Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dance like no one is watching....

Many of you know by now that my trainer has also started his own blog. As a dedicated client and avid fan, I'll often post responses on his blog, and will duplicate them here... simply because I think I have some interesting things to say.

So, this morning Sebastien offers a really great commentary on the idea of making fitness fun, and "taking it back to the old school" with the notion of intergating 'play' into your daily life. With the idea of 'play' comes the notion of liberation... of freedom... of letting loose. Last night, I did a kickboxing training session with Sebastien that made me feel very free -- I got pushed closer to my limits, I tried new things, learned I could do things I didn't otherwise think were possible, and more than anything, it was just plain old fun. Some good old fashioned horsing around was actually what I needed at the end of a long day of driving in snowy Toronto weather... and it was an amazing workout to boot. I walked home in the snow feeling pretty damn incredible, with a smile on my face, and full of this amazingly positive energy -- not bad for a Wednesday night!

So, when I hear talk about play, I am reminded of two things: first, it makes me recall the famous quote by William Purkey: "Dance like no one is watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like no one is listening; live like it's heaven on earth."

Secondly, I recall the well known YouTube video of Matt Harding -- a guy who travels to every corner of the globe, dancing with people and basically having a good time. Check it out here or on his website. I know it makes me want to go out and dance....



Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I never thought I'd be kickboxing... I'm more of a 'kick-line' kind of guy....

Kickboxing is a funny thing... when I was finishing up at the gym tonight, I was in the change room, and overheard two guys talking about how amazing kickboxing really is. They spoke about how tough and awkward it is at first -- that it's really easy to feel uncoordinated, out of shape, and even a little bit powerless. But with some good direction, and some consistent coaching, kickboxing can give you a pretty damn incredible workout. I would have to agree.

The natural high you get from your heart racing, your adrenaline pumping, and you confidence soaring, can't be beat. And nothing is quite as satisfying as the sound -- the cracking sound -- of your foot or your fist hitting the pads with such incredible force and strength. Knowing that the sound not only comes from physical strength, but also from within, makes it so incredibly rewarding.

I've been doing kickboxing workouts with Sebastien for a little while now. And I truly enjoy every minute of it. Even in those moments when he tells me to drop to the ground and start doing burpees between punching rounds (that was last week's 'added feature'), I still manage to smile because I truly enjoy what I'm doing. This is an interesting feeling because having fun while kicking and punching isn't anything that I ever thought I'd enjoy.

Why?

Growing up as a queer fat kid, I was a ready target for anyone who was looking to project their own internalized self-hatred at an easy victim. On the playground, in the hallways, even on the street, I was a very visible target for anyone who was feeling so shitty about themselves that they had to try to make me feel worse about myself. I realize that now, but in the moment, it's hard to not internalize the insults, the bulllying, the hate, and rise above it. It's hard for a 13-year old fat kid to 'rise above' when all he wants to do is crawl under a rock and be invisible. The interesting thing though, is that I never responded to the insults with physical action -- I was always able to fight back with a sharp tongue or my wicked sense of humour. I figured that if I couldn't fight back with my fists, I could fight back with my words. And they've been my greatest defence ever since. In fact, in an interesting scenario a few weeks ago, Seb was trying to get me to punch and kick as hard as I could. And he started tossing threats out at me -- things like, "Hit me harder, I just stole your car. Kick me harder, I just kicked your dog." And I found that I actually couldn't hit harder, because instinctively, I wanted to stop and fight back with my words. Literally. He was trying to prompt me on to work harder, and I intuitively stopped in my tracks to speak back as opposed to fighting harder.

I guess, in some ways, I have to learn to bite my tongue and simply get things out of my system that need to get out.

That said, when I had the opportunity to throw on a pair of gloves, and actually throw punches and kicks at my trainer, it was a very odd experience. After only a few quick blows to the protective padding that Seb uses, this uneasy feeling started to come over me -- that I was doing something that I wasn't supposed to... but I was enjoying it. It was kind of a bit of a guilty pleasure... 'cause I'm a lover, not a fighter! LOL!!!! But with every punch, I punched harder. With every kick, I kick higher -- not only because I'm getting stronger, but most importantly because I feel like I'm starting to let out more of the 'stuff' that I've had pent up inside for such a long time. For once, the 'crap' that is stored up inside of me isn't coming out in a therapy session, or verbally.. it's starting to fly out in punches, in sweat, and in the exhiliration of a 30-minute kickboxing session with my trainer extraordinaire.

The catharsic feelings that come from the punch and the kick have been a bit of a revelation. Not only am I getting a good work out, but I feel like I've finally been given a chance to fight back. Literally. Let me explain.

