Frank Forencich

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Not long ago I received three books in the mail from 180 follower Rob A. Rob and I have communicated closely for going on a couple of years now I think, and the arrival of these books – all of them written by exercise scholar Frank Forencich, was timely.

Every time summer rolls around I get the itch to spend a lot of time outdoors doing active things. My earliest dabblings with health came in my early 20’s when I realized that the more time I spent outside, the more my most pressing health problems at the time (mood swings, back pain, asthma, allergies) subsided. In fact, if I spent 24 hours per day in the outdoors backpacking around – on my feet most of the day and sleeping in the outdoors, those problems not only improved but completely disappeared until I returned to indoor living (and no, this is not confirmation per se that I was allergic to something in my home as I lived in nearly a dozen locations and noticed this effect every single time).

This is perfectly congruent with the beliefs of the early physiculturalists and the traditional naturopathic ideal – that clean air, clean water, proper rest, sound sleep, lots of sunshine, a peaceful, quiet environment, good food, and physical movement are the tools the body needs to recuperate from sickness. And when these are supplied in abundance, there are but a few maladies that the body cannot conquer.

While this is obviously overly idealistic, I do know that many with serious and minor health problems alike, if it were feasible to really “go native” like this, would truly witness superior results to that offered by the best that alternative and mainstream medicine offer combined.

I guess you probably have to truly experience what it feels like physically, mentally, and emotionally to truly untether yourself from electronics, the comfort of a bed, noise, news, and stale indoor air to really appreciate how powerful it can be. If you haven’t, you kinda have to take my word for it I guess. But there’s no doubt that my long-time romanticism of primitive and simple living is a contributor to the big stiffy I’ve always gotten over the diets and lifestyle of isolated peoples. I was like Rob Schneider’s character “orgasm guy” with every page I turned in Weston A. Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration many years ago.

Anyway, I get from Frank Forencich’s books, that he feels much the same way. Frank is not into big muscles and cover model standards. He’s not into crash diets, treadmill cardio, and the latest list of “weird tips to blast belly fat.” Rather, he is into the enjoyment of play, the regenerative health benefits of exposing your physical body to new challenges, and the excitement of exercise as a form of adventure. Exercise is both a part of and a vehicle to living life at your greatest potential.

His books lack the kind of specific direction, hard-hitting medical claims, clear linear logic, and overhyped promises of results with pages of before and after testimonials like you see everywhere else in the fitness industry – which is precisely what makes them good reads. Instead, you come away with a feeling – a feeling that perhaps the entire way we view movement in the modern world and connect with our bodies is diseased. Even that the concept of reward and goals, when it comes to exercise or any health pursuit, is a part of the problem and not the solution – reinforcing that nothing is worth doing for the sheer inherent joy of doing it anymore, but is always just a means to an end.

And this concept, I get. In fact, my favorite forms of physical movement are precisely the things that I have done over the years that completely removed the element of competition or goal. I did them purely because they were enjoyable. Those things are hiking/backpacking, beach paddleball, snorkeling, and most recently Frisbee.

With hiking I used to just love being out there. At first I tried turning it into a competition where I tried to track mileage and make it to “x” number of mountain peaks or lakes. But I ended up ditching this mindset thankfully – for the first time I think since playing Wiffle Ball with my childhood buddies. In fact, when I realized just how powerful of a mindset change this was I really began to resent those that ventured into the Wilderness to accomplish a goal.

In Colorado, it is becoming increasingly trendy to climb all of the peaks in the state over 14,000 feet in elevation. These mountains are called the “Fourteeners.” I grew to really resent the people that came from all over the state (and the country), just to drop into one of my favorite local trails and ignore everything there while focusing myopically on “bagging” the peak. I came to refer to them as “Peak baggers,” a phrase I uttered as if they had said something bad about my mama.

If you think that sounds snooty, you should see the sacredness with which I hold what are perhaps the only games I’ve ever played without keeping score – paddleball and Frisbee. While paddleball may seem like a lame game, I can honestly say that the most enjoyable and childlike moments of my life came while playing beach paddleball – a game where you just hit a ball back and forth with another person or persons for the sheer enjoyment of it. And when I played with my stepmom and she drew up a court in the sand to keep score so that the game had some sort of “point” to it, I fantasized about ripping her head off with her spine coming with it, grabbed the ball, spiked it at her feet within the boundaries she had created, and said “1” to signify how not fun this game was going to be while keeping score. She walked away. It was one of the most dick things I’ve ever done. Nobody f%$#’s with my paddeball!

