It’s no use going back to yesterday

It’s a strange world we live in today. Our lives have been uprooted by a virus that has impacted us in so many ways that it’s unprecedented. I’ve read that the closest event that compares to the impact on people is 9/11, for us. Of course though this is a worldwide event impacting millions of people.

It is millions, isn’t it. Borders closed for who knows how long. Social interactions such as going out for dinner, the pub, a sit down coffee, and even work are gone and for who knows how long.

It’s taken me to this morning to be able to focus on this post. I’ve been fortunate in the sense that I’ve been very busy with my full time job and it’s helped to keep my mind occupied. But then you leave work and stop to pick up some groceries and you see the impact. Simple things are no longer simple.

A recent post I wrote talked about how to exercise in a small area and be just as effective as going to a gym. Little did I know who relevant that post would be today due to social distancing. That post was focused on the physical side of fitness. Today I’ll focus on the mental side of fitness and health.


empty the mind

Without mental health we most likely won’t have physical health. Our brain is responsible for the things we do, the choices we make. Our brain chooses that today we stay in bed and do nothing absorbed by the negative events happening around us or half way across the world sometimes. Or, our brain chooses to get out of bed and do what’s needed to be done to keep us healthy. That’s very important.

There are a ton of books, videos, podcasts that focus on having a positive attitude. I have actually purchased a book on this topic, The PMA Effect by John Joseph. Read it if you haven’t. To me, it’s a clear story of how through choices his life could have ended up totally different than where he is today.

I train and teach martial arts. I have heard and use motivational quotes all the time: You fight how you train, each day is a new day, 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, etc. But there is one that over the years I think is very important, maybe the most important:

“Don’t worry about the things you cannot change”

It’s easy to be consumed by various things that impact our lives directly or indirectly and that can be a bad thing. Today we live in a world that we know when something devastating happens thousands of miles away. Or it can be only 50 miles away. I see people commit time, invest their mental health over a murder that might have happened in their city. They get concerned, worried, spend a lot of time engaged in this event. But they fail to distant their engagement by not fully realizing that the murdered and the murderer knew each other. The vast majority of murders are perpetrated by people who know their victim. If you are concerned about violent crime than maybe you should be training 3 times a week on how to defend yourself and now you’ve turned a negative into a positive.

I’m not being crass here. Don’t confuse this as lacking empathy. We should care about each other, our family, our friends but investing your mental health in something you cannot change only hurts you. Stress is a good thing but negative stress or too much stress no longer motivates us to act but becomes a heavy blanket preventing us from moving forward positively.


It’s a new world today. I know this because I can see it. I was downtown in the city I live in yesterday, Saturday just before noon and it was barren. Parking spots abundant on the usually full streets. How long will this last? No one knows for sure. Some say it maybe months.

But we need to be strong and not worry about what we can’t change. I can’t change the fact that I can’t go out and sit down and enjoy a pour over coffee. I can’t change the fact that some businesses will lay off workers, or close.

But I can make decisions that can help. I can patron local businesses more often and tip more than usual. I can reach out to friends and family and see that they are ok. I can do things that help me stay in a more positive mindset and not get dragged down.

Zen Garden

Ever wanted to try meditation? Now might be the time! Do you have a body part that needs attention? Now might be the time! Instead of exercising the same muscles switch it up. Focus on the muscles you neglect, the inside of the legs, lower back, calves, etc. Not happy with the rear muscles of your shoulders now is the time to do something about it. Then when things do get back to ‘normal’ maybe your muscle imbalance will be the muscles that used to be predominantly stronger.

But be safe about it, especially if you are working out intensely. Have you ever wondered why elite athletes get colds more often? Because when you train intensely you compromise your immunity system. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session. Moderate exercise, on the other hand, enables immune cells to circulate through the body quicker and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. Generally, after exercise ends our immune system returns to normal within a few hours.


Be smart. Be safe. Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Don’t focus on things you cannot change.

Focus on the things you can change. You owe it to yourself.

Yours in health,



The physics of perception

And the world will continue to revolve…

There are a lot of things that impact our performance. Some of these things benefit you when they have been done well before the event, things such as recovery from your workouts, getting enough sleep, your diet and some of these things need to happen at the time and during the event. Things such as hydration, and fuel.

I want to add another to the list of things you can do during your event that will help you tremendously, at least I have found this out myself.


Intense exercise

It took me a while to find this one out, and I’m kind of glad I found out myself because I experienced it and when I experienced it that light went off in my brain, ‘Holy shit, what just happened?’ is what my brain said.

