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Words of wisdom from Tom Furman

About year ago when I was launching my training business, I was fortunate enough to come in contact with Tom Furman. Having always taught and learned everything by myself, it was a welcome relief for me to get some experienced guidance on various aspects of the trade from someone as highly qualified and experienced as Tom. Hailing from a family of combat veterans, Tom has been practicing martial arts for over 30 years now, and as a trainer he has a vast treasure of knowledge that he has accumulated over years via on the job experience. And oh, by the way, Tom also happens to be one of those trainers who strictly believes in leading by example. Yes, even though he maybe over 50, he still maintains a level of fitness that many half his age will find hard to keep up with. So listen up, as this master trainer and author of multiple books speaks and shares some beneficial words of wisdom. 

AS: First of all thank you so much for taking time out for this interview. Could you begin by telling us about your current coaching commitments and give us more information about how you got into martial arts and the fitness world?

TF: Currently I reside in South Florida. I've been here since 1979 having relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I've had an interest in fitness and martial arts since my youth. I especially became motivated in 1972 with the Munich Olympics, watching the weightlifting and wrestling competitions. I became involved shortly after that in martial arts and saw strength training and physical fitness as valuable tools to improve myself. I've been at it ever since.

AS: You were one of the first American instructors to get Russian Kettlebell Challenge certified. What at first made you attracted towards Kettlebells?

TF: Back in 1989, I wrote and produced a booklet called, "Combat Rock". I mentioned the lifting of odd objects like logs, and I mentioned kettlebells which I was familiar with since the sixties. I was aware of kettlebells because of the magazines produced by Bob Hoffman from York, Pennsylvania. When Pavel Tsatsouline started teaching his basic methods of kettlebell use in 2001, I became certified in February of 2002. That was with Mike Mahler, Brett Jones, Rob Lawrence, and Coach John Davies.


Shoulder Drills

AS: There are some people around the world, who feel that men after the age of 45 should stay away from intense exercising? You clearly defy that belief with your amazing levels of fitness at more than 50 years of age. How do you maintain such a youthful physique that even men in their 20’s will be envious of?

TF: I don't believe in excess. Eating too much, drinking too much, abusing tobacco, or drugs. Even training too much. People seem to need addiction in some form to deal with pain. The worst thing beside the obvious vices is adding body weight and not training. If you are at a stressful point in your life where workouts are not possible, your weight should be dropping since you are not adequately stimulating lean body mass. When you go back to training,... the stimulus will increase your appetite naturally and you will get bigger and stronger.
I train today as I trained in my teens, but less recklessly. When you are young, your high hormone levels allows you to be stupid and do things that can hurt you. As you age, ... hopefully you become wiser and tailor your training accordingly.

AS: What are the biggest mistakes you see most trainees make in their training and nutrition?

TF: One thing is, they spend too much time in the gym and not enough time hiking, climbing, swimming, running, and actually doing stuff. Who cares how big your arm is if you can't throw a Frisbee? The same goes for eating. Everyone rationalizes their body weight and tries to lose the same twenty pounds over and over. Calories count, period.

AS: Now I know that you love to bust the myths that negatively affect the fitness industry. Could you tell us about some of the big myths that you still see trainees following religiously?

TF: People adopt training methods like a religion. They strongly want to be part of something like Crossfit, HIT, Kettlebells, Pilates, Yoga, or even Zumba and consider a modality to be a panacea. The truth is, it all works for a while. The only way to test is to produce a result in a sport or in some sort of health marker like fat loss, improved blood tests, heart rate, etc.

AS: We all know that there was a time when it was believed that weight training would slow down a martial artist. However, nowadays most top martial artist’s weight train. Do you still find that some martial artists hesitate to lift weights?

TF: Yes, some traditional martial artists use body weight and light implements to train. Today, most martial artists do strength training. Remember "STRENGTH" is a martial art as well.
AS: Could you share a sample routine that you would give to a martial artist who is starting structured exercise?

TF: I'd suggest that a beginning martial artist focus strength in three areas. A push, a pull, and a squat. Low repetitions with slow progression. The other part of their training should involve cardiovascular work. This can be running, hiking, biking, etc. Vary the method. Then there is technique practice that must be done fresh.

Tiger Stretch

AS: What training and nutrition tips would you give to an individual who wants to lose fat?

TF: You cannot outrun a donut. You will always be able to eat more than you can burn off. Body fat loss is primarily a function of putting less food in your mouth. Quantity is the most important, but quality is important too. You will lose ample pounds eating just a bowl of rice a day. You will feel terrible however. Therefore reduce the quantity and improve the quality of food. As far as exercise, you will need to strength train to maintain muscle mass, and some sort of cardiovascular training to burn a few calories. Remember, training burns very few calories.

AS: Do you think that men and women need to train separately for the same goals?

TF: I train men and women exactly the same way. Women have far more to gain from strength training considering very few women begin hard strength training in their youth. All the obvious health benefits plus increased bone mass. They can really take their bodies to the next level.

AS: What is your take on dietary supplements? Do you use any supplements?

TF: I've spent a fortune on food supplements in the past . Currently I only take fish oil, vitamin D, and I add protein powder to my oatmeal. I focus on a variety of fresh foods. No supplement is magic. Period.

AS: What tips would you offer to a trainer starting out in the fitness industry, and what are the biggest mistakes you see trainers make?

TF: I would say they focus on being everything but themselves. They see someone in the industry or follow some doctrine and become one of the team, rather than themselves.

AS: Could you tell us something about your two very popular DVD’s “concrete conflict and conditioning” and “activate your dynamic range of motion”?

TF: My original idea was to show a variety of exercise that could make you more effective in combat, and help you resist the forces of martial arts. I had a great team and we produced a really well rounded video. My first attempt was like making a movie. That was Concrete Conflict. The second one was a much more target DVD. It focused on training the nervous system to relax muscle groups and allow greater movement. I used one technique, reciprocal inhibition, and applied it to many exercise.

AS: Thank you so much Tom for the interview. Can you tell our readers where they can read more about your theories and how can they avail your services?


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