Thursday, January 20, 2011

Too Much Power, Not Enough Clutch

The title of this blog can mean
different things to different people;
but if you know anything about
cars, you know what I'm talking about.

I used to have a really fast Audi S6.
300 horsepower, outrageous torque--
but the clutch was seriously lacking.
Instead of transmitting the engine power
to the wheels, the clutch would sometimes
slip and burn.

Our bodies work much like the mechanisms
in a car. Food = fuel. Muscle = engine.
Bones = chassis. But what in the human
body is like the transmission on a car ?
What transmits energy so that you can
move a part of your body ?
It's your joints, tendons and ligaments.
We know we contract muscles... that
leverage our joints... in order to transmit
energy, or "move a part of the body."

But strength of muscle does not equal
"best transmission of power." You see,
resistance training like weight lifting
(and even running) shortens the tendons,
limiting the joints' range of motion.

Former NFL player Cory Walker told
me that when he really got into weight
lifting and getting stronger, he got slower.
His 40-yard sprint times got worse.

Why ?
Inefficient transmission of power.
He got stronger ! But he could not
convert his new power into speed.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
I cringe every time I hear a doctor tell
an elderly patient to lift weights. Dumbells !

You have plenty-enough muscle.
You need to work on your joints.
After all, when you lose a joint,
you lose mobility.
Tai Chi and Qigong improve the joints.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

If You Walked Like a Snowflake


GAIT is the term used to describe
the pattern of movement of the
limbs of animals. Human gait is
bipedal, meaning the pattern is
only on "two feet."

If you walk across the room and
back, what do you notice about
your own gait ? Before you read
on, try it. Walk across the room
and make mental notes about the
way you walk.

Did you land heel first and push
off your toes ? Did your knees
bend very much ? How long was
your right step compared to your
left step ? Now try it again and
see what you notice.

In gait analysis, the subject's gait
can be measured in many different
ways. Even if the right and left step
are the same length, they may not
take an equal amount of time. And
likely, they are not the same length.

In fact, almost everyone has one hip
stiffer than the other, which will make
a significant difference between left and
right steps. If the range of motion were
measured acutely in the foot, ankle, knee,
hip and lower spine, a myriad of asymmetry
emerges.

Not only do ankles and knees flex and extend,
they twist. The feet are vastly complex with
with ranges of motion in three planes, as are
the hips. This illustrates how much asymmetry
is possible in the lower body.

As a snowflake forms, it takes on symmetry.
As its branches extend out from the center,
each new joint is a perfect match of the other
joints. But as the human body grows and
ages, each joint range of motion of the lower
body begins to repeat movements based on
necessity, thereby forming habits. These
habits cause increasing asymmetry of gait,
and break down the misused joints over time.
If the habits are bad enough and last long
enough, they may require artificial knee
and/or hip joints to replace the natural ones.

Like a snowflake, there are endless combinations
of lower body joint mobility, making every
person's gait unique. However, there are
standards of movement originating from
Tai Chi Chuan that mobilize joints more
thoroughly, allowing a person to "fix" his
or her gait and save the natural joints.

You'll get no such love from jogging, weight
lifting or even swimming.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Boost Your Athletic Breathing !

Imagine what sports would be like
if you could take classes on breathing.
Imagine being able to breathe so
efficiently and so well that you would
never get winded. Wow. Wouldn't
that be an incredible skill ?

Two days ago, I skied with my old
buddy, Herb. Herb lives in Telluride,
Colorado, which perches at a paltry
8750 feet above sea-level. Telluride
Mountain Resort peaks-out at 12,225'--
so in essence, Herb came "down"
to ski at Alta, which bases at 8530'
and peaks-out at 10,550'.

Lots of people have been at altitude,
and many others haven't. When I took
my parents to the top of Pike's Peak at
14,000 feet, neither one could even walk
a straight line, and my mom knocked
merchandise off the gift store shelves
several times. Suffice it to say there is
less oxygen the higher you go.

Back to my story--
Herb is a great skier. He competed on
the Big Mountain circuit, and has been
shredding mountains worldwide for
almost 20 years. When we skied at Alta,
we hiked, and skied real hard. He couldn't
keep up with me on the hikes, and he was
huffing and puffing when we got down
to the lifts.

I don't do "cardio." No jogging, no stair
climbers, nothing of the sort. But I did
take lessons on how to breathe; and I dare
say that no one is ever waiting on me when
it's time to hike or do something that requires
a high "aerobic threshold."

This is no fantasy. I've been working on my
breathing for seven years, and can say with
confidence that I can breathe far better than
you can. The old BaGua masters like Wang
Shu Jin would practice martial arts for three
hours without ever opening their mouths. And
if you don't know BaGua, it's more physically
demanding than anything !

Hmmm. Are you starting to think maybe
there's a big hole in your athletic training ?
Well, stop lifting "dumbbells," and start
learning Tai Chi just as soon as breathing
development makes sense to you.