Reaching Our Goals
For each of us, there comes a day where we wake up and realize that our 30’s are rapidly fading into the distance. When that point comes, do you like what you see looking back at you? Responsibility for taking care of your body rests solely in your own hands.
The good news is that it is not too late! You can take control today and be on your way to a healthy lifestyle in a short time. Here are five steps you can take to help you achieve your goals.
The first step is to define your long and short-term goals. The long-term goal should be well thought out. Think about where you want to be in the future. Write down your goal and your current starting point, because it makes them real. Make it a contract with yourself. Be accountable, take responsibility and have a good idea of the steps necessary to get where you want to be. Make a sign to remind yourself, stick a post-it on your bathroom mirror or on your fridge, cut out pictures to motivate yourself and place them where you will see them every day.
Once you have all the broad strokes figured out, it is time fill in the details. You need small goals that you can hit on a regular basis. It will keep the fire stoked when you encounter tough times. And you will encounter tough times.
Maybe your first goal is to make it to the gym twice a week. Or to walk one mile twice a week. Then in a month, up your goal incrementally. Perhaps your goals are food related. Cut out cookies and sweets for a week. Then cut out soda.
Find goals that are attainable for you, not goals that you will give up on after one day. Success at anything comes one step at a time. So you need to be reasonable when coming up with these goals.
The next step is to make these changes about you, not about others. When you begin to make changes, everyone will want to give you their input. Make it your own. Do what you have planned, because no one else knows you better than yourself.
Step three is to make sure you have results that can be measured. Make each of your short term goals a kind of trigger point. Whether it is checking days off on a calendar or a number on a scale or a clothing size. You must know where you stand in order to know what to do next.
The fourth step should be a given: make it fun! Enjoy the journey, embrace it and soon it will become second nature. Each tiny goal you achieve will build confidence in yourself. As you become more self-confident, you become capable of greater change.
The fifth step is to be consistent in your journey. Avoid the highs and lows. Eat right, get plenty of rest and train hard!
The year is coming to a close and how many of us have reached our goals? How many of last year’s resolutions did we keep?
Achievers in life have vision. They picture success before it is a reality. To achieve your fitness goals, you will need to have a vision. No matter how old you are, no matter your disabilities, and yes, even if you have never worked out before in your life.
When it comes to fitness I liked to be pushed and to have a deadline. That is one reason I loved preparing for an upcoming fight as a fighter. I never was upset when a fight fell through and didn’t happen, because regardless of whether the fight took place, I enjoyed the training leading up to it. This is why I still help other fighters get ready for their events because I like to push myself right along with them.
It wasn’t always fights that I helped people physically prepare for. Oftentimes in Los Angeles, I was helping actors or actresses prepare for a role in an upcoming film or show. Today it may not be a fight or a movie role, but any goal where there is a definitive date is a great opportunity. Are you training for an upcoming vacation where you will be on a beach? Maybe you are training for a race or a triathlon.
If you want to be swimsuit ready for the summer, now is the time to lay the foundation. It is really possible to drop thirty pounds and harden up our bodies by June if we start now in the winter months.
Prepare by having a set goal. Make long term and short term goals to hit. Visualize the way you will feel and look. Look around for pictures that can help bring things into focus.
We all have different body types so what we look like and how we will perform will differ from other people around us. Set realistic goals. For example, I will never look like an NBA player. I will never look like a marathoner. However, I can become the best version of myself.
Change in body and healthy begins with the vision to see where we will be, not where we are today.
One of the hardest parts of working out is getting to the gym. I often feel like skipping or not training, but I know that once I get there and get started I will be good to go for the rest of the workout.
Each of us has different things that motivate us. It may be your health, weight loss or even another friend who pushes you to be there. The key for each of us is to find those things that will get us into the gym and keep us there.
The first few times in the gym will take sheer willpower. After a few weeks of making yourself go, it becomes a habit and then it is not as difficult to show up.
Short term and long term goals will help you stay motivated. Once we reach a goal, we set our sights on a new goal. Each one takes us further towards our long term goal. Once we start hitting our marks it really gives us a boost.
Maybe your short term goal is to make it to three workouts a week for an entire month, and your long term goal is to reach 100 workouts. Keep marking those X’s on a calendar and watch as you progress. For other people, the goals are to drop a clothing size or to lose 5 pounds. When you reach that, you keep going until you’ve reached 10 pounds.
I like to challenge myself with the amount of repetitions I am able to do on my kettlebell without taking a break. My wife likes to challenge herself with the number of kicks she can do on the bag without pausing. Find a way to challenge yourself, set a goal and work towards it.
One of the best ways to challenge yourself is to join a team. I train with others because it makes me push myself harder. I realize most people will not go out and get on a fight team, but we can all find a gym with a good workout group. They keep us accountable and make the workouts fun.
If we schedule our workouts just like we schedule meetings or important appointments, we will be less likely to miss them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: morning workouts are great for two reasons. They get the workout out of the way before the day gets busy and conflicts arise, and they also provide an added bonus of supercharging your metabolism for the rest of the day.
