Sunday, April 09, 2017

Leaps Forward

Apparently, the work has been paying off.

Much to my surprise, at the end of class Wednesday, I was called up by the Coach and the Coach's Coach to receive a stripe.  GirlCoach was downstairs teaching kids, and there was some speculation that she would be pissed that they did it without her, but I was fine with the timing of it. I was having a really good night - hell, I was having a really good week, and those are hard to come by.  Getting promoted on an "up" phase is awesome, and you never know how long those phases will last.  I have no idea if they promoted me because they noticed the change or not, but I'll take it.

It was a big week overall at our gym - on Saturday, the Coach and GirlCoach both received their black belts.  While it takes 3-4 years to get a black belt in my other style, a BJJ black belt takes about 10-12 years.  So, huge accomplishment for this amazing couple (who already both have black belts in Judo).  They are an amazing inspiration to all - especially my GirlCoach, who is the only female BJJ black belt in our part of the state.  Watching her regularly handle bigger, stronger opponents with ease gives me hope that someday I'll develop the technique to make up for my own lack of size and strength.

The next day, we had a news crew visit our women's class and report on our self-defense program in general.  Nice to get the media attention, and good to be involved in such an important effort.  GirlCoach is away today and will still be away Tuesday, so I'll be covering both women's classes for her.  Grateful for the opportunities I get to teach there, and for the trust they put in me.

In other news, Middle has officially chosen to go to Penn State, and he's leaving in June.  Very, very excited for him, but wow, it's going to be weird not having him here this summer.  Needless to say, I'm taking as many hours as I can at work, with the goal of having him graduate with as little debt as possible.

Between work and training, life is busy.  Good busy, happy busy.

Enough writing.  Off to teach some badass BJJ to some awesome women.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Digging Out

Both literally and figuratively.

After one of the mildest winters I can remember, including a week of temps in the upper 60s in February, we finally had a big snowstorm this week. We had one day of Trapped Inside and another day of shoveling out of 2 feet of snow.  Now it's starting to warm up and melt everything, just in time for the first day of Spring.

In the figurative sense, I'm digging my way out of what feels like a deep training hole.

I'm a one-stripe Blue Belt, and have been for a very long time.  It's probably an appropriate resting place for someone who (in my own self-assessment) has a lot of very good technical knowledge, but can't put most of it into practice during a competitive roll. After about 6 months of taking it easy, choosing the safest options, teaching instead of training, and generally not taking risks, I feel weak and shitty, I've been stuck under stronger and heavier opponents (all but 2 outweigh me), and I've spent too many months now squirming around at the bottom of a bad position.

Blue Belt Blues is a Thing, and it's worse when you're trying to bounce back from an injury. The drop out rate between Blue and Purple is dramatic.  Injuries play a factor, of course, as do work, financial issues, and family responsibilities.  But a big part of the Blue Belt Blues is the fact that you feel like you should have enough knowledge and skill by this point to deal with lower belts, and this isn't always the case.  Eventually, this becomes frustrating; you feel like you're not improving, people are catching up to you, you're tapping to less experienced people, and generally feel like you're making backward progress.

It's hard, but knowing that this is a Thing actually makes it a much easier thing to deal with.  It's part of the process, everyone has been there, everyone understands the frustrations involved at this stage. Many of the lower belts are stronger, younger, and more athletic, Branching out beyond your most comfortable techniques and experimenting with new stuff is going to get you swept, passed and tapped - a lot.  It's the only way to grow, though, and it's crucial to check the ego at the door and not beat yourself up for getting tapped.

So says the conventional wisdom, anyway.

All of this is true, but I'm getting tired of being here.  And I'm not inclined to quit.  It's time to get off of this endless plateau.  So I'm doing that. My coaches have been wonderful, giving me increasing levels of teaching responsibility this year, inviting me to seminars, and being generally accepting and supportive. This week, they both encouraged me to start lifting, but not in a general way.  Download this book and this app, says the Coach.  The Girl Coach walked through each of the items with me, showing me proper technique and tips on using the app.  They've both been working with me on the trouble spots in my rolling. I'm eating more carefully, torturing myself with foam rollers and lacrosse balls, maintaining my 3 days / week PT regimen, and reminding myself that I'm an athlete and need to behave as such.

