Photo by Forest Call

The Chris Davis Project:  Week 11

Watch as Chris participates in a Bikram Yoga retreat where he is forced to face a new level of intensity in his training.  The heat takes its toll as Chris struggles to keep the room from spinning.

Also, below, be sure to read Chris’s writings where he goes into in detail about his week at the Bikram Yoga Retreat in Pittsfield and his time training with Margaret Schlachter of Dirt in Your Skirt.

Need to catch up on The Chris Davis Project?  Here’s Week 10.

6/25/2012

This weekend was a little different than most.  My weekend started out Wednesday night, as I was invited to attend the Vermont Bikram Yoga retreat with Lynn Whitlow.  We started the retreat with a 90 minute yoga session in the Bikram Yoga studio that is in front of Spartan HQ.  Before going to the retreat I have only had two previous sessions.  I can admit that I was nervous about how well I would do in a room of pros, but I did take some comfort in knowing that Jason Jaksetic (fellow Spartan) and Liz Cotter (the instructor at the yoga studio) were also attending the retreat.

That first class was rough, the room felt so hot compared to the previous classes that I had been in.  I think it was mainly due to the fact that we so many people in packed inside the studio. It was so hot that about half of the way through the class, I had to step out for about 5 minutes to catch my breath.   Once I got my body back under control, I headed back in and finished the class.  After the class ended Liz had green juices waiting for us.  There is nothing better than that after a Yoga session.   The green juice is basically a cucumber, green apple, and a lemon that is run through a juicer.

After class we headed to the Amee Farm Lodge for dinner.   They had set up one long table on the balcony for everyone to sit at and look out to the mountains.  For dinner Liz and Anthony Cotter had made up an incredible selection of vegetarian and raw foods for everyone to enjoy.  I can admit that this was one of the first times since getting here where my eyes were bigger than my stomach.   Everything looked so good, I could not believe it, and after filling my plate I headed out to talk with rest of the retreat attendees.  I can not tell you how nice it was to talk to new people in a social situation.  That is something that I have been missing since arriving here in Pittsfield.

On Thursday morning I got to sleep in because our first yoga session did not start till 8:30am.  Normally I am up by 5am so that I can be to Spartan Camp by 5:30am.  But not this morning, I got to sleep in till 7am.  It was such a nice change.  After waking up, I walked the mile down to the Yoga studio and meet up with everyone.  We talked for a bit as everyone showed up.  During the session, I started to feel better with my 26 postures, and this time I was able to make it through the entire class without having to leave.   Even though I did not leave I did have to sit for a bit and just focus on my breathing because the room started to spin – but not to the point where I had to get out.

After the session we stayed in the yoga session and had a posture clinic.  Basically we went though several of the postures, and people asked Lynn to help them understand the proper ways to do the postures.  I can not tell you how helpful this was for me as someone who is new to Bikram Yoga.   Everything happens so fast in a session, and you are only focused on the instructor’s voice and yourself – and not passing out.

After lunch Jason Jaksetic took us for a quick hike through the woods behind Riverside Farm as an introduction to the attendees on how to really enjoy being in nature, and how hiking is different depending on what the goal is.   Some people hike to get to a destination – for example, hiking to go to a waterfall or a rock formation.   This hike was different, for his goal was to help everyone just soak up the energy and natural beauty that is all around us in the woods – to take the time and look and notice the type of trees that Vermont has. I have walked on several of the trails around here and I had not paid a lot of attention.  For me, walking on trails has always been about making sure I had my foot in a good place, and my eyes fixed what’s coming up next.

After our hike, we headed back to town for our second Bikram Yoga session of the day.   This was the first time I had ever tried two sessions in one day.  It was brutal and great at the same time.  I found that I was able go through postures easier than in the morning session, but as the class when on, I found that I started to lose focus, and by the end of the session I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck and THEN run over by a freight train.  But I made it through my first double session in one day.   That is no small feat, especially for someone as inexperienced as myself.

We headed back to the Amee Farm Lodge where someone played a guitar and harmonica outside for us.  This has been the closest thing to a concert I have had since being here, and it was great.  I am a big fan of live music and have great respect for those who perform in front of others.   It is something I could never do because I have no rhythm – but I can live with that.