Once you make them a regular habit and your body adjusts to the routine, regular morning workouts will also give you more energy throughout the day.
Each of us has the power and the time to improve our own physical health. In the end, it comes down to persistence.
Do you work out but don’t see the results you were expecting? We often wonder why, but the answer should come as no surprise.
The number one reason is nutrition. Fitness starts in the kitchen. Check your diet, you may be eating much more than you need.
Food is not meant to be something to make us feel better. Its purpose is to fuel our bodies. Keep in mind the number one rule: you cannot out train a bad diet.
The number two reason is lack of consistency in your workouts. Do you only go to the gym when you feel like it, or when your schedule allows? Or, do you go, but don’t give every workout you’re all? If you stop pushing yourself whenever something is difficult or isn’t comfortable, you will not see results.
The third culprit is lack of knowledge. This can be as simple as training with no real plan or only doing things you already know how to do. In order to strengthen our bodies we need a good program that hits all the major muscle groups while remaining challenging in the long term.
Some people will neglect strength training and focus only on cardio, or perhaps the other way around – all strength training and no cardio. If we really want to succeed we should find a trainer who knows what they are doing. Forget about all the fancy certifications they may have, and instead find someone who has real world experience.
Our health is the most important investment we will make, so take care of it wisely. With fitness and nutrition, the big picture is about lifelong health, not a quick temporary fix or a quick five pounds lost.
Holidays and Fitness
We are just entering into the holiday season. This means it will be hard for many of us to stick with our fitness routines. We might gorge ourselves on holiday foods and then tell ourselves it’s okay because it is a special occasion.
It would be one thing if, like our ancestors, we spent all summer long working the crops, hunting for our food and now we enjoy the bounty of the harvest. In America, the bounty lasts all year round, and many of our meals are loaded with garbage, a far cry from the bounty that was fresh from the earth during the days of the pilgrims.
When you eat whole foods and cut out sugar, you do not need to count calories. Do you eat until you are “full” or until you are satisfied? There is a big difference. Enjoy your meal, without overindulging. Another way to cut down on the extra calories is to make up your mind not to eat between meals. Mindless snacking and “grazing” over the holidays can contribute thousands of calories in a single day.
There will be some of us who try to count calories in a vain attempt to stave off that extra weight. One small serving of stuffing is 400 calories. Most single servings of mashed potatoes and gravy add up to about 550 calories. A mere four ounces of ham is 400 calories. The same four ounces of turkey is about 200 calories. Pie will run about 300 – 500 calories per slice, plus another 300 if you go a la mode. How many of us eat more than just a single serving of any one of these dishes on Thanksgiving?
Combine massive amounts of calories with missed workouts, and we are most likely putting on some pounds over the holidays. They go on easy and come off hard. If we have eaten above and beyond every year since we were in our twenties, just from the holidays alone we may be carrying around an extra twenty five pounds by the time we are forty.
The moral of the story is not to count the calories. It is to eat mindfully. Eat until you are satisfied, and then stop. Eat foods that don’t have the added sugar, foods that are not processed. Steam your broccoli, and don’t smother it in cheese sauce. Stop with the snacks all day long.
The other lesson is the importance of getting in your workouts over the holidays. If you travel, take the time to train on the road. Bring a jump rope with you. Find the weight room in your hotel. Plan 30 minutes each day where you will get your heart rate up, even if it is just a brisk walk before or after your meal. I will be traveling over the holidays. I will bring my kettlebell and I will walk at least thirty five minutes a day. I also enjoy doing a small circuit of bodyweight exercises after my morning walk.
Holidays and fitness can work together. Don’t wait until the new year to dig yourself out of a hole. Treat your body well this holiday season.
Eventually, everyone who trains hits a plateau. It is that period of time where we seem stuck at the same level with no noticeable progress. Perhaps you were making steady progress and then after a while, nothing. Or worse, maybe you experienced a slight slide in the wrong direction.
I see it a lot in Jiujitsu. There is a huge amount of noticeable progress when a person goes from being a beginner to becoming a blue belt. Then there is a long period of undetectable progress as they continue to train. The good news is, as long as they are challenging themselves and working at the sport, they are still progressing even when it is not noticeable. This is true even if they have a bad day on the mats.
If you are no longer making progress towards your strength training or weight loss goals, why do you think that is? Did you really stop moving toward your goal? If the answer is yes, what do you need to change?
It could be that your level of performance has dropped. The luster of the “new” thing has worn off. You need to step up your work ethic. As my trainer always said, “Go hard, or go home.” A workout done on autopilot is a workout wasted. You need to be mentally and physically pushing yourself whenever you devote your time to training.
Or, perhaps you are not being diligent with your nutrition and it is keeping you from your goals. It is easy to fall into the rut of working hard at what you enjoy and doing less of what does not come easy to you. If you enjoy working hard in the gym, but slack off when it comes to feeding your body well, it will hold back your progress.
Sleep and recovery are also a very important key to progress. Part of living a healthy lifestyle is getting adequate rest.
