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Midlife Crisis in Canvas: Week 3

Updated on June 2, 2016

The hammer or the nail...

Day 15

I have numerous appointments to attend to in the city this week and as a result I am working hard on trying to fit my training around it. My favourite classes are generally the midday classes at Marucio’s gym in Mona Vale and my midday class at the Dojo. Sadly these clash and my attendance to either is depending on whether my schedule keeps me in town or keeps me near home. I was locked in town all day Monday – so I had two training days at the Dojo.

I’m still very stiff and sore and spent more time stretching this morning using a cylinder of foam to roll out my hips and back. The knots are very deep and are all over my back. I need to get to a physio.

I met Dave at the Dojo and we rolled for a while. My breathing was more measured and my rolling was ok. The arches in my feet keep cramping up when I find myself in guard. It’s a pain in the arse as it often means I can’t maintain my base. It’s something that has annoyed me for the last few weeks. Secondly, I am getting radiated pain across my left side. When my adrenalin is up I don’t feel it – when trying to flow I do. I’m not supposed to be using adrenalin when rolling so It’s a conundrum.

I have a new saying now. “Loose grips sink ships” (it rhymes better than “loose limbs”). Dave reinforced ways to strengthen my grips both on the jacket and trousers of the Gi. We also ran through finishing from the back with a Gi choke or “Pillow” choke. Dave also showed me something he called the “Retard choke”. It seems that the politically correct movement may have escaped the notice of the BJJ crowd.

Monday was an important day for the Dojo as it was the merging of two gyms. I walked into the gym that night and there were four black belts there. Which is an unusual amount. Its the equivalent of running into four PHD’s at once in a particular scholastic discipline. Outside of seminars a very rare occurrence.

The night was a standard BJJ class. I was in the hurt locker from the outset. I obviously didn’t stretch properly after my session with Dave and was in pain, slow and lethargic for the most part. The rolling was ok. I could have and should have done better yet I was more concerned in not increasing damage in my lower back. Frequent cramping limited my guard passing. I made a silent note to stretch next time thoroughly after a session, particularly if I was backing up in the same day.

My final roll had me in a unique position of getting suffocated by my own Gi. Not sure if it was by accident or design but my entire face was smothered by it when my opponent tried to lock in a submission. This has never happened to me before and as I began to run out of breath I considered tapping. I held my breath and realised I had approximately minute of serious activity to get out of this. I couldn’t see and was mildly disoriented in the same manner you get when dumped by a large wave. I threw my self around whilst the blue belt went for an arm bar. I defended one attempt and finally got the Gi off my face. As I sucked in my first breath he locked in the submission.

I was furious. At myself for allowing it to happen and for not escaping quicker. I virtually stormed out of the gym tempted to take the Gi to a young and old priest for exorcising.

On the bus ride home I calmed down a bit and analysed what I needed to fix in my approach. I found a lot of holes in my physical preparation. As Dave said to me - sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail. My angst at being the nail, regardless of the reason, was overwhelming … although refreshing to know I still had that competitive fire.

Day 16

I thoroughly stretched this morning for the the first time in my life. It is such a different type of pain tolerance than strength and conditioning. I am about as flexible as a house brick so the experience is far from fun. That faint sensation that I am literally ripping my muscles apart has always freaked me out a little. I can only hope that there will come some serene meditative state during this with practice. A million fit looking girls with yoga mats can’t be wrong. My attempts of yoga to impress girls made for a great bit in my stand up set. Bikram yoga; the hotter and sweatier version, lays serious claim for the thing I like doing least in the world.

The routine for stretching varied but I worked across all muscle groups with the fifteen to twenty second stretches three times with diaphragmatic breathing. The groin and hamstring stretch where by far the most painful. Its weird because you contract on the second stretch and then elongate on the third. You get worse than better, like when you drink when you play golf. Each side takes just over a minute and I fit it between a light workout. My tendons are very sore in my shoulders and arms from defending submissions. I would need to drink a lot of water today. Tomorrow I will run a fitness test for myself to establish my current max reps.

Went to see the doctor this morning. My GP, Dr Mackay, is a cool guy from Dubbo who used to be a surgeon. He has taken a genuine interest in my welfare and is part of my physical recovery from surgery. I got some referrals for the physio appointment I had booked that evening. I also learnt a lot about opal mining and the difference between various opal cuts. Not sure where this is connected but Dr Mackay liked to chat.

I got a lot of work done on screenplays today. I was still cranky. Dave contacted me and we had a chat about last night. He offered usual encouragement. It was not Dave’s fault I was angry. I was angry for lots of reasons. I hated being injured too and this back injury was something I just didn’t need. Anger offers strength to motivate and get out of bad situations, just like fear … that’s why it exists. When at toxic levels, just like fear, it can immobilise you. I had to forcibly remove it as I was swimming in it at the moment

I worked on my screen plays and talked to my editor and co-author. I was researching a feature film screenplay and had just written the opening scene. It’s a start. It is set in an opal mining town … so you can see how Doc Mackay got his tangent.

I went to the physio that night to see Craig my personal trainer/physio. It was the first time I went to his actual offices. They are tremendous! He has an complete gymnastics gym down stairs. Its also walking distance to the Mona Vale BJJ gym. From now on I will be meeting Craig at his offices. Craig had a good look and quickly demonstrated how my alignment in my back muscles was out and probably had been for years. This , he explained, was responsible for my current ailment and many other chronic ones.It was over compensation and probably a bulging disc. It would not stop me training though – which was a relief. He then tortured me for an hour in deep tissue sports massage. Craig could work for the CIA, instead of waterboarding they should have him go in and fix the terrorists posture. After he finished he booked me in for Friday. Yay. I went home, drank water and slept like a baby – if that baby was a rump steak that had just been hit by a tenderiser 1000 times.

Day 17

I had an appointment with my lawyer this morning so I was up earlier than usual. Two stretches that Craig had told me to go and do – the “downward dog’ and its corresponding stretch …”the upward cat?”… was now a 10 minute addition to the morning routine that was easily over forty minutes. My tendonitis was lurking like a hungry seagull yet had not gotten worse.

The meeting with my lawyer went well. We were looking at going back to court in two weeks and we reviewed the constant half truths and contradictions that were fed to me by the authorities. I always got frustrated in these meetings. I know my lawyer is doing a good job in the circumstances but the fact is that I am just another case. To me its very personal. We reviewed court documentation and talked about the Waratahs win. Anything to get my interest away from morale injustices I would latch on to and seethe over.

I had a session with Dave straight after. We worked on grips and secure guard passes. We also worked on an efficient transition to the arm bar from mount. I had been taught these techniques before but now I was consciously fitting them into a game plan. As we finished rolling Megan turned up with Ben for his first BJJ lesson. The kids all filed in and Megan and I went for a walk and a coffee. When we came back we spied Ben mid roll with another guy in his class. He was throwing himself into it. I noted that even though he got caught in troublesome positions numerous times he kept fighting and even managed a few reversals.

Ben, like me, suffers from anxiety. This outlet was hopefully a way – like with me – to manage it. He came out of the class beaming and said he was looking forward to going back. I said goodbye to Megan and trekked home. I was exhausted.

Day 18

Fitness test this morning. I stretched and had a hot shower to warm myself up. My test was to establish the maximum reps I could do in the 5 second down – one second up tempo. I worked to failure.

Handstand push ups – 8 reps

Russian pull ups – 8 reps (over grasp narrow grip with legs at 45 degrees)

Push ups with feet on Swiss ball – 16 reps

Swiss ball rollouts – 25 reps

Concentration curls 10 kgs – 9 reps

I was pretty happy with the numbers. I saw steady improvement in my swiss ball rollouts and push ups. Handstand push ups and Russian pull ups were very heavy load bearing activities and the gains would be much slower. I hit two more sets to be sure.

I would test legs tomorrow and one armed shoulder press and push ups from hips on Sunday. The aim of this was to establish my max and dial back the reps 15 -20% so I was not going to complete failure. Under the Pavlik training method this would increase gains and I could train more often.

I had another day with my son Ben (not to be confused with Megan’s son Ben). I was waiting around an hour and a half at Fox Studios for him to show up. They were late again. During this period I began to feel a tidal wave of morale injustice rising in me. It has been proven that this is directly related to PTSD, so I try an remain aware of it. The important thing was to remain in a good space for Ben. He is more susceptible to my emotional state than my psychiatrist.

When Ben arrived he insisted we head back to Monkey Mania. One again I was on y hands and knees scampering after him. The place had a lot of kids this time and I now understand why they have “mania” in the name. Ben took off up the three story slide and I followed. This time we made it to the top with Ben cheering me all the way. I challenge anyone to climb a three story tunnel slide with socks on and not roar with defiance when they reach the summit. The visit ended and once again I was quiet and shrouded with sadness. I had taken my Gi with me again and headed to the Thursday session with Gill at Mona Vale.

Troy Pittman was there and Jack. It was going to be an interesting evening on the mats. Both Troy and Jack were the most physically imposing senior belts in the gym. Troy was like a tree stump. His base and hip strength were phenomenal and as a result I could not simply bully myself into side control or guard passes. Jack was and ex wrestler half a head shorter than me but built like a gorilla. Both men forced me to engage more in the cerebral side of angle changes and leverage. During the class Gill took us through and arm drag to take the back and using the opponents Gi to reverse them. The drills were done lightly as I was aware of my back injury. The rolling was more engrossing than usual. Once again I could hear my laughter mid roll. Once again the sadness had lifted. It was clear that this was a certainly a salve to my symptoms.

I had back to back training on Friday and Saturday and then a light session on Sunday after UFC 199. The weekend looked like I would be enjoying a sleep in or two. Sometimes being the nail puts you in your place ... and sometimes thats exactly where you need to be.

The Monkey Mania Obstacle Course


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