Work In Progress

*This post edited after originally published to modify the workout slightly.

My workouts keep me sane–well, as sane as possible anyway. I’ve worked out regularly since I was about 14 or 15 years old, though there were a couple of gaps of a year or two over the last 27 years when life got especially crazy.  Part of the wisdom that came with all those years included an understanding that regular physical exercise and sunshine keep me out of the doldrums. I’ve done a lot of different things for workouts during that time, but around 2001 my hunny introduced me to kettlebells, and they have been a part of my life since. Somewhere around 2006 I did the Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) and had one of the greatest weekends of my life, coming away with a certification to teach the use of kettlebells that I would maintain for the next 6 years or so. That RKC was back when Pavel Tsatsouline was teaching every cert, and I wouldn’t take anything for that experience. I’ve taken maybe a dozen other fitness classes involving the use of kettlebells, the leverage of bodyweight, proper lifting technique, nutrition, and more. My Facebook page has way more members in the fitness and nutrition community than in my chosen profession or any other, and I am privileged to have met and shared meals and deep conversation with some of the greats in both fields. But…I am not a trainer.

Until the last six months, I have either bought premade programs from trainers or hired trainers to design programs specifically for me. About 6 months ago I decided to start attempting my own programming (no jokes about people who act as their own attorneys here) in order to design something more specific to BJJ. I really floundered initially, but then attended a workshop called Mental Meat Heads  With Dan John  and Chip Conrad and got a little more direction about how to set up my workouts for more specific purposes.

For the last month, I’ve been doing the following workouts and like what I’ve been seeing so far. My stamina and strength on the mat have improved, or at least I feel like they have, and I haven’t even been able to be as consistent with the program as I would have liked. Feel free to take what you want from it. Keep in mind, though, this one was designed for me and my weaknesses, and I am not a trainer.

In addition to two classes and one open mat per week unless work or travel got in the way:

WORKOUT 1:

WARM UP–2 Rounds, resting 30 seconds between rounds.

Roll to hip thrust x 6–alternating sides (This starts with you lying on your back with your knees up almost as if you’ve just finished a forward roll. Roll slightly backward to gain momentum, then forward and up onto one knee, thrusting the hips forward like the finish of a deadlift. Fall backward and repeat on the opposite side.)

Hip Bridge to 90 degree roll x 6–alternating sides.

Technical Stand Up 3 left/3 right. (Or vice versa. I encourage you to do your least strong side first on all unilateral exercises for a while. Then shake things up by starting on different sides on different days.)

Hang loose as long as possible (ALAP). (Grab a pull up bar or something similar and carefully hang from the bar with your shoulders loose, NOT packed as you would usually have them. Do this without wagging wildly around. Simply hang without moving. Some research indicates that this hanging is restorative to the shoulder joint.)

PVC Shoulder Rolls x 6

Divebomber Push Ups x 3  Be sure to get a good, deep hip stretch in the bottom position and use the return to get another scoop in reverse; don’t just circle back over the top.

LIFT PHASE

5 rounds, with 1 minute between rounds: (These are meant to be very taxing weight wise, but always, always, ALWAYS limit the weight used to what you can use perfectly.)

Overhead Squats x 5 (I use the olympic bar, but if you’re not accustomed to this motion, use a piece of PVC and up the reps. The motion is to open up the thorax and teach core stability. Neurologically it is incredibly taxing, and the weight should be light.)

Suitcase Deadlift 5 left/5 right (I use a 24kg KB here and really focus on making sure that I don’t rotate my trunk or let my opposite hip collapse outward. Stay strong throughout. Remember QUALITY OVER QUANTITY ALWAYS.)

Push Up or Dumbbell Bench Press x 5 ( I do perfect push ups here because they are my arch nemesis, but if that’s not adequate for you, do dumbbell bench presses.)

INTERVALS

I call this “Phase 12.”

Do 20″ of work, then 10″ of rest, going down the list until you hit the last. Then rest 1 minute. Start with 2 rounds and increase the number of rounds when you’re able.

Takedown practice. (Just go through the motions of a take down with a heavy bag or do technical stand ups if you don’t have a bag.)

