Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Do You See in the Mirror?

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do your eyes go
immediately to any perceived flaws and weaknesses, say crow's feet, wrinkles, funny nose or crooked tooth? Or, in a full-length mirror, do your eyes settle on unwanted fat pads, real or imagined physical disproportions, and other such undesirables? This is very common human response and a tremendous source of unhappiness and discontent. But it's a case of seeing the glass half-empty. From an early age, we've been taught to believe in lack and limitation. Starting in early childhood, your knowledge of the world becomes about what you cannot, and must not, do, as opposed to what is possible. Impressionable children are introduced to a finite, limited universe, full of lack and the fear of there not being enough for everyone, including themselves. This gets applied to our bodies and their potential.

The western medical model is based upon a germ theory of disease, suggesting there are dangerous marauders out there trying to get at you and there's nothing you can do about it but remain ever vigilant and defensive. People, in turn, feel helpless when it comes to controlling their own health and bodies in such a fearful setting and the standard of medical care supports their fears.

I believe you create your own existence with your own mind and as long as you have this ability, why not create something beautiful? Through a belief system in a universal source, you can create glowing health and well-being, both physical and mental. You can mold your body, first in the mind's eye, then manifested into flesh.

I became acutely aware of this many years ago, when serving in the armed forces. There was a sergeant in our unit, a black guy, with one of the single most chiseled and awe-inspiring physiques I'd ever seen. Even with crappy army food, and little opportunity for decent workouts, this guy maintained a fat-free, lean, incredibly muscular and chiseled physique. One night I asked him how he kept himself in such great condition, since I'd never actually seen him work out. He replied that every night, before he went to bed, he'd see his body in his mind's eye, exactly the way he wanted it to be. He'd take a mental scan and visualize himself as physical perfection. He further used the same technique for any ailments or health problems that might crop up. Indeed, I never saw him sick or with a cold, although others around him were perpetually coughing, sneezing or even bed-bound with the flu. This guy was able to transcend what other people consider normal, by controlling his subconscious mind.

Now many years later, after studying the techniques of mind science, I understand that everyone has the power to control their circumstances, including their health, through the power of the mind. I say it's science because there's a formula which can, if used properly, repeatedly produce the same results. One of the main principles requires never focusing on negative circumstances. Another tenet is that just because someone believes something doesn't mean it's real! So much of the world is illusory. Things aren't what they seem.

The same idea can be used with finance, relationships and living situations. Since this blog is geared towards fitness and health, I'll describe an effective technique for improving your health, well-being and physical beauty. These techniques have worked well for me and others. Caveat: you must have faith in the invisible laws of the universe to experience success.

1. When looking in a mirror, whether full-length, bathroom or plate glass window, NEVER allow your eyes to focus on any one thing. Take in the whole image and if anything, allow your attention to remain on something you find pleasing.

2. If you DO find yourself dwelling on something in a negative way, quickly dismiss it and chase it with a positive statement or affirmation. For example, if your eyes glance upon a roll of unwanted flesh in the mid-section, and you begin to generate a feeling of loathing, upset or disappointment, before the self-condemnation begins to accumulate, quickly dismiss the situation by claiming that no such thing exists in your world and further, that only physical perfection can manifest in same. Claim the perfect condition by saying, my waist is muscular, fat-free and perfectly proportioned in every way--or words to such effect. In this way, you are already programming the subconscious mind by exchanging negative thoughts for positive. You see, a person who believes in fatness and ugliness, will allow the habits of the fat and ugly, such as overeating and sloth. When you commence programming your mind with thoughts of beauty and perfection, you'll automatically begin to go about doing those things that create same. At nighttime, in the moments before falling asleep, the subconscious is most open to programming. At this time, take a mental inventory of the body and see it as perfect. Do not worry about its present condition. It's a known fact the body completely changes every cell within every seven year. Some cells reinvent themselves more often, for example, taste buds regenerate every 10 days. All change takes time; there are laws of the physical world at work here. Realize that it was negative programming which created the imbalance and poor body in the first place and the same mental faculties can be used to correct the situation. So, as you're laying in bed before the nightly slumber, image the perfect body and--this is very important--generate deep feelings of gratitude and joy as if what you desire has already been accomplished. In reality, time is a mere illusion and everything happens in the now.

