It will only be harder tomorrow

A couple of years ago, I started training in MMA -- boxing, Jiu-jitsu, and Muay Thai. At the time I was in pretty terrible shape. I wasn't overweight or anything -- in fact, I'm fairly thin -- but my fitness wasn't great. I'd get tired a lot and felt I could definitely improve myself physically.

When working out and after, I'd experience fatigue and aching and a lot of pain that would last the next two or three days. Let's say I had a workout on Tuesday and my next session was scheduled Friday at 5 p.m. I'd go through that stretch of feeling tired and sore, then Friday afternoon would roll around and seeing I had to workout again I'd say to myself "Oh, man... do I really have to go?"

More often than not, I'd talk myself out of going back again, telling myself it wouldn't make a huge difference to miss one workout. "I'll just go tomorrow," I'd decide.

But what happened was I wouldn't go tomorrow. In fact, I'd keep taking days off and before I knew it three weeks would go by. Then finally I'd get up the energy to go, and inevitably the workout would be as hard as if it were my very first time. And of course the fatigue and pain would be as great as that first time, too.

Lately, however, I've managed to avoid that cycle. Now whenever I workout I just will myself to fight through the pain and keep at it, and I'm not skipping sessions anymore. In a way now I'm motivated by the memory of how hard it was to go back after skipping a few weeks.

I've also started working out in the mornings instead of the late afternoons, which was another tough change to make. Like most poker players, I'm a night owl, so getting up early to workout is not easy. The first couple of times I did it I had no energy at all and was just dying throughout the exercise. Once I even threw up and another time I nearly passed out. But it got easier, and I've been making myself stick to it.

All of this is a fairly recent change. Earlier this year I was at the Aussie Millions then in February had a lot of business to attend to at home in Taiwan, and so wasn't working out and my conditioning fell off. But before APPT Seoul in April I wanted to get back into training again, and now I have another month-and-a-half or so before APPT Macau.

So I'm back at it, working out in the mornings five days a week and even adding a yoga session after the MMA training. I'm really stiff and the yoga can be tough for me, painful even, and really beats me down. It adds up to three hours, all told, and as I say making a habit out of sticking with it all has made going back easier and easier. I take cold showers at night as well -- something else I had to get used to -- which helps me relax and sleep better and also with my athletic performance. I've kept it up for four weeks now, and now I think I've broken through that adjustment phase and am at a point at which I'm more committed.

The fact is, you really can train yourself to adopt better habits, be it working out, or diet, or even with poker. I used to drink a lot of Coke -- like six cans a day -- which was terrible for me, but I was able to cut that down and eventually out entirely in favor of drinking water. I would eat a lot sweets, too, including a brownie or ice cream after dinner every night, but I was able to stop that as well and now I don't even crave those things.

Poker works similarly sometimes. Let's say you play a session and have a hand that presented a problem for you -- a situation you think you might benefit from studying further, like, say, small blind play or big blind play. Something where you know if you just took the time afterward to look into what you did and have been doing, you could devise a strategy that will help you the next time you are in a similar spot.


But then you have an episode of "House of Cards" you want to watch or something else, and you never get around to that study. The next day rolls around and you're back at the tables, up against an opponent who isn't such a procrastinator and who has been working on his game. Suddenly you're getting beat in that same spot again, further developing bad habits and even making it harder to work on breaking out of them. Poker is absolutely a game that rewards study, and those who work on their games get paid off while those who don't end up being the ones doing the paying.

Putting off working on things that will make your life better -- whatever they are -- is only going to make them that much harder to do later. Especially when it comes to improving yourself physically. We are all getting older, and before you know it you'll be at an age where it isn't so simple to workout, particularly if you haven't been doing so before. On the one hand, it's never too late, but that said, the longer you wait, the harder it will be.

Raymond Wu is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

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