The Rhythm Method…

My friend…

Monserate Hill has been many things to me through many years.  It has been a workout, a release, a sanctuary, a hiding place, a passion, and a medicine.  It has been a place to cultivate friendships, old and new, to regain perspective on the complexities of life, and a place to learn a little more each week about the inner me.  It’s a place that has made me whole in times when I have felt broken.  In short, Monserate has been my friend.

Time And Time Again…

This hill rises just about 1,200 feet from its base beside Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, CA.  The most direct trail to the summit is 1.6 miles.  If my math skills serve me well, 1.6 miles over 1,200 feet comes out to an average grade of about 23%.  It’s steep.  I try and get to the hill at least a couple of times per week, but will go every day if the circumstances provide for that.  On the weekends it’s not unusual for me to hike it 3 or 4 times in 48 hours.

With my brother, Mark Jhciacb Cohen...

With my brother, Mark Jhciacb Cohen…

On the short route there are essentially 4 steep and challenging sections, and 2 flat sections.  None of the challenging sections are any less difficult than another.  The sections differ only in landscape, trail surface, and view. Steep is steep, and effort is effort.  As for the flat sections, a friend recently pointed out to me that they really aren’t flat at all, only less steep.

When time is tight I take the short trail which gets me up, down, and out of there in 45 minutes or so.  When I have less going on, I take the long route which is a 5 ½ mile round trip.  This takes me about an hour and 15 minutes.  The long route offers some extra credit as far as the cardio goes, but also offers extra credit with even more beautiful views.

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There are times when I take on this hill full-on.  Be it alone, or with a partner, the goal is to get to the top as quickly as possible.  This pace tests the conditioning of the mind, as well as the body.  This is when Monserate is my workout, and can be daunting when the pace is that aggressive.  I have even run it, bottom to top on occasion, but there is no joy in doing so.

Other times the pace may be fast, but not all out.  Then there are just those days when a long walk with a good friend is in order.  Pace means nothing, and fellowship is the order of the day.  After all, Monserate is a church not made by hands.

Regardless of the goal, and the pace, never do I get to the top without pausing for at least a moment to honor the gif of the view.  To the east lays Palomar Mountain which can be dusted with snow in winter.  That aesthetic is always striking since there are citrus orchards, palm farms, and avocado groves in the foreground.  To the west is the town of Fallbrook, where I live.  On a clear day one can see the ocean nearly 20 miles away.

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Ocean view, 20 miles in the distance...

Ocean view, 20 miles in the distance…

The Fires…

In October of 2007 this area was decimated by fires.  In Fallbrook alone, over 500 homes were lost.  Those fires reworked the Monserate landscape into a different level of beauty.  This allowed me to see the hill from the perspectives of fragility, and strength in recovery.  Gone was the overgrown brush, and exposed was the hidden terrain from which the growth once reached.  The growth would return, and that served as a reminder to me of the cyclical nature of existence.

Each week through that winter after the fires I watched the scenery evolve, and turn from charred black remains on red clay, into purple flowers, yellow blossoms, and rich green hues.  As the growth returned so too did the smells.  If Monserate has a secret weapon for seduction, then it’s the confluence of scents of the varying plants which inhabit the area.

In the early mornings, when the marine layer is just right, and as the fog slowly flows over, and around the hills in the area, the scents of sage, citrus, and eucalyptus among others waft, and blend.

Above the clouds…

When I find Monserate to be most inspiring, most meditative, and most transformative is early on a Sunday morning when the fog is heavy.  On those days, little can be seen beyond 20 yards, sometimes less.  Then, after about 800’ or so of climbing, I emerge from the fog only to look down upon the top of it.  The triangular peaks of the distant hills peek through the clouds, and it appears as though the whole world is just a cauldron of soup made from clouds, and hilltops.  Above, the sky is an untouched blue.

In these moments when no roads, no structures, no anything can be seen, I feel alone in the universe.  Then, I’ll hear a hawk, see a rabbit, a lizard, or even a coyote scamper, and nature becomes larger than man, and I am the outsider.

Cloud soup...

