I am very proud to be called a pig. It stands for
pride, integrity, and guts.
5 Life Lessons from Bruce Lee
By Denis Faye
"If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." Bruce Lee
While some might hesitate to consider Bruce Lee's films works of art, there are few who will deny the beauty and grace of his physicality. Standing at 5'7" and weighing 135 pounds at his peak, the renowned martial arts master was a temple of muscle. As Chuck Norris put it, "He had muscles on muscles."
Of course, to reach this point took devotion, perhaps even obsession, which few of us are willing to put forth. That said, there's still plenty to be learned from the man whose short lifehe died at 32 of cerebral edema in 1973has influenced thousands of bodybuilders, action heroes, and martial artists.
In the book Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body, author John Little parsed through a vast amount of material on or about Lee to come up with a concise interpretation of the master's fitness regimen. At its core, Lee's plan consisted of anaerobic workweight training and isometricsbalanced with aerobic work. Given Turbo Jam® had yet to be invented, his preferred form of cardio was running. He combined all this with a clean diet. No surprises there. However, when you look into the details, you'll find some interesting things.
On circuit training
Lee's devotion to what would eventually be known as circuit training started when he read a series of articles in Ironman magazine by bodybuilder Bob Gajda about The Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) System. The system moves from body group to body group instead of focusing a long time on one particular group, like Tony Horton does in his Power 90® routines. The benefit of this is that blood flow continually flows from muscle group to muscle group, thus increasing muscular endurance and delaying of fatigue. It also works the cardiovascular system. Lee loved the multiple benefits of this technique.
On Lee's abdominals
The man had amazing abs, but he had to work hard to get them. His five basic stomach exercises were sit-ups, leg raises, twists, frog kicks, and side bends. He also understood that while you could do crunches until you were blue in the face, it wouldn't matter unless you ate completely clean, avoiding sugar, starches, and excess fats. Yes, there are people to whom a six-pack comes naturally but, according to his journals, Bruce Lee, owner of one of the most amazing six-packs in history, was not one of these people. So next time you're pushing through Slim & 6-Pack, thinking about that grandé mocha latte you skipped this morning, just remember that Bruce Lee made the same sort of sacrifices.
While he believed in stretching every day for at least 15 minutes, his regimen was basically to limber up at every available opportunity. He'd do it watching television, reading, even in the sound studio while dubbing his films. While few of us are in the movie business, that doesn't mean we can't work a few thigh stretches into our coffee breaks, or work those shoulders and neck while watching American Idol.
While he was a man of extremes, Lee understood the importance of moderation in the stretch. Never bounce-stretch or stretch too hard because overaggressive stretching can actually send a signal to the brain to tighten up the muscle to protect it from damage.
On Asian food
Of the various aspects of fitness, diet was the one Lee studied least. As his wife, Linda Lee Cadwell put it, "He couldn't boil water" and therefore left culinary responsibilities to her. He did, however, understand "junk in, junk out." Mealtime in their household weren't much of a focusmore of a time to fuel up.
He also preferred Asian-style cooking because it offered more variety in a meal and a healthier ratio of veggies to protein. Keep in mind that this was over 30 years ago, when American cuisine meant a potato and a hunk of meat, as opposed to an Asian meal which could consist of shrimp, chicken, veggies and tofu all on the same plate. He felt this variety led to a more complete nutritional profile. While American cuisine has since diversified, the message is the same, keep that variety up. Eating the same thing every day probably means there are vital nutrients that you're skipping.
And no, Bruce Lee wasn't a saint. From time to time, he'd indulge in steak or even McDonald's, keeping in mind that super-sizing did not exist at the time.
On opportunities for everyday exercise
In much the same way he stretched whenever possible, Lee felt it important to shove exercise into his day as much as he could. Here are some of the tips he'd offer his students:
- Walk whenever possible. Park the car a few blocks from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
- No elevators. Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Practice balance by standing on one foot when putting clothes or shoes onor just stand on one foot whenever you choose to.
Fitness doesn't come from 60 minutes a day. It's a lifestyle thing. Whatever workout you're doing now is great, but take a look at the rest of your lifewhen can you walk instead of driving? When can you hand-whip instead of using a blender? When can you run around with your kids instead of watching television with them? Bruce's son Brandon was no slouch himself. His dad clearly had a huge influence on him.
Bruce Lee accomplished an amazing amount in his short life. Even if you follow his path, odds are you won't accomplish as much as he did. On the same note, you probably won't win the Tour de France even if you train like Lance Armstrong and you don't stand much of a chance winning the California governorship, even if you lift weights like Arnie.
But then again, maybe a defeatist attitude like that is just the kind of "limit" Bruce Lee was talking about.
BONUS! The Bruce Lee Protein Shake
According to John Little, up to two times a day, Lee would make a drink consisting of several of the ingredients listed below. Unfortunately, he left no instructions for his magic elixir. We can tell you this much, howeverhe did use a blender.
Non-instant powdered milk (which, nowadays, he'd probably replace with whey protein powder)
Water or juice
2 raw eggs, occasionally with shell*
1 Tbsp. wheat germ or wheat germ oil
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 Tbsp. brewer's yeast
Lecithin (in granular form)
* Eggs are healthiest when eaten raw but poor-quality commercial eggs carry a risk of salmonella infection. Unfortunately, these are the majority of eggs on the market. The USDA does not recommend eating raw shell eggs that are not cooked or undercooked due to the possibility that salmonella bacteria may be present.
