Author Archives: mark

How the central bank plundered workers for Wall Street

YouTube commentary from last week on the consequences of the Wall Street bailout:

Fractional Reserve Banking is not a defense of the free market

Apparently, Ben Shapiro’s debate with Cenk Unger included promoting fractional reserve banking as a defense against taxing the rich,

It was repeated by the Roaming Millennial:

I am much closer to Shapiro than Unger.

  1. I don’t want the rich taxed at 70-90 percent because I want everyone’s taxes to be zero.
  2. If we discard such an ideal as utopian or dangerous or unbiblical, it still doesn’t make much sense to punish the rich. The rich are far more likely to grow the economy with their extra wealth. The extra spending by the middle class will boost the economy a paltry amount in comparison.
  3. Really, when you put super high tax rates on the rich, you are making sure that middle class purchasing never converts into investment into new industry and thus new jobs. The middle class spends and then the government grabs it before it can be invested.

So I want to be Team Shapiro and Team Roaming Millennial but I can’t be Team FRB.

If Salman Khan (of Khan Academy) can repudiate FRB, then I don’t see why anyone else finds it extreme to do so.

When the Ministry of Truth lies for the Ministry of Peace to get us ready to lose more

We have totally lost in Afghanistan. The only reason it still goes on is that there is no military draft. If people were being conscripted into this bloody, corrupt mess, there would be a popular will to stop it.

So, the lies keep being pumped out to justify the next spending spree and the next collection of body bags.

Listen to the interview (the first three minutes, anyway). The Taliban occupy as much territory as the did on 9/11 but we just need to send in our military and push for “a political strategy.”

Listen to the interview and then read Peter Van Buren’s column, “How To Sustain Perpetual War (It’s Easy, Hide the Bodies).

A lot of conservatives our outraged at how veterans were abused in the VA system. That interview should outrage you much more and for the same reason.

As it stands, we will being listening to the same story from NPR in a decade. And a decade after that.

C. S. Lewis and the #FakeNews of Atheism

I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity several times but I’ve never read his second essay (“Miracles”) in the collection, God in the Dock, until this afternoon. It was a “sermon” he preached on November 26, 1942.

It far out-powers what I remember of Mere Christianity, and it is, no matter what Van Til said about Lewis or any other mistakes Lewis might have made, Presuppositionalist.

The collection also contains a column he wrote for the Coventry Evening Telegraph, published on January 3, 1945. It is chapter 7: “Religion and Science.” Written to be more popularly accessible, Lewis promoted some concepts that he had also argued for in “Miracles” in the form of a remembered conversation with a skeptic.

But he also added one: that there was a conspiracy of disinformation behind the widely held belief that the ancients were ignorant about nature.

“These are rather niggling points,” said my friend. “You see, the real objection goes far deeper. The whole picture of the universe which science has given us makes it such rot to believe that the Power at the back of it all could be interested in us tiny creatures crawling about on an unimportant planet! It was all so obviously invented by people who believed in a flat earth with the stars only a mile or two away”

“When did people believe that?”

“Why, all those old Christian chaps you’re always telling about did. I mean Boethius and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante.”

At which point Lewis pulls Ptolemy’s Almagest off his bookshelf and read that first paragraph of Book 1, chapter 5, which indicates Ptolemy, who was the authority throughout the Middle Ages, know that the stars were an unimaginable distance away.

“Did the really know that then?” said my friend. “but — none of the histories of science — none of the modern encyclopedias — ever mention the fact.”

“Exactly,” said I. “I’ll leave you to think out the reason. It almost looks as if someone was anxious to hush it up, doesn’t it? I wonder why.”

And then Lewis emphasizes the point in his conclusion.

The real problem is this. The enormous size of the universe and the insignificance of the earth were known for centuries, and no one ever dreamed that they had any bearing on the religious question. Then, less that a hundred years ago, they are suddenly trotted out as an argument against Christianity. And the people who trot them out carefully hush us that fact that they were known long ago. Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people.

