Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Have the Power

You can take two identical twins - same genetic code, same environment, same circumstances and those two twins can grow up and turn out completely different. Even though they are identical, even though they have the same genes, they could grow to look, act, and think completely different. How can this be? Simple: the power of choice. 

Choice is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you posses. With it you can determine your outcome: your success, your weight, your muscularity, your bed time, etc... The power of choice is an extremely powerful weapon when it comes to navigating through life. It can also be an extremely dangerous weapon when it is misused. 

This is a health "discussion" so I'll try to stick with health issues to explain what I'm trying to say. Many people have health goals. They want to be lean, trim, tone, ripped, or whatever. The key to obtaining their goal lies in the choices that they make. They choose to eat "healthy", or not. They choose to move often, or not. They choose to get eight hours of sleep per night, or not.  

Choice is powerful. It is huge when it comes to determining your outcome. And, as we have all learned from Spider-man, with great power comes great responsibility. Choice is a power that should not be used flippantly. Most people don't realize that by not choosing to make choices that correspond with their life goals, they are choosing to make choices that take them in the opposite direction. What? Not choosing to engage in your desired outcome, is choosing to move away from your desired outcome. Many who do this will often blame their circumstances, their environment, or their genetics. After all, you can't help your genetics. Right? Well, yes. Yes you can. Remember our identical twins? You can choose whether or not you want to be a victim of your genetics. Your choices can effect how your genes express themselves. 

You are a result of the choices you make. Like it or not. If you don't like it, choose differently. You choose whether you smile or frown. You choose whether you watch TV or go for a walk. You choose whether to believe you are broken or whether to believe you are resilient. You choose.

You have all the power. 

Who do you want to become? 

What do you choose? 

Deuteronomy 30:19: 
"...behold I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life..." 

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's All in the Reflexes

Have you ever seen the movie Big Trouble in Little China? It is not a great movie, but it is amusing. In fact most of the Mortal Combat video game characters were probably inspired from this movie. Anyway, the main character, Jack Burton, has this line he likes to say: "It's all in the reflexes." In the movie, Jack's reflexes saved his butt and kept him alive quite a few times.

Jack was right. When it comes to living, it truly is all in the reflexes. Our reflexes  keep us healthy. They keep us "sharp". To live a resilient life, we need - we want - properly working, quick firing reflexes. Do you know the secret to having properly working, quick firing reflexes? Simply use them. Move, on purpose. Move, because you can. Move, because you were made to move. That sharpens your reflexes!

What? Reflexes happen automatically, right? Yes, reflexes are automatic responses to stimuli and require no thought or effort whatsoever. For example, if something comes flying at your head, you may duck and cover, close your eyes, maybe even drop to the ground. That an automatic response. Though if it is your response, you would still probably want all of that to happen as quick as possible. 

Reflexes are automatic and beyond your control. Well, no, not really. I would argue that all reflexes could be affected by our lifestyle choices and habits. That would put reflexes well in our control. But then, that is my argument. I don't know how many would agree with me on that. But anyway, look at breathing. It is a subconscious reflex that just happens. It keeps us alive. Yet many of us have trained ourselves to breathe with our emergency breathing muscles rather than our intended breathing muscles. We walk around breathing in our chest and neck rather than our abdomen. This is a "relfex" that we have a great deal of control over. We can learn and train how to breathe properly by using our diaphragm. This is the way we were born breathing. Just doing this alone can "fix" a host of movement and pain problems for people. It is amazing - in a simple way.

You might think that breathing is not a great example of a reflexive response due to a stimulous. Ok, but you might agree that the body is a "use it or lose it" body. Everything about you pretty much runs off of this principle. Reflexes fall under this rule, too. Things tend to get rusty, sloppy and weak when they are not used and kept in proper working order. Things like posture, core strength, balance - they all degrade from lack of use. They are all maintained through reflexes: reflexes that get used or reflexes that don't get used. If you want to be sharp, like Jack Burton was in Big Trouble in Little China, if you want your reflexes to keep you alive, you need to use them. You need to move. Moving keeps your reflexes sharpened, which keeps you strong. (ever hear of the term: reflexive strength? if not, check out Becoming Bulletproof!) Strength makes you resilient. Resiliency lends itself to enjoying life and living. 

