Unfinished Business…

I think that most aging athletes are little balls of unfinished business. I am, anyway. I always feel like there’s a little more to be done — that there is no endpoint. Death, perhaps.

I stepped into the weight room for the first time nearly 43 years ago. Although there have been some workouts skipped, a few weeks taken off here and there to rest, and a couple years missed after s skydiving accident in 1993 when I could not work out at all, I have stepped into the weight room nearly 13,500 times.

Do anything 13,500 times, and you’re bound to struggle with motivation on occasion. I’m going through a very unmotivated phase these days. I’ve been unmotivated before, so I know it will pass, but this one seems to be lingering — to the point where it has me questioning why I am still doing this after 43 years…? It takes less than a minute each evening, as I step into my weight room, for the lyrics of the Eagles song, After The Thrill Is Gone, to start doing gymnastics in my head…

“You don’t like winning, but you don’t want to lose, after the thrill is gone…”

As recently as August, I was enjoying a motivated uptick with my training. I had been training hard, and messing with my diet too. My physique was filling out a little bit, and I had been getting a little leaner. Though I had no aspirations to step on a bodybuilding stage anytime soon, I always feel like I’m six weeks away from being in the best shape of my life. And in the summer of 2017, I felt like I was approaching the best shape of my life, yet again.

Then, on August 2nd, I came off my bike at nearly 25 mph. I suffered one small fracture in my upper left temple, another one on my left jaw, and the third one on my left collarbone. Despite these, I only missed a half-dozen or so workouts, and I was on my bike again within a week. But the workouts were more stressful than meditative, due to the negotiations between any kind of movement at all, and the pain in my collarbone.

The wave of momentum I was riding prior to my accident disappeared beneath my feet. I haven’t seen it since. Though I have stepped into the weight room approximately 120 times since my accident in August, my workouts have been less than inspired. I don’t like winning, but I don’t want to lose…

My eating…? I feel more like the late comedian, John Pinette, than an athlete making a personal comeback. Still, I keep stepping back into the weight room at night, and getting on my bike each morning, for that feeling of unfinished business…

Certain things you retire from, recreational bodybuilding — fitness, whatever you want to call it, has no end point. So long as I am living, it will be a work in progress – – unfinished business.

So I will ride out this wave of unmotivation, in hopes I get my mojo back. Motivation lacks, but I have unfinished business. Same dances in them same old shoes… Jhciacb

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More Quality Time…

It might sound strange to suggest, but I think I need more quality time – – with television.

Let me restate that…

I think I should be watching TV more, and in a better way.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, my father used every bargaining chip he could to curb my obsessive TV watching. He took it away from me at every opportunity — when I screwed up, talked back, or failed to make grades. He tried requiring me to spend one hour out of doors for every hour of television I watched. He even tried using a demerit system to correlate good behavior around the house with increased opportunities to watch my favorite shows. My father was constantly looking for ways to keep “the idiot box” from corroding my mind.

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In some ways, I think he was successful. Despite my relentless addiction to television, I did spend a great deal of the time outdoors in order to earn my TV time. I was also more receptive to household chores, and to saying please and thank you in order to purchase TV time.

Like many baby boomers, television has been both a positive in my life, and a negative. For better or for worse, TV has been an undeniable presence and influence in my life, regardless of which direction that needle was pointing at any one time — positive or negative.

In my post-divorce life, I had fallen more inline with my father’s opinion of television in his post-divorce. That is, I began to see television a legitimate social cancer, slowly dumbing down the human species, one episode of anything at a time. Always a walking contradiction, at the time I came to the conclusion that television was cancer, I owned 4 of them.

One morning in 2005, while getting ready for work and hustling from room to room with all my TVs going at once so I wouldn’t miss a moment of SportsCenter, I saw the ridiculousness of it all. I immediately stopped what I was doing and placed all 4 televisions on the sidewalk in front of my house. They were gone within an hour.

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In the 13 years since that morning, I have not owned a television, though I have lived in places or with people where TV was present. In those situations, I have watched them minimally, including my current situation where my mother has large TV in the living room we share.

I often click the TV on when I’m in the room, just to create some background noise, but I don’t pay too much attention to it. In instances of the occasional mass shooting or natural disaster, I might pay a little more attention, and watch for longer periods to ensure I’m ‘well informed’.

There’s no television program though, nor has there been for years, that I watch with any regularity, other than the Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy. Those, I watch alongside my mother each evening, as I keep her company and make small talk. I wouldn’t trade that TV watching experience for anything. I have no recent memory though, of watching any TV show or movie from beginning to end, without being otherwise interrupted or distracted by something seemingly more important at the time.

