How are these professional athletes adapting to this time?
We chatted with BJJ black belt, Joanna Ziobronowicz, who holds titles in the UAE Grand Slam and IBJJF European and IBJJF World Championships, and 5x world kickboxing champion and up-and-coming MMA fighter, Lone'er Kavanagh. In our chat, we covered all things motivation, training adaptation, and nutrition as an elite athlete.
Hi Joanna & Lon! Thank you for catching up with us. I guess myself and our readers would be wondering - how are you staying motivated during this crazy time?!
Joanna: I consider myself lucky, as I run regular online classes, which sets a good routine in place. As a coach, I feel that setting an example is crucial to motivate others and it creates a ripple effect. Thanks to technology we are able to stay in touch, create inspiring videos, or simply talk to motivate each other. It is a collaborative effort. My team, friends, even my clients - we keep each other accountable.
If it weren’t for the mutual support, it would have been hard to stay focused.
Lon:Good question. I guess for me, it is a way of living now. Keeping a regular routine makes it a lot easier for me - the day I don’t feel motivated, I know that after I do train I feel so much better than not training. My body just feels a lot better, I feel happier, less lethargic, and almost like I have more energy.
Every now and then I feel like I want to relax a bit more, especially as there is no scheduled fights coming up with everything going on. It is great having Charlotte (Lonnie’s girlfriend and training partner) around because if one of us is feeling unmotivated, the other is there to push you.
So, did you have a lapse in motivation at the beginning while you were processing all of this? I am also guessing you haven’t had this much time off a strict training regime for some time…
Joanna: Funnily enough, the beginning of lock down brought a lot of motivation and drive, as I sprinted my way across the local parks for a week or two. It was a little bit later on when it hit me - the lack of human contact, no partner and group training. I started missing it, but I understood the need of transferring the knowledge and skills online, where everything pretty much kicked off going forwards.
Lon: To be honest, my training remained, but my diet at first went a bit crazy. I was eating A LOT. I actually began fasting most days until dinner and eating whatever I wanted for that one meal (which probably wasn’t the best idea). There was a day where I ate almost a tray of brownies in one sitting... things are better now. It is definitely different when you don’t have your coach constantly checking in.
I can relate to that eating part! What is your training schedule looking like right now? I am guessing it is slightly different to the usual gym environment?
Joanna: Yes, it is different. Jiu Jitsu has been replaced with solo drills and conditioning, adding some light weights, elastic bands, TRX and any equipment I can get hold of to diversify the training and make it more exciting and fun. While group workouts are still not allowed, I train with my clients during our 1:1 sessions, which is a great way of staying active and social.
Lon: So, before lockdown began, Charlotte and I already had an online strength and conditioning coach from NZ who designed a strength and training program which we have continued to follow. Because we don’t have access to heavy weights, but rather just having a selection of kettlebells, we have made do with that. It has been quite fun to be creative with what we can do. We have adapted by working on things we are weaker at, so we have performed a lot of single leg exercises, which is great because Martial Arts is a very single leg focused sport.
For our martial arts training, we are lucky to have one another to train with. We are limited in space so the grappling and wrestling side has been harder. I went from rolling every day to only twice a week and am limited to the one training partner; but we make it work and have been practicing drills we know mixed with YouTube techniques.
How often HAVE you been training?
Joanna: To define what constitutes training in lockdown is quite difficult for me, as it normally equates to an hour of partner drills and sparring, or pad work, etc. However, I definitely try to keep active every day - whether with my online classes, HIIT in the park, or yoga.
Lon: We train 6 days a week, anywhere from 1-3 hours. For conditioning, we have 4 sessions, and they’re all running. We are working on the anaerobic system by doing intervals mixed with hill sprints. They are short sessions, but challenging. For strength, we do 4 sessions a week too and we do drills on top of this.
Have you had to adjust your diet at all around the new norm?
Joanna: Yes, massively. In the first two months I dropped a lot of muscle and noticed my body changing - this was due to the limited number of training/teaching hours and a smaller calorie intake. When I realized my trousers were falling off my waist, I knew it was time to stock up on some food - got myself way more pizza, pasta and rice than usual :)
Lon: The last few days I have been counting calories to keep me in check. I roughly am also following my macros and focusing on eating loads of vegetables. But, I still have one day on the weekend where I just eat whatever. I have stopped the fasting and am eating balanced meals throughout the day. For me, because I’ve followed a plan before, I have been taking ideas from that. Just keeping it simple - like each meal has a form of carbs; like sweet potato, brown rice or wholemeal bread, a load of vegetables and a serve of meat.
I wish I could relate to that dilemma, Joanna 😉. How have you both stayed mentally strong through all of this?
Joanna: I found it very challenging. I think that in my line of work where you have constant interaction and contact with people - both verbal and physical - it is extremely hard to adjust to isolation. Not to mention the lack of routine and the uncertainty.
I like to have my goals clearly defined and when you suddenly lose track of all of this, it takes a lot of patience and breath work to realign your life to the new scenario.
Lon: I haven’t meditated for a while but I've just been staying positive. It’s a horrible time, but trying to make the most of that time - like taking time off work - has meant I can be creative, spend time with Charlotte and my mum, and see it as more of a positive than looking at it the other way, which can be quite easy given the circumstances.
Have you picked up any hobbies with this extra time? Or tried to learn new skills?
Joanna: Yes! I have tried to keep myself busy with the spare time. I devoured quite a few books, enrolled in a yoga teacher’s training course and even joined my friends at tennis! The activities proved very rewarding, as they all require attention and focus which I feel is needed during this time.
Lon:As I am half Chinese, I started to try and learn Chinese… but then I realised I was speaking a different dialect of Chinese to my mum, so I stopped. I have been gaming a bit with some friends online now that I have time and it's been nice getting to just chill out in the evenings.
Finally, what are you most looking forward to when this is all over? I honestly can’t wait to hug my friends and family.
Joanna: I honestly can’t wait to hug my friends and family.
Lon: Mostly getting back to my friends and training partners, and routines!
Thank you both for giving us an insight into adapting your livelihood through a very challenging time. We have no doubt that your insane discipline and unwavering (for the most part) motivation will keep you at the top of your game when things return!
Shani Kaplan is a contributing writer for Truth Naturals. She combines her knowledge gained from working within the fitness/wellness industry in Sydney and London for the last seven years as a Personal Trainer, and class instructor, with her addiction to research due to her BA in Business Marketing. Shani loves martial arts, resistance training, dance and yoga, nutrition, travel, design, photography, and art.