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Back from a Trip (My Pants are Getting Tighter!)

Yes.  Despite my fairly active lifestyle I’ve put on a few kilos, which is to be expected because I’ve let my nutrition habits fall by the wayside.  I’ve taken to having at least one beer every night for the past few weeks, have had little success stopping myself from taking a few small pieces off the dessert table at the resort’s restaurant during lunch, and just this week went to Palawan (it was work-related, but highly enjoyable) where I ate and drank.  A.  Lot.  Comes with the job actually.  We were there to observe the tourism industry and see if we can learn something useful.  That meant going to recommended restaurants and bars, visiting tourist attractions, sampling the exotic foods.  And getting drunk.  Okay that last part wasn’t really part of the task, but it sure made it more fun.

So I wasn’t surprised to find my pants to be just a bit tighter, my torso to be just a bit flabbier, and my weight to be just a few kilos higher than it was earlier this year.  I’m trying not to freak out, but it is a sobering thought that were I to gain back too large a fraction of the weight I’ve lost – and I have lost a lot – not only would I have a hard time finding clothes that fit me (because I’ve already gotten rid of most of them), I’d also encounter the same problem I had when I first started training in Aikido: KNEE PAIN.  I do not like knee pain.  ‘Nuff said.

Henceforth, as I told my wife, beer shall be reserved for weekends and birthdays/anniversaries only.  At least for several weeks.  Same with all manner of desserts and snacks that didn’t come directly from a tree or bush.  Cookies, ice cream, brownies and the like: weekend food.  And sparingly at that.  That ought to shave off some pounds.  It won’t likely get me a six pack but then I’m not in this for a six pack.

 

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Day 4: The Importance of Flexible Planning

I woke up to my daughter’s cry just before 5.  A dream.  I picked her up and held her, which immediately calmed her, then put her back down.  I would have gone back to bed and stayed there, maybe even dozed off – but I realized that she was sitting up.  Oh boy.  I had a hunch that my usual morning time would be cut drastically short, if not totally obliterated, if I didn’t get up thirty minutes earlier, so I did.  I got up, sat zazen, and went downstairs to the kitchen.  I was slicing the vegetables for the salad when I heard the footsteps coming down.  There went my music time.

Good thing that was the only thing I had to skip.  I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to plan for when shit happens.  And it’s not rocket science – just a matter of making sure that a certain amount of flexibility is worked into the design of the program.  In my case, I made my current plan knowing that there would be days like this one where maybe the kids get up too early, or days where I am sick, or I have to travel somewhere (as I do next week).  For today, I figured I could just work on lyrics later – probably when I am lying in bed while everyone’s asleep.

Later this morning I practiced the following:

Aikiken waza: single-arm cuts, yokomenuchi

Kali single stick drills

Kali single stick carenza (free play)

Aikiken waza: Shihonage

I feel better than I did last Tuesday.  I think I tried to do too much that time.  Also, I’d been a bit hasty in my movements.  Today I slowed down somewhat on my left arm, focusing more on proper form and movement than on power, though I still went rock n’ roll on my right arm – especially on carenza.


Day 2.5: What For?

I guess this is a good time to talk about why I planned this whole 6-week thing, as well as what I intend to do with this blog.

I haven’t gotten around to doing this blog’s About page, but the blog name pretty much says it all.  Zen, Music, and Movement – the three main interests in my life.  They’re interests, but they’re also disciplines.  They are practices.  But one cannot call something a practice unless one actually – wait for it – practices it.  A freakin’ lot.  Which would be a lot simpler if I lived as a celibate monk in a monastery that emphasized zazen, music, and physical movement as their main disciplines (assuming of course that such a place exists.  I don’t know, I’ve never stayed in a monastery before).  Not only is that not the case for me, I also don’t have the desire to do so.  I’m perfectly happy being married, being a father, and having a stable job that allows me to both support my family and pursue my interests.  So the whole point about the 6-week plan is just to plot out how a regular civilian who is not: a) a monk, b) a professional fighter/soldier/pretty much anyone paid to fight, c) a professional athlete, d) a full-time professional singer-songwriter can realistically make these disciplines a part of his life along with his work, family, social life, and everything else.

