Your Muscles Know, Even When You Don’t…

“I fear Not The Man Who Has Practiced 10,000 Kicks Once, But I Fear The Man Who Has Practiced One Kick 10,000 Times”

– Bruce Lee

Who doesn’t love Bruce Lee? Even folks who don’t study the martial arts can have a deep appreciation for his skill, speed and technique. The quote above the photo is one of the most widely-shared quotes allegedly said by Bruce Lee. I say “allegedly” because, well…. I wasn’t there! And there’s often a significant number of quotes attributed to a person, even when it may not be provided that they said it. After all, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Abraham Lincoln said that. See what I mean?

But now that I’ve finished being sarcastic, let’s get back to the quote itself. If one were to question the thought behind this quote, one could easily interpret that it suggests muscle memory is more effective than variety. And I would be inclined to agree. Even in smaller numbers, you may gain more from doing one technique for an entire workout than doing ten techniques over the same period of time. The idea is that doing too much waters down your ability to master certain techniques and find the ability to do them without thought.

This is why muscle memory is so important in the martial arts. When it comes to a real life fight situation, which you’ll hopefully never have to deal with, having the ability to call upon muscle memory can mean the difference between getting your ass handed to you and being seriously injured, or hopefully coming out of it with only mild injuries. Because realistically, there’s no such thing as a real fight where you don’t get hurt in some given way, shape or form.

So, what is “muscle memory?” Well, the Oxford Dictionary defines muscle memory as “the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.” Even just based on that definition, I’m sure you can see why it would be important in the martial arts. It’s a bit like a toddler, learning to walk. They’ll stand, stumble and take a few steps before falling. But then, they’ll get back up and keep at it. Through repetition, they’ll learn to walk and it occurs naturally through muscle memory.

Can you imagine if you had to remind yourself how to walk EVERY time you went somewhere? Granted, I have a tendency to walk into walks at the best of times, so perhaps my muscle memory isn’t as good as I think it is. But I digress…. The point is, muscle memory is important to the overall function of routine movements in the body. From the martial arts perspective, it becomes important because in a real fight scenario, your ability to respond depends on your muscle memory. Taking the time to plan out your defense usually doesn’t happen and if it does, chances are your opponent isn’t patiently waiting for you to figure it out.

Back in my “younger” years, I used to hate doing lines of one particular technique. It irked me to be doing only one movement when my body and mind wanted to throw in so much more. During youth, it can seem boring to do so little and we rarely have appreciation for the fact that as we perform frequent repetitions, we’re honing our bodies to be able to reproduce that movement on a moment’s notice, usually without thinking about it. Mastering one piece of the puzzle is how you ensure you’ll get a clear, complete picture. ☯️

How Buddha Got His Groove Back…

It’s been a difficult couple of years for the entire world and very few people have gotten away unscathed. The pandemic caused a lot of upset and difficulty for most people, causing the closure of businesses, loss of jobs and the loss of key life experiences that one will never get back, like high school graduation. As society begins to lick its wounds and the world re-opens (for now), I take stock and reflect on the fact that one of the biggest things that has affected me, besides Nathan being kept home from school, is the closure of my karate dojo.

For almost fifteen years, my policing career has dragged me all over Saskatchewan, to an extent where the thought of joining a karate class was a moot point. After all, what’s the point of joining a martial arts school just to have them lose me after the 3 to 5 that the Mounties usually required at any given one spot? So, it was an important step in the right direction for me when I transferred to Regina and found the current dojo that i train in. Imagine the irony, when I was forced to step away when the dojo closed due to the pandemic.

Oh, we tried the old Zoom training thing, as I posted about here. It was alright, per se… But karate isn’t a knitting circle. Eventually, you need some physical contact with an actual partner in order to train and practice certain techniques. We closed up shop for the summer, as we usually do. As Labour Day came and went, i got a little concerned when I didn’t get the customary “back to the dojo” email that I’ve gotten every year for the past five years. Five years… I’ve been training with the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate for five years, Still feels like yesterday…

Anyway, I got the email on Monday for class on Tuesday evening. I walked into the dojo and time melted away. it was two years ago, before the pandemic and lockdown. The same faces and the same class. the same energy and the same mojo. We were back. I was back. It was glorious. We were all a little excited to be chatting and catching up, so we started a little late. AND we took things a little easy to start off the season (I may or may not have pulled a bicep during a ridge punch) but it was a fantastic class. Next one is tomorrow night and I just can’t wait to get back.

I’ve been so focused on cycling and training by myself, I had almost forgotten the importance and value behind training with others. Who knows what the months to come may bring? With all the variants floating around and the way the world is treating the pandemic, things may lock down again shortly. And if they do, so be it. But when opportunities present themselves, it’s important to jump on them while we can. After all, you never know what you got ’til it’s gone. ☯️

The Cost Of Karate

I once wrote a post about the cost of Diabetes supplies and how financially devastating it would be to someone who isn’t lucky enough to have medical coverage. I won’t get into the specifics, since I’ve posted on it before and it can be read here. But there’s no denying that there’s been a noticeable increase in the cost of things, even in JUST the past twenty years. I remember buying my first car when I was 16 years old (that’s the reward of working at a young age, I was able to purchase my own first car) and gasoline prices were in the 50 or 60 cents/litre. When I got fuel for my SUV yesterday, the current cost was 132 cents/litre. Crazy, right?

This increase in cost has affected everything, from food to commodities and leisure products. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it had affected the martial arts world, as well. And why wouldn’t it, right? The costs associated with running a dojo have undoubtedly increased with the years, same as everything else. I’ve just been fortunate enough that it’s never affected me. Between time and circumstances, I was always in a position where inflation never came to my attention, at least not where karate or martial arts was concerned. Until recently.

When I joined karate in 1989, I was paying a monthly tuition of $20/month. That’s it. I bought a GeneSport cotton karate gi for $40 and there was nothing else associated. Of course, Sensei was always the kind of instructor who never charged for anything. He basically charged JUST enough tuition to keep the lights on. That’s it. There was no entry fee, membership dues besides monthly tuition and no charge for sport insurance or any of those things. Obviously, I’m not hear to argue the necessity of those costs in a modern dojo; I’m simply pointing out that they didn’t apply to our dojo.

During the last ten years that I trained in Norther New Brunswick, Sensei announced that due to the school board increasing rental costs for the gym we used, he would have to increase our tuition cost. The irony is most of us were wondering how we would afford a more expensive monthly tuition to keep training. Sensei announced he would be increasing tuition to $25/month. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s it?” He even asked us if that was okay with us, and we were all fine with it, but I can’t help but wonder what he would have done if we’d all said we weren’t fine with the increase.

Besides that 5-dollar increase in monthly tuition, I’ve never had to worry about increase cost of studying karate. That is to say, besides my own indulgences, such as purchasing a Tokaido or Shureido gi, or purchasing a custom belt with my name on it, when I graduated Shodan. But those are not necessities to studying martial arts. Otherwise, Sensei never charged us for belt tests, certificates or even his time. On reflection, I have to say that I got really lucky in finding him, as the character of one’s Sensei dictates how the pupil will grow or even whether they stick it out.

In 2009, I moved out to Saskatchewan where I joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and attended training for six months in Regina. When I completed my training, I was posted to the Province of Saskatchewan and have been here ever since. I was posted in multiple places within the Province but as I was never anywhere for longer than a few years, it made it difficult to commit myself to a local dojo or even open one of my own, which would have been my preference. But in 2016, I transferred to Regina and ultimately retired from the RCMP. We’ve been living in Regina ever since, and the city actually has better than a dozen martial arts schools of varying styles.

For the first time in almost ten years, I found myself searching for a place to train. I had gotten so used to training on my own that it was a bit surreal. I visited a number of dojos, but joining a martial arts school is a very personal and individualized process. Most people don’t understand that different people will be suited only by certain styles. But after visiting some schools, I settled on one and was taken aback at the prospect that monthly tuition was $60/month. This was almost triple what I had been paying a decade earlier. Despite that concern, I joined the club.

I trained with this club for almost two years when issues at work and with the house caused some financial hardship to the extent that I could no longer justify using $60/month for something that I could rightfully be teaching on my own. I made the difficult decision to step away, since I had made friends in this dojo. Luckily, the head instructor’s perspective was in keeping with Sensei’s and he agreed to allow me to train without tuition, given my rank and contribution to the club. It was extremely generous and I accepted.

Then, the pandemic hit and we tried some different things. We used to have training over Zoom, which allowed us to have group exercises and such. But i don’t think I need to explain that martial arts requires contact. I was looking forward to the dojo re-opening with the conditions lessened in our Province. But it doesn’t seem to have happened. The club’s website still indicates it’s closed with no indication of when it may open and no correspondence has been received. Which is odd, but it is what it is.

