Overcoming Barriers to a Healthier You Through Martial Arts
By Joseph Galea & Jennifer G. Galea MS RD
What are your personal barriers to exercise? We all know the many benefits of exercise, including that exercise is vital for good health, optimal weight, and feeling good in general. If you aren’t working out regularly and enjoying it, why not?
The first step to overcoming your own hurdles to a successful exercise program is to understand what keeps you from exercising. One common obstacle is self-doubt. According to Tracey Mernin, a fitness director in Massachusetts, “Once people see themselves as out of shape, they believe they can’t ever get in shape. Such self-doubt is often reinforced by bad memories.”
You need to be convinced that you can make a difference in your appearance and physical fitness. You don’t have to be a world class athlete to be healthy or a good martial artist. Because the martial arts is so individualized, it is the perfect activity to make people of all athletic abilities feel comfortable in class. Don’t expect overnight changes in your appearance and fitness. However, you can expect immediate changes in your attitude and outlook. Martial arts can help you gain the confidence to overcome self-doubt, which will get the ball rolling.
Some people learn to dread exercise because of bad experiences as children. If you were an overweight or non-athletic child, feelings of humiliation or athletic failure can actually de-motivate you, causing you to avoid exercise as an adult. Experts suggest trying to replace these negative images with more positive ones. Picture yourself as someone who is fast and strong. Focus on the future: remember that you are now a capable adult and not the child who endured these negative experiences.
Getting your children involved in the martial arts can help to prevent them from having similar negative experiences. An important result of martial arts training is strengthening specific character attributes such as leadership, confidence, and self-esteem. These qualities help children deal with negative types of peer pressure and be proud of their abilities regardless of how they compare to others.
Another all-too-common excuse for not exercising is lack of time. To overcome this barrier you need to give exercise the same priority as other necessities of life. Schedule your exercise into you week as you would any other important appointment. Time management skills dictate well structured time that is better utilized.
Once you have overcome your obstacles to initiating your exercise regimen, next you need to overcome your obstacles to continuing. In addition to the earlier mentioned obstacles, you need to overcome the potential of becoming bored or discouraged.
Wayne Westcott, PhD, a fitness research director, found that beginners can tolerate exercise if the time is broken down into intervals. “Don’t start out at too high a level,” Westcott warns. “You can build up time and intensity later.” Going too hard, too fast, is a common pitfall. If you start by working out many hours, many days per week, you will burn yourself out and the exercise will seem like torture. Start out at a more gradual level, such as one hour per day, three times per week. The ultimate goal would be to include at least one half hour of exercise on most days, along with the hour workout at least three times per week. From there, you can always increase the amount of time and frequency. Our martial arts classes are designed with this concept in mind. As you progress, you can expand training and practice sessions.
Most importantly, you need to choose an activity that fits you. You need to be able to do it day after day for a lifetime, and continue to enjoy it. One of the reasons martial arts has gained so much popularity in recent years is its ability to be a lifestyle activity. Martial arts maintains its appeal as you continue to learn and grow, thus enabling you to reach your physical fitness goals.
We all know that proper exercise is an important component of living a healthy life. Look into the future and envision yourself 10 years older. Would you like what you see? Would you consider yourself healthy? Let martial arts help you overcome the barriers to a healthier you.