At Peace With The World…

Troubling Times…

Clearly it’s been a difficult month in America, and around the world.  Just yesterday .000000011% of the world’s population was killed in an act of terrorism in France.  In writing this, I don’t wish to diminish in any way the loss, the suffering, and the feelings of sorrow which resulted from the incidents of terror and violence which have taken place from Istanbul to Dallas in recent weeks.

Like laser beams though, channeled through our LCD windows to the world, we continue to allow streams of violence and destruction into our minds which are highly disproportionate in relation to the world’s population and activity.  The images we invite into our minds forge thoughts and conclusions in our heads that skew reality so severely that most of us fail to see and appreciate the world we actually live in.

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I say this not as an ignorant man tossing a mindless opinion about freely.  Rather, as man who invests a great deal of his spare time attempting to learn and reconcile the human condition and the directionality of society by way of books, journals, and lectures from some the world’s leading critical thinkers.

I also write this as someone whose own daughter passed through the international terminal at the airport in Istanbul, just days prior to a man blowing himself up there.  She had walked within yards of where that incident took place.

Beyond The Information Beams…

Today, roughly 7.1 billion people did not get blown up, shot, held hostage, or engage in violent protests.  Many of those 7.1 billion people had amazing sex.  Some did not.  A lot of those people started new jobs while others got deservedly fired due to a lack in their productivity.  Somewhere in southern Europe a young man tended a flock of sheep thinking very little about anything but the safety of the flock.

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Elsewhere, a woman took a coworker’s lunch from the refrigerator of the breakroom at work, without fist asking permission.  Directly over our heads, a pilot both drank and slept on the job, while most others were careful not to.  A Rabbi married a young couple in Brooklyn, and a new baby was born in a thatch hut somewhere on an island in the pacific.  Since our televisions and laptops weren’t aimed at any of these, the broad actions of others across the world did little to help cultivate our social sensibilities.

Though we think we control our LCD windows to the world, and to some degree we do, our minds are fed primarily by a finite stream of for-profit institutions which make greater profits when we are compelled to stay tuned for more details.  Dog bites man isn’t a story.  Man bites dog is.

MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, and all the others are masters of seeking out and beating to death the man bites dog stories, and we are hungrier than ever to absorb them because shock and awe provide us with an addictive stimulation.  I can no longer tell the difference between NPR and Yahoo news online.

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The Directionality Of Culture…

I am to cultural anthropology as sea cucumber is to semiconductor, so I’m not going to site books, data sources or anything else to support this opinion, but I will argue until my dying breath this clear truth…

Cumulatively, from the day of my birth until my ashes feed the fishes, the span of my life will have taken place during the most peaceful time on earth.  With few exceptions, every age of man could say the same thing – that theirs was the most peaceful time on earth.

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This is not to suggest that during my lifetime or any time there have not been spikes of violence and gross atrocities committed by horrible people.  However, as social media is brimming with far too many of these violent times we live in observations, it just isn’t true – not in the big picture.  The most violent cultures on earth were hunter-gatherer societies, and it’s been getting more peaceful, on average, with every subsequent generation.  Perhaps the best way to comprehend that statement is this:

Imagine a ball is held at arm’s length. That ball, in that place and at that moment, is the most violent time on earth – hunter-gatherer times.  The hand lets go the ball.

The most peaceful time on earth, the one our descendants will inherit, will be when the ball is resting firmly on the ground.

When the hand releases the ball to hit the ground, the ball bounces up, but then it falls again.  It bounces up, but not as high, hits the ground. Bounces up again, and so-on, over hundreds of thousands of years.

Eventually, after a good bit of bouncing, the ball will rest peacefully on the ground.

The direction we are headed is one of a global culture of cooperation – of the ball resting on the ground. It won’t get there without some bounces, but the trajectory is clear, after each bounce we become a little more peaceful.  There is no shortage of good data that demonstrates this in clear terms.

The need to be informed exists within all of us.  It’s incumbent upon us to stay informed.  I’ll make a pitch here though, that we take time to look and live beyond the technologies that feed our minds electronically, since they account for so little of what takes place around the world each day.  Speak to strangers.  Step into new places.  Don’t let fears govern our choices.  Be well…  rc

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Squalls Of Vanity And Function…

Old Guys Rule…

One of the things which attracted me to recreational bodybuilding in my teens was that it is an old man’s endeavor.  I realized early that playing football, baseball, and wrestling had their limits and, that young men peaked out with both function and opportunity by the time they reach their late teens or early 20s.  Early on though, I saw evidence of quality physiques being maintained by men who lifted weights well into their 60s, 70s, and even into their 80s.  For a kid who hated letting go of anything good, bodybuilding appeared to be a sustainable long-term outlet.

I also realized early that older bodybuilders, despite having quality physiques, can often look weathered, flat, and 2-dimensional.  That is, they can have muscle and be lean, but those physiques didn’t appear youthful nor supple.   Just the same, the idea of looking and functioning well at an older age appealed to me.

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Weathered…?  Perhaps, but still functioning well and, in my opinion, looking great!

Cyclical Affair…

Bodybuilding is a seasonal endeavor.  Even at the recreational level, few people stay in top shape year round.  Maintaining a quality physique in the long-term, is a cyclical way of life.  It’s like rotating crops and soil so they bear better fruit, longer.  To go the distance in bodybuilding, it’s important to relax the diet at times, as well as to back off on the workouts.

Bodybuilding shape, as I define it to myself, means maintaining the most possible muscle, with the least possible amount of body fat.  For me this is the 9-12% range.

I hadn’t been that lean in nearly a decade, so in my early 50s I dieted to down to get into bodybuilding shape once again.  This was around 2012-2013.  As I went through this process, I was surprised with how young my physique still appeared.  I was 51 and looking 40ish.  I kept this condition for roughly 9 months before I decided to relax the cycle a bit.

As my priorities changed during this period, I let my body fat climb up to roughly 15-16% where it is now, but have maintained a fairly rigorous, but not all-out, weight room schedule.  My daily running or hill climbing happens no matter what.  I don’t look spectacular by bodybuilding standards, but by middle aged man standards, I’m ahead of the game.

Every Ointment Needs A Fly…

More recently, I have gathered my life to be in an order it has not seen in a decade.  I am once again living the life I designed, and it’s pretty damn good.   I live in a nice home.  I maintain a healthy business.  I’m spending quality time with my mother and my friends.  So, with everything in my life going that well, why not screw it up by getting in bodybuilding shape once again…?

With no clear objective in sight, other than to just kick the tires and see what might still be under the hood, I have intensified my strength training, and begun to streamline my eating.  Not with the intentions of competing in bodybuilding, but just to see where I’m at.  I’m roughly 4 weeks into this process.

I’m no longer a mirror guy.  That is, I can walk past them without turning my head, but I did take a peak today – just for a moment.  As I honed in on my self-honing, I saw a man I knew would eventually be looking back at me; older bodybuilding guy.

I’m pleased with my conditioning so far, though I still have about 6 weeks until I hit that 10-12% body fat mark.  However, the shoulders and triceps are not as round as they once were – less full.  The quads still have some geometry, but no longer sweep and pop with every step.  The V-taper is now more a v-taper, and the calves are just calves, and no longer cattle.  I look weathered, flat, and 2-dimensional.

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Weathered…?  Perhaps, but still looking and functioning well….

Any Gym In A Storm…

In all of this I’m not the least bit disappointed.  I have always known it was inevitable.  I no longer produce testosterone the way I did even 5 years ago.  I now eat very little animal protein.  I push during my strength workouts, but not as much as I once did.

I have long recognized and appreciated that we are designed to age – that our looks as well as our abilities and will lessen in time.  My body is now weathered too, only to be weathered a little more with each passing year.  My body is not weathered from having passed through massive storms which might have torn it apart.  My body is weathered from all the little storms which I willingly step into each day in the form of my workouts; the squalls of vanity and function.  Be well…  rc

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One Now, One Later, And One On Down The Road…

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

When I was 13 years old, the book Pumping Iron was given to me by my mother.  The book’s impact was immediate, and steered me in a direction in which I had no control; a lifetime of bodybuilding.  Bodybuilding morphed into fitness, which ultimately led to a career.  The book that Charles Gaines and George Butler assembled in 1974 was the foundation for my passionate life of exercise.  In a more subtle way, and over a long period of time, Pumping Iron also gave me the foundations for a couple other passions.  More on those later.

Though I opened that book daily and was obsessed by its pictures, I would not actually read Pumping Iron for nearly 5 years after it was given to me.  Since I struggled with reading, I selected only brief passages, and only on occasion.  Who needed words, when George Butler’s black and white photos told a story I was so hungry to see…?

I would spend the next few years of my life putting all my eggs in one basket, and clutching that basket.  Lifting weights was the first discipline I would wholly commit to.  If nothing else, from Pumping Iron, which led to pumping iron, I learned that I had discipline.  In time it became clear that I was not so genetically gifted nor so determined, that competitive bodybuilding would be my dominion.

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My Future’s So Dark…

Elsewhere in my life, I was less disciplined.  By the time I was in my late teens I was a high school dropout with a bodybuilding habit, no skills, and no apparent future.  The US military would be my only hope.  To be considered for the military, I would have to take my GED.  Being dyslexic, I was fearful that my struggles with reading would inhibit this process.  To this point, I had never read a book of any kind from cover to cover.

So with a workout-like discipline, I chose to read an hour per day – no matter what, hoping my reading would improve.  I selected Pumping Iron to read first because I had an interest in its content.  If any book could help pry me from the pictures and place me into the words, this was going to be it.  A funny thing happened on the way to The End…

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Reading Pumping Iron was a chore.  I kept at it, because I believed my future depended on becoming a better reader.   Despite my struggles, there were occasional passages which kept me coming back for more – like a good golf shot on an otherwise fruitless outing.  Charles Gaines crafted phrases that suited my imagination.  Writing of the bodybuilder Pierre Van den Steen, Gaines wrote,

“The little Belgian whose chest looks carved from ice.”

Of Arnold Schwarzenegger performing incline bench presses, Gaines wrote,

“His biceps looked like two grapefruit sliding on greased tracks.”

Reading was a challenge, but images like those provided a sufficient reward.  I completed the book, and felt that my reading actually had improved along the way.  I would read more books prior to taking my GED, but none painted pictures the way that the words of Charles Gaines did.

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It was some lucky combination of intuitive guessing and my improved reading ability which got me through my GED.  I would go on to serve in the US Coast Guard.  It was during my time in the Coast Guard when I began to write creatively.  With Charles Gaines’ descriptive phrase still bubbling under my psyche, I felt like I had something to say, and was somewhat confident in my ability.  This would be a short lived discipline though, as my writing time was a lesser priority than my exercise time.  I would not write again creatively for another decade.

