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It is required that one use a little common sense. Not even a lot. Just some. Like, you actually believed that alcohol was good for you? Because the news told you about a study? O, Despair! For reals? Your mommy told you there was a Santa. Your teacher told you there was protoplasm. Can't we just please do a little thinking for ourselves? Yes. Sure. Drinking poison, a toxin, is going to do wonders for you. It's so good for your heart. Mmm. That red wine is a miracle drug! Salut!

Or you could use your brain. Oh, it reduces cardiovascular disease in women? -- raises good cholesterol and moderates bloodsugar? That is so great! And it lowers prudish inhibitions! So that's a win-win situation! And a daily glass of wine is linked to reduced dementia, boneloss, and lymphoma. That too must somehow be good for the love life. Demented, boneless, lymphomatics -- they just don't do it for the happenin' playah.

But drinking any alcohol at all -- let alone "moderate" -- increases risk of getting cancers of the breast, liver, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon and rectum. The cardio benefits of wine are precisely matched by the increased risk of stroke -- it's good for the heart and bad for the brain. Drinking any amount over moderate, one glass daily for women, two for men, is powerfully linked to a plethora of problems. Disturbed sleep, impaired judgment, and slowed reflex reactions. Fetuses. For younger men, the risks of accident with even moderate drinking far outweigh the cardiovascular benefit.

Health benefits? They come largely from the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that red wine and dark beers have, independent of alcohol content. Grape juice does the same thing. Or fruits and vegetables, and they don't deplete your B vitamins.  Yes, it decreases social inhibitions, and not all inhibitions are bad, as not all are good.  So there's that.  On the other hand, one's real, inner playah might show through, whatever that is, and it may be vicious.

The convivial lubricant and gaiety-maker has an  inverse correlation to the quality of the conversation. To those who are enjoying their moderate drink, their comments may seem profound or at least insightful. Conversely, they may seem even more obvious than usual. There is much to be commended in emotional availability and an unguarded tongue. But the same could be said for any of the other recreational mood/mind alterers. When we are sick, we need drugs. Give strong drink to the dying. Alas, the judgment it would take to make the judgment call is impaired by the cure.

The ethanol molecule interacts with human biology in untold ways. Of course there are benefits. But the cardio benefits that moderate drinking provides would not be needed at all, were it not for an toxic diet. To use one poison to mitigate against another poison is standard medical practice. Prevention at the level of root cause is not standard practice. So, sure, if one eats foolishly, drink wisely. There is a wisdom of sorts in this. But it's an ironic one.

Maturity seeks out simplicity, and an apt philosophy in this regard is, be happy. This requires that we be good, in the philosophical sense.  The mild tonic effect that alcohol can have is not toxic. The body can handle small doses of poison. If you know your particular genome down to the final allele, then you can do no wrong, or if you do, it is a considered choice. But ... you don't know your genetics. Live in fear? Feel deprived? No. Be happy. Be happy if you have a stroke, though, or get cancer of the rectum.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


Cutting down animal products in the diet is a generally wise choice. There are very clear problems correlated with a lot of meat in the diet, whereas there are no common problems with a sensible variety of plant-based foods. It's not about being vegetarian -- it's about meeting the nutritional needs of a human body -- which are met in large part by vegetables, fruits and so on. Moderation, of course.

The more interested someone becomes in the elite functioning of their bodies, the greater the attention they will pay to their diet. Garbage in, garbage out. Most people notice a benefit in cutting back on the meat. Nothing to argue about here. If you don't, that's fine. Most do. But some folks feel hungry and tired when they start to cut back on meat. Why would that be, if they're getting all the nutrition they need? And why the craving?

Let's take a little detour. A useful definition of hunger is not "the feeling of an empty stomach," but rather "the body's craving for nutrients." Big difference. We crave what our body actually needs, that will make it stronger and healthier.

Let's take another detour. There's a theory about the role in digestion of our sense of taste and smell. Remember back to seventh grade health class, when we all read about how important it was to properly chew food? Not just to grind it up, but because saliva contains the enzyme amylase, which digests carbs. Perhaps we thought grinding should be enough, and stomach acid would do the rest of the digesting that was needed. Problem is, only protein gets digested in the stomach. The fats and carbs have to sit around and wait, seeping out little by little along with the digested proteins. So in a sense, chewing, mixing in saliva does the job of the stomach, continued farther along. (This is why you shouldn't just chug your juice or smoothie. You should slosh it around, sort of chew it for a while, to get the digestion started.)

