Monday, June 1, 2015

The Struggle to Imperfection

The struggle is real. And it's been something that I have been battling my entire life. And it's way more than trying to obtain perfection, or even being good at something. It's being able to try my hardest, every day, every time I practice, and being okay with not improving, or not actually being good at it. Whatever the it may be. In elementary school, it was playing the violin. I seriously considered quitting in seventh grade because I felt like no matter how much I practiced (which wasn't much as it was) I wasn't improving at all. After much debate with myself, I decided to stick with it for the long run and I played through college. Unfortunately, I rarely pick up the instrument these days since college, even though I have a lovely instrument I could play at any time. 

Over the past few years, I've been practicing Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu and I have been trying to improve myself not only in kung fu, but also in exercising and running in general, I've been trying my best to get into good shape and be healthy/happy with my body. Long story short, despite how hard I try at kung fu or running or anything to do with exercise, I never feel like I'm improving or getting any good at it. I don't let it deter me though. I have decided to give it my all, no matter what, unless I am so bad that the teacher kicks me out of the school, which sometimes I dream is my fate. But until that moment, I will continue to try my best and hardest and I will never give up. Hence all the motivational pictures on Instagram (sorry to my followers).

Without motivation, I will crumble into a ball on the floor since everyday I wake up and I think to myself why even bother? I know that despite what I think, I have improved in kung fu and running and even being in better shape. But it's hard when you're at the bottom of the class and you see everyone else bypass you. I try my best to remain positive and only focus on myself and how I can improve against myself. I am my own worst enemy. But I know that I won't accept myself if I just give up, or if I just give "average" effort. I have to try my hardest, otherwise I will only be wasting my time.

What do you do to push yourself to be the best you can be? How do you ignore the progress of others who are better than you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Women's self defense seminar review

Last weekend was the women's self defense seminar at my Kung Fu school, Chinese Martial Arts & Wellness Center near Roscoe Village Chicago. It occurred both on Saturday and Sunday for a total of 6 hours, 3 hours each day from 1 to 4pm. As a student of the school, I brought some friends who I knew would be interested in learning some self defense techniques despite not wanting to practice kung fu on the regular. I attended the seminar with them for several reasons and I greatly enjoyed the seminar. This blog post is a review of the seminar.

The first day started with warming up and simple stretches. We learned a few basic punches, a kick and stances. We then learned the following real world applications:

  • How to avoid being grabbed and counter attack when someone tries to grab you from as they're approaching you head on. 
  • How to take someone down if they do end up grabbing you by twisting their arm and applying pressure with your shoulder. 
  • How to block a slap or punch, jab the throat and knee the attacker in the groin. 

For every technique, the defense was quick and powerful with the idea of running away right after executing the defense techniques.

The second day we learned a few more techniques after warming up and stretching again:
  • We learned another kick: to kick with our heels. We practiced this on the pads with the "attackers" moving towards us in order to get the timing down. 
  • How to counter if someone grabs our hair from behind, and how to counter if they grab our hair while facing us, from the front. 
  • How to counter if someone grabs us from behind with a quick jab to the liver and how to sweep our leg back as we push them forward to make them fall on their face. 
  • How to use keys as a weapon in case something sneaks up on you as you're trying to unlock your door. 
The last 30 minutes of the seminar was a very interesting discussion with Chicago Police Officer Leo who informed us of our rights regarding defending ourselves and gave us very helpful tips regarding safety in and around Chicago. Sifu Yamel announced that there will be monthly Women's Self Defense Seminars held at the school. I urge all of my female friends in and around Chicago to attend the seminar to learn a few key moves and techniques you can use in case of a situation where you have to fight for your life/happiness.

How do you feel about self-defense? What do you do to stay in shape and prepare yourself for the worse case scenario?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Going to the gym hurdles

Finding the motivation to go to the gym alone can be hard. Up until recently, the weather has been horrid so any option to work out meant trudging to the gym to work out, and knowing me I would find any and all excuse to not go to the gym. While the gym is literally a mile away, I would find myself feeling too cold to drive there, or to even leave the warmth of my house. I found the only sure way of going to the gym would be to bring all my gear with me to work and go straight to the gym from work. But then I would just not bring my stuff, ever, and never go to the gym. Thankfully, the slightly warmer weather has gotten my butt back into gear and I have been working out a little more frequently. I have started what I call a mid-March madness kick in the butt and have begun on my journey towards being in better overall shape and health as well as becoming prepared for *drum roll* the next Kung Fu test. Dun dun dunnnnn...

Anyways, if you were around last year you may remember that I barely, by the hairs on my toes, passed my last test. And by barely passing, I mean to say that I was dead on the ground after that test, unsure how I was even able to complete it without literally dying of a heart attack. Needless to say, I nearly swore off kung fu tests for the rest of my life after that promotion (or pity passing if you ask me). I did a lot of soul-searching, and quite honestly had to admit to myself that I wasn't good enough at kung fu to even be considered for the teacher's program, let alone consider testing for the NEXT higher promotion. After speaking with a woman who did the same promotion twice, the second time being pregnant, and her cheering me on to go for the next promotion prior to destroying my life by having kids (she said it in nicer terms but I knew that's what she meant) I decided to put my mind (and sluggish winter-fat body) towards this next promotion. But I also decided that passing by the hair of my toes would just not do.

I want to not only pass, but also be re-considered for the teacher's program. Keep dreamin' Jen... there's no way you'll ever be invited. Even so, I want to at least test and do well, not just barely passing. On this note, I am looking for motivation in any shape size or form. I have joined a Spring Into Fitness group hosted by a friend of mine on Facebook in order to obtain maximum motivation from my peers. I have also started to run outside, which is 100 times better than around a track inside a gym 39 times. Just saying.

