Fitness: Go Ahead, Play the Fool

Whether we like it or not, and to our dismay, there are times we will play the fool in life.  That’s just the way the roulette wheel spins, no matter how tight to the hip we try to live, unexpected embarrassment will be in our future.  How about taking the bull by the horns and beating it to the punch?  You will not wait for foolishness anymore, you will be proactive about it and bring it onto yourself; and in so doing be in charge of its coming and going.

Being a fitness trainer, one of the things I often hear is, “Oh I can’t do that, I have bad balance”, or “I will look stupid doing that”.  Well that’s how you get better at something, you have to work at it before becoming more proficient.  Nobody cares if you look silly, they are too concerned with how they look and are being perceived by you.

You will never improve your balance by continuing to only put yourself in supported positions from which it is easy for you to find your balance.  You have to test the boundaries and limits in a safe, controlled, fixed environment like your home, the park, or the gym where you won’t get hurt.  This is especially important as we age and our reaction time slows.  We need to take steps to neutralize this slowing down, maintaining our bodily awareness and coordination.

So, along with continuing to move and stay in motion, we also need to do balance training.  A good start would be to stand and balance on one leg, gradually lengthening the amount of time.  Maybe you start the first few weeks by holding onto a chair to do so, then progress after a month into being able to do 3 or 4 seconds without holding the chair, then up to 7 or 8 seconds at a time several weeks later, and so on.  After getting better at that through the months and year, you can add in bicep curls or shoulder presses, or bend at the waist to put your body parallel to the ground and row weights up, all on one leg.

Age doesn’t have to define your physical fitness, it sets some parameters yes, but still enables much movement and strength in it’s wake.  The great golfer Sam Snead could still kick the top of the door frame into his 70’s because he continued on with it, and didn’t let his age limit him.   Who knows when you are going to be out and about and slip on a banana peel or roll your ankle off of a curb, and need that cultivated proprioceptive awareness, along with a more reactive inner balancing system.

Don’t worry about looking silly, set yourself to challenging your body in a controlled environment, doing things you hadn’t thought of doing before.  A man asked Pablo Picasso one day, how it was that he was able to do all the things he had done in his life, and Picasso replied, “Because I did the things I didn’t know how to do.”  Don’t limit yourself with doing only that which you do now, you don’t have to be great or good at things you try, just put yourself to new and different tasks.  Know and believe you can do more, test your capabilities and limitations, and keep striving.


Afterthought
:  It is so empowering to put yourself to something that you aren’t sure you can do, or are afraid of messing up.  I remember at the gym about a year and a half ago, when I wanted to go further with my upper body work outs, and decided to start doing pull ups and chin ups.  The bar at the gym is set pretty high, so when shorter people like me want to use it they usually have someone lift them up to it, or find something to put under their feet for a boost up.  Well I wanted to do them all on my own, and didn’t want assistance, so I decided I would try jumping up to it.  It was a bit daunting for me, and something I was nervous about for a few weeks, until I finally took the plunge and made myself jump up and try to grab the bar.

Over the next couple months I slipped off a couple times and looked funny for a second, but for the most part I focused and believed, and was able to jump up to it and hold on.  That was the most empowering thing I did that year, the self-belief and confidence it helped to build and support in me was a bit thrilling.  I put myself in a scary situation, not knowing if I may even fall to the ground if I missed, but I found that the payoff was so much greater than the occasional miss and embarrassment.  I may even have got others’ attention with this move, so who knows who you can inspire by pushing your boundaries, it just may be worth taking the chance for you, and for others!

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Six Pack, Schmix Pack

Oh what we wouldn’t do for that coveted, glamorized six pack that our society drools over.  If only we didn’t have to limit ourselves to kale, celery, and quinoa, or keep our bodies moving at a high level of intensity 40% of our waking hours, darn it!

Mike Sorrentino, better known as ‘The Situation’ on Jersey  Shore the past several years, is known for his ripped abs.  He was working out all the time, in his twenties, and had very little body fat.  He had the time, and the motivation of money and fame, to do what he needed to do to look this way.  This is a look that  inspires some to try and work on reducing their belly size, however, these abs  are only the bling of working out and fitness.  It is the fluff, the stuff just for looks, as these are surface muscles that are seen.

