The Value Of Weeeeeeeeee…

Road Trip Moment…

A car drives along a country highway, no sign of civilization in sight.  Up one hill, down another.  Up another hill, down one more.  A father whistles behind the wheel, mindful of his precious cargo.  His wife is beside him in the passenger seat, reading a book.  A young boy, buckled safely in back looks out the window in wonder, enjoying the ups and downs of the hills.  Suddenly the young voice exclaims…

“Daddy, I have to go wee…!”

The father responds…

“Okay son, in just a little bit…”

Five minutes later…

I have to go wee…!”

The father responds again, hoping to get in a few more miles before breaking the rhythm of his trip…

“Okay.  Soon.  I promise…”

Five minutes later and at the top of his lungs…

DADDY, I HAVE TO GO WEE…!”

The father abruptly pulls the car to the side of the road, shifts into Park and as dust from the road flies about the tires he looks back to his son…

“Okay.  Okay.  There’s a tree right over there…”

The boy unbuckles his seatbelt, throws his arms in the air, and as though he’s at the peak of a roller coaster exclaims at the top of lungs…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

Again…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

One more time…

“This drive is so much fun!  Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

“Okay, Dad, we can go now.  I just needed to get that out…”

The dad snickers because he knows he’s been played.  The boy’s mother smiles a secret smile.  Tires scratch dirt as they hit the road again fueled by a bit of family laughter.

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Losing Weeeeeeeeee…

Around the age of 10 or so, we abandon the concept of weeeeeeeee.  Letting go the idea of weeeeeeeee, is the first evolutionary step on the path to a life less fulfilled.  How different might each day be, of our dreary adult lives, if just once or twice a day we got to throw our arms in the air and go weeeeeeeee…?

I’ve often been accused of having a good attitude – as if it’s a crime in this era of perceived social turmoil.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in less than 2 seconds, but it doesn’t happen often these days, even under the worst of circumstances.  At the core of my good attitude, I am certain, is the calming effect that comes from making time most every day of my life to go weeeeeeeee.  For all my BS, the child i once was in that backseat, is still alive and well and living on my shoulder.

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Wake Up, Go Wee.  Then, Go Weeeeeeeeee…

Though strength training has been central to my exercise life, for most of my life, I have always found peripheral salvation in intense cardio activities such as running, hiking, swimming and cycling.  Due to the current structure of my life, for the past year and a half or so, road cycling has been the beer chaser to the straight shot of strength training I swallow each day.

Each morning, 7 days per week, I ride a 10-mile loop around my community.  This is an early morning ride that takes me roughly a half-hour.  My cycling friends who enjoy riding 20, 30 or even 50-miles on the weekends, may scoff at the idea of doing a meager 10-miles.  This 10-miles though, is a full-on sprint.

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Fallbrook is a community with almost no flat ground.  Throughout my 10-mile ride, I’m either going downhill or uphill, but am never flat.  I push the uphill sections hard – this this is where the exercise comes in.  At some points, my heart-rate may exceed 170-bpm.  Going uphill is where the challenge lies and where I find mental clarity.  Pushing my bike hard uphill makes me stronger, inside and out.  Since there is more work involved, and gravity works against me, the uphill sections take much longer to negotiate than the downhill stretches.

Downhill though, is where the weeeeeeeee comes in, and that provides a whole different kind of mental clarity.  As worked as my body may be, as much as my heart may pound and as dead as my legs might feel at the top of each hill, I always throw my hands over my head as I crest each hill, and glide to the bottom.  Even if I don’t say it aloud, I am thinking it as I ride; weeeeeeeee…!  I’m certain I always smile as I do this.

When my ride is done and my breath is caught, I am on top of the world, if only for a moment.  Part of that is from rising to a physical challenge of pushing the uphill sections hard while most still sleep.  Part of it too tough, is that a half-dozen times before my workday even begins, I get to go weeeeeeeee, just like a I did as a child.

