Kids Do The Darndest Things, And Adults Usually Clean It Up…

If there’s one thing that most parents of my age group can easily complain about, it’s how children now days seem to be engrossed in technology with less time for physical activity. It’s become a genuine issue, with childhood obesity hitting an all-time high in North America and kids showing no signs of slowing down, figuratively-speaking. This is where it becomes important for parents to not only encourage proper fitness but to show the right example by indulging in physical fitness themselves.

Nathan prior to his second birthday, executing a solid horse-stance

When my son Nathan was barely beyond his toddler years, my wife and I signed him up for a kids’ activity group, which included soccer balls, hoops and games in order to stimulate physical activity and learn team skills. Nathan’s inability to keep his attention on a single thing for longer than thirty seconds resulted in him running around and doing his own thing while other kids were seated in a circle, learning new things. It was embarrassing at the moment, but the reality is he still played his heart out and got some exercise.

We chose not to keep him in this group, since he had to be signed up and we would have to start paying for fees. I couldn’t justify spending money on an activities group he wouldn’t comply with, so I took his fitness into my own hands. Nathan has always been a child with excessive energy levels, but he rarely sees fit to use them appropriately for fitness. This is why it sometimes makes it difficult to get involved in something structured.

Walking his brother after school (the energy drink is mine)

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when he’s raring to go and I’m the one settled on the couch. But there are a number of important reasons WHY it is so important to get our children off the floor and doing something physical. I’ve been pretty fortunate that Nathan is often game to join me on the mats and do some exercise, even when his idea of exercising is hitting me repeatedly with a punch mitt until I stop my reps and wrestle on the floor with him.

Exercise is an important part of a child’s development. Exercise is required in order to strengthen bones, increase muscle mass and improve a child’s overall proper growth. From a non-physical standpoint, exercise is also important for a child as it promotes socialization, self-esteem and helps with concentration and schoolwork. That last sentence is an aspect that most parents tend to forget. And most reputable sources, and I’ll let y’all look into those yourself, recommend at least an hour of rigorous physical activity every day.

Although it can be hard to get kids interested in physical activity, there’s a lot you can do to encourage it:

  1. Be The Example: It stands to reason that if your kids see you sprawled on the couch with a bag of chips, binge-watching a show for four to six hours without moving, this is the standard that they’ll grow up with. They’ll assume that laziness and apathy is acceptable. After all, if it’s good enough for mom and dad, it should be good enough for them, right? Wrong. Even if it’s just to get your kids moving, you need to set the example. After all, the family that stays fit together, stays healthy together;
  2. Limit Screen Time: This is a tough one, especially for my son. And to be honest, it can often be tough on my wife and I, as well. It’s SO easy to tell Nathan “Go watch a show on your iPad,”when we’re trying to get things done or want some peace and quiet. But realistically, keeping him off a screen is important to helping him grow and develop properly;
  3. Plan Activities: Although I would like being able to tell Nathan “Go outside and play,” this doesn’t work for most kids. Some of them may be able to go outside and entertain themselves, but it doesn’t allow for much structure. Plus, let’s be honest: sitting in a sandbox rolling a small car doesn’t do much for fitness and proper health. Play some ball, run some races or go talk a walk. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise is important, even for kids;
  4. Keep Up The Encouragement: Hey, my son can’t throw a proper front kick to save his life. And his idea of blocking consists of squatting down into a ball and covering his head with his hands. The martial artist in me cries on the inside. The daddy in me is just happy that he’s training with me. But no matter what, the high-fives and pats on the back need to keep coming. It’s pretty hard to stay motivated if one isn’t encouraged. This is true of adults as well.

At the end of the day, this is one of those things where anything is better than nothing. But there are also certain restrictions you need to observe. Children really shouldn’t be doing any heavy weightlifting until they’ve finished growing. They can lift weights, but they should avoid lifting HEAVY weights for the purpose of lifting as much as they can as it can interfere with the body’s proper development.

Keeping kids physically active and engaged is about more than just getting exercise. It helps to mold the foundation they’ll need to maintain proper health, growth and development throughout their formative years and into adulthood. And maybe, just maybe, the parents will join in for the ride. ☯

yin-yang-5

Help Me To Keep This Going!

My content may be free and I absolutely love providing it, but my time is not! I’m trying to make a go of it as a full time writer but obviously, everyone needs to get paid for the time they put in. Your donation to this blog can mean the difference between seeing daily content or wondering “whatever happened to The Blogging Buddhist.” Help me keep this permanent. Any small donation helps and will not go unappreciated.