Let’s tell the truth: in this era, if you own a phone or laptop, you own a very small and portable TV. In that sense, for last 13 years, what has really changed is the size of my television, not the absence of one. And in the internet era, I have been able to manipulate and select my viewing choices, and have had more ownership with them.

However, the Internet has also provided something else; multiple rapidfire distractions in the form of smartphones and social media. Like many, most days the internet has me bouncing off the walls like a gibbon on crack. What little TV I do watch, on that 40-inch screen in my living room, is frequently interrupted by the 7-inch screen in my hand, or the 17-inch screen on my lap.

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In the pre-Internet days, it would not be unusual for me to spend three hours watching a movie – – One Eyed Jacks, for example, staring Marlon Brando. For all the nonsense and ridiculousness of the downside of television, the upside of TV has always been that it could take me to another place and another time, during which I would sit still and forget all things. TV was the beautiful distraction that kept me from other less beautiful distractions.

Now though, with the different ways we can watch TV due to the internet, and with all the distractions and interruptions that smartphones, laptops, and social media offer, the idea of spending three hours watching Dances With Wolves, uninterrupted seems prohibitive, if not impossible. In hindsight, gazing at a three hour movie almost seems like meditation compared to the chaotic media life I live today…

I can’t remember the last time I sat down and watched a movie which took me to another place and another time for several hours, where I was not distracted by notifications from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while also watching short video clips via YouTube.

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Yes, I think I should be watching my television more, and in ways that take me to a different place in time. I long to sit still and to be transported, without my attention span being chopped to smithereens by the temptations of technology. In the same way I now look at the George W. Bush White House as ‘the good old days’, I now look at the idiot box and its dumbing down of the America psyche, as a more simple and more wholesome time.

Excuse me now, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes is calling me. I’m going to watch it, and I’m leaving my smartphone behind… Jhciacb

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Winds Of Change…

Straight up, I believe that most people have not used social media for the best possible outcomes. Almost from the beginning, I’ve seen  social media as a variety of platforms with unlimited potential for generating good in the world.  Most often though, I see it used for everything from displaying sophomoric hijinks, to the spewing of negative vitriol without any thought of who it might land on.

Social media has become a playground for the thoughtless, and a breeding ground for the continuation of bad ideas. It’s like we’re using the door handle of Maserati to pry the cap off a bottle of beer, just before we spill half of it down our chin as we guzzle it in an attempt to impress the girl across the room.

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And for all of those who use social media to throw feces against the wall, day in and day out, I wonder how many realize that the walls they’ve been throwing it against are mostly their own…

I’ve thrown my share of feces too, and I admit that, especially early on. For for the last couple of years though, I’ve worked hard to let my social media experience be a positive one more often than not, and one that lends itself toward good will among my friends, if not my species.

One year ago tomorrow, I made the decision to post some form of original thought, usually a positive one, accompanied by an original photograph on Facebook every day for one year. In the year since I made that commitment, I have fallen short just 11 times.

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When I say ‘original thought’, I don’t necessarily mean that I’m the first person to conceive the idea. I’ve just taken whatever’s been on my mind at a given moment, and applied my own twist to it each time I sat down to write. And honestly, I wish more people did that – – I wish more people would work harder to make social media more original, if not more positive.

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the idea of sharing music, comedy, in-depth articles that provoke thought, and most forms of art, and intelligent discussions that I would not otherwise come across or participate in. On occasion, I even appreciate some sophomoric hijinks, though I try to keep that minimal. However, posting the same regurgitated thoughts, the same tired news stories from the same worn out and unreliable sources, and the same moronic vitriol day after day after day has grown tiresome.

BREAKING: If it’s breaking news, I’m going to find it on my own. I don’t need to read it on Facebook, accompanied by photoshopped picture of Hitler molesting the Statue of Liberty…!

Now that I have completed my year of original thought, I’m going to (attempt to) change the way that I use social media, at least to some degree. I won’t be deleting my Facebook account, or taking a social media break like so many of my friends seem to be doing these days.

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The reality for me is that social media, in one form or another, is here to stay. I accept that.  Facebook and other platforms may go away, but something will evolve to take their place, and the path of increasingly complex inter-communication between Homo sapiens will continue. It’s an upward and ongoing path.

I still see value, and a tremendous upside to social media if we all use it intelligently, and I guess that’s my point. I’m going to refine how I use it even more, and strive to further improve my use of it, as I have improved other interests in my life. I may use it less, and will likely be more selective with my interactions.