Strengthening the ‘six pack’ superficial muscles doesn’t do much to help our deep core and spinal muscles, the ones that actually are accountable for our spinal stabilization, posture, and effective functionality in life.  These are what are important, for as we get older we need to work to maintain the structure of our frame, so  as not to get stooped, lopsided, misaligned, or develop a limp.

Let’s face it, 99.9% of us aren’t going to ever have anything resembling a six pack, but hey, that’s perfectly okay.  Unfortunately, many go about their ab reduction workouts in the wrong way, mainly doing crunches/sit-ups for their belly.  If a person wants to flatten their belly, they must lose weight.  To lose weight one must eat less and move more.  If you are overweight, start moving more, whether that is more standing, walking, dancing, pacing in front of the TV, playing with your pets, or nervously bouncing your leg at your desk.  Do not do sit ups for a flatter belly, they will only increase the size of the superficial belly muscles.

If you want to make a real investment into self, and spend less than 2 hours a week doing so, you will work on your internal infrastructure.  This strengthening of the deep core and spine muscles will help you to continue standing upright in alignment, the joints stacked on top of one another in a straight line.

Here is a little program I created for you to start you on your way to better spinal stabilization, body lengthening, and overall torso strength:

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Decision 13

Oh here I go again, I just can’t help myself, dashing your hopes, desires, and dreams – somebody slap me!  Are you hoping 2013 will be better, perhaps more fruitful financially, less stress and anxiety, better relationships, more family peace, or maybe getting that bonus you’ve been waiting for?  Oh boy, our endless wait before contentment and happiness land.  But, if we’re not happy now, we won’t be happy when we do get those things, so you better figure out why you’re not happy now.

Why do you need those things before being content?  How about accepting and being fine with their non-presence in your life, and proceeding from there.  Find a way to live within the money you make, appreciate your family dynamic (as the family next door is even more screwed up), accept your situation in life, and allow the anxiety to peter out without fretting.

We are humans with emotions, impulses, passions, and cravings that pass through us.  Those temporary sensations are not us, they come and go, their length of stay based on how much we indulge them or not.  They can’t hurt or destroy you, unless you agree to hand the power over to them.  To be happy and live in the moment, we don’t need to either escape them, or indulge them, but rather notice and manage them.  There is nothing that takes us further away from ourselves and the true nature of our lives than our escapism, pandering to our incessant wanting and craving.  Whenever I find I want more pleasure in life, it is a sad slide into blind unhappiness; for indulgence numbs me out, making me disgusted with self, and stunting my creativity.  As Socrates said, “From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”  When we desire to control situations, escalate our own gratification, or bend the world to our whims, we become very small and unhappy.

Choose differently this year.  There are many choices and decisions that we have to make all on our own in this lonesome world, and there is nothing as lonely as the decision a person makes to be happy.  It is never made when a great windfall of abundance is upon them, but rather is a decision that goes unnoticed in their darker recesses of living.  It is probably the most important decision a person ever makes in their life, as it affects all of their other behaviors and interactions with others.

So are you playing the lottery with your life and hoping for dumb luck, or are you making a conscious decision to live your life with the outlook you so choose?  Start using 2013 to invest in self, creating security within, so that no matter your external situation, you will be fine.  Regardless of the conditions of your life, start appreciating being alive, noticing life around you, and nurturing your own intricate, beautiful tapestry.  Don’t engage in wishful thinking, or how you aren’t getting your fair share in life.  Forget the pity party, how others seemingly have it easier, and how life owes you; it doesn’t work that way.

Happy New Year to you, as you gird yourself in anticipation of anxiety, temptation, anger, cravings, and impatience to show up in 2013.  Know that they are ultimately powerless over you, and be silent and still within long enough to sense that they are not you, but are just squatting temporarily in your psyche, waiting for directions to be given them to either stay or go.  When you understand that those are temporary emotions passing through that serve no useful purpose, and have nothing to do with who you are, they will begin to dwindle away.

