Sitting on the Roadside

Crete Sunset
Sunset from the Old Road on Crete

In the mid to late eighties, I lived on the Greek Island of Crete for six years. I was stationed there at Iraklion Air Station, a half-hour drive from Iraklion, Crete’s largest city. It was literally a dream assignment for me because when I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Rogers, took a cruise to Crete with her son, who was in the Navy. After her return, she created a slide show from that vacation and showed it to my class. Ever afterward, I deeply ached to live there. I read everything I could find about the island, looked at picture books of Crete, and watched every National Geographic Documentary about the Mediterranean. And when I found out I could be stationed there, I put in for an extended long tour.

Crete is an island in more ways than one. Mainland Greece is not really a first world nation. Parts of it are, but many regions are anachronistic, and Crete is an even further step back. It is an island of antiquity. People still heat their homes with wood, have dirt floors, and many still ride on mules or donkeys to get around. Once you remove yourself from the coastlines where all the tourists flock every summer, you find yourself in another century.

The city of Iraklion, however, is an island in the other direction.  It is an isolated pocket of the “first World.” It has a large urban population, which brought with it urban attitudes. The Greeks of Iraklion moved fast. In particular, they loved to drive fast. The government had recently built what everyone called, The New Road, a four lane highway built for speed. It replaced, I kid you not, the Old Road, a two lane highway that hugged the meandering  and rocky coastline. The two roads were like metaphors for each era. The super fast one for the early digital age and the slow, scenic one that called to mind our agrarian roots. Along the Old Road were turn-outs at most every curve, and in the evening, as men made their way home, they would pull into those turnouts and stop, get out, lean against the hood and watch the setting sun.

This always struck me as a little odd. Why did these people choose the Old Road, when, as I said, they liked going fast. Getting where you were going quicker than anyone else–mattered.  It took me just one time of getting in someone’s way to learn all kinds of rude foreign gestures. For two, machismo is something very important to the average Greek male, and sitting by the roadside to gaze into the sunset seemed counter to that need for manliness. But there they were, every evening, smoking cigarettes and gazing out over the sea.

I remember asking an English-speaking friend of mine, Mike the rug-man, about it. He said, “It’s a good thing to do–to slow down and think on your life. You know, in Greece, philosophy is very important, and we try to honor this.” Okay, that made sense. The way Mike put it, in the light of Greek history, men relishing the end of their day seemed less unusual. These fellows were out there living the examined life of Socrates and Plato. I got that.

For me, taking time to savor the moment was a part of my routine. When I arrived home at the end of the day, I would hop on my mountain bike and tool out to the same cliffs. That’s how I encountered the Greek men’s habits–through my own need for solitude. Now that I knew more about why they did it, I felt like I was part of some ancient tradition, like I belonged to the culture a little more. I even tried waving to them, but that didn’t go over. They only scowled. I guess waving would have eroded their rough exteriors a little too much.

Now, nearly thirty years later, people race faster than ever and it’s killing them. Perhaps, this digital era could learn a valuable lesson from those men who set aside their breakneck bravado for a moment in order to savor the passing minutes of their life. If we don’t do that, what is life about?

 

“What’re You Training For?”

A few weeks ago, an older fellow who had watched me groan out four sets of heavy (for me) deadlifts, approached and asked, “What’re you training for?” When I stopped writing in my workout log and looked up, I could tell by his slightly raised eyebrows and turned head, that he was failing to imagine why a gray-haired fellow   should be putting forth that kind of effort.  No prob, I’d been here before.

I had a ready answer–“High Function. I’m in my mid-fifties, and I want to keep myself able-bodied: able to work on my property, able to rock climb, able to hike or bike long distances, and able to play with my children.”

Crack Girl
Sometimes we work out in order to play.

Basically, I refuse to resign myself to the line of thinking that asserts, “strength building is for competing athletes and the young.  As an older person himself, he should’ve known  this, but he didn’t. Why not? Because this line of thinking goes against the mainstream grain. Just spend a little time perusing the internet and gazing at all the fitness selfies. Working out is portrayed to be mostly about looking good.  You never see selfies or videos of folks using their rippling muscles to landscape their yard, haul a load of bricks, or pull their kids around in a sled.  (If there were, the participants would be half-naked) You don’t see the before video of someone unable to carry their own groceries up a few flights of stairs and then the after video of them doing it with ease. You don’t see someone getting out of breath after a few points of volleyball and then six-weeks later spiking the winning point. No, you see overweight people getting thin and telling everyone, “I look great!” Which is fine in a narrow outlook, but fitness is about far more than that.

shoveling-dirt-m
Sometimes we workout in order to work

Athletes and the young shouldn’t have a corner on strength training. For the most part, they are only trying to improve their game or going for finer aesthetics–doing curls for girls and thighs for guys. Their muscles aren’t slowly deteriorating. Their connective tissue isn’t steadily growing stiffer. Their bones aren’t thinning and turning brittle.  Their metabolism isn’t slowing. Not yet anyway. (Heh, heh, heh) In light of those much more serious reasons alone, the old are the ones who should be the most concerned with strength training, because it is the medicine that will keep the symptoms of aging at bay.