So I once again started looking for a dojo in which to train. Interestingly, I found a school of traditional karate, which would have been alright. Then I got roundhouse kicked in the face with the reality of inflation. monthly tuition was listed for adult pupils at $95/month! Are you fuckin’ kidding me??? That’s almost $1200/year JUST on tuition, not including the fees for sport insurance and the “mandatory” memberships to certain karate associations. And we all know how I feel about THOSE. Needless to say, it appears as though I’ll be training on my own for the foreseeable future. ☯

Carbs vs. Calories, The Battle Continues…

This is going to be one of those posts where I make a point of saying that I’m not a doctor or health professional, nor am I a nutritionist or dietitian. If you want the real Slim Shady on any of the facts I’m describing in this post, you should consult one of the professionals mentioned above. But I certainly have information I can contribute for the sake of conversation, so take what I write with grain of salt. But not literally, since you shouldn’t be salting your food. But I digress…

I’ve often written that the most important and consistent factor behind proper fitness and weight loss is being able to burn more calories in a day than you consume. I’ve also mentioned on many occasions, the importance of reducing one’s overall carbohydrate intake in order to promote better blood sugar control and to help with weight loss as well. So, which one is the important one? What should you be focusing on for your weight loss efforts? Well, the easy answer is… both.

Because I’m wordy and I like to write, let’s start by pointing out that “fad diets” are bullshit. I’m sorry, but they are. At their core, most fad diets (which I won’t name here because I don’t like the potential for getting sued) target a certain core demographic based on a gimmick, or a trend. The whole concept of “don’t eat this” or “only eat that” will always work for JUST enough people that the masses will quickly jump on the bandwagon to try and slim down using these methods, fully unaware that like everything else in life, it’s subjective to the person and that maybe eating like humans did in paleolithic times isn’t ideal, because our bodies have evolved past those methods and that method may have worked for your neighbour who now looks great in their yoga pants, but it won’t necessarily work for you.

Even if you partake of one of these trends or fad diets, it won’t change three very important realities. That being that no matter what the diet, 1) you need to include regular exercise, 2) you need to burn more calories than you burn, and 3) you need to make good lifestyle choices. It’s a holy trifecta of fitness that simply can’t be ignored. If you start dieting consistently, you may shed some pounds, but your efforts will plateau pretty damn quickly. You have to include some exercise in there to help with muscle tone, blood circulation and calorie burn. This is especially important for us Diabetics.

The lifestyle choices can apply to a significant number to things. For example, you may have gotten a solid workout in and ate a green salad for lunch. But those efforts are wasted if you cap off the evening by sitting back with a six pack of beer and nachos. Mmm,…nachos…. Umm, moving on! The point is, there has to be a balance. So, while I’m not saying that you shouldn’t occasionally treat yourself, since life is meant to be lived and it’s been proven by multiple sources that depriving yourself will make your efforts all that much harder, you still need to be smart about it. Still with me? Good. Let’s examine the difference between calories and carbohydrates.

Good old calories…. If you want to get all scientific about it, a calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a quantity of water by one degree. For the purposes of food consumption, calories are the measurement of energy contained within the food. When a person consumes more calories than they burn, the body tends to store the excess as body fat, which results in weight gain. On the flip side, consuming too few calories can lead to some dangerous deficiencies in the body, as one may not be getting all the vitamins and nutrients required throughout the day. Depending on the source you draw on and your age, metabolism, level of fitness and even gender, the average person needs to consume anywhere between 1200 to 2000 calories a day.

You may be asking, what’s the point of consuming them if you’re only going to burn them to lose weight? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply keep reducing one’s overall calories? The answer to that is no. Look at that previous paragraph, again/. While burning the calories is important in order to maintain good weight loss potential, you still need the vitamins and nutrients you draw from food. Eating at a calorie-deficit will prevent you from getting everything you need to keep your body running smoothly. Make sense? Good. NEXT!

Carbohydrates are a naturally occurring compound, found in most foods but not all of them. Carbs are a source of fuel for the body and since they are a key nutrient, are a requirement, as much as I’d like to eliminate them altogether. Mainly comprised of sugars and starches, they get broken down into energy for the body. There’s that word again: energy. And in case no one was paying attention, you need energy to well,… live. Because of the nature and composition of carbohydrates, they’re usually the nemesis of someone with Diabetes, since we need to take insulin in response to the amount of carbs we consume.

So, what’s the difference? One is the measure of energy, the other is fuel that gets burned as energy. Am I the only one who feels that they both kind of sound like energy? I found a good article posted by The Cleveland Clinic, and I apologize because I didn’t seem to be able to copy the post. But it discusses the fact that “a gram of fat has about 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein has about 4 calories. In other words, you could eat twice as much carbohydrates or proteins as fat for the same amount of calories.” That sounds like a lot of math to me, but you can go to my.clevelandclinic.org and check out the article entitled “Fat and Calories: The Difference & Recommended intake.”

For me, the difference still ins’t clear. But for weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume. We’ve already covered that. For carbs, you need to count the number of net carbs you consume, which involves subtracting fibre from the total carb count on your nutritional label. That is to say, if what you’re eating even has a nutritional label AND if they’’re count is accurate. That’s why portion control is important. Whether you count calories or carbs, portion control is important. I would say the latter is more important for Diabetics, since it involves insulin consumption.

