There’s Always Room to Do More
How can you "Do More" when you already think that you do enough?
I've been fitter in my late 30s and 40s than I've ever been in my life. The main reason for this is that ten years ago I decided to become a fitness instructor in my spare time.
I already had a full-time job, and a busy one at that. It involved frequent trips away from home. But when you travel you don't exercise much, apart from running to catch a departing train, or charging down an air jetty before they can close the aeroplane door. Eating on the go meant stubbornly relying on fast food at all hours of the day. As a result, I was out of shape and out of breath after one flight of stairs.
My wife dragged me to a martial arts exercise to music class and after that first hour, I was hooked. It felt like taking a lead role in a Bruce Lee movie. After a few weeks, the pounds started to fall away. But not only was I enjoying being a participant, I decided I wanted to teach this class.
So, despite the day job, I enrolled in an evening class to qualify as a fitness instructor and went on to train in the martial arts-based class. That was ten years ago and since then I've been giving my participants that Bruce Lee movie experience. There's nothing better than seeing people who are as unfit as I used to be achieving what they thought was impossible.
After a few years of re-shaping myself with the punishing cardio-based martial arts routines, I trained to become a Yoga teacher. I found the focus on stretch, strength and flexibility to be the perfect counter-balance to the intensity of kicking and punching.
When Strathmore approached me and asked if I could Do More, my initial reaction was that I was doing enough; I was teaching 10 classes a week. That's enough, isn't it?
But Strathmore got me thinking, and here's the thing:
Even fitness instructors get complacent and sometimes lazy. We can "cheat" by backing off from full intensity. Wandering around the room checking participants’ technique is a perfect example. I realised that the martial arts had made me fit and lose weight but my muscles needed stretching to keep them safe. That had been one of the main reasons for doing yoga. But was I really benefiting as much as I could? Perhaps I'd been wandering around checking technique just a little too much?
So for a month, I integrated more yoga into my routine. I put together a series of poses that stretch the muscles in the legs and the hips, and I performed these exercises just for me. With no one to teach, or people to "watch", I could concentrate on how I felt. I worked out at home and even on the terrace at our villa on a recent holiday.
I can see and feel the results. Touching my toes in a forward fold is easier. My legs are stronger and feel more precise when kicking in my martial arts classes.
Lack of flexibility can be a problem for even the fittest people. How many times have you seen a football star with a leg injury that, arguably, could have been prevented if he had stretched more? The "Do More" challenge reminded me of the importance of flexibility in fitness. Practising yoga alongside more cardio-based exercise can protect your muscles and improve your strength and performance.
One of the questions participants ask me when they come to my yoga class is, "How long will it take me to get flexible doing yoga?" I always tell them that they will become more flexible every time they come along. The only difference is where they start.
It was the same for me – after teaching others for many years, I'd probably plateaued. I was flexible, probably more than most men. But Strathmore's challenge made me realise that even from that starting point, it was definitely possible to "Do More"!
Roger Edwards is a marketing strategist and speaker from Edinburgh. He is also a group fitness instructor, yoga teacher and blogger. You can read more about fitness and yoga at his blog: www.grandnat.co.uk