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. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Worst Preparation (Education) in the World

We educate ourselves to prepare ourselves to live successfully (effectively) in the world of challenges we expect to face -- rather than in the denial that we ever have to face that world, and deal with it -- as successful, mature, responsible human beings.

That is the real meaning and purpose of an education -- and not as it has been hijacked by a few, to serve themselves exclusively at the expense of everybody else, so they can live in the lifestyles they believe they are entitled to -- in the claim that they are "sacrificing" themselves so that everybody else can have those luxuries.   No just society demands that one group or individual "sacrifice" themselves for anybody else.  Each is simply given a fair chance, but must accept the consequences of their own choices and individual actions.

That is the enlightened approach that makes a good life possible -- otherwise, there is no good and bad, but only what is coming for everyone, no matter what they do to prepare for it.  But a large part of an education, is the belief that what we do, and think, matters, and makes a difference -- or why should we even think about these things?

The best predictor of future success -- is present success -- which is to note, that if one is presently doing well, the chances of that continuing, are much greater than those who are failing in the present moment -- largely because they are so concerned with their prospects in the future, that they have little regard and awareness of what they are doing presently, and think it doesn't matter.  But that is the only thing that matters -- because that is reality in the actuality, and not one's theories and thoughts about what reality is.

The knowledge of anything, is not the thing itself.  Usually it is much less -- than the totality of what is going on.  What they "know" about what is going on, may not even be important to know about what is going on -- and in that way, one thinks that nothing matters -- because what one knows, doesn't seem to make a difference -- and may in fact be, the root of their despair.  

For many, that is the belief that everything will get worse, and that no matter how much they have, it is never enough -- and so all they can strive for, is to attain "more," and that will never be enough. That is the futility of their lives and existence -- which is the worst preparation and socialization into a world of successful fulfillment.  It matters much less how much they do have, then what they make of what they have -- at any moment, because that is what multiplies whatever they do have.

In that way, a few have always managed to have enough, and even plenty, while all too many, will never have enough, no matter how much one gives to them -- they will always find a way to turn that into a losing situation.  That is their skill, that is the way they were conditioned to think -- that there is never enough, no matter how much they have -- and should only want and demand more, endlessly, unceasingly, so that winning is never possible, but only losing, and the sense of loss -- for not having it all.

Even if they "had it all," they wouldn't know what to do with it -- and that's why wise men throughout the ages, have remarked, that genius is making the most of what "little" one has, and in that way, making great all that one has.  And that is the life we all have -- to make the best or worst of it -- as our lives.

That should be our primary concern -- and not what everybody else should do for them, so that they no longer have to do anything for themselves.  That is totally meaningless -- yet many still demand that, simply because that is the only thing they've been educated to "do" -- demand that everybody else fulfill their lives for them.  Such people, never know what it is in life they want to do, except they are positive, that they want to be rich, famous and successful at it.  They want all the trappings, but none of the work, or the satisfaction, of doing anything for themselves in that way.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Decline and Vitality in People

When I've had contact with people with cognitive dysfunctions, I've always noted that an obvious physical accompaniment, was the lack of movement at the head, as well as the hands and feet -- and when I pointed that out to the head of Alzheimer's research at the University of Washington, she stunned me by pronouncing that the head should not move -- or a person might get whiplash, and then proceeded to demonstrate to me that a person cannot move their head from a fixed, locked position -- characteristic of most of the people sitting in those nursing homes looking like statues -- so that it is difficult to detect signs of life, except by pulse and breathing.

Obviously, there is more to vitality than just the persistence of the vital signs -- which may be strong in individuals otherwise, and they can possibly live many years in that deteriorating (unresponsive) condition -- or as I like to point out to people, that if they only move their head, hands and feet -- at those axes of rotation rather than at the core which is mainly evolved and designed for stability and support, but which most experts direct their attention and efforts to moving -- the perception of that person, is of a very dynamic, responsive and alert individual, more aware than anybody else of what is going on.

Because of the penchant for specializing and fragmenting knowledge -- what is overlooked, is that the best way to maintain the health of the brain (function), is NOT only by mental exercises, but by actually moving the head to direct that circulation specifically to the brain -- just as one can build up muscle in that manner.  While the brain is characterized by its nerve tissue -- it is also the organ most sensitive and responsive to measures that specifically direct the flow to any any area of the body acting as a pump -- which is the alternation of the fulestl contraction with the fullest relaxation -- just as the heart does, but aiding the heart in optimizing the circulatory -- by pumping back to the heart from the extremities, which is the known weakness of the human body, and where organs deteriorate first -- as predictable markers of the aging (deterioration) process.

That to me seems to be the major difference between those who age poorly, and those who seem largely immune from those effects.  That is the obvious behavioral component that seems to distinguish decline and vitality in people.  That's why people shouldn't drive a car, when they can no longer turn their heads, and be aware of what is going on around them -- and communicate that fact to others.