Thursday, October 31, 2013

Everything In Moderation? Or just some things..

Often when we say those words "everything in moderation" we are justifying indulging in something that we know we shouldn't. Ok not always - let's say sometimes to be safe.

The first things to come to mind are certain foods-  junk foods. There is a huge list. Then there are other vices like alcohol, cigarettes, and for some - illicit drugs. Hopefully anyone reading this will agree that "a moderate amount of meth" isn't acceptable ever. lol Most doctors will say that 2 or 3 alcoholic beverages a day is acceptable for the general population of adults. Barring of course those with health conditions or medication that would make it contraindicative to consume alcohol. 

Then there are those things that everyone agrees are good for us. Healthy food, water, exercise, love, karate, work, friends, etc.  (did I mention karate?) Can an excess of any of these things be bad for you? (no argument about work here)

As a former Canada Post letter-carrier I constantly heard comments from people about how great my job must be- all the wonderful exercise that I got walking everyday. I still laugh at something one fellow said  - a guy who worked at a computer terminal. He said " I'd love to have your job, just walking around to offices with mail saying - here you you go" He doesn't realize how long and how far some carriers walk everyday- and that's with carrying weight. But from his perspective, stuck at a desk all day, it looked pretty attractive. The truth is, all that walking day after day for over 22 years can take a toll on one's feet and knees. Especially for someone like myself who spends a lot of time in bare feet doing karate. My wife Joanne is still a letter-carrier with 26 years of service and she- on the other hand -doesn't suffer from foot pain...with Jo it's her hips. The smart thing to do in this situation - where repetitive stress can cause chronic pain and injuries - is to start on an exercise program to combat the effect of that repetitive motion. This is what Jo and I practice.
Of course I went one step further and left the post office at the end of July in favour of operating my karate dojo full time and embarking on a personal training business.  Within just a few weeks I noticed an improvement in how I felt in the feet and knees and I proceeded to increase the weight in my squats and other leg exercises. So now I am in pain again! I have increased the attention that I'm giving to my quadriceps (thighs) and as a result, I allowed my hamstrings to suffer. This created an imbalance that I am addressing with varying exercises and increasing flexibility training.
I was so happy with the new-found freedom of movement in my knees that I overdid things. It was too much of a good thing. 

I think that the message here is that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. It's mentally healthy to treat ourselves occasionally and give ourselves a break from being disciplined in some small way. Have a few potato chips once in a while- just don't eat the whole bag and run out to buy another. Similarly if we become too obsessed with our goals, fitness or career - wise, we can create other types of imbalance with our mental health, or with family and friends. It's important to be tuned in to the warning signs whether it's pain somewhere in your body, your clothes are getting too tight,or there is a strained relationship with someone close to you. Don't ignore the signs- make adjustments.

And remember to go to karate class



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Own Your Health

Good Morning

Today's blog is focused not on specific exercises - but on busy lifestyles and making the time in our schedules to fit an exercise program into our day.

Recently there was a photo posted by a woman named Maria Kang captioned "What's Your Excuse?"

Unfortunately many working mothers took exception to the photo and accused Maria of "fat-shaming" and showing off. I'm not one of those that is bashing Maria for her post or for being proud of her own accomplishment. My wife Joanne raised four children (three of them triplets) and juggled work, home-making, driving to sports activities and everything else that comes up during the day. She knows as well as anyone that a work-out doesn't hold much appeal when one falls asleep in utter exhaustion before your head barely hits the pillow.
And yes before you jump on me- I helped too!
It wasn't until the kids were close to twelve years of age that Jo joined a gym and started an exercise program. I'm sure if she could go back in time she would have done it sooner because of all the benefits she started to realize through working out. Looking great is only one result in choosing a healthier lifestyle. The more important long-term benefits are things like reduced stress, lower blood pressure, increased metabolism, improvements in bone-density, reduced pain in joints, better posture due to decreased back pain, and the list goes on.


So back to the photo of Maria. Her image outraged people because of the suggestion that a woman had to look like that in order be happy, healthy and fit. Whether she intended that or not- that's how many took it. This is not a new perception of course. The media and corporations have been doing it for years to sell products. They use models - male and female -  to suggest what the ideal body-type is and that if we use a particular product we have a better chance of assimilating. Perhaps a high percentage of people do start an exercise program to look better, but whatever the motivation is- if done properly-  the other benefits will follow. The trouble with the images models or competitive body-builders portray is that it's not usually a realistic goal for most "average" people. There is that all or nothing mentality. There is no point in striving to look a certain way if one is just going to fail (again) That's where people are mistaken - you don't need to have dramatic changes in your body composition just to improve your overall health and increase your chances of longevity.

Get Started

"I don't have the time" is likely the most common reason that people use. While there may be validity to that, there are still plenty of benefits to allotting 20 minutes a day for exercise. The other major issue is diet. When one is constantly running on a tight schedule, it's easy to get into the habit of grabbing fast or processed foods. High carbs, fats, sodium and processed sugar are the enemy, and quickly add pounds on the scale and do nasty things to the internal mechanisms of your body. There are many fitness and dietary experts available to help design a program. There are endless tutorial online workouts and websites. Joanne got started with for example. You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on gym memberships and personal trainers every single week. Once you establish goals and learn a few exercises you can go on your own. And you seriously only need 20 -30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week. If you think that you can't afford the time think again and be totally honest with yourself. How much time is spent on the computer or watching television? How long is a typical hockey or football game televised? Your health is so important so stop procrastinating. 

What to do then?

Not everyone can commit to attending a karate dojo 3 times a week (but I strongly recommend it ;-) ) It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Start to do something. There are some evenings where I don't particularly feel like doing "a whole workout" so I set a smaller goal for myself for that time. I will decide for example to choose 4 different exercises and perform a total of just 50 repetitions of each one. For example: push-ups, leg-raises, body-weight squats and inverted rows. Once I get into it and feeling good I will often end up doing more and before I know it a half hour has gone by and I feel 100% better- physically and mentally. 

The best way to start is moderately. Jumping into something that is too intense will likely just result in burn-out and even worse - an injury. You can enrol in a yoga program or a boot camp for beginners. Many community programs are available through schools or the city recreation department. You could join London Shido-kan Karate. :-)

Again if you're not sure how to get started or what to do- call someone who can help you. You could even call me.

Don't wait

The longer you put it off- the harder it gets. David Patchell Evans- the CEO and founder of Goodlife Fitness Centres has a great line that goes something like this. "Exercising is easy -living life unfit is hard" I apologize if that's not the exact wording but the message is clear. As well, the older we get, the longer it takes to heal. Don't let those minor aches and pains become chronic and debilitating for life. I see so many people in their  40's and even their late 30's who have just given up and it's sad to see. 

Have a great day and  be good to yourself - you're worth it!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Good Morning

No matter who we are or what we do -we often need inspiration to keep our momentum going. Some poor souls need it just to get up in the morning while others recharge daily to earn their next fortune. I suspect that most of the folks I associate with fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

This morning I found a website listing top inspirational quotes. Some are cheesy and cliche but many are powerful. Actually some of the best ones are just a few words.

Here is the link Inspiring Quotes.

 I hope that you're having a great day- but if you're struggling maybe you'll find something here to get a jump-start



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stop Stressing...enjoy!

Good Morning

What I am referring to in the title of this post is our tendency as individuals, and as a society, to be goal-driven to the point that we can become so focused and driven in our activities, that we forget to enjoy the process of "getting there"- or we forget why we even started a particular activity in the first place.

