A View From The Fence

A tease for my upcoming column on…  well, not gonna say.  Please check back Sunday, October 3rd for the complete column.  In the mean time, here is an excerpt:

I go back and forth quite a bit on whether any of this really matters – whether we really should be concerned with what we call health, wellness, and fitness in the modern era.  Still, my looks as well as my abilities are central in my life.  Appearance and ability seem to be central in the lives of most others, whether they nurture those ambitions or suffocate them.  In the scope of our lives’ undiscovered purpose though, I often believe that fitness and wellness are meaningless. 

 
 
 

Sometimes we just have to commit...

I can make a strong argument that the concepts of wellness and fitness are agenda-ridden farces. I would argue successfully that if we could do any better than the current obesity epidemic, and declining health of our masses, we would.  Though much well intended research and effort exists in the fields of what we call wellness and fitness, the fact remains that obesity is on the rise, foods are more highly processed than ever, and the health and abilities of Americans, on average, are on the decline.  It’s just where we are – it’s just the best we can do.”

Please check back this Sunday for more.  Oh, and there is this from Jack LaLanne — nobody listened then, nobody listens now.  And so it goes..

Kike On A Bike, Me Like…

 Bike To Basics

It has been just under a year since I gave away my Jeep and embraced my bicycle as my primary form of transportation.  Not for one moment have I regretted that decision nor the effects of the transition.  I admit it has not always been easy, and the internal combustion engine still beckons, and even finds me on occasion.  Still, I peddle the hills of Fallbrook daily.

Much has happened in the ten months since I went from 4-wheel drive to 2-legged drive. Here are a few highlights:

Sprint Context: The Hills Have Ayes…

I’m just not wired that way.  I sprint 100% of the time on my bike.  It’s a disease – I can’t passively peddle anywhere.  I am keenly aware of the average time it takes to get to and from my studio each day, as well as the other destinations I frequent.  I consistently challenge my riding times, be it to work, or to the grocery.  Most often I am unsuccessful at besting my best.  Occasionally I do though, and those moments are relished. 

Many of the workers who support the avocado and citrus industry here are Guatemalans and Mexicans; simple laborers of few means.  Like me, they commute before sunrise, and on bikes.  Unlike me, bike is their only option.  Typically the migrant workers ride garage sale bikes worth just a few dollars, peddle modestly, and always smile and nod as we cross paths in the foggy pre-dawn.  I also cross paths with the occasional yuppie-type bicycle commuter.  They are on $3,000 bikes – with all the modern gear.  Oh, and being yuppie douches, they never look up, and smugness abounds.  Enter my legs…

There are not two continuous inches of flat land in Fallbrook. My commute to work is a self-imposed, hill-ridden Tabata workout, many times over.  My rule of thumb: I see no bike ahead of me that I do not pass – period.  To date, I have passed every bicycle commuter I have seen before me, be they agro workers, or yuppie douches.  I ride alone.

Dear Yuppie Douche Bicycle Commuter, I pass you and your $3,000 bike because of I have way more leg-meat than you! Sincerely, Guy With Way More Leg-Meat Than You

A Longer Commute, A Much Larger Dinner

My fiancé and I, though still engaged, no longer live together.  In my relocation, my bicycle commute went from being simple a 12-15 minutes each way to work, to being 45-50 minutes each way.  That I sprint for the whole of it, much has changed in the ways of my hunger and my physicality.

I now spend close to 1:30 per day on my bike, and at a rapid pace.  The need/desire for structured cardio beyond my commute has gone out the window; goodbye stair-stepper.  Despite my long rides, I do want to keep up with my running.  Since I commute 5-6 days per week, this means a few of my running days fall on commuting days.

My cardio room; not spending much time there these days...

After a 9-mile run last week, on a commuting day which also involved 1:30 on the bike, I ate 6 apples and 2 steaks for dinner.  At 3:00 a.m. the next morning I woke from a dead sleep and made a pot of brown rice pasta, ate it, and went back to bed.  These are days when honestly, I just eat whatever I want to eat because I can.  Yes, I am selective on the content of my fuel, but the volume is scarcely unlimited. Despite my increased appetite and consumption, I have not gained a gram since my combined commute went from 24 minutes to 90 minutes each day.

