By Daniel Williams
When I was growing up, my primary athletic activity was competitive swimming. During this time, my swim coach, Tim DeMott, introduced me to a concept he called “hidden training”, which refers to how the things that you do outside of practice can either improve or impair your athletic performance. This concept is just as relevant to karate as it is to swimming, and mastering it is absolutely necessary if you want to reach your full potential as a martial artist.
Unlike working on a form or a technique in class, hidden training happens in your everyday life and in ways that may not seem connected to karate. (Hence the “hidden” part.) In my mind, the three main components of hidden training are nutrition, recovery, and study.
So that I can cover each of these components in sufficient detail, I’ll be devoting a separate post to each of them, starting with the subject of nutrition for this post.
Karate is a physically demanding activity. As a martial artist, you need to be able to deliver short bursts of explosive power, in addition to possessing large reserves of endurance. Proper nutrition is the best way to make sure your body has the fuel it needs to operate at peak capacity and the resources necessary to recover properly from doing so. Nutrition is a complex issue and each person’s dietary needs vary, so I highly recommend researching the topic yourself. However, here are a few simple steps you can take towards improving your health and athletic performance:
1) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are a healthy source of carbohydrates, which your body uses a major source of fuel. They also provide many key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are needed for everyday health and for your body to operate at its peak capacity. In addition, fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber and antioxidants, which can both help lower the risk of various diseases.
Since the specific nutrient content of each type of fruit and vegetable is different, be sure to consume a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables in order to reap the best health benefits.
2) Avoid eating heavily processed foods. The more a food has been processed, the more is likely it is to contain unhealthy ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates. These foods are also likely to be high in sugar and sodium and low in nutrients and fiber. Fast food should be avoided as well and for the same reasons.
3) Hydrate. Water helps your body keep cooler and helps your muscles function efficiently by delivering nutrients and removing wastes. Be sure to drink plenty of water during and after class to restore the water your body has lost by sweating. It’s important to keep your body properly hydrated outside of class as well. Eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content, as well as drinking water throughout the day, are good ways to do so.
4) Eat enough food. Your body needs calories to fuel physical activities and for regular functioning. You’re not doing yourself any favors by skipping meals or by eating almost nothing. Just make that what you do eat is healthy and that you eat enough of it.
While these guidelines may not cover every single thing you need to know about food or sports nutrition, I feel that they go a long way towards doing so and are a great way to start eating better.
As you go about your daily life, look for other “hidden training” opportunities as well. Remember, as a karate-do style, Yoshukai is not just about improving yourself inside the dojo, but about improving all aspects of your life.