Frank Beall’s US TAI Karate

This week I went to a martial arts class for the first time in 15 years.

I took kung fu for about three years when I was in high school. I still look back on class as some of the best–and worst–times of my life. I accomplished a lot, learned a lot, and was in great physical condition. But I was very down on myself in high school, and that affected my happiness with myself and how I was progressing in class. When rising costs and other factors caused me to quit my junior year, I didn’t seek out another class.

When I first moved to Augusta in 2003, I searched online for local martial arts schools without much success. I actually found an essay written by a female soldier who was highly unimpressed with the classes she’d investigated here, and that turned me off towards local schools. I thought about simply practicing the things I’d learned in kung fu–back then I still had my notebook with detailed information and instructions–but I never ended up doing so. The most martial arts have been in my life in the last 15 years has been through movies and the occasional pondering on situational self-defense.

Now, seven years later, I seem to have found a good school: Frank Beall’s US TAI Karate. My friend Brandon from work trained under the late 10-dan black belt and TAI Grandmaster Virgil Kimmey, Sensei Beall’s teacher, back when he was a kid. He’d thought about it off and on ever since, and last August he started back again at Sensei Beall’s dojo.

Last week I watched a class to see what it was like, and this Tuesday and Thursday I participated, in blocks and katas respectively. Obviously I couldn’t expect things to be the same as my old kung fu class, but enough of the core values are the same that I felt very comfortable there.

Senseis Beall and Long both create an environment of respect and diligence. They are also quite obviously experts in their art. Both are black belts, but nowadays that rank seems to mean less and less. In watching them execute various movements and simply observing their general bearing, though, it’s apparent that they’re the real thing. Instant reaction time, fluid, efficient, strong. And when they teach, they explain exactly what they’re doing and why, they’re very patient, and they pay close attention to students, answering questions and correcting form.

On Thursday I was especially pleased when Sensei Long said movements in forms should be executed just as they would be in a match–full strength. Too often I see martial artists flowing through their forms without putting any power into the punches. To me, that defeats the purpose of learning forms. Forms are pretty and impressive to watch, but the main purpose is to build muscle memory. If your muscles remember weak movements, you’re going to be in trouble in a real fight.

It’s kind of rough going directly from work to karate, but I’ve felt so good this week. At this point I’m leaning towards formally joining the school.

Attending this class has brought back a flood of memories and sparked much thought about martial arts. I’ll be writing more on this soon.

New plan: Simplify

Looking back, my weight loss efforts have all had one thing in common: complexity. I tried to adhere to a regimen that didn’t lend itself to a non-stressed schedule, and to a detailed tracking of everything I ate that, while effective, was inconvenient and time-consuming. Every time I’ve tried anything like this, I’ve slipped out of the regimen and dietary tracking and gained weight back.

I’m always euphoric whenever I start a new weight loss plan, filled with motivation and certainty that this time, it’ll work. That’s why when my friend Mari told me once that she didn’t want to try to track what she ate because she knew she’d never keep it up, I thought, “That’s fine for you, but I will keep it up, and I’ll lose weight!”

I think I’m finally coming around to her point of view.

A person’s drive only lasts so long. Then, once it’s over, it’s way too easy to slip, or to just stop. You feel terrible, but it seems like so much work to get back into it that you give up. I personally tend to get bored with an activity after I’ve been doing it for a few weeks, and that makes it even harder to keep myself motivated.

Plus, an elaborate food and exercise tracking plan can be gamed. I’d work the numbers like crazy to try and fit in greasy food or sweet snacks. And exercise tracking never quite seems accurate; a tiny tweak of the numbers and the total calories burned can change by 100!

What I would like to try going forward is a simpler way of looking at food and exercise. Here’s what I’m thinking.


I would like to try to eat something every two or three hours. That something will just be one serving of one thing.

I’ve noticed that I tend to order a lot of different things at restaurants. This is because if I just have a lot of one food, I get bored. I’m going to try to use this to my advantage. If all I can eat at any particular moment is this one thing, then, paradoxically, perhaps I will eat less of it than I would if I also had other stuff to go with it. And even if not, I still will only be eating that one thing.

Under this plan, I will no longer eat big meals. When I go out to eat, I will order one a la carte item or side item. And I’ll have to get Sean not to make me a big dinner anymore–or eat the dinner he makes one item at a time over the course of several hours.

I will also try to eat more “good” stuff than “bad” stuff in any given day. I might get a chicken soft taco at lunch, but that’s cool as long as I’ve been eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy soups, etc. the rest of the day. I’ll try to eat more natural stuff and less processed stuff.

