Friday, October 17, 2014

A New Adventure

In the last post, I mentioned a few new adventures. Well, the biggest one is linked to my earning the Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu.

If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that I've been enthusiastically practicing Jiu-Jitsu for the past year or so. To say that it has had a positive impact on my life is an understatement. I'm completely fascinated with the art and I am amazed at how the practice has had an impact on many aspects of my life - particularly my confidence. Having a boost in confidence has had an enormous impact on pretty much everything I do. Wanting to be good at it has made me focus on being healthy, of eating well, of resting, of being disciplined ... to some it may sound like a lot of hard work. However, what I've discovered is that when you have a passion, doing all those things that may seem like sacrifices to others just comes naturally to you. It's what makes you happy.

When I approach the mat, it intimidates me. I feel nervous because I don't know how I will perform. I know that in a few minutes I will have somebody heavier on top of me who is trying to put me in a submission hold. This intimidation, however, is what also fuels my excitement. It's like I'm doing an experiment on myself -- I want to know how I'll react. I want to see how calm I can remain under pressure. I want to see if I can execute the moves I've learned in the past to help me in the current situation. The intimidation helps me focus. It's what reminds me that to be good at something means more than just coming to one class and doing the moves. You've got to think about it, analyze it, and accept the challenges so that you can work to overcome them.

Since the move to London, I've been thinking really hard about what I want to do. I've always wanted to be a teacher. I knew when I was 16 and so I went on to pursue that line of work. My most fulfilling moments in life have been when I was able to help one of my students. It's a satisfaction that money can't buy. What's more is that I feel grateful to my students and totally blessed that I have had the opportunity to actually make a difference, no matter how small, in that person's life.

It's this feeling that has been on my mind since I moved to London. All I wanted to do was make a difference - in some shape or form.

... and now I've been given that opportunity.

There are no guarantees at the moment as the application process is lengthy and tough, but I'm studying and working towards completing the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Certification Program. In order to be eligible to even apply means that you have to earn a score of 90% or higher on your Blue Belt test (which I did), after which there are several other tasks you need to complete (e.g. videos of you doing certain moves, teaching certain classes etc), and it all culminates with a finally couple of days of training at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu headquarters in Torrance, CA.

Now, as I said, there are no guarantees. I need to perfect all the components of the training before I even get considered to go to CA in January ... plus, since I was accepted into the program kind of at the last minute, I only have half the amount of time (30 days) to get it all done ... but in my heart and in my mind, I want this so bad. As soon as I decided to apply and was accepted apply for the program (you can't just apply, you actually have to apply to apply!!), I haven't stopped smiling. It just feels like this is right for me. It feels like this could actually be the way I can fulfill my dreams of teaching and empowering others. How amazing would it be if I could pass on the very thing that has given me the strength and confidence to change my life? I am humbled by it all really. Even though I haven't been completely accepted or passed, just the fact that somehow I have ended up in this place where I could actually achieve something so significant makes me pause and feel so very blessed.

Wish me luck. It's a long road ahead.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fulfilling Wishes

It's October 16, 2014.

It's been many days since I've posted. I have been sick for the past 2 weeks and busy in between with many new exciting things.

First of all, this stupid flu/bronchitis is still lingering. I am getting better, but I have yet to have a cough-free day. It is SO annoying! At least I slept well last night - that was refreshing.

The illness has slowed down my activities big time. I barely moved for a couple of days and for the others I did the mildest forms of exercise and stretching. I went to Jiu-Jitsu class for the first time last Friday and went to the gym for the first time in 2 weeks yesterday ... so it's been slow.

Nutritionally, I've been doing well. Being on the Whole Life Challenge has helped me with this a lot (you can read about my progress here).

I did have one day of indulgence on my birthday, but what was interesting was that being off sugar and processed foods, grains, dairy etc. for 5 weeks really changed my taste as well as my cravings. Initially I thought I was going to go crazy eating and indulging, but it ended up being a much more controlled (by choice) day -- and that was actually very satisfying.

I am definitely starting to find my feet in terms of settling down in London. The house is coming together. My training schedule, even though slightly off right now due to my illness, is pretty much set. I've got my menus and meal planning pretty much down. It's looking good.

In addition to that, I achieved my first big goal, which was to earn my Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu!!! I trained really hard, so when I got my results of my test (evaluated by video through the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California) I was over the moon!

It was the highlight of my birthday celebrations :)

Another year older and I couldn't have felt younger or happier!

I'm looking forward to another year of adventures! Stay tuned :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Down with the Flu

I have barely moved since Friday. I felt a cold coming on since earlier last week, but it all really hit me on Friday morning ... I've improved slightly in that every single inch of my body doesn't hurt, but other than that I'm still sniffling, coughing, and feeling blah in general.

Quick (belated) review of September:

Looking back on my September goals I did ok. I definitely could have done better.
Mind: I finished my book submission chapter & I read Zen in the Martial Arts
Body: I completed only 8 lifting sessions; I chose to skip a few in order to be rested for my blue belt test; I did my HIIT sessions as well as my BJJ sessions and definitely hit 27 total workouts even though my step count didn't come close to 65,000 per week (mainly coz' a lot of my sessions, e.g. yoga and weight lifting are intense but don't require a lot of steps)
In terms of food I've been doing great.
Soul: I'm really happy I've been able to incorporate 3 1-hour yoga sessions a week plus do daily stretching
Life: Shelving is up -- and that's about it!

I didn't count on so much of my life coming to a standstill as I worked on my writing. For about 10 days I barely did anything aside from workout for an hour or two and then stay glued to my desk. I was not too thrilled about that, but it's my fault for not working on my chapter from beforehand.

October has started off slow for me, particularly since I haven't been well.

I've decided to take the next few days off from any major workouts - just some basic exercises until I feel better. After that I think I'll be able to better focus on my goals for the rest of the month.

Two photos from my Blue Belt Test drills 

preparing to defend against an aggressive opponent

going for an armbar

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fish Burgers

These burgers have been fantastic to have in the fridge during the week. I haven't tried freezing them yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll hold ok. It'll be great to have a batch done over the weekend and then have backups in the freezer for a quick meal.

I've done this recipe with canned tuna as well as with canned salmon. They've come out great both times. They're quite filling. I've had them in different ways depending on how hungry I was feeling - sometimes just the burgers themselves, other times I'd have it with salad, or I've made them a bit bigger and put them over a grilled portobello mushroom.

salmon burger over a grilled portobello mushroom with lettuce and tomato 

tuna burgers with a side salad of avocado and cherry tomatoes

2 cans tuna fish or salmon
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon mixed herbs
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup mixed vegetables (I like to use a mixture of chopped bell peppers and peas)
generous squeeze of lemon
extra virgin rapeseed oil for frying

1. Beat the eggs
2. Mix together the fish, almond flour, and spices
3. Mix the beaten eggs into the fish mix
4. Mix in the vegetables and the lemon
5. Shape into patties (number depends on how large you want the burgers)
6. Fry

Nutritional info: (per burger; based on the recipe above making 6 burgers and including 2 T of oil for frying) 

Tuna burgers:
210 calories
18 g. protein
5.2 g. carbohydrates (2 g. fiber)
13 g. fat (2 g. sat fat)

Salmon burgers:
185 calories
17 g. protein
5.2 g. carbohydrates (2 g. fiber)
12 g. fat (1.5 g. sat fat)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writing and Planning

I've been so focused on my writing over the past 2 weeks that I've hardly been on my blog at all. I am such a good procrastinator that I knew it would be wiser for me to stay away than to come online. There are already enough distractions with Facebook and Instagram etc. etc.

Many years ago, one of my friends was going on a first date. It had come about rather suddenly and two days before the date, she exclaimed, 'How can I lose 10 pounds in 2 days?!'

We all chuckled because we knew it was impossible ... and the of course, many good intentions were made about planning ahead next time and not waiting until the last minute ...

Hmmmm -- can you guess how that went?

