Tag Archives: Society and Fitness

Here’s to the man who loved a city of cars, but never drove

Ray Bradbury | 1920 – 2012

SOMETIME in the next five years, traffic all across L.A. will freeze.

The freeways that were once a fast-moving way to get from one part of the city to another will become part of a slow-moving glacier, edging down the hills to nowhere.   

– Ray Bradbury, February, 2006, Los Angeles Times

This is how Ray Bradbury started a Los Angeles Times essay back in early February, 2006, expressing his belief that a monorail system would help solve transportation problems in LA. This wasn’t a new proposition. Bradbury fought for over 50 years for a monorail system – his clean, noiseless, cost efficient solution to Los Angeles’ public transportation woes…to no avail. Often seen traveling on his bike, between bookstores, theaters, and other favorite spots around town, even in his transportation choices, Bradbury was ahead of his time.

Popular Mechanics Magazine

Ray Bradbury’s unfettered imagination and zest for life, reveling in both its ugliness and beauty – whether it be in the horror and ecstasy of fiction, or the dirt and sun of Los Angeles – will remain an inspiration throughout the rest of my lifetime, and countless others in Los Angeles, and the world.

Wouldn’t it be great to honor Bradbury by picking up his cause,  pursuing the dream of a Los Angeles monorail? Call it the Rayal. The conductor uniforms would be akin to Mr. Electro – coattails, top hat, and all. The decor theme could be a rocket to mars, and the interiors would smell of “all the thunderstorms throughout time”. And why not? If we remember nothing else, it’s that Ray Bradbury challenged each and every one of us to dream the big dreams. He will be missed.

What fun you are missing, then. The fun of anger and disillusion, the fun of loving and being loved, of moving and being moved by this masked ball which dances us from cradle to churchyard. Life is short, misery sure, mortality certain. But on the way…why not carry those two inflated pig-bladders labeled Zest and Gusto. With them, traveling to the grave, I intend to slap some dummox’s behind, pat a pretty girl’s coiffure, wave to a tad up a persimmon tree. Anyone who want to join me, there’s plenty of room…

– Bradbury 1973

Ethan Pines for New York Times

Fun toys to get you outside this summer

Summer is officially here. It’s time for pedicures, beefing-up on barbecue skills, and generally doing anything that calls us out into the fresh air and sun. It is the best time to take fitness outdoors too, and I don’t mean lugging the treadmill out of the backroom to the porch. In case you forgot, there’s no age limit on playing outside.  Bikes, roller skates, skateboards, and jump ropes are great go-to summer toys, but here are a few other fun outdoor ideas you might have forgotten:

Trampolines

My parents claimed this was the best investment they ever bought our family. We used it regularly, every summer, for 15 years, with lots of giggling, lots of exercise, and luckily, no broken bones.

Kites

Kites are beautiful, artistic, and fun to run around with in the hopes of setting aloft. Make it a DIY party and gather some friends, craft your own, and have a kite-flying contest. Here’s a cool do-it-yourself kite from Popular Mechanics.

Water Guns – or better yet, Water Balloons!

Personal politics about warfare and guns aside, this is a great way to cool down and laugh when it’s hot. Play capture the flag with teams of friends. Or have a little one-on-one couples therapy. Loser makes dinner.

Unicycle

Not only a mode of transportation, it’s a great way to work on balance skills and impress friends. When starting out, a good spot goes a long way. Be patient and you’ll soon be speed cycling with the best single wheelers out there.

Pedalo

A wooden German toy that’s been around for decades, it’s a slightly safer variation on the unicycle. The pedalo builds balance and body awareness. Preparing you to be a natural on the…

Tight rope

Go to the local hardware store and get a strong, thick rope. Tether it, securely to 2 points, starting at just a few inches to a foot off of the ground.  Have tight rope walking competitions. See who can balance the longest, walk forward and backward, maybe even jump up and down. If you’re an adult at a barbecue with friends, watch out for “beer confidence”. No sprained ankles, please.

Retro Toys – Pogo Sticks, hula hoops, and Slip n’ Slide?

These were all popular for good reasons…except maybe slip n slide, with personal memories of grass stains and elbows burns. A lot of the flash back toys are silly mayhem for adults and kids alike. As a parent, you might be able to show off your impressive muscle memory skills to the young ones.

What are your favorite outdoor toys? Send us your ideas!

Party your way to good health this weekend

With the weekend just hours away, it’s time to let loose! Not like you need it, but here’s additional incentive to party tonight – dancing, alcohol, and flirting all fall under the umbrella of healthy living…within moderation, of course.  Howcast and GE’s Healthy Imagination project joined forces in this video with healthy ways to live it up this weekend. I’ll be seeing you on the dance floor…

What the world thinks Healthy means

Does being healthy mean the same thing in Africa as in China? From the charting wunderkind at GOOD Magazine now you can compare.  For an upclose look at this chart and what the world thinks of the term “healthy”, just click on the image, or go to GOOD.is

Is running in Los Angeles bad for your health?

In Downtown Los Angeles there’s a film – not of celluloid, but of soot – covering everything, from shop displays in the fashion district to the tables at high-end cafes.  Blowing your nose at the end of each day proves you breathe it in as well. And when I saw so many people jogging and biking through the streets here  – in this fitness obsessed city – I seriously began to wonder “This just can’t be good for you… right?”

Why exercise outdoors in a city known for smog? It seems counterintuitive. I decided to do a little research and find out if it is really harmful, or just a bunch of hot air.

