A Failed Conversion…

I was approached by a man at a local coffee shop the other day. He and I had met briefly once fore. A conversation ensued between us. The man, knowing I am a fitness professional, asked if I was familiar with a nationally known multimedia fitness enterprise. The program in question is scientifically based and assures, if applied properly, an outcome of increased muscles mass and decreased body fat with just 15 minute workouts. The program calls for high intensity workouts, supported with a high fat, moderate protein and lower carbohydrate diet. I played dumb and told him I had never heard of it. I sensed immediately that I lost points in his mind for my ignorance.

As he explained the program to me, he suggested recruiting me and my facility as a resource where he could test and apply it. As we discussed this, it was clear that he had an intelligent grasp of the physiology and nutrition. I explained to him my own value-set when it comes to exercise, strength training in particular, and eating. I said nothing to debunk the science of the program he was advocating. I well understand the efficiency of high intensity training. I simply used more science, some logic and a smidge of experience to support my stance the high intensity training, despite the science behind it, might not be the best option for many most.

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Still, he kept suggesting that I look at the website, the book, and the science behind this enterprise. He felt it might change my values and subscribe me to something better than what I am already teaching. He felt this high intensity program might also open a new world for me, for my clients, and for my business, and he was willing to be my guinea pig.

In truth, I am familiar with the program he was discussing, and I believe the science behind it is solid. Variations of high intensity training have been applied to many fitness enterprises over the past 15 years or so. I have practiced variations of them and taught some as well. Despite this, I have never bought completely into exclusively high intensity programs.

I gently let him know that my own fitness ideals are sum of many years of training, studying and practicing my craft, and that I wasn’t going to let go of those values regardless of the science behind what he was suggesting. It was clear that he saw me as a narrow minded buffoon who probably just takes people’s money in exchange for letting them go through the motions as I stare at my cell phone all day long. We exchanged business cards with what I’ll suggest was a mutual assurance that they will never see the light of day again.

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I have been down this road with people many times. I am a very science minded person. When somebody approaches me about high intensity training I can tell at a glance whether they are sincere, if they understand how demanding that type of training can be, if they are capable of it, and if they truly understand the bleakness of the associated nutritional component. If they are, I absolutely know how to apply those principals for maximum results, and I have a track record of success stories which demonstrate my competence.

However, even proven science has to fit an individual’s body and lifestyle to be effective in the long-term – it has to work within the scope of a person’s life. I don’t care how sound the science is, many genres of high intensity training aren’t agreeable when superimposed over a less than fit body or a less than fit lifestyle. My firsthand experience has seen high intensity training push more people away from an exercise lifestyle than toward one. For many people, high intensity exercise isn’t fun, isn’t sustainable and won’t be the foundation of the lifestyle change they actually need.

I know there are exceptions to this; that’s where before and after pictures come from. However, for every before and after picture posted on a magazine or website, I’ll suggest there are tens of thousands of people who feel they gave money away in exchange for doubt, frustration, and perhaps even some humiliation – for buying into something they could not sustain or that never made sense to them to begin with.

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All of this I can let go of because I have faced it many times, so I wasn’t disappointed that the man I spoke with had no interest and was unwilling to learn more about my own more moderate approach to fitness. What will remain with me though, in the foreground of my conscience, is that the man who approached me is an evangelical minister. Essentially he wanted to hire me away from my own faith that I might subscribe to his. When it became clear that I was unwilling to make that leap, he spoke to me as though I were a lost soul. And so it goes… rc

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

Defective Personality…

“My greatness is the sum of all my personality defects.  Well, most of them anyway.”  Me

Personality defect #1:  Growing Up Cohen…

This I know:  My mother and father loved me very much.  My childhood was safe, and my opportunities were numerous.  I was never threatened, abused, or otherwise compromised as a child.  I was taught right from wrong, good from bad, truth from dishonesty, and to say please and thank you to everything that moved.  And for all of this I was loved, housed, fed well, and given 50 cents per week.

My childhood might not quite have been the Ozzie and Harriet show, but it more closely resembled the TV life of the 1950s than it did the Ozzie and Sharon show.  Still, from an early age I developed a strong desire to withdraw from my family, from my social peers, and spend a great deal of time in self-imposed isolation.

It wasn’t enough to be alone though, I had to be moving while I was alone.  I would ride my bike, skateboard, swim, dive in the pool, shoot baskets, or just walk for hours at a time, and could not be any happier for my introverted exertions.  At an early age, solitary exercise was my house of worship, and remains my sanctuary to this day.

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Still the best way I know to be alone…

The two go well together for me; solitary and exercise. Give me one without the other, and they will each be appreciated.  Give me both, and they become trans-formative medicine.

