It was completely out of the ‘blue’ and almost three months later, I still can’t believe it really.
Around this time last year I hurt my back on a trip to London and wasn’t training – or very sporadically – for most of the season. I finally made a comeback about three weeks before the season ended, and we went into summer break, which was a bummer. But I kept up training at the weekly open mats and vowed to make this current season the one where I knuckled down and showed my coaches what they needed to see to award me my blue. I was actually really excited to make this re-commitment to improving my jiu jitsu. I even bought sports tape on Amazon in the car on our way to the first class of the season, to refresh my white belt stripes. I understood at the end of that class why my boyfriend was oddly, casually discouraging me from buying the tape (“€5? Oh no I’m pretty sure you can buy it cheaper at the pharmacy…”) because, surprise! Blue belt!
I cried of course. Asked my coach if he was for real.. apparently yes he was!
So after six years of training BJJ, sometimes very committed, sometimes not, here I am. A very nooby blue belt. Stepping onto the mat for my first class as blue was really bloody weird and I was so self conscious. I still am a few months later. Of course as luck would have it, I’m currently injured again, some weird ongoing neck pain.
But I can’t wait to get back on the mat and back to my vow of knuckling down and training hard this season.. not as a white belt but as a freakin’ BLUE.
I have had two dentist-made sports mouthguards in the six years I have been training jiu jitsu (on and off), and I rated them pretty highly. Just knowing they were a custom fit, and by someone who knew teeth gave me such peace of mind and confidence when I used them.
Alas, they were a little bulky and not cheap (not covered by my Australian health insurance). I lost the first one.. the second is hiding in my house somewhere probably, or maybe it got lost during my move from London to Strasbourg. Or maybe I left it at my old gym.. who knows! My teeth have moved since I got it done, so it didn’t fit very well anymore anyway.
I moved on to a Sisu mouthguard after seeing another girl rocking one on the mat and being amazed at how easily she was drinking water – and talking – through it. It barely looked like she was even wearing a mouthguard – no bulky mouth going on.
When I received it, I was dubious it would be that great – it looked like just this thin piece of plastic with holes in it! But once I got it moulded successfully (took more than a few tries – even following the YouTube video), I loved it. I had a few accidental mouth knocks with it in while rolling, and didn’t feel like my teeth were more vulnerable than when using a thicker mouthguard.
Once again my teeth moved though, it’s not fitting properly anymore and has disappeared behind the couch somewhere.
I plan to buy another one sometime.
On Black Friday last year I snagged an Opro mouthguard on sale, so that’s my current one. I had scored a free Opro in an online giveaway a year or so earlier, and liked – then lost – that one!
It’s back to bulky with an Opro compared to the Sisu, there are some holes in it however, so you don’t get so much of the saliva build-up that I had with the dentist-made mouthguards, and drinking through it isn’t so bad.
I do love how snug and cushioned my teeth feel in the Opro. The cradle that it comes with for fitting is a really good idea, and I got the fit right on the first try! I bought the red case separately not realising the Opro mouthguard came with one anyway, doh. But it is super nice to use.
My blogging and BJJ training remained as inconsistent as ever this year. But as I watch the beautiful final sunset of the year from my kitchen window, and listen to the random pops, cracks and whistles of fireworks going off (a tad early) all over Neudorf, I figure I’ll post the obligatory 2017-in-review.
The year started with some uncertainty because I was on a six-month assignment contract here in France. We were hopeful it would turn into a permanent French contract and télétravail arrangement – and I’m happy to say it did! But it was a stressful few months of ‘unknowns.’ I was consumed by ‘what ifs’ and wanting to make plans for circumstances that we weren’t even in yet. My voice of reason, Yannick, calmed me down countless times. The day that email came through about my successful transfer to my employer’s French company was a huge weight off – I could finally settle in and really call Strasbourg home.
We both became home workers which was unexpected and not entirely practical being in a one-bedroom apartment, but we quickly worked out a solution that is perfect for both of us. We rented a desk at Panorama Coworking. So now we alternate days working from home and ‘the office,’ and I think it suits our different personalities to a tee. I’m very much a people person, and while I enjoy my working days at home in my PJs, I really do love the routine of putting a face on, cycling to work and being in that sociable environment.. which sometimes includes doggehs!
We moved house. It’s something that happened a bit sooner than we planned, because friends were leaving their awesome, two-bedroom apartment closer to the city centre and we had the opportunity to snag it before it hit the market. I was slightly apprehensive – I was really looking forward to apartment inspections and searching for that ‘perfect’ new home and neighbourhood for us. But after another look at this Neudorf pad and comparing it to listings available at the time, I was quickly convinced to go for it. Six months later – no regrets. No lamp shades up yet either but you know, we’re getting there.
I lost a beloved aunt to cancer and it still doesn’t feel very real. Maybe because it happened in Australia and I wasn’t there to say goodbye and feel the impact it had on my family. Maybe because at the time, I was swamped at work and struggling just to stay on top of a big project while packing up to move, so I pushed my grief down a bit. I received a card from her partner at Christmas and it reduced me to tears. She really did influence my life in ways I didn’t appreciate until she was in her final weeks. I’m sad Yannick will never get to meet her.
I faced some fears like skiing down a mountain which I realllllly didn’t think I’d ever do. I had one ‘meh’ lesson on Mount Buller a few years ago where the instructor told me to head back down on the chair lift, because I wasn’t capable of going down the actual mountain like everyone else. So, I’m really proud of me and keen to do it again sometime this ski season!
I avoided facing other fears like speaking French, and I’m a bit disappointed in myself for that. I continued lessons this year and even got myself a tutor. While my French comprehension is definitely improving, I’m still a baby when it comes to speaking. I just don’t do it much, and when I do it’s a few lame ‘bakery’ sentences. I don’t know what I need to finally jump off the platform and get progressing on the talky front. Maybe more alcohol.
I got my ass back to BJJ Globetrotters campand I’m so happy I did! It was an awesome, awesome week in Leuven, Belgium with a fab bunch of people and super impressive instructors. The summer camp was so fun that I quickly lost interest in blogging about each day as you can see, and decided to just focus on the training and socialising. A few lessons learnt for next time: Do fewer classes and get more sleep if you want to have some good nights out and not be falling asleep into your high-strength Belgian beer by 10pm. Oh, and don’t buy the meal plan, it will leave you feeling chained to the gym from 9am – 6pm to get your money’s worth. And the food wasn’t that good anyway.
I put on 10 kilos of cheese. Ok so maybe it’s not quite 10 kgs but it’s close, and maybe it’s not ALL in cheese but, it’s a lot, and I’m still wondering how best to go about losing it. ‘Eat less move more’ for sure. I’ve been thinking about signing up to The Body Coach’s program because I love his workouts, but surely it’s all just common sense stuff that I don’t need to spend 100 quid to hear?
A few things to ‘blame’ I guess: Lifestyle change – amazing how few steps you can take in a day when you work from home. Inconsistent BJJ training – and right now none, because back injury. I also got the Mirena IUD at the start of the year, and one of the common side effects is weight gain. I do feel like I’m hormonal eating all the sweet things waaaaay more often than I ever have before. Living with a sweet tooth doesn’t help. Anyway, enough with the excuses. We head to Australia mid-April so, there’s my deadline to be back at a more comfortable weight, which for me is 70 kgs.
I had friends and family come to visit which meant a whole damn lot to me, since quite frankly Strasbourg is on no one’s Euro Trip bucket list. First was Pete, a Swinburne radio school bud who works the European tennis circuit each year. He made an overnight stop on his way to Germany, and we had a fun day playing tourist.
A few months after reconnecting at Leuven Summer Camp, the lovely ‘Karla Kimura’ hopped on a bus from Heidelberg and spent a weekend with us.
And my sister and her boyfriend stayed as well! This was thanks to there being a viable way for them to get to Strasbourg from Bristol for a -48 hour visit, and then head on to Malta. I was so so happy to have the chance to show my sister beautiful Alsace.