Give up the pipe dreams of things being different, grander, nicer, and easier in 2013.  Sure it may be a better year for you, but that will be because of a decision you make, not because of any circumstances or events.  It will be dictated by how you react to hardship, burdens, despair, and anger.  Will you be ready and react with reason, resolve, and love for self?  Or will you react rashly, irresponsibly, and disrespectfully to life?  The decision precedes the situation, for it is too late when the vulnerable time comes, as there will always be excuses and justifications to give in to the current emotion, or into inaction.  Let’s be ready for difficulty this great new year, for things not to go how we want or expect, and for frustrating, burdensome circumstances to try and drag us down; but onward we will proudly march!

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Maintain Thyself

All of us humans are masters, we are indeed.  I’m not blowing smoke up your behind, really.  For instance, we have all perfected procrastination to some degree throughout our lives, and employed it at our own discretion.  We are good at ignoring our inner nagging mind telling us what we could or should or would ideally have ourselves doing.  We excel at deception, as we adeptly pretend we don’t hear this advice coming from our deeper self, and proceed on unfazed and blissfully unaware.

We forget to maintain our car, and now wonder why there are three things wrong with it costing a grand total of $4,200.  In our homes we allow the rusting, creaky, dripping pipes to continue their altered function, and are aghast one day to come to realize we have mold behind our walls, need to take an ax to them, and reinstall the whole plumbing system.  We stop mowing the yard regularly, trimming the bushes, sweeping, and cleaning, to soon find out there are mushrooms and weeds taking over the lawn, bug infestations on the porch, and bushes taking over the house.

This principle of maintenance over total overhaul, also holds true for fitness, as it is easier to maintain your health and fitness than to regain them.   I personally choose to take the easy way out in this area, because I know I am a weak-minded human.  I have a hard time withstanding cravings and laziness when they become too intense, so I try to keep them in check, managing the situation before becoming overwhelmed.

When I’m feeling motivated, I take advantage of that welcome condition, and set myself to eating well and working out intensely, enjoying doing so; this is perhaps 30% of the time.  When I’m less motivated, maybe 55% of the time, I try to make myself still eat fairly well, and make myself get through a workout by talking myself into keeping going, and modifying if need be.  I’ll do whatever amount I can that day, and although the eating and working out are somewhat difficult, and not as enjoyable or as good, I still feel decent after doing them, knowing I’ve done my best at the time.  Then there’s the 15% of the time when I’m not motivated at all, fairly overwhelmed, want to eat crap and veg out, and I do so.  Because of guilt I will try to do a little bit to balance it out, perhaps getting an errand done, eating an apple, or jumping/dancing around to get some movement.

I am a big believer in doing the difficult before it is impossible, and taking advantage of doing things when they still seem do-able.  Many spiritual teachers throughout time have made statements echoing this sentiment.  The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu stated, “Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy”, as well as, “Do the difficult things while they are easy, and do the great things while they are small.  A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

So take advantage of the majority of times when you’re clear of mind yet not very inspired, for you can actually rescue those days to make them your best.  It is then you can remind yourself that often it is perspiration that precedes inspiration, or thoughtful behavior that precedes motivation, and then you can use this presence of mind to act accordingly.  Don’t wait until ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘seems impossible’ are your ingrained reactions and perceptions, instead learn to know the difference between discomfort and pain, unpleasant and burdensome, nuisance or destructive.  Do what you can do now, serving yourself in so doing, and making life easier for you in the long run.

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LET ‘ER RIP!

There are some interesting golf swings on the courses of America, as any golfer can attest.  Some send vibrations through the earth, and some have other golfers scrambling to get out of the way; some are mechanical and stiff, while some are winding n’ bending all over the place.  I’ve seen the club go flying out of golfer’s hands, and the ground bringing an abrupt halt to other swings.

There are many different ways to swing a golf club, and also different ways to swing it well and hit good shots, as seen with the variety of moves the pros employ on TV.  However, all good swings have certain things in common, either mechanically, timing-wise, or in level of tension.  I am going to focus on the body tension level of good golf swings here.

