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.
1Make 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.
2Believe 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.
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3Know 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.
4Know 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.
5Set 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.
6Get 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.
7Start 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.
8Journal your training
Start a training blog or keep a private log of your training.
Finding your passion
This section talks about finding an activity that suits your passion.
9Train in something you are passionate about
You should train in activities that: (1) fit into your goals and (2) you feel passionate about.
10Experiment 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.
11Eliminate 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.
Making sure you train
12Block 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.
13Don'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.
14Train 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.
15Get 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.
16Make 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.
Making time to train when life gets in the way
17Train early in the morning before work or late in the evening
Find time to train before or after work.
18Be a weekend warrior
Unpredictable weekdays? Train during the weekends.
19Training 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.
20HIIT for shorter workouts
Use HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Tabata workouts to cut your training time, while maximizing the benefits.
21Free up time during commute
Use the time on public transportation to get small administrative tasks done. It will free up your time.
22Replace 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.
23Share 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.
24Join 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.
25Pick 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.
26Compete 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.
27Make training a game
Don’t take training too seriously, especially when you are trying to nail a technique. Have fun.
Avoiding Burnout & Boredom – Dealing with training issues
28When 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.
29Don'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.
30Be 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.
31Train 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.
I have personally made it a point to visit other dojos when travelling overseas.
32Don't let anxiety stop you - Challenge yourself
Do you subconsciously avoid training because of anxiety over making mistakes. Challenge yourself.
Here’s what Sean had to say in response, when I spoke to him about training in public.
33Rest 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.
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.
34When 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.
35Smile 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.
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.
37Connect 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.
Join Way Of Ninja’s Google+ community.
38When 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.
39Dealing with failure
40Be 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.
And if you ever need motivation – check out motivational quotes via #fitnessmotivation.
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.
Please share this list with anyone – students, friends and fellow warriors – who you believe will find this useful.
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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