Brazilian Jiujitsu, flossing and learning Spanish = Building Habits

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Jim Ryun

This past August, I started Brazilian Jiujitsu. At age 40. I have never participated in any type of martial art. Ever. My entire life, from age 5 until age 38, revolved around dance, ballet and modern primarily. So what in the world possessed me to try BJJ? The truth is, I saw Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation. Diego and I were on vacation in Maine this past August and the night that we had hoped to go kayaking, it rained. So we bought tickets to see MI. We are sitting in the theatre, the movie starts and the first fight scene comes on. And this chick, Rebecca Ferguson, starts beating the crap out of all of the bad guys.  You know….this scene:


The minute the movie ended, I turned to Diego and I said, “I want to do that. What she did.” He looked at me, smiled with his “I believe you face but not really” and said, “Okay.” The NEXT day, I was researching BJJ studios. Before we left Maine, I had already emailed Lee, the owner of  Baltimore Brazilian Jiujitsu in Essex and had scheduled my first class when I returned from vacation.

On Monday, August 17, 2015, I walked into the jiujitsu studio, introduced myself to the instructor, signed my waiver and crossed my fingers. It was summer so things were pretty slow. There were just three of us. Me, Terry, a 67 year old man who is a blue belt and who IS absolutely awesome, and Monroe, the instructor. One hour later, I was on top of the world. I left that day feeling incredible. I have no idea of what the hell I was doing for that hour, but something about the class, about Monroe and Terry, about the newness of it all, made me want to come back and do it again. And again. And again. I went back the following Monday and there were more people that day. White belts, blue belts, purple belts. Everyone ready to help me learn. It felt good to be a student again. I was brand new, fresh. I had no bad habits to bring to the mat. I had no skill. But I knew I could learn. I knew I would get better. I went back the next week. And the next. Then I asked Monroe if I could schedule a private session with him. I bought a GI. Every Monday, there I was, on the mat, warming up with everyone, learning the drill for that day and then rolling with the other members. Then I scheduled another private session. And then another. With only having Mondays to practice, I had to figure out how to get that other practice time in. Private sessions seemed the way to go.

Gracie-Jiu-Jitsu-391It is now February 2016. Last Monday was my 22ndish session. Since my first session in August, I have only missed 4 sessions – one due to sickness, one due to the Starting Strength conference, one due to an injury and the 4th was just laziness (Diego was sick so I stayed home with him and slept in too. 😉 Not too bad. Remember, I can only attend once a week due to my coaching schedule so Monday mornings is all I get. I have also done 4 private sessions with Monroe during this time too….so I guess, technically, I have had roughly 26 sessions. 😉 Can I submit anybody yet? Hell no. Do I even know what I am doing half the time? No….and yes.  My job right now is NOT to submit anyone. My job right now is to simply survive during a roll. 😉 My goal is to defend myself and NOT get submitted. 95% of the time, I will roll with someone who will teach me while we are rolling. He will stop and show me where I can go from this position or that position, allow me to submit him with the new drill we did that day, etc. Then there are the rolls where I am rolling for my life. This person, usually a female, really wants to get me to tap out, and I am working my hardest to NOT let her. Every week I go, I know more than I did the week before. And it will be like this for another year, maybe two. Especially with only being able to attend once a week. But that’s OK. I am not looking to become the next Rhonda Rousey. I am looking to simply be a little bit better than I was the week before.


When I started dancing at age 7, do you think I could do then what I could do at 16? At 25? At 35?  Of course not. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. I did not miss classes.  I stayed focused. I kept my eyes on the prize….getting better at dance. For those of you reading who are learning something new right now, you will understand this. For those of you reading this who think that you should be good at something immediately, you are in for a real disappointment. Sure, there are people who will pick up skills before you, who will be better than you or will find things easier to do than you. But if I thought that after two months of rolling and going to class once a week, I should now be able to submit someone or deserve a stripe, then I am in for big disappointment. It’s going to take months before this happens. Things already click better for me. But I still have a long way to go. And if I decide to continue to learn, I will be learning forever.

m4h56THIS is how habits are born. THIS is how you get better. Every Monday morning, I SHOW UP. I show up and I learn. I drill with my partner. I roll. Some rolls are good. Some rolls hurt. But by showing up, I am saying “I am here to work.” When you show up, you tell yourself, your coach and the other members that you are willing to work. It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easy to say, “tomorrow.” But why wait until tomorrow when you can show up TODAY? Once you realize this, then you realize how much easier it is to make progress, to change, to get stronger.  This is what happens when you don’t QUIT.



