What The F&%k Is Spinning…

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of changing up the ol’ workout routine whenever I get the chance. In fact, there are very few workout routines that I won’t try at least ONCE, although I’m certain as I get older that eventually there’ll be some exceptions. But I do still enjoy a challenge. This is where spinning comes in. Sometime in the early period of the past ten years, I travelled home to New Brunswick to visit my family. I brought along some fitness gear, since Sensei’s dojo was closed out for the summer but my aunt and uncle managed a local fitness gym that I knew I could frequent.

I was home for a few days, jogging the few kilometres required to reach the gym, paying the five dollar day pass and using the gym for about an hour before heading home. I felt light and easy, and satisfied at the fact that I was maintaining my fitness while on vacation. On the third or fourth day I ran into my aunt, who explained that she ran a spin class three times a week and invited me to join for one of her classes in lieu of going to the gym. She explained that it was a workout using an indoor stationary bike. When I found out how late into the morning it was, I stated I’d hit the gym THEN go to her spin class. She warned me that I’d be unable to do both in the same morning. How right she was…

I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I’d used stationary bikes before, but I obviously preferred the real thing. I walked into an open area with a dozen books lined up and a small group of women stretching their legs and chatting. My aunt approached and introduced me to the group, who all agreed how nice it was to have a man working out with them for a change. I was handed a 10-pound padded rod and told to place it on the front of the bike until it was “needed.” What the hell was going on???

The music started and everyone started peddling. What followed was one of the most intense hours of my life. In the seat, up from the seat, easy peddling, higher-geared peddling, hold the rod, shoulder press the rod, and on and on… I was drenched within minutes and it was a ridiculously brutal workout. It worked basically everything on my body that I could see as well as some muscle groups that I wasn’t aware even existed. It was so good in fact, I joined my aunt’s class as her guest for several more sessions on that visit and subsequent ones.

Spinning has a number of measurable benefits, including increased cardio, weight loss over the long term due to an increased calorie burn, muscle increase and helps to prevent lower back pain. It’s also a low-impact exercise, making it much easier on the knee and joints than running. The articles I’ve read have suggested that an hour of spin class can burn anywhere between 400 to 600 calories, which is not to shabby if you’re trying to burn through enough calories to be in deficit to burn fat.

If you’re looking for something that’s easy on the joints but high on the challenge scale, I highly recommend spin class. The benefits are many, and frankly there are very few downfalls, except whatever membership price you may pay for the class. I was reminded of my experience with spin class a couple of weeks ago when it was brought up during a conversation with one of my friends. Although taking part in an actual spin class may be a bit difficult at the moment, there are ways to access stationary bikes and do your own spin workouts at home. The benefits will be well worth it. ☯

Happy Bodhi Day

When people think of Buddhism, they tend to picture a bald-headed person in loose-fitting robes and beads sitting cross-legged on the ground or floor with their closed and humming softly as they meditate while trying to reach enlightenment. Well first of all, stop peeping through my bedroom window! And while most of that may be correct in a rudimentary sense, there are many observances, traditions and ceremony surrounding Buddhism as a whole. As I’ve explained in a previous post (Oh, You’re THAT Buddhist!), there are different branches and sects of Buddhism. And with those branches come some observances that the Western world refers to as holidays. Today is one of them.

Bodhi Day, otherwise known as the day that Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) reached enlightenment, is today. Depending on which background you hail from, it can also be observed in early December, although I don’t pretend to understand why. I’m not big on observing holidays. But the December date and today’s date have something to do with one date being the secular holiday and the other one being related to the lunar calendar, causing it to change date with every passing year.

As far as I’m aware from a Zen Buddhist perspective, I’m meant to observe it on December 8th, which is when the observance is meant to be done based on the Gregorian calendar being introduced by the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800’s. I’m writing about it on this day since it’s when I had an open spot in my postings. Of course, I probably could have written this post instead of one about weightlifting as I did, but I digress…

Bodhi Day is observed by Zen Buddhists by staying up overnight the day before and practicing meditation. I can’t say that I’ve been able to practice an overnight meditation in years, as life simply doesn’t allow. But depending on the branch, sect and what country you observe it from, it can also include fasting, chanting, studying the dharma, sharing traditional meals and performing good deeds.

As with most holiday posts, I’ll keep this one short. If any of my readers are interested in learning more about Bodhi Day, there are plenty of Buddhist websites that can provide further and deeper detail. I just wanted to provide a little insight on some of our practices that go beyond meditation. ☯

Is It Ever “Too Late?”

There comes a time in every person’s life when they begin to notice certain physiological changes starting to take place. Oh, we all like to think those changes will never happen. But the reality is that it sneaks up on you as time marches on. And no, I don’t mean puberty. Maybe some of your hair gets a little greyer. Maybe your muscles are bit stiffer and your movements are a little slower. Time makes a fool of no one; we all know these changes are coming, we simply choose not to acknowledge them.

I write this post after waking with severely sore muscles, a cramp in my neck and a need to rock back and forth twice in order to hoist myself out of the bed. I recall a time when I could vault out of bed single-legged when the alarm went off, be showered, dressed and out the door in under ten minutes. Now, if I happen to have slept wrong, I need to sprawl on the couch for the first two hours of my morning before I restore enough circulation to start my day; a benefit that is only possible due to COVID-19 and being at home.

Have I sufficiently bummed you out, yet? I may be exaggerating the facts a bit (although I am starting to show quite a bit of grey) but it’s important to acknowledge that we all get there. There is no magic potion, no fountain of youth and no way to go back and do it all over again. This is why it’s critically important that we take care of ourselves and develop ourselves as best we can, while we can. An idle engine will eventually seize, and the human body is the most complex engine there is.

I’ve often chatted with folks who are no older than I am, about martial arts, my chosen career and how I’ve accomplished these things despite Diabetes and other associated issues in my life. Almost 9 times out of 10, these folks will usually say something along the lines of, “I always wanted to try karate,” or “I always WISHED I’d tried karate.” I use karate as the example, but I’ve had people utter theses sentences for a variety of activities, jobs and fitness aspects, including karate. When I ask why they don’t try it, I always get the same answer: “It’s too late for that, now!”

No. No, it’s not. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be afflicted with a terminal illness that prevents movement, it’s never to late. A person may not be able to turn back the clock, but there’s nothing stopping a person from making a start from right where they are. In fact, I’ve watched people in their late 40’s and even their 50’s make their way through basic training. I’ve seen people of all age groups, body types, weight categories and backgrounds join karate and do quite well. In some circumstances, it may not necessarily mean that they go on to be an action hero or anything, but there’s nothing stopping them from trying.

The idea is that you can’t allow yourself to become idle. It’s important to take at least twenty minutes a day to stretch, move and get some sunlight. I know the current state of the world has reduced how often we leave the house, but most people can still manage walking outside, taking a drive or simply standing in their back yard and breathing in the fresh air. Physical activity is important. You need to be able to work your body physically, in order to maintain it. You can eat well, but this only provides the fuel. What happens to your car if you keep adding gas to the tank without driving it? Eventually, the gas will overflow, make a bloody mess and the engine will eventually still seize from lack of use.

I always like thinking of my grandparents for this comparison. My grandmother was a sedentary woman. She gave birth and raised seven children and was by no means lazy. But once those children were all grown and out of the house, her life pretty much ground to a halt. She never worked, never exercised and never moved (and no, knitting doesn’t count!). By the time she reached the age my mother is at now, she became hunched over, her body started having serious difficulties and her muscles became slack and useless. She passed away in her 80’s, unable to walk and function.

My grandfather joined the army when he was young and fought on the European front during World War II. He worked as a blacksmith, carpenter and always kept himself moving. When the sun rose, he’d be up and about. By the time retirement came around, he made use of a wheelchair, but he was still using dumbbells and exercising up until the week before he passed away, which was at the age of 95. Physical activity and working his body was a part of his life, which resulted in better mobility and health for longer, as well as almost ten added years of life than my grandmother.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… There’s no way to confirm what the difference may have been. After all, if my grandmother had done everything my grandfather had done, maybe she’d have fared better for longer as well. And there’s no accounting for the differences in inherent physiology, differences in hormones, etc, etc, etc… But that’s exactly the point: she didn’t! It can debated ’til the cows come home, I’m simply offering a true example of how two bodies will differ, based on two different lifestyles.

People often ask me how I’m in such good health, despite having Type-1 Diabetes. In my 40’s, I essentially suffer from none of the typical complications associated with someone who has had my condition for decades. My nervous system is clear, my kidneys are in excellent health, none of my toes have had to be amputated and I keep being told by my doctors that I have the heart of a horse. Now, if only my efforts would start to melt this “dad bod” I seem to have developed…

I’ve been moving, training and working out for as long as I can remember. Although I remember the specific details of how I started on all these different journeys, the images of those memories have started to blur. But I know that if I had never started karate all those years ago, I would still find it within myself to try it now. In my early 40’s, I could still conceivably reach some pretty high levels. The lesson is that it’s never too late.