Bear Crawl (Be sure to use multiple different directions to shake things up.)

Total Body Extensions (This looks like a partial squat with the arms swung backward into a jump straight up with the arms overhead. Quickly repeat.)

TRX inverted rows or Inverted Rows from a bar. (This was originally a jump rope set, but after I thought about it, I need more pull to match my overall push heavy week, so let’s put some here.)

Push Press Left

Push Press Right

Stability Ball Knee Tuck

Stability Ball Leg Curl

 WORKOUT 2:

WARM UP AS ABOVE

3 ROUNDS OF THE FOLLOWING WHICH I CALL “DRILL-A-BIT.”

30″ of Each:

Technical Stand Up Left

Technical Stand Up Right

Roll to Hip Thrust Left

Roll to Hip Thrust Right

Bridge to Hip Escape–alternating sides

Stability Ball Base Drill

Hip Switches (Lie on back with hips and shoulders lifted off mat. Alternately lift and rotate each hip to add mobility to the pelvis and increase speed of motion in the hips.)

Handstand

Rest 1 minute then start the next round.

NOW “TOP O’THE MINUTE TO YOU”:

 At the top of each minute for 10 minutes:

2 Burpees (Not to the ground but to a perfect high plank. The point is to be quick on the return and the jump. )

Snatches 5 left/5 right. (I use a 16kg KB until the last 3 rounds at which point I curse loudly and go down to the 12kg bell.)

WORKOUT 3:

I CALL THIS THE “GET UP, CLEAN UP CREW.”

WARM UP:

Bodyweight turkish get up (TGU) with a windmill at the top x 4, alternating sides

Now, for real:
TGU + windmill 1 left/1 right for a total of 4-5 rounds.  (Start with a light weight, doing a few with a moderately heavy weight, then finishing off with a challenging bell only if you’re a pro at the get-up, otherwise stick to moderately heavy at the heaviest.  The get up is probably my favorite movement for a bazillion reasons that I just might go into for a post soon. I modify it for what I call a jiu jitsu get-up.)

Now it’s time to clean up. Do five rounds of the following.:

30″ Each:

Sandbag Cleans (Get some grip work here to help you get a good hold on those gis.)

Burpees

One Arm Swing Medium weight, alternating every couple of reps or so.

One Arm Swing Heavy weight, alternating every couple of reps or so.

Two Hand Swing with a really heavy mamajama. (But not TOO heavy. Remember QUALITY OVER QUANTITY ALWAYS.)

Jiu Jitsu Sit Throughs

Bear Crawls (Today make sure you keep those hips low, low, low such that you could keep a plate on them if necessary. That’ll shake things up a bit.)

Take Down the Heavy Bag or Do Technical Get Ups

Plank (High or Low–you choose. I do high.)

Rest 1 minute.

WORKOUT 4:

YOGA CLASS. I’ve started doing a yoga class once a week either at a local gym or using a DVD at home. Between that and adding KB’s back to my workout more regularly, my back pain is virtually eliminated and my core strength endurance has really improved. I’m really digging the addition of the yoga class regularly and feel like this is going to be something I keep in the rotation from here on out regardless. This, too, will be a topic for a future blog post all its own.

Drop me a message if you have any questions. If you try it out, let me know what kind of results you get.

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Seriously?

I’m not exactly sure where the last four and a half months went. I’ve often thought to myself it was time for another blog post but only got around to it today. Looking at the old ones, I realized I haven’t posted in FOUR AND A HALF months. I promise to do better.

We’ll talk gis today. Specifically, I’ll review the Fenom gis that I have. I bought my first one last summer some time and was pleased enough with it that I bought a second when they had their Black Friday sale this last November. I chose this company for my first gi that I selected for myself for a few reasons: 1. I love what they represent–a company for women, by women, in a male dominated sport. 2. Great price for what appeared to be beautiful gear. 3. I could choose my top and bottom sizes separately. 4. I liked their colors and designs. I bought the second one because I liked the first one well enough and because I had gotten wonderful customer service with the first gi purchase.

