Too Much Of A Good Thing…

Can you ever have too much of a good thing? Yes. Yes you can. And depending on what that thing is, you can cause all sorts of damage to yourself, your health and your well-being. Don’t believe me? Choose your favourite take-out food and go eat it in buffet format… It won’t take long before you’ve overindulged and spend the next forty-eight hours regretting it for various reasons. And believe it or not, you can also have too much fitness, exercise and workouts. And even karate. There, I said it.

I think it was Epicurus who said, “No pleasure is bad in and of itself; only the consequences from overindulgences in those pleasures.” I think this applies to everything from favourite foods, sleeping and yes, even working out. I bring this up after recognizing that during the week of January 3rd, I performed 10 workouts. No, that’s not a typo! Granted, this is partially because I joined RunKeeper’s “Small Steps, Big Goals” Challenge that basically requires walking 50 kilometres and tracking them via the app, for the month of January. I’ve just been too excited (or stubborn?) at the recent purchase of my new kettlebells NOT to include a strength workout every day after my walk, as well.

What are the possible effects of working out too often or overexerting yourself? Well, according to a short article posted by HealthLine.com, most of the signs will be pretty recognizable. The first is pain, which I think makes sense. Working out causes damage to the muscle tissue, which then heals up stronger and bigger than before. This is how fitness growth is done. The next is fatigue. Not being tired, but fatigue. The difference is that being tired can be fixed almost immediately by resting. Fatigue can have a much deeper significance, including lack of energy, poor movements and lack of concentration.

You’ll also get sick more often. When you overexert yourself, your body will take longer to heal and recover, which means your body can’t fight other shit like, say colds and flus… Things like that. The last symptom the article included is difficulty breathing. If this happens, it can mean one of two things: either the exercise is too intense for the amount of oxygen you’re holding in, or you happen to be one of those poor idiots who holds their breath when doing something that requires effort! Not only should you be breathing properly throughout your workout, a decent exhale during the peak of a movement can be helpful to its proper execution. This is especially true in karate.

I’ll add a personal one that’s quite important, which is good nutrition. Most people seem to eat like trash. You need to include some lean proteins, healthy doses of vegetables (I have a rough time with that one) with at least one meal with a good dose of carbohydrates. That’s right, the Diabetic is suggesting carbohydrates. Don’t forget that carbs are your body’s fuel and you need to refill the tank after you’ve burned most of it. Although reduced-carb/reduced-calorie can help burn body fat, you can also overdo that aspect, which will lead to a whole different batch of complications.

You can avoid overexertion by acknowledging your particular circumstances. Age, medical conditions personal abilities are important and shouldn’t be ignored. Given that I have Type-1 Diabetes, testing my blood sugar levels every hour during fitness is an important aspect. You may be thinking, “Every hour? Am i supposed to be working out for longer than an hour?” Well realistically, the average karate class lasts between one and a half to two hours. My 70-kilometre bike runs last for almost four hours. It’s a bit tougher to stop during karate, since dojo etiquette usually prohibits leaving the floor without the instructor’s consent, but health comes first!

Another good way to avoid overexertion is by ensuring you’ve warmed up properly, you avoid sudden twisting and jerking movement that will hyperextend your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, get rest and food as appropriate and at appropriate times. And test, test, test… Different workouts will have different effects on your blood sugar levels, so it’s important to stay on top of that. Also, don’t forget to lighten the load when you need to. I’ve lost count of how many times in a gym that I’ve started doing reps only to drop to a lighter dumbbell for the next set because it was too much. There’s no shame in this. In fact, it’s a smart move and guarantees better growth and faster recovery.

The last, important point to avoid overexertion is learning how to do things properly. It may feel great to pound that punching bag for thirty straight minutes, but if your technique is wrong you can risk all sorts of injury and issues. Better to start slow and learn whatever it is you’re doing properly before increasing the intensity and amount. You’ll avoid all the nasty stuff and reap more of the benefits.