Hoping this all makes a difference and I get back to where I was.  So much easier to maintain than to dig my way out of a hole.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Since November....

I spent a bit of time reading through some old stuff here this weekend, appreciating the fact that I had been recording the goings-on of my family, my training, and life in general throughout the years.  It was disappointing to see the large gaps, and I wondered what I would have written during those phases.  Realizing that I was currently creating one such gap, I am taking some time to catch up now, and hopefully be a bit more conscientious about putting something down from time to time that I can look back upon later.

So, currently...

I'm still training at both schools, but the balance has shifted very far over to BJJ.  Some weeks, the only time I get into JSD is Monday night with my CardioPal, who also recently started taking women's BJJ with me on Sundays.  We've been spending more time together this last year, which has been nice. I've done another 2 months of PT for the shoulder, and I competed in our in-house tournament in February.  I lost both my matches, but this time on points and not by submission.  Small successes. Competing at blue belt level is definitely tougher and I'm still a "young" blue belt with a crappy shoulder. In any case, I'm there at least 4 days per week, and at JSD for cardio and sometimes morning classes. I also started taking a spinning class Friday mornings.

The family has been busy.  Middle has spent this year as the Communications Chair for the high school's Mini Thon program, which has been a huge undertaking, on top of his schoolwork and job at the new hipster wine bar.  This weekend was the actual event, and they raised around $300,000 this year - more than they had expected.  Savageman and I were there as parent helpers and stayed up all night so we could be there for the big Reveal at the end.  It was exciting to see all the hard work paying off.  Super proud of the kid, and excited to find out what's next for him.  So far, he's been accepted to Pitt and Penn State, main campuses for both, and VA Tech, where I did my graduate work.  Waiting now on the others.

Little is enjoying his 8th grade year in public middle school.  The academic part has been a struggle, but we're working on it. He's still doing BJJ and has some nice friends from there.

Eldest is working full time at a local cafe and just spent a week with the girlfriend, who was home from PSU for spring break. She'll be graduating this year, so it will be interesting to see what's next for him (them) as well.

Savageman has taken up yoga, and does that 2-3 times per week. Netflix and chill every evening together is a nice way to end the day.

Which I should do now.  Goal is to write more consistently

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Was Hoping for a Productive Week

I don't usually get a whole week off work, so when I realized I had 5 days without testings, PT appointments, or responsibilities in general, I was thrilled. The possibilities were endless!  I bugged Middle to choose some schools to visit.  I imagined all the extra martial arts I would be free to do. Finishing book 3 of Game of Thrones (4 and 5 are sitting in the corner, waiting). House projects, knitting, organization and decluttering, leisurely lunch with friends, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather outside....

Well, it's Thursday.  I've done pretty much none of those things.  I actually blew off several martial arts classes / lunches and spent much of this week at the house, in sweats or the hot tub, sleeping and vegging.  I have blogged, and I worked quite a bit on my shoulder with the ball and the chiropractor yesterday.  But other than my short visit with him, I have been downright antisocial, preferring peace and quiet and feeling irritated at the slightest intrusion.  Middle wound up not wanting a college tour this week, and I turned down an invitation for coffee with a friend. No house projects happened beyond the minimal level of maintenance. The most interesting culinary creation I've managed was tuna salad, which I ate in front of YouTube.

I've been in a state of Absolute Lazy, and the week is almost over.

On the other hand, I do have more mobility in my shoulder than I've had in ages, so maybe all that messing around with the lacrosse ball has done some good.  And I took 3 classes tonight (2 BJJ and 1 Judo), all of which felt really good. I spent some quality time with The Eldest before he headed to work. I tackled the unruly pile of mail and bills that was taking over my family room.

And I caught up on my sleep and relaxed and read in the hot tub.

Maybe a week of downtime was something I needed. I have a tendency to beat myself up if I'm not being productive all the time, and that's not always a good thing. Tomorrow is another free day and I could get a lot done if I'm motivated to do so.

