Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Changing Weight Classes

15 to Go
At the beginning of this year, I began a journey. As I describe below, I was losing a battle with my weight. Thanks to BJJ, I have turned the tide and no longer feel defined by my belly. The following post was originally submitted back in March 2008 on ProElite.com. I entered it in the Type in or TapouT writing contest for a chance to get published in TapouT magazine (hence the MMA emphasis). To my surprise, I placed third nationally losing out ultimately to someone who was able to interview a pro fighter.

I don’t want to fight Chuck Liddell or Tito Ortiz. Wanderlei and Shogun would kill me. What the hell am I doing? These were perhaps some of the most motivating thoughts I have ever had.

Now the reality is that I will never be in a position where facing off against the premier light heavyweights in the world is possible, but imagining that it could happen has helped me to reach some substantial personal goals, on my way to even more.

Near the end of 2007, I was sitting in my house one morning during the Christmas break. Like many Americans, I was on the couch shoveling copious amounts of fatty, calorie loaded foods down my gullet. In a moment of feeling particularly lethargic I decided to fish the scale out of my bathroom cabinet and see just where I stood.

To put things into perspective, I am thirty two years old and stand 5’7”. I used to compete in Tae Kwon Do tournaments and was generally in great shape. The last decade or so has seen me working in jobs that are less than physical. Years of working in a stressful industry, getting no exercise, and gorging myself on the worst possible foods had culminated in a belly could shade groundhogs and prevent
spring from coming in on time.

I plopped myself on the scale and beheld a number that at first made me think the scale was broken or out of calibration. It has been years since I was actively participating in Tae Kwon Do and walked around in the 150 range, but I can’t possibly be that much heavier, can I?

That dastardly digital display read 195. “I’m only 5’7” and I’m almost 200 pounds”. Shit. When did this happen? I used to be in shape, I used to be thin and healthy. When did I turn into this? Why didn’t I see what was happening and why didn’t I do anything to stop it?

Being a rabid MMA fan for years, I found myself immediately putting my girth in perspective. I thought about the fact that if I were to be dropped into the octagon right at that moment, I would have to face someone like Chuck Liddell or Tito Ortiz. I would weigh in at light heavyweight and be forced to go up against guys that are well over six feet tall and in incredible shape. Those guys exemplify what 200 pounds should look like, not me.

From that moment on I decided to make the commitment to get down to 150 pounds so I could face off against guys like KenFlo, BJ and Spencer Fisher without cutting weight and with notice, I could cut down to the realm of Uriah Faber. The ass whooping would be no less violent or humiliating but at least the guys would be
in relative proportion to me.

I had signed up as a member at the Gracie Barra school in my area two months earlier in October but had not gone in 2 months because I was out of shape and embarrassed at how hard it was for me to get through the warm-ups let alone the entire session. I knew that any plan to get back in shape would have to include things that I love, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA.

I sat myself down and made a plan. First I looked at my diet and cut out all of the crap. I dedicated myself to breaking my Dr. Pepper addiction and abandoning all the “foods” that had gotten me where I was. I began to focus on lean proteins and fresh fruits and veggies.

With my diet under control, I thought about how I could ensure that I was getting the exercise I needed. I formulated a plan to have my gi clean and ready to go daily so no matter how late I got off of work, I could still make it to the gym and get my butt kicked.

I purchased a new home gym system for strength training and to augment my Jiu-Jitsu and MMA workouts. In my weight room I put up photos of Chuck, Tito, Shogun and Wanderlei. Being able to see these guys as I worked out helped me to keep my goals visualized and to remind me that the faster I got myself out of their weight class, the better. The beginning of the year came quickly, and I felt that I was ready for the challenge.

Monday, January 7 2007 was my official starting day. A quick check on the scale in the morning confirmed that I was still a light heavyweight at 190 pounds. I began eating the way I had planned and got myself to the gym for my first Jiu-Jitsu session in more than two months. I was terrified.

Kazeka Muniz, my Gracie Barra head instructor is a phenomenal trainer who has recently worked with and cornered fighters like Michael Bisping. As it turned out Kazeka was away working with professional fighters, getting them ready for fights. But the school is world class and every instructor is amazing. That first night back was brutal and I thought I wouldn’t make it through a few times.

When it was over, I was so excited on the way home. I knew that I would hurt like hell the next day but that pain meant I was closer to my goal. Since that first night back, I have not missed more than two nights in a row and have received my first promotional stripe.

I started losing weight at a good pace. I weigh myself every Monday and by the 21st of January I had reached a milestone, 185. That day I changed the pictures on my wall. I was now a middleweight. I hung pictures of Rich Franklin, Dean Lister and Anderson Silva. And who wants to fight Anderson Silva when their out of shape? Great motivation.

I continued doing things they way I have been and on February 25th I reached Welterweight. Changing the wall yet again to reflect my new weight class, GSP, Matt Hughes and Matt Serra became my new training partners. With a new focus and a noticeably changing body, I pressed on.

It is now early March and I am down to 165. I am ten pounds away from light weight and 15 away from my goal. I have started searching for my last round of photos to help me reach my 150 pound goal. Knowing that I can achieve my goals when I set my mind to it, create a plan and persevere has done wonders for me. I have added another goal to the list. I want to begin competing in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and I know now that I can do it. My overall health has improved, my cardio ability is off the charts compared to when I started and most importantly, I am having a great time.

I give all the thanks to my trainers and teammates at Gracie Barra and to the MMA fighters who have adorned my wall to keep my focused on what I was doing. My wife Sheri has also been an unbelievable source of inspiration and support, without her I probably would have slipped in my diet or skipped a class here and there. She keeps me honest and is helping to keep me healthy. I’ll report again when I hit 150.

Since I wrote this original post, I have maintained the weight loss. Which I am very pleased about. It has been 8 months and I am at about 163-165 depending on the day. I feel that I'm at a decent weight but I could still stand to shed that last little bit. That's why I decided to post this now. I'm setting a goal to see what I can do if I rededicate myself from here to year end. I have been in a maintenance mode, which has been very easy, so stepping it up to hit the goal should be attainable. Especially with a very public accountability system, like weekly updates here.
Wish me Luck!

*P.S. to avoid confusion KnuckleUp West Coast used to be Gracie Barra SoCal


Sir. Fobos said...

Dude, total congradulations is due to you on your significant weight loss. If it wasn't for McDonalds and their damn tasty Big Macs, then I might aspire to lose weight like you have. However, I can never turn down a Number 1 Supersized with a Coke. That's probably why I walk around at 220 and would be crushed at the hands of Fedor if I was ever suddenly 'dropped' into the cage to fight at my weight class. Fedor, ya, he'd kill me and then go kill a bear and skin that bear with his teeth while making fun of it's mother whom he made tap by an armbar earlier in the day because he was bored punching a redwood tree which was over 500 years old and completely petrified, not because of age but because of Fedor punching it. Good luck fighting BJ Penn.

Anonymous said...

This is good writing as well as entertaining.

Alas, I have never lost weight by training BJJ. It doesn't matter how many times a week I have trained. But my endurance was absolutely amazing when I trained three times a week. That was worth it alone.

I've had my best matches during those times because I would not subconsciously allow myself to be tapped if I was not tired and I would have barnburners.