The Trouble With Expectations…

I sometimes think the psychology of body image is beyond human comprehension; at the academic level, the personal level, and all places in-between.  I truly believe that.  At the very least, understanding what is required to effect change of the human is beyond human acceptance in most cases.

I had an incident last night with a woman who wanted me to tell her what she wanted to hear – not what was real. This is something I have faced many times through the years, and despite my knowledge and experience, I most often come out the loser in the debate.

A woman, a professional educator by trade, asked me some fitness related questions. She is in her early 60s. Like many, she has concerns about body fat, muscle tone, and overall body image. Of course, abs, and thighs were chief among her concerns.

As is often the case, I explained that 80% of the changes she was looking for relate to dietary changes, and not exercise. I explained that, though exercise can influence the shape, density, and strength of the muscles, the loss of body fat is primarily dietary.

She explained that she was a “healthy” eater.

When I asked what she ate for breakfast, she explained that she rarely did. As I began to explore her eating in greater detail, it became clear that she’s an average eater, and certainly not eating in a way that is consistent with reducing body fat.

As the conversation continued, she became agitated that I was not providing what she wanted to hear. As I explained the reasons why should would not see change eating within her current scheme, she exclaimed that it was her body and she knew it better than me.

And that’s where the disconnect usually begins; at the moment when a person wants me to tell them that they can keep eating the way they have been, mix in a few target exercises, and see noticeable changes within a few weeks. This is the impossible dream sold by the billion dollar fitness industry.

The more I explained that effecting change in the human body requires much more than a few special exercises, and mixing in a superfood or two, the more then conversation deteriorated to a point of finality – the agreement to disagree.

As a point of clarification, I classify the woman in question as both slim, and healthy. For being 60 she’s ahead of the game. So not only is the issue of body image at work here, so too are convoluted social expectations; the idea that we should look like something other than who we are at a given time in our life.

Double starfish face...

Double starfish face…

My teaching focus these days is primarily geared toward strength training for utility, and as a form of wellness, though I’m all for helping people who want to look better because I possess that skill set as well. Confidence, like exercise, is a life skill. I will remain forever starfish-faced though, when confronted by people insisting I tell them what they wish to hear. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Buffalo Killers.  Enjoy!

Vacation Bits…

Fun Shows…

A new friend made a comment to me this morning – one that has been resonating for a few hours. She said I look like I’m having a lot of fun being back in Colorado. Why yes, yes I am having fun. I have always tried though, to have fun wherever I live or wherever I have found myself. I won’t say having fun is among my highest priorities, it’s not. A weekly dose of fun though, can serve to keep life’s many orbiting social cancers at bay.

For many years one of my core tenets has been that I build a little bit of vacation into every week. This hasn’t always been easy, but when I have tried it’s always been within reach. Vacation bits don’t need to last long to be transformative. They only need to be appreciated to provide some healing returns.

The Mars Corporation sells us Milky Way bits; for those times when we want to appreciate just a taste – when an entire Milky Way is too much. I like to nibble on vacation bits – to appreciate just a taste in an otherwise busy week. Let’s admit it, like a full size Milky Way, an entire vacation can be just too much.

Vacation Bits.  Now available in minis...

Vacation Bits. Now available in minis…

In Or Out…

Being active, and in good physical condition better enables vacation bits. Participating in any outdoor activity is always like bit of vacation to me; hiking, kayaking, cycling, and even slow leisurely walks with my dog. These are things I do regularly. Just walking through the woods though, with my camera and my dog touches me far more deeply than boarding a jet, taking a cab to a hotel, checking in, going to sleep on a strange bed, only to wake up the next day so I can take walk through some different woods with a camera and no dog.

Just a few minutes into the woods and I'm a different person...

Just a few minutes into the woods and I’m a different person…

Being physical is not a requirement for taking a vacation bit. Just being outside and staring at some part of nature for a few moments can often be enough. To simply observe something natural, with no agenda but to appreciate its magnitude has very often helped me better understand my lack of. Even those who live in urban areas often have magnificent parks as vacation bit outlets. If we have a tree to appreciate, a hill, or even a garden, then we have access to a part of nature which is bigger than us.

At a suburban park near Denver.  Nature is anywhere we find it...

At a suburban park near Denver. Nature is anywhere we find it…

Sometimes a vacation bit will simply involve me turning off all my electronics for a few hours, and clean something in the house. The sound of nothing at all in the background, as I experience the tactile therapy of folding laundry, scrubbing a toilet, or organizing a closet is often a welcome break from the constant static I hear in my mind as those around me attempt to change my channel.

Sipping a coffee or a beer, and looking out a window at home sooths me a bit more than paying $200 per night to do the exact same thing on over a distant landscape in a place I don’t call home.

The Patio Law…

Within these bits though, there is one vacation bit in particular which frames my mood better than any other, and this is one I do regularly; dining outside. I actually feel there should be a law – that if a person has the opportunity to dine outside, be it at home or in a restaurant, and chooses not to, mandatory jail time!

A typical Sunday lunch in San Diego...

