Spring ’16: Cameras, Smartphones & Gi-tars men…

Spring Has Sprung…

I have been hiking, running, and slow walking Monserate Mountain and the Los Jilgueros preserve in Fallbrook for 16 years.  In all that time I don’t remember the sum of the skies, the greens, and the earth coming together so often, in such color, and so willing to be received.  This has been the best spring season I can remember.

I left my fancy camera behind last summer when I left Temecula, and never looked back.  I never used it that much anyway.  Too complicated — to many buttons, too much to think about, not fast enough in process.  Not for my process anyway.

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Going forward I am a committed smartphone photographer.  I will let the available light and where I stand dictate any would-be results, based on the fact that I live in a beautiful place.  As in the gym and at the dining table, I do better when I impose strict limitations on myself.

A good comparison for this…

 Eric Johnson is one of the most talented guitar players alive.  With regard to his skills, his tone, and his process, he expands on and enhances these with technology.  Guitars.  Effects.  Peddles.  Amps.  Processors.  Mixers.  And about  all of this, he is very protective and secretive.  At the end of the day though, Eric Johnson might be the Wagner of the electric guitar.

Seasick Steve, on the other hand, plays a guitars often made of hubcaps, washboards, broomsticks, and scrapyard components.  Most often, they just have a string or two.  Given the choice, I would honestly rather see Steve play live than Johnson.  That’s just my shtick.

As the saying goes, KISS.  Keep It Simple Schleprock.

Down The Road…

Spring is winding down.  Hopefully May gray and June gloom will help keep all the greens a little greener for a little longer this season.  By August there will be more browns than greens, and as beautiful as this community is, I’ll need to find other subjects to photograph.  Probably the area homeless, and in black & white.

I have prioritized walking in nature this Spring in a way I previously have not.  For at least one hour per day, often longer, I am stopping, observing, listening, smelling, and yes, photographing.  Relationships, above all things, are what we are here for.  My relationship with nature has never meant more to me.  That new found fulfillment is due in large part to me stopping, pointing, and capturing.  Looking for beauty helps one see beauty.

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Here’s a quick recipe for happiness.  Live in a beautiful place. Take make time to enjoy that place.  Share that beautiful place with grace.  Be well…  rc

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

The Primary Colors Of Strength…

Few Ingredients…

We learn the primary colors early in life, often before we even learn to read. From combining just 3 colors; red, yellow, and blue, all other colors can be reached. Often though, we don’t need much more than the primary colors to achieve a creative conclusion.

Though many great works of art include a myriad of colors from across the spectrum, it is the seasoned artist who understands best where and how to apply those colors, or even if they are needed. Even so, some of the most advanced artists through the years have been touted for their simplest works. We call this minimalism.

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The Workout As A Form Of Art…

All traditional strength exercises are variations of 6 simple movements; pushing, pulling, bending, torso rotation, squatting, and raising the extremities laterally. Every strength exercise is a variation of those 6 primary movements.  What is a workout, if not an expression of creativity…?

Pushing: The use of force to transfer a load away from our body. There is vertical pushing, horizontal pushing, downward pushing, and pushing through any angle in-between.

Pulling: The use of force to draw a load toward our body. We can pull from overhead, pull from in front, we can pull from below, or we can pull from any angle in-between.

Squatting, bending, torso rotation, and raising the arms and legs laterally have as many variations.

Other ways in which we can vary our pushing and pulling are by adjusting hand positions. Wide grips, medium grips, narrow grips, overhand grips, and underhand grips can all be used to promote variety in the pushing and pulling aspects of strength training. These varying angles and hand positions allows us to direct tension to different areas of our musculature. In squatting, varying one’s foot position can have the same effect.

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Primarily Speaking…

I try and teach my students that not every painting requires every color. In fact, the works of art I appreciate most are those with few colors and few complexities. Similarly, not every workout needs every possible angle, hand, or foot position. This is a mistake I see frequently with others; the more is better mindset. Walk into any gym and you’ll see people of all ages and all levels of proficiency performing set after set of many variations of the same exercise by changing angles, hand, and foot positions until they are exhausted.