If you’ve always wanted to try something, try it. Have a sport you want to attempt? Go for it. Have a career you’ve always wanted to have? Work for it. It’s never too late. Want to join karate in your 60’s? Bow and step inside, I’ll teach you! You may have to research what you’re looking to try and take the proper precautions, but there’s no reason you can’t do it. Your body is your engine, and you’re the only one who can keep it running smoothly and clean. Even the most efficient engines only hit their stride once they’ve geared up to increase their momentum. So, you need to get started. Start by getting off the couch. Start by stepping into the dojo/gym/outside. Start. Your personal motivation is what dictates what you’ll try, not how many candles were on your last birthday cake. ☯

You Can Buy A Black Belt At WalMart…

Karate and martial arts in general contain many intricacies, specifics and details surrounding ceremony and respect. Compared to other sports, this is one of the appeals (and hindrances) of training in the martial arts, as most people aren’t aware of them and often don’t know about them. And sometimes, even when they do, they don’t provide the respect that the culture deserves. I’ve written some previous posts about dojo etiquette, which you can read here and here, but it dawns on me that I’ve never really covered off something that’s not only important within martial arts circles, but is a serious disrespect and breach of etiquette when addressing someone in karate: asking about their black belt.

I’ll speak strictly from the karate standpoint, since this is what I’ve been studying my entire life. Training to reach black belt is a false goal. Any traditional karate instructor will usually tell you that the only thing belts are good for, are holding your pants up. In fact, I’ll push it one step further and point out that if you’re in my dojo and you tell me that you’re in karate with the sole purpose of obtaining a black belt, I’ll politely ask you to train elsewhere.

You may be asking, why would I say this? Well, first of all because it would be my dojo and I teach any who want to learn but only those whom I choose to teach. Truthfully, the use of coloured belts or any grading system in Japanese and/or Okinawan martial arts started in the late 1800’s with Judo. Prior to that, either everyone was dressed exactly the same or trained in whatever they might happen to be learning. In the 1880’s, Shotokan Karate was among the first to begin using this coloured belt system as well, and other karate systems followed suit soon thereafter.

But the honest reason I would ask a student who has the goal of achieving black belt to leave my dojo isn’t because they would be an inherently bad student or they wouldn’t work hard. The truth is that although there no truly “bad” reasons for training in karate (except for wanting to harm or suppress others), obtaining a black belt should be an incidental occurrence in your martial journey, not the end goal. In fact, my Sensei has always said that passing your black belt is a student’s way of formally asking their Sensei to teach them karate.

But one of the most disrespectful things a person can do, is ask a black belt ABOUT their black belt. Want to hear some stories about how I got here? No problem. Are you able to acknowledge the FACT that I’m a black belt? Unless you’re colour blind, you should, considering I’ll be wearing a black belt around my waist when you walk into the dojo. The disrespectful part is asking what grade of black belt someone holds, or what degree they have. Generally speaking, there’s really no reason other than unnecessary curiosity to ask someone this.

If I happen to be the head instructor, you’ll be receiving my tutelage regardless of my rank. I’ve seen brown belts open their own dojos. Although it’s pretty uncommon, it isn’t unheard of. But a traditional black belt usually won’t WANT to “brag” about what level they’ve reached and it’s usually considered impolite to ask. It reminds me of an exchange I had with someone a few years ago that went a little something like this:

CuriousGeorge: So, you do karate eh?
Me: That’s right…
CuriousGeorge: How long have you been doing it?
Me: A little over twenty years…
CuriousGeorge: TWENTY YEARS! Wow, you must be a black belt, right?
Me: Umm, well… yeah…
CuriousGeorge: What kind?
Me: Excuse me?
CuriousGeorge: What kind of belt?
Me: Black. I think we just established that…
CuriousGeorge: No, no, I mean what level!
Me: Black! I don’t think we’re understanding each other…
CuriousGeorge: No, I mean what level? What level of black belt are you? There are different levels right? Or degrees, I think?
Me: What does that matter?
CuriousGeorge: Well, I just want to know how high up you are…
Me: I’m a black belt. Anything else is an unimportant and private detail…

In this guy’s defence, despite being presumptuous in assuming that being in karate as long as I had at the time meant I held a black belt, he likely didn’t KNOW that I considered it disrespectful to ask about my rank. This is where the conversation became what many of us like to call a “teachable moment.” I know some people who have trained for decades and have never gone beyond white belt. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Karate and martial arts in general doesn’t REQUIRE you to progress through a ranking system. For some, the simple act of training is all they want/need.

But traditional black belts won’t usually want to brag about rank. You’ll rarely hear one saying, “I’m a 3rd degree black belt,” or “I’m a 5th degree black belt.” As I had indicated earlier, you’ll know I’m a black belt when you walk into the dojo and see me wearing one. To what degree matters very little. And it’s considered a faux pas in the dojo to ask. And karate is almost unique in the sense that I could drop my black belt on the ground and walk away today, and I would continue to retain my knowledge and skills. The belt is just a piece of cloth. So there you have it! A small piece of dojo etiquette that I haven’t covered before that you probably didn’t know. ☯

Couples Who Work Out Together, Get Fit Together

My wife and I started doing a generic workout that I found online, just shortly after New Year’s Day. It’s called the “Army of Two” workout, and it incorporates three different levels of increasing length for six different exercises. I need to give credit where credit is due, since I didn’t create this workout and hold no rights to it. The workout was found on Darebee.com, which is a fantastic website with TONS of different workouts. They’re mostly body weight only, so it makes for easy and simple workouts that you can do just about anywhere. here’s the one my wife and I have been doing:

We just recently did Level II together, which takes roughly half an hour. We use a dumbbell or kettlebell for the “back-to-back sitting twists,” just to add a bit of resistance to the mix. Otherwise, we both enjoy it and it’s a great way to do a simple workout with your spouse or partner. If you’re looking for different workouts to work different areas of your body, or just to throw a bit of variety into your fitness routine, be sure to check out Darebee.com. You won’t be disappointed. ☯

The Unexpected Workout

I was having a conversation with someone a while back about working out and tracking the number of workouts per week I was doing, when an interesting question was asked: “Does sex count as a workout?” For most people, they’d be inclined to automatically say yes. There’s a reason why a couple will often be out of breath and covered in sweat afterwards. Besides perhaps being old and out of shape. Cough, cough… But let’s steer this conversation away from me, shall we?

Once the question was out there, I decided to look into it a bit and I’ve found that there’s a fair amount of conflict about the subject. Some sources will say that it can be a decent workout while other sources say it falls significantly short of the elements required to be considered a worthwhile workout. Of course, sex is a bit like discussing politics. It makes people feel awkward talking about it, despite always having an opinion. Unless you’re on social media, in which case people have NO issue voicing their opinion. But I digress…

The issues surrounding sex and Diabetes is are obvious. You need to plan ahead, ensuring that you have plenty of fast-acting carbohydrates on hand. Communication is also key, since you may have some explaining to do if you’re partner isn’t aware that you have an insulin pump and/or CGM. It may be a bit of a shock seeing a bunch of hardware attached to your body. And for the gents, the unfortunate reality is that you may have to explain why your “little soldier” doesn’t want to respond, as circulatory and neurological issues may hinder arousal.

Now that I’ve made things sufficiently awkward, let’s get on to the actual topic at hand. Can sex be considered a workout? Yes. And no. It’s complicated. And here’s why. According to an article posted by HealthLine.com, “[…] sex burns about 4.2 calories per minute, for men, and 3.1 calories per minute, for women. But with the average sex session under 20 minutes, it’s not exactly a win-win solution.” So you WILL burn calories during sex. It’s impossible not to, really. Any movement of the body burns calories, so something as intense as sex will, as well.

But you’re looking at well under 100 calories for a full hour of sexual intercourse (not including foreplay), which is why it can’t generally be considered a workout. The low caloric burn and short time span that it lasts (sorry fellas, nobody believes you went to pound-town for HOURS) explain why it doesn’t constitute a workout that can be used as an effective means of burning calories or fat. On the flip side, like any fitness expert can easily admit, any calorie burn is better than zero. So when in the boudoir…

Another article, post by Muscle&Fitness‘ online site, agrees with the “better than zero calories” concept, but also states that it couldn’t be considered a workout in the traditional sense. The only way to do that is to extend the act. The article does go on to point out that sex has a number of health benefits that go beyond calorie burn, including increased cardiorespiratory health, increased serotonin levels and improved sleep. The article also indicates that sex can help to relieve anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.

So even if having sex won’t burn as many calories as say, lifting weights or doing cardio, it’s still better than nothing. And even if it doesn’t constitute a workout, you still get to have sex, so why are you complaining? Just make sure to keep an eye on your blood sugars, keep good communication open and rock your partner’s world. Now, get in there! I didn’t hear no bell! ☯

Even If We’re Just Dancin’ In The Dark…🎶

I’m usually a pretty big advocate for not taking things for granted, especially in today’s cushy world of electronics, gadgets and comforts that the average household didn’t have, even just 50 years ago. For example, it’s a common assumption that any given household will have working internet. And heaven forbid that it NOT be high speed! But as early as the 1990’s, internet access wasn’t common place in most households and even when it was, you had to ensure a random family member didn’t pick up the phone to gab with their friends when you were 99% done downloading your favourite April Wine song using dial up. Thanks a lot, mom!

My point is, there are certain household resources that we take for granted because they’ve been around forever. Such as electricity. It’s hard to imagine a time when working power wasn’t an option within a household. And of course the power always tends to go out at the very worst of times, such as heavy thunder storms and in the dead of winter, practically always at night. The latter is what we had to deal with yesterday morning when our power was out for over nine hours…

Tea light candles, our only source of heat and light on a frosty morning.

The winds started up on Wednesday evening, a howling precursor of what would soon be coming. We had enjoyed a few days of reasonably mild weather, so I should have assumed a storm would be coming. My wife and I had spent some time on our respective computers once our boys were in bed, and we decided to hit the sack around 11 pm in order to get a decent night’s sleep. Little did we know that sleep would not only be evasive, the weather would go a long way towards being the cause. By midnight, we could hear and feel the house shifting with the heavy winds and blowing snow. At one point, I drifted off to sleep for a brief period, only to be woken in total darkness.

Just to clarify, our house is never totally dark. We have iPads, phones and devices that usually provide some level of ambient light, even in the worst of circumstances. But not this time. this time, the bedroom was pitch black. My wife was also awake, and we discussed the fact that power was out. My phone had a decent charge and an alarm was set, so I wasn’t overly worried about waking up late. And I foolishly assumed that power would be restored within an hour, maybe two. Because that’s what usually happens when you live in a large city. Shame on me for assuming they’d be on the ball…

Despite the howling winds, inclement weather and what sounded like the north side of the house collapsing, I managed to fall asleep at some point and awoke at 6 am with my alarm. Now we’re at yesterday morning. I noticed that it was still pitch black and nothing was powered up. Great. So we’ve been at least six hours without power. This meant quite a number of things. It meant no hot breakfast foods, no coffee and no heat in the house. I grabbed my Cadillac of flashlights, one I had purchased for work. That puppy can light up an entire room when pointed upwards at a ceiling, so I got up and started my morning routine in the dark. Easier said than done.

The first real issue was that the power outage meant that our furnace had not been providing heat to the house for the past six hours and the temperature inside the house was sitting at 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit). Just as a comparison, the average walk-in refrigerator sits at 7 to 10 degrees Celsius (45 to 50 Fahrenheit), so it was pretty chill in the Cook household, and not in a fun way. I kept assuming power would be restored anytime, so I started tracking down candles to provide ambient heat and light until it did. Turns out that all I had were the tea lights shown in the photo above.

I started getting Nathan’s school lunch ready, since I had no reason to believe he wouldn’t be attending school. Luckily, making a tuna sandwich, cherry tomatoes and a granola bar require no power and could easily be stuffed into his backpack without issue. Since there was literally no sound in the house, Baby Alex felt the house shift and people moving around and decided to announce his presence with a raucous cry. Both boys were up and confused as to why it was still dark. I had to hold a flashlight while Nathan dressed in the dark while bitching about being cold. Then we came out to the kitchen/dining area.

In the interest of safety, I had my wife and the boys stay in the dining area to prevent injury from wandering about a dark house, then set about lighting candles in the kitchen, dining area and living room. My MacBook Air was still sitting at 100% battery life since it keeps its charge ridiculously long, and I was able to keep the boys entertained with some old episodes of “Gargoyles” that I had on my hard drive. The boys ate a light breakfast of dry Cheerios while they watched cartoons. Except for the dark, it was a manageable morning. I decided to grab a space heater and set it up in the dining area to provide a bit more heat, but my pre-caffeinated brain neglected to realize the heater would need to be plugged in.

When the 8 o’clock hour approached, I got Nathan all dressed for the outside and command-started the family vehicle. There would be no walking in this weather on this morning! We drove the quarter-kilometre to his designated bus stop where we listened to the morning news on the radio and heard reports of felled power lines, damaged homes, light poles collapsing and even a local bank on the south side of the city that had caught on fire. The situation looked pretty grim, despite the storm front being done and the sun starting to come up to a mostly clear horizon.

By 8:15, my wife texted that Nathan’s school bus was still parked at its compound, making it over ten minutes late in picking him up, much less being in our general area. By 8:22, we made the judgement call to make it a snow day and simply bring Nathan home, despite transport notices telling us that school buses were running. I offered to run to the corner and grab hot coffee, since we had no option for it at home. As soon as I was outside our immediate neighbourhood, everything was lit up and businesses were open as usual. Of course. Go figure. I grabbed a couple of Tim Horton’s coffees and started driving home, contemplating how I would entertain two small children without the benefit of light and/or devices.

At 8:35, my wife texted that the school bus was now running and was in our neighbourhood. I replied that we’d go sit at Nathan’s bus stop for a short period and see what came of it. Nathan was thoroughly pissed, as he assumed he would get to spend the day at home. Tough break, kid. If that’s the worst fate you suffer in life, things will be pretty smooth for you. Suck it up. We parked at his bus stop and by about 8:40, our bus came to a stop facing the wrong direction. The bus driver was slightly lost as he was new to our area and the street signs were all covered in sticky snow. I had to take a few minutes to describe where certain streets were, and he explained that our usual bus driver had refused to drive his route that morning. Nice.