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Footnote…

A running friend recently called me out…

“Roy, if you ran for that 35-minutes instead of riding your bike, you’d burn a lot more calories and get a much better cardio/conditioning workout…”

True, I told him, and then reminded him I have run marathons and countless lesser races; 5K and 10Ks.  There’s no weeeeeeeee in running, I told him.  When there’s time on the weekends, I may get out and ride 20 or 30-miles, but my 10-mile sprint each morning, with a half-dozen or so weeeeeeeee sections mixed in, helps keep me fit, and keep me young.

Like you, each morning I wake up and immediately go wee.  Within a few minutes of that, I also get to go weeeeeeeee, and that’s just one more reason to have a good attitude and a good day…  Jhciacb

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Conversations Over Crunches: The Continuation…

I get to do conversation for a living. Though primary to my business is the designing of, and the implementation of the workout, exercise sessions are laced with discussion.
 
The two topics which get discussed most in my studio are food, and cancer.
 
On Food…
 
Conversations aren’t always about healthy foods, though sometimes they are. Ideas, recipes, and concepts with food are exchanged freely between my clients and me, all day long, and with ZERO judgment from either side. Some ideas can be inspiring and useful, while others are just sinful.
 
Most often though, the healthy and the sinful are intermingled within the very same frame of moment. A discussion of how protein can be used as an efficient appetite suppressant, might seamlessly segue into which liqueurs are best to use as ice cream toppings.
 
My takeaway from this duality is that despite the best intentions behind talk of pious eating, thoughts of culinary sin are ever-present, both with the client and the trainer.
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On Cancer…
 
A half-dozen times per day the word cancer comes up in the studio. Probably 1/4th of my current clients have survived some kind of cancer, or had a spouse or child survive it. A smaller percentage have actually lost a spouse or child to cancer. This haunts me, ongoing…
 
Occasionally, a client might need a biopsy, as one client did yesterday. Details to follow, but hopefully no bad news there. Others might have coworkers, neighbors, or even the family pet receiving chemo or radiation.
 
Occasionally a client will miss a workout session to attend a memorial service for someone lost to cancer. This happened twice last month.
 
That these conversations are so matter of fact, is a reminder that cancer is not just a disease, but has become part of daily life for everyone.
 
People die of other causes, but cancer is the one we discuss the most.
 
Talking about cancer while helping someone exercise, gives more meaning to the cause, though there is little evidence to suggest exercise stifles cancer. At best, it might make one stronger for the fight.
 
And of these daily conversations over crunches – of the good, the bad, and the ugly, I simply wonder about it all — all day long… Jhciacb

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Needs First. Then The Wants…

As a part of my livelihood, teaching people and helping them execute exercise, I assess the needs of my clients. It is my responsibility to regularly revisit and reassess those needs. I make changes to workout designs as necessary.

Assessing their needs is so simple a chimp with a smartphone could do it, so I do…

A few needs that we all need:

Balance
Flexibility
Stamina
Strength
Confidence

My youngest client is 13, my oldest is 91. Between them, nearly every demographic is represented. Despite the diversity within my client base, each of them benefit by me putting these needs first in their exercise design.

I can think of no person for whom improvement with the needs listed above wouldn’t enhance their lives.

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People may come to me for weight loss, to gain muscle, to support peripheral athletic pursuits, and a couple still come to get jacked and shredded.

At the end of the day, gaining muscle, losing body fat, or running a faster 5K is secondary to my objectives with my clients, even if it is primary to them. I address their needs first, and their wants further down the road.

Funny thing though – when I address the needs first, the wants often resolve themselves.  In fitness, as in life… Jhciacb

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Eat The Fucking Ice Cream…

Last week a client in her 70s, prompted me about some changes she wished to make. She walks for an hour every morning before sunrise, works out with me 2 days per week, is a very good eater, but is concerned about the fat rolls over her hips.

I asked her bluntly what she needed to do to minimize her alleged fat rolls…

“Well, I should cut back on the wine, and maybe the ice cream” she said.

I asked her if she enjoyed the wine and ice cream…

“Of course, I do. The ice cream I can live without” she said, “but I’m not giving up the wine!”

We both chuckled. I reminded her that she’s teeny tiny, way ahead of the game for being in her mid-70s, and told her emphatically to eat the fucking ice cream, and to enjoy the wine.

