 degree angles
  • Burpees with my back straight
  • Jumping with both knees as high as they can be
  • Push-ups on my toes!

They’re not lofty goals but they’re enough to keep me challenged during my workouts.

Diet

I have become so much more ‘relaxed’ about what I’m putting into my body. For the first time in a few months, I’m incorporating a little of bit of bottled sauces, full-fat cheese, starchy bread, white rice, and even alcohol (just a glass) into my diet. It’s all attributed to lack of willpower, to put it bluntly.

I’m only eating three meals a day these days (as opposed to six) due to work being so overwhelmingly busy and lack of organisation on my part.

I have been conscious of eating a big breakfast (a huge bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana, cinnamon and honey) so that I’m less likely to succumb to the temptation of pies and cakes for morning tea. It also keeps me fuller for longer which means I’m not starving by the time lunch time rolls around.

Here are my favourite things I’ve been cooking/eating lately that are a bit more suited to cold winter nights:

  • Thai Salmon Patties (I bake these instead of frying).
  • Baked Eggs with Chickpea & Spinach (I use fresh tomatoes and instead of bread, serve with quinoa).
  • Vegie Stir-Fry (I make this in my Thermomix and add chicken. I also use honey and low-sodium soy sauce as my only condiments. I add lots of chilli though)!
  • Stuffed Capsicums (which I pair with either quinoa or sweet potato mash. I also disregard the tomato sauce – the less salt and pre-packaged stuff, the better – and add in more fresh tomatoes instead).
  • Spicy Sweet Potato & Quinoa Salad (I’m addicted to cayenne pepper – to make up for the fact that I don’t add salt or pepper to my food anymore)!
  • Stuffed Zucchini (with quinoa)
  • And a bit of a cheat meal – Buckwheat Soba Noodles (you can buy these from any Asian or Japanese grocery store) with Momofuku’s Scallion Sauce and homemade dumplings (which my mother in-law made for me recently).

I try to keep my first and last meal for the day as clean and healthy as possible. I’m just finding it hard to resist all the add-ons: a piece of (dark) chocolate here, a bowl of ice cream there. It’s not going to kill me but I’m going to work on getting that willpower back that I managed to exercise so well at the start of the year.

Body observations:

I’ve noticed a few things changing here and there since my last post. To be perfectly honest, it’s probably attributed more to stress than my diet or even my training. In summary:

  • More toned through the arms and shoulders. Lots of scary tricep definition after increasing my weights over the past few weeks.
  • Quadriceps looking more and more fierce. Not a good thing.
  • Calves have increased in size, especially when I flex them. Also not the result I was after.
  • Thighs haven’t seen much movement though I’m taking measurements and roughly 2cm has come off since March/April.
  • I’ve dropped a whole bra/boob size. I used to be a C (measuring 34/35 inches) but have dramatically dropped to a B (down to 32 inches). I’ve had to start shopping for new bras as a result
  • My wrists have shrunk and my finger size has decreased all over. You might have noticed that I’m no longer (or I can’t!) wear my engagement ring on my left hand anymore. It’s also started to swivel on my right hand. I’ve decided not to resize my rings until after I have kidlets.
  • I’ve lost some weight off my hips and have dropped a jean/pant and underwear size.
  • Despite all this, I’m feeling fitter and healthier than ever. I came down with a niggling cold last month but it somehow surpassed when it ordinarily would have turned into a fully-fledged cold. I do owe my regular exercise to my much-improved immune system.
  • On the whole, I’m finding that regular and consistent exercise is breathing quality of life into my day to day activities. I can paint a house for a whole day without getting sore; I can participate in a 12km fun run and wake up right as rain the next day; there are so many things I can do now without working up a sweat. And it’s doing wonders for me, mentally.

Boxing update.

Boxing Update: six weeks and counting

I think I’ve found my fate. Death by star jumps.

But it’s okay, because at least I have mastered burpees (just) and planks (for a mere minute – none of these crazy CrossFit stuff) before I collapse at the helm of a heavy bag.

In all seriousness, since my first class six weeks ago, I’ve been hooked. I’m actually really, really, really loving my boxing classes. And by that, I mean I happily box after work on Fridays or I rather get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings and take a shower in my own sweat, than sleep-in like normal, sane, people.

Boxing has been the mental and physical kick up the arse challenge  I’ve needed. The past six weeks have taught me so much about self-discipline, self-motivation, bettering myself for myself, commitment, persistence, and the simple fact that you will be rewarded if you work hard enough.

