Today’s story is a collection of notes I made to document my struggle with weight loss and training for the IKF Classic tournament in Orlando in July. On this journey I experienced more ups and downs than I could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, I was not able to document the daily or even weekly struggles between work and training, diet and social activity or even just basic hunger with the cardio requirements. I am going to summarize some of this today.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Like most kickboxing websites, the registration, tournament and general information was not convenient to find on the IKF website. I don’t know why this is, maybe it is a requirement? I also needed to send in, as in mail with a stamp, a photo, so I could be labeled with an ID badge throughout the tournament. I used a passport photo from 8 years ago. I was not smiling, but looked the same. Not sure if this is good or bad. I will go with good since I tend to err towards the positive.
Training for a fight is a significant time commitment. If you are serious about the training, this commitment will try the most flexible of schedules. Saturday’s for 6-8 weeks are basically devoted to training. I would be working out at the gym by 10AM and would not get home until around 3 in the afternoon. A minimum 3 weeknights at the gym per week, each with a minimum 2 hour training time, not counting travel, changing or rest. Add that on-top of a 40-50 hour workweek is a full schedule. I was maintaining this schedule, while trying to no shirk my many family and life obligations. It was a major challenge. Everything social or extra gets cut. I worked extra time at my job on Saturdays and Sundays so I could be in the gym for the required number of classes, because if you didn’t meet the minimum gym time requirements, you were not going to fight.
Near the end of training camp, both of my shins were black and blue, plus a little yellow-purple and every other color a bruise turns. I was practicing in a south-paw stance (not normal for me) since my left hip was so damaged I could not even tie my shoelaces without experiencing shooting pains. Despite what may seem like torture to some, and an insane schedule; I was happy and enjoying every moment. Life is truly about actively pursuing your interests and enjoying those small moments. My technique was improving, my cardio was impressive, my gains in speed both throwing and retracting punches as well as avoiding strikes had me feeling quite positive about my fight game.
Personally, I have always liked the training, and I like to train hard. Sometimes after working a mind-numbing 10 hour day, then driving an hour to the gym where you get screamed at that you are not doing enough and not even trying, gets demoralizing. But when you make a commitment to fight, that is a commitment you need to honor; so no matter what, you pick yourself up and do it all again the next day and the next.
My days were long. My routine began about a quarter to 5 in the AM to get in a 3-5 mile run or weights. I would shower, eat breakfast then be in the office by 7:30 or 8 AM. After work it was an hour drive to the gym for a few hours of training and I would arrive home around 9:30 or 10 in the evening. Training was multi-faceted, because not only do you need to train your fight game/technique, you need to run to keep your cardio/endurance high and work on increasing aerobic capacity. Let’s not forget strength either; strength training is critical to having enough pop on your punch to make a difference. Lastly, I practiced yoga several times a week to help reduce stress, improve flexibility while simultaneously working on strength, balance and coordination. (Man, I am exhausted just reading that schedule!)
Dieting sucks. And I suck at dieting. I have never been a person who had good control of their nutrition, I have been about 15 pounds overweight, for longer than I care to admit. When I fight the goal is always to do this with enough time that I can get myself to where I should be on the day to day. To date, I have not been successful at this for several reasons, but 1 and 2 are probably cookies and beer. But each fight and each day is a new opportunity for me to refocus and move toward the goal.
Unfortunately, diet is crucial. Even if you are at optimal weight what you put into your body is what you have for fuel. Just like everything else in life, garbage in garbage out. If you have no protein and your body is burning sugar instead of fat, your long run will be slow, you won’t have the endurance to make it through high intensity workouts and drills and your body will give out increasing frustration levels during training.
