Sunday, November 28, 2021

5 Ways Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Changed My Life


Only as strong as your weakest member

I used to row for a local rowing club.  I loved the training and the dedication that was involved.  I loved the crew I had and I loved competing.  We actually had  a pretty strong boat and we were winning our amateur competitions consistently in one season.  

At the end of that season, one of the boys had to leave and so his replacement joined our crew.  Frankly he wasn't any good and didn't put any effort in, outside the boat either.  We lost, or didn't 'place' in any of the races in the next season, which really fucked me off.

Around 2007/8 the UFC was starting to get big and being in the fitness industry, I really appreciated the type of training that was involved; strength, power, agility, flexibility, endurance.  I started incorporating specific exercises and routines into my own training sessions and noticed a difference in my body.  

After one race in particular, we had a terrible performance and I finally thought fuuuuck this, "if I've got to lose, I'd rather lose because it was my fault".  Not very team spirited-granted.  But I started to realise, I actually liked sports I did by myself eg running, mountain biking and skiing.  So I started to attend my local MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) gym, Combat Sport Academy (CSA).

I really got into it and I would do 3-4 sessions a week of MMA.  I would do mixture of classes including grappling, boxing, Muay Thai and wrestling and do my Strength & Conditioning around them...  

Carry over of weight lifting to MMA/BJJ/Wrestling 

1. Starting from the bottom

I stuck with MMA for nearly two years before I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).  The reason I kept putting it off, was because in MMA there was no visual representation of your ability from first glance.  In BJJ, you start off as a 'white belt'-a newbie.  Oh yeah, totally ego, but I was a bit younger then too. The coaches insisted that I did BJJ to help 'tighten up' my grappling game.  

It was embarrassing to line up at the back of the class as a white belt.  I thought, 'I've been doing this for two years man, I'm above this'.  In that first session I got thrown around like an empty tracksuit and folded like laundry.  In that first lesson is where I left my ego on the mat and my journey into the BJJ world started right there...

2. Consistency is key 

Due to life commitments, (which obviously, is really annoying when circumstances stop you from doing stuff you like...if you let itπŸ˜‰) I've been in and out of BJJ for 10 years or so.  With most things in life consistency is key.  I find that BJJ really highlights this for a number reasons:
  1. You lose fitness
  2. Your skills fade
  3. You see progress other people have made
  4. You stay at same level ie belt colour (a marker of progress)
Doing something once-a-week won't get you the results you want, or at least, it's going to take a very long time.

Tips for consistency: 
  1. Book the task in your diary as if it's an appointment 
  2. Aim to make it the same slot every week 
  3. Remind yourself of why you're doing it in the first place
  4. Just get moving, I mean physically get moving-get the blood flowing
  5. Tell people what you're doing
  6. Sign up for some sort of competition/challenge/deadline 

3. Time to man 

Up until this year I'd been out of BJJ for about three years.  I talked about joining my local club Evolve, for probably two of those years.  "Yeah I'll just wait for work to settle down".  "I'm not paying that sign up fee".  "I'll sign up on Monday".   I got so fed up of hearing myself blurt out these excuses to mate, I just said "fuck it, I'll sign up now" and I did.  I did cost be quite a bit, I'll be honest, but fuuuuuuuck, why did I wait so long?

I absolutely love it and I've got my passion and addiction back for it again, after the first sessions back.

One of the main reasons I've wanted to get back into BJJ, is to 'man'.  For a couple of years I was feeling quite low about myself for a few reasons. I won't go too deep, but I really felt like I was missing something.  A means of letting out some pent up aggression and a need to release some testosterone.  I was getting plenty of sex and lifting weights regularly, but I still needed another outlet.

Let me tell you this, it's a great feeling kicking and punching shit.  It's even better doing to it someone and even better, doing it to someone without facing charges.   Ok, there's no kicking or punching involved in BJJ, but it is a contact sport.  It's still mano et mano.  There's still testosterone getting thrown around as both combatants want to dominate and in a competition-win.  

It's a completely naturally psychological and physiological need to 'man' for men.  If not in a combat environment, then in work or business. Down the pub (who can drink the most).  Who can make the most money, who's got the fastest-flashiest car, the better job, who's better dressed, who they've shagged.  BJJ is humble path that allows you exert the need to 'man' in a productive and relatively safe way.  

