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!

Intentional Trainer…

Critical Mass…

It has been pointed out to me that I can be excessively critical of fitness trainers not named Roy Cohen. Maybe. I am confident though, that even the greenest trainer in the average gym knows more about the basics of strength training than a majority of the members in that gym at any given time. My criticisms more often relate to the intentions of the trainer, and his methods.

Above all things, what matters most to me when teaching strength training, are safety and efficiency. If a trainer ensures the safety of the student, and plans an efficient workout, then a positive outcome is more likely. I see this combination, of safety and efficiency, rarely when I visit box gyms.

More often what I see in other trainers are people standing over their clients, scarcely engaged, hypnotically counting, and largely forgetting the task at hand; helping establish an improved physicality for the student.

Intentions…

As a trainer who always invests in the best possible outcome to a given workout with my students, the hardest thing for me to witness in other trainers is a lack of intention. Yet this is the most obvious flaw I see in other trainers – that they would rather be anywhere else.

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There is a good foundation for the cliché that trainers become trainers because they don’t want to get a real job. I can even say that of myself to a degree. I often tell people I get to do recess for a living, but I take my recess seriously. The trainers who don’t take it seriously, make that cliché shine.

Last week I was training in a local box gym. Since I know an executive with that chain, I spoke to her in advance of my workout. She suggested I keep my eye out for a trainer I’ll refer to as Agent RubberMade. She explained that Agent RubberMade was the busiest trainer at that club, that he made good money, was highly regarded, and even trained the president of the company.

Why do I call him Agent RubberMade…? On identifying him at the gym, and watching him for several days, I had regularly seen him eating out of  little RubberMade containers which were ever-present in his hands – while with clients.

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That this trainer is highly popular does not surprise me. He is a competitive bodybuilder, is good looking, and seems to know his stuff. Sometimes I guess that’s all you need. That fact that he knows his stuff is a bonus to his clients. Even if he didn’t, he’d probably still make a good living, and be highly regarded because, good looking bodybuilder…

It’s been 5 weeks now since I’ve been keeping my eye on Agent RubberMade, and he is an adequate trainer though I don’t believe his reputation is deserved. People are certainly getting something in exchange for the time and money they are giving him, but I don’t doubt they are getting full value.

Eating during training sessions notwithstanding, I have seen Agent RubberMade display most of the common stereotypes while training his clients. Texting. Stepping away or turning his back on his client in mid-set to talk with other gym members. Being excessively enthusiastic and back-slappy to the point of annoyance. Allowing his clients to talk during an exercise. And of course the big one for me, not paying enough attention to exercise form.

All that said, his clients are still better off with Agent RubberMade than without him. Without some amount of leadership and instruction, a new gym member has few choices but to mimic the actions of others – who have mimicked others through the generations of fitness enthusiasts, and so-on.

Cash Cow…

Something you may be surprised to learn is that with most of the big chain gyms, the trainers have one job above all others – to generate revenue for the facility. This is done in two ways. One, by selling more training sessions to existing clients. The other is where the real money is made, in getting their clients to bring in new members in the form of friends, family, and coworkers.

That’s right, the criteria for a trainer keeping his job is not in being a good trainer. It’s in being a good salesman. In the corporate structure of most chain gyms, the dedicated salesperson is a job in decline. In the current era, it is the trainer who is depended on to increase revenue for the club. And that business model works.

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Two days ago I ran into an old friend who now trains for this chain of gyms which I am now a member of. He is an excellent trainer, and has been at it for much of his life. After my workout, he and I sat at his desk and caught up a bit. He discussed the sales revenue he generates for his club. In his best month working there he generated $9,000 of new business, though he averages $6,000. That’s pretty good for the club since they keep 60% of that. The trainer gets the rest, but then has to pay taxes and liability insurance out of that.

If the club employs 4-5 trainers bringing in that much new revenue, then that’s $18,000 per month in sales from the floor after the trainers are paid, walk-ins and counter sales notwithstanding. The good news for me as a member of this chain is the 75/25 rule of corporate gyms. That is, 75% of the members which pay monthly dues never uses the club, thus supporting the 25% who pay and do use the facility.

Dedicated Space…

A great irony for the consumer of paid training sessions in big box gyms, is that they are often relegated to small areas in the gym known as the trainer area. These areas often have limited strength and functional fitness equipment. They are in place to keep trainer and client free of the primary workout areas, especially during peak hours when multiple trainers and clients in the open workout area can create traffic jams.

For the cost of a years membership, you can have a "trainer area" in your own basement..

For the cost of a years membership, you can have a “trainer area” in your own basement..

Of course the irony is that the client is not only paying for his gym membership as well as expensive training sessions, but that for all of that money he is corralled into a smaller section of the gym which has less equipment to work with. Many exercises done in the trainer area are body weight exercises which could be done on a person’s living room floor.

Options Away From The Box…

With that in mind, I’ll suggest a better option for many would be to train in a private fitness studio. I don’t say that because I own one. I say it because I have a good understating of the fitness industry at both the micro and the macro level.

Most private fitness studios are not in business to increase profits each month. They are in business because they are run by, and employ people who are more likely to care, and wish to positively impact the lives of others.

I'll suggest that a client/trainer relationship in a big box gym, rarely becomes a life long friendship...

I’ll suggest that a client/trainer relationship in a big box gym, rarely becomes a life long friendship…

Hiring a trainer who will come to your home is also an option – depending on what your goals are, as well as what equipment you may have at your home. This can be a convenient, and far less expensive option than going to a chain gym.

I’m not suggesting that working with trainers in big box gyms is a bad idea. I am though, suggesting that if when one takes crowds, cost, and the trainers intentions into consideration, I would not choose a chain gym as my first option. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks for Part III of this series; a look at the many exercises that make no sense whatsoever. Oh, and there’s this from the great J. Mascis. Enjoy!

The Law Of Gyminished Returns…

This is Part I of a 2 or 3 or maybe even a 4 part essay on my perception of the current state of gym culture. We’ll see where this goes. Please check back in a few weeks for Part II.

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A big box of followers…

I have spent the past 5 weeks training in a chain gym for the first time in many years. As a fitness trainer and a relentless observer of people, this has been a thought cultivating experience.

I can’t help it, with each workout my mind continually toggles back and forth between what I am doing, and what everyone else is doing. So compelled am I to believe that I am always on the most correct path, that I am usually left to believe that most everyone else in the gym is on a dirt road to nowhere.

I won’t go so far as to say a majority of these gym regulars are foolish or blind followers, but I will say that most I observe are being completely inefficient in what I perceive they are trying to accomplish. Regardless of what their goals are; weight loss, body sculpting, or conditioning (it’s usually some combination of these), I’ll suggest that most I see here are not on the most direct path to where they wish to go.

I often ponder obsess on this question: Why do people believe that buying a gym membership is enough…?

Buying a guitar is seldom enough. Buying golf clubs is seldom enough. Lessons on how to use these are usually purchased with them, or shortly thereafter. However, joining a gym is too often a purchase made with no intention of learning how to use it.

At best, a new member might workout with a friend and do what their friend does – who learned from another friend, and so-on. People sign up, show up, and when they are not shown by theirs friends, they just mimic what they see other gym members doing. What could possibly go wrong…?

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The law of gyminished returns…

If a person does something inefficiently in the gym for months or even for years, and nobody ever corrects them or offers them a more efficient path, they ultimately become a veteran of failure, but a veteran nonetheless. As a veteran of the gym they are watched by beginners. Beginners see what gym veterans are doing, and they copy it. Gym culture is now many generations deep into this way of learning.

Think of it as a cassette tape from the 1970s. Back then we could copy an original cassette to a blank cassette on our home stereo. If one then took that copied tape and subsequently made a copy of that copy, the fidelity would decrease. Each successive copy of a copy would lose another degree of fidelity. After so many generations of copying the copies, the music would become less true to its original incarnation.

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In a very real sense, that has been happening with gym culture over period of decades. In particular, how exercises are performed and the volume in which they are performed. As more and more people have copied what others have done before them, who have copied what others have done before them, the overall productivity and effectiveness of the culture has been reduced. That is just my opinion.

