Monday, June 26, 2006

Meaning and Purpose

As simple as one can make it, one still has to actually do the exercises. Not a few people (especially of the intellectual sort) think that understanding something, and acting on that understanding, is the same thing -- and so they wonder why they aren’t getting the results, because they understand how it works.

This is fairly typical in the fragmentation of experience and life into the multiple realties that is the common cognitive dissonance of many people -- to the crippling distortions of multiple personalities and schizophrenia. With television and other media, it’s quite possible to be convinced that life is one thing, and one’s idea of it, is something totally different -- and even at war with one another, resulting in daily struggles against oneself. This confusion is the economic opportunity for a few who prey on misinformation and propaganda. That is the audience they are expected to deliver to their advertisers.

In an earlier time, information was scarce -- and now obviously, it is overabundant -- and mostly bad and incomplete (partisan). Those most vulnerable to these deceptions are the reporters and editors themselves -- because of their own inflated estimation of their abilities and vanities. They think that because they have received a degree or a certificate, they never have to think anymore -- because the degree or certificate is a substitute for thinking. Of course, even more stupid people are impressed.

But increasingly, more people develop higher levels of discrimination and discernment; they can tell differences, and ignore the commands not to discriminate, and think for themselves. Originally, to be a discriminating person was a high compliment denoting superior judgment and taste -- and now the mass media demands that we let them do everyone’s thinking for them, in telling us what is good, and the best -- while deriding and ridiculing those who don‘t jump on the “correct“ bandwagon. Usually such lists are a compendium of their biggest advertisers.

Even their self-proclaimed “objectivity,” is just their marketing ploy -- what we ought to believe. So the solutions that are offered, will not be the most effective -- but rather the most profitable. If one transportation device costs a hundred, while the other costs billions, the billions will be considered the superior -- because it costs more. The former will be disdained as the inferior because it only cost a hundred -- regardless of whether it is more effective and appropriate -- because the wrong criterion is being used to assess that meaning and purpose.

That’s a theme emerging more frequently these days in contemporary discussions -- meaning and purpose, the excitement and discovery of living -- beyond the material measurements that seldom measure the quality of life. Those are not the labor union issues; in fact, they make the conditions of work as deplorable, demeaning and arbitrary as possible to their own members -- to justify and exploit demands for higher strictly monetary compensation -- ignoring that for most, the freedom and dignity in doing their work, is a higher payoff. The ultimate possession is owning one’s own life (work) -- and not just consuming one more Big Mac.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Moving the Feet

Walking and running are actually inferior conditioning exercises because the range of motion is limited by the weight borne. The range of foot movement possible is obviously much greater when the foot is not required to bear any weight -- as when sitting, one points the toes straight down (as ballerinas are wont to do), or one lifts their toes as close to the shin as possible.

The range of movement is much more important than the amount of resistance or distance traveled, time, etc. -- in the exercise equation, or any other factor (speed, duration, pain, effort, difficulty, etc.) What that present and ultimate range will be for everybody varies by genetic potential -- but each individual can explore and expand that range within their own potential. But the general rule is that moving at an axis (joint) through its greatest range of movement causes maximum relaxation and contraction of the particular muscles involved -- and if it begins at the furthest extremity of the body (head, hands and feet), the greater the potential to engage all the muscles on back towards the heart -- and origin of all the muscles back towards that same convergence of the lungs and heart.

The greatest function of any muscle, is to enlist and engage the help of the larger supporting muscle to which it is attached. That is why the old notion of “exercising a muscle in isolation throughout its greatest range of movement,” fails -- because it cannot achieve its greatest range of movement in isolation. No muscle behaves that way by design -- and if it does, must lead to an eventual injury, because of the disproportionate strength it will have in relationship to the adjoining, supporting muscles, which requires a proper balance of development.

That was the fatal flaw I first noted at the height of the Nautilus machines craze in the mid-80s, and informed their proponents of. That was the reason the fantastic results promised were not forthcoming -- even if every repetition of each exercise was carefully monitored by “personal trainers” to insure strict performance. Originally, the inventor claimed these machines were “foolproof,” and one could not help but use these machines properly, and productively. “Only a fool could not use these machines properly,” he (Arthur Jones) stated confidently.

