Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making The Team

It was pretty much a full house in the gym Wednesday evening.  St. Louis joined in the mix of the guys who sparred.  I was in the back on the uppercut bag, while he was in the ring with Ralphie.  I turned around after the bell rang to end the round, and I saw Ralphie down on one knee. 

Sometime later before Ralphie and I sparred, he said that St. Louis had got him with a wicked body shot.  "I was open, and he hit me.  I felt a sharp pain," he explained.  St. Louis is a little taller than Ralphie, and is built in a lean way.  "Be gentle with me because I'm fragile," Ralphie smiled at me.  I had to laugh.  I was amazed at the energy I had while sparring with him.  I wish I had that type of energy more often. 

Oksana and I worked the punch mitts.  She gave me some great advice about holding my hands in closer to protect myself.  Oksana also pointed out that sometimes, I don't distribute my weight very well over my feet.  I have had problems with balance lately.  I have to make sure that my feet are shoulder width apart at all times in the ring. 

There was a good article in the Red Eye newspaper about women being allowed to box in the 2012 Olympics.  Tiffany and Samantha, were profiled in the article.  They both are training for a spot on the women's Olympic boxing team.  I had seen Tiffany win a Golden Gloves championship.  She's good; she fights like a guy.  Didn't realize she's 4 foot 11; that's shorter than I, and I'm really short.  I hope the both of them make it onto the team.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Downed By High Blood

I went to a low-income/free clinic on Monday to find out if I'm entering menopause.  Currently, I have no health insurance, and I can't afford to see my regular doctor for checkups and prescriptions.  It was discovered that my blood pressure was sky high.  "You need to see the internist," the helpful nurse told me.  Silently, I grumbled at my late dad.  I inherited both high blood pressure and diabetes from him.  The doctor I saw wrote prescriptions for high blood pressure and diabetes pills. He told me of some pharmacies where I could get prescription meds at low prices.

I called Pastor Roger before I went to the gym to ask if it was okay for me to take off tomorrow morning to fill the prescription.  I have to go up to Costco to get a deal.  He agreed, but later, I realized that I have another appointment on Tuesday at the closest Workforce (Unemployment) office.  "Damn.  If it's not one thing, it's another," I thought as I walked to the gym.  It's busy this week because I have to get the committee reports together for the church's annual business meeting this upcoming Sunday.  I don't want to take much time away from getting that done.  I'll just have to get the prescription filled later on Tuesday or later in the week.

I begged off sparring, even though, I had a pick of guys to spar with (Carlos, Jamil, Vic, Johnny).  I told Alan of my medical woes, and he told me, "My neck has been bothering me for days.  I keep waiting for the kink to work itself out, but it hasn't yet."  He said he wasn't taking anything for it.  "You should see somebody.  It might be a pulled muscle," I suggested.

I didn't do much of a workout.  Since my high blood pressure was out of control, I figured I'd better take it easy.  Most of my time was spent recording the sparring between Carlos, Jamil, Vic, Johnny, Alan, Kevin, and a new guy named St. Louis, on my digital camera.  St. Louis came in with a woman, whose name I didn't catch.  Alan thought she might be a good sparring partner for both Oksana and myself.  I attempted to upload the sparring to YouTube, but I kept getting error messages.  I'll have to figure out what the problem is.

Carlos admitted he's at 195 pounds.  "That number is supposed to be going down, not up," Alan said.  "It seems I just can't stop eating.  I do most of the cooking at home.  I'm tasting while I'm cooking, then turning around and eating after I've finished cooking," Carlos explained.  I'm at 175 pounds, having gained back ten pounds over the holidays, so I could sympathize with Carlos.  It's frustrating, because I seemed to be on a roll, and now I'm back to square one again.  The visit to the doctor just pointed out how far gone things have become.

"High blood pressure is not the only problem.  There's another issue looming as well," I told Alan as he dropped me off near my apartment.  "What's that?" he asked.  "I suspect I'm entering menopause," I told him, without going into the details of the symptoms I've noticed.  He told me about his wife's experiences with it, then smiled and said, "We all have our crosses to bear."  

Friday, January 22, 2010

Digital Boxing Tips

The proper name for the donut is punch shield.  Finally got that right.

Wednesday was Edgar's first time in the ring sparring.  He was in with Carlos, who went several rounds as usual with the guys in the gym.  When it was my turn to spar, I ended up against Ralphie, who's quick.  I whaled on him a few times when I caught him up against the ropes and in the corners.  However, I doubt that I did much damage.