Pump up the volume, someone told her…

The most common inefficiency I see though, is too much exercise volume; too many exercises, too many sets per exercise, and too many days per week. Again, this is not just limited to beginners. I have seen many experienced gym goers who exercise with too much volume, and too much frequency. I saw an example of this yesterday. A young woman, maybe 23 years old, and she didn’t appear unfit, but was clearly not any kind of athlete.

I first saw her performing set after set of barbell bench presses. Shortly after, I saw her doing dumbbell bench presses. Sometime after that, I saw her doing chest flies. Later, she was doing push-ups followed by more chest flies.

In the amount of time in which I was able to do multiple exercises for multiple body parts, and complete an entire workout, she had exclusively worked one area of her body, her chest, and did so with an unnecessarily high volume of sets – regardless of her goals.

Because curiosity got the better of me, I broke my never talk to people in the gym rule and asked her about her high volume of training. She explained that she wanted to make her cleavage line more pronounced so a friend suggested that she do every chest exercise she could think of. Good plan!

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I thanked her for her time and walked away without passing judgment. Notwithstanding that she could have already achieved that goal by simply changing her diet, and doing 3 sets of push-ups a day for a month, I wasn’t her trainer, it wasn’t my gym, so it certainly wasn’t my place to offer unsolicited advice.

What is water…

As I looked around after my conversation with the young woman, I better observed that there were many more in the gym just like her – people who had the best of intentions, but were on road to nowhere, or on the road to not very far.

Whether these people were just guessing at what they were doing, copying other members, or getting their strength training instructions from a cassette tape friend 4 generations deep, it was clear to me that few people in the gym were the beneficiaries of sound instruction which related to their specific and unique objectives.

I suddenly felt the old fish in that David Foster Wallace commencement address. What is water…? If I had been brave enough to point out the water to any of them, they would still have no idea what I was talking about… Be well. rc

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Please take a moment to scroll up and rate this, and be sure to check back in a few weeks for part-2 of this essay. Part-2 will address fitness trainers in big box gyms. Hint: If you ever see trainer turn his back on a client mid-set in order to take another bite of oatmeal with chia seeds in it, he’s probably not your guy.

Oh, and there’s this from Girls Guns & Glory. Enjoy!

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

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

My Belief…

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

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

No Fight In Me…

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

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

Probably All That Can Ever Be Known…

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

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

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

Fast Talkin’ Dawkins…

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

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

Did You Read Anything Up To This Point…?

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

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

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

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

please take a moment to scroll up and rate this

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Mountain Goats.  Enjoy…

The lesser expectations of my lesser self…

Perhaps the most luxurious aspect of knowing how to get into shape is also the most dangerous; that I have the ability to live in a lesser state of shape from time to time – until I feel enough is enough at which point I earn my way out of it. Now is one of those times.

Understand, I’m ahead of the game for 53. I workout regularly, I workout hard, and do so in a way that is both beneficial and sustainable. I’m currently lifting poundages, in some case, heavier than I ever have. I put in 30-60 minutes on the StepMill daily, at a rate of 72 steps per minute. I ride my bike to and from work daily in temperatures below freezing, and often in wind gusts in excess of 50 mph. My balance and flexibility are far above average, and on those rare occasions when I tuck my shirt in, I can still pull it off.

Being in a lesser state of shape for me has less to do with working out, and more to do with eating. It’s worth noting I’m far from obese. I currently weigh about 185 lbs., at roughly 17% body fat. The only six-pack I have is in the fridge, but I’m far from being overweight. I have spent most of this winter so far eating inconsistently with my value system – at least on the weekends.  This has everything to do with depression, discontent with my current life situation, and college football season.

My very kind landlady left me a cake.  What else was I to do...?

My very kind landlady left me a cake. What else was I to do…?

Like many, even trainers are subject to the internal demons such as depression, the external forces that can ruin a good day, and the temptations of the weekend.  Beer me.  Though Monday through Friday it’s been meat and veggies, my relationship with Saturday and Sunday is largely based on barley and cheese.