Why six weeks?  Well, it’s not like I’m going to stop after that.  It’s just an arbitrary period of time.  I could have also chosen 6 months, 6 days, 6 years.  But I chose 6 weeks because I’ve found it to be a manageable chunk of time.  It’s longer than 6 days and shorter than 6 months.  It’s long enough for me to develop the habit of practicing the disciplines consistently, and short enough that it doesn’t seem so daunting.  I mean think about it: if you wanted to accomplish a particularly ambitious goal or complete a huge and complex project, the idea of doing so would most likely seem so formidable you’d seriously question your ability to undertake such a thing.  However, if you were to break it up into tiny, more manageable tasks, it wouldn’t seem such a big deal now, would it?

So that’s it.  Six weeks.  And after that – I’ll evaluate and make adjustments accordingly for the next six weeks, or six months, or whatever.  And this blog?  It’s to help me keep track of myself.


Day 2: Piano-tinkering and Yamabushi (Mountain Warrior) Training Minus the Funny Samurai Costume

Got up at the usual time and did my 12-minute zazen.  I’m slowly getting used to the longer period.  Then again, there was a time I would do 20 to 25 minutes.  My sangha does zazenkais composed of 30-minute sitting periods with 15-minute kinhin (walking zen) periods in between.  12 minutes on my own ain’t much, really.  But then again, I’ve found that doing something consistently matters more long term.  Not that I have anything against longer sitting periods – or longer periods of anything, for that matter.  It’s just that I’m not a Zen monk living in a monastery – and even they do other stuff besides sit zazen for long periods.

I brought my guitar downstairs with the intent to work on the song fragment I came up with yesterday.  But I finished preparing breakfast relatively later, though still on schedule (about 6:20) and thought that I’d better use the piano instead as I was pressed for time.  I always loosen the strings on my guitar after every time I play it, which means that I have to spend a few minutes tuning it every time I take it out.  In contrast, when I want to play the piano, I just take off the cloth covering, plug in, and I’m good to go (it’s a keyboard synthesizer actually, but I rarely ever use any other sound besides piano so I often just refer to it as a piano).  So I spent some time tinkering on the piano/keyboard.  I didn’t come up with additional lyrics, but I was able to play around with the general feeling and treatment of the song.  Like what tempo and rhythm would sound nice, that sort of thing.  Just before a quarter to 6, my wife came down with our daughter.  Which meant that I’d have to stop and segue into my morning warm up.

Which I did.  I won’t elaborate on the details since it’s pretty much the same warm up I’ve been using on a daily basis.  I subscribe to the GMB philosophy where in the warm up is as much a diagnostic tool as it is a method of preparing the body for physical exertion. Simply put, by going into my warm up every day I can pretty much listen to my body and mind.  I can feel where I’m stiff, or when I just need to ease off or maybe even stop (here’s a hint for the readers who are not regular exercisers: if you’re gasping for breath on your warm up, you’re probably doing too much.  A warm up is supposed to wake you up, not exhaust you – that’s what the main workout is for), or if I’m having trouble focusing.

Up in the mountain, I worked on basic Aikido and Kali techniques.  I couldn’t resist breaking out of the planned Kali drills and doing carenza (solo free play for the Kali practitioner) a couple of times.  One of the gardeners was doing his daily grounds maintenance.  I’m pretty sure he was watching me out of the corner of my eye.  I’m also pretty sure word will get around.  That’s okay, I’m used to it by now.  I still feel a bit self-conscious about training where others can see me, but I’m getting more and more used to it.  I didn’t go through all the drills though.  I think I’ll spread them out more between Tuesday and Thursday because I’m feeling the effects of yesterday’s conditioning work and I think doing everything according to plan will only hamper my recovery.  That’s the tricky part about planning a physical training schedule: you have to factor in recovery time, and that’s going to be different for everyone.

One final note: I’m planning to blog daily just for this week – just because it’s the first – and after that I think I’ll follow a weekly or even bi-weekly schedule.

 


Day One, Take #3

Day one, take number 3.  I’ve been planning this 6-week comprehensive plan (where I can fit my workouts, zen practice, martial arts practice, and parkour/freerunning practice into my daily life) since the beginning of June.  Actually since the end of May.  The idea being that I can find time and energy for the things I want to do and accomplish without sacrificing the time and energy I need for work, family, and a social life.  Okay, maybe not so much of a social life, but hey I’m an introvert with a wife and kids.  The funny thing is, I’ve been trying to implement this for two weeks but stuff kept coming up and I kept putting it off and putting it off.  Well, this is my 3rd attempt and I’m determined to do this.

