Thursday, June 28, 2012

It Only Takes a Year: My Big Racquetball Win

As you may know, I started playing racquetball in May of 2011:

My goals were three-fold:
  1. Get my beloved artist father to start working out.
  2. Improve my naturally less-than-stellar hand-eye coordination.
  3. Get my beloved artist father to start working out!
My dad used to be quite the athlete.  In high school and the years following, he did football, track & field, basketball...basically he liked sports, and the friendly competition + workout that sports provided.

About 10 years ago, he suffered (yet another) injury to his right hand while playing basketball with some of my high school buddies.  He wisely decided that as an artist, he couldn't afford any more broken fingers, and narrows his basketball focus to cheering for Gonzaga in college ball, and yelling at Kobe Bryant and any incompetent refs in the NBA.

I've been hoping for a chance to get him up and moving again for years, but wasn't sure how to make it happen without being a nagging daughter.  I don't want my dad to be Arnold or anything...just to be able to play with my kids someday.

When my husband started working at the SJCC on Mercer Island, I found out to my great delight that a membership to the J included access to their three indoor racqueball courts.

My dad used to be a racquetball champ, but hadn't played in a long while.  It didn't take long for me to form my scheme.  I called him up and asked if he wanted to teach me the rules of the game.

Thus began our weekly racquetball dates. 

My dad started with a handicap...which means he let me serve twice for every one serve of his.  I learned rules, etiquette, and how to swing the racquet (more like swatting a fly than hitting a baseball).

I told Dad that my goal was to beat him fair and square (none of this double-serve business) within a year.

We continued to play at least once a week as I slooooowwwwwlllllyyyy improved.  I have never been athletically inclined.  I played softball for three years and ran track...but only because I liked the people involved.  I was the kid drawing in the dirt at shortstop or wimping out on workouts.  I preferred things to come easily to me - and if they didn't, I'd quit and do something else. 

But I wanted to stick it out with dad and I have always had a great relationship, and he somehow made losing game after game a ton of fun.

He makes goofy voices and cheers for me whenever I get a good shot.  He appreciates all my cool dance moves when I'm celebrating one good serve, and we know all the same old-movie punch lines.  Plus, whenever my apparent lack of progress got me down, I'd still get excited for my dad!  His endurance continued to improve and he lost 18 pounds!

At the end of May 2012, we played two games in which I lost by a landslide.  I was feeling discouraged, and my dad gave me a great pep talk about how much better I really had gotten, and how winning isn't everything, and it CERTAINLY isn't the only measure of progress.

And then, somehow, we went back into the court for game three...and I beat my dad.

It was one year and a day since we'd started playing.  Since 2011 was a leap year, I say it counts.

What are your latest fitness achievements?  Have you ever had to work long and hard at something before you saw the payoff you wanted?  Did YOU draw in the dirt during Little League games?

Friday, June 22, 2012

REVIEW: Hot Yoga, Inc.

Welcome back to The MeghaMix! 

If you want to know what I've been up to for the last three months (besides that full time job thing)...think CrossFit Endurance training for the Portland Half Marathon, feeding a husband studying for his MCAT, and full bore volunteer work for my junior high/high school musical theatre class:

I may or may not have choreographed a burpee into the closing number in the show:

The hubby and I got to put in a "guest appearance" as Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey for the hit song from Dirty Dancing - I totally wanted to steal this dress from Sarah at Coming Unstitched.

And to top it all students signed and awarded me a prop from the I now have Justin Bieber hanging on my cubicle wall. 

It's been an incredibly busy but good spring...and I'm excited to settle down to a relaxing summer and get back to blogging.

To kick things off, here's a post I've been dying to write for a long time - my review of Hot Yoga, Inc.!!!

As you know, I'm a huge proponent of diversified workouts.  Doing the same thing day in and day out ups your odds of getting injured...and frankly, it gets a little boring.  In consequence, I try out new workouts fairly regularly, some that are fun to try once (fencing, barre3) and some that resonate with me and become part of my weekly regimen (racquetball, Mercer Island CrossFit). 

Hot Yoga is a big thing these days (news flash, right?) and so it had been on my list for a long time. 

I'd been doing Tara Stiles' Slim Calm Sexy Yoga at home since my therapist recommended yoga as a way to battle stress and anxiety last year.  I really enjoyed finally doing something good for me that I was naturally good at (like corpse pose).  Like many people, however, I find it hard to workout at home when the dishes and laundry are calling my name, so my little yoga routine had dwindled from almost nightly to if-I-had-time-after-a-run-which-was-basically-never.

I'm not really one for New Year's Resolutions, but this year I had two: 1) get at least 3 servings of veggies each weekday, and 2) get on with it and try Hot Yoga.

Hot Yoga, Inc. has seven locations across Seattle and the Seattle Eastside.  They offer a KILLER deal where local residents can try hot yoga: 10 classes for $10.  No, that's not $10 per class.  That's $1 per class. (I do math for a living.  Can't you tell?)

This was obviously too good a deal for my cheapskate self to pass I live and work near both the Bellevue and Kirkland studios, so I knew it wouldn't be too tough to get my 10 classes into 30 days (they expire - you can't string them out for months).

Because I like to organize my crazy thoughts whenever always, here's my point by point breakdown review!!!

