Be Kind To Your Body (And Brain)

We live in two worlds, one on either side of our skin. What happens in one of them, invariably, affects the other. This is why fitness, these days, is more than just about abs and biceps, lifting heavy or running far. Fitness is about maintaining a balance that gives us better control over our body and mind, helps us achieve greater executive function and just makes us feel good to be alive.

When it comes to moving our body what we are really doing is training our brain. If we run, for instance, we are using significant mental energy  (at first) to calculate comfortable velocity, learn pace, control our breathing and learn how to minimize the impact of our feet as they strike the ground. If we lift we have to learn about ballistic movements, posture and the all-important muscle-to-joint angles.

Given ample time and virtually infinite energy resources we can get fit no matter what we do. As a result our brain will also remain healthy, agile and capable of ensuring we enjoy a great quality of life. The thing is we don’t have ample time to do what we want to do nor do we have infinite energy resources.

We all struggle on a delicate balancing act between managing our physical and mental health and earning a living, having a life and doing everything else in-between that these two things demand of us.

So, when it comes to getting fit and helping your brain get stronger the best shortcut you can use is to employ combat-based moves for fitness. There are good reasons for this. For a start combat is a really hard thing for us to do as humans. Lacking any natural weapons we are forced to employ physics. We use our entire body mass in really smart, orchestrated movements to generate a lot more power than our puny physiology is capable of.

This makes combat moves energetically intensive. We burn up a lot of energy when we do them. This, in turn forces positive adaptations in our breathing, circulatory and muscular systems. We become more efficient at moving our bodies, we attain lean, powerful muscles and our lungs and heart get stronger.

The really beneficent adaptations however happen much deeper: inside our brain. In order for us to move our body efficiently in three-dimensional space our brain is forced to create complex, dynamic models of how we move and what we are capable. This, in addition to the fact that it has to forge fresh neural connections that govern the complex motion of our body.

This neural activity initiates a process in the brain called neurogenesis that creates new neurons and, afterwards, fresh connections between them. Studies have shown that combat moves improve not just our fitness but also our IQ.

Because combat moves work the muscles and tendons they help the body better coordinate its front and back kinetic chains and, also, create lasting strength that is not subject to the kind of de-strengthening that takes place when we miss a session or two.

Step-by-step instructions and a daily, month-long exercise plan

Back in 2016 I made it easy for you to get fit in this way with Fighter’s Codex. A thirty-day plan that will change the way you relate to your body and how you move it. It will also, we now know, slow down the ageing process and help you feel younger than your years.


“What Can Man Do Against Such Reckless Hate?”

It’s easy sometimes to be lost in the weeds. To wake up and feel alone. To have a sense that the world is lost. To feel that no matter what you or anyone else does, corruption, stupidity and hatred combine to form a tide that’s just too big to avoid and too deep to stem. A tide that has too much blind momentum to be stopped. Like a force of nature such tide cannot be reasoned with; we think, it cannot be bargained with, it can only sweep all before its path.

Popular culture gives us moments destined to become iconic for their depiction, resonating with us because they talk to us in the here and now with the language of books, or songs or the cinema. In The Lord Of The Rings, when the horsemen of Rohan are trapped in Helm’s Deep and the Keep is falling, their leader, Theoden, King of Rohan, wonders aloud to himself: “How has it come to this?”

He’s lost hope. He fails to grasp how it is possible for an enemy to hate you so badly that he just keeps on coming no matter how much loss you inflict upon him. He understands that reason here plays no role. The enemy wants nothing but total destruction, at any cost.

Full of emotion as the scene may be it also answers its own question. Things have come to that point because long before than Theoden was locked in inaction. And when he did take action and took his people to Helm’s Deep, it wasn’t enough.

Mourning the untimely loss of his son Raskin found new meaning in defending what’s right from those who’d chosen to corrupt it.

