Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New You

It's a new year already: 2013! Time is flying right by us. Before we know it, it will be 2020, and then 2040. Time has a way of accelerating as we grow older. When we are kids, Time takes its sweet time. When we become adults, Time no longer bides its time, it blazes a trail of glory. At least it should - the glory part I mean. 

This may not surprise you, but we are only here, on this earth, for a short while in the grand scheme of time. Here today and gone tomorrow. Because our time on earth is so short, we really should make the most of it. We should leave our mark on this world and go out in a blaze of glory. Instead of waiting for a new year to start and plan our resolutions, we should be resolute and live the way we want to live now - today. Why do we wait for a new year to improve our lives? Why do we wait for a new year to only say that we resolve to make changes and improve our lives. Many of us only make the resolutions, we don't even actually engage in them. In other words, many of us only wait for a new year to roll around so we can entertain the thoughts of making positive changes so we can imagine who we want to become in our dreams.

We need to stop this insanity. We need to bring the person we want to become out of our dreams and into our reality. The only way to do this is to stop waiting for tomorrow, or  the new year, before we make a change. We need to start being the person we want to be today, right now. There is no tomorrow. If you keep waiting for tomorrow, life will race right past you. You will wonder where all the time went and how it is that you ended up like you have. 

What would happen if you took advantage of each day? Of each moment? You could build the life of your dreams. Only it wouldn't be the life of your dreams, it would be the life of your reality. 

Let's look at this from a health standpoint: You were made to move. If you engage in movement each day, you will nourish your brain and your body. You will ward off the effects of time, aging, and decay. You will retain your youth, strength, and vitality. Simply moving deliberately, on purpose, each day can keep you out of a rest home or a dementia care facility. Movement retains your youth, both your physical youth and mental youth. (though I don't know that you can separate the two)

"Really? What kind of movement?" 

I'm glad you asked! Any kind of movement helps, but moving and exploring your world like a child would, like a youth would, can really increase your vitality. Getting down on the floor and rolling around and tumbling can really improve your health. Crawling, marching, skipping and hiking can improve the health of your brain while at the same time improve your strength. When is the last time you skipped across a field of grass? When is the last time you went hiking through the woods or a hill-side? How wonderful would you feel, how invigorated would you become, if you went hiking for an hour or two only to try to find different kinds of flowers, or birds, or even rocks? Combining curiosity and fascination with movement is a great way to add youth to your body and brain.  

The point is, embracing the day, taking advantage of now, does not have to be that hard. It is the simple things in life that bring the biggest rewards. Deliberately moving, engaging in activity, each day can help you enjoy this life and become the person of your dreams. It can even help you stay forever young. 

Don't freak out, but time is flying by. You have today - you have right now. Tomorrow, the new year, may never materialize. You were meant to live a life of strength and vitality. Do it! Start today. Don't resolve to do it next year.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

Not too long ago, I used to get offended when I would see the words "Merry Xmas." I was offended because the people who would write that were taking "Christ" out of "Christmas", or so I thought. But, and this is not the only time, I was wrong. At least I have changed the way I see the words "Merry Xmas." 

The changed happened somewhere along the way as I was typing out Becoming Bulletproof. In my fascination with the letter X, I looked up its history. The X is the symbol for Christ. Check it out here on Wikipedia: Anyway, no one was taking Christ out of Christmas by using the word Xmas. If anything, they were keeping Christ in Christmas. 

As I said, my fascination with the letter X is what helped spark the desire to look up the history of the word Xmas. It is funny how a little self research can get rid of misconceptions and false "facts." Anyway, this all happened when I was writing about Becoming Bulletproof. The X is simply fascinating. I've written about it here before as well. Check out my post
This is fascinating stuff!

But, back to Christmas and the X! I was a fool to think that changing the spelling of Christmas was taking Christ out of Christmas. You could use any symbol you want to and replace the word Christ in Christmas and you could never take Christ out of Christmas. It is impossible. There is no Christmas without Christ. Christ is. And that, is a complete sentence. There would be no joyous time of year, no Santa Claus, no light filled trees, no songs about snow and chestnuts, no season of giving, no season of shopping, no sugar plums dancing, and NO HOPE for the world or us, if it were not for the X, the Christ. Non of this would be if it were not for the gift of Jesus. 

