This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cycling Dos and Don'ts

From Alex, a former YMCA instructor colleague who was in category II for 12 years, raced as a pro for 3 years, won 2 national championships, and was the 2003 state team time trial champion.

Top BAD things she's seen over the years:

  1. Low RPM (Revolutions Per Minute; cadence). I've had instructors telling me that I'm not working hard enough because I'm pedaling too fast. Good cycling generally involves higher RPM (80-120) than beginners are comfortable with at first. Of course, you may approach a 'hill' so hard (with so much resistance), that you cannot maintain high RPM.
  2. Upper Body Movement. I've had instructors tell me I'm not working hard enough because my upper body is too still. Good cycling generally involves little or no upper body movement. Of course, some movement is natural at high levels of effort. Not only should the upper body be still, it should be RELAXED. If you can effortlessly keep your upper body still and relaxed while spinning high RPM, you are on your way to good technique.
  3. Poor Pedal Stroke. Instructors have often told me to pull this way or that, with little regard for the most effective technique. Beginning cyclists have a very short power stroke. They only push down quickly on the down stroke. Good cycling attempts to lengthen the power stroke beyond the bottom of the cycle as far as possible. To achieve this, the conscious effort is "pulling back." Think about moonwalking, or "scraping mud." Admittedly, this can be difficult for cyclists without clipless pedals. Nevertheless, cyclist should not be instructed to pull up, push forward over the top, or even to push down (down is all too natural).
  4. Excessive Gymnastics. While instructors are free to ask students to do much of what they feel is best, I would discourage inefficient movements on the bike that tend to interfere with correct pedal technique. As Ray S. has pointed out, they are often discouraged because they are DANGEROUS. This includes rapid stand/sit transitions (with frequencies less than 15 seconds); moving forward or back with respect to the saddle; and any upper body movements other than hand positions, standing, or stretching.

Now the list of what constitutes Good Pedal Technique, starting with the feet and working up:

  1. Light feet. Weight on the seat not the feet.
  2. High RPM. Feet move at high RPM (80-120) whenever possible (until resistance is so high it is impossible). If you are bouncing on the saddle, you are probably spinning faster than your technique allow at this point.
  3. Drop Heel. Attempt to drop heel (heel will not actually drop below ball of foot) at bottom of pedal cycle to include calf muscle in action.
  4. Moonwalk. Scrape mud off shoe; pull back through bottom half of pedal cycle. This pull-back motion is perhaps the most important technical improvement and the real key to success in cycling. It takes years to develop this somewhat unnatural technique and the tendons and muscles to support it. Even when mastered, it does not come naturally. The reason is to involve more muscles in the cycle and lengthen the "power cycle" over the short down-only technique of beginners. More muscles shifts the burden of hills etc to your heart and away from your legs. Your heart will be your work horse, only needing carbs to keep going. Legs fill with lactate and cannot be trusted like your heart.
  5. Hips still. Imagine a glass of water on attached to your belt that should not spill. Attach another glass to your forehead: your body follows your head's movement. Don't spill the water.
  6. Relax. While your hips and head are still, they should also be relaxed. This can be a challenge, esp. at higher RPM. Analogy: a smooth cyclist is 'playing the piano.'
  7. Flat Back. Back should be flat, not curved (hunched), nor hyper-extended (butt too far out). The best reminder of this is the position that allows your jersey to ride the lowest on your lower back.
  8. Wrists straight. (This applies more to road cycling, but injuries can result if you hit a bump with wrists locked in 'down' position.)
  9. Bend elbows slightly. (This is more for road, too, but good to learn.)
  10. Breath. Breathe in through the nose deeply and slowly, out through the mouth when possible (at lower intensity). This will help lower your heart rate and make you more efficient. The spin bikes have no calibration for reality; no speed, distance, or calories burned. As a result, spinners get sloppy, since there is no advantage to being efficient. But if you want to become a better cyclist, indoors and out, you will benefit by being efficient, and spending all your energy on forward propulsion rather than on sloppy styles. For outdoor cycling, I like to suggest thinking in terms of going 'faster' rather than going 'harder,' since often speed increases are possible without any additional effort (i.e., at the same heart rate) through efficiency increases including those outlined above (as well as mechanical advantages like aero positioning, etc.). Unfortunately, no speed or efficiency criterion is available indoors.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Road Cycling Addiction

It's been forever and a day since I've cycled (and less likely going forward now that I have a new little man in my life) but I thought I'd post this anyway for yuks!

