Matthew Warner

Who Wants To Live Forever

This post is brought to you by Queen, because, as we all know, if you exercise a lot and eat right, you’ll never die.

What, you don’t believe me?

I’m not sure why I’m exercising my brains out this year. Maybe it’s my mid-life crisis. But one thing’s for certain: I’ve lost 10 pounds since March and have learned how to perform a guillotine choke. That has to count for something.

Still with me? Here’s my exercise regimen.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
No, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has nothing to do with performing a bikini wax on a kitchen knife.

Earlier this year, writer Joe Lansdale posted this video demonstrating the martial art he has created during 50 years of practice. It reawakened my craving to get back into some kind of fighting art. I hadn’t done much since putting karate and Tae Kwon Do on hold ten years ago. I also wanted/want to lay the groundwork for indocrinating my boys into martial arts since I consider it one of the three essential life survival skills.  (The other two are swimming and reading/writing.)

There’s a karate school and BJJ school here in Staunton, so I asked for advice on which to join.  Prizefighting champion and writer Wrath James White said I should pursue BJJ, saying that someone proficient at it can pretty much hold his own against any other form.  The many exhibition videos I’ve watched since then seem to confirm this. Check out this one, with thanks again to Queen:

This is the hardest sport I’ve ever done.  The other martial arts didn’t prepare me for it.  The closest thing I’ve done to it was two years of high school wrestling.  Within my first four months, I’ve hyperextended both elbows and both pinkie toes, suffered sore throats from being choked, abraded the tops of my feet, and come home with finger tip-shaped bruises on my arms and legs.  As I type this, I can barely curl my left pointer finger.

And I think I love it.  So far, just about the only people I can sometimes beat during sparring (called “rolling” in this sport) are those against whom I have an unfair advantage, such as girls I outweigh by 50 pounds, 12 year olds, and brand-new students.  But I have to start somewhere.

The place where I’m studying is a great school.  Everyone’s eager to help out and teach each other, and there’s an utter absence of ego, which is saying something.  It’s not a mill that’s eager to soak you for money by having lots of belt-rank tests, and the monthly fees are low.

There’s only five belt ranks between white and black in this sport, and I can expect to be a white belt for the first four years.  Add another ten years beyond that to earn a black.  But I’m okay with it.  By then, I’ll know I’ve truly earned it.

This is a strange type of weight lifting, but it’s cheap and doesn’t take up any space. It only involves two sledgehammers.

That’s right. Sledgehammers.

Writer Will Ludwigsen alerted me to it a few years ago by linking to the shovelglove website. It essentially involves wrapping a sledgehammer in a towel to protect your walls against accidents (the “glove”) and swinging it around to mimic manual labor.

I started with the suggested exercises and started adding my own. (I’ve given up on trying to attach a towel to the hammers.)  By now, I have 20 exercises I can rip through in about 20 minutes if I limit them to 10-20 reps each. Imagine using 1-2 sledgehammers to mime the following:

  1. Churning butter
  2. Shoveling
  3. Raking
  4. Chopping wood
  5. Driving fence posts
  6. Flip the lever (curls)
  7. Hoist the sack (triceps)
  8. Hoist water buckets (2-arm)
  9. Canoeing
  10. Rowing
  11. Tuck hay bales / side jab
  12. Bell ringing (front & side)
  13. Whack a mole
  14. Breast stroke (2-arm)
  15. Sword blocking
  16. Flag waving
  17. Apple toss
  18. Turn the rotor
  19. Hoist the rifle (shoulder press)
  20. Hoist the rifle rotation

In a future post, maybe I’ll embarrass myself by demonstrating these in a series of Youtube videos.

Since joining the jiu-jitsu school, I’ve added some everyday abdominal exercises to these as well.  But I guarantee this is a tiring arm workout that makes you feel all manly and stuff.

I wonder why some people call it “jogging” while others call it “running.” Hmm.

In any case, my neighborhood is great for this since it has a variety of circular routes that I can vary according to my mood and available time.

I have ambitions one day to compete in something insane like an Iron Man, so I’ve dipped my toe into the competitive waters by running a couple 5Ks (3.1 miles) at the nearby park. In October, my time was 33:16, and yesterday morning was 29:16.

To put that in perspective, the winners in my age division did it in about 17 to 20 minutes. People pushing baby strollers and limping runners passed me. What this means is that I need to put on stage makeup next time and lie about my age to get into the over-66 division. Still, I shaved off 4 minutes without doing anything special other than wearing out my first pair of running shoes.

And You’re Thinking . . .
“Fine. More shit I can’t do because I don’t have time.”

Doing this stuff indeed is a time commitment. But I’m probably not spending as long on it as you think. With the help of a supportive spouse, here’s my current schedule:

  • Monday night: BJJ class (2 hrs)
  • Tuesday morning: shug or jog (30 mins)
  • Wednesday night: BJJ class (2 hrs)
  • Thursday morning: shug or jog (30 mins)
  • Friday: “good lord, did I just work out four days in a row?”
  • Saturday morning: BJJ class (2 hrs) if I’m feeling really ambitious

Then there’s diet.  Am I doing anything special?  Not really.  But I have cut out all sodas and am trying to limit myself to just one caffeinated drink (in the morning) and one alcoholic drink (at night) per day unless I’m visiting Nanci Kalanta‘s house, in which case Deena has to drive me home.

I’ve also eliminated most sweets, and I usually resist the monstrous craving I get for carbs every night between 9:30 and 10:00 (and what the fuck is that all about, anyway?).

My preferred alcoholic drinks now are manhattans, thanks to the tutelage of writer Thomas F. Monteleone.  Before that, I drank 1-2 beers a day.  Just making that switch took 5-8 pounds off me.  No shit.

The weird part about all this is that it has a cumulative effect.  The more I exercise and try to eat right, the more I want to do it.  I’m pushing myself more during jogging and strength training.  It’s hurting my stomach now to stuff myself at meals, so I don’t.

I think I’m gonna go listen to that Queen song again. . . .