Monday, December 21, 2009

I think I'm starting to sound more like Moriarty than Sherlock Holmes.

I have been lazing off on the Batblog for a while, and this may be just because things that until recently seemed so novel—my shiny new muscles, my diet, my ability to climb stairs with neither huffing or puffing—all seem sort of normal now. This will change soon, for reasons I'll get to in a minute.

So, had a good rest of the week, exercise-wise, although I didn't work out at all on Friday, due to a work holiday party during my lunch and then a show to play in the evening. While my workouts generally only take up about two hours a day, they occasionally run head-on into my work or social life, and I get unreasonably irked every time this happens. But Friday was an altogether okay version of that; playing music is something I'll never, ever stop doing, even if it sometimes steps on the toes of my regimen. Maybe I'll make a Bat-band.

Another kickboxing class on Saturday (remember when I said I'd do it three times a week? Yeah, now I feel lazy if I don't get four or five in). On my way out, the owner of the place asked me, "So how is this working for you?" I grinned and told him, "This has been just amazing. I've lost 25 pounds and I'm getting all muscley and I really couldn't have done it without you guys." He and his co-owner were amazed and pleased and asked me if I'd write them a testimonial. And then Tony said that I'm probably ready to start Combat Conditioning.

Combat Conditioning is, you'll remember, the very first class that I ever took, the one for hardcore fighters, that Tony let me sit in on once while then shooing me over to kickboxing because of my sissiness. While not as cardio-heavy, Combat Conditioning is muy intense, and leans a lot more toward the personal-training side of things, with a ton of strength, flexibility, speed and technique instruction. I'm flattered that he thinks I'm ready for it, and I have yet to decide if I'll give it a shot today or go to the regular gym for a half-hour of elliptical and Deadwood-on-my-iPhone instead. CC will up my toughness considerably, and I hope I'm ready to take it on.

Today's my last day of work before I hop in the car and troll northeast to Minnesota for Christmas. I'm wondering if there's an unhealthier holiday than Minnesotan Christmas, which is analagous to mainlining gravy with one hand while pouring a mixture of beer and half and half down your throat while giving yourself a ham enema and snorting cinnamon rolls. And will I partake in this because of tradition? Bet your ass, I will. But I'm also keen on spending a lot of time doing outdoorsy exercise: ice-skating and skiing and running in the snow a lot like in Rocky IV. And, failing that, I can always make my wife count out 30-second increments in a bored tone of voice while I do cherry-pickers or burpies or V-ups or baby bounces or any of the catalogue of little floor exercises I do and she watches What Not to Wear. I know I'll regain some weight in Minnesota—there's simply no way I can't, given the folksy gluttony that is my birthright. But I can do my best to minimize that, and you know what I've kind of figured out? I'm not in bad shape. I would daresay my shape is okay.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We impose meaning on the chaos of our lives. We create form, morality, order. It's a choice we have to make every second of every minute of every day.

Had a great kickboxing session yesterday. My kicks are getting fast and hard and explosive, a quick pivot on my front foot, swivel of the hips, then my foot totally shows up in a place it wasn't a moment ago, presenting itself with a loud, loud SMACK on the bag. My form and technique are improving, and my knee problems from a few weeks ago have disappeared as I've gotten better. Likewise for my punches; yesterday, the instructor had to keep dragging my bag back onto the mat from my surprisingly effective left hooks. All of this is stuff I never would have thought I'd be thinking or writing about, a few months ago. Me? Punching? Weird.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This isn't a mud pit. It's an operating table, and I'm the surgeon.

Well, I've apparently powered through my 20-pound-or-one-month malaise. After Friday and Saturday kickboxing—both of which were just brutal and made for a sore n' hobbling sort of weekend—I found that I was losing weight again. And I've continued to do so since, at sort of ridiculously fast rate. Since Friday, I've lost five pounds, and that's with a weekend of light-ish drinking and not-so-great eating (I made tacos on Sunday night. How many did I have? Six. That's how many). I'm to the point where I'm unembarassed to share my actual weight with you, dear Bat-Readers: 196. That's with me having lost 25 pounds. Let's do the math together. Let's see: five plus six, carry the one—that adds up, let me figure. Oh, yeah, it adds up to: fucking fat. 196 is too fat for my frame, too, let's not have any illusions about that. But that 196 has been hard-won, and it also means that I'm past the halfway point for my goal weight.

My workouts have long become habit, but now they're also something I really miss, and it says something about my retarded resolve that if I miss a day of kickboxing, I'm overtaken with the same kind of guilt generally meant for child-murderers. A great deal of this does, I think, have to do with the fact that I'm becoming simply fascinated with what's happening to me, like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.* It's like going through a second, more bad-ass puberty. Where did these bulges come from? What does it mean? What is happening to me? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

It sort of goes without saying that I'll be punching and kicking the shit out of things again today. Then a regular gym workout, then I'm going to join a friend for a drink, because I can do that and what are you gonna do? Try to stop me? Ha.

*Apologies to Patton Oswalt.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not you, Robin. They have strict licensing laws in this country. A boy of your age is not allowed in a drinking tavern.

Feeling great today, and against all odds, I've shed another pound.

Kickboxing was excellent yesterday; normally the class is run by one of two female instructors, but yesterday, Tony, the co-owner of the place, ran it. Instead of the usual workout, we were treated to a while of technique instruction. I can honestly say my kicks are coming with more force and accurary than they were yesterday morning. After that, it was a long period of dancing around the bag on the balls of our feet, keeping our heads forever moving, while Tony yelled out things for us to do. A great workout and more fun than doing, say, ladders. But damn, am I sore—all that time on the balls of my feet is like college for my calves. Calf-college, we'll call it.