You know you're an addicted roadie when...

  • ... Your surgeon says you need a heart valve replacement and you insist on presta.
  • ... You find nothing disgusting about discussing the connection between hydration and urine color.
  • ... You empathize with roadkill.
  • ... You take your bike when shopping for a motor vehicle, just to make sure it'll fit inside.
  • ... Good cycling roads are the main thing that matters when hunting for a new house.
  • ... You view crashes as an opportunity to upgrade components.
  • ... You say "On your left!" when walking around another pedestrian.
  • ... Dessert is the first thing you order when eating out.
  • ... You smile at someone, who informs you that you have bugs in your teeth

Monday, January 21, 2008

Zero Trans Fat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts!

Once upon a time, I wrote about my disappointment that Krispy Kreme doughnuts contained trans fat. I have a soft spot for these specific sugary concoctions. In fact, my wedding cake was made out of Krispy Kremes, and in moments of weakness, I have been known to buy some, albeit rarely (once every few months).

One such moment came yesterday, and as my husband and I guiltily skulked into the store, I saw a sign saying "0g trans fat". I did a search on the web, and it appears that all their products now contain 0g of trans fat. The Krispy Kreme website also displays a big banner with the same message, along with their new "Zero TFA" TV commercial.

Happy day for me, although there's still enough refined sugar, fat and other stuff in those suckers to be more unhealthy than not!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pure Yoga

It's been a while since I've done yoga, so I wanted to start up again, and who better to partner up with than Wendy. She's a member of Pure Yoga, a chain yoga studio s which I've seen advertised extensively in Hong Kong, and I've wanted to try it for a long time. Fortunately, Pure Yoga had a five-year anniversary promotion while I was in Hong Kong where members could give their friends a free seven-day pass.

I went to The Centrium location, and did "Hatha I" with Tanu. Tanu is lean, fit, and energetic. Wendy says she has three children: I couldn't believe it. I expected Hatha I to be relatively mellow, but Tanu turned up the energy level several notches above what I had anticipated. Before the class started, she said something that stuck in my mind, something in the lines of, "For the next hour, focus on yourself and this practice. There is no future, there is no past." It was helpful for me because my mind tends to wander, and it helped me focus on what I was doing. Tanu also said she was excited (!) and you could tell that she wanted to be there, and genuinely enjoyed teaching.

The class started with some heavy duty breathing exercises. Throughout the class, Tanu would also tell us when to inhale and exhale. Her voice was energizing and it helped me concentrate. We did some sun salutations and some standing poses, but I don't remember much more. Despite how that sounds, I mean that as a compliment because time just flew by. In most yoga clases, I tend to lose interest after about 40 minutes, but this class went by extremely quickly. I was so engrossed it we were halfway through when I realized there was no background music. Before I knew it, we had reached the end for savasana (corpse pose). It was 60 minutes long but it felt like a 30-45 minute class. The moves were simple and weren't fancy, but obviously effective since to my surprise, I worked up a healthy sweat - that has never happened to me before during yoga. What a great workout!

I was so inspired that I went again the next day to the 10 a.m. Sunday Hatha I class taught by Jo. I was hoping that it would be similar to Tanu's class, but at the back of my mind, I suspected it was wishful thinking - and it was. Jo's class was very different. It was a lot slower to the point of being a little boring. I was accustomed to a lot of the poses which included Tree Pose, Warrior II, Triangle Pose, etc. The good news is, I used ujayi breathing throughout the class. The bad news is, I kept on wondering how much longer the class would be, and after fifty-five minutes, I even snuck a peek at my watch to make sure we hadn't already been there for 1.5 hours.

