That Time I Accidentally Signed Up For a Kaatsu Class in Japan
The only way I've been successful at working out is by going to group fitness classes. I love that someone else figures out what I will do for the hour and that the dynamic of having an instructor and a group pushes me further in my workout that I would push myself if I were to do it alone.
In the U.S, I fell in LOVE with ClassPass. I could travel pretty much anywhere, and for a monthly fee of a nice gym, I get access to the top specialized fitness studios in the area. It also forced me to do classes I wouldn't have even known to look for - such as Aerial Silks (which is amazing!!)! I also randomly did a Kandama class once, without having any idea what it was!
In Amsterdam and New Zealand, I was happy to see that MindBody worked. It's more expensive than ClassPass, but I was able to get good first-timer deals to attend various fitness classes. The most important part was that it was an easy way to just search for nearby fitness classes.
So when I got to Japan and MindBody wasn't available, I wasn't sure how I would get my exercise. Not to mention the fact that I don't speak Japanese! I looked up a yoga class earlier in the week on Foursquare, and found a promising-looking hot yoga class.
Turns out, the language is not that much of a barrier (even though they weren't sure about letting me into the class when they realized I don't know any Japanese!). But I've done yoga before, so I was easily able to follow along without feeling like I was putting myself in danger by doing the postures wrong. The added bonus was that I absolutely LOVED listening to the Japanese language during my class. So zen!
But I must mention here that every time I go to a new class, even in the U.S., it's a bit stressful. Will the exercise be too hard? What is the exercise? Is the studio nice? What are the rules / conventions? In San Francisco, I tended to stick to the same classes I was already comfortable and familiar with.
In a foreign country, that stress is magnified! I was terrified and nervous during my first pilates class in Amsterdam. In Japan, with a different culture, conventions, and not to mention language, this is all magnified to the extreme!
For example, when I went to the yoga class, I just walked in. But I was actually supposed to take my shoes off at the door and put them into a bag to put in my locker! This is a common tradition in Japan - even in a lot of restaurants. So it's not unfamiliar to me, but it's not something I realized as I walked into the yoga studio and headed straight to the desk to try to explain that I'm here for the class to someone who doesn't speak any English! I even accidentally bought 3 packs of a Japanese after-workout health drink thinking I was buying a deal of 3 workout classes . Luckily, the instructor spoke a little English, was able to show me the studio, and once the class started and I knew the poses, I was able to calm down and enjoy the exercise.
I really needed more of a bootcamp-type energy-burning class yesterday, but had no idea how to look for one! I considered just joining a regular gym and running on a treadmill, but it didn't sound great. Still, I thought I had no choice.
Luckily, my Japanese friend send me the Japanese version of ClassPass yesterday after I mentioned ClassPass to him when we met earlier in the week!!! It's called Lespas, and I signed up right away!
After looking for nearby classes, since I'm a bit out of the main downtown area, I found only one class that looked promising within walking distance. The pictures on the website include a woman lifting weights and boxing gloves. So bootcamp! Just what I'm looking for. I signed up!
When I got there, I realized it was a personal training session! And they realized I don't speak Japanese! So we went into a private room with equipment including a bench, weights, balls, etc. Looked like normal exercise training! And the trainer made a big effort to remember as much English as possible to try to explain things to me. I just figured he'd show me how to do stuff and I'll do it.
Well, turns out this was a Kaatsu training session! I know a lot about different fitness classes - since I've tried a lot of them - but I've never heard of Kaatsu. The trainer showed me the bands - tied them around his arms and indicated that there will be pain. I just went along with it! I thought it was some kind of fitness assessment where they're measuring my blood pressure or something.
Well, turns out Kaatsu is an exercise done while cutting off blood circulation . My trainer tied bands around my upper arm, very tight, and then I had to do things like 3 sets of pushups (30 then 20 then 15!), stretch a resistance band, and other exercises! My arms were starting to turn blue, but the trainer seemed to know what he was doing and indicated that this was normal... and that I didn't have that much time left to keep them on... It was definitely unexpected and not something I even knew about! I tried to ask about it, and the trainer explained in as much English as he could talk in, that this will stimulate the growth hormones and make that I'll have lots of muscles! Which sounded reasonable...
Next, he did the same thing to my legs (cut off circulation with bands at the top), and I did exercises such as slow squats and used a fun sliding machine to spread my legs in and out real fast!
I must mention that the whole time, the trainer was super encouraging and pushed me to keep going when it got intense. Turns out motivational language is the same regardless of the actual language you speak! It was amazing!
He then had me do abs, and later we went to another room to do some kickboxing, which I really really enjoyed! That was the more aerobic part of the workout! And since I've done aerobic kickboxing classes before, I knew what I was doing!! It was nice to let out my stress and frustrations this way!
Afterwards, I felt completely euphoric (yay endorphins!) and energized. I asked the instructor how often I should come back, and he said once per week. I'm definitely coming back next week!!!!
On the way back to my apartment, I couldn't help buy laugh out loud the whole time. Can't believe I did that, but it was great! It's not something I would have done if I'd known about it ahead of time, and as soon as I got back, I looked a lot more into it.
I really enjoyed the scientific explanations:
The key here is that by cutting off the blood circulation, you're tricking your body into thinking that it's doing A LOT more exercise than actually happened, triggering the growth hormones to release, building muscle really fast as a result!
I can collaborate that, especially since I woke up at 2am completely starving for food! Even though I ate a bunch yesterday. Oh and super energized and euphoric in what feels like a "fight or flight, what did you just do" state! It feels like the time I went sky diving - my body was on alert "what just happened" mode. I can totally feel my muscles already growing to cope with the crazy amount of exercise my body thought I just went through! That's one way to scare your body into being fit!
I'll be a lot better prepared for more Kaatsu next week!!! Looking forward to becoming a ninja by the time I leave Japan!!!