Friday, 18 April 2014

Yoga Beginner Reviews: Ali Kamenova's Complete Beginner Hatha Vinyasa Class Level 1 Introduction

Hi there. I'm a complete newb to Yoga. I went to a few classes in a gym in Tokyo but I found not being able to understand the instructions was a bit shameful, so I opted to try some Youtube classes instead. I also ditched the gym membership and began running again, huzzah! Anyway, I thought I would review the yoga videos that I try. Today I did Ali Kamenova's Complete Beginner Hatha Vinyasa Class Level 1 Introduction


I will proceed to break my review up into sections.

Production
This is probably one of the lower quality of youtube yoga classes I've seen, the instructor (Ali) is clearly in her living room and has 3 cameras set up. One tracking her movement, one establishing shot and one off to the side to focus on her back. Despite this being a low budget video the variety of camera angles does help, although the tracking shot is used a bit too much considering I need to see the whole shebang when I'm trying these moves.
The sound quality is pretty poor, but you can still hear the instructor at all times. There was also no background music, which during times of relaxation would have benefited me and also would have let me know that the video is still playing! Overall I'd give the production: 

The Instructor
Ali has a wonderful accent that I can't place (and won't embarrass/offend by trying) that adds a new element to the yoga class. It sounds bizarre, but the few yoga videos I have tried have all been American ladies, so it was nice to have a different sounding instructor. She is informative and flows through the moves in a natural way. I always struggle to do planks/downward dog, but her way of teaching made me feel comfortable to transition into these moves that I have difficulty with. 
My only complaints about Ali in this one video is a) sometimes she can come out of poses to explain technique, which can get confusing at times and b) she lacks a sense of friendliness that I have experienced with other instructors. However having said this she didn't annoy me in any way, so that's a plus!
Overall I'd give the instructor: 

The Lesson
The important part! The lesson is 43 minutes long and has a mix of cross legged stretches, planks, downward dogs, warrior poses, oblique work (twists?), ab work, leg stretches, back stretches and of course my favourite part - the bit at the end where you lay there like a corpse for 10 minutes. However because of the lack of background music/instruction the video abruptly ended leaving me laying on the floor of my apartment a little longer that I should have. In terms of difficulty I would say that despite being a beginners lesson and very much feeling like a beginners lesson, I still found myself being a bit wobbly and not being able to hold certain poses for long (planks and lunge poses in particular). It's sad but sometimes I like to be reassured by the instructor if I'm not able to hold certain poses, which there wasn't enough of in this video considering it was for beginners. Saying this, I have been exercising for 3 years now so I can imagine this being truly difficult for someone who is at the very beginning of a weight loss journey. I really enjoyed the additional ab work towards the end, sort of felt a bit like pilates, but for me who has a love/hate relationship with ab exercises I quite enjoyed that there was something to push myself at the end before the final relaxation period. 
Overall I'd give the lesson itself a  ★1/2

 In Conclusion
A nice introduction to yoga with moves that are both relaxing and challenging for the beginner, however the low production value and a slightly stern instructor may be off-putting to some. Would I do it again? Yes, after a few rounds of yoga videos elsewhere! Overall I'd give the video a ★1/2

Monday, 14 April 2014

Back to 5K Training and I've Hit The Mid-Twenties

It's been a while since I've updated this here blog, I figured it's about time I wrote a post. I've added a new tab to the website, my 5K training. Here's what you'll find at this moment in time over there:


Long Run Short Run (Speed) Long Run Stats
1.5 miles
Time: 17:43
Pace: 11:49 min/mi
1.5 miles
Time: 16:17
Pace: 10:51 min/mi
1.5 miles
Time: 15:57
Pace: 10:38 min/mi
Pace improvement:
Overall: 1:11 faster
Week: 1:11 faster
1.75 miles
Time: 18:48
Pace: 10:45 min/mi
1.5 miles
Time: 15:24
Pace: 10:16 min/mi
1.75 miles
Time: 17:59
Pace: 10:17 min/mi
Pace improvement:
Overall: 1:33 faster
Week: 0:29 faster
2 miles
Time: 21:14
Pace: 10:37 min/mi
1.5 miles
Time: 14:17
Pace: 9:31 min/mi
2 miles
Time: 20:20
Pace: 10:10 min/mi
Pace improvement:
Overall: 2:21 faster
Week: 1:06 faster
2.25 miles
Time:
Pace:
1.5 miles
Time:
Pace:
2.25 miles
Time:
Pace:
Pace improvement:
Overall:
Week:
2.5 miles
Time:
Pace:
2 miles
Time:
Pace:
2.5 miles
Time:
Pace:
Pace improvement:
Overall:
Week:
2.75 miles
Time:
Pace
2 miles
Time:
Pace:
2.75 miles
Time:
Pace:
Pace improvement:
Overall:
Week:
3 miles
Time:
Pace:
2 miles
Time:
Pace:
3 miles
Time:
Pace:
Pace improvement:
Overall:
Week:
3 miles
Time:
Pace:
2 miles
Time:
Pace:
3 miles
Time:
Pace:
Pace improvement:
Overall:
Week:


I know I could do a 10K training schedule but after so long in limbo I wanted to gain some self confidence in my running, so I'm doing a 5K training schedule instead. I'm currently on week 4 and feeling great about the results so far. I'm definitely improving, there was a massive jump in pace after I had done a strength workout. It just goes to show the importance of strength training/cross training in general!

As mentioned in the title, I've hit 25! I'm in my mid twenties, and am I happy with my weight? Nay! So I'm determined that I should really sort myself out and be happy with my body by the time I'm 26! The last time I weighed I was around 165 lbs, but I'm pretty sure that it was after a day of bad eating. I'm currently at my boyfriends apartment for the month of April, where there is no scale or tape measure to be seen. So I'm on an unintentional scale break this month. Honestly, it's a bit daunting not knowing how much I weigh. I became a bit of an obsessive weigher for a while late 2013, but I still liked knowing what weight I was at. Now that I'm running again and eating better, I really want to know if my work is paying off! I've got my fingers crossed that when I step on the scale in May I'll at least be in the 150's. 

I was forced to leave my job in February, i.e. I was fired. It was a humiliating yet liberating experience. I didn't want to be an English teacher forever and I know for sure that I am missed by fellow teachers, students and parents alike. The management were being arse holes and trying to cover up the fact that they're losing money when they told me. Plus they knew full well that I was going to leave at the end of my second year, so that probably helped with their decision to give me the cut.

So now I'm spending the rest of my time in Japan focusing on myself. I've been running, I've been cooking, I've been figuring out what makes me happy. I've come to the conclusion that I want to write a novel. It sounds crazy even to me, but I want to do it and see where it takes me. I'd hate to think that I just spent all this free time I've been blessed with doing nothing of true value.

My flight is booked back to England on July 18th, then I'll be going on a family holiday to Spain on the 21st July. So I want to at least get to the weight I was when I last went on my family holiday - around 149 lbs/150 lbs. That gives me 3 months to lose about 10 lbs? I think it's do-able!

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Pyramid Challenge Has Begun

I tweaked my idea and edited my last post about the weight lost pyramid, but today I officially (and a little late) started the pyramid challenge. I began my quest to drink 8 glasses of water a day. I have been successful! Though it has made me realise that I really wasn't taking care of myself in relation to hydration before...it was actually quite a challenge to fit in all 8 glasses. I hope by day 7 I will have mastered the habit and can continue it to the end of my goal.

Today I caught a glimpse in the mirror and I was disgusted. I have let myself go again, the post-Christmas/New Year pudge has stuck itself to me like an unwanted parasite. I struggled to haul my jeans over my ever growing muffin top. I couldn't help but laugh at the sight, how could I do this to myself after so much progress over the years? But then it made me realise - this is the last year I will be unhappy with my body.

2014 is the year I will reach my goal of 130 lbs (or as close to it as I deem fit - I've never been that light to know what is comfortable for me). I'm 25 this year, I cannot bare the thought of spending another year being unhappy with my weight and lack the confidence in my body. This has to be the year that I reach my goal. I want to be a woman people will admire, an inspiration to myself.

This post may be short but it is the beginning of my 2014 journey to healthy - to the body of my dreams.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Introducing The Weight Loss Pyramid

So I realised that I haven't written in my blog for a while. I think a big reason for that was because I found myself emotionally affected by how much I weighed. If I woke up after spending the day before being good and having exercised only to find my weight had increased, it would upset me. "Get a grip of yourself!" right? I know, I feel that way too, I would be the first to say that a number does not define effort, determination and hard work. But, alas, my brain works in mysterious ways and I ignored my own sage advice.

