Resolve not to resolve annually, but daily…

Reflect back to the day you bought your treadmill, joined your local gym, or purchased your new running shoes, or hand weights. Think about the desire, the passion, and the possibilities you felt when you made that purchase – however long ago. What went wrong? Why did you stop? Where were you and what were you doing the day you lost sight of your goals?

It is the New Year’s resolution which, more than any other mechanism, drives people to pursue their health and fitness goals. The new year is seen as fresh start; tabula rasa – a magic opportunity to commit or recommit one’s self to increased exercise and more sound eating choices year after year — after year — after year. Momentarily cleansing, but too often faltered and fruitless, and ultimately demoralizing.

It has been long accepted in the American psyche that each new year provides us a blank canvas on which to paint an image of redemption from goals not met, and opportunities squandered during the previous twelve months. It’s a sort of grown up do-over for each year we exit unfulfilled.

Perhaps because it is only a feel good illusion, the new year’s resolution also serves to push people further back into the dark hole of fitness complacency, more than any other mechanism. Like an emotional boomerang, the new year’s resolution is the throw of one’s unrealistic wishes, into the wind of one’s all but certain reality.

Consider this: that the term new year’s resolution is just a pseudonym for the word regret. We regret that which we have not had the discipline nor the fortitude to achieve or fulfill in the previous year. Within weeks of our commitment, and in the name of passivity, we are likely to forsake the hard hike up the trail toward what we desire, and walk the easier path of television reruns and comfort foods.

We extend these behaviors by a few days at a time after New Year’s Day, then by weeks and months, and ultimately the year slips by us like witchcraft in the wind, leaving us unfulfilled yet again. Then, upon the realization of all the potential which was left unfulfilled, we vow to do better in the coming year.

This breakdown notwithstanding, great successes more often arise from the deepest of adversity. Rarely does adversity come complete with a clean slate date stamped, January 1, at least not the adversities I have known.

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New Year’s Day does provide a point from which we can take that first step into a better tomorrow, but so do August 3rd and February 12th. The New Year’s Day effort is usually followed by nary a second step, because it is the second step which takes work, and there is much less effort in making a resolution than in fulfilling one. A new year’s resolution it seems, is less a tangible quest and more a release of accumulated guilt.

In all of this, it is most tragic to me that those who make new year’s resolutions usually direct their intentions toward improved fitness and health. Though of sound intent, to relate things of such importance as one’s body and health to something so inconsequential and trivial as a new year’s resolution is to devalue the importance of a healthy and functional human body.

I’m not trying to suggest that we don’t make new years resolutions; they have their place. Not however, in relation to your fitness and not in proximity to your good health. Your body and your health deserve better. New year’s resolutions should promote things which will not lower your self-esteem or devastate your psyche when they are left unfulfilled.

With every stretch of the arm to withdraw a healthy food from the pantry, with each passing of the sofa and television enroute to do your exercise, with every glance at “lighter fare” section of a restaurant menu, you should resolve to do what you know to be right – and you do know what is right, 365.

I have known many fitness successes through the years, and I’m proud to have aided in more than a few. No fitness success story that I am familiar with was date stamped January, 1st. The best fitness accomplishments I have seen unfold before me have all been the result of a strong will, a truckload of effort, and a blazing desire to begin making changes on June 26th, just as much as on January 1st.

Your body deserves better than to be a new year’s resolution. Your personal health and aesthetic fitness are worthy of an ongoing resolution; a daily affirmation and commitment to good health and fitness which should be resolved with each moment that thoughts of these cross your mind.    Be wll.  rc

I Am Not A Doctor…

I Was Wrong

I crossed a line with her I had no business crossing.  It was painful – an emotional disembowelment for each.  I didn’t realize how severe my blunder was until she began crying, left the room and got in her car to drive away.  Following her, not wanting her to leave, I dropped to my knees beside her sports car and begged her through the closed window to come back inside and talk things out. Voices escalated.  I began crying, she still crying.  Through the glass for nearly 10 minutes we would exchange strong opinions about what just went wrong.  Outsiders in the area began to look on. 