Each day though, for the past month or so, when I wake up I tell myself today will be the day I right the ship. By 3pm it’s time for hummus and candy. Oh well.

Where I once let this define me, I no longer do. I am a good father – at any body fat percentage. I am a good neighbor – despite my 3am nachos.  I am good trainer – even without a six-pack.

Can I do better…? Yes.  Do I need to…? Those are expectations I put on myself. My clients, my neighbors, and my friends all think I’m just fine.

I can't be trusted with hummus...

I can’t be trusted with hummus…

I’ve cycled through these breaks for many years now.  I’m not talking about being out of shape. I’m just talking about not being lean, jacked & shredded – living in a lesser state of eating. Every so often I take my foot off the gas for a few weeks, or even a month, knowing that when I put it back down, my sports car will blow most anyone else’s SUV off the road.

Vegetables.  Anyone seen my weekend vegetables...?

Vegetables. Anyone seen my weekend vegetables…?

For me, this cycle occurs about every two years or so. I almost think it’s psychologically necessary. I work hard staying in prime shape most of the time because my physicality is tied directly to my livelihood.  Sometimes though, I just need a break. It’s both Ironic and coincidental that these breaks often occur during difficult times in my life. Or maybe not.

I’m going to workout with weights later today, and follow that up with 30 minutes of rigorous cardio.  After that I may enjoy a spinach omelet, or maybe a pizza. Who knows…? This morning finds me in particularly good spirits, and for that I am grateful.  It is though, still football season — so all bets are off.   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 Talking Heads.  Enjoy…

An Open Letter To All My Friends…

Dear Friend,

You came into my life at an extraordinary time. In this age, the internet and social media are truly miraculous. I have become friends with people all over the world, and am able to connect with them from just about any place I stand, nearly any time of day. I’m also better able to stay connected with friends from the past who had become estranged in the pre-internet era.

Though we may not have met yet face-to-face, if I have accepted you into my life as a friend, this means you touched me on some level either superficially, viscerally, or both. I have one rule above all other with my friends; if you are a friend of mine, you are a friend for life.

Now that’s a bold statement that can be easily challenged by an outsider. If I call you a friend and you deliberately do harm of any kind to a loved one of mine, to another friend, or to myself, it would stand to reason that our friendship would falter. Beyond that harm though, the reason I allowed you into my life has not changed. Certainly the dynamic of our friendship might change, but you are still my friend.

Friends don't let friends stay mad -- for too long...

Friends don’t let friends stay mad — for too long…

Agree To Disagree…

My friend, in this age of increasing complexity and constant connectivity, it can seem as chaotic socially as it appears to be politically. I’ll suggest our relationships – our friendships are more challenging to maintain than ever before. I also believe they are more disposable for many.

If we don’t like or agree with somebody’s opinion about something, we often just end the friendship. It’s easy. We just click a tab and they’re gone. If we’re talking about analog friends, we just let their phone calls go to voicemail, never to be returned. I think this though, that friendships in this age matter more than ever.

The more unfriending we do, the more we corrode the possibilities of our society. A part of increasing complexity, in nonzero terms, is that the world might come together with an increased global strength, an increased global respect, an increased global love, and increased global intelligence for the common good.

Old friends, and new...

Old friends, and new…

Let’s Be Real…

I have both analog and virtual friends I often feel I could do without. Those whose political or religious stances can be so aggressive and so asinine, I often feel like slamming my head into a wall when discourse goes bad. Or worse yet, the moment discourse begins. But maybe that’s my point; I never feel like slamming their heads into walls – I would rather take the hit than to give it.

I still respect my friends when we disagree, and as soon as that disagreement becomes evident, I always take a moment to remember why I let them in to begin with – because I found value in some aspect of their persona. It’s selfish, friendship, if you think about it. I identify some trait of another, I see value in it, and allow them into my life so I can continue to experience that trait. Selfish indeed.

Friends that keep me from killing Subway store managers...

Friends that keep me from killing Subway store managers…

In truth I have unfriended a few of my virtual and analog friends. I have done so, usually as the result of some drastic change in my life which alters my perception of those friendships. I have reached out to some to reestablish those connections. I have succeed with some, and failed with a few others. I will continue to reach out.

