Pros, And Cons…

A Kick To The Gut…

The 2nd hit to the chin always seems to surprise me more than the 1st, though it’s usually not as painful. So earlier this week when I read that Adrian Peterson had been accused of child abuse only days after the NFL indefinitely suspended Ray Rice for punching his then fiancée in the face, I was stunned but not in any more pain.

Like many, my immediate reaction was, that’s it – no more supporting the NFL. In an era when crybaby millionaires dominate headlines ahead of more pressing social matters, it has often seemed to me ridiculous to support professional, and even high level collegiate athletics.

It's best not to judge, but if you're going to judge, please be consistent your judgment...

It’s best not to judge, but if you’re going to judge, please be consistent your judgment…

With so much going on in my own life; the more pressing matter of finance, family, community, and self, I have questioned for years why I have invested so much of my time and emotions into the actions of others, solely to satisfy my need to feel uplifted. Quite often, I am as let down by the play on the field, as I am by off the field behaviors.

And then I remember this, “It ain’t the 6 minutes, it’s what happens in the 6 minutes.”

This remains one of the most formative scenes from any movie I have ever watched. A good reminder that we have a very human need to be transported away from the daily articles of discomfort and disdain that bind to our psyches from living otherwise unstimulated lives at home and in the workplace.

A Walk Not To Remember…

When the baseball World Series was cancelled in 1994, I swore I would never watch another game. It took the Boston Red Sox contending for and winning a World Series nearly a decade later to bring me back, but even so, today I follow baseball from a distance.

When the NHL experienced a lockout in 2004-2005, I was beyond disappointed. Not that I was a huge hockey fan, but like a lot of people, I had believed the NHL was the last professional sports league not to be (excessively) distorted and corrupted by greed.

I could dedicate a year to researching criminal offenses by professional athletes, coaches, and administrators, and still not scratch the surface of what transgressions take place in the arena of professional sports. I could also say the same thing about the business world, Congress, and probably the local elementary school. The relative proportion of infractions might vary from institution to institution, but the truth remains that greed, violence, and corruption exist in all walks of life.

Upright Culture On The Skids…

Man has been playing sports competitively for millennia. Whether we’re talking about the ancient sports in Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, or Rome, there have been two constants in sport; fans and corruption – and the tween have always met, and seem to have been necessary and compatible bedfellows.

I’ll suggest that there may have been as many cheaters and wife beaters in the Native American sport of Pasuckuakohowog, as there have been in Cricket, Football or 3-meter springboard diving. I sometimes have to work to remember that there are many more citizens of good intentions, who are graceful practitioners of their athletic craft seeking only to succeed and entertain, if not to be role-models.

There Will Be No Roycott…

I will continue to watch professional sports for their value to both entertain and transport me away from an otherwise unexciting life. I will simply appreciate the good they have to offer, and look beyond frailty of character which is in all of our collective DNA.

Whenever discussions of boycotts arise during times when violence or corruption are exposed in professional sports, I always try and take a step a thousand steps back and view the bigger picture. I ask myself, who gets effected in a boycott, and what are the unintended consequences. Again, I could dedicate a year to studying that and still not scratch the surface. I will simply suggest that there are unintended consequences to a boycott of any kind, and unintended consequences are the folly of man.

In Artistic Terms…

Many reading this are not sports fans and will scoff at the very idea of investing time, money or emotion into the sweaty jocks of others. They may feel all sport should be boycotted all the time for their lack of artistic merit in society.

To them, I ask only that there only be consistency in judgment. For every person that chose not to enter a Mel Gibson movie on the evidence that he’s a foul mouthed anti-Semite, there is someone else listening to and appreciating a song of John Lennon. Though Lennon sang of peace and love, he had a taste for heroin that is well documented. I can assure you the chain of producing and marketing that drug was appalling, and that Lennon probably knew the steps it might have taken before it reached him – and he used it anyway.

There have been as many creative artists through the span of culture as there have been athletes who have had issues with drugs, violence, and greed underlying their creative endeavors. Many have been forgiven or overlooked because they stood for peace and love, if not for touchdowns. I ask then, with whom do we draw the line…? Be well. rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from The Allmans.  Enjoy…

Lead us not…

Who’s Your Cheerleader…

The standard of what we call fitness has become skewed and distorted. Priorities are misguided, leadership lacks, and followers are not blind so much as they are just subject to a necessary yet almost random faith in an increasingly complex subculture which, in my opinion, is headed in the wrong direction and does not need to be so complex.

I don’t recall where I was or what I was doing when the screaming trainers of reality TV, CrossFit, and Navy Seals became the leading spokespeople for the fitness industry. Respectfully, I get that reality fitness shows may inspire people, CrossFit looks cool, and Navy Seals are good at killing bad guys in difficult situations.

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None of these though, and I mean this emphatically, are helping people who are truly in need of improved fitness, the way those people need to be helped. Nor do I believe they represent sustainable fitness values. They better represent good marketeering, confusion, and conflicting information.

Most people who seek improved physicality need three things in order to achieve change:

1 – A relatable cheerleader

2 – A basic understanding of just a few principles of movement and eating

3 – A schedule of movement and eating to adhere to

When assembled, these three things can serve many more, far more, than a stellar WOD, some bitchin’ before and after pictures, or a screaming trainer in an unsustainable boot-camp workout. Not that anyone is in compliance with these for the long-term anyway, but that’s my point.

It just seems that people are placing their fitness faith on all the wrong shoulders, all the while overlooking some simple principles and not-so-difficult decisions that are much more useful for changing their physicality than the trends, promises, and good marketeering that dominate the fitness culture of today.

From Confucius to confuse us…

It is a 3,000 year old Confucian ideal that we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves on behalf of our families, our employers, and our communities. Society simply functions more efficiently and at a higher level that way. Relinquish our physicality as a collective, and things begin breaking down proportionately as a society.

a1confu

This in no way is me being judgmental of those who have lost or decreased their physicality. A quick glance of our culture though, will quickly illuminate a growing disparity. We just have an increasing segment of the population on their way the gym for an unsustainable workout screaming, go big or go home! Yet we have another increasing segment of the population eating moon pies, shooting insulin, and looking for a way out of those behaviors, but looking primarily to the go big or go home set for inspiration. The middle class of fitness is disappearing.

Buddhabuilding: The Middle Path…

At times I have been guilty at being extreme with my personal fitness. Rarely though, unless requested and paid appropriately, have I ever preached or led a client down an extreme or unsustainable exercise path. One of the things that attracted me to the ideal of recreational bodybuilding to begin with is that it’s an old person’s endeavor. Strength training can enhance a quality of life, while also prolonging it, though I see few people or entities teaching strength in moderation these days.

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I would love to see those who don’t exercise do more of it, and eat a little better. I truly believe that would serve our society better. I would also like to see those who lead do a little less screaming, a little less boasting, and be a little more mindful of their leadership. And for those who truly are seeking leadership to help motivate and improve their fitness, I beg you, please let sustainability be the cornerstone term in your search. Be well. rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this Prine cover from Stu Larsen and The Once. Enjoy…

Desparately Seeking Structure…

He Sells Sold Sanctuary…

I have recently transitioned from a very simple, albeit very structured life in southern California, to a simple yet ever-changing life in Colorado – in pursuit of new structure all the while.

The cornerstone of structure in my life has been exercise, strength training in particular. Since the last couple of decades have found me working out on my own equipment in my own studios, structure has been a non-issue. I have called my studio, The Sanctuary, for good reason.

Sanctuary...?  More like the Thanktuary...

Sanctuary…? More like the Thanktuary…

In Colorado I no longer have my Sanctuary. Hell, I don’t even have a home yet. I have been camped out with good manners and low expectations with those who have been willing to host me, and grateful for their goodwill.

My daily strength training has also been at the good will of others – guest passes and day use fees at local fitness centers and public recreation centers which are numerous in the Denver area. I have even been making use of a small apartment gym at the place I am currently staying.

Despite this lack of a singular and consistent place to workout these past few months, I am proud to have consistently met my workouts, making the most from whatever resources I can find, wherever I can find them.

Lost In The Bally Of Hope…

I had registered online for a 7 day guest pass at a nearby Bally Sport Fitness Center. Shortly after I registered I began receiving phone calls from Bally’s employees wanting me to come in and activate my guest pass. This was to be expected – they are there to make money and I have no problem with that.

Tired frustrated with the apartment gym I had been using, one evening I decided to head to Bally’s to activate my pass and try the place out. I used the navigation on my smartphone so there would be no problem finding the club.

“You will reach your destination in 600 feet” said the voice on my phone. WalMart…? There’s a Bally’s in WalMart…? No. BUT, there I was in the WalMart parking lot having arrived at my destination. I was frustrated and confused. I switched from smartphone navigation to the navigation system of the car I had used to get there. Five minutes later I found myself at the same Walmart with nearly twice the frustration. I returned home for a beer in hopes of a do-over the following day.

Confirming the address from the Bally’s website, I headed off yet again to Bally’s WalMart. Crap. This time I called Bally’s and asked their location from where I was. “Are you on Exposition Street?” the man on the phone asked. “Yes” I said, “I am”.

He replied, “Oh, we moved a while back. We’re now on Abilene about a mile further south. Our website just hasn’t been updated yet”.

ballys

It wasn’t always here, but here it is…

One might think a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars would update their website more regularly. All is well that ends well though, and I arrived at the new Bally’s. It is a gorgeous club. Since it was early in the morning, the young man behind the counter was the only one there and not able to activate my guest pass. I quickly paid a $10 guest fee and took in a great workout.

Noah Time For Old Men…

The following morning I went again in hopes to activate my Bally’s guest pass. Noah, a baby faced trainer/sales team member barely out of his teens was there to greet me. Noah toured me the club from top to bottom but did nothing on the tour to truly engage me. He then escorted me to a computer kiosk where he asked a series of computer generated questions involving my personal fitness.

Let’s be clear, though I am not currently at 8% body fat or in prime bodybuilding shape, it should be obvious to anyone who sees me that I take strength training very seriously and have been at it for a while. This went completely unnoticed by young Noah. In fairness, I did not introduce myself as a career fitness trainer, but I was sleeveless and obvious.

Noah asked the basic questions; my age, weight, medical history, where I thought my fitness level was, what my goals were, etc. I just went along and answered honestly, “I currently strength train 4-5 days per week, ride my bike 17-23 mile every-other-day, and eat very well most of the time.” As he entered this information into the computer a chart came up alongside a silhouette which resembled me fairly well; athletic. The corresponding chart suggested I was in excellent health.

Twenty miles out, and I needed a rest.  Yup, I should probably hire a trainer...

Twenty miles out, and I needed a rest. Yup, I should probably hire a trainer…

At this Noah began to ask me about goals. I explained that I’m in my 50s and that my only goals in exercise are enjoyment and sustainability.  Without hearing a word I said or taking a good look at me, Noah took time to explain that statistics show that less than 3% of people who don’t work with trainers ever reach their goals. However, people who work with a trainer are 88% more likely to realize goals.

I’m not going to question those statistics today. I’ll leave that for another day. What I do question take exception to is what happened when I declined the possibility of working with Noah as my trainer.

Hit The Road Jumping Jack…

I explained to Noah that I had been working out on my for over 40 years and that despite that I see great value in using a trainer for some, I didn’t I feel I needed one. I just wanted to activate my guest pass and check out the club as a potential consumer. Noah explained that since I had been in the club the day before, and paid a day-use fee, I was no longer eligible for a guest pass. My only options he said, were to buy a membership or leave. I left.

I have been in and out of the fitness industry since 1981 or so. Since that time I have been a trainer, in sales, management, and ownership. What transpired with Noah didn’t surprise me, it simply put me in a very bad mood.

This pass entitles holder to one swift ejection...

This pass entitles holder to one swift ejection…

The following day I received a phone call from a different employee of the club – inviting me to come in and activate my guest pass. “No. No thank you” I said. I’ll simply write this this essay, post it to my blog, and send it along to Bally’s Director of Brand Management and await the litigation.

This is just one more reason why, despite my affinity for the fitness industry, I will remain its largest skeptic critic. Be well… rc

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Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

Please check back every so often to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Slade.  Enjoy…

Formative Moment #3,287: Fitness Culture On The Skids…

Love Hate Love…

At the core of my love-hate relationship with the ideal of fitness, is my love-hate relationship with culture itself. Specifically, how society so often manages to ignore the very priorities which should preserve and enhance culture.

Example: Smoking causes early death.

Reality: Smoking is prevalent in society.

lovehate

So what does this have to do with fitness…?

Example: Working out to take care of one’s self is good.

Reality: Obsessing on exercise to the point of ignoring everything else in one’s life is selfish and counterproductive.

This morning I overheard one gym member speaking to his workout partner about blowing off his wedding anniversary later that evening in favor of a 2nd workout – on the same day. Hearing this, I began reflecting on a similar moment I experienced with my own workout partner a couple of years back.

Formative Moment #3,287: The Back story…

In 2012 I had been about 7 or 8 months into one of the better training cycles, and training relationships I have enjoyed in my life. My workout partner at the time, formerly a client, was a female bodybuilder with a great physique and a supreme work ethic. She was also a working professional, the mother of 4, and seemed to have it all.   She and I strength trained together 3-4 days per week, trail ran 1-2 days per week, and dined together frequently.

She was the most disciplined training partner I have ever had. She even planned her professional travel schedule around gyms in the cities and countries where she traveled. She helped reignite a fire in my training life which had been cooling for a couple of years.

If It’s Broke, Fix It. But Don’t Interrupt My Lunch…

One Sunday morning after my partner and I finished a hard trail run, we were on our way to our ritual lunch of Mediterranean salads, ice tea, and patio time in the San Diego winter sun. While driving, she got an unexpected phone call from her husband. Her son, 12, who rides motocross a very high level, had been in an accident and had broken his arm. So much for lunch.

I was a little confused when my partner didn’t turn the car around on a dime. She just continued driving as she and her husband discussed which medical facility he would take the child to. Minutes later my partner and I were on the café patio. This left me feeling uneasy. I was sitting under a palm tree drinking tea with this kid’s mother while he was on his way to the emergency room to have his broken arm set.

What's my scene...?

What’s my scene…?

 

The following day my partner had told me that her son had a fracture of both the radial and ulna bones in his forearm, and there would need to be a surgical repair involving rods and screws. That surgery would not take place for several weeks since his arm would have to set first in a cast.

Formative Moment #3,287: Gulpsmacked…

Several weeks later my partner showed up for a morning workout. As I do with all my clients, I greeted her at the door and asked her how her family was doing. During this exchange I asked about her son’s impending surgery. I was thinking it was scheduled for later that week.

“Oh” she said, “I just dropped him off.”

Just. Dropped. Him. Off.

Now the hospital in question was only a mile from my training studio. The child’s father was with him, and my partner did have her cell phone with her. However, I just couldn’t imagine the mother of a pre-teen boy who wouldn’t want to be at her son’s beside as he goes under a general anesthetic – or at least be in the waiting room. No surgery is a guarantee, but I guess no workout is either.

That moment changed me – truly and deeply.

Yes, she was the action figure every woman wanted to be, and the best training partner I ever had. She was becoming somewhat of a social media sensation, and a local hero for her physique and for her hardcore work ethic. She was no longer though, my candidate for mother of the year.

Zombie Workout…

I sauntered through our workout that day in an almost catatonic state. During my sets I was on. In-between I just looked at the floor and could hardly speak. I was saddened sickened that she chose leg day over her son’s bedside. Yet another person I had greatly admired up and disappointed me, but that’s on me not her. I should know by now the only person I should put any expectations on is me. This was just one more reminder that in life that those who seem to have so much often achieve their success at a price we may never know about behind the scenes.

My relationship with this partner deteriorated in the coming weeks, to a point where eventually we no longer trained together. She caught the CrossFit bug at just the right time, and that’s just as well since I am the opposite of CrossFit. She and I have come face to several times since the demise of our training relationship and have been cordial.

It all looks good -- until you have pass on the beer...

It all looks good until you have pass on the beer — or your kid’s surgery…

At the time she dropped her son off for his surgery in favor of a workout, I was nearing the best shape of my life past 50. That night though, as I took it all in, I ordered a pizza and enjoyed it with a beer or three – and didn’t think twice about it.

Keeping the right fire lit...

Keeping the right fire lit…

Since that day I have continued to train hard – most of the time. I have eaten well – most of the time. I have maintained a fair physique, though I am not where I was on that day two years ago. I knew the second she spoke those words to me, “I just dropped him off” that the fire required to be jacked and shredded would never burn that hot again. I can only hope that my fire to be mindful, and reasonable stays lit, and for the rest of my days. Be well. rc…

   *****COMMENTS ARE CLOSED THIS WEEK*****

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in m head. Oh, and there’s this from The Hoodoo Gurus.   Enjoy…

An Open Letter To Leaders In The Fitness Community….

Dear Fitness Leaders,

Congratulations, you are a leader in the fitness industry – I bow down.  Whether you lead by the dozen, or lead by the millions, the eyes of your followers are on you.  Please keep in mind though, that the eyes that follow those who follow you, are also on you.

Whether you are new to fitness as a career, or you are one of the many established “experts” in the field, please allow me to share my thoughts with you, on how to better conduct yourself in an industry that isn’t just evolving, but one that is erupting vomiting its way into chaotic advancement. 

Don’t forsake the trust that got you where you are…

Understand that when people choose to follow you, right off the bat, they have given you something sacred, and something that should be most coveted by you – they have given you their trust.  Nurturing that trust may be the key to both longevity, and respect in your fitness career.  I’ll suggest that your career will be only as fulfilling as your respect for that trust goes.

You can use the trust of those who follow you to advance your career.  Or, you can use the trust of others as an opportunity to grow with them, to learn more on their behalf, and to advance the causes of fitness as a whole.  I think this is a good way to be.

People have chosen you.  Regardless of their reasons for that choice, they have placed their trust in you.  They hear the words you speak, they read the words you write, and they retain the actions they witness from you.  If you’re going to lead, lead with honest words, honest actions, and humility.

If you refer to your followers as disciples, I’m asking you right now to wear a tin foil hat so I know who you are.

Shut The Fuck Up Settle down Francis…

Making noise and rattling cages to prove yourself right is only slightly less savory than making noise and rattling cages to prove others wrong.  You may be wise.  You may be educated.  You may be experienced.  You may be all of the above, or some combination, and you may even be right.  You don’t however, always have to establish yourself as right. 

It’s actually not too hard to be right, and to be quiet – simultaneously.  This skill will serve you well in your career.

Don’t just lead, support…

Don’t lose sight that among our primary roles in this industry is the role of being a support system for those who follow us. 

To properly lead, it’s not enough to just point and say, go!  It’s of greater importance to understand the horizon from the vantage point of those furthest back.  Remember to stand beside those who follow you at the most critical times, maintaining awareness and respect of the differences between their view of what’s ahead, and your own view.

Ideally, the best support system a student or follower will have will be their friends and family.  Too often though, this proves not to be the case.  Though it’s not possible to be emotionally available to all of your students, all of the time, I’ll suggest you strive to be as available as you can be when needed – and you will be needed.  This will go a long way in helping them fulfill their goals.

Lead by example…

As a leader in my own community, I strive to ensure that I lead by example.  Some days that example is better than others, but I live with the knowledge that the eyes of my community are continually on me.  Whether I am in a grocery store, a restaurant, an athletic field, or a bar, my community is watching.

Though I often joke that at the end of the day it’s all about Roy, at the end of the day I know this is not really true.   

At the beginning of the day, fitness leadership is about sharing.  At the end of the day, it’s all about reflecting, to better share the following day what I have learned today.  In-between the beginning and the end of the day, fitness leadership is about many things, but above all else, it’s setting good examples.

You’re not that grand, and neither is your idea of fitness…

It’ pretty easy to believe, and subsequently suggest that being “fit” is the right way to be and to live.  Fit, at best, as a vague term which can mean many things. 

Too often leaders in the fitness community strive to pass off their own fitness values as an improvement to someone else’s life.  I have been guilty of this myself.  Often times what we pass off as fitness can be detrimental to longevity and physicality.  This is something I continually struggle in coming to terms with. 

Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it – or that it’s going to help me live longer and better.  Notwithstanding, suggesting that others do it may be detrimental to their physicality, their longevity, and their health. 

Circles beyond our own…

There many people in the world who never formally exercise or eat “clean”.  There people who could care less about a lunge, a set of repetitions, a chicken salad, or a WOD.

Humility

There are many people who are content with who they are and have no desire to look like an action figure.  There are even people who are obese and okay with it, as there are people who are out of shape and okay with.  There are people who live to eat, and not eat to live as we always suggest.

That those people don’t play in our fitness circles makes them no less valid, no less worthy, and no less of a person.  I know of many great people doing amazing things in the world who eat Pop-Tarts, tater-tots, and other hyphenated non-foods.

I know of family leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and just plain salt of the earth folks who could give a frog’s fat ass about what we think is so important in the name of fitness.

I’ll finish by suggesting that each of you step back, take a good distant look at you consider fitness to mean.  Then, take a good distant look at the rest of the world and consider, for just a moment, what they might believe fitness to mean.

From this perspective, to truly quantify and establish how exercise may benefit someone’s life – how it may benefit society as a whole, is much harder than science has lead us to believe.  In fact, it’s not possible.  And you, you little fitness expert, are no more of a spec on the ass of humanity than I am, and please never forget that.

Go now.  Mount your high horse and charge on!

Sincerely,
Aggressively Humble Guy

PS: If you are a political, business, or spiritual leader, same shit goes for you.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what  happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head. 

Roots Canal…

Jersey Boys…

In 1968 my father, a successful business man, plucked our family from our suburban New Jersey home and planted us in Colorado. He did this largely I believe, so my brother and I would not grow up to be dock workers, cops on the take, or apartment superintendents with a 3 donut a day habit, cigarettes rolled up in our shirtsleeves, and America: Love It Or Leave It bumper stickers on our Chevy Impalas. This was the single best decision my father ever made for his family.

Friends Can Be Bought…

Shortly after we settled in Colorado my father bought my brother and I bicycles from a little shop in our community. My brother’s was a green upright Columbia 5-speed cruiser. Mine was a black & white Columbia 5-speed, with a tandem seat, and a throttle shifter. It was like a rocket ship built for and 8 year old. That bike would become my horse, my best friend and my only means of escape until I outgrew it in favor of my brother’s hand me down.

My ticket to freedom as a child...

My ticket to freedom as a child…

Waiting Out Winter…

It was the long months of a largely non-biking winter which made me appreciate my bike so much when spring arrived each year. Since my mother worked mostly evenings as a nurse and my father traveled extensively, winters meant reading, eating, and watching reruns after school – a life lived mostly indoors. Summer meant freedom from that. We lived in an area in which everything that mattered was bike riding distance from home.

I would ride my bike to school in spring and fall. I would ride to the store to do errands for my mother if she asked, and I would ride it to visit friends of course. I would also ride to the community pool nearly every day in summer. When my parents were fighting, which was often, I would ride for hours just for the sake of thinking, imaging or to feel the freedom which came from the wind in my hair.

Livin’ The Highline…

A large portion of my bike riding youth was spent riding sections of the Highline Canal Trail which was traffic free, and offered easy access from our high altitude home to the rest of the community. The canal road, as we called it, efficiently linked our neighborhood with all the services we needed and beyond. As I got older and ventured further, I would learn that the canal road linked a good part of the southeast Denver area – I tested those boundaries well into my teens.

IMG_2606

 

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Many of the best memories of my youth involved that black and white bike, and riding the canal road alone.

Faster Forward…

I am now nearly forty years removed from that childhood scene. I have been married, divorced, and helped raise a kid of my own. She rarely road her bike. A bike is less a priority to a child than it once was.  That makes me sad, but that is an essay for another day.

I have owned many bikes since my childhood.  I have ridden thousands of miles on trails, roads, and highways throughout the west. After a 15 year stint in Southern California, I returned to Colorado last month where biking is part of the culture – it’s in our green and white DNA.

My most recent bike, The Redhound, was stolen just days after I returned to Colorado. I was heartbroken. That bike has meant as much to me as my 5-speed Columbia ever did. More perhaps.

Stolen, or perhaps just reassigned...

Stolen, or perhaps just reassigned…

I immediately replaced my stolen bike with a very basic road bike because I have limited funds due to my move.  I just needed to get out there – ASAP.

A new friend...

A new friend…

Yesterday I broke in my new bike. I rode a good stretch of the trail that so well medicated my childhood. I was on the canal road for the first time in 38 years. If it sounds hokey to say I shed a tear or two as I reminisced, please forgive me. I passed the community center where I swam in my youth, and the cottonwood tree where my friends and I once launched ourselves into the canal from a tire swing. I rode to Bible Park, a place for pickup football, meeting freckle-faced girls, and later on for drinking beer after dark with my puffy armed friends.

imgbible

For a couple of hours yesterday, the 12-year old Roy and the Roy in his 50s got to hang out together – they made fast friends. Now that we’ve met, I hope we continue to see each other. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Butch Hancock. Enjoy…

 

 

Successfulish…

 This is Part I of a 3-part intermittent series on education, success, and how I fell through one but still landed in the other. Part II will show up some time down the road.

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My Father’s Path…

For a majority of my life I have had a conflicted perception of the word success, and all that goes with it. Like his father before him, my father raised me to pursue excellence in life. He dedicated much of his life to providing my brother, and I opportunities to create successful lives. He did this with diligence, and a great deal of love if not with an overwhelming passion.

My father’s idea of success was linear, direct, and had a clear progression; college, business, suburbia – man in a gray suit kind of stuff. What he really wanted, I believe, was for my brother, and I to take his path, but to find better results than he was able to. I have often wondered if my father sacrificed his visceral idea of success to better enable the superficial idea of success that society, and his own father immersed him in.

What my father had really wanted in life, he confessed to me in his later years, was to have taught school in the winter, and run a camp for kids in the summer. At some point though, with a wife, a mortgage, and kids of his own, I believe he became driven by dollar signs rather than canoes, and campfires, and the gravity of the business world drew him in.

The man with the plan, and the pocket comb.  Each successful in our own ways...

The man with the plan, and the pocket comb. Each successful in our own ways…

Against The Grain…

My definition of success has always been murky, malleable, and has evolved through the years. By the time I was in my late teens though, my definition of success began to solidify, and was in obvious contrast to my father’s intentions for me, and to the flow of common American culture.

As I began to explore my idea of success, the distance between my path, and the path my father laid out for me grew further apart. Looking back today, I am better able to reconcile my father as a young man, with the man he would go on to become. When I was younger, I couldn’t comprehend this.

By my father’s standard, and by the standard of culture art large, the first step on anyone’s path to success is obtaining a college degree. My father had been down many career paths, but he began as an educator at the high school, and college level. He would often say to my brother, and I,

“Get your ticket punched boys, and you can go anywhere”.

Inferring that a college diploma was guaranteed a ticket to success. This was so heavily instilled in me that by the time I was in my early teens I came to believe that people without a college degree were a lesser form of life, and less worthy of life’s rich pageant.

In truth, I believe my father wanted me to feel this way. He would often take time to impress upon me the toil, and struggles of those went through life with a wrench in their back pocket, pushed a broom, or drove a municipal bus. Because he was my father, I believed him. I have only recently come to see that this isn’t true, that there’s no shame in hard work, and that success is simply a state of appreciation.

American Dream…

My American dream has always been more simple than most; I don’t want to be forced to do the goosestep down Main Street. That’s it. I would like to have access to water, shelter, and to have the opportunity to work hard for anything beyond.

