Thursday, September 26, 2013

Understanding and Eliminating Common Back Pain

More often than not, the most common experience of back pain -- is not from aggravating it in some traumatic exertion or injury, but noted when one gets out of bed, and cannot move the back into the condition of mobility and flexibility -- but the spine seems to be locked into one position that virtually immobilizes not only the spine, but every other joint attached to it -- and thus the movements of that individual, seems to be very limited and even painful to the observer.

Meanwhile, the movements of a healthy back and individual, is to seem unrestricted even by the presence of any backbone -- so fluid, effortless and pain free is their movement -- as to seem to be impossible or unimaginable to most other observers, who have never explored those ranges -- or thought it possible.

The most extreme examples, are the movements of the rhythmic gymnasts and ballet dancers, who try to make effortless, what to most others, is impossible -- including and especially, standing on their toes, or equally impressive -- pointing their toes towards the ceiling, etc. --  when most people have to be reminded that they even have the power to wiggle (move) their toes.  Yet on the other extreme, there are those who have learned to paint with their toes, or play musical instruments -- usually in compensation for the absence of the usual faculties for performing such tasks.

That is what they have trained and conditioned themselves to do -- and so they can.  That is similar to the person who has cut their hand, and then has to teach a finger to apply continuous pressure to that wound for an extended period of time -- to prevent extensive blood loss.  That's not what they usually do, but that is what they must do -- to get by for the next 24 hour period -- and that is what they have to get very good at, because their very health and lives depend upon it.

So the range of possibilities are very great -- when one sees the urgency of it -- as simply what must be done, especially when there are no others around to take over the situation -- and nurse one back to full capabilities and health.  That should also be one's recourse, if the professional advice does not work -- rather than the lifelong dependency on those treatments that never full eliminate the problem -- in the first place.

And that seems to be the case with many people reporting back pain that even seems to get worse with (bed) rest -- that the bed itself may be the culprit.  The obvious case, are the old spring mattresses in which the springs are so badly worn, that one is essentially sleeping in a jacknifed position all night long -- and then finds it difficult to just straighten up as soon as they get out of bed, and instead, they have to walk in that jack-knifed position all day, or at least a while before their back loosens up enough to allow them to straighten up.

That's the obvious one, but less obvious, even with a good mattress and support, is that the back muscles will relax, and allow the lower back which is usually an arch, to flatten out along the bed and even to assume a rounded position -- accounting for the appearance of those with a permanently rounded back that does not have the shock-absorbing properties of the back in an arched position, which also allows maximal chest expansion -- just in breathing, and most importantly, breathing while sleeping.  Instead, their chests remained always compressed, rather than assuming its fullest expansion possibility because the back must be arched to articulate that position.

That is the essential value of yoga -- which is this focus on back articulation, and the breathing it enables.  But it sufficient to note, that the back rounded position, is also the chest compressed position, while the back arched position, is also the chest maximally expanded -- and most athletic movements, are variations on this theme.  One produces maximal power by thrusting the head forward, while obtaining maximal relaxation just in moving the head back to produce an exaggerated arch -- which is also the greatest range of the breathing movement, as the chest volume is altered that produces the greatest pressure differences that determines air movement.

The measure of health, can also be detected by the fullness of one's breathing -- as well as the constricted breathing of people in poor health, and particularly mental health -- because the organ most impacted by oxygen and blood flow (circulation), is the brain, which is the limit of every other function and functioning in the body.  Nothing else can perform better than it -- by deliberate design of evolution.  That has to be the top priority no matter how much one would wish it to be otherwise -- and what person in their right mind, would desire it to be otherwise?

The distinctive feature, that proclaims the human's evolutionary success over all other forms and species, is the peculiarity of an upright posture -- that is enabled by the curvature of the spine that is shock-absorbing -- that allows this chest expansion and shoulders-back presentation of robust health -- as opposed to the slouched over position of one obviously in declining health, and moving in great pain -- which the predatory animals, are particularly instinctive at spotting as the target for their efforts, and their best chances for their own survival.

They're not going after the gymnasts with their greatly exaggerated shoulders back and sway-back postures and strut.  They're going after the ones with their shoulders rounded forward so as to constrict their chests, with their heads bent forward and so immobilized in that position as to be unaware of most of the activity around them -- including their impending doom.

Realizing this, one should not sleep with a pillow under one's head simulating this posture, but instead, should place that pillow in the small of one's back so as to force one to rest in a back arched posture and chest maximally expanded and the shoulders back -- as their default (resting) posture, that is the condition they want to be in.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Nautilus Principles and High Intensity Training

If Casey Viator made it past 62 in the marvelous condition he was noted for, I would have proclaimed that Arthur Jones and the Nautilus Principles (high intensity training) he advocated, was definitively vindicated and validated -- as a modality that could be embraced by anyone wishing to maintain and achieve their peak condition throughout today's extended lifetimes.  But if such an extraordinarily gifted individual as Casey could not, I doubt that anybody else can. 

