#R2AD, Week 6: The Heartbreaker

I made a tough decision a few weeks back regarding work and training. This meant I have put my career on hold (temporarily) while I chase this dream of competing as a black belt. I wrote about this a little in #R2AD, Week 1.

My plan was to give this year everything I had to give in terms of investment, then retire from competition entirely once I had competed as a black belt at both the Abu Dhabi World Pro and the IBJJF Worlds (both lifetime goals for me) and, once completed, I would then focus once again on my career and the growth and development of womens sport.

Financially the decision to focus on my dreams is not logical, it leaves me broke and stressed about money and pauses my work when it requires full time attention, but as our sport is not yet a professional one, these are the tough choices that all Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes currently face. The sacrifices are not just physical.
So it was a HUGE financial commitment for me to make earlier this week as I booked my flights to Los Angeles for the IBJJF Worlds, held the first week of June.
I wrote to my friends, excited. Checked in who else was headed over and started to plan room shares. It was a message from Liv that changed everything in a moment.

It was a message from Liv that changed everything in a moment.

“Are you going to do some comps beforehand to get your points?”

No! I had totally forgotten about the 50 points required as a black belt to enter the comp.

Its one of those stupid lapses in research and memory that really bites you in the ass. I had completely forgotten that black belts cannot simply enter the IBJJF World Championships (all other belts are able to pay to enter without further requirements). As a newer black belt, and planning to enter for the first time since purple, it had never even entered my mind. What a monumental fuck up.
There was only one event left in Australia prior to June (the IBJJF Sydney Open) that I could have entered for the points (regardless of not having a single competitor…its an administration thing, so extra annoying) and I had missed the registration for that event by 10 days. There are more comps that I could enter for the points but they are all in America and Europe. Lotto tickets anyone?

Worlds is no longer an option for me this year.

The IBJJF Worlds is no longer an option for me this year.
Cue a cry. Yep, I did. And I have no one to blame but myself.
Massive disappointment is massive.
Of the one or two shots I had left for me to be able to viably compete against adults (I’m 38), I had just lost the opportunity to enter one. I was devastated.
And there’s absolutely nothing I can afford to do about it. It simply is what it is and I will have to look to next year, a full year later, another year that I have to push to try to be fit, strong and ready enough to face the best in the world, another year older.
Even thinking about it now breaks my heart. I just don’t know if I can afford to try to do all of this again next year (plus all the lead up comps to garner the points). Financially, physically, mentally… we will see. But even thinking about it now exhausts me.
Starting again with this fitness/weight cut/putting life on hold all over again in a years time…I just don’t know if I have it in me.

For now though, I have to cut my losses (damn the fact I can’t get a refund on the flights!, awful timing while I’m broke) and find acceptance because I need to stay focused.
And I will.

Abu Dhabi Pro 2017.  You are my 100% focus now. You have to be. Which is good and bad. I hate putting some much pressure on one event but that said, there is something strong about single point of focus when aiming for a goal.

There was more heartbreak to come

My previous week of training and dieting we saw absolutely no shift in my weight. I knew that would mean bad things ahead. Changes needed to be made.
There was more heartbreak to come, but in the physical sense, not the emotional.
Less food, more output. It was gonna hurt like hell.

My weekly routine shifted and now looks more like this (a LOT more volume):

Morning – BJJ 90mins, comp training format
Evening – BJJ 2 hours, drilling, reps, active rest
Throughout: 2 hours walking

Morning – HIIT, rounds
Evening – BJJ 2 hours, drilling, reps, active rest
Throughout: 2 hours walking

Morning – Rest
Evening – BJJ 2 hours, drilling, 3x hard rounds
Throughout: 2 hours walking

Morning – HIIT, rounds
Evening – BJJ 2 hours, drilling, reps, active rest
Throughout: 2 hours walking

Morning – Rest
Evening – Competition training, 2 hours
Throughout: 2 hours walking

Morning – 40mins Cross-trainer
Afternoon: Pool, sauna, spa recovery
Throughout: 2 hours walking

Morning – Rest
Throughout: 2 hours walking

As my food intake is already very limited we have limited options in how to attack the problem with making weight (this weight cut is 2kg more than what I’m used to due to slightly different divisions in Abu Dhabi). So we’ve added in long, slow cardio to cut some calories. The idea being that I can walk forever and not put myself in danger of injury through fatigue (running seizes my hips up when working at a calorie deficit and training as much volume as I currently am). All up I walked 60km during the week on top of 2 extra BJJ sessions up from my usual routine. All done on less food per day.

I did a test run of getting as ‘light as possible’ for Thursday (weigh in day will be a Thursday, fight on a Friday). This meant Wednesday was super limited food, loads of training, less water in the evening and lots of walking…Thursday I weighed a full kilo lighter than my current walking weight. This test run was to see how light I could get and also how much this would effect performance on the high output evening of our competition class on Friday.

My camp is structured around peaking during the week at the same time of the week that I know I will be competing.

My camp is structured around peaking during the week at the same time of the week that I know I will be competing. Testing this pattern early is helpful on the day. Many people train harder at the beginning of their usual week in the weeks leading up to competition and then compete at the end of a week on a day that would usually be their rest day or active rest day (Saturday or Sunday)…. I’ve never really understood the logic of that pattern so we work to exact days and times for peak performance, and repeat.
The test run of the weigh in day hit me like a truck. Thursday was…emotional.
The loss of the extra kilo legitimately hurt, like physical pain especially in my glutes. This pain weakened my resolve, and after training at the restuarnt with my team mates (eating salad while they ate burgers) I randomly burst into tears.
One of the newer members looked on shocked, wide eyed, as their black belt coach wept into a napkin in front of the team. One of my veteran team mates said to him ‘Don’t make it weird man, she does this all the time. She’s hungry’ haha. It was perfect. We all laughed.
In that one moment he had acknowledged exactly what I needed them all to, that I was crying not because I am weak but rather because I have been weakened…and that it is fixable. A refuel and a rest and I’d be ready to rock.
There was more to it than simply hunger, but at the time, I’m glad we left it at that.

Periods are one more factor to work around during preparation.

One of the extra difficulties of being a female athlete is the problem of hormones during our cycles. Periods are just one more factor to work with during preparation for competition.
Some weeks are much much harder due to a massive influx of progesterone & testosterone while some weeks we will feel unstoppable due to peaks in oestrogen. Weight, energy levels, pain tolerance, co-ordination, focus, appetite, mental strength, emotional stability…all for me are effected heavily (and negatively), especially in the week leading up to my cycle (week 4).
On the day I won the trials I used my period tracker app to check immediately what I would be dealing with in these weeks prior to the competition.

You should watch this, super helpful.

Period trackers are a great tool for competitors. I highly recommend using them and making a diary of your energy levels, emotional state, weight fluctuations & shifts in appetite throughout your cycle.
For best results collect this data in off season prior to important events and utilise it during your camps.
I have gathered the data on my own cycle in the past and what I know is this:

– Week of period (week one): Almost no pain tolerance. Whinge-o-rama. A bit uncoordinated and accident prone. Pretty useless. Cranky. In pain. Bloated. Weak.

– Week after period (week two): Still a little bloated until the end of the week and then my lightest. Skinny me! No food cravings, focused, ready, sane again. Where did my boobs go? Super confident by the end of the week. Strong.

– Week to win (week three): Best week ever. Great output, able to be super disciplined with food, zero cravings, weight normal. Super strong. Lifting PBs.

– Week prior to period (week four): I will be my heaviest, sometimes up 2-3kg. I will be absolutely starving and almost insatiable with food. I’ll also be less able to stabilise my emotions. Lumpy boobs of pain, get off me. Impatient. Anti-social. Aggressive but prone to crying.
All of this information is pivotal to know when structuring training. Ignoring any of these details and expecting the same output and function out of yourself week to week can cause distress.
So very early on, knowing that I had a 10% body weight weight cut ahead of me, I checked the period tracker app to know if it was even going to be possible. If given the wrong timing I would have made the decision to go up to the next division.
I have had to move up in weight categories for some events in the past based on the week that the competition sits in my cycle (if you look at my competition record the division fluctuates often). I was lucky enough that Abu Dhabi will land on my lightest week of the month (I do know some women that use the pill to effect the timing of their lighter weeks).
What that means during this R2AD Wk6 is that this is hell week. I am super heavy and puffy, my emotions are all over the place. I’m STARVING hungry and cravings are super hard to control. These are the weeks that take more than mental fortitude. These weeks take training partners you trust, strong support systems and faith in yourself and basic science (that you’re stronger than this, hormones are just making it harder than usual).
What this also means is there was a fair bit of crying, a lot of whining, feeling like I couldn’t do it etc.
All this on top of a week where we put my output up and took my food down.
Gross to all of this.

My team mates and support coaches are amazing. We spoke a lot about how I was feeling and made the decisions to just keep working, accepting that this week would just be a heartbreaker. But that it will pass.
The exciting thing is that I will be the peak version of myself for the actual event, and thats what is actually important. I’d rather be a mess now than at the event.

JT (my Strength & Conditioning Coach) and I worked super hard. We decided to create heartbreak in a different way. Our focus during the week was to build my gas tank into a behemoth. Blowing out my lungs and heart with HIIT training yields a heap of rewards:
-Gas tank the size of a bus
-Weight cut/fat burning easier
-Mental toughness
-Explosive power

We worked more than I thought possible with ropes, the prowler (fk that thing to hell), sit outs, kettle bells and more. I literally trained until I was screaming.
Heart, lungs, legs…on fire.

Its amazing how fast HIIT training pays off though. We have doubled my capacity (I can tell through timed rounds) for sprints. What I literally could not do more than 6 minutes of 3 weeks ago, we are now doing for 24 minutes.

Come Friday night and my epic comp rounds with my team at Vanguard BJJ I worked hard, consistently and didn’t gas. I have to say the very worst feeling for me at competition is not to lose but rather, to run out of gas mid fight. It is the WORST and I choose for that to not even be an option at Abu Dhabi.
Friday night proved to me that we’re on track for the gas tank that I want. This knowledge goes a long way to help boost my confidence during a very hard week.

The boys at Vanguard BJJ are amazing. My coach Martin has structured the entire class to focus on my needs while also preparing the others for their competitions ahead. As a team they have come together to help me yet again. This week I was working in a trio with Chico and Kieran (both under 70kgs) and though they are always ready to push me to my limits by attacking me at full flog they are so kind, so supportive, so focused. I get super emotional just thinking about them putting their bodies on the line for me and my goals. What absolute legends.
For most of these guys, this is the 4th Abu Dhabi preparation that they have put in for me. For me. It is a loyalty and dedication that is rare to experience in life. I am forever grateful to this sport in what it has taught me about compassion, care and trust, just as I will be forever grateful for these people that are helping me live my dreams.

The beatdown crew
The beatdown crew – Chico and Kieran either side of me.

The next two weeks are about to be the hardest of my life as an athlete. I have a mixture of excitement, enthusiasm and trepidation in my heart even now as I think about the coming days.
What a fkn THRILL it is to live like this. What an absolute honour to have this experience. Though there were times this week I honestly felt I was not able to complete the tasks ahead, I did. And what that does for my soul is massive.

One Comment Add yours

  1. marsupialjones says:

    I cannot express how meaningful it is to read this. I have such intense fluctuations around my period and cycle. It’s so frustrating. I really appreciate the honesty and raw emotion you share. I hate how my bjj suffers when i am in those cycle spots.


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