Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I was always the quiet fat girl in my school. I was subject to bullying from about 2nd grade until I dropped out of traditional high school in 11th grade. I was bullied both about my weight as well as about being depressed and recovering from PTSD in grade school (making me "the weird kid"). Like most kids who are bullied, I quietly took the verbal abuse, internalizing the words, allowing them to whittle my self-confidence. I became suicidal in my teens due to the years of abuse. I gradually started to recover after being away from a traditional high school, for the first time not being subject to bullying. I still did not have any real self-confidence to speak of.
Part of the problem with being overweight is that a lot of us feel awkward with movement. I remember feeling out of place even walking around, let alone participating in gym class. I would try everything to hide my body (what CANNIE50 terms "fat girl camo"), which usually just draws more attention to the body. Movement was often uncomfortable and it often felt like I drew snickers no matter how I moved. I had an interest in martial arts from a very young age (that's right, I grew up watching "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"), but never seriously asked my parents about doing it. This was primarily because the thought of having to move in specific ways terrified me. I imagined on one hand being very fit and strong, and on the other, the snickers, glares, and giggles from other kids doing martial arts. I now know that type of behavior would probably never be tolerated in the context of a martial arts class (at least not a reputable one), but I guess we live and learn. I finally bit the bullet when I was 25 and registered for a Tae Kwon Do class at my college. The first time I threw a kick, something woke up inside of me. There was another person fighting to come out, to be heard, and to be seen. I learned that my body, even with being overweight, was capable of a lot. I was finally learning how to move. There were no snickers or giggles, just support and camaraderie. I enjoyed the class, but when it was over, I did not continue. It was about a year later that I accidentally showed up to a Muay Thai class, thinking it was a Tae Kwon Do class. Then began my journey with my life-changing teacher, Mike X. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was myself and was able to work towards becoming the person I could be.
There is nothing in my life that has changed me the way martial arts has. What I appreciate about learning martial arts is not so much that I can defend myself, but rather that I am willing to stand up for myself now. Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu have provided an outlet for frustration, a way to learn patience, have given me self-confidence, and yes, a way to defend myself if it were ever necessary. The typical reaction from people when they find out that I do martial arts is, "Wow, you don't take any sh!t from anyone, do you!" (what a guy at the gas station actually said to me last week). The truth is, I am still a kitten-loving, gardening, pacifist hippy. I have never had an inclination to harm or fight anyone, and even if I had to defend myself, I would rather not have to cause any major damage.What I have appreciated about learning Jiu Jitsu (in which I have a long way to go before I am proficient in any way) is that it is a way to stop an opponent in a way that is unlikely to cause major damage. One of my co-workers asked me the other day, "So if someone messed with you, you would just beat the crap out of them, huh?" I explained that if I ever had to defend myself, my goal would be to simply stop them from what they were doing. I would never try to harm anyone for simply "messing with me." I diffuse those people by ignoring them.
I wish I could have learned these lessons at a younger age and perhaps put a stop to the bullying. When I was a kid, martial arts weren't as widespread as they are now. Bullying has also become a major focus in recent years. I came across an article about a program started by the Gracie family (the inventors of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) that is specifically targeted to help diffuse bullies. They advocate first trying to talk to the bully and to communicate with parents and teachers, but to fight back if the bully became physical. I think programs like this one will help children immensely, not because they learn to become fighters, but because the act of martial arts builds self-confidence in and of itself. I have actually been thinking about ways that I could become involved in anti-bullying programs, and I guess the answer is obvious. I should start one myself. Between my background in psychology, child psychology, and exercise science, running a program for kids would be rewarding. I am going to look into starting a free program run by volunteers; I am sure a lot of the guys at my gym would be game. Even if parents were aware of the benefits of martial arts, cost often becomes an issue. I also know a few school teachers, so they could help advocate and organize the program. I am going to brainstorm about this and start talking to people about it--hopefully it will go somewhere. Every kid deserves to have their childhood, and bullies often take a lot of it away. Martial arts could help turn it around.
Rener Gracie with students.
As for me nowadays, people can stare all they want. I walk with confidence now, knowing that I am in control. It isn't a matter of knowing that I have learned how to defend my body, but that I have built my mind. I hope I can help others learn these principles, too.
Here is the article:
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
December has been filled with Christmas jeer. Since I don't celebrate Christmas, I don't get the reward of the cheer that comes at some point; I just get other people's stress. My mother, brother, and I are atheists, and while we may sometimes choose to exchange gifts at the end of the year, we discuss this ahead of time. We do not get swept up in "the holiday season;" like many others, though, we use the time to spend with family and catch up with friends. I certainly do appreciate the generous spirit of a lot of people that I know, but they are also caring all the time, not just around Christmas. I welcome well wishes and give them as well. But my family long ago eschewed the greed and neuroticism that seemed to surround "the holidays" and actively avoid stressful activities during this time. Unfortunately, I can't escape my job altogether.
