Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Different Way of Thinking About Exercise

For at least the last 35 years, “exercise” was dominated by the Idea that one had to raise one’s heart rate and produce excessive sweating as a mark of stress and discomfort in order for it to be effective and productive, and should last for a prolonged, sustained period of at least 20 minutes a day. On that regimen, it was promised one could achieve good heart health -- as though that implied the results most people were after, which is to feel better, function better and look better. For many, the prescribed regimen of dramatically increasing the heart rate, profuse sweating and shortness of breath, was all they needed to convince them that they did not feel better, function better and looked as though they were dying -- from that activity, and so were negatively reinforced not to do it any more.

Rather than the heart function implying feeling better, functioning better and looking better, the more obvious approach would have been surmising that feeling better, functioning better and looking better, implied good heart health, as well as optimal functioning of the whole being. That was a fitness paradigm for an era in which there was specialization and compartmentalization of most activities, and most facets of people’s lives, when in fact, well-being is this feeling of functioning “on all cylinders,” “being in the flow,” “being whole,” “everything feeling right and good.”

Because of the previous mode of fragmented thinking, it was possible and quite common to regard that one was doing good when all systems and feedback were telling him it was wrong. Such people were advised to override their personal feelings and defer to those who claimed to know better, and what was best for every other person -- the so-called and self-appointed experts of these matters. The result was that many decided not to pursue such activities -- if their fate and well-being were in the hands of such unfeeling experts -- who berated them for not being able to keep up with the program, so they were also made to feel inadequate and incompetent as well -- because that was the personal trainer’s “job.“ That is all most people don‘t need in their lives.

Most recognized it as just the old physical education class violating their sensibilities and sensitivities -- to conform to the brute force imperatives of some other person. In the classrooms, the coercion was a little more subtle -- but in the old physical education classes, the full reign of terror was allowed to run unchecked and uninhibited. After all, they were only doing this for our own good.


At August 17, 2005 3:19 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The weakness of the human muscular system is usually not the heart -- but the skeletal (voluntary) muscles -- that one hopes to affect by exercising. The heart is always working -- and in out-of-shape individuals, may be the only muscle working, and that is the problem. Critically, the heart only pumps blood out to the extremities of the arteriole system -- but has no effect on the flow of blood coming back to the heart through the veins, that have valves to allow flow in one direction only -- back to the heart. It can be aided greatly in increasing the flow back to the heart by the operation of the voluntary muscles to enhance this effect by the alternation of muscle states between contraction and relaxation -- in effect, mimicking the function of the heart as a pump in doing so.

To achieve this greatest effect, one would begin a muscle contraction at the extremities of the feet, hands and head back towards the heart -- which is conveniently how the body is designed to effect a maximum muscle contraction. Rather than thinking about working the 600+ muscles in isolation, it would therefore be desirable to design movements that serve this essential and productive purpose of optimizing the flow throughout he body in a coordinated muscular contraction that effects all the muscles as though they were just one. In most out-of-shape people, what is typically concurrent with their condition is an apparent bloating of the tissues, indicative of poor circulation -- that is, fluid (blood and cellular fluids) is retained within the tissues rather than being efficiently circulated so that waste products can be filtered and eliminated out of the body. That difference has a profound effect on functioning and appearance of the condition of the body.

Until this excess fluid retention is reduced, it is not a true indication of the actual momentary condition of the individual -- because one doesn’t see them at their best. Well-trained bodybuilders are those most aware of this fact -- that there is a huge difference in function and appearance that can be achieved in just one session! The transformation is so great that it is entirely possible to take a “before” photo at the commencement of the workout and an “after” photo at the end of that one session, that could also be claimed and believed to be the results achieved after “only” six months of training. Obviously, such instant transformations are not only possible but done routinely by those whose aim is to achieve that effect.

The ramifications it has for more casual participants should be obvious -- that this result is not the product of several months on a regimen of poorly designed (random) movements and energy expenditures, but can be the “instant” results of precisely designed movements with this purpose and possibility in mind. Further training merely allows one to become more proficient at effecting a maximal response and transformation, which to some extent, every person will exhibit to some degree. Those who will exhibit it to an extraordinary degree, are naturally gifted bodybuilders. But I’ve never failed to witness an immediate effect in any body training with this intent and purpose.

That should be what one is exercising for -- and not just randomly to expend as much energy as possible -- doing what, and for what purpose? This is how the exercise discussion and instruction has seriously gone astray over these last 35 years, raducing it to almost a random activity, in the name of making it seem more “scientific.”

At August 18, 2005 4:33 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

In the Old World paradigm, “work” is this concept of physically moving something,
defined, observed and measured as external change produced in the physical world outside the body, as for example, lifting a weight a certain distance in a certain time. It could also be moving our bodies a certain distance in a certain time. Those measures are a function of gravity -- and thus fail when developing a prototype for exercise that would be useful on a prolonged space flight in weightlessness. Astronauts have virtually no way of keeping “fit” using the old exercise paradigm because it is based on a world of gravity and thus, resistance.

The secret is, it doesn’t work very well under normal earth conditions either, but your personal trainer won’t tell you that. They’ll insist you have to try harder and be more dedicated -- and some time in a distant future, a miracle will happen, and all that one wished and hoped for will come true. That such changes can be verified presently, are never considered. Essential to the old paradigm of exercise is that change is a function of extended time, rather than can be effected immediately. Because of that manner of thinking over such extended, ill-defined periods, the individual is not fully focused on the urgency of that present moment -- as being the moment of supreme importance, but thinks some vague future one is more important, more real, and thus the power of his own action in the present one is lost. What is reinforced is the notion that change is not a function of one’s deliberate and purposeful actions but is diffused into the vagueness of time, energy, space, circumstances beyond our immediate control, randomness.