Anyway, Frank’s books aren’t necessarily life-changing. Your life probably doesn’t depend on rushing over to his site http://www.exuberantanimal.com/ to order his books immediately and absorb some incredible new information. To me his books were a reminder, a powerful one at that, of why I spend so much time with all this health crap. I do it because I freakin’ love it. I like how I feel when I eat mostly wholesome, carb-o-rific foods. I totally get off on simple physical pleasures like paddleball. Being outdoors in the sunshine and detached from comfort and climate-controlled environments is one of the most invigorating things I know. Learning about how the human body works, mine especially, and expressing my thoughts about it is totally mentally fulfilling to me.
So let it be a reminder to you too I guess. Health and physical movement are not something you need to justify based on results. They can be inherently enjoyable and enriching pursuits in and of themselves. It doesn’t matter whether you lose fat or build muscle from your health pursuits or whatever. Eating food that makes you feel good today isn’t a waste of time if you don’t live to 110 totally free of all illness and every ounce of body fat. Whatever nurtures you and makes you feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally is worth doing for the sheer enjoyment of it – no matter what that is, including giving the finger to health food so that you can relax and enjoy the company of friends and family without stressing over what type of oil was used in the preparation of that food. We all have our own unique paths to health.  Find it.  And go play if you can, your life might just “depend on it” according to Frank’s first title.

My notes from Frank’s books… He is obviously a very sharp guy…

Forencich, Frank. Play as if Your Life Depends on It. GoAnimal: Seattle, WA, 2003.
Forencich, Frank. Exuberant Animal. Author House: Bloomington, IN, 2006.
Forencich, Frank. Change Your Body, Change the World. Exuberant Animal: Seattle, WA,
2010.

PLAY AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT…

p. 26

“The tissues of our musculoskeletal system – our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones – cannot thrive in a state of suspended animation: They depend on gravitational, resistive and kinetic loads to maintain their integrity and health. When muscle tissue is challenged, it responds with growth and increased neural drive; it learns to generate stronger contractions. When connective tissue fibers are challenged with repeated contractions, they supercompensate by growing thicker at crucial junctions. When bones are loaded repeatedly, they increase their mineral density along the axes of greatest force. In this, stress is not the enemy at all; in fact, it is the primary somatic teacher that tells us where to grow, what to reinforce and how to heal.”

p. 35

“The April 2000 issue of Sports Medicine Digest suggested that, in terms of longevity, ‘it’s better to be fit than thin.’ Citing findings from the cooper Center for Aerobics Research, they reported that, in terms of general health as measured in death rates, being fit is far more important than being thin. For out-of-shape men, obesity was clearly associated with higher death rates, but among those who were in shape, body fat percentage was unrelated to mortality. In fact, men who are fit and fat have a death rate about one half that of unfit men in the normal weight range.”

p. 124

“… as our understanding of exercise becomes more sophisticated, we begin to see that it’s not pain that stimulates our bodies, but challenge. Now we say, ‘no challenge, no adaptation.’ In other words, if you don’t push your comfort zone a little, your body isn’t going to pay attention. It’s not the pain that makes the difference, it’s the push.”

p. 127

“When administered in an intelligent, oscillating pattern, we would be correct to describe exercise as ‘therapeutic trauma.’”

p. 221

“… just forget about numbers. Counting takes you out of your body. Instead, concentrate on the quality of your movement and pay attention to how your body feels as you become fatigued.”

EXUBERANT ANIMAL

p. 8

“We expect people to lay down their ideas in linear patterns with distinct rankings, hierarchy and above all, order. But, as we are beginning to discover, neither evolution nor good ideas work this way. Good ideas don’t proceed from point to point in sequential fashion; they split and splinter, branch and divide, just like species do. Simple ideas may sprout a few branches, but really good ideas become exceptionally bushy, generating thousands of conceptual sprouts that continue to grow as the discipline becomes ever richer.”

p. 149

“…modern health researchers have discovered clear evidence of destructive effects of noise on the human body. Exposure to high levels of auditory noise raises blood pressure, increases stress hormones, disrupts sleep and probably contributes to attention-deficit disorders, in both children and adults. And of course, noise also impacts our athletic performance.”

p. 300

“Every responsible physician, trainer and coach knows that speed fails. The only thing that really, truly works is frequent, vigorous movement combined with a sensible, food-based diet, sustained over years and decades.”