Work has been more stressful because my callers get even more freaked out than usual when their pets get into something. I get to hear compassionate pet owners throughout December say things such as, "I know the cat has been non-responsive and is now having a seizure, but does he REALLY need to go to the vet right this second? It's my kid's Christmas pageant tonight." Or how about, "Boy, yeah, the dog has been vomiting for 4 hours and can't breathe now, but I spent HOURS getting all this food ready for a holiday party tonight, so now is such an inconvenient time to take him to the vet. What can I do at home?" After dealing with my callers and their cockamamie behavior over the past month, and especially over the past 2 days, I'm really glad that I don't "celebrate;" it seems to turn people a lot of people into monsters. After getting screamed at and getting the, "Do you know what day it is?" for the quadrillionth time, I wanted to say, "Ya know, I'm not the one who left the chocolate/Grandma's pills/Duraflame log/Christmas tree where your dog could proceed to ingest the entire thing. I am also not the one who waited 5 hours to call, at the point where your dog is actually sick and possibly untreatable."
I finally asked myself yesterday why I should have to get caught up with the stress of Christmas when I don't even have anything to do with it. I always volunteered to work Christmas Eve and Christmas day because I know that all of my other co-workers do celebrate, but this is the last year I will work Christmas Eve or Christmas day. I have been getting yelled at for 2 days straight for the past 5 years. Since I have seniority, I will never have to. The people who are involved with the holiday can deal with the Christmas jeer; I'm done. I have been trying to recover some of my usual cheer and recover from the holiday season in which I do not even partake.
I woke up in time to get to the gym today, but then got caught up in setting up my new computer so I can work from home (went fairly smoothly; I am using it now). However, my other computer got a virus this morning and I was not able to transfer anything from it. There are only a few documents on there that I want and I would like to try to retrieve my entire iTunes library (I thought it would suffice to plug in my iPod to transfer my music, but not everything transferred). In any case, I am mostly set up to work from home, but won't be able to start until they hook up my computer to the network next week.
In addition to getting caught up in working on the computer stuff, I also just didn't feel like martial arts today. It was too hyper of an activity on top of me feeling very antisocial. Instead, I walked over to my mother's to visit with her. My brother showed up, too, and brought his 3-month-old kitten, Tootsie. After getting in 80 minutes of walking and a couple of hours of kitten time, I felt much better. The quiet reflectiveness of a long walk was what I really needed today. And also, Tootsie is a very sweet baby kitty. Like many animals who have seen tough times, she seems to have an air of gratefulness to her. Tootsie was found in a kennel next to a dumpster at my brother's work, and had apparently been there for days. Those types of things don't help with Christmas jeer...luckily there are suckers--err, I mean, caring people--like my brother to come along and rescue a helpless 8-week-old kitten.
My brother John with Tootsie.
Another picture of Tootsie 'cuz come on, who doesn't love kittens?
This week and past month have been a mixed bags with workouts. While I am willing to exercise frequently and consistently, I have not been good at sticking to a structured workout plan (such as the one I wrote out so beautifully last week). For the time being it does not especially matter because my body will have adaptations no matter what I'm doing. This past month, I have noticed how much more flexible I have become. This has been from a combination of yoga, Pilates, and Jiu Jitsu. In Jitsu, I will stay in the same position for a prolonged period, which stretches and strengthens the muscles simultaneously. I am more flexible than I have ever been. I hope to keep improving as it has made my joint pain so much better. Being crazy flexible is not always practical, but it is helpful with both Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. I will probably never be overly-flexible, but continuing the way I have will help my joint issues and arthritis.
I've also realized that I need to devote time especially to nail in some of my newer martial arts skills, with Jiu Jitsu in particular. Learning to do Jiu Jitsu rolls has been the bane of my training. I was very sheepish about even really attempting them at first because it felt so awkward to try and heft my 250+ pounds into a somersault. I have spent a lot of extra time this past month just practicing the rolls. Front rolls haven't been too bad to get down, and I have improved on those this month. A front roll looks a lot like a somersault:
I have had great difficulty grasping how to move to do a back roll, which looks like this:
I told my trainer Nate last week that I was hell-bent on doing back rolls correctly this week. I went to the gym on Saturday and asked one of the guys to give me some tips. He spent about 30 minutes going over technique with me and provided lots of helpful imagery to assist in doing back rolls. I actually did several correctly. I was ecstatic when I left the gym on Saturday--I love the feeling that comes when something "clicks."