Upgraded Humanity: What was Biblical history for? (Part 1)

One of my favorite novels of the nineties was the “cyberpunk” thriller Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. (Content warning: not a Christian book.) The most unrealistic element in the book, however, was the posited “true meaning” of the story of the Tower of Babel. In the book’s retelling, humans used to be programmable using something a lot like machine code. Consciousness and free will came about through a virus introduced into the human race at Babel.

To repeat: this was the most unrealistic part of the novel, but it allows conflict as Hiro Protagonist (his real name—the novel doesn’t take itself too seriously) discovers a global conspiracy to reverse the virus and make humans programmable again. I took it as a metaphor for the quest for unity versus the value of freedom despite the social costs.

How Do You Upgrade Human Software?

But recently I’ve been thinking again about this fictional alternative to the Biblical story and the Bible’s own information about how humans are upgraded. After all, at Babel, something like a change in human “software” did miraculously take place. God wiped out a vocabulary and rules of grammar in people’s brains and uploaded new words and grammar rules in their place. The analogy to computer programs isn’t that much of a reach.

But when God called Abram (the story that follows the story of Babel and the scattering of humans into diverse nations), he does so in a way that makes clear that Abram is his “tower.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:3-4; ESV)

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3; ESV)

We know from the miracle of Pentecost that God wanted the divisions imposed at Babel to be ameliorated so that a unity could be provided through the Gospel.

But what was the purpose of history between Babel and Pentecost? What was God doing?

Maybe we should ask ourselves how human “software” is normally “installed” or changed. Unlike what some science fiction may lead you to imagine, one can’t change thinking and behavior simply by plugging the brain into a computer. Brains are part of bodies, not machines.

How do people normally acquire language. Outside of the events of the special creation of Adam and Eve and the tower of Babel, we get our language from being immersed in a speaking and acting culture from the time we are born. We learn language not only by listening, or listening and watching, but by bodily interacting with others. We learn through our bodies.

And perhaps that’s the answer. Consider what the Bible tells us about God feeding Israel with manna in the wilderness. He gives them food to gather day by day six days a week. Any attempt to save up for the next day is frustrated because it becomes inedible except on the sixth day. On that day, they can gather for the daily bread and for the seventh day. And on the seventh day no manna appears on the ground.

God didn’t simply tell the people to work six days and rest on the seventh; he trained them to do so.

Israel’s Program: A New Humanity

The bodily training involved in manna is obvious. For decades Israel’s nourishment required six days of gathering in the morning with only the sixth day allowing for saving for the next day. By the time God stopped providing manna there were adults in Israel in their late thirties who had been raised taking a break from manna gathering on Sunday because it wasn’t available then.

Yet, even that simple routine had more implications than just taking a break from one chore. It was intended to change the way they exercised authority over others:

“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15, ESV)

We can’t know how different it was for a generation to hear that command after a generation of manna-training, but it obviously made some difference. Rituals often have wider implications in a community and in each person.

So, what about the rituals that Israel was given without much explanation?

The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.’

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Leviticus 1:1-9; ESV)

It is totally inadequate to say that these sacrifices are pictures of the work of Christ. (The statement would be constructive if it was framed as a confession that we don’t understand much of the work of Christ, but that never happens.) There are details here that are more complex than a simple message of substitutionary atonement.

But more importantly: if the meaning of the sacrifices was simply a theological message about a future event in which God would save believers, why not just verbally communicate that message?

God wanted generations of Israelites to slit animal throats, smell the entrails being cut out, and watch the smoke rise from the altar. He wanted generations of their young children to feel the thrill of terror to learn that they would be required to stand by a bronze altar but be killed if they touched it.

Readers today have a text, but generations of Israelites and visiting foreigners had a network of customs and rituals that they lived out through a cultural tradition.

What would be the effect of centuries of sacrifices, cleanliness rules, dietary requirements, and all the other routines of the Mosaic covenant?

The goal was a new upgraded human being and a new human culture.

