Alive and Kicking #39 – Middle-Aged Musings and How To Train When You Are Travelling

by on June 25, 2012

in Alive and Kicking


Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40


Monday 25 June 2012: Issue #39

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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.


Hi there!

Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40.

A real short newsletter today… I’m in the middle of launching a new business venture, so I’m 100% flat out. 110% flat out actually.. because I’m really burning the candle at both ends.

Of course, when one gets busy, it’s harder to keep up the training. I’ve certainly noticed my gym time has slipped somewhat in the past few weeks, and what I’ve also noticed is the impact that has had on my mood. So I found it quite timely to get an email from one of Martial Arts Over 40’s readers, asking just how to fit training in around a busy lifestyle. It reminded me of a few things and help me get back on track with my physical training.

One other thing I have been thinking a lot about in recent times is just what it is I am looking for out of a martial art now. I’ve been training for 23 years, and teaching for 18. So what is it that keeps me motivated to keep on training… and what am I looking to get out of it.  It seems like I am not the only one with these thoughts, because I saw a post on Markku’s blog today that asks the very same questions.


The other day I received an email from Carl Thomas, who is a busy businessman trying to fit martial arts into his life. He was asking me for advice on how to fit training around his busy travel schedule, while beginning to prepare for a black belt testing. A hard black belt testing by the sound of it!

I thought that the conversation that Carl and I had would be useful to the community, so I asked him if he would let me reproduce it here. He happily agreed. Thanks Carl!


You’re a pretty busy guy and an accomplished Martial artist so I thought I would bounce a question off of you.  In training for my 1st Dan test it is obvious to me that its more a battle of stamina than an actual test of my martial arts skill… Our tests take hours with no breaks covering all block, all kicks, all hand and foot combinations, all forms both open hand and weapon, sparing with and without weapon etc.  all of this with pretty much no break.

As I practice and train for this task my question is with a busy work life how do you get yourself in the shape needed to not only complete the test but to excel in it.  The reason I say excel is my Dojang has a history of when ever someone goes to Pittsburgh for testing that we far exceed any other dojangs that may be present.  This of course happens in most competitions also so to say the least I certainly don’t want to be the old guy embarrassing my School as im testing with the 16-20 year olds with all the stamina in the world without even trying.

I travel allot for work and although I try to schedule my travel so I can get to at least one class per week, one class does not cut it!!  I try to exercise in hotel gyms but lets face it, its not 1/10th as hard as one of my martial arts classes. 

 Any advice you can give?



Hi Carl

Sounds like your black belt gradings are much like ours. In fact ours take two days, although that’s not all physical.

To answer your question… One thing I have been doing a bit more of recently is high intensity training. So rather than going for a long bike ride or a run (which I hate), I’ll do a set of M100s or some Tabata-style training.

M100s =>

Tabata => Essentially the formula is: 20s active, 10s rest, 8x, non-stop… Unbelievably hard. Try it with some pushups. Basically it’s 4 minutes of exercise, and once you start you don’t stop except for the 10s rests.  I’ve used this with pushups, squat jumps, and even sprinting on the spot. But it’s got to be hard and fast for the 20s

The other thing I highly recommend is a book called You Are Your Own Gym:

All of these will give you the chance to train at a high intensity in your hotel gym or even your hotel room. And they are waaaay better than just plugging away on an exercycle or treadmill.

Hope that helps!



Thank you sir! Since im heading to New Orleans tomorrow for a week on business it will be a good time to give this a try.  I would much rather flat out kill myself for a short period of time than to do the mundane hour on a treadmill or bike.  I thought about P90X but after researching it you need a certain amount of equipment which I could not carry with me while traveling. I of course do the pushup and sit-ups while on the road but that does nothing to help my stamina. My problem has been 2 hours into training not half hour or so and I think perhaps that has to do with my diet which I need to concentrate on more as well but again with my travel its easier said than done…lol

Its funny, I was talking with a few senior students last night before training, all of us are close to 50 now and we joke about getting out of bed the morning after a particularly hard night at the Dojang and joke around about the fact we pay to feel that way….lol  Guess what, its was tough getting out of bed this morning but you know what, you know your alive! You know your doing something that a very small percentage of the population could ever do and it’s a good feeling even though your body is still exhausted and sore. 


