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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.

Meet MY Personal Trainer (astounding story… )

The Pain Wasn’t So Bad… at First

It started about six months ago… I felt this twinge in my right hip as I would wake up in the mornings. The pain quickly subsided as I went about my day.

A month or so later, I mentioned it to my physician, who found I had a full range of motion and told me, “Look, it seems pretty minor now so I don’t think an x-ray is a good idea. First of all, we won’t likely find anything and secondly, who needs the extra dose of radiation?”

Unfortunately the symptoms got quite a bit worse over the last few weeks. All the soft tissue in my pelvis and upper thighs got so tight that it hurt just to WALK! Yes, I could still do martial arts, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, interval training and all the usual stuff. But the pain would come back as soon as I finished and, if anything, it was getting worse.

So what did I do? I went to my go-to guy for most things physical – my own personal trainer, David Lee.

The Astonishing Discovery

Dave did an exam of the whole area, looking at ranges of motion for several joints, the flexibility of various muscle groups and the condition of the tendon structures throughout. “Wow, you’re trussed up pretty good down there!” pretty much summed up his diagnosis.

He went on to explain and demonstrate which muscle groups were tight or knotted up, which joints had lost how much range of motion and… to discover that my right hip was out of alignment with the left, thus throwing my entire torso out of alignment. When you’re as active as I am, that’s a bit of a shock!

Dave “Attacks” the Problem

Long story short, Dave took me through about thirty to forty minutes of work, including self massage of all the affected areas using my body weight on balls or foam cylinders of various types (painful? Hell yeah!). This was followed by some “assisted stretching” where he took my legs and hips through a series of positions and had me push back against him. This too was pretty agonizing. Then he said, “Okay. Time to stand up.” “You’ve got to be kidding,” I laughed. “I’m not even sure I can stand up!”

Slowly I made my way to the vertical. Once there I was astonished to find that ALL the stiffness of the past several weeks was gone! I’m writing this five days later and it’s still gone! Mobility has been one hundred percent restored. Granted, it will take follow up work on my part to consolidate the gains and make sure there’s no recurrence, but that’s fine by me!

Dave Explains…

If you ask Dave, he’ll tell you that most people who walk into his gym (and therefore most of the public) have significant structural issues – there are elements of their skeletal structures that are out of alignment, whether hips, spine, neck, shoulders or whatever. And there are significant areas of structural weakness as a result of previous injury or lack of development. Why is this important to you?

Average “personal trainers” don’t know how to identify this stuff and don’t realize that if they simply give a new client a pre-packaged workout to do, that workout may seriously aggravate the structural problems and cause more harm than good. “They’re just not trained to heal the body first,” says Dave. Furthermore, their knowledge of nutrition, supplementation and detoxification is so limited that they can’t help their clients avoid serious health issues down the road or ensure they’re optimizing their health every day during their training.

Dave’s Function as MY Personal Trainer

As you can imagine, I have pretty high standards for this and that’s why I work with a world class trainer like Dave.

And most trainers are nowhere in his league. I remember going for a fitness evaluation at a local gym a few years back out of curiosity. The trainer there took me through a short questionnaire, five minutes of various exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups and a stretch or two, and then said to me, “Your chronological age is 52 (correct at the time) and your biological age is 43.”

I replied, “How can you possibly know my biological age? You don’t have a blood test, your body fat measurement is subject to a wide range of error and you have no way to diagnose the functioning of my organs, my nervous system, my endocrine system or any other key markers.” The “trainer” didn’t have an answer for that one!

Dave is a different animal entirely. He collects a mountain of data (actually about 30 pages worth!) and analyzes it with you in detail. He’s the guy who is there to:

1. Challenge me to “up my fitness game” – he corrects my form, helps me set my fitness goals and knows exactly what exercises will help me attain those goals.

2. Challenge me to up my nutrition / supplementation / detox game so as to maximize my long-term health. He’s there to detect deficiencies before they become problems.

3. Fix any structural problems arising from exercise, workout mistakes I make or simply from accident (e.g., my hip).

Turn Up Your Speakers…

First, you can watch this very brief video about Dave and what he does (and, in my opinion, it’s wildly understated in the video):


I Interviewed Dave For You

If you want a MUCH MORE IN DEPTH look at this and want to learn more about your body and how to care for it long-term, listen to this interview I recently did with Dave:

Dave has also finished a series of DVDs demonstrating his teachings. You can find them at .
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

How to Enjoy Optimal Fitness… Even If You’re Challenged By Time, Funds or Genetics

Getting to fitness from non-fitness can be a challenge for the best of us, particularly if we find our body types, metabolism, energy levels, motivation, time, budget or any of the other factors in the alchemy of fitness stacked against us.  But there is at least one program out there that is both perfectly designed kick the discouraged out of their ruts and ideal for maintaining and supplementing advanced levels of fitness.  Scott Sonon, MMA champion and trainer of law enforcement and military personnel around the world, created a program specifically designed to let anyone playing with a disadvantage kick-start their fitness and grow muscle quickly.

And while you might be tempted to assume that this is just “fitness and muscle-building for guys”, think again – an impressive number of women use Scott’s TACFIT methods as their fitness routine of choice.

TACFIT uses advanced scientific fitness principles to create a comprehensive program to get the most out of your body with limited space, time, money and equipment.  In fact, all you need are a couple of free weights (they’re easy to find and very inexpensive) and access to the Mass Assault video series.  In ten to twenty minutes a day, TACFIT can transform what you think and feel about fitness and teach your body to make the best use of any fitness program you choose.  (Note that while Mass Assaultuses weights, many other TACFIT programs are bodyweight-oriented.  I recommend the weight routine for purposes of this article since body-weight exercises require an existing level of fitness and can be difficult for overweight people.) 

Here’s a clip of Scott working with a live class.  You’ll notice this isn’t Mass Assault itself, because these guys and gals are working out with lots of different types of equipment (even though most of it is readily available and cheap).  In this sense, Mass Assault is even easier than what you see here, but still gives eye-popping results in short-duration workouts like this one:



The routines are deceptively simple, but as long as you pay attention to the advice on body mechanics, you will find them to have amazingly high impact.  According to one person who had tried several weight routines with limited success, TACFIT took less than a third of the time of his previous routine but had over three times the impact.  Most importantly, the feeling in the body after just a week is totally exceptional.  You will find that even if you have done absolutely no significant exercise for months, your muscles will suddenly feel different, as though they have more energy and are begging to be used.

Why can TACFIT achieve this when other routines don’t?  There are several reasons.  Most importantly, it is designed to change the anabolic state of the body, creating the conditions for muscle growth, something that very few fitness programs do up front.  That feeling of muscular energy is the manifestation of a physiological change that translates into much higher benefit from any form of exercise.

Also, where most weight routines target a few areas at a time- e.g. cardio or two or three muscle groups per exercise- TACFIT engages the whole body, not just muscles but all of that essential connective tissue that makes them work.  This routine is strength training, endurance and cardio in one.  The result is a change so clear and immediate that motivation becomes easy to maintain, whether you choose to continue with TACFIT alone or as part of a wider fitness program.  The best part is that it works for any schedule- it doesn’t take much of your time and it leaves you with a higher energy level afterward.

In short, TACFIT Mass Assault has our vote as a top fitness routine of choice.  And, by the way, WE USE IT OURSELVES and have been for over about two years now! 


And we hope you enjoy it’s elegance, simplicity and, most of all, its incredible RESULTS as much as we do!


~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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

Resilience Tool par excellence?

Bagua Zhang is perhaps the least-known and most intriguing of the Chinese “Internal” martial arts.  It is visually distinguished by a soft, flowing appearance and the fact that many of its forms and exercises involve walking in a circle.  This circle is often represented as the Circle of Changes (ba gua or “eight trigrams”), with eight trigrams from the I Ching around the circumference, as in the diagram below:


Historically, Bagua appears to have been confined to practice by reclusive Taoists living in mountains and distant monasteries until the 19th Century, when it suddenly appeared in mainstream Chinese society thanks to a teacher named Tung Hai Chuan, where it quickly established a tremendous reputation as a fighting art in that unstable and martial arts-saturated environment.  Since that time, Bagua has also gained a reputation as a tremendous tool for health and healing.