And now a final detour -- maybe back onto the main road -- dealing with smell and taste. Your body has to do some phenomenal calculations in order to digest food. It is an astoundingly complex task. As sophisticated a process of analysis as calculating the orbit of Neptune and its moons in your head ... even more sophisticated. Smell, then, is one of the first cues, the first analytical chemical tests that prepares the "enteric" system, the digestive system for the job ahead.

Indeed, the enteric system has more neurons, more "brain cells" than your brain. Smell does more than just make your mouth water. It's telling your brain to tell your gut what's coming, what enzymes to use and how powerful the acid has to be. Same with taste. It's more than just sweet and sour and salt and bitter. The very combinations, it's been suggested, act as a code, a sort of spectrum identifying and anticipating the foods that will be digested -- like the light from a star that tells us what elements it contains.

Regarding cravings, the classic example is the pregnant woman. Some women crave fish or chicken. Omega-3. Appetites can be emotional or physiological. Hard to tell the difference sometimes. But knowing the difference will determine whether you're optimally nutriated, or both overweight and undernurished.

The body needs what it needs, and doesn't care if it has to be a cannibal to get it. What is it in meat, then, that might be craved? First, it might be the emotions. Meat will make you strong, the propaganda goes. We can get over that with a bit of maturity and education. As for physically, there's protein, B12, a few other vitamins, iron, and trace minerals. The dark side of it is that there are also sex hormones and adrenaline and uric acid and other toxins in butchered meat. Slaughtering an animal makes it afraid, and that fear response makes the meat more flavorful. Sorry if you didn't know that. This unfortunate fact, though, accounts for meat's stimulating effects -- all those poisons. Eating a food that has sex hormones and adrenaline in it can make you not-so-tired. So that's one possibility. Meat is literally a drug.

If you're going to eat animal products, meat or eggs or milk, get the real thing, instead of the factory product. A cow raised in a stall for a year is not meat. A chicken kept in a box its whole life is going to be about as good for you as the box was good for the chicken. The pastel eggs they sell will feed your heart disease, only. And we all know that mass-produced milk has a government limit on how much infection it's allowed. You do know that, right? Ah, here. The point is, buy free-range.

Meat is the major source of dietary B12, which is just vital at the cellular energy level. It is highly unlikely that a B12 deficiency would cause a regular mid-week weakness, signaling meat-time. The body is phenomenal at retaining its B12. But the B vitamins in general may be in short supply. Solution? Take a pill. Take two.

Not just vegetarians, but almost everyone gets too little Omega-3. Simple solution, in flax seed oil, walnuts, or even fish oil. It's about health, after all, not doctrinal purity. Nutritionists report that taking flax eliminates at least some food-cravings. So there you go.

Figure it this way. If you're going more vegetarian and still craving meat, or if only it will answer your appetite, well, the obvious thing about meat is the protein. Try a protein shake. See if it works. If so, mystery solved -- you wanted protein. If you're craving veggies, it's likely to be vitamins that you want. Maybe buy a juicer and drink a salad. Throw a handful of lentils or black beans or whatever into your stew. Variety. If you want ice cream, could be you're looking for fats? Try flax or olive oil or fish oil. Eat an avocado or some macadamia nuts. And while your at it, drink enough water. Dehydration messes up your internal chemistry, so you don't know what you want. And while we're on the topic, maybe you'll stop drinking all that soda and coffee?

A naive understanding about health thinks in terms of the body in general. I feel good, I feel tired, I'm achy. When we get a bit more sophisticated we start thinking about organs. My heart, my liver, my kidneys. When we get clever, we understand that all health, all energy, derives from how cells function. So we do what we can to cut down on free radicals and make sure we get CoQ10 (co-queue-ten) and the B vitamins and the like. But there's an even more basic, more important level, which of course would be mental attitude. The mind-body connection is what the body is about. All healing is psychosomatic. The placebo effect cures more problems than medications do. It's just common sense. It's just being responsible. Guard your thoughts and your emotions.

