It’s no secret that this year has been more challenging than the first two I had spent abroad.  But when everything happens in so many small, unconnected incidences, it’s quite confronting when someone forces you to look back at the challenges you’ve faced.

I always try to be positive and move forward – always looking for new opportunities if I believe I can be doing better – doing more.  That is, after all, how I ended up in Berlin.

My time in Thailand has allowed me to become a complete master in compartmentalizing my emotions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have my moments – hell – I have my days.  I cry, I throw tantrums, I feel sorry for myself and I just want to throw in the towel.  The problem now is that I am so used to burying my head and pushing forward that sometimes that I fail to take the time to acknowledge the challenges I have had and the impact they have had on me mentally.

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This year started out in pretty bad fashion and was a constant roller coaster of injuries, let downs and questions over my own personal motivations and if I could justify to keep going down this road.

After changing gyms at the end of 2015, I was so hopeful and optimistic moving into 2016.  I was training under James McSweeney at the newly opened Unit 27 Technical Fight Factory and the year was full of promise.  After taking some time off for treatments to my knee and shoulder I came back ready to rock and roll.  Not a month into training, I was kicked in the hand and my 5th finger snapped at a 90 degree angle.  It took 3 months of xrays and visits to the surgeon to ensure that my finger and the fractured bones inside had healed enough to put my hand back in a glove.

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Before my hand even had a chance to heal our gym was shut down.  I remained diligent in my responses to the reasons behind the fall of UTFF but my friends close to me know that I experienced one of the biggest betrayals in my career to date.  My coach vanished – moved to another country and never said a word.  He left behind an entire fight team who were relying on him and because I had been training with him the longest, everyone turned to me for answers.

Fast forward a few months and I was happily back at AKA.  I had joined the MMA program and although far behind in certain technical aspects, I was still managing to hold my own and earned the respect of my fellow team mates.

Just as I had gotten back I was struck down with a random viral infection that had me out for a week.  A few trips to the clinic and lots of IV bags later, I was slowly getting back into training.

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Not long after this, I was finally settling in to the program at AKA and it was there I suffered my first ever concussion.  As per most training incidents, it was a complete accident.  I was in the midst of preparing to be matched for a fight though so stopping wasn’t an option.

2 days later I am called to fight Muay Thai on short notice and after much deliberation, I decided to take it.  I hadn’t earned any money in 6 months.  And most of all I was hungry.  And fed up.  I just wanted to fight.  So I took a fight on 24 hours notice after already training 4 hours that morning.

The next night I fought and walk away with a win, a second concussion and 5 stitches.

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Yes.  I can hear you all now.  The eye rolls.  The head shakes.  The ‘oh what a silly girl’.

None of you are wrong.  I still roll my eyes and shake my head when I think about it.

Luckily the stitches alone meant a week of rest which I happily took.  The head trauma was extremely noticeable so I was happy to take some time to relax.

The problem in Thailand is that no one checks on you or makes you see a doctor.  No one checks before you fight to make sure that you are ok.  No one questions when you decide to return to training, it’s almost expected that you just will.  And for someone like me, who has been such an active fighter for these years, these things make for a bad combination.  The fact that I could find myself justifying training like this will haunt me forever.

At this time I was having issues with my left ankle.  I suspected stress fractures as this was an injury I had suffered on numerous occasions before and everything about the injury felt familiar.  But I pushed forward, still hoping for my first MMA fight to come.

About 2 weeks after the Muay Thai fight, I suffer a third (yet mild) concussion.  Mostly a direct result of not resting for long enough.  It was an unfortunate accident in 4 ounce gloves that landed me out again for another week.  During this time off I went to visit the doctor to have my ankle looked at.  Xrays showed I had stress fractures in my left ankle that were approximately 3 weeks old.

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I was set to very limited training for a few weeks following meaning no fights, only light boxing and no weights or Muay Thai.  I tried to use this time to continue to work on my appalling boxing skills, but unfortunately my limited movement made sparring extremely difficult.

Finally I received the all clear to resume, but in my time off I had booked a 6 week trip to Europe to reassess what I was doing with my career.

I ending up booking a fight 2 days before I due to fly out.  Naturally I took it on 8 days notice.  It was a local Queens Cup event but I felt it was a good way to end out training before taking a big break.

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After a solid win, despite being incredibly unfit, I ventured to Europe where I travelled, at good food, tried out different gyms and cities and eventually found my new home at Spitfire.

When I look back on things, I should have cut my losses and gone home.  I had many moments where I wanted to.  I spent most of the year in complete angst over the time I had spent chasing what seemed like a ridiculous and impossible dream.

I was so unsure of myself and my ability to make good decisions moving forward.  The only thing I knew was that my time in Thailand had come to an end.

I had spent two weeks in Berlin on my holiday.  1 week enjoying the sights and the nightlife and another week of training in what was to be my new training home.  It didn’t take me long to realise that a change in pace and scenery was just what I was needing.

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The European circuit is full of competition in my weight class and I figured it was a great way to fulfill my lifelong wish to live and travel in Europe, and also take on a range of new opponents both in MMA and Muay Thai.  K1 also remains an option and experience for the near future.

I’m now a few weeks in to my time here in Berlin and I am loving it.  Unfortunately though, I have since suffered my 4th concussion for the year in a freak BJJ accident.  (a post on this to come).

It was a truly frightening experience for me because I know that there are only so many times that this can happen before it ends my career.  I remember just lying on the mat with a stream of tears rolling down my cheeks.  I couldn’t stop it.  In that moment I felt so useless and defeated.

I’m certain everyone thought I was physically hurt, but the stress of another hit was a little more than I could bear at the time.  Moving countries, leaving all my friends in Thailand and Australia and being benched again.  I was at my limit.

After a night in hospital under observation I was released and took a week off to rest.  (I was actually banned from the gym but let’s call it rest ;)).

I’m finally back into training, with the year coming to a close.  No rest for the wicked though as I have now been cleared to spar and fight pending a second doctors check once I get matched.

It has been a weird and refreshing change to be in a gym where my well being comes first.  Not just to my manager and trainers, but even to my training partners.  “Health comes first”.

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Being in Berlin, starting my life all over AGAIN.  It’s not without it’s challenges.  But I definitely feel good about where I am.  Even though I am so new, I have been so supported over the past few weeks and the knowledge that the fighters in my gym have to offer is just incredible.

Bring on 2017.  I’m ready to take things to the next level.

There should be no surprises when I say that moving back into the Western World was not without a little reverse culture shock.  It has, however, surprised me by the things that have taken some adjusting to and the things I am really enjoying!

Drinking tap water should have been the greatest thing in the world.  But I have been so wired to not drink tap water now that I kept forgetting that I could.  Couple that with the cold weather and I was extremely dehydrated my first week here.  The water tastes a bit funny to me but I am also not sure if that is just the taste of Berlin water or if I’m just so used to drinking the ‘recycled’ water in Thailand.

Everything is closed on Sunday’s here which is still throwing me through a loop.  It’s my only day off and I want to run errands but I can’t.  I was told over the weekend that this is impossible here (yes – the word used was impossible).  Aside from the local Spati’s (late night corner shops) almost everything is closed.

I have traded in my motorbike for a push bike which I am actually loving.  It’s so quick and easy to ride around here (although moderately terrifying because everything still feels backwards to me).  The extra exercise is great although I have been using it to justify eating bread and soft baked pretzels which is not so good.

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German efficiency is beginning to look mythical to me as the formal process to register my existence and apply for my visa is a stressful and taxing one.  Even with a lawyer it’s a difficult process and you always seem to need one thing in order to do another and vice versa.  I don’t know if this is simply the ‘German way’ or if they are trying to discourage the (quickly growing) number of expatriates living in the city.  A question for another day.

I have been surprised by the number of people who don’t speak English here.  On most accounts, general consensus was that almost everyone speaks English here.  This is simply not the case.  It makes training interesting because there’s a lot of hard work being done, and people shouting in German.  Sparring is particularly frightening with all the German yelling.

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I have to be very mindful to not fall into the lazy trap here.  Particularly with these colder months ahead.  Part of my moving here was to explore Europe and enjoy Berlin so I need to be diligent in doing so.  The two days off that I have had I have spent doing some touristy things.  A trip to the Zoo and the Berliner Dom have been my first two pits stops and I am planning to take a trip over the Christmas weekend – hopefully to somewhere I have not visited before.

Grocery shopping is challenging because I have had to Google translate a lot of things.  Meaning I spend a lot of time at the grocery store and often leave without things that I went in for (and a lot of things I didn’t go in for).  I have had some groceries delivered online so I could translate my orders on my computer but there is a noticeable price difference for doing so.

I have joined the ‘Free Advice Berlin’ group on Facebook where I can ask random questions and get advice.  It’s been very helpful in me avoiding committing any cultural or social faux pas, simply from reading other people’s questions.

Socks.  How great are socks!?!? Especially the warm fluffy kind.  And shoes!  I don’t even know where my flip flops are!  It’s a bizarre thing to be enjoying it, but I am!

There is a nice casual culture here which really suits my style.  My boxes still haven’t arrived from Thailand though so I am wearing mostly gym clothes and was forced to buy new jeans.  It could be worse, but I will enjoy having my things when they finally do arrive.

It is COLD!  But shockingly, I am enjoying it – provided there are no gushing winds.  It’s been a really pleasant change after walking on the sun for 3 years.  It takes an extra few minutes to get out the door because of all the layers I have to put on, but all in all, it’s not so bad.  I have more difficulty regulating my temperature between the initial cold, warming up by walking and riding, more cold, then extremely well insulated buildings.  I will get there eventually.

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DHL and other package delivery services are free to leave your parcels with your neighbours which weirds me out a little bit.  So far it’s been fine and it appears to be common practice.  Definitely not something I would want to have happen in Thailand.

The party scene and nightlife is not as obvious as I had expected.  Turns out Berlin has a great nightlife, but is, for the most part, a regular city where people get up and go to work.  Who knew!

I have managed to find a lot of random things that I thought would be difficult to find.  The other day I even found Matcha powder which was a huge win for me.

