Sunday, November 30, 2008

Exercise for Non-exercisers

On most Thursdays at 3 PM at the Family Services waiting room of the Salvation Army at Front Street between Academy and Columbia Streets, I give presentations for those who want the benefits of exercise -- without all the usual reservations people have about adopting such regimens in their daily routines.

My father was one of the first teachers of tai-chi in the US and many of his cohorts were also the masters/adepts of their own discipline and teaching, and so I just naturally grew up watching people exercise who also liked to think and talk about it as a child. And then in my adolescent years, I became involved in more traditional sporting activities -- including weight training/lifting and bodybuilding. Through it, I used to meet some of the great pioneers in this activity, and particularly notable was Arthur Jones, who “revolutionized” the thinking on exercise back in the late ‘60s.

Many of my close personal friends went on to work with him but also fell under the spell his powerful arguments on exercise -- while I took on a more independent route to the ultimate truth on it. At the same time, another powerful commercial success was the books on exercise written by those advocating “aerobics” as all one needed to know on the matter.

What was increasingly obvious to me despite these two successful commercial paradigms on exercise, was that it either eliminated participation from those willing to try them, or caused many to not even consider them because the threshold required was too high for a beginner or one so poorly out of shape to enjoy.

In fact, potential exercisers were usually advised that if there was no pain, there was no point in doing it -- rather than the acknowledgment that the pain and strain, were the problems. Since constant irrecoverable injuries were the result of my own ambitious workouts, I became intrigued with the idea and notion of the ultimate heresy in exercise, “Could there be an easier, painless way to achieve the benefits -- while avoiding and eliminating everything one didn’t like about exercise.”

While recovering and taking time off from the roller-coaster involvement of either too much exercise or an enforced rehabilitation from it, circumstances brought me into an awareness and involvement with the elderly and terminally ill, and with my background and interest, wondered if there were ways even the most “hopeless” could exercise and strengthen themselves back to health -- even if every traditional advocate had proclaimed them beyond hope.

So rather than continuing down the conventional path of devising ways to make exercise “harder,” I explored the absurd notion of how “easy” and truly “foolproof and unavoidable” one could make it. The “easiest” thing to do went counter to the belief that the value of exercise was in the necessity to exercise the “core” muscles of the body, which are its largest -- and to consider whether moving the smallest muscles (fine-motor coordination) could be the key to recovery if that was all that was possible.

That led to my great observation and insight that the primary function of any muscle is to recruit a larger, stronger muscle in achieving its ends -- and so if one started in this direction, it would recruit the entirety of the musculature while exercising the largest muscles first and primarily, would not -- because there were no larger muscles to recruit.

Much of what we do and accomplish in life is achieved in that manner -- of doing the smallest things first, or attention to detail -- and that fastidious attention to detail, is the basis and foundation for which great and large things can be accomplished -- and not just by having a great ambition at the start, and never figuring out the details of how one even achieves the smallest task.

Great advances in any field occur when one finally questions that which nobody thinks can be questioned -- and which everybody, especially the “experts,” all assume must be true, and merely repeat those believes as though simply repeating them makes them true. That is also true in any field of inquiry and ultimate greater mastery -- and for anybody embarking on any lifelong activity in their lives, that is what sustains their interest and involvement -- that it becomes their primary experience of developing this awareness and possibility of self-discovery.

Cindy Riley, manager of the homeless shelter and family services (food bank, etc.) at the Salvation Army, was desperately searching for such answers to her own health issues and so was extremely receptive, if not desperate, for a way that would work, when everything else one was told should work, did not. After a week’s intensive of five minutes a day with miraculous results in feeling, functioning and presence, she recommended such a regimen to everyone else she met, and suggested I share these insights with those at the Salvation Army who needed such strength and health to enable them to help others, as well as for clients of the Salvation Army who could benefit from an insidious program of exercise for non-exercisers.

The presentation/instruction is open to anyone who can make it to the Salem (Oregon) venue -- from the least able, to world-class athletes or masters/adepts of their own discipline. It is an inquiry, discussion and observation into the simple truths of the matter -- that make a diference -- by the pioneer in this field.


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