CHANGE YOUR BODY

p. 154

“Back at the dawn of the digital age, ‘visionaries’ claimed that the computer would be a highly effective labor-saving device that would free us from untold hours of drudgery. No longer would we be shackled to our desks, writing down numbers and words by hand until the middle of the night. We’d be granted a wide-open vista of easy living, free to pursue our favorite leisures, hobbies and fascinations. Boy, were they off the mark.”

p. 163

“… we now know that there’s one sure way to position yourself for a chronically activated stress response and that’s to adopt and hold tight to a single, static world view. The formula is simple: Develop a perspective on how the world works and stick to it. Then, when reality comes barging in with the inevitable counter-argument, you’re in for a case of cortisol poisoning and everything that goes with it, including damage to precious blood vessels and neurons.”

 

How to RAISE YOUR METABOLISM.

23 Comments

  1. Frank is awesome. But you left out his best quote! The intro to one of his books says:

    "Before beginning a program of physical inactivity, consult your doctor. Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health."

    Genius.

    In case anyone is interested, here's a little article I did on how play is a great way to learn motor skills. http://toddhargrove.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/the-importance-of-play-for-motor-learning/

    Reply
  2. I think Frank was in the Village People. Regardless, Tom Selleck is jealous of that 'stache.
    xo
    haggie

    Reply
  3. See I'm not the only nut who would rather live in a tree! :-)

    Matt, I'm sure you're not surprised that I really liked this one.

    Matt wrote:
    "…you probably have to truly experience what it feels like physically, mentally, and emotionally to truly untether yourself from electronics, the comfort of a bed, noise, news, and stale indoor air to really appreciate how powerful it can be."

    I know exactly what you mean. Growing up, everyone I knew talked about the "American Dream" — the big house with the white picket fence, 2-car garage with 2 luxury cars in it, blah, blah, blah, and the 200K-a-year-70-hour-a-week job to maintain that lifestyle. Not me! I have dreamed about "living off the land" in a tropical place ever since the first time I saw Blue Lagoon (my favorite movie–loved the sequel too!). I've always loved to go camping and explore nature. And I still "go native" every chance I get. Yep, I get total lady-wood for that kinda thing.

    So yeah, this was a nice reminder- that I'm a nature-lovin'-nut but I'm totally okay (and quite happy!) with that. Still, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one :-)

    A few other snippets that I totally identify with…

    "…my favorite forms of physical movement are precisely the things that I have done over the years that completely removed the element of competition or goal. I did them purely because they were enjoyable."

    "…a reminder, a powerful one at that, of why I spend so much time with all this health crap. I do it because I freakin’ love it. I like how I feel when I eat mostly wholesome, carb-o-rific foods. I totally get off on simple physical pleasures like paddleball. Being outdoors in the sunshine and detached from comfort and climate-controlled environments is one of the most invigorating things I know."

    "Learning about how the human body works, mine especially, and expressing my thoughts about it is totally mentally fulfilling to me."

    "Whatever nurtures you and makes you feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally is worth doing for the sheer enjoyment of it…"

    Ditto to all of that.

    Reply
  4. AS–I hope you get your opportunity to live off the land at some point. My years like that were really positive in certain ways, and brought some harsh lessons otherwise. I think you have to be careful about what kind of people you surround yourself with when you don't have the lifeline of the internet.

    Matt, I think that the other thing is that exercise starts to feel like fun when you're healthy. Until recently, I didn't feel like doing exercise and had to force myself just to stretch so that my back wouldn't seize up. Now, I'm choosing to go for long bikerides for more reasons than the price of gas, I'm running up the stairs, etc, and it's fun! That's a great feeling. Sounds like this guy gets it too.

    Reply
  5. Ela wrote:
    "AS–I hope you get your opportunity to live off the land at some point. My years like that were really positive in certain ways, and brought some harsh lessons otherwise. I think you have to be careful about what kind of people you surround yourself with when you don't have the lifeline of the internet."

    Thank you, Ela. And I hear ya :-)

    I have lived that way before — and it was always a positive experience. And I definitely will again soon — yet in a more tropical Blue-Lagoon-ish way.

    And I'll be sure to surround myself with good peeps–as always. At least one really great peep… who can be my playmate :-)

    Reply
  6. "a food-based diet" that made me lol!