Wheat free bread is a thing here.  And gluten levels in regular bread are low.  So little to no allergic response to bread has been fantastic.  Very pleased to have been shown where the wheat free bread is though (hopefully when I go back there, the person can speak English…).

Berlin is proving to be quite a lonely city but again, I am not sure if this is due to the weather and being new.  I expect that summer will be a very different story.

All in all the move has gone well.  I love that I am here and I am insanely happy.  It was the right call for me personally and I’m excited by the opportunities that lie ahead.

For the longest time I was watching my friends (particularly in America and Australia) post about their gravity float or sensory deprivation sessions.  I knew a little about it from listening to a Joe Rogan podcast but had resigned to the fact that probably would not have access to, living in Thailand.

We lucked out here in Phuket when Joe and Steve came along and opened the first gravity float in Thailand – about a 10 minute ride from my house.

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I was quite curious about the whole thing so I booked in for one of their opening specials – an hour float for 1000 baht (probably less than half the price of what I would pay at home).

I was greeted by Joe and Steve and sat for a quick chat while the tank was put through it’s routine clean after the previous persons float.  They gave me a run down of the different experiences that people have had their first float and some sage advice for being in there.

Once the float tank was ready, I was ushered into a room where the tank is housed and am provided with a number of items to assist me with my float.  Ear plugs, pillow, Vaseline (for any nicks or cuts), a small towel to hang inside (in case I needed to wipe my face) and a large towel for when I was finished.  I am given a run down of the tank itself, how to get in and out safely, and the bell to listen out for when my time was up.  I was also shown the ‘panic button’, should I, for any reason, need to get out but can’t.

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Awesome!  I’m set to go!

I climbed into the tank, carefully placing my small towel on the rack, and closed the hatch.

Now I don’t know what I was thinking, but my first thought was ‘sh*t!  It’s really dark in here’.  Yes.  Yes it is.  Because it’s a sensory deprivation tank (d’uh!).

I slowly slide down in the tank and try to let myself float.  Easy enough so far!

I closed my eyes to try to visualise the fight I had coming up in a few days, and noticed that my body was slowly floating in a circular motion.  I went to reach for the handle bar on the hatch door, and couldn’t find it.  In a moment or slight panic and opened my eyes, looking for the dim outline of the hatch.  My eyes didn’t appear to be adjusting at all so I quickly sunk my butt to the floor to sit up and in all of my awkwardness, splashing myself in the eyes with the high sodium water.

I slowly found my way back to my starting point, attempted to flush out my eyes with the water bottle provided inside the tank, and continued to float.

I eventually found a few markers inside the tank to give myself an idea of where I was inside the tank.  Eventually I just forgot about it and continued with my float.  I figured there is only one way out!  I’d find it when I needed to.

I had a moment where I was fully focused.  I could see myself at the stadium, getting my hands wrapped, warming up…. and then I was thinking about my cat… and then thinking about training… and then thinking about my personal life… then thinking about needing a new media kit.  My mind went crazy.

I felt really frustrated that I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to.  In turn, it made me restless and I began squirming around in the tank.  I developed an insane impatience because I had no idea how long I had left and I felt a sudden urge to get out.

I convinced myself to just sit still but my anxiety got the better of me and I sat up and opened the hatch door.  I sat there for about 10 seconds and told myself it couldn’t be too far off finishing, so I took a long, deep breath, sunk back in and closed my eyes.  Next thing I knew the bell was sounding.  My time was up.

I hopped out and showered and took a seat out front with Joe and Steve.  They were both so eager to find out what my experience was like.  I told them I was so disappointed that I didn’t get what I thought I would from it, but they both assured me that it was ok and that my next float would be better.

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When I went back for my second float, I had a lot going on in my personal life and it showed.  I couldn’t focus on my next fight at all.  In a moment of frustration I told myself to just let it go.  What ever was going to pop up from my subconscious – let it.  Surprisingly enough, it helped me clear a lot of things out of my mind, which in turn helped me focus on what I needed to be ready for my fight.

I still couldn’t lie still for the entire hour.  What I estimate to be about 45 minutes into the float, I started moving my body.  Rolling my hips from side to side, stretching my arms and legs.  It was actually quite nice and I wasn’t bothered by it at all.  I felt a sense of accomplishment that I sat still for so long.  Meditation is not something I have ever mastered, nor is sitting still.

I didn’t feel panicked or anxious this float which made the hour pass by quickly.

By the time I went in for my third float, I was mentally and personally in a better place.  I was again, close to another fight, but I had such a different experience during my float.  I had a more calm sensation and was able to focus fully on my fight.  I spent my time visualizing all the things I wanted to achieve in my fight, combinations I had been working on and how I could implement them.

I still ended up moving around and stretching from time to time, but mostly because I was so stiff and sore from training that I wanted to increase the physical benefits of my float as well.

Aside from learning how to calm my mind and sort through my subconscious, I noticed a significant difference in my recovery and the extreme relaxation I felt after my floats meant that I came home and had some of the best sleep of my life.

I’m sad to be moving away from Float Indigo – if I had it my way, it would be part of my weekly routine.  Hopefully I can find something similar in Berlin!

To anyone visiting Phuket, I highly recommend you check these guys out.

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Phuket has become an increasingly popular training destination.  Not only for Muay Thai fighters but for health and fitness addicts, and people wanting to improve their general health in some way.  It’s actually a great deal.  You can come and train, eat well, and soak up the wonderful island atmosphere, all at a fraction of what it might cost you at home.

After almost 3 years on the island, I’ve noticed quite a few mistakes that people make on their first training trip to Phuket and I have selected what I believe to be the most important, and have included a few tips to help the new traveler out.

“I’m going to train 15 sessions a week, every week.  I’ve got it all planned out!”

I genuinely enjoy people’s enthusiasm when they get here.  Not only that, I also understand it.  People arrive with the best intentions but often feel defeated a few days in.

The humidity in Phuket is almost always high.  Much higher than most have experienced or expected.  Coupled with those travelling into our high season and the scorching heat, those first few days (sometimes even the first week) can take some time to adjust to.

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Many people start off really strong, fighting through the jet lag and the heat (or whatever other obstacles may be in their way) only to fall short a few days in, exhausted and unable to train.

Don’t underestimate the change in climate!  Start of a little slower than you normally would.  Let your body adapt to the climate and training in these conditions.  It might take a few days, then you can train as hard as you like.

“Water is adequate for hydration”

For those of us who have acclimated over time, this might be true.  But for those coming from abroad, it’s a common mistake to make.

Training sessions are often conducted outdoors  at times where the heat and humidity is not too extreme.  Most people sweat just from being outside, let alone pushing their bodies.

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I have seen many people suffer from cramping, nausea and extreme exhaustion during their sessions without understanding the why.

It’s difficult to replace the amount of water you lose through sweat each session.  Electrolytes are a cheap and simple way to avoid symptoms of dehydration and it always surprises me to see how many people don’t actually use any.  Head to your local pharmacy or Supacheap and ask for some.  Even your local 7/11 will stock some.

“Beach erryday!”

For those training 1 session a day, going to the beach (when the weather is good) is very realistic.  For those training multiple sessions a day, you might find this a struggle.

You usually have a few hours in between training sessions.  Most will spend the first hour or so after training, showering and eating.

Hitting the beach in between every training session begins to take it’s toll for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, your rest period is usually in the middle of the day, right when it’s the hottest.  Why?  Because most people don’t want to train when it is that hot.  So when you hit the beach at that time, be prepared to fry yourself.  Most only last a hour or 2 at that time.

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Second to this, the heat zaps your energy.  A combination of extreme heat and possibly a little dehydration can leave you feeling exhausted, as can swimming in the ocean!

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen people do it.  Chill on the beach every day in between sessions.  But usually it is people who are only here for a week wanting to maximise their time and experience.

The beaches are beautiful and relaxing, just be sure that if you go, to stay adequately hydrated and make sure you leave enough time to rest and fuel up for your next session.

“Thai food is so healthy!  It’s going to be easy for me to lose weight”

I myself fell under this trap when I first moved here.  Thai food is so delicious and cheap, it’s difficult to resist sometimes.

People often think that Thai food is all vegetables and rice – which to be fair is not completely wrong.  What most don’t realise is that a lot of the food is laden with MSG and sugar.

All Thai dishes contain sugar.  All.  Even their omelettes have sugar in them.  Luckily, if you are aware of this, you can request your dish without.

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MSG is the tricky one.  Here in Phuket, some cafes are advertising that they don’t use MSG.  Because of the rather healthy clientele and repeated requests to make food without it, it’s become easier to find places that no longer cook with MSG.

In addition to the MSG and sugar, traditional Thai meals don’t have a good macro balance.  You get almost 2 cups of rice with your meal (most people mistake it for one) and almost no protein (approx 50 – 70 grams per serve).

I’m not a huge advocate of stuffing yourself with protein, but if your nutrition approach requires a high level of protein, you’re best to stick with the BBQ proteins available.

In my experience, especially with grappling and MMA, every gym has a different style and program.  Most of what I know I have learnt through tips from other people or from watching fights on TV.  When everyone is on the same program it puts you on par with other students.  This recent change in gyms has really highlighted a lot of technical gaps and gaps in my knowledge.

My grappling is still very new.  Yes I dabbled from time to time in Melbourne, but nothing significant enough to warrant mention.  In all honesty I mostly went to spend time with my grappling buddies and to take a break from getting punched in the face.

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When I left Thailand I finally felt as though I had turned a corner in both my grappling and MMA sparring.  I went home and rolled with a good friend who had trained with me in Thailand earlier on in the year.  He had a lot of good feedback about my development in the few months in between which was a relief to hear.

Fast forward to Berlin and I don’t even understand a lot of the warm up.  I feel like the broken link in the chain slowing my partner down during drilling.  It’s the first time where things have been shown to me and I can’t put them into action.  It’s so frustrating to feel like I am starting all over again.

Fortunately, I am still a white belt and most people have exceptional patience with me but I’m eager to catch up with this program and to start developing again.  It’s a strange thing having your rolls be ok, but having no technical training against technical grapplers really shows.14753713_1814485248827455_8807372661076320949_o

I had my first sparring session over the weekend which was nice.  I almost backed out but thought it might be nice to see how I go on my feet – do something that I am more comfortable with.

