Sunday, January 13, 2013
TapouT Training Center, downtown Los Angeles.
I am not the same person I was a week ago.
I knew that my trip to Los Angeles to do Jiu Jitsu training would be pretty exciting: I would be training at the TapouT gym, meeting and training with Jiu Jitsu master Eddie Bravo, probably meeting some famous people, seeing a taping of Conan O'Brien, walking by the ocean, and hanging out with the guys from the gym. My Jiu Jitsu instructors arranged the trip to train with Eddie Bravo, who is the head of our branch of Jiu Jitsu (10th Planet Jiu Jitsu). I was very excited to have the opportunity to train with him so early on in my Jiu Jitsu journey. While I knew this past week would be very exciting, I guess I was not expecting it to be life-changing.
Eddie Bravo. (Image from http://jiujitsugeeks.blogspot.com/2012/10/
We got in to San Diego late in the afternoon on Monday the 9th, picked up our rental cars, and drove to Los Angeles. We got there just in time for class. I thought I would be nervous meeting Eddie Bravo, but he was very laid back and easy to talk to. The way he explained things made a lot of sense, and he also made it clear that it is okay to feel and look foolish during Jiu Jitsu. I have struggled with feeling stupid when in practice, especially learning something new. Sometimes other guys at my gym act like people are idiots if they don't understand a new move within a few tries. I have come to understand that this is actually a problem for them, not for me. In order to really understand moves in Jiu Jitsu, they must be drilled over and over again. There is absolutely no way to know every nuance of every move with a couple of tries. In any case, I was happy to have my feelings validated by someone who has been practicing a long time.
After technique, we started rolling (rolling is the Jiu Jitsu term for sparring). I rolled first with an experienced guy who gave me some good tips on performing takedowns. The second person I rolled with was Victor Webster from "Days of Our Lives", "Continuum", and "Castle" (amongst other things), although I did not know he was famous when I rolled with him. He is a brown belt (next belt level down from a black belt) and is highly skilled. I knew that I might be training with him, but I did not connect that it was him when he invited me to roll with him. Anyways, he gave me a very thorough ass-kicking. I had never rolled with anyone at such a high level before and it was very eye-opening. When we were done rolling, he told me I should consider only rolling with other small people. I wanted to laugh because no one in my entire life has considered me to be a "small person." I think he realized he was a little rough with me because I saw that he toned it down with our other guys.
I had a great time with the TapouT gym members. A lot of them have been practicing for at least 5 years. I got some excellent tips from everyone I rolled with. When we were practicing techniques, the more experienced people were extremely helpful. It was also funny to me, because a few other TapouT members mentioned that I was a "smaller person." I finally told one of the guys that I probably outweighed him by a lot. He asked how much I weighed and I told him a little over 220 pounds. He told me he thought I weighed way less than that. In any case, I guess my exercise program is really reshaping my body, because I feel the most "shrunk" that I have thus far in my weight loss journey.
When class was over, we grabbed some food and went back to the hotel and crashed after our long day.
Victor Webster from "Days of Our Lives"--this guy really whooped my ass. (Image from http://www.sofeminine.co.uk/celebrities/vi
On Tuesday, we had both a morning and evening training session (2 hours each). I felt fantastic in the morning class. The atmosphere and energy of the gym was rejuvenating. We grabbed some lunch after class and then napped for a little bit. Then it was back to the gym in the evening for our second class. It was again, totally amazing. Eddie wanted us all to go to Hooters afterwards to get to know each other. I sat near him and he asked me how I got started in Jiu Jitsu and we chatted for a bit about that. We stayed out way too late and had too many drinks.
Wednesday was an especially exciting and emotional day. I was going to Burbank to Warner Bros. Studios to watch taping of Conan O'Brien with one of friends from the gym. We also decided to go check out Santa Monica Pier beforehand since we had some time. I hadn't seen the ocean in several years, so I couldn't wait to walk the beach. We walked around for about an hour, and I gathered some rocks on the beach. Afterwards, we headed to Burbank to watch Conan.
At Santa Monica Beach on Wednesday:
I was lucky enough to happen to be going to Los Angeles because I was considering a trip there just to watch a Conan O'Brien taping; I looked into getting tickets to watch Conan O'Brien film the second I heard about our trip to Los Angeles. Conan is one of my favorite people on this planet and I was giddy with excitement to see him live again. I have been watching Conan almost since he started hosting late night, and I had an opportunity to see him live on a trip to New York about 15 years ago. I was very much looking forward to seeing him again.
I found out earlier in the week that the guests would be Ricky Gervais, Deepak Chopra, and the band Imagine Dragons. I wasn't too familiar with Ricky Gervais, although I have seen him on Conan before and knew he was hilarious. Ricky surprised Conan with wanting to take a picture to post on Twitter, and that they would both strip down and get in a bathtub to take the picture. I was doubling over with laughter while they were doing the picture. Then Deepak Chopra came on and I loved his dry sense of humor. I think he would be up my alley, so I think I will check out more of his work. Then the band Imagine Dragons played their song "It's Time". They have become one of my new favorite bands.
Conan and Ricky Gervais's bathtub Tweet pic. This was one of the funniest and most absurd things I have witnessed. You can see the bit here (about 4 minutes long: teamcoco.com/video/45834/ricky-gerva
The monologue was also hilarious, especially the last couple of minutes: teamcoco.com/video/45835/conan-monol
Music video for "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sENM2wA_FTg (Totally worth a listen!)
Full episode: teamcoco.com/video/45893/full-episod
I did not think that Wednesday could get any better. We got to class and I was very ready to get moving. We went through our techniques and then started rolling. After my first roll, Eddie called me over to roll with him. I have barely rolled with any high-level players before, let alone the inventor of an entire branch of Jiu Jitsu. I just tried to relax and learn from the experience. We started rolling and of course he was dominating me. Somewhere in the middle of rolling, he said, "Your fundamentals are excellent." I was so afraid that he would think I totally sucked, and instead he complimented me. When time was up, he said, "Good job. How long have you been practicing, 1 or 2 years?" I told him a little over 1 year. I was extremely flattered that he thought I had the skill level of someone who has been doing Jiu Jitsu for close to 2 years. I was actually a little overwhelmed with emotion after rolling with Eddie. I fought back tears of joy. He had given me the most major compliment of my entire life.
Then, after class, we all partied a little too hard again.
I didn't feel very well on Thursday. I knew I had not been eating enough throughout the entire trip (I usually have the exact opposite problem with traveling). One of the guys poured very strong drinks and I drank way too much on Wednesday, so I was hungover. I felt nauseated throughout the entire day. I made it through part of Thursday's morning class, but not through the evening class. I went and observed on Thursday night, though. I felt a little better by the time class was over.
And then we went out and partied a little too hard...again (although I did not have any alcohol).
Another shot of the gym.
Eddie Bravo and I (he wasn't feeling well, so he was trying not to touch us).
Group picture at the end of our week of training (Eddie and all of us from our gym).
Friday we drove back to San Diego for our late afternoon flight back to Minneapolis. One of the guys and I had some time to kill in San Diego, so we walked around and went out for lunch at a cool hole-in-the-wall Mexican place. We got back to the airport and flew home. I was pretty hyper for a few hours after getting home. I unpacked and reflected on everything that happened the past week.
We are going to try to make this an annual trip. I cannot imagine having a more rewarding week than I have the past week, I am sure my life has some more surprises in mind. I have returned home a different and better person. I have a new-found faith in myself and look forward to incorporating my experiences from this trip into my Jiu Jitsu practice and my daily life.
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
I started my SparkPeople journey from a very dark place a little over 2 years ago. I was at a breaking point where I was willing to try anything to make my life feel tolerable to me. I started to be more active on SparkPeople and make small changes to develop healthier habits. Gradually, new habits became ingrained and I started to lose weight. I learned to treat myself better and that other people need to treat me better, too. Ultimately, this year I found out what has been truly holding me back. I have always been wracked with so much guilt that I thought I did not deserve to be happy or loved. It was over this past year, with deep self-exploration, that I realized I have been punishing myself. I learned to forgive myself and use my experiences as learning opportunities.
With developing self-confidence, I wanted to try new things. I started doing Jiu Jitsu in October 2011. I never imagined I would be a grappler, nor that I would become a competitive athlete. I did a lot of Jiu Jitsu training this year. I trained a minimum of 3 days a week, usually 4-5 days. I have started to study more technique outside of class as well. I scaled back from doing high-intensity exercise other than Jiu Jitsu, and then realized that I needed to quit power lifting. I was working to failure too much between lifting weights and practicing Jiu Jitsu. I have instead been doing Pilates, yoga, and body weight exercises for strength training. I have lost several inches all over over the past few months. So, I will continue to use my own body weight for resistance for now. Of course, I get in some strength training with throwing the guys around at the gym.
The highlight of 2012 was winning second place in my first Jiu Jitsu tournament, and then first place in the next one. I never imagined that I would compete in a sport, let alone win. It was the support from the guys at the gym that helped me train and feel like an athlete. They had confidence in me, and I let that sink in. I look forward to future competitions and will be doing several in 2013.
My livelihood, Jiu Jitsu class.
After my first win at my first Jiu Jitsu competition, June 2012.
My first Jiu Jitsu competition, June 2012--I won second place.
My gold medal win at Jiu Jitsu competition November 2012.
The day I proved to myself that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to.
I had a goal of losing 60 pounds by the end of December. I lost 30 pounds this year. I am fine with the amount lost. I also reached 50 pounds down in March. I was very excited to pass that milestone. I am currently about 65 pounds down. I am not going to set a specific number to reach in 2013. I DO know that I will be pretty ripped by the end of 2013, but I am not concerned with the number on the scale.
My diet had its ups and downs in 2012. I was consistent about tracking most of the time. Even when I didn't track, I noticed that I didn't treat my eating as a free-for-all. Even when I didn't track, I was eating more moderately. I eat an array of fruits and veggies throughout the day. For the most part, truly junky foods like refined foods are unappealing to me. After learning to really taste my food, I became more turned off by junk food. Luckily, good dark chocolate is a health food.
Progress pics: My "before" pictures and my progress pics from this year. I will post an updated progress pics blog this month!
February 2011, at about 295 pounds
March 2012, at 243 pounds (55 pounds down)
Messing around yesterday while out with a friend (I was drawing a boot!).
I never thought I would reflect on a year and be completely satisfied with how it went. This was usually because I did not lose as much weight as I wanted. The less I cared about my weight, the more I was able to see what I did right everywhere else in my life. For me, losing weight used to be about me wanting to be someone else. I didn't want to be myself; I didn't really like anything about myself. Ultimately, my body weight was a culmination of imbalances throughout my life. Every pound lost is not just getting me closer to my goal weight; each pound is a reflection of months of self-exploration and loving myself. I came to realize that losing weight ultimately was not really about the weight. I am finally treating myself with the love and respect I have always deserved.
I don't have real specific goals this year, but I plan to continue with focusing on Jiu Jitsu. Everything required to become good at Jiu Jitsu promotes balance throughout my life. I will be kicking off 2013 with an exciting opportunity to train with some of the best in the world. A week from now I will be in Los Angeles with some of the guys from the gym. We will be doing a week of intensive training with Eddie Bravo, Rhasaan Orange, and hopefully Joe Rogan. I will also be going to see a taping of Conan O'Brien; I saw him live in New York, and now in Los Angeles. I can't wait to set eyes on the Pacific Ocean!
I'm ready, 2013.
Here are my end-of-the-year blogs from last year:
Hot By the Apocalypse: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
The Year of Open Doors: 2011 in Review: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
*Please note: There are no pictures with my pants around my ankles.*
I reached 66 pounds down this past week, which is about halfway to my goal weight. All of a sudden it seems that a lot of my clothes are way too big. My winter coat is very baggy. I have noticed shirts especially becoming very loose. I decided to go shopping in my own closet. I have a pair of brown corduroy pants that I had been waiting to fit back into. This week I wondered if they fit. I pulled them on, let go, and they fell down around my ankles. They are several sizes too big now. It is amazing how those changes sneak up on us.
It probably isn't so much that the changes are sudden, but rather we just don't notice them right away. Needless to say, it has been fun shopping in my own closet. I know that the general advice is to throw out clothes that don't fit any longer, but I did not throw out my clothes that fit me when I was thinner. I knew I would fit into them again. I am not going to keep the clothes that no longer fit me from being too loose, however. I never plan on fitting into those again.
Workouts have been going well. My body has felt much better since I stopped lifting weights. I've been doing a lot of Pilates, yoga, and body weight exercises. I have been trying to do anywhere from 30-60 minute workouts of Pilates, yoga, and body weight exercises 4-5 days a week. I have been doing kettlebell workouts once or twice a week, and those have felt pretty good. I like that I can get in some resistance training for my lower body with kettlebells. I now know that my body was just not able to recover adequately with doing both weight training and Jiu Jitsu. I feel more energetic during Jiu Jitsu now, although my right shoulder is still healing, so that arm is still fairly weak. Overall though, exercise has been great.
Picture from Jiu Jitsu class Saturday. I am in the gray shirt standing in the back; I was shocked at how lean I look, especially in the upper body. I will post progress pics over the next couple of weeks.
Eating has been going pretty well. I have been less ravenous since cutting out weight lifting. I believe my body is not demanding so much food for muscle recovery now. I have been tracking on most days. Even on days when I haven't been tracking accurately, I no longer go nuts on the food. Actually, my old cravings for foods like pasta, pizza, and other wheat/dairy foods have been virtually non-existent. I worked hard on training my brain that those foods are truly not good for my body and will just cause me to feel like crap. This is not to say that I will never have pizza or wheat pasta ever again, but they have both become very rare treats. I do feel fortunate, however, that dark chocolate is a health food. I have an ounce or 2 every day.
It has taken me over 2 years to lose 66 pounds, a pace that a lot of people would consider to be "too slow" (by the way, that averages to about 0.6 lbs/week, so that is a healthy pace to lose). I'm not living my life for weight loss, I am losing weight because I am finally living my life. Allowing myself to grow as a person and really getting know myself has caused me to lose weight naturally without having to drive myself nuts with "dieting." It truly does not matter how long it takes for me to reach my goal weight. I am already a new person, inside and out.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
My podium gold medal win at Jiu Jitsu competition on 11/17.
November marked one of the most defining moments in my entire life: winning a competition. Not just participating, but winning. If you had asked me a few years ago, when I was still the fat kid in gym class getting bullied about my weight, I would have said that winning a sporting event was out of the question. I still kind of can't believe it. But, the biggest reason that winning was a defining moment was that I proved to myself that I truly can reach my goals. I may have been surprised with my win, but my teammates weren't; most of them simply grinned and said, "I told you so." Ultimately, I have my teammates to thank. I have found that not only do I need to believe in myself, I need to allow others to truly believe in me. Being surrounded by such great support has allowed me to become free. The past year of doing Jiu Jitsu has been the best in my life, and I am so happy to only be at the beginning of this journey.
