Suspended in an un-fit hell…

Scarce is the day in which I don’t stop three or four times, and consider that the moment I exist in, at the point when I stop, might never end – and this might be my eternal hell.  In this context, I regularly fear that hell might be the capture, protraction, and subsequent exaggeration or intensification of any moment that I’m not particularly enjoying.

Example:

As I write this, it’s 4:45 a.m.  I’m sitting in the San Diego airport among dozens of middle class zombies, babbling incessantly and emotionless into their cell phones, while juggling crying babies, briefcases, Starbucks cup lids, scones, personal electronic devices, and bad dispositions.  The number of whom, and intensity of, increases.

God forbid something might happen to time at this moment, that I become eternally stranded here in a never ending continuation of right now – suspended at the will of a force I would be unaware of, with no possibility of an exit.  

I suggest many people feel this way with their bodies; suspended in a hellfull moment, feeling as though they have no control of their situation but to exist within it.  Be it excess weight, a lack of flexibility or strength, or a lacking aesthetic, they feel suspended in their body-now, beyond their control.

I will also suggest that in a majority of such cases, the suspension in the moment might be lifted, and that an exit is plausible, even likely with proper planning and execution.

Escape Plan

Escape from non- fitness hell is an endeavor. In any endeavor there must first be the thought of conclusion. If there is no thought of what outcome lie, then the term endeavor will turn the word drift. Drifting is probably not the best course or method for exiting hell.

Pick a goal; plan an exit strategy from non-fitness hell, but be realistic. If your objective is to be a size smaller than your teenage daughter, or is to be built like the tight end you admire on Sunday afternoons, then your goal is likely beyond you.

If however, your goals are to earn your way to a better place; to harden up your muscular frame a bit, to drop some body fat over a period of time, to become more flexible, stronger, or to slow the clock of aging down a bit, in time, you might just earn your way out your current suspension in non-fitness.

1) Set realistic boundaries

Before you can set your fitness goals, understand that you must first establish the boundaries of your lifestyle; family, job, church activities, etc.

How many days per week are your truly willing to commit to a fitness program. Over committing often leads to frustration and failure. Better to start with one days per week, and prove to yourself, during a month’s time, that you can exercise once per week. Then, after a month, add one more workout per week if it seems reasonable. If you start by working out six days per week and realize you can’t keep that pace, statistics show that you will likely get disillusioned and give up. 

2) Establish realistic goals within a sensible time frame

Once your boundaries are established, then conceive your goals, based on the limits of your boundaries. Take regular inventory of your goals; remember them, write them down, recite them as you drive to work, or as you shower.

Don’t expect change overnight. Accept from the beginning that you are probably months, if not years away from fully realizing your goals. However, with your workouts eating in proper check, you should see and feel some changes in your body within weeks.

3) Balance your workout

Assemble a comprehensive plan including a variety of fitness values. Include:

  1. Balance work
  2. Stretching and flexibility work
  3. Strength training
  4. Cardiovascular/cardio respiratory activities such as: treadmill, StepMill, stair-stepper, elliptical trainer, or stationary bicycle.

4) Don’t pamper yourself

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road from hell must be paved with effort.  Exercise, to be successful, should be rigorous if not intense. There is a direct relationship between intensity and success in any endeavor. Fitness; the changing your body’s capacity and aesthetic look is no different.

5) Make sound eating choices

Don’t attempt to change your eating all at once.  Gradually take control of your dietary boundaries by incorporating inclusions and exclusions into your lifestyle.

Inclusion Example: An inclusion is to add 1 item into your diet at a given time each day for three weeks. Oatmeal, for example, each morning at breakfast. After three (successful) weeks, and exclusion would then be incorporated.

Exclusion Example:  An exclusion is to remove one (existing) item from your diet each day for three weeks. That second glass of wine in the evening, for example, or the candy bar at lunch. Exclude that item each day for three weeks. Then, add in another inclusion, such as having 1/2 a protein bar in the mid afternoon instead of the candy bar.

Over a period of weeks and months, you can gradually change your eating structure without crashing head first into a fad diet, or starvation therapy.

Inclusions and exclusions, approached sensibly, are your best option for successful, long-term dietary changes.

There you have it, the basic framework to release your from your fitness hell.  In my professional life in fitness, I have seen many people try many methods to facilitate their escape from non-fitness hell. Some have succeeded, most I have known though have failed.

Those who have succeeded seem to have had two things going for them; a realistic goal, and a healthy respect for the word commitment, in pursuit of that goal. No fitness trainer, no fad diet, no device or apparatus sold at 3:00am on cable TV will help you change your body without a reasonable goal, and the decision to fulfill that goal.  If you are one who lives in a non-fitness hell, this might be a hgood exit strategy for you.  This airport scene?  I’m not so sure.  It could be a long eternity for me.  Be well.  rc

Attacment is as attachment does…

Common religious scriptures teach us that attachments are not necessary to live a fulfilling life. That the seeking of, and dependence on life’s attachments can inhibit our spiritual growth and divert us from fulfilling our most critical human potential.  Through studying the text of any faith, we learn that true fulfillment is the sum product of one’s beliefs, merged with one’s actions in observing those beliefs, and fellowship sought and nurtured from those beliefs and actions.

As we live our lives though, in the swift and confluent currents of modernity and reality, it seems our desire for, and dependence on attachments such as cars, entertainment, homes, and relationships, actually increases from year to year – as does the strength and the force of those currents.

By the time many are laid to rest, they are likely to be found laying at the end of a long trail of broken promises, bad choices, misguided intentions, unfulfilled potential, and surrounded by all the attachments that lead them down this trail to begin with. Guilty, I might be.

As Americans, I believe our single biggest attachment, is the unnecessary concept of progress in all of these areas; more, bigger, faster, fancier, and so-on.  That in all we build, buy, view, and in so many of the ways we  act, we always seek to have more, and often end up with much more than we need. 

Exercise As A Necessity; Progress In Exercise As An Attachment

Will progress in a fitness agenda end in two years or two months?  That answer is relative to the goal, and to the level of effort applied.  When progress will end, perhaps can best be answered only after one defines what fitness is, and what their fitness objective(s) might be.  Click here to learn more.

 The human body will only get so strong, be able to run so fast, and can only get so lean.  Your arms and legs will only be able to carry, lift, or push so much weight.  Your resting heart-rate will only get so low, and your flexibility will only provide for you so much range of motion – even if you exercise daily. 

 If you are measuring progress exclusively by how much weight you lift, how fast you walk or run, how low your blood pressure is, your cholesterol, etc., and you are the average 2-3 day per week fitness enthusiast, tangible progress will likely stop in a relatively short order.

 Loss of body-fat is a little different.  In the case of body-fat, you can keep losing slowly and steadily, so long as you exercise and eat consistent with that goal, right up until the body-fat is minimal, or gone. Then, and only then will progress stop – and so might your heart.  Being that lean should be no one’s goal.  Not being obese, and being healthy, should be every one’s goal – please seek to understand the difference.  Staying healthy is why it is important to continue exercising, even once visible progress is gone.

 With regard to physical strength, and the improved aesthetic caused by adding or shaping muscle mass:  Once progress stops, the changes in one’s musculature that have taken place can only be reinforced and maintained, by continuing to exercise with consistency — though there is little need at this point to continue trying to increase poundages lifted.  Still, people attempt to lift more and more weight in the gym — unnecessarily.

Curve Ball

In a much different sense than the responses above, progress never really does end, so long as you always continue exercising.

Consider this; each day you become a little older.  

Now, consider that days add up to weeks, and weeks to years, and so-on.  Even if one peaks-out or levels off at a given weight in lifting, or at given pace on the walk or the run, the true progress is that each time you do it, even if one is just maintaining an existing weight, or an existing pace, one is performing that act one day older, one week older, one year older, and so-on.

