Monday, August 29, 2011

Being Your Best Doesn't Have to be an Extreme Sport

It's obviously the intelligent thing to do -- to always be one's best, even in "retirement." Actually, there is nothing more important one should do at that stage of one's life, because that health and well-being is the criterion of how well one is doing -- when there is no "other" to tell them how well they are doing anymore.

That is a very difficult thing for those who have been raised from the cradle to nearly the grave with somebody else always telling them what to do and how to live their lives -- from the schools to the unions (trade associations), coaches, political parties, and of course, newspaper opinion writers -- on top of one's requirement to hire somebody else to tell them how to get into "shape," and "how to" live one's life, as though that could be done for any other.

So whether one is beginning kindergarten or retirement, they should ask whether what they are learning, helps them discover the truth of anything for themselves -- and not just how to follow orders of those who know best for everybody else, what they should be doing -- as though they knew, and had a right to tell them what to do, what to believe and repeat (propagate) as the political/social correctness (consensus).

The "truth" is in the discovery, and not the answer; it is a journey, and not the end of the journey, at which one no longer has to learn anything more. That is always the beginning of stagnation, deterioration, and ultimately death -- because there are no more worlds to conquer (discover).

Fortunately, we live in an age in which constant, if not endless discovery is possible -- with some great invention or innovation merely awaiting discovery because the present controlling vested interest (hegemony) has prohibited such knowing. In health and well-being, that is that one has to run the gauntlet of the health care system and sadistic personal trainers to break into the clear beyond of perfect health -- or is there simply higher walls to climb beyond that -- endlessly, until one can die in peace?

Thus many are reluctant to even begin that journey -- that merely gets harder, the better one gets. Is that how it is supposed to work?

Health is not simply being young -- and doing the same things they do, but beyond that, is doing things differently and better, so that they are no longer hard and difficult -- like with any other learning and rewarding participation. One doesn't simply do it until one is permanently disabled so one can no longer live an active life anymore -- with a good excuse for not doing so, and can place those responsibilities in the hands of the health care system from here on out.

The major function of the brain is not thought but the production of health for that individual, which is not produced by the separation of mental from physical activity, but is the integration of the entire being so that the thought conforms to the reality -- rather than superimposing one's beliefs over those realities, which is the struggle.

If one does nothing else, one should move their head, as the key to maintaining and strengthening that connection -- instead of moving every other part in preference and priority to it, because that structural and integral maintenance and improvement creates the biggest difference in change, which is why the most visible sign of deterioration of the health of the entire being, is the atrophying of the muscles of the neck. When there is optimal flow, the muscles, blood vessels and nerves show it in their appearance, as well as function -- as that sign of vital well-being.

Meanwhile the heart, on which so much attention is focused, already beats 100,000 contractions a day -- without further extraordinary effort. So the relative increment (rate of change) of moving the head 360 degrees (full contraction), is much greater doing 100 repetitions -- than working the heart even harder than it already does, while the rest do nothing -- and predictably atrophy, as the accepted norm of the aging (deterioration) process.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Fountain of Youth (Elixir of Life)

My father was a Taoist, for whom the study of good health, long life, if not immortality, is a basic objective of their studies, and so I was very disappointed to see that his knowledge failed him as he reached into his 90s.

So it was quite natural for me to take this study further in asking the more practical and achievable question of whether it was possible to live a long life without the ravages of age and its afflictions that we accept as the inevitable -- because we run out of solutions for the problems and challenges of our daily living, which we invariably attribute to the catch-all, aging process.

Until we reach that point, we think it is merely a matter of discovering a yet undiscovered secret -- and seeking the many experts, gurus, and keepers of the great truths, until we feel we have seen and heard it all -- and nothing makes a difference that matters anymore.

But through the present miracle of the Internet, we now can easily access the collective knowledge and intelligence -- if only we know how.

As a historian (archivist) by training and disposition, I like to research the beginnings of ideas, and have evolved throughout the history of thought -- which is actually my specialty. And so I have this particular and unique sense of history and time more than most -- who seem to forget or were conscious that things were not always that way. Most live and think in that temporal vacuum -- of time not being bound to any other. But for the historian, what happened ages ago, seems relevant to the present, evolved, and is manifested in the present -- as the summation of all (previous) thought.

One of the oldest themes for the justification of knowledge and thought, is the desire and belief, that there is some kind of magical potion, that conveys to its possessor, optimal good health -- the fountain of youth, or the elixir of life, and of course, life abundant and everlasting in all its versions.