Tips fo being 'man' on the mats:
  1. Leave your ego at the door
  2. Introduce yourself to every sparring partner and shake hands 
  3. Learn from every sparring partner, even if they've been training for less time than you
  4. Don't try and smash everyone 
  5. If you got submitted, take it and don't be a bitch, or go hard to get 'revenege'

4. Put your money where your mouth is

"You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?"  As mentioned, I was going on about joining up to my local club for aaaages.  I kept saying how much I need to 'man', how much I need to compete again and how much wanted to go up to the next belt, but ultimately, I wasn't committing to it.  

One of the main 'barriers' to signing up was the sign up fee and monthly membership-BUT! Only because of the value I was putting on it.  I was in a scarcity mindset.  I was afraid of/lacking commitment, ie "if I don't go, then it's going to cost X".  I worked out the cost per session, depending on the number of sessions I could do, I actually found the price to be very reasonable. 

I also wasn't considering the most important factor for me, how I would feel from doing it.   The psychological benefits from being able to have an outlet, would easily cost less than therapy πŸ˜‚.  Plus the other benefits of having a hobby I enjoyed.  It would generally make me happier and that obviously has an impact on friends, family, clients and colleagues.

Top tips for committing yourself:
  1. Sign up for a challenge and put it out there, ie make it public 
  2. Do something for charity 
  3. Find an activity that has levels or progression
  4. Find an activity that helps others
  5. Put your money where your mouth is (without breaking the bank)

5.  Always learning

Humans tend to love learning, especially something they like doing.  BJJ let's me use my mind in another way, other than academically'.  

In every lesson there's a new technique to learn, a new position to get into, or a way to score points.  Even every sparring session is deferent, as you're having apply knowledge to someone with a different set of skills//fitness/ability and weight.  They actually call BJJ 'human chess', as you need to be one move ahead all the time. 

BJJ for me, has changed my life, as I find it ticks all the boxes I require physically and mentally:  
  • It encompasses values and discipline
  • I get to network and meet people from different backgrounds and ages
  • I'm constantly learning and growing 
  • I can compete
  • I get to 'man'
If it wasn't for BJJ, I'd be going mad I think, especially with the current COVID situation.  Even my seven year old son trains and has done for two years now.  I can't wait until he's a bit older and we can roll together-what a father:son bonding session that will be. πŸ˜ƒ

Keep it real folks, Ossss

If you're looking for help to improve your fitness for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, reach out and let's see if my Online Jitz Fitness program can work out for you...


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

I quit and f**king hate myself for it

300 mile Concept2 Triathlon

As most of you know, I like to set myself these little ultra endurance challenges. I n the last year I’ve sat on a Concept2 rower for 24 hours.  Pushed and pulled my body weight (90kg) on a sled for 46km (a marathon distance), on a 20 metre AstroTurf track. Skied 100 miles (160km) on a Concept2 Ski Erg. Ran across Singapore (58km) wearing a 10kg weighted vest and a 7kg rucksack.  

My most recent challenge to set myself, was to travel 100 miles (160km) on each of the Concept2 range; The Rower, Ski Erg and Bike.  Combining and total distance of 300 miles or 480km.

Unlucky for some, 13  

After the run across Singapore, I really wasn’t happy with my performance. To be honest, I didn’t really make an effort.  I didn’t train for it, I didn’t take it seriously and actually, I felt disappointed with myself.   

To make up for it and to prove to myself I hadn’t lost ‘it', (that mental edge, of able to push through), I thought “fuck it, it’s time for another challenge, and 300 miles should do it...and I’m going to do it before my 37th birthday".  So with a day's notice (first mistake), I set myself up to row-ski-cycle the 300 miles…

I set off at quite a comfortable pace, around a 46-48 minute per 10km split, taking 5-7 minutes rest per 10km interval.  I got to hour 7, around 70km and my back started to tighten.  

The next mistake I made, was demolishing lovely a meaty pizza a couple of hours in.  I ate the same one when I pushed the prowler, so I thought it wouldn’t do me any harm-WRONG! To be honest, you don’t need to be a sports nutritionist to know, that a pizza probably isn’t the best fuel for an ultra endurance event. This time it didn’t agree with me and created a lot of bloating in my stomach. That in turn, led to a change in posture and when I rowed, put more tension/stress on the muscles along the spine. 

