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tubbydrawers's picture
Training at 47 not enough time in the day


So I wanted to know how others fit in their daily training when they have a full time job, family etc.:

I am 47, run a dojo 3 times week now and work around 8 hours a day in a workshop. With travelling there and back that could be about 10 hours that I am out of the house. I am also a 4th Dan in Shotokan WCA so its not like i'm just starting karate as such - just incase anyone wanted to know my background.

so for eg - my schedule is like this:

Mon - Work 6am to 4pm - gym for 90 mins after I have come home

Tues Work 6am to 4pm then teach from 6.30pm to 8.30pm

Wed - Work 6am to 4pm - gym for 90 mins

Thurs - Work 6am to 4pm then teach from 6.40pm - 8.30pm

Fri - Work 6am to 4pm - gym for 90 mins

Sat - Teach from 8am to 11.30am - gym for 90 mins

Sun - Free all day!!! - gym for 90 mins

I am aiming to try and start a BJJ class once a week - which might be Mon or Wed, I also have a huge gym / bag / matts in my garage that I am to use each day. I sometimes go to our head instructor karate dojo on a mon / wed or fri depending if i am not tired to keep my karate training up.

My issue is trying to arrange a suitable training program so that I can teach, work and keep my overal fitness up. I love indoor rowing which I have a Concept 2 rower. 

My problem is - how to avoid burnout, getting fed up, and not seeing progress in stretching or fitness because I am not having enough rest or not training hard enough etc. Not seeing the wife.

I also have a kidney issue - which i have scans for each year, torn both shoudlers - but they are slowly healing without surgery - just i am worried about starting BJJ. I also have a major issue with my right heel, will find out tomorrow if I have torn the tendon or its just gone and walked off from my foot!!

I am also worried that I am expecting too much - i would love to get down in the splits like i did when i was 13! but I dont think its possible.

My gym workout is usually- 3 -4 sets of one exercise per body part - usually compound movements and usually a 5 or 10km row with 20 odd mins of mobility / stretching:

Legs - squarts or lunges

Back - pull downs or seated rows or deadlift

Chest - depending on shoudlers - bench or incline bench press or dumbells

Shoudlers - depending on sorenes - shoulder press / barbell or dumbell 

So does anybody have any ideas - get up eariler and train then? I am up around 5.30am but i could get up around 5am to train for 30 mins before i go to work. I am trying to increase numbers or classes at my Dojo so eventually when I get to around age 50 / 55 I can give up work and just teach Karate.

Please let me know what you think - sorry for the loooong post :)



Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Craig,

I have a slightly easier time fitting it all in because I am full time at the martial arts. That said, I still travel and teach a lot and I have a young family too.

tubbydrawers wrote:
My problem is - how to avoid burnout, getting fed up, and not seeing progress in stretching or fitness because I am not having enough rest or not training hard enough etc. Not seeing the wife.

I’m also in my late 40s and the need to work with my body – as opposed to against it, as I did in my 20s – is now an inescapable reality. I don’t always get it right (typing this with a cold brought on by overdoing it last week), but I am learning that relaxation, rest and sleep are vital to getting results. Overdoing it is also often counterproductive. We put masses of effort in, only to get ill or injured and not make the progress we are seeking.

It’s also important to have time away from training doing other things. When I was at the Karate Nerd Experience last year, Oliver Enkamp (MMA fighter with access to cutting edge information and world class coaches) was saying it’s important to decompress so you return to training with renewed energy and enthusiasm. All top fighters are encouraged to do that. The point Oliver was making is that many then start to see “relaxation” as yet another form of training; so, they don’t get the decompression they were seeking. Conversely, he likes to walk his dog and completely put training out of his mind.

For me, playing with my kids and spending time with the family is my number one form of relaxation. There are aspects of my life that can be quite stressful, so for my well-being and mental health it’s important to find those moments of bliss each day … and that definitely has a positive effect on my training too. I also meditate (using the “Waking Up” app), walk the dog, read, and lose myself in good films and TV.

Another factor that needs to be considered in longevity. I still want to be training when I’m in my 80s. It’s not unusual for professional fighters to push themselves incredibly hard to reach their goals, but in the process pick up injuries that they have for the rest of their days. I have a close friend who was a professional sportsman. In his 20s he was in incredible shape, but now he’s not able to do any exercise beyond walking due to back, knee and bicep problems. If your training is causing or aggravating injury, then you may want to reassess as those elements could be counterproductive in the longer term too.