One does not need a college degree to pursue shelter, food, and a few nice things. One simply needs to have ambition, a good work ethic, and reasonable expectations of life. Those too, are qualities my father instilled in me, and they have served me well.

I recognize that I’m a minority with this way of thinking, and I don’t wish offend anyone who has worked hard to reap, and enjoy the finer things in life. That has just never been my trip. I have always been content with just enough. I often suggest to friends that my dream house has four wheels, and gets good mileage. I am approaching that dream house, and hope to move in within the next 3-5 years.

My dream house.  I will never again by a car I'm not also able to live in...

My dream house. I will never again buy a car I’m not also able to live in…

School Is Out Early…

I struggled with school from an early age. In elementary school, reading could be so strenuous that it often lead me to nausea. My math skills were several years behind, and I barely survived middle school with Ds. Despite this, I was advanced into high school.   In high school it became clear to me within weeks that I would probably never graduate. The text books I used seemed to be written in a different language. I failed typing, Art, and even PE.

With an open campus, and a modular schedule, I could go to high school every day, never walk into a class room, and just sit and visit with friends in one of the three cafeterias which were available. This was my existence for a year and a half. I would register for school, never go to class, get Fs, and placate my parent’s attempts to get my head right by promising I would try harder. In a school of 4,500 students, I fell through the cracks.

At one point I was even put on the short bus to study with all the other challenged learners. Unfortunately, most of them were there out of laziness, and not need. I was surrounded by stoners, with teachers who weren’t dialed in, and nothing was being done to help me improve my lack of learning skills. One day at 16, I just released myself on my own recognizance, and never looked back.

I would spend the next couple of years working odd jobs, sleeping with the television on, lifting weights, and trying to figure out what success truly was, or if it would ever be within my grasp – largely disbelieving that it would be.

Though I would ultimately take my GED, and attend college, my father’s notion that success, a college degree, and a suburban mortgage were synonymous, became a poison in my veins that has worked against me more than it ever served me.

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Please check back in a few weeks for Part II of this series. Oh, and there’s this from Albert King.   Enjoy…

Defective Personality…

“My greatness is the sum of all my personality defects.  Well, most of them anyway.”  Me

Personality defect #1:  Growing Up Cohen…

This I know:  My mother and father loved me very much.  My childhood was safe, and my opportunities were numerous.  I was never threatened, abused, or otherwise compromised as a child.  I was taught right from wrong, good from bad, truth from dishonesty, and to say please and thank you to everything that moved.  And for all of this I was loved, housed, fed well, and given 50 cents per week.

My childhood might not quite have been the Ozzie and Harriet show, but it more closely resembled the TV life of the 1950s than it did the Ozzie and Sharon show.  Still, from an early age I developed a strong desire to withdraw from my family, from my social peers, and spend a great deal of time in self-imposed isolation.

It wasn’t enough to be alone though, I had to be moving while I was alone.  I would ride my bike, skateboard, swim, dive in the pool, shoot baskets, or just walk for hours at a time, and could not be any happier for my introverted exertions.  At an early age, solitary exercise was my house of worship, and remains my sanctuary to this day.

photo(10)

Still the best way I know to be alone…

The two go well together for me; solitary and exercise. Give me one without the other, and they will each be appreciated.  Give me both, and they become trans-formative medicine.

Personality defect #2: Mass Appeal…

I can’t remember the first time I really took notice of a person’s musculature.  Maybe I was 12 or so.  It might have been a football player on TV, a bodybuilder, a guy swinging a sledge hammer on a road crew, I’m not sure.  I do know this; that from a very early age, the sight of lean, well formed, larger than normal muscles on a person compelled me – male or female.

Not just on people either.  As a child I would stare for hours at pictures of Seattle Slew and other race horses of the era.  The lean musculature of racehorses had a gravity my eyes could not resist.  My mom couldn’t get me out of the primate exhibit at the zoo either – the width of a gorilla’s back, and the squareness of his chest was something I wanted too.  There has always been something about the ornamental quality of large muscles in motion which has captivated me.

Triceps are a little weak, but LOVE his chest....

Triceps are a little weak, but LOVE his chest….

At some point, maybe near middle school, I made this connection; that I possessed the ability to go from just looking at and admiring muscle, to becoming the muscle.  On this realization, the course of my life began to take shape.  Personality defects #1 and #2 were about merge into the pathway expressway on which I would haul through the rest of my life.

Personality defect #3:  Hardworking In All The Wrong Places…

As my desire to create muscle on myself increased, I required more and more time in isolation to work on the muscle project.  My requirement for solitary exercise would now consume me.

By the time high school came along, it had gotten in the way of my solitary exercise.  I was so involved, as both the sculptor, and the sculpture, that I released myself from high school on my own recognizance.

Drop out.  Chalk up.  Lift.

Too cool for school...

Too cool for school…

Solitary exercise, in the form of weightlifting, had become my single biggest priority.  Oh, and there were also the sprint workouts which I began to do 2-3 times per week, which I enjoyed much for the challenge, and the conditioning, but also for the solitude.

As my adult life would further unfold, solitary exercise would expand to include running, cycling, surfing, kayaking, and more.  The older I got, the more important my medicinal movement became. It also became my livelihood.

Personality defect #4:  The World Begins With Me…

It is this defect, #4, that enabled defects #1 and #2 to become defect #3.  I put myself first in most situations – for most of my life.  I think science may have it wrong.  From my vantage point, the universe is didn’t actually begin until the day I was born – and that’s how I have lived for most of my life.

I like to think that I’m no longer as selfish as I was for the first 5 decades of my life.  I now recognize that there are 7 billion persons on Earth not named Roy Cohen.  With this realization, I think it’s fair to say that I have become a pretty giving person of my time, of my money, of my heart, and of myself.

My solitary exercise is still the largest part of my life, though I now include others more frequently as I partake in the joy of wearing myself down – wanting to share the experience.  In running, hiking, lifting, and cycling with others, I have learned to be more malleable in my exercise ways, and am finding new life from my movements, and fostered new friendships that have enriched my life.

Personality defect #5:  Reconciling Utility vs. Fulfillment…

As I have written before, it’s my belief that the car with the most, and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first.  Of course maintenance, quality of fuel, and quality of miles are factors, but using the body to excess is not necessarily a recipe for a ripe old age.  Still, I push hard, and I push daily.

I won’t know until much  later in life whether all my personality defects, and my lust for movement have served me well, or will have beaten me down.  It will probably be a little of each, but that’s how life is.

Going equine one more time.   Seattle Slew-perman...

Going equine one more time. Seattle Slew-perman…

Of course these are not all my personality defects, only the ones which serve this essay.  I’m not a bright man, but I’m guessing I have a personality defect or two that I’m not willing to advertise.  So for those who truly know me, PLEASE feel free this week to drop them into the comments section and help fuel the conversation.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.
Oh, and there is this from the Grande Roses, enjoy…

A Girl Named Smith…

Goodbye Dear Friend…

I just said goodbye to an old friend, one I know I’ll never see again. She and I have been friends for years. We met shortly after my divorce. She was instrumental in helping me pick up the pieces of my deteriorating life, and put it back together during those critical post-divorce years. I can make a clean argument that she helped save my life at a time when the depths were pretty low, and eminent danger was near.

We saw each other almost daily for many years, often twice daily. She provided me with a kind of strength that doesn’t come from within. In an era when pundits of self-help are quick to point out that real strength should come from within, I can say unequivocally that sometimes an outside source of strength is required to build inner strength. This source – this friend, was always there for me, never said no to me, and helped me develop a special strength, inside and out – mostly out. Goodbye Smith Machine. I hope you enjoy your forever home…

All That We Shared…

It’s very popular these days for avid strength trainers to poke fun at the smith machine, and those who use it. Most often this is done by younger folks, bros, and hardcore gym enthusiasts. I think it’s fair to say for a lot of my adult life I have been as hard core as anyone I know, or at least in the conversation. Truth is I rarely touched a smith machine until I was in my 40s. Maybe once in a while if a gym I was visiting was crowded I might slum it a bit, and do some squats, or bench presses on a smith machine, and hope nobody was looking. The shame of it all…

As I got older though, and developed my own style of strength training, with lots slow negatives, pauses at extension and contraction, and an emphasis on cross-bridging, I realized the smith machine could not only be used to develop strength, and muscularity, it could be exploited with huge returns.

A Brief History…

The smith machine was invented by Jack LaLanne. It can be used for a variety of exercises from squats to bench presses, rows, shoulder presses, lunges, and more. The safety aspect can be appealing for those who train without a partner, since there is no need for a spotter. As I eluded to earlier, for me, the smith machine has been the midwife to an intensity in my workouts for over a decade. Of the all the exercises I did on my smith machine, squats and bench presses on a high incline were my favorites. I could get so deep inside myself – so intense that I often left nothing on the floor but sweat.

I mean for sure, right bro…? No way you can get any good chest development with a smith machine!

I know, I know, gotta pose the face too.  Not my strength...

I know, I know, gotta pose the face too. Not my strength…

Her Forever Home…

After 14 years I have decided to close my San Diego area studio, and return to Colorado to be closer to family. I am keeping most of my equipment because I enjoy training alone, and I may someday start my business again in Colorado. I did though, sell my smith machine combo because I just didn’t want to move, and store it. Dry your eyes, dry your eyes – she’s going to a good home.

Her forever home will be with Fred. Fred is almost 70. Several years ago he became a client, and quickly discovered the utility of strength training in support of the active aging process. Fred hikes, backpacks regularly, plays softball like he’s 12, and spend much his time tending his trees, building fences. He doesn’t even have an email address – the perfect candidate for a forever home for my his smith machine.

It was important to me that this machine be loved, and cared for. So much home exercise equipment goes unused, underappreciated, and can even be abused. Imagine using a treadmill as a coat rack – the horror. When Fred expressed interest in buying my smith machine I lit up like a junkie to a hot spoon. I knew immediately she would be going to a good home, would be used, and appreciated. There was no way a smith machine of mine was going to some kind of shelter, or worse.

I have no doubt that she and Fred will have many good workouts together. I can rest easy that she won’t be killed. As for my future workouts, they will mostly take place in what I expect will be a bitchin’ basement or garage gym when I get back to Colorado. When I need a smith machine, I will have to go to a public gym to use one, though I know I will buy another at some point. That’s okay. Being in a public gym is always a good reminder for me of what not to do – on smith machines or any other piece of equipment. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Shrimpboat. Enjoy!

Believe you me…

“Show me a man who has the same values, and beliefs at 50 that he had at 25, and I’ll show you a man who has wasted 25 years of his life.” Muhammad Ali

As Beliefs Grow Up…

Beliefs are the first children we ever have. Like real children, beliefs begin arriving long before we are prepared for, or qualified to have them. As they grow, they end up raising us in sense, as children raise their parents. Hopefully this allows us to evolve with them in an expanding, and symbiotic relationship. As time passes we become increasingly intimate with, and committed to our beliefs.

For many, their beliefs will be the only children they ever have. Who doesn’t want to show off their children…? For others, their beliefs will be children so well-crafted they’ll rarely be exposed. Beliefs define us, express us, and explain us. They are malleable, often in flux, and very sensitive to the fingerprints of others.

beleif3

Beliefs; the first children we ever have…

Like our real children, we can be guilty at times of not executing the most proper custodial care in the raising of our beliefs. Our beliefs grow as properly as we nurture them, and direct them to. And also like children, our beliefs can be at odds with each other – despite that they are our own. We’re all familiar with feuding siblings. In that context I’ll suggest we’re just familiar with feuding beliefs living in our heads.

Like protecting our children from harm, we seek to protect our beliefs from harm in hopes that they will grow, and serve the world well. As a culture, it increasingly seems that protecting our own beliefs more resembles projecting them. We shoot our beliefs like arrows at others before they can get to ours with theirs.

Essentially, on the playground of life, we’re pitting the children of our minds against one-another rather than encouraging them to play nicely.

No Means No…

In the tired, and unsolvable debate over god, God, or no God, something should be considered; to continually attempt to change somebody’s beliefs once they have said, No Thank You, is an not only an attempted rape of that person’s most precious asset, it is an attempted murder of their mind’s children.

A good friend attempted to witness Christ to me several weeks ago. He did so softly, and congenially, but was persistent in his approach. I know this was an act of love on his behalf, and an attempt to make a positive impact on my life. I respect that. I’m certain, however, that he never considered he was attempting to make many of my children – my own beliefs disappear by pitting his to hurt mine. Perhaps when he reads this, he’ll view things differently.

I do not begrudge him for the attempt. I remain hurt though, and feel somewhat violated that when I said “no”, as I explained the comfort I have with my own beliefs, that he didn’t take no for an answer, and wouldn’t let it go. At that point, it was an emotional rape attempt.

I have been witnessed to many times prior. Several ended in the destruction of friendships, and business relationships. Not only would they not take no for answer, they attacked my beliefs, and did so in very disparaging ways.

Now that may be taken as anti-Christian statement, but I assure you it is not. It is a statement in favor of respecting the children I have raised in my mind – my beliefs. I know many atheists who are just as guilty, and just as evangelical in their approach to converting believers, and both sides should learn to end the conversation at the first, No Thank You.

The Playground Of Life…

Most parents spend a great deal of effort teaching their children to play well with others. Maybe it’s time we place just as much effort into teaching our own beliefs to play well with others. At the workplace, online, at social gatherings, and sporting events there are no recess monitors. We are self-policed – or not. I believe we can do a better job than we currently are.

Discussing beliefs around the campfire with friends...

Discussing beliefs around the campfire with friends…

We’ve all thought to ourselves, I should be more… I’ll suggest those thoughts most always arise from an internal fear we may have or develop. We don’t get angry with ourselves for questioning our own beliefs. However, when we are approached with, you should be more… we immediately take offense. There’s a disparity there that doesn’t work.

Too many people are having their beliefs attacked by the bullies of fear too often in these times. The term discourse is falling out of vogue again, as bipartisanship has. When somebody attacks our beliefs, or attempts to change them, maybe we shouldn’t get angry with them, and fight back by shooting our beliefs. Perhaps we should simply pity them, and offer them a hug, and seek the common points first. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP  button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this little gem from Australia’s Pat Capocci.  Enjoy…

Of dogs, and immigrants…

Broad brush strokes…

When we refer to any group, or reference their actions as a collective, we are often making a mistake. My favorite example of this is when people refer to the American founding fathers. This is often done in the context of, The founding fathers would have…

News flash; there was no such thing as the founding fathers as a collective. Similarly, there is no such things as in nature, Hollywood, or the sports world as collective entities.  Still, there are times when it’s useful, and even appropriate to paint with these broad brush strokes. I’m about to do that – twice.

Reflections from a sidewalk…

One year ago next month a conversation took place between a dear friend and I – she and I share a daughter. We were enjoying lunch at a sidewalk café on a Chicago afternoon. The following day our daughter was to graduate from college, so the conversation was reflective on our child’s life. The slow pace of the lunch provided a relaxed dialogue, and gave us a chance to talk without hurrying our girl’s future into place.

As the conversation flitted back and forth through time, the talk was peppered with thoughts of how we humans believe we should live our lives versus we how actually choose to. The two sides of that same coin are often left unreconciled by many. In a serene moment my daughter’s mother and I distilled all we really need to know about how to live our lives into just two words; dogs, and immigrants.

On dogs…

She explained that we should all live more like dogs. Dogs, she said, live in the moment. She suggested that so long as dogs are in a safe environment, they live relatively stress free lives, and are appreciative of whatever it is they are doing at a given time. Be it feeling the warmth of the sunshine on their body, enjoying a piece of food or a human touch, dogs, she suggested, don’t look back or beyond.

Dogs love unconditionally she continued, and humans would be wise to do the same. She explained that dogs are loving creatures with forgiving hearts. Dogs hold no resentment, and when given love, they tend to pay love back – with interest.

Lastly, she stated, that dogs are humble. Though each has a unique personality, dogs tend to understand that they are here to follow, not to advise, and that humans would be wise to live the same way. A dog, she said, has no ego.

Though I could not disagree with any of her points, I explained that I feel people need more than those qualities to prosper as a society.

She may have her roaring moments, but Peachy is the most humble dog I have ever known...

She may have her roaring moments, but Peachy is the most humble dog I have ever known…

On immigrants…

I explained to her that I feel we should live more like immigrants. That immigrants, like dogs, tend to be humble, but hard working. Work, I reminded her, is what we humans are here for.

I live in a town with a large immigrant culture. Many come from Central America, and Mexico. Most of the immigrants I have come to know here are among the hardest working, and most humble people I know. I find them more inspiring than I do professional athletes or even astronauts. They also tend to be reverent, and respectful.

When I cross paths with, or interact with the local immigrant culture, they are often on bicycle or on foot en-route to their long days of picking fruit or working elsewhere in agriculture. I have employed several through the years for both short, and long-term work. There are many commonalities I have observed with them as a collective, chief among them is that I am almost always met with a smile, and a greeting.  Most often their shirts are tucked in, they say please and thank you to everything that moves, and they value a dollar – not covet it. From most of them, I sense something genuine.

Let the work day begin...

Let the work day begin…

Among the immigrant population here, there seems to be no real sense of resentment that they are on foot or on bike rather than a Lexus. I feel a genuine sense of gratitude from the immigrant culture that a dog might also have, but a wealthy neighbor probably doesn’t. Immigrants, I believe, sense and appreciate opportunity far better than most of us, having often sprung from more stark beginnings. Many I have known see little use for even a lunch break.

I believe living in this community, with its high concentration of immigrants, has inspired me to live a more humble, and harder working life. I am grateful that I have a chance to interface with these inspirational people most every day of my life.

Inspired from eye level, not from above…

I watched an inspirational video this morning of athletes who all looked like action figures. They were covered with sweat, and performing brave exercises while voices in the background increased in volume as they repeatedly offered motivational clichés espousing the merits of gut busting work as a means of pursuing achievement. I admit I felt largely inspired by the video – at first.

As I watched this video though, I could not help but think that if that same music, and those same motivational voices were superimposed of over scenes of immigrant workers picking fruit, or of stay at home moms juggling laundry, cooking, and children, they would have inspired me as much. I was taken back to that conversation I had nearly a year ago, of dogs and immigrants.

Meme picking…

Barring an advancement in genetic engineering which might enable us to splice the highest traits of immigrants with those of dogs and implant them into the psyche of the average American, I can only hope that for inspiration, we begin looking around at some point, and not up.

In the end I can’t really say we should live more like dogs, or immigrants. I will suggest though, that we should seek out qualities to improve our lives from the collectives which may seem to be beneath or beside us, and draw less those from those who appear to be above us – professional athletes in particular.

Now I know there are lazy immigrants, mean dogs, and mindful professional athletes. However, it’s my firm belief that if our founding fathers were alive today, they all would “like” this essay on their Facebook pages. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Jill Andrews. Enjoy…

Fundamentally Speaking…

You can’t spell fundamental without mental…

Disappointed, but not surprised. That is the feeling I got last week when the emails started to trickle in. That they showed up at all verifies something I have felt for a long time, though I have chosen to swallow those feelings rather than broadcast them. To have expressed them would have been to pick an argument not worth arguing, resulting in no conclusion. In politics, religion, or social subcultures I rarely criticize – not even those things I may disagree with. I believe the world works better in nonzero terms. Shut up. Coexist. Move on.

We’re all familiar with the idea of fundamentalism. In this era we often associate fundamentalism with religion, though there are other forms. At its base level, fundamentalism is the belief in, and the strict adherence to a cause or ideal. I think we can add to that cursory definition, the disapproval of any ideal counter to or not consistent with the core ideal. And by “disapproval” I mean, disrespect.

Disagreements between fundamentalists of a particular group, and those outside that group often evoke passion, raised voices, and increased friction. Fundamentalists often get defensive with regard to their core values, and ideals. Occasionally defense turns to offense, and the result can be violence, death, and even war. This week I was reminded that that the ideal of fundamentalism isn’t exclusive to religion; it even exists the community of fitness. And though I hope it does not result in war, I’m sure a few grenades will be launched my way for writing this.

Satire night live…

It was a simple action; I posted something to my Facebook page last week, and in doing so invited a new genre of fundamentalists into my life, opening the gates to fractured friendships, aggressive rhetoric, and outright hate mail lobbed my way. Here’s the back story:

The Duffle Blog is an online satirical publication similar to The Onion. The Duffle Blog focuses exclusively on the US Military, and the Department of Defense. I have regularly posted articles from the Duffle Blog to my Facebook page. These articles are usually irreverent, often crude, and always funny. In three years of posting them I have not experienced one person taking offense – not one. And then, with the posting of this Duffle Blog article last week, the subculture of CrossFit set in…

Here’s a quote from one email I received just minutes after posting the article: “I don’t get you Roy. You criticize CrossFit yet you don’t even do it. CrossFit has changed my life. Maybe saved my life. I’m disappointed in you as a trainer.”

An excerpt from another email:

“Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. You’re jealously is obvious. You wish you could.”

Those are just samples of how some people responded to my CrossFit bashing. Okay, this is a good place to interject this thought; I DID NO CROSSFIT BASHING! I simply posted a satirical article poking fun at the US military – not CrossFit. And that underscores my point; that the very nature of CrossFit has become a fundamentalist cause, to the point where people involved with it feel they are above satire or criticism, and seem to be too often on the defensive – or offensive.

porcha

 You can’t spell warrior without war…

In recent years I have seen many diehard CrossFit warriors take their subculture too seriously, in a fundamentalist kind of way. In doing so, they often disrespect, and under appreciate the fitness values of nonparticipants. Anyone who exists in the immediate periphery of CrossFit has likely seen evidence of this in social media.

That’s where CrossFit ultimately breaks down in my opinion; not in the ABCs of the workouts so much, but in its own projection of itself. There seems to be an almost universal smugness, and lack of social decorum throughout the subculture. Often it seems practitioners talk about CrossFit as if it is the end-all for all things fitness, and that no fitness genre, fitness ideal, or practitioner outside of CrossFit are valid, or have anything to offer – unless of course they involve the Spartan Race or Paleo eating.

What resonates for me deepest though, is that those who often tout it the most, are relatively new to the subculture, and to the ideal of exercise itself. These are people in the group who could not explain the cross bridging principle of muscular action any more than they could explain protein synthesis, or even tell me what the eccentric phase of an exercise is. Sadly, there are many newbie CrossFit coaches who could not explain those things.

I see a haunting similarity between the religious fundamentalism of the Abrahamic traditions, and the exercise fundamentalism of the CrossFit subculture in the way it is both excessively proselytized, and defended. Or more succinctly, as religious fundamentalists each believe their tradition has the exclusive rights to being right, it now seems CrossFit thinks it resides highest in the pantheon above all things fitness.

 I’ll state clearly that I see value in all forms exercise being practiced safely, and mindfully. I also see utility in the communities like-minded exercise enthusiasts create. I have no doubt that thousands of CrossFit practitioners benefit from, appreciate, and respect their endeavor. As a collective though, it seems they have some growing up to do. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this trippy little nugget from Bad Liquor Pond.  Enjoy!

Space trap…

Houses of relativity…

I never really bought into the dream. From an early age I was immersed in something which made little sense to me; a house with too many rooms, and a yard requiring relentless effort from my father who already worked like a dog to support this house that made no sense. The result of our family living in this home leant itself to more stress and frustrations, I believe, than to happiness. By the 3rd grade the fingerprints of minimal living were already being laid on me.

During my 5th grade year I visited the home of a friend, Alex. I was awestruck when I entered his family’s mansion, and the luxuries it contained. Despite my awe, the vastness of the house made less sense to me than the house I lived in. I wondered why anyone would need an entire room dedicated to games, books, and casino gaming tables. A full kitchen on the 2nd floor – just in case, I guess. One of the bedrooms belonged to the cook, another to the groundskeeper, several more were not even spoken for. I was touched by the fingerprints of, too much.

Later on my mother invited Alex to visit our house. I was embarrassed. My house which once felt too big, now seemed like a corrugated tin shack in comparison to my friend’s house. I made every excuse to justify not having a par 3 golf hole out back, or a gallery of mounted bears in the study.   After his departure Alex seemed to distance himself from me. Perhaps this was a construct in my head, but we didn’t hang out too much after his visit to the slums of the middle class. These were the fingerprints of insecurity.

I would go on to live my life torn between two desires; the desire to have more – that I might better fit in, and the desire for less – that I might feel liberated. If it seems like pandering to both desires would keep me centered, and in a life of middleclass moderation, it did not. It kept me confused through much of my life about how much is enough, how much is too much, and whether we need any of it at all.

Family and flow…

I would grow up to marry, and start a family. We began living in apartments like many young couples, and furnishing them with cinderblock shelves, and futon sofas. I never wanted more than that. Apartment living, and cheap furniture agreed with me. Eventually parenthood called, salaries increased, and we transitioned from renting apartments to buying homes, and furnishing them with real sofas, and shelves made from substances heartier than particle board.

As we went through this process, I always lobbied to buy the smallest house, with the smallest yard. To her credit, my wife was accommodating about my need for less. We lived in modest homes with modest things, and our happiness came more from moments, than from possessions. I enjoyed decorating with old grape crates, spray paint, and dumpster diving for adornments as my wife rolled her eyes in partial amusement. Those were the fingerprints of making more from less.

Cohen house '98.  0.0 Front yard.  I liked my odds...

Cohen house ’98. 0.0 Front yard. I liked my odds…

Two cans of paint, some tile squares from Pic&Save, and kitchen was born for under $100...

Two cans of paint, some tile squares from Pic&Save, and kitchen was born for under $100…

Hands solo…

Eventually we would divorce, and I would move into a smaller home – a Ford Windstar minivan. It was a little tight, but I could sleep in the back, shower at the gym, and eat on the fly. After 6 months of parking lot camping I took a one-room guesthouse with no heat, and no air. It was the perfect home for my needs. However, there was no place for my daughter when she visited.

The single best place I ever lived...

The single best place I ever lived…

 

After 6 months in the guesthouse, I rented a 3 bedroom home so my daughter could stay over when she chose. However my daughter was rarely there, and the place seemed far too big. Through my 11 years there, I occupied only a single room. Once my daughter was in college, I would return to guest house living for a few more years.

 

Today I live in a 1,600 square foot house, though most of it is my fitness studio. Again I occupy only a single room in back of the studio, and spend a majority of my nonworking time in a small office in the entryway, or seated by the fire pit in my front yard. This suits me well. All the while, any happiness I experience has little to do with where I live, and more to do with who I’m with, or what I am doing.

My current shack...

My current shack…

Roll me away…

I seem to distance myself from the trappings of things, and space a little more each year. Long ago I gave away my car, later my furniture, and I’m continually downsizing my accommodations. Aside from my minimal wardrobe, and my computer, I own a bed, a chair, a couple of surfboards, and a bicycle. These days, I spend much of my evenings seeking out what the best next living option for me might be – probably a small motorhome.

I recognize that living wholly off the grid isn’t realistic, and it is certainly not the goal of most people. I’m just messed up that way. I also still have to earn a living. Being grid accessible, with nothing anchoring me to it is the real goal. Perhaps parked on a tributary which provides easy entrée in and out of the modern scene as needed.   The fingerprints of Dorian Paskowitz, and Christopher McCandless have left their mark.

 Handprint of a legacy…

We wear outwardly the finger prints of the moments, the places, and the people who have touched us throughout our lives. Inwardly we may feel the push or the pull of the hands from which those fingerprints were placed. Though we may not directly associate each of our actions with these finger prints, they are ever present in all of our actions.