Such thinking is not only unique to exercise activities but is also the cultural infrastructure in which we are used to thinking about everything -- in the last century. Education is also this slow process of time rather than the instantaneous “Aha” moment -- when a person has truly discovered something they did not realize before. Upon such moments, the world is transformed -- and nothing will seem and be the same -- for that individual. Such change, changes the world in the only way the world has ever been changed -- in the power to change oneself. Ineffectual people, however, will convince us that the only way the world can ever change is for us to first change everybody else -- which of course, ensures that no change will ever take place, ensuring the status quo.

It really doesn’t matter how much weight we can lift -- or how far we can run, in optimizing health, function and form. What does matter is how effective we are about moving the nutrients into the body and waste products out of it, which produces the internal operating environment for which we will do all those things more readily visible in the external environment. But it is what’s going on inside -- how the blood, fluid and gas, nerve impulses, molecules are moving around inside which we hope to infer through the old primitive standards of measurement. They might not mean anything significant at all -- but they are certainly convenient and the easiest things to measure.

It’s not the work external to the body that is important -- as much as it is the work going on inside the body, in the tissues and cells. That is the essential work of the human body.

At August 19, 2005 1:10 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

A Brief History of Exercise

At the same time the cardiologists were pushing the notion that the key to proper exercise was the heart rate, the exercise marketers were pushing the notion that working the largest muscles of the body in isolation was the quickest route to obtaining dramatic results -- and when the results from their machines turned out not to be “foolproof,” as advertised, they then insisted every repetition had to be strictly supervised, thus creating the field of personal trainers. By either approach, the promised results were not forthcoming -- no matter how plausible the explanations and elaborate the theories --and rather than turn themselves over to the self-designated “professionals” on these matters, the public largely decided it was not worth the bother, figuring that the extra years they might add to their lives by such torturous regimens, would be entirely consumed in those activities. So unless they enjoyed it, what was the sense in making more time to do what made one’s life miserable?

The obvious was making exercise (movement) enjoyable and rewarding in itself -- which greatly offended the 20th century sensibilities for making everything more difficult, arduous and incomprehensible -- thereby requiring more experts (professionals) to guide one through all the perils and hazards of daily living. These proponents fostered the false confidence in conjectures as facts, and the duly-certified, as possessing inviolable and incontrovertible fact -- when in many fields, professionalism consisted in little more than giving fancy names to common knowledge, and proffering that jargon as unquestionable authority. The use of impressive sounding jargon exploded -- displacing the time-tested and time-honed processes of individual discovery and thoughtfulness on that which could be tested in one’s own lives and experiences. “The experts say…” would be the quick rebuttal to any objection.

Self-evident truth became so dishonored and disconnected in daily lives that the term “feedback,” was the euphemism for common sense. Common sense was no longer to be trusted, replaced as it now was, by “professional expertise.”

What changed all that? One can only fragment, specialize and compartmentalize all experience and knowledge before a few will recognize that a major purpose of life is integrating the whole process into a more comprehensive understanding -- which is the movement towards greater simplicity and elegance in understanding. Every great leap in human understanding reduces complexity by seeing the greater universal principle under which the many ad hoc and seemingly unrelated explanations adhere to -- all requiring their own experts, jargon and hierarchy.

Such turning points in the evolution of understanding are disruptive to all the entrenched institutions, authorities, and bureaucracies -- because they challenge the whole notion of the legitimacy of the existing hierarchy of knowledge, that its staunchest defenders will be those who are its greatest beneficiaries. They don’t want the playing field to be leveled -- to welcome all participants as equals, and then have to justify their lofty entitlements, status, and privilege; they want the status quo to continue, not change.

At August 21, 2005 2:29 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Getting Started

The greatest difference, is the difference between 0 and 1 -- and not 1 and any other number, no matter how large. That’s always been the simple truth in any undertaking -- “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” By that, one should not assume it to mean that walking would be the logical choice in contemplating the design of a 21st Century fitness regimen. There are far more precise and effective conditioning movements -- for which one doesn’t even need to get out of bed to do. In fact, it would be ideally done immediately upon waking, before getting out of bed and embarking on all other activities and functions. This simple exercise (movement) requiring about a minute, is 90% of what one hopes to accomplish with traditional (conventional) exercise programs of much greater duration, energy, and duress -- but still not doing so because they lack the essential focus of intent and purpose, because it is that intent and purpose that is manifested in the condition (form) of the body. That is, the body is in superb condition, because it realizes that is the condition it has to be to do what wants to achieve.

Immediately upon waking and lying on one’s back, draw the knees up to the chest, allowing the legs to bend, grasping hands around legs just below knees to hold that position easily. Maintaining this fetal position, lift the head up and forward, aiming to see one’s navel, while paying particular attention to the sound and movement of air out of the nose as air is compressed out of the body. When no more air can be forced out, lower the head back onto the resting position mindful of the sound and movement of air entering one’s nose as the chest expands. Hundreds of years ago, exercising adepts made this study of breathing into their key concept for attaining good health. All it requires is the awareness of the movement of air in and out of the body -- and what produces that effect, without having preconceived notions about how it should be done, other than the simplicity and obviousness of air movement into and out of the body.

The movement of the head, producing an alternating full contraction and full relaxation of the neck muscles, will increase the circulation and thus functioning of the brain -- totally overlooked in most conditioning programs. The foremost beneficiary of any strategy to optimize the functioning and form of the human body should go through the critical path of the brain, because the brain regulates everything else! This should be particularly important for those concerned with diminishing or compromised brain functioning, characterized as one’s “declining” years Those who have a problem stumbling around in a fog for much of the early part of their day, will realize clarity upon immediately getting out of bed. The yogis used to stand on their heads, attempting to effect the blood flow to their heads by gravity -- predating the discovery of gravity. This is a more convenient, less painful and effective way to do so -- utilizing a higher understanding of flow as caused by alternating pressure differences (hydraulics).

