Be The Person You Needed

Me freaking out before jitz today, the truth behind the photo

As much as my life involves stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing past the limits, it takes me a lot of mental energy to even get to a place where I can do that. Even rocking up to a group class at a gym I’ve been going too for the last year and a half still leaves me in next level panic mode.

I used to lowkey have an anxiety attack before each training session because I couldn’t wrap my hands, now it’s part of my calm down before training ritual

When I started doing Brazilian jiujitsu, my anxiety would go through the roof with these classes. My weight, the lack of personal space, trusting beginners with body, my trust with other people’s bodies, my ability to keep up with the fitness….everything! The fact I could not even do a forward roll didn’t help things. It was not a fun time, so once I was told I had to go up to the next class with all the “scary” guys who were on another level, I freaked out and decided that maybe BJJ was not for me.

Fast forward to this year. I decide that I need to go back to BJJ as well as do some more technique classes in boxing and muay thai, to really sharpen my skills. I want to be the best fighter I can be. Nervous as, I go back to the intro to BJJ class at a different time with a different teacher. I LOVE my old teacher, she was an absolute legend and made me feel so comfortable, but her time slot didn’t work for me. After much self talk and deep breathing, I made my way into class and met my great teacher Oliver.

Find a badass support system, and give back by supporting them too.

Now, I’m one of these people who tend to stick to training and partnering with the people I trust. Another reason I quit BJJ originally was my rolling partner injured her shoulder, so I didn’t have that person I felt comfortable with. I didn’t exactly feel comfortable with the person I was partnered with for my first class back, but early days yeah? The following week was interesting. There was a woman doing her first lesson and I ended up partnering with her. We had a great time, learning and applying the techniques. She ended up signing up to the gym, and in her conversation with Rich, our gym receptionist, she told him that she was so thankful she got to partner with me, because I made her feel comfortable. What? Here was me thinking that it was great to partner with her because I trusted her pretty quickly, and she felt the same about me.

That night I also attended the introduction to boxing class. While I’ve been training with a brilliant striker, it doesn’t hurt to learn some boxing technique and get everything really tidy. This was the second week I was doing this class and the woman I had partnered with the week before was also back to do the class. When she saw me, her reaction took me by surprise. She said something along the lines of, “Thank god you are here! I was hoping you would be! It was so good to partner with you last week, you made me feel so comfortable!’

This is when I realised that I had become the person that I wanted when I first started training. After discussing with some other women in my BJJ class today, we all came to the same conclusion that we were thankful to train with people who wanted to help us learn, protected each other and really focused on learning. Supporters and students of the craft where no egos were necessary. We also became women supporting women. The changes I had made in myself made me seek out those women that need a little help to feel comfortable in the class, and support them starting their martial arts journeys. Now these women hopefully will do the same for new students that they come across.

Don’t take it so seriously, we are all on this planet to learn and help each other!

When it comes to being a student; we all have to start somewhere. The old saying in BJJ is “a black belt is a white belt that never gave up.” Whether it’s martial arts, a gym class, a university course or any environment where you feel uncomfortable, remember that most people most likely feel the same. We are all students of life, and the more we let ourselves be empathetic of each other, the more we try to become the people we needed in a difficult time, the easier life will be to get through.

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Growing Pains

Do you ever think to yourself through hard times and say “one day this will make a great chapter in my book?” If you don’t, maybe start. I’ve found it’s one thing that gets me through a rough day. I work in a gym where my job is pretty much half lifeguard and half gym bitch. The lifeguard part is pretty self explanatory, I walk around a low capacity 1.2m Pool and make sure people know they can stand up if things get too much. I also make sure people don’t die in the sauna. It’s a pretty cruisey job. The other half, the gym bitch half, means I clean a lot. Changerooms, cardio machines, gym floor, open people’s lockers, refill those lovely spray bottles and make sure you always have enough paper towels to clean your machines/benches after use (which you should do thank you). All in all, it’s a pretty great job. I work with great people, the pay is pretty good, I get annual and sick leave and a free gym membership. I’ve come to terms that this is not my dream job, it’s not my career and even when I’m spending an afternoon cleaning up endless amounts of hair from the changeroom floors….it’s going to make a great chapter in my book when I finally get to my goal destination. Character building? Yeah I think so.

One thing though I can’t come to grips with in my life right now is my body image. It’s weird. I wrote a whole blog about this before, but this isn’t to do with my weight, it’s more to do with all those little things that seem to grind away at your self esteem. I recently shaved my head, which I do not regret in the slightest, but I decided I’m going to grow it out into a more funky style. Which can almost be a metaphor at where I am right now. I’m not happy or satisfied about where I am in life right now, just like I’m not happy or satisfied at what my hair is doing right now. It’s at a rough, growing out phase. Also I found some grey hairs which has me going into my 27th year on this planet almost in complete denial and disarray. Time is not stopping, my body is showing me that. Wrinkles, grey hair and the inability to handle more than a few glasses of wine shows me that I’m not 18 anymore. I may be healthier, fitter and definitely more confident, but I’m still getting older and the dreams that 17 year old me had, have completely changed. I’m not where I thought I would be, nor do I want to be where I thought I would be.

I thought I would have this huge glow up phase. Hit university, lose weight, get a degree, get a high paid job, and spend my nights out with fancy people chatting about books over wine and not worrying about the bill. Well I still chat about books with people, though they are on pool decks and behind the desk at martial arts gyms. I drink wine, but it definitely is not every night and the bills? Well that’s my constant worry.

Right now, I’m at this complete stage of my life where I’ve come so far, yet can only seem to focus on the road to go. I have my sights on my dream career, my dream body, my dream lifestyle and of course, my dream life partner. I’ve put myself out there and told people “this is what I want to do”. I’ve started to open myself up left and right, exposing my fears and vulnerabilities. I have break downs over grey hair and at the same time, I have emotional meltdowns over having feelings for men like I’m sixteen years old again. I am stronger and fitter, yet I am not as strong and as fit as I want to be. I have so much freedom to chase my dreams, but I still got to worry about how my rent is getting paid. So much of my life right now is in this state of growing pains….but it’s okay.

This time is going to make a great chapter in my book yeah? I hope so and I hope you all will buy it when I do get to write it. For now though, take this blog post as a sign that even the people you think have it all together and figured out….really don’t…and that is quite alright. Write your own book, I’ll buy yours if you buy mine yeah?

Forever the Fat Kid

A conversation I was having with my mum recently got me thinking. My mum, who has struggled with her weight most of my life, has not always struggled with it. She was a thinner, lean and athletic kid who only gained weight later in life. This is something she has wrestled with for decades- I mean, we love our food in our family.

I am a little different. I have been overweight for as long as I remember. I first was made aware of my weight when I was 5 years old. A school yard bully used to call me fatso. It didn’t really affect me, but either way, I told my mum and she made his life hell. The taunting stuff and I moved on with my life. The next time I was bullied for my weight was when I was living in Darwin. I hit puberty at a very young age, and looking back at the photos of me at that time, I should not have worried so much. Yes, I carried some extra weight, but I was also strong and athletic. It’s amazing the perceptions you have. In grade 4, we did an activity for maths, where the teachers weighed us and put together a scale. The names were anonymous, but at 9 years old I was 60kg, a full 20kg heavier than the other two kids who were the closest in my weight. This crushed me. It made me feel so bad and this is when my body issues started.

What I didn’t realise was that I was over a head taller than these other kids. I have only grown 2 inches since I was 10, so at 9 years old and quite on my way to puberty, as well as somebody who played loads of sport…I was most likely heavier due to the muscle, bit of extra baby fat and I was overall a lot bigger than the other kids in all ways. Oh the benefit of hindsight. This doesn’t solve the overall issue though….why did being heavy make me feel so bad? Was it because I sucked at running in PE? Well, throw me in the pool and I could beat most of the other kids. Was it because I couldn’t lift myself on the monkey bars? Well, I could throw a shot put a lot further than most of the class too. Was it because when we sat down on a bench, I would take up double the space? Well, taking up space is simply something we are told not to do as women. The smaller the better, and with my loud voice and big body, I was going against what was desirable for women.

As I got older and I dropped out of sport due to mainly my body issues, I turned to something that gave me so much joy- food. While some kids who enter their teens dealing with all these emotions turn to alcohol, drugs, self harm etc., food was my drug of choice. People outside of school in the music scene I was apart of would call me the whale behind my back and on Myspace posts. I couldn’t fit into the clothes that the other girls wore and when you had those gorgeous, slim best friends, of course you were always left to the side. It’s okay though, food was always there for me. I don’t remember a day in my teens where I was under 100kg, but it’s okay. I had good friends, I had good times and I guess my weight created a barrier- it did lead to some people using it get me vulnerable and take advantage of me…but it also led me to having some of the best friends that I am still close with to this day. My weight made me feel like I was hard to love, and in cases people preyed on that but others did not see my weight, they just loved me for me and that was awesome.

Fast forward many years and once I’m the lightest I’ve been in a long time. After hitting my all time high at 122.5kg’s at 25 years old, I’m looking at hitting 27 in the 80-something kg range and it’s a strange feeling. I am the smallest I’ve been since I was about 11 years old- but my personality is more than double that. I am struggling though with how I see myself. I look at spaces, at clothes, at how I move, how I walk- I feel like I’m still 122.5kg’s. I tell myself I can’t fit into or through there, I can’t do that activity because my body is too big. People in stores are nicer to me, instead of turning their nose up when I walk into the non-plus size stores. Shopping with friends still gives me anxiety about fitting into things. When my calories drop in a cut, I flip out mentally because some part of me still thinks if I don’t have that food, what else will give me comfort? The biggest thing though? People don’t like the fat kid. People are judging me when I move, when I eat and when I talk. When I tell people I work in a gym, people must be judging me. When I tell people I’m studying to be a PT, they must roll their eyes. People MUST be seeing me as the fat kid…when you’ve been a at kid your whole life, it is so hard to shake that judgement, no matter how small your body gets.

Are these feelings so bad? Maybe. Are the destructive? They can be. They also remind me of where I’ve come from. They make me realise that being fat is not the enemy, it is the arseholes who judged me for it. Society made me feel like being fat was the worst thing I can possibly be. People aren’t going to like me better now I’m losing weight though, I am still the same person. Just because I’m not taking up the physical space….I have a personality big enough to make up for my smaller size. It’s made me more empathetic. It makes me realise just how disordered people’s relationships with weight and food is. It’s made me realise that this society can be a piece of shit when it comes to teaching us how to navigate the world. If it wasn’t for my fight goals, I probably wouldn’t even step on the damn scales!

Yes, I am forever going to be the fat kid. Being the fat kid taught me valuable lessons. It taught me how to be big, because at the end of the day, being big- whether it be physically, in personality, in ambition or in spirit….is never a bad thing.

Input vs Output: What I learned from the Commando

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Not going to lie, took this picture to make my Mum jealous

 

Now, like many households in Australia, had “The Biggest Loser” make it’s way into the night time television viewing. While the show has it’s many problems, you cannot deny that the trainers on this show have become somewhat celebrities amongst the Australian media landscape.

I, along with many, many other people (particularly straight women and gay men- but let’s not leave anybody out) have found themselves a bit hot and bothered over trainer “The Commando” Steve Willis. His chiseled body, gruff voice, tattoos, alpha male demeanour and no-nonsense attitude grabbed our attention, and often stole the show (I mean who can forget the iconic scenes of him swimming back onto the beach pretty much dragging a boat and the time the ladies of black team did a favour for us all and got him to work out shirtless).

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Sorry, not sorry. Picture credit: http://bit.ly/2h59XLR

So when I saw he was doing a Q&A session at the Aus Fitness Show at the “Healthy Living stage”- a stage mainly reserved for nutrition and wellness talks, I was honestly a little surprised. Nethertheless, my good friend Michelle (no, not Michelle Bridges), urged me to go and listen. We sat in the front of a crowd that (not surprisingly) was mainly full of women around the ages of late 20’s-early 50’s, and I could not help feel intrigued about what he was going to say. I honestly can say that I didn’t really know much about him, other than what we’ve seen on The Biggest Loser.

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Dropping that knowledge

Right from the top he was honest. He said that nutrition was not his field of expertise but he would try his best to answer any questions. When nobody raised their hands, I knew it was my duty to break the awkward moment. I asked him a simple question about getting adequate nutrition for training and some advice on how to ensure this- well I was surprised by how he answered. The depth of insight this man has into leading a healthy lifestyle, not just physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually was evident in the way he responded. He was well read on philosophy, experienced in human interaction and relationships, and gave a message of living in balance and harmony.

There were a few major lessons that struck me. The first one was the concept of living to your purpose and how we sit so much in our comfort zones, and the detriment of focusing on the material, rather than taking the risk and immersing ourselves in the hard work of reaching our goals and dreams. He talked about how we are not willing to put our best foot forward and to just grind it out. As well talking about how we often will not take the risk because we want something automatically in return. What if we do all this hard work and there is no reward? Well, we as humans need to realise that rewards aren’t as clear cut as we expect and sometimes we need to do something because it needs to be done, not because we are going to benefit from it. I saw this as, why should I do the heavy lifting now? Why should I make a noise, stand up for whats right and try to create change? What if I don’t benefit from this now? Well, the louder I shout now, the more I do now, means that the future don’t have to do it. Another way to explain it; why should I put my weights away at the gym? I don’t get anything from it…well if you do it, then it saves somebody else having to do it and that’s just being a good person.

He also talked about input vs output; how life is constantly moving and that we are always focusing on our output. How hard can I train? How much can I complete? How much work do I have to do? As much as this is important, a lot of us can’t focus on the input. Physical things like sleep, food, recovery, rest days- these are as important to our progression as all the things we do in the gym- if not more. Our mental and emotional input; days off, taking time too do the things you love, taking a break from the world- these things will make your mental and emotional output so much stronger. We cannot receive if our hands are full, but in the same aspect, if we swing too far the other way, we become overloaded and if we are constantly taking, taking, taking…you won’t be able to lighten your load to move forward.

Another interesting point he talked about was the rate of progression, about building foundations. He equated it a squat- if somebody does not have the functional movement pattern to squat, then they are going to struggle to run, as the primal movement patterns are similiar. If we do not build a foundation, or take time to learn the basics, we cannot expect to move forward adequately. This same concept can be applied to so many things. I see this in martial arts, I teach this in swimming- if you don’t have a grasp on the basics, then you are going to struggle to take on the complex. If you don’t know how to read a nutritional label- then how can you expect to make more healthy choices? If you don’t learn how to look after yourself, then how can you expect to take that time to do it?

As a humans, we spend so much time caught up in our lives that we forget some of the basic lessons. Yes, this man made his fame on a reality TV Show, but in his life, he has constructed a path for himself that has allowed him to keep rising, to keep moving forward and living a life that is fulfilling. He has put in the work as well as taken the gifts that the universe has given him. I can honestly say that his depth impressed me, and that his talk was the most fulfilling part of the Aus Fitness Show. I hope this can inspire you on your day too.

#METOO, Fat Girl problems and how MMA gave me body Autonomy.

TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT

The hashtag #METOO is starting to appear every where and for a good reason. #METOO is a way that people who have experienced sexual assault/harrassment are speaking out, showing out in force that they have also had these experiences.

As the statuses pop up along my newsfeed, it breaks my heart. As I walked on the treadmill today, I saw on the News the anchors talking about Weinstein and it seems not a day goes past, where I saw an article or a post somewhere that pertains to sexual assault. It’s horrific and it’s anger inducing.

Now, we often focus on how the sexualisation of women, rape culture and how women can prevent this from happening to us. It always comes back to the victim, but why is this so? I have never been that traditionally beautiful girl. I have always been fat. I have always been deemed to have an unattractive body by society’s standards, but it has not stopped me from having experiences like other women. I have been groped in mosh pits, in city squares and at school. I have been catcalled. I have been pressured into sex. My so-called unattractive body never stopped that.

Another thing that women are told to do are to take up self defence classes. As a woman who trains Mixed Martial Arts, I am confident that I can defend myself in most situations…but what about emotionally? What about being cat-called? Sure if a guy grabs me from behind, I’m sure I can fight back…but really, how often is that the case? I can’t punch somebody in the face for cat calling, as much as I would love too. What about the women who are guilted into sex? Who are pressured by people they trust? Learning how to escape a choke won’t automatically fix that.

The body does strange things when it is faced with certain situations. What if your body responds against your will? What if you freeze? Hell, what if something is slipped into your drink? How can you defend yourself then? There are so many what ifs, and a self defence class won’t change that.

What can we do? We can speak. We can hold our sisters hands. We can hold people accountable. We can reclaim ourselves. Now as much as I said a self defence class may not be able to help, what I have realised is that Martial Arts helped me gain my voice. It help me love my body and realise that nobody ever has the right to violate it. Learning to love yourself can be an amazing tool. It can help you heal, it can help you understand, against what society tells you, that you deserve respect, that you deserve your autonomy and that if anybody violates that, then that is always their fault, never yours. You are never “asking for it”.

Not everybody can speak for themselves. Not everybody has the courage to stand up. Not everybody is able to put #METOO on their social media…and that is absolutely fine. For those of us who can though? For those of us who can stand up and yell. For those of us that will scream until our lungs hurt…..please do.

I know I will…and if you can’t, I will shout it out louder for you.

We need to start holding people accountable for their actions. Let’s stop making it the role of the victim to have to prevent things like this from happening again.

“Struggling in the Right Direction”

Every now and then a phrase will get stuck in your head. When I heard Sid Garza-Hillman say the phrase, “make sure you are struggling in the right direction”, it really made me think.

There are many quotes about struggle, but all of them embody the theory that if there is no struggle, there is no progress. I think though, this is similar to “no pain, no gain”- sometimes those phrases are bullshit.

Pain is the body responses too trauma, sometimes trauma is good. The way we build muscle to put it simply is to put trauma on our muscles so they tear a little and grow back bigger and stronger. This is a good pain, but say you are doing squats. The weight is too heavy and it’s putting too much stress on your body. You are going to get hurt. Now that is bad pain. It’s important to know the difference.

Just like the concept of struggling. If you are moving forward, progressing, even if it’s slowly, then that is a good struggle. It’s hard to get up at 5am, it’s a struggle, but if it leads to a pay off, then it’s worth it. That’s a good struggle. But what if you are stuck in the same patterns. It’s possible to struggle and not move forward. If you find yourself in a worse position, if you are moving backwards or becoming stagnant, then you are not struggling in the right direction, that is not a good struggle.

Why is it important to differentiate between these states? Well it’s important to recognise our patterns. If we are able to see where we can improve, see where we can turn that struggle into progression…it will make that struggle worth it.

Here’s a way to think about it. If your personal trainer gave you the same work out every single session, didn’t change at all, by now it would be easy, but you wouldn’t be reaching my potential. By pushing forward we may find the sessions harder and harder, but you will get better and stronger, so in the end, that struggle was worth something.

There is beauty in the struggle, just make sure it’s going in the right direction.

You Can’t Cheat the Grind

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Hard work at Absolute MMA, playing hard also with the amazing Briana Bowley.

Something a lot of people ask me is how.

How did you lose weight?
How do you find the motivation?
How do you get the time to meal prep?
How do you know all of these things?

There is one simple answer for all of this, and it is…

because I want too.

Now that may seem like a simple answer, but in all reality, it is not a simple undertaking. It is a lot of hard bloody work. Pure and simple.

There are days where my body aches. There are evenings I sit in a hot bath for hours on end, topping up the water because I don’t want to get out. Some days I sit on the couch icing my hands on and off for an hour because they ache so bad after punching things. That’s just for body aches.

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That moment after training when you can’t move.

I work six days a week so I can afford to hire people to help me achieve my goals. My MMA coach Lukaz for my MMA goals, my PT Tam for my strength and health goals, my human potential coach Briana for my head and wrapping it all together. I have gym memberships on top of this to pay for. Some days my skin itches so bad, I’m so run down and I never want to smell chlorine again- but ultimately this job is helping me fulfil my potential till I get the career of my dreams.

I also am studying nutrition, so I spend hours upon hours researching, working on assignments and studying for my own benefit. I tailor meal plans that need to meet specific nourishment goals, as well as are on a budget. This is also takes work and time.

Most importantly, I’ve learnt to say no. Some days I know sleep is in my best interest, so I have to be willing to say no to an event. Other times I need to buy something new for MMA, so those other experiences, those coffees out- I have to say no. To work with my health and fitness goals, sometimes I have to say no to those hot chips and chocolate- as much as it pains me. Again this is hard work! Is it easy? HELL NO.

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WORKING FOR THE GAINZZZZZ (Body, skill and mind gainzzzz)

So why do I do it? Because I have a goal. My goal is to get in that cage. My goal is to become a nutritionist for fighters. My goal is to help change the motherfucking world. My goals are not easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so obsessed at this point that when I say hard work, I mean work worth doing.

Shaving My Hair Off.

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Today I took a step in a new direction. I shaved my head. Why? Because I wanted too.

It’s funny, over the years I’ve heard so many stories about how women shaving their head or cutting their hair was meant to be a political statement, or they were losing the plot (c’mon, pulling a Britney is pretty much part of pop culture) but it wasn’t until I actually did that I understood why this is a big deal.

One of my favourite fighters is Rose Namajunas, and she sports this look too. When the world collectively lost their shit over it, her simple explanation was that her hair got in the way. That’s pretty much my reasoning. My hair was damaged, it was destroyed, it was annoying me and it was a just something that would get in the way. So I got rid of it. Good bye!

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Three different hair dressers asked me if I was sure when I asked for this. When it was done, I almost cried. Not because I was regretting it, but it felt like I was letting go. I never meant for this to be more than a practicality but when I did, it sparked something more in me.

In this action, I had cut off something that was damaged. I had stripped away something I was keeping because I had this belief that long hair was pretty. I was holding onto this expectation without even knowing, this gross and damaged part of me that society expected me to keep. When I saw my hair falling away, I got emotional because it felt like I was watching something that was holding me back, that kept getting in the way, disappear.

While I though I was just going to get my hair shaved, I actually shaved off a part of myself that was holding me back. I cut away part of the old me, so now I can let the new me grow. Sometimes you don’t even know what is holding you back until you let go of it. Trust your instincts because sometimes taking a small action, can have a greater effect than you even realise.

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