Real Strength

When I was young, playing in the school or park playground was a ritual, even if it was only for 4 months out of the year living in Canada. The weight room did not even interest me until my twenties. I was a small kid but I had great strength, power, and agility, which enabled to compete with the bigger and larger athletes the coach threw at me. (Well, maybe not wrestling class) Thirty or so years later, I am still not a brute or ‘musclehead’ by anyone’s definition of the word, but am still able to compete with people younger and bigger than myself, maintaining my agility, balance, coordination, speed, power, and strength. The key, and my edge, is a nervous system that accurately fires the appropriate muscles called upon in the right sequence that are readily available to produce these capabilities upon demand. Some may argue, but to me, strength MUST embody all of these parameters. Simply lying on a bench pushing a bar over your chest is not, and should not be the determining factor of strength. Isn’t it too bad that when other guys ask if you work out, the first question out of their mouth is, “how much do you bench?” Admittedly I did sercum to the testosterone den and this school of thought (also know as the weight room), in my mid to late twenties, aiming each day to lift more weight, perform more reps, and get as big as my frame would allow without the use of illegal substances. I continued this weight room ritual until the age of thirty-two at which point I came to the following revelations:

Lifting that amount of weight was causing me pain
I do not possess the skeletal frame/structure to be lifting this amount of weight anyway
Results were not as lasting
I had to eat a tremendous amount of calories each day overloading every internal organ in my body
I did not give my body adequate time to recover and regenerate following my intense workouts
The supplements GNC and Muscle & Fiction magazine told me I had to take were bloating me, overtaxing my system, and possibly damaging my organs
I did not have the raw strength to move the weight I once did
I felt bloated, restricted, and sore
How big did I really want to be anyway?
How would my joints, cartilage and connective tissue feel by the time I am eighty?

It was these revelations that led me to re-evaluate my workouts and the exercises I prescribe to others.

MASTER IN COMMANDER

Upon investigation of the nervous system and study of its intricate components I discovered the true master in commander of the body. Nerves not only provide feeling or supply terror, but are the ultimate decision making and overriding mechanism of the human body. Some things we do with intent and some tasks are taken care of unconsciously. For years I wondered why and how this wiring network truly worked and how it worked for me. You see, having a capable nervous system or neural ability is not just about being able to hit a tennis ball, a fastball, catch a hockey puck, throw a dart, or win a salsa competition, but also being able to being able to produce force. This is where society’s bias sets in. Weight training, more appropriately named resistance training, is really about rehearsing a motor pattern, (using nerves, muscles, bones, joints), and challenging patterns of movement by applying external forces. It really is a playing field with different players where your mind is required to delegate which of the body’s components get involved, (players), design a specific pattern, (play), to deal with an external force, (opponent), placed upon it. The mind sets into motion a sequence of events to accomplish the task you set before it. Who is the boss? Not muscle, but nerve. Everyone else just does as it is told. Brain tells muscle, muscle pulls on bone via tendon, and movement takes place.

THE PROBLEM

We have created, over the past forty years or so, an artificial playing filed called the gym. These gyms are awesome nowadays. Fancy equipment, mirrors, personal trainers, steam rooms, bars and restaurants, aerobic rooms, spinning classes, you name it, they provide it all, for one reason only, to sell memberships! All of that stuff makes you feel that you really are getting a lot for your fifty or sixty bucks a month doesn’t it? The thing is though, how much of that equipment have you actually used? How much of that equipment do you actually know how to use and what body part(s) it is working? I used to work in large clubs as a personal trainer and haul people around from machine to machine, showing and teaching them everything they wanted. I would see them a few years later, (sometimes the very next week), and they had forgotten it all.
Truly, my goal is to get people to learn how to exercise appropriately for their bodies, and I feel that all of these exercises with fancy names, and all of this equipment with fancy chrome are defeating the purpose. I want people to find ways to challenge their bodies, develop a plan of attack if you will, that they can use to keep their bodies growing and regenerating for a lifetime. Not how much they can lift or not how many calories they can eliminate, but find what works, do it, and get on with living life.

LOST AMIGOS

There are certain immensely beneficial exercises, equipment, and modalities that seem to have disappeared from the exercise arena.
Here are a few:
Jump Rope
Rubberized resistance tubing
Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats
Swimming
Running sprints at a track
Running bleachers at a track
Running stairs at a your house, park, or hotel
Hiking
Rope climbing
Ice skating
Roller skating
Chopping wood
Climbing a rope
Climbing on rocks
Jumping on to or over objects

I know that many are saying, “I can’t jump rope or climb stairs”, etc… It is all about progression. You may not be able to, and I certainly would not tell you to do all, some, or even any of those listed. Your choices of exercise are based upon where you are at physically that hopefully a qualified medical practitioner or qualified fitness professional can guide you to make. But hear this: I have 70+-year-old clients who were unable and scared to do many of those activities but have since progressed to accomplishing many of them.

THE KICKER

Do you see that many of these activities listed were ones that you did as a kid? When and why did you stop? When it hurt or when you thought it was not cool to do them anymore. Youthfulness should be a lifelong endeavor. Or as Peter Ragnar states in his book, “How Long Do you Choose to Live?”

“Joint aches, pains and stiffness are not the result of aging. You do not grow old. It is just when you stop growing you become old.”

Real Strength to protect and move the body is a life-long endeavor and exercise is the vehicle we use to acquire it. The body thrives on movement and regresses when still. I believe that when the body is constantly challenged with a multitude of physical stimuli that are progressed and varied appropriately, the body will continue to flourish. I consider my exercise program really a process of constant neural bombardment. I refuse to do the same workout, ever, and have not done so in sixteen years. Routines are as they imply, routine, (or rut with the o,I,n,e,s, removed). My view is that degradation of the body is not due to age, but due to poor food and lifestyle choices, stress, chronic dehydration, lack of physical activity, inappropriate exercise/activity selection and lack of reparative means: rest & nutrients.

Finding a fitness professional that thinks and understands the body this way very difficult. The industry is flooded with lackadaisical waifs who feel that a weekend certification is enough education to get them by and warrants charging fifty, sixty, or more dollars per session. I believe, however, that truth always succeeds those that deceive will eventually go by the wayside. A list of things to aid you in screening a potential fitness professional can be found here: http://www.kcfitness.com/about/

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