Monday, December 28, 2009

A Lesson for Life and a Proposal for the New Year

Athletes and movie stars are often raised up as heroes only to disappoint in the end.
Excellence in athletics on and off the field and a penchant for acting are supposed life lessons for the less noble, us and our children.
Politicians fall into this same category but I really don’t know of a politician that is praised as a “hero” on a daily basis.
A lot of them are being investigated as they investigate the athletes and the movie stars to avoid investigating the things that really matter.
Recent vivid evidence of life lessons include high profile infidelity, animal cruelty, drug usage, doping along with a cornucopia of other indiscretions including fraud, bribery and a vast range of mischievous behavior.
Another recent example of how not to live life was afforded by the management of the Indianapolis Colts.
The decision to bench the first string athletes to pursue a game losing strategy eliminated the possibility of a “perfect” season.
Ending a record 24 game winning streak in this fashion needs to be viewed with a jaundiced eye.
It may not have been a “big deal” for the coach and the owner but it seemed like a “Big Deal” for the fans who expected more from their “heroes”.
This was a decision that didn’t just impact records and statistics but had a very negative impact on the fan base who as I understand, pay to watch their team make an effort to win.
So what should a concerned individual do?
Turn off the Television.
Make yourself your own “hero”.
Become a “hero” for your children, your spouse, your best friend, the people you work with, the people you live next to and others you might encounter.
Get off of the couch and rejoin life in the active lane.
The fact that Tiger can hit a golf ball doesn’t really make you a better golfer.
The fact that the Colts can win or lose a game doesn’t do anything for your health status or your ability to throw a pass.
You can on the other hand decide to change your eating habits and eat healthy.
You can decide to lose extra weight and become more agile.
You can decide to give up smoking.
You can decide to get a trainer, head to the gym reshaping your mind, your attitude and ultimately yourself.
In the final analysis you want to avoid the need for health care, reformed or unreformed and play touch football till your eighty.
It is not up to the politicians, sports figures, “movie stars” or any other person on this planet to set your life path.
It is up to you.
The power ultimately resides in each individual.
Maybe it is time to decide that it is going to be each and every one of us that is striving to be a hero.
It is just too important to leave it up to someone else.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Ambassador Has a Brand New Bag

The Ambassador has been gone so long I assumed he was in Afghanistan overseeing the elections or in France with Sarkozy drinking wine and signing contracts for the Super Hadron Collider.
But it was much more mundane.
He was brought low by a virus and told to stay away for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
Many students struggled to begin without the expert advice of the Ambassador.
But he is now back and in full swing.
To celebrate the return, a new speed bag, tight, hard and fast was recently installed.
Tonight he tested the speed bag and made it sing.
The new students will benefit from his return.
He knows the ropes and takes each new student through the routine with extreme patience.
Only one issue, he has developed other interests and he is young.
I am curious to see if he will be diverted from the life in the gym to the life of work and the life of “Luv”.
I am sure he will never fully desert the gym; it is in his blood.
His blood runs three parts “heart” and three parts steel.
The Ambassador has too many “sisters” and at least one really older brother of whom he is really fond of saying “Out of 100 you are the better part of 60 to my 30” and so we keep pushing each other to newer and higher levels of work.
I wish him much “Luv and Laughter” in his other interests but I certainly hope the steel in his blood keeps him in the gym.
I need someone that I can match bench press for bench press and chin up for chin up.
See he is now more than Ambassador, he has become my “little brother” and the best source of competition is always the younger brother.
So watch out little brother, the speed bag is trying to sing for me.

Can This Sixty Three Year Old Learn To Run

I guess it really depends on “what is chasing you”.
I have decided that I want to run at least a half marathon, at best a full marathon.
I was actually pushed to this decision after watching The Biggest Losers run a full marathon following six weeks of training.
I last ran in high school and tended to stick to the middle distances, the 440 and at the seminary, the 600 meter run.
I was lousy at sprints and at any distance beyond the 600 meters, I died.
As an adult, Ihave tried to start running for “fun” but always ended up with shin splints and a lack of motivation.
But now something big and terrible is chasing me, the past and the future.
The past, something I am trying to leave behind, is there in the shadows hoping to reclaim me.
I smoked, was overweight, sedentary, short of breath and in need of some vascular re-plumbing.
I have now been losing weight, exercising regularly, attending Boot Camp, so why not start a running program?
It should keep me out of the kitchen and off of the couch.
It will be hard to get engrossed in television while doing roadwork.
It will add a whole new level of activity to a fairly complex exercise schedule.
It is also a good time to start as winter is coming and sweating won’t be a major problem.
The future is also lurking out there.
As I see it there are two possible futures.
I have an opportunity to pick one of them without violating a time travel paradox.
I want to pick the path “less traveled” as stated by Robert Frost in a famous poem:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I-
I took the one less traveled by

The road less traveled might in the end be filled with the most excitement and perhaps yield the greatest rewards.
This is not a given, but I have already walked pretty far down the other road.
It did seem like so much fun at the time but as a now infamous wag was once heard to say, “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have certainly taken better care of myself”.
I figure it is never too late to begin “taking care of yourself” especially when your walking down a strange road in a strange new land.
Somehow I don’t think the past is strong enough to come down this road.
Besides it is good to know I am now actually involved in making the future instead of just letting it happen.
So can this sixty three year old learn how to run?
Everything I am seeing says, “I’ll bet on it”.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Only Constant Is Change: Part Two

I am really comfortable.
I have found my niche.
Boot Camp, 6:30PM Tuesday and Thursday night and 9:00 Am Saturday morning.
I have been able to make it for many if not most of the sessions.
Then suddenly a change, Tuesday night now starts at 6:00PM.
I know I will miss some classes.
The real question, can I go it alone on Tuesday and catch up on Thursday and Saturday?
This is where the Zen of Exercise needs to exert a powerful influence.
Exercise is more than aerobic and isometric work. It is also a unique form of communication among like individuals pursuing a similar goal, deep health.
Exercising alone is lot like talking to yourself unless you can transition the experience into a metaphysical trance or Zen like state where you become one with the equipment and the muscles.
It must become a form of meditation.
In this state you can begin to feel each muscle fiber slide over the other and the weights seem to lift themselves as you watch with joyful detachment ignoring the pain and exhaustion.
This is an extremely hard state to attain.
It is like a pitcher “who is able to clear the machine”.
It is like a golfer who sees the swing.
It is like the running back that sees the seam.
It is like Michael Jordan, who on many occasions left gravity behind as he floated to the basket, the only destination in that moment.
I am trying to achieve that state on Tuesday nights now that I will on occasion leave the group dynamic for a singular pursuit of exercise excellence.
I prefer the group dynamic but such is life and if I can achieve the status of an exercise aesthetic without the benefit of I-Pods or earphones then I may yet discover some new truth in my quest for health.
Just remember Psychology and Physiology aren’t really spelled all that differently.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pushing The Envelope

“When will it ever get easier”, the question hung there waiting for an answer.
This was about forty minutes into the Tuesday night Boot Camp when everyone was either a light shade of purple or deep maroon.
“I have been doing this for years and it seems to be getting harder”.

I decided I needed to respond; I have a background in exercise physiology and the answer will not be reassuring.

There are two components that must be addressed in responding to the question.
The first component has to do with Sparta.
Sparta can easily see when people are coasting.
Sparta can make the exercise routine as hard or as easy as she sees fit and I don’t anticipate a sudden feeling of seasonal warmth to suddenly cause her to change the routine into Slipper Camp.
It is called Boot Camp for a reason.
Sparta can put three grueling leg exercises in a row, she can add laps, she can follow the heavy bag with mitts and she can knock out any station that provides a little breather.
There are enough combinations of stations that Sparta could challenge even the best trained athlete.

The second component that needs to be addressed is Maximal Aerobic Capacity or Maximal Exercise/Work Capacity.

Maximal Aerobic Capacity or Maximal Exercise Capacity is usually expressed in the amount of oxygen used per kilogram body mass per minute. It is usually determined during exercise such as cycling, running or even Boot Camp. The intensity of the activity is progressively increased until the subject is exhausted. The average value for a 20-year-old female is between 32–38 ml/kg/min; for a 20-year-old male it is 36–44 ml/kg/min.

The last time I looked, I didn’t see that many twenty year olds in our class.

Training can improve Maximal Exercise Capacity but the amount of improvement is highly individualized and inversely related to the initial level of fitness. A sedentary person may experience as much as a 25 per cent increase in VO2 max after only 8 weeks training; a highly trained athlete may experience as little as a 5 per cent or less improvement in the same time.

The key phrase:

There is an upper limit of oxygen consumption beyond which training has no effect. This limit seems to be genetically determined and may be reached after 18–24 months of intensive endurance training and it must be remembered that Maximal Exercise/Aerobic Capacity does decline with age.

Most everyone has been training in Boot Camp for more than twenty four months and many of us are getting older as each year passes. (A few, left un-named appear to be avoiding the aging thing). So it suggests that most of us are probably at our maximal aerobic or maximal work capacity and each little change in intensity will dramatically affect how we perceive the level of work.

But here is the bright inner lining; all in the class have increased their exercise capacity and are working at levels far above the average person. Some in class may be approaching levels as high as 60 ml/kg/min.

It is estimated that Lance Armstrong is the best endurance athlete in the world and his maximal exercise capacity is somewhere around 80 to 100 ml/kg/min.
He increased his capacity by 7% over 7 years of intense training and added another estimated percentage by reducing total body fat which is another way to increase work capacity by a few percentage points.

So to sum it all up, unless Sparta changes the class to Bed Room Slippers Class it probably won’t get any easier, ever, unless we can keep peeling the total body fat down to extremely low levels and achieve higher levels of maximal work capacity.

Unfortunately age and genetics are working hard against us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mr. Id

Remember the television show, Mr. Ed?
Mr. Ed was a talking horse that would say just about anything.
Well, we have a similar personality in our exercise class, Mr. Id.
Mr. Id appears to have lost all brain filters such as Ego and Super Ego so that whatever bubbles up in the hindbrain soon finds expression at the mouth.
I understand this as I have suffered from a similar problem.
Age and slowed reflexes have begun to solve mine.
Mr. Id is about as funny as anyone I have ever heard.
It may just be the environment, the exercise class, but he has Jay Leno, Jack Paar and any other late night comedian, I have heard, beat by a mile.
Maybe he wouldn’t be as funny on day-time TV or at a Tea with a Ladies Society but the exercise class laughs all the way through the crunches.
Last night he said, “I must be the most out of shape ”#@$%^” in this class, I have already been unconscious twice and I am numb from the hips down”.
This is all said amid a number of expletives, praises for the trainer and other noises usually reserved for rooting water buffalos.
He attacks the heavy bag like it is his worst enemy and if he hits it any harder, he might one day knock it out, for good.
The class seems easier with Mr. Id in the room.
He was a doubter at the beginning.
I think he believed the class was for "them" but he has not only joined it, experienced the pain, but actually seems to have moved to the stage of loving the agony.
Mr. Id has added a whole new level "of freedom of expression" to the class.
So hats off to Mr. Id.
I hope he keeps coming back.
Laughter and great humor help ease the pain of that last run or the final two minutes of flutter kicks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Old Dogs, New Tricks and Nicknames

It is hard to learn to jump rope when you are past fifty.
It is difficult to get the rhythm of the light bag when you are beyond fifty five.
It is hard to remember Jab, Upper cut, Hook, Cross, Hook, feint, duck, Jab, Jab, Hook, Cross, and on and on.
The neurons just don’t fire that fast anymore.
I guess that explains why I sometimes seem to stare straight ahead after hearing a command.
It takes a few seconds to register and a few more seconds for the impulse to activate the muscles.
But, the hardest of the hard, has been the Hula Hoop.
Try learning that when you are over sixty.
In a car, sixty equals eighty eight feet per second.
In a body, sixty equals about eight feet per second.
The joints and muscles just don’t seem to move as easily as needed to keep a Hula Hoop up in the air, defying gravity.
Then one night last week, it clicked.
I am sure it looked strange but I was actually “Hula Hooping”.
Sparta saw the moment and began whooping as she announced to the assembled class, “looks like the old dog can learn new tricks”.
The mind rebelled.
Old Dog, “who is she talking about”?
The mention of age rarely comes up in the gym.
I actually forget my age during these intense exercise sessions.
But in deference to the Master/Mastress, placing a fist in my other palm, I bow like an acolyte in training, thanking her for the recognition and the new nickname.
See, I have given each person a name that reminds me of some special characteristic and finally I was given mine, Old Dog or OD for short.
So from now on OD will be doing the Blogs, OD will be attending class, OD will be working out in the gym, OD will keep on, keeping on.
And finally when it all ends, hopefully in my eighties, the final report will most likely read like some strange form of poetry:

The Hula Hoop
Won This Day

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Anybody Care for A little Whine

Saturday, Boot Camp.
Time to set up the stations.
Put the jump rope here. It will be more painful that way.
Two laps, outside, jump rope; slip rope, stairs mitts, plates, fourteen stations in all.
Don’t stop.
Keep the intensity high and do the push-up station here.
Count the number and call them out.
Thirty-five, next time forty, next fifty.
Fierce says, “I think I am dying”.
“No your not”, I say, “Just push on through”.
We do the two hundred shoulders, the fast abs and Sparta thanks us for the excellent work and the healing.
Seems she is in a “mood”.
She warned us before the class that she was in "that mood” and needed healing.
Healing is accomplished by pushing everyone to his or her potential and beyond without anyone dying or walking out.
We all make it.
I then transition to a training session with weights and other strength exercises.
I join a group this day, all younger than me and watchful.
Sparta looks at me and says, “push-ups, fifteen”.
“I just did push-ups”, I said and immediately realized I was whining.
I try to avoid whining at all possible costs.
If you don’t want to do something, leave. Don’t whine.
If you are still whining and over the age of sixty then you really have more problems than I can enumerate.
And suddenly I am whining.
“I am whining”, I say,"I didn’t really mean to".
“I know, you very seldom if ever whine, it is good for me to hear this, it helps the healing.”
Healing, I am not worried about healing I am worried about face and maintaining it.
I do have some Ego.
I drop down and do the fifteen push-ups and feel flushed because I have stepped into murky waters and I don’t like it.
I do the squats, the dips and return to fifteen more push-ups.
I finally finish with the last set of fifteen push-ups and gratefully get to move across the gym to curls and arms presses.
The session ends.
Sparta thanks all for the good work.
As I leave the floor I am trying to decide which wine I might present to seek forgiveness for that last whine.
I am sure a Dry White Chardonnay would be the best.
Sparta might share some as I have heard it goes real good with Crow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Old Man Is Wanting

I have been weighed and measured.
I have been found wanting.
I guess maybe I came too late.
It seems Fierce has taken the field.
Sure I can’t count.
Sure I can’t memorize the punch sequences.
Sure I'm slow and occasionally purple
Now Fierce has the upper hand.
She is young, fast and aggressive.
She hits the mitts with precision and speed.
She hasn’t caught Ammo or the Ambassador yet but she has the eye of Sparta.
The next protégé?
The old man has walked the crooked mile and has the crooked smile.
He has the crooked jab and a really crooked cross.
His crooked, broken uppercut is a total loss.
So the old man with the little crooked smile, will continue on it seems, at least for a while.
And watch as Fierce runs the next hundred miles.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh Momma, So Many Questions

Big class last night.
A lot of punishment was meted out for slow learners.
The whole class paid.
Why is it, the guys can’t count past four?
The girls don’t have that counting problem.
Why is it the strongest looking guys struggle the hardest with the 200 shoulders?
Do they pick up too much weight?
Why is the running such a difficult task for some and yet others run with abandon?
I believe those, the easy runners, could run all night long.
Why didn’t May and Audrey join us last night?
Was the music too raw or did their advanced years keep them at bay?
What did the Yoga instructor say to one of the guys at the front of the line in the middle of the class?
Better yet, why did they laugh?
“Tell us all”, my old high school coach would say.
Where was Cheshire and Transformer?
Will we ever see the Mighty T again?
How much sweat have those mats absorbed?
Don’t they feel heavier?
Do the crunches ever get any easier?
When will a six pack or even a one pack start to show up?
Is the turtle shell the best I can hope for?
Where has Sweat Shirt Boy (SSB) been and why is he now back?
Is my new name really going to be dumbbell?
Or was it a missed modifier causing the command to sound like, “pick it up, dumbbell”?
Shouldn’t it have been, “pick it up, the dumbbell”?
Was it the lack of a comma, some other errant punctuation or a participle placement problem?
“I sure hope so”, said me in my mind as I type this.
All night the questions rumble through my mind as we jump rope, hit mitts, pound the heavy bag.
Sometimes they are funny enough that I begin laughing out loud.
I am fairly sure a number of the players question my status, “is he really all there”.
I have a counting problem, I have a hearing problem and I frequently still try to put the gloves on the wrong hands.
But in spite of these issues, I will keep coming back, keep pondering deep and not so deep questions and continually wonder if I will be able to do this when I am eighty six?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Prime Directive Made Me Do It

Don’t stop just because you hit me”, came the command.
Why not I think to myself.
It was hard enough to ever begin throwing punches at this strikingly beautiful woman, albeit an athlete and a trainer skilled in the pugilistic arts, which made it fairly easy to stop.
Deep in my heart was the paternal command, “never hit a lady because if you do I will destroy you”.
As a little kid I believed he could and would so I didn’t even hit my sister unless I knew my father wouldn’t be around long enough for her to forget.
That primary directive, instilled in childhood, has been a guiding principle of my existence.
So when I began boxing I threw tentative punches.
I was “ridiculed”.
The punches got harder until one day she said, “well, I believe you have overcome your primary directive”.
I was slamming punches into the mitts strategically placed to catch body blows and her head was rocking with each punch.
I reacted by decreasing the intensity of the punches and partially returning to the primary directive.
The medical side of me was also concerned about the blood vessels in her head.
Then recently because of low attendance she decided to have Boxing Night, not to be confused with Boxing Day, the English Holiday,so named because of the boxes of gifts given to one and other.
We received no gifts but were instead exhorted to do a series of punch combinations, over and over.
When a jab I threw slipped the mitt and caught her in the corner of the left eye, I suddenly had an acute attack of the Primary Directive and stopped mid-punch.
That is when she threw a punch at me saying, “don’t stop when you hit me, keep going”.
So in spite of the Prime Directive and the inbred chivalry demanded by my mother, I kept throwing the punches although much more controlled.
I really don’t have to worry about her as much as she needs to worry about me.
I don’t remember the punch sequences all that well and I am always worried about one going awry.
Well we did get through the evening, no blood was drawn, no injuries were encountered except for maybe that little six-year old that resides in the soul of every man.
He went home wondering when his Dad was going to come down and destroy him for breaking the Prime Directive.
He didn’t sleep so well that night.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What A Great Weekend

Ammo had a birthday and Sparta threw a party.
Tri-thlete, Ammo’s main buddy was there.
Cheshire was in attendance with M. He does look very Bond-esque.
Transformer showed accompanied by the Mighty T even though they have both been skipping out on training.
Aerobasis and Phoenix showed.
Elmo was there alone as spouse was off in the south doing good deeds for a person in need.
I and my better half were also invited: we did show late but better than never I hoped.
By the time we got there, enough lubrication had been passed around so the conversation was flowing easily.
The only scary part, after we were introduced to a table of great food just about everyone left the room.
That prompted me and my wife to begin sniffing ourselves to see if we really did smell that bad.
We had been out in the rain watching a high school football game and who knows; maybe we did smell like “wet dog”.
Soon enough the people gathered back around the table and in the living room and the conversation continued, more animated by the minute.
This somewhat reassured us it wasn’t an offending odor; maybe it was just the way we were eating, you know fingers and all.
I had been warned that Sparta had an early training session the next day and wanted an empty “Casa” by 11:00 PM.
I could easily see that was going to be a tough deadline to hit.
It was just too enjoyable and the camaraderie was intense.
Small knots of people were now occupying almost every room in the house; the conversations involved world issues, the course of democracy, friendships, exercise stories and many other themes.
I began working my way to the exit about 10:30 because I also had an early morning commitment and I was going home to an empty house just ready for sleeping.
As I said my goodbyes to Sparta, I figured her best hope:
The Margaritas run out before the new day begins.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back In Training

