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5 Tips to Get Your Body in Shape for Self-Defense

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This is the time of the year when gobs of people go to the gym to work off those pounds gained through the holidays. Spending time on the treadmill is fine, but if you are going to survive a violent encounter, you must have a plan to get your body physically conditioned so that you can defend yourself. Being weak, out of breath, inflexible, and slow are dangerous. If you are serious about defending yourself, you must get in better shape. Here are some tips on what to do.

1. If you can do something—anything—start today.

Don’t put it off for a “better time.” Determine now, today, that you will begin to condition yourself so that you will be stronger, faster, and more durable. No, you don’t have to be an Olympian — I am not. I am almost 54 years old, and I have survived a few heart surgeries. But I have a plan, and I follow it. Every day.

2. If all you can do is train three times a week, great!

You are ahead of most people. If all you can do is 30 minutes each time you work out, very good. An exercise program like Beachbody’s “Focus T25” is only 25 minutes a day, and it is very effective—I know because I’ve done it, and it kicks my behind! Do what you can do, but don’t stop there. Don’t get satisfied. Push yourself to do more each time. I am now able to train one hour each day.

3. For self-defense, you must focus on four areas: endurance, power, speed, and flexibility.

If you run out of gas after ten seconds of fighting, then you’re dead. I train for at least 40 seconds of uninterrupted fighting at full speed. How do I do this? I work on endurance — I run, jog, and bike. If all you can do is walk, start there. But push yourself to do more. For power, you must lift weights. Don’t worry about bulking up — it probably won’t happen. But people can build muscle mass at any age, and lifting weights helps create bone density. Speed? If you can get a speed bag, that’s helpful. I just go to the heavy bag and hit it as fast as I can, as hard as I can, for as long as I can. Jumping rope also helps with speed and dexterity. And flexibility? I’m getting old, but one of my favorite times of the week is the day I devote just to stretching. After about 30 minutes of stretching, I feel like a new man.

4. If you say to yourself, “I can’t do all that,” then you have already defeated yourself.

After my second heart surgery, I was determined to run in a marathon. Once I got the doctor’s OK, I started training—seriously training. Nine months after my surgeries, I did it. I ran a half marathon for the first time in my life. Since then, I have run two full marathons. Remove “can’t” from your vocabulary. The only person stopping you is you.

5. Here is a sample of my weekly training schedule:

Mondays, I lift weights for my biceps and triceps (you must have punching/striking power!). On Tuesdays, I stretch. (Ahhh. Feels great.) Wednesdays find me hitting the heavy bag as hard as I can. I often wear a weighted vest. All of my strikes on the bag imitate the actual moves I would make in a real, violent encounter. The next day, I am doing cardio. If I can’t run, I’ll jump rope and then kick the heavy bag. Fridays are probably the hardest for me: chest and back. Lots of pull-ups and push-ups. Sometimes I use a weighted vest for these exercises (don’t start with a weighted vest at first). Lastly, on Saturdays, I work on legs. Lots of squats with the barbell and dead lifts. On Sundays, I rest, of course! But also in my spare time, I read books and articles about how to improve my self-defense training.

That’s what I do. If this old man can do it, you can too. You will fight like you train, so start training!