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Joe Marshall Describes How To Win In Tennis

Joe Marshall posted this comment to my “Mentality” article yesterday (below). Joe was a great mentor/coach for me and wrote about 15 articles on this site about how to play tennis much much better. His strategies have helped me and many others improve their game dramatically. You can find them by searching with the keywords Joe Marshall.

Great story….Remarkable in its coincidence. Yesterday, I played a doubles match with a couple of thirty somethings on the other team, and my partner and I (ages 64 and 59) on our side…..they got off to a 3-0, 15-40 lead. My partner was solid, I was very inconsistent. Our opponents run twice as fast as us, one hits twice as hard, the other hits with twice the spin….I usually serve the best of the bunch, but yesterday, we all served about the same….serviceable…We stole that game and won the next. on serve! But they broke me for the second time to go up, 4-2. But we fought back, and won the next 4 games, fighting off break points and game points in each one….6-4 us.

In the second set, we got up 2-0 15-30, but they held, then they broke and held again. We tied it up at 3-3. They got up 5-3, but we won three games in a row, and I served for the match….they broke me for about the 5th time….I have been holding serve very well lately, but I lost all confidence, and my partner wasn’t helping me by stealing a poach here or there, or even moving to distract them or anything….in the tiebreak, we got up 3-1, but then they reeled foo 5 out of 6 points to go up 6-4. One had an easy volley at the net and tried to dropshot it…he JUST missed it, but I was running in, and would have had it if it wasn’t a very good dropper, so I think I put some pressure on him…..Then I hit two service winners, probably the only two I got all day….neither a terrific shot, but both solid first serves. When my partner served with our match point later, I poached and they hit the return in the net.

The key was experience, playing the pressure points well, but mostly strategy. The only thing I had working for me wsa my mind and my reflexes…I made several fine reflex shots to extend rallies, and some great gets….My partner was solid as a rock….They kept playing one up, and one back, with the server occasionally sneaking in. They also made some terrific poaches. My partner and I realized the only way we were going to get ahead was to lob everything, especially the return of serve. We had long rallies of our team lobbing, and their deep man running around hitting (and occasionally missing) groundies, while their net man looking for overheads, that he would occasionally hit, and about half the time, miss (or we would block it back.

In the second set, my partner lost his lob, he started hitting them all short…..I reminded him to get his weight into the shot, like any other shot, and follow through HIGH. Correcting things when they go wrong is one of the great gifts of experience.

They changed strategies in the second set when they had their run…..their deep man started hitting big high topspin shots, backing us up, and making it difficult to lob the net man (the best way to get a lob over the deep man’s head is to move up and take it early)…..Unfortunately for them, they didn’t stick with this strategy, and inexplicably, their server started to come in fast behind creampuff serves, making my return of serve lobs over the net man twice as effective….On big points, experience teaches you to follow certain mantras…..”Keep your weight going forward on return of serves”…anticipate on a certain side, On a serve, keep the toss high, let it bounce if it isn’t good, make sure you clear the net, exhale, put plenty of spin on the second serve…..and above all BE CONSISTENT, but forgive your self immediately if you miss one…Stay in the moment, the past means nothing, the future isn’t written….you might lose, you might win, but keep fighting….Now’s not the time to think about results…now is the time to hit the BALL!

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Two Drastically Different Mentalities

I recently played squash in fear and tennis with hope. The different results are stupefying, and you might guess that I lost the squash game and won the tennis contest. You are partly right. However the details are worth describing. Especially if there is a lesson here for life beyond the courts…

A month ago I had just hit squash balls with a new friend who is a serious squash player, but out of shape. We stopped after 30 minutes. It was my first time on a squash court in three years.

Then I saw a martial arts movie, The Best of the Best, in which USA coach James Earl Jones says things like: you must win all the time, not just some of the time or whenever. Winning is a life style that requires total dedication and concentration. Losers on the mat are losers in life.

The next day I played squash GAMES with my friend. I usually just hit on the court, not play games with points. But I won the first game 11-5. I noticed that when I was ahead, I was hoping the game would be over soon and that I wouldn’t blow it. I lost the next game 6-11. We took a break and talked. During the third game, I was ahead 7-2 and 9-4. But I was terrified that I was going to lose. Every time my opponent bounced the ball before serving, it was so deliberate and practiced and intense and serious, I was actually afraid. I could see that he was an experienced player. I was incredibly impatient again for the game to be over. I sure knew what it was like to have NO confidence, low self esteem, fear and self-disgust.