I got home with hot coffee to a sleeping infant curled up on my wife’s lap and some daylight starting to make an appearance within the living room. The power popped back on at about 9:20, putting us at a bit longer than nine hours without electricity. It got me thinking about how much we take something common like electricity for granted, and just how much we actually depend on it for the smooth running of our household. It also woke me up to the fact that I need some resources in the event we’re ever caught without power for this long or longer during winter conditions again.

Having emergency candles and more than one bright, fully charged flashlight is an important step. Another is to have a rechargeable charging unit for your cell phone. Even if a cell phone is not a “necessity” per say, having the ability to contact emergency services should it become necessary, is. Warm blankets and even rechargeable heaters can be handy, as well. Luckily, we always have SOME food that doesn’t require cooking that we can lean on, but you want to ensure you have adequate water and food stores in the event you’re without a heat source for longer than you can wait. ☯

Own Your Anger

Anger is an insidious thing. Once one begins to feel it, very few people are able to contain it without some sort of mental and physical training. Don’t believe me? Just check out some road rage videos on YouTube and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Modern society allows its anger to run rampant to the point of rage, with little thought or concern about the effects it has on the people around it. And on the people who express that anger.

The worst forms of anger are the inherited ones. The type of anger that a person has nothing to do with, and technically have no right feeling. But they’ve inherited that anger from their parents and/or predecessors, and they express that anger in various forms and blame others for it, even if its an emotional anger they shouldn’t be feeling at all. Of course, what do I know? I have no inherent right to tell anyone what they SHOULD be feeling, but it’s how you deal with those feeling that matter.

The fact is, anger can have physical effects on your body that can be detrimental to your health. Constant anger can have a negative effect on your blood pressure, heart health, sleep and even your digestion. Anger can cause anxiety, headaches and also depression. Some of the articles I’ve read have even linked anger to skin problems, such as eczema. But I’ll let y’all do your own research on that, as that isn’t the focus of today’s post.

Anger can also be a useful tool in training. I remember during my basic training days when I was doing some bag work with one of my troop mates. He was smaller and slighter than I was and couldn’t seem to muster enough strength to effectively strike the bag. I could tell he was getting frustrated and asked me how it was that I was able to strike the bag so hard, every time. I explained that some of it had to do with the fact I had more mass than he did. But another aspect is that I used my anger.

In true Mark Ruffalo fashion, I explained to my troop mate one of my secrets to effectively working out and fight training is the fact that there’s always a bit of anger bubbling beneath the surface. If one can learn to use and channel that anger and energy into what we do, it can go a long way towards pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and improving our physical fitness. Since I knew he was a father, I used what is probably the most sensitive area of a person’s life. I had him close his eyes and asked him to imagine how he would feel if someone abducted his child. Then I challenged him to imagine having the abductor in front of him and what anger he would feel towards that person.

Then I asked him to perform a properly executed punch against the bag using all that anger. The result was far more explosive than anything he had previously done. And that’s the critical point; anger (when properly focused) can be a useful tool and a good motivator. That’s for the training environment, of course. One needs to avoid allowing their anger to turn to rage, fury and violence against others. Although not always avoidable, violence should never be used unless it’s for the protection of yourself or those around you.

A lot of people believe that I fell into Buddhism through the influence of the martial arts. And although this is partially true, I can admit that in my late teens to early 20’s, I developed a pretty intense temper and needed a means to control, temper and maintain it. This is the part where I point out that regular exercise and meditation are important ways towards controlling one’s emotions. But as long as you use it as a source of fuel for your motivation and not against others, anger can be useful. ☯

The House Of 1,000 Kicks

“I Don’t Fear The Man Who Has Practiced 10,000 Kicks. I Fear The Man Who Has Practiced One Kick 10,000 Times.”

– Bruce Lee

I have no doubt that I’ve practiced most of my kicks more than 10,000 over 32 years of consistent martial arts training, with the exception of back kicks (I hate back kicks!). But sometimes it does some good to keep things light and simply work on basic kicks as an entire workout. Two weeks ago, I was trying to decide on what sort of a workout I could do to burn through an hour and move away from my usual habit of doing either forms, shadow boxing or lifting weights for a straight hour and calling it a day.