CA$5.00

Heavy Or Fast, Exercise Has An Effect…

I’m a huge believer in the fact that a person should be training and/or working out several times a week, if not daily. I’ve had many of my counterparts (both Diabetic and martial artist) point out that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing and that daily training isn’t ideal. But when you factor in sessions of meditation, low-impact yoga and walks, it can be pretty easy to log something different seven days a week.

And before all the yoga practitioners jump on here and tear me a new one, I’m not saying that yoga isn’t a fantastic workout, because it can bring the sweat like anything else. But the point I’m trying to make today, especially for my fellow Type-1 Diabetic readers, is that different TYPES of workouts will have a different effect on your body and blood sugar. And it can be confusing and difficult to make heads or tails of it. After all, one would be inclined to think, “burn glucose to lower, eat carbs to increase,” right?

Last week, I had the privilege of enjoying two workouts. The first one was a circuit-style workout, with some speed and intervals thrown in. I performed this workout with my 6-year old son and we ended the workout with about fifteen minutes of punching the mitts. All in all, it lasted about forty minutes. During this period, my CGM was taking care of monitoring my blood sugar levels and I sat in the range of 5.3 to 5.7 throughout the entire workout and for a while afterwards. Okay, not bad.

The second workout was a period of doing karate forms, or kata. I practiced these alone for about a half hour, doing two or three of each of my forms required for my next belt certification. Doing them alone didn’t stop my son from sitting on the steps and watching quietly while occasionally mimicking some of the techniques he saw. But during that brief half hour, my blood sugar dropped from the mid 6’s to about 3.8 mmol/L.

The fact is, different workouts will have different effects on your body whether you have Diabetes or not. But it’s because of that Diabetes that you need to be wary of said effects. There’s no magic formula to figuring this out. Most of it will be trial and error and will require you to try different things to see what works for you. But I’m going to throw out some basic concepts as they relate to Diabetes. If you want some in-depth information, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has a great article that covers what I’ll be saying in greater detail.

Let’s start with cardio. I’m not a huge fan of running but as some of you know, I LOVE cycling. Cardio (or aerobic) exercises tend to last longer than say, weightlifting or other types of exercise. Although exhausting, biking for 70 kilometres will typically be less intense than say, doing repetitive sets of heavy weights for 30 minutes. Under normal circumstances, you’ll burn glucose consistently throughout the majority of your workout, meaning you’ll experience a low at some point during your workout. Pretty straightforward, right?

Next is anaerobic exercise, or your weightlifting, karate, boxing… Most of the workouts that are higher in intensity and will build muscle as opposed to cardio. Because of the higher intensity, the release of adrenaline will trigger the breakdown of glycogen in your system which is then turned into glucose, resulting in a spike in blood sugars. This is usually a real pain in the ass for me, especially since I usually suspend my insulin pump and leave it in my gym bag to avoid damage during karate classes.

Still with me? Good. The JDRF link I provided above will also offer some insight into combination aerobic/anaerobic workouts like team sports, but that shit gives me a headache to think about. So check out the link. The bottom line is you may have to suffer through some trial and error in order to figure out what works best for you. Removing my pump is normally a good idea during karate to keep from damaging it. But if I do as my doctor suggests and bolus a unit or two to compensate for the pump’s absence, I usually suffer a low quite quickly. I’m usually better off letting the spike happen and correcting it after class is done. Although not the best choice, that works for me. It may not work for someone else.

Having Diabetes shouldn’t stop someone from enjoying the full range of health and fitness that their bodies can allow. Although it may take a bit more planning and tweaking than the average person, there isn’t anything I can’t do. The important thing is to plan ahead. Always keep some fast-acting glucose with you, in case you suffer a low. Keep a blood glucose meter close by s that you can confirm your blood sugar levels, whether you wear a CGM or not. And of course, be sure to stay hydrated. ☯

yin-yang-2

Help Me To Keep This Permanent!

My content may be free and I absolutely love providing it, but my time is not! I’m trying to make a go of it as a full time writer but obviously, everyone needs to get paid for the time they put in. Your donation to this blog can mean the difference between seeing daily content or wondering “whatever happened to The Blogging Buddhist.” Help me keep this permanent. Any small donation helps and will not go unappreciated.

