Thursday, 7 November 2013

What do you want out of life?

What do you want out of life?

Socrates thought the unexamined life was not worth living? When was the last time you stopped to think about why you are doing certain things in life? Why do you live where you live, why do you think like you think, why do you associate with certain types of people? It may seem simple, but often people go into 'auto pilot' mode for years of their life and only 'snap out of it' with the death of a love one or by having a baby or by some other life event that 'demands' attention. However you cannot properly think about these things while in class or in a meeting, you need to properly think. For that I recommend a few things, silence, solitude and sneakers.

Going for walks, alone, in nature without any iPods or phones or camera can be a wonderful time to think about the big picture in life. Just strolling along, at an easy pace, allowing your mind to wander and expand can be a wonderful exercise in a society that demands either multitasking in thinking or tuning out completely. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Fitness Tip: Do you want to look fit? Start smoking cigarettes!

Do you want to look fit? Start smoking cigarettes! 

Cigarettes? you mean like those 'cancer sticks'??? YES! 

Here I am on a pack of cigarettes- in another "possible world" where I had a stroke because I smoked cigarettes. And while the picture is real, the people are real, and the campaign is real, the story the picture tells is real, the fact is the person in the picture (ME) is not really disabled nor had a stroke. Just like all of tv and visual media, it is a world of make believe and the internet is the world of pictures and make believe. So I am sure many people see this and think- that guy really lives in a wheelchair.

Photo's, Fitness and Health

What does that have to do with fitness. Well the fact is that you cannot tell my fitness levels from a doctored photo, and the same goes for most pictures in fitness magazines and websites.The problem in fitness today boils down to this. The public associates a ripped body with health and fitness. Generally because when the public actually see athletes perform on TV or wherever they are in contest shape and the TV focus on the sexiest images they can find. So people think all athletes and people who are fit, also look like underwear models. This is the first big mistake, fitness and appearance  do not go hand in hand. For example, look at this athlete, who performs very well but certainly would not get a Calvin Klein modelling contract. Here is a picture of a real athlete, as in a shot putter at a recent Olympic Games in Athens. 

REAL ATHLETE: but not exactly shredded abz (what gives?)

Pro Bodybuilder, now dead: literally overdosed on physique drugs. But he was shredded! but dead! This is not a rant about the pros and cons of steroid use or HRT or any of that tired old story, just watch the relatively entertaining documentary Bigger Stronger Faster and come to your own conclusions about the role of steroids in modern north americana culture. Or better yet, watch The Wrestler and how he approaches getting in shape for the big match. Very American.

Conclusion: looking fit and being fit are not necessarily connected. Okay got it! 

Link to smoking study! I linked a study from pub-med because in the fitness world it is the be all and end all of scientific facts. lol

Here you will find solid, rational and functional advice that will help regulate your appetite, all you have to do is start smoking cigarettes.And this is where is gets crazy! In the world of Facebook and Instagram pix, to be considered fit you a only need to look it, to win a competition you only need to look a certain way for a few hours really. That is called "peaking". So why would someone not start smoking, since health seems no longer to be part of the equation? Seriously this is a major topic and the source of many debates. 

(ps- just in case the humour is lost on anyone :)  I do not recommend smoking but use it as an example of the types of unhealthy things people will do for the appearance of health and fitness at the expense of health and fitness. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Is city life superior to rural life?

An 'issue' that I have been thinking about recently is the relation of urban people (YUPPY, GUPPY, etc) with rural people (hicks, rednecks, etc).

 Pop culture would have one believe that city people are somehow more developed/better/smarter then rural people. For example, in Freakanomics, the economist author from U of T assumes smarter people move to bigger cities for better jobs, have smarter kids, etc. Furthermore we think of civilization as the rise of 'city life'-but in my experience the bigger the city the more violent, dirty and hostile they become. Does concrete really trump trees? Its like when some idiot looks at a patch of forest and calls it 'undeveloped land.'

Any thoughts from my big city or little town friends on this topic?