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Workouts And Words…

My pre-dawn workouts, originally inspired by Pumping Iron, were once the most important part of my day.  Those workouts now take place later in the day or in the evening, and though they are still important, writing is what does it for me now.  Eventually writing took priority over lifting.  For nearly 15 years now, I have been writing for one hour every morning, almost without exception, with workout-like discipline.

I like it when the words of others paint pictures in my head.  I also enjoy using words to paint pictures of my own.  Words, in that sense, are the most malleable medium we can use as form of creative expression.  As I sip coffee in bed, with my mammal at my hip, and my 17” window to the world on my lap, I attempt to craft sentences like Charles Gaines did in Pumping Iron, knowing all the while that I am to Charles Gaines’ writing as I also am to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique – much less than, but I still have fun.

Walks And Wonder…

Oh, and there’s been one other influence Pumping Iron has had on me, which I have only now come to realize and appreciate…

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Each morning, after I’m done with my writing session I walk through town with my dog.  As Stroodle takes in the smells of the day, I have come to appreciate how well this town sets up in black & white.  George Butler shot all the pictures for Pumping Iron with a Leicaflex SL2, and those photographs were nothing less than artistic.

I’m just a chimp with smartphone, and do nothing which I would consider artistic, but I have fun with it, as I have fun with writing and lifting, and that my friends explains all the picture above which have almost nothing to do with this story.  Be well…  rc

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The Ongoing Battle…

I have invested far too much in seeking precise answers to questions that I know have no clear ones.   Chief among these questions is this…

Just because we are capable of doing something physical, and we can refer to it as a form of exercise, does it mean that we should take that action…?

My formula for answering this question has (almost) always defaulted to the risk/reward ratio.  That is, does the risk involved with performing the exercise outweigh the reward…?

I think I have spent the last couple of decades making what I think are good choices based on using the risk/reward formula, both for me as well as for my clients.

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Even so, there are times when I step under a bar to do a squat or lay on a bench to push a weight vertically away from my body, and I will ask myself if this is the right thing to do.  If I am wrong, and I am wearing myself out prematurely or putting myself at risk then that’s on me.

If, however, I ask a client to stand under a bar, to jump, or even to twist, turn or bend, and I haven’t fully analyzed and applied the risk/reward ratio, not only am I a bad trainer, I’m also an ass.

On the surface, I always feel as though I am doing the right thing, but deep down I wonder, and I guess I always will…  Jhciacb

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Reading, Riting, and Roy…

“I write not to get money, but for pleasure.”

Isaak Walton, from The Compleat Angler 1653

The gift of words…

Of all the gifts inherent to me, the one I am most appreciative of is creativity.  Though I seek a creative path with most of my affairs, my primary creative outlet is writing essays.  I see each essay as a kind of performance.  The beauty for me is that I am under no scrutiny when I perform.  I am free to make mistakes, change directions, retool, stop and start again, or throw it away without anyone but me ever knowing about it.

If I have completed an essay, and thrown it out to be read by an audience of dozens, it’s because I feel I have done my best with it.  If read by even a few, I feel validated even when criticized.  I understand that not everyone will be interested in what I have to share, while others may have interest but not agree with my message.  If a few people find value in my thoughts, that’s great, but I would write anyway.

I am not a professional writer.  I am a hobbyist who, like most hobbyists, would rather spend time working at my craft than at my job.  At this point, I feel that I am a capable amateur.  Not world class, but a better writer than many who are professionals.  I enjoy my job as a fitness trainer, and also see that as a creative outlet, it’s just that writing is a necessary compulsion for me.  One benefit of my day job is that it affords me the time to write.

I can write a 1,000-word essay in less than an hour, and do so with relative ease.  In fact, if I begin taking too long on an essay, I’m usually overthinking it.  When this happens, I will put it aside or just throw it away.  My creative side wants my words to flow, not be forced or hurried into place.

If the truth be told, I could not write a lick if not for modern word processing software.  My mind is too disorganized to write in longhand, and in linear fashion.  That I can cut, paste, backspace, and try different paragraphs in different places serves my dyslexic brain well.  If words are the color pallet of my creativity, editing options are my brush.

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My writer’s den…

Listen up…

Here’s the irony; I read at less than an 8th grade level.  Though writing essays is easy for me, reading one takes work – because I have to see all the words at once.  Reading a book is an outright chore.  I don’t enjoy reading.  I do read on occasion.  Most of what I physically read are online articles, columns, and blogs.  A friend or client might hand me a book.  When this happens, I make every attempt to read it even if I do struggle with the process.  It’s important to me to honor a gift from another, even if it is a book.  Honestly though, I remember very little of what I read.  I listen to books.  I listen to books every day of my life.

My comprehension when listening is greater than when I read, probably because when I listen to books I’m active.  I don’t just sit and listen to books.  I listen to books while I clean, while I organize, and when I exercise.  I listen to Kurt Vonnegut when I deadlift, and Stephen Hawking when I bench press.  I believe the activity with my body frees my brain up to absorb information better than if I just sat and listened.

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My “reading” room…

There are times when I will buy a hardcopy of a book I am listening to.  If I find a life-changing value with it, I will read portions of it concurrently – not as I am actually listening to the book, but in the same time frame.  This allows me to use a highlighter on certain passages of the hard copy which I can easily find and review later.

The books which interest me most are on science and the humanities.  I don’t listen to much fiction – there is enough of that already in my head.  There’s something about a book being spoken into my mind, especially when done by a good narrator – it’s as though the voice of God is projecting it to me, or the voice of an authority figure anyway.

My library and my shame…

With my listening done digitally, my book shelf is my phone.  I know for my literary-minded friends this is near sacrilege – to not have a wall or a room full of books.  My entire library fits in my pocket.  I like that it is always with me.  I wonder if my more literate friends ever feel sad that they leave their library behind as they walk out of their home each day.

The collection of my own writings is even less soulful.  I don’t save hard copies or even digital copies of what I write.  After I complete an essay and post it to my blog, I delete the Word document from my laptop.  All the thoughts I am so compelled to forge and to share, I trust to the gods of Google and WordPress, that anyone who might be interested in them will be able to find them, stored on a server in some unknown location with trillions of other data bits until the end of time.

That I write with the aid of technology feels good.  I enjoy the process, and am proud of the way I create my essays from my laptop.  People seem to be very accepting of this.  That I depend on technology for my learning, in place of reading, doesn’t sit as well in my head.  I feel guilty, often ashamed that I can’t read that well, and that opening a book intimidates me.  However, my biology conspired against me ever becoming a good reader.  My eyes play tricks with words, and no amount of practice makes this better.  In the scope of reading and writing, this is just who I am.

Whether they are printed on parchment or sent to straight to silicon, words are the primary messengers of all of our ideas.  Words allow us to share so much.  For my part, the words I send out each week are a message in a digital bottle.  I never know where they will wash up, but I am always hopeful they will be read by someone.  Be well…  rc

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Catharsisaurus Rx…

The blender in my head…

I’ve been living deep inside my head recently.  More so than usual.  I am haunted by the complexities of modern life and how they may be impacting my reality, assuming there is a reality. That doubt, of my own reality, is the heart of the thing.

On the surface I train clients, check on my mother, text my daughter, and reassure my dog.  Underneath all of this, my mind is bombarded by tiny pellets of doubt, all day long, that are slowly deteriorating the shield which protects my rational side.  Among my greatest fears is that this shield will parish before I do, leaving the chaos in my head to play unbridled havoc with my mind as I age.

My inner Cartesian has come to appreciate those frantic moments in my life, like when my frozen vegetables fly out of the bag and land all over my floor because I pulled them too quickly from my freezer.  That things like this always happen at the worst possible time also serves me well.  Those moments snap me out of my doubt, if only for an instant, and halt the existential banter between all the Roys within.

The life within the life…

I regularly entertain the life within the life.  I imagine waking from a nap on a summer’s day, my right cheek sticking only slightly to the warm concrete beside the swimming pool of my youth.  The distant chatter of Marco and Polo awakens me.  I am 12 years old, and the life that I have lived since will have been only a dream.  Reagan never won.  I never married so I never divorced, and the internet was all in my imagination.

Perhaps though, I’ll awaken in an asylum, and not by the pool, my arms tied behind my back, and with a crayon between my toes I write my suicide note on a foam wall.  This life I write from right now will have been a peaceful dream, and what lay ahead, a nightmare.

And don’t get me started on my lifetime of chronic bad dreams.  Where do I go when I dream…?  Is what I do any less real than what I do when I’m awake…?  In an active mind, I often feel that the only thing separating my reality from my dreams is the spelling of the words.

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Kinda hopin’ Really hopin’ I don’t wake up here…

Occasionally I’ll consider that all other people are just extras in an orchestrated game between the gods.  I am at the center of their illustrious amusement – just a silver ball in their game of pantheonic pinball.  At the end of the game, I wonder, will the gods rise in unison and offer me the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down, based on how well I performed bouncing off the obstacles they set before me.  Ever-present is the feeling I am being watched and judged.

The illusion of conclusion…

Even if I am real, where and how am I real…?  Between parallel universes, infinite universes, or an eternal universe where anything that can happen will happen, I find myself right here, right now, and in this glorious life.  Although in the quantum world, I’m only probably here, and probably now.

Physicist Brian Greene tells me freewill is only an illusion and suggests that mathematics supports this.  The calculations of my future have already been laid out, he says, and that I have no say in my say.  However, I don’t steel tips off tabletops in restaurants when nobody is looking, and I don’t push people down the stairs – even when they deserve it.  Sounds like free will to me.

Some scientists suggest existence as I know it is some kind of holographic image created in an alternate reality, and is smaller than the tip of a pen.  Others say I am slave to the algorithms within a cellular automaton.  Just the thought of that has me pining to be a slave building a pyramid, for at least then I would exist in a simpler state.

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Holographic Youniverse…

The idea that some being in another dimension might be administering my every thought and every motion by way of a joystick bubbles under the surface of my daydreaming as I clean my studio.  On one hand this appeals to me inasmuch as if it is true, then I am exonerated from all indiscretion and responsibility.  However, if I’m not a Sea Monkey in a jar on some extraterrestrial kitchen counter, atonement and responsibility are not only my duty, they are my only hope.

Dog is one of us…

When my eyes lock with my dog I feel love and truth – simultaneously.  That emotion is a daily confirmation that I am real.  When our eyes break though, I can’t help wondering if my dog is actually an angel sending signals back to God, or an observer sending recommendations back to the mother ship.  I wonder the same thing with many of my human contacts too, you who is reading this included.