I suggested that her alleged fat rolls were not visible to me, are not a health risk, and to make them go away would require a dietary sacrifice that isn’t consistent with enjoying her life.

And that’s where it ends for me these days, at least in my little world.

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Our food system has become increasingly complex, and outright sinister. It lures people in one direction, as asinine social expectations pull people in the opposite direction. This tearing apart of the human spirit has confused and corralled people into a pen of fear, frustration, and too often into a state of shame.

Whether you want to lose small pockets of fat from your hips or 100 lbs. from your frame, I encourage everyone to eat a little better and move a little more – just a little better and a little more, you will feel and function better for your efforts, and so too will those who depend on you… Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Heartless Bastards.  Pro tip:  Put this first in your cardio mix.  Enjoy…

No Workout, No Cry…

I was 3 repetitions into my first set of leg extensions.  Spinny Spinny, which is the name I have given my brain when she churns too fast for my own good, wouldn’t slow down.  Every thought I had ever thought, it seemed, was passing through my head again, and all at once.

I stopped my leg extensions and turned off the novella I had just downloaded to listen to while I commenced my lower body workout.  It was the end of a long Monday, and I had no desire to lift weights.  I have been lifting weights most days of my life for 43 years.

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Will wait on this until I can give it a clear head…

Going back nearly 3 months now, my mind has been too occupied to focus on my workouts.  My life has gotten busier, I have developed other interests, and my responsibilities with my mother have increased.  It seems every time I walk into my studio to work out, I either get interrupted or my mind is so focused on all the would-be interruptions which haven’t yet landed, that I just pick one to accommodate so I can get it over with.

I have been at the cusp of a big change in my workout life for years it seems.  Aging, new interests, and the increasing responsibilities of my life have been whispering to me…

This can’t go on.  This can’t go on.  This can’t go on.

And I have ignored those whispers, refusing for years now to let go of what has most defined me in my life; my love of and my need for daily exercise.

At least a dozen times since my late 40s I have attempted to scale back, and just be grateful for what I can fit into a week’s time when it comes exercise.  Tonight though, I cry uncle, and this time I mean it.  I can no longer keep up the schedule of kinesis which has been the framework of my life, for so much of my life.

I have worked out with weights 5-6 days per week since I was 12 years old.  I have also included a peripheral 30-minute cardiovascular workout at a different time of day, and at least 6 days per week, for nearly 17 years.

Since this past Thanksgiving, I have been lucky to have taken 2 strength workouts and 2 cardio workouts per week, and some weeks there have been none.  N.O.N.E.  Exercise is no longer fitting in the way it once did, and it’s been frustrating.

That frustration is in part due to the absence of the chemical reactions which exercise provides.  This is the rapid exchange of serotonin between receptors in the brain which results from rigorous movement, and is what has kept me from killing people for 43 years.

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No Leg Day, No Cry…

But the larger part of my frustration is due to my own stubbornness – the expectation that I could continue my holy regimen despite that my life beyond exercise has just gotten more crowded and that exercise, whether I accept this or not, is being pushed to outer edges of the tent by forces much stronger than I.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up with the expectation that on any given day I will choose to perform a strength workout or a cardiovascular workout, but will no longer attempt fit both in on the same day.  The 27-hour days I have been hoping would show up to save my workout regimen, I now accept, just aren’t coming.

This is in no way to suggest that I am giving up on exercise.  In addition to being a longtime passion, exercise is still my livelihood.  I need to walk the walk.  I will exercise every day of my life so long as I am able.  It’s just needs to be a smaller part of my life now, and I will be accepting of any changes to my physicality which result from these changes in my schedule.

And this is not about moderation.  It’s about adapting to a changing life and accepting newborn priorities.  Those changes are now manifest, and I am realizing that the most dignified art of all, is the art of letting go…  Jhciacb

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This will be dead someday, and so too will I.  The art of letting go…

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Reasons, Not Excuses…

Not excuses, but reasons…

I do fitness for a living – it’s kind of what pays my bills.  Despite this, and that I have a well-equipped workout room just 7-feet from where I am typing this, fitness doesn’t happen as much with me these days.

It’s not that I have lost interest in exercise. It’s that my responsibilities have increased, and my priorities have evolved.

Some will suggest there are no excuses to miss a workout.  The Roy of yesteryear would certainly have suggested that to the Roy of today.

And on one level, as a fitness practitioner, I agree that people use far too many excuses to avoid exercise, but there’s a fine line between excuses and reasons.

Yesterday I took my mother shopping to help her with her post-holiday returns.  We were gone most of the day.  I had planned to work out as soon as we got home, but then realized my mammal had been cooped up alone all day, so I took him for a walk – my workout could wait.

After his post-walk treat, I was about to head into the studio to work out.   As I stepped through my studio door, my eldest niece called to wish me a happy New Year.  I was delighted to hear her voice.  When she and I were done, she passed the phone to her sister and it was then my turn to exchange greetings and catch up with her.  She then passed the phone on to her brother.  I enjoyed catching up with all three.

After a day of shopping, a long dog walk, and a long phone call, I was chomping at the bit to exercise – until my brother called, also to exchange New Year’s greetings.  It was nice to catch up with him as well. My workout could wait.

Just as my brother and I hung up, and I was about to rise to enter my studio, my sweet dog jumped on my lap and burrowed into a soft blanket on my lap, and settled in for what I will refer to as, the rest of the evening.

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There would be no workout, only CNN’s The History Of Chicago, and that’s okay.

There are excuses to skip workouts, and there are reasons to skip workouts.  Though very often that line is blurry, yesterday it was as clear as a new day after a rainy night on New Year’s Eve.  These were reasons, and all good ones.  Be well…  Jhciacb

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The Ongoing Battle…

I have invested far too much in seeking precise answers to questions that I know have no clear ones.   Chief among these questions is this…

Just because we are capable of doing something physical, and we can refer to it as a form of exercise, does it mean that we should take that action…?

My formula for answering this question has (almost) always defaulted to the risk/reward ratio.  That is, does the risk involved with performing the exercise outweigh the reward…?

I think I have spent the last couple of decades making what I think are good choices based on using the risk/reward formula, both for me as well as for my clients.

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Even so, there are times when I step under a bar to do a squat or lay on a bench to push a weight vertically away from my body, and I will ask myself if this is the right thing to do.  If I am wrong, and I am wearing myself out prematurely or putting myself at risk then that’s on me.

If, however, I ask a client to stand under a bar, to jump, or even to twist, turn or bend, and I haven’t fully analyzed and applied the risk/reward ratio, not only am I a bad trainer, I’m also an ass.

On the surface, I always feel as though I am doing the right thing, but deep down I wonder, and I guess I always will…  Jhciacb

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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!

Throwback Thursday…

TBT…

Social media has given us Throwback Thursday; an idea from which we can reflect on and share people, moments, or situations from our past. I enjoy seeing what others have to share. I also sharing my own experiences. In times when social media can be chaotic, clumsy, and ridiculous, TBT is simple fun.

Like some kind deconstructive self-evolutionist, I spend much of my internal life reflecting on fingerprints of others; the persons and moments which have been most pivotal in my life. There is one person though, who has had more influence in my life than anyone.

The Person, The Place, And The Cause…

I was waiting outside Russel Dorren’s homeroom class in the west building of Cherry Creek High School in 1976. The kid standing next to me was a year older. He and I knew each other casually through the weight room of the local recreation center. He was short, had pale skin, wore tight fitting Levis, had a small waist, and shoulders so wide that they stretched the back of his tucked in flannel shirt to extremes. He was Scott Rupert.

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Cherry Creek West Senior High School

Scott was the only kid in school with that bodybuilder look; broad shoulders, a small waist, and round arms barely contained by sleeves. We see that look everywhere today, but in the 1970s it was rare, especially in high school.

Waiting for the classroom to open, Scott invited me to workout with him sometime at the 20th Street Gym in downtown Denver – a more serious weight room he had discovered. He described it as the “Gold’s Gym of Colorado”.

A week or so later, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went with Scott to the 20th Street Gym. It took 3 bus connections and about 90 minutes to get there one evening after school. I walked in and the place smelled of effort and intensity – what others might have called sweat. Disco music provided a faint soundtrack, but was good accompaniment behind the rhythm of clanging weights.

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20th Street: The Gold’s Gym Of Colorado…

I had never seen such a concentration of bodybuilders. I immediately keyed in on one man, John Suddemeyer. John wasn’t big, but he had a very tight physique; vascular, and athletic.  He had what bodybuilders of the day called the finished look.

Through the evening Scott would point out all the local bodybuilders and powerlifters who comprised the regulars. There was JT LaSasso, whose acne covered back left droplets of blood on the bench press after set he performed. Rich Clench, Mr. Colorado, with arms that looked more like adult water wings. Steve Ponzi, a local powerlifter who made his living bouncing at bars and collecting hard money loans. Finally, there was Al Mack. Al had a 22” neck and more resembled a brown bag full of bowling balls than a human being. Al Mack would become an early mentor to Scott.

My 132 lb. high school frame felt very out of place, but I stuck around and trained legs and shoulders, feeling inadequate while Scott and Al Mack did 45 minutes of uninterrupted pull-ups. Mostly, I used the time to observe. I learned more that night by watching others, than I had in my previous 2 years at my local rec center gym.

Fast Forward…

Sometime after that 1st workout at 20th Street, I decided I would put all my eggs in one basket, and cover that basket. Due to the long bus commute, I couldn’t train at 20th Street too often, but frequently enough so I could keep observing, and keep learning. Inspired and better educated, I would transfer what I learned at 20th Street to my rec center workouts. Within a year I weighed 165 lbs.

Scott would later runaway release himself from high school on his own recognizance, and head to Brownwood, TX to learn from world class powerlifter, Doug Young. When he returned from Texas Scott was larger, stronger, and better informed. Scott would share that knowledge with anyone who would listen. I listened.

Scott spoke of Doug Young’s unusually slow eccentric (negative) phase of the bench press. In Scott’s words (paraphrased), lowering the bar to the chest more slowly, provided a better opportunity to connect with one’s power zone for an increased maximum lift. That ideal – the slow negative, changed my life forever.

Over time I would make my own study of slow negatives based on Young’s technique. I dissected it, studied it, and applied slow negatives to virtually every strength exercise I would ever perform or teach.

From that study I would understand that slow negatives, a full range of motion, and a very slow transition during the cross-bridge cycle, are superior for stimulating muscular growth, increased strength, and the best dividend of all, an increased awareness and command of one’s physicality which applies to all functional movement beyond the gym doors.

I have made a good livelihood teaching the value of slow negatives in strength training.

Sir, Yes Sir…

Scott would go on the enlist in the United States Marine Corps, and have an excellent career. Now retired, Scott and his wife live in Las Vegas where he continues to powerlift and train with weights regularly. Through social media, Scott and I reconnected a few years back and I am grateful.

Nearly 40 years after he took me to the 20th Street Gym, and decades after he taught me about Doug Young’s slow bench press style, I can say Scott’s presence in my life has impacted me more, and steered the direction of my life more than any other influence.

Fingerprinting…

We are the sum of many influences; from the date and zip code of our birth, to who we meet and when we meet them. Whether we realize it or not, we are guided through life by the presence of others. I’m certain Scott will read this, though I’m pretty sure he’s had no idea how much his presence influenced my life.

As we are guided by the influence of others, we should care to remember that we also do a fair bit influencing – of leaving our own marks on others wherever we may go. I know the fingerprints I have left behind haven’t always been clean, but I try hard these days, to be cautious when I touch the lives of anyone 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 Bad Company – one more fingerprint Scott left on my life. Enjoy…

Epidemicology…

Caveat: I chose not to cite any data sources in support of this essay. There is much conflicting data on the topic of obesity and health. The opinions expressed here are based solely on my experience in health & fitness, my observations, as well as books, data sources, and websites which, it turns out, all agree with me.

Not Really…

We are all familiar with the term, obesity epidemic. We see reports, studies, and media programming that remind us how dangerous yet widespread the obesity epidemic has become. We are led increasingly to believe that being overweight is unhealthy, avoidable, and wrong.

I’m not going to argue in favor of, or against obesity. I’m going step back and share my big picture perspective that obesity is less an epidemic and more the unavoidable result of our increasingly complex food system and shifting cultural values, and that fighting obesity on an individual basis will not slow or stop the expansion of the expansion.

The Flow…

While it is true that obesity, as defined by the CDC, has increased steadily over the last 6 decades, I believe that any large scale reversal of that pattern will not be the result of the individual mechanisms we use to fight obesity on a personal level, such as gastric related surgeries, liposuction, excessive dieting, excessive exercise, nutritional supplementation, and pharmaceutical support. With these means being more available and more used than ever, and obesity still being on the rise, that math does not add up. It simply demonstrates that, collectively, fighting individual obesity is not working to reduce obesity overall.

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Though some individuals find success with using exercise, diet, and medical/pharmaceutical technologies to reverse or to avoid obesity, a majority of people who use these resources will not find success in the long-term. I believe any permanent change to the cultural obesity trend will be the result of both large and small changes in our food system, over time, which are organized and called for by society as a collective, similar to the changes in civil rights, animal rights, and global ecology that we have seen in recent decades.

Those efforts to change the food system are already forming and gaining traction, but the arc of their results is a slow turning. Examples of this are laws requiring calories to be included on menus, local food movements, transparency in food manufacturing & marketing, and social awareness created by the propagation of literature; books and documentary movies on the subject.

As It Relates To Health…

We have been fed the ideal over time that obesity is intertwined with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and the probability of early death – a lesser quality of life notwithstanding. Increasingly though, there is data that suggests that obese people who exercise regularly, and include reasonable amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets are no more likely to suffer from these ailments than people of average body weight. Some call this fat but fit. I call it, doing one’s best within a failing system.

Still, many people who fall into this category of larger, but healthy, attempt to fight their obesity by the means mentioned above, because they feel a social pressure which suggests they are unhealthy and undesirable. Whether or not they are unhealthy is coming into question, and that fruitless debate continues. Being socially or personally undesirable is simply a matter of bigotry.

As It Relates To Vanity…

Yesterday I visited a friend in the hospital who, for the last 13 months, has been dealing with the severely debilitating consequences of a lap-band surgery gone bad. I am removed from the internal thinking which led to her to the decision to have lap-band surgery, but from the outside looking in, though she might have been overweight at the time of the surgery, she was attractive and seemed to be in good health.

That is, her surgery was as much about vanity and/or social pressure as it was about health. My friend will remain in the hospital for at least several weeks. Her life has been in jeopardy as a result of this failed surgery on at least two occasions, though it appears now she will ultimately be okay.

Wide And Prejudice…

The epidemic which scares me more than the so-called epidemic of obesity, is the epidemic of prejudice toward heavier people. If a person wakes up in the morning and fails to eat fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast, fails to remove the pile of clothes from the treadmill and put in a hard 30 minutes, or if they fail to stop at the gym on their way to work, they are not a bad person. And doing any or all of these will not make them a good person.

Being a good person is more related to mindfulness, kindness, and noble effort. Being a bad person, I suspect, is more related to disrespecting people, institutions, and animals – period. Body weight and body size have nothing to do with one’s character. Judging somebody for their shape size or weight does – period.

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The Slow Turn Of A failed System…

When I look at our social values as it relates to body image, male or female, young or old, and when I observe what it is that we revere and what we are willing to do in the name of looking better or being leaner, I often shudder.

I don’t fault anyone for wanting to pursue or maintain an attractive appearance, and I have certainly put effort into that ideal through the years. I’ll suggest though, for those who strive to improve their physical appearance, that before they begin, they closely examine the potential for cascading consequences which may result from the means they choose.

The quest for a smaller stature, and the emphasis we place on it is as old as culture itself, and I’m not arguing we abandon that pursuit. I’ll suggest though, similarly to civil rights, animal rights, ecology, and government, that the system we have allowed to place us here, and that we are all caught up in, is more in need of repair than any of us as individuals. I believe the arc of this system improving is on the rise, though obesity may still be a social issue for a few more decades.

That obesity is a contributory factor to poor health is, in my opinion, still just a theory. That we treat obese people with a greater guard, is simply a shame. 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 Dharma Violets. Enjoy!