For many people, tension has a negative connotation associated with it.  We think of relieving it with a massage, hot bath, or glass of wine.  However, in the golf swing, some tension is good.  When you’re swinging a driver approximately 90 mph through impact, there needs to be some pressure on that club and in your body.

Some incorrectly think they need to be lax over the ball, with a light, wispy hold on the club creating a loose swinging motion.  However, the key is to not be stiff or loosey goosey, but rather to be free.  I liken this to a boxer in the ring with the lithe movement of a ‘butterfly’, while at the same time his muscles are engaged so as to be ready to punch or evade.

We want just the right amount of tension on the backswing, so that on the through swing we allow the club to whip through the ball on its own, like a chain reaction to a series of events.  Of course one needs to make a good, controlled backswing first, one with a tight body coil so as to gather all the parts properly.  To create this correct tension level, one needs differential between the turn of the upper and lower body.  Your legs should have minimal movement on that backswing, as your hips turn in place 45 degrees.  Your legs should feel strong like statuesque pillars, while you twist your hips and turn your back to face the target.  In this way, your shoulders will be making a 90 degree turn, which when contrasted with the 45 degrees of your hips, creates the cork screw affect that unwinds onto the ball.

It’s a great feeling when one gets to a place of free-wheeling it with their golf swing, able to release the stored up power of this methodical, powerful, taut backswing.   It’s like a wind-up toy car, where you pull back slowly and evenly on the wheels to tighten them with a torqued load force upon them, and then let it go.

Don’t try to steer the golf ball, many have tried and failed, because it isn’t a free-swinging motion.  You can guide your backswing, but cannot control and guide the golf ball.  So wind up slowly and then let ‘er rip, you’ve got only to gain!

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My Fatty Brain

In my life I’ve had a few unhappy moments of weight gain realization rise up and confront me.  For instance in college, when I gained the freshman 10 or 15 and was teased about ‘filling out’; and more recently once or twice in the past 15 years when I noticed my expanding back side, and had to act.  However, I’ve never once in my life been concerned about my large percentage of brain fat, comprising 2/3 of my brain.  Maybe ignorance really is bliss.  Luckily for me, my brain took care of its fat needs on what it was fed, and some synthesis of its own.

Most people have been led to believe that consuming fat is bad for our health, especially saturated fats.  Many fad diets out there are low fat, and are accommodated by fat-free or low-fat foods in our grocery stores.  However, fat is our body’s main energy form, and without fat in our diet we would starve our brains to death.  We need fat for many things such as nutrient absorption that carbs and protein cannot facilitate, transmitting nerve signals, regulation of bodily functions, cell signaling along with their membrane integrity,  and healthy, lustrous skin.  With such big tasks to do, do we really want to restrict our fat consumption?

Let’s take a look at how we got to our current beliefs.  In 1856, German pathologist Virchow formulated the ‘lipid hypothesis’, proposing that saturated fats and cholesterol accumulate in the blood to form plaque in our arterial walls, causing atherosclerosis and heart disease.  By the end of the century this belief was becoming accepted in America, and in 1911 Proctor & Gamble ran with it and began selling hydrogenated cottonseed oil, a lard alternative, better known as Crisco.  Their first ad campaign introduced the all-vegetable shortening as “a healthier alternative to cooking with animal fats. . . and more economical than butter.”

In 1956, the American Heart Association officially recommended a low fat diet after American scientist Ancel Keys hypothesized that a diet high in animal fat/cholesterol (butter, lard, eggs, beef, and milk) led to heart disease, and that these saturated fats have adverse effects opposite to the beneficial effects of the unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils.  For almost the past 60 years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has recommended consuming less than 10% of our total calories from saturated fat, saying it increases our LDL levels of cholesterol and increases our risk for heart disease.

So after 100 years with fat as the enemy, and aiming toward lower fat diets, are we healthier as a nation?  According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States today.  Unfortunately, the data used over the past 100 years to support the low fat/low cholesterol diet was incomplete and misleading, based to a large extent on a 1913 study on rabbits.  In the study, they fed the rabbits 5% of their calories in animal sources of cholesterol, equivalent to a human eating 100 eggs a day.  Being herbivores who eat grass, the rabbits’ system had no metabolic use for the dietary cholesterol, and therefore their bodies eventually had cholesterol accumulation in their arteries, or atherosclerosis – but they still didn’t have heart attacks like we do!