What keeps you motivated to work out? Please share any and all tips and secrets here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Starbucks now offers Coconut milk!

As I was researching the new drink that Starbucks offers "Flat White" I realized that within the drop down menu to select what type of milk (in order to calculate the calories) I saw Coconut milk as an option. And the very next trip to Starbucks proved this, as I saw a sign that said they now offer Coconut milk. I was secretly hoping they would add Almond milk, but Coconut milk is even better. It is creamier than almond milk, and I use coconut creamer on the regular already. I just want to say Thank you Starbucks, you had me at Coconut :-)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vaccines and herd immunity

Unless you live under a rock, or ignore the news/media, you've likely heard of the stories regarding measles outbreaks happening across the country in many different states. There are also cases of whooping cough, mumps, rubella, and polio popping up after years/decades of these diseases being almost non-existent. The cause seems to be a simple one: lowered herd immunity due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Some parents are doing this due to religious reasons, others due to the falsified link between autism and vaccines. Some parents are claiming their children are healthy enough to fight off these diseases without the "added toxins" of vaccines. While I personally know people who have chosen to not vaccinate their children, and their reasoning falls between the autism link and the toxin scare of vaccines, I can't seem to fully understand any of these reasons and can only see the cases of these preventable diseases increasing unless something is done regarding these parents and their lack of knowledge.

I am not a parent and I do not know all the horrible, possible side effects of vaccines. All I know is that I received all of my vaccines as a child and only had chickenpox at age 8 due to lack of chickenpox vaccine until mid to late 90's. I never had whooping cough, measles, mumps, polio, or rubella. I also did not suffer any negative side effects from the vaccines themselves. And as I plan on having children in the future, I plan on vaccinating my children as recommended by their pediatrician, but the real scare is that with lowered herd immunity my future children are at high risk for contracting any of these preventable diseases. And the worse part is knowing that some of my own family members have decided to not vaccinate their children, and knowing that when I have children of my own, I will not want my kids anywhere near their kids until mine are full vaccinated (when is that anyways? age 2? 3? I am clueless, but would need to do a lot of research prior to any of this anyways).

Do you find it cold to say see you in a few years to your family members just to keep your children safe and protected from their unvaccinated children? Is it too much to be that protective? My biggest fear is their 3 year old son is carrying measles and not showing the symptoms and then my infant gets measles which would be much worse on a baby versus a toddler. Am I in the right? Let me know what you think in the comments, and let me know if I am over thinking this. Thank you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Motivation and accountability buddies

I don't know what I'd do nor how much I'd weigh without my accountability buddies. Let me begin by saying I'm a very lazy, unmotivated individual when it comes to going to the gym or working out. Even when I get to the gym, I usually don't put forth too much effort, just enough to break a sweat and for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise I'm basically done. Without my husband Vince who motivates me to practice seven star praying mantis style kung fu as much as I can, I'd likely just be a couch potato which is what I was prior to marital arts. I was also about 15 pounds heavier and had no muscle. Without my awesome friend and ex coworker Sarah, I would likely never go running. We run once a week, usually anywhere from 4 to 7 miles, outside until recently when I joined the same gym as her where there's a great track to run on.

Without these wonderful accountability buddies, I would likely never run nor work out at all. They give me so much motivation and make me wonder how people find motivation without someone else working out with them. Even when Sarah is busy or Vince is sick, I find myself still exercising out of habit. I am thankful for them instilling good habits in me. And here's to hoping I don't eat too much this holiday season so that I don't have to run even more miles to make up for it. :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Early morning jogs

The past three weeks I've been waking up extra early every Wednesday morning to go for a jog before work. I got the idea after reading a few articles regarding running in the morning: the first one was 12 simple hacks to finally become a morning runner which got my mind going, like maybe I could try this once. Another article I read was about successful people and the good habits they have, one of them being morning runners (ok it says morning exercise but I took that as morning runner). Basically between these two articles which I read both within the same week in September, I gradually came to the conclusion that maybe I should try to become a morning runner.

The first time I tried to go for a run, I set my alarm for 5:45am and got up right away after not sleeping much all night in anticipation for this dreaded run. I had already laid out all my clothes, so I grabbed what I needed, changed and went straight out the door. I was planning to run 2 miles but didn't map my route out at all and it was dark out so I just ran around the neighborhood and only made it to 1.5 miles before stopping. I was so tired from waking up early that I ran slower than normal and found it difficult to go much further once I hit 1.5 miles. I came home, showered, and told myself I'd never get up early and run again.

Despite getting up early, I found myself having more energy the rest of the day and even the rest of the week. Needless to say, my long run with Sarah on Sunday Runday went better than previous ones since I actually ran during the week in addition to the long run. Sarah gave me some motivation and told me to continue running during the week, and since the only time I had to run was before work, I told her I would once again get up early on Wednesday and run. This time went way better, it was a complete 180 from the first run. I ran 2 miles easily, and despite not mapping out my run I found a new route which takes me two miles round trip without crossing any busy streets. The only issue was that I had to run past a small cemetery, and at 6AM it is still pretty much dark out so I was kinda spooked out. For the third run, I simply crossed the street and ran on the side of the street without the cemetery. I have been bringing a small flashlight with me, but since I run on the sidewalk and almost no one is out at 6AM I have yet to even run into any other person and usually only see a few cars on the road throughout my run. I was hoping to go further than 2 miles during the third run, but I snoozed an extra 7 minutes and didn't have enough time to make it further than 2 miles.

I am hoping the next run goes better next Wednesday. I'm hoping to go at least 2.25 miles or maybe 2.5 if I have the time. Tomorrow I'm running 7 miles with Sarah in prep for the Hot Chocolate 15K which is November 9th. Next weekend we're doing 8 miles, then the weekend after that is the 9.3 mile race. :)