For more about Bruce Lee, check out Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body by John Little, (Tuttle Publishing, 1998) $19.95.
If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at email@example.com.
Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.
Back to top.
4 Predictions for Year of the Pig
By Jude Buglewicz
Happy New Year! Chinese New Year, that is. It's the Year of the Pig, which you might think would imply 12 months of unbridled gluttony, but no. Because in Chinese astrology, while Pigs are indeed known for pursuing the good life, they're also organized, diligent, and strong willed. Ronald Reagan was born in the Year of the Pig, as was Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger. No party animals in that bunch! So what does the Pig Year mean for usespecially in terms of diet and fitness?
First, a super-crash course in Chinese astrology so you'll have a better understanding of the symbolism to follow. It's based on the lunar calendar, and dates back to 2637 BC, when the first cycle was introduced by Emperor Huang Ti. A full cycle is 60 years, made up of five 12-year sequences. We are now in the 78th 60-year cycle. There are 12 animal names (with the Pig being the 12th, or last animal in the cycle), and five elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth). The animals are further divided into yin and yang (or passive and active). The Pig is a yin animal. Every 12 years there is a different animal "element"a Metal Pig, Water Pig, Wood Pig, Fire Pig, and Earth Pig, so it takes 60 years to cycle back to the same animal and element.
This year is the Year of the Yin Fire Pig, or "Red Pig, " also celebrated as the "Golden Pig." It's believed that a child born in the Year of the Golden Pig will be prosperous and wealthy, which has demographers in China and Korea predicting a 10 percent rise in the average birthrates for this year. In many cultures, pigs symbolize fertility, abundance, and good luck. One fortune-teller, Lee Sing-tong, maintains that a very talented and intelligent person (a future prime minister perhaps) will be be born in the east or south of China on June 30th.
Now, whether or not you "believe" in this view of the world and our place in it, or you're just curious, for what it's worth, here's what the soothsayers are predictingaccompanied by a few of our own suggestions for what it means in terms of your diet and fitness goals! (Always working the healthy lifestyle angles here!)
- Optimism. This is the good news. Expansive feelings, openness, and warmth predominateall qualities associated with the generous, sociable Pig. You may even be inspired to buy those advanced workouts and start tackling your challenging fitness goals. Go for it! Just proceed with reasonable caution, as "fire standing on water," which is the elemental composition of this Pig Year, could also mean explosions and fires. Yikes.
- Tumultuous economy. This is closely related to optimism, which inspires people to spend money and bet against the odds with more abandon. Consequently, the stock market is predicted to be very active for the first half of the year, and then less so in the autumn and winter months. No lingering crashes are expected, however, as the "Wood" element in the Pig will continue to fuel the fire, ensuring we'll bounce back. Look out next year, thoughthe Year of the Rat is expected to be a different story. Meanwhile, stock up on workout programs and high-grade equipment now while the money is flowing!
- Disharmony. Not so good news. "Fire standing on water" isn't pleasant. Water extinguishes fire, or "conquers" it, symbolizing turbulence and conflict. Trouble can be expected in all the usual hot spots of the world and natural disasters are predicted. But out of all the trouble good is expected to prevail and problems resolved. Getting strong and fit certainly wouldn't hurt this year, as we all know how exercise reduces stress and tensionand so is a good way to reduce the disharmony in our own lives at least.
- Heart watch. Each of the five Chinese astrological elements is also associated with parts of the body. Fire is associated with blood, its circulation, and the heart. Raymond Lo, a Chinese astrologer and feng shui practitioner recommends taking extra care of the health of your heart in this year of the Fire Pig and getting plenty of exercise and eating fresh fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy fats to ward off cardiovascular disease. Of course, that's excellent advice any time, but an extra incentive to exercise and eat right is always welcome!
If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to top.
Test Your Pork IQ!
By Joe Wilkes
- TRUE: Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world. China is both the largest producer and consumer of pork. China is believed to have domesticated the pig in 7500 BC, making the pig the earliest known domesticated animal. Ancient Chinese were so dependent on the pig that when farmers died, they were often buried with their entire herd of hogs so as not to be deprived of pork in the afterlife.
- FALSE: Pork tenderloin is leaner than skinless chicken breast. Chicken breast is leaner than pork, but not by much! For a three-ounce serving, pork tenderloin only has 19 more calories and 2 more grams of fat.
- TRUE: The word barbecue comes from the real pirates of the Caribbean. French-speaking pirates called a Caribbean feast de barbe et queue, meaning "from the beard to the tail"as pigs were roasted whole over a spit. Another etymological theory is that it came from the Spanish word barbacoa, an early grill over an open fire, which may have evolved from the Caribbean Taíno tribe's word barabicu.
- TRUE: The phrase "living high on the hog" comes from the Army. Enlisted men would usually get the cheaper cuts of pork from the legs, while officers would get more expensive loin cuts. Thus, they were living higher on the hog. So when you get the low-fat, high-protein lean cuts of pork, you can live high on the hog, too.
- FALSE: The phrase "a pig in a poke" comes from gypsy lore. In 17th-century England, shady salesmen would fill a sack ("poke") with a valueless cat instead of a suckling pig at the market, which is where we get the phrase "a pig in a poke" meaning to buy something sight unseen. When the unfortunate customer would bring their purchase home, they would "let the cat out of the bag" which is where we get that saying.
Back to top.