In the last 10 years or so, I’ve also learnt to become comfortable with light training when needed. If I’m stiff, sore and tired from the day before, then a moderate 20 mins on the cross-trainer and a stretch is probably the most productive thing I can do that day. In the past, I would have saw that as “wimping out” and push on regardless … but now I’m well into my 5th decade I know that not listening to my body will actually put me backward as opposed to moving me forward.

tubbydrawers wrote:
I am also worried that I am expecting too much - i would love to get down in the splits like i did when i was 13! but I dont think its possible.

I’ve also stopped comparing 48-year-old Iain to 20-year-old Iain. New me is more skilled and knowledgeable, but 20-year-old Iain was 20-year-old! :-) I’m in infinitely better shape than the vast majority of people my age; and I’ll give some 20-year-olds a run for their money. However, I am undeniably older which means injuries take longer to heal from, recovery time is greater, etc. Again, my “biological age” is younger than my actual age, but I’m following the lead of Peter Consterdine and trying to train “smart hard” as opposed to “stupid hard”.

tubbydrawers wrote:
So does anybody have any ideas - get up eariler and train then?

It sounds to me like you could already be doing too much? It could help to set goals and measure your progress against them. That way you are being results focussed as opposed to volume focused. You may find the decreasing the volume a little actually helps you achieve better results.

As an example, I lift weights twice a week on average. That’s it. However, I’d be prepared to bet I’m way stronger than most. I do good quality sessions, and I get good results. I get in, I work hard and smart, I leave and go do other things. I’m pretty sure that if I upped it to three or four sessions per week, then I’d slide back because I’d potentially be overtraining, and it would have a knock-on effect to the other areas of training (I’m not a bodybuilder or a powerlifter; so I don’t train like them). What I’m doing is working and I can show that via the weight lifted and body composition. It’s the results that matter; not the hours spent in the gym.

I did a video on this recently, which may also be of some use.

I hope that helps and I look forward to hearing the thoughts of others.

All the best,


Heath White
Heath White's picture

Hello Craig,

Another 47-year-old karateka here.  I get where you're coming from.  

As a concrete suggestion, I would consider cutting back the gym time.  You are in there 5 times a week for 90 minutes.  For strength training, I do entirely bodyweight exercises, because they are cheap (I do them at  home), convenient, and I find I am less l ikely to get injured.  I do push/pull 2x/week and legs/core 2x/week. It takes me about 30 minutes including a short mobility-focused  warmup.  You can add to that some rowing a couple times a week, and some stretching.  But consider shooting for an hour of workout 4x/week.  I doubt your fitness gains will suffer.

You  might also consider what  your goals in the gym are.  Mine are (in rough order) (1) avoid injury, (2) maintain a decent amount of strength, (3) maximize explosive power on techniques, and (4) maintain a modest amount of endurance.  Those are the goals that make me feel best in my body and perform best in karate.  Maybe if I did BJJ they would be different (more muscular endurance and less explosive power, for example).  But design your workouts around your goals.  

For bodyweight exercises and workouts, I have benefited from several sources, but BJ Gaddour, _Your Body Is Your Barbell_ is really good.

Best wishes.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

43 here. I go to the gym twice per week, Dojo one night, and then I do Tai Chi and kata every day, as well as various solo stuff. I also make use of Darebee for short daily bodyweight workouts.

I'm of the belief that not much equipment is needed to work on basic skills in solo terms, heavy bag, your bodyweight, some simple weights, makiwara. I also like to use poles and colums for movement/centerline drills, and you can find those all kinds of places. A good practice is to take small parts of kata that you can fit in small places and work them sort of "shadow boxing" style as you move around a pole.

I also would possibly cut back the gym day and do some martial-arts related stuff instead, if it fits your priorities..or do stuff when you go to the gym. A lot of times I basically do a HIIT workout at the gym that is half martial arts stuff. For instance, if you go to a gym with a heavy bag, take a Bosu ball and set it in front of the bag, practice footwork movements and coordinate them with bagwork. this kind of thing will greatly benefit your martial arts, and is a lot more fun than an eliptical or treadmill.

Anyway, beyond maintaining a certain level of basic fitness, I think that thinking about "smart" training as we age is perhaps a bit more important than simply gauging intensity or quantity..though of course there is a minimum of both needed.

I'll make my pitch for Tai Chi here to this forum of Karateka: It's really excellent for general joint function and movement, as well as having martial benefits. You can learn it all over, and even if the person you learn it from doesn't understand how to apply it, if you are already a functional Karateka you can likely figure it out. I've experienced a huge improvement in my ability to move quickly since beginning to train Tai Chi, as well as a huge decrease in lower back pain ( I have a spinal condition that involves chronic pain) and joint soreness. My father is 70 now and a Karateka and Tai Chi practitioner, he encouraged me to learn it for years due to its mobility benefits, they are suprising. Personally, stiffness in joints has been the most obvious difficulty i've had to overcome in training as I age. It has also made me more limber than stretching ever did, but I must stress that while I have decent mobility, I have never been a high kicker.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Zach Zinn wrote:
I'll make my pitch for Tai Chi here to this forum of Karateka ...

I recall a magazine interview with Hirokazu Kanazawa where he discussed the relationship between karate and Tai Chi. To help illustrate his point, he drew a circle and said “This is karate”. He then made a dot and said, “This is Tai Chi”. Finally, he drew a circle with a dot in it and said, “This is the ultimate”. You’re’ therefore in very good company :-)

All the best,


Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I recall a magazine interview with Hirokazu Kanazawa where he discussed the relationship between karate and Tai Chi. To help illustrate his point, he drew a circle and said “This is karate”. He then made a dot and said, “This is Tai Chi”. Finally, he drew a circle with a dot in it and said, “This is the ultimate”. You’re’ therefore in very good company :-)

That is a very cool statement Iain, thanks for sharing that.

I'd actually assumed that Tai chi would be hard to learn, and perhaps somehow "contrary" to my Goju Ryu, and the small bit of Shorin that flavors my Karate. I've found the opposite, years of kata made it very easy to pick up the form and proper body mechanics, and they are completly complementary, pretty cool.

tubbydrawers's picture

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you all. We had some bad news at home a few weeks ago so its taking my family a while to get over things.

So, at the moment, I am now just doing weights on a Sunday and a Wednesday. I also have only just found out that I have a fracture in my cocyx so I had to stop rowing as its just too painful later on in the day.

My own Karate training apart from teaching and some light Kata is non exsitant due to the many problems I am having. Also found out that I have Osteo arthritis in my hands, hips, ankles etc. So yeah my body is not very happy with me right now.

Thanks for eveyrones opinions and ideas, I am taking a step back from a few things to see how my aches and pains settle down.

Hopefully soon, I will get back to training a bit better :)

PASmith's picture

I'll be 47 in March, 2 young kids, full time job, hour commute and a bad back. These days I'm just happy to be moving at all and keeping up with my kids and so don't ask too much of myself. I try to do "something" active every day with various intensities across the week. Some variation of 'run' (currently rehabing the back so part way through couch to 5k), 'lift' (basic compound lifts), 'fight' (martial arts), 'shoot' (recently taken up archery for medititive purposes), 'swim' (swiming is good) and a session of pilates for the back. Quite honestly you seem to be training a lot and I wouldnt be too hard on myself if I managed to train that much in a week. I don't hit anywhere near that level.

Mark Powell
Mark Powell's picture

The bad news guys is it only gets worse. I became 57 over the weekend and pretty much agree with what has been already said. If I tried to train as I used to only 15 years ago I would be unable to train again for a couple of weeks. In my case it is my achilles tendon that is the most usual problem.

I practice taiji daily: usually the old Yang Lu-ch'an form which has sharp explosive movements as well as the slow smooth sections and has very obvious martial content.

These days with karate I am more of a coach than a player I can demostrate a technique once and then watch and correct the kids as they perform however many reps of it.

My own karate practice is tailored to avoiding injury and is focussed around kata, bunkai and padwork/bagwork and I am careful not push myself too hard while practicing. I am grateful I can still practice karate at all when I think of all the friends I have had over the years who have been forced to retire through injury (usually knee injuries). I hope I can continue for many years yet because my love for karate is as great now as when started to learn it aged 12.

I found this article on the web and feel it could add to the discussion here:


I was more interested in Jason Armstrong’s comments towards the end of the video where he states that in their organisation they have a different shodan curriculum for people over the age of 40 than for those under 40 (the students seen in the video are testing with the under 40 curriculum).

My first reaction to this was Hey, we’re not past it yet you know - no need to slow it down for us! Then I was reminded of my current persistent shoulder injury and the excessive aching I often get after training and realised that was my ego talking!

After thinking about it a bit more I realised that having a slightly modified syllabus for middle aged and older people is probably not a bad idea. In Jason Armstrong’s organisation the under 40 curriculum focus’s a lot more on ‘modern’ karate i.e point sparring, kata performance etc and slightly less on self-defence and bunkai. The over 40’s curriculum is balanced the other way around with more emphasis on traditional karate, self-defence and bunkai.