Two weeks is a long time to be away from the routine.
It is tough getting back in stride.
It takes a long time (months and years) to develop some strength and endurance and unfortunately it is lost in a matter of days to weeks.
Starting over is like starting at ground zero.
The effect of stale air for thirteen hours and jet lag has been riding my back like a 300 pound gorilla.
I am slowly shedding the extra burden but last night the effects were still apparent.
I had trouble getting through the laps.
My punches weren’t crisp; as if they ever are all that crisp anyway.
I couldn’t remember a sequence even after being told three or four times.
The weights seem to have gotten heavier; stiff muscles fail to uncoil easily.
Travel is hard.
Eating differently is hard.
Sleeping in strange beds is hard.
“Maybe it is just age”, I say to myself.
I reject that as a bad excuse.
Returning to an ordered life with a “Spartan routine” is the answer.
Diet, exercise, adequate sleep along with periods of deep meditation are the keys to success at any age.
Travel makes it difficult but not impossible.
Discipline is the characteristic that remains weak.
So I am back in the gym, trying to re-learn the lessons of Boot Camp.
I am back in the gym trying to re-educate reluctant muscles.
I am trying to re-assert a severe discipline on my daily activities.
I am trying to keep control of a diet.
What is the purpose?
The purpose is to be at the top of your potential and to feel good.
And I definitely want to feel good because I have seen how good it feels.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's All Greek To Me

I have been gone far too long from Boot Camp and the daily rigors of the gym.
I have tried to find exercise equipment in Greece but it seems exercise equipment is in short supply, at least in the Hotels where I have been resting my head.
The saving grace, all of the monuments except for Olympia are built at the tops of the mountains.
I have been doing a lot of climbing.
To see the Acropolis, it is necessary to climb a mountain road in the middle of the city and then ascend hundreds of stairs.
This was also the case for the Ancient Monasteries of Meteora, Delphi, the Mycenae ruins, the ancient castle on Naxos and any other site you wanted to visit.
It seems acropolis means "top of the hill".
It would make sense building it up on the mountain as it provided commanding views of the waters and land.
One could see approaching armies or enemy combatants.
The only problem I saw, the peasants that grew the food lived down in the valleys.
So one day a priest or priestess of the temple needs milk, he/she asks his/her buddy, since they are going to the valley anyway, to bring back a goatskin of milk and maybe some figs.
Later when the person returns, he/she says, "did you get the eggs"?
"Eggs"? "What are you talking about, eggs"?
"I am not going back down there, you can go if you want eggs that bad"!
Running up and down the hill for supplies and sacrificial objects such as one hundred oxen could either wear you out or make you want to walk to the Hot Gate, ready for the next battle.
And boy, did they ever battle over here.
Maybe it was caused by someone always forgetting to get the eggs.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Wonder, Will We Die?

Exercise was over.
“Great work” she said, “I am going to have to really step it up to kill you guys”.
“You all are hanging in there and doing great work, thanks”.
I think to myself as I try to get up, did my heart stop for a second or two on that last circuit?
I am sure it did, I felt the chest go empty and my stomach trying to get out of dodge.
I am not talking about throwing up; I am talking about my stomach actually trying to leave.
I bent over and swallowed a few times and was then I reassured by the return of a heartbeat.
Steady, is it steady, I wondered?
Seems to be, I guess I will go ahead and finish the run.
She gives us a compliment of sorts but is already planning the next outing.
She isn’t going to have to step it up too much to kill me, partly because I am too “stupid” to say uncle and partly because I don’t yet know a limit.
I will go on and push ahead; it is just the thing to do.
So far all the joints, muscles and tendons are hanging together.
The lungs seem to be working OK.
The heart is the only organ I wonder about, is it rebelling?
Or is it just shutting down for a second, like an overheated engine?
I am sure the rate was approaching 225 beats per minute when it seemed to slip out of “gear”.
I have had a high performance car do that on occasion.
You are moving down the highway at a respectable 80 miles an hour and suddenly push the accelerator to the floor.
Everything seems suspended in time, the motor seems to pause and then suddenly you are thrown back in the seat as everything catches up.
Maybe I am becoming high performance.
That is a more comforting than the other thought I had, one beat away from the end.
The trouble I am having with this explanation; if I am such “a High Performance Machine”, why is my gas tank trying to come out of my intake port?

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Quarter Given And Don’t Ask For It

“Get moving”, ole man, I add in my mind, “its bust it time”.
This was the command that was shouted out.
I was into my second hour of exercise and like the “ole Man River” of song I was moving slow.
The only hurt was my pride.
I knew I was coasting on the jump rope, my calves told me I had to.
Sometimes your old body just says, “stop and smell the roses”.
Since no roses were in evidence I guess Sparta took precedence over body.
Somehow I did up-tempo the jump rope.
I flashed her a quick glance.
Did she see the “malevolence” in that look?
She must have as a mischievous grin spread across her face and she said ever so lightly, ”come on now you know I still love you”.
I thought, sure just like a snake loves a mouse.
But then the “Wise Man” inside stepped up, “you know we do it to ourselves”.
She is just the “jab” that keeps the ball rolling.
That was truth.
Sparta calls out the drills, she throws down the challenges.
It is up to us to either try them and gain or walk away and lose.
She is the skilled and adept teacher.
She gives us the methods to advance.
The task, figure out how to complete the lessons or go to the sidelines and only watch as life speeds by.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Food, Exercise and Demosthenes

I missed Boot Camp last night.
I wasn’t out of town.
I was only eight miles from the action, attending a dinner.
The dinner was work associated.
I went from the office to a sit down dinner.
The food, beverages and lack of exercise were not good for body or soul.
There was not a Brussels Sprout within miles of the entrée.
There was no green leafy vegetable adorning the plate other than a wisp of over-steamed spinach.
I assumed the spinach lent an artistic touch.
The main ingredient was beef, so raw and tender; it crawled onto the fork by itself.
The shrimp were seared in a sea of butter.
The starch was a Risotto held together with heavy cream and long strands of pure cholesterol.
A desert of pears lying in sugar based confectioners icing rounded out the menu.
I was “slumping” by the time we left the evening behind.
My metabolism was in an uproar in spite of leaving a significant portion uneaten.
I woke up feeling out of sorts, tired, achy and still digesting the previous nights fare.
I was stiff and had a new back pain that had not existed the day before.
These are all of the symptoms of the wrong food and too little exercise.
I had eaten not from the recommended dietary triangle but from the dietary funnel.
I had both physical and mental symptoms including guilt.
I had missed Boot Camp.
I had missed my exercise.
“You are just a fanatic”, I can already hear some saying, but even sane people need to exercise to maintain balance.
The same has to be said for eating.
Everyone needs to eat.
But as my brother once told me, it’s not so much about taste or presentation, its more about feeling full.
“That’s why I chew on rocks”, I always feel full with a mouthful of warm rocks and therefore I eat less and I don’t need to worry about my weight”.
This same brother would do 500 sit-ups every day.
He knew early in life the need for dietary restriction and exercise.
But life had other plans for him.
His good intentions along with his good habits soon dissipated after marrying a lady that knew nothing about sit-ups, chin-ups or any other form of exercise and even less about cooking rocks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who Wants To Push The Car?

I will say one thing about Boot Camp; it is multi-faceted.
Every so many days toward the end of the session, when everyone is gasping for air, comes the comment, “grab a mat and let’s head outside”.
We all head through the side door to the parking lot.
Sparta drives a Honda Civic, curb weight-2831 pounds.
A tractor tire also sits outside, curb weight ~200 pounds.
“OK, start flipping the tire, 15 flips down and then 15 flips back, two pushing the car, one running laps and the rest on mats doing crunches”.
“When the first two are finished the next two should be ready to either flip the tire, push the car or run a lap”.
“Let’s go, we are wasting valuable exercise time”.
We start.
First we push the car, around a little track, we get it up to six miles an hour.
Hamstrings are screaming.
Where did all the oxygen go?
Fall on the mat, while trying not to pass out.
Crunch, crunch, crunch, “who hasn’t flipped the tire”?
Up to the tire, get it right are you won’t be walking without a lot of back pain for a week.
Squat, grab the lower side and rise up flipping the flipping tire; do that 15 times.
Your partner flips it back.
On to the run, one lap around the large parking lot, fast, you need to get back to do the crunches.
"Someone needs to push the car again, who is ready to push the car”, comes the acid laced question.
“Uh, I guess we can do it again”.
Around the track: “get off the brake”, my mind yells at the trainer, “turn up the music, get some air-conditioning out to us”.
Legs are beyond screaming, I am sure they have died.
“Come on get it up to seven miles an hour”, another challenge tossed carelessly out the window.
Now I am back flipping the tire.
Now I am down trying to do something that looks like crunches.
Then it is over, maybe.
“Has everyone gotten to do everything at least two times”?
“I haven’t run a second time yet”, says a "sheepish" Elmo.
“Then you go run and everyone else, hold a squat”.
“Thanks a lot Elmo”, I think to myself, “I hope your wife doesn’t tickle you tonight.
Now surely it is over.
My legs say its over, my oxygen debt says its over, but has Sparta said its over?
“Nice work”, she says as she walks back into the gym.
“Lets go finish it up with a few more serious crunches and the 100 shoulders”.
My Brain is missing something here.
I am thinking, I am Finnish, what I really need is a Sauna and next time maybe we can push the sled across frozen Tundra.
I am sure it would be easier than this.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Only Real Constant Is Change

