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Maximum Effort, Maximum Damage: The difference between health and fitness

Yesterday, you forced your body past all of its previous limitations, pushed yourself to 150% of your normal endurance, felt the burn.  Now, as you contemplate your next workout, something strange is happening.  Your body is not just stiff- it rebels at the idea of movement, and energy drains from your limbs.

Many of us have had that experience, heard our instructor telling us to push past it.  No pain, no gain, right?

How long did you stick with that program?  If, like most of the population, your mental resistance built up until you’d accept any excuse to avoid your workout, you should know that there’s a reason that was well-known to the practitioners of Taoist martial arts like Tai Chi and Bagua.  Taoism understands the need to seek balance in everything, and it knows that if you overload your body, it will push back.  Whatever is overstretched collapses.

We’re used to a world in which professional athletes, martial artists and people in other high-fitness professions push themselves so hard on a regular basis that they routinely wreck their joints, their backs, their connective tissue and so on before they reach their mid-30s.  We’re taught to push ourselves to new heights by straining our bodies to their limits and pushing ourselves to exhaustion again and again.


Fitness versus Health

It’s entirely possible to be fit without being healthy, and to be healthy without being fit.  We may see someone who’s ripped and can do endless push-ups or run marathons as healthy.  By Taoist standards, they may be anything but.  The Taoist definition of health requires that

–          your body is able to move painlessly through its whole natural range of motion

–          that you are free from chronic illness, injury or pain

–          that you have a healthy back, joints and connective tissue

–          that you have high vitality due to a healthy emotional life, lack of tension in the body and free circulation of life energy- chi.

–          that the resting state of your muscles and nervous system is completely relaxed

The problem with constantly pushing yourself to your limits is that you build abiding tension in your muscles, you strain your joints and connective tissue in ways that lead to a constant state of pain and inflammation, inviting disease.  You become physically and emotionally exhausted, draining your energy and vitality rather than building it up.

That is exactly why Taoist training methods build up basic health and vitality before attempting rigorous strength, speed or endurance training, and don’t jeopardise the former to get the latter.

If this seems strange to you, there’s one question you should ask yourself that will put the health versus fitness question in perspective:  when you’re forty, fifty, even eighty years old, will you have an easier time or a harder time staying fit because of the kinds of exercise you’re doing today?

This is exactly the dilemma which so many martial artists in disciplines like Karate and Tae Kwon Do – that emphasise maximum effort and raw performance – face all the time.  After a certain point, usually in the mid to late twenties, their abilities peak, and no matter how hard they practice, they just go downhill, more often than not with chronic pain from injuries and strains to slow them down even further.

One of the great advantages of the Taoist internal martial arts is that this wall doesn’t exist– you can keep practicing and improving throughout your entire life.  The timescale of training in these arts, even in the times when they were actively used in combat, ran into decades.

Build Yourself Up Without Destroying Yourself

This lifelong vitality is achieved through a method that respects the laws of natural balance.

  1. The 70% rule: This rule from Tai Chi practice asks you to train consistently at around 70% of your capacity.  This not only means 70% of your strength, speed and endurance, but even your range of motion, the length of time you practice and so on.  As you do this consistently, your body will use that last 30% reserve of energy to repair and replenish itself, building up your vitality over time.  As you practice consistently at this level, your 70% will go up naturally.  This is the direct opposite of the “train till you drop” propaganda that permeates our competition-crazed culture.
  2. Slow down to speed up, relax thoroughly to increase effort: The more pressure you or your trainer bring to bear on your body to put forth ever more exhausting effort, the more that tension is going to live in your muscles and nerves, reducing your ability to move freely, creating emotional stress and changing the neurotransmitter balance in your body.  On the other hand, if you train slowly, deliberately, and make sure to move with complete, deep relaxation on a regular basis, you will find that you can not only move faster when you need to, but also put forth more effort.  This is exactly why Tai Chi forms are done at a fraction of combat speed- that slow, relaxed and deliberate approach in practice translates into movements so fast you can’t see them with the naked eye.
  3. Injuries are bad for your health: It seems odd to have to say it, but building up your strength by injuring yourself is a contradiction.  Yet this is exactly what we do to ourselves through our obsession with endless repetitions of a single exercise, or in sports like football where injuries are virtually inevitable.  Boxing has taken some hits [] recently over the brain damage suffered by many boxers from repeated blows to the head.
  4. Treat pain with respect: If you are coping with pain or injury and you want to return to full health, follow the 70% rule to gradually improve, rather than trying to push all the way through and probably exacerbating the problem.


Pain is a Teacher

Think about this.  What is the point of fitness now that wrecks fitness in the future?  What is the point of strength now that leads to injury, disease, chronic pain and possibly early death in the future?  A certain amount of stress is necessary for us to make progress in any area of life- it’s called eustress, a term coined by Hans Selye meaning good stress.  The opposite of eustress is distress, the stress that leads to real pain and exhaustion.  When we cross over from eustress to distress in exercise, our bodies know.

Listen to psychological manipulation perpetrated in this video.  “Pain is just weakness leaving your body.”  “He had more in him.  Wuss.”

These are the hallmarks of the Western approach to strength, which always tries to overcome the body with the mind.  Over the millennia, humans have performed certain kinds of tasks for which our bodies are optimised- namely, slow, painstaking tasks that require us to sustain about 70% of effort by their nature.  Hunting, gathering, farming, carpentry.  Our burst capacity is for emergencies, not everyday use.  That’s what we’re set up for.

If our approach to training ignores the balance of human nature, something will give.  For every action, there is a reaction.  For every overextension, there is a collapse.  That is the most fundamental difference between the Taoist approach and the others.  One respects the way the human organism is set up.  The other works against it.  But nature always wins.

Best of Fitness: Frank Medrano’s Bodyweight Calisthenics


Are you looking for bodyweight exercises to supercharge your fitness and tone your core? Frank Medrano may be your man. This video represents the easiest and least impressive of all the amazing calisthenics workout videos he’s put out there, and it’s still pretty hardcore.

If you’re at all serious about fitness, you’ve probably heard people in the fitness world associate vegetarianism and veganism with extreme difficulty in getting fit. One fitness instructor of our acquaintance has said that just about every vegan that’s come to him has lacked the endurance, the energy and the basic protein level to stick with it. But clearly, Frank is doing something that works for him.

For more on Frank’s program, visit his site at

FOR WOMEN ONLY: Do NOT Try Another Weight Loss Method Until You’ve Watched This VIDEO

(Yes, there’s a video – we suggest you read the post first, LOL 😉



The Daily “RUDE SHOCK”

You’ve just rolled out of bed and you’re kind of mindlessly heading towards the shower.  On the way, you pass by the mirror, of course and, without thinking, you actually look at your own body…
SHOCK! …that belly fat… those “love handles” over your hips… the sagging butt… the “thunder thighs”… “OMG!” you say out loud. 


Your self-image takes a nose dive.  Then you think about all your attempts to shed those unwanted pounds and you blame yourself and call yourself a failure.  So your self-esteem rapidly catches up to your self-image, both now in a nose-to-nose terminal descent towards yet another crash landing.
This scenario is all too common.  And while it’s not unique to women, that fact is that it’s more common with women and for two reasons:

1. A higher percentage of women have weight issues, and…


2. It is HARDER for women to shed the pounds and keep them off.


FEMALE Weight Loss is a Different Animal

When it comes to the human body, we like to pretend we know the whole picture.  The FACT is, though, we’re often operating in the dark!  For example, what does your liver do?  Would it shock you to find out we’re still learning more about that?  It should.

Weight loss is no different – we’ve spent decades assuming that whatever works for men should work for women… despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Fortunately, we’re now seeing a breakthrough that’s benefiting tens of thousands of women worldwide.
Yes, every once in a while, humanity makes a breakthrough and finally figures out a better solution, a solution that works for a much higher percentage of people.  And ladies, that’s just come true for you.
Although there are certainly lots of clinically obese women out there who would love to lose the weight, in my coaching experience it’s even more often the case that you’re desperately trying to lose just that last 20-40 pounds.  And that can be THE most difficult weight to lose.
True, if you’ve only got 20-40 pounds left to lose, no one is going to call you obese.  Heck, they may not even notice you’re carrying extra weight at all, depending on what you’re wearing.
But YOU notice.  That’s the 20-40 pounds that not only keeps you out of your bikini – it’s keeping you out of a lot of other clothes you love, especially in the warm weather, and it may be impacting the kind of social invitations you accept (costume party = yes, pool party = Are you kidding me?!) and the kind of vacations you plan (hmmm… sight-seeing = Sure thing!  Beach = Not a chance~!).