Monday, 19 August 2013

The myth of progress: the Russian Olympics

Vladimir Putin is kind of like a James Bond Super Villain. Climbing the ranks of the KGB and seizing total power in present day Russia - a power that will last into the foreseeable future. This guy does what he wants and is representative of the 'might makes right' mentality which has been so prevalent in history.  But instead of building a moon base or an underwater castles his new mission is to push back progress in human rights, in this case, gay rights in Russia.

Super Villain or plain asshole?

He is the leader of a supposedly 'developed nation' who participates in things like the modern Olympic Games.
But he has recently made headlines with a updated annihilation of 'gay rights' and people not only outraged but are wondering how this will effect the Olympic games and the support of Russia. This has come as a major shock to most of the developed world since human rights protection has grown so much in recent decades. However, what we find in Russia is an example of how there is no 'human progress' outside of laws and legislation really. That is why we need to fight so much for awareness and legislation in the directions of justice. That is why advocating for human rights and the protection of people (and animals) is such an important topic-because it needs constant attention and reinforcement. Just because we have IPhones 5's and the internet does not mean that human beings on a whole have become more compassionate or understanding then they were in the Dark Ages. Russia is a perfect example of this right now. That is what I call the myth of progress- just because we make some progress  does not guarantee that it will last and like staying in good physical shape- fighting for human rights is a repetitive task that takes courage and endurance in the face of gigantic obstacles.
I know that these types of pictures make it seem like we are somehow progressing? But what is progressing?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What is Fitness?

Philosophy can get very nit-picky with details and that is a real strength of philosophy.When Socrates challenged his fellow Athenians with questions of justice or religion he shocked and surprised people by their own answers. Alan Watts once referred to philosophers as 'intellectual yokels' since they stop and stare a things most people pass by in the average day. Henry Davis's poem "Leisure" captures this philosophical mood as well when it discusses the virtues of just standing and watching squirrels in nature. That is why philosophers like to discuss stuff like equality, justice, how our intuitions and common sense are often wrong, and question the basis for knowing anything? When it comes to fitness, the few philosophers that have anything to say about it generally discuss 'issues within fitness' like the role of drugs in sports or the politics of the Olympic selection committees- important issues. However, for fun this month I am slowly reading through Richard Dawkins famous pop-science book, The Selfish Gene. The general thesis is that it is about individual and not necessarily species survival in evolution and that the genes that are most selfish (or the most likely to want to preserve their own life at the cost of others) are going to be the strongest and most likely to survive and thrive. Therefore, in a very Aristotelian manner, Dawkins suggests we can use the human mind and reason to override these selfish instincts and be more altruistic. Anyway the book got me thinking about evolutionary biology and psychology and the idea of 'fitness' as it relates to evolution. Genes are like Schopenhauers's 'will to life' which is the driving force behind plants reaching for light and humans wanting to reproduce and much, much more. For Dawkins, genes "use" bodies to survive, and in this way we can almost think of genes as having many lives before ours and many more in the future and it starts sounding a little bit the the myths of reincarnation. 

However, I digress and want to focus on fitness which is defined by Dawkins as:"fitness has the special technical meaning of reproductive success" which means that fitness is necessarily related to reproduction. So to be fit means that you have good reproductive chances based on a given community- even if Dawkins chooses not to use the term fitness for most of the book. SO fitness in this sense means that we are healthy and capable of reproducing. However history is going to change what that means since for primitive humans what was necessary for reproduction will be very different from today. In primitive times it may have meant having the strength to kill competitors for a selected mate (I have no idea how cave people 'courted'?) BUT today it is much more about displaying physical beauty, and emotional and financial strength in order to show potential 'mates' that you would be a great choice to reproduce with. I guess that is why the 'fitness industry' is in many ways very superficial and based on pictures and videos and poses and all kinds of surface level stuff. Perhaps even more ironic is the fact that people in 'stage shape' often are not in a biological state that is even capable of reproducing at that time. When men use testosterone it can inhibit sperm production and many women lose their periods with harsh diets and androgenic drugs. So the term "fitness" (like many words as philosophers like to point out) is a tricky topic to pin down precisely.