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“Stroolde calling Orson, come in Orson…”

I flash back to a time in school when I was taunting a special needs kid.  My friend Jeff stopped me and said…

“Roy!  Don’t tease Milton!  What if he’s God and he’s just testing you…?”

Jeff was joking, but I’ve never been able to get that thought out of my head; that anyone else might be God, or a designated representative of the Junta Grande.

The scratch ticket and the interwebs…

I feel guilty for having won the lottery of existence.  All my needs are met – exceedingly.  I’m able to enjoy and appreciate so much.  That I get to make a living doing what I love, and do so in such a beautiful place seems unjust to me, on behalf of those who can’t.  I wonder why I’m not a knobby-knee’d Ethiopian child with fly on one eye suckling his mother’s dry tit.  Yet I seem to be me, and this seems to be my time and my place – probably.

Living in the internet age has only thrown gasoline on the fire of my doubts.  I wonder if this increased connectivity with people and information around the world isn’t just an expanded test by my maker.  It makes no sense that I have instant access to most of the much of the knowledge ever attained and so much information, even if it isn’t always accurate.

Are my social media friends and my analog friends truly connections, or are they an audience watching me and trying to influence the way I bounce off the bumpers in the pinball game of my life…?  They might just be 7-billion lesser gods.

When I look the grocery clerk, the beggar, or the barista in the eyes, I often wonder if they’re thinking,

“He’s on to us…”

That people so seamlessly merge in and out of my digital and analog lives makes me feel increasingly uneasy.

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My maker…?

The known universe is precisely 54 years old…

Let’s assume I am real.  I see memes on social media daily that remind me how small and insignificant I am relative to the immensity of the universe.  This is bad internet juju in my opinion.  I am the only component in the universe that I have absolute dominion over.  If ultimate inter-connectivity is inevitable, then the universe can’t fulfill its own destiny if I fail to fulfill mine.

I was dead for nearly 14-billion years before I was born.  I’ll be dead again in a decade or two more.  I better get this thing right while I’m still here.  It’s all pretty overwhelming at times, this work of performance art which I call my life.

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At the end of the day, I suppose my reality is simply my choice – my decision to carry forward without worrying too much about any of this.  Whether or not I’m a spec in the universe, the center of it, or an organic shuttlecock in game of badminton between gods, so long as standing in nature stirs my heart, and my daughter returns my phone calls, I will choose to act and feel real.  I will though, always have my doubts.  Be well, and thank you for taking the time…  rc

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Enjoying God’s creation, in his creation, and where I feel most real..

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Music Has The Power Of Wings…

Why So Many…

I was saddened when I heard of Merle Haggard’s passing last week.  I chose to take the rest of that day off to hike, to contemplate, and to write, just as I did with the passings of Glenn Frey, Michael Been, Christ Whitley, and Stuart Adamson.  Each has left substantial etchings on my psyche.

In 2016, people are asking the same question,

Why so many rock & roll deaths all of the sudden…?

It actually makes sense.  Like the big bang of the universe, Rock & Roll had a big bang of its own in 1954 when Bill Haley sang Rock Around the Clock.  That singularity set the Rock & Roll universe into motion.  Haley would be 91 if he were alive today.  But he’s not alive, he’s dead, just like everyone else is or will be.

Like any big bang, the Rock & Roll big bang resulted in an increasing complexity, creating more and more stars as time passed.  Whether they be stars in the universe or those here on earth, stars are born to grow bright, some more bright than others, and to ultimately perish.  With so many more stars existing than ever, that they are losing their lives with increasing frequency should not surprise us.

Despite the sadness we feel when they go, each passing star is the ultimate reminder of their work and their gifts.  So long as we remember it and pass it to the next generation, music can be eternal, if even the musician can’t.

On The Values Of Music…

“Music has the power of wings.”  Mike Scott

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Music has helped me frame moments and has provided postures that have salvaged me time and again.   In my post-divorce years, music helped me find faith and mindfulness.  On stressful days, music has been a release – a way to vent by listening rather than speaking.  Music has helped me relax when needed, and I have used music to amp me up when coffee had its limits.  Music has calmed a heart full of rage, and prevented a clinched fist more than a time or two.  Music transports.

Above all things to me, music has been about relationships. The relationships which have come my way because of music have had the power to endure in ways many of my nonmusical relationships haven’t.

When I was 15 my father caught me jumping on my bed and mimicking Jeff Baxter’s guitar solos in My Old School.  My dad, who hated rock music, found the humor, then joined me on his own air guitar, forging a moment in time I will never forget.

Music can help reinforce a strained relationship better than concrete and steel.  Had it not been for a common love of music during her teen years, my relationship with my daughter might have never recovered after her mother and I divorced.

In the 16 years since that divorce, my daughter’s mother and I remain close friends – largely because of a love of music.  Just three nights ago my lovely former wife called to ask me about some of the guitars Sister Rosetta Tharpe played. At first she chastised me for never exposing her to Tharpe

“Why haven’t you ever told me about her…?” she asked.

We stayed on the phone for quite a while and enjoyed some laughter.  I got a bit weepy when we hung up because the conversation was so dear; two divorced people laughing and talking about whether or not Prince’s guitars might be derivative of Tharpe’s, and whether or not it was a Gibson or a Gretsch.

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If being human is about relationships, then I know of no better way to enjoy or enhance a relationship than by exposing it to music.  Music can transcend politics, religion, philosophy and even social status when it is allowed to.  For this to work though, one’s ears need to be open.

I think of my camping friends who I meet most summers in Nebraska.  From working class schlubs like me, to educated working professionals – conservative and liberal, Christian, Atheist or Jew, when the campfire is aglow and the guitars come out, we harmonize as one.

Music To Our Children And Beyond…

As a child, when my father wasn’t playing Pete Fountain or Mitch Miller on the Sears Robuck stereo, my mother was playing Eddie Arnold and Bobbi Gentry.  On Brigadoon, they both agreed.  Music was encouraged.  In our house at one time or another were drums, trombones, a trumpet, and the ever-present untouched guitars.  Our musical dreams destined to be unfulfilled, though experienced quite well through the lives of others.

When my daughter was an infant in her bassinette, and just days old, her mother and I danced around the room singing to The Ramones…

Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker, Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker oh oh oh oh oh oh

As part of the earthly autographs etched into the Golden Record aboard the Voyager I spacecraft, are recordings of Blind Willie Johnson, Mozart, and Chuck Berry.  How wonderful it would be, I have thought, that if the only thing an alien species gave a rat’s ass about in receiving this information would be Chuck Berry’s Oh Carrol…?  Surely they would put the tops down on their intergalactic Cadillacs and head our way with the best of intentions.  Maybe we could trade some of our vinyl for some of theirs.  And some dilithium crystals – we will need more dilithium crystals if we’re ever going to get out of here.  The God I believe in plays air guitar.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from me, Roy Cohen.  I wrote this nearly 30 years ago for what was to be the world’s first rockabilly opera, but never completed it.  Enjoy…

Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.

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I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

Portrait Of Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc

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We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dave Alvin.  Prettiness and such like that.  Enjoy…

Disorder In The House…

Set Thine House In Order…

Eating, eating disorders, and food psychology are areas, in my opinion, where there are still many more unknowns than knowns.

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Los Juilgeros Preserve, Fallbrook

Factors which can lead to the more common eating disorders are, in no particular order:

– a lack of sleep

– use of alcohol, narcotics, and stimulants

– stress

– blood sugar/insulin imbalances

– other hormone imbalances

– biological depression

– environmental depression

– a self-depreciative persona

– food selections

– social and peer behaviors

– social and peer expectations

– media habits

– parental influence

– spousal or romantic influence

Of course there are others I can’t think of off the top of my head, but my point is that the roots of eating disorders are complex, and I’ll suggest for people who live with one or more eating disorder that more than one these causes might be at play at different times, and that multiple causes might be at play much of the time.

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Veggie Spring Rolls.   Golden Kitchen  in Fallbrook

Expecting that an eating disorder can be traced to a single cause, and that cause can be addressed with a single fix or two is wishful thinking.   I say this not as a fitness trainer, but as a man who has lived with, and for the most part controlled, my binge eating tendencies through my entire adult life.

I can say that at one time or another, multiple reasons have contributed to my binge eating, and in different ways at different times.

What I have found most useful in controlling it, as odd as this may sound, is by simply being myself – the person I am deep down.   When I conduct my life as I truly aspire to be – by just being true to myself, however hard that might be, I find that my eating is more streamlined, more rhythmic, and more consistent.  This ideal, I suspect, might be superimposed over other behaviors and disorders which might manifest within any of us.

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Brown rice, brocc and some tofe.  I speak casually of my veggie delights…

I am not so naïve is to suggest that simply being a moral person is enough to reverse hormone imbalances, cascading pharmaceutical conflicts, diseases or other factors which can contribute to eating disorders.  I will suggest though, that living one’s life consistently with one’s values will always place that person in a better field position to receive or to accomplish anything good.  Be well…  rc

If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from David Lowrey.  Enjoy…

The Doorway, The Empty Bed, And The Parents Left Behind…

The Bad News…

I was driving south on highway 163 through Balboa Park when I turned the radio dial to KPBS for the news of the day. That’s when I learned of the Columbine shootings. After a few seconds of shock, I pulled to the side of the freeway and gave in to some tears. Though I was in San Diego looking for a house, my wife and daughter were still back in Colorado. Columbine was an unincorporated area of Littleton, adjacent to where were lived in Highlands ranch. This truly hit home.

Eventually I gained control of my emotions and returned to my empty apartment. Despite the early hour, I crawled into my sleeping bag and took it all in, continuing to listen to the radio, and to all the media analysis and speculation as to why the shootings happened. I wasn’t interest in why.

My most immediate thought was not about the reasons why, not about the perpetrators, nor even the victims of the tragedy. The image that stood fast in my mind was that of a married couple – two silhouettes of unknown parents standing in the doorway of their child’s bedroom on the first morning after the shootings, and staring at an empty bed. And that was the tragedy to me; the doorway, the empty bed, and the parents with nobody to wake up on that first day after. It’s an image I have never been able to go.

Too Soon…

Since that time, other school shootings notwithstanding, I have been proximate to the deaths of too many children, some by accident and some by disease. When I become aware of these losses, that’s where my head goes first; to the doorway, the empty bed, and to the parents standing emotionally paralyzed with nobody to wake up and get ready for school.

Two months ago, after learning that a friend’s adolescent daughter passed unexpectedly, I went there again in my head. My heart ached at the thought of my friend and her husband standing in that doorway, looking at an empty bed, with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on their first morning without Clara.

