December got away from me, but I'm back on track now. Speaking of on track, hopefully everyone made a new year's resolution to improve the quality of their life in some manner. Maybe to get more fit, to read more books, or to spend more time relaxing, praying, meditating, or going to church. There is a possibility that whatever commitment you decided to make has already been broken due to any number of unforseen interruptions. Not to despair. I have a strategy that I use that you may find helpful. Instead of a new year's resolution, I make quarterly resolutions. This gives me the opportunity to measure my progress and reevaluate my goals. It never fails. I make a commitment to a new diet plan or workout routine. It goes well for a few weeks, then BAM, I get knocked off my feet by the flu or a bad cold. Or, I get snatched up for an unexpected training mission with the Army. Instead of abandoning my resolution, I simply use the beginning of the next quarter as a reset button. Often this allows me the chance to tweek what I was doing and make it even better. As martial artists, we owe it to ourselves to be in the best shape we can possibly be in. No matter whether your primary focus is self-improvement, self protection, or sport competition, karate requires us to be fit to fight. Many join karate hoping to get into better shape. Initially they notice improvements to their strength, stamina, flexibility, and body composition. Later, however, they hit a plateau and can't seem to make any gains. The truth is karate class two or three days a week is not sufficient to get us into the condition we need to be in. I highly encourage you to take up a supplemental conditioning program to help you meet your fitness needs as a martial artist. I would like to suggest some guidelines for practical and effective conditioning:
- High Intensity. Your workouts should be fast paced and challenging. Lifting weights for fifteen minutes out of an hour spent in the gym is a waste of time. If you're not completely exhausted at the end of your session, you are not getting the maximum benefit from your time investment.
- Variety. The best workout routine is no routine at all. In fact, routine is the enemy of true fitness. Being fit means having proficiency in all ten modalities of fitness: endurance, strength, stamina (no, it's not the same thing as endurance), balance, flexibility, agility, accuracy, speed, power (no, it's not the same thing as strength), and coordination. A good program will hit all of these while challenging you and keeping you from getting bored.
- Functional. Keep all your movements functional. This means using muscle groups together in complex movements that complement the natural way your body accomplishes work. A general test you can use to determine if a movement is functional is if it causes at least two joints to work simultaneously, it's functional e.g. shoulder and elbow, or hip and knee. Isolation movements such as bicep curls develop muscles disproportionally to one another and retard coordinated and efficient movement; not exactly what you want in a fight. Or in any athletic endeavor for that matter. A little isolation work is okay, but for every isolation movement you do, you should do three functional ones.
- Fun. The key to sticking with anything is having fun. If your perspective on working out is that it's boring, try something entirely new. If lifting weights is boring to you, try playing a sport instead. For many of us, karate (kata, sparring, bag and mit work, etc.) along with some running and body weight exercises is the perfect prescription. For others, lifting weights, circuit training, or a sport like racket ball does the trick.
Next, I would like to recommend three fitness options that we at the Kosho-kai have used and can attest to the effectiveness of:
- Crossfit. Crossfit is the ultimate in physical fitness. It delivers high intensity workouts that cross all ten fitness domains. The workouts combine elements of gymnastics, running, and Olympic style weight lifting. The WOD's (Workout of the Day) are described in detail along with video demonstrations on their website www.crossfit.com. Most WOD's tend to be relatively short (eight to twenty minutes) but will take everything you've got to finish. All workouts are scalable to any level of ability and scaled versions are readily available on the Brand X link on the site. One drawback to Crossfit is the relatively large time investment required to master some of the movements and lifts which can be quite technical.
- P90X. This is the brainchild of personal trainer Tony Horton and the marketing genius of the Beachbody Corporation. It combines elemets from weight lifting, body weight training, yoga, kempo, and plyometrics into one diverse and challenging program. It uses the concept of muscle confusion which basically prevents your muscles from adapting to the exercises by constantly varying the type and intensity of the movements. Unlike Crossfit, P90X demands little technical know how; you simply put in the DVD and follow along. P90X definitely delivers results, however, one drawback is the length of the workouts. They take between 60 and 90 minutes every day, five to six days per week. Mrs. Fink leads sessions nearly every day. Class size is limited, but the DVD's, workout room, and TV are available for any student's use any time the dojo is open.
- Total Gym. If you've ever watched Mr. Norris and Miss Brinkley extoling the virtues of the Total Gym on their infomercial and wondered if it was as effective as they portray it to be, wonder no longer. I bought one at Sears five years ago for $290, and I can say it's been the best piece of fitness equipment I've ever owned. It uses a glide board that adjusts to seven different angles, allowing you to use from 10 to 70 percent of your body weight. Mine also came with a weight bar attachment which allows me to add up to eighty pounds of additional weight. The machine allows you to replicate any movement you can do with free weights or practically any other piece of equipment. There are several beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts that are targeted to three fitness goals: weight loss, strength, and endurance. The Total Gym is in the fitness room of the dojo and is available to students any time Mr. Fink isn't using it.
Hopefully, these tips and suggestions informed and motivated you to step up your conditioning program. For more information about any of these programs, see Mr. or Mrs Fink. We'd be happy to help you establish and meet your own personal fitness goals.