I remembered the words from the movie and repeated them in my head. “I want to win, you can do it.” But I was definitely scared and had no confidence that I would win…even with a five point lead. I certainly didn’t want to be a loser. But I lost anyway, 10-12…I made one more point, while the other guy made eight. It was a rout. It was ridiculous. My game was pathetic.

Later I told myself that it’s not so important, I was out of practice, I have played few games in my life, none in three years. Yatta, yatta, yatta. My rationalization included recalling that the Malaysia plane had been destroyed, there was fighting in Gaza, etc, etc. A squash game means nothing. I got over it…

Two days later I played tennis. Phil Farmer, an experienced player, had told me earlier that he always plays to win, because it’s “his game… it’s who he is.” I admired his determination to play well and not accept losing to his peers. I play my best, but when I lose, I often say that “It’s just a game.”

On the doubles court one set, I was the weakest player. As part of the round robin format that afternoon, first team to five games and ahead by two is the winner.

The first time I served in the set, we won easily. My serving has improved considerably, since I took a lesson a month ago. I also practiced serving for an hour the night before and for 15 minutes earlier the day of this match. My partner certainly deserves credit for putting away a number of the returns to my serve. At least what I sent out when serving didn’t come back as winners. To everyone’s surprise, our team took a 4-0 lead. I was giddy. Winning would be an upset. I even wanted a bagel.

Now I was serving again for the match…but we lost. Then we lost again and again and again. Score is 4-4. Tiebreak.

Our opponents took an early lead, I lost both my serves. Soon we were behind 1-5. But I have much more hope and optimism and confidence in tennis than in squash. I am known as the guy who “never gives up,” and I tell my partners that all the time. We came back to 3-6, and it was my turn to serve again. I wanted to win, though I did not believe we WOULD win. But I was going to give it all I had, do my best, make a real effort. It never even occurred to me that we were definitely going to lose or that I was afraid.

I served a fast ball (for me) right down the middle that skidded off the line for an ace. 4-6. My second serve was not returned. I think it was hit into the net. 5-6. I hadn’t choked. We were still in the game. Then we break the next point. It’s 6-6, then 6-7, 7-7, 8-7, 8-8, 9-8.

My turn to serve again. I don’t choke for the second time. My serve is not returned in the court. We win 10-8!

Who would have believed it? No one. My partner and I talked later about the changes in momentum…after all, we were ahead 4-0, then lost it to 4-4 and 1-5 in the tiebreak. Then something changed again. Why wasn’t I afraid? I don’t know. I do remember though that when I was serving at 3-6, I was unsure how to do the serving motion. It felt awkward, forced, the farthest rhythm from smooth and practiced.

But somehow it happened…even an ace down the “T.” I want to know how to do this in everyday life. How to come through when I need to. How to not be afraid or so scared that I am wishing it would end and be over, even if I am the loser, which is an awful feeling I don’t have hardly at all. I mean I lose all the time. I make mistakes every day. But the fear I felt in that squash game was painful.

During the hour of talk and drinks after the tennis match, it didn’t register emotionally. I was proud when one friend I played with earlier said he’d heard about my victory and told everyone that I had probably told my partner to “Never give up.” I like knowing that people think of me that way. It’s a good attitude, and it’s definitely one that is part of me.

A couple of hours later at home, when I was telling my wife about how my team won the set in the tiebreak, I was exuberant, excited and exhilarated. I felt happy. It was great. It didn’t matter a bit that my teams with different partners had lost three other sets that day as well.

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I Am Jealous Of Simona Halep

Simona Halep post-surgery

Simona Halep post-surgery


WHO IS SHE?

Simona is the #3 ranked player in the world, ahead of Sharapova (6), Azarenka (10) and Wozniacki (13), all former #1s. She was named the WTA’s most improved player of the year in 2013, after winning six WTA tournaments that year. This year she made it to the finals of the French Open and the semi finals at Wimbledon. Amazing achievements!

How did she do this? She changed the weight and balance of her body by having breast reduction surgery in 2009, when she was only 17 years old. Since then she has moved up over 450 places in the world rankings. By the end of 2009, she had risen to 166th…to 47th at the end of 2012…to 11th at the end of 2013.

At the time of her operation, Miss Halep said of her breasts: “It’s the weight that troubles me. My ability to react quickly, my breasts make me uncomfortable when I play. I don’t like them in my everyday life, either. I would have gone for surgery even if I hadn’t been a sportswoman.” She also experienced back pain.

