Lose the last 10 pounds

Things that make you say.....OMGOr… “Honey, who shrunk my pants?” All of a sudden, my pants weren’t fitting so well.  I normally resist doing it for a number of reasons but I stepped on the scale. I was 12 lbs. heavier than the last time I had stepped on the scale a few months ago! I’ll admit it – i have my “fat clothes” too.  The good news and the bad news is that I have them in storage. I don’t do self-loathing too well but I went through my own brief version. I had kind of noticed the problem over the last few weeks and I had asked Bernadette if she thought I was gaining weight. What I hadn’t been paying attention to was that she hadn’t really given me an answer.  I cornered her at lunch and insisted on an answer. She looked away, held up the index finger and thumb on her left hand about two inches away from each other and mumbled, “I guess you’ve put on a tiny bit extra.” Ok.  Even more damning than the scale. It took me a few days but I gave myself a hug.  “The body is solidified mind.” The extra weight was not goingto be a source for harsh self judgment.  It was a call to awareness.  I reject the binary fat/not fat, pain/no pain. I needed to figure out what was happening (notice I didn’t say, “what was going wrong”?). My workouts haven’t changed much and I do a lot less walking since we moved upstate.  I was on my feet at the studio the majority of my waking hours.  I would walk a couple of miles to pick my son up from school.  We have a creamery here which has ice cream that is sourced from grass fed cows.  I used to never eat dessert but, hey, this stuff was grass fed!  I’ve been frustrated at the pace of a couple of work projects and that has effected my sleep.  I also haven’t made the same time available for meditation. The thing is, look and perform better than 95% of the people in my age group and better than the majority of those over 35.  I’m married, so who cares if there’s a few extra pounds? (just kidding, ’cause I’ve seen how Bernadette looks at some younger, fit guys). Is this vanity? Orthorexia? Maybe, but I’m also fascinated by body hacking.  I know that fulfilling my body potential is limited by how much I am living up to my psychological potential. The extra weight is a message.  I haven’t fully figured out what that message is but I’m going to walk the dog more, eat more slowly to gain something called “parasympathetic dominance,” cut down on the ice cream to 3x per week, the two glasses of wine down to one, and I ‘m going to undertake a carb-backloading strategy where I et most or all of my carbs at night (it’s a little more involved than that and I can discuss it in another newsletter or email if you like).  I also purchased something called  a “Five Minute Journal.”  I also bought one for Vidar and one for Bernadette.  Vidar rejected his and Bernadette rolled her eyes but took it anyway.  The gratitude thing has been HUGE for me in my life and I’ve gotten away from it. Let’s sees what happens.  If you see a sexy, Speedo-wearing, middle-aged man on the beach this summer, check twice before you start whistling. You’ll save us both a bit of embarrassment.

Shoulder Pain? You Might Want To Hang Around For This

Horizontal LadderOne of my fondest memories is my time in Army officer training at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. It was more than 30 years ago but the memories are still sharply etched in my emotional storybook.

I had spent my years to that point in a schizophrenic ping-pong match between my home in East Harlem and elite institutions like Collegiate School for Boys and Princeton University.

My virgin voyage to the South showed me what America was really supposed to look and feel like. I knew as soon as I saw my barracks that some real learning was going to take place over the next few months.

My fellow officer candidates were men and women my age from Puerto Rico, the Deep South, and the Appalachians. Black, white, and Latino. Our company commander was West Point-educated and our battalion commander was a 5’5” Vietnam veteran who had never made it past high school in West Virginia.

I was the guy from New York. Strike 1. I went to Princeton University. Strike 2. Being “mixed race” was only a foul ball that created more confusion and curiosity than resentment.

No one cared how smart I was. Did I think I was better than everyone else? Was I going to whine the first time I had to sit overnight in a water-filled foxhole? Would I qualify on the shooting range? How high would I score on the PT (Physical Training) test? Could I lead?

One of the first things we did was run the obstacle course. There were a series of obstacles that tested our endurance, power, strength, and (critically for me) our fear of heights. One obstacle that tripped most people up was the horizontal ladder. There were several obstacles that were scarier (and that didn’t have the nets and padding they have today) but the forty feet of horizontal ladder rungs were a tough test of grip, arm, and core strength and endurance.

The movement that’s required is called “brachiation.” You swing hand over hand between bars or branches. Apes, orangutans, gibbons, chimpanzees, and humans are the only animals able to do this. Our shoulders and hands accommodate this motion.

