Trying Out Zumba For The First Time

When I’m back in the States I like to see my peeps and one of these weirdos is Marcus P, who I grew up with way back in the day. We’re both a little bit older, his hair’s a little grayer and mine a little thinner, but we’ve been friends for over 15 years and still act like idiots when we’re together. I could fill this entire blog with stories of dumb shit we’ve done together, but I’ll save that for another time. Well, ok — here’s one. 🙂

Anyway, what’s important for you to know now is that even though Marcus P is the bomb-dot-com, his girlfriend Nicole is slowly becoming one of the best parts of knowing him. I mean, nothing against my homie, love the guy, but getting to know Nicole over the past few years has been a nice addition to me and Marc’s weird and fantastic friendship.

All Zumba, all the time

Besides putting up with Marc (and his friends like me), Nicole has something else unique about her — she’s a Zumba freak (which I mean in the best way possible). She’s a certified teacher and has been for a while now, which I think is super cool.

Now, you’ve all probably heard about Zumba or seen someone rocking a neon shirt with “ZUMBA!!!” written across the front with way too many exclamation points, but have you ever tried it? Nope? Well, me either. I had seen people dancing Zumba all over the place in the Philippines, with the craziest being thousands of Filipinos getting their Zumba on for Earth Hour a while back. Man, that was a trip.

Time for me to get my Zumba workout on

For me, life’s about trying out new things and experiencing what normal is like for other people. It’s a great way to really understand someone else, even if you feel like you already know them. So, when Nicole told me that she was teaching a class the next morning I was all in for trying Zumba for the first time.

Nicole teaches a class almost every day – daaaaang, girl

The class started way too early and thanks to a concert we all went to bed way too late, but Nicole and I still made it to a nearby apartment complex’s half-court basketball gym in plenty of time to get the Zumba party started. As people started showing up Nicole plugged her phone into the huge speaker she lugged in from her SUV and fired up the hip-hop playlist she had masterfully put together.

Then, according to some sort of cue that thanks to me being the new guy I wasn’t aware of, the dancing started. What followed was an hour filled with an incredible amount of attitude, pelvic thrusting, and several dance moves that seemed to be just outside of my body’s range of motion and/or coordination. Not knowing the moves didn’t matter though and as the sweat quickly showed up I was so happy every time we had a short break to catch my breath between songs. This Zumba stuff was no joke and my lungs felt like they were on fire.

This made it even more incredible that Nicole was still doing her thing in front of us, non-stop and at maximum level, all while still looking like she was actually enjoying herself. The rest of the people in the class also seemed be more used to the ridiculous amount of energy this was requiring, so I just had to keep going and hope that every song that ended was the last one (which took longer than I would have liked).

I Zumba’d and lived to tell the story

Eventually the jumping, clapping, and my many attempted failures to shake my ass ended and my heart felt like it was going to bust out of my chest. Nicole, on the other hand, was still smiling and talked us into doing a “quick and easy” ab workout on top of yoga mats to finish up the class. Well, 10-minutes of intense ab-burning later we were officially done and our hour was up.

Zumba had officially done what I wanted it to, give me one hell of a workout, and even though it brought the pain it was also a really fun way to kill some calories. It was also great to see Nicole in her element and experience this thing that she spends so much time doing for myself. I don’t think Zumba will be something I do all the time, but this definitely won’t be the last time I let a bunch of women show me what a real workout looks like.

If you’re reading this and happen to be in Northern Indianapolis area, here’s more info on Nicole’s classes. She’ll help you get in a 1-hour workout that’s super fun and still hard enough to actually do something.

Also, if you live around Indianapolis and have an interesting experience that you think I’d like to check out, let me know! I’ll be in town for a while and I’m always up for checking out something new and a little weird.


I Love Hotel Fitness Centers

Hotel Fitness Center's Rule

There’s just something about hotel fitness centers that make me happy. Figuring out if there is one and where it’s located is usually one of the first things I do after checking in and getting into my room. I find the information book with all of the stuff in it and somewhere between the room service menu and the emergency escape map are the details on where I can get my workout in.

Part of the fun of finding and using a hotel gym is seeing what all is does (or doesn’t) offer. Depending on where you’re staying this can be vary a lot and just because you’re spending a lot for your room doesn’t mean you’re going to have the top of the line equipment to work with. I’ve been to a lot of different hotels and have seen it all — anything from one broken treadmill and a pull-up bar to rooms full of top of the line machines, saunas and robes to put on after your warm waterfall post-workout shower.