I got to hang with the Fightzone morning crew once again, not in gis this time but all dolled up for one of the guys’ weddings. We had a brilliant weekend in Great Yeldham. The dampener came Monday morning in London when, three minutes into warm up, I messed up my back. So that’s why I’m not training right now.
All in all a pretty great year with more highs than lows. I can’t wait to take Yannick on his first trip to Australia in 2018. I also have some specific goals for the next 12 months and am determined to achieve them, and break some bad habits as I do.
Wow, my first two months in Strasbourg have FLOWN! It’s amazing how settled you can become in eight weeks… London? Where? Did I actually live there for three years? Really??
Although, when I headed back there recently for a few days, it felt like I was just returning from a regular visit to see the man; the only difference being that I was staying at a hotel and not my cosy old East London share flat.
But back to my new hood! Here’s a little highlight reel.
I had the warmest welcome courtesy of my boyfriend’s mum, and I may have cried a bit when she gave me a big hug and welcomed me to my “new home in Alsace” with this amazing brunch spread.
I’m taking French classes at the Universite Populaire, and unlike the classes I took in London, this course is virtually solely in French (duh) and the students don’t share a common language. Though when we’re REALLY stuck, most of us understand if the teacher switches to English to explain.
While my reading and comprehension is definitely improving – thanks also to reading children’s books – I’m not feeling overly confident trying to use French day-to-day, and know I need to be braver. However it’s tricky when my understanding is still so limited. If I throw out a sentence in French I usually don’t comprehend the reply (unless I’m in a store and can kind of guess). I feel like it’s a bit of a waste of everyone’s time so right now there’s lots of “Bonjour” and “Merci” .. and I don’t get much further before needing to sheepishly ask “en anglais s’il vous plaît?” Baby steps.
I joined a new BJJ club which is the same one that I have been visiting for the past two years. Everyone is really friendly, and learning jiu jitsu in French is easy in some ways, challenging in others. Of course it’s so visual which makes it easy, but while I now recognise the words for knee and foot for example I often miss if the instructor is saying like, “never do x this way.”
I’m so grateful for training partners with the patience to explain things again to me in English.
Holy HECK, I was frantically thinking about how to get off Europa Park’s Blue Fire Megacoaster even as we were strapped in and making our way out of the loading bay. It was seriously OUT of my theme park ride comfort zone!
Europa Park is pretty amazing (in saying that I’ve never been to Disneyland), and if you’re ever in this part of the world it’s totally worth a visit (I found this article after our day there, which sums the place up nicely).
The park was decked out for Halloween when we went (with a crazy-huge number of pumpkins lining the walkways). I’ve never been one for the super thrillseeker rides but this time decided to push myself … I won’t lie, the recent tragedy at Dreamworld was playing on my mind a bit that day.
I knew when I first moved to Strasbourg that I couldn’t be working five days a week from our small apartment – I’d go a bit mad – so I joined a co-working office and for about €10 a day I can work in a really fun, open plan environment with a great bunch of people, and they have frequent four-legged visitors! Much cute!
I’m making new friends because again, I’d go a bit mad without my own circle here, so I joined Girl Gone International and went to my first catch up with them in my second week in town; a brunch and spa day, such bliss! As the name suggests, they’re (mostly) international gals who have found their way to Strasbourg for various reasons. A truly lovely, supportive group I’m so happy to be part of.
I’m getting Christmassy because how can I NOT when I’m living in the Capitale de Noël? Tree’s up, presents are mostly bought and Christmas markets visited, multiple times. It’s really a great time of year to be in Strasbourg.
You know it’s the season for pretty coloured belts and shiny new stripes when your social feeds blow up with photos of said belts and stripes, and heartfelt posts about the BJJ ‘journey’, amazing coaches, teams, God and next chapters etc.
My own version of the above happened two months ago (early, since I was moving countries before the next Fight Zone grading). And while I mentioned it on Instagram and Twitter at the time I neglected to post about it on this frequently-neglected blog so, here tis:
My third stripe!