Brachiation is so important that it is prescribed for children with developmental delays. Past the age of 6, you won’t find too many people brachiating. Who stole the monkey bars?! The loss of this movement corresponds to an increased incidence of shoulder pain.

I’m exploring bar hanging as an antidote to my own shoulder pain. In theory, hanging from a bar or moving along a horizontal ladder (if you can find one) will change the structure of something called the coracoacromial arch. Changing the structure will alleviate shoulder impingement.

You might want to consider bar hanging if you have shoulder pain. Try to work up to a total of two minutes of hanging five days per week to start. Let me know how it works for you or contact me with any questions.

Pain – Can You Still Play?

playing with pain
playing with pain

Apparently, there’s a phenomenon where, after heart surgery, men become more emotional. Well, I haven’t had heart surgery but I find that I spend more time reflecting on human pain and my role in alleviating it.

My children have asked me if I’ve ever gotten into a fight. My youngest daughter asked if anyone has ever given me “booboos,”while my youngest son asked if I’ve ever gotten my “ass kicked.” The smile that accompanies his question makes me wonder if this is part of the sizing up that is naturally done in the animal kingdom. My answer is that, yes, people have given me booboos AND kicked my ass.

I can name some of the perpetrators – Joseph D’Angelo, Shiro Oishi, and Col. Al Ridenhour (my guides in the Martial Way). Life has also gotten some swings in.

The good news is that I have been able to mostly avoid the effects of random violence by either running fast or striking first.

I recently did a quick “booboo” inventory of my body. There’s the nose that’s been broken three times; the ribs that were fractured and had the cartilage between them torn; the scar along my knee where the quadriceps tendon that had ripped from my kneecap was sewn back after holes were drilled in the bone; the bone spur to go along with the arthritis in the same ankle; the two fingers that had to be reconstructed after being shattered into several pieces; and both elbows that don’t completely straighten because all the cartilage is gone and instead of a cushion between the bones of my upper and lower arm, the two bones have ground down into an offset position.

Does it hurt? Yes. It sometimes feels like ice picks are being driven into my joints. But I stand with my pal, T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”).

In the eponymous movie, Lawrence (as played by Peter O’Toole) holds his hand over a flame until his skin begins to burn. His colleague, William Potter asks: “Doesn’t it hurt?” Lawrence responds: “Of course it hurts, Potter. The trick is not minding that it hurts.”

Pain is temporary. Unless we try to deny the truth of what is. Then it will increase.

I catch myself making a deal with God that I will honor the pain if I can avoid the stroke that paralyzed my father or the Parkinson’s that weakened my mother. I stop this when I notice it (see above about denying the truth).

There is a symphony of human movement that is available to all of us. The instruments may be old and missing a string or a key. Practice can’t be missed. The challenge is to play the music that’s inside us to the best of our ability. It brings honor to us and to our Creator.

Are you in physical or emotional pain? Email me. I’ll write you back. We’ll talk. It’ll help.


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Meditation and The Principle of Least Action

reflectionThere’s a principle of physics called the “principle of least action.” It kind of says that Nature will find the most efficient path from one point to another. This concept is easy to ignore in our workouts and as we make our way through the world. We look for quick fixes in every area of our lives. There are all sorts of “bright, shiny objects” in the worlds of diet and fitness that distract us from the most efficient path to wellness.

I received an email a little while ago from a distraught teenage girl desperate for help with her weight. She had stumbled onto the Brownstone Fitness website and is courageously reaching out for help. There are so many conflicting messages that this young lady has already received about what she is supposed to look like if she’s going to fit in and be popular. At times like these I am reminded that exercise programming and meal planning are only small pieces of the puzzle.

We pay for diet and exercise systems that we hope will get us where we think we want to go. There are at least two problems with this. One is that the conditions and environments that surround us (work, family, media messages, etc.) don’t allow us to work the systems.

A bigger problem is that a slavish adherence to a system blocks our awareness of the wisdom inside and around us. Find a time and a place every day to be quiet and listen for this wisdom. Accessing this wisdom calms the mind and allows the body to realize the healthy and vigorous state it was born for. Some people call this meditation.

Prayer happens when we talk to God. Meditation allows the space for God to talk to us. These may not be easy things but they are simple. You can discover for yourself the principle of least action.