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I am 5’6″ tall and currently weigh 183 pounds with a curvy, muscular build. Technically I think I fall into the “apple” shape category, but my years of lifting have really shaped me in such a way that I’m just sort of proportionately large–big bust, a belly, slightly rounded butt (that I worked really f’n hard for, thank you.) and muscular thighs. I first bought the A3 kimono (same thing as a gi) top and A3 bottom  in their Crystal Weave Gi in Black, thinking I’d err on the side of caution and suspecting the items would shrink some like my first gi did. While the A3 top worked well despite being just a bit big, the bottoms were way too big, so I decided to try to exchange them for the A2 curvy. I hate exchanging things, so I dreaded to process. The ladies at Fenom were amazing, though, and made it effortless. I talked with them on the phone, and once I sent them email confirmation of the package headed their way, they sent the new pair out. I was good to go in just a couple more days. With the second gi, I opted for an A2 top, and it worked just fine, too. I stuck with the A2 curvy bottoms.

Because I go to class three nights a week most weeks and wash my gear after every class, these gis have been washed a lot. They are holding up well and haven’t shrunk nearly as much as the Venom gi that I started with. I did replace the drawstring on one set with Fenom’s custom cord drawstring. I really like that drawstring. I tried doing it on my second one, but the string got hung up on something in the dryer and frayed to the point of no return, so I put the old one back in. The custom cord has a stretch to it that the stock one doesn’t have, and comparing them is a whole post in itself that I’ll do later. I have a buddy who has one of these gis too, and she says the bottoms aren’t as good as her Fuji gis, that she has to keep pulling them up. I do notice myself resituating the bottoms when we grapple, but honestly, we’re rolling in the floor trying to break one another, so it just makes sense to me that my pants would come down. One of my next gis will be one of the Fuji ones, so I’ll do a comparison when I’ve had it a while.

All in all, I like both of my gis and will buy from this company again.

Be A Good Buddy

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Technically jiujitsu isn’t a team sport. Whether you’re competing in a tournament, fighting in the ring, or defending yourself on the street, you’re going it alone. One of the most valuable keys to learning jiujitsu, though, is having a great buddy with whom to learn, and to get a good buddy, you need to be a good buddy.

First and foremost, don’t be the stinky kid. Take a shower as close to class as possible. Wash your gi after EVERY class. (Even if you don’t sweat that much, you spend the class rolling around with other people who might or might not be sweaty on mats where people have walked and sweated.) And brush your teeth…regularly. You might even consider chewing gum during class.

Over time, you’ll notice some people in class who have a knack for smelling great all the time. I think maybe Shower-to-Shower has something to do with that, but I’m not sure exactly. You’ll also notice some people are always stinky, and it’s usually the people who wear the same rash guard and gi to every class. I suspect a fair number of these folks don’t wash their gear but once a week or so. One thing to understand, though, is that sweaty stink accumulates, especially in synthetic cloths. If you let it sit, it just builds up.  Washing after each wear, though, prolongs the amount of unstinky time you have with that garment.

Over time, people have developed some tricks to combat sport stink. Some people add a cup of white vinegar to the wash. Others use a bit of Simple Green and let the garments soak. If you have a good scuba shop nearby, they just might carry a product called “Sink the Stink” which gets rid of the pee smell in sour wet suits, so stinky gis are small game for it. And drying your gear outside in the sun helps some since the sunlight has an antibacterial effect.

Use care when drying your gi in the dryer. They have a tendency to shrink.

Smelling good is a great start, but it’s only one factor in the “good buddy” equation. Next comes having a great attitude. Pay attention to the instructor and be ready to drill. Your partner might have missed some nuances, and you can help her along with the details. In jiujitsu, the details make all the difference. And when you drill, be willing to drill, and drill and drill some more. I like doing three or four reps then switching places and doing that over and over, but not everyone likes to do that. For me, it allows acquisition of some details and muscle memory before breaking the rhythm of the drill. Be sure everyone is getting equal time running the move, though.

As you’re going through those moves, be sure to try to find that balance between going easy and drilling seriously enough that when you roll, you know how to apply the technique. Every person has a speed and pressure they’re comfortable with. As you practice with different people, you’ll get more accustomed to their preferences.