I will also take this opportunity to suggest to anyone reading this, to take a good look at your social media habits and behaviors, and consider what it is you wish to get out of them. Ask yourself, what am I really trying to accomplish, and what good is it going to generate in the world beyond my own head…? And be honest with yourself…

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I really think that should be our goal — to use all social media platforms as small ways each of us can improve our  communities and our species, one connection at a time. I just think that’s a good way to be… Jhciacb

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Life, At Face Value..

Lives Which Matter…

Last winter, after a couple of young persons I know of lost their lives, I began an exploration in my head about the value of a life.  Shortly thereafter began the string of musician deaths which will partially define 2016.  This got me thinking even more.  Ultimately the dots connected further and I began to also consider animal lives.  As all of this was playing out in my head, I moved my aging mother in with me.  One more life to consider.

From teenage girls gone too soon, to older people hanging on.  From puppies loved, to Glenn Frey and David Bowie, to the would-be lamb chops on my plate, I cannot help that throughout each of my days, I spend some time contemplating the value of any of these.  Not that I am in pursuit of any hard answers or true knowledge on the value of lives.  I simply want to distinguish better, that blurry line which separates the lives that matter from those that don’t.

Little Balls Of Duality…

An unexpected day off landed me beach side today to take it all in.  On a quilt my mother stitched by hand, I lay staring into the distance, thinking about the past and taking sporadic inventory of the many lives which surrounded me.  Mom lives.  Seagull lives.  Kid lives.  Surfer lives.  Dolphin lives.  Some lives guarded by lifeguards, others only by fate.  I was surrounded by life, yet I could not pick out a single one which I could deem unworthy

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A mother with pale skin and chubby legs stood beneath her wide brimmed hat, slathering sunscreen on her two small boys and then on herself.  Oddly though, she struggled negotiating between the tube of sunscreen in her hands and the cigarette in her mouth.  That’s when I began thinking that, as a species, we’re just little balls of duality when it comes to this lives matter stuff.

A young mother, fending off cancer with one hand, and inviting it with the other.  I hearkened back to a client who was recently grieving the loss of his niece during one of our sessions.  Shortly thereafter he proclaimed that a would-be President Trump would wise carpet bomb the Middle East – Middle Eastern nieces notwithstanding, I guess…

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Little Balls Of Duality…

Staring into the horizon, and with the sun on my back, I continued to ponder.  On one hand, we go to enormous lengths to protect and preserve the lives which matter to us, our own included.  We medicate, radiate, negotiate, and we pray.  We exercise, wear seatbelts, have designated drivers, and enrich our junk food with extra vitamins – just in case.  We bow to caution.  We respect and avoid threatening forces.  We sacrifice, and we will go into insurmountable debt in the name of preserving a life, be it a toddler or a terrier.  The lives we love matter most –most of the time.

On the other hand, we can be careless and casual when it comes to any life with which we are not fully vested, also, our own life included.   We take risks.  We partake in that which we know might be harmful.  We overeat, but when we pass by the man on the corner with the cardboard sign asking for food, we take caution not to make eye contact.  We leave some out in the cold as we sit warm by the fire.  We apply a tangy sauce, add a little sea salt, and take another bite.  We change the channel when we are asked to help starving kids in Africa, or see dogs held in cages.  A truckload of dead Mexicans overheated in the desert while trying to cross over…?  Some call this a tragedy, while others consider it an evolutionary response to population control.

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And Further Complicating Things…

In the social media era, we are bombarded with suggestions that the universe is so large, so magnificent, and so potentially full of life, that we are selfish to give so much credence to our own tiny lives.  Yet, when I think of Clara, or when I see the lost look in my mother’s eyes when she momentarily forgets what she’s doing, I can’t help but believe that each life granted has far greater significance to its constituents than all the potential of all the stars combined.

I’m ashamed to say this, but sometimes my mind swings the other way.  Please forgive me for this next thought…

It’s not a popular question to raise, and I truly don’t mean to offend anyone, but I often wonder if we fulfill our quests to cure cancer, cure heart disease, cure diabetes, stop epidemics before they begin, and in our quest to end all wars, where are we going to house all the survivors, and whose jobs will they take…?  I’m ashamed that I think about this, but, I do think about this.  I dunno…

My own life…?  Well, I’m a little dichotomy too.  I bend, I stretch, I lift, and I step, that I have a better quality of life, and a longer one.  I also do dangerous things like ride my bike without a helmet.  I have taken my liver to the brink and brought it back to health with all the zeal of parent searching for a kidnapped child.  I have taken risks, overindulged, been outright reckless at times.  I can honestly say I have had a half-dozen self-imposed near death experiences.  But do I value my life, I guess…

