Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finishing Out The Year

It seemed like a long, long way to walk to the gym.  It was lightly snowing, and I was eyeing the sidewalk for signs of ice while concentrating on how to use my cane properly.  When I got to the field house, there was a cop car parked on the sidewalk out front.  I wonder what happened this time, I thought to myself.

There had been a scuffle in the basketball gym.  Not much of a surprise, but still not a good thing to happen. Luckily, things were peaceful in the boxing gym.  First of all, there was no sign of Igor.  The only people there outside of Alan were Matthew, Renee, and Colonel.  People were surprised to see me on the cane.  My left leg is getting better, but I still need the extra support to get around.  Alan shook his head.  "You're not planning to spar, are you?" he asked.  "Oh, no!  But I can hit the bags," I replied.

Doing the workout was a little difficult.  I allowed myself a lot of breaks.  Every time Alan would notice me limping, he'd shake his head again.  But I made it through, and I think moving around helped my leg.

Hopefully, when the winter session begins next week, my left leg will have healed some more.  Don't want the new people to be scared off, thinking I'm limping around as a result of something that happened in the gym.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not A Leg To Stand On

Alan, Colonel, Igor, and Renee were at the gym.  I was at home.  My left lower back has been hurting since late last week, and every time I move, pain shoots down my left leg.  I tried to go to the gym, but I got halfway down the hallway in my apartment building. Each step on the left leg was painful.  "I'm not going to make it down there walking," I thought to myself.  I had to push my stubbornness out of the way and hobble back inside my apartment.  I left Alan a message letting him know what happened, then I stretched out on my back on the floor.

Every time I get injured, I go back through my memory banks to figure out what I did to bring it on.  The cause could have been anything from stretching in the gym to nearly slipping in the snow the last time I went grocery shopping.  The scary part is that I can't easily pinpoint causes anymore.  Physical ailments often seem to just pop up out of anywhere these days without much warning.  I wasn't happy that I missed a day at the gym, but there was nothing I could do about it.  Alan called me later and said that Colonel noted that I'm always at the gym, and it's rare that I'm not there.

When I was cleaning the bathroom a few days ago (something else that may have contributed to me hurting right now), I found my hot water bottle.  Rarely do I ever use it.  I brought it out of tradition -- Ma always kept one in the house when I was a kid.  Guess I'll be filling it up later on with hot water and placing it on my back.  Hopefully, that will ease my back enough so that I can sleep.  I haven't been able to get much sleep since my back and leg started acting up.

This year has not been a good one.  The top highlights were being reunited with my late younger sister's oldest daughter and the news that my sister's youngest daughter is engaged to be married.  However, my present physical state is just one more in a long, long string of problems I've experienced since January.  I'll be glad when this year is over.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Now I Know Why She Won A Bronze Medal

My late younger sister's oldest daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  "How about Marlen Esparza's Power Boxing Workout?" I said.  It arrived in the mail today.  Normally, I watch an exercise DVD in its entirety first before attempting to do the workout.  This time, I decided to follow along and keep up the best I can.

I knew I was in for something when the warm-up proved to be a challenge.  I had become used to warm-ups that involved gentle stretching and deep breathing.  Ms. Esparza and the two women with her were doing crunches, push-ups, and Superman stretches.  It's been a long time since I've done crunches or push-ups.  Even with making modifications, I couldn't finish the set, and the Superman stretches weren't easy, either.

The lower body exercises involved squats and lunges.  My knees acted as if they wanted to give up several times, but overall, those exercises went well.  I can see myself getting better at them as I do them more.

Ms. Esparza explained orthodox and southpaw stances very well, and she kept reminding viewers how they went throughout the workout.  She also did a very good job explaining the punches ("the lead hand is in front, and the power punches come from the hand in the back").  I also learned another way to throw overhand rights that involved turning over the arm and turning the body into the punch.  Another tip:  escape from the line of fire by moving to the side of where one's last punch came from.  For example, after throwing a double jab, followed up by right cross, step over to the right.

She went through a series of combinations that combined the hand movements along with body movements she showed earlier.  Her hands are fast, and I kept missing the order of the punches.  I thought, "This girl is 24 years old and she can do this easily."