No matter which you choose to reduce or limit in order to help with your weight loss journey, bear in mind that reducing either by too much will leave you feeling weak and may not actually help in weight loss. Instead, consume healthier foods that are lower in calories or carbs but still contain a lot of the nutrients your body needs in order to function properly. Vegetables, lean proteins and limited starches made of whole grains are ideal. And don’t forget to consult a health practitioner before starting any radical change in food regimen. ☯️

When You Just Can’t…

I recently had a reader comment on one of my posts, where it was mentioned that one of the issues faced with traditional forms of meditation is that staying in a relaxed position with one’s eyes closed will usually result in the body slipping into something akin to a dream/sleep state. At least for one of the posts, I was discussing the use of meditation as a means of refreshing oneself from fatigue, so this wouldn’t be an unexpected result. But the reader made a good point about the importance of experiencing one’s day with open eyes, to live in the moment to experience all the beauty that life can potentially offer.

I remember in my pre-teens when I started toying with the concept of meditation and more often than not, trying to meditate for more than ten minutes would typically result in my falling asleep. At that age, it was entirely a bad thing. But during adulthood, we scarcely have the free time to meditate in any form, much less being available to fall asleep randomly. Imagine taking your lunch hour to meditate at the office and falling asleep? Only to have your boss give your shoulder a shake and ask you what the hell is going on?

I’m not saying this has happened to me, and the fact that some employers not only encourage but provide the resources for lunch-hour naps notwithstanding, that’s a topic for another post. The question is, can one meditate with eyes open? Are there any benefits to such a practice and how does one do it? The answer isn’t as simple or easy as a yes or no. And there are a LOT of conflicting sources. Depending on what definition you read, meditation is simply defined as working towards an enlightened state of focus, concentration and awareness. It’s thought to be a technique capable of changing one’s consciousness, allowing for a number of physical and mental benefits. If you’re a reader of some old classics, you may remember that Marcus Aurelius wrote a book simply called “Meditations.” In this context, meditation is considered someone’s written discourse on a particular subject, weighing heavily on their opinion. The focus of today’s post is obviously the definition as I’ve provided it, above.

Nathan, taking his first crack at meditation

Meditating with your eyes open, or “wakeful meditation,” as I’ve heard it referred to, is a practice where one can go about one’s day and perform daily activities all while maintaining some basic level of awareness towards meditation. In some respects, this can be a handy tool for allowing yourself to be freed from distractions in one’s environment, to increase one’s focus and even in some circumstances, to block out certain forms of pain.

This is not without challenge, and I’d be lying if I said it was something that could be sustained indefinitely. But it’s certainly possible and definitely recommended. The thing about meditation that most people seem to forget, is that you don’t need to be dressed in robes, sitting in the lotus position with your eyes closed in order to achieve it. I had a math teacher when I was in high school, who would take the fifteen-minute recess to close his classroom door, sit at his desk and simply close his eyes and perform a simple, deep-breathing meditation. Fifteen minutes. That’s it. And it would leave him refreshed and ready to continue on with his day.

I found an analogy online that would seem to be fitting. The word “meditation” is a bit like the word “sports.” If you tell someone you play sports, they’d likely ask you what sport you play, since there would be hundreds upon hundreds of possibilities. Meditation is very much the dame thing. There are many ways of meditating, different methods, techniques and postures, all with the goal of helping one increase their overall awareness and consciousness. The key thing is to find a method that works for you and suits your purposes. Otherwise, it’s like picking out a car to buy. If you don’t get the model you want with the options you were looking for, it’ll get you from point “A” to point “B,” but there’ll always feel like there’s something missing. Meditation falls very much under the same comparison. A huge shout out to the reader who provided comments that elicited this post. If you’re reading this, inspiration is always appreciated. ☯️

The Importance Of Small Steps

I found the above photo online and just couldn’t help but share it. It illustrates how trying to climb in grand leaps through life will put things out of your reach. More importantly, it should also be a clear message that should you need to take big steps in life, it shouldn’t be done alone and it’s okay to ask for help. If the subject on the right had a partner, they could help each other scale the ladder. Food for though… ☯️

Where Should You Be Sick?

Getting sick sucks, and I should know. I’ve spent most of my life, especially during my youth, being sick in one form or another. When Type-1 Diabetes is involved, illness proves to be something of a “chicken or the egg” scenario, where it can be difficult to tell if a particular illness has caused the chaos with your Diabetes or if your Diabetes caused you to become ill. In my youth, Diabetes was referred to as one’s pancreas not working, which we now know if not ENTIRELY accurate. But before I get completely off topic, the subject of today’s post is getting sick, not necessarily Diabetes.

