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7 Important Life Lessons Kick Boxing Has Taught Me

7 Important Life Lessons Kick Boxing Has Taught Me

Years of martial arts have taught me more than how to throw a good punch. Surprisingly it has taught me how to control myself and most importantly some crucial life lessons. It has also sharpened my focus

Around a year ago I sweated my way through a brown belt kick boxing exam. Since then I have taken a slight break as I moved temporarily for 12 months, but as I get closer to moving back to London, I’ve already started thinking about what martial art I would like to take up next. Aikido? Taekwondo? Perhaps karate (after all, maybe I will be naturally good at this one as I am half Japanese, where it originated).

I have been doing various martial arts for quite some time now, before I started living in London… some have worked out better than others (I won gold at a Choi Kwong Do competition but I had to give up MMA because, put simply, my 5ft 3 frame couldn’t handle it and I nearly broke my nose during a head lock). But I have absolutely loved trying every single one and can’t wait to start again.

I started kick boxing because I am a secret bad-ass.

Ok, that is not true. I started kick boxing because I wanted a way to shape up, give my body a good cardio-kicking and find a fun way to de-stress.

At first, I spent my time sheepishly hanging around, doing my best not to give anyone bigger than me any eye contact so I didn’t have to partner them. But then I started getting a little more confident, and smiling at people awkwardly (revealing my pink mouth-guard) with a “do you want to partner me?” look but always hoping that they would go easy on me.

As time went on though, my confidence grew (and then dipped again) and then grew some more, and I started to get more and more out of the sessions… and I started to learn some life lessons from the gruelling sessions that weren’t just about how to avoid a black eye.

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Here are my 7 seriously important life lessons that kick boxing has taught me. Because it hasn’t been all sweat and muscle ache for the sake of exercise…

Life lesson 1: Push yourself out of your comfort zone

The reason why it is called the comfort zone is because it is comfortable, not because it is exciting or exhilarating. A familiar place, perhaps bringing a warm feeling, you know you are safe in your comfort zone. But since when has safety equated to fun?

The trouble is that you’ll never progress if you keep sitting on the comfort zone sofa of life. Even worse, just because it is ‘familiar’ doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for you.

The only way to truly progress and develop yourself is to push your boundaries. The funny thing though, is the more you push, the more you experience and so your comfort zone widens. You’ll find that you quickly get used to whatever you used to find unnerving. There is nothing more comfort zone pushing then putting on a pair of gloves and getting into the boxing ring.

Life lesson 2: Learn from people better than you

Whether you are top of your game or just starting out, we can all learn from others, especially those that are better than us or do things differently. When I first started sparring, I was terrified and did my best to always partner my friend Kris in the hope that we wouldn’t have to pair a black belt or a bloke twice our size.

Our instructors quickly latched on to this though and like naughty school children, started separating us from each other. Whilst terrified at first, I soon started to learn new techniques and people were generous in the knowledge they shared about how to be a better fighter. This is also something I have learnt outside of kick boxing – people are generally very giving when it comes to helping you. The trouble is, most of us never ask or put ourselves in opportunities where we can learn.

Life lesson 3: Speak up if you are not happy

When you are sparring, it is inevitable that you are going to get punched in the face a few times, even if like me, you did your best to hide rather than box. Whilst most kick boxers will offer you a soft ‘tap’ there were also the odd imbeciles that wanted to show off or make themselves better and turn a friendly spar into an opportunity to use you as a human punch bag.

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Do you have to stand there and take it?  Of course not!

In the beginning, if I experienced one of these hard-hitting imbeciles, I would just simply remember not to partner them in the future and avoid them at all costs. Sensible approach in my mind. But then one day, the class was so small, the 6 of us rotated around and around and there was no escaping anyone. And that’s when I had no other choice but to speak up, a rather pathetic “erm… can you… errr…. not hit me as hard?… please?”

When the reply was “oh yea sure, I am so sorry, I didn’t realise”, I realised my error – they weren’t imbeciles. I had been the idiot for not speaking up! If you don’t like something, either change it or ask for it to be changed.

Knowing this as boosted my confidence in the simple act of asking and speaking up about something if you are not happy. You don’t have to stand there, physically or metaphorically, while you’re being punched in the face.

Life lesson 4: Relax

When kick boxing, I am constantly being reminded to relax by my instructors when punching and sparring because the more relaxed your body is, the more flexible you become, which in turn makes your technique better.

On one particular grading, I was so tired thanks to a late-night birthday (the kind of party where it is “oh just one more drink”), I was too tired to even think about being worried or scared for the exam. I just got up and went to the dojo. Result? My body relaxed, my mind wasn’t worried about what to expect and I did the best sparring I have ever done, which managed to get me a (rarely given) first grade!

This is true for life too!

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Relax a little, don’t be so rigid and stop your mind from worrying about the “what ifs”. You’ll find that things become a lot easier and are a lot more enjoyable.

Life lesson 5: Practice makes perfect

This is a classic, but I am afraid it is true. Practice really does make perfect. And you know what else? If you first don’t succeed, try and try again! It is boring but so truthful in life too. We can’t all be naturally gifted in everything that we do but there is no reason why we can’t dedicate a little time and effort to learn and practice. A learning curve for me was also seeing practice as enjoyable, fun and something I wanted to do (rather than ‘have’ to do). If you see it as a chore, you’ll resent having to practice to become perfect.

Life lesson 6: Be observant

Am I the best fighter in my class? Damn right! I am not! But have I won matches and passed demanding exams? Most certainly!

So how can you win a fight if you’re not at the top of the game? Wishing that your partner is having an off day can only get you so far!

My advice, be observant.

Watch others. Even if you don’t learn through someone else’s superior experience, you can always learn through your own simple observation. Even when I was partnering people my level or lower, I would still learn from each and every one of them, simply observing how they did things differently to me.

There was a guy in my class on a Tuesday that had a bad habit of starting to let his guard down half way through the match when he started to tire. The perfect time for me to land a jab. And there was a tall teenager who use to have his guard far too high up for me (because I was about his waist height) so would leave his torso exposed to me for a hook. And whilst my arm reach might mean I’ll never be able to jab my way to winning with anyone tall, my natural flexibility meant I could always plant a round-house kick to their chest or head. I may not have been the best, but observing other’s weaknesses meant I could see exactly where to shoot my arrow to find their Achille’s heel.

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Don’t underestimate the power of observation, be aware of your surroundings and look for opportunities to make your move.

Life lesson 7: Improvement isn’t linear

The trouble with improvement and development is that we seem to think that it is a linear progression. That every hour of practice we put in, the better we automatically become.

This is a misconception. Success isn’t a straight line, but instead a wandering, wavy road up and down a mountain’s path. Sometimes it can even feel like two steps forward and one step back! Not every day is the same situation so you can’t expect your progress to be linear.

Sometimes when kick boxing I feel elated that I have finally mastered that double backwards kick… only for me to feel so disappointed the next lesson when it isn’t as good. But there could be a whole host of reasons for this – perhaps I am particularly tired that day or my muscles aren’t as warm or flexible, or perhaps I haven’t eaten the right foods the day before for optimum energy. The situation is different.

Progress isn’t linear. Realising this through kick boxing has made me a lot kinder to my development in other areas too, like my career or learning Japanese. As long as you are committed to trying and learning, then you’re on the right road to success, however up and down it might be.

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Alice Dartnell

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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