As one commentator explained: “She is more confident, more mobile and her strokes are less restricted now that those obstacles have been reduced.” Her recently appointed coach Wim Fissette said her breast reduction had been “an important part of her career.”

SO WHY AM I JEALOUS?

Because with one basic operation, she became a super star tennis player. Imagine if I could have something done in my brain to make the ball seem slower…so I could focus on it and hit it better/faster/harder. It takes half a second for the served tennis ball to reach me. What I could do with what seems like another quarter of a second! Just turn me into a tennis-playing hummingbird-humanoid.

Imagine if I could have the lower half of my body thinned out, so I could move faster. There would be so many shots hit to me that I could return if I reached the ball a fraction of a second sooner, because I was faster!

Imagine if I could go back in time to when I was younger and start playing tennis before I was 10 or 6 years old…so I would develop good habits that don’t have to be overcome or unlearned.

It doesn’t seem fair that she is able to make this physical change in one afternoon that totally ups her game! I want a bionic change like that to improve my game. Even if I don’t make it into the pro ranks and to Wimbledon.

How do you think the other pros feel about Simona’s path to greatness? Could anyone argue with what she has done? She might claim that she was genetically handicapped, and the other pros weren’t. Now everyone is on an equal playing field.

But of course that’s not true. Ivo Karlovic is 6’10″ and has hit the second fastest serve in the game (156 mph). Yet he plays Olivier Rochus, who is just 5’5″ and runs faster, but is not as powerful or difficult to lob over. Those two certainly aren’t equal.

Anyway I can dream about having a different body type…but it’s not going to happen. I just have to keep working at improving my game and stop looking for shortcuts that would eliminate that effort. I am sure Simona has put just as many practice hours into her game as the other pros and is a great talent who deserves full credit for her achievements.

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Bodybuilder Sonny Bryant: Age Gives People A Reason To Be Lazy

Josh Sobel sent me this video about Sam “Sonny” Bryant, Jr, a 70-year-old bodybuilder (when this was made last year) who started working out 27 years ago, when he was 44. He says “More peoples die retired than they do on the job working.” So he never plans to retire. But I read that he works out twice a day, so I wonder if he means he is going to keep working out as opposed to working for money.”Age gives most people a reason to be lazy,” is another view he has. So is “Your thought process is what makes you old.”

Check out this video of a competition he won for his division. Also impressive here is the one-legged bodybuilder:

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An Embarrrassing Moment

Lleyton and his three girls at an earlier tournament.

Lleyton and his three girls at an earlier tournament.

I spent a week at Newport watching the professional (ATP) tennis tournament there. It’s held at the International Tennis Hall of Fame facilities…the only grass ATP courts in America. Was able to play on the public grass courts there as well, though I lost every game in two sets to a player more used to that surface. The ball does NOT bounce much at all…

After losing in the Hall of Fame finals for the two previous years, Lleyton Hewitt at age 33 was able to win the championship singles trophy. He did it in doubles as well. I was very happy for this Australian who is making a comeback…He was world number one in 2001 and is the youngest male to ever hold that distinction, when he was just 20.

So here is my amusing story. We were given two free seats in a box of six. Upon returning to the box after a break in one of the matches–this was earlier in the week, maybe after the quarter finals–I discovered that most of the seats were taken by three young guys and two or three kids. I really wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes ball boys sit anywhere, until the ticket holder chases them away. Other times there are tennis fans who sneak by the staff members who are supposed to check tickets in each area.

Anyway I guess I said simply, “Excuse me, but these are our seats.” “No problem,” one of them said, and they all moved to empty seats in the adjacent box. As we sat down in our assigned seats, my friend informed me that I had just chased Lleyton Hewitt away, and that if I had been thinking clearly, I would have not said anything and just sat in the empty seats nearby myself. Of course!

I give her credit for recognizing the famous player, particularly because he wasn’t wearing his usual baseball cap turned around with the peak in the back over his neck. We always saw him on the court, which was yards away, and facial details aren’t that apparent. I have to tell you that up close he could have passed for a teenager. And then I realized that one of the other young men was his doubles partner. No idea who the third fella was.

Most tennis fans want autographs and pictures with their heroes or tournament champions. I am now officially known by some friends as the passionate fan who made the former ATP number one and the current winner of the Hall of Fame Tournament move over and be inconvenienced, so that I could have “his” seat. Pretty embarrassing…but worth retelling. We all make mistakes…this should be my biggest one. Sorry Leighton…

By the way, after he won the championship, his three girls plus another little girl all came out on the court, while he received his check and trophy. So adorable to watch them do cartwheels on the grass and play nonchalantly, while their dad said some words to the crowd and cameras.