What most people will note, is that the extreme movement of the head forward produces a maximal contraction of the neck muscles first, and then ultimately, of the abdominal muscles to an extent not achieved with most conventional “abdominal” exercises. The movement of the head, is also the best abdominal exercise, and all most people want to know.

At August 22, 2005 12:52 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Making a Difference

A logical development of the higher heart beat and largest muscles in isolation training objectives, was the synthesis of these two in the even more absurd notion that all that mattered was highest caloric expenditure or consumption -- while developing no particular skill or mastery in this practice. To anybody who’s ever been involved in training themselves to achieve a high level of skill and proficiency in a discipline they have discovered is suitable to their natural abilities, such advice would be at first offering recognized as an example of the blind leading the blind, and one who knew absolutely nothing about what they were talking about. But because many have no familiarity with a learning besides what others tell them is true, they are highly susceptible to marketing propaganda -- having no way to test the validity of claims through their own experience and thought processes. They are entirely at the mercy of self-designated experts and the institutions that vouchsafe their credibility.

When one observes the great performers of dance and most athletics, what is most impressive and striking besides the extraordinary things they can do, is also how effortless and graceful they make it all seem. They have learned to move with the greatest economy and efficiency of purpose -- and never simply for the sake of burning the most calories doing so. In fact, if there is a great imperative of all life, it is the commandment to conserve energy as one of its highest principles ensuring survival and exhibiting intelligence. The predator in the wild that is most impressive is one that stealthily stalks its prey and sets up the conditions by which a single, quick, decisive movement achieves its goal -- rather than the specimen wildly chasing everything that moves until finally it is exhausted in futility, thinking that gross, random effort is enough to achieve one’s desired results.

Yet many have been convinced that a fitness program should have no component for skill-building as their focusing activity and organizing principle. Thus the objective of a treadmill user is simply to burn as many calories as possible -- while that same amount of energy and less, could mold one into a world champion, or just looking like one, if their intent and purpose were clear. That kind of random “fitness” program, is one of the most damaging conditioning experiences one can do to themselves. It reinforces the notion that the objective of any activity is simply to go through the motions, wasting as much energy and other resources as possible, with no definitive productive purpose in mind. It is so mindless that it is quite all right to grab a magazine while doing it and displace one’s attention to some pleasurable mental diversion.

I hope this does not all sound too familiar -- what one has been led to believe is a qualified, certified, productive fitness program -- because if it is, it is no wonder that many think exercise programs are not worthwhile, and may be entirely a negative drain on one’s life. I wouldn’t engage in such an activity; why would any thinking person? And yet, that kind of fitness for the masses has been propagated by the mass media for these past several decades because they lack this ability and familiarity with any authentic expertise themselves, and are totally reliant on the hearsay of professionals -- as the truth.

At August 24, 2005 1:30 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Range of Movement

In every field, the individual with the greatest range of articulation, expression and movement, will stand out from the others. In fact, when a new prodigy comes along who is an exception even among the exceptional, the impulse from the organizers of the competition/event, is to disqualify their participation rather than honor it. They are likely to say, “That move ought to be illegal -- because nobody else can do it, and how can we have a fair competition if everybody can’t compete on the same level -- by being able to do it?” Thus they circumscribe the range of possibilities, and proclaim within those familiar parameters, that they have determined the greatest -- because of their preconceived idea of what that ultimate possibility can, and should be.

That is frequently the problem now when we watch the erratic judging at the Olympics and there is a great controversy on one performance. Some judges will proclaim, “You can’t do that.” When challenged why, they will even more emphatically proclaim, “Because you can’t possibly do that.” Meanwhile, the coach of the perplexed and disappointed competitor will insist, “But she just did.” Denial is not only possible at the highest levels of expertise but is actually quite predictable because of their unshakeable belief in their “expertise.” That’s always been the common reaction whenever something new has come into being. The new information so violates everything one has thought to be true in this world, that he is more apt to deny or ignore one new experience rather than disrupt the whole lifetime of familiar experience and expectations.

One is not conditioned to recognize the new -- but only to accept the old as though it were the new, being discovered for the first time, just as Galileo, Copernicus, Newton did. But that is not the same as discovering the new as the new, freshly. That concept is critically important in being in the shape one hasn’t been before. He has to break new ground for himself. It sounds like a tremendously ambitious undertaking but it’s not; it is merely thinking the unthinkable -- moving through the range one hasn’t moved before.

In observing many people in their fitness programs, despite the great pains and effort they make to convey their purpose and objectives, what has always struck me about the grossly out of shape, is how little they exhibit movement at the wrist, ankles and neck. That such movement is even possible, doesn’t seem to have entered their realm of possibility -- but it is the range of movement at those joints, that is the most productive and predictive of the well-conditioned body. Making a fist, and then bending that fist at the wrist as acutely as possible and trying to extend that range beyond the movement obtained before, is the most instructive example of muscle contraction -- at a joint which is most productive and safe to do so.

The shocking realization is that rather than requiring weights or resistance to achieve that effect, the farther one moves at that joint, the greater the resistance the contraction produces to further contraction. The same is true with all the muscles of the body. The greatest contraction is not caused by the greatest amount of resistance used but by knowing in what extreme range of movement requires the muscle to be fully contracted. That contraction -- shapes the body.

At August 25, 2005 2:08 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Gross Motor Control vs. Fine Motor Control

The underlying premise for most fitness programs is the simple notion that vigorously working the largest muscles of the body consumes as much calories as possible -- as a gauge of the amount of “work” being accomplished -- while failing to recognize, that no amount of useful work is ever done that way. The largest muscle of the body is the gluteus maximus -- for which the typical fitness acolyte will volunteer, its major function is to move the upper leg rearward. However, like most large, major muscles of the body, the much more important function is not to provide movement at all -- but to provide stability and support so that the useful work can be done at the hands, head and feet.

