Friday, April 4, 2014

Five on Friday

This weekend is the 10th Annual Brittany Willis Memorial Soccer Showcase, an event I’ve posted about before.  One of the most important aspects of this tournament every year is the awareness it brings to the topic of self-defense.  Prior to the summer Brittany was killed I was completely na├»ve about personal safety, and the experience of both losing such a close friend and of feeling unsafe was completely overwhelming and terrifying.  Educating myself about self defense and minimizing risk helped me to overcome this fear and I feel very strongly about urging everyone- but especially women- about this topic.  So, in honor of the Brittany this weekend I thought I’d share the top 5 things I’ve learned about self-defense for 5 on Friday. 

Don’t allow yourself to be taken to a second location.
We’ve all seen movies and TV shows where someone is kidnapped and complies with requests throughout the ordeal before they’re eventually saved or released.  In reality, your odds are much worse once you are taken to a second location.  Additionally, you are much more likely to be a victim of other crimes (e.g., rape) before you are killed. 

Create a scene.
This goes along with not allowing yourself to be taken to a second location.   Scream, honk the horn, wreck the car, do whatever you can to attract attention to yourself—and as a result, the offender.  When someone comes up to you with a weapon and says they’ll kill you if you scream we like to think we can just comply and hope for the best.  In reality, they’re much less likely to actually kill you when you draw attention to them because their first instinct will be to escape.  Additionally, you’re much more likely to receive help if you’re injured at the scene of the attack rather than wherever they take you.

Have a plan.
Noone wants to think about being a victim of an attack, and certainly you could slip into a spiral of causing yourself more stress than the benefits of being prepared would bring you, but a certain amount of forethought can be beneficial.  Think of it in terms of athletic training—you practice skills in isolation, visualize yourself carrying out the skills in a real situation and then actually compete.  Building fluency is the same with any skill you are learning and if you are ever in a real attack situation your problem solving skills will be compromised from fear and you’ll need to rely on procedural memory to respond appropriately.   

Create habits.
On a daily basis there are simple, easy to carryout behaviors you can build into your daily life.  Lock your car doors as soon as you get in, scan the area as you walk to your car or door, hold your keys with the biggest key in between your fingers (to be used as a weapon), don’t talk on the cell phone as you’re walking to your car/door, etc.  At first you’ll have to consciously think about doing these things, so you could start with one change.  As you do it every day it will become second nature, making a situation where you’re busy or distracted and forget to do them much less likely.  Locking my car doors the second I get into the car has become so habitual to me that I often lock my husband out of the car before he has a chance to even get in.

Fight dirty.
I’ve taken a few self-defense classes and not once did I learn to punch someone in the face because let’s be real-I’m probably not going to cause any damage that way.  Furthermore, people expect a punch in the face and will be much better prepared to defend against that.  I know everyone likes to think a swift kick to the privates is the way to go, but again that’s an expected move.  Personally, in my mind my go-to move would be jamming my thumbs through someone’s eyeballs.  Disgusting, yes, but very likely to be effective and doesn’t require a lot of strength or skill.  That person is most defiantly going to be shocked and their hands will fly to their face, allowing me a chance to run.   Yanking hard on sensitive areas could be a good call too—don’t think just of traditional attack points-for example, armpits are pretty sensitive.  This all goes back to number three-you’re not going be doing a lot of problem solving so have a plan to turn to when in crisis.       

Friday, February 7, 2014

Recent Binges (Five on Friday)

If you're anything like me you've been in deep hibernation mode ever since that ball dropped over a month ago in an effort to both recover from holiday craziness and to avoid the wet, cold weather most of the country seems to have been experiencing.
It's unfortunate such a hibernation period comes at the same time many shows are on hiatus due to the abundance of awards shows and sporting events this time of year also brings.
Fortunately, there's a Roku for that.

While waiting for my regular shows to return I've been binge watching some pretty awesome shows you should check out if you haven't already.

