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41 Proven Tips To Make Fitness & Martial Arts a Lifestyle

starting out in fitness and martial arts

Last updated on December 19th, 2016

You want to live the modern warrior’s way of life and add physical fitness and martial arts into your lifestyle. But how do you start?

How do you find time for it? How do you stay motivated if you’ve fallen off training?

This list is meant for both beginners and experienced modern warriors who are struggling to stay on the training path. Be open to the tips given by people who have made training their lifestyle. Don’t shoot down possible ways to make training work in your life.

Here are 41 tips by people in various activities like martial arts, parkour, street workout, runners and other fitness-related activities.

Getting started in fitness and martial arts

This section is useful for people who are figuring out how to start.

1
Make training an important part of your identity

Until you make fitness and martial arts an important aspect of your identity, you will never regard training as a priority – something you make time for.

Make fitness and martial arts an identity

Martial artists, traceurs and fitness athletes see themselves as martial artists, traceurs and fitness athletes respectively. It is an important part of who they are. […] They are compelled to reinforce who they believe they are. This sense of identity makes them committed to train.

– Logen (The Only Secret to Stay Motivated in Fitness & Martial Arts)

2
Believe in yourself to achieve what you set out to do

Never start training with the expectation of failure. If you do not believe you will succeed, you create a mental barrier. Why would your body go all out to master a technique when your subconscious mind thinks it’s impossible?

Believe in yourself in every stage of your training.

Believe in yourself to make fitness happen

3
Know why you are training

Know your core purpose and motivation to train so that you succeed in making training a sustainable lifestyle.

No. Don’t give surface-level answers like “becoming fitter”. You need to drill deep into your core to find out why you want to do this – what drives you to start parkour for instance. Read Steve Roy’s article on this, appended with his quote below.

Know why you want to start out in fitness and martial arts


This is relevant to you because it’s the same basic principle. I’m not trying to sell you a gym membership, but I am trying to get you to understand why you are spending your precious time and energy training, eating well, and trying to get fit.

Your answer is going to be your ticket to continued success in regards to your health and fitness level.

Steve Roy – Why Inspiration Beats Motivation Every Time

4
Know what you want, work with limitations and make sacrifices

Imagine the results of your training. What do you want at the end of it all?

Figure out your limitations (be it time, work schedule or injury) and priorities (in family, social, career, etc.). Then, decide what kind of sacrifices you are willing to make and how you can work with those limitations to achieve your vision.

Be realistic about the results if you cannot give it your all.

Know what you want and make sacrifices to train

Be open to ways that can make training work

To a beginner, I would say to keep an open mind. There is no prescribed method to commit your time and yourself. You have to see how the martial arts fit your life and decide what level of commitment you want to make. There is no wrong answer. Just know that your commitment must match your goals. Your can’t become a black-belt by practicing once a month.

Noah Lekas (owner of a part-time martial arts school and also an obstacle racer)

Break limitations

Those with limits are the ones who cage themselves. Limitations begin in the mind (and) then take physical manifestation. So I say to destroy your limits. Free your mind from words like “I can’t”, “I don’t have the time” or “(I don’t have) the energy.

Tyler Hartwig

Make do with limitations

I try to adjust my schedule to fit in at least an hour of training every two days. This is far from ideal but it is enough to keep me from getting too rusty.

Matt Storm


Individually we train whenever we get the chance, no matter how little the amount of time we train.

Parkour Team Airborne

Work around your schedule
If they are determined to start working out then they are going to have to try and work around their schedule. They can make the time even if it is just 30 minutes a day.

Shiri Lacycarides

5
Set goals and break them down into steps

You won’t become a black-belt overnight. Neither will you be able to do muscle ups in that time frame. List your goals and break them down into progressions. Do it too quickly, you risk overwhelming yourself and losing motivation.

Turn huge goals into mini steps

6
Get your basic needs right

Proper nutrition, sleep and hydration is essential to training. Also, make your sleep-wake routine predictable.