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?  And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8; ESV)

This took faith. It was not obvious how banning your wife from Passover because her period came early would be wisdom that was recognized as such by the other nations. But that was the path that God promised would lead to a new level of glory.

And the Bible shows us how it worked out when the tribal confederacy of Israel reached the next stage.

TO BE CONTINUED

(Also posted at Kuyperian Commentary.)

Wisdom & Lifting Weights

Back when I had a lot more time I wrote a post  at Kuyperian.com trying to summarize the, or perhaps a, theme of Proverbs and the whole Bible’s concept of wisdom. It was entitled “If You Don’t Learn To Obey Orders You Will Never Be Free; Here’s Why.” In it I said a few things like,

This solution here [to sin in body parts in Romans 6] is not intellectualism or a mind-good/body-bad-until-domesticated doctrine. The point is that the intellect or brain does not master the body simply by force of will. You would never get done tying your shoelaces if the brain/body system was supposed to work that way. When you integrate your body into the service of God you are changing both your fingers and your forebrain. As I pointed out here, taking control of yourself is compared in the Bible to taming an animal. If I remember correctly, this has been confirmed by scientific studies measuring the brain activity of amateur and pro golfers. The amateur’s brain activity spikes as he thinks so hard about what he is doing, but the pro’s shows much less activity. He is simply riding the body that is already trained (as well as had a natural and inexplicable talent from the beginning, in many cases).

So now I want to write about barbells and Christian discipleship because I’m shallow like that…

Or maybe I’m not so shallow. I’ll grant you I am discussing, at best, a “first-world problem,” but sometimes such problems are real and need to be dealt with.

Also, segueing from sanctification to strength training may seem violently inappropriate. Paul certainly could be understood that way:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8; ESV)

Okay, but think of areas where they might overlap. Think, for instance, of how hard it is for someone to get to a job in a timely manner if they haven’t trained their body to get up and shake off sleep.

How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:9-11; ESV)

Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. (Proverbs 20:13; ESV)

A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:33-34; ESV)

Note that the same words are repeated twice in one book. God has confirmed the truth by two witnesses. And this, as those who have had to deal with themselves or others as habitual late-risers, involves improvement in the physical ability to rouse oneself when it is one’s duty to do so. Indeed, there is a record of this being an issue in the garden of Gethsemane in all four gospels.

There’s something else in Proverbs.

She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong…

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come. (Proverbs 31:17, 25 ESV)

Granted, wisdom itself is a kind of strength, and it is probably that which Solomon means to emphasize. Yet the metaphor only works if the literal meaning had positive value as well. Being strong is better than being weak. And if wisdom includes wise stewardship over resources, then enhancing and preserving one’s strength is one of those stewardship responsibilities.

WHY STRENGTH?

We are creatures who, barring a birth defect or a tragic accident, have arms and legs. We were meant to use them. Increasing the ability of our limbs to overcome resistance (strength) makes them more useful. We ourselves become more useful.

We’ve reached a level of technology and wealth that may not require many of us to rely on strength to survive and thrive as much as we once did. Firearms, for example, mean the difference in strength between a criminal and his target doesn’t matter as much as it would if both only used clubs or knives. But strength is still useful and muscles still have a purpose. Indeed, we’ve learned the lack of bodily strength can have catastrophic consequences. Muscular atrophy is a form of disease, one that especially affects our elderly. So, getting stronger is likely a way to make us or keep us healthier, as well as more useful.

There is no moral judgement here. Grinding away at an office job is not as difficult as being a field worker. Nevertheless, it is wearisome. After a long day and a lengthy commute home, there is nothing intrinsically lazy about wanting to relax on a couch for the evening. A person can do so without neglecting any responsibilities. There is no reason anyone should be condemned for wanting to rest after their work.

But one can analyze the needs of the human body and realize that this pattern of behavior might have undesirable outcomes. The body tends to adapt to one’s environment. And sitting in an office all day, followed by driving and couch time, does not give the body much to do. Shopping and other errands may not do enough to cause the body to preserve its natural abilities.