Friday, 21 June 2013

15 Facts about Food and Fitness: please debunk/ troll me and we all might learn something

1. There is no essential daily carbohydrate level.
2. There is an essential fat level.
3. There is an essential protein level.

4. Your brain uses 25% of daily carbs and so if you need to use your brain you actually now have a certain amount of carbohydrates needed. 25% of 50 grams is 12.5 g sugar and so you probably need more if you want to do any sort of intellectual exercises in your day. 

5. Never drop carbohydrates below 10 % of calories or your body will just convert amino acids to sugars to burn and that is a waste of money. Furthermore ketosis and peeing on keto-sticks is un-neccesary to benefit from low carb diets.

6. All carbs break down into simple sugars and this is why fat free oatmeal and lucky charms are basically the same in your system. Its just that oatmeal has some more fibre and may fill you up longer and lucky charms has weird colours and artificial flavours that may have negative health effects.

7. Drinking tons of water will not help you burn calories but it will keep you hydrated which will make you less hungry (through mistaking thirst for hunger).
8. There is a major difference between a diet that will make you 'peak' and be in great shape for contest day and a diet that will help you be in 'good shape' all year around. 

9. Most popular historical based diets are silly (ie Paleo diet) -no one really knows how people ate around the globe 50-250 million years ago- we can assume they ate other animals when they could, perhaps other humans, and lots of leafy plants, bugs, worms and whatever they could get their hands on. They did not eat buffalo steaks with pineapple and goji berry salsa with a side of coconut water- modern paleos can only eat such a diverse geographic range of foods due to transportation and gas guzzling machines 'serving' the first world desires. 

10. Agriculture is about 10,000 years old, humans ate lots of wheat in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, rice has kept Asia flourishing for like 7,000 years (at least) and so YES humans can 'naturally' eat lots of carbs and 'man made' foods like bread, butter, wine, sausage, olive oil and spice it all up to make it tasty. Hence why Marco-Polo even went on his trip. 
11. Strength athletes have historically eaten more meat then non-atheltes, hence why Aristotle says that moderation in portions of daily meat for a weightlifter is different then moderation for an average non- weightlifter.
12. When Socrates was condemned to death in Ancient Athens, when asked what his punishment should be he said-"Free meals for life". Which was the custom reward for an Olympic champion. 

13. Some people have unique health conditions that can make weight loss/gain virtually impossible unless medically treated. Ex: low thyroid, low testosterone, diabetes, allergies (real ones), and even some of my research points to the idea that having an ADD type personality actually makes it almost impossible to 'stay consistent' on a plan- and consistency is the true secret to any good diet, It takes time and we need to program in habits so we can live on a desired auto-pilot.

14. Eating food is more then just calories, it is a HUGE human social behaviour such as 'family dinners', 'lunch with friends', the school meal hall or cafeteria where all kinds of socializing takes place, as a religious custom of feasting and fasting, and so we cannot expect to enjoy life if we say no to every event and person that does not fit into our chicken breast and broccoli diet or does not want to agree on the merits of veganism or whatever-  just eat together!

15. The ethical philosopher Peter Singer will say that you are a privileged human being if you drank anything beyond tap water in the last week AND also had access to clean tap water. Since you are reading this on the internet, then count your self lucky and very privileged and realize that people are actually starving to death while we throw out egg yolks for our fat free omelettes and turn down perfectly good  bread. Something to think about. 
P.S. -while eating meat is a biologically and historically sound practice, there are many good ethical arguments against eating meat. Whether it is based on the assumption that animals have rights or instead based on the simple idea that animals suffer pain (furthermore they suffer the inability to satisfy their natural life preferences) when we treat the solely as food and not as fellow animals here on earth. SO if you ask is eating meat bad? Ask yourself, would I want to live a short live just to be food for Martians?

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Jock and the Nerd: Part 3: The rise of Skepticism

The spread of cheap and fast global internet access, web2.0 free blogs, the proliferation of very smart phones and the wacky world of social media have had a great impact of the world of fitness. Some good, some bad and ALOT of confusion, paralysis through analysis and minutia arguing.  I have previously blogged about the blurring of the nerd and the jock- or that of the intellectual and that of the physically dominant, and how dumb jocks have synthesized with 'science nerds' to create a new breed of internet fitness peeps. 