For the past *checks when last blog post was* 3 weeks I have been re-evaluating my plan to lose weight. Since entering a new stage in my life last year upon moving to Japan, living on my own and having my first full time job, I have found it a great struggle to lose weight. Before my move across the pond I worked part time, which worked wonders for my health and fitness as it gave me ample time to workout. Working full time, however, has completely taken over my life. "Don't be such a drama llama, just make the time!" Well, I wish I could have that strength and will power to feel energised to workout when all I want to do after work is eat and rest.

I suppose what I've been learning recently is that not everyone is going to be amazing at losing weight. Some people will be able to summon the strength and focus that it takes to MAKE the time, to be in control of what they eat and see the results quickly. I think I am someone who struggles.

I have to use the same method every day to teach English to Japanese kids. Some kids can grasp the work quite easily and excel, others struggle extremely so just to pronounce a simple word. Everyone is different, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and we all must find our own path to success. I am starting to understand that I am not someone who can just throw themselves into a workout plan nor to a clean eating scheme...I struggle to adapt to big changes that I thrust upon myself in a bid to lose weight.

Recently my co-worker, who is a trained hypnotherapist, told me to imagine myself in 2 months time at my goal. My goal being in a good routine that would ultimately help lead to weight loss. He then told me to write a list of the things that I did to achieve this goal in my mind. I could see where he was going, so off I went and wrote that list. That's when I came up with the weight loss pyramid idea.

I thought about my recent experiences in the past year, the reasons why I have basically sucked at losing weight. I also combined this with my revelations that I shouldn't feel like I am "failing" if I can't stick to some ambitious plan I set for myself that incorporates too many changes at once. The result was what I am now calling my very own weight loss pyramid.

The idea is very simple. But it will take time to see if this bitch actually works. I will make it my mission to test out this plan and hopefully I will see some results. I wondered with my break from the scales what I would fill this blog with, well now I know - my ramblings from this crazy weight loss experiment that may or may not work. Declaring this to the world will hopefully let me stay accountable.

I think if this pyramid DOES work, that it could help a lot of people who struggle to lose weight achieve their goals.

Ok, so here goes.

THE WEIGHT LOSS PYRAMID! 

Step 1
Write a list of weight loss goals. I wrote 16. 8 nutritional goals and 8 exercise goals.

Step 2
Order them in order of difficulty i.e. which goals will be the easiest to achieve (for me it was drinking 8 glasses of water a day) to the hardest (entering and training for a half marathon).

Step 3
CREATE YOUR MAGICAL PYRAMID! Draw a pyramid and at the bottom write the easiest goal and continue to write the goals above the other in order of easiest-hardest. Either create one pyramid combining both nutritional and exercise goals or 2 pyramids for each type of goal.

Step 4
Starting from the bottom, number your nutritional and exercise goals 1-however many goals you have. For me it was 1-8 nutritional and the same for exercise.

Step 5
Marvel at your weight loss pyramid.

Here are a list of my goals as an example:

Nutritional goals 

  • Drink 8 glasses of water a day (1)
  • Make meal plans, no eating out solo (2)
  • Don't buy junk food (3)
  • Start counting calories and stick to a number (4)
  • Stick to a calorie limit 6 days a week (5)
  • No more Coke (6)
  • Eat more vegetables (7)
  • Eat recommended daily amount of each food group (8)

Exercise goals:

  • Run once a week (1)
  • Strength train once a week (2)
  • Cross train once a week (3)
  • Run twice a week (4)
  • Strength train twice a week (5)
  • Cross train twice a week (6)
  • Run 3 times a week (7)
  • Enter and train for a Half Marathon (8)
These are my goals listed from easiest - hardest, the number in brackets is how many weeks I have to stay accountable for each goal before I move on and add the next goal into my routine. 

So how does it work? Well. The idea is to introduce new goals into your life slowly so you will have time to adapt instead of shocking yourself with an influx of different workout and meal plans. So the first goals you will try to achieve are at the bottom of the pyramid, 1 nutritional and 1 exercise goal. The number you have marked them with is the number of weeks you have to be on plan for to move onto the next stage. For example, my first 2 goals are "Drink 8 glasses of water a day" (nutritional) and "Workout once a week" (exercise). The number next to those goals is 1. So I have to drink 8 glasses of water a day for 1 straight week and workout once a week. When I am done - huzzah! I will continue to do these goals as I advance to my next goal, which is "Make a meal plan 2 weeks in advance, no eating out solo" (nutritional) and "Strength train once a week" (exercise). The number next to these goals is 2, so I have to be successful in both goals for 2 weeks before I move onto the next set of goals. Currently I have to drink 8 glasses of water a week, workout once a week, make a meal plan 2 weeks in advance and strength train once a week.

If you slip up and don't complete your goal then you have to reset the time for that goal and ONLY that goal. You don't go back to the very bottom of the pyramid nor do you reset your other category of goal (so if you didn't workout you continue your nutrition goal). Doing it this way allows you to achieve the goals slowly and naturally without compromising your other goals. You build on the foundation and achieve more success. If you excel at exercise but struggle with nutrition then it's no problem, just take more time working on your nutritional goals while you kick ass exercising.

It sounds a bit confusing, but I'm actually really positive about the outcome of this. It's probably the best plan I've come up with, the easiest plan I've given myself, yet by the end I should be in a routine that I can be proud of. It will take a while, but that's exactly what I need. I can't just throw myself in the deep end or go cold turkey, that's not how I am going to be successful. 


Here is a picture of my first draft of the pyramid. 

And that's it! I hope that I can practice what I've preached and see results. I'm going to make this as official as possible, take starting pictures, measurements and even weigh myself (gulp) and then see the transformation at the end of the pyramid.

In other news, I did a 5 mile run last weekend. I did it the day after I had spent the night dry heaving for no apparent reason and had taken the day off work, so I was really proud of myself for going despite being sick the day before. It also made me realise hey, I might not be fast, but I can DEFINITELY do this 10K race in 2 weeks!

Friday, 22 November 2013

That's It..I'm Taking A Break From The Scales

I've been considering this for a while now, especially within the last month or so, of taking a break from weighing myself. When I was consistent with exercise and healthy eating I would happily weigh myself every morning. The number that would flash at me would be an indicator of my performance from the previous day. If there was an increase I would know exactly what the problem was and I would work on correcting it. Most of the time it was that I hadn't drank enough water, or I had snacked on something salty a bit too late in the evening. I was never one to let my weight, that silly little number, get in the way of my life and deeply affect my emotions.

Until now.

Having gained weight over the last year of me moving to Japan I think I have developed some deep seeded shame towards my actions. I just stopped trying so hard and became lazy. Some days I would break down to my boyfriend and say "Why? I just can't seem to do it here." He would be annoyingly truthful (annoyingly because I am a stubborn, proud person) and tell me I was being lazy. He's right, I have just become complacent and not tried so hard. I would use working full time as an excuse not to work out, I would use my lack of Japanese language skill as an excuse not to cook healthy since I can't read the labels of food.

Recently, going into the more personal territory here, my boyfriend was kissing me and it was leading towards sex. But I panicked. I felt ugly - scared to take off my clothes in front of the man who I've been with for 4 freaking years and never had a problem being intimate with before. I ran off to the toilet and said I needed to pee (which I did to be fair) but I just had some breakdown in that tiny little toilet room. Having sex was the last thing I wanted to do, because it would mean exposing my horrible body.

My body is not horrible. In fact, by some standards I think that my body is quite desirable. Sure, I'm overweight, but I'm no longer obese. I'm closer to a healthy weight than I am an obese weight. But I just couldn't mentally drop the fact that I had regained weight. I no longer felt desirable, I honestly felt like I would allow myself to have sex once I had lost the weight I had gained in the past year.

This is crazy!

The other week I made a post saying that I had gained weight after having an awesome workout week. Because I saw that I had gained weight, I freaked out and reached for junk food. I'd like to say it wasn't because I saw I had gained, but it's true. My precise weight has officially began to affect my life.

When I left the toilet I just couldn't face my boyfriend. My shoulders hunched, my eyes looking at the floor, my arms wrapped around my stomach. Needless to say he knew that I wasn't in the mood. We talked about it, because he was confused why recently I had been avoiding being physical with him. I said it's because I've gained weight, I don't feel sexy anymore. He began to say it's ridiculous, he doesn't care about how much I weigh, it's me that cares too much. That's when he said it. That's when he said the word that I hoped would never hear be directed at me.

He said I have become obsessed with my weight.

But...he's right. I have. I've become so focused on what that number says each morning that I have stopped living. I've stopped enjoying myself, I've beaten myself up when I've treated myself, I've worked out only to stop if I saw that it didn't help me lose weight, I've even closed myself off to my own boyfriend. It has to stop. I have to fix this problem before it gets out of control. Dare I say it...before I develop some sort of eating disorder.

So I'm taking a break. So long scales, adios to my daily weigh in, farewell to those numbers that have come to dictate my life.

I'm not claiming that I'll never weigh myself again, but I think I'm going to stop weighing myself until I feel like I've had 3-4 consecutive weeks "on plan". No more being awesome for 1 week, seeing no results and wallowing in self pity and a takeaway pizza box. I have to have at least 3 great weeks of exercising AND eating right and then I will weigh myself. But if those 3 weeks pass by and I'm not quite ready, then I will wait until I am.

It's time to judge myself by my actions and my feelings, not by a number.

Do you think you could take a break from weighing in? Were you happy with the results from your scale break? If you don't weigh yourself, do you feel better because of it?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Zombies, Run! Mission #9 "A Voice In The Dark" Recap

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts I love it when I'm using Zombies, Run! and the lyrics of my music matches up to the situation that Runner 5 is experiencing. I wanted to share my experiences with mission number 9, "A Voice In The Dark." Those who care about the story not being spoiled, don't read this post! But watch the videos, because these songs kick ass. 

You hear a faint signal from Sam, who is calling out to you. He doesn't know where you are, or if you're even alive to hear him. All he knows is that you didn't get captured by New Canton, but that you haven't yet returned. It's the middle of the night - the most dangerous time to be out, and the area is swarming with zombies. If they reach Abel before you, the gates will be barred and you'll be left outside the Township with the zoms.
Sam tells you he'll keep talking, despite the fact that he may be talking to the zombie you've become. He muses about the effect of the apocalypse on the survivors. He comments that he can barely remember what "normal" feels like. He wonders about your life prior to the outbreak, and about whether ice-cream rolls were cake on the outside and ice-cream in the middle, or the other way around.

Paramore - Now


"Don't try to take this from me, don't try to take this from me now." 
"Feels like I'm waking from the dead and everyone's been waiting on me..."
"Bringing my sinking ship back to the shore...There's a time and a place to die, but this ain't it."
"If there's a future we want it, now." 

Oh my gooseberries, how does my iPod do it?! Sam contemplates the meaning of surviving and wonders if it's worth it if things will never be normal and Paramore's Now lyrics play in my ear. It doesn't matter what the devastation, if there's a future we want it!

Sam returns, having been chastised by Janine for leaving the comms shack to check about the composition of ice-cream rolls. He tells you that before the outbreak he was an engineering student. Though he hated the subject and had no aptitude for it, he studied it to please his parents. He confesses that some days he's grateful for the apocalypse, as it has let him do what he always wanted to - work in radio.
Sam thinks about his sister, who may or may not have survived the outbreak. She was studying law. His parents were very proud of her success, which made Sam jealous. He reluctantly admits that she's unlikely to have survived the plague. He muses about people from his past life whom he barely remembers, and wonders if anyone will remember you when you're gone.

Halestorm - Here's To Us


"Here's to us, here's to love, all the times that we fucked up. Here's to you, fill the glass. 'Cause the last few nights have kicked my ass. So let's give 'em hell, wish everybody well, here's to us."

Reminiscing about people from your past while wishing them well? Let's pour a drink and toast to this perfect song by Halestorm.

Sam tells you that he's been advised to go to bed, and that they're losing hope in your safe return. He says you have little time to return to Abel before they have to bar the gates. He thinks that, if you don't have to be around to rebuild the world, you may be one of the lucky ones. At the last moment, Sam spots you heading towards Abel.
Sam has you on the scanners, and begs you to run for safety while the soldiers give you covering fire. Finally, you return to Abel.