I recently spoke with one of the other black belts from the dojo I train with in Regina, and we got to talking about how it’s difficult training alone all the time as the lack of the dojo environment usually sees us working only on the things we like. In his case, striking the heavy bag. In my case, forms and shadow boxing. Without the class environment to motivate and push us (as well as force us to do the other stuff), we can easily fall into a rut where we have trouble climbing out without help.

This is where I decided to focus solely on kicks. As far as fighting skill goes, I have a definite preference for my fists. Although I’m not a boxer, I dislike the concept of leaving my bodyweight on one foot, which is an advantage that a quick and efficient opponent could take advantage of. I’ve trained to kick, I’ve used kicks and consider them an important part of my repertoire. But they definitely take a back seat when I’m not being pushed to drill them into my workouts.

The routine I used was pretty simple:

  1. Choose a kick
  2. Perform that kick 50 times at maximum effort on each leg;
  3. Perform 50 reps of an in-between weight exercise (arm curls, hammer curls, shoulder press, etc…);
  4. Move on to the next kick and repeat everything all over.

The result was each kick being performed at least a hundred times, peppered with some strength training for the arms, since I wasn’t including any punching that day. I took no rest periods between everything, which is either bad or good, depending on your perspective. But it was a fantastic burn and I was exhausted at the end. I only got to four different kicks with the weight sets in between, before I reached over forty minutes of exercise and decided to shut ‘er down.

The workout was a definite success and was a welcome change. That is, until Nathan decided it was a great idea to drop an 8-pound exercise ball onto my stomach while I was lying on my back, stretching. Picture dropping a lead weight into a bowl of jello. I seized an doubled over and could barely speak for a few minutes. Little bastard! I’m sure he thought he was just playing and didn’t mean to hurt me, but I’m sure it bruised my abdominal wall and my stomach aches for a few days. But I digress… At least he hangs out and watches the workouts. Eventually, maybe he’ll join.

The nice and fun thing about karate is that is allows for an endless variety of workout possibilities. There’s always SOMETHING to work on and improve, and there are always different ways to do it. Karate requires a bit of everything. You need cardio to built up your stamina. You obviously need technique and precision. And you also need some strength training, although not too much. You don’t want to get too bulky, as it will decrease your flexibility and speed.

This is why most serious weightlifters always move around stiffly as though they have a stick running from between their Gluteus Maximus all the way up to the base of their necks. They walk around like bloated balloons and I’ve never seen a serious weightlifter last more than a couple of weeks in karate because they’re unable to perform the movements. Not to say that weightlifting isn’t a wicked workout, because it is. Hopefully I haven’t offended any monstrous, buff people. Do you even kick? Come at me, bro!

Don’t be afraid to change it up and do something different. I used Bruce Lee’s quote at the beginning because it kind of represents what I tried to do and because I like it. But Lee was also a firm believer in making a workout out of different and unusual methods. Sometimes the weirdest workouts can be the best. They can offer some interesting results and keeping things varied can keep you from getting bored with a routine, especially if you’re stuck working out at home. ☯

All The Little Things

Humanity is a fat, chocolate donut sprinkled with inconsistencies, violence and a lack of appreciation for the little things in life that we all take for granted. Great, now I want a chocolate donut… 37 grams of carbs for one, five-minute treat? No thank you! But I digress… My point is actually that we have a lot of positive things to life that we tend to take for granted. What’s a bit disheartening is that we needed a global pandemic where the world basically ground to a halt before we started to recognize these things.

I was chatting with an old friend last week, when we brought up and discussed the fact that the “little things” are often taken for granted. This has been happening since well before COVID-19 decided to sink its obsidian fangs into society, but the problem is that most of the world’s population is too busy complaining about what they’ve lost as opposed to appreciating what they still have. This makes sense if you’ve lost employment or can’t get enough food to support your family, of course. But when I hear of folks who are financially independent, relaxing in large homes without a care in the world, complaining because they can’t take their yearly trip to Cabo, it makes me wonder about the fate of our race.

I’ve always been something of a loner when it comes to my free time. I’ve had absolutely NO problem being at home with my wife and kids for an extended period of time, with the exception of the occasions where the kids drive me crazy. That’s why I can’t get all these people who suddenly separate or get divorced because they’ve suddenly been forced to stay inside together for long periods of time. Really?? If you can’t stand the person enough to stay inside a house with them, why’d you get married in the first place?

But I’m going off on a rant again, and I need to focus. In the interest of taking nothing for granted, I thought I would list the things that I miss most about when the world was normal and took for granted, despite my limited existence. Here we go…

Sitting In A Coffee Shop With A Book

This one is at the top of my list because before all of this bullshit started, one of my favourite things to do was to sit inside a coffee shop and read a book. I’d supplement that with blogging and basically sitting there alone with my thoughts, of course. Coffee shops allowed a semi-introvert such as myself the benefit of being around people combined with the quiet hush of folks having low-volume conversation and working at their laptops. But distancing and self-isolation requirements have made that impossible. And even though most retail and restaurant locations (especially corporate chains) have re-opened in my area and I likely COULD go sit in a coffee shop, it would be grossly irresponsible of me to do so. Why risk exposing myself to someone who may have ignored the rules and gone out while sick, then drag it back home to my family? I definitely used to take my coffee shop runs for granted!