The relationship seemed to be over and it was over and it was my fault.  I kept asking her to come back inside to discuss how we could fix this.   In a moment of weakness she obliged me, exited the car, and followed me back inside where we would survive a raw discussion.  No, this was not a girlfriend.  This was a client, and a dear one at that.  In one escalated moment, I saw my entire business flash before my eyes.  But it was the friendship I wanted to salvage.

What Went Wrong; Ideals, Opinions, And Ethics

I teach exercise in a very specific way, from a narrow but sturdy value set, with an absolute belief that done properly and consistently, strength training is great medicine for nearly any ailment – even those that might push one away from the idea of strength training.  She had an injury.  I was trying to help.  I recommended a doctor to her.  Our fight began when I disagreed with the lack of diagnosis and lack of remedies prescribed by the very doctor I had recommended.

My client suggested the course of non-action recommended by the doctor might be best.  I disagreed.  I’m not a doctor and I never attempt to act as one with my clients.  That’s not true.  Every week of my life I utter this phrase;

“My non medical opinion is…” 

And though I may feel I’m always right in my rightness, I am always wrong to contradict a doctor because being a doctor is a legitimate profession.  Being a fitness trainer is a novelty career at best.  I mean, trainers are all just gymopotamuses who don’t want to get real jobs, yes…?

I believe there are many doctors who are strangers to the gym.  Those who might be gym savvy, might not be as savvy as they think.  My experience has been that many physicians equate technique in exercises such as squats, lunges, leg extensions and leg presses, to the typical gym rat trying to push too hard, too heavy and do too much.  Because of this mind-set, I have experienced a tendency for physicians to tell patients to avoid such movements with regard to knee injuries.

In somewhat of a renaissance, a new breed of physician and physical therapist tend to embrace the afore mentioned movements more, suggesting that done properly and not pushed they might, if not help the injury,  serve to strengthen the area around the injury and offer it more support to the joint.  That of course is relative to what the injury might be, and its severity.  But even at the highest levels of medicine, there is no shortage of conflicting ideas, opinions, and agenda. 

Brand Loyalty

Ironically, the client in question provided me with a pivotal perspective on my business last year.  We were on the topic of other trainers when she used the term “brand loyalty” in the context of me.  Though I am unique in how I approach and teach strength training, as well in how I conduct relationships with my clients, I had never thought of myself as a brand before.  That meant a great deal to me.  I had come to appreciate her more for appreciating me in that context.  Since that time I have walked a little taller.

In truth, I have always felt infallible in this.  I teach strength training safely and I construct workouts sensibly.  I have often been quick to tell clients that, one-on-one, I’m the best trainer I have ever known.  Not the most knowledgeable. Not the best built trainer.  But I’m the best I’ve seen at teaching form, and the best communicator of how and of why – and I stand with that. 

One Man’s Passion; Doh!

If I see utility in something, I can’t imagine anyone else not seeing it.  But life isn’t like that.  Throughout my fitness career I have always believed I could teach people to see and appreciate the utility of my brand of exercise.  That’s where I have been wrong.  I will learn to accept it – that my passion is my passion.  Even if my passion can be transported, it might not be received.  This will take some humility and learning on my part, but it will be a priority in the future of my business psyche.  Also, I will learn to accept that at the end of the day, I have an ethical responsibility to always say the doctor is right, even when I believe he is not. 

To the client in question; I thank you for giving me a chance to earn back your trust.  I will open my ears as well as my mind a little wider, and consider myself better for the lesson learned.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from the short-lived Chicago based band, Piglet.  Enjoy…

A Personal Discourse On Fitness…

I wrote this three years ago and it has been resonating in my head this week.  In this holiday season,  food is a huge topic of discussion — for all it’s enjoyment, all that accompanies its ritual, and all the collateral damage it does.  Fitness bloggers and pundits in particular have very strong opinions here.  I’m not one of them. 

Yes, in life we should strive to be healthy and work to be fit.  At the end of the day, it’s all about moments — and relationships. 

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Who Is The Fit One

My daughter was 9 years old.  Chelsea had swimming pool hair, golden skin, and she had a best friend named Holly.  We lived down the street from Holly, on a greenbelt loaded with greenbelt things; swings, slides, those rocky-horse things on thick springs, tennis courts and more.  Chelsea loved the green belt, and often asked when I walked her home from school, if we could stop and play there.  I don’t ever recall saying “no”, because I loved the greenbelt too.

