Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Feet_on_scaleWeight plays a huge role in Krav Maga (no pun intended). Who am I to say, you ask? Well, let’s just say that I speak from experience. As you may know, I started Krav Maga training about two and a half years ago pretty darn obese, maybe even ‘morbidly’ obese. I was carrying all that extra weight with me every class, for every push-up, every burpee, every lunge, every squat. And man was it exhausting!

To date, I have lost 82 of those pounds and am shooting for about 18 more before I can consider myself ‘done’ (incidentally, you can see below for an up-to-the-minute view of my progress). As the weight has come off, the change was noticeable. Now I’m not talking about appearance-noticeable, though that certainly was there, I mean noticeable from a physical performance standpoint. The push-ups and squats were getting progressively easier because I was lifting that much less weight with each rep. The running and sprints, I found the same thing. I even stopped wearing my knee brace since I was no longer pounding my knees into submission and getting frequent jumper’s knee. I found it extraordinary how much easier it was not to have to lug all that fat around with me. I was less winded and was amazed at the feeling I got exercising in this new body. (more…)

I frequent /r/kravmaga on Reddit. It seems that a really common question is “I just joined a school. What should I expect? (somewhere around “Where can I find a school in ______?”). I was wondering the same thing, as you can see from one of my earlier posts.

It’s a very scary time. It’s exciting but also very nerve-racking. Depending on your appetite for new things and being pushed outside your comfort zone (not to mention your current fitness level) you can be on the calm side of the spectrum or on the “I think I’m having a heart attack” side. I think I was probably somewhere in the middle.

To help you address this challenging time I have put together a guide to tackle the most common questions people have. It’s a 54-page guide called the KMJ Guide to Starting Out in Krav Maga. It contains 41 tips on what to expect and how you can make your transition into Krav Maga as smooth, stress-free, and comfortable as possible!

Two useful bonuses include a Cheat Sheet of tips for easy reference and email access to the author for any additional follow-up questions the student may have after reading the guide.

The price is very reasonable — think of it as spotting me a cup of coffee at your favorite local coffee shop (that one with the overstuffed sofas that plays that soft jazz) in exchange for a friendly and informative chat about Krav Maga.

In this Guide you will have many (I hope most!) of your burning questions answered — and the best part?  There’s no need to take a notebook to the coffee shop to jot down notes! It’s all there for you, neatly typed out and organized clearly for your reference!  I’ve put a lot of thought into this material and have sweated over the contents, the structure, and the very nominal cost. It’s all there and I’m proud of the results.

Happy training!

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Water, Water, Everywhere

Posted: September 30, 2011 in Exercise, Injury

This post isn’t so much about Krav Maga so much as how I survive classes without turning into a withered raisin. First, let me give you a little back story. Throughout my life I have been plagued with occasional migraines. These are the real deal — sensitivity to light, ripping headache that feels like my head’s going to explode, waves of nausea, dizzyness…. No fun.  Had them since I was a kid and they usually showed themselves after hard physical exertion in the heat. Since I hydrated well prior to working out I had to attribute these to something else. Was it the heat or some kind of migraine triggered by exertion? I tried to solve the mystery but never really came up with a solid reason.

When I started training back in June I continued my water saturation routines, making sure to hydrate obscenely prior, during, and after the class.  I would routinely drink 1.5 liters of water (or more) prior to working out, another .5 liter during the workout, then about 1 – 1.5 liters more afterwards. When I first started I was nervous that every class would end with me staggering out to the car in agony, drenched in sweat, blood gushing from my ears from the migraine pressure, and seeking a cool dark room to wait it out with an ice pack dripping from my forehead.

Nothing of the sort happened.

It dawned on me that perhaps, all these years — all my LIFE — I had been hydrating but just not enough!  Could it have been this simple all along? Was I that much of an idiot? Could I really have been that dense?!

Turns out, yes to all of the above.

I had been hydrating in the past, sure, but just not enough. When I started Krav Maga, I wanted to be sure that the intense workout wouldn’t turn me to dust so I went what I thought was overboard with the water, going way beyond what my body could reasonably want. I mean, really, does anyone need 3 liters of water? I guess now that I’ve had time to really work through this I would have to say that at least I need it.

I take it very seriously now. I never skimp and I never cram.  I always start hydrating a full 2 hours before class.  That way the water has enough time to get into my body. Otherwise I’d get stomach cramps and pee it away before I even started. I had one of those 750 ml Nalgene water bottles that I fill up and carry around with me.  My goal is to drink steadily, but again not too quickly, for those 2 hours and conquer 2 bottles — or even 3, if possible. I know I’m getting close when — pardon my crudeness — I am peeing every 15 – 20 mins. and I’m “running” completely colorless (or lemonade tint) vs. apple juice tint. If I were to work out with apple juice colored pee I can guarantee you I would not be having a great day afterwards. Following the workout I make sure to drink another 750 ml or more and add in juice and/or recovery drinks if I feel like it. I also try to drink as much as I can during the workout, though we don’t usually have too many opportunities.