I was playing around with my little drug store special digital camera, and figured out how to upload videos to YouTube.  I figured I'd start with posting some boxing tips for women:

The second video I attempted to upload didn't take, so I will have to figure out what went wrong.  If I had a better camera, maybe it would make a difference, but I don't know. 

Alan thinks that there is a pretty good roster of guys available -- Carlos, Jamil, Ed, Ralphie -- for the Chicago Golden Gloves.  It's a matter of whether they want to compete in that tournament and if they will have the time to do so. 

I noticed that Jilberto was standing just outside of the door to the gym talking to a blond woman.  Later, he told Alan and I that she seemed interested at first, but then she saw Carlos and Ralphie sparring.  "Oh, no, I don't want to do that!" she exclaimed. 

I found my second old cell phone, so I will eventually make my way to the Chicago Boxing Club to donate that for the fund of the boxer who passed away in Philly not too long ago.  Virginia and I were thinking about hanging out this Saturday depending on our schedules.  Maybe we can take a trip to drop off the phone, and I can show her the inside of that gym, then we could go to lunch. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Little Man Returns

Carlos came in, followed by Justin.  "What did you get for Christmas?" I asked. The five-year old showed me a hand-held video game.  His dad had brought him some new games to play on it.  "Do you read 'Dick and Jane' in school?" I asked Justin.  He shook his head, indicating that he had never heard of the series.  I guess a lot of things don't happen in Kindergarten like they did when I was there.  Justin had the day off from school because of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Neither Jenay or Oksana came in; maybe they thought the gym was closed due to the holiday.  I had to call myself to check if the place would be open.  Cynthia answered the phone and confirmed that the field house would be hope during its regular hours.

Long and tall Kevin returned to the gym.  He told me that he wanted to get some more training before he came back to Loyola Park.  Alan was talking to him, Carlos, Jeremy and Jamil about the Golden Gloves.  Carlos and Jamil would like to compete there, but they're still not sure.  Alan told Carlos, "There are other guys who'll be there who are heavyweights.  You have the stamina, and you won't get knocked out.  You could handle them."  He reminded Carlos that he needs to get his weight down.  I thought to myself, "I need to get mine down, too, and I'm not off to a good start."  I've been ordering too many chopped steak deluxe meals from JB Alberto's lately.

I sparred with Alan, giving him a good shot to the stomach starting out.   "I was thinking that my right hand came out too hard at one point.  Didn't you hear me say I was sorry?" he asked after we completed our rounds.  "No, but you did get me in the eye," I grinned.  My left eye always seems to be a magnet for other people's punches during sparring. 

While he drove me home, I asked Alan if he goes to temple in the city or in the suburbs.  He explained that he attends service at a home near his house.  I thought to myself that I had heard of churches that met in people's homes, but never a synagogue.  But then, that is not out of the ordinary.  I seem to remember stories about people meeting in small groups in the Bible.  "They serve lunch afterwards, but I don't usually stay because I go to work.  I know I'm not supposed to work on the Sabbath," he grinned, "but I haven't gotten to that point yet."  "We all have to work out our own salvation," I said. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Volunteering To Fight

You may be wondering, "This chick has mentioned several times that she's a volunteer in the gym.  What does she do exactly?"  Well, I'll tell ya.

I'm usually in the gym before the coach.  Alan, like Steve before him, usually is late to the gym.  Unless the coach says otherwise, the field house staff can open the gym door for me.  The same rule is in effect if the coach is not going to be in that evening, and they have alerted the field house staff ahead of time.  That way, people can come in and work out, and the gym will be monitored by someone.  If the coach is not in that night, I make sure I'm the last one leaving the gym.  I alert the field house staff that everyone is gone so they can lock the door.

Once I change into my workout clothes, I fill up the water bottles.  The water is important to have available for boxers during sparring sessions.  The water is also there for those who are working out, but don't have their own water bottles with them.  I usually fill up my water bottle too, killing two birds with one stone.

If the timer is not already on, I set it for three minute rounds with a one minute rest.  Then I do a little cleaning up.  Nothing major like sweeping and mopping, but if I see stuff on the floor, or out of place, I'll pick it up.  I do pick up again at the end of the evening.  There's always gloves that have fallen off the table, towels laying near the ring, or stray mouthpieces around. 

If Alan steps out of the gym for any reason, I'll stay back to keep an eye on things.  When he is busy with the boxers who are sparring, I'm the second set of eyes watching everything else that is happening.  If people come into the gym inquiring about the program, I answer their questions.  I keep kids and teens from running through the gym. 