Four years in the making, and my second stripe from Bruno Ferreira and Marco Canha. I was super chuffed and a tad emotional, obvs.
I’ve posted before about my progression hang ups, and finally feeling like I could push them aside and just enjoy training without being all angsty. This stripe was such a surprise, and reinforced to me that I WILL get better, slowly but surely, one class at a time, and while having fun.
It was also a really nice way to say goodbye to a club that has been my home and family for three years. I’ll be visiting Fight Zone relatively often I’m sure but, I’m still sad to have left the morning crew and such great coaches.
Sending a big congrats to everyone receiving new belts and stripes this grading season!
I definitely had higher expectations of myself at the start of this month, in setting my “exercise everyday” challenge. In hindsight, was it too ambitious? No. Was I just too busy? Maybe, not really? I had a good number of lazy days, that’s what happened basically.
I am ending the month on the right note at least. Exercise ALL the remaining days until Malta! Unless I don’t..
Day 28: Not hungover per se, but definitely feeling the effects of a day in the sun with booze and not enough water. After spending all day working from bed in my PJs, I got into my running gear and jogged around (some of) Victoria Park. Finished with sit ups and burpees at the outdoor gym.
Day 29: Monday BJJ with the morning crew. Best start to the week. After running yesterday I was even less bendy than usual, bit ouch, but an enjoyable ouch.
Day 30: Jose was all about the pad work in Muay Thai class this morning. Only 10 minutes of other cardio hell instead of the usual hour+. I got paired with a southpaw which, along with needing to remember some long-ish combos certainly got my brain firing.
“How long now until you’re at the beach?” My flatmate Viktor doesn’t read my blog but he knows ALL about my fitness challenge – mostly due to all the extra washing I’ve been doing. 20 days to go! I’ve had a few ‘nope’ days so far, and let’s be honest there’s probably a few more ahead, but I’m already exercising more frequently than usual so, winning right?
Day 13: Very much an Amsterdam recovery day – and by that I mean recovery from two big work days. I slept a lot, but I did muster the energy to do a hula hoop workout, which my neglected-of-late hoop was surely pleased about.
Day 14: Ran to Mile End Park for some hill sprints. No Matt to keep me going but, there were two other guys already there doing the same thing. I did more than I would have all on my own, simply because I would have felt silly starting after and finishing before them! Finished with some skipping and bootstrappers.
I’m really excited to be able to train three times a week now at my favourite time of day. The gym has also expanded to upstairs meaning a third mat, and a weights room.
Day 16: So Muay Thai coach Jose was in punisher mode this morning; 1.5 hours of sprints, punching and kicking drills, squat-kicking, more running, dreaded burpees and more. And I managed to knock myself in the head with a 7kg medicine ball.. I’m good like that.
Day 17: Morning crew BJJ class FTW!
Day 18: Working from home day since I was heading to Strasbourg (via Basel) in the evening. Was a tad stressed and hadn’t finished packing fully, so was up early to do that, then left mid-afternoon for the long tube trek to Heathrow. Needless to say, the exercisy didn’t happen. Flight delay did though, annoyingly. Not overly long but, saw me arrive after midnight. Bleh!
There’s nothing like an upcoming beach holiday to get you motivated! Do I care about being “bikini body ready?” Nope. But I DO want to feel comfortable getting about in next-to-nothing in Malta for two weeks, and right now I don’t.
So, here’s me holding myself to account; nothing is stopping me from making sure I get some kind of workout in for the next 30 days.
I’m also back on the MyFitnessPal app for good measure, it’s a pain, but tracking what I eat and inputting my exercise definitely helps me to keep it up.
Day 1: Morning Muay Thai class. 1.5 hours. Lots of pad combinations, short set of sprints at the end.
Day 2: BJJ with the morning crew. 30 mins drilling technique, 35 mins sparring rounds.
Day 3: Morning Muay Thai class. Jose began the class by asking if any of us were sick – then he proceeded to punish us with a crazy 1 hour 15 min workout. Timed pad combos broken up with burpees and sprints and squats and planks and other horrors. I dread how my body will feel tomorrow.
