Friday, March 11, 2011

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I was finally cleared to train a few weeks ago. The first week I only trained 3 days and I couldn't get through the drilling portion of class before my shoulder and hip started to hurt. By the completion of 2-3 sparring rounds I couldn't wait any longer and would need to ice immediately. That was 3 weeks ago and even though I had literally no strength and was in pain most of the time, I was just happy to be back on the mat.

Then 2 weeks ago, Ryan and Seph went out of town and I ended up teaching every class, 4-5 classes per day. I was so exhausted from teaching that I only attempted to train 3 days. I felt better physically, but was getting at least a day between each session and was only rolling 3 rounds with carefully selected partners.

Last week Michelle Nicolini and her student Priscila Prandini were in town for Michelle's seminar. We trained hard the first 2 days despite also beginning my first weight training workout in years. Needless to say, my body gave out after day 3 of hard training and lifting. I took the next 2 days off, only rolling one round with Priscila on Saturday and only drilling the techniques Sunday at the seminar. Monday we lifted and I rolled hard with the guys that night then Tuesday I got in 3 hard rounds with Michelle and one with Seph. I was sore as hell but didn't want to rest one more minute of time while Michelle was here.

Michelle and Priscila left Tuesday afternoon so I took a much needed break Tuesday night. We lifted again on Wednesday and I took Wed night off. I thought I would be good to go by last night and was looking forward to hard training after the time off. I went 2x7 minute rounds with Ostap and one round with Seph in the middle. I should feel good because Ryan actually watched all my rounds for the first time in a while and he complimented me on the improvement in my movement and techniques (a rarity from him). But by the end of the last round, my whole left arm was throbbing and visibly shaking, and my whole right leg was throbbing, from my low back to my ankle. My body was betraying me despite all my hard work and there was nothing I could do about it.

I was so excited at first to simply be back on the mats that I didn't care when someone passed my guard because I couldn't fight back with my right leg or that I couldn't secure anything with my left arm because it wasn't strong enough to grip tightly. But, I am ready to train again for real. I want to trust that my right hook is going to work when I attempt to use it. I want to believe in the stability of my left shoulder (and by extension, arm). I want to roll hard without stopping to avoid a certain direction because I know my body can't go there.

I know that part of my frustration lies in the fact that Ryan and my strength coach were discussing my future competitions the other day. Our strength coach had actually laughed at me a few weeks ago when I told him I wanted to compete at the NY Open. After a couple days back on the mats I realized he was right and Ryan and I decided that I shouldn't try to compete that early. So I set my sights on the Mundial. Then on Wednesday night Ryan told me that they don't think I will be physically ready to compete by June. I was so upset, I cried. Those goddamned tears.

Why did I cry? Because I have spent the last 4 months working my ass off in PT. I've recovered faster than any doctor believed I would - from BOTH surgeries. AND I still might not make it to my goal. I cried because there are only 4 tournaments a year in the U.S. where I am guaranteed to have girls my size and level to fight. The gi and nogi Pan and Mundials. It's not easy to be 110lbs (I'm almost back up to that weight consistently now) and do jiu-jitsu. Take away the strength from one arm and one leg and it becomes near impossible to fight people heavier than you every day in training and competition against larger opponents isn't even thinkable at this stage.

I can understand now why some people never fully recover after a long stint off for an injury. It's hard to be so very far for so long from what you used to be able to do without even thinking about it. Many times over the last few months I've wondered whether or not it is worth it to me to continue being a competitor.


  1. You're an inspiration Jen! I'm sorry to hear you aren't improving at the rate you would like. But you're on the mats. You're headed in the right direction!

  2. Hello!...I was wondering around Blogger and came upon your page. I'm loving your blogs on BJJ!!!...From your motivation and drive, I think it is absolutely awesome!!! I wish you the BEST in your BJJ journey! Plus, you train with Ryan Hall at Fifty/50 and I'd love to meet the guy or watch him live, he really is a BJJ phenom. I watch his vids on Youtube. LOL

    take care!

  3. it's been 5 months that i've not train jiu jitsu because of a meniscus injury!! 5 months and im getting crazy, so i feel your pain!

    But you are awesome, you're blog is awesome, and i'm sure that ya ll be back soon, and even better than before!

    I think i read that Ryan had a shoulder surgery in 2008 and he was out for 6 months, but when he got back to the mat he was even better than before!!

    keep the good work!!


  4. :( I would feel the same way if I were you. Hang in there!!

  5. I TOTALLY feel your pain (literally and figuratively). It's so frustrating that the body doesn't heal as quickly as we will it to. I am in the same boat. I just want to get out there and give it my all, run races, kick a** at Fifty/50 and so on. BUT, my body is telling me it's not ready for me to push it as hard as I want. I've even considered training through pain, but just getting lots of massages, taking Advil and icing.

  6. Good luck with your recovery, Jen. I'm sure you will be tearing up the mats before you know it. Good seeing you at Sub Only NoVa. Maybe you can give me a shoulder to cry on when i finally have shoulder surgery?

  7. Thanks for all the positive comments, everyone!

    @Anonymous - he tore his wrist, not shoulder, but he was out for a long time between that and his elbow surgery to remove bone fragments.

    @Kristin, I hope you feel better soon! Please come in and do what you can drilling-wise while you are down and out.

    @Phalexx - it was good to see you too. Good luck with the shoulder surgery. Doc Higgins is fantastic, you're in good hands! And I'm more than happy to provide a shoulder for crying, but hopefully you won't need it. :)


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