Clara...

Clara…

I checked out that day. I cancelled my sessions, took my dog to a nature trail and spent the day immersed in heavy thought. Trying to be grateful for all I have and all I am, I took inventory of my life but came up short. For the next several weeks I tried to reconcile this untimely loss. Despite the strength her mother has showed in the wake of this tragedy, I just can’t do it – I can’t get good with the loss of this child.

Several weeks later I would learn of another young girl stricken with cancer who may not see 2017. Again, I went to the doorway, to the empty bedroom, and the parents who will be left behind with nobody to wake up the next day and get ready for school.

As I think of these young people, and of the parents they leave behind, regardless of what circumstances lead to their passing, I will always think first of the parents in the doorway, and of the empty bed.

Though the bed can be removed and the room can be reassigned, the doorway – that portal of access into a child’s life, always remains. I can’t imagine the strength that is required to pass through that doorway on a regular basis. I can though, love and appreciate all the parents who face this, and I bow down to them with enormous respect and a great deal of love. Be well… rc

Beyond the doorway there is an empty bed
Two shadows stand and nothing is said

This moment is a vacuum as love can’t breathe
It falls to the floor and two parents grieve

Tears form but aren’t able to flow
Dreams fall never to grow

A blanket of sadness covers the two
Souls filled with lead not believing it’s true

Though the sun may shine, and the world may turn
And as the lives of others may flicker and churn

The parents in the doorway are unable to feel
Unable to cry, not ready to heal

The empty bed may stay or may go
It might be a shrine or may be let go

But the doorway is there, and will always remain
An ongoing reminder, and a portal to pain
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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 Hymns from Nineveh…

The Pot On The Burner…

The Blender In My Head…

I spend much of my waking time in various states of conflict. Conflicted over matters such as events in the Middle East, Wall Street, the corrosion of America’s political structure, and the ever-increasing social complexities of mankind. I spend as much time conflicted over smaller things such as the ethics of fast food, bicycle culture, as well as changing trends in the arts and in entertainment. Conflict, it seems, is my essence.

The blender in my head...

The blender in my head…

One tool I have used through the years to (help) manage this inner turmoil is my morning meditation; it re-centers me. Each day on sit on the floor of my shower in total darkness, with the lights off, and with warm water cleansing the remains of yesterday’s dust from my skin and from my soul, and recite the following meditation aloud:

I thank you for receiving these words.

I thank you for a new day and new chance to walk in the right path.

I ask forgiveness for the sins I have committed and the mistakes I have made. Help me have awareness that I learn from those sins and those mistakes that they don’t become repeated.

I thank you for the blessings and opportunities which surround me. Help me have awareness that I recognize and appreciate those blessings, and help me have determination to fulfill those opportunities for the betterment of this world, the people in it, and the people in my life.

Help me speak the truth this day. Regardless of what situations I find myself in, and what circumstances surround me, help me remember that it’s better to stand in a room empty of words than to breach the truth for the sake of a sound.

Help me remember that my place is not to judge – that what person looks like or what they don’t look like, is not a reflection of who they are. Help me remember that behind every pair of eyes is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of circumstances I know nothing about.

I ask, on behalf of my loved ones, for their good health, for their safety, for their comfort, for peace, that they know love in their lives, and for strength during difficult times.

Help me take time to remember the animals in this world and in my life, that I give to them as much as they give to me. Thank you for the lessons they teach me in unconditional love, living in the moment, kindness, humility, and most of all, forgiveness.

Help me be a good man today. Help me walk tall, speak few words, be far in my reach, and help me be kind.
I thank you for hearing these words, and I love you. Amen.

Schmaltzy, I know, but it’s a part of me.

Estuary. Oceanside, CA

Estuary. Oceanside, CA

Dances With Schmaltz…

This Schmaltz Waltz is my most valued daily ritual. When I do this, who I am speaking to is unknown by me.  I suppose I speak to myself mostly – a way of reminding myself how I wish to live. It would be a fool’s task and childish game for me to suggest it’s god, God, or the Universe receiving those words. Perhaps I just speak to the underlying current that 14 billion years ago worked and reworked very little matter into increasingly complex matter which became more complex matter still, and that somehow the tiniest fragments of all that matter would become me.

Despite that my morning ritual resets and calms my early day, the conflict in my head soon returns and increases as the day goes on. Is combating ISIS worth the risking ground troops over…? How broad is the 2nd amendment…?  Is grass fed beef better for society than feed lot beef…? Should we eat beef at all…?  TV is the devil!  Thank god for college football on TV!!!  Chap-Stick or Burt’s Bees…? And so goes the blender in my head.

On the road to Santa Cruz

On the road to Santa Cruz

Despite that my morning meditation does little to eliminate this chaos, it does slow it down – if only for a moment. I can easily imagine how much worse it might all be without my daily reminder. I call it meditation, though others might call affirmation, mantra, or even prayer. Regardless, I’ll suggest we not be too quick to criticize those who participate in such contemplative practices, be they secular or religious.

A rare flat day. Carlsbad, CA

A rare flat day. Carlsbad, CA

Without such practices – rituals which regularly remind us to take step back and recenter, culture might be that much more chaotic. Maybe prayer is just the social equivalent to raising the pot off the burner before it boils over – only to place it immediately back down. We call off the overflow, but the boil beneath the surface remains. 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 from the Fray. Enjoy…

Thank You…

Living Intentionally…

Each morning I wake up with the best of intentions. In my pre-dawn meditation, as I take inventory of all I have and all I am, I remind myself to be the best possible father, son, friend, businessman, and neighbor that I can be. Most mornings I have screwed it up by 9:00am. Never though, do I quit trying.

Yesterday, after helping a friend complete the final stage of a move into her new apartment, it was a sincere joy to surprise her by treating her to a live Christmas tree. Her artificial tree had been lost in the move. Not only did I buy it for her, I chose to stay and set it up so she could spend the afternoon focused on her school work.

When it came to buying a stand for the tree I had 2 choices; $6.99 or $14.99. I chose $6.99. Once the stand was assembled, I tilted the tree up, positioned it in the center of the stand, and tightened the 4 screws which were to stabilize the tree. I was ready to be a hero for my friend, if only for a moment.

Like a bad case of Tourette’s though, the rapid-fire discharge of my foul language from my mouth, as the tree fell out of the stand was cause for my friend to take shelter behind a led shield. She just stepped into the kitchen instead, as her 2 dogs and my dog began to shake. So much for being a hero…

After offering my friend and our dogs my sincere apologies, and hiding behind a false calm exterior, I returned to the store to purchase the $14.99 tree stand in hopes it would actually work.  Though the short drive should have been a good opportunity for me to calm down and remember what’s important, each red light raised my blood pressure a few more points. By the time I got to the Wal-Mart parking lot on the Saturday before Christmas, I felt like Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.  My hands were trembling and steps were fast and hard.

Then I stopped for a minute and re-listened to a voice mail message which another friend left me only hours before. In this message I had gotten word that an elderly friend and former client had been hospitalized – I was told she wasn’t going to make it. So a Christmas tree fell out of a stand, and I hit a few red lights – no big deal. I quickly remembered what’s important and calmed down.

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Goodbyes Too Often…

In the last few years I have known or known of more than a dozen people who have passed away unexpectedly and far too young. The younger brother of one of my best friends died suddenly and unexpectedly – he was in his early 40s. Another friend who had recently texted someone that she was having the best day of her life died of a heart attack only moments after she sent that text – she was 42. Last month the adolescent daughter of a friend and fellow fitness trainer passed – that one will haunt me forever. Earlier this year the son of a client and local business man passed – he was my age. I have run out of fingers to count these losses with. Hardly a month goes by…

Thinking of these people and their families is always grounding to me – a good reminder that, as cliché as it sounds, each day really is a gift.

So when I returned to my friend’s home with the better Christmas tree stand, I immediately put the stand down, held her, kissed her cheek, and told her that I love and appreciate her. After all, we were married for 17 years and have a daughter together. For me, that kind of love is eternal.

Each morning I wake up with the best of intentions. I wish to be the best possible father, son, friend, businessman, and neighbor that I can be. I really do try. Most mornings I have screwed it up by 9:00am, though I never quit trying.

Thank You…

In the course of my life I have given everyone who knows me numerous opportunities to dislike me, if not sever our relationship. Family, friends, business associates, and neighbors have all seen me at my worst, despite that it is always my intention that they see me at my best. To be around me long enough is to see me go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in 2.3 seconds.

I suppose everyone who knows me well though, knows me well enough that they understand my good intentions. Like a quality golf shot on an otherwise poor outing, I guess that’s what keeps them coming back for more.

As another year closes out, and the mile marker of 2016 is within sight, and as I try even harder to let the better me prevail, I would simply like to thank my family, friends, business associates, and my neighbors for knowing me and liking me anyway.

If a tree falls in the living room, do I make a sound…? I will hope that in the future, I won’t. 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 from a later incarnation of Led Zeppelin. Enjoy…

The Primary Colors Of Strength…

Few Ingredients…

We learn the primary colors early in life, often before we even learn to read. From combining just 3 colors; red, yellow, and blue, all other colors can be reached. Often though, we don’t need much more than the primary colors to achieve a creative conclusion.

Though many great works of art include a myriad of colors from across the spectrum, it is the seasoned artist who understands best where and how to apply those colors, or even if they are needed. Even so, some of the most advanced artists through the years have been touted for their simplest works. We call this minimalism.

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The Workout As A Form Of Art…

All traditional strength exercises are variations of 6 simple movements; pushing, pulling, bending, torso rotation, squatting, and raising the extremities laterally. Every strength exercise is a variation of those 6 primary movements.  What is a workout, if not an expression of creativity…?

Pushing: The use of force to transfer a load away from our body. There is vertical pushing, horizontal pushing, downward pushing, and pushing through any angle in-between.

Pulling: The use of force to draw a load toward our body. We can pull from overhead, pull from in front, we can pull from below, or we can pull from any angle in-between.

Squatting, bending, torso rotation, and raising the arms and legs laterally have as many variations.

Other ways in which we can vary our pushing and pulling are by adjusting hand positions. Wide grips, medium grips, narrow grips, overhand grips, and underhand grips can all be used to promote variety in the pushing and pulling aspects of strength training. These varying angles and hand positions allows us to direct tension to different areas of our musculature. In squatting, varying one’s foot position can have the same effect.

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Primarily Speaking…

I try and teach my students that not every painting requires every color. In fact, the works of art I appreciate most are those with few colors and few complexities. Similarly, not every workout needs every possible angle, hand, or foot position. This is a mistake I see frequently with others; the more is better mindset. Walk into any gym and you’ll see people of all ages and all levels of proficiency performing set after set of many variations of the same exercise by changing angles, hand, and foot positions until they are exhausted.