First of all, I have to offer a disclaimer. The time Sebastien spends with me each week to work through my 'stuff' -- physical and emotional -- is a gift. And he's an incredible person. But it was only once we engaged in a bit of focused physical 'combat' that I started to realize that kickboxing is about so much more than a workout. In case you haven't noticed, Seb isn't just a great trainer, but he's a good looking, well-built athletic guy who, by virtue of how he presents himself in the world, in some way symbolizes every jock-blockhead who's called me 'fat' or a 'fag'... or worse yet... 'a fat fag'.
Now, I MUST clarify, that Seb would NEVER EVER say any of those things to me... he is one of the most caring, liberal minded, supportive, hetero-jock guys I've ever met. But by the simple virtue of how he 'is' in the world, and the assumptions I make about that based upon years of being taunted, tormented and bullied by guys who weren't unlike him, I can't help but wonder if I'm starting to use him, the kick pads, and in some ways what he represents, as a bit of a target for finally fighting back -- for finally exercising a bit of the inner and physical strength that, for so many years, I wanted to propel out of my body to fight back against those people who've hated -- hated not just me, but in some ways, themselves. When I catch myself in those moments where I realize that I'm not just working out, but that I'm starting to fight back a bit, I find I actually blur my eyes so that I don't see Seb's face -- somehow I need to do that in order to dissociate my actions from my human target -- because he's not someone against whom I've ever felt a need to fight. Blurring my eyes also helps me to control the fact that not only do I have sweat pouring down my face, but the emotional release of kicking and punching is sometimes accompanied with tears.

So, in spite of all that, or perhaps because of all of that, kickboxing is fun. It's a great way to get out some aggression. But for me, it's also been an emotional catharsis which, bit by bit, is helping me to let go of pent up anger, frustration, and sadness. And even when I'm sprawled out on the gym floor, exhausted by a workout (physically and mentally), I still feel absolutely amazing. The high and the euphoria are something that I've never before experienced -- and with each week, I look forward not only to the exhiliration, but the absolute happiness that comes out of knowing that you've finally been able to do something that you never thought possible, that you're accomplishing something that you never thought could be achieved.

The other day, Seb video-taped a bit of my kickboxing session so that I could get a sense of how fast I'm moving and how hard I'm hitting. The video is currently undergoing some editing and its distribution is going through the appropriate clearances with my agent and legal team (HA!!)... but once it's pieced togeter (read: once I've learned how to use the video editing features on my computer), I'll be thrilled to share it with you.

And if you don't get a bit giddy watching me kick and punch Seb... try it for yourself. Get out there and give kickboxing a try. Pretty freakin' cool.

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.

Update:
Here's the video... I didn't edit it... Just imagine how cool that cracking sound is in real life. VERY cool.

PS. I'm the one in the red gloves... I know, it's hard to tell us apart sometimes... LOL!



video

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where heart and intellect collide...

Friends...

I originally posted this in response to my trainer's blog today -- about how we should savour this moment in time when a great man, like Obama has overcome so much to now hold the highest office in what is undeniably the most powerful nation on the planet.

I will admit that I have been very troubled today by the amount of random 'joining' by formerly apolitical Canadians who are hopping on the Obama-wagon and wanting to be a part of this significant moment in history. I am troubled by people who don't necessarily know why today is important -- but instead are getting caught up in the momentum of being able to one day say, "I was there when...". Many people are calling today their 'Neil Armstrong moment'... this is the moon landing for so many of my own and other generations. This could also be thought of as one of those moments as previous generations recall knowing where they were when JFK was assassinated. I've had similar moments in my life already though. I know exactly where I was when:
  • the Challenger disaster occured -- 7th grade at St. Benedict's school, watching the launch live on TV.
  • OJ was found not guilty -- standing in the Bombshelter Pub at the University of Waterloo with a room full of people who were either elated or shocked at the verdict
  • the Twin Towers came down -- in bed in Vancouver awakened by a news report that I thought was a hoax, but ended up being the tragic reality of the world today, reinforced only by the silence in the air as air travel across the globe came to a startling halt.
But I know WHY they were significant.... for me and for the world. That's what makes these moments powerful, momentous and important.

That said, I offer, as the remainder of this post, the comment I posted on Sebastien's blog, sharing my insight on how we can harness the historical significance of today's inauguration and make it meaningful for our own experience.
Savouring this moment is indeed important. However, the moment will be even more savoury if we take the time to truly (and critically) understand why we've overcome our obstacles.

President Obama has faced adversity, and he is indeed a visionary. Today however, I was gobmsacked by the number of people who didn't understand why today is an important day. They were caught up in the moment -- this pause in time when we all stand collectively in the presence of greatness -- without truly appreciating the complex struggles and battles that had to be won along the way for this incredible man to come to this very special place. Hopping on the bandwagon of Obamamania is one thing -- but making sure we understand why days like today are historically significant is of even greater importance. Harnessing the momentum of significant moments in time like that which was witnessed by so many is one thing -- knowing WHY that momentum is there and where its power comes from is even more important. The same can be said for our own lives...

