2013 has been an exciting and challenging year and as it comes to a close, I’m feeling more positive about juggling life’s goals, aspirations and duties. At the start of 2013 I’d misapprehended my ability to parent, build a business, get my postpartum bod back in shape and relearn my BJJ. My expectations at the start of 2013 were unreasonable and didn’t adequately account for the demands of an infant; I hadn’t appreciated that the space where BJJ used to live would be filled by parenting, as this is the only way I can juggle growing my business with motherhood.
Where I’ve Been
Personally and professionally there have been big wins. We’ve made great strides with Sproutee, against all odds and with no childcare until the last quarter: getting into business with a pack of great new clients; relaunching our company site; bringing a new sister site and service near to launch; and enhancing our hosting business’s infrastructure are a few milestones. We’ve made great progress with the little guy who seems a healthy, confident toddler with top baby signing skills, a well-adjusted disposition, and an apparent willingness to persist when confronted with a problem (to the extent a tiny can do so). All while living in comfort and safety with a super partner in cosy wee house. More blessings than I could reasonably expect. And yet, it really REALLY hurts to have my BJJ atrophy to the extent that it has. Dear reader, you know BJJ isn’t just an art you leave at the door of the dojo, it is a mindset, a worldview – ugh as much as I cringe at the phrase – ‘a lifestyle’. It gets in your bones, in your heart and in your mind and is integrated into the day-to-day with: training BJJ, updating a training diary, daydreaming BJJ, blogging BJJ, watching BJJ and all the other obsessive stuff we get up to. It is part of your marrow, your tissues, your identity; certainly my identity has long been strongly informed by being a ‘martial artist’ and over the last 9 years by being a ‘BJJer’, more specifically. Now, not so much, and in 2013:
- I didn’t train BJJ as much as hoped (2 x week)
- I didn’t daydream about BJJ as much as hoped (perhaps an hour all year)
This all hurts as it goes right to the core of me and while I have gained so much, a big part of me has died, or perhaps gone into a medical coma, and bringing ‘Megatron’ back to life is proving to be as mighty a challenge as keeping my arms tight to the bod and getting onto my side when under big dudes’ side control.
Since the summer I’ve been able to train once a week pretty regularly. This is a lot better than never, but if I get a cold, a load of client-work, or my knee swells up (as it does from time to time), and I miss a class, there is a big gap to my next window of opportunity. Similarly, as BJJ-friends reading this will know, twice a week is ‘more than double’. That is, to me, the increase in retention between one session per week and two sessions per week is more marked than between two and three. Likewise, my post-training debrief into my training diary is much more cursory and hit and miss than in my previous life. This lack of mat time and mental focus really shows when I do get the chance to grapple and I can’t help feeling that I ‘suck’. This is the downer news and is a bummer, largely, because I think I assumed I would be close to back on form by the end of this year.
The situation vis a vis BJJ is not as bleak as I’m painting and while juggling total craziness I’m happy that in 2013:
- I did start training BJJ consistently
- I did post at least 1 blog a month
- I did keep the London BJJ Women’s Open Mat running, finding hostesses each quarter to make sure this time and space to train continued to be available (whole other milestone to actually be able to make an event).
Where I’m At
The good news is that I’ve ended the year in a much improved position in terms of my health and well-being. At the start of the year I was 71.5kgs and 24.5% fat; at the end of the year I’m 66kgs and 22% fat, so making good headway back to my prenatal 60kgs and 20% fat. Most of this improvement has been since the late summer when I started 2 x weekly personal training and 1 x weekly BJJ. The personal training is helping my overall recovery both from the pregnancy and the knee operation and I’m feeling stronger and more nimble every month. Of course the improved physicality is helping my BJJ; I’m not saying I’m trying to rely on attributes over technique, but if a sister can activate her core she’s going to have trouble executing her technique. I’m also pleased and thankful that I am getting my Friday BJJ as much as I can. I do have a pity-party for myself after most classes, lamenting my total skill-atrophy, and then I rub some dirt on it and come back the next week. Only one way to get better, but those of you who have had to take a BJJ-sabbatical for babies or injuries will know it can be disheartening to re-eat all the shit you thought you’d been through and moved past.
Where I’m Headed
Over the course of 2014, it’ll be all about keeping up the clean eating and personal training to help get back to my former lean-self. Alongside this will be hitting Friday BJJ as much as I can and working on a strategy to get to Dartford BJJ HQ during the week; we’re seriously considering a car and me finally getting a UK licence. It may still not be practical for me to get down there in light of parenting and business commitments (plus the ever-present spectre of sleep deprivation), but I am going to try to put structures in place to facilitate getting to a Dartford class on top of the Friday night session in Ilford. Two classes a week would make all the difference to retooling.