Personality defect #2: Mass Appeal…

I can’t remember the first time I really took notice of a person’s musculature.  Maybe I was 12 or so.  It might have been a football player on TV, a bodybuilder, a guy swinging a sledge hammer on a road crew, I’m not sure.  I do know this; that from a very early age, the sight of lean, well formed, larger than normal muscles on a person compelled me – male or female.

Not just on people either.  As a child I would stare for hours at pictures of Seattle Slew and other race horses of the era.  The lean musculature of racehorses had a gravity my eyes could not resist.  My mom couldn’t get me out of the primate exhibit at the zoo either – the width of a gorilla’s back, and the squareness of his chest was something I wanted too.  There has always been something about the ornamental quality of large muscles in motion which has captivated me.

Triceps are a little weak, but LOVE his chest....

Triceps are a little weak, but LOVE his chest….

At some point, maybe near middle school, I made this connection; that I possessed the ability to go from just looking at and admiring muscle, to becoming the muscle.  On this realization, the course of my life began to take shape.  Personality defects #1 and #2 were about merge into the pathway expressway on which I would haul through the rest of my life.

Personality defect #3:  Hardworking In All The Wrong Places…

As my desire to create muscle on myself increased, I required more and more time in isolation to work on the muscle project.  My requirement for solitary exercise would now consume me.

By the time high school came along, it had gotten in the way of my solitary exercise.  I was so involved, as both the sculptor, and the sculpture, that I released myself from high school on my own recognizance.

Drop out.  Chalk up.  Lift.

Too cool for school...

Too cool for school…

Solitary exercise, in the form of weightlifting, had become my single biggest priority.  Oh, and there were also the sprint workouts which I began to do 2-3 times per week, which I enjoyed much for the challenge, and the conditioning, but also for the solitude.

As my adult life would further unfold, solitary exercise would expand to include running, cycling, surfing, kayaking, and more.  The older I got, the more important my medicinal movement became. It also became my livelihood.

Personality defect #4:  The World Begins With Me…

It is this defect, #4, that enabled defects #1 and #2 to become defect #3.  I put myself first in most situations – for most of my life.  I think science may have it wrong.  From my vantage point, the universe is didn’t actually begin until the day I was born – and that’s how I have lived for most of my life.

I like to think that I’m no longer as selfish as I was for the first 5 decades of my life.  I now recognize that there are 7 billion persons on Earth not named Roy Cohen.  With this realization, I think it’s fair to say that I have become a pretty giving person of my time, of my money, of my heart, and of myself.

My solitary exercise is still the largest part of my life, though I now include others more frequently as I partake in the joy of wearing myself down – wanting to share the experience.  In running, hiking, lifting, and cycling with others, I have learned to be more malleable in my exercise ways, and am finding new life from my movements, and fostered new friendships that have enriched my life.

Personality defect #5:  Reconciling Utility vs. Fulfillment…

As I have written before, it’s my belief that the car with the most, and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first.  Of course maintenance, quality of fuel, and quality of miles are factors, but using the body to excess is not necessarily a recipe for a ripe old age.  Still, I push hard, and I push daily.

I won’t know until much  later in life whether all my personality defects, and my lust for movement have served me well, or will have beaten me down.  It will probably be a little of each, but that’s how life is.

Going equine one more time.   Seattle Slew-perman...

Going equine one more time. Seattle Slew-perman…

Of course these are not all my personality defects, only the ones which serve this essay.  I’m not a bright man, but I’m guessing I have a personality defect or two that I’m not willing to advertise.  So for those who truly know me, PLEASE feel free this week to drop them into the comments section and help fuel the conversation.  Be well.  rc

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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 is this from the Grande Roses, enjoy…

Fundamentally Speaking…

You can’t spell fundamental without mental…

Disappointed, but not surprised. That is the feeling I got last week when the emails started to trickle in. That they showed up at all verifies something I have felt for a long time, though I have chosen to swallow those feelings rather than broadcast them. To have expressed them would have been to pick an argument not worth arguing, resulting in no conclusion. In politics, religion, or social subcultures I rarely criticize – not even those things I may disagree with. I believe the world works better in nonzero terms. Shut up. Coexist. Move on.

We’re all familiar with the idea of fundamentalism. In this era we often associate fundamentalism with religion, though there are other forms. At its base level, fundamentalism is the belief in, and the strict adherence to a cause or ideal. I think we can add to that cursory definition, the disapproval of any ideal counter to or not consistent with the core ideal. And by “disapproval” I mean, disrespect.