Rudyard Kipling described the challenge of decrepitude:

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ “

Except it will help if you start practicing such will power when you still have heart and nerve and sinew left. It will help to start to exercise your will within your current power and gradually increase the load.

The rule seems to be that your body adapts so that the most difficult thing you do eventually feels hard to do. As you age this process accelerates. When you give up an activity because it feels hard another one starts to feel hard to do. As your body loses strength you start to avoid tasks and chores that were once easier. You accumulate weakness. In the words of Seneca, ‪”Soft living imposes on us the penalty of debility; we cease to be able to do the things we have long been grudging about doing.”

Wisdom (Seneca’s, not necessarily Solomon’s) would dictate, if there is a simple way to reverse or slow this process, you should do so. Wisdom might also point to a method: do hard things, rest and recover and adapt (“soft living” might help with this part), then do slightly harder things. Instead of losing abilities before you have to, you might start gaining abilities.

MY STROKE

Increasing strength means more than a change in muscle size. It also means increased self-mastery. Lifting heavier loads involves adapting your nervous system through practice to handle greater resistance. Along the way, it also means learning how the leverages of your muscles and skeleton work to most efficiently deal with resistance.

That’s why, after I suffered an ischemic stroke, I wanted to get back under a barbell as soon as possible.

When I was in rehab and then out-patient therapy, the physical therapists did help me improve, but they couldn’t do much with tiny dumbbells or elastic bands. I don’t think it was necessarily useless, but I don’t believe those are the best tools to use to recover from a stroke.

The first time I walked any real distance without my cane, I did so to walk to my local gym down the road. I still felt I needed my cane but I didn’t want the gym staff asking me questions. When I got inside, the many full-length mirrors showed me that my gait was somewhat lop-sided.

I went to the squat rack and put a barbell on the back of my shoulders. I squatted down, so that the crease of my hip was just below my knee, and stood back up five times. I rested, and then I did another set of five. Then I did one more set. I entered into my log that I had squatted 45 pounds for three sets of five (it might have been wiser to get to a higher number that day, but I didn’t realize that until later).

I did some other exercises as well, but for now let’s just focus on the squat.

Two days later, giving myself two nights’ sleep and one day of rest, I returned to the gym. I went to the squat rack and this time, before I put it on my shoulders, I put a five-pound weights on each end of the bar. I squatted 55 pounds for three sets of five.

Two days later I did the same thing with 65 pounds. And so on. Pretty quickly I shortened my progress to five-pound jumps, but I kept going.

One day I noticed my cane standing in the corner and couldn’t remember when I had last used it.

I had several challenges with form or getting adequate sleep or food. So, I have had to reduce weight on the bar occasionally and start again trying to make progress by increasing the load. I’m now stronger than I ever was before the stroke. Some of that comes from muscle growth. But I also retrained my nervous system. After all, the stroke didn’t remove muscle. My weakness came from a brain injury. And increasingly heavier lifts (I am confident) challenged my brain to “rewire” itself to better control my muscles. I became a better master of resistance because I became a better master of my body–myself.

MODERN LIFE & THE ANOREXIC MYTH

There was enough wealth and diversity of labor in the New Testament world that there were people who specialized in physical feats. Paul refers to their regimens. So does Seneca. Which brings up a point we need to keep in mind: strength doesn’t often become available to humans “in the wild,” but rather in a prosperous civilization. If you must work every day and food is expensive, you are not going to grow to near your potential.

In the movie Conan the Barbarian (80s version), the child Conan is enslaved and forced to push the millstone around. After growing up doing this, he becomes a muscular bodybuilder played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. In real life, such slaves wasted away and died. In real life. Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved his body through a regimen that included plenty of rest and food (and probably steroids—I am not recommending all of Schwarzenegger’s methods or goals).

The “fitness industry” tends to encourage the belief that we need to be careful to not eat too much and “work out” as much as possible.  But to get stronger, we need to eat enough and not train too often. Marvel Comic’s Bruce Banner somehow at least doubles his mass when he changes into The Hulk. In real life, you can’t gain muscle mass unless you eat enough to gain it.