I’ve been training in martial arts, particularly karate now for almost 12 years. But don’t look at it in the sense of 12 calendar years. I pretty much live in the dojo, probably putting in about 16 – 25 hours a week almost every week over those 12 years. Not all training, but a combination of training and teaching. You learn a lot by teaching be it teaching a group of students or individuals. You see how others move at each level of proficiency and you understand how you move your own body. Things that you do can make more sense and you can see the way you used to move your body when you are teaching someone of less experience. I find it an enlightening experience.  It makes your own martial arts that much better.

But it takes time doing the same things over and over for this growth to happen. Like many students, whenever we run through the syllabus of kata it can be a very tiring experience, sometimes taking up to 2 hours to complete. It’s really tiring when you are a lower belt and are giving it 100% the whole time, and I mean the whole time. Muscles constricted pretty much all the time, slowing you down and exhausting you. But you haven’t yet learned how to move efficiently and also move like the ebb and flow of a tide.

But then it happened. The light went off. It was a Saturday black belt class, the dead of winter, I even think it was snowing that day. I didn’t really want to be there that day but there I was. Tired, suffering from dead of winter depression I knew I had to be there and I had to perform as being head instructor I cannot just not perform and be a poor example to my students.  I lined up with my fellow karateka and I told myself to just stay relaxed and only put effort into each individual move itself, not 100% from beginning to end. And that’s what I did. Low block fast and intense, but then relax right away. Inside block fast and intense, but then relax, immediately. I did this for every kata, only being explosive and only contracting muscles when I moved to execute the move. Everything else was just staying relaxed.

I remember having to hold a stance for a long time as my Sensei talked about the move we just did and I remember telling myself to just breathe, relax, and all I did was focus on my breathing:

in, slowly, deeply

out, slowly, deeply

Sometimes I would close my eyes as I did this letting calmness become what I felt instead of anxiousness.

What will you see?

I did this kata after kata after kata. And I could feel the difference. I wasn’t nearly sweating as much as I would have. Ask anyone that knows me, I’m kind of known for my sweatyness. My heart rate wasn’t racing like it usually does. It worked. Although tired, depressed, and usually anxious when training I got through the two hours without feeling like death. You may not know how huge this was/is for me. I’ve done many belt tests, kata reviews and usually am exhausted afterwards. My brown belt test went from 5:30 to 9pm on a Friday night and you could have rung out my Gi and filled a bucket I sweated that much. Did I know the benefits of relaxing? I thought I did but I couldn’t put it to practice I guess. Like a lot of times we know what we need to do but we don’t always do it. Sometimes it takes circumstances, or time for these things to happen, for the light bulb to go off.

The Mind

It makes sense though. It requires fuel to contract muscle in the form of glucose and oxygen. The more fuel we use the more our blood needs to circulate to provide that fuel to our muscles and the faster our breathing gets and we then get tired. Of course your level of fitness ties into this. The more fit you are the less the heart has to work as one heart beat will deliver more blood to the muscles. But your fitness level is your fitness level going into the event. You can’t change that when you get up that morning and decide your are going to increase your fitness level by 20%.

But, the mind. The mind can be changed, or altered that morning and during the event. You are able to tell yourself to breathe deep and long. You are able to close your eyes and listen to your lungs expand, contract, and the air leaving your mouth. If the mind is not calm and relaxed your heart rate will increase. We all know what happens to our body when we nearly get into an automobile accident having to break hard and suddenly to avoid something. We get that copper taste in our mouth, our heart starts racing, palms get sweaty. These stimuli are processed by our brain and we react. How we react is up to us. This is one benefit of sparring. If you have ever sparred you probably remember the first time, having to stand across from someone who wanted to punch you in the face. Anxiousness, nerves, fear, our breathing intensified and even though the round was 2 minutes we were sweaty and tired. But, after many many sparring sessions you are calmer, generally more relaxed. You’ve been here before and you know what to expect. It’s still the same event as the first time you sparred but through experience you no longer get worked up. Any professional who deals with these things all the time; bouncer, cop, firefighter will tell you the same thing. The core events, or experiences have not changed but the person who is experiencing them have. The mind, or brain is not treating these things the same as it used to.

It’s like the saying ‘It’s all in your head’. Well, in this case it is.


Be calm, breathe deep, relax and tell yourself these things constantly, every moment you can. There’s an old Zen expression, ‘Mushin’, mind without mind, no mind. Think of it as ignoring everything; the person next to you, the sound in the room, someone talking, the sweat on your brow. Think of only calmness.

You can’t change the stimulus coming at you, you have no control over that. But, you can change how you react to it. This is all up to you.

Yours in health,