Catch the wave... hop on the bandwagon... whatever you call it, capitalize on this moment in time when all of us should take pause to think about the ways in which we too, can achieve our own individual greatness. Just know that in so doing, ensuring that this new drive is strongly anchored in the place within each of us where heart and intellect collide to spark the momentum and commitment for change; that is find the true reason why we need to change, not just because it's cool and everyone else is doing it. That assurance will form the unshakeable foundation for success.

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Don't be a hater...

So, there's a lot of conversation lately about how Oprah (Saint Oprah, as so many call her) finally confessed and admitted that her weight has now come back and she's over 200 pounds. This is a woman who has had what I think is the most publicly scrutinized and unforgiving battle with her weight than any other celebrity (except for maybe Kirstie Alley). Now, I'm not a big Oprah fan -- I can't deal with the fact that there's a commercial on her show every 5 minutes. However, I do still recall the day when she walked on stage in that pair of designer jeans, the tight black turtlneck, pulling a wagon filled with 67 pounds of fat -- the amount of fat that she trimmed off her once obese body with an all-liquid diet. I remember that day because since then, I too, like so many others, dreamt of one day doing the same.

So now we know the gig is up... Oprah's not infallible. She's not untouchable. She's not perfect. She is a flawed, imperfect human, just like the rest of us, who faces the same struggles as we do each and every day. Yet her very public battle with her weight has inspired so very many people to take back control of their lives and live what she has always called their "best life."

Now, I too am engaged in what is becoming a more public battle with my weight and my demons. I recently opened up my blog, and have been getting various people sending me messages and commenting on how they've been intrigued, interested, inspired by what I've had to say. In fact, today I received an e-mail from a high school friend, who I've reconnected with (thanks to Facebook) -- an e-mail that caught me totally off guard and touched me. She tried to post it here, but as I'm figuring out this blog thing, I had too many controls in place, and she couldn't post it (I've since fixed that). So, I thought I'd offer it here, because as someone who has a really tough time taking positive feedback or praise, it's an important step for me to celebrate moments like these that make me feel so incredibly powerful and proud.
"Hey Chris. I've just found another great way to wast time via FB: reading your blog! I tried to comment on you last entry, but i'm not a user so it wouldn't let me. It's such a public diary. Must have been a big a step for you to write all that.

Anyway, I too have recently gotten into following the eating clean principles and exercising, especially weight training. I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you for all your efforts. I have yet to unlock the secrets to my issues with food, other than I just love chocolate and sweets! I love to reward myself, which contradicts all my efforts at the gym.

It is now my sole duty in life to keep [my family] healthy and happy so i take the fitness and diet pretty seriously. So when I see someone such as yourself making the efforts that you are making, I want to be there to support you. Of all the friends I had over the years [of high school], you were one of my greatest, and I'm very proud of what you've accomplished over the last year and want to be a source of support on your journey.

I'm off to the gym now. I'll be thinking about you."
So, amid my own increasingly public journey, I've been giving a lot of thought to Oprah's. And most recently to how her recent confession also inspired Erik Chopin, the winner of the 3rd season of The Biggest Loser. This guy lost over 200 pounds... unreal. And I recall being amazed by his accomplishment... again, dreaming of the possibility of being able to focus exclusively on doing the same, with the support of dedicated trainers, top-notch equipment, and NBC. Of course, that was not my reality, but as I've been a loyal fan of the The Biggest Loser over the past few years, I also realize that I've grown very cynical and skeptical about what the show helps people to accomplish. I even stopped watching it for a while because seeing these people (who do nothing but eat well, exercise 5+ hours a day, and sleep on national television) lose more weight than me was starting to leave me feeling defeated and dissatisfied. I mean, who loses over 200 pounds in under a year... that's nuts!!! How is that healthy? How is that maintainable? I even remember watching a show where Erik got a full body lift to get rid of the excess skin that didn't retract over the course of his weight loss, because he lost the weight so fast! I remember thinking how lucky he was that not only did he basically get to lose all of his weight courtesy of NBC and The Biggest Loser, but now he was getting $35,000 plastic surgery discounted courtesy of a network, too. All of this, thanks to the media magnates who not only celebrate when people lose weight, and find that their struggles make for great television, but who also accept advertising dollars from companies whose products, programs and services are often at the core of North America's problem with weight and obesity. So, I began to rationalize the fact that I would not have access to a Biggest-Loser-esque experience, by becoming cynical and judgemental about what the show represents and what it indirectly promises to do. I'll admit.. I don't do jealousy very well.

