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.

Monday, September 05, 2016

End of Summer / It Sucks to be Broken

First of all, I've had a lovely summer.

Savageman is once again employed, but we had a good 5 months of downtime together while he was in the process of making the change.  Although I was working part-time myself, (still doing neuropsych evals), and of course training, training, training, we had some genuine quality time together to reconnect and refocus, which was really nice.  He started doing yoga at my BJJ school, then added some classes at the Y as well, and I joined him, so we were even able to train at something together.  We did some good house and yard projects, and just enjoyed each other's company for a while.  Very grateful for so much quality time.

The boys were all around for summer vacation, all happy and doing their individual activities and jobs.  Two weeks ago, Middle and Not-So-Little headed off to 12th and 8th grade, and the same week the Eldest and Savageman started their new jobs.  I went from having everyone home to being alone with the pets in the house on the days I'm not working or training.  Soooooo quiet.

We had a nice week with my parents in NC last month, which was lovely as always.  The Eldest brought his Beloved, who we enjoy very much, and we all had a good time at the beach and enjoying the house and the pool and the hot tub.  Emphasis on the hot tub.

It is no exaggeration to say I spent the majority of my waking hours in the hot tub, reading Game of Thrones and letting the jets drill into my derpy shoulder, which has become increasingly derpy over the last 6 months or so. What started out as a minor annoyance I noticed last November ("Hmmm, it hurts to pull my shirt over my head... oh well, it will go away") has turned into The Thing That Will NOT Go Away, despite months of simply ignoring it, popping a few Aleve, slapping on an ice pack or electric stim and going on with my life.  This usually works, and I generally have a high tolerance for these periodic injuries.  But this has gone way beyond the limit for a minor annoyance.  I'm guessing something in the rotator cuff region of my right shoulder has been torn or badly injured and is not getting better.  Although the hot tub certainly helped more than anything else had.

I went to the doctor when I got back, and he sent me to PT, where I am now spending several hours, 3 days per week, relearning how to use my shoulder muscles, which are officially F**ked Up. To fix this, of course they have to work on my back and my posture, and not just the weak arm.  Going through my regimen of back and shoulder exercises, I was surprised at how resentful I felt toward the process, the friendly staff, the situation in general.  Not at all my usual positive self, more like a demoralized teenager being forced to do PT for posture issues against her will. Oh wait....

Having acknowledged the understandable resistance from the still-deeply-wounded-girl-within, I'm doing my best to embrace the process, realizing that in the long run, I'm better off addressing and fixing the problems and strengthening the weak places that probably resulted in the injury in the first place. I've had to back off on the intensity of the training so that I don't do more damage while we're straightening it all out. Hopefully, this will work and I won't need surgery, which is looming out there as Plan B. I'm doing my best to nurture the Surly Girl within, being kind and understanding with her and treating her with things she likes.

One of these things is time to relax and read in the hot tub.  I recently acquired a hand-me-down from the Guru - it is my new favorite place to hide out with my book and my phone and a beverage.  I've created a nice area for it next to our backyard patio and it has been simply lovely to soak and read and heal surrounded by the birds and crickets and flowers and sunshine.  I'm on the second book in the Game of Thrones series - the first fiction I've read in years - and it's an enjoyable diversion. Watching parts of the TV series with the Guru has been fun as well - we've broken up the training this summer with that (and some other, more comedic video entertainment) while healing from our respective injuries and hardships of life. Grateful as always for his time and friendship, both of which have been plentiful this spring and summer.

Injuries aside, we've covered a lot of ground BJJ-wise, and he's been an invaluable asset to me as I've been given so much more teaching responsibility at BJJ this summer. I'm now filling in when needed for the GirlCoach, teaching the women's sport BJJ class and self-defense classes.  Although I've been assisting with children's classes since I was a white belt, this summer I've had a few opportunities to actually run children's class.  At a time when my own BJJ performance is kind of sucky, (blaming the injury because I can), it's reassuring to know that my coaches still find me valuable as an instructor, if not a fierce competitor.

I did compete at the Keystone State Games in July.  It was a last-minute decision, when a teammate found herself in a bracket of much bigger, younger opponents, I jumped in so she could have a fair shot at winning.  Which she did - she beat me 2-0. It was okay, though - she got gold, I got silver, and we both had a good experience and no injuries.  It reminded me that I still have much to learn, though, and I've been trying to get my head back in the game.

Priority One is to fix my arm.  There is a lot I can't do, or I've been doing badly because I'm so weak on that side now.  My PT has expressed an interest in learning more about both BJJ and kickboxing so that he will know what kinds of motions I need to do and can help me do them correctly.  I think that's pretty cool of him.  Priority Two is to get my butt back into class, even if I'm not rolling live, so I can at least stay on top of the techniques and keep to my regular routine.  Last week I blew off multiple classes at both schools and then wound up running 1.7 miles yesterday just to get my blood pumping.  One can only lounge in the hot tub so many hours.  Priority Three is to get back to learning outside of class again.  August was the first month that I did very little reading, watching instructional videos, or technique nerding with the Guru, and I need to get back to these things.

So I have a plan - we'll see if I can get the momentum going again this fall.  In the meantime, sleep....