In more contemporary times, for the past 80 years, that was promised in the iconic commercials promising "fast relief" for the most common afflictions of contemporary life -- which were (head)aches and pains, digestive upset, and even the general blahs -- before they were forced to cut back on their unquantifiable claims. But for most of the generation now alive, they were at least aware of the commercials that mostly ran, "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is." That was the last of the golden age of patent medicine home remedies -- before Big Pharma took over, and promised super cures (drugs) for highly specialized diseases and conditions -- all unrelated to one another, as though such a thing were possible. But that was the new paradigm of the 20th century of increasing specialization and fragmentation of life -- that made it easily incomprehensible to most as the norm, if not the ideal.

But as a lifelong arthritic having to take some kind of pain reliever to make it through each day, I had to accept that the accompanying digestive upset was one of the tradeoffs one had to make -- until I thought to try the old Alka-Seltzer bromide mainly out of desperation because nothing else worked anymore -- immediately or temporarily, much less indefinitely. That it worked at all, piqued my curiosity to research it further, leading me to realize it was the fountain of youth -- in a tablet.

Throughout history, people have noted the curative (restorative) effect of certain spring (mineral) waters that people have bathed as well as drank, to cure a multitude of ills and conditions. That is the basis for the notion of the fountain of youth, and the miraculous curing (restorative) waters -- that are essentially naturally occurring Alka-Seltzer. But what gives Alka-Seltzer its added potency, is that it is a way in which many who cannot tolerate aspirin (a highly effective pain reliever) in its usual forms, can actually access it -- because it is buffered, and in solution, rather than irritating, concentrated pill form. And when many more can tolerate aspirin, it obviates the need for other pain relievers, including alcohol and addicting (prescription) drugs -- which are much more costly but frequently preferred because they are covered by one's health care or drug plan -- while economical, sensible and more effective choices have to be borne by oneself, and so many will be misguided by that decision.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Greatest Misconception

The biggest flaw in most people's understanding (especially among exercise instructors), is the notion that movement begins at the core of the body (musculature), and then proceeds to move on out to the extremities -- rather than the accurate understanding that movement must begin at the extremities (insertions), and then move towards the origins of the body musculature, in every meaningful, integrative and productive movement. Nothing else is possible, no matter how much one tries to override the intelligence of millions of years and species in evolution.

About forty years ago, martial arts icon Bruce Lee, used to demonstrate the effectiveness of his "one inch punch," which amazed people who were used to seeing a very flamboyant and dramatic roundhouse punch or kick in telegraphing the power and damage that such a movement would do, which he still felt obligated to do for the sake of movies, but as a student and teacher of the art of movement, he recognized that it was not the very observable movement that mattered, so much as what was happening internally -- of all the muscles of the body contracting simultaneously -- but only expressed at a single point of contact.

That is like the force produced by a women walking in high heels -- exerting an immense force in a tiny area -- that can be quite damaging to floors. The obverse of that, is to absorb a great force over as wide an area as possible to mitigate its impact, and so one of the first things many of these martial arts teach, is simply to fall, or take a blow -- and dissipate it harmlessly throughout the body.

The important lesson here, is that it is the movement that is happening within the body, and not the movement external to the body, that is important and essential to the health. That's why a lot of the time honored health regimens, frequently have this kind of mystical and metaphysical quality about them -- of the movement of energy, spirit and life force, way before "scientists" documented the processes of circulation and respiration. Something was moving within the body -- though they didn't have the instruments to observe it yet. When they did, they called it "muscles," because it seemed to be a mouse running under the skin. Yet few today who "exercise," are so observant.

Instead, they have been instructed, that the explanation and the theory of what is important, supersedes their own experience and mastery of what they are doing -- which is a giant step backwards, and no wonder why contemporary health has declined so greatly, despite all the attention and emphasis given to these things -- especially to do more, of what never made a whole lot of sense in the first place, the first time they were instructed (forced) to do so. Unfortunately, that is still how much of "physical education" is still done -- trying to force one to get with the program, glorifying the many who were reluctant to do so initially -- while ignoring the many others, who didn't do as prescribed yet never had a problem with their conditioning and struggles to be "in shape."

It's like the many people who are never ill or injured, despite the warnings that they should be -- just like everybody else, because "bad stuff" happens equally to everyone, no matter what one does to avoid them. Thus one can be convinced that wearing a helmet makes no difference -- whether one is racing cars, motorcycles and bicycles, and that only sissies, would play football, baseball, hockey, with a helmet and other protective gear.

