A checklist to maximize your fitness or martial arts training

The new year is right around the corner and I know I'm thinking about my goals for 2015.  How about you?   Likely, you are also planning on what you are going to do different, better and more of the same in the year to come.

I typically break my goals into three categories:

1. Things that I want to accomplish with my health and fitness (remember they are not the same thing)

2. Things that I want to do with / for my family

3. Goals for my business / professional life

Of course, there maybe some overlap between the three.

Making goals and plans to achieve those goals is actually a pretty simple thing.  There are a multitude of articles and algorithms on how set goals and successfully attain them.  Well, here's another :-)

First, let's just focus on one area: Health and Fitness.

Second, I've found that checklists are extremely useful for staying on track.  Can you make a useful checklist based on the aspects of success that I've laid out below?  (Can you manipulate that checklist to help you in areas outside of health, fitness and martial arts?)

1. Use what you know (and like).

There are so many ways (and fads) to stay fit and healthy out there: running, biking, aerobics, martial arts, kickboxing, kettlebells, etc...  What do you know, what works for you and what do you enjoy doing?  While it makes sense to learn something new, that is another obstacle for you and climbing that obstacle can be a source of stress.  What types of exercise can you fall back on when time is crunched?  Maybe you are going to learn Muay Thai this year, but you also like to run and have had a lot of success with it the past.   There are times that learning a new skill can be frustrating, or you just might not be able to make it to class.   That's OK!  Go for a run.

2.  Have an abundance mindset.

We can define an abundance mindset, by its opposite.  The scarcity mindset.  We often fall into a trap like this:  If I spend an hour at the gym, then that is taking an hour away from family time.   While in terms of minutes and seconds that may be true, that is also the wrong way to look at.   Yes, if you are about to embark on a high-end or competitive endeavor like running a marathon, fighting in a tournament, or competitive body building it will take A LOT of time away from other things.

However, most of us don't need that level of dedication to achieve a sufficient ( and I would argue pretty high) level of health and fitness.  Workouts and training done right can only take 30 minutes a day.  Plus, think about how dedicating 30 minutes to yourself will improve the remaining 23.5 hours of your day.   People who exercise have lower stress levels, higher clarity of mind and sleep better.   The time with your family will be much more enjoyable and productive.

3. Focus on "health" over "fitness"

Health and Fitness are two things that are often conflated.   Remember I mentioned they are not the same?  We delineate the two in the following way.   Your level of "health" is the level at which your organs function.  Whereas, your  level of "fitness" is your ability to perform a given task.   For example, someone we consider very fit maybe able to run several miles; however their knees are trashed from years of doing so.  Is that person healthy?

When we focus on fitness, we tend to dive deep and strive for the next level.  That is good, but now more time will be devoted and more risks will be taken towards said task.  Conversely, focus on health.  Get in to the gym and get out.  Do the few and simple things that you need to improve your overall health.  If you focus on health that the daily result / outcome of your training / workouts doesn't matter.   Doesn't matter?  Yes, if we focus to much on the outcomes working out becomes a stressor instead of a helper.

4. Hang around happy and healthy people.

Everything around us is an input into our system.  That includes the information and entertainment we consume, but also the interactions with the people around us.  If the people around us are a negative influence they will bring us down, no matter how much we think we can fight it / shield ourselves from it.  Are the people around you committed to a healthy lifestyle (and I don't mean just working out a lot)?  Are the people you work out with committed to their health?  Or some other crazy goal?   Are the people you work with, train with, play with pulling you down, or are you all lifting each other up together?

5. Know when to push yourself / challenge yourself.

If every time you workout or go to the gym it's going to be a hellish crucible of a workout one of two things are going to happen.  1. You are going to get hurt.  or 2. you are going to burn out.    Most training / working out should be reasonable; it should be doable over and over again.   Reasonable doesn't necessarily mean easy, but it does mean that you can complete the exercise regimen day in and day out consistently.

There are however times that you can and should test yourself.  Periodically, you want to see what you've got.   This can be trying to lift more weight, run farther or faster, or take your Martial Arts to the next level.  This kind of challenge can be extremely rewarding and motivating.  When you meet and exceed that challenge you will feel great and that feeling and propel you through the year.

6. Value consistency over variety.

When it comes to fitness it is easy to fall into the "what's the next cool thing" mentality.   While we trick ourselves that this will improve or accelerate our abilities, we are really just being distracted by shiny objects.   Fitness fads come and go.  Cool new protocols come and go.  Some work and many are junk.

The key to your success is consistency.  Remember, getting better doesn't require doing something different or new

7. Action

The only way to get it done is by doing it.  Things will come up, there will always be obstacles; however, if you take #1 through 6 into account it will be easier to take action AND that action will be much more effective.

Of course, we are here to help.  At Dragon Gym we have a great team of instructors and a wonderful and supportive like minded community.

Join us!

-Somnath Sikdar, Master Instructor, Dragon Gym Martial Arts & Fitness

Somnath Sikdar
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Master, 6th Dan Black Belt
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