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The Slow Burn

Reflecting on my training this past week, initially I felt like it was particularly unremarkable save for the Mackay workout (more on that momentarily). But then I caught myself. I realized that this week, I completed all but two of my little checks, including the ever difficult-for-me back kick; PRed on my mile time while simultaneously exceeding the minimum requirement of 8 minutes for the first time; sparred an awesome but tough third-degree black belt candidate for 3 minutes for my live sparring round; and finished strong at the toughest conditioning workout of the black belt test to date, the first Mackay Stadium workout.

One of many derpy kicks that has slowly become un-derped by great coaching and lots of drilling. Photo by Jason Candler. (Thanks, Jason!)

One of many challenging-for-me kicks that has slowly become less awkward through great coaching and lots of drilling. Photo by Jason Candler

Since when did these sorts of accomplishments start to feel like just another day at the dojo??

A few weeks ago I posted about the dawning realization of what I was in for, and hoped that I’d be able to find that “slow burn” level of intensity that would keep me moving forward without getting overwhelmed. It appears that this has begun to happen without me even realizing it.

Of course, it wasn’t completely accidental. I’m glad we’re required to log our weekly class attendance, because there were several times this week when I felt like I should have been training. But, looking at my log, I realized that would have been over-training. Despite the constant worry that I’m being lazy — or, at least, lazier than some of my fellow candidates — I honestly believe that taking Danelle’s advice about “one solid rest day per week” to heart was how I was able to run a 7:52 mile up the Freestyle hill last Saturday.

I was also a little concerned about the Mackay Stadium workout on Sunday, but it turns out my consistent training is starting to pay off. Earlier this year I asked Tres for tips on managing asthma. He said eating better and increasing my stamina would be his top two recommendations. Lo and behold, following said advice, I was able to pace myself at a much higher intensity than normal before slowing down or using my inhaler. In fact, I only had to use my inhaler once during the workout.

The most ironic Mackay moment for me personally was about three-quarters of the way through the final drill of the two-hour event. This drill consists of running up the bleachers, across to the next set of stairs, then down, and repeating until all four sets of bleachers have been completed. If I recall correctly, it takes most of us about 20 minutes to run up and down all those steps. Yep, 20 continuous minutes of running stairs. I was trying to conserve my energy on the downs while powering through the ups (66 steps per stairwell — I counted). Near the end I was having trouble making it all the way to 66 before having to dial it back or risk suffocating due to asthma, or tripping to my doom due to leg fatigue.

As I caught my breath slowly jogging towards the next down, I realized that this wasn’t nearly as bad as the final five miles of my half-marathon in 2010! I didn’t do very well at the half because I stopped training consistently as the event date approached. I vividly recall getting passed by groups of speed walkers around mile 11 while I was painfully jogging along, muttering f-bombs at every other step. And yet the bleachers failed to elicit a single f-bomb from me this year*. Once again, I’m amazed by the results of simple, consistent training.


*Unlike the partner jump squats between sprint sets. Seriously, f these things!!! And sorry for having to deal with my potty mouth, Jo. Photo by Jason Candler

Lastly, here are a few choice photos from the Mackay workout. Many thanks to Jason Candler for bringing himself and his camera out to capture the torture!

4 thoughts on “The Slow Burn

  1. This is kind of a departure from your subject, but I’ve realized no one cares about your injuries/sicknesses. No one cares that you had a headache this morning. No one cares that you have asthma or that your back hurts. I try not to even talk about that stuff anymore.

    I just view it as another obstacle to deal with that others don’t have to deal with. They all have their own obstacles, lack of of motivation, bad eyesight, injury from a car wreck, etc. There is always someone with more obstacles too, so I try to bear that in mind and that keeps me motivated when I’m doing something.

    And finally, there are people with little or no obstacles and they don’t even show up. Those people motivate me too because they’re wastes. I will end this comment before I go off on a welfare rant 😀

    1. LOL! Yeah, I had a similar realization earlier this year at BJJ. I think if you asked anybody on the mat how they were doing they’d probably have something going on — a current injury, an old injury, stiffness, sleep deprivation, etc etc. Everyone just rolls anyway. Normally when you hear about it, it’s along the lines of, “My arm’s jacked up so I’m going to tap super early on that side” and you’re just like, “Cool” and try to attack their OTHER arm so that you can both get some mat time in without totally wrecking each other. If you really love something, or if it’s important to you, you do it anyway. And TBH it’s rather gratifying seeing your potential emerge despite whatever else you have going on.

  2. Hi Elaine,
    Our life experiences influence our views of life. Sure, most people who want to win at fighting or sparring don’t want to know how you “feel” unless it gives them an edge to beat you through your weakness, so it’s probably better not to say anything. That being said, “nobody” is a strong word. Most people can find a person they are comfortable with to get advice on succeeding in sports with an illness or injury. Look at all of those folks that lost their legs and are racing bicycles and those who run with prosthetic legs. The long standing “no pain/no gain” motto isn’t far from the truth. Keep concentrating on your goal with a “one step at a time” outlook will help you make it. Look back at the goals you have already attained! You can accomplish this Elaine. It’s all about persistence, outlook and not judging yourself unfairly. During the Korean War some people hid in caves together, in the dark, in constant fear of being captured/killed or worse. As the story goes, when they were finally liberated from the cave, instead of focusing on the pain of their ordeal, they remained overjoyed with the prospect of leading lives in full sunshine, beautiful and free. It’s all about perspective & of course, hard work.

    1. Thanks, Mom! At least I train with super supportive people. Even in live rounds, nobody’s out to get you. Plus, there are so many active black belts there that chances are, if you’re having issues with something, somebody there has gone through it before you and can give you good advice. This whole process has definitely been a good one overall so far. 🙂

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