Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Survival of the Fitness

The recent passing of "fitness" luminaries Joe Weider and Sergio Oliva, brings home to all involved during the heyday of their years since the 1960s, that we all succumb to time -- even though there'll always be some new rising star impressing us with what is now possible -- for those in their competitive prime of roughly 20-40.

After that period in their lives, results are a lot more uncertain -- and then by age 60 and beyond, there are the unmistakable markers of decline -- often even very rapid, and sometimes even premature, for those who previously were the very picture of health and well-being.

A rare few still hang around to enter the over 60, or masters contests beginning at age 40! -- which seems to be way too young to be considered over the hill -- or past one's prime at something so essential as our individual health and well-being.  But I would suggest that the competitive bodybuilding ideal is not one of true health and well-being, but mainly the illusion of it -- as we all recognize, those very champions have peaked for that purpose -- even at the cost of their health and well-being! -- in their extreme dieting and training, that may actually be hazardous to one's health under any other real world conditions.

And that is what a conditioning regimen should convey -- real world fitness, especially now, for lives of unprecedented longevity, but often of a questionable quality of health and life, that daunts even the fearless at younger times in their lives.  This eventual decline, we've always been heretofore in denial of -- thinking there is nothing we can do about it -- even though we still try to train as we did in our prime, with previous great success.

It would be an easy matter, if all we had to do would be to sustain those workouts and obtain that same success -- but diminishes in time so that it is merely "All pain and no gain," which certainly diminishes any rationale for continuing in that manner.  At that point, many just stop, or maybe just dawdle on the less demanding cardio machines, or if they're really in bad shape, sign up for a "senior fitness course" and watch the instructor do all the work -- while expecting very little from her trainees, except that they still show up.

Many hope to build up vast reserves as the base from which to begin this decline -- still not believing there is an effective way not to be in this decline -- as the unspeakable inevitable.

We often experience and recognize this turning point as the midlife crisis -- when most competitive athletes, have long retired.  However, competitive athletics, is not the be-all and end-all of an active, meaningful and purposeful life -- especially now, when there is so much of it remaining past that competitive prime.  

In the lore of the great (martial arts) conditioning, there would come that time that every great student, would retire to become a teacher. passing on their knowledge to the next generation of competitors -- but alluding throughout, that there was that step beyond the competitive world to an even greater understanding of the whole of life.  That usually meant "dying" to the life of that youth -- to be reborn in the next chapter of their lives, which is not just remaining young all one's life -- but mastering one's maturity, and eventual seniority -- with the equal grace and skill one experienced as a youth.

So some age well, while many will not -- and not that all who age, must do it poorly, because that is what that period of life is all about.  If it did not matter what one did, then it would not matter what one does -- but having observed that process in many for the last 30+ years, I'm more than convinced one can make that difference in their own lives -- but it means thinking very differently than we've known, and been conditioned to think is the only thing possible.

There is a very distinctive "look" that one has when one begins to decline in earnest, and rather than that being the paunch and deterioration at the "core," it is readily obvious and apparent as the deterioration of the neck muscles and structures -- which many then resort to surgical chin lifts to remove that sag, double-chin, or whatever it is that indicates that lack of robustness in people of all ages -- but most distinctively so as they "age."  And that "physical" condition, also impacts one's cognitive (brain) functioning so critical to everything else.

Noting that, should provoke the immediate question, what can we do about that -- for surely, if exercise unquestionably works for developing every other muscle (structure) in the body, why not make that infrastructure to the brain, one's highest priority? -- and failing to do so, is the limit on the rest of the body -- because the design and evolution of the body, does not allow for any other part than the brain, to be its "best" functioning organ.

When that is addressed and achieved first and foremost, then gains for other parts of the body, can be resumed -- because those resources are not being diverted from the brain, at the expense of the brain, but the brain serviced as the highest priority, will allow other prolific development to manifest.

Most people don't do any exercise to explicitly increase the flow to the extremities of the body -- where it makes the most difference to do so, and ensure that it is functioning at its highest level -- in the distinctly and manifestly human expressions of the head, hands and feet -- which are the sites of deterioration in even the normal, healthy individual.  That is its weakness, its Achilles tendon, as it were -- and no amount of situps, pushups, or running -- directly addresses that diversion of the flow of resources -- to the critical health and functioning of the expressions and articulations of the head, hands and feet, that are regarded in most conventional exercises -- as merely stubs and stumps not capable of movement at all -- except to go along for the ride!  

