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all in perspective

i try to keep a balanced, accurate perspective of myself.  it doesn’t always happen.  in fact, it almost never happens.  here are some examples …

dinner-time

this is how i feel before dinner (left) and after dinner (right).

my weight.  it’s an ongoing battle of the bulge that i’ve fought my entire life. people have offered their unsolicited advice over all the decades of my life.  then because i’ve not lost weight, or at least enough to match their expectations, i’m a failure.

it’s a horrible struggle for anyone that is trying to drop pounds.  everyone is different and while some may lose weight faster, others (i include myself here) find it a lifelong labor of pain … both physically and emotionally.

on-the-mat

when i step on the mat i feel fit and good to go (left), but really more closely resemble butterbean (right).

but the truth is i have been working.  i’ve been active my whole life. over the last two years, since i started kenpo karate, my workouts have entailed six hours of kenpo training per week, walking, bicycling, hiking, and a variety of other things keeping me very active.

i’m busy doing something almost every day.  whether it’s climbing the stairs at work or bicycling 30 miles or playing disc golf, i’m busy.  i’m active.  and while the body shape is changing some, the scales just don’t respond the way i wish.  i feel i might be in the best shape of my life (if you don’t look at the outside package).  my doctor was very happy with my latest checkup.  i’ve improved my health in every area except my hairline.  its a great feeling when you leave the doctor’s office and he says, “whatever you’re doing is working great … keep it up!”

sparring-view

i should be like spartacus when sparring (left), but i fight fright and insecurity when facing an opponent (right).

all the extra work i’ve done this summer and fall has been with one true goal in mind — improve my cardio. while i can’t go out and jog five miles, i have seen positive results.

my cardio is one of the areas i have felt weakest when it comes to sparring.  not only am i not good at defending myself, i was quickly winded and my poor defense became even worse.  improving my cardio should help my sparring which will also help my confidence level.

i may never be spartacus, but i’ve never liked being afraid.  and that has always been the case when stepping on the mat to spar.  so i push myself in sparring and learning this art to change my mindset. and sparring is a good barometer of improvement or not.  i can say assuredly that i’ve vastly improved since i began this journey two years ago, but i’m just now seeing some small incremental steps in confidence.  don’t worry, i won’t let it go to my head.

kenpo-class

before class begins i feel so young (left). the next day i feel and move like the guy on the right.

kenpo class and kg sessions always have me feeling young(er) at the beginning. it doesn’t last very long.  as the workouts crank up, the wear on my body quickly feels every birthday multiplying exponentially on itself.  before long i’m having to seriously push my body.

a good example was last thursday’s when we did cardio at the end instead of the start of class. i was looking at myself in the mirror and seeing how red my face was becoming.  i remembered taking my blood pressure med that morning and decided not to pay attention to what i was seeing since it was only my lungs that were feeling the strain.  had i felt anything else, i would have shut it down, but i want/need to push myself.  so i did.

but without fail, the next morning after ANY of my workouts, has me moving slow.  i feel every ache, pain, fatigue. every muscle and joint are screaming at me that i’m 47.  they remind me how out-of-shape i am.  but i press on.

i was thinking the other day about where i want to be at my half-century mark.  that’s just 30 months away and it will arrive faster than i expect.  i’d like to be closing in on my black belt.  i’d like to be somewhere in the path of the three browns.  and of course, i’d like to be skinny.

but today, i think i’ll just be content to be moving, learning, and practicing my kenpo.

— chunky ninja

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viking fat

i am VIKING FAT.
yes, i said, “viking fat.”

.

i’ve been fat, well, almost all of my life.  starting in fifth grade my mom quit her job to stay home after the birth of my youngest sister.  i would come home from school to the smell of homemade cookies, cakes, etc.  within a few months i was shopping for clothes at sears or montgomery wards and had been officially relegated to the ‘husky’ section for boys.  ugh.

that was the beginning and my life has pretty much continued down that path for the last 30+ years.  it’s always bothered me, but never enough to do all the work necessary to become skinny. don’t get me wrong, i still tried the occasional 2-week to 6-month diet and/or exercise routines, but never stuck with them.  i used all sorts of things as excuses over the years, too.  things like …

i hated the ‘husky’ section

  • it’s too hard to work out all the time
  • i like food too much
  • i don’t have enough time
  • it’s too hot to do any exercise
  • it’s boring to work out by yourself
  • it’s too cold to do any exercise
  • i just don’t feel like it
  • i would if it didn’t feel so much  like work
  • the weathers too perfect to do any exercise
  • i’d have to work out too much to make up for that gallon of ice cream i just ate
  • if i ever needed to, i could last for years on chemo because of my fat

but now i’ve heard this latest description of me, it makes me want to embrace my chunky ninja self.  viking fat.  i like it.  and no, i didn’t give myself that description.  one of my KG cohorts did.