Nightwish - End Of All Hope


"It is the end of all hope" 
"Angels they fell first but I'm still here, alone as they are drawing near."
"Wounded is the deer that leaps the highest."

This song was so awesomely epic to listen to when imagining myself running from a zombie hoard in the middle of night towards safety! 

And so ended my run! 


I even outrun a zombie mob!! What pissed me off was that it happened during my run through the busiest part of the park I run in. I had to peg it through a huge crowd! I felt like I was going to bump into some old person and send them flying! But I made it. 

Here's how my zombie base looks, it's full! I need to expand!!



I really want to upgrade my units but I need to always build something extra! So my next few runs will be dedicated to gathering the materials I need to expand my base. 




Japan: You Suck At Christmas

There is something so very disturbing about being in Japan at Christmas time. Sure, Japan goes all out with decorations and lights and makes the place look like a winter wonderland. But there are things that Japan gets so terribly wrong it's laughable and sometimes downright scary. Here is a list of my personal observations.

#1 They begin playing Christmas music and putting up Christmas trees the day after Halloween. I shit you not. I walked to work and saw a small hair dresser place with a fully decorated tree outside on November 1st. Hold your horses, Japan! You do realise that the rest of the world likes to wait for December to arrive before painstakingly putting up and decorating a tree? What I also noticed was that Christmas music is being played in shops. Not just the odd song here and there to get you pumped for your bank account to plummet towards the red. Oh no, it's ALL Christmas music. For 2 whole months. Now I freaking love Christmas like Buddy the Elf, but those poor poor employees are being subjected to the jingly jangly Christmas chimes for not just the weeks in December, but the entirety of November too. NO, Japan, NO! Get your Christmas stock out in November, sure, but refrain from the music until December 1st!!

#2 Japan has some very interesting ideas about what Christmas costumes should look like. Today I took a trip to Loft, a wonderful shop (though a tad overpriced at times) with lots of weird and weird things to see and buy. It's a great place to find the typical strange Japanese items (like a cactus that grows out of an egg, fun!) to take home for friends and family (or yourself). On this particular visit I discovered that, sure enough, there was a section of one particular floor that was dedicated to Christmas. But what truly inspired me to write this post were the items I found today. I introduce to you, friends of the world, Japanese Christmas Gimp Masks.
If Rudolph gimp wasn't enough...
...then maybe Christmas Tree gimp is?

But let's not just stop at delightful facial wear, why not step into this lovely power ranger/Satan/psycho murderer Rudolph(?) costume?!

Happy Christmas??
I didn't get a picture, but Loft is also full of sexy Santa outfits for women. You have a choice being sexy or Satan.

#3 Christmas in Japan is essentially Valentine's Day. That's right, Christmas is not a family holiday in Japan. Despite the lengths that Japan goes to to deck the halls with a shit load of twinkly lights, Christmas is a holiday celebrated between couples. This would explain the sexy Santa outfits aimed to women filling the shelves at places like Loft. Interestingly enough, it's actually Christmas EVE that is considered the important part of Christmas. Don't have a date on Christmas Eve? Then you are a sad, lonely creature who should probably wear the Satan-Rudolph outfit and get yourself a lover. What happens on Christmas day then? Well, nothing. Christmas Eve is Christmas in Japan.

#4 Japan has a strange idea of what a Christmas meal should be. It's hard to cook a true Christmas meal in a Japanese kitchen. For one, most apartments don't even have a full sized oven. So cramming an oversized turkey in one of those microwave ovens is unheard of. So what do the Japanese eat on Christmas day? Home cooked Fish? A giant hamburg? Not quite. They go out in the freezing cold and sometimes queue for hours waiting for...a KFC Christmas dinner.


It started in the 70's when Japan realised that a turkey dinner was a bit out of the question. So they proposed a fried chicken Christmas meal and the Japanese went gaga over it. It's been a tradition for KFC ever since. You have to pre-order your Christmas meal because of it's insane popularity. 

In conclusion: *sigh* Oh, Japan. I know you mean well, it's quite nice that you embrace holidays that aren't apart of your own unique and diverse culture. But you really do suck at it. And if you suck at it, then you might as well stop trying so hard to pretend to celebrate it. 

This picture pretty much sums up my emotions concerned Japans Christmas customs:

What the...?
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