Friday, September 30, 2011

Fight Camp Day Nineteen: It's for REAL

I received some exciting news yesterday: I have an opponent! Barring an injury or some other fluke, I will indeed be stepping into the ring in early November. I was so elated to hear the news.

You see, I wasn't entirely sure that my kru would be able to find an opponent for me. I admit that I was a bit picky. I'm only planning to go through this experience once (although that may change), so I want my fight to be one that I will be proud of, no matter the results. I didn't want to be matched with someone who had no technique and who just wanted to brawl. There have been too many female fighters like that, and I think it's given people a false impression of what women are capable of in the ring. I want to end this experience knowing that I did my very best.

We've lost a lot of the traditions of muay thai in this country. We've adapted the original Thai fighting style to one that is more reminiscent of Western boxing. We wear protective gear and rarely allow knees to the head or elbow strikes, in order to make one of the world's most brutal martial arts a little safer. You rarely hear the traditional music played during fights anymore, and if someone does play it, half the audience won't understand why. (We sometimes play it during Level 2 classes at our club, and I've heard Level 1s ask "what is that terrible noise?") Western fighters seldom bother to seal the ring, and it's been years since I saw someone do the warrior dance. That said, I still remember my old school training, and I am very proud of being a part of this martial art. The very least I can do when I step in that ring is show it some respect.

Now that I have an opponent, everything has changed. More than ever, this is for real. No more whining. No more longing for lazy weekends with friends and popcorn for dinner. This is worth so much more than any petty little concerns or aches and pains.

This is for real.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fight Camp Day Eighteen: Over The Wall

Bonding Through Pain.

They say exercise can improve your mood, but I had no idea how much. Yesterday I was feeling sorry for myself. I was hurt, I was sore, and I was tired. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym and train, but I'm so glad I did.

Kru Kelly had designed a special circuit training class for us. It was challenging. It was brutal. But strangely, it was also a lot of fun. (Is this fight camp insanity catching? I think so.) Through every exercise, every laboured breath or grunt of effort and pain, the five of us were in it together. We cheered each other on just by being there and by never giving up. Every circuit we survived felt like a real accomplishment.

Getting through something that difficult as a team is a huge bonding experience, and we even exchanged sweaty hugs at the end.

I left the club a completely different person than I'd been when I arrived. I was happy, I had tons of energy, and I was back to feeling like fight camp is the best thing ever.

It may seem counter intuitive, but sometimes when you feel down and like you really need a break, the best thing you can do is move.

If someone could figure out how to bottle this feeling, they'd make a million.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fight Camp Day Seventeen: Hitting A Wall

I was wondering if there would come a time when I'd just want to give up fight camp and get on with my life. Well, apparently that time is now.

I'm so unenthused about everything. Part of the problem is that my neck took a good beating in clinching practice on Monday evening, which resulted in a brutal migraine and a very stiff neck. Even today, two days later, I have not regained full mobility in my neck. Since I'm not clinching in my fight, this discomfort just seems...unnecessary.

I'm tired of training for hours everyday. I'm tired of eating salads for lunch. I'm tired of drinking so much water. I'm getting a lot of positive feedback about how fit and lean I'm looking, but it still feels like a waste of time some days. I miss my friends. I miss The Boy. I miss real food. I miss being able to spend my weekends doing whatever I feel like doing. I miss writing.

Hitting a wall is never fun, but I guess it's somewhat inevitable. I just hope I can climb over it to get to the other side.

What I wouldn't give to come straight home from work and spend the evening cuddled up with Chloe and The Boy. And maybe a pizza. Yeah, pizza would be good....

When you hit a wall, how do you get over it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fight Camp Day Fifteen: Pressure

Do you perform well under pressure?

The concept of fight camp seems to revolve around the theory that pressure is good--not only the pressure you put on yourself, but additional pressure from your teammates.

My kru purchased a rowing machine for our gym, which I was excited about at first but now realize is a torture device from hell. My five rounds on Friday weren't so bad, even though I had to get my heart rate up to a certain level that required busting my butt...I only had one other woman, a friend, cheering me on and encouraging me. But on Saturday, I had to survive three rounds in a tiny room with four guys screaming at me to pull harder, go faster, not give up, etc. As Kara, one of the other women in fight camp, said when she took her turn: "I don't think I care for this environment". I concur. I'd much rather suffer in a corner with no one paying attention to me.

I was going so fast, I flew off the seat at one point (that thing needs a safety belt). I got a nasty blister on my left hand. During the second round, my quads hurt so much that I was sure I couldn't get through it. Giving up was tempting, so very tempting...but not possible. Somehow, I survived, and the third round was the easiest. Then it was my turn to yell encouragement at someone else.

My hope is that every time I want to quit and don't; every time my body is crying out for a break but I push forward, I will get that much stronger. I will realize I am capable of doing anything required...even with a roomful of guys screaming at me.

What makes you stronger?

My magical Under Armour garments arrived today. So excited! I'll be able to "test drive" them this week and see if they lessen my skin irritation. Here's hoping.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fight Camp Day Thirteen: TGIF

Ah, Friday. There's something magical about Friday, even if you spend half of Saturday in the gym. I love Fridays...think I always will.

Went to the doctor this morning for my EKG and blood work. Both are required now if you want to fight. If there's anything that makes you realize that this for real--that in just a month and a half, you're going to be stepping into the ring, it's getting your heart and blood tested.

I also asked my doc about the skin reaction I've had since the fight camp started. She asked to see my rash, and gasped in shock when she saw my purple thigh instead. "What did you do to your leg?" she cried. I still don't think she understands what "training for a muay thai kickboxing fight" entails.

Unfortunately, although she gave me an even stronger medication for topical cream than the one I'm currently using, it looks like the irritation is here to stay until fight camp is over. "If you had walked through poison ivy, I could treat the rash, but if you kept walking through the poison ivy, it wouldn't do much good," my doctor pointed out. Makes sense. On the advice of my chiropractor/acupuncturist, who has done a fair amount of athletic training himself, I've ordered some Under Armour garments to replace my usual cotton and keep my skin dry. Hopefully they help. Have any of you ever had this problem? If so, what helped or didn't help? And yes, before you ask, I keep my equipment and skin very clean. I'm still wearing sweat-soaked gear for up to three hours at a time. My skin is not happy.

In spite of this, I'm still enjoying the fact that it's Friday. Here are some things that are making me happy (if not my skin....)

  1. Being out of debt is AWESOME! You can't beat it with a stick.
  2. Looking forward to my weekly cheat meal--probably sushi--on Saturday with The Boy.
  3. Only two more workouts and I've survived another week of fight camp. It should start to feel a little easier now.
  4. A lazy Sunday stretches before me...can't wait.
  5. Re-reading a very good, interesting non-fiction book: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. Rule, an ex-cop, worked at a suicide crisis line in Seattle while researching a book she wanted to write about missing and murdered girls in the area. In an incredible twist of fate, it turned out that the good friend who worked the phone lines beside her was Ted Bundy, the man responsible for the crimes.
  6. It's a beautiful, sunny autumn day.
  7. Still haven't been seriously injured or sick (knock on wood) at fight camp. Somehow, I managed to avoid the horrible cold that's going around.
  8. Gummy vitamins. Genius!
  9. My weight is the same as last week's, but my body fat is down three percent. Feeling good about that.
  10. My boss is very understanding about my ridiculously long doctor's appointments.
How about you, Dear Readers? What are you feeling thankful for or happy about this Friday?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fight Camp Day Twelve: Day of Rest

I don't recommend resting in the ring, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Hello again, Dear Readers.

I wasn't planning on posting anything today, because a day of rest isn't too exciting. But then I thought, maybe other people don't know how important it is to rest. Even when you're trying to get into shape, or training for an event, or desperately hoping to lose those last ten pounds.

Taking rest days can be difficult when any of those things are looming on the horizon. You may think that it won't hurt to go for a light jog or do some sit-ups, but the truth is--it might. Our bodies need rest. During an intense training program, it's even more important to be properly rested. Resting is when our muscles actually grow bigger and stronger from the workout they endured the previous day (there's tons of fancy expert-type studies out there that prove this, but I'm too lazy to link to them. It's my rest day!). In my case, taking a day off will (hopefully) allow my body to heal from all the sparring and contact drills I've been doing. One of my thighs is a lovely shade of blue and purple, and both quads are sore as (add the expletive of your choice here). You know things are bad when your cat jumps onto your leg in the middle of the night and your own cry of pain wakes you up (and that was my light cat).