A typical Sunday lunch in San Diego…

I dined outside today for what may have been the last time for the next 6 or 7 months. That will take some getting used to. For nearly 15 years in San Diego I have taken lunch on my home or a restaurant patio year round, and did so almost daily. That experience has done as much to sooth my day as exercise or writing. Winter will be here soon. I suppose my replacement bit for my patio lunch will be lunch by the wood stove, watching snow fall. Indeed, just taking time to enjoy a meal is vacationesque.

See you in May.  'Sniff...

See you in May. ‘Sniff…

It’s The Moments Which Matter…

If you think about, it’s not the vacation from start to finish which transforms or recharges us. Travel can be rough; time zone changes, snippy sky waitresses, and strange accommodations can kill a vacation mood. Also the stress of prepping work ahead of time so we can get away, and the constant dreading of the catchup work when we return can spoil a good time. And then there’s the spending of all that money. I have rarely enjoyed the vacations I have taken as complete bodies of peace.

Ok. some vacations are worth the stress and money.  Mykonos, 2012...

Ok. some vacations are worth the stress and money. Mykonos, 2012…

Though I have traveled a good deal, seen some amazing people, places, and things, what has most defined my vacations through the years has not been their entirety or magnitude. It has been those few brief moments – those little bits of enjoying the calm between the vacation storms which have transformed me most. Those moments are within reach for all of us – weekly. We can only experience them though, if we remember to build them into our lives and if we take time to appreciate them when they happen. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and in place of music this week, please take 2 minutes to enjoy the most formative television scene I have ever watched; the wisdom of Ted Baxter. Enjoy!

The Elemental Peddler…

Little Fear Of Challenge…

I have put my body at risk many times in my life, and in many ways. Varying forms of exercise, recreation, an inherent requirement for physical for fulfillment, and outright curiosity have been the force behind most of these actions.

I have self-administered multiple tests to the physical me, to better understand the conscious me.  Running long distances, lifting heavy things, jumping from great heights are among the many challenges I have completed in order to test my resolve with physicality.

I’m about to take on a new test of the physical me.  One that will test my fortitude in a way it has not previously been challenged, and will be the hardest experiment I have taken on yet. It won’t be resolved in an hour, a day or even a week. It will be ongoing. Though it seems daunting to me right now, when I look back at our pioneer ancestors, or see how people live in other parts of the world today, what I am about to take on is really quite little.

From Four To Two…

In 2008 I gave up driving in favor of a bike. Giving consideration to my circumstances, and the life I wanted to live, I saw little need for a car. I gave my Jeep to a girl who had just gotten her driver’s license. Later that week I went to WalMart and bought a Schwinn beach cruiser as a replacement for the Jeep.

Great for short distances...

Great for short distances…

My commute to and from work at that time was roughly 2 miles. Only a few hills were involved, I was in excellent physical condition, and I lived in the San Diego area. Not only was this not a sacrifice, it made sense. My commute took all of 12 minutes each way. I rode daily past orange trees, bougainvillea hedges, and was in shirt sleeves and shorts most of the time. This was not a hardship, it was a joy.

Within a few months though, my living situation changed. My commute to and from my studio became further and much hillier. The beach cruiser was no longer a useful substitute for my Jeep. I bought a commuter road bike for the 7 mile journey each way. My commute then took 35 minutes or so each way, six days per week. There was no longer a need for structured cardio.

Better for longer commutes...

Better for longer commutes…

The exertion of this my commute was so significant, that for the next several years I would wake up in the middle of the night, cook half a box of angel hair, cover it with butter, suck it down as though I hadn’t eaten in weeks, and go right back to sleep. Through it all, my body weight stayed a constant 172.

This longer commute wasn’t a joy, but it was still no burden. Six days per week, through wind, rain, and tonsillitis – I enjoyed the challenge.

Home Again Home Again Jiggity, Uhm….

In May of this year I made the decision to move back to Colorado – where I had grown up and lived much of my adult life. I wanted to be closer to my family. Of the many little decisions that were made within that bigger decision, was my choice to remain a bicycle commuter. Though Nederland, Colorado and Fallbrook, California have many things in common, a mutual climate is not one of them.

Nederland is similar to Fallbrook in that they are both small, rural towns with expanded outlying areas, and can be a pedestrian friendly. Fallbrook could get cold in winter, often dropping below freezing. Traveling on bike, often before sunrise, at speeds up to 35 mph, it could be uncomfortable, if not bone chilling.

Nederland gets cold too. Ass beating cold. And windy. On a windy day, people here often park their cars facing into the wind, so the more flimsy side windows don’t get blown out by flying rocks.  I once called my brother in Nederland, to wish him a happy New Year.  When I asked him what he has doing for New Year’s Eve, he explained that he was nailing blankets over the windows in his home to keep out the sub-zero chill.

My bicycle commute to from home to work is only 1.6 miles here, mostly downhill. It takes less than 5 minutes and it’s a hoot.   My commute home is mostly uphill. It involves nearly 1,000 feet of climbing and takes about 22 minutes. It sucks. My sustained heart-rate approaches 180 bpm toward the end. And this is still summer. I expect with temperatures in the single digits, and winds that often reach 50-60 mph, this commute will be hateful in winter.

