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“In 1993, he had use of only 25% of his maximum
heart function even after [bypass] surgery. In 1995, I was amazed to find, based on physical
examination, exercise testing, echocardiography, and ultrasound examination, he
had completely normal cardiac function.”
Ed Cohen, M.D., Staff Cardiologist, University of California Medical
The Indomitable Pax Beale
Pax Beale’s miraculous come-back after five-way coronary bypass surgery is well known in bodybuilding circles, but many thought-provoking details are revealed for the first time in his 400-page book, Body For The Ages. How it happened is subject to conjecture, but in the words of his cardiologist: “Whatever he is doing…is clearly beneