From 10 Minutes a Day To Competing at the World Championships, Part One

By , SparkPeople Employee
Paul is one of our behind-the-scene tech ''gurus'' here at SparkPeople. We asked him to share his story in the hopes that it will inspire others to take risks and challenge themselves. 

In September of 2014, SparkGuy issued a friendly challenge to the company–a 100-day ''streak'' of at least 10 minutes of fitness per day. The 100 days would go from then until the New Year.

At first I was not sure about participating. I already exercised quite a bit in a given week and finding additional time sounded difficult given my responsibilities as a father of two school-aged girls, a husband and a full-time employee at SparkPeople. At the same time, however, SparkGuy’s pitch allowed for a lot of flexibility–participants could do more than 10 minutes most days, but only 10 minutes on some days was acceptable. It was slightly out of my comfort zone, but I decided to do it.

By New Years, I had kept up my streak and didn’t want to stop. Even through some difficult days and weeks--including a family member that had open heart surgery during this time--I found the time every single day for at least a 10 minute walk, although usually something more. Once I decided to keep up the streak, it wasn’t as difficult as if I had been undecided and re-evaluating it every step of the way.

For many years, one of my main activities for fitness has been Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art which resembles Olympic judo. Wearing a ''gi'' (the outfit that you see karate and other martial arts competitors wear), you wrestle as you try to get a better position than your opponent, or to gain a hold that makes the opponent quit.

While most people out there likely won’t train for this specific discipline, it is nice to know that some of the “good guys and girls” do practice Jiu-Jitsu. The “Train Hero” soldier who controlled and subdued the terrorist gunman and saved countless lives was able to do so due in part to his training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu presents both a mental and physical challenge, requiring you to think about technique and strategy as you perform difficult maneuvers. As a result, the activity is often over before you know it and you've had a fantastic workout while keeping your mind occupied by thinking about the game, rather than focusing on fatigue setting in along the way.

In May of 2015, roughly nine months after beginning my 10-minutes-a-day challenge, some of my Jiu-Jitsu training partners at my school told me they were going to compete at the World Championships in Las Vegas. They invited me to join them as a competitor.

The idea of stepping up to this level of competition was initially frightening. I have always had excellent training partners, but for this kind of event, I would need to seek out extra help. However, hesitations aside, I knew that stepping out of my comfort zone and dedicating myself to train harder than normal would be worth it in the end. I knew that I couldn’t control the outcome of my match--nobody can do that--so I focused instead on being as prepared as I could.

My two main “tricks” for sneaking in workouts without sacrificing my family or work life were early morning and lunchtime. I know lunchtime workouts are not an option for everyone, but as you know, I work for a pretty cool place! Early morning workouts were something I already did regularly (at least once per week), but for this special training, I basically doubled the frequency.

The craziest preparation I did prior to my competition was with a black belt. In order to fit in training time with him, I would wake up at 5:00 a.m. and drive an hour to his school to meet with him at 6:00 a.m. After my hour workout and a quick shower, I would drive into work at SparkPeople. We did this for the eight weeks leading up to the event. It was a tough way to start the day, but I got a lot out of the experience.

People at every turn were helping me get ready. Fellow employees at SparkPeople would go running with me at lunch or lift weights, my regular training partners stepped up the intensity, and some very high level people close to home helped me prepare. My teammates who were going to be traveling and competing with me helped, too.

Want to hear more about the experience and see how I did? Here's Part Two!