Ambassador is in pain and hasn’t been in boot camp or boots for some time now.
Cheshire Cat has an injury and has been told she needs to stay away two more weeks and so like the Cheshire of old has disappeared.
They need to return as soon as health permits. The “pack” awaits.
Sparta, Ammo, Transformer along with Elmo and spouse persist but even the steadiest stalwarts have responsibilities that push in on occasion.
New people fill the holes but not the voids.
It is a fact of life that relationships develop on many different levels and these become the touchstones of daily life.
When they change, a disruption occurs that unbalances thought and place.
I had gotten comfortable in “pack” and knew my place.
Now the “pack” is evolving and shifting on a fairly regular basis.
It is hard to find the rhythm of group.
The challenges seem to have intensified.
Sparta seems to be pushing the group to more extreme levels of performance in spite of heat, humidity and ragweed.
There is a lot more talk of “nearly losing it”, a lot more people mouthing,” I am dying”.
Everyone is leaving large pools of sweat at each station.
I had decided I was losing ground.
From my own internal vantage, the pace of measurable improvement seemed to have slowed to a crawl but I finally decided it is just harder to measure ones self against so many new “pack” members.
Each brings a different level of performance and endurance.
Each brings a set of internal goals different from ones previously formulated for self.
Even my own goals seem to be working against me.
I had planned to wield the 100’s by January.
I had planned to do twenty five chin ups by January.
I have finally decided to be happy where I am and just hope by the New Year to do the eighties with relative ease.
The 100’s will have to wait.
The twenty five chin ups will also have to wait.
In January another year will slide away so I do have some urgency in my plans but at the very least, I should be satisfied as I am still able to “play” every day in spite of the continuous change.
One would think though, being surrounded “buy” this sea of change, I could at least afford some new wraps.
One should strive to look their best when meeting a "cheerleader".

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Here’s One For The G-Man

The G-man stopped by the office the other day.
“I am not going to read your Blog anymore”, he stated matter-of-factly.
“All you write about is exercise”.
“Where is the stuff you used to write about?”
I suggested that I write about exercise because the Blog is kind of devoted to exercise.
"I don't care", he said, "give us something similar to your past efforts".
So here it is G-man, a piece that seems appropriate at this time, especially in view of the Farmer’s Almanac calling for an early Fall and a “frigid” winter

I smelled Fall
As a yellow leaf
To the ground
Just in the periphery
The marrow
For just a second
But then
The heat reclaimed
My thoughts

It is true.
Fall is waiting around the corner.
I had just commented to a friend a few days ago that there were signs of an early fall and I was surprised I had not yet smelled it or felt the chill in the marrow.
It doesn’t last long.
It is like the whisper of a “lover” having just passed away and exiting the room with the hushed “goodbye”.
You have to be waiting to hear it or feel it or you will completely miss it and wake up one day wondering where the sweet corn and peaches have gone or be surprised when your “lover” no longer makes coffee.
Now I know they are soon to be gone.
I have smelled the fall.
As I drove home down highway 135 through Amish country I was struck by the beauty of the approaching evening and the fields that had already been harvested the, carts filled with melons and the Honey Vendors along the road.
It is so easy to forget the trials of the world on drives like that.
I even considered parking the car in the deep weeds and staying forever.

But then I remembered, it was Tuesday night and Boot Camp was waiting.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Only Two

The previous class attracted about fourteen people.
Today it is down to two: Ammo and me.
Sparta is present to call the pain.
Where are Elmo and spouse?
Where are Ambassador, Transformer, Cheshire Cat?
“WHERE ARE ALL OF THE OTHERS”; the little voice inside screams.
This could really get hard.
“OK people, here we go”. “The jump rope is the timer, start with 100”.
“Burn outs on the heavy bag”.
“Ok switch, switch, switch, switch”.
Breathing is a little ragged.
“Now lets do laps and mitts”.
“Go, switch, switch, switch”.
Breathing is now definitely ragged.
During one of the switches, Mr. Grizz-Lee, (a name I think that fits well) enters the room.
He is as big as a bear and probably as strong.
He has come to play.
Mr. Grizz-Lee does have one weakness. He doesn’t like to sweat.
In fact several weeks ago when he was working with the group, he reached up, wiped his forehead and asked Sparta, “What is this”, as if in shock that he found water there.
Now he and Sparta join the rotation, he is fast, running as we run, growling, laughing.
He hits the heavy bag so hard the air vibrates with the impact.
When I cheat on abs, his big paw pushes me down and he rumbles a command, “C’mon bring it on, tighten those abs, now push back", as the big paw again descends, pushing me further back on the exercise ball.
Finally there is a break.
Sparta pulls out the cards.
We all trek out to the gym floor.
It is push-up time.
The ladies on one side the men on the other.
The first card falls; it’s the men’s, a Joker, 15.
Next a face card, 10 more.
On and on it goes.
There are exactly 410 push-ups in a deck of cards.
The deck looks about half gone.
Most are sweating. I am laughing because I have passed the point of caring and just need to finish.
The Bear grumbles, “If you keep laughing, I’m going to hurt you”.
“This could really get hard”, I say in reply.
Well says the bear, “I am delighted to see that you are so gifted with intelligent insights”.
Now everyone starts laughing, the big paw reaches out pushing Sparta off balance, I see it coming my way and shrink down like a turtle, it rocks me but I keep doing the push-ups.
Ammo is too far away and the bear says, “Dang, now I’m behind”.
We finish, arms trembling, I am glad to see that even Sparta and the Bear had to go some to get this one done and the Bear is finally sweating.
“Since we are already down on the floor, lets roll over and finish with abs”, says Sparta.
Bear is already feigning a nap.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Did You Exercise Last?

Does it really make any difference?
I had recently become proud of my accomplishments in the gym in that I could comfortably do dumbbell presses with 70 pounders and a get a couple with 80 pounders plus a lot of strain.
Until I meet the trainer.
She can destroy me with miniscule weights in only a few minutes.
Set of three, 50 reps, no rest between sets, different angles, shoulders, on and on.
I am having trouble remembering all of the different exercises she has been throwing at me lately.
She has caused me to drink at the fountain of humility.
This has become a common “draught” these days. (Old guys are humbled easily)
While bitter to taste, it does confer a level of insight.
I am gradually discovering the many facets of weight training.
It is not just simply pushing more and more weight.
Joints start to rebel with this approach, especially 60 plus year old joints.
Instead it is angles of attack; it is reps on some days and weight on other days with a healthy dose of aerobics thrown in for good measure.
It is the right diet and the right amount of protein.
It is muscle fatigue; it is muscle exhaustion.
It is taking your body to the limit.
When the “burn” starts, this is not the time to quit.
This is the time to go on and finish.
When the skin feels too tight to constrain the muscles, this is the time to do one more set or add a drop set.
When the hands are shaking and it is hard to open the lock on the locker and everything has a halo around it like a “Currier and Ives” print, then it is OK to quit.
So, “what did you exercise last” is key information if you are going to be able to keep up with the next set of exercises.
Try to get it right or you will end up eating more humble pie than could ever be good for someone on a diet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Don’t Mess with My Class

“Either come in or get out but don’t mess with my class”, she says pointedly while staring at the set of weights on the floor.
The music has started.
I am pushing my luck.
I motion for the person I am seeking to come to the door.
I feel like Daniel at the Lion’s Den and I am not talking night club.
I silently ask for Divine protection.
I would not dare to step into the room unless I had serious intentions of attending the class or ending up in the Emergency Department.
The lady I want to talk to dashes to the door.
The music is still in the first stanza and not too many notes have played.
“Be careful, your front tires are bald”.
I relayed what I thought might be an important safety message to this single lady.
“I know; I need to get new tires.”
I am abashed.
What started as a mission of “help” turns out to be redundant information.
She runs back to her place in the room and I turn away to go into the gym.
The hair on the back of my neck stands down.
I was deceived by preconceived notions of gender.
I automatically assumed ladies would not notice bald tires and would keep driving at 70 or even 80 miles an hour risking life and limb.
I know this lady drives with a heavy foot.
She has passed me and I try to run at the upper limit.
I guess she is one with her car and senses the health of her tires.
So there it is, don’t assume what you don’t know.
Just rest assured that all things will ultimately align in the universe.
Energy and matter will neither be created nor destroyed.
And: Sparta will never want you “messing with her class”.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Eleven people showed up a few nights ago.
Eleven stations; it was fast and vigorous.
No rest stations; the runner was the timer.
Three laps.
A lot of leg work, then time on the mitts.
“Everyone back?”
“Let’s go again, only two laps, make them all out sprints and have your gloves on”.
Back into the grinder.
Squats, agility ladder and so on through the eleven stations.
“Get your mats”, “time for abs”.
It was the same routine as last week and included one hundred and twenty side planks per side for a total of two hundred and forty side planks.
“Nice work, really nice work”, she states, as we all stretch tight muscles.
The more people there are, the higher the intensity, there is no rest.
It somehow feels better as the hour is gone too soon.
But tonight I am not done.
I go out to finish lifting in the gym.
It seems Sparta is not yet done either; she goes out into the gym and finds her lifting partner.
He is huge, has tremendous strength and I can tell they drive each other.
I watch them as I begin my own lifts.
The dumbbell bench press is his first lift. He holds the hundred pounders in each hand; she is exhorting him, “one more” and then “one more”.
Now it is his turn, he moves to the spotter position, “come on you got more in you, another one, another one”, finally finished the weights drop.
They are like well-honed machines as they continue their workout.
Watching the pair go from exercise to exercise is enough.
It is the extra kick I need to keep moving on my own routines.
The curls, triceps, back, intercostals, shoulders until I am finally finished.
I feel good; my skin is too tight and I am really hungry.
Something inside is screaming for protein.
The grocery store is on the way and the strip steaks are on sale.
I pick up one that weighs bout 8 oz. and head to the checkout.
As she scans the purchase the young lady asks, “Would you like a bag”?
“No thanks”, I say, “I am just going to eat it on the way home”.
She says nothing; her eyes say it all as I begin removing the wrapper.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The End of the Earth?