CA$5.00

Don’t Get Salty, I’m Just The Messenger…

Ahh, salt… It’s the most common seasoning in most household kitchens and unless you have some medical restriction that prohibits its use, I don’t know too many people who haven’t thrown a dash on their food from one time to another. Salt is pretty old school and has dipped its toes in to a number of different aspects of humanity. It’s not only been used as a seasoning, but has also been used as a preservative for food, a disinfectant and even as a form of currency. So, what’s the real deal with salt?

Many people actually crave salt. There are a number of different possible reasons for this and I’m sure at some point, you or someone close to you has demonstrated the inability to stop eating once you’ve started in on a salty snack. You know, “betcha can’t eat just one?” As with all things in life, there’s some good and some bad. And I’m going to spit out some of both…

Depending on which generation you grew up in, you’ll have noticed that most salt containers will have the words “with Iodine” or “iodized” added to it. This is because Iodine is a necessary mineral component that’s part of a hormone called thyroxin, which helps to regulate one’s thyroid. Humans need to obtain Iodine from outside sources in their diet, since the human body doesn’t produce it. So most of North America began adding it to salt, sometime in the 1920’s.

Sodium, which is only one of the components of salt, is a necessary mineral that the human body needs in order to properly balance one’s hydration and blood volume. This is usually done with the consumption of potassium and magnesium as well. Sodium directly influences blood pressure, and folks who suffer from chronically low blood pressure will sometimes be advised to increase their sodium intake.

The hydration aspect is an important one, from a fitness AND a Diabetes perspective. As I can easily attest from a lengthy bike ride in extreme summer heat, lack of mineral salts, such as sodium, will cause a condition called hypionatremia, which is a problem when the water levels in your body rise too high and your tissues and blood cells begin to swell. Sodium can act as an electrolyte to help balance out hydration and the absorption of water in your system. Your body also needs sodium for proper muscle and nerve tissue health. The contracting of your muscle tissue depends on proper sodium levels, as well.

Since life is a matter of balance, there’s a bad side to salt/sodium, as well. Too much sodium increases your risk of stroke, kidney disease, bone and joint issues as well as heart failure. Sound familiar? It should; these are all possible Diabetes complications, as well. So for someone who has Diabeties, an increased level of sodium will aggravate all those existing complications.

Whether you have Diabetes or not, sodium falls under the same category as carbohydrates. Your body needs it, but you have to find the proper balance. Not enough sodium will cause issues and too much sodium will cause complications. Just like the over-consumption of carbohydrates. From a fitness standpoint, you sodium (as well as other mineral salts) in order to stay properly hydrated when exercising. In fact, most “sports drinks” are just water infused with variations of sodium and potassium, with some colouring and flavouring thrown in to justify the crazy price retailers charge you for it.

The average person will get all the salt/sodium they need through the consumption of their regular food, as most food has pretty solid levels of sodium. This means that unless you’re training at an athletic level or in the extreme heat, consistently sipping water and eating a healthy diet will be enough. For the former, sipping the occasional electrolyte sports drink can be helpful to avoid nausea, muscle cramps and fatigue during heavy workout. ☯

yin-yang

Let’s Keep The Engine Going!

My content may be free and I absolutely love providing it, but my time is not! I’m trying to make a go of it as a full time writer but obviously, everyone needs to get paid for the time they put in. Your donation to this blog can mean the difference between seeing daily content or wondering “whatever happened to The Blogging Buddhist.” Help me keep this permanent. Any small donation helps and will not go unappreciated.

CA$5.00

Riding The Icy Slopes…

I’m not a big fan of the extreme cold. Being born and raised in New Brunswick means that I’ve grown up accustomed to reasonably mild winters, albeit heavy snowfalls. So the past decade and a half of -50 degrees during the winter months have managed to find the chink in my armor and the ache in my joints. If I had to choose, I’d opt for the spring or the fall, where temperatures are on the cooler side without freezing me half to death. But I digress…

Nathan and I, about to tackle the slope!

I have to admit that one of the pleasant aspects of parenthood is the opportunity o relive some of the more enjoyable aspects of childhood. Namely, sledding! There’s a small mount near our home called “Mount Pleasant,” which is identified as a “toboggan hill.” Plenty of people go there to go sledding, and I brought Nathan there for the first time last week. He has a black sled that his grandmother bought him a couple of years ago, and since the weather was mild and the skies were sunny, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something other than have him skim the back yard with it.

