Category Archives: Training Blog

First Run of the Season

  buttonrun              facerun

In case the glare is too great, the button says Lover / Fighter … une grande merci a ma petite fille pour m’avoir montrer ce button en Katimavik des annees passes. I wear it almost everywhere I go in the winter, and it helps to remind me what’s important in life.

Loving. Fighting. Writing about it. I think I’ve been a little too caught up in the third part of late. Between Elance and Althanas and this I’ve been writing a lot, and maybe letting my social life and fitness slide. Certainly haven’t been keeping my attendance up at the gym. So yesterday I did a short boxing circuit at home, and today I went for a run in the snow and sun.

Running is about so much more than just aerobic fitness. It requires a certain state of mind to go outside and run in a big circle just because. It’s similar to the kind of will required to train at a combat gym. I like to settle into a meditative rhythm when I run, but I couldn’t quite do that today. There was water and ice everywhere, deceptively deep and surprisingly slippery. I did a short loop with three large hills in it, which is another reason I say running isn’t just about aerobic fitness. Do a few hills in a row and you kick into anaerobic gear, burning carbs for energy and activating Human Growth Hormone as surely as if you were in the gym pumping iron.

When I got home I cooked up some Rice and Lentils and logged my run on MapMyRun. And then I used the site’s social media tools to post my workout to Facebook, and challenged some of my further-away friends to see who could run the furthest by June 1st. One of them already responded, and I’m sure we’ll be keeping each other motivated and fleet-footed. And of course, whoever wins the spring sectional will have to defend their reputation into the summer…

Today’s run eased a lot of tense muscles that had been bugging me, and I’m looking forward to getting back out tomorrow. As a closing note, thanks to everyone who’s been liking and following the short stories I post on here – I’m hoping to have more of the same soon!


The Human Engine that Could


The gym was busy enough tonight that I had to park at a dollar store next door, and Jay actually had to think before designing the circuit. We usually have three groups; one for the newer athletes, one for the advanced athletes, and one for the big guys who can lift more weight, but have more trouble with the box jumps and such. This time, Jay put me on the advanced circuit.

I felt honored, and intimidated, and proud, and like I might pass out. The last time I did the advanced circuit was my first night back at Loyalist MMA, a whole month ago. It’s a sizable step up… we lift heavier, run faster, and jump higher.

We did five 4-minute rounds at 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, with 1 minute rests between rounds. I started on burpies and progressed to squat thrusters, pullups on the high bar, 30-inch box jumps, and finally the steeply inclined treadmill. Unlike last month I moved through the first four rounds without completely gassing. The treadmill still killed me, but then again that’s what it’s meant to do… especially when you get it for the last round.

Afterwards I had some water and small sip of my recovery smoothie, and then wrapped up. As usual we started with several rounds of shadow-boxing and bagwork while Jay showed some newer guys their stance and footwork. I hit the speed bag for awhile, practicing getting my jab fluid and regular and bringing the right cross through as often as I could.

When we moved to mittwork I ended up paired with the same guy as last week. I’m getting comfortable with correcting other people’s errors when they’re glaring enough. You need to stay in sideways boxing stance, avoid the temptation to square up. Bend your knees more, so when you go to slip you don’t bend from the waist and duck forward. Above all, stay on the balls of the feet and keep the hands up.

We worked counter-punching combinations most of the night, and finished with a hellish punchout. Double jabs for a round, then punches in bunches, then triple jabs (high-low-high) and then endless hooks. Down on the ground for crunches, super crunches, leg raises, and situps.

I asked Jay to show me the finer points of slipping and weaving punches, and he was very happy to do so. While the other guys started getting packed up I worked on pivoting properly to flow into the counter hook. Having done a lot of karate, kung fu, and free-form sparring in my life some of the footwork is very counter-intuitive for me, but a few minutes with the master set me straight. Jay also showed me how to work the pivoting motion into shadowboxing, so I can work this on my own.

Aaaand my abs hurt. I have pretty good core strength, but now that the rest of my body has caught up to my core, I’m starting to feel it there. The treadmill is at least partially to blame. Ah well… ’tis the price of moving forward, ever onward and upward.