Sometimes as you're trying to fall asleep you might find that you've tensed up your shoulders, or legs or back or whatever. How odd. You'll consciously relax it, and in a few moments you'll be tense again. You might notice that you're holding your breath. You'll be driving, and you've forgotten to breathe. How can you be healthy if you have these unconscious stress reactions going on? Stress both causes and is caused by hormonal imbalances. Adrenaline. Cortisol. Those switches need to be off, most of the time. Why aren't they? No matter how good the diet, it's not going to be optimal until the whole system is under control. Point is, thinking matters.

Well, we've covered a lot of ground, with all these detours. Did we ever get to the answer to that first question, about tiredness and craving? It may be that the answer isn't known. There's a lot of pop literature on diet nowadays that claims there are different body types that need different nutrients. It does sound like it makes sense. If your ethnic heritage included for many generations a large amount of animal products -- say, if you're Masai, or Eskimo -- then you may need meat. But in the mere decades that we in affluent America have been exposed to high amounts of dietary meat, it seems unlikely that we've developed an actual genetic need for it. Meat has always been a luxury -- even in hunter-gatherer cultures. The Buddha died from eating pork. He was visiting some poor folk, who slaughtered their pig in honor of him, and he was too polite to refuse the meal. Point being, it's a luxury -- an expensive one.

Dogs eat grass and cats eat clay. They need something in it. If you need something in meat, that's not the same as thinking you need to eat meat. But moderation is almost the same as forgiveness. A little meat is no big deal. Vegetarians don't think of meat as food at all. But that's just a way of seeing things. No big deal. Be happy. But it's obvious that we'll be happier if we feel well. Diet is a major component of feeling well. Then all you have to do is get your thinking in line, and you'll be a buddha.

Perfection? Not in this lifetime. The world is outside of our control, that we should worry about perfection. But we're not helpless. There is a way that we are indeed Buddhas. We are the lords of our bodies. We can't remake it, but we can do some earthmoving -- redirect a few rivers, cut back some mountains. Not gods, but monarchs, then. That's a lot of power.

That's the sensible way of seeing things. We're not all-powerful, but we're powerful. We have cravings, and we have willpower. We have feast days and fast days. We live in a body, but it is the servant and we are the master. If not, well, time to get rational.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


Let's start with some basics. There's activity. Activity is not exercise. Walking around -- I'm on my feet all day long! It's just movement. Golf. Bowling. Washing dishes. Activity. No embarrassment in this fact. All manner of biological organisms demonstrate a capacity for activity. It's a sign of life. This is a good thing. We are not, after all, inert matter. Most of us aren't. And our activity is of a much higher order than, say, that of mere crystals. We are much more active than crystals. Why, the comparison is ludicrous. But crystals, and some number of humans, do demonstrate a low level of activity. Certainly not exercise. Exercise requires an accelerated heartrate  due to muscular exertion. Why, crystals don't even have a heart. It's science!

Then there's exercising once in a while. It's a good thing, we must suppose. It's like putting money in the bank, once in a while. In a while, in five or ten years, you might be able to take a vacation. That's a good thing. Same with exercise. Surely there must be some good thing about making yourself tired once in a while. Whatever that advantage would be. It doesn't seem clear how randomly stressing your unconditioned body every three or four months is safe or reasonable. But there must be benefits. Lots of benefits. And hardly any of the bloodclots and chunks of cholesterol that are pried loose from your veins won't lodge in your brain ... er, hardly any will lodge. And those flabby muscles won't spasm and those brittle tendons won't tear. Hardly ever. Yes, overall, exercising violently once in a while is a really good and smart and prudent thing to do. Y'think?

And then there's training. The gradual and progressive stressing of your body according to an intelligently designed plan. So that the body has time to adapt, to grow and strengthen not in some haphazard way, not as if you were fleeing wildfires or in a war or some other catastrophe. You know, rational. Warm up. Start slow and easy. Gradually increase intensity, both per session and over weeks and months. Don't overtrain. Work toward specific, measurable goals. Schedule down-time, then set new goals.