All that said, I've since come to respect what each and every participant in that show does. Their battle, their demons, their journey is not unlike my own. They've chosen to go about dealing with their stuff in a different way -- just as other programs may work for other people. All I know is that no "program" has ever worked for me. The only thing that has, has been being honest with myself, dealing with my shit and taking the common sense healthy eating and exercise approach to things. And I've grown to be a bit more forgiving of people who are doing their work in a different way -- it may not be the way that I am doing it, and it may be doing it in a way that I found didn't work. But every person who fights this battle has to do it on his/her own terms, make mistakes, celebrate successes, and accumulate accomplishments and lessons that ultimately lead to success.

My need to be non-judgemental crystallized last night when I learned that Erik Chopin was recently on an episode of Oprah, 'coming out' about the fact that he has now re-gained almost half of the weight that he lost. He spoke about how he felt like he was letting people down.... that he felt sad, depressed, alone, defeated.
I've been there, too. So why judge? Why hate? It doesn't make me feel any
better about my own battle... so instead of passing judgment on those who aren't doing it 'the right way' (read: my way), I stand in solidarity, in support, and in pride with them as they too travel the bumpy road and carve out the journey of a lifetime. I stand beside people like Erik Chopin... people like Oprah... people like me... whose only fault is having the courage, the strength, the determination to admit our imperfections, our infallibilities, and confront head-on (and sometimes publicly), the demons, the shit, and the messy twisted ways of thinking and being in the world that got us to where we are at. It's only in so doing that we will get to that new place... that stage where we pull a wagon full of fat.... the scale where we see our total weight loss... or that personal goal that indicates our ultimate success -- knowing that the work we are doing is work for life. And there's no other way about it.

Kia Kaha.
Stay strong.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Still, I rise.

So, 2009 has started with a bang.

My last training session with Seb was on December 16 -- and over the course of the holiday break, I worked out a bit while I was in BC and also took some much needed rest. Once I got back to Toronto, I still had about a week and a bit before I had to go back to work, so I spent my days focusing on reinforcing good habits: getting quality sleep, eating 'clean', exercising well, relaxing, and looking after myself. I had some amazing workouts, reintroduced myself to my nemesis (the kettle bells), and I have to say that the combination of rest and renewed focus paid off.

Last night, I had my first training session for 2009, and at my check-in, I weighed in 8 pounds lighter than I did before I left for the holidays. Now, most people I know fret about having gained weight over Christmas... too much turkey, stuffing, beer, wine, chocolate... whatever the indulgence may be. And I'm all for indulgences. But this year, I managed to do very well with indulging in moderation and truly savouring those moments when I bit into a gooey buttertart, or let the ice cold fizz of a Coke rest on my tongue (yes, it's the simple things that make me happy).

All that said, I still managed to shave 8 more pounds off, and I feel like this start to 2009 has been amazing. I had more energy in my workout last night than I ever recall having, I'm feeling less and less self-conscious about my being in the gym, and most importantly, I'm feeling more and more comfortable in my own skin. I can't remember starting off a new year with this level of energy and resilience -- and I see all the media reports on now telling people about how to get back in shape and how to make their resolutions count, once and for all. Everything that people are saying will work.... but both mind and heart have to come together -- that's where true motivation and resilience comes from. It also really helps to have an amazing trainer in your corner, who, in spite of his healthy skepticism about my goals for the year ahead, is still willing to stand by my side, offer me his full support, and do whatever he can to help me make this happen. I've not had someone in my life for a long time be this explicitly dedicated to my success, and I have to say it's pretty cool. Even though I joke with Seb that he can't count, and I question most things he tells me, he knows what he's talking about. And after 6 months and 65 pounds, I better trust him. In fact, he started his own fitness blog (I like to think I had something to do with that LOL!), so if you want to check out regular fitness tips and a truly honest take on what it takes to be successful, take a read at:
www.sebastienpt.blogspot.com (see link to the right). And while you're there, enjoy the bare-chested picture on his profile... yes, that's what I have to contend with each and every week.... LOL! Oh, the pain!!!!

In all seriousness, I still can't believe that I've made it this far. I've never done this well before, and last night, after a long soak in epsom salts with lavender (yep, a big ol' girly moment), I came to truly believe that I can and will succeed. I know I've said it before in this blog... but I think I was still trying to convince myself then. Now, I know it. I used to go to bed at night with fear, with pain, with sadness about my belief that I would never overcome this struggle. But with the turn of the new year, I no longer fall asleep with this fear. Instead, I fall gently to sleep, sound in my belief and in my faith that I can conquer my demons... That I will win this battle... That I will finally win. This time, I know it for certain -- I will succeed. As Maya Angelou said, "still, I rise." Take a few moments and listen to her recite her poem entitled with those same words. I dare you to not be inspired.

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.


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