{One} The Newsroom
The Newsroom follows a popular news anchor who after what can only be described as the best and most honest rant to ever grace television is teamed up with his ex-girlfriend executive producer and embarks on what he calls a "mission to civilize".  Together they work to return to a time when journalists were revered and change the way we interview political candidates to better inform voters by cutting out candidates opportunity to deceive the public.  This is without a doubt my new favorite show and I just can't get enough.  Check out the amazing rant from the opening scene to get a taste of the honesty found in this show.

{Two} Game of Thrones
I was a little late to the party on this one, partly because sci-fi type stuff generally isn't my cup of tea and partly because I tried to read the first book in the series and there were so many names I couldn't keep track of everyone.  Over the summer my sister's boyfriend had us watch a few of the first episodes while pausing it often to remind us who was part of what family and I guess that was the push I needed to finally get all the names straight.  Once you know the families and the history it gets so much more interesting.  Most of it seems more like a medieval society than a fantasy world, but as my brother says there's about 10-15% of it that you just have to accept and move past if you tend to struggle with fantasy.  I will say though, the dragon babies creeped me out at first but they're pretty cute after awhile. Obviously the best part of the show is the direwolves, though (and Jon Snow).

{Three} Modern Family
I could watch the same episodes of Modern Family over and over and still find them hilarious.  I'm so happy to see that the show hasn't fizzled out as some of the kids have gotten older and the comedy has remained on point.  We have some of the previous seasons on DVD and we'll just pop them in to have playing in the background as we do chores and periodically call out quotes to each other as we walk through the room.  If someone finds a copy of Phil's-osophy, send it my way.

{Four} The Mindy Project
I just caught up with this season and now it's on hiatus until APRIL.  The horror, I know.  I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? over the summer and fell in love with Mindy Kaling so it's no surprise I adore this show.  I love how adorably clueless she is about some things while simultaneously being so sure about herself (the Mindy in the show).  She's so incredibly lovable that she's able to say things that coming from anyone else would sound offensive and it makes for amazing comedy.
{Five} Ally McBeal
You've just got to love a good throwback.  While I was hanging on the edge of death a few weeks ago I came across Ally McBeal on Netflix and had to relive my childhood sick days.  Looking back this show must have been way over my head when I used to watch it on days home from school but I loved it then and I still love it now.  If you don't remember the show, Ally starts a new job at a law firm where it turns out her ex-boyfriend (who she's still in love with) and his wife also work.  She's awkward, lovable and completely neurotic and surprisingly still one of the more sane employees at the firm.  This isn't your typical courtroom drama-this firm seems to only get hired for bizarre cases by even more bizarre clients and never takes itself too seriously.  Every episode also makes me really miss the soundtrack I used to blast on my boombox while re-organizing my Trapper Keeper.  Oh, those were the days...

What shows are on your binge list?  Punxsutawney Phil says we have six weeks of winter left so I could always use a good recommendation...


Monday, February 3, 2014

January Lazies

For how confident and hopeful we feel going into January it has to be without a doubt the laziest month of the year.
I'd really love to see any data Netlix collects on peak usage times as I'm quite sure I've watched more Netflix in the past month than in all the other months of the past year combined.  

Dan and I spent a solid week really sick, kicking off the season of laziness.
Then two weeks in a row we had snow that in North Carolina amounts to being quarantined. 
By the time this weekend rolled around we felt our brains would finally just give up on us if we didn't get out of the house and pull ourselves away from the TV.

Although we've been researching for a few months now and Dan's been talking about it for years I feel like our need to finally do something worthwhile played a major role in finally pulling the trigger and getting Dan a new car. 

While I'd love to say that little outing propelled us into a new and productive version of our winter selves car buying, as it turns out is exhausting.
After four hours at the dealership we both had major headaches and really the only thing to do at that point is resume a marathon of The Newsroom.