Even when we are climbing mountains, we will come upon valleys. Some are long and deep, others are short. We have to power through them. That will require leaving our comfort zone and pushing our limits.
There are many myths when it comes to fitness. One that refuses to die is the idea that it is possible to spot reduce fat. It is not possible to remove fat from only certain parts of our bodies by performing certain exercises.
The reality is we can spot train muscle groups through specific exercises, but our muscles are all covered by a smooth layer of fat. Some of us have areas of our body that store more fat than other areas, or areas of our body that are the last to lean out, but it is not possible to melt away fat in one targeted body part through exercise.
A good exercise program will hit as many of the muscle groups in our bodies as possible. This will ensure that as we build muscles, we are burning more fat. Building balanced muscle along with cardio conditioning and a healthy diet will accomplish overall fat loss in time.
There are no shortcuts. We cannot reach our goals without going through the difficult times and putting in the effort required.
How much should I train?
How much should I train? Each of us is different, even the experts know there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. I often hear, “How many times a week do I have to workout?” or, “What is the least I can do to lose weight?” One way to view training is to figure out how many sessions a week it will take us to be in our optimum shape.
Training should not be something we do only until we reach a certain goal. It should be an ever-evolving lifelong pursuit.
The world seems to want a quick fix: five-minute abs, a thirty-day weight loss challenge, a two week cleanse, and the list goes on. The reality is that it takes a lot of consistent work over a long period of time.
The alternative is to let yourself slide. As your body loses strength and you feed it poorly, you become more susceptible to every sickness and ailment. You will find yourself on a whole host of medications. A bad back or bad knees progress from bad to worse. Eventually, you may even be unable to walk to the mailbox.
Many people who read this will not recognize the name Jack LaLanne. Jack was a health and fitness pioneer who was still doing his daily workouts until his death at 96 years old. He pretty much sums his approach to fitness up in this quote: “Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the butt. It’s like an athletic event. You’ve got to train for it. You’ve got to eat right. You’ve got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.” What does your kingdom look like?
I train six days a week because I have found that is how I make the best gains. I also love the way I feel when I train six days a week. I like to hit each major muscle group hard twice a week and add cardio conditioning to them.
For you it may be two or three days a week to start. Maybe it is only 20 minutes each session for the first month. Then 30 minutes. Eventually, you may find yourself needing 45 minutes or an hour to feel the same benefit because your body is getting stronger. That is when you know it’s time to add another day to your training regimen.
The only way to find out how much you should train is by training yourself and finding out how your body responds.
If something does not challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone, is there any way we can expect it to change us?
I am often told by people: I jog, I ride a bike, I use the stairmaster, I play basketball…. and the list goes on.
No matter how we choose to exercise, in order to gain the most benefit, we should all incorporate strength training into our schedules. Another name for strength training is resistance training.
Young or old we can all benefit from strength training. After puberty, we start to lose almost one percent of our muscle and bone strength every year.
It is never too late to start, no matter what your age is. Other forms of exercise may benefit your heart, but working with resistance will help you persevere and build your bone density and your muscle.
Some people think, “I don’t want to build muscle, I just want to burn fat with cardio.” The truth is, when you add muscle, you burn more calories all day, not just when you are working out.
It will also add to your ability when it comes to performance in your sport of choice. Strength, especially core strength, helps with body mechanics. It will boost your mood, your energy levels and help you stay focused longer.
It is best to start small and work your way up in intensity. Incorporating some strength training three times a week to start and then, after a few months move up to four or five. Once you see the benefits and feel the difference, it will become a habit.
I meet people every week who know they need to be healthy. They want to be healthy. Sadly, most will actually never reach their goal of a healthy body. Why?
I have found that most people who never reach their goals fall into three categories. One: they have no plan or real understanding of what it will take. Two: they are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone to learn and grow. Three: they have gone through life giving up before they even give it a chance.
A couple of months ago I met a man in his mid 60’s who wanted to get into shape. This man had really never trained as an athlete, and he had no idea what to do. He had never jumped rope, but he was willing to give it a try. He could not even jump over the rope one time on that first day. Did that stop him? No. He kept showing up at the gym three days a week, and he gave every workout his best effort.
In the past few weeks, I watched him reach several goals. First, he was able to jump rope for over one hundred jumps in a row without stopping. Not long after he passed three hundred jumps in a row. He has Parkinson’s disease, but he never let that stand in his way.
We all need to set a long-term goal as well as some daily and weekly goals that we can work to reach. We need to fully understand the benefit we will get when we reach our goals. This helps our mindset itself up for success. I cannot think of a more clear goal than to be healthy, but each of us need to find our own.
Once we have a goal, next comes the planning stage. We have to have a roadmap to get from point A to point B. This will help us make a clear path to reach our goals.
It is now time to act on our wish to become healthy, because if we do not, it is all just a vague dream.
We need to show up and give it our all. Just being there will not do any good if we are not focused mentally and pushing ourselves physically. Throw out your excuses. Start concentrating on banking every workout and soon the results will follow.