One of greatest things from the past few months at AKA has been getting in MMA sparring 3 times a week.  I relied heavily on my clinch in my fights and never took the time to develop my striking until this year.

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It was a very uncomfortable beginning.  A few (accidental) concussions and some quiet (and some not so quiet) tears.  After a few sessions you decide to quit or not be the punching bag and I went with the latter.  I worked with people I trusted, people who would push me, and I grew.  My striking still has a long way to go but I am feeling a lot more confident on my feet.  Even in my exhausted and jetlagged state, I felt comfortable standing and trading.

It’s always difficult being the new kid at a gym – it takes time to see where people are at, what is acceptable in training and how hard people will push you.  Today was a great way to help me find my feet although I still feel like I was a few steps out of place.

I’m, however, definitely in the right spot for now.  I feel completely supported in my career and I have some really talented training partners.  I joined a team and a family and I’m excited to see what lays ahead for us all.

I am hoping to announce my next fight soon but this next week will be spent getting on the new program – getting some of my fitness back – and hopefully shaking my awful jetlag!

Stay tuned!

I always liked to dabble in jiu jitsu.  It has often been a welcome break from my striking training, and a large number of my friends back home are grapplers, so it was a great way to spend time with them and have a little fun in between fights.  (pajamas and cuddles!  I mean, c’mon!)

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Going into MMA, I know I need to work my ground game A LOT.  I am far behind the pack, but with no regrets as I have spent this time developing my striking skills.  In the beginning I struggled to find the motivation to train consistently because I naturally wanted to go back to what I knew.

I really enjoy live rolling.  I always have.  But it was never really enough to keep me interested.  How was it that I spent 2 years doing 12 Muay Thai sessions a week but 5 BJJ sessions a week seemed impossible?  Why would anyone want to do that?

Fighting on the side has meant constant interruptions to my BJJ training, which personally, I haven’t minded.  I have felt that by taking a few consecutive days off the mats, that I come back and new things click into place and make sense to me.  It gives my tired old body some time to catch up to my brain.

One of the biggest problems I faced, was that I have always loathed training in a Gi.  Mostly because I got choked out with my own Gi a lot (which is both hilarious and frustrating) and I felt like no gi was the better fit for MMA.  I used that as an excuse to avoid training in a Gi.  Also, if I’m being totally honest, having a valid reason to buy colourful spats and superhero rash guards was also a big draw card….

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Before I went on my holidays, I found a new enjoyment in my BJJ sessions.  It didn’t matter how tired I was, I didn’t want to miss out on a roll.  I put it down to it still being so new, that the novelty would wear off.  But to my surprise – it hasn’t.

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One of my friends tagged me in an article we were discussing last night, which I felt excited to read.  The BJJ community is so large and there is a huge amount of information out there, passed down by people, once walking in our shoes.

I’ve been searching for tape to buddy tape my busted finger and to protect my poor poor spidey fingers because I love spider guard drills so much that I don’t want to miss out because my fingers are raw or bleeding.

I recently watched some great videos on foot and ankle control and guard passes because I get stuck there.  And then I realised.  It’s happened.  I’ve turned into a BJJ girl.

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I had that great light bulb moment where I rolled with a blue belt, and used his Gi to manipulate his and my own movements and finally understood why people enjoyed Gi training so much.  There are so many creative ways to maneuver, submit and roll in a Gi!

It’s nice to be able to continue learning and growing so much and doing what I love.  I am shocked that I have found so much love for this sport and I’m excited to keep pushing and seeing where I end up.

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I’m joining an amazing team in Berlin next month where I hope to start working towards my blue belt (something which never really mattered to me before).

Maybe it’s time to buy that second Gi….

Recently I made the decision to leave Phuket and move to Berlin.  I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages that I have not had the time to reply to yet but I am very grateful to everyone for their well wishes and support.

Leaving the land of Muay Thai was not a decision that was made lightly.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Muay Thai will always be my first love.  Despite this, I’ve had to make a choice between the two for now and it’s time to give MMA a run.

While Muay Thai fights are plentiful here, MMA fights, especially for woman are not.  The pool of competitors is small, given that MMA is still, technically, illegal in Thailand.  So regardless of what happens, I will need to travel to fight.  This puts me in an awkward position given that I have had no MMA fights to date.  Promoters don’t want to fly nobody’s (which given the costs involved is totally fair) so I needed to look into where would be a good place to go, to continue on this path.

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Second to that, is that living in Thailand long term (without a work visa or education visa) is becoming more and more difficult as the years roll on.

I was extremely lucky to meet the requirements for a 12 month working holiday visa my first year in Thailand so I had no issues and no evidence of visa runs (border runs) in my passport so I was never flagged at immigration.  I then replaced my passport at the end of last year so that there were no obvious flags.  Getting through immigration the first few times were a breeze.

When I came back from my trip to Europe (check out my photos on instagram @missmuaythai) I was immediately flagged at immigration, despite having been out of the country for 6 weeks AND having a brand new, valid, 60 day visa.  The officer flagged me by mistake, as his supervisor took one look at my visa and said, this is fine.  But the questions came.  “You come in and out of Thailand a lot?”.  “What are you doing here?”.  I was half expecting them to request a copy of my bank statement or an ATM slip (which, they can actually ask you for so you can prove you have the means to support yourself here).

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At this point in time, another tourist visa is not going to help my case much and if I need to fly out of the country (to go home or to fight) means I will have more issues coming back.

And finally.  I and ready to rejoin western society, to work a little and get back into the swing of regular life.

Thailand is a wonderful place, and I am so grateful for my time here.  I’ve made lifelong friends and made irreplaceable memories, but for me, it’s time for the next adventure.  And who knows!  I’ll probably be back again!
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In my experience, especially with grappling and MMA, every gym has a different style and program.  Most of what I know I have learnt through tips from other people or from watching fights on TV.  When everyone is on the same program it puts you on par with other students.  This recent change in gyms has really highlighted a lot of technical gaps and gaps in my knowledge.

My grappling is still very new.  Yes I dabbled from time to time in Melbourne, but nothing significant enough to warrant mention.  In all honesty I mostly went to spend time with my grappling buddies and to take a break from getting punched in the face.

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When I left Thailand I finally felt as though I had turned a corner in both my grappling and MMA sparring.  I went home and rolled with a good friend who had trained with me in Thailand earlier on in the year.  He had a lot of good feedback about my development in the few months in between which was a relief to hear.

Fast forward to Berlin and I don’t even understand a lot of the warm up.  I feel like the broken link in the chain slowing my partner down during drilling.  It’s the first time where things have been shown to me and I can’t put them into action.  It’s so frustrating to feel like I am starting all over again.

Fortunately, I am still a white belt and most people have exceptional patience with me but I’m eager to catch up with this program and to start developing again.  It’s a strange thing having your rolls be ok, but having no technical training against technical grapplers really shows.14753713_1814485248827455_8807372661076320949_o

I had my first sparring session over the weekend which was nice.  I almost backed out but thought it might be nice to see how I go on my feet – do something that I am more comfortable with.

One of greatest things from the past few months at AKA has been getting in MMA sparring 3 times a week.  I relied heavily on my clinch in my fights and never took the time to develop my striking until this year.

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It was a very uncomfortable beginning.  A few (accidental) concussions and some quiet (and some not so quiet) tears.  After a few sessions you decide to quit or not be the punching bag and I went with the latter.  I worked with people I trusted, people who would push me, and I grew.  My striking still has a long way to go but I am feeling a lot more confident on my feet.  Even in my exhausted and jetlagged state, I felt comfortable standing and trading.

It’s always difficult being the new kid at a gym – it takes time to see where people are at, what is acceptable in training and how hard people will push you.  Today was a great way to help me find my feet although I still feel like I was a few steps out of place.

I’m, however, definitely in the right spot for now.  I feel completely supported in my career and I have some really talented training partners.  I joined a team and a family and I’m excited to see what lays ahead for us all.

I am hoping to announce my next fight soon but this next week will be spent getting on the new program – getting some of my fitness back – and hopefully shaking my awful jetlag!

Stay tuned!

Phuket has become an increasingly popular training destination.  Not only for Muay Thai fighters but for health and fitness addicts, and people wanting to improve their general health in some way.  It’s actually a great deal.  You can come and train, eat well, and soak up the wonderful island atmosphere, all at a fraction of what it might cost you at home.

After almost 3 years on the island, I’ve noticed quite a few mistakes that people make on their first training trip to Phuket and I have selected what I believe to be the most important, and have included a few tips to help the new traveler out.

“I’m going to train 15 sessions a week, every week.  I’ve got it all planned out!”

I genuinely enjoy people’s enthusiasm when they get here.  Not only that, I also understand it.  People arrive with the best intentions but often feel defeated a few days in.

The humidity in Phuket is almost always high.  Much higher than most have experienced or expected.  Coupled with those travelling into our high season and the scorching heat, those first few days (sometimes even the first week) can take some time to adjust to.

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Many people start off really strong, fighting through the jet lag and the heat (or whatever other obstacles may be in their way) only to fall short a few days in, exhausted and unable to train.

Don’t underestimate the change in climate!  Start of a little slower than you normally would.  Let your body adapt to the climate and training in these conditions.  It might take a few days, then you can train as hard as you like.

“Water is adequate for hydration”

For those of us who have acclimated over time, this might be true.  But for those coming from abroad, it’s a common mistake to make.

Training sessions are often conducted outdoors  at times where the heat and humidity is not too extreme.  Most people sweat just from being outside, let alone pushing their bodies.

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I have seen many people suffer from cramping, nausea and extreme exhaustion during their sessions without understanding the why.

It’s difficult to replace the amount of water you lose through sweat each session.  Electrolytes are a cheap and simple way to avoid symptoms of dehydration and it always surprises me to see how many people don’t actually use any.  Head to your local pharmacy or Supacheap and ask for some.  Even your local 7/11 will stock some.

“Beach erryday!”

For those training 1 session a day, going to the beach (when the weather is good) is very realistic.  For those training multiple sessions a day, you might find this a struggle.

