Synapses At Play…

Slow Down…

“Slow down.”

“Take an extra breath in-between repetitions.”

“Eliminate the hurry in your head.”

These are just a few of the clichés Royisms that I repeat to clients all day in my studio.  Yesterday I even compared strength training to fly fishing…

“It’s a rhythm” I told a client, “but it’s a slow rhythm, just like fly fishing.”

And really, it is like fly fishing.  Strength training, practiced slowly, can be intimate and meditative.

One of the better aspects of strength training, and one that is underappreciated by most, is the opportunity one gets to develop a relationship with the individual muscles of the body, as well as the actions taken by those muscles.  Not just in realizing one’s potential for strength, but to know what meat we’re made of, and which meat does what.

Synapses, both electrical and chemical, develop quickly during the act of strength training.  Using a slower repetition speed helps better establish and reinforce those synapses.  These lines of communication between brain and meat are always active, whether one is pushing a leg press upward, or stepping onto golf cart.

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The inner universe.  Sensational synapse…

Sensational Sensations…

Increasingly, I have come to better appreciate the relationship my mind has with my skeletal-muscular structure.  Always bubbling under the surface is the tactile sensation I experience during every kind of physical exertion I may be involved in.  I can’t imagine not taking note of this, yet so many move about their whole lives never really knowing what they are made of.

Ten-thousand times per day I may strike my heels on the ground before me, subconsciously connecting the electrical dots from my feet, to my legs, to my lower back, and into my shoulders, as my well-oiled machine drives me forward.  When I push a door closed, lift a box, or pull a container from a shelf, I feel the muscular me in action.  When I press firmly on a large knife as I cut a cabbage in half, in my mind I am both feeling and thanking my triceps.  I love this, and it all starts in the weight room.

Not Widely Practiced…

The slower repetition speed I teach in strength training isn’t widely practiced.  If you were to walk into any commercial gym during peak hours, you might find one or two people lifting in this style, but you would more likely find none at all.  That’s too bad, and honestly, it haunts me. I know something wonderful and want to share it with the world, but the world — the weight room world anyway, is made up mostly of blind followers.

I am often questioned by students, fitness enthusiasts, and even fitness professionals alike as to why I place such an emphasis on form, and on slow speed in particular as a part of that form.

I don’t see too many people lifting weights as slowly as you have me do…  is an observation I have been confronted with time and again.

I try not to get too technical with my reply, and never preachy, most often just shrugging it off and saying it’s not for everyone.  I feel kind sorry for those who live physical lives, in or out of the gym, yet aren’t truly connected with their muscles in action.  They are missing one of the great dances in life.

Vacation Vindication…

Often times a student will take a break from training with me.  They may continue strength training on their own or take a break altogether.  When they come back to me, almost without exception, they will have a greater appreciation for the slower repetition speed I enforce.

I walked into a commercial gym once and saw a former student performing lunges.  Perfect, fluid lunges.  I could see people watching her and appreciating the mindful intensity she was engaged in.  I find that too; that when I work out in a commercial gym, people tend to watch me when I lift, knowing that they are seeing something different than anything else going on in the room.

Simple Execution…

It can be distilled to a simple explanation…

  • During the eccentric (negative) phase of an exercise, I typically use a 4 second count.
  • During the concentric (exertion) phase of an exercise, I typically use a 1-2 count.
  • After each completed repetition, I pause and take a secondary breath. This serves to better oxygenate the muscles, as well as supports my ability to concentrate on the muscles involved – to stay connected to them.

As I do this, I am concentrating only on the muscles involved – not on anything else.  This also helps that body awareness.

A Case For Slow…

If you strength train regularly, and you are not practicing slower repetition speed, I will encourage you to give it a try.  Be warned though, slow speed doesn’t make it easier, it makes it a little harder – the path of most resistance, so to say.  You make a lighter weight a whole lot heavier by slowing it down.

With slower repetitions, the TUT (time under tension) is greater.  You will require fewer sets since each set is going to be much longer than if you are mindlessly repping out.  A set of 10 repetitions should take between 50-65 seconds, depending on the exercise.

It’s good stuff – this slow strength training thing, and a great way to connect your mind with your meat.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Al Scorch.  Enjoy!

A Dry Heat…

Saying it’s a dry heat is like saying a pistol whipping is a dull pain.”  Me

I don’t particularly enjoy going out there in the middle of a 90-degree day, and extending myself to the limits of what I am capable of.

The sun is hot.  The air, very dry.  There are rattlesnakes.

It’s not the same as enjoying iced tea on my patio.  The word pleasure doesn’t come to mind.

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There is a satisfaction though, in being out there alone exerting myself in conditions most people take care to avoid.  I explore my mental resilience.

Maybe it’s my inner Jew – a daily nod to my ancestors who spent four decades wandering the desert after the big eviction by Pharaoh.

