TKD Update

So I have been back to Tae Kwon Do for a couple of weeks. I have been learning 2 forms from the style and the hard part has begun. The having to forget movements that you used to practise over and over to perform a similar, yet different move. Thank God that I did do a little Kung Fu in between schools or I would not be able to walk right now because the horse stance is a lot tougher at this school.

The thing that has been the hardest so far is the push ups on my knuckles. I have done them before and my knuckles are hard enough, but we do either a set of 30 or two sets of 50 depending on the day. I can do about 10 the right way, after that it becomes an exercise of just dealing with the pain and maybe getting another 5 good ones or another 20 just regular push ups with my knee down. Squads are also no joke, specially when they are mixed with kicks.

I was concerned at first because there was no stretching before class and I did feel my muscles a little tight from not using them, but I trusted the teacher who is also a fitness expert. The way he structures the class we do end up stretching while we are warming up. I am actually amazed at how much we actually fit into an hour practise.

I am glad to know that my roundhouse still packs a lot of power, even though this style seems to emphasize the front push kick a lot more. I can feel the Karate a lot more than in any other school I have ever worked out at. My flexibility still has a long way to go, but its coming back a little faster than I had expected. The only thing I see just not advancing at a good pace is my stamina. I need to start running in the mornings or maybe even joining an indoor soccer league to not be so winded at the end of an exercise.

Today was the first time I actually got hurt by doing a sparring exercise. I am still brand new to this class so I did not know what to expect from the exercise that is basically a reaction to a front punch back and fort to work on self defence techniques. I will not go all out at a school class ever, and I don’t think the guy I was practising with tried to either, but he is a green belt, about mid level through the school belts and I think he does not have the control other people might. A couple of his blocks were stronger than I anticipated and I was just doing a dull punch so he caught me with his block bone to bone… nothing mayor, but still a little painful. We used to do an exercise in Kung Fu that would actually pair us up and condition our arms to take blocking hits, you learn to turn just enough to catch the other block at a good angle and not hit bone to bone, but when you don’t expect it hurts.

Overall I am super excited with the school. The other students are really nice, the teacher is knowledgeable and very through when explaining things. With time I will get more used to the differences on the styles and be able to maybe be back at a competition level. I know I miss breaking boards and bricks quite a bit, I have always found that quite satisfying.

No More TV

Ok, maybe not as drastic as that, but I am actually truly considering cutting down on my TV watching. Even though I just spend hours glued to the TV watching the Giants beat the Patriots. Go Giants! I have decided that TV just does not do much for me. Surprisingly enough a greater percentage of my friends than what I had originally though; watch little or no TV. A lot of them use the TV just to watch movies, sports or video games only.

When the writers went on strike I thought it was going to be a bad thing. I now realize that it was a blessing in disguise. I remember the first time one of my friends told me he did not have a TV, I was almost shocked. I did not think that anyone that had access to hundreds of channels of entertainment could ever be unglued from the TV.

Everything started when I began reading the book Blink. The author really amazed me with his style of writing, and the more I read the more I feel my mind is expanding. One of the things it has helped me realize is how passive it really is. I am rarely learning anything new from TV. I used to get excited when a TV show will have an obscure non pop culture reference or a comedian like Eddie Izzard talking about history; but now I see it as sad that there are just so little of those.

I also think that TiVo actually affected things even more. Being able to tape what you want in such a convenient way makes you less willing to channel surf. I remember filling up the TiVo and then catching up on the weekends, but then the TV season would end and there would be little to watch on the TiVo. Little by little I stopped channel surfing all together and I would only look for shows to tape.

HBO and the other movie channels are producing great content, but more and more I find that most people watch it because they want to have things to converse about. Besides the water cooler talk, a lot of the shows really have no meat. I am all for the guilty pleasure of reality TV, but Survivor went to Guatemala and I think I know less about the country after watching it than before.

While I know that TV is simply entertainment, I am not truly using my brain as much as I would be with a game of chess or even an FPS video game that would be helping my hand eye coordination. Another bad trend is eating in from of the TV. Some days I actually eat all of my meals in front of the boob tube.

Reading is probably the activity that I want to start doing more of, both online and off line. Once I put my RSS reader in order I realized that I can get through my daily reads every night and leave some stuff for the weekends. Also reading books to me is a lot more rewarding than watching a whole TV series. When you invest as much time as it takes to get through a whole season of something and the quality of the show has suffered or become predictable, it can be quite disappointing.