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Matt Guthmiller Becomes Youngest Pilot To Solo The World At 19

Pretty amazing achievement. He made lots of stops (legs), since he left California on May 31st. Even landed in Egypt, Abu Dhabi and India, but there don’t seem to have been any political problems. I wonder what kind of life this young man will have now that he has such a confidence-building accomplishment to his credit. How did he even arrive at this point, before he took off. Maybe I can learn more…

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A U.S. teen may have become the youngest person to fly solo around the world.

Nineteen-year-old Matt Guthmiller of South Dakota completed the more than 29,000-mile (46,670-kilometer) journey in a single-engine airplane Monday night (July 14th) when he touched down at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California.

Guthmiller’s flight began May 31. His final, 16-hour leg took him from Honolulu, Hawaii, over the Pacific Ocean to El Cajon.

The Aberdeen, South Dakota, native was greeted by reporters and his mother in El Cajon. He says “it’s great to be back.”

The previous record was set by Australian Ryan Campbell who was 19 years, seven months and 25 days old when he completed the circumnavigation last year. Guthmiller will be that age on July 24.

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Who’d Have Guessed?

The other day I had a chance to talk over dinner with a woman (and her friends) I have met socially a number of times, but only chatted with briefly in the past. She is probably in her 60′s, affluent, elegant, well-traveled. I was shocked to learn that she has hunted deer with a compound bow, and has been an avid fisherperson her entire life!

I heard stories about bone fishing in the Caribbean, rainbows in Alaska, trout in multiple US streams, trips to South America. She fishes in rivers, from skiffs, from the sterns of sailboats on the ocean. She knows her flies, which weight lines and rods to use and was delighted to share many anecdotes. I was mesmerized.

She explained that her father was a serious fisherman and made an effort to fish the major trout streams in America. She learned to fish as a girl and has pursued this passion for decades.

What interests me most is that I am so surprised, respectful and awed. Maybe it is because of my limited background in the outdoors…and none of the girls I grew up with in Miami Beach did any fishing…and most women I have known my entire life don’t fish either. There was one, a philanthropist I met near where I now live who grew up fishing, and when she heard that I was going to fly fish some years ago (one of the few times I tried the sport) insisted on giving me a lesson at her pond. She may have been in her early 80′s at the time, and it was a windy day on her estate, but there she was, casting away and instructing me about details to improve my own casts.

I have many men friends and acquaintances who travel all over the globe to test their skills in the water and rave about how wonderful it is to be silent and alone in nature. They often catch and release the fish, so it is completely the opposite of my hunting code to eat what I kill. My woman friend at dinner NEVER eats trout she catches. But then again, these fishermen and women take care with their hooks and make every effort to not hurt the fish they catch, before placing them back in the water.

Am I just a sexist, unable to grasp that women can be every bit as enthusiastic about fishing as men? Is it that from my limited experience with city women and middle-class country/rural women, I think most females–and I guess there are millions of exceptions from developed countries–just don’t seem to crave the outdoors as often as men do? Do I, deep down, think of women as the frail sex? I am not yet sure.

But I loved being challenged by what I learned the other day and was definitely jealous that I have missed out my whole life on the joys, excitements and love of fishing that my friend shared so openly with us. She is very very fortunate…

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Ping Pong Champion

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Skateboard Madness

I have to laugh as I watch and play tennis and am reminded what a gentle sport it is. Here is a stunt a friend of a friend posted: I was never this reckless as a kid. Were you?

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President Bush Parachutes At 90 In Spite Of Parkinson’s Disease

George Bush the elder celebrated his 90th birthday on June 12th by parachuting in tandem out of a helicopter at 6000 feet. He had done it for his 85th, 80th and 75th birthdays as well. It was his eighth jump. Just watch the first two videos in the series above.

What’s most impressive to me is that Bush has Parkinson’s disease and no longer has the use of his legs and very little control of his arms. So he lands and is placed back in his wheelchair! Talk about inspirational.

According to Guinness World Records spokeswoman Sara Wilcox, the oldest tandem parachute jumper was by 100-year-old Bjarne Mæland from Norway, who made a 10,500-foot jump in 1999.

The oldest confirmed solo jumper was Milburn Hart, 96, who made his jump in 2005.