I can’t tell you how many times I dealt with the important aspects of my life while sick. Whether it was school, work or karate, the prevailing attitude back then was “suck it up” and you were expected to carry on, unless you were in such a condition that you were hospitalized (which was often the case for me). These days and especially in the past two years, the concept of pushing through while sick is not only less encouraged, it’s frowned upon. Employers are pushing staff to stay home when they’re sick in an effort to prevent spreading illnesses.

Since I’ve had everything from severe dehydration, polyps, influenza, bronchitis and this little thing called Diabetes, I’ve had the opportunity to o deal with some pretty bad scenarios as it relates to all of these environments and I have stories relating to all of them. Of COURSE I have stories…. This is me. Here’s the top ones:

Being Sick During Karate
To say that I was mildly obsessed with my karate training in my youth would be an understatement. For the most part, I not only participated in all three weekly classes, I would also spend the remainder of the week cycling and practicing on my own time. This meant that whenever I wasn’t eating, sleeping or at school, I would be doing karate (and since I would often dream about karate, I’m not sure the sleep aspect can be included in that statement.

I remember this one time when I was doing bunkai with another student. For you non-practitioners, a bunkai is a pre-arranged, practical application of kata techniques. Moving on. It was one of those nights where we dissected and practiced every technique until it was burned into our brains. As such, I had been with the student I was partnered with for almost an hour. During that time, i noticed his voice had a nasal twinge and he kept sniffling, as though he couldn’t keep his snot in. Since this is karate class and one doesn’t carry a purse with them, at one point, he drags the sleeve of his uniform across his nose and face in an effort to dry up the flow of nasal discharge.

I was mildly disgusted, but who am I to judge? If my nose wouldn’t stop leaking, I likely would have done the same. During a particular exchange, I learned the hard way that some of his snot had gotten on his hand, which conveniently made it’s way across my forearm and hand as we executed a couple of techniques. Given the discipline requirements of the class, I continued on but my focus was mainly on the fact I had the contents of a Petri dish on my forearm. once the exercises were over, I bowed out and ran to the washroom where I thoroughly washed my arms and hands with soap and water as hot as I could stand.

Apparently the damage was done, because two days later, I got sick as a dying dog. Runny nose, head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. If I could prove beyond a doubt that he was the cause, I’d have cursed his name (or at least had at him in the sparring ring). But i guess it’s nowhere near as bad as having the runs during karate class. I’d say to say I’m assuming, but that’s happened on occasion, as well.

Being Sick At School
Classrooms are almost a perfect description of a Petri dish, with almost three dozen people crammed into a fitted space where everyone shares the same space, air and germs. Wow, I sound like such a germaphobe. But seriously, how often have you heard parents say that as soon as their children start school, they get sick? And that’s for good reason. Because it’s almost a statistical guarantee that if only one person in a classroom is sick, all of them will be, depending on what they have.

I had one of my many instances in high school where I was dehydrated. I hate to admit it, but this usually happened to me every few months, to the extent I had to spend a night in the hospital on an IV drip to properly rehydrate. Unlike most of my teenage counterparts, I didn’t rebel by drinking on weekends or being brought home by the cops. I displayed my stubbornness by neglecting to drink enough water. Such a rebel, eh? In an y event, this was one of those occasions where my insides were drying up.

By this point in my life, I had gotten used to the feelings and sensations associated with dehydration, so I kind of knew that this was what was happening. I was in biology class the one morning, after waking up feeling like absolute crap. I went to school anyway as most parents can agree, it tends to fuck the entire day when an unexpected illness keeps a kid at home. But once I was in class, my condition started to get the better of me. The teacher was in the middle of an impassioned lecture about one damn thing or another, and she was the type of teacher who not only despised being interrupted for any reason, she made that displeasure obvious by ruling her class with an iron fist.

I tried to relax my abdomen and keep myself calm for as long as I could, but I could feel the bile rising in my throat and I knew that if I continued to ignore the feeling I had, I would end up emptying what little contents I had in my stomach, all over my desk. As such, I started by taking the polite route and raised my hand to ask to be excused. I was answered by a firm, “Hold all your questions until the end, please!” The student seated next to me even asked if I was okay, as I could feel the clammy sweat on my face and could only imagine how pale I must have looked. This pre-dated my use of an insulin pump or even carrying a glucometre with me, so I had no idea if my blood sugars were wreaking havoc, as well.

I decided to take my life into my own hands by simply cutting in and asking to be excused. The teacher rolled her eyes and began giving me a lecture on the intricacies of paying attention and showing respect. My body chose that moment to cross the point of no return. I felt the heated sensation at the back of my throat that signalled the coming of the apocalypse. I rose from my seat and began staggering to the door. I hate to take pride in what happened next, but the teacher grabbed my arm in an effort to stop me from stepping out of her class, which resulted in my stomach emptying its contents right there on the classroom floor. Right next to her desk.

My retching couldn’t of lasted more than about ten to twenty seconds, but it felt like ten to twenty minutes of my body seizing every muscle it could while a sound much like humpback whales and alligators mating with each other came out of my throat, all while a hot, yellowish fluid splashed all over the classroom floor. Did I make that descriptive enough? There was a brief moment of complete silence and a look of utter shock and aww on the teacher’s face. then everyone in the classroom started screaming “Eeww…” like some sort of morbid choir and everyone started trying to vacate the classroom to escape the smell.

I felt briefly better upon emptying the contents of my stomach, so I managed to stand up straight and started walking out of the class with the intention of making my way to the classroom. The teacher once again tried to stop me, this time to order me to get something to clean up the mess I had made. Since I was a cheeky, sarcastic teenager at the time, my response included a verbal plethora of inappropriate language, somewhat suggesting to the teacher what she could do to herself and where, all while questioning her parents’ use of heavy narcotics while conceiving her. I don’t know what had pissed me off more; the fact she was ignoring a sick student who was trying to alert her to a problem or the fact that she was trying to get the same student to clean up a mess that was a result of her ignorance. I walked out and went home.

Obviously, I got into “some” trouble over this. I went to school back in those days where the students COULD still get in trouble as opposed to parents giving the teachers all the crap. They have an unbelievably difficult job, and I wasn’t an easy student. But even I have my limits, and that limit usually involves my health. Moving on…

Being Sick At Work
I’m not certain how many stories I have about this specific aspect, but there are a lot. The unfortunate phenomenon that seems to take place, especially in non-unionized environments, is that management will frequently expect you to work despite being under the weather. When I started to claw my way up into management, I started being made to administer those same expectations. Imagine this scenario, if you will. You’re working a job for minimum wage. You wake up feeling like absolute shit and you already know that any efforts to go to work will leave you feeling worse. Maybe it’s simply a cold. But either way, you make the conscious decision to phone in to your boss and tell them you won’t be in due to illness.

You’re already dealing with the fact that you’re likely losing a day’s wages, unless you’re lucky enough to have paid sick days. But then they hit you with the bombshell. They tell you that if you’re calling in sick, they’ll require a doctor’s note. You calmly try to explain to them that you’re not going to the hospital, you’re simply feeling under the weather and need some rest. they tell you that if you aren’t sick enough to see a doctor, you aren’t sick enough to miss work and they expect to see you on shift. You begrudgingly get dressed and go to work, sick.

I’d like to say I just made that scenario up. But I’ve actually had that exact conversation at a previous job. I think we can agree that most employees would just suck it up and go in, not wanting to risk the trouble they may get into with their respective bosses. The result is a lot of people going into work sick, which can be disastrous for all parties involved, regardless of what industry you work in. I had just such a disastrous situation that happened some years ago, while running someone else’s business…

I had been having pretty bad stomach pains for a couple of weeks. It was one of those things where the pain was bad, but it wasn’t so severe as to be debilitating, so I kept going in to work. During a particularly busy peak hour of work, I started to get dizzy and swayed on my feet a bit. I leaned on the table that was in front of me, but I suddenly fell sideways sand crashed to the floor. Next thing I know, I wake up in a hospital bed with an IV coming out of my arm. After some tests and description of what I had been feeling, that’s how I discovered I had polyps. Wonderful, eh?

The point behind these stories, besides being insanely entertaining to write (the classroom one is a favourite), is the fact that self-care is not only important; it starts with you. Is training hard in karate important? Absolutely. Is it worth it to try and make it through a class when you’re sick? Definitely not. Is education important? That’s a big 10-4! But how much actual knowledge are you absorbing when you’re sick? Likely not much. And even though money is needed for the basic necessities of life, money will never be worth your overall health.

The important thing to note here, as well, is that is only takes one person whose sick to pass it on to everyone in their environment, whether it’s at home, work or during leisure activities. This is especially important in today’s context, as it relates to the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. Tried coughing in public, recently? It’s highly not recommended. But no matter what environment one is referring to, take care of your health. Nothing is worth sacrificing your health. ☯️

Put Some Effort Into Reading This Post…

Nature has this tendency, one shared by the majority of humans, which is to always take the path of least resistance. Take a look at water; it will usually always flow to the lowest point until stopped by a barrier, since gravity does all the work FOR the water. In this respect, one could easily say that water will always follow the path of least resistance. Humans are typically hard-wired to make their way through the day in very much the same way and it can often be difficult to circumvent that path.