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Monserate Mt.  Fallbrook, CA  4.8 miles.  1,200 feet of climbing…

A little self-inflicted punishment so that, by comparison, no other physical task I take on during a typical week will be as difficult.

Being alone, uninterrupted, to work out the struggles between my ears soothes my busy mind.

A daily reminder to the sun that I won’t be bullied.

Last night’s bean burrito.

The sounds of bees, alligator lizards, hawks, and other critters is a nice break from sirens, ringtones, and garbage trucks. Even the wind chimes in.

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The only car in the lot.  I am alone with hundreds of acres and thousands of critters…

Plenty of excuses not to.  More are the reasons to show up…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Billy Bragg and Joe Henry.  Enjoy!

At Peace With The World…

Troubling Times…

Clearly it’s been a difficult month in America, and around the world.  Just yesterday .000000011% of the world’s population was killed in an act of terrorism in France.  In writing this, I don’t wish to diminish in any way the loss, the suffering, and the feelings of sorrow which resulted from the incidents of terror and violence which have taken place from Istanbul to Dallas in recent weeks.

Like laser beams though, channeled through our LCD windows to the world, we continue to allow streams of violence and destruction into our minds which are highly disproportionate in relation to the world’s population and activity.  The images we invite into our minds forge thoughts and conclusions in our heads that skew reality so severely that most of us fail to see and appreciate the world we actually live in.

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I say this not as an ignorant man tossing a mindless opinion about freely.  Rather, as man who invests a great deal of his spare time attempting to learn and reconcile the human condition and the directionality of society by way of books, journals, and lectures from some the world’s leading critical thinkers.

I also write this as someone whose own daughter passed through the international terminal at the airport in Istanbul, just days prior to a man blowing himself up there.  She had walked within yards of where that incident took place.

Beyond The Information Beams…

Today, roughly 7.1 billion people did not get blown up, shot, held hostage, or engage in violent protests.  Many of those 7.1 billion people had amazing sex.  Some did not.  A lot of those people started new jobs while others got deservedly fired due to a lack in their productivity.  Somewhere in southern Europe a young man tended a flock of sheep thinking very little about anything but the safety of the flock.

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Elsewhere, a woman took a coworker’s lunch from the refrigerator of the breakroom at work, without fist asking permission.  Directly over our heads, a pilot both drank and slept on the job, while most others were careful not to.  A Rabbi married a young couple in Brooklyn, and a new baby was born in a thatch hut somewhere on an island in the pacific.  Since our televisions and laptops weren’t aimed at any of these, the broad actions of others across the world did little to help cultivate our social sensibilities.

Though we think we control our LCD windows to the world, and to some degree we do, our minds are fed primarily by a finite stream of for-profit institutions which make greater profits when we are compelled to stay tuned for more details.  Dog bites man isn’t a story.  Man bites dog is.

MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, and all the others are masters of seeking out and beating to death the man bites dog stories, and we are hungrier than ever to absorb them because shock and awe provide us with an addictive stimulation.  I can no longer tell the difference between NPR and Yahoo news online.

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The Directionality Of Culture…

I am to cultural anthropology as sea cucumber is to semiconductor, so I’m not going to site books, data sources or anything else to support this opinion, but I will argue until my dying breath this clear truth…

Cumulatively, from the day of my birth until my ashes feed the fishes, the span of my life will have taken place during the most peaceful time on earth.  With few exceptions, every age of man could say the same thing – that theirs was the most peaceful time on earth.

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This is not to suggest that during my lifetime or any time there have not been spikes of violence and gross atrocities committed by horrible people.  However, as social media is brimming with far too many of these violent times we live in observations, it just isn’t true – not in the big picture.  The most violent cultures on earth were hunter-gatherer societies, and it’s been getting more peaceful, on average, with every subsequent generation.  Perhaps the best way to comprehend that statement is this:

Imagine a ball is held at arm’s length. That ball, in that place and at that moment, is the most violent time on earth – hunter-gatherer times.  The hand lets go the ball.

The most peaceful time on earth, the one our descendants will inherit, will be when the ball is resting firmly on the ground.

When the hand releases the ball to hit the ground, the ball bounces up, but then it falls again.  It bounces up, but not as high, hits the ground. Bounces up again, and so-on, over hundreds of thousands of years.

Eventually, after a good bit of bouncing, the ball will rest peacefully on the ground.

The direction we are headed is one of a global culture of cooperation – of the ball resting on the ground. It won’t get there without some bounces, but the trajectory is clear, after each bounce we become a little more peaceful.  There is no shortage of good data that demonstrates this in clear terms.

The need to be informed exists within all of us.  It’s incumbent upon us to stay informed.  I’ll make a pitch here though, that we take time to look and live beyond the technologies that feed our minds electronically, since they account for so little of what takes place around the world each day.  Speak to strangers.  Step into new places.  Don’t let fears govern our choices.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Oka Vanga.  Enjoy!