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Father’s Day Dancetime

Pretty funny. Enjoy Jimmy Fallon bopping and boogieing with Chris Christie. Very clever…great that the gov can laugh at himself…good exercise too

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Why I Constrain My Killer Instinct

When I accepted an invitation to be the fourth in mixed doubles, I had no idea that my partner would be a soft-spoken woman psychiatrist with gray hair and a very strong net game. We won the first set and were forced to end the second at a tie, due to time constraints. But the real blessing was the many 90-second chats we enjoyed during the changeovers.

I have always said that tennis is a metaphor for life: what you do on the court is probably a small-scale version of how you live your life. The biggest criticism some people have of my mental game is that I do not have–or hold back–my killer instinct. Especially when I am facing an opponent for whom tennis is EVERYTHING, and losing is the worst punishment. For me the sport is a sport, a game, a physical challenge that I’d like to improve at and win. However people around the world are starving, refugees, dying. How can I be miserable over the loss of a few tennis points? Not in my nature.

I am definitely competitive and almost always do my best…except when winning is the only thing to the man across the net…the guy who knows his life is over if he loses, who says to his doubles partner, “Take no prisoners…make them bleed…no mercy.” Yes I have heard these words.

In these cases, I notice that I make a lot of errors, when the scores are close. I definitely feel sorry for the guy for whom winning is the only thing. And I think my errors are subconscious…I never make them intentionally.

So here is the gist of what I learned today from my 90-second tennis changeover therapist…with a few other extrapolated conclusions of my own: I shouldn’t worry about the other guy. Losing is his problem, not mine. He has to deal with it, and I shouldn’t worry about his “suffering.” The fact that I have these sympathies suggests one obvious explanation: deep down I have a big need to be liked, and if I beat a player who thinks he should beat me, then I won’t be liked by that loser. It is very important for me to get along with people and have them think I am a great guy. I want to be included and invited back to play another day. I might have some fears that winning will keep me out of the group.

Wow!! Pretty mind-blowing for me. Needs some digestion and reflection time. When I started playing so late in life (just six years ago), I lacked the skills of others who had been playing weekly for 40-60 years. So the first impression I conveyed was of a worse than mediocre player. But I have improved continually, so my current performance is a surprise, when I play someone I haven’t seen in months. They are startled to find that they are losing. They still see me as the beginner they knew earlier. They can’t relate to this guy who is winning points against them. And it pisses them off.

Of course it doesn’t happen all the time or even most of the time. But I see their pain on those occasions when I rise to higher performance levels. Now that I know more about the psychological game that is going on, I am going to beat the crap out of every guy I face.

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World’s Strongest Kids?

Two brothers, now ages 10 and 8, work out two hours a day under their father’s supervision. The video above is three years old. The one below is more recent. Check out Giuliano’s abs!

Here is the Wikipedia story on the elder brother.

Giuliano Stroe (born July 18, 2004) is a Romanian gymnast who has been lifting weights and learning gymnastics since he was two years old in Florence, Italy where his family lived. They now live in Romania again. In 2009, he was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records after setting the record for the fastest ever ten metre (33 feet) hand-walk with a weight ball between his legs. Stroe performed the stunt in front of a cheering live audience on an Italian TV show, and has become an internet sensation as hundreds of thousands of people have watched the clip of him performing the stunt on YouTube.

On February 24, 2010 he broke the world record for the number of 90 degree push-ups, which is an exercise where push-ups are performed without letting your feet touch the ground. Stroe managed 20 90 degree push-ups beating his previous record of 12, live on Romanian TV.

Giuliano’s father, Iulian, said he has been taking Giuliano with him to the gym ever since he was born, but he is careful not to push Giuliano too hard. Stroe insists his son’s workout schedule is not excessive. “He is never allowed to practice on his own, he is only a child and if he gets tired we go and play,” Iulian said.

Giuliano says his newfound celebrity has not gone to his head. He adds that he still does normal nine-year-old activities like watching cartoons and painting.

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Only 20% Of US Adults Exercises Enough

This article has some surprising facts. The biggest one is that in spite of many people knowing that exercise is good for your health, only 20 percent of American adults over the age of 18 meet the government’s recommended guidelines when it comes to physical activity.

The average adult needs at least two hours and 30 minutes of activity each week, if it’s at a moderate intensity level, like brisk walking. Up the intensity to jogging or running, and you can aim for at least 75 minutes a week. Add in a couple of strengthening sessions a week, and you can expect to build muscle, protect your heart, avoid obesity and even live longer.

