How to Stay Sane and Healthy at a Big Capoeira Event

  • Earplugs (foam or silicone)! Rodas and percussion classes are insanely noisy and can be stressful after a while, even if you don’t notice the effect for a long time, and keeping part of the loudness away can reduce the overall stress level by a lot! I even wore them during a few of the classes towards the end of the workshop this year, and it helped me to focus on the movements despite being tired and recovering from a headache. Also, think of your kids. I felt sorry for some of the toddlers being carried close to a roda with a bateria that was so load that even with earplugs I thought it was too loud. I might be more sensitive than the average adult, but kids have very, very sensitive ears. Protect them or at least limit their time next to the noise. (Earplugs are good for the workshop party and public transport, too.)
  • Pack/plan your meals in advance. This year I packed almost identical lunchboxes for all days, but you can do as you please concerning variety. Use foods you know you can eat without feeling full or sick during training (e.g. I know I have to avoid dairy and meat before intense trainings). I packed salted nuts, dried banana chips, fresh bananas, hardboiled eggs, cereal bars, muffins, dark chocolate, and some gummy candy (great to chew on when things get stressful or your blood level crushes). In addition I had smoothies for the morning with me – plan carefully which foods have to be consumed before they are out in the warm gym hall for too long!
  • Take some time off around the event, if possible. This year I used vacation time for the first day of the event (even though it only started in the evening) and for today, which is the day after four days of capoeira madness. Best decision ever. Use the time to buy favourite workshop food, take a nap, stretch, look at the photos and others you took, put your feet up …
  • Be aware of your needs. Go outside when you need fresh air or some quiet, take a nap on a mat, hug your friends, say no to tasks you can’t perform without your stress level skyrocketing. Sleep in. Leave early if you don’t feel well or need some people-free time. Skip a class to practise on your own.
  • If you want or have to help with the event, look for tasks that suit you. I prefer documenting the event with my camera, collecting dirty mugs and dry bottles, and helping with some small things when I have time over tasks that involve a lot of people stuff like check-in. If you like to drive a car, you can pick up people and do grocery shopping, if you like caring for people you can prepare breakfast, if you are strong or have energy left over after the event you can carry around heavy stuff or clean  … find your niche. This year I wanted to help with the final cleanup, but I was so exhausted I would not have been of any use, so I excused myself and started going through my pictures, which was accepted by the others far better than expected.
  • Bring a small towel or washcloth to refresh your face or whatever body parts feel sticky and annoying in the middle of the day. Cold water clears the head, too.
  • General advise: Have a backup plan to be more relaxed. If you know you might need medication or whatever kind of help in some situations, let one or two people know. If you e.g. can’t stand being touched by semi-strangers when upset or being overwhelmed by all the noise and chaos of dozens of moving humans, find a few trustworthy friends or teachers who will be able to recognize and handle such a situation and maybe feed you chocolate or take you out for a walk. Identify your needs in advance, communicate, feel safe.
  • Bring your favourite flip-flops or whatever kind of comfortable slip-on footwear your prefer. Some spaces might be dirty or have a cold floor, or you might want to run out for a moment without looking for your socks and putting your sweaty feet into shoes. Bring a comfortable jacket or your favourite cozy hoodie to avoid cooling out between classes or when a mestre loves talking a lot before actually getting to work. Also great as a makeshift pillow or a mini-blanket to hide beneath.
  • Drink lots of water or other healthy beverages. Pro tip: Use the bathroom during class, training rodas, or presentations to avoid queues.
  • Let go of the idea of taking part in each and every class and event. This was so hard for me the first two years, but now I’m more relaxed about this. Let go of the idea that the schedule is fixed – this I learned the hard way this year. So. Much. Craziness. (If you want to know – they delayed the troca de cordas by two days while in the meantime our instructor and his friend got their more or less spontaneous formatura and were made a full mestres! This of course ended in about three additional hours of games, speeches, and samba de roda and a frevo circle.)

Favourite Friday: sport

I’m not a very athletic person and not fit enough to run/jog all the way from here to the train station (which is a ten minute walk, so not very far). After I stopped horseback riding at the local riding stable – which was full of funny ponies – because of school in the afternoon I hadn’t been involved in any kind of sport. Sure, I tried to go for a run every now and then, but it was not my cup of tea. I’d always wanted to try martial arts (looks cool, is useful for self-defense, and enhances one’s discipline) but somehow I never picked myself up and went to that aikido class.