On occasion, we would walk home from school with her friend Holly, and Holly’s father Derek.  Holly was like Chelsea, young, full of energy, and always ready to play.  Derek – not as much.  He was perhaps 100 lbs. overweight, and though he was a few years younger than me, he was doing well just to walk his daughter home from school without sweating excessively.

One afternoon while Derek and I navigated the girls through the greenbelt, amidst the sea of red ceramic roof tops, we decided to stop and let the girls play at the playground for a while – and they did.  Derek and I sat on a bench beside the jungle gym and watched while Chelsea and Holly participated in a kids’ life.  Eventually, I was called upon to participate as a swing pusher.  Pushing swings soon merged into playing on the jungle gym and I thought nothing of it.  I was willing, I was able, and I was having fun.

Eventually, even a guy in good shape has to concede to the exceptional fitness level of 9-year old girls, and I did that also, exhaustedly rejoining Derek on the park bench.  As I approached him, I saw a small tear run from one of his eyes, and heard a sniffle accompany the tear. That’s when I recognized the impact of what I had just done – that I could do with Derek’s daughter what he could not do; physically play. 

No words were spoke between Derek and I when I sat back down beside him, nothing could really be said.  I had it, and he wanted what I had; physical ability. For me, the moment  was humbling and gratifying – simultaneously.  Humbling that my friend was not fit enough to slide down a slide with his own daughter.  Gratifying, that I was.  How does one reconcile such a moment?  Internally. 

If the story ended there it would be a great example of the value of exercise and living a fit life – a testament to the virtues of discipline in regular exercise and healthy eating. A man cries because he’s unable to play with his own child, but an older man is fit enough for the job.  Hooray, fitness wins!!!

But the story does not end there.  Later that evening, Chelsea and I settled in to our evening routine together – she doing her homework, me exercising in our garage gym.   When I came in from the workout, she asked me why Derek had been crying on the park  bench that afternoon.

Pretentiously, I explained to her that Derek had been saddened by seeing me playing and enjoying moments on the jungle gym with his daughter – something he could not do, though his heart clearly desired to participate.  I told her that seeing this made me sad too, but also made me feel good about my ability to be a participant dad.

Astute to a fault even at the age of 9, Chelsea immediately asked me if I ever cried –  when she’s with Holly and Derek at Baskin Robins or Hometown Buffet, enjoying wonderful treats and the laughter and the moments that go with them,  Moments, she reminded me, that I was never willing to participate in.  She knew that in my heart I wanted to share such moments, but I regularly chose not to participate in them due to my fitness values.

And that is where this story really ends; at the point where I was reminded by a 9-year old that there are two sides to every story – even the story of fitness.  I have not been able to wholly embrace the concept, nor even the term fitness since that moment.

Fitness is my livelihood.  I regularly attempt to make the case that living fit, and eating healthy are important for every man, woman, and child in America.  Still, I reflect on that moment daily – and the moment still haunts me; the day fitness was exposed to me as just another sacrifice in the name of non-sacrifice. It’s been 12 years since Chelsea asked me that question, and I still wonder what fitness is or, if it even is. 

I might die tomorrow.  If I do, what moments will I have missed of sharing ice cream and cake with a side order of smiles?  What flavors and accompanying moments might I have I passed upon, in favor of a cardio-session or a plate of broccoli in the name of living well and looking good?  Like questions of politics, philosophy, and faith, there are no clear answers here.  But there should be some thought, a bit of discourse, some compromise and some understanding – in my case anyway.

In hind-sight I reflect that on that day, Derek had shed tears for his inability to play with his daughter on the jungle gym.  In further exploration, I reflect that I had never shed a tear for my unwillingness to enjoy a cake or a buffet with my daughter.  For that, I am ashamed.  So now tell me, who the fit one is…?  Be well.  rc

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That’s it.  I’m out till next year.  Enjoy the holidays.  It matters much more what you eat between New Years and Thanksgiving, than what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Peace to you all.