3000 Kettlebell Swings
In June I decided to step up my training. I wanted to see how far I could improve in some of the things I like to do. I stepped up my strength training to include extra kettlebell training three days a week. Once I got to the point where I was not exhausted after every workout, I added another three days of extra kettlebells. This training consists of kettlebell snatches, deadlifts, and Turkish get-ups. This month I did a little over three thousand kettlebell swings on top of my regular workouts.
I was looking for kettlebell training ideas when I came across a video on YouTube of a trainer who added fifty kettlebell swings a day to his workouts. I tried this and the first time I was beat. I had some kickboxing sparring after that and I could barely get through eight rounds. My body quickly adapted and I added another fifty swings, then just for added fun another fifty. This next month I will add another fifty for a total of two hundred which I will then do within a certain time.
I approach every training session as another chance to best myself. I go into them with the idea that I will work on and improve one small part. I am hard on myself and I expect progress. I know that I can not see progress every time, but I still like to at least do as good as the time before. No matter how the session goes down, I know it will be another one in the bank.
Any workout is better than none. Challenge yourself. You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you look back at what you have done.
Keeping It Fun
I workout in the morning because it sets the pace for the rest of my day. It supercharges my metabolism so that my body is burning fuel all day. I am less likely to miss a workout because less things happen in the early morning.
I have found over the years that afternoon workouts are not as consistent as those done early in the day. Plans with friends, work, church or school events, they all tend to pop up in the evening. I also tend to have less energy and focus as the day goes on.
If you are not a “morning person,” think about what is important to you when you set your goals. If getting fit is a priority, are you willing to change your sleeping habits to commit to a morning workout routine?
Fitness should be fun. This does not mean it will be easy. I enjoy training. I love to push myself and reach my personal goals. I compete against myself everyday when I begin to train and I do my best to do better than the day before. It is a habit that takes time to develop, but if you take that time, every workout becomes an experience. Keep track of your fitness progress not just the scale. The scale may not move, but you can accomplish more than weight loss in a training session. It could be just one or two more reps than the week before, or a longer period of movement at a stronger pace.
It does not matter to me how many reps the person next to me is doing, because I am worried about my own goal.
No matter what, I use fitness as a stress reliever and when I am in my zone for those few minutes, nothing else is on my mind.
“I want to lose 10lbs.”
“I want to get into shape.”
“I have a wedding/reunion to go to and I want to look good.”
I am sure everyone has heard or uttered those phrases, or something close to them.
The problem with all of those and the mantra, “I’m on a diet,” is that they all set us up for failure.
Living a healthy lifestyle is not quick fix or a short term project. Each of us must decide if we wish to live our lives as healthy or unhealthy people.
Consistency is important for good health. The first thing we must realize is that it will be work. A healthy life is not an accident, it takes a plan and some effort. That work can be fun. If we make it fun, we are more likely to keep it up.
Simplicity is the key. We do not need to weigh our food or buy specialized pre-made meals. We have no need for fancy kitchen machines. The basics will do the job. Forget about cheat days and stop using food as a reward.
The same applies to working out. You don’t need the latest workout equipment or a five star gym membership. Go on a long hike. Get a jump rope and start with 5 minutes a day in your garage. Play a sport you enjoy or go for a long bike ride. Why not treat yourself to a new shirt or a pair of pants that you will look forward to wearing to the gym? Find a workout you enjoy doing, and as you notice the positive changes you will begin to look forward to it.
Keep your food simple and healthy. Find a way to break a sweat that you enjoy. Set attainable goals and watch yourself reach them. You are now on your way to living life healthy. And when that reunion pops up? You will be ready without a crash diet.
Working out is not an afterthought. When I train, I always make sure that I am well prepared to give it my all. I do my best to get the proper amount of sleep so that my body has a chance to rest and repair itself, and so that my mind is sharp. I drink a lot of water so I am well hydrated going into my workout. I make sure that I have eaten the right amount of food so I am not full, but have the fuel I need to go hard.
I leave myself time to wrap my hands or put on my gear before it is time to begin.That also means if I have things I need to get done before my workout, I come early. If I need a longer warm up or some stretching due to an injury, I give myself the extra time. I have my mind set in workout mode and that means I come to push and do my best. I know that when I slack off, I am only wasting my time.
When it is time to get down to the actual training, I am fully equipped to give it my all. I am there for my 45-60 minutes of work. My mindset is to go at the best pace that I can. There are days when I am tired, beat up or have other things on my mind and I do not feel like putting in the work. These are the days I really push myself because I know that if I can overcome myself nothing else can stop me.
As a trainer, I see all types of people in every gym. Some are unprepared. Others do not push themselves, doing as little as possible to get by.
I ask everyone to give 100% in my group classes. The bottom line is, everyone has a different 100%. As a coach, I am not asking anyone to work out at the same level as the other people in the class. Everyone has different skill levels and abilities.
I am expecting everyone in my class to give their best effort. Why show up if you’re just going to walk through the motions? It should be evident to yourself and those around you that you are trying, and giving it your best. That effort will look different for every person, but it will be visible to all. At the end of the class, you can be proud of yourself. I know I will be proud of you.
