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November 2007
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January 2008

My Personal Trainer is Trying to Kill Me

I've been working twice a week for over 3 months with James Adams, a personal trainer who puts me through workouts that leave me gasping on the floor. In the meantime, I'm seeing muscles in my mid-section that I haven't seen in a while.

Core training and Plyometrics are at the heart of the workouts--the development of core muscles and explosive strength. On Saturday, he began by having me do a push-up, then jump into a squat and leap into the air, grab pull-up handles and do a chin-up, then drop back down and repeat the push-up and continue leaping up, repeating the process for a set of 12.

The next set involved starting in a squat, leaping up and doing a chin-up, and at the same time bring both feet up at a 90-degree angle in front of the body, then drop back into a squat and do it again for another set of 12.

We work on various drills for a half-hour. At the same time as I'm doing these personal trainer sessions, I'm watching what I eat and I've drastically reduced the sugar in my diet over the past two or three weeks. I've always found the Atkins Diet to be the best, but now I've modified it and I'm doing the Men's Health TNT Diet. It's high on protein and fat, but allows good carbs, and one day each week is a carb day (but you still have to avoid sugar as much as possible and starchy foods that turn to sugar in your body).

This spring, I hope to enter the Florida tournament scene, but in one month I turn 55 years old, so to prepare, I'm trying to get smarter about diet and using James to put this old body through grueling workouts that work the entire body. I haven't felt this strong in a long time, but after Saturday morning's workout I had to go into the stretching room and lie down for about 5 minutes before I could stumble to the car and go home. Nancy laughs at me when I come home and collapse on the floor, but the other night when I demonstrated one of the exercises I had done that evening with James, she looked at me and said, "Wow, you look strong."

And that, my friends, is what it's all about - impressing chicks. :)

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So Much to Work On and So Little Time

I've been lucky to have had some very good instruction over the years, especially the past 10 years. I've often left practice sessions or classes with my teachers and written a page or two of notes so that I could retain more of what they said. Once, for example, I spent a day working withKencxx2  Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing one-on-one going through Laojia Yilu (see photo at left), with my teacher at the time translating some of what he was telling me, and of course adding some coaching tips of his own.

Afterwards, while all the coaching was fresh in my mind, I went through the form in my head and with each movement, I remembered their advice and wrote down two or three pages of notes and interpretations.

Getting better in the internal arts doesn't happen immediately. These arts are so difficult, you can get feedback from an instructor and they can physically guide you through the movements, but it still takes weeks, months, even years of practice before you can repeat those movements and the principles behind them. Add to that the fact that we retain very little of what we hear, we can often leave a class and forget most of it unless we write it down.

I have many, many pages of notes, and I look through them often, reminding myself of certain things to practice and to watch for in my movements. The first time I met one teacher, I performed part of Laojia Yilu and I knew I had a lot to learn, but I was surprised when he told me that my energy flow was broken in each movement. Then he demonstrated and coached me through it, and that became the main focus of my practice for the next several months. Each time I do a form, I'm still focusing on unfolding the energy and letting it flow. I still have the pages of notes from that practice session. Sometimes I read it and I'm reminded of something I need to work on.

If you understand what you're aiming to achieve--if you know the principles to work on--you can practice much better on your own. When you're lucky enough to practice with good teacher or masters, don't commit it to memory--write it down.