Oh, and there is this little nugget from Puddle Of Mudd.  Enjoy…

On Exercise And Aging…

The Fountain Of Truth

My first book report was in the 3rd grade; it was to be on an explorer in the New World.  A learning disabled reader, I sought a book with more pictures and captions than printed text.  Only one book in the school library met this criteria; a book on Juan Ponce de Leon who, legend had it, made a quest in searching for the fountain of youth.  Historians now believe this quest was more legend than not.

Despite that de Leon’s quest was mostly a fairytale, the selection of this book would be one of the first influences to steer the directionality of my life.  Even in the 3rd grade I came to understand de Leon’s, and the world’s quest for youth, made no sense.  How could people be so stupid, I reasoned at age 9, as to fight aging…?  Even then I understood that aging is one of our primary lots in life.

As a 3rd grader the concept of aging was already front in my psyche.  I could not wait to get into 4th grade, into middle school, high school and so-on.  I thought about aging a great deal in that sense.  Being older offered so much more.  I remember once sitting in my bath tub at age 8 or 9, and hoping I could live to be 100 years old, believing that if I could, I would be as wise as God. 

The Tipping Point

But there is a tipping point for most – a time when many people quit counting up and begin counting down.  For many, I’ll suggest this comes in the 30s or 40s, and the calendar becomes more a mile marker bitch honing in on death, than a view of the plentiful time ahead.  I’m just not there yet – to the tipping point and not sure I ever will be.  I want to attain – to earn all the traits of being old because I understand that if I live that long, being old is what I’m supposed to be.  Age spots, gray hair, wrinkles, no hair, nose hairs, slower steps, aches, pains, etc; these are the mile markers of our existence. I can’t wait for my long gray ponytail.

But worldwide billions of dollars are spent every week by hundreds of millions of people to get an upper hand on the inevitable.  Although anti-aging is not even a legitimate subset of western medicine, and the AMA frowns on use of the term, anti-aging, clinics are popping all over the world to help candidates battle the inevitable.  Primary to many of these clinics is the use of HGH as a means of living better and longer.  That’s an essay for another day. 

Conversations Over Crunches

There are but a handful of topics which get discussed in my studio each day.  Chief among them are eating, cancer, and aging – in that order.  Aging though, is the topic which most frustrates my clients – especially those over 40. 

I hear this, or something like it almost daily,

“I refuse to get old.” 

It’s often followed up or preceded by,

“I ache everywhere these days.”

My canned response to these statements usually goes like this,  

“Be it by designer, or by Designer, we were designed to age.  None of us are immune.  If we are lucky enough to be born living, we begin aging immediately – and it never ends.” 

I continue,

“Show me somebody over the age of 30 who doesn’t ache somewhere, have a ding, a ping, and crackle a bit here and there, and I’ll show you somebody who wasted 30 years of their life.”

The awkward duality is that they often blame their workouts with me for many of their aches and pains – yet they come back for more…?  Kill me.

Being Safe In The Gym; Aches And Pains Notwithstanding

I buy it up to a point; the car with the most and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first – but not always.  I workout intensely almost every day of my life, and I do have some aches and pains which I can relate directly to my workouts, but these are not injuries.  Though I workout hard, I workout safe and intelligently.  The reality is that intense exercise can wear a body down to a degree, but when exercise is practiced safely, the body should recover and be better for the wear. 

I’m 50 years old.  I can jump and land squarely on a picnic table – and I can do so for many repetitions.  I can hike fast uphill non-stop for an hour or more.  I can touch my palms to the floor, touch my ass to my heels, I can sit down on the ground and stand back up without using my hands.  I never need help moving anything – even the refrigerator I placed in my studio the other day.  Being strong, fast, and flexible are good problems to have – even if they are accompanied by some occasional aches, pains, and soreness. 

When good exercise form is practiced, it is nearly impossible to become injured in the course of strength training.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be achiness or soreness subsequent to the workout.  It means there should be no injuries.  Those associated short-term aches and pains might turn a lot of people away from strength training.  I can assure you, the associated strength, flexibility, and command and control of the body are a supreme dividend in exchange for a few dings and pings.  Be well.  rc

Please check back in 2 weeks for more on the philosophy behind the fitness.  Oh, and there is this from 4-string savant, Seasick Steve.  Enjoy…