Most of the issues with training motivation comes from fatigue, headaches and laziness. If you’ve focused on your health through getting your basic needs right, it eliminates many potential excuses to avoid training. And if you’ve made your routine predictable, it is easier to schedule training.

woman-918981_1280

7
Start small - Build Momentum

It is easy to get paralysis-by-analysis when you start your training journey. What do you train in? What’s the best workout routine? What’s the best martial art?

Don’t get obsessed over the “best” routine, quick results or how long you should train.

Work with a simple program with the single goal of getting started and building momentum for greater things. You can either optimise your activities once you’ve gained traction or forever analyse the best activity to do and never start.

runner-690265_1280

Seinfeld Strategy - to build momentum

This is where you out a calendar somewhere visible, like on the wall, and mark off every day that you’ve managed to do your target behavior with a cross (e.g. 20 minutes of practising kata; attend class; etc). The crosses start to form a chain, and the longer it gets, the more you feel like you can’t bear to break the chain.

I first read about this on James Clear’s website and he’s great.

Kai Morgan

8
Journal your training

Start a training blog or keep a private log of your training.

Training journal

Keep a journal or video/pictorial journal of your progress. This holds you accountable to change. If today you ran a half mile, or practiced parkour for an hour, your journal will track how and when you improved. You can use it to find trends in your improvement, too!

Andrea Harkins

Finding your passion

This section talks about finding an activity that suits your passion.

9
Train in something you are passionate about

You should train in activities that: (1) fit into your goals and (2) you feel passionate about.

Dan Holloway
Dan Holloway via The Martial View

I knew from an early age that martial arts was going to be a passion for me as I thought about it all the time. Practiced all the time and wanted to train all the time. That passion reached a peak when I was in Australia training under sensei Joe thambu as a live in student and training full time. That passion for martial arts will never leave and now it’s being put into my own Defence Lab Lincoln Academy.

Dan Holloway

10
Experiment with new activities and classes

Look for classes near your area. You can even refer to a role model’s program for training ideas. But don’t obsess over finding the perfect activity. There are many paths up the same mountain.

Tip: Try Meetup groups in your area.

Finding a sport that you are passionate about

Look for new fitness routines. Is there a gym nearby? A martial art school? Yoga? Make your work out a night out. Plus, it will take your mind off your daily work and other challenges.

Andrea Harkins

11
Eliminate what you do not enjoy

Nobody enjoys their activity and training all the time. Some days you just hate it or are bored of it. That’s normal even if you are passionate about it. So, it’s no reason to quit.

However, if you have only deep hatred for the activity you are training in and there are alternatives that help you further your goals, it’s time you eliminated that activity from your life.

Eliminate activites that you hate

Delete activities you don’t enjoy. If you hate running, it is probably not the best activity for you because you will dread it, and not want to continue. You have to feel good about your progress and your improvement for it to work for you.

Andrea Harkins

Making sure you train

12
Block out time in your schedule

Schedule your workout days on a physical calendar or app. Do not let anything clash. You will be mentally-prepared.

Block out time in your schedule for fitness and martial arts

Well, first I recommend using a calendar. Preferably one that also lists time throughout each day. For me, having the events of the day lined out I can mentally prepare myself for the day (because being busy is just as much mental as physical at times).

Geremy Davis (Parkour Instructor’s Assistant at B.A.S.E. Fitness Inc.)

For me, it comes down to boundaries. I block off certain times for certain activities. I don’t deviate unless there is an emergency.

Noah Lekas

13
Don't rely on motivation - Be disciplined

Build the habit to train even if you don’t feel like it. Or choose to build the habit to skip training.

There will be some days when you just don’t feel like training. You may even dread a certain component of your training. This is normal even if you are passionate about an activity.

But you just train! You don’t have to feel like doing something, to do something. Most of the time, once you start, you will enjoy it.

You don't have to feel like training to train

Habit was the reason why I couldn’t stop myself from working out even though I didn’t want to do it and had plenty of good reasons to not do it that day I was leaving for my flight. I felt an uncontrollable urge to do some sort of strength training, and when I started my strength training habit, I felt the uncontrollable urge to do my full workout as usual, despite my intentions to do less.

Lori O’Connell – Discipline is the New “Motivation”

So you decide to skip Karate, just one time.

No problemo, right?

Wrong.

You see, although you don’t know it yet, you’ve just started a habit. A deadly habit, may I add. Because, gradually you may find yourself coming up with more and more bad excuses for skipping training.

Jesse Enkamp (How to Never Lose Motivation for Training Karate)

14
Train immediately after getting home from work

If you are going to rest on the couch before working out – you are unlikely to train. Lethargy will set in. Get home, get changed and then train.

Get off the couch and train

Once I get home, I grab a jump rope and head outside for a few minutes of warm ups. Then, I’m ready for the rest of my practice, whether it’s martial art forms, weights, or a jog.

Andrea Harkins

15
Get support from friends and family & rope them in

When starting a new routine, tell your family and friends about it – especially if you see them often. That way they know your training days and can accommodate your new lifestyle routine.

It’d be better if you can rope them in and schedule workout meetups. Cancelling involves telling them an acceptable excuse, making it less easy for you to get out of training.

Suffering together is better than suffering alone

[…] She was/is understanding and supportive. Part of the reason for her understanding/support was her own passion for long distance trail running which I was very supportive of. Sometimes one of us would choose not to do something so the other could. Sometimes we went our separate ways to pursue our respective passions. We always worked it out, though.

Mike Casto

[…] get other people involved, cheerfulness in the face of adversity is much more easy when you’ve got a friend to share the experience.

Jack Sharp

16
Make a career or volunteer in martial arts, fitness and parkour

If you make a living or volunteer as an instructor in martial arts and fitness, you are making it an intricate part of your life.

Jackie
Image via Jackie

I love helping out at these seminars. I love sharing my art, for one. My art is somewhat obscure in the scheme of things and introducing it to new people is so fun. I love helping people become proficient and confident in what we’re teaching them, too. It’s a blast.

Jackie Bradbury (Chillax)

Making time to train when life gets in the way

17
Train early in the morning before work or late in the evening

Find time to train before or after work.

Wake up early to workout

I always try to make time to find at least 2 hours out of my day either it be morning or evening to go for a run and workout.

Shiri Lacycarides

I make time by either going before work or after late at night to me, martial arts is all about adaptation which means when life gets in your way for training u make time

Tyler Hartwig

18
Be a weekend warrior

Unpredictable weekdays? Train during the weekends.

Be a weekend warrior

Weekend Runner

Currently I am a weekend runner and my goal is to finish HM with less than 2 hours. In my opinion base of this is proper schedule even if I run only two days of week.

Wojtek Szymanski

19
Training in daily life situations - Movement snacks

Feeling sleepy – do push ups. See a fence – vault over it.  Brushing your teeth – do squats. Going up your apartment – take the stairs.

Be spontaneous and incorporate training in regular life.

Movement snacks and kata in regular life

Movement snacks

Mixing small pieces of practice into daily life (movement snacks, as Frank Forencich calls them) has been a great way to always get a little practice, regardless of where I am. Balance drills while waiting for people (or walking places), using any excuse to level transition, vaulting rails just because they are there and even arbitrary precision jumps on whatever is around.

Sean Rogers

Linking Up

If you want to make fitness a lifestyle and not just a hobby, then link exercises to your normal daily activities. For example, when you brush your teeth, drop into a horse stance. When you turn the lights on and off, use your foot. When you jump into bed, literally jump into bed. When you wait in line, do some slow calf raises. When you head to the kitchen for a snack, shuffle instead of walk. By linking what you want to do with what you do already, it’s easy to stay on track.

Ando Mierzwa

Martial arts is the one thing I can do anytime or anywhere. Whether I’m travelling with work or away on holiday. I find when I’m sweeping the yard my broom becomes a staff and I practice form.

Sam Rai (Jujitsu instructor via Facebook messenger)

Crunch Time

You can stretch while watching television. You can balance while brushing your teeth. You can do a push up in five minutes before school. You can walk up the stairs at home or at work, or use your lunchtime for a walk outside.

Andrea Harkins

20
HIIT for shorter workouts

Use HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Tabata workouts to cut your training time, while maximizing the benefits.

High intensity interval training

I am a great fan of HIIT (high intensity interval training) i.e. you take four or five simple exercises and just completely go for it in a very short time limit. Most full HIIT workouts can take as little as half an hour to complete!

Jack Sharp (martial artist at Samurai-Do via Facebook messenger)

21
Free up time during commute

Use the time on public transportation to get small administrative tasks done. It will free up your time.

Maximising time by using commute time

In order to make that hour available I will usually try to combine tasks, my journey to college often took a while so I would do assignments in that time. whenever I had a free minute that I had nothing planned I would do a small task that was planned for later in the day such as washing up dishes. These simple things seemed to free up a lot of time that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Matt Storm

22
Replace bad habits with short training sessions

Do you indulge in bad habits (e.g. snacking on junk food, smoking, etc. )? Try replacing the habit with mini training sessions – martial arts form practice, tabata workouts, etc. It will help break habits you wish to change.

Replace snacking with short training

Making Progress

23
Share your goals with the world and be accountable

Share your training goals with people who will keep you accountable. The pressure will make you take action, unless you enjoy having the reputation of being a hypocrite.

Accountability in fitness
I’m watching you!

[..] trying to motivate others to choose the healthier path helps me keep on track.

Julie Moore

24
Join races, competitions, tests and gradings

There will be troughs in your training journey. Schedule competitions, tests and training-events to ensure you do not falter.

What I’ve done in the past was to schedule competitive runs, obstacle course races, Aikido grading and other informal accountability events. There is no room for laziness, when you need to prepare yourself for tests.

Rope

Despite questioning my sanity for joining Lion Dash Sprint 2014 just a day before my 2-weeks military reservist, I had an enjoyable experience.

Logen Lanka (My First Obstacle Course Race: Lion Dash Sprint 2014)

25
Pick a rival and be competitive

Friendly rivalry helps spur progress. This person can be someone from your dojo, community or a random runner at the park (just don’t be weird about it).

When I go on runs, I some times pretend that I’m competing against any runner in front of me.

Friendly competition and rivalry

26
Compete only with yourself

Friendly competition aside, compete only against yourself. Training is not an ego game and it definitely is not a measure of your self-worth.

When you compete with your ego and compare progress to others, you are on the way to self-destruction.

Go at your own pace. Be the best ninja-version of yourself.

how to be a ninja modern guide

Mission: to be the best ninja version of yourself in mindset, physical ability and knowledge.

Logen Lanka (How To Be a Ninja in Real Life? Modern Warrior Guide)

Rousey had so deeply identified with her unbeatable persona that when she inevitably lost a fight – and it was inevitable that she would – she believed her life no longer held any meaning.

Jackie Bradbury (About the Competitive Spirit)

Ultimately, each of us has to do what is right for us. Comparing to others is rarely fruitful (there are exceptions, such as using a role model for inspiration but, really, that’s not “comparison” so I’m not sure it applies).

Mike Casto

27
Make training a game

Don’t take training too seriously, especially when you are trying to nail a technique. Have fun.

Don't take training too seriously. Have fun.

A lot of times I have worked towards a goal, for example, when I first started practicing gap jumping. I was always too afraid of not making the leap, so I made a game out of it. I would tell myself silly things such as the cop are chasing me, you’re Indiana Jones running from a boulder, or you’re in a dream knowing you can do anything.

Basically to have fun in your training. To me life is like a game, so I took my training as also being a game. I laugh when I fall and i celebrated when i succeed. In time, my fear turned into fun, but the feeling of succeeding never left.

Training in the downtown area of my city, I noticed a lot of people took their training way too seriously, being frustrated with themselves for not doing it right the first few times. I’m sure that’s the reason a lot of people stop training altogether within a few weeks never to return to it.

Eric Olsen (on freerunning and gymnastics training via FB messenger)

Avoiding Burnout & Boredom – Dealing with training issues

28
When life happens, be flexible

Accept that emergencies happen. Circumstances of higher priority may also crop up. It is okay to break routine occasionally. But make it up.

life happens

You have to make exceptions many times throughout your life. I train in MA 4-5 times a week for usually 2 hours each workout. Sometimes I have to cut a workout short because I have to study. Sometimes I won’t train at all that day because I have a date. Whatever the case may be you have to remember that you have a life outside of MA. There is a whole world out there to see, experience, etc.

Jarrod Jones (Martial Artist)

29
Don't sweat every detail

Training and fitness should not be a source of stress.

The moment training becomes a source of stress, you will resent it. Relax your standards and don’t try to control every aspect of your training and nutrition. Choose your battles.

Training and nutrition should not be a source of stress

I’m not always 100% strict with my eating, I have two children and I believe the fitness lifestyle should complement my life not restrict it, basically if I want a Dominoes 2 for Tuesdays, I’m going to have one…. But track it into my daily macro nutrients and calories also, I’m not a complete nutcase.

Dan Harding (Giving Jamie Oliver a Run For His Money)

30
Be spontaneous - add variety to your training

Feeling bored of your routine? On the verge of burnout? If you always do the same routine and push relentlessly, you are making yourself resent training.

Switch things up completely. Go easy. Train with no objective in mind. Or just go for a long hike. Listen to your body.

Train spontaneously

31
Train at different places

Switch training places, visit other dojos and participate in street workout/parkour jams with different groups. Sometimes a change in environment gives you a different perspective and even valuable insights on training.

Aikido training in Taipei as a guest
Aikido training in Taipei as a guest

I have personally made it a point to visit other dojos when travelling overseas.

32
Don't let anxiety stop you - Challenge yourself

Do you subconsciously avoid training because of anxiety over making mistakes. Challenge yourself.

Performance anxiety in martial arts and sports

Overcoming an inferiority complex involves battling against the vicious self-reinforcing cycle of a false underlying belief in your inferiority. By believing you are inferior (due to some weakness – real or imagined), you will inadvertently influence your behaviour and actions to prove that belief right. Each time this happens, the inferiority complex and anxiety gains more power.

Logen Lanka (Dealing with Anxiety in Martial Arts and Sports as a Slow Learner (Part 2))

Here’s what Sean had to say in response, when I spoke to him about training in public.

Yeah, I was self-conscious about it for a long time (about a year, maybe), but with enough practice it becomes less and less of a concern. I don’t think about it much at all anymore. For myself I practiced around a big college campus, so I got used to people being around all the time.

You can progress that sort of practice too. Start with seemingly more ‘acceptable’ or less weird movements and as you get more comfortable do things which are more unusual (QMs, climb-ups, etc.). At this point I’ve turned the thing into a little game, where getting weird looks is actually an accomplishment rather than something to avoid.

Sean Rogers

Sensei gave me a choice after warmups and a drill – did I want to lead the colored belts in moving basics or teach newbie white belts? My first impulse was to teach white belts.  But then I realized I wanted to run away from the other option.  I’ve never led moving basics for a group of colored belts and more experienced white belts.  I didn’t want to move outside my comfort zone.  So I put on my big girl panties and I told Sensei I’d like to lead moving basics.

Joelle White (February 2016 – Teaching Others 3)

33
Rest and recover

Know when to rest and recover. Your muscles recover and muscle memory gets activated during rest. And with tendons, it takes much longer to recover if you’ve been pushing too hard for far too long.

relaxation-946147_1280

When you’ve made training a lifestyle, you might fall into the other extreme and avoid resting. I have trained when infected with the flu virus and fever, and nearly blacked out. I have also ignored pain, which then contributed to a partial rotator cuff tear and tendinosis.