You usually have a few hours in between training sessions.  Most will spend the first hour or so after training, showering and eating.

Hitting the beach in between every training session begins to take it’s toll for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, your rest period is usually in the middle of the day, right when it’s the hottest.  Why?  Because most people don’t want to train when it is that hot.  So when you hit the beach at that time, be prepared to fry yourself.  Most only last a hour or 2 at that time.

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Second to this, the heat zaps your energy.  A combination of extreme heat and possibly a little dehydration can leave you feeling exhausted, as can swimming in the ocean!

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen people do it.  Chill on the beach every day in between sessions.  But usually it is people who are only here for a week wanting to maximise their time and experience.

The beaches are beautiful and relaxing, just be sure that if you go, to stay adequately hydrated and make sure you leave enough time to rest and fuel up for your next session.

“Thai food is so healthy!  It’s going to be easy for me to lose weight”

I myself fell under this trap when I first moved here.  Thai food is so delicious and cheap, it’s difficult to resist sometimes.

People often think that Thai food is all vegetables and rice – which to be fair is not completely wrong.  What most don’t realise is that a lot of the food is laden with MSG and sugar.

All Thai dishes contain sugar.  All.  Even their omelettes have sugar in them.  Luckily, if you are aware of this, you can request your dish without.

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MSG is the tricky one.  Here in Phuket, some cafes are advertising that they don’t use MSG.  Because of the rather healthy clientele and repeated requests to make food without it, it’s become easier to find places that no longer cook with MSG.

In addition to the MSG and sugar, traditional Thai meals don’t have a good macro balance.  You get almost 2 cups of rice with your meal (most people mistake it for one) and almost no protein (approx 50 – 70 grams per serve).

I’m not a huge advocate of stuffing yourself with protein, but if your nutrition approach requires a high level of protein, you’re best to stick with the BBQ proteins available.

For the longest time I was watching my friends (particularly in America and Australia) post about their gravity float or sensory deprivation sessions.  I knew a little about it from listening to a Joe Rogan podcast but had resigned to the fact that probably would not have access to, living in Thailand.

We lucked out here in Phuket when Joe and Steve came along and opened the first gravity float in Thailand – about a 10 minute ride from my house.

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I was quite curious about the whole thing so I booked in for one of their opening specials – an hour float for 1000 baht (probably less than half the price of what I would pay at home).

I was greeted by Joe and Steve and sat for a quick chat while the tank was put through it’s routine clean after the previous persons float.  They gave me a run down of the different experiences that people have had their first float and some sage advice for being in there.

Once the float tank was ready, I was ushered into a room where the tank is housed and am provided with a number of items to assist me with my float.  Ear plugs, pillow, Vaseline (for any nicks or cuts), a small towel to hang inside (in case I needed to wipe my face) and a large towel for when I was finished.  I am given a run down of the tank itself, how to get in and out safely, and the bell to listen out for when my time was up.  I was also shown the ‘panic button’, should I, for any reason, need to get out but can’t.

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Awesome!  I’m set to go!

I climbed into the tank, carefully placing my small towel on the rack, and closed the hatch.

Now I don’t know what I was thinking, but my first thought was ‘sh*t!  It’s really dark in here’.  Yes.  Yes it is.  Because it’s a sensory deprivation tank (d’uh!).

I slowly slide down in the tank and try to let myself float.  Easy enough so far!

I closed my eyes to try to visualise the fight I had coming up in a few days, and noticed that my body was slowly floating in a circular motion.  I went to reach for the handle bar on the hatch door, and couldn’t find it.  In a moment or slight panic and opened my eyes, looking for the dim outline of the hatch.  My eyes didn’t appear to be adjusting at all so I quickly sunk my butt to the floor to sit up and in all of my awkwardness, splashing myself in the eyes with the high sodium water.

I slowly found my way back to my starting point, attempted to flush out my eyes with the water bottle provided inside the tank, and continued to float.

I eventually found a few markers inside the tank to give myself an idea of where I was inside the tank.  Eventually I just forgot about it and continued with my float.  I figured there is only one way out!  I’d find it when I needed to.

I had a moment where I was fully focused.  I could see myself at the stadium, getting my hands wrapped, warming up…. and then I was thinking about my cat… and then thinking about training… and then thinking about my personal life… then thinking about needing a new media kit.  My mind went crazy.

I felt really frustrated that I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to.  In turn, it made me restless and I began squirming around in the tank.  I developed an insane impatience because I had no idea how long I had left and I felt a sudden urge to get out.

I convinced myself to just sit still but my anxiety got the better of me and I sat up and opened the hatch door.  I sat there for about 10 seconds and told myself it couldn’t be too far off finishing, so I took a long, deep breath, sunk back in and closed my eyes.  Next thing I knew the bell was sounding.  My time was up.

I hopped out and showered and took a seat out front with Joe and Steve.  They were both so eager to find out what my experience was like.  I told them I was so disappointed that I didn’t get what I thought I would from it, but they both assured me that it was ok and that my next float would be better.

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When I went back for my second float, I had a lot going on in my personal life and it showed.  I couldn’t focus on my next fight at all.  In a moment of frustration I told myself to just let it go.  What ever was going to pop up from my subconscious – let it.  Surprisingly enough, it helped me clear a lot of things out of my mind, which in turn helped me focus on what I needed to be ready for my fight.

I still couldn’t lie still for the entire hour.  What I estimate to be about 45 minutes into the float, I started moving my body.  Rolling my hips from side to side, stretching my arms and legs.  It was actually quite nice and I wasn’t bothered by it at all.  I felt a sense of accomplishment that I sat still for so long.  Meditation is not something I have ever mastered, nor is sitting still.

I didn’t feel panicked or anxious this float which made the hour pass by quickly.

By the time I went in for my third float, I was mentally and personally in a better place.  I was again, close to another fight, but I had such a different experience during my float.  I had a more calm sensation and was able to focus fully on my fight.  I spent my time visualizing all the things I wanted to achieve in my fight, combinations I had been working on and how I could implement them.

I still ended up moving around and stretching from time to time, but mostly because I was so stiff and sore from training that I wanted to increase the physical benefits of my float as well.

Aside from learning how to calm my mind and sort through my subconscious, I noticed a significant difference in my recovery and the extreme relaxation I felt after my floats meant that I came home and had some of the best sleep of my life.

I’m sad to be moving away from Float Indigo – if I had it my way, it would be part of my weekly routine.  Hopefully I can find something similar in Berlin!

To anyone visiting Phuket, I highly recommend you check these guys out.

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I always liked to dabble in jiu jitsu.  It has often been a welcome break from my striking training, and a large number of my friends back home are grapplers, so it was a great way to spend time with them and have a little fun in between fights.  (pajamas and cuddles!  I mean, c’mon!)

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Going into MMA, I know I need to work my ground game A LOT.  I am far behind the pack, but with no regrets as I have spent this time developing my striking skills.  In the beginning I struggled to find the motivation to train consistently because I naturally wanted to go back to what I knew.

I really enjoy live rolling.  I always have.  But it was never really enough to keep me interested.  How was it that I spent 2 years doing 12 Muay Thai sessions a week but 5 BJJ sessions a week seemed impossible?  Why would anyone want to do that?

Fighting on the side has meant constant interruptions to my BJJ training, which personally, I haven’t minded.  I have felt that by taking a few consecutive days off the mats, that I come back and new things click into place and make sense to me.  It gives my tired old body some time to catch up to my brain.

One of the biggest problems I faced, was that I have always loathed training in a Gi.  Mostly because I got choked out with my own Gi a lot (which is both hilarious and frustrating) and I felt like no gi was the better fit for MMA.  I used that as an excuse to avoid training in a Gi.  Also, if I’m being totally honest, having a valid reason to buy colourful spats and superhero rash guards was also a big draw card….

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Before I went on my holidays, I found a new enjoyment in my BJJ sessions.  It didn’t matter how tired I was, I didn’t want to miss out on a roll.  I put it down to it still being so new, that the novelty would wear off.  But to my surprise – it hasn’t.

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One of my friends tagged me in an article we were discussing last night, which I felt excited to read.  The BJJ community is so large and there is a huge amount of information out there, passed down by people, once walking in our shoes.

I’ve been searching for tape to buddy tape my busted finger and to protect my poor poor spidey fingers because I love spider guard drills so much that I don’t want to miss out because my fingers are raw or bleeding.

I recently watched some great videos on foot and ankle control and guard passes because I get stuck there.  And then I realised.  It’s happened.  I’ve turned into a BJJ girl.

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I had that great light bulb moment where I rolled with a blue belt, and used his Gi to manipulate his and my own movements and finally understood why people enjoyed Gi training so much.  There are so many creative ways to maneuver, submit and roll in a Gi!

It’s nice to be able to continue learning and growing so much and doing what I love.  I am shocked that I have found so much love for this sport and I’m excited to keep pushing and seeing where I end up.

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I’m joining an amazing team in Berlin next month where I hope to start working towards my blue belt (something which never really mattered to me before).

Maybe it’s time to buy that second Gi….

Recently I made the decision to leave Phuket and move to Berlin.  I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages that I have not had the time to reply to yet but I am very grateful to everyone for their well wishes and support.

Leaving the land of Muay Thai was not a decision that was made lightly.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Muay Thai will always be my first love.  Despite this, I’ve had to make a choice between the two for now and it’s time to give MMA a run.

While Muay Thai fights are plentiful here, MMA fights, especially for woman are not.  The pool of competitors is small, given that MMA is still, technically, illegal in Thailand.  So regardless of what happens, I will need to travel to fight.  This puts me in an awkward position given that I have had no MMA fights to date.  Promoters don’t want to fly nobody’s (which given the costs involved is totally fair) so I needed to look into where would be a good place to go, to continue on this path.

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Second to that, is that living in Thailand long term (without a work visa or education visa) is becoming more and more difficult as the years roll on.

I was extremely lucky to meet the requirements for a 12 month working holiday visa my first year in Thailand so I had no issues and no evidence of visa runs (border runs) in my passport so I was never flagged at immigration.  I then replaced my passport at the end of last year so that there were no obvious flags.  Getting through immigration the first few times were a breeze.

