WWJRD…?

(the R is for really)

Jesus might have had an idea. His idea might have involved every person who would ever live after his death, and resurrection.  The idea might come to him on his return to heaven.  His thought process might have been something like this: 

I have given so much – my entire life, that all of mankind be rewarded with the possibility of eternal life and peace in here in heaven.  I hope that people will come to know me, to appreciate and celebrate the struggles and the sacrifice I have made for my Father, and for them.  As they come to know me, I hope they will gather and celebrate in the form of right-living, practiced through ritual observances.” 

His idea for the ritualistic observance of his death and resurrection might have been a simple one; that one day per year we should all stop, gather around a table with friends and family, and in Jesus’ own name, celebrate his death and resurrection by doing harm to ourselves – together.  His idea probably wouldn’t stop there.  Likely, Jesus would want us to do additional harm to our children – even greater harm than he would want us to do to ourselves.

Jesus’ big idea for this celebration would be to gather round, and eat all kinds of crap, do so all day long, and do so in his name.  Glazed ham, hot cross buns, casseroles, breads, cakes, pies, and good old alcohol, and all of this with second and third helpings included.   After all, wasn’t his entire life dedicated to preaching the act of indulgence and excess? 

Well, there was also that part of his early life that was dedicated to teaching the ritual gathering, and subsequent poisoning of children, you know, with kid-poison; jelly beans, chocolates bunnies, puffy marshmallow things, and baskets offered to all the little ones, full of the same – and all in the name of Him.

Sweet Jesus, what have we done...?

Now, if you’re like me and you really don’t believe Jesus wanted us to harm each other in any way, least of all in his name, then my question to you is this:  Why is Easter, the observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, celebrated in this way?  It seems lacking in mindfulness.

I’m not suggesting that this very solemn Christian holiday be celebrated without food or gathering.  In fact, ritual observances, which include food, are the mortar that helps keep the bricks of faith held in place.  I do suggest that, very Americanly, we excessively emphasize the occasion, thus diluting the cause for the occasion. 

I am also suggesting that that if one steps back and looks at the larger picture of the American Easter celebration, and then compares the details of that celebration process to the lessons we perceive that Jesus was trying to teach us, one might have trouble seeing where high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and type-II diabetes fit in to the equation.

Please print this and column and place it under the cross-shaped WWJD magnet that you (may) have on your refrigerator.  In 9 months, please make the following substitutions:

  1. Jesus’ birth, for death and resurrection
  2. Candy canes and Chocolate Santa’s, for Peeps
  3. Roast Beef, for Ham – at least in Whoville

To my Jewish friends and family, please make appropriate substitutions as desired for the holidays of Hanukah and Passover:

  1. Passover, for Easter
  2. Hanukah, for Christmas
  3. Moses, for Jesus
  4. Hanukah gelt, for Peeps

And actually, you may go ahead and keep the traditional Seder dinner intact; nutritionally balanced and inherent portion control, but maybe we could cut down a bit on the wine.  Peace.  rc

Absolute Notions; Absolute Zero!

Like clouds, notions are formed from the confluence of currents and particles; the perpetual current of human perception mixes and swirls with particles of human knowledge, and a notion is born.  Notions can be insignificant, producing little or no mental precipitation.  Or, a notion can work its way toward another notion, joining forces to grow into a larger notion still.  These notions, captured by the thinker(s) and supported by reason, can produce the precipitation which has helped to nourish and grow all we know as a species.

Notions can feed and illuminate...

 Too many fitness notions though, are passed along with little or no reason, but prescribed as absolutes by the thinker selling the ideal.  These notions release intellectual acid rain, which can stifle the growth of the fitness constituency, which is perpetually seeking nourishment in the form of truth.  It is a sad reality that many such notions have become the hard and fast rules of fitness in the modern era; the absolutes of exercise and eating as prescribed self-appointed fitness shaman of this age. Aside from exercising regularly and eating mindfully, I believe there should be no absolutes in fitness, only possibilities.

 An absolute notion of how exercise should be:

I know a highly regarded fitness trainer, the head of the fitness and training department for a large chain of health clubs, who once told me that it is dumbbells, and dumbbells only that people should choose when strength training. He often declares to anyone who will listen that machines, cable & pulley devices, other contrived apparatus, and even barbells hold little or no value whatsoever compared to the common dumbbell – absolutely.  He insists this, born of his notion which has no reason assigned to it. Many who are not in-the-know cling to this man’s notion and accept it as gospel. Possibilities become stifled by advertising such notions as absolute.