To me, that continued maintenance, as longevity protracts, is the ultimate progress in pursuing one’s fitness ambitions.  Summing longevity with continued ability should be on everyone’s fitness agenda – again, my belief. 

Health

I am at 47, as flexible as I was at 32.  At 47 years of age, I have a similar stroke volume, as balanced LDL & HDL, and the same blood pressure, and resting heart-rate as I did at 35 years of age.  So long as I continue with regular exercise, it is unlikely that these numbers will regress much, though age will cause them to regress some.

 Abilities

My bench press last week was 185 lbs. for 8 repetitions – exactly what it was nine years ago. I see that as progress.   My 5k time is consistently 24 minutes – exactly what is was four years ago.  Again, progress.  That’s what this is all about for me; a routine and observant ritual to help maintain my health as well as my abilities. The weight may be the same, but relative to the age, that’s the real progress, and I seek no more than that. 

Whether it’s you or me, it is likely that if we establish and observe our current exercise boundaries, and commit to sound eating choices, we will be in as good of shape 2 or 12 years from now, and that’s progress.

 Perhaps the best way to define progress with regard to fitness, is by simply measuring how much distance we place between our very first workout and our very last. Now that’s a concept we can all be attached to.  Be well.  rc

“Are we thin yet…?”

There has been no parent yet, driving their captive children the length of any open road, who’s ears have not been accosted by the question,

 “Are we there yet?”

 Usually asked in this relentless and rhythmic manner,

 “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet………” and so-on.

 At such times, we parents commit to one of two paths; we either attempt to match wits with our headstrong toddlers and scream,

 “Shut the hell up” as our fathers did with us.

 Or, common sense kicks in and we remind the angels in the back seat to,

 “Have patience” as our mothers did with our siblings.

 In effort to diffuse our children’s chagrin, we often present them with stimulating options such as license plate bingo, and the slug-bug game. With minds otherwise occupied, we preach that both time, and the journey will pass more quickly.

 I considered this scenario this morning as I observed a portly man in the gym stepping on the scale, anxious about any pounds lost. I have seen him step on the scale at the same time every week for several months now. He stands determined and prepares for his single step. He centers himself on the calibrated pedestal. He adjusts the scale appropriately, and then sighs of a mild disappointment as he steps off and away in abhor.

 From the scale he turns to the mirror and glances at his silhouette to study it inconspicuously — if his robust frame might have narrowed despite what the scale says.  He sighs again, and leaves the room with small uninspired steps, and eyes locked on the floor.

 These actions, I believe, are this man’s way of asking his fitness parents, Momma Scale and Papa Mirror,

 “Are we thin yet? Are we thin yet? Are we thin yet……?”

 “No” say the scale and the mirror, “you are not thin yet.”

 And like the child in the back of the car, disappointment set in as this sweaty figure sauntered away from the scale and back into the main gym for even more cardio.

 The parent behind the wheel knows the moment they turn the ignition key at the journey’s inception, approximately when they will arrive at their destination. All that can be done will be to drive the vehicle, and to follow the chosen course. The parent behind the wheel also recognizes that to reach their destination in a timely fashion, they must stay on the best roads, and not deviate from the most efficient course because to do so will mean arriving late.

 Like the parent behind the wheel, the fitness traveler is driving a vehicle of sorts, and should strive to proceed directly to his goals.  So long as one does not deviate from the best roads, and the most direct path, he is all but assured to arrive in as timely a fashion as possible — no sooner though, relative to the length of the journey.

 Here are some tips to help pass the time — some fitness driven slug-bug games if you will, that might help you stay off the scale:

 Keep covered – loosely: Once your fitness goal is established, try to wear lose fitting clothing as often as possible. Wearing garments which are too tight may be a constant reminder that you are not to your destination yet.