Apples right from the tree...

An Upgrade Of Sorts

Originally my 12-15 minute commute each way involved my red Schwinn beach cruiser.  Now at 45-50 minutes each way, I am using a 20-year old Trek 8000 crossover.  Not quite a road-bike, but my commute is rural and there are several fields I cut across each day; a road bike is not an option.  The Trek serves me perfectly.

A Trek to the beach; Oceanside, CA...

Roy The Car Magnet

Allow me to introduce myself; Roy Cohen, Car Magnet.  Riding a bike on rural roads, often before or after dark and in the fog is not without danger.  I have already been hit (tapped) by cars twice – both without injury or damage to the bike.  There was also a close call which cost me my front breaks, as well as my voice for nearly three days – the effect of me yelling at the woman who ran the stop sign and nearly hit me.

My bike is lighted front and back, I wear a safety yellow cap when I ride, that I be better seen.  Still, I am a car magnet. 

Boomerang Jeep Vs. Discipline

I had given my Jeep to my would-be stepdaughter 10 months ago.  Last month her aunt gave her a better car.  I was given back the Jeep.  For the first week I drove the Jeep nearly every day and let my bike sit…

… I then remembered who I am, and I allowed discipline back into the game.  I had always said, and had made the commitment, that if I lived and worked in Fallbrook, I would ride a bike.  It’s what is right for me at this time in my life.

Now that's what I'm talking about when I say I want my car to come "fully loaded"...

I will keep the Jeep, and allow it to guide me to and from the beach on weekends, and to haul water jugs and laundry to and from my gym.  I am glad to have her once again to haul my kayak, surfboard, and bikes beyond Fallbrook on the weekends.  It is a sporting goods store on wheels.   Monday through Friday however, I will honor my body, honor my commitment, and nourish my soul by riding my bike – drizzly days like today included.  Be well. rc

Leaner, Greener, And Enjoying More Scener……y

My tease for this week’s column is actually a column from the past.   I originally wrote this in January of 2010, and posted it in February of 2010.  In order to apply better context to my upcoming column on the life of a bicycle commuter, please take time to read (or re-read) the column below.  I will follow this up with an update to my bicycle lifestyle this Sunday, September 26.  Please check back then.  Thank you very much.  rc

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Set Up

For 10 years I have lived and worked in a town of 3,000 people, Bonsall, California.  Lacking in people, Bonsall also lacks in services, though there is a small grocery, and a few shops of little consequence.  The neighboring town, Fallbrook, claims 35,000 persons, and many more services.  The distance between the center of Fallbrook and the center of Bonsall is roughly 8 miles. 

Two small towns in San Diego’s rural North County, 8 miles apart, and a fitness trainer who lived in one town, but frequented the other to exploit its retail services and fulfill all of his consumer needs.  He is me.  One would think a man in good physical condition, who spends hours each month on a stationary bike, would live this life of traveling between 2 close towns, by way of a kinetic bike.  However, the eight mile ride from Bonsall into Fallbrook is uphill at an average 21% grade.  Though the ride home would be fun and easy, 8 miles at a 21% grade is not a formula for a quick trip to the store for toothpaste.  Thus, I owned a Jeep, to more easily make the regular journeys into Fallbrook for shoes, chicken salads, sundries, hardware, and office supplies.  I had always maintained though, that if I ever lived and worked in Fallbrook, I would give away my car, and exclusively depend on a bike for my transportation. It would be the right thing to do, and for many obvious reasons.

Put Up Or Shut Up

I’m now engaged to a woman who lives in Fallbrook, and I am also now living with her.  As well, I have moved my business into Fallbrook – my perceived bicycle community.  My fiancé has two daughters, one who just turned sixteen years old.  Like all 16-year olds, she would immediately need a car to get her to and from school, to her athletic practices, events, and to the mall.  I had a Jeep that I swore I would no longer need or use should I live in Fallbrook. In these separate transitions of two different lives, our circumstances would become supremely correlated – I gave her my Jeep.  Several days later I bought a bicycle to get me around town, and to and from work each day.

