Friday, January 28, 2011

The New Paradigm for Exercise

My father died at 91 of dementia -- despite being a lifetime exerciser (tai-chi, yoga, etc.), and because of that, the core of his body was in remarkably good shape, but the failure was, like many problems of aging and deterioration, distinctly at the extremities of the head (brain), hands and feet, which are prone to diminishing circulation even when one exercises in the conventional ways -- including walking, running, treadmilling, and weight-training, because I noted, there is very little direct movement of the head, hands and feet explicitly, such as turning the head 360 degrees, or as much as possible to the left and right, and then up and down as far as possible -- which causes the muscles of the neck to fully contract and relax, and that alternation, vigorously pumps blood back towards the heart, while evacuating the extremities so fresh blood from the heart can refill the space.

The usual thinking that all that is required to increase the circulation to a specific area, and particularly the extremities by just causing the heart to beat faster, is misunderstood, and the reason most exercise is unproductive -- is because the alternation of full contraction and relaxation of the muscles at the extremity (just as the heart works), is the meaningful variable (measure), and not the heart rate.

In the popular notion of exercise, virtually no attention is given to these movements and their motivating contractions that aid the veins in moving the blood back to the heart from the extremities, which if they are not activated in this way, cause the blood pumped from the heart to immediately return to the heart, rather than flow out to the extemities, where many of the critical (sensory) organs of the head, hands and feet are located, and when they fail, as has been noted, the vital signs may continue at healthy levels, but all responsiveness (fine motor coordination) has ceased -- at the head, hands and feet.

Diabetes, congestive heart failure, arthritis, brain dysfunction, all seem to be distinguished by this decreased flow of blood out of those areas, so that fresh, regenerative blood and neuromuscular impulses that maintain the healthy functioning in those organs and tissues are directly assured and enhanced.

But walking is not going to do it, because one needs to express the articulation fully, as occurs when the heel is lifted as far as possible off the floor, or complementarily, the toes are lifted off the floor as far possible, both extremes, causing the full contraction of the leg muscles -- that does not occur in walking, no matter how many miles. The only way the feet can attain those ranges of extreme contraction, is not to be supporting any weight, and likewise, the hands cannot articulate the fullest range of their movement if it is holding any weight, because the resistance prevents the greatest range of movement, which is also the fullest contraction of that effecting muscle.

The conventional wisdom of the usefulness of exercise is actually counterproductive, in shutting off the flow to the extremities by not producing a very deliberate contraction-relaxation initiated at the extremities to enhance the flow from/to those areas, which then defaults immediately back to the heart because that is the circuit of least resistance, rather than the more laborious trip through the muscles and capillaries. In fact, in observing weigh-training, one notes that the performance of most movements, cuts off the flow to the brain as the trainee constricts their neck muscles, which is the real reason for "failure" to continue -- because it is the brain that senses the deprivation of oxygen before the muscles are impaired, causing the entire body to shut down.

So while the heart and internal organs stay healthy, the brain, face, hands, feet, willful and coordinated movements, are not maintained at their highest levels -- which should be the attention of most importance, which implies the health of everything else -- but not vice-versa. Running is even worst, because one has the destruction of the back, feet, knees, hips, concussions from the high impact which usually causes people to desist from even more injury.

So while the proper exercise and movements would undoubtedly be helpful, curative and preventative, as it is popularly practiced, it may be counterproductive and actually aid the deterioration and injury -- and why most people rightfully avoid it, sensing that it is more damaging than helpful.

But seeing that increasing immobility, and characteristic atrophy of the neck muscles, and lack of decreasing range of motion at the wrists and ankles, should provide an insight into those movements that can be done even by people in the most weakened and deteriorative conditions -- because the whole musculature is designed to enable movement at these critical extremities -- rather than the customary meaningless situps, pushups, jumping, running, and even walking.

That is to say, that if all else fails, if one can retain the fullest range of movement at these extremities of the human body -- and nothing else, one would be in remarkable shape and condition, because even the most formidable athletes in their prime, will also decline in these areas, without the proper attention to those movements and areas of vital concern -- specifically, even in people who have exercised their entire lives in the conventional manner of emphasis to the more obvious and familiar movements.

But that is not where the human body critically fails -- particularly when the brain becomes disconnected from the body -- in the distinctive manner of the dementias, that accompanies decreasing head movement, and the atrophying of the neck muscles as the markers of people in deteriorating health, often and usually attributed to the natural aging process. There is nothing natural and inevitable about it.

While critics have pointed out that the ankles and wrists have no musculature to develop, the insertions of the muscles are at these extremities, and the contraction of muscles, is always initiated in the movement of the insertion end towards the origin, which in turn, becomes the insertion of the larger, supporting muscle -- all the way back to the origin of all the muscles near the heart (conveniently), which makes this the most efficient way to effect all the muscles of the body -- beginning with that understanding, that the entire orientation and design of the human musculature, is to effect the angle of rotation of the structures at the extremities, to enhance survival advantage, or fitness, which we also call the survival of the fittest.

The most commonly misunderstood point, is that the heart has no influence in pumping the blood back to the heart from the tissues, but one can create an adjunct heart, by duplicating this characteristic action of the heart -- of alternating full contraction and relaxation, at the extremities through voluntary, willful movements of the skeletal muscles, to greatly enhance the circulatory effect beyond the effectiveness achieved in thinking the heart alone is the only organ (muscle) responsible to achieve this purpose, and in this manner, six hearts are better than one -- and one can actually increase the effectiveness of the circulation, while the heart does the same -- or less work, as the most consistently overworked organ of the body, while weakened muscles, continue to atrophy.

The maintenance of health at the structures at the extremities, implies the health of their supporting structures, while the opposite is obviously not true.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reconditioning, Recreating, Rejuvenating Life in the 21st Century

It is obvious to most people who grew up and were conditioned (educated) in the 20th Century, that the world is wholly different now, but the knowledge and possibilities they learned back then, may not serve them so well now and in the future – if they simply repeat the patterns of the past, rather than explore and develop the greatest possibilities of living in the 21st Century.

Quite possibly, most of what we know, may be no longer true, if it ever was, because information keeps evolving to higher levels of understanding – so that many things thought impossible in the past, including and especially a vastly different and better life, are now the present day realities for increasing many. Some are the first to know about these new understandings and possibilities, while many others, resist them until they are the last to know and accept them.

The conditioning of the past, was partly this resistance to change and accepting different ideas and ways than the one in which they were taught to live out their entire lives, as the only way it has always been done, or had been convinced of that. But the new world, is the understanding that there are many ways, ideas and options – than the one the present conventional wisdom and defenders, try to convince us is the only, if not the best way, even when it obviously does not work for us.

When the knowledge we possess, does not produce the results we desire, we are often told we must simply try harder, and devote more time, effort and expense, into what has not been working, rather than consider that there could be a different understanding, that makes more sense, and in fact, achieves the remarkable results and benefits, with vastly less – because no amount of effort with the wrong understanding, will achieve the results of a very little effort with the right understanding.

In fact, the right understanding automatically leads to the right actions and practices – rather than having to force oneself to continue to do what is obviously not working, and may even be undermining our efforts, and confidence. We often acquired that knowledge (conditioning), because nobody thought to question that there might be a better way (than it's always been done before) – without all the problems, demands and reservations previously thought necessary and essential in those undertakings.

That is the possibility of life in the 21st Century – to be healthy and whole, not as an exception for only a privileged few, but as the new paradigm of living in these times. One no longer just learns everything in school, from experts or teaching professionals, but learns all the time, from everything, and everybody, all one's life – and it is being in that perpetual state of learning, by which one remains healthy, vital and evolving to ever higher levels of well-being, rather than thinking one has learned everything one needs to know in school, and never needs to learn anything else ever again – which is the familiar and destructive pattern of deterioration, decline and dysfunction (disease).

This is very different especially from how we have been conditioned to think of exercise – as the need to do incessantly “more,” rather than that we could be doing less, but better. People don't get better because they do more (of what made them worse with their old understanding), but because they do better, that allows them to do less. But not simply less with their present understanding – which is to think of themselves as a struggle and competition against everybody else, including themselves, working against gravity, time and circumstances, rather than the proper orientation and understanding of optimizing their actions, choices and behaviors to obtain the fullest benefits from their environment and conditions – which produces greater health and fitness as its logical and inevitable outcome.

Much of what we believe to be true, we take on the word of other people telling us so, rather than that we can verify and validate our knowing through our own experiences and sensibilities, so that we can all think for ourselves and make our own inquiries and discoveries thereafter – and not just be told what to think, and when to think them, which no intelligent human being, would settle for.

