A Daughter, A Tortoise, And A Ray Of Hope…

A Family Trait…

Several weeks ago, my brother and I were driving through a snow storm in the mountains of Colorado. As he drove, he explained to me that among his highest priorities as a father is to raise his children with a sense of compassion for animals. A love of, and a compassion for animals is something I have seen in my brother since we were children.

With the windshield wipers scraping, and Dos Gringos providing the soundtrack, that conversation transported my mind to a memory of my own daughter a few years back, and her compassion for animals. I am grateful her mother and I raised her with an appreciation for all creatures great and small.

Shell Game…

During her sophomore year at DePaul University, my daughter and a friend spent an afternoon in Chicago’s Chinatown. Somewhere between dining and shopping, they visited an Asian market with a unique product; live tortoises. Being 19 years old, and seeing the world with ultra-clear vision, my daughter and her friend each arrived home that evening with a tortoise of their very own. By my daughter’s account, each bought her tortoise responsibly, with all the appropriate tortoise gear, and with the best of tortoise intentions.

Okay, so maybe ultra-clear vision was obscured by whimsical impulse. Probably not the most responsible decision for my daughter or her friend. After several weeks of stewardship, my daughter decided that things with her and the tortoise were not working out, and that each might be in a better place without the other, but what to do…?

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Understand, this animal was scarcely the size of a 50 cent piece. A teenage girl living in the big city could have easily released this tortoise on its own recognizance, exonerated herself from all responsibility, and done so in a variety of ways; the toilet, Lake Michigan, the dumpster out back, whatever. What she chose to do on behalf of this reptile still resonates with me today.

Reptile Rescue…

She advertised him on craigslist, free to a good home. After several inquiries and telephone interviews – yes interviews, she selected a new home for the creature; a young business man and his wife. When the time came to arrange for the delivery of the tortoise though, my daughter was unable to get a hold of person she selected for adoption. It was the weekend. Pressed for time, and with a working college student’s Monday morning closing in fast, she sought a second option.

Rather than toss it out the window or throw it away, she found the nearest tortoise rescue – in Milwaukee, some three hours away. On a very cold Sunday morning in Chicago, she bundled herself and the little creature up, and prepared to deliver him to the rescue in the neighboring state by way of subway, bus, and ultimately by taxicab.  She was committed to doing the right thing.

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The Chicago tortoise transit system…

As she was headed out the door to catch the subway, her phone rang. It was the young businessman she had previously spoken to about adopting the tortoise. He was still interested. Rather than boarding the train and hauling the little creature to another state, she met the man and his wife at a coffee shop later in the morning.

Not only was she impressed with them, but impressed with their intentions as well. Apparently they had several other rescued tortoises, and seem to put a great deal of emphasis on proper care of the animals. The reassignment took place, and all was good with the world.

Better Than We Did…

In this age when it is easy to see and believe that our next generation is doing less than our own on behalf of the planet, I think of my daughter, of her friends, of her generation, and I wonder why my generation has not done as much as is being done by the youth of today — especially when it comes to compassion for animals.  This, in my opinion, is one area where my daughter’s generation far exceeds my own.

Even Stroodle Has Compassion For Animals...

Even Stroodle Has Compassion For Animals…

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Or perhaps it’s a morsel to him…

There are many more mindful people out there than not these days – I truly believe that, and the next generation of mindfulness grows. I hope that my get off my lawn generation can put down our negativity and the evening news every so often, and take a better look at the young people of today and all they are doing to better the planet.

It’s easy – so easy for all of us to look for the bad. I have news for us. If we quit looking for it, we just might find a lot less of it. 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  Al Green  Enjoy!

Tolerance, Tole-Rant, To All You I Rant…

I asked a friend recently about hostility on social media. He replied by saying, “What’s the use of having an opinion if you can’t cram it down somebody’s throat”. Of course he was joking, but many I know truly subscribe to that belief…

My Belief…

I don’t believe in god, not in the sense of a divine being – man on the throne kind of stuff. Nor do I believe in a singular intelligence or designer, however vague, ethereal or non-specific it might be. At best I believe in an accidental system, and that beneath this system exists an underlying current of higher purpose pulling society in a singular direction. I believe that as time carries forward the stream of that current narrows.