Though I also tend to pursue this type of variety in my workouts, I do so more on a monthly basis, not by the workout. That is, in the course of a month I might include bench presses performed on an incline bench, on a flat bench, or on a decline bench.  I might perform chest presses on a machine, with dumbbells, or with barbells in a month’s time – there is value in all of these, but rarely do I duplicate them in a given workout. Not only can that duplication be detrimental to the muscles by over training them, it is a very large waste of time – my most valued commodity.

Though variety will help to foster progress in hypertrophy and functional physicality, it is variety over time which matters much more than variety within a workout. Like the simple painting, simplicity in the structure of a workout can offer more from less.

It’s Not Rocket Science

We live in the granite counter top generation. We decorate every wall. Most of us have at least some clothes in our closet which we rarely wear or have never worn. Our phones have more power than most of us can comprehend, and our cars now do things which we could do on our own not long ago. Increasing social and technical complexity are among our many co-masters.

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For my time in the gym, that is where the real beauty is; in a lack of complexity. I usually perform one variation each, of 6 basic movements in my workouts, and use the 13.7 billion year old force of gravity to affect them. Despite what social media, many fitness trainers, and the fitness industry at large might have you believe, it’s not rocket science – it’s a simple art. Be creative, and 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 from Van Morrison. Enjoy!

Mixed Thoughts On Religious Tolerance…

Calling 9/11…

In the days after 9/11 people went to books stores and got online in droves to attain, read and better understand the Qur’an. Presumably, so they might better understand the motivation behind the attack on the World Trade Centers. Huston Smith once wrote, “nobody ever curled up on a rainy night with the Qur’an.” Honestly, on the heels of 9/11 the need to better understand Islam never crossed my mind.

I guess I was fortunate inasmuch as I didn’t feel a need to read Islamic text to better understand Muslims. I simply saw them daily and up close. I had two Muslim clients at the time; hardworking business people with dreams, beliefs, shortcomings, puppies, and tonsillitis – just like me. Because we were social in and out of the gym, I saw firsthand through their extended families and friends what their surface lives looked like. With the exception of names which were often difficult to pronounce, their lives and mine were surprisingly similar.

My friends, both female, didn’t dress in what we think of as traditional Islamic women’s attire – unless sweat pants and ponytails fall into that category. From their gym memberships, to their favorite chocolates, to Wiggles concerts and all in-between, they were Americans.

They didn’t remain clients too long after 9/11, though they do remain friends. Despite that they dressed and conducted themselves like normal Americans, they had middle eastern names, darker skin, and did little to hide their Muslim faith, though they were not overtly Muslim. Their Islam, like many people’s religion, was just something they carried in their back pocket, to be taken out as needed.

Celebrate difference...

Celebrate difference…

In a conservative town though, it became increasingly hard for them to go out without having their faith publicly questioned, and often persecuted by the ignorant. In watching this take place I would learn that ignorance can be overpowering. So overpowering that my two friends eventually left the area in favor of the more forgiving downtown San Diego where there is a more broadminded populous.

To think, from that singular day in 2001, and from the actions of only a few, every day thereafter my friends, like many Muslims in the US, would have to pull their Islam from their back pocket and present it like some kind of cultural ID card to be scrutinized whenever questioned by the ignorant. How old that must have gotten. Rarely do I see Christians and Jews have to explain their beliefs or justify their intentions while buying detergent, based solely on the act of a few on a given day.

Broad Brush Strokes…

I was asked recently by a young woman I mentor about the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I was quick to channel her toward seeking the commonalities between them, explaining she would learn more by directing her attention to how similar the 3 faiths are. She kept pressing me though, as if she might discover some major difference(s) if I were to better divide the 3 religions for her.

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I explained that broad brush strokes usually paint blurry pictures, but I would do my best to reduce it to three fundamentals differences which I see to be as much cultural as they are religious:

– Christianity is fundamentally about forgiveness over indiscretion.
– Judaism is about repairing indiscretion.
– Islam is about living life in a way that there is no need for forgiveness or repair.

None of those 3 explanations is more noble than the other two. I’ll even suggest that it is the goal of each faith to combine all 3; to forgive, to repair, and to move forward in a better way, but that each tenet noted above is central to its corresponding faith. However broad those brush strokes might be, I actually stand with them. I feel very good about offering this perspective to my young friend.

Atheism, Islam, And Prejudice…

One of the great ironies I see in the social media era is this: I have a network of liberal, open-minded friends who would fight to their death to protect my human rights. If I were gay, transgender, or preferred to have sex with monkeys, they would support me. I find an unsavory duality with the knowledge that many of those open minded friends are against all religion and call themselves atheists.

By the way, being against religion doesn’t make one an atheist. It makes one an anti-theist. In an even more inverse irony, many of these anti-theist friends are now standing up for immigrant Muslims, yet take a hard stand against American Christianity. This makes no sense and can’t be explained, only rationalized.

Simply put, if a person is against religion as a collective, or any particular religion, that is a form of prejudice – period. To be against anyone’s beliefs in favor of their own is an undeniable act of bigotry. So please, don’t defend my right to have sex with monkeys if you won’t also support my right to pray to a god – any god, or every last god in the pantheon.

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Religion has been part of our cultural DNA since hunter-gatherer times. Like any trait of biological evolution, if religion did not serve a sound purpose in carrying our species upward and ahead, cultural evolution would have weeded religion out long ago. Clearly it has not. 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 Jellyfish. Enjoy!

The Elegant Plateau…

Road Detour…

In life we often find ourselves traveling a road which takes us in a direction that was once obvious and fitting, but in time becomes no longer consistent with our personal growth and changing values.  So we choose a new road, one which we see leading us in a better direction or into the next phase of our life.  Somewhere down that road, we may realize we’re back on the original road we turned off of.  Either consciously or subconsciously we’ve circled back only to find that we’re headed in that same direction which we had exited for all the right reasons.

As it relates to my relationship with strength training, several times since my mid-40s, I have chosen to leave one road in favor of the road which makes more sense for the next phase of my life.  It usually doesn’t take long though, for me to end up back on the road I left; the road of bigger, stronger, leaner.  That was the right road for the younger me, but no longer.

At least 3 times in the last 10 years I have said enough is enough in the pursuit of more; more strength, more mass, more lean.  I well understand the limits of age; that the human body will only get so strong, so muscular, so lean.  So I choose a new road; the road of the elegant plateau.  The elegant plateau is a direction where if I don’t get any stronger, any more muscular, or any leaner, I’m ok with it.  That if I can just maintain what I have as I grow older, that is progress enough.

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This Time I Mean It…

Nearly 10 years after I first told myself enough is enough, I found myself on the road to bigger, stronger, leaner yet again.  Daily in my strength workouts I note in my journal how challenging or not a movement is.  If it’s not too challenging, and the form is intact, I note to increase the weight for the next workout.  In some exercises I’m actually using more weight in proper form than ever.  That this progress is doable is feeding me ego.  It is also stifling the very purpose for my workouts.

This pursuit of increased poundages is not breaking my body down excessively.  It isn’t hurting me.  It isn’t stressful.  It’s simply a departure from a philosophical tenet; that I just don’t need more of anything.  In all other aspects of my life I pursue less or just enough, yet when it comes to my workouts, I have been pursuing more.  I’m done.

I am once again committing to the road of the elegant plateau – and this time I mean it.  Simply stated, I will no longer pursue more strength, more muscle mass, or a leaner physique.  The condition I maintain today, is also the site of my next month.  If I can maintain this condition ongoing, I’m ahead of the game.

I look ok in a form fitted shirt – even when it’s tucked in.  I push reasonable weights in proper form.  I can run as fast as needed if being chased by Frankenstein.  I’m as lean as I’m going to get.  For all of this, I have few aches and much confidence.  I work out first and foremost to enjoy it.

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Buddhabuilding…

Bodybuilding light, or Buddhabuilding as I like to think of it, is based on the structure of traditional bodybuilding for larger purposes, but with a little less intensity, a little less volume, and a more moderate load.  It is still concerned with strength, size, and aesthetics so far as maintaining them goes.  However, it carries with it more utility in the areas of functional strength, balance, flexibility, sustainability, and the best aspect of all, a transformative, meditative state during the workout that just isn’t there when I’m in pursuit of more.

Buddhabuilding also incorporates balance and stretching movements in-between sets.  That is, if I’m doing 3 sets of incline bench presses, in-between sets I’ll either hold a stretching posture for 30 seconds or perform a balance exercise for 30 seconds, then on to the next set with more balance or stretching in-between the sets which follow.

The weights used with a given strength exercise are by no means light.  They are challenging, yet achievable, and lend themselves to a meditative state as I am better able to concentrate on the muscles involved.  This is where a connection takes place between my mind and my body that just isn’t there when the weights are heavier.

The Soundtrack & The Result…

One of the better aspects of Buddhabuilding to me is the soundtrack.  I gave up listening to music while exercising years ago.  These days it’s books on philosophy, religion, and cultural evolution which lead me through my games with gravity, efficiently building body and mind simultaneously, one hour at a time.  I had a great run at Buddhabuilding from 2005-2011 when I got greedy again and wanted more.  It’s time to get back to being me.

Liking my workouts – loving them has been the methadone of my existence for years.  It’s where time stands still for me.  I find that when I’m pursuing bigger, stronger, leaner, the physical results may be glorious, but that timeless state that sooths my soul is elusive.  When the weights are more moderate, the concentration is higher, and my mind is similarly stimulated, the result is a transformative workout, and that result is much more needed in my life than larger triceps.  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 Jason Falkner.  Enjoy!

Choose Your Trainer Wisely…

Do As I Do And Also As I Say…

I am proud to have mentored a handful of people into fitness training careers. Another friend and former client completed her initial NASM fitness training certification this week.

On her completion she posted the following question on her Facebook page:

“So now that I got my fitness trainer certification, do you think I should get in shape? I mean like for real?

This is actually a serious question. A friend of mine and I are having this ongoing conversation, in which I claim that a trainer is like a coach and needs to know how to teach fitness and how to motivate but doesn’t have to necessarily be an athlete him/her-self. Just look at the coaches of Olympic gymnasts, for example.

My friend disagrees saying that expectations of fitness professionals are different than those of coaches. There’s probably some truth to that. What do you think?”

The thread of answers to her question were more mindful and insightful than I would have expected. To extract the commonalities from the many answers suggests that being in immaculate shape should not be a requirement or even a consideration for her. However, being in reasonable shape should be attempted if not maintained. Below is my own reply:

“I think it’s important to be in reasonable aesthetic shape, and able to perform movements as well as, if not better than your clients.

