Category Archives: Fitness

The International Language of Karate

New karate students quickly learn how much Japanese influence it has, even in North America. We bow to each other, we talk constantly of respect and self-discipline, and more than anything else, we use Japanese terminology. There’s a zuki this, a dachi that, a geri this. It can be overwhelming, as not only do you have to learn a new movements but also a new language, at least in part.

I stayed at one dojo where I actually practiced the calligraphy aspect, which was both interesting and not interesting at the same time.

This perplexes some people. Why do we do this? Why count in Japanese when no one speaks Japanese in that room, or possible even the entire city? Why go to all the trouble learning the stances and kicks in Japanese when they have English names and we all speak that language? It’s a good question, and beyond ‘tradition,’ I’ve never had a good answer.

Until today, that is. I met a new student, someone who had done martial arts for three years prior. A good student, very keen, but there was one small problem: she didn’t speak English. Continue reading

Outrunning the Voice Inside Your Head

I’ve been following a running schedule for the first time, and so far the results have been fantastic. I’m running faster and with less huffing and puffing. I’m also less sore the day after. Now that I think about it, I haven’t had a single running related ouchie, be it shin splints, stubbed toes or anything. You can’t ask much more from a running program.

Okay, so I haven’t broken the 4min mile, or even the four minute kilometre, but progress is still progress.

I run three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The distance and intensity varies week to week. Today I was supposed to run a nice easy 5k, keeping a comfortable pace the entire time. The 5k is my favourite distance, neither too long nor too short. There was just one small problem.

I woke up and didn’t feel like running. At all. Uh oh, crisis. Continue reading

Running Slower to Run Faster

I’ve always enjoyed running, just never enough to do it consistently. Or with any frequency. Or at all. Maybe I don’t enjoy running, actually. If you give me a random day off and let me do absolutely anything I wanted, running would be very far down the list. You would have to give me about 30 such days before I voluntarily went out to run.

When I say I like running, I mostly mean I like getting to the finish line so I can stop running.

Really, I enjoy the idea of running. Being a good runner is just one of those things that separate the men from the boys, so to speak. We can all do it. Short people can’t jump as high as tall people, and tall people can’t move as quickly with agility as short people. Different bodytypes have different advantages, but when it comes to running, we all have two legs. We can all move them. Anyone can run, and yet so few people get even mediocre at running. Becoming good really puts you in a class of your own. That’s why I run.

For the first time ever, I’ve been approaching my running more systematically this year, and it’s paying off. Over the last three months, I’ve made a big discovery: in order to run faster, you need to run slower. Continue reading

Revelations from Tracking Food

There’s a saying, if you track it, you will improve it. ‘It’ can stand for just about anything: lifting weights, running 5k, doing homework, heck, even how much time you spend cleaning up around the house. If you track these things, you can look at trends, see what’s working and what’s not, and then you can make an informed decision.

Now, the opposite is also true: if you don’t track it, it won’t improve, or will improve very slowly if at all. If you have no numbers or facts, how can you know what’s working? It could be random, it could be dumb luck. I’m a big fan of luck, but I don’t want to rely on it for any of my goals. This includes nutrition. I’ve greatly improved my diet in recent months … but what does that mean? I have no numbers, no facts, no anything to base that off of.

I guess I’m lean, if you’re being charitable, or scrawny if you’re not.

Since the last week of July, I’ve been tracking what I eat, not just the names of food but the individual macros, the proteins, carbs and the like. One week, and the results have been fascinating. Continue reading

Foam Rolling for Pain and Pleasure

Everyone who works out is a masochist, at least in some sense. The common saying, “No pain, no gain,” should put this beyond doubt. Performing fitness activities, whether it’s lifting weights or rowing or running, all have a noticeable level of discomfort to them. Lifting weights leaves you feeling weak and drained. Rowing has you curl up on the floor after, exhausted. Running has you fight cramps the entire time.

There are memes devoted solely to this fact.

Strangely, despite all the discomfort involved, there’s also good feelings, like the rush of endorphins immediately after. When you’re done strength training, you’re exhausted, yes, but you also feel the pump. Your muscles seem to swell inside you, threatening to burst out, and this feels good even as it feels bad. Similarly, runners can get the runner’s high, where suddenly running feels good instead of soul-crushing.