Though I also tend to pursue this type of variety in my workouts, I do so more on a monthly basis, not by the workout. That is, in the course of a month I might include bench presses performed on an incline bench, on a flat bench, or on a decline bench.  I might perform chest presses on a machine, with dumbbells, or with barbells in a month’s time – there is value in all of these, but rarely do I duplicate them in a given workout. Not only can that duplication be detrimental to the muscles by over training them, it is a very large waste of time – my most valued commodity.

Though variety will help to foster progress in hypertrophy and functional physicality, it is variety over time which matters much more than variety within a workout. Like the simple painting, simplicity in the structure of a workout can offer more from less.

It’s Not Rocket Science

We live in the granite counter top generation. We decorate every wall. Most of us have at least some clothes in our closet which we rarely wear or have never worn. Our phones have more power than most of us can comprehend, and our cars now do things which we could do on our own not long ago. Increasing social and technical complexity are among our many co-masters.

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For my time in the gym, that is where the real beauty is; in a lack of complexity. I usually perform one variation each, of 6 basic movements in my workouts, and use the 13.7 billion year old force of gravity to affect them. Despite what social media, many fitness trainers, and the fitness industry at large might have you believe, it’s not rocket science – it’s a simple art. Be creative, and 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 Van Morrison. Enjoy!

Confessions Of A Cutter…

I confess, I have been in a cutting phase lately. By “cutting” I don’t mean sitting in a dark room with heavy mascara on my eyes, listening to Bauhaus, and hacking away at my wrists with the jagged edge of a broken Coke bottle. Cutting, in the fitness vernacular, is a reference to the cutting of body fat. I want to bring mine down a few percentage points, so I have changed up my eating a little bit.

Great music to cut by.  Even for cutting weight...

Great music to cut by. Even for cutting weight…

When I (and millions of others) have done this in the past it has been with a protocol of eating twigs, kale, small amounts of brown rice, egg whites, fish and very little else. Those of us who have cut on such diets always seem to spend a great deal of time preparing less than glamorous meals, that we might be living in a lesser state of enjoyment for their tasteless deprivation. I have been there many times.

This time out, as I have in the past, I am getting as much of my calories as I can from vegetables, fruits, and animal protein sources such as lean beef, chicken, and sea food. However, this time out I’m a little too busy and a little too idontgiveafuck to go about things the way I have in the past.

Fine.  Really.  Just cutting calories...

Fine. Really. Just cutting calories…

For example, one thing I have been doing through this cutting phase that is very different from my past protocol is that I eat on the run much more. Rather than spend the 30-45 minutes preparing and eating my usual breakfast of eggs and steamed vegetables each morning, I’m keeping it simple with an Egg McMuffin on the way in to work. Yes, an Egg McMuffin. Take note, most days I get the regular Egg McMufin too, not the Egg White Delight. On the days I’m fortunate enough to eat at home, I’m partial to the Jimmy Dean bagel/sausage sandwiches.

You may not agree with me on this one, but I'm right!

You may not agree with me on this one, but I’m right!

Lunch these days is even simpler – almost always a Greek chicken salad at one of the local diners, or a salad bowl from Chipotle. Good ingredients, served up quickly, and usually under $10. I have things to do. When I do prepare my lunch ahead of time and bring it with me, it’s usually just frozen vegetables – well seasoned and thrown into a plastic container with some cut up chicken or pork on top and that’s it.

Under $10 at the local diner.  Oh, and a cute girl brings it to me!

Under $10 at the local diner. Oh, and a cute girl brings it to me!

And when I'm in a real hurry...

And when I’m in a real hurry…

My daytime snacks are taken mid-morning and mid-afternoon and usually include a cut up apple or grapefruit, accompanied by a cheese stick and a few Triscuit wafers.

Dinner for me is just as simple; usually a small grilled steak or piece of chicken with asparagus or broccoli, and a small salad. Or maybe just some quick-stirred ground beef tossed into a romaine leaf – always followed by a single spoonful of ice-cream.