Consider a few profound factoids: Regular exercisers have a 40 percent lower risk of developing dementia, and a 60 percent lower risk of any type of cognitive impairment, according to a 2012 study. In young adults, regular exercise can increase bone mineral density by as much as 2 to 8 percent a year, according to the New York Times, helping to prevent dangerous falls and fractures later in life.

But it takes some discipline, adherence to routine or commitment to exercise even this little. Also the time away from work and personal obligations. As someone who couldn’t make the time for decades–or didn’t care to–I really understand. Now I can’t imagine a week without around an hour of exercise plus 5-10 hours of tennis. Who would have guessed? I definitely feel better for it and know that it is keeping me feeling more energetic, enthusiastic and vital.

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Taryn Brumfitt’s Startling Admission About Creating a Perfect Body

not the usual before and after

not the usual before and after

Australian mom Taryn Brumfitt wants to make a documentary to help women love their bodies, even if they are not “perfect.” Especially after they have kids, and curves appear where they didn’t exist before. Or even if child-bearing had nothing to do with the lumps that she formerly viewed as unflattering. So she is raising money through kickstarter to make her film. You can read about it here.

Most impressive is that she originally did not like her body and the way she looked in the mirror, so she started changing her appearance by exercising, dieting and going to the gym. Then she became a bodybuilder who competed in contests. Surprisingly, she says in her video, this did NOT change the way she felt about her body!!! Nothing changed.

Once she had a child, she really became upset, posted the picture to the right, and it went viral. So she interviewed women, gives speeches, and now wants to make the documentary.

You can read more about her here .

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Low Carbohydrate Diet Might Lower Weight

This article offers a perverse reason why people gain weight and then can’t lose it. It’s because there are calories in fat cells that are NOT in the bloodstream…so your body tells you you’re hungry, your metabolism slows down, and you feel the compulsion to eat.

As it turns out, many biological factors affect the storage of calories in fat cells, including genetics, levels of physical activity, sleep and stress. But one has an indisputably dominant role: the hormone insulin. We know that excess insulin treatment for diabetes causes weight gain, and insulin deficiency causes weight loss. And of everything we eat, highly refined and rapidly digestible carbohydrates produce the most insulin.

Like an infection that raises the body temperature set point, high consumption of refined carbohydrates—chips, crackers, cakes, soft drinks, sugary breakfast cereals and even white rice and bread—has increased body weights throughout the population.

People in the modern food environment seem to have greater control over what they eat than how much. With reduced consumption of refined grains, concentrated sugar and potato products and a few other sensible lifestyle choices, our internal body weight control system should be able to do the rest.

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Abs Should Be There When Midriffs Are Bare

abs are in now for high fashion crowd

abs are in now for high fashion crowd

bare midriffs send women to the gym

bare midriffs send women to the gym

new crop top style requires abs or at least flat stomach

new crop top style requires abs or at least flat stomach

Who would have predicted that midriffs exposed by the latest crop top fashion styles would be sending women to gyms in droves. Sweat and pain is the passport to wearing these fancy clothes, and here is an article describing some of the goings on. Obviously I am partial to nicely defined abs, and I think it’s about time everyday women were after some definition as well. After all, misery loves company, and when I think of all the pain men go through to look attractive to women, why shouldn’t the females have to put in a little extra effort to look good for the men…only kidding, only kidding. I know how hard the female gender works to look sensational…

“Midriffs are suddenly in America’s face,” writes Shivani Vora in her piece titled The Time of the Tummy. “The stomach is the new erogenous zone, but not in a vulgar sort of a way,” one fashion commentator said. “Yes, you can show your whole midsection in a bra top, but most of the styles only give you a peek. Regardless, it is making women frenzied about shaping up their abs.”

The 5-foot, 115-pound Jewlie Williams, another fashionista, for example, spends more than two hours most days of the week exercising in stomach-centric classes like Ab Attack (Crunch offers three others as well), running and dancing. Her day begins and ends with 100 crunches, she said, and she has drastically cut down on her sugar intake.

“I bought six crop tops, but I felt like I needed tighter and flatter abs to feel good wearing them,” she said, “so I’ve been working really, really hard to get them better-looking.”

Sandra Ciconte, an already-slender 5-foot-6, has embarked upon a six-day-a-week routine that includes two private sessions with at Core and a 20-minute floor routine by herself on other days.

Dr. Michele Olson, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University, stressed that cardio intervals such as alternating sprinting with walking are the first step to a six-pack. “You need to have less fat over all to have firm abs,” she said, “not do hundreds of crunches or situps.”