Another activity that I need to get back into is exercising. I have been neglecting my body quite a bit and I am ashamed to say that I am probably in the worst shape of my life. I thought that playing soccer over the summer would have helped, but I really did not put much into it. I also need to get back into martial arts and get back into something that is goal driven. I need to break the cycle of coming home and plopping in front of the TV. I am even considering rearranging my office or even moving it downstairs so both Bea and I can surf the web in the same room.

The last activity that I have neglected was language learning. Even though sign language is not what most people think of when they hear bilingual, I would love to get back into it. I also really need to get serious about French since I should be able to pick it up having a teacher at home. I have purchased some language software and I really need to get some use out of it.

I am a fan of many shows, but I honestly can say that when they turn to crap it gets hard to watch. The only thing to do is either let them go or become a fanboy. The fanboy mentality toward TV ends up just being somewhat creepy and I just don’t know if I can get out to a StarWars or StarTrek convention. I seriously cannot invest myself that much to the stuff that is produced here in the U.S. I find more depth on some anime than in most TV shows.

There are just so many other things to do that can better both mind and body. I think TV is actually hurting me in both fronts right now. I prefer video games to it, so this writers strike might just be the thing I need to kick the habit. So what have you been doing lately if you are a TV watcher? Do you think TV can actually make you dumb?

Food Poisoned Before Thanksgiving

What are the chances that the day you are food poisoned is the day before thanksgiving and you spend turkey day sicker than a dog that just ate a pound of chocolate.

I have hosted a weight loss challenge about 4 times. While I do not like to make my blog about weight loss I feel that it is important to motivate those around me and more importantly me. I have struggled with losing weight for a long time and tried to explain it a million different ways but the reality is that I need to control my portions and watch what I eat. The reward meals that I give myself should not be so unhealthy that I undo the hard work of a whole week.

Candy and Melissa have been eager to start another challenge and I have been telling them that it is coming. This year I want to make it not so that after the holidays we start the yearly weight loss plan, but actually start it right after thanksgiving. So Monday we will start the new challenge with the initial weigh in and we are going to motivate each other into shedding some pounds during the remainder of the holiday season. If you are interested just go here.

I have given up junk food almost completely. I have only eaten junk food about 3 times in the past couple of months. Yesterday night was one of those days and you have no idea how much I regret it. I am sitting here on turkey day sick as a dog and I have only eaten some crackers and soda… forget the turkey.

The following is a complete assumption on my part, but I think my logic is about right. I am almost tempted to call the fast food place to complain because I think what they did was unacceptable.

Last night I was on my way back from seeing one of my buddies friends play a gig at a bar. My wife was tired and she did not want to go so I ended up just meeting a friend from work there. We stayed for a couple of sets and then headed home. I had a couple of beers in a two hour period and headed back home. As I start driving my wife asked me if I could pick up a burger and fries since we did not eat dinner, we had gone to the movies and had some theather food but we were actually kind of hungry. It was 10:40 and I was about 10 minutes from home, so I said no problem.

I pulled up at the fast food restaurant and they were turning the lights off. I asked if they were there and they took my order but I had the feeling that they had already began pre-closing. I have the feeling that they actually pulled the meat from a garbage can now, it is the only explanation for me being so sick from that burger. I did not see it happen, I don’t know for sure but I have a feeling that it is exactly what they did.

After today I don’t think I will be able to stomach a burger from a fast food joint for a long time. Laying in bed after having both ends trying to disintegrate me by expunging all the liquids inside my body I feel like crap. Everything hurts, I am running a fever, I am weak and I can think about is how important it is for me not to get this sick. My brain keeps on telling me that if I do not change my portion control I am going to gain more weight and get really sick, my liver already has some fat deposits that mess with it. So I am going to take this shitty day as a reminder that I am thankful to be alive and need to really consider what I put in my mouth.

No more Pop!

Or Soda, like some of you might call it. I have been trying to eat less junk and I am happy to report that I am down to maybe eating some McD`s breakfast once a month and a Sonic burger maybe about that often. The next step is to cut out drinking soft drinks all together. I am lucky enough that Bea does not like pop, so we don`t have to have it around the house. The funny thing is that we do have it, we have about 4 cases of different flavors for when people come over, but they have lasted weeks there.

My Dad used to work for Postobon back in Colombia, the distributor for Pepsi. They had some funny rules about your employees never being able to drink the competition’s, Coca Cola, products. However it was really easy for the employees to get free sodas. The $factory and offices had huge refrigerators full of all the flavors they offered. At home we would drink a lot of natural made juices, but we occasionally will get pop at lunch. When I was out with friends, pop was the drink of choice. I was around it a lot and drank it quite a bit.

When I moved to the US, I thought I was going to drink a lot less soda. I was very much mistaken… getting a actual fruit juice required going to the mall back in the 90s. Not many people thought of fruit juice here besides OJ. My family used the frozen kind, but it was not the same as all natural fruit juice and just simply full of sugar. Fruits are a lot more expensive here, a single mango is a lot more expensive than a can of soda. Pop became the default drink of choice.

I have seen how soda is made and trust me when I tell you that it is a chemical cocktail. I kept on lying to myself saying that if I drink diet soda, I would be all right. I think diet soda is just replacing high fructose corn syrup with more chemicals that keep on changing because the last one they used caused cancer. Essentially the “diet” sweeteners are a more complex molecule than sugar and your body does not absorb them as sugar (at least not for a while, there are studies saying that the body can eventually do it). That stuff is then left for your liver to deal with.

When I was addicted to junk food, a part of it was the soft drink that would was down the salty fries. It was just so refreshing… actually it was not, I would end up just as thirsty after drinking even a 44 oz. The caffeine shot that I got was just excellent and I thought, amazing little drink, cheap convenient and it tastes awesome. But did it really?

About 5 years ago I had to stop drinking Mountain Dew. It had become the drink of choice since college because it kept me “energized”. I also was working for a place that provided us with free sodas, specially the ones that were caffeine high. I started getting almost violent pain in my stomach after drinking one. I am not sure if it was all the sugar, the extra caffeine or just the combination, but that was it for MtDew. Instead of stopping to drink pop all together, even though by then I knew how bad it was for the body back then, I just switched to drinking something else.

I had also back then heard about hunger and how most of us confuse thirst with hunger. I also thought back to my youth when I also was thirsty all the time and would drink a lot of water. I can only remember wanting to drink water after actually doing something that made me sweat, but when I was a kid I would be thirsty during the day. I think it had a lot to do with having just soda so readily available everywhere and then being able to just grab some other junk food when I was just thirsty.

Giving up junk food also meant not having so much pop readily available. I also started getting water or iced tea with my meals instead of Pop. This week I heard about a report that links all soda, including diet, to your metabolism suffering. While the study was merely observational, data gathered also included soda but it was not the main thing the study was looking for, I could not ignore the rest of the knowledge I had any more. It is amazing how much we lie to ourselves to just stay in a behaviour that can be causing us harm, like smoking(which I have not done since… Bea has a counter).

So I have decided to cut my soda consumption to a minimum of every once in a great while. It is not a cold turkey kind of thing since I have been cutting it off little by little. I am however not going to buy any more soda for me at home. I also have upped my water intake, I drink quite a bit at work now which is cool. I am not saying you all should give up pop or any other behaviours that might be doing something bad to your body… but I challenge to at least think about what you are putting into your system.

Armed with some serious tools

Just came back from Chicago… ah, the food… the last meals… before the total body transformation self imposed challenge. But first lets recap the weekend.

Not only did we get to spend the whole weekend eating good food… we also had a good time. Even though like always I did not get to see as many people as I wanted to, I am thankful for the time that I did get to spend with friends. There are pictures… but if you are meant to see them you already know where to go. If it seems like I am a little food obsessed its because I am, I am actually going on a serious diet and exercise program. After a long time I finally feel really good about myself and I figured what better thing to house a healthy mind than a healthy body.

If you guys want to join, just let me know… I am going to keep track of it over at the weight loss challenge page. I am also going to seriously start using traino to help with motivation and accountability. Its going to be hard, but it will be totally worth it.

The most serious tool that I am going to use is self determination. While it is a good thing to have others supporting you on the quest, unless you are the one putting your mind to it is not going to work. I will not be blogging about my weightloss because it is personal and what works for me might not work for anyone else. However the challenge will be up and you can participate by leaving comments there. Back to your regular programming.