Try It. You Might Surprise Yourself

I have a really bad habit of letting my brain get in my way. I’m not a natural athlete. Not at all. But that hasn’t stopped me from being involved in sports or some form of physical activity for the greatest portion of my life. I can’t run fast, but I can plod along forever. I’m not SheRa, but I’m strong enough to surprise most folks. I’m not overly coordinated but I can usually figure out how to do something eventually. Often, I more likely to accomplish something by trial and error alone in my own gym. As a matter of fact, several times I have been able to do something dependably in my gym (#gymjen on IG) then fallen completely short of doing it in front of someone else. I did this at my first RKC as I was working to become an instructor. I can psych the hell out of myself.

I did this again last week. Ashley showed us a move in which we needed to go from flat on our backs to a backward roll with no momentum. If we needed to, we could use our opponent’s arm that we were holding with our arms over our heads.  As he was showing it, I thought, “Yeeeaaaaah….riiiiiiight……” From the very first moment, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I couldn’t. Not there. Not with other people around. The next day, though, I thought I would work on it during my workout, maybe build up to it, hopefully be able to accomplish it after a few days’ work. With my brain out of the way, though, I did it the first time.

I really need to find a way to keep from outthinking myself. Do you? Give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

A Visit to 10th Planet

I’m finally back after a three and a half month hiatus to wander the wild west. My 20th anniversary trip with the hubby turned into quite the adventure across Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California and Arizona. I had initially thought it would be a sort of tour of southwestern jiujitsu gyms, but due to off timing and a few viral snafus, I didn’t get to roll in a new gym until our last couple of weeks on the road.

Honestly, I was more than a little nervous about rolling with people I didn’t know. Suddenly, the night before I was going to go to class the next morning, I started trying to talk myself out of going. What business does a middle-aged, chubby white belt have poking her head into a strange gym? Surely they would at best treat me as if I didn’t exist, at worst sneer and make me feel as if I were back in 8th grade again. At worst, they would validate the feelings I had about myself. I’ve never been one to let fear or anxiety stop me, though, so off I went the next morning.

As usual, I was so glad that I did. The folks at 10th Planet Las Vegas in Henderson were a warm, wonderful group of people. I had called the day before to make sure that my coming to the Monday morning class would be okay. Casey Halstead asked if I had trained before, and after getting a confirmation that I had, said he looked forward to meeting me the next day. Like at our gym, preclass prep included a lot of catching up about the preceding weekend and checking in with each other for the regulars. No one but Casey and a couple others really introduced themselves at that point, but with time more people said hello and helped show me how they did things there. For instance, they have a couple of pairs of Crocs in front of the bathrooms for people to where in so that people don’t walk into the bathroom then track back out onto the mats. When I started past the Crocs to the bathrooms, I was politely redirected. By the end of class when we rolled, I felt like part of the family there. I didn’t sit out a single round during the rolling after class even though there was only one other gal there. I got some pointers and some compliments and lots of “hope you come backs.” I even met a fellow who grew up just down the road from where I live now, 1600 miles away.

I’ll be much more likely to check out new gyms as I travel, now, thanks to the great folks at  10th Planet Las Vegas, and I’ll definitely be back there next time I’m in Sin City. Don’t talk yourself out of a great experience by being worried about the possibility of a bad one.

And because everything is better with pictures:



Being Thankful for What We Do Have

I rolled tonight for the first time in weeks, maybe even in a couple of months. Travel, injuries and work have kept me out of the gym on Tuesdays, and that’s the day we most consistently spar. Though today was a Monday, we went a couple of rounds, and I felt well enough and had the time to participate. I definitely felt those weeks off, not in my conditioning because I had kept my workouts up, but in my game. My reflexes weren’t as quick, and my mind wasn’t as sharp.

I’m not a natural athlete. I was always the kid picked next-to-last for teams, but I have always loved sports anyway, always played. Occasionally, though, my lack of athleticism is frustrating, and tonight was one of those times. I was stumbling through the rolls, taking precious seconds to contemplate counters, finding myself in the same problem spots as always, still trying to find a valid course of offensive action when possible. Jiu jitsu Groundhog Day. And I was beating myself up, thinking about what a goober I am, calling myself things I would never say to anyone else, asking myself why I even bother.

As I was driving away from the gym, though, I reminded myself that I am progressing even though not as quickly as I would like. I might not be thin, but I’m strong, and I’m flexible. I have a good time, and the time will pass regardless. I might as well be spending it on the mat.

“Difficult-difficult vs. Difficult-easy”

Tonight at jiu jitsu class, I referenced one of my favorite blogposts. While, I’ve never been one to take the easy route, the exact story in this post changed the way I look at pretty much every major life decision. It is particularly applicable to fitness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Difficult Difficult, Difficult Easy
Written by Geoff Thompson and Published on Alwyn Cosgrove’s website

(Editor’s Note – I believe this is the first time I have posted non-original content on our website. I am doing so because I love the message of this article and its wide-ranging applicability to our lives. I hope you can get beyond the fact that it’s written by a British martial artist. The martial arts content/aspect might not speak to you, but hopefully the message will still convey. So, I only half-heartedly apologize for not providing you with original content today, but suspect that many of you will very much enjoy this perspective. I hope you take a moment to reflect on how this applies to you in the various roles you play in your life.)