Vital to any instruction, is that the student learns to be their own teacher – but in order to learn that, they need to see how one learns, and not simply, how the teacher teaches. The great value of education, is observing how the teacher learns – if they in fact do, and not simply repeat what they have been told, is what they must teach. Nowhere is that more true, than in traditional physical education classes and instruction, which is usually just the most obvious of a heavy-handed indoctrination and coercion that doesn't allow one to come upon the truth of any matter for oneself – which allows them to take that basic and vital skill to all the challenges of all one's activities, interests and pursuits.

That is the critical difference in how life has changed from the last century to this: we are no longer merely narrow specialists capable of knowing only one field of expertise or automatons performing one task endlessly, but can broadly experience and operate confidently and competently in as much as we want to. Undoubtedly, some will be more talented in some fields than others, but on a base level of participation, one can feel qualified and welcomed to participate, and not be intimidated and bullied by the self-appointed few who feel they are the only ones who belong there, and own the turf, and everybody else exists only to pay their dues and homage to them.

We no longer live in that world, and so the new paradigm of conditioning in the 21st Century, is the liberation from the compulsion and coercion that restricts and limits movement and funnels them into self-defeating and destructive patterns, to the realization that the range of movement is much greater than thought/imagined possible, and increasing those ranges – and not simply doing a self-limiting familiar range, as a veritable self-fulfilling treadmill -- is what will enable one to do what one has not done before, no matter how many countless, tedious times of thoughtlessly going through the motions.

The conditioning of value is what enables and empowers one to do what one hasn't done before – which is to extend one's range of movement and expression, safely, confidently, sensibly and effortlessly – and create that as a base template for every other activity one engages in the normal course of one's day, rather than being a disruption requiring inordinate amounts of energy, time and focus that takes away from one's day, and becomes one's excuse for not having enough of to do it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

So What Does Work?

One can't help reading about all the injuries incurred by professional and collegiate athletes, and wonder if maybe the conditioning exercises they are doing, are not the major cause of these injuries -- while thinking that performing such movements will render them less susceptible to them.

Particularly of note, are the epidemic of injuries to the Achilles tendon, hamstring, and knee -- for which it is usually recommended to hyper extend the notably vulnerable Achilles tendon and overloading it in the mistaken belief that adding further insult to a vulnerability, is the best way to strengthen it.

And secondly, while it is possible to strengthen a muscle/tendon, the net result may be, to predispose oneself to that injury. It should be noted that while one can train to lift formidable loads with the leg biceps (hamstring), in no real world event or application, would it ever be wise or advantageous to do so -- because the body is better suited to do so in many favorable ways of leverage. The real purpose of the hamstring is to retract (bend) the leg, prior to extending it and applying force -- but never as a primary end in itself, except by the design of the exercise equipment -- which should be a major concern in producing unnecessary injuries through this performance and practice.

And then when the leg is straightened, it is with the purpose of transferring that power through a movement of a heel raise -- rather than in the counterproductive movement of an Achilles tendon hyperextension under increasing loads (until finally there is a rupture), which is not only a problem not only of these movements, but the design flaw of virtually all the machines and apparatus -- in that the range of movement extended, is the (hyper)extension rather than the contraction phases -- which usually stops far short of its fullest range.

It's not advantageous to increase the load in extension -- but in the direction of contraction, which as I have pointed out previously, when performed properly, always produces its own greatest resistance to further contraction -- with no further load needed, which in fact, merely decreases the range of movement. That is the natural, intelligent design of human evolution, that no get-rich quick human invention and device can override.

And most seriously, the too common and familiar knee injuries are exacerbated by the movement of the weighted leg extension -- for no practical purpose other than developing the quadriceps for no greater purpose than could be much better achieved with a slight knee bend (dip), onto a rise onto the toes -- that is the universal useful leg movement. That movement can be easily and productively performed with a chair and simulates the breast stroke as the hands placed on the back of the chair, counterbalances the upward movement (thrust) of the legs, with its own downward movement (thrust) against the chair, as sort of a full body pushup -- without weight and resistance on the upper body structures that usually cause people to dislike conventional pushups.

One merely needs to push down, or straighten one's arms, while the leg is simultaneously straightened -- because it is the movement itself that strengthens, and not the resistance preventing such proper movement! -- allowing the body to increase its range in the range in which it develops as well as exhibits that proclivity and strength.