Then a friend of mine introduced me to capoeiratwo years ago. What I really like about capoeira is that it is a training for many things at the same time – timing movements with the rhythm of the music and the movement of other people, sharpening one’s reflexes, and improving balance. Then there is building muscles everywhere, stretching a lot while warming up, and enhancing one’s flexibility bit by bit to get ready for some acrobatics. It’s great to know how to evade kicks and how to do high kicks without falling over afterwards (though I’m still working on that). Maybe it’s not exactly self-defence in the classic sense, but enough to feel a bit more confident when walking around at night! What’s also nice about capoeira is the inclusive training. The groups for training normally accept people regardless of sex, age, or weight (okay, there might be special groups for kids; I’m talking about everyone old enough to make it to the training on their own in the evening). Where I go there is not real line between beginners and advanced learners. Sure, the more advanced folks go to other training sessions in addition, but some of them come to the beginners’ lessons as well to stay in shape, have fun, and help us to work on our technique. Although we train as a group I don’t have to focus on all people at the same time because we often do exercises while standing in two lines or following each other (meaning I can concentrate on the trainer or the person in front of me and mimic their movements), and we do partner exercises which I really enjoy. So I get a nice balance of being around people and at the same time not overwhelming myself the way I maybe would in team sports. In addition, unlike other martial arts it’s not all about throwing people to the floor or really landing the kicks, and more about question and answer – attack and evasion. It’s pretty playful, actually, and often even referred to as a game, but don’t let that blind you – it’s really exhausting as well :)

dizziness and sports

This is just me rambling about something that’s been bothering me every now and then.

Dizziness is nothing new to me. It started when I hit puberty – standing up too fast or just standing still for more than a few minutes suddenly became a problem. Once I lost consciousness while being part in a play at church, which was pretty embarrassing. But I got used to it and adjusted by taking my time when getting up, leaning against walls or just squatting down when I feel a wave of dizziness approach (usually I start to see funny spots or feel weird, so I learnt to pay attention to these warning signs). I only blacked out enough to fall to the floor twice in all the years since then, and both times it happened when I got out of bed and decided to walk around without sitting up for a while or moving my arms/legs a bit first to jump-start my circulation. Fresh air is helpful as well, as a lack of oxygen is almost always a guarantee for trouble (the guided tours through all the libraries where pretty difficult when I started university – I just can’t stand still in one spot for ten minutes, surrounded by a flock of people and without fresh air, so I got some weird looks for sitting down between all the human legs next to a book shelf). Yes, I manage, and I don’t have to think about it a lot as most strategies have become second nature.

But lately I have to fight massive dizziness when doing sports. I have no clue about the main reason – it might  be stress related, caused by a protracted cold, lack of iron and vitamin D, maybe it’s  just the usual low blood pressure and sugar, or a general lack of fitness. I feel fine walking around or running to catch the train, but as soon as I start to warm up thoroughly for capoeira and move around with knees bent, my head not always on top of the body, and sometimes even spinning around, well, I have to sit down every few minutes to keep the world from spinning or going dark around me. I have been on and off the weekly training for two years now just for fun and never had this much trouble until a few months ago.  Sure, every now and then I had to take some minutes off, but nowhere near the amount of dizzy breaks I need now.

Yesterday I went to another group for additional training (I’m trying to go twice a week now to get in shape) and had way too much trouble keeping myself from blacking out several times to get away with it staying unnoticed. Needless to say, new people mean concerned faces when I sit down against a wall or let myself just fall to the floor after trying to do some cartwheels. The group I go to on Fridays is used to it by now and only the odd new person will get scared and jump to offer me dextrose. Well, the Wednesday trainer now was a bit insecure and kept going on about whether I knew when to sign for help or whatever and didn’t really get that I neither want nor need help with that other than being left alone for a minute. Luckily one of the more advanced guys from Friday training was there as well and told the trainer I was able to assess my situation very well, thank you very much. Phew, thanks for that, buddy, I owe you one. Later when doing partner exercises this same guy simply offered me to call for a break whenever I needed one, but apart from that he didn’t show any hesitation when it came to correcting my mistakes or delivering his kicks so low I really had to crouch. I really appreciate his attitude, because I started capoeira among other reasons to gain a bit of discipline and overcome my weaknesses. And guess what? I didn’t need a break from this exercise. Yay. Dizziness, you won’t keep me from enjoying a decent game.

I’ll talk more about capoeira tomorrow.