Ten minutes - start to finish...

Ten minutes – start to finish…

Dessert -- one spoonful at a time...

Dessert — one spoonful at a time…

My last meal of the day is roughly 4 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt stirred up with a scoop of protein powder. I have this right before I go to sleep.

I have made the argument for a long time that our nation would be a MUCH healthier place as a collective if everyone who lives in a state of obesity simply ate an Egg McMuffin for breakfast, had a Smart Ones and a piece of fruit for lunch, and a reasonable dinner. I can make the argument just as easily and just as strong that those who wish to cut the vanity 5 or 10 pounds could eat the same way with great results. This is simply about portion control, ease of transaction, and commitment.

Whatever your feelings are about corporations, monoculture foods, and GMOs, please save them for another argument – that’s not my point. The point is that I have been successfully cutting body fat eating this way, and I haven’t had to think twice about it. Keep in mind I’m about 8 weeks in to this cutting phase and down about 10 pounds. Though I recommend losing no more than ½ pound per week for most people, my decline is more rapid due to my bicycle commute to work each day.

This eating protocol isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have a fancy name. It’s not trendy. It’s not endorsed by Reebok, CrossFit, or Dr. Oz. It is though, simple, inexpensive, tasty (a relative term, I know), sustainable, affordable – and it will work for anyone willing to commit to it. For me this about going from 180 lbs. to 165 lbs. There are millions of people though, who might benefit from such a simplistic because their lives depend on it.

Lastly, every couple of weeks I put it aside for a day.  Pizza, fish & chips, orange chicken from Panda Express — whatever.  I choose my battles always remembering that if I win 2 days out of 3, I’m ahead of the game.  If I win 3 days out of 4, that much more.  And even if I win 1 and lose one, it’s still a break even proposition.   Just some food for thought – so to say Be well… rc

A meal like this every couple of weeks does a soul -- and a body good...

A meal like this every couple of weeks does a soul — and a body good…

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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 Perry and the Travelers. Enjoy!

In Theory…

My Three Theories

I call it Rachel Theory, and I began developing it in the 8th grade.  Simply put, Rachel Theory suggests that there’s no such thing as an ugly Rachel.  I’m 50 years old and to this day I have yet to lay eyes on a Rachel who isn’t beautiful, or at least pretty.  I have not completed my work on this area yet, and likely will not have a conclusion until I draw my final breath.  So far though, my work on Rachel Theory seems solid.

Kitten Theory.  Kitten Theory is more complicated.  I suggest that if I engage in conversation with a woman I have not previously met, and within the initial moments of the conversation I flippantly refer to her as, Kitten, I will win her favor immediately.  I know this is counterintuitive, but it works.   The woman in question realizes that pronouncement is over the top and tries to be offended by it, but she just can’t be.  She’s arrested by the immediacy of it.  Add to that, who doesn’t love to look at, hold kittens, and appreciate the cuteness of a kitten…?   In an instant she will be associating herself with soft fuzzy cuteness.  From there, I will simply be my charming self and all will be good.  Again, my work here is not complete, but thus far Kitten Theory has yielded good results.

My favorite self-derived theory though, is Chili Theory.  Like Rachel Theory, Chili Theory is simple; there’s no such thing as bad chili, only different levels of good.  Of the healthy items I produce on a regular basis, my chili most resembles jazz or the blues.  Every single performance is different, and improvisation is the key.  So far, Chili Theory is holding up well.  The next bad batch of chili I make will be my first.

Constantly Testing The Theory

I make a pot of chili every other Tuesday.  Always slow cooked in a Crock Pot, always more meat than beans, and after my first taste it always makes me shout the word, Grrrdiggity.  Not a real word.  The music of my chili is classified in the genre of healthy eating – sometimes jazz based, sometimes blues based, but always organic in arrangement and unique.  I’m the producer, and I select the session players, but for the most part, I just assemble them and allow them to just do their thing.  One Crock Pot of chili kept in the refrigerator will supply a daily dose of taste bud music for about two weeks.

