Livs’ Story

The Phoenix is a mythological bird who sets itself on fire and rises from its ashes. This creature has always been interesting to me, but, as an adult, the Phoenix has become much more to me than just a cool mythological character. It represents the journey for anyone reaching toward their goals because sometimes we have to burn the bridges and ties to our “old self” in order to achieve our dreams. This can be incredibly painful and scary, but walking through these flames is necessary in order for us to become what we were born to be. 
I was always very active and athletic until adult life hit. The end of collegiate sports, marriage, and a career led to a much more sedentary life than I would ever have thought myself capable of living. I really struggled with being a non-athlete. By the time I had my second child I weighed over 320 pounds. I loved my husband, my career as a teacher, and my boys, but when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize the person looking back. On the inside I was miserable. I felt trapped. I felt I was failing miserably at being a mother. I couldn’t play with my kids; I was certainly no role model for them. I knew I needed to change things up, but I didn’t know how. I guess I just didn’t fully understand what it was to successfully “adult.” 
Luckily for me, God is good, and as the Bible says, He works things together for good. Several of the ladies at my church were enrolled in a weight loss program in our town called “Get Fit Seymour”, and they encouraged me to join as well. I have always been overly competitive so I thought the ability to beat others at something might motivate me more than dieting alone. The competition required a minimum of one workout class from its menu taken per week to be eligible to win the prize, and classes on eating healthy (something I had no idea how to do). My cardio was non-existent (as in walking across the room left me out of breath) so this wasn’t going to be easy. 
Week 1 of the competition I arranged childcare so that I could take a fitness boot camp on a Thursday (I procrastinate…lol). When I called that evening for additional information, I was told the boot camp class was full. Since I had childcare, I had to take another class in the same slot. I saw a kickboxing class offered at a place called KMAA and decided to try it out. In my head, I was thinking Tae-Bo where I would be punching and kicking the air. I also assumed that like every other class I had heard about this was rented space in a building somewhere just for the Get Fit Seymour participants. It sounded like something I could do, and even if I failed miserably, it would only be around other members of the program who were out of shape like me. 
I drove to where the directions said to go and found myself standing outside an abandoned church with a sign that said Knoxville Martial Arts Academy. I saw two other women wearing the Get Fit wrist-bands (requirement of all participants), so I knew I was in the right place. The three of us walked in together. Signs said to go to the gym and down the stairs, so we headed that way. Halfway down the stairs, I began to smell something that brought me back to college athletics- that corn-chip, sweaty-man smell that is synonymous with weight rooms. One of my companions took one whiff, shook her head, turned, and ran. As my remaining companion locked eyes with me, we both nodded, gulped, and continued descending down the stairs. When we reached the bottom, my eyes immediately landed on a legit MMA cage and just as we stepped into the room a huge man in the cage was wasting no time slamming another onto the cage floor. The entire room shook. My last companion said “Hell No!” and ran back up the stairs. I wanted to follow, but lets be honest…I had just walked up a huge hill to the building and down two flights of stairs. I needed a break. This break sufficed to give Taylor Turner a chance to snag me and quite literally drag me to the mats for kickboxing.
Almost in tears, I surveyed the people around me. While there were certainly two or three people there from the Get Fit program, my eyes beheld far more people in incredible shape. I was afraid- would they accept me? This fear was luckily short-lived because within half a minute, two or three of them walked up, offered themselves as a partner and began asking me all about myself. I fell in love with them. I fell in love with the positivity and acceptance they offered me. My second fear- dying by death punch was still firmly in place. In the first 10 minutes of class, I fell in love with kickboxing. I was hooked, though still slightly terrified. 

It didn’t take long before I picked up a circuit training class in addition to kickboxing and within the first six months found myself jogging a mile fairly easy and getting through classes without the near-death experiences that accompanied all of my early classes. It had been hard to realize how far I had allowed myself to sink, but with constant pushing and support from my KMAA peers, I began to watch my body change. Six months saw 60 lbs melt away and I was increasing my strength and stamina. For the first six months I was only doing kickboxing despite my coaches and new friends urging me to try BJJ (Brazilian JuiJitsu) because lets face it, 32-year-old mothers of two DO NOT wrestle. At least that is how I had been raised.

The more weight I lost and the more athletic my body began to feel, the more I felt like my old self. Curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I decided I wanted to try and take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When I timidly brought the subject up with my husband, he laughed at my trepidation and said I would end up in the cage.  Knowing how competitive I am though, he thought I would enjoy it. He didn’t understand why I thought he might object, so I stepped into my first BJJ class and once again loved it.

After two or three months of BJJ, I added MMA class. I had fallen in love. Pretty soon my kids and husband were also coming to the gym. We all had a new family. A positive, accepting family who pushed me to my limits and made me better. Within a year I wanted to fight, but I was hesitant because I felt like I shouldn’t. At the same time, Taylor Turner, who was one of the coaches (and also a  pro fighter) had a little boy. She was a mother, and she was doing it. Why not me? My husband thought I should, and he was all for it. I just struggled to pull the trigger. My coach Eric Turner told me that I needed to just to be me. The box I had allowed myself to be trapped in was self-imposed. Sure I would be judged for being different, but you can’t escape judgment, and I would be judged on anything else that I did anyhow. Life was handing me an adventure, and when life hands you an adventure, you accept your call. I was reminded of Jonah. I was reminded of Gideon. MMA was my path, and I would be okay.

Fast forward three more years and I have now lost 190+ pounds and I am a 4-0 professional MMA fighter (5-0 Ammy) looking to step up to the next level. More importantly, I am a vastly different person than the woman that timidly stepped onto the kickboxing mat, and then into the cage for the first time. I accepted my adventure; I allowed my old life to burn. I let my preconceived notions regarding my role as a woman to burn. It has been hard, there have been times in my life when the changes hurt, and I have certainly experienced judgment from others, but I have absolutely no regrets. I would not change my life for theirs, so why listen to their negativity? I am now surrounded by people who push me and make me better. I feel reborn, like a new person. I am a Phoenix.

© Olivia / All Rights Reserved / Designed by SplasH Media WorX