Sensei Nathan Skoufis shares tips and tricks on health and wellness

Sensei Nathan Skoufis shares tips and tricks on health and wellness


Kickstart your physical and mental health, literally

Nathan Skoufis, head trainer and owner of Guelph Family Martial Arts (GFMA), sat down with The Ontarion to share his secrets to better physical and mental health.

Martial arts and mental health

Skoufis is a trusted motivational speaker inspiring youth in schools. Martial arts training at GFMA increases not only fitness but self-esteem, Skoufis told The Ontarion.

Skoufis explained that martial arts teaches lessons that can be brought into the real world.

One such lesson is perseverance, “Everyone goes through a hard time in life and being able to not give up when things get difficult are lessons that we teach. … Perseverance goes along with mental toughness,” said Skoufis.

“Modesty is another one; once you see success, not letting it get to you, and also not letting failure go straight to your heart,” Skoufis explained.

“Martial arts are also all about discipline, so this keeps life’s temptations at bay,” said Skoufis.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Martial arts gives people a chance to release stress by punching a bag and letting it go. Release noises, such as the kiai yell, allow for the release of emotion as well as a more powerful punch or kick.

“Hearing your own voice while doing martial arts is a self-confidence thing; being comfortable hearing your own voice and not being embarrassed is important,” Skoufis explained.

Exercise tips

Being a top athlete, Skoufis knows a thing or two about proper exercise and nutrition, and shared some of his knowledge with The Ontarion.

Punching, contrary to popular belief, is actually a full-body workout due to the pivoting motion.

The muscles that are used while punching are core, chest, arms, shoulders, and legs. Skoufis suggests that learning to punch properly is important to avoid injuring yourself.

Kicking is great for a full lower-body workout, in fact kicking uses the majority of muscles in the lower body, calf, hamstring, and quad muscle.

“Kicking correctly is also important, which is the benefit of coming to a studio to learn the correct form,” Skoufis said.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

When it comes to free weights, Skoufis suggests starting off with a lighter weight, which he says  “will show more results by allowing you to develop your technique as well as adding more movement in your lifts versus a heavier weight where your movement is minimal.”

Doing only a straight curl isolates one muscle, so Skoufis suggests adding a squat which adds your hamstrings, glutes, and quads into the workout.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Another great full-body workout is a sidekick on all fours.

“Get down on all fours and bring one knee straight up and out and bring it all the way back in,” Skoufis explained.

This will work all the small muscle groups that are worked when kicking, but in a more controlled way. Skoufis suggests starting with 20 to 30 seconds of kicks per leg.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Another great thing about this exercise is that anyone can do it. As people get older, hip injuries are common so this exercise is going to work those muscles as well as the lower body without injury.

Nutrition tips

When it comes to nutrition, Skoufis is a bit of an expert since he was brought up learning this information from his family at an early age.

Skoufis says that “solely working out will only get you so far, which is why nutrition is a very important part of a workout routine. It is the two together that will have the best results.”

“The first thing that is widely misunderstood is carbs. I eat 40 to 60 per cent of [my intake as] carbs every day. Having the right kind of carb is what is important, meaning no white bread or white rice. Instead go for a carb that has a more sustained burn, like multigrain.”

Skoufis always reads all the ingredients before he buys groceries and explains that “if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it.”

Lean proteins are also important. It takes your body a long time to digest red meat, so it should be saved for special occasions. Sticking to white meats or even non-meat protein sources like beans will do the trick. “Protein powder I steer away from because I try to be as natural as I can,” he adds.

Fruit and veggies should be an important part of your diet for all the fiber and antioxidants.

Water is the most important hydrating beverage, according to Skoufis. At his studio he makes time for a water break every 15 minutes. In his opinion, drinks like Gatorade are only good if you have been working out for more than an hour.

“You want to find a workout that you view as fun instead of work because then you will be more willing to want to go,” said Skoufis.

“Lastly, set goals that are realistic; it doesn’t matter how long it takes,” Skoufis explained. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Using all these tips will guarantee better health and wellness, suggests Skoufis; however, since every person is unique, it is important to check with your doctor before making major changes to your diet and exercise routines.

Photo by Mariah Bridgeman/The Ontarion.