Recovery

Soft kitty, sleepy kitty, little ball of fur…….

So apart from the Big Bang Theory reference what am I talking about?  Well it’s all about sleep.  I have been sleeping really poorly for the last week or so and it has had a big impact on me. I think that the importance of quality sleep is vastly underestimated.

For me it either takes the form of an initial sleep deprived insanity, which Mrs Munki hates as she usually suffers the brunt of it.  Or slipping in to a splitting headache the more tired I become throughout the day.  The main other issue is the impact it has on my training and recovery.

If I don’t get good quality of sleep for a while my motivation goes through the floor.  In the past I have struggled through this feeling and gone to the gym. I then end up getting injured, as I wasn’t staying focussed.  This then doesn’t help my sleep as my injury causes me to become uncomfortable at night.

So if I get in this position I don’t go training that night and go home and get an early night and try to catch up on missed sleep.  As this is the only thing I am capable of doing at this point.

It has been proven that lack of sleep does accumulate a sleep debt that does eventually have to be paid back.  This sleep debt thing seems to hit me really hard.  It seems I have to payback my debt really quickly otherwise I feel terrible.  But I suspect this has something to do with my recovery requirements at my age.

I have tried a number of the suggested remedies for improving sleep.  One of the ones that I have found works for me is keeping the bedroom temperature low.  I also have a shower before bed and turn it to cold at the end.  This could be considered a little extreme but it definitely helps me get to sleep.  This page explains more about this if you are interested. http://www.sleepdex.org/thermoregulation.htm

Also I stick to a regular schedule.  So I try to get to sleep by 11pm so I can get 8 hours in before getting up for work.  The schedule thing is also another recommendation for improving sleep.  It does seem to actually work as I do start to feel sleepy around this time.

I have also tried a couple of the sleep monitoring apps for my iPhone.  Just to see if I thought I had slept pretty good, but in fact I hadn’t had actually gone into a deep sleep.  One of them had a pretty good display, with different graphs and percentage information.  But I could pretty much tell on my own if I had slept rubbish and it also meant I couldn’t use my nice sun rise alarm clock Mrs Munki had got me.

I also try and make sure I don’t eat any carbs about 2 before I go to bed.  I find that if I don’t stick to this I start to get really uncomfortably hot in bed and this causes me to wake up a lot during the night.  I radiate that much heat even Mrs Munki complains.

One weird one I have also tried, much to Mrs Munki’s amusement is wearing sunglasses an hour before bedtime.  Why?  Well apparently your eyes react to blue light and this dictates the amount of melatonin your brain releases.  This is the sleep hormone that you need to get to sleep.  So bright TV’s and computer screens affect melatonin release and can stop you feeling sleepy.  So you can buy blue light filtering glasses or go for the cheaper option and use the sunglasses I already had.  I have to admit I have only done this in extreme situations.  But having said that it does definitely work as after 30 minutes of so with them on I do start yawning.

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I have also installed software on my laptop called f.lux (you can find it here).  It works on Windows and Apple devices.  This dims the brightness of you screen in line with what time of day it is.  So in the morning it’s nice and bright and by evening time the brightness reduces to help with getting to sleep.  I think it’s a pretty nifty little thing and for free is even better.

Yes I do put a lot of effort into getting a good night’s sleep, but I can always tell the difference when I don’t and I hate suffering like that.  Especially when I know there were things I could have done to help myself.  These impacts have given my first had experience that I would be dumb to ignore.  Plus better sleep more mat time, makes a happier Munki!

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Becoming a supple Munki

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I have recently been reading the book by Kelly Starrett : Becoming a Supple Leopard.  Besides having a cool name for his book Kelly is probably most famous for his “Mobility WOD” You Tube and Website.  There is a mass of content on his You Tube channel, which separately deals with lots of different physical issues and the techniques to put in place to prehab and rehab these.

I came across the Mobility WOD as a consequence of my shoulder issues and generally as I’m getting older I wanted to know how I could best deal with prehab and rehab issues at home.  Yes I have been totally convinced and now own a lacrosse ball and various rubber bands to help me stay in one piece.

When I found out he was releasing a book I thought this will be an awesome resource.  I have to admit that the book is a little expensive, but when you consider it more as a text book the price is not too bad. When you compare it to some of the strength and conditioning books I have bought brand new it is quite reasonable.  When I last checked a kindle version was not available, so you will have to go for the good old fashioned paper version for now.

After reading through the book I realised that some of what was being said, did go a little against the biomechanics that I was taught during my strength and conditioning training.  But he did have very convincing arguments on these few areas.  So I am trying them out at the moment and they do not seem to be detrimental in anyway and if they have the benefits he mentions in the book then it is worth maintaining them.

I have found some really useful little tweaks to things like external rotation of your shoulders during press ups and bench press, which do actually have a big impact on your stability during these exercises.  Considering I dislocated a rib once through poor form when doing press ups I’m sticking to these changes for sure.

One of the other big things for me was the posture corrections.  As a desk munki these little changes have been really positive for me.   To the extent now after a number of weeks putting them into practice, that my previous “relaxed” (ok slouched) position is actually not comfortable anymore.  I am also now very conscious of these changes when I am walking or just standing. I feel taller when walking. Also when just standing the suggested changes have erased the ache in my lower back that I previously would inevitably get.

Like I have already mentioned I have some strength and conditioning training, which did include elements of biomechanics and form, so not all of the stuff in the book was a revelation to me.  However the further explanations of why and the consequences if you don’t, did put a lot of things in a perspective I didn’t previously have.

In conclusion this is  a very good resource, especially for those postural things that we do wrong all the time, but over time have big effects.  Kelly gives very good explanations as to why these postural changes should be made and the potential impacts on your body if you do not make the improvements.

Now don’t get me wrong you are not going to change everything overnight, a lot of the things we do are habits we have formed over years.  This is the case for me with my shoulder position.  So I have had to make new positive habits.  The same will apply to you munkis too, both in your day to day habits and as part of the form during exercises that you do at the gym. But the knowing what changes to make and the “why” you should make those changes is very motivating.

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What’s the first thing that goes through your head when you get injured???

For me this week it was damn I can’t train.  Whilst doing some cooking I was using a manual slicing machine and managed to manually slice a nice piece of my thumb off.  After much profanity mixed with equal amounts of blood, all I could think was how I will not be able to train jiu jitsu!!!

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Once I started to calm down, the bleeding had stopped and I was all bandaged up.  I started to try and think the situation through.  OK I am injured but realistically it only affected my grip.  So yeah I would not be able to roll, but I could still do some technical training as I could adjust my grip during this.

That is what I have done all week, no rolling just technique and drilling.  I am going to carry this on for another week as I really don’t want to risk bleeding on anyone.  But I have kept my training going and feel better for not missing out on moving forward.

I know I am not the only person who has been in this position.  Many of you will have suffered an injury that could affect an aspect of your training, leaving you with a hard choice to make.  Do I stop training altogether and recover or do I sensibly work around it and get some level of training in.

These are especially important decisions at my age, as recovery could potentially be a little longer than you young twenty some things. It always also depends on the injury and your personal view on the nastiness of the injury.  I have broken and dislocated toes in the past and have stopped training to let them heal.  But now I would look at working around something like that.

I think a big part of my change of view is the people I train with.  I do trust these guys and know that they would accommodate a partner suffering an injury.  So I would feel safe working with them.  This definitely helps with the decision making during injury time.  Knowing that you can trust your training partners like this will have a big impact on what you choose to do.

Another big decision factor is that if you are an old munki like me there is no reason to be a hero, but likewise breaks of a couple of weeks could take you six weeks of catching up to get you back to where you were before the injury.  There is evidence that shows after a two week lay off your cardio vascular capacity will have reduced.  Also your technical abilities could be affected too.  If you are like me and have only been doing jiu jitsu for a few years, then a layoff will have a bigger impact than if you were a black belt that has spent many years repeating techniques.

One important consideration as well is where you are at with your training.  If you have been training hard for months and your injury is a consequence of your fatigue, then maybe taking a break may be beneficial both mentally and physically.   You could potentially come back even better, with the eye of the tiger munki. Doing this could hit two issues at once.

I think the key when it comes to injuries is remembering that jiu jitsu is a long journey; sometimes you’ll walk slower, other times you made need to stop and look at the scenery and play a little catch up.  But whatever happens you need to enjoy it to make it worthwhile.

Over 40 and doing BJJ????

As you may have gathered due to the name of my blog, I am an Old Munki and I have come to jiu jitsu late in life.  I have found that one of the main reasons I have started training “seriously” is I wanted something that was both mentally and physically stimulating and that I could potentially carry on doing till I drop.  BJJ hit the mark on all counts.

However whilst training it has made me take a long hard look at reality, which I feel has been a positive action for me.  I was wondering if this same sort of situation applies to other older participants that come to BJJ later in life? So I thought I would go through a few of things that have arisen for me to see if any other older Munki’s can relate.

I have realised that despite me thinking I’m still in my early 20’s, my body is very aware I’m over 40.  This means recovery and physical maintenance have to be a serious consideration.  This is not too much of a problem, as the majority of this makes me feel better anyway.  It is just the balancing issue of remembering the additional stuff is to support my BJJ.  So hauling back in on the weights or other stuff, so I don’t get worn out and miss out on a BJJ class.

I also need to get to know my body again. (No rude comments here!!) I have changed a lot over the years.  Physical damage, muscle and joint issues are something that I am working on to improve and repair.  Having adapted to these physical limitations over the years, I now have to make as much of an improvement that I can.  Otherwise I could potentially risk further injury. I have come to understand this will take time.  Have had these issues for many years and I can’t rush the physical changes.  Pushing it will just cause me more damage.  My body doesn’t bounce back like when I was a youngster when I could do the splits and train 7 days a week. I have learnt to take my time and appreciate each little change and improvement that happens as a little win.

I have also realised that if I have a hard/long day at work not to beat myself up for not making class that night.  Sometimes the negative self talk I give myself is really bad.  I understand now that I may need the rest so I can make class the next day.  This is far better than wearing myself out, beating myself down and then missing a few days on the mats.  I know I’m never going to be as good as the Mendes brothers or Andre Galvao, but I will be as good as I can be and there is no immediate rush to get there.

I also have to really check my ego.  This is for both getting tapped and comparing myself to others in the class.  I always have to remind myself, that when I get tapped by a younger or stronger opponent, it’s because my technique isn’t good enough.  It’s not his fault that I gave him the space to tap me.  I have to stay focussed, figure out what I did wrong and seal up that gap. I won’t die or lose my house because I got tapped, but what I need to do is learn from it.  For me at the moment it’s all about acquiring knowledge and figuring out how I can apply it.

Then I have to stop comparing myself progress to others, especially the younger guys! When I look at some people and they are the same grade as me and pulling off some amazing stuff, I have to remind myself they are not me.  They may be shorter, lighter as well as younger but we are all different.  I am working on my potential and improving myself.  Not seeing if I am better than someone else at a technique.  Doing this take my focus away from my improvement and creates a potentially negative mindset.

When I spoke to Chris Hauter at his recent seminar, I asked him about getting into Jiu Jitsu as an older person and what he thought. He felt it was a great thing to start doing as an activity and I do agree with him on this. All the things I have mentioned have given me a positive direction to go in, physically and mentally, so that is definitely a good thing.

If anyone else wants to add to this feel free to leave me a comment.

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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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Drill to Win

Over the past few weeks my coaches have been focusing on hook flips and butterfly guard.  This is great because an arthritic gibbon could pass my butterfly guard, so it was a great opportunity to improve a weakness.  I have been shown some really good techniques and have been able to perform them reasonably well.  However, yes there is always that banana skin that brings you to a thudding halt.  I have noticed that I struggle to roll over my right shoulder.  Now this may have something to do with the fact that this is the one I had the surgery on six months ago and things aren’t very flexible in there yet.  But it still doesn’t stop me from looking totally weird when I try the technique.  Left side  “Yeah that went ok” right side “Err what happened there?”

So this was another aspect of my game that drilling could help.  The more I do the techniques that are limited by my shoulder, the more it will improve the flexibility and movement potential, surely? As an Old Munki my body movement and control really does need some extra work.  I am sure when I was younger I would have picked these things up with no fear.  But older more scarred and cautious they take actual work.  This is not a problem I anticipated that I would have to put work in to just being able to move properly.  I may be old but I’m not the sort of person to be blind to a challenge.

So away I went for an hour or so in the privacy of my garage, so no one can see that this Munki can’t move.  I have been doing this for a few weeks now and I must admit some stuff if not everything has improved, but my confidence has improved.  As well as feeling more comfortable rolling over my shoulders. I am now also including some inverted drills to improve this aspect.  When I try these when sparring it is sheer luck more than skill that I get anywhere with them.  I am also being very generous to myself when I describe what I do currently as inverted.  One funny thing I have found when doing these drills is that I start to feel almost sea sick by the end.  This also happens when I do any inverted postures at yoga.  Not a nice feeling, but I’m guessing that I have to get used to the position more and this will pass. Or at least I’m hoping it will!

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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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Mr T(estosterone) says……..

I have been back at the gym finally and after my prolonged break, I am concerned about actually building any muscle back.  Especially in my shoulders.  So being the type of old munki to do a bit of research to try and find a solution, I went on Google.  The main thing that concerned me, was that due to my long period of inactivity my testosterone levels would have dropped, to that of 10 year old girl.  Its bad enough being an old munki and the issues that brings to my T levels. (yes I got sick of typing out testosterone)

I managed to find a supplement that actually had some scientific evidence, to back up that it improves testosterone levels. The supplement I found was Bulbine Natalensis.  I managed to find this article which is quite an in depth scientific review of the product.  In summary it does say it works, but it does have an effect on your kidneys and liver so needs to be cycled.  As with anything that supports something your body naturally does, you do have to cycle otherwise your body has no need to keep up its natural processes.

Having read this I thought “fair enough, just be smart and see how it goes”.  I bought some and stuck to the suggested dosage. For the first week I did not really notice anything, but moving into week 2 I noticed my body was starting to thicken up, which I was pleased about.  Especially as I had lost so much weight post both the operations.  I have put on about 4 kg (9 lbs) in weight and with a 4 site calliper measurements I calculated I have approximately 20% body fat.  Admittedly I would like to half this, but that is the next stage and I am sure this will happen when I am able to hit the mats.  One thing that really highlighted that this thing was working, was my change in mood.  I did notice it affected my aggression.  I would fire up a little quicker than previously.

I have stopped taking this at the moment, as obviously you are supposed to cycle.  Besides the cycling the main reason I stopped is I am not a body builder and I was simply looking to give my body a boost.  I would do it again whilst I am recovering, but it something I would do for two or three cycles maximum.  By this time I will be back on the mat and into my strength power and not necessarily size (hypertrophy) building programme.

Following my own experiences with this supplement I found this post on another forum, about another guy who had similar experiences to me.  One thing I would say is I agree with the findings of the poster (Russianstar) to stick to 3 week cycles.  Some articles and suppliers suggest you can go to 4 -8 week cycles.  I think this is too long especially with the negatives that can go with it.

I would be interested to hear from anyone has tried it themselves and the effects it has had for them.  As always if you have any questions let me know.

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Supplementary recovery support for the Old Munki Part 2

I wrote an original post a while ago about the supplements I started taking for the recovery of my shoulder operation.  You can find part one here.  So I thought it was time to give an update as to the usefulness of the various powders and potions I have been taking.

So lets start with HMB (Beta hydroxy beta methyl butyrate) this is supposed to slow down muscle breakdown.  We I did experience some muscle wastage on my shoulder.  Not as bad as previously, but number 2 wasn’t immobilised for as long as the first one. Decision on whether it worked? Possibly but as I can’t be conclusive, I doubt I’ll be splashing my banana money on any more.

Collagen tablets, well these definitely didn’t work.  These were supposed to help my skin as well as my shoulder joint.  No changes to the old munki skin. Plus when I went periods not taking them, I didn’t notice any improvement when I started retaking them.  So I’ll finish off my current supply, but I’m not getting anymore.

Krill oil, actually this did ease the pain in my shoulder.  However no more than the Fish Oil capsules I got from Costco. So yes they did work, but for the price there are cheaper alternatives that are just as effective.  I am keeping up with the fish oils, they are reasonably priced and do have an effect.

Glucosamine Sulphate I have not been taking this for a while and I can’t tell any difference to when I was taking it.  So once again as far as the noticeable effects go, this was a poor result.  As a consequence I will not be buying any more.  Even Arthritis Research UK says ” It’s been tested in many trials, but the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed.”

Coconut Oil is one of the few I will be continuing with.  I think this worked well with the fish oil as it did seem to ease the “pain” in my shoulder.  I am aware that coconut oil is supposed to be good for overall body inflammation and it did live up to the hype. Plau out of all of the supplements tested it was the cheapest.

I have kept up with with my clean paleo style diet.  I have the odd cheats here and there as I’m only a munki after all.  I do think this played a big part in my recovery too. As on the cheat days the next day my joints, especially my shoulders felt sore.  I do not think this was psychosomatic, as there was other physical occurrences that shows how a bad diet can affect me negatively.

So in conclusion the oils have worked pretty well and eating a mainly clean diet.  The additional powders and pills had no effect and I would definitely not advocate.

Now I am able to get back in the gym, but unfortunately not on the mat yet I have started to try something new and I’ll explain that in my next post.  If I don’t split it up this will become a mega (boring) post.

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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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