However in reality, for most of history, people have stayed fit without any special methods that derive from contemporary molecular biology and so perhaps the jocks were all that were needed? In fact Aristotle mocked the 'ascetic' lifestyle and specific dietary demands of Herodicus who was the 'original' exercise scientist or kinesologist like 2500 years ago!  

BUT in a age of internet photo shops, 'supplements' and 'expert and specialized programming', the role of science is to wear glasses and a white lab coat and stand behind some spray tanned bodybuilder and 'verify' his claim that MegaPump42 will pack on LBM faster then any steroid and reverse aging, and raise i.q. enough to count over 12 reps, etc. Seriously go pick up a muscle rag and look at the 'advertorials' and you will see the bodybuilder with a scientist standing somewhere or at least a molecule symbol of something to give it 'lab cred'. So let me reiterate. The role of science (the nerds) in fitness is to give some sense of authority to the ad copy since anyone who knows how this science stuff really works will tell you a single study doesn't mean much and bad studies or really old studies being used to verify claims are just dishonest. Such is the fascinating interconnections of academia and business. Furthermore, since PUBMED is full of papers- one can easily cherry pick studies to back up just about any claim, and we  see that happen all the time. For example, studies showed Boron increased testosterone in pregnant females temporarily in the 60's or something like that-TRANSLATE TO AD COPY- scientists discover 'chemical' that increases human muscle growth and fat loss 500%! SO what role does science play in fitness? Well a long term role is to verify and invent ideas that can help people, but it is a painfully long and slow process that is under constant revision and there is no real sense of absolute stability in any of the findings. 

SO we now come to an age old practice and school of philosophy- Skepticism- from the ancients through Hume and what it means today in relation to 'sports science.' While scientists should be skeptical, skepticism finds its roots in the philosophical questioning of everything. Hell science is actually philosophy but that is another story but for now please enjoy this 3 minute cartoon on the life of David Hume. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Jock and the Nerd: Part 2: Fitness and Philosophy

Today I want to "ramble on" about the growth of 'philosophers' concerned with fitness (sort of), and also the growth of 'fitness pro's" concerned with philosophy (sort of).  When I started this blog The Fitness Philosopher (before the inevitable online copycats) back in 2011 it was kinda of a joke because a few friends referred to me as the 'fitness philosopher' which grew out of my study and writing in 'the philosophy of the body' which is related to 'philosophical anthropology' which is a special area of philosophy not found in many philosophical academic departments in NA. I have been in the fitness biz since the mid 90's and BA degrees in Philosophy and Psychology and a MA in Philosophy and now am finishing a PhD in Philosophy.

 SO while being a fitness pro and a philosophy student I noticed that most philosophers I went to school with or studied under, had either ascetic lifestyles (read alone a lot, information geeks) or hedonistic lifestyles (smoke, drink, drugs, argue a lot) but not really balanced and fit lifestyles. This was in direct opposition to my philosophical heros such as Aristotle-who ran a gym/school/sweet plot of land called the Lyceum. In fact gymnastics is the 'first' form of education for the Greeks before drawing, reading and music. 
The actual Lyceum grounds! Not as big as I pictured in my head! 

In contrast,  most 'fitness pros' were either just into sports  or into "science" but not philosophy, and what they did know about philosophy came from yoga or Mike Menzter. You see Mike Mentzer (who was a genius on amphetamines or just plain crazy) thought of himself as a 'thinking man' and a 'rationalist'  but really he just was a fan of that pseudo-philosophy of Ayn Rand -which promotes selfishness as a virtue (really it does) and which was the basis of the failed Paul Ryan budget based on cutting off all forms of welfare.  

Just google 'Ayn Rand sucks' for more info on "objectivism"- and so anyway Menzter thought of himself as the 'virtuous hero' compared to to the Machiavellian Schwarzenegger (and I won't get into the 1980 Olympia clusterf*ck now either) but the point is Mike took bodybuilding past plain old marketing (Weider, Arnold, everyone!) and tried to make people think about how to workout. While Bulgarians and a bunch of commies had been doing this for decades -the cold war was still on. So Mike put out some books (again just novel 'fitness products') with titles like Heavy Duty 2: Mind and Body. So Mike became the 'thinking mans' bodybuilder but did not really fill their minds with good philosophy. 

Part 3 -coming 'sometime after now'

Friday, 12 April 2013

Are constantly having goals a good thing?

Fat and Happy Buddha-looks very different then Sad and Skinny Buddha!

Having personal goals and all that is great but the first world is becoming obsessed with 'realizing potentials' -and while that is nice to an extent, it is not only a major first world luxury but can be a real source of discontent. Since some philosophers will argue that the root of suffering is in thinking that you still have to 'be' somewhere or something else before you can be happy. Be that richer, thinner, smarter, bigger muscles, enlightened mind, more connected, whatever... In Zen there are 2 main schools, the meditate until you get enlightenment version which is very popular in the west today and then version I prefer which asks 'how can you make a mirror out of a stone?' ALL THAT IS LEFT TO DO IS HAVE A GOOD LAUGH! enjoy the weekend!

Here is a link to learn more about Japanese Buddhism and Rinzai and Soto Schools:


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring Cleaning!

Frank Zane AKA the Chemist! 

Now that Spring is here it is a good time to re-think your fitness habits. One of my favourite old school bodybuilders Frank Zane was a thinker, a math teacher and quite philosophical. He talked about how it is easier to get in shape in the spring since there is a natural shedding in nature and a re-energizing of the environment that we can tap into to. Perhaps that is why so many bodybuilders flock to Sunny place to live! Here in Canada the lack of sunlight in winter puts a lot of people into 'hibernation mode'. When the sun sets at 5pm and there is 4 feet of snow outside it is hard to feel 'springy' and want to jump around. Now that spring is softening the environment we can use the opportunity to get outside more and play! Here is a simple plan to ease into spring!

Spring Clean Up Plan:

1. Eliminate all beverages except for water, herbal teas and black coffee. This will create an automatic calorie reduction in your day without changing your main eating habits. Water is funny stuff, if you don;t drink enough you will hold water and look puffier and so drink lots of water and to keep your system moving. Ask yourself does my blood seem more like a stagnant pool or a rushing river that creates all kinds of neat electrical charges! 
2. Try and walk outdoors 3 x per week with someone else or alone. Go outside and walk for 10-20 minutes and then walk home for a good 20-40 minutes of fresh air and cardio. Don't wear a hat and let the sunlight hit your forehead! 
3. Do some resistance training 2 x wee. Something like swimming, yoga or weight training to challenge your muscles. Squatting onto a chair for 60 seconds will get you started, add in some push ups and planks and your are doing great! 
4. Maybe paint a room or clean out some closets to 'refresh' your living space! 
5. Buy some new sneakers or comfortable shoes or even workout gear to motivate you to use it! 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Getting good fats: meat or coconuts?

Ummm! Co- co- nut!
There is no really good philosophical argument for eating meat. Yes all kinds of people on the net  "preach" paleo, caveman, carnivore, hunter/gatherer, as if eating this way will act like drugs and totally transform how you look and feel. Arguably the main benefits of these diets are actually from the increase in whole foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts in addition to the elimination of junk food, fast food, processed foods, flour based foods, sugar based foods, etc. The meat which gets emphasized (like Atkins did with bacon) is really just a kinda sales tactic to people already used to eating lots of meat and enjoying it and also in reaction to the whole low-fat phase the fitness world went through for a good 20 years. Ex. are you sick of low fat chicken and rice? Eat full fat buffalo and blueberries instead.

I have gone long periods of time without eating any meat, in fact years with no red meat but now I am back to being a regular old omnivore. I eat meat because I seem to crave it, but a moments reflection allows me to realize that I am not craving flesh but the nutrients I get out of it. So over the past few months I have been going crazy with full fat coconut milk and it seems to have fulfilled my needs for fatty meats. Coconut milk is high in fat and good calories, fibre, MCT's (a special medium chain triglyeride which I used to sell as a fitness supplement, but that naturally occurs in coconut) and loads of  vitamins and minerals. So if you are trying to cut back on meat for whatever reason-there are many good arguments against eating meat- then start drinking and cooking with coconut milk (in cans) and cooking with coconut oil! Great alternative to saturated fats from animals!

