I was at the gym doing my thing when a man came up to me and asked, “How did you do that?”
“How do I do what?” I responded.
He replied, “Stay in such good shape at your… how old are you anyway?”
I believe that what he was trying to say is that he thought I was in pretty good shape for an old guy. He meant it as a compliment. And that’s how I took it. I didn’t have a clear answer for him at the time, but it got me thinking.
Although I’m not old by most people’s standards (ask my dad, he’s in his 90’s) my body definitely operates a little bit differently than it did thirty years ago. But it’s not just my age that makes the difference; it is the time I’ve put in on the mat.
Now back to the guy in the gym… here is what I would have liked to tell him.
There are several things that I find extremely valuable for me in maintaining the best martial arts, health and fitness level possible:
Consistency. I rarely, if ever, miss a day of training. I could get away with it when I was younger, but now a missed workout catches up with me quickly.
Warm up completely before adding intensity. This didn’t seem as necessary when I was young but when I neglect me warm-up now, I pay for it later.
The 80% Rule. I never work out as long as I used to. While I try to work out hard, I always leave the gym or the mat with at least twenty percent of my resources intact. I like to finish my training session feeling like I could’ve done a little bit more. This is a good thing, it keeps me from over-training. Nearly every injury I have had in the last few years of training has been a result of training past my 80% threshold. Fatigue greatly increases risk.
Put health and fitness before your sport. Don’t get me wrong---I love Martial Arts now as much as I ever have. It’s just that I want to be able to continue to practice it when I’m really old. And I know that if I train too hard and don’t keep health and fitness in mind, an injury is more likely to happen. By keeping health and fitness my top priority, my Martial Arts skills will only get better with time.
Most importantly, I take a few moments at the close of each workout to be consciously aware of just how good exercising feels. Anchoring that good feeling helps me get back into the gym and on the mat on a regular basis. So remember, train smart and put your health and fitness first. If you do, then you’ll be able to participate in your sport at the right levels for a long time to come.
This post is an excerpt from Dave Kovar's book, Brief Moments of Clarity, which you can buy from Amazon here.