The ritual of movement…

A step is taken, an altar approached.  An arm is extended, and a candle lit.  Words perhaps are spoken, and a prayer offered.  Cleansing begins.  We call this ritual.  In this context we view these actions as religious ritual.  Experiencing religious ritual can resonate within a person, the very essence of being – and of being connected to that which might be greater than us.


The propagation of ritual through the ages might be the capillaries of mankind; channels through which awareness has flowed between generations of people, as well as people and time.  To practice religious ritual is to connect with yesterday, today, and tomorrow simultaneously, and offer them a warm mental hug.  Ritual has kept faith in tact through the millennia.  Those who do not practice ritual risk faith losing its form, not just for themselves, but for the masses as well.  Increased ritual of faith might help save us as a species – might and help.


I first wrote the paragraphs above in an attempt to compare the act of ritual in exercise to the ritual of religion.  Big mistake.  There can be no comparison.  Even in the modern age, ritual of faith is much more important.  That said, as modern eating, modern working, and modern living evolve, our need does increase for the ritual of kinesis.  I suggest that we would not be talking so much about government run or subsidized health care, if every TV set or video game in America were powered by a treadmill or stationary bike.


The lacing of the shoes; taut, firm, and complete.  The meal before the run.  The stretching of the legs, the back, and torso.  The placement of the heart-rate monitor.  The planning of the course; the ritual of the run.  


The way the racquet is removed from the bag and then from its sheath.  The way the balls are bounced and tested before they are served.  The banter between opponents in-between the points.  The adjustment of the sweat bands on the wrist.  The placement of the feet.  The choice of the stance; the ritual of tennis.


Slipping each hand methodically into the gloves and wrapping the velcro bands around the wrists.  The plan of attack in the battle against gravity with the weights.  The clapping of hands in advance of the lift.  The rhythm of the sets and reps; the ritual of the gym.


These are just examples of rituals in daily movement.  It could be yoga, Pilates, a rock-wall, or a water-aerobics class, whatever.  There can be as much ritual in the preparation as in the action, and the ritual of preparation often primes the action for greater success.


Such rituals offer us access outside of ourselves, and deep within ourselves – simultaneously.  To practice the ritual of physicality is not only to connect with the responsibility of owning a human body, but such rituals can provide a means to live with lesser need for help from the outside.  Increased ritual with regard to activity might help save us as a species – might and help


Drifting through life without the anchor of ritual would be, to me, like living life floating through the beauty of the cosmos for eternity, without ever having the chance to touch or stand upon a star.  If humanity is to continue, and dare I say prosper, I believe we need to practice more ritual in faith and physicality individually; that we benefit collectively.  Whether the soul is located within the body, or the body within the soul, it is ritual which fosters continuance and growth, and I am down with both.  If you don’t pray, you may pay, and if you’re sitting still, you are definitely simulating death.  Be well.  rc

Two divisions of fitness

I classify modern fitness into two primary divisions; aesthetic fitness and functional fitness.

Aesthetic fitness relates to how one looks – to the aesthetic flow of a person’s body.

Functional fitness better describes how the body functions – its capacities and abilities to function and perform.

To achieve any degree of success in aesthetic fitness is less likely. Despite the immense internal desires, most people never fulfill their ambitions in changing the shape of their body. They fail to do this for two primary reasons:

  1. Effort. People fail to realize and accept just how much effort is involved in daily exercise, effort in the grocery store, effort in the kitchen, and effort at the dinner table when it comes to changing the landscape of the body.It takes work – hard work if the body is going to change. Not just effort in pushing and pulling weights, but effort in pushing the wrong foods away from you and pulling the right foods toward you. Just going through the motions of exercise won’t get it done. Nor will a massive change in the body take place by simply putting Aunt Jemima Lite on your waffles each day. A superior level of commitment in eating and exercise is required to change the human body.
  2. Time. People fail to realize how long a process it might be to change the shape of one’s body. If a person was never in shape to begin with, or a person took years to get out of shape, it is reasonable to expect that it may take months if not years to gain or regain an improved body shape.

In the technically advanced age that we live in, where instant results are the norm, and instant gratification is a daily requirement by us all, our patience for things which take more time runs far too thin. A person who begins a fitness program will likely be looking for tangible results within days, if not hours of their first workout and that just won’t happen.

As a point of fact, the tangible changes one seeks from exercise often don’t manifest and become visible for weeks or even months. And for the person seeking instant gratification, months of exercise with few or no visible results is usually not worth their efforts, and that’s too bad because we all have the potential to change. Thus, the workouts and better eating end, and the rocky road to fitness success becomes a person’s exclusive path to rocky road ice cream and no exercise at all.


Achieving success in functional fitness is different. Functional fitness itself can be divided into many subdivisions; balance, flexibility, strength, endurance, the intrenal fitness values of lower blood pressure, increased stroke volume, improved cholesterol and so-on.