Disagreements between fundamentalists of a particular group, and those outside that group often evoke passion, raised voices, and increased friction. Fundamentalists often get defensive with regard to their core values, and ideals. Occasionally defense turns to offense, and the result can be violence, death, and even war. This week I was reminded that that the ideal of fundamentalism isn’t exclusive to religion; it even exists the community of fitness. And though I hope it does not result in war, I’m sure a few grenades will be launched my way for writing this.

Satire night live…

It was a simple action; I posted something to my Facebook page last week, and in doing so invited a new genre of fundamentalists into my life, opening the gates to fractured friendships, aggressive rhetoric, and outright hate mail lobbed my way. Here’s the back story:

The Duffle Blog is an online satirical publication similar to The Onion. The Duffle Blog focuses exclusively on the US Military, and the Department of Defense. I have regularly posted articles from the Duffle Blog to my Facebook page. These articles are usually irreverent, often crude, and always funny. In three years of posting them I have not experienced one person taking offense – not one. And then, with the posting of this Duffle Blog article last week, the subculture of CrossFit set in…

Here’s a quote from one email I received just minutes after posting the article: “I don’t get you Roy. You criticize CrossFit yet you don’t even do it. CrossFit has changed my life. Maybe saved my life. I’m disappointed in you as a trainer.”

An excerpt from another email:

“Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. You’re jealously is obvious. You wish you could.”

Those are just samples of how some people responded to my CrossFit bashing. Okay, this is a good place to interject this thought; I DID NO CROSSFIT BASHING! I simply posted a satirical article poking fun at the US military – not CrossFit. And that underscores my point; that the very nature of CrossFit has become a fundamentalist cause, to the point where people involved with it feel they are above satire or criticism, and seem to be too often on the defensive – or offensive.

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 You can’t spell warrior without war…

In recent years I have seen many diehard CrossFit warriors take their subculture too seriously, in a fundamentalist kind of way. In doing so, they often disrespect, and under appreciate the fitness values of nonparticipants. Anyone who exists in the immediate periphery of CrossFit has likely seen evidence of this in social media.

That’s where CrossFit ultimately breaks down in my opinion; not in the ABCs of the workouts so much, but in its own projection of itself. There seems to be an almost universal smugness, and lack of social decorum throughout the subculture. Often it seems practitioners talk about CrossFit as if it is the end-all for all things fitness, and that no fitness genre, fitness ideal, or practitioner outside of CrossFit are valid, or have anything to offer – unless of course they involve the Spartan Race or Paleo eating.

What resonates for me deepest though, is that those who often tout it the most, are relatively new to the subculture, and to the ideal of exercise itself. These are people in the group who could not explain the cross bridging principle of muscular action any more than they could explain protein synthesis, or even tell me what the eccentric phase of an exercise is. Sadly, there are many newbie CrossFit coaches who could not explain those things.

I see a haunting similarity between the religious fundamentalism of the Abrahamic traditions, and the exercise fundamentalism of the CrossFit subculture in the way it is both excessively proselytized, and defended. Or more succinctly, as religious fundamentalists each believe their tradition has the exclusive rights to being right, it now seems CrossFit thinks it resides highest in the pantheon above all things fitness.

 I’ll state clearly that I see value in all forms exercise being practiced safely, and mindfully. I also see utility in the communities like-minded exercise enthusiasts create. I have no doubt that thousands of CrossFit practitioners benefit from, appreciate, and respect their endeavor. As a collective though, it seems they have some growing up to do. Be well… rc

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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 trippy little nugget from Bad Liquor Pond.  Enjoy!

Follow The Leader…

Information overload…

When I design a workout or an eating plan for a student, I don’t make it complicated.  I draw from just a few scientifically proven principles, and on experiences that I have had with previous clients.   I may also draw from experiences other trainers in the fitness community have shared with me.  However, I won’t go too far with any of it because I believe basics work, and for most that’s all they require.

That said, getting people to follow even basic directions can be the most challenging part of leadership.  Too often people want advanced information from their primary instruction.

It's eating vegetables, and exercising.  It's not rocket science...

It’s eating vegetables, and exercising. It’s not rocket science…

A majority of people won’t require all the available information in the realm of physiology, any more than they will require all the available data from the university level.  Nor will they require a complicated framework or routine. However, week in and week out this seems to be what they want – the latest and greatest.

I think that’s where leadership in fitness gets it wrong more often than not.  Leaders attempt to give the student the latest and greatest, before the student masters the basics.  This in part, because it’s what the student asks for, but also because the trainer wishes to demonstrate intelligence and superiority, if not validity.

The information we gather as leaders in fitness does not all need to be pumped into the veins of our students.

