Be Your Own Superhero

Wolverine

Last night, I took my son to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was an entertaining movie and it got me thinking, what would a superhero’s training program look like? Here is my opinion on what it takes to be a real life superhero.

  • Have the right mindset! All the greatest heroes have a knack for keeping cool in stressful situations and you can too. Let’s be honest, taking on a world full of villains can be very stressful. Cultivate a routine to calm your mind. Find a quiet place to sit, free of distractions, and focus on your breathing. Follow your breath and let thoughts come and go, just as clouds pass by in the sky. If you get distracted, just return to your breath. Accept your thoughts and see if you can free yourself of any attachment to them. Always return to your breath. Free yourself of judgement, don’t think of the thoughts as good or bad, they are just thoughts. Strive for a minimum of 10 minutes a day of quiet time. It’s also useful to keep a gratitude journal to help create a positive attitude. At the end of the day, write about three things that went well in your day. Even on the worst days, I believe you can find positive things if you have the right mindset. At the very least, we can learn what not to do from a negative situation and respond better in the future. Lastly, don’t be afraid of failure. Even the greatest superheroes suffer setbacks, and you just need to come back from them smarter and stronger.  Risking failure is the only way to grow and be successful.
  • Experiment with your nutrition until you find the best plan for you! A good nutrition plan will be the foundation for all your training. The right plan will enhance both your physical and mental health. Look at your key blood markers to see how your body is reacting to your eating plan, especially look at your HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, and C-Reactive Protein. It’s also important to check your body fat percentage and make note of how the fat is distributed on your body. A large amount of visceral fat is not a good sign. I touched upon nutrition in my last blog. Your three healthiest options from a scientific perspective are Paleo, Mediterranean, and Plant Based diets. Superheroes have significant muscle definition and you’ll need to lower your body fat. For those looking to add muscle, you will need to increase your calorie count while following a workout regimen. If you up your calorie intake to gain weight, it’s extremely important to eat whole foods and not use it as an excuse to eat poorly in a buffet based free for all. You may find that improved nutrition will also help you mentally by helping you in your efforts to reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Move, and move well! Probably the best place to start physically is to find your weaknesses or limitations and work on correcting them. The FMS can be a great tool to identify movement deficiencies or asymmetries, but there are other assessments out there that will work, just make sure to get assessed. Corrective exercise and mobility drills can help improve your movement and keep your joints feeling good. So maybe we can’t fly like Superman or run like the Flash, but how do you expect to ever reach that level of movement if you can’t even perform basic movements like a squat. Natural movement training is a crucial part of superhero training. After my first day at the MovNat certification seminar, the following thought came to mind, “I am training to be a ninja!” This kind of training, including the more advanced moves of Parkour are the closest I have come to feeling super human. Check out the MovNat Journal for great workout ideas. The better you move, the more you can enjoy life!
  • Build super strength and live longer! Functional training that emphasizes the big compound lifts is a great way to enhance your strength. Heavy weights with a low repetition range is going to increase maximal strength. I have been following a powerlifting training program to boost my strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. I started with obtaining my one rep maximum so I would have a baseline to compare my strength with in the future, and know if I was moving towards my goals. I am just about to wrap up my recent 8 week powerlifting phase with an attempt to surpass all my previous maxes. I will write more on this very soon. The key is to lift heavy and rest often. Some research has suggested that if we have limited strength as we age, our risk of an early death increases.
  • Have the endurance to keep going, when others give up! Having good endurance, just like being able to move well, will enhance your quality of life. The less you fatigue when you are active, the better you can perform. We have three different energy systems, the aerobic, the anaerobic lactic, and the anaerobic alactic. I am probably over simplifying things, but think of aerobic as your long slow distance training and anaerobic as your short high intensity intervals. To solidify your training, focus on anaerobic energy system training during maximal strength building phases, and aerobic training can be done during other strength training phases. Maximal strength training and aerobic energy system training are mutually exclusive and it’s impossible to make large improvements in both at the same time. Both have training adaptations that last close to one month according to Russian physical training literature and as long as you return to each one within that time period, the detraining effect should be limited. However, even at times when for example, you are training for maximal strength, it is acceptable to throw in a few aerobic workouts for maintenance or recovery.
  • Combat training for confidence! Combat training can help build confidence, increase safety, and provide great physical conditioning. I recommend training in both striking and grappling. There are many martial arts to choose from and MMA training provides the combination of striking and grappling within the system. I offer basic self defense training. MovNat Combatives includes only simple and effective techniques, nothing fancy. They can possibly save your life and the life of others.
  • Recover and grow stronger! When you train intensely like a superhero, you need to recover well. This will help your body make the necessary adaptations and be ready to go when the next training session rolls around. This includes foam roller work, stretching, breathing, and sleep(shoot for a minimum of 8 hours).
  • Look great, feel great! Although not necessary, some superheroes have a large amount of muscle mass. To build some big muscles, you’ll need to bodybuild.  This requires high volume(many sets) with a general rep range of 6 to 12 repetitions. I see nothing wrong with building some muscle armor as long as you don’t sacrifice your movement training. Let’s face it, a lot of people say they workout for the health benefits, but ultimately they want to look good. If you feel good about the way you look, that can help cultivate a positive attitude. Bodybuilding can be especially helpful for those superheroes who use intimidation as a weapon, such as the Dark Knight. However, don’t get too caught up with the way you look, accept yourself for who you are.  A true superheroes powers come from a place much deeper inside than the appearance. Don’t compare yourself to others, everyone has different genetics and different builds.  If you want to be in better shape, then go get in the best shape you can possibly be!

We may not be a super soldier or have mutant powers, but each one of us has something special inside of us to make this world a better place.  These are just some of the ideas I have circulating in my mind on how we can become a real life hero. We may not be battling interstellar baddies looking to destroy the world, but all of us have probably dealt with a difficult person or bully in life and felt like the world might just end. We don’t need to wait for someone to rescue us, we can start right now to build ourselves up. Become the hero you are and go out and make the world a better place.

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