Friday morning  I started out by waking up early and going for a 1.3 mile walk before heading down to Bikram Yoga.  This morning session had me a little nervous because we were going to be doing a 2 hour master session instead of the normal 1 and a half hour sessions.  As it turns out a master session is no difference than a normal session other than that you are just encouraged to ask questions as you are going through the postures and we stop and answer the questions when they happen.  If you are new to Bikram Yoga, I highly recommend taking a few master classes. I learned a lot from this session about myself, I started to get into trouble with the room spinning again, but I worked through it and was able to hang in there.

Later in the day we headed out for our afternoon activity.  We headed up to one of the man made lakes and then broke up into two groups.   The first group was going to go for a  hike on the Appalachian trail to the Thunder Brook Waterfalls, and the second group was going to go out on a 1 hour kayak ride with Mark the Kayak King.   Then when we all got back we were going to swap.  As luck would have it I was in the group that went on the hike first.  It is incredible the how well the trail was marked, considering the trail goes from Georgia to Maine. It was a moderately difficult trail to navigate with a few water crossings and some steep sections, but we made it to the falls with only one problem- time.  We only had about 5 minutes till we needed to turn around, so since I knew I was the slowest one in the group, I took about 90 seconds to look around and eat a quick orange.  Then I let Jason know that I was going to start back early and not to wait for me because I knew that I was slowing the group down and I did not want to make them miss their kayak time.  About half of the way back people started to pass me, and by the halfway point I was at the back of the pack.   It took a while but I made it back to find that the second group was just getting ready to head out.  I checked my GPS and we had hiked 2.5 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Not too bad, at least for me.

Now it was time for me to try something that I have been wanting to do for a long time – go kayaking.  Mark the Kayak King’s shop is right next to the general store in town and we have talked several times about going out.  He knew that the boats would hold my weight but he was concerned about my center of gravity, and how that would affect the stability of kayak. The other concern is that I have a very weak upper body, for it is a part of my body that we have not spent much time with yet other than chopping wood.  So Mark asked me to wait to be the last one so we he could take some extra time with me.  So I sat back and watched one by one as everyone headed out.  No one had any problems at all.   Then it came to be my turn – was I going to be the one to flip over right away?

Well there is only one way to find out, so I got in and got ready.  Mark pushed me off and away I went.   It took about 60 seconds for me to remember all the time I spent in our flat bottom boat in Minnesota, and it was like coming back home.  I was completely comfortable in the kayak and I headed off for a great adventure around the lake.  It was so peaceful on the water, feeling the waves hit the side of the boat, it was like sitting in a familiar rocking chair.  It has been a long time since I was at peace with the world.  It is sad how fast time flies when you’re that relaxed.  Before I knew it, it was time to go.

We headed back to the Amee Farm Lodge, and that is when everything started to fall apart for me.  Everything started to spin, and I started to get sick to my stomach.  I had no idea what was going on.  I had been doing a real good job of making sure I kept hydrated, because of all the yoga, and other activity so I knew it wasn’t that.   Then it hit me, yes I had been drinking water, but I had not been replenishing my electrolytes.   It was at this point I knew I needed to do something fast.  Normally I would eat a pickle or two, so I tried one of the Emergenc drink packets that everyone else had been using to help them get through the session, and within a few minutes things started to return to normal, but I was completely exhausted.  So I sat in the Lodge and took a nap, instead of going to the second yoga session of the day.

After I woke up things were still a little off so I had another one and I felt even better almost normal again.   It took me a good 6 hours to shake that feeling,  but by the time I headed home I was feeling a lot better.   It is a little scary how something like the lack of electrolytes can mess your whole day up.  I am still new to all of this and I am learning the hard way, but at least I am learning!

Saturday morning I decided to skip my pre yoga walk and sleep in a bit to try and give my body a chance to recover.   When I arrived at the yoga studio, I could tell that my body was still not right from the day before.   But that is one of the things that Bikram Yoga teaches you that your body will be different every time you enter the studio, and to do the best that you can do.  So that is what I did.  I made it though about half of the session, and things just started to go bad, so I got out.   I was bummed that I did not make it through the whole session, but it just was not my day.

After class we had a second posture clinic, and like the first one I learned so much about what I was doing right, and what I need to work towards.   I now can see why it can take years to really understand how to do some of these moves correctly, and why it is so important that you really listen to the instructions and just follow them.  One example is when they tell you to look somewhere just use your eyes, do not turn your head.

Sunday was the last day of the retreat, and I was looking forward to the session because Liz Cotter was going to be our instructor today.  She was the first one to teach me Bikram Yoga, and I was interested to see how much more aware of my body I was compared to my first session with her.   I was surprised throughout the session because instead of getting more tired as things when on, I actually started to feel better, and stronger than when I arrived.  When class ended I had made it and I only had to rest on the second set of 3 postures, a new record for me.   To top it off I felt better at the end of the session than the beginning.