 Stay off the scale: The scale is truly the Are We There Yet of the fitness journey. As previously mentioned, if you know what your goal is and where you are starting from, then common sense should tell you when you will arrive. If you are on a trip from New York to Miami, it would not be advantageous to your traveling psyche to glance at your odometer as you cross the New Jersey line. Put a fair bit of distance between you and your first check of the scale. Every three weeks or less, allowing progress to occur before you attempt to measure it.

 Approach each workout and each meal as the two most direct roads to your destination: Keep the journey stimulating by enjoying your workouts and savoring your healthy meals. Don’t leave these roads, learn to enjoy them.

 Make each workout and each meal achievable:  Each workout and each meal  should have built into them, enough enjoyment to ensure you want to eat that meal or do that workout again.

 Workout and eat with a partner: Traveling alone is rarely fun. Most travel experts suggest we travel in pairs. Traveling the path to improved health and a better body is no different. Take a friend on your fitness journey. Time will pass more quickly in the gym if you have a workout partner with common goals.

 Eating with a partner of similar goals will help you make better ordering choices in restaurants, and keep you in check when the desert menu is offered.

 Keep your mind busy: Keep a list of to-do’s with you at all times, relating both your work and to your home-life. When hunger pangs strike, immediately break out your to-do list and begin in anything on the list. Speed of implementation is everything here, so I suggest at the first sign of hunger, engage in anything that will take your mind off of your stomach.

 Become an exercise hobbyist: Take a more active interest in all the reasons why you are making the choice to eat better and exercise more consistently.  Read books, study, attend clinics and seminars. Learn both exercise and nutritional functions of the human body. Understanding the reasons why, may make the destination a more desirable place to stay once you arrive.

 It is no easy task, changing the human body. Nor is it a timely endeavor. The less you think about time, relative to your destination, the more likely that destination will be to rise from the horizon and spring upon you like Ayers Rock, welcoming you to a beautiful and life-long conclusion; a better you. Now that’s a road worth traveling.  Be well.  rc

The Altar Of Right Foods…

Daily Exercise is something I have been practicing since I was 12 years old – I don’t know otherwise. In that sense, the ritual practice of strenuous movement has become a primary religion to me – literally. I have often been ashamed to share that for fear of offending those of more ornate and historic faiths; that my greatest faith lies in the belief of, and the ritual practice of playing games with gravity. But that is my reality.

In the most wonderful sense though, it is the having of exercise in my life which brings me closest to any possibility of a god, a reverent life in my community, or on my planet. I have only recently come to realize and embrace this concept; that the having of this something is paramount in my ability to appreciate anything, and to give back in any way.  Outwardly, my workout time seems self-serving.  Inwardly, didactic in ways which reach far beyond this self.

With daily exercise as a spiritual service for me, right eating choices throughout the day are my primary form of prayer. Just as prayer better connects a person to a faith, the more I reach out to my daily practice of exercise through good eating choices, the better connected the inner me and the outer me become.  Food praying poises me that I am better able to take on and serve the world, and the people in it.

As in contemplative prayer, there is something cleansing about the observance of right eating.  Not just eating the healthy meal, but actually taking time to consider it as I prepare it.  Thought, combined with the tactile observance of cutting the vegetables, steaming the brown rice, assembling crisp salads, and biting in to the fresh apple are a literal prayer and sacrament – I give and I get, simultaneously.   My body and my spirit liven up expressly when preparing, and when partaking in more natural foods. I feel fortified, and better able to participate in the great dance.

Conversely, when I withdraw from taking care of me with food prayer, it isn’t long before I become less connected to life and to people – less willing and less able to contribute.  On the heels of poor eating I often experience feelings of lethargy, inability to accomplish, and even shame and guilt – just as there can be guilt in not praying, or praying for a lesser purpose – to outrun an earned circumstance.   

I liken eating poorly, despite that one may regularly exercise, to going to church each week for the message, but driving away after the sermon only to hit the trail of sin again.  Or, to not give any further consideration to faith again until the following Sunday.  As soon as some leave the church, it’s right back to taking more than they give. This kind of hit and run faith is too common, though as modern Americans we do hit and run living pretty well.

