Thursday, April 29, 2010

Muscle is Temporary; Joints are Forever

Yesterday, I wrote a blog to say,
"Strength Ain't The Way."

Some heated debate arose on a
website that runs my blogs in
tandem. While I am trying to
start a revolution of better health,
and freely offer excellent advice,
some senior citizens argued with
me that lifting weights is
ALWAYS a good thing.

This morning I found a valuable
link on; multiple
"fitness" experts offer advice on
exercise in your 20's, 30's, 40's,
50's, 60's, period. If you briefly
peruse the article you will see
just "how important" weight lifting
is to LOSE WEIGHT when you're
young; then gradually, the experts
tell you to phase out of it in order
to maintain your mobility. There is
no mention of how to exercise after
the decade of your 60's:

My work coincides greatly with this
information, with the exception that
I'm not advising exercise for fat loss.
I'm trying to convey the message that

I want you to think of it this way:
imagine a 1-14 scale pH test for mobility.
Less than seven is incrementally decreasing
mobility, and 8-14 is increasing mobility.
When you're born, you're immobile:
you are a one (1) on this scale. Then
as you grow up, you get more mobile
until you reach a precipice; let's just
guess you reach pH 10 at age 15. Then
you start getting older, and gradually
stiffer. You reach pH 7 at age 30, and
lose a point every decade after that.
Most people finish life grossly immobile.

If you were to imagine a pH scale for
health, it would overlay the pH scale
for mobility almost identically.  So again:

YOUR HEALTH. What I sincerely
want you to understand is that the more
mobile you are, the fewer health problems
you will have. This has everything to do
with stimulation of the internal organs &
the spinal column, and weight-bearing on
your bones (which is where white blood
cells are manufactured).

Every time you lift weights, you are reducing
your mobility. Your tendons are getting
shorter and shorter from all the excessive
pulling; this in turn reduces your range
of motion. Even if you stretch, it's not enough.
Your mobility pH is going down every day.
When you're older, you'll have twice as
far to go to regain mobility.

Conversely, if you practice Tai Chi, you will
let go of your strength. You will relax; stand
upright; allow your tendons to stretch in
natural, rotational patterns; and increase your
mobility. If you thought it was strange that
a 15-year old only achieves a mobility of 10,
it's because people like gymnasts, dancers
and Tai Chi masters are far more mobile
than even a highly flexible teenager.

Tai Chi is based on the philosophy of
the "Tao Te Ching." Chapter 76 reads:
Man when living is soft and tender;
When dead is hard and tough.
All animals and plants when living are tender and fragile
When dead they become withered and dry.
Therefore it is said:
The hard and tough are part of death;
The soft and tender are parts of life.

Weight lifting will speed you to your death.
Fu Tai Chi will make you tender and years younger.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strength Ain't The Way

I once read a quote from Forbes that said
something like, "for each generation to
make progress, it must view the one before
it as barbaric."

These days, exercise is all about muscle
and strength. But in the future, we will
look back on these concepts as barbaric.
Why ? Well, for a lot of reasons.

We're starting to realize that building
muscle is not as valuable as enhancing
function, i.e. those with great coordination
and balance tend to be much more athletic
than those with great strength.

I thought yoga was fad. Back in the 90's,
all the ladies and metrosexual men were
dashing into yoga classes and workshops.
(I think Madonna had a lot to do with it)
I was sure that yoga would be dead in
ten years. I was wrong. But the way
I see it, many who practice yoga still
talk about how it builds strength.

The hottest emerging exercise is called
functional exercise or (gulp) "functional fitness."
The concept is that conventional weight
training isolates and builds muscles, but
it doesn't "teach" those muscle groups
to work with other muscles. So "functional"
movements focus less on raw strength and
more on integration and coordination. These
are more like whole-body exercises that will
help you lift a toddler out of a car seat or
carry a 60-pound suitcase down the stairs.

Doctors and trainers are closing in on the
exercise of the future. They know "functional"
is better than strong, and that stretching (yoga)
is really important. Tai Chi is all that and a
bag of chips.

