The Grinch That Stole Your Training Time: 5 Tips to Keep Training When Life Gets in the Way

It’s hard to find time to train. There are always things competing for your limited time; work, family, social life, other hobbies, and leisure activities are all important, so how do you take from one to give to another? There are only so many hours in the day and it can be hard to set aside even one for something that doesn’t earn your paycheck. However, like so many things you get what you put in, so if fencing is important to you, you have to make time.

How Making Time for Training Benefits Other Life Aspects

It’s easy to recognize that training has value, but it’s hard to make time when other demands are equally important. The key is to understand that time spent training isn’t just valuable in terms of fencing, but in those other aspects of your life.

We all have stress and few things relieve stress like a hard workout and a good fight. Most people don’t know how cathartic a fight can be, because fighting in the normal course of life isn’t something the average person does anymore, and barroom brawls aren’t the kind of constructive fight we’re talking about here.

Friendly, honorable fights are an effective, constructive outlet for your emotions. All those things that are weighing on your mind – the mountain of work left at the office, your rebellious teenager, your toddler that just won’t poop in the potty – disappear. They vanish in those moments when you’re thinking of how to protect yourself and how to vanquish your foe. And when the fight is over, suddenly those everyday challenges don’t seem so hard.

5 Tips for Finding Time to Train

Everyone struggles to find enough time for training. What we do is not something you can master in an hour a week; I would argue that you can’t “master” it at all. This art always has one more thing to give you, one more lesson to teach. It will take any time you give it and it will always give more than you ask for. That’s the beauty of it. What you need to do is decide how much you want from fencing and make enough time to get it. To get you started, follow these five tips for finding the time and motivation to train when life gets in the way:

Recognize benefits. It’s easier to make time for activities that benefit our lives, but it isn’t enough to just know training is good for you. Recognize specific, tangible benefits that happen throughout your day. I was once on a farm and a horse was being groomed near me. The horse – he was standing behind me and to my left – took a sidestep and (without thinking) I took an equally-sized step to maintain the distance between us.

It wasn’t until after it happened that I realized all the training I’d done in fencing to regulate distance made me naturally maintain distance between myself and something I saw as a potential threat. (Laugh if you want, but horses can be unpredictable with their teeth and hooves.)

Recognize opportunities. We often get through our entire day, only to lie in bed and realize we forgot to train. Find five minutes during your day to work on your footwork. Even though this isn’t an intense training session, it will keep training on your brain and help you remember to do your real workout.

Commit to a routine. It’s all about habit. Building the training habit and not breaking it once you’ve gotten started. It’s a vicious circle: if something isn’t a habit, it’s hard to make it part of your routine, but if something isn’t in your routine it’s impossible to make it a habit. You must commit to a routine that includes training until you’ve formed the habit. The good news is, once you get over that hump, it’s a lot easier to find time to train.

Set goals and make a plan. Motivation for training is important. It’s hard to get motivated for training when you have no direction – no purpose. What do you want to get out of your training? Where do you want to be in one month? One year? Write down your goals and figure out what you need to do to achieve them. Make a plan and stick to it. Celebrate your accomplishments, even – no, especially – the small ones.

Remember the joy. We all know training isn’t just about fighting. It’s also about study, drilling, and learning. You take the time to study, to learn from the sources and your instructors. You take what you learn and drill it mercilessly until the movement is in your muscles and bones so deeply that you don’t have to think to execute a technique.

This is a level of accomplishment so fulfilling that you are able to leave each day knowing you did something worthwhile. But it’s hard. Sometimes it feels like work. Remember the joy this art gives you; the pleasure of understanding a difficult technique, the beauty of conquering not only your opponent but your own limitations.

In this art, there are all kinds of fighters. There are casuals, who come whenever they feel like it. Casual fencers have fun. Then there are those who are really serious; they come every week, train hard, learn, and better themselves. Finally, there are the lifers. The lifers live our art; they do everything the serious fencers do, but they do it more deeply and with more passion.

All three types of fencers are good and they all have a place at SIF, but the honest truth is that a casual fencer will never be as good as the serious fencer, and neither will have the depth of understanding and reward that the lifer enjoys. What kind of fencer do you want to be, because the amount of time you make to train and study is what determines the kind of fencer you are.

"It is necessary, if you wish to be accomplished in the practice of arms, not only to know how to attack well with the point, perform a good feint, or pass well with both your left and right foot.  You must also understand the counters to these techniques, that is how to defend against them with grace."
Nicoletto Giganti
Gigante