3. If your mind is weak and you have trouble imaging your body, don't worry, like the body, the mind will strengthen. In the mean time, here is a technique that can assist you in bridging the gap while you build your mental equivalent. Look through a fitness magazine and pick out the physique of an athlete, model, actor upon whom you'd really like to model yourself. This person, of course, should have a similar bone structure and proportions as you. Visualize this image in your mind's eye. Make copies of this image and place them around your home on the bedroom, bathroom mirrors and refrigerator. You may choose top put one on the car dashboard. Put this image on your desktop. Gaze on it for a few moment and closing your eyes, see this image as if looking at this person from a distance, then switch the point of view so that you're looking at the body as if it's your own body and through your eyes, so that the arm in the image is your arm, the leg your leg, not a third person. I myself have a picture of Gerard Butler from the 300, looking totally buffed and ripped. I'm able to see myself in the mind, but I still value certain outside images. You can also imagine yourself eating perfectly and training with intensity. The mind is extremely powerful and will create what it is you focus upon. The life you have right now; the partner you're with or without; the circumstances in which you live; the money you hold in the bank; the body you inhabit are all a consequence of the focus you hold in the mind, whether you are aware of it or not. By increasing your awareness of this fabulous tool, you can program and use it to make your wildest dreams come true.

If you're used to this blog covering one-arm push-ups and swinging kettlebells (and that's all very important!) I want to remind you that the most important implement in your fitness arsenal is your higher mind power and how it connects you to the universal laws.

You are all invited to join me in my own quest for superior living and health at my upcoming workshops and certifications--I'm visualizing you there, now!

My body weight certification is popular with professionals and non-professionals alike. Body weight exercise seems so simple, does it not? But the reality is that for most people, they are the hardest and most demanding exercises. Many people simply give up trying to do chin-ups and pull-ups. But it's simply a matter of someone showing and teaching how to get the most out of these magnificent bodies of ours. Read here about one participant's experience, and then get thee nigh to Corte Madera; Wichita; Salt Lake City; Philadelphia; Frankfurt; Reykjavik or Hilo!


Ask Coach!!!

...I have your videos and I love them but I have a problem: I moved to a new house and I work out in my basement which has a low ceiling. I like to do Bottoms-Up Military Presses and I'm not able to do these now. Is it safe to press off your knees or your butt?

A: The solution is simple: sit on a narrow bench and do seated Cleans and Military Presses.
Even regular Cleans, done seated, have a tremendous effect on the upper neck and traps. They were favored by the old Russian KB lifters.

Expect these to be a great deal harder than from standing.

I'm interested in the Push-Up Board; I've been having trouble with push-ups lately. It seems my inside left elbow gets puffy and inflamed. Could the Push-Up Board keep this from happening?

A: The push-up is a very natural movement and should cause neither pain, inflammation nor irritation. What's most likely happening is that you're flaring your elbows out to the side and misaligning your hands.

While I can't promise the Push-Up Board will correct your personal misalignments, it certainly won't hurt. The instructional DVD for the board will assist you with proper alignment; it's fully explained and demonstrated and should go a long way toward getting you doing pain-free push-ups.

Another explanation is if you're excessively overweight--if you're really heavy--your upper arms may not be capable of supporting the body weight. If that's the case, you'll also need to lose a few pounds.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Summit of the Masters!

Team Maxercise gang!

I count all of you who read my blog and send your kind comments (many of you at the far reaches of the world) as part of my extended team.

