Keeping fit is not always easy. Commitments, work and family can all play a role in keeping us away from the gym, but as a result your health can really suffer. To combat this, I invite you to start training in martial arts in your own home. It’s a cheap alternative to other fitness methods that is not only easy to fit around your current life, but also features numerous benefits.
Martial arts gets you moving. It can either be slow, smooth and gentle; or rapid, energetic and vigorous. No matter which speed you prefer, over time, you’ll start to see weight loss as any physical activity will burn some calories. The great thing about martial arts is that you can begin at a level your body can handle and work your way up—improving your stamina and ability to drop those pounds.
In our day-to-day lives, we often find ourselves sitting for long periods of time. Not only is this bad for your waistline, but also for your neck and back muscles as well as your joints. It is this sedentary lifestyle that often results in chronic back problems and tension headaches. However, martial arts can be a valuable tool when it comes to combating these issues. It is all about the movement, which highlights the need for stretching, which in turn improves flexibility. Not only does this increase muscle strength, but it helps to loosen them. That combined with the actions involved in training, such as punching and kicking, helps to alleviate problems such as tight muscles overtime. It isn’t an instant fix, but you’ll start to notice the difference soon enough.
Being able to defend yourself improves your outlook on life. It doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to fight the next person who looks at you funny, but it gives you a sense of being able to handle yourself and invites the idea of taking more risks in your life. Risks you might not have considered before. The sense of achievement you get from learning how to complete moves also inspires confidence to try other new things. After all, if you can succeed in learning a delicate skill such as martial arts, just think what else you could achieve.
For some, exercise like running is very much an enjoyable activity. For others, it’s a boring, elongated process that sucks time out of your life. So why subject yourself to this dull activity when you can do something enjoyable? Training in martial arts is exhilarating and changes daily. One day you might be practicing your kicks, the next your movement: with so many different moves to learn, it never gets repetitive. Plus, constantly battering a punching bag is one of life's simpler delights and is great for relieving the stress of a hard day’s work.
One self-taught lesson isn’t going to be enough to solve your neck problems, boost your confidence or lose more than about 100 calories. To see actual success, you need to stay motivated and practice regularly. But, as many of us know, making fitness promises is far easier than keeping them. So, I have a few tips that can help you keep the training sessions going and the health benefits flowing.
First, when starting at home, I would advise you find a DVD or online course. Written tutorials might be cheaper or even free, but there is no substitute for good old fashioned visual lesson. Also, make sure you pick the martial art that is right for you. Some offer big on foot movement, others upper body, so do a bit of research before make your choice. Once you select your style, you will need to get the right equipment as to not hamper your progress. Proper gear like shorts, gloves, ankle wraps and punching bags all allow you to see real improvement, even when learning alone. Other than that, below are a few tidbits that might help you along the way:
• Train with a friend. If you train with one or more people you can influence and motivate each other. On the days you feel like sitting and eating a pizza, they’ll be there to get you into the fighting spirit.
• Take days off. The worst thing you can do is to wear down your fitness levels through sheer exhaustion. Take some rest days in between.
• Set a date. Mark the days you are going to train on your calendar. It means you can plan ahead, and make sure you have time to get into it.
• Start slow. Don’t go in all gung-ho expecting to destroy the punching bag after a few days. Ease into your training, find your rhythm and then run with it.
• Read about it. Reading up on how to perform moves will increase your knowledge of martial arts and, therefore, your ability to understand it and succeed.
George Atkinson, owner and founder of RAW MMA Fightwear, is a martial arts expert with experience in many different fighting styles.