Anyway, this is the plan for the next six weeks:

 

6-WEEK TRAINING PLAN

 

DAY Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
MORNING 5:30 to 6 Zazen 5:30 to 6 Zazen 5:30 to 6 Zazen 5:30 to 6 Zazen 5:30 to 6 Zazen
  6 to 6:20 Make breakfast and coffee 6 to 6:20 Make breakfast and coffee 6 to 6:20 Make breakfast and coffee 6 to 6:20 Make breakfast and coffee 6 to 6:20 Make breakfast and coffee
  6:20 to 6:45 Songwriting/Music 6:20 to 6:45 Songwriting/Music 6:20 to 6:45 Songwriting/Music 6:20 to 6:45 Songwriting/Music 6:20 to 6:45 Songwriting/Music
  6:45 to 7:15 Warm up:

 

F2 warm up

 

Single-leg balances

 

Hollow body

 

Bridge

 

Sun Salutation

 

Pancake split

6:45 to 7:15 Warm up:

 

F2 warm up

 

Single-leg balances

 

Hollow body

 

Bridge

 

Sun Salutation

 

Pancake split

6:45 to 7:15 Warm up:

 

F2 warm up

 

Single-leg balances

 

Hollow body

 

Bridge

 

Sun Salutation

 

Pancake split

6:45 to 7:15 Warm up:

 

F2 warm up

 

Single-leg balances

 

Hollow body

 

Bridge

 

Sun Salutation

 

Pancake split

  Warm up:

 

F2 warm up

 

Single-leg balances

 

Hollow body

 

Bridge

 

Sun Salutation

 

Pancake split

  7:15 to 8 Breakfast and prepare for leaving 7:15 to 8 Breakfast and prepare for leaving 7:15 to 8 Breakfast and prepare for leaving 7:15 to 8 Breakfast and prepare for leaving 7:15 to 8 Breakfast and prepare for leaving
AFTERNOON 3:30 to 4:30 Bodyweight conditioning 3:30 to 4:30 MA solo training 3:30 to 4:30 Bodyweight conditioning 3:30 to 4:30 MA solo training 3:30 to 4:30 Parkour
EVENING         7 to 9 Massage     7 to 9 Aikido

 

I should add that the times are flexible and are meant to be a guide.  Just because I allotted thirty minutes for zazen and twenty minutes after that to make breakfast and coffee does not mean I have to sit zazen  for exactly half an hour and make breakfast and coffee for exactly twenty minutes.

F2 is shorthand for Floor 2.  I purchased Gold Medal Bodies’s Floor 2 program last year.  Although I still haven’t completed the entire program, I’ve found the warm up routine very useful and have incorporated it into my regular workouts.  I even use most of the exercises in the dojo when I’m leading the Aikido class.  I will definitely go back to Floor 2 someday.  But for now, I just want to start really training in Parkour/Freerunning – it’s why I bought the program in the first place.  Funny thing is, I gradually realized that I have gotten to the point in my physical conditioning that I can actually start training even before finishing the F2 program.  So goodbye F2 for now – my focus will be on Parkour and Martial Arts.

The single leg balances are the yoga tree pose, front leg scale, and back leg scale.  I do them for ten to twenty seconds each.  I started doing them after I’d recovered from a severe right ankle sprain.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to be really stable  on one leg if I want to really pursue Parkour.

Speaking of Parkour and martial arts, I made a separate table detailing my plan:

BODYWEIGHT CONDITIONING, PARKOUR TRAINING, MARTIAL ARTS SOLO TRAINING

A (MONDAY and WEDNESDAY)

 

WARM UP:

  • Standing dynamic stretches
  • Handstands

 

CONDITIONING

  • Quadrupedal movements: (bear, crab, ground kong, monkey)
  • Capoeira-style cartwheel-Chinese squat combos
  • Single-leg jumps or 180-degree jumps
  • Incline plyometric pushups
  • Wall crawl/Stand-to-stand bridge pushups
  • Dead hangs (split or parallel)

 

COOLDOWN:

  • Standing forward bends
  • Triangle
  • Shoulder stretches
B (TUESDAY and THURSDAY)

 

AIKIKEN:

Tuesdays

  • Single-arm vertical and yokomenuchi
  • Yokomenuchi (switch)
  • 4-direction suburi (switch)

Thursdays

Aiki Toho Iai-based techniques

  • Ikkyo
  • Shihonage
  • Kotegaeshi
  • Iriminage
  • Nikkyo

KALI:

Tuesdays

  • Basic strikes (left and right)
  • Basic defense (left and right)
  • Methods (left and right)
  • Single stick drills (left and right)

Thursdays

  • Double stick drills
  • Single stick Carenza (right arm)
C (FRIDAY)

 