It has been found now that our dietary consumption of cholesterol is a small factor in our body’s cholesterol level, as our liver produces about 75 to 85% on its own, and our diet provides the rest.  It has been found that our bodies produce less cholesterol when we eat a good amount of it, and produce more cholesterol when we eat less of it.  Being necessary and central to its functioning, our brains contain 25% of our cholesterol.  Cholesterol is not the problem, it is inflammation in our arteries and other tissues that is the problem; trans fats being a contributing factor, along with lack of exercise, too much refined and processed food in our diet, stress, and lack of sleep.

Alternative thinking has been emerging over the past 20 years, and many now realize the benefits of mono and poly unsaturated fats that are found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, salmon, catfish, tuna, and fish oil capsules to get the important Omega 3 fatty acids.  Yet, even though our thinking about some fats is starting to change, saturated fat is still vilified.   Most people think saturated fat and trans fat are synonymous, but they are not.  Our bodies need saturated fat for important hormone production, especially when our bodies are less capable of making them as babies (hence the importance of breast feeding over formula), and when we age.  Also, our heart needs saturated fat to work in a healthy and effective way, and saturated fat is involved in genetic regulation and cancer prevention.

It has only been recently that researchers are discovering that both fat and cholesterol are severely deficient in the Alzheimer’s brain. Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT, who has done extensive research on Alzheimer’s disease said, “In a remarkable recent study, it was found that Alzheimer’s patients have only 1/6 of the concentration of free fatty acids in the cerebrospinal fluid compared to individuals without Alzheimer’s.  An extremely high-fat diet has been found to improve cognitive ability in Alzheimer’s patients.”

The true enemies of our health are refined, white carbohydrates (http://christyerb.com/2012/11/02/you-arent-what-you-eat/), high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and trans fats.  Trans fats are created from unsaturated fats, artificially saturating them through a chemical process during manufacturing called hydrogenation, as in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.  In this way they can be used for cooking at high temperatures, like naturally saturated oils such as coconut and palm, without imparting any flavor of their own like the tropical oils do.  They are cheaper to produce, and give products longer shelf life; however they lead to inflammation in our tissues and arteries, as well as oxidation of the blood cholesterol in our arteries.  Many restaurants and most all fast food places use some form of hydrogenated oil in their cooking – another reason to cook at home more often.

So try to severely limit the food you buy that comes in a box or bag, for there is a big probability it contains either refined carbs, or uses partially hydrogenated oils in the baking or cooking process.  Avoid breaded deep fried foods when at restaurants as that is a double whammy with the refined white flour breading, and the frying with hydrogented oil.  When we’re young we can get away with this abuse for a while, but it can and will catch up with you, and most likely already has in ways seen and unseen.  Lack of respect and appreciation for our amazing bodies leads not only to physical damage, but also to mental and psychological damage, so give your body the fuel it needs and wants with natural and real foods.  Don’t be afraid of saturated fats, for they are the most nutritionally dense foods out there, the most satisfying to your hunger pangs, and will keep you full longer.  Drop the margarine and buy butter, get the ’2% fat’ yogurt and milk rather than ‘fat-free’, keep the grilled steak and roasted pork, and even enjoy the skin of your baked chicken every now and again!

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You Aren’t What You Eat

Believe me, although you may have a sweet tooth and eat lots of candy, and no matter how many times your mama called you ‘hunny’, you just aren’t that sweet.  No matter how much sugar you eat, your body has to find a way to keep your blood sugar somewhat around the same level if it wants to survive.  Your blood sugar level may spike up for a short bit, but if your body can’t get the level back down and keep it regulated somehow, you get will get toxic overload.

Our body finds many ways to cope and deal with sugar abuse for quite some time.  It will store and hide the sugar as energy stores in our adipose tissue (fat), in our liver, and in our muscles; with damage being done that can’t yet be seen at the outward level.  Our bodies continue to release high doses of insulin to deal with this glucose overload, until one day our insulin producing machine wears out, or our cells no longer respond to the constant demands to process the sudden sugar influxes.  It is then that we have the irreversible disease of diabetes.