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Courage Beyond Imagination

I went to a dance recital the other day in which 165 girls, age 10-13, including my granddaughter, performed in groups of 5-20 for maybe five minutes. There were 28 different dances, each group performing twice. Each dance had its own distinctive professional-looking costume.

It was pleasant, mostly mediocre. Lots of parents and friends clapping and shouting for their kids and grandkids. An audience of 750, all of us very supportive. I usually look for one or two girls in a group who have real energy and talent and focus on them. But I couldn’t find more than a couple in the whole two hours.

However there was one girl who was sensational. She stood out so magnificently that I couldn’t take my eyes off of her in both of her performances. What made her so exceptional is that she is afflicted with Marfan Syndrome. She does not have a normal body shape, she couldn’t move as effortlessly and gracefully as others around her, and when the girls in her group would kneel or lie on the ground, she would be the only one standing and twirling as best she could.

People around me were passing out tissues and crying uninhibitedly. I learned that this girl has had around 50 operations to allow her to even stand up, and it was one of the bravest, most courageous accomplishments I have ever witnessed. I picture so many of the “normal” girls fretting that a hair was out of place or that their lipstick was a tiny bit smudged. And then I picture this special girl knowing that people will stare at her, maybe laugh at her, risking embarrassment and humiliation. Not every kid who is a teenager or younger appreciates what an astonishing achievement it is for this girl to chance being jeered at.

I remember giving speeches in front of 200 people, performing in front of 500 as part of a group that had completed a juggling course. I was nervous. I’ve known experienced actors who admit they are scared, maybe even nauseous, before every performance. Yet here was a girl of just 12 or 13 who was wearing her ballerina tutu and moving as best she could, while knowing that it was awkward and noticeably “inferior” compared to all the other girls in the recital. But it wasn’t inferior…it was far far better, because we used different standards in making our assessments.

All of us in the audience accepted that these girls were building self esteem, having fun, learning to be part of a team, enjoying moving to music, discovering the rewards of weekly discipline and dozens of rehearsals. All part of growing up to live in adult society. This special girl, this apparently disabled girl, was no exception. She and her parents were no different than the others in choosing to be involved in this program. It was a blessing, an inspiration and a joy to watch her accomplishment in motion. It was one of the most poignant performances of my life. I feel privileged to have been there and will never forget her.

BTW I learned that Michael Phelps has Marfan Syndrome. Who’d have guessed? He has certainly used his unusual body shape, longer fingers and arms to set Olympic records in swimming competitions. Maybe the girl I saw dancing will be as fortunate to discover some milieu in which her distinctive qualities can transport her to unimaginable successes. A lesson for all of us normals.

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Extreme Free Diving

Guillaume Nery base jumping at Dean’s Blue Hole, filmed on breath hold by Julie Gautier from Umblu Liber on Vimeo.

Here’s an article about the last free dive of American record holder, Nicholas Mevoli, who died in November 2013 after reaching over 200 feet without fins or oxygen. It happened at Dean’s Blue Hole. The video above is way too long, but it will give you an idea of what this place looks like.

Dean’s Blue Hole, a gaping underwater cave on Long Island in the Bahamas, is the deepest undersea grotto in the world. While Everest may be the Holy Grail for hikers worldwide, Dean’s Blue Hole, at 663 feet deep, is beguiling for those daring individuals known as free divers. The location, believed by locals to be the work of the devil, is the site of the annual Vertical Blue, which has been called the Wimbledon of free diving. Free diving is a type of diving that has become popular amongst extreme sports enthusiasts, and involves the diver trying to go as deep as he or she can on just one breath. There’s good reason the islanders ascribe diabolical origins to the hole, as it has claimed multiple human lives.

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Extreme Rock Climbing

Reel Rock: The World’s Hardest Route from Outside Television on Vimeo.

What’s great about this rock climbing video is that you see how two superior climbers keep trying to make it up the rock face. I liked watching them fall off—of course they are attached to ropes—and then attack again or figure out a different route.

Dubbed the hardest sport climb in the world, Spain’s La Dura Dura route has only been conquered by two top climbers, who spent two years attempting the rocks in Oriana. Clocking in with a rating of 5.15c, it’s considered one of the globe’s most strenuous routes. Recently a second climb has surfaced as a contender for the title: one of La Dura Dura’s climbers has proposed Norway’s Flatanger Cave, a soaring cavern with a gorgeous view and gravity defying slopes, for the same rating.

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Extreme Skiing At Courbet’s Couloir

Corbet’s Couloir – One Epic Day – Jackson Hole from KGB Productions on Vimeo.