However, many of his ideas were principles I used as the basis for developing my own -- on the need for integrated movement. That’s how ideas develop and are evolved -- from one generation to the next. Many of my friends from that early period of involvement, are also leading proponents of alternate training methodologies -- most notably Dr. Ken Leistner of the High Intensity Training school, which we co-championed at different venues in the ‘70s.

My varied experiences and wanderings led me far beyond the world of athletic preoccupations -- to the other end of the spectrum, in which people were in conditions of dying and given no hope for continued survival. Every day was a monumental struggle, and every effort a monumental achievement. Through those differences though, one could see the great principles of human functioning involved at work at its most primal level -- uncomplicated by all the theories, explanations, alibis, delusions and deceptions.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Problem with Studies

In a more primitive understanding of the effects of exercise, what was thought to be important was moving the entire mass of the body a certain distance, or acting upon an external object, as a measure of work, rather than the more specifically targeted understanding that it is the work of the body being done internally, that is what conveys healthful benefits -- so that the prior understanding was a correlation rather than the cause. Lifting a weight up and down, or moving the body a certain distance, was not so important as moving the parts of the body (fluids, gases, neurochemical impulses, etc.) relative to one another -- resulting in the more conventional observation of movement, but is not necessarily the healthful effect.

When people started making space flights in weightlessness, the usual parameters of those traditional discussions became meaningless and ineffective, because there was no external weight and resistance to work against. Predictably, conventional exercise failed entirely to maintain strength and fitness levels -- not because it was entirely impossible, but was meaningless in the conventional terms of that discussion.

However, internally, the same conditions for functioning in outer space, must be maintained the same as on earth, or life is not possible. Using this paradigm, maintaining one’s strength and fitness is not only possible but enhanced abilities may even be possible -- BECAUSE of the conditions of weightlessness and the lack of resistance! But one needs to have a different, space-age understanding -- that it isn’t the calories burned, the amount of weight lifted, the sweat produced, the usual parameters of the discussion -- but managing the body as a dynamic system of internal references.

A lot of people who are used to separating mind from body, do not consider this -- as earlier, more primitive understandings did not either. For the foot to move skillfully, a signal has to come from the brain directing it to do so. So the critical path is from the brain -- directing the heart (and everything else), and not the heart directing the brain. But how do we measure the brain -- which is not as simple as just counting heart beats?

The measure of the brain is in its understanding and awareness of what is going on and how it is interacting with that environment -- which many scientific studies try to discount, to ensure a blind, random study -- in which the subjects don’t know what they are being tested for. (Much of education also uses this testing paradigm.) Such models work well with non-animate phenomena but fail disastrously at measuring non-random (intelligent) behavior, for which the behaviorists, really need to develop their own methodologies rather than borrowing the paradigm of the former to study random behavior -- and then apply it to intelligent behavior and then try to cancel out intelligence.

Just canceling out human intelligence, is not an intelligent way of understanding intelligent behaviors -- to measure the one thing important to measure, which is the understanding of what one is doing! It becomes particularly problematical when the understanding of the subject tested, exceeds the intelligence of the tester (observer) -- because he cannot account fully for that greater capacity that he seeks to cancel out and control.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Standing Swim, or Human Windmill (Oscillating Fan)

The objective of the five-minute workout is to find (create) five movements of a minute duration that will move all (most) of the joints (axes of rotation) of the human body -- at least once daily -- but since it is a dramatic improvement over not being done ever at all by most people, represents a tremendous gain in improvement. The key is to discover and articulate the fullest range of that movement -- rather than do a lot within a constricted (limited ) range even though one might increase the workload (resistance) to that movement.

In any movement, the greatest range of motion is the fullest expression of that possibility or potential. When we can achieve that, we know everything else must fall within that range, and is implied. That is not true of the reverse -- that becoming very good or strong in a limited range, implies one has full access to the whole range. The former is derived from a previous cultural desire for increased specialization and compartmentalization in everything people do -- that eventually evolved into the realization that the many isolated parts did not create a coherent whole, and it is this integration of understanding and experience, that gives life meaning and purpose.

