What motivated me to make a change in my lifesfyle

I recently participated in a friend’s podcast where we announced my blog and it made me realize just how long it had been since I wrote anything in it. Instead of making excuses, I will exercise extreme ownership (check out Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s Extreme Ownership book!) and admit I had not made the time for it but will be more consistent from now on.

I wanted to share an anecdote from last night’s Jiu-Jitsu class that I believe will benefit anyone who reads it. It’s made me contemplate my own journey to a healthier lifestyle,  as well as people’s perceptions of it and how unaware some are about the words they speak and how they can negatively impact those that listen to them.

Last night someone told me I looked like I had slimmed down alot and asked me if I was trying to make the 135 lbs weight class. My response was that I wasn’t trying to be that light (mostly because I’m 5’7 1/2″ tall) but that I was trying to be the best version of me, leaner and stronger- for me, not necessarily for competition alone.

This person went ahead to ask me how much I was weighing and that I can “just drop 10 pounds in a week for competition”. Again my response was that the reason I’ve been dropping weight and became more conscious of my nutrition and strength training was so that I wouldn’t make the same mistake I made as a rookie competing in my first Jiu-Jitsu tournament when I had to lose 10 lbs in 3 days to make weight! I said I was feeling great at my current weight and just working on efficiency, maintenance and strength.

This person never complimented me, or my efforts (not that I needed it but it made me think about the intent of the comments) but was more interested in how much more weight I should lose to make a weigh class. I was immediately concerned about how this person’s careless recommendation could potentially affect someone that doesn’t know any better. So to everyone that may have been listening to that nonsense, to my friends, family and followers, please, please never listen to people that will advise you to drop a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. It’s just not healthy and extremely irresponsible to encourage anyone to do it!!!

The mistake I made as a rookie was part of what made me get serious and more disciplined about not just losing the extra pounds but do it in a healthy way. A year ago, amidst my coach Emil’s advise I failed to manage my weight. I was so new at Jiu-Jitsu that I honestly didn’t understand alot of it, let alone competition and the real struggle of “making weight”. It was a rough awakening when 3 days before the weigh-ins I realized I had not dropped the 10 lbs I needed to.

As a result of this, I had to gear up in my Kutting Weight Sauna Suit, ramp up my cardio, and hit the sauna for 3 consecutive days. Needless to say this process was physically and mentally exhausting and draining. I had started to doubt myself and my fitness ability to step on those mats. In addition,  I had to cut all carbs to ensure I wouldn’t be adding more weight.

Although I was able to cut most of the weight by the time of weigh-ins I still had to shave off 1.5lbs so there I was, running laps around the dojo’s building where everyone was weighing in at. That was me, all geared up like Rocky Balboa (with my sauna suit under a sweat shirt and pants my teammates lend me) running, then coming back to my car to sit in for a few minutes with the heater on, then out again to jump rope and do more laps.

Ultimately, on my second try at the scale, I made weight and was 1lbs under. However, that night, I promised myself I’d never put my mind and my body through that torture. With that, there was also a sense of embarrassment within me. I felt that I had failed as a student but also as an individual. I did not meet the weight goal, and I paid for it. Nonetheless, I can say I learned my lesson and since then another journey started.

I’ve been that annoying student and friend asking all sorts of questions and advise to my coach and my fitness oriented friends. To my fortune, they have been very supportive and patient. As of today, I have lost 12 lbs in 4.5 months. I used to be 160 lbs with some muscle but I wasn’t feeling strong, or liking the way my body looked and now I’m 148 lbs with more defined and toned muscles, strength, stamina, speed, flexibility and overall healthy system. I feel great and I’m eager to continue to take my body to it’s maximum ability.

Weekly meal preparations, My Fitness Pal cell phone application, a Fitbit watch, paper and pencil logs, calendar reminders, notes on my fridge, progress pictures (yes lots of selfies), following motivational people on social media and an unwavering state of mind to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be (both inside and out) for myself and those that are near and dear to me; that is what pushes me forward.

I don’t take supplements (although I’ll be writing about one I tried and liked alot!) and I don’t take any special/magical drinks or pills. Real change and improvement takes time and alot of hard work. This is what makes the difference between temporary and permanent.

Eating the same meals every day, waking up before the birds sing to work out alone and beyond what my body tells me to do (and sometimes twice a day), minimizing the alcohol intake, tricking my brain when temptation pays me a visit, and pushing through when I’m in pain hasn’t been easy but it has been necessary. I’m not a special kind of human, I believe everyone has the ability to do the same, you just have to know your ‘why’ and want it bad enough.

In this process of becoming a better person and athlete other things have manifested, and that is the undeniable importance of surrounding  yourself with people that get it! With people that support you and encourage you and who will remind you how far you’ve come when you are ready to have that greasy burger, pizza, fried chicken, burrito, super tall cold beer/s, or tap out to that triangle.

You know who these people are in your life. They are the ones that live a very similar lifestyle, believe in you, give you sound advise, proof that they walk the talk and when “cheat day” comes, they understand what it means to you. They will never be the ones telling you to drop 10 lbs in a week.