One step at a time…

I was Skyping with an online client over the weekend.  During the conversation I recalled a home I lived in for many years.   It was large condominium, just under 2,000 square feet.  I occupied just one room of that home.  In that room there was an air mattress I slept on, and a desk for my computer.  Aside from that, I owned no furniture, and only passed through the empty living room and dining room on my way to the kitchen.

At the time I lived there my daughter was a teenager.  It occurred to me one day that my daughter and I didn’t spend a great deal of time at my house.  I mean, what could we ever do there except watch videos on my computer while sitting on an air mattress…?  Needless to say, we hung out elsewhere.

One week when she was 14 I decided to buy some furniture in hopes that I could foster more time together with her at my home.  Since I was on a budget most of the furniture I bought required assembly which means each piece came with directions.

I’m a guy, I don’t do directions.  Of course never following directions has led me to more failures than successes when assembling things, and more cursing than smiling.  This was my home I was talking about, and a part-time bedroom for my daughter.  I wanted to do this right.

Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Pretty simple formula.  I wonder why so many fail to follow...

Step. Step. Step. Step. Pretty simple formula. I wonder why so many fail to follow…

As I embarked on assembling a house full of furniture; tables, beds, curtain rods, chairs, shelves, etc., I decided that following the directions would be primary in the process.  With each table, each shelf, and each curtain rod, I followed the directions precisely.  And son of a bitch, after a weekend of reading information, and assembling it as instructed – one step at a time, I had a house full of furniture.

Directions in fitness…

It’s pretty simple.  Whether they come from me, a trainer in your gym, or from a well authored book, most directions are usually clear.  Follow them.  Understand each step before you take it.  Complete each step the very best of your ability.  Proceed to the next step.  Each time one instruction is completed; a meal is prepared, a repetition is completed, an exercise is finished, it is a mile marker on the road to the completed project.

Sometimes it's really a good idea to follow directions...

Sometimes it’s really a good idea to follow directions…

Despite how many times I have handed simple, easy to follow directions to students, I know more often than not they will accept them and never look at them again – especially in the area of eating.  Accept the plan.  Commit to the plan.  Follow the plan.  If you get confused, call the 800 number at the bottom of the plan.  Whether you’re putting together a new coffee table, or a new you, following the directions will lead you to a much better outcome than doing it on your own.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from  Sonnybones.  Enjoy…

Building A Tighter Fence…

This is Part II of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  Please click here to read Part I.

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Being Busy Is A Good Problem To Have…

I’ve been chugging along pretty good of late.  As I wrote in Part I of this series, with the exception of just a couple of movements, my gym strength is at an all-time high, and my muscle mass is better than I had hoped for being in my 50s.  My overall level of conditioning, cycling, and trail times are excellent.  It’s been a good year with my physicality.  However, there can be limits to success, even when all is going well.  In this case, these limits are self-imposed.

As a small business, I generally don’t say no to new business.  This autumn my work schedule increased. With the increased work load, my opportunity to exercise, has decreased proportionately.  I guess things got good at just the wrong time.  Since my strength, and my physique goals have been on the more aggressive side during the past 18 months, and my time to train has been minimized, I have had to reduce the boundaries of my workouts.  Hard as it is to admit, work should be my priority.

The time boundaries I have set for myself with regard to my exercise are rigid, otherwise there’s no point in establishing them.  This is a time when I have to choose quality over quantity with my all of my athletic training.  Within these limits, I am obligated to accept the results of the end product.  Even if the end product is not what I desire, it’s what I have time for.  I’m 7 weeks into this adjustment, and to this point, my strength and my physique have not suffered.

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Some days my work schedule is more packed than a train New Delhi. How ironic that there’s less time to train on this train…

Efficiency As A Foundation…

I have always trained with efficiency.  Through the years I have found a way to blend high-intensity strength training with volume work, and still come out on the near side of an hour.  My strength workouts are generally completed in less than 50 minutes.  Despite these short duration workouts, the volume of work has been relatively high since I rest little between sets.

On average for large profile muscle groups; back, quads, chest, I perform 12-15 sets, most of which are compound movements.  For the one dimensional muscles such as biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and deltoids, I have always performed 4-6 sets of an isolation movement each.

I have always fit in plyometric work when I can, often in-between sets of strength exercises.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, has taken place independent of my strength workouts, and is done almost daily.

Bringing In The Fence…

When being busy with work, and having a strong desire to stay fit intersect, a compromise is in order.  Since work is my livelihood, and being in shape is my hobby, the compromise lands solely on the shoulders of my hobby.