Another benefit of rest days is that they help you avoid over-training. Over-training, as any personal trainer or fitness buff could tell you, is a very bad thing. Muscles don't get the break they need to heal those tiny tears that happen when you stress them during a workout, which makes you more prone to injury. Injuries can also happen due to overstressed joints and from being so darned tired that you get clumsy. Your body can decide "enough already!" and force you to rest by making you sick. I've personally experienced that, and it's not fun. Even if you think you're suffering no ill effects, you have no idea how much better your performance could be if you took the occasional day off.

Due to the secrecy of our fight camp, I can't tell you how many days we train,'s a lot. I already don't get a lot of rest, so when that time comes, I really need it. I tend to spend it in a coma, unable to move, and all my plans of being highly productive and catching up on the rest of my life go out the window.

Fight camp is getting scary. Already, one of us is down with an injury and can't train with us for two weeks. Almost everyone has been sick with a bad cold. Thankfully, except for that nasty heat rash/allergic reaction or whatever it is, I've stayed healthy so far. Hopefully my luck continues.

Well, what do you know? It turns out I had a fair amount to say after all. How do you spend your day(s) of rest? Do you believe in resting between workouts? Or do you think it's all a sham?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fight Camp Day Eleven: Food Porn

Bake at 350's insanely yummy-looking butterbeer cookies. Harry Potter fans, rejoice!

The toughest part about following a training diet is the monotony. I love to cook and bake, and even though I'm usually moderate about it, I love to eat.

Lately I've become obsessed with what other people are having for lunch. Anything seems so much more interesting (although maybe not as nutritious) than my vegetable-laden spinach salad with boneless, skinless chicken breast. I ask my best friend where she's going for lunch everyday, and it's always somewhere envy-inspiring. When The Boy went for all-you-can-eat sushi last week, I made him tell me, in graphic detail, about everything he ate...from the first bite of appetizer to the very last crumb of rice. Ah, heaven. It's almost as good as eating it myself. Okay, it's not, but let me continue to dream, all right?

During these last three weeks, the office has thrown the most temptations in my path. Home is pretty safe, since The Boy decided to join me in eating healthy. Sticking to a training diet is a heck of a lot easier when the person next to you isn't chowing down on Doritos. The Boy also makes my salads for lunch each day--he's been such a wonderful help, and I can't imagine doing this without him. Trust me, the last thing you feel like doing when you stumble in the door at nine pm, worn out from three hours of training, is chop a bunch of veggies.

Anyways, the far, there have been several kinds of cookies and full-fat cheese sticks at a meeting; a fundraising pizza and cupcake lunch; and a tree-planting ceremony with Timbits. I managed to skirt them all, but the pizza did smell incredible. Mmm, pizza....

The good news is, I'm seeing the results of my hard work. People are starting to notice and comment about how lean I'm looking. I'm not sure how much more weight I've lost this week, since I'm not going to weigh myself until Friday morning, but I suspect it's a bit. Which makes a considerable difference when you weren't overweight to start with.

Until I can treat myself with the occasional decadent lunch again, I'll comfort myself with my favorite food porn: and while I eat yet another salad with chicken.

If anyone has ideas or recipes for making an extremely healthy lunch more interesting, please throw them my way!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fight Camp Day Ten: Gratitude

It may seem strange to feel grateful for the people who punish you--who hit you, yell at you, and constantly correct you. Yet gratitude is exactly what I feel.

Fighters are well versed in the concept of paying it forward. Someone helps you train for your fight, so you then turn around and help someone else when it's their time. When you're the beneficiary of all this goodwill and support, it's a heady experience. It's easy to get angry in the heat of the moment, when it seems like nothing you do will ever be good enough and you're getting hit again and again. But if you let your anger get the best of you, you will miss the point: these people are doing this because they care. They're spending their time and energy making sure that the pain you're suffering now will mean less pain in the ring.

Every day of training is a battle against my own mind. My body is so much stronger than my mind will ever be. It's my mind that tells me I can't do something, that I'm not strong enough, that I'll never be good enough for this, that I don't belong here. My hope is that as my body keeps proving my mind wrong, that little negative voice will shut the hell up.

One saying I have always loved and strongly believe in is this: Whether you think you can do something or not, you're right.

The next time you're sure something is beyond your reach, go for it. Try to achieve that goal that seems just slightly beyond your grasp. I bet you'll surprise yourself with what you can do. There are no limits, except the ones we set for ourselves.

