Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone through a ton of things, physically, mentally and emotionally. Failed businesses, failed marriage, and more drama in a child custody fight than I know what to do with. In the midst of all this, I battle some health issues, the worst of which was chronic fatigue. It was so bad there were days I couldn’t even get out of bed. The slightest exertion exhausted me to the point I’d need a nap for the next four hours to recover. Was not fun at all. During this time, the weight packed on like never before.
After a few trips to a couple of different doctors, I finally found one who could figure out what was wrong. In a nutshell, at 38 years old, my testosterone had dropped to incredibly low levels. After a few months of treatment, my energy levels were finally starting to come back. While this was good and I was feeling better, my weight had blown up to 335-340 Lbs. I had struggled with weight off and on my whole life, but I’d never been that heavy, or huge. Fastening my pants was a challenge. I once almost strained my shoulder in the process. I couldn’t fit into most booths at restaurants and wouldn’t even attempt getting on amusement park rides.
So I decided I needed to do something to get it off, but what? I got a membership at Gold’s gym. I started out doing some walking too, but walking in the 110 degree Texas heat isn’t the most ideal thing. At the gym I started swimming laps. Began going 30 minutes at a time, then 45 then an hour. Over the next few months, I lost close to 30lbs, but was starting to level off. If I was going to keep swimming, I would have to start going for 2-3 hours at at time. This was just way too much time to go back and forth in a swimming pool. So I decided I needed to find a fun activity that I enjoy,
I looked at various classes and activities. One local wrestling promotion offered their own wresting school. My wife was not a big fan of that one. Looked into CrossFit, but I don’t see doing nothing but random exercises for an hour being all that fun. Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The BJJ appealed to me since it’s a little like wrestling, and I like to watch MMA fights, and they use it there. So I went to check out the school to see what it was about. They offered a few free lessons to see what we like. The night I arrived though, they was no adult BJJ class, they did have a Muay Thai class though. For those not familiar, Muay Thai is the martial art of Thailand, its a form of kickboxing.
While Karate and Kung Fu are known for their grace and circular movements, Muay Thai is known for it’s brutality. There are less moves to learn, basically punches and kicks along with elbows and knees. In Thailand, fighters have been known to toughen their shins by kicking banana trees. In doing so, they dull their nerve endings as well as calcify their bones. As a result their shins become deadly clubs. A Muay Thai kick to the head can feel like being hit with a baseball bat in some cases.
So yes, for some insane reason this all sounded cool to me. I knew I needed an intense workout to get me into shape. One day leading up to the class, I took a Body Combat class at Gold’s Gym. It’s very similar to Tae Bo from the 90s. It’s an hour long cardio workout where you do various martial arts moves non stop. Basically aerobics but using martial arts. It was a good workout, I was soaked by the time we were done. There were five other guys in there when the class started, and none left but me at the end. All the girls there congratulated me for sticking it out.
One thing I found odd, about half the class was wearing MMA gloves. I thought I was supposed to bring gloves, or that we were going to hit bags or something, but there was no striking at all. I guess folks just wanted to be prepared for battle in the deadly art of fighting invisible opponents.
So for the Muay Thai class, I joined in with the group, there were only two other people in the class and I soon found out why. We started with 100 jumping jacks. My calves were cramping and on fire by the time I got to 20. I kept going the best that I could. Then we did 50 push ups on our knuckles, I hadn’t done a push up in years, so I battled my way through that. The first 30 minutes was all calisthenics. I was exhausted by then and we hadn’t even started any training yet. The rest of the time, we worked on stances and punching techniques, doing various drills that involved shuffling across the mat. Believe or not, this was exhausting for me too. Being over 300 lbs still, pretty much anything is still tiring at this point. From there I did some bag work, trying to pace myself as I did some basic punches from my stance. Finally it was over, and I had survived.
Damien, my instructor was very kind and supportive the whole time. He never made any comments about my weight or anything. He simply said “The Journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” which is a quote from Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher. Though this was encouraging, it’s hard to see it at the time when you have so far to go. But throughout he told me some tips on my diet to make things simple .Either way, I felt good that I had made it. And as tired as I was, punching the bag felt really really good. All the anger and frustration I’ve dealt with in the last few years came out in those punches and I loved it. I felt a primal energy that I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager.
The following week at my next class, I was a bit overzealous. There was a different instructor that night, Gabriel. Instead of the long warm ups, we started right out working on stances and punching combinations. This time we also worked on some kicks. Then he turned me loose on the bag, working on my footwork and punching combos around the bag. I kept hitting it harder and harder and harder as I circled the bag. I did this for several minutes, and when I stopped, I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. He told me to rest a few and before I knew it the room was spinning and I was leaning out the door, throwing up on the sidewalk. At that point Gabriel told me we were done for the day, after 30 minutes.
I have to say, I was quite frustrated with myself. Frustrated that I’d reached such a point that any kind of exertion tires me out so quickly. In my mind, I wanted to keep going, but my body was screaming hell no. Both instructors assured me, if I stay with it, it will get easier, and the rest of my weight will come off quickly. I don’t doubt them, but I just wish there was a way to make that time go by faster.
Next week I begin the jiu jitsu classes along with Muay Thai. I hope to survive it, but I know I’m only a few steps into this thousand mile journey.