Today I submitted the chapter I've been working on for the past 2 weeks. In all actuality, I probably really worked on it for 7 out of the past 14 days - those were the long at-my-desk-for-12-hours-straight kind of days. I've known about this deadline for months now. Of course I had a lot going on - packing up my house in Kuwait, moving, adjusting, coping with family issues ... but the truth is, I really could have worked on this earlier. I could have paced myself. At the same time, I couldn't help but think - well, actually all you really need to write is 1 week seeing as that's when you got most (all) the work done ...

I know that's not a good attitude to have, but it definitely crossed my mind more than once! No matter how much time there is to plan, it's the 72 hours before the deadline that are the most frantic and productive.

This last minute work flurry has been my habit ever since I was young -- I think it's time to start trying to change.

I think not seeing immediate results to your efforts or not feeling immediate consequences to your actions can be quite difficult to cope with or overcome.

It felt like it took so much for me to get to the point where I could say 'At least I don't hate it' in relation to my writing. It's a very tough mental struggle to go through.

The same thing happens with my workouts.

Having the patience to stick to a plan is an important and useful skill to develop. I think getting through those hurdles is when true change begins and when real strength starts to build.

I've found that my weight has plateaued. No matter what I do, I can't seem to get those numbers on the scale to go down. It's on my mind all the time.

I know that it's easy to get bogged down with feelings of negativity and failure so I do focus on things I've achieved -- making notes of my progress after each workout helps me actually SEE that I am improving - whether it's getting a bit faster or lifting a little heavier or even feeling more flexible. It's all improvement and it's all part of the bigger picture of getting healthy.

However it's still hard. It's hard to reconcile with the fact that I've been following all the WLC guidelines to a T but this past week my weight has been all over the place.

I need to remind myself that the Whole Life Challenge is not a weight loss challenge. It's a tool to use to help you figure out what works for you and what doesn't. This is the challenge. This is what it's all about.

You've got to write down what you're doing, evaluate your progress, and adjust your actions accordingly.

The most important thing: Don't give up. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

FitBit Faults

I haven't been wearing my FitBit for the past few days. Ever since it stopped syncing properly with MyFitnessPal I started to get annoyed. I also realized that with the types of exercises I do - weight lifting and a lot of jiujitsu, I am actively working out but I'm not really logging any steps - particularly for jiujitsu.

I had become so focused on trying to hit 10,000 steps a day that I didn't take into any consideration the types of exercises. Instead, I was getting frustrated that even after working out for 2 or more hours, I hardly had any steps to indicate my effort.

I do like having it to track my steps. I'm just going to have to be a bit more lenient with the numbers and rely on myself more for accurately noting the intensity and effort of my workouts. Daily step counts have definitely not been the best measure of my efforts. It was important for me to come to terms with this because I was starting to obsess over the numbers -- even all this time it is easy to get sidetracked by numbers and comparisons with others. As soon as I realized that I was losing focus of the bigger picture, I took off my FitBit and just did what I had to do. Now that I've been without it for a few days, I definitely feel better.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Priorities and Discipline

I feel like the past 2 weeks have really put  my discipline to the test -- and since I'm blogging instead of writing my chapter, you can see that I haven't always succeeded. Still, I have been trying.

This week has been especially difficult as I've been trying to stay on top of my meals with a lot of home cooking -- it's all been great, but I do think I've spent way too much time in the kitchen. I need to maybe cook in bigger batches or find something quicker/easier to make.

I turned up the focus and intensity during jiujitsu training to prepare for my blue belt test. I scaled back my weight training to make sure I'm not too sore for the belt test. I modified my workout times/types in order to get them done and sit down at my desk and write ...

So there's been a lot of adjusting. As much as I'd love to have a perfect, static schedule, it's just never going to happen, so I need to be flexible and adapt.

It has been hard for me to get back to academic writing. I'm still not fully set up in my attic office. Most of my research books are still in storage. I don't have access to a proper academic library ... and of course there's the writing itself. It's such a struggle ... My mind is not focused because all I want to do is workout, blog, or cook. Still, I need to put my head down and do it. It may not be a physical task, but the mind over matter focus still comes into play here.

So now that I already went to Muay Thai class at 6:30 a.m., Yoga class at 7:30 a.m., came back home, showered, ate breakfast, and wrote this blog post there is officially nothing more for me to procrastinate with -- so I'm off to write!

and for today