In-between Thoughts: HIITing the reset button

Thoughts between sets at the gym.

Whoosh, I took two weeks off from the gym and today is ROUGH. In some ways I feel stronger (breaks are where the muscle rebuilds!!), in others decidedly weaker. Oh muscles. You are quixotic little buggers.

I took some time off because I was performing a little experiment. I wanted to focus on my Insanity Max:30 for a few weeks to see how my body and mind felt. Even after just 2 weeks I realized it’s true – – Insanity is my soulmate workout. I feel and look my best when I’m making Insanity my priority workout. I just can’t do it every day because daily HIIT is really hard (in the bad way) for your muscles. Plus, I love my pullups! WITHOUT MY PULLUPS I AM NOTHING. So I am going to retool my workout schedule a little to prioritize Insanity and WORK my heavy lifting in during the gaps.

During those two weeks I read up a bit on HIIT workouts to make sure I do them safely. (Autocorrect tried to change this to “sagely” and honestly I almost kept it.) One thing I read helped me realize why I love Insanity so much and why it makes me feel so good. It requires such intense focus that it’s damn near meditative. I actually get to (mostly) turn off my anxious, swirling thoughts, and in fact have to in order to get through the workout. So after 40 minutes of that kind of focus and crazy effort I feel better in mind as well as body.

I think heavy lifting requires this kind of full focus, as well, but only for short bursts. There are comparatively long periods of rest in between sets (hence this little project) where the mind can and does explode outward. Just now I did 9 pull-ups and all I could think about during those 9 reps was all the strength and technique needed to get through every single one of those bundles of effort. But as soon as I stopped pulling up my mind was back to the mental races.

I’m being a little hyperbolic, as my mind is pretty focused on writing this post and on helping my body do a micro-recovery, but heavy lifting is definitely not as helpful a mind-quieting workout as HIIT.

On a macro level, I also realized I tend to go in phases with my workouts. I focus on heavy lifting for a while, then focus on Insanity for a bit, always with pull-ups and running involved somehow. I like that periodic change. It’s good for the body and for me maintaining interest in working out.

Oh, and in non-workout news, I am officially one week into my PhD program! I kind of can’t believe I’m doing this. It felt pretty abstract for a while but now I am staring down a rather intimidating set of requirements to fulfill and exams to pass, so reality has FULLY set in. Yikes. Luckily I am getting much better at planning well and then just focusing on whatever task is assigned for the day. Or for the week ahead. But I try not to fixate too much farther out. As long as I do my prep work to plan when I can get everything done, I know I have this. It doesn’t mean I’m still not mildly terrified, but what else is life for if not to take on slightly terrifying dreams?!

As usual, I think I am going to love what I learn this semester. I am taking a class on Zhuangzi and one on Kant. I turned in my first reflection paper on the Zhuangzi last night, and as usual I can’t decide if it offered anything useful or just obscured some truth with needless complication. The perpetual question of the grad student, made more acute for me in this assignment because I have such a shallow background in Daoism.

It is an amazing feature of this department that I can get as equal access to eastern philosophies as I can to western. And, as a fellow grad student pointed out, to the Pacifika philosophies traditionally ignored in that binary. Hawai’i is such a special place for studying philosophy and I feel a little overwhelmed at how lucky I feel to be here doing this.

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