Starting Your Fitness Program

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Most people want to be in better physical shape and have a higher level of fitness but unfortunately they let themselves go too far and don’t know where to start. So what is one to do?  I notice most people I talk to who find themselves in this position feel they need to have some grand plan or start a gym membership before they do anything else, or have an hour of time allotted or more before they start.

All you need is 15 minutes to start.

Yes I said 15 minutes… doesn’t seem like much time, but it can make a world of difference. I always say start small and gradually put more time into it as you go. Most people feel 15 minutes is not enough time to get in better shape… but when you are not working out at all it’s plenty of time!  Most of the time putting off starting on a certain date or waiting to take a certain class or waiting for the right day or moment to start a workout regiment is just an excuse (& you know it).

So what can we do in 15 minutes & where? My favorite type of exercise – body weight calisthenics. No fancy equipment needed, just your own body weight & gravity, a very effective combination. Depending on your current level of fitness, which if you are not working out at all is probably not very high, start nice and easy.  If you can’t do a push-up yet, then start with brisk walking with some wrist weights.

Take A Walk, Do Some Deep Breathing

Walking is a great form of exercise that most people over look and should be an addition to your workout regimen. I personally take a walk everyday, usually at night. A good time to take a walk is after you eat a meal, as it helps digest your food. There is an old Chinese saying, (I think it’s Chinese) that if you walk 99 steps after each meal you’ll live to be 99 years old… you get the idea.

Walking helps you clear your head & sometimes even get some answers to questions you normally can’t come up with sitting around thinking about them. Also, you get out of the house and get some fresh air.

You can combine breathing exercises as well with your daily walk. Just do some basic deep belly breathing, just focusing on your breath… in through your nose and out through your nose, tongue to the roof of your mouth. You will feel revitalized just doing this & no gym membership required!

Just Start Moving

The point is just start doing something, start moving. So you have your daily health walk or fitness walk you can call it. Walk a different path or route each day to change things up. Sometimes I walk for well over an hour, sometimes for just 10-15 minutes.

Then you can add a short 15 minute workout when you get back. Your blood is flowing already, do some light stretching for a few minutes before you start. A good combination is a few short sets of squats (maybe 10-15 reps) with light weights in hands, a few sets of push-ups (or variations of a push up if you can’t do a real one). Start today and there you go, you are active and on the path to getting in good shape.

I will talk more in future posts about different types of exercises and stretches you can do. Really, you should stretch everyday, especially after you wake up. Gets the blood flowing and helps wake you up to start your day.



The Mind – Body Connection

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So what exactly is the mind – body connection? The mind and body are really inseparable but most people I find are not as in tune with their bodies when they train or work out as they should or could be. This is a topic that I feel is very important when it comes to working out and getting optimal results from your fitness program.

Use Your Art or Hobby to Connect the Two 

As a martial artist, the mind – body connection becomes very evident during training and especially during sparring. If you are not in the moment so to speak and are not aware of your body position, your breathing, your environment, your opponent’s position and movement and are caught up in some random thought process, it’s going to cost you… in many cases with a kick or punch (or several) to your body & that is going to hurt.

That’s what I always loved about martial arts, because they almost force you to link your body and mind into one harmonious unit or otherwise your martial art will never evolve to higher levels. The human mind is super powerful, in my opinion quite frankly probably one of the most powerful forces we have at our disposal as human beings.

It has allowed us as a species to attain magnificent achievements in technology, architecture, medicine etc. It also allows us to do incredible things with our bodies. If you ever heard the term mind over matter, this is only possible if you have a strong awareness of your own mind – body connection…. the body follows the mind.

But going back to the basics of how the everyday person can use their mind to not only enhance their workouts but achieve levels of fitness and attain their personal goals much quicker than most think possible. I’ll give a quick example of how one can do this right away.

Be ‘in’ Your Body

When I go to the gym, I see many people on treadmills watching TV as they run. This is not very productive because what you are essentially doing is putting your mental focus on external stimuli and your results will suffer for it. You should be focused on your body and your breathing and the signals/feeling your brain is sending to your body. Also what you can be doing is visualizing how you are improving your body’s shape and tone as opposed to being caught up in some pointless television show. Of course if you are watching an exercise video or training course that is a different story.

I’ll get into visualization more in another post, but suffice to say you should be ‘in’ your body when working out, whether it’s running, lifting, doing squats etc. Your internal focus on the type of results you are achieving while doing the actual exercise itself can speed up the actual time frame you get those results dramatically.

Be aware of your thoughts; are you thinking to yourself how difficult the exercise is or when it’s going to be finally over? Or are you thinking how much stronger or leaner your are getting, or visualizing your ideal body shape you desire?  Also if you are really pushing yourself and are in pain, focusing on your breathing is so important to not only pushing through but also calming your mind and oxygenating your muscles properly.

Staying Aware Keeps You Safer

Also if you are running outdoors in public, I always tell people to not wear headphones as this decreases your awareness of what’s around you which you really should be aware of. I am a big advocate of music and how it can enhance your workouts and practically give you energy but it should be done in the right place like the safety of your home or studio.

I will get into the mind – body connection in deeper levels in the future, for example moving energy internally and chi kung. This requires that you are intimately aware of your thoughts and breathing while training.