28 February 2014

Motivated To Move -- The Power Of The Tribe

I've been to the mountaintop.
By A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.

Today was supposed to be an off day from the gym. Initially I planned to do absolutely nothing related to exercise. This quickly changed.

The decision was made to to do a cardio session as a sort of active recovery from a week of heavy lifting. This eventually changed as well.

Upon arriving at the gym and seeing my heavy lifting fellow tribesmen, something deep inside stirred. They were doing squats. Lot of squats. Although I'd already done legs for the week, I figured a few more couldn't hurt. I'd just keep the weight low and work on reps, form and technique.

By the time it was over, I'd done 10 full sets of squats and hardly noticed. Why? The brotherhood and camaraderie, smack talking and joking around helped keep our minds off the strenuous task of moving heavy weight.

Although our goals are individualized, there is an intersection of commonality between us. While my current ultimate goal remains classified -- no need to tip off potential competitors -- being strong, much stronger, is one of them. And there are few better ways to achieve this than the oft neglected squat.

Want to be big? Want to get really strong? Want to have a balanced body with symmetrical grace? Oh, you're not squatting? Good luck!

Were it not for my fellow tribesmen, I'd have gotten by having done much less, and felt pretty good about it too. 

But with no pressure at all, just by their mere presence, I was motivated to do more. Far more than initially planned. And for this the rewards eventually reaped will be immensely greater.

How I look when I try to hang with the distance runners.
I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to your fitness goals to choose to be among like minded people.
What happened to me today would not have occurred were I among a group of distance runners for example (no offense to distance runners, I used to be and still occasionally pretend to be one). I'd simply be like an elephant among gazelle. Not fitting in, not fooling anyone, all alone, looking goofy. What fun is that?

In the future expect to see more posts on choosing training partners, gyms and mentors. These seemingly insignificant factors can be secret weapons to your fitness success.

All the best to you on your quest.

Former multisport athlete and physical culturist, James MacArthur, has trained for, competed in, practiced and even failed at more sports and physical endeavours than a crossfitter on crack! And has the x-rays to prove it. Currently no longer involved in competition, a lifelong fan of being fit, MacArthur guides, instructs and motivates select few individuals seeking to make the most of their natural talent and abilities.

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05 January 2014

Bad Habits And Mistakes I See In The Gym Pt.1

By A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.

Every January a ritualistic pilgrimage takes place at fitness centers. Fueled with high ambition and burdened by the guilt gotten from overindulging during the holidays, millions of Americans join a gym.

For many it will be their first time ever attending a fitness facility. Others are attempting to turn around a long backward slide of inactivity.

Besides the crowding and sometimes long waits to get onto to equipment, the thing that annoys me most during this time, is seeing such a wide variety of ineffective, unproductive, or even dangerous behavior on display.

1. Vague undefined goals.
"If you don't really know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?" 
Too many people walk into a gym expecting miracles to happen, without a plan or even a picture of what exactly they want. Would you go into a restaurant and tell the waiter I'm hungry, just give me anything?
Research has proven the more specific a goal is, the greater likelihood of sticking to it and achieving ultimate success. Goals should have an action plan of how you plan to get it and a realistic timetable for completion. Be clear on WHY you've chosen a particular goal as well. Yes ladies, wanting to look great in a bikini is indeed a suitable motivator. Just saying.
Solution: (example) By March 5, it is my intention to lose 30 pounds so that I may be more within a healthy weight range for my body type. I will commit to working out at least 5 hours per week. With 168 hours in every week, I see this as a small price to pay for a better, stronger, more healthier me.
Dumbbell deadlift. Photo courtesy of SheKnows.com
2. Using incorrect form. -- As a lifelong contrarian, I'm big on individualism. Be authentic, be yourself is what I say. But when dealing with weights, your individual expression should come from the results they can give you, not lifting the wrong way and exposing yourself to serious or permanent injury. Some observers believe the number of weight-training injuries seen every year has gone up by 63%! 
Many common injuries are largely preventable.

 Solution: Seek proper instruction. Trainers and instructors at any quality gym are usually more than willing to take a moment to show you proper form on a particular given exercise. Doing exercises correctly not only helps you prevent injury, but will usually bring better results.
Avoid asking random people how to perform a particular move. Many people practice poor form that's been handed down by someone who didn't know better. The error is then passed on to all they come in contact with like a bad cold or flu. A gift that keeps on giving, pain and misery.

3. Being a cardio bunny. -- Way too many people, particularly women, are afraid to lift a little weight. There is no better way to get a toned, lean, strong body than to incorporate resistance training with cardio. 
Sure, you'll burn plenty calories with endless hours spent slaving away on devices that have their origins in tools of torture. But losing fat without building muscles can leave many people looking like a deflated basketball or even a stick figure.
I'm not suggesting you go out there and try to imitate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Besides, unless you plan on using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, you have zero chance of ever coming close.
Jack Lalanne built a classic, 


physique with
 and cardio.
There is an unrealistic, unfounded myth still held by many, that lifting weights will make them "musclebound" and reduce their flexibility. This just isn't true. Whole entire articles have been written as to why this is false. The meatheads you see with large, bulging muscles didn't get there lifting a little weight here and there. Trust me, the average gym goer, even if he tried, will never look that way.
In the meantime, if you're not lifting weight, you're missing out on benefits such as countering bone density loss, reversing age related muscle loss and declining strength, and reducing incidence of chronic back pain and strain just to name a few.
In well over 25 years of being a fitness enthusiast, I've seen a lot habits and beliefs with little foundation, that make no sense at all. These are just a few of the common pitfalls novices regularly fall victim to.

In a future post I'll list more observations of common mistakes, as well as maybe expand on some of the ones listed above.

What questionable or annoying habits have you seen in the gym? Respond via the comments section.

Former multisport athlete, James MacArthur, has trained for, competed in, practiced and even failed at more sports and physical endeavours than a crossfitter on crack! And has the x-rays to prove it. Currently no longer involved in competition, a lifelong fan of being fit, MacArthur guides, instructs and motivates select few individuals seeking to make the most of their natural talent and abilities.

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20 December 2013

Baltimore Spectator Or Phantom Shooter?

"In this world, everything happens for a reason.  Even the smallest, seemingly random event is part of some larger pattern of order. There is no such thing as true coincidence. Even if at the time it may appear so. These are just things, occurrences and incidents taking place, for which at the present we do not have sufficient explanation or understanding why." -- A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.

16 December 2013

When Police Push The Press

Today a well known, well respected, well paid mainstream reporter attempting to report on a homicide was harassed by Baltimore Police and he took it without complaint or resistance.

The reporter posted a picture of a house in the vicinity of the incident and stated that police told him he could not take pictures and had to leave the area.

Nothing more was ever heard from the reporter on scene.

Despite the courts, the Department of Justice, and even the reporters own newspaper repeatedly reaffirming the right of citizens, including reporters, to take pictures in public of places of crime scenes among other things, the reporter seemed uninterested to take a stand and assert his first amendment rights. This is deeply disturbing.

On the surface it may seem a small and trivial manner. There may even be many logical reasons for someone whose job depends on freedom of the press to tuck his tail and turn around when the police decide to push him around.

But there is a bigger principle of reinforcing and strengthening a very dangerous, unlawful overreach of police power in play here.

If you think of the press as a wall standing between the public and a slowly turning tyrannical government, think again. Holding government accountable and then calling them out when they willfully trample our rights is only of secondary concern at best, to these people.

In a future article the subject will be examined much closer and the discussion expanded in scope.

What Good Is A Writer Who No Longer Writes?

Or for that matter, a blogger who no longer blogs?

Many writers face the challenge of overcoming writers blocks. This is often a hindrance in the output of those who enjoy crafting of words into coherent works. Although I've sometimes been faced with what I refer to as having "lost my mojo," sadly my recent lack of production can hardly be blamed on this.

I've never been one much for making excuses, but right now I find myself in a particularly challenging place.
A place where finding the proper balance between doing the things one NEEDS to do versus what one would really LIKE to do is quite perplexing.

The process of writing for me is quite enjoyable, but I've never been a fast writer. For me its quite time consuming and exhaustive. To concentrate and carefully and meticulously weave together a tapestry of thought is one the more sublime pleasures of my existence.

Between work, study and dealing with the many difficulties of piecing back together my life since the incident, sadly my writing has suffered greatly. From simple blogging to the in depth investigative reporting many have counted upon me for, it's been several months since my proverbial pen has produced.

Really wish I knew what to do, or how to fully take control of the situation and rectify it, but this being my personal blog, I freely admit for the time being, I'm at a lost.

There's plenty of material I would like to write about. I have lots of information, sources and citations to refer to. Compelling stories even, but the trouble is finding the uninterrupted blocks of time to put it all together.

While this was always an area I struggled with, things have only grown far worse than ever since coming back home from my time in confinement.

The difficulties faced by individuals attempting to adjust and return to a life of seeming normalcy after periods of prolonged confinement and detention are simply unimaginable to the average person.

Some how, some way, one day... I shall return!
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