Sunday, May 29, 2011

bikini bodies - few and far between

i've been real busy lately, so i have not taken time to blog. today my oldest daughter, lydia, graduated h.s. after many grueling years of late nights and drama. off to college next fall - bates, in maine - and independence, a phase i hope she finds every bit as enjoyable as the one i'm in now that she is leaving to find adulthood. not that i won't miss her; rather, i'm so proud of her and so respectful of the work she has done that her departure is a source of joy - because i know she can do what she sets out to do. a parent's fantasy....

but this blog is about what you set out to do - to be independent of society's imposition on your self concept. you see, bikinis are, by their design, esp nowadays, exposing, not just revealing, and they show way more than most women feel comfortable showing. and for those of us who are body watchers, they also show way more than we want to see. but they are really cover-ups that enable women to share in sun and fun, and to that extent should not be frightening - except for those involved heavily with dermatologists or dermatological issues. you see, very few women have 'perfect' bodies, with 'perfect' skin that does not wrinkle or sag, and that is disturbing to them, so much so that they even resist wearing any bathing suits - they wear loose fitting garb with shawls or cover-ups that look comfy but can't be swum in. i have seen this with lydia, who has a nice figure but excess fat. hence, she has spent the past 2-3 summers nearly refusing but definitely fearing to wear even a bathing suit let alone a bikini.

now, i am a body watcher. i am a critic of what the female, and male, body looks like. but i attest that my repulsion of some bodies results not from their appearance alone but from their lack of fitness. many a young female wear a bikini or even just a pair of tight pants with bare midriff, and don't look good despite youthful skin. like my daughter, they are out of shape with no obvious intent to alter it. what with a better diet and some exercise, they could proudly expose as much as they are comfortable exposing without exposing/revealing their inner fears. perfect - no; but happy with their bodies' abilities to do what they do to be healthy and fit; happy that they're treating their bodies with respect by feeding them healthy diets; and happy that, despite being less than perfect, they are not even striving toward it - they are enjoying themselves at the beach or by the poolside. it is how this article concludes and why i propose that women get out their bathing suits and maybe even their bikinis and show off what they've been doing to take care of themselves, rather than try to please the mass-media image of beauty or even their own self concepts.

but first, do take care of your bodies:

Friday, May 20, 2011

the pain and pleasure of exercise

an interesting article in the Times debated, or better still explicated, the contention many athletic and competitive people make when they say they love exercising through the pain. it concludes that pain, as some describe it, is not really pain as our nervous system might describe it:

having trained and competed in a sport - tae kwon do - inspired by causing pain in others (but unmistakeably causes pain in the athlete trying to cause it to the other - ask any boxer) i know a little about the pain and pleasure of training. to be honest, i never incurred serious pain - unless you want to include getting kicked in the groin, having serious tendon and bone injuries, etc as serious pain - but i do know that euphoria that takes place AFTER it's all over. man, it's great when class is over and you and your colleagues limp out of there like limp noodles all wet and droopy. what pleasure!

honestly, tho, all athletes know of someone who actually did compete in serious if not life threatening pain, and what kind of reward must have been offered to make it possible for them to continue?

i would argue on a third definition as from the two in the article above: the pleasure of communal experience.

much like laughter or the thrill of a last-second, game-winning goal, the joint sharing of that experience is often enough to drive athletes to work through the pain, and i do mean real pain. we see this in sport, we see it in the military (read "lone survivor" about the Navy SEALS team that fought its way to nearly-complete destruction in afghanistan), and we even see it in business. yes, in business, esp in fast-paced, hi-caliber team-decision making businesses, like marketing and advertising, where groups work together on projects often into the wee hours of the morning for days or weeks on end, suffering each others attitudes, ideas, idiosyncrasies, and personalities, if not eating behaviors and body odors, all for the common goal, the one they are all striving to accomplish in competition with inside or outside competitors. all enduring pain for the common pleasure of victory.