As human complexity increases and that stream narrows it appears to me that we may be headed for a social eruption of some kind. Whether that eruption takes place in the next few years or few hundred, I have no idea. When I step back though, and attempt to take a big picture view of society, complexity, and directionality, it appears this eruption is unavoidable, so I want to get this off my chest while I can.

No Fight In Me…

On the topics of religions, god, and higher purpose, I have two basic rules; I don’t argue on behalf of, nor do I proselytize my beliefs. I also choose never to argue against the beliefs of others. That is, as I hope my beliefs will be respected by others, I ensure that the beliefs of others are respected by me — unless those beliefs involve hatred.

As the futile debates over religions and god causes schisms, what I do seek are occasional discussions that might otherwise fill those gaps. I tend to think the wellness of culture is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If useful discussions can’t be had, I simply disengage from all conversation. To attempt to change a person’s beliefs, mine or yours, is a supreme violation of consciousness.

Probably All That Can Ever Be Known…

In the appendix to his book, The Evolution Of God, Robert Wright masterfully explains what I believe is all we can ever truly understand about god, higher purpose, or why we even think in those terms. Wright speaks of an early hunter-gatherer walking alone through the woods alone at dusk. Suddenly there is a noise. The noise stops the man in his tracks. For a split second he thought he saw something associated with that noise, but can’t be certain whether or not he did. He looks again and sees nothing. Rather than continuing in the same direction, the man adjusts his path. He does this as to exhibit caution in order live another day – to push his genes into the next generation.

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The idea though, that he thought he saw something served him much better than not thinking he saw something. That is, if that guard had not been put up, he may have well walked into danger, and not survived another day to spread his genes.

And that’s where the idea of god begins and ends for me; as an evolutionary presence to ensure we protect ourselves, both physiologically and culturally, from things that may hurt us.

Fast Talkin’ Dawkins…

The primary tenet of biological evolution is that traits which serve getting genes into the next generation survive, and traits that don’t serve that purpose get weeded out in time. If cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, which Richard Dawkins himself stated early on in his career, than religion must be a trait that is serving the advancement of culture. After all, religions have not been weeded out over time, only transmogrified, misused and abused.

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At its very core religion is where all culture began. All art began as sacred art. All governance began as sacred governance. Albeit art and government are now (mostly) secularized in the modern era and in the western world, we have early religions to thank for providing us this framework that today keeps chaos in check – despite what we see on the evening news.

Did You Read Anything Up To This Point…?

I know there are people who have read this far, and ready to take me to task. Don’t bother – that’s kind of my point. However asinine my beliefs may seem to you, they are my beliefs and I value them as I value my child. Try and talk me out of loving my child or my beliefs, and you have lost the argument so there is no need for me to speak.

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I have a great reverence and appreciation for religions, though I subscribe to none. I actually believe that rituals are the most important aspect of the human experience, and like art and government, all ritual began as sacred ritual. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, to me, is not as important as behaving as though there is one.

Where religions go in the future can’t be predicted, though billions will try to chart their path, as billions more try to extinguish them. History though, makes a great case that religions may change over time, and may evolve, but for those who would like to see them disappear, I’ll suggest their very presence is the most vital part of culture, and a necessary trait for cultural survival.

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I believe that a successful outcome for humanity is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If one steps back and takes a big picture look at the evolution of culture, I’ll suggest it will be hard to disagree with that. 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 Mountain Goats.  Enjoy…

Summary Of My January 2015 Workshop: Strength Training For Prep-Athletes…

Summary of my upcoming Workshop.  January 24th, 2015 11:00am.  Nederland Community Center.

“The car with most, and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first” Jhciacb

Pet Peeves…

Throughout this workshop I will site multiple instances of how sports conditioning for prep athletes is too often in the hands of people who teach without thinking, teach without knowing, and teach without caring. It is my intent to incorporate a new aspect into strength and conditioning at the prep level; mindfulness.