If someone needs help with technique, I show them with input from Alan.  Sometimes, I will help monitor the sparring, especially if Alan puts on the gloves to mix it up with one of the guys.  Sparring is not allowed when Alan is not in, and I'm supposed to keep people from doing that when the coach is out. 

When we're out at boxing shows, I may do any number of things: assist in the corner with the coach, keep an eye on everyone's personal stuff, record videos and/or take photos of the matches, assist with warming up the boxers before the matches, and whatever else is needed. 

I keep up with information about the dates when the gym session starts, and the times of the Golden Gloves Tournament.  Steve would often forget names of people in the gym, and Alan does, too, so I remember for the coach.

Grabbed By The Neck

I heard footsteps going towards the Pastor's office on Tuesday, but I hadn't heard the doorbell.  I was the only one in the church building at the time, so I had to investigate.  Pastor Roger was in his office; he just came through another entrance.  "You were going to get beat down.  I didn't know who that was walking up here," I half-joked.  I came into church this morning to do some extra work on the annual business reports.  Pastor came in and called out from down the hall, "Hillari?"  "Yeah?" I called back.   "It's me.  Don't beat me up," he responded. 

Michael, Jeremy and I were the first ones in the gym this past Wednesday.  "My arms are still hurting.  I overdid it while I was shadowboxing on Wednesday," he groaned.  He said his arms felt heavy from having to hold them up.  It's a common complaint of those who are new to the sport.  "They'll feel like that at first, but after awhile, you'll get used to it," I assured him. 

Later in the evening, Janay showed me her knuckles and said they felt raw.  "Should I not be hitting with them?" she said.  She had been trying out the double end bag.  Her hands were wrapped up.  "No, you're supposed to use your knuckles.  They'll be like that for awhile, then you won't feel it," I said.  "They'll get calluses," she joked.

Carlos came in, explaining he'd been out due to a hand injury.  "I had a knife in my hand, and I wasn't holding it right while I was sharpening it.  The next thing I knew, I had sliced my hand open.  Had to go to the emergency room and get stitches."  He showed me his left hand, and the cut was scabbing over, a sign that it was healing.  "How's Justin?" I asked.  "I've been having him do exercises at home.  He gets tired afterwards and wants to go to sleep.  He doesn't even want to come here with me to the gym anymore," Carlos said.  "He probably thinks you're going to make him work out here, too," I grinned.

Ed came in, and he sparred with Carlos, Jamil and Ralphie.  Ed is quick.  While he was in the ring with Jamil, I observed how he carefully watched Jamil for openings, then took advantage of them.    The newer guys in the ring watched their sparring with interest.  I overheard Ed saying that he was planning to compete in the Golden Gloves again. 

Carlos ended up with a bloody nose again, but I don't think Ed was the one who gave it to him.  Carlos had sparred with Ralphie, too, so that's when it may have happened.  "Is your nose okay?" I asked.  "Eh, I have a few bloody boogers, but I can breath," Carlos replied with a grin. 

I begged off sparring, but maybe I shouldn't have.  I didn't spar last week.  Oksana didn't come in Wednesday, and I was thinking that maybe we could have sparred.  I told Alan I have to work my way up to it again, and he smiled at that.  In reality, I wimped out.  The guys who sparred that night seemed to have a lot of energy, and I had a feeling that I just might have taken some bad hits if I had gotten into the ring with them.  Boxing is a sport where people get hurt, and yes, that was a silly thought for me to have.  But sometimes, it is better to listen to your instincts.

Alan and I worked on the punch donut.  He had backed into one of the corners as I pounded away.  Suddenly, he reached out his hand, took me by the back of my neck, and turned me around quickly.  I ended up being flinged into the corner.  Good thing I had decided to take my glasses off before we got into the ring.  "That's an illegal move.  You can't do that in amateur boxing," Alan grinned.  That's would be a good move to remember to use in a street fight, however. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Little Training and Some Fish

Janay came in just as sparring had begun between Ed and Jamil.  I showed her how to do hooks.  We also reviewed the left jab and right cross, which Alan had taught her the week before. 

My own workout took a little time to get into.  It felt like I hadn't done anything in awhile, even though I exercised six days out of the previous week.  I gained ten pounds back over the holidays, and those pounds
-- plus a lot more -- have to come off. 

There's a ten-pound medicine ball in my apartment which I haven't used since I brought it a few years ago.  If I remember on Wednesday, I'll donate it to the gym.  I was going to give away some of my old dumbbells, too.  While exercising to a walking DVD on Saturday, I made use of them, so I decided that it's worth keeping them. 