Stay focused, drop excuses to the curbside and get it done.

Un abrazo fuerte!


Posted in Competition, Jiu-Jitsu 101, Jiu-Jitsu Lifestyle, My Journey, WarriorMana | Leave a comment

Solidarity on the Mats


Hey Guys!

I was originally going to title this post “Female Solidarity on the Mats” but then realized that labeling the topic would limit the extent of what solidarity means to me; mutual support within a group. An interchangeable support and camaraderie between a group of males and females.

Being the new girl in town was not new to me, but being the new girl in a contact sport gym was. I remember how intimidated, confused and overwhelmed I felt at first. I was athletic but getting the flow of throwing punches, sending kicks (in KM) and choking people (both in KM and JJ) was completely new to me. I felt clumsy. How could I easily swing my hips when I danced a feisty Puerto Rican salsa, or a good Dominican merengue but I couldn’t swing my hips to throw a punch to save my life. I remember my coach Emil yelling: “Hips Veronica, Hips!!”, or “Hip Escape Veho!! To add to this combo, being chocked and choking someone was just as foreign and scary. Now I know that everyone feels the same way I did on their first few classes, or even months.  

When I first joined my gym, I wasn’t really feeling the warm and fuzy from the group but then a set of events after my first few classes changed that. One of the blue belt guys pulled me aside during warmups  to show me the proper way of doing a hip escape, or “shrimping”. I was probably holding up the line, or just looking really bad. Either way, he came to help me and that meant alot to me. This was the moment when he passed the unwritten and unspoken legacy that I’ve paid forward at every opportunity I’ve had since then. A few weeks later, another one of the guys and also a blue belt, approached me after class to ask me how I was liking it so far. This simple gesture made me feel great and later on I chose him as my mentor and he also became a friend.

To me solidarity is a constant quality that should be predominant in any sport or practice. More than being friends on social media, liking my pictures or even commenting on them. Solidarity is what you show on and off the mats, during training, in competition whether I win, or lose and during promotions whether one gets a stripe, or a new colored belt. It is the ability to relate to another human being when they are at their best and strongest but also when they are at their worse and weakest. I have been on both ends. 

A lot of things have changed for the better since I first joined our gym. I have seen the group become a Team, and alot more people now take the initiative to help the newcomers. I’m not talking about just the blue belts, I have seen white belts taking time to help the new guy and the new girl alike. And this is what it’s all about, not forgetting where we came from and that we were also the newbies at some point. Instead of criticizing someone for being too rough, aggressive, or clueless think of when you first started and what defending yourself looked like to you! Weren’t you using all your strength and all your mighty to prevent being smashed?!

Solidarity has no boundaries.  We owe it to our training partners to share our knowledge and give opportunities because without them we wouldn’t be able to grow in this art. Give opportunities to learn, to listen, to ask questions, and to let individual approaches, or learning curves marinate. Give people time to grow. Support your teammates new or not, male and female, when they’re at their highest, or at their lowest and it turn you will both become better at Jiu Jitsu but also better at life.  

Un abrazo fuerte!


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Posted in Competition, Jiu-Jitsu 101, Jiu-Jitsu Guerrera, Jiu-Jitsu Lifestyle, My Journey, Team Spirit, Uncategorized, WarriorMana | Tagged | 1 Comment

My First Blog and Second Competition

received_10153313359192620Ok guys, here we go. This is my first blog ever and I’m excited and nervous altogether.  English is my second language and I’ve always felt more confident writing in English as opposed to speaking it. I guess that’s a result of all the comments I’ve heard over the years like: “How long have you been in the States?”, “OMG you still have an accent!!”, “Where’s your exotic accent from?”, “You sound like Sofia Vergara!!”, etc, etc… My Dad always said: “Vero, it’s not the accent you should worry about,  it’s the enunciation!” So please enjoy this words sans Puerto Rican accent si?!

On Sunday, November 1st, 2015 I competed for the second time since I started training Jiu-Jitsu 1 year and 2 months ago, and my first time getting a Bronze medal for not just competing, or finishing a race (all of which were challenging 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, ultra marathons and triathlons)  but for actually digging deeper into my warrior spirit and getting a result I’m happy with and proud of.

I didn’t start the practice of Jiu-Jitsu (and Krav-Maga) to compete, or to win medals. I started because I needed a new challenge in a new city and I had always wanted to learn self-defense. Competition however is my way of knowing how I’m doing, how I’m progressing and what areas I need to practice more. My goal on Sunday was to control my nerves, execute what I had learned since my first competition back in May, fight hard, and make my Coach and teammates proud.

