Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Unveiling my new beach body

A few weeks ago, I remember changing in my friend's room and he went, "OMG, Ray, you have a six pack!" I looked down and all I saw was a pouch where my stomach is, though admittedly a smaller pouch, which I was already proud of, but a six pack was out of the question. I knew he was just trying to be supportive, so I said thanks, but honestly believed he was being overly enthusiastic. Just to be sure, I looked in the mirror later that night, and just as I thought, a little pouch of a tummy.

I just got back from Hawaii on Monday, mostly for my work as national Vice-Speaker of the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association, but I found some time to enjoy the beach when the meeting ended. One picture I took with classmates went on facebook, and instead of commenting on me being in Hawaii, people started commenting on my body. I looked at the picture, and by golly, I kinda have a little bit of a six pack going on. I used to have a keg, where did all the beer go? That's new! Yesterday morning, I got a text from a college buddy saying, "[My wife] showed me a picture from your Facebook of you at the beach... Hello defined abs. WTF you are making me look bad." It might seem weird that this seems as a surprise to me, because I obviously knew that I was losing weight and becoming trimmer. I knew it from the scale. I knew it from my clothes. Until now, though, I've only noticed that I lost weight in my face from pictures where I'm fully clothed. I hadn't looked at myself carefully without a shirt until this trip to know how that translated to the rest of my body.

Spring Break 2005 compared to November 2012
Where the heck did these abs come from?! Is that me? Are those real? I'm not sure. When I think of what I look like, the picture in my head is still what I looked like my entire life (see picture from Spring Break 2005, when I was in graduate school). I didn't focus on doing crunches or anything like that, so I'm a bit shocked to see any results. At this point, I'm still trying to reconcile the discrepancy between what I believe I look like, and what I see. The difference is throwing me for too much of a loop for me to be entirely comfortable acknowledging that I've accomplished something yet. Unlike doing a pull-up, I can't measure how my body looks, so I'm not sure what I'm trying to accomplish exactly. One thing is certain: I have a new and improved beach body...just in time for... Winter! I think I still need to work on my timing. Well, I have two options. I can be happy knowing that under my winter clothes there's a leaner and healthier me, or I can maintain this until next summer. I guess nothing is stopping me from doing both. It might take me until next summer to be used to my new body anyways. As a side note... do I have less hair? I guess I can't win them all...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Can. I Will. I Did my first pull-up.

I wasn't even thinking about doing a pull-up yesterday. I was just stretching. Earlier in the day, when I was on facebook, I noticed Tim, the owner of Crossfit Palo Alto, posted, "Your mantra to repeat today, before and during the WOD is, 'I CAN. I WILL.'" At first, I thought, "That's odd, Tim doesn't normally post about mantras for workouts..." Then, I saw why. The WOD (Workout of the Day) was a hero WOD called "Nutts", named in honor of a fallen Canadian soldier Lieutenant Nuttall. In strictest form, it was a workout to be done as fast as possible of 10 Handstand push-ups, 15 Deadlifts (250lbs), 25 30" Box jumps, 50 Pull-ups, 100 Wall ball shots (20 lbs med ball to 10ft), 200 Double-unders, and a 400 meter run carrying a 45lb plate. In all honesty, this sounded absolutely psychotic, but I'm starting to accept that my own self-doubt tends to be my greatest enemy, so I followed Tim's advice. I told myself, "I can. I will." To prove my conviction, mostly to myself, I decided to stretch in preparation. In doing so, I unexpectedly achieved one of my biggest fitness goals.

I wanted to do a pull-up ever since I started working out. For me, it was an elusive goal, because I've never done a pull-up before in my life. It just seemed like this abstract idea, like telling someone who has never sung opera before to perform an aria. That didn't stop me from trying though, mostly because I remember watching people do pull-ups in high school and thinking, "Wow, how do they do that?" Around July, I gave myself 6 months to do an unassisted pull-up, or in other words, until the end of this year. Before almost every gym session, I would put a band on a bar that helped support my weight and practiced my pull-ups. Last week, I switched bands to one that provided less assistance, the second to last level before I would be with no bands at all. I still struggled with form though, so the Crossfit coaches helped me out by giving me advice on how to refine my kipping swing, find a rhythm, and maximize use of the band. Yesterday evening, I was just hanging and swinging from the bar without any bands. I didn't want to burn myself out before the actual workout by actually doing pull-ups, especially since we had 50 to do, but I could hang and kipping swing to stretch. Then someone said, "Try pulling up!" I laughed, "That's silly. I can't do a pull-up yet." I was still trying to figure out how to do it properly with the new band. After some more encouragement, I figured what's the harm in trying? So I pulled...and I went up... and then I screamed, like I always do when trying a new activity. When I finished screaming (1-2 seconds), I noticed my chin was above the bar. Tim, who was wrapping up the last class asked, "Did you just do a pull-up?" I honestly wasn't sure. A yes or no question shouldn't be so hard to answer. I felt like I was getting pimped by an attending, and I had to think it through before giving a response. I mean, I was holding the bar, and then I pulled, and then my chin went above the bar. That's a pull-up right? "I think I did...," I finally replied. Wait a sec... I did my very first pull-up ever! The rest of gym members clapped in congratulations, I rang the bell indicating a new personal record, and recorded it up on the "personal records" whiteboard. Then I went back and did another pull-up.

I was so happy, and finally, the thought of, "I can. I will." became something I actually believed. I did "Nutts" in 36:35, though scaled down to something I could handle safely. Specifically, I did 5 handstand pushups and 5 shoulder touches, 15 deadlifts with 185lbs, 25 30" box jumps, 50 pull-ups with a blue band for 20 (3rd lightest one) and blue band + red band (2nd lightest one) for 30, 100 wallball shots with a 14lbs medicine ball, 100 double unders and 300 single unders, and then scurried (instead of running, a bonafide scaling option: the scurry) 400 meters with a 35lbs plate. I felt great afterward, not only because I did my pull-up, and finished "Nutts", but also because I'm excited. I'm excited because every reached goal just opens the door for new possibilities, new opportunities, and even bigger goals. I'm thrilled that I was able to finish yesterday's beast of a workout, but it also showed how much room there is still to improve. I haven't set my new goals yet, but I'll be sure to share when I do. I still can't believe I did a pull-up. Me! A pull-up! Wow!