In the words of the late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, I give this workout a thumbs up.  It's tough, but effective.  Ms. Esparza keeps the viewer moving.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Checking Out The New Ring

I couldn't find Jilberto when I got to the field house, so I waited near the front entrance to watch for Alan.  Renee walked in, and told me she turned her her enclosed porch into a workout area.  "But I need the extra cardio, so I signed up for the gym session that starts in January," she said.  While we were talking, we were interrupted several times by Igor.  No matter how many times I plan to be nicer to Igor, my irritation shows.  I assumed he had been waiting down at the gym door.  "The gym closed," he told Renee and I.  "You don't work here, Igor, so you don't know that," I replied, not bothering to explain that Alan hadn't said anything about not being at the gym.  Igor's impatience got the better of him, and he left.

Alan came down the hall not long after Igor went home.  The coach had been in the gym changing his clothes.  When Renee and I walked in, we were surprised to see the new ring was up (see the photo above).  There are a few more pieces to be installed, but for the most part, the ring is up and ready.  Renee left after awhile, promising to be in the gym in early January.

I got into the ring and walked around.  It seemed to be very sturdy.  I had to watch it walking up and down the stairs to the ring.  It would be nice if there was a rail to hold on to, but that's not how ring stairs are made.

This a view of the rest of the gym from the middle of the new ring.  Alan spent a good bit of time sweeping and moving things around enough so he, myself, Bean, and Matthew could get a workout in (Colonel and Kenny stopped in, but they didn't stay long). "Matt doesn't know one end of a broom from another," Alan said, referring to his son, who's home on holiday break from college.  I commented that it appears that Alan knows how to do housework.  "It's relaxing to me.  I can just zone out while I do it," he said.  His wife is a lucky woman to be married to a man who will actually clean the house.

There's not much room behind the new ring.  The workers pulled up the mat located below the uppercut bag, and moved the large white storage locker in that spot.  It took awhile for me to notice that the old radio had been put on the coach's desk up front.  Alan rolled the big tire out of the gym to make more room.  I didn't see the smaller tire, but it might be elsewhere.  I figured there are probably a lot more items that could be removed.  That will need to be done after the ring is completely installed, and it would probably be a good idea for Barry to weigh-in on what needs to go.

Alan pointed out that the raised ring makes it a little difficult to give sparring boxers a drink of water.  Now someone will have to stand on the ring apron with a bottle of water while people are sparring.  I suggested that since there are two spit buckets in the gym, one could be placed at opposite corners of the ring.

Since the ring is now raised off the floor, we all are going to have to be careful about the ropes.  In the past, there wasn't that much of a drop if someone was sent sailing through the ropes.

No, this picture doesn't have anything to do with boxing, but I just had to put it up here.  My niece received a proposal of marriage from the young man she's been seeing for some time earlier this week.  She accepted, so I'll have a nephew-in-law soon, and my younger sister, who while unfortunately no longer with us, will gain a son-in-law.  As you can see, he got on his knees and proposed in the old fashioned way, which I think is romantic.  They make a cute couple, don't they?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Fix In The Gym

I was waiting outside of the gym door and time was marching on.  No sign of Alan.  Colonel came in.  "We're the only ones here?" he asked.  A moment later, Caroline came down the hall to tell us that Mary had called Alan earlier.  Mary told Alan that the new boxing ring was being put up, and that he might have to hold class in one of the other two gyms in the field house.  Colonel asked Caroline to open up the door so we could see what work had been done.  I had noticed that some of the pieces of the new ring were no longer in the hallway outside the gym entrance.

The new ring looked like it's coming along fine.  But everything else in the gym had been moved around to make room.  "There's no room for one person to workout in there today," Colonel said.  He and I decided to leave and call Alan later.  As we were driving away, we saw Alan driving up.  Colonel turned the car around and caught up with him.  "But we could go into the other gym," Alan said.  "No, we'd be in the way," Colonel said, indicating the kids playing basketball in that gym.

It makes sense that the new ring would be put up now.  After all, officially, the gym is on break.  The people putting up the gym had no way of knowing people are in the gym regardless of the session being over.  There's always the chance that we might not be able the train in the gym until January.  But we'll have a new ring that is elevated instead of on the floor.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Four Degrees In Chicago

I was watching Rocky II (1979) last night.  I saw Rocky (1976) and Rocky III (1982) some time ago, but I had never seen the film in-between.  I knew how the film would end, but I cheered during the final fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed as if I was watching a real boxing match.