You should definitely give the exercises a try. I just got home from training now, and – it must have been because of this conversation – tonight I led the class through a number of these short burst exercises. They really are tougher than you can imagine. We did pushups, and what I call “double squat jumps” where you take a wide stance, bend your knees until your backside is level with your knees, then do that again and burst up into a jump. Two squats and a jump. Do that for 20s, 10s rest 8 times… Ouch!  We also did an abs exercise too.

So … 15 minutes all up, and we’d blasted our arms, abs and legs.  We were all struggling a little to walk after that. **

I know what you mean about feeling sore the next day. When I’m really getting into training and going to the gym I know that I seem like I’m in permanent pain  J   Actually I wonder about the self defence side of things because sometimes I’m so sore and tired that if I got into a situation I’d hardly be able to move my arms and legs let alone defend myself!  Let’s just hope I don’t get attacked first thing in the morning.

About your stamina.. that could be to do with your diet. Make sure you are eating foods with a low GI, so that it takes a long time for the energy to be released.  But it could also be to do with your training. If your normal classes are only a couple of hours long then that’s what you will get used to. What I have done for many years is to train longer sessions leading up to a big grading. So I would be doing 4 hour sessions once a week for 10 weeks leading up to the grading. The first 3 or 4 were torture, but everyone soon got used to it. We would also throw in a couple of all-day sessions. My students who go through that process always comment after the grading that they could see others falling away and yet they still felt strong.



** I just had to add to this. I was getting phone calls and text messages 2 days later from students who were still having trouble walking. DOMS or Delayed-Onset Muscle Syndrome had really kicked in and 2 days later everyone was in pain!  I might have overdone it. I blame Carl. 🙂


Marrku Parviainen is a Finnish Taekwondo coach who writes an interesting blog about his Taekwondo training and occasionally he muses on being a middle-aged martial artist. He wrote a blog post yesterday which I found very interesting because he touched on a few things that I have been thinking about myself.

Here’s a snippet. The full post is here.

For the last 12 months or so I feel I have had some kind of a midlife crisis. I have questioned how and what I should teach in my Taekwondo classes. I feel that I have changed so much in the last 10 years and I have felt that something is missing from my training and what I teach. I always loved sparring but I don’t have any urge to teach it anymore as much. Self-defence? I don’t think it is so important for me or my students.
I also have felt for a long time that WTF Taekwondo is going in the wrong direction when they are focusing so much on the sport aspect of Taekwondo (II understand that they are a sport organization ) The Kukkiwon? I have been critical toward them. But perhaps I have been wrong? I have started to feel more and more like I have to go more in the direction of traditional Taekwondo and less sport.

I think that as adults in martial arts we take quite a different approach to our assessment of what it is that we are involved in. We have so many competing priorites, that in order to keep on training our chosen martial art has to be meeting some important needs.  Those needs will be different for every person, so I am not going to go into them here.

But what I am going to say is that it’s important that you know why you are training, and what you want  to get out of it. And then match that up against what you are actually getting out of the art you are involved in. These days we need to make the best use of our time, and that includes how we spend time training.

If you are an instructor you have competing priorities. Yours and your students. How you balance that is up to you, but I think what you do have to be careful of is wearing yourself out teaching something that does not interest you at all. Your students will pick up on that and training will be really flat. Try and incorporate the stuff you really like, even if it’s not strictly in your system or curriculum. Keep yourself interested!



Remember, if you have anything you want to say, ask or contribute, you can drop me an email or leave your comments on Facebook. You can also comment directly on the website.

All the best!



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Quote of the Day


Almost all my middle-aged and elderly acquaintances, including me, feel about 25.

Unless we haven’t had our coffee, in which case we feel 107.

– Martha Beck

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