Thursday, January 30, 2014


As has been mocked covered extensively in the news this week we don't get a lot of snow around here so when it happens it is a Big Deal.
Our city has pretty much shut down after Tuesday night sleet coated our roads with about an inch or two of ice followed by several inches of snow on top. 

Dan has been working from home while I have watched an embarrassing amount of Game of Thrones and Newsweek.
 In between conference calls Dan joins me to bundle up and play in the snow for 10 minutes here and there since let's be honest-we're Southerners and can't handle this 5 degree weather for longer than 10 minutes at a time.  


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Spinning-A Beginner's Guide

It took me quite some time to work up the nerve to walk into my first spinning class but almost a year later (and now going 3-4 times per week) I'm so glad I finally did.  I had this vision of an incredibly difficult class that would leave me stumbling out of class midway through with shaky legs and a dizzy head.   It turns out though spinning is what you make of it.  You control the resistance and every instructor I've had has said your goal the first class is just to make it through.  If you're not up for something, just spin on a light resistance and catch up with the class on the next song.  

That said, there's a lot of unknown before walking into that first class, so I thought I'd do a post on my experiences in spinning.  I'm no expert and your experiences may be different than mine but this is what I've learned over the past year. 

An instructor's personality (and their playlist) can make or break a class. My favorite instructor has both a great personality and a great playlist.  She makes a point to know the name of everyone in her class each week and for regulars remembers little things going on in their lives and asks about them.  She gets us talking to each other and keeps us entertained throughout class to distract from the grueling workout we've chosen to endure.  Her playlist alternates between classic rock, pop, country and 90s alternative and the songs match perfectly with what we're doing at the time.  There are other instructors that have either a good playlist or a good personality that keep me coming back, but without one of those factors the class is shot.  Obviously everyone's idea of a good playlist/personality is different, so try out different instructors.  There is a core group of about 3-4 of us that go several times a week with different instructors but every instructor seems to have their group of followers, making every class really different. 

Speaking of that playlist, music is crucial to a spinning class.  Throughout a song you'll rotate among a lot of different moves and with a good instructor those moves will feel natural based on what the song is.  Most instructors provide a break between every song where you'll grab a sip of water (BRING WATER), wipe yourself down with a towel (BRING A TOWEL) and they'll give you an overview of what you're doing during the next song.  I do have one instructor that doesn't break between songs but provides a song every now and then that's a break.  
There are three positions utilized in spinning and different instructors call them different things.  My favorite is a simple 1, 2 and 3.  1 is pretty simple-seated (aka "in the seat", "in the saddle").  The way you would sit on any other bike- it's pretty self explanatory.  Position 2 is standing and again pretty simple, the way you would stand on your bike as a kid trying to get up a hill.  It becomes a little easier because you have your body weight helping you push the pedals down.  Position 3 is the hover position and not quite as natural.  You're standing, but hovered over the handlebars.  I see a lot of people lay their arms out across the handlebars and rest their heads in their arms, but really you're not supposed to have weight in your hands.  They're just there to help you balance (this is true of all the positions, but it's much more natural to keep your weight out of your hands when seated or standing).  Your buttocks is supposed to be back far over the seat and, along with the backs of your legs, doing all the work.  Your back is straight.   

One of the main changes you make throughout a spinning class is to the amount of resistance you're using, controlled by a little knob on the bike.  Turn it to the right, things get harder, to the left, things get easier.  Amount of resistance is expressed in terms of percentages, with 10 representing 100% of what you can handle.  Meaning, when you reach a 10 your legs might stop.  Having the resistance off completely is rare because the feel of a flat road is really a resistance of about 2.  Everyone's resistance is different-obviously what is 100% for me is different than what is 100% for Lance Armstrong (with or without pharmaceutical assistance).  Most instructors will tell you a resistance to start off with but then change it in terms of "turns", as in "give me one turn" during which you either wholeheartedly turn that dial or you nudge it a bit and pretend your hand made a full revolution.  It's really all up to you how much you want to push yourself.  During my first few classes I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I got halfway through a song and realized we still had a lot of increases and snuck that dial back on one of those turn ups. 