Your mileage may vary, of course. I am heavyset and sweat easily so I can certainly see how my fluid intake needs are more severe than, say, a runway super-model. Physiologically I think my body is just more water needy than others. I also should drink more during the day anyhow — impending workout or not. You might need far less than me or not have to have a hydration ritual along the lines of what I described. If so, great, but I personally would still suggest that you think about keeping hydration on your mind and make an effort to up your intake if possible. Even if you aren’t feeling any ill effects your body could probably benefit nonetheless, whether you’re going to be working out or not.

In addition to providing classes in Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Jui Jitsu, the school where I train also offers MMA as well.  In fact, there’s a whole other part of the building that is being built out — full-sized ring and all — to accommodate MMA matches.  Kinda cool. Upon hearing of this I, like many other students at school, pictured myself in the ring clobbering and getting clobbered like some Bas Rutten wannabe.  What must that be like? Sounds exciting and, of course dangerous and risky.  Is that something for me?

Former boxer Frank Corti at 71 who beat the snot out of a hoodlum who pulled a knife on him. Image courtesy of Sports Rubbish

This past week, several weeks after first learning about the soon-to-exist MMA ring I was talking with a newer male student to the school.  Big beefy looking character with a strong build and a granite chin. In talking about the school and his experience it came up that he used to fight MMA.  Naturally this led to the school’s plan to build the MMA ring and whether that was something he was considering pursuing.  Though we didn’t compare birth certificates I’d say he was approximately my age. This fact became relevant when he claimed that he wasn’t stepping into any ring at his age and that those days were behind him.

This got me thinking. How old is too old to get in a ring?  Not just MMA but also BJJ competition, boxing, Muay Thai matches — whatever. When are you past your prime and simply asking for a debilitating injury by stepping between the ropes into the ring?

Martial arts has a long history of old masters.  We’ve seen this not only in the movies and history books but also in real-life. You’ve no doubt been to demos and seen wizened old practitioners beat younger students to a pulp. I recall being in a demo in Boston as a teen and seeing an Aikido expert, probably in his 70’s, toss his young strong students around like hay-stuffed scarecrows.  Many lead instructors and grandmasters are also pushing the limit, many in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s.  If they can do it in the dojo, is it reasonable to expect similar results in the squared circle?

Having thought about this I would have to admit, from my own perspective, that it’s not altogether likely that the MMA ring is any place for most people over, say, 25 or 30.  Sure there are people who can take it further than that.  Hell, the aforementioned Bas Rutten made a great comeback at 41, didn’t he?

But these, I’m sure you’d admit, are the exceptions to the rule.  The born fighters who are world class athletes and are born for this kind of thing. For normal joes like me — and probably you — I think jumping into the ring will be tempting fate. I think it’s best to focus on the training at hand and train as hard as possible. It’s within this environment that people regardless of age can succeed if they stick with it. Yes, it can be brutal and punishing in its own right. You can still take on some heavy damage and injury but this probably pales in comparison to the kinds of injuries one could sustain in an MMA match going toe to toe with someone half your age.

Since our school is closed this week due to Summer break a few students and I met up at the local YMCA which fortunately has loads of pads in one of the aerobics rooms.  They evidently do some kickboxing classes now and then so were equipped with tombstones, focus pads, and punching bags. We knew we weren’t anywhere near qualified to run our own class but it was still a great opportunity for us to work on several techniques we felt needed some work.

The presence of the instructors was sorely missed to be sure, but what I found useful about this kind of workout was the opportunity to slow it down and discuss the techniques with fellow students.  I came to find out that some of the same issues I was having were also common with them.  This was reassuring in a way but it also put some focus on that area as well and let us all know that some more attention to that area was warranted.  It was a good chance to really think about what it was that we were learning and take it at our own pace for a change.  I wouldn’t alter a thing about the intensity that we usually train with but as a rare change of pace outside the dojo this was really an interesting workout.

I can’t wait to get back.  I have some questions to bring back to training next week that, until last night, I didn’t even know I had.  Thanks to the guys for the great workout and some new perspectives on this great martial arts form.

Well, here we are three weeks into class training.  I am really enjoying the experience. Although it hasn’t really been that long at all I am starting to feel some positive results of these intense training sessions.   A little tightening here, a little more definition there…. Still such a long way to go, to be sure, but I see enough progress in this short time to give me some satisfaction and pride in my efforts.

I knew what I was in for when I signed up and I am ecstatic with the training I am involved in.  One thing I am coming to realize however, and to be honest this was something that occurred to me after the first few classes, when you take martial arts pain is your friend.  Or, if not friend, your near constant companion at least.  I’m not talking debilitating pain that you can’t keep your mind off of like a recent major surgery but the kind of pain that flares up when you get out of a chair, walk a flight of stairs, pick up your child, or reach for the Advil on the high shelf of the bathroom medicine cabinet.

Traditionally I have always liked post-workout pain as long as it’s within reason. I like waking up the day after a heavy lifting workout — squats, say — and feeling the reassuring ache deep in my thigh muscles that tells me I pushed my limits and justified my trip to the gym.

With all these new aches and pains in my life, I realized that going forward I’d like to post some exercise routines I’m performing in my off-days from Krav Maga in the hopes that some of it might be of use to you.  My exercise philosophy for these routines will be to target areas and specific muscles that cry out to me the most the next day after a workout. Provided that we’re talking about pain that resulted from some routine, common Krav Maga moves and not about a muscle pain that came about by doing something stupid, the theory is that if these muscles hurt so much, they must be in pitiful shape and need attention.  Doing the targeted exercises on these pained muscles and areas (obviously without causing damage or straining them even more) will strengthen them for future use, making them not only stronger but also less vulnerable to debilitating pain the following morning.

For example, this week was my first extended workout punching with the 16 oz. gloves. Although this portion of the workout with the gloves had to have been 10 minutes or less yet it felt like an eternity — especially not being used to it.  Near the end I needed to bend over and hang and sway my arms in an attempt to stretch out the burning muscles and work out the cramps beginning to form in my left Teres Major Muscle. I focused on that in my trip to the gym this morning and made sure to focus on upright chest presses, some chest flies, and overhead presses to target this area.  I fully expect to struggle with those muscles and others as I continue to get back into shape but I feel this kind of body awareness and focused action will serve me well.

Now.  Where’d I put that Advil around here?

The Importance of Stretching

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Exercise

On the heels of my post last week about my minor knee problems, I wanted to follow up with a post about a subject that oftentimes gets overlooked.  Stretching.

I have seen people all too often wander out onto the mat without so much as a cursory stretch.  I used to be the biggest offender, not in my recent entry into Krav Maga, but in prior exercise situations like my weight-lifting, biking, and running.  It’s too easy to get caught up in the eagerness to get started in the activity and convince yourself that you’ll just start slow and stretch as you get into it.  Naturally this is bull and is not only delusional but also downright dangerous.  Not warming up and stretching can lead to soreness, pulls, and even (ouch!!) tears in muscles if you push it too much.

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Muscles are amazing things but having been a past victim of many pulls and sore muscles, “forgiving” isn’t a way I’d choose to describe them.  In fact, scanning the students in last night’s class, I’d say 5 – 10% of them had wraps and braces around various injuries, some of them I’d bet caused by pulls or strains due to not stretching properly.

When I started up with Krav Maga earlier this month I made a serious commitment to myself that I would always stretch before hitting the mat.  So far I haven’t broken this commitment and hope I never have to.  The key, I think, is arriving well before the class starts.  Many days I am there half an hour early, making it possible for some quick socializing before ducking into the available dojo for some relaxing stretches.  By the time the class rolls around I am as limber as I’m going to get and feeling good.

Stretching by Bob Anderson

Now, I’m no expert.  Sure, I knew a few decent stretches and also knew not to “bounce” but I was also aware that there’s a wealth of information I wasn’t yet clued into.  To learn some more I purchased a book to help with my routine, Stretching by Bob Anderson.  It’s a really nice book that’s been popular for over 30 years and for a lot of good reasons. It’s formatted and illustrated well (except for that scary face stretching routine which is truly frightening) and its easy to understand descriptions are helpful.  One of the features I like about it is the section of stretches broken out by sport.  And yes, there is a martial arts routine in that section. Another couple that are useful are the morning stretch and office stretch routines.

One thing this book has taught me, and it’s something I suspect would be news to a lot of people, is the importance of stretching after a workout.  That’s right.  When you’re all done working out, panting like a dog in heat, and so tired and sweaty you look like you just fell down the escalator stairs (the one going up, not down) while being pummeled by some world class water balloon fighters.  At this point of your day, it is recommended by the book that you take a minute and stretch it out one last time.  Doing so, the book says, will lead to less soreness and even better flexibility.  As much as I toot my horn about stretching prior to class I have yet to practice the post-workout stretches, I have to admit. Feeling the soreness I do today, after last night’s class, I am thinking I might reconsider.

Whatever book you choose — or even if you don’t choose a book — I’d risk sounding “preachy” and add my voice to the thousands of stretch practitioners and physical trainers: ALWAYS stretch and warm up before your class.  No matter how fit you are you are never immune from these injuries related to not being stretched.