Karate Belts

Obviously my first point of reference would be in karate training, but is certainly not limited to one particular martial art, sport or activity. Anyone who endeavours to learn a martial art, may do so for a number of reasons - to get in shape, learn self-defence, or even to appreciate the art. The potential for set-backs starts when one compares themself to others and begins focusing on one's shortcomings rather than feeling positive about learning new things and experiencing positive, measurable results (even small ones). In karate training-as in many martial arts- it's the pursuit of that next belt or black belt level that can cloud one's perspective- especially when someone who started at the same time as you seems to be progressing faster. ie getting a belt before you. When a student obsesses about belt testing, he or she may try to rush through material quickly to try to meet requirements and as a result lose focus on proper execution of technique -which is a more important  point of practising in the first place. It's self-defeating in the long run.

Gauging Progress

There are so many factors that can govern so-called progress including attendance in class, natural athletic ability, learning disabilities, short-term memory, pre-existing injuries, and of course attitude. With children it's the same as adults. There are kids that take to karate or other sports like a fish to water- while others struggle to assimilate. As an instructor, although it's rewarding and enjoyable to teach a "phenom", we can't be so focused on them that we forsake the rest of the class. The sharp kids make us look good as instructors, but we need to take responsibility for each member's progress. As an instructor I want to hear how a child may have improved in areas such as being more confident among his or her peers, or an improvement in concentrating in school, or a general improvement in over-all health and physical coordination. This is why I don't practice and teach a competition oriented style of karate - a child does not need to win a medal in a tournament to grow, and by avoiding these situations as much as possible, we avoid the confusion for  those young people who never make the podium.
I want to be clear here- I am not criticizing competition and those who enjoy it. I simply prefer to be more inclusive in my focus.

Intrinsic Value

So whether one is learning to play a musical instrument, practice yoga or tai-chi, to dance or learn a martial art -it's my belief that we need to stop and appreciate the activity for what it is- something that can bring joy to our lives and add value to our leisure time. Our activities should be a mental vacation from those daily stress triggers that we deal with like work, finances and family responsibilities. From time to time, remind yourself why you started the activity in the first place,and try to come back to that initial excitement of just doing something for yourself that you enjoy. Something that makes your life better.

Have a fantastic weekend!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Safe Ab Crunch

Here is a link that was shared by Elliott Hulse today and I thought I would pass it along. It's a beneficial abdominal exercise for those people that suffer from lower back pain or injury.

If you are someone who has experienced an injury or low back discomfort, you should consult with a physician or qualified physiotherapist before attempting this or any other exercise that is new to you or that you're unfamiliar with.

Here is the link to the exercise

Safe Abdominal Crunch

Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids

Good Evening

I hope that everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving long weekend. I stumbled  onto this article on the benefits of martial arts for children and thought that- although fairly general- it was worth reading. The author brought up some good points regarding choosing the right school and style for you and/or your child.

Check back for more posts this week


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Another Great Exercise

Good Morning

Today's body weight exercise- the inverted row- is an alternative to the seated row, which requires some kind of machine or pulley system to perform- and also the bent-over row which is a traditional barbell lift used to develop the large back muscles called the latissimus dorsi (lats). The seated row and bent-over row are demonstrated all over the internet so I won't spend any time describing them here.

The inverted row is an exercise that develops many muscles including lats, rhomboids, trapezius, biceps, rear deltoid, and the rotator cuff muscles. There is also focus on the core abdominal and lower lumbar areas used to stabilize the upper body during repetitions.

The exercise is performed by laying under a supported bar and doing a "pull up". The bar can be raised or lowered to adjust for the angle that the body is held in during the repetition - thus changing the emphasis on certain muscle groups accordingly. Be sure to retract (squeeze together) the shoulder blades to engage the back muscles prior to pulling yourself upward with your arms.
It's important to transfer the load properly by using your muscles in the correct sequence. This is true for any exercise.

Please view the links below to view two versions on the inverted row and give them a try. If you don't have the equipment available you just may need to join our dojo London Shido-kan Karate


*if you any doubts about your ability to perform this or any other exercise- or if you have sustained any type of injury- particularly in the back or neck region- contact your physician or qualified physio-therapist to receive medical clearance before attempting this exercise.