Pugilists

I didn’t even know the word “pugilist” existed until I started this little adventure. Not surprising since I’ve never really liked boxing.  (Sorry ITC coaches)  But I had no idea how much was involved just to learn how to move my feet so I can a) stay balanced, b) get out of the way of a hit and c) land a decent hit for a point – plus remember to get my gloves back up to my face so I don’t get hit, know when to slide, bob, or weave and still remember to breathe.  I just thought it was a bunch of thugs getting into a ring and wailing on each other for what seemed like an endless amount of time.  Clearly “Rocky” had a residual effect on how I saw the world of boxing. imagesIt seems I’m not the only one because I get one of two reactions about my endeavor  – either excitement about the journey and the effort or discomfort that I would even think about hitting another person or risk getting hit.

I think the first group just loves the sport, at least that is my hope, and not that they have some wish for me to get my butt kicked. The other group I completely understand because I can’t picture taking a swing at one of my team mates and I certainly don’t want to be on the receiving end of their hits.

Volunteering for this fundraiser has made me think about different sports and why we play.  Is boxing any different in intention to karate or tae kwon do which carries a mystique about it? Didn’t we all get a warm fuzzy feeling as Mr. Miyagi’s patiently taught young Danny how to deliver that final kick to finish off his opponent.  mr_miyagi-sticksEven Tai Chi has its roots in defence and teaches people in slow motion how to deliver a chop to the throat.   And what about football and hockey where huge defence players are often up against the smaller offensive players in sporadic and often violent attacks?  At least in boxing they match you by size (and sadly broadcast it much to my dismay).  I think amateur boxing has a PR problem.

Since I’ve started training I’ve found myself defending the sport and my choice to participate.  I’ve thought a lot about hitting someone on purpose and I’m still not sure how that is going to feel but in the end, it is a sport and both people standing in the ring are there willingly and trained to participate in the sport safely and effectively.  To learn more about the sport I took in my first amateur boxing match.  It was fascinating to watch the styles (and sometimes lack of) and the effort.  They worked hard, didn’t seem to get hurt, and in the end there was a lot of hugging –  apparently part of the sportsmanship regardless of gender.  It was great to see strong, confident young women up in the ring (on stage really) and working hard to show off their skills.  It made me feel a lot better about becoming a boxer.

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What this is really about

 The Global Sanitation Crisis: Together We Can Solve It 

by Sanjay Wijesekera, Associate Director and Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygeine, UNICEF

“We have achieved the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) target on access to drinking water; poverty has been reduced; disease epidemics have been brought under control; more children are in school. But these truly great achievements – a testament to the world’s ability to solve even the most intractable problems – are blighted by the fact that even today more than one in three of our fellow human beings do not have access to even a basic toilet. One third of the world’s population.

Access to sanitation matters.  It matters because it protects children from disease and malnutrition.  It matters because it affects the poorest and most disadvantaged. It matters for the economy of the nation – the World Bank estimates that poor sanitation costs countries between 0.5 and 7.2% of their GDP every year.  And it matters because it is unacceptable that women and girls have to risk being the victims of rape and sexual abuse because they have to go into the bushes to defecate.

“We know that this is not about giving people toilets.  It is about dignity. It is about helping people take pride in being part of communities where everyone uses their own toilet, and where people themselves are empowered to take the initiative, and where others support them to do so.”

Skipping

Three weeks ago I used to dread the start of class with the 10 minute skipping for a “warm up”. How can something I loved as a kid have turned so evil? And Skip-o-thons? How was that even possible?  My calves and hands would burn after a few minutes.  My first goal was to get through 10 minutes without stopping. That and at least one full bodied push-up.  Well other than tripping over the rope, I think I’m there. I’m even starting to remember the tricks we did with the ropes in junior high. I likely won’t be starting a double dutch club in the gym anytime soon but I’m coming around to this skipping thing.  I could do without the 150 push-ups we do as a “break” from skipping though. Getting stronger, hurting less. But then again, sparring hasn’t started.

Technical Difficulties

I’ve decided to take a little fitness break this week to focus on the technical aspects of boxing.  I’m doing this for a couple of reasons:

1) I’m tired. My muscles are fatigued. I have a few injuries which doesn’t work well if I’m in this for the long haul.  The technical sessions are still a workout, let me tell you, so it’s not like I’m sitting on the sidelines taking notes. We are working.

2) My skills are quite rudimentary and I don’t want to start practicing bad habits like dropping my hands on a jab (because that will get me whacked in the face) or standing square to the opponent (which opens me to getting whacked in the ribs).  There is a lot to learn between knowing where to put my feet, how to step forward, back, sideways, how to throw a jab, then a right, then another.  Truthfully it all feels super unnatural which I was assured by Coach Steve (who is incredibly patient), that nothing about boxing is really natural.  It is all about practice and repetition.  Good to hear since right now I look like a junior high kid at my first sock hop – clumsy steps, flailing arms, no rhythm, slightly off-balance.  It is not pretty out there folks.

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AND they make you watch yourself in a mirror which I’m having a little trouble doing.  No one wants to see his or her 13 year old self again!   Awkward.  I completely understand the purpose of the mirrors.  If I was watching, I would probably figure out that I’m dropping my hands. I’d like to figure that out before sparring because I’m a big fan of my nose. I want to protect it at all costs.  So I guess I better get in touch with my inner 13 year old.

La Verendrye School circa 1986

Thanks everyone for your support. It is encouraging to know I have so many people behind me on this journey.  I’m 60% of the way to getting in the ring for The Clean Fight.

The Loo

It is times like this that I wish I had taken more pictures of some bathrooms I’ve encountered over the years of traveling.  On the other hand, it is likely best I don’t share those.  I do have this little beauty from China.

And of course there was the one on the Inca trail that was missing the toilet seat. Seriously? They hauled a porcelain throne  up a mountain for two days on a porter’s back but not the seat? It felt awesome to “hover” after climbing a mountain for the day.  But in all cases I could at least find a toilet without too much trouble.  The quality of said facilities were often debatable, where it emptied was sometimes a mystery and taking you own supplies was a necessity.  But at least there was somewhere to go.

Sanitation in many countries is a huge issue. Take this lagoon in Cambodia.

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The untreated sewage was filtered for “large items” and then sent to this raw sewage lagoon where the locals grew plants to feed the pigs and children lived and played each day.  Houses, businesses, and restaurants were on the shores of this large sewage lake.

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These girls who lived in the countryside are growing up learning to hold it until dusk when they can discretely go to a safe place.  They may end up too sick to attend school and when they hit puberty, they get to deal with a host of other issues.  This topic may be uncomfortable but so is a lifetime of dysentery, dehydration and being malnourished so let’s talk about it and fight for a solution.  The idea that they get used to the bacteria and viruses present in their food and water is false. They are sick too.  More children die of diarrhea-related illnesses than HIV, malaria, and TB combined. That to me is shocking and very sad.  Let’s fix that. Although I must raise $5000 to box I would love to raise more. As much as I possibly can really.  Donations are gratefully accepted on-line here: http://idecanada.akaraisin.com/CleanFight2013/mavis

Let’s do what we can to make sure these cuties keep smiling.

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Gonna make you sweat

Wow does boxing make you sweat! I’m the type of person who will go fire engine red in the face before perspiration appears but something about pounding on a 60 pound bag has me sweating like a cartoon character.

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One of the co-owners of ITC Boxing Fitness, and the person who talked me into this, Sheila Molloy, has a great t-shirt that says “sweat is just your fat crying”.  Well mine must be having a complete breakdown because I can barely see through most of my workout from the sweat stinging my eyes.  I hope that means I’m working hard and not just ridiculously out of shape.  There is evidence that boxing burns 1000 calories per hour so let’s hope all that water loss is not in vain.

Last night I foolishly thought I could go in for a “light” technical workout before heading out to see some friends.  So with my newly cut and styled hair carefully pulled back, I started to warm up by skipping.  So far so good – little warm but still dry.  Then I put on the gloves and within 5 minutes any illusions of walking out of that gym without breaking a sweat vanished.  As I attempt to push away the hair that was glued to my face, Patrick, one of the wonderful coaches,  suggested perhaps I should get a better head band.  I tried to explain that I wasn’t planning to work that hard because I was going out later to which he responds “If you walk through those doors, you will sweat.”

And now I know. Show up hydrated, hair up and prepare to work. There is no such thing as a “light work out” in boxing.

ITC Merchandise

Hope Restored

Technical training last night was fantastic. The vibe from having all twelve of us in one place was energizing. Everyone was excited, nervous, and struggling to get the damn wraps on. Well maybe not everyone,  those few who knew how were helping those of us who can’t quite get it.  Having the group together reminded me that everyone is starting from scratch and that is ok to hurt after the first few workouts.  A few of us discussed what hurt the most. Abs seem to be the common theme.  I admitted that I had to use two hands to put my car in reverse.  We laughed – sort of – because real laughing hurts too much right now.

So along with the camaraderie we also got to check out our potential opponents.  It is going to be a bit weird having to take a swing at one of them.  Learning the moves and hitting the bag are great but at some point there is going to be a person at the end of my glove. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.  When I signed up I oddly enough didn’t think about hitting someone, just about being hit.  But I LOVE hitting the bag. I may have to get one of those for the basement.

And so ends week 1.  I survived.  I hurt. But I’m ready to learn more.

Now it’s time to tackle a different challenge – the hill from Dauphin to Wasagaming and back in the MS Riding Mountain Challenge bike tour.  150 km in two days.  The trainers suggested I bring my skipping rope. Ha-ha-ha … no thank-you.

Mekong delta, Vietnam – no hills there!

The Truth

I am not a natural cheerleader. If things are tough, I will let you know.  I like to think of it as honesty rather than negativity.  And guessing by the popularity of some blogs out there, honesty of that kind, as well as a good dose of sarcasm, is popular (e.g. Kelly Oxford and her best seller).  So I’m going to be honest about this process. Not because I want to complain, although this is a great outlet, and not because I’m down on boxing training, but because this is freaking difficult and I want other people to know it.  I think it does a disservice to the real boxers who train like this every day to not talk about how hard it is. Clearly it isn’t impossible to get through the workouts if I’m doing it, but it is testing my will to continue.

To me it is discouraging to struggle through a workout only to hear someone say “wasn’t that great?”.   I am here to say that it wasn’t great. The last workout almost made me cry. In fact I would have cried if I had to do another round of burpees.  Thank-you Maureen for recognizing my breaking point. I was ready to quit.  I was frustrated that my upper body strength is so bad that after 60 push-ups from my knees, I almost burst into tears at the call for 40 more.  Embarrassed that I can’t do one assisted chin-up and so exhausted 40 minutes into the workout that passing out was a viable alternative.

So to any of my team mates who are struggling or in pain and can’t imagine 84 more days of this, I’m here to say that we’ll figure it out. We will endure.  And if we have to bitch about it, then we will.  I’m happy to have the encouraging people around because it gives me hope that I too may see the fun in this, but right now my out of shape, overweight body does not comprehend joy.  It only winces at the thought of another push-up.

But I will not quit because these beautiful little girls in Cambodia should not have to risk their safety, dignity or health because they don’t have access to a latrine.

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