And now, I begin this post with a confession: I am lazy. If left to my own devices I would come home at the end of each day, collapse on the couch in front of the tv and zone out whilst shoving junk food into my increasingly fat face. I say this simply to distinguish myself from those who have some internal need to move- those that are so filled with nervous energy that they can't sit still. I'm not one of those, I'm an object at rest that tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.
And yet, I do get some exercise, vigorous at times. I swear I'm not bragging but this post won't make any sense if I don't let you know a fact that many of you probably don't know about me: I have a 2nd Dan (2nd degree in layman's terms) black belt in Tang Soo Do. (Very similar to Tae Kwan Do but with more Chinese influences and emphasis on way of life over sport. Click here to learn more if you're interested.) Needless to say, this is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. (Especially given that confession above.)
It also probably (hopefully) goes without saying that karate means a heck of a lot more to me than just exercise but I'm not going to get into all of that now since you're all here to get tips for staying healthy. So what I'm going to do is extrapolate the top five universal points that will work for everyone, regardless of your particular program, and encourage those of you who are interested in my particular program to click here to learn more on that while the rest of you read on:
Number 1: The Buddy System
Humans are social creatures. We need company to survive- it's in our DNA. Plus, we get more accomplished when we work together. I think this is particularly true when it comes to exercise. You tell me to go for a mile jog cause it'll be good for me? Ain't happening. You invite me to go for a mile long jog with you and I can look forward to the chat with you to distract me from the hell of running? It may very well happen, just cause you're my friend and I dig you. And when it's more than one friend? Needless to say the desire increases. Heck, maybe we'll run two miles. Or how about five- I dare ya!
My karate peeps, at this point in my training, are more than friends. They're a second family. I have a sense of belonging with them that I haven't encountered since college. Every time I go, people not only know my name (you're all hearing the cheers theme song now, right?) but they are always, genuinely glad to see me. And because of that, I am going to work harder, sweat more and push myself way beyond what I would if it were just me. Bottom line: Strength in numbers.
Number 2: Accountability
My gym (or dojo, however you want to phrase it) takes attendance. Black belts are required to make it to an average of 8 classes a month if we want to go for our next Dan. That's a pretty big motivator, obviously. But simply knowing that someone is looking to make sure I'm there (and will notice if I'm not) make me a heck of a lot more likely to go. It's the same reason I show up to work every morning and why I get my work done while I'm there. And it seriously works in keeping me off the couch.
Classes have set times, teachers and (I bet you saw this coming, right?) buddies. You are significantly more likely to make it to a class with friends and a teacher you like than you are to squeeze in an hour long workout all by yourself, especially if the time varies. And if you don't go to classes still find some way to hold yourself accountable- a reward system for you and your friend, a mutual promise, something. It helps.
Number 3: Routine
I have karate every Tuesday and Friday. Tuesdays I run home real quick after work, take my dog for a walk, and then head to class. Fridays I leave work a little early so I can get to class in order to teach (white through green belts as I'm sort-of a floater). Every week when I go over my plan for the week, those days are set. I don't have to rearrange my schedule to squeeze in a workout, I don't have to figure out where I'm going to go- it's automatic pilot. Automatic pilot saves a lot of time, effort and energy.
And sure, every now and again something comes up and I can't make it to class, but my normal schedule is set so that more often than not things fall into place. It's the same reason you use a calendar to write down due dates, school semesters, soccer games and so forth. We rely on schedules. It's what makes our world turn.
Number 4: Goals
As I said, 2nd Dan was a huge accomplishment for me. You know what's going to be an even bigger accomplishment? You guessed it: 3rd Dan! And beyond that, 4th (which is masters-woo-hoo!) and so on. But it's not just a matter of the next test, especially given how many years there are between each (one year of training for 1st Dan, 2 years for 2nd, 3 for 3rd and so on). It's a matter of my skills. I want to gain a better understanding of the science behind the moves we do. I want to perform them at a higher level. I want to reach my full potential. We call it a martial art because the idea is that an artist has an evolved understanding beyond that of a practitioner. They make the moves their own, create flow and rhythm and perfection with each step. The more I learn about my art the more aware I become of how much there is that I have yet to learn so that I always feel as though my journey has just begun.
Runners I know (crazy people that they are) work the same way- if they can do a 5k, they start thinking about doing 10 miles. If they can do 10 miles they start training for a half marathon. If they can do that they want to conquer the marathon. We need something to strive for, something to work towards. It keeps us from getting stagnant.
And last but certainly not least, number 5: Have Fun!
As you probably got by now, I am not a fan of running. In fact, I HATE running with a burning, fiery passion. I have never managed to get myself to run on a consistent basis. I've started routines and I think the longest I ever went consistently was two weeks until I fell off. You will not be able to keep up with a routine- whatever it is- unless you want to go. It's that simple.
I love karate, obviously enough. Not just because there's so much to learn, and not just because I get to do it with really awesome people, and not even because there's a cool uniform and bad-ass belt involved. No, it's because it's fun. I go to class and I have fun, it's that simple. And with the thousands of different physical movements you can do, there's no reason why everyone can't find their own particular flavor. Find it, do it, and love it. It makes life much better.
I hope you've found these tips useful, I know I've enjoyed sharing them. Good luck in your quests to get healthy and now please hop along for more tips!