About nine months ago, I began a new fitness journey that has literally been beating me into shape.
In January, I began taking classes in mixed martial arts (MMM). This combat sport utilizes practices of many different martial arts, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai, to name a few.
Never in my life have I faced a more difficult challenge than training my body and my mind to get into competitive shape.
I remember walking in on my first day, with only very limited knowledge of wrestling from my high school days.
The gym seemed massive, with multi-color wrestling mats and huge heavy bags stretching out over the vast central part of the main room.
The gym had everything from open weights to bikes, with even a cage in the upstairs portion of the building.
The initial aura of the room was that this place was no place to mess around; this was a place to work.
In the center of the room, I saw something that I had never witnessed first-hand: live sparring between members of the gym.
Punches and kicks were flying around the room, each landing on their human target in a violent, yet graceful, way. Each motion was fluid and quick, surely capable of causing significant damage, but none of them did.
I quickly realized that in the MMA community, there is a central focus on two main human qualities: respect and humility.
The sport is like a violent chess match, but there is an unspoken rule that teammates are not there to harm one another but rather to help one another.
It was this rule that helped me fall in love with the sport.
Never have I been somewhere where there is less ego and pride than an MMA gym.
The other beautiful part about MMA is how it emphasizes mental health.
Just as important as the knowledge and practice of self-defense is proper recovery.
A typical workout for me will begin and end with stretching, with the occasional yoga and sauna session to relieve muscle tension.
For those interested in a great way to improve motion, strength and overall fitness, I highly recommend taking a class at your local gym.
Steele County has a couple of great resources - the National Taekwondo Institute, located at 212 W. Bridge St. in downtown Owatonna and the Owatonna Fitness gym at 130 E. Vine St. offers boxing classes for only $8 a class.