I'm getting impatient with myself. I figure, weight-loss-wise, I'm about halfway to where I need to be. And I want to be where I need to be, you know, now. But I'll just take a breath, keep working hard and stay on the trolley. Regular gym and kickboxing again tonight, and again-again Saturday, and then I'll probably take Sunday off. Good times.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's called a compound fracture, rapist. It'll never heal. Not right it won't. You'll remember me every time the air goes wet and cold.

It is -11° here. Last night with windchill is was -30°. Clearly some supervillain has travelled from the future, built a weather machine and tried to forestall my training by making it so cold I want to do nothing but stay inside and eat great bowls of pasta, thereby fattening myself up. You won't win, Hypothetical Supervillain From the Future.

Anyway, I am stalled at the same weight as last week, missing my goal by two pounds. Several people have told me that this tends to happen, roughly twenty pounds or a month in, and to just keep plugging. My body, in other words, has wised up to me, and is trying its damndest to hold onto its fat stores like Scrooge McDuck onto his gold. So I will keep on plugging and work through this.

I missed Monday kickboxing because there was a bout of layoffs at my company, and instead of kickboxing, I felt like drowning my survivor's guilt in drink. So I did. This was obviously a weak move, and even as I drove to the bar to meet some friends after work, I felt guilty. About an hour later, I got a text from the owner of the combat gym, but by then I'd already had a vodka. Mas de guilt.

I did, however, have a great workout yesterday, and discovered a neat little inner reserve that lets me throw my punches with a great deal more speed and force. It wasn't that I was necessarily pulling punches before—although after half an hour of nonstop punching they certainly didn't have a lot of weight behind them—but that I never really felt it necessary to punch as hard as I can. The combat gym has hardened and given ridiculous heft to my arms, and with my newfound punch, that'll only grow.

Getting out of the shower this morning, I looked in the mirror and was amazed to find that you can actually see the outlines of stomach muscles on my torso. Not down where my slowly-melting gut still is, of course, but higher up, there's the phantom of six pack growing. There's still plenty to be done, of course, but my pear-shaped body is gradually taking on the a V shape. Or, failing that, maybe an H.

Non-punchy workout today at lunch, and then pub quiz tonight. Since I missed Monday kickboxing, I'll go tomorrow, see if I can fit in a session on Friday night, and then hit it Saturday, as well. No rest for the tubby.

Friday, December 4, 2009

But wherever my grave is... someone's standing on it ... waiting on it ... stomping the hell out of it. Someone who wants me to eat ice cream.

Google totally stole my idea! (Yes, I, too stole my idea. Shut up or I'll throw you off a cathedral.) Google is now my archnemesis, and will soon be thrown off a cathedral.

It is far too ridiculously cold out: -3 before windchill according to my iPhone. This is Colorado, not Minnesota, so you'll excuse me for knitting my bat-brows together in consternation that I have to worry about my van starting. Snow is fine. Dump it all day every day as far as I'm concerned. But this kind of weather? It's horse-hockey, is what it is, and I'm going to throw Old Man Winter off a cathedral.

So, I discovered yesterday that kickboxing is a terrific cure for a mild hangover; my tiredness and vague sense of ill-being just melted right the hell away after an hour of punching and kicking. I would not recommending using this cure for anything more than a mild hangover, however, as it's likely to end in copious vomiting.

So yes, I drank at pub quiz the night before last and ended up having more than I'd planned to. My reasons for this are certainly not good, but I was in sort of a celebrational mood, what with the full moon and the wintery weather and the Christmas tree with which I shared the stage. Seasonal joy turned into not enough sleep, but I'm pleased with myself for going to kickboxing despite my tiredness.

I am stalled at the weight I've had since Wednesday, no doubt in part to alcohol consumption and my desire to hibernate given the weather. This means I have three pounds more to go before Monday. I think I can do it; I'm going to Saturday kickboxing tomorrow, and I might stick around for Big Boy Boxing if I'm not too wrecked after that. A few runs, eating decently and some gym time today should get me there. Otherwise, if I'm looking for someone to throw off a cathedral, I might as well look in a mirror. [Pause for effect.] Let's do this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

They say that when you kill a man you not only take away what he was, but all he will ever be. Gross.

Another two pounds down. This week has been pretty productive one, although at kickboxing and the gym yesterday I felt like I was moving slowly. That might have been due to the fact that I didn't really eat much until later in the evening.

I have quiz tonight, so I will only get a regular-gym workout in today during my lunch, and then back to punching and kicking things again tomorrow. I need new gloves; the 14-ounce Walmart ones I bought are hopeless uncomfortable, cheaply made, and ridiculous. I'll scan the TOTALLY XXXXTREEEEME! MMA outfitter catalogue I took from the gym and get something a little more appropriate. Yes, I am now mail-ordering fighting apparel.

I am trying to sublimate the gorge of smugness that overtakes me whenever I come back from the gym. "Oh, look," I think. "Here I am, all sweaty and doing good for my body, while the drones eat their Carl's Jr. and grow like flabby fungi under the florescent lights." This is lousy of me and I have to cut it out.

Example: A few weeks ago, a Chik Fil-A opened up down the street from where I work. Since the day it opened, there's been a line of cars snaking from the drive-through out and into the next parking lot. People cannot wait to get their hands on a chicken sandwich! So, coming back from the gym one day, I commented on it and one of my coworkers said, "Hey, I like Chik Fil-A."