That much I know is true.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fight Camp Day Nine: Humility, Thy Name is Woman

There are some Barenaked Ladies song lyrics that I love:

When I was born, they looked at me and said

what a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy.
And when you were born, they looked at you and said,
what a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.
We've got these chains that hang around our necks,
people want to strangle us with them before we take our first breath.
I love them because they're so true. In men, strength is valued and celebrated. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to look nice and act nice. I'm sure you've all heard the saying: if a male executive is tough, they call him a leader. If a female executive is tough, they call her a bitch.
With few exceptions, most women don't want to be The Bitch. So, for years we'll accept poor treatment. That boyfriend who hit you and said it's your fault? Maybe you were too flirty with his friends. Your friend says something hurtful? Forgive and forget, because we wouldn't want a confrontation. Restaurant overcooks your steak? Don't send it back, that will cause a fuss. Guy kicking your seat in the movie theatre? Keep glaring at him, and maybe he'll get the point. Don't actually tell him to stop...that would seem...well, bitchy.
Usually women grow out of this passive mindset as we get older. We learn that accepting all the crap that comes our way with a pleasant smile and a "that's okay" is counter-productive to living a high-quality life. It's a generalization to be sure, but I'm willing to bet most men have no idea how difficult it is for a lot of women to send food back or demand a higher level of service. This is a skill that requires one to believe, deep down, that she is worth it. And sadly, as women, we're not always taught that we are.
I was a super confident little kid. I thought everything about me, from the color of my hair to the stories I wrote, was special. I had no problem speaking up or being open with my feelings. I was happy and self-assured, and I didn't take crap. If someone was unkind to me, they definitely heard about it.
This early onslaught of self-esteem was quickly quashed, both at home by my father, and at grade school by nearly every teacher I had. The thing I remember being told the most, from kindergarten all the way up to Grade Six, was "be quiet". Then my dad would burst into a rage that evening because my mother and I were talking while he was trying to watch television. He didn't feel able to control my mother, so that anger was directed at me. It's a lesson that stuck. By the time I reached high school, my voice was so soft that people strained to hear it. I was always asked to "speak up". Well, easier said than done.
How does all this pertain to fight camp? When you're training to fight, you can't worry about being nice. You can't concern yourself with what the other women will think of you when you hit them in the face. You're not there to make friends--you're there to fight. If I tell someone that I'm going to "kick some ass in sparring", I get raised eyebrows. That's not how nice girls talk. Nice girls don't want to hurt others. They would certainly never want to punch or kick their friends.
I remember asking a guy from my muay thai club if he ever had trouble hitting his friends. "Are you kidding?" he said. "That's the best part!"
I envied that easy confidence, that pure love of sparring for training's sake. And I'm sure that, at the end of the match--win or lose--this guy was still friends with his buddies.
To become a female fighter requires a lot more than eating well and training hard. You also have to overcome years of social conditioning which urges you to be polite and agreeable.
Because there's no room for nice girls in the ring. Trust me on that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fight Camp Day Eight: Tuff Enough

The one and only Joscelyn Bailey.

After not being able to train on Days Six and Seven, my return to the gym on Day Eight was an exercise in mental toughness...all 2.5 hours of it.

I'd like you to meet my guru of mental toughness, Joscelyn Bailey. Think you can't possibly do one more sit-up? Think your arms won't hold you for more than twenty push-ups? Joscelyn thinks you're wrong. And if there's one thing I've learned after a year of training with him, it's that Joscelyn is always right. (Or ELSE!)

Joscelyn's classes are tough enough--he teaches the toughest Level 2 class this side of Thailand. But being his partner inspires an entirely new level of fear. After enduring five rounds of a challenging drill, where I was given absolutely no leeway and repeatedly punched (and kicked) in the head, I survived an hour of Joscelyn's class and thought I was off the hook for the evening. But no...more fight camp "fun" ensued. As the odd girl out, I was paired with Joscelyn. Magically, those next-to-impossible sit-ups I couldn't manage more than ten of last week were suddenly possible. I not only did the 50 required--Joscelyn made me do 51. And I was the first one finished! It turns out fear is an excellent motivator.

Then my kru Kelly decided we should punch each other hard in the stomach. Sounds like fun! So I endured 50 of Joscelyn's powerful jabs, and gave him my best shot, thinking that was it. No! Now we had to give each other 50 jab-cross combinations in the stomach. I needed a brief break after a brutal solar plexus shot, but we got through the round otherwise unscathed, only to...KNEE each other in the stomach 50 times! Ah, good times were had by all.

You don't have to be Joscelyn's partner for the evening to recognize how strong he is. All you have to do is watch one of his demonstrations in class, or be one of the hapless fools he chooses to demonstrate on. He is one of the most powerful, skilled fighters I have ever seen, and I've trained with a lot. I don't know a single person who doesn't express surprise at his strength once they've seen (or felt) what he can do.

But one of his greatest strengths is pushing people past their previously-conceived limits. So he ended up being the best partner I could hope for, after all.

Thank you, Joscelyn, for believing in me and pushing me past the pain.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Weighty Issue

Boxer Olivia Gerula at her weigh-in last year (left).

Most women think of their weight as a deep, dark secret. Few would be happy about weighing themselves in front of another person, but how about in a room full of people, including media with television cameras, wearing nothing but a bikini?

This is what all professional female fighters go through, and if you plan to fight at all, expect your weight to become common knowledge. When you're training, you'll be obsessing about that little (or not so little) number for weeks or even months.

While it might be tempting to just fight at whatever weight you're at, there's a real advantage to cutting weight. Say, for example, that you're a shorter guy with a stocky, muscular build. You stand 5'6" tall, but you weigh about 185 pounds. In a sport where many men are lean and lanky, your typical opponent will be at least six inches tall, if not taller. Which puts you at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to reach. In this case, dropping twenty or thirty pounds will most likely bring your opponents down to size. The general rule of thumb in fighting (unless you're a heavyweight) is 'the lighter, the better'.

Unfortunately, the weigh-in game has become just that: a game. Fighters will drastically dehydrate and even starve themselves before a weigh-in to make weight--then they binge and drink vast quantities of water in order to regain as much weight as they can before their actual fight a day later. The more muscular you are, the more you're able to play this game successfully, as muscle stores more water. Dehydration can make an athlete weigh-in deceptively light, but drinking plenty of water will bulk him back up again. For example, in the recent MMA match between Chris Stranger and Lindsey Hawkes, both fighters needed to weigh in at 170 pounds. Both were determined to make it to 184-186 pounds before their fight the next evening.

What does this rapid weight gain and loss do to athletic performance? If you're weighed down by heavy meals and excessive hydration right before your fight, doesn't this slow you down, make you sluggish? And what does it do to our health? Studies have shown that losing and regaining as little as ten pounds can be very dangerous to our livers, our hearts, and our metabolisms...and that's just for a start. Consider that most people who lose weight for fitness-related activities (including fitness competitions, boxing, and kickboxing) binge on junk food during the days following their competition, and the risk factors increase. I'm all for eliminating crap from our diets, but if we're going to just overload on it later, what's the point?

There are other dangers as well. We already know that the incidence of eating disorders is very high among women and girls who compete in figure skating, gymnastics, and dance--other activities where weight is seen as important. Females haven't been competing in the fighting arts long enough for there to be any conclusive statistics, but it stands to reason that eating disorders would plague women in these sports as well. And men, while not as frequently effected, should still be concerned. When I trained amid world champions, I certainly knew several men who suffered from severely disordered eating. I remember one guy telling me that he'd eaten chicken teriyaki for lunch, and so would not be eating a thing for the rest of the day. Yikes!

Losing weight by following a healthy diet and training hard is one thing. Losing it through a very unhealthy game of starve and binge is another. We've yet to see what the long-term effects of this will be on the young athletes of today, but I honestly can't imagine them being worth the risks.

Have you ever dropped weight for a competition, or know someone who has? Please share your experience!

** I should add, since I used Olivia's weigh-in photo to illustrate this post, that she does not employ the unhealthy methods of losing/gaining weight as described above. Several weeks before a fight, she eliminates sugary and fatty foods from her diet and steps up her training.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fight Camp Day Five: When The Going Gets Tough

Last week did not end on a good note. As you can no doubt tell from my previous post, I've been having some issues with blogging. I was not in a great place, so I was extra sensitive and questioning my worth. It was the worst possible time for someone to post a cruel, hateful diatribe aimed at me, but it happened. And I did not take it well. Looking back now, I took it far too seriously and let it effect me far too much.

I can exercise when I'm in a bad mood. I may not run as fast or hit as hard as when I'm feeling positive, but I can get through a class. When it gets tricky is when I have to spar. Some of you may think that I could use this to my advantage--that I could channel my negativity into anger and use it to make me strong. But it never works out that way.

On Friday, I was sad. I felt defeated. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and bawl, and I definitely did not feel like getting kicked or punched. Or getting a bunch of unsolicited advice. I was not in the mood for any of it.

Thankfully, a good friend partnered with me for the first class, which was a challenging cardio and strength workout. I got through it fine, and then it was time for sparring. I was partnered with three women who I've  been told are more experienced than I am. And I didn't cower. I didn't cry. I didn't let them pummel me. It certainly wasn't my best performance, but I got through it. I survived. I learned that I can spar when I'm feeling weak and lousy, and not let it defeat me. I was still happy when it was over, but at least I got through it.

Another nasty side effect from that emotional stress and all this training is a pervasive heat rash on my legs and arms that began on Friday evening and got progressively worse through the weekend. I went to the doctor on Saturday and came away with two prescriptions. I'm supposed to let my legs heal before I do anything that will make me sweat again--perfect timing, as you can imagine! I medicated myself and suffered through the itching to watch a boxing coach and an old friend from Sik Tai fight in the latest Canadian Fighting Championship. Unfortunately, both fighters lost their matches and one retired. It's hard to see someone you care about lose a fight, especially when you know how hard they train, and how much passion they have for the sport.

But tomorrow is a new day, and I hope to resume my training from a place of strength and optimism.

I hope.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Things They Don't Tell You

There's a lot of things they don't tell you about blogging. Even on blogs. And especially not on those oh-so-helpful blogs about: how to start a blog; whether or not you should start one; and what you need to do to build an audience.

They may tell you (although probably not) that blogging is tough. It takes a lot of time, and it takes commitment. Not only must you write regularly, but you must also take the time to read and post on other blogs. Any fool can start a blog, but it takes a mighty dedicated fool to keep one going. They most likely won't tell you that, sometimes, blogging hurts. Sometimes it can break your heart.

Unless you are writing a review blog, or one that focuses on current events, chances are, the posts you write are going to be very personal. If they're not, there's less chance that they will resonate with anyone. In my experience, the times when I was the most humiliated, the most terrified, and the most depressed at the state of the world were the times when I got the greatest response, the most thoughtful feedback. So, you're putting your heart on this screen every single day, and what then?

You probably started keeping a blog for yourself. You didn't care about attracting the beginning. Maybe your husband and your dog read it and enjoyed it, and that was enough. But once you start attracting an audience, a funny thing start caring about what they think, and what they want. And if your audience starts waning, you desperately want to know why. You want to know why other people can post a recipe that isn't even original a few times a year and get a hundred comments in return. You think, "WTF?"

And then, there's the trolls. I knew all about Internet trolls, but the thing they don't tell you is how personal troll attacks can be. It's not "you're ugly and your blog sux". It's a deeply personal attack that can make you question if you should even be blogging in the first place. It taps into your greatest fears about your blog: do I have anything meaningful to say? What right do I have to say anything at all? Am I boring everyone? And if you don't have commentary from the people who love your blog, who enjoy it, and who want you to keep going, it can be very tempting to just delete the whole thing, forget it like a bad dream.

I can't speak for all bloggers (and I'm not trying to), but if I post about something that was embarrassing or otherwise not a great moment in my life (like drinking so much water for my new training regime that I constantly had to pee at work--yes, I blogged about peeing! Gasp!), it's because I hope that there's someone out there who's been there. Or who is going through the same thing right now. Or, people like one of my co-workers, who emailed that she wants to drink more water but was wondering "how the heck am I supposed to carry on with the rest of my day when I'm running to the bathroom every 20 minutes?" See, you never know what will resonate with people. That's why we have to put it out there.

Not every blog will resonate with every person. And there will always be trolls who are too chicken shit to spread their hatred face to face, so they hide behind the ever handy "Anonymous". There will always be dangers inherent with putting your heart on the Internet where anyone can stomp on it. But you know what makes it worth it?

You. We may be telling our own stories, but we're hoping you like them. That they mean something to you. That you read them, and if they make you smile, laugh, cry, or think "wow! I feel the same way," you'll let us know. You don't have to comment on my blog. I'm not even sure that I will have a blog much longer. But please, if you like another blog, let the writer know. Post a comment, or like a link, or just show up to read it. Send them an email. Put it on your Twitter feed. If you really like it, recommend it to others, or become a follower. Don't leave us at the mercy of trolls and the people who are only here because of our photos. It's like that drive-in movie theatre that everybody "loved", but nobody went to. You know what? It went bankrupt. You may love that book store, or that restaurant, but if you never show up to support them, they might close, too. It happens all the time, and then you hear the cries of, "but I loved that place! I was planning to go next week...." Try to go today, before it closes.

Because, trust me, it's lonely enough out here. And another thing they don't tell you is, sometimes blogging sucks.

Fight Camp Day Four: Water, Water Everywhere

Reposted by request.

My training diet requires that I drink a ton of water--basically as much as I possibly can. Water is important for so many things--muscle recovery and development, weight loss, joint health, etc., but drinking enough is always a challenge for me. I'm not a fan of its non-taste, and as some of you may recall, most of my liquid consumption used to consist of Diet Pepsi.

A funny thing about water, though. If it's in front of me, I'll drink it. So as long as I keep my water bottle full at work, I'll drink close to or more than my required amount. But guess what happens when you're drinking liters of water everyday?

Yep, you spend a lot of time running for the bathroom.

Training for a fight when you have a day job isn't easy. Yesterday was a marathon meeting day for me at work--I had a three hour meeting in the morning (which actually went into overtime) and a two hour one in the afternoon. Yikes! In spite of the ten minute "health break" during the morning meeting, I still needed to excuse myself twice. Embarrassing, and very inconvenient. Damn that water! According to those in the know, this reaction should lessen once my body grows accustomed to all the extra fluid. I certainly hope so, because right now it's a pain in the...well, you get the idea.

To my horror, I suddenly came down with a nasty cough and sore throat as well. The last thing I need right now is a cold! But after getting a lot of rest, bending my training diet to include chicken soup, and overdosing on Cold-FX, I feel 100% better. That's a relief, because today is sparring day, and if you ever want to feel your best, it's when your personal safety is on the line.

Do you drink a lot of water, Dear Readers? If so, do you do anything to make it more interesting? I had a personal trainer recommend a "water mojito" to me--she basically just adds lime slices and mint to her water. This sounded like a great idea, because I love lime, but all the additions soon turned into a slimy mess in the bottom of the pitcher. I was afraid to go near it, lest it walk out of the fridge on its own.

Water is one of those things that's been debated quite a bit in the media. I've seen articles warning us against drinking too much water, but I don't think that's ever going to be an issue for me. Since we rarely get water breaks while we're training, the water I drink beforehand helps keep me from getting dehydrated during the long hours at the gym.

Have an awesome weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fight Camp Day Three

Fight camp -- fall 2011

You know that song by R.E.M. called Everybody Hurts? Well, that pretty much summed up the fight camp yesterday. Those who weren't in actual pain were suffering from a lack of energy (except for Wayne, of course, who trains like this all the time).

It would be easier to tell you what didn't hurt than to tell you what did, and we haven't even started sparring yet! (That's tomorrow--yikes!) Thankfully, the acupuncture and massage treatments are helping my knee a lot. It is starting to feel better...too bad I can't say the same for the rest of me. And, scarily, I developed sudden cold symptoms this morning. I'm fighting them off as best I can. Thankfully, today is our rest day. I can't speak for the others, but--as much as I'm afraid to rest--I recognize that I really do need it.

The first hour of kickboxing was fairly brutal. I was so happy to be partnered with my friend Kathy for Level 2. Friends always understand when you're sore and exhausted. But I was far from spared--both krus (Kelly and Joscelyn) made sure that I was working my butt off. And after everyone else had gone home, the fight camp settled in for a brutal round of ab work (this is in addition to the ab exercises I'd already done in Levels 1 and 2). I've never worked my abs to failure before--I have a very strong stomach--but there were times my body refused to lift itself up just one more time. The great thing about fight camp, though, is that we were all in it together. Some of us may have found the exercises easier than others, but we all stuck around and cheered each other on until the last sit-up was done. Being in fight camp is being a part of a team, and that's awesome.

But for today, I will rest.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fight Camp Day Two

The muay thai clinch.
"Is it okay if I start hitting now?"
I'd been holding the pads for our team captain for about three minutes. This guy's punching power is legend, so I'd been steeling myself for the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. Holding for him wasn't so bad. In fact, I'd had a lot worse. I was relieved.

So when he asked if he could start hitting "for real", I had to laugh. But, no matter how ferocious the punches, I did fine. All in all, I was pretty proud of myself at the end of the three rounds.

There were so many fantastic things that happened yesterday that I barely know where to start. I'm going to savor them all for as long as I can, for I'm sure there will be enough days where I'm not feeling so good about myself.

After the first class, we started the official fight camp training by working on knee strikes with a partner. Kru Kelly let my friend Vanessa help out, since we have an odd number of women. It is always great to work with her--she is so encouraging and positive.

"You're a lot stronger than I thought you were," she said. "These feel great!"

What a wonderful compliment, coming from one of the strongest women I know. It's actually a relief to be in fight camp and know that everyone has the same goal, and is going to be training at the same intensity. You don't have to worry so much about striking too hard, or hurting someone's feelings or offending them. I'm now able to give every drill everything I've got. My kru wanted me to train like this all the time, but it's much more difficult when not every woman you're partnered with wants that kind of punishment. Vanessa doesn't mind. She loves to get hit in the stomach.

Just when I thought things couldn't get better, the kru came by and watched what I was doing several times, and (until I started getting tired), all he said was that everything was looking really good. This is almost unheard of in martial arts, where it seems like something can always be improved. And since knee strikes are so essential for true muay thai, this was an extra boost to my confidence. I felt like I could do no wrong.

Then came clinching. Most people are more likely familiar with clinching in a boxing sense, where the opponents hold on to each other to get a breather until the ref separates them. Clinching in muay thai is an entirely different world. It is when the art's most deadly strikes (knees and elbows) are most often thrown.

I actually found the clinching to be a lot of fun. I worked with Vanessa and with Jen, another woman in the fight camp. Vanessa and I tried several different techniques together, but with Jen, it was much more like an actual fight simulation--we just went for each other, and however the hold ended up was what we had to work with. I learned a few things that would be just nasty in a fight, and I also got thrown for the first time. Even that was fun, but pretty surprising. One minute I was standing, and the next I was on my butt.

Clinching is exhausting, sweaty work. I realized last night that it's a lot like grappling. You aren't lifting weights, or punching, or doing intense cardio, but because it's a drawn-out struggle, you are always engaging your muscles, and that takes a ton of stamina.

We were all sweaty and exhausted by the end of two hours. All in all, a great class! I'm looking forward to tonight's 2.5 hours of training.

Injuries so far: Frostbite on leg from ice pack!, assorted blisters, stiff neck/headaches from clinching.

Temptations avoided: Tim Horton's Fruit Explosion muffin and a Cadbury fruit & nut bar. So far, I am sticking to my training diet successfully.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fight Camp Day One

Hello Dear Readers,

Well, this is it...this is what all the hard work and sacrifice were for. I am finally in Fight Camp.

While everyone else was enjoying the last of the long weekend and dreading the inevitable return to work, I was in the gym with my five fellow fight campers.

We started the evening with a 30 minute meeting, during which our Kru explained the rules and his expectations. He also discussed what exercises we'd be doing, and as he talked, I felt my nerves dissipate. While there is more at stake now, the workout itself was familiar--all moves I've grown accustomed to over the past two years: boxing tabatas, a parry drill, a footwork drill, push ups and squats. The only thing that threw me was the running.

Our kru wanted us to set benchmarks for running and burpees, so we'll be able to look back at various points and see how much we've improved. As we walked out to the pockmarked alley behind the club for our six minute run, I knew this wasn't going to be good for my knee. And I was right.

Halfway through the exercise, that poor, overworked joint decided it just wasn't going to take the abuse anymore. I ended the day with an ice pack and a tensor bandage. Clearly, I have a lot of work to do to build up that leg, but I expected that. I have a lot of work to do, period.

Today is my first day back on the training diet. I'm actually looking forward to eating healthy meals and drinking more water again, but it isn't going to easy. I've already passed up an invitation for a sushi lunch and given away my strawberry pop tarts. But it will all be easier in time, and when I step into the ring on November 5th, I'll be so glad that I made the sacrifice.

I find this video very inspiring. The star of it is a football player, but I think his message can be applied to any goal. How much do you really want to be successful? I especially related to the part about sleep--thinking about that helps get me up to train in the morning. And the part where he says, "You're already in pain...why not have something to show for it?" Indeed.