It is our necessary interconnectivity which limits minimalists like me in what we perceive as the free will required in attempting to live off or adjacent to the grid. What we likely seek is not free will, but individual autonomy as part of a greater collective. Perhaps I’m just seeking a little more autonomy than most. The finger prints which have touched me most have lead me wanting less. It is my sincere hope that the fingerprints of my own life will lay gently on the lives of those who I have touched. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from  Joe Ely.   Enjoy!

Laboratory, Me…

Objective…

To sustain muscle that is functional, strong, flexible, not burdensome, and looks good, without garnering some of the negative consequences which are often associated with recreational bodybuilding, such as aches, pains, stiffness, and spending hours in the gym.

Good news, my previous internal thesis on this hasn’t changed in over a decade, this is just an update. This is a direction I began to head in my early 40s, and lived it pretty well for about 10 years or so,. Then, in 2011 I got a little cocky, and stepped it up.

Boot in the ass…

Through my 40s, my workouts, and physique were on autopilot. After I turned 50 and while training a couple of female bodybuilders, my ego got the better of me and I put myself on an unsustainable path – for a while. Though I did not increase my training volume (sets & reps) at all, I did increase the frequency of my strength sessions; often training for 10 or 12 consecutive days prior to taking a rest day. I also began using creatine for the first time in my 30+ years of training.

My cardio protocol during this period was basically just a hard 2-mile hill run 5 days per week, followed by (10) all-out 70-yards sprints with little rest in-between. On the weekends I would engage in longer trail runs, and distance cycling – up to 40 miles.

After 18 months of pushing hard in the gym, I was using weights on most exercises that I had not used previously – I was a gym strong as I had ever been. I attribute these gains to good note taking, consistent training, a high level of concentration during the workouts, protein augmentation, and to the use of creatine.

Though I did not weigh myself hydrostatically during this period, I’ll suggest that by the end of those 18 months, I had only gained about 2 pounds of lean body mass (muscle), despite that I experienced profound gains in strength during this period. I peaked at roughly 160 pounds, and (estimating) 11% body fat.

Hole in my boot…

Because I pushed very hard in the gym, and with the running and cycling during that 18 month period, I eventually reached a burnout period. My body was just tired – most of the time. Living in a calorie defecate, despite that was not a huge defecate, may have also contributed to the burnout. The weight room became more an altar of obligation than the sanctuary it had been for nearly 30 years. I was experiencing continual body aches which I had not previously known. I was excessively tired through the course of my workdays. I was completely out of love with the ideal of recreational bodybuilding.

I took 6 weeks off, and relaxed my diet.

Reboot…

When I restarted after my layoff, I could not fully engage again. I wondered if I was trying to force something that wasn’t there. My body was still feeling the effects of pushing too hard for too long with not enough fuel. My strength training was uninspired, and down to 2-3 days per week. I also switched my cardio from running and sprinting, to walking on a treadmill at 15% grade at for 30 minutes 6 days per week. Since I hate running, and enjoy treadmill walking, this protocol will remain ongoing – it is sustainable for me.

Before I dug in to earn my way back into sustainable shape, I decided to take one more layoff – this time for 3 weeks with intent to reframe my mind as well as body, and contemplate what I was strength training really mean to me — to my essence.  During this phase I lived off Little Caesar’s, microwave burritos, Modelo Especial, and came to the eventual conclusion that I want my workouts, and eating to be sustainable always — but I already knew that, I just needed to remind myself of who I am. Definitely gained some body fat, but with no guilt whatsoever for having done so. When enough was enough, the weight room and vegetables began calling me once again – this time with a smile.

Despite the layoff, and the relaxed eating schedule, I jumped right into training with the heaviest weights (in most movements) that I have ever used. My emphasis of increasing poundages has been more focused on my primary compound movements (denoted below as 5 sets of 5 reps). On the lighter, one-dimensional stretching, and isolation movements (denoted below by as 3 sets of 8-10 reps), I have been using challenging weights, but have refused to sacrifice form for the sake of increased weights, or additional repetitions.

I have been rotating through an 8 workout cycle, on a 4 days on, 1 day off routine. My workouts, listed below, take less than 45 minutes each. My eating has been consistent with my last peak, the only exception being that I am maintaining bare minimum calorie defecate. As previously mentioned, my cardio has been limited to treadmill walking.

These workouts have not lent themselves to any excessive fatigue, or achiness. I attribute this largely to a relaxed cardio schedule, a little more food, and reduced strength session frequency. I remain convinced that, for me, too few rest days, as well as excessive running intensity had more to do with my previous aches, and lethargy, than my strength training has.

Lastly, within the scope of these workouts, I rest only long enough between sets to stretch out the muscles being worked during a particular movement. Example: After every set of a hamstring exercise, I stretch my hamstrings for 30 seconds. I rest long enough to stretch, and stretch long enough to rest.   Again, these sessions taking less than 45 minutes.  Routines below.  Videos below routines.

Chest/Triceps #1

Incline Bench Press Free Bar 5×5

Pec-Deck Flies 3×8-10

Flat Triceps Extension 4×5

Overhead Triceps Extension 3×8-10

 

Back/Biceps #1

Wide Grip Lat-Pulldown 5×5

T-Bar/Long Bar Row 3×8-10

Bench or Machine Bench Curls 5×5

 

Shoulders/Calves #1

Overhead Shoulder Press Free Bar 5×5

Cable Lateral Raise 3×8-10

Seated Calf Raise 5×8-10

 

Legs #1

Prone Leg Curls 3×8-10

Leg Extensions 3×8-10

Smith Machine Squats 5×5

 

Chest/Triceps #2

Machine Incline Bench Press 5×5

Dumbbell Flies 3×8

Triceps Pushdown 4×5

Triceps Overhead Cable Extensions 3×8-10

 

Back/Biceps #2

Bent Barbell Rows or Cable Mid-rows (I prefer cable due to an ongoing shoulder injury unrelated to lifting. Fuck running) 5×5

1-Arm Cable Rows 3×8-10 Raised Deadlifts 3×8-10

Concentration Curls 5×5

 

Shoulders/Calves #2

Dumbbell Overhead Press 5×5

Dumbbell Later Raise 3×8-10

Standing Calf Raise 5×8-10

 

Legs #2

Leg Press 5×5 Standing

Lunges 3×10

True Squats 2×20 (moderate weight)

Chest/Triceps #1

Incline Bench Press Free Bar 5×5

Pec-Deck Flies 3×8-10

Flat Triceps Extension 4×5

Overhead Triceps Extension 3×8-10

Back/Biceps #1

Wide Grip Lat-Pulldown 5×5

T-Bar/Long Bar Row 3×8-10

Low-Back Extensions 3×8-10

Bench or Machine Bench Curls 5×5

Shoulders/Calves #1

Overhead Shoulder Press Free Bar 5×5

Cable Lateral Raise 3×8-10

Seated Calf Raise 5×8-10

Legs #1

Prone Leg Curls 3×8-10

Leg Extensions 3×8-10

Smith Machine Squats 5×5

Chest/Triceps #2

Machine Incline Bench Press 5×5

Dumbbell Flies 3×8

Triceps Pushdown 4×5

Triceps Overhead Cable Extensions 3×8-10

Back/Biceps #2

Bent Barbell Rows or Cable Mid-rows (I prefer cable due to an ongoing shoulder injury unrelated to lifting. Fuck running) 5×5

1-Arm Cable Rows 3×8-10

Raised Deadlifts 3×8-10

Concentration Curls 5×5

Shoulders/Calves #2

Dumbbell Overhead Press 5×5

Dumbbell Later Raise 3×8-10

Standing Calf Raise 5×8-10

Legs #2

Leg Press 5×5

Standing Lunges 3×10

True Squats 2×20 (moderate weight)

Where this should lead…

My goal weight is 168 pounds bodyweight at roughly 14% body fat by May 30. Through my self-experimentation and note taking through the past 12 years or so, I believe this to be sustainable, ongoing. I would like to maintain these workouts and this condition at least until my early 60s, with few modifications, and only occasional layoffs. This should not put me anywhere near a state of depravity. We shall see. Pictures to follow – maybe.

Note that the exercises have a fairly equal blend of barbells, dumbbells, machines, and cables. Despite what nonsense floats around out there, there are values in all of these, so I use them all to my advantage.

As always, if you have specific questions about exercises, their values and applications, please contact me, via this website. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Billy Nayer Show.  Enjoy!

About face… book

Not real in the real world…

Several years ago, during a dinner discussion that involved the topic of social media, a friend suggested to me that,

“Facebook isn’t the real world”.

Ironically, it was Facebook that had reconnected she, and I, and placed us at dinner that evening – after a decade of not seeing one another.   She’s no longer living, though her Facebook page is still quite active.  People post to her memory regularly as though she is actually seeing those posts.  Perhaps she is.  Even if not, maybe this is a modern, more interactive twist on laying flowers at the graveside.

 Changes within…

Several years ago when I realized Facebook had become too large a distraction for my level of discipline, I told another friend I was going to delete my Facebook account.  I had every intention of doing it that night.  When I explained this to her, she responded with,

“Please don’t!  You spice up my feed”.

My ego got the better of me, and that lone comment kept me from deleting my account.  I look back at that decision with regret, and as a pivotal point in my recent life.

That friend and I bantered quite a bit on Facebook early on, but we eventually went our separate ways, and are no longer in communication with one another.  And here I am three years later having invested far too much time into something with far too little return.

It’s all about Roy…

Rather than focus on editing my book, walking my dog, reading, or asking my elderly neighbor to sit by my fire pit and chat, I spend countless hours with my eyes fixed to a 17” window to the world, all for the instant gratification of a like, a comment, or the mindless amusement of a cat playing a xylophone.

When I ask myself why I post things on Facebook, why I comment, or which friend’s posts I choose to comment on, the only honest answer I can give must be reduced to some combination of the following:

-          To impress others

-          To seek the respect of others

-          To be perceived as knowledgeable or intelligent relative to a subject

-          To please others

-          To experience instant gratification during an otherwise tedious moment in my life

-          To demonstrate my senses of humor

-          To share something I feel others might enjoy, or benefit from

There are probably a few more reasons which branch off of these, but I believe these to be primary.  That last one though, to share something I feel others might enjoy, or benefit from, is the only reason that has legitimized Facebook for me.

Friends with benefits…

There are positive reasons to use Facebook.  Among them are connecting with likeminded people I would not otherwise have access to at a given moment.  I love that I can have a conversation with friends around the world about music, philosophy, or whether or not there is such a thing as clutch hitting in professional baseball.  Facebook, in a sense, is a global campfire.

Facebook; like a global campfire..

Facebook; like a global campfire…

It’s hard though, to distill the good conversations, from the bad.  That is where I struggle the most – in facing the relentless political, and religious thrusting of opinions, and positions at my psyche which is not looking for such information.  I have come to despise those moments for their ability to ruin other moments.  I tend to increasingly begrudge those who force that negativity upon me.  Even the topic of fitness, which is both my passion, and my livelihood, has been bastardized, and abused by social media to the point where I have come to hate the ideal of fitness.

Because of this I recently deactivated my Facebook page, with one possible outcome being that I would never return to it.

Where’s Jhciacb…?

When I deactivate my account, roughly 20 people out of the 300 or so friends I have reached out to me by email or by text to find out if I had unfriended them.  It had not occurred to them that maybe I was taking a break, or perhaps unfriending myself from a time bandit with a greater downside than upside.  One at a time, I assured those who were truly concerned that no unfriending was done in the course of my absence.  I simply needed a break.

I’m single, I live alone, and I don’t own a television.  Facebook had become a large part of my social, and entertainment life.  Feeling like I was missing something, I thought about bringing Facebook back, but I vowed to disconnect for at least one month.  If you are reading this by way of Facebook, then you know I lasted exactly 3 weeks.  I’m good with that.

What I missed most…

Like any form of entertainment or any tool, what one gets out of something is relative to what one puts into it.  I have always struggled with the blurry lines in life.  I believe the medical term for that is, being Jewish.

Sunday mornings.  Waking up with hot coffee under the cool pacific marine layer.  Sitting on my back porch with my laptop on my lap top, and my dog at my feet.  With the slight electric sound of Cowboy Junkies framing the mood, and with my view to the creek and the egrets in the immediate foreground, I get to share that very scene, some level of fun, and some amusement with 300 or people, many whom I have come to truly appreciate.

Sunday morning on the porch the best part of my week...

Sunday morning on the porch; the best part of my week…

Those Sunday mornings are among the best, most calm moments of my week.  I look forward to them.  I enjoy trading jokes with my brother, and our friends in the Midwest.  I may get to discover some new music.  I see some interesting photographs which might make me smile, or fill me with awe.  For those reasons, and a few others, I won’t turn my back on Facebook – yet.  I will though, use it less, and manipulate out of the picture, anyone willing to spew hatred as a means of pleasuring their own narrow mind.  Be well…  rc

Canyon Lands, Utah.  Photo credit: Lance Jones

Canyon Lands, Utah. Photo credit: Lance Jones

citrus

Macadamias, and citrus. Photo credit, DL Heaton

Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from David Lindley, and GE Smith.  Enjoy…

Cattle Drive…

Just right…

Aside from the relief pitcher in professional baseball, the recreational bodybuilder is perhaps the most idiosyncratic animal on the planet.  It is common knowledge among us that if all things in the workout are not wholly aligned with, and aimed at the center of the universe, no set of repetitions, no exercise, and no workout is valid.  It takes but one little thing to be out of place, and the whole ordeal is null, and void.

The right shorts must be worn.  A drink at the water fountain every 3rd set.  The bar on the bench press must be rolled back so many times before the liftoff.  Eye contact with lesser lifters causes the pump to instantly deflate.  No chalk…?  No deadlift.  These are just some examples of being, just right with the workout gods.  I have taken most of my workouts in the same gray tank-top for 12 years.  On days when said shirt is unavailable, I have a sincere feeling of being lost as I train.

Raising cattle…

Among the best compliments one can offer a bodybuilder is to say, “those aren’t calves, those are cattle” in reference to the lower legs.

Those who know me know that I take calf training very seriously when I’m in full-on bodybuilding mode.  More so than I should.  Perhaps this is because my genetic predisposition to large calves, is as Dick Cheney’s is to tolerance.  At least one of us was willing to admit weakness, and work hard to overcome.

For many years I trained calves in bare feet because Arnold did.  “Because Arnold did” is probably at the very root of my personality disorder.  As I have aged, I have estranged myself from that affliction.  However, from age 13-30 “because Arnold did” was my disease.  Though I don’t have imposing calves, they do stand out, and that is simply from years of consistent training.

Maybe not a Texas Longhorn, but well beyond being, just a calf...

Maybe not a Texas Longhorn, but well beyond being, just a calf…

About eight years ago I took to calf training in shoes rather than bare feet as Arnold did.  This was due in large part to a bunion I have expanding on the knuckle of my right big toe.  Also, Arnold be damned, I found that after 20 years of blind following, I was able to get deeper inside my calves, stimulate more growth and shape when wearing shoes while training them.  Perhaps it was Arnold’s drugs, and not his bare feet that made the larger impact for him…

Sole Mates…

Making the transition from training calves with shoes on vs. barefoot was not easy.  However, as both a runner and hoarder, I had many old pairs of running shoes to choose from.  The selection process took nearly a month, and involved at least 6 pairs of shoes that had previously been my primary running shoes.  Eventually my Goldilocks shoes were found; a pair of lesser Asics shoes which I received for free when I purchased a $200 pair to run a marathon in.

For 8 years these Asics were my sole calf training shoes.  They were as important in the equation as the equipment we trained on, and in a real sense, they were my training partners on lower-leg day – until today.   Worn, torn, and worn some more.  Washed.  Bleached.  Dried.  Worn more and more to a point of no return.  Holes in the toes.  Tread coming off.  Stability gone.  It’s time to say goodbye old friends.

I decent burial, I guess...

I decent burial, I guess…

Nothing beats a nice pair…

My split today called for shoulders, and calves – my first day in 8 years training with new partners.  I selected the pair of Mizuno running shoes which I had previously worn while running the Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.  Fuck running.

I selected this pair because their shape and structure are similar to the Asics I just laid to rest.  Narrow toe box.  Thick sole.  Not an abundance of stench due to my consistent lack of wearing socks.

My new mates...

My new mates…

Like any rookies, they did okay their first time out.  Not a stellar performance, but I drafted them for their future potential, not to have an immediate impact.  It will take time for my new calf shoes, and I to get more familiar with each other – to be on the same page.  Today we did Seated Calf Raises, 5 sets of 5 reps – heavy.  We followed that with Toe Presses on the leg press machine for 3 sets of 10 reps – moderate.  It was good.

I am hopeful that some level of soreness will manifest in my cattle overnight.  Should that happen, it will reinforce that I drafted the correct shoes.  If not, I may consider another pair by way of free agency.  We shall see.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Patrick Sweany.  Enjoy…

Dragons and dungeons…

Slaying Dragons…

Imagine you are a dragon slayer, and you know you’re among the very best at slaying dragons.  Every day you wake up, prepare yourself for the day, sharpen your sword, and step outside to fulfill your potential on behalf of the world.  Confidence abounds.

Soon you spot the first dragon of the day, and he is headed toward you in full glide.  You’re ready.  You have lived your whole life for this, and you know you are going to win.  The dragon approaches as if it’s his responsibility to be slayed.  You raise your sword just as high as your arm will reach.  You look him in the eye as he dives, take aim, and time it just right.  You lower your arm with all your might, and… you miss.  The dragon looks back with a sardonic smile as he flies away, and you stand there in failure.

Another dragon will arrive in just few minutes to experience the exact same result.  This has been your daily life for many years.  You spend most days wondering what your purpose really is.  You know you’re good at what you do, but the dragons never fly quite close enough.  Life feels empty.  You ask yourself why you aren’t successful anymore.  It wasn’t always this way…

How things were a decade ago...

How things were a decade ago…

The reason for the lack of outcome, of course, is that dragons fly, and you don’t.  You actually can fly, you choose not to anymore.  If you choose to fly, then the battle will be real, and there will be risk in confrontation.  You dislike confrontation so instead you wake each day hoping the dragon will fly into the sword, and accept his fate, though this has never happened.

Who’s at fault, really…?  There are two responsible parties in a dragon slaying; the dragon, and the slayer.  If they both show up, and do what they are expected to do, a successful slaying should be a non-issue.  The dragons in this case actually pay to be slayed.  It appears though, that some don’t necessarily want to be slayed.

Backing down is easy…

Of course I’m not talking about dragons.  Ask me what I do for a living, and I will give you a simple answer; I teach proper form in strength training.  That’s it.  That tenet is primary to anything else I attempt with my clients.  I teach strength training in a way that is so specific, so unique, that the only possible outcome when it is executed correctly is improvement.

I have discovered though, that most people I work with are not as dialed into the concept or the value of perfection in strength training as I am.  When push comes to shove in teaching this unique style of exercise, I often withdraw and allow the student to participate in a lesser fashion for my fear of confrontation, and the result is not maximized.  Too long I have created a habit in myself of accepting less than the student is capable of.  At that I have become internally frustrated, but the breakdown is 100% on me.

 A new approach to teaching…

I have become a good ear for many of contemporary my clients.  Male or female, I am a friend they can confide in during a workout with no fear of judgment.  I’m the parent that many of my teenage clients wish they really had.  I’m the good son that many of my seniors never had.  These friendships run deep.  In a sense, I am an accidental life coach.

good exercise form; it really is just a choice

Conversations over crunches are mutually beneficial, and I have gained much wisdom from my clients through the years.  As a friend to my clients though, I have not wanted to put boundaries on these conversations, always rationalizing that so long as some work is getting done, the workout is fruitful.  Inside though, I have hoped for more on the exercise side of things.

The productivity of a workout is a relative thing.  Even if the exercise isn’t primary to a particular session, the student always leaves feeling they have had a great workout because they are emotionally cleansed.  If there has been a breakdown on my part it’s that my focus on exercise beyond the conversations has been on volume of movements, and not quality.

Going forward, rather than focus on how many movements are completed during the course of the workout, I will place my primary emphasis back on quality of exercise.  There is more utility, in my opinion, in doing 4 movements in absolute form in the course of an hour, than doing 8 movements with a lesser emphasis on form.  At this point I can say the conversations are mutually important.  Managing this, this is my new dragon, and it’s time for me to fly once again.

Dead weight; it’s not an exercise…

Some dragons are nothing but gas...

Some dragons are nothing but gas…

Sadly though, there are some clients who won’t adapt.  I already know who they are.  I’m not even part of their workout equation.  Often times these people don’t even know I’m in the room.  They pay a great deal of money to go through the motions, toss weights around in a private gym where they can bitch, and moan about their fucked up lives, leave me to pick up the pieces as I walk through their toxic gasses, and as they storm out on completion.  It is me who has enabled this.  It is me that must now send them packing.  Wish me luck, because that too is another dragon.  Trainers take note: Dragon selection is everything.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Heartless Bastards.  Enjoy…

Near miss…

So today was the day I began to give notice to most to my clients – yet again.  More on that later…

Cyber-archeology…

I have 4 Facebook friends who are now dead, but still have active Facebook pages.  This haunts me, ongoing.  I check those pages periodically.  Not with the expectations that my friends will come back to life, but as a way of keeping their memories alive in my heart.  Maybe this is one of the more useful aspects of Facebook.

I read recently that with the increasing decline of new Facebook users, that by 2090 everyone on Facebook might actually be dead.  At that point, and when blogging has run its trendy course, all I have spat out through the years by way of social media will simply be a silicon fossil to be someday excavated by a cyber-archeologist.  This may or may not be my last essay. We’ll see.  If it is, it’s been a fun few years.

Through it all I have thought to share some ideals, and values as they relate to fitness and exercise, that they might be relevant to the lives of others.  Of course I have shared some non-fitness ideals as well. Perhaps years from now if the content I have written is excavated and studied, it may actually mean something to people who may be interested in what I have had to say.  I’m pretty sure the readers of today though, aren’t committing my shtick to memory.

 Leading, And Futility…

I’m basically I’m no longer comfortable with a leadership role in fitness and exercise.  Certainly not in the social media anyway.  This isn’t a joke.  I almost walked away from my business entirely today.  However, a friend and client convinced me to sleep on it for a year or two, and reminded me that social media is my fitness hobby, not my fitness livelihood.  We sat by my fire pit, and talked about the upsides and downsides of me walking away.  Once he got me to listen to my own words, I realized how fortunate I am to have the business, the lifestyle, and the clients I have.  The state of my industry though, has changed dramatically in the past decade, and has done very little to improve on itself.

Unrealistic expectations cultivated by social media, in my estimation, is a cancer attacking good fitness intentions everywhere.  What the general population wants from fitness leaders and resources is this; exercise that cures aging, prolongs youth, and fosters hotness.

News flash:  Youth is a synonym for history.  Aging is inevitable.  Hotness is little more than an interruption in getting more familiar with someone who we might love more deeply if we only choose to look more closely.  Clearly the majority of my social media audience and I are on different pages when it comes to these.  I’m just not willing to play the looking good game anymore.  Both in teaching and in writing, espousing exercise for the sake of hotness is something I’m no longer willing to participate in, even if I do practice it to a degree.

Almost...

Almost…

I have written and taught for years that we have a responsibility to age.  Though I believe we should attempt to do so with the best intentions, and under the best possible circumstances, we should proceed with caution, and respect the historic record of aging – for it is a requirement of living.

Gray hair. Wrinkles.  Sagging boobs.  Woodies gone south.  Skin that bruises ever easily.  Crackling bones.  Shifts in posture.  Loss of bone density.  Belly fat.  Memory lapses.  Hair loss.  Waning aesthetics.  Lethargy. Veins, and not the good ones.  All of these can be met, and addressed to a point with exercise, but none can be avoided.

Jhciacb; Part Ricky Williams, part Syd Barret…

I confided to my friend today that I have been approaching critical mass in my career path for a few years.  He, and I sat by my fire pit, and talked about whether or not I’m burned out or really willing to call it a career.  He asked me what I would do if I walked away from this.  I suggested a job at Home Depot, or an assembly line.  I have no debt so I don’t require much money.  When he was done chuckling, he just made sure I listened to my own words, and then made sure I listened to them again.  I did.  I walked away from our meeting realizing that I’m here, and in this for the long haul – but in a functional, and in person kind of way.

I will no longer attempt to use social media to steer the good ship, Fitness.  Fitness is in rough seas, and has a minimum of lifeboats. The passengers can’t make out the horizon, and the pilots can only describe a horizon that isn’t really there, and that is a horrible combination.

Yes, I am experiencing some degree of burnout, but I still love what I do.  I am now just going to increase the focus on my analog clients, and devote less time to promoting my values by way of social media.

As one client put it today when I called to tell him I was through,

“I depend on you.  Without you, Roy, there would be no exercise in my life, and I don’t trust any other trainer.”

I’ll take 28 of those, over a million Facebook likes who aren’t listening any time.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back at some point to see what happens when I hit the stop button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Stone Roses. Enjoy…

One giant leap for a girl…

Questions on the surface, feelings at the core…

I just spent 90 minutes or so sitting in my yard sharing a beer, and a conversation with a young woman I have known her since she was 15.  She’s now 28.  We are honest friends.  In our friendship we have discovered that I possess the experience of her parents, without the judgment.  She brings youthful ideas, and situations to the table that I have long forgotten.  We have been benefitting, mutually, from honest conversations about life, and relationships for a couple of years.

Today we met at her request to discuss some immediate changes in her life.  She will be leaving the state next week to fulfil a new relationship, and a new life in a different region of the country.

She is experiencing all the excitement any young woman might feel under the circumstances; a new region bringing new activities into her life.  A new job.  New friends.  New weather.  New culture, and customs.  And of course, a budding relationship with a new man.  This is a leap on many levels.  Her love, faith, and strength will all be tested in the coming months, and she knows this.

She is also experiencing all the apprehension anyone in the same circumstance might feel.  Of course this is what she really wanted to discuss.  What happens if it doesn’t work?  What are the professional ramifications within her career?  What might the consequences be with the family and friends she is leaving behind?  Might she be stranded there?  Will she have to tuck her tail between her legs and move back with mom and dad?  If this turns out not to work, will she ever find that one true love?

Her head is spinning.

Peel back the layers…

The larger questions I thought we should explore are what are the many things that might keep this new relationship from working out…?

As we sat by the fire pit I flashed back to a walk on the beach another friend and I enjoyed last year; she and I are both divorced.  As we got to the end our walk we stood below a contemporary beach condominium with a crowded upper patio.  A wedding was taking place.  As my friend and I looked up to see the bride and groom exchanging vows, I joked, “Should we warn them?”  I was only partially kidding.

As a culture, it is my opinion that’s an area where we fail, habitually.  Failing to be honest with our children about the potential downsides of life is simply the act of supporting, of reinforcing mistakes they may make in their future.  Rather than expose the complexities, complications, and potential downside of relationships, we watch episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, choose honeymoon destinations, and offer investment advice – as though our weddings, our honeymoons, and our investments have made us happy.

I suppose not warning our children about the downside of relationships is, at its very root, based on the idea that we don’t want our children to expect or experience the worst aspects of relationships.  However, does this mean would shouldn’t discuss these…?  I guess it’s just easier to offer fairytales, and our undying support should the fairytale not play out as expected.

An example I offered my friend is this:  We hear often that money and sex are the two biggest causes for relationships to break down.  Nobody ever says that having kids can also be a cause, or a root cause for divorce.  Who wants to say to their child, “Someday you may be divorced, and raising kids might be at the foundation of that divorce.”