My hope is that since I’ll be eating every few hours, I won’t feel hungry, but because I’ll be eating smarter, I won’t be eating as much.


Instead of coming up with a specific exercise regimen, I will instead work towards the goal of 30 to 90 minutes of physical activity every day. This does not have to happen at the gym, and the time does not have to be consecutive. For example, I could do 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch, and 15 minutes in the evening for a 45-minute activity day.

Compared to the thought of going to the gym for an hour each morning, this sounds like a piece of cake. I really feel like this is a sustainable model.

Under this plan, I won’t worry about the type of activity I’m doing or how many calories I’m burning. Instead, I’ll pick fun activities and then work myself as hard as possible.


In order to make this work, I will have to do some planning. To eat every few hours, I will need to pack or purchase four to five items each workday. I may try setting specific eating times, but ultimately I think it’ll be easier to just note the time whenever I eat and make sure I have something else within the next three hours.

Bananas, yogurt, and pretzels are some examples of the types of food I can pack, but I know I’ve gotten bored with healthy snacks before, so I will need to try to have more variety.

To facilitate ongoing physical activity, I think I will need to break down and start keeping exercise clothes and shoes at work. It can be something of a hassle to remember to bring things home to be washed, but packing and bringing workout clothes each morning is unsustainable. Ultimately, having at least the shoes there will ensure I have no excuse to skip that day’s physical activity.

So that’s the plan. Wish me luck!

Run for it

Every so often after a workout, strong and accomplished during my cool-down, I’ll feel the lean, toned, powerful, fit body beneath all the fat. This morning I felt it as I strode back up the hill from my 5K training–a muscled stomach pulling my pelvic bones forward as my legs carried me solidly back home–and I was glad that despite the chance of rain, and despite wondering if my legs might be too fatigued, I’d decided to run today.

I’m into week 6 of Running Mate Media’s 5K 101 training program. This week consists of two 12-minute intervals of jogging each day. Last week I did three eight-minute intervals, and next week I’ll jump to three 12-minute intervals.

It has seemed during this program that Mondays, the first of three days of training, are always the easiest. Even though Mondays always involve a leap in intensity, I tend to feel energized throughout and almost overconfident when they’re over. By Friday, I can still do the workout, but there’s less excitement and more fatigue.

On Mondays, I’ve typically had two days of rest between training sessions. I usually try to go for a long walk or hike on Saturdays, but while that does work my legs, it doesn’t have the same impact as running. Sunday is my rest day, and I don’t work out at all. On Wednesdays and Fridays, of course, there’s only been one day of rest in between runs, and I’ve had cardio and strength training on those “rest” days. It’s possible that the continued effort begins to wear on me by the end of the week, and so the two-day break is what makes Mondays seem so easy.

However, this Saturday I actually participated in a 5K. It took about 50 minutes, so that’s roughly an average of 3.7mph, and I believe we ran about half of it, which is about the same amount of running I’d done on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This essentially means I had an extra day of running training last week…but yet again, today, Monday, I felt comfortable and confident and not at all overwhelmed by the jump to two 12-minute intervals.

I don’t want to discount the rest theory entirely, especially since I did have a day of utter rest after the 5K, but I think there may be another reason I feel fatigued towards the end of the week: boredom. I’ve never been the type to handle monotony well. By the time Friday rolls around, I have the music and the cues memorized, so it’s not as exciting as it is on Monday, when everything’s new to me. That may cause me to be more aware of how my body is feeling and less able to focus on the music or my pace or breathing.

Fortunately, so far I haven’t gotten so bored by the end of the week that I’ve given up. I’ve made it through each week of the 5K 101 program without stopping to walk when I’m supposed to be running, which means I haven’t had to repeat a week at all. I’m not sure I would have been that successful if there were more than three identical runs in a row, though.

The 5K 101 program only has eight weeks in it. Next week I’ll bump up to three 12-minute intervals, and the following week I’ll be running for a full half hour. That last week seems like quite the jump, but then, so does next week. I’m not sure how it’ll go, but I’m excited to find out.

I’ve been surprised at how long I’ve stuck with this training. I always hated running when I was younger. I’d get shin splints and stitches in my side within five minutes, and I’d be gasping and out of breath, and it always made me feel like a loser. I’m not sure what changed, other than perhaps I’m not trying to run so fast so soon. My pace is actually rather slow…but rather than worrying about that, I’m focusing on meeting the goal of completing this training program. Once this one’s over, I’ll find a new one to do–there are many running resources online now, available in iPhone applications and podcasts.

My running has jumpstarted my weight loss and fitness efforts, which had been stagnating since last Thanksgiving. I think having a real goal and a timeline and a guide through each step has truly helped, now that I’m beyond the point of simply becoming active. I hope to keep this momentum up through the rest of the 5K 101 program and whatever other systems I decide to try.