So although you may not be sweet from eating sugar, you are healthier if you only eat your refined sugar for desserts and treats (soda, pie, cake, ice cream, cookies), as opposed to eating them as diet staples.  Our problem is not that we have a sweet tooth, our problem is that we are also eating these unnatural, processed sugars for our main meal.  Without realizing it, we are punishing and taxing our bodies on a regular basis.  Eating white spaghetti is somewhat akin to eating several chocolate bars for dinner, although the spaghetti is slightly more nutritious as it has been fortified with a couple necessary vitamins and/or minerals.

When I set out to eat spaghetti, rice pilaf, or toast, I think I’m eating pretty well to fuel my body, ready to get on that tennis court the next day, but the problem is that most of the pasta and bread we eat is made from refined white or ‘wheat’ flour.  This means the flour has been processed by man, the fibrous and nutritious part of the grain has been removed; and the same goes for white rice.  Because the fiber has been removed, these refined complex carbohydrates now act like simple carbohydrates by being quickly absorbed into our blood, spiking our blood sugar level, working our body harder and sending us through mood swings and low energy levels.  And, since the germ has been removed, the USDA mandates that these grains have to be re-fortified with a few of the nutrients taken out, in order for our large population to survive our modern culture of affordable, mass-produced food.

Most think diabetes and obesity happen from eating too much fat, but this isn’t usually the case.  Fat has a high satiety to it, satisfying our cravings and leaving us full for longer, while refined carbs have us hungry an hour later.  Meat has gotten a bad rap in our society, even though I’ve never seen a fat cheetah on Animal Planet.  When eating a hamburger the worst part for us is the white bun, so next time you’re at In N’ Out Burger, order your burger protein style and forego the soda for a water with a couple lemon slices squeezed in it.  Eggs have also gotten a bad rap in our society, and my 102 year-old, lean Grandpa has eaten a couple eggs just about every day of his life, along with his bacon.  Eating fat isn’t what generally makes us fat.  When we eat fat, we can use it for energy over a longer period of time; but when we eat refined carbs, the sugar can’t be used soon enough, and is thus stored as fat.

So do your body a favor and feed it unrefined complex carbs like oats, whole grain wheat, brown rice, and vegetables, or unrefined simple carbs in their fibrous and nutritious state, like fruits.  In doing this, the sugar will be absorbed much slower by your body over time, and used effectively for bodily functions and energy expenditure.  Would you rather feel good or would you rather feel crappy, it’s up to you.

Stay tuned next week, when I will talk about not only the benefits of mono and polyunsaturated fats in our diet, but also of saturated fats – no way you say, but it’s true!

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The Cat’s Meow of Fitness Injury Prevention

“First, do no harm”, is what most medical students are taught when heading out to practice their skills.  This is a great reminder as we hear about scissors or sponges left in body cavities, the wrong side of the body being worked on, or when shockingly the wrong leg is amputated.

Fortunately, the harm that occurs when looking to get fit is a bit less insidious than this, as we may hurt our knee, shoulder, or ankle for a few months, but they usually get better in time.   We can avoid even these burdensome delays in our fitness and weight control though, if we can just be a little more present and elevate past the Neanderthal thinking of unchecked aggression.

I’m not asking for self-actualization or anything like that here, just a little more awareness when getting more active.  It will behoove you to warm up very slowly for 7-8 minutes before starting your workout.  It will also serve your purposes to listen to your body, and notice signs or signals it may be sending you to stop, adjust, and do something differently.  Otherwise, you may be doing a move that your body can’t yet handle or sustain.

For instance, you may be going too fast or setting the resistance too difficult on the stationary bike, and your hip flexors aren’t yet warm and flexible enough to properly support the movement you’re asking of them; and this is when the damage begins.