Almost finished my smoothie, and when that’s done I’ll be making something else… planning to try chocolate-avocado pudding tonight. If it works amazing, I might just post my recipe.

Thanks for reading! Be well and stay safe, and share this blog with a friend if you like what you’re reading. Ciao!


Off-Day Training and Blog Updates

Last night I hit ten posts, and ten followers a few hours later. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading, liking, sharing, and being yourself! I decided to celebrate this early milestone by switching to a new theme – let me know what you think of the layout! I also created a twitter account to try to bring in more readers, though I’m not sure if I’m using it correctly.

To business. I did some light exercise yesterday, just to say I did something, but it was mostly just to break up the monotony of the online courses I’m taking. Today I wanted to do something real – something that would push my body the same way workouts at Loyalist MMA do, if not quite so hard. My overall fitness level has improved to the point that any time I take two days off from serious exercise, I feel a backslide. It’s the lungs that I really feel it in – they’re still getting used to fueling my growing muscles with so much oxygen at such a fast rate. Going 48 hours without rigorous stimulation makes my respiratory system think it can afford to rest.

Here’s what my workout looked like:

7mins mixed cardio (jumping jacks, shadow boxing and the like)
1min rest
5 handstand pushups, 5 doorway pullups
10 cocorinha squats, 10 strict burpies
45s rest
10 handstand pushups, 10 doorway pullups
20 cocorinha squats, 10 strict burpies, 10 pushups, 10 tuck jumps

This workout is functionally different than what we do at the gym. Obviously it’s shorter, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. It employs principals of progressive overload to ensure that I’m encouraging my muscles to grow stronger, and my lungs to recover faster, rather than simply breaking everything down. There are merits to training to exhaustion, but even the most hardcore trainers tend to agree that pushing the absolute limit seven days a week is probably not ideal, especially for someone who’s still getting their lungs and legs back (me).

I loosened and stretched with some basic Muay Thai and Karate exercises, then grabbed some leftover lentils and rice with chicken I made for lunch. Once my muscles relax a bit I’ll do some foam rolling and yoga. These “yin” or “soft” practices are essential to counter-balancing the hard “yang” workouts I’ve been doing 2-3 days a week. I never forget flexibility and maneuverability as essential components of my regimen. Focusing purely on strength and endurance is a trap a lot of guys fall into at a young age. When it doesn’t lead to injury, it results in an incomplete athlete.

Off days are not just rest days – they’re for recuperation, and the body needs help to recuperate fully and quickly. If you’re an athlete who lacks a “yin” component to your training, I’d highly recommend buying a foam roller and checking out some of the instructional videos for that on youtube, where you can also find a lot of great free yoga lessons.

That’s it for now… train hard, drive safe, recover and repeat. There’s still five hours left in the day – share this post on your favorite social media, and we’ll see how many views I can get!

Death by Cardio

Friday night at Loyalist MMA one of the senior fighters runs class. I showed up early and put in some quality time with the skipping rope and speed bag. I had two days off in a row due to some real life complications, and my feet almost forgot how to skip. Good thing I put in the extra practice. I even had time to stretch out before the workout began.

Two minute rounds with one minute rest. Mountain climbers, squat thrusters, pullups, situps. Steep incline treadmill, squat thrusters, pullups, situps. Sprint treadmill, squat thrusters, pullups, situps. Perish.
The thrusters and pullups left my arms and shoulders aching, but without having box jumps in the circuit my legs felt good. We grabbed focus mitts, body armor, and boxing gloves and set to work on fast-paced combinations. Two minutes on, one minute off.

If that sounds easy, I invite you to try punching something repeatedly for two minutes without stopping.

We worked basic boxing combos with sprawls in between. Nothing complex, nothing new… just lots and lots of work. My partner was a nice guy but had an unfortunate attitude – rather than working his speed and technique in the spirit of the drill, he went slow and easy through everything – except – when throwing hooks to the body. He’d paw at the mitts with little pitter-patter jabs and then pause, take a deep breath, bury his head and slam into the belly pad with all of his force, and then sprawl in a way that was more resting than working. I could feel the power shots through the shield, but they didn’t bother me much – I used to do drills like this without the armor. Really he’s only cheating himself. If you try to load up a hook like that in a fight, your opponent will either jab a hole in your face or circle ’till you’re swinging at air.

