A Reason to Run

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I went for a run last week. It was the first time in almost two years and one of only a handful of times I have ever tried to undertake this form of exercise. I liked that run so much that only a few hours later I was already looking for an excuse to do it again.

So I did.

That’s not normal for me. Usually, I hate running.

STREET CLOSED: just go home

This about sums it up.

I detested it so much that I was fond of claiming I had learned MMA just so I’d never have a reason to run. Before I started working out in college I literally would not have run a block to catch a bus. Several years in, I would run for the bus, if need be. But that was it.

I went out of my way to avoid running as a form of cardiovascular exercise. I cycled. I rowed. I did sled pulls. I worked the heavy bag. I used an elliptical machine. (Let’s chalk that last one up to youthful indiscretion and try to forget about it, ok?)

I absolutely flat out refused to run because it gave me side splints, made it hard to breath, and made me hyperventilate every single time. I couldn’t sustain a good pace for more than a few blocks without having to stop, red-faced and frustrated, and walk.

I loathed it.

Then running showed up on my training program.

I assured my trainer that it wasn’t going to go well. If I didn’t flat-out say, “I can’t do it,” I certainly thought it.

Just before my run, I was telling a friend (and fellow MMA fighter) about how much I was dreading it. I told him that when I run, I feel like I’m having a panic attack. He got really excited and told me that was going to be great for me.

His reasoning went that, after all, a lot of fighting is mental. So much of the game is about what it does to your head, how you handle the nerves, and how well you can function when your system is dumping adrenaline into your body like there’s no tomorrow. So, by my friend’s logic, I could use running as an opportunity to practice confronting the uniquely frantic headspace of MMA.

It was a great idea. But I didn’t get to actually try it out as intended, because when I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavements I found out that running no longer sucked.

It was straight-up fun.

It turns out that after all that time spent dreading and avoiding it, the simplest exercise possible was also enjoyable. I got home from my run feeling like I had slain a dragon.

This is pretty much how it all went down.

photo credit: Rafael Peñaloza via photopin cc

I had a similar experience with re-learning to drive. I had a license as a teenager, but I let it expire when I moved to Portland eight years ago. I waited almost a decade to try to get licensed again because I was deeply afraid of driving. I had always hated it, even back in my hometown Sitka (a tiny island town with just 19 miles of road, two stop lights, and nowhere you could go over 45 mph), and Portland’s (admittedly moderate) traffic was far more intimidating.

When I finally got behind the wheel again a few months ago, it was scary at first. But a few days’ practice had me driving on major streets, and within a month I was on the highway for the first time in my life. When I found I could pass a semi and merge back into the flow of traffic, I once again had that dragon-slayer feeling.

It was a beautiful night for a run...

Nice night for a run.

I’d been acting like a child that insists she hates broccoli, only to discover when she finally tries it that it’s pretty damn tasty.

These recent experiences not only expanded my potential modes of transit, but they also blew my notions of what’s impossible out of the water.

Now I can’t help but wonder, what other supposed impossibilities might I unknowingly be rearranging my life to avoid? Are there holes in my MMA game that I had assumed were unassailable? Are there other sports I could try, foods I might like, bigger projects to undertake?

Suddenly I wanted to dash out and scour all of the unexamined caverns of my mind. I had found a good reason to run– not away from something that scares me, but towards it.

I want more of that dragon-slayer feeling, so I’ve made peace with running. After all, there are plenty more impossible dragons I want to chase down and dispatch with.

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My First Pro Fight

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Let me start with the good news first: This month I signed a contract for my first pro fight!

This is very exciting, as I’ve been trying to find a fight for several months. The Intense Cage Fighting’s (ICF) May 16th card is comprised of all female fighters, with both professional and amateur bouts. I will have at least one match that night (possibly two) as part of a four woman pro flyweight tournament to find the ICF’s first female champion. Of course, I am now in hard training mode to prepare for this stellar opportunity.

But it actually gets even better.

I had to take my 4oz gloves off to hold the pen...

I had to take my 4oz gloves off to hold the pen…

I found out that I’d been offered a spot on this card the day after I quit my day job. (Yes, I did exactly the thing that one, proverbially, should never do.) And I didn’t leave my job with the idea in mind to immerse myself in an intense fight camp– at the time, I had no idea how long it would be until I could fight again. Rather, I quit so that I could invest more of my time in doing the things that bring me the most joy: fighting and writing. I made up my mind to quit and thought, well, here’s to hoping that if I shift my efforts towards the things that really matter the money will follow.

…That part still remains to be seen.

But a number of other great and completely unrelated things happened in quick succession when I quit my job. I was offered a part-time bartending gig out of nowhere. I received another stripe in jiu jtsu. Someone I greatly admire invited me to contribute to their blog. I lost several pounds and hit a new low for body fat percentage. I had the honor to roll with a female jits black belt who is almost exactly my size while she was visiting my gym. I made an Impossible List. There has even been more than a week of sun in Portland-freaking-Oregon!

(Also, lest I seem to be bragging, please take a moment to go back and read my previous post if you have not done so already– it’s practically a laundry list of my failures.)

So this is what I do now. Paleo plantain pancakes for breakfast on my first day of (partial) unemployment? Don't mind if I do!

So this is what I do now. Paleo plantain pancakes for breakfast on my first day of (partial) unemployment? Don’t mind if I do!

I don’t mention any of this to boast, but instead to point out that several of these are undertakings I couldn’t have even entertained if I had not left my primary employment.

Now, I don’t mean to get all hippy-dippy “manifesting positivity” on you. I can’t just manifest submissions in an MMA match, and I didn’t make most of these things happen either. Rather, just like in a fight, I’ve been making an effort to recognize openings and jump on them as they appear.

This is the skill that black belts in jiu jitsu, business, politics, and every field have that sets them apart: the ability to identify and capitalize on a moment of opportunity.

Honing that skill is just one of many things I plan to spend my new-found freedom (and pro fight camp) working on.