I don’t know by percentage what causes more relationships to decay, money, or sex.  I think it’s fair to say though, since having children influences sex, money, time, sleep, stress, and so many other aspects of marriage, that raising children may lead to the decline of a marriage, and possible divorce.  Maybe we don’t want to be parental buzz kill, or maybe we just assume that our children won’t listen.  Not talking about difficult things is easy.

Love:  It's written in dice for a reason...

Love: It’s written in dice for a reason…

What advice I gave…

I suggested that her life is unique.  That she herself is a paint brush, but the brush whom she is can only paint within the singular day that she lives.  Painting the future, I suggested, is like trying to predict in which direction a vine will grow.

Love:  I suggest that a long kiss under a magnolia tree might swoon a girl into next week.  However, an affirmation of unity and strength after one partner has been diagnosed with cancer is the more mature version of the kiss under the tree.

Love evolves.  Love changes. Sometimes it grows stronger, and sometimes it falls apart.  There is no telling.  I suggested though, real love doesn’t germinate until it’s been watered by adversity.

On like-minded endeavors:  She was concerned that she might not fit in with his more rigorous outdoor activities.  I suggest she give them a fair try.  If after that time she felt she didn’t enjoy them, then it is her absolute responsibility to be honest about that.  I further suggested that he first took to those activities for himself, and if she finds they are not for her, she offer to play a supporting role in them so he can better enjoy them.

On career:  I simply reminded her that she was looking for a job when she found this one.  When she suggested her Communications degree is unmarketable, I reminded her that most degrees are unmarketable.

On sex:  Each relationship is unique.  I only suggest that sex may change over time, it probably will.  Desires, abilities, and opportunity change as the circumstances of the relationship change.   I don’t know too many 80 year olds who do it up against the wall, though there may be some.  Of those who do, I suggested, it’s probably because their relationship is new.

On the failure or success of the relationship:  I suggested that she should absolutely consider failure as a possible outcome – especially in the beginning. I also suggested she not consider failure to the point of the tears which were sliding down her cheeks during our talk.  The possibility of failure is quite real I reminded her, but can be thwarted with honesty and discussion.   To borrow from a letter I wrote to another young person recently, I offered this:

If you get married that marriage may be wonderful, tolerable, or tragic.  If it’s like many marriages, it may hold elements of all of these.  It may also include divorce.  Divorce, I have learned, is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the marriage.  Conversely, a sustained marriage does not necessarily state the quality of that relationship.

If a relationship fails, you may ask yourself how many soul mates does one get…?   At best, that question creates knots in my stomach daily.  At its worst, it paralyzes me to a point of emotional stagnation.  Marriage or partnership, if you are fortunate to find the right one, and are able to ride it out for the very long term, it will not be without your share of sacrifice and second guessing. 

As I walked my friend to her car I gave her a big hug, told her to stay connected, and chose not to wish her luck, but to wish her well.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Willy DeVille.  Enjoy…

The Blender In My Head, Part I…

 This is Part I of my ongoing series; The Blender In My Head.  I will continue posting these intermittently for the rest of my life, occasional intermingling fitness articles as I feel the need.  God help us…

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The Blender In My Head Part I: My Lifelong Existential Meltdown

Far From Amazing…

A friend recently described me as “amazing”.  That was a wonderful sentiment, though it was probably used to describe the shell I present to the outward world; the dating behavior of life as it were.  On the inside I’m more damaged, and confused than I let on.  Sure I’m a good guy, but pretty fractured and pretty flawed, though I strive daily to overcome, if not hide it.  Most times though, the me on the inside is much more conflicted than the good guy who I allow the outside world to know.  The inside is where my values do constant battle with the temptations perpetually attempting to invade my head.

Temptation in this case doesn’t necessarily mean a pretty girl or a drug. The temptations in my life can seem quite little when I break them down individually, but as a collective they can add up to enough that I more often consider myself a lesser person when I cater to even a minority of them.  And cater I do.

Temptations manifest in the most subtle of ways.  Things like taking shortcuts in business, in relationships, and in finances can be temptations.  Ignoring responsibilities, and sacrificing priorities for immediate gratification can also be temptations.  Amusement, entertainment, and indulgence can also be temptations.  Putting myself first though, is the temptation I pander to most often.  There are more of course, some too personal to share, but it seems I rarely go an hour without confronting, and giving in to some kind of temptation.

In the way I conduct myself many times in the course of a day, I find I’m pretty far from amazing.

Am I Really Real…

Many days I question my own reality.  Every waking moment of my life I question my own reality!  This has been my lot in life, for most of my life.  I’m unsure that anyone or anything else I interact with each day exists independently of my thoughts.  Though we all may consider this at times, it has been forward in my psyche for over a decade.  I often wonder if the reason I give in so easily to the temptations of the lesser me is simply because I often disbelieve that there’s even a me at all.  Of course philosophers far brighter than I have been grappling with this for millennia.

In these times of increasing complexity, the world and everything in it can seem unreal, or at least unlikely.  I don’t know if the helicopters I see each day flying overhead training as instruments of death are more or less real than the tufts of hair which sprout from my aging ears.  They both seem to exist with purpose, yet seem largely unnecessary.

My head.  Warning:  Those who enter may never leave...

My head. Warning: Those who enter may never leave…

I ask myself often, in a staged world, why would the candy wrapper I tossed in the morning trash have a crinkle in the corner…?  Would dust really gather so quickly on my desk…?  By answering these questions of myself, I somehow justify that the world is real.  Why on earth would there be a scrape on the frame of my bike if the world were staged…?  Imperfections, I surmise, could not be part of a staged world.

The Miracles Of And Mercilessness Of Modernity

I can now use my phone to check the time, watch a movie, or video call a friend in Ireland.  I have instant access to the most of the music I enjoy.  I’m in great physical condition, I have many friends, and I want for nothing.  I have, arguably, the best life any man has ever lived.  I know love in my life and on multiple levels.  My computer spells for me, knows me well enough to suggest music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many wonderful people into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too good to be true – so maybe it is.

Every week a shooting takes place in a school or in a workplace that didn’t need to.  Wars continue, borders change, politics, and religion seem to isolate more than ever, and people seem to have replaced fruitful discourse with relentless arguments that they be proven right rather than improved a situation.  The world’s chaos seems advancing at a fever pitch.  I look around at everything – anything, and most days nothing really makes sense.  My computer spells for me, suggests music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many assholes into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too detrimental to be true – so maybe it is.

There are just those days when I pine to be whipped as I work 18 hours per day building a pyramid, believing that if my existence were reduced to that, at least I would be in a simpler state.  I long to be in a simpler state.

Ground Zero In My Head…

The only vantage point I will ever have to this life is the one from inside my own head.  I see, hear, think, and feel only as I can.  Still, there are seven billion people in this world not named, Roy Cohen.  Or are there…?  Unsure of what’s real, who’s real, and if anything really matters, these are the days when my veins course with insouciance.

It gets old sometimes, looking into a person’s eyes and wondering if they are showing me genuine emotion, or just gathering data to report back to the mother ship.  Is my dog looking in wonder at the fly orbiting my forehead, or is he observing me, taking notes, and planning the next occurrence he will facilitate on my behalf…?

Particle physics tells me nothing is as it seems, and everything I know is only probable.  String theory suggests that anything that can happen will happen.  Dimensions, universes, multiverses, space, time, space time, and of course, scripture.  Thoughts of these create doubt on every possible level, and conjure thoughts I don’t even understand, yet they are my very own thoughts.

Add in entertainment, media, social media, the influence of the peripheral relationships in my life, and it can all get very confusing.  It can’t be denied that the thinking of others has influenced the way that I think.  What I struggle to reconcile is if these influences have, and continue to change and influence the way I wish to think.

In those rare moments when I feel a momentary sense of relief, and come to believe that I actually do and should exist, and I no longer question whether or not I am, I soon turn to questioning whether or not I am the me I want to be, due to all the outside influences I allow to penetrate my thoughts.  I’m sure Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein would have an answer for that, but I can’t seem to find one.  And so it goes…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh and there is this from Bobby Weir & Company.  Enjoy…

Follow The Leader…

Information overload…

When I design a workout or an eating plan for a student, I don’t make it complicated.  I draw from just a few scientifically proven principles, and on experiences that I have had with previous clients.   I may also draw from experiences other trainers in the fitness community have shared with me.  However, I won’t go too far with any of it because I believe basics work, and for most that’s all they require.

That said, getting people to follow even basic directions can be the most challenging part of leadership.  Too often people want advanced information from their primary instruction.

It's eating vegetables, and exercising.  It's not rocket science...

It’s eating vegetables, and exercising. It’s not rocket science…

A majority of people won’t require all the available information in the realm of physiology, any more than they will require all the available data from the university level.  Nor will they require a complicated framework or routine. However, week in and week out this seems to be what they want – the latest and greatest.

I think that’s where leadership in fitness gets it wrong more often than not.  Leaders attempt to give the student the latest and greatest, before the student masters the basics.  This in part, because it’s what the student asks for, but also because the trainer wishes to demonstrate intelligence and superiority, if not validity.

The information we gather as leaders in fitness does not all need to be pumped into the veins of our students.

One step at a time…

I was Skyping with an online client over the weekend.  During the conversation I recalled a home I lived in for many years.   It was large condominium, just under 2,000 square feet.  I occupied just one room of that home.  In that room there was an air mattress I slept on, and a desk for my computer.  Aside from that, I owned no furniture, and only passed through the empty living room and dining room on my way to the kitchen.

At the time I lived there my daughter was a teenager.  It occurred to me one day that my daughter and I didn’t spend a great deal of time at my house.  I mean, what could we ever do there except watch videos on my computer while sitting on an air mattress…?  Needless to say, we hung out elsewhere.

One week when she was 14 I decided to buy some furniture in hopes that I could foster more time together with her at my home.  Since I was on a budget most of the furniture I bought required assembly which means each piece came with directions.

I’m a guy, I don’t do directions.  Of course never following directions has led me to more failures than successes when assembling things, and more cursing than smiling.  This was my home I was talking about, and a part-time bedroom for my daughter.  I wanted to do this right.

Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Pretty simple formula.  I wonder why so many fail to follow...

Step. Step. Step. Step. Pretty simple formula. I wonder why so many fail to follow…

As I embarked on assembling a house full of furniture; tables, beds, curtain rods, chairs, shelves, etc., I decided that following the directions would be primary in the process.  With each table, each shelf, and each curtain rod, I followed the directions precisely.  And son of a bitch, after a weekend of reading information, and assembling it as instructed – one step at a time, I had a house full of furniture.

Directions in fitness…

It’s pretty simple.  Whether they come from me, a trainer in your gym, or from a well authored book, most directions are usually clear.  Follow them.  Understand each step before you take it.  Complete each step the very best of your ability.  Proceed to the next step.  Each time one instruction is completed; a meal is prepared, a repetition is completed, an exercise is finished, it is a mile marker on the road to the completed project.

Sometimes it's really a good idea to follow directions...

Sometimes it’s really a good idea to follow directions…

Despite how many times I have handed simple, easy to follow directions to students, I know more often than not they will accept them and never look at them again – especially in the area of eating.  Accept the plan.  Commit to the plan.  Follow the plan.  If you get confused, call the 800 number at the bottom of the plan.  Whether you’re putting together a new coffee table, or a new you, following the directions will lead you to a much better outcome than doing it on your own.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from  Sonnybones.  Enjoy…

Stroodle Gets A Steward…

Who’s on first…

These are the first words I speak each day,

“Thank you for being my light, my beacon, and my truth.  Thank you for guiding me, teaching me, reminding me, and forgiving me.”

It may sound as though I’m praying to a god with those words, but I’m not.  I continue,

“Thank you for being my best friend.  Thank you for letting me be your human, and your steward.  May the lord bless you and keep you this day my Baby Boy.”

These words are spoken to my dog, Stroodle.  I have been Stroodle’s human, and his steward for nearly 7 years.

In truth, I didn’t want Stroodle at the time he arrived in my life.  I was caught up in a very selfish lifestyle.  I lived in condo with no yard.  I worked long days.  When I wasn’t working I was working out.  I didn’t want to be bothered.  Besides, I already had Pumpkin, a low maintenance Shi Tzu/Pug mix.  Blind in her only eye, and nearly deaf, Pumpkin was the Helen Keller of dogs.  However, my daughter and her mother thought I could provide a good home to Stroodle, and his presence might do both Pumpkin and I some good.

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days...

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days…

Stroodle had likely been abused as a puppy.  He was just under a year old when he arrived.  His left rear hip was damaged, and despite two surgeries after I got him, he still uses that leg for balance only.  After I took him in I immediately hired a couple of neighborhood girls to walk Pumpkin and Stroodle each afternoon while I was working.  At night the three of us would sit on the living room sofa, and watch ESPN until bedtime.

Mr. Misty…

I have belonged to a household with at least one dog since the day of my birth.  I am a dog person.  I come from a long line of dog persons.  In truth, I was always a minor contributor with the upkeep of the dogs I had growing up.  Most of their care came from my older brother, and my parents.  I loved, and appreciated dogs, but I could rarely be found with a brush in my hand.  I had better things to do.

Misty, a male collie who was named by my brother after Dairy Queen’s Mr. Misty drink, accompanied my family throughout most of my childhood.  He probably deserved a better home, but he was loved and appreciated, if not well groomed.  One day when I was 16, I walked into the house and gave Misty a hug.  I was surprised when underneath his un-brushed fur, his stomach was the size of a basketball.  I had discovered a tumor that he had likely been carrying for a while.  I was the only one home.

It was snowing, and my car wouldn’t start.  I began walking Misty through the snow about a mile to the local veterinary clinic.  When Misty could no longer walk, I picked him up and carried him in spurts. Eventually we arrived, I checked him in, and I guess without giving it too much thought, I left him there in trusted hands and contacted my mother and father to let them know what happened.

The following day Misty passed.  I believe he was 13.  Though I was sad when told of his passing, in hindsight I can say I was more neglectful of Misty, than I was an advocate for him through the course of his life.  What did I know…?  I was just a kid.

 On stewardship…

As I have gotten older, perhaps due to the influence imbalanced human relationships have had on my life, I have come to realize that despite my life long appreciation of animals, I’m only now learning to appreciate the value of animals in the human experience.

Some values which are often associated with our pets:

-          Unconditional love

-          Living in the moment

-          Truth

-          Devotion

Some values which may go less noticed:

-          Dignity

-          Elegance

-          Humor

-          Playfulness

 Back to Stroodle…

I had always depended on Pumpkin and Stroodle to be there for each other.  I was simply providing them a safe home, some love, some kibble, and lap time at the end of my workday.   Some time back Pumpkin passed away, and Stroodle was alone.  This, this is when I discovered what it truly means to be a dog person.  After Pumpkin’s passing I made a promise to Stroodle that I would be the best human he could hope to have.  I made it a priority to be his steward, and his advocate, not his owner.

My brother from another mother...

My brother from another mother…

Each morning I hold him because I believe no dog should go a day without a human touch.  They deserve to feel love through hands of another being.  Many times throughout the day though, it’s more selfish than that.  I hold him because I’m the one who needs to feel love through the touch of another being.  As the chaotic world around me unfolds through my 17” computer screen; babies dying, shootings in schools, wars and politics rage on, my dog never questions my need to touch him.  He simply provides me with comfort – willingly.

A house is not a home…

I believe children should be exposed to pets at an early age.  My daughter was born into a house with two dogs, and we added as she got older.  By the time she was 13, the dogs she knew as a child had passed.

Though there is certainly sadness, and heartache that comes from the loss of a pet, there is also a perspective, and context which can be applied to life.

If we are fortunate enough to love an animal, and be a steward for him, we are blessed in many ways. Not the least of which is learning a superior context we can apply to apply to the duration of a life.

When we are born our parents are already older. We never really know them in their youth. If we are fortunate enough to have children, we know them in their youth, and perhaps even into middle age. However, most never see their children live deep into old age.

Having a pet gives us a different perspective on this. Horse, dog, hedgehog, or cat, we often get our pets at an early age, and are often able to see them live a complete life.

When I stop to consider this, it reminds me that we have so much to learn about the seasons of life from our pets.

The fragility of spring. The restlessness of summer. The calm of autumn. The perspective of winter.

Watching these seasons unfold through the animals I have loved, helps me better understand my life, and the lives of others.  Be well…  rc

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey...

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey…

“The only truth I will ever know, is looking into the eyes of a dog.”  Kinky Friedman

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Wooden Shjips.  Enjoy…

This, I Believe…

Christ-miss…

December 25th, 2013, Christmas day.  I was blessed to have been invited to spend time with my daughter, and her mother on Christmas Eve; to stay the night and to wake up with them on Christmas morning.  We shared good food, laughter, and created memories.  To me, that is what Christmas is about – regardless of faith.  I am now back home, in a house which now seems far too big.  I am alone with my dog, and my thoughts.

Like many secular Americans I still appreciate, and take time out for Christmas.  I embrace it as a holiday of both internal and, external peace.  I get to step outside the flow of the world, if only for a day.  A sort of, world peace day.  Christmas day, save the occasional school shooting day or profound natural disaster day, is the only day of the year I feel connected with my fellow man in a way which helps me feel good about my species.  The inevitability though, of religious argument this time of year, if not religious confrontation, is a given.

or

North of Coos Bay, August 2010. It felt like a doorway into another dimension…

Baby overboard…

Several days ago I explained to a friend that I was excited to be celebrating Christmas with my daughter, and her mother.  My friend was quick to suggest that we would be spending “just another day” together.  Meaning that, unless we had planned to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a dogmatic way, we would not actually be celebrating Christmas. I strongly disagreed, though I did understand the foundation for his argument, probably far better than he did.

I suggested that Christmas means different things to different people, and that to me Christmas represents a time of family, of giving, and of peace – regardless of faith.  My friend accepted my reply as an insult to the birth of Jesus, and did not stop short of attempting to sell me on the ideal of a conversion in an, it’s never too late kind of way.  I was left with the feeling that an unnecessary judgment had been directed at me, and I was labeled a non-believer.

 Step back nonbeliever…

I am a believer though, and I have pity for anyone so ignorant as to doubt what I believe.  My beliefs exist to my core.  They are malleable to be certain, and as the winds and rains of a changing society reshape and redirect my life’s path, my beliefs may change as a result, but they remain imbedded, and are not for sale.  When somebody suggests to me that my beliefs require changing simply because they are not consistent with the beliefs of another, what they are telling me, in unmistakable words, is that they believe my very existence is invalid.

The only painting that has ever mattered to me...

The only painting that has ever mattered to me…

What I do believe…

I believe in absolute universal oneness – period.  That is, underlying everything that has ever happened, every person who has ever lived, all the things and people yet to happen, and in times, spaces, and dimensions which may parallel, crisscross, or piggy back on the very dimension from which I write this, that we are all interconnected.  I am you, you are me, and some day we may be that tree.  That ideal is my god, if not my God.  I believe I have a responsibility to live as such, which is why I’m usually the first to apologize, even if I’m first to pick the fight, because I believe that in fighting with you, I am fighting a part of me.

What may make this idea of oneness so challenging for others to accept, I believe, is that clearly in the here and now we are separated by tribes, borders, values, circumstances, and intentions.  In a word, individuality.  We fear losing our individuality.  It is negotiating these divisions though, in my opinion, that our individuality is cultivated – or not.  These divisions are where we are tested.  Of course all the answers to the test are located in the back of the book, and we don’t get to see what’s in the back of the book in this lifetime.  We choose our answers based on faith.  I’ll choose my answers based on my faith, and not somebody else’s.

World peace day…

I believe that a successful future for mankind is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance, and plurality.  That if we are to ever get humanity right in the head, we must to first get good with human acceptance.  That is my belief.  I would gladly accept a painful eternal death over separating myself from that belief in favor of another’s dogmatic stance.

How I feel when somebody attempts to cast their beliefs on me...

How I feel when somebody attempts to cast their beliefs on me…

There is no one day though, not yet, for people of all beliefs to put down those beliefs, put down weapons, put down agendas, and open up the boundaries and borders that we may experience this universal oneness – if only for a day.  Ah, but that is my belief, and may not be yours.  Until that day of world peace finally exists, I’ll just celebrate it on Christmas…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Hint: It probably isn’t going to have anything to do with fitness  or exercise.  Oh, and there’s this from Tasmanian, Tane Emia-Moore. Enjoy…

Thus, I continue…

Disclaimer.  This essay deals with the topic of suicide.  If you are someone who is considering the act of suicide, please seek help immediately by calling 911, a friend, or loved one.

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Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

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I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

Smooth Pavement…

This is Part III of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  It is also the final essay here for 2013.  I will be back in early January with a new focus, and a new direction for this platform.  Please check back…

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Mego, Ego, And Wego…

I have spent in excess of 30 years establishing a system of health and fitness values that have forged who I am.  As the system of my life has changed and expanded, these values have evolved.  The term fitness to me, means the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, aesthetics, independence, and prevention.  As these values have evolved, one other term has framed them, sustainabilityI have attempted to live a life of sustainable physicality.

However, when I wasn’t looking, my designer placed an ego deep within me even though I did not request one during the design process.  I have lived with, and despised that ego for over 50 years.  But, I have also loved, and benefitted from it.  Last year, I allowed my ego to get the better of me, and pull me ever so slightly away from sustainability.

Pendulum Swing And I Wanna Go Home…

As a recreational bodybuilder, and fitness minded individual, it has been front in my psyche for decades to pursue progress.  My ego has suggested that I always strive for more, and not settle for good enough.  Right up to the point where I realize (again and again) the pursuit of more always has associated costs elsewhere in my life; money, relationships, sleep, and relaxation to name a few. Wisdom has a way of tempering things.  By my mid 40s I had come to accept that good enough is good enough – and I was happy with that, but my ego was not…

Here I am, stuck in the middle with me...

Here I am, stuck in the middle with me…

These past two years as the pendulum of my Gemini psyche has swung back and forth between too much, and not enough, it has spent little time in the land of just right.  I hope to set that straight this year.  I seek to finally find, and remain in that sustainable path with my physicality.

Lines in the sand…

Strength:  After an 18 month onslaught of relentlessly progressive workouts, I have come to accept once again, a primary tenet of my philosophy of physicality; that the human body will, and should only get so strong.  As much as I want to believe the arc of strength I have cultivated during the past couple of years will continue, I accept that it’s not sustainable, and therefore not consistent with my value set in strength training.  Where I am today is good enough.

Going forward I will continue to train as I have trained for many years, with the primary emphasis of my strength workouts being on form, and functionality. This is not to suggest that I won’t pursue increased strength.  If my body tells me I can increase my capacity safely, then I will.  I won’t, however, force an increased capacity any longer.  I will accept what comes my way through consistency.

Nutrition:  This year has seen several changes in how I deliver nutrition to my body.  In August I made an ethical choice to remove factory meat, and factory dairy from my diet.  I was successful for nearly three months before I allowed the convenience of restaurant meals to trump my changing value set.  I felt uneasy adding my own tofu to a chickenless salad as waitresses and onlookers peered over my shoulder in disbelief.  Also, I really like chicken.  Oh, and candy.  I like bean burritos from Taco Bell too.  So I shall have, on occasion, chicken, candy, and bean burritos, though I will aim to eat within my value set most of the time.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised.  My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.  I will attempt to remain committed to those values I hold most dear, but forgive myself in advance for those days when I do not – regardless of what effect there is on my physicality.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised.  My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised. My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.

Endurance:  I have enjoyed cardio vascular activities for the aesthetic benefit, as well as for the mental therapy derived.  I have also unenjoyed them.  When it comes to my trail hiking, sprinting, cycling, and even my indoor cardio, my ego has often pushed me past the point of enjoyment, believing that giving any less than my all would not be acceptable. As of this day I will no longer be in pursuit of faster times in any of these endeavors.  I will seek to challenge myself in an achievable, and enjoyable fashion, with liberty, and utility for all.

Aesthetics: This is the hard one.  Despite all my crap about functionality, sustainability, and ethics in a fitness based lifestyle, I still want to look fucking great.  As I preach daily though, I accept that I will not look at 70 as I look today, as I do not look today as I looked at 41.

How I look will be how I look.  I’m down.

As a philosophy, this believe…

A rule for the modern fitness enthusiasts could be this: Those push have more fitness.  Those who push a little less, may have more everywhere else their life.

In living within the boundaries drawn above, I accept wherever it is my physicality, and my aesthetics will fall, believing full well that if I meet those boundaries consistently, I will look and function well until I die.  I know that I will compromise my values on occasion, but I will strive not to abandon them.  As always though, in the land of Jhciacb, there’s an ebb, and flow to it all.  Be well.  rc

A couple of years back my next door neighbor discarded this poinsettia after Christmas. She set it beside her trash cans on the patch of dirt which separates our houses. It never went out with the trash.  The roots soon breached the pot it was in, and it took up residence in the ground. Eventually, the plastic pot broke away, and for two years the plant has flourished, and grown.  Seeing this, this morning, was a strong reminder for me that there is value in most everything we throw away, from our relationships, to our material goods, to our animals, our babies, and even our physicality.  Something to consider this holiday season...

A couple of years back my next door neighbor discarded this poinsettia after Christmas. She set it beside her trash cans on the patch of dirt which separates our houses. It never went out with the trash.
The roots soon breached the pot it was in, and it took up residence in the ground. Eventually, the plastic pot broke away, and for two years the plant has flourished, and grown.
Seeing this, this morning, was a strong reminder for me that there is value in most everything we throw away, from our relationships, to our material goods, to our animals, our babies, and even our physicality.
Something to consider this holiday season…

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, The Greyboy Allstars.  Enjoy…

Building A Tighter Fence…

This is Part II of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  Please click here to read Part I.

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Being Busy Is A Good Problem To Have…

I’ve been chugging along pretty good of late.  As I wrote in Part I of this series, with the exception of just a couple of movements, my gym strength is at an all-time high, and my muscle mass is better than I had hoped for being in my 50s.  My overall level of conditioning, cycling, and trail times are excellent.  It’s been a good year with my physicality.  However, there can be limits to success, even when all is going well.  In this case, these limits are self-imposed.

As a small business, I generally don’t say no to new business.  This autumn my work schedule increased. With the increased work load, my opportunity to exercise, has decreased proportionately.  I guess things got good at just the wrong time.  Since my strength, and my physique goals have been on the more aggressive side during the past 18 months, and my time to train has been minimized, I have had to reduce the boundaries of my workouts.  Hard as it is to admit, work should be my priority.

The time boundaries I have set for myself with regard to my exercise are rigid, otherwise there’s no point in establishing them.  This is a time when I have to choose quality over quantity with my all of my athletic training.  Within these limits, I am obligated to accept the results of the end product.  Even if the end product is not what I desire, it’s what I have time for.  I’m 7 weeks into this adjustment, and to this point, my strength and my physique have not suffered.

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Some days my work schedule is more packed than a train New Delhi. How ironic that there’s less time to train on this train…

Efficiency As A Foundation…

I have always trained with efficiency.  Through the years I have found a way to blend high-intensity strength training with volume work, and still come out on the near side of an hour.  My strength workouts are generally completed in less than 50 minutes.  Despite these short duration workouts, the volume of work has been relatively high since I rest little between sets.

On average for large profile muscle groups; back, quads, chest, I perform 12-15 sets, most of which are compound movements.  For the one dimensional muscles such as biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and deltoids, I have always performed 4-6 sets of an isolation movement each.

I have always fit in plyometric work when I can, often in-between sets of strength exercises.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, has taken place independent of my strength workouts, and is done almost daily.