After popping pain killers, regular stretching and massaging at every checkpoint, after 13 hours (130km), I ‘tapped out’ and quit. Frankly, I didn’t want to continue and mess up my back, for an event that ultimately didn’t ‘mean’ anything, this was just my own challenge I’d set myself.

Fuck that!

It took me a lot to swallow my pride and stop.  Obviously I’d made this challenge public and was confident/cocky I’d complete it.  It played on my mind, how humiliating this would be to quit, but essentially though, I thought no one’s actually going to give a fuck. No one’s lost out and if there were to be any ‘nay sayers’, them fuck them.  

Ultimately I tried to convince myself I’d earned my stripes before, from the 24 hours on a rower, so I already knew I could do better.  

It was a big lesson for me though.  In the past, in my personal life and business life, I’ve made a lot of mistakes because, I let my pride get in way and because I didn’t want to lose face.  So making the conscious decision to ‘quit’ rather being forced to, was a very humbling experience.

That being said, I was so pissed off with myself the next day, I told myself I’d come back and have another attempt in four weeks time.  

The last time I pulled out of a challenge was 7 years ago, in The Worlds Toughest Mudder, a 24 hour obstacle race in the Nevada desert.  I pulled out of that race at the 22 hour mark and never forgave myself for it.  This recent failure was a great reminder of how shit it feels to quit. FUCK-THAT!

Training for 300 miles 

I obviously disrespected the challenge first time around and didn’t train specifically for it.  Now I was hungry and had to take this more seriously.  

I didn’t go crazy, but the first thing I did was, everyday use at least one of the Concept2 range and did at least x1 10km, or 20km (on the bike) and I just rotated the equipment on alternate days. I didn’t do any more that, as I didn’t want get bored of the training, otherwise I’d be less motivated to do it.

For strength training, I only incorporated pulling work and this would be my second session of the day. I included lots of isolated movements, like lat pull downs and swimmers pulls. It was also important that I added functional movements, like sled pulling using rope (as if hoisting a main sail).  I also included lots of big compound pulling lifts, like power cleans, clean squats, various types of barbell squats and various types of deadlift.

The next element was physio, plenty of it. Every week I had my back clicked, cracked, massaged and straightened.  I didn’t my back to be an excuse again!

Nutrition for Ultramarathons 

Leading up to the challenge, my nutrition didn’t really change.  I use a company called Fitthree to sort out my meals throughout the week.   I was hitting around 2700-3000 calories between three meals and one snack per day.

As for ‘carb loading’, I probably only increased maybe a handful more two days out.

Come race day, I kept my food simple and ate roughy 350-400 calories every 3-4 hours .  I knew for fucking sure, I wouldn’t be eating pizza again-silly twat! 

Where I could, I opted for more potatoes as my starch. I ate lean proteins like chicken breast and kept the fat to a minimum, as I didn’t want to cause extra stress on the digestive system. ie, I didn’t want to have to need a poo for as long as possible.

Other ‘nutrition’ that kept me gong was jelly sweets and BCAA drinks.  I also topped up my usual supplements of magnesium, multi vitamins, liver detox and creatine.

Hydration wise, I aimed to drink one litre every hour.  

Race day

One lesson I learned from the last attempt, was I started too late in the day.  This meant working through two nights.  This second time around I decided to start earlier, at 0700 Saturday morning, as opposed to late in the afternoon. 

The rower: I set off a slightly slower pace around 50 minute/10km and took full advantage of the the 10 minutes max rest allowance (as set by the monitor before timing out and resetting). 

I didn't really get much pain from the rower compared to last time. Don't get me wrong, I got stiff and was having to down Ibrobufen to ease the chronic pain.  

I finished the 100miles/160km at 15 hours 55 minutes and 50 seconds, at 22:52 Saturday evening.  I took about 20 minutes to reset myself and take a shower before starting the Ski Erg… 

Standard Technique for the Concept 2 Rower

The Ski Erg: One of the main benefits of the Ski Erg, is that it's not necessarily a 'fixed path' movement, compared to the rower.  On the rower, your feet are strapped in and you can only go back and forth, which is ultimately what causes the stiffness from 'repetitive strain' if you will.   

On the Ski Erg, you can change foot positions, you can change from arms straight, to arms bent pulling.  You can rotate at the hips, the thoracic (middle spine) and shoulders.  All changes of the biomechanics reduces continuous-repeatitive strain.  Saying that, it still fucking hurt and it still took fucking ages.  The hardest part though, is going through the night-man that sucks!

