Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Being strong and healthy should make you a better person."

I was thinking the other day about where I am with my diet situation. I'm finally at a point where I feel I'm worth it. I am worthy of taking care of myself in a healthy way. It was a Moonstruck, "Snap out of it! moment" Where I finally looked at myself, sort of like when I find my kids doing something naughty that only a kid could think of and I'm so surprised that they thought whatever they were doing was a good idea. It was my "STOP! What are you DOING?" moment. It finally hit home. I deserve to be healthy and taking care of myself is a priority. Damn it. But my point is, it didn't happen over night.

I do think that if I had not gotten on the path of martial arts it would have taken me a lot longer to get here, if at all. With every round of dieting I learn something new about myself. Not just in terms of food but in my life. I uncover an answer to one of the tough questions. And with each dieting go around I go a little deeper. Try a little harder, make bigger more permanent changes that would lead me to a healthier me. Inside and out.

I lost thirty-five pounds while I was preparing for my black belt test. Months before, when I thought about that test, I pictured myself thin receiving my belt. And it worked. I lost the weight through a plan called "Trevose". It's not rocket science. It's a simple plan based on calories and keeping a food journal and weekly weigh ins where they expect you to be at your goal, no excuses. Our group met once a week and it wasn't like a WW meeting where the leader did most of the talking it was a group and everyone got to talk about their week. I learned a lot about myself and the women in the group got to know me well enough to give me "Snap out of it!" advice on more than one occasion. My point is, it was a rich experience. I learned more answers to some more deep questions. I might have even thought I had it all figured out when I got my belt and hit my goals. Life has a way of catching you and hitting you upside the head if you don't learn the lesson completely the first one, two or three times. But if you go with it, roll with it, don't get yourself too bunched up it can lead you to some places far better than you imagined.

I fell off the wagon a bit when I left my old karate school. I went from practicing karate 24/7 to practicing two to three times a week. Immediately I could feel the weight creeping back on but I let myself get stuck in a rut. I repeated some bad choices for several months before I started to gradually gain not only control but my desire to be in control. Because being in control of one's diet is a lot of work. And I had gotten tired and a little lazy and throw in a little emotional eating on top. But I didn't let myself go completely to pot. A BJJ school opened in my neighborhood and I knew the owner because he and some of his guys had taught some classes at my karate school. When I went in to welcome them to the neighborhood I ended up signing up for a year and shortly after that they started a women's only BJJ class. I had two reasons for wanting to learn BJJ. American Kenpo is a standing art and I wanted to get more comfortable moving on the ground. I wanted to understand it and how it worked. The other reason was to kick my sorry butt back into shape.

About a year into it Sharon, my instructor, moved the class to a different day and said she wanted to offer a "fitness" class before the BJJ class. I was the first to line up to try the kettle bell class. I gathered as many friends as I could find so that she would also consider adding a few more mornings to the program. Sharon is a gem. She is one of the first female BJJ Black Belts she is very knowledgeable not only in BJJ but training in general, fitness and nutrition. I was looking for an exercise program with some intensity and kettle bells certainly delivers. Here are a few things that I like about training with Sharon. If I am the only one who shows up for class she will still give me a hard sometimes even harder workout. Some instructors might use that as an excuse to slack off a bit. If I need some extra discipline in the diet department. She will coach me and read my food journal and crack the whip. Our class is still small but a dedicated group of women who take everything that Sharon has to dish out in a workout. I also like the atmosphere of the class. We are serious about our workouts but we laugh a lot and joke around. I always feel great when I leave there. I actually believe the laughter and camaraderie is just as important as the workout. It's another place where I can be in my element where I can strive to be a better me. When I asked Sharon about kettle bell certification she said there was one coming up and she also thought that I would be able to do it. In addition to our regular kettle bell classes she would stay after class to give me additional workouts to prepare for the two day certification. When we went for the certification we met a man, Steve Kardian, who teaches a women's self defense course called "Fight Like a Girl".
Sharon and I traveled to Steve's school for the certification about a year ago. And now we are teaching self defense seminars at the BJJ school. So what started off as an effort to get a little more exercise has blossomed into something bigger than I had ever imagined.

I will admit while I was getting these certs and becoming stronger I was still dilly dallying
with my weight but because of the kettle bells I started reading more blogs learning about the top kettle bell instructors in the country and really starting to take to heart all of the things that they prescribe. And all of them take their diets seriously. So this has brought me back full circle to once again take, not just my "diet", but my choices and commitments to health and fitness to a whole new level. And just like all of the other times, I dug a little deeper, figured out some answers to some of my tough questions, grappled with a few demons and have an even deeper understanding of my self. And it has been this leg of the journey that given me the most confidence and the most discipline. Somehow in this process I have developed an intolerance for feeling bad whether it's emotional or physical. I'm doing it for the right reasons because I just want to feel good which has lead me to finally believe I am worth it. I am worthy of living a healthy life.

My quote for this blog comes from and interview with Mike Mahler a top kettle bell instructor.
I read his blog daily and have been greatly inspired.

" Be brutally honest with yourself. Evil exists and flourishes when people are delusional and fail to be well calibrated. Being well calibrated means your perception of yourself is accurate. Just because you have always done something does not mean you need to keep doing it.You can evolve and be better. However, it all starts with being brutally honest. You have to accept who you are now and take the necessary steps to improve. Surround yourself with great people that tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. Be humble and avoid looking down on others. Focus on improving yourself and be an example to others."


"Being strong and healthy should make you a better person."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Proper Protocal

A friend of mine posted this in her status update on FaceBook the other day.

"If you join a FB page, it and your comments come up when you are searched in Google."