I bumped into an old friend from the distant past. In my early days as a hard-nosed knuckle-dragger he was one of my compatriots, and one of the hardest working martial artists around. He had always prided himself on his sinewy mentality when it came to all things physical, and he had a prolific work rate. After a brief (and predictable) catch up (how’s the work, the car, the kids, the wife and the mum – in that order) he said ‘hey, you still doing animal day?’
Animal day, for those that do not know, is a form of knock-out or submission fighting (any range, any technique) that I pioneered in the mad, bad (and often sad) 90’s. A time I absolutely loved, but a time I am also grateful to have left behind.

I shook my head in the negative. It had been a many years since I engaged in my last animal day fight.
‘Why not?’ he asked, adding, ‘I’m still mad for it.’

‘Because it is difficult easy,’ I said, ‘and in order for me to continue growing my character, I don’t need difficult easy. In order for me to grow my character I need difficult difficult.’
He gave me one of those loud, squinty eyed confused looks that shouted from a hundred feet ‘Explain!’

So I explained.

Even as a veteran of thousands of fights, animal days were still a scary experience for me, it was violent and dangerous and extremely difficult. But because I had fought so many times and knew the terrain well it no longer stretched me.

Whatever it was that I needed to reap from that hard period of my life had been well and truly harvested; there was nothing left for me to learn there. Animal day was still difficult, and from the outside looking in it probably looked as though it was mad difficult, but for me it wasn’t, in fact it had become difficult easy.

My friend was still in love with the ground-and-pound style fighting and whilst his physical prowess was evident he had not grown even a single inch in any other area of his life, probably not for the last ten years. His was the mistake made by many; they presume that if something is difficult then they are in the arena. But experience has taught me that the only time you are truly in the arena is when you are (ever so slightly) out of your depth.

Difficult easy is when you are on familiar terrain, not matter how hard the going.

Difficult difficult is when you find your self at the bottom of someone else’s class with three crazy training partners; fear at your left, doubt on your right and (that big bastard) uncertainty squaring up in front of you.

Difficult easy is treading water whilst kidding yourself that you are swimming against the tide.

Difficult difficult doesn’t need to employ pretence because it is drowning and swimming for its life.

I see many people suffering stalled development because they are so busy occupying themselves with very worthy, respectably, difficult easy tasks that they use to avoid the difficult difficult areas of their lives.

I am doing it right now as it happens. I should be doing a re-write of a difficult (difficult) film script that is over due, but instead I am busying myself with a piece of difficult (easy) work that is not really due to be in print for another fortnight (damn, caught myself out again!)

Some (more) examples; you bury your relationship problems (difficult difficult) under hundreds of miles of road running (difficult…but easy).

You fill every spare moment with hard lists of worthy causes (difficult easy) so that you don’t have the time to invest in the book that you were always going to write, or the film you would love to make (if only you were not so committed in other areas) or the (difficult…very difficult) painting career that you had always intended to create.

You immerse yourself in course after course, book after book (so difficult, and yet….so deliciously easy) on becoming a life coach/property developer/master chef instead of just getting out there (difficult, oh so difficult) and actually doing it.

Listen. Let me tell you, the moment a task becomes difficult easy you stop growing. That is a fact. In order to re-establish your vital development you need to take an honest inventory (difficult very difficult – I have done it) of your life, ditch the pretence, and embrace the black that is….difficult difficult.

And stop chasing ostentatious challenges (that are difficult easy for you) and sort out your health; you are three stone over weight and your blood pressure is off the scale.

Kill the worthy endeavours that you think other people will think are impressive and do something truly and uniquely impressive; take your (secret) addictions to task and kill the porn (in all its forms).

Stop collecting trophies and certificates and belts that tell the word how successful you are and actually BE a success, by taking a hammer to that creepily burgeoning fear that you are harbouring.

And don’t, please (like my old mate) fall into the trap of mistaking hard work – even extremely hard (easy) work – for progress. Because, let’s be frank, difficult easy is really just another way of saying ‘easy’, and there is no growth in easy.

We aspirants are into the hard game, the long game, the difficult difficult game. What we are not into, or what we should not be into is the game of easy.

Aches & Pains

Here’s where I tell you that I’m almost 43-years-old. Often, I have to remind myself of this because in my mind I’m still about 26. I don’t know why 26, but 26. Over the years I have learned lots of little things to do to take care of my body in addition to eating well and staying active. With years come aches and pains in joints and muscles. For me, knotted muscles are by far the biggest problem (outside of headaches, but that’s another story for another time).