Bringing In The Fence…

When being busy with work, and having a strong desire to stay fit intersect, a compromise is in order.  Since work is my livelihood, and being in shape is my hobby, the compromise lands solely on the shoulders of my hobby.

In recent weeks I have reduced the clock of my strength sessions to 40 minutes – period.  Wherever I am in the workout, the clock stops at 40 minutes.  This has had me at about 8-10 sets for the larger profile muscles, and 3-5 sets for the smaller ones.  As always, the heaviest possible weight is used, in the best possible form.  Only the volume has been reduced.

This reduction in time has a placed me into a simple mindset at the start of each workout; I have just 40 minutes to complete this workout, so I must maximize every single repetition, but that’s not really new.  Again, the heaviest possible weight, in the best possible form, with an absolute minimal rest.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, is now just 3-4 days per week, but has increased in intensity.

Getting more from, Les…?  No, getting more from less!!!

Getting more from, Les…? No, getting more from less!!!

Living within these boundaries has only served to raise my game.  Putting limits on the time I spend developing my power, has enabled me to reach new power.  Again, despite the reduced time, and reduced volume of training, my strength is at an overall high.  I’m even flirting with a clean 450 deadlift, and can hammer out 12 miles on my bike in 30 minutes.

The End Of The World, Not…

When you can look the devil in the eye, shake hands, and walk away without fear, you step into a new dimension.

I have never liked to admit this, but exercise has been a relentless seductress in my life.  She’s been good to me yes, but at times I’ve made her a much greater priority than she’s needed to be.  That’s on me though, not on exercise.  That’s about priorities.

For most of my life, when exercise has curled her index finger, pulled it back to draw me in with the promise of a good feeling, I have always jumped.  I’m strong enough these days, to walk away when faced with greater priorities such as making a living, or being there for my family, and my friends.

So I’m taking more days away from exercise due to my work schedule, but also due to an increased desire to stay connected with friends and family.  Take note, these are not intentional rest days.  There are just a couple of days per week when my workday extends up to 13 or 14 hours.  On those days, preparation for my next workday is the priority, not my own workout.  Or, and I may just want to watch a game with friends, or spend more time on the phone with my daughter.  Exercise can wait another day.

As I have imposed new limits on my exercise time, the world has not come to an end.  Shortening my workouts, and missing a few more of them per month has not made me obese, weak, or deconditioned.  This has simply set me up to be a better businessman, a better father, and a better friend.  And if lessening my gym time does cost me strength, add fat to my waist, or make me less conditioned, it still won’t be the end of the world.  Lessening my priorities though… Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks for Part III of my series on The Limits Of Power; what gets left behind.  Oh, and there’s this from Gary Clark Jr.   Enjoy…

The Limits Of Power…

This is Part I of a 3-part series on how I have perceived, worked within, and beyond the limits of power with the human body...

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The Limits Of Power…

I have understood for a long time, in ways I believe many around me fail to understand, that the human body will only get so strong.  I have also believed that for most, the human body should only get so strong. 

It’s always been my belief that we have a social responsibility to be physically strong on behalf of those who may need us; family, friends, members of our community.  Not bench press strong, but help a wife move the sofa strong.  I feel the responsibility of strength extends that we maintain ourselves so we won’t need to depend on the strength of others.  In this era, that kind of strength is often cultivated through exercise.

That said, the utility of exercising to increase physical strength has a tipping point that, when it’s exceeded, utility can give way to diminished returns in other areas of one’s life.  Those who reach high levels of physical strength have likely sacrificed in other areas of their life in order to do so.  Peripheral physicality can give way when excess strength is pursued, as can personal, social, and business relationships.  That’s just my opinion, but I believe it has teeth.

However, the human body is capable of advancing in strength, and within reasonable bounds, at nearly any age, and without peripheral damage to the musculoskeletal structure, or to one’s social relationships.  Despite attempts to advance physical strength by millions of people each day, even the middle limits of individual power are generally never met.  

So how much is enough, how much is too much, and how does one find strength in the gym that translates outside the gym…?   In these next three essays I will share my thoughts on this…

strength

Fred Ain’t Dead…

Fred is 68 years old.  He is an engineer by education, and tree grower by trade.  Fred is active, plays senior softball each week, hikes regularly, backpacks, and spends a fair amount of time daily tending to his trees, and his property.

Fred began working out with me several years ago in hopes that regular strength training would support his softball, and help him stay injury free.  For the first couple of years together, my emphasis with Fred was on the mindful conditioning of the areas which are most vulnerable in softball; Achilles tendons, hamstrings, low back, and shoulder movement.

Last year as I assessed Fred’s progress, I began to slowly increase the poundages he uses in his workouts.  The arcs of those increases are still on the rise.  He is now deadlifting 50 pounds more than this time last year.  His bench press is up about 30%.  His balance and agility are off the charts for being 68 years old, and his form in all of his movements is exceptional, and safe. 

What makes this progress significant though, is that each week he feels he’s playing softball as well as the week prior, and often better.  He’s remained mostly injury free.  When he has experienced a strain during a game, it’s always minimal, and gone within several days.  As Fred recalls his play from 3 years ago, it was anemic compared to his level of play after three years of strength training. 

Oh, and Fred strength trains just one day per week – just one.  As such, he’s not sacrificing too much in the form of unnecessary wear and tear on his body, nor is he taking excessive time away from his business or his family.  He’s making progress, without even approaching the tipping point of excess sacrifice from his body or his life.

Throwing In The Towel – Sort Of…

For years I have battled a duality within me, of how I perceive and pursue physical strength.  On one hand, there is the person who wishes to age gracefully, and function well right up to the point of my final breath.  On the other hand is the person who wants to perform, function, and look at the highest possible level – right now, today. 

In my mid-40s I began to reconcile this conflict with several of compromises.  Chief among those compromises was that I would continue to practice my brand of strength training, only do so with an increased emphasis on functionality, and a lesser emphasis on poundages used and aesthetics.  In theory, this was a means of preserving the longevity of the practice with only minimal sacrifice in performances and looks.

I made the decision that I would no longer attempt to increase my strength on any exercise.  My emphasis would be on consistency, and proper form.  I justified that so long as I maintained my existing level of strength, I would still be making progress inasmuch as I would still be on the clock of aging.  Through my mid-to-late 40s, this became my protocol. 

What I had theorized was ultimately fulfilled.  My muscle mass suffered some, my body fat increased some, but for a guy in his late 40s, I was looking, and functioning well, with less overall sacrifice, and I enjoyed my workouts.

Mid-Life Crisis 2.0…

Shortly after I turned 50 I began training several serious bodybuilders for the first time in a decade.  As I took inventory their progress, I began to yearn for progress of my own once again.  Shit.  Despite my concerns for aging well, and avoiding that tipping point where excessive strength and muscle work against utility, as well as the biological limitations of my aging physiology, 18 months ago I set into action a plan to regain the peak bodybuilding condition of my early 40s.  I’m now in my early 50s.

Leg Press:  Every weight in the house.  Proper form.  Full range of motion.  Not joint pain.

Leg Press: Every weight in the house. Proper form. Full range of motion. No joint pain.

In the past 18 months or so I have become stronger in most every strength movement than I have ever been – ever.  On most movements in the weight room, I’m using weights previously unused, with form as good as it’s ever been, and no residual pains, aches, or injuries.

Okay, so the faces ain’t pretty but the form is.  I could not have approached this weight in this form 12 years ago. 

I’m not suggesting that pursuing muscular gains like this, at this age is correct or even beneficial.  In truth, it’s both good, and bad.  I don’t expect to be hoisting these poundages, or sporting this mass 10 years from now.  I’m truly good with that.  If I’m being fully honest, there is less joy in hunting for gains than there is in pursuing utility from exercise.  I am though, committed to making meat while the sun still shines, knowing full well that the sun will begin to set at some point, and the arc of my recent progress will rescind.    

Be it by designer, or by Designer, we are designed to age and break down.  Believing we can avoid this is foolish.   However, within that design plan there exists some wiggle room – even for card carrying AARP folks like Fred, and me.  It is possible to make gains in physical strength which translate to enhanced physicality outside of the gym – at any age.  How far we take this, and what we sacrifice to achieve it, is open to discussion.  Does anybody remember discussion…?  Be well.  rc 

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see how I explore the negative side of me using heavier poundages than ever, and how I plan to scale down – yet again.  Oh, and there’s this from Jeff Beck And The Big Town Playboys.  Enjoy…

Modernity, Complexity, Conflicting Data, And Guruism…

Increasing complexity…

Every so often I sit down to write what I perceive will be my final essay for this blog.  To this point, I have been incorrect to have made those assumptions.  Today was one of those days, once again that feeling came over me that this was it.

In the 10 years or so since I began writing fitness related essays, the world has changed more than it had in the 30 years prior.  That’s not an exaggeration.  The complexities of culture have increased, and expanded in a seemingly exponential way.  It appears no part of culture is exempt from this.  Ideas, boundaries, rules, opportunities, and arguments have grown more complex in all aspects of culture.  The ideals of exercise and fitness are part of that cultural expansion. 

Complexity begets complexity...

Complexity begets complexity…

 

Conflicting data….

As there are many more ideas in what exercise and fitness should be then there once were, there are now many more resources, more information, and more people supporting these ideas, resources, and information.  Along with the increasing ideas, have come increasing platforms.  There are many outlets now for anyone who wants to share their fitness advice.   If a person has an idea, and a computer, they can establish a dedicated following in short order.  That said, there are now many more conflicts within the ideals of fitness and exercise.

I say often that we live in the age of conflicting data.  For every argument one can make in support of a cause or an idea, and back it up with some kind of data source, someone else can make an opposing argument supported by a different data source.  Few data sources, on either side of any argument, are without agenda.  Though such conflicts are as old as culture itself, in this technical age arguments come much faster – often faster than they can be processed or understood, and that’s a huge problem. 

Social media has become a platform, if not a battle ground, on which these conflicts are increasingly played out.  The utility, as well as the benefit of any good idea can be quickly obscured by the clouds of argument.  Information becomes chaotic. 

World War III might not a a terror based war.  It just might be a war over conflicting data...

World War III might not a a terror based war. It just might be a war over conflicting data…

As is usual in battle, truth seems to be the first casualty.  The internet is scattered with millions of peddlers selling products, ideas, and agendas with varying degrees of sincerity behind what they sell.  The internet is lined with millions of consumers, not all of whom are discriminating enough to avoid becoming the unwitting victims of those pushing a lesser agenda.  The intentions of those on both sides, of course, can range in reason and motivation. 

Information Merchant…

Personally, I fall into both categories.  I use the internet as a consumer of ideas, to gather fitness, and exercise related information.  I also use it as resource to promote my business; that I may share information.  In short, I am an information merchant.  I hope my intentions are on the reasonable side, and believe they are.

Through my social media platforms; my Facebook page, youtube channel, and this blog, I attempt to share information, and generate a peripheral income with my online training business.  I make my primary living though, teaching exercise in a one-on-one environment.  Be it in my studio, or via Skype, a student can look me in the eye, judge me, and even question my intent for his or her self.  He or she can walk away if they prefer to purchase the information elsewhere, or not at all. 

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail...

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail…

 

As it relates to my information, I have never sold my ideas, values, or techniques as absolute.  Rather, I have sold them as useful suggestions which may carry some level of utility based on how they are accepted, and applied.  I believe I have something to say, and I appreciate that I have had a clientele through the years willing to purchase my information.

Guruism; it’s the new hobby…

The relentless guruism touted by the self-appointed leaders in the fitness social media, and the concussions of the conflicts they create, have begun to wear me down.  Many of the so-called leaders in the online fitness community simply dress themselves up in low body fat, tanning solution, and a catchy logo only to regurgitate bad or stale information in exchange for cash.  At the end of the day many of these people are selling untested or second hand information, and don’t have a clue to stand on. 

Several years ago a reader of this blog, a 30-something fitness enthusiast, part-time professional writer, and mother suggested to me that she wanted to switch careers, and become a fitness trainer.  Through many emails, phone conversations, and even a personal visit on my part, I not only helped point her in the right direction and encouraged her, I was her biggest cheerleader. 

hello

In less than a year’s time, she began a training business, and grew her fitness blog to be one of the most popular online.  She has thousands of followers, and now makes a very good living at it.  All it took was a weekend fitness certification, a few steamy pictures of her torso on her website, and the platform of social media.  She is now free to give absolute and exclusive advice to anyone willing to pay for it.  There are thousands more out there too, just like her; supremely knowledgeable, absolute in their beliefs, and connected to PayPal.

Here are a few things (from a list of thousands in my head) that would-be fitness gurus of the social media era might want to consider as they strive to promote themselves, and their business:

1)      Leadership involves listening, and not being exclusive.
2)      Admitting gaps in one’s knowledge base, and subsequently filling them is always a good thing.
3)      Even that best ideas don’t always need to be shared with everyone, because they don’t always apply to everyone.
4)      You don’t always have to be right.
5)      The primary objective of your business endeavor should not be to keep score, to sell books, to hook up subscribers, or to count fans or web hits at the end of the day.  The primary objective of your endeavor should be to share information applicable to the audience, do so in a concise way, and be available to the end user should they have any questions regarding your messages or your intentions.  If there’s money in that at the end of the month, then count your blessings!

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Snorting creatine, because that one guy on youtube told me I should…

 

This will not be the last fitness related essay I ever write – not by any means.  By way of my social media platforms, I will continue to share my ideas, values, and experiences in exercise and fitness, never making claims that my ideas, techniques, or experiences are exclusive, though I will suggest they are often unique.  I will though, become much more discriminating in the social media outlets I support, and champion.  I will encourage you to do the same – this platform included. 

It’s funny, after reading this a time or two, I can’t help but feel this message could well be superimposed over similar conflicts in the areas of politics, and religion.  But you already read between those lines, yes….?  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Deer Tick.  Enjoy…

 

The Rhythm Method…

My friend…

Monserate Hill has been many things to me through many years.  It has been a workout, a release, a sanctuary, a hiding place, a passion, and a medicine.  It has been a place to cultivate friendships, old and new, to regain perspective on the complexities of life, and a place to learn a little more each week about the inner me.  It’s a place that has made me whole in times when I have felt broken.  In short, Monserate has been my friend.

Time And Time Again…

This hill rises just about 1,200 feet from its base beside Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, CA.  The most direct trail to the summit is 1.6 miles.  If my math skills serve me well, 1.6 miles over 1,200 feet comes out to an average grade of about 23%.  It’s steep.  I try and get to the hill at least a couple of times per week, but will go every day if the circumstances provide for that.  On the weekends it’s not unusual for me to hike it 3 or 4 times in 48 hours.

With my brother, Mark Jhciacb Cohen...

With my brother, Mark Jhciacb Cohen…

On the short route there are essentially 4 steep and challenging sections, and 2 flat sections.  None of the challenging sections are any less difficult than another.  The sections differ only in landscape, trail surface, and view. Steep is steep, and effort is effort.  As for the flat sections, a friend recently pointed out to me that they really aren’t flat at all, only less steep.

When time is tight I take the short trail which gets me up, down, and out of there in 45 minutes or so.  When I have less going on, I take the long route which is a 5 ½ mile round trip.  This takes me about an hour and 15 minutes.  The long route offers some extra credit as far as the cardio goes, but also offers extra credit with even more beautiful views.

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There are times when I take on this hill full-on.  Be it alone, or with a partner, the goal is to get to the top as quickly as possible.  This pace tests the conditioning of the mind, as well as the body.  This is when Monserate is my workout, and can be daunting when the pace is that aggressive.  I have even run it, bottom to top on occasion, but there is no joy in doing so.

Other times the pace may be fast, but not all out.  Then there are just those days when a long walk with a good friend is in order.  Pace means nothing, and fellowship is the order of the day.  After all, Monserate is a church not made by hands.

Regardless of the goal, and the pace, never do I get to the top without pausing for at least a moment to honor the gif of the view.  To the east lays Palomar Mountain which can be dusted with snow in winter.  That aesthetic is always striking since there are citrus orchards, palm farms, and avocado groves in the foreground.  To the west is the town of Fallbrook, where I live.  On a clear day one can see the ocean nearly 20 miles away.

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Ocean view, 20 miles in the distance...

Ocean view, 20 miles in the distance…

The Fires…

In October of 2007 this area was decimated by fires.  In Fallbrook alone, over 500 homes were lost.  Those fires reworked the Monserate landscape into a different level of beauty.  This allowed me to see the hill from the perspectives of fragility, and strength in recovery.  Gone was the overgrown brush, and exposed was the hidden terrain from which the growth once reached.  The growth would return, and that served as a reminder to me of the cyclical nature of existence.

Each week through that winter after the fires I watched the scenery evolve, and turn from charred black remains on red clay, into purple flowers, yellow blossoms, and rich green hues.  As the growth returned so too did the smells.  If Monserate has a secret weapon for seduction, then it’s the confluence of scents of the varying plants which inhabit the area.

In the early mornings, when the marine layer is just right, and as the fog slowly flows over, and around the hills in the area, the scents of sage, citrus, and eucalyptus among others waft, and blend.

Above the clouds…

When I find Monserate to be most inspiring, most meditative, and most transformative is early on a Sunday morning when the fog is heavy.  On those days, little can be seen beyond 20 yards, sometimes less.  Then, after about 800’ or so of climbing, I emerge from the fog only to look down upon the top of it.  The triangular peaks of the distant hills peek through the clouds, and it appears as though the whole world is just a cauldron of soup made from clouds, and hilltops.  Above, the sky is an untouched blue.

In these moments when no roads, no structures, no anything can be seen, I feel alone in the universe.  Then, I’ll hear a hawk, see a rabbit, a lizard, or even a coyote scamper, and nature becomes larger than man, and I am the outsider.

Cloud soup...

Cloud soup…

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The rhythm method…

I may suck at running, but I climb hills as well as anyone I know, and I enjoy doing it.  Due to the steep grade of the trail, each stride is more a lunge than a step.  I land flat-footed, and push off from the heel with every stride – years of lunges have trained me to do this with efficiency.  I have strong legs, powerful hips, and a low center of gravity.  Jhciacb does hills.  Rarely do even my partners pass me, and if they do they don’t stay in front for very long.

Step.  Step.  Step.  The climb itself is a rhythm, but it’s a slow rhythm.  Heart-rate increases and breathing expands.   Time begins to slow, and the transformative state begins.  Step.  Step.  Step.  This is the metronome which keeps the physical me in tune, and in step with the thinking me.  The chaos of the day dissolves as the music of physicality gets louder.  Step.  Step.  Step.

Lunge is served...

Lunge is served…

As I advance, I begin to forget about those who half-wittingly toss out their opinions about the idiot in the white house, corporate greed, or why I’m so wrong about so many things.  As the news of stolen babies, raped altar boys, school shootings, and genocide swirl about my brain with the chaos of the day, and as my head feels like it’s going to explode from these, I simply put one foot in front of the other, and establish a rhythm with my body.  As the rhythm of my body increases, the rhythm of my mind slows to a tolerable level, if only for a while.  Step.  Step.  Step…  Be well.  Rc

Money shot at sunset from a hike this past Saturday...

Money shot at sunset from a hike this past Saturday…

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If you are a San Diego local, and have an interest in hiking Monserate, but would prefer to do it for the first time with an experienced guide, please contact me here.  I would be glad to show the way.  My fee for the hike is a Greek salad, and a pitcher of iced tea from the Main Street Café here in Fallbrook.

Please stop back in two weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, Little Hurricane.  Enjoy..

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

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When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Spain.  Enjoy…

A RUN FOR FUN IS QUICKLEY DONE…

This is the final installment of my intermittent series on running.  To revisit the first three essays, they are available here.  Part I, Part II, Part III

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Gone with the wind…

For those who have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I have maintained a love/hate relationship with the ideal of running – throughout my entire life.  I have run though, because I do fitness for a living.  Since running is an alleged standard of fitness, I have always felt a responsibility to perform at an average level, or a little above on rare occasions.

Here’s the truth:  I hate running more than a hundred yards or so at a time – I just do.  Not far beyond the quarter mile mark of most every run I have ever taken, the act of running has become a joyless chore that I can’t wait to complete.  By the end of most runs I find I would rather be whipped across my back with a salt encrusted porcupine than take another step.  Still, I have run.

I have felt this way since my first cross country run in the 7th grade.  During the thousands of runs I have taken since, I have most always wanted to stop a run, turn, and slowly walk home.  One word has always defined my running experience; hateful.  I find the feeling of running hateful.  Despite these feelings, I have run thousands of times – thousands.  I have run competitive 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons, and full marathons, and have even participated in a 200 mile relay race from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Competing in last year's Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Competing in last year’s Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

I have run alone, I have run with friends, and I have run with strangers on occasion.  With the exception of one 1/2 marathon, and a couple of inspired runs in Athens, and on the island of Mykonos last year, I have found little joy in running, only obligation.  I have pretended to like running as I have pretended to like a cute girl who scarcely knows the recipe for toast.

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After a rare inspired run at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens last year….

Breaking the chains of obedience…

Sprinting however, the act of running my guts out, and being immediately done with it, I have always appreciated.  And I’m good at it.  I have been fast for short distances my whole life, and I recover quickly from such runs.

Where for the past 10 years or so I have regularly fit at least a few 2 to 4 mile runs per week into my schedule, often longer and more frequent runs when race preparations have warranted it, I now divorce myself from the emotional ball and chain that is the joyless run.  I cite irreconcilable differences.

Sprint protocol….

I have taken up once again with a flame from the past; interval sprint workouts.  I have loved, enjoyed, and always looked forward to these – since I was a teen.  That’s just how I’m wired.  I write essays, not novels.  I run sprints, not distance.  In the absence of those regular short distance runs, I have begun again to enjoy a 30 minute sprint workout, one which I have been doing on and off since I was 17 years old.

My unscientific protocol, which  have enjoyed in the past, and have come to enjoy again is simple; I run 70-100 yards at roughly 70% – 80% capacity.  I stop, I turn, and I walk back to where I started.  I then immediately turn, and run again.  I do this uninterrupted for roughly 30 minutes.  I walk away stimulated, cleansed, refreshed, and better conditioned for my efforts.

This protocol is nothing I have ever read about.  It can find no scientific basis to support it.  I’ve never met anyone else who does it, though I have shared it with others, and some of them continue it to this day as a primary form of exercise.  I made this workout up when I was an awkward teen looking to fill a void in my non-social Friday and Saturday nights.

I have always found this workout to be challenging, achievable, good conditioning, and dare I say less toxic on my joints than longer slower runs.  Perhaps this lack of harshness has to do with a sprinting stride being more horizontal than a jogging stride, thus minimizing impact on the feet, and the supporting joints.  That’s just logical speculation on my part though.

Let me make clear, this not based on the currently in-vogue Tabata protocol.  Nor is this a question of HIIT vs. steady-state cardio.  This is Jhciacb protocol at its best; a recipe exclusive to the creator which I have used at various times in my life to sooth my brain, alleviate my stress, stay on the leaner side, and make me feel good – if only for a moment.

I pray to Crom…

With regard to my many running friends who will find blasphemy in my contempt for distance running, I am truly sorry.  I don’t share my feeling about longer runs to offend you, and I respect that running brings you such joy.  However, I have never experience that kind of joy from running distances.  The stress of forcing my sprinting square peg into a distance running round hole has just grown tiresome.

I’m not out to bash your god, distance runners.  I’m just no longer willing to be obedient to him.  In running as in life, I don’t pray to your god, I pray to mine.  For far too long now I have forgotten the importance of being true to that ideal – in running as in life.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this recent video which fittingly accompanies a great song from Gary Numan.  Enjoy…

22 is no age to start working…

 

I’ll be the first to admit this one is a little hurried into place this week — busy week.  I’ll have something great up 2 weeks from today. 

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Work, it’s what we’re here for…

It was a day or two after my 15th birthday.  My father had scheduled an appointment for me to meet with Paul Weiner, owner of the Bagel Deli in Denver, CO.  Dressed in a shirt and tie, I was told to get on my bicycle, ride about a mile and a half up the road, and apply for a job as a dishwasher, which I did.  The following day, Mr. Weiner called me, and offered me the job.  I began working later that week.

Within a few weeks I was elevated from dishwasher to sandwich maker.  That job, making sandwiches that little Jewish deli in a very un-Jewy part of town, remains one of the best jobs I have ever had.  It was also provided me with some of the most formative experiences of my lifetime.

Though I was also on the diving team of my local swim and tennis club, the lessons I learned working my part-time job would pay greater dividends over a longer period of time than any lessons I learned while on the diving team.

Bagel

If you’re ever in Denver, this place is a MUST! Looks cab be deceiving…

Do you want fries with that…

If you think about it, the question of do you want fries with that is often asked to student athletes as their parents thread them through the drive-through on their way to their next practice after school.  It wasn’t that long ago that the very same athlete might have been the one on the other side of the window asking that same question.

I have had several discussions recently about the value of youth sports.  In particular, the lessons young people learn from participating in team sports.  I don’t disagree that there are lessons to be learned from participating in team sports, many of those lessons valuable. Teamwork, listening, and adaptation are chief among those lessons learned.  I question though, whether those young people are even tuned into those lessons.

I’ll suggest that youth sports might not be the best learning ground for such lessons.  After all, in the land of youth sports, what is really on the line if one fails to pay attention or perform in accordance with coaching or parental expectations…?  Perhaps the athlete will sit on the bench.  Here’s a thought; some kids actually prefer to sit on the bench.  There is little at stake when kids tune out during team sports.

Here’s another thought; all teens want money.

Where have all the workers gone…

Thirty years ago one could walk into nearly any retail shop, restaurant, or grocery store in this country, and there would be a good chance they would be face to face with a high school student who was also working part-time.  This is just my opinion, but it seems to me fewer teenagers fill those same jobs today.

This is not my opinion:  Despite that I have helped many teenage athletes with their strength and conditioning in support of their extracurricular sports through the years, I can count on one hand the number of those students who have also had part-time jobs.

Due to the increased participation in sports, both high school sports and club sports, many teens today have no time to participate in jobs.  I think this is a gross omission on the part of the parents.  Often times the parents justify their heavy emphasis on team sports by suggesting these sports are their child’s ticket into college, and thus offer greater potential dividends for their child.

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I did the math on that with one parent a couple of years ago.  When she and I added up the monthly dues for four years of multiple year-round club sports, uniforms, meals on the road, travel expenses (often out of town and out of state), one child cost her nearly $11,000 over a 4-year span, and she has 2 children involved in sports.  An associate’s degree at a local community college would have cost much less.

In the case of her two children, both will go to a four year college on full athletic scholarships, so the investment of all those hours paid off.  It will remain forever unknown though, what might have been lost by turning 22 years old and having never had a job.

What gets lost…

Most teenagers who forsake the workplace for an overloaded athletic schedule will not receive athletic scholarships.  Nor will they receive many of the valuable lessons which can be learned in the workplace.

I understand, and respect the value of participating in team sports, and the lessons learned.  There are even more important lessons though, to be learned when teens go to work after school rather than to practice or to the game. There can also be much more riding on those lessons – a paycheck.  Of course, that’s only for kids whose parents teach them the value of money, and THAT is an essay for another day.

Every teen who has a job is already a professional at something….  Be well.  Rc

For more of my thoughts on this from a couple of years back, please click here.

I’ll be back in two weeks to share more of what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, Can.  Enjoy…

Unintended Consequences…

This blog post has gone viral in recent days.  It has lit up the internet all week, gathering moss with a mob mentality that I’m not on board with.