WARM UP:

  • Standing dynamic stretches
  • Side planks
  • Carry-throughs
  • Straight double leg lifts

 

SKILLS:

  • Soft landings
  • Parkour rolls
  • Safety vaults
  • Lazy vaults
  • Wall runs

 

 

COOLDOWN:

  • Wall crawl/Stand-to-stand bridge
  • Standing forward bends
  • Triangle
  • Shoulder stretches

 

Well, that’s the plan.  And today is the first day of implementation.  Here’s how I fared today:

So I got up at around 5:30 this morning.  I’d woken up earlier, around past 4.  No biggie, I’m used to it.  Lights out in our house is around 8 pm so even if I’m still awake around 9:30 or so, my body and brain has already had time to settle down.  Waking up at 4 in the morning is no big deal – as long as I get to lie in bed for an hour or so longer.  Which I did today, though I did have to get up a few times.  Long story.  I went back to bed and lay there drifting in and out of sleep until half past five, then I got up.  I did a 12-minute zazen session, then went downstairs for coffee and to fix breakfast.

I finished my breakfast and had my coffee right on schedule: 6:20 am.  Got my guitar, spent a few minutes tuning it, then strummed a C9 chord.  It was just to test it at first, but then C9 turned to C9 and Em, and I started playing around with just those two chords and just like that I’d already come up with a song fragment.  Just a piece of a song, just a hint of possibility.  But I felt satisfied with myself.  Yay!  I did something productive today as a songwriter!

A few minutes before 6:45 I did my warm up.  Near the end, my wife came down carrying our daughter.  No big deal, I was almost done.  I used to have a longer and more intense morning routine – a proper bodyweight workout that lasted between 30-45 minutes.  If I really wanted to I could do it again, but I find this present routine less stressful.  And it allows me to practice both zazen and music in the morning without stressing out about how much or little time I have before my family comes down, signaling the end of ME-time and the beginning of FAMILY-time.  Anyway, I finished shortly.  By a quarter to 8 I’d already eaten, showered, and prepared to leave for work.

I work in my family’s resort up in a mountain.  Nice place, cool, about 80 hectares of forest with roads and pockets of cottages and rooms and a restaurant – you know, the works.  The nice thing about my job is that although I’m there five days a week, it’s not a 9-to-5 thing where I have to punch a clock going in and going out.  My hours are flexible, and nobody complains as long as I show results.  Which is why at past eleven I decided to go to the private area where the family’s vacation houses are to do my bodyweight workout.  Here’s what I did:

 

Warm up:

  • Dynamic standing stretches
  • A scaled-down version of Ido Portal’s squat routine (basically I did way less than he recommended in the video)
  • Straight-leg swings
  • Wall handstands

MAIN:

  • Quadrupedal movement – I plotted a straight-line course of roughly five meters and moved back and forth nonstop, first doing bear walk in one direction, then crab walk in the opposite direction, then shifting directions but this time doing ground kongs, shifting again using monkey, and shifting yet again using monkey.  Rested for one minute.
  • Cartwheel-to-chinese squat combo – I actually forgot to count reps for these.  I was supposed to count 5 reps each side, but gasping for breath makes even mental counting a challenge.  Again, I rested for one minute.
  • Single-leg jumps and 180-degree jumps superset – Originally meant to be performed separately with a 60-second interval, but after the last single-leg jump I thought, “Oh what the hell” and immediately segued to 180s.  Single-leg jumps: 10 reps/leg, 180s: 5 reps per direction.  Another 60-second rest afterwards.
  • Incline plyometric pushups against a handrail – 10 reps.  I will probably have to raise the difficulty level soon.  Maybe incline plyos against a bench?  I don’t think I’m ready for the ground just yet. One minute rest.
  • Dead hang – 10 seconds. I had my shoulders down, scapula retracted.   I’m not yet strong enough for pull-ups, so I’m starting with dead hangs.  Once I’ve gotten comfortable with holding between 30 to 60 seconds, I’ll move on.
  • Wall crawl to bridge + bridge pushups – Did it against a tree  trunk.  Five reps. Rested one minute then cooled down with some light standing static stretches.

So far so good, but it’s only the first day.  I made this plan knowing that shit can, does, and will definitely happen.  I know that next week I’ll be in Palawan on a job-related tour.  Realistically I’ll only be able to do zazen and the morning warm up.  But that’s okay.  I am a firm believer in the Japanese saying, ななころびやおき (read that as nanakorobi yaoki) or “fall down seven times stand up eight.”


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