"Oh yeah?" I snorted. I then went to my computer and called up a picture of mechanically separated chicken, which I pointed out looks exactly like strawberry soft-serve. I will now share that picture with you and ensure that you'll never eat another chicken nugget:

Gross, right? Anyway, the grossness is not the point. The point is that I can't let myself become alienated from these people I am supposed to be protecting. Or, more succinctly: stop being an asshole, me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You needn't be out there on the edge anymore. You needn't be alone. We don't have to kill each other ... for Muscle Milk.

My training continues. The form of my terrible shadow is coalescing. I accomplish this through coughing.

A post-Thanksgiving workout and kickboxing session reduced me to splinters last night, if splinters sweated and coughed a lot and spluttered. This is due to either: A) My excessive smoking over the holiday weekend; or B) The tiny salad I ate about an hour before kickboxing because I was ravenous and I figured, hey, an hour should be long enough so that my meal digests to a point where I don't throw up all over my bag gloves. Whatever the case, a not especially rough workout had me light-headed and weak, and then I got to hustle off to band practice, unfed but for Muscle Milk.

I've grown accustomed to the slightly more svelt silhouette I now throw, and my stomach muscles have grown hard beneath the slowly-melting gut. My wife delights in prodding my brand-new muscles, and she said the other day, "You know, you look substantial." "As opposed to what? As opposed to just fat?" I asked her. She sort of blushed, but I took her meaning.

I peeled off two pounds yesterday, so I'm well on my way to my goal for this week. My other goal is to have, from yesterday, another 20 pounds gone by Christmas. This is ambitious, but totally doable, as long as I take care of myself and keep pushing. In a few weeks, I'll be in shape enough to start actual sparring, which will be of further good to me, if bruising can be construed as a good thing. But I'm excited to get some real combat experience. Remember, the supervillains of Coz ain't gonna punch themselves into oblivion.

Monday, November 30, 2009

No, Bane. This time I break you—on the elliptical.

I am absolutely amazed that our four-day Thanksgiving bacchanal only resulted in a two-pound weight gain. Between 18 adults, we ate—no shit—twelve pounds of bacon. More like a baconnal! Bwahaha!

In any case, a very good time, and I didn't eat nearly as poorly as I could have, all told. I stayed away from beer and ate fruit for breakfast and did some floor exercises and went for a polar bear twin in Mary's Lake and took a four-mile hike and was altogether more active that I could have been. But still, time to start anew that weight-shaving, today with a lunchtime trip to the gym and then kickboxing again tonight. The good news that I've learned from my Batman-ing so far is that I'm capable of taking weight off, and with surprising alacrity, when I stick to my diet and work hard. I will lose another seven pounds before the week is over. This is my goal. I will also run tomorrow, which I failed to do today because I could not be bothered to wake up early enough.

And go.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It’s not Batman that makes you worthwhile, it’s the other way around. Never tell yourself anything different.

Kickboxing was a rough one yesterday. We eschewed our usual amount of bag time in favor of circuits. Circuits go like this:

There are six stations set up, at each of which you are to perform a specific exercise. Examples include box dips, squats with a 40-pound weight, cherry pickers with a heavy-ass medicine ball, box jumps, etc. Simple, right? You are allotted one minute at each of these stations, in which you are to perform that exercise with full intensity. (Stopping to catch your breath is the enemy.) Then, quickly to the next station! And to the next! And the next! Don't stop! And so on, until you've done the full circuit. Then you get 20 seconds to get a drink of water, and then you do another circuit. And then another one. And then you fall down on the mat and cry like a child.

Needless to say, a very good workout, and I did another one after work, with half an hour on the elliptical and some weights. I also showed my wife some of the circuit exercises, and she looked at me, the sidelong glint saying, You are crazy. Why would you voluntarily do this to yourself? It's happening—the obsession with my mission has already begun to alienate me from others. Don't worry, though: my secret identity of Thousandaire Playboy Aaron Retka is still safe. For now.

Anyway. I'll hit the gym again today to help preemptively squash the zillion-calorie meals I'll be eating this weekend. And if running at 9,000 feet ain't good for the heart, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

All men have limits. They learn what those limits are and then they learn not to exceed them. I ignore mine.

Well, I thought for sure that I'd come home to Florida to find that I'd regained a few pounds, and damn if I wasn't correct. The problem was lack of exercise, too much beer, and unhealthful airport food, all of which conspired to tip my scale back up a few pounds. But it's okay, since I jumped happily back onto the wagon yesterday and felt subsequently great. I've found that I am more animated, more active, and of a much better disposition when I'm eating well, working out and not drinking, and the Florida trip enforced that nicely.

I worked out yesterday at the non-combat gym during my lunch, and the elliptical and weight sweat felt like coming home, even if I had to deal with the Dilettante. The Dilettante is a familiar figure at the office building gym where I work out for free, courtesy of my wife. He's a middle-aged man who resembles a hobbit, with little legs and a round, round belly, and he always wears a sweatband, though the colors of those sweatbands tend to change. I call him the Dilettante because he will not stay at a machine or weight station for more than a minute, ever, just bopping merrily from one thing to the next—doing five reps at the chest press, five at the leg press, five at the rowing machine, and so on. If this sounds cute, it sort of is, except that it's difficult to get on any certain machine because he's seemingly at all of them simultaneously, and cute morphs into annoying. "Jesus, just pick something, Dilettante," I want to tell him. "Anything. Just spend more than five minutes doing one thing. Please?" That's the Dilettante.

