The Warrior Training Program: A cage fight changed my life
Daniel Adams completed the Warrior Training Program as a North Sydney Series 1 competitor. He wrote an account of his experience on medium.com, which we have republished with his permission.
It’s a really difficult thing to admit, yet there I was, unhappy with what I saw in the mirror, unmotivated to make changes and unsure what to do next.
Surprisingly, I decided Wimp 2 Warrior (W2W), a 20-week mixed martial arts (MMA) training program that promised to ‘transform me both physically and mentally, and deliver a life-changing experience’ might be a good idea.
Culminating in my first MMA fight, the program also promised I’d be the fittest I’ve ever been, learn MMA, conquer mental and emotional limitations, and feel empowered and resilient. It sounded exciting and exactly what I needed but that didn’t stop me dismissing it as an elaborate sales pitch. I suspect this was because it sounded like one and achieving those things would mean believing in my ability to effect meaningful change, and at this point, I didn’t.
Admittedly, a cage fight is a big step, but it is a step nonetheless. For me bigger wasn’t necessarily better, it was just what I thought I needed to begin reversing my own decline. If you’ve decided you want to make a change of your own, don’t be afraid to start small. Although we live in a world that always sells bigger is better, it is changes made in smaller, more manageable steps that we’re more receptive to and that more easily form as habits in our daily routine. That being said, don’t be afraid of a challenge. The chance to push your limits and exceed your own expectations of yourself might just be the inspiration you need.
A crucial first step for me was accountability. I recall a conversation with my wife, which was innocent enough but revealed an uncomfortable truth. She felt that I’d ‘lacked follow through’ of late, that I’d made a habit of saying I would take on challenges or achieve certain physical feats and then found reasons (excuses) not to. It didn’t sit well; it wasn’t the person I thought I was or wanted to be. Only I could prove otherwise and if it isn’t on Instagram, did it even happen? So, I took responsibility and announced myself to the world* as a W2W Sydney Series 1 contestant — no turning back.
As advertised, it didn’t take long for me to start building resilience, just four gruelling sessions to be exact. I was attempting an unfamiliar, and it should be said, underrated strength, coordination and mobility exercise called a sit through, when I stubbed my toe hard! I heard a crack and the pain coursed down my foot to my tiny toe, but crucially I didn’t stop. More than that, I didn’t react, and I didn’t tell a single person it’d happened. My competitive spirit was alive and well and I’d decided I didn’t want to show any weakness in a room full of my fellow fighters.
The program builds your ability to conquer these types of mental and physical limitations by repeatedly testing them. Another test for many is the training schedule, designed to find out really quickly how much you want it. The intense two-hour sessions are 5 days a week Monday to Friday, 5–7am, meaning I was personally up at 4am. Not only was I up at 4am, I had to take a train into the City, hop into a hire car, pick up a couple of my fellow contestants on route, and arrive for training at VT1 Academy in Sydney’s Lower North Shore ready to train, and all before the sun had even thought about rising.
Before I signed up, the early starts were a serious sticking point. ‘I’ll never be able to wake up at that time’, ‘I’ll be too tired for work’, ‘I’ll have to put my life on hold’, or even more honest than that; ‘I can’t be bothered’. What’s important to understand is that excuses like this are often made out of fear, or to rationalise a lack of follow through, or even to avoid the risk of failure altogether. Although it’s perfectly normal to use excuses to maintain our own comfort in this way, we need to understand that we’re holding ourselves back from recognising opportunities, strengths, and skills we might have, and ultimately limiting our full potential. Interestingly enough, from the very first 4am alarm to the last, I always woke up. Admittedly, it took an abundance of willpower and some positive lifestyle changes, but I wasn’t too tired for work, didn’t have to put my life on hold and not being bothered didn’t even come into it.
Then came the training itself. Firstly, it’s always important to show gratitude and recognise how lucky I was. I was training in a truly world class facility, with world-class coaches who were specialists in their respective fields, and who genuinely cared about making us better fighters and people. In terms of exercise, it’s proven that enjoyment is one of the main reasons a person sticks with something, and subsequently sees the improvements they are seeking to make. So, although cage fighting seemed a little left of field and way beyond my capability, as a fan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and MMA, it made a lot of sense. In addition to enjoyment, it presented a challenge, got me out of my comfort zone, offered variety and gave me the opportunity to build knowledge and learn new skills.
The first 13-weeks laid the foundations of fitness whilst delivering a crash course in the basics of MMA, including BJJ, wrestling and boxing. From here, for the 9-weeks leading up to the fight, you are in ‘fight camp’ which sees the intensity dialled up each and every week, your game plan formulated, and body and mind readied for your 6 minutes inside the cage. Learning in a process like this is crucial, as is reaching small goals consistently. Despite starting from a low base of confidence and fitness, I threw myself into ‘becoming a fighter’ from the very beginning. I was eager to learn and deliberately obsessed over the small details, making sure to not only understand the what, but also the why. I drilled takedowns, honed head position, and focussed on footwork frequently. I was as hard on myself as the coaches were on me, but I always made sure to celebrate my successes as a way to maintain motivation and reinforce what I’d achieved.
Something that underpins all of this, often referred to as the bridge between goals and accomplishment, is discipline. Discipline helps you to remain consistent, keeps you accountable, eliminates the excuses and ensures you stay focussed in pursuits of your goals. The W2W experience wouldn’t be possible without strict self-discipline, whether it’s the early starts, the many months of healthy eating and not drinking, the training, the extra training, the weight cut, or merely staying the course for 22-weeks and successfully ‘making your walk’.
Before signing up to the program, I clearly lacked self-discipline, yet on signing up and making myself accountable, all that changed. Why, because I set myself a clear goal and via a structured plan knew exactly what I needed to do to achieve it. Unhealthy food and alcohol had been my weakness for too long, so I committed to competing at middleweight (10kg+ below the weight I started at) and used better, healthier choices as a vehicle for getting there. Although I trained hard and trained extra, I still made time to rest, recuperate and reward. Slowly, I learnt to not be so hard on myself. I took lessons from when things didn’t go to plan and used them to be that little bit better next time.
After all that, it turns out it wasn’t an elaborate sales pitch. I was without question the fittest I’d ever been, I’d scratched the surface of learning MMA, something I still do to this day. I’d redefined my own limitations, and crucially, I’d taken responsibility for my actions and made changes that I hadn’t allowed myself to think possible at the start. Instead of making excuses, I made myself accountable. I made a big commitment but still celebrated the small wins and successes. I stayed focussed in the face of adversity, silenced the negativity, wasn’t too hard on myself and remained disciplined throughout, no matter how hard it got.
I had succeeded before I’d even stepped into the cage. Although it was never intended as a vanity project, the physical transformation, because of the journey, is something I am extremely proud of. I lost 10kg+, reduced body fat to just 5.1%, increased my strength and cardiovascular fitness, and built a body able to deal with the demands of hard daily sessions.
More than that, I evolved mentally and emotionally. I was able to deal with the stresses of a competitive fight, stay composed, stick to a game plan and crucially, enjoy every single minute. Despite being tagged hard early on, I won the fight convincingly. I had followed through, believed in myself, and proved to myself what I was capable of.
The black eye lasted a couple of weeks, the experience will last a lifetime.
Are you looking for the ultimate experience that improve both your physical and mental health? Find out when W2W’s next 20-week Warrior Training Program is taking applications near you. Hit ‘Find a Gym‘ above for details.