I was reading the news, and saw the following headline, “Can life on Earth escape the swelling sun”?
They failed to explain until deep into the article that they were talking about 5 billion years from now.
I really have more “pressing” issues, dumbbells that is, than to be concerned about a sun that may burn out in 5 billion years.
Why is everything presented as immediate, as a crisis?
In reality, the past is past, the future is only potential and all we really have is the present moment.
I no longer count away the seconds and minutes of my life waiting for something better or worse to come along.
The fact I lived from the last second to this second is very gratifying.
The fact I can laugh now and still be laughing through the next seconds to minutes is gratifying.
The fact that I can see a dumbbell move to a higher position over several seconds during the bench press tells me I am still alive and making progress every second.
If I suddenly expire during the dumbbell press, I will no longer be making progress but the dumbbell will no longer be part of my future as my future will have evaporated in the instant of my passing.
The dumbbell will then have its own future and will be immediately acted on by gravity without the opposing force of my muscles.
The dumbbell will fall and hit what it will on the way down
The dumbbell and I will be in separate realities.
So why worry about a future that may not exist or a falling dumbbell for that matter if I no longer exist.
A very existential question; “does a falling dumbbell ever question how it got up so high in the first place?”
That does not mean one should not hedge your bets.
One needs to follow the Boy Scout code and be prepared for any possible future.
As an example: I assume I will always need to eat in any possible future so I do the dumbbell presses to make sure I am strong enough to carry the groceries.
In my potential future I would like to be able hold a book, pick up a toothbrush, get out of bed, standup, walk, and maybe even jog a little so I exercise regularly.
Instead of worrying about the future, I try to get ready for any future that might come along.
Therefore I am not going to worry about the sun swallowing up the earth in 5 billion years because I am certain I will not be here and even if I was here there would be very little I could do about it except bend over and kiss my you know what goodbye, that is if I had taken yoga and remained limber enough to bend over.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Great Nights Should Last Longer

Got your attention?
Where is this going, you might ask?

This last Friday must be classified as a great night.
Celebrating the birthday of our trainer was the occasion for the evening.
The weather conspired with the occasion.
Low humidity, a moderate temperature, blue sky and a setting sun allowed for the pleasure of outdoor dining, a rare treat in this town during late July, early August.
The crowd that gathered either “worked out” as a group, “alone” with the trainer or was somehow related to one of those in class.
We were all comfortable with each other and many have become fast friends.
The mood was light, the conversation easy.
A wide spread of ages was present but it didn’t make any difference.
We are all committed to getting and staying healthy and we are all being driven by this young woman that pushes each of us to his/her own personal goals and limits.
We all love her and the celebration was one small way of saying, Thank You!!!! even though the pain she delivers comes in so many flavors.
The orders for the most part reflected learned dietary restrictions.
Salads with salmon, chicken, veggie wraps----whoa, wait a minute where did those onion rings and sliders come from?
She eyes the culprit.
I don’t envy his next session.
The restraint was less apparent when it came to beverages.
The healthiest drink I saw on the table was a Pomegranate Margarita and it was only healthy because of the Pomegranate and the reported effects:

These studies indicate that pomegranate confers unprecedented cardiovascular protection by restoring endothelial health, lowering blood pressure, and protecting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from damaging oxidation. Pomegranate also appears to suppress the growth of colon, breast, and lung cancer cells. Pomegranate even appears to shield against unsightly signs of aging by supporting the health of the skin’s underlying matrix.

They didn’t mention any added benefit from the Tequila although if you get the “worm” it is an added source of protein.
The rest of the drinks while “fun” did not confer any known health benefits.
As the sun went down, a the fire pit illuminated the evening.
The conversation flowed, the margarita glasses multiplied and then suddenly it all ended.
Bills were passed around, everyone said their goodbyes, hands were shaken, hugs tendered and then everyone gradually drifted off to their cars to return home or find other parties to attend.
My wife and I talked about the evening on the way to our own home (no more parties for us this night-remember exercise in the morning) and we had to admit this was one of the most pleasant gatherings we have attended in some time.
It always surprises me how circumstances ebb and flow until confluence occurs (usually around a special person or special date) mixing occasion, celebration, ambiance and amazing people.
These are the times and nights we all wish could and should last a little longer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Sparta

Sparta had a birthday this week.
Sparta looks like she is in her early 30’s and has the energy of a teen.
She has told me different but I find it hard to believe.
What I do know is that age is a misnomer when applied to people like Sparta.
I have seen a number of people who aged more slowly than the average person during my years of practicing medicine.
Their physiology does not recognize the aging process.
They retain the characteristics and appearance of youth late into their life.
I think it is related to several key factors.
The first and most important factor in my opinion is attitude.
If a person wakes up already knowing the day is going to be bad and the frown is affixed to the face then the aging process has a chance to work its magic.
The jowl droops, the chin sags, the shoulders slump, the upper back rounds and the shuffle to the bathroom becomes the routine.
If on the other hand, one is excited to get up and already has determined the purpose in the new day, smiles, stretches, pulls the shoulders back and walks with anticipation then the aging process is reversed a few hours.
Another key factor: nutrition.
When a patient would ask me about a diet, I would half-seriously tell them, “If it tastes good, spit it out”.
A diet must consist of proper nutrition.
It should include high quality protein, complex carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and so on.
We all know what a good diet consists of, it just doesn’t taste as good as a diet loaded with sugar and fats.
It is much easier and more “rewarding” to eat doughnuts, chocolate milk, cookies and cold pizza.
Besides, you’ll do better tomorrow as the weight and the age pile on.
Next: exercise.
Many jobs no longer require strenuous activity. Frequently jobs are sedentary.
You feel it at the end of the day. You are drained. Your “Brain” actually hurts.
Muscles are set and resist uncoiling for the walk to the parking spot and some places even offer shuttles to your car.
Sit in the car, sit at home, sit for dinner (usually carry in or processed foods), sit in front of the TV and then struggle to the bed for the night.
The weight of inactivity is worse than gravity as far as aging is concerned.
A better suggestion, do some sort of exercise immediately after work and guess what, your energy level spikes and that “awful hunger” is no longer there.
Your step is quicker, your mind more keen.
Age has again retreated.
Bad habits can certainly wreck havoc on your life.
Smoking, excessive alcohol, too much sun all contribute to the aging process and will make you old years ahead of schedule.
Finally genetics helps.
I don’t pretend to understand the all of the intricacies of the genetic code, telomeres, the repair process, cellular aging, cellular suicide, all of the proteomics but in some people the difference of expression is profound.
As an example, a patient of mine still split his own firewood by hand at the age of one hundred. He lived in the same farm house he was born in and I never saw him when he wasn’t laughing.
His wife said he was like that from the day she met him.
He looked like a middle aged man with a full head of hair even as he passed one hundred and one.
He just didn’t age like other people.
So “Happy Birthday Sparta”.
May your “aging clock” always run slow and many, many thanks for helping the rest of us “slow” ours.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Five Laps?

Is she kidding?
Five laps; I just got “comfortable” with three.
As I said, not fast but getting them completed.
Why five, where did that number come from?
I always get stuck on punch sequence number five.
I believe it is Jab, Upper, Left, Right, Cross.
I never get it right.
Is this my punishment, five laps for failing sequence five?
One of the group members begins yelling, “I am so pumped”. “I love running five laps”.
I am unsure as to the stability of this guy now.
Is this a weak attempt at humor, does he really enjoy running five laps or is he cyclothymic and still in the manic phase?
Most everyone else looked a “slight bit downcast” by this new revelation.
The first time around it was a moderate three laps which were surrounded by the agility ladder, chair squats and then following the run the “farmers walk” with twenty five pound plates.
Now five laps still surrounded by the same “leg” punishment.
I knew when I asked where “the pain had gone” it would result in the return of same.
Yes, I did the five laps.
No my heart did not stop.
The leg cramps left sometime in the middle of the night.
So, I know it wasn’t a permanent injury.
But I would still like to know, where did that five laps come from?
Oh and then the ab workout, one hundred and twenty side planks, three sets of forty each side, now that was a real “kick” after the five laps.
The only good thing, no one began yelling “That’s great; we get to do two hundred and forty side planks”.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where Has The Pain Gone

This may hurt.
But here is “my truth”.
In the beginning, every activity in the gym hurt either acutely or later, when I couldn’t move, because of muscle cramps and generalized pain.
I was always noticing how purple my fingers and nail beds were becoming during the exercise.
I was always trying to breath.
I was in a fog.
Every day I wanted to quit and stay home, “away from the maddening routines”.
But then something changed.
The fog got less dense.
The fingers no longer turned purple.
Three or four laps were OK.
They were not fast but they got completed.
The pain, it still hurt, but the long term pain and aches were not top of mind.
Had the trainer felt sorry for the group and decreased the intensity?
That’s like asking if Lions are giving up meat.
I don’t think so.
The intensity is still there.
The variety of punishments is still there but they now seem more like exercises instead of punishments.
The main question, what are the limits?
I ponder this every day as I walk into the gym to exercise in the group or on my own.
Every time I pick up a weight to perform some lift, I wonder, “Is this the maximum”?
Every time I try a dip or a chin up, I wonder, “Can I really do this”?
Every time I need more strength, I wonder, “Can I find it”?
Every time a new task is added, I wonder “Can I do it”?
So far I have advanced.
I know my nadir, just not the time.
But will I achieve a “zenith” before then?
Losing the pain has helped.
When the pain comes back I know I will have moved into uncharted territory.
I know that is where the answers will be found.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Of Guns and Six-Packs