Because I was going through the night, naturally I wouldn't normally be eating, I'd be sleeping, so I didn't have much of an appetite.  Not eating means no fuel.  No fuel means you don't get very far and so I slowed right down.  By 0530, I was fucked.  I was really holding out for daylight, so that my body clock would kick in and I would feel like I was half awake again.

I finished my 200mile/320kms at 35 hours 39 minutes and 40 seconds, around 18:36 Sunday evening.  2/3, let's go...

Standard Technique for the Concept 2 Ski Erg

The Bike:  Now, if you've never ridden a Concept2 bike before, let me tell you now, it ain't like ridding a normal bike.  There's no free-wheeling and no downhill and there certainly ain't no comfort on them saddles!  However, it was a massive morale boost to get on the bike, as it meant I was nearly finished, ('nearly finished', as in 'only another 7 hours-is to go, yayyyyy).

In my mind was aiming for 5 hours.  My intention was to go in 20km intervals, but I just wanted to get it done, so I could go home, get a curry and then go to bed.  So set off at belting pace and only took a couple of minutes rest after the first interval.  I wanted to get straight into the next 20km, but I was getting a hotspot on my foot, that was so distracting and uncomfortable, it became consuming.  All I kept thinking about was Muhammed Ali's quote, "It's not the mountain that'll break you, it's the stone in your shoe".  This was almost literally 'the stone in my shoe', so I changed shoes-sorted.

Because I was hyped about being closer to the finish line, for some reason thought I was in a spin class.  I whacked the music right up, blared out some banging tunes and as a result, I totally forgot about my game plan.  

Hyped up-high BPM music, is not good for long slow duration (for me anyway).  It get's you too fired up and as result, burns me out quickly and that's exactly what happened.  

From the start, I was working out my pace and estimated finish time.  As I started burning out, that finish time slowly started slipping away.  Every minute slower on a 10 km split compounds and the end time gets further-and-further away.  It's very demoralising.

It's like physically trying to catch up with a loved one, on a train setting off from the platform.  You're able to keep up, fingers touching, but then the train speeds up and pulls away, as you slow down and then have to stop, bent over crying out nooooo.  Yeah, kinda like that., but this time your loved one is a bed.

Eventually I managed to finish the full 300 miles/480km, after 43 hours 37 minutes 34 seconds at 02:36 Monday morning. Thank fuck.  Really didn't want to go through any of that again.

Spirit of the Ultra Triathlon

All throughout the challenge I wanted to stop.  Believe me, I was trying to find every excuse and think of every rationale to get out of it.  However, one lesson I learned from my last attempt, was that I didn’t have to my main motivator, (my son Rudy) 'present' for me.  

When I did my 60 hours pushing a prowler, I wrote his name on a white board, so I had a visual reminder (or anchor) of him.  On my last Triathlon attempt and for my 'low performance' run across Singapore, I didn't have that.  Going in this time, I used a picture he drew for me, as my motivator.   Every time the 'why the fuck am I doing this?' question popped into my head, I just looked at the picture and it reminded me of why.  

What's your motivator/anchor?  What will keep you pushing when you want to stop and give up?

I mentioned before, I learned a valuable lesson about swallowing my pride and quitting on my last attempt, it felt good knowing that I was going achieve it next time around.  It gave more focus and more incentive.  I have to say, it was a great experience, coming back from failure.  

A question I get asked (and I still ask myself), is why do it in the first place?  No-one challenged me.  I made no money from it. I raised no money.  No one was there to see me finish.  The world wasn’t changed and I didn't make a difference, or add value to anyone's life.  So why the fuck?  

It's simple for me, to prove to myself  that I can.  I did it completely for me.  I now have a multitude of experience of pushing myself through physical pain, through mental doubt and coming back from failure and I did all of that out of choice.  This is mental conditioning for me.  David Goggins refers to this as 'calusing the mind', effectively, making yourself mentally tougher.

I love this endurance stuff, it's time alone going through hardship.  You ask and answer a lot of your own questions and I feel, you can learn a lot about yourself from ultra endurance events. Some might say this is another method of distraction, or procrastination; a way of avoiding something that actually needs to be done.  Yeah possibly,  but fuck it-why not?  

Keep it real guys.

If you have a challenge you want to overcome, or you need to find some motivation, reach out and let's have a chat.

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