The American Lung Association releases a “State of the Air” report every year.  In 2011, Los Angeles was #1 in ozone pollution in the country, and #2 in year-round toxic particle (soot) pollution. According to The ALA and a 2008 study by the National Research Council, air pollution aggravates asthma, heart and lung disease and diabetes, and can have a severe effect on children, stunting lung growth. Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer. According to the state Air Resources Board, 9,200 Californians die prematurely each year because of dirty air. Research has also connected a higher risk for these diseases directly to exposure from exhausts of heavy traffic and busy highways.

Now imagine running in that air! You increase your intake of oxygen while running, and subsequently the amount of pollutants. The Beijing Olympics weren’t so long ago as to recall the struggle many Olympian faced when training and competing in China’s own pollution problem.. US Olympic Mountain Biker Adam Craig, went into bronchial spasms because of the air. It’s like suffocating. Craig was unable to fully breathe in the air his body needed. 30 minutes into the competition, he had to quit.  And he wasn’t alone. Many athletes experienced similar problems performing at their peak in the pollution.

While Los Angeles might not be as bad as Beijing, and smog and soot levels have dropped in Southern California over the last decade,  the region still has the highest levels of ozone nationwide, violating federal health standards an average of 137 days a year.  Apparently, it’s getting better, but unfortunately not quick enough to make an impact on our health…sorry Angelenos.

So what can we do? Give up our cars, build reliable, and convenient public transit, plants more trees, and offer more pedestrian and bike friendly means of getting around town…like, tomorrow. And if none of that is happening in the immediate future? Then be smart about activity. Check the air quality before rigorous outdoor activity. My Environment on the EPA’s website provides hourly air quality forecasts. Airnow.gov is another  site providing air quality maps. If you must workout outside, do it when traffic is light. Early morning hours are ideal.

So it seems the answer is yeah…running in Los Angeles is bad for you. But, what’s worse – not exercising at all, or doing it in a polluted city?  Both can cause shorter life expectancy and an array of diseases. Until there’s more research, I’d venture to assume it’s better to exercise than just sit on the couch…though you won’t catch me running through the streets of LA, for fitness purposes anyway, anytime soon.

Fitness and Fashion: Why we wear sneakers and shorts

Funny how fitness fashion often leaves little to be desired. Athletic wear might be a trend for Spring 2012,  but we’ve yet to see Anna Della Russo sporting workout wear on the streets of Milan.  And yet, despite its lack of fashion sense, women’s sporting wear has made major impacts on how we dress today, from work attire, to the perfect cocktail dress. Here are a few historical sportswear facts that highlight the fitness impact on the fashion world:

Leotard

The first skin tight bodices were crafted by Jules Leotard during the Victorian era of the late 1800s. The leotard was made solely for men, namely circus performers, while women performers kept to inflexible and rather dangerous corsets. While men still wear leotards, or “biketards”, for cycling, swimming, rowing, etc, the name will forever be synonomous with women and dance fashion.

Shoes

One of the first pair of rubber soled, canvas shoes was created by Charles Goodyear – yup, the same name associated with tires. In 1916 the shoes, called Keds, were mass-marketed as the first sneaker. The name “sneaker” was bequeathed by advertising man Henry Nelson McKinney, because the rubber sole made the shoe so quiet.

Golf


The fabric of choice for women who golfed in the early part of the 20th century was tweed. Hmm…sounds heavy.


Tennis

While long layered skirts slowly became long wide-leg plants, it wasn’t until 1932 that Alice Marble made waves walking out onto the tennis court in shorts at Wimbleton. The world was aghast, but thankfully, we never looked back.

Swimsuits

In the 1800’s women wore skirts and pantaloons made of heavy fabrics that would not become see-through in the water. They also came with weights sewn into the fabric to keep the fabric from floating up.  It took decades of fighting for women’s rights coupled with the invention of Lycra around the 1930’s that brings us to the swimwear and bikinis we know today.


A time and place for dance with bodycity

End Trails. Image from the bodycity website

From the ethereal to the awkward, all movement has a place in the human psyche.  In Los Angeles, there is a troupe that’s not afraid to dance it all.

bodycity (all lowercase) is a democratic dance collective based in Los Angeles, dancing the in-between spaces of conceptual art, traditional performance, and social event. The group is democratic in that no dance is the brainchild of just one person, each dancer must both choreograph and perform every piece – becoming both teacher and student in an ongoing, collaborative cycle.

The level of dance training in bodycity varies from formal education, to none. And there is no ideal body type or style. Only when each dancer’s unique shape, size and movement pattern is expressed together, does the dissonant vision emerge as a singular piece of art.

The Summer Solstice Session. Image from the bodycity website

The themes of bodycity dances are time and site-specific. One example is Summer Solstice Session. Each member performed and chronicled a five-minute dance outside, at the exact time of the summer solstice. At that moment, the performers were spread out all over the world, from Belgium to Colorado. The videos were collected and shown at the California Film Festival in September.

Announcement of Overpassages. Image from Llano Del Rio Collective Guides and Speakers Bureau

An epic piece titled Overpassages, converged at one of the busiest transportation intersections in the United States: between the 110 highway, the 5 freeway, the LA River, and the Los Angeles railroad tracks. Each dancer stood throughout the odd wilderness, “in-between” spots, and communicated by relaying energy and movement – like a telephone game across great expanses of cars, trains, and life on the go. It literally brought traffic to a halt. A two-minute video of the performance may soon be viewable through the Los Angeles Metro Arts program.

Their latest piece End Trails was performed on October 16th, at the High Desert Test Sites of Joshua Tree. It explored the space between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, the journey into the desert, and the road back home again.

Image from the bodycity website

The origins of dance are tribal by nature, celebrating a time and place, celebrating a community, and celebrating ourselves. For whatever reason, dance fulfills a human need to creatively and physically, self-express.  bodycity reminds us dance is for everyone, at any time, and anywhere.