The hot days of the summer lockdown here in the UK have passed but now it’s second time round for the covid-19 precautions and, in classic English autumn style, it has been raining and, more importantly, it has got cold. No excuse to stop my fitness regime though. Back in July I started doing 25 pressups a day and I have carried on ever since – rain or shine.
I do a different variation on the basic pressup every day each week – now I have seven favourites which target different muscles. I plan to do a blog about these some time soon. For now, just let me say that pressups are perfect for daily no-nonsense fitness-training and I can really feel the difference since I’ve been doing them.
I’m a member of a martial arts club here in Lewes, White Crane Fighting Arts http://www.whitecranefightingarts.com/ but the club has had to close down during lockdown. At home, I have continued my daily 66-moves Tai-chi practice which in our White Crane form is really a soft form of kungfu known as Shuang Yang Bai Hè Rou Ruan Quan or White Crane Soft Boxing. The aim is not just to look gracefully elegant (unlikely in my case) but also to use the soft martial techniques not just for self-defence but for fitness. It is a method I have been doing for a long time now and, hopefully, I will be able to carry on (and improve) for the rest of my life, even into extreme old age.
I am not allowed to do Kungfu full-contact sparring any longer because of the brain haemorrhage I suffered 12 years ago, but I have continued to practice my four White Crane Kungfu patterns and hope, one day, to learn a few more. I go through them every morning after Tai-chi and my 25 pressups. I have never been much good at it, but I have done it and enjoyed it for so long now, that it is a permanent part of my self-image. It is still useful too – a few years ago, I used a lower crane block to dispatch a pick-pocket on the Pont du Nord bridge in Paris.
I end my morning sessions with a set of fourteen moving-meditation exercises said to have been invented by a 5th or 6th century Buddhist monk known as Da Mo (or Bodhidharma) who is said to have brought Buddhism and martial arts from India to China. These exercises, are a bit like Tai-chi in that they are supposed to look calm and gentle but they are, in fact, really difficult and what your muscles would recognise as hard work. The fourteen exercises involve doing various stretches and moves which use the whole body, in horse stance, knees bent, whilst regulating the breath and letting the mind focus on abstraction. I’m far from getting the posture right, but I’m still trying. One day, I might get to the abstraction bit, but, for now, it’s enough to get through them in a state of calm while those leg muscles are screaming stop this madness now.
These morning exercises are a supplement to my two hour-long personal trainer sessions a week with Gyles Abbott of Soul Fit in Lewes who has been putting me through a custom-built fitness routine which has grown incrementally now for nearly three years as I have got fitter. https://www.wearesoulfit.com/personal-training During lockdown we are meeting either in the park or on Zoom. It is really enjoyable if you like to feel your body performing in the way it was designed. I am getting there, I think.
When each morning session is over, I promise you, breakfast and coffee taste better than you can imagine. And I don’t feel so guilty about spending so much time writing at my computer these days…the other advantage of lockdown, is that there are few distractions from getting on with the 5th draft of my fourth novel.