It’s all about Roy…

A week in the life…

I’ve been corresponding with several friends, and clients recently who have been curious about my own dietary changes since January.  Since more than a few people have asked about this, I thought I would be a nice diversion this week, rather than writing my usual essay, to share my contest preparation here.

I currently estimate my body fat to be about 11%.  My weight this morning was 162 lbs.  For my bodybuilding competition in September, I should be 152 pounds, at (roughly) 7% body fat.

These pictures were taken about 2 weeks ago.  Clearly, I still have a long way to go, but the trail is straight, and quite easy to navigate.

SideChest

BackBi

My current eating schedule is not glamorous.  It varies little from day to day, as my body in contest preparation, responds extremely well to consistency in eating.  This means eating basically the exact same things at the exact same times each day.  This is correct for the goal, and for the moment, though I have no intentions of eating this way in the long-term.

The meals…

Breakfast:  6 egg whites, red cabbage, asparagus, some onion, 1 roma tomato, some spices

Four pounds of breakfast joy.  In this case, I uses EggBeaters in stead of egg whites.  On sale...

Four pounds of breakfast joy. In this case, I used EggBeaters in stead of egg whites. On sale…

Mid-Morning:  1 scoop of protein powder in water.  1 grapefruit

My mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks...

My mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks…

Lunch:  1.5 medium boneless/skinless chicken thighs, red cabbage, broccoli, 1 roma tomato, some onion, some spices

Lunch is usually some combination of vegetables, and chicken...

Lunch is usually some combination of vegetables, and chicken…

I would be lost without my two eating partners; Greek seasoning and California style garlic salt.  I put them on everything, in equal portion...

I would be lost without my two eating partners; Greek seasoning and California style garlic salt. I put them on everything, in equal portion…

Mid-Afternoon:  1 scoop of protein powder in water.  1 grapefruit

Dinner:  1.5 medium boneless/skinless chicken thighs or breasts, on top of a monster green salad.  Full-on loaded with veggies.  Sometimes this salad is homemade, often times it comes from one of the local restaurants I frequent.  Regardless, it’s usually filled with an ass-load of spring-mix, a few kalamata olives, sometimes spinach, cucumbers, tomato – just depends.

Fallbrook Cafe, I LOVE YOU!

Fallbrook Cafe, I LOVE YOU!

During the night:  1/2 cup oatmeal, l/2 tsp. ground flax, 1 scoop of protein powder.  I wake up naturally at 11:30 or so, and I keep this pre-made by my bed.  I eat it and go right back to sleep.

Living in a vegetative state…

 With the vegetables, I emphasize quantity and quality.  For a given meal, I may also include spinach, Brussels sprouts, and occasionally kale.  All these veggies are useful carbohydrates, and hard to digest.  My digestive organs earn their keep.

My morning scramble usually weighs over 4 pounds, and has been as heavy as 6 – that’s how many vegetables it contains.  The only non-vegetable carbohydrates I currently eat are the oats and flax seed I eat in the middle of the night.

I’m not counting calories at all right now, but guessing I’m in the 1800-1900 per day range.  As September gets closer, I will taper down to about 1,500, and perhaps 1,200 for the last few weeks before the show.   This will all be instinctive, based on how I feel on a given day/week.  If my body tells me I need more food, I add in more.  Conversely, if my body tells me I’m eating too much, I will taper in accordance with my intuition.  I only count grams of protein which, relative to my goal, is about 150-170 grams per day.

Hunger games…

Eating like this, I’m always a little bit hungry, but rarely am profoundly hungry.  It’s tolerable, and a sign that my objective, to live in a sustainable calorie deficit, is working.

The upside of the hunger is that every meal I eat tastes like it’s the best thing I have ever eaten.  My grapefruit tastes like candy.  Cabbage and eggs taste amazing.  My dinner salad is always the best salad I have ever eaten in my life.  This, in my opinion, is a good way to be.

Despite the calorie deficit, and the elimination of most non-vegetable carbohydrates, I have never felt better in my life.  My cognitive abilities seem improved, and my sleep doesn’t totally suck.

Movement games…

My body is functioning at its highest level in years.  My workouts are epic, and include poundages, in some cases, I have never used before.  My runs are strong, but I still think running is fucking stupid.

I strength train 5-6 days per week, 45-50 minutes per session when I’m alone, and 90 minutes or so when I train with my partner.

I'm not a paleo guy, but I do like to get outside from time to time...

I’m not a paleo guy, but I do like to get outside from time to time…

During the week a run 2.1 miles most days followed by some 70-80 yard sprints.  On the weekends I may go on longer runs at the beach or on trail.   Aside from my September bodybuilding competition, I also have have several competitive runs during the next 6 months, including two half-marathons, and a relay across Southern California. I fucking hate running.

That’s it.  A week in the life — for now. This time next year it could be all about Tai Chi, racquetball, or kayaking.  Sitting still is simulating death.

So I let you in a little deeper this week, please reciprocate.  Use the comments field and let me know what you’re up to these days, and WHY…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the bender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Paul Weller — simply elegant.  Enjoy…

There’s no such thing as bad, only different levels of good…

When speaking to friends on the subject of pizza, I am always quick to say,

“Pizza is like sex and music; there is no such thing as bad, only different levels of good”.

Exercise can be part of that equation as well…

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The tail of two friends…

Two friends from the Midwest, both of them very fitness minded, each sent me two separate articles this week, each unaware of the other.

One friend, VDB, sent me this one titled, The Five Most Overrated Exercises You Can’t Stop Doing.

The other friend, TJ, sent me this one titled, Worthless Exercises You Probably Do.

As far as the overratedness or worthlessness of exercises go, these are relative statements, and always cause me to cringe when I read such blind assertions.

I argue for thinking…

Through several decades of reading on the subject of exercise, I have seen many articles like these.  I have never seen such articles make strong arguments against the exercises they list.  They usually go into very little detail to support their argument, and never do they consider the peripheral utility of such exercises, or consider the values these exercises may offer on a more visceral level.

It’s sort of like saying, “I hate that candidate.”  Fair enough.  Now tell me why, and support your argument…

I can make an argument, and often do, that there are no worthless exercises if they are done properly — that there is utility, on some level, in all mindful movement performed by a capable body.

Some exercises have more utility than others for a particular outcome, say, functional fitness vs. aesthetic fitness.  Even those terms though, functional fitness, and aesthetic fitness aren’t necessarily exclusive from one-another.

Exercises done in the name of functional fitness may have more of an aesthetic application, but that doesn’t mean there is not a functional value.  Conversely, many exercises I suggest for functional strength can provide an aesthetic benefit as well.

There’s a fine line between an exercise being worthless, and it simply lacking efficiency relative to one’s objective.

That is where the real answers rest in exercise anyway; when we choose which exercises to include in our regimen based upon what we are trying to accomplish.

The usual suspects…

The case I use most often is the leg extension.

I will state my opinion, clearly, that leg extensions, first and foremost, offer an aesthetic application.  Among the many benefits leg extensions offer is that they help create lines of separation between the quadriceps.  To a bodybuilder, this is useful.  To a golfer, not so much.

Often maligned by functional fitness proponents, I’ve heard leg extensions referred to as knee wreckers, useless, and dangerous.  This is nonsense.  Though leg extensions are an isolation exercise, they are not knee wreckers, and done properly, they are far from dangerous.  They can, in fact, be knee supporters – even for golfers.

Though leg extensions do isolate the quadriceps muscles, they also isolate the quadriceps tendons which fuse those muscles to the knee joints.  Doing leg extensions properly, and with an appropriate weight, will strengthen those tendons, offering better support for the knee joints of anyone, be they an athlete, weekend warrior, or assisted living resident.  Leg extensions, done properly, make the knees stronger.

Both articles advocated against the bench press as a functional fitness exercise.  One stating,

“The bench press is overrated mainly because too many beginners stick to this chest exercise thinking that it’s the only thing they need”.

Well that’s not the fault of the bench press.  That’s the fault of the uniformed user over-depending on the bench press.

The other article claimed,

“Some fitness experts have deemed bench press unsafe.”

Again, this is a relative statement.  I will argue that the bench press, done with proper form and an appropriate weight, is useful in developing upper body strength for all levels of fitness including my oldest client, 88, who does them regularly.  There is also a peripheral core element which comes with doing bench presses properly.

Irony out the wrinkles…

I find it interesting that of the two articles linked above, one advocated for the plank as a good alternative to the crunch, and the other vice-versa.

My take on either of these exercises does not change; there is value in either one, but the value is only disclosed by the way the exercise is performed, relative to what the goal of the user might be.  I published my own thoughts on this here last month.

Look, I’m not even an expert on Roy Cohen, so I won’t claim to be an expert on exercise.  I have been at this a while though.  I have seen many trends in exercise which have come and which have gone.  One trend though, that remains and probably always will, is the trend of “experts” trying to provide your common sense to you, because they don’t want you to cultivate it on your own – there’s just not as much profit in that…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and if you have 30 minutes of time, please check out Oklahoma’s JD McPherson.  Enjoy…

Caught between Emerson, And George…

The crossroads in my head…

On a personal level, I am compelled by the fulfillment of challenging exercise.  The drug of intensity in movement clears my head, offers me confidence, and provides moments to me during which the stress of daily living vanishes, if only for a while.

