6 Ways I’m Cultivating Habits for Lifelong Fitness

“Are you alone?”

It was pitch black, and my spidey senses were tingling.

“Hey! I said, are you alone?”

I freeze.

A man grabs my hair and starts pulling.

Before I can think twice, I slap both of my hands down onto his hands, steady myself and kick his groin as HARD as I can.

“WOAH. Good one!” he says as he adjusts his steel cup. He lets go and moves on to the next woman to attack.

Welcome to the Women’s Self Defence Class at Elite Martial Arts.

A few years ago I signed up for this free class (thanks again Sarah for the recommendation)! My badass sister Karyn and I went to the class, and after we survived being attacked (by very brave student volunteers) for an hour, we decided to sign up for Krav Maga training.

Flash forward a few years and we’re now on track go for our black belts at the end of the year.

Lord.

If you’re unfamiliar, Krav Maga was developed by the Israeli Defence Forces and is a self-defence and fighting system. It is an incredibly practical martial art.

The black belt test for Krav Maga Canada is a nearly five hours of battle. It starts with two hours of testing on the overall curriculum, followed by (seemingly) endless rounds of defending physical attacks. Then you cap it off with multiple sparring rounds. It it an epic test of mental and physical strength.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get prepared for the test this year. After much low-key panicking, I came to a realization that gave me some relief: it’s not about training for the black belt test, it’s about cultivating the habits of training beyond the black belt test. It’s about using the test as a benchmark along the way to my commitment to lifelong fitness.

So here are the six ways I’m cultivating supportive habits:

Learn from people who have done 10x what I intend to do

One of my ‘mental toughness’ idols is David Goggins. He’s a retired Navy SEAL and he’s the only member of the U.S. Armed forces to complete two hells weeks (the toughest training in the US military, consisting of “5 ½ days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep.”) He has a run several ultramarathons (one was 150 miles) and he finished the race despite breaking bones in both feet. For him, a 5 hour Krav Maga test would be a light warm-up. It is weirdly comforting to know that there are people like David who started as a ‘regular guy’ and focused and trained his way to warrior status.


Keep a Self-Assessment Journal

After each Krav Maga class I’m taking the time to write down what worked well in class (i.e. quick reaction time when getting attacked), what I need to work on (i.e. forgot how to do a fundamental defense) as well as the key learnings. I got this idea from habits legend James Clear. He keeps a workout journal and tracks his progress with weight lifting. I find this practice to be so helpful as there are SO many things to learn in Krav Maga every single class and I realize I wasn’t cementing the learning. I’m also going to read the journal at the start of each week and set a clear focus for what I want to work on.

Schedule equal time for restful activities

Newton's third law is: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When I apply this theory to training, I know that for the amount of time I physically push myself, I’ve gotta schedule equal time for restful, restorative activities. So I’m scheduling in time for meditation, prayer, Epsom salt baths, yin yoga, reading peaceful books etc. (Side note: If you have any suggestions for ways to calm the nervous system, I’m all ears)!  

Optimize my diet

Nearly two years ago I switched to a vegan diet (no more animal products), and my life has shifted dramatically. I lost 20 lbs and kept it off, I recover faster, and overall feel lighter and more energized. The truth is being vegan does not necessarily mean you’re healthy. You can live off of the vegan versions of pizza, burgers, cookies and cake! So I’m really leaning into going all in on a plant-based diet (less processed crap and sugar) and I’ll be buying a few supplements to try (i.e. spirulina, chlorella, iron, B12) to incorporate into my diet.

Track my habits to reflect on what’s working

The truth is I ultimately don’t want to track habits - I want them to become automatic. Though in order to reach my 2019 goal of becoming a black belt in Krav Maga, my habits have to rise up to the level of the goal. So after some quick research I discovered an awesome app called Way of Life (available for iOS and Android) to track daily and weekly habits. One of my goals is to attend a Krav Maga class 3x per week. Writing this down and seeing a graph of my progress is really motivating.

Create accountability through relationships

My boyfriend got his black belt in December (he #crushedit btw. So proud). My sister Karyn (who’s NEXT LEVEL at Krav) is testing for her black belt in December. Some of my favourite people on the planet, I’ve met through signing up with Elite Martial Arts. If I quit or get lazy, there are people who will notice and say something. So whatever sport or exercise you’re getting into, be willing to get to know the community. This has turned out to be the most rewarding part of signing up!

I know I’m in for an intense year. I know there will be bruises and breakdowns. Though I take solace in the fact that when I’m consistently training and choosing to run into chaos instead of around it, my overall life outside of the class becomes easier and more fun.  

Thank you for reading, and I’d appreciate it if you’d share with friends or family who may want cultivate their own lifelong habits (or take a women’s self defence class 😊).

❤️ Gwen


2 comments

  • As always, wonderfully written! Something that works for me, that may help “calm the nervous system”, is Blue. Yes “Blue”. Blue everything. I guess it might be considered a form of meditation. It’s difficult in the city, but it can be done. I walk to the waterfront, find a quiet spot away from as many people as possible, and sit. I block everything out around me, stare at the water, and lose myself in the Blue ebb and flow. If I can’t get to the lake, I watch the sky. If you can’t catch it on a Blue day, the clouds work too. I have no doubt you’ll reach your goals Gwen. Also, as mentioned to you previously, you helped me more than you know in preparing for my Black Belt. It’s amazing… when it’s over, you realize how many people made a difference in getting you through it. It sounds a little sappy, but you became part of my “Blue”!❤️

    Billie Johnston
  • “If you have any suggestions for ways to calm the nervous system”: The tool that works most powerfully for myself is something I read about years ago: when I realize that I’m anxious, I ask myself “Am I in immediate danger?” The answer is pretty much always No, and that allows me to get out of the fight-or-flight state that anxiety exists to create in us when that would be useful – but in modern times gets triggered by all manner of threats and worries that are not actually immediate. Then I can more calmly assess the situation – and feel way better.

    Rohan Jayasekera

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