When I came back from my trip to Europe (check out my photos on instagram @missmuaythai) I was immediately flagged at immigration, despite having been out of the country for 6 weeks AND having a brand new, valid, 60 day visa.  The officer flagged me by mistake, as his supervisor took one look at my visa and said, this is fine.  But the questions came.  “You come in and out of Thailand a lot?”.  “What are you doing here?”.  I was half expecting them to request a copy of my bank statement or an ATM slip (which, they can actually ask you for so you can prove you have the means to support yourself here).

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At this point in time, another tourist visa is not going to help my case much and if I need to fly out of the country (to go home or to fight) means I will have more issues coming back.

And finally.  I and ready to rejoin western society, to work a little and get back into the swing of regular life.

Thailand is a wonderful place, and I am so grateful for my time here.  I’ve made lifelong friends and made irreplaceable memories, but for me, it’s time for the next adventure.  And who knows!  I’ll probably be back again!
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The Andovers: towns located in the North Shore of MA, which have a very rich history and legacy dating back to 1642. In addition to the historical landmarks, it is home to thriving multi-generation businesses and is concentrated with top and elite prep schools in the nation. My family has been lucky to call this area home for many generations, as my ancestors immigrated and resided in Andover. Being featured in their premier magazine is an incredible honor, given the robust talent and events that are in the area.

This article is written by Dave Dyer, who has been covering my story since pre- English Channel days. In addition to being an athlete himself, Dave is an excellent writer. He always asks questions that make me take a second to think about, and accurately conveys the points. It has been an honor and privilege talking to such a talented writer over the years. image1

This article documents my journey and highlights those who have played a fundamental role in my swimming and more importantly, my life. I am incredibly blessed.

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Grrrl has withdrawn its sponsorship of Julianna Pena over Ronda Rousey comments.

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GRRRL CEO Kortney Olson has withdrawn her clothing line’s sponsorship of UFC athlete Julianna Pena over her public bodyshaming of former UFC champion Ronda Rousey.

Grrrl is the first clothing label in the world not to feature sizing, instead helping women to match their body-type to a range of global female athletes’ figures. It also has a manifesto unparalleled in its commitment to right the glaring wrongs in the fashion industry.  Kortney today commented, “At the end of the day, GRRRL clothing exists to empower women. Not to sell more tshirts. I was extremely excited to bring Pena on-board, as I believe she has the fierce spirit of a champion. And has the potential to dominate the division for many years. She’s hard as nails, but unfortunately, her nails are rusty.  

To call another fighter ‘fat’ completely contradicts who and what we stand for as a brand. And while it may cost us to miss out on the publicity of Julianna winning a world title, we think it’s more important to stay true to what we believe.  There will always be an element of trash talking between fighters. It’s a big part of the lure of the sport. Humans love drama. However, calling out a woman by referring to her “fat arms” when she’s experienced bulimia is unacceptable and I won’t have a rusty fucking bit of it.”

Kortney added, “Active wear and sports wear brands like to present themselves as empowering women. In reality, it’s just a cynical marketing ploy by corporations, mostly men, that do nothing for women other than reinforce stupid, harmful stereotypes. And we want no part in that. As much as we believe in Juliana as an athlete, we have to look beyond that.“The very brands that pretend to support women in our industry are actually abusing, demeaning and holding women back. If you think I’m exaggerating, I suggest you google Chip Wilson of Lululemon, or fat shaming and Lorna Jane.”“We’re tired of billion dollar companies masquerading as female-friendly. We’re tired of the hypocrisy of brands presenting as female-focused when they’re perpetuating female stereotypes.” #grrrlarmy #integrity #GRRRL #ufc GRRRL Clothing

The post Grrrl has withdrawn its sponsorship of Julianna Pena over Ronda Rousey comments appeared first on Kortney Olson >> Konfidence By Kortney.

To me it’s funny… you can spend hundreds of thousands of hours, millions of miles, and years of thinking about a goal, but in the end, it comes down to the 39, 11 or 9 hours that you are gritting it out in the inferno…can you get it done when its time to do your marathon swim.

This summer, the gritty “Smith College Marathon Swimming Fempire” was formed. This fempire was created spontaneously: Abby Bergman ’17 was training to swim the world renown Catalina Channel (20.1 miles), Eliza Cummings ’16 was training to swim the rare Plymouth to Provincetown swim (19.1 miles) and I, Paige Christie ‘15 was training to swim the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim (120 miles). The order would take place as such: myself, “the Veteran”, going first with the 8 Bridges swim from June to July, Abby “the Open Water Enthusiast,” going second at the end of July, and Eliza, “The Shark Whisperer” going third in August. Abby and Eliza were both going for their first marathon swim, and I was testing my rebound abilities after my English Channel Swim in 2014. In addition, the three of us were serving as either support swimmer or mentor for each other’s swim. A chain of sisterly support.

The three of us celebrated in each other’s successes and were the sounding board for many of the uncertainties that come with marathon swimming. A month before my swim, a vintage plane went down in the Hudson, a week before Abby’s swim there was a massive sewage spill in the beaches just south of where her swim would finish, and Eliza’s swim had many shark sightings prior. You need a supportive network of strong-minded individuals to help get the best version of self out of each other. No doubt, the success that snowballed from each other’s training and marathon swims propelled each of us forward.

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Now that the three of us have dried off from our respective swims I was able to ask some questions:

Why did you pick your specific swim?

Abby: I have wanted to cross the 20-mile Catalina Channel ever since I was 12 years old and read Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. Reading about other people working hard to achieve their goals inspired me to put in the effort to reach my goals. I will be swimming the English Channel in 2017 and I thought it would be a way to test myself by completing another portion of the Triple Crown, prior.

Eliza: I picked the 19.1-mile P2P because I wanted to do a marathon swim that was a comparable sort of distance to one of the Triple Crown swims but was more financially viable. I was looking primarily at the east coast for possible swims and David Barra (famed open water swimmer) actually was the one who recommended the P2P to me. It was the right distance and the kind of channel challenge that I wanted to undertake. Before my attempt only 7 people in the world had successfully completed the swim so I was also drawn to the P2P because it was a fresh, exciting challenge.

Paige: I live by the philosophy, if you going to do something, you might as well do it right and go for the highest standard…raise the bar. My first swim, the English Channel was and is considered the “Everest” of marathon swimming. After having done that, I thought, “lets go for the longest, most challenging swim out there and put myself to the maximum test.” Regardless of the outcome I wanted to leave the water having learned something about limits, support, and life.  Fast forward a year and I found myself becoming the 6th person to ever swim 8 Bridges, the longest marathon swim in the world, in one of the most historic rivers in the history of our nation.

Do you feel your time at Smith has prepared you for this kind of a challenge…a challenge that is beyond the Smith lecture halls and Dalton Pool?

Abby: Swimming with Coach Kim Bierwert has taught me that anything can be accomplished through hard work and passion. I really appreciate his belief in me and his support of my goals.

Eliza: I would not be the swimmer I am today without the guidance of Coach Kim and the support of the Smith College Swim & Dive team. As an incoming first year I was one of the weakest swimmers on the team but three years later I was able to accomplish something I never would have imagined being possible. The passion, hard work, and dedication of the athletes and coaches at Smith pushed me to become the swimmer I am today.

Paige: The Smith network is unmatched. The support I felt from Smithies past present and future was a huge motivator that symbolically poured the gasoline over the flame of my determination. To top it off, I had the support and wisdom from my 4-years under the guidance of Coach Bierwert, “the mastermind,” who is the epitome of a dedicated and inspiring coach.

What was the most challenging part of your swim?

Abby: There were two parts of my Catalina Crossing that were particularly difficult. At about 3 hours in I started to really feel the mental strain of swimming alone in the dark in the middle of the ocean. I started to think, how am I going to do this for 8 more hours, but I convinced myself to keep swimming. The other hard part came when I could see the shore but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. By that point, my shoulders were aching but I knew I was so close to shore so I kept swimming.

Eliza: The first three hours of my swim were really tough because it was pitch black at the beginning and I didn’t realize that due to the position of the safety boat I was inhaling fumes. The fumes made me really sick. Once the sun rose and I figured out what was happening I had my kayaker reposition us away from the fumes. Quitting or getting out was never an option but the beginning was definitely tough.

Paige: There is nothing easy about swimming seven, 15-20 mile marathon swims for 7 consecutive days. The muscle breakdown, logistical preparations, emphasis on recovery, sunburn, and exhaustion that occur when one swims for 39 hours can be overwhelming…. and that’s not even talking about the courses, weather, winds and currents! Without my support system of my family, knowledge and positivity from my kayaker, alert and intelligent race directors, and the synergy from the other swimmers, this wouldn’t have been possible.

What advice would you give a future OW swimmer?

Abby: Don’t let doubts (your own or other people’s) get in the way of achieving your dreams.

Eliza: Do it! Open water swimming is not for the faint of heart but it is a challenging, rewarding, and exhilarating experience. It is incredible what you can accomplish when you dedicate yourself to a goal. The human body is resilient and it’s really your mind that you have to get on board, but once you have the mental toughness, you can do anything.

Paige: You know yourself best. Make sure you are clear on the “why” before you get started. That “why” will help power you through your most vulnerable times.

How did it feel to be a part of the “marathon swimming fempire”?

Abby: The support of other Smithies during my training was invaluable. To be able to talk to Paige and Eliza daily helped me to get through all the ups and downs of marathon training.

Eliza: The best part was the support, love, and empowerment you get when you are part of a team of strong women! Even though marathon swimming is an “individual sport” it takes a team and environment of positivity and guidance to pull off any of these swims, and that’s what Paige and Abby gave to me everyday. Overall, I am so proud of the nine individual swims, and the three records we accomplished as a marathon swimming fempire this summer.

Paige: Abby and Eliza reminded me of how exciting it can be to plan and train for a marathon swim. In life, it’s always more fun to be able to share in success with others. I am grateful they allowed me to be a part of their journeys and narratives. It further proved to me that Smithies run the world.

“Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction.” 

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This, is a public apology for posting a picture of your dick.

Because I live that ‘spiritual life’, I’m responsible for my actions.  I take regular inventory of myself and call myself on my bullshit when necessary.