Only dumbbells believe in absolutes...

 An absolute notion of how eating should be:

There is an internet fitness shaman who touts the Lean Cuisine frozen meal as, “among the poorest eating choices one can make at work” – absolutely.  This declaration of poor eating is a concept based on his notions, which are rooted well outside of reason. 

Far from perfect, but utility on the modern world...

 I rarely venture to suggest or define what eating poorly really means; in this era, this is an increasingly relative concept.  One might make a case against eating a Lean Cuisine for lunch; these are highly processed foods, full of additives and preservatives, and of lesser nutritional content than a wedge of salmon and a branch of broccoli. Though there is no contesting that the salmon and broccoli lunch is nutritionally much more sound than the Lean Cuisine, there is also no arguing the utility of the Lean Cuisine; portion control, nutritional balance, and convenience in this busy world.  A lean Cuisine would be a much better lunch choice at work than a double cheeseburger, fries, and a soda.

 A few notions, but no agenda:

I’m proud to admit that traditional strength training has its biggest fan in me.  I teach strength training, and I will sell its utility to anyone who will listen – based on my own notions.  I never sell it as an absolute path to fitness.  I also try to ensure most of my foods are more healthy than not – that they come from whole sources, and that they are processed and delivered within reasonable means.  But I am not even absolute in this observance or in this teaching.  I am not opposed to eating a Lean Cuisine or even a protein bar, out of convenience, or when on the run, though it doesn’t happen often.

Broccoli when I can; Lean Cuisine when I can't...

 I make my living in the fitness industry and I try hard to walk the walk based on my own notions, though I do sometimes fail.  I try to do what I what believe is (probably) good for me in the forms of daily movement and right-eating.  I encourage others to do the same; to move daily, and to eat mindfully.  I do so because I have a notion that we would all be better off if we lived this way – absolutely, and that is the only absolute you’ll hear from me.  Be well.  rc

Shower Power…

If my glass of wine with dinner is a knock of the gavel announcing the conclusion of my waning day, then my morning shower is a calling to order of all of my senses, so they can administer the justice of my impending day.   My warm shower, in a darkened bathroom, is a daily rebirth of all I am, and all I am about to be.  This daily sanctification fosters a synergy between my consciousness, my physicality, and my environment.  My morning shower places me gently into my day.

Rinsing away the past...

As my skin receives the water, my body and mind awaken slowly.  Thoughts begin to form, ideas take shape – inside my head I build my day.  The remains of yesterday are washed from my skin, from my mind, and momentarily I am pure again.

The Inner

I contemplate.  Seated on the shower floor, I pray.  I attempt to connect with whoever might have created me.  I seek to establish a dialog which might help this pure state linger longer.  I offer information to my maker, in exchange for a silent reinforcement of my morality.

I review.  Still seated and water falling from above, the actions of the day prior are scrutinized in my head – picked apart as a means of learning what might have gone wrong – of why yesterday was not perfect, and how today might be.

I Vow.  Still seated, water still falls.  A plan is made to learn from yesterday’s mistakes that they not become repeated.  Ways of conducting my behaviors for the day ahead are assembled in my head, and are repeated aloud with absolute concentration.  Perhaps this will help.

The Outer

My inner head intact, the warm water continues to fall onto my outer head and into my mouth – my dry tongue is delighted by the clean taste.  Slowly I stand as the water softens my muscles making them more pliable, and I begin a routine to stretch my limbs and my torso to ready them for a day of movement.  Each stretch is a functional luxury, and an inventory of what I am made of.  The routine culminates when the warm water fades to cool, and I feel alive.

This morning ritual is probably the closest I get truth all day long, aside from looking into the eyes of my dogs.  I cherish these moments though I know here, in Southern California where water is linited, this is a very selfish act.  My shower only ends when the hot water runs out.  Energy and water used unnecessarily I know.  Still, I accept the sin and ask forgiveness for the trespass.

My morning shower places me gently into my day, and this ritual is as important to my fitness psyche as the rituals of movement and rituals of right eating.  Mental preparation – visualization, lend themselves to success.  Be well.  rc

Mr. (healthcare) Bill; and Slugo…

It’s after the fact now.  The legislation will become the law.  The bill is probably not as great as its authors and supporters will suggest.  Nor is it likely to be as evil as its detractors insist.   I haven’t read a single word of it, nor will I.  I do suspect it is like most other legislation; put in place to keep the leaks of social order contained to a tolerable level.

