Truth in Movement

We as rational beings must construct instruments through which metaphysical truths can be viewed. There is much in the universe that we can not explain through objective measures. Some mysteries have been solved by our advancement in technology but there still remains many uncertainties about our lives here on Earth and beyond. Wherever exists a lacuna in the science of the day, you will find a theory, religion, dogma, prescription drug, weight-loss method, diet and exercise plan or snake-oil on the market. We must realize that all of these methods are but lenses of varying clarity to absolute truth.
Just as there is no flawless lens, there is no flawless method of achieving fitness and health. The health industry is saturated with those who are more interested in profit rather than health. I am not just talking about commercials you see on late-night TV. The entire health industry from the FDA, AMA, HMO to thigh-master, ab-circle, George Foreman grill, etc. are corrupted with those who purposefully direct science and ignore inconvenient outcomes so that they can go to the public with a claim that will make them money. Just think of all the prescription medication that makes it to the market and then is re-called because it actually does more harm than good. The reason modern medicine is constantly changing is two-fold. First of all, the subjects in the experiment (we the people) are not a true control group. Our food sources and environment has changed more in the last 50 years than it has in the last 10,000. The second reason is that our current system of research is so tainted, either by private money or governmental grants, that laboratory results simply do not pan out in real life.
For these reasons, I approach everything I encounter in health and wellness with a grain of salt. (of the Celtic Sea variety that is) We can not become fanatics about anything. My experience thus far in the health industry has been in the western medicine setting. I have had conversations with doctors and pharmacists who are convinced that there simply is no other way to be healthy than to take pills and cut fat from your diet. When I try to present a different point of view, their defenses go up not because what i say makes no sense; it’s because what I am saying threatens everything they have spent unimaginable hours studying for. I don’t charge them with malicious ignorance. I just think that it is easy for us to get so entrenched in our life’s work that we stop learning once we’ve been convinced to follow one methodology or another. The same goes for academics. So much of a persons worth and legacy goes in to the research they will conduct and the studies they will produce. The pursuit of novelty can be very dangerous because then you are not so much concerned with whether you produce truth that will work in the real world. The main concern is if it has been done before. Of course ingenuity has saved many lives but as we continue to try to outsmart God and nature, we can become drunk with notoriety and sacrifice the cosmic intelligence inborn in our food, ourselves and our planet.
Our physical bodies are the housing of our mind and soul. It is the outward expression of every emotion we feel, every disease we encounter and every triumphant victory we accomplish. Doctors, healers, shaman, and therapists are all specialists who have studied the subtle communication between our mind and bodies. When we get sick, it’s our body telling us that there is a bacterial growth, viral attach, nerve impingement, chemical imbalance, or synthetic toxin somewhere in our tissues. Most of us have abdicated our responsibility to listen to our bodies when they speak to us. Many of us know we feel unwell but have no diagnosable pathology. We may not express any detectable symptoms but we know we are not at optimal health. It’s sad to realize once you have attained true health for the first time in your life, that for all the years that were, you were not living to the fullest. I was lucky enough to experience this vitality in my early 20’s. Now, anytime I feel myself slipping, I know exactly what to do for the remedy. Everybody is as different on the inside as they are on the outside. We know that we all require different ratios of macro nutrients in our diets. Exercise is no different however, it is not as varied from person to person as diet may be. We all need to move. That is what Moving For Wellness is about. You can be a hiker, biker, swimmer or climber but you need to move your body doing what you enjoy. The only time exercise becomes exercise is when it is so structured that it becomes “work”. Our jobs give us enough stress; we don’t need our work-outs to give us more. If you have trouble sticking to an exercise routine, it is probably because you are not moving how your body wants you to. Too much in the fitness industry is centered around rep counts, time intervals, rest periods and weights that we figure that if are not doing exactly the right thing, we shouldn’t even bother at all. All the science you hear from fitness professionals is mostly for athletes. The only scientific conclusion you should concern yourself with is that 2.5 hours/week of moderate exercise is related to increased measures of health in humans. If you find yourself unmotivated to exercise, I would say quit asking others (fitness authorities) for an exercise plan. Get outside and try different things. Take some time to get to know your body and how it likes to move. You have to be honest with yourself and not just try to avoid hard work. Once you have an idea, then go consult with a trainer or coach to learn how not to injure yourself. There are but a few simple rules of bio-mechanics that our bodies sometimes ignore to take the path of least resistance. The ultimate truth however is that nobody knows your body better than you can. Feel it and experience it’s greatness through exercise and you may be able to attain vitality and absolute health.

