Monthly Archives: July 2016

External vs Internal

When working out the human body, it is possible to use external exercise that engages the muscles and tendons in repetitive motion on isolated tension.

But for internal exercise, there are two prime methods.  The first is to use the mind to control the breath, and once the qi or breath or energy has accumulated in the head and torso, where the important organs are, it disperses to the rest of the body.

The second method is to move the limbs of the body in movements that resemble natural motion, and watch the energy accumulate in the limbs and afterwards spread to the head and torso.

This perspective on exercise is largely that of qi gong practitioners.  Now to answer wich exercise is preferable, the answer is both.  External exercise is what every athlete does, things like pushups and squats and bench presses and deadlifts.  But the breath goes before the body, and even athletes totally ignorant of qi gong theory have already mastered some of the basics of the discipline.

Qi Gong literally translates as ‘breath work’.  Any effort to control or regulate the breath is a primitive or not so primitive form of qi gong.  Even yoga has breath control exercises within, called pranayama.  Prana means qi or breath and yama means control.

If you do just strength training exercise and neglect cardio and internal conditioning, you might have an impressive physique but you wont be able to do anything with it.  The very basic health regimen for any human being is walking (the most  natural cardio) and stretching, which is a form of qi gong or yoga if you will.

Your workout regimen should not only be effective, it should be easy and fun and doable at any age.  If it isn’t you will eventually quit, and your results will disappear.  Longevity exercise like walking, pushups, stretching, and breath work are good for the goose and the gander.

 

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Form Follows Function

When it comes to exercise, there is a big difference between how a bodybuilder and an athlete trains.  The first is more concerned with aesthetics, while the latter is concerned with the ability to move and compete in their discipline.

If you are looking to improve your appearance, lift weights and eat a high protein low sugar low salt diet.  Strength training is superior to cardio in changing the way you look.

If you want functional strength and endurance, do bodyweight calisthenics, cardio, and eat a moderately low carb diet, with more carbs on the days you are more physically active.

Since I never desired to look good when I was young, I never lifted serious weights.  Matt Furey’s book Combat Conditioning was very influential on me because it taught three simple bodyweight exercises as the core of what you do to get athletically ready for contest.  Every other exercise is just a peripheral.

My favorite cardio is what is easiest, which is walking, something everybody knows how to do.

There is one big flaw with bodyweight exercises without any equipment.  And that is, it is hard to recreate pulling motions without doing pullups on a bar.  Without training the pulling muscles of the back and just doing pushups, squats, and back bridges, this creates an imbalanced body and a slouching posture, something that has happened to me.

I suggest going as old school and retro as possible, doing cardio outdoors and doing your calisthenics in the park.  As long as you are doing natural exercise and you spice up your routine with variety, you will get fit without much effort.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

This is a simple piece of advice I give to a lot of friends who simply don’t listen because they are already addicted to sugar.  In essence, you need zero calories from your beverages.  Water is the primary beverage, and it has zero calories per serving.

The whole debacle between sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, or agave nectar is pointless.  Sugar is sugar, and it has 4 calories per gram.  The best beverages are water, tea or herbal tea, and coffee, and the best thing to sweeten it is something with no calories, like stevia or sucralose.

If you add milk to your tea as the British do, or to your coffee as is common everywhere I know, that adds a significacnt amount of calories, but it is not completely nutritionally void.

I myself like coca-cola, gatorade, and iced lattes as much as the next American, but these are sources of empty sugar, which overload you with empty calories, makes you spend all your hard earned money, and make greedy companies rich at your expense.

No matter what your dietary regimen, 10% of your diet should be junk food and comfort food.  That means, if 90% of the time you are doing good and eating protein and vegetables, then there should be a 10% buffer of junk to keep your immune system strong and you strict on your diet the rest of the time.

Drinking calories is fun in the short run, but in the long run, it just damages your health and makes you die younger.  The wise Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘to lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.’  Reducing fluid calories is definitely a way to increase longevity.