Such latter movement is what is called fine motor control. Simply moving the upper leg rearward is meaningless -- without its ultimate expression at the foot, usually to push off against the ground. But by focusing the axis of rotation at the hip, the nerve impulse from the brain goes no farther than that axis of movement. Therefore, with movements emphasizing the largest muscles, no fine motor skill may be developed to employ that increased capacity usefully and effectively at the ultimate expression at the hands, feet and head.

In order for useful increments of strength and other capacity to be readily available, requires development of fine motor control, which naturally activates the larger supporting structures. But one cannot develop universally available strength and power to do anything else but in the manner in which it was developed -- that is, the practitioner of the treadmill only increases his ability to “do” the treadmill -- and nothing else, and in fact, may disrupt the fine balance already existent in an otherwise well-trained and coordinated person.

That’s why it is very important for any conditioning movement of usefulness, begin at the axis of rotation of the extremities. That focus of movement, determines the extent of the effectiveness of that conditioning. I don’t want to just be better at moving my upper leg back. Instead, I want to be able to move my foot in a much greater range that expresses itself as running faster or jumping higher. In order to do that, what matters is the range of motion at my ankle -- from the extreme of the toe being raised towards the shin, and then the foot being rotated downward in a toe point, or pushing off with the ball of the feet.

The reason that walking is not the ideal exercise for most out of shape and extremely overweight people, is that they tend to shuffle their feet rather than articulating the foot through this greatest range. They’d be far better off if they stood with their feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and just shifted their weight from one foot to the other while fully articulating the foot movement that is supporting no weight. The range of movement at the ankle is important and not how much weight is being moved around.

Overweight people have a painful experience walking because when the foot is not fully articulated, producing the powerful alternating contraction and relaxation (pumping), fluids accumulate in the tissue, making the feet swollen and painful to walk on.

At August 26, 2005 2:13 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Big Brain vs. Little Brain

The Eastern adepts of physical culture, have this concept of the “big brain” that is the nervous system throughout the entire body rather than just limited to the nerve cells within their skull. In this conception, it is possible to talk of thinking with one’s guts and heart -- instead of exclusively with one’s head. In fact, there is no division between the mind and the body as Western students of kinesiology are predisposed to. In the latter version, the division is so complete that the only way to exercise the brain is to develop “mental” exercises to do so, and of course, “physical” exercise has no connection as a mental activity, and is frequently claimed to come at the expense of the mental faculties. Thus, there is no problem in getting on a treadmill or stationary bike and mentally distracting oneself with anything else other than what one is doing physically. In such an outlook of life and activity, nothing is related to any other thing in the world -- just as the mind has nothing to do with the body.

This paradox is solved by realizing that mind and body are merely two views of the same phenomenon and that each is not mutually exclusive -- as all things must be in a cosmology of fragmentation, specialization, categorization, etc. This trend towards convergence, synthesis and integration has been underway for at least a hundred years now, when physicists decided that the question as to whether light was a particle or a wave was decided definitively as, “Both.” If one wanted to see it as a wave, one saw it as a wave; if one wanted to see it as a particle, it behaved as a particle. That fundamental understanding of the basic unit of information led to many other convergences into wholeness and oneness -- after being for many centuries, fragmented into the many pieces so every special interest group could claim their own expertise and establish their own hierarchies for perpetuating their exclusive knowledge.

Each group claimed that they owned the turf -- and so turf wars were frequent unless bureaucracies were established to maintain the status quo -- that each group of experts could not invade the others, as well as, of course, challenging the established order and authority within their own group. “The truth” was pronounced from on high, and those who did not swear their allegiance to the latest version of official truth, was shunned and eventually banished from that association -- be completely cut off, disavowed, condemned to roam the world for the rest of one’s life as a lone wolf, persecuted on every flank, by any and every other group and species.

Some people still think in those terms. Their minds are always finding ways to limit one’s range -- rather than to extend the mind/body. Not only does the small mind seek to limit the brain to the skull, it defines its intelligence and awareness to the body -- rather than being without limits. The big mind extends to the further reaches of wherever is reporting information -- in that extended and enhanced sense. The “human body” is even this awareness of the total collection of knowledge as is now possible because it is so easily accessible. It is virtually like the body -- for all intents and purposes. Intelligence and awareness is more than what is resident in the confines of each individual’s skin. The body/mind is the network -- and connectivity and flow is its life’s blood

At August 28, 2005 11:32 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

A Simple Lesson

The one thing most teachers wil not teach is how to learn -- on one’s own, because if they did, the need for the teacher disappears. Yet that should be the objective of the true teacher -- to bring his student to that point at which the student is his own teacher, and master, and learns directly from life. But increasingly in a world of “media” and institutionalized learning, we only learn what the pedagogue has to teach, the advertiser wants to sell, the demagogue wants everybody to believe, which might not be what we want to know, and without that passion for learning, it becomes a struggle between the teacher and the student -- undermining both.

In most exercise instruction, what is not taught is the essential principle of all movement -- the muscle contraction, that when one experiences, then knows how to effect in every muscle of their body, and therefore doesn‘t need to be instructed further on the appropriate exercise (movement) for each muscle. The most conveniently instructive muscle is the action of the heart -- which is the muscle that is always working, and the way it works is to contract fully (100%) AND relax fully (100%). That is the characteristic action of a pump.

A person whose specialty is just the heart, might think that the heart is the only muscle in the body that behaves that way, and so if the objective is to increase the circulation, one simply needs to make the heart beat faster. It can’t beat any harder because it always contracts 100%. And while there is much talk about exercise benefiting the cardiovascular system, very little attention is paid to the fact that the -vascular component is very different from the cardio- component.

As a purely health maintenance practice, training the voluntary muscles of the body to aid and enhance the circulatory effect by mimicking the action of the heart in producing a full contraction from the extremities of the body towards the heart -- achieves that effect while requiring the heart to work less hard! The heart is the hardest working, if not the only properly working muscle in the body of many people, and when the voluntary muscles perform that action of contraction (compression) to pump fluids back towards the heart, it creates space for the heart to pump blood into -- against less resistance.

