I hate being wrong.
And I am wrong far more often than I would care to admit. But one of the things my mothers did right was to instill in me the importance of admitting when I am wrong. No one likes that guy who refuses to admit he was wrong even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
And the evidence is pretty overwhelming.
As far as this blog is concerned there are two glaring mistakes I’ve been making and in order to look myself in the mirror each morning I need to come clean. Think of this as my confession and you dear reader my confessor.
Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been far too long since my last confession.
My first sin, is really more of a misunderstanding. I thought I knew what I was doing and teaching and I thought I understood the processes. I did not. This has to do with bracing, how we stabilize the spine and torso, particularly the lower torso and hips during a lift.
I am ashamed to admit I had this all wrong and now that I have a better understanding find it hard to believe how wrong I could have been. The truth, once revealed, is usually quite obvious.
Bracing stabilizes the lower back and allows for a maximum transition of strength and power. This is achieved through the breath. I knew this. What I missed was where that breath needs to be channeled in order to achieve maximum stability.
You’ve got to breathe all the way to the bottom of your torso. You’ve got to breathe into your taint. Now, of course, you can’t actually breath into your taint, but you can, by using abdominal breathing create lower abdominal pressure that is felt all the way down to your perineum (taint.)
By breathing down into your belly and pushing out into your lower abdominal muscles, including your pelvic floor, you create an internal pressure that stabilizes the hips and lower back, freeing up the major muscles of the legs and butt to do their jobs as prime movers. Done properly your strength and mobility will instantly improve.
My second sin is cardio. I used to be a runner. In fact, I realize now, I was pretty decent. I was a trail runner and for 235 pounds reasonably fast. For most of my runs I made a figure eight of the trails at Ruffner Mountain (Ridge Valley, Possum Loop, and Quarry Trail) and could run that loop in just over 40 minutes. I was fit, but I didn’t feel like I was strong.
So, I ditched the cardio and pursued weight lifting with an emphasis on size and strength. I put on 40 pounds and more than doubled my lifts. And I would get out of breath just climbing stairs.
275 was an uncomfortable weight for me. My blood pressure was going up and other health markers weren’t looking so good. My pursuit of an external goal (more weight on the bar) was starting to take its toll.
So, I backed off. I re-engaged with the martial arts I had left behind and started gearing my lifting more toward better health than just numbers on the bar. I dropped 15 pounds and started to feel better.
I assumed that with my martial arts and my lifting that I was getting enough exercise and of the right kind. I wasn’t doing cardio per se, not the steady state 60 to 70% of your max heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes at a time cardio that most people associate with “cardio,” but I was getting my heart rate up and that seemed enough.
I mean, I’m an active guy. Surely I, of all people, get enough exercise.
Low intensity steady state cardio. God I hate that shit. That’s treadmill and eliptical cardio. That’s going nowhere at a steady pace for twenty or thirty minutes. Who has time for that? It’s not the work I mind so much as the time. I’m a business owner. I run two businesses. I have a family. Time is not something I have to spare most days.
But, based on another martial artist’s Facebook post about this very mind numbing time suck and how much it helped his jiu-jitsu (and that’s how he got me. It improved his jiu-jitsu. Well, shit. I want better jiu-jitsu.) I began doing steady state cardio.
Nothing crazy, mind you, I’m older and wiser. I understand the value in a progressive program. I started with something entirely doable at my current fitness level - four three minute intervals on the rower. I aimed to maintain a steady pace and I wore a heart rate monitor to track my work. Including rest periods, the workouts last right around 20 minutes.
I’ll be damned it I didn’t feel better the first day. I had more energy and less of the afternoon crash that often sends me to find a nap in the hammock. I even had energy that evening once I’d gotten home.
I’ve never been much of a proponent of steady state cardio. I never poo-poo-ed it, but neither did I advocate it. Sure, it was fine if you wanted to do it, but it was not something I advocated for better health.
Well, I was wrong.
Once again I’m reminded that the operative word in this life is “and.” As in you should do some strength work AND you should do some cardio. You don’t have to do a ton, but a good twenty to thirty minutes of sustaining your heart rate at around 60% of your max is not a bad idea.
You’ll see all kinds of rewards, including increased fat loss, better sleep, better circulation, lowered blood pressure, better “wind,” better digestion, and a better sex life.
Surely that’s worth 20 minutes 3 to 5 times a week and it’s much less painful than having to publicly admit you were wrong.