Now that the Christmas jeer is in the past, I can move forward. Forward rolls, that is...
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
"Worry is a morbid anticipation of events which never happen."
I have been avoiding going to the Tuesday evening training at my mixed martial arts gym. It is an hour of Muay Thai and then an hour and a half of Jiu Jitsu. I used the excuse that the traffic would probably be too bad during rush hour to get there. I caved to the excuse that I don't think I'm in good enough shape to do that much training. The truth is, I was afraid of the class with the other Jiu Jitsu instructor, Tim, as I had heard horror stories of some of the exercises he makes people do. I was also worried about knowing people--silly, as I have been doing Jiu Jitsu for 2 months and have met most of the people who show up regularly. I was worried about being judged and about looking stupid because I don't know what I'm doing. Of course it was all in my head. It was the anticipation of trying something new and building it up in my mind (in a very inaccurate way).
I walked through the door of my gym and felt relief at that very moment. Just showing up lessened the anxiety that I had built up from anticipation. I had a chance to chat a bit with Tim before class started, too, and that helped a lot. Tim couldn't have been more patient in training. He helped explain new ways of doing some of the basic Jiu Jitsu moves that gave me a new understanding. Yes, the class was larger than the day classes and there were some new faces, but Tim gave plenty of attention to everybody. The class format was a little different, but it will provide new ways of thinking about Jiu Jitsu. I knew I just had to show up to Tim's class once to quell the anxiety I was feeling about doing something new. I had to replace those ridiculous images that I had created with reality. In order to do that, I had to walk through the door and show up. I'm glad I finally did it.
Tim, my other Jiu Jitsu instructor (the one I was so afraid of).
Nate, my main Jiu Jitsu trainer, thinks I have a talent for Jiu Jitsu. I am far from skilled at this point, but my strength helps greatly with defense. Even the biggest and strongest guys are panting after grappling with me, often remarking, "Damn, you are STRONG." (Don't worry, they still win.) As I build up more confidence and skills, hopefully I'll be able to use more than brute strength while grappling. I am satisfied to use one tiny new thing each day, though--Jiu Jitsu is helping teach me the art of subtlety.
This is my first week of intense back-to-back MMA training days. I went to Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai on Monday and then did a lower body strength workout. Yesterday I went to the gym and did upper body weights and then had an hour of Muay Thai and an hour and a half of Jiu Jitsu. I thought I wouldn't be able to move. But here I am, out of bed, drinking some coffee, getting ready to do yoga and then head to the gym again (except no strength training today--whew!). This level of training is what I have been working towards for a year. My efforts are getting noticed--Nate has brought up several times that he thinks I should compete.
It really sunk in last night--I am a real martial artist. I am a real-life athlete. As you can see, you do not need to be thin to be an athlete. It is part not being afraid to make an ass of yourself, and part not being afraid to show everyone what a bad-ass you are. You just have to show up and do the work. Doesn't get much simpler than that.
"An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing."
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Image from http://shouldless.blogspot.com
This past week was full of stuff that I "should" have done. I "should" have made it to the gym more. I "should" have done m strength training. I certainly "should" have eaten better. I "should" have gotten more sleep. I "should" have gotten more done.
I had the best week with my sax, however, since I started to play again over the summer. I had a breakthrough during my lesson on Tuesday with something my teacher Jeff has been trying to get me to do for months (which I, of course, insisted that I "can't" do--but Jeff doesn't accept "can't" on a permanent basis). I am also a lot less nervous playing in front of him and others, so hopefully some of the performance anxiety is subsiding. I did botch a piece that I was trying to get through, though, and the notes were contantly changing from sharps to flats to naturals and back and forth. I kept stumbling over the notes and wasn't playing the piece smoothly. I told Jeff I had thought about writing reminders all over the piece to be able to play through it more smoothly. "But I should be able to play it without reminders."
He said, "No, if you can't do it then you 'shouldn't' be able to do it. Careful of all those 'shoulds'."
Huh, imagine that. Setting myself up for success instead of berating myself for not being able to do it without any kind of help. I do need to cut myself some more slack and do what I need to do to improve.
Overall, I shouldn't "should" myself too much. I also need to stop over-analyzing and just do more. I tend to live in my head, so I am good at coming up with all sorts of "shoulds" and analyzing the whys and hows, but sometimes just doing is the simplest answer. The best thing I have done for myself, though, is cutting myself some slack for not sticking to my plan and accepting that deep down there is probably a reason that things did not go according to plan. Sometimes I need reminders, too, whether that be a to-do list, a bunch of Post-Its, e-mail reminders, or marking up my music. Giving myself reminders and morale boosters are different from setting a rigid and impractical plan. When I have unrealistic plans and expectations, I fall into the all-or-nothing thinking pattern. If I need to give myself some reminders to get through, then I should just do that rather than getting frustrated and/or abandoning something altogether.
Image from http://www.sacredsheath.com/
My sax playing specifically has felt stale recently, primarily because I am not playing with a group or practicing for anything in particular. I was considering quitting because I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I asked Jeff if he knew of anywhere to find another sax player to play duets or a quartet group or something. He suggested that I ask one of his former students, Scott, if he would be interested in playing duets.
Scott is the best friend of my best friend's brother (follow all of that?) and has been an acquaintance for almost 20 years. He is one of the instrument repair people at the shop where I take saxophone lessons. I told Jeff that I had asked Scott if he knew anyone looking to form a small sax group or play duets, and he immediately said, "Why doesn't Scott do it?" So this week, I asked Scott why he doesn't play duets with me. He told me that he had already thought about that, and that after I had asked him last week, he had thought, "Hey, I play saxophone." We decided we would try meeting once a week or so to play some pieces and decided on some classical duets.
We got together today and figured we would tool around with a piece for about 30 minutes. We eneded up playing for about an hour and a half. The pieces are far from perfect, but we played through two Bach pieces. I was sight-reading the pieces and was pleased that I could play through them at all, let alone playing a duet. I felt elated; I felt like a real musician again. It was very fun to get together with someone and just play. The pieces sounded very cool with me on alto sax and him on the baritone sax. Jeff said that he would work on the pieces with me as well, although I played a lot better today than I do when Jeff is in front of me. Both Scott and I agree that Jeff is a pretty intimidating person, but an excellent teacher.
Otherwise, my week was just okay. Although my workouts did not go as planned, I did all that I could (or should) do. I made it to MMA training twice, I did my upper body strength workout, a Pilates workout, and I did a high-intensity interval training workout. If you look at the workouts I had planned for this past week, it is clear that I did not get in what I had set out to do. I had several nights of having great difficulty falling asleep and would have only gotten about 3 hours of sleep before I needed to get up to get to Jiu Jitsu. I don't believe in exercising with getting that small amount of sleep. Intense exercise programs are great, but pushing the body when sleep-deprived is insane. Since taking a little melatonin and drinking a cup of valerian tea at night has seemed to help with the insomnia, I am going to try to do that every night.
My eating this week was not great, and I'm pretty sure I had a gain. I decided not to officially weigh in this week. I'll weigh in next week after rocking my workouts.
So I'm going to do my best to stick with good eating and my workout plan this week...or should I?
Saturday, December 17, 2011
So last week I posted my workout schedule, and due to poor planning (and a little to lack of sleep), it did not go according to plan. I am going to go for the same workouts, but am rearranging the times somewhat. I am also going to start going to Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu on Tuesday evenings, so I will gain experience with another Jiu Jitsu instructor and also get to do Muay Thai training with Eric, who gives much more technical instruction. I am a little nervous about the Tuesday evening Jiu Jitsu class with a new instructor, but I am sure I will get over it once I go for the first time.
Next week looks like this:
Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai
Lower Body Strength
Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu
Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai
Endurance Weights Circuit
Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai
No Muay Thai sparring--gym closed
Cathe Friedrich High Intensity Interval Training 30/30 DVD (30 second intervals with 30 seconds rest; 30 minutes total)
Upper Body Strength
Kettlebells (DVD) and an abdominal workout
I will be doing yoga on Jiu Jitsu/Muay Thai days before I go to the gym. I'll also do a 10 minute jump rope warm-up on Jiu Jitsu/Muay Thai days right before class (2 minute jump rope intervals with 1 minute rest). The jump rope will help create some explosive power and increase my aerobic endurance (which is actually not that great right now).
I have been writing my strength workouts and I will be doing a program utilizing nonlinear (undulating) periodization. This means that I will be changing my program constantly. In my rotation, the workouts will vary from workout-to-workout (versus week-to-week or month-to-month). I will be doing 1 upper body split and 1 lower body split each week, and these workouts will vary the most in the methods performed. I will be doing 1 cardio-based strength circuit each week that utilizes more plyometric exercises (explosive motions such as jumping) to increase muscle endurance and power. Then I will do a day of Olympic lifts, which will help build strength and power.