This Jackson Hole, Wyoming, chute is notorious for the number of skiers who come down with a case of cold feet upon approach. And for good reason: the legendary Corbet’s Couloir starts with a 25-foot plunge before snow and skis connect, and then skiers are left to navigate a 55-degree slope flanked by a rock wall that turns into a run forebodingly called “Meet Your Maker.” Apparently, the chute’s namesake, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides founder James Barry Corbet, spotted the deadly stretch in 1960 and said, “Someday, someone will ski that.”

Wish I had the guts to do this…or to have done it when I was younger…I am too smart now…

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Eat Like A Caveman

Here is the article that talked about the movie Fed Up. In addition to describing the movie, there are some excerpts that endorse low-carbohydrate/high protein diets, which some friends have been describing as paleo/caveman diets: eat like a caveman…nothing that is from cultivated, starchy products, like potatoes, grains, bread, etc.

Are all calories equal?

Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the obesity program at Boston Children’s Hospital, argues in the film that they are not. In recent studies, Dr. Ludwig has shown that high-carbohydrate diets appear to slow metabolic rates compared to diets higher in fat and protein, so that people expend less energy even when consuming the same number of calories. Dr. Ludwig has found that unlike calories from so-called low glycemic foods (like beans, nuts and non-starchy vegetables), those from high glycemic foods (such as sugar, bread and potatoes) spike blood sugar and stimulate hunger and cravings, which can drive people to overeat.

Studies also show that calories from different foods are not absorbed the same. When people eat high-fiber foods like nuts and some vegetables, for example, only about three-quarters of the calories they contain are absorbed. The rest are excreted from the body unused. So the calories listed on their labels are not what the body is actually getting.

I am still convinced that if you eat less and exercise more, most people will feel better and lose weight. Now that it appears if you eat less carbohydrates you will lose even MORE weight, that should make it easier to see lower numbers on your scale.

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Would You Pay To See A New Film About Sugar?

So here comes a new documentary for movie theaters claiming that the cause of obesity, diabetes, overweight is the sugar and fat in our food. One in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. 95% of our population will be overweight or obese within 20 years (it’s 66% now) Sugar is in 80% of all processed food products. The sugar and junk food lobbies deny there is any problem at all. This is like when the tobacco companies swore that cigarettes weren’t harmful.

This crime is so obvious, I can hardly believe people don’t know it. A man asked me today at tennis how he could lose a few pounds around his mid-section. I said eat less, especially sugar, and that includes wine, which metabolizes into sugar. Another man mentioned that it’s also important to enjoy life, and wine helps people do that.

I agree. I have always had a sweet tooth for baked goods. It’s almost impossible for me to give up those great sweet tastes. But I do eat less ice cream and sorbet (no cream/cholesterol) and pies and cakes and cookies. The effect of sugar on the brain appears to be identical to what cocaine does. Pretty seriously addictive.

However I seem to have more discipline than the average person. I am determined to stay fit and healthy in addition to living longer. This is a huge challenge for most people. How do you handle it?

The film was produced by Larry David’s wife, Laurie David, who also produced An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore, and former CBS-TV news anchor, Katie Couric. I am sure Laurie’s association with the political left will inhibit many Republicans from watching the film or considering its message. Too bad. Sugar is bad. Avoid it to whatever degree you can.

Your life and health depend upon it…

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Ben Aaron Teaches Footloose And Learns Moonwalk


Not sure what I like about these Ben Aaron videos related to dance. They certainly don’t create any muscle. But they sure do create satisfying, uplifting and enjoyable feelings in the body and brain. And they may be worth simulating simply for the healthy movement, self esteem they instill, a bit of cardio. Who cares. The world loves to dance. Anyone can do it…to whatever degree.

Along the way I bumped again into another ordinary guy dancing, Matt Harding, in the Where Is Matt series of videos. Remember those? People dancing…if you can call it that…but enjoying moving to music at the same time and just being together in a world of friction, suspicion and warring. Matt’s videos give us lots of hope, and you are certain to be smiling as you watch them.

Below is one of my favorites and also his most recent one.

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Ben Aaron Studies Parkour

So here is Mr. Cute Everyman learning parkour. Adorable. Wouldn’t we all would like to be the next Jackie Chan in our dreams…have those skills and flit through the cityscapes so effortlessly and dramatically. I’ve written about this sport (also called freerunning) a few times. Now I am imagining going to Brooklyn and trying it out.

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