Category Archives: physical culture

Vegan Long Cycle (Kettlebells)

In which we demonstrate that you don’t need to murder animals to kill kettlebells. This exemplifies the very high-intensity workout called the long cycle, wherein you do as many cleans and jerks of a pair of kettlebells as you can in 1 minute, rest 30 seconds, and do the same with pairs of kettlebells descending in weight. In my case, I start with 106 pounds of kettlebells (pair of 53s), then 88 pounds (pair of 44s), and finally 70 pounds (pair of 35s). I manage to do 19 reps of each. This is cardio warfare and all around great high-intensity training for power, strength and endurance. Good for pretty much all sports and life activities including basketball, luggage lifting, and all around heart and body strengthening. Hardest exercise of the week but most rewarding!

Go vegan! Stay strong! Carb up!

 

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Gotham Parks on Youtube for the Latest!

We’ve been focusing on video content, a mix of urban cycling and veganism, on our channel on youtube Gotham Parks. Subscribe and check it out! Here are just some recent offerings:

On my daily fruit smoothies for the workday hours.

 

On some vegan fitness output.

My review of the Xtracycle Edgerunner cargo bike – a great bike for vegans!

 

On traffic crimes in Harlem/ Washington Heights NYC.

 

Running round the park on good friday.

 

On the Queensboro Bridge Bike/ Ped path.

 

Urban bike safety pro-tip.

 

… it’s cheaper to go vegan, whole foods plant-based, in the long run, always!

 

Vegetarianism (including eggs, dairy) is hardly better ethically or health-wise than not abstaining from flesh. Go vegan, all the way!

 

A basic why I’m vegan video.

 

Subscribe to Gotham Parks! I’ll post more to africanvegans.com going forward to keep y’all in the know. Go vegan, ride bikes and enjoy!

Album Review: “The Workout” by Stic (aka stic.man)

Discipline. NO excuses. Rhythm and movement. Motivation. Consistency. Execution only. Positivity only. Clean living. Self-affirmation. Affirmation of life.

These are among the themes of the beyond superb new album The Workout by Stic (aka stic.man) of Dead Prez. Living healthy is no easy task in this society, with both external and internal forces (the monkey mind) leading us toward negative addictions, attitudes, relationships, indulgences, negligence, and so on. But a revolution must lead with folks who comprehend how unhealthy society functions upon the mass of people, and who comprehend how the many contradictions and negative outcomes befall people governed by a system that wants to consume and exploit human beings, and get human beings to consume and destroy themselves in order to make a profit.

Thus I think The Workout, despite its primary concern with self-development, may be among the most revolutionary Dead Prez albums yet, because revolution, a radical break from a legacy of violence, death, ignorance, exploitation, anger, greed and fear, must begin with the self. And only oneself can liberate oneself – we ourselves are often our own worst enemies. It takes unyielding self-discipline, contemplation, study, exercise, and serious internal work to overcome the contradictions that we as individuals engage in that, in part, perpetuate the miserable status quo of human existence at large. Thus, to encourage diligent and profound internal work, including on our physical bodies as well as our minds, is to encourage revolutionary work, full stop.

And Stic and friends do a mighty fine job of encouragement, through superb musical hip-hop artistry and lyricism. This album surely works as great workout music, as I have listened to it during many a workout over the past few weeks. The refrain, “who am I? I am the champion!” from “Champion” buzzes through the mind while one sweats in exertion. Stic rhymes, “over my lifetime I’m tryna do a million crunches, a billion pushups and prolly throw a billion punches; it’s not the numbers, it’s all about the drive and hunger, to live strong like gorillas thrive in the jungle” in “Blood Pumpin’.” I feel really driven when hearing this line, driven to push myself hard for the rest of my life and never stop reaching mental and physical peaks and then exceeding them, going from strength to strength as I become stronger, wiser and sharper with time.

In “Back On My Regimen (Swole like Tookie),” Divine RBG says “My everyday struggle got me slacking on my fitness, I hear my inner voice saying get back to bidness, get back in the gym, get back on the bars, I can get it in anywhere, the world is my yard!” I love these bars because brother Divine reminds us that for most of us there’s little excuse to slacking, as the world is our yard, the whole of whatever tools and facilities and environments we have at hand. We must strive not to permit our everyday struggles to overwhelm us, to smother us, burn us out and steal our lives from under us. So we can do calisthenics at home; we can get it in at the park, taking walks, jogs, stretches; whatever is safest, most available, but we have to get it in no matter what and keep it up. I don’t have a gym membership; just shoes, a bunch of kettlebells, my body, and my urban environment, and I make it work, getting it in 3-5 days a week and feeling absolutely great, killing the negativity and stagnation inside me every day with sweat and torque.