To site two diverse examples of functional fitness, I suggest one as trying to run a mile in 7 minutes rather than in 10 minutes. Many people would not relate well to that because many people do not run. A better example of functional fitness would be possessing the ability to tie your shoes – without having to sit down in order to do so. Everyone can identify with that.

Unlike the chase for aesthetic fitness, those pursuing improvements in functional fitness need not spend lots of time in the gym. In fact, to increase your level of functional fitness, a gym is not even necessary. Nor is the typical 30-60 minute workout. With just a little knowledge of a few basic exercises practiced in spare moments throughout the course of a day, progress in functional fitness can be attained and noticed within 2-3 weeks, if not sooner.

Keep in mind that while exercising to improve functional fitness is important, and will help influence the quality of your life, exercising in this fashion will do little, if anything, to change the shape of your body. Functional fitness is just that – fitness to improve the way one’s body functions.

In an era when science, medicine, and technology enable us to live longer lives, the curve of human functionality is sliding in the opposite direction. With obesity, diabetes, heart disease, lethargy, etc., on the rise, people are functioning at a lesser lever earlier in life – just look at the people around you to confirm this.  We seem to be living longer, but a lesser quality of life often ensues sooner; a dichotomy worth avoiding.

Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamn once said that older people, who can’t function well in society, have an obligation to die. Though I don’t totally disagree with him, I will suggest that younger people have an obligation to never become older people who are unable to function well in society.

We all want to look better. We all want to function and feel better. In the end, nobody will be judged at the gates of heaven by the shape of their abs or the size of their jeans. We may be judged though, by how we contribute to others in this life and how we contribute to the world as a whole. I’m not a master of the social sciences, but I believe if we are better able to function within this world, then we will be better able to contribute to this world – and ultimately be judged accordingly.

I believe that regular exercise should be practiced by every man, woman, and child in the Western world, and the sum of those who fail to maintain themselves as functional human beings, are a complex drain on society; a drain on governments, a drain on families, a drain on schools, a drain religious institutions, communities, et al.

Those who fail to keep themselves aesthetically fit are  nothing more than a huge drain on the unnecessary expectations popular cultures thrusts upon them,  and that’s not okay.  Love who you are, and remember that what you look like is not a reflection of who you are, but only reflects the misguided values of those who see you.  Be well. 

Will be taking two weeks of to travel, recharge, explore, contemplate, and live.  Will begin posting again in August.

Canvas’ in Converse…

I fashion myself as an artist more than a fitness trainer, though as it applies to my work I am both. I choose to express through the tools and knowledge of my profession, and rely exclusively on those willing to allow this process to occur.

No different than a musician, a sculptor, or painter, I try to create within my work, and seek improvement in my art with each successive effort. Unlike the painter however, the canvas on which I compose is that of human flesh, and of the spirit contained within — no easy task. A painter’s canvas will sit still to receive each stroke of the brush — the canvas has no choice. The painter may produce something beautiful which will be valued by one or by many. He may just as easily create a work of abstract schlock, or another Elvis on black velvet. In either case, the canvas has no say in the result, it just receives the paint as prescribed by the artist.


Canvas's John and Connie climbed the hill behind them -- with no hands!!! Canvas’s John and Connie climbed the hill behind them — with no hands!!!

Clay will exist to be formed. It will bend, give, be spun, be carved, and be molded into it’s limitless potential. But if the end product looks more like a clap of mud fallen from the back of a tractor’s tire, don’t blame the clay, it was the artist who failed.


Canvas Mike Z lost over 100 pounds last year... Canvas Mike Z lost over 100 pounds last year…

My art has two accountable parties, the trainer, and the athlete. A good fitness trainer is educator, communicator, and cheerleader. But a great fitness trainer must also be an artist; to have a vision for the malleable flesh and spirit he seeks to change. Fitness trainer, by the way, is the appropriate term. Would you use the terms personal dentist, personal lawyer, or personal carpenter? I don’t like the term client either, as it applies to fitness training. Trainee is simple and more appropriate, but I prefer to think of my trainees as people who entrust me with their fitness goals.

Those people, the ones who entrust me with their fitness goals, are also my canvas. Though they have not always received my brush strokes the way that a good canvas might. There have been times through the years when a canvas or two has tried to dodge each and every stroke of my brush. I’ve had a canvas or two lie to me and tell me they were eating well and doing all the peripheral things which need be done to succeed when, like Gepetto, I knew the truth lay elsewhere by the size of their nose. I even had one canvas push me in the chest once when I got in her face, though she is still a canvas, and a good one at that.


Nobody, NOBODY works harder in my studio than Canvas Laura and Canvas Linda... Nobody, NOBODY works harder in my studio than Canvas Laura and Canvas Linda…

Today though I was thinking about the twenty eight people who regularly, or semi-regularly entrust me with their fitness goals here in Fallbrook. As I considered all their faces for a few moments, I realized how lucky I am here. Of those twenty eight persons, (some have been with me for a half-dozen years now) they all make a great canvas. Oh, some may bitch, and some may moan, and every so often one might try to dodge a brush stroke or two, but everyone of those twenty eight people who entrust me with their fitness goals will walk through my gym doors each day and will do anything I ask — without conflict, without lies, and most important, with absolute trust in me. There are even a few who, if I gave them a book of matches and a can of gasoline, would set themselves on fire if it were part of the workout, though I rarely ask this anymore.