Sure, in the bigger picture maybe BJJ isn’t that big a deal and I can imagine people outside the art ridiculing my earnestness and focus on a ‘first world problem’ such as not feeling competent in BJJ as a purple belt at this time. That’s not really the point though. For me, BJJ is part of me and when I lost it I lost a big part of myself and it is vital to my sense of self and well-being that I bring it back into the balance of my life a bit more; it isn’t mutually exclusive to love my little man and the time we have together and want to be my own person (just really hard to implement). BJJ is taking a back seat to the business and the boy, and that will be status quo for the medium term, however assuming I can make the timing and commute to Dartford work, I feel that it is an achievable goal to get to 2 classes a week, and that would make a big difference to me as a martial artist.
What’s in it for you?
Yikes, this review is more than a little self-centred, is there anything for anyone else? I hope so. I hope reflecting honestly on how my life has changed in relation to BJJ and how that’s been hurtful and difficult for me (again, against a back drop of a whole lot of amazing), can support other new parents dealing with similar issues. Some folks have incredible local support systems or less intensive work commitments or easier access to their clubs or whatever boon of luck to get them back on form quickly after welcoming a new addition to the family. That’s brilliant and I love that for those people. Some of us, though, have commitments they do not/cannot subordinate to BJJ and the space where that sat in our lives before parenthood gets squeezed out and compressed. To those people, my brothers and sisters, I say, take heart BJJ is all about the long game. We’ll get there.
15 Jan 2014 @ 1:23 am
I’m excited that you’re back to blogging. I’ve missed your amazing voice, though absolutely understand why you’ve been somewhat absent. I think it’s hard when what you WANT and what you CAN do don’t quite align perfectly. Sadly, ideals only seem to exist on paper and pesky things like energy levels and other creatures demanding our time get in the way of that.
BJJ is the long con – not the short swindle. The marathon, not the sprint. It’s the 10 seasons of SG1, not a single one-off movie. Takes dedication and long term thinking. Speed bumps, my friend – here’s to making it over them!
15 Jan 2014 @ 1:11 pm
Thank you for the supportive message, Jiu Jiu, really appreciated! Parenthood has certainly highlighted the tensions between want and can, and the compression of resources and the need to constantly sublimate one’s ambitions, is happily made up for by peels of toddler laughter and working with a little to grow up noble and true 🙂 Doesn’t mean I don’t want to be my own person and I have carved out more Meg-space, which will hopefully mean, in BJJ terms, a post a month minimum and a wee bit more BJJ than last year.
When it gets on top of me, I often think about you and your struggles with weight, fitness and when you were going through your back injury. That example and that of some of my BJJ-mom idols helps with perspective. Absolutely the long con (but who doesn’t love to binge watch!) to mix your metaphors 😀
13 Feb 2014 @ 12:36 pm
It’s hard to juggle both bjj AND motherhood. Both, my husband and I, go to the same bjj academy and we have two kids. Once a week training is a must, twice a week for both of us is a logistic mindboggle 😉 Who, when, how goes to training 😉 But it works. The other thing we did, recently we moved to a house and on the top floor, we put 16 square meters of bjj mat 🙂 So if we can’t go to training, we do home training.
On the weight issue, I dropped couple of kg after second pregnancy thanks to gluten free diet. I am now 60kg, although I have to work on my strenght 😉
Lots of love, Kate 🙂
6 Mar 2014 @ 10:19 am
Thanks for your great comment. I’m really struggling to build in the 2 a week and not succeeding as well as you report. I am pretty much getting my once a week but running the business and child care availability conspire to make 2 unattainable for the most part.
My hubs is really supportive of my BJJ hobby and my health and fitness goals, but he doesn’t train (though he will uke for me sometimes) and so the mats that were once so well used in the basement are mostly for weights and stretching at the moment 🙁 Is a good thing toddlers are so amazing as that takes the edge off a bit, but I really REALLY miss my BJJ powers and look forward to regaining and expanding my BJJ skills over time.
On the upside my 2 PT sessions a week, which are more feasible to build-in due to close proximity and the ability to work around my schedule, rather than me working around a class schedule, are really helping me to get lean again. It is a bit of a slow burn but my back and core are stronger than pre-pregnancy – which is fab! – and my operated leg continues to improve. My trainer is keeping an eye on my food diary as this second 2% of fat is harder to cut and I need to raise my diet game.
Much love to you and you family too x