In recent weeks I have reduced the clock of my strength sessions to 40 minutes – period.  Wherever I am in the workout, the clock stops at 40 minutes.  This has had me at about 8-10 sets for the larger profile muscles, and 3-5 sets for the smaller ones.  As always, the heaviest possible weight is used, in the best possible form.  Only the volume has been reduced.

This reduction in time has a placed me into a simple mindset at the start of each workout; I have just 40 minutes to complete this workout, so I must maximize every single repetition, but that’s not really new.  Again, the heaviest possible weight, in the best possible form, with an absolute minimal rest.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, is now just 3-4 days per week, but has increased in intensity.

Getting more from, Les…?  No, getting more from less!!!

Getting more from, Les…? No, getting more from less!!!

Living within these boundaries has only served to raise my game.  Putting limits on the time I spend developing my power, has enabled me to reach new power.  Again, despite the reduced time, and reduced volume of training, my strength is at an overall high.  I’m even flirting with a clean 450 deadlift, and can hammer out 12 miles on my bike in 30 minutes.

The End Of The World, Not…

When you can look the devil in the eye, shake hands, and walk away without fear, you step into a new dimension.

I have never liked to admit this, but exercise has been a relentless seductress in my life.  She’s been good to me yes, but at times I’ve made her a much greater priority than she’s needed to be.  That’s on me though, not on exercise.  That’s about priorities.

For most of my life, when exercise has curled her index finger, pulled it back to draw me in with the promise of a good feeling, I have always jumped.  I’m strong enough these days, to walk away when faced with greater priorities such as making a living, or being there for my family, and my friends.

So I’m taking more days away from exercise due to my work schedule, but also due to an increased desire to stay connected with friends and family.  Take note, these are not intentional rest days.  There are just a couple of days per week when my workday extends up to 13 or 14 hours.  On those days, preparation for my next workday is the priority, not my own workout.  Or, and I may just want to watch a game with friends, or spend more time on the phone with my daughter.  Exercise can wait another day.

As I have imposed new limits on my exercise time, the world has not come to an end.  Shortening my workouts, and missing a few more of them per month has not made me obese, weak, or deconditioned.  This has simply set me up to be a better businessman, a better father, and a better friend.  And if lessening my gym time does cost me strength, add fat to my waist, or make me less conditioned, it still won’t be the end of the world.  Lessening my priorities though… Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks for Part III of my series on The Limits Of Power; what gets left behind.  Oh, and there’s this from Gary Clark Jr.   Enjoy…

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

 mystic

When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

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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 Spain.  Enjoy…

A RUN FOR FUN IS QUICKLEY DONE…

This is the final installment of my intermittent series on running.  To revisit the first three essays, they are available here.  Part I, Part II, Part III

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Gone with the wind…

For those who have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I have maintained a love/hate relationship with the ideal of running – throughout my entire life.  I have run though, because I do fitness for a living.  Since running is an alleged standard of fitness, I have always felt a responsibility to perform at an average level, or a little above on rare occasions.

Here’s the truth:  I hate running more than a hundred yards or so at a time – I just do.  Not far beyond the quarter mile mark of most every run I have ever taken, the act of running has become a joyless chore that I can’t wait to complete.  By the end of most runs I find I would rather be whipped across my back with a salt encrusted porcupine than take another step.  Still, I have run.

I have felt this way since my first cross country run in the 7th grade.  During the thousands of runs I have taken since, I have most always wanted to stop a run, turn, and slowly walk home.  One word has always defined my running experience; hateful.  I find the feeling of running hateful.  Despite these feelings, I have run thousands of times – thousands.  I have run competitive 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons, and full marathons, and have even participated in a 200 mile relay race from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Competing in last year's Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Competing in last year’s Ragnar relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

I have run alone, I have run with friends, and I have run with strangers on occasion.  With the exception of one 1/2 marathon, and a couple of inspired runs in Athens, and on the island of Mykonos last year, I have found little joy in running, only obligation.  I have pretended to like running as I have pretended to like a cute girl who scarcely knows the recipe for toast.

roy_athens

After a rare inspired run at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens last year….

Breaking the chains of obedience…

Sprinting however, the act of running my guts out, and being immediately done with it, I have always appreciated.  And I’m good at it.  I have been fast for short distances my whole life, and I recover quickly from such runs.

Where for the past 10 years or so I have regularly fit at least a few 2 to 4 mile runs per week into my schedule, often longer and more frequent runs when race preparations have warranted it, I now divorce myself from the emotional ball and chain that is the joyless run.  I cite irreconcilable differences.

Sprint protocol….