Now, onto a little of what you'll actually be doing during class.  If you're like me you're wondering what exactly there is to do on a stationary bike stuck inside a gym for an hour that people actually enjoy.  I didn't know what to expect-are we going to sprint for an hour? I'll die.  Are we going to visualize rolling hills and beautiful mountains?  No thanks.  
It turns out there is quite a lot you can do on a bike.  The following make up the bulk of classes I've been to, done in different orders and combinations so every class is different and you're never doing too much of the same thing.

These are pretty simple and make up a decent portion of the class.  The instructor will guide you through gradual increases, changing positions throughout to adjust to the added weight.   

Periodically throughout those resistance increases you'll be asked to "attack", which means to pick up your speed-not to a full sprint but to a point that would be difficult to maintain throughout the whole song.  These can happen at any point with any resistance and in any position, but usually correspond with an exciting part of a song.  

Go all out.  Your legs will feel like jello immediately following a sprint and it takes awhile to get control back to fully slow down.  You need to get the resistance just right for a sprint-if it's too high you won't go fast but if it's too low your booty will bounce all over the seat, so that's not good.  It's hard but will only last for 10-20 seconds at a time.  

This is alternating between sitting and standing.  Usually we'll start out doing these in 8 counts (8 sitting, 8 standing, repeat) then move to 4 and finally 2.  I still have trouble keeping up with the 2 counts as you're moving from sitting to standing very quickly while trying to get in a good rhythm with rotating your legs on the pedals to do this smoothly.  Nobody's going to point and laugh at you if you stick to 4 counts while the rest of the class does 2.  

Crazy Jumps
Okay, so your gym might not do these because I'm pretty sure my favorite instructor just made these up but they've really caught on at my gym and other instructors are doing them too.  It's the same as jumps, but with the 3rd position added in.  So you go from seated to standing to hover to standing to seated, then repeat, again in counts of 8, 4 then 2.   It's weirdly fun and one of my favorite parts.  Start a trend at your gym!

Oh, isolations.  My least favorite part of spinning.  These are usually done standing, but I've seen it done in a hover position too.  For this you only move from the waist down while keeping your upper body perfectly still.  It's much harder than you'd think and usually only done for about 20 seconds at a time.  Those 20 seconds feel like 2 minutes and your legs are burning as you wait to hear the glorious words "bounce it out", meaning you can return you a more natural way of riding that bike.  Some show offs even do these quickly, backwards and without hands.  

These are pretty cool, but I only have one instructor that does them regularly.  For this you start pedaling with just one leg while the other just kind of rotates with the pedal but all your weight is in the other leg.  You gradually speed up until you're going as fast as that one leg will let you go before both legs take over at the top.  Then you switch legs so the previous ride along leg has the task of taking over the pedal and slowing it down.  Repeat with the other leg starting first.  

Oh, one last thing...

The Dirty Secret
At first your bum will hurt.  A lot.  They make pads to go over the seats so they're softer but I don't think they're worth it in the end.  My gym keeps some in a bag and people from class who have tried them say they didn't really help.  What does help is time (ah, such is life).  Every class it'll hurt a little less, then only in the beginning and finally it will stop hurting.  When I first started taking class I thought I must be doing something wrong.  Then I started catching whispers from other people in the class about the progress they'd made with their buttocks hurting less and less before finally one brave instructor announced to the class that yes, it's painful at first but eventually you take enough classes and it no longer hurts.  Admittedly, that terrified me at first.  Why does it stop hurting?? Do you lose feeling?  Am I permanently damaging my lady parts?!  I've done some research on spinning classes, particularly if it's safe during pregnancy (spoiler alert: it is) and it turns out you're not doing permanent damage.  It's just one of those things that you get used to and it stops being a problem.  In the beginning you'll just really appreciate positions 2 and 3 :-) 

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