Looks like I might be doing a movie review from the early 70’s when teen movies changed from Beach Blanket Bingo to Assault on Precinct 13.
But this is not a movie review.
It is also not about Beer and weapons.
Instead it is about the gym.
It is about effort and hard work.
It is about toning and tuning the body for life.
It would be so easy if everyone from early childhood were supported and encouraged to be active in life.
It would be so easy if children saw their parents being active and conscious of proper diet.
But instead many of our children see inactivity, television and computer games along with high calorie snacks.
Thus the obesity epidemic in this country.
The new mantra is “health care reform”.
In reality health care reform should start in childhood and continue throughout life.
It is more about the individual and “life reform”.
So back to Guns and Six Packs.
“Guns” are a nickname for exceptional Biceps. These are developed through exercise and an understanding of the anatomy of the upper arm. The angles of attack must vary if you are going to develop exceptional “Guns”.
Not everyone needs the “Top Guns” in the neighborhood but some effort at even developing “toy guns” would get you off the couch.
The “Six-Pack” is that very tight and muscular abdomen best exemplified by the Spartans in the movie “300”.
Not everyone can or will develop the abdominal musculature to that degree but just doing crunches some time during the day may make you feel more like a “mini Spartan”.
These can become habits and be passed on to the next generation.
Alterations in diet can follow and fairly soon, I guarantee, (not too many guarantees in life) you will feel a whole new level of “healthy”.
When almost everyone is seeking great “Guns and a Six Pack” through continuous exercise there will be no reason to worry about Health Care Reform as the need for “sick care” will no longer be as pressing an issue.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

OK People Or Do What You Do

It is Thursday.
Thursday is the day after Wednesday.
Wednesday is Ball Room Dancing lessons night.
The dance is the Samba, a fast Latin Dance that has the same steps as the Viennese Waltz.
Thursday is Boot Camp night.
Tonight the steps will be on the ladder, dancing around the heavy bag and trying to remember to turn the foot into the punch.
There are a lot of similarities between dancing and Boot Camp.
Both require precise movement, the proper turning of the shoulders, leading or following the lead, concentration and finally coordination of upper and lower body to make it all come together into a seamless, rhythmic flow.
Head movements, hand movements, movement of the feet all combine to present either a dance or a bout.
As I have thought about this, I have worked to bring parts of each activity to the other and I am finding that I can move with more fluidity than I have known for many years.
The dance instructor comes in puts on the music of the day, last night a strange and eclectic mixture of Samba beats, looks at us and says, “come on, do what you are supposed to do.”
Last night it was trying to remember the Bota Cita, Bota Fogo or the Machisse.
Tonight the Boot Camp instructor comes in puts on a CD of rock music, cranks up the volume and yells, “OK people lets do it”.
Then I am supposed to remember the most recent punch combinations, so far 1 through 6, 9 with a touch of 13, then try to master the footwork on the ladder before jumping rope and then running up and down the stairs.
The other nights of the week and weekend are free.
On these nights you will find me in the gym doing various lifts to increase strength in the arms, back, legs or other exercises that target the core muscles.
If you had asked me ten years ago, “what are you going to do in the evenings, when you have more time?” I most likely would have said, “watch a little TV, read more books, go to bed earlier”.
Instead of a little TV and early to bed it is Boot Camp, dance, exercise and try very hard to follow a strict diet.
I may not live any longer but it is sure going to seem like I did.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Searching For Nirvana

Nirvana has been described as a mind free of cravings, anger, afflicted states, a mind at perfect peace.
I feel I achieve a level of Nirvana while lifting weights.
My mind becomes silent as the body struggles to maintain the balance and control of the two dumbbells being pushed around in space.
The heavier the weight the more clear and silent the mind becomes (this has been my interpretation of the experience)
I am suddenly unaware of the surroundings and focused only on the weights and the proper placement.
I do the counts to fifteen and then drop the weights, sit up (it takes a few seconds to re-focus) and tell the body it has to do it again.
So now I am seeking to one day challenge the “hundreds”.
I was asked today when I mentioned this goal, “What are you going to do with that”?
I was really not able to express in that instant the goal.
But the goal I am seeking and want to understand is an even deeper appreciation of a mind, quiet and at peace.
I am looking for the silent place where only consciousness exists and I am sure the “hundreds” will help get me there.
I think Sparta already knows this.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Did Neil Sedaka Say It First

It was the 50’s.
The song: “Working Out Is So Very Hard To Do”.
My wife reading over my shoulder; the song was, “Breaking Up Is So Very Hard To Do”.
Everyone it seems is an editor.
But it is true, working out is so very hard to do.
The gym fills up on the day after New Years, resolutions are made and intensity is high.
I see the same type of intensity on the first day of vacation.
The gym is packed early on Monday.
The beach is filled with walkers and runners.
Then comes Tuesday.
The beach is less crowded and the gym, virtually empty.
The machines are idle and the weight bench is free.
I am not complaining.
It is easier to get the equipment and the session is over quicker.
I still have to do the obligatory crunches on a large mat that has room for four people.
The mat has little channels that catch the sweat.
Is this the reclaimed water they use to hydrate the plants?
On to the weight bench and then down to the patio for coffee.
On this trip I do the beach “raulking” first so the coffee is the last part of the ritual.
As I cool down I am able to watch the sun rise, feel the sea breeze and see the ocean come and go with each wave.
I feel really good.
I am sticking to the routine.
I wish I had believed in exercise all of my life.
It is better than any medicine or potion.
I will wait to see if any of the Monday people come back.
But I am pretty sure Neil Sedaka had it right the first time: “Working Out Is So Very Hard To Do”.
But if you are not working out, I assure you, you are breaking up.
Thanks Neil.
You were a prophet and didn’t know it.
PS: The Monday people aren’t back yet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Vacation is a test.
Can you keep to the exercise regime?
You lose the comfort of the “pack”, the dominant Alpha leader and the familiar space.
The routine changes by necessity.
I am an evening exerciser but on vacation I become an early morning exerciser as I need to assist with grandchildren the rest of the day.
The body at first rebels to the new routine and on this vacation I even added a new quirk to the workout.
Janzelle explained a technique to become a runner.
Each day for the first six days, one walks four minutes and then runs for one minute. This cycle is repeated for 30 minutes to one hour.
The next six days one walks three minutes and runs two and so on and so on until you are running thirty minutes and walking 30 minutes.
The goal one hour of continuous running.
I will never become a long distant runner or a jogger but in my home gym we are running a number of laps in Boot Camp and I want to pick up the pace.
So for the past three days I now start my routine with 45 minutes of “raulking” the beach followed by a trip to the gym for the weights and the crunches.
A word about crunches; Crunches are hard to do by yourself so generally you do the harder ones just so you won’t feel like your cheating.
First, legs straight and 100 to the middle, the sides and on and on until I finished the set of 600 with side planks, 50 to each side.
The side planks make me feel very “correct” and “honest” with this session.
Now on to the weights.
I am looking for the feeling of the skin being too tight for the muscles underneath.
Can I push myself to that level?
I have a new pain and weakness in the right bicep so I go with light weights and lots of reps.
I start with curls move to triceps, chest, flys, lat pull downs and finish with shoulders, 100 palms down,thumbs up, ending with full range.
I am sweating, gallons, the temp 92, humidity 100% and my whole skin feels too small for all of my innards.
I will make it through the next two weeks but look forward to the comfort of the pack.
A lame “wolf” doesn’t last that long in the wild.

Hams and Lavender

“Jambon” is the French word for ham.
It is said the French have some of the finest hams in the world.
These epicurean delights are a symphony for the senses.
France is also famous for the lavender that grows in Provence.
The scent of lavender pervades many of the perfumes and bath products and has a therapeutic effect on the senses as well as the temperament.
Well Evansville is no less blessed.
Evansville has some of the best hams I have ever seen.
These hams come from the region and represent many counties in Indiana and some northern counties in Kentucky.
The Kentucky hams may be salted, cured and/or spicy while the Indiana hams being more sedate are no less admired.
These are well packaged hams that even the French would envy.
Along with the gorgeous display of hams comes an aroma that is what I would think Heaven might smell like.
It is the aroma of lavender and sun, a visible scent.
So, “Jambon” and Lavender are alive and well on this side of the pond.
What has all of this to do with exercise?
Visit the gym.
I would love to visit Provence but Evansville and the gym have my heart.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Salvation by The Ton

Have you ever been really sick?
Have you ever known you might die in the next fraction of a second?
I have and it is a little disconcerting.
One moment all things are going along as expected and then suddenly the arteries to your heart are more blocked than anticipated and the dye used to study them causes the pain to return and you know it is the end.
In my case it wasn’t and I woke with a tube down my throat and not sure of the future.
My wife said, “You need a trainer”.
The trainer was reluctant to accept me, I was overweight, out of shape, had a big scar down the middle of my body and “gosh, is this just a charity case?.”
I couldn't blame her.
But thank the "gods" she did take me on and you have all read of my relationship and struggles with the return.
But here is the interesting part. I was depressed. I had no good reason to keep on going. It was all too painful.
I found my salvation in the weights.
One night I benched pressed 5 pounds with each arm for 10 reps, that is 50 pounds per arm.
I added that up to 100 hundred pounds.
The legs were 100 pounds time’s 15 reps or 1500 pounds.
The curls were 5 pounds times 10 reps or 100 pounds of curls and on and on.
The total weight pushed, pressed, curled added up to an “impressive” amount in my mind of a little over 2000 pounds, one ton.
What a feat for a 60-year-old post op patient.
Where am I now?
3600 pounds for the bench, 2400 for the curls, 6300 for triceps, 14,400 for the legs, 4500 for the lat pull-downs, 2700 for the chest pulls, 7600 for the over head pull-downs or a total of 41, 000 pounds or 20 tons of salvation.
My goal, 100,000 pounds or 50 tons of salvation.
Oh, the depression, gone.
This is not only the place to exercise the body; but also the place to exorcise demons.

