WE STAND, WALK, RUN, LIFT, WORK, AND LIVE in the presence of oxygen. Is there any other way? You are reading this in the presence of oxygen. You are reading this aerobically.
Americans started sitting down in the early 30s. They sat in strollers, playpens, cars, trains, offices, and when TV was introduced at the World’s Fair in NY in 1939, it was no time at all before they were sitting in front of TV. They continued to sit in car seats, buses, classrooms, cafeterias, bigger cars, in front of computers, in movie theatres, at football, basketball and baseball games and in front of more TV. And while they sat they ate — badly.
By the mid-1950s and early 1960s, heart attacks in young men were on the rise and beginning to be noticed. Eisenhower’s heart attack helped bring that to the forefront along with his wise doctor, Dudley White, who prescribed exercise.
What to do with Americans who were now used to doing nothing more than, as Bonnie used to say “what an 80 year old man with arthritis couldn’t do just as well”?
Dr. Kenneth Cooper had an answer, and in the mid-sixties he coined the word “aerobics” and set up a point program based on his experience working with the military. He was followed by George Sheenan and Jim Fixx, both enthusiasts of running “the distance” and authoring books on same.
Not to be outdone or left out, along came the women. Jackie Sorenson and Judi Missett Sheppard were both dance prodigies, and along with the Dance Aerobics and Jazzercise boom came another boom: fitness fashion.
By the mid-1980s, a bust followed all the booms. People were dropping out of aerobic programs and classes by the thousands due to injuries involving feet, knees, hips and backs. Why?
Those designing programs had no experience working with average Americans, those who had been doing NOTHING for two generations and who had been eating badly to boot. The program designers were used to working with the young military guys, Olympic athletes and dancers — those with, for the most part, healthy bodies — all in the minority. In addition, the programs, based upon their own limited experience, were repetitive and most often performed on cement (even if covered by a rug) or pavement. In other words, they were damaging. Would you run your million dollar horse on pavement? Not if you knew any better. “But then,” as Bonnie used to say, “horses’ legs are valuable.”
The same reason aerobic enthusiasts dropped out: because it hurts. According to a January 21, 2016 CNN report, 3.5 million children under the age of 14 needed treatment for sports injuries caused by overuse. (And those figures are only for the population who engages in an activity.) Reasons: poor, untrained bodies, and over-zealous, uninformed adults. You can’t expect anyone to just sit around for years, drive everywhere, never walk and then be able to run the distance without consequences. Where is our common sense???
Another report recently offered up these figures. Forty percent of those signing up for a health club at the beginning of the year will drop out by February 28. The reasons: bored, hurt, time consuming.
Back in the early 80s, Bonnie was invited to lecture at Florida Hospital in Orlando, FL. The hall was full, and the lecture went well as Bonnie explained Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy and how it worked to erase muscle pain due to injuries from accidents, occupations, and sports. When it came to the final few minutes of the question answer period, a hand shot up in the back of the room, and a rather annoyed man’s voice said, “You haven’t said anything about aerobics.” Without hesitation Bonnie gave, what I consider to be, one of her greatest one-liners: “We’ve ruined our chassis to save our motors.”
Bonnie wasn’t against improving heart and lung function. She was very much for it. Much of her daily life demanded that her vital capacity and heart function be top notch. She was a dancer, a varsity athlete and top woman climber in the world in the 40s and 50s. What she was against was ruining the body. Run, but not on the road. Dance but not on cement. Train but do it responsibly.
“There is a wonderful thing you should know and remember about muscles. They are grateful for attention and you can be absolutely sure of a return on your investment. They love to complain when you overwork them, but in no time they will measure up to demands if you work them sensibly.
“There is a second thing you should know about muscles and for the sake of your happiness if not your life, you had best remember it. They are like vital women in love. You can strain them, overwork them, ask for the impossible and get it BUT YOU MUST NEVER IGNORE THEM. Their revenge is sure, and they have a deadly, purposeful patience. Little by little they will fail you. At first with fatigue and then in performance. Finally everything will be an effort. They will have destroyed your will to enjoy the good things and made you a pushover for the bad.
“One day, when you are faced with the questions of survival, you may realize, too late, the most important truth of all… that your heart, too, was a muscle.” —Bonnie Prudden, How to Keep Slender and Fit After Thirty.
You do not have to jump up and down on cement or run on the road or the treadmill to develop your heart muscle. These movements are repetitive, and performed on hard surfaces they ruin the legs. Try the following exercise 8 to 10 consecutive times and you will find yourself puffing before you have finished… and your feet have not left the ground.
Start in the standing position with feet apart on heels on the floor. Without bending the knees, lean forward from the hips and place a hand on the floor. Walk the hands forward for three counts but do not move the feet. On the fourth count when the body is stretched all out, press the pelvis down with a sharp movement, but do not bend the arms. Walk the hands back for two counts and allow the last two for standing straight. This exercise not only increases your heart rate it strengthens arms, hands, shoulders, back and abdominals. It will stretch the groin, the abdominals and the hamstrings.
Really, you don’t have to be bored, spend time or money you don’t have, or be hurt to get in shape. You can do it in your own home IF you know how. Listen to your muscles. They talk to you… but you have to listen to hear them. Begin listening for whispers that tell you “you are going too fast,” “that is too much right now,” “you need to change your movement.” Use your common sense. Don’t ignore the messages from your muscles. Your muscles need variety… just as you do.
Change, Challenge, and Rhythm
Bonnie’s basic program — which can be adapted to any age group and ability — is safe, effective, challenging and enjoyable. It uses inexpensive, find-it-around-the-house equipment that can be used in a variety of ways. It uses music and rhythmic movement to ensure that the muscles perform in a variety of ways, that the muscles are challenged but not overused or misused, and that the brain is engaged.
Start easy. Listen to your muscles. Enjoy moving. All in the presence of oxygen.
To read more about your heart and lung muscles, check out my June 2016 blog, Shout it Out: A Case for Improved Vital Capacity.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®