An epic steed! Goodbye old friend, I already miss you...

One might expect that, me being me, I would have bought an expensive road bike, or hybrid bike that could be used for touring, racing, or general out of doors exercise.  But, me also being me, I found a sweet little beach-cruiser at Wal-Mart – Pee Wee Herman style.  It’s apple-red, has 7 speeds, very good handbrakes, and big fat tires that will not easily succumb to the thorns, broken glass, and various debris of the semi-rural roads I now transcend daily.  Best of all, there is a nice cargo rack over the shiny chrome rear fender, on which I can carry my gym bag, groceries, odds and ends, and even the laundry hamper from my gym.

Pee Wee Herman Got Nothin' On Me...

Wake Up, Shape Up, And Look Up

It’s been four weeks since I began commuting across town at 6:00am, and returning after dark – 2.2 miles each way.  Four weeks since I began riding into town to do errands, buy groceries, go to the bank, grab lunch, etc.  I especially enjoy riding through the double doors of the grocery, and parking my shiny red bike beside the express lane of Major Market, for all to admire while I collect my meats and veggies.  Four weeks of not buying gas, not paying for automobile insurance, and not having to wait for the A-hole in front of me to move when the light turns green – I just go around her.  It has also been four weeks of putting fewer emissions into the air, and burning a few thousand extra calories each week – which offsets my proportionately increased use of salad dressings and coffee creamer; low grade fuel I know.

I have enjoyed every moment on my bike these past 4 weeks.  I find solace in peddling briskly as I look more freely around, to better observe the nuances of my community.  I see more faces, hear more voices, breathe more scents, and take in much more of my surroundings.  I look forward to the rides, and never dread them, even the ones in the rain.  This has been a transition I relish – and one which also enables me to enjoy a little extra relish, on an occasional hotdog I can now get away with, as well as some salad dressing and creamer.

For those who may read this and be so inspired to make a similar change, I do offer one bit of advice; the very best time to make such a transition – from car to bike, is not at the onset of the worst El Nino of the past ten years – but even riding in the rain has been a fun experience.  It’s a good thing Wal-Mart also sells rain ponchos large enough to cover my handlebars, my body, and my nifty cargo rack.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back this Sunday for my update on the many things which have transpired in this, the Year Of Biking Dangerously.  Oh, and there is this amazing song, brought to you by the genius of Paul Weller,

 

Preying For Change

Self-indulgent Caveat

I have tried hard not preach from this platform, nor to be too suggestive.  Rather, I have attempted to evoke thought(s) of exercise, mindful eating, and where they should, or should not, fit into the building of one’s day and one’s lifestyle.

 I might be a bit more suggestive today, as I have a request of all of us.  More on that later…

 My Favorite Saying

“The unintended consequences of advancement are…   

 …a lack of advancement.”  me

 Preying For Change

We are animals – literally.  We gather and we prey daily because that’s what it takes to stay alive in the animal world.  We seek energy to continue, so that we can seek more energy to keep on continuing so we can push our genes into the next generation, and so it goes. 

 Since we are human animals, we take the easy way out.  We prey on the dead and rotting carcasses of all those processed foods found in the grocery store and in restaurants – foods that other predators; big business and big agriculture have left behind for us to scavenge upon.  In doing so, our animal exterior is not developing so well.  

 I wonder; how many people reading this truly view grocery shopping, or ordering off a restaurant menu as a more advanced form of primitive gathering or preying?  Really, that’s all food choices are; the contemplation of one’s energy needs, the scanning of the environment to locate the best source to fulfill those needs, and the subsequent taking and consumption of that food for energy.

 But that’s not how we roll – these days.  In our advancement, we have somehow evolved to seek energy sources which slow us down, cause obesity, and offer us various diseases such as diabetes and hyper-tension which can shorten our lives.  Why?