Another figure is the Gym Cop, whom my wife tells me is actually chief of security for the Alamo Building and Plaza of the Rockies and who is, she assures me, actually quite a nice guy. My problem with Gym Cop is that he, a brawny, brush-cut dude with a Taz tattoo, likes to stare with apparent menace at any man in the gym. He is warm with the women, of course, but any man he views as a rulebreaker, or a vandal, or possibly a rapist. Rulebreakers all, in other words, and he'll be damned if rules will be broken on his watch. He tends to hover near the free weights, staring, while I huff and puff and finally just decide to leave because I don't like him staring. This means he wins. Both the Dilettante and Gym Cop will be my archnemeses when I become Batman.

So, that aside, I had a great kickboxing session last night. My endurance is increasing and my technique is getting better, thanks to helpful little asides from the instructor or those more schooled in the form. Last night, it was two Special Forces guys who did the whole class in weight vests who helped me along, showing me the proper way to curl my toes back during a push-kick, which feels a lot more balanced and powerful. I go back during lunch today for some more, and then tomorrow I go up to Estes Park for the annual nerd Thanksgiving outing we call Gobblerfest. During the Gobbles, I'm going to try my best to stay on the diet—except for, duh, Thanksgiving dinner, since I'm doing three different birds and I will under no circumstance miss eating stuffing. But if I can watch my alcohol intake and try to eat well and go out for runs, I should be good. Better than good, cuz I'm en route to Batman.

I also started, per the request of a few different people, taking photos to monitor my progress. None of you will ever see these photos until I'm in shape, and possibly not even then, since I'm terrified you'd sell them to the groundbreaking porn site, Shirtless Fat Guys With Psoriasis. But the photos are good to have, if even just for myself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And when you're sitting here alone in the middle of the night, unsleeping in the dark, remember—every breath you take you owe to me.

Whee, Orlando. The town so nice they named it once, built a shitload of theme parks and chain restaurants, slapped a smiley face on it and called it a day.

So. I just got back from the hotel's exercise room, which has hilariously, semi-dangerously outdated equipment. I was happy to see an elliptical, so I climbed on the thing and starting working, only to hear loud clunks coming from the floor. I peered down and saw huge, heavy iron gears, rusted and massive, like something you would have seen during the Inquisition, upon which this thing was balanced. The sound was so loud that I was sure I was waking up the adjacent rooms' residents, so I opted for the creaky treadmill instead. My knee is feeling better, but even so it hurt a bit to run and I didn't want to aggravate it, so I settled for the exercise bike, did about half an hour on that and exited drenched in sweat. Go, humidity.

This is the first exercise, save for some sit-ups and stretches, that I've had since being here. I'm sure I'll return in worse shape, even though I'm doing my damndest not to drink and to eat well. That being said, last night I had something called "Shrimp Cargot," my thinking that it'd be simple and not too unhealthy. Imagine my surprise (and secret delight) at seeing the dozen shrimp covered in about a pound of cheese and butter. Did I eat it? Yeah—I didn't want to be rude, after all, since this was an expensed meal.

The night before was more of the same: an overpriced seafood place where I went for a mixed grill and got about $12 worth of grilled fish and shellfish for about $40 along with some steamed vegetables (only $6 extra!). But hey, expensed, right?

A vignette from last night: We finished dinner around 9 PM, and we were both exhausted and not wanting to head out to the very drunken conference parties going on around town, so we came back to the hotel. While I didn't want to go out, I thought drinking a beer by the pool sounded nice, so I headed into the hotel bar and ordered one (a Michelob Ultra, thankyouverymuch). The hotel bar was, first, completely empty, and very, very brightly lit, like a Walmart. Second, a club remix of the new Lady Gaga song was playing very, very loudly. And third, the bartender was so flamboyant, so mincing and lispy, that I assumed he was either A) Making fun of me; or B) Trying on a character, perhaps for the Orlando Dinner Theatre Players' version of The Birdcage. After being on my feet all day, surrounding by flashing lights, this was appropriately surreal. But I drank my beer quietly out in the dark by the pool was was in bed by 10:30.

Now, back to the tradeshow floor. Good times.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Broken things inside me grind together like loose gravel as I stand. Or wobble, whatever.

I've discovered, with the help of the kickboxing instructor, why my knees have been hurting: poor technique. I am not sufficiently pivoting when I kick, which means that my legs are hitting the bag at an angle that is hyperextending my knee, over and over and over again. So now I pivot more, really throwing my hips into the kick, which requires about 10% more effort and feels about 70% more awesome.

Kickboxing yesterday was brutal. I walked in with a smirk, high off my performance from the night before, to find that I was one of only two students—the other being a guy who sorta/kinda works there and who has been remarkably encouraging when I'm huffing and sweating and positive I can't continue. This meant that I got the full brunt of the instructor's attention and that the workout rendered me blind from sweat in my eyes, doubled over in exhaustion. "Okay, this time, I want a burpie, six punch/jabs, two right kicks, two left kicks, burpie, until I say stop. Got it? Go!" "Now I want you to do touch-kicks for sixty seconds, a sixty seconds that will seem more like five or ten years and will leave you wondering how you will ever walk again. Go!" Needless to say, a great workout, and I subsequently dropped another two pounds. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 15 pounds I've lost since I embarked on this little experiment. I'm doing well.

I fly to Florida tomorrow for work, so I'm hoping to fit at least one more good workout in before I do. Although the hotel has a gym, I'm not altogether sure what sort of time I'll have to use it—but I'm relatively confident I can find half an hour a day to get on the elliptical and make sure my Baby Batman muscles don't soften. If anything, my four days away from the combat gym will let my knees heal up a little bit.

