Sunday, January 25, 2009

Effecting Change

As an instructor of exercise, I can teach over 600 different movements that will activate each different muscle in the body -- or I can teach one thing -- which is how each and every muscle can function in only one way, and that is to change from its fullest contraction from a state of relaxation. It is this change of state, that causes every action humans or any other active life form can make. Most notably, that is the simple way the only muscle that the body (brain) must be working at all times, must work unfailingly -- to provide the circulation that is the foundation for all life processes.

Curiously, and maybe quite deliberately, instructors throughout the history of such instruction, have chosen to teach the 600 or more movements the body can make -- rather than the one thing every muscle can make -- for their own job security, as well as proof of their own accomplishments. But in doing so, the very powerful basic and universal lesson for effecting change regardless of what one is doing and hopes to accomplish is lost in the multitude of extraneous -- each seeming to have no relationship with any other.

That is the first step the acute observer of exercise activities may note -- that each of the muscles of the body, must all act on one basic, universal principle -- of the change and difference from relaxation to contraction. The second great insight, is determining a way in which all the muscles might be effected simultaneously in a single movement. For this to occur, one must break from the traditional notions about movement typically seen, and consider simply what is possible -- as though creating beneficial movement from scratch -- and not as a by-product of running farther, faster, or doing more work in the traditional sense apparent to the outside observer -- because of the realization that the important work is what is going on inside the body, to build the body and ensure its health and optimal functioning.

This is a revolutionary departure from “exercise” as we have customarily thought about it and why it needs to be reprogrammed into the skills most learn to improve their chances for living a long and successful life -- which was never the clear and singular purpose of human activities. Instead, we quickly were caught up in the competitive nature of such activities as the valuable lesson -- in virtually everything we were taught, which is highly destructive and counterproductive to developing lifestyles in which we benefit from the totality of human effort and accomplishment, rather than expressing and celebrating only our limited own. Then life takes on a wholly new and different significance, in which we benefit from all human achievement, knowledge, and well-being, rather than fighting against it as the height of individual success and well-being.

This is a transformation in the whole way in which we regard life -- and how we get everything to work for us, rather than to determinedly struggle against everything else in life, as though overcoming it, was a wise thing to do. That is a very different kind of conditioning -- but makes much greater sense -- for everybody. Life is very difficult when the purpose of it all, is to struggle against everybody else, hoping to defeat them all, until one day, we are overrun by everybody else, and have no hope and diminished capabilities for reversing that disadvantage.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Future of Aging

Among the current Baby Boomer generation of those reaching 50-60, we’re beginning to see a clear divergence of life in this category -- with many continuing to “age” in the traditional pattern -- but a few beginning to break out and pioneer a category of life never lived before, and that is fully mature people who are not deteriorating.

Fortunately, these latter are still the exceptions because the rules and infrastructure are made for the majority, who are already in decline instead of reviving new lives at the age many are retiring -- but retiring to do what? -- die? The challenge is stimulating growth, and not merely trying to preserve one’s past vibrancy and youthfulness, which is a folly and waste of the experience and wisdom gained with time.

However, as many more reach advanced ages without being overly damaged by their lives, we see a critical mass of people who make that the minimum expectation, but the mistake has been in the thinking that we now need to simply aim for yet even longer-- instead of focusing on the quality of life, not only in advanced years but throughout the life span. This requires a shift in thinking about life as a qualitative experience rather than the more conventional and traditional discussions of “More” as the meaningful measure of anything, which was characteristic of life in the last century -- distinguished by more and mass.

More and mass is appropriate up to a certain point and then the distinction is not simply endlessly “More,” but “Different,” and "Better,"which is a shift in perception and thinking rather than just further accumulation of things and experience in the familiar mode. There is a quantum leap in the progression from the continued linear progression -- into something else entirely.

The present collapse we are now seeing in the values of much of what we have come to unquestionably measure and value life and progress in America and the world, is indicative of this shift in values and perceptions of future prospects. Retirees will not be spending the rest of their lives cruising around the world richly every year. Their modest homes won’t be worth castles in the future. The winner won’t be the ones with the most toys -- but no fuel to run them on.

Something has happened to make life very different. Even forums and discussions like these are evidence that life as we know it has changed and making the possibility that change can come about much more rapidly than it ever has before -- and so what is particularly important is the single highest attainment of a viable possibility, that can easily and rapidly be replicated once a prototype exists. So the challenge is no longer how we get everybody to change, but creating the possibilities of those changes that can come about almost instantaneously, once they have been created by those of vision and understanding of not only what life has been (or think it has been), but as it has never been thought possible before.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Power to Effect Change

The chief benefit of “exercise” is not so that when one is feeling great, that they can run a marathon, or climb the highest mountain, but that when one feels they can barely move without great pain and effort, that they can achieve even the slightest evidence that their body is still responsive to the commands of their will. In like manner, a physical therapist will receive the greatest gratification in observing new movement when movement was never witnessed before. That is the power of change, and the ability to effect change, as the situation appropriately demands it.

Thus, I was never so much interested in seeing whether a already formidable athlete (bodybuilder) could add another inch to their arms, or that someone could add another hundred pounds in their bench press, as it is to see somebody who has spent their entire lifetime uninvolved in exercise and athletics, gain the sense of mastery of their movements, after a lifetime of never having given it much thought -- even at an advanced age of 80!

