Part 1 – The Body

Let me start off by saying that everything I am about to share comes from the simple things I learned in school. I am not talking about college or even high school. I am talking about my earliest recollections from grade school. Now if you are thinking I am about to waste your time then allow me the benefit of the doubt for the next five minutes and I bet I can prove how simple doing the basics really are.

Think back to your first really good teacher and recall those old standardized tests we used to take as kids. (If you are still in school then this is probably a little easier for you than it was for me.) What did that teacher say the day before testing began? I bet she/he gave you two thirds of the advice I will talk about today. Can you remember? My teacher in 3rd Mrs. Ivy and she told me to get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast so that I would be able to focus on the test. Now think back to that one special coach you had. Mine was Mrs. Cross (also in the third grade). She told me that my body was an amazing machine kind of like a race car and that if I wanted it to perform at high speeds then I needed to take care of it. I had no idea she meant I needed to exercise back then. I do now.

So let me bring it all into perspective for you. If we stick with the race car analogy then good foods are the high test fuel we need to perform. Sleep is the opportunity for our bodies to repair worn out parts. Exercise is the means for us to avoid falling into disrepair like an old classic in the garage for too many years.

Now ask yourself these three key questions:

  1. What foods am I taking in…is it the high test fuel my body needs to function properly or am I feeding it watered down junk fuel that will make my motor sluggish and cause internal failures
  2. What is my plan for adequate sleep and how do I take advantage of proper sleep habits so that my body can recharge, repair itself, and allow me to spend more time on the track than in the shop
  3. What exercise do I need so that I can be agile in the turns and fast down the straight-aways instead of lumbering dangerously along like a car with bad shocks, bald tires, and a cracked windshield

Wow…is that a great visualization or what? Well let’s just assume that you do a pretty decent job overall. The question you should immediately consider is this: What else can I be doing to enhance my personal performance? I will give you some basics, but if you want specifics you will need to give us a little feedback so we can fine tune the right advice for you. Here you go. These are the basics:

Personal Improvement Basics

Diet

Barring food related/eating disorders which must be addressed before getting into the basics, food should be small in portion size and well balanced (3-4 meals per day). Stay away from all you can eat buffets and fast food. If you want a slice of ham or roast beef, be sure to enjoy a little green to go with it like asparagus, broccoli, or beans. Cook at home every chance you get especially since you can be certain what is going into your meal preparation, you can save money, and families that eat together just get along better (yes eat at the dinner table).

Don’t forget that food should be appetizing to look at, smell, and taste. That’s right I said it. Stay away from TV dinners and microwavable meals when you can. Lastly, you should eat until you are satisfied…never stuffed. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself the following question after a meal: Could I walk a few miles or ride a bike right after eating or would I explode? Thanksgiving is probably the one time each year I over indulge and guess what I always say when I do? Yep…I say oh man I ate like a pig. I am so stuffed I can’t move. Listen to your body. It will tell you what is going on if you tune in to it.

Sleep

Sleep varies from person to person. If you have a sleep disorder I highly recommend that you address that first and then apply the basics I am relating. Most people need more sleep in the early years and less sleep in the later years but on average about seven to eight hours works as long as it is quality sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night even if that means you lie down and read or relax for a while before turning off the lights. Your body loves routines and sleep should be a one of them. Do not let wiggly kids, pets, or even a snoring partner keep you awake. Whenever possible reduce those things which interrupt your sleep pattern. I always remind those folks I coach that even drinking water late at night can cause you to wake up to go to the bathroom so minimize all eating and drinking two to three hours before you want to go to bed. Lastly, be sure to wake up at the same time each morning…even on weekends and holidays. I can hear you groaning now but trust me on this. Your body needs sleep but scheduled/routine sleep is the best way to train your body. Oh, I almost forgot to mention caffeine, nicotine, or other stimulants we might partake of. If you can, just quit all of the above. If you can’t quit or don’t want to quit then minimize their use several hours before bedtime.

Exercise

Exercise used to be a sore topic of Americans but more and more we are seeing the benefits of good exercise in healthy living. Now I am a huge advocate of training the body to really perform given my love of the martial arts. I think flexibility, strength, endurance, speed, and mental focus are essential to survival but hey…not everyone wants to be a warrior. The question you can ask is: What works well for me and what do I want out of my body (performance-wise)? Let me just say that ANY exercise is better that no exercise. Let me also say that too much exercise is almost as bad as too little (sometime even worse). Know thyself is a good mantra to start with. If you know that you won’t be able to walk after trying to run two miles (from aches and pains) then try one mile or even half of a mile first. Let your body adapt to the new strains you put on it. If you hate running then can try walking or bicycling. The experts agree that no less than twenty minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise is necessary to reduce medical issues related to inactivity. Once you are able to exercise with only minor aches from time to time then try thirty minutes. Just remember that if it is boring or painful you won’t continue doing it for long so be creative. Try new things. Don’t worry about people who think they have the “perfect” routine. What might be great for them might not work for you at all. Lastly, whenever possible, warm up first, stretch your limbs and torso, and exercise with a friend. These things make you less prone to injury and more likely to continue.

Consider this as you go back to surfing the internet, work or play: What makes elite athletes perform so well? What make brilliant minds perform beyond the norm? What makes healthy people healthy? There are no gimmicks, gadgets, or pills that can compare to the basics and once you have mastered the basics you will be ready for a little advanced instruction. Leave a comment and we will be sure to get back with you or contact us directly for personal planning and coaching.

Curtiss Robinson – Soldier, Mentor, and Martial Artist

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