Fiber Is Your Friend
Everyone seems to know about protein and fat content in their food, but they often overlook the importance of fiber. If you are an athlete or someone just getting into fitness: fiber is your friend.
There are two kinds of fiber in foods, soluble which dissolves in water and insoluble which passes through your body intact. They both help you digest your food and process it while also helping maintain proper blood sugar levels.
It is recommended that we get between 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans eat far less. Skip the processed foods such as packaged cereals, protein bars or bread and switch to steel cut oats or buckwheat. Load up on the vegetables and fruit while drinking plenty of water.
Fiber also adds bulk to your food and it creates that full feeling so you eat less.
Think about it, a bag of donuts and a bag of apples which one is more likely to get eaten in one sitting? Most donuts have less than one gram of fiber and an apple has about 4.4 grams of fiber.
Fiber is your friend.
Protein With Every Meal!
One of the most important parts of my fitness journey has been getting my food intake right. If I do not eat enough I feel weak, or worse, shaky and sick. If I take in more than I need I feel sluggish and fail to reach my goals for the week.
Protein is one of the most important aspects of my daily diet. I do not like powders or drinks. I believe in eating real, solid foods. It all comes down to amount, timing and type.
How much is enough? It is often written that we need about 1 gram per kilo of body weight. That would be fine for a sedentary person, but I train a lot. I have upped it in the past, but my protein sources were not clean and it was just more than my body needed. If you take in more protein than you need, your body will store it as fat.
I think my body works best when I eat 25 grams of protein each meal, which works out roughly to 100 grams a day for me. I am including snacks in my calculations.
Timing is everything. Instead of taking in a huge amount at one meal I spread it out over the whole day so my body can use it and burn it over a long period of time. A lot of the population eats their biggest protein meal at dinner time where it will sit most of the night. By spreading it out over the whole day, nothing goes to waste and there is no excess. This is made easy for me because my wife meal preps for me for me each week.
I do not measure or weigh my food. I roughly estimate it at just over a palm-sized serving of protein. That means grilled or baked chicken, beef, or fish. I also eat hard boiled eggs, avocados, quinoa and raw nuts for protein.
Get your protein intake dialed in and your body will respond accordingly!
Boxing is a great way to get in shape, expand your knowledge, exercise your brain and relieve some stress. I read an article that boxing has now overtaken yoga as the new fitness craze.
The public is just learning what a few of us have long known. I love boxing. The workouts, the art of boxing and for me kickboxing is even better. Kickboxing, when done right, is twice the workout. For now, I will just write about boxing.
Many people will have the wrong idea about boxing when they first hear about somebody training. A boxing workout is not sparring or getting hit. It is non-contact. Professional fighters only spar in the ring on certain days. The majority of their time is spent working on their boxing form and conditioning.
If you are going to train boxing you should learn from somebody who knows what they are doing, even if you never plan on being hit or sparring. Training with a novice will rob you of a lot of the things that make boxing a great workout. Every movement is important: from footwork to hip movement to turning over your fist. Even shadowboxing is a great form of exercise when performed properly. Every muscle is used when boxing.
I am sure there are and will be organizations that will offer courses and certifications in boxing or kickboxing. There is no weekend training camp or online course that can teach boxing. In reality, it takes years and years of hands-on trial and error and good coaching to learn the mechanics of boxing. My advice is to go with experienced trainers that know the sport.
This week I have been feeling like my athletic performance is not yet where it should be. So, I started my mental checklist of what I am trying to achieve in fitness.
I defined my goals:
- I want to bring my cardio up to a high consistent output that has me moving as good in the fifth round as I did in the first round.
- I want to achieve the maximum amount of strength without gaining additional weight or size.
- I am trying to refine my technique in both combat arts and functional training so it is the most efficient possible.
Here are the action steps I have been taking towards these goals:
- I have been testing my cardio by moving more, engaging and not worrying about energy conservation in my workouts.
- I have stepped up my kettlebell workouts to bring my strength up as much as I can.
I use small goals that work in concert with my overall fitness plans. I like to work on it this way because I can see progress and it is obtainable. I know I am really starting to feel fast and mobile as I focus on my cardio and my strength. I went seven consecutive rounds of kickboxing this week and while I was not happy with my output, it did go well. My weight has plateaued out and I am four pounds away from my goal.
Define your long-term goals, then set the short term levels you will hit. Decide what actions you will take immediately and move forward. Every small goal you reach, go for another one. In a year you will have gone far!
Invest in Your Health
Taking responsibility for your own health is one of the most important decisions each of us could ever make. It is a commitment that we must take seriously. We cannot allow a bad day or a holiday to derail our goals. This past week, I was tired and I am not sure why. It could have been having a long weekend and for Labor Day that threw me off. Sometimes it could be a new training plan I implemented or it may just be that I am run down.
A holiday weekend means nothing in terms of my training because I will not miss a workout. I may do a different type to mix it up or adapt for training at home instead of in the gym, but it will still be good. My food will remain the same and I will wake up at the same time. Establishing and keeping routine is very important in achieving goals.