At those ages, whether one “exercises” daily, or even at all, even occasionally, makes the greatest difference -- rather than that a 20 year old is active or not. And then we can work backwards to ensure that everyone has this power to effect such positive change and changes in their lives -- rather than whole classes of society, who feel they have no such power, even and especially in their own lives. We hear such people constantly whining and complaining about what somebody else should be doing for them, without first considering, what they can do for themselves -- which is the greatest power of all, and not how many legions one commands.

Although I’m sure there are those who claim they wake up each day full of energy and raring to run a marathon event or tremendous display without exception, there will be times when even the best, will wonder if they can even rise at all, or move a muscle -- and that is obviously the time and circumstance in which it is most critical to do so -- and have that ability to eventually achieve and attain their fullest functioning abilities.

The proper systematic approach is to try to effect the smallest increment of change at the extremity -- such as moving a finger, rather than to see if one can immediately effect a triple somersault -- and in the process, risking even greater injury and disability -- before one is confident that they are in possession of their fullest faculties, and all systems are “go.”

Once one has achieved that “readiness,” the predisposition is to use it -- and use it effectively and powerfully -- but before then, the gulf between something and nothing is too great to breach before this connection between the brain and the muscle has been minimally and fully activated.

So the first consideration in a program of change, is to consider the smallest unit of effective, meaningful and total responsiveness -- before making the great leap forward, and this systematic approach to doing anything, in its smallest detail, becomes the building blocks for any great undertaking and achievement -- whatever it is.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Master at Exercise Instruction

People who are visibly out of shape, undermine their credibility and effectiveness, because they do not inspire confidence by their appearance and body language (movements). I have pioneered leading edge thinking at effecting a transformation by simplifying the understanding of that process for improvement -- making it quick, easy, effective and immediate.

Raised in a family of exercise practitioners and instructors -- before it was fashionable to be so, I predate the popularity of contemporary thinking on exercise and trace my heritage to centuries-old roots, while independently evolving the state of the art in understanding, and present them in forums to those interested in such inquiry, including accomplished athletes, coaches, medical researchers, as well as the most disabled, because the universal principles and truths apply equally no matter what condition, competence and training one is in.

I moved to Salem, Oregon because I was interested in relocating from Honolulu, after ten years in which the cost of living increased from one of the lowest to one of the highest in the country. I went back in 1998 because I was told my mother’s health was in such poor condition she would not last another year. I was confident that my insight into the aging (deterioration) process gained from the ten previous years while in Seattle, Washington, could revive her chances of regaining independent living. That’s my objective with “disabled” people, while for most others, it is to obtain the greatest results in the least amount of time, effort, disruption and reservations.

Exercise and exercise instruction has been a lifelong interest for me because that is the way I was brought up -- but learned also from my earliest years of play, that that was not the case with others, and so I always tried to be helpful in increasing their confidence and abilities to participate.

By the time I entered high school in Hawaii where I spent my first 18 years, I was already regarded as a bodybuilding sensation -- mainly because that was how my body responded to a fairly disciplined exercise program at the onset of my unique growth spurt, which made most people think I was a professional wrestler in that age in which people were not used to prodigious development outside those very specialized groups of people and activities.

Only after I had gone away to college and was recommended to be the recreational weight room supervisor as a student at the University of Texas at Austin during the glory years of 1969-71, did weight-training become more prominent and credible in the public eye. Just as a focus for that activity, I formed, recruited and trained a club team, for the purpose of preparing and supporting those interested in competitions. On such occasions, I met those who were the backbone of organizing such events, and one particular individual, Arthur Jones, became a pivotal and influential figure in legitimizing resistance training as the fundamental preparation for all athletic activities, with his Nautilus principles and training machines.
Up to that point in time, there was no universally accepted rules about what actually worked -- and there still isn’t, except that from time to time, certain trade associations and commercial ambitions, want to reserve that whole arena of recreational activities as their exclusive jurisdiction. But in sport and athletics, the prize does not go to those who have the highest degrees and certificates, but those who can demonstrate their prowess at any and every challenge.

And although I had been a respected competitor, as well as coach and organizer of such activities, what primarily distinguished me above all others, has been the ability to instruct others through speaking, writing and demonstrations (video and live), on the nature and process of inquiry for anyone’s unique requirements, adaptations, proficiencies, and even disabilities -- rather than the “One-size fits all” conditioning approach usually advocated by those without these sensibilities and sensitivities.

That is really what a valued “personal trainer” has to do -- be able to innovate and design appropriately for each individual’s competence and personality -- rather than shoving them into the impersonal treadmills of life, and thinking that if they simply do more of what they are not vitally interested in and suited for, they will miraculously become and live the life they want to.

One becomes the person they condition themselves to be -- so that kind of mechanical, impersonal approach merely conditions them to become less involved in that possibility. In this, the real test of one’s effectiveness as a trainer is the number of people who will comment many years later and say, “I still do what you taught me,” even without that personal supervision and prodding, and do an excellent job of maintaining their own lives and fitness for it.

That’s my orientation, and thus, “proof” of my success -- rather than the lifelong codependencies of many less successful instructors and trainers, whose students will forget or not continue to do what they were instructed on as soon as nobody is around to force them to do so and personally supervise every repetition. That kind of training is not in anybody’s best interest -- which has been the failing of virtually all the personal training I have observed, usually conducted by those who have the certificates but no understanding of the principles implied. Unfortunately, that’s like a lot of teaching these days and why “education” has fallen into such disrepute -- that the “teacher” is not also a keen student who has learned what they know from their own discoveries, experimentation and experience.

They were not born, bred and made for that sphere of activities which inspires the unquestionable mastery of that field -- that is not gained by merely learning the protocol and jargon. Some are unmistakably the “real deal” and create the thoughts that emerge and endure.