You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be ripped, jacked, or shredded. You need to be able, and you need to be mindful.

Since you are both able and mindful, end of discussion.”

What Is In Shape…

Of course what lays at the heart of this question is the definition of in shape. I once defined my own belief on what constitutes in shape or fitness as follows:

“Physical Fitness is the sum of average or above average balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, and confidence. If these can be displayed while maintaining a reasonable aesthetic form, all the better.”

I stand with that definition today. Of course the terms average and reasonable aesthetic form are subjective.

What Does A Fitness Trainer Look Like…

I have been associated with dozens of fitness trainers through the years. They have come in all shapes and sizes, and though my place is not to judge, when I have judged other fitness trainers, I have done so exclusively based on 2 criteria; their knowledge, and their ability to communicate that knowledge. That, THAT is what a fitness trainer should look like!

Through my own career, my shapes and sizes have varied. I have been extremely lean at times when preparing for long distance races, bodybuilding, or living with longer bicycle commutes.

I have been bulkier at times when focusing on strength, relaxing my eating standards, or when I have backed off of (but never away) from my own fitness regimen. Despite what I have looked like, my knowledge base and my ability to communicate that knowledge has only increased. There have even been times when you might have looked at me and thought I might need a fitness trainer, and that’s kind of my point.

When the picture below was taken, I was not proud of my aesthetic shape. Nor was I ashamed of it. At the time this picture was taken, I was actually quite strong, as well as posting very good times on my bicycle and with my trail running, despite that the picture might indicate otherwise. In fact, at the time this picture was taken, I was very competitive within my circle of hardcore fitness friends. I was also working a full schedule as a fitness trainer.

When one friend saw this picture, he sent me an email stating,

“My god Roy, get that under control.”

Maybe I will, I thought, maybe not. That picture did not define, in any way, my client’s experiences with me.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer.  Circa 2011

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer. Circa 2011

Factual Selection…

I have read many times what to seek when selecting a fitness trainer, and I have also been asked this question regularly. Of course what is written by others, and what I believe are often in contrast with one another.

What a trainer looks like should be among the least of one’s considerations when choosing a fitness trainer. I also believe that education, certifications, and continuing education are not the most important factors in the selection process.

Teaching physical fitness; the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina is not rocket science. Though a basic education and some experience is needed to teach these qualities, it is the ability to communicate them and to effectively demonstrate them which matter most.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer.  Circa last month...

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer. Circa last month…

If you are looking for a fitness trainer I will suggest that communication skills and ability to demonstrate proper exercise matter much more than the shape of their arms, the size of their waist, or the titles they have won. Look past the electric tan and the hairstyle. Before selecting a fitness trainer, ask to watch them at work. 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 from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights. Enjoy!

First Step On A New Road…

Hunting For Smells…

We call it, hunting for smells.  It’s the 3-4 times daily ritual of my dog, Stroodle leading me on a walk along the streets and nature trails which run through town.  We go at his whim, at his pace, and are guided exclusively by the scents of the day.  My primary job is to ensure that he safely navigates the intersections he must cross as his nose guides us through town.

More recently we have come to rest briefly at the halfway point, a small grassy park just a block off of Main Avenue. Once there, we lay on the ground together for 20 minutes or so and Stroodle warms his bones in the sun as I find purity and peace by watching the calm of his face as he does this.  This is one of the more grounding and beautiful experiences I have known.  The other day as he lay in warmth, with the sun shining on his face, and with my hand gently stroking his head, I had never seen him so content.  It stirred a few tears from me.

From Peace To Macabre…

As I held one of Stroodle’s legs in my hand, I took note of the musculature.  Not from the perspective of a fitness trainer, but from that of a carnivore.  I was looking at his meat.  Only the night before, I had enjoyed one of those roasted chickens from the grocery store – the ones which smell so good under the heat lamp that I have to buy one almost every day because I can eat one almost every day.  And that’s when I looked at Stroodle differently; I envisioned how some 3rd world refugee or indigenous hominid might view his leg as I have viewed the legs of chickens time and time again.

The rapid fire chain reaction in my mind began immediately.  First, I was upset that I even went there – that I envisioned my dog as someone’s entrée.  I went further by picturing his leg without skin and this disgusted me but I couldn’t stop.  Worldwide, I thought, few animals have avoided being meals to other animals, dogs and humans included.  Suddenly, some words popped into my head and I froze.  They were words I heard spoken several years earlier by the singer, Morrisey while being interviewed on British television…

“If it has a mother” he said, “I won’t eat it.”

That has always made sense to me.  As the parent of a child and as the steward many dogs through my life, I wouldn’t want anyone eating my children – or my dogs.

The Intimate Bond...

The Intimate Bond…

The Eagle, The Snake, And The Rationalization…

I have been down this road several times before. Under the influence of inspiration, and motivated a bubbling morality, I have told the world that I am all done eating animal products of any kind.  The longest I have ever made it was 6 months in 2012-2013.

Though my intentions had always been sound when turning away from animal products, I have applied the brakes to my stance against eating them, and dipped my fork back in the trough, by contemplating a single experience I had years ago…

In 2005 I was paddling a kayak down the Middle Loop river in rural Nebraska on a hot summer afternoon.  As I turned a corner in the gentle current I looked to the shore to see an eagle swoop down, grasp a snake in its talons, rise up 50 feet or so, and thrust the snake into the ground killing it instantly.  The eagle returned to carry the snake away, presumably as takeout for its family.

This became an ongoing reminder to me during my vegan times that animals have been eating animals since there have been animals.  And that is where the rationalization to fight my moral current with this topic has always ended; with the realization that man too is an animal who has been eating animals since man has been man.  And then I saw my dog’s leg as meat and I froze in my thoughts.

The Intimate Bond…

I recently read The Intimate Bond, a book which chronicals man’s relationship with animals since hunter-gatherer times.  Among the many ideals that were exposed to me by this book is that through much of civilization, man has revered and respected the animals he has raised to eat.  Through some of the earlier times, man has paid lesser respects to what we now call household animals; cats & dogs.  It seems now that paradigm is upside-down.  Many of us hold our household pets in higher regard than members of our family.  That, and it’s okay for chickens and cows to be kept in cages, injected with steroids and antibiotics, and subsequently slaughtered only to be dressed up with just the right amount of rosemary and lemon.

Through books like Nonzero, The Better Nature of Our Angels, and The Intimate Bond I can see the trajectory of man’s gentile is getting better over time – slowly, but consistently.  There are many things which were once common place that we no longer find socially or morally acceptable; burning witches, drowning cats, and corporal punishment in schools to name a few.

I can’t help but think that 200 years from now, along with the asinine notion of growing decorative turf lawns in the American west, and sending fossil fuels into the air by the metric ton, that the idea of raising animals to kill them cruelly, and eat them nonchalantly will be something our descendants will find disappointing if not shameful.

Social & Moral Evolution For Some…

Going back to the eagle and the snake.  That eagle has not evolved morally or socially and probably never will.  Eagles 5,000 years from now aren’t any more likely to consider the snake’s feelings than the eagles of today.  The eagle reacts out of instinct and necessity.  I don’t.  I react to options and choices.  For me I’m choosing to follow my heart and my conscience, even if people see me as a fool.

I understand that a skeptic or critic might question my stance on the use of leather, other animal related products, services, and where I might draw the line.  In truth, I have no response to this at the moment.  It’s a duality that I will have to navigate for now, but I will be exploring ways to minimize the use of all animal products until the systems that stewards animals can show me a better side.

I have taken meat and animal products out of my diet before and yes, I have gone back.  On occasion, I have even questioned whether or not plants feel pain and if so, then what to eat.  Looking at my dog’s leg though, and contemplating it as though it were a piece of meat is a place I don’t think I can ever come back from, but I’ll keep you posted.  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 from Cornershop.  Enjoy…

If You’re So Inclined…

There’s no shortage of data suggesting that walking is among the most useful forms of exercise. I’ll suggest that any form of regular walking is good for physical and cognitive fitness, though some forms of walking are better than others. Essentially though, there is the treadmill or the neighborhood.

I have lived much of my adult life in small towns surrounded by beauty of varying sorts. That these places have been as hilly as they are beautiful makes them great for outdoor walking – if only I found value in outdoor walking as a form of exercise. I don’t. Though I do take several short outdoor walks with my dog each day, as a form of physical fitness, I find much more value in the treadmill. When I tell people this, I’m more often met with eye rolls and disagreements than sincere interest.

Kinesis & Energy: Moving muscles burns calories. Muscle traveled greater distances equals more calories burned. By distance, in the case of walking, I’m referring to the height the stride. A more vertical walking stride (walking uphill) uses more muscle through a more complete range of motion than a horizontal stride (walking on a flat surface).

Women carry approximately 65% of their muscle below the hips, about 55% for men. When one walks uphill or up a steep incline, male or female, they will be lifting more than 25% of their bodyweight through a fairly complete range of motion before placing it back down.

Since a stride on a flat surface is more horizontal and less vertical, it is inherently done at a faster speed than walking uphill. The impact of the foot on a flat surface is actually greater and creates more stress on the ankles, knees, and low-back when done at a faster speed.

Walking uphill or on a steep incline, a person is not able to walk nearly as fast as on a flat. The slower speed minimizes the opportunity for repetitive motion disorders which are often caused by fast, momentum driven movements. Additionally, the angle of that incline actually diffuses the impact of the foot, and subsequently the ankles, the knees, hips, and the low-back.

Note how much higher the lead foot is. The leg must be raised and placed back down...

Note how much higher the lead foot is. The leg must be raised and placed back down…

Translation: Because of its slower speed and more vertical stride, walking uphill or up a steep incline is actually a much lower impact activity than walking on a flat or downhill surface, and is also more cardio intensive. I’ll suggest though, that walking on a treadmill at a steep grade should be done without holding onto the handle. Holding on allows the individual to lean buck, diffusing the incline.

Note how low the lead foot is. Less muscle required to move it, and is aided by momentum of a faster speed...

Note how low the lead foot is. Less muscle required to move it, and is aided by momentum of a faster speed…

Recommendation: If you’re going to walk outside, and do so as a means of cardio, calorie burning or conditioning, I’ll suggest attacking the uphill sections. However, go easy and slow down on the downhill and flat sections since they have a greater impact on your body, the knees in particular. Whether you choose to walk on a treadmill or outdoors in the neighborhood, stand tall – shoulders directly over hips as much as possible, and be a heel striker with your lead foot, this will minimize stress on the knees.

