Happy New Year! Have you started working on your resolutions yet? Have you made any resolutions yet?
If the answer is no, this blog is for you.
Don’t worry. We’re not here to scold you. We’re not even here to tell you that you have to make resolutions or set new training goals this year.
This isn’t the easiest time in history to set goals and make future plans. It’s hard to get and stay motivated given the state of the world right now. It’s also hard to figure out what you want to do next and what concrete steps you can take to achieve it when so much is in a state of flux.
It’s even more challenging when you don’t have the same access to support systems that you’ve had in the past. For example, if you’re a martial artist who isn’t able to train and spar in a gym setting at the moment, you might be finding it a bit more difficult to pursue your training and competition goals than in the past.
But establishing and following a routine can also help these troubling times become a little more manageable. They can provide a sense of control and focus at a time when everything else feels out of control. And they can help you build and maintain strength that you can apply to bigger goals in better times.
If you think you’d benefit from a new routine or new focus in your life, but you’re not feeling your best and you don’t even know where to start, we’re here to help. We’ve put together five small and low pressure New Year’s resolutions to help you tackle 2022.
Do 5 minutes of exercise a day.
If you’re unmotivated and tired but you want to do something, there is no shame in setting the bar low. Pick a couple of exercises that you enjoy and commit to doing a little bit of them each day.
It can be anything! A yoga flow sequence or a few basic Pilates moves. A collection of bodyweight drills that you’ve picked up from dojo warmups. Kata practice. If you have a heavy bag or a freestanding bag, you can even set up a short boxing or kickboxing routine. Do a quick full-body dynamic warmup to get your body and brain ready to rumble, set a timer for two rounds of two minutes each with a one minute rest in the middle, and go!
It might not sound like much on paper, but five minutes each day adds up quickly and can make a major impact on your physical and mental health. It will improve your conditioning and your sense of self-worth. It will also remind you that you are strong and can accomplish what you set out to do, which is a message a lot of us need these days.
2. Try one new type of training per month.
If the daily plan doesn’t work for you, try looking at a slightly bigger picture. Once per month, think of an exercise or a style of training that you’ve been curious about, research local options, and give it a try.
This once a month workout can be anything, too. A trial class at a gym that teaches a martial art you’ve never done before. Or a trial class in a martial art you have done before with a new instructor or different method. A technique you’ve been researching online. A form of cross-training you’ve been wondering about. A new drill based on a new piece of martial arts equipment that caught your eye. A variation on a tried and true exercise. (Have you always done traditional deadlifts? Why not give Romanian deadlifts a shot?)
If you do this just once a month, you’ll finish the year with 12 new experiences and 12 new perspectives. That’s a big accomplishment and a great learning opportunity.
This one might sound easy in theory, but it might be a challenge in practice. If you manage it, though, your efforts could really pay off!
Promise yourself that you’ll take one day off from training a week. Set aside half an hour a day to turn off all of your electronics and zone out. Put down a set of jigsaw mats, create a meditation space in your home, and dedicate five minutes to meditation or other mindful activities each day.
One of the many problems with pandemic life is that the boundaries between work, play, and rest hours have become even more blurred and confusing than they already were. Even when we’re at home and not doing much of anything, we’re rarely able to let our brains and bodies truly relax and recharge. Making rest a priority and taking these small steps to improve it could have a big positive impact on your overall well-being this year.
If you’ve spent any time in martial arts, you’ve probably received at least one good lecture about fallow periods and regrouping. Everyone experiences down times in their training. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Slow periods give us a chance to recover from injuries and exhaustion, reflect on our losses, and to learn from them and rebuild.
So if you don’t feel up to starting a new routine right now, you could resolve to start planning one. Set aside a little time each month to reflect on what you’ve done in your past training, what you want to learn from it, and what you want to try next. Keep notes. At the end of the year, use all of that rest and reflection to help you set a new training goal for 2023.
5. Treat yourself.
If new year, new you isn’t working for you, how about new year, new gear?
Martial artists often treat gear as a necessity or as a reward. You get a new martial arts uniform or boxing gloves when your old ones wear out. Or you tell yourself that you can get a new martial arts weapon if you achieve certain goals.
But if you have the budget for it, and you’re not really in a place in your training where you’re going to wear out your old gear or “earn” new pieces of equipment, why not splurge a little?
Get that freestanding bag or that target master you’ve always wanted, set it up at home, and see what new workout opportunities come from it. Get some jigsaw mats and a grappling dummy or a medicine ball and play around with them. You could even get a set of throwing knives and learn a new skill!