Going To A Movie Theater

Listen, I’m pretty cheap. I don’t consider that a bad thing, but I’m not fond of paying money for frivolous things in general. So the thought of paying ten to fifteen bucks for a movie ticket when I can just be patient and wait a year for it to come to Netflix seems exorbitant at best. But I would be lying if I said that there aren’t some movies that are simply deserving of the theater experience. For example, I would have paid that amount to see Star Wars: The Rise OF Skywalker in theatres. I think it’s the kind of movie that would have done well for me on the big screen, appealing to my nerdy sensibilities. But obviously sitting in cramped theater seats with people tightly packed on either side of you is even worse than my coffee shop scenario, even if some cheaters have begun opening in limited capacities. In fact, I think the last theater movie I saw would have been Black Panther. And that came out in 2018…

Visiting With Family

It stands to reason that the holidays have been difficult this year, with most people being unable to visit their families and celebrate the way they’ve done it their entire lives. I mean, my folks live across the country in New Brunswick. We don’t see much of them when the world is normal, much less now. What’s harsh is Alexander was born in September of 2019 and rounding the corner of a year and half old, my parents have yet to meet him. The worst is when my father, whose health isn’t great, caught pneumonia some months ago and wasn’t expected to survive the night. My father would have died 3,300 kilometres away from me, having never met his second grandchild and without being able to say goodbye. Even my wife’s family is only 3 hours away, but given restrictions may as well be across the country as well. Many people unfortunately take time with their families for granted.

Play Dates For My Kids

This is one that I definitely took for granted. I’ve always considered it a pain in my ass to bring Nathan somewhere for the sole purpose of hanging out with other kids. I never had any of that shit when I was his age. But his uncontrollable energy mixed with the lack of kids his own age to burn it off with has been difficult on the household as a whole. We used to have the benefit of a couple of boys next door, but they moved away. It’s even worse now for Alexander, as he’s had no exposure to other children other than his brother, who is five years older than him and in a completely different toy/playing bracket than he is. If Nathan is lucky enough, school will re-open soon and he’ll at least be around other kids.

Doing Normal, Everyday Things Without A Mask

I took a walk to the corner store last week to check my lottery tickets (I was sure that day was my day) and enjoyed getting some fresh air and being outdoors. The temperature was a cool 4 degrees, birds were chirping and snow was melting. It should have been a pleasant walk, but despite the fact I was walking down a back street with no exposure to other people and I was completely alone, I felt like a criminal because I was walking without a face mask on! I carried one for when I reached my destination, but I couldn’t help but feel it was just a matter of minutes before a law enforcement officer would come around the corner and give me hell. Doing simple, everyday things like groceries, getting gas and running to a store without having to wear a face mask is definitely something I used to take for granted. Oh, and I obviously didn’t win the lottery, that day…

Last But Not Least, To Cough And Smile In Public

It may sound like a simple thing, but it’s one we definitely take for granted. Any normal, bodily function performed in public is tantamount to being quarantined and treated as though you’re carrying the black plague. COVID-19 has made people forget that sneezing is a normal function of the human body to expel unwanted bacteria and materials from entering the body (and isn’t a symptom of COVID-19 anyway, but it sure doesn’t stop people from thinking it). And coughing? I don’t know about you, but if I breathe the wrong way I’ll start hacking and coughing like a moron who can’t seem to decide how to breathe and swallow separately. But try coughing in a public place right now and you’ll have the people around you scattering as though you’re a leper.

And smiling is an even bigger one. Being unable to see others smile and have them see yours is kind of a big deal, since facial cues are important in human communication. I’ve had retail and grocery store employees help me and greet me in recent months, where I’ve smiled at them in thanks only to realize later on that I probably just looked like I was staring vacantly at them. Being unable to read the facial cues of the people I communicate with in public has definitely been taken for granted.

There are many more I could add to this list. But as I’m sure you can agree (if you’ve read this far) I’ve already ranted long enough for today. The lesson here is that there are a lot of great little things in life that we’ve all taken for granted. And as we begin to move forward and start to look toward the future at how life will settle on a permanent basis, we need to adapt and understand NOT to take fro granted the little things that we’ll start to develop in this new existence. It may not all be perfect, but neither is life. Be sure not to take any of it for granted. ☯