As an epilogue, part of the catch of getting a free pass is that I got a heavy duty pitch from a salesperson who tried to pitch me. Being the direct person I am, I cut him off when he tried to give me an intro to Pure Yoga and I asked him point blank what type of package he could offer somebody like me who rarely goes to Hong Kong (since you need to be a member in order to attend classes). I would have gladly signed up for one, but the best he could come up with was a package of 10 classes for ~HK$1,888 which you have to use within three months. No dice. I guess I'll have to suck it up and pay HK$250 per drop in class.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cycling Quotes

  • "I wish to Christ we had bicycles," Bonello said. "Do they ride bicycles in America?" Aymo asked. "They used to." "Here it is a great thing," Aymo said. "A bicycle is a splendid thing." "I wish to Christ we had bicycles," Bonello said. "I'm no walker." -- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
  • "This is not Disneyland, or Hollywood. I'll give you an example: I've read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don't fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else." -- Lance Armstrong
  • "When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, January 18, 1896, Scientific American Magazine
  • "She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life." -- Frances E. Willard, How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle
  • "Getting up at six and racing up a col from the gun is a bitch." -- Jacky Durand
  • "Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world." -- Grant Peterson
  • "Enough with this sunday stroll...let's hurt a little bit." -- American Flyers
  • "When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair or the future of the human race." -- H.G. Wells
  • "The best rides are the ones where you bite off much more than you can chew--and live through it." -- Doug Bradbury
  • "You get a feeling on certain trails, when you're reacting like you and your machine are just one thing. It's the feeling of physical exertion and speed and technique all wrapped into one." -- Ned Overend
  • "Passing softly through the backcountry creates a fascinating tension. On one hand is the environment, generating powerful swells of energy that course through our psyches. There's something about mountains, deserts, woods, that excites us. Yet, on the other hand, the awesomeness of it all diminishes our importance in the earth's affairs." -- Hank Barlow
  • "Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle." -- Helen Keller
  • "A bicycle ride is a flight from sadness." -- James E. Starrs, The Literary Cyclist
  • "Wheel, kindly light, along life's cycle path, Wheel Thou on me! The road is rough, I have discerned Thy Wrath, But wheel me on!" -- Christian Hymn
  • "The pack is a single, fickle entity, a blaze of color leaving only a trail of dust in its vacuum wake. Even the most pervasive social conventions fall by the wayside under physical stress, as mere survival takes precedence over winning. The pack may be heedless of its own stragglers and have no more sympathy or sense of smell than hounds chasing a fox. In the end, you are on your own, a particle in the false constant of motion." -- Laurence Malone
  • "There is something uncanny in the noiseless rush of the cyclist, as he comes into view, passes by, and disappears." -- Popular Science, 1891
  • "For all their fearlessness, sprinters are a delicate breed. At the peak of form they effuse an aura of invincibility, suggesting no bicycle rider ever pedaled as fast. To win, sprinters must have everything: physical condition, confidence, luck, aggression and committed team support. An elusive combination, attainable but not sustainable." -- David Walsh, Inside the Tour de France
  • "You have to sprint on feeling, not thinking. You must have faith in yourself but you cannot think about it too much." -- Jean Paul Van Poppel
  • "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood." -- Susan B. Anthony
  • "Don't be afraid of going fast and getting hurt. (You can always wear black stockings to cover up the scars!) You just have to forget what your parents taught you--stuff like being careful, looking good and catching the best man available." -- Marla Streb
  • "You not bike rider, you nobody." -- Eddie B.
  • "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft... As for me, give me a fixed gear!" -- Henri Desgrange
  • "But to say that the race is the metaphor for the life is to miss the point. The race is everything. It obliterates whatever isn't racing. Life is the metaphor for the race." -- Donald Antrim
  • "Eat before you are hungry. Drink before you are thirsty. Rest before you are tired. Cover up before you are cold. Peel off before you are hot. Don't drink or smoke on tour. Never ride just to prove yourself." -- Paul de Vivie
  • "Perhaps the single most important element in mastering the techniques and tactics of racing is experience. But once you have the fundamentals, acquiring the experience is a matter of time." -- Greg LeMond
  • "It never gets easier, you just go faster." -- Greg LeMond
  • "The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community." -- Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895