Or maybe I'll take another day off.  It's nice to have the option.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Shoulder

In the course of 7 1/2 years of martial arts training, I have had aches and pains, broken digits and other injuries.  They last a few days to a few months, I push through them, and they get better.  It's a normal part of life, especially when I'm using new muscles and moving in new ways.  I take it all in stride, and if I need the ice pack or an occasional Aleve, it's no big deal.

It was no different about a year ago when my right shoulder started bothering me.  The thing I noticed first was that I had to modify the way I dressed and undressed.  Pulling a shirt or sports bra over my head the normal way locked up my shoulder and caused pain to shoot down my upper arm. Push ups and burpees hurt too. So I didn't do those things, I used a different maneuver to get out of my clothes, and I went on with my life.

Now, it's a year later. Other aches and pains and injuries have come and gone, but this one has persisted throughout.  With a ridiculously high insurance deductible, I was hesitant to seek help, but by summer, it was time.  I saw the chiropractor in June - he helped a little, then an orthopedic doctor in August.  He sent me to physical therapy. I took a break from JSD, Judo, and much of BJJ and spent roughly 6 hours per week for the next two months rehabilitating and strengthening the muscles surrounding my rotator cuff. The muscles were still hard and knotted, so I added regular trigger point massages as well - excruciating, but effective.  After a month, I still couldn't undress (or do push ups), so I went back to the ortho and he convinced me to do a cortisone shot.  It may have helped a little, but it didn't fix anything and I don't want another one.

Last week, I ended the PT.  They've done what they could, and I'm definitely stronger and have more mobility, but it's still not fixed, which is frustrating.  (Can't wait until I see the bill...)  I saw the chiropractor again today, and he agreed I'm stronger and have more mobility, but it's still not right and there was no adjustment he could do without risking making it worse.  So it's on me, the lacrosse ball,  the stretchy bands, the foam roller, the hot tub and the electric stim working on it every day.  Sometimes Savageman lends his thumbs, which can be nice as well.

I'm thinking it's going in the right direction, but so, so slowly. I've resumed most of my normal training schedule, modifying where needed. It sucks, but it is what it is.

I also turned 47 last week. Whether I like to admit it or not, I don't heal as quickly as I used to.  Finding the line between "Don't be a wuss" and "Don't be stupid; take care of your body" isn't as easy as it used to be.  I have to think long-term if I want to still be happily training years from now. Building on the strength I've gained at PT, maybe adding some regular yoga and keeping the daily stretching and massaging should all help.

On days like today, it felt good to read in the hot tub and eat leftover Halloween candy.  As long as I don't make it a habit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

NaBloPoMo 2016

The goal is to blog something every day in November.

There was a moment of insanity when I actually considered doing NaNoWriMo again this year, but it passed quickly.  A 50,000 word novel is more pressure than I can handle in the next 30 days, although it would give me a convenient excuse to give myself a break from other challenges. BTDT in 2011, and it was a great experience, but I decided this wasn't the year for an encore. In reality, one blog post per day is an achievable goal, and an enjoyable way to reflect on life and where I'm at in this particular phase of it.

As usual, my focus will likely be on the joys and struggles of martial arts training.  One of my passions as a martial artist is outreach - I truly believe that everyone could benefit from some martial arts (or at least self-defense) training, and writing about it is certainly one way to reach out to others. Unfortunately, I'm also somewhat shy about sharing or promoting my musings, even with other martial artists who might enjoy and identify with my perspective.  So, I write primarily for myself, I try to be candid and honest, and I try to respect the privacy of those around me.  If you happen to have have come across this blog, I do hope you find some enjoyment or inspiration in it.  