Analogous to blind leadership and blind following in religion, the culture of strength and conditioning for teenage athletes is a telephone game of a monkey-see monkey-do culture with little room for scientific thought, logic, or individuality. Both ego and ignorance are often at the root of bad strength and conditioning practices by prep sports leadership.

Though good science and practices exist at the highest levels of sport, its trickledown to student athletes at the prep level is almost non-existent. Much of what middle and high school athletes are taught and asked to do by their coaches is based on what those coaches were taught by their coaches, and by what they see other coaches doing with their athletes. To some degree, this also exists at the college level.

I cringe when I attend a prep basketball practice and see a coach take his players through a series of conditioning exercises. Knowing how to set a legal pick is one thing. Knowing proper hand and back placement for a pushup is another. Too often athletes and their parents assume that because a coach has lead a team to compete for a state title, they possess an inherent knowledge of exercise physiology. This is rarely the case.

Pursuit Of Better Performance vs. Injury Prevention…

Injuries as the result of strength and conditioning work by prep athletes in support of their given sport should never happen. Should. Never. Happen. Being sidelined by an unnecessary training injury may not only cost an athlete the chance to play, it might minimize his or her chances of playing at a higher level later in life. Notwithstanding, it may hinder them in some way physically, well into their adult life.

When teenage bodies are loaded, overloaded, and pushed to extreme levels of stress in pursuit of an increased physical capacity to support their sport, the opportunity to become injured in the course of the workout is greater. Unnecessary workout injuries take place every day across the country at the middle school and high school level.

I am of the perspective that strength and conditioning for prep athletes should take place primarily as a means of minimizing injury on the playing field, not in support of enhancing their given sport. This is a broad line, and is a controversial position within the strength and conditioning community. It is though, one I believe has a logical foundation.

For years the emphasis has been on creating bigger, stronger, and faster athletes. With the injury rate in all major prep sports being at an all-time high, one has to question more closely whether the practices used to create these athletes are in the athlete’s best interest.

Intentions Of The Weight Room…

Can the weight room help an underdeveloped upper body gain more power to enhance a hockey player’s slap shot…? Yes.

Should time in the weight room put that athlete at risk…? Never.

Too often though, it does. Coaches often use strength training movements based on excessive weights and an excessive volume of training with the belief that these are the exclusive means to increased power and strength.

I believe that for a player to shoot a better slap shot, he needs to practice his slap shot – with the highest level of concentration, consistently, and under the supervision of a skilled coach. Any support by way of the weight room should be reasonable, and not put the player at risk of injury.

In engineering, form follows function.  In strength training, function follows form... In strength training, function follows form...

In engineering, form follows function. In strength training, function follows form…

In engineering, form follows function.  In strength training, function follows form…

Is it possible to enhance athletic performance in the weight room without going to extreme measures…? Yes. Two of the more common traits coaches and parents wish to see developed in athletes are strength and power, both of which can be enhanced with almost no risk of injury. Power and strength can be trained for with exercises that use no momentum, thus minimizing the opportunity to become injured during the course of these exercises.

In the weight room or on the playing field, momentum is one aspect of nearly every injury. Other aspects of athletic injury include physical structure, leverage, and force. On the playing field, momentum, force, and leverage cannot be eliminated. In the weight room they can be managed. Prepare the physical structure (body) to be intact, eliminate momentum, use leverage intelligently, apply force with concentration, and a weight room injury is less likely.

Love Me Tendon…

Strength training done properly can enhance muscular strength. What goes largely unrecognized with strength training and unappreciated is, that strength training can also promote tendon strength. Tendons are where muscles taper, become increasingly dense, and fuse muscles to bone – just above and just below our joints.

Having stronger tendons offers our joints greater support both on and off the playing field. Strength training movements practiced through a complete range of motion, and are executed slowly during the transition phase of any strength movement, strengthens tendons – thus supporting joints.

Strength training movements, when performed with a minimal amount of concentration or emphasis on form, carry an inherent risk. The example I most often site is that of a lunge. The protocol for a lunge to be done properly is complex. I often refer to movements such as lunges as a thinking person’s exercise. A good deal of thought and concentration are required to perform lunges safely and properly.

Another example I site is that of high repetition compound movements such as power cleans, deadlifts, and overhead presses. These movements emphasize the body’s power zones, but also draw from smaller supporting muscles. These supporting muscles are often not able to keep up with the larger profile musculature – they fatigue and give way sooner during higher repetitions. By give way I mean one of two outcomes: The most likely, that the athlete will stop the lift. Or less desired, that the smaller muscles will cramp and fail to function properly. In a worst case scenario, they can tear.

Consistency…

One trait that many student athletes possess is inconsistency in training. As surprising as this may sound, I often suggest to prep athletes that they not to include strength training as part of their conditioning if they can’t be reasonably consistent. Young muscles drifting back and forth between hypertrophy and atrophy are good targets for injury. Better they never enter the weight room than to go once or twice per month. This is especially true with younger athletes when bone density and musculature are not yet fully developed.

Flexibility Training…

Rather than having younger athletes move in rapid succession between sets of an exercise, and throughout a workout to enhance conditioning, I suggest a technique I call stresting in the weight room. This is simply stretching in-between sets – long enough to stretch the muscles involved. Rest long enough to stretch – stretch long enough to rest. Typically I suggest these stretches be held from 20-30 seconds.

With regard to stretching before or after a workout, there is no empirical data to suggest one is more favorable than the other. There is some interesting recent data though, which suggests stretching before exercise may have more negative consequences than stretching after a workout. In either case, strength training through a complete range of motion is the act of stretching. It is stretching with weights in one’s hands or at the ends of their legs.

I find that stretching in-between sets maximizes flexibility, and also helps the athlete stay focused on the workout.

Basic Feeding…

In the case of prep athletes I recommend minimal supplementation, and minimal dietary enhancements or restrictions – unless they are in the category of gifted or exceptional athlete.  Nutritional supplements such as protein powders, creatine, vitamins, minerals, and other micro and macronutrients should not be emphasized. Basics should be emphasized.

A little green.  A little brown.  A little red.  A little white. Balanced colors are usually balanced meals...

A little green. A little brown. A little red. A little white.
Balanced colors are usually balanced meals…

I’ll suggest the emphasis on nutrition be aimed at eating frequency, balanced meals, healthy snacks in-between meals, and minimizing sugars. If a student athlete were eating consistently with the food pyramid taught in elementary school (in any era), he or she will be eating substantially better than many of their athletic contemporaries.

I also suggest that young athletes avoid nutritional trends such has high protein eating, Paleo eating, low-carb, and force feeding. Yes, force feeding. I once knew a high school football coach who required all of his players to eat a loaf of bread per day – this was mandatory.

Athletes and parents should make the distinction of between eating to gain muscle, and eating to gain weight. Certain line positions in football notwithstanding, eating to gain weight will rarely have a positive effect on athletic performance, and can have a negative effect on future dietary habits.

Look What I Can Do…

I recently had dinner with some multi-sport teenage athletes. The conversation eventually turned to the weight room. After they were done discussing the various strength exercises they most hated, the conversation was naturally reduced to maxing out on the bench press and the squat.  As it unfolded, I wanted to hang myself.

There is no physiological or rational foundation for a student athlete to max-out on any strength exercise – nor is there any valid reason other than to placate the athlete’s ego, or for the coach to measure the student’s ability against that of another student. This measurement though, is not an indication of athletic performance on the field.

The SRM (single rep maximum) has little impact on building strength, helping an athlete generate increased power, or in the development of muscle mass. The SRM is simply statement of comparative strength in the weight room, and its pursuit carries more risk than benefit. The only injury I have ever incurred in the weight room was an unnecessary SRM on the bench press at the age of 19.

I have few memories of conversations among or between student athletes and/or coaches when the discussion was centered on proper exercise technique, safety, or injury prevention. My highest hope for this workshop is that you as the student athlete or as the parent, leave with an increased awareness of safety, and the utility of proper strength training as it applies to supporting the student athlete.

Worth repeating: Strength training should make an athlete’s life better, not worse. 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 the late Gary Moore.  Enjoy!

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!

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

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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!