This kind of walk might not burn too many calories, but it's a daily investment in my soul...

This kind of walk might not burn too many calories, but it’s a daily investment in my soul…

Walking outdoors is a great activity. Again, I do this several times per day. Being in nature and moving is a cognitive therapy which is almost unequalled. As a form of calorie burning or conditioning, I’ll suggest treadmill walking at a steep grade will serve you better. Be well… rc

Fitness trainer, Roy Cohen is available for online consulting and training.  Click here to learn more.

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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 Chris Cornell.   Enjoy!

A Failed Conversion…

I was approached by a man at a local coffee shop the other day. He and I had met briefly once fore. A conversation ensued between us. The man, knowing I am a fitness professional, asked if I was familiar with a nationally known multimedia fitness enterprise. The program in question is scientifically based and assures, if applied properly, an outcome of increased muscles mass and decreased body fat with just 15 minute workouts. The program calls for high intensity workouts, supported with a high fat, moderate protein and lower carbohydrate diet. I played dumb and told him I had never heard of it. I sensed immediately that I lost points in his mind for my ignorance.

As he explained the program to me, he suggested recruiting me and my facility as a resource where he could test and apply it. As we discussed this, it was clear that he had an intelligent grasp of the physiology and nutrition. I explained to him my own value-set when it comes to exercise, strength training in particular, and eating. I said nothing to debunk the science of the program he was advocating. I well understand the efficiency of high intensity training. I simply used more science, some logic and a smidge of experience to support my stance the high intensity training, despite the science behind it, might not be the best option for many most.

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Still, he kept suggesting that I look at the website, the book, and the science behind this enterprise. He felt it might change my values and subscribe me to something better than what I am already teaching. He felt this high intensity program might also open a new world for me, for my clients, and for my business, and he was willing to be my guinea pig.

In truth, I am familiar with the program he was discussing, and I believe the science behind it is solid. Variations of high intensity training have been applied to many fitness enterprises over the past 15 years or so. I have practiced variations of them and taught some as well. Despite this, I have never bought completely into exclusively high intensity programs.

I gently let him know that my own fitness ideals are sum of many years of training, studying and practicing my craft, and that I wasn’t going to let go of those values regardless of the science behind what he was suggesting. It was clear that he saw me as a narrow minded buffoon who probably just takes people’s money in exchange for letting them go through the motions as I stare at my cell phone all day long. We exchanged business cards with what I’ll suggest was a mutual assurance that they will never see the light of day again.

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I have been down this road with people many times. I am a very science minded person. When somebody approaches me about high intensity training I can tell at a glance whether they are sincere, if they understand how demanding that type of training can be, if they are capable of it, and if they truly understand the bleakness of the associated nutritional component. If they are, I absolutely know how to apply those principals for maximum results, and I have a track record of success stories which demonstrate my competence.

However, even proven science has to fit an individual’s body and lifestyle to be effective in the long-term – it has to work within the scope of a person’s life. I don’t care how sound the science is, many genres of high intensity training aren’t agreeable when superimposed over a less than fit body or a less than fit lifestyle. My firsthand experience has seen high intensity training push more people away from an exercise lifestyle than toward one. For many people, high intensity exercise isn’t fun, isn’t sustainable and won’t be the foundation of the lifestyle change they actually need.

I know there are exceptions to this; that’s where before and after pictures come from. However, for every before and after picture posted on a magazine or website, I’ll suggest there are tens of thousands of people who feel they gave money away in exchange for doubt, frustration, and perhaps even some humiliation – for buying into something they could not sustain or that never made sense to them to begin with.

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All of this I can let go of because I have faced it many times, so I wasn’t disappointed that the man I spoke with had no interest and was unwilling to learn more about my own more moderate approach to fitness. What will remain with me though, in the foreground of my conscience, is that the man who approached me is an evangelical minister. Essentially he wanted to hire me away from my own faith that I might subscribe to his. When it became clear that I was unwilling to make that leap, he spoke to me as though I were a lost soul. And so it goes… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens with I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The London Souls. Enjoy!

A Dry Heat…

Saying it’s a dry heat is like saying a pistol whipping is a dull pain.”  Me

I don’t particularly enjoy going out there in the middle of a 90-degree day, and extending myself to the limits of what I am capable of.

The sun is hot.  The air, very dry.  There are rattlesnakes.

It’s not the same as enjoying iced tea on my patio.  The word pleasure doesn’t come to mind.

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There is a satisfaction though, in being out there alone exerting myself in conditions most people take care to avoid.  I explore my mental resilience.

Maybe it’s my inner Jew – a daily nod to my ancestors who spent four decades wandering the desert after the big eviction by Pharaoh.

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Monserate Mt.  Fallbrook, CA  4.8 miles.  1,200 feet of climbing…

A little self-inflicted punishment so that, by comparison, no other physical task I take on during a typical week will be as difficult.

Being alone, uninterrupted, to work out the struggles between my ears soothes my busy mind.

A daily reminder to the sun that I won’t be bullied.

Last night’s bean burrito.

The sounds of bees, alligator lizards, hawks, and other critters is a nice break from sirens, ringtones, and garbage trucks. Even the wind chimes in.

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The only car in the lot.  I am alone with hundreds of acres and thousands of critters…

Plenty of excuses not to.  More are the reasons to show up…  Jhciacb

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Bad Data…

I quit writing about the ABCs of exercise years ago, after I realized nobody was listening.  That, and I really don’t care too much about the ABCs of exercise anyway.  People are going to do what they’re going to do – despite my experience and my desire to share my wisdoooooom.  However, for those so inclined to read further, I have something which you might find a little useful this week…

As we depend more and more on electronics to track our exercise data, it’s important to understand that the information feedback isn’t always accurate when it comes to the calories/energy utilized during exercise.  There are many variables at work here.

Example:  My BMR (basal metabolic rate) has me burning roughly 95 calories per hour at rest.  I burn a few more per hour when I am casually active, and shitload more when I am very active.  However, an accurate BMR has to factor in your lean muscle mass.  Online BRM calculators, and those that are connected to personal exercise devices don’t always do this.  Unless you use hydrostatic weighing to calculate and factor in your lean muscle mass, your BMR will be an approximation.

Because I know what my lean body mass is, I have an accurate number for my BMR.  Knowing my accurate BMR, I also have a better idea how much energy I use when engaged in running, cycling, or hill climbing.  During intense cardio activities such as these, and if I maintain a heart-rate of roughly 155 bpm, I will be burning roughly 100 every 10 minutes, or 600 calories per hour, though this also depends on load, as well as the range of motion being used by my legs.  But overall, I burn roughly 600 calories per hour during a hard cardio session.

The attached graphs are from two steep hill hikes I did last week, 24 hours apart.  Time, distance and calories burned are noted.

The app I chose on my iPhone is a generic step counter.  It doesn’t factor in my BMR so it doesn’t know how much muscle mass I have when as it calculates calories burned, which is kind of important.  This app tracks distance only, and not even elevation changes.  The hike I do has 800 feet of climbing on the front side, and 400 feet on the back side, for a total of 1,200 of climbing in just 4.1 miles.  That’s’ a shit-ton.

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Monday’s Hike

Since this app does not factor in my relative muscle mass, and that the GPS mechanism does not factor in elevation changes, it calculated that I burned roughly 365 calories during two very intense 1hour+ hikes.

The reality is, based on my heart-rate and my muscle mass, that I probably burned in excess of 800 calories during each of these hikes – more than double what the app suggests.

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Tuesday’s Hike

Additionally, note that the hike of 1:15:28 showed me burning only 2 calories more for 5 minutes less over the same distance.  Since my average heart-rate on the 1:15:28 was 161, and my average heart-rate on the 1:20:54 hike was 154, I probably burned 60-70 more on the shorter hike.

Now to the bike…

The app I chose doesn’t know if I’m peddling, running, or hiking.  It only knows that I’m moving.  The graph below is from a 10-mile bike ride which I did earlier this week.  The ride was challenging to be sure, but not 930 calories worth of challenging.  Again, based on my BMR and average heart-rate (145 for this ride), it was probably more like 400-450 calories of energy used, despite that the app calculated 930.

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Wednesday’s Ride…

My point to all of this is that, although the GPS portion of the data provided by my app was accurate, the calorie data was based on a generic, one size fits all hominid profile.  The data you get from your app will only be as solid as the data you provide about you; age, accurate BMR, heart-rate, whether or not you are running, biking, or walking, etc.  Without that information, it’s probably not going to be accurate, and is likely to be quite wrong.

This is not to suggest that we don’t use electronics to track our fitness data – these can be very useful tools when used properly.  But as I like to say, we have gotten by for tens of thousands of without depending on apps and devices to track our fitness.  If we’re breathing hard and sweating, we’re ahead of the game.   If you’re sitting still, you’re simulating death.  Be well…  Jhciacb

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Insistency Of Consistency…

What’s In A Name…

I’m often troubled with how religions, as well as how religious people can be treated on social media.  I see memes and assertions daily poking fun at religion, at religious people, and in many instances, calling for others to step away from religion.  I find this unsavory on one level, and sad on another.

I have many atheist friends, and I understand why so many doubt or disbelieve in a higher power.  I get it.  For many, atheism is the right choice.  I would defend a person’s right to be atheist with all I have in me, despite that I am not one.

As a point of clarification though, if a person is against religion – if he or she speaks out against, or puts effort toward to pulling people away from religion, they are not an atheist, they are an antitheist.  They would also be a bigot.

Raise Your Hand If…

By the cursory definition that an atheist believes in an absence of deities, somewhere between 2-13% of the human population are declared atheists.  This suggests that the remaining 87-98% of the human population are either unsure of deities, or otherwise committed to one.

One data source I used suggests that 6.5 billion of the planet’s 7.1 billion people believe in a higher power.  Of that 6.5 billion people, 78% claim a religious affiliation of some sort, though many are not active within their associated affiliation.

If that large a percentage of the world’s population believes in a god and has even a lose religious affiliation, and if a person feels compelled to make fun of or to attempt to pull their friends and loved ones away from religion, they are not only antitheists and bigots, but they are also fighting the largest of losing causes.

On Simple Amusement…

One of the great ironies I see with those who poke fun at religion, and of those who would have religion abolished if they were so empowered, is that very often these same people are socially liberal.  That is, they are defenders of causes such as LBGT rights, cannabis legalization, and freedoms of expression, yet they are actively against a belief in the divine.

The antitheist, despite the probability that they are socially liberal, are too often compelled to tease and even torment believers, and to treat them as though they are doddering ignoramuses who are lucky enough to keep from tying their own shoes together each morning.  Again, I find this unsavory, but more deeply, I feel that making fun of a great majority of all humans to be repugnant.