I had a really wicked video of Nathan and I shredding down the hill. But for some reason, my damn iPhone won’t upload the video. So I guess we’ll have to settle for this photo:

Nathan, hefting his sled back to the top

As you can see, there were some other people using the hill that day. But everyone was pretty good about staying the hell away from one another and some people were even wearing masks outdoors. Besides the few assholes who insisted on climbing back up the hill from the spot they came to a stop, thereby causing a collision hazard with other sledders, it was a fantastic afternoon with fresh air, sunshine and one hell of a workout getting to the top of that hill every few minutes.

We brought snacks, drinks and Diabetic supplies and we took a break halfway through the afternoon to enjoy the snack before taking turns, hefting the sled up the hill. It just goes to show that fitness doesn’t have to be all weights and cardio. Sometimes, good old fashioned fun can be great exercise. As long as you watch your blood sugars and recognize the winter temperatures will affect your levels and insulin absorption, there’s plenty of joy to be had despite all the white shit on the ground. ☯

One Inch Can Be Enough…

No, I’m not being lewd or dirty-minded. I’m referring to something world-renowned but often disputed in martial arts circles. I’m talking about Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch. Depending on what circles you walk with, you may have grown up in the 70’s and 80’s watching movies such as Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury and Game of Death. I loved those movies and spent my childhood throwing out my forefist, pretending I WAS Bruce Lee.

Lee is well-known for his fighting prowess, even to those who don’t travel in martial arts circles. And one of his best known techniques, famous even by today’s standards, is his one-inch punch. People are always quick to associate this technique to Lee, despite the fact that the one-inch punch is well-known in many traditional styles of Chinese martial arts. So the question is: does the one-inch punch actually work?

As you can see from the included YouTube clip, Lee is shown as able to impact a target from only an inch away, hence the name of the technique. The strike then sends a fully grown male staggering back into the waiting chair and sends him sliding back several inches while seated. The thing I like about this clip is that they show it in slow motion, allowing a trained martial artist to see exactly what may be going on when Lee executes the technique.

According to an article posted by Popular Mechanics, “[…] you first have to understand how Bruce Lee delivers the blow. Although Lee’s fist travels a tiny distance in mere milliseconds, the punch is an intricate full-body movement.” The article goes on to quote Jessica Rose, a Stanford University biomechanics engineer who points out that Lee’s technique starts with his legs. And that’s quite accurate. If you watch the video closely, you notice that Lee starts by carefully setting himself up and lining his entire body. This is followed by the explosive straightening of the knees, swivel to the hips, turning of the shoulders and straightening of the arm to deliver the punch.

It’s a matter of simple physiques. After all, Newton’s second law of motion tells us that Force equals the mass of an object multiplied by its total acceleration. So despite Lee’s average stature and slim musculature, the faster the fist travels, the bigger the expelled force once it impacts against its target. And all the individual components (legs, hips, torso, shoulders, arms) add to the total acceleration of Lee’s fist, prior to impact. This means that not only is the one-inch punch possible, it’s easily explainable with high school physics. Who knew?

It all comes down to proper bone alignment and velocity. That’s what makes it happen. Even in Uechi Ryu Karate, we train with a specific technique where we perform a structured, uppercut punch to the floating rib that looks suspiciously like a bastardization of the one-inch punch. We execute the technique by forcing from the thigh and hip, allowing all the major muscle groups to lend force to the fist, which is usually braced to the hip at the elbow. It’s effective and debilitating to one’s opponent.

This isn’t to mean that just anyone can do it. It actually takes years of training and precision to develop the technique in such a way that it can be effective in an actual fight. Even if it looks like the fist is only travelling an inch in distance, all the necessary parts require a whole lot of coordination. And even then, I wouldn’t use it. Gross motor function is always preferable over fine motor skill when it comes to a fight. If you have to take the time to line up your attack before you do it, it’s already too late.

It’s important not to believe everything you see in the movies. Especially martial arts movies, where the techniques and fights are grossly exaggerated. But as far as my personal jury goes, Lee is the genuine article and his one-inch punch is very real. It takes a lot of training and skill to properly execute it, but it’s real. At the risk of once again sounding lewd, for some people, one inch is enough. ☯

Self-Care Doesn’t Mean Self-Importance

Taking proper care of yourself is one of life’s top priorities. This is true for any person, but especially true for someone suffering from Type-1 Diabetes. Although you can certainly find medical practitioners to help you navigate the complicated labyrinth of medications, treatments and methodologies required to properly balance your Diabetes, the ownership of your care ultimately falls to you. And even when people are fully aware of this, they very rarely recognize and acknowledge it.