I greatly appreciate the pro-sobriety messages laced throughout this piece. General Steele (of Smif-N-Wessun) declares, “Strict code of conduct, respect for my enemies; exercise mentally, physically, spiritually; no guns needed – got a panther’s agility, and I don’t need drugs to enhance my ability” (Warrior Codes). No drugs, no steroids, no human growth hormone, no easy ways out. No intoxicants, no means to blunt reality. All things worth achieving are best and most sustainably achieved by all-natural, straightforward, head-first means. It’s painful that so much of prominent rap music is about the opposite – celebrating drugs, self-destruction, ill-health, domestic violence and promiscuity, etc. the opposite of a clear-headed, simple, positive, healthy life which brings lasting well-being, not instant and fleeting gratification followed by craving and calamity.

There are so many incredible songs on this album. “Yoga Mat” reminds us of the importance of meditation and engaging in practices that help us arrive at mental clarity. Mental clarity is a rarer commodity than rare-earth minerals, rarer even than known Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. To even seek mental clarity and sincere inner peace, peace with oneself, in this society, is to engage in extremely subversive, anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist activities. The system doesn’t mind meditation, since it doesn’t harm it directly, and meditation won’t speed revolution. But if it were the case that masses of us took up meditation (to regain our minds, assert our willpower and master our destinies) instead of smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, or doing other things to get high and lose our minds, the Babylon system could get mighty nervous.

The sistas make an appearance in “Baby Fat,” “one of whom (I think Ife Jie?) spits “I know a beautiful body is what a man loves, but I do it for me, I got my own standards.” While this album doesn’t exactly explode with feminism, it doesn’t push machismo and anti-women crap either. I appreciate how this woman asserts her desire for health and fitness as based on her own standards and aspirations to wellness, as opposed to being predicated on impressing men. She is allowed to define her own destiny and it needn’t be just about pleasing men; it can be about pleasing and fulfilling herself.

I could go on about other goodies on this brilliant album, like “Bruce Lee” (awesome), “Sober Soldier,” “Let it Burn,” “Runner’s High,” and so on. But to wrap up I’ll just say this is a nearly perfect example of positive culture. We need more positive culture! I need it. This is the sort of stuff I respond to deeply. This is the sort of stuff brothas and sistas ought to contemplate and actualize in order to affirm and perpetuate life rather than destroy it. Negative culture generally seeks the opposite of what our righteous brother Stic and company want to tell us. Positive culture encourages us to push the boundaries of human potential and do what we previously thought impossible, toward positive transformation of self and community. The Workout is right on that tip.

For the hardcore straight-edge vegan fitness freaks, for the revolutionaries, for those who seek health and clarity, for all of the above, this album will talk to you. Please support Stic and wise men and women like him, and cop this album ASAP.

Notes of a Militant Pedestrian

I wish all of the inhabitable world and all its streets were safely and comfortably navigable on foot. Even in the close-in suburb of New York City where I live, this is far from the case. It is as car-centric as American cities come. Yet I defiantly take to the streets in nothing but my old worn sneakers most of the time. I ride a bike and take the train to work/ school as well, but the vast majority of my movement around the world occurs on foot for me, and it occurs often, year round and with pleasure.

Of course around here I am a highly visible oddball for it, the only chronic African pedestrian in this Asian-American city without enough sidewalks for one man, let alone the 100,000 that live in this town. I know that on many of the routes I take, on minor sidewalk-less arterials paved too narrowly for the comfort of most through the woods and under railroads, most people would not choose to walk. It takes straight boldness to do it, since I don’t think I’m more courageous than anyone. But boldness should not be the prerequisite for living as if one’s community were built to human scale. In fact, take away the unfriendly roads and my town would appear to function at human scale – train station with express service to Manhattan, numerous produce stores, grocers, a major shopping mall, schools and more are all within 1-3 miles of my crib. If the streets were “complete streets” (sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming engineering, bike infrastructure and so on), it wouldn’t be only the bold that walked them regularly.

Seasons don’t change this condition of the streets and the local civilization’s transit patterns. To the die-hard pedestrian who lives standing up on his or her feet no matter what, human beings are hard to find in the streets of my town come summer or winter alike, but cars are always everywhere. I sometimes forget that human beings are even in those cars, in part because they are so rudely and aggressively operated. My conviction is that even the streets of my car-centric town are meant to move humans, whether they be on foot, on bicycles, in cars or buses. This means I don’t blink when the drivers honk at me for walking on the side of the road. At choke points where cars, cyclists and pedestrians have to share a narrow lane under a bridge, I don’t run when the motorists honk or speed by dangerously. I make them slow down like they’re supposed to. I don’t run in crosswalks either. It’s the law in New Jersey to stop “and stay stopped” as a motorist seeing pedestrians crossing streets. In fact I usually slow down to make sure the motorist knows he or she can’t intimidate me. I am always engaged in this sort of spiritual combat, testing the wills of impatient motorists and quietly thanking the ones that still have a sense of decency and humanity.