Noticeably absent from most fitness instruction is this basic lesson of what needs to be achieved -- in instructing one to operate the treadmill, the stair stepper, weight machines, calisthenics, virtually any apparatus or movement. Not using the fullest contraction possible as the standard of the objective, it is quite possible that the movement or machine does not achieve this desired effect -- and why the immediately transformative effect is not evident in most exercisers -- when it should not only be possible in everyone, but inevitable proof that one is accomplishing anything but simply wasting his time and energy.

When one has a familiarity with what a full muscle contraction is -- he will know how to recognize it in any other muscle. So that is the essential one thing that is never taught.

At August 30, 2005 1:29 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

How Much is Enough?

The major reason most people do not take up a lifelong regimen of health (movement) conditioning activities is that they’ve been negatively conditioned not to. The “experts‘” requirements for proper exercise are precisely the reasons that people are resistive -- that it takes up too much time, energy and focus. But is the consumption of time and energy an actual requirement of maintaining health and optimal functioning, or is that just the faulty notions propagated by physical education teachers to justify their personal issues of control and discipline?

When the requirement is that it has to take one hour each day and consume enormous amounts of energy -- there are a lot fewer takers than the requirement that it could be done for five minutes each day, immediately upon waking, without requiring extraordinary conditions and equipment, inducing profuse sweating or labored breathing, and elevation of stress and duress levels that require considerable psychological preparation and discipline to undertake. Rather than that being the solution to the nation’s health condition, that is the cause of the problems. It is as though it has been designed to discourage and eliminate people from doing it.

That is the model upon which competitive athletics are premised. Their purpose is not to make the weak, strong; their purpose is to eliminate the weak from participation. That would not be a helpful model on which to base a national health/fitness program on -- the notion that everyone has the same abilities, and that fitness is specifically one profile that we all compete to manifest. That is the presumption of erroneous fitness models -- that there is one universal standard -- and that is achieving maximum target heartbeats, lifting certain weight loads, running certain distances -- rather than just articulating one’s unique full range of movement, at the critical joints of the extremities, and with that minimal “conditioning,” one moves in that manner naturally throughout the regular and normal activities of one’s day -- reinforcing that pre-conditioning.

There is little value in learning for learning’s sake. The reason we practice learning is so that we can learn in a real world application to solve the problems of our lives -- and not merely the theoretical ones of a long time ago, by a people far away. That has little meaning unless we can apply those lessons to our own lives -- and many can’t, because that link was never established, and so many do think the objective in learning is simply to get an “A,” whatever that means. In many cases, all that means is one’s ability to please the will and agenda of another -- which could be entirely exploitative and self-aggrandizing.

The greatest difference in the thinking between the 20th century and the 21st now unfolding, is the realization that simply more is not necessarily better. Quantity may not be the significant difference that quality is -- for it is the quality, that sets the range for all experiences -- rather than just being more of the same, which has no similar transformative/transcending effect. The standard of the 20th century was that, “More is Better.” The further evolution of understanding is the realization that, “Better is More.”

At September 05, 2005 12:39 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The Will to Change

Once one understands that change is not the arduous and complicated rocket science that self-interested “professionals” would have us believe takes years of their supervision to attain, the remaining obstacle is the will to change. It is a lot like many clamoring for “freedom,” but when they are given it, do everything they can to limit those freedoms rather than to fully express them. Not only will they not express them in themselves, they will discourage anybody else with the impulse to express those freedoms also from exercising them -- because they won’t, and wish to retain the status quo -- of everybody not being all they can imagine themselves to be because of some convenient excuse everybody else will agree to.

It is even fashionable among some people, to claim they would be President of the United States, if the current officeholder hadn’t stolen the opportunity from them. And thus they console themselves with their delusions that there is no need for change or improvement -- but it is the rest of the world that needs to come around to their self-assessment that they alone are perfection, and it is the rest of the world that needs to adjust their attitude to see that. That is their idea of “changing the world” -- and so of course, everything stays the same, because it would be far easier and simpler to just change themselves.

In fact, that is the only way the world ever changes -- when each accepts their own responsibility to do so. But we live in a time and culture that permits those from ever taking responsibility and accountability for their own lives and actions. Undoubtedly there is the 5% percent with “glandular problems” to account for their condition, but far too many also claim such handy self-diagnosis as their own convenient excuses. The capacity for self-deception in the cultural climate was never more supportive for doing so. But the healthiest will not avail themselves of such excuses -- if any other explanation is possible. And one never knows until he runs his own experiment, which in real life, is experience that conveys many unforeseen benefits.

It is entirely possible in this age of media and institutionalized learning, that many do not learn from personal experience any more -- as previous generations may have had to. Thus everything they know, and maybe all they know, is what others have told them is the truth of the world -- and are reinforced and rewarded for agreeing to that conditioning (indoctrination) rather than learning to test the truth of one’s own senses. Therefore, even what they know of themselves, is what the self-designated authorities tell them is how they ought to be feeling and thinking -- that this is the “correct” way to feel and think, and never mind what one really feels and thinks independently.

So the conditioning one seeks, is to empower one to be more independent, more confident and trusting of his own judgment and ability to think for oneself, because that is each individual’s real value for any society -- that he provides information not available to all, rather than the consensus doing so for each of its individual members. That’s how schools of fish or herds of animals move with the intelligence greater than merely the sum of its parts. That is the wisdom of all -- and not setting oneself up against the wisdom of all.