Otherwise, everything is arbitrarily, “ Do this, then, do that,” blindly and unquestioningly following the directives of the (self-)designated experts because they impress or intimidate others into believing that is the proper social order. In that kind of conditioning environment (education), very few break through to the real objective of society -- which is freedom of knowing the full range of human possibilities. And so we are conditioned to express a very limited range -- and told that is all that is possible.

So in the standing swim, or human windmill, we explore the sensation and implications of full range movement more fully. Imagine if you will, a person doing the familiar swimming motion (freestyle, crawl) while just standing still, out of water. It seems fairly foolish to do so actually -- like the proverbial fish out of water. So let’s make it a little more meaningful and purposeful.

With each backward stroke of each arm, one allows the head to rotate fully in that direction and focus on an object directly behind the body stance, the lower part which remains fixed. Once the apex of movement is achieved in that direction, one rotates the head back in the other direction -- fully a 360 degree range of movement, made possible because the torso is also rotating at the midsection to allow that range of head movement and vision. If we can see that same object moving our head all the way to the right and then all the way to the left -- the range of our awareness is maximum -- we are capable of taking in all the information all around us, and not just focused on only what is right in front of us, a few inches from our noses. The action of that awareness is quite different from one whose focus is very narrow and limited -- and maybe existing only within their mind’s eye.

To complete the requirements for the proper range of movement, rather than keeping the hand open and flat as swimmers must do to obtain maximum surface area, one closes the hand into a fist and then moves (rotates) at the wrist in the palmward direction, and then maintains that position throughout the movement, noting particularly how the triceps tightens (contracts) when the arm is moved fully backwards when doing so. Meanwhile, in the windmill motion of the arms at the shoulder, there is no doubt that we are achieving the full range at the shoulder girdle. The imagery is that of an oscillating fan.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"Hand to Mouth"

I think one of the most damaging aspects for lifelong conditioning is this very notion that one is competing against every other -- and that the only way to win is to make somebody else lose. In such games, losing is the only thing. And what most are competing for in an impersonal, mass world, is attention, to stand out in some way, to differentiate oneself from the crowd. Many know no other way to do it than to compare themselves with another (and every other), trying to steal their confidence and esteem -- rather than realizing one has to develop their own unique identity, that which makes them special, like no other, and for which there is no competition, no rivalry. You just are who you are. And that is the end-all and be-all of every existence.

So before we can embark on a simplified, purposeful, efficient and effective conditioning program, we need to understand our present conditioning -- and not deny who we truly are and only imagine who we wish to be. Understanding what is, is the most powerful understanding in the world -- and not what one wants to be, or what should be. That is the fragmentation that causes cognitive dissonance, of acting in a world that we only think to be or should be, rather than it actually is. Every present moment, is actually a choice -- between the familiar rut, and the road not traveled.

Most people’s poor condition is not because they aren’t doing anything -- but rather, what they are doing is causing their poor condition. They’re not overweight because they’re not dieting; they are overweight because they are putting food into their mouth far beyond the capacity of their needs -- for the foreseeable future.

So one of the essential movements is just bringing the hand up to the mouth -- making that a deliberate and conscious movement rather than an involuntary, reflexive one. That would be one of the five movements, in a five-minute workout -- which is the threshold most people will devote to exercise daily without thinking of it as a special intrusion upon their normal schedule of activities. Fortunately, that is enough time to ensure proper maintenance of the movements of the human body. But they are not the ones people usually think to do -- BECAUSE they don’t require special equipment and are EASIER movements to perform than those they normally perform -- easier even than walking.

Walking is not the easiest exercise (movement) invented -- and will be problematical for those with foot, knee and back pain -- which are the usual suspects of those needing to exercise. To therefore demand that they should take up a walking regimen of at least an hour every day to be fit is a torture worse than they can bear. Understandably, such programs will not be sustained. If they could walk for that duration, they wouldn’t need to. So for someone to give them that advice is less than useful; it is damaging, discouraging, truly disruptive to their very existence. But not surprisingly, many do offer their advice of wishful-thinking. “If you just run a marathon a day, you’ll be in excellent shape.” The reality is something else -- and even the original runner, collapsed and died upon completion.