Leap, And The Net Will Appear…

Evil Cohnievel…

A friend recently referred to me as the Evil Knievel of leaps of faith. That is among the highest compliments I have ever received. Her statement arose from my willingness to change the circumstances of my life on a dime, regardless of the potential for a disastrous outcome, in hopes of a positive outcome. I guess I do this on a regular basis.

My friend was probably unaware though, that emotionally speaking, I have gone over the handle bars, been thrown like a ragdoll, and tumbled to the end of the landing ramp on more than a few of my leaps. Even the leaps that look seamless to those looking on, have rattled me pretty good on the inside.

A Snow Cohen In Winter…

I had been shoveling snow at 5:00am on a hateful Colorado morning in February of 1999. After I dug tracks wide enough and long enough for the wheels of my car to pass through the drift, I came inside, shook off the cold, and exclaimed to my family, never again! Weeks later I would be in the San Diego area looking to purchase a home.

That leap didn’t go so well. Less than a year after the move I ended up divorced, broken, and beaten. It was my Caesar’s Palace moment as the Evil Knievel of leaps of faith. It took a long time to recover from the numerous injuries that resulted from that leap; not withstanding that I severely injured two others, and the recovery continues even now for us all.

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Eventually I was healed enough to start a business, make new friends, and put down some roots in Fallbrook, California. For 15 years in my life was on autopilot. I lived a minimalist life with few expectations, and designed my existence to be aesthetic, if not ascetic.

My Fallbrook Home...

My Fallbrook Home…

However on a visit home in May of this year I got a good look at much of what I had left behind in Colorado 15 years earlier. My mother, now in her mid-80s, was primary to this view. I quickly came to realize how important it will be for me to be close to her in the coming years.

An almost immediate decision was made to walk away from those roots, relationships, and even my business in Fallbrook, and return to Colorado to be closer to my mother, my brother, and his children. Leap…

Mammy:  How I love ya...

Mammy: How I love ya…

Snake River Cohen…

I had no idea how I would earn a living back in Colorado, I simply leaped. I had been somewhat burned out on fitness training. I began looking for work almost immediately. Anything would do – I just needed a job to support my leap.

There were many promises of low pay, long hours, and human exploitation. I was beginning to wonder if I would be going over the handlebars yet again – to have walked away from a good life and my own business in favor of swapping out restaurant floor-mats at 4:00am for $15 an hour.

Eventually a high-end athletic club in the Denver area expressed interest in me as a sales manager; a job that would have paid me a good base, with incentives I was confident I could exceed. A smooth landing was in my sights.

Leaving this athletic club, in a city of 2 million people, I took a good look around. I saw traffic. I saw suits. I saw stress. But what stood out most of all, was an absence of soul. I began to question my decision to accept such a job, and live in that environment. I designed my life to be simple, low stress, and pedestrian in a small town.

I returned to the place I was staying, wrote and sent this letter to the Director of the Community Center in Nederland, Colorado – a town I have had a peripheral relationship with for nearly 20 years.  The Director called me the same day she received the letter and we agreed to meet later in the week.

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 Long story less long: I am now in a collaborative effort with the town of Nederland, using my social media and networking skills to promote use of their facility in the community. In exchange, I can run my fitness training business there – so long as there are folks willing to be trained. Leap…

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It Could Be Ugly. It Could Be Pretty…

I continue to be as amazed as I am appreciative of the people, the circumstances, and the choices which seem to have influenced and shaped my life; a life that has changed more in the past 6 months, than in the 15 years previous.

I’m still midair on this one. The landing could be smooth, I could once again go over the handlebars, or it could be something in-between. I know the potential reward. I understand the risk. I leapt. I now await the result. Either way, the audience is sure to be entertained. 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 Plateros. Enjoy…

Pros, And Cons…

A Kick To The Gut…

The 2nd hit to the chin always seems to surprise me more than the 1st, though it’s usually not as painful. So earlier this week when I read that Adrian Peterson had been accused of child abuse only days after the NFL indefinitely suspended Ray Rice for punching his then fiancée in the face, I was stunned but not in any more pain.

Like many, my immediate reaction was, that’s it – no more supporting the NFL. In an era when crybaby millionaires dominate headlines ahead of more pressing social matters, it has often seemed to me ridiculous to support professional, and even high level collegiate athletics.

It's best not to judge, but if you're going to judge, please be consistent your judgment...

It’s best not to judge, but if you’re going to judge, please be consistent your judgment…

With so much going on in my own life; the more pressing matter of finance, family, community, and self, I have questioned for years why I have invested so much of my time and emotions into the actions of others, solely to satisfy my need to feel uplifted. Quite often, I am as let down by the play on the field, as I am by off the field behaviors.

And then I remember this, “It ain’t the 6 minutes, it’s what happens in the 6 minutes.”

This remains one of the most formative scenes from any movie I have ever watched. A good reminder that we have a very human need to be transported away from the daily articles of discomfort and disdain that bind to our psyches from living otherwise unstimulated lives at home and in the workplace.

A Walk Not To Remember…

When the baseball World Series was cancelled in 1994, I swore I would never watch another game. It took the Boston Red Sox contending for and winning a World Series nearly a decade later to bring me back, but even so, today I follow baseball from a distance.

When the NHL experienced a lockout in 2004-2005, I was beyond disappointed. Not that I was a huge hockey fan, but like a lot of people, I had believed the NHL was the last professional sports league not to be (excessively) distorted and corrupted by greed.

I could dedicate a year to researching criminal offenses by professional athletes, coaches, and administrators, and still not scratch the surface of what transgressions take place in the arena of professional sports. I could also say the same thing about the business world, Congress, and probably the local elementary school. The relative proportion of infractions might vary from institution to institution, but the truth remains that greed, violence, and corruption exist in all walks of life.

Upright Culture On The Skids…

Man has been playing sports competitively for millennia. Whether we’re talking about the ancient sports in Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, or Rome, there have been two constants in sport; fans and corruption – and the tween have always met, and seem to have been necessary and compatible bedfellows.

I’ll suggest that there may have been as many cheaters and wife beaters in the Native American sport of Pasuckuakohowog, as there have been in Cricket, Football or 3-meter springboard diving. I sometimes have to work to remember that there are many more citizens of good intentions, who are graceful practitioners of their athletic craft seeking only to succeed and entertain, if not to be role-models.

There Will Be No Roycott…

I will continue to watch professional sports for their value to both entertain and transport me away from an otherwise unexciting life. I will simply appreciate the good they have to offer, and look beyond frailty of character which is in all of our collective DNA.

Whenever discussions of boycotts arise during times when violence or corruption are exposed in professional sports, I always try and take a step a thousand steps back and view the bigger picture. I ask myself, who gets effected in a boycott, and what are the unintended consequences. Again, I could dedicate a year to studying that and still not scratch the surface. I will simply suggest that there are unintended consequences to a boycott of any kind, and unintended consequences are the folly of man.

In Artistic Terms…

Many reading this are not sports fans and will scoff at the very idea of investing time, money or emotion into the sweaty jocks of others. They may feel all sport should be boycotted all the time for their lack of artistic merit in society.

To them, I ask only that there only be consistency in judgment. For every person that chose not to enter a Mel Gibson movie on the evidence that he’s a foul mouthed anti-Semite, there is someone else listening to and appreciating a song of John Lennon. Though Lennon sang of peace and love, he had a taste for heroin that is well documented. I can assure you the chain of producing and marketing that drug was appalling, and that Lennon probably knew the steps it might have taken before it reached him – and he used it anyway.

There have been as many creative artists through the span of culture as there have been athletes who have had issues with drugs, violence, and greed underlying their creative endeavors. Many have been forgiven or overlooked because they stood for peace and love, if not for touchdowns. I ask then, with whom do we draw the line…? 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 is this from The Allmans.  Enjoy…

Hear Here: A Tale Of Jaw Cardio

Work-out Kryptonite…

For the better part of 20 years I have been able to work-out alone in my basement gyms, garage gym, or in the fitness studios I have owned. Occasionally I have had partners, but for the most part it has been me. Alone. Solo. Smile.

One of the better garages  have had...

Royland, 2003:  One of the better garages have had…

Through the years I have been able to avoid intermingling with lunks throwing weights, unnecessarily grunting, and messing up the place with traces of blood after prying their acne covered simian roid-backs off of the bench press.

I have also been able to avoid clueless cardio bunnies dressed like porn stars, with their ponytails fishing lures swinging back and forth as they stare aimlessly at CNN in front of them, all the while not really knowing where Libya is – and such.

"Like, I know how to make toast..." "Shut up!  I know how to make toast too...!"

Girl on right:  “Like, I know how to make toast…”
Girl on left:  “Shut up! I know how to make toast too…!”

And best of all, I have not had to navigate through the sea of old men in striped warmup suits taking up space as they read the Sunday Times in-between sets of the only exercise they know, triceps pushdown, as they loudly exchange ideas amongst and between them about how to save the world.

Yup, for 20 years I trained in my underwear if I wanted to, listened to audio books, lectures on physics or religion, and only occasionally loud music. My best training partner was the clock on the wall, there was no monthly auto-draft, and the gym was always open – to me.

I have though, maintained memberships pubic gyms – just in case. I have used them sparingly, only on those days when I needed to get out of my own studio for reasons of sanity, or to join my friend Marshal for our lunch time pre-burrito StepMill sessions.

When have ventured into public gyms, I have always aimed my head at the ground, kept earbuds plugged in, and I made eye contact with nobody. All of this to avoid the one person I knew could ruin my work-out, and subsequently my day; Jaw Cardio Guy. You know, that one guy who could carry on a 20 minute conversation about nothing, all by himself, and still hold me captive, all the while keeping me away from my precious deadlifts. I hate that guy.

A face I hope to never see again; Jaw Cardio Guy...

A face I hope to never see again; Jaw Cardio Guy…

On those occasions when Jaw Cardio Guy would be so insistent that we speak, that he could break me from my trance and get me to take out my earbuds just to appease him I would, in very clear terms, make him aware that my time is precious, my work-out is necessary, and his conversation was kryptonite. I’m just not nice in those scenarios.

He-man Of The People…

I’m now working out in a public gym regularly for the first time since 1995. This gym is also where I have the proprietary interest for my fitness training business. Since each person working out there is a potential student, being a dick is not an option. Each conversation I have may augment my livelihood. Notwithstanding, this is my community now and being philanthropic with my time and my expertise is the right way to be.

Still, there remains my desire to be deep in focus, lost in my meat during my sets since strength training is the methadone of my existence. Despite this, if I am going to be the man in this town, I must be a man of the people and find middle ground.

For about a month now I have been assimilating myself into the local gym. I have already met some nice people and a few of them have become students. I have also been dragged into conversations that two years ago I would want or have no part of. Now I see these conversations as human, and am learning how to appreciate them and engage in them without losing the rhythm of my work-out.

This I Have Already Learned…

To let go a bar after a completed set and take a few minutes to answer a gentleman’s question about which exercises might help offset his sciatica, is not the end of the world. He will probably never be a student, but I enjoy watching him fulfill my suggestions, and can see that it’s already helping him.

Telling someone, “no, I’m not using that bench – go ahead” while I’m mid-set of a fairly heavy squat did not cause me to drop the bar, stop the set, cause my legs to shrink, or cause me to get fat. It simply caused me to smile and take an extra breath.

Where I once wouldn't be caught dead talking in the gym, I'm now likely to be found dead-talking...

Where I once wouldn’t be caught dead talking in the gym, I’m now likely to be found dead-talking…

If a political discussion comes my way while I’m doing dumbbell flies it won’t deter from completing my set, any more than it will persuade me to change my world view mid-rep, though it might help me better read the pulse of my community. I will eternally though, label an asshole an asshole if he or she uses the term, “nigger president” as happened so frequently in my last community.

Mostly, I have learned that talking, being friendly – being outright social in the gym can be a very human experience, enrich my day, and will not cause me to lose my gains. Along with work, human relationships are what we are here for. How blessed am I that I get to combine both on a daily basis… 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 Reunion.  Forty years later I still nailed it word for word.  Enjoy…

Thus, I continue…

Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

IMG_2652

I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

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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 Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

The Long Shadow Of War…

The Convoy

My fitness studio faces onto East Mission Road, in Fallbrook, California.  At one end of Fallbrook, lies the back gate of Camp Pendleton; a Marine Base where Marines train to, among other things, blow things up and to kill.  I’m actually ok with that – the training of how to properly blow up and kill, we need that – just in case.  The actual acts of blowing up and killing, I have mixed feelings on, but I’m not so naïve as to deny the utility of force.