Alan was up at Brooks Park for their boxing show, so I went down to Loyola Park to open up the gym.  It was bone cold outside, so I was walking as fast as I could to generate some heat.  My left knee is jacked up -- again -- so I couldn't move as fast as I could have liked.  Yesterday morning, I did a kettlebell workout which involved doing some squats. I hadn't done that workout in months. I guess my knees didn't care for that much.  As usual, I spied Igor walking a block ahead of me on the way to the field house.

Neither Jilberto or Mary was at the field house, so I had to search for other staff members to get the gym open.  Igor was lurking about in the hallway, and it sounded as if any and everybody who looked like they might have been a Chicago Park District employee was being pestered by him about whether the gym would be open or not.  I said nothing to Igor because I didn't feel like being irritated.  Instead, I concentrated on finding a staff member who may have had a key.  After several minutes of searching, the one staff member whom was thought to have a key didn't.  "That's okay.  I don't want to get anyone in trouble," I said.  As far as the staff is concerned, the Fall session is over and the classes are done.  But I always have to explain that the sport of boxing doesn't operate on seasons, and people train in the gym even during the session breaks.

So I started back home in the below zero temperature.  I was halfway down the block on the other side of the street when I noticed Igor walking on the other side of the street.  I guess Igor figured out the gym wasn't going to open on his own.  Forgive me Jesus for being mean.

I used a little more of the money I received for a birthday gift to get some more Chinese food.  This time, I actually stopped in the place instead of asking them to deliver it.  Tomorrow, I'll have to do a workout to make up for not having one at the gym.  It probably won't be the kettlebell workout.  That might have been too much, too soon.  I'll do something more gentle like one of Leslie Sansone's in-home walking DVDs.

Monday, December 09, 2013

After My Birthday

I had my camera with me at the gym, but I forgot to take pictures.  So instead, I have pictures of my house.  This photo is of the bag I normally take to the gym.  Lately, I've been carrying a smaller bag to ease the weight on my shoulder.

My birthday was yesterday, but it was too cold and snowy to really go anywhere.  I went out briefly to run an errand, and quickly came back home.  I ran into a neighbor whom I told, "I'm going to get in my pajamas and chill out."  Today's weather wasn't any better, with the temperature being eight degrees.  When Alan and I got inside the gym, we quickly realized that there wasn't going to be any heat.  The radiators in the gym haven't been working properly for several weeks.  However, there was wood stacked in the gym, a sign that preparations to put the new ring up have begun.

Gabriel came in later, and there was only the three of us in the gym.  There was no sparring, just doing a regular workout.  Gabriel and I did a burn out later in the evening.

This is my desk where I write this blog.  I know. . .the laptop can barely be seen due to all the clutter.  The desks at the places I worked were always cleaner than the one at home.

Gabriel asked Alan how many fights he had back in the day; Alan had thirty of them.  "What was your record?" Gabriel asked.  "Twenty-two and eight," the coach replied.  "That's not bad," Gabriel smiled.  "Not bad, but not good," Alan grinned.  "That's better than me!" Gabriel said.

This is a picture of no man's land, er, my kitchen.  This room has been neglected for awhile.  I had a little extra money, so I felt justified in ordering food out instead of cleaning this room when I got home.  Let me be truthful.  I would have made the excuse of being tired from the gym, normally made myself a peanut butter sandwich, and the kitchen still would not been cleaned up.  The peanut butter sandwich probably would have been healthier than the Chinese food I had, however.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Missed Punches at Portage Park

Portage Park field house recently re-opened their boxing program, and tonight was their boxing show.  Alan picked Teacher John and I up from Loyola Park's field house.  We took a roundabout way to get there to avoid rush hour traffic.

There had been a fight set up for John.  We got there around ten minutes after six, and John weighed in.  After about fifteen to twenty minutes passed by, John and Alan learned that the guy John was supposed to fight called in sick.  John was really disappointed.  He wanted to be able to take a trophy with him back to South Korea.  Unfortunately, stuff like that happens all the time at boxing shows.  People think they've got a sure thing and then the deal is off.

We did get to see how Portage Park's boxing gym had been remodeled.  Kenny and Colonel really wanted to see it because they used to train guys there a long time ago.  John was impressed that they had a glove rack where the gloves (which were all new, by the way) could dry in-between uses.  The ring is on the floor, like the one at Loyola Park, but there's a lot more room.