The Deadliest Number in Fitness

kettlebell pose

It’s actually also the most dangerous word in business (thank you, Dan Kennedy!) and most relationships.  That word is…


Business Lesson

Having spent most of my professional life in the nonprofit world, I had a certain view as to how marketing should be done – and it worked.  Moving into small business, I had a steep learning curve in marketing and sales.  One of the things I realized early on was that having one marketing channel was not the best way to build a business.  Our marketing pipeline opened with one of those Daily Deals.  I found out that a lot of businesses don’t like these deals because of the low margin.

In our case, after offering the discount discount and giving Groupon, Living Social, etc., their cut, we end up making $5 per session.  No one could stay in business with those margins! What participating in the deal did do was allow us to introduce our services to people who would otherwise have never heard of Brownstone Fitness.  The Daily Deals have introduced us to people who have become loyal clients and in some cases, friends.

It gave us the space to improve our SEO (search engine optimization) rankings so that we could be found “organically,” hand out flyers, do in-person networking, send direct mail, and create a referral stream.  Any one of these tactics would not be enough.   We need a mix of online and offline.

In our fast-moving world, having one skill, preparing for one profession, having only one friend, relying on the one child who won’t put you in a nursing home (sorry but that’s one of my personal issues), going to only one restaurant, are all recipes for failure and unhappiness.


One and Fitness

In the world of fitness and health, the gurus and industry experts will tell you there is one diet, one macronutrient, one exercise tool, one exercise program that will be your magic bullet to the body and life you’ve wanted.  Humans are more complex than that.  I do believe that adherence to certain principles will lead to general wellness and fitness.  A first principle at Brownstone Fitness is that a person needs to be strong.  All the other physical qualities will improve with an increase in strength.

When it comes to means and methods, some of it depends on a person’s goals.  In general, these goals should reflect the variations, challenges, and flexibility that have allowed us to continue as a species.  There are certain movements and functions that make us a complete human animal – the ability to efficiently and powerfully push, pull, rotate, lunge, pick up heavy things, throw, strike, and ambulate or run.

Yoga, distance running, weightlifting, or the latest dance craze – there is no One Way.  The good news is that you can acquire or improve the qualities that have made us efficient human animals and you don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of time doing it.

If you want coaching on not falling victim to ONE or on keeping the goal the goal, send me an email – hans@brownstonefitness.com


Want To Lose Weight? Surround The Dragon.

So you want to lose weight? You’ve probably never heard of “Surrounding The Dragon.”

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, fifteen years ago, two young women graduated from the same college. They were a lot alike, these two women.

In addition to having been better than average students, both were athletic, personable, and filled with vivid dreams of the wonderful things that lay ahead.

Recently, these two women returned to their college for their 15th reunion.

They were still very much alike.

Both were married and ridiculously busy. Both had continued their exercise habits. One had children and the other was planning on having them.

But there was a difference. One of the women had the body that she had left college with – she looked like she could walk onto a soccer field right now and star. She also had the energy to match. She was on a career path that had her excited and eager to wake up for work every day.

The other was 35 pounds over her college weight. Her right knee always hurt and her lower back carried a dull ache that lasted throughout the day. Despite all her exercise and her strict diet(s), she always felt tired and couldn’t make a dent in her excess weight. She couldn’t stand her job, particularly her supervisor.

What Made The Difference

Have you ever wondered, as I used to, what makes this kind of difference in people’s bodies and happiness? It isn’t always genetics or willpower or work ethic. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person has learned about themselves since the magical years of youth and how they make use of that knowledge.

Surrounding The Dragon

Have you ever had acupuncture? I have. Many times. For about twenty years, Tom Bisio and Marshall Wood have been my go-to Chinese medicine doctors. They did something called Tui Na, a form of massage. Sometimes they prescribed medicinal herbs. Needles were always used. Sometimes they placed the needles directly into a muscle spasm. Other times they were placed in meridians to release blockages and let energy flow.

Another technique that was used was called “Surrounding The Dragon.” They would place needles all around the problem area. This way, a number of energy pathways would be opened up. The pain would be addressed from several directions.

Look Around

The first woman had also faced some of the same trials that her friend had faced since college. But when she hit a roadblock she looked for feedback. She had also built rituals for relaxation and renewal.

She had a coach who helped her with accountability for her exercise and eating. She had also worked with him to set goals that matched her values. She came to understand that she should not be aiming for physical perfection. She stopped the body-shaming and went through a process that uncovered her power – power that had always been there but was layered over with past pain and others’ expectations. She had “Surrounded The Dragon.”

If you want to lose weight and you’re not getting the results you seek, the cause isn’t always obvious.

Call me or send an email to hans@brownstonefitness.com if you want me to help you explore ways to surround your dragon.