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After that low point with the cheeseburger, I just wanted to let you know that I’m redoubling my health efforts. (Again.)

I’ve been a member of SparkPeople since February, but yesterday I decided to really use the site. Here’s my SparkPage, which among other things lists my weight. Got to motivate myself somehow.

The fact that I can’t afford to eat out anymore is hopefully going to help me pack lunches regularly again. Aside from the burger slip-up on Tuesday, I have packed my lunches this week: frozen dinner on Monday, frozen dinner plus veggies on Wednesday, and today I crumbled the leftover hamburger from the dinner Sean made last night into some stroganoff noodles and packed some leftover spinach to go with.

I’m also going to make sure to work out in some capacity every day except Sunday. Yesterday I took a half-hour walk at Riverwalk over my lunch break. It wasn’t much, but it was far better than nothing, and it put me in a much better mood for the rest of the day. Tuesdays and Thursdays I see my personal trainer in the morning. My trainer is going to give me a yoga video to do at home. I also have those TurboJam videos and my Wii Fit to keep things interesting. So I should have no excuse not to keep myself moving.

I’ve started over and failed so many times now. I hope using SparkPeople will make the difference this time, by giving me that extra push I need.

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I have been pretty lax in my weight loss efforts of late. I’ve been working out with my trainer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but otherwise I haven’t been doing much of anything, and I’ve been eating whatever I feel like eating. It shows, on the scale and in my clothes.

Shopping for jeans that would actually fit this morning gave me a good motivational idea. I could set up a schedule of when I can buy new clothes. Then, if that time arrives and I haven’t gone down a size, I won’t be allowed to buy any.

A tangible, specific goal like this–come down at least one size before the next shopping trip–would probably be better motivation than the generic “lose weight”. We all know how well that one works.

I just need to decide what a reasonable time frame would be.

Finally fall

I stepped out into a cool, lightly dewy morning with a bright yet unwarm sun and felt refreshed. N, I noticed, was wearing a zippered sweatshirt. I was in my usual stretchy pants and t-shirt, my bare arms already tingling.

It wasn’t long into this finally fall morning workout that N was tying her sweatshirt around her waist. Our bodies provided all the heat we needed as we walked, squatted, and kicked our way around the track. 50 leaning pushups and a quick jog later, we held plank on the ground, shifting our weight back and up through the core, breathing in the scents of water and soil. The damp grass left my hands raw.

I drove home with the window all the way down, my arm hanging out into long sought autumn air, and when I arrived I simply sat, watching the shadow patterns the gentle breeze spun through waving leaves on the wall.

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The amazing potential of Augusta Mall

Today I took a leisurely walk around the Augusta Mall. Outside, that is. The walk convinced me that the mall has some serious potential, if they would make a few key changes.

It took about 40 minutes to get around the mall. Unfortunately I didn’t use my GPS so I’m not sure of the exact distance, but since I was probably going 2.8 mph, we’ll say it’s roughly a one and three quarters mile walk. That’s a nice distance for people who are just getting back into shape, but long enough that people can do several circuits without getting immediately bored. 

However, there are places where walking is difficult. There are stairs in a few places that you’d have to go the long way around to avoid. And there isn’t always a sidewalk, so I had to occasionally make my way through parking lots or across the grass. I felt badly about the latter because the grounds at the mall are so beautiful–perfect scenery for a nice walk, with flowers, greenery, and lots of shady trees.

With that all in mind, I think the mall could benefit from designating a walking trail, perhaps in brick to match the existing outdoor promenade, with clearly-marked crossings and perhaps a tunnel or two for handicapped ramp access. This would not only enhance the storefronts of the larger shopping areas, but would also attract routine walkers to the mall.

People who might not initially be interested in shopping would be drawn to the scenery, safety, and convenience of walking at the mall. While walking inside the mall is possible, it’s not quite as appealing as being under the sun. It can get crowded, too, and interfere with store business. Creating a place right outside for walking would ease shopping traffic flow and give serious walkers more room.

The mall could then capitalize on the influx of serious walkers with water and sports drink vending machines, fitness kiosks, and signs directing walkers to healthy choices at the food court. They could even go a step further and offer a membership or pay-as-you-go gym right inside the mall. (There would probably need to be rules about showering before entering the mall proper.)

Another option would be to offer a full-service health spa, with massages and soaks and such.

Make the mall attractive in more ways than simply a place to buy things, and the people who come for one service might stay for another. The mall could become an oasis for Augusta living. 