I understand where the author is coming from, and why.  I’m in the fitness business too – I get it.  I have seen women cry in my studio far too often, and for all the wrong reasons.  In these times I have done my best to reassure them that nothing matters more than being a good mom, a good wife, and a good person in the community.

I say often that in the end none of us will be judged by the shape of our abs or whether we do sinister justice to a pair of skinny jeans.  The pressure women feel to be lean, sexy, ripped, etc., is severe, it’s increasing, it’s everywhere, and is completely unnecessary.

However there aren’t just two sides to every story or every idea as this blog suggests.  Like coastlines, ideas can be endlessly distilled with fractal geometry; the angles can be reduced to smaller angles, and smaller angles still, and are seemingly infinite.  As always, I suggest one be careful before choosing sides, or piling on a cause too soon.

Most of the memes, and sayings represented in this blog post seem to have been created, and shared in the spirit of raising one’s game.  I truly believe that, and I respect that.  I seriously doubt that any non-corporate individual would ever create or caption signs like these as a way to belittle women, influence them into behavior they don’t wish to participate in, or to shame them into state of emotional distress.

Memes like this are dangerous...

Memes like this can be dangerous…

This is not to suggest that it hasn’t happened, clearly it has.  These ideas can be dangerous.  But from the perspective of those who create, and share such memes, I’m sure there were no thoughts of the unintended consequences to be absorbed by women everywhere.

Does this mean they are “bullshit” as the author suggests…?  I don’t believe so.  For my part, I have tried hard to motivate, and inspire people without it use of such ideals.  Even my personal tag, Train Like An Athlete, Eat Like A Shark, Walk Like A God is found to be over the top by some, so I don’t use it anymore.  A little mindfulness and humility can go a long way.  However I can appreciate the kind of motivation, effort, and the positive changes memes like these can facilitate.

Conversely, spreading the idea that real women have curves might seem innocent, and even supportive, but that’s dangerous too.  I have seen many women through the years take unnecessary liberties with their own physicality, and abandon successful eating and exercise habits in favor of doing less for themselves because they have been told by others that it’s okay to do so.  Too often, the others influencing this behavior do so because obesity, like misery, loves company.

Just as dangerous...

And memes like this can be Just as dangerous…

The author refers to these ideals as, “irresponsible”.  I find that statement itself irresponsible inasmuch as he’s placing himself on a pedestal as a voice of reason.  Though he may be a voice of reason for some, he aims his passion and enthusiasm at many who are trying very hard to do good work, and for good reasons.

What further troubles me about this is that it also singles out, and belittles success – the success that many have experienced in finding or creating a new life.  Being championed by, or championing others is an honorable endeavor.  It’s unfair that many endeavors do have at least some unintended consequences.  But really, who is that on…?  I don’t believe what makes a woman real is six-pack abs or curves.  What makes a woman real is her priorities.

Where I am in agreement with the author, and where I do take exception is when corporations invest millions of dollars into sharing these memes because they ARE trying to guilt and shame women into spending lots of money on devices, supplements, and products that will offer little or no return for that investment.  These ad campaigns are aimed directly a woman’s self-esteem.  I find that sickening, if not completely ‘Merican.

This fever this blog post has created is just one more example of people choosing sides in this social media era, piling on, and muting the conversation before the conversation ever begins.  Ready.  Fire.   Aim.

The fitness industry is nearing the trillion dollar mark annually.  Every day of my life I think about walking away from it – yes, every single day.  On a very large scale, my industry is insincere, scheming, and false.  At best, it’s smug, and lacks decorum as a collective.

There are some mindful people though, out there every single day working hard to help others – without passing judgment one way or another.  Just knowing those people exist keeps me in the game – for now.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks.  Enjoy…

The math of a mile…

 

Short and sweet this week.  A re-post of yesterday’s thought on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.

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The math of a mile…

The U.S. population is about 316 million people. Of those 316 million, approximately 240 million are between the ages of 12 and 65.

Of the 240 million people between 12 and 65, most possess the physical ability to walk or to run an uninterrupted mile. However, it is estimated that of those 240 million, only 34 million run or walk regularly. That leaves 206 million people who could benefit from a daily walk or run, but choose not to.

On average, for every mile walked or run, approximately 100 calories are burned. I know this will vary depending on the person, and the intensity of the walk or run, but 100 calories per mile is a good number for the sake of my argument.

If those remaining 204 million people who possess but don’t use the ability to walk or run 1 daily mile, did so for 33 days, AND made no other changes to their daily exercise or eating, each person would lose (approximately) one mathematical pound. That’s not a lot.

As a collective though, the U.S. would lose approximately 204 million pounds in that month’s time. That is a lot.

In a year’s time, without changing any other eating or exercise habits, if everyone who could walk or run one mile per day did so, individually they could lose 12 pounds. That’s tangible, if not impactful.

By the end of that year, our nation could lose nearly 2.5 billion pounds. That’s more than a lot. Again tangible, and impactful.

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Imagine what effect this collective weight loss could have on our healthcare costs, on the prescriptions needed or not needed, on the moments enjoyed with family and friends, and on the mental health and personal confidence of all, let alone of us as a nation. 

I’m not trying to organize any kind of movement here.  I can scarcely organize myself.  I really do wonder though, what the country might be like one year from now if everyone who isn’t moving began moving — today.  Food for thought.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this by The Mooney Suzuki.  Enjoy…

Downshift…

Preying for change…

I’ll begin this by stating in clear terms; I have no problem with the killing of, or the eating of animals.  So long as those animals have been raised humanely by organic methods, or have been caught in the wild by methods which will not significantly reduce populations or threaten the species, I’m good with it.  Man has been eating other animals almost from the beginning, as animals have also been eating other animals, including man.  All who are born, are born as a potential snack.

What I can no longer do, what I am no longer willing to accept, is to eat animals raised inhumanely, sustained callously, and slaughtered brutally.  Between the callousness of their surroundings, the hormones and antibiotics they are reared with, and within the filth they are raised in, high volume animal farming is something I can no longer support.

Shake up in the cabinet…

As I have cleared the last of my farmed meat from my freezer; beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, and as I have used my last egg given by a caged chicken,  I now begin a process that will have me obtaining most of my protein from plant-based sources – even if those sources contain GMOs.  I would rather eat genetically modified soy curd, than an inhumanely raised chicken, or farmed or threatened fish. Or to put it more succinctly, I would rather have more GMOs in my diet, than OMGs.

As I can access and afford it, I will also include protein derived from un-caged chickens, unchained dairy cows, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered beef, bison, and whatever game and fish I catch, or my friends are willing to provide to me.

This is not a stand against eating Bambi.  If Bambi is in the right place at his wrong time, and ends up on my dinner table, I ‘m down.  This is a stand for how I believe we should conduct ourselves as a species, and as the stewards of this planet.  I am no longer willing to accept the way many corporations raise, slaughter, distribute, and market animal food sources.

BambiII

Guess who is coming to dinner…?

Sensationally speaking…

I understand the video below is social media sensationalism at its best.  I also understand that it’s real – nothing seen in it has been contrived.  These, and similar methods of animal processing are all around us, and have been for decades.  It is only social media that has many of us seeing red for the first time, over seeing red for the first time.  Seeing this video was simply the final push I needed to take this personal stand I have been on the verge of for more than a decade, but have selfishly resisted.

Judge Not, Roy Bean…

In this decision I am not passing judgment on anyone else, nor am I advocating similar actions by others.  The complexity of our food system – of our society has expanded to a point where answers and truths can no longer be established by outside sources.  In this era of increasing complexity, I truly believe that the best answers and the best truths we can depend on must come from within.

Sadly, people are certain to judge me on this decision.  There will be jokes cracked, social media friendships threatened, more than a few snickers.  That’s on them, not on me.  Though I don’t believe I will waiver on this, as I have not wavered on not owning a vehicle, I certainly won’t attempt to predict the future – I consistently suck at it.

 Restaurant not impossible…

Though I expect making these changes might offer some challenges in the beginning, I’m not too concerned about the adaptation process.  My weak link though, will be in restaurants. I eat out often, sometimes several times a day.  Most everything I eat in restaurants I have deemed acceptable until now.  That definition has changed.

Most of what I order in restaurants has been chicken or egg based.  My friends may roll their eyes as I add tofu or textured vegetable protein to a garden salad at the local diner.  Perhaps not as much if I just thrown a little ground bison that salad, and call it good.  We shall see.  Regardless, eating out will need to be modified.

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu...?

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu…?

The hustle to keep up the muscle…

Lastly, as a lifelong weightlifter, bodybuilder, and weekend athlete, I have raised myself to be the ultimate carnivore.  I have eaten red meat most every day of my adult life, often by the pound, with a belief that animal protein, beef in particular, is a requirement for strength, energy, and forging a tasty aesthetic.  This is going to be tested to be sure, since my bodybuilding aspirations remain intact.

If my strength, energy, and aesthetic suffer for a lack of feedlot beef, farmed fish, and caged eggs, my soul certainly will not suffer.  In these days, and in these times, my interest lies much more with soul-building than with bodybuilding.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Alabama Shakes. Enjoy…

Minimal-list…

There but for the grace…

I was homeless by choice.  Divorce and separation from my family set me into a state of unclear thinking.  I walked away from my priorities, and from my family with almost no money.  My Ford Windstar became my home.  I parked it at the outskirts of town most nights, and parked it by the beach on nights when there were a few extra cents in my ash tray for gas.  My future was uncertain, my mind clouded, and I faced each day cloaked in regret.

I never doubted that I would have a home again; an apartment, a room to rent – something.  I sensed though, that I would never be a homeowner again.  This was in part due to the circumstance, and in part because I never bought into the dream.  From an early age, home ownership seemed more a ball and chain than an American right.

Home homeless on the range....

Home homeless on the range….

Living in a minivan though, that was not in the dream either.  For six months though, it was my reality.

My income came partly from work, partly from savings, and partly from what help my mother could give me from week to week during this difficult time.  In my homelessness, there was at least some security if not prosperity.  I had enough income for essentials, and a few dollars left most weeks to share.  Maybe it was because I was homeless myself that I felt this need to share.  I have always felt a connection to the have-nots, and especially to the have-nothings.

Pier pressure…

On Friday or Saturday evenings, I would drive to parking lot at the Ocean Beach pier where many homeless of varying ages, and backgrounds would congregate.  If I had just few extra dollars, I would buy a few loaves of bread, and a couple jars of peanut butter.  From the back of my minivan I would offer sandwiches to anyone who would accept one – no documentation of homelessness required.

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier...

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier…

If I had a little more money, I would buy a couple of large pizzas and put them on the hood of my van – a free slice for any takers.  Doing this always made me feel good.  In that sense, I guess it was a selfish act. I knew inside though, that there were stories behind the faces of those who gladly accepted my offerings.  I never felt like I needed to know those stories, but just knowing they existed was enough fuel my gestures.

I recall a disproportionately high number of homeless teens at the OB pier.  Fifteen and 16-year old runaways were not uncommon.  Those were the stories which guided me back each week.  I would hear tales of abusive stepfathers, overbearing mothers, and addictions.  I wasn’t so naïve as to believe all these stories were true.  Nor was I so hardened by life, that I discounted them.

At the end of the evenings, when all the food was gone, as the stories fizzled, and the kids filtered out to feed their addictions in abandoned buildings and dumpster bins, I would park my van in a safe place.  I would then lay down in back, count my blessings, and sip from a cup of rum to help me forget my non-blessings.

 Minimal-list…

Before long though, I was back to living a normal lifeI was living in an 1,800 square foot, 3-bedroom, home with a TV in every room – even the kitchen.  I was driving a Jeep, and collecting surfboards like they sports cards.  My days of homelessness were well behind me, yet I missed the simplicity of them more and more as my life expanded.

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from...

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from…

One morning, as I was transcending from one room into the others, in preparation for my impending day, and with ESPN going in all three rooms, I realized how ridiculous it all was – to me anyway.  Thirty minutes later I set all 4 of my televisions on the front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please, take them away from me”.  An hour later they were gone.

Maybe a year later I gave away the Jeep in favor of a bike.  Not long after, I gave away my furniture and moved into a little guest house, furnished with just enough.  It was a far cry from living in a minivan, but the romance of minimal living was my increasing reality.  As my list of possessions grew smaller, my list of freedoms grew larger…

Actions speak louder than blogs…

As I have reflected more recently on the short-term homeless state of my middle life, I want to do one simple thing that can make a difference for the long-term homeless, and I want to do it regularly.  What kind of thing, what kind of action…?  I don’t know.  I will simply take it from week to week.

I’m a pedestrian living in a warm climate, and in a small town.  I cross the paths of homeless people multiple times every day of my life – even children.

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most...

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most…

This I commit to, with my social media audience as my overseers:

Through 2013, and hopefully far beyond, I commit to seek out and apply one simple action each week that will positively touch or impact the life a homeless person.   To keep me honest, I will document these actions every Friday on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.  Please stay tuned and see if I walk the walk.  Be well.   rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater.   Enjoy…

Committing Egocide…

I wrote this essay nearly three years ago.  My life has changed more in these three years than it had in the previous 40.  I have taken what I wrote hear to heart, with some weeks being better than others, and I truly feel like progress has been made.  It’s nice to look back at it a few years later, and know that some lessons can be learned, and some progress can be made — if only at a snail’s pace…
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Me, Myself, and Irony

I don’t like myself much.  I mean, I guess I do like the shape of my arms – some.  I like the amount of weight I can lift – a bit.  I like the way in which I can make my bike charge up a steep hill – at times.  That I can (occasionally) still turn a head in a restaurant is also nice, but those are what I do, not who I am.  Increasingly, I find myself lacking mental fitness; the kind of character that makes one a better component of the atom of humanity.

Who I really am is a guy who let his guard down years ago, and now lives comfortably well beneath his potential – because it’s easier this way.  I have taken my eyes off, and quit listening to the best role-model and the best friend I would ever have – me.  Early in life, I had promised myself that if I would follow my own advice, I would lead myself to a life most worthy.  I never intended to break away and become such a selfish asshole, but it has certainly unfolded that way – probably for you too.

Earning my way back, if ever so slowly...

Earning my way back, if ever so slowly…

Ego, Mego, And Wego

For much of my early adult life the person I admired above all others was actually me – or the me I was striving to become.  No hero I could choose to emulate would have as much to offer the world, I thought, as I would someday.  That’s okay, that’s okay, I laugh too when I think about it – now.  But I wasn’t laughing then, I was serious and I had a plan.  My best friend in those years was also me, and me kept me focused on the plan.

There were certainly people I had admired in my wide-eyed youth.  Most I admired for all the wrong reasons, and the heroes I chose never failed to let me down.  But for my high expectations of them, every role-model I had through my teen years fell as slowly as a leaf until the hero-tree eventually stood bare before me.  By my twenties, as each hero had faded into the realm of being only human, I began to understand that hero should be viewed as a personal destination, and not a view to another.  I would be a hero.

Role-models Vs. Roll-Models

It has not worked out quite the way I had envisioned.  One divorce, several broken relationships, countless shots of tequila, foul words uttered, temper tantrums thrown, optimism thwarted, failed business attempts, money earned and money squandered, good eating/bad eating, fitness and fatness, and millions of willful poor choices later, I have long since forgotten about the hero I was supposed to be.  I can now only explore who I am to become.  Allow me to introduce you to another fallen leaf from the hero tree; me, the hero within.

Sports radio host Jim Rome often says, speaking of wayward athletes,

“You are who you roll with.

Meaning, an individual reflects the image and character of who he spends time with; guilt by association, and often by osmosis – taking on lesser traits offered by the other(s).  And that’s where I have failed – I have been “rolling” with my inner-self for too long.

To coin a popular term from this era of social networking, I have decided to unfriend my inner Roy.  I release him because he does me more harm than good, tells me it’s okay to cheat at life, to back off, to slack, to let my guard down, and to put me/him first.  His weary act has grown tiresome and I just don’t want to roll with him anymore.

Can This Really Be Done?

I don’t know, I have never broken up with myself before. I am not in pursuit of a perfect life or being a perfect man.  I am only in pursuit of a change that will get me back on the hero path, not to be confused with the hero destination.  Though it is easy to conceive of and discuss change in this way, it will be something different to achieve that change.  Now primary in my psyche must be a complete divorce from the failed hero-me.

It has often been said that, character is what you do when nobody else is looking.  In a more useful sense I believe that, hero is when you decide to never take your eyes off yourself – 24/7.

Stroodle.  My beacon, my light, and my real hero.  I have learned so much about life by loving this friend!

Stroodle. My beacon, my light, and my real hero. I have learned so much about life by loving this friend!

In that ego-rooted early adult life I lived, I had often joked that the world would be much better off if there were three billion Roy Cohens, and three billion women to worship them.  Now I’m just seeking to create one good Roy, so that one young woman will forgive him.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this wonderful collaboration of, The Weight.  Enjoy ….

Framework For The Masses…

Since I’ve been writing on the theme of sustainability, I have decided to stray into the mainstream this week, and offer an outline of a sustainable strength training workout, which might be a good fit for many.

This is a workout which can benefit everyone from the prep-athlete, to the working professional desiring to stay in shape, to hardcore fitness enthusiasts, and even seniors.  What makes this framework able to fit anyone is in how it is scaled.  That is, the weights used, and the intensity given, should be relative to the individual’s ability and desire.  Relative that prior statement, this can be anybody’s workout.

The tenets:

·         Exercise should make your life better, not worse.

·         Use the heaviest possible poundages, in the best possible form.

·         Cheating to enable more repetitions increases the opportunity to become injured.   If you have to sacrifice perfect form to enable another repetition, stop.  The body doesn’t know 7 repetitions from 9, or 10.  The body knows good form, and failure.  When good form and failure meet, results happen.

·         Train through as complete a range of motion on all exercises as you are comfortable with.   The act of strength training, through a complete range of motion, is also the act of stretching.  It is just stretching with weights in your hands or at the ends of your feet.

Cursory definition of fitness:

The sum of strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, and overall command of one’s physicality it applies to everyday living, as well as athletics, and recreation.

Application:

These exercises, performed as directed, should enhance all athletic and physical endeavors.  Done properly, these exercises will also help minimize the risk of injury which might occur in other forms of athletics and recreation.

Super-sets:

This is the rotation of 2 exercises performed with a minimum of rest in-between sets. While your upper body is working, your lower body is resting.  While your lower body is working, your upper body is resting.

Every day is leg day:

Sixty-five to seventy percent of a woman’s muscle mass is carried from the hips down.  Fifty-five to sixty percent for men.  Since a majority of muscle is in the lower body, legs are to be included in every workout.

Aesthetic fitness:

Increases in muscular detail, hardness, and fullness, though initiated through strength training, are largely functions of diet, and recovery.  The most consistent person executing these workouts, will see few results in these areas without adhering to structured and consistent nutritional minimums.

Machines, Dumbbells, And Free Weights:

There are unique values in all of these.  There is no one, which is better than the other.  Gravity works — period.

Anyone who suggests that free weights are better than machines has little understanding of how machines can be manipulated to enhance flexibility.  Machines can also provide a unique plane from which strength can be improved, and muscle growth can be stimulated.

In the end, strength training is about gravity management.

Balanced:

This workout is evenly balanced.  Every muscle from the neck down is included.  I have included isolateral, and bilateral movements.

I have included vertical pushing and pulling movements, as well as horizontal pushing and pulling movements.

I have included wide, and narrow stance movements for the lower body.

The split:

Day 1: Chest/legs

Day 2: Shoulders/arms/legs

Day 3: Back/legs

Three sets of 6-10 repetitions are suggested for athletes and and hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

One – two sets of 8-10 repetitions for general fitness enthusiasts, and for seniors.

Emphasis should be on slow negatives; 6-8 seconds , with force applied for 3-5 seconds

Last word before the workout:

I used the term “outline” in the first paragraph of these instructions.  What you will read and view below is just that, an outline.   Substitutions can/should be made for the sake of variety within this framework.

An example of that relates to what I wrote earlier about free weights and machines.  If I do my incline bench press one week with dumbbells, the following week I might do it with a barbell, and the week after with a chest press machine.  There are unique values in all of these.

The same idea can applied to lat pulldowns.  If I do them with a narrow grip one week, the following week I might do them with a wide grip attachment.  The next week, I might substitute them with an underhanded grip, or with pull-ups.

If I do bench curls for biceps one week, I may do concentration curls the following week, and so-on.

The idea behind this workout is less the movements themselves, and more the idea of placing attention on equal parts pushing and pulling, isolateral and bilateral movements, as well as working through vertical and horizontal planes.  That said, the exercises I have selected here, are the ones which I go to first for any of these movements.

I don’t offer instruction during these videos.  The whole idea is to make a study of them.  Take note of the form you see, and strive to replicate it.

Day 1

Incline Bench Press/Prone Leg Curls

Chest Fly/True Squats With Stance Outside Shoulder Width

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press/1-Legged Leg Press

Day 2

Cable Lateral Deltoid Raise/Leg Extensions

Lying Triceps Extensions/Standard Lunges

Bench Bicep Curls/Seated Calf Raise

Day 3

 Lat Pulldowns With Narrow Gripr/Smith Machine Squats With Narrow Stance

1-Arm Seated Row/Walking Lunges

Deadlift/Low-Back Extensions

Summary:

I currently have an aspiring female fitness athlete using this exact framework – she’s the one seen deadlifting 135 lbs. for FLAWLESS repetitions.  Her transformation this  year has been significant.

I also have a student athlete using this framework.  Her performance on the field has never been better.

I have used this framework myself, and have seniors using it as well.

I wish to restate the utility and the benefits of these exercises comes from using proper form through a complete range of motion.  Keep the poundages, and the intensity relative to individual ability, and desire.

I will end this with a quote from Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting legend, Precious McKenzie,

“The routine is not what matters; the sets, repetitions, and so-on.  What matters most is the effort and the consistency.  When people come to understand this, they will enjoy results regardless of the routine they are on.”

I fucking love that quote.  I heard it young, and it has been formative, to say the least.  Be well.  rc…

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Please check back in 2 weeks, when I step back out of the mainstream, and into the comfort of the blender of my head.  Oh, and there is this from UK upstarts, Henry’s Funeral Shoe.   Enjoy…

Sustain-ABILITY…

We’re f#cked

I’ve been ruminating heavily on a word we hear, and read more and more in this age of increasing complexity; sustainable.  As the world changes, complexity increases and begets more complexity in all aspects of life, the idea of sustainability in anything seems less likely. 

We see leadership in technology, government, and business using the term sustainability to support their ambitions, or to push their agenda.  If one steps back, and takes a big picture look, the idea of sustainability becomes more an illusion than an outcome.  George Harrison wasn’t the first, but he said it well in his song, All Things Must Pass.

Too often something we see as being sustainable comes with hidden costs that only become disclosed after the fact.  This has everything do with our collective misunderstanding of cause and effect.  The example I like to use when discussing unintended consequences is this:

cause and effect logo

In the late 1980s there was a huge push to end the use of disposable diapers.  Science had proven that disposable diapers (like many plastics) would take hundreds of years to break down in our increasingly dense landfills.  In the long-term, it would have a negative effect on our environment.  So the push was on for parents to use reusable cloth diapers, and diaper services. 

As this movement took hold, science took a closer look at the short-term impact of cloth diapers.  There were harsh chemicals used in the cleaning of these diapers; chemicals which might enter water systems, and perhaps leave residue which might harm a baby’s skin.  There were the effects of fossil fuels used in the transportation of those diaper services which entered our atmosphere. 

All of the sudden, disposable diapers seemed to have a lesser impact on the environment than the reusable diapers.  Still, there is that landfill issue.  Also, what chemicals are used in the manufacturing of disposable diapers…? 

Face it, either form of diaper is going to have a negative impact on the environment, and neither may be sustainable in the long-term.  All things must pass.

Sustainability in fitness…

As in business, government, and technology, complexity in what we call fitness has increased as well.  Trends have evolved, picked up momentum and become as sexy as the idea of cloth diapers.  People get on board with these trends, and like cloth diapers, the trends take off.

Then, a little time passes, someone takes a closer look, observations are made, and the consequences of the trends become exposed. 

·         Excessive cardio (may) lead to increased appetite.

·         Artificial sweeteners (may) disrupt the function of insulin.

·         Weight loss surgeries (may) hold long-term digestive consequences.

·         Weight loss drugs (always) have negative side effects.

·         Hardcore exercise trends (may) lead to injury, overuse syndrome, and fatigue.

SheepFlock

And so it goes.  I guess we’re not so smart after all.  All things must pa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ss.

Complete this form, please…

It had been nearly a year since I worked out in a public gym.  In this instance, it was an LA Fitness in downtown Chicago.  Within seconds of entering the facility I began to cringe.  I saw every poor-form exercise stereotype imaginable – simultaneously.  It was chaos in the flesh. I wanted to set myself on fire right there, either as an immediate escape, or to call attention to the problem, I’m not sure.

 

idiot

Despite the less-than-sustainable self-abuse I saw going on around me, I completed my strength training session, hopped on the StepMill for 30 minutes, and walked away feeling improved for my investment of time and effort.

I say this often,

“Exercise should make your life better, not worse.”

I felt like the only person in that gym who was connected to that ideal.  The workout I did was challenging, yet safe and sustainable.

Pulley logic… 

 Among the primary tenets of my exercise philosophy is this:


The car with the most, and the hardest miles on it, will likely go to the junkyard first.   Of course this is relative to the maintenance of the car, the fuel used, and the intelligence used to select the course.  I believe, because I have seen, exercise performed without a logical and intelligent approach may do a body more harm than good, and may not be sustainable. 


But there also comes into play this question:  Is it about the length of the journey, or the enjoyment of the ride…?  I want my own journey to be both long, and enjoyable.

 

Not a huge weight, but challenging, and sustainable

Sustainability revisited…

Rigorous exercise enhances my life for a variety of reasons.  Above all, it clears my head, and provides me with a confidence not otherwise experienced.  Though at times it can take a physical toll on me, and may have effects which won’t become disclosed for years to come, I believe my current workout scheme is sustainable in the long-term – at least until I’m in my 70s, and perhaps longer with a few modifications.

At the end of the day I know these are true:

-          If I die from old age, I will not die with 6-pack abs.

-          At 83, I will deadlift much less than I can today, but I will still deadlift.

-          At 89, Full Beast Mode will mean that I won’t be using a walker.

-          At 93, my triathlon might consist of undoing my belt, pulling down my diaper, and running to the bathroom simultaneously, that I might make it in time.

Straight up, a lot of trends I see in fitness and wellness these days may not be sustainable for the practitioner.   Though I understand that sustainability may not even be a consideration for many, I’ll suggest that it become part of the conversation because we’re all getting older.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from local musician, Jacob Montague.  Enjoy…

Learn more at http://jacobmontaguemusic.com/

Guilty, I am…

Now what…

So you did it.  You finally got there.  Congratulations!  You are lean – in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  You ate clean.   You worked out like a person possessed.  You sacrificed, you pushed, and it shows.  You have abs, you have obliques, and you now have the ass of 12-year old boy.  Now what…?

You might not have considered this on your way to the heart of Nude Jacked City, but getting lean means more than just being in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  As you stand down from your quest, add calories back into your diet, cut back on your exercise, and allow body fat to increase, take note that, “the best shape of your life” was then, not now. 

Less than your best…

At any given moment, unless you choose to be in peak form once again, you will forever more be in less than your best shape – aesthetically speaking.  How you will you be able to handle that, emotionally speaking…?   

Be warned: no longer being in your best shape may not be a comfortable place to dwell for the rest of your life, though different folks do handle this in different ways. 