I think this probably works well. In my experience younger people are better at point sparring, can get their kicks up higher and faster and often look better in the performance aspects of kata . They are often more interested in the competitive aspects of modern karate than older people.

I also think (and I’m generalising here) that older people are more interested in the technical aspects of karate and have more patience to learn and experiment with them. They tend to want to discuss technical details more and often read to assist their learning.  Of course, many younger people are like this to and many older people still like competition but as a rule of thumb  I think that younger people get more excited by the thought of sparring and putting on a good kata performance and older people get more excited about delving more deeply into bunkai and self-defence issues – it’s certainly true for me.

I think that having different but overlapping curriculum for younger and older people can help them to play to their strengths and interests whilst still working on their weaknesses. I know some people might view this as a bit of a cop out for older people but is it reasonable to expect someone of 50 to be able to do the same physical activities as someone of 20? Anybody over the age of 40 or 50 will know that their body is not as flexible or capable as it might have been when they were younger. However, a young person cannot possible know what their body will feel like when they are older and so are in a more difficult position to make a judgement on this.

Some people would argue that everyone in a club testing for shodan should be tested on exactly the same material because that is fairer and ensures everyone achieves the same standard. This would be fair if the curriculum represents all aspects of karate equally so that older people can score more highly in areas that they are better in and younger people can score more highly in areas that suit them better. However, if the curriculum is biased towards areas that favour one age group then it isn’t fairer.

I know that this thinking may be a bit controversial. What do you think? Does your club have different curricular for younger and older people (not including children’s curriculum)?

What do you guy's think about the idea of a different curriculum?

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I have two students over the age of 60 now, one of whom has two hip replacements. Someone's willingness to keep training despite these things says something about the deeper meaning of Karate I think.

On a practical level I definitely have different expectations for students this age. These guys aren't going to be taking falls the way younger people will, and are encouraged to think about their health in training in a central manner.  Things like slower Kata practice, being very careful and gradual with impact training, sparring etc. Honestly I believe Karate should become an "internal" martial art as we age to some degree. The best Karateka I have met were all 55+, and all have abilities that continued to grow despite their age, so I know it is possible.

One way I explain the approach is having a very fine tuned "dial" for intensity, so that intensity can be raised or lowered in a very gradual way, as needs dictate. This is something people can actually learn, and if you are involved in sparring or any kind of resitant partner practice, it is very important that people develop the ability to go from %20 to say 30 or %40, rather than jumping from 10% to 60%. Conveinently, older people are usually better at this than younger people.

I don't have a separate curriculum for my older students, I just know that with some things there are limitations, and we work around them as best we can. I do not include breakfalls as part of the curriculum for these folks unless they want to attempt them. Similarly, if they practice throwing I will focus more on the entry+kazushi than on the execution.

Do you know the One Step drill taught by Rory Miller? This is one of the best combative drills I know which can be done with almost zero injury risk. This is the sort of thing I would have people with physical limitations start with in terms of partner practice.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Mark Powell wrote:
What do you guy's think about the idea of a different curriculum?

We have dedicated children’s programs, so I see no reason why we could not to that. However, I think that’s more likely to be focused on new people coming to the martial arts late. I think of the likes of Peter Consterdine and some of my own students who are in their late 60s and still setting the pace for the youngsters. There’s many an old karateka who have me in awe of their physical abilities. They don’t need or want a dedicated program.

Just as we need to adjust for body type at all ages, and work around injury, we can surely adjust to an ageing body when needed. I can see how useful a dedicated elderly program could be for those starting their marital arts in their 60s and 70s. It would be poor training to give them the same program as we would for those in starting out in their 20s. However, for those already training, I think we can just adapt and adjust as we do for many other reasons.

All the best,


Ian H
Ian H's picture

Check out the recent work of Pavel Tsatsouline, through the "Strong First" school of strength.  


Lots of good information there, and IIRC one of the things Pavel is doing is focusing on nowadays is athletic training for the "older athlete" such as himself.  And much of the resources at that site are aimed at the "advanced minimalist" who wants to get the maximum benefit with the least time required.  

(I'm not the expert, he is, so I won't try to explain too much.  Just point you in the right direction.)  

Lots of other great "Pavel resources" out there on youtube &c ... Joe Rogan podcasts, &c ... where he talks about his ideas.  And look into "grease the groove"; the tip of the iceberg: