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Power Math

There's no doubt that a powerlifter has a lot of strength. He can lift a very heavy thing, when hardly anyone else can. Same thing with distance runners and endurance -- they can cover a lot of ground in less time than the average bus-rider ... if not the bus itself. So for the time and task allotted to them, they have a lot of power, which is work done over time.

And if life were like that, so predictable, where you just know the emergency that will occur will fit perfectly into the one thing you’ve trained for ... well, you’re good to go. Go rescue that puppy trapped under that Buick, or deliver the insulin to the stranded grandma in the hills 20 miles away after a gigantic electromagnetic pulse has taken out the world’s mechanical transportation devices, including, uh, all the bikes too. You’ll be a hero.

But that’s not how life is. It doesn’t ask one thing of you. It asks almost everything, in potential. Nature rewards the specialist by letting it live in undesirable places. Polar bears and alpine goats and cave bats and subterranean salamanders and camels in the wasteland caravansary. We, however, should be good at everything, capable of meeting what life throws at us. Competent over a broad spectrum. Suited to just about any task. Fit in the way that the fittest survive.

So being the strongest guy in the room is good. Being the strongest man in the world is a bit more than seems reasonable. Being able to help a buddy move his refrigerator down the stairs, and all those boxes of disco records he bought at a yardsale and never managed to sell on eBay -- without waking up the next morning feeling like you’ve been trampled by elephants -- this is a good thing, and a sign of robust fitness.

There are lots of good definitions of fitness. They all require being good at more than one thing. Generally, the idea centers around doing a lot of work in a little time. That’s the definition, the formula, for power. Power. P = f x d / t. Force times distance (that is, “work”) divided by time. Force here is the same as weight. So big power is doing a lot of work quickly, small power is doing perhaps that same work, slowly. The point?

The fitter you are, the more power you have -- you can do more, faster. We can and do rely on our natural vitality, and may fake our way through a task. This cannot last. A competent workout will prove it to the un- or improperly-trained, on day one. If you haven’t trained for actual fitness, you will hit the wall, harder than you thought you could. Happens all the time. High school and college athletes come thinking they’re elite. Perhaps they are, in their sport. It doesn’t transfer. They want to quit -- sit down, start crying, vomit, and quit.

It’s not that we demand more than is reasonable. It’s that what most folks think is good enough, is good enough only by a surprisingly low standard. The pork rind and soda pop standard that makes reality TV the gold standard of contemporary entertainment. So it's an eye-opener.

Real fitness is amazing. And by any reasonable standard, it’s not hard to get. Just work differently. A lot of gym time is likely to be a lot of wasted time. See? Intensity is about time, and intensity is required. It’s the faster part of “more, faster”.  It's the power part of work.

Ah well. Wouldn’t it be nice to be powerful. If only there were some way such a fantastic dream could come true. And all the benefits that come with such untold power -- the beauty, the health,the vast fortune, the desire engendered in the inward parts of the groovy chicks or happenin’ dudes.

We say it regularly: health is earned. You must, must, must do the work. There may be magic, but there’s no magic to getting fit. Exercise won’t whiten your teeth, but it will make you look and feel better.  The exercise benefit comes from intelligent intensity.  This is why FitWorks measures the workload and power that workouts generate. Because power and intensity are so closely related.  You'll hear a lot about that, intensity.

No, we do not strive for goals at any cost. “Trample the weak -- hurdle the dead! Grr.” Funny, as a slogan on a teeshirt, but in the real world, foolish and unethical. Goals, at a reasonable cost, in effort, and at a sufficient cost. It's not about hope, buying or selling -- not about enthusiasm, or anything relating to fantasy. It's about results. Emotions, then, are tools that we use to get to goals.  At the end of the day, it's about rationality.  Like math.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

Poto and Cabengo

Isn't it hard? Isn't it hard, being human? Having a past? Why can't we be recreated with every wakening? Renewed, reformed, regenerated. Resurrected. Why not? Because the past is gravity, that holds the universe together, and keeps us from flying away.

Consider, then, Poto and Cabengo. The world would have known them as Gracie and Ginny, if the world knew them at all. But it didn't, until it was, sadly, too late. Two little girls, identical twins, born in 1970, diagnosed early as retarded. Well, not actually diagnosed. The twins had suffered violent convulsions shortly after being born. A neurosurgeon told the father that it might be years before retardation could be ruled out. The father failed apparently to hear the nuances in this communication. "A man of his standing," he said, "knows what he's talking about." And so the girls, defective, were left to the ministrations of a severe Prussian grandmother who spoke no English. Largely ignored. They were not sent to school. They did not learn to speak English, neither German.

Idioglossia. A unique and private language, rarely but usually developed between twins. We would have to assume, twins who are severely neglected by adults. It is not "twin speech," fairly common with very young twins -- a hash of idioms and slurred common words. Idioglossia goes far beyond that; it is a kind of creole, a unique language, complete with grammar and syntax and neologisms.

The language of Poto and Cabengo was a mishmash of English and German, gleaned from the impersonal and other-directed speaking of highly neglectful parents, and the German grandmother. All of whom had given up on the retarded little girls. Who used prepositions as verbs, and had 30 different ways to say potato; "pintu" (pencil), "nieps" (knife), "ho-ahks" (orange), "toolaymeia" (spaghetti -- o sole mio). The girls were listening, you see. They spoke no English. They spoke only to each other. "Poto" (Grace), "Cabengo" (Virginia).

The fact that they were of at least average intelligence is neither here nor there. The early label determined their fate. Back in the late '70s, after the girls had been "discovered" and "treated," a speech pathologist observed, "It was obvious these kids hadn't had much exposure to anything. They wanted attention." No duh. They had never seen anyone climb a tree -- a picture of this rare phenomenon provoked bafflement. With attention, their IQs moved up 30 points, to 80. Still low. But it was still the 1970s.

After many months of intensive intervention, the girls were asked by a visitor if they still remembered their language. "Yes," one answered quickly. "No, you don't!" corrected the dad from the livingroom couch. "I don't know why you are lying about that! You live in a society, you've got to speak the language," he explained helpfully. "They don't want to be associated as dummies now."

The girls were born with normal intelligence. As of 2007, Cabengo worked on a supervised assembly line at a job training center; Poto cleaned tables and floors at a fast-food restaurant.

Yes. The past is gravity. It crushes us if we're over-burdened, and it keeps us from flying. We are not defined by our limits, however, for all that "define" shares its root with "finite". We are defined by what we make of ourselves, within our limits. Consider clay, rank and sodden, which becomes delicate porcelain. It exists within its limits. But its limits are vast.

So it is with you.  You can't be what you can't be.  But you can be what you can be.  You can be excellent. It's about achieving the excellence you're   willing to strive for.  Sensible exercise, sensible diet -- who would have thought that sensible, which demands effectiveness, could result in outright excellence.  Amazing.  The past is indeed gravity. But you can fly.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

Upper Body...

does two things. Pushes and pulls. It can pull down, pull in, or pull up; it can push down, push out, or push up. There's a necessary symmetry to it all: an arms-up push and pull; an arms-out push and pull; an arms-down push and pull.

In terms of exercise we have this: Arms up -- overhead press, and chinups. Arms out -- pushups, and rows. Arms down -- dips, and highpulls.

That's it. That's as complicated as it needs to be. Simpler? Of course. The arms-down and arms-out pushes -- dips and pushups (or benchpress) -- cover a lot of the same musculature. Do one or the other. Alternate. Whatever. Same with the arms-up and arms-out pulls -- chins and rows -- a fair bit of redundancy. The unique push is overhead, and the unique pull is from below. They're more shoulders than arms or chest or back, for purposes of this discussion. Traps and delts. Seems like that would make them more important, not less. But you never would see the dudes in the gym doing them in a meaningful way. It's all about the benchpress and the curls -- cuz pecs and guns is what it's about, dude. The chicks dig 'em.

The point is functionality. If you do a natural and full range of functional movements, you'll develop proportionally. If not, not. Aside from the asthetics of it all, there's the functionality. Bodybuilding and the gym mentality of muscle isolation has done more damage to actual athleticism than, than ... well, than television has. Television and twinkies. And heroin. And global warming. It's a fact. Because unequal development, disproportional development, leads to injury. So that manly chest grafted onto the front of that delicately feminine back -- its benefits are purely superficial and short-term. And it looks kind of freaky, to an informed eye. Michaelangelo would cringe.

Ah well. Here's an application workout of what we've talked about. As many sets as possible in 20 minutes of:

5 ringdips &  5 highpulls (95 lbs)
10 OH presses (95) &  10 chinups
15 pushups &  15 ring-rows

Ring-rows -- just a reverse pushup, lying on your back under the rings. How long will all that take? Twenty minutes, weren't you listening? The question is, how many sets in that time. Well that's a question the answer to which depends entirely on you.  Just bear in mind that it's not about upper body.  It's about body.  And mind and spirit.  But you have to start somewhere.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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