About 90 minutes from Fallbrook is Twentynine Palms, California where there is another base, and another area where Marines train to blow things up and to kill.  From the vantage point of my studio windows, all day long I see Marines transporting their artillery, mobile weapons, vehicles and tanks of all sizes, from Fallbrook to Twentynine Palms and back for training exercises.  Like good Marines, they do it convoy style.

With essentially one road in and out of Fallbrook, getting caught in or behind a convoy might make for some grumpy commuters, though nobody complains too much about it – there is great deal of respect for our Marines here.  I’ll suggest these days that folks caught in one of these convoys are probably more humbled than frustrated.  There is always a good bit of honking, waving, and offering of the thumbs-up sign to show support for our troops.

A New Toy For Uncle Hulka

One type of vehicle which I have seen going back and forth a lot lately is the LAV25 (Light Assault Vehicle).  The LAV25 is piloted by an exposed driver behind a small windshield at the lower front of the vehicle.  Several other crewmen also ride exposed, stationed at the top of the vehicle, with several more inside.  The new Chevy Camaro be damned, the LAV25 looks to me to be “the most powerful convertible on the road”.

LAV25

It must be a great relief to the crewmen to ride on one of these through the gorgeous aesthetic of the Fallbrook hills, and be in a place of peace.  A far cry I reckon, from the stress of turning a corner in Iraq or Afghanistan, and not knowing what apocalyptic mayhem might be waiting on the other side.  Though I enjoy watching these vehicles and these men travel back and forth, it forces me daily to take a moment and contemplate the sacrifices they and their families have made – regardless of my feelings on imperial war.

I often marvel at these vehicles as well as the larger, scarier killing machines for their size, their power, their rugged off road capabilities, and of course, their ability to destroy.  But in a moment this morning that “marvel” turned to fright as I remembered that these aren’t just training vehicles and weapons.  These vehicles have been beyond Fallbrook and Twentynine Palms – far beyond.  That at some point, most of these vehicles I see from day to day have probably been used in war – to kill and to blow things up, and that men might have died on or in the very vehicles that I marvel at as they drive by my gym.

I wondered as I watched several pass by this morning, was there once human blood and guts and body parts strewn across the camouflage surface, and subsequently squeegeed away with some soap and water from the very deck I was looking at…? Where there shots fired by those very men stationed at the top of that vehicle, into a crowd of combatants, or worse yet – into a crowd of civilians…?  These vehicles began to cast a shadow on me and my gym door – the shadow of a war reaching 8,000 miles away.

Something’s In The Air, And Over The Hill Too

It happens when I look up too; the instruments of war appear.  In addition to the convoys rumbling through town, Fallbrook locals see attack, survey, and supply helicopters flying overhead all day long.  We hear explosions from the heavy artillery firing range on the other side of the hills concuss to the point of rattling the windows and even shaking pictures on the walls – sometimes for hours at a time, and into the night.  It’s like living in a war zone but we locals all wear the immunity necklace.

Tanks on the roads.  Choppers in the air.  Explosions heard into the night.  I’m lucky, I live in a beautiful area, surrounded by good people, and I have plenty of anything – including freedom, and with no fear for my safety when I see the machines of war.  These machines though, they have seen other streets and other airspace, where the people who have seen them have feared them, and for good reason.  The people who have seen these machines on their streets and over their air 8,000 miles away just hoped for the best – or dropped to their knees and prayed.  And at the end of the day, I know these machines have closed their ears to those hopes and to those prayers, and just done their job.

It’s hard to live in Fallbrook without seeing – without feeling the shadow of war cast over our town – it’s everywhere we look.  I wonder on this day, what machines out there will ever cast a shadow of peace…?  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from Daniel Lanois.  Enjoy…