Thursday, April 8, 2010

An update on my endurance adventure

Since I received so many well wishes when I posted about my struggle with my non-stamina body and my quest to conquer it with the baby-step of getting a brown belt, I thought I'd give you an update.

First, brown belt: earned. What did I have to do? Seven different forms (a form is a choreographed series of moves that involve kicks, punches, blocks, etc.) which come up to 220 moves in total + mock sparring. I completed every form with only one bobbled kick. My yells did, however, sound progressively more like moans as the forms got longer and harder but I could still breathe at the end.

This was the sweetest belt I'd ever earned because it was significantly more demanding than the belt before.

Two days later, I competed at a regional tournament and got first place in my age group. Not a huge group but a nice pat on the back nevertheless.

Cloud nine. All of that.

Best case scenario: this successful attempt at a goal that had seemed out of reach would inspire a new goal and energize an on-going fitness routine.

Real case scenario: getting sick after all the excitement and extra strenuous work-outs.

The week after the Big Weekend of testing and tournament, I was still carried along by the leftover high and could excuse myself for feeling winded because of the sickness. But the couple of weeks after that, it felt as if I had never improved my endurance at all. I couldn't run for even two minutes, I was breathing hard on the elliptical on the usual settings, I couldn't finish doing all the forms.

Had I used up all the cumulative hard work in one testing and now had to start again? Or had the one week of being sick and not exercising canceled everything ? Or had I been carried merely on adrenaline and wishful thinking that could not be sustained?

TKD classes during those weeks were torturous. I kept having to take breaks. While everyone else in my sparring class was still bouncing on their feet and laughing during their third match, I had to sit down and remove all my gear because I was over-heated and my heart was leaping out. The worst came three weeks after the new session began. In the middle of practicing a new form, I got dizzy and landed right on my well-padded dorsal area. (Bonus for anyone who can tell me which character from a book I highlighted recently on my blog discovered the use of this term.) I just sat there, stunned, at how weak I felt. And then I felt angry and disappointment.

My instructor asked about my diet and hydration and told me to take it easy. My fellow students patted me on the back. I went out after class and got a large, blended, whole milk mocha and stewed for the rest of the afternoon. And stayed stewing and not exercising for a few days after that.

Then I got my sneakers back on and decided that if I couldn't run, I'd just walk. If I couldn't finish doing my forms, I'd just do however many I could. If my regular settings on the elliptical were too hard, I'd dial it back to minimal. I simply had to get back out on my feet and ignore the questions of why I felt so unconditioned and weak. Or if I would ever get anywhere. The only certainty I knew was that doing anything was better than doing nothing.

This week I am feeling better, although what I am able to do is far from what I had been able to do a month ago. Who knows why. It's frustrating but if I don't put a lid on "but I could do better before!" and keep moving forward, then the two months of working toward a goal I didn't think I could was just a fluke. And that is not acceptable.

[An afterword}

I had started writing this post a week ago but couldn't finish it. I came back to it today because I'm stuck, stuck, STUCK on my current revision. The feeling is almost identical to what I felt few weeks ago. Writing this post has turned out to be therapeutic. Life sure has a way to using different experiences to teach us the same thing. And the thing I have to learn now is: don't give up; setbacks will happen; move forward no matter how I feel.

Tanita Davis posted a poem the other day with a line that I will tattoo on my mind:

That if you make the effort, you cannot fail.


Bish Denham said...

Oh, Yat-Yee. Have you considered seeing a doctor? You could be animic or something. Take care of yourself.

Bish Denham said...

And HEY! A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on getting your brown belt! That is a tremendous accomplishment.

Yat-Yee said...

Bish: I did wonder if I was anemic because I tend to be, so I am trying to beef up my diet. Too bad I don't like liver and iron pills.

And, huge thanks! :)

Lady Glamis said...

I think you're doing splendidly. Please don't be hard on yourself - for your writing or your physical endurance. I've been doing exercises on my new Wii for the past month and a half, and it's sad that doing yoga makes me sore and that I can't do half those poses and that the Wii keeps telling me I'm overweight. But I keep at it. I know I'm not fat, but I do feel age creeping in even though I'm only 30. I just don't feel like I can run 5 miles at the drop of a hat anymore. What happened to feeling 15? Sigh.

Chong-Chian Koh said...

Hi Yat-Yee, perhaps a blood work to test for anemia, or thyroid ?? Take care. I eat black sesame seed bars (the Chinese candied type) as "iron supplement". (high in calcium too) Sounds like you are pushing yourself pretty hard, yr body may just be needing more time to recover from the sickness you've had. Try American "Ginseng' too for energy and as a tonic after illness.
Congrats on the brown belt, that's very impressive. from another no-stamina body - Chong-Chian

Yat-Yee said...

Michelle: when you know you're not overweight and the Wii insists: find the volume button! 5 miles, whether at the drop of the hat of not, is impressive!

Chong Chian: hey, welcome to my blog! Funny thing is that I had been under treatment for thyroid problems and was declared in remission around the time of the testing and told to stop my medication. I suspect that may have something to do with how I feel too.

You're the second person who recommended black sesame seeds. And I do have some ginseng in the house. Thanks for the reminder.

Fiddler said...

Congrats, Yat-Yee, on the brown belt! That's an awesome accomplishment--my hat's off to you.

And I hope you feel more energetic soon. Chlorophyll is another thing to try for anemia (says the non-doctor). I tend toward that condition, as well, and, while iron supplements rip up my stomach, the Chlorophyll seems to help without causing problems.

Cheryl Reif said...

Huge CONGRATS on your brown belt! That's a tremendous accomplishment. As for the energy--I think it's worth checking with a doctor, too. It sounds like your energy/endurance struggles might be the result of something missing from your system. If it's iron, molasses is a great source, too. You can also up your iron intake by switching from white rice to other whole grains.

Meanwhile, don't be too hard on yourself. When's thelast time you took time off from exercise? Maybe your body needs some recovery time. I took a week off from exercise recently and rather than losing anything, I came back finally able to break out of the plateau I'd been stuck in. Rest periods are really important.

Hope you figure out what's holding you back!

Yat-Yee said...

Fiddler: thanks, and I hadn't heard about chlorophyll as a source of iron. Will have to check that out.

Cheryl: thanks! I did take (forced) time off for over a week because I was sick... Maybe it is time to have a more thorough physical. But my doctor has decided to move back to her hometown and I'll have to look for another doctor.

Kaylie said...

Congrats on the brown belt. Sometimes when I'm stuck in one area, (hmm, writing?), it helps to make progress in another.

Margaret said...

If you end up needing iron supplements, look for ferrous glutamate. The iron is combined with a protein rather than another mineral (like ferrous sulfate), and is much easier on your stomach. And it doesn't leave a "rusty bucket" taste in your mouth, either.