Thursday, January 03, 2008

Combat Conditioning - 2008

So, it's a new year, and everywhere you look people are engaging in an annual post-holiday tradition... Trying to get back into shape.

The television is loaded with info-mercials about the latest fitness craze (Yoga Booty Ballet???). Magazines are filled with the latest diets and 'Get Fit Quick' tips. Health Club treadmills and Stairmasters are now jam-packed with people hoping to finally make a lasting change to the way their bodies look and feel.

Sadly, by the end of February, most of them will have given up. Their weight loss will be minimal. (Only a few pounds shed. Soon to be regained... and then some.)

Not only will their stomachs and thighs continue to look fat and flabby, but the more serious consequences of unhealthy living (High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Hypertension, etc.) will remain.

For the martial artists, the stakes for being out of condition are even higher. Although we take great pride in training to defend against an aggressor, our confidence is likely to be shaken if we find ourselves out of shape during a confrontation. Our martial skills will be of little use if we are too weak, too slow, or too out of breath to use them.

In fact, we are statistically much more likely to suffer the ill effects of a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes, than we are to experience a violent assault. In the long run, it's the martial artists who are able to keep themselves in shape, even if they never have to actually use their skills, that will be well ahead of the others who neglect this important aspect of training.

The problem here isn't a matter of Time or Dedication; it's a matter of Method.

If you watch the fitness info-mercials, they all pretty much show the same thing; beautiful, fit models demonstrating the ease, simplicity, and comfort of their particular gadget or exercise system.

"Why spend hours suffering in the gym?" they ask. "When you can have the body you've always wanted in as little as 20 minutes a day!"

The marketers know how to reach us, promising fantastic results with little effort or strain. Promises of hard work, sweat, and exertion simply don't sell fitness products.

"Don't waste your time with back breaking exercises and crunches when you can achieve a slim waistline and slender thighs the fast and easy way!"

Magazine and newspaper articles are no better. Written by 'fitness experts,' they extol advice like:

  • "Park your car at the far end of the parking lot."
  • "Always take the stairs."
  • "Do 'chair exercises' at your desk during work"
  • "Take a walk during your lunch break."
  • "Commute to work by bicycle or walking."

While these suggestions may lure some couch-potatoes into becoming moderately active, they ultimately fail to make any significant change in the fitness level of most people. They simply fail to create the conditions necessary for the body to loose weight or properly develop.

The problem with this sort of advice, or with the way fitness products are marketed is that they lack intensity. The body isn't forced to adapt to a substantial change in energy requirements. The muscles don't have to adjust to an increased work load.

Walking across a parking lot or rambling along on a treadmill only asks the heart to make minor changes in the amount of blood that it pumps to the rest of the body. Our lungs aren't taxed, our muscles aren't pushed, and we receive little benefit from the activity.

We have to face the facts; during most of our existence on this planet, humans have had to fight desperately for our survival. Whether hunting or scavenging for food, we had to work very hard in order to stay alive.

Our bodies eventually evolved to help us in this endeavor. Our metabolism developed the ability to store fat for times of famine. Our taste buds acquired a craving for sweet sugars which could provide quick energy. Our appetites grew to allow us to eat even when we weren't hungry so that we could store more energy (fat) for a later time.

All of these adaptations have served us favorably for thousands of years. However, in today's society, with less physical labor and abundant sources of food, we have quickly become rather overweight and weak.

Still, we are not condemned to lives of obesity and ill health.

During my own personal search to find a fitness program that would both enhance my martial arts skills, help me to loose weight, increase my physical conditioning, and improve my health, I've come across a program that truly seems to work.

This program allows me to eat reasonably healthy foods without ever going hungry. It increases muscle mass while raising my metabolism. It drastically improves all three energy systems in my body. And, best of all, it really only takes about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour to complete each morning.

There's only one problem... it sucks!

As I mentioned last time I guest blogged at TDA, I've begun using the High Intensity Interval Training program created by Ross Enamait at

Ross prescribes an exercise routine that is incredibly rigorous and challenging. He takes simple, basic movements and shows how to use them to push the limits of our own endurance.

Take running for example. A lot of people try to get into shape by jogging for 3 to 10 miles, several times a week. While this is a fairly good workout, once you develop the ability to finish the distance, it doesn't really present much of a challenge any more.

Instead, Enamait suggests that you run as hard as you possibly can, full sprinting for a minute. Then drop to the ground and pump out 10 to 20 push-ups. After that, jump up as high as you can 10 to 20 times. By now your heart should be pumping hard; your lungs and muscles screaming.

Now go ahead and jog for about 5 minutes to recover. Once your ready to continue, repeat the sprint, push-ups and jumps twice more.

By the time your done, you will only have spent about twenty minutes working out, but you'll feel as if you'd run a full marathon.

(If you'd like to learn more about Enamait's training techniques, check out his new book and DVD package called Full Throttle Conditioning. The book describes the scientific background for his training philosophy while the DVD's video clips allow him to demonstrate his radical training methods. You can find it at

What I appreciate most about Enamait's training method is that he doesn't water-down his instruction. He lives by his own words and doesn't try to fool people into thinking that achieving an athletic build is either easy or painless.

You won't see any info-mercials with skinny models smiling as they happily skip their way though one of his routines. No expensive gadgets that promise 'rock-hard' abs if you merely squeeze, push, or pull them without even working up a sweat.

With Ross, it's all about WORK. Pushing yourself to your absolute limit. Going until you feel like you want to throw up, then resting and doing it all over again.

It isn't 'fun', it isn't easy, and I actually dread some of the routines... but it works.

The reason that so many people will fail to get in shape this year is the same reason that so many people join martial arts schools, but fail to learn to protect themselves. Success, in any endeavor, takes hard work and dedication.

Taking a couple extra flights of stairs everyday isn't going to turn anyone into a supermodel and throwing a few kicks into a heavybag isn't going to turn you into the next Ultimate Fighter. If we want more out of our bodies, or more from our lives, we'll have to be willing to give more.

We can't expect great achievements without great effort. We can't simply just 'go through the motions' and expect a miracle. We have to make it happen.

So before you make that new years resolution; before you say what you want... ask yourself, "What am I willing to give?"



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