I am obviously of the opinion that automobile reliance is rather dehumanizing, both to the motorist who fails to realize that he or she is at some point also a pedestrian, and to the pedestrian who is often forced to move with trepidation and paranoia. But I do challenge myself to acknowledge and remember the humanity of drivers. It is not easy. I only wish that more motorists remembered that pedestrians are dignified humans with their own right to the safety and their few feet of breathing room on the road. We’re all human beings here.

Perhaps, until “complete streets” are unveiled everywhere, driver’s ed lessons should stress slowness. Slowness must become a virtue for prospective motorists, and motorists must be drilled and drilled with the notion that the road is for all human beings. It is not only for those operating the heavy, speeding, polluting and overly-deployed, overly-relied upon heavy machinery embodied in automobiles.

People would do well to rely more on their own bodies for transportation, simply because it’s natural. Am I living more like an ancient paleo-human just because I do this in this car-centric North-American wasteland? To admit as much would be amazingly silly – I’m just an ordinary man and far from a primitivist. But it seems like radicalism to be the hardcore pedestrian that I am. I embrace the radicalism – people always tell me they saw me walking here or there around town. But it shouldn’t be just the special eccentric character that some people take me for who walks a lot. And it shouldn’t require an exercise in boldness or radicalism to be hyper-mobile on foot.

My train station is a mere mile away from my home – 15 minutes on foot at a healthy pace. I would never think of doing anything but walking or biking there, and I’ve had that mindset as long as I’ve lived around here. But to many folks around here, including folks I live with, that’s an unwalkable distance. That’s partly a result of the unpleasantness of sidewalk-less roads and highways one might take to get there from here (unless one knows the shortcuts through the woods and neighborhoods), but I think the conceptualization of acceptable walkable distances is pretty warped out here. In high school I ditched the school-bus so I could walk the two+ miles to get there – loved every minute of it. My concepts were already broad enough to embrace walking around several miles every day even back then. If I could have that mindset as a young teenager, it can’t be impossible for others. I think that the culture at large would do well to begin to condition itself that it’s okay to walk a mile or two and it is a healthy and pleasurable discipline to give oneself the extra time to do it.

Walking is among the most natural expressions of our humanity. Bipedal creatures like us were literally born to walk upright. When humans spread across the continents from Africa, much of it was done walking. Why should walking be seen as an abnormal, radical or undesirable behavior? I live to walk. For those of us born with two good working legs, walking is our birthright, our native activity. It’s unfortunate that I am writing today to call upon the culture to re-remember this essential truth and normalize walking.

I hope Manhattanites and Newarkers feel me too. You have side-walks and hella foot traffic compared to where I dwell, but you also have hella shit-heads and car-centric road design and behavior. It sucks almost as bad sometimes when I’m over there, but at least there’s a critical mass of people moving at human scale over there too.

I’m not saying all of society should completely slow down, that all of the uses of automobiles are illegitimate, or that pedestrians should have free rein on the New Jersey Turnpike. But I do adamantly advocate for the complete streets and human-scale infrastructure necessary for more people to come out and feel safe to walk. I also demand a serious moderation and mellowing of the culture surrounding the automobile, along with a rethinking of how motorist attitudes are conditioned for speed, selfishness and callousness.

Too many motorists are engaging in straight-up asshole behavior out there. Your antics will never stop me from walking these streets. I will not apologize if my bipedal presence on the streets, my actualization of our common native activity, offends you and forces you to slow down. Homie, do slow the fuck down! The streets are for human beings! Remember, you are one of them and so am I!

Fellow humans, resume walking as your natural-born tendency. The lead foot is best used to pound pavement, not burn rubber and gasoline.

Hotep.

Fruitarian Musculation and Philosophy

I’m moving towards adding a fruitarian fitness and body-building page to this blog. Until I launch such a page, I thought I’d again weigh in on my dietary philosophy with regard to basic well-being. For me, all I eat is fresh raw whole fruits (including non-sweet fruits) and vegetables (leafy greens). It is my conviction that fresh fruits and vegetables are the ideal foods for humans, and that they also make the most ethical sense to eat. That’s all I eat. What I eat is that which I see in front of me at farmer’s markets and produce stands and which suits my palate and hunger. No dried fruits or nuts – they don’t interest me. Nothing exploited or ripped from animals – they are cruel to animals and human physiology alike.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, and by far mostly fruits in proportion to the greens (why I claim “fruitarian” now) – that’s my whole game and song. Historically, I grew up on rice and occasional fish and chicken and milk and cereal and such in a Nigerian household in North Jersey. I went vegan in 1999 (at age 15) and started with soy-based milk and meat replacers, moving in time towards more and more fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains and less stuff that was reminiscent in any way of the old animal-based regime. I went raw-vegan in 2007 in a regime both fresh fruit/vegetable heavy and nut heavy, including exotic stuff like hemp-seed, cacao, trips to pricey raw restaurants for nori-rolls and nut patties, and so on. Since the start of 2009, I’ve been all about just fresh fruits and veggies that are in season and accessible from farmers markets and produce stands where I live.

I don’t eat organic much, both because of the expense and because where I can get produce – family-owned produce joints in my corner of North Jersey – there are few “organic”-labeled varieties. At the chain supermarkets, everything is 30-50% more expensive. Organic varieties (which I can only find at the big franchises) are way past even those aggressive markups. I’m not gonna bother for now.

But all in all, it’s a simple food regime. I eat fresh – stuff that’s not in boxes and packaging, stuff you have to pick and bag yourself – including bananas, watermelon, oranges, mangos, apples, tomatoes, spinach, okra, cucumbers, bell peppers, pomegranate, guava, zucchini, etc. It’s simple, yet quite satisfying.

I don’t count calories. I don’t supplement for micronutrients I’m supposed to fear deficiencies of (i.e. pressed oils or protein powders or B12 – haven’t knowingly had any vitamin or fortified source of that in my body for years and have never been anemic in my life, and haven’t been ill in any way in years). I eat when I’m hungry. I drink water (the only drink) when I’m thirsty. I sleep when I’m tired. I wash with black soap and moisturize with unprocessed raw shea butter. I floss and brush with a soft toothbrush and non-fluoridated toothpaste, I squat when I shit, and for now I don’t shave or comb my hair – just wash and go proudly. Fresh fruits, leafy greens, sunshine, fresh air, exercise, good humans, good rest, good work and a simple, straightforward, natural swagger sustain me.

So, having laid down my general philosophy, I simply hope to share the idea and experience of good fitness and physical culture through simplicity, abundance, hard work and sincerest interest in the growth of others. I don’t have anything to sell – no books, powders, recipes. I would just hope that the plant-based diet becomes more normalized in this world and less denigrated by the ignorant and those with whole industries and cultures of violence to defend.

Getting strong is about weight-bearing, cardiovascular and stretching exercises, with actual muscular hypertrophy and strengthening most dependent on the first item. Getting strong is not about killing and eating animals, ingesting soy powders, etc. Weight-bearing exercise includes simple body-weight exercises like push-ups, squats, burpees, etc. It can be as straightforward or elaborate as one likes or can afford.

I am personally interested in strength and power (as opposed to hypertrophy/bulk alone). Hence my current workout regime alternates full-body speed/power days with full-body strength/muscular endurance days. I.e. in a five day campaign, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are about speed and power. Tuesdays and Thursdays are about strength and endurance. My cardiovascular workouts [aside from ballistic kettlebell work] are based on bicycling and walking and occur throughout the week (partly included in practicing active transportation/ body-reliant commuting) and especially weekends (I run less only because I don’t have the best right knee in the world). In the past my regime included regular martial arts practice, though of late I could no longer afford/ find time to do this, and I expect to resume some time in 2011.

My tools include kettlebells, a pull-up bar, chairs (for dips), a mat, a chin-up bar, my bicycle, my body, and the world. Speed and power exercises, which are among my favorite, come courtesy of the kettlebells and the wide variety of power-lifting one can do with them – cleans, [time-interval] jerks, snatches, high pulls, Turkish get-ups, swings, and so on. One can invent exercises with kettlebells and of course use them for all the general weight-training techniques known to humanity – [pistol] squats, lunges, shoulder and chest presses, curls, [renegade] rows, etc. Calisthenic and body-weight workouts combine with non-ballistic weight-training on strength days.

It’s all pretty simple. It’s all pretty cheap. And most of it’s in the attitude. It’s about embracing intuition, cherishing simplicity, shunning cruelty, not fearing, and being oneself. The plant-based diet is in my experience the nicest, having done me over eleven years (some 40% of my life as of my 27th year at present) of good. The physical culture of an active lifestyle and exercise produces endless soldier-soul juice. Especially in the mornings before work, when one deploys military discipline to practice physical and mental strength before the work day and commute, so that body and essence remain in tact and strong in this debasing world.

Fresh fruits and veggies and physical culture give one the strength to withstand Babylon and fight for truth and justice for time to come. Activists and freedom-fighters need to mind and sustain their personal wellness. Stay tuned for a fitness page to be added above soon.

And please comment generously on this missive.