Fitness doesn't have to be this way.
Don't ask, "how can I get fit?"
Ask instead,"how can I get fit while enjoying the process?"
We don’t do “fitness” – you just get fit.
Many people seem to think you have to do “exercise” to “get fit”; that some kind of specific “fitness” training is required – like lifting bits of metal, moving about on a machine, or following some “training routine” or other.
This isn't the case (ask a gorilla or a gazelle) but believing it is a problem...
The leanest, fasteset, most powerful animals on earth don't do "fitness".
Mind you, neither do dolphins.
You see, people often come to a class at Cross Combat, get their heart rate up, get a sweat going, use muscles they never knew existed, challenge themselves physically, burn through a bundle of calories and maybe even feel the occasional “burn” and then maybe - who’d have thought – they get a bit tired out.
And that's great, right? That's what you're after on your journey to physical excellence, isn't it?! A decent “workout”.
Of course, you'd think so, but at the end of the class some peculiar people come to me and say “Wow! That was amazing, I loved it, I definitely want to keep it up... but... I think I should do some fitness first.”
And by "fitness" they of course either mean “do things with bits of metal” or "go running".
"Of course I like you, Linda. I just think I should work on my fitness first..."
"Now I think of it, It wasn't the running scenes in Kung Fu Panda that inspired me."
Naturally we find this very flattering because it means they enjoyed our class so damn much they feel it would be unfair to call that physical lump of fun they just did, “exercise”.
Exercise is meant to be hell, right? Fitness comes through “work,” right? You can’t get it by just having a laugh learning fun new things, can you? That’d be ludicrous. An hour or two of fun per week and you get fitter? That's just silly.
I explain you can.
“But everyone here looks so fit already” they complain, always unable to see the irony in their complaint.
“That’s right. The regulars are pretty fit. But surely that's what you want them to be...! It's evidence this works, right?!"
"In truth, most of our students are pretty unfit when they start… They simply come for a while and get fitter - and of course you will get fitter at Cross Combat too."
But it’s too much for them to comprehend – “But everyone seems so happy!!... And fit…!”
So I pull someone over someone from the class, “Steve, how much weight did you say you lost?”
“Well this month I lost about half a stone ...”
“Just training here…?”
But no, the newcomer can’t believe it. Their head tells them they need tire flipping, they need to sprint up nearby mountains at 7am, and do at least a bazillion push-ups. They need pain, misery and exercises they don't enjoy. They need to punish themselves – that’s what fitness takes, right? Commitment. Agony. Dedication. Punishment. Certainly not japes and games with a group of like-minded and humorous people. IT’S. JUST. NOT. RIGHT.
First you get fit, then you have fun moving. That's the way it works – everyone knows that. That's the natural order of things. Look at wild animals: first they train for fitness, then they use their fitness. You wouldn't see a monkey swinging from the trees until it had maxed out on bench press and spent 50 minutes at 80% of his VO2 Max?!
Seriously. Thinking you should "work on your fitness" before you have fun with your physicality is like thinking you should masturbate for six months to a camping catalogue before you have sex with the beautiful woman who keeps saying she finds you sexually attractive.
You Probably Don't Like Running - And That's OK.
"Hi, I'm Charles Atlas. Let me tell you about Dynamic Tension..."
The problem with thinking like these people is this:
If you liked running, you'd be looking at a running website right now, not this one. If you were excited by the prospect of 7am runs, you'd do them - there'd be no stopping you - you wouldn't be reading about doing martial arts and finding out where and when you can do them.
But when some people get an unaccustomed sweat up at a martial arts class they panic and think they should do something they don't enjoy first. Like running. Like "exercise". Like “fitness”.
That's like trying to lose weight by eating doggy poo. Sure you might do it once or twice but I’ll bet you’ll spend more time saying you're "going to start again next month” than actually sticking to the whole doggy-poo-diet/running-every-day idea.
Yes, most people start running "for fitness” - not because it’s necessarily something they want to do - They want the results not the activity.
Whereas most likely you'd like to start a martial art because it's fun. Because it’s something you’d like to do - maybe even something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. And because getting yourself fit doing something you enjoy just makes a lot more sense.
That hour of moving around you'll do in our classes may be called “martial arts” but it's still - if you insist - “exercise”. Fortunately, it won't always feel like that but do more of it and you will get fit.