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Move Straight

Collage of several of Gray's muscle pictures, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever wondered why it is that our four-legged friends are so much faster than us?  Everything from a rabbit to an elephant can outrun us.  It is not a size issue and it is not just because they have more legs.  In fact, the fore-legs of most quadrupeds are actually anatomically similar to our arms.  Ostriches are about the same size as us and have two legs yet they can leave Usain Bolt in the dust.  The animal kingdom is full of biomechanical wonders that mother nature has provided through adaptation.  We humans are far inferior physically because we are exponentially superior mentally.  We can think ourselves out of danger, therefore there is no need for us to be super-hero fast.

The secret to animal speed has to do with the conservation of energy.  Running with four limbs on the ground forces the animal to be flexed at the hip.  This bent-forward position is especially efficient when it comes to generating backward force for propulsion.  When the hind leg is tucked in close to the body it is in its greatest state of potential energy.  This means that the muscles used for forward locomotion (glutes and quads) are stretched to the max and ready to contract through their complete range of motion.  The second advantage this forward bend has is that when a hind leg pushes against the ground, the energy goes straight in to the hips which are perfectly aligned with the long axis of the spinal column.  Just like a person pushing a door shut with a cane, the position most capable of transfering all energy is with a rigid force perpendicular to the movable object.  This body position allows all the energy to go straight through the body and out through the front “legs”.  This is called a structural advantage because the bony parts of the body are aligning so as to rely less on stabalizing muscles and more on the rigidity of the skeleton to transfer energy.  The same structural advantage is used when a construction worker carries a 90lb bag of concrete mix on his shoulder rather than in his arms.

If a “four-legged” animal suddenly stood upright and ran on two legs, the structural advantage would go away.  In this position, any energy that the now shortened prime-mover muscles produce will be transfered in to a spine that is pointing towards the sky.  In order for the muscle exertion to result in an overall forward displacement of the animal, the energy must be harnesed and sent back down the spine and in to the ground through the driving leg.  This is where rhythm and timing become more important.  The way this is done in animals such as the ostrich is the use of a counter-balance at the top of the body.  This is the reason for their long necks.  We obviously have to achieve this energy transfer by other means.  For us, it’s our arm swing that allows us to absorb and re-direct ascending energy during locomotion.  In order for our spine to most effectively transfer energy it must maintain its natural “S” shape.  Great muscular stability is necessary for this to happen.  If our spine straightens and bends with each stride all our generated energy will go towards that internal motion.  This is why our core muscles (erector spinae, multifidus, abdominals, etc) are essential to proper and efficient locomotion.  Our upright posture requires muscular rigidity known as functional integrity.  (I don’t call it functional advantage because it clearly is not advantageous)

Due to the hours spent sitting in cars, chairs and couches, our core stability is lacking.  Usually when you hear the word “core” you think of crunches and abs.  The core of you body has a more important role that making you look good on the beach.  The main function of the afrementioned core muscles is to stabalize the spine so that work done at either end of the body does not go to waste.  When people have weak cores they will adapt a forward lean position when they run or walk.  Take a look around.  You will be surprized by the number of people hunched over at the hips.  Now walk by a mirror and be amazed.  You do it too!  Our bodies will always cheat and take the path of least resistance.  The forward lean is a compensation that attempts to regain our primal structural advantage.  We have learned this method for years , however with a conscious effort to maintain an upright posture and a proper exercise routine, you will one day be moving straight all the time.