And in fact, one is often ill-advised by "physical education" instructors that one should never move their head, hands and feet -- but only move at the core, instead of realizing that the distinctly human movements, occur at the head, hands and feet, which are the organs of critical decline -- or prodigy.

Yet in most gyms, there are no machines or apparatus for expressly and effectively developing the neck muscles (which implies its cardiovascular development, support, health and appearance) -- except in realizing, the range of motion, produces its own resistance.  That is to say, that one cannot turn their heads 180  degrees -- without encountering increasingly greater resistance, which is also true for the hands and feet -- and that resistance, is the greatest muscular contraction, capable of being obtained (expressed).  Such contractions, beginning at the extremities, activate the supporting muscle structures -- towards the core, but that doesn't happen, vice-versa -- from the core on out.

Understanding this, makes just a few exercises, very powerfully effective, while lacking this understanding, makes it necessary to conceive and perform separate movements for every one of the 600-800 individual muscles under the presumption that each is unrelated and unconnected to every other -- or that it is desirable, to exercise each in isolation from any other.  But the movement from the furthest extremity (insertion) back towards the center -- sets off a chain reaction of muscle contractions (and relaxations), not requiring this individual attention to each muscle -- which obviously, is the most efficient way to move, as well as the most productive.

As one gets older, one needs all the advantage one can gain from a superior understanding of the forces at work -- and not simply the application of more brute force, thinking that is all that is required to obtain wonderful results.  It should be that easy. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Regular" Exercise Won't Do It

Everyone who's ever been involved in athletics or exercise, recognizes that there comes a time when what "used to" work, no longer does, and they have to modify or cut back drastically on what they had been doing -- just to not risk or aggravate further injury.  That's usually what causes even the most successful people in such activities to stop -- because they can obviously not go on in that way.

Pain and injury is not the objective, or the desire of any activity -- but rather the cessation and freedom from such agony -- that is the improvement in the quality of that life.  Like all living entities, the basic thrust of life is to do that which improves that quality of existence (experience), which is the underlying health of that individual, and to do everything possible to avoid that which makes that life a misery -- including and especially ill health that prevents the enjoyment of much that is possible in any life, at any level of it.

One doesn't have to be the "world champion" or 'supreme being" in any activity, to maximize their enjoyment in finding out what it is they best enjoy and thus are good at.  That's what every individual does in experimenting with the myriad of activities and opportunities the world has to offer -- from the lowest to the highest levels of that participation, recognition and validation.

For everyone, it is obvious what that experience of life is, by reading the condition primarily at the head, hands and feet -- which are the organs of expression and articulation to the extent of that development and mastery.  Such mastery is called, the fine motor skills of the body, as opposed gross motor skills most people spend time developing -- in strengthening what they call the core -- beginning with the heart.  Some of these advocates even go so far in their misunderstanding of human functioning and development as to believe that one has to consciously get the the heart pumping -- rather than realize that it is an autonomic function that is the most basic movement that always must occur for life to continue -- and not the last.

That becomes a particular problem when so many now, will continue to exhibit nothing else but these vital signs of heartbeat -- long past when all other voluntary movements and responses (cognition), have long ceased.  These failures begin to manifest at different times in every life -- manifested at the organs (extremities) of expression that few think to make the focus of meaningful and expressive movement -- at the head, hands and feet, and that deterioration is most obvious as the aging and deterioration of the human condition -- much more so than the heart or the hip flexors that will be the concern of those advocating traditional "regular" exercises that fail to address and reverse this decline in people.

The obvious better solution, is that movement has to occur at the axis of movement at the head, hands and feet -- which implies the development and support on the larger structures that support these articulations.  That is the difference, between those we marvel at, and those whose hearts are just beating, with no other signs of voluntary and responsive action.

Most injuries occur at the extremities -- rather than at the core, as the wrist and ankle sprains, the stiff neck in waking up one morning -- that as we go inattentively through life, we activate less and less -- yet are the familiar problems of the weakening of the grip, the loss of balance of the feet, the failure to turn one's head to recognize what is going around them, and then the lack of expression -- including the expressions of the face, hands and feet -- that are the distinctive manifestations of every personality, including thought.