Yesterday, I was carrying around a bucket of water (I was soaking my feet) and had to run upstairs, bucket in hand, to show my wife my new muscles, bulging as they were from toting said bucket. I also lifted up my shirt and showed her my stomach, to which she commented, "Are you sucking in your belly?" I wasn't. I'm seeing results, and if you probe in just the right spots, you can feel tumescences there. What are those little bulges? you might wonder. Does he have a tumor? Is there an alien living in his gut, about to burst forth and shower bystanders with gore before scuttling off into the ducts? No, cherie. I will tell you what it is: I am getting a goddamn six-pack.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There are seven working defenses from this position. Four disarm with minimal contact, two kill, and the last one ... HURTS.

Quite an ego boost last night at cardio kickboxing:

I showed up to find the entire gym crammed with people, all of whom seemed to be using the class as one of their trial sessions. Many of these appeared to be CC kids, who apparently have followed me from the junior-high track to PPCS. I sort of rolled my eyes, wrapped my hands, gloved up, and got into it, and was surprised to find that these kids, as young and strapping and healthful as they all were could not keep up with me. Over the course of the hour, one of them, a tall and muscular young man, had to go lie down, as I continued to punch and kick and kick and punch and kick, and the rest of them, no matter how lithe, were panting and sweating and shaking their heads at how ridiculously hard they found it all.

Then, because I wanted to give back some of the encouragement others had given me, I told a small cluster of girls at the water fountain: "You guys are doing great. This is only my fourth class and I'm already finding it a lot easier. Plus, I've lost 12 pounds." The stared at me for a moment. "You're kidding." I shook my head. "Nope. Over the course of about two weeks." I then went to my cubby to put my shoes and hoodie on, and when I emerged, they were signing up for extended agreements. I should probably get a kickback for this.

So I skipped running this morning, since it only seems to aggravate my knees. Instead, I'll do cardio kickboxing again during my lunch, and then head to the regular gym for some more elliptical and weights tonight. This will be my last class for the week, sadly, unless I can slip in a quick one before I host pub quiz tomorrow night. Then I'm winging my way south to Florida for a regrettably punch-free weekend. I will somehow survive this and only grow stronger and more terrible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

There is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge: Me.

I think I am running out of awesome Batman quotes. Alan Moore and Frank Miller and Chris Nolan need to hurry up and write some more for me. Anyway.

Just hit the regular gym for a nice little lunchtime workout, and now I'm enjoying a delicious and hearty lunch of celery and Muscle Milk. My workout yesterday consisted of going to see a movie (sans popcorn or nachos, sadly, but with a delicious 12,000-oz. Coke Zero no doubt full of carcinogenic sweetener) and then doing some exercises on the bedroom floor while my wife watched Kill Bill and the dog licked my face. I've definitely gotten better at these little floor exercises, most of which I've taken from cardio kickboxing, and I'm no longer in the kindergarten-age-girl class for pushup reps, due to my nascent chest muscles.

Tonight is cardio kickboxing, and I might stick around for muay thai, depending on how dead I am after the workout, and how my knee is doing. The knee, yes, is bothering me, to the point that I couldn't even run much this morning, although I did do half an hour on the elliptical without too much trouble. I bought a little brace for it last night, which promptly slipped down around my ankle while I tried to run today. It started really aching after two days of relative inactivity, so here's hoping some motion will limber it up. Otherwise, it's cybernetic limbs for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One day, there will be no pain, no loss, no crime. Because of me, because I fight. For you. One day, I will win.

So, a quiet few days here. I'm going to take another run this evening, but I took yesterday off entirely. (Okay, I did some situps.)

Played an insanely packed show on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, when we were loading equipment back up, I was happy for not having had much to drink the night before. Everyone else wore the pale, slack-mouthed expression of a deep and terrible hangover. I, however, was chipper and bright-eyed. Before the show, I'd wondered if I was going to try to avoid drinking altogether, but I opted for moderation instead of teetotaling, had a rum and diet, a vodka soda and two beers that I didn't come close to finishing, all over the course of about eight hours. This is, I don't have to tell you, quite the change from previous behavior, and I'm glad for it; the alcohol only made me vaguely queasy and I had no desire to suck 'em down. I did, however, smoke quite a bit, and I'm sure I'll pay for that in the coming week. I have, however, lost another two pounds, surprising given my relative inactivity this weekend.

I'm looking forward to a run tonight, as we just got some snow here, and it seems romantic to take a jog in the twilight, smelling wood-burning stoves and listening to This American Life and my feet crunch along the snow. My right knee is aching lately before runs, but it seems to warm up pretty quickly once I get into it. This is something I'll have to address before fighting crime. Along with my bulletproof outfit.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I don't know mercy, but I know pain. Sometimes I share it with the likes of you. Along with some of my raw nonsalted almonds.

Another three pounds down, which means I'll hopefully hit my goal weight in about a month, month and a half. But, like I said, I'm gaining muscle as I'm losing fat, so I don't want to have my eyes glued to the scale. My arms are getting hard, and there's suddenly a layer of muscle beneath the copious padding of my stomach, sort of like a box-spring under a mattress. It's kind of kooky. I have, I shit you not, actual obliques in the making.

Another cardio kickboxing session yesterday. There's always a point—or, as was the case earlier this week, several—during that class where my heart is beating so fast and I'm gulping in breath so raggedly that it occurs to me that I actually might die, crumpling into a big dead pile right there. My reflex is to stop, just stop! and allow myself to relax, possibly with a margarita. But the instructor is savvy enough to keep pushing me, via either commands or cajoling, until the end of the session, where I collapse into a sweaty heap on the mat and positively glow with accomplishment. It was a nice gesture yesterday when the instructor smiled at me on my way out and then said, "Hey." I stopped and turned. "You're doing a great job," she said. I blushed, mumbled my thanks and left. This is the best part of that place: I haven't yet seen a puffed-up attitude on anybody; everyone I've dealt with has been astoundingly encouraging and just flat-out kind. I'm the flabby duckling they've taken under their collective wing. It's very sweet.

A very short run this morning, since my calves and quads are sore as all get out from kicking the shit out of things. The combat gym is closed today, since everyone is going up to Denver to see one of their teammates fight. I, however, have a show to play tonight, and in preparation for this I'll just hit the regular gym during my lunch hour, rock the elliptical for a while, work my arms a little bit, and call it a day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I want you to remember, in your most private moments, my hand around your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you. And cauliflower.

The track was bustling this morning. I woke up a little late, since I had pub quiz last night and didn't get to bed until midnight—an unthinkably late hour for me lately. So the sun had already peeked out over Kansas, and the track was crammed with giggling CC kids, whose effortless litheness mocked me while I stumbled. "Haha! We're 20! We can drink gallons of Natty Ice and eat ridiculous amounts of gooey cafeteria food! And we won't gain a pound! We're young! Young and beautiful! Haha!" Like the dour crusader I'm trying to become, I simply lowered my head. Just you wait, I advised them grimly. Come talk to me when you're in your early thirties and your cheap-beer binges are no longer adorable and de rigueur, when your tight little bellies have turned white and soft and your dumbass white-boy dreadlocks have long been traded for male-pattern baldness and a double chin. We'll talk then. And by the way, don't you have your own track over at the college?

I hit the regular gym last night, and was surprised to find that, after 20 minutes on the elliptical, I'd barely broken a sweat. I then did some upper-body work with the weights, grunting as my girlish arms hefted embarrassingly small payloads. But hey—for the first time in my life, I'm getting a chest. Right now it's wee and hidden behind the cushion of man-boob, but still, there's a little shelf growing there. Maybe I can also train to get a cleft in my chin.

Cardio kickboxing again today, and then, depending on how I'm feeling, jiu-jitsu late this afternoon. Then I've got band practice tonight, a show tomorrow night, and a weekend where, in addition to working out, I'd also like to paint my kitchen and hang out with my wife and rake my yard. I'm also getting sent out of town for my job next week, which is kind of throwing a wrench into my diet and non-drinking proclivities, but hey—the hotel I'm staying at has a 24-hour gym. I checked.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sometimes it's only madness that makes us what we are. Madness, and handwraps.

My legs are particularly wobbly today, even after a run to try to get them warmed up—a run that I took, because of nonstop spousal coughing and a desire to avoid the other people (and their dogs) on the track this morning, about an hour earlier than I've been going out. It was subsequently pitch-dark outside and wonderfully quiet.

As I stumbled around the track, I was listening to an episode of Radiolab that I've listened to four or five times already, but one that I adore—the theme of which is discovery versus invention. Are nature's patterns there already, for us to find? Or are we imposing our own sense of order on a messy and ultimately non-understandable world? It's kind of a trip to be jogging (or teetering, as the case was this morning) and musing the idea of the periodic table while the sun rises and turns the mountains purple.

Anyway, another cardio-kickboxing class yesterday, which stomped and squashed me just as much as my first one had. But I got through it again, as I'll continue to do until you can use my stomach as a lemon zester. Such a brutal workout in the middle of the day made me ravenous, so I rushed home after work to prepare a less-healthy dinner than what I should have made. Regardless of the presence of cheese and honey mustard on my plate, I still came in far below on calories.

Tonight, it's back to the regular, non-fighty gym for some elliptical and some weights. I particularly want to spend some time on my back and shoulders, which I'll call my lifting-up-supervillains-and-throwing-them-out-of-windows muscles. We'll go easy on my legs today, and then tomorrow, it's back to kickboxing. I bought my own handwraps and gloves this morning. For punching.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Criminals are cowardly. A superstitious terrible omen. A cowardly lot. My disguise must strike terror. I must be black. Terrible. And with sore legs.

Let me introduce you to something called Ultimate Fitness Kickboxing.

UFK is when, after a short private kickboxing lesson that has already made you sweaty, a very nice young woman makes you do things, over the course of an hour, that ensure that you not only feel, but physically taste every cigarette you've ever smoked, ever Pizza Roll you've ever consumed, every beer you've ever drunk. In sixty- or thirty-second increments, you are given a set of tasks that require you to run, jump, squat, kick, kick, kick, punch, punch, punch, squat, run, punch, kick, duck, punch, contort, punch, kick, kick, kick, kick and kick. There is no stopping, and even when you think you've entered the cooldown portion of the workout there's still plenty of pain to be had, the calculated straining of muscles that makes you plant your sweaty red face on the punching bag in front of you and pray for death. Ultimate Fitness Kickboxing is awesome.

I have never been so completely reduced to jelly, my arm muscles slack with lactic acid, unable to throw another punch until the very nice young woman tells me to. It's the greatest workout ever, and it's exactly what I need. So I'm going to do it three times a week.

It's such a good workout that, according to Lose It! and after a tremendous and not-small dinner of sirloin and green beans and a balsamic mushroom redux, I still came in 1,400 calories short. Fourteen hundred! And I ate quite a bit yesterday, all told. This is why I've lost another pound.

So my plan for today was to chill out and just do a short morning run and a regular-gym workout tonight, but having looked at the PPCS's schedule, I see that if I don't do UFK again today (and then on Thursday afternoon), I won't get my allotted ass-kicking for the week. So, depending on how I feel, I'll again be huffing and puffing and responding to every new command with incredulity. ("Now, two squat jumps, right side kick, jab/cross/hook!" "What? You're kidding!" and "Left side kick, right side kick, 4-count punch/jab, shuffle!" "No fucking way.")

For the first time in a long time, I looked at myself fresh out of the shower last night and saw a skinny, toned buy beneath the tubby guy I've gotten so used to. And that guy's gonna be here before too long. To, you know, protect the citizens of Gotham-Coz. And to look pretty rad while doing so.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me. And what I do is sit-ups.

At a loss for another workout yesterday, I just took an additional, somewhat hobbling run, since my legs were pretty damn sore, during which I did some of the exercises set along the track. Since I didn't really know what I was actually supposed to do at these little workout stations, I simply invented little exercises that made use of the available equipment. For instance, parallel bars? Do a sort of arm-lifting-up my body thing. Monkey bars? Swing from them for a second and then drop to the ground, coughing. A wooden box thing? Jump up on it a few times. I am a flabby genius of improvisation.

According to Lose It!, I'm coming in about 500-700 calories below even my goal consumption, although I'm not sure I trust it. I've lost another pound, though, so that's pretty swell.

Ran, of course, this morning, despite sore legs, and tonight I've got my first kickboxing class. I need to figure out which classes I'll be doing regularly, since I'd actually like to learn something instead of flitting from one thing to another. But then again, the plan I signed up for at PPCS gets me unlimited classes, so maybe I'll just move in there. I certainly would benefit from it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Joker, there's nothing wrong with you that I can't fix with my hands. And some Muscle Milk.

I am sore. Granted, it's a good kind of sore, the earning-something variety of sore, like how Sarah Palin's winking muscles must have felt in October of last year, but that doesn't mean the soreness doesn't exist. I'm planning to take it easy today, which, after my morning run and stair-sprints, means just one more quick workout in the afternoon. Am I becoming obsessed? Well, duh.

Had my first jiu-jitsu class yesterday, which was a lot of fun in addition to being hard as hell. Imagine, if you will, a form of wrestling that is simultaneously super-gay and grueling. (I suppose that's all wrestling.) But jiu-jitsu seems a great deal more cerebral, like a physical chess game played in tiny increments with your legs, forearms and a constant readjustment of balance. I like it a lot, even if it means spending a whole lot more time on my back with my legs wrapped around another man than I'd anticipated—or ever hoped for. That said, I got my ass kicked by a girl. An ex-Marine girl who could probably bench-press my car, but a girl nonetheless.

I also downloaded an iPhone app called Lose It!, which came highly recommended to me by the sort of people who highly recommend weight-loss iPhone apps. This means weighing myself daily, which is something I was sort of shying away from, since I'm likely to gain muscle weight as I'm losing fat weight, anyway. The good news? I lost five pounds this week. The other good news? According to my Lose It! calorie budget, I'll continue to do so if I maintain my current activity and diet levels. And yeah, I know that all calories aren't equal and glycemic index and blah blah blah. But I'm eating well, I think—mainly nuts, fruit, vegetables, and protein, and the benefit of doing the graze-and-feast thing is that every meal I eat is the best meal I've ever had. It also helps that I'm doing all my own cooking, because—false modesty aside—I am an awesome cook. Try halibut with orange chile almond honey, sirloin with balsamic truffle redux, and a bunch of steamed vegetables beside. It definitely does not suck to be me right now, and once I hop into the shower and get some heat on my aching legs, I'll be even gooder.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yes, father. I shall become a bat.

Just got back from my morning run, which I mixed up by doing some fun and grueling stair sprints at the junior high track where I'm now spending my mornings. I didn't want to kill myself, because I've got jiu-jitsu class today, but it got my heart rate up and warmed up my leg muscles, which are sore from combat class yesterday.

So, it turns out that combat class is not, as I'd assumed, just a general fitness-for-combat session, but rather where Tony, the very nice owner of the place, trains his best fighters for, you know, actual fights. Despite that, he was nice enough to let me stay—since they were doing what he termed a "light workout" since one of the guys has a muay thai fight next week. This "light workout," of course, kicked my ass, and then I got to watch some truly awesome sparring. The guy going to the fight, a whippet-thin young dude, was unbelievably fast, and pulled off those awesome jump punches and jumping knee-kick things that I'd only seen in Street Fighter before. And yeah, incredibly fast. Reread the first sentence of this paragraph. I'll wait. Okay, in that amount of time, he jump-kicked you in the sternum a dozen times. Awesome.

Most importantly, everybody there was surprisingly cool, with a decided non-meathead vibe. Sure, this is a place that by definition emphasizes brawn, but they had no issue with being welcoming to and supportive of my flabby, effeminate ass. As my wife said, "You're totally going to start male-bonding, aren't you?" It's possible.

My legs are already looking more defined, which I could care less about. It's time to start chipping away at my not-inconsiderable belly, my wattle, my torso-as-one-big-love-handle. I know it's ridiculous of me to get impatient less than a week into this, but dammit, I want some results. Supervillains of Coz aren't going to throw themselves off cathedrals.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am night. I am vengeance. I am an herbal tea-drinker.

I feel terrific. The cold still has its wispy little fingers around my throat, but they've not dissuaded me from busting some serious ass the past few days: a short lunchtime run yesterday; a really nice, long workout last night at the end of which I was positively buzzing; and another long run this morning. My energy level is unbelievably high and my hypothalamus is dribbling endorphins almost constantly, making me bright-eyed and rosy of complexion. This explains why I fairly leapt out of bed this morning at 5:30, unprompted by my alarm, and thought, Yay! I get to go running!, as opposed to, earlier this week, Gah, I should probably go running, or, previously this year, What? What the fuck am I doing awake? I'm glad for the change.