So out of curiosity I googled myself. I used to only have on or two things come up but it looks like I've become quite busy. Several months ago I posted a question about Kettlebells vs Clubbells on one of Scott Sonnan's blogs. I had forgotten all about my question and when it came up in my search I discovered that Scott Sonnan had replied to my query.

I stumbled onto Scott Sonnan's training videos when I was searching for some exercises to do for my knees that were hurting. First I found his joint mobility DVD, then later I found his "Grappler's Toolbox" which was pretty cool because I had started taking BJJ classes. Which then lead me to discover his "soft work" which looks strikingly like Systema. And then I stumbled onto the Clubbell Circular Strength Training one of Scott Sonnan's tradmarked programs. It looked pretty cool, made a lot of sense and I could see how it would be a nice addition to my growing collection of exercise knowledge, DVD's and equipment collection.

I bought my Clubbells about two and a half years ago. I also purchased Scott Sonnan's
"The Encyclopedia of Clubbell Training". I liked the idea of training with Clubbells very much. Scott's encyclopedia is quite thorough and easy to follow. I was very excited to embark on my Circular Strength Training adventure. Then a few short weeks later, my BJJ instructor moved our Womens' class to Sunday and added a Kettle Bell class in front of it. When I started to attend those classes I put my Clubbells on the back burner. Mostly because I felt I was getting the same benefits from the Kettle Bells that I would be getting from Clubbells and it was a class which makes it easier to commit. I played around with my Clubbells learned the exercises, methodically moved my way through the encyclopedia. But it was a little overwhelming to figure out how to integrate it with the rest of my strength training.

I liked the Kettle Bells from the very beginning. The workouts are short, about a half hour, and also intense. I like that. We have class three times a week which fits quite nicely with the rest of my training. Some of the movements remind me of Systema moves so I wanted my karate instructor to try it because I thought that it would be a nice compliment to our movements. This lead me to inquire about kettlebell certification and eventually becoming certified to teach. The certification was very thorough and interesting to me.
I'm learning so much. Each new inquiry leads me to something else. I haven't been this excited about learning in a long time. And I can see how ideas overlap and all of these things will contribute to making me a better martial artist and over all healthier and physically fit.

The more I learn about fitness the more I want to learn. It seems like the industry has changed a lot in the past 25-30 years. When I was in my twenties getting in shape was a bit humiliating. Aerobics was really big. I tried a few classes but never enjoyed them. And, well, it was in the eighties, so working out required spandex tights with leg holes that extended to the belly button. And it seemed like all the instructors to those classes were all extemely tall, unrealistically thin and blonde. I'm afraid it damaged my self esteem more than it helped it. I liked free weights. That was more my speed. When I was 20 I went to the dilapidated old gym at my university and poked around with my roommate for a few semesters. One of the guys, just a random nice guy, helped us out and gave us some ideas and a routine. It was grungy and not very crowded so I was quite comfortable in my t-shirt and sweats. I liked it a lot.

Viewing fitness through the eyes of a martial artist has grounded it in something more meaningful. If I had only known then what I know now. Martial arts crossed my path at least five times before I seriously considered doing it myself. And now here I am in the sunset side of my forties rolling around on the ground, putting people in arm bars, learning to take a hit as well as punching very hard. Doing burpees, and Kettle bell snatches and guy push ups. I think the universe gives us many many opportunities to discover the paths that we were intended to travel. We are exposed to things and if we are not quite ready to grasp it, the opportunity will come back to us again. In the past two years I have learned a wealth of information and it's exciting to learn, each pathway leads to the next.

Tabata protocol or high intensity interval training (HIIT) is something that I have only recently become aware of. It was developed in the nineties but it is growing in popularity. One of Scott Sonnan's latest training programs, "TACFIT" is based on the Tabata protocol. His program is more detailed than this but in a basic form a Tabata workout is six exercises or movements performed for 20 second bursts with a 10 second rest in between times eight. For the twenty seconds you are fully committed to do as many reps as you can. Rest 60 seconds between each exercise and continue to do all six exercises 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, for eight times. So the whole thing can be done in 20 minutes or so. In Tabata's study, the researchers found that people who used the routine five days a week for six weeks improved their maximum aerobic capacity (a measure of your body's ability to consume oxygen--the more oxygen you can take in, the longer and harder you'll be able to run) by 14%. It also improved anaerobic capacity (which measures your speed endurance, or the duration you're able to sprint at full effort) by 28%. So the Tabata Protocol is the rare workout that benefits both endurance athletes and sprinters. Tabata protocol is based on a 2:1 ratio and other interval training is based on a 3:1 ratio. It's difficult, it's not intended for people who are new to fitness. We do more of a 3:1 ratio in my regular kettle bell class but I have been flirting with incorporating the Tabata protocol into my workouts at home. I follow one of Scott Sonnan's TACFIT workouts. He has nine variations and a particular schedule and nutrition plan to use. But I'm still just trying it on for size as sort of an add on. I'm still at Level 1, program A.

Back to this blog where I made the comment. It was showing a series of clubbell exercises, 4 total. I knew the techniques. They are all in the Clubbell encyclopedia. Even though it is only 4 exercises he is suggesting to follow the Tabaat protocol for the workout. Back in September when I made the comment, Tabata workouts were unfamiliar but now eight months later I'm actually ready to try the workout. Last evening I did the four Clubbell exercises and then I added 8, 20 second rounds of push ups and another clubbell exercise that had a pulling motion to counter the pushing motion of the push ups. It was difficult but not impossible. Through Facebook the universe gave me another chance and this time I was ready for the challenge. I might even take Mr Sonnan's challenge to do it 2-3 times a week for the next three weeks.
If you want to see the workout just Google "Teresa Westkaemper" and it will come up.