I'm looking for fitness advice as I'm training for my black belt. Being over forty, and entering my fifth year, I have improved my level of fitness but it is not comparable to others. I have not been an athlete, nor have I stuck with any exercise program or sport until I tried Taekwondo. So, needless to say, my level of fitness lags compared to others. What advice can you give?
Just about any type of physical exercise will aid you in Taekwondo but the primary things you need to work on are:
- Explosive strength, main in the legs. To kick, jump-kick, and move quickly you must have explosive strength in the legs. To perform Taekwondo, we do not need to lift a heavy weight slowly, we need to be able to instantly jump or kick with no preparation. Weight lifting, running up stairs, and plyometric jumping can help build explosive strength.
- Short burst endurance. Running for hours is good for long-term endurance, but when we spar, we attack in short bursts followed by periods of relative inactivity. We do not need to be able to fight for long periods of time, but we do need to be able to fight in a series of frenzied attacks and be able to recover between attacks quickly. Run wind sprints (repeatedly sprint for 100 yards and then walk back) or jump rope in rapid bursts to build short burst endurance.
- Flexibility. To move more quickly and more correctly, we must be flexible. To increase flexibility try yoga or perform you own daily stretching routines.
- Relaxation. One the things that eats your energy, slows your reaction time, and make you move awkwardly is tension. Learn to relax when sparring or performing patterns and your performance quality will increase.
- Perfect motion and technique. Work toward perfection of movement. Try to perform each technique perfectly, Don’t worry so much about kicking higher, quicker, or more powerfully, concentrate on kicking with perfect form and everything else will follow. Hold to something for balance and perform numerous, slow motion, kicks using perfect technique. Train you body to move perfectly without conscious input from you.
- Upper body strength. Women have less upper body strength than men, and as I am sure you have noticed, most women have very little upper body strength. Therefore, if you build your upper body strength, you will have an immediate edge over most other women. You will have powerful blocks and your punches will be more difficult for your opponents to block. To increase upper body strength, perform proper, full-motion pushups and pull-ups and use weightlifting.
- Abdomen strength. The abdomen is the center of strength. To be able to lift the legs for kicks or to block or punch with power, the abdomen must be strong. Also, a strong abdomen can absorb strikes with no damage. Bicycles (lie on back and move legs in a full-motion bicycling motion while bringing each elbow to the opposite knee) has been proven to be the best abdominal exercise.
- Practice, practice, practice. In school, no matter now smart you are, just going to class will not get you the good grades; you have to do hours and hours of homework. The same is true in Taekwondo school. Class is when you learn new things and perform them before the instructor so he or she can correct your technique; home is where you practice and perfect the techniques.
For cross-training, I always recommend the YWCA/YMCA. It is relatively inexpensive, has all the equipment you need, offers all types of classes, and has hours to fit any schedule.