I think back to my 20’s when every year, I would make New Year’s Resolutions:

“This year I will get a boyfriend.” (What kind of resolution is this?)

“This year I will watch the cheese.” (Where the hell did I think it was going?)

“Lose weight.” (Shoot me now.)

Same shit. Different year. Instead of really trying to make a difference in my life by building habits, I would just try the all or nothing route. NO cheese. NO bread. NO…..WHY????? This lasted, for uh, well, a long fucking time. It wasn’t until I actually decided to take control of my life by learning how to eat, learning how to lift a barbell, learning that I was more than the number on the scale, that I saw any improvement in my body and my mindset. I learned how to build habits with my eating and my training. So if I could learn to train better, eat better, be more mindful about my body, what other habits could I build that I have been neglecting???

Flossing. Yes, flossing.


Habits. I have talked about them before. But you know, habits are what make the world go round. For YEARS, my dentist would try to convince me to floss. I knew it was good for my teeth. I would try it for a while, my gums would bleed, I would run out of floss and never buy anymore. Then this past summer, I was talking to the hygienist at my dentist’s office and all of a sudden, something clicked. I told her I would start to floss. I promised her I would. And I did. Every night, I would take one minute after I had brushed my teeth and floss. In the beginning, my gums bled for a week. Eventually, they stopped. And I continued to floss. I really did not want to disappoint the hygienist the next time I came in for a check up. Before I knew it, I was flossing. EVERY. DAY. Sounds so dumb, right? But it’s not. I realized I had to build that habit before I would see any change. I recently went for a check  up and got a thumbs up on my dental hygiene, better than I have ever before. My teeth aren’t horrible…..but I have had a lot of issues with them over the years. On top of getting the thumbs up from her, everyone in the office knew about my great check up too. It was in my chart. Thank you flossing. 😉

Okay, so flossing isn’t very sexy. But it’s not about the flossing itself but HOW I was able to get a great check up. Habits.

Like learning Spanish.



Learning Spanish. Take 200.

In December of 2015, I finally decided it was time to learn Spanish. Again.

My Argentinian born husband, Diego, told his mom who said “I’ll believe it when I see it,” or something like that. Hmmm. In fact, many people laughed at me and said “Yeah, right. You said this LAST year too.” And I have to agree. It’s kind of sad. Married over 10 years to a Spanish speaking person, and I still cannot hold a conversation with him in Spanish or speak to my mother-in-law. ;( I decided it was time to really try. I mentioned that I was planning on learning Spanish at the gym one night in November and Shannon, one of  my members told me to check out an app called “Duolingo.”  It’s free. It’s on my phone. Let me check it out.

65 day streak later. Damn. Just like that, I created a habit with my app. 10-15 minutes a day, everyday and I am BEYOND where I was the last time I decided to practice my Spanish skills. 15 minutes out of my day. That’s all it took to make it a habit. I did not want to miss a session. I have only missed ONE day since December 2, 2015. And I blame my husband for this. He made me go to bed. And to be honest, he was right. This was the mistake I started to make. Instead of completing my lessons or review lessons in the morning, I was waiting until I got into bed at night to do my lessons. And by then, I was too tired. I would make mistakes and get frustrated. Diego told me I needed to go back to my morning lessons, and he is right. I also decided to cut back on the length of the lesson. Better to get in a little bit each day then trying to cram in 5 lessons at once. But, I definitely have built a habit, and it’s a good one. I am more confident with my Spanish speaking skills, my vocabulary is huge and I can order my own food in Spanish and pay for the check in Spanish at the restaurant around the corner from us. 😉

Habits. They keep you in check. Scheduling your training sessions. Logging your food. Flossing. Reading for 15 minutes each night before you go to bed. Brushing your teeth. Watching only one hour of TV a night. Eating a salad everyday. Having protein at every meal. Practicing Spanish. Whatever it is, it is your habit that will keep you going and improving.

Now if I could just get into a habit of putting lotion on my hands every night so I don’t end up with dinosaur hands the next day……


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