So it is not surprising, that many think the virtue of any conditioning program, is one's risk of injury motivating them to do their best -- because their life depends on it, and eliminating those dangers and risks, would take all the fun and value out of them -- until incapacitated and disabled permanently. That was the lifespan of an athlete or warrior, in previous times -- that was their badge of honor and former glory. So it behooves those of this gentler times, to know if one can avoid all that -- and merely obtain the health benefits, without having to do all those things one has been "conditioned" to think one has to do to have all those benefits -- without all the pain, sacrifice, penance, torment and torture, one has been convinced is absolutely necessary and essential to it.

At which point, many decide they cannot afford the price -- and that price is to somebody else, acting as the toll keeper, to get to the promised land because that was how life was meant to be -- before a few decided they owned the turf exclusively, for their own benefit.
And so that which was easy and natural, became difficult and arduous -- because it was much more profitable to do so -- for a self-selected few.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Seeing Through to the Obvious

The distinguishing characteristic of the deterioration (aging) process, is the atrophying (shrinking) of the muscles, which then gives a sagging look to the skin, because there is no longer the underlying support from this musculature. Robustness (health) on the other hand, gives the appearance of the muscles virtually exploding underneath the skin, producing that tautness that is wrinkle-free.

The obvious, most visible places this can be seen is at the face and neck, hands and feet of individuals -- which curiously, very few seem to connect as these obvious vital signs of health. People who look healthy, usually are; and people who look worn and drawn, invariably are under stress and on the limits of their "recovery" ability.

Recovery ability is this margin of reserve -- so that one can recover from traumas, injuries and sickness -- often to become even better than before, but not always, and forever after. Life has a limited recovery ability that has to be understood and managed well -- or one goes over the edge, at which recovery is no longer possible, if one isn't done in by the miscalculation of an overwhelming, fatal challenge.

It might be that one is on the precipice which is just beginning, rather than the hoped for end -- and has no margin of reserve for an even greater (sustained) effort. So in addition to the effort one has already put out, it is just as important to have a little, or as much, or even most, still in reserve -- to ensure one's survival and recovery, and if still possible, betterment.

One can read that just in the appearance -- of what gives one the look of vibrancy and vitality: "that look," is unmistakably that there is more from where that came from, rather than the look of being irrevocably past one's better days and times. So the question the inquiring mind asks on observing any individual, is whether the better and best, lies ahead or behind -- in order to make one's calculations on the future prospects and trajectory for any outcome.

Thus we so often speak of the young as having their best years ahead of them, while unfortunately to many others, we note that most of the life and spark are flickering away, and we would not be surprised to learn, had been extinguished.

Clearly, though not usually, muscle atrophy is not irrecoverable and irreversible -- if one knows what causes muscles to hypertrophy (grow), which is that the muscle has to achieve its fullest contraction -- like the heart characteristically must, but no other "voluntary" muscle must, unless one clearly understands how to make that happen. It doesn't just happen -- like the heart, because nothing else is possible.

That is the most common misunderstanding of the value of exercise, fitness and all the other talk attendant to these activities and desires for improvement in the physical capability of individuals -- which is usually not even on the radar screens of most people calling themselves fitness/exercise instructors. They lack this understanding at the most fundamental level of what is going on -- to produce this movement that produces this beneficial and transformative effect of how muscles work and thus produce this healthful effect. Instead, they think that it is enough just to know that the heart is working -- as though that alone told everything, or enough.

And so they think that the only thing possible, is to make the heart work harder and faster -- which is not the objective or the end of any human activity, but the presumed given. It is not a variable but the constant. The heart will beat no matter what, but everything else is the variable we seek to modify -- and not vice-versa.

Many people with no further education, think that receiving a "certification" for being previously certified, makes them a cardiologist, because they know and use such terms, implying a complete mastery of all the words and terms they use -- like some magical amulet. That one calls their exercise "Cardio," makes the heart know it should get involved, and not calling an activity specifically "Cardio," means the heart will not respond, and they will have to resort to their cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, to get the heart pumping, or something like that.

That's all that many of these "certifications" certify -- that one was previously certified as having taken the CPR and First Aid training, and not that they have any knowledge and training of anything else besides having duly paid their fee to obtain their certificate. That is perhaps the most outrageous scam of all the multitude associated with health improvement schemes -- that one no longer has to legitimately master any skill, training and teaching, but one is "certified" to do so. They also award "official" certifications for Creative Writing and Resume Writing -- so don't be caught without one.