Arthur handpicked him as the prototype for his theories -- while many others have famously passed advocating similarly extreme training regimens -- the result of which apparently, is to produce enlarged, weakened hearts (congestive heart conditions), which seems to cause their premature deaths despite their previous great success at muscular and strength gains -- including Oliva, Mentzer, Redding, Bednarski. several world's strongest men, etc.

That's a particular concern when cohorts of that generation begin to sense that they cannot sustain training that way once they are past 40, 50, many of the Baby Boomers are now.  It's not a lack of will but simply a physical impossibility -- when even the most prolific specimens, such as Oliva and Viator, cannot sustain their progress but go into a dramatic health reversal as a result of their lifetime devotion to high intensity (overload) training ending in their untimely deaths -- just as Jim Fixx of a previous time advocated running as the antidote to heart failures, or the original Olympic marathoner collapsing and dying as he reached his destination to announce, "We triumph."

For many now, retirement age is just the beginning of life, and not its conclusion -- as it has been in previous times.  A generation ago, people were expected to die a few years after they qualified for Social Security, and now the future viabilityof that system, is threatened by many living a whole lifetime beyond that -- but the question remains, "How can we do it with increasing good health?" -- and not just the appearance of it -- until suddenly one day, we learn of their passing.

That was what I was beginning to suspect at the height of the popularity of the Nautilus machines back in the mid-80s -- after actually being one of the first persons to embrace the Nautilus Principles -- on hearing it from Arthur Jones at the 1970 Teenage Mr. America, where Casey burst upon the bodybuilding scene -- and Arthur produced his one prototype machine -- which all the contestants got to try, but Casey seemed to double in size, while the others stayed moderately the same.  That was the visual impact of Casey at the Teenage Mr. America contest (and subsequent national contests) -- that he was twice the size of everybody else -- particularly in response to using the Nautilus Pullover machine.

But they seemed to want to maintain their distance -- as though they weren't already working in collaboration at that point, but they turned up together at the York Barbell Club later that week, as I watched Bob Bednarski train -- who had just won the world superheavy weight lifting championship -- and was also a superfreak of his generation -- who shortly also died of a heart attack.  People tend to blame the steroids rather than the trainiing methodology -- which is admittedly very stressful -- with short and longterm side effects that seem to be increasingly overwhelming and conclusive as not the way one wants to be training if sustainable longevity in improving health is the objective -- way past the short term goals of winning any physique or strength contest should be.

I was just wondering recently, probably on his birthday, I wonder what condition Casey Viator is in?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

What Matters

Everything you do in life matters -- and is revealed in the condition one is in.

The people who are in poor health and condition, don't think anything matters -- and that is the shape their bodies take.

If they are "too busy and have no time," what are they doing?  It is obviously not anything requiring skilled movement -- except their hand to mouth coordination, which obviously, they don't need to do anymore of.

People in great shape are not that way because of how much they do, but how much "better" they do it -- because of their practice at extending the range of their movement, and not just repeating a limited range of motion and expression endlessly -- until those joints wear out and have to be replaced.

Even the heart wears out from unnecessary wear and tear -- because it is not designed to last forever, so to arbitrarily cause it to wear out out prematurely, is obviously foolish -- though unquestionably good business for the cardiologists advising people to do so.  The wise and prudent people of every discipline, seem to advise the utmost mindfulness and attention to what one is doing -- and not just flailing one's arms and legs meaninglessly as though some good will come of that.

If one shoots a thousand shots, there is a chance one might hit the target once -- but the objective, is to hit the target, with one shot, or as few as possible.  Thus the best golfer, bowler, basketball player, quarterback, pole vaulter, weightlifter, etc., are not those doing the most -- but invariably doing the least, perfectly the first time.

Ironically, that is usually never a consideration in the discussions of exercise, conditioning and fitness -- but only gross amounts of activity, calorie expenditures, heart rate, time spent, etc. -- all things easy to measure, but whether they are the most important things to measure, most teachers of any skill, will recognize is irrelevant to the mastery that transcends them to the next level -- which is the reason for their practice, and not just the mindless activity that is certain to end in frustration, despair and no idea of what and why they are doing what they are doing.

Until that understanding is addressed, all their activities and movements will be random -- resulting in random results, instead of the very specific objectives they wish to achieve.  You don't get there by going in the wrong (opposite) direction no matter how long and strenuously one's efforts are.

When people fail to achieve their objectives, it is invariably not because of a lack of effort, but this lack of understanding of what they ARE doing, and lack of clarity of how everything is related to everything else -- and not that nothing is related to anything else, and so anything one wants to believe, is equally valid.

That's not how the world works.