 Canvas Louise completely remade herself... Canvas Louise completely remade herself…

Considering this trust, relative to my profession, tonight I feel fortunate, blessed and want to thank all of those canvases who have allowed me to forge them into better, firmer, shapelier, more flexible, and healthier bodies. When I think of how I earn my living, I am truly the luckiest man alive….. and a fair artist, I hope.  Be well.

Crowds in my coffee (Counter-attack)

Despite my fitness goals, I often succumb to the allure and false salvation of gas station coffee. Though Starbucks and Pete’s have an obvious chokehold on the nation’s young entrepreneurs, software writers, thinkers, and artistic wannabes, myself and America’s other simpletons are still taking our morning fix at the Arco station, and for a much better price. The Arco coffee experience is the social antithesis of the activities which resonate at those snobbish establishments from the northwest. The Arco coffee experience is more pure, more exciting, and though sometimes combative, profoundly ritualistic.

At the convenience store your coffee dollar is much stronger, but your choices are more limited. You can’t be swayed by long partitions of beveled glass cases boasting a drab rainbow of glossy black and brown beans. At Arco you won’t breathe the potent aroma of freshly roasted beans, hand picked by dedicated Bolivian villagers and packed out of the high jungle on dangerous roads by wobbly burros. Hell, at the Arco it probably isn’t even real coffee. There are no shakers of Viennese cinnamon, nor little round tables hosting repressed bookworms with Whitman in one hand and a crumbly scone in the other as their WiFi hums through their Macbook.

At the Arco station, little creamers in tiny cupettes are at the heart of the thing. Actually it’s more of a synthetic cream-like substitute; a non-dairy product which holds up well in the extreme heat of the convenience store coffee thermoses. I don’t actually count the calories from these creamers as – being made of plastic solids and plutonium, they are probably never digested and just cycle through my system endlessly trying to exit through my pours.

The coffee thermoses at the Arco are designed to keep coffee at temperatures of nearly 2,364 degrees. This temperature is just right for most, but some crusty contractors and bourbon-bound salesmen are often seen heating it up a bit more in the microwave oven for good measure. The little creamers are more syrupy than creamy, and are sometimes difficult to open. They come in a variety of flavors including; Mocha, Swiss Chocolate, Irish Hazelnut and the trademarked Amaretto and Kahlua. The best ones, the Amaretto an the Kahlua, are always in short supply.

In most Arco locations there exists a coffee assembly station on stainless steel counters which are also host to the Sara Lee muffin carousel. It is sometimes crowded at the counter, and always competitive during the heat of the morning rush. People become aggressive as they position for a clear space on the counter, and the last of the Kahlua creamers. Today, a groggy business man with messy morning hair, bad breath and an untied necktie attempted to brush me back by stabbing at my hand with a red stirrer stick. I stood my ground though because to do so shows dominance in the arena, and people will be less likely to cut in as I take my time emptying 8 or 9 of the 1 oz. creamers into my 20 oz. foam cup.

After the creamer is loaded into the cup, I face the difficult decision of selecting my artificial sweetening component; Nutra Sweet or Saccharine. The scientific community and my mother tell me that with Nutra Sweet I run the risk of extensive memory loss, and with Saccharine I run the risk of cancer. I most often choose to blend the two in equal balance – operating under the assumption that if the Saccharine causes me cancer, the Nutra Sweet will help me forget about it. Sugar is available too, but nobody uses it for reasons of health – after all, this is California.

There is a comfort zone for me at the Arco station right here in Bonsall which have never found at a Starbucks or Pete’s. I run into the same faces every morning, and though we may sometimes battle it out at the stainless steel counter, we always acknowledge one another’s presence and share a dose of small talk with the former meth addict ex-stripper who’s bruised and tattooed arms run the cash register.

Everyone says good morning to one another, and everyone is sincere about it. Should I reach for my 24e oz. coffee cup in vain, I know just where to look to replenish the supply; experience has even taught me how many cups will fit into the dispenser. I show my respect for the whole process by always taking care to use the damp towel left on the counter to wipe off the sticky residue which builds from the spills of cream and sweetener. The girl behind the register will always nod in acknowledgement when seeing me do so. “Just doing my part” I say.

Soon I will be in my car clipping home again, with a bounce in my step and smile on my face. Like all people, I long to be accepted – to be one of the beautiful at Starbucks. But I know I will never fit in there, and am not willing to pay their price even if I could. If not loved, I am at least known at the Arco station. From this I learn that having a place in life is good; accepting it is beautiful. Be well.