Opinions. Everybody Has 'Em.

Friday, 28 July 2017

I'd Hit That!

Oh come on, what do you think this post is about really? You don't know me yet? Boxing, people, boxing, and Boxercise, that's what it's about! Boxing, as a sport, is something that not everyone gets along with, and that's understandable. Boxing as exercise, however, is very good indeed. It can be used by almost anyone, of most physical ability levels, and it ticks all the boxes ( pun intended! ) for fitness: great cardio, strength, flexibility, and coordination training; and it's some seriously terrific stress relief.

Okay, let's get this clear: I never used to be an active advocate for sports or working out ( unless bending your elbow at the bar counted? ) and I'm still certainly not the poster child for healthy living. You who know me can all just stop fucking laughing right now, thank you. Yeah, I still like a drink, or six, seven, eight...one beer, two beer, five beer...vodka!...and I smoke. And although I probably eat prettily healthily most of the time, I do like the occasional Danish pastry, bit of pizza, and chocolate. And I can't fucking resist an Irish coffee. But in June 2016, after a bad reaction to some medication made worse by my relative physical weakness, I seriously began to look after my diet and fitness more. I did a shit load of research first, on the Internet and in books, found ways that I could safely adapt exercises to my abilities, and to certain medical limitations, and built up what I was doing slowly and steadily. I bought just a few reasonably priced bits of equipment - except for one large purchase which has been worth every penny and more, the WonderCore Smart, which I discovered whilst watching one of those 5am 'informercials' on TV that actually made some fucking sense for once. I concentrated on building up my muscle strength, particularly my core muscles, and my flexibility. It took between 6 to 8 weeks for me to really begin to feel a difference, which might seem a long time but it was worth sticking with it. I went from barely being able to get down on the floor without pain to doing push-ups, sit-ups, weights, and even holding a 'plank' for 2-3 minutes, depending on how good a day it is. Good for 70+ Cher that she can do 5 minutes but still a wee bit weird that she had to announce it at some music awards, or whatever?.Anyway, I found my leg muscles strengthening too with cycling and scissor kick exercises, which has helped me to cope with the utterly mind-fucking chronic pain in my left hip. My body shape has also changed, for the better, and my digestion has improved too.

I also took up 'boxing exercise', with a jab pad, punchball, and some mitts. The jab pad helps to build up strength and speed, the punchball flexibility and coordination, and both give you a good cardio workout. Not to mention that working out of the stresses and the irritations of life. Jimmy at the office bugged you yesterday? Angela at the Post Office pissed you off two weeks ago and you just can't get her smug face out of your head? Hit a heavy bag! Throw some jabs and hooks at a pad. Pretend it's Jimmy and Angela that you're smacking in the mug! Then you have the exercises associated with boxing and martial arts...these are excellent, even for me ( with a few exceptions and adaptations ). The warm-ups and -downs are good exercise in themselves, especially helpful for your muscle and joint strength and flexibility.

Some things I will likely never be able to do again - running, for instance. Not that I ever really did running...unless something was chasing me, like a nasty-tempered horse in a field, but that's another story entirely for another time. Others I'm medically advised against no matter how much I might want to do it. I loved trampolining as a kid, but then they gave me a transplant kidney and advised me never to do that again because it could cause some serious bloody damage to said organ. Although contact sports, including boxing, are also on this 'banned' list for me, at least as far as actual 'bodily contact' goes, the associated exercise, and bag and pad use are fine, common sense applied of course. Encouraged even for all the above reasons. Helps to keep my yo-yo blood pressure down too. Which my doctors bloody love.

Recently, I went to a Boxercise Class at our local sports and leisure center. I suspect our lovely instructor Dean was going easier on us than he would have a regular class ( it was an especial outing with an especial group ), but it was a good workout that he gave us nonetheless. Even Housemate, who had never donned a boxing mitt in her life before that morning, found it invigorating and enjoyable. She was a little concerned about hurting her fingers ( being a musician and all ) but if you're doing it right then you aren't hitting with your fingers, you're hitting with the second set of knuckles, the hardest part of the human hand. And if you remember to throw from the shoulder and hip, imagine that you were trying to punch 'through the target', and to keep your elbow straight but not tensed ( for a jab anyway - the hook and uppercut involve a bent elbow ), then you shouldn't hurt your wrists. I had to do a 'walk' rather than a run for at least one of the routines Dean gave us, but even doing that helped to loosen up my hip some. Neither is my footwork is as good yet as I'd like to see it become. As for the force of my hitting the focus pads, well, I was holding back a wee bit that day... Okay, I was holding back quite a bit. After 18 months of hitting at home, I can throw a damn sight harder than that. However, I have no interest in knocking some unwary person backward. There's no fun in that, and fun - overall - is what this particular day was about. Having enough fun to get people interested in their physical fitness. Believe me, when you're anxious or depressed, or both, that's a massive damn chore more than usual, getting interested in your physical fitness. Nothing says "Nah, just sit here on the couch, with the crisps and the chocolate, and stare mindlessly at the TV" like depression does.

I would say don't be afraid of boxing as an exercise. Even if you don't care for it as a sport. It's not about being a Mike Tyson or a Muhammed Ali. It's not about committing violence or spilling blood. It's about doing a physical activity that builds both your physical and mental fitness, and your confidence too. If someone like me, with multiple physical difficulties and who was never interested in fitness before, can get themselves even a bit fitter, then anyone can do it! No, really, any fucker can do it. If you're interested in fitness in general, I would recommend the book 'Fitness For Dummies' for a start ( the 'For Dummies' books are a good starting place for many things ) and for boxing in particular you could try 'Boxing Fitness' by Ian Oliver. He's 'old-skool' but very equal opportunity! There are also countless websites, and instructional videos on YouTube.

So stick on some music ( whatever you fancy, rock is good, but I find rock good for many things - also Billy Idol is a favorite of mine for Boxercising to ) and a pair of mitts, and get punching for fitness and stress-relief! Also stick a picture of Jimmy or Angela, or whatever annoying troll is is your life, up there and aim at that. And smile as you hit...

Not me. Come on people, fuck off and behave yourselves!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Free Puppy Cuddles For Anyone Who Reads This...

And now that I have your attention... Hi there. Welcome back. Been a long time. Yadda yadda yadda. Whatever. Read on.

Main thing to say is, there will be some changes to this blog in future.

To explain, there came a point a while back when I realized that writing - of any kind - was not doing my mental health one blind bit of good. I brought out a couple collections of short stories and The Horseman's Daughter, but it still wasn't working. Although I did enjoy writing the latter at the time, there was none of the ongoing joy, the escape, that writing had once brought me. Quite the opposite, in fact. So I stopped. Walked away. Did other things. Concentrated on what was important to me, and to my mental health.

I've had mental health issues for a long time. I have experienced - and continue to do so at varying times and to varying degrees - depression, anxiety, panic, and agoraphobia. I have come so close to suicidal it has been scary. I've had periods of depression so bad that I have spent hours just sitting on the couch, staring into space and crying for no damned good reason that I could fathom, unable to conjure even the slightest interest or care in most things. At these times the only thing which has kept me going has been my dog and the kind of unending, unconditional love that a dog can bring to your life. When I could not raise a smile for anything or anyone else, The Dog, by simply nudging my cheek with her nose and sitting quietly beside me, could bring a genuine smile and flicker of actual happiness to my otherwise apparently frozen heart. All the same, I refuse to use the word suffer in regard to this because the degree of suffering varies so much, as anyone with these issues can tell you. There are good days, bad days, good months, bad months, good years, bad years...sometimes there are good and bad hours in a single fucking day ( no, my use of occasional 'language' on this blog won't change - for fuck's sake don't expect miracles! )...and even at its worst you aren't always actively 'suffering', although sometimes you are - Christ, it's complicated, okay? So, suffer is not the right word, not for me. If I find the right word, I'll let you know...'endure' perhaps?

Anyway, doing other things has helped...with my mental health anyway. Inspiration to write, well, maybe not so much. Yet. It's getting there. Slowly. Very slowly. But I've learned to stop pushing for something that isn't ready to be yet. Doing that just increases anxiety, and increased anxiety leads to more depression, and around and around we unhappily go. Instead I have enjoyed becoming able to do other things - spend time among other people, get on a ferry to one of the many gorgeous Outer Isles in Orkney, learn new skills. And in doing these things and just enjoying them for the sake of themselves, I also find a certain creative inspiration. Perhaps not for anything that can be written right now, but for future writing. The desire to write is still there, the urge to act upon that desire is just not fully present yet.

So, back to the changes in this blog.

There will be posts about mental health. If you don't like that idea, well, fuck off right now, please and thank you.

There will be posts about Orkney. If you don't like that idea, well, fuck off right now, please and thank you.

There will be humor and sometimes swearing. And other random shit I may feel like. If you don't like that idea...you know the rest. Don't fucking make me repeat myself!

Now and again I may post something related to writing - however vaguely so - and you can be sure those posts will be particularly liberally peppered with salty language.

And finally, I will post whenever I feel like it. That may be three days from now, or three months from now. Whatever. Meantime, enjoy the new background design. That's Hoy, by the way. Taken from Warbeth, Stromness, on a fine but stormy afternoon late in the year. I may change the background from time to time. One of those new skills that I have learned... yay me, eh?

Oh yeah, many ( but completely insincere ) apologies for the 'free puppy cuddles' thing... I lied about that. In case you hadn't figured that out already. If not, what kind of fucking moron are you???

So no puppies...but here is The Dog. Count yourselves lucky for this much.