At September 08, 2005 12:06 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The Problem of Aging

At some point in every person’s life, there comes a time at which they notice that they no longer recover as quickly from injuries or exercise as they did when they were younger -- if they even recover at all. Even great athletes notice this deterioration in their familiar responsiveness to all challenges -- which they, more than most, notice as a rapid drop-off in their abilities to remain at the top of their game, in peak condition. Many plunge into a lifelong spiral of depression because they’ve never experienced such an unrelenting deterioration before, and their inability to respond to these changing circumstances. Lesser people are more accepting of deterioration and low performance as a way of life -- thinking rather perversely, that age is a great equalizer in that even the great athletic champions have to bow to the ravages of time.

Or does one have to? All that I’ve discussed previously about the need to exercise better -- rather than simply more, is critical for optimizing health and functioning in the older years. Rather than being an inviolable constant, aging may be the greatest variable that distinguishes well-being and well-functioning, as opposed to disfunction accelerating deterioration.

The overlooked factor in most discussions on exercise is recovery ability. Exercise is a drain on recovery ability -- and so the more energy drained by exercise, the less is available for recovery -- and growth. As people get older, their recovery ability decreases, so even the same amount of exercise they have been doing may require more time to recover and benefit from. Thus, it is critically important to understand that simply more exercise may not be what the body needs. Instead, what it needs is less -- but better exercise, which means improving the economy and efficiency of one’s movements -- most noticeably at the hands, feet and head (face). In fact, how animated and vibrant a person looks, can be determined almost exclusively by noting the expressiveness of these extremities of expression. That is what makes people look old or young -- the degree of expressiveness and articulation in their face, hands and feet.

Exercise physiologists have long correlated body health by grip strength. Most people will notice that too in their everyday lives -- as difficulty opening a bottle, tearing open a candy wrapper, popping a top. Without adequate foot strength, one is vulnerable to falling over, which is probably the greatest hazard to the old. People with superior foot strength, are virtually impossible to knock off their feet! And those who think cosmetic procedures that freeze the face in a youthful constant expression, have no clue that it is the wide range of expressiveness in the face and movement of the head above the neck, that conveys liveliness and vigor -- and not any frozen, fixed expression of unliveliness.

Most, but not the largest muscles of the human body, are located in the extremities -- which is the uniqueness of human beings. That is what they were made to do -- more than any other animal or life form. That’s why we have the great paintings and art of the world. The universally admired physique for most, particularly women, is that of the dancer’s body -- in all its variations. The characteristic thing about the dancer is not how high they jump, or how fast they move across the room, but ultimately, the amount of articulation they express at the hands, feet and head -- with the greatest economy and efficiency of movement. To age gracefully, one’s exercise and life should be like this dance -- and not struggling evermore vainly to beat back the ravages of time.

At September 09, 2005 1:05 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The Problem of Education

Modern information and communication technology has made traditional education modes obsolete -- because now, the learner can dictate the pace of his own learning, rather than that being controlled by the “teacher,” whose self-interest and orientation is to make a short story long. The student-learner, on the other hand, wants to learn as much as possible in as little time as possible -- so there is that basic conflict of interest in the student-teacher relationship. The teacher of course, will try to convince his student that he is forcing the student to do what he really isn’t interested in -- for his own good, as though they knew better, but really, he is merely imposing his own interests over the interests of another. That relationship is not only obsolete but destructive -- but that adopted by many as the popular notion of what good, traditional education is all about -- disciplining oneself to satisfy the wishes of another, as though that were some virtue.

Education has value in that it serves the individual -- and not because it provides lifetime employment security for the teacher. Any self-respecting teacher who understands this is worthy of the title of Teacher. The rest have no business in teaching. They, in fact, have nothing of value to teach -- and their students may spend their whole lifetimes trying to overcome such teaching -- if they ever do. Not only might the information have been erroneous -- but they have also taught and reinforced the resistance to learning any new information that might challenge what they have taught. Students of such education grow up determined never to want to learn anything more once they leave school -- because they have been conditioned to believe that learning anything must be this torturous experience of denying their own common sense and sensibilities, in deference to the alleged superiority of these self-anointed others.

The good teacher understands the disrepute that poor teachers have given to the basic, healthy impulse to learn -- all one’s life. It should not be an extraordinary thing -- but has become so because of poor teachers, or institutionalized education, which merely ensures jobs for “professional” teachers. That designation alone is already an oxymoron -- because learning should be the ultimate “amateur” experience -- beginning with the presumption that one does not know, rather than the categorization of those who know and those who don’t know. What the good teacher teaches, is not what he knows, but how to find out, when he doesn’t know. That requires the beginning admission that he doesn’t know, and will demonstrate how he goes about finding out.

Those who do teach such methodology, are worthy of the title “Master,” as such teachers truly merit the designation. Learning that skill allows the student to become the Master -- the master of his own learning, and life, which is the true purpose of education. One begins by questioning everything, assuming nothing to be true -- until what remains is self-evidently true -- not the overriding of commonsense with theory and ideology, but the reaffirmation and reconnection of idea with experience. That connection has been lost in modern pedagogy when many are now teachers because they’ve simply been certified to teach -- having learned no such mastery over anything else worth teaching. When such “experts” are challenged as to their authority, their response invariably is, “We have to move on; there is so much material to cover” -- which indicates the worthlessness of such an education.

At September 10, 2005 1:30 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Telling the Truth

Some people’s idea of “telling the truth,” is saying anything they think they can get away with -- relying on other people not to be able to tell the difference. Unfortunately, that is especially true of those who work “in the media” -- primarily functioning to propagate that information, disinformation, or ignorance. The kind of people drawn to such positions, and the need to relentlessly compete against every other for fickle public attention, is not conducive to thoughtful reflection and unpressured independence and integrity of judgment. In fact, it may be the ultimate herd mentality, the need to conform, as the arbiter of truth. That manner of determining, assures that the most improbable and outrageous assertions cannot be tested for truth and therefore will be accepted as “fact,” because nobody will bother to dignify and dispute it.