Dick pics.  Lets talk about them.

Now some of you may have noticed I turned my messages off on my Facebook fan page.  Reason being, is on average, I’d get 2-3 different dick pics a day.  That’s not such  big deal, right?  But when you add it in with the countless messages from men I don’t know (wouldn’t matter if I did know them to be frank), about how they want to:

-plow my big ass with their cock
-have me smash their dick between my strong legs
-etc etc

It gets old.

I get it.  Men are programmed to be aroused differently.  Us women want to have a deep and meaningful conversation while we stare into each others eyes, then hope you start out by kissing our neck gently.

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That has always remained the same.  But- somewhere along the way after the birth of the internet, there’s been zero education on how to ‘act right’ online, via computer, phone, or any other piece of technology.  Now with virtually anything accessible at your fingertips, life’s a very different place prior to before the internet.  It’s become ‘normal’ for men to talk this way to women they don’t know.

Now, I do my best to not judge.  As most of you know I spent close to 3 years in the ‘muscle fetish underground’ world as a ‘muscle goddess’, getting paid to stand around and flex, or demonstrate features of strength.  Nothing surprises me anymore.  And most of my ‘fans’ I got to know extremely well.  I don’t see anything as “weird” or “gross”.  Just “normal”, great men with a fascination or obsession with “different” aspects of arousal.  The only thing I do know now, is that life is not what it seems.  ALL people wear masks.  Whenever I get pulled over by a cop, or need to stand in front of a judge again (hopefully those days are gone forever since I quit drinking 7 years ago lol) I can silently sit and think to myself “ah- yes… I know what you like to do when you get off work behind closed doors…. put on women’s pantyhose and get slapped around!”.  Or even the dentist…

I digress.

The point is, the dick pics get old.  And they aren’t getting you anywhere.

Now, here’s the apology. Kinda-

A few months back, I had a one-way conversation start in my personal Facebook messages with a guy talking about his dick.  Along with pictures of it of course.  I didn’t see it for months, because I can’t keep up with my inbox.  I hardly catch my dad’s messages.  I’m actually contemplating shutting messages off on my personal page as well.  Anyway, I gave this guy a really good reply, and decided to share it in a closed group of women whom I lead, since the topic of dick pics came up (again).

Not a problem, right?  If you send me a picture of your dick and continue to message me without me replying, that’s fair ground to put your shit out in public, isn’t it?  Well to some, maybe.  At the time it seemed fine to me.  But that changed.  And it only changed when the guy potentially found out about it, as he messaged me again and asked if I “blasted him on Facebook lol”.

Without blocking his name from the picture, this opens him up to anything.  And who knows, maybe he’d take his own life out of embarrassment by women being able to go and look him up publicly.  Although he has one of the most common names in the world, and his wall is covered in posts about the enormous size of his dick, the point is, all of my actions have consequences.  Potentially none to him, but other women may see that move as a display of character and that they might not be able to trust me.  So often we do shit without thinking all the way through.  Kind of like when I was still drinking…… “if I take this 10th cocktail, I miiiiiiiiiiiiiiight end up getting behind the wheel and running over a family of 4 walking down the street while singing to Prince too loudly whilst in a blackout”.  Never really thought about that shit!

Whilst I focus my life on empowering women not to judge other women, and more importantly, not to judge ourselves, I can’t have my cake and eat it to.  I can’t live my principles, and only apply them to certain classes of people.  As one of my teachers said, ‘by creating enemy’s we create separation”.

I don’t know this man.  I don’t know how he was raised.  Potentially without a strong mother figure.  I don’t know if he’s a drug addict seeking attention or help.

Upon taking regular inventory of myself, I can see when my actions don’t match up with how I’m aiming to live my life.  If I’m striving to be the best possible version of me, I have to address this stuff as it comes up, and realise the only reason why I checked my actions was because he potentially found out.

Lastly, a word of advice on dick pics.  Just as I said to this young man, “don’t bother”.  The single most attractive trait women find appealing in a partner, is quiet confidence.  I told him, “don’t attract women who just want you for your massive dick”, “whip it out when the time is right and surprise the shit out of her”…

In fact, here’s exactly what I wrote:

“No, i don’t think you’re sorry you sent a dick pic. i don’t know why i was compelled to look at your profile. you love toting that you have a big dick. let me let you in on a little secret: women love quiet confidence. stop chasing women who’d be interested in your big dick. much more satisfaction to hook up with a girl for reasons other than having a big dick. THEN whip it out (when the time is right) and surprise her. when you brag about it, it makes you look like a mark. confidence is the HOTTEST thing in another person. you have a big dick- and only you need to know that. rest assured in the silence that you have the biggest dick of all the land. and a lucky women MIGHT get to see it. don’t whore yourself out. Namaste”

As I read in a article the other day, it was suggested by this woman that men send pics of their dick as a power play.  They do it knowing that we can’t un-see it, and more than likely wouldn’t want to.  If you think about it, it’s not like a dick is a comparison of a beautiful bouquet of gorgeous smelling flowers.  Unless you’re a cougar who’s been locked up in a cage for years, and you’re in your prime, we aren’t going to view your dick pic as fresh meat.  Women’s brains aren’t programmed that way.  Yes there are some freaks out there who LOVE a dick pic, and that’s absolutely awesome.  But for the majority of us, it’s a strike out.  And we’re more than likely going to draw pictures on it and send it to our friends.

Namaste Bitchesssssssss!

And to the mystery man with the penis that hangs down to your knee, and Facebook wall with public posts about how massive your dick is, I apologise.

 

The post A Public Apology For Posting A Picture Of Your Dick appeared first on Kortney Olson >> Konfidence By Kortney.

With the Catalina Channel checked off for Abby Bergman (making her “officially” a marathon swimmer and crazy person), and the seven stages of the beautifully grueling 8 Bridges checked (for me, Paige)… we now have the third mama in our 2016 Marathon Swimming Fempire, Smith teammate, Eliza Cummings, going for her first marathon swim: Plymouth to Provincetown challenge this Sunday 8/7! I am so excited to watch her take on this challenge, and have been so amazed by her determination and outlook this entire process. Abby and I feel blessed to have Eliza as part of the marathon swimming trifecta this summer, and we know she will not disappoint this weekend.

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Eliza (top), Meri, Claire, and I before 2015 NEWMAC final relay 

With any marathon swim, the commitment that you need to make preparations, find funding, stay true to your training on a daily basis, keep a close eye on nutrition, as well as make sure you have a solid crew you can trust, is a huge job. And we haven’t even begun talking the task of getting in the water and swimming …

Eliza’s commitment to her swim was evident. She started training after the college season was over while at Smith, and while managing the rigorous academic load that Smith touts. Eliza maintained a positive outlook on training, as well as inspired those around her to push their limits. She was nominated and elected to be Co-Captain of the 2016-2017 Smith Swimming and Diving Season, which I am so excited and proud of. This speaks to her leadership, drive, and ability to make everyone feel welcomed.

Eliza is a natural student on any endeavor she takes on. During the P2P training process,  she asked me thoughtful questions, and always considered multiple outcomes and prepared for them. As a friend/mentor, it is greatly reassuring when you get the honor of working with someone like Eliza, because you know she takes her job seriously, and that the success mentality is there. I live by the mantra, champions always do more, and no doubt has Eliza become a champion during this training and will when she completes her swim.

I am so proud of what Eliza has set her mind to do. Her hard work, mental focus, “stay calm and positive” demeanor, and feisty spirit is, creates a formula for great success. This success will not only be in the water, but in life. I have no doubts Eliza will do big things. I am just excited to have had the opportunity to swim with her, and cheer her on!!!!!!!

Love you Eliza! GO BIG AND DIG DEEP. What you feel you need, you already possess.

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Eliza and I always keeping it real

 

 

 

If you’re not

A) a woman or,
B) human

then you might not have cellulite.

But, chances are, you are both, therefor having some amount of dimple or ripple.  Some of us have more than others.  diet, genetics, and level of activity all play a part in the amount.  for myself, I’m extremely active.  I work out 6 days a week, eat clean, haven’t drank or done drugs in 7 years, take probiotics and a lot of other supplements, drink pure aloe vera juice every morning (even on an empty stomach), sleep 7 hours on average a night, and more or less love my life.  However, I still find that I have a fair amount of cellulite on the back of my legs.

I know that a majority of it, in my personal situation, is genetic.  I also know that I create a lot of self perceived stress, and stress is the root of all evil in my life lol.  I also know that I take too many stimulants and have jacked up my central nervous system over the past several years.

I write this to remind you that a lot of us forget this simple fact, that most women have it.  It’s just that most of us are not brave enough to post pictures of our ‘realness’ because we’ve been programmed to see it as repulsive, unsightly, and unattractive.  So what most of us see, are images of ‘perfectness’ from every other female out there besides ourselves.  For example, here is a photo of me in the bathroom, from the side.  Looks pretty amazing right? (lol) <little too much side boob, sorry. get over it->

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But from the back with different lighting, it’s a completely different story, isn’t it?

 

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These particular pictures were taken in August, 2015.  For me to get to the above photo, to the below photo, took a lot of ridiculous hard work.  Work that no one should ever have to do (aka, competing in a physique show lol).  I’m talking 45 minutes of fasted cardio every day, strict dieting, and aggressive weight training 5 days a week, for 4 months continuously.

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But point being, this didn’t last long. After a few months, the normal cellulite came back, despite the fact that I’m still to this day doing everything that I mentioned in the first paragraph.  So sometimes, this can mess with my head because I forget that

A) I’m a woman, and
B) I’m a human being.

:-)

The post Cellulite: We All Have It appeared first on Kortney Olson >> Konfidence By Kortney.

My friend, Smith College teammate, and “self appointed sister”, Abby Bergman’s Catalina Channel attempt is this Sunday, July 24th overnight to July 25th. I have had the great pleasure of working with her there past few months as she has been preparing, training, and (soon to be) attempting this great feat.

