Conditioning

Yoga Munki

I have been training in Ashtanga Yoga now for about six months.  There are a number of recommendations on the internet, about how well yoga and bjj go together.  There are a number of famous yogis that are high level BJJ practioners, Rickson Gracie, Nic Gregoriades and Danny Prokopos just to name a few.

When I was recovering from my second surgery yoga was my go to exercise that helped functionally strengthen me back up.  I have now progressed on from the original Hatha Yoga style class I was originally attending to a specific Ashtanga Yoga class. I did try hot yoga for a while, but Mrs Munki was not a fan and I then struggled to find a class that would fit my schedule.

Just so you know Hatha yoga tends to be a mix of the different types of yoga,  it is reasonably slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation. It is also recognized as a stress-reducing practice.

Of the two my personal preference is the Ashtanga style of yoga.  It is split into the Primary Series and subsequent intermediate or second series and the advanced series. The  Primary Series is seen as a way to prepare and repair your body, in readiness for the more strenuous Second Series.  This suits me great as this Old Munki body needs a lot of repairing and to be honest the healing side of it is working.

I would point out that Ashtanga Yoga is not the easiest style to practise and it is a kind of strength yoga, but this additional effort does bring benefits.  As the type of strength I am building is transferable to BJJ, but also benefits me physically in day to day life.

I have found that my spinal and shoulder flexibility is improving, both of which help with my jiu jitsu and my overall Munki wellness.  But I also feel that after a week of training and rolling, yoga feels like it pulls me back into place. This may seem a strange thing to say, but you will all know how much you get banged around when rolling.  Spending an hour and a half pulling and stretching myself, feels really good…afterwards!  It does also help that my yoga teacher helps me into some positions and adjusts me, just enough each time to make the posture challenging.

As far as achieving the postures this is very much a work in progress, my Downward Dog looks more like a Wobbly Table, but as with BJJ it is all about getting the techniques right and achieving as much as I can and not about comparing myself to the very bendy other people in the class.  It’s my body and my journey just like BJJ.

If you live around Manchester UK, I would definitely recommend Ashtanga Yoga Manchester for both men and women.  The teacher is very helpful and they even run beginner courses and separate classes, if you are totally new to yoga.  This does help you feel a little less intimidated and help you understand what Ashtanga Yoga is.

There are a number of different types of yoga not just Hatha and Ashtanga that I have mentioned already. Explanations of the main types of yoga you are likely to come across can be found here. My advice is if yoga is something you want to try, would be to research and find a style which will suit you.  They do what you did when starting jiu jitsu, find a class you can make locally and see if the teacher works for you.

Be prepared some teachers and their classes may have more of a spiritual content than others.  So don’t be put off if you want more or less chanting etc.  Just try another teacher first before considering another style.

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Kettlebells are not used for tunefully boiling water…..

One of the presents I received from Mrs Munki at Christmas time was a 24kg kettlebell.  Not very romantic but it is something I have been wanting for a while.  I have worked out with kettlebells before and being a certified kettlebell trainer, I am confident using this equipment and its benefits.

I have smaller kettlebells, but one of my targets after getting back into BJJ was to improve my overall strength.  I have let this side of my training slip over the past few months, to give my body time to adjust to the jiu jitsu training.  It seems to have adjusted ok so it is time to get back on to it.

Now I know that kettlebells will not improve my strength as well as some of Olympic lifting techniques.  But I only have a small window of time to dedicate to my strength training and kettlebells are convenient and easier to use at home.

I also wanted to reduce the potential overtraining and recovery impacts of this additional training on my aging body. I know that kettlebell training will have less of a neuro-muscular fatiguing impact on me, unlike Olympic lifting. Therefore I will be able to maintain my jiu jitsu training as the main focus.

I have looked at my time constraints and I have come up with a 20-30 minute session that should function as a full body workout.  The details are below:

Monday

Mobility/Yoga – (2 Hand Swings x10 – 1 Hand Swing x10 Each Arm – Over Head Squat Press x10 – Squat Pull x 10) This is one round.  Rest for 2-3 mins and continue to achieve 4 rounds.

Tuesday

Mobility/Yoga – (2 Hand Swings x10 – Bent Over Row x10 Each Arm – Single Arm Overhead Press Ladder 1-4 Each Arm – Single Arm Floor Press Ladder 1-4 Each Arm) This is one round.  Rest for 2-3 mins and continue to achieve 4 rounds.

Friday

Mobility/Yoga – (2 Hand Swings x10 – Cleans x10 Each Arm – Half Turkish Get Up Ladder 1-3 Each Arm – Goblet Squat x10) This is one round.  Rest for 2-3 mins and continue to achieve 4 rounds.

I am planning on starting with my 16kg kettlebell and progressing through to a 20kg one and then onto my new pressie, the 24kg.  This seems like a steady progression that I should be able to achieve within a few months, especially as my body starts to adapt to the additional activity.

Being a clever Munki I have purposefully picked and adjusted some of the exercises to work within the constraints of the range of motion of my shoulders and their current strength, the half turkish get up.  The plan is that the shoulder specfic exercises will improve my shoulder mobility and strength.  If there are any issues I can always use a lighter kettlebell for the shoulder heavy exercises.

As you can see I will be starting slowly and only doing this a few days a week at the moment, as I am intending to add a couple of extra hours a week to the jiu jitsu training schedule.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am increasing the stress I put on my body slowly to give it time to adjust, accommodate and adapt.   This may also require me to keep an eye on my diet too, to adjust that to help with overall recovery and adaptation.

My intention is to do some follow up posts on this to see how I’m progressing not only with the exercise plan but with the physical changes to this old Munki’s body.  I promise that stuff won’t be too graphic!

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Big bad stress….

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Stress is a very interesting term.  In my experience it seems to be one of those words that people either misunderstand or don’t like using. Whilst sat in a nice coffee shop, with Mrs Munki on a chilly  Saturday afternoon we were discussing our training.  Yeah that’s a surprise for two people that practise jiu jitsu.

One of the topics we discussed was training volume.  We are two out of a large number of bjj practitioners that love their training, but have so much more in their lives to deal with. Being able to train bjj as much as we want, along with support training is always going to be a problem.  We were discussing some of our differences and those around us.

As part of the discussion a point came up that I thought seemed applicable to everyone.  That is the way we look at our training.  We can call it strength and conditioning, technical training or cardio, but as far as our bodies and their neuro muscular recovery are concerned it is all stress.  But then what also falls under this same title is work, relationships and day to day living to mention a few.

My weekly training consists of approximately 8 hours of bjj and 1 hour of judo. Now for me as an Old Munki this seems reasonable amount of training.  I’m not trying to be a world champ, just enjoy myself.  But then when you throw in an 8 hour work day and the travelling, the occasional crappy night’s sleep and some poor food choices, to name a few, the total amount of stress that I am putting myself through can start to mount up.

The main problem is I do find my training enjoyable, so sometimes I do ignore the obvious physical impact it has on my body.  So I have to force myself to consider my recovery requirements from this.  I have written about the GAS Principle previously here, in a more technical context.  But it seems that people do take their eye off the ball when it comes to not only to their training volume, but also the trials of daily living as an overall impact.  Looking at Mrs Munki as an example she does not look at her weekly activities (work, training etc) as a total amount of stress that she puts herself through.  She tends to ignore the “real life” issues and focus on how much training she has done that week. This is how she judges if she has had a hard week.  So I see this misunderstanding occurring very close to home.

You could probably make tagging a conditioning or weights session onto the end of your bjj class work for a while.  As the perception could be that you will have ONLY trained for 3 hours that day.  But eventually it will catch up with you.  Likewise when you go to the gym before work and then go to your bjj class after work.  You may think you have had a rest between sessions.  But is that the way your body sees if? Especially after your boss throws a tight deadline in, or even worse you work is physical as well.  You are just jumping to different types of stress.  I have seen this situation arise with a number of my friends and training partners and it always follows the same path.

Professional athletes have nothing to worry about but their training.  After a heavy training session they will be told to do nothing and just relax, even have an afternoon nap, which gives their body the opportunity to recover.  A lot of people I know including Mrs Munki are lucky if they get a lunch break on some days, never mind a nap or a massage.

At this point I am not saying training is bad at all, but just every now and again changing perspectives and re-evaluating the overall stress you put on yourself can help plot your recovery and keep you coming back to the mats.  As an Old Munki this is something I always consider.  I actively plan my recovery and stress volume to keep me coming back to the mats.  I do some yoga and mobility work to help my muscular and joint recovery.  I also occasionally see an osteopath and if necessary a chiropractor. This is what works for me, it might not be the thing for you. You may be more of a massage person like Mrs Munki, but considering your recovery and overall physical maintenance is important.  I also understand that these are expensive options. However, buying a basic foam roller and using this to self massage would be a much cheaper option.

The ultimate point of all of this, is that we should all consider our overall stress and not look at issues in isolation.  Then use this to plan your recovery to keep you healthy. There is only one of you and you need to take care of yourself, to keep you on the mats for as long as possible.  I hope that this all makes sense, but if you have any questions please feel free to message me.

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Judo Munki 2.0

As you already know Mrs Munki has taken up judo to help with her MMA training.  The instructor she has is Sophie Cox a GB Olympian for two games.  Mrs Munki is really pleased with her coaching (and Mrs Munki can be demanding, as she was a sports coach tutor) so with a high quality coach sourced and a good facility, I thought I would give it a try myself. Just once a week to support my BJJ. Also after reading that Helvecio Penna was a judo black belt before  he started jiu jitsu at 31, it seems they complement each other quite well.  One other benefit is that it is something we could do together, as Mrs Munki didn’t mind me attending one class a week at HER gym.

Having attended a number of classes now, Sophie is really good and patient as a coach which is something I value.  The physical nature of judo is good for building up my strength. Also I can see where the judo will fill and compliment the gaps I have with my jiu jitsu. A knowledge of grips and take downs is something I am lacking at the moment. Plus judo is played more assertively than I am used to practising my jits, so I figured that this is a good way to modify my mental state.  Something I have acknowledged I need to do something about in my last post.  Not going all psycho or anything but just playing a more assertive game.

I see the judo as very much a fun thing as it is a little easy to learn and much more instantly gratifying than jiu jitsu.  In my first lesson I learnt how to throw someone.  Making that nice loud slap with someone feels really cool straight away.  Its a bit like a reward after a week of very technical jib jitsu.

Also after speaking to one of the higher grades at my BJJ school who also does judo it has reasserted that the effort is worth it.  He also pointed out that he has also competed in a few Judo competitions and has done pretty well at them.  I do think that when I eventually dip my toe in the pool of competition being confident at takedowns will definitely not do me any harm.  Plus as most of my sparring starts on the ground, I do need to learn how to start the fight on my feet and take it down to my benefit.  This was particularly highlighted when my judo coach competed at her first no gi competition.  Her takedowns were really powerful and even winded one opponent so much that they tapped out.  I’m not expecting this kind of result, but having this extra skill in my pocket will be a slight advantage.

One other thing I like about the session is having a female coach.  It really eases the testosterone on the mats.  The guys are there to learn and not go all Alpha, as ego centric guys would not want to be coached by a female.  So this is really cool, I can get a lot out of that single hour a week.  If you get an opportunity yourself I would really recommend it.

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An itch that won’t stop….

I have noticed over the past few months some issues that have been cropping up for me.  It mainly started when I was trying out some Jeff Glover Swiss Ball Exercises.

I could do the first few just fine with a little practice.  But there was one where I had to jump kick both legs out to the side and bounce on and off the ball with my butt.  I tried this for a couple of weeks, I just could not do it.  It felt like something was just stopping me from committing to the exercise and really going for it. ( I still haven’t got passed this)

More recently I attended a morning seminar and left before the rolling started.  In my head I told myself it was because I didn’t feel great, I had already done an hour private and I had to meet Mrs Munki.  But afterwards I knew it was because of the prospect of rolling with guys who I don’t know was intimidating.  I was really nervous about getting injured, as I amy still working on the shoulders.  I was making vast assumptions about guys I did not know, but it got in my head that I was going to get injured. (The shoulders are still restricted).  I felt pretty disappointed with myself later but I eventually managed to let it go.

But thinking about these situations I have realised that it was fear that had held me back.   I try to be as positive a person as possible, which isn’t easy why your job is being a Risk Manager.  I get paid to identify the problems that can happen and that mentality does seep into your personal perspective on the world. No Disney view on life for this Munki.  It appears that this negative view on occasion has limited me and held me back.  There have been plenty of times when I have been nervous and I have taken a deep breath and just got on with it. I have been pretty pleased that I was able to do that afterwards.  I am aware of the potential problems but stop myself from dwelling on the “what ifs”.  I have done this so much recently; starting jiu jitsu at a new club, starting rolling again, starting a new yoga class.  So much new and scary stuff but I have wanted to do these things so much that I just did them and have had positive results as a consequence.

It seems for me that fear just scratches the itch of doubt I’ve had  in my mind, making it spread and get worse?  It certainly seems to be what has been happening to me recently.  Is this where I stop listening to my mind.  I guess I am looking at another  situation where the chimp (I have spoken about this in my previous post here) is running riot and I am not calming it down and listening to the human rational me.  I have to calm this itchy hairy little beast down and give my more positive, rational side an opportunity to speak.

My mind created these fears, but my mind also overcame a lot too, so what makes it pick?  Research? Commitment?  Knowledge or Desire?  I’m not sure to be honest, I am guessing it boils down to catching it at the right time.  If I can ignore an itch when it first starts or give it a really good scratch that’s it, it just goes away.  If I can’t reach it or I scratch it too softly then it spreads and gets worse.(Wow I’m spreading this itch analogy out).  If I do the same thing when I start having negative or fearful thoughts, it might be the way to keep going and not be held back or it become a total road block.

I would be really interested in your comments on this post, as it is a little confusing for me and I hate the thought of limiting myself.

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Move your body….weight.

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Since my surgery I have been recuperating physically with a combination of hypertrophy weight training and yoga.  This is mainly to replace the muscle mass I lost during the first operation and also to create a muscular symmetry.  So I don’t look weird.  I have seen some great physical improvements with this, but now I have achieved this I have decided that I am going to  move more towards bodyweight and kettlebell training for a while.  I am hoping this will give me the level of body control I need for BJJ, without wearing me out.

I am not really that bothered about getting big and muscly, I’m more interested in staying healthy, injury free and in good shape as I age.  I am not giving up lifting weights, hence the continued use of kettlebells. But changing up your training is a good idea as part of a periodised programme or just generally to generate “shock” as part of the GAS principle (more on that here).  Plus I want to limit the potential impact on my joints, especially the knees.   With the BJJ technique, rolling, judo and working full time, I have to pick my battles.  Ultimately I want to progress my jits and the other stuff supports this and supports my overall health.  Also as an Old Munki I have to ensure adequate recovery, to benefit from my fun activities.

I have also noticed that I am in no shape at 6am to hit the gym and start lifting heavy weights.  Some yoga has been good to stretch my muscles or I have managed 30 minutes kettle bells and bodyweight stuff a few mornings a week. I think this in addition to my main training is more than enough to keep me physically in shape, without burning myself out.

I would not consider this strength and conditioning training in the conventional way, but it is what works for me and the point I’m at in my physiological age.  It support my targets and keeps my body active.  Speaking of which I am also trying to keep myself moving more at work.

I was conscious that despite all the effort I was putting in before and after work, I was spending hours at a time sat in front of a computer.  so I have been setting my self a target to get up and move around more.   I have now started to offer to go to others offices for meetings, walking to my managers office to speak to her instead of emailing her and getting the coffees in for the team.  This keeps me moving a lot more than I used to, it also has the side bonus of making me more popular in the office.

After thinking through all of this and putting it in place, I subsequently read this article by Mark Sisson on his website which basically supports my own findings.  I thought that was pretty cool overall.

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Not quite the big bang theory.

Having been back at training a short while I have now finally started rolling again.  A big part of this was the positive experiences I had with each of my partners.  I pointed out about my bad shoulders and the guys were great with me.  They still whooped my ass but at the end of each tap I was still smiling.  It really was a good reminder of where I have to get back to prior to my surgeries.  I know I have a lot of catching up to do. But that’s not an issue it gives me a target to motivate my training, which has served me well in my other training.

Whilst writing this I happened to read another blog post by Liam Wandi which you can find here.  He is a super nice guy (Mrs Munki’s coach) and has a training philosophy that I can happily relate to. This, along with the Marcelo Garcia video (below) included in the post got me thinking.

I do need to approach my training as a learning experience, as well as just fun to get the most out of each one. I do have points to take away from each session, but application in rolling is different to learning a technique in class. Personally I then have to learn to practically apply it too. I had started to consider what I was doing/not doing in rolling.  The list includes, controlling the inside space, not over extending myself and stay relaxed.  But also considering these other points I have realised I need to apply my game more.  Not just defend and see what happens, but try and apply my knowledge and see what works and how to adapt.  Some of that self experimentation I have been posting about previously would not go amiss here.  Thinking about what Liam said it is just a scientific approach of trial and error, learning from my mistakes and not just flailing around trying to defend myself.

Now all of this could sound like I’m taking things a bit too seriously, but I have quite the catch up game to perform. My big break from the mats, has left me feeling a little bit of a fraud whilst wearing a blue belt.  This is a bit of a self indulgent personal issue I know and I am doing the wrong thing comparing myself to others.  However I know in myself that I am currently not performing to my expectations and this change in attitude/focus/psychology call it what you want, might just take in the direction to improve this.

I do acknowledge the positives in each class and I am being negative about my situation. Understanding what comes next in the experiment and having the self awareness and the desire to improve are what are important at this stage and the rest will flow. A bit of Old Munki philosophy there.

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Balancing is fun…..

I have previously written about having “play” in your life and how important this is. I have started to get my life back together after the surgery and do the stuff that I enjoy.  At weekend I actually got to use my balance board.  I bought it whilst I was off with my first shoulder surgery after reading the Andre Galvao book Drill to Win. In the book Andre recommends an Indo Board Balance Trainer.  However I can’t afford one of those guys so I looked for a slightly cheaper alternative

 I successfully found with a Groundswell Balance Board It was well made and for the price, far more justifiable than the Indo Board version.

I finally decided I couple of days ago to start using this.  Partly for the fun of it and partly for the co ordination and balance benefits it will give my jiu jitsu.  I have to say it was great fun.  At little frustrating at first, as I spent more time as a see saw than balancing.  I did start to get the hang of it pretty quickly, which then led to the fun. How long I could balance, how I could move my feet to maintain my balance.  All really useful stuff, but hugely entertaining. It was pretty challenging but really made me laugh and was very enjoyable. I was forced to put it away by Mrs Munki who actually wanted to leave the house that day.  I had been on it for nearly an hour and hadn’t realised it.  I am so pleased I bought it all those months ago, as I had not realised how much fun it was going to be.  It’s something I can do at home whilst Mrs Munki is watching Glee, Vampire Diaries or something similarly inspiring.  If you can get something similar cheap enough I would so recommend it!

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Rate your heart – 10 out of 10

Another step in my recovery is my strengthening and conditioning programme as I have already mentioned. I am getting to much of an Old Munki to be flogging my self to death in a gym. So it’s time to train smart and not just hard. To this effect I am working a targeted weight lifting programme, but my main focus for this post is my conditioning programme.

My conditioning basically revolves around High Intensity Interval Training. I start with a couple of rounds of longer intervals, finishing off with a few rounds of Tabata protocol. Just in case you don’t know what the Tabata Protocol is,Izumi Tabata, its inventor, is a Japanese professor and pioneer of sports science whose research in the mid-1990s showed that high-intensity exercise in 20-second bursts separated by 10-second rests achieves more in four minutes than an hour-long slog on an exercise bike. Which obviously fits great into my Old Munki ethos of not spending a lot of time in the gym. The scientific research stuff for those of you that like that sort of thing is here. Now for this to work you have to do it at a suitable level of intensity. To achieve the appropriate level I use my heart rate as a basis. I had tried a heart rate monitor before, but it wasn’t a great one, so I just junked it.

After going on a site 8 Weeks Out I realised how useful a heart rate monitor could be if you got a decent one.  He has even put up a nice little video about how to use your heart rate monitor properly.

So by using the heart rate monitor I am able to make sure I am in the optimal target training zone whilst training.  So I can get the most out of my 30 – 40 minutes in the gym.  Plus the intervals work in well with my rolling rounds.  So keeping it sport specific and relevant to my BJJ training. Obviously it generally keeps me fit and healthy, but is relevant to my BJJ a lot easier and quicker than a long slow run. Plus it fits well into my periodised programme.

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Something to think on…..meditation

So I have been listening to a great podcast this week from Open Mat Radio about Nic Gregoriades.  This guy is a Roger Gracie black belt and has a really interesting and resource rich website the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood.

On the podcast he talks about how meditation plays an important part in centring him and creating focus, that helped in his jiu jitsu.  I had spent a couple of years when I was younger attending a Zen Dojo practising meditation so I was aware of the benefits it had previously had. Listening to the interview reminded me of how it helped clear and focus my mind so I decided to go for it again.

I know how hard it is to start meditation, so I wasn’t setting myself any major targets.  I decided on 10 minutes as a good starting point.  To fit it in  and to start a positive new habit I decided to do it at lunchtime at work.  So all week I have been secreting myself somewhere quiet and having 10 minutes of meditation.  The first few days I could not manage the full 10 minutes.  At about 7 minutes my mind started to take over and started to notice some discomfort and thinking about work and I could not let these thoughts go.  But after these first few days, I managed to got for the full 10 minutes.

I have actually started to notice some benefits after only one week.  I have been more focused in the afternoons and I have felt less weary when leaving work.  So I am really pleased with the current effects and I am hoping my mental focus will get even better with continuing practice.

I am hoping that the practise will also calm my brain when I’m drilling and rolling.  I hope I’m not just the only who’s brain starts threshing when you either have a complex technique to drill and you have to contextualise it.  Or that point when you have a guy full of testosterone poisoning trying to take you out.  I hoping the meditation will lead me to a quiet mind that can focus.

Just another aspect of my life that has improved thanks to taking up BJJ, as I honestly don’t think I would have gone back to meditation without this reason.

As part of my research for this I found a good article on meditation for BJJ is here at the BJJ Way.

This is also an interesting article on the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood on how Jiu Jitsu is Meditation

I also found an article here that shows over thinking is bad for sports performance