I box four times a week. On the fifth day, I skip at home or go for a short, 4km run (one of those pictures above is of a pram – I ran 4km pushing that pram with my two year old niece in it). My sixth and seventh days are my rest days – and probably deservedly so after my brother roped me into pushing his daughter in her stroller around a lake for 45 minutes on more than one occasion. You don’t know how many times I promised the girl there’d be a playground around every bend.

After about 4 weeks, I started to see results. Real results. Stuff that I haven’t seen in all of the 8 years I’ve been attending group fitness classes at the local gym.

I have real muscles! And real, girly abs! I sweat shit loads, five minutes into the warm-up. I also have permanently calloused and scarred knuckles (as my trainer says, what’s the point in turning up if your workout is half-arsed?). I’ve noticed that I’ve lost a few centimetres from my waist, hips and thighs. I’ve also lost some boob; almost a whole cup size I think. That was a shock as it’s always the last place to lose/gain weight, but whatever. I think most girls have a love/hate relationship with their boobs and bodies and I’m no different. I think I’ve just learnt to stop sweating the small stuff, quite literally.

To that end, boxing for me has become a lifestyle. It has become part of my every day routine and I treat it like I’m (happily) turning up to work each day. Of course there are days when I’d rather be on the couch mindlessly twittering after a long day at work but then I remind myself of this:

Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.

Boxing has made my day to day life so much more purposeful. There is always something to achieve; something to strive for; something to be secretly proud of; whether it be holding that plank for another 30 seconds, running for that little bit longer, skipping in double the time, or lifting heavier weights because you’re coming to the realisation that there is nothing to be afraid of anymore. 

Boxing: a beginner’s verdict.

I don’t mean for this to be my version of War and Peace, so if exercise posts aren’t your cup of tea, I’d suggest you scroll down to the next post as this is going to be a long one!

I was telling a couple of friends of mine at a party on NYE that one of the first things I plan to do in 2013 was sign myself up for boxing classes. I then proceeded to smugly announce that I’ve been going to Body Combat for the past 8 years, which would more than adequately prepare me for a date (or two) with a punching bag, right? Right?

Well, having attended a boxing class before (and vowing to never return), they literally laughed in my face. And it wasn’t until Monday night when I discovered exactly why.

My first class felt like all my exercise nightmares had come at once. A fierce-looking ex-boxer was barking instructions at us through a thick Polish accent and with timer in hand: Six minutes of continuously jumping rope. You see, when I was eight, skipping was so fun. So easy. I could have skipped all day. Suddenly, being in an un-airconditioned torture chamber 20 years later made jumping rope almost impossible. And that was just the warm-up.

Our 55-minute class was interspersed with time with the punching bag and sit-ups, push-ups (with gloves on), bridges/planks (worst!), skipping and a quick run up and down the street. The way my instructor teaches is quite flippant; when he tells us to ‘punch’, we kind of have to decide ourselves if we cross, jab, hook or upper-cut. And when he tells us to stretch, he doesn’t really tell us what to stretch. So it’s good (because you can do whatever you want) and bad (because you can do whatever you want and that generally means you’ll do whatever’s the most lazy or easy).

Throughout the class, I felt pangs of throwing up/passing out/as if I had literally taken a shower in my own revolting sweat. As someone who barely sweats, I was dripping. I could barely eat dinner when I got home on Monday and I pretty much went to bed soon after because I felt like I had just run a marathon. I used to carry with me a 600ml bottle of water to every workout but to give you an idea of how intense boxing is, I’ve upgraded to a 1.5L bottle!

I really underestimated how physically demanding a boxing class could be. But I’ll be going again (tomorrow will be my third class this week) because I find it to be so incredibly empowering. No other form of exercise gives me as much of a confidence boost as boxing; and it’s as though a magical spell is cast over me as soon as I pull on these gloves. The self-defence elements also come in handy, and I also think boxing will provide me with a tremendous amount of stress-relief as my new job is starting to become really demanding.

Unlike wolfing down a Double Whopper or a giant piece of cheesecake, boxing makes you feel so completely shit at the time, but so light-on-your-feet and indescribably rewarding afterwards. Working out, for me, is all about pushing myself to my absolute limit – and then some – and constantly finding new ways to challenge myself. Much like everything else in life, really.