About the only thing that doesn’t hurt in some way is the cool-down stretch … but that’s where foam rolling comes in. Continue reading

Fighting Through Sore Muscles

If you’ve spent any time working out, you’ve likely experienced the following. You have a great workout, whether it’s hitting new personal bests or just acing a normally challenging group of exercises. You’re tired afterwards, of course, but you also feel alive, almost glowing. Nothing can stop you. Today, you conquered your body, tomorrow, the world!

And then you wake up the next day and find out you can’t move. Well, technically you can, but your body is as stiff as a board. Maybe it’s your chest and arms, where holding a cup of coffee is now a challenge. Maybe it’s your back, where you can’t bend over to even tie your shoes without groaning. Or maybe it’s your legs, where walking across the room takes monumental effort.

Now it’s your body’s turn to conquer you.

You had a fantastic workout you got a gift, the gift of DOMS, sore muscles. Think of it like a souvenir, reminding you of all your hard work.

Continue reading

Fitness Post Sickness

There are about 50,000 reasons getting sick sucks, but if you’re at all active, losing endurance is a big one. Seriously, it’s almost unfair. You can train diligently for months, never missing a day, putting in 100% effort … and then you get sick for a week, come back and it’s like starting all over again. Your old warmup now completely annihilates you. Fun.

Recovering from an illness is an art, an art most people don’t know. As a martial arts instructor, I see this all the time, especially with the adults. Someone will get sick for a bit, then come back and feel completely drained. What do they do? They either just stay home and soon quit, or they try to meet their old standards, get exhausted and fail … and then take a minute to catch their breath and try again. They might as well be slamming their head repeatedly against a wall.

About as effective. Maybe more so.

There’s a better way than that. Continue reading

Eating Clean vs Eating Healthy

I sometimes think there is nothing more simple and yet so complex as nutrition. At its core, we all know eating healthy is a good thing; we all know we should do it. We also have a pretty good idea of how to do it. Eat more good food, eat less bad food. Intuitively, we understand this. Potatoes are good, potato chips are bad. Vegetables are good, veggie thins are less good.

This fight isn’t even close.

We all know this, and if nutrition were that simple we’d all be in great shape with amazing, healthy, vibrant bodies. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Searching for ‘diet’ on Google gives approximately eighty-trillion different results. Some diets have names, like the paleo diet, and then there are variations and sub-variations of that diet: paleo with rice, pseudo-paleo, half-paleo, vegan-paleo, dinosaur-paleo, etc etc. There is extensive literature here, and that’s just one type of diet. The rabbit hole goes down seemingly forever. Continue reading

Eating to Live

Some things in life you want to savour, and others you just want to get out of the way. No one wants a trip to the dentist to last a minute longer than necessary, whereas a back rub could last forever and no one would complain. If anything, no massage lasts long enough. Hmm, I just realized I haven’t had a massage in a while…

Note to self: get a massage.

Anyway, some things are worth slowing down for. I think we all understand this, but sometimes we have trouble living in. Take food. A well-prepared meal is delicious and nutritious, and you want to savour the flavour… and yet it’s so delicious that you want to eat it as fast as possible. These two things don’t mix very well, and most people tend to either over-eat or eat too quickly, getting bloated after.

I have the exact opposite problem: I under-eat and do it very slowly. Continue reading

My Ultimate Fitness End Goal

I wrote the other day about my love-affair with fitness. Workout out, stretching, gaining strength, I love all of it. Most people don’t. Most people just want the final product. If there were a way to six-pack abs without stepping foot in a gym, most people jump on it. Take a pill and have a sculpted body? Yes please, for most people at least. Well, in all honesty I’d probably do that too, but I’d still do my workouts after.

Yeah, I’m tempted to go for this …

I’m a crazy nut that enjoys the workout as a workout, not just for the results they bring. The challenge of doing 100 pushups or 100 burpees or a 5k run in 20min seems enjoyable in itself. I embrace that challenge, even if it sucks at times. Overcoming these challenges is what makes fitness in general so interesting, I think. You can always set new challenges. You can always raise the bar.

For myself, I’ve set that bar pretty high. Continue reading