Whether your connection to exercise is one of reverence, out of obligation, or out of medical necessity…  be you an athlete, fitness enthusiast, surfer, runner, dancer, or weekend warrior of any variety, I suspect you will better connect with, and benefit more from your ritual movement, by better connecting in-between movements with good food – thought and prepared for good reason, as a form of right obedience. 

It is long forgotten that the purpose of eating is to survive the day as best we can; to better prepare the body to serve the next day – and to serve the world.  Contemplating and eating more of that which comes directly from the Earth brings me closer to, and better prepares me to serve he who (might have) created it.  Be well.  rc

SCAPs, effeciency, and a very “garage” video….

Efficiency in exercise; I think about it from time to time.  Efficiency can be a midwife to the birth of a successful outcome in fitness.  A lack of efficiency can be the executioner of one.  Time and energy used unnecessarily, are both wasted.  Time and energy well managed, and used for the benefit of the body, are components efficiency – and success.  That said, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite exercises, born of efficiency; The Step, Curl, and Press, or SCAPs as I call them.

The SCAP is among the most efficient of exercises because it contains these key elements of fitness:

  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • And done in the right protocol, can have an enhanced cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory affect.

The Tools:

  • You will need a small step or block, large enough to stand on and support your bodyweight.  The block or step can range if height from just a few inches off the ground for the novice, to 6” or more for the more advanced athlete.
  • Two dumbbells; of a weight which can be raised overhead in good form for 10-12 repetitions.  As always, I suggest weights that will be heavy enough to be challenging, light enough to be achievable, and that proper exercise be maintained throughout.

 The Process:

  • Stand just a few inches away from the block, with dumbbells held at your sides, at arm’s length.
  • Slowly, place one foot on the block, seeking to find sure footing.
  • Slowly, raise the dumbbells from your sides up to shoulder-level, while simultaneously raising the back leg (the one not on the step), seeking to raise the knee as high as possible.  At this point you should be balanced on one foot, with one knee high in the air, and 2 dumbbells held at shoulder level. Hold this posture for a complete stop.
  • Balanced on one foot, one knee still held high, slowly extend the dumbbells overhead and hold them at a complete stop.
  • Still balanced on one foot with one knee high, lower the dumbbells back to shoulder level and hold at a complete stop.
  • Lower the raised knee back to the floor, behind the step, while simultaneously lowering the weights back to your sides.
  • Step off the step, pause for a couple of breaths, and repeat the process with the opposing foot on the step next.
  • Take caution to move slowly and stop for a 2-count at each phase of the exercise.
 StartMid-pointTop

The Protocol:

Sets, and repetition schemes are relative to one’s goals.  I usually suggest 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions each.  This will be plenty to reinforce balance, promote strength and flexibility, and will get your heart and lungs going for a few minutes. 

 The Benefits:

As mentioned, there are elements of strength, balance, flexibility, and core strength provided by SCAPs.  At some point in the course of the exercise, every muscle in your body will fire to some degree. 

  • Your abdominal muscles, your lower back, and your calf muscles are relied on heavily that you maintain balance. 
  • The small, dynamic muscles of the upper body are used to raised and lower the weights.
  • The large profile muscle of the legs are relied on to step on and off the step.
  • SCAPs are very portable and do not even require a gym.  With a minimum of equipment, they can be done at home, in the office, or in a dorm room.  

The AMAZING Video:

The Summary:

As a vehicle for function fitness, aesthetic fitness, and efficiency, there’s just not much better than SCAPs.  I usually include them in my workouts 2-3 times per month. 

 On occasion, I will set aside 20-30 minutes and use SCAPS as a cardio activity.  My protocol is to perform one set of 20 repetitions, rest 1 minute, and another 20, and so-on.  After 20-30 minutes of these done in this fashion, I’m covered with sweat, and invigorated beyond belief – despite that my arms and legs are more noodley than a warm box of beef chow mien. 

SCAP on dudes!  Be well.  rc