Each week at my martial art studio we have a physical focus and a mental focus. This week’s lessons happened to be the same thing; flexibility…
Being flexible in all areas of our lives is important. Physically it will allow us to move with more ease, and lessen our chances of injury. In martial arts, especially arts like Tae Kwon Do that focus on kicking, it is important to stretch regularly to improve and maintain flexible hips and legs.
With that said we all need to spend more time warming up before workouts and having a good cool down stretch post work out. I know as a runner (sloggers need to stretch) I’m often pressed for time before and after my run and don’t always stretch the way I should. However this particular post has more to do with the mental aspect of flexibility. If you have a question about stretching, feel free to ask and I will direct you to resources.
On to the point; being more flexible in a me first have it now society is becoming more and more difficult — No one wants to bend or give way to someone else or different idea. Me, Mine, Me… Is today’s mantra — My Way used to be a song by Sinatra it is now an anthem for today’s society.
So when things or people push don’t resist, let it flow past you, like water… Bruce Lee said,”Be like water my friend.” He was right. Not resisting doesn’t make us weak, it keeps us sane. Water is very powerful, check out the Grand Canyon. Also know that everyone is not following the same agenda — We’re all in the middle of something. So the next time your appointment has been rescheduled or your flight has been delayed. Take a breath and do some light stretching and take time to be more flexible, you’ll be happier and healthier for it…
I’m not talking about wine or cheese, but me and my physical health and fitness.
Some people believe when you reach a certain age that it’s time to sit back and recall how good you once were. It is my belief and my truth that hitting the age of sixty inspired me to get better than before. Not that I was ever bad, by most standards I was in good health and very active, albeit thirteen pounds heavier with a resting pulse of about 60. Fast forward a year and four months and I’m under 125lbs, with a resting pulse of 45. I couldn’t run for a full mile without taking a walk break I now run seven to eight without a walk break. I have less joint, and back pain, more stamina and for the first time in 10 years I ran a nine minute mile!
I’m writing this not to brag (but feeling pretty badass right now) but to inspire and show people it is never to late to get healthier by getting fitter.
This past weekend we held a belt exam at my martial arts school, and this week I’m meeting with the students to review their exams. I’m always excited and happy to hear their before and now accounts of martial arts training. Many adult students have never trained seriously in anything prior to starting martial arts and are often looking to get into shape. So after experiencing just a few months of consistent and dedicated physical training these students are telling me they have more stamina with their work, less aches and pains. Most importantly they are now motivated to keep improving not just their martial art skill but their health.
You see we can get better, we just need compelling reasons to do so… I can’t think of any better reasons than to be healthier and happier, can you? Then what are you waiting for get off your butt, put your phone down, and lace up your walking or running shoes and hit the pavement!
I’ve just got another pair of Brooks running shoes, these are called Anthem – I didn’t name them, just bought them. Allow me a moment of shoe GEEKness… These shoes like the Pure Flows I normally wear are low drop trainers. Which mean they’re almost flat, less heel if you will. This type of shoe gives a more natural ride and allows me a better mid strike with my form — More of a connected feel.
Enough Geek speak… Brooks has the word connect written on the inner sole and no truer words have been written — Not so much for the science of the shoe but running in general. The moment I lace up my running shoes and run out the door, I feel more connected to the earth and the world around me.
In Oriental medicine and the practice of Qui Gong in the center of your forefoot is the meridian point kidney one. A rooting point, where you ground and center yourself, absorb chi from the earth.
In the practice of martial arts, there is a mind body connection, just like there is in running. However you need to be mindfully aware of it. When we just go through the motions just for the exercise we lose so much of the true benefits. I guess this is why many people who take up running don’t enjoy it, they’ve never made the Sole to Soul Connect.
I know when I run I’m more in tuned to the world around me, there are baby rabbits, woodchucks, Osprey with a fish in their talons, tiny chipmunks trying to trip me, glorious skies, and too many floral scents to name. More importantly being among all this gives me a truer sense of my place in the world. My ego and self importance gets a comeuppance and I know that I’m connected to everything on this planet and no one being is more important than the next.
These sort of discoveries are why I run, I don’t know if I would be physically better or worse if I didn’t run. I do know I’d be mentally less capable of managing stress and less spiritually evolved.
I’ll close with a quote that speaks to connecting to the world; “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” W.B. Yeatts
One of the many things I’ve learned from running is pacing. Many beginners tend to start off too quickly whether it is a long training run or a local road race. The object is to find your pace so that you can run efficiently throughout the race and finish with a kick.
Ironically I’m slow so my pacing is sloth, turtle, tortoise or in other words stop, walk, slog. All kidding aside, I do mind and record my pace more to understand what my body is doing rather than to win a race or obtain a PR.
Being a martial artist and a former nurse and a student of human nature I love learning about the mind-body connection and its effects on our daily lives. For instance yesterday I was feeling less than my usual self, I had a scratchy throat and general malaise – So I skipped my mid-week training run and opted for rest. I paced myself.
Even a few years ago that wouldn’t have happened, I would’ve ignored the signals my body was giving me and I would have gutted out the run. Probably feeling aggravated because nothing felt right and could have injured myself or exacerbated my mild cold symptoms to a full-blown bronchitis or pneumonia (it’s happened in the past).