It’s weight loss time

This week I have been much better about eating properly and working out, and I’ve lost about three pounds so far. I’m now using the Daily Plate at LIVESTRONG.COM to track my intake and exercise. It’s free and pretty robust. This morning I went through my day planner and input my weights for every month I had a record, then generated the following graph:

weight graph

I’m hoping I can draw some conclusions from this, or at least use it as motivation. One thing that is immediately clear is that when I lost 50 pounds last year, I lost it in a healthy way–slow and steady. That’s what I want to do now.

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Today’s workout

Normally I put my workouts on Twitter, but this one was kind of long so I figured I’d do it here.

  • 10 mins treadmill on interval mode, at 3.6mph
  • 2 sets of one minute bicep curls with 8lb weights
  • 2 sets of one minute tricep kickbacks with 8lb weights
  • 2 sets of one minute dumbbell rows with 5lb weights
  • 2 sets of one minute lateral raises with 5lb weights
  • 10 mins stationary bike on interval mode
  • 1 set of one minute bicep curls with 8lb weights
  • 1 set of one minute tricep kickbacks with 8lb weights
  • 1 set of one minute dumbbell rows with 5lb weights
  • 1 set of one minute lateral raises with 5lb weights
  • 3 sets leg presses with 130lb weight
  • 3 sets back extensions on machine (not sure what weight)
  • 10 mins AMT on interval mode (9 and 5)
  • 3 sets lat pulldowns on machine (not sure what weight)
  • 30 seconds of attempting to push up into tent position with legs on an exercise ball and hands on the floor
  • 3 sets of lying on my back tossing and catching a medicine ball
  • 60/50/50 crunches
  • 60/50/50 obliques
  • 25/25/25 back raises on floor
  • 25/25/25 knee pushups
  • 10 mins walk/jog on treadmill

I felt really good during this workout. In fact, I hit some crazy high while on the AMT and later on the treadmill. The first time I was so ecstatic I wanted to scream as loudly as I could, to let the universe know how awesome I was. The second time I not only wanted to scream, but I also had goosebumps!

After I finished running through that ridiculous routine, I showered off and got in the outdoor pool for a few minutes. They cleared the pool not long after I got in, so I got in the hot tub for a bit…and then I finally came home :)

This is the first time I’ve gone to the gym on Saturday. It was a great experience overall. There were times that I got kind of bored, but that euphoric feeling, and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment, make it worth it.

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Getting toned

I was looking back through my “health”-tagged posts and realized I haven’t talked about what I’ve been doing lately.

The last weight I recorded here on my blog was 217. I’m sorry to say that I’m up to 230. I know some of that must be muscle, but it’s still been hard to see that number show up every time I’ve weighed in the last few weeks. I wasn’t very vigilant about eating right while on vacation, and I didn’t work out, either. But now I’m back on track, and I’m hoping that a new workout routine, plus packing my lunches, plus Sean and my decision to eat more home-cooked meals, will result in some weight loss.

When I got back from England, it was the middle of the week. I decided to just not worry about anything other than unpacking, organizing, and getting resettled at work. I didn’t even see my trainer until the following Tuesday. But starting at that point I began to build some good habits.

Every weekday I have been getting up sometime between 6 and 7. On days when I don’t see my trainer I go to the gym earlier than 8 and do 20-30 minutes of cardio, some strength training with free weights and machines, then some ab and back work. If I’ve made it to the gym early enough, I then go swimming for a bit, and sometimes even have time to sit in the hot tub afterwards. I leave at 9, the same time as I leave when I do see my trainer, which gives me just enough time to get home, shower, pack a lunch, and head out the door.

The first week I was pretty good about packing a lunch, but last week I slipped and this week has been kind of stressful, so I ended up eating out more than I should have. Still, I’m proud that I haven’t missed a single workout on the weekdays. I’m hoping to start working out on Saturday, too, but at my trainer’s suggestion I’ll leave Sunday as a day of rest.

To save money, I’m quitting Weight Watchers and have started using The Daily Plate at to track my food and exercise. The UI isn’t great, but the food database is exceptional, and I can use the iPhone application without having to be online.

I’ve already noticed that my arms and legs seem more toned. My trainer says my waist is more toned as well. I can’t tell, but I hope it’s true! I think I’m on the road to making real progress, rather than just talking about wishing I was.

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Setting a routine

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I see my personal trainer at 8am. This causes me to adhere to a strict morning schedule. Unfortunately, on other days I am less rigid. On weekdays this means I might sleep in and not work out at all. On weekends I likely won’t do anything productive.

I’ve decided that the best way to make sure I’m on track each day is to set up a routine that I’ll do every morning, regardless of what day it is. I can then add items to my evening and weekend schedule as appropriate.

