No Pressure

It’s been a while since I competed in something and thinking about it now, it has been an easy and at times boring way of training—with no end goal.

No matter how training conversations start, it’s amazing how almost everything comes back to diet.

I was talking to a friend I played lacrosse with at Temple. She was a senior when I was a freshman and every once in a while we catch up. I texted her because I’m looking for a summer league to play in and I figured she would know of some. Now she’s a head college lacrosse coach.

She sent me a text joking that I should talk some sense into her girls, and that I should train her and her assistant who both decided to follow a “strict workout/clean eating” plan this season. Another text said something like, “Imagine if we ate better in college!” That’s so true. We talked about diet for a while and it’s funny how food and training conversations are synonymous.

It got me thinking about team sports and how great it is when things come together on the field even when personalities clash.  And I was always sort of amused, or annoyed, by how others reacted before, during, and after games, or just in general. I never got all riled up before the game. I never had to listen to a specific song to get me going. There wasn’t a food I had to have before playing. Most of the ritualistic/superstitious things others had to do, I didn’t want anything to do with. It’s just one more thing to think about. I didn’t get distracted, never paid attention to the sidelines. I was always calm and quiet but ready to play.

Middle school. Afro days. Still used a wooden lacrosse stick.

Middle school. Afro days. Still used a wooden lacrosse stick.

Since I started playing lacrosse in 3rd grade, everything had become second nature. I could catch and throw and pick up a ground ball, and knew lacrosse skills and game strategy, so I was confident in my ability. Even when the game was close, I never panicked under pressure.

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Temple vs. Massachusetts. Geasey Field. A10s.

With new situations, that sense of pressure changes. I have been training for MMA and it’s a lot of fun because it’s new and there is so much to learn. Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, judo, Muay Thai, everything. I train with a pro-fighter who is a great teacher and very humble.

A few weeks ago I told him I want to diet down and fight. He said I need to spar more, and that my weight is a must. I haven’t really committed to a diet in a long time.  Reminds me of bodybuilding, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the diet.  Now, every time I’m in the gym he asks about diet. It’s never right away. Usually during jab drills or pad work he’ll stop and ask. It makes me smile, because I know what to do to lose weight…it’s just a matter of doing it.

There are two girls in my weight class from the gym he wanted me to spar with—one who fights Muay Thai and another who is MMA—and he said when I can keep up with them, he’ll get me a fight. But, weight is a must. Last week I sparred 4×3 minute rounds and it was the first time I thought, “Oh, shit…what should I do next.”  There isn’t time to think like this in a fight.  We’re in the ring, exchanging punches, going for takedowns, attacking and defending. Our coach is telling each of us to do certain things. I’m still learning the terminology, but even without knowing everything, I just kept reacting.

The pressure is different. It’s not like playing a sport where the clock is ticking and you may or may not have the ball, and you trade goals with the other team, or one team may be ahead by a lot. In a fight, you’re on for multiple 3 minute rounds (if you make it that long) and every second counts. There is an amazing sense of urgency in the ring. When the four rounds were up, I lost. I was choked or submitted, or our coach stopped to teach us something, but it was a lot of fun.

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Yesterday I was in the gym and we talked about sparring and how it’s different from training. In training, you can hit pads and the form is great, but in a real situation it’s not going to be perfect.  Even under pressure, you have to stay calm. And of course I was asked about diet. Again, I smiled…diet is good.

Fight training is exciting, but I won’t be able to fight if I don’t lose weight.  It’s way more fun to train for something, and I need a goal.  Time to have a sense of urgency, but still no pressure, because it’s just a matter of doing what works.

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