Just about everybody on the planet has said to themselves, I'm gonna git in shape! Yet hardly anyone is in shape. Hmm. It's not about inspiration. It's about motivation, by which we do not mean wanting to do something. Motivation has in it the idea of motility. Motion. It's not about emotion. Emotion is great, and if that will cut it for you, go for it. But that rather makes the issue of working out one of mood. Shall we be subject to our moods? Oh, I don't feel like working out today. To which there is hardly any response. Yes, you do too feel like working out today? That's just a lie. You'll work out or I'll shout at you unpleasantly? How rude. You'll work out or else?  Sounds like a civil rights violation.  Quick, call the ACLU.

Part of the problem is that folks don't have a clear idea of what being in shape means. It really isn't about shape. It's about improved function. There are, after all, the mirror muscles -- the prettyboy muscles that the teenagers see in the mirror and think that's all that matters. So you see these dudes with the big manly pecs and the soft curvy womanish backs. Androgynous. These boys do indeed have the shape they think they want. But they're not really in shape.

To put it simply, it's about a few simple movements.

Whatever you push, you should pull. Muscles work in opposition to each other. If you don't work both functions, you'll get imbalanced, which means you will get injured. If you do crunches, do back extensions. If you do pull ups, do overhead presses. If you do bench presses, do rows. The upper body does only two things: it pushes and it pulls. So push and pull. Easy.

But two-thirds of your muscle mass is below your waist. So work your legs. Squats, box jumps, runs. Avoid those leg machines -- we may talk about why, some time. If you do use them, consider that when you walk up stairs, you're carrying all your weight on one leg. So why would you do leg presses with 40 pounds?

The point is that the weight room, or weight training, isn't about moving weight. It's about hormones. The clearest way to send the message to your brain to get the hormones working, is to use a lot of weight. Hey brain, I'm really working here, better make me stronger. This is why lifting a pencil a thousand times doesn't give you big muscles. No matter how big your sexy biceps are, they're still relatively small muscles. By engaging major muscle mass, like glutes and quads, the signal to the brain is clear enough to be overwhelming. Your neck will get stronger, just from the extra hormones in your blood.

For weight training, then, it's really about simplicity. Squats, deadlifts, chinups and overhead press, dips and rows. Curls? Please. Don't. What do you suppose chinups do? Wrist to shoulder ... why, that's just like curls!!! But you're also hitting the delts and the back and the abs and the shoulders and all the little stabilizer muscles in the forearms. It's a smart and natural movement. Curls are for prettyboys. People will be so impressed with my massive muscular manly macho guns. Grr. And just overlook the fact that I have deltoids like a twelve year old girl.

There is no natural movement that curls mimic. Muscles do not function in isolation. It's a nice theory, and if you really want to work out according to the Frankenstein theory, one bodypart at a time, by all means do so. And it does indeed work, the generally ineffective bodybuilder model, if you have the genetics for it, and the steroids. But for normal people it's not such a great idea. Don't believe it? Look at the average guys in the gym. They've read the magazines and are doing the prettyboy workouts, and not making any real progress.

Do as few movements as is reasonable, work with real time-intensity while you're working, give yourself time between workouts to recover and build, and stick with it. Do more every workout -- either a little more weight, or another rep up to your goal. When you hit your goal reps, of say ten, time to add weight. If you can only do eight reps, keep that same weight and do nine or ten the next workout. Then add weight. Simple.  It's not the only way.  Maybe it's not even the best.  But it's really good, and that's good enough, compared to all the garbage ways of doing things.  Before you can be elite, you have to move through adequate.

Strength training makes your bones denser and your skin thicker. It ups your HGH and testosterone levels. It makes you measurably more youthful. It regulates insulin and increases your metabolic rate. You use a hundred calories per day, for every pound of muscle you add. That works out to 8 pounds of fat each year, burned just keeping your new pound of muscle warm. Pretty good deal.

Strength is important. But it's only a part of overall fitness. That's why we're called FitWorks, and not StrengthWorks. We don't call ourselves EnduranceWorks or SpeedWorks or FlexibilityWorks either. FitWorks, because it's about the complete package -- doing everything, and doing it well. Sounds like a good thing, right? It's not like we invented the idea, of competence. It just seems that way sometimes. Be sensible.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


You've noticed in the old movies, the strongmen? They don't look like much, do they. Barrel chests, but sort of spindly-looking arms. Not all that impressive. But oldtime strongmen really were strong. Really. Looking like that, they could lift grown men over their heads with one arm. Not the way dancers lift ballerinas, as a kind of balancing trick. Hoist them up and toss them around. And they did it with those average-looking arms.