Overall, workouts have been going better. I never ever thought I would say this, but I need to back off on weight training. Heavy weight training just does not seem to agree with my body and does not seem to be an appropriate form of training for my body. This makes me sad, as I am a big believer in heavy lifting for weight loss. Every time I build up and then go heavy, my joints end up more painful than before and I get injured. It is not an issue of form or programming. The combination of Jiu Jitsu and heavy weight training is too much for my body. My body has been fighting itself; I can do Jiu Jitsu or powerlifting, but not both. Even with rest days incorporated, my body just can't tolerate being worked to failure by both weight training and Jiu Jitsu. So, I need to change up my strength training. I will be sticking primarily with body weight exercises (plyometrics, push-ups, dips, pull-ups, etc.), kettlebells, Pilates, dance/barre work, and yoga. Jiu Jitsu also doubles as strength training. I will need to focus on incorporating some explosive movements in order to gain the strength and power that would be accomplished through heavy weight training. Plus, trying to throw 200 pound dudes during practice certainly doubles as strength training.
My weight has been hovering in the mid-230s for a couple of weeks now, so I made my 60 pound loss official. I have been losing weight a little more steadily over the past month, but only when I am completely diligent about avoiding wheat and dairy. I can't deny my sensitivity to wheat and dairy. I used to think it was just that I would overeat things like pasta and pizza, but I don't lose (or actually gain) if I incorporate more than the occasional morsel of foods containing wheat or dairy. My body and brain are finally learning not to crave wheat and dairy foods so much now that I have made the connection of what it does to my body. As a matter of fact, I know that eating wheat and dairy for more than a couple of days puts on about 7 pounds (and I visibly bloat to boot). I have noticed that after I eat wheat/dairy and then return to my normal eating, I lose 7 pounds within a few days and my belly "deflates" again. I am working on a separate blog about diet.
In any case, I am excited to head towards my 75 pound loss. I remember when I started gaining weight, it was when I got into the 230s that I started to feel really out of shape. That was when my face really puffed out and I grew the spare tire. I am starting to actually feel like I am leaner again. My spare tire is much smaller and my gut doesn't get in the way of movements any more. A few days ago, when I put on my winter coat, I noticed that it was very baggy. After that, I noticed that a lot of the clothes that I have are getting pretty loose. Nothing like getting to shop for new stuff!
Today I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I was laughing, and I noticed that my face is leaning out and my dimples are back. Well, I'm glad for that, because the month of November gave me a lot to smile about.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The end of October marked a year of doing Jiu Jitsu. My journey of Jiu Jitsu started with taking a small chance by trying out 1 class. I kept showing up, trying my best, and worked through the frustrations of the long learning curve of learning a martial art. After a year, I feel like the moves are becoming more intuitive and flowing together naturally.
I won second place in my division at my first Jiu Jitsu tournament in June. Afterwards, I consistently told my coaches that I was going to win first place in my next tournament. Somewhere deep down I thought I could do it, but self-doubt kept bubbling up. Admittedly, I wanted to back out. I tweaked my shoulder last week, and I thought I found my excuse not to compete. But then, I found that I REALLY wanted to do it. I was anxious about it, but I wanted to be challenged. I also had kept envisioning that I was alone there, but then I remembered that several teammates would be there. I babied my shoulder for a couple of days and meditated the night before, focusing on the goal of winning.
I got to the tournament and one of my teammates was there. About 10 people showed up altogether. I went towards the beginning, which was good. I got the take downs and won both of my matches by getting submissions. If you're familiar with the moves, Rear Naked Choke the first match and an arm bar the second. I won the tournament over the other 7 women.
This picture is almost unreal to me. I never thought I would be standing on a podium claiming a gold medal!
And a few hours later (I'm in the purple sweater) with some of the guys, watching UFC (and having a little too much to drink ).
I have found myself through doing Jiu Jitsu. There is something transformative about the raw physical experience of grappling, and in practicing, my true self is emerging. Practicing Jiu Jitsu has taught me to boldly face my fears. The guys at my gym have been telling me since day 1 that they believe in me. Their words have slowly sunken in and helped uncover the champion in me. Winning the tournament was not crossing a goal line, it was a stepping stone. Winning just makes me want to train even harder, work on fine-tuning what I already know, and building up from there. It also made me feel more serious on focusing on losing weight steadily again. The first year was great, but he best is still yet to come.
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