Thursday, November 22, 2012

Two days to a fight

A week of weight cutting is about to approach its climax. On the weekend I began what's called a "sodium load", where you ingest a ton of sodium and water for three days, then rapidly remove all the sodium and reduce your water intake until the weigh-in. (Further details for those curious are available here.)

The first day of the sodium load felt awful. I think I probably overdid it with the sodium. I had some bad diarrhea and felt tremendously bloated. The second day was a bit of a "hangover" from the first, but not as bad. The third day I still felt bloated but it was tolerable. My heart rate variability measuring tool reported a terrible result after the first night but then got better.

I felt much better on the sodium de-loading days. I went into the gym to hit pads, roll light, stuff like that, and had definitely reduced energy, but I think I'm less exhausted than the other weight-cutters on the team. You definitely get tired much more quickly when you deprive yourself of all carbohydrates and sodium for an extended period of time.

It's almost 5pm on Thursday as I write this -- 24 hours before weighins -- which means this cup of black coffee in front of me will be my last intake of anything until this time on Friday. No food, no water. Tomorrow I'll wake up slightly dehydrated, then go dehydrate myself further in the sauna. At 5, I'll make it to the Shark Club Bar & Grill in downtown Vancouver for the weigh-in event, which will be late and full of cranky fighters who can't wait to get off the scale and down Pedialyte. It will also be at this time I stare my opponent in the eyes for the first time and try to get a sense of how he feels about stepping into the cage with another trained combatant.

I already know how I feel, and that's great. Nothing has changed since my last update other than another week of thinking positively about how well this is going to go for me. Mentally and physically I am in a great place, and I am prepared to deliver the best performance of my MMA career to date.

Also, two links to share:

  • For those who are unable to attend the event in person but still want to watch, the fight will be live streamed on PPV for $7 Canadian.
  • I'm doing a reddit-style "AMA" on 2+2 here. Obviously, I'll also answer questions here in the comments section.
Well, 5:02pm. That means the weight cut has begun. Thanks for the support!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eight days from a fight and raring to go

What was probably my last sparring class is now in the books for this training camp, meaning that barring a tremendous freak accident, I have survived. Just surviving is huge. Most people think that getting into a cage and fighting another trained man until one of you quits or needs to be rescued by the referee is a dangerous thing. And it is. But the potential for injury is so much higher in training. Even though training is controlled and you are never trying to hurt your partner, it is intense. Even toned down versions of a fight, once repeated for multiple rounds a night, four nights a week for eight weeks, is likely to lead to injury. Long time readers will recall last year that I suffered a serious rib injury just 17 days before the fight. The injury was so severe that if I had taken a good shot to that side on fight day I surely would have lost.

This time around though, there are no significant injuries. Not only am I uninjured, I am in probably the best shape I have ever been for a fight. Not only am I in the best shape I've ever been for a fight, I am in the best mental place I have ever been in for a fight. The guys on my team at Universal MMA have been in fight camp mode since I finished with the WSOP, as there were two fight cards back in September and two again here in November. When I got back from the WSOP to train with the guys I was slow, out of shape and just generally shitty at fighting. But for the last four months I have taken my lumps, gotten totally dialed in on my health and nutrition and couldn't feel better. I train with a diverse group of fighters who all bring different things to the table, so even if I don't know much about my opponent -- I don't even know if I am fighting a left or right handed guy -- I feel as though I am prepared for anything.

I feel sharp. I feel I am as good a fighter as I have ever been, and I am going into this fight with very bad intentions.  I think anyone who knows me knows that I am not the cliché of a chest-beating, trash-talking, overconfident fighter. Thirteen years of poker have taught me about variance and that just about anything can happen in a chaotic world. And I know that every fight and every fighter is dangerous. And still I cannot picture in my head any outcome other than me walking into the Battlefield cage next Saturday and winning in an overwhelmingly dominant fashion. In eight days, I will think about every punch I've eaten, every kick I've absorbed, every takedown that's slammed me on my back, and every time I've tapped to a submission. And I will take them all out on this man by delivering him a hellacious beating. I can picture no other result.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My bodyfat test and results (aka my trip into nerd/jock vanity)

A few weeks ago I decided to get a real body composition test done. The last time I had a body fat test was in my second year of university, done for free by a kinesiology student with some calipers. I think I got 8.9% or something stupid like that, likely because calipers are really inaccurate.