If blood does not flow to the brain, that brain cannot function as well as if it does -- yet realizing that truth and importance, there is almost no physical exercise (movement) that recognizes that importance -- but takes it for granted, that it is functioning as well as it can be -- without that attention and proper maintenance.  But the distinctive appearance of declining health, is the atrophying of the musculature at the neck (and its supportive blood supply) -- indicative of a greatly compromised blood flow to the brain, and all the other senses and organs in the head, which is really, the critical organ of the body -- and what any thoughtful exercise and conditioning program would rightly direct as its highest priority, instead of not giving it any thought or prominence at all -- and wondering why it fails to deter any of the familiar signs of deterioration, especially as people age and their circulatory effectiveness declines -- eventually producing total failure of responsiveness at the head, hands and feet -- while the heart continues beating perfectly.

The problem of circulation, is the greatest distance from the central pump which is the heart, and so predictably, the organs at the head, hands and feet will fail -- long before the heart does, in every case.  And when those critical areas of the body die in that way, one begins to lose the vitality, expressiveness and appearance of health -- that really should be the prime concern beyond the condition of the "core" muscles, and their ability to do a lot of contrived movements -- instead of their primary function and task to provide stability and support, for the fine motor tasks at the hands, feet, and head that characterize skill (cognition) in every activity -- whether they realize it or not.

Even running, is not so much about moving the legs, as it is -- moving the foot at the ankle.  Hitting or throwing a baseball, is not so much about shoulder and torso rotation, as much as it rests on the ability to turn one's wrist.  And driving, or even riding a bicycle, is dependent on one's ability to turn their heads and be aware of everything going on around them -- just as in any sport or activity.

That is the best conditioned person -- not the tunnel-visioned person who knows what only they are doing and wants to achieve, but the one who knows what everybody is doing -- and lets that awareness, produce the right action.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Doing Anything, Is Not the Same as Doing the Right Thing

Many are conditioned to believe that doing "anything," is better than doing "nothing" -- without considering for a moment, that the very thing they are doing, might be the source of all their problems and difficulties -- to which doing nothing to create them in the first place, would be a huge improvement.

It's not the case that people who do nothing (but hopefully observe), are beset with problems, so much as it is that those who aggressively do what they have been doing, invariably find themselves in deep trouble -- because they did not proceed cautiously and thoughtfully through every step of the journey -- that got them to wherever they are -- usually up to their necks in trouble.

The cause of most (all) injuries, is not that a person is not doing "anything," but that they are doing too much, thoughtlessly and recklessly -- to prove that something not true, is true -- despite every fact to the contrary.  For most people, that is their conditioning -- to force a conclusion in the face of overwhelming opposition that says it is not so -- which may be that that they do not overeat, or underexercise, when the body plainly says, that is not the case.

Instead, they will go into elaborate theories and explanations of why the plainly obvious, is the furthest thing from the truth of the matter.  Convincing such people otherwise, is a futile task; they will stop trying, only when they run out of people willing to believe them in that way.  But such people, usually have their own ulterior motives -- which is that it is their turn, to exploit such a gullible and clueless person themselves.  That is the invariable human pecking order -- in which the strong prey on the weak (vulnerable), which only the supremely strong, have no interest in proving -- because they have trascended those daily struggles.

In this society, that is not a hard thing to do.  One simply needs to live long enough to gain that status not to have to go out each day and earn that livelihood, but it is now simply conferred as one's entitlement -- as one who has proven one has done so previously.  That of course, is what we call "retirement," which is no longer the need to do anything for that livelihood -- which seems like a dream come true for many younger people -- but that creates the unique challenge for every individual, of what they will do -- when they no longer have to do anything.

For many people then, it is unfortunately obsessing about their health -- of which they think there is nothing, or very little they can do about, but die as slowly and gracefully as possible -- before even giving up, that even that is possible.  We encounter that mindset much less in the young and healthy, and people living dynamic lives at any age.  With those, getting better each day, is the organizing principle of each day of their lives -- which doesn't blur into the feeling that "it doesn't matter" -- which is not about inevitability, but the choices individuals make that matter.

As the most mature adults in that society, those are the choices they have to make individually, and uniquely -- which their whole lives up to that point, would have prepared them for.  It is not the end, but only the beginning -- and we all have to start all over.

How would we design a life, if we had the chance to start all over again -- knowing what we know now?  That is a rebirth at any age -- many think is impossible.  but it is only in dying to the old, that we can be reborn in the new.  That is the meaning of life and death.