  • "To be a cyclist is to be a student of cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks." -- Scott Martin
  • "Winning never gets repetitive" - Mat "Cashmoney" Glaser
  • "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride." -- John F. Kennedy
  • "If you were a spectator on one of the mountain passes today, the super-light bikes would be little different in appearance from the machines of years ago, pedaled by earlier heroes, Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, LeMond, Roche. They would look like the bikes our dads rode when we were kids. But the Tour is a commercial race, and innovation must be given its place on the catwalk, or in this case the velodrome...." -- James Waddington, Bad to the Bone
  • "The riders come out, knights for the tournament, neck to thigh in slippery lycra with the sheen of deep space condoms, faired helmets on their heads like the glans from another galaxy and neoprene pixyboots to slide the air around their feet, mounted on gaudily caparisoned donkeys - the carbon fibre monocoque monoblade." -- James Waddington, Bad to the Bone
  • "What was supposed to be a summer of fun on the bike turned into a year, then two years. It certainly wasn't a calculated plan to have a career as a cyclist." -- Derek Bouchard-Hall
  • "Pain is a big fat creature riding on your back. The farther you pedal, the heavier he feels. The harder you push, the tighter he squeezes your chest. The steeper the climb, the deeper he digs his jagged, sharp claws into your muscles." -- Scott Martin
  • "There was a second supremely sweet moment of victory. As I made my way through the finish area, I passed the Cofidis team. Assorted members of the organization stood around, the men who I felt had left me for dead in a hospital room. "That was for you," I said as I moved past them." -- Lance Armstrong after winning the opening time trial and becoming the leader of the 1999 Tour de France
  • "There are no races. Only lotteries." -- Jacques Anquetil
  • "I won! I won! I don't have to go to school anymore." -- Eddy Merckx, after winning his first bike race
  • "I guess I just have bigger ovaries." -- Missy Giove
  • "I was a hero, and a second afterwards it was all over. Casartelli was dead so what I had achieved was worth nothing." -- Richard Virenque, on winning the Tour de France stage in which Fabio Casartelli died in a crash
  • "He's dancing on the pedals in an immodest way!" -- Phil Liggett, on a victory by Dag-Otto Lauritzen
  • "The Europeans look down on raising your hands. They don't like the end-zone dance. I think that's unfortunate. That feeling - the finish line, the last couple of meters - is what motivates me." -- Lance Armstrong
  • "It was eleven more than necessary." -- Jacques Anquetil, after winning a race by tweleve seconds
  • "The bicycle riders drank much wine, and were burned and browned by the sun. They did not take the race seriously except among themselves." -- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • "A mountain bike race is a constant hard effort for two to three hours. In road racing the efforts often come in surges. You ride easy for awhile then you have to make an extreme, hard effort. They are two different efforts, two different forms of suffering." -- John Tomac
  • "I picked my head up during an interval and saw an enormous ostrich zigzagging in the road. I swung wide to get by - and just as I did he started chasing me. These guys can motor. I had to sprint to drop him." -- Tyler Hamilton
  • "To prepare for a race there is nothing better than a good pheasant, some champagne and a woman." -- Jacques Anquetil
  • "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx
  • "I'm fascinated by the sprinters. They suffer so much during the race just to get to the finish, they hang on for dear life in the climbs, but then in the final kilometers they are transformed and do amazing things. It's not their force per se that impresses me, but rather the renaissance they experience. Seeing them suffer throughout the race only to be reborn in the final is something for fascination." -- Miguel Indurain
  • "Downhill's the future of the sport. Cross-country's not geared for TV. Some fat guy watching it with a beer in one hand and potato chips in the other is going to say, 'I can do that.' America likes to see people crash." -- Missy Giove
  • "My favorite courses are nasty, technical downhills that frighten my mom." -- Josh Ivey
  • "I'm lucky that mountain biking wasn't around when I was 20, because I wouldn't have won the Tour de France. It's my kind of sport - hard, individualistic, and not a lot of tactics." -- Greg LeMond
  • "Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand." -- Jim Burlant
  • "Some people pay a thousand dollars for a tattoo. This scar cost me twenty grand." -- Matt Hoffman
  • "First week you feel good, the second week you lose strength. Third week, f_cked." -- Per Pedersen, on the Tour de France
  • "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." -- Gloria Steinem
  • "The main thing is to not cut yourself and bleed to death in the tub." -- Frankie Andreu (Retired USPS Racer) on leg shaving advice
  • "I looked back and bikes and riders were flipping in the air. There must have been 20-30+ riders in the pile." -- overheard after Early Bird 4/5 race

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lake Merced Run

Today, D & I did the Lake Merced Run hosted by Dolphin South End Runners (DSE Runners). The entry fee was only $5 a person! As the name suggests it's a 4.5 mile loop around Lake Merced in San Francisco. Since I have been running 3.1 mile races lately, I was worried about doing poorly since it's 50% farther than I'm used to, but the course is flat and if I really ran out of steam, I could always walk. D used to train around Lake Merced, so I asked him what the terrain was like and whether it was flat. "It sound be flat," he replied, "The course description says it's paved." That's when I pointed out to him that being paved or not paved is completely independent of the gradient since it's possible to have a steep paved road.

It was a casual race, and the organizers were friendly. They even offered us free Bay to Breakers Volunteer T-shirts that they had left over from the even a few weeks ago. There was no race T-shirt (I actually prefer that) and no timing chip (I didn't expect one for a $5 entry fee race!)

As the crowd gathered, I noticed that there were some "older" runners. "These guys are going to blow by me, aren't they?" I asked D. "Yes." "I hate it when somebody twice my age overtakes me and leaves me in the dust!" I complained. "Ah," replied D, "But think how great these folks feel when they smoke somebody half their age!". Touche.

Per my usual practice, I positioned myself at the back of the group before the race began. I started out at an easy, leisurely pace that I was confident I could at least maintain throughout the run. I wore my black zip up jacket which is perfect for running - I wear it at the start of the race when it's chilly, but when I get hot, I can easily take it off during the race and tie it around my waist. I also carried a water bottle full of Gatorade which was a great idea since there were no water stops along the way. For this race, I tried holding in my hand for the entire run instead of carrying it in a waist pouch. I think I expended to much energy and focused too much on gripping the bottle, so I'll revert back to the pouch next time.

The run itself was fantastic. It was relatively flat, and the scenery was pleasant since you could peek through the trees to see the lake. There were other pedestrians, runners and the occasional cyclist using the same path, but it wasn't crowded at all. Partway through the run, I realized that I had traveled the course before: I had cycled around that lake many moons ago. I even remembered the exact spot where I fell off my bike trying to get back to the Great Highway.

They had marked the path with chalk... although they really didn't have to since all you had to do was follow the sidewalk. The only time where the chalk marks came in handy where on sections where you were tempted to take a short cut across a parking lot - the chalk marks reminded you to take the longer way! I didn't notice it at the time, but they also marked the number of miles covered with chalk as well. I had a sense of how far I had run just from looking at how far around the lake I had traveled. I didn't figure out the exact distance I had covered until I saw "4M" (four miles) in big letters. Yippee! That meant there was only half a mile to go. Of course, there's a slight incline at the 4th mile marker. Nothing that steep, but just enough to slow you down and make you realize you're running uphill. Fortunately, that only lasted a wee bit, and the home stretch was flat and fast.

I did better than expected! Given the 11-12 per minute miles I've been slogging through lately, I was quite happy to have finished in 46:47 minutes (10:23 pace), placing 107 out of 148 overall. There's a lot of room for improvement, of course, but it appears that I'm on a much more promising trajectory now, and I'm really excited about running again. I'm scouring for the next one.

P.S. A confession: D & I stopped by Krispy Kreme on the way home and bought half a dozen donuts to celebrate. Maybe a little counterproductive to all the hard work we put in, but still well deserved!

Working Out in Asia

I bring workout gear on all my business trips. 99% of the time, it comes back unworn, and the only use I get out of it is the incremental 2 calories I burn carrying the extra weight around in my luggage. On my latest trip to Asia, however, I worked out almost every day!

In Hong Kong, I ran along a path near where my parents live that has very little traffic. Coincidentally, it's the same dreaded course I used to run in high school that we referred to as "The Second Pagoda". It was named such because we'd start running from our school, and from there, we'd go past the first pagoda, and then turn around when we reached the second one on the trail. We would do this course three times a year as part of our physical education class. I was slow (well, still am actually) and my fastest time was 17 minutes. If I recall it's supposed to be a 2 mile run... I guess it's possible that I used to run an 8.5/min mile back in the day. Second Pagoda was D's worst nightmare back in the day, and the last time both of us were in Hong Kong last year, he made a point of sprinting the course to banish his demons and prove to himself that he isn't the same weight challenged kid that he used to be.

One of the prime challenges with running outdoors in Hong Kong during the summer is that it's so darn humid. It's bad enough that it's hot (30 Celsius in June - I can't remember what the equivalent temperature is in Fahrenheit), but the humidity makes it that much worse because I end up sweating up a storm, but the sweat doesn't evaporate. Under those conditions, there is a real risk of overheating, especially when you factor in the air pollution. Under such adverse conditions, I needed extra motivation to get moving, so I listened to my iPod (I run without music in the U.S.).