I made a simple pot of chili this week because I had little to work with in the ways of players and production time.  Still, this week’s chili has become an instant hit for me.  I’ve don’t offer recipes on this platform because that’s not what this fitness blog is about.  However, this week I’m going to share the chili that is currently climbing the charts and will likely end up in my chili hall of fame.  Like the music of Seasick Steve, it comes from simple stuff.

The Players

  • Two bounds of grass fed, steroid and antibiotic free ground beef
  • Twelve roasted chipotle chilies
  • Two cans of diced green chilies (normally I use fresh but limited time this week)
  • One can of black beans rinsed in a colander
  • One can of cannellini beans rinsed in a colander
  • Ten vine ripened tomatoes sliced in fourths
  • One white onion finely diced
  • Unidentified secret spices; you can choose your own (hint: one of them rhymes with rinnamon)

The Arrangement And The Playbacks

Put all the players in the Crock Pot, turn the volume to high, walk away and enjoy the scent of the concert.  Smell the music for about 8 hours or so and occasionally offer some production by stirring the players up – they love that.  This music will give to the nose first, but on completion, 4 large tablespoons at a time, this music will give to the taste buds every day for up to two weeks.

How is it, you ask, that just four tablespoons of chili are able to sustain one as a meal…?  Out there as this may sound, I serve it to myself over piles of steamed vegetables.  Usually over steamed broccoli, sometimes steamed Brussels sprouts, or steamed zucchini – occasionally a blend of all of the aforementioned.  Chili over vegetables you ask…?  Yes!

Okay, here’s the punch line; I eat this for breakfast.  Yes I, Roy Jhciacb Cohen, have eaten chili over steamed vegetables for breakfast nearly every day for two months.  What a great way to start the day; a right mix of protein, carbohydrate, and vegetables.  A breakfast without veggies is like a song without a bass – pointless.  My morning chili over veggies sustains me for hours.

Sometimes it’s a beef based chili.  Other times it’s turkey, chicken, or even bison which provide the back beat.  For time’s sake, the meat I use is usualy ground.  When time permits, I prefer it shredded or in chunks.  The session players change from week to week, and no two sessions are ever the same.  Next week, it’s going to be ground lamb and garbanzo beans, some Bearss limes fresh off the tree, and whoever else shoes up for the jam.   But it’s not jam, it’s chili – breakfast chili.  Be well.  rc

Please check back in two weeks to see what comes out when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Oh, and there is this from Seasick Steve.  From such simple ingrediants…  Enjoy!

The Chaos Within…

A tease for my upcoming column on the chaos within.  Please check back back next week for the completed column.  In a related story, please take time to read Burning Embers, by my friend Robert Sommers.   Below is an excerpt from next week’s column:

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“I long to be in a simpler state.  Taking inventory of the events of the day – of these days, is better disclosing to me the chaos deep within; the chaos within me, within the world, within an idea or and within an atom.  We are doomed, yet we may only be probable at a given moment.  Humanity itself is either my illusion, or is god’s own Ponzi scheme.    

The events in Japan have been heart-wrenching to watch unfold – from my comfortable sofa.   Like many of you, I want to give Japan a big hug, or to roll up my shirts sleeves and help them dig out, but $75 via PayPal will have to suffice.  Earthquake, tsunami, radiation, and chaos add up quickly to become guilt for me not being there to receive god’s ass-whoopin’ myself.  Rarely do I get included in disasters, warfare, or turmoil anymore.  Put me in Coach Yahweh, put me in…

I feel like a donation is not enough.  I feel helpless toward my human brothers and sisters in need.  Still, the events in Japan won’t change the facts that my bills need to be paid, my dogs wake me up barking every morning at 3:00am, and I find the hair on the backs of my ears rather unsightly, and am concerned that people will judge me for its presence.  And at the end of the day, I ride my bike 18 miles, and on completion I run 3 more – that I can feel good about myself.”

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Please check back next week for my completed column on The Chaos Within.  Oh, and there is this from Akira Kurosawa.  Thanks Ewa.  Enjoy…