Combat class for real this afternoon. I anticipate being very, very sore tonight—which is A-okay with me, since it's not like I have plans.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You've eaten Gotham's wealth. Its spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on—none of you are safe.

Well, it just goes to show that Batman's foes are endless, because I was floored by a cold yesterday and had to cancel my Combat class. I vacillated about this all morning, since I really was excited for it, but at the urging of my wife, cancelled it and made a doctor's appointment instead. It was the specter of the Super Death Flu/H1N1 that made me do so, since all my symptoms corresponded, but a friend pointed out that it may be that I, sans alcohol and with a much-reduced cigarette intake and with the first real exercise I've had in a long time, was probably just detoxing.

The doctor scoffed at that, as doctors tend to do, and after swabbing my nostrils confirmed that I didn't have the flu. "You've got a bug," she said. (I know, right? A lady doctor! What is this world coming to?) "Rest, fluids, etc."

"What about exercise?" I asked. "I'm doing this whole ridiculous thing where I'm trying to become Batman."

After a long and quizzical look: "It should be fine. Use your best judgment." Well, the joke's on you, Lady Doctor, because clearly I have none.

Anyway, I'll return to the gym today and to my rescheduled Combat Conditioning class tomorrow. I think I've already lost a little bit of weight—which is a damn good thing, since at the doctor's office yesterday I was weighed and came in over 200 pounds. This scared the hell out of me, and reinforced my reasons for doing all of this in the first place. Namely, that I'm unbelievably out of shape. Tremble before me, Gotham-Coz. Tremble indeed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I will be what Gotham-Coz needs me to be. While eating an orange.

So. In the face of a stunning victory for the myopic and selfish, it's a brand-new day. I am coughing like a something-that-coughs-a-lot, and I'm not sure if this is from the freshly exercise-jostled hunks of tar in my lungs or because I'm getting sick. Right now I'm leaning toward the sick side of things, but will that stop me? No. No, it won't.

Because my lungs are all cobwebby, I had a short workout last night and another short run this morning before I head to Combat Conditioning during lunchtime.

And who knows? After all is said and done, I might have to go find some other city to protect. There are probably lots of cities that need protection whose heads are less up their butts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This city needs a hero. A hero who is eating a banana.

So, day two is today, and I woke up early and went running, managing to make it maybe a mile before I felt like the guy walking his saluki around the junior-high track where I run was laughing at me. I need some workout clothes more appropriate than pajama pants, dollar-store sneakers and a tattered hoodie. Right now I look like a methhead having paranoid, albeit quarter-mile-circuit, seizures and I don't blame the other early-morning runners for looking at me strangely while I cough and swat at the air.

That aside, I feel terrific this morning, having tore into a close-to-raw steak and some vegetables last night, eating with my hands and letting the juice from the meat run down my chin. Did I exult in that? Hell to the yes. I'm just grazing on nuts, raw vegetables and minimal fruit during the day. I've had my morning banana and my tea (I'm also trying to curb caffeine intake) and my body is humming along after a workout last night and the jog this morning. Tomorrow, though, is when I crank it up, because that's when I start martial arts-ing.

I went by Pikes Peak Combat Sports during my lunch hour yesterday, which works out well since I no longer eat lunch. Along with doing Crossfit and women's kickboxing, they instruct in mixed martial arts, muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I picked up a copy of their schedule and spoke to a few trainers about my course of action, and tomorrow I'll be attending a lunchtime session called Combat Conditioning—which is, I can only assume, a way of whipping my doughy, smoker's-coughing body into good enough shape to actually begin the muay thai training without having an embolism or choking to death on my own phlegm. I'll let you know how that goes. Tonight, another gym workout and another run tomorrow morning before Combat class.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The plan. Every Batman needs a plan.

This blog owes a whole lot to E. Paul Zahr's book Becoming Batman, which my wife picked up for me at the library because I have noted, on several occasions, my prurient interest in becoming a vigilante. While the book itself is a whole lot of tedious kinesthesiology, the idea is great, and that's what I'm going with: to, through diet and exercise and training, turn myself into Batman.

This is going to be rough; I'm 30 years old and in the worst shape of my life. I'm easily 30 pounds overweight, a heavy smoker and drinker, with nonexistent willpower. Over the course of the last few years, I've transformed my 5'11" frame from that of a willowy hipster to a chunky, heavy-breathing oaf who is winded by trips to the bathroom and whose idea of healthful behavior is drinking vodka and sodas instead of beer. A few times a year, I'll try some dumbass diet and then backslide, finding myself in bed with a pile of chili-cheese tater tots, watching Buffy and bemoaning my lethargy. It's time for a change. It's time to become Batman.

My plan for the beginning stages goes like this:

Quit drinking. Seriously, man. Give it a rest.

Curb/quit smoking. This might be the most difficult task, since I've been a heavy smoker for considerably more than half my life—but you don't see the Dark Knight fumbling for a lighter while lurking atop a cathedral, do you?

Eat things that aren't terrible for me. This means going the Caveman Diet route, which means nuts, fruits, vegetables and protein, preferably wrested from the jaws of a saber-toothed cat.

Jog daily. I used to run often. It's time to start that again, beginning with maybe only two or three miles a day and working up to a whole lot more.

Work out daily. First, we'll start with lots of cardio and light weight training. When I've slimmed down enough, we can move onto the next phase, which means actual training. And martial arts. (What, you think supervillains' asses are going to kick themselves?)

From this basis, I can work up to the rest, like become a billionaire and make a bulletproof outfit. Every journey begins with a single step, right? A single step with an awesome armored boot? Let's do this.