A brief snapshot of my life on November 1, 2016:  My typical week is essentially split between part-time work doing psychometrics for a neuropsychology practice, running the (frustratingly cluttered and disorganized) home I share with my husband and 3 boys (ages 20, 17, and 13), and training in kickboxing and JSD at one school and Judo / BJJ at another.  At JSD, I'm a second-degree black belt with 7.5 years of training there.  At the other school, I've been training for almost 2 years.  I'm an orange belt in Judo (although AWOL from Judo class since probably July when I got serious about healing my shoulder injury) and a 1 stripe blue belt in BJJ.  This week, I have no work scheduled and I just finished physical therapy, so I'm enjoying some quiet time at home, soaking in the hot tub with the third Game of Thrones book, hanging from a pull-up bar and torturing the shoulder knots with a lacrosse ball, and doing general housework while listening to commentary regarding the most ridiculous election season in the history of humankind.

And, of course, writing.  I've forgotten how time consuming this can be!

Will do my best to keep up with it this month.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Jiu-Jitsu Saved My Life

... but running saved my jiu-jitsu.

I recently hit rock bottom with regard to the injury, the lack of exercise and the comorbid irritability, anxiety, lack of motivation, and general sulkiness.  I spent a lot of time hiding in the hot tub, and found myself trying not to cry at PT.  I'm not a person who cries.

I told my Assistant PT Person that I couldn't handle not training for much longer.  A former Hardcore Ballerina, she understood and encouraged me to be patient, said that waiting and doing it right will pay off, yada yada.  I told her that I had started running and it had felt good (although I was now dealing with the excruciating calf muscles that always come after I start back up).  She said we'd add running to my PT protocol, showed me the treadmill, and helped me stretch my calves.

So, starting with the 3 sessions I had last week, we changed things a bit.  PT now begins with heat and electric stim, 10 minutes on the "arm bicycle" and a 12 minute mile on the treadmill.  When I'm done with that, my endogenous opiates are flowing.  From there, I move on to about an hour of foam roller exercises on the table and standing exercises using the wall.  We finish with a (way too brief) session of deep tissue massage and they tape my shoulder in place so that it can't come forward.  My posture has never looked this good.

On the days I don't have PT, I run in the neighborhood.  I still run in Vibrams, as it's most like being barefoot at martial arts.  I don't think I own a pair of sneakers or running shoes, and that's fine with me.  My Vibrams have served me well.  I also have the same playlist on my iPod that I've used for years, carefully selected so that the cadence of the songs match my preferred footfalls. On the treadmill, I stick to the same pace for the same distance each time.  In the neighborhood, I pick one of 3 different routes: a 1.1, a 1.7, or a 2.1 mile loop. (Usually the 1.7) At the height of my running enthusiasm, I did take the 2.1 loop twice in a row, but that's pushing it for me.  I'm happy with 3 miles or less, in my same shoes, listening to my same music.  I'm not especially flexible when it comes to my running habits.

By the end of the week, I was starting to feel human again.  I showed up at a few JSD and BJJ classes, and watched and helped and taught.  Saturday was the color belt test at JSD and I participated in that, sparring my heart out and loving every second.  I still ran my 1.7 loop that evening.  Sunday, I took women's class at BJJ, then went back in to work with the Guru for another hour as he was home for the day.

Today, I went back to PT with renewed optimism and found that I was stronger, had less pain, and could do things I couldn't do last week.  This was the first glimmer of improvement I've felt since starting the process, and it motivated me to push myself for more.  Combined with the adjustments I got from the Guru yesterday, I have some goals for my next few weeks of BJJ, and I'm looking forward to getting back to JSD as well.

Speaking of JSD - in his post-test comments to the testing students and our school as a whole, the Master singled out for praise the students who were cross-training in fighting styles - there are two of us who also do BJJ now.  He said that training in a practical fighting style was making us better, more well-rounded martial artists.  It's a position I have long held, but it was so gratifying to hear it publicly acknowledged by the Master a year and half into my BJJ / Judo training.  Feeling like there is still a place for me at JSD and that my individual path is understood and supported has me looking forward to spending more time there, helping out where I can.

Today (and really, the whole weekend) has been, hopefully, a turning point.  I've got some good momentum finally going and I intend to build upon it.  Tomorrow will be full of opportunities - the plan is JSD in the morning, then PT, then teaching both kids and women's self-defense classes in the absence of my GirlCoach.  If I get a chance, I will try grab someone and try a few of my newly adjusted moves.

It's all good.