11781773_10152969256150976_3043710916417440375_n.jpgWhen I asked Abby about how she feels pre-swim, she said she’s “ready and excited.” Abby says she’s ready because “I put in all the grueling training and I trust in my abilities.” She mentioned that she’s most excited to be able to take a moment while swimming Catalina, and realize the enormity of what she is doing, and simultaneously excited to complete the swim and have a moment to think, its over. (Spoiler alert from Paige…. it’s never truly over:) )

 

I can honestly say Abby was an absolute pleasure to help mentor and be a support swimmer for. When I would offer her things to consider and plan, Abby would reply back with her multiple considerations and plans of action about the given topic…. basically a dream swimmer to work with. The number one lessons she feels she learned about herself during all this training is “to stay relaxed and approach any endeavor with confidence…in doing so, it will always work out”. In addition she learned that “approaching a goal without a specific outcome can actually help you focus. When I think, ‘I can do this, I will perform well and try to rank high,’ I end up performing my best.”

How does Abby feel about being newly labeled “ a marathon swimmer?” She says, “It’s all about the mindset. It feels good to get to be officially recognized after all this training…and hey, now I get to be part of this super secret club of crazy people.” I couldn’t agree more. She’s also incredibly grateful to her support crew, whom she say’s “I couldn’t do the swim without.”

Over these months I’ve seen that Abby does something every day to make herself better. This is hugely important not only in marathon swimming, but in life. She always thinks of all sides of an issue, and has a great sense of self. When combining these qualities with her workhorse work ethic, she is a force to be reckoned with, and one that will not disappoint this weekend.

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How I started a clothing company is not a simple feat.  Let me tell ya!

But, what I can say, is I NEVER saw it turning out the way that it has today.  You see, the problem we have when chasing our dreams, is that we give up simply because things don’t turn out the EXACT way we thought they would.

We do what Mike Dooley calls, “getting caught up in the cursed hows”.

Let me start at the beginning.

2009-2011 I stumbled into the “muscle fetish world” where I discovered an entire planet of men who would pay ridiculous amounts of money to experience some form of female strength  across the globe.  From arm wrestling, to wrestling, to being picked up and carried around, I had first hand experience that strong, powerful women were truly a “thing”, and that perhaps, all the Calvin Klein ads had been lying to me as to what is considered “beautiful” in society.  Ironic that happened to happen to a girl who had spent her entire life hating her body, her powerhouse.  Eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault…

2011-2012 I launched a brand called Konfidence By Kortney where I could start making videos empowering women about all the truths I’d learned along the way.  Also sharing my tools from 12 step recovery and battling addiction.  I started realising that women were systematically being programmed by ‘the elite’ to see each other as competition, as well as to keep us preoccupied with being concerned around losing or gaining 5LBS so we’d stay distracted to the issues that mattered the most.  Never mind global warming and women’s rights- be concerned with Kim Kardashian.

I also spent WAY too much time on youtube researching conspiracy theories. (lol)

2013 I started Kamp Konfidence: A prevention based wellness program for teenage girls.  The vision was a world free from all forms of self harm for females.  The mission was the educate with the 5 habits, principles, and lessons that lead to the development of self love.  Then, creating a sisterhood of bonded sisters. www.kampkonfidence.com 

Here is a screenshot of 2013, where I messaged our designer and dear friend, Kelda from Hjello Designs, about creating shirts for the kampers:

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The Kamp was extremely successful.  One of the initiatives we rolled out during Kamp, was this thing called “The Peldge”.  After we did the ‘body awareness’ workshop, where the girls learned the truth behind media and advertising, and listened to Jean Kilburn lecturing with “killing us softly”, the girls would take the pledge in front of their peers, then get a special wristband:

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Kamp K went for a good year and a half, before one of my two partners fell pregnant, and we put it on hold.  I continued to pursue my network marketing business, as I thought THIS was the way I was going to fund Kamp Konfidence. No more relying on outside funding, AND I’d get to empower women to make money on their own terms along the way.  I did however, find out network marketing wasn’t for after a long ass year of trying too hard.

2014 My partner got a “vision” driving home from the office one day about creating a clothing line of athletic wear specific for each sport.  We would have “run like a girl” “hit like a girl”, etc.  5 days later, the #likeagirl campaign rolled out from US based feminine product company, Always .  Next day we went out and registered, “Like A Girl Clothing” pty ltd.  It sat and did nothing for the entire year.

Along the way that year, I started collaborating with a colleague named Jed, about coming up with images of empowerment for Women.  I wanted to start reaching the masses, instead of just 8-10 teenage girls every other weekend in Australia, through Kamp Konfidence.

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Well, fast forward to August 2015 and that’s when it all happened.   www.grrrl.com

Now, today, we have a massive movement in motion.  Women all over the world are starting to realise that we are meant to be united, aka the #grrrlarmy . Women realise that there is strength in numbers, and that we must fight this war of equality together in order to win.

Below is a photo of our #grrrlarmy members in Texas with our “American GRRRL” muscle tees on, ripping shit up, and playing hard.

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“The Pledge” is now on GRRRL Clothing as a hang tag, available for all females around the world to take and upload a video as documentation when doing the pledge.

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So you see, things didn’t turn out how I initially envisioned in my head.  Along the way they kept changing, but one thing remained the same: I kept showing up with the end result in mind.  The end result of creating a unified group of females, all striving for the same thing.  Judgement free, supportive, loving, and caring.  Empowering one another to be strong, and break free from the programming of “not good enough”.  Helping each other realise our true potential collectively.

I can’t tell you how many times I got upset and thought, “FK THIS! THIS IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN”.  But the truth is, the universe has a plan.  SO as long as we don’t get caught up in how we THINK it’s supposed to work out (the fine detail), it’ll work our eventually.  Keep your vision strong, and your muscles stronger.  And it’ll come to pass.  It might take you 4 years like myself.  It might take you 10.  But if you want it, and you don’t EVER give up, be 110% certain that the Universe has your back.

Namaste Bitchessssssssssss!

and PS, if you ever get a chance to see Mike Dooley do his “playing the matrix” seminar, I highly suggest you do so!

 

The post How I Started A Clothing Company: Manifestation appeared first on Kortney Olson >> Konfidence By Kortney.

During my training for 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim (120-mile Marathon Swim over 7 days), I incorporated Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) into my recovery techniques. I was able to work with both Judy Malcolm before the event, and Meaghan Murphy (who recommended the practice to me) during the event. I had never done FST prior to this, but rather was familiar with other therapies like massage and gentle individual stretching. I wanted to demo FST pre-swim, to see how my body would react to it. Judy was very thorough in her explanations of what she was doing, and created a very relaxing environment. Everything she did, she made sure to check in with me and make sure it was something I found beneficial, not painful or “tweaky.” It was important to try FST pre-swim because it gave me a sense of how effective it would be for me during the actual event.

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When doing an event that requires a heavy load of taxing mileage on the body via swimming, FST is incredibly useful. During my rest day after stage four of eight bridges, Meaghan came and worked with me using her expertise in both swimming and biomechanics to perform an FST session that was very effective in keeping me loose as well is ready to go for the next day. After stage four, I was experiencing some pain in the bicep and pec areas from the repetitive motion that is the swimming stroke. When you swim 7 marathon swims over one week eventually something will have an ache or pain. When I met with Meaghan she evaluated what areas were causing problems and created an effective FST session that allowed me to loosen the other muscles around the areas that had pain, which as a result relaxed and loosened the areas of concern, and allowed them to heal and rest. Meaghan never directly stretched the area of pain which was a relief to me because that would obviously be an uncomfortable experience which may further promote the problem.

Later that evening I noticed the pain lessening by at least 30-40% and then again In the morning even more so. The next day I was cautious when I entered the water, however I felt much stronger, and less tense/clenched than any of the stages before. I could apply more pressure during the grab portion of my stroke which I wasn’t able to do before. This was so important because that stage lasted 8 hours, and It would have been miserable if I had been experiencing the problems from the stages before.

Unlike massage or static stretching, where you worry about overdoing it and causing even more muscle breakdown and thus need more time for recovery, FST is dynamic, loosens and stretches the muscles in a way that cannot be achieved by doing independent stretching or just through massage. Allowing someone to move your limbs in a way that provides a gentle stretch is both relaxing and important. I was able to let Meaghan take over, and take my mind off having to do something active with my body. Meaghan wasn’t trying to increase my range of motion more than it’s ever been, she was trying to get it back to my personal baseline, which is an important distinction. In my experience, I needed quick recovery to perform back to back at my best. FST was the perfect recovery intervention along with rest and ice. Both Meaghan and Judy are fantastic and I would recommend FST to endurance athletes who are looking to stay loose between events.

Check them out:

Meaghan: http://www.Coachmegswim.com and http://www.stretchtrainachieve.com

Judy: http://www.perfect-fit-pilates.com

 

 

13524514_10153627458515976_6207367170677372070_n-1I have said before that swimming 8 Bridges was a transformative experience. That’s not a term I use lightly, and I use it because this experience has taught me so much about limits, trust, your support system, and the greatness that can happen when individuals work together to do accomplish goals.

There are a few things about the swim that are important to understand. In order to swim in 8 Bridges, you need a swimming resume, which proves your qualifications based off of your past swims. This swim draws a worldly crowd from elite triple crowners, to iron men and women, to individuals who have pioneered the marathon-swimming world. Each stage can only have a certain number of swimmers in the water at once (for safety and escort reasons), so the race directors want to be sure you are qualified because finishing is the goal. That being said, in order to succeed in any stage during 8 Bridges, you have to be able to make the ebb and flow currents. What this means is that you typically start swimming against the current, make a little headway, and then the current changes and you are swimming with the current. However, there are only so many hours the current is favorable, so if you don’t make enough headway while the current is in your favor, the current changes again and could push you backwards when you are even when you are close to the bridge. At the final mile of a 19.8-mile stage, you best hope the current doesn’t change on you because that would mean even after 8+ hours of extreme effort, you would have to be pulled. In addition the wind factor is crucial. In stages 2 and 5, during the portion of the swim that was supposed to be favorable, the wind was opposing us in the water, which felt as though any favorable conditions were cancelled out due to backwards pushing waves.