Tai Chi is all about coordination. In fact, the
movements are slow so that you can fine tune
your coordination. When you move slowly,
you begin to feel which parts are not linked up.
In the west, we view "coordination" as aggregate.
But in Tai Chi, there are six coordinations:
three exterior (shoulders & hips; elbows &
knees; hands & legs) and three interior (heart
& intention; intention & chi; chi & strength).
At higher levels, all six must also coordinate.

Tai Chi is also a phenomenon of stretching.
Sure, yoga gets you stretched, but not like
Tai Chi. Tai Chi focuses on "functional"
stretching in the waist and hips so that you
can stand on your feet, balance very well,
and turn your body at will. Tai Chi masters
can move like the wind.

Tai Chi focuses on cultivation of "chi" or
life energy. The chi provides amazing
speed and power. While a western trainer
might believe this is just an alternative
method of strength training, the Tenets
of Tai Chi translate STRENGTH with the
word "Li." In Tai Chi, strength is forbidden
and "Li" is a dirty word.

My teacher's father once wrote, "when
you practice Tai Chi there should not
be a single iota of brute strength remaining
in your sinews."

The popularity of yoga has paved a perfect
path for Tai Chi. Time Magazine calls
Tai Chi "the perfect exercise," and it is.
In 20 years, we will look back and say,
"how silly that we used to focus on strength."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Think Fasting

This is not a subliminal message.
I write these words to plant the
seed inside your head.
Think fasting.

If you've never tried a fast, that
is, never intentionally denied
yourself food for 24 or 48 hours,
you should try it. If you've fasted
before, perhaps it's time again.

Fasting for a day is good for you.
The so-called "godfather of fitness,"
Jack Lalane, learned much of his juicing
and health techniques from a man named
Paul Bragg. Bragg loved to teach
people about the health benefits of
water fasting. It will clean your
system and help you start fresh.

I recommend you try it this way:

Tell yourself you're not going to eat
for 24 hours. Convince yourself.
Eat a normal breakfast and a healthy
lunch; then eat a salad for dinner.
Drink water with the salad, and for
the rest of the evening. Go to bed.

When you wake up, drink water
(definitely not coffee). Keep a full
glass of water with you all day, and
keep sipping it. I recommend distilled
water first, and filtered water second.
(Paul Bragg also recommended distilled).

If you get hungry, change up the water
for tea or watered-down juice. Go for
tea first; try not to drink juice unless
you're really coming apart. Do not let
yourself eat anything until dinner time.
Then, eat another salad and drink more
water. Drink water through that evening,
and go to bed. Try to eat light and healthy
the next day: mostly veggies if you can.

The "tail end" of this exercise is to observe
and consider the rates, consistencies, colors
and general abnormality of your bowel
movements. A water fast with veggies
consumed before and after should scrape
and flush your gastrointestinal system.
You should see all kinds of "weird shit"
and you might feel like improving your
diet for the future. (imagine scraping a film
of Big Mac’s from your intestines, and you
probably won’t want to replace it…)

Repeat as often as once each week, but
definitely try to fast once every six to
twelve months.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Old People Should Not Lift Weights

Without medical doctors, we would sure
be lost. They know all kinds of stuff
about organs and bones and brains--
all kinds of stuff.

But when I read about some doctor
suggesting seniors should lift weights,
I throw up a little in my mouth. They
don't call 'em DUMBELLS for nuthin'.

As humans, we want to walk upright.
But as we age, the so-called "stabilizing
muscles" have tensed and flexed so
much that they begin to merely lock up.
I'm talking about your hips and waist.

As the hips begin to lock in the adducted,
inward-rotated and hip-flexed position
(bent over and knock-kneed), the upper
and lower body will follow. Knees, feet
and ankles get stiff. Shoulders, elbows,
wrists and fingers get stiff.
(This is starting before you even turn 30...)

Without stretching, the joints break down.
They progressively stiffen out of alignment
because some ligaments lengthen abnormally
while others shorten. This wears the cartilage,
causing arthritis, pain and reduced mobilization.
(contrary to this diagram, tendons CAN
be lengthened)

By the time your 55, your tendons are short
and brittle. Lifting weights exacerbates the
problem, and can cause the muscle fibers
to tear out of their boney origins or insertions.

Resistance training is just plain dumb for
old people. This is why Tai Chi has become
so popular at assisted living facilities. Tai Chi
assists the elderly to mobilize their joints
without the risk of injury. Duh.