Your intrepid coach, always searching and seeking, passed a marvelous weekend in the Danish wonderland known as Solvang CA, where I'd arranged to meet two of the most interesting characters in the fitness biz, Erwan LeCorre and Barefoot Ted. I've spoken before about Georges Hebert and the Methode Naturelle. Well, last Sunday I finally met the guy who continues to carry Hebert's torch. His name is Erwan and he's spent many years researching and refining the Hebert methodology. He read my blog recently and contacted me, sending along what I consider one of the most beautiful physical culture video clips I've ever seen. Erwan is re-establishing the Hebert method in an updated version which he calls MovNat
and you'll be hearing about it very soon. He has an upcoming 12-page pictorial in April Men's Health in what is sure to be a landmark piece. You heard about it here, first!

The original Methode Naturelle was created in 1905 while Hebert was a French navy officer and was used to train thousands of French Marines; it was then taught at an institute of physical education, called the College d'athletes, in Reims, France
prior to World War I. It is based on natural human movement capacities. Modern man, by the turn of the twentieth century, had already become disassociated with the physical body and 100 years later people think of working out as churning out miles on the StairMaster or treadmill or dumbbell movements in front of the mirror. Erwan, the direct inheritor of Hebert's method, intends to turn the fitness industry upside-down, returning to a more innocent time of moving the body as it was meant to be used. This includes:
  • walking
  • running
  • jumping
  • balancing
  • moving on all fours
  • climbing
  • lifting and carrying (all sorts of objects)
  • throwing and catching
  • defending (including striking, wrestling and grappling)
  • swimming
How many people do you know who include all of these elements into their workouts? Erwan does all of the above on a regular basis, combining them in sessions involving many variations of each natural movement capacity. My own methods are more similar than not.

He's a most affable young man and passionate about his philosophy of exercise (note to the ladies, he asked that I mention he is single.) He's tall and lean with a wiry, muscular physique and he moves with the ease and grace of a panther or...a natural human. He brought a memory stick of images and gave me a full historical presentation on my laptop of Hebert and Methode Naturelle.

After we'd sat around jawing for a while, we decided to drive into town and get something to eat (well, we were actually thrown out by our hosts, but that's another story.) Erwan said he needed to move a bit and asked us to pick him up further down the road...and literally took off like a gazelle. Driving along the country road, I thought he must have taken a wrong turn because I didn't see him anywhere in sight. When finally, over the next rise, there he was, at full speed, with an effortlessness that could only be ascribed to a wild animal. I was all the more impressed since he was running barefoot...which brings me to the second interesting character I met over the weekend, who calls himself Barefoot Ted.

Ted is a leader of the barefoot running movement. On his website, he's documented some incredible barefoot feats. He has studied and trained with the Tarahumara Indians, who are considered the greatest distance runners on earth. Ted adopted their running style and goes either completely unshod or dons Vibram Five Fingers. He has also experimented with traditional native sandals and has run hundreds of miles in his home made huaraches. I've long been an advocate of barefoot training and I consider over-engineered running shoes as more of a detriment than aid. Ted is certainly in agreement. Thick cushioned running shoes create a neural amnesia wherein the brain loses track of the foot in space. Worse, cushioned running shoes encourage heel striking whereas the ancient way has always been running off the balls of the feet.

I've been an outspoken critic of so-called cardio exercise, and even wrote an inflammatory blog on the ten reasons I don't do "cardio". I do, however, enjoy using my body as it was meant to naturally be used, which includes running through forests and sprinting on beaches. I don't look upon these activities as "cardio" or "calorie-burning" (although they are both) I see them as skills. Moving your body along a winding forest path, jumping over roots and rocks; making steep climbs and descents, is what our bodies were designed to do. this is a far cry from running like a domesticated rodent inside a stuffy gym under the spell of iPod and mirror. Running barefoot through a natural landscape provides a genuine skill element. My friend, the yoga master Andrey Lappa, used to run barefoot though rough terrain in the night to develop his sensory perception to such a high point he could slip and slide through the woods as comfortably as a wild beast.

Running on the balls of the feet is exhilarating and far less stressful to the knees, hips and low back. I'm very impressed with Ted's accomplishments. I have been trail running in minimalist footwear for some time, but Ted and Erwan have beyond-inspired me. My girlfriend has been running barefoot for many years (or in Vibrams) and she runs like a deer. She effortlessly runs over some of the roughest terrains and has some of the finest developed feet, ankles and calves I've ever seen. After looking at some photos of Ted and Erwan running barefoot in the snow just a few miles out of downtown Los Angeles, I pulled out my dusty Vibrams and slid them on my feet. After a push-pull workout, with bonus Pistols, I started my barefoot run (in the middle of a rainstorm) at a slow and easy pace, so my feet would adapt. The rain-soaked muddy trail offered the perfect soft surface for my feet.
After my run, I felt ecstatic. Interesting enough, barefoot running is so efficient--and thus less taxing--that despite not having run in a while, I felt great. I like this natural movement technique and will be including it as part of my kettlebell and body weight regimens.

I recommend anyone interested in this type of training to check out Ted and Erwan's sites and to view Erwan's video again and get a copy of April Men's Health. This type of training is so far removed from the pavements and typical indoor gym workouts as to be incomparable. Caveat: If you wish to throw off your shoes and get started, begin slowly, in order for the feet to adapt. As a matter of fact, it's not only your feet which need to adapt but your entire running form.

If you'd like to learn more about my natural body weight movement and conditioning system, I have several upcoming instructor training events and workshops.

In Strength & Health!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Forget the Economy! Why You Can't Afford to NOT Do Online Training

It's over one month into the new year already! Time to stop licking the financial hemorrhage wounds and get your priorities back on track. Since so many people experience limited finances, it's important not to waste money on BS. You want to spend it on what's really important. What could be more important in this world than your physical health and well-being? You don't need to go out to dinner or otherwise seek entertainments or other dissipations but you DO need to maintain top physical shape and condition. When you look and feel your best, you feel good about yourself and you attract positive circumstances. It's difficult to attract goodness and beauty when you're feeling bad (and looking worse!)

One of the most frequent emails I get (of hundreds each week) is how do I organize my workout routines and what equipment do I need to achieve my goals? Often the requester lists the variety of what they are already doing and overall exhibit utter confusion about how to put it all together.

It's no accident that this is what I selected as my motto: It's how you put it together--because this is what I do best. There are countless people out there spending time working out without a clue of what's best for them. They show up in body but often fall short in mind. I've seen this in commercial gyms all across this country and beyond: people going through the most haphazard routines, using atrocious, if not downright dangerous form, and oft-times partaking in almost bizarre workout rituals without rhyme nor reason. Sometimes it's apparent they're following some type of plan, usually a cookie cutter plan from a fitness magazine, the old one-size-fits-all-but-not-me. Some of these programs are pretty decent but, once again, people fall short on execution, and it's painfully obvious they haven't received any instruction on how to perform the given exercises.

The majority of people need some type of guidance. Most gyms won't provide any type of workout programming unless you sign up for personal training and a good personal trainer is worth his weight in gold, but the good ones are few and far between. Most are amateurs themselves merely biding time until they get a real job. It's rare to find a true professional who's dedicated himself and chooses personal training as a full-time career. And these guys don't come cheap! They're the ones charging between $200-500 an hour and more.

Don't waste your money on the typical Gold's bench-press denizen. In this world, you get what you pay for, and the typical $25-35 an hour trainer is pretty much a waste of your valuable earnings.

If you're motivated enough to get yourself to the gym and don't need any hand-holding on the treadmill or Stairmaster, then you might consider an alternative: online personal training. Once again, if you can't get your ass out of bed in the morning, this, too, is a waste of your money. BUT...if you're simply confused and need someone to organize your training, put together a great routine and assist you in focusing on short and long-term goals, as well as providing the latest nutrition and supplement information, then this is where guys like me come in.

Don't get me wrong: online personal training is also fraught with hucksters and snake oils and you must show discernment to make sure you're getting your money's worth. I've heard some horror stories from clients! One was told to buy a certain book and turn to page, let's say, page 72, where he would find his program!

I've heard other online trainers, some of my colleagues, talk about how they keep cookie cutter programs on file and to download and send because "hey, they get what they pay for, right?" and advise me to do the same. This is tantamount to the personal trainer who takes a seat during his client's workout, engaging them all the while in mindless chatter.

So, how do you know if online training--and the online coach--is the real deal?

1) The trainer should have impeccable credentials and reputation

2) Individualized workouts should be the rule

3) Complete goal-setting should be done up front--both short and long-term plans

4) A complete health and fitness questionnaire to learn your lifestyle and habits

5) A total fitness assessment, including structural analysis

6) The trainer should be accessible for questions and should respond to, or at least acknowledge, requests within a reasonable time frame

7) A good online personal trainer expects to peruse your training log every week and responds with appropriate upgrades
8) Your programs are regularly
changed up as you adapt to--and master--your routine

9) The effective trainer is an example of his own work and theory--beware the fat trainer hiding behind the anonymity of the keyboard, meting out punishments he will not--and cannot--undertake himself!
I'm not saying a guy needs to be Superman, but anyone espousing training philosophy needs to model his own advice to provide a good example for his clients.

10) Your trainer should figure out how to work around you--the individual
He should enable you to work with minimal equipment, provide travel and vacation routines, help you peak for special events, work with you through any injury or illness and, above all, be engaging and fun.

The workouts should not be drudgery, but exciting--or at least interesting--challenges. Hard work, perhaps, but adventures nonetheless.

In this day and age of perceived economic woe and collective fear mentality, you might tend to shrink and pull back from what's genuinely important: your health is your most precious asset. Ask any billionaire laying in bed with a degenerative, chronic disease and he'll tell you all he'd trade for a robust and healthy body. Yet you needn't spend millions; like most people, you simply need safe, sane wisdom and guidance. You won't get good personal training for less than $100 a session and most people aren't willing to pay it.

In these times, online training makes sense and can provide you with the real nuts and bolts of what you need for productive workouts. Those of you who've been suffering from confusion can pay me, now, or pay the doctor later!

With Steve Maxwell, it's the real deal.

PS. My website has been re-done. I've got a new and terrific, motivated, web guy and I'm very happy with the new site. Take a look and let me know what you think.

I've got several workshops coming up and they're filling up, so if you want to decipher body weight exercise, kettlebells and joint mobility, come meet me in person and let's get some work done! Check out the Level 2/Master Workshops.

There's still space in the Body Weight certification this Saturday 7 February in Sacramento. I'd love to meet you there and help you maximize your body weight potential.

Yours in Strength & Health!

Ask Coach!!!!!

...I thought I had a minor strain after several 1-minute sets of 2-Arm Long Cycle//24kgs w/30-sec rest intervals, followed by a rack lunge/Renegade Row superset and a Hindu push-up/Hindu Squat superset on 12-26-08

I backed off, but continued to train, and finished it off on 1-2-09 with 1-min sets of 2-Arm Long Cycle /32kgs. I finally went in and had it looked at on 1-19-09.

He looked at me when I walked in and immediately said, "You tore it."
About 1/3 is torn along the clavicle.

It's really forced me to pack my shoulders and engage my lats during push-ups, very slow, tight, and under control is the only way I can tolerate it. Presses, Jerks, Snatches all cause pain. Push Ups, sometimes; Pull-Ups, Swings, and the Rack position all cause discomfort.

A: I've had great success training through injuries using the Super-Slow technique: basically, very high-tension, slow-motion repetitions using no momentum whatsoever, nor any ballistic stress.

The idea is to perform the negative in about 5-sec, with a slow reversal and the positive in about 10-sec, meaning that in 1-minute you'd do only four reps, at most.

Many people, even with severe muscle pulls, find they can do the slow, controlled reps like this.

To keep up your pulling strength, try the super-slow Body Weight Row, w/ scapular retraction at the top of the movement.
A good workout right now is a steady diet of BW Rows, Push-Ups and (assisted) Pistols.

If movement is too painful, static contractions, with no movement at all, have proven to be very useful.

Picking the weak range in certain exercises can be organized into a very effective workout, for example, holding the bottom part of a push-up, with the chest an inch off the floor, is a brutal chest workout, but safe, since there's no movement.