Simplistic Theories You Need to Ignore

To shed the pounds AND to avoid having your self-esteem pummelled on a daily basis, there are several prevalent theories of weight loss you need to train yourself to tune out.  Unfortunately, despite all the medical evidence to the contrary, you still hear these, sometimes

even from “gurus”, so be careful.
The Input / Output Theory:  if you just eat less and exercise more, you’ll lose weight.
That would be great if exercise were a viable approach to weight loss.  It is NOT.  It doesn’t burn enough calories efficiently enough.  It also doesn’t address the question of your metabolism – how your unique metabolism produces and burns fats.
I know lots of people who get lots of regular exercise, but the pounds just don’t come off and, more importantly, THEIR TENDENCY TO GAIN WEIGHT REMAINS UNAFFECTED.  That’s critical and we’ll get to it in a moment.
Moreover, starving the weight off is hardly a recipe for sustainable weight management!

The Low Carb Theory: a low carb diet will take those pounds off.
And it often will, no question.  Everything from Atkins to Paleo can work really well in this respect, simply because so many people have metabolisms that convert sugars into fat faster than a politician converts facts into fantasies.  What’s the catch?
This doesn’t alter your metabolism.  And you DO need to consume a certain quantity of “good” carbs to maintain optimal health.
These and many of the other theories and approaches you’ll hear (“it’s all emotional”, “you need to count calories”, “don’t eat fats”, etc, etc., ad nauseum) are not only half-truths or even completely wrong as theories, they’re also enormously damaging to your belief in yourself as a person, to your self-worth at its very core.

What Actually “Works Gangbusters?”

Before we get to that, it’s REALLY important to know what a workable approach has to do for you.  If you’re thinking, “it just has to take pounds off”, think again.  Starvation will do that, but that doesn’t mean starvation is a viable life-long weight management strategy, does it?


A truly viable approach to FEMALE weight loss in particular absolutely must:


1. Take of weight reliably and predictably (i.e., if it only works for a      small percentage of women, then it’s not very useful)


2. Allow you proper nutrition during the process (i.e., it’s not based on any sort of starvation, like 500 calories a day or whatever) and even let you “cheat” a little so you don’t go nuts!


3. Alter your metabolism so that you’re not constantly at war with weight management for the rest of your life!

How to Stop Fighting Weight Battles and Just WIN the Damn War!

Here’s the real issue – if your weight loss approach is changing your diet but not your metabolism, you’ll be fighting “the Battle of the Bulge” your whole life long.  Do you really want that?  Wouldn’t you rather alter your metabolism so the whole weight war comes to a victorious conclusion?


That’s why you’ve got to stop fighting battles and just win the war.


And here’s a super effective approach to female weight loss that meets all our criteria AND gets our vote as the most likely approach to win the war for you, once and for all.

Back Into That Bikini?  Yes, Believe It Or Not!

Ultimately, you want and NEED two things: a) you need to feel good about your own body and how you look as a woman, and b) you need to keep your weight at a healthy level to prevent some unwanted and pretty nasty medical conditions.



Your idea of looking your best may or may not be getting back into a bikini.  However, I think you’ll agree that if you could get back into a bikini and feel good about what you see in the mirror, that would be worth the proverbial million bucks to you.



And if you’d like to meet a whole bunch of formerly overweight women who are now happily back in their bikinis, just go here and watch this VIDEO very carefully



~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Why Walk Outdoors? – Here’s the WHY You May Not Know About!

You already know you should be spending more time walking and moving around outdoors, so we’re not here to tell you that.   After all, your whole body-mind organism is screaming that message at you all day long.  What we ARE here to clarify for you is WHY you should do this more often.  And the reasons may surprise you!

In fact, with one small change in how you spend your time outdoors, it looks like you can exponentially increase the health benefits you receive.  And best of all, that one change does NOT involve doing any particular exercise 😉

The Three Levels of Benefit

There are at least three levels to consider, all of them interrelated. The physical level is obvious, the psychological level is obvious to most- but there is another level, the energetic level, on which being outdoors is critical.

On a physical level, we can quantify the Vitamin D our bodies produce through being exposed to sunlight, and its many, many positive effects on our physical health. We can measure the impact of the exercise we do outside. All of this is important. We are designed live and work outdoors, hiking through forests and over hills, and our entire system responds undeniably to that.

Psychologically, the medical community has recognized for a long time the importance of sunlight, and such conditions as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which causes low energy levels and depression due to the short daylight hours of higher-latitude winters, are familiar to many. Personally, I have always felt the winter malaise has as much to do with the lack of growing, green plants as the lack of sunlight. But there are other key psychological benefits to be gained from being outdoors. It has always throughout history been the practice of the well-to-do to go to places with wide-open vistas and water. Ascetics of Authentic Ancient Traditions throughout history have done the same- mountaintops being particularly popular. Wide open spaces, and particularly the energy of large bodies of water, have a transformative effect on the brain. They facilitate meditation, relax the mind, stimulate creativity and clear unproductive emotions and energetic blocks. Some health systems suggest that just looking at things ahead in the distance, or at objects above the horizontal plane, changes thought patterns.

One of the key principles of resilience is that the physical, psychological and energetic worlds can all impact and change one another. For instance, Vitamin D produced by sunlight exposure has been shown to have an essential role in our mental wellbeing, for instance in preventing dementia.

On the energetic level, things get interesting. We know that all living things, plants and animals alike, generate electromagnetic fields and coherent light emissions, and we can demonstrate that even plants respond to information communicated through that energy field. We humans were made to be surrounded by the energy fields of other living things, and we still respond to that energy. I may not know what exactly my body-mind organism is saying to the trees or the trees to my body, but I do know that I’m better for it. All living things emit energetic frequency, and to be surrounded by the healthy frequency of a vibrant ecosystem, not to mention the frequencies being put out by the sun itself, in turn changes my own frequency, which changes my state of physical health, emotional energy and thought processes.



One interesting body of research suggests that we should not only be walking out in nature, but doing so barefoot. Grounding, as it’s called, resulted in part from the observation that those who walk barefoot at least once a day suffer less inflammation than others. Inflammation is a key part of most disease processes from arthritis to heart disease and an indicator of poor tissue health.

It works like this: we often think of the earth as electrically neutral because of its ability to absorb and neutralise vast amounts of electrical current, but in reality, it does this on such a regular basis thanks to lightning strikes that it is in fact negatively charged. What that means is that there are a whole lot of free electrons available from it, electrons that we are preventing ourselves from absorbing because of our rubber and synthetic-soled shoes.  And that’s the one change that will pay huge dividends – just put on footwear that doesn’t act as a barrier to this electron absorption!

(For more info on “grounding” or “earthing,” as it’s sometimes called, have a look at this video…)


The benefit from being in direct contact with the earth is twofold.

First, we absorb a great deal of residual electromagnetic energy in the surrounding environment from the ambient radio, microwave and infrared pollution with which our society saturates the electromagnetic spectrum. Numerous studies have shown a direct impact on our health, notably related to cancer. By grounding ourselves, we are plugging in to the earth’s normal and far more powerful field, the one we were designed to be in contact with, clearing our systems. The earth’s energy field is also essential for setting up a healthy internal bioelectric environment and a number of natural rhythms, including circadian rhythm.

Second, the abundant free electrons available through contact with the ground have a powerful antioxidant effect, destroying the free radical toxins that are so abundant in our society. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules which are produced naturally in the metabolic process and which the body uses as part of the immune system. Your body has mechanisms to neutralize excess free radicals, but when too many of the molecules build up, that system is overwhelmed. Unfortunately, sources of free radicals in our society are so many that these molecules build up to harmful levels, causing inflammation and facilitating cancer and other diseases.

Common sources of free radicals include:
– Radiation- X-ray and microwave radiation increase the production of free radicals.
– Heavy metals- metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium are particularly pernicious because our bodies have no means of eliminating them. Sources include common dental fillings, food preservatives, cosmetics, antiperspirants, aluminum cookware.
– Chlorine and fluoride- lots of sources, notably tap water
– Propelene Glycol and Sodium laurel Sulphate- common ingredients in many personal-care products
– Hydrogenated trans-fatty oils- these fat molecules have been modified through long-term exposure to heat or chemical process. They oxidize much more quickly than ordinary fat molecules, releasing free radicals at a rate that kills or damages the host cell. They include shortening, deep-fryer oil, non-dairy creamers and a number of common cooking oils.

A number of other benefits to going barefoot, or in leather footware as our ancestors did, have been suggested. Running, for instance, was and in some places still is a traditionally barefoot activity, strange as that sounds. Shoes alter our gait, and guarantee that we land heel-first, with maximum skeletal shock, rather than toe-first, minimising the impact. Beyond that, the thickness of modern supported soles may simply be making our feet lazy. The foot is connected to every part of our energy system, and by removing the foot’s natural movement and the massaging action of walking, we’re essentially putting an essential part of our energy system in a cast and telling it not to move.

There is one further level of benefit from the natural world, a spiritual one. To be in touch with something that was before us and will endure after our physical death is powerful. We are meant to interact with nature, hence the power of activities like walking and gardening for our mental health. Above all, we are intended to appreciate and give thanks for the beauty of nature- and to give thanks, to appreciate beauty, is one of the best things, according to the Law of Attraction, that we can possibly transmit.

~Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂

Brain Resilience: 5 Steps to Healthy Gray-Matter and Avoiding Alzheimer’s


We all talk about slowing down as we get older, but Alzheimer’s and other brain-degenerative conditions don’t have to be part of the package.  Far from being part of the natural ageing process, Alzheimer’s, as with every other dementia and memory loss is an acquired condition with definite contributing causes.   Don’t believe it?  Then check out this article after reading this blog post.  Here are some simple approaches you can take to maintain the health of your brain.


Free Radicals


No, we’re not talking about anarchists.  Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that are produced naturally in the metabolic process and that the body uses as part of the immune system.  Your body has mechanisms to neutralize excess free radicals, but when too many of the molecules build up, that system is overwhelmed.  Because of their reactive quality, free radicals tend to destroy cells, including those in the brain and nervous system.


Sources of excess free radicals in the modern world include:

–          Radiation from x-rays and microwaves;

–          Toxic metals such as aluminum and cadmium in food preservatives, cosmetics, antiperspirants, aluminum cookware, and even public water supplies and flu vaccines; autopsies on Alzheimer’s patients often reveal abnormally high levels of aluminum;

–          Chlorine and fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste etc.;

–          Cigarette smoke;

–          Hydrogenated oils, such as shortening, deep-fryer oil and non-dairy creamers; these fat molecules have been modified through long-term exposure to heat or chemical process.  They act like a silver bullet going right to your brain and nervous system, where they oxidize much more quickly than ordinary fat molecules, releasing free radicals at a rate that kills or damages the host cell.


What can you do besides limiting your exposure?  Antioxidants are nature’s counterbalance to free radicals.  Vitamins C and E, Beta Carotine, D3 and B complex, as well as certain amino acids either act as antioxidants or stimulate antioxidant production.  The herbs ginko and ginseng and the spice turmeric likewise have antioxidant effects, and certain fruits, such as wild blueberries, are high in antioxidant content.  Increasing your vegetable intake also helps.



The 3-6 Balance


Your body needs a certain amount of dietary fat.  Unfortunately, modern diets tend to be weighted toward Omega 6 fatty acids rather than Omega 3, while our bodies are designed for the opposite.  This is of particular concern, because there is evidence that one particular kind of Omega 6 molecule is associated with memory loss and neural degeneration.  Arachidonic acid overstimulates the brain’s nerve cells.  We get Omega 6 from grain-fed factory-farm animal products, but especially from vegetable oil (corn, sunflower, canola and soybean), which is the main source of this imbalance in our diet.  These are present in most processed foods.


Conversely, Omega 3 is quite important for brain health.  It can help to break down the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s and reduce brain inflammation.  Dietary sources can be supplemented by krill oil or fish oil capsules, but beware of eating too much fish, as fish in our food chain is often contaminated with mercury.




Exercise plays a major role in regenerating the brain and nervous system.  Less active people are much more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.  By exercising three to four times a week, you can promote cell and tissue repair mechanisms in your body, as well as increasing production of compounds that protect the nervous system.  It increases the flow of blood in your brain and improves the health of your cardiovascular system.




Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to memory, as you know if you’ve ever been a university student.  There is also evidence that a healthy circadian rhythm is critical to the long-term health of your brain.  Working nights over a long period does serious damage to the health of your brain, since it is that regular biochemical cycle that keeps your neural pathways in good working order.



The Diabetes Connection


Diabetes and insulin-resistance have a very high correlation with Alzheimer’s.  Diabetics have up to a 65% higher chance of developing the disease.  As such, the same approaches you’d take to avoid diabetes, such as reducing your sugar and grain intake, are also helpful in promoting brain health.  Going to a diet richer in proteins is one of the first steps recommended to Alzheimer’s patients by natural health experts.



~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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