“Walking the Circle” as a practice for physical and spiritual health has a long history in Taoist monasticism with or without the martial applications.  It is a form of exercise and of walking meditation.  The spiritual benefits of the practice include cultivating stillness of mind, calm nerves and a sense of inner balance that can withstand even the most rapid and unsettling changes in your outer world- in other words, it can help you cultivate inner resilience.  Outer, physical resilience benefits include:

–       Developing consciousness of good postural alignment throughout the body in a state of movement,

–       Developing a good sense of balance,

–       Developing agility and the ability to change directions quickly,

–       Stretching, compressing, opening and strengthening the body’s soft tissues- muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia,

–       Gently massaging the internal organs,

–       Opening and strengthening the joints.


The initial focus of Bagua is to make the body supple, healthy and strong.

So what does this process look like?  First, Bagua teaches specialized stepping methods with particular energetic implications, which in the first level of teaching are used to walk the circle in alternating clockwise and counter clockwise directions with the arms in particular static positions.  This form of movement is used for the cultivation of inner power under the guidance of an expert.  In the next two stages, the practitioner is introduced to the single and double palm changes, which represent the yang and yin energies of Bagua, the projecting and fluid energies if you will.  In the fourth stage, the student learns the Eight Palms, representing the eight energetic possibilities depicted by the trigrams of the ba gua circle.  Bagua practice is distinguished from other martial arts by the fact that it is done moving at full speed (after a slower introductory period) with rapid changes of direction and circular and spiralling movements.  Here you can watch a basic Bagua routine demonstrated by a master from the Taoist monastery at Wudang:

Bagua operates on the principle of practicing a small number of movements, each of which has a great many layers of content.  An example of this are the single and double palm changes (see video).  Classically, students of Bagua were first taught to walk the circle while performing Nei Gung energy work, the two initial palm changes and very little else, until their internal power had developed to such a degree that any further techniques they learned became extremely powerful.  Even so, it is said that to be able to fully utilize and understand any of the individual palm change movements might take years of practice- and that the abilities in combat of those who focus on a few small movements are far greater than the abilities of those who learn complex combat applications.  The many specialized movements are merely a container for the energies being used.  Here, martial arts master B.K. Frantzis gives you a quick demo to give you the idea of how this all works:

The Bagua approach to developing inner power is the Taoist sixteen-part process of Nei Gung, which you can read about from a number of sources, notably B.K. Frantzis’ books.  Through this process, the student’s energy is made strong and healthy, and can be consciously used for particular purposes.  Blockages in the energy system from traumatic events are removed, and the student can begin to consciously cultivate, use and preserve energy for their own health, and also to heal others.  Finally, the Bagua student can begin to see and experience in real, energetic terms where he or she stands in the energy system of the world and the cosmos.

Bagua makes no bones about the fact that despite the many health, healing and martial applications of its many movements, those movements are useless unless you’ve first cultivated the inner power to make them work for their intended purpose.  Bagua is unique in its reliance on footwork as a form of energy work.  Where other martial arts rely on stances, Bagua relies on stepping methods that are both numerous and subtle.  In martial applications, this means that if you’re sparring with a Bagua person, they’ll end up behind you within a couple of seconds.  These stepping methods also have specific functions in naturally opening the body’s energy channels, and in opening, relaxing and strengthening the joints- in one instance recounted by Frantzis, a man with severe hereditary rheumatism used Bagua practice to keep his condition in check.

That last is an important point, because Bagua confers additional physical benefits from long practice- the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia are relaxed and subjected to constant gentle twisting motions, which are essential to the health and strength of these tissues and of the energy system which travels through them, an aspect of fitness that is only beginning to be recognized in the West.  The joints, another key component of the energy system, also need to be opened and strengthened through gentle movement to stay healthy as the body ages.

Bagua offers a lifelong path to personal resilience in personal health, healing, martial applications, spiritual development and energy work, unique in its comprehensive vision, depth and the concentric layers of simplicity and nuance that one seems to encounter at every turn.

Dr. Symeon Rodger

For a more extensive intro to Bagua, you can check this out:

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