 I argue that as consumers – as seekers of fuel for our bodies, we have forsaken our instincts and our responsibility to prey for our food.  We have become scavengers; processed food buzzards who circle lazily above the easy take provided by others – an unintended consequence of the advancement of our food system.

 My Attempt, That Others Might Attempt

I think this nation could become an improved nation, a wealthier nation, a healthier nation, and a happier nation should we collectively renew one animal habit.  One habit which; if practiced by all, could have a profoundly positive effect on our society.  One habit to be cultivated by each of us, this week, today, right now…

 Read the labels on the foods we eat!  Make label reading a habit wherever we gather or prey for our food!   

 I’m suggesting that we proactively visualize ourselves as hunters and not as consumers.  When we hit the retail jungles, I am asking that we hunt wisely for our kill – like the predators we should be.  I suggest that we take time to observe our prey – to study it before we kill it, that we get to better know our food, it’s tendencies and how those tendencies might help or hinder our bodies and our abilities. 

 I suggest we seek to improve our technique in predatory selection; to learn the difference between the various species we prey upon – the yogurts, breads, pastas, meats, cheeses, cereals, juices, and especially canned, frozen, and pre-prepared meals.

 Identifying Our Prey

As is often the case in animal world, sometimes what we prey upon wants to kill us just as much as want to kill it.  Unlike the animal world, our processed food prey won’t kill us while we are attacking it – it will do so only after we have eaten it, and it will kill us very slowly.  How clever of processed foods to do this.

 Just because it says Trader Joe’s on the label doesn’t mean that it’s healthy prey. The use of terms such as; healthy, low-fat, sugar free, high fiber, or low carb doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worthy of good health or improved fitness. 

 Those boldly written terms on our food labels are the equivalent to the spines of the lion fish; that they attract us, lure us in, and kill us only after we have committed to them.  It’s called marketing savvy, and it’s what the lion fishes of the food industry do best.

 A Recommended Prey Sequence

Read the backs of labels too.  Look for these above all others:

  1. How many total ingredients are there?
  2. What is the portion size stated on the package?
  3. How many portions are there in that package?
  4. How many grams of sugar and saturated fat are in a portion?

 We should prey on products with fewer total ingredients, minimal sugars, and we should understand how much of our prey we should eat at a time.

 By preying on our foods this way – by just thinking in terms of preying versus shopping, I believe we might stand a better chance as an animal species; war, greed, religion, and prejudice notwithstanding. 

 Perhaps with more preying at the grocery store and on restaurant menus, we might need less praying for better health later on in life.  Be well.  rc

Prey vs. Pray…

A tease for my upcoming column on preying for one’s food in the modern world.  I hope to have it up by Sunday, September 19.  Please check back.  Here is an excerpt:

“You are an animal – literally.  You hunt and you prey daily, because that’s what it takes to stay alive in the animal world.  You seek energy to continue, so that you can seek more energy to keep on continuing.  Since you are a human animal though, you take the easy way out.  You prey on the dead and rotting carcasses of processed foods, hunting more for taste than for efficiency in energy.  In doing so, the animal in you is not developing so well.”

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And some food for thought… so to say.  An anonymous proverb:

Each day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up to be stalked. It knows if is to survive, it must outrun the fastest lion.

Each day in Africa, a lion wakes up hungry. It knows if it is to survive, it must outrun the slowest gazelle.

Be you gazelle, or be you lion, when the sun comes up in Africa, you better be running.

You can prey for your food, or pray your food doesn't prey on you...

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Please check back this Sunday for the completed column.

Oh, and there is this from The Mint Juleps, and the AMAZING Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Enjoy….

Gravity Management Part II; Return Of The Three C’s…

An Approach To Strength

Strength; I think about it from time to time.  What it means to me, as well as what it might mean to others.  I like to teach people to develop strength inside the gym that will apply to one’s life beyond the gym.

It’s one thing to be strong in the weight-room, with all your friends looking on, doing things you will never replicate in everyday life – just for the sake of doing them. It’s something entirely different to apply strength, earned in the gym, to the would-be strength needed in everyday life. I much more think of my weight-room as a theater where I practice gravity management, than as a place to just lift weights.

To my way of thinking, the words which best relate to physical strength, in exercise, are capacity, command, and concentration. I call them the three Cs of strength.

The Three Cs At A Glance:

Capacity = Weight; the poundage used in a strength exercise.

Command = Form; the manner in which the exercise is executed and managed.

Concentration = Intensity; the (psychological) limits an individual is willing to meet in order to complete an exercise in good form.

The Three C’s Close Up

Capacity: For (maximum) progress, I suggest the weights selected for your resistance exercises should be heavy enough to be challenging, yet moderate enough that you can manage the weight; not to breach excellent exercise form. Establishing, regularly meeting, and even (occasionally) pushing this boundary is paramount to maximizing your capacity for strength outside the gym.

This is where progress comes from. If you are seeking to do 10 repetitions of an exercise, the leg press for example, the weight you select should be heavy enough that the 10th rep would be (about) the last rep you can perform within the bounds of strict form. If you perform 10 repetitions in this fashion, then you are meeting your capacity, and may wish to increase the weight. Conversely, if 10 repetitions doesn’t come without a little cheating, grunting, and struggling – game over, lighten it up a bit until your form is again sound.

Command: Correct form serves several key functions in weight training, not the least of which is that lifting weights within the scope of good form will serve to keep you injury free. Secondly, using good form in your strength exercises in the gym will help influence the command of your muscles outside the gym – moving those flower pots on your patio might be a lesser task when you feel that sense of command.

Concentration: The intangible in strength training – the Zen of it all. Simply, concentration is the amount of mental energy you choose to direct to your muscles, that they may efficiently convey the weights to the limits of your ability. This is the hard C, because most of us don’t truly recognize what our limits are, let alone, strive to take an exercise to the edge of possibility.

I am frequently asked by people how strong I am – how much weight I can lift. My typical answer is this,

“I don’t really pay too much attention to how much.  When furniture needs to be moved, I don’t bother to pick up the phone and call for help.”

This is often discarded as a smoke screen to the inquirer, as if to hide my secret steroid regimen, or my four-hour workouts in the middle of the night. Truth is, the things I do in the gym are not all that different from what you may do. My workouts probably take me less time than yours because they are predicated on efficiency, and constructed on the principle of the three Cs.

A Braid Of Strength

The three Cs can’t really be examined any more closely as individual Cs, because they are woven together like strands of muscle in your body. No one C is any more or any less important in your workout than the other two Cs. It’s a sort of 3-legged stool of physical strength. You establish your capacity, add in command, and bring them together with concentration. It’s efficient, very rewarding, and when mastered can offer a level of personal fulfillment on par with the observance of prayer and other religious ritual.

Month after month, the fitness media captures millions of people (and their money), selling them the best exercises and the perfect workout.  In reality, it’s not those workouts nor those exercises that evoke the change you seek in your body. Nor is it the number of sets or repetitions you perform. It’s not even the sequence in which you do things in the weight-room which matter most.

What matters much more than all of that is how you perform the exercises – what you put into them. Like anything else in life; business, faith, relationships, etc., the rewards you will gain from your workouts will be relative to the thought and efforts you put into them. If among your objectives is to be stronger outside the gym, applying the three Cs inside the gym will serve you well.  Be well. rc

Practicing Gravity Management

A tease for this week’s column on strength — strength earned in the gym that translates beyond the gym.  Please check back Saturday, September 11 for the finished product.  Here is an excerpt:

“I much more think of my weight-room as a theater where I practice gravity management, than as a place to just lift weights.   To my way of thinking, the words which best relate to strength, in and out of the gym, are capacity, command, and concentration. I call them, The Three Cs Of Strength.

The three Cs at a glance:

Capacity = Weight; the poundage used in a strength exercise.

Command = Form; the manner in which the exercise is executed and managed.

Concentration = Intensity; the (psychological) limits an individual is willing to meet in order to complete an exercise in good form.”

Oh, and there is this epic theme song from the award winning movie, Pumping Iron.

Please check back this weekend for more.  Thank you.