But in most conventional exercises and in the design or machines and equipment, it is precisely the wrong end of the range that is extended -- and overloaded! That will predispose and make injuries nearly a certainly, and an inevitability -- unless one is wise (or lucky) enough to discontinue them before such (en)forced termination to their participation in future conditioning and health maintenance practices because they no longer physically possible -- even when the spirit is still willing.

But there is a better, intelligent way.

Who Owns the Truth (Facts)

People who have no idea what they are talking about, are fond of (pro)claiming that every idea is as good as any other -- and just because they say it, makes it so, and there is no higher authority.

Nowhere is that more true than in the field of education and instruction -- because such teachers don't do their own thinking and research, but merely teach what they have been told to propagate -- because they don't know any better, and could never tell the difference, because that is not their job, but merely following the directives of so-called authorities.

That is authoritarianism and not authority. The classic example used to be the bureaucratic tyranny of the physical education (PE) instructor, who could make people do any number of insane things -- because they said so, and they were the authorities in charge, and could punish them with even further outrageous demands, no matter how unreasonable and insensible. But now that manner and methods, have spread to most instruction (education) -- which is recognized by only a few (but the most perceptive and aware), as the indoctrination (brainwashing) it is -- moving further into the mainstream because those who claim to know better, don't, and are actually the least qualified and capable of exercising such judgment, and so become one's worst enemy rather than a reliable source of information.

But that is obviously not lost by increasingly many people who have awakened to question such authorities because they prefer discovering the truth of any matter for themselves, and realize the necessity to do so, in the new world of increasing alternatives and information. This development is not unlike the movement out of the medieval age of similar totalitarian authority and information control, to the new age of challenge that could be proved by experience and experimentation that is always a challenge to the old information hierarchies that are mostly represented by the education institutions, and what is increasingly referred to as the old media institutions and their ways of expertly (professionally) manipulating public opinion.

For this, they are most easily identified by their insistence that what they say, are the "facts," and everyone else can merely express their "opinions," because they "own" the truth, and those are the facts.

And thus their readers argue endlessly and pointlessly that their side is "right" and morally superior, while never questioning, how they came to know what they do as the truth, because they never questioned the premises by which they arrived at their conclusions -- but are insistent and certain, that they are "right."

How do you know what you think you know?

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Gimmick is that There Is No Gimmick

As one astute observer exclaimed after one of my presentations on "Understanding Conditioning" -- as the light bulb lit up in his brain and face, "The gimmick is that there is no gimmick."

In a world which has learned to sell the sizzle rather than the steak, the hardest and most obvious thing to convince people of, is the simplicity of direct understanding, because they are always led on a convoluted "wild goose chase" thought necessary to motivate people to even listen, and in fact, their reason for listening, is the presumption that they are mainly there for entertainment rather than purpose -- and those there for the latter, have to be convinced it is for entertainment, and not something productive.

That is the unfortunate consequence of mainstream mass marketing media -- and not the truth of any real activity, which unfortunately many think, the mass media is a valid and adequate substitute for the actual experience. And so many people, are "conditioned" to think that everything is fake and contrived, and there is no real consequence and significance to anything: that everything is just one big commercial, to fool one into thinking anything the sponsor of that program wants one to think -- and that is the only truth they know.

So when I point out that any movement that can be done on a machine or equipment, can actually be done better and more productively without it, they are incredulous, because their conditioning has been to think that they absolutely need that apparatus to do that movement, or any other requirement -- because the body is designed for one thing, and that is movement. Movement is integral to the design and the evolution of the human body. One actually has to override that genius of simplicity, by being conditioned to defeat that essential intelligence.

The proof of this is that any movement one is used to performing on any machine or equipment, can simply be done without that equipment, but to make it as effective, it should be done for a minimum of 50 repetitions, and not the usual 10 with resistance, before one stops -- thinking that the latter is more effective than the freehand version with no resistance, because the movement itself, will always provide its own resistance -- to further movement beyond its extremest range.

An example is to do a standing press with no resistance -- and to keep pushing the imaginary bar as high as possible. The further one attempts to do so, the obvious further resistance the body provides against doing so -- and one doesn't need a machine to aid in doing so. And really, the whole advantage in movement, is achieving a greater range of movement, and not simply repeating a limited range of movement, tirelessly and endlessly.

That's what differentiates the world champion, or prodigy from the mediocre -- their greatly enhanced and extended range of motion, and not doing a limited range of movement, more than every other competitor can. Just as in singing, it's not who can sing the loudest badly, but who has the greatest range of ability -- even to go from the worst to the best, and not just do the average, more than anybody else can.