Here’s a rough draft of what I’m thinking:

7am-8am: Wake up, do a little reading, get dressed in workout clothes.

8am-9am: Work out, either with N or on my own.

9am-9:30am: Shower and pack lunch.

9:30am-10am: Commute.

10am-7pm: Work. Try to get in a photowalk at lunch :)

7pm-7:30pm: Commute.

7:30pm-9pm: Work on projects.

9pm-11pm: Goof off.

11pm-7am: Sleep.

Second measurement data

Submitted without comment (because I have no time and because I’m annoyed), here are my measurements from today alongside my measurements from last time.

Height (in) 63.3 63.3
Weight (lbs) 214 217.2 +3.2
Chest Girth (in) 45 45.25 -.25
Abdomen Girth (in) 40.75 41.5 +.75
Waist Girth (in) 40.5 40 -.5
Hips Girth (in) 49 49.5 +.5
Waist to Hip Ratio .83 .8265 -.003
Bicep Girth R (in) 14.2 15 +.8
Thigh Girth R (in) 26 25.875 -.125
Calf Girth R (in) 16.5 16.625 +.125
Body Mass Index (BMI) 37.5 38.4 +.9
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I was very “Oh, I’m so awesome!” in my New Year’s Resolution post, but since then I haven’t been awesome at all. I can place some of the blame on two unexpected periods, and some of the blame on cold weather that discouraged me from getting on the bike…but these are excuses, not reasons. The fact is that I have been lazy.

I’ve also been weak; the photos on this blog can attest to that. Look at all the crap I’ve been eating! I’ve fallen back into my old habits, where I feel bad, so I eat, and then I feel bad about eating, so I eat more.

If this doesn’t stop I’m never going to lose any more weight. In fact, I’ll gain it all back.

It’s gotten to the point that I hate looking at myself in the mirror. I haven’t felt this way in a long time.

I’m posting this in the hopes that it will serve as fresh motivation. Last week I started going to a personal trainer; we did measurements, and they are as follows:

Height (in) 63.3
Weight (lbs) 214
Chest Girth (in) 45
Abdomen Girth (in) 40.75
Waist Girth (in) 40.5
Hips Girth (in) 49
Waist to Hip Ratio .83
Bicep Girth R (in) 14.2
Thigh Girth R (in) 26
Calf Girth R (in) 16.5
Body Mass Index (BMI) 37.5
Body Composition
3 Site Skinfold 25.2%
Lean Body Mass 160 lbs
Sum of Skinfolds 67.5


Lately I have had a hard time maintaining healthy habits. I’ve been crushed by a need to lose more weight now, and that has locked me into a cycle of disappointment and bad choices. I tried to stay positive, but each day my weigh-in has made me more and more depressed. This last week, to avoid that feeling, I decided to only weigh in on Mondays…but I ended up making very poor food choices this week, including lots of chocolate and grease. I haven’t weighed in and I’m not looking forward to it.

I’ve decided that the only way to get out of this self-destructive pattern is a hard reboot. I need to just start over. I need to throw out the weight loss of 2008 as if it never happened, and start from zero. I need to eliminate the pressure of past success and focus on being healthy.

To that end, I am downloading an iPhone application called “Dietician”. I can enter my current weight, my goal weight, and what type of diet I want, and this application will generate recipes, a meal schedule, and shopping lists for me. Rather than feeling bad that I never have the time or motivation to create my own meal plan system, I can simply follow this application’s advice and start shopping and cooking smarter. Here’s a review of the app where you can get more information.

I am also going to start thinking about how to vary my workout routine more. For the past two weeks I’ve been trying to ride my bike every morning, but on days when it was too cold or I had muscle strain I ended up not doing anything. My plan now is to start working with a personal trainer at the Y and get a varied, targeted workout schedule set up.

I can’t just keep doing the same things, and I can’t let myself continue to be discouraged. It’s time for proaction. It’s time to reboot.

32 minutes

…to get from the golf course to the other end of the Greeneway.

Honestly, I'm kind of shocked. I thought it would be at least 40 minutes! I was pacing myself so I wouldn't use up all my energy, and I remembered that going from the Activities Center to the end and back took 45 minutes…so I figures the trip up would be something like 30 minutes plus the 10 it took me to get to the Activities Center from the golf course the other day.

I'm certainly not unhappy about my achievement, though!

It was a good ride. Like yesterday, it's cold, but not freezing. The Lands End fleece sweater Mom gave me over Christmas has kept me perfectly warm both days.

Well, now to head back down. Like yesterday I'll ride along the river. I'll probably have time for pictures too!