Here's the clue. Don't look at the biceps, the arm muscle. Look at the delts, the corner shoulder muscles. We've been fooled, nowadays, into thinking that big manlyish guns are the same as strength. No. It's a part of strength, but by itself it's just a vanity thing, and functionally useless.

It's the whole package that counts, not some disproportionate bodypart that some dude thinks will make him impressive. All those curls, to pump up those arms, and the guy is still weak in terms of getting real work done. Nobody lifts boxes like doing curls. It's a weakest-link thing: all having disproportionately big biceps will do is give you an eventual injury, in the underdeveloped auxiliary muscles. Rrriiiiiiip.

You've seen them in the gym, all grunting and huffing, pumping up those guns. Grrr. And maybe they do something for the triceps as well, cuz they read an article to do that. And working those pecs, with maybe something for the lats because otherwise, um, well they're not quite sure but anyways just be sure to work each of those individual muscles.

Cuz gym bodies are so very attractive. Even though you can see that there's something a bit off, something not quite right, with the picture. Something about balance, about symmetry. It's not really, truly, the Classical Ideal, is it -- not at all like those eternal Greek statues. Something's askew.

Well. There's a lot of talk about the "core" -- by which seems to be meant, the abs. Yes, abs are very nice. But, again, it's not about bodyparts. What are we, grave robbers? -- Igors on a mission from the Doctor? -- with a shopping list for one brain (not evil), a spleen or two, and a half dozen posterior deltoids? The "core" is important because it's what supports everything else. We are not squids, all appendages. There has to be a core.

We say it a lot.  We're not a collection of body parts. It's the difference between pushups and benchpresses. With the benchpress, you're trying to isolate the upperbody pushing structure. You're on a bench.  Sounds so scientific. But in the meantime you're lying down, and nothing else is getting a workout. Is that how the body actually functions? When you have to push your Oldsmobile out of the ditch, you only use your arms? -- maybe first go look for a bench to lie on? Whereas with pushups, you have to support your midsection. It's working. It's part of the exercise.  Pushups are less work, and more. 

This is a very good thing.

You see the point. As much as is reasonable, all parts of the body should be used in all exercises. Whether it's golf, or bowling, or throwing or swimming ... the whole body is involved. Walking up the stairs, unloading groceries, getting out of the car. Exercise isn't about the individual muscles. It's about using the body the way bodies are used, only more intensely, and under control.

The oldtime strongmen knew what they were doing. They got strong by lifting heaving things off the floor to over their heads. They had no conception of isolating a muscle. How would that make them stronger? The application here is that strength, real strength, translates into beauty. If those oldtimers had wanted bigger arms, they could have gotten them. It was a different aesthetic. They were fundamentally right in their approach, whereas virtually everything you see in a modern machine-and-mirror gym is fundamentally wrong.

For almost everyone, the steroid-user workouts, the musclemag workouts that constitute the contemporary approach are totally ineffective. The essential hormonal signal is minimal. The aesthetic result is appealing only to the uninformed. Worse, the whole approach is largely a waste of time. That's why most people quit. That's why the time you've spent in the gym hasn't yielded the results you've wanted. How could those workouts give you good results? Since you didn't take steroids, they almost always have the effect of taking up a lot of your time and effort. If you have lots of time to waste, that's not so bad. But it was disappointing, eh?

If you want to gauge a man's real physical strength, don't look at his arms. Look one muscle up, at the delts. If he's got deltoids, he's most likely been doing real work, and gained real strength. Test it yourself. We do know a bit more about it all nowadays than the oldtimers. But us whippersnappers have become beguiled with a theory, like Narcissus falling in love with his reflection. Just a little pathetic.

It's  about a balanced approach. Be primarily pragmatic. Theories are comforting, but results are what matters. Practice should lead to success. If it doesn't, the technique is, well, garbage. Weights? Yes, absolutely. Some of the time. Isolation movements? Sure, once in a while.

But the body is not a collection of hinges. It is a spring. It all works together. It's great to  enjoy the benefits that come from this understanding put into practice.  Because exactly nobody has all the time in the world.  Time runs out.  Eventually there's no time left even for doing ineffective things sitting on a bench in front of a mirror.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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