now, is this truly pain? this is like asking if people with depression are really depressed. mental pain, accompanied by physical discomfort, is pain, too. is it equal to the pain of extreme hunger - see - to get a new perspective on that. anorexics, for example, don't feel pleasure from food; they feel anxiety. and brain scans show it. is it equal to the pain of having your leg blown off by a mine? how many acts of bravery and grit in battle are noted because of the extremity of physical damage to the perpetrator, all to be overcome, or discounted, for the pleasure, if you can call it that, of standing alongside one's buddies and comrades during difficult times?

no, i would argue that pain is pain, and that sometimes, in certain circumstances, with certain people by your side, the pain you are willing to endure is not only real, it's even enjoyable in a certain kind of way. it's what makes us, as individuals and as a group of whatever sort, better.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

mind vs body, or mind & body...or mind BECAUSE of body? those are the questions. whether tis nobler to develop the brain whilst allowing the body to rot from the inside out; or to develop the body and let the brain evolve into a way station fro hedonistic and/or athletic purposes; or to enable the brain to develop to its maximum if not optimal potential by both engaging it and the body in which it grows - these are the issues that keep coming up in the literature of fitness/activity and mental well-being.

thus, this piece:

a lot has been published lately probably in response to the increasing numbers of baby boomers and the general aging of the population that assert exercise's value in maintaining mental function. some even allude to the anti-depressant value of exercises - done regularly, mostly aerobically, and consistently. but general moods? well, this article brings up the idea that maybe exercise in the extreme is mood altering in ways we don't want it to be. of course, extrapolating from mice to men is questionable in this case as in others.

to be fair, the authors of the study, along with the author of this article, asserted other reasons for the mice's reactions to stressors (hiding in the corner), including better survival instincts. their reactions appeared to be those of enhanced anxiety attributed to neurogenesis in the hippocampus. (other studies showed that mice with less neurogenesis in that part of the brain did not get as anxious as those with normal or more.) furthermore, other studies show that neurogenesis from running differs from other forms of neurogenesis: it actually calms you down, reduces anxiety.

so, the take home message is, don't worry, or be anxious, about growing new nerves while you run. in fact, if you run, and presumably do other forms of aerobic exercise, you actually won't worry as much as others under the same stress loads. we've known this for years, and if you are an avid exerciser, you know how much more stress you can handle than when you didn't or can't exercise. it's just that scientists are trying to figure out why.

let them worry about it.....

i came across this blog article on nutrition and thought i'd share it with you. i posted it on my facebook page, too. (STEPS Personal Fitness Training) anyway, i thought it was a valuable piece of the puzzle as most athletes and non-athletes are stymied by the many mis- and myth-conceptions of carbs and protein consumption. simply put, there is this idea that if you train empty (of blood sugar or muscle glycogen) you will get more efficient at burning fats. and there is some truth to this. however, two facts mitigate against this concept of training, esp for athletes: first, that training itself makes your body more capable of using fats for fuel in order to spare glycogen for later in the run/race; and two, burning fats is a less efficient means of producing energy and is best done at LOW intensities. thus, if you are an athlete, you are already burning fats efficiently when you perform below, say, 70% max; and since you rarely compete at that low an intensity, and need to train at higher intensities in order to raise your lactate threshold and your neurological movement patterns, why spend too much time below 70% hungry. in fact, this type of training, except for ultramarathoners who probably do compete at below 70% max, is probably counterproductive.

now, for those trying to lose weight, esp body fat, training at this or lower intensity is appropriate both for its ability to be sustainable during exercise and repeatable on a near-daily basis. however, one would have to train for longer periods of time to get the same caloric value of the exercise session that could be achieved if done at higher intensities. since the latter is not an option for those who are out of shape and overwt, go slow, burn fats, but mainly burn calories. that's because the ONLY way to lose wt is by creating caloric deficits, and while dieting is more efficient, as i've written before, only with exercise added into the program is wt loss truly sustainable.

so, go fast, go slow - don't matter. just GO!