Friday, June 5, 2009

How Much Time Do You Need To Invest To Stay Fit

I don’t know the answer to the question and apparently most people on this earth are unsure of the correct answer.
Some years ago it was recommended that moderate exercise three times a week was adequate.
The most recent recommendations specify vigorous intense activity preferably every day of the week.
The minimum amount of time I see recommended is 30 minutes a day.
Cardio is strongly recommended.
Weight Training is strongly recommended.
If you are over 65 balance exercises and stretching are strongly recommended.
It is also beneficial if you are under 65.
Core musculature is now known to be the most critical of all muscle groups for providing balance, athletic movements and decreased injuries in athletes.
Core musculature may be exercised with crunches, side planks, leg lifts, throw downs and on and on. These exercises are strongly recommended.
So how much time does it take to stay fit?
Cardio should be intense and last at least one hour a day. Circuit training is a superb method and stair climbing is good for off days.
Weight training depending on your goals can take 30 minutes to an hour every day for different sets of muscles.
Core exercises are necessary at least five to six days a week and doing a set of 1000 crunches while mixing up the various types of moves can easily take 30 minutes.
Stretching in the form of Yoga or Pilates can take an hour three to four times a week.
So add it up:
1. Core: 2 hours a week
2. Cardio: 2 hours a week
3. Circuit: 3 hours a week
4. Balance: 2 hours a week
5. Stretch: 1 to 2 hours a week
6. Weights: 3 hours a week
This adds up to 13 hours every week of the year. The total time commitment for the year would be 683 hours or 8% of the total hours in a year.
We already spend about 11 hours a day (46%) of the year sleeping and eating.
The rest of the time we worry, work and play.
Think of the 8% as a savings account, investing it in your best asset, yourself.
Americans aren’t used to investing at these levels, thus the financial woes and the health care crisis.
We can remedy both with the above plan.
If you exercise that much you won’t have time to spend money and you will get fit.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Every Night?

Someone asked, following a recent Blog, “Do you really go to the gym every night”?
Well maybe that is slightly overstated.
I have Ballroom Dance Lessons on Wednesday and to be strictly honest I have missed some nights but try to get to the gym at least six days a week.
I go mostly at night but on occasion the early afternoon and even the early morning. (I have never made it at 5:30AM like my wife)
I have discovered that if I miss a day or two I start feeling bad.
A “lethargy” kicks in and it becomes harder and harder to find the motivation to go back.
I even try to find a gym while on vacation to stay on routine.
I have exercised on a cruise ship and every hotel has an exercise room so there is no excuse for missing this critical activity.
It is not hard to find the places to exercise but if you really like yourself and want to keep living you will have to find the TIME.
I hear so many people say, “I just don’t have the time to exercise”.
But your time is yours to appropriate.
Unfortunately, it is usually easier to “start tomorrow”.
I guess most would find this routine of almost daily exercise, “boring” but it gives me more energy, makes it easier to keep my weight and cholesterol in check and I always look forward to another night of sweat and pain.
Besides the gym has become my second home and the people familiar friends.
Now I need to find the will power to take off the next 25 pounds.
The diet is easy, limit the calories.
I am amazed at the number of infomercials promising instant weight loss, pure abs with only 4 minutes of exercise three times a week, pills that reshape and burn calories and promises of eating anything you want and even little electrical gizmos that cause your muscles to contract while you sleep.
It sounds too good to be true and probably is.
The reality, it is hard work.
The next reality, it is never too late to start.
The last reality, every night, mostly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


“Go get a set of dumbbells. We are going to do shoulders.”
Where did the term “dumbbell” come from? I have often wondered this even as I walked over to pick up this instrument of exercise torture.
It seems in the past a “Nal” or Indian club was originally used for weight training.
The “Nal” is one half of a modern dumbbell. It is much longer and may be as much as four feet in length with a heavy weight on only one end.
Later on, English weight trainers used hand held church bells for weight lifting.
To be able to lift quietly they removed the clapper: Thus the “mute” or “dumb” bell was born.
So what are shoulders?
This is an exercise that involves picking up a weight in each hand and then moving that weight up and down through many different repetitions.
It sounds exceedingly simple.
Ten repetitions, in front then ten more in front with thumbs up, then ten more with arms at an angle to bringing the weight to shoulder height and then ten more with thumbs up and then ten from the side and then ten more with thumbs up and so on and so on until you have completed one hundred repetitions.
No problem, you say.
Depends, I say.
First time pick a light weight maybe two pounds. You will feel burning in your muscles even with this little amount of weight.
If you must, go ahead and pick up six or eight or even ten pound dumbbells and try to go through the routine.
Eight pounds and the pain is insane. Can you finish? Every muscle is screaming. Block it out. Keep going, only 10 more, nine, eight, etc. etc.
“Go ahead and put them down, we’ll do one more set in a few minutes.
NO WAY, your brain screams! Can I sneak over there and get some three pounders
I guess the term “Dumbbell” could have been invented for the people that really thought they could do “shoulders” with the eights.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Old Man Is Cheating

“You will all keep punching until I see someone’s hands hitting his jaw.”
The eyes, even looking at me from the mirror, peer deep into my brain and suddenly my fists begin meeting my jaw line.
“He’s using 6 pounders for the shoulder exercise.”
“Yeah, that’s true but he is also slinging them using his hips.”
The eyes again seer the back of my brain.
Am I moving the hips?
There apparently are actions initiated by me that are below my awareness but come under the intense scrutiny of the Trainer.
So I keep trying.
Don’t swing the arms. Do the slow movement, feeling each muscle fiber slide over the other.
Run the steps, ignore the breathing pattern and the gasping for air, think only of the legs going up and forward.
Find the patterns of the punches. They are already painted in the subconscious. Just go in and bring them out.
Find the rhythm; it is there you just need to hear the drum beat.
As my Dad once said, if I catch you cheating, you will surely rue the day.
I guess I am subconsciously cheating or maybe it is just being older and not wanting to admit it.
I still see myself as 62 going on 25.
Am I going to rue the day?
I don’t think so.
I have noticed that sometimes it is necessary to “cheat” to get through an exercise or move to the next weight but after a while the “cheating” fades away as I begin to own the routine or the weight.
So in the end the only thing I guess I am “cheating” is premature old age and/or death.
I may not make it back to 25 but I think I might get back to 50.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some Goals Getting Real

Old men don’t do dips. Not enough musculature in the shoulder.
You’ll rip your shoulders out of joint.
Just like “Ralphie” and the BB gun; you’ll shoot your eye out!
But say it isn’t so.
Not total dips mind you, but three quarter dips, two sets of 10 followed by a third set of six.
On to the chin up.
Finally last night one chin up from a straight arm position with no extra kick or help.
Just one smooth chip up from full arm extension.
Not two or ten, just one, a small start, 204 pounds from ground to chin over bar.
On the way out, I asked the attendant her favorite protein drink, a "Carliss".
So I treated myself to a “Carliss”, 40 grams of protein, peanut butter, honey all blended into an ice cold “chocolate shake”.
I felt I had actually earned it.
What will I be able to do at 164 pounds and two more years of exercise?
Two more years, how do I know I will last that long, you might ask?
I don’t but right now I am planning on two more years of really hard exercise and committed weight loss.
If I go to the gym every night for 730 days the two years will pass before you know it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A “Bucket” List

I loved the movie.
I guess each of us develops a Bucket List in our minds but very few have the luxury of fulfilling the “dreams”.
Seems life, reality and excuses intervene.
So now I am sixty plus and I have begun to review my Bucket List.
I have been working on it for a number of years.
I thought, put it out there and see how it plays to the public.
A lot of my list had been put on hold due to work, age and intervening detours but most might be accomplished and I am now actively pursuing parts of it.

1. I want to weigh 164 pounds for at least 3 consecutive years. I don’t want to weigh 164 pounds for a day or two as I pass through that weight on the way out. Why 164 pounds? This would be close to my ideal weight and I have not been there for at least 44 years. I believe I can do this. I just haven’t found the “won’t” power I need to leave all the snacks behind.
2. I want to be able to bench press 325 pounds. My rationale: It has often been stated that one should be able to bench press two times your weight. I am sure that this is really aimed at the under 30 crowd but I have this goal and it will be interesting to see if it is possible or if I “crash” first at about 180 pounds with the ultimate “Skull Crusher”.
3. I want to do an Iron Cross: Definition: “One of the most widely recognized skills performed on the rings is the Iron Cross, which is executed by extending both arms straight out from the sides of the body while suspended mid air for at least two seconds.” I could do this in my youth and it seemed so simple then but a lot of “fat” has gone under the bridge. I am urged on when I watch the Circ Du Soleil and the performance of the gymnasts. Surely I can do this without ripping my arms out of their sockets. Some have suggested that I will rip my arms out of their sockets. This will be quite a bet and a surprise, possibly.

I have a trainer, not just a trainer, but “THE TRAINER”
I will get there.

To be continued.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What’s In A Mussel/Muscle

I missed three days in the Gym.
I was in Baltimore with my wife visiting our granddaughter to help celebrate her fourth birthday.
It was a great time. We were able to visit the National Aquarium, take a dragon boat ride on Chesapeake Bay, see the Circus and stop in a little waterside Café for lunch.
My muscles weren’t aching.
I ordered a glass of wine, a real extravagance in the early afternoon and the steamed Mussels for lunch.
I heard the phrase echo in my mind as I ordered the Mussels, “old men don’t grow new muscles”.
Was I subconsciously hoping to eat Mussels/muscles?
My wife noticed the choice.
“That is an unusual entrée. I didn’t think you liked saffron and those Mussels are swimming in saffron.”
“Yeah, well I have become a big lover of saffron”, I lied.
Actually I hadn’t even noticed that the Mussels were “swimming” as I read the menu.
I had just noticed Mussels and had also noticed that my muscles weren’t aching for the first time in months.
Somewhere deep in my brain Mussels and muscles became interchangeable as neurons fired and remembered pasts fused into new thought.
“Well how are the Mussels”, she asked.
“Really quite good”, I replied as I pulled a truculent steamed Mussel from it's death’s grip anchor on the shell and tried to chew past the grit and sand.
“Really quite good”, I said again, trying to convince myself as much as her.
“Boy they gave you quite an order, I would say only 25 to 30 to go” she said laughing.
Was she reading my mind and casting out a challenge, “bet you can’t eat all of those”?
“I hope it is enough”, I said with extra emphasis. “I have been thinking of Mussels every since the restaurant that had fresh Mussels closed”. “They are a good source of low fat protein”, I said vindicating my choice.
“Well Bona Petit” she said and went back to her Lemon Crusted Salmon.
I did finish the Mussels (took over an hour) as I imagined I could feel all that healthy protein streaming into my muscles to replace and repair those which were ripped and torn by prior weeks of ongoing exercise while the sand coated my teeth and intestines.
“I think I’ll have the Lemon Crusted Salmon next time”, I said to no one in particular as we got up to leave, “they say it has lots of Omega-3 oil and that’s supposed to be really good for you also.”
“Yeah and you don’t have to eat a lot of sand”, she said to no one in particular.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

“Cheshire Cat”

It is the smile.
The smile is the first thing you see.
Alice in Wonderland met the “Cheshire Cat” as a disembodied smile sitting in the tree.
The first time I saw the “Cheshire Cat” it was much the same, a large smile seemed to enter the gym through the front door.
It was only after she took out the wraps and began preparing for the upcoming training session and spoke a greeting that I realized this was a “Cheshire Cat” as the rest of her came into view.
It is the smile. It is “big” and warm and commands attention.
She is a commuter and drives over 60 miles a day (that is a long commute in Southern Indiana) to the job, the gym, finally reaching home late in the evening.
I believe some days she must feel more like Alice, who asks the “Cheshire Cat”; “which way do I go” with the “Cheshire Cat” responding, “where do you want to go”, and Alice saying, “it really doesn’t matter”, then said the Cheshire Cat “it really makes no difference which way you go”.
So it is not surprising that some days she just doesn’t make it and passes on the group.
Some of the others have said, for a better offer.
But when she shows the “Cheshire Cat” always brings the “Smile”.
The group definitely feels a “little better” on those days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It’s Gonna Be Fun Tonight

“Listen up, tonight is going to be “Brutal” so if you are going to quit, do it now”.
I think to myself, yeah, yeah, sure: I don’t see anyone walking toward the door.
Actually it feels kind of safe. There are eight in the class tonight.
How bad can it so be?
Eight stations, new people joining tonight, possible recruits, should be fairly straightforward with some stations even allowing a little rest.
But then again, she did say “brutal”.
Maybe I should take her at her word.
So I think; Don’t catch her eye, don’t mess up the rotation, try not to bring attention to yourself , like suddenly dropping dead and we should get through this.
Then she calls out the stations. Five in a row, dedicated to the legs and the big muscles.
I know we are in for a “fun” night.
Running followed by squats, immediately followed by the squat ball press, followed by the jump rope and last but not least the ladder, boy, were we in for some real hurt.
At the end of the session, I couldn’t get up, my legs were shaking and I was sure they wouldn’t hold.
So, to avoid the next obvious move, standing up, I looked up at the trainer (I need to use her nickname) “Sparta” and said in a tone of innocent almost childlike wonder, “Was this a little harder than usual?”
She laughed as she moved toward the door, “I told you-brutal”.
When I managed to get up, change, go to the car and finally sit down at home, I looked up the term brutal.
My vision was correcting as some blood flow had returned to my head so I read the dictionary description aloud:
1. Demanding, taxing, exhausting
Not enough I thought, another one read,
2. Harsh, rugged
Still not enough and then finally, an apt description,
3. Savage
That was it. The muscles had been “savaged”.
It felt good to know I could actually get past pain to numbness.
The pain would come later.
I knew I would pay for this outing for several days to come.
But, I also knew I would be back to see what else she had in store.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Transformer (For Janzelle)

She has and is transforming herself, a little at a time.
In many ways she is my hero.
I suspect we have many “vices” in common.
I think we would both admit to not being adverse to “Death by Chocolate”.
She has admitted a desire to “stay home”.
I feel the same way on many days.
Food, more than nutrition, a “forbidden” pleasure.
But here she is, exercising, spinning, running, boxing and becoming something different for the present and the longer future.
I know I will be there because I know she and the others are there and won’t give up or in.
She has amazing speed on the ladder and I watch her, trying to burn the footwork into my mind.
She is fast and I am always relieved to see her running as the timer as I know I will receive an early reprieve from some “painful” station.
She is agile and works the jump rope and the abs with the same easy facility.
She knows herself and sometimes comes in with “both guns blazing” but on other trips takes a sedate almost genteel approach to the hard lessons of the gym.
She transforms the boxing routines into long continuous discussions on whatever she and the trainer talk about and I am amazed at the flow of the interchange, in rhythm with the uppercuts, crosses and jabs.
She recently changed the hard body blows with the heavy bag into a humorous vignette much like, (When Harry Met Sally) that went unappreciated by the majority.
And in a final analysis she has been for me, an object lesson in the “right attitude”.
There is no redemption without effort and pain but occasionally a bar of chocolate helps.

Monday, March 9, 2009

And Now for A Commercial (All I Really Need Is A Hug)

I have been at it for some time now and it isn’t getting any easier. In fact I think it is getting harder. Two nights a week Tuesday and Thursday and then Saturday morning I go to Ultimate Training, Wednesday is ballroom dance lesson night and then I try to get to the gym on Monday, Friday, And Sunday to lift weights, do 30 to 45 minutes of cardio and work on my abs.
I would think by now that I would be making some progress but every time I make a little gain on the group, the intensity kicks up, the group moves ahead and I am left sitting on the floor wondering if anyone got the license plate of the truck that ran over me.
This is when I am most vulnerable and think to myself, a very self-indulgent thought, “all I really need is a hug”.
When I was a kid my Mom would always say, “you just need a hug” and the world always seemed to right itself. These hugs were great until I moved to the more open realm of the playground, the ball field and the gymnasium. Hugs in those venues, I knew, would be lethal. Friends, cheerleaders and coaches would dessert you if they knew you were ever thinking “such thoughts”. The name of the game was tough to the end.
So we grew and left hugs behind except possibly for “romantic hugs” which are much different than the hugs of Empathy.
Empathy hugs have been shown to reduce blood pressure, increase trust, and create feelings of well-being as well as “slow things down”. Sure maybe romantic hugs do the same thing, but empathetic hugs are of a much shorter duration or at least should be so they don’t turn into romantic hugs, which could be very embarrassing on a football field
There is also a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to total strangers in public places. The campaign, in its present form, was started in by an Australian man known only by the pseudonym "Juan Mann".
The hugs are meant to be random selfless acts of kindness performed by a person for the sole purpose of making others feel better. This year (2009) Free Hug Day will take place on Friday February 13 until Saturday February 14, depending on your time zone.
See I told you all I really needed was a hug.


She is from the south. I thought I lived south but this lady is really south.
Her drawl is pure “Southern Belle”.
She loves the gloves and loves to hit.
The “smack” of leather on leather is pure and loud. When she is on the mitts with the trainer it is like a well orchestrated dance.
She is high caliber and automatic. There is no thinking as she runs through the sparring routines, one, two, on and on to twelve, no missed beats, no missed hits; all the same staccato rhythm; pouring sweat, pouring jabs, uppercuts, right crosses, on and on.
Then on to the heavy bag, pop, pop, pop, BANG.
Punches rain down on the poor defenseless patron of the corner.
I often wonder how arguments end up in her house.
She is powered by generous amounts of caffeine.
She would be a great addition to the commercial showing some guy up in the hills picking coffee beans.
“Hey Juan,” she would yell up the hill, “just give me the beans and I’ll eat them straight up.”
“Who needs all that brewing and excess water?”
She is an aerobic machine.
Some days she goes to ultimate training at noon and then again in the early evening. She is in the gym almost every day at lunch and three days a week in Boot Camp and I really have no idea of how many days she devotes to spinning.
Lithe and well muscled, she is topped with a generous amount of red hair.
This shouldn’t surprise you after the above description.
My first thought after seeing her in action, “Wow, Tigger really lives, but he is a she”.
She laughs, smiles and never quits and I don’t believe she has ever met a stranger except there is hardly a session that goes by without her telling me; “you are crazy”.
I think she means it in a kind way or maybe she has met a stranger.

The Ambassador

Ok, lets delve into the Group.

The first person to greet you from the group is the Ambassador.
We should send this guy to the Middle East. We would get peace in record time.
The first time I showed up, I was greeted and at each station, he would demonstrate what we were trying to accomplish.
I have watched him over the past many months and he offers this assistance to any and all new people.
He explains, demonstrates and partners with the new recruits during the first and sometimes the second class they attend.
He plays a “mean” air guitar, burns the re-mix CD’s, repairs the broken jump ropes, helps set up the various “torture (I mean training) stations and is just an all around good human being.
He is an avid golfer, puts in hours at his place of work but is primarily addicted to exercise.
His agility on the speed bag is useful as he works out complicated routines. Some of these have included elbows and the forehead. The bag won the forehead routine, leaving significant abrasions.
I haven’t seen that routine in awhile.
Jumping rope is hard but this guy makes it look easy.
He is superb on the mitts and makes the heavy bag groan with repeated body shots.
He is the “big brother” to the ladies in the class and is often the driver when the group goes out for “THE PARTEE”.
I think somewhere in his “gut”, he would love to spar with some real boxers and maybe play in the ring for real but right now is perfecting his endurance, punching ability and ring agility for the ultimate goal of health. I know of no other exercise as hard as “training for a bout”. Just keeping the hands up for 15 three-minute rounds while continuously moving around a square “ring” (I don’t understand that) would wear out even the most highly trained athlete.
Keep up the good work, Mr. Ambassador and if Hilary needs a sub for her globe trotting peace making, I would like to recommend you.

The “Arrogance” Of Authorship

It takes a level of arrogance to try to characterize a person that you have only known for a short time. As I said when I tried to capture the “Trainer” and more recently the “Group” I may get it wrong and I beg your tolerance early on, but these are some of the people that make up the story of my life.
Exercise is a huge part of my life and has been one of the facets of my “redemption”. The people I am introducing to you are the reason I keep coming back. They have been a gift. They make it “easy” to keep on keeping on.