Keeping Fit for Times of Crisis

People are already saying that Edsa 2 was successful in part because of high-tech inventions like the cell phone and the Internet. People used the power of the thumb! Joseph Estrada is, literally, the first president to be ousted by the text brigade. However, looking at it from a fitness point of view, it also struck me that people still had to use their bodies to make "people power" work.

Even if every single Filipino was sending text messages every minute of the day demanding for Erap to step down, it cannot compare to seeing thousands of people gathered in one place demonstrating their right to make their voices heard in a peaceful manner.

Rallies and demonstrations can be physically taxing even if you are in good shape, how much more if you have allowed your body to Ďdeteriorateí over the years. You normally have to walk a great distance because of the crowds. You may have to stand for hours listening to the protest speeches. If you are carrying a placard or streamer, it can start to feel like a boulder on your shoulders after a few hours. Heck, even just sitting for hours during that farce of a Senate impeachment court required some physical endurance. Ask the people who were there daily. Itís a good thing it was all over in a couple of days. Imagine if this crisis dragged on for a few weeks. Even if you are all set to do your part for "God and country", your body may not take it. It could end up a scenario of "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak".

No wonder I heard a TV reporter estimate that ninety percent of the Edsa crowd was below thirty. Only the young can take the rigors of People Power Pinoy-style. Thatís why I was very impressed when former president Fidel Ramos walked from the NAIA airport to the EDSA Shrine with obvious ease in spite of his age. Itís clear that Ramos has kept himself in fighting form all these years -- the exact opposite of you-know-who. It was an example of what I have always believed Ė that keeping yourself fit pays off one day when you need your body to "perform" for you. And I donít mean perform in the sense of showmanship to please a crowd. I mean perform in the sense of using your body to achieve a goal like ousting a corrupt and incompetent leader.

Even the media needs to be fit in order to deliver the news effectively. I could hear the heavy breathing of the reporters and cameramen as they rushed to and from the Presidential Residence the day Estrada left Malacanang. I also saw how they had to jostle each other for a good camera angle. All this takes physical strength and stamina.

So if you have been diligently exercising, congratulations. Doesnít it feel good to know that you can take whatever physical hardships life will throw your way? One day, if you ever have to jump out of a burning airplane, swim away from a sinking ship, or crawl your way out of a collapsed building, your strong body just might save your life. Should you ever catch a nasty virus or be involved in a car accident, being fit could be the determining factor between healing quickly and a lingering recovery.

Not that many of us will ever have occasion to be in such dramatic situations but you never know what life will bring you. A friend told me that she realized how important it was to be fit when she had to push branches and other heavy debris out of her way as she waded through chest-high flood waters last year. She never in her wildest dreams thought that she would find herself in that predicament. She could have easily become another flood statistic but luckily she had developed some physical strength a few months before her crisis. Health is the real wealth. Something that seems to have escaped the attention of the recent occupant of the Palace who was never known to be role model for health and fitness.

The true value of exercising regularly is not so much in having firm triceps (I did see quite a lot of underarms flapping away as people shook their fists in the air) or a flat stomach but in being able to handle physical stress during a time of crisis. Being fit gives you the confidence that you can take care of yourself physically if the need arises.

Though Edsa 2 is over, who knows when we wonít need to go out in the streets again for Edsa 3? A friend jokingly said that if we donít learn our lesson and punish the guilty, our childrenís children will be attending Edsa 10. So here is a technique you can use the next time you are surrounded by a crowd so thick that there is no room to sit and you have to stand for hours. After all, nothing can dampen a patriotic spirit faster than a pain in the neck or lower back.

My sister-in-law tried this last week and she swears it works. I know it does because I use it if I have to stand for a long time in line at a bank or the airport. The technique is called the "wu chi" or position of "primal energy". Here is the way it is described in the book, Tai Chi: The Natural Way to Strength and Health by Master Lam Kam Chuen.

Stand with your feet facing forward, shoulder-width apart. Be certain that your toes are pointing directly ahead and not outward at an angle. Let your hands hang loosely by your sides and relax your shoulders. Your gaze should be straight ahead. Imagine that your head is lightly suspended from a fine thread.

Relaxation of your shoulders is essential. They have a tendency to rise up unnoticed, drawing energy upward in the body, causing tension and headaches. Devote care to relaxing them as you stand.

Slowly bend both knees so that you lower yourself by about two inches. Be careful to ensure that your weight is evenly distributed over both feet and that it is centered in the middle of the soles of your feet. Check that your knees are not bent forward beyond your toes and that your upper body is still upright and relaxed. Your lower back should feel as if it is sinking downwards. To avoid sticking your backside out, tuck the bottom of your spine slightly in. Breathe calmly and naturally.