I showed my training buddy how to sprawl a bit better – he needed to keep his torso off the ground. Because of the way sprawls look in MMA fights, people tend to think that the idea is to flatten and slam your entire body into the ground. I made this mistake myself, years ago. The correct method is to just sprawl the legs back, focusing on touching the ground with the hips and springing right back up. Ideally the torso should remain perpendicular to the ground, as if your legs simply disapear and reappear. He was also having the same problem I initially had when slipping, but I told him what Jay told me – to pivot on the back foot like throwing a cross – and he improved immediately. I learned later on that this guy is planning on getting his first boxing match as soon as he can… personally, I want to be much more prepared when I enter the ring.

We finished the workout with a punchout on the heavy bag. No combos, no technique, just throwing as fast and as hard as you can like your life depends on it. Everyone finished strong and there was a different attitude than normal – much more glove-tapping and congratulations. Maybe everyone was just happier because it’s the weekend.

I stretched out and hit the road just in time to pick up a burger from my favourite restaurant before it closed. I hadn’t been to Burger Revolution in months, and much to my surprise, the beautiful pixie who I’ve enjoyed flirting with in the past took my order. Such a coincidence… I hadn’t visited the place in months, and it just so happened my first time back was her first night back on the job after experimenting with alternative employment. You know the feeling when everything about someone seems utterly appealing, when you can’t help but get lost in their eyes even though it’s probably innapropriate in the setting…

Ah well. That’s a story for a different post, in a different category. Maybe I’ll write it, maybe I won’t. For now… I’m tired, and about to eat a delicious burger.

Thaibox Tuesday

When it blizzards like it did tonight I always worry I’ll show up and the gym will be locked.

Absolutely not the case. The crowd was a bit thinner than usual, but the dedicated keep on truckin’.

Some real-life complications made me miss the massacre that is our Monday night circuit. Tonight I opted to arrive at a quarter past seven for Crossfit and Muay Thai. Crossfit is a school of hardcore conditioning that is growing evermore popular among high caliber athletes – from marathoners to gymnasts to MMA fighters, it’s a good program for anyone who wants to kick themselves in the ass – hard – and jump their fitness up a notch or three. Crossfit has their own gyms (called “boxes”) but the central theme that sets them apart from other crosstrainers is the much loved (or feared, depending on how new you are) Workout Of the Day, dubbed “WOD” for short.

I started on the treadmill running at 7.5 mph on a decent incline. After seven minutes of that, a quick breather and straight to Box Jumps and Kettlebell swings. Four sets of each at 40 then 30 then 20 then 10 reps. I barely made it out alive.

After pulling my heart out of cardiac arrest and convincing my mind to retreat from the bright, soft light in the distance, I grabbed some water and changed my shirt. Loyalist MMA is just a two-shirt kind of gym. I realized pretty quick that I had to decide between a little extra laundry or catching a chill every other night.

Since it was my first night in Muay Thai Jay set me to practicing leg-kick counters in the mirror. The knee raises with the shin facing outward while the same-side elbow comes down to create a seamless barrier. The opposite hand extends out in a push-punch to set the opponent up for a counter.

After two rounds of that my shoulders and hips ached. I have tight hip flexors (something to work on) and they don’t like blocking leg-kicks any more than my shoulders like holding the high Thai guard after a kettlebell workout. Luckily, we moved on to greater things.

Next we worked a teep-round kick combination. The teep (similar to a front push kick) is something I’ve worked on by myself in the past and comes out as naturally as a jab. Ideally it starts with a short stutter-step where the rear foot falls almost level with the front heel. The front leg then comes straight up and lashes out like a piston, the hard ball of the foot aimed for the opponent’s solar plexus.

Round kicks are a little counter-intuitive to me, coming from a history of contact Karate. In karate almost all kicks are thrown with the ball of the foot or heel, and aimed either at soft parts of the torso or the head and neck. There are no leg kicks in Karate competition. Thai round kicks are quite different. I need to remember to step closer than I feel like I need to, so I don’t break my foot, and point my toe slightly, so that the sharpest part of my shin slams into the target.

Next we practiced countering punches with kicks. The opponent throws a jab, countered by a teep to the midsection and followed by a right leg kick. The opponent throws a straight right which is parried and trapped, drawing them in for two knee strikes and a shin aimed for the skull.

As we ran through this combo I found myself explaining some of the finer points to my partner. He kept trying to trap my straight right with an outward parry rather than inward – using a variation on the technique that is often seen in action movies, but that has very little use in any kind of real fight. I showed him how the inward parry leads directly to head-and-arm control with the arm hyper extended – a control position I use sometimes in grappling, and see often in the UFC.

For the last couple rounds we got in the ring and Jay showed us a basic method for trapping kicks and…


Heh, sorry about that. Jay’s eyes light up when he explains the nastier fighting techniques, and Thai legsweeps are plenty nasty. It’s the kind of energy that makes me feel really at home, because I know every time I think about fighting I get the same crazy grin.

My workout buddy had to leave a bit early for a night shift, so Jay stepped in for the last few rounds and showed me some serious clinchwork. The Thai clinch is probably the part of the sport I’m most familiar with – as a No-Gi Jiu Jitsu practitioner, I use head control often to set up control positions. Even so, I felt like I’d never even attempted it before. Jay is strong as a Minotaur, forcing you to hit the technique just right or feel like a silly fool. I was familiar with the first two (crossface and chest push) but the third was a thing of beauty I’m not sure I can even describe right now.

I finished the night by hitting the heaviest bag until my arms got heavy, working round kicks and teeps into the combinations. When I didn’t have the energy to hit the heavy bag anymore I switched to a bungee-rope speedbag and kept pace until it became a blur.

A good night at the gym, and a safe drive home through driven snow. I must return tomorrow night. I will. I must. I will.

Bob and Weave

Wednesday night at Loyalist MMA follows the same setup as Monday. I arrived a bit early and spent some quality time skipping and stretching. I always hated skipping as a kid (it was the most boring unit in Phys Ed, hands down) but it’s a good way to get your head in the game.

The circuit ran a bit differently. We did four four-minute rounds working 30s on 10s off, with one minute breaks in between. Heavy kettlebell swings, burpies, box jumps, ladder climbers. I actually almost made it through the burpies without gassing. The good news is I’m getting stronger. The bad news is… slowly. And it still hurts.

After the workout we wrapped up and did a few warm-up rounds. I chose to also put some gloves on and work the heavy bag, practicing my combinations from Monday. The one-two-duck-right to the body-left uppercut-roll out is becoming a thing of beauty. It’s all bobbing and weaving, so my weight ends up flying into every punch. Like swinging a rock in a sock.

I partnered with the only woman who regularly trains there these days. As usual the combinations felt awkward at first but by the end of the first minute I could throw them as easy as a jab-cross.

Drill 1: Jab-jab-slip-hook-rollout. This felt absolutely wrong until Jay came over and showed me how to slip properly. I need to remember to pivot on the ball of my back foot, much like throwing a right cross, so that the slip happens naturally and auto-loads the counter hook.
For the second drill we added body armor, and this combo just clicked with me. Jab-block-liver hook-uppercut-rollout. All left handed punches while the right sits in the pocket and defends. At the end of the drill I noticed Jay watching me and expected another pointer or two, but all he said was.

“Good work. That’s great in-fighting.” Jay isn’t exactly liberal with praise. He tells you when you’re doing something wrong, so you can change it, and tells you when you’re doing something right, so you keep it the same. I grinned like an idiot through the punch out, and probably could have gone a few extra rounds if necessary.

I’m becoming comfortable with the fact that I’m abnormally good at punching. I learned to hit hard in Karate at a young age. No wraps for wrist protection, no cushy 12oz gloves covering the knuckles. And I’ve been practicing Wing Chun chain-punching on and off for about eight years now. Despite the fact I’m easily the least fit “young guy” at the gym right now, I have an easier time keeping my hands up and throwing punches at the end of the night than most of the others.

It doesn’t make up for my horrific cardio, but it does feel good.

I stayed late to stretch and unwind a bit again, and found a moment to talk to Jay one on one. We ended up chatting for a good twenty minutes, but there were only four words I really needed to say.

“I want to fight.”

We’re on the same page regarding my conditioning – it sucks, it needs to get better. But he looked a little like a kid on Xmas. Jay loves training fighters, and I’ve been showing up and then flaking out for years now. It feels pretty great to see someone else get as stoked as I am at the prospect of me becoming a competitive athlete.

Loyalist MMA… in a few weeks, it’s going to feel like home.

Slip and Rip

Back at Loyalist MMA for Monday circuit and boxing. I stayed out of the gym last week to avoid further spreading my illness, but did some endurance intervals on my own in hopes of returning today in fine form.

Yeah, right.

I didn’t die nearly as often or as badly as last time, but that’s mostly because Jay (mercifully) put me on the easier circuit this time.

Easier… yeah, right.

Three minute rounds with thirty seconds rest between. Barely enough time to convince myself to keep breathing. Stair climber, Turkish getups, speed ropes, burpies, box jumps, pullups.

When the torture ended I hydrated and bought a pair of wraps. Almost twice as expensive as the department store variety available around town, but I like supporting the club. And, I generally trust a combat gym with stocking better quality equipment than Exploitation-Is-Us (sub the name of your most hated department store).

Wraps on, gloves on. I had a couple warmup rounds shadowboxing and hitting the heavy bags. The boxing stance is still a little odd to me, coming from years of practicing Karate and Wing Chun. But I settled into the sweet science of Slip and Rip by the time we paired up for drills.

Drill 1: Defending the jab. Slip-right straight. Duck-body shot. Duck overhand right. Once I worked through the initial discomfort of wanting to slip in the wrong direction (again, I’m blaming the Kung Fu) the movements began to feel natural.

Drill 2: Defending the right. Slip-hook. Roll-hook. Parry-right straight.

My partner was my size, which is nice, and in better shape than me but less experienced at fighting, which is less nice. I had to stop myself from correcting his hand positions a few times, and pull my half-speed shots often as not to stop from hitting him. Protecting yourself properly in a fight, even in a boxing match where your opponent only has two weapons, is much less intuitive than it seems. This is where my combative history comes in handy.

We suited up with focus mitts and body armor for the next drill. Jab, cross, duck, right to the body, left uppercut, right straight, roll out. I’ll be honest – I kind of love this combination. Within a few repetitions I found a nice rhythm, though I think I was dropping my head too much on the ducks and rolls. Probably because my legs were still jacked from the circuit, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The last drill focused on defending body shots. Bend the knees and drop the elbow to absorb the blow, shift weight, uppercut-cross.

Two boxing lessons down, and I’m already in love with the sport. I miss practicing Jiu-Jitsu night in night out, but boxing is a lot lower impact and therefore a lot better for me right now. My poor old body is going to take some time to get up to the average fitness level at Loyalist MMA. But I have the experience, the nutrition, and the determination. Nothing should be able to stand in my way, except illness or injury.

I hung around an extra twenty minutes after the punch out to stretch and detox my lungs. I always have (extra) trouble sleeping after nights when I train, and I believe leaving the gym all amped up makes it worse. So I stretched everything sore and then some, I did my shoulder rehabilitation, and took my time heading out to the parking lot.

Fighting… why’s it gotta hurt so good?

One Week Deep

Seven days since I resumed training in combat sports. The circuit workout last Monday at Loyalist MMA hit my body like a wheat thresher taking to the fields. I had trouble walking the next day, couldn’t fully extend my arms or raise them all the way above my head. There’s a fairly simple formula for rapidly increasing both cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and the head trainer at my favorite gym has it down to a science.

Two minutes of intense exercise followed by one minute of rest. Repeat.

This formula can also be expressed as Severe Self Inflicted Pain + Idiotic Determination = Superior Athlete.

I gassed out like a leaky hummer in every stage of the circuit. From burpies to box jumps to pullups, high-speed inclined treadmill runs to deadlifts and handstand pushups. Although the timing varied – I can run for longer than I can jump on and off a twenty inch platform, for example – the symptoms were the same. My head would start to spin, and I’d refocus on breathing to stay centered (and conscious). Then the muscles I was exercising would give out. Quite simply, they reach a point where they can no longer perform a certain action, and they rest regardless of my lunacy.

Each time I had to stop exercising and double over panting, Jay yelled at me to keep working. Just once, to let me know he cared. I would wave a hand (or in the case of the pullups round, nod) to show I’d heard and force myself to move. Walk in tight circles, shadowbox, keep the blood pumping until enough lactic acid drained that I could continue the exercise.

Tuesday and Thursday I went back for Jiu-Jitsu class despite a myriad of stiff sore muscles and related pains and discomforts. The workouts were not as intense these nights, but the practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu itself is as draining as any circuit. The gi is thick and heavy, and combined with an opponent’s body heat it’s easy to sweat to the point of dehydration. If the opponent has any skill, they make you carry their weight with every movement. It’s like swimming upstream wearing winter garments and a backpack.

If the stream actively tried to strangle you.

I love my sport. Fighting is something I’ve enjoyed and been unnaturally proficient at my entire life. This passion has caused some moral dilemmas in the past, but I’ve finally decided to ignore the haters and follow my heart. Problem is, I plunged in a little too deep too fast.

I got sick. Not violently ill, no projectile vomiting or trips to the ER for aerosol antibiotics. These things don’t generally happen when you take care of your body. I haven’t been “sick” in two or three years, which is about how long I’ve been focused on eating as healthy as possible. But yesterday I endured several hours of severe indigestion after eating one of my staple meals (a super healthy chicken salad). The good thing about eating similar meals most days of the week is that if you have an adverse reaction, it’s generally not the food that’s a problem. It’s the body.

This morning I wanted nothing more than to get back to the gym and blast my nervous system again. Although there are plenty of comfortable ways to increase maximal strength and flexibility, and even endurance in the big picture, “no pain no gain” is an accurate adage for anyone looking to go from veritable couch potato to wrecking machine. But I woke up with a runny nose, mucus gathered at the back of my throat, and a gastrointestinal aversion to vegetables and meat – the cornerstones of my usual diet.

No need for a doctor to make the diagnosis – I overclocked my nervous system pretty severely on Monday, thus reducing the efficiency of my immune system. Tuesday and Thursday I performed equally draining workouts while rolling around with a bunch of other sweaty men. That’s like opening the door wide and throwing out a mat that read ‘Germs Welcome’.

I’ll be honest – the concept of missing a Monday at Loyalist MMA threatened to plunge me into depression. I was swallowed by a wave of insecurity and self doubt. Luckily I’m a strong swimmer, and I broke the surface and breathed the air of reason after re-focusing on my passion.

Certainly it sucks that I had to take the day off. But getting to the gym isn’t the only part of achieving my goals, and in terms of caring for my body and mind, it’s actually pretty low on the list. I rested, I went for a walk and bought some groceries. Ate as healthy as I could of the foods that upset my stomach the least and did a meager version of the circuit I know I missed.

And then I sat down and wrote this blog post… because fighting is only a part of what makes my passion beautiful. Sharing is important too, and sometimes I forget that.

Loyalist MMA

Belleville Ontario… the last place one would expect to find a fully functioning Mixed Martial Arts gym. And yet it exists. Nestled beneath an innocent restaurant with no advertisement needed, this haven for combat sports waits upon individual discovery.

My shoes slide across the frozen parking lot in a series of careful steps. My bag is heavy on my back and one misstep could end the night’s training before it begins. The steel door opens to a downward flight of concrete steps. The drywall wears long scars above the bannisters supports, where weary athletes climbing to the surface after a muscle-wringing workout have leaned. At the bottom of the stairs a long dark corridor opens into the space.

Hooks for coats, space for shoes, an old refrigerator and a few shelves heaped with papers occupy the near wall. All of the necessities crammed into as little space as possible. A forest of hanging heavy bags occupies the bulk of the first room, with a full sized boxing ring at the far end. Gloves, pads, and equipment of all kinds fill bins and lockers that line the walls between dingy mirrors.

Through a wide opening in the rear wall I move onto the mats. Here is where I began my training in combat sports. Each step on the padded surface brings back memories of lessons learned, victories won, and endless sweat and submission. There is an old saying in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu… a black belt is just a white belt who has tapped ten thousand times.

Unpacking my bag, I move to the washrooms at the back to change, wondering what the night’s workout will bring. Only two things are certain at Loyalist MMA… it will hurt, and I’ll leave a little happier.