Kaizen: The Japanese Philosophy That Will 'Marie Kondo' Your Workouts

...and declutter your mind at the same time!

When it comes to spring cleaning, it’s safe to say, we’re all over it. Going a ‘darker’ hue with our hair for winter? Sorted. A ‘summer body made in winter’? Yep, if you’re Southern hemisphere side it’s likely your status is already *currently working on it*.
But before going gung-ho with our winter workout regime, the real question is, have you given your fitness regime the same tidying up your house so lovingly gets ahead of the change of season?
Cue—Kaizen, the Japanese concept set to ‘Marie Kondo’ your workout. Just as we spring clean our homes to allow renewal and cut out waste and clutter ahead of the new year, so too should we apply the same principles to our fitness regime in winter.
And the best way to do so? By applying the same philosophy and decluttering principles as inspired by Marie Kondo. 

Image: iStock

Famous for ‘The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up’ book, author Marie Kondo has become somewhat of a legend when it comes to inspiring wellbeing through spring cleaning.
With winter already in motion, not only do our days get darker sooner and bodies crave warmer comfort foods, but it also tends to mean we find getting out of bed a lot harder, which is why hitting refresh on our workout regime is fundamental.
In short—what worked in summer (when you were bursting with energy and waking at sunrise) may not work so well now (when schlepping it out of bed is already a great achievement in itself). 
So how does one ‘Marie Kondo’ their workout? By practising the art of Kaizen. 
Image: iStock

A Japanese philosophy that translates to ‘continuous improvement,’ Kaizen is a concept used in Japanese businesses to standardise and streamline work processes and eliminate waste. 
And it’s, in fact, the very method ‘KX Pilates’ was inspired by for their business. To get a better grasp on it, Amodrn spoke with founder Aaron Smith of KX Pilates to understand how kaizen can work for rejigging or refining a fitness regime. 

Why is Kaizen such a revolutionary concept?

“Essentially it’s the constant desire to better yourself and achieve small and ongoing improvements (and over time consistency will lead to success),” says Smith. “In the ’80s, Kaizen was considered so effective that there was a surge in big American corporations hiring Japanese “kaizen consultants” to improve efficiency in their factories and nowadays not only does Toyota base its business success on the concept but I too have gone on to apply the same ‘continuous improvement’ method within my company—with ‘KX’ standing for ‘The Kaizen eXperience,’ hence ’KX Pilates.’”

What is the connection between Kaizen and Marie Kondo’s acclaimed ‘tidying up’ concept?

“Well, Marie Kondo was actually the daughter of a Kaizen consultant! So whether it’s in the home or in fitness, Kaizen is all about progress over perfection,” explains Smith.
“When it comes to workouts, much like those who have improved their wellbeing through the KonMari Method™ (from Marie Kondo), using Kaizen in fitness means continuity, chipping away at your goals and celebrating the small triumphs along the way that all add up to making you happier in all areas of life.”

Image: iStock

What are your top tips for ‘Marie Kondo-ing’ (or applying Kaizen) our workouts for winter? 

“Within KX Pilates we like to offer a way to declutter both body and mind through using both simultaneously,” says Smith. “While repetitive exercises such as running on a treadmill may work the body, the brain is not actively engaged. With our style of training, combining correct technique, core stabilisation and correct breathing, the mind is constantly being challenged, while applying high intensity and fast exercise execution.”
“Thus through mixing it up and continuously improving or ‘kaizening’ the brain, the mind stays engaged and focused,” says Smith. “Which as a result offers a distraction from negative thoughts, releases stress, enhances mindfulness and works to create a clearer, stronger mind. Like “Marie Kondo’ing” your home, an overhaul of body and mind can change your outlook on life. Remember, your body is your home for life so it too deserves constant check-in and refresh! 

Top 5 Pilates-Inspired Moves To Hit Refresh On Your Winter Workout Regime 

1. Prancing horse (on reformer)

  • Lie down on the reformer, toes on the footbar with the legs stretched long and carriage suspended. 
  • Mimicking a prancing or walking horse on the spot action begin to move legs and feet.

Note: the slower you do it the deeper the stretch or alternatively, speed up for a mobility exercise. 
Why it’s great: Helps release the feet, ankles and knees (especially for those who run, wear high heels or are on their feet a lot). 

2. Dynamic Scissor stretch (at home)

  • Lie down on your mat with chest and shoulders lifted.
  • Scissor the legs up and down catching the high leg and pulling it towards your chest.

Why it’s great: Works the upper abdominals while releasing the lower back and hamstrings.

3. Flying Splits (reformer): 

  • With one foot on the floor, the other against a shoulder pad and the hands on the footbar, you slide up and down the rails with the carriage to perform a splits action.
  • This action progresses then into a full lift as you pull upper body over the foot bar. 

Why it’s great: It’s a fun exercise for getting the heart rate up and stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors after sitting at desks, driving or just slouching on the sofa. 

4. Jump boards (reformer)

  • Like a trampoline on the end of your machine, lie down and simply rebound off the board with your feet, back and forth (essentially jumping while lying down).

Why it’s great: It’s a wonderful exercise for mental decluttering. During this part (if you do it in a KX class), the music gets turned up and the focus is on cardio, which helps you switch off from every day life and have some fun! 

5. Reverse Flies (at home)

  • Practice this movement at home with a resistance band. 
  • Begin by finding a neutral, tall and proud position and place your hands shoulder distance apart holding the band in both hands with palms facing the ground. 
  • Pull the arms out wide to the side of the body, ideally around chest level or a little lower. 

Why it’s great: Reliefs tightness in chest and rounded shoulders (often from being hunched over technology all day) along with reducing neck tension. It also targets the mid and lower trapezius muscle which helps to strengthen and stretch the muscles that are tight and create length through the biceps which can be overworked and affect shoulder alignment too. 

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