Pay attention to your form, noticing where your joints are in relation to one another.  Don’t let your knee go outside of your toes when doing an exercise, putting undue stress on the knee joint.  When doing upper body exercises, watch out for pulling weight behind your head, and letting your hands go behind your shoulders, as this is how rotator cuff damage often happens.

You can engage your muscles wherever you are, strengthening to decrease injury.  You don’t have to be at the gym to pull that belly button back toward your spine, or to contract the gluteus maximus; be ready, for you never know when someone is going to try and bounce a quarter off of your hiney.

Getting in shape is a lifetime journey, not something you do hurriedly for 3 months with a deadline; it doesn’t work that way.  Rather, set out to workout in a smart, deliberate, and methodical way, and someday you may be the cat’s meow with pliable hip flexors, lean abs and firm buttocks!

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A Four Letter Word Called ‘Golf’

There are different theories out there on why the Scots named this game of getting the little white ball in the hole, ‘Golf’.  The one I like the best though is, “All the other 4 letter words were taken”.  There is no game more frustrating, as well as addicting, than golf.  There must be thousands of golfers every day in America who profess that they are going to give up the game, only to see them back out on the links a week later.

It is hard to improve at anything in life, but as any seasoned golfer will tell you, it is especially hard to improve at golf.  Granted, it is a difficult game with many facets, intricacies, and precise requirements to advance the ball toward the hole.  And of course it does demand much patience and concentrated effort over the 4 to 5 hours of play.  But why is it that some people actually get worse with practice?

In golf, our failures are constant and highlighted, and no matter how good you get you will always hit a high percentage of mediocre to poor shots, because golf does demand so much precision.  You also have to deal with the unpredictability of the game, the rub of the green if you will.  You may have hit a decent shot and got a bad bounce, maybe you chose the wrong club, or perhaps the wind whipped up just as you were hitting your shot.

At this point, golf calls for you to pull up your big-boy-pants and suck it up.  All of the aforementioned aspects of the game can grind a person down on the golf course if you let them.  Instead, one needs to  learn how to turn these seeming negatives into positives that we draw from, so as to strengthen our games and improve our mental outlook and attitude.

In order to do so and to improve over time, a golfer must begin to employ conscious practice and play.  Unfortunately, most don’t do this as they go to the practice range with the goal to hit the ball good and no other real plan, setting them up for frustration.  Over and over again, they go out with the same intolerant attitude and lack of patient understanding, yet with high expectations; and over and over again they get upset, angry, and deflated at how bad they are hitting it.  It’s like watching an Alzheimer’s patient who sets out to do the same puzzle anew each day, with the same expectant wonderment, only to put it down angry and unfinished after 10 minutes day after day after day.

You can’t just allow yourself to react unconsciously and get mad at bad shots, rather use reason as you seek to understand some of the why’s of the bad shot with a calm acceptance.  Getting mad and having a temper because you’re not a better golfer than you are, or are worse than you thought you are, will never help you get better  – it just makes you look silly and is out of line with the spirit of the game.  One must realize how difficult the game is and how it mixes with human error and limitations; sometimes reality just bites.

Once we do realize that the big picture doesn’t come all at once, that we need to be more aware of our particular habits and idiosyncrasies, and trust working on the pieces without seeing instant results, we will be much happier and actually have better results.  It’s a tricky thing to not work on the results of the golf shot, but as I’m always telling my students, the more they want to hit that ball well, the worse they will hit it.  Whereas the more they focus on making a good, smooth swing with a balanced finish position, regardless of where the ball goes, the better the shots will just happen to be.  Until you learn to embody this Catch 22 situation, and view the ball as an incidental that just gets caught up in the way, golf will be unusually cruel to you.

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Slowly Get Back in Shape Without Injury

10 Minute Workout for the Sedentary Individual

Last week I wrote about getting back into shape slowly.  Most people rush it when they make a commitment to themselves to get into better shape, only to find themselves soon hurting, injured, and back to being sedentary.  If you are out of shape, then any amount of activity more than what you were doing is a plus.  Go slow, don’t push it too hard too soon, and appreciate the process of getting movement back into your life.  Enjoy the feeling of your strength and agility returning over a 6 to 9 month period, and feel good knowing you are making changes from the inside out!

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