One of my challenges has been to be at weight for competition day, the healthy way. Having a background in long distance running, making weight was never an issue, or concern. I was at my healthiest and ideal weight when I was actively running, cross training and eating a balanced diet. I achieved the best shape I’ve ever been in by training hard but never ever thinking of weight.  I admit that I had been putting more effort into learning and getting better at Jiu-Jitsu than in the actual nutrition and exercise regime that will actually help me in being at a better walking and competition weight. For my first competition, I was taken by surprise when the week before the competition I was 10 pounds over my desired weight class. I was at 159 and needed to be at 149.9. I lost 10 pounds in 3 days with intense cardio, wearing a sauna suit during my workouts (and in the sauna) and complete dehydration the day before weigh ins; something I don’t recommend anyone to do!! For this last competition I was only 5 pounds over but as my luck should have it, I weighed in 1.1 pounds over. After trying to burn the 5 pounds with cardio, and visits to the sauna every day for a week, and again dehydrating the day of weigh ins, it was disheartening to be so close and not make weight.

Since the event organizers were giving everyone the opportunity to try to burn it off and weigh in again, I was once again running laps around the building (just like I did back in May) and trying to sweat in my car with the heater on to the max! Picture Virginia during the Fall. Having cold weather outside didn’t help me sweat much. I had my sauna suit under a sweat shirt and sweat pant and was not sweating enough. After 6 laps and 2 times in my car not sweating a drop, I decided to weigh in again.  I was 0.7 pounds over so I decided to face my demons and enter the “Amazonas” class (150 lbs and up). I was dry as a raisin, thirsty as hell and not sweating anymore. I had to inevitably get over the frustration of not making weight and come up with a new focus and strategy; how to not get discouraged by weight, trust my technique and fight in a heavier class. After all, I thought to myself “I train with the heavy guys in our gym all the time”. The only difference, this was competition!!

I woke up on Sunday feeling very nervous and unsure. I had planned a very nutritious breakfast but my stomach wouldn’t have it. I was in shutdown mode, only staying hydrated and with a few spoon fulls of oatmeal in my system.  Skipping the details of how unorganized the weigh ins and competition day were, I finally made my way to the venue. Seeing my teammates made me feel better. We were all nervous and anxious. I warmed up with a couple of the girls and tried to sweat off those nerves that were still trying to take over my mind. I didn’t let them!

So after dealing with my nerves, inability to eat and the unknown, I had 3 back to back matches in the 150 and up weight class (I was the lightest one in my class). I won 2 matches and lost 1 to a girl that I couldn’t get off of me (she felt like 200+ lbs!!) until we were close to the end and I almost got her into a rear naked choke and it felt great. I was told aterwards that the match went into overtime to 5 minutes because the score keepers were very much into the match. I roared, spit my mouthpiece out, and squeezed her as hard as I could. My effort wasn’t enough but I know I gave my all in that euphoric moment, in each match, in each grip, escape and submission attempt.

After this match was over,  I was once again wondering why I had signed up for the Absolute class as well. Enter my warrior mana. I’ve always wanted to explore, meet and exceed the “limits” of  my mind and body. I was so tired after my third encounter that I wasn’t sure I would last the 4 minutes of the upcoming one. Mentally I was fierced, but my body simply had ran out of gas by then. While I remember the first three matches, the fourth one was a blur.  I didn’t tap, I fought and survived but I didn’t win.  The only thing I remember is that my opponent was smaller than me.

In the end, it is true what they say about Jiu-Jitsu; one never really loses because there is always something to be learned. In my case, I left the competition feeling happy with my performance and my Bronze medal but very eager to return to the mats better prepared.  For me, it is not the medal what defines my Jiu-Jitsu. I’m not going to lie, it felt great to have my hand raised twice and to have that bling around my neck…I was smiling big!!! Having lost my two matches back in May, I was determined to leave this competition a winner. What defines me is my character, my desire and my drive to continue getting better, to learn from my teammates and most importantly from my coach.

My coach, Emil Takeuchi, has taught me many lessons since I started training. From focusing on my own journey and not anyone else’s, to fueling my body properly and having a winner state of mind, he’s been a motivation on and off the mats. Amazingly as it is, he knew what the result would be on my first competition and again on my second.  His knowledge comes from many years of Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training and part of my journey has been to believe and trust his experience, his feedback and advise. To learn to listen, execute, breath and relax. My win was mine as much as his because when I have doubted myself he’s continued to believe in me and my ability.

Lastly, there is a big part about competition I’ll be writing about in my upcoming blogs and that is camaraderie and team spirit! I am part of a wonderful team that has also become my family away from home. In this competition we came up 10 out of 44 teams (possibly 9th since some points were not accounted for), and we are all extremely proud of that. We have all worked so hard and are probably the newest team in our region. However, like our coach described it “we are a force to be reckoned with!!” I am part of Team Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu KM Nova in Lorton, VA and they inspire me, support me and encourage me to keep going, to do better and to trust my evolution. If they were not there on competition day, cheering me on, bumping fists with me and giving me hugs at the end of my matches, I’m not sure the feeling would be the same.

I am in love with Jiu-Jitsu and I look forward to training, learning and challenging myself until I’m an old Puerto Rican lady, telling my students to “get heavy”, “sweep”, or “stand up” with my ever heavy Spanish accent.

Un abrazo fuerte a todos!


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