My forever bike...

My forever bike…

Of course there will be days when peddling at all will be prohibitive. Gravity, snow and ice will be no match for 2 wheels. On those days, I will walk. Still, I am committed. My goal is to get through this, my first winter in 15 years, without owning a car. Beyond that I won’t say. If I am successful, then I can see no reason why I can’t do it again next year. If I am not successful, I will be honest about it, and you’ll be sure to read about it here. Stay tuned, and please be well. rc.

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Sol Cat.     Enjoy!

Sets-sual Healing…

Under the phrase, strength training, the opening paragraph of Wikipedia sites some of what strength training supports; bodybuilding, weightlifting, powerlifting, as well as several strength-related sports that we’re all familiar with.

What it doesn’t reference, at least until much later in the citations, is wellness. Even at that, it does so scarcely. ‘Sniff…

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A conflict in the posse…

I recently received and email from a fellow trainer. She was seeking advice on how to deal with a client whose bodywork practitioner suggested that her strength training was too hard on her body, and counterproductive to his own work. The person in question had decided to give up on strength training altogether as a result of this practitioner’s influence. The trainer in question sought my advice as to how to retain this client. I suggested only that attempting to keep her was a losing cause for all involved.

Though I have respect for most aspects of wellness and healing arts, the term bodywork practitioner reeks of guruism. This term is most associated with therapeutic massage, but no massage therapist I know, from any genre, refers to his or herself as a bodywork practitioner. I could similarly pass myself of as a practitioner of skeletal-muscular engineering. Or not. Regarding this trainer’s concern, I’ve seen and dealt with this first hand on multiple occasions.

The issue here is layers deep, but at its core this is an issue of perception. To deal with and overcome this issue would require changing a person’s total belief system when it comes to wellness and physicality. No easy task. Though I will never quit trying, my success rate in changing a person’s entire belief system is quite low.

Peeling back the layer…

The first layer that needs to be peeled back is so thick that it obscures all others, and in fact may be the only layer which needs to be removed at all; that strength training is the red headed stepchild of the healing arts. In fact most people don’t associate strength training with the healing arts, or even as a form wellness. Too often, the wellness community views strength training as an endeavor for knuckle draggers, mirror gazers, and views it as mindless, harsh on the body, extreme or, all of the above. That reputation though, is well deserved. And guess what…? Overcoming that reputation lays solely the leaders of today’s strength training community.

Sometimes you can peel back the layers, other times they need to be whacked...

Sometimes you can peel back the layers.  Other times they need to be whacked…

In the 40 years since a strength training renaissance was inspired by the movie, Pumping Iron, weight rooms across the county have been used and seen largely as places where meatheads go to throw weights around, grunt, scream, buy steroids, and otherwise avoid meaningful employment. Again, that’s on us. Clichés become so and are perpetuated because too often they are true.

Science and common sense…

While gym rats from the 1970s through the current era have been doing their best to paint a curious, if not bizarre image of the weight room and all that goes with it, scientists at the university level have been working hard for decades to breakdown, examine, and demonstrate the value of strength when practiced correctly by the general population.

Gym Rats:  Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s...

Gym Rats: Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s…

The list of benefits associated with proper strength training is extensive, and real. I’m not going to site them here, but there is no shortage of data available to the curious. Physiologists by the thousands have demonstrated time and again that there is much utility associated with strength training as a form of wellness, and that it is beneficial to all age groups. Science notwithstanding, common sense shouldn’t be ignored either. There is no scenario I can envision, when strength training is practiced properly and under intelligent instruction, that it can have a negative impact on the human body. Who reading this would like to be a little less strong, or less capable of anything physical…? Suggesting strength training as a negative can be analogous to suggesting one not take care of their car’s engine.

The Pantheon Of Wellness…

For people who have the means to hire me, it’s not uncommon to have more than one me in their life. This can be part of the problem. I have had clients contract my services who have also had on their payroll, Rolfers, yoga masters, Tai Chi Sifus, Pilates instructors, pain management specialists, bio-cranial therapists, reflexologists, and more.

Not a guru.  Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they're goals...

Not a guru. Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they’re goals…

Though I have never had an issue being just one aspect of someone’s pantheon of wellness, the very idea of an expanded support system comes with inherent conflicts. I can say honestly that for my part, I have always been respectful and supportive of other wellness practitioners who also consult with my clients. I can also say though, that the same mutual respect is rare. The respect I have seen in the pantheon of wellness through the years seems to fall something like this:

  1. Yoga
  2. Pilates
  3. Massage Therapy
  4. Chiropractic
  5. Acupuncture
  6. Rolfing
  7. Reflexology
  8. Everything Else
  9. Strength Training
Ah, the true pantheon of wellness...

Ah, the true pantheon of wellness…

I’m sincere when I say this; I don’t expect this to change in my lifetime. I can only hope that the practitioners and leaders of the strength training community of today will try hard to present themselves with increasing intelligence, and carry themselves with an improved decorum into the future so that, at the very least, my grandchildren can see strength training take its place above, “everything else”.  Be well… rc

please take a moment to scroll back up and rate this is you will.  thank you.

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Morphine.   Enjoy!