Tag Archives: fitness

Fitness: Envisioning 2047

Here’s where I’d like to be in 35 years.

>Time for exercise

>The Life and Style section of the Wall Street Journal has several articles on exercise today, this being the start of the annual post-holiday fitness season.

The lead article is about Dr. Paul Williams, whose studies of recreational runners reveal that the more people exercise, the greater the health benefits. The Journal reports that Williams is shunned by all the public health guidelines committees because they are afraid that his data will upset people so much that they’ll get discouraged and stay seated on the couch, stuffing themselves with Twinkies.

Yet it’s been shown, time and time again, that the “start with just a little bit of exercise” approach fails because a little bit of exercise yields little or no results, and the person gives up.

Reading the article on Williams, I realized what the problem with the gradual approach is. It’s time.

Johnson’s critics are insisting that he wants everyone to start off spending lots of time doing aggressive exercise, and I think that’s a straw man. I think he wants people to spend lots of time exercising, but that it needn’t be aggressive.

The problem with the “little bit of exercise” approach is that it offers the delusion that you can get results with very little time invested — popping into the gym once a week, or doing a 15 minute walk three times a week, or playing soccer every Sunday. And of course, none of those approaches will have much of a fitness effect (and it’s very likely the weekend warrior’s soccer game will lead to an injury). The pitfall is that this approach fails miserably when it comes to getting people in the habit of scheduling time for fitness — which is often far more difficult than the actual fitness activities themselves.

What if the little bit of exercise were very gentle, easy exercise (walking or beginning yoga) but the person committed to doing it three or four hours a week? There would certainly be some aerobic, balance, or flexibility effect right away. And by increasing speed, or intensity, or adding something like swimming or belly dancing or a weights workout, the four-hour-a-week exerciser would soon be get some of the profound health effects Williams is touting.

>Something new: Moo Doe

>As part of my exploration of fitness options, I did some web research on Seattle area martial arts programs. But, somehow, nothing called to me.

Friday, after leaving the car to be detailed on Aurora Avenue, I walked over to the Greenwood & 85th business district. It was cold and rainy and not a very exciting day to be out and about. Not much is open before 11, except for a couple of tiny local coffeehouses. One of the closed businesses I walked by was a martial arts studio, of the very traditional variety: many faded black and white photos of masters, a few stacks of simple brochures by the door. I was staring at the brochures when I realized someone was beside me, opening the door. He asked if he could help me, and we went in and talked about the School of Oom Yung Doe (for that’s what it is).

I was impressed by the explanation that Adam, the master, gave about the relationship of the martial arts to yoga, and by his insistence that each individual’s practice be tailored to her or her own body and capabilities. (I will not be expected to go flying through the air, kicking people! The emphasis is on health and efficient use of energy, not on combat moves.)

Today I stopped by the studio with Zorg, who practiced martial arts some years ago and talked with Adam again. Starting the week after next, I am going to give Moo Doe a try. I remarked to Zorg that my renegade yoga teacher, who had nothing but disdain for paternalistic Eastern programs with people bowing to “masters” and murmuring in foreign languages, would be horrified.

“She left,” he said. “You can study anywhere you want.”


>Almost everyone who toys with the idea of making a major lifestyle change can point to some “aha” moment when they realized that The Time Had Come.

In my case, there were two things led me to exercise:

The first was a plant sale at which I found myself surrounded by hundreds of out-of-shape, disheveled, sloppily dressed women my age and I realized “We’ve given up on ourselves and are focusing on nice-looking plants instead. I’m not ready for that yet!”

The second was a meeting with a prospective client, a privately held company making big profits doing bariatric surgery. There seemed to me to be plenty of legitimate reasons why adults long incapacitated by obesity-relate physical problems would need surgery to jump-start life-saving weight loss. But when I heard the program was anticipating government and health insurance approval to start doing bariatric surgery on teenagers, that stopped me in my tracks. When kids over-eat and under-exercise, surely the wrong message to give them is “oh, you can just have an operation.” I came away feeling as though our culture was in such extreme denial about fitness that I would need to move dramatically more and eat dramatically better than “what everyone else does” — or I’d end up a client of the bariatric surgery folks.

Reeling from the revelations of the plant sale and the bariatric surgery center, I followed a friend into a yoga program and never looked back.

Apropos of this, several friends sent me copies of an article in the June 1 Seattle Times about a local bariatric surgeon who closed his practice and changed careers to become a yoga instructor. Now that’s a dramatic (and expensive) change!

I’m interested in the “aha” moments that propel people from “I know I ought to do this” to actually doing it. What was yours?

>What cost fitness?

>I was standing in the shower this morning, rinsing shampoo out of my hair and calculating how much my 3-times-a-week workout program costs on an annual basis when I heard someone pounding on the front door.

It wasn’t that polite Fed Ex we’ve-left-your-package knock. It was the your-car-is-blocking-the-neighbor’s-driveway; the we’ve-got-a-report-of-an-assault type of banging. The kind where you know the person knocking isn’t going to go away and let you finish your shower.

So I jumped out, grabbed a towel and wrapped it around me, and dashed to the front door. I yanked it open to discover one of my neighbor’s contractors on the porch.

“Oops,” he said with a big grin. “Terry said you’d have a key.”

I dripped over to the mail table, got the key, and handed it to him.

Workouts: $1,500-$2,250 a year.

Being able to comfortably answer the front door wearing only a bath towel: Priceless.

>Your workout begins

>OK, Susan has finally started putting yoga workouts online.

For the past 15 months I’ve had the immense privilege of working out with one of the world’s greatest fitness instructors, Susan Powter.

Susan faces (for the umpteenth time in her colorful career) the challenge of figuring out how to replicate the astonishing classroom experiences she gives us so that they are accessible to everyone.

She’s been playing around with some ideas via video, via MySpace, and via blogging, in the past several months. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t.

Now she’s got Susan Powter Online going. This site does not provide the polished, organized exercise information we’re used to from all those videos and DVDs we’ve all purchased (and not used) in the past few decades. This site is about how Susan, who turned 50 two weeks ago, lives a fit, healthy life in her modest, artsy home in Seattle (which she shares with her young son). Here’s some yoga in her little Seattle studio; it’s cold—that’s why Susan starts out in fluffy slippers!

Our workout with her Sunday was in the hallway of the school where we rent space. Temperature? 55 degrees. And we were sweating when we finished.

Here you go:


>Great blog: Male Pattern Fitness

>I just came across the blog Male Pattern Fitness by Men’s Fitness writer Lou Schuler, and I’m impressed. (As well as envious — I’d love to work full time on a health and fitness blog.)

Schuler is doing a bang-up job of covering and commenting on a wide range of health and fitness news. I liked today’s post, quoting Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos, writing about amateur athletes and pro role models. Campos observes: “Shaq generally isn’t available for a pickup basketball game, but anybody can go to the local high school track and try to run 400 meters in 71 seconds.”

Oh, and don’t let the title put you off. There’s plenty of information on women’s fitness in the blog, plus hilarious ramblings like this one debunking a study about the impact of your initials on your life choices.