All week I pushed myself, made myself warm up, stepped it up and pushed my limits. Yes, I wanted to give up. Yes, I wanted to skip my Wednesday night sparring session because I felt weak and tired. I am glad I did not. I ended up sparring with a pro fighter who was preparing for an upcoming fight, and I was able to step it up even though I didn’t feel like it. It was hard, but it’s another week banked in my fitness piggy bank for the year. I figure I spend about 450 minutes each week training. That works out to 7.5 hours out of a 168 hour week. That is not a lot and compared to our ancestors who worked hard with physical labor all day long, it’s nothing in terms of activity. I view it as a small price to pay for my health.
I was sitting at my computer and decided to Google “balance exercises” today, just to see what came up in a search. I found a lot of good suggestions on methods to train balance, but one article, in particular, got my attention.
It was about balancing your training so that you are not always working on the same body parts or only training in one specific manner. This has been important to me as an athlete and as a trainer. People often tell me about how they jog, ride a bike or swim on a regular basis. All of these are great – as are power lifting, jiu Jitsu, yoga and many other forms of exercise. The only problem is that doing one form of exercise repeatedly does not provide enough variety for your body. Once “going through the motions” gets easy and your body adapts, you stop making gains. In Los Angeles, I saw a lot of men with huge upper bodies from lifting, and small bird-like legs.
The moral of the story is to mix it up!
No one system has it all, and none are better than the rest. Functional strength training works best for me because it works in everyday life. It provides a balance of many different movements and it compliments the combat arts. Find a combination of exercises that challenges and strengthens your body, and commit to a balanced approach to fitness.
Training Or Working Out?
What is the difference between training and working out? Most of the classes I teach involve both working out and training.
I spend about 45 minutes a day working out.
If I am training, I am actively working to improve a specific movement or technique. I always have a goal and a path mapped out to get to where I want to be. Often times I also work skills training with a coach or a team.
The goal of working out is to build your endurance and push yourself further. Working out is when I put my body and knowledge to work. It is when I want to get my heartbeat elevated and my sweat on. This is the time that I test the limits of my endurance and determine how well my training is coming along.
Anytime I am working out I am focused on three key factors in order to maximize my experience.
1.I pay attention to details. They make the technique do my body the most good.
2. I slow my performance down so that I am working on precision, not speed.
3. I am focused on my workout and I look for movements I can improve on in my training.
The Secret To Fitness Success
The secret to fitness success? There is none! I will give my personal blueprint for reaching all my fitness goals.
- I show up and put in the work. I never just walk through my training, even when I do not feel like being there (we all have those days) I go all out. Training time is training time, I have no time for anything else.
- Eat real food that is from the earth, not developed or preserved by a company. Diet is more important than training in life and fitness.
- Get proper sleep so you can rest and recover. Have no fear – you will miss nothing if you go to sleep early, and the early morning hours can become some of your most productive.
- Have realistic expectations and be patient. Proper fitness will take a long time. Forget about weight loss – when you are striving to be fit, focusing on diet and training, that will happen.
- Make no excuses! I don’t even believe myself when I try to rationalize not training. There are no legitimate excuses. Sick or injured, you can still focus on what you put into your body. Most of the time you can still find a way to exercise. We either choose to be healthy or we choose to be a victim to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Last week I was hurting. My rib had gotten dislocated when I was doing some form of combat sports. I showed up, trained, sparred, rolled and even did heavy kettlebell workouts. I held pads for countless people and yes it hurt. My health is very important to me, so training is a priority. While I was in pain, there was nothing life threatening or anything that could do permanent damage. I did what I could, and I still met all my fitness goals.
I want to be as healthy as I can possibly be. I think this is a statement that most people would agree with. The question is, how many people actually put it into practice? We all have the same twenty-four hours each day. If we decide that health is important, we will find the time to make it a priority.
This week was difficult for me because I was injured. I still showed up to the gym for every class and personal training session. I even trained myself. I rolled Jiu Jitsu, boxed, kickboxed and did my kettlebells. Everything hurt, so I modified my training and I got through it. I am committed to my health and fitness. Even though my ribs had popped out, I still kept my commitments to others and myself.
I have to make it a priority in my life to take care of my body. As a result, my mind is much clearer. There are a lot of things I would like to do, but I know that I am committed to the gym early each morning and that means I have to get to bed early to be operating at my best in the morning. If commitments come up that interfere with my normal workouts, I will grab a kettlebell, a jump rope and get in a good thirty-minute session.
If you want to be as healthy as you can possibly be, I challenge you to get committed.
I always begin any new program slowly when it comes to fitness. I have learned over the years that it is best for my body to ease into something new. I know now that the smallest details matter.
I learned this lesson when I started training Jiu jitsu. Brazilian jiu Jitsu is an off shoot of Japanese Judo. It is primarily a ground fighting system where you use technique to defend against a bigger opponent. It is a game of inches, where every grip or place or shifting of weight matters. I learned to be patient, do each move correctly and take my time.