So one of the essential five, would be to bring the wrist up to one’s mouth, and while doing so, rotating the fist in the direction of the knuckles -- for 25 repetitions with each hand. Obviously, this is one of the essential movements one has to become good at -- “hand to mouth.” By developing such precise and masterful control, one will also be able not to do it, when it is the appropriate action to take.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Introduction to the Five-Minute Workout

People who try the One-Minute Workout (posted October 22, 2005), immediately recognize the better circulation to the brain, resulting in clearer thinking and better brain functioning -- because nothing else is possible. That is the immediate result of movement -- and not a result that materializes only six-months from now, or from wishful-thinking. The rest of the body works in that same fashion -- to immediately produce enhanced functioning, and particularly so, when this process is recognized and intentional.

Movement is the process of producing a flow -- of energy, body parts, external objects -- but most importantly, the flow of fluids throughout the body. To maximize this circulatory effect, one has to initiate a muscle contraction from the most remote part of the body back towards the heart. Not coincidentally, the musculature is designed for this purpose and function -- but it has to be discovered, or learned; it is not automatic. The potential exists but it has to be learned to use -- like many of our capacities.

That should be the function of schools and education -- but it isn’t. What is taught instead, is the greater dependency on another -- to tell one what to do, and what to think, as the objective of that instruction -- and not one’s own empowerment and freedom from such dependencies. Simply put, that is the exploitation of another, rather than a free exchange between two equals. The process then is one of subjugation -- of one to the other, which most come to unfortunately regard as the student-teacher relationship -- of the dysfunctional sort, because it is not a free exchange but coerced. The most common is the coercion of misinformation, disinformation, deception, manipulation, intimidation -- all posing as innocent, objective, motiveless information -- which is no longer possible in the old mass media.

So, many are turning to alternative sources -- which are often the original sources of information -- not easily available and accessible in a previous time. But with today’s searching capabilities, the impossible has become the commonplace and vastly more reliable. In fact, one frequently finds in reading the original source and the interpreted version (mediated), that what the original said, has been frequently distorted to convey precisely and deliberately, the opposite.

In that manner, all good news can become bad news -- if bad news is what they believe sells, believe is their audience or calling in life -- those who relish bad news, and insatiably can never get enough of it. It’s not a healthy life (information) orientation, but that’s what many were conditioned to believe, should be the quest of their lives -- and not better. Their programming is to seek the bad and the worst -- leaving more for those realizing it is more fruitful to seek the good and the best.

It should be obvious which is the better choice -- yet many will choose the opposite. The plausible rationale will be that it hasn’t happened before so its time must be due. In this manner, many can convince themselves that what isn’t working, is due to start working if they simply persist long enough and hard enough at it. Meanwhile, the others are eating their lunch.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Inquiring Mind

Many people think they know something because they’ve always done what somebody else has told them to do -- as though the other really knew; it may be about law, medicine, politics, moral and even intensely personal matters -- as though those they obey had carte blanche authority over those matters and knowledge -- and not that those at the cutting edge of understanding fully acknowledge, that what they know or think they know, is the best they’ve come up with so far -- and seems to explain most things satisfactorily, but their knowledge (information) is imperfect. So one is seeking the best among the many alternative explanations -- and choosing what makes the best sense to them.

While the generalization may seem true and plausible, when one takes the understanding to the extremes of rigorous testing and examination, it is often revealed that what was widely believed to be true at that time, it turned out, was not -- and those realizations changed the course of one’s life, and on a larger scale, history and progress, as when a few tested whether all that could be seen, was all there was in the world. That was what all the "authorities" of their time agreed upon as the truth -- and in past times, those who would not agree, could be burned at the stake or tortured until they agreed to accept the authority of the self-appointed few.

There are still such impulses in 21st century mainstream culture -- with the added complication of those intermediaries who further interpret the “truth, according to their biases (or limited understanding) -- because these intermediaries are insistent that they have to filter the truth, and not that they need to get out of the way, and let the message be transmitted intact. Such intermediaries are in the habit of selecting parts of an understanding to suit their own arbitrary tastes -- instead of allowing the author’s original observation to go through undistorted. Invariably, one selects only those snippets of plausibility that supports what they already know, and omits everything that might be a challenge to their old perspective -- and so nothing new can ever come to light.