Some people like to gradually advance their techniques as they practice in class, slowly getting some resistance from their partners. I happen to be one of these people, but you’ll have to try it for yourself.  Everyone likes a different level of aggression in the drills, but remember to always use care. Hurting your training buddy rarely wins you any friends and has a way of running people off.

Finally, be grateful and show it. The quality of your learning is dependent upon others who graciously allow you to contort and abuse them for your edification. Remember to say thank you and show them some love.

Gi vs. No-Gi

Remember, I started like a brand new jiujitsu baby a short nine months or so ago, and this blog offers my insights. To many, these will seem infantile, but we all start somewhere, and my hope is to make that start a little more gentle than it otherwise would be.  Feel free to move along to the next thing in your day if you’re already clear on the differences in gi vs. no-gi grappling.

If you are going to a class where everyone looks like they’re wearing pajamas, that’s a gi class. The “pajamas” are gis, and the belts that keep the tops closed show the wearer’s rank.

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The gi tops should all have the left side of the kimono over the right one. I’ve heard that this stems from Japanese tradition and tendency toward order. In death, the right side of a kimono or gi drapes over the left–in my understanding. Most belts are tied in a square knot, with the belt wrapping around the wearer twice. I could try to describe for you how to do this, but honestly, asking someone in the class how best to tie the belt is a great way to break the ice with another white belt.

While the gis look like pajamas, they’re not quite as comfortable, and all the crazy contortions of class often have them slipping around. Brand new belts are notoriously difficult to tie and often come completely untied at the most inopportune of times. “This sounds like a bad combination,” you say? Well, you’d be right. To keep from flashing the world, a lot of folks wear undergarments of some sort–rash guards, compression shorts, spats, or plain old t-shirts. Being a chubby gal, at first I blew off the idea of wearing a rash guard and wore a t-shirt instead. Figuring out the advantages of the rash guard didn’t take me long, though. The t-shirt has a way of sliding around just as badly as the gi top, and rolling around on the mats with people wads both up in a hurry, exposing a little too much flesh. So, the longer the rash guard, the better, and I’ve found that tucking it into the pants tends to keep it in place a little bit longer. Under my bottoms, I wear capri pants or leggings. The combination seems to be the best way of not showing the world what my naked back and/or rear looks like.

No-gi is just what it sounds like, workouts or class without a gi. People who like to look cool in no-gi class wear long board short type bottoms (like the Agogue shorts from Rogue American Apparel ) along with their rash guards. Again, I always wear an under layer, and even when I wear shorts, I wear capris under them to cover my knees. Somehow my knees are always scraping along the mats and getting all raw and irritated. I’m pretty sure if I were ever brutally murdered without an ID, the coroner would look at my knees and think I was either a devout catholic or a prostitute. And since my looking cool is pretty much hopeless, I just wear my regular workout shorts over my capris.

Each way has its advantages and disadvantages. The gis are a bit restricting, but they provide a plethora of hand holds to manipulate. Rolling without a gi allows an amazing range of motion but very few places to grab and hold. Most people feel like the no-gi classes teach them more about self-defense, but if you live in an area where people where jackets, that isn’t necessarily the case. Tournaments come in both flavors.

I’m still figuring out which one is my favorite.

Wondering which gi to start with is a natural progression of the thought process. One of my next posts will be about how I chose my first couple of gis and what I think about them now that I’ve spent some time in them.

Introduction

White Belt No Stripe.

That is me–approximately eight months into this adventure. I am a white belt that has no stripes, the ultimate beginner. At 42-years-old, I waited almost 20 years to start this adventure. Something always seemed to get in the way, and time has a way of getting away from me.

Self-reflection and evaluation comes easily for me, and I find jiujitsu is often the subject of my pondering. I replay class in my mind, consider the things that might make my mental game better or that might improve my movement. I wonder about this and then that and then this again. I look for insights from other people–some I know and some I find on line. That others might benefit from some of the things I’ve learned in the last eight months just recently occurred to me, so I decided to start this blog.

What I leave you here is not gospel. It is what I find to be true. Take what you will. I hope you find something that benefits you.