Not running wasn’t the only way I paced myself, I also got extra rest and rescheduled a few tasks I had in my calendar. I’ve also learned to say no (not an easy task for me). Putting my health first has me saying no for the moment and rescheduling or if the task is too large absolutely no. A student of mine phrased it well when he told me, “It is easier to change a no to a yes, than a yes to a no.” He is right, how often do we agree to do something as a favor and it becomes a huge burden on your mental and physical health? By putting you first, pacing your self – You’ll make it to the end, of a race, a run and more importantly a healthy life…
During my training run today I was pondering a few of the things I’ve learned in life – So far…
When am I at my best? I thought about it and I came up with when I check off these three squares everyday.
Number one, feed my soul; When I wake up I say thank you, to my higher power for I have another day. Then I read something spiritual anything from the Tao, the bible, or even an inspiring blog post. Then I meditate for at least five minutes but usually ten to thirty minutes. In order to do this I’m in bed by 10pm and awake at 5:30am.
With my spirit fed now it’s onto number two and feed my body; This isn’t just about eating healthy — Which I do. It’s about working my body. At sixty-one I typically work out seven days a week. I run three, weight train two, yoga two or three and martial arts three to four. As you can see many days there are double workouts. Maintaining a healthy body requires work. The body is meant to be active, training keeps my cardio vascular conditioning my resting pulse is 54, blood pressure 108/58. Maintaining flexibility and weight training provide me with balance and core strength, which hopefully keep me from having falls and injuries in my dotage.
Number three feed my mind; I have a number of older friends and family members that inspire me every day and the one thing they have in common is they feed their minds. Whether it’s my ninety something neighbor who reads the newspaper and does crossword and jigsaw puzzles, my mom who paints, bakes, and plays cards with her eighty something sister or there’s John (my stepdad) who at nearly eighty-nine maintains massive flower and vegetable gardens, changes the oil on his cars, prunes trees, paints houses and fixes just about anything. They all use their minds to work out problems. I enjoy learning, either a new martial art technique, something in business, a teaching tip or just general information I’m always seeking new interests. I learn something new everyday.
There you have it my happiness and my growth as an individual requires I check those three squares everyday…
This is a word that’s been in the forefront of my thoughts for a while now… Why does it seem more difficult for people to commit more now than ever?
Commitment is an issue we deal with every day in almost every aspect of our lives. Relationships are built upon it, showing up for work, school, the gym a run, paying your mortgage… Endless!
Maybe it’s the fact that we have too many commitments — We have so many more choices now than we ever did and with choice comes commitment. Being overcommitted is a sure way to lose focus on some of our bigger ones. For example how many marriages or relationships are taken for granted while attending to the work, social, and financial commitments. How many of us quit on ourselves? Diets ended because it was easier to grab fast food on the way to pick up a child from soccer practice or the dog from the groomer? Who’s joined a gym in January and hasn’t been there since February because “life” just got too hectic? Does your day planner or google calendar look more complicated than the plans for D Day?
Believe me I don’t have the magical cure and some of what I’ve written I can’t totally relate to, being single and sixty-one I have different complications — Such as elderly parents, and a business to run. We all have our “busy” but what I’ve come to realize the “hard” way is by avoiding the number one commitment “OURSELVES” we’re never going to be any good at keeping the others.
Believe me if you are sick of being unhappy or unfulfilled and you are just going through the motions of the other commitments. Everyone knows it sometime before you realize it. So before you start looking to change where you live, your hair style enhance your mood with food, drugs or alcohol. Sit quietly for a minute and think about what is it you need? What are you passionate about? What drives you?
For me I love people, I enjoy teaching and helping people but it starts with me… My routine for keeping me at my best goes like this; I commit to daily meditation and a few lines of spiritual reading, routine exercise and I block off Sunday mornings as nonnegotiable time I run for at least one hour. There is also my martial art training. Again my situation is different, but can’t you get up 10minutes earlier tomorrow to sit quietly or however you’d like to feed your spirit?
Believe me commitments are always going to be there, so why not embrace the most important one your mental, physical and spiritual health! Because if you don’t you’ll never be able to commit fully to anything or anyone else…
Two weeks ago I was rear ended in bumper to bumper traffic, the accident woke me up to a new view.
We’ve all have been there (most of us) minding our own business and then “BAM” out of nowhere you’re now here… with a smashed in back bumper, trunk and a sore neck and back. So between holding back the angry frustrated tears and trying to compose yourself to do the right thingson the insurance check list. You think what now?
You go through the bureaucratic hoops set up by your insurence and their insurance companies — You humble yourself to family and friends for rides once your car goes in for repair. Then maybe if you’re lucky like me you get to drive your old car, your best old car!
I borrowed my stepdad’s 92 Toyota Passeao which was mine until I sold it to him in 2000. It is a tiny five speed with no bells or whistles (no air conditioning, old radio, and no power anything). However it had one accessory my current car didn’t have PEACE!
No hands free to answer my phone, no radio flashing the song tital and artist, no compass directions or air tempeture to keep me from what I was supposed to be focusing on DRIVING! Oh and what fun this car is to drive!
I’ve since got my car back, but the basic driving reminded me of all the tings I enjoy most, running, martial arts, cycling and kayaking all of which require nothing but my power, my single focus on the task at hand simple uncomplicated just like my old 92 Passeao…