Picture this scenario: you have the day off. The sun is shining, you have no errands to run and no work that requires you or attention. What do you feel would be the easiest alternative for you? Sitting on the couch with your favourite snack and binge-watch a favourite show? Or jump on the bicycle and see how much mileage you can rack up in two hours? I can tell you what the smart answer would be, depending on where you’re at and what you’re trying to accomplish. But I think we all know what would be easier and feel better.

Obviously, it would be easier to enjoy the day by flopping down on the couch and doing nothing. THAT’s the path of least resistance. And honestly, there may be days when that’s actually the better option for you. Especially if you had a brutal week and need a chance to recharge and replenish your mental batteries. That being said, there’s an insidious effect that takes place if you always follow the path of least resistance…

It’s true what they say that nothing in life is free. There’s a cost to everything, even when we don’t recognize what that cost might be. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, fitness and self-care are critically important. I’ve spent most of my life committing myself to fitness, martial arts and bettering myself. It’s never an easy battle and there are always obstacles in the way. But I recognize that life doesn’t care about my plan, and won’t do anything to help me on my journey.

The insidious effect I refer to, in regards to taking the path of least resistance, is that when you start “taking it easy” or skipping a workout, you begin setting yourself up for that trend. Again, I’m not referring to the times when you just flat out need a break. I’m referring to the trend where maybe you meant o take a break and then all of a sudden it’s been awhile couple of weeks without exercise and you’ve gotten all lazy and lethargic and maybe gained five pounds from all the salt ‘n pepper wings you’ve been eating…. I swear, I’m not speaking from experience. Moving on…

The point is, and what sets humans apart from most aspects of nature is that we have the awareness to recognize when we’re slipping or letting go. Making a difference in your own life takes effort. But that effort will never happen on its own. I find myself at an age where getting out of bed in the morning is an effort. Remember how I’ve written about the way you start your day sets you up for the remainder? If not, go back and read my posts, damn it! But seriously, most mornings my body is fighting hard to convince my mind that it wold be much easier and simpler to just lay my head back on the pillow and forget about getting up. It would be easier. That doesn’t make it better.

As you move through life, many if not most things will get in your way. Health, work, familial obligations, social obligations and one’s own excuses will often slow or hinder progress, as it relates to one’s commitment to fitness and health. If I look nasty myself as an example, I’ve had ample excuses to stop training. When the pandemic hit, my karate dojo closed. Okay, I no longer have a practical place to train. I set myself up with a training space in my basement. Then my basement flooded and I had to have the basement demolished.

I moved my training space to the garage. It was actually a pretty sweet set-up, too. But i had to move everything that was located in the basement to the garage, so I lost that space as well. I promised myself the purchase of some free weights and light equipment, but opted to wait until the basement was fully renovated. And on, and on, and on…. There will never be a lack of excuses available, if one chooses to find them.

I find that as life moves forward, the excuses become more prominent and convincing and it becomes harder to commit oneself to a consistency. But as age begins to climb, it becomes all the more important to not only continues, but to push harder in order to help maintain that fitness and physical health (and mental health) into the years to come. After all, Diabetes won’t take a break. Why should I? And that’s what’s important to remember. Stop for too long and the opportunity to o better yourself may pass you by.

The human body is like a dynamo. It’s always getting it going that’s the hardest part. But once you get your momentum, continuing is much easier than stopping and starting up again. So give yourself the effort. You need it. You deserve it. You’re worth it. Good health & fitness is a never ending battle. Just be sure that as you work through it, you guarantee that you’ll come out the clear winner. ☯️

Weighing In On Proper Form…

Ironically, I’m not referring to “form” as it relates to karate, which is a switch. I was having some interesting discussions with a few people about the importance of proper form while lifting weights and some key points were brought to my attention. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to share them here. These are all subjective opinions I gathered from a couple of friends (whom I won’t name), so take it for grain of salt.

Weightlifting and resistance training can be an important tool for getting into shape and can also have some practical uses as it relates to the martial arts. In karate, the strength behind one’s strikes comes from a combination of speed, accuracy and physical force. So, “strength training” in the form of weight lifting was never much encouraged in my Sensei’s dojo. Of course, Okinawan karate is filled with strength-building tools, such as the chishi or hojo undo. But strength training to make yourself bigger usually isn’t a thing in karate.