Friday, 18 January 2013

PUMP IRON by Bob Couch! A philosophical reflection by the Fitness Philosopher!

Bob Couch – Pump Iron: Is this the best song ever written?
Not to be confused with the 1977 Arnold S docu-drama "Pump-'ing' Iron." Rather it is a simple song whose lyrics are a summary of the benefits of weight training or what the Ancient Greeks called gymnastics. Here is my philosophical analysis of this song/gift that speaks a timeless message which is that all humans gotta "pump iron!" My thoughts are in brackets and bold. 
The Lyrics!  
Well working real hard I’m just a middle class man, working for a man that I can’t stand. Clearly a Marxist critique, through Herbert Marcuse and Ardent, of man as one dimensional and 'the worker', alienated from the fruits of his labour in post industrial technological society, left to toil endlessly like Sisyphus with no sense of accomplishment. Furthermore a Weberian critique of the modern work ethic and capitalist psychology of the 'boss'.
Sometimes it takes all I got to get me through the day. Demonstrating the suffering at the heart of a life in which human potentials have been subordinated to the utilitarian ends of production. 

So when I get home about half past five, I need to do something that helps me unwind. After a full day of labour the worker is still 'wound up' since the energy was not grounded or released in the artificial labour which cannot fulfill the basic human need for physical accomplishment. 

I need to do something that keeps me from going insane. Here we find Freud's critique in Civilization and its Discontents of human instinct being subordinated to human convention causing mass neurosis.
I need to pump iron. (analogous for getting back in touch with the basic natural elements)
I need to push out another set. (he needs to be self determined and push on)
I need to pump iron.
I got to work off all this sweat. (curious line, while working out makes one sweat, this new sweat of working out acts like a baptism and cleansing of the body covered in the 'sweat' of toil. 
You see but working out my muscles I’m relaxing my mind and after an hour or two I’ll find, my whole outlook on life is shiny and new.(key line of the whole song. Working out muscles causes a 'state change' in the body on many levels. Phenomenologically there is a opening of the way we are in the world, and to quote Heidegegger's, Being and Time 'a mood of elation, alleviates the manifest burden of being." This new mood, that results from 'pumping iron' transforms the world we find ourselves thrown into, and where we previously saw barriers we now feel communion, and where we felt threatened before, we now can courageously march into the unknown!
Now it’s saturday morning and I want to sleep in, but the nextdoor neighbor’s dog is barking again. The wife and the kid been bugging me to go for a ride. But a week’s worth of work is piled up by now, and I’m expected to get it done somehow. Then I gotta find the time to do what they wanna do.(while at first you think he is shirking his family responsibilities, instead he is making a rational decision to go first transform his mood with pumping iron and then the family will all have  a much better day!)
Instead I pump iron.
I push out another set.
I pump iron.
I got to work off all this sweat.
You see but working out my muscles I’m relaxing my mind and after an hour or two I’ll find, my whole outlook on life is shiny and new.
If life’s little worries are bringing you down, you might want to try this thing I found. I think it will do for you what it’s doing for me. (Here he is speaking of the paradox of the universal and the particular and that since it works for him as a human being, it may work for you too!)
One other thing that I ought to mention, working out your muscles you’ll be drawing attention from the opposite sex if you know what I mean. (no real explanation need here except to being a testament to human beings and our animal nature with basic instincts that still have powerful effects on our decision making to this day-an of course the most powerful is that of reproduction!)
You need to pump iron.
You need to push out another set.
You need to pump iron.
You got to work off all this sweat.
You see but working out your muscles you’re relaxing your mind and after an hour or two you’ll find, your whole outlook on life is shiny and new.
You see but working out my muscles I’m relaxing my mind and after an hour or two I’ll find, my whole outlook on life is shiny and new.