    Reply
  7. Great post Matt – But then again, they always seem to be

    I have a problem with my nostrils clogging at the moment. It's mostly evident when i'm lying down, and annoys me most in the morning. Sometimes it's a nasal cycle, and sometimes both nostrils are clogged.
    I tried to up my fruit alot (read eating almost only fruit) the last week or so, and it helped me sleep better, in spite of the clogged nostrils, but they didn't really clear up.
    Yesterday i just really wanted some soup for dinner (which btw. was amazing) but this morning i woke up at 7 am, and couldn't sleep any longer.
    I'm just thoroughly confused…

    Reply
  8. Excellent post – I have all but given up exercise myself. Well in the conventional sense that is. I occasionally do some bodyweight stuff when I feel like it and my main high intensity exercise comes from Tennis.
    It is so much fun to actually move with a purpose for the fun of it – so many sports take advantage of multi-directional movements that can't be achieved through conventional training in a gym. Only with the freedom and fun of a sport do you get that kind of workout.
    My current stance is Walk – Stretch – Play and eat lots of good 'carborific' food. In fact in the past few weeks I have done nothing but walk around, play tennis once and play around in the beach with friends and I feel better than I ever did when doing 2-3 high intensity resistance workouts a week and I am leaner. Go figure….

    Reply
  9. Ahhh.. Nature is FREEDOM! Glad I'm not the only one thinking like that.
    My big dream is to buy a mobile home and sleep a new place every week and exploring natures wonders along the way. Or buy a boat and sail around the world. I just want to be free from this world of new age slavery.

    Reply
  10. Sorry for being a spaminator. But does anyone know the answer to this question: is it true that fructose lowers free fatty acids by reducing stress hormones? Ray may is over, i get that. But still, this is relevant. Ray Peat's idea that most AGE products are created by PUFAs does not make sense. Fructose and galactose have a much higher (about ten times that of glucose) tendency to cause glycation. Peat puts all the blame of AGEproducts on decomposition of polyunsaturated fats. And he may be right that lipid peroxidation is an underestimated factor. But I don't understand how fructose is becoming benign as long as PUFA is low. He argues that fructose has its own benefits, and one is lowering free fatty acids….

    Reply
  11. Ack! This post makes me feel like a total ass for taking the kids to the gym, dropping them off in the kid care room, and them proceeding to the gym to do intervals on the bike and body weight exercises, and then going home, and sitting in a chair in the backyard reading while they play the hell out of the kiddie pool, the mini-trampoline, the bikes, balls, toys, jumping, rolling, enjoying the backyard hill and bushes and worm-digging. Sheesh. Shame on me. I could save myself $1000 a year and just join them…

    Reply
  12. IMO best post I've read on here in awhile. Simple ideas that most readers have probably considered, but Matt we have you to thank for working hard to furnish this venue and facilitate such dialogue. We written.

    I have been scaling back my exercise drastically. Stopped training to failure over a year ago, and been exercising with less 'intensity' and more 'exuberance' since then.

    The intellect level of the readers of this blog gives me faith in humanity. Now if the appreciation for play fullness and nature would only spread to all human kind…

    Reply
  13. 'We written' was meant to be 'well written'

    Reply
  14. Matt-Have you looked into nature deficit disorder? I listened to a podcast called All in the mind, go to the episode from 4/17/2010 called Nature Deficit Disorder: the mind in urban combat. Richard Louv talks about the effect of what amounts to sensory deprivation imposed upon children. I suspect that some adults suffer from the same symptoms in the same kind of enclosed environment.

    Reply
  15. Yeah, Frankie! Glad to see your reflections on him, buddy.

    One of the points Forencich makes that sticks out for me is the emphasis on movement quality- moving well is much more important than looking 'good' in a static way. (As an aside, though- he was one of the most healthy looking people I've encountered when I met him last year, so looking good and being heathy are not necessarily incompatible if my assessment of him holds any weight.)

    After I read this yesterday, I ran outside, jumped on some picnic benches, ran up a hill a few times, and jumped off things into a tuck-and-roll. He has a whole book full of cool games, both individual and partner, using basic tools like ropes, sticks and balls (medicine, swiss, etc.) that are fun and rewarding.

    As I was playing yesterday, I started wondering what we might be capable of if we lived our whole lives 'following our bliss,' chasing that exuberance, moving because it just feels awesome. I got a little sense of how powerful we could be in ourselves, how deep our capacities could run.

    Love also that quote of his linking of mental inflexibility to un-health. Certainly in line with 180's willingness to change course as reality knocks on the door with its inevitable counter-argument.

    AS,

    "And I'll be sure to surround myself with good peeps–as always. At least one really great peep… who can be my playmate :-) " Oohh- oohh, pick me!

    Reply
  16. Rob wrote:
    "Oohh- oohh, pick me!"

    LOL :-) Okay! Bring your balls and stick and we'll play until we reach our bliss – 2 or 3 times a day! (wink!)

    Kidding aside- never stop playing. And always follow your bliss. You'll be amazed what you're capable of! :-)

    P.S. That book of games sounds interesting!

    Reply
  17. `
    NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder).

    I love it!

    Reply
  18. Last night, I watched the Return to Blue Lagoon on Netflix. I wanted to watch the original Blue Lagoon movie but it wasn't an instant play. BTW, anyone know where I can watch it online?

    For those who haven't seen it, the Return to Blue Lagoon is about two children marooned on a tropical island in the South Pacific– with Lilli's mother who teaches them "the facts of life" before she later dies when the two are pre-teens. Life is blissful on the island alone, as they grow to maturity, and fall in love.

    Anyway, just wanted to share a couple of my favorite scenes. This first scene is soon after Lilli "becomes a woman." It reminds me how I prefer to live in a world where a man can say how he really feels–freely without feeling embarrassed or fear of peer-judgment. Obviously, I don't fear much what people think lol! :-)

    While swimming-and playing!-in the water, they kiss for the first time…

    Richard: I feel like crying.
    Lilli: So do I.
    Richard: I want us to be husband and wife.
    Lilli: Yes. Always.
    [They kiss passionately]

    Then, on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the ocean…

    Richard: With this ring, I thee wed, Lilli.
    Lilli: With this ring, I thee wed, Richard.
    [They exchange rings]
    Lilli: And now we're…
    Richard: One. Forever.
    [They kiss passionately]

    Call me crazy but that's my idea of a perfect wedding–just the two of them expressing their love. The rings they exchanged were handmade (of course-like everything else). I absolutely love handmade things (especially by a man's hands–I melt!). To me, hand-making everything is a big part of the appeal of that way of living.

    Okay, here's my favorite scene:

    Note: Sylvia is one of the passengers of a passing ship who came ashore the island to refill fresh water barrels.

    Sylvia: I should think it must be ever so boring here.
    Richard: What is the meaning of boring?
    Sylvia: Boring is when you have nothing whatever to do. So you're bored, like you must be here.
    Richard [Looks at Lilli, his eyes light up, and he says with a sweet smile on his face]: No. We're never bored.
    [Richard and Lilli grin and gaze at each other]

    Awesome. "We're never bored." Best line in the movie.
    I could never get bored either. I can always find something entertaining to do! :-) And I love the water–being in it or near it. I practically lived on a pretty secluded area of the beach growing up in CA and it never got boring.

    Here's my very close second favorite scene:

    While Richard is teaching Sylvia how to fish, she makes sexual advances towards him. He resists and says Lilli's name…

    Sylvia: It's no time to be thinking about Lilli!
    Richard: I told her I'd never hurt her.
    Sylvia: Don't feel sorry for her, Richard. She's had you all to herself. But she doesn't own you. You're not married.
    Richard: We are married!
    Sylvia: But not really. A lot of made up words in the middle of the jungle doesn't count.
    Richard: It does to me.
    Sylvia: Why don't you just… follow your heart?
    Richard: She… IS my heart.

    Reply
  19. Chris-

    Amanda Sainsbury-Salis actually points out some studies that show those who ditch structured exercise actually end up moving more and burning more calories overall in physical activity and lose weight. I have experienced this many times myself. The less I think about the fact that I'm exercising and just live life enjoyable the better it treats me.

    CADreamin-

    I haven't read anything about Nature Deficit Disorder but I certainly know when I'm suffering symptoms of it. Like right now, at 1:31 pm and I haven't been outside today haha.

    Reply
  20. Matt,
    Will you marry me? I <3 you.
    Thanks for your fun, relaxed, wise take on all of this stuff…it is healing on so many levels for me.
    ~Katie

    Reply
  21. The last distance race I ran, I came home too stiff to jump in a pile of leaves with my kid. That was a major part of my decision to quit running. Leaf jumping is awesome and adults who are in good enough shape to run 13 miles of mountainous trails but not jump into a pile of leaves need to rethink their whole strategy.

    Reply

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