I recently bought a pair of Sony MDR-G57G S2 Sports Street Style Headphones with Reflective Ear Piece for the express purpose of listening to my iPod while exercising. They stay on extremely well. A bit too well actually because they're too tight and they hurt my ears after about 45 minutes. I'm quite surprised about this because I have a relatively small head and tiny ears. If they hurt me, I imagine "normal" sized people must experience excruciating pain after wearing them for any extended period of time. A reviewer on who owns these earphones recommended this: "The second you take them out of the box, TEAR OUT those little D-shaped plastic wedges that are supposed to dig down behind your ears. Just grab ahold of each one tightly and tear it right out of the headphone arm. The headphones will stay on just as firmly, and your ears will be MUCH more comfortable. Did this with both pairs I've owned and they have yet to slip off." I like the idea of improving comfort without compromising functionality so I'll need to give this a shot.

In China, I worked out in the hotel gyms. Some of them are quite small, but even those have at least a few elliptical machines and treadmills. I expected to use my iPod while in the gym too (I hate using cardio machines, talk about boring), but most of them actually have individual TV monitors. One of the best gyms I've seen so far is the one at the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai. It's called Club Oasis, and you don't have to pay extra to use the facilities. I was most impressed with their swimming pool which is absolutely gorgeous. The ambiance is that of a tropical rain forest. Having said that, I didn't investigate the layout, so it's possible that it's more of a wading pool, and not suitable for laps.

The trick now is to maintain some sort of workout regimen when I'm back at home...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ujayi Breathing

A friend recently taught me Ujayi breathing. I first heard about it as it related to yoga, but people also do it just before going to bed for deeper sleep. I'm posting it here as a reminder to myself.

  • Breathe in 2-3-4
  • Hold 2-3-4
  • Breathe out 2-3-4-5-6
  • Hold 2
  • Repeat

Work up to 8 breaths in a round. 3 rounds.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Turbo Kick Round 28 Workshop

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, and there have been many changes to my teaching schedule. For starters, I have given up my weekly cardio kickboxing class. It's been so long that I can't remember when that happened exactly. Some time in 2005, perhaps?

Without a regular class, I haven't had any pressing need to purchase any new Turbo Kick (TK) rounds, but given that I need to renew my TK certification very soon, I looked for workshops in the Bay Area, and also any specials they may have on purchasing rounds. Here are the two most surprising things I found during my research:

  • Inflation! Rounds used to cost $50 each, and now they're $60. I wonder if the price was ever raised to $55 at any point, or they just went ahead and instituted the $10/round price increase.
  • Older rounds are no longer for sale. I used to really like the fact that they used to have offers like "buy 5 rounds for the price of 3" (not exactly this offer necessarily since I'm doing this from memory, but it was something like that). This was great for somebody like me since I don't own the most recent 4-5 rounds, and it was a price effective way for me to catch up. It's also beneficial to Power Blue as well: since the marginal cost to them for selling older rounds is incredibly low, the margins for selling old inventory/rounds is extremely high. Maybe these rounds are still available somehow, but I couldn't find it on the website.

The workshop I attended was at the Shih Yu-Lang Central YMCA which is one of the few YMCA's in the San Francisco Bay Area that neither D nor I have visited before. D noticed that this is a traditional Y where they offer accommodations. I checked and and sure enough, according to their website, Single Occupancy (one twin bed and shared bath) costs $43.62 per night. This is extremely cheap for a hotel room in San Francisco, especially if you consider that continental breakfast and use of gym facilities are also included.

Most of the workshop was as I expected. The warm up has not changed much, but I think it's shorter than it used to be. I was familiar with most of the choreography (after all, most of the moves are based on jab, cross, hook, uppercut, knee strikes and kicks), but the wheel was new to me. I think it's a variation of a Capoeira move (reminiscent of the beginning of a cartwheel), and while it has been incorporated in earlier Turbo Kick rounds, I hadn't seen before. Another new move is the turtle which is a variation of an urban dance move. Now, during the workshop, I could have SWORN the master trainer said the name of the original dance where the turtle is derived is called "crocking", and that it was developed by some guy while he was in prison, but I couldn't find reference of "crocking" on the web (assuming I heard correctly, and spelling it the right way). Fortunately, another instructor (they call her "Dr. Paula" because she is a chiropractor) also mentioned that a movie/documentary called Rize has been made about this urban dance, and I was able to look that up.

Turbo Kick has also become dancier than I remember. There is a lot more clapping (eee!) and there is even A GRAPEVINE in one of the sections! Yes, you heard me, a grapevine -- the ultimate hi-low move that is further away from hard core kickboxing than almost anything I can think of. Since instructors are free to modify rounds to suit their own style, you can bet that I will not be grapevining if I ever teach it.

The two sections that I liked the most are (leg) strength and abs. In fact, I may use some of the moves at the end of my step class since I think they're great for conditioning and not specific to cardio kickboxing.

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2007 is to work out more. So far, I've been able to incorporate Body Pump (weights) into my routine by attending classes at the Pacific Athletic Club, but I'm struggling to find any interesting cardio classes that fit into my schedule. Even though I don't teach cardio kickboxing any more, I should prepare to teach one in case I sub for somebody else. So I think I'll learn this round, and by following the DVD and practising at home, it can double as cardio exercise for me.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dublin's 2006 Shamrock 5K Fun Walk & Run

Once upon a time, I was in decent shape and could run a 9 min mile over 6.2 miles (10km) - nothing earth shattering, mind you, but respectable. Due to work and other Life Issues, the frequency of my workouts dwindled, and I have spent the last few months leading a rather unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough, and I had to get off my rear end and start training again. Since St. Patrick's Day was around the corner, I thought the best way to ease into a program was to run the Dublin's Shamrock 5K Fun Run & Walk. I remember D did this race back in 2003 and he had a fantastic time. Not only he get awesome schwag, but he was rewarded with free Krispy Kreme donuts at the finish line! With this happy thought in mind, I signed us both up for the race.

The race had a staggered start with markers indicating difference paces. D & shuffled back towards where the 9-10 per minute mile folks were hanging out, although I was tempted to move even further back. D said it was fine where we were since the important thing was to avoid being in the front where we would be trampled on by sprinters. There were quite a few people with strollers and I secretly dreaded that some of those people would actually be faster than me.

There were a ton of people so the race started slowly. We walked for a bit before there was room for us to jog, and once D started going, he waved goodbye to me before taking off into the distance (so depressing when he does that).

I started off at any easy pace and kept on reminding myself that it was ONLY 3.1 miles. After all, aside from the running portion of a sprint triathlon, I've never been in a race that was shorter than 6.2 miles.

Boy was I wrong. It took a ton of effort to get through those three teeny tiny miles. The first 10 minutes of any race are always the worst, because it takes time for my body to become accustomed to running, especially when I'm simultaneously sucking down cold air. I was happy to see the first mile marker, but that quickly turned into disappointment when I heard the person there call out a time that began with "12 minutes...". 12 MINUTES? 12 minutes to run a lousy mile? Thinking that was going to be the low point of the race, I became truly demoralized when stroller people started passing me. It wasn't so bad the first time, because the lady was pushing an Iron Man stroller, so I figured she was a super fit person. Then when a second and third stroller lady left me in the dust, I wanted to cry.

I felt myself slowing down around the 2.5 mile mark. It's such a terrible feeling knowing that I can run faster, but not being able to move my legs any faster. When I reached the 3 mile mark, I told myself that I have never decelerated towards the finish line so I forced myself to sprint the last 0.1 miles to the end, but by then it was too little, too late.

Afterewards, I met up with D near the food stalls. To my utmost horror, THERE WERE NO KRISPY KREME DONUTS! Instead, I had a tasty mini-brownie. D said that his first mile was slow too, but his splits continually improved throughout the race. After having a snack, we looked at some of the stalls that were part of the Dublin fair, and I scored myself a pair of nice earrings.

My results were dismal: I finished the course in 34:40 (11:11/M pace), placing 613 out of 1369 overall, and 77 out of 196 in my age group, although these aren't fair comparisons because I was "running" *cough* while plenty of people were walking. It's a lousy time, but hey, I had to (re)start somewhere! As I told D, it doesn't get much worse than this (I hope), so I can look forward to nothing but improvements going forward!