Get some rest! Did I workout in some way, shape or form every day during that week I mentioned earlier? Yes, I did. I also reached 10 workouts the following week, although some of these included the fitness challenge’s walks and some meditation (yes, meditating burns calories and can be considered a workout in some instances). One of the unexpected issues with working out almost constantly, is that your body will develop a muscle memory to constantly being taxed. This means that your system, as well as your blood sugar levels, will get used to constantly moving and exercising. The next time you have a light week where you may only work out once or twice will cause a reverse effect and mess with your blood sugars. Food for thought.

Fitness is important. Absolutely. But so is decent rest, good nutrition and proper form in all that you do. Work hard and focus on the benefits you’ll eventually gain. But keep a firm eye on what you’re doing and listen to what your body is telling you. It’s normal to feel pain during a workout, but there’s a big difference between aching or “feeling the burn” and being in genuine pain. Drink lots of water, take breaks and take care of yourself first. Your body is the engine that drives you, and every engine needs to cool down from time to time. ☯

Some Cold Facts About Fitness

The world keeps on turning, and the seasons don’t care that you planned on running or cycling before dumping a thick, cold blanket of white shit… I mean, snow all over the area you live in. Since humans have evolved to become sedentary creatures, we have to adapt to the ever-changing climates of whatever hemisphere we happen to reside in. In Saskatchewan, for example, we deal with basically half of the year with snow. If one waited for balmier weather to train outdoors, we’d be losing out on many months of potential fitness.

This is why it’s important not to let the snowy season get to you and not hesitate to enjoy the great outdoors despite the weather. This doesn’t mean that you should go jogging in -50 degree snowstorms, of course. And there are a number of things one needs to consider before heading outdoors. How will your workout be different? What effects might it have on your blood sugar? Why the hell do your lungs burn when they breathe in cold air? These and more, are all important questions that should be asked and answered before you head outside.

Let’s address that burning sensation in your chest when you hit the outdoors. According to RunnersWorld.com, “The burning sensation you feel when breathing in cold air is probably due to the combination of heat and water exchange that is occurring early in the inspiration of cold, dry air.” The article continues by explaining that the sensation will typically go away after a few breaths, but it’s an important consideration if you intend on performing any level of cardio exercise in winter conditions.

Further, basic biology tells us that cold with cause tissue to contract and narrow. In addition to drying out your breathing passages quicker than your body can keep up, this can make it a bit harder to breathe. Personally, I’ve never understood the attraction to cycling in the winter and I hate running at the best of times. But I’ve found myself running in colder conditions during training for belt test and things of that sort.

Next, let’s define two very important terms that people tend to use interchangeably: frostbite and hypothermia. Amazingly, people often confuse these two but they happen in very different circumstances and it’s also possible to have one without the other. I won’t go into incredibly deep details, but in the interest of understanding the difference, here is a simple definition to both.

Hypothermia is defined as a condition where the core temperature of your body dips below 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). This is caused by prolonged exposure to cold weather where you start to lose body heat faster than your body can replace it. Once hypothermia sets in, a person will begin to shiver uncontrollably and feel confused. That confusion will worsen as one’s core temperature continues to drop. This is especially dangerous for someone with Diabetes as low blood sugar will increase one’s risk of hypothermia. Being under the influence of alcohol will also increase that risk. A person suffering from hypothermia (at least the mild version) can be treated by simply being taken out of the cold environment, removing wet clothing and slowly warming them with blankets and warm beverages.

Frostbite is defined as the freezing of bodily tissue or evaporation of the tissue’s moisture. The difference with this condition is that unless it’s extremely mild (a condition referred to as frosting) you’ll likely need to seek medical attention to help treat it. It can be noted by the fact that your skin will start to feel cold before going numb. Tissue will then go stiff and start to change colour from red to white before hardening. Milder forms of frostbite can be treated and may not leave permanent tissue damage. But severe frostbite can result in the death of tissues and nerve damage. Nice, eh? It’s usually caused by being exposed to cold weather for too long and can be a greater risk for folks with poor circulation (like Diabetics).

The last winter condition I’ll bring up, is sunlight. There’s this crazy, unspoken belief that when it’s cold outside, the sun doesn’t cause the same level of damage as on a hot, sandy beach. Although the latter would be more pleasant than running in the snow, sunlight is sunlight. If you’re outside on a clear, sunny day, UV rays are still striking your flesh with the same voracity as during the summer. Although there can be SOME variation due to conditions in the atmosphere during winter months, you still need to take steps to protect your bare skin. Using an adequate sunblock during the winter may sound weird, but you can still suffer sunburns and skin damage due to the sun.

Wouldn’t it suck to get a sunburn AND frostbite/hypothermia at the same time? Honestly, all of these can be prevented by simply taking appropriate preventative measures. Dress in layers, including a moisture-wicking garment, cotton overskirt and an appropriate coat in order to prevent hypothermia. Take breaks from the cold and don’t stay outside longer than is comfortable. Some people think that shivering and wanting to seek shelter puts them in the wimp category, but your body will tell you when you’ve had enough cold.

Don’t be afraid to put some sunblock on bare skin and even wear a good pair of sunglasses to prevent damage to your eyes from snow glare. The snow will magnify and reflect the sun’s rays and it can play hell with your eyes. Last but not least, and as usual, make certain to check your blood sugars regularly and keep some fluids and fast-acting carbohydrates on hand. Just in case. And even if you CAN do some limited martial arts training outside in the snow, all the same conditions as listed above will apply. ☯

It Ain’t All Smoothies and Sports Bras!

One of the things that the current pandemic has caused is a fine line where public fitness gyms are concerned. Some have remained open, with restrictions. Some have chosen to close their doors. I hold no judgement against either side of the coin, but I have to admit that there are pros and cons to the use of a public fitness gym. I’ve held memberships with some gyms; and unfortunate side effect of some of the places I’ve been posted over the years, since some of my work locations haven’t boasted gyms of their own.

I think that at SOME point in the past couple of years, I may have posted about the benefits of using a fitness gym… I honestly can’t remember because after almost 700 posts, they all kind of blend together. But needless to say, there are some definite benefits and advantages to using an actual fitness gym to get in shape as opposed to doing it at home, despite the fact that you CAN do so at home. And although I can’t seem to find the post where I posted the benefits, I decided it might be a good idea to post the down sides. Here are my five top down sides to training in a public fitness gym…

Membership Fees: Although it’s not only expected but required that one pays a monthly fee for the use of a public gym, sometimes those fees can seem a little off the rails. Depending on where you join, the monthly fees can lean a bit on the stupid side. Be sure to shop around and make sure that there’s a decent balance between available resources versus what you’re paying. If you live in a smaller community, you may not have much choice. But if you live in a larger centre, you have the benefit of being able to shop around and find the best value for your dollar;
Contracts: Don’t get me started! This pisses me off! Why do I need to sign a contract to join a gym? Will your building and equipment disappear if I quit your gym? No. So why do you require a fixed commitment, signed on paper from me just to allow me to lift weights for an hour, three or four times a week? What, am I renting the place from you? Can I sleep on the yoga mats at the end of the day? Give me a fuckin’ break…
Crowded Equipment: There’s nothing that quite gets me like a half dozen ‘roided up idiots surrounding the station I need for the day’s current workout. I’m the kind of guy that pre-plans his workouts before he starts, and having a group of douchebags standing at the leg press station, chatting away instead of getting their reps and moving on, ENRAGES ME TO NO END!!! Seriously though, it’s great if you can use your local gym to socialize with your friends, but I’m referring to the batch that are already huge and just hang out because they want to show off;
Other People’s Sweat: No matter how many signs they put up, no matter how many spray bottles are sitting all over the place, you’re bound to lay on a machine that was improperly washed by the previous user. Don’t even get me started on the gym showers and change facilities! I’ve always had the practice of sanitizing the machine BEFORE I hop on, but very few people maintain this practice, so Light knows what funk you may be exposing yourself to! That was a problem before COVID concerns became prominent…
Personal Perspective/Other People’s Judgment: This last one can be somewhat specific to the person, but not everyone feels comfortable stepping into a public place to try and get into shape. And I get that. What makes it worse is when you have some idiots making fun of people TRYING to make a positive change. I’ve seen some heavier set people hopping on a treadmill or elliptical with the intentions of trying to make a better future for themselves only to be discouraged by some nay-sayers who point and make fun of said people. We should grow up and be slightly more evolved at this point.

Honestly, I love using a fitness gym. It usually features multiples weight machines I would never dream of being able to afford on my own, coupled with sauna, shower and spa options that you just don’t get from working out at home. I don’t like paying for it, that’s probably the worst of the top five for me. But using a fitness gym, especially a personal trainer, can help get you on the right track for your fitness goals. ☯

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Once in a while, I’ll hear about something enough to make me look into it. Even when it’s something I have no intention of taking part in, myself. One of these things happens to be apple cider vinegar. I’ve been hearing about this stuff for years and have even had some friends and family recommend that I try it for various reasons, but the “vinegar” aspect has always scared me off. I’m not a big fan of swallowing vinegar. Back home, people would have a nasty habit of sprinkling vinegar on their french fries. It’s usually delicious, until I remember that I’m sprinkling acid on my food. But I digress…

As usual, I’ll take a brief paragraph to point out that I’m not a doctor, dietitian or medical practitioner and everything I point out in my posts are based solely on unsolicited research that I perform myself. One should always consult their health professional before starting on anything new that could adversely or significantly affect their bodies, including workout routines and diets. Now, on to the apple cider vinegar!

I’ve been seeing this stuff advertised everywhere for a number of years now. Most prominently online. You know, those annoying advertisements that pop up when you’re trying to access something on a website or you’re trying to read something? (whistles softly as he remembers his page is ad-supported). I’ve even got some friends back in good ol’ New Brunswick who swear by the stuff. So, what’s the real deal with apple cider vinegar? It popped up again in something I was reading about a week ago, so I decided to look into it.

First, I’ll explain what apple cider vinegar is, since providing definitions is one of my defining characteristics (see what I did there?). Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple juice, which creates the resulting vinegar. It’s actually incredibly low on carbohydrates, making it ideal for Diabetics, but I’ll get to that in a moment. It’s been used for all sorts of food-related functions, but also for household cleaning and hair washing. Although I can’t seem to find a definitive source, the stuff is said to have been first used thousands of years ago.

According to an article posted by HealthLine.com, apple cider vinegar is said to contain “helpful substances” and can kill harmful bacteria. I put “helpful substances” in quotations because apple cider vinegar essentially contains no vitamins, minerals or nutrients in its basic form. But a “substance called mother, which consists of strands of protein, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance,” is what’s generally credited with all the benefits.

The article goes on to explain that apple cider vinegar can help with skin health, can boost the heart health of some animals (not humans) and can help with weight loss. No, it won’t melt fat like some of the infomercials you see online. Effectively, nothing short of liposuction simply removes your body fat. But apple cider vinegar is said to help increase how full you feel, when used in conjunction with your meals. This means that you’ll potentially need to eat less to feel full, which is what ultimately leads to loss of weight. There have been studies linked to this, but no definitive evidence that it genuinely helps.

The aspect I find interesting is that it’s also said to be beneficial for folks who have Type-2 Diabetes. Yes, I totally recognize that I’m Type-1 but I also like to think that I’ve had Diabetes and researched on it enough over the past 38 years that I can occasionally speak to some aspects of Type-2, as well. Besides, the information comes from someone else. So, I’m in the clear. But as some of you may know, Type-2 Diabetes is a condition in which the body’s ability to produce/use insulin and process the body’s glucose is compromised. A marked departure from what causes Type-1 Diabetes. Apple cider vinegar is said to help improve insulin sensitivity by a significant amount.

Because of this, it’s important to be mindful when combining apple cider vinegar with prescriptions that are intended to help do the same, as it can cause dangerous drops in blood glucose. Especially medications that also help to increase insulin sensitivity. It’s also worth pointing out that even folks who don’t have Diabetes can benefit from better insulin absorption.

It’s always interesting to read about a substance that’s not only consumable but also holds so many potential health benefits. Studies are still on the fence about apple cider vinegar’s potential for weight loss, but like everything else in life, it’s up to the consumer as to whether they decide to try it and decide if it work for them or not. ☯

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. ☯

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! ☯

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. ☯