My only point to all of this is that you can't take Christ out of Christmas. Believe in Him as the Savior of the world or not, He is the reason there is so much joy in the world around this time of year. Regardless of how you spell it, Christ is Christmas - even if you say Happy Holidays! ;)

Nope, you can't take Christ out of Christmas. The X = Christ. Now, hold on to your seats, it gets wild from here! You can't take Christ out of you either. Your body is made up of a series of Xs: from your dna to your muscular sling systems. Your entire body is one big ole X. The secret to a healthy body is a strong X. The stronger your X, the more resilient you are. Let your mind run wild with this thought. Ponder it. Is it a coincidence that you are a series of small Xs that make bigger Xs that ultimately come together to make one big X? I don't think so. You are an X! Merry Xmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lifestyles of the Slow and Steady

Is your health routine, if you have a health routine, a lifestyle or a fad? If you don't know the answer to this question, you really need to think about it. You will have your body for as long as you live. That should not be any news to you. However, the health of your body, the quality of your life, is largely up to you.

If you live to be 99 years old, you have a large say in how those years will turn out - as far as your health goes. Even if you only live to be 62 years old, it is up to you how much "life" you pack into those 62 years. Your health, your lively hood, is largely in your hands when it comes to the quality of your days. If you want to live out your years being able to move, being able to be independent, being able to play tag with your grandkids you really need to consider having a lifestyle of health. 

Having a lifestyle of health, or a healthy lifestyle, is when your healthy actions (exercise choices, activities, food choices) easily fit into the day to day routine of your life. A lifestyle of health is maintainable - this is key! Whatever you are doing now to promote your health, ask yourself if it is maintainable. Or, is it a fad? 

Fads come and go. Health fads are no different. Except that when a health fad goes, it can leave you broken and even subtract from your quality of life. Health fads are not usually maintainable; either by choice, or by necessity of cessation. What I mean is that some fitness endeavors, like those seen on the 60 minute infomercials, are not capable of being maintained. They offer flashy results and extreme promises, but they cannot possibly be maintained for a way of life. One particularly popular fitness infomercial that is named for its extreme methods and results is a great example of what I mean. People who attempt this particular DVD follow-along are lucky if they can survive 15 days, much less 30 days. Think about this: If you can barely move or breathe after your "warm-up", do you think you have found a maintainable lifestyle activity? Probably not. You may have found a great way to insure that you hate all things that have to do with fitness, though.

Anyway, when it comes to your health, you need to think about the big picture, or the whole story. Healthy lifestyle choices should fit into your lifestyle, they should be maintainable, and they should add to the quality of your life. If they become your life - if they consume all your thoughts and energy, if they leave you broken at every turn, if they cause you to red-line your body every single time you train, or if they cause you to loathe the food or activities you are engaging in, then what you have is probably a fad (I hesitate to label it a "health" fad, as they rarely lead to health). 

Think "big picture" when it comes to your health. You determine the quality of your life by your actions and thoughts. If your thoughts and actions do not yield positive results, or if they cannot be easily maintained throughout your years, you may want to make some adjustments. If you are always eating food you hate, or if you are always dreading your "movement" / exercise sessions, you probably don't have the true big picture in mind. Set yourself up for success, for a lifestyle. 

Remember, it is the turtle that beat the hare. He maintained a steady pace. The hare just burned himself out here and there and lost site of the goal = winning. 

Your life, the quality of your life, is in your hands. Don't look for quick fixes, gimmicks, or short cuts that will leave you frustrated, broken or depressed. Look for journeys, adventures and lifestyles that will lead you to health, satisfaction, and enjoyment. Be the turtle! You can win! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Bulletproof Squat

It is probably no surprise to anyone that I think we can learn from how children build strength and then apply what they do to our own training. Children seem to know how to build amazing strength on their own simply by learning how to move and exploring their surroundings. 

No one teaches a child how to crawl. They learn how to do it through the spirit of exploration. No one teaches a child how to walk - sure they encourage the child to walk, but a child just figures it out through determination and adventure. The same is true for squatting. No adult needs to teach a child how to squat, though every adult could probably learn how to squat from watching a child. 

You may be thinking, "but these are just movements, this is not strength training." It absolutely is strength training though. A child builds a tremendous foundation of strength while they are growing and developing. They even engage in real strength training once they establish a foundation for strength. Have you ever seen a child try to pick up a heavy ball? They test their strength and build new strength by attempting to lift things up off of the floor. Why do they do this? For the joy of exploration. 

Kids are instinctual strength training geniuses. If a child tries to pick up a watermelon, they squat down, wrap their arms around it (think atlas stone) and try to stand. If they can't move it, they may try again. If they still have no luck, they simply move on. They don't keep trying over and over until they hurt themselves. If they can pick it up, however, they take it for a stroll. They walk around with their heavy object - for a little while at least. Kids simply know how to build amazing strength. And we dont.

We should really consider approaching our strength training through the eyes of a child. Let's look at the squat for example. What if we trained the squat the way a child does: from the ground up. Think back to the watermelon example I used above. What kind of squat does this resemble? The Zercher deadlift/squat. It is the way a child would train the squat. 

The Zercher squat is the perfect bulletproof squat. With the Zercher, it is hard to squat more weight than you can hold. It has a built in "safety" factor to it, thus lessening your chance of injury. Also, the Zercher reflexively engages your core. It zips you up without you having to mentally tighten your muscles. They just tighten up on their own. When you attempt a Zercher squat, your body becomes one solid muscle.  This makes you really strong and "real world" strong.

If you really want to get strong, you could employ the Zercher the way a child does, you could lift your bar from the floor, take a walk with your weight for a certain distance and then repeat again. This will make your body strong enough to stop bullets, it is that tough. 

Anyway, walk with the bar or not, in my opinion, the Zercher is the best way to squat - IF you simply want to be strong, healthy, and resilient. Those things are things that I want. If you want to be a powerlifter, then Zerchers may not be the best squat to train with. HOWEVER, they can certainly lay a solid foundation to perform back squats from. 

Speaking of powerlifting, If you are not a powerlifter, do you really need to do back squats? Just a question, if you like back squats, great. Have at them. You'll never see a child do back squats though. I know, I am taking an idea to the extreme, but think about it anyway. And, while you think about that, also imagine how you will never see a child perform an overhead squat. ;) 

Anyway, I really do think children do a lot of things very well and very right.  Kids know how to train the squat. And, kids know how to become bulletproof. If becoming bulletproof resinates with you, Zerchers can be a great tool to use in that quest. They are kid tested and mother approved.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Forgotten Muscle(s)

Many of us know that if we want strong muscles, we have to exercise them. After all, the body certainly does work on the "use it or lose it" principle. So, we deliberately use our muscles to make them strong, keep them strong, and make them available should we ever need them. Through discipline and engaging, we strengthen our bodies' muscles. 

I said the body works off of the use it or lose it principle. Almost everything about you works off of this principle. Another way to look at the use it or lose it principle could be to see it as the "train it and gain it" principle. 

Anything, or any quality, we want to possess, or be "strong" at, we need to train that quality. I mean to say that we need to exercise the qualities we want to possess. If we want healthy teeth, we need to brush, floss, and rinse regularly. If we want to have integrity, we need to practice telling the truth and doing what we say - daily. If we want to have less scowl and frown lines, we should smile more often. You can pick anything, or quality, you want to possess, and you can certainly obtain it through deliberate "practice" - through engaging in that quality. 

This is a simple concept, but I think it eludes a lot of us. We often want things, or ideas, that we could easily have if we would only engage and practice building or working towards our desired goal. For many of us the difference between success and failure is that we are simply not using our engagement muscles.

Your engagement muscles are the muscles, or acts, that you need to practice on a regular basis in order to obtain whatever it is you are seeking. If you never train your engagement muscles, you are setting yourself up for failure when you really need to call upon them for your desired result. 

I know this is confusing, but let's look at an example:

Pretend like you want to avoid eating pasta. Pretend like you have decided pasta is sabotaging your diet. So, in order to not fall victim to the traps of pasta, you start engaging in activities that promote this desired strength, this desired will power to avoid pasta. You could avoid the pasta aisle all together in the grocery store so that you are not tempted to buy it. If you do cook it, you could decide to measure out a single serving of pasta and only cook that so that you can monitor your portion. You could even replace your spaghetti with spaghetti squash if you like. The point is, you could engage in activities that foster and strengthen your new desire. Eventually, pasta may not even be a temptation for you any longer. 

Now pretend like you did engage, and you strengthened your anti-pasta decision and now you find yourself in a family gathering with lots of pasta choices to dine on. If your anti-pasta engagement muscle has been thoroughly exercised, you may find that you have all the strength and will power in the world to only place a few noodles on your plate or avoid it all together. However, this could spell certain pasta disaster that could lead to all sorts of guilt and condemnation for the person who never really engaged in activities to strengthen their anti-pasta choosing/eating muscles. 

Does this make any sense? 

We have to train our engagement muscles. We need to exercise the qualities we want to possess. How can we be strong when we need to be in any area if we never engage in the discipline it takes to be strong in that area?  We can't. 

You want to be a great dad? Engage in time with your kids. You want to be an awesome wife? Practice being awesome to your husband. You want to have arches in your feet? Practice walking around barefooted. You want to be like Honest Abe? Practice telling the truth. Want to be good at avoiding sweets? Practice avoiding them, practice saying "no." It doesn't matter what it is you want, you can have it if you practice deliberate engagement towards that goal. 

If you want success in any area, you have to train your engagement muscles.