DON’T FORGET THE CARBS! Carbohydrates are energy for your body; but just because you need to eat carbs does not mean you need to eat stupid. For examples sweet potatoes are good carbs, as are broccoli, brown rice or quinoa. For protein eat EGGS, chicken, fish and lean grass fed beef. Also, remember the healthy fats. Coconut oil is your friend, it adds flavor and helps to keep you feeling full. I am also a big fan of the avocado. As to the mindless eating problem, fill free to give me solutions, I find drinking water helps (I aim for a gallon a day – yes you pee a lot). What also helps is keeping my hands busy, so I have learned different crafting skills. You could rely on willpower; but I would rather keep things effortless. I could probably do an entire post on the mindless eating/ bored eating issue–Stay tuned.
Unlike other competitions I had participated in, the IKF Classic Tournament was held in Orlando, Florida. Living in NC makes this a bit of a drive for me. Plus, I had family nearby and the very tempting draw of Universal and Disney. The getting to, staying at and extra activities cost was fairly high. When I ran the numbers I decided I might need some help, and others would as well. Our gym held a fundraiser to help alleviate some of the travel costs. It was a great event and ultimately did help the team travel cost. Success!
Finally the time arrived for our trip to Florida. A day out I still needed to lose 5 pounds. Stress combined with a not so healthy metabolism (ie my hormones are all fucked up) make losing weight a particular challenge. Even eating a clean diet with none of the junk I barely loose 1lb per week. Granted 132 is well below my bodies comfort zone.
It was a Thursday when we drove down. I woke up at 4:50 AM so I could go to Hot Yoga that morning. I really fell in love with Hot Yoga last year, finally a place I was not cold. Actually, for me to even start sweating would be about 20 minutes into the vinyasa (flow) for the day. Despite my overall low body temperature, I always left feeling fantastic. I like to say I would stumble in barely awake but float out. After yoga I dropped off my pups at Camp.
I utilize Camp Bow Wow for overnight trips and vacations on which I cannot bring my 4-legged, canine, children. They always have a good time. They spend their days playing in a doggie day-care setting, and get their own “cabin” together in the evening. They even get a peanut butter kong treat! It is also fun when we pick up the dogs to read their report card. It says things like, Spot played with the other pups and took a nap in his cabin.
Back to the trip. Of course we ended up leaving later than expected closer to 9 AM. I drove about the first 3 hours into S. Carolina, then we switched rolls and my husband drove. He likes to drive most of the way on long car trips, just to see if he can. I personally hate driving, so I am happy to let him, but having driven many miles for work, I understand the benefits to switching drivers. As soon as my husband started driving, I fell asleep – it’s just what I do. I could fall asleep in the car on the way to the grocery store. And that is me driving, yeah probably not really a safe quality.
When we stopped for gas I would jump rope. Did I mention I was wearing a sauna suit for the entire trip? Let me say here I don’t advocate what I did, it was extreme and unhealthy. But I was also just curious about it, how I would feel and if it would work.
We finally arrived at the Double Tree in Orlando, outside the Universal Studios. I was exhausted, despite sleeping most of the way, I had almost no energy and could not wait to put on some comfortable clothing. I also was really glad to not be in the car. The double tree hotel wasn’t that nice. I guess it was ok, but definitely extremely overpriced for what you got. I suppose that is how tourist traps work. My husband was also exhausted from driving and starving, since it was about 5 to 6 hours since he had stopped for lunch. He ordered a cheeseburger from room service and we called it an early night.
We woke up Friday AM about 8, a reasonable time with no alarm, but not ridiculously early; met up with my teammate and went to the YMCA in Orlando. It was really nice, even though they were doing construction. Both of us were going hard-core on the cardio and working a few drills. We rode the cross trainer, treadmill and jumped rope (outside, in Florida—HELLO Humidity!!!!). We both had on sauna suits. If you haven’t guessed by now, weight is a key component of fighting. If you don’t make weight you don’t fight. A daunting thought. We spent about 3 hours at the local Y and by lunchtime we were both resting in our rooms ready for weigh-ins.
We arrived to a long line but the entire process was reasonably organized. We showed up on-time, well at the reported start time to weigh-ins, only to learn they decided to let people start weighing in early = annoying. Apparently we missed that memo. We had about an hour wait for the scales (they were just normal bathroom scales, but I am assuming there is an official weight checking process to ensure they are accurate) then only about 30 minutes for the medical check. Our coach managed to show up while we were in line for the weigh-in. That is always a perk.
In most cases the team ensures the coach makes it to the event, however, with various schedules, family and life obligations, our entire team arrived at different times through various methods.
I got up to the check-in table presented the necessary paperwork and identification, walked over to the side (private area) where I stripped down to my undies and stepped on the scale, hoping it would read 132 or less. Fortunately for me – it did, 132 on the money!! How exciting, my first international event! Now it was time to rest, eat and rely on the last few months of training.
The Night Before
I showered and collected my husband and some friends and went out for Japanese food. It was pretty good. I am convinced when you are hungry enough anything tastes good. Usually I like Japanese, and this place was within walking distance of our hotel. I ordered some hibachi chicken with rice and veggies and ate their salad with the ginger dressing. We hung out for a bit, but I basically spent the evening in the room reading and resting. I went to bed early to ensure I would be well rested for the beginning of the tournament the next day.
Tournament – DAY 1
The IKF is very organized they had all the fights posted by 6AM. My teammate was going to have two fights and I was going to have one. He would fight in the AM on Day 1 and Day 2. I would fight in the afternoon on Day 2.
Knowing the schedule well in advance allowed us to plan our days. My teammate crushed his first opponent. It was his very first competition ever, and very exciting and fun for us to watch and contribute.
When his fight finished it was barely lunch, so my husband and I went to visit my parents, sister and my niece and nephew. We had a great day hanging out with the family. We even went to the Disney village where my niece and nephew could each get one toy. Oh for the days where picking out your toy was the biggest decision you would have to make.
It was another early night as tomorrow my fun would begin.
Tournament – DAY 2
My Teammate fought in the AM. He again came out full throttle. This time his opponent was a little tougher and it was a very good competition with both guys landing great combos. It came down to a decision by the judges and my teammate unanimously won! He was awarded a trophy and the title of champion for his division.
For me it was definitely frustrating to have to sit around and wait for two days before getting to fight, but that is just how the cards worked out. Once my teammate finished, I had a few hours to get myself ready. I like to warm up by jumping rope and stretching. I will also hit pads to get myself into the rhythm for the fight. Most importantly, I spend several minutes, in a quiet secluded spot and meditate. It is crucial to clear my mind of the useless idle chatter, to acquire focus and clarity for the task at hand.
While we were waiting for out fight to be called, the announcer called my opponent and I over to the table to see if we could fight next, losing out on about 10-15 minutes of training/waiting time. We both agreed we were ready and would like to go sooner. And then we were next.
Round 1 was difficult for me, the headgear I borrowed was sliding down my face since it was too large and I was struggling to see. The referee warned me that if I could not see he would have to end the match. I struggled the first round, just to get to the break, where my coach was able to manipulate the headgear enough to get it into place where it would stay. Round 2 was very competitive we both got excellent shots in, however, my opponent landed a strong spinning back hand and I received my 1st 8-count ever. Round 3 was another very competitive round, I made extra efforts to try and re-balance the scale to make up for the 8-count I had received in round 2. At the end of the 3rd round the referee told us to leave our gear on, in case we would need to fight a 4th round. Unfortunately, we were not given the opportunity to fight a fourth round and my opponent won by decision. It was by far the most fun fight I have participated in recently. While we were waiting, we got to know each other; she is from Canada and is a professional in her early 30’s. I love meeting other professionals who have the same muay thai addiction as myself.
This was my first loss. To me it didn’t really feel like a loss. Yes, I was bummed I did not win, and I wanted badly to have performed better for my friends and family that had traveled to see me compete; but I had so much fun fighting, I was more irritated there were not more opportunities to fight.
For me this was just another stop along my competition journey. I love fighting, training, working hard, walking out with the music and lights the noise, the chaos and insanity of the tournament and putting it all on the line. When this is no longer fun for me I will stop and try something new, but right now there is nothing better.