Some I know have dealt with this extremely well – they are not driven nor motivated by the Madison Avenue body garbage we have been fed for so many years in TV and magazine ads. They don’t bow to ill-conceived social pressure.  They recognize that being that lean didn’t come naturally or easily for them, and thus they had no expectations of a long-term lean status.

Many realize their body, and brain function better with a few more calories added in, and a little more body fat evenly distributed about their frame – even if that translates to a size or two increase with their clothing.  Yes, they miss the definition, but they LOVE the energy.  They still workout, they still eat better than 99% of the nation, and they appreciate what they have, rather than long for what they don’t have.

For others though, for most I’ll suggest, not being in their all-time best condition is a hard pill to swallow, ongoing.  As their clothes become a bit snug, as their faces round out a bit, and as the compliments from others that often go with being lean minimize, their self-esteem gets cloudy if not stormy.  Guilty I am. 

Some will go as far as to alter their social settings for fear of judgment that they are not at their best any longer, despite that they are still ahead of the game.  They may avoid the beach, pool parties, or any place that might require one to wear minimal clothing.  They will wear larger, and baggier clothing to hide behind.  Guilty I am.

A fine line that ain't so easy to navigate...

A fine line that ain’t so easy to navigate…

 

Some modify the activities they choose to participate in, for similar reasons.  They change the patterns of their life; when they go to the gym, the grocery store, or they do errands at different times of the day so they’re not seen in such poor condition.  This is all due to a self-generated perception which most outsiders never notice or even are aware of.  Guilty I am.

All of this due to just a few extra pounds, when most of the world still sees them as being in excellent shape.  Guilty I am.

Face it, we seek our flaws first.  When one has spent months seeing those “flaws” minimize, and ultimately disappear, seeing them return, and getting good with them is no easy experience.  Guilty I am.

Sustainability in condition…

Make the distinction between getting lean, and staying lean.  I will argue that most people have it in them to get lean.  However, being in peak condition with single digit body fat, for most, is not sustainable in the long-term.  Those you know, or know of, who are that lean year round, are fortunate, but I’ll suggest they are also rare.  People who are that lean year round are likely the product of a superior genetic predisposition, though this not to suggest they don’t work at it also. 

The guilt of failure…

It isn’t really failure though, it’s realism.  I have been unlean much more than I have been lean in my life, but again, this is a relative term.  Unlean doesn’t mean unfit.  It means balanced.  Dieting to get extremely lean is the Siberia of living; it’s a cold, bleak place, and there little joy there.

I will close this with a quote from an online friend who is also a fitness professional.  This was her response to a question I posed to her regarding being lean:

“As a fitness professional I’ll be honest with you. When I was at 12% body fat my cardiologist was so proud of me for being in shape, but I was crying out to her for help. I had not had my cycle in over 6 months. I told her this and she only advised me to take a pregnancy test. I knew that was NOT the issue! Shredded for women is just not a healthy, sustainable look for the woman who wants to be a vibrant member of the community, an active mother, a loving wife etc.

I don’t know how you can get to that stage and keep the energy levels adequate for living life. I want to be strong, vibrant, energetic, and healthy. I like my muscle “tone” ugh, hate that word! But I have decided that I’m not ready at this point to drain all my energy into a temporary look.”

My advice…

I have spent years telling people who truly desire to be lean, and who are willing to put in the work that they have a responsibility to get there at least once, just to experience the feeling of being there.  These days I’m more cautious about that suggestion.  For some, it may do more long-term damage than good.  Guilty I am…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is little piece of ambient love from Yo  La Tengo.  Enjoy!

Bombs away…

I first wrote this back in March for my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.  It’s been a heavy week of bombing here at Camp Pendleton, not far from my back door.  I absolutely support these activities, though I always hope the exercises of war will only be played out when necessary, and hopefully not at all. 

When I begin to feel these concussions though, as I have been feeling them this past week, I get reflective, and concerned…

Bombs away…

When I was young I read the following sentence by Bill Dobbins in an article published in Muscle Builder And Power magazine:

“Watching Frank Zane train, his concentration is so severe that one gets the impression a bomb could go off in the gym, and Zane would neither let go the bar, nor lose his concentration.”

As a 15 year old, that statement left an impression on me that would be both formative, and long-lasting in my approach to strength training.

I have always prided myself on my ability to maintain a high level of concentration during an exercise – even if bombs were to go off around me.

Funny, now they actually do.

I live not far from the back gate of The Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The explosions I hear daily can be so concussive that my windows can rattle, the mirrors shake, and occasionally the pictures on my walls tilt to one side.

When this happens during a workout I never miss a beat. I don’t lose focus. I will continue until my set is complete. My concentration is so severe that people in China can feel my intensity.

Despite this, my mind does drift some when I hear, and feel the bombs.

As I hear the explosions in the distance, and feel my walls rattle, I can’t help but think about the Marines firing those weapons – of where they have been, what they have seen, and if they will use explosives again in a genuine scenario.

On the days when the bomb’s concussions are as severe as my own concentration, and make the walls shake, my mind drifts even further in-between sets.

I wonder; what must it feel like to be a mindful fitness enthusiast, innocently working out in a gym in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, or anywhere else, and feel bombs exploding during the workout.
arm_war

Would a person wonder, while doing arm curls, is their mother ok…? Are their friends ok…? Will they be ok…?

I wonder how quickly someone living exact that scenario might let go the bar, duck, and cover, biceps be damned.

Yes, I can hear a bomb go off and my lat-pulldowns will continue until the very last rep is completed. In-between sets though, my mind does wander… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from the North Mississippi All Stars.  Enjoy…

Gimmie back my playlists!!!

Home is where the lyrics are…

Listening to, and appreciating music has been at the front of my existence since I was young.  I bought my first record, Harry Chapin’s, Taxi, when I was in the 3rd grade.  I was captured by the movie in my head.  I have been buying and listening to music of all kinds ever since.  I have often thought of music as my home.

Through adolescence, well into my adult life, I have always apportioned some percentage of my weekly wages, and directed them to the local record shops.  This had been how I collected music over time; 1-2 albums, 1-2 times per month.  I would dream about having a collection so vast, I would have instant access to any music I wanted to hear.

We live in an amazing age… 

In this era, electronic media and music sharing services have evolved, and platforms like iTunes and Spotify exist.  My life-long dream of instant access to all things music has been fulfilled.  Unlike cataloging records, cassettes, and subsequently CDs, tracking electronic music has required more structure due to the high volume of music available.  Playlists were born. 

My Spotify playlists were several years in the making, and ongoing creations.  They involved thousands of songs from many genres of music.  They represented the musical genres I have been most fond of including the Paisley Underground, Alternative Country, Blues, Traditional Country, Punk, Classic Rock, Bluegrass, and more. 

Of them all, my favorite playlist was titled, Old, Odd, And New.  It was an amalgam of alternative country, paisley underground, some Scandinavian hard rock, and a lot American garage rock from the mid-west and the east coast.  The primary theme of this playlist was that it contained songs with filthy guitar sounds, raspy voices, and consisted of songs created largely by artists who never had much success.  This playlist was the soundtrack of my recent life – it felt like home.

 Technical difficulties…

It may sound trite to compare the loss of music playlists from an electronic medium to the death of a loved one, but I’m about to do that.  Several weeks ago I woke one morning, turned on my Spotify browser, and attempted to queue up the playlist I named, Morning Start.  It was 800 songs or so, and was the music which lured me through my morning rituals of showering, making coffee, letting the dog out, checking email, and prepping for the day ahead. 

As I attempted to navigate my browser, it looked noticeably different – all my playlists were gone.  My Spotify browser had the look of an application just downloaded; a factory reset kind of look.  Morning Start was no longer there.  My stomach sank.

It felt like I was looking into my child’s bedroom, only to see the child missing from the bed – as though he had been kidnapped. ..

Gibson

Trying not to let my emotions get the best of me, I followed a progression of logical steps required when dealing with technical snafus.  I restarted my computer.  That didn’t help.  I uninstalled the Spotify program, and subsequently reinstalled it.  That didn’t help.  I began searching youtube and internet message boards to see if others had suffered similar afflictions, and to learn how they resolved the issue.  I had no luck there. 

Finally, I contacted Spotify for help.  I received only this simple statement several hours later:

“We are not able to explain why your playlists disappeared.   Short of the steps you have already taken, we have no suggestions for you.  We are sorry for your difficulties.”

Spotify 

My loved ones were gone.  I was sad, depressed, and very emotional for days after my loss. 

Humpty Dumpty, three chords, and the truth…

My playlists were art in continuum.  They were sculpted by me, malleable and always changing.  They were organic, and well represented the changes in my recent life.  Several days after they disappeared, I came to accept there would be no ransom payment, no search party, and no beautiful conclusion – they would never be seen again.  Closure. 

Each day, after I accepted said closure, and as spare time would permit, I attempted to begin the process of reconstructing those playlists.  With each attempt though, came an increasing realization that my playlists could never be reconstructed – no more than a lost loved one could be brought back to life.  It was time to let go and move on.

Home where the heart is… 

Two-thousand miles and several weeks removed from the playlist crime scene, I found myself in Chicago for the event of a lifetime.

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My daughter’s mother and I had just attended our child’s college graduation.  It was early on a Sunday, and before most people walked into church that day, her mother and I had watched our daughter walk, along with 3,000 other students, into the next phase of their lives.  By 10:00am commencement was completed, and the three of us were in a taxi headed back to our riverfront hotel. 

I was on one side of the bench seat in back of the taxi, my daughter on the other side, with her mother in-between us.  Shortly after we entered the cab, I looked over to see my exhausted daughter laying her head on her mother’s shoulder.  In that sweet moment, I knew at that my daughter was home.  She was at peace, in her happy place, resting comfortably on the one shoulder she knew would always be there for her.  It was music to my eyes. 

Playlists be damned, nothing else will matter to me more than that sight so long as I live.  In that pure, perfect moment, I realized how insignificant any material object is.  I also realized just how very significant family love is.  The love of a momma, the love of a daughter, and the man who sees them both with awe and with great appreciation; we were captured by the music of the moment, and we were all home.

The living versus the idea…

A child too, is art in continuum.  She was sculpted by me, by her mother, by her circumstances and environment, and by her own free will.  Malleable and always changing, she is organic, and well represents that which helped sculpt her.   

She is a playlist of another kind.  Unlike my silly music playlists, my daughter is the product of love, not of a need to fill a void of entertainment.  She represents the genres of joy, intelligence, happiness, love, humor, and many others.  Seeing the look on her face, as her cheek rest on her mother’s shoulder is all the music I will ever need.  Sometimes music is to be seen, and not heard…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Townes Van Zandt.  Enjoy….

A slow turning…

Much is discussed and argued in the media and online communities these days, about the state and the future of the food system.  Many take note that our national eating behaviors are worse than ever.  Others suggest that there are better ways to feed the nation.  Most just sit back, observe, and continue to accept the status quo.  Pass the hydrogenated, sodium laden, 20-year shelf life butter substitute please.

There is no shortage of opinions on the subjects of fast food, GMOs, obesity, diabetes, local farming, corporate monocultures, high fructose corn syrup, and the varied eating styles and dieting fads which fall in and out of vogue these days. These conversations are ubiquitous, but are they productive…?

It’s obvious something is wrong.  It’s obvious there are potential solutions.  It’s obvious that there are as many people who care about improving the food system, as there are people willing to exploit it, or settle for it in its current state.

I’ll suggest that the following statements are true:

- We would all like to see a more mindful food system.

- We would all like to see more intelligent uses of the food system; one which promote healthier lives, and healthier lifestyles for everyone.

- The food system, in its current state, is not set up to promote health as a first priority.  Rather, it exists to promote profit as a first priority – acknowledging though, that there are some considerations for health by some components within the food system.

- There is an increasing awareness among many segments of the population that the food system is faltering, but can be improved upon with corporate and individual diligence.

- To improve the food system, there will be required a spreading of awareness by way of activism, networking, volunteering, and use of the social media.

So where am I going with all of this…?

Changes of this magnitude don’t take place overnight.  Being Americans though, we do look for those changes overnight.  That’s not how social change works.  I’ll suggest if we just take simple actions daily, and encourage our children to take simple actions daily, we can look to the future for change in hopes that our children’s children will reap the benefits of the sacrifice we make today.

I have begun to think about the changes in our food system, and our use of the food system, as being analogous to the American civil rights movement during the middle part of our last century.  Change comes slowly. We often don’t see change as it manifests around us. That doesn’t mean that change isn’t taking place – just ask Darwin.

social_change_is_good1

We can look back at a history of widespread hatred; lynchings, church burnings, and acts of racial prejudice in the early and mid-20th century America.  Today, we can look around us to see black head coaches, generals, CEOs, and even a president.

Are there still hatred, prejudice, and acts of violence against non-whites…?  Of course there are.  However, these instances are fewer, and further between, by far, than they were 40 years ago.  Looking back, it took decades of consistent grassroots efforts, volunteering, activism, spreading social awareness, and sacrifice for those changes to slowly manifest.  To this day, those changes must be guarded.

racism

I look back at the progress though, that has been made with civil rights during the past 6 decades, and I do have some hope – if not for the food system of today, for the food system of tomorrow, through the work being done today.

A lynching today would not be acceptable.  Perhaps people 60 years from now will feel the same way about giving a 1,500 calorie milk shake with 225 grams of sugar to a child after school.  We still lynch, but it’s just a drive through kind of lynching.  The #3 Value Meal has enough calories to support a human life for 2 days AND, it costs less than $4.  We lynch ourselves, and we lynch our children – it’s just a slow lynching.

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it...

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it…

I understand there is a large difference between racially based hate crimes, and the offering of junk food to a loved one.  In that sense, perhaps we should refer to the ritual of sharing unhealthy foods as, love crimes.  Think about that; love crimes.

Take note:  My comparison of racism in America to the faltering food system is not about the severity or intentions of either.  There is no comparison.  Prejudice is an evil that far exceeds the dangers of Pop-Tarts, and aspartame.  My comparison is about the time required to see tangible results in changing social trends of any kind.

Take action today.  Teach your children today.  Have hope for the next generation, if not for tomorrow.  Be well.  rc


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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, The Men.  Enjoy…

 

Music to my nerves…

I wrote this a couple of months back as a guest blog for Tamara at http://www.fitknitchick.com

I have been contemplating heavily in recent weeks about the idea of exercise being a physical form of music which offers parallel sensations and benefits.

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Music to my nerves…

I practice strength training for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that the connection it fosters between the thinking me, and the physical me can be as soothing and as formative in my life as music has been. In that sense, the act of strength training is music – physical music.

The body in motion, acting as directed by the mind, cooperatively though under stress, is a kinetic ensemble which can blend to create a satisfying result. That kind of ensemble movement can be to feeling, what an ensemble of sounds can be to hearing.

“Music has the power of wings.” Mike Scott, of The Waterboys

“Music has the power of wings.” Mike Scott, of The Waterboys

Being strong is a good problem to have…

The utility of strength training in the modern era is unequalled as a form of exercise.  That is just my opinion.  However, as a person who has taught exercise beyond traditional strength training, and as an athlete who over a lifetime has practiced and participated in many more genres of sport and fitness, I believe my opinion is worth your consideration.

It may be called strength training, but practiced properly its value extends far beyond strength.

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Sticks and stones…

There is no type of medicine that can reverse the inevitable loss of bone density which occurs in people beyond middle age.  There are some relatively benign medications which can slow down the loss of bones density, and a couple of more harsh medications that can cease it.  None of these medications though, can be taken without inherent vulnerabilities disclosed elsewhere.

The regular practice of strength training can slow down the onset of bone density loss in all ages.  So long as the strength training is practiced properly, it comes with almost no vulnerabilities.  Tension on muscles equals tension on bones, and regular tension on bones is what helps slow down the loss of density.

Love me tendon…

Strength training makes muscles stronger.  And trees are made out of wood.  What goes largely unrecognized with strength training, and largely unappreciated, is that strength training can promote tendon strength as well. Tendons are where muscles taper, become increasingly dense, and fuse muscles to bone – just above and just below our joints.

Having stronger tendons offers our joints greater support. For those who experience difficulty with joints due to injuries, arthritis, or other damage, having stronger tendons on each side of the joint can offer needed support.

The practice of traditional strength training, using lighter to more moderate weights, performed slowly, and through a complete range of motion will help tendons become stronger. The support increased tendon strength offers those with trouble joints can be summed up in one word; confidence.

Muscle-Tendon-Attachment.gif

In transition…

Of all the values associated with strength training, the one that goes the most unappreciated, underrated, and the one which is rarely maximized by the general fitness population, is the transition phase during the lift.

When one transitions from the eccentric phase of a strength movement, to the concentric phase, and maintains absolute control of the weight during this transition, as he applies complete concentration to the muscles involved, true strength is developed.  This is the kind of strength that generates confidence as much as it generates power – everyday life kind of strength.

Strength gained from mastering the transition phase of a resistance exercise is most applicable to one’s daily life – much more so than the bragging rights associated with how much weight was on the bar.  This can be where mommy strength is created, where the might of a daddy is developed, and where the power of the employee can be cultivated.  This is the kind of strength one will appreciate possessing – beyond the gym walls.

(an example of a seamless transition in a strength exercise)

Beyond pop: melody, lyrics, and structure…

A pop song is often underappreciated – just something to be heard as background noise or to pass the time.  However, there is much more behind a pop song than most people will ever recognize or appreciate.  There are benefits to a pop song far beyond superficial entertainment.  When one extracts the multitude of values contained in a pop song; the lyrics, the intentions, and the energy, and applies those values to their own frame of mind, a person’s world can be changed for the better.

Traditional strength training is often considered to be superficial, like a pop song.  Lifting weights equals bigger muscles, and more strength – big deal.

Like music though, strength training can offer much more when accepted on a more visceral level.  When one extracts the multitude of values, and better understands the reaching benefits of strength training, a person’s world can be changed for the better.

Of course the benefits of strength training don’t end there.  With regular strength training, one’s blood pressure can be reduced, attention spans can be increased, and mental acuity can be heightened. Strength training can promote better balance, enhance flexibility, and of course, improve our appearance.

Of course all of that should be music to everyone’s ears. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from The Cure, my favorite pop song — EVER!  Enjoy…

 

Aggressivley Humble…

That was now, this is then…

My life is on a good path these days.  My business is in a good place.  I have earned my fitness back, and have lots of freedom in my schedule to play and be active.  My expectations of humanity are lower than ever, while my desire to contribute is at an all time high. 

There are times when I truly stop and ask myself,

“Is my life really this good…?”

Why yes, yes it is this good.

I guess that’s a good reason to flaunt it, yes…?   

Let’s face it, I’ve been anything but humble lately. 

Who’s that guy in the pink tank top with the ponytail, the bracelets, the ripped shoulders, and the George Hamilton tan…?  

Meet the new Jhciacb, same as the old Jhciacb…?

Lesson plans…

Life is a series of lessons to be learned, or to be ignored.  Though I have learned many lessons through my life, I have forgotten many, and have ignored a great many more.  I can’t quantify the net-loss of lessons I have learned vs. those I have ignored, but I suspect that number is a substantial negative.

As the complexity of my life has increased, I feel that the disparity between lessons learned and lessons ignored has begun to slow.  This isn’t to suggest I’m headed into the black with all kinds of wisdom, and maturity.   As I contemplate new lessons learned, I’m finding that one of the larger lessons life has had in store for me has eluded me until now; the lesson of humility.    

Changes in platitudes…

I told someone recently that the circumstances of my life have changed more in the past 6 months, than they have in the past 10 years.  A quick inventory of these changes: 

  • I have made writing an increased priority.  Each morning I wake at 4:30 and write for up to 2 hours.  The therapeutic value of spending this time writing has been more cleansing and transformative than exercise has ever been.  Before my day begins, I’m able to shed many thoughts and feelings.  This process has better enable me to receive each day, and has caused me to think more humbly.
  • Nine months ago I began working as a fitness trainer for Joel.  Joel is 22 years old.  He has TV shows and movies memorized by the dozens.  Joel is an artist, a motivational speaker, and an athlete.  Despite being 22, Joel needs to get dropped off and picked up at my studio by his mother.  He will never drive, nor live an absolutely independent life.  Joel is autistic.  The experience of working with Joel, and the relationship fostered in the process has been very grounding.  When I see weekly, all the Joel accomplishes, it’s a reminder that I should be as grateful for my potential, and my opportunities, as Joel is for his, and to humbly embrace them.

(Joel demonstrating exceptional form on the chest press)

  • My daughter is now a college graduate.  The largest emotion I felt on the heels of this event is the feeling that the 22 years of parenting I have done thus far, haven’t really mattered.  I think it’s the next 22 that will define my legacy as a father.  She has accomplished more at 22, than I will in my next six lives.  I am humbled by her achievements.
  • I have seen a couple of good friends pass away young and unexpectedly in recent months, while a couple of others have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases.  The passing of these friends sent shockwaves through complacency.  It’s cliché I know, but these events have been a good reminder that each day is a gift.  I strive each day to acknowledge and accept that gift – humbly.
  • In recent months I have changed the location, the name, and the direction of my business.  The fitness industry has evolved to a point where I scarcely recognize it any longer.   The sum of conflicting values, and conflicting data in the fitness industry, as well as the loud voices of the zealots espousing it all, have grown tiresome.  I have become content to sit comfortably in my little niche and tune most of the noise from the chaotic fitness community out.  Humbly, I contemplate what truly matters; the fitness of giving.
  • I have taken ownership of my physicality once again.  I have entered several running events strung out through 2013, as well as a bodybuilding competition to take place this September.  Just days after the attack at the Boston Marathon, I participated in a 2-day running event, The Ragnar Relay.  I could not have been more humbled when my team leader presented our team with our shirts.  The back of each shirt commemorated the tragedy in Boston just days earlier.  Humbled.

    As far as the bodybuilding goes, the past 5 months have been the best and longest a streak of quality workouts I have experienced since beginning this ridiculous endeavor in 1978.  Each workout in recent months has exceeded the previous.   Then, one month ago I fell while running, and suffered a fracture in my right hand.  My streak of fruitful workouts ended immediately.  It would be 2 weeks before I could do any upper body training, and that is still limited.  However, and in the context of the paragraphs above, a fractured hand, and diminished workouts are insignificant.  I humbly accept my injury. 

    photo(31)

    Hard not to be humbled running with this on my back…

These circumstances, collectively, are where my recent contemplations on humility have begun to take shape, though it’s hard to say where they may actually take me. 

I really don’t know if, or how all of this will change me.  I do know this; I’m paying closer attention these days – to humility.   Who knows, I may even cut my hair and start wearing shirts with sleeves again. 

Psyche!

Pretty in pink, yes...?

Pretty in pink, yes…?

 

Seriously, what’s the point of being humble if you can’t show it off…?    Meet the new JHCIACB, same as the old JHCIACB.   Be well.  rc
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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Chesterfield Kings.   Enjoy…


It’s all you can do…

This week I had originally planned to publish the first in a series of three essays which I am writing on the subjects of humility and mindfulness, and how they (might) fit into my life.  However, I am changing plans and holding off for one more week.

Earlier this week on my Facebook business page I wrote the entry below.  I use this page as a platform to share shorter thought, ideas, and reflections. 

Within a few days, this became the most viewed post I have ever written.  I thought I would publish it here and give it a little more love.  Please feel free to hare this, and if you haven’t already “liked” my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page, please take a minute to do so.  Thanks!

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It’s all you can do…

An email conversation ensued yesterday between me, and a friend from the fitness blogging community. The conversation involved our respective running times. She made the mistake of suggesting that because she runs faster times than me, that she is more physically depleted at the end of her runs.

Before I pinned her to the mat and counted to 3 for offering such an ignorant thought, I reflected back to a conversation I had with a weightlifting mentor when I was in my early teens.

I asked him how much 400 pounds felt like when he was bench pressing it. I know, it was a stupid question, but I was young. He responded succinctly with this positive reinforcement:

“It feels heavy, and it feels like it’s the best I can do. No different than how 200 pounds feels to you. We are each carrying the heaviest possible load, and giving it our all.”

That one stuck. Hearing him frame his answer that way made me feel good about my own maximum efforts in pursuit of increased maximum efforts. It also made me realize that individual effort is a relative thing; that all-out effort feels the same for everyone – exhausting.

After the first leg of my recent Ragnar Relay Series run...

After the first leg of my recent Ragnar Relay Series run…

I served this reflection back to my blogging friend with the acknowledgment that she does run faster than me, but doesn’t give more of herself as she does – physically, or psychologically. I have no more left in the tank at the end of my hard runs or my heavy lifts, than she does at the end of hers.

I think it’s important that we all remember this when we view the physicality of others. Rush not to judge or compare, but to appreciate, and respect the hard work of others – regardless of their level. I am a runner… rc

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Please check back in one week to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.

Oh, and there is this from the original Fleetwood Mac.  Enjoy…


It’s all about Roy…

A week in the life…

I’ve been corresponding with several friends, and clients recently who have been curious about my own dietary changes since January.  Since more than a few people have asked about this, I thought I would be a nice diversion this week, rather than writing my usual essay, to share my contest preparation here.

I currently estimate my body fat to be about 11%.  My weight this morning was 162 lbs.  For my bodybuilding competition in September, I should be 152 pounds, at (roughly) 7% body fat.

These pictures were taken about 2 weeks ago.  Clearly, I still have a long way to go, but the trail is straight, and quite easy to navigate.

SideChest

BackBi

My current eating schedule is not glamorous.  It varies little from day to day, as my body in contest preparation, responds extremely well to consistency in eating.  This means eating basically the exact same things at the exact same times each day.  This is correct for the goal, and for the moment, though I have no intentions of eating this way in the long-term.

The meals…

Breakfast:  6 egg whites, red cabbage, asparagus, some onion, 1 roma tomato, some spices

Four pounds of breakfast joy.  In this case, I uses EggBeaters in stead of egg whites.  On sale...

Four pounds of breakfast joy. In this case, I used EggBeaters in stead of egg whites. On sale…

Mid-Morning:  1 scoop of protein powder in water.  1 grapefruit

My mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks...

My mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks…

Lunch:  1.5 medium boneless/skinless chicken thighs, red cabbage, broccoli, 1 roma tomato, some onion, some spices

Lunch is usually some combination of vegetables, and chicken...

Lunch is usually some combination of vegetables, and chicken…

I would be lost without my two eating partners; Greek seasoning and California style garlic salt.  I put them on everything, in equal portion...

I would be lost without my two eating partners; Greek seasoning and California style garlic salt. I put them on everything, in equal portion…

Mid-Afternoon:  1 scoop of protein powder in water.  1 grapefruit

Dinner:  1.5 medium boneless/skinless chicken thighs or breasts, on top of a monster green salad.  Full-on loaded with veggies.  Sometimes this salad is homemade, often times it comes from one of the local restaurants I frequent.  Regardless, it’s usually filled with an ass-load of spring-mix, a few kalamata olives, sometimes spinach, cucumbers, tomato – just depends.

Fallbrook Cafe, I LOVE YOU!

Fallbrook Cafe, I LOVE YOU!

During the night:  1/2 cup oatmeal, l/2 tsp. ground flax, 1 scoop of protein powder.  I wake up naturally at 11:30 or so, and I keep this pre-made by my bed.  I eat it and go right back to sleep.

Living in a vegetative state…

 With the vegetables, I emphasize quantity and quality.  For a given meal, I may also include spinach, Brussels sprouts, and occasionally kale.  All these veggies are useful carbohydrates, and hard to digest.  My digestive organs earn their keep.