Thus, the availability of food and sleep and rest can be an asset rather than a liability. Our first-world prosperity can be an aid to our growth in strength and health, rather than a threat to them.

BY WISE GUIDANCE WAGE WAR

Conserving and growing one’s strength and health is just as wise as conserving and growing one’s wealth—something Solomon often addresses. Aside from the personal rewards, one is better able to help the weak and sick. Furthermore, by not becoming weak and sick (to the extent that you can avoid it) others don’t have to help you and can extend their resources to other people.

Note: This has little or nothing to do with improving your appearance. We all know that looking good is socially advantageous, and that often means looking lean in our society. That cultural value, in some instances, can lead to an unhealthy outcome. And there are a great many factors that determine the outcome of how you look to others. Only a few are within your control. But everyone can get stronger.

While people have many responsibilities that might require them to neglect getting stronger, the process of building strength is so easy, at least initially, that men and women ought to consider it.

I recommend this program: StartingStrength.com.

When I was a teenager I used to work out. I used dumbbells, the EZ curl bar, cable machines, and the bench press. As a man in his late forties who eventually discovered the Starting Strength program, there is no comparison. The strength increase I have experienced through doing this program far exceeds what I experienced as a teenager.

The basic principles of increasing your strength are:

  1. Eat enough
  2. Sleep enough
  3. Lift heavy weight in a way that challenges your entire body, rest, and then lift heavier weight, and repeat.

The way to most easily challenge your entire body is to squat, deadlift, and press (standing overhead, and bench) with a barbell (the power clean is also useful for some people). As a novice lifter, you can add weight to the bar every time. How long you can do this depends on a lot of factors. Eventually your time of making “novice gains” will run out, and you will have to decide if it is worth the effort to progress in a more complicated way and more slowly (in which you basically move some steps back in order to make more steps forward).

Whether it is worth pursuing strength training farther than novice gains is a question I can’t claim to objectively answer. But, aside from learning the lifts (the squat being the most difficult) the program for novices is simple. Why not improve yourself when it can be done so easily?

For many of us, barbells are intimidating and associated with large, young men. That is a sad myth. I’m asking you to ignore gym culture and think of barbells are a tool to make a stroke victim more functional or an elderly lady experiencing early decrepitude young again.

Nothing lasts forever and a person has other duties beside getting stronger and staying healthy. But given the possible rewards, you should consider strength training with barbells.

Human Rights

Real human rights entail human obligations. But not all human obligations to treat other humans well entail identifiable human rights.

The right to life obligates others not to murder; the right to liberty obligates others not to enslave, but the obligation to be kind or helpful or charitable does not give an individual a claim on me for not giving to him or her. (At least not a legally enforceable one.)

I have an obligation to help others… but who determines how much of my resources should be devoted to providing for my family, starting endeavors by which I hope to gain more resources or guarding against future disaster? All those subjective calculations are involved in real decisions about how and when to help someone. Human rights derive from objective and relatively invariant and universally similar obligations on all people. Obligations that depend on judgments about circumstances can’t generate rights.

That doesn’t mean these obligations aren’t real. But it does suggest that enforcing these obligations by invoking “rights” is a subterfuge.

Getting Stronger to Recover from a Stroke: My Story II

I wrote in Part One about how I used the barbell back squat to get stronger and accelerate my recovery from my stroke. But a stroke typically affects one side of one’s entire body, at least from shoulder to foot. Obviously, more than the squat is needed for getting stronger.

But not much more. In fact, besides squatting on non-consecutive days, you can get as strong as you need with only three or four other lifts.

The program I recommend is the Starting Strength plan, though I got introduced to it through a slightly easier variant called Stronglifts.

Of course, general fitness recommendations and my personal experience in recovering from an ischemic stroke do not constitute medical advice. I have no medical training. Nevertheless, I have some opinions:

Getting Stronger Requires Whole Body Workouts

You will see a lot on the internet about “leg day” and “chest and triceps day.” Dividing up your workouts between different body parts, however, is not optimal for most people, including stroke survivors. You want your whole body to grow stronger with both sides working together.

