Being a suited instructor in IMPACT, we quickly realize that once we are on the mat with a student during a scenario, there is a lot we cannot control. That being the case, one of the few things within our domain is physical fitness – which is an essential part of being an effective suited instructor – and we take it very seriously.
A few years ago, I joined a new gym. Part of the cost of joining was one free (mandatory?) session with a personal trainer. I was not really interested in hiring a trainer, but I figured I would go through the motions for the session. He asked me what one of my fitness goals was, and I answered, “I need to be able to run around in 40 pounds of body armor for six to nine hours and be able to have about 75 – 100 fights, each lasting anywhere from five to 45 seconds.” The trainer looked at me quizzically, paused, and said, “Uh…what exactly do you do?”
As much as I thought that was funny, I really couldn’t blame him. IMPACT is unique in a lot of ways. Since there is no manual on how to stay physically fit enough to do this work, we all kind of do our own thing.
I try to keep a general fitness baseline with both cardiovascular conditioning and weight training. I like to do a lot of cross-training – biking, elliptical, running, swimming, aqua aerobics, push-ups, crunches – because it involves using lots of different muscles. When suited instructors are on the mat, we never know when we are going to need to twist in one way, or take a kick in an awkward position, so our entire body must be prepared for taking strikes and moving quickly.
And now that most of our classes are packed into one weekend (for years, the core class was over two weekends), stamina is even more important. So in my fitness training, I alternate interval exercises on some days, like sprints or step-ups, (to mimic the fights on the mat) with longer periods of exercise (40 – 60 minutes) to prepare for the long days of teaching. And general weight training is always good for tone and injury prevention.
Who knows – maybe when I retire from IMPACT, I will work on a fitness video for suited instructors, so the poor personal trainers at our gyms won’t be so overwhelmed.
Rob Babcock, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor