“But Nic,” you say to me, an incredulous grin spreading across your face, “I know how to breathe. I’ve been doing it, literally, since I was born. I don’t need your help on this.”
You fool. You poor, ignorant, and yet extremely beautiful (who says you can’t score friends with flattery?), dumb bastard. My heart goes out to you, it really does, for when I am jogging up my 30thflight of stairs with 25 lbs of paper strapped to my back and singing “Tea for the Tillerman” by Cat Stevens, you will still be laying a few yards from our starting point, face down in the dirt, flecks of dust working their way into every crevice of your features and with sweat and tears running together and mixing with the soil to create a sad, sad, sad mud mask. “It’s not that you don’t know how to breathe,” I will laugh once I reach the top, “it’s just that you’re doing it wrong.”
I’m not going to use this article to extrapolate on how breathing keeps you alive. If you haven’t come to the conclusion that breathing in oxygen isn’t one of the most single important acts you will ever do on this planet, then I have nothing I can teach you. Nor will this be an article saying that you can lose weight simply by breathing. Yes I’ve seen the websites and have heard the claims, but until all the doctors around the world agree it works, I’m going to stick with the things I know work. Besides, we are starting to talk about exercise and working out, and how you can use these activities to lose massive amounts of weight and change your life, and when it comes to that the status quo or fancy-ass, new-age bullshit is simply not enough.
You have to realize that this journey is not just about weight-loss, it’s about training your body and making it stronger because losing a lot of weight is hard work. Start thinking of weight-loss as an Olympic sport; it’s something you need to aggressively prepare for, and something you will have to work long hours for weeks and months on end to even be ready to play in the games. And before you lift one weight, take one step on the running track, you have to be able to control your breathing or it will take you twice as long to achieve your goals.
THE SIMPLE RUN DOWN OF YOUR BREATH WHEN YOU EXERT YOURSELF
1. You start to do some sort of physical activity, maybe with the idea of exercising in mind. Jogging down your street, or walking up some stairs, or running away from a bear after you have stolen one of its cubs; whatever.
2. As you start to move your body more and use muscles in your legs and arms and many other places (because while running away from the big bear you’re also fighting off the enraged bear cub in your arms), those muscles are going to start calling out to your brain saying that they need more resources or else they’re going to fail and you’ll be eaten by a large ursus arctos.
3. Your brain, calling out to the other stations in your body, declares that the legs need to go faster and so require more energy. “But the normal batteries are almost drained, Sire,” the metabolism will scream back in a Scottish accent. “THEN USE THE RESERVES, DAMN YOU!”
4. So the body starts dipping into the reserved fuel it has kept for such emergencies, created by fat and carbohydrates. But to process the fuel and turn it into energy in the quickest way possible, it also has to up the oxygen levels in the body as well as use up more stored water to start the important chemical reaction to create more power. “LUNGS, WE NEED YOU TO WORK HARDER SO WE ALL DON’T DIE!!!”
5. The lungs, one of the postal workers of your body as they never get a day off, shoots back a, “Righteo!” and starts gulping more oxygen to meet the body’s demands.
6. But the muscles also scream, “WE NEED MORE AIR TOO! WE’RE SUFFOCATING DOWN HERE!!!” So the lungs start taking in even more air and redirecting it to both your energy-processing plant and your muscles.
7. To get the oxygen everywhere it needs to go in time, the lungs call out to their brother-in-arms, the heart, for back up. The heart wastes no time and starts beating faster, delivering oxygen and water to the entire body through your blood.
8. Your metabolism gets the air and water and begins to transform the carbs and fat into energy, which it sends to your muscles. The muscles also get a big dose of oxygen and water which give it an extra boost. The brain, who’s really just a big, smart drug dealer, also sends out endorphins to the rest of the body to help numb the pain of the physical labor.
9. The brain, also sensing your body is beginning to overheat, activates the hypothalamus and begins redirecting water to your skin via your sweat glands. As the sweat evaporates into the air, the skin cools, and the brain is able to monitor your temperature via a control panel right behind your eyes.
