With the advent of modern technology, many remarkable changes have occurred that make our lives a lot easier than ever before. However, because of this, modern day lifestyles don’t often call for a lot of physical exertion. Machines have taken most of the jobs requiring physical labour, and now more than ever people are choosing careers that require more mental rather than physical effort. With the increasing size of cities, there is greater requirement for vehicles to transport us to places we need to be, and not a lot of practicality for walking or biking. This type of lifestyle has taken away the necessity to exert ourselves physically, allowing people to become sedentary and forget the value of being in good physical condition. To counteract this type of lifestyle, it’s hugely important to implement some form of physical training in your own time to ensure your body will remain in peak physical condition to tackle any situation.
There are many reasons for the importance of maintaining peak physical condition. You’ve all heard of the health benefits of regular exercise, such as healthy cardiovascular system, hormonal benefits, increased lifespan and even improvements in cognitive performance. However, although being physically healthy is fundamentally important, this isn’t the only beneficial reason for physical improvement.
Your body is a powerful biological machine. With it, you are capable of overcoming amazing obstacles. But if you don’t look after your body, and let it become weak and unhealthy, the potential for it to make the achievements it’s capable of are substantially decreased. There is no reason to put your body into this state; if it has the potential to do a lot more than it can now, you should do everything it takes to ensure it reaches optimal performance. I believe that it is every human being’s responsibility to keep their bodies in the condition necessary to achieve their full potential. You should be able to handle almost any situation requiring physical exertion with confidence.
Here are a few techniques that you can employ to build the attributes for your body that are required so that you can work on further development and achieve your desired state of physical performance.
Kettlebell training. The Kettlebell is a Russian strength conditioning tool that resembles a cannonball with a handle. Kettlebells have been largely unheard of until recently but are quickly gaining popularity due to their effectiveness at developing practical strength. Unlike regular weight training such as using free weights or machine weights, which are used to target specific muscle groups, kettlebells require the use of multiple muscle groups with each exercise and therefore are a much more holistic style of strength training. In particular, the main muscle groups targeted are the back, legs, shoulders, and due to the thick handle, the forearms.
There are many different types of exercises out there that use kettlebells. Some of the most popular being the swing, which targets the lower back, legs and shoulders; the clean and press, which targets similar muscle groups but also the triceps; and the Turkish get up, which is a lower intensity workout. All these workouts aim to increase strength in the muscle groups mentioned, but also require a lot of control over the movement of the kettlebell due to its shape. This develops greater muscle strength in muscles that would not normally be used in traditional workouts, and is why kettlebells are used to develop more practical strength that can be applied to everyday situations.
Simply get your hands on a kettlebell, look at some youtube videos for the different workouts, and you’ll want to do around 2 to 3 sessions a week for muscle development. This should leave enough days between sessions to allow the muscles to heal and to prevent overworking them.
Parkour. When performing endurance training, everyone usually just does the good old fashioned run. However, a much more fun and satisfying way of getting your endurance training is to do parkour. The main premise behind parkour is to get from one point to another in the most direct and quickest way possible. This usually involves vaulting over obstacles, running up walls, and jumping from high places. It is a full body workout that requires not only running endurance but plenty of upper body strength and upper body endurance as well.
Not only does it get you in really good shape and teach you how to use your body more efficiently, but it is also really satisfying once you get good at it. You learn a lot of awesome skills and figure out unique ways of using your body that you didn’t realise were possible. Parkour practitioners also talk about how learning unique ways to get around physical obstacles though practicing parkour allows them to develop a mindset that can be used to get around more figurative obstacles as well. They find that if they encounter a problem in their lives, they can develop a means of getting around it a lot easier and more efficiently, leading to improvement in wellbeing.
To begin parkour, I’d suggest joining your local gymnastics academy so that you can use the gymnastics equipment to practice your parkour skills. That way you have a safe environment to practice with plenty of padding. Alternatively, a school playground is a really good place to practice, but without the padding.
Yoga. When people usually talk about yoga, they generally mention the spiritual benefits and its effect on wellbeing. However, the feelings associated with yoga are likely to be more related to its benefits to the body. With regular practice of yoga, it greatly improves joint flexibility and increases the range of motion available to muscles. It also increases blood and lymph circulation to parts of the muscles that would otherwise be left unattended, assisting in the clearance of waste such as lactic acid which contributes to muscle pain, and increasing oxygen supply leading to more efficient energy production. This all contributes to the feeling of healthy muscles and joints and a feeling of wellbeing.
One of the main benefits of yoga on physical performance is the increased limb mobility and joint flexibility. Yoga has been found to increase the elasticity of tendons and ligaments, which without regular stretching become stiff and restrictive. It also increases the production of lubrication between muscle groups, allowing the muscles to move more freely with each other. In gaining these benefits, it’s possible to achieve a lot more with your body than previously thought possible.
To begin yoga, almost all areas have local yoga classes that you can sign up for. Otherwise, simply watch a few instructional videos and do your own practice at home.
Muay Thai. Muay Thai is a form of kickboxing that originated in Thailand but has quickly spread in popularity around the world. It is often called the ‘art of eight limbs’, due to the fact that not only are fists and shins used for fighting, but also the knees and elbows. It is a really intense, full body workout that relies being able to use all parts of the body together to produce one concentrated outcome; in this particular case, a blow to the opponent. Practicing Muay Thai is a great way to develop strength, endurance, confidence and greater control of how your body moves in space.
The benefit of Muay Thai to physical conditioning is that with regular practise, you will begin to develop a greater feel for how your body works and learn how to produce certain movements with greater ease, ultimately leading to more control of the muscles in your body. You will find that you will have greater coordination, faster reaction times, and be able to employ all parts of your body to work together synergistically allowing for more effective performance at handling physical situations. In developing this sense of control over your body through Muay Thai, you will be able to learn more physical skills in the future with greater ease and efficiency.
Like yoga, most areas have gyms that instruct Muay Thai, so to start just sign up for a local class in your area. Alternatively, if you don’t believe that Muay Thai is your thing, it can be substituted for some other form of martial art, as they all develop greater control over your body.
In a time when physical activity isn’t a necessity and technology has taken the role of the work horse to make our lives a lot easier, it’s more important than ever to implement methods to counteract a sedentary lifestyle. Begin practising certain exercises to ensure your body is at peak physical condition and is capable of handling any physical situation, and maintain your responsibility to ensure your powerful biological machine can operate at its full potential.
You may have noticed that I categorised each technique into how it benefits the body; from strength and endurance to flexibility and control. If you are able to achieve all of these attributes for your body, it will definitely be capable of achieving whatever you put it through. However, because of the time and effort required to practise each of these things, it may not be practical for all people to pursue all of these attributes. For this reason, so long as you are aiming to achieve at least two of these things, it should be all that’s necessary to perform at optimal performance.