If I, in the presence of a socially liberal friend were to poke fun at a gay or transgender person, I would be immediately rebuked and taken to task.  Still, the urge to poke fun at those who find salvation in prayer is entertaining, if not uncontrollable for many who I have just described.

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Give me light.  Give me life.  Keep me free from birth…

Be Consistent With Your Hate, As Well As With Your Love…

All I’m suggesting here is consistency.  If you’re okay with other people smoking pot, having same-gender consensual sex, and implore on behalf of the freedoms of choice, and you don’t make fun of anyone for it, then please be okay with someone who believes in god and chooses to pray.

As there is no need to shame or criticize someone because they have a pot leaf on their t-shirt, there is also no need to shame or criticize someone for having a cross or a star as their profile picture.  Conversely, if you’re going to poke fun at someone for believing in god, please take time to pick on the coloreds and the fags too.

We all have the right to stand for what we believe in.  There is no need though, at all, to make fun of someone’s beliefs for the simple satisfaction of a smirk or a laugh.  We can do better than that.  As a species, it’s time we practice to understand.  Be well.  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Rick Astley.  Don’t blame me on this one.  I put it to my social media community to choose this week’s song.  You can all blame, Drea!!!!

From Both Sides Now…

I wake up early, 4:30am, seven days per week.   Even on days when sleeping in is an option, I’m already active at something while roosters still snore.  Though I’m up before the sun, and before most humans in my proximity, I don’t fully come to life until mid-morning.  My days must be eased into.

There is a gentleness to the marine layer which ushers in so many Fallbrook mornings between late autumn and early summer.  This grey, soupy sky sets up a transitional mood for those like me who rise early, but wake up slowly.  Though I appreciate the sun, I don’t want to see it much before noon.  In Fallbrook, I don’t have to for much of the year.

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The marine layer – this low cloud deck, is the result of warm air gathering moisture as it travels distance across the Pacific Ocean.  It eventually runs into land on the pacific coast, where it stands up and throws itself forward against the coastline, stretching out for miles over all human happenings in the form low clouds and fog.  Providing moisture to the air, and filtering out the sun’s harsh rays, the marine layer keeps the early mornings cool and makes waking early much more tolerable.

The marine layer also serves as an acoustic barrier, holding down the sounds on the ground and allowing them to resonate broadly.  Whether they are the sounds of nature, or those made by man, the sounds of the morning are crisp, even from a distance.  When a newspaper lands on the sidewalk of the house 3 doors down, it sounds as though it hits my own porch.  Roosters in my neighbor’s back yard sound like they are in my kitchen.  What few voices I hear at 5:00am are conversations between day workers exchanging greetings in the parking lot at the 7-11, 2 blocks away.

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The two distant palms on the right are in my back yard…

Despite distant noises sounding so close, or perhaps because of it, there is a peacefulness to all of this that blankets my soul.  Over a few hours of time, before and after the sun rises, I will sip coffee, write, exercise, and prep my day, all under the influence of grey skies.  I will eventually wake and walk the dog, water the garden, groom the driveway, and rake a few fallen leaves from the loquat tree, all the while feeling a peace provided by fog.

Eventually my workday begins, but it  doesn’t feel like work at all.  As I train and chat with my early morning clients, I appreciate that I get to do this with mother nature’s morning mood acting in a supporting role.

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Walking the mammal, and easing into my day…

By late morning the blanket of clouds overhead begins to separate from itself.  Small sections of blue sky appear.  By contrast, this blue appears fresh, as though the sky has just been born.  The sun lights up the sides of the clouds, and what had been grey just moments before, becomes the brightest white I’ll see all day.  Art takes place in slow motion. As this happens I sing silently to myself a single line of, here comes the sun, though the client I am with has no idea I do this.  It’s okay now, I think to myself, time to wake up in earnest.  Not only am I awake, but I am alive.  Let the day begin.

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Completely overcast just moments before this picture was taken…

No marine layer today, nor tomorrow.  As summer continues its war on spring, what had been an insurgency of an occasional hot morning in-between the cool ones, has expanded into a fully hot week, to be followed by a fully hot month, and so-on.

The marine layer will give way to summer, and the sun’s claim as god of the season will be undeniable.  The cool damp air will return in the fall, and will likely drop in a time or two as summer weather patterns change, offering a reminder of what I appreciate most about living in this region.  As the cosmic dance of the seasons waxes and wanes, it strikes a necessary balance in my life, and with my soul.  I appreciate the marine layer most of all, because it goes away, and that’s how life is…  Be well.  rc

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More casualties than survivors.  Summer’s war on spring continues…

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Swimming In Systems…

Girthing Globally…

The so-called obesity epidemic has made headlines once again.  Another study released this week suggests that obesity on a global level is still on the rise.  In the days since this study was published, I have read a half-dozen feature articles and blogs about how we can reverse this generations-old trend.  Yet, for all the intellectual studies, discussion, and attention obesity gets, and despite all the good intentions behind solving the problem, obesity levels worldwide are still increasing.

When it comes to fighting obesity, as with many other consequences of our social and technical advancements, too often our thinking is narrow, poorly aimed, and most often searching for singular fixes in small areas which feel good to pursue, but are often demanding and fruitless.

What is largely ignored in all the conversations about solving obesity, is the entirety of the problem; the constant expansion of the many systems which have led to its existence.  Food systems.  Marketing systems.  Social systems.  Political systems.  Religious systems.  Educational systems.  Pharmaceutical systems.  On and on.

Any one of these systems could alone be considered a monster.  Together, they conspire to be a leviathan.  Like any good leviathan, obesity is going to go where it wants to go, and will only die when it runs out of the fuel on which feeds it.  I am reminded of two fleas attempting to steer the dog they sit upon.

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Complexity begets complexity…

On the surface, solving obesity may seem like it’s all about calories in vs. calories out, changing portion sizes, providing better school lunches, CrossFit, Yoga, using a treadmill, going low-carb, low-fat or paleo, standup desks in the workplace, and even the use of qualified fitness trainers.  These may hold some value for some people at some times, but alone these aren’t going to change a thing.  The fact remains that scientific advancement and social awareness relating to obesity are at all-time highs, and our collective girth is still girthing.

How’s The Water, Boys…?

While in mid-thought this morning, as I was pondering obesity, it finally occurred to me that systems – all systems, whether they apply to the obesity epidemic, politics, consumer culture, or anything else, is the water that David Foster Wallace spoke of during his now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  Whether this was his intention or not, it seems to me that systems, invisible and everywhere, are the water which surrounds us.

If you’re not familiar with the speech above, please bookmark it for when you have time.

 We live within millions of systems.  We navigate and transcend them, never really seeing their entirety, and always under the influence of delusion, believing we possess some level of control.   We live, breathe, act, choose, survive, delight, frown, frolic, and even get fat as a result of our systems.  We select our presidents, career paths, partners, and even our gods as influenced by an invisible ocean, and like the young fish who replies to the older fish, “What the hell is water”, we are oblivious to it as we swim.

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When I think about obesity in this context, or when I think about any disturbing social trend from air pollution, to engineered corn, campaign finance, political partisanship, landfills bursting at the seams, and even when I think about war, I tend to be more gracious these days in my judgement for both the victims as well as the perpetrators.  We are all born under water and begin swimming through our sea of systems immediately, most often with the best of intentions.  All the while though, we never really know we are swimming at all.  So, how’s the water today, Boys…?  Be well.  cc

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Richuals…

The Little Ball Of Rituals…

My skin might someday burst for all of the rituals which are packed within me, waiting, not always patiently, to be carried out each day.  From the moment I get out of bed, everything I do that matters, I do ritualistically. Every action has a purpose and must be executed at the right time and in just the right way.  To live a day in my shoes, is to extend one ritual right into another, connecting them end-to-end to form a completed day.

Turn on the coffee pot.  Shower.  Stretch.  Check my electronics. Text my daughter.  Walk my dog.  Hike.  Eat.  Work with clients.  Workout.  Write.  Share time with friends.  Listen.  Wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I own it as if that is exactly where I should be and exactly what I should be doing.  I savor these times, these actions, and each conversation.  I think this is a good way to be.

What makes all of these things rituals to me, and not habits, is that as I am doing them with reverence and appreciation.  Turning on the coffee pot, as I my finger directs the lighted button from left to right, is the only thing which matters at that moment.  We are one, me and Mr. Coffee.  Nothing in my life is as important as watching my dog call our walks to a halt as he pauses to sniff the underside of weed’s middle leaf.  The picture I take of a tree or a bird or teaspoon of peanut butter each morning, and text to my daughter, is always the most important text I will ever send.

When the earliest of my morning rituals have been completed though, and I feel confident that the day will come off okay, then it’s time for the ritual which matters most in my life; my phone call to Miss Trudy.

A Song In Her Voice…

Though we are no longer married, Trudy remains the most important person in my life – tied for 1st place with the daughter we share.  Most mornings, and most evenings I call her or she calls me – just to check in and say hello, and to ensure the other is okay.  So imbedded is this ritual, that very often, as I am preparing to dial the phone, her number shows up on my caller ID, and vice-versa.

My day officially becomes official when I utter the words,

“Good morning, Miss Trudy!”

And she reciprocates,

“Good morning, Mista Roy!”

I think her voice might be what a flower would sounds like if flowers spoke.

flower

What a voice might look like…

Here’s the thing, nothing big happens – especially with our morning phone calls.  You see, our evening phone calls generally take place right before we go to bed.  Not much latitude there to expand on.  It’s simply light conversation inquiring to about how well each other slept, and about how well our dogs slept.

We might dig a little and inquire about each other’s impeding workday.  Perhaps catch up or discuss any major news that broke overnight.  Talk about the weather.  We may even talk about what we plan to have for lunch.  Occasionally we’ll ask each other about a YouTube link to a song we felt like sharing the day prior.

I lied when I said nothing big happens.  You see, the biggest thing of all happens when I hear Miss Trudy’s voice; I know for certain that I have a true friend and a compadre in my corner.  There is a song in her voice.  Maybe the song is more like a medicine which soothes the stresses of life which often get the better of me.  There is a joy in the simplicity of innocent conversations with her.

When I reflect on all my rituals, and the ones which mean the most to me, and when I consider all we available in the form of vices to help us feel better, I well appreciate that what soothes a confused mind or an aching soul isn’t alcohol, sex, entertainment, or even money.  It is hearing the voice of my dearest friend each morning, and again each night.  May you all hear such sweet music in your own lives.  Be well… rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from George Harrison and Bob Dylan.  Enjoy…