You will Get Functionally, Fighting Fit
Have a look around. See a person if you can. Imagine one if you like. Found one? Well done.
Now how much do you think they weigh?
Who knows, but something, right? They have a weight. They have some kilos.
It’s remarkable isn't it, that although they're not made of metal and they’re not stacked in a rack in 24 Hour Fitness, they weigh something. Indeed, even an arm or a leg weighs something - less than a whole body, I'll admit, but more than a cheese sandwich.
Now what do you think you'd feel if you picked that person up off the ground twenty times? After a while it'd be tiring, right? If you did it long enough you’d probably even get a bit of a sweat going.
Now, how would it be if you moved that person around against their will? If they resisted your efforts? Or even if you just tried to move one of their arms or legs when they didn't want you to?
That, folks, is “exercise”. It’s the world of moving heavy objects dynamically, energetically and competitively. It's like it's exercise without being exercise at all. Win!
Now, a lot of people call things like that, "resistance training" and if you do those things a couple of times a week your body will adapt to these new demands, and get stronger and fitter along the way.
By the way, if you know your fitness buzzwords you'll know about "functional movement", "whole body exercises" and "compound exercises". You'll have seen headlines for things like Top 10 Functional Exercises for Full-Body Fitness.
Well, when you do grappling at Cross Combat - in jiu jitsu, mma or wrestling classes - you'll be moving human-shaped weights around dynamically. Weights that come at you from every angle, that are "functional" and awesome. Like kettlebells but better. Even more "real" and "functional".
What could be more functional than learning to move wobbly objects of assorted sizes around?
You will Relax - And Get Fitness for Free – A Word of Caution
Now of course there’s this thing called “technique” and on you first class, you probably won’t have much of it – it’d be weird if you did. And as things are generally easier with “good technique” than with “bad technique” people are sometimes tempted to think everyone else in the room is much fitter than they are when, in reality, they’re just more efficient.
Try this: tense all your muscles as hard as you can. Keep squeezing haaard. Squueeeeze… and make a cup of tea at the same time. That’d be a tiring, inefficient way of making a brew – getting out of puff by making a Tetley like that is not a measure of fitness, it’s a measure of inefficiency.
So I’ll warn you, your first class will probably be tiring - more so than it should be. This isn’t anything to do with your “fitness”, it’s a combination of nervousness, confusion, inefficient movements, not knowing what to do… and trying too hard to do it anyway. Squuueezze!!!
And of course if you’ve sat around smoking your pipe and drinking sherry for the past nine months – getting your heart, blood and lungs doing things they’re not used to doing will be a bit of a surprise. Your lungs will be as confused as you mind.
Of course we’ll be there to guide you through this because, even though they know it’s true, some people panic about this, take an initial difficulty as a sign that they should get up at 6am and start sprinting places. You could do that, of course, or you can learn from the hundreds of people who’ve gone before you – that it will take a maximum of three classes to feel “fitter” – because after three classes you’ll have learned not to squueeeezzeeee.
A huge part of “fitness” Is just learning how to use your body without panicking – and when you get that, you will start to enjoy the process, calm down and feel more comfortable, move more comfortably and enjoy the process of getting genuinely in shape. And fit. :)
I guarantee it.
One Last Thing about Fitness
Fitness doesn't stay. Being healthy does.
People who remain fit are normally not trying to be fit,they're people who've found something they enjoy doing that involves moving their bodies and so they keep doing it.
Surfers don't go surfing every day "to get in shape" or "to keep fit" - but by god these guys look good. So why are they in such good shape? Because they love the thrill of standing on a moving board so much that they're willing to swim a lot to do it.
Similarly, if you love "doing fitness" enough that you keep doing it forever, you'll inevitably look and feel like someone who "does fitness" forever too.
Unfortunately, most people find that doing exercise for the sake of doing exercise gets tedious pretty quickly and so they remain out of shape.
More than that, because "fitness" is so lose-able, it's hard to maintain an interest.
That's why martial arts are so good. Because in the same way as surfers swim a lot on a quest for the perfect wave, people keep doing martial arts for years (and thus keep in shape for years) because they love going back to it. Because they get something so much more out of it.
At Cross Combat I see hundreds of out-of-shape people lose piles of weight and get in great shape without them ever thinking they wanted to. They just kept coming because they enjoy themselves at the club.
And surely you will too.