In order to be healthy, you need to be happy. In order to be happy, you need to be healthy. As Sensei would say, these two go hand-in-hand and it’s very difficult to truly have one without the other. Over the years, I’ve found myself sacrificing my wellbeing for the betterment of others, often going as far as damaging my health, exhausting myself and/or making myself sick. Although sometimes duty, honour and obligation requires it, it’s pretty difficult helping others if you first don’t help yourself.

So what does self-care look like? I don’t necessarily mean taking your medications or frequently testing your blood, although these are every important. I mean the self-care that includes one’s mental wellbeing as well as the physical. For example, did you know that if you’re tired in the middle of the day and decide you want a nap, you really don’t need to explain yourself to anyone? (Unless you’re at work, in which case I don’t recommend trying it. And if you do, please don’t name drop me…)

In order to illustrate my point I’ll provide two examples from my personal life, which took place some years ago. The first is work. I don’t think I need to to explain that work is a necessary part of modern life. Unless you happen to have been born into a wealthy family, most of us are forced to punch a clock and usually contribute somewhere in the range of 2,100 hours a year to help line someone else’s pocket. When I used to work for a certain popular franchise, who shall remain nameless for liability reasons, I let myself fall victim to my attempts at being an all-star.

Although not always the case, most employers are not only more than happy when an employee goes above and beyond, they come to expect it without any form of additional remuneration or praise. If you happen to be a prospective go-getter, this plays havoc with your health. This was me, up until a little over a decade ago. I would never miss a shift, driving in dangerous, inclement weather, going in to work when I felt ill and even going as far as passing out twice on the job, to be brought to the hospital for diagnosis, only to return the next day.

Despite the fact I was in management (and in light of that fact), it really gave me no benefit to be sacrificing myself this way. I ignored critically low blood sugars, worked through bleeding polyps and even did the work of two people when I was short and couldn’t replace them. And it wasn’t until I finally put my foot down and tried to call in sick that I got the ever-popular retort from my boss. I’m sure you’ve all experienced it; it was a dialogue that went a little something like this:

ME: “I won’t be coming in today. I’ve been ill all morning…”
BOSS: “Well, just how sick are you? I need you for tonight’s shift.”
ME: “Sick enough that I don’t feel I should be coming in to work…” (Bearing in mind that Canadian Labour laws take a dim view of an employer asking about ANY medical condition, my answer was more accommodation than was required)
BOSS: “Alright, fine. I’ll see if I can replace your shift. I’ll call you and let you know.”
ME: “Let me know what?”
BOSS: “Whether I can replace your shift or not!”
ME: “Why do I need to know that?”
BOSS: “Because if I can’t replace your shift, I need you to come in…”
ME: “Maybe I’m not being clear. I’m calling in sick. I won’t be in tonight.”
BOSS: “Well, if you’re going to be like that, you’ll have to bring me a doctor’s note.” (Also against the Labour Code)
ME: “I’m not going to a hospital! I just need to get some rest and I’ll probably feel better tomorrow. THAT part, I will let you know…”
BOSS: “If you aren’t sick enough to go to the hospital or see a doctor, then you aren’t sick enough to miss your shift.” (Also not a permissible statement, unless you HAPPEN to have “M.D.” after your name, but what do I know)

Any of my readers or followers from back home can probably guess at what employer this was and would likely be nodding their heads furiously right now. But given my propensity for picking my battles, I would foolishly go into work despite feeling like absolute shit. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve worked through a shift with frequent trips to the washroom where I would accommodate either end of my anatomy (Enjoy getting THAT image out of your head). Was it worth it? Definitely not. It didn’t result in a pay increase or any advancement to my career. All it did was cause damage to an already damaged body. Not smart, on my part.

The next story is about relationships. For the most part, relationships on their own can be rough and challenging waters to navigate, especially when dealing with someone who has little concern or understanding for your wellbeing. This brings me back to my earlier comment about napping. You all know that I’m a big fan of napping, but for this story, I’m referring to the need for actual sleep.

You see, as an adult, there really isn’t any reason why you should have to explain yourself, should you decide you’re tired and want to go to bed. Tired means tired, and is about the farthest thing from selfish that I can think of; next to needing rest from illness. But this was something of an alien concept to the woman I will identify simply as “Ex” (my ex-wife).

Ex had a nice, cushy daytime job, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. I worked shift work, which often included overnights. This is not to say that she didn’t work hard AT her job, the issue mostly arose from her time at home. The scenario would involve working overnight and getting off work at 6 a.m. By the time I’d get home, it would be closer to 7 a.m. and I would sneak carefully into bed as to not wake Ex. But one’s circadian rhythm can be a bitch, and she’d often wake up less than an hour later, despite being on a day off.

Now, one would be inclined to think that any reasonable person would understand that someone who’s worked throughout the night would need more than an hour or two’s sleep. Not Ex. She’d wake me shortly after she’d have breakfast in order to “get the day started.” When I’d argue that I needed a solid period of proper sleep because I had to work overnight again that night, it would be met with argument, including but not limited to the fact that I “was not to waste her entire day off sleeping.” Nice, eh? There’s a reason WHY she’s an ex.

I’ve provided both these scenarios, not because I wanted to complain about these two negative aspects of years past (despite the fact that venting about it was kind of nice), but to point out that both these scenarios wreaked havoc on my health, my blood sugar levels and even my mental wellbeing. The stress and anxiety associated with always having to explain yourself for things that should be an understandable requirement of physiological survival can have permanent repercussions on your sense of self-worth, value and confidence.

That’s why it’s important to take time for yourself and do things that are uniquely for yourself. Have that nap. Run out to grab a coffee. Take an hour a day to meditate or work out. None of that makes you selfish, it simply guarantees that you’ll be in a better state of health and a better state of mind to help take care of the daily grind, whether that includes family, work or whatever. And should you encounter an obstacle in your life that prevents your self-care, whether work or personal, that makes them a cancerous cyst that you need to down a shot of whiskey and quickly slice off in one quick swipe. You’ll be all the better for it. Surround yourself with people who will not only accept your needs, but will encourage them, as well. I know I did. ☯

Air, Wood Or Fire…

Depending on the style of martial art that you study, the way you develop your strikes can be integral to a solid progression towards your goals. Personally, I have always had an issue with things like brick and/or board breaking, because I’ve always seen it as a futile exercise meant only to show off or demonstrate one’s prowess in breaking through an object that’s been set up to yield. For example, my Sensei’s school of karate never involved board breaking in class. If it ever did, it predates the time I joined.

“Boards Don’t Hit Back!”

– Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon (1973)

But while I’ve never been a fan of breaking, it can lend some specific benefits to the traditional martial artist. Other than scaring your mother’s new boyfriend into submission, that is. The first point that I’ll bring up is unfortunately a negative one. The boards and bricks that are typically used for breaking are special, in that they have a thickness and composition that makes them ideal for breaking. The boards are usually thin, about 3/4″ thick, and cut with the grain to allow an easy break.

The bricks are usually thinner than you’d usually see for any practical building application as well, and are stacked in such a way that there is usually a minuscule gap of air between each one. This is where physics comes in. So long as you strike the brick properly, The strength and force of your fist will be assisted by gravity and help to break every subsequent brick. This is where the positive point comes in. You’ll notice I specified that you need to strike the brick “properly.” That’s where the big difference comes in…

From a martial arts perspective, if you walk into a dojo on Day 1 and try to punch through a board, you risk spraining and/or damaging your wrist, tendons, muscle tissue and potentially fracturing fingers or knuckles. It takes a reasonable period of training and developing one’s striking techniques before you can properly apply them against a hard surface like a board or a brick. And even then, the amount of focus required to strike safely and keep from injuring yourself is paramount.

“Very Good. But Brick Don’t Hit Back.”

– Bolo Yeung, Bloodsport (1988)

As I mentioned in the opening, the value of breaking is not a universally shared aspect among all styles. Most traditional Okinawan martial arts styles, such as karate, don’t lend much value to breaking, although some of our hand-strengthening methods are just as brutal, if not worse. And any style that focuses primarily on weapons or grappling won’t give breaking a second (or first) thought. But some “high-flying” styles, such as Tae Kwon Do, take breaking to a whole other level.

You can see senior belts breaking boards after flowering spin kicks, or boards held high above head level. While these types of breaks look spectacular to spectators, they lend little (if any) value in an actual fight situation. That being said, the precision, speed and skill required to pull off those techniques, even if they’re only worthy of demonstration, is beyond MY skill. So I can’t help but feel a little impressed by them, despite their worthlessness.

The bottom line is that as I explained in my previous post Making An Impact, training in the martial arts for any sort of long-term period will eventually require you to hit something. Whether it’s air, wood or fire, allowing your strikes to impact a surface is an important part of learning to strike properly. I’ve always been a bigger fan of pads or bags, because you can work on your precision, strength and speed without the risk of injury associated with striking a board or brick. That, and I don’t feel the need to convince others of my skill by smashing inanimate objects in front of them. But I digress.

