Most people think one of two things when they think “gym” or “workout”.
- Big muscley guy grunting and sweating in front of the mirror while moving big pieces of iron up and down.
- Slender, feminine women jumping and barely sweating in a group fitness room with silly music and weak moves.
LOL! Well, perhaps we have progressed a bit, right?!
I started working out (weight training) at the age of 47. Yep, you read that right. After years of illness, steroids and stress eating, I was 235lbs and couldn’t get up off the floor by myself. My 2 goals were to be able to pick up my 1 yr old granddaughter and bend to the side and hold still while waiting for a shot with my camera. Not very lofty goals. I didn’t want to be a body builder and I CERTAINLY didn’t want to have anything to do with the girls in the photo on the right. I didn’t think I could ever LOOK like them (now I don’t want to).
Let’s skip forward a year. I find myself supporting my trainer in his desire to teach an MMA-style cardio class. He’s nervous and I am a helper. So, there we are in the way-back room at the gym, looking ridiculous (well, me anyway) trying to throw elbows and jabs, front kicks and knees to crazy awesome music (that’s what kept me trying.. the music was really pretty good).
Since I wasn’t very good and didn’t really feel I was getting much out of the workout, my trainer showed me how to hit a heavy bag. Then suggested I take a trial Kung Fu class. Kung Fu provided purposefulness to movement and I started to really understand the essence of martial arts. I loved the idea of using my opponent’s energy against them rather than needing to out power, out muscle and out strategize. I added boxing classes to the mix and started training and ‘semi-sparring’ with the MMA crew at the Kung Fu gym. THIS is where I started to understand the correlation of fighting to living.
When facing an opponent with all your muscles tensed, holding strong, trying to think “HOW ON EARTH DO I PROTECT MYSELF???” the first answer is “..not like that!”. You have to relax. Your muscles need to be supple and loose… ready to go where you want at a moments notice. If you’re super tense or flexed, your muscles have already DONE their thing. There’s nothing to push from and no where to go. Fail.
So let’s say you ‘get’ loose. That’s cool. The next problem is strength or tension. If you’ve not worked on your muscles to create strength, no amount of loose will fix that. You gotta train. You gotta get strong. You must figure out what your muscles CAN do so you can trust them to do that when needed. Right? I know, I know… rocket science.
Once you have strength (even just a little) and can relax a bit, all you need is ‘dynamic control….firing with intensity and ease’. You don’t want to merely push your opponent away (strength/brute force). You want to knock them out, thus eliminating your problem, without getting hit yourself. To be able to take those strong muscles from loose to fully flexed and back to loose again (with or without impact) takes some serious fast twitch muscle work (read: practice). You’ve got to know what you want to move, what the auxiliary muscles are that assist in the movement and then you’ve got to get in, get out and assess. Think of a boxer jabbing, jabbing again then pulling back and moving out – assessing what damage was done… what the reactions were. WHEW – it’s kind of a lot of thinking for a simple action! The good news is once you’ve thought it through, you are done thinking about it. Moving like this eventually becomes second nature.
AND here it is. The practical application. I will be short.
1.) Learn – this is the building muscle phase. Go into your life’s situations having studied what you can. Often times that just means paying attention, listening or taking notes.
2.) Calm down – loosen up, relax those muscles (especially your neck and shoulders)! I CAN calm down because I TRUST my muscles (skills) are strong enough (preparedness) and move fast enough (awareness) for the job. I trust my ability to THINK through a situation.. even if it’s after the situation is past and I have to go back, right? (A boxing match has several rounds – unless the bell has rung or you are knocked out on the floor for the count of TEN, you are still in the game! Life has MANY more rounds than you think. Keep trying.)
3.) Strike with precision – Intensity and fast firing muscles. Because I can think. Because I have some past experience/training. Because I have spent time absorbing (relaxed and taking in what’s going on – really listening) I am better able to see the weak spots, points of contention and HOW to connect. (My fist to your face or my dilemma to your heart) I am not wasting energy fighting battles that are not important. Why spend all my time swinging hard for a knockout when the guy is just too big or too fast for what I have? Find the weak spot. Focus your energy on what you CAN do. Do it.
Being physically fit can assist you in being emotionally / mentally fit, if you choose to apply the lessons. Good blood flow to the brain helps thinking, learning new skills keeps your brain sharp and trying trying trying proves to yourself that you don’t HAVE to give up so easily.
…and that probably you can.