Life! It is all in the reflexes. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Is It Safe?

Is it safe? I think that is a question we as adults spend a lot of our time asking or wondering. We tend to let our concern for safety regulate our actions. This can be a good thing, but it can also be a negative thing. Concern for safety can be an anchor that keeps us tied to existance. What I mean to say is that fear can keep us from living and enjoying life. 

Have you ever noticed how children can be pretty fearless? They often explore their world with reckless abadon; while at the same time, their hearts are filled with joy. Why? Because they are experiencing life. For children, life is an adventure. Don't you remember all the crazy, fun adventures you had as a child? Do you remember climbing up on the wood pile with an umbrella so you could jump off and float down? Do you remember the time you built a ramp and jumped it with your BMX bike - without a helmet?! Do you remember swinging as high as you could in a swingset and then jumping out of the swing? What about the time you jumped off the high dive and did a belly flop in the pool - once! Oh yeah, all those were things that I did. But you know when you were younger you did some crazy, fun, adventurous things. 

When we were younger, we knew no fear.  We were alive!

So what happened? Many times now, and maybe I'm alone in this, the concern for safety often puts the brakes on desires. My sense of adventure gets dampened by my thoughts of "is this safe?, will this hurt?, what if I fall?" Now I know that we are much bigger and heavier than we were when we were children. And, gravity can be a harsh mistress should we ever fall out of a tree, so some thoughts of concern may be worth entertaining. But let's be honest, we are simply not as adventurous as we used to be. We let silly little fears stop us from enjoying even the smallest of adventures. 

Part of what makes a child's body so resilient is their resilient attitude. They take chances. They let things like falling become part of the adventure to be had instead of the reason not to have the adventure. There was a time when rain meant chaotic fun, remember? Now for most of us rain means, "But I'll get wet." I don't know what your fears are, or what your mental brakes are that keep you from living out adventures, but I am sure that you probably have a few. Whether it is, "I don't want to pull a groin.", or "I might catch a cold." , there are things that keep you inside, on your couch, watching the world go by instead of outside making the world spin faster. 

I believe we were all made to be bulletproof, to be resilient, in a total sense: physically, mentally, and spiritually. We were meant to live and engage in life. We used to be so good at doing this when we were younger. We had no fear. Thoughts of fear, or dread, keep us from fully experiencing life. They keep us from becoming mentally resilient. And, they keep us tied down to existence - taking up space. Maybe we should throw caution to the wind every once in a while and strive to be alive. Maybe we should purposefully set out to do things that make us a little nervous. Maybe we should seek out adventure like we once did when we were younger. 

Instead of asking, "Is it safe?" most of the time, what would life look like if we said, "Hey, watch this!" every now and then? What is the point to this whole post? Make your life an adventure. Go mountain biking. Go hiking. Climb a tree. Learn to skateboard - wear a helmet! ;) Do something exhilerating. Live a little! It might just make you feel like you are bulletproof...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Take a Hike

One of the ways we can become bulletproof is to engage in activities and movements that we were simply meant to do. To be honest, all movements are probably movements we were meant to do. But, many of us don't deliberately engage in movements and activities our bodies were made for. As a result, we become less than we were meant to be - we become soft, fragile, weak. 

It is not hard to regain our strength, our youth, our resiliency. All we have to do is consistently engage in activities our bodies were made for, activities our brains and bodies crave - activities like hiking, for instance.

When is the last time you went hiking? When is the last time you took a stroll in the country side, or even the "urban" side? I'm not talking about taking a walk here. I am talking about hiking - navigating terrain that has awkward, uneven steps, terrain that challenges the brain as it tries to determine where to place the next step, terrain that requires the body to use strength, grace, coordination and prediction. Yes, prediction. The brain sometimes has to "guess" where you should move and place your next step on the fly, where you should place your hands for more stability, whether or not you should step, skip, or leap to that next rock. 

Hiking is so much more than a mindless walk. It is brain and body candy. It feeds the mind and body at the same time. It gets you outside, it gets you engaged, it gets you moving and it opens the door for some "adventure." 