So, If you find yourself watching some older person crank out four sets of squats in the gym and wondering what the hell he or she is up to, remember that they have more pressing reasons than anyone to be under a heavy bar.  So do you. Under the flow of time, your body is eroding away, and neither you or anyone else can dam the stream. The best each of us can do is put our time to good use, and as time flows, harness your body’s energy in order to rejuvenate yourself.  Use your time to get inside a gym or start a home strength program and build a better body, one that is stronger, faster, more supple, and tireless.

 

Advance Confidently

I posted this to my Facebook page a few days ago as a reminder to my friends and personal training clients that success is more often experienced by the bold.

“When you’re standing on the edge of change, about to take the leap into a new world devoid of the creature comforts that habit has provided, remember what Henry David Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.””

One friend asked, “Is that true?”

Well, I think it is and here’s my reasoning.

Living confidently means there’s a strong faith in the “rightness” of your actions. This isn’t necessarily a moral rightness, but rather a rightness for who you are and who you desire to be. You must embrace the hope of things unseen, that the imagined future will surpass your current state. This means the life of yesterday is not held on to, nor do you regret its receding into the past. In my experience, the fear of loss is a major impediment to change. Even when what is being lost is harmful.

The Edge of Change

Trying to change your future life does not mean to abandon living in the present. The present is where the work is done. The Past and Future are beyond your influence and only exist within yourself. The past is expressed in the way you have been formed, but it is irretrievably gone and part of it isn’t even that welcome in your life since you’re on a path of change. So, remember the past, learn from it, but don’t mourn it. The future only plays a role in the present as an influence for behavior, but it has not played out yet; it is a mystery and should remain so. Hold fast to your vision; work to see it come to fruition, but withhold any exclusive expectations. Work in the garden of the present, your very toil and focus are the seeds. Then,  as unexpected blooms spontaneously appear among those you cultivated, see what beauty comes to pass.

Plus, the confidence I’m speaking of, is attractive to others–it’s contagious and attracts help. Would you rather invest in the timid or the confident? People who “advance confidently in the direction of their dreams” draw help from those around them, whether that be mere encouragement or physical investment of some kind. When people fail, it’s often to some extent due to their impoverished confidence and an absence of earnest and industrious effort. They undermine their own dream.

When I read Thoreau’s comment, I especially note the word, “unexpected.” The person who succeeds doesn’t expect to; he believes and toils regardless of the possible outcomes. Why? Because he believes in the “rightness” of what he’s doing. Not because he thinks he deserves success. Not because he thinks fate owes him success. Those two beliefs are reasons to slow down and wait for your due. And therefore are often why they set the stage for failure.

If you want to succeed, follow in the footsteps of those driven by what they confidently believe in and work for and you will likely find yourself unexpectedly successful.

Nothing? or Something

Most of the people I talk to day to day cite “not having enough time” as the biggest problem with getting into the gym.  If you’re short on time, please tell me you’re not a member of that group who throw’s up their hands and gives up. I can accept that time is an issue, but I don’t believe it’s insurmountable. Here are a couple of strategies that can be used to fight time-loss.

When you think of a workout, what comes to mind? Ninety minutes in the gym, forty-five minutes of weights followed by an hour of cardio? Perhaps you need to redefine your idea of a “workout.” What if you took the time element, the one that’s in shortage, and made it less imposing? Say, 5-10 minutes. What if, instead of one 30 minute session, you did three ten-minute sessions? Could you make that work? Give it a little thought, and come up with a ten minute workout you could do anywhere. Then–go for it. There is no rule that a workout “has” to be a certain length. There is an optimum length that fits your goals, but if you can’t do the time–change the workout. Ten minutes busting butt beats an hour of nothing.

A quick side note about time. If you are one of those who regularly finds himself without enough time, you really need to ask, “Why?” When you find yourself getting less sleep, not eating healthy foods, and failing to exercise, there’s a problem. All of those things are high on the hierarchy of needs and are necessary to good health.  Recently, I read a book about Minimalism and here’s a passage I want to share. It goes out to anyone who says they don’t have enough time:

“Between work and attending my children’s sporting events, I no longer had time for an outside life: no time to read, no time to relax, no time for closer relationships. I didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee with a friend, to listen to his stories. I realized that if I didn’t control my time, I relinquished control of my life. It was a shocking realization.”

I recommend that you restore your control over life–before lesser concerns totally or partially steal that life from you. Give it some serious thought, and remember, preserving the quality of your life is not selfish–especially if others rely on your being at your healthiest.

