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The Point: Experts

by Bill Handren

"When you have your morning eggs and coffee, be sure to add some cayenne pepper"..... Bottom Line Health Magazine.

And some wonder why I have such contempt for experts. You mean eggs weren't going to kill us all?  Coffee doesn't cause pancreatic cancer?  Cayenne pepper won't eat my esophagus like a bottle of paint remover?  The largest and longest heart study, the Framingham, found that anytime people made "healthier" diet choices, their mortality rate increased.  Lessons to be learned here.

I dislike teaching.  My views today are far different from twenty years ago and will be far different twenty from now.  The thing is, instinct has been far and away my finest teacher.  The nagging suspicion that something just isn't right.  It seems the more I think, the more I question.  
     
Long slow aerobics are best for the heart? I doubt it.  Increase the load and shorten the duration.  Grind out a set of twenty repetition barbell full squats with a weight that was meant for ten.  When you realize your heart didn't explode during that six minute long ordeal, jogging seems silly.  I used to shovel snow to exhaustion, but I knew if the squats didn't kill me the day before, the snow shoveling won't.
     
My urologist wanted me to take a drug called Ciprofloxacin.  Rather than jump right in to a biopsy, he wanted to rule out infection.  When I found out Ciprofloxacin may cause tendon rupture, I called back for a different drug.  On a return visit he explained how the tendon rupturing was highly unlikely.  I explained I still strength trained and was not willing to risk it. "Oh, do you have a personal trainer?" he asked.  Sorry, I have a problem with twenty-one year old personal trainers whose certification was signed by someone in spandex. When I answered his question as to how much weight I was using, his chin hit the floor.  He explained how I was doing this all wrong and I should use light weights with lots of repetitions.  I don't believe in arguing with a man who will eventually sedate me and have a scalpel in his hand.  But, thinking light weights will keep your strength level, is like thinking jogging will maintain sprint speeds.  One must train close to, but not at, the maximum.  The maximum is reserved for competition performances.  If you can curl a hundred pounds for a maximum effort of ten times at the age thirty, you have to do that about once a week every week if you want to do it at sixty years of age.  A light weight is an oxymoron. This isn't complex, just logical.  Maybe too logical for many.
     
But, as a man with a medical degree, he is an expert on all things about the human body.  He explained all about keeping muscle tone.  I didn't have the heart to tell him a man named Vic Tanny started the toning myth sixty years ago. Tanny owned a string of gyms on the east coast and wanted to attract women to the gyms.  He hit on the idea of selling the "toning" concept - use light weights to develop the feminine form. Women won't develop excessive muscle by lifting hard and heavy.  They lack enough testosterone.  Even a young, healthy male will have to train very hard to gain twenty pounds of muscle in a year. But, I kept telling myself "scalpel, scalpel."
     
He mentioned aerobics.  I could have told him Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Air Force doctor who started the aerobics craze never advocated running more than a mile.  But, by now I had chewed a hole in my lip.
     
The reason I'm writing about this is because there is so much mis-information floating around.  It is a daunting task to find good, solid information.  Steroid pumped weight lifters, emaciated nutritionists, blood doped endurance athletes and peer reviewed athletic journals in which each "expert" reviews his buddy's work then take turns writing and "reviewing." And, when one takes steps to augment his or her karate with better nutrition or strength training or conditioning, these "facts" lead you astray.
     
With a few exceptions, I pretty much disregard any training or nutrition advice authored after 1960.  No, I am not a dinosaur locked into the past.  It is more like the truth became distorted around that time.  The Russian weightlifters used synthetic testosterone in the 1953 World Championships, so in co-operation with Ciba Pharmaceuticals, John Ziegler developed Dianabol in 1956 for the US athletes. This steroid tainted all later training information.  Logic should tell anyone that if a high school gym rat looks better than Steve Reeves did, something is seriously suspect.
     
The funny thing is, I don't learn anything new when I research training.  I learn old. I could write a three volume set on all the different protocols that have been invented since the sixties, but the truth is - train hard, allow adequate recovery time, eat wholesome foods, drink lots of water and gets lots of sleep.  If your training isn't taking you where you want it to, check the basic five and adjust accordingly.  No, you won't become the next Bruce, Arnold or Ali.  But, you should be able to reach eighty percent of your genetic potential in a few years, not a lifetime.  Think about it - are you five times better at godan than you were at tenth kyu?  Not even close.
     
Truths are usually simple but rarely easy to follow.  Most need "experts" to guide and motivate, to hold their hands and encourage, to allow themselves to shut down thinking and follow the expert's learned advice.  The latest and easiest is the rule of the day.  The hard and simple have been tossed into the trash can.
     
In the eighties, I was about to pour a concrete driveway.  To make a solid bed, I used sand which I wet down and compressed using a homemade tamper with thirty pounds of barbell plates added.  After forty-five minutes of tamping, my eighteen year old nephew stopped by and wanted to try the thing.  He lifted and dropped it a few times and promptly stated "oh, f--- that!".  Yet, he was built like a personal trainer.  All that was missing was the spandex.
     
Time for an omelet.