at first, being sensitive to my apparent fatness for the last third of a century, i asked for an explanation.  so he ‘splained …

“dude, some people are what i call ‘powder puff’ fat.  they’ve got the weight, but it’s all soft.  no muscle there.  you’re not powder puff.  you’re like freaky strong in your arms and chest.  you’re a big guy, but you’ve got a lot of muscle behind it.  you’re like viking fat.”

then i thought of my perception of the vikings (not the football team) and visuals like Liam Neeson in Rob Roy, Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, or Gerard Butler in 300.  now before you quickly correct me, i’m well aware none of these characters were vikings, but they were all skilled warriors who fought with great passion and heart.  so take these characters and add a horned helmet and a beard and that’s the image in my mind — kinda like the modern-day biker gang

the inside of my cranium

truth be told, while i do like the ‘viking fat’ label (as opposed to powder puff, jelly soft, marshmallow, and fluffy), i don’t want to stay here.  i’ve been more consistent at losing weight (or inches) than i have at any other time in my life.  i know i could work harder at it and become obsessive about what i eat and how hard i’m working, but i also know that i’d quit pretty quickly if i did.  it’s just how i’m wired.  but i am making progress and that’s what matters.

i’ve continued working my kenpo 4-6 hours per week. i also find myself thinking about techniques or general concepts more and more even if i’m not physically practicing my techniques.  all of this is leading up to an upcoming belt test.  a few of us have been given a bit of warning that the test is coming soon.  i’m guessing in the next month or so and i’m going to do whatever i can to be ready.  fortunately, my instructor is the one who gave us the ‘heads-up’ which means he must think we’re close to ready, too.  that always gives me a bit more confidence.

i’m continuing to ride my bike to also help prepare me for my ongoing kenpo life and to help get into better shape.  i can say i’ve gone from a 2x shirt to a 1x.  and i’ve gone down 2 inches in my waist.  so while i still look like a big guy, i’m gradually getting smaller and it’s proportionate which would make it less noticeable if you’re just looking at me.  but i know and can tell the difference in how i feel.

example: while i may still get winded sparring, it’s not nearly as fast and my recovery time is also quicker. (i’m still not a fan of sparring, but my instructor has started having us spar more and more.)

i don’t think i’ll ever be ‘skinny’.  ever.  but if i can reduce my overall size, have more wind, and make progress in this wonderful art, i will be satisfied.  hopefully soon i’ll be tying a purple belt around my waist and begin working on a news set of techniques and katas.

for now, i’m embracing the term ‘viking fat’.  where’s my helmet?

— chunky ninja

hello old friend

we all have those moments when someone from your past calls you.  they used to be one of your closest friends.  one that knew everything about your life and then as time passes, things change, lives move in different directions, and other things clutter and steal away the closeness you once had.

then they call you out of the blue.  you’re surprised to hear from them because it’s been months (or years).  you are happy to hear their voice and for about 45 seconds it seems like you guys haven’t skipped a beat … everything is just as it was when you were the best of buds hitting the town.  but then second number 46 hits and you suddenly realize you don’t have much in common with that person at all anymore.  what do you talk about?  you no longer have any common friends.  all of your interests have changed (and so have theirs). and you get into this arduous phone call that just ensures the next one will be even further out …

you:  hey!  how’s it going?
them: good, you?
you:  good.  staying busy.  trying to stay out of trouble.
them:  you?  you were never good at that!
you:  ha!  you’re one to talk.  so what’s new?
them: not a lot.  same ol’ same ol’.  how about you?
you: nothing.
them: yeah, a whole lot of the same here.

and then second 46 hits and you realize why you don’t bother anymore.  he’s not changed.  you’ve not changed.  but everything has completely changed.

that’s kinda where i’m at with kenpo.  it’s been a couple of weeks since i last blogged and i was feeling sorta bad that i hadn’t updated any of you here in the “new” month (now almost two weeks in).  things aren’t really changing and yet they are.

i’m still keeping up with my three-day-a-week kenpo workouts.  each of them are about two hours. so six hours a week working on my purple belt techniques.  i know them all and am in the process of tweaking them — refining them.  i still have to work on my forms.