Aragorn’s reply to this: “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them!” is both literal and metaphorical. Hatred demands action. Things lead to the point of incomprehensibility when we do nothing. In the film’s context of the relentless, remorseless Ork attack, of course, actions demands a ‘last’ ride “for death and glory” as Theoden puts it.

In our current situation when the world around us appears to have lost its way, when we see rage and hatred on social media, every day. When we feel that, everywhere, the values of openness, trust and reciprocation we prize are being eroded and replaced by suspicion, fear and alienation, the answer to the question of what can we do is act.

Behave in ways you want the world to work. The world we see is a construct created out of our actions, reactions and expectations. We make it. It is our world. Usually, mostly, the majority of us say nothing. Do nothing. We are too busy working, too busy educating ourselves, too busy thinking about complexities we encounter, too busy being of direct service to the communities around us.

Yet, this is our world. The haters and the bigots, those who rage and those whose only responses to anything they don’t understand is to attack, may be more visible but that’s because they make more noise. Right now, across the globe, they think they are gaining ground. But they are not. They may expand a lot of energy. They may push agendas of the distant past. They may want to build walls and stoke divisions. But they will fail.

The only viable way forward, indeed the only way to survive in the world is to expand less energy than we consume. To deal with hard problems and still have enough in the tank to enjoy life. And the only way we can do this is through the only way we have ever done it: by connecting, cooperating and trusting. By being kind, forgiving and willing to understand.

It is these small acts of humanity that make this world ours.

Are You A Sheep Or A Wolf?

“Are you a sheep or a wolf?” Such an emotive way to frame this very important question. Automatically you know the answer, of course. We all do. I mean, who wants, really, to be a sheep, right? The subtext here is that we all know the probability of survival and happiness of a sheep is pretty slim. Virtually none. Zero.

So, really by framing the question in that context what we have truly done is bounded the options available to those making the choice. The choice presented is a non-starter as there is only one true viable option and anyone with half a mind will choose to be a wolf.

Morgan Freeman’s character, Sloan, delivers the over-the-top speech in this clip:

The question he’s really asking is: Are you truly responsible for your life? Are you in charge of the direction it has taken? Are you in control of the choices you make and the impact they have? Or … are you simply drifting with the tide? Responding to what is presented to you by circumstances and the actions of those around you?

Such a question, of course, would require a more deeply thought-through answer. While we all want to feel in control of our life and the direction it has we also all want to have it easy. Struggling all the time is a struggle (please forgive the tautology). It saps our energy, drains our focus and, ultimately, demotivates us.

We then want to do as little as possible.

This realization changes the nature of the question Sloan asks of Wesley. It’s not about caged lions and the key to unleash them. It is more about what is stopping you from being the best version of you?

Each question sweeps back a curtain. Can you now truly visualize a better version of you than what you currently have? Can you honestly see what that person is like, how they feel, what they think? If you can’t (and a lot of people can’t) then you need to start from there.

Quote from: Intentional: How to Live, Love, Work and Play Meaningfully

It’s true that when you don’t know where you’re going all roads will get you there. That’s because in that context your destination has no meaning. Any place is interchangeable with any other. To know where you’re going you need to know what you want. You know what you want only when you know who you are. You know who you are by understanding what is fundamentally important to you and what you value the most.

Wanted , which is where the clip with Morgan Freeman’s delivery is taken from, is a high-octane, eye-candy type of storyline that wants you to park your brain at home, sit back and enjoy the show. It’s not really meant to take you into deep philosophical waters, nor is it really intended to make you introspective. Yet, its premise is inescapable maybe because Morgan Freeman’s gravely-toned delivery is so compelling.

I covered some of this in Intentional: How to Live, Love, Work and Play Meaningfully. So, what are you a sheep or a wolf? Someone who drifts along, struggling each time to keep your head above the current. Or, are you someone who understands what to do. Knows when to do it. And goes ahead and does it.

Let me know.