Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Only Movement that Matters

About 35 years ago, a friend working for NASA, asked me how it would be possible for astronauts in space to maintain their fitness levels, since prolonged periods of weightlessness seemed to have a deteriorative effect on the body -- since there was no resistance (weight) to keep the muscles and bones strong.

As one of the pioneers of "high intensity training," through my various experiments with "state of the art training concepts," 40 years ago, we knew definitively that as little as one five-minute workout a week could produce the stimulus and demand for the muscles to grow at a fairly dramatic rapid pace -- but the entirety of the time not training, would be spent recovering and recuperating from the crippling pain of muscle soreness -- that could be briefly ameliorated, by just attempting to produce movement during that recovery period of 7-10 days -- before experiencing normalcy again.

Otherwise, the soreness was so intense, that any movement at all, caused tremendous pain, requiring tremendous effort to produce any movement at all. The sole objective was to achieve as rapid muscle growth as possible -- with as little training time as possible -- and every other consideration was considered the cost of achieving those objectives -- even if it meant to be in a state of constant pain and recovery from such brutal workouts, that could be conducted only on the frequency of once a week, for five minutes.

That is the justification for high intensity workouts -- that if one increases the intensity to the maximum challenge, the body has to fail -- and then subsequently recover, and take a week or so of recovery time, to actually get stronger and bigger muscles.

But even if one is highly motivated enough to withstand excruciating constant pain for prolonged though predictable, controlled periods of one's conditioning in that manner, the much larger question is whether that is a sustainable life beyond short term objectives of achieving maximal growth. Invariably after 4-6 weeks of such brutally intense training, we required a longer break before starting up again, with even more people interested in such gains -- if such a thing were possible.

But training that way myself as the lead subject, as well as supervising the training of many others, was very exhausting, requiring one to break from that involvement and study, to relish once again in not being obsessed that one's entire life and energies, were not so singlemindedly focused just in producing the most intense workout experience possible, and recovering from that experience -- to attain a constantly higher normal.

Eventually, one notices beginning age 30 that one no longer has the same recovery ability -- and is prone to injury or exhaustion as a major consequence of their training -- which then becomes obviously counterproductive. Thus many fall away from their training and rigorous conditioning for the first time in their entire lives -- some never to return to those rigors, but a few adapting, or finding some greater key to the greater objective of making life truly better for themselves in all the ways, and not merely on singular measurements that could even be contraindicative to improving the health and quality of life.

So the other end of the question, once I was sure of what could maximize the pain and recovery from it, was what level of movement, could be done every day, at any time, as often as one wanted to, without producing such pain and requiring extraordinary recovery? This is the question that few think to ask -- in a culture and world that always demands "more." How much less can one do, and still get the same or even better results because of it? And what does that have to be?

The movement that makes the greatest positive difference is the movement that happens as the muscle alternately contracts and relaxes to actually move blood (cells) throughout the body -- and not the movements external to the body such as the movement of weights or even moving the body entirely from its frame of reference, such as running, jumping or swimming. That is to say, that the movement of greatest importance, cannot be seen in such traditional parameters of gross movement, but occurs entirely within the body itself, and to a great extent, in the changing of the state of the muscles from its greatest contracted state to its relaxation -- and not just one or the other, as is preferred in yoga or isometric contractions.

It's really much simpler than that -- to effect the flow of the blood -- even while watching television, sitting at a computer, or even lying down wondering if one can get up today. It's less important to run a mile if one feels like running a mile than it is just getting out of bed when one thinks he might not be able to (anymore) -- and it is such responses to such challenges, that is the conditioning one needs to overcome whatever difficulties and challenges one expects to prepare themselves for in a long life of varied experiences -- rather than the endless treadmill of doing the one same thing from the day they were born to their last, until one finally doesn't or can't.

That's what doesn't change -- even in "outer space," as long as one is still alive.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Integrating "Exercise" Into Your Daily Living (Activities)

What makes "exercise" so problematical for many people, is that it is required by those who instruct it, to be something apart from their normal daily activities -- rather than as it naturally should be, that which improves one's normal daily activities. If they don't, then they don't have a lot of meaning or rationale for doing it -- other than to detract from the doing and enjoyment of one's normal (preferred) activities, and to make one miserable in the backwards thinking that the reason for doing anything, is because "it feels so good when you stop." A rational and intelligent person might then ask, "Why then, begin them at all?"

In this manner of thinking, exercise hasn't come a very long way from the days of the gladiator, in which it was said, "What doesn't kill you, will make you stronger." So one had no choice but to get stronger -- or be killed. A lot of people still use that kind of primitive psychology, motivation and reasoning -- as the hallmark of their conditioning activities (exercise) -- that if one doesn't lift the 500 lbs, it will crush them -- or if you don't batter your opponent senseless, they will do it to you -- as though that was some kind of perfectly good logic.

Every Saturday night, all across the world, some person will lose their life proving to everyone else that they are "better" than those they think they are competing against, to prove their fitness and superiority to those who are similarly impaired and impressed. It may be in showing how fast they can drive a course in that impaired state of mind and capacities -- while taking the greatest risks or even being completely oblivious to all of them.

The common feature of all those things, is that they are not the normal activities of daily living -- but activities decidedly not in the normal course of their living, so there is no way for them to get better at what they practice all the time. It unfortunately turns out to be a "one shot deal," in which if they were familiar with it, they would not be susceptible to grievous error and misjudgment.

Instead, one would approach it like an accountant who knows that "2 + 2 is going to be equal to 4 every time," -- and not that the sky is the limit because they've never done 2 + 2 before -- or while high, or impaired. Such people are addicted to living dangerously -- and out of control, fancying that that is what real living is about -- and not all that daily stuff, they could do better, much more meaningfully and productively.

It should be no secret to anybody that life now is much more sedentary than it was in primitive days when people needed to devote most of their waking lives to providing for a meager sustenance for themselves. And we should rightfully think that such a life now is better for it rather than the thinking of an invariable few that those old days and ways were so much better because the few people who did live then, were healthier -- because they had to be during their brief and hard lives.

But is simply making life hard again, what makes people healthier, or is that a non factor that invariably shortens and increases injury and death -- but we only show the pictures of those who are still alive? And conversely, much of what we know of "old sick people," is that those are the people the health care organizations "see all the time," and never those who never need to see them -- who might as well not exist -- for all practical purposes, because they are so exceptional.

But the exceptional, is where we should be heading, and not the normal -- in discussions and programming for exceptional good health, and not the normal that keeps such patients returning regularly -- as though that is now the new normal. Thus the right question is not how we can get people to give up their preferred sedentary activities, but how to make them healthful ones -- rather than requiring people to stand on their feet all day, or run around all day in the misguided notion that that will make everyone Olympic champions rather than more accurately, that will cripple even Olympic champions if they had to endure lives of such demanding and crushing workloads.

The lion is king not because it is leading every hunt and misadventure, but arrives in time, when the hunt is concluded.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Real Price of Education

The standard for collective bargaining should be the median income for all the people -- which is around $30,000 total compensation.

Teacher (government worker) salaries begin above the median -- not including nontaxable fringe benefits (health care, nonworking compensation and retirement) of another $20,000 -- which every government worker gets that is already almost as much as the median.

So with the $50,000 average salary plus other benefits that the taxpayers are paying for, you have a class of people getting twice the median Which puts them in the upper 75%-tile, for a whole class of people -- who then demand extra performance pay to actually do their job, and want guarantees that they can never be fired, and must be supported in the lifestyle they think they are entitled to all their lives -- is really the root problem of the injustices and inequities of contemporary society.

And these very privileged people have the gall to claim they are underappreciated and underpaid and even qualified for food stamps and other assistance, is the reason Hawaii's cost of living is astronomical -- because the cost of people who don't even feel they have to do their jobs because it is their entitlement for life, and not that they have to earn it, means the citizens can expect to pay a lot for nothing.

In the marketplace of ideas (education), it should be highly competitive and the least able forced out to give way to the best and the brightest creating knowledge on the cutting edge -- and not merely institutionalizing the past, as the only way it can ever be -- repeating the mistakes of history over and over again, as though that was an intelligent way to be.

Education has become the symbol of everything that is wrong in society -- defending its own status quo. It needs to be the leading example of how to do things right.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Greatest Cause of Accidents and Misunderstandings

Surely, driving requires eye-hand and eye-foot coordination more than than the skillset required to walk a tightrope -- or stand on one leg -- as though that were a prerequisite for anything.

You'd think that with modern day technology and awareness, those essential faculties is what is tested for -- and not the random metrics of a prehistoric ere -- as though that is an indication and predictor of fitness for anything.

Obviously a more appropriate measurement for driving, is likely to be the skills demonstrated by a video game -- than running a marathon, or walking a tightrope from one building to another. These days, most people, and particularly emergency responders, have a cell phone, and I'm sure some enterprising or perceptive individual has already created an "app" for better measuring eye-hand, eye-foot coordination -- and before that, assessing vision and awareness -- which is the major reason for most accidents -- people just didn't see, or were aware of the road conditions -- and not that they were perfectly aware but only temporarily impaired.

Far more likely is that their impairment has become a chronic or permanent limitation in older ages -- because the young are much more likely to be the ones getting into accidents because of alcohol and drug experimentations and impairment. Instead, what is being "measured" by the present standards, is physical condition -- which those who are limited in their movements, have the greatest reason for driving -- because they have problems walking, standing, balancing, and so the cars equalize for those increasing disabilities -- as long as their vision and hand-foot coordinations remain intact.

That's why I've long advocated that it is much more meaningful to measure the health and condition at the head, hands and feet, than all those metrics that have no idea what they're measuring, but keep doing so, because that's the way they've done it before, and is therefore the approved way of doing things.

I've faced such resistance before when I pointed out to the people teaching CPR that chest compressions is breathing also -- making mouth-mouth breathing unnecessary, because breathing (the movement of air in and out of the body) is the result of altering chest volumes resulting in pressure differentials.

So the test that really needs to be done -- is vision and awareness, which is attention and greater awareness of the conditions including the presence of others, and not the self-isolation of one who can focus only on their own inner control -- which precludes the awareness of what is going on in the greater context.

That seems to be the overriding problem of most accidents as well as misunderstandings.