I’ve recently become the online editor at Men’s Health. I studied journalism, have worked in digital for a long time, and am a novelist when I have the time. ‘Journalism’, ‘digital’ and ‘novelist’; three words that scream ‘fitness’, right?
Hey, I was fit once. I did kung-fu for five years and did more knuckle push-ups than any writer should ever do (sorry hands.) But that was way back when ‘selfie’ wasn’t a word in the dictionary and swiping left and right were things windscreen wipers did.
The body is not forgiving of a soft and cushy lifestyle. The body doesn’t care that you did a hundred push-ups a day ten years ago. The body doesn’t care once upon a time you were lean and mean.
Nope. Apparently the body is intent on being soft and doughy and you have to spend a lot of time reminding it that it’s not. I wish it were different. I wish that fitness was like school and you could coast along without putting in too much effort. But it’s not.
So it’s time that I suck it up and accept that I either I’m going to have to work at it or I’m going to have to embrace the pale-hunched-absinthe-sipping-writer-with-a-hacking-cough-thanks-to-consumption archetype.
Just so we’re clear: I’m choosing the first one. So I’m really glad the staff fitness challenge came around. Three months of training in a chosen discipline. Goal: Transformation. Excuses: No.
The choosing part was easy. A while ago I interviewed Rener Gracie, one of the younger members of the legendary Gracie family and been impressed by his athleticism and his complete lack of tough-guy attitude. So I searched around and settled on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the Renzo Gracie gym in Cape Town.
I met the folks at Renzo Gracie and found they had the same kind of surfer-searching-for-the-perfect-wave kind of mentality that I noticed in Rener.
They showed me what they did but it wasn’t about proving that they’re the baddest dudes on the block. They love their art. They are stoked to do it and they’re keen to show me its benefits. That’s pretty unusual for a martial arts school. Trust me, I’ve seen a few and the secret-grandmaster-killer-navy-seal-vulcan-death-touch bravado is often a part of the DNA.
But at Renzo Gracie they showed me what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was all about. I did rolls and break-falls. They demonstrated a rear naked choke on me and in seconds I saw stars. I grappled and I sweated. It was tough.
Grappling sparring with someone who knows what they’re doing is intensely tiring, like being caught in quicksand. Everything you do seems to make it worse. My cardio didn’t last very long. Mental note: I need to work on that.
At the end of the session they said they were willing to train me if I went four times a week to a class. Four times! I’m not intending on fighting in the UFC, but OK.
It’s going to be challenging, but I’m excited.
For a writer who spends a lot of time in his head being forced into the here and now by someone trying to cut off the blood to your brain is kind of refreshing. I’m looking forward to it.