For all its debate and discussion, I still suggest the issue (much) larger than what congress has been dealing with, is an issue of individual behavior and responsibility; that we depend on doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceuticals excessively, and we consistently fail to take the proper precautions to keep ourselves healthy and functioning at a higher level.  So very Americanly, our expectations of others far exceeds our willingness to act responsibly.

Whatever the fallout and consequences of this legislation will be, intended or otherwise, this can be a gut-check for American individual responsibility.  We must first blame ourselves for all that has confronted us; for getting ourselves in the kind of physical condition that has created this dependency on doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceuticals.  We can next minimize the unintended consequences of this legislation by striving harder to minimize our dependency on these institutions.

Make clear, I am not speaking of actively confronting the diseases which have first confronted us.  Rather, I speak of those diseases which we have sought and found by our own selfish, often reckless behaviors.  These are the diseases which I suggest clog and decay the very important and institutions of medicine, insurance, and pharmaceuticals, and slow down the system’s capacity to address the former.

Something about Nancy. Is that styling mousse....?

Our system of government and its mechanisms to maintain social order seem to work pretty well most of the time.  What we so often dislike about the system and those elected officials who administer the system, is the system’s sinister accuracy in reflecting our own values and behaviors back upon us.  rc

Short attention-span essay…

My amazing fiancé recently took on the project of painting motivational signs to adorn my fitness training studio.  To make them personal and unique to my cause, she suggested we use motivational sayings from me; Royisms.  We selected some choice thoughts from my own writings over the past few years.   From the 45 that we extracted as possible candidates, she chose 3 to paint on the signs.  I will not say which 3 she chose, but these are the leftovers.  I have highlighted my personal favorites in bold text.  I hope you enjoy the lighter fare this week; think of this as a short attention-span essay.  Be well.  rc

I think too much, therefore I am too much...

  1. Train like an athlete, eat like a shark, walk like a god…
  2. The most direct path to the land of complacency is lit by the television set….
  3. Attitude is not everything, but it is what gets you on your feet; or not…
  4. If you don’t enjoy exercise and right-eating, you should learn to enjoy things like insulin, dialysis, motorized scooters, and so much more…
  5. Discipline is not only your most powerful tool, it is also your most portable…
  6. Hundreds of pounds can be lifted in a single workout.  Why then, is it so hard to push away a 3 ounce dessert…
  7. Nobody ever died from a lack of sleep.  Though I suspect a few people have killed because of it…
  8. If you can only watch as you children play, without participating with them, it’s probably time to make changes in how you play…
  9. I know of no person who ever left the gym and said, “I wish I hadn’t done that”…
  10. If an exercise can be done in one place and without any equipment, it can be done in front of the television…
  11. I defy anyone to tell me that the last spoonful from a carton of ice cream tastes any better than just the first…
  12. I know of no successful fitness endeavor that began on New Year’s day.  Today is the day…
  13. Cream in your coffee or wine with dinner on a given day but never both.  Checks and balances…
  14. Better you concern yourself less with all the numbers on the LCD readout on your cardio machine; calories burned, heart-rate, etc.  Rather, concern yourself with the amount of sweat falling upon those numbers…
  15. Obesity” anagrammed is “sit obey”. So you can sit and obey your TV set, and obesity will have you right where it wants you…
  16. Your body has no idea how heavy a weight is, only how heavy it feels.  Make more from less by keeping your form in check…
  17. The number 1 reason for over eating at night, is under eating during the day…
  18. Jaw-cardio, the act of talking rather than exercising in the gym, is a disease and must be stopped in our lifetime…
  19. One definition of hell is when the person you are comes face to face with the person you wish you were…
  20. Challenging exercise never gets any easier.  It can however, become more rewarding…
  21. Addiction is a mother-fucker with a knife, a gun, and a detailed map to the home of every man, woman, and child in the country.  Check the peep-hole before you open the door…
  22. Become an exercise hobbyist; practice the art of self-insurgency…
  23. Keep your priorities in order.  In the end, you will not be judged by the size of your waist or the shape of your abs…
  24. Don’t worry about a slowing down of weight loss – it’s natural and can be overcome.  Worry more about a slowing down of your positive attitude…
  25. As a weight loss tool, the scale is worthless – unless you choose to step on and off it again and again for 30 minutes per day… (forgive me Dr. J)
  26. Please allow me to summarize all you need to know about exercise and proper eating: Exercise rigorously for 30-60 minutes every day of your life, and don’t eat crap…
  27. If you can see your ass-print on the sofa from across the room, you need to get out more…
  28. The best reasons to exercise are the ones which call you Mommy and Daddy…
  29. If your idea of fitness is bowling twice per month for cardio, and putting Aunt Jamima Lite on your waffles, success might more come slowly…
  30. Your next goal should be the completion of your next workout…
  31. Enjoy life. Celebrate moments. Just be sure to keep the size of the celebration relative to the size of the moment…
  32. For really fast results in decreasing body fat, and gaining harder & leaner muscles, go back to sleep and dream of such things happening fast…
  33. Success in fitness requires daily action…
  34. Let the day begin, the pursuit continue, the actions be completed, and the results allowed to shine for all to see…
  35. At the end of each day you can look back on, and be proud of the actions you have taken. Or, you can regret the opportunities you have forsaken…
  36. Choose wisely.  The experience of dining out should never be followed by the experience of regret…
  37. A trigger food is something which makes you want to more of it.  Better you look for a trigger exercise…
  38. The best workout partner you can have is the clock on the wall; get in, get out, get on with your busy life…
  39. I once saw my father eat 14 canolies in one sitting.  When I wheeled him out of the buffet I asked him if he knew how many he had eaten.  He did not know.  I still remember…
  40. People who classify themselves as “hard gainers” in the gym are more often than not, “big wanters”…
  41. In truth, fitness doesn’t really matter. A lack of fitness? That matters a great deal…
  42. There are as many reasons to skip exercise as there are large and breathless people scooting about the local Wal-Mart in motorized shopping carts – as they fill their handlebar baskets with pork rinds, moon pies, and their insulin prescriptions…
  43. Age and excuses go hand in hand.  The older we get, the more readily we cultivate them…
  44. Shop for a fitness trainer, don’t just settle for one.  A helpful hint?  If the trainer you seek looks like they too need a trainer, keep searching…
  45. Cheese-Its; like opium, orgasm, and a good nap rolled into one

Return Of The Jetty…

Epic weather has kissed Southern California right on the mouth this week.  How lucky we all are to have this!  After a nice beach run on Sunday, my wonderful fiancé and I did a bit of jetty hopping in the sunshine.  I first posted this last year, but definitely appropriate for the week. 
 
 Surfing legend Dale Webster refers to surfing as, “The ultimate spontaneous involvement in a natural medium.” Both in meaning and structure that remains my favorite sentence of all time. The two most striking words there are spontaneous and natural. It would be great if all functional exercise could provide spontaneity, and do so in a natural setting.   
Dale Webster surfed EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE for nearly 29 years...

Dale Webster surfed EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE for nearly 29 years...

An increasingly common notion among fitness enthusiasts in this modern era is to “get out of the gym”. It is a point that is being raised by fitness experts with nearly the same fever today as “get your ass in the gym” was 15 years ago. Of course neither camp is right, nor is either side wrong – there is value in all exercise, both in and out of the gym. The gym certainly has it’s place in modern culture, having gained in popularity over the last several decades. The gym became popular because it can lend a great deal more structure to one’s agenda — especially when one is new to exercise. Also, the gym is more accessible for many than the outdoors.

True, the outdoors is accessible for just about everyone – at least part of the year, but just what is accessible outdoors is not always the same from region to region and town to town. Deserts, beaches, mountains, prairie, and even urban sprawl can serve as an outdoor gym. However, there is much less structure exercising out of doors, which is why those who need structure cling to the gym, and despite what some preach, there is nothing wrong with getting exercise indoors, and at the gym. That said, there is a good bit more opportunity exercising out of doors – at least for the creative fitness enthusiast. 

The whole world is a gym if youre brave enough to try it...

The whole world is a gym if you're brave enough to try it...

 The flourishing concept I see among fitness trainers in my area is the Beach Workout. Those in my region are fortunate because we live near the water. Beach workouts in Las Vegas — well, they’re just not the same. The typical beach workout I see take place is one which may include the trainer leading people on short runs, mixed in with some lunges, pushups, squats, crunches, and sometimes even swimming in the ocean. These workouts can be very productive and challenging when pushed. However, the best element of a beach workout is almost never used by the trainers who I see do this, and that’s too bad because it’s my favorite component of a beach workout.

In fact, this one element alone, can account for an entire cardio-intensive, whole-body workout; the sum of agility training, balance, strength, stability, cardio, lower and upper body strength conditioning all at once — done spontaneously and in a natural setting. The workout in question? Climbing the jetty; that rocky structure jetting out into the ocean from the sand, built to control both tide and erosion. The jetty is a perfect free-form fitness apparatus. The act of climbing the height and length of the jetty, booth in random style, or in patterns, for a determined amount of time, can provide all the elements previously mentioned, will definitely include some spontaneity, take place in a natural medium, and nobody gets wet – hopefully, unless you choose to.

My jetti; Oceanside, CA...

My jetti; Oceanside, CA...

 Make it a timed workout – whatever duration you are comfortable with; 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, whatever suits your fitness level — decide that for yourself. Simply find a jetty and climb. Up, down, over, across, transverse, and back again and again in whatever patterns you choose at the moment.

Try climbing with no hands for a while – let your goal be to move up and down the jetty X amount of times, without touching your hands to a single rock. That’s good lower body strength and balance. Next, go quadrupedal and climb bent over for a period of time, both up and down the jetty face, bearing as much weight on your hands (and upper body) as possible. Climb backwards, sideways, and front-ways, and back again. Jump from low rocks to higher rocks on an ascent, back down, and up again. Jump latterly from rock to rock. Lunge from rock to rock. Stop and do some free squats along the way. Add in some push-ups against rocks. Let your knowledge and your improvisation skills combine to create fitness jazz – beach style. When you’re all done, you can even jump in the water and swim to cool off, or swim for more body work.

Jetti knight; assignment complete...

Jetti knight; assignment complete...

 It should go without saying that there is an element of risk here. This is not something to attempt unless you possess a reasonable fitness level, and are instinctively confident with your actions. A jetty is a profoundly uneven surface, can be slippery, sandy, and if you’re not paying attention, waves can actually catch you from behind and pull you into the sea in an instant when your back is turned. Be careful. Proceed with caution. Do this with a partner, or at least let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. The best part of a jetty workout is paying homage to Mother Ocean when you are done and after you wipe the sweat away. Exercise with passion. Enjoy. Be well. rc

All those little bullets; the story of slow death…

 We have all been touched by the suicide of someone we know; a loved one, friend, neighbor, or perhaps someone we know of and respected.  Upon hearing of someone taking their own life, we can be quick to reflect, morn, appreciate, and even be quick to judge.  Many judge that suicide is a selfish act that recklessly leaves those behind without all they needed and deserved from the person lost.  I am not among those who judge the act in this way. 

When we learn someone we know who has taken their own life, our mind can be busied by thoughts of what we could have done to have prevented it – we see clearly, only after the fact, all the signs that were in place.  We regret that we did not recognize the signs or take the action which (we believe) could have prevented the tragedy.  In my opinion, these are thoughts wasted.  If we’re not looking for the signs, how can we expect to see them?

Sympathetic, or intolerant, we tend to form strong opinions of those who take their own life – of those who choose death in a moment.  Yet we don’t spend much time contemplating or passing judgment on those who commit suicide more slowly; heavy drinkers, heavy smokers, heavy users of drugs, and for the context of this column, those who choose to eat themselves to an earlier death with ritualistic poor and excessive eating habits.  I have taken to calling this, time-released suicide.

There are those who eat an occasional dessert, occasionally eat lesser foods, and those who strive to be right-eaters but prone to bad eating days, and even bad eating weeks.  My case is not (so much) against these people – for my case would first have to be against myself, and then be against the majority of my countrymen.  My case relates more to those who eat poorly and excessively as a lifestyle.  It also relates to those who support their loved ones in eating poorly and excessively as a lifestyle; like pulling the plug of a loved one before the coma ever begins.  

Clearly those who eat excessive amounts of poor calories do not do so as a means of ending it all, and those who choose to take a bath with the toaster do wish to check out early, but that distinction might not be so clear after all.

I simply make the argument that if a person frequently eats masses of processed sugars, fats, and poor carbohydrates, and food is primary in that person’s daily agenda, there might be a willing element, even if it’s harbored well below the surface.  That is, “I know eating all of this is harmful to me, and I’m choosing to eat it anyway”, is a willful state of destruction when the consequences are so well known, and those consequences matter.  Is that kind of thinking any less toxic than, “I know that jumping from this bridge is bad for me, but I’m going to jump anyway”?  Who dare tell anyone not to eat Doritos and Moon Pies? Still, we do tend to say “Hey you! Don’t jump off that bridge”.

I offer no lessons in writing this, and have no suggestions that might help those who eat poorly and excessively as a lifestyle; regardless of the reasons why.  I only suggest that one powerful bullet, placed one time to the head, is not too far removed from the concept of thousands of less powerful bullets placed many times to the mouth.  I further suggest that we all think twice before we offer that kind of ammunition to those we love.  Be well.  rc

If you have read this and have taken offense that I may have compared a tragedy in your life to something seemingly more trivial, I apologize.  I simply wish to shed another perspective on a lifestyle which has consequences that might include early death. 

A New Persective On Squats, Lunges, And Living Life…

Squats are hard.  So too are lunges.  For most, squats and lunges evoke thoughts of pain – burning fiery pain in the legs and in the glutes; soreness stuffed with aches, wrapped with a blanket of misery.  Oh, and sweat.  When I perform squats or lunges the sweat is often as immediate as the burn.  Pain, work, sweat; no wonder people avoid doing squats and lunges.

These exercises are so hard because they recruit a great deal of the body’s muscles mass in action.  Sixty percent of the body’s muscle mass is carried below the hips.  Male or female, we have a lot of leg meat. Notwithstanding, all the upper body muscles that are being used statically in maintaining stability while performing squats and lunges; these muscles are the supporting cast and are on stage for the entire performance. 

The sum of strength, balance, and flexibility, squats and lunges are PERFECT....

In the course of a squat or lunge, ever muscle in your body fires at least a little bit, and most of them fire a lot.  As all these muscles fire, they become void of oxygen and nutrients, and the heart and lungs have to work overtime to push blood into the muscles to replace spent oxygen and nutrients.  That’s why squats and lunges (can) have a cardio aspect as well.  Squats and lunges are perfect.  They are the sum of balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination. These are very hard, but very useful exercises.  But really they aren’t…

… aren’t exercises that is, though they are hard, and they are useful.  In my book, squats and lunges don’t fall into the category of being called exercises.  I perform squats and lunges as I teach them, as life-skills.  The ability to perform a squat or a lunge translates directly into one’s ability to do just about anything else physical.  Being able to perform proper squats and lunges enables one to more properly perform life; lifting, carrying, climbing stairs, getting in and out of the car, retrieving items from low places, being active and athletic, playing with the kids, and even that age old ritual of genuflecting – no wonder Catholics have such amazing quads.

"Okay boys, now give me 10 more..."

I am not writing to teach anyone how to perform squats or lunges, or to suggest a protocol of how they can be included in your workout.  If you are reading this than you probably already know what they are and how to do them – though I am certain I could teach you to do them in better form.  I am writing to share a core belief from my fitness value set; that these exercises, practiced properly and with reasonable consistency are truly a life-skill, and should not be avoided for their perceived severity because they don’t have to be severe.

Squats and lunges can be a ritual reminder that we should be lifting with our legs and not with our backs – they reinforce that muscle memory.  Knowing how to properly squat or lunge can aid, protect, and enhance our lives.  They help keep strong areas of the body prone to weakness in aging such as the musculature in the areas of the knees, the hips, and the low-back. They can better prepare a person for the unexpected; the sudden need to move, need to transfer energy, or catch something which might be falling – including a child, a partner, or a parent.

Squating, lunging, or living life, one should seek a straight vertical line between the shoulders and hips...

Of course squats and lunges have an aesthetic value and that is why many people do them; they are useful in forging and shaping the legs and glutes.  Using them to make and to maintain these changes is hard work, and that’s where the reputation for sweat, burning, and pain can come from.  Bodybuilder squats and every-day-life squats are similar in motion, but not in protocol.  Doing them to make your legs look like Tom Platz, squats and lunges might be feared.  Doing them to better pick up your dog, and for the sake of bettering your physicality in daily life, just makes sense – though they may get your heart going, and may burn just a bit.

Legendary 80's bodybuilder Tom Platz; the result of many serious squat sessions -- oh, and lots of steroids...

If you are not somebody who performs these exercise with any regularity, when you are done reading this, go life as you normally would; live, work, play.  At day’s end stop, take an inventory of your life-living movements.  Ask yourself, would these activities have felt better – could they have gone better, if you had more strength, improved flexibility, better balance, more coordination emanating from your legs.  Squats and lunges should not be feared as much, as one should fear the inability to perform them outside the gym – where it matters most.  Thank you Nick (Tim this month), and AFG for inspiring this week’s column.  Be well.  rc

Peeling back the layers of success…

I originally wrote this last year; on the week that our national headlines were more Oprah-focused than healthcare or economy focused.  I put it aside and forgot about it.  I’m not sure where Oprah’s weight is today, and I really don’t care.  Still, this is more relevant today than it was a year ago. 

Oprah crack corn nuts, and I truly don’t care. Apparently many others do; all the fitness dogs laying at the feet of their masters, waiting to be told what to do and how to do it. And the masters themselves, the pundits of fitness in the modern era; supreme trainers, and exercise gurus who know much more than anyone else about what it takes to get the weight off.  They will tell you that their system of training and eating are the exclusive remedies that can help Oprah earn her weight back down, and can work for you and me too.  Beware of absolutes..

As I have been weaving my way through the internet this morning, I have bared repeated witness to our nation’s greatest concern; that Oprah has earned her way up to 200 pounds – again, and it is headline news.  Whether Oprah’s body-battle is a medically induced obstacle as some experts suggest; a thyroid or hormone related disorder. Or whether it is psychologically induced as others experts suggest; a disharmony of mood, behavioral tendencies, or a cross-wiring of inner circuitry. Or, whether it relates to her difficult childhood, as still other experts suggest, I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. Nobody truly knows Oprah but Oprah, least of all, those masters whose feet she lays before; Dr. Oz, and trainer Bob Greene.

Where Oprah has previously considered herself a fitness success for weight she has lost, she now calls herself an exercise failure for weight that she has gained back.  It’s sad that Oprah can’t see the ideal of exercise and fitness beyond right-fitting jeans as a barometer for her success.  She isn’t looking at the many other benefits exercise can bring into one’s life – beyond one’s hot-sexy waistline.  This over prioritization of weight loss as a primary reason to exercise wholly understates the many values, and utility of daily movement.

This led me to consider success stories which I have been associated with; pounds laid to rest by the will of my client’s fearless hearts, and scarcely guided by my knowledge and motivation. Over the years, I have been blessed to be involved with many success stories; several clients who have lost 100 pounds or more, a couple of dozen who have lost 50 pounds or more, and countless clients who have lost 30 pounds or more. Each of their stories is overflowing with lessons, not just of fitness, but lessons of fortitude and of personal growth. As a point of fact, their success came from within, not from me.

This reflection of success stories in weight loss, got me thinking about other success stories I have been associated with; stories that didn’t involve significant weight loss, but might have been just as life changing.

There have been some I have worked with to help lose weight, and did lose weight – but that’s not why I consider them successful. These people are successes, not because of pounds shed, but because of the pounds they now help others shed. Through the years I have had a half-dozen clients become more fit, and then become fitness trainers themselves – helping others fight the good fight. From being trained, to training others – that’s some kind of  success.

Among my favorite success stories, and the most important one I can state, is also the most basic. A client at her office one day, had been walking across a recently mopped tile floor, when she slipped in an awkward way, twisting as she fell to the floor – only to catch herself in a push-up position. That cease-fall, prevented a would-be face-plant from happening. She had caught herself, not with her hands, but with her strength; her strong core, arms, and shoulders had been developed by her efforts in the gym. She confessed to me that had she not been doing all the strength training, she would have certainly hit the floor, face first, and with disastrous results.

I have worked with other great successes too; ones who can now tie their own shoes when once they couldn’t.  One successful person can now get in and out of his car – no longer needing aid to do so.  Another success story is, that of a woman who lost little weight, but improved her heart health enough through exercise that she is no longer in need of blood pressure medication, and has an easier time playing with her children.

For the obese, losing weight will add years to your life, and enhance the quality of the life you lead. The concept of success in a fitness program, for trainer and for client, should not be limited to the ideal of weight loss alone – not even for Oprah.  If one simply stops and takes inventory of what, beyond weight loss, regular exercise has done for them – what it has provided them in the ways of strength, balance, flexibly, decreased blood pressure, improved posture, increased bone density, personal confidence, being in a better mood, I am certain that anyone who exercises regularly will consider his or herself.  Be well. rc