History, they will insist, only repeats itself -- and not that it is always evolving and progressing; yet they will fancy themselves as “progressives,” because that sounds a whole lot more impressive than, “retarded.” Their capacity for self-deception and self-delusion are unlimited in this way. In their minds, they are always winning the imaginary wars and competitions they have against everybody else -- as the supreme intelligence in the universe.

That was the epitome of the early 20th century personality -- raised in the Depression and never having escaped that mentality/experience. Some did though, proving it was entirely possible to overcome such conditioning in hardship.

But the qualities that might have conveyed survival value under those conditions, may be distinct disadvantages in different realities and possibilities. What is appropriate for one set of conditions may be entirely dysfunctional under another. The inquiring mind seeks to find out if what it thinks to be true is actually in fact true -- rather than merely imposing his knowledge on those he thinks may not have heard of what he thinks is all there is to know.

Monday, June 05, 2006

No Pain, All Gain

Touching one’s toes causes a lot of people to experience lower back pain -- with good reason; it is the improper lifting alignment, with the weight too far over the center of gravity and balance. One should instead, only touch one’s ankles, and maintain the contact of palms over the legs from the ankle to the waist when bending over and back -- as the proper flexion mechanics. Movement in that manner causes no back pain. Yet that is the essential power movement of the body -- to lift, and also is the powerful rowing motion that taps the strength of the hips and legs, while ostensibly seeming to be a back exercise.

The back is just the final extension of that movement -- to tap and express the power created by the hips and legs -- working along the lines of the body to create maximum power (thrust). The hands, which hold the resistance (weight), have to be as close as possible to the body to have a favorable alignment; holding it too far away, produces an unfavorable alignment we experience as back pain. Touching one’s ankles produces the favorable alignment that touching one’s toes is not. That is the cause of much back pain -- that the weight is too far forward over the center of balance and proper alignment.

Yet frequently, in diagnostics, the examiner will ask one to touch one’s toes -- causing back pain in the doing, even when it would not manifest otherwise, in the proper positioning produced by touching one’s ankles instead and maintaining contact of the hands along the legs throughout the movement. The reason for this is that the hips and legs will adjust to make the position possible (bending at the hips and knees) -- whereas in the toe touch, the hips and legs are immobilized so that the back bears the stress entirely.

This proper starting position, with palms on the ankles, is critical to being able to perform the ultimate power movement of the body, which is the straightening movement in bringing the hands to one’s waist -- as in lifting or rowing. It can be a fairly demanding exercise performed for a high number of repetitions, as a complete (aerobic) exercise routine, and is in fact, a popular gym apparatus. It is also an exercise usually called in P.E. classes, “Toe touches” -- which as I pointed out, is ill-advised. It should be “ankle touches” -- and then one can perform as many as one wants without the stress of back pain, from improper positioning. That’s very important in performing the ultimate power movement of the body; one does not want to use that power to produce an injury.

In exercise, most injuries are self-inflicted, for one reason or another. It doesn’t just happen. It is the improper positioning at the start -- in which the skeletal structures are most vulnerable. Injuries in the end position are relatively rare -- because that is the position of greatest strength and musculoskeletal integrity. When people have a propensity to being injured or experiencing pain, it is usually because they are in the improper beginning position, or if it is in their finished position, it is not the proper finished position.

Many exercise movements, are not the proper range of that muscle design, but are purely arbitrary -- having no real function and purpose other than that the designer thought to develop function in that manner. It has no real usefulness -- at a great risk of injury and pain. Properly designed exercises as well as machinery, should produce no pain.

Yet many proponents, will insist they know what they are doing by being able to produce maximum pain and discomfort in their trainees as though that were a sign of high proficiency and understanding -- a litmus test for effectiveness. Many other educators have been taught/teach in that same manner -- of thinking to make everything as difficult as possible, and therefore, useless, if not injurious. Many do so because they are convinced that they are the “experts.” Such knowledge should not supersede what the common senses are telling one. Real, useful knowledge, confirms one's experiences about the world.