This lesson applies to fitness in general. Right now I am working on improving on my strength. I am using a kettlebell and bodyweight exercises to accomplish this goal. I only do these exercises three days a week. I need just a single kettlebell that I will continue to use for a full year. I have seen no drastic changes in the first few months of working on my goal, but I know if I continue to put in the time, it will pay off.
Here are a few simple rules to starting a new fitness program.
- Know your goals: make sure they are realistic.
- Make a plan that allows you to ease into your new routine.
- Commit & stick with it.
Every day is like money in the bank. View your goals as a marathon, not a sprint.
Functional Strength Training
I have had a lot of people come to me over the years and tell me that they already work out, now they just want to get “leaned out.”
Once I dig a little deeper, I find out they have been working out in the traditional bodybuilding style. A lot of them also train themselves at a big-box gym. This often includes lots of zombie time on a cardio machine and then a period of hitting the weight machines. Why have they not gotten the desired results?
I have trained at big box gyms in the past: Nautilus, Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness and a few others. I did the 1980’s bodybuilding workout (in the ‘80s), I’ve done powerlifting and spent hours on cardio machines. I was always heavy. Any muscles I had were hidden beneath a layer of fat and my cardio was not great.
It was not until I learned about functional strength training that my body began to change.
Functional strength training gives you the strength necessary to get through the day without getting injured while going about your daily activities. It is resistance training exercises mixed with isometric stability exercises that really work your core while hitting all of the surrounding muscle groups.
Every person has different needs when it comes to strength training, but everyone can benefit from a stronger core. When you have a strong core you have better balance, better alignment, and your core supports the weight of your body, removing pressure from your back and your knees.
People begin to lose on average 30%-50% of their muscle and strength between the ages of 30 and 80, yet few people take the time to train and build muscle. An hour a day of varied functional strength training can do amazing things for your body and health.
I have learned the hard way over the years that I cannot out-train a poor diet. I am a product of my generation. I was coming of age when the food corporations started mass producing all of their fake food products. I fell into the trap of rewarding myself with food. “Hey, Kenji, you played a great game, let’s go to McDonalds!” or, “You worked hard today, have some cake!”
I lost my way and I stopped treating food for what it was always meant to be. Food is fuel for our bodies, much like gas is fuel for a car. Once I stopped poisoning myself with high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar, my eyes opened. I had to step up and take responsibility for what I was putting in my body. It was not going to be fun to change my ways. Sugar is addicting just like any other drug, and stopping with the sweets was not easy. Once I kicked the habit, my tastes changed. Today I cannot imagine eating any other way.
It becomes hard as a trainer not to become jaded. We see so many people who need our help and we know we can help them. The problem is most people are looking for some easy quick fix – an exercise routine where they can work half heartedly, not sweat and do every other week for ten minutes, or some magic beans or pills that will allow them to eat anything and not gain a pound.
Fat Chance! The only way to change your body is by working hard in the gym and even harder in the kitchen. The secret is, don’t try and change your diet all at once. Take one step at a time. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
A fundamental part of training for any athlete is staying hydrated. There is nothing that serves the purpose better than water. I stay away from sports drinks or energy drinks because of the sugar in many of them.
Our bodies are almost 70 percent water and our brains need it to function properly. When we sleep our bodies use up a lot of the water we consumed the day before. Upon waking in the morning, most of us are dehydrated. To start my day right, I wake up and drink two 16 ounce glasses of water with a splash of lemon juice. A little later I will also have some coffee followed with another 16 Oz glass of water.
I try to drink enough water that my urine is clear throughout the day. I consume extra water before my workouts so I will be plenty hydrated as I work and sweat. If I will be sparring in full gear and moving around fast, I will take in, even more, water than usual.
Water will help speed up your metabolism. It will also help with your post-workout recovery and it will help keep your body functioning at its optimal level. It’s very important to stay hydrated!
In the last few years, I have become my own harshest critic. When it comes down to it, I need to be. It is on those mornings that I do not feel like getting out of bed that I have to be strong. It would be easy for me to skip a workout or not walk the dogs. I could say, “It’s just one time.”
The truth is, I enjoy being healthy. I love when my clothes fit well. I like knowing that I can jump into a Jiu Jitsu class, boxing ring or MMA cage any place or time and I will have the gas to see it through.
There was a time when that was not always true. I would try to get by on my skill instead of stamina and I would have to conserve my energy to make it through. I would binge eat, thinking I could always out train my horrible diet. In the past, I have made many excuses to myself.
Then I made a decision to treat my body the best I can. I do not want to be one of the 16 million people who will die this year from a lifestyle choice.
You can choose to eat whole foods, drink plenty of water, get the rest your body needs and train to the best of your ability. Will you choose optimal health or excuses?
The Benefits Of Training
Physical training is so much more than aesthetics. I can tell you this from first-hand experience. Physical training contributes a lot to your general health. The problem is, most of us wait to look into a workout program until we are twenty pounds overweight.