Fish kept popping into my mind while I was at the gym last night.  There is a bag of fish sticks in my freezer, and I thought they would go well with the Ceasar salad I brought.  When I opened the refrigerator upon returning home, I saw a catfish fillet, so on the ol' George Foreman grill it went.  I truly don't like to cook, and I'm not good at it.  But it's easy making food on that grill, especially where fish is concerned.  Catfish was a huge staple of my diet last year, but then it became too expensive to buy all the time.  Beef is a favorite of mine, but fish does need to be a bigger part of my diet, along with veggies.  Unlike fish, I have to force myself to eat vegetables.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Reading The Riot Act

Alan called me around quarter to six to say that he was going to be running late.  When I got to the gym, several people I hadn't seen before were waiting outside of the door.  A few of them knew JJ and Rick, who had also come in, so I wasn't too concerned.  They were there to work out as well as to give pointers to JJ.  The others were people who were first-timers to the gym.  Jayna and Rosie, the two women who showed up, basically wanted to observe and ask Alan questions before they committed to signing up.  Of everyone present, only two people, Anthony and Edgar, were signed up on the roster list.

Mary, the field house supervisor, wasn't having it.  "Who are all of these people?" she asked.  She got everyone's attention and made an announcement.  "If you're not signed up, you can't be in here.  If somebody gets hurt, I lose my job, and that is not happening.  You must come to the front desk and pay the fee!"  Rick went and got registration forms for everybody in an attempt to smooth the situation.  I didn't notice anyone going back down to the front with a form, however.  I wasn't working out much, because I was keeping an eye on the situation.

Ralphie knocked on the window, and I let him in the back door.  Mary had left the gym by that time, but when she heard the door slam (it makes a loud noise that can be heard down the hallway), she came back to the gym.  "Who came in?  Was it Alan?" she asked me.  "No, it wasn't Alan," I answered, but I didn't point out Ralphie.  Ralphie was standing nearby, looking like he was hoping that Mary wouldn't admonish him.  "People should not come through that door.  They need to come around to the front entrance," Mary said.  She was on her way back down the hallway, when another knock came at the window.  "Mary, that is probably Alan," I said, as I went to open the door.  Sure enough, it was, and Mary walked back to catch him. I got out of their way and went back inside the gym.

Alan came in the room minutes later, looking irritated.  Rick said, "I didn't want it to look like that someone was coming in taking over the gym.  But I understand Mary's point."  "I got read the riot act," Alan said.  "Again?" I said, remembering the drama that took place when Leon broke Deo's eye socket a few months ago.  Alan laughed, "Yeah, again."  Apparently, he and Mary had a difference of opinion.

Park district gyms are particularly vulnerable to people just walking in and expecting to get a workout.  But in the case of boxers and coaches who come from other park district gyms as well as the private gyms, perhaps there should be some kind of reciprocal agreement.  The problems in the gym don't usually come from the people who drop in who know what they are doing in the ring.  Instead, the problems come from the adults who think they know it all because they've watched a few fights on HBO and ESPN. They also come from the teens who just want to jump around in the ring and not take instruction. The kids who want to use the gym as another playground create problems, too.

"This is not a drop-in gym," Mary told everyone.  But maybe the answer is to have a drop-in fee.  I know the gym is not set up for that, but it would probably help to keep a lot of conflicts down.  Those who are serious about training won't necessarily balk about paying a fee to work out for one evening.  Those who are not aren't serious will be deterred from just showing up if they have to come out of their pockets to be there.  Plus, it'll be easier to show persons the door if they don't have a receipt nor a copy of the waiver they've signed.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Oksana's Return

I guess Monday was the first day of the Winter session.  Thinking that it was next week, I was surprised when a guy named Anthony came in.  Alan knew him from Clarendon.  Not long after he came in, Oksana, who had been in a few sessions ago, arrived.  I didn't recognize her at first.  Oksana was wearing a pair of glasses.  She told me that she hadn't worked out regularly since October of last year.  "Normally I work out several days a week for two hours each time," she said.y

After Alan and I did a couple of rounds using the punch donut, Oksana and I did two rounds a piece using my punch mitts.  "You have your own?" she asked.  "I haven't used them that much," I answered. I've had them for awhile, but they are practically brand new. 

