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Something’s gotta give

So as I mentioned in this post, I have recently undertaken a very ambitious training schedule. Since then I’ve also lost my recovery day (Fridays) to tournament training. Not surprisingly, this has left me feeling perpetually exhausted and sore. I know that I cannot keep this pace. Eventually something is going to give and I’m going to get injured or just worn down to the point of uselessness. This means I have to cut back on something but what?

I am now training BJJ 7 times a week. It seems obvious that this is what I should cut back on. But this doesn’t make sense to me. I am training for a BJJ tournament, why would I cut back on BJJ? This means that I am going to need to cut back on weight training or cardio. But which one?

I was giving this some thought the other day as I was stuck under my opponents while rolling, too tired and sore to do anything useful. It is my belief that I either need to lose weight to get into a smaller division or build some muscle to compete at the weight I am at. I feel like all the girls at my weight are stronger than me. This is why I started weight training a few weeks ago. So naturally I was leaning toward giving up cardio.

But of course this seemed like a bad idea too. If I want to go hard for 6 minutes, I better have some cardio in reserve! Then I started to think about rolling at the gym. That is a pretty good cardio workout in itself. Could that count as my cardio?

I got a headache from all the thinking I was doing so I decided to just ask people who know better than me. I asked one of the school’s coaches who is a pro MMA fighter (and also a brand new BJJ brown belt) and I asked my coach what they thought I should be focusing on. Both of them said they didn’t think traditional weight training should be my focus right now. They also said I don’t need to be doing a lot of cardio. They both suggested I check out a video by Marcelo Garcia in which he explains to his students how he uses jiu-jitsu and nothing else to train for jiu-jitsu.

The basic idea is that you go really hard and fast the entire time you roll. This does not mean you muscle everything and beat your opponents up (the quickest way to find yourself with no rolling partners) but just that you make yourself constantly move an exhaust yourself. He contends that this is not only good for cardio but also great training for when you are tired and out of gas while competing.

I wanted to try yesterday but I was still so tired and sore that I could barely move. This reinforced my belief that I am pushing myself too hard. Monday and Tuesday I felt like I was rolling good, moving out of bad positions, getting where I wanted to go, etc. Wednesday and Thursday I could feel the drain on my body and could not do anything.

Part of me thinks that I should just push through. I am tired now because of the extra activity and I just need to adjust. The other part hates that I have no energy for rolling because of the other work I’m doing.

I am thinking of trying to combine cardio and weights next week by doing kettlebells or something similar and just keep moving so that I don’t need to do 13 different workouts a week. I’m also going to take Marcelo’s advice and try to be constantly moving while I roll so that I have to drag my lifeless body off the mat every night. Hopefully I will find the right strength/cardio/BJJ balance to bring out my inner badass.

For those of you interested, here is Marcelo’s video:

Raising the bar

This is what I’m doing, both literally and figuratively. Since I have decided to work on my mental game and let go of my negative attitudes toward BJJ, I feel like I have elevated my game to a new level. I am enjoying rolling again, I feel like I am making progress and BJJ is just fun again!

In addition to changes in my BJJ focus, I am also trying to work toward some fitness goals. I was doing strength and conditioning training at my weekend gym for a couple of months and I could tell what a huge difference it was making in my game. I was able to move faster and several of my training partners commented on how much stronger they felt I was getting.

I loved it and the changes I saw in both my physical appearance and my BJJ game but sadly the class ended in December due to lack of interest. The instructor intended it to be a women’s only fitness class and as I was one of two women training BJJ at the time, I was the only person in class most of the time. I guess he wasn’t getting much return of investment in just training me.

I wanted to keep doing the exercises he went over with us but I am surprisingly lazy when left to my own devices. I long ago realized that workouts go better for me in a group or a trainer setting. I need to be held accountable or I make up excuses not to do things. Without a class I stopped doing strength and conditioning. In part I think this was mourning over the class. He designed the class for people training BJJ so all of the exercises targeted areas and movements you need for BJJ. How was I going to find that again?

Lately I have tried to be really focused on diet and conditioning again. I did a 30 day paleo challenge that my coach encouraged us to try and I really liked the diet. I also have been going to the gym early on Mondays and Wednesdays so I can do some cardio before class. It’s been going well but I knew I needed to add some strength training in there as well.

Well conveniently for me my friend and training partner has been dating a guy who not only also trains BJJ but who is a bodybuilder. She mentioned that he had put together a diet program for her and was going to help her with strength training. The first thing that occurred to me was that I was not going to make it through rolls with her if she got any stronger (she is freakishly strong already). Immediately afterwards I decided to be opportunistic and think about me and asked her if he would be interested in doing the same for me. She asked and he said yes!

Over the weekend we met up to discuss a diet plan and what and when I should be eating if I’m going to be training. He said if I stuck to the program it would lean me out, which I am much looking forward to. Yesterday we met up at a gym so he could go over some strength exercises I should be working that will specifically target muscles needed for BJJ. We will probably meet once more next week to go over some more and then I will be incorporating the strength routines into my other training.

This will mean more time in the gym and probably less sleep but these are the sacrifices we have to make if we want to be the best! I am very optimistic about my new training regime and diet even as I feel the pain slowly seeping into my muscles (probably by lunch I won’t be able to walk). I am pushing hard for a good showing at the NY Open in April. If I am on top of the podium then all of the pain will be worth it. Even if I am not, I will at least know I gave it my all and can walk away happy, I would really prefer to win though 🙂

The Gentle Artist

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