Day 4: Morning crew BJJ. As expected I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck from yesterday’s session. 30 min drills, we had to stack each other and it’s hard for me on a normal day, but after a few days of exercise in a row my body is about as bendy as a steel rod. 30 mins rolling rounds, got my nose squished, a close-but-not-quite sub on Matt and now it’s off to work.
Day 5: TGIF! Had a much-needed sleep in after four early mornings in a row. Going to get my fitness on by walking home from my work in Holborn Circus. Takes about an hour, and my body wants something low impact today.
Update: Walking home successful, got a little wet (didn’t bring a brolly OR a weatherproof to work today, doh!). But I scored a rainbow for my troubles.
Day 6: I would normally hill run with Matt but that didn’t happen, instead my friend Anthony was doing his practical assessment to be a Personal Trainer and asked if I could be his guinea pig – no worries! He passed with flying colours, and I worked up a sweat. 👍🏻
Day 7: There were a few activities I could have easily done today, but for stupid, mostly lazy reasons, I didn’t. Fail day.
On a bright note I did catch up with an old friend, and I smashed out three freelance articles.
Day 8: Another nope day. I even packed my Muay Thai gear for evening class, but tired and cranky won.
Day 9: Backto it! Amazing how much better you feel after a good sleep. Just finished BJJ class with the morning crew. Didn’t get a sub but did have side control and mount on Pete for a solid time in rolling rounds. This rarely happens with anyone so, pretty happy.
Day 10: Ashamed to say it was another nope day. Traveling for work, got to the hotel late and smashed a wheel of Dutch cheese instead of smashing out some sit-ups.
Day 11: Well I didn’t pig on cheese today, but I didn’t work out either. We did a two-hour Amsterdam walking tour so I guess it wasn’t all meetings and work meals.
Day 12: Got up early and took my skipping rope to Vondelpark for 30 mins of skipping and sprints. Feeling great for getting sweaty!
So the RollTec Rashguard went live on Kickstarter today;“the world’s first wearable technology made for grapplers.” What do you think? For me, I think wearing a rashguard with a sensor in it when I roll would confirm what I already know; I spend waaaay too much time and energy trying to defend myself from under mount and side control!
But I see how it could prove to be quite the motivator, and maybe even help me out of my long-term-white-belt funk.
I’m not really on the wearable tech-train (I don’t own an Apple watch or a Fitbit) but I DO like using the MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper apps on my iPhone. When I use them consistently they give me that nudge to stay on track with my good eating, or extend my park runs by just a little longer each time.
So, maybe wearing the RollTec Rashguard and seeing my position breakdowns (the four fundamentals) and roll timeline on the accompanying app will motivate me to break out of my usual routine?
The app’s “suggested technique” videos are appealing, often I want to change things up on the mat, but am not quite sure what would make sense to try differently.
A £68+ pledge ($99 USD) gets you the rashguard and sensor (with case) – more than a standard rashguard price but you know, wearable tech
The rashguard can be worn whether you train with or without a Gi – that’s good if you’re like me, and don’t do much no-gi training
Removable, USB-rechargeable sensor in a protective case – but the padded pouch that you put the sensor in, is attached to the rashguard, so it’s not interchangeable if you don’t happen to like the rashguard or need a fresh one
75%-80% motion detection accuracy
Only you have to wear the RollTec Rashguard, your partner doesn’t need to
Bluetooth range for the rashguard is about 30 feet – this might be an issue if you don’t keep your smartphone in the room with you when you train?
Am I going to order a RollTec Rashguard?
Undecided. Part of me is inclined to wait and see, and maybe jump in when they release version 2 which, I’d imagine, would likely have greater accuracy and added functionality. Then again, version 2 won’t happen if version 1 doesn’t, and it would be a shame not to see this ‘smart’ rashguard brought to life.
There are lower amounts you can pledge to show your support without buying the rashguard so, either way I’ll definitely be supporting it.