Cloud soup…

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The rhythm method…

I may suck at running, but I climb hills as well as anyone I know, and I enjoy doing it.  Due to the steep grade of the trail, each stride is more a lunge than a step.  I land flat-footed, and push off from the heel with every stride – years of lunges have trained me to do this with efficiency.  I have strong legs, powerful hips, and a low center of gravity.  Jhciacb does hills.  Rarely do even my partners pass me, and if they do they don’t stay in front for very long.

Step.  Step.  Step.  The climb itself is a rhythm, but it’s a slow rhythm.  Heart-rate increases and breathing expands.   Time begins to slow, and the transformative state begins.  Step.  Step.  Step.  This is the metronome which keeps the physical me in tune, and in step with the thinking me.  The chaos of the day dissolves as the music of physicality gets louder.  Step.  Step.  Step.

Lunge is served...

Lunge is served…

As I advance, I begin to forget about those who half-wittingly toss out their opinions about the idiot in the white house, corporate greed, or why I’m so wrong about so many things.  As the news of stolen babies, raped altar boys, school shootings, and genocide swirl about my brain with the chaos of the day, and as my head feels like it’s going to explode from these, I simply put one foot in front of the other, and establish a rhythm with my body.  As the rhythm of my body increases, the rhythm of my mind slows to a tolerable level, if only for a while.  Step.  Step.  Step…  Be well.  Rc

Money shot at sunset from a hike this past Saturday...

Money shot at sunset from a hike this past Saturday…

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If you are a San Diego local, and have an interest in hiking Monserate, but would prefer to do it for the first time with an experienced guide, please contact me here.  I would be glad to show the way.  My fee for the hike is a Greek salad, and a pitcher of iced tea from the Main Street Café here in Fallbrook.

Please stop back in two weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, Little Hurricane.  Enjoy..

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

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When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Spain.  Enjoy…

Toxicity, people, and how I cope: The nutshell version…

Every morning I wake up and allow myself to be punched right in my psyche, hit by the negativity of some people in my online community.  Not only do I allow this, I set myself up for it.  With each fresh morning I open my 17” LCD window to the world, and allow myself be soiled by people I call friend.

Soon after, I begin asking myself, why do I do this…?  Why do I grant access into my consciousness, to toxic personalities pushing such heavy loads…?  It can sadden me, depress me, influence the direction of my day, and can change my perspective of life – all by 6:00 a.m.  Still, I do it day after day.

Gasses spew, but I am prepared...

Gasses spew, but I am prepared…

I know who I am.  I know who I wish to be.  I try to be who I really am as often as I can, though many times throughout the day I ignore my compass and allow myself to drift.  I find myself led off course by my own fears, and by the influence I allow others to have over those fears.  I work hard though, to stay centered and on track, and I guess I do a fair job of it.

When I attempt to answer my own question, about why I allow the negativity of others into my life, and why I keep those people there, the answers are complicated.  I guess I see it this way:  That the universe has brought those people into my life to begin with, and there is no denying they exist within my life, so they must be there for a reason(s).

They become my external friend first, but in time can become my internal enemy – but that’s on me, not on them.  I do little to dissuade their toxicity and negative energy.  I simply ignore it, and store it.  I do very little online arguing since I have seen nothing good ever come of this.  I have my opinions, others have theirs.

I ask myself: Are these people in my life to test me, to teach me, to hurt me, or to offend me…?  Not sure.  Mostly I think they are in my life to ground me – to remind me of who I am, who I am not, and who I might turn out to be, relative of course, to who I hope to turn out to be.

I think people who exhibit single-mindedness, who spew hatred, who can argue without ever listening, and who use social media as their outlet are speaking from a place of fragility and fear so deep that they themselves may not even know it’s there.  In that sense I feel for them – that they are so damaged they may not even know they are damaged, or why.  At least I know where my damage comes from.

I try hard not to judge people for these behaviors, as I hope I am not judged by others for the simple act of being myself.

At the end of the day I believe in an absolute universal oneness.  I genuinely believe that we are all interconnected — that everyone else is me, and I am them.  Maybe not in this life, but in the life next door, in the life down the road, or in the life I will live three lives from now.

