Friday, May 22, 2015

May 21: needing new shoes

Kendo: morning suburi. I admit I almost literally had to drag myself up at 5:30am to do my suburi, and do it properly; very tired this morning, for whatever reason. But I found that the act of doing kendo, even with not the best of attitudes at first, helped me focus and gain some alertness.

Running: 8 miles. Good run along Lantern/116th, down to Easy Street. I really, really need a new pair of running shoes, however; I've blown a hole the size of a quarter in one shoe, which I discovered the hard way by stomping on a rock. Didn't do my sock any good, either.

Nutrition: I'm suffering from a very painful, swollen tongue (of all things); I think I accidentally bit it while I slept, and it is in a very bad place, on the back and underneath. Swallowing and even talking hurts quite a bit. This meant I wasn't much interested in eating today, and came in well under my calorie goal. Not the best approach, but....

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 20: household chores

Kendo: off day. A day full of household chores--especially a broken bathroom--left me no time at all for suburi.

Running: 7 miles. The aforementioned home chores and weather also presented challenges for my running, but I managed two shorter runs in the afternoon and early evening-divided by a rainstorm in between--that together added up to a pretty decent number of miles.

Nutrition: sticking to my calorie counting, but I seem to have plateaued a bit, hovering right around 170 pounds. This isn't too bad: in 46 days I've lost 9.5 pounds (as of this morning), and since my general goal is a pound a week, I'm actually a bit ahead of the curve.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19: feet

Kendo: morning suburi. With yesterday's struggles in mind, I tried something different. I tried feet.

I decided while doing suburi this morning to think about what my feet are doing, and (as much possible) absolutely nothing else. To an extent, I succeeded, though (as with my suburi yesterday) I constantly fight mental distractions. The point here is not just my footwork (though "ashi first" is indeed a time-honored kendo saying) but rather to begin working, in a small way, on the body awareness and focus issues my sensei suggest are among my biggest weaknesses in kendo. I have to start somewhere, so I'm starting right here, right now, with a compact, tightly focused morning suburi routine in which I concentrate on my footwork.

My sensei was also kind enough to send to me (along with other dojo members) video footage f my class two weeks ago, pointing out that we should pay particular attention to how much our kirikaeshi improved in the video, once we placed a greater emphasis on kiai. He is entirely correct; my strikes in the video are more crisp and powerful once I do kiai properly.

Running: 7 miles. A totally perfect day for running, and with a little more time than usual for driving, I made the trip to Potter's Bridge in Noblesville--always one of my favorite runs. My back feels much better, but still sore enough to somewhat affect my posture and slow me down a little (I averaged a 9:54 mile), but on the whole a fine day, and a fine run.

Nutrition: my weight was up a bit this morning--171 pounds--no doubt at least in part a function of my excess yesterday. But today was a reasonably healthy day, and I stayed 300 calories below my daily goal.

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18: restarting suburi

Kendo: early morning suburi, my first in quite a while. I'm trying to rethink my kendo, breaking it down to the very basics, with attention to detail and a renewed focus on...well, focusing. My sensei has told me I need to become more conscious of what my body is doing while I practice kendo.

This is very difficult for me--more so than for most people, I think. I'm a teacher and a scholar by profession, living the "life of the mind," so to speak, and in the process I think I have some very deeply ingrained mental habits that cause me to lose focus, especially on the things that really matter in kendo. So, this morning I worked on deliberate self-awareness, and broke my suburi down to the basics, thinking in terms of quality, rather than quantity:
  1. seiza
  2. sonkyo
  3. joge-buri (20)
  4. sayu-joge-buri with hyaki-ashi(20)
  5. katate-suburi(20)
  6. sayu-men(50)
  7. sho-men(50)
  8. sonkyo
I tried, in doing this brief session, to remain as self-aware and conscious of the detailed placement of my feet, posture, tenouchi, etc. as possible, without losing focus and without letting my mind wander. I tried to put my mind in a certain quiet, focused place.

With limited success. I found that, all too often, I would be able to concentrate really intensely on these matters for only a few moments at a time, before my mind's eye invariably wandered to other things: the things that clutter my rather unquiet, excessively abstract brain. In fact, I finished my suburi frustrated with this; for whatever reason, I find it nearly impossible to even approach the mental state  sense I need to achieve to do better kendo.

All of this is very, very difficult to describe. My sensei recently observed that, while I can articulate kendo concepts (we were at that moment discussing ki-ken-tai-icchi), he's not at all sure that what I have in my head is the same thing as what he has in his head. Same problem here; I need to work on my kendo mind, on a steady, quiet, unwavering focus.

Right now, I can't do it--not even close. This morning I'd gain focus, then it would waver, gain then waver. I'd stop and my mind would go to my list of chores for the day, what I needed to write about, the cat, my cup of coffee nearby. This is exactly the problem I need to address. My kendo will never improve otherwise, and this morning's suburi simply highlighted my great deficiencies. I suppose my only solace here is that I am at least very dimly aware of what I need to do.

Running: no running today; still trying to give my achy lower back a rest. I did do two walks, however--about five miles total.

Nutrition: as is usually the case when I don't run, I overshot my calorie goal, albeit not by much--around 175 calories.

Nutrition: the sugar factor

Interesting article in the Washington Post concerning the relationship between exercise, diet and calorie intake. I don't particularly like the tone of this article, typical of many others of its type: something along the lines of, "you idiots!___________ won't help you lose weight. Any moron knows this. Only_____________ REALLY works. And oh, by the way, there's a vast conspiracy of politicians/businessmen/lobbyists/wrongheaded scientists (i.e., people who don't think like me), trying to keep you stupid and overweight."

I often think that experts who write in this fashion of righteous, shrill indignation, while entirely well-meaning, don't seem to realize just how off-putting and arrogant they often sound. Counter-productive, too, if they want people to actually pay attention to what they're trying to say.

Still...the aforementioned article does make some excellent points. The take-away: exercise alone won't help anyone achieve serious weight loss. Nor will calorie-counting. Nor will exercise and calorie-counting combined. What we need, the author argues, is a significant change in the types of foods we eat. He takes particular exception to sugar, and the excessive intake of sugar common among...well, everyone, really.

This includes me. Since early April I have been judiciously counting my calories, using a wonderful app called MyFitnessPal. Combining this with a solid exercise program rooted in running, and I've managed to lose (as of this morning, May 17th) 11 pounds. So far, so good. And this is exactly what I did back in 2004, when I dropped 100 pounds, going from this:

To this:

I'm not trying to brag, really I'm not. But I'd like to think I know a thing or two about weight loss, and about maintenance. I've managed to keep most of that weight off for more than ten years; this is no small thing. I'm far from perfect; I've had to get back on a strict calorie regimen recently because weight creep gave me back about fifteen of those pounds I had lost back in the day. I don't want to argue with serious, scientific weight-loss studies, nor am I given to handing out gratuitous weight-loss advice (not that anybody ever asks me, anyway). But speaking from my own, personal experience: a combined regimen of exercise and calorie control can and will eventually result in significant weight loss. Nothing else ever worked for me.

That said, I do think the sugar problem identified by this author is real, and substantial. And I must admit, I eat way too much sugar. I'm a serious choco-holic, and MyFitnessPal daily bears witness to this. I need to really cut back on my refined sugar intake; to that end, this little article is quite right, and food for further thought (no pun intended)

Where I'm going, week of May 18-24

Kendo: no class in the dojo again this week; on Tuesday my daughter will receive an academic honors award at a ceremony which happens to fall on Tuesday evening, so of course this takes precedence.

In fact, I'll not be back in my Indianapolis dojo until June 9; I leave for a two week business trip to Louisville on Memorial Day. But I should be able to practice with the Louisville kendo club at least twice, which is always nice. And I plan to restart my daily suburi this week, with some ideas and goals in mind. I can't just keep doing to same things and hope for different results: I'm working on getting my head in the right place, a better place.

In fact, I see this long interlude away from the dojo as an opportunity, of sorts. When I do kendo in the dojo on June 9, I want my kendo to be noticeably better than when I left.

Running: no travel plans this week, good weather, and a fairly flexible summer schedule should all add up to a good week. I want to launch my long-term running training plan (whatever that turns out to be) on June 8 (my 50th birthday), from a foundation of 40 miles per week, with weekly distance runs of at least 10 miles. So, that's my goal for the week.

Nutrition: more of the same: MyFitnessPal, calorie-counting, and closely monitored, mindful nutrition.

Where I've been, week of May 11-17

Kendo: an off week, certainly, but I don't know that I'd call it a down week. No suburi or class at the dojo Tuesday. On the other hand, I've had a lot of time to think, evaluate, get in touch with some basic kendo ideas in a couple of films and some reading. I didn't do much kendo this week, persay, but I'm getting refreshed, getting my head back in the right place, and discovering (not for the first time) that sometimes a little time off, even from kendo, is a good idea.

What I've thought about, more than anything else, are two primary kendo ideas: mindfulness and focus. My sensei has spoken with me a great deal about both, and I've also thought some of these matters through by watching Naoki Eiga and the older senseis pursuing hashidan rank in Kendo's Grueling Challenge. I'll devote a full blog post to these things next week, but here I'll just note that I'm thinking far more about the mental, emotional and even spiritual aspects of kendo right now that anything else.

