Thursday, July 26, 2012

We Don't Play Enough

We don't play enough. Play is essential for health and vitality. It keeps you young, mentally sharp and energized. A life without play is a life that is lacking, well,  life. 

Playing nourishes your brain and your body. I think it literally keeps the ravages of time away. Have you ever noticed the joy illuminating from children? That spark that is in their eyes? Children are constantly playing. You can see this same spark in adults who engage in regular play. 

This observation was really highlighted for me on my family vacation. I spent a whole week on a paddleboard. Everyday I was playing on that board. That was the most awesome vacation I have had, as far as energy and joy goes. Well, the Disney vacation was great too, but that was full of all kinds of play. Anyway, I also noticed that every adult who got on those paddleboards was filled with joy and that "spark" of excitement and youth. I watched people their twenty's to their seventies engage in play on a paddleboard for a week and they were all filled with life! 

Yes, maybe the paddleboard gave them a new challenge to conquer, but isn't that what play is? Engaging in something new to learn, explore, and overcome? Exploration and creativity are a huge part of play. Exploring new experiences, new movements, or forgotten movements. Maybe creating movements, or making games to conquer. All of this keeps your brain engaged and your body healthy. 

Play encourages healthy, whole body movement and coordination. It encourages new thoughts and even the growth of new neural connections. If you are constantly growing and developing your brain, how can you grow old? You can't!

We need to play. The moment we decide we are too grown, or too old to play is the moment we decide to grow old. Choosing not to play is like choosing to decline in health and vitality. Don't do this! Find things you like to do, games you like to play, monkey bars you want to climb, hills you want to conquer. 

Don't put away all childish things. We can learn so much from children. Not only can we learn from how they move and develop, we can learn from how they approach life. They live. We should be living too. Go outside and play!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pictures say a lot, but not everything

Don't believe everything you see. It is easy to do. I know. I've done it and do it often. I'm a work in progress though. Anyway, there is a wonderful picture floating around about a child squatting. It is a great picture, no doubt. In the picture there is a child squatting with a perfect squat. His knees are over his feet, his hips are well below parallel, his spine is straight, his torso is upright and his neck is in a neutral position. It is a perfect squat - for fitness. 

This picture is used to illustrate how adults are supposed to squat. Babies squat this way, and you should too! That is a partial truth. The picture is not telling the whole story. For example, do you think maybe the babies neck was in a neutral position because his gaze was fixed on his hands? 

I think that is a strong possibility. How about that back? Well, it is perfectly straight. That lumbar is strong. 

But check this out:
This is my nephew. He is adorable. He moves perfectly. This is a pretty good squat. His back is not that straight though. His lumbar is still strong, but he has some rounding going on. Not much, but a little. When he wants to, he straightens his spine when he squats. I've seen him do it lots of times. When he is investigating something on the ground though, he rounds. Also, look at his head position, he is looking at me. Some extension and rotation in his neck. When he wants to, and depending on what he is doing, he does put his neck in a neutral position. But most of the time, his neck position is determined by whatever he is checking out with his eyes.

Here is another shot. His gaze is between his feet. His neck and head are down.

I am only saying that some pictures can only tell you what is going on at the instant they are taken. To take one picture and put a blanket statement out for all movement, or all squats is kind of like stretching the truth.

Here is one thing you can probably gather from all of these pictures: children move well in all sorts of ways. Maybe we should too. 

The fitness world is funny. Small truths are stretched to make big truths. The whole point to this post is that we should not always believe everything we see, or everything we are told. We should investigate things on their own and in their own situations. The squatting baby is a great picture. It really is. But, to say we should always hold our neck in a neutral position when we are lifting based on a baby picture is a blanket statement that may not always be true. And, if we should follow the example of children and imitate how well they move and what they do to move, let me ask this last question: Have you ever seen a baby standup from a squat with a heavy bar on his back? 

Just asking.... ;)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It's a Trap!

That is probably one of the most famous lines in Return of the Jedi. Though, I really don't know why. That phrase is a very good word to keep tucked away in your head though. Today, the world we live in is full of traps. There are lies all around us. The health and fitness world, in particular, revolves around lies. 

Here's what I mean: We are told how we should look, how we should train, and what we should take. We are told how we should look if we want to be "fit", or attractive. We are told how we should train if we want to look the way we are told how we should look. We are even told what supplements we should take when we train how we are told we should train.  Does this make sense? We are told one thing so that we can be told another!

We are told a bunch of lies; lies that are woven to get us to be dissatisfied with ourselves. Why? Well, we are likely to spend money on solutions for these lies for one thing. And, we just simply live in a fallen world that operates on lies. 

We don't need to be told how we should look. You should look like you - the you YOU can be. Not the you, you believe someone says you should be. For example, magazine covers sale false images and false ideas about how we should look. Most people that are on magazine covers have been altered in some way. The person you are looking at on the cover of that magazine, probably doesn't even look like that! Air brushing abs and other digital enhancements are used to deceive you. The very cover of most magazines is a lie. You don't even have to open the magazine to read the lie - visually, it is right in front of you already. 

If, however, you do open up the magazine, you may read about some awesome new supplement you should take to look like the person on the magazine. Maybe there is even a picture of the person taking that great tasting new formula. Question: Do you believe that person actually used that product? If they did, it was probably only on the day the picture of them holding it was made. NO nutritional supplement will create the perfect physique you are lead to believe you should have. Only hard work and a sensible lifestyle-nutrition plan can get you lean and "perfect" looking.  

Okay, enough of how we are told lies. The point is you need to be okay with who you are, and with who you can be. If you want to lose weight, great, lose weight. But do it because you want to be healthy, not because you want to conform to unrealistic lies you have been told. I do believe everyone should strive to obtain good health, it will only make your life, and the lives of your loved ones, more enjoyable. But, healthy or not, we need to learn how to be comfortable in our own skins. We need to learn how to tune out all the lies that surround us. I truly believe we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. What if we believed and focused on that instead of all the other noise we are fed? 

I chased crazy ideals for years. You know what? I will never look like Arnold Schwartzeneggar. Never. No amount of whey protein will ever be able to give me an 8 pack of abs! I will never be able to use a Norelco electric razor to shave, either. I can't grow a beard! (Is that too much information?) I can't turn my body into something that it wasn't created to be. I can maximize my mental and physical potential though, if I practice at it. I can take measures to stay as healthy as possible. I can learn to be comfortable with who I am regardless of all the lies the world says of who I should be. 

This is a very jumbled post, I know. I guess I'm just saying that there is a lot of deception out there. All those lies are used to keep us from knowing who we really are - we are wonderfully made. We can embrace who we are and maximize our potential. But we cannot become someone else, or something else. We don't need to chase after deceptions. If you are healthy and you feel good about who you are, that should be enough. You don't need to conform to unrealistic images and ideals. If your skin fits you well, wear it. You are perfect.
Be you.