Depending on who you talk to, getting pumped up can actually have detrimental effects on your martial arts training. When you weight lift for size and gains, you eventually start sacrificing speed and mobility for the size you build. And the strength aspect isn’t all that better than if you simply condition yourself through other means. But let’s say that you’ve been watching one-too-many 80’s action flicks and you’ve decided to try and get some “Arnold-esque” biceps…. Here are some tips that my cohorts and I came to agree on:

1. Start Small: I get it; one’s pride will often make you want to walk into the gym and grab a pair of 50-pound weights and grunt like an animal while making yourself look tough. But it’s safer to start with lighter weights and work your way up as your strength increases. This will help prevent injury and help you maintain proper form. There’s that word again: form. Speaking of which;
2. Get Some Help With Form and Technique: If you’re walking into a gym or purchased some weights and are doing it for the first time, don’t be scared to ask for some help. Whether that means hiring a trainer for a single session to get the basics or learn proper technique, or leaning on a friend who’s been using the gym for some time. This will help prevent improper form while performing certain key exercises, which can lead to injury.
3. Don’t Overdo It: Is it a good idea to push yourself? Yes. Is it a good idea to continuously grow in your fitness efforts? Absolutely. Should you feel the burn after a good workout? Who doesn’t? But if you find yourself basically unable to move the following day and have to recover for the next week, you haven’t done yourself any favours. Taper it back a touch and work out safely and consistently, instead.

In order to prevent injuring yourself and causing damage, remember to learn proper form for the exercises you’re doing, build yourself up from the bottom and don’t overdo it. Damaged muscles not only take a while to heal (especially if you’re Diabetic) but they hurt the whole time they’re healing. And from a martial arts perspective, bigger isn’t better. If you’re doing strength training for something like karate, you want to prevent ballooning your muscles and making yourself huge. think swimmer’s build as opposed to body builder. ☯️

Hungry For Some Information?

I think that one of the worst “non-injury” related feelings in the world, next to being sleepy, is hunger. Unless it’s the evening and you’re binging a show and decide you’re hungry and need a snack, feelings of hunger can be uncomfortable, distracting and have an actual and measurable impact on your health, blood sugars and even you’re overall fitness.

So, what is hunger? At the most basic level, hunger is felt when your stomach is empty of content and your body releases certain hormones into the body that gives you that “hunger feeling.” Please don’t quote me, I’m not a doctor. But this is what was explained to me BY a doctor. So, there. But hunger is usually triggered when the stuff you need to properly keep your body up and running is running low. So it isn’t just that your stomach is empty, it also has a lot to do with your glucose and nutrients being low in your blood stream.

Now that I’m done telling you all that I’m not a doctor WHILE continuing to talk like one, let’s discuss what hunger does to you. When your body starts to run low on its necessities, it can start a number of processes. If you’re Diabetic, some of those processes won’t work well and if they do, will affect your overall blood sugars (like just about EVERYTHING does). If you’re performing exercise, the type of exercise you’re doing can have some detrimental effects, if you’re hungry.

I recently wrote about how working out on an empty stomach can actually CAUSE muscle loss, since the body will usually start by breaking down muscle tissue to compensate for the lack of energy needed for exercise. This doesn’t apply to ALL fitness situations. After all, working through a karate class on a full stomach can have some pretty detrimental effects, as well. On you AND the others in the dojo. But consistent and sustained cardio can often be better done on an empty stomach.

According to an article posted by WebMD, “the real trick to managing weight is to eat less, but not to feel hungry or deprived.” This is key, because it’s often been proven throughout the years that depriving yourself can lead to binging later, which is a definite slide backwards in your weight loss or fitness efforts. Kind of like me, when I hit a really bad low and I nearly empty out the fridge. But I digress…

The article goes on to suggest that if you’ve eaten less than 2 to 3 hours prior, your hunger likely isn’t genuine and suggests drinking a glass of water or eating a small, high-fibre snack in an effort to stave off real hunger until your next meal. I often try this tactic on my 6-year old, as he’ll claim hunger within an hour after eating until he’s full. Mild dehydration will cause similar symptoms to hunger, so sipping water is usually a big one for me.

The article caps off by providing a short list of tips, such as exercising portion control, eat high-fibre foods or foods bulky with water and air to feel more full, include lean proteins and avoid buffets as having more options will often lead to eating more than you need to. Portion control is important as people always tend to dish up more than they need. And taking the time to appreciate your meal is important, as well. If you watch television or read while you eat, you may want to consider putting a stop to that.

I’m really bad for doing the second one. In the past year, I always seem to spend my mealtime at home with a book in front of my face. Habits can be hard to break. The takeaway here is that your body is a machine and like all machines, requires fuelling, maintenance and care. Hunger can impact ALL of those aspects and as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, can be distracting when it’s important not to be, as well as reduce performance in key areas, such as fitness. Food for thought… (pun intended). ☯️