Sifu Mark JolleyAdult Student’s Corner

by Sifu Mark Jolley

As I started searching topics for my newsletter article, Mother Nature provided an inspiration with a lovely large dumping of snow early in the season. As we transition from autumn to winter, inevitably we must be prepared for the sport of shovelling. It got me thinking about warming up and stretching before engaging in high intensity exercise, such as Kung Fu or shovelling.

Colder temperatures impact your flexibility. When you are cold, your muscles stiffen and shorten. Trying to perform high kicks or rapid techniques in cold weather without warming up your muscles is asking for trouble. When it is cold outside, the body is trying to preserve heat by directing it to your vital organs. Your extremities (legs, feet, arms and hands) are lower on the priority list. The reduced blood supply decreases the temperature of the muscles in your arms and legs, which makes them less flexible and more susceptible to injury. Tighter muscles will place more stress on your joints and reduce your balance and coordination.

With most Kung Fu classes shortened, it is essential that you arrive for class warmed up. This will allow more time to focus on the curriculum. Below are samples of low impact exercises to start getting the body warmed up.

  • Shoulder circles 3 sets of 10 forward and 10 backwards.
  • Head and neck circles 2 sets of 10
  • Side bends 3 sets of 10 alternating sides
  • Hip circles- 3 sets of ten alternating directions
  • Knee circles 3 sets of 10 alternating directions
  • Ankle circles 2 sets of 10 each side in each direction

Next you can move to slightly higher intense exercises:

  • Body squats 3 sets of 10
  • Alternating lunges 3 sets of 10 alternating sides
  • Upper body torso twists 3 sets of 10 alternating sides

Your body should be warmed up nicely to get into stretching the larger muscles and introducing some cardio. Skipping is a great cardio exercise that requires little room but increases the heart rate and body temperature in a short period. If you do not have a rope, or low ceilings in your house, you can still skip using an imaginary rope. But be sure to stretch your calf muscles first.

One last point is hydration. We normally think we need to hydrate during the summer due to the heat. It is important that we also keep hydrated in the winter. Not only does water help you stay hydrated, it also assists in regulating the body temperature and is essential to the function of cells, tissues and organs.

The above exercises can be done in a relatively short period of time, and in a small space. So, if you are about to shovel 3 feet of snow, or get ready for a Kung Fu class, take the time to warm up. Your body will thank you afterwards.