34
When facing life's difficulties and emotional lows...

At your lowest point, continue training in a way that you can. It gives spiritual insight and relief.

disability-224133_1280

When my daughter was in hospital waiting for a hip replacement, I used to pull her crutches as part of them made excellent tonfa substitutes. We were in a side ward so I could practice my kata to get ready for grading.

Motivation can be difficult but the only person who can stop you from training is yourself. Usually when I feel like I want to give up and I force myself to train that’s when I have the best training session.

Sam Rai

35
Smile when training

While in basic military training, the commanders and physical training instructors drilled into us to not show exhaustion in our faces. The rationale was to not drag the morale of your fellow platoon-mates; everyone was tired. But by showing a positive expression of determination, you motivate the group and yourself.

via Andrea Harkins
via Andrea Harkins

When you smile, you feel a lot better about yourself. It’s a little secret I use quite often. When working out, instead of being neutral, let loose a big smile that will remind you that you are doing something great for yourself. Those around you will appreciate it too.

Andrea Harkins

36
Reward yourself

Take the time to acknowledge your progress. It makes you feel good and will spur you to do better. Get new workout clothes or weapons.

I’ve been setting mini fitness goals and if I achieve them before time I get a new weapon.

Julie Moore

37
Connect with the active community

To feel a part of the community, you need to seek them out. It plays a huge role in seeing yourself as a martial artist and/or athlete. And you can get training tips.

Start by joining global and local fitness, parkour and martial arts groups on Google+ and Facebook. Find out if there are Meetup groups in your area.

Parkour community

Join Way Of Ninja’s Google+ community.

38
When training feels especially torturous

Some days at training might suck, maybe because of fatigue or stress. Don’t add frustration to the mix. Slow down your pace, relax and ease into it mindfully. Take the movements as meditation.

Ease into training

[…] it’s horribly frustrating when the first mile of a run feels like mile 26 of a race.

Today as that frustration started to appear, I did something different. I didn’t fight it. I didn’t get angry. I stopped and smiled.

I was running.

[…] Sometimes we spend so much time trying to PUSH the rock when if we just relaxed a little it would roll all on it’s own.

Amanda (The Underrated Value of Appreciating A Single Mile)

39
Dealing with failure

Dealing with failure

Rather than focus on why you can’t fix that ONE big problem in your life, I’d like to think about how that struggle against your biggest problem has shaped you. What knowledge have you gained as a result of that struggle?

Charles Franklin (Hunting with Lions: Dealing with the ONE Big Stressor in Your Life)

40
Be inspired by fellow athletes and martial artists

Everyone needs inspiration sometimes. If you are struggling with training, know that there are others in the same boat. Look to the role models and regular folk in your activity and read stories about their struggles and successes. Click on any person’s link for their blogs or social media profile.

41
Motivational Quotes

And if you ever need motivation – check out motivational quotes via #fitnessmotivation.

Takeaway

The only way for you to become a modern-day warrior is to start training and make it a sustainable lifelong journey. If you found this list of tips and advice useful, put it into work. And let me know if you have any of your own tips to add in the comments section.

Really, it boils down to putting one foot in front of the other. The speed at which we do so must be guided and set internally based on our own goals, priorities, and an honest self-assessment of our abilities.

Mike Castos

Please share this list with anyone – students, friends and fellow warriors – who you believe will find this useful.

Acknowledgements

This was originally a compilation of insights, tips, and advice from people in the fitness and martial arts community I’ve connected with on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in 2014. There were 21 tips in the first published version. The current update includes quoted responses from more connections and experts.

Special mentions to Andrea Harkins and Kai Morgan, who both shocked me with their respective few-pages-long tips and perspectives in contrast.

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About Logen Lanka 185 Articles
Logen is the founder and editor of WayOfNinja.com. Before his shoulder injury, he was actively involved in street callisthenics, Aikido and obstacle course racing. He is also a freelance content marketing writer and blogger who you can approach for your business.