Monday, October 19, 2009

Exercise: You Don't Have to Kill Yourself

Three people died over the weekend running (competing) in a marathon -- and all were reported to be in excellent shape. That's not surprising, because when I pioneered work on high-intensity exercise in the early 70s, what we found pretty consistent is that the best conditioned athlete was the one most likely to become extremely impacted by an assault on their momentary capabilities rather than the worst conditioned participants, because they apparently were capable of pushing themselves momentarily beyond their body's capacities -- which is the intent as well as product of that conditioning.

People who were untrained and in poor condition, didn't have the ability to "hurt" themselves in that way. That is true, in most activities; most of the injuries are caused by people who have the formidable ability to hurt themselves -- because they can push their bodies to the limits normally not experienced by most.

And so that power, creates a need to use it responsibly and also understand the risks involved with having that greater capacity and confidence, that if misjudged or misused, can be disastrous. So one of the great lessons one learns in increasing one's capacities, is the ability to use it judiciously and responsibly, because having great power, is a responsibility and does make a difference.

People who can't make a difference, don't think any actions of theirs makes a difference and can have wide-ranging impacts and implications -- which those who do have that power, must learn to use and control responsibly. Thus it is often noted by those in the presence of large and powerful athletes, about how extremely gentle and precise they seem to be -- rather than knocking over all the furnishings as many more average persons are much more likely to do. It is because they have that power and capacity and must be aware of it at all times -- or they would destroy everything and never be invited or allowed anywhere, or would be constantly berated and have their confidence undermined as youngsters growing up.

Instead, they tend to be extremely precise in their movements and aware of the abilities of everything else in that environment to bear their impact. They don't take it for granted that each chair will support them; they will test a chair out prior to using one to see whether the chances of being supported are reasonable.

In this way, supremely conditioned athletes are so not because they can push themselves beyond their limits, but they are acutely aware of them -- whatever they may be. If they sense impending distress, they take the precaution not to test those limits unnecessarily. They know that there will be times enough when they will find themselves not in a position to control those factors (risks) -- so when they can, they opt to survive and maintain a margin of reserve that ensures their survival and success. That is also the conditioning advantage -- of knowing one's limits, knowing when there is greater risk, and knowing that area in which life itself is at stake, and there is a time when one has to take that door, and when it is a needless risk.

Normal conditioning activities, needn't expose one to even the chance of those risks arbitrarily and unnecessarily, because they arise often enough simply in the course of one's daily activities. One's conditioning, is to allow one to experience the greatest amplitude of those possibilities that define one's unique life -- but one need not be foolhardy and reckless to garner that respect from oneself and others. That is a large part of what it means to mature fully in life -- that one no longer takes unfounded and unmerited risks, but does not hesitate and can accurately measure the risks and act prudently even while others around may not have the slightest inclination of what to do and how to respond. One simply does, because he has that capacity to.

So when there is a large number of participants in a marathon, every individual brings their own unique capacities and qualifications for them -- and while it is nice to be able to run a marathon at least once in one's life, it is not necessary for one's well-being ever to do so, and in fact, one can probably obtain superior conditioning in other less intrusive and demanding ways.

Originally, maximum heart rate was determined to be important not because it was necessary to function at that capacity represented by that threshold at which imminent failure was probable -- but that was what was to be avoided. And so from that calculation, one could determine what was the safe thresholds to maintain -- which then was assessed to be at 65% of that theoretical maximum -- a level which can be achieved doing practically anything, including often, just measuring one's heart rate.

So the far more important question to consider, is not rate at which the heart beats, but the optimization of the circulatory effect -- regardless of the rate, which is the thoroughness in which circulation can take place -- particularly to the extremities of the body, and not just to the heart itself, which is not likely to be a valid indicator of the overall development of that individual -- at the extremities in which individuals differentiate and become accomplished in their many proficiencies -- either in thought, words or actions. These are neuromuscular abilities supported by the cardiovascular system, and not cardiovascular activities primarily.

The proper understanding of this essential difference, is the key to optimal condioning.


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