Not More Than I Can Handle…

I enjoy staying connected with, and supporting my friends as much as I am able. It seems though, that I am less able these days, and I often feel guilty about this. Between new virtual friends, reconnecting virtually with analog friends from the past, and my in-person social relationships, there is less of me to go around these days as there are more you.

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Friends who don’t like to be seen above the knees…

I want you to know this, and to believe it, please: If you don’t hear from me – if I don’t like a status, comment, if I don’t return a text, a call, or an email immediately, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. It means there are more of you to love, and that is the greatest of blessings.

I want to end this by simply saying, thank you very much, for knowing me and liking me anyway.

Sincerely,

roy

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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 is this from Sam Smith.  Enjoy…

The Trouble With Expectations…

I sometimes think the psychology of body image is beyond human comprehension; at the academic level, the personal level, and all places in-between.  I truly believe that.  At the very least, understanding what is required to effect change of the human is beyond human acceptance in most cases.

I had an incident last night with a woman who wanted me to tell her what she wanted to hear – not what was real. This is something I have faced many times through the years, and despite my knowledge and experience, I most often come out the loser in the debate.

A woman, a professional educator by trade, asked me some fitness related questions. She is in her early 60s. Like many, she has concerns about body fat, muscle tone, and overall body image. Of course, abs, and thighs were chief among her concerns.

As is often the case, I explained that 80% of the changes she was looking for relate to dietary changes, and not exercise. I explained that, though exercise can influence the shape, density, and strength of the muscles, the loss of body fat is primarily dietary.

She explained that she was a “healthy” eater.

When I asked what she ate for breakfast, she explained that she rarely did. As I began to explore her eating in greater detail, it became clear that she’s an average eater, and certainly not eating in a way that is consistent with reducing body fat.

As the conversation continued, she became agitated that I was not providing what she wanted to hear. As I explained the reasons why should would not see change eating within her current scheme, she exclaimed that it was her body and she knew it better than me.

And that’s where the disconnect usually begins; at the moment when a person wants me to tell them that they can keep eating the way they have been, mix in a few target exercises, and see noticeable changes within a few weeks. This is the impossible dream sold by the billion dollar fitness industry.

The more I explained that effecting change in the human body requires much more than a few special exercises, and mixing in a superfood or two, the more then conversation deteriorated to a point of finality – the agreement to disagree.

As a point of clarification, I classify the woman in question as both slim, and healthy. For being 60 she’s ahead of the game. So not only is the issue of body image at work here, so too are convoluted social expectations; the idea that we should look like something other than who we are at a given time in our life.

Double starfish face...

Double starfish face…

My teaching focus these days is primarily geared toward strength training for utility, and as a form of wellness, though I’m all for helping people who want to look better because I possess that skill set as well. Confidence, like exercise, is a life skill. I will remain forever starfish-faced though, when confronted by people insisting I tell them what they wish to hear. Be well… rc

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

The Elemental Peddler…

Little Fear Of Challenge…

I have put my body at risk many times in my life, and in many ways. Varying forms of exercise, recreation, an inherent requirement for physical for fulfillment, and outright curiosity have been the force behind most of these actions.

I have self-administered multiple tests to the physical me, to better understand the conscious me.  Running long distances, lifting heavy things, jumping from great heights are among the many challenges I have completed in order to test my resolve with physicality.

I’m about to take on a new test of the physical me.  One that will test my fortitude in a way it has not previously been challenged, and will be the hardest experiment I have taken on yet. It won’t be resolved in an hour, a day or even a week. It will be ongoing. Though it seems daunting to me right now, when I look back at our pioneer ancestors, or see how people live in other parts of the world today, what I am about to take on is really quite little.

From Four To Two…

In 2008 I gave up driving in favor of a bike. Giving consideration to my circumstances, and the life I wanted to live, I saw little need for a car. I gave my Jeep to a girl who had just gotten her driver’s license. Later that week I went to WalMart and bought a Schwinn beach cruiser as a replacement for the Jeep.