My morning scramble usually weighs over 4 pounds, and has been as heavy as 6 – that’s how many vegetables it contains.  The only non-vegetable carbohydrates I currently eat are the oats and flax seed I eat in the middle of the night.

I’m not counting calories at all right now, but guessing I’m in the 1800-1900 per day range.  As September gets closer, I will taper down to about 1,500, and perhaps 1,200 for the last few weeks before the show.   This will all be instinctive, based on how I feel on a given day/week.  If my body tells me I need more food, I add in more.  Conversely, if my body tells me I’m eating too much, I will taper in accordance with my intuition.  I only count grams of protein which, relative to my goal, is about 150-170 grams per day.

Hunger games…

Eating like this, I’m always a little bit hungry, but rarely am profoundly hungry.  It’s tolerable, and a sign that my objective, to live in a sustainable calorie deficit, is working.

The upside of the hunger is that every meal I eat tastes like it’s the best thing I have ever eaten.  My grapefruit tastes like candy.  Cabbage and eggs taste amazing.  My dinner salad is always the best salad I have ever eaten in my life.  This, in my opinion, is a good way to be.

Despite the calorie deficit, and the elimination of most non-vegetable carbohydrates, I have never felt better in my life.  My cognitive abilities seem improved, and my sleep doesn’t totally suck.

Movement games…

My body is functioning at its highest level in years.  My workouts are epic, and include poundages, in some cases, I have never used before.  My runs are strong, but I still think running is fucking stupid.

I strength train 5-6 days per week, 45-50 minutes per session when I’m alone, and 90 minutes or so when I train with my partner.

I'm not a paleo guy, but I do like to get outside from time to time...

I’m not a paleo guy, but I do like to get outside from time to time…

During the week a run 2.1 miles most days followed by some 70-80 yard sprints.  On the weekends I may go on longer runs at the beach or on trail.   Aside from my September bodybuilding competition, I also have have several competitive runs during the next 6 months, including two half-marathons, and a relay across Southern California. I fucking hate running.

That’s it.  A week in the life — for now. This time next year it could be all about Tai Chi, racquetball, or kayaking.  Sitting still is simulating death.

So I let you in a little deeper this week, please reciprocate.  Use the comments field and let me know what you’re up to these days, and WHY…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the bender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Paul Weller — simply elegant.  Enjoy…

There’s no such thing as bad, only different levels of good…

When speaking to friends on the subject of pizza, I am always quick to say,

“Pizza is like sex and music; there is no such thing as bad, only different levels of good”.

Exercise can be part of that equation as well…

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The tail of two friends…

Two friends from the Midwest, both of them very fitness minded, each sent me two separate articles this week, each unaware of the other.

One friend, VDB, sent me this one titled, The Five Most Overrated Exercises You Can’t Stop Doing.

The other friend, TJ, sent me this one titled, Worthless Exercises You Probably Do.

As far as the overratedness or worthlessness of exercises go, these are relative statements, and always cause me to cringe when I read such blind assertions.

I argue for thinking…

Through several decades of reading on the subject of exercise, I have seen many articles like these.  I have never seen such articles make strong arguments against the exercises they list.  They usually go into very little detail to support their argument, and never do they consider the peripheral utility of such exercises, or consider the values these exercises may offer on a more visceral level.

It’s sort of like saying, “I hate that candidate.”  Fair enough.  Now tell me why, and support your argument…

I can make an argument, and often do, that there are no worthless exercises if they are done properly — that there is utility, on some level, in all mindful movement performed by a capable body.

Some exercises have more utility than others for a particular outcome, say, functional fitness vs. aesthetic fitness.  Even those terms though, functional fitness, and aesthetic fitness aren’t necessarily exclusive from one-another.

Exercises done in the name of functional fitness may have more of an aesthetic application, but that doesn’t mean there is not a functional value.  Conversely, many exercises I suggest for functional strength can provide an aesthetic benefit as well.

There’s a fine line between an exercise being worthless, and it simply lacking efficiency relative to one’s objective.

That is where the real answers rest in exercise anyway; when we choose which exercises to include in our regimen based upon what we are trying to accomplish.

The usual suspects…

The case I use most often is the leg extension.

I will state my opinion, clearly, that leg extensions, first and foremost, offer an aesthetic application.  Among the many benefits leg extensions offer is that they help create lines of separation between the quadriceps.  To a bodybuilder, this is useful.  To a golfer, not so much.

Often maligned by functional fitness proponents, I’ve heard leg extensions referred to as knee wreckers, useless, and dangerous.  This is nonsense.  Though leg extensions are an isolation exercise, they are not knee wreckers, and done properly, they are far from dangerous.  They can, in fact, be knee supporters – even for golfers.

Though leg extensions do isolate the quadriceps muscles, they also isolate the quadriceps tendons which fuse those muscles to the knee joints.  Doing leg extensions properly, and with an appropriate weight, will strengthen those tendons, offering better support for the knee joints of anyone, be they an athlete, weekend warrior, or assisted living resident.  Leg extensions, done properly, make the knees stronger.

Both articles advocated against the bench press as a functional fitness exercise.  One stating,

“The bench press is overrated mainly because too many beginners stick to this chest exercise thinking that it’s the only thing they need”.

Well that’s not the fault of the bench press.  That’s the fault of the uniformed user over-depending on the bench press.

The other article claimed,

“Some fitness experts have deemed bench press unsafe.”

Again, this is a relative statement.  I will argue that the bench press, done with proper form and an appropriate weight, is useful in developing upper body strength for all levels of fitness including my oldest client, 88, who does them regularly.  There is also a peripheral core element which comes with doing bench presses properly.

Irony out the wrinkles…

I find it interesting that of the two articles linked above, one advocated for the plank as a good alternative to the crunch, and the other vice-versa.

My take on either of these exercises does not change; there is value in either one, but the value is only disclosed by the way the exercise is performed, relative to what the goal of the user might be.  I published my own thoughts on this here last month.

Look, I’m not even an expert on Roy Cohen, so I won’t claim to be an expert on exercise.  I have been at this a while though.  I have seen many trends in exercise which have come and which have gone.  One trend though, that remains and probably always will, is the trend of “experts” trying to provide your common sense to you, because they don’t want you to cultivate it on your own – there’s just not as much profit in that…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and if you have 30 minutes of time, please check out Oklahoma’s JD McPherson.  Enjoy…

Caught between Emerson, And George…

The crossroads in my head…

On a personal level, I am compelled by the fulfillment of challenging exercise.  The drug of intensity in movement clears my head, offers me confidence, and provides moments to me during which the stress of daily living vanishes, if only for a while.

Whether my requirement for challenging exercise is an addiction, a compulsion, or a mere personality defect, I may never be sure.  What I have come to accept is that, for now, exercise for the sake of fulfillment is a necessary component of the clock that is me.

Earning my keep…

On a professional level, I am more cautious about the ideal of intensity in exercise.  This caution though, is relative to the moment, and to the client.  Some moments in my studio are all about fulfillment in exercise.  I am paid well by some clients to establish the limits of their physicality, and incrementally raise those limits, rendering them more capable at given tasks, aesthetically improved, or both.

With other clients it’s about utility.  They entrust me to help increase their physicality by offering functional exercise into their lives.  This may be due to age, disease, or simply because they have lived a deconditioned lifestyle previously.   Regardless, for these clients mindfulness comes first, and intensity isn’t even a consideration.

On George…

George stepped into my studio for the first time seven years ago.  He was 67 years old, and a few years into retirement. He wanted to begin a fitness regimen to augment his twice per week golf schedule.

George also wanted to lose a few pounds around his waist, and improve his overall “shape”. If functional strength training might help his golf game, peripheral weight loss would be a cherry on top.

George was focused with his workouts, and made progress quickly.  His balance improved.  His flexibility improved.  His endurance improved.  His strength improved – to a point where he could leg press several hundred pounds, in proper form, and through a complete range of motion, and do so safely. Even his golf even improved.

George is 73 now. Four years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. An engineer by trade, George accepted that affliction with no resistance. He approached it with a resolve to wake up each day and address Parkinson’s in the best way he could – stoically, and with a pragmatic faith in Western medicine.

Minolta DSC
In the four years since his diagnosis, George’s physicality has suffered.  This is partially due to the disease itself, and partially due to the medications he uses to offset Parkinson’s.  However, his attitude and acceptance of the cards life has dealt him have been exceptional.  We should all be so graceful under the same circumstances.

Yesterday as he entered my studio I asked him how his golf outing went the day prior.  This was his response:

“It was great!”

He continued,

“I didn’t play too well, but the turkey sandwich was excellent, and my friends and I laughed a lot.”

I was as humbled by his attitude, as I was by the sincere smile on his face as he spoke.

George no longer leg presses several hundred pounds.  Most of George’s workouts take place with a broom stick for resistance, and some 3 pound weights in his weathered hands.  He accomplishes less than half the sets and repetitions in a given workout than he did prior to the onset of Parkinson’s.

He rests more during the session, struggles to drink his water without spilling some, and he and I have become more social.  His efforts though, have been just as focused as ever.

There is no way to quantify how George’s functional strength workouts have helped offset his fight with Parkinson’s, or whether they have made a difference at all.

At a time when I struggle walking the line between the utility of functional exercise, and the fulfillment of more intense exercise, George’s presence in my life is a grounding factor.

George pays me well for his two hours in my studio each week. As time goes on, and I ruminate over all I am learning from George – about how to address aging, disease, and the perspective he applies to both, I wonder more and more, who should be paying who.

Caught between utility and fulfillment…

Of my many daily rationalizations, chief among them is that my personally fulfilling, intensity-driven workouts offer my life a great deal of utility.

There may be some utility in me in racing up a 1,200 foot hill as fast as I can.  Running back down that same hill fast, I can assure you, is not in the best interest of my long-term physicality.  Nor do I believe that my quest for a bodybuilding title in September is in my body’s best long-term interest.

Probably not what I will be doing at 74 years old...

Probably not what I will be doing at 74 years old…

These ideals which underlie my exercise though, are who I am today.

Who I will be tomorrow…

I may never have the privilege of being 74 years old.  If I am so fortunate to get there, I have no illusion that I will look or function then as I do today.  I also require myself to accept that what I do today – how I exercise, and how often, may actually have a negative impact on the physicality of me at 74.  I don’t know.

There is a fine line between pursuing what we want, and what makes sense.  When I have difficulty distinguishing that line, or when I see it clearly but can’t decide which side I should stand on, I draw from the only scripture which has mattered to me in my adult life:

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”

More and more these days, I find myself caught between Emerson, and George — between the lessons of two great men who have both inspired me.  Be well.  rc…

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Oh, and there is this from the best rock and roll band you have never heard of, The Hellacopters.  Enjoy…

The Strength To Be Perfect…

The Form On The Inside

I tend to think absolutes.  Since most of my thinking each day is dedicated to the ideal of strength training, I spend a great deal of time thinking about proper form in strength training – absolute form.  By absolute I mean perfect. I think about it.  I teach it.  I attempt to live it.  I believe I benefit from it greatly, outside and in.

Strength training is an endeavor where perfection actually can be attained, and done so daily.  Think about that.  Few opportunities in life can provide us with a chance to approach, let alone achieve perfection.  It’s possible to do with strength training.  Perfection in strength training is a choice – a series of choices.

Proper form in strength training is the heart of it.  Internal and external benefit to one’s body notwithstanding, strength training is where a supreme connection can be made between mind and body – between spirit and flesh.  Though good form may be visible to, and appreciated by an onlooker, good form in strength training takes place first on the inside.

The Singular Repetition: A Timeless Place

An arm is extended and retracted.  A leg is raised and lowered again.  A torso turned and returned.  Through all if it there can be purity if the mind chooses purity.  It can be heavy and not require momentum.  It can be intense and not require a breach of form.  It can be productive and still be perfect.

A connection is first made – a realization that the weight moves up or down only when the mind and the body reciprocate with one another to achieve this objective.  The objective is to challenge the body and the mind, simultaneously, to direct heavy objects despite gravity.  As the mind and body intermingle to achieve this, the world beyond is minimized.

The singular repetition of a strength exercise, executed in proper form, through a complete range of motion, dialed into with absolute concentration, is as cleansing to me as a deep breath of fresh air. For that one moment, that one repetition, I am alone in a perfect state that transcends time. I am not even aware that there is a world beyond my repetition, let alone beyond my workout.

When the fatigue from the set – from the cumulative effect of the perfect repetitions allows the weight to feel so heavy that perfection gives way to momentum, I will break from my trance as cleanly as the break between two Saltine crackers and stop the lift.  I will then regroup, catch my breath, sip some water and begin again.

Client and workout partner, Carrie, exhibits a level of perfection with her strength training that is good as good gets. And the results are clear…

 The Choices: A Brief Seminar On Momentum-Free Execution of Strength Movements

1) No weight selected on a machine, barbell, or dumbbell ever be so heavy that perfect form could be not be attained for the desired number of repetitions. A body doesn’t know how heavy a weight is.  It only knows how heavy a weight feels.

2) Concentric: With weight in hands, or at the ends of the feet, one begins a slow raising of the weights. This lifting phase of the exercise (when the weight in whatever medium is headed upward toward the ceiling) should take 3-4 seconds. Regardless of the exercise or apparatus, whenever a weight is rising toward the ceiling, one should exhale slowly through the mouth as the weight rises.

3) Pause: When the weight is at its highest point away from the floor, that muscular contraction should be held a moment. An extra breath or two should be taken between each completed repetition. This increased oxygenation will allow the set to be sustained longer.

4) Eccentric: The weight is slowly returned to its starting position. This phase should take 5-6 seconds. One should breathe in slowly while the weight is being lowered.

5) Pause: When the weight is at its lowest point, the extension should be held for a moment with the muscles involved fully stretched yet still engaged, then returned upward.

6) Going excessively heavy will not make you stronger.  Cheating your form won’t make your muscles any larger and certainly not any shapelier.  Taking away from the purity of the exercise is to take away from the purity of the functional and the aesthetic effects of strength training.

The Perfection Connection

Moving weights perfectly, slowly through a complete range of motion will add value to your human experience. Choosing perfection in strength training will not only help you look better, but it will make you stronger where it matters most; outside the gym in this ongoing challenge we call everyday life.  Whether one is carrying a basket of laundry across a room or a bucket of tools across their property, a better outcome awaits from the pursuit and the practice of the perfect repetition.

It is though, the mental clarity I gain from this age old form of body-prayer, which keeps me coming back – perfect repetition after perfect repetition.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head…  Oh, and to learn more about Carrie’s other creative outlet, please visit www.babyasart.com

Hear Here: A Tale Of Jaw Cardio

Work-out Kryptonite…

For the better part of 20 years I have been able to work-out alone in my basement gyms, garage gym, or in the fitness studios I have owned. Occasionally I have had partners, but for the most part it has been me. Alone. Solo. Smile.

One of the better garages  have had...

Royland, 2003:  One of the better garages have had…

Through the years I have been able to avoid intermingling with lunks throwing weights, unnecessarily grunting, and messing up the place with traces of blood after prying their acne covered simian roid-backs off of the bench press.

I have also been able to avoid clueless cardio bunnies dressed like porn stars, with their ponytails fishing lures swinging back and forth as they stare aimlessly at CNN in front of them, all the while not really knowing where Libya is – and such.

"Like, I know how to make toast..." "Shut up!  I know how to make toast too...!"

Girl on right:  “Like, I know how to make toast…”
Girl on left:  “Shut up! I know how to make toast too…!”

And best of all, I have not had to navigate through the sea of old men in striped warmup suits taking up space as they read the Sunday Times in-between sets of the only exercise they know, triceps pushdown, as they loudly exchange ideas amongst and between them about how to save the world.

Yup, for 20 years I trained in my underwear if I wanted to, listened to audio books, lectures on physics or religion, and only occasionally loud music. My best training partner was the clock on the wall, there was no monthly auto-draft, and the gym was always open – to me.

I have though, maintained memberships pubic gyms – just in case. I have used them sparingly, only on those days when I needed to get out of my own studio for reasons of sanity, or to join my friend Marshal for our lunch time pre-burrito StepMill sessions.

When have ventured into public gyms, I have always aimed my head at the ground, kept earbuds plugged in, and I made eye contact with nobody. All of this to avoid the one person I knew could ruin my work-out, and subsequently my day; Jaw Cardio Guy. You know, that one guy who could carry on a 20 minute conversation about nothing, all by himself, and still hold me captive, all the while keeping me away from my precious deadlifts. I hate that guy.

A face I hope to never see again; Jaw Cardio Guy...

A face I hope to never see again; Jaw Cardio Guy…

On those occasions when Jaw Cardio Guy would be so insistent that we speak, that he could break me from my trance and get me to take out my earbuds just to appease him I would, in very clear terms, make him aware that my time is precious, my work-out is necessary, and his conversation was kryptonite. I’m just not nice in those scenarios.

He-man Of The People…

I’m now working out in a public gym regularly for the first time since 1995. This gym is also where I have the proprietary interest for my fitness training business. Since each person working out there is a potential student, being a dick is not an option. Each conversation I have may augment my livelihood. Notwithstanding, this is my community now and being philanthropic with my time and my expertise is the right way to be.

Still, there remains my desire to be deep in focus, lost in my meat during my sets since strength training is the methadone of my existence. Despite this, if I am going to be the man in this town, I must be a man of the people and find middle ground.

For about a month now I have been assimilating myself into the local gym. I have already met some nice people and a few of them have become students. I have also been dragged into conversations that two years ago I would want or have no part of. Now I see these conversations as human, and am learning how to appreciate them and engage in them without losing the rhythm of my work-out.

This I Have Already Learned…

To let go a bar after a completed set and take a few minutes to answer a gentleman’s question about which exercises might help offset his sciatica, is not the end of the world. He will probably never be a student, but I enjoy watching him fulfill my suggestions, and can see that it’s already helping him.

Telling someone, “no, I’m not using that bench – go ahead” while I’m mid-set of a fairly heavy squat did not cause me to drop the bar, stop the set, cause my legs to shrink, or cause me to get fat. It simply caused me to smile and take an extra breath.

Where I once wouldn't be caught dead talking in the gym, I'm now likely to be found dead-talking...

Where I once wouldn’t be caught dead talking in the gym, I’m now likely to be found dead-talking…

If a political discussion comes my way while I’m doing dumbbell flies it won’t deter from completing my set, any more than it will persuade me to change my world view mid-rep, though it might help me better read the pulse of my community. I will eternally though, label an asshole an asshole if he or she uses the term, “nigger president” as happened so frequently in my last community.

Mostly, I have learned that talking, being friendly – being outright social in the gym can be a very human experience, enrich my day, and will not cause me to lose my gains. Along with work, human relationships are what we are here for. How blessed am I that I get to combine both on a daily basis… Be well… rc

If you enjoyed this, please scroll back to the top and rate it. 

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Reunion.  Forty years later I still nailed it word for word.  Enjoy…

Stand Up..

I was quite touched when I read this piece by Shannon.  Though the Stand Up TV event is over, cancer remains.  Please take a few moments to appreciate this heartfelt perspective.  Thank you.

Comments are closed this week.

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A guest post by, Shannon of http://www.maybeyoucanrelate.com

a1shan

The picture above is from my mom’s funeral program. The sentiment, “There are no other mommys like you.”, scrawled on the back of scrap paper and presented, no-doubt proudly, by a preschooler 35 years ago to her mom, is mine, but it is a sentiment felt by kids young and old about their own moms.

Neither I, when I wrote it, nor my mom when she stashed it away to pull out and look back on years later, thought it would make its next appearance as a final tribute on her funeral program at age 59. Or that I, her 36 year-old-daughter who had written that note on the back of a drawing some thirty years before, would such a relatively short time later, be making the decision to have it buried with her.

It doesn’t matter what age you are or what age they are, losing a loved one is devastating. Losing them to cancer needs to stop. And some day I know it will. My hope is that day will come sooner than later.

I’m not going to give you a lot of facts and statistics. There are plenty of places that can do that better than me.

I am just going to give you my personal story.

Cancer has touched other members of my family and friends, but never like it did when it hit my own mom two years ago. She had been extra tired, exhausted actually. The summer before, she had an unexplained cough that took months to go away. But, life carried on as normal.

Until she woke up August 14, 2012 with a completely limp left arm. She couldn’t move her arm at all, it simply hung at her side. A few days later the weakness spread to her left leg. Then came the diagnosis.

She had seven tumors in her brain.

December 18, 2012 at 4:30pm, 127 days after her first symptom, my mom passed away.

I am going to be honest. I try not to think about cancer every day. I actually don’t even keep too many reminders of my mom around the house. I have a small set of four pictures propped up on the vanity table where I do my makeup every morning, but other than that, I don’t keep a lot of physical reminders around. The emotional reminders are ever-present on a daily basis. Still. Nearly two years after she passed away.

Mom.

The memories, the happy, the sad, they all mingle together in my head. The shock and confusion of her cancer diagnosis, the physical and emotional struggle of her illness, and the heartbreak of her death, all those memories are hard to handle. Even the happy memories of the past often remind me there are no more happy memories to be made with my mom. So, most times I find myself shying away from mentions of cancer, for my own self-preservation.

But, this year, when I saw the commercial for the Stand Up 2 Cancer event that will be airing on all major television networks tonight, Friday September 5, I decided I wanted to participate. And I wanted to spread the word a bit.

I went to the standup2cancer.org website and bought a t-shirt that I wore to work today. I will tune in to the televised event tonight at 8/7c. I will make a donation. I will remember my mom and other family and friends I have lost to cancer.

There are millions of women, men, boys, girls, toddlers, and babies fighting cancer.

Some will survive, some will not.

Babies who haven’t had a chance to crawl. Boys who have never ridden a bike without training wheels. Girls who have yet to hit their first home run. Teenagers who are just finding their own voice. Young men and women who just want a chance to make their mark on the world. Young brides and husbands just starting their lives together. Moms and dads with young children. Moms and dads with grown children who still see their babies when they look in their kid’s eyes. Grandparents who have lived a long and storied life, and are prepared to go, but should be able to leave this world not in pain.

Moms. Dads. Daughters. Sons. Sisters. Brothers. Grandpas. Grandmas. Aunts. Uncles. Nieces. Nephews. Cousins. Mentors. Friends.

All over the world, every day, people are fighting, living with, and dying from cancer.

I want to keep other families from going through what I’ve been through, and what millions of other families around the world have been through, and are going through every day.

If you have the means, I urge you to make a donation to support cancer research. If you don’t have the means to donate, simply spread the word and remember your own loved ones tonight.

https://www.standup2cancer.org/

As they say on the website, “When we all come together, cancer doesn’t stand a chance. This is where the end of cancer begins.”

I’m standing up for my mom, Melinda, who was my best friend, my biggest supporter, and my favorite person to laugh with for 36 years.

Who will you Stand Up For?

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I’ll be back, far too soon, with something far less important.  Be well…  rc

Gratatouille Part II…

Facebook Games…

Social media can be a fickle bitch. One week it’ll slap me on the back of the head and make me wish I didn’t own a computer at all, while simultaneously wondering why I remain friends with that asshole or moron who writes, believes, or propagates so much of the hatred, nonsense, or ideas unwanted.

Other weeks, social media can bring me nearly to tears, overjoyed with the human connections, ideas, and experiences that reach me through my 17” window to the world and touch me so deeply.

Though I try hard to avoid Facebook trends and games and hope not to drag others into them, this week one caught me by surprise. My friend, Jenny Marie, tagged me to share 3 gratitudes per day for 5 straight days. I have to say this was one of the better experiences I have had on Facebook in a quite a while.

Rather than write my usual essay this week, I thought it would be fun to share my 15 gratitudes here.  This is dedicated to those readers of this blog who are not on Facebook or captives of social media.

Day 1 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Family

1) I am grateful for Trudy. Though we are not married any longer, she remains the most important person in my life, alongside the daughter that we share. Her friendship and kindness defy words.

2) I am grateful for my Mark. Being 4 years my senior, my brother has taught me many lessons, and provided much inspiration in my life.

3) I am grateful for my mother, the only woman on earth named Willie. She has always, and I mean (even today) always been there for me.

Mom.  Always there...

Mom. Always there…

Day 2 of 5 my days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Today’s theme: (some of) my near death experiences

1 – You learn a lot when your parachute doesn’t open correctly. Even more when you spend a year housebound recovering from the related spinal injury – oh and there’s a toddler in the house. For all the lessons I learned in that turning point in my life (1993), I am grateful, and can honestly say I haven’t taken too many days for granted since.

2 – You learn a lot when you drink beer for breakfast while camping with your buddies and decide to leave your lawn chair and jump into the top of a Class IV rapid. Of all my near death experiences that one should have killed me. Every bone in my body took an exceptional jolt except for my head. I am grateful for the humility I gained. Another turning point in my life.

Yes.  I actually jumped into this...

Yes. I actually jumped into this…

3 – You learn a lot when you realize there’s a rattlesnake in your car. I learned immediately that the entrance to the King Sooper’s grocery store could accommodate an S10 pickup. Got out, went right to the gardening tools, grabbed a shovel, and killed said snake. Not a single employee questioned me or what I was doing. I am grateful I saw him before it was too late.

 Day 3 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Self-deprecation:

1 – I am grateful to all of those who know me, and like me anyway.

2 – I am grateful that I can look at the disappointment of a man that I was 15 years ago, but take comfort knowing that I eventually learn from all of my mistakes.

3 – Mostly today, I am as grateful for my pain as I am for my health so that in the words of Bob Dylan, I can know that I’m really real.

 Day 4 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Stroodle

1- The truth is, when he was brought to me 7 years ago as an abused 1-year old, I didn’t want him. My friend and her daughter insisted I take him. I think about that almost every day now – that I didn’t even want him. I am so grateful for said friend, and Stroodle.

2- Every morning while he is still in sleepyhead position (shown), I thank him aloud for the lessons he teaches me daily in humility, unconditional love, and living in the present. I am grateful for this ritual.

3- We walk commando (off leash) 3-4 times per day. I am grateful for the purity and joy I see when he turns back at the end, and sprints to the front door.

My hero, truly...

My hero, truly…

Day 5 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Today’s theme: Humor And Mental Survival

In the last 3 months I have walked away from a successful business, had my bike (my only transportation) stolen, got burned by a couple of clients for some pretty big money, I have moved 3 times and lived for 2 months without a place to call home until this week. I almost got my head taken out by a falling gate arm, and I have seen several good friends going through incredibly difficult times. I have been in dark places myself, fearful and more desperate at times than I would ever let on in social media. Through it all though, I have not lost my sense of humor.

1- I am grateful for my brother who almost singlehandedly cultivated an irreverent sense of humor in me while growing up – to the point that being the class clown was the primary reason I stayed in school as long as I did, though I did eventually release myself on my own recognizance. He taught me abut Franklin Ajaye, George Carlin, and Woody Page.

2- I am grateful for my father who raised me with regular jokes in the car and at the dinner table. They were often horrible, unfunny, or too complicated for me to get, but they were a constant part of my upbringing.

3- I am grateful for all the comedians of this world. A few of them might even read this. As Lewis Black once said, “the only thing that separates us from those who wish to see us all perish, is our sense of humor”.

I could not agree more. Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it goes down smooth and never leaves me with a hangover.

That’s it.  Fifteen 15 gratitudes in 5 days.  I may just keep this up, even if it means I lose a few social media friends.   Ok, one more: I am grateful for the awareness this has brought to me.   Be well… rc

Please take a moment to scroll up and rate this.  Thank you!

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push to STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Courtney Barnett. Enjoy…