Michael Martinez – Mixed Martial Artist, Wilderness Hiker, Team Beads of Courage Ambassador
You can support the Team Beads of Courage Summer Challenge through September 22. Thanks for helping Michael and all our Team BOC Summer Challengers make their miles matter more as we honor brave Beads of Courage members and raise funds to help them.
Just 22 years old, Michael Martinez boasts the resume of someone twice his age: B.S. in Chemistry; PhD Environmental Chemistry student; co-founder and CEO of Arctic Biotech Oath (http://www.arcticbiotechoath.com), a startup dedicated to utilizing cell microorganisms and fungi to extract rare earth elements as an alternative to conventional mining; seven-time International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) U.S. Open Champion; adventure hiker; dog dad to Cima; actor and model; and Beads of Courage 2022 Summer Challenge Ambassador.
Discover and Develop to Make a Difference
If you ask him how in the world he has accomplished it all, he offers life advice relevant to everyone, from teens to retirees: Discover your strengths and develop them with the goal of making a difference.
“Find out what you are good at and then figure out how to build upon that, not only with yourself, but with others. See how you can make an impact by making use of what you are training in and everything that you have learned. For me that is chemistry, biology and genetic engineering. I can put that forth into environmental issues and medical and disease challenges to create new innovations. Whatever you do, apply yourself and see where it takes you,” said Martinez, who is of Otomi and Yup’ik descent and cultivated his mantra growing up in Anchorage and the wilderness of Alaska.
Martinez credits family, friends, advisors and mentors, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society for their support in every aspect of his life. He seeks to pay that encouragement forward through his involvement with Beads of Courage.
He learned of the nonprofit in 2013 from bead designer Michelle Pearson, an artist who makes lampwork and blown glass beads, vessels and sculptures in Martinez’ hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, and at her studio on the Hill Country Art Foundation grounds in Ingram, Texas.
Pearson reached out to Martinez and asked if he would be willing to carry beads while training and competing in martial arts tournaments such as the Junior Olympics for karate and in the U.S. Open ISKA World Martial Arts Championships. Martinez said he felt both honored and humbled by the opportunity.
“It is hard to describe the feeling. Going into competitions on those large stages, I was representing not only myself but also kids who needed courage to keep going and to eventually overcome each challenge and finish their treatments,” said Martinez.
Martinez was inspired by the similarities between the treatment journeys for children with serious illnesses and the endurance required for martial arts.
“When you are training and competing in martial arts, at times you work with a team but you are often alone. Going to large competitions, you have fear and anxiety like people have when they are going through challenging treatments. You think, ‘Am I ready?’ ‘Can I do this?’ Once you have trained and prepared, it comes down to believing in yourself, knowing that you have support and realizing that we can do it when we work together. Thinking about the patients I could help through Beads of Courage kept me going in the competitions,” said Martinez.
Courage with a Purpose
That desire to give back has also inspired the fitness enthusiast in his role as ambassador for the Beads of Courage 2022 Summer Challenge, which continues through Sept. 22. The Challenge encourages participants to log 100 miles in any sport or exercise of their choice.
Martinez offers several pearls of wisdom for those just beginning the challenge and/or any other fitness regime.
“First of all, know your purpose or mission for each workout. The purpose for the Summer Challenge is to try to get as many miles as possible, and the key is to see how far you can take it while being safe and staying healthy,” said Martinez.
With safety at the forefront, Martinez suggests practical tips such as taking breaks during workouts and starting slow when embarking on new activities. He also emphasizes hydration both before and during exercise, and suggests that athletes carry extra water in their cars to ensure they stay adequately hydrated. Basics such as stretching, dressing for the weather, healthy snacks and good nutrition are also essential.
“Make sure you know your own body and know what you are able to do in the moment. You don’t want to injure yourself or strain something because that can sideline you while you heal. Be cautious and safe in the first place. And remember to snap photos or videos with #beadsofcourage and post pictures to social media and make sure your miles count,” Martinez said.
Logging Miles for Courage
Although summer is well underway, Martinez reminds everyone that there is still time to join the event and the first step is to “just do it.”
“With anything you do, the most important thing is just to get started. Sometimes getting started poses more of a mental barrier than a physical barrier. So just walking down the street to the corner and back is a great start. Get out the door and see where you go from there,” Martinez said.
Whether you choose to walk or run outside; head to the treadmill at the gym; climb stairs; ride a bike, scooter or skateboard with your kids; join a karate class or go on a hike, options abound for solo and family involvement.
Martinez also suggests that participants remain open to different forms of exercise as they log miles.
For his part, he enjoys the diverse mental and physical aspects of endurance hiking and MMA training—which started with karate and progressed to Muay Thai (Thai boxing), Brazilian Jiujitsu and wrestling.
“MMA builds you up so you have a well-moving body. You are constantly stretching and your strength and endurance are being tested along with the way you control your body movements. You have to understand the placement of your arms, legs and your stance. There is a lot of thinking involved: It is like a chess game,” Martinez said.
Alternatively, hiking provides a completely different experience.
“There is nothing like being in the mountains. You are high up, sometimes almost in the clouds, breathing crisp air with astonishing views. It is almost like going into another world where you feel completely free. Sharing that experience with friends or family and my dog is very special,” he said.
Ultimately, Martinez urges people considering the Summer Challenge to discard their doubts and seize the day.
“There is always time to do it. If you have the urge to binge watch a TV show or scroll on your phone, that same show will be there six months from now. This beautiful summer and a nice day with your kids or friends may not always be there, so take ownership in this moment. That will help you get started and keep developing your fitness,” Martinez said.
The Quick Six: Tips on Food, Fitness and Life from Michael Martinez
- What is your favorite food for energy and why?: Banana, blueberries and maybe a protein bar. Banana helps with slow release of sugars and keeps hunger satisfied. Blueberries help with brain function and neural activity. Protein bar supplies carbs and sugars to last even after my workout.
- It sounds like you are into supplements. If you could only take 3 each day, what would they be and why?: Vitamins C, D and Zinc help with muscle recovery as well as brain maintenance mechanisms. Pre-workout on intense heavy lifts, ex. deadlifts, power cleans, barbell snatches, bench press and squats.
- If you have just 20 minutes to exercise each day, what would you do and why?: Pushups, lunges and burpees are effective; especially while doing my PhD Chemistry program, leading my research team and growing a startup. Usually I warm up with a walk and do those exercises slowly at first—just go through the motions—and then do a couple of sets. I mix them up, one after another: Pushups set, lunges set, and then burpees set. A simple walk down the road and jog back helps, especially when you have a dog. A couple of days ago, I finished lab work and it was raining, so I just grabbed a sweater to take my dog running (took about 40 minutes).
- What book are you reading right now?: Lanthanide and Actinide Chemistry by Simon Cotton. I am a chemist, so I guess even in free reading I tend to be drawn towards chemistry concepts. Ha! Ha!
- What is your favorite coffee, tea or drink for energy?: The best recommended is a blueberry smoothie made at home (frozen blueberries, banana, kale/spinach, broccoli, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, frozen raspberries/blackberries, and water as my medium), a fruit smoothie, fruit juice, occasionally a Mocha or a Redbull.
- You accomplish an incredible amount each day. What is your #1 tip for productivity?: Have a list of three main things to get done and execute one at a time. A couple of remaining tasks can be added in, but can more likely be done the next day. I am in this for quality work and for the marathon.