As far as the jury ruling on breaking, the pros would include the development of strength, accuracy and getting those knuckles calloused up for proper striking. Don’t even get me started on using a knife hand on something like a brick. I wouldn’t even use a knife hand against an opponent, unless I was striking soft tissue or cartilage. There’s too much risk of breaking fingers, which would render them useless if the fight isn’t over or you face multiple opponents.

The cons would include junior students attempting to break before gaining the experience required, resulting in injury. It’s also an effectively useless display, since you need to clean up and replace every board and brick you break. There are no such issues while using a punching bag. Another con is the fact that some schools require breaking as a part of belt grading, which can be an issue if you have all the skills and precision to respectfully earn the belt. Would breaking bricks have made me a more effective black belt? I don’t think so, although I believe some would disagree.

At the end of the day, this is simply another aspect of the martial arts that has evolved as a means of impressing others as opposed to the use of skill for the betterment of oneself or the style. Much like competition, it’s been around for a long time and isn’t in any danger of disappearing any time soon. But should you find yourself starting the martial arts and join a school that maintains the practice, bear in mind the aspects I’ve written. And try not to break your fingers… ☯

Confusion Can Be Good

I like to think that one is never too old to learn something new. The prospect of being unable to “teach an old dog new tricks” is something of a myth, as is the concept I’ll be speaking about today. I’ve spent decades believing this was actually a thing, and incorporating it in many, if not most of my workouts. I’m referring to a term known as “muscle confusion.” The term, which is arguably not a scientific one, describes the act of changing up your workout routine frequently in order to “confuse” your muscles in order to prevent hitting a plateau.

But how effective is it? I’ll admit that I’m a really big fan of variety in one’s workouts, if for no other reason than to keep things interesting. But if I’m training in something, I’ll keep at it until I master it. A decent article posted by Men’s Journal explained it best by saying, “One big problem with the muscle confusion principle is that you don’t spend enough time working on an exercise to really master it. It’s like training to ride a bike one day, then a skateboard the next, and then rollerblading after that. Your skills on the bike aren’t really going to get better.”

Traditional karate is really big on repetition in order to master movements, techniques and fitness methods. As Ziad K. Abdelnour once said, “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong…ever.” So there’s heavy importance in doing things properly. But I would be lying if I said that we often have tons of material and new techniques piled on at the same time. But the way to prevent or get past hitting a plateau is simple: increase your weights, increase your time and push yourself harder.

An article I just read by HealthLine.com states that the theory of muscle confusion is just a myth, created to help propagate popular fitness programs. The article goes on to say that muscle confusion is hype when compared to other fitness theories that are grounded in science. I highly recommend reading the article; it has some really good information.

So despite the fact that I’ve been on board the muscle confusion train for years, every reputable source that I’ve found seems to agree that it’s a myth and the better method is to remain consistent. At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with changing up your routine. It’s especially important to experience new fitness routines and programs, if for no other reason than to keep things interesting and have some fun. Your chances of reaching your fitness goals will increase exponentially if you enjoy what you do. ☯

Fill ‘Er Up, Please!

One of the bigger problems in regards to fitness, especially when you have Diabetes, is the consumption of food in tandem with your workouts. There’s nothing I dislike more than having an hour earmarked for a workout, only to realize that my blood has significantly dropped and I have to treat the low before doing anything. This often (although not always) results in a feeling of being full and depending on what you’ve eaten, mildly bloated and is not conducive to a productive workout. So this begs a question: Is it better to work out on an empty stomach?

There are a few schools of thought on this, but none of them provide an easy answer. In my mind, I’ve always thought that working out without eating first was an easy way to ensure that your body used its stored fat as a source of fuel and help to trim down. But the flip side to this is that one needs energy in order to effectively exercise, and depending on one’s fat stores is not as effective a way of doing this as having food in your system. So, which perspective is the correct one? I call it “perspective” because in my experience, their preference is one that’s adhered to by most people, regardless of the information provided.

According to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic entitled Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workouts, “studies suggest that eating or drinking carbohydrates before exercise can improve workout performance and may allow you to workout for a longer time or at a higher intensity.” It goes on to say that not eating may result in sluggishness or light-headedness. If you workout in the morning, ensure to have finished your breakfast for at least an hour before exercising.

The article touches on portion size, explaining that large meals should be eaten three to four hours prior to exercising, with smaller meals being eaten one to three hours before a workout. Snacks effectively won’t provide any energy if you have them immediately before a workout, especially if your workout if less than 60 minutes in length. The article also makes two important point about eating AFTER a workout in order to help your body recover and repair itself, as well as staying properly hydrated. Which you should be doing, anyway.

According to what I’ve read in relation to the body’s fat stores and how they’re used, if you’ve fasted before a workout, you’re essentially guaranteed to be in calorie deficit, leading to the burning of fat. This is because the body’s only available fuel source IS your fat stores, if you’ve skipped a meal before exercising. And that’s all well and good, so long as you monitor your blood sugars and make sure you don’t crash from low levels, depending on the type of workout you’re doing.

If you’re doing a shorter workout, an empty stomach likely won’t affect performance. A quick, 30-minute workout over your lunch break won’t send you into a frenzy. But if your workout is one or even two hours long, working out on an empty stomach can lead to a whole bunch of nasty symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and will likely make you drag your ass throughout your routine. Better to have something to eat prior to a long workout.

No matter what your preference is (and it should be based on your preference), the important takeaway is to make certain to eat after your workout to aid in recovery, stay hydrated and make certain that whatever you do doesn’t interfere with proper blood sugar control. At least no more than exercising usually does. One issue I’ve often had with karate, is that weekday classes have ALWAYS been around the 6 to 6:30 pm timeframe, meaning I might be in the middle of digesting supper when we start up. That’s when you want to ensure that your meal is light and easily digested, otherwise you’ll inevitably face difficulties during class.

In closing, I’ll point out that most sources have stated that even if working out on an empty stomach promotes the burning of fat as fuel, it may not provide the amount of fat reduction a person is looking for. But being in a calorie deficit is the only genuine way to truly get slimmer. Also, there’s no way to focus on just ONE area. For example, you can’t do hundreds of crunches for the purposes of burning belly fat. That’s a myth. Your abs will get strong enough to crack walnuts, but your fat stores will burn equally throughout your body. ☯

Fat Chance, Y’all!

I always get a bit leery when tackling this subject. Not only has this particular topic long been incorrectly associated with Diabetes in its various Types, but given modern society’s penchant for body positivity no matter the shape of the body, it can make navigating the terminology in a diplomatic way a touch difficult. It doesn’t help that we live in a society where even something positive is usually interpreted as offensive. But on to the topic. I am referring to body fat.

From a body positivity standpoint, I agree 100% that a person can be on the heavier side and still be beautiful. And it’s important to understand and encourage that body positivity, so long as it doesn’t jeopardize one’s health. The issue I usually see is when someone who has excessive body fat or is obese, being encouraged to accept their body and it’s size and just kick their feet up and ignore the problem. No. This is incorrect. And dangerous. And now, I’m going to provide some explanations as to why.

First of all, body fat is important to the human body. Fat, in and of itself, is considered to be the stored energy source of the body. In other words, when your primary source of fuel runs out, the body taps into fat stores to keep you running until your next meal. Fat accumulation takes place when the amount of calories you take in exceed your body’s requirements. The body then stores the excess for later consumption, hence weight gain. There can be other causes for weight gain, but that’s the gist.

There’s no such thing as “Big Boned”

But your fat stores are intended to be a happy medium. Too much fat on the body can lead to cardiovascular and circulatory problems, damage the joints and cartilage of the body as well as possible metabolic issues. On the flip side, the human body can’t survive WITHOUT body fat, since it contributes to proper immune system health, energy balance and prevents starvation in instances when you can’t/don’t take in enough energy.

An article posted a few years ago by Freeletics.com states, “Too little body fat can cause deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins, which your body can only absorb with fat. Another important factor is the risk of increased disease like heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, damage to the nervous system as well as the risk of organ shrinkage and an effect on your immune system.” The bottom line is that humans need fat in order to live. But it’s how much fat we allow to be stored on one’s body that is the issue.

It’s important to accept oneself as they are, but you excess weight can be detrimental to one’s life and health. The first step is to do SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Get off the couch and move. Even if you start with a simple walk and continue on from there, anything is better than nothing. Body fat doesn’t affect one’s personal beauty, inside or out. But fat can and will affect one’s health. And that’s where it becomes a problem. Proper diet and regular exercise are the best weapons. But bear in mind that certain medications and existing health conditions can also contribute. Be sure to speak to your doctor or medical practitioner if you feel there may be something hindering your weight-loss efforts. ☯