I take it all with a grain.  I meditate to keep myself centered.  I exercise to keep my head clear.  I write to honor my creative gift.  I also listen without judgment because the voice coming my way might be my own voice someday, or may have already been.  Wishing you peace this day…  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 there is this by Sweden’s Hellsingland Underground.    Enjoy…

A RUN FOR FUN IS QUICKLEY DONE…

This is the final installment of my intermittent series on running.  To revisit the first three essays, they are available here.  Part I, Part II, Part III

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Gone with the wind…

For those who have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I have maintained a love/hate relationship with the ideal of running – throughout my entire life.  I have run though, because I do fitness for a living.  Since running is an alleged standard of fitness, I have always felt a responsibility to perform at an average level, or a little above on rare occasions.

Here’s the truth:  I hate running more than a hundred yards or so at a time – I just do.  Not far beyond the quarter mile mark of most every run I have ever taken, the act of running has become a joyless chore that I can’t wait to complete.  By the end of most runs I find I would rather be whipped across my back with a salt encrusted porcupine than take another step.  Still, I have run.

I have felt this way since my first cross country run in the 7th grade.  During the thousands of runs I have taken since, I have most always wanted to stop a run, turn, and slowly walk home.  One word has always defined my running experience; hateful.  I find the feeling of running hateful.  Despite these feelings, I have run thousands of times – thousands.  I have run competitive 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons, and full marathons, and have even participated in a 200 mile relay race from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Competing in last year's Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Competing in last year’s Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

I have run alone, I have run with friends, and I have run with strangers on occasion.  With the exception of one 1/2 marathon, and a couple of inspired runs in Athens, and on the island of Mykonos last year, I have found little joy in running, only obligation.  I have pretended to like running as I have pretended to like a cute girl who scarcely knows the recipe for toast.

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After a rare inspired run at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens last year….

Breaking the chains of obedience…

Sprinting however, the act of running my guts out, and being immediately done with it, I have always appreciated.  And I’m good at it.  I have been fast for short distances my whole life, and I recover quickly from such runs.

Where for the past 10 years or so I have regularly fit at least a few 2 to 4 mile runs per week into my schedule, often longer and more frequent runs when race preparations have warranted it, I now divorce myself from the emotional ball and chain that is the joyless run.  I cite irreconcilable differences.

Sprint protocol….

I have taken up once again with a flame from the past; interval sprint workouts.  I have loved, enjoyed, and always looked forward to these – since I was a teen.  That’s just how I’m wired.  I write essays, not novels.  I run sprints, not distance.  In the absence of those regular short distance runs, I have begun again to enjoy a 30 minute sprint workout, one which I have been doing on and off since I was 17 years old.

My unscientific protocol, which  have enjoyed in the past, and have come to enjoy again is simple; I run 70-100 yards at roughly 70% – 80% capacity.  I stop, I turn, and I walk back to where I started.  I then immediately turn, and run again.  I do this uninterrupted for roughly 30 minutes.  I walk away stimulated, cleansed, refreshed, and better conditioned for my efforts.

This protocol is nothing I have ever read about.  It can find no scientific basis to support it.  I’ve never met anyone else who does it, though I have shared it with others, and some of them continue it to this day as a primary form of exercise.  I made this workout up when I was an awkward teen looking to fill a void in my non-social Friday and Saturday nights.

I have always found this workout to be challenging, achievable, good conditioning, and dare I say less toxic on my joints than longer slower runs.  Perhaps this lack of harshness has to do with a sprinting stride being more horizontal than a jogging stride, thus minimizing impact on the feet, and the supporting joints.  That’s just logical speculation on my part though.

Let me make clear, this not based on the currently in-vogue Tabata protocol.  Nor is this a question of HIIT vs. steady-state cardio.  This is Jhciacb protocol at its best; a recipe exclusive to the creator which I have used at various times in my life to sooth my brain, alleviate my stress, stay on the leaner side, and make me feel good – if only for a moment.

I pray to Crom…

With regard to my many running friends who will find blasphemy in my contempt for distance running, I am truly sorry.  I don’t share my feeling about longer runs to offend you, and I respect that running brings you such joy.  However, I have never experience that kind of joy from running distances.  The stress of forcing my sprinting square peg into a distance running round hole has just grown tiresome.

I’m not out to bash your god, distance runners.  I’m just no longer willing to be obedient to him.  In running as in life, I don’t pray to your god, I pray to mine.  For far too long now I have forgotten the importance of being true to that ideal – in running as in life.  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 there is this recent video which fittingly accompanies a great song from Gary Numan.  Enjoy…