The benefits of working out and training hard are unquestionable. At the end of a hard training or workout session, it is tempting to skip the cool-down and get on with the rest of the day. However, a post-workout recovery session goes a long way in restoring the body's vitality and boosting energy levels.
Recovery is as important as the workout itself. Muscles fibres can take a lot of overload. But to truly gain from that overload - be it volume, strength or both - the muscles need time to relax and rejuvenate.
The younger the body, the less time it needs to rest, recover and rebuild the tissues. However, with age (and I'm not talking about old age) it is very important to give the body a decent break after some hard work.
This rest period contributes significantly towards the ability to bear a greater workload in subsequent training or workout sessions. This, in turn, is what really leads to an improvement in overall fitness levels.
Without due rest, the body's tendency and ability to recover deteriorates with time. Consequently, one becomes prone to more serious injuries. With enough rest, it is amazing what the human body can achieve, even in advanced years.
Flexibility is perhaps one of the most neglected areas of one's fitness regime. Sure, many people do it. Budo training places greater emphasis on it than most other activities. However, even amongst those that do include stretching in their routine, for many it is nothing more than a warm-up; and maybe a cool-down.
Stretching is, in itself, a great way to stay in shape. Yes, it is a good way to warm up and reduce the risk of injury. Yes, it is also a great way to unwind after a gruelling workout. But it is so much more than these, though.
A flexible body is a relaxed body. Reflexes are quickest when the body is relaxed. In a combat situation, shaving off the extra millisecond from our reaction time could mean the difference between an effective defence and counter, and a futile effort.
Flexibility also optimises the muscles' range(s) of motion. That helps in executing more complex techniques that require the body to move beyond its normal range of standing, walking, sitting, and maybe running. For example, people with flexible leg muscles can kick higher.
The increased agility in the body that results from regular stretching also enables the muscles to take much greater loads and perform better than they would otherwise. Agility leads to higher jumps, longer leaps, faster strength gain, and so on.
With age, the human body becomes more stiff. Stiffness leads to a limited range of movement, unwanted aches and pains, and many other physical discomforts. Supple and agile muscles keep the body young in the truest sense of the word.
Regular stretching prevents stiffness and soreness. That is why a good stretch after a hard training session prevents, or at least reduces, the fatigue muscles and joints experience the following day.
Approached the wrong way, even stretching can cause injuries. Even as a warm-up, stretching cold muscles is not a good idea. It can cause strains and tears. It is best to stretch when the body is slightly warmed. So before a warm-up stretch, a bit of light jogging on the spot, or a few (slow and controlled) jumping jacks will raise your body's temperature enough to reap the greatest benefit from your warm-up.
On the other hand: done the right way, stretching benefits the body immensely; certainly far more than most people give it credit for. The secret lies in how it's done. The greatest gain in flexibility is achieved when the body is warm.
A post-workout stretch routine is best. At this time, the body is heated up and the muscle fibres are most receptive to being stretched. While the stretches increase flexibility, they also provide a great low-impact cool-down for the body after a high-impact training session. A pre-workout warm-up routine (done properly) can also be an excellent route to flexibility while gradually preparing the muscles for the heavier loads to come.
Stretching really fine tunes the body physically and helps the mind relax, too, by way of the controlled but continuous breathing during each stretch. Altogether, it is a perfect supplement to martial arts training. Even on non-training days, fitting 10 to 15 minutes of stretching into the day will help tremendously.
It is a great way to start the day, preparing the body and the mind for the day ahead. It is also a great way to unwind at the end of a tiring day.
Martial arts training is not restricted to preparing for combat sports competitions and street self-defence situations. Today, the most serious self-defence that people need is against the ever so prevalent sedentary lifestyle! As the old adage goes: health is wealth.
Combining elements of cardiovascular activity, resistance training, flexibility and breathing techniques, martial arts training provides an excellent full body workout. Training routines vary, ranging from high intensity cardio work that will torch that excess fat, to dynamic tension and relaxation exercises that will recharge and rejuvenate body and mind.
Enrolling with a dojo, under the guidance of a good Sensei is the most effective route to improved fitness, superior health and longevity. The teacher will understand each student's requirement and guide each individual accordingly; albeit simultaneously within the same session!
Contrary to popular belief, it is not something that one essentially has to get into from an early age. Sports science and contemporary training methods progressed to the extent that anybody, regardless of age or gender, can start training.
Thousands of elderly people are turning to martial arts as a comprehensive health and fitness activity; particularly in Europe and North America. The Okinawans have been indulging in it for generations. Consequently, it is a well documented fact that the island of Okinawa has the world's longest lifespan, with the average being 92 years!