If you want to improve your mood, boost your energy, avoid feeling sluggish or sick, a great place to start is with what you eat and how you exercise. The benefits of a fitness program far outweigh the negatives. Fitness is not a weight loss plan, it is a lifestyle. It teaches you to push yourself, commit to goals and see things through.
The functional strength that fight training has given me pays off every day. Even if you will never fight, I urge you to give it a try. Anyone can train like a fighter! The kind of strength and endurance you acquire is useful in everyday life.
If something is important to you, you can find the time to pursue it. There is nothing you will miss out or by going to bed early or by not eating or drinking something that others are.
We All Need A Coach
It is important to train with a group of people regularly and have a coach. Your coach and team keep you accountable. I make it point to go to another gym (not my own) every Wednesday. That is the day I get in some team training in MMA, boxing, and kickboxing. As a team, we do some drills and we spar.
I’ve had a busy couple of weeks. This week, I was especially tired, but I went anyway. I ended up sparring ten hard rounds that night. One of the hardest of those ten rounds was when I went with someone who was skilled but injured. Since they couldn’t get hit, I threw placement punches and kicks and moved around and slipped theirs. Not hitting someone is sometimes harder than just going hard.
I was exhausted when I left, but I knew it was another good workout in the bank. The next morning I felt it, but when someone asked me to roll (sparring in Jiu Jitsu) after a class at K-FIT, I was happy to do it. A coach once told me. “Never turn down a chance to train when someone offers it up.”
I am very blessed to be surrounded by people who have a desire to train and who push me to keep going.
World champions in every type of competition all have coaches. Each of us should find a group that can motivate us to keep going when we don’t feel like it, push us to give our very best and help keep us accountable.
Maybe you know how to train yourself, or maybe you don’t. Either way, there is always something you can still learn from someone else. Never stop learning and never stop pushing yourself.
Blast Out Of My Comfort Zone
It is easy for anyone, including me, to become complacent when it comes to training our bodies. I tell myself that I have done enough for one day or one week, and I do not need to do anymore.
That is just an excuse to stay where I am comfortable.
The best way to shake things up is to never get too comfortable with any routine.
This week I decided to lay out a fresh challenge for myself beyond my usual workouts. I picked two specific kettlebell exercises to complete three times this week. The two moves I’m working on are Turkish Get Ups and a 90/90 Kettlebell Carry. To supplement those kettlebell exercises I will also do three movement exercises: a plank combo, a hanging shoulder drill, and a squat extension exercise. If you’re wondering what any of those moves look like, you’re in luck. I will post a video of the routine later this week.
A new week! Time to mix it up! How will you challenge yourself this week? Pick something and stick to it.
Your mix it up challenge can also extend into the kitchen. Maybe you need to try cutting your portion sizes in half at mealtime and eat more vegetables instead. Maybe you need to drink more water. If you do not exercise currently, get out and do something: walk after dinner for twenty minutes, get to the gym once a week. Whatever you do, make it a goal, and then make it a habit.
The Food Battle
Over the years I tried every fad diet that came along. I was like a human yo-yo. My weight was up and down.
I always worked out, but my muscle was hidden beneath a layer of fat. It was later when I began training for fights that I actually saw my abs for the first time. After each fight was over, I was ten pounds heavier again.
Why did I always lose all my gains? I fell into believing that I had to be on a diet to be at my ideal weight. With hard training, the gains would come, but the results were slow. It was not until I realized there was a better solution that my body began to change.
I had to change the way I thought about food. I had to stop eating foods based on their labels and I also had to cut out the cheat days. I changed my lifestyle and made good food a habit.
I eat whole foods. I don’t eat things with refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
I have had an ongoing battle with food for most of my life. Breaking the addiction to processed foods and sugar is not easy, but it is worth it.
The more I consumed real foods, the better it tasted and the better I felt. Once my body no longer craved junk food and sauces, the plain fruits and vegetables began to taste amazing. I am completely free from counting or worrying about calories. I use portion control and I am careful when I eat, but that is it.
What you eat is how you fuel your body. Don’t view food restriction as a means to lose weight, view it as a method to retain and build muscle and fueling your body to operate at its best.
The First Step
If you’ve ever said, “I am too old to get into shape,” this is for you. It is never too late to make improvements to your body. Fitness is about so much more than what you see when you look in the mirror. It is about your overall health.
The battle towards fitness is fought on three fronts.
One is our mindset. We have to believe that we can change our bodies for the better. If we set limits in our mind before we begin, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Picture your success, not your failures. Cheer yourself on. Make up your mind that you will succeed no matter how many setbacks you come across.
The second front is physical, and it is fought in the gym. We must exercise on a consistent basis. The exercise needs to be changing daily so that our bodies do not adapt and plateau. Find an activity you love and a community of friends who will keep you accountable. Prioritize fitness and stay committed to making time for the gym, even if it means getting up an hour earlier and making sure you get to bed on time each night.
The third and most important front in the battle for fitness is nutrition. I don’t like the word “diet” because it is not a temporary plan. We are not counting calories. It is a lifestyle of healthy balanced meals consisting of whole foods to fuel our body with the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats it needs to function at its peak.