  • Environment - 5 out of 5.   I can't speak for the other five studios, but Bellevue and Kirkland are excellent.  Bellevue seems newer - it's larger and fancier, with real showers in the locker room (well, in the ladies - I assume in the men's as well, but don't know from first hand experience).  This is a HUGE perk since I am genetically predisposed to sweat like a pig and my hair is often dripping by the time I'm done.  Kirkland is tiny but they make great use of their space and it has a cozy, not cramped, feel.

    Bellevue interior

  • Instructors - 4 out of 5.  Like anywhere, it depends a little on who you get.  Most of the teachers are good, a very few not so good, and some truly excellent.  My only real complaint is that they don't post who will be teaching what if you have a favorite teacher, you may need to hunt them down and find out for yourself what classes they're scheduled to teach.
  • Affordability - 3 out of 5.  I so enjoyed my $1 classes (okay, the first four I couldn't tell if I liked or hated it - by class #5 I was hooked) that I signed up for their newbie 6-month unlimited (the best long-term deal.  It's $399 for 6 months.  This may sound steep, but I checked about a dozen studios in the area, hot yoga and non-hot yoga (technical terms, I know) and couldn't find a better price anywhere. 

  • Convenience - 4 out of 5.  They offer a great class schedule, some as early as 6am if you want to get your zen on before heading to the office.  There are evenings, lunch hours, weekends - short of just giving you a key and an instructor manual, they let you practice almost anytime you want!

    If you forget clothes, mat, towel, or water, never fear!
  • Cardio/endurance - 2 out of 5.  Although you'll be sweating your butt off every time, getting cardio out of yoga depends mainly on what class you tae.  You won't suddenly be able to run 5 miles after a month of Hatha.  The best bet for building some endurance here is the Power class, if you get a good teacher and keep up with the flow.  I'd view this as a side benefit of Hot Yoga and keep getting good cardio elsewhere.
  • Muscle building/fat burning - 3 out of 5.  I still haven't made it to a Sculpt class (if I'm gonna be lifting weights, I may as well be at CrossFit), so I'm speaking strictly about Hatha and Power - Hatha will build some strength, particularly in your lower body.  It's excellent for runners and athletes who do a lot of lateral movement - the balancing poses really strengthen your feet and ankles, and most poses are done one side at a time, which will help you even out.  Power helps you build some muscle in both your lower and upper body from body-weight exercises like planks, flowing lunges, core work, and pushups.  I'd look at this as a supplement to a good weight-lifting regimen.

    Don't wear long sleeves or pants! 
    You will sweat like crazy.

    Bring flip flops -
    nothing worse than putting socks on slick feet.
  • Flexibility - 5 out of 5.  Improved flexibility is the number one reason to try Hot Yoga.  Most runners, CrossFitters, and athletes of all shapes and sizes are guilty of prioritizing workouts, diet, and ignoring flexibility.  The Yin class is absolutely the best for focusing solely on your future bendy self, but all of the classes involve relaxing and lengthening.  You will be more agile and less injury-prone if you march yourself into a Hot Yoga studio a few times a week.

    For your first class, be sure and bring a mat,
     a large (beach) towel, and a water. 
    Otherwise they won't let you in. 
    A hand towel is awesome, too. 

  • Body awareness - 5 out of 5.  In my MeghaMix laymen terms, the whole point of yoga is not stretching, but rather connecting your movements with your breath.  This means that a yoga win would not be a class where you struggled valiantly to achieve a shoulder stand...while holding your breath due to concentration on the pose.  A yoga win might instead be a class where you were too tired from the week to complete all the poses...but stayed focused on your breath even when you were resting in corpse or child pose. So if you approach the class with the right attitude (a good instructor will help a ton), you will be gaining some incredible body awareness.  Rather than trying to force yourself into things, you'll learn patience and humility can really go a long way.
  • Fun factor - 4 out of 5. Some days, particularly if I'm dehydrated, I find it really tough to make it through a class...but in almost 6 months I've only had one class that I regretted (the room was too dang hot and at least 7 other people scooted out early with me).  Every other time I come out feeling more relaxed, limber, and at peace than I was when I arrived.  (And a lot more sweaty.  See below.)

    Me after my first class!
  • Community - 2 out of 5.  Classes are designed to be chatter-free.  Other than the instructor's voice and the pranayama breathing of the other students, you're supposed to feel pretty much like it's just you and your mat.  For me, this is awesome, since usually after a long day at the office, I'd like to be in my own little world and not have to worry about making small talk.  The nature of hot yoga does lend itself to a less tight-knit community, since no one talks during class, and after class everyone's too busy panting or racing home for a shower to carry on much conversation.  Most people are friendly and polite, however, and probably if you're more of an extrovert and have some time to spare before and after classes, you'd feel plugged right in.
Final verdict As I mentioned earlier, I was so impressed that I signed up for a membership and have been yogaing (that's a verb, right?) regularly for 6 months now.  I'm more flexible, saner, and stronger as a result.  I've seen results in my CrossFit, racquetball, and running, and learning to focus on my breath has helped me so much in fighting my anxiety and stress.

I highly encourage you to give Hot Yoga a try.  Come armed with mat, towel, and a big bottle of water, and promise yourself to stick it out through at least half a dozen classes.  And then come back here and let me know what you think!

Do you Hot Yoga?  What's your experience?  Love it?  Hate it?  Tell me!!!