Thus, it will be accepted as an unchallenged truth in that way -- because it is so outrageously ridiculous as to escape sober and rational examination, substantiation and verification. Demagogues, recognizing that vulnerability, know then that the more ridiculous and preposterous their claims, the more they are likely to defy refutation. Then the popular dialogue and conversation is dominated by the absurd, the ridiculous, the preposterous -- while self-evident truths are derided as too simplistic to be sophisticated, and complicated enough to be proof of superior intellect. Of course those suffering from inferiority complexes are easily cowed and impressed. They fear being the first to admit their ignorance -- of that which intelligent people know as patently false.

In a den of thieves, the biggest liar, the greatest con-artist, the most ruthless, is king. In many professions now, that is the criteria of success in that field -- which ultimately must undermine the whole endeavor for legitimacy and credibility. One should be able to be well-informed without being vulnerable to all the nonsense that those clamoring for unfair advantage are not corrupted by. Rather than investigative rigor, many reporters are intimidated into accepting the untrue because of their inability to determine the truth for themselves -- and are at the mercy of their informant, to be fair with them. That gullibility is exploited by the unscrupulous.

The ultimate quality of information is limited by the audience it is communicated to. Good information is of no value, or no difference to the undiscriminating. They will believe whatever they are told to believe. It does not even occur to them that they can question authority and validity. That may even be “somebody else’s job.” In many instances, it turns out to be nobody’s job. So the integrity and validity of information is largely dependent on the mutual respect of the informer and the informed.

The old broadcast model of information and communication is almost totally controlled by the informant -- without regard for the capabilities and input of the informed. In fact, that relationship may even be adversarial -- each undermining the other, until all exchanges are counter informative. In such an adversarial relationship, the interaction destroys the capability of the information receiver rather than enhancing their capabilities. It is a negative-sum game. The less one knows of that kind of “information,” the better off one is.

At September 13, 2005 8:11 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Not Even Competing Against Oneself

Hopefully, there comes a time in everybody’s life at which they outgrow their youthful conditioning, and realize that the objective of their lives is not to reflexively compete with everybody else for first place in everything -- and that it is all right simply to be the best at being the person one is, at which everybody can be a world champion at. That’s why the wisest of the wise have advised throughout the ages, “Know yourself,” because in doing so, one will be a highly-motivated expert of his own life and times.

Unfortunately, contemporary education teaches us that personal experience is not important but that generalizations are more valid than one’s own, personal experience, which causes a lot of problems for those who fall out of the range of “average” in anything. On some scale, everyone is exceptional in some, if not many aspects -- which was virtually an obscure but in the long-run, most valuable observation of the time -- made by a biochemist who noted the tremendous variability among people to the extent that it was proper to speak of those differences not in terms of percents, but folds. That is to say, that what one person might find annoying and another not notice at all, there might be one exceptional individual, who might actually die from that exposure.

This was in a time in which researchers quite confidently and smugly pronounced, “There is no intolerance for dairy products -- or aspirin.” And then for that matter, the fitness levels of everyone could be definitively measured by their performance on a treadmill stress test. It didn’t seem to bother the developers of such an idea that most world-class athletes (which should be a standard of something), almost always fell out of the range of normal -- because they were exceptional. But in the new social engineering, the average became the normal, and then the ideal. Thus the mediocre became the standard -- rather than the exceptional and extraordinary.

So while researchers were determining conclusively what was the average, they showed little interest in what produced the exceptional, which might have been a more valuable, significant finding. The mass media, guardians of popular culture, promoted the average as the ideal, into the tyranny of the consensus, majority, mob rule. What the average person thought, was more important than what the best ideas were. In every case, the best ideas should submit to the most popular notions -- whether they were valid or not. It was truth by whomever could sell their idea the best, and control the thinking of the majority, of which they found themselves conveniently in control. It was a temptation too great not to abuse.

The popular media became too powerful -- and that became the seeds of its own destruction, arrogance and abuse. It never learned to handle power responsibly -- which is always fatal. That may be one of the great lessons in disciplining oneself for athletic participation -- that one learns about his own power, and can control it. Very powerful individuals are especially proud of their “gentle touch” -- their delicate control of prodigious power and skill. A weakling will think that a show of brute force, intimidation, bullying is all that is required to appear to be powerful.

At September 20, 2005 4:31 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Proper Exercise is Not Wasting the Most Time and Energy Possible

Many people have been taught by bad physical education “instructors,” that exercise is all about wasting as much time and energy as possible -- and having a miserable time doing so, as though that experience, by some miraculous transmutation, becomes a virtue. They don’t know how, but everything bad becomes good, the poor become rich, the anonymous, famous. They don’t know how, but if that is one’s wish beyond all desires, that is what must eventually come into being. Of course, that is merely wishful-thinking, but doesn‘t prevent many from living their whole lives with such fanciful notions.

The reason world champions invariably look like world champions, is because of their mastery of their skill, and not by doing something badly, more than anybody else -- which invariably embodies itself as a person who couldn’t do anything well. There are no exceptions -- though undoubtedly, many spread the myth that reality can be so fragmented, so deceived, that nothing is related to anything else, nothing can be correlated to anything else, it is so, because I say it is so. That is the underlying premises of much contemporary physical instruction; understanding is not a prerequisite for what one is doing, or focused on.

In fact, many research studies insist that ignorance of what one is doing and the objectives one wishes to achieve must be unknown for that test to be truly scientific -- when obviously, the intent is not to measure and observe random behavior but directed and focused behavior. That requires that the subject know what he is doing and why he is doing what he is doing. In fact, it is the understanding of this that is much more important than any amount of doing without such an organizing principle in their activities and behaviors. Only once those principles are well understood, are favorable results not only predictable, but are actually, inevitable. Without this proper understanding, no amount of effort will produce those desirable results -- randomly.