Great for short distances...

Great for short distances…

My commute to and from work at that time was roughly 2 miles. Only a few hills were involved, I was in excellent physical condition, and I lived in the San Diego area. Not only was this not a sacrifice, it made sense. My commute took all of 12 minutes each way. I rode daily past orange trees, bougainvillea hedges, and was in shirt sleeves and shorts most of the time. This was not a hardship, it was a joy.

Within a few months though, my living situation changed. My commute to and from my studio became further and much hillier. The beach cruiser was no longer a useful substitute for my Jeep. I bought a commuter road bike for the 7 mile journey each way. My commute then took 35 minutes or so each way, six days per week. There was no longer a need for structured cardio.

Better for longer commutes...

Better for longer commutes…

The exertion of this my commute was so significant, that for the next several years I would wake up in the middle of the night, cook half a box of angel hair, cover it with butter, suck it down as though I hadn’t eaten in weeks, and go right back to sleep. Through it all, my body weight stayed a constant 172.

This longer commute wasn’t a joy, but it was still no burden. Six days per week, through wind, rain, and tonsillitis – I enjoyed the challenge.

Home Again Home Again Jiggity, Uhm….

In May of this year I made the decision to move back to Colorado – where I had grown up and lived much of my adult life. I wanted to be closer to my family. Of the many little decisions that were made within that bigger decision, was my choice to remain a bicycle commuter. Though Nederland, Colorado and Fallbrook, California have many things in common, a mutual climate is not one of them.

Nederland is similar to Fallbrook in that they are both small, rural towns with expanded outlying areas, and can be a pedestrian friendly. Fallbrook could get cold in winter, often dropping below freezing. Traveling on bike, often before sunrise, at speeds up to 35 mph, it could be uncomfortable, if not bone chilling.

Nederland gets cold too. Ass beating cold. And windy. On a windy day, people here often park their cars facing into the wind, so the more flimsy side windows don’t get blown out by flying rocks.  I once called my brother in Nederland, to wish him a happy New Year.  When I asked him what he has doing for New Year’s Eve, he explained that he was nailing blankets over the windows in his home to keep out the sub-zero chill.

My bicycle commute to from home to work is only 1.6 miles here, mostly downhill. It takes less than 5 minutes and it’s a hoot.   My commute home is mostly uphill. It involves nearly 1,000 feet of climbing and takes about 22 minutes. It sucks. My sustained heart-rate approaches 180 bpm toward the end. And this is still summer. I expect with temperatures in the single digits, and winds that often reach 50-60 mph, this commute will be hateful in winter.

My forever bike...

My forever bike…

Of course there will be days when peddling at all will be prohibitive. Gravity, snow and ice will be no match for 2 wheels. On those days, I will walk. Still, I am committed. My goal is to get through this, my first winter in 15 years, without owning a car. Beyond that I won’t say. If I am successful, then I can see no reason why I can’t do it again next year. If I am not successful, I will be honest about it, and you’ll be sure to read about it here. Stay tuned, and please be well. rc.

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Sol Cat.     Enjoy!

Sets-sual Healing…

Under the phrase, strength training, the opening paragraph of Wikipedia sites some of what strength training supports; bodybuilding, weightlifting, powerlifting, as well as several strength-related sports that we’re all familiar with.

What it doesn’t reference, at least until much later in the citations, is wellness. Even at that, it does so scarcely. ‘Sniff…

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A conflict in the posse…

I recently received and email from a fellow trainer. She was seeking advice on how to deal with a client whose bodywork practitioner suggested that her strength training was too hard on her body, and counterproductive to his own work. The person in question had decided to give up on strength training altogether as a result of this practitioner’s influence. The trainer in question sought my advice as to how to retain this client. I suggested only that attempting to keep her was a losing cause for all involved.

Though I have respect for most aspects of wellness and healing arts, the term bodywork practitioner reeks of guruism. This term is most associated with therapeutic massage, but no massage therapist I know, from any genre, refers to his or herself as a bodywork practitioner. I could similarly pass myself of as a practitioner of skeletal-muscular engineering. Or not. Regarding this trainer’s concern, I’ve seen and dealt with this first hand on multiple occasions.

