Saturday, January 2, 2010

two bodies

We are experiencing weird weather. For example, we had a big heat wave in November, then more cool and rainy weather, nearly like winter again. Since then, it's been a roller coaster. For example, two days ago, we had temperatures up to 38 deg.C, then a late thunderstorm on New Year's Eve brought cooler and moist weather. Today it's only about 15 deg.C out there and a stiff breeze. Consequently, it's very difficult to adjust to the weather. Singlets one day, parkas the next...

I used to hate hot weather and didn't mind the cold so much. Ok, it's not too cold here in winter, it's pretty much a mediterranean climate, so snow is unusual, but we do get frosts in winter, and weeks of cold, windy and rainy weather. And the summers are (usually) hot and dry.

With distinct seasons, and a gradual change between them, it's not too hard to adjust to the weather, dress accordingly and heat the house when necessary. I also adjust my training, taking longer to warm up when it's cool for example.

As I'm getting older, I find that I prefer the hot extreme to the cold extreme. I think that's the result of two things. One the one hand, being fitter through constant training, my body has learned to sweat and cope with being hot and it's no longer exhausting just to feel hot. On the other hand, I'm getting less flexible and take longer to recover than I used to. I find that cold/wet weather means stiffer joints and more aches. So nowadays I'd rather be too hot than too cold.

I've found that I have two operating modes. One is normal, at rest or low to medium level activity (from sitting in front of the computer to say... going horseriding). Mode two is "running temperature". Like a well warmed engine. How much work is required to get into M2 depends a lot on outside temperature, which is why I prefer the warmer weather these days. Of course other things come into it as well, such as whether I have muscle soreness from previous days, carry an injury and how long since I last had a good workout and stretch.

Why is all this relevant?

Because it never ceases to amaze me what a different body I inhabit when I reach proper running temperature, as opposed to normal operating mode. There are days when I pack my bag and head off to training and I feel like a wooden doll. I actually doubt that I can train properly some days and I'm literally afraid of going. I've had the odd day when things really were a bit tough. But that was nearly always when I'd have a class in the morning, an hour off and another class straight after (Too long a break to stay warm but not long enough to recover). But that aside, my body always managed to do the business after proper warming and stretching. I ought to have learned by now that I can rely on it!!!

I'm on the grey side of fourty, so just getting out of bed in the morning, I feel like need to order spare parts and a grease and oil change for my body. That is every morning. Some clever person on some forum remarked that over fourty, you hurt in the mornings no matter what. If you hurt after abusing your body during grappling the day before, at least you have a reason to hurt. That sounds sensible :-).

What I notice as I work around the farm, ride horses and do my daily chores etc are other issues. Lack of flexibility, mainly in the lower back, but also in the shoulders and neck and knees. Also I notice that some joints click and crunch. One of my knees, hurt many moons ago in a horseriding accident and then re-injured later, has what feels like lax ligaments. If I just blunder around, stuff moves around in there, and I've had it lock on me to the point where it won't straighten. Less so lately, but it's been an ongoing problem. My neck sometimes "crinks", for no reason at all, but often it's at times of stress. So in other words, in normal mode, I feel like the average 40+ year old. I can fully relate to what my parents used to bitch about when they were this old! Winter mornings are worst.

Then I go to classes. Whether BJJ or PFS, there's the warmup, some stretching and then we're into it. Joints gain more range of motion. No crunching or clicking anywhere, knees feel tight, general flexibility increases. And hardly any aches (well, shall we say there can be some "discomfort" during warmup) once I start rolling. What I'm so stunned about is just how different my body performs when it's in that state. It really is like a different body to the one I usually inhabit :-)

I suppose I could say there is another mode, that being sparring mode. Simply, when the rolling or standup sparring gets a bit more intensive, then it goes to the point where more and more pain can be tolerated. For example, that's when I come home with bruises and matburn which I don't recall incurring. Or when I came up against the limit of what I have in my "gas tank" and still manage to push on a bit more.

I just wish I could run at that enhanced level of ease and flexibility ALL the time, but I doubt that's possible. I basically think I'm a lucky old bastard, being able to go pretty much as hard as I like in training - as long as I warm up adequately. I see plenty of people younger than myself who evidently live a much more sedentiary lifestyle, and who certainly couldn't do what I can do. And I don't do so badly during training, compared to the guys in their twenties - if I may say so myself ;-). Yes, I am lucky, even if I need to always get to running temperature before I can play!

I had to laugh when I friend of mine came along to watch a BJJ class one day recently. He said he could never do it and that he felt tired just watching us warm up :-)


  1. Keep working out and doing Jiu-Jitsu. I think it helps you stay young. Its when we grow idol that we turn to stone (no flexibility). I don't notice this as much as you do but I can feel my body sometimes getting ready.

  2. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for your encouragement. Yes, I think it will help me stay young, both in the body and mind.

    I want to do this BJJ stuff for a loooong time yet. And I think I have many years yet to be a headache to the young whizzkids on the mat ;-). I just bought Roy Harris' DVD about BJJ for over fourties. Might write a review about it some time soon.

    As long as I use my brain when it comes to warming up, training, injury management and stretching, I should be good!