For now, the upper and lower body splits will focus on building muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) as well as some muscular endurance. The split workouts will be performed in the 12 repetition max (12 RM) range, meaning lifting to failure (or very close to it) at the 12th repetition. Working in the 12-15 RM range focuses on building muscular endurance, while 8-12 RM increases hypertrophy. I decided on 12 RM for the next several weeks to work at the high end of the hypertrophy range and work on endurance at the same time. Since both Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai will help with endurance, I am not inclined to go above 12 RM for weight-lifting; I want to lift weights to build strength to complement my MMA training.
My lower body workout this week is fairly simple and straightforward and did not utilize any particular special methods as I will in subsequent weeks; the weights I plan to use are listed. I also tacked on some core exercises:
Unless otherwise noted:
2 x 12 RM (2 sets each of 12 repetitions) at 2-0-2 tempo (2 counts up, 0 count pause, 2 counts down); 1 minute rest between sets
*Deadlifts 90 lbs
*Squats 60 lbs
*Reverse Lunges 40 lbs
*Plie Squats 40 lbs
*Step-ups 30 lbs
*Leg Extension (machine) 50 lbs
*Hip Sled (leg press machine) 90 lbs
* Pilates Roll Over ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=stgt8
qIjIoU&feature=related )--I think this one will really help my Jiu Jitsu!
*Glute-Hamstring Developer Back Extensions ( vimeo.com/22687897 )--yikes, killer!
*Glute Hamstring Developer Sit-ups ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnQB_
jr2T-c )--yeeeow, super killer! I would recommend going over glute-hamstring developer exercises with a trainer before trying them
*Russian Twist ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCB3kxqhbuY )
*Planks (prone and side; hold for 30 seconds each and repeat once)
My endurance strength circuit this week is going to be relatively easy, at least compared to what I have written for the next couple of weeks.
These workouts look somewhat like a cardio circuit, and will utilize lighter weights or body weight. These workouts are mostly time-based and I won't be lifting to failure:
Unless otherwise noted: 30 seconds each exercise, repeat each round twice, then 1 minute rest before next set
Step-ups with overhead press
Wall Squats with stability ball
Plie Squats with stability ball
Leg Lifts ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VTU1jVkCMg )
Kettlebell Swing ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0jalJ-3e7U )--demonstrated by Lauren Brooks; I highly recommend her DVDs
Jump Rope--Tabata (20 sec. hard--10 sec. rest x 8)
Renegade Rows ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggaj8hB0BUY )
Kettlebell Chop Lunge ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggaj8hB0BUY )
Muay Thai Knee-to-Armpit Drill 3 minutes ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QxLZtS3hGU )--for the drill, we repeatedly do the blocking motion while bringing the knee as close to the armpit as possible; really feel this in the hips and obliques
My upper body workout is a similar format to my lower body workout, and again is pretty simple (no special methods used):
Unless otherwise noted:
2 x 12 RM (2 sets each of 12 repetitions) at 2-0-2 tempo (2 counts up, 0 count pause, 2 counts down); 1 minute rest between sets
*Barbell Rows 60 lbs
*Supermans ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=8szJuzPt-sg )
*Chest Press 60 lbs
*Incline Chest Press 20 lb dumbbells
*Biceps Curls 40 lbs
*Hammer Curls 15 lb dumbbells
*Concentration Biceps Curls (1 set, 8 RM, 2-0-6) 15 lb dumbbells
*Skullcrushers ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_KZxkY_0cM --he uses an E-Z curl bar, I used 15 lb dumbbells; the motion is the same holding a dumbbell in each hand)
*Overhead Press 15 lb dumbbells
*Medial Deltoid Raise 12 lb dumbbells
*Posterior Deltoid Raise 10 lb dumbbells
*Shoulder Shrugs ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIpWv_G5Q0Y ) 40 lbs
I will do a workout of Olympic lifts with heavy weights. I will probably use about 100 pounds for most of the lifts, except for deadlifts for which I will use 165 pounds, and the Power Snatch for which I will use perhaps 50 pounds. I know these weights sound very heavy but I am, as my exercise physiology professor put it when I was tested in the lab, "abnormally strong." I only worked with my trainer Ty for a couple of weeks on these, and felt I only had minimal training during that time. Fortunately, one of the guys in MMA is a trainer experienced in Olympic lifts can help me practice. I will perform more reps and use heavier weights as I master the moves. This week I will do 3 sets of 3 repetitions each with 2 minutes rest in between sets:
Hang Clean ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpXqVba1mFo )
Power Clean ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TlbDQUWs0s )
Push Press ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6oQLMcTGTo )
Power Snatch ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nc4DpIzns8 )
Snatch Squat ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TuMlkkgX4E )
Hopefully this week goes a little more smoothly and I get in the workouts I've planned...
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