Whether my requirement for challenging exercise is an addiction, a compulsion, or a mere personality defect, I may never be sure.  What I have come to accept is that, for now, exercise for the sake of fulfillment is a necessary component of the clock that is me.

Earning my keep…

On a professional level, I am more cautious about the ideal of intensity in exercise.  This caution though, is relative to the moment, and to the client.  Some moments in my studio are all about fulfillment in exercise.  I am paid well by some clients to establish the limits of their physicality, and incrementally raise those limits, rendering them more capable at given tasks, aesthetically improved, or both.

With other clients it’s about utility.  They entrust me to help increase their physicality by offering functional exercise into their lives.  This may be due to age, disease, or simply because they have lived a deconditioned lifestyle previously.   Regardless, for these clients mindfulness comes first, and intensity isn’t even a consideration.

On George…

George stepped into my studio for the first time seven years ago.  He was 67 years old, and a few years into retirement. He wanted to begin a fitness regimen to augment his twice per week golf schedule.

George also wanted to lose a few pounds around his waist, and improve his overall “shape”. If functional strength training might help his golf game, peripheral weight loss would be a cherry on top.

George was focused with his workouts, and made progress quickly.  His balance improved.  His flexibility improved.  His endurance improved.  His strength improved – to a point where he could leg press several hundred pounds, in proper form, and through a complete range of motion, and do so safely. Even his golf even improved.

George is 73 now. Four years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. An engineer by trade, George accepted that affliction with no resistance. He approached it with a resolve to wake up each day and address Parkinson’s in the best way he could – stoically, and with a pragmatic faith in Western medicine.

Minolta DSC
In the four years since his diagnosis, George’s physicality has suffered.  This is partially due to the disease itself, and partially due to the medications he uses to offset Parkinson’s.  However, his attitude and acceptance of the cards life has dealt him have been exceptional.  We should all be so graceful under the same circumstances.

Yesterday as he entered my studio I asked him how his golf outing went the day prior.  This was his response:

“It was great!”

He continued,

“I didn’t play too well, but the turkey sandwich was excellent, and my friends and I laughed a lot.”

I was as humbled by his attitude, as I was by the sincere smile on his face as he spoke.

George no longer leg presses several hundred pounds.  Most of George’s workouts take place with a broom stick for resistance, and some 3 pound weights in his weathered hands.  He accomplishes less than half the sets and repetitions in a given workout than he did prior to the onset of Parkinson’s.

He rests more during the session, struggles to drink his water without spilling some, and he and I have become more social.  His efforts though, have been just as focused as ever.

There is no way to quantify how George’s functional strength workouts have helped offset his fight with Parkinson’s, or whether they have made a difference at all.

At a time when I struggle walking the line between the utility of functional exercise, and the fulfillment of more intense exercise, George’s presence in my life is a grounding factor.

George pays me well for his two hours in my studio each week. As time goes on, and I ruminate over all I am learning from George – about how to address aging, disease, and the perspective he applies to both, I wonder more and more, who should be paying who.

Caught between utility and fulfillment…

Of my many daily rationalizations, chief among them is that my personally fulfilling, intensity-driven workouts offer my life a great deal of utility.

There may be some utility in me in racing up a 1,200 foot hill as fast as I can.  Running back down that same hill fast, I can assure you, is not in the best interest of my long-term physicality.  Nor do I believe that my quest for a bodybuilding title in September is in my body’s best long-term interest.

Probably not what I will be doing at 74 years old...

Probably not what I will be doing at 74 years old…

These ideals which underlie my exercise though, are who I am today.

Who I will be tomorrow…

I may never have the privilege of being 74 years old.  If I am so fortunate to get there, I have no illusion that I will look or function then as I do today.  I also require myself to accept that what I do today – how I exercise, and how often, may actually have a negative impact on the physicality of me at 74.  I don’t know.

There is a fine line between pursuing what we want, and what makes sense.  When I have difficulty distinguishing that line, or when I see it clearly but can’t decide which side I should stand on, I draw from the only scripture which has mattered to me in my adult life:

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”

More and more these days, I find myself caught between Emerson, and George — between the lessons of two great men who have both inspired me.  Be well.  rc…

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Oh, and there is this from the best rock and roll band you have never heard of, The Hellacopters.  Enjoy…