Another big flaw in many people’s workout habits is the “all or nothing” syndrome. If they can’t get a full workout in they don’t workout at all, and therefore, due to this perfectionism, no exercise gets done. Why does anyone have to do the perfect workout every time? The short answer is–they don’t. Just last week, I was running behind and didn’t have a long enough block of time to complete an entire workout. So, I split it into two parts. I did 30 minutes immediately and another 30 minutes later in the day. I don’t want to do that all the time, but it worked out fine. Sometimes I skip my stretching regimen. Does it slow my recovery process? Yes, a little, but at least I get the workout in.

There is a saying in the fitness world that goes along with this line of thinking. The saying is, “If time is a problem, then intensity is the solution.” You see, there’s something called the laws of physics. If you work out with low intensity for an hour and burn 500 calories, you can work out with higher intensity for thirty minutes and expend an equal number of calories. Neat, huh? So, if time’s a problem…Intensity is your solution.

Both of these strategies have to do with redefining what has been normally been thought of as a workout. A definition isn’t what keeps you in shape–working out does. So, rather than stick to old ideas, switch it up. Put aside the “all or nothing attitude” of perfectionism and get done what you can–no matter what–something– beats nothing at all. Remember, the desire for change is knocking on your door and that all-or-nothing thinking — rarely gets us “all.” It usually gets us “nothing.”

 

Really? Career Advice?

“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life. ”

Maya Angelou

On the Huffington Post, five successful and prominent women were asked to give advice to their 22 year-old-selves. Most all of them gave career and money advice.  Admittedly, it was a career that made these women who they are today. Plus, a career takes up a large part of every working person’s life, and in many ways a career is how working people define who they are.   It lets people know where they fit, how they are contributing to society. Nevertheless, to my mind, there is so much more than career advice for an older self to impart to her younger self.

There are qualities of being that are more general and broadly applicable that would prove useful.  One such quality might be “diligence.” Diligence applies to the working world, but it also umbrella’s social interaction. We have duties outside of what we get paid for: being kind, being helpful, and loving others. Everyone could improve on being more diligent about these essential ways of being. These are more than good behavior; they are the underpinnings, the foundations of every social construct worldwide. Without them, society collapses into self-centered anarchy.

Speaking of important social constructs, I remember when I was in college, studying to be a teacher; the question arose about what made a good marriage partner. Most everyone in the room’s number one answer was, “My partner can’t be cheap.” My number one answer was, “My partner should be kind.” I have never forgotten that moment when a sad part of the culture was revealed to me in a poignant way. It seems, judging by those women in the Huffington Post, that money and position in the working world, are more important than other things. And it’s not just that publication; I read, see and hear the same thing in all the media outlets; it’s all about the economy and rarely about the environment, caring for one’s fellow human beings, sustainability, or striving harder for peace.

So, what might each of us, not just those who have the endorsement of money on our resume, impart to our younger selves, who exist in the new crowds of young people thronging forward like salmon to sea? Besides planning and goal setting, what will bring the greatest success? Perhaps we should fall back on the old guard: Be honest in everything, work hard no matter what you are doing, love one another based on nothing other than you are fellow humans, be diligent, persevere. Those qualities will ensure success, no matter what the context or field.

The First Link

This is my initial post and I think the first thing I need to do is explain who I am, what I hope to achieve, and why the title, “Prometheus Unchained.”

Well, My name is Roy Reichle, and I live in the Northern Hinterlands of Nebraska on a five and a half acre plot of Eden. I’m not going to bore you with my bio except to say that I grew up in Southern Texas, Spent 20 years in the USAF, spent over half that in Europe, met my wife at my final assignment, obtained a Secondary English Teaching Degree at the University of Nebraska in Omaha,  and then moved here. I am not a teacher now, but rather own and operate a Personal Training business called Vertical Fitness.

This blog is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time, as I love to write (An English Teacher who loves to write?) and I feel that I have something to contribute to the world conversation. As a trainer, I work with people who are trying to better their lives through healthy living and the knowledge I pass on to them can possibly find a larger audience here. I also am an avid reader who constantly ingests thought provoking passages  and those thoughts need somewhere to go. My life is also full of adventures in the outdoors, as I am a rock climber, backpacker, and cave explorer, so I am sure to post some trip reports and insights.

Now, why title this site and blog “Prometheus-Unchained?” Well, ever since I was a boy the tale of Prometheus has intrigued me. He is my favorite Titan, mostly because he stuck his neck out to help the little guys–us. He brought the world fire, which made human life easier. Forever after, we could warm our caves, sear our meat, and light the way. I hope this blog can do something like that, make life a little easier, more palatable, and perhaps be lit more brightly.

Until next time–keep each other safe and remember that grace is the way to peace.