When Nothing Goes Right…

I love what the “…go left” in the original version of this quotation stands for. . .but I *also* love the gym-rat-edited “…go LIFT” one, and not because it’s gym-leaning.

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Exercise is, 1,000%, a proven de-stressor (that happens to have added health benefits, vs. other known de-stressors, like comfort foods, binge eating, alcohol consumption, body-harming vices of whatever design…)

I think a lot of folks who haven’t had the opportunity to be (or exposure to being) active don’t know what they are missing. Whether it is lifting iron in a gym, taking a jog, or just dancing like no one is watching as fiercely as you can, physical movement and engagement can turn a very BAD day (or series of events!) into a much more positive one.  It’s not only for your heart and body, but your mind and emotional state too too… 

When nothing goes right, give your body a chance to work out the aggression, frustration, disappointment, whatever. . . It really doesn’t matter if it’s jumping jacks during commercials, going to a barre class, or playing in a soccer league.  ANY movement helps.

By changing your direction and focus, and letting your body do what it was designed to do – move – you can alter not only the tone of the day, but your mood with it.

Win, win.

Martial Arts Humor – In “Jiu-Jitsu” Shape

So this isn’t really even funny… I mean, not for someone who thinks they’re generally in decent shape.  It was kind of humiliating coming to the blanket realization, honestly!

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When I started Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, I committed to three classes a week – Combatives, specifically.  When I got my second stripe I was admitted into Reflex Development – just one more, one-hour class a week. 

Well…after about two weeks of that schedule, I had to cut my cardio by about half (maybe more) AND tone down my lifting.  I was, admittedly, in shock.  I could run 8 HIIT miles on a treadmill before class, do the hour, then lift, and I’d be fine…  I was tired, but I could do it.  So what the hell happened?!

I got broadsided with a horrible bout of overtraining – nasty, frustrating, prolonged.  I was doing way too much, and didn’t internalize just how much the extra rolling and working through techniques would add.  It wasn’t SO much more, but enough to tip my scales.  In a bad way!

There I thought I was in great shape – I can do intense cardio (much that I despise it), I can lift more than most my size, and I push myself like I’m on a mission.  But shrimping across the room ONCE?  I thought I needed a paramedic!  

If you are new to Jiu-Jitsu. . .

  • DON’T be surprised if you need to cut back on other activities.  
  • Also DON’T be surprised if you are going into it as a fit individual – it may show you up the first day!
  • DO keep in mind that you are using muscles you may not have fired as much previously, and in a different way.  

The idea is that you are smart with your movement and don’t pre-exhaust yourself unnecessarily.  But in the beginning you might well do too much – it’s okay, and you will get there.  

Definitely back off other physical endeavors if you are feeling poorly (mentally, physically, whatever!) It could be a sign of doing too much.  Jiu-Jitsu is known for its ass-kicking… You are going to be tired, no doubt about it!

Volunteering

This past weekend I had the wonderful fortune to work with children with disabilities doing an activity close to my heart – Taekwondo. ❤  My background is predominantly in dancing (classical ballet and ballroom), as well as in figure skating, but being a Martial Arts practitioner for many years, and an instructor, has proven to be not only incredibly fulfilling, but also life-changing. 

I moved to a new state some months ago, leaving behind a job teaching children Okinawan Karate.  I was eager to find an opportunity in which I could work with children again, specifically doing a physical activity.  I believe that movement of any kind is incredibly beneficial (for countless reasons!), especially for children, for whom creating this healthy, lifetime habit comes more easily. (If you are an adult who began fitness, for example, later in life, you know what I mean – if we start early on, embracing exercise as a positive, FUN activity, it is more likely that we keep up with it as we age.)  Learning spatial and body awareness, as well as how to interact interpersonally and physically with others are valuable life skills – Martial Arts definitely cater to both.  

I am blessed to be able to assist both at a Ninjutsu Dojo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, where I am also a student – working with children is always eye-opening, and I find that they teach me just as much!  That work aside, I was also eager to find a way to volunteer to guide those less able to participate in such activities – I don’t like to see ANYONE left out!  It is easy to take for granted that many of us CAN do sports…  When our routine takes over, we almost run on autopilot, dashing from one class to the next, sometimes even begrudgingly!  But. . .how blessed are we?!  For some individuals, the process of making a fist with which to punch a target may take many weeks of practice!

The disabilities this particular organization – KEEN of Greater DC – works with (for the Martial Arts Program) range from Autism, to Echolalia, to Cerebral Palsy – so the group is mixed, requiring different levels of guidance and instruction.  Though my background is not specific to disabilities, I find that working with these children comes very naturally – their genuine enthusiasm, eager curiosity, and love of playtime is absolutely contagious!

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(My own photo)

The activities we coached the kids through ranged from running about the room holding hands, to simple stretches, to punching and kicking targets.  We also hauled out an enormous, thick mat onto which they jumped from a mini trampoline – it was tremendously crowd-pleasing! 🙂

For a few of the children, these activities are “new” each week – they might need us to form the fists for them with our own hands, or have us demonstrate a couple of extra times.  For others, you can see exciting improvements over the course of the class (and over time.)  In both instances, though, you see a LOT of smiling, and hear a TON of giggling. ❤

The experience is so richly rewarding, I’d be hard-pressure to measure, or describe it! What we “get” from coaching is as much tangible as it is not – there is no recognition, nor compensation…but neither do I (nor any of the volunteers) want any such reimbursement.  There is, instead, a profound thankfulness that seems to fill each cell to the point of overflowing.  As an Empath, I cry as much for joy as I do sadness – I was moved to tears by the elated shrieks when contact was made with a target…or my extra “that-was-AWESOME” high-five! produced a flood of smiling.  How can you put a value on something like that?! 

The absolute jubilation that is felt all around makes every moment worth it.  These children face physical and mental challenges that most of their peers are unfamiliar with entirely  – the burden is a heavy one, and it prevents them from taking part in many school sports and extracurricular activities.  I was so delighted to find an organization that caters to allowing individuals with disabilities to experience the same fun and enjoyment with exercise and physical play.  Keen, incidentally, has only three main employees. . . and yet making a difference is SO important to them that they manage to offer twenty-seven programs!  

I will definitely be back for the next round – how precious a gift were the smiles and laughter.  Add to that the grateful nods of parents able to take comfort and joy in their child’s participation?  True blessing.  And then some.