Because I’ve dealth with this for so long, I’ve tried a lot of things to help it. Here are my go tos:

Massage. This category includes foam rolling, self-massage with something like the Back Buddy, and traditional deep tissue massage. I have found that a massage every two weeks really helps and is more preventative, but it’s really frikkin’ expensive, so I just get them when I have to.


Epsom Salts Baths. Take a couple pounds of espsom salts and dissolve them in a good hot bath. Sit until you can’t stand it any more, and then pull the plug. Sit there as the water drains around you and cool off as it goes. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate, and that magnesium soaks in through the skin and relaxes sore muscles. It’s wonderful.

(I’ve heard cold showers, ice baths, and cryochambers do wonders, too, but I haven’t tried them.)

Massage and epsom salts are a some time thing, but I do have products I use almost daily: muscle rub/oil and over-the-counter analgesics.

Muscle rub/oil. I have tried lots of varieties of these. Two stand out far and beyond the others:

Shankara Muscle Releaser and  Mio Workout Wonder.


As for over-the-counter analgesics, everyone has their favorites for a different reasons, but I wanted to pass along some recent research results. All the addiction to opiods has led to a flurry of studies to find other, less addictive, forms of pain management. A recent study to which I am sorry I have no link showed that one acetaminophen 500mg taken at the same time as an ibuprofen 200 mg is more effective than any other short acting pain medicine, including hydrocodone and oxycodone. You might think this was by a small margin, but you’d be wrong. If I remember correctly, it’s more effective by almost 30%. Impressive. Typically, I haven’t found that acetaminophen has helped me very much at all, but this combination really seems to be quite good. See what you think…




Old School Magic

I know I just did a post about hygiene, but I’m going to do another one anyway.  Skin infections are a valid concern for jiu jitsu fighers, wrestlers, and anyone who rubs up against another athlete on a regular basis. To combat these, the best approach is to go old school.

The skin is the largest organ, and along with the hair on its surface, it is your system’s only defense against the world waiting to assault it. A few simple things will help you help it along.

Support your bacterial flora. Yep, that’s right. A few billion bacteria keep your body ticking along as it should, both inside and out. These good bacteria are key to fending off the pesky bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi trying to mess up your world. They not only function to directly improve your body’s cellular defenses, they also are direct combatants.  You can show them some love by not using antibacterial soaps that use alcohols or other lab produced chemicals, by taking a probiotic supplement regularly, by avoiding antibiotics except when they are absolutely necessary, and by eating well. Harsh antibacterial soaps and antibiotics are non-discrimatory and will kill the good bacteria with the bad. Also, the antibacterial soaps are not antifungal, so using them will not address the real risk of fungal skin infections. Taking a probiotic supplement and/or eating fermented foods regularly will help replenish your good gut bacteria, so they can boost your immune system thus allowing it to fight off all manner of nastiness with greater ease. Eating well is important for a bajillion reasons, but here it applies because the more varied your fiber intake, the healthier your gut biome will be. The different types of bacteria thrive from different types of fiber. Variety is good. Oh, and sugar? Yeah, the bad bacteria like it. Curb your intake to discourage the bad guys from growing. (The bacteria in your gut are truly amazing, and medicine is slowly beginning to understand that they are key to mental health, immune health, and so much more!)

Okay, you’ve eaten your kimchi and banished the antibacterial dial from the shower. What next? Remember my recommendation to wash that gi and belt regularly and shower before and after class? That. Occasionally throw a cup of vinegar in the wash, too. It’s an antifungal. Consider adding Defense soap into your routine as well. It has tea tree oil and


eucalyptus. The tea tree oil has both antifungal and antibacterial properties though the research is limited (I’ll save you my conspiracy theorist leanings here). Granted, Defense doesn’t smell the greatest, but it works well. What limited studies there are even indicate that it is effective against Methicillin Resistant Staphyloccoccus Aureus (MRSA, also known as “staph”).  If you follow the link, you’ll see these simple bars of soap are a little pricey, but I’ve found that buying it in the five pack from Amazon isn’t too bad. I only use it surrounding jiu jitsu class, so I don’t finish a bar as quickly as a regular bar of soap. It comes in a liquid and a container of wipes, too, if you’re interested in that. I have super sensitive skin, and so far it hasn’t caused me to have a reaction, in case you were wondering about that.

If all of your valiant efforts fail, and you find yourself with a big, disproportionately painful pimple, please don’t come to class. Any drainage from that is super contagious, and your buddies don’t want your funk.

Mani/Pedi Issues

Your days of long, elegant fingernails and intricate pedis are over. Or they should be. Do yourself and your grappling buddies a favor and keep a set of nail clippers in your gym bag. Finding yourself in the half guard of someone with an impressive set of talons is no fun at all, and getting a fingernail bent backward when you’re trying to get a good grip of a gi isn’t either. In my humble opinion, closely trimmed nails should be a rule of the mat.