The Art of Relaxating

(title stolen from the hilarious YouTube video of the same name)

Last week, my instructor told me I’m fighting on April 24th. Training begins tomorrow. For some reason, the fact that I’m going back on a diet weighs more heavily on my mind than any other part of the training. I’ve spent the weekend hanging loose and not worrying about what I eat.

I really should say more about the in-the-gym training that I’m doing – this is not meant to be a dieting blog – but while I’ve come a long way with my training, I’ve made the most drastic self-improvement  through my dieting. This has been where I’ve most needed to apply thoughtful planning and self-control to achieve my goals.

Stressing the diet

Perversely, it takes less willpower to stick to a really strict weight-loss diet than it does to eat well when you’re not following a program. When you’re free to eat what you like, you’re constantly negotiating with yourself.

“Hey you wanna come out and eat with us?” For you, the answer is difficult. Have you been eating out too much lately? Do you deserve a break? That’s a lot of messy math.

For me it’s easy. The answer is always “no.” Of course, that’s not strictly true, because a major feature of the diet I worked out during the last cycle is the cheat meal.

Cheater

Once a week, I’ll eat whatever I want for one meal. Usually I do this on the weekend, when I don’t have the training to distract me and my friends are all going out. One of my cheat meals during the last cycle was two rolls of sushi and two glasses of beer (gasp) at a local Japanese restaurant. Knowing I’ll be able to relax once a week makes it so much easier to follow that the balance of my energy intake, even including the cheat day, is much less than if I tried to stick to the same rules every day. I adapted this idea from the Thrive Diet, which some people at my gym have gotten good results from.

I see the cheat day as another way to allow myself to recover when I’m stressing myself. Weight-loss diets stress your body and your psyche, and like every form of training stress, you need to allow recovery time to get any benefit.

Finally learning to relax

I’ve been thinking a lot about stress and recovery since reading The New Toughness Training for Sports (I know I keep bringing this book up. I intend to review it properly within the next couple of weeks). One of the things I’ve picked up through all of this is learning how to relax. As long as I can remember, I’ve never understood the idea of laying out in the sun, or in a hammock, or whatever. Even as an adult, I’d always get bored with laying around, and I’d feel like I was wasting my time. I’ve always been a restless person, and a person of excesses. I wanted to get the most value from my time. For the same reason, I’d order the largest drinks, the largest sandwiches. This weekend, I broke down on my no-coffee kick and got a latte at Starbucks on the way to the gym. I got the smallest size and was totally satisfied with it. Sitting there in my car, totally satisfied with the tiny cup in my hand, I realized I may have finally learned some moderation.

music: Dead Celebrity Status – We Fall, We Fall

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Taking it easy

179 lbs!

179 lbs!

I took three days off from the gym and today, by the end of work, I was looking forward to going in to train. I realized how I’ve been forcing myself into it for a few weeks at least. Once I got there, I got about halfway through class and I was getting impatient for it to end. This wasn’t even a class with live training. I’m definitely burnt out.

Anyway, so more about what I’ve been doing. I trained for two fights that I didn’t end up having. The first time, as I said in my last post, was just to see if I could hack it. The second time, I was on the list to fight in a local MMA production as an amateur. This means the gloves are a little bigger, you wear shin pads, and the rounds are shorter (three minute rounds instead of five). I was looking for a catch weight of 175 and didn’t end up getting a fight. So that’s two times I’ve gone through the fight training.

I’ll talk in more detail in a later post about what fight training is like. What it comes down to in the end is, no matter how dedicated someone is, at the end of the day you’re there for fun and/or your own edification, and you train accordingly. If your foot hurts or you’re tired, you’ll skip a class. It’s no problem. But when you’re training for a fight, it’s literally another part time job. You show up six times a week, whether you want to or not, and you train hard.

I met my goals, though! My conditioning is awesome – I don’t get tired nearly as quickly as I used to in stress situations like high-intensity kickboxing. And the weight loss was really significant. It was the most drastic change I’ve seen in my body since I first started taking martial arts and took off all the baby fat. My weight has stabilized at about 180 lbs, from a starting high of about 194 and a low of 172. That means I lost about 14 lbs, and was able to cut 8 lbs of water weight on top of that. MASSIVE JUSTICE !! I’ll talk more about how I did that in a later post too.

Anyway. For now that is all.

chronically overtrained

I have been training my ass off for the last few months. I’ve gone through two training cycles for two different fights. The first time my instructor had me go through the training to see whether I could hack it, and the second time I was on the list, but the promoter didn’t find a match for me. I’ve cut my weight from 195 lbs down to 182 in the first fight cycle, then down to 172 in the second.

I felt really good at the end of the second fight cycle, but now I’m starting to feel broken down. Obviously I’ve been overtraining and I need to give myself a break. Speaking of overtraining and recovery, I ordered another copy of The New Toughness Training for Sports by James E Loehr. I’m going to review this book in detail in a later post; It’s been a major inspiration for me, and a road map for getting my head in the game before competition. But I haven’t followed it very deeply and I think I have a lot to learn from a second reading.

I’ve learned some cool new jiu jitsu, which I’ll also talk about later, but I’ve mostly been kickboxing. I’ve been working on kicking into punch combinations, the thai clinch, and on body conditioning. It’s insane how tough a good kickboxer’s shins are. They can kick metal posts pretty hard without flinching.