By the way, this isn’t about Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter.  It’s simply been an exploration in my head about why so many lives matter to most of us, most of the time, but also why so many don’t.  I guess all I really know about the value of a life is that each one has infinite cascading effects on so many others.  That, and when one life goes out, it will rarely be at the right time, and just as rarely for the right reason.  We are little balls of duality, ongoing.  Be well…  rc

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Swimming In Systems…

Girthing Globally…

The so-called obesity epidemic has made headlines once again.  Another study released this week suggests that obesity on a global level is still on the rise.  In the days since this study was published, I have read a half-dozen feature articles and blogs about how we can reverse this generations-old trend.  Yet, for all the intellectual studies, discussion, and attention obesity gets, and despite all the good intentions behind solving the problem, obesity levels worldwide are still increasing.

When it comes to fighting obesity, as with many other consequences of our social and technical advancements, too often our thinking is narrow, poorly aimed, and most often searching for singular fixes in small areas which feel good to pursue, but are often demanding and fruitless.

What is largely ignored in all the conversations about solving obesity, is the entirety of the problem; the constant expansion of the many systems which have led to its existence.  Food systems.  Marketing systems.  Social systems.  Political systems.  Religious systems.  Educational systems.  Pharmaceutical systems.  On and on.

Any one of these systems could alone be considered a monster.  Together, they conspire to be a leviathan.  Like any good leviathan, obesity is going to go where it wants to go, and will only die when it runs out of the fuel on which feeds it.  I am reminded of two fleas attempting to steer the dog they sit upon.

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Complexity begets complexity…

On the surface, solving obesity may seem like it’s all about calories in vs. calories out, changing portion sizes, providing better school lunches, CrossFit, Yoga, using a treadmill, going low-carb, low-fat or paleo, standup desks in the workplace, and even the use of qualified fitness trainers.  These may hold some value for some people at some times, but alone these aren’t going to change a thing.  The fact remains that scientific advancement and social awareness relating to obesity are at all-time highs, and our collective girth is still girthing.

How’s The Water, Boys…?

While in mid-thought this morning, as I was pondering obesity, it finally occurred to me that systems – all systems, whether they apply to the obesity epidemic, politics, consumer culture, or anything else, is the water that David Foster Wallace spoke of during his now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  Whether this was his intention or not, it seems to me that systems, invisible and everywhere, are the water which surrounds us.

If you’re not familiar with the speech above, please bookmark it for when you have time.

 We live within millions of systems.  We navigate and transcend them, never really seeing their entirety, and always under the influence of delusion, believing we possess some level of control.   We live, breathe, act, choose, survive, delight, frown, frolic, and even get fat as a result of our systems.  We select our presidents, career paths, partners, and even our gods as influenced by an invisible ocean, and like the young fish who replies to the older fish, “What the hell is water”, we are oblivious to it as we swim.

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When I think about obesity in this context, or when I think about any disturbing social trend from air pollution, to engineered corn, campaign finance, political partisanship, landfills bursting at the seams, and even when I think about war, I tend to be more gracious these days in my judgement for both the victims as well as the perpetrators.  We are all born under water and begin swimming through our sea of systems immediately, most often with the best of intentions.  All the while though, we never really know we are swimming at all.  So, how’s the water today, Boys…?  Be well.  cc

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Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.

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I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

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A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc

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We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…

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Abbondanza…

Malaise Isn’t A Sandwich Spread…

I’m reading The Limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich – again. It was published during the campaign between Obama and McCain. One of the book’s primary threads is the changing role of the presidency in post-World War II America.

The author lends time to Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech in 1979. Regardless of your thoughts on Carter as president, that speech remains the only instance in my lifetime where a president told the nation what we needed to hear, and asked us to adjust our behaviors in order to protect and sustain a reasonable standard of living. The speech had a short-lived effect though, and with it Carter handed the presidency to Ronald Reagan. It turns out America didn’t want to change its behaviors for very long in order to live as a less gluttonous society.

“It’s morning in America” was the starting gun fired by Reagan that would set in motion the quest for abundance that has expanded from the1980s to the present day. Retail culture, image culture, and fiscal culture joined together in a symbiotic disharmony that has become the social cancer we are now choosing not to treat. That quest for abundance by the masses, by the way, has largely shaped our policies abroad which most of us complain about. For more on that, read Bacevich’s very important book.

I doubt we will ever again see a president, nor a mainstream candidate speak to the American public as Carter did in July of 1979. With his malaise speech, Carter taught all politicians that, going forward, candor is not the best policy, and look at the shape we’re in today. Voters don’t elect austere presidents any more than 3rd graders would elect a strong-willed teacher were they given the chance. Talk of rainbows and unicorns will trump roll up your shirt sleeves every time.

As It Relates To Fitness…

The award winning documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster is, I suspect, a malaise speech for the fitness community. It was one of the first things to get me thinking about, and to check my own behaviors and ideals as they relate to fitness and exercise.

Our national question for bigger, stronger, leaner is as inwardly gluttonous as our quest for better ear buds, dope shoes, wi-fi cars, and granite countertops. At the other end of the wellness spectrum, we also find people who could care less about exercise, and care more about portion size.  Whether it is 6-pack abs or bottomless fries, we just want more of it.  That math does not seem to add up.

I saw this asinine meme earlier this week, and I have seen others like it in recent years. This image is a reflection of everything wrong with fitness culture today which is simply a byproduct of culture at large.
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It’s one thing to suggest a 40-year woman pursue the beach body of her youth, despite that those transitions are rarely successful, and even when they are, they aren’t likely to be sustainable. It’s hard enough for a 16-year old boy to gain muscle when he’s working out like madman and eating everything but the family cat. Suggesting that granny go get guns is a bit over the top.

It is shameful to suggest, as the image above does, that looking like this into one’s 70s is a choice. Though there are people in their 70s, 80s, and even into their 90s who maintain aesthetically pleasing physiques that (may) also function well, they are rare exceptions.

We get old. We break down. Skin wrinkles. Hair grays. We gain weight. We receive diseases. We slow down. We weaken. We die, though there is some choice in this at some levels. Dick Lamm’s famous assertion that people have a “duty to die and get out of the way” should be the first amendment to the Golden Rule. Although Lamm said it in the context of the terminally ill artificially extending their lives, I have always appreciated that statement as the only fools fight aging doctrine.

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Truth to power:  Dick Lamm…

Every Meme Has Two Of Me…

Notwithstanding to any of this is the underlying message in these social media memes and in modern social values in general, suggests that looking good makes us better people. I assure you, our prisons are full of well-crafted triceps and 6-pack abs.

Within reasonable bounds, functioning well physically while we live is as much a responsibly as dying and getting out of the way when the living ain’t so good. The Confucian ideal that families, communities, and businesses all function better when we take care of ourselves physically has been long lost, though I guess it was never really a part of western culture to begin with.

Fixed Not Educated…

What Jimmy Carter couldn’t do to the consumption culture that began expanding through the 70s, from the highest office in the land, I know I have no chance of doing to the fitness culture of the current decade from the lowest blog on earth.

When our quest for abundance positions us into a places we no longer recognize and that drown out rational thinking, people don’t want to be educated to change, they simply wish to be fixed.  They look to, and depend leadership to do the fixin’.

I lead a microscopic sample of the fitness community, and my voice doesn’t carry. I wish though, I could better help people understand that, whether it’s the quest for more muscle or the quest for bottomless fries at Red Robin, our relentless American quest for more isn’t serving us too well. Be well. Jhciacb
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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 Meters. Enjoy!

Service With A Smile…

This week I sat down with the intention of writing a manifesto of sorts, on how new fitness trainers should conduct themselves.  Seems I got offtrack and ended up writing this.  Perhaps some of these can be superimposed on other career paths -or life paths…

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Pride And Circumstance…

I take pride in a handful of things in my life. Of them, I am most proud that as a trainer – as a businessman, I have kept a full schedule since the first week I opened here in Fallbrook in 2000. In 16 years, I have done almost no marketing or advertising. I drove into a small town, looked around, decided I wanted to stay, set up shop, and within days my business course was primarily set

A good part of that is accidentally landing in a great demographic. A fair portion of the population here have discretionary time and money. That doesn’t represent all of my clients though, as I have a more than few working people who have become puzzle masters to fit me into their budgets and schedules.

Social Circles And Demographics…

I say often of doing business in a small town, that if you do a good job for 1 person, 5 more people will know about in a week. If you do a bad job for someone, 10 more will know about in a day. That ideal is as much responsible for my consistent schedule as any.

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Gonna die in a small town, and that’s probably where they’ll bury me…

Though we don’t all live in small towns, most of us do live in small circles.  In the information and social media era, where business reviews can be published online in seconds, treating the customer right matters more than ever.  It may sound a bit simplistic, but doing a good job for the client is the most important part of my job.

Meet & Greet…

I do my best to greet every client at the door. This isn’t always possible on days when I have back-to-back sessions, or when sessions run late. I do though, attempt to greet every client before they enter the studio. Meeting a client at the door gives them a feeling of immediate security in what is too often an intimidating environment – the gym.

Meeting someone at the door shows them you are there for them, as much as you want them to be there for you.

Dings, Pings, And Echo Location…

Clients come with inherent aches and pains, some more severe than others. Through a written medical evaluation, I take inventory of any medical or physical issues prior to my first session with all client, and then I am sure to remember them.

Each time I meet a client at the door I ask them for a quick rundown of how they came off of our last workout in the form of soreness, stiffness, or aching. If I have done my job well, the answer should not influence the workout ahead. If they speak of any dings or pings, I adjust the workout accordingly.

Throughout the course of the workout I will ask frequently how they are feeling – if I am pushing too hard or not hard enough. Most often I don’t even listen to their answers. I learn all I need by looking into their eyes as they hear the question. This is like echolocation with dolphins; I send I signal to them, they send one back to me, and I know where we are in the course of a workout.

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When echolocation goes bad…

Before starting a session, I also ask them the last food they ate and how long ago they ate it. This information can also influence the direction and the result of a workout.

Don’t Eat In Front Of Clients…

If one’s job is to instruct and motivate, it’s hard to accept that this can be done with a mouthful of cold oatmeal or sipping from a shaker cup as many trainers do. Eating and talking lacks professionalism.

I can’t say I have been perfect here. There are those days when sessions run back-to-back and I have said excuse me to the client, and then asked permission to grab a bite as we begin the session. I can honestly say that in 16 years in Fallbrook, I have done this less than 16 times.

I also keep my phoned turned off during sessions. That hour belongs to my clients, not to me.
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Business Cards…

Former Levis Strauss executive and Bit-by-Bit Computer Rentals founder, Tim Cling once told me,

“Business cards aren’t what you give to people, they are what you take from people! You take the card, you call the number on the card, you introduce yourself, and explain concisely how and why you can help them.”

That is the best business advice ever extended to me. Too many fitness trainers put enormous stock on designing and handing out business cards – cards which get tucked away, thrown away, or otherwise used to stabilize the lose air conditioning vent in their car.

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Great for helping balance uneven table legs.  As a form of marketing…?  Not so much…

In the year 2000 I had 1,000 business cards printed up. In 2015 I still had 950 of them. What few I handed out were used as appointment reminders, or scratch paper for my personal notes.

On Form, Focus, And Conversation…

Overstating the obvious; a trainer should never turn his back on their client. A trainer’s eyes should always be fixed to the client’s exercise form – period.

Only when I am sure a client’s form is correct, does any conversation take place. I have no issues with a client talking during the course of their exercise, so long as they are moving and breathing properly.image76-e1422567572804

One of the better aspects of life as a fitness trainer is the conversations which have taken place in my studio through the years. In a sense, those conversations have given me a master’s degree in life. My older clients offer me wisdom. My younger ones offer me context from which I can better appreciate that wisdom.

There is much to learn from listening to the experiences of others. I get to do this all day long. I won’t hear the wisdom though, if I’m not listening, so my ears and my mind remain open at all times.

Relationships And Progress…

Making my living as a fitness trainer is about progress, of course, but it is also about relationships. It took me far too long to learn this. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress a client might experience, progress being a relative term.  Only if there is trust with the client, can I add a little more, push a little harder, and ask a little more of them over time – always in small doses. That is where progress comes from. They progress as the student. I progress as the teacher.

From this I am also reminded, living on this earth is also about relationships. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress we might experience as a species. If there is trust with one another, only then can we ask a little more of each other, and push a little more over time – always in small doses. Be well…

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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 Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Enjoy…

Fan Day Go…

“Me winning isn’t. You do.” Ty Webb

The Jig Is Up…

Some athletes know when the time is right to hang up their cleats. John Elway is the supreme example of this. After a storied career and 3 Super Bowl losses, Elway won 2 Super Bowls back-to-back and called it a career. We hold in high regard, the athlete who goes out on top and rides into the sunset at the pinnacle of his professional success. That metaphor endures, as we all wait for Peyton Manning to make it official sometime this spring.

Other athletes though, hang on too long. Brett Favre. Muhammad Ali. Michael Jordan. The list goes on. With many athletes, playing the game is too ingrained in their psyche. For them it’s less a matter of letting go, and more a question of who they will become when their careers are over…?

Run Ricky Run…

I was in middle school. I have a clear memory of my father leaping from his chair, landing on his feet with arms in air and fists clinched as he screamed…

“Run, Ricky, run!”

Denver Bronco, Rick Upchurch, was running a punt back for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders. My brother and I watched silently beside him.  That may be the day I became a sports fan. I wanted what my dad had – passion. Within a few years I was every bit the zealot my father was, but it didn’t end with the Broncos.

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Run, Ricky, Run!

As I grew older, and I better understood the games of football, baseball, golf, track & field, boxing, and other sports, my capacity as a sports fan grew. So too did my desire to follow these sports. Then one day I woke up and cable TV happened. Enter ESPN.

Sports Center became a requirement, 2-3 times per day. It was Cliff’s Notes for sports fans. I could enjoy several sports, and more than a few games in just 60 minutes. This did not eliminate my desire to watch complete sporting events on the weekends, it only enhanced the experience during my workweek. Crude math suggests that in my adult life I have spent some 15,000 hours watching sports news & highlights, sports analysis, and listening to sports talk radio.

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Go Big Screen Or Go Home…

In the early 2000s I was living alone in a 3-bedroom house. I had TVs in my master bedroom, my kitchen, my living room, and even one in my walk-in closet – that I not miss a moment of Sports Center as I was preparing for, or winding down from my workday.

One morning in 2005, on realizing the ridiculousness of having 4 TVs for one man living alone, I gathered them and placed them on the sidewalk in front of my house – to be taken by whoever wanted them. They were gone in an hour. Though well past my peak as a sports fan, I was done with sports and ready to retire. Time to give my attention to other interests.  Then one day I woke up and the internet happened…

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We take it for granted now, but in 2005 the idea of using a computer as a TV set was somewhat fresh. Internet speeds were improving, live streaming was crude but increasingly available, and suddenly I found myself unretired, once again watching Sports, and Sports Center from my 15” window to the world — every chance I got.

This was less a matter of letting go, and more a question of who I would become when being a sports fan was over…? I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

Slowly though, I began to come to my senses and realize I was well past my peak as a fan.  This came to a head in 2011 when Tim Tebow lead the Broncos to victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game.  Earlier that week,my father – you know, the “Run, Ricky, run” guy had a mild heart attack. He lay scarcely conscious in a Las Vegas hospital as the Broncos marched off the field in victory that day. Already on hospice, my father would never watch another Bronco game. That was the 1st time I truly thought; it’s only a game.

Sports Transcends, And Body Slams…

In an era when professional athletes are seen as crybaby millionaires, and as people increasingly turn away from sports due to everything from allegations of domestic violence, performance enhancing drugs, concussion syndrome, and that the underlying current that all sports is the ejaculate of corporations stroking their wallets, I have defended professional sports for its transcendent qualities.

Sports gives us a reason to come together. Sports separate us, if only for a while, from the boss, the workplace, the responsibilities of the yard, the bills, the wars, and school shootings. Sports fulfills our need for ritual in an increasingly secular world. Sports can elevate us from an otherwise dreary life.

Sports though, can also be brutal.  It make a good day bad in an instant.  Sports can body slam us and give us an emotional beat down that even a bad boss or a cheating girlfriend couldn’t. Ask anyone who has ever watched their team lose a Super Bowl.

After The Thrill Is Gone…

It’s too late for me to hang up my fan-cleats the pinnacle of my career. That should have happened when I drove my 7-year old daughter home from the parade in downtown Denver after the Broncos won their first Super Bowl in 1997

When the Broncos won the Super Bowl for the 3rd time last week I should have been overjoyed. I should have cried, tipped over my coffee table, and run around the neighborhood screaming as my brother and I did in 1997 when they won their first. I didn’t though. I just sat in my chair and thought, that’s nice, as I continued to pet my dog and reflected Super Bowls past.

It was less a case of being grateful that Denver won, and more the comfort of knowing they didn’t lose that soothed me. I was relieved I wouldn’t have to spend the next 3 weeks in a state of pointless depression. And that was my signal to walk away once and for all. I just don’t enjoy it as much as I once did.

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The Only Big Screen I Need On A Sunday…

I live in a beautiful place. I have things to do, friends to see, a business to run, and some would-be volunteering to pursue. Like my meat-free lifestyle, I am going to give a sports-free lifestyle a legitimate chance without the expectation of perfection.  After all, I do still have meat on occasion, and the Masters is only weeks away. Maybe that will be a cheat day 4 days. I am committed. 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 Dharma Violets. Enjoy…

A Call To Think Before We Follow…

Richual…

Arrive. Light the candle. Do the gesture. Say the words. Sip from the cup. Eat the thing. Read the verse. Talk with some like-minded folks. Leave.

Arrive. Unzip the bag. Lift the thing. Do the stretch. Sip from the bottle. Eat the thing. Read whatever, while your legs move. Talk with some like-minded folks. Leave.

When viewed in these terms, it’s hard not see parallels between the observance of religion and the observance of exercise. Largely, both are based on ritual in the day-to-day practice. I think it’s fair to say, whether we are talking about religion or we are talking about exercise, many who observe these rituals don’t viscerally understand how their rituals, or that their rituals have evolved over time.

It’s also fair to suggest that many who observe these rituals don’t understand how those evolutions have been influenced by those of varying levels of intent through the decades. Often, people have been indoctrinated into these cultures and rituals superficially, without adequate study, and have only the feeling that they should be observant.  Many people feel if they aren’t observant, they will be seen by others as missing something important in their life. That is, they go through the motions unwittingly, because they feel they should.

The Bible Of Fitness…

Lore has it Rabbi Hillel was approached by a student to recite the entire Hebrew Bible while standing on one leg. The story goes that Rabbi Hillel took to one foot and spoke,

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah, the rest is just commentary. Now go you, and learn it.”

An early Hebrew interpretation of The Golden Rule.

The only rule that matters...

The only rule that matters…

Most religious scripture is just that; commentary on a very simple theme which, when lived by, serves us well as individuals and as societies.

I have been told many times that this book or that book is the bible of exercise. I have purchased dozens of so-called bibles in my fitness life. Each one of them has contained variations and over complications of what can be reduced to a simple theme; eat properly, exercise regularly, be consistent. In a sense, that is the golden rule of fitness.

Most exercise scripture is protracted commentary on the theme of proper eating and movement. A lot of words, variations, and agendas assembled, rewritten, manipulated, and utilized for good and for lesser intent. None of it though, more important than the simplicity that Hillel prescribed to his student while standing on one foot.

The only fitness bible you need. Hint: There are no pages inside...

The only fitness bible you need. Hint: There are no pages inside…

Who Wears The Collar: Dogma And Leadership…

I can’t pinpoint the year, but somewhere in my mid-teens is when I made the connection between religious leadership and leadership in exercise. When I was 15 years old my church gym was the Eisenhower Park Recreation Center in suburban Denver. The biggest, strongest guy there was Gary Dorren. Gary was in his mid-20s, puffy if not muscular, with red curly hair, and made his living as lineman for Mountain Bell.

Being the biggest, strongest guy in the gym made Gary the go-to guy for advice from us smaller folk. In a sense, he was our minister, and he even sold himself to us in this way. One problem; Gary was the beneficiary of good genetics and quality pharmaceuticals, not the pinnacle of wisdom nor education. He was qualified to be a telephone lineman, not a gym priest. It was poor vetting and high expectations of my friends and I which elevated his stature in our naive eyes.

One of the first pieces of advice that Gary offered me was that if I wanted to make good gains, I needed to eat a loaf of bread a day. So I took the sacrament, and for several weeks thereafter, I ate a loaf of bread every day of my life. I gained nothing but body fat.  That wasn’t the only bad advice Gary gave me, nor was he the only one who sent my eager mind down counterproductive paths through the years.

As I grew older I sought fewer answers from the exercise clergy – men like Gary who stood on the mountain top.  I quit listening to others and began looking for those answers within, where I would ultimately find them. At the heart of my search, alongside common sense, was the golden rule of fitness; eat properly, exercise regularly, be consistent.

Though I would advance to make this a career, create and share my own commentaries on that central theme through the next several decades, I have always kept my opinions streamlined and easy to comprehend, for myself as well as for those I teach.  With leadership comes responsibility. From my own perch, the responsibility I take most seriously is the idea of keeping things simple, and keeping agenda filtered out to the best of my ability.

The overcomplicated, relentlessly dogmatic, and ever changing trends in fitness are selling a lot of gym memberships, DVDs, books, magazines, and supplements. Cardio theaters fill like pews on a Sunday, pockets get lined with cash, and though there are some beneficiaries from this process, many more just go through the motions not knowing why, and with little to show for it.  At the end of the day, most answers will come from within, and individual success will be the product of simplicity and consistency. Go now, and learn it. Be well… rc

Post Script:  Please feel free to superimpose this message over the ideals of religion, business, higher learning, and politics….

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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 Harlem. Enjoy!