The field house has more heavy bags to work with, and two speed bags.  The rest of us were commenting on how good everything looked, but Alan wasn't impressed.  "It's cleaner," I told him.  "Yeah, but when people walk into our gym, it looks and smells like a real gym," Alan said.  I've heard people say before that a lot of newer gyms are just too sterile, and not gritty enough for their tastes.  I can see their point.  But there's something impressive about having a new space and new equipment.

John is going back to South Korea tonight to return to work; he teaches math and science in an international academy there.  We'll see him again in July, right in the beginning of next year's park district boxing show season.  "I'm going to be ready for Loyola's boxing show next year," he said.  John, Kenny, and Colonel and I also talked about participating in the Ringside boxing tournament next year as well.

We didn't stick around to watch the fights.  Alan had to go to a company holiday party, John had to finish packing, and the rest of us just went home.  There are a couple more boxing shows left:  Brooks Park next week, and Scottsdale Park in February.  Too late for me to get geared up for anything this year, so I'll try again in 2014.

Working Before A Fight

Alan and Kenny watch as Teacher John and Gabriel spar.  John needed to get the extra practice in because Alan got him a fight tomorrow at Portage Park.

Gabriel brought his father with him to the gym.  His father watched the sparring with interest.

Gabriel also sparred with Kenny.  Kenny used his quickness to get around Gabe's arms.

I wasn't so lucky when I sparred with Gabe.  He let me get a lot of side hooks and body shots in, but I couldn't do anything when those long arms came back at me.  I couldn't catch him easily, either.  It's the long legs.  Gabe is about the only person in the gym who can step over the ropes when he comes out of the ring. Tonight, he was jumping over the ropes with ease.  After our rounds, Gabe told me that I had good cardio.  "Even better than me!" he said.  I was gassed out afterwards.  But if Gabe thinks I have good wind, I should work harder outside of the gym to improve it even more.

Matthew came in to workout, but I'm not sure if he's fighting tomorrow or not.

A look at the date and time on my computer indicates that it is now December 5th. . . .today would have been my mother's 81st birthday.  I always knew she'd outlive Dad, but I also thought she'd live well into her 80s.  When I saw Gabe's dad, I wondered if either one of my parents would have ever visited the gym.  Most likely Dad would not have, and used an "I'm too busy excuse", as usual when one of the kids asked him to do something.  But Ma might have out of curiosity.  However, she probably would have been scandalized to see me sparring with guys.

I held the black heavy bag for Alan while he punched it.  I really had to use my low center of gravity to hold on the bag and keep it steady.  Alan was really hitting it.  "Watch your head," he warned me.  Afterwards, he grinned, "Not bad for an old white guy, huh?"

Monday, December 02, 2013

December Begins

When Alan got to the gym, I was the only one waiting outside the gym door.  "Just you, eh?" he said.  Not long afterwards, Kenny and John walked in, followed by Colonel, Keith, Gabriel and Andre Two.  Andre Two spoke to everybody, but he didn't stay long.

In this photo, Gabriel watches as Keith tries to jam up John in the corner.  Keith and John had a lively sparring session.  John had said something about feeling tired, but afterwards, Alan noted that Keith was well-rested.

Kenny had to get a piece of Keith next.  I kept an eye on Keith to see how he could handle Kenny's quickness.  Kenny was backed into a corner, but only for a moment.  Colonel told Keith,  "Don't let him get out of the corner," but as soon as he said it, Kenny slipped away from Keith's punches.

Teacher John and I sparred, and in this photo, it looks like I was trying to get a hook in to his mid-section.  Kenny had told me at the end of the first round to not go for the overhand rights and jabs, because John was too tall.  But John did not make it easy for me to get in hooks, because John covers up like a turtle.

Alan was hitting one of the heavy bags later.  Colonel and I were by the lockers talking.  Colonel noticed Alan and told me, "Ask Alan if he's trying to be one of the brothers!"  Alan's shorts had slipped down some, and his underwear was showing a little.  I caught sight of a tattoo. The coach had told me he had a tattoo a few years ago.  "I'm not gonna show you where it is," he grinned.  Now I know why.  "Alan, are you trying to be a brother?" I asked, and both Colonel and I cracked up laughing.  Alan had to laugh, too.  "I'm going to have to face the bag in the other direction!" he grinned.

I finally remembered to take a picture of the poster for J.J.'s fight, which will take place this Friday.  Someone -- it may have been Alan -- told me that if J.J. keeps his undefeated record going, he just may be up for a state title shot soon.  I hope so.