I have taken up once again with a flame from the past; interval sprint workouts.  I have loved, enjoyed, and always looked forward to these – since I was a teen.  That’s just how I’m wired.  I write essays, not novels.  I run sprints, not distance.  In the absence of those regular short distance runs, I have begun again to enjoy a 30 minute sprint workout, one which I have been doing on and off since I was 17 years old.

My unscientific protocol, which  have enjoyed in the past, and have come to enjoy again is simple; I run 70-100 yards at roughly 70% – 80% capacity.  I stop, I turn, and I walk back to where I started.  I then immediately turn, and run again.  I do this uninterrupted for roughly 30 minutes.  I walk away stimulated, cleansed, refreshed, and better conditioned for my efforts.

This protocol is nothing I have ever read about.  It can find no scientific basis to support it.  I’ve never met anyone else who does it, though I have shared it with others, and some of them continue it to this day as a primary form of exercise.  I made this workout up when I was an awkward teen looking to fill a void in my non-social Friday and Saturday nights.

I have always found this workout to be challenging, achievable, good conditioning, and dare I say less toxic on my joints than longer slower runs.  Perhaps this lack of harshness has to do with a sprinting stride being more horizontal than a jogging stride, thus minimizing impact on the feet, and the supporting joints.  That’s just logical speculation on my part though.

Let me make clear, this not based on the currently in-vogue Tabata protocol.  Nor is this a question of HIIT vs. steady-state cardio.  This is Jhciacb protocol at its best; a recipe exclusive to the creator which I have used at various times in my life to sooth my brain, alleviate my stress, stay on the leaner side, and make me feel good – if only for a moment.

I pray to Crom…

With regard to my many running friends who will find blasphemy in my contempt for distance running, I am truly sorry.  I don’t share my feeling about longer runs to offend you, and I respect that running brings you such joy.  However, I have never experience that kind of joy from running distances.  The stress of forcing my sprinting square peg into a distance running round hole has just grown tiresome.

I’m not out to bash your god, distance runners.  I’m just no longer willing to be obedient to him.  In running as in life, I don’t pray to your god, I pray to mine.  For far too long now I have forgotten the importance of being true to that ideal – in running as in life.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this recent video which fittingly accompanies a great song from Gary Numan.  Enjoy…

Unintended Consequences…

This blog post has gone viral in recent days.  It has lit up the internet all week, gathering moss with a mob mentality that I’m not on board with.

I understand where the author is coming from, and why.  I’m in the fitness business too – I get it.  I have seen women cry in my studio far too often, and for all the wrong reasons.  In these times I have done my best to reassure them that nothing matters more than being a good mom, a good wife, and a good person in the community.

I say often that in the end none of us will be judged by the shape of our abs or whether we do sinister justice to a pair of skinny jeans.  The pressure women feel to be lean, sexy, ripped, etc., is severe, it’s increasing, it’s everywhere, and is completely unnecessary.

However there aren’t just two sides to every story or every idea as this blog suggests.  Like coastlines, ideas can be endlessly distilled with fractal geometry; the angles can be reduced to smaller angles, and smaller angles still, and are seemingly infinite.  As always, I suggest one be careful before choosing sides, or piling on a cause too soon.

Most of the memes, and sayings represented in this blog post seem to have been created, and shared in the spirit of raising one’s game.  I truly believe that, and I respect that.  I seriously doubt that any non-corporate individual would ever create or caption signs like these as a way to belittle women, influence them into behavior they don’t wish to participate in, or to shame them into state of emotional distress.

Memes like this are dangerous...

Memes like this can be dangerous…

This is not to suggest that it hasn’t happened, clearly it has.  These ideas can be dangerous.  But from the perspective of those who create, and share such memes, I’m sure there were no thoughts of the unintended consequences to be absorbed by women everywhere.

Does this mean they are “bullshit” as the author suggests…?  I don’t believe so.  For my part, I have tried hard to motivate, and inspire people without it use of such ideals.  Even my personal tag, Train Like An Athlete, Eat Like A Shark, Walk Like A God is found to be over the top by some, so I don’t use it anymore.  A little mindfulness and humility can go a long way.  However I can appreciate the kind of motivation, effort, and the positive changes memes like these can facilitate.

Conversely, spreading the idea that real women have curves might seem innocent, and even supportive, but that’s dangerous too.  I have seen many women through the years take unnecessary liberties with their own physicality, and abandon successful eating and exercise habits in favor of doing less for themselves because they have been told by others that it’s okay to do so.  Too often, the others influencing this behavior do so because obesity, like misery, loves company.

Just as dangerous...