Photo by Forest Call

After I left the Yoga session I headed up to the General Store where I was kidnapped by Margaret Schlachter and Forest Call.   Ok ‘kidnapped’ may be the wrong word since we had been planning to meet up since the Death Race and play a round of disc golf.   For those who are new to disc golf, it is like normal golf, but the holes are these baskets with chains on them.   It is a great way to spend some time hiking through the woods, -especially if you bring a newb like me along.   When we started out I could not throw the disk in a straight line to save my life.  We spent a lot of time talking and laughing as we were trailblazing through the woods and swamps looking for the discs that we had tossed. By the time we made it to the last tee, my arms were killing me.  I really think that this is something I could see myself doing a lot more of over the next few years.  All I need is some discs of my own, and a lot of time on the course and I will be all set.

Next we headed to the world famous Dirt in your Skirt HQ, where I was introduced to Margaret’s secret weapon in training for Spartan Races -  her very own obstacle wall.   It is the Swiss Army knife of training walls.  That is where my real training session started.  We started out with the spear toss.  It is funny how bad I suck at this.   After trying for a while we took a break from the spears and we headed out for a hike. This is the first time since arriving here that I have gone on a hiking trip where there was no trail to follow.   It takes you a lot longer to get to your destination because you have to think about where you place every foot, instead of just following the trail.  We ended up at this little pond.  It was one of those ponds that, unless you’re a Death Racer, you would never think about jumping into. Then we headed back right though some blackberry bushes, and you know how much fun that can be.

Photo by Forest Call

Once we got back to HQ we looked at some of the photos we had taken and that is when Margaret notice that I was releasing the spear upwards instead of straight on, so we headed back to the training wall.  That is when things changed for me.  The spears started sticking into her target.   Slowly we started moving further and further back, but by that time my arms were exhausted, so we start doing some training for the log jump.  Margaret set out some blocks and we took turns jumping from block to block as if they were logs.  I am going to have to spend a lot of time on this if there is any chance of me getting through this obstacle on race day.   Part of the problem is my body is in a constant state of change because of the weight loss, so it really screws with my balance.

Now that we had that done, we headed over to the wall and she had me do one of Hobie Call’s exercises.   She had me toss a 25 lb sandbag over the wall then climb under it.  It sounds easy but it’s not, at least for me.  Think about trying to put 300 lbs of weight on your hands and knees and then crawl around.  It makes your knees very sore, very fast.  Next Margaret showed the best way to get over the wall and I gave it a try.   The key word here was ‘try’…  It was an epic failure.  But I kept trying a few times and I finally got to the point where I would grab the top of the wall.   But that was as far as I could go.   I’m sure as I keep coming over this too will change.   This is where my trip to Dirt in your Skirt came to an end.   Looking back on this workout, this was first time where I did a full workout that was actually fun, and something I am looking forward to doing again.    Sure I have fun splitting logs, but that is one activity, it is not a full workout like I experienced with Margaret and Forest.

If you ever get the chance to do a workout with Margaret DO IT!

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3 Responses

  1. avatar

    Your hike time was faster than the one I did yesterday. Mine was 2 miles in nearly an hour, and I’m just under 100 pounds lighter than you! My 28-mile bike ride and 2-mile hike yesterday were in nearly 100 degree heat with a 65 degree dewpoint and I had only had 1200 calories between breakfast, my snack at the coffee shop, and some candy on the trail. You REALLY gotta watch those electrolytes! I was about freaking out at mile 18 of my bike ride.

    You’re doing great, you’ve got some awesome trainers there! Don’t take them for granted! The stories you’re sharing about Bikram Yoga has me very interested.

    Keep it up!

  2. avatar

    you’ll get over that wall sooner than you think chris. There are hundreds of thousands of people believing in you out there possibly millions and we all know you can do it. you’re probably the strongest human being i’ve ever heard of!

  3. avatar

    It sounds like tons of fun! It reminds me of when I’d take off out my back door on Saturday when I lived in Kofu, packing nigiri for lunch and not come home until the sun was setting. Those were some beautiful mountains.
    I am recording some yoga on tv. I figure even doing the breathing can help me, and perhaps I can adapt some of the grounding poses using my past training. Now that we’ve moved into the new place my arms are getting quite a workout. Yep, the new apartment really is ADA compliant! What a joy :-}

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