Running: 33 miles. Now this was definitely a down week, though perhaps not as terrible as I might have expected. My three day trip to Springfield, Illinois was bound to create challenges, and it did. But I rebounded nicely with some good, longish runs later in the week. In fact, I might have made my 40 mile goal if not for that silly back injury I sustained Sunday. Not a good week, then, but certainly could have been worse.

Nutrition: Doing okay here, as well. I blew the lid off my calorie goals on Monday and Tuesday, but with care and discipline I was able to get my overall weekly intake right where it should be. My weight is reflecting this; I hit 168 at one point, which is nice progress.

May 17: ^&%$ back thingy

Kendo: watched another favorite, foundational kendo film today, Kendo's Grueling Challenge.

Running: 5 miles. Running (really exercise of any kind) was a challenge today. I did some much-needed yard work this morning, and while lifting several heavy bags of mulch I managed to aggravate my back thingy. At least, that's what I call it: muscle inflammation in my lower back, an ongoing threat for several years now. I can't really even remember when it first began, or how, but I will occasionally cause it to flare up, usually when I try to lift something heavy or sometimes by running.

It hurt pretty darned good by the time I found an opportunity to run in the late afternoon. I figured my goal for the day--a 12 mile distance run--was likely not going to be realistic, so rather than do a long out-and-back that could leave me in a bad way should the pain become too intolerable, I chose instead to do a meandering course around my immediate neighborhood, staying pretty close to home. And I managed to grind out five painful, and painfully slow, miles. Not a fun experience at all.

Nutrition: another of those challenging days in which I had to eat dinner at a restaurant--always difficult to control caloric intake in such settings. The restaurant in question was an Indianapolis southern/soul food establishment, Georgia Reece's (owned by former Colts player Gary Brackett), at a dinner with family to celebrate my stepson's graduation from Purdue. I was awfully tempted to throw caution to the winds, but good sense eventually prevailed and I went for the fish tacos. A good option, and at the end of the day I managed (barely) to stay under my calorie goal.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May 16: a bit sore

Kendo: off day. Watched A Single Blow again.

Running: 8 miles. Pretty decent run, again along my Lantern Road/116th street route. Pretty sore in the last couple of miles, however; again, I'm sure I'm paying a bit of price for piling so many miles into a relatively few days. Also, my shoes are showing some serious signs of wear and tear. All in all, a pretty good run--just sore.

Nutrition: the run, along with a long walk in the late afternoon, gave me plenty of calories to play with. I also hit 168 on the scales this morning. It'll go back up, I'm sure (my weight fluctuates, sometimes as much as 4-5 pounds during any given week), but it felt good to get back below 170, at least temporarily..

Saturday, May 16, 2015

May 15: progress

Kendo: I watched most of one of my favorite kendo film's today, A Single Blow. I'm going to take the rest of the week off, re-charge my kendo batteries, so to speak, and re-connect with some of the films, books, etc. that I've found inspiring in my kendo.

I'm not exactly sure to what end, as of yet; certainly I feel the need to re-invigorate my kendo, which has felt stale and lifeless lately. But I'm also thinking about what my sensei told me in the dojo a couple of weeks ago: I need to break my kendo down, analyze it, correct it, and in the process become more deliberate, more self-aware, and integrative of my kendo into my life. I'll likely do a longer blog post about this soon; right now, I'm just stepping back and thinking matters through.

Running: 8 miles. A good run along Lantern Road/116th street, though I was pretty sore when I finished. Due to my early week travels in Springfield, I'm compelled to cram a lot of miles into the end of the week to make my 40. In a way, this is a good thing: I'm building stamina as I do several longish runs over a few days.

Nutrition: feeling back on track here, after the Springfield interlude. I stayed well under my daily calorie goal for today, and I've managed to get my weekly total back down in the black, where it should be. MyFitnessPal is such a great app, very helpful.

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 14: back home

Kendo: nothing today. The truth is, I'm feeling a bit of a burnout here. Part of this I'm sure is just general fatigue. The three days in Springfield were rewarding and enjoyable, but very taxing. I'm feeling generally quite tired today; in fact, it took nearly all of my energy just to run.

But I'd have to admit, my mental and emotional state where kendo is concerned is rather hollow and stale. It's happened before--probably happens to everyone who does kendo, at some point or another. It's nothing serious, I'm sure; I just need a few days off.

Running: 9 miles. A nice, solid longish run in my neighborhood, in the 9:45 range for pace. As I wrote above, I was tired and actually not terribly enthusiastic, but as the miles progressed I felt better. A good way to start reconstituting my week.

Nutrition: and a good day too here; stayed well below my calorie count.