10. As the muscles use up the energy and oxygen, they also create some toxic waste in the form of lactic acid (a kind of . . . uh . . . acid, that can be processed by the liver to create more glucose) and carbon dioxide. As the blood delivers fresh oxygen to the muscles, the muscles say, “HERE!” and throw this waste into the blood stream. From there it is taken back to the lungs, where the blood says, “Uhhhhhh, we don’t know what to do with this,” and the lungs take it and breathe it out as you exhale.
And so this cycle continues, allowing you to keep running from the bear for as long as you can keep this system in balance. You’re probably still gonna die because the bear’s system is a hell of a lot stronger than yours, and there’s that whole “Mother’s Instinct” thing at play, but at least you won’t shame us all by dying in the first five minutes.
This is the basic routine your body goes through every single time you exercise and it’s important to learn because it stresses the need for two things. One, which is water, I have already spoken about. The other is oxygen, and it’s vital that you understand how important it is to creating energy. To keep with the over-simplification theme I’ve got going on today, here’s a simple equation:
WATER + OXYGEN = FAT BURN = ENERGY = MORE STAMINA & STRENGTH
Your body needs to use water and air to process fuel into energy, so if you’re breathing right, the above equation is bound to take place inside of your body thereby setting of a chain reaction that will feed itself. But if you aren’t breathing correctly, if you don’t have enough oxygen in your system, the equation simply doesn’t happen. Like, at all.
So what are the wrong ways to breathe?
- Breathing too shallow (not breathing in deeply enough), which will not supply enough air to your body.
- Breathing too fast (short rapid breaths), which will not give the body enough time to absorb the oxygen.
- Breathing too slow and/or deeply, which will not give the body ample time to expel all the carbon dioxide and cause the lactic acid to build up in your muscles.
And it’s not just with aerobics; you also need to breathe correctly while lifting weights or stretching. The things that can happen to you by not breathing properly include, but are not limited to:
- A side stitch (intense-stabbing pain under the lower edge of the ribcage)
- Full muscle failure, which is what happens when too much lactic acid builds up in the body
- Nose Bleeds
- Blacking Out
- Passing Out
- Organ Damage and/or Failure
- Death (I mean, you’d probably die if all of these things happened to you at once)
So what is the right way to breathe? Well, not doing any of the above, for one thing. But it’s also about control, not just the speed at which you’re breathing. While doing aerobics, you should be able to hold a leisurely conversation without having to gasp for air. And after you are finished exercising, you should be able to return to a relatively normal breathing pattern within thirty seconds or so. While lifting weights, you want to exhale while exerting (e.g. the push up part of the push up, or when you life a weight instead of lowering it), or else you might burst a blood vessel in your eye, among other things. While stretching, you always want to exhale going into the stretch.
But this also has to do with how hard you push your body, which is why you can’t go balls to the wall when you first begin exercising. Take a look at that equation again. Do you notice how burning fat is not the final step in the process, but rather it is the second step? The people who believe that weight-loss is at the end of the equation end up working too hard when they start off, and they either fail or injure themselves. That is because their bodies had not been trained enough to handle the stress. You need to focus on making yourself stronger and increasing your stamina so that you can one day race up a mountain without stopping. But the extreme feats come at the end, not the beginning, and if you make your goals about strength and vitality, when you finally achieve those goals, guess what? YOU’VE LOST TONS OF WEIGHT!
But that’s for later. For right now, just concentrate on your breathing while taking a walk. Focus on breathing in and out in a constant, steady stream. Don’t try to fill your lungs too much, nor exhale all the air out either. When you get the hang of it (when you start to breathe that way automatically whenever you begin to move), up the speed of your gait. You will find that you will need to speed up your breathing as well, which is fine, just always keep control. If you find it hard to carry on a conversation (or if you’re alone, singing a song), don’t try to compensate with your lungs. Instead, slow down to a simple trot again. If you ever feel dizzy or light-headed, stop walking, sit down and breathe normally until the dizziness goes away. The day will come when you find yourself pushing your body to its utmost limits, but for today just focus on breathing in and out. In and out.
In . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and out.
Gunfire. Why does everything in my life involve gunfire? He was running down the corridor, hoping the exit would soon make itself apparent. Wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t always coming in my direction. The gunfire had died down, allowing him to hear the shouts of the muscle chasing him. Maybe they will take a wrong turn.
“He went that way!”
God, he hated Cairo. Everything smelled. And although the pyramids were so big, their interiors were damn claustrophobic. This corridor had started getting smaller when he had really broke out running, the walls moving in as he sped his way through the pyramid, or temple, or whatever the hell it was; they were all the same to him. The whole business had become tedious. When he started, it had been like Indiana Jones; do some research, fly to exotic locations, explore vast jungles, shoot dangerous animals, find ancient ruins, bust into rooms, shoot some people, retrieve artifacts, a little more shooting even if everyone was dead, and then skedaddle where he would promptly collect his money. Maybe if he found himself in a corner, probably the way this would end up, he would be able to show his true talents, which was spinning a pocket watch atop a magnifying glass.
These days everything was morose and shooting things did not have the same ageless charm it first held. Milton, which is what he named is revolver, adored its use when the occasion was fun and exciting, but detested the grave and serious. Friends had slimmed out (either too old or too dead) and enemies had become all about the pay off instead of the loftier ideas of conquest and world domination. No one ever thought about the foreplay anymore, and so the whole business had changed. Nowadays, the artifacts were more obscure, harder to reach (he had to practically plunge into a volcano for one just a few months ago and he had nearly lost his hat) and were far less profitable. He still pulled in a decent income but it wouldn’t last, and the thought of going back to investigating petty divorces and lost cats scared him to death.
But this was exciting. Intrigue practically made this little object glow like an ember in the wind, starting to burn his hand. In fact, it worried him. For months events had been dull, and then this thing just popped up out of nowhere? He had almost missed it trying to get to the mummified remains of the only midget Indian raja that had been mistaken for a monkey corpse, which was what he was actually hired to retrieve when he saw it.
A perfectly round orb, as large as a grapefruit, made of black stone that had been etched with markings he had never seen before. Some gold leafing and what looked like diamonds cut into very strange symbols were inlaid on the top and bottom. It weighed almost nothing. By looking at it he had guessed it must weigh at least, well, at least as much as a grapefruit. It should be as heavy as a large stone. But this was as light as air, as if it was hollow. It was very old, older than the temple he was in, but it was a very advanced piece of work. He was not even sure they would be able to make the likes of this nowadays, and his world had invented things like deep space telescopes and electric pepper grinders. No, there was something special about this thing, but the way it was just sitting there made him worry. Is it possible for someone to just misplace this wondrous item right by the rotten raja carcass? Sure, happens all the time in third world countries. In any case, that was something for “The Savior” to deduce, which would only happen if he could get out of this country, which would only happen if he got out of this alive.
He stopped running. The corridor had opened into a chamber that split into three hallways. He knew the right one would just circle back around to the main chamber, which was where he was running from, so either the left or the middle would lead him to an exit. The other would probably lead to his death. He was terrible at decisions like this, he couldn’t even choose which candy bar he wanted when he went to the grocery store. He stood there, looking back and forth, waiting for some inspiration to guide him, which came in the form of eight men firing very big guns. He decided to take his chances and go left.
The hallway had gone up some stairs (which he thought was a good sign), down some stairs (which he knew was not a good sign), twisted a bit and opened up into a room with a window about six inches in diameter, placed twelve feet above the floor. Great, he thought, all I need is a ladder and maybe I could fit my hand through. Who would put such a small window there?
He slid the black ball into his coat pocket, and pulled out his pocket watch. How long had he been running since he had taken the left hall? It couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds. Oh well, have to stall for at least thirty. Too soon and he would probably end up in the small chamber where his pursuers found him, just after he remembered about the mummified raja and went back so he could get his salary, and that would be dangerous and awkward. Too late, and he would be too far past the chamber where the corridor split, and end up right back here. Thirty was a good bet, and then he would retrace his steps and get the hell out of there.
“Put your hands up!” He started to lift his hands over his head when a bullet whizzed past his head. It left a hole in the wall about 6 inches in diameter. That explains the window. “Don’t move!”
“I think you got the order of that sequence mixed up.” Another bullet flew through the air and made another window. “My mistake.”
. . . 8, 9 . . .
“Just give it back to us Daraven and no one has to get hurt.”
“I doubt I would come out unscathed. Seems you guys want to empty out those guns, reload, and unload again.”
“We don’t have to make it painful.”
“But you really want to, right?”
. . . 16, 17 . . .
“Just give us the damn thing!”
He held up the raja, and it exploded in his hands as it was shot by eight separate bullets. Fan-fucking-tastic. He glanced at his pocket watch in his left hand. Almost there. He started to extend his left arm so it was pointing straight out.
“I think I would rather keep it.”
“Then we’ll just have to kill you!”
The sound of eight guns cocked in unison is a little comforting, he thought. “And risk hitting this little orb with those anti-aircraft guns of yours? I think not.”
. . . 24, 25 . . . The move has to be quick and smooth. His left hand twisted moving the watch into correct position. His other hand fingered a small tab in his right sleeve that when pulled would pop Milton out of his holster and into the air. It felt good doing the old tricks again.
“No I think I’ll keep this thing right here in my pocket.”
“You have no idea what you are messing with! You’re getting involved with things you don’t have the power to handle!”
. . . 29, 30 . . . Showtime.
“I’m just going to have to learn that the old fashioned way.” He locked his left arm and heard that satisfying click and then he spun to the right and pulled the tab. Milton flew up into the air and he caught it with a trained hand. He pointed it straight at the ring leader and fired a shot into his head. And while the bastard’s brain was doing some relocation to the floor, he let the long magnifying glass fall out of his left coat sleeve and catch the chain of the pocket watch on its tip. And just as the other guards started to let loose their gun fire, Draven Daraven spun the pocket watch with his magnifying glass in front of him. The bullets hit the spinning watch chain and bounced back in the opposite direction, sending the guards to the floor. Then Draven ran forward as a bright blue light engulfed him till he could not see anything anymore.
A wind rush passed him, and he heard the short conversation he had just had, except backwards, as if it was a tape playing in reverse. And suddenly the light died down, and he was back in the corridor, running. He was no longer holding Milton or his magnifying glass, just the orb. He patted his other pocket and felt the raja. Fan-fucking-tastic!
Gunfire. “He went down that way!” He sped up, not focusing on the orb this time. When he reached the chamber of hallways, he went straight and ran into the darkness. He was making good time. He glanced at the orb briefly before putting it into his pocket again. He would make it out, go visit his client and give the raja over, collect his substantial fee, and then he would go to Venice Beach and talk to the Savior. Everything was going to be fine.
But how long would that last? he thought. Not long. The ring leader was right. Daraven had no idea what he was dealing with. But he had a hunch the Savior wouldn’t know what it was either, and that was a scary thought. There was something different about all of this, something he didn’t like. He didn’t want to say it felt like being a pawn in a chess game; that all the pieces had been placed and this was the first move. He didn’t want to say this felt like the beginning of the end somehow, but it did. This was something big and scary. His instincts were never the best ones in the bunch, so he decided not to listen to them right now. One thing was for certain though, things were going to change.
A bunch of parents sit in a circle at an elementary school function discussing their parenting methods. Some are holding little Dixie cups of red, sugary liquid. BILL , apparent of Tommy and Susie, begins his story.
BILL: I’ve never beat my kids. Never, not once. Not a single, solitary hand have I laid upon them with any sort of aggression or malice whatsoever. It’s not that I don’t punish my kids; I do. I have instilled in them a very keen sense of ‘Action and Consequence’. If little Susie breaks a toy of her brother’s, then I break a toy of hers. If Tommy defecates in his sister’s hat, he’ll have to wear it. Action, and consequence. And I also make the victim of each young caper sit and watch their sibling go through the punishment so that they understand exactly how hard it can be to regret a bad decision. This has left my children far more attuned to each other’s feelings.
But more to the point, at least as to why I don’t hit my offspring, is because physical violence is simply not enough some times. Children, like small puppies, will often overlook any kind of abuse you put on them because their love for you is just so strong. I’ve always felt this is a kind of injustice to the child, that they should at least start to hate you after you’ve beaten them.
Instead, I opt for the path of mental scarring for the effects are ones that can not be so easily cast asunder. Now, it’s nothing like making my boy wear dresses every single time he walks into the house (unless he wants to), or calling my little girl, “FATTY FATTY FAT FAT,” even though she is somewhat plump for a six year old. These are the acts of an insecure parent who projects their fears and emotional complexes on their children as a way to escape from them. No, my acts are random and creative, leading not just to scarring but to cherished memories as well.