So each day you lift, you always begin with a squat. A squat uses the largest amount of muscle mass and, thus, is excellent for getting stronger.

Then you alternate your other lifts. For workout “one” you follow the squat with a bench press.

The bench press probably utilizes less muscle mass than the other lifts. But it allows you to rest up for the next exercise, the deadlift.

The deadlift is as simple as picking a barbell off of the floor and standing up with it in your hands. Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Using most of the muscles in your body, it too is excellent for getting stronger.

So that gives you one day’s exercise routine. It is just made up of three lifts for three sets of five repetitions—squat, bench press, and deadlift.

So after at least one day of rest you come back for workout “two.” Once again you squat and then you do an overhead press.

Finally, according to the Starting Strength program, you perform a power clean. But the power clean is rather difficult to learn without a coach. That is why the Stronglifts program recommends a barbell row.

The barbell row (or Pendlay row) begins at 20:47

You could also do some other exercise like a cable pulldown or chin-up. Here are some suggestions.

If you prefer, you could do only two lifts—squats and overhead presses—and go home and rest. You will probably find that is enough for getting stronger.

And, as far as I can tell, getting stronger was the best thing I could do to recover from my stroke.

Getting Stronger to Recover from a Stroke: My Story I

If you have to recover from a stroke and are still wheel-chair bound, you won’t be able to follow my exact steps (though you might still learn some principle for your situation). But if you have some amount of mobility, my recipe for recovering from a stroke may help you as well.

I am not a doctor nor a therapist of any kind. I am just a person who had to recover from a stroke.

I am sharing my story in case you might find it useful, but it does not constitute medical advice.

So what do I recommend as a non-specialist who had an ischemic stroke?

To recover from a stroke, you have to lift gradually heavier weights.

Lifting weights doesn’t just make your muscles themselves stronger; it also trains your nervous system to allow your body to handle greater weight. This is exactly what us stroke survivors need.

When I was in rehab and then out-patient therapy, the physical therapists did help me improve, but they couldn’t do much with tiny dumbbells or elastic bands. I don’t think it was necessarily useless, but I don’t believe those are the best tools to use to recover from a stroke.

The first time I walked any real distance without my cane, I did so to walk to my local gym down the road. I still felt I needed my cane but I didn’t want the gym staff asking me questions. When I got inside, the many full-length mirrors showed me that my gait was somewhat lop-sided.

I went to the squat rack and put a barbell on the back of my shoulders. I squatted down, so that the crease of my hip was just below my knee, and stood back up five times. I rested, and then I did another set of five. Then I did one more set. I entered into my log that I had squatted 45 pounds for three sets of five.

I did some other exercises as well, but for now let’s just focus on the squat.

Two days later, giving myself two nights sleep and one day of rest, I returned to the gym. I went to the squat rack and this time, before I put it on my shoulders, I put a five-pound weights on each end of the bar. I squatted 55 pounds for three sets of five.

Two days later I did the same thing with 65 pounds.

What if I had found I wasn’t strong enough to squat just the 45-pound bar on the first day? I would have worked up to it using a leg press. What if I had failed at some point to do three sets of five at a new weight? After several tries I would have lowered the weight on the bar ten to fifteen percent and started the process again.

Eventually the weight got heavy enough that I started only increasing the weight by five pounds instead of ten pounds (2.5 pounds on each end of the barbell). About two months after my first post-stroke trip to the gym I squatted with a barbell that weighed more than I did.

That is why I remain convinced that the best way to recover from a stroke is to get stronger.

By that time, I hadn’t touched my walking cane in weeks. If there were any irregularities in my gait, I couldn’t see them. Neither could anyone around me. Friends who hadn’t seen me since before my stroke couldn’t tell that I ever had one.

I’m not saying that I have no deficits from the stroke. Maybe I do. But they are miniscule now.

And I attribute much of my recovery to lifting three times a week.

SEE PART TWO