What I like the most about hotel workouts is the feeling of being somewhere new and having to figure out how I’m going to get in what I need with what’s available. It’s also fun because I’m usually in there by myself most of the time. This means I can crank up the ESPN on the TV and do my thing without anyone bothering me. It’s like having my own personal gym for the hour or so I’m in there and for some weird reason I really like it. With only a few exceptions the equipment’s always new, the water’s always cold and there are always plenty of clean towels to go around.

If you never use the hotel fitness centers when you travel, I highly suggest you try one out next time. It keeps you in your workout groove and gets you up and ready to take on the day no matter where you are. I’ve had trips to Vegas where working out was the only thing that kept me awake and moving. Nothing keeps me going like sweating out the night before on a nearly-new hotel treadmill. It’s not fun at the time but I always thank myself for it later.

In other words, Hotel fitness centers are the bomb so be sure to take full advantage of them the next time you’re staying somewhere out of town. I always do and you should, too.

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Using A Foam Roller To Stretch Out Your IT Band

Rolling out the IT band
Feel the pain of rolling out your IT band. Aw, yeah. 

A month or so ago I was having some issues with my hip. It didn’t hurt when I was running but it felt really weird for a little while after I was done. I wasn’t really sure what was causing it but thanks to having awesome medical insurance at Kaiser I never wait too long to find out. I love having a co-pay of $20 and believe me, I take full advantage of it. If anything feels a little off I set an appointment online, drive less than 5 miles to the hospital within thirty minutes I usually have an answer.

So I made an appointment with my doctor and he gave me a referral to the Sports Med department. When I met up with the doctor I was relieved to find out that she was an active runner who also happened to be tall (we’re not exactly built to be runners).

After chatting with the doc and having her examine my flexibility (awful), running technique (not too bad) and my hip for a few minutes and she told me something that has completely changed the way I feel before, during and after running. The amazing yet simple thing she told me about was the foam roller and if you’re a runner and don’t know anything about it, listen up.

The foam roller is that longer tube-looking hard foam thing that’s usually sitting in the corner of where people stretch in a gym. I had seen one a million times but I never knew what it was used for. I also had never seen anyone else using it either so I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a clue. Now I know just how awesome the foam roller is and what we’ve all been missing out on.

A foam roller can be used on all different parts of your body but the main thing it does is use your own body weight to roll out tension and other stuff that’s built up in your muscles and tendons. The main thing that the doctor told me to work on was my IT band (iliotibial band) which is a thick and strong tendon that connects your hip to your knee that provides your leg with stability.

IT band
Meet your IT band. 

Apparently over time runners who are increasing their distances put a real beating on the IT band and sometimes it gets a little angry and becomes injured. This is not something that you want to happen as a runner. Not only can the IT band itself become sore but pushing it too far without taking care of it can also cause other injuries to your knees and yep, you guessed it — your hips. (One other thing is that sitting down all day keeps your IT band tight, too so I am basically giving mine a double-whammy).

Your IT band is nearly impossible to stretch so really the only way to work on it is to use your body weight and a foam roller to loosen it up. The first few times I used one of these foam rollers I felt really awkward and rolling it up and down my legs was pretty painful. But, like with anything else, I figured out how to best roll myself on top of it and I now welcome the temporary pain in exchange for knowing it’s keeping me healthy long-term.

I use my foam roller almost every day now — both after running and after my Muay Thai/boxing classes. It’s done wonders for keeping me running pain-free and I haven’t felt anything from my hip in weeks. If you run or if you’re active I highly recommend getting yourself a foam roller, too. It’s the best $30 bucks you’ll ever spend.

If you’re wondering now to use one of these foam rollers head over to YouTube, there are a ton of videos like this one that will help you future it out in no time.

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Conditioning, Strategy and Understanding My Love For Muay Thai

Muay Thai

I’ve only been taking Muay Thai and boxing classes for a couple of weeks now and it’s incredible how much I look forward to them. Last week was my first full week of running, Muay Thai and boxing and even though I was exhausted by Friday night I felt amazing.

There’s no doubt that training at a gym like Fight and Fitness gives me a good workout. It’s an hour of non-stop moving around on your toes while punching, kicking kneeing and elbowing stuff so there’s no denying the cardio I’m getting. But even beyond that there’s something about what I’m doing for the hour I’m in that gym that’s different than most workouts I’ve done before.

While still trying to catch my breath last night after a workout I was unraveling my wrist wraps and I introduced myself to one of the few women I’ve seen at the gym consistently. Her name is Wendy and from what I’ve seen of her in action I should probably stay on her good side.

“How long have you been fighting Muay Thai?”, I asked her.

“It’s been about ten years on and off.”, she said. “I just moved to California not too long ago and I always end up at a gym like this. I don’t really have a choice at this point, I really love it.”

I started digging into why Wendy, a fairly unassuming and petite middle-aged woman was so into a full contact workout like Muay Thai. What she told me was really interesting and explains why I feel so drawn to it.

“I can go out for a run and all I really have to think about is right-left-right-left and how I’m going to get back home. It’s a great workout but there’s no real challenge beyond how far can I go without getting too tired. It’s a nice workout but I need more than that.”

I thought this made a lot of sense and wanted to hear more.

She continued, “With Muay Thai I’m always learning and thinking about what I’m going to do next. It’s a great workout but that’s a distant second to the technique, discipline and thought process I go through every time I put on the gloves and train or spar with another fighter.”

This was just the answer I was looking for. There’s something about not only working out but thinking, learning and getting yourself into shape all at the same time. When I used to play basketball there was a lot of this going on. I was running up and down the court, jumping around and getting a fantastic workout in while I was playing the sport. But the conditioning I got from the sport was just a prerequisite for the strategy and thinking that’s required to play the game.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Learning and using my head while doing my best to punch or elbow someone else’s has become my ultimate workout. I didn’t know I’d feel this way about Muay Thai and boxing but I’m really glad I gave it a shot. If you’re looking for a similar type of workout I suggest you try it, too. If you have any questions I’m far from being an expert but I’ll help you out any way I can.

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The Big 3-3 And What This Last Year Has Meant To Me

Happy 33!

First question, when did I hit 30? Second question, am I really 33 already? According to my Facebook wall, random texts from Congo and future phone calls from friends and family it’s true so who’s to say otherwise? Ok, I’ll admit it — I’m creeping into my mid-30s. I guess the only thing that’s good about this whole “getting older” thing is that this past year was most likely one of the most positively transitional times of my life. Meaning, even though there was plenty of struggle for me in the past 365 days (you have no idea), last year was amazing to experience and I feel more blessed now than ever. In other words, I’m pretty sure I’m in my prime.

So what are some of the thing that have made my last year so valuable to me? I’m sure I could write a million things and go page after page but none of us really want that. We’re all busy people with limited time, which is why I’m happy to give you a Cliff Notes version instead.

To all of my friends and family who have been there for me over the past year, you’ll never have any idea what your love and support has meant to me. I love you and I hope you already knew that without me having to tell you in a blog. Moving on…

Learning what loving someone really means. There are plenty of ways to show that you love someone but the most powerful way is by doing what you know is right and fighting for what you believe. Always keeping someone happy isn’t loving them. Being honest, sacrifice and never letting go is love to the fullest.

Studying the Bible. I’m a strong believer that if I’m going to put my faith in Jesus Christ then I had better know what I’m signing up for. The Bible is the center of following Christ and although I feel a strong spiritual connection I didn’t feel like I knew enough about the word. To learn more about it I’ve been going to Bible Study Fellowship in SF for the past few months and it’s been a great way to dig deeper into my faith.

Becoming a morning person, for real. I’ve never been a morning person but as I got older and had more responsibility I felt like getting up early was the only option for squeezing in everything into one day. It’s been tough and I don’t always stick with it (like when I was in Indiana for the holidays) but I’m not well aware of the amazing benefits getting up at the crack of dawn and it’s becoming more of a habit every day.

Meeting Mo. Wow, what can I say about Mo other than the fact that he’s been one of the biggest blessing’s I’ve ever had in my life. If you would have told me that becoming friends with someone who’s homeless would end up shaping me into a man more than everything else in my life combined I would have called you crazy. The work that God is doing on Mo is nothing short of a miracle and how the relationship has challenged me personally isn’t too far behind. Of course, the fact that our story went viral all over the world was pretty crazy, too. That’s still hard to believe.

Realizing the value of real relationships. My entire life it’s been really easy for me to become friends with lots of people. What hasn’t always been easy for me is creating strong, personal and meaningful relationships with the people in my life who really matter most. This past year of my life I’ve focused on taking the time and making the effort to show those who mean the most to me how much I love them and all I hope is that they’ve noticed.

