April 27, 2010

The Southpaw and the "Lead-Noodle" Arms

This evening I went to my boxing class, and after spending 40 minutes emphasizing quick punches over powerful punches, we began sparring. The guy I was paired with is left-handed, so that threw me off, and he certainly didn’t hold back because I’m a girl, which I genuinely appreciate. (One of the other guys kept apologizing every time he hit me “hard” and I just wanted him to understand that I didn’t sign up for boxing because I hate getting hit.) While I was getting pummeled, I thought, “Man, I’m really (explative-ing) sick of sparring guys who are so much bigger than me.” This thought deflated me more than getting punched full-force in the gut or jaw, and the rest of my bouts were half-hearted. In addition to growing discouraged on that front, my arms were brutally tired, most likely from the speed stuff we’d done before. I felt much more content to hang out and try to protect myself as much as possible than try to punch with arms that felt essentially like lead noodles. I then became quite frustrated with myself for giving up mentally and physically. My mind churning with hypotheses and solutions, a conversation between some of the guys who’re training for fights came to mind. They were discussing different types of protein powders- which ones tasted alright, which ones they were using, and which ones had mysteriously disappeared from the gym. At the time, I merely thought, “huh, so that’s why they’re so ripped,” but after feeling how utterly (and abnormally) tired my arms got after not a lot of use, I started to see the wisdom in the protein powder.
            I still eat like a distance runner, despite having run my most recent half-marathon over a year ago. Lots of carbs, not a lot of protein. Actually, I don’t even really eat like a distance runner. I just don’t eat protein, partially because I’m a vegetarian and partially because I don’t really understand how to incorporate it in to my diet. Instead of working on gradually adding protein sources that I like and understand, I go through these phases of trying to eat more- buying tofu, making myself soft-boiled eggs, eating beans, then a week later going back to PB ‘n’ J’s, cereal, toast, and bananas. My diet is undermining my goal- to build lean functional muscle (in other words, to become a ripped beast with out looking like a female body builder or growing impressive facial hair). It hit me tonight- I probably have trouble feeling like I can build muscle for reasons other than being an ectomorph. Reasons like telling myself that I “just can’t” effectively gain muscle (despite doing just that in notable and meaningful ways) and not eating any protein.
            I think that this is a classic example of how one’s approach to fitness needs to be more holistic than some realize. Many factors effect performance in workouts- things like getting enough sleep, being stressed, drinking water, and eating right. In one of my previous entries, I talk about how an individual’s intensity and commitment to a workout can make a huge difference; however, it’s just as important to commit to being healthy outside of the gym/track/trail/aerobics room. When I put in the extra effort to drink enough water, get to bed at a reasonable hour, and eat things not found at the bottom of the food pyramid or in a fruit tree, I notice that my performance improves, just like when I commit to a workout.
            Right after my boxing class I went grocery shopping and bought beans, eggs, and tofu. Hopefully this time I’ll buy those same things next week and the week after that, and maybe I can give the burly dudes in my boxing class a run for their money. Or at least get in a few good punches…

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