Yet that is precisely the approach taken by many fitness/exercise experts. Random behavior never produced desired results in any field of human endeavor, why should it on the athletic field or in a gym? Yet there are a lot of well-conditioned athletes -- who are not exercising for fitness’ sake. The focus on the mastery of their skill, is the organizing imperative of that body to achieve a high level of efficiency and functioning. The challenge of the task requires that optimal performance, function and form.

In reading most contemporary literature on exercise, what is striking is how these authors have no idea what they are talking about -- but have merely claimed the turf as experts because of their ability to write more coherently than most. But because their writing is clearer, it is more obvious they have no idea what they are talking about -- as long as they throw in all the buzzwords, that seems to be saying something, without actually saying anything. In the end, they advise you to consult with your doctor, implying that they are corroborating agents for their own expertise.

In seeking out worthwhile instruction, the telltale piece of information is this sense of purpose and a mastery of a skill valuable in itself. If there is no identifiable objective other than to waste the most time and energy possible, seek another. Such instruction, has nothing to offer -- it will only waste as much time and energy as you give it.

At September 26, 2005 12:32 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Exercise Made Easy

The big mistake of the fitness industry, was the notion that in order to make themselves indispensable to the process, they needed to make exercise hard rather than easy -- adopting the education model, that learning should be as difficult as possible, rather than as easy as possible. It was thought that unless these activities could be made to seem as difficult as possible, there would be little need for those who know better, to push their subjects harder, against their will, to do more. Trusted to their own good sense and instincts, their disciples would conclude rightly, that they ought to do as little of the recommended regimen as possible -- just as their coaches now do. Coaches and teachers existed to do as they said, and not as they do -- which is why they are coaches and teachers, rather than still active players, throughout their life far beyond the need for competitions to motivate them.

The notion that anything should be made easy -- rather than hard, is only a recent realization growing in popularity for the last twenty years. Prior to that, it was thought that the height of wisdom and sophistication was to make everything and anything seem as complicated and difficult as possible -- as an indication of superior intelligence in mastering it. What virtue could there possibly be in mastering anything that was simple and easy? During this period, academics went to great lengths to prove that they could require an entire semester to teach nothing at all -- as a mark of superior guile and cleverness. Entire books might be written with all the jargon signifying nothing of any consequence. It was the Golden Age of Liberal Education -- during which, the highest achievement was proving the utter futility of learning anything.

That was also the beginning of the end -- of unproductivity and inefficiencies that would bring about a revolution in how we did everything. And truly, the average person would soon be capable of doing nearly everything -- moderately well and easily. But some old habits and ways of thinking die a little harder. Exercise was still thought to require making it harder than easier -- lowering the barriers until there was nearly universal participation -- instead of excluding all but the most obsessive and compulsive. Nobody even seemed to want to test the notion that it did not require the arduous discipline, dedication and will power of only the most virtuous and vain.

Yet in the ancient academies, that was the core curriculum -- the well-rounded and balanced development of the complete human being. The problem was the fragmentation, specialization and professionalization of every aspect of contemporary life fostered by prolonged education. But the reintegration of existence begun twenty years ago, will bring about the healing required for a more healthful, integrated existence. It is a movement whose time has come -- because of a stage of life that never really existed before. That is, the healthy, productive life beyond the years of competition, striving, and need to become other than what one actually is -- without guilt, obsession and compulsion as prime motivators.

When we get beyond those issues, what needs to be done is pretty straightforward. It is our "issues" that won’t allow us to make things easy for ourselves. Life is very hard, until we allow ourselves to make it easy.

At September 29, 2005 11:54 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The Information Problem

Unlike times in the past, most contemporary problems are not the lack of resources or even resourcefulness, as it is the lack of valid information. In this, those who work hardest, are those with the most to gain from spreading misinformation, by which they hope to create their opportunity. Many even create a problem, even if none existed before. They may even come to believe that their distortions are actually true, particularly if they are successful at convincing many others to believe it so, concluding that so many other people couldn’t be wrong, even if they knew it to be false when they first came up with the idea.

Chief among these are those who propagate information -- which is the media collectively known as the newspapers, television, radio and other transmissions of advertising. But it is not the advertising that is paid for that is the greatest sources of misinformation, but the so-called “objective” articles and commentary of misinformed people or those without the ability to validate information effectively -- a category of folks who in a former era, were known as journalists -- or professional journalists. The entire information game has passed them by.

Such people now, are the most vulnerable to being deceived and manipulated -- because the information game is played on a much higher level than the old journalism could encompass. They have been supplanted by the new information processors -- people whose primary skill is the validation of information, before it is processed for truthfulness. That validation process cannot be done at the end -- it must be done at the beginning of the information process. It is the model of modern information processing, taught as computer processing, or data processing. It is actually a generic skill for processing any kind of information -- and not limited to processing information only about computers, or information processing per se.

That is the essential skill required today for everybody -- and renders the specialized skills and disciplines irrelevant. It breaks down the walls by which experience and knowledge of life has been fragmented, specialized and compartmentalized in the past. While there are those with exceptional abilities and predispositions in certain areas, it is not because they have delimited their field and range of study. The old Ph.D. of the 20th Century, has become a baseline for the well-informed person in the 21st Century.

Today’s generic researcher is capable of accessing quickly what took those in a previous era, a lifetime to be able to learn and access quickly -- but that now is a skill that is largely unnecessary in an era of unlimited memory and storage capacity. It used to be that a primary function of most human beings was to memorize and store information -- which we now realize, is not the highest use of human possibilities. Like a computer, the human is most effective processing real-time information, from moment to moment. If one can do that well, it doesn’t require memory and memorization to function in such a world.

That information is encoded in the very structure of every existence -- and can be examined directly, not as a memorized piece of information but verifiable as truth in the moment, of which there is sufficient processing capacity to do so now. The truth that is only a remembered thing, is no longer necessary, and may be counterproductive, in determining what is essential to know.

The real process of understanding, is eliminating all that is not essential to the task. In many people, that is 95% of what they know.


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