The issue here is layers deep, but at its core this is an issue of perception. To deal with and overcome this issue would require changing a person’s total belief system when it comes to wellness and physicality. No easy task. Though I will never quit trying, my success rate in changing a person’s entire belief system is quite low.

Peeling back the layer…

The first layer that needs to be peeled back is so thick that it obscures all others, and in fact may be the only layer which needs to be removed at all; that strength training is the red headed stepchild of the healing arts. In fact most people don’t associate strength training with the healing arts, or even as a form wellness. Too often, the wellness community views strength training as an endeavor for knuckle draggers, mirror gazers, and views it as mindless, harsh on the body, extreme or, all of the above. That reputation though, is well deserved. And guess what…? Overcoming that reputation lays solely the leaders of today’s strength training community.

Sometimes you can peel back the layers, other times they need to be whacked...

Sometimes you can peel back the layers.  Other times they need to be whacked…

In the 40 years since a strength training renaissance was inspired by the movie, Pumping Iron, weight rooms across the county have been used and seen largely as places where meatheads go to throw weights around, grunt, scream, buy steroids, and otherwise avoid meaningful employment. Again, that’s on us. Clichés become so and are perpetuated because too often they are true.

Science and common sense…

While gym rats from the 1970s through the current era have been doing their best to paint a curious, if not bizarre image of the weight room and all that goes with it, scientists at the university level have been working hard for decades to breakdown, examine, and demonstrate the value of strength when practiced correctly by the general population.

Gym Rats:  Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s...

Gym Rats: Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s…

The list of benefits associated with proper strength training is extensive, and real. I’m not going to site them here, but there is no shortage of data available to the curious. Physiologists by the thousands have demonstrated time and again that there is much utility associated with strength training as a form of wellness, and that it is beneficial to all age groups. Science notwithstanding, common sense shouldn’t be ignored either. There is no scenario I can envision, when strength training is practiced properly and under intelligent instruction, that it can have a negative impact on the human body. Who reading this would like to be a little less strong, or less capable of anything physical…? Suggesting strength training as a negative can be analogous to suggesting one not take care of their car’s engine.

The Pantheon Of Wellness…

For people who have the means to hire me, it’s not uncommon to have more than one me in their life. This can be part of the problem. I have had clients contract my services who have also had on their payroll, Rolfers, yoga masters, Tai Chi Sifus, Pilates instructors, pain management specialists, bio-cranial therapists, reflexologists, and more.

Not a guru.  Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they're goals...

Not a guru. Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they’re goals…

Though I have never had an issue being just one aspect of someone’s pantheon of wellness, the very idea of an expanded support system comes with inherent conflicts. I can say honestly that for my part, I have always been respectful and supportive of other wellness practitioners who also consult with my clients. I can also say though, that the same mutual respect is rare. The respect I have seen in the pantheon of wellness through the years seems to fall something like this:

  1. Yoga
  2. Pilates
  3. Massage Therapy
  4. Chiropractic
  5. Acupuncture
  6. Rolfing
  7. Reflexology
  8. Everything Else
  9. Strength Training
Ah, the true pantheon of wellness...

Ah, the true pantheon of wellness…

I’m sincere when I say this; I don’t expect this to change in my lifetime. I can only hope that the practitioners and leaders of the strength training community of today will try hard to present themselves with increasing intelligence, and carry themselves with an improved decorum into the future so that, at the very least, my grandchildren can see strength training take its place above, “everything else”.  Be well… rc

please take a moment to scroll back up and rate this is you will.  thank you.

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

Leap, And The Net Will Appear…

Evil Cohnievel…

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

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

A Snow Cohen In Winter…

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

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

11ev

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

My Fallbrook Home...

My Fallbrook Home…

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

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

Mammy:  How I love ya...

Mammy: How I love ya…

Snake River Cohen…

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

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

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

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

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

11let

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

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It Could Be Ugly. It Could Be Pretty…

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

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

please take a moment, scroll back to the top, and rate this.  thank you.

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