Hiking is an easy way to satisfy a couple of things your body craves: movement and adventure. Today, I got to go hiking with my family in the NC mountains. We got to climb up huge rocks that crossed over a river and they made several waterfalls. It was beautiful. More importantly, it was a wonderful way for the whole family to experience "life" together. Everyone was having an adventure. Everyone was having a good time: smiling, laughing, and living. The boys' imaginations were going wild as they conquered each boulder. My wife had to navigate and move her body in ways that an office cubicle never demands. I even had the thrill of discovering I could leap, climb and crawl up terrain that people my age yield to others who have more "youth." 

The point is, today, my entire family got to experience a little "life" and adventure by going outside and taking a hike. Today my whole family inched a little bit closer to becoming bulletproof. What do you think would happen in our brains and bodies if we deliberately set out to take a hike on a regular basis? What do you think would happen in and with our relationships? Healthy relationships help you become bulletproof too, by the way. Life is more than just movement. We need things like love, joy, and companionship, too. 

Anyway, if you haven't done it in a while, or if you've never done it. Go take a hike. Find a place that has cool scenery or cool terrain that engages your brain, your imagination and your body. Hiking is a great way to regain and keep your resiliency. It truly can help you become a little more bulletproof - in more ways than one.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How Much Ya Bench?

Has anyone ever seen that skit with Chris Farley from Saturday Night Live? How Much Ya Bench? - It was hilarious. That use to be the question of the day back in my younger, "weight lifting" days. I guess a better question today would be: "Who cares?"

If you love to bench press, I will go ahead and apologize now. I am sorry. What I am about to discuss will not thrill you. The bench press, while it may pack people into gyms and I'm sure it still helps sell health club memberships, is a relatively useless exercise. The granddaddy of all weight lifting exercises, the ultimate quest for every teenage boy and all would be puffed up chest wielding men, has very little life enhancing qualities. Unless having a big chest does enhance your life - and in truth it can, although it is a superficial enhancement.

What I mean by this is that the bench press is good for making a big chest, putting on mass, and getting you noticed by the public. It can improve your confidence and self esteem - if you place your value on how big you look or how much weight you can press. So there is merit there. But as far as real-world life enhancing abilities, the bench press is lacking. It will not improve your overall ability, performance, or resiliency like the simple pushup can.

What? Yes, the pushup is a "better" exercise when it comes to improving the quality of your life. Remember, I believe that "life" encompasses being able to move well and being able to conquer your golden years with vitality. The pushup does this. It is a great life skill to possess. If nothing else, the pushup will teach you how to get up off the ground should you ever find yourself there. Not only that, the pushup helps tie your whole body together, it helps strengthen your center. It is very arguable if the bench press does this. Yes, if performed properly, the bench press is a whole body exercise - connecting the feet up through the hands, but very few people actually bench press properly. 

Anyway, the pushup can help prepare you for life. It connects you. Done properly and progressively, the pushup can prepare you to move, to push, heavy obstacles without getting injured. The bench press can leave you lacking here. I've seen plenty of big chested "pressers" who did not have the core strength to do a solid pushup. That is a travesty. These same "pressers" would not even be able to push a car up a driveway as well as a man who could do a solid pushup. Think about it - no where else in life will you find yourself braced with your back against something so you can push heavy loads. But, you will find yourself having to push something, and you will want your center strong enough to handle the force you will need to generate. The simple, lowly pushup offers this.

Pushups also build good physiques - real physiques. They can be made more challenging too with different hand positions, foot positions, one arm, one leg, one arm and one leg, etc... Pushups can build a powerful, life capable, body.
They wont add size to you like bench pressing will, but who wants a big chest today, and droopy boobs tomorrow? Just kidding. But think about it anyway!

I'm not saying you should never bench press. It has it's benefits. I just think you should really consider the wonders of the pushup - especially if you want to enjoy your life with strength and vitality when you are 96 years old. No one will ever care how much weight you could press "back in the day", you won't either. There will be a day when being able to bounce up off the floor without help will bring more joy than a big bench press ever could.