For example, whenever Tommy comes up to me and asks me for money, I sit a while in silence as I ponder the question. Then I jump and quickly hog tie him. I use the softest rope and comfortable, yet sturdy, knots. Then it’s into the “Money Hole” as I like to call it, although it is really just the closet in the upstairs guest room. It’s not hot or stuffy, nor very cold. It is just quiet and dark, illuminated by whatever light can make it through the bottom of the doorway. The closet is by no means empty; we keep our skiing coats and other winter gear in there, as well as many old photographs of the wife and I’s trips before we had children. There is enough room in the closet for him to move about, although because he is hog-tied, he doesn’t move much.
A young mother to Bill’s right gasps slightly.
BILL: Now you may be thinking I’m a monster at this point, but I put some pillows in there for him.
How much time he spends in the Money Hole is dictated by how much money he has asked for. If it’s a quarter, say for ice cream or a gum drop, he’ll be in the closet for no more than five minute. Ten dollars will have you sitting in the dark for a half hour, and anything above fifty and we begin talking about days. This is just for when he asks me for money, you understand? If he came and asked for a new pair of skates, why then to the toy store we go, but when it comes to hard cash there are hard prices to pay. Once again, I am no monster. If he is in there for longer than five hours, I will feed him and let him drink water, and mayhap go to the bathroom as making someone soil themselves is demeaning.
I will have to keep fit though, because when he reaches into his late teens I will still have to be able to perform my duties. This is an act I will continue through out Tommy’s life, until the day he realizes it is just easier to make the money himself instead of having to contend with my wrath. But this is not the end of the scarring. No, the end truly comes when HE has his own kids.
“Don’t ask grandpa for money,” he’ll warn his children as they pull up to my house, “or else he’ll tie you up and stick you in the closet.”
“Yeah right, Dad,” they’ll cough as they exit the car. Then they’ll come running up to me and all the hugs I have saved up for them. Once I am all hugged out, I shall take out my wallet and hand each of them a twenty-dollar bill, and tell them ‘there is more where that came from, but only if you eat all your vegetables.’
“Dad’s crazy,” they’ll giggle as they run off to greet their grandmother.
My son, who I can only assume will be flabbergasted, may think that I have turned over a new leaf in my old age, or perhaps that I no longer have the energy for the Money Hole. “Dad,” he’ll ask with optimism in his face, “can I have $300 for some new tires?”
And I will pause once again and ponder, and then it’s to hog-tying and the closet, although I suppose I will have to bring my taser along just to make sure he doesn’t overpower me. But then he’d be an adult and can probably handle it. This will leave him with a sense that the world is somehow unjust to him and him alone, which would be the truth I guess.
Is it a longer job, harder than hitting them? Yes, but I dare say my method would be more gratifying.
The other parents are all shocked and silent. Bill’s notices his wife has gathered the children and is preparing to leave. Bill stands, looking at the other parents.
BILL: If you still think me a monster, then all I can say to you is fuck off. I love my kids with all of my heart, and will be there for them every single day I have left to live. I am devoted and only interested in making their lives as rich and full of love as possible. But they do some fucked up things and this is the way I have chosen to deal with for better or for worse. I mean, honestly, who shits in a little girl’s hat?
Bill walks over to his family.
BILL: Who wants to go home, play Uno and eat ice cream?
Tommy and Susie cheer in agreement, and then they each hug a leg of Bill’s and he walks off in a waddle, singing a song about pirates, his children and his wife laughing as they exit.
Why is it the things we did in high school seemed so awesome at the time, but looking back you can only see how you could have done better if you had a few more weeks of rehearsal . . . or if you weren’t high almost the entire time?
In any case, my senior year in high school, two of my friends and I did a class project that told a rough history of Theatre in the Western World. It was a fun project, and I remember liking the rehearsals for it more than the performance itself. My high school years were great and were defined by many friends, but my last year seemed to be defined mostly by the other two people in the performance. One of my fondest memories was the three of us, sitting in a locker room at the back of the school that was only used as storage space for props and broken desks, laughing hard at something I don’t recall anymore.