"I'm glad that Oksana has come back in.  She'll be a good workout partner for you," Alan said later.  "Yes, and she is serious about doing the workout," I told him.  She would also be great to take a match.  Alan suggested that she could take on Meg.  Maybe Oksana could get a win where I couldn't.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Boxing Bookcase

There are plenty of books out there on boxing. You wouldn't know it, however, from looking at the shelves in many bookstores. Baseball, basketball, golf and football fill up shelf upon shelf, while you're lucky to find a few boxing books tucked in a corner. Usually, those books are shoved in with the martial arts and wrestling offerings (which are also low in number). Boxing, wrestling, MMA and martial arts share some things, but are ultimately different from one another.

Still, good boxing reading can be found. Currently, I'm reading The Boxer's Workout by Peter DePasquale. It's emphasis in on non-contact training and white collar boxing, but it has a lot of good, solid training advice. Others I recommend are:

Boxing For Everyone: How to Get Fit and Have Fun With Boxing by Cappy Kotz

Box Like The Pros by "Smokin' " Joe Frazier with William Dettloff

Boxer's Start-Up: A Beginner's Gude to Boxing by Doug Werner

Fiting Fit: Boxing Workouts Techniques and Sparring by Doug Werner and Alan Lachica

Boxing: The American Martial Art by R. Michael Onello

The Boxer's Heart: How I Fell in Love with the Ring by Kate Sekules

The Gleason's Gym Total Body Boxing Workout for Women by Hector Roca and Bruce Silverglad

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fitness Boxing by Tom Seabourne, Ph.D.

Boxing Mastery: Advanced Techniques, Tactics, and Strategies from the Sweet Science by Mark Hatmaker and Doug Werner

Boxing: The Complete Guide to Training and Fitness by Danna Scott

On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates

Workouts from Boxing's Greatest Champs: Get In Shape with Muhammad Ali, Fernando Vargas, Roy Jones Jr., and Other Legends by Gary Todd

The Rough Guide to Muhammad Ali by Paul Simpson

Atlas: From The Streets to the Ring: A Son's Struggle to Become A Man by Teddy Atlas and Peter Alson

Since bookstore offers are so skimpy, I would suggest going online to find boxing books:

Alibris -
Paladin Press -
Ringside -
Title Boxing -

Bridgeport Boxing

I took a trip this morning up to the Chicago Boxing Club.  It is the successor to the old Windy City Gym, which had been a part of Chicago for over 80 years.  My intent was to donate an old cell phone of mine to the fund of a fallen boxer, Francisco Rodriguez.  I gave the phone to Rita, who had a similar brain injury to Rodriguez's.  She survived her ordeal, but unfortunately, Rodriguez did not.  Rita's hair is growing back in, and the current short cut looks cute on her.  She told me that it would look funny growing in for awhile because of the scar on her skull. I was glad to see her up and walking around.

The Chicago Boxing Club sits in the Bridgeport neighborhood.  It's not far from US Cellular Field (where the White Sox play).  Bridgeport is famous for producing a few city mayors including the current one, Richard Daley.  It is also known for its racial intolerance, particularly towards African-Americans.  I went to high school with a pair of twins who lived in that area.  More than once I overheard them bragging about jumping the Hispanics and African-Americans who came through the streets.  Hispanics have made inroads into what is still predominately a white area, but a lot of the same tensions remain.  I kept my antennae up as I got off the Halsted bus at 35th Street.

Barry, Kevin, Yale, Alan and Rick were in the gym when I arrive.  Also, Paul, whom I at first didn't recognize, was working out on the bags.  I saw legendary coach Sam Colonna, who runs the place, walking around.  Barry said the place reminded him of a loft.  It's a nice open space with two rings in the middle of the floor.  I noticed a sign over an uppercut bag asking boxers not to use it for uppercuts, but to punch it straight on.  The bag had seen a lot of use, as it was torn and worn in several places.  I liked the place, and it's fairly easy to get to by public transportation.

I had forgot to mention when I saw JJ at Loyola Park this past Wednesday, that he had pictures of two famous guys on his cell phone.  JJ had gone to a fight at the UIC Pavillion the weekend before.  He found himself sitting behind former pro boxer Thomas "The Hit Man" Hearns.  "I also met one of the HBO announcers, but I can't remember his name," JJ said to Rob and I.  "Larry Merchant?  Jim Lamphley?  Emmanuel Steward?" Rob and I guessed.  "This guy," JJ said, showing us the picture on his phone.  It was Max Kellerman.  "He and his brother Sam put out a rap record a long time ago," I said.  Rob told me, "Yeah, I remember that.  You have a good memory."  Kellerman and his late brother had some rap skills as displayed here on this clip: