Before starting my regular training regiment at BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) classes, I knew my endurance for cardio wasn’t great. In fact, it was pretty dismal. I used to have problems with exercise-induced asthma as a teenager when I swam competitively, and the last thing I wanted to do was try to cough up a lung in class.
So, I started swimming/training on the elliptical again.
At first re-training my heart and lungs was really rough. I could pace myself when I was on my own, but when our instructors were pushing us to do cycles of burpees, pushups and crunches in class, I felt like my lungs were burning out of my chest. I was going to class two to three times a week, and the end of the 15 minute ‘warm-up’ my lungs were aching. In a little over 3 weeks, I can now do back-to-back classes without the use of a puffer before class.
I had my real test last week.
I’ve got a friend that’s also become a bit of a personal trainer. He has years of BJJ experience over me, and is dedicated to helping me achieve some of my BJJ goals. ‘R’ came over to roll with me last week and work on fine-tuning some trigger drills at my place. What I didn’t know was that this was going to be a real test of all my endurance cardio over the past few weeks. He told me to choose a ‘Safe Word’ that was basically my chance to call it quits in the middle of the workout if I felt like I was pushing my body beyond the point of no return. My ‘Safe Word’ is Atari.
We started off at a steady pace of active pummeling, fighting for double under hooks, and moving around the mats. We did classic jumping jacks, burpees, tuck jumps, and active rest (jogging on the spot.) It felt good to have my heart rate spike fairly quickly and I didn’t feel the need to cough (win!) We practiced a variety of drills that constantly changed the body position to mimic sweeps and maintaining position. We moved on to a variety of drills for the arm-bars, triangles, and the kimura over and over again. At this point, my heart was beating so hard, I could feel it pounding on the inside of my chest. On the downside, it was frustrating to feel my body react slower than my mind was commanding it. It was a combination of dehydration and mental sluggishness. At this point, I had no idea how much time had elapsed, but we started to cycle through the repetitive drills. He called ‘Burpees’ and as he partnered in front of me to start the first count, I was shaking my head in frustration.
I didn’t feel the need to call my safe word, and I would probably be throwing up on the mats before I felt compelled to use it. However, after the first cycle of burpees he called ’20 more’ I was ready to punch something fierce. He was trying to motivate me, telling me I wasn’t tired and to keep going. I was cheating with the burpees at this point. I couldn’t get down and up fast enough and was literally stepping to stand up.
Have you ever been in a dream where everything was out of focus except for a single point?
My workout felt similar to a dream at that point. Everything was out of focus.. except for his face. Which I was feeling a combined emotion of frustration and absolute loathing. It was weird.
5, 4, 3, 2…1.
And it was over. I asked for some water, and was obliged.
“So, now that the warm-up’s over.. we can move on to the work out.” He jested.
I barely heard him as I sipped water carefully, making sure I didn’t make my stomach contract and attempt reverse-flow.
I was breathing hard, but beaming on the inside. I knew I’d come a long way three weeks ago, and it was just another small victory in my training. No puffers, no asthma attack, and I still finished without stopping, or calling the safe word.