There are a number of reasons I felt now was a good time to get a body fat measurement done. The first is my age. I'm turning 32 soon and I'm now reaching an age where my metabolism will start to slow and I'll have less muscle and bone density relative to my fat. But I've also been doing a lot of "body hacking" (for lack of a better term) of late. I've been eating paleo/primal for well over a year, mixing in a little intermittent fasting, trying to sleep a bit better, taking my vitamin D and fish oil -- in short, trying to do all the little things right. To be honest, probably the least healthy part of my life is the part that people think makes me healthy: the fighting. A late-night 3-hour high-intensity session is actually pretty rough on the adrenals, will result in some level of chronic inflammation, and really just not generally ideal. But I love the sport and so to me it's worth it.

In any case, I figure that the result I get now is probably going to be the best result I get going forward. There are probably some modest improvements I could make in my lifestyle, but I suspect I can't improve my "score" very much, considering the effects of age.

So after some research, I found that the two most accurate, reliable and consistent methods of body composition measurement were the "BodPod", which is an air displacement method, and DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry). There was a DEXA lab called Bodycomp Imaging very close to my home, so I decided to give it a try.

Like anyone, the first thing I wanted to know was "the big number".  It came as a surprise to me:


I'd had a discussion with poker pro/bodybuilder Jason Koon who was certain that I was under 10%. I'd also googled around and seen images like this one:

and thought that I looked a lot more like the 8% guy than the 12% guy. For reference, this is what I currently look like (relaxed on left, flexed on right):

Despite me being less than impressed with the 13.8% number, Peter, the guy running the DEXA machine, was very impressed with it. I felt a little better when he said that many of the Vancouver Canucks players come in around 12%. I suppose when I consider that I'm not a professional athlete, not exactly a genetic freak and also that I have never used any sort of "assistance" (ahem), I can be a little prouder of 13.8%.

But in the end, the absolute number doesn't matter much; it's the relative number that matters. Now I have a number, and so as I age, I will try to not get too much worse than 13.8% using DEXA.

The DEXA scan also provided some cool information about things like my symmetry and bone density. I've uploaded the full results here, but as an example, this part of the results were interesting:

As you can see, my left arm has (slightly) more muscle and less fat than my right arm, which Peter says is extremely rare in right-handed people. Maybe it is more common in fighters because we use our left more frequently in throwing jabs. My right leg being more muscular than my left makes sense in a fighting context too, since in an MMA stance you have more weight on your back leg. Nevertheless that level of asymmetry is probably a slight concern.

I was amused that my head is 22.5% fat. Feel free to refer to me as "fathead", since it is technically accurate.

My bone density scores were good but not great for an athlete, according to Peter. While my body fat is 2 standard deviations below the average North American male, I'm only 0.5 sigmas north of average for bone density. Peter said he would like to see that higher, but that it should improve with consistent Vitamin D supplementation. Also with my MMA workload being what it is, I rarely lift weights -- something like once a month -- so I suspect improving that would help a bit.

In any case, I learned a lot about my body, and most importantly, established a baseline that I can try to improve or maintain. For people who are concerned about fitness, I strongly recommend getting a body composition test done. I see many people (especially girls) on Facebook/Twitter/etc feed worrying about their weight when they should be worrying about their body composition. After all, you don't really want to lose weight, you want to lose fat.

If you're in Vancouver, I definitely recommend Peter at Bodycomp Imaging. He's super-knowledgable not just about the test but about recommending lifestyle changes to improve your well-being. You should get $10 off if you follow the above link.  Yes it's a referral link, and yes, I got a discount for plugging them on my Twitter, but I receive no compensation for this blog post. I think you guys know me well enough to know I wouldn't be writing it if I weren't fully satisfied with what I got.

Best of luck in your own fitness goals!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fight lined up!

Big news of the day: I'm fighting again on November 24 here in Vancouver! As with my debut fight, it will take place in Battlefield Fight League at the Vogue on Granville Street. The fight will be the first 125 lb fight in BFL history!

The fight is at 125 because my opponent's team does not want him to fight above that weight; they felt that last time out he lost because he was facing a much larger opponent (could be true because he weighed in at 132 while his opponent cut to make 140). The cut to 125 will not be fun -- I weighed in at 138 this morning with 20 days to go -- but it'll be nice to be the bigger man in the cage for the first time ever.

Other than that I don't know much about him. I just hope he's tough and he's ready. I want a tough opponent because I am feeling sharp, on-point, and in great shape. I'm injury-free at this moment (knock wood) and feeling great. I've got four teammates also in action on this card and another 5 or 6 fighting the week after, so we've been pushing one another very hard in training camp. I'm totally raring to go and I've had a big smile on my face since I got the news.

I will sort out tickets soon for everyone who wants them; you can let me know for now and I'll put you on the list.