I was lifting weights and some ideas began to come to me. Normally this spot is for reviews of various media and art, The Finer Things in Life. Today we are going to talk about Mentors and broader aspects of what is recovery and spirituality.

As I entered and went down the road of my 50’s, I was working way too much, often two jobs (or school) and I grew increasingly sedentary. I grew undisciplined about my nutrition and exercise and I began to feel it. As a student of wellness I knew the dangers of this path and had a real intention to alter my habits, which thank you God I did. I did have some previous knowledge and I did some new research and realized that; core strength is crucial and that meant weights. The ideal is a mix of weight lifting, metabolic conditioning (short hard work-outs of body weight stuff like sit-ups, pull-ups, burpees) and cardio. Each brings a different set of benefits though all three overlap when it comes to improving brain chemistry. Hard work-outs (which do not have to be that long) give the body what it needs to increase production of the “happy” chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Not to mention immune system boosting. A key pay-off from weights is greater bone density and of course cardio improves heart health. Much so called “natural” aging is not natural at all, is not programmed into our genes, does not have to happen or can definitely be forestalled. I mean check out Jack LaLanne. Here’s a link to evidence-based science on this type of information, of which there is plenty, if you’re willing to sort out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak (though I work to avoid wheat as I don’t need it and it’s inflammatory). “Just 20 minutes a day of strength training is associated with significantly greater long term protection against abdominal obesity than aerobic exercise.”  (MORE)

Now, here’s the real kicker; with weights you must have great form. A) Form is the key to efficient growth and benefits from the lifts and   B) Form is the key to avoiding injuries. I told my doctor I was doing Crossfit and she looked at me in horror, it was funny. I asked what’s the matter and she said, “Do you know how many injuries I see in here from those places?”. And that’s the idea I’ve been working up to: you have to have a trainer. To get the form that keeps you from being injured. To put it in recovery parlance, to avoid mistakes. Why not learn from others and not make the same mistakes? I began my workouts some 4 years ago by walking and built up from there. But once I knew I was ready to begin real weight lifting I knew I had to find a trainer. And they are not cheap. Eventually I found a knowledgeable skilled guy who was retired, did it half for fun and was quite reasonable. After more than a year of that I slid over to Crossfit (which my trainer admitted “killed” him) and realized some trainers are better than others and as they say in 12 Step, “stick with the winners”. And when it comes to hard lifts I still need coaching and support and have at least one workout each week with a coach to keep my form improving. Because the process of weight training form can improve forever, like life and recovery and spirit and a multitude of studies, an eternal never-ending process of growth and change.

So, call it a trainer, a coach, a support, mentor, sponsor, I don’t care; everyone on this green earth needs one. Or two or three or four. A spiritual teacher of mine, Lewis Harrison, would say, “If you’re on a basketball team you want the other 4 players on the court to be Michael Jordans, because that is how you improve. By reaching up.” So it ain’t just having a coach it’s about a whole paradigm going into it. You want to get feedback from someone.

Btw, to wrap up a little bit more on the work-out topic. In 3+ years I have not had one injury. That is about trust. Sticking with the winners means finding someone who knows their stuff and also is capable of “seeing” you. If they can’t see you, it limits growth.

All this gets deep, our need for someone to “spot” us, to teach us, to counsel us, to mentor us, and our need to maintain the open spiritual stance to take it all in. I see it in the gym, guys with bad form in work-outs because ultimately it’s hard for us to get humble and take direction. There are actual nervous system reasons for this. Here’s a quote:

“It’s also helpful to understand that strength is as much neurological as it is physical. Whenever you try to get your body to do something that it isn’t used to doing, it has to build a new neurological pathway to make it happen. Even when you ask your body to perform a familiar movement pattern, it will have a hard time if the leverage has been made less favorable than what you’ve become accustomed to. This is why there are lots of people who can yank a lot of weight on a lat pull-down machine but struggle to do a few controlled pull-ups. If your brain has never had to send that specific message to your muscle before, it must work very hard in order to arrive there.” (Read more)

The above state, in that quote; “Whenever you try to get your body to do something that it isn’t used to doing, it has to build a new neurological pathway to make it happen.”, means that we live in a state that demands regular neurological re-calibration and it’s best we drop our defenses and guard and all know that together! Then we are on the recovering path, which is the spiritual path, which is the human path (if you ask me) together! And that’s exciting.

Lastly, I’ll end with this excellent re-capping article of this topic, which looks at the broader historical perspective.

Better All the Time-How the “performance revolution” came to athletics-and beyond. By James Surowiecki.

“What Washington did next changed the N.B.A.: he called a man named Pete Newell and asked for help.”