And memes like this can be Just as dangerous…

The author refers to these ideals as, “irresponsible”.  I find that statement itself irresponsible inasmuch as he’s placing himself on a pedestal as a voice of reason.  Though he may be a voice of reason for some, he aims his passion and enthusiasm at many who are trying very hard to do good work, and for good reasons.

What further troubles me about this is that it also singles out, and belittles success – the success that many have experienced in finding or creating a new life.  Being championed by, or championing others is an honorable endeavor.  It’s unfair that many endeavors do have at least some unintended consequences.  But really, who is that on…?  I don’t believe what makes a woman real is six-pack abs or curves.  What makes a woman real is her priorities.

Where I am in agreement with the author, and where I do take exception is when corporations invest millions of dollars into sharing these memes because they ARE trying to guilt and shame women into spending lots of money on devices, supplements, and products that will offer little or no return for that investment.  These ad campaigns are aimed directly a woman’s self-esteem.  I find that sickening, if not completely ‘Merican.

This fever this blog post has created is just one more example of people choosing sides in this social media era, piling on, and muting the conversation before the conversation ever begins.  Ready.  Fire.   Aim.

The fitness industry is nearing the trillion dollar mark annually.  Every day of my life I think about walking away from it – yes, every single day.  On a very large scale, my industry is insincere, scheming, and false.  At best, it’s smug, and lacks decorum as a collective.

There are some mindful people though, out there every single day working hard to help others – without passing judgment one way or another.  Just knowing those people exist keeps me in the game – for now.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks.  Enjoy…

A slow turning…

Much is discussed and argued in the media and online communities these days, about the state and the future of the food system.  Many take note that our national eating behaviors are worse than ever.  Others suggest that there are better ways to feed the nation.  Most just sit back, observe, and continue to accept the status quo.  Pass the hydrogenated, sodium laden, 20-year shelf life butter substitute please.

There is no shortage of opinions on the subjects of fast food, GMOs, obesity, diabetes, local farming, corporate monocultures, high fructose corn syrup, and the varied eating styles and dieting fads which fall in and out of vogue these days. These conversations are ubiquitous, but are they productive…?

It’s obvious something is wrong.  It’s obvious there are potential solutions.  It’s obvious that there are as many people who care about improving the food system, as there are people willing to exploit it, or settle for it in its current state.

I’ll suggest that the following statements are true:

– We would all like to see a more mindful food system.

– We would all like to see more intelligent uses of the food system; one which promote healthier lives, and healthier lifestyles for everyone.

– The food system, in its current state, is not set up to promote health as a first priority.  Rather, it exists to promote profit as a first priority – acknowledging though, that there are some considerations for health by some components within the food system.

– There is an increasing awareness among many segments of the population that the food system is faltering, but can be improved upon with corporate and individual diligence.

– To improve the food system, there will be required a spreading of awareness by way of activism, networking, volunteering, and use of the social media.

So where am I going with all of this…?

Changes of this magnitude don’t take place overnight.  Being Americans though, we do look for those changes overnight.  That’s not how social change works.  I’ll suggest if we just take simple actions daily, and encourage our children to take simple actions daily, we can look to the future for change in hopes that our children’s children will reap the benefits of the sacrifice we make today.

I have begun to think about the changes in our food system, and our use of the food system, as being analogous to the American civil rights movement during the middle part of our last century.  Change comes slowly. We often don’t see change as it manifests around us. That doesn’t mean that change isn’t taking place – just ask Darwin.

social_change_is_good1

We can look back at a history of widespread hatred; lynchings, church burnings, and acts of racial prejudice in the early and mid-20th century America.  Today, we can look around us to see black head coaches, generals, CEOs, and even a president.

Are there still hatred, prejudice, and acts of violence against non-whites…?  Of course there are.  However, these instances are fewer, and further between, by far, than they were 40 years ago.  Looking back, it took decades of consistent grassroots efforts, volunteering, activism, spreading social awareness, and sacrifice for those changes to slowly manifest.  To this day, those changes must be guarded.

racism

I look back at the progress though, that has been made with civil rights during the past 6 decades, and I do have some hope – if not for the food system of today, for the food system of tomorrow, through the work being done today.

A lynching today would not be acceptable.  Perhaps people 60 years from now will feel the same way about giving a 1,500 calorie milk shake with 225 grams of sugar to a child after school.  We still lynch, but it’s just a drive through kind of lynching.  The #3 Value Meal has enough calories to support a human life for 2 days AND, it costs less than $4.  We lynch ourselves, and we lynch our children – it’s just a slow lynching.

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it...

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it…

I understand there is a large difference between racially based hate crimes, and the offering of junk food to a loved one.  In that sense, perhaps we should refer to the ritual of sharing unhealthy foods as, love crimes.  Think about that; love crimes.

Take note:  My comparison of racism in America to the faltering food system is not about the severity or intentions of either.  There is no comparison.  Prejudice is an evil that far exceeds the dangers of Pop-Tarts, and aspartame.  My comparison is about the time required to see tangible results in changing social trends of any kind.

Take action today.  Teach your children today.  Have hope for the next generation, if not for tomorrow.  Be well.  rc


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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 is this from, The Men.  Enjoy…

 

Music to my nerves…

I wrote this a couple of months back as a guest blog for Tamara at http://www.fitknitchick.com

I have been contemplating heavily in recent weeks about the idea of exercise being a physical form of music which offers parallel sensations and benefits.

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Music to my nerves…

I practice strength training for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that the connection it fosters between the thinking me, and the physical me can be as soothing and as formative in my life as music has been. In that sense, the act of strength training is music – physical music.

The body in motion, acting as directed by the mind, cooperatively though under stress, is a kinetic ensemble which can blend to create a satisfying result. That kind of ensemble movement can be to feeling, what an ensemble of sounds can be to hearing.

“Music has the power of wings.” Mike Scott, of The Waterboys

“Music has the power of wings.” Mike Scott, of The Waterboys

Being strong is a good problem to have…

The utility of strength training in the modern era is unequalled as a form of exercise.  That is just my opinion.  However, as a person who has taught exercise beyond traditional strength training, and as an athlete who over a lifetime has practiced and participated in many more genres of sport and fitness, I believe my opinion is worth your consideration.

It may be called strength training, but practiced properly its value extends far beyond strength.

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Sticks and stones…

There is no type of medicine that can reverse the inevitable loss of bone density which occurs in people beyond middle age.  There are some relatively benign medications which can slow down the loss of bones density, and a couple of more harsh medications that can cease it.  None of these medications though, can be taken without inherent vulnerabilities disclosed elsewhere.

The regular practice of strength training can slow down the onset of bone density loss in all ages.  So long as the strength training is practiced properly, it comes with almost no vulnerabilities.  Tension on muscles equals tension on bones, and regular tension on bones is what helps slow down the loss of density.

Love me tendon…

Strength training makes muscles stronger.  And trees are made out of wood.  What goes largely unrecognized with strength training, and largely unappreciated, is that strength training can promote tendon strength as well. 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. For those who experience difficulty with joints due to injuries, arthritis, or other damage, having stronger tendons on each side of the joint can offer needed support.

The practice of traditional strength training, using lighter to more moderate weights, performed slowly, and through a complete range of motion will help tendons become stronger. The support increased tendon strength offers those with trouble joints can be summed up in one word; confidence.

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In transition…

Of all the values associated with strength training, the one that goes the most unappreciated, underrated, and the one which is rarely maximized by the general fitness population, is the transition phase during the lift.

When one transitions from the eccentric phase of a strength movement, to the concentric phase, and maintains absolute control of the weight during this transition, as he applies complete concentration to the muscles involved, true strength is developed.  This is the kind of strength that generates confidence as much as it generates power – everyday life kind of strength.

Strength gained from mastering the transition phase of a resistance exercise is most applicable to one’s daily life – much more so than the bragging rights associated with how much weight was on the bar.  This can be where mommy strength is created, where the might of a daddy is developed, and where the power of the employee can be cultivated.  This is the kind of strength one will appreciate possessing – beyond the gym walls.

(an example of a seamless transition in a strength exercise)

Beyond pop: melody, lyrics, and structure…

A pop song is often underappreciated – just something to be heard as background noise or to pass the time.  However, there is much more behind a pop song than most people will ever recognize or appreciate.  There are benefits to a pop song far beyond superficial entertainment.  When one extracts the multitude of values contained in a pop song; the lyrics, the intentions, and the energy, and applies those values to their own frame of mind, a person’s world can be changed for the better.

Traditional strength training is often considered to be superficial, like a pop song.  Lifting weights equals bigger muscles, and more strength – big deal.

Like music though, strength training can offer much more when accepted on a more visceral level.  When one extracts the multitude of values, and better understands the reaching benefits of strength training, a person’s world can be changed for the better.

Of course the benefits of strength training don’t end there.  With regular strength training, one’s blood pressure can be reduced, attention spans can be increased, and mental acuity can be heightened. Strength training can promote better balance, enhance flexibility, and of course, improve our appearance.

Of course all of that should be music to everyone’s ears. Be well… rc

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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 is this from The Cure, my favorite pop song — EVER!  Enjoy…