in my spare time, i’ve taken up cycling to help build up some cardio.  i really like it and am glad i jumped back into it.  i try to get in several rides a week that are 10-30 miles long.  and while i may not be winning any distance or speed records, i can tell that there have been subtle [read: SUBTLE] changes.  nothing that others might notice, but i notice them and that’s what’s important to me.  a bit more leg strength.  a bit more stamina.  and now that i’ve been doing this for a month, a little less saddle soreness.

ed parker

but regarding my kenpo, i still love it. my kicks are still bad (though improved over the last 20 months). and there’s nothing new to report.

and that brings us to second 47 of this blog post.  so now the awkward, “i’m glad you stopped in to check” to which you’ll reply, “yeah, me, too.  i’ll have to find out how you’re doing in your next write-up.”

i fully realize this wasn’t really a good or funny post, but at least it was different.  and before you leave you read this one last line that gives you hope that my next update will be a little bit funnier and/or more informative.  but until then everything is changing even while we insist everything is the “same ol’ same ol'”.

— chunky ninja

big wheels keep on turning

my bike

there’s nothing more frustrating than to be in the middle of a sparring session, having your butt handed to you by some kid nearly thirty years younger, and then running out of steam.  unfortunately, that’s the story of my kenpo ability (or inability, as the case may be).

i’m hoping to change that.  a few weeks ago i bought a bike.  my thinking was since i hate running (read: HATE RUNNING!!!!), bicycling may be a good way for me to get my cardio up, lose some weight, and help me last longer in the sparring matches.

not me

but i used to ride bikes all the time.  they say once you learn, you never forget.  similar to kenpo where they say slow to learn, slow to forget.  well, i have not forgotten how to ride!  my rear end has forgotten how uncomfortable the seats can be, but even that is starting to pass with the miles (i’ve logged over 170 in the last three weeks).

Q. what’s funnier than watching an old, fat guy try to learn kenpo?
A. an old, fat guy riding a bike!

i like that i can stop for a break whenever i want to.  i’ll pedal for a few miles then stop. the sweat just start POURING off me and then when i start pedaling again, the breeze makes it feel like i just stepped in front of an air conditioner.  AWESOME!  well, at least for the first 3 or 4 minutes.

i started somewhat small treks … about 5 miles.  then i decided to push myself a bit.  my legs were stronger than i thought, so the problem was more with fatigue from distance or saddle sores.  i pushed myself a bit more the second week.  then i went out of town and everything got out of whack.  but as soon as the dust settled, i was back in the groove.

last friday i went out after work.  it was about 103°F … a typical july day in texas.  i loaded the bike up on the car and went to a local bike trail park.  i knew from where i was starting i could do quite a bit of mileage.  i rode from one park to another via a bike trail connection.

seriously not me

on a side note, i like the bike trails because there are no extreme hills in either direction, so i don’t have to get exhausted climbing mt everest or find myself “cheating” by coasting for five miles either.  they’re pretty level and that allows me to pedal, pedal, pedal. it’s about staying busy with the legs and trying to build some endurance. AND i don’t have idiot drivers running me off the road or screaming obscenities at me because i’m going about 30 miles under the speed limit.

anyway, last friday i hit the trails and went for 9 miles before i took my first five minute break.  from my stopping point i knew i could go to the end of the second park trail and back and it would be another 14 miles.  but could i do it without stopping?  YES.  so my second stop was at 23 miles.  the only thing left was the ride back to the car.  another 9 miles.  i was tired.  my speed (which is not fast to begin with) slowed some, but not as drastic as i thought it might.

i needed this after friday’s ride

for the most part, i stayed very consistent throughout the ride.  about 12.5 miles per hour.  i’m not trying to win any races, just build endurance.  when i pulled up to the car i dug out my iphone and took a look at my bike app … 33.68 miles!  i contemplated turning around and doing another 1.4 just so i could get to 35, but my legs were exhausted and i was desperate need of fluids.

so i walked, stretched, texted the two people who were checking to see if i was alright after being gone for two-and-a-half hours.  then went home.

saturday my legs were TIRED.  no riding.  but today i’m back on the neighborhood streets.  putting in 7-10 miles.  i’m trying to ride about 50-70 miles a week to go along with the three kenpo work outs.

six hours of kenpo a week and 50-70 miles SHOULD help my stamina.  we’ll find out in a few weeks after i’ve gotten accustomed to the routine.

—chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!