My connection to Congo. I’m really not sure how it happened but somehow, someway I’ve developed an amazing connection to Congo and the amazingly beautiful people who live there. Traveling there for the second time last year was an incredible experience for me and the time I was able to spend with my Congolese brothers and sisters is something I hold very dear to my heart. If you haven’t seen me dancing while in Congo I suggest you take a look, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I have a feeling my story with Congo isn’t close to being over and I can’t wait to see where God takes it next.

Seeing isocket grow into a real company. A little over three years ago I was the first employee at a small, unknown online advertising startup called isocket. I had no idea what I was doing and I knew nothing about the online advertising world but for some reason I felt like what we were doing was important and that our fearless leader, John Ramey knew exactly what he was doing. A couple rounds of funding and about fifteen more employees later we’re building a business that’s leading what’s predicted to be a multi-billion dollar market.

Killing caffeine. I’ve tried to kick the habit of downing Big Gulps full of Dew, brewing K-cups and heading to Starbucks but I always came back. A month or so I ago I decided for the last time that I’m done with caffeine and this time I’m sticking with it. When I’m in shape I don’t need it, I don’t like feeling dependent on it and it only makes me more anxious and over-energized anyway. If you know me you already know I’ve got plenty of energy to burn so cutting out caffeine was really the only option for me.

Dedicating time to writing. I guess this is becoming more apparent as I write more posts like this one you’re reading right now but I’ve been writing more than ever over the past year (and especially over the past couple of months). It’s a great way for me to get my thoughts together and I’m a believer in the power of sharing experiences with others as a way to help them with the things they’re dealing with in their lives. We were never meant to go through things along and getting my thoughts and experiences out to the world can only help.

I’m sure I missed some stuff but these are the handful of things that immediately came to mind when thinking back at all of the awesome things that have happened to me during my thirty-second year on this crazy planet of ours. I’m feeling great going into my thirty-third and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you have anything you would like to share with me on my birthday, I’d love to hear from you. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop in and spend time in my little corner of the internet and I can only hope that your past year was as fun and fulfilling as mine. Happy birthday to me and we’ll catch up soon.


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The Second Week Struggle Of Getting In Shape

You're almost there

Last week was both awesome and tiring for me. I finally got back into the groove of going to bed early, waking up early to run and I even threw in my first Muay Thai lesson to mix things up a bit. All of that madness combined with work, relationships and everything else I’m doing during the week resulted in me being exhausted by the time the weekend arrived. But I’ve done this long enough to realize that this feeling isn’t going to last and that the amount of mental exhaustion I felt last week is going to be matched by physical exhaustion this week.

I’m not really sure why this happens but there’s really no getting around it when you’re building up your mind and muscles to get into shape. The first week is exciting, fun and more tiring that you’re used to. When you’re just getting back into shape you struggle more with the mental than the physical. Finding the time for working out and getting up early/following your schedule is the hardest thing to get used to in the beginning. The physical side is just along for the ride and runs on the endorphins and excitement that comes along with following through with your workout plans. It’s an amazing feeling.

Once you make it through the first week you’re going to feel tired but accomplished. The first week is over and you did what you planned to do, which feels amazing. But then comes the second week, which is where it’s easy to fall out of the habit that’s not quite started yet.

When you workout for your second week it’s going to be a little bit easier to handle the mental stuff like going to bed on time and following your schedule like you’re supposed to. The physical side of things aren’t going to be so easy. Your muscles will be sore, you’ll feel more achey than usual and just overall your body isn’t going to feel like keeping the workout train moving. This isn’t going to last long and it’s like your body’s last way of really making sure you’re in this thing for the long term. Your body wants to be in shape but it’s not easy on either of you and this is it’s way of keeping you in check.

How serious are you? Are you going to push through the second week? That’s all your body really wants to know and if you answer yes, you’ll find that the third week and beyond will only get easier. You’ll be pushing yourself harder and farther but you’ll be ready for it and your body will keep up with whatever you give it. The human body is amazing that way and before you know it you’re up to the magic 5 mile mark and after that you’ll be running half marathons with no problem. Personally, week 3 can’t get here soon enough but I need to make it through this second week of struggling first. But the good thing is I know it’ll be worth it and now I hope you now realize that, too.