When swimming back-to-back marathons, there is an extreme emphasis on recovery. Typically my family and I would leave the hotel around 6am and be back around 4pm. In this window of time between swimming and waking up the next morning, I had to make sure I was rehydrating, eating, icing, stretching, showering, unpacking and re-packing your swim bag, washing out your bottles, re mixing your feeds, and sleeping. After a marathon swim the only thing you want to do from the above is sleep. That being said, this event is a team effort. If it weren’t for my mom locating the routes we would take to the start of each session, helping make dinners, and always staying positive, my dad helping me work through the aches and pains, making sure my head was in the game, and my brother serving as the mixology drink master, comedic relief, weather and wind checker and cheering section scouter, this event would not have been achievable. To me, there is no such thing as self-made. It takes the individuals helping you on your journey to make it successful. My family always goes above and beyond to support each other in whatever each of us sets our minds to and works towards. I am blessed to have grown up in this environment and would never ever take that for granted.

Each day of the swim was rigorous. You are not only doing 1 marathon swim, but 7, in a row. I had prepared in my training for this event to be more than I have ever done, and it met even my toughest expectations. As I said before in my pre-swim blog posts, my goal was simple: get to the bridge each day. There were many external factors I could have been thinking about, but at the end of the day your job is to get in the water, and swim for however long it will take you. When I finished each stage (you have to swim slightly past the bridge, not stop right when you are under it), I felt gratitude for the Hudson River for giving me a challenge, for Margrethe for helping me navigate that challenge and keeping me in the game, for David, Rondi and Captain Greg for keeping the swimmers safe and being their advocate while they were in the water and on the boat, and for my body and mind for allowing me to get through a days work. You have to have a moment to be thankful before moving to the next step.

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“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.”

Each day required persistence, control and trust. Persistence was found in every stroke regardless of the conditions. Control came from making sure I could temper my 17 years of racing energy. Since it was unclear the exact time you’d be in the water you had to over estimate to prepare. You had to control your mind in order to stay in the present. The present stroke, the present mile, the present stage…because naturally your mind will want to wander into what’s next, which serves no good in the present. Trust was critical in the swimmer-kayaker relationship. Margrethe and I established the trust in each other early on in Stage 2, when the conditions got to the point where not finishing the stage due to currents may have been a reality. I had to trust Margrethe when she said, “keep your head down and get there.” This trust created a force that perpetuated into the following days.

I came for the swim but stayed for the people.

Every day was the same but different. You’d go to the Launch 5, but each day there were new faces I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the water with. From swimmers who were trying their first marathon swim, to swimmers who have done stages annually, to swimmers who never gave up and finally achieved completion in a stage that they had tried to complete for years, was hands down one of the most inspiring situations I have ever been in. The camaraderie of the event was truly remarkable. Regardless of what had happened the day before, everyone involved was positive, supportive of each other and excited for the day ahead. To be surrounded by so much love for a common denominator made me feel like I had already succeeded, by just meeting and getting to share the experience with everyone. Even in the days after the swim, I have still been able to keep in touch with the swimmers, kayakers, volunteers and directors, who not only care about my well-being as a swimmer, but as a person. That distinction is important.

One of my bucket list goals was to be able to swim by the Statue of Liberty. And yes, I could’ve saved a lot of time by just taking a ferry out and jumping off and swimming for a few minutes, but the journey is where you experience growth.

Doing these swims doesn’t make you a “good” or “bad” person. Swimming is my passion and is something I enjoy doing. I can walk away feeling incredibly blessed to have spent a week dedicated to that passion, regardless of the outcome.

Many thanks to the individuals who made this week very special. David, Rondi and Captain Greg for your relentless efforts, and making the swim safe and successful for all those involved. Margrethe for being the Queen of the Hudson and my (s)hero. Cheryl, for being wonder woman in the flesh and always pushing me to be my best. Jamie, Thomas, Devon, Steve and Cristian, for the “going all the way” spirit and synergy all week. Charlotte for being such an all around exceptional person, friend, and teammate who is irreplaceable in my life. Mr. Samuels and the Samuels’ family for being so authentically supportive and helpful as I navigate the marathon swimming world. Spencer, for helping me navigate the legal world, and showing me that you can do both marathon swim and be a lawyer…huge! The volunteers who always had a smile on their face, especially Roy and his amazing tie dye shirts and ability to make sure that every swimmer got on to the boat and was hydrated and nourished. The incredibly dedicated kayakers who served every role from nutritionist, to motivational speaker, to navigator, to photographer…all the while paddling a kayak! The jet skiers who had halos above their head each and every time they picked us up post-swim, but also navigated the waters and kept the swimmers and other boaters safe. The NYPD for safety escorts. Auntie Amy and Mark for giving me one hell of a surprise!!!!! Jamie for being one of the most inspirational swimmers I have ever met. Tina for always cheering and keeping my mom and brother company. Kyle Kiki, for being my rock always. My Smithies for being the largest force of love this week, and for showing me that you can do anything through your own stories (especially Claire and Katharine who came ready to support!!!).Emily, who gave the best pump up speech. The homemade cookies some angel brought on Launch 5. John and Rondi for sharing the water with me and for the morale boost. My bananas for being kickass always. Addie for being my littlest fan and Smithie. Coach Kim Bierwert for opening my eyes to marathon swimming and teaching me that there is always more toothpaste left in the tube. Coach Michael Spring and Crimson Aquatics for making me into the swimmer I am today by pushing my mental capacities for 17 years. Andy Cannon for keeping my body and joints safe and pre-habbed. As well as playing quarterback while taking a holistic approach to planning this swim. Coach Brenda Hogan for taking an 8-year old with dreams seriously. Austin Prep for the prayers, positivity and love. Megan and Judy for the incredible fascial stretch therapy sessions. Miami Fitness and Lifestyle for keeping my cardio workouts bumping! My extended family, neighbors, and kids I have gotten the honor to nanny or teach swim lessons to… the videos, posts, shares, calls, texts, tweets and instagrams have been absolutely more than I could have ever expected. The individuals who were watching that purple dot go down the river…you’re amazing. That is the love and support drives me to do what I do.

All the swimmers I had the honor to share the experience with, and who all taught me a little something: Larisa, Susan, Louise, David, Todd, Erica, Kim, Leonard, Javier, Martina, Janine, Mo, Abby, Ali, John, Nicholas, Dongho, Paula, Hugh, Sydne, Capri, Andrew, Lyn, Janet, Phyllis, John, Glenn, Frank, Neil, Kenn, William, Jaimie, Teresa, Charlie, Ellaine, Laura, Kimberly, Ed, Mark, Doug, Martin, Charles, David, Michele, Mark, Ellen and Jeannie. Thank you.

My sponsors: BRL Sports Nutrition for my Tri-Fuel feeds which kept me fueled in the water and feeling stronger than ever, Vermont Peanut Butter for the post-swim fuel aka my PB and J sandwich which started the recovery process is a great way. VoMax for the custom apparel which kept my team looking sharp and warm on the water or in the rain. Knuckleheads apparel for reminding me to live life to the fullest. Grrrl for believing in me and proving that women can do anything regardless of age or size.

Mom, Dad, Cam…..you’re everything.

And if you’ve taken the time to read this whole thing…I applaud you and you likely have the endurance to be a marathon swimmer.:)

(Some Stage 2 clips to give you a feel for the longer swims. )

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I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the dedicated, passionate, and brilliant race directors, Rondi Davies and David Barra. Both are incredibly decorated marathon swimmers themselves who have created an event that over the last 6 years has raised awareness for the beautiful and swimmable resource we have in the U.S.A spanning over 120 miles, the mighty Hudson River. I can only imagine the obstacles they faced to make this event come to fruition. But in true marathon swimmer fashion, they put their heads down and got it done…. and the success of the event has only grown. 8 Bridges has become the gold standard event in marathon swimming. It is considered the longest and toughest in the world.

Their commitment to the swimmers safety, attention to the logistics and details, ability to read the water, and passion for the sport is incredibly inspiring. I believe an event is only as good as the directors, and they both are the gold standard in my eyes.

When this event was just a figment in my twisted imagination, Rondi and David were so supportive and approachable. As the weeks passed and the event took place, you could see just how invested they are in this event.
I learned after the first full day of swimming, that regardless of my own outcome, I was so blessed and honored to be around such enthusiastic, supportive, and interesting people from the swimmers, to kayakers to dedicated volunteers. I may have came for the swimming, but I definitely stayed for the people. Ronda and David have created this very special and unique environment. In what other event would one feel such positivity and energy throughout 120 miles of swimming?!

This past week was very special to me, and Rondi and David have impacted many peoples lives for the better. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Alongside every swimmer at 8 Bridges, is an incredibly dedicated kayaker. I don’t know how I hit the mega millions jackpot by being assigned to Margrethe, but all I can say is that I couldn’t have done the swim without her. At the top of my list of reasons why I succeeded, is her name. She has a love for the game, and told me on our first chat that she is passionate about making dreams come true. Her ability to read the Hudson River, the currents, shipping channels, and the optimum place to position the swimmer, is nothing short of genius. She is a force of nature.

You get to know a lot about someone by staring at them for 120 miles/39 hours 7 minutes and 11 seconds. Margrethe is one of the very few people that could really read me and understand my mental game. She knew how I was feeling, what to say to get the competitive edge out of me and when to say it, know how to reassure me when it was unclear whether or not we would finish a stage, and could tell every time I was trying to be sneaky and look at the bridge from miles away…. even when I thought she hadn’t seen it.

The reassurance, safety, support and love I felt from Margrethe were the perfect blend, which got me down the river. From the pre-swim hugs and strategy talk, to the post swim handholds under each bridge we conquered. I am just so honored to have been able to share the experience with her and feel so blessed to have her in my life.

Not all heroes wear capes, some wear bright pink hats. Margrethe is a hero to me. She is also Queen of the Hudson.

Together we finished the longest marathon swim in the world, broke a world record as youngest to swim the 120 miles of the Hudson River, won both 19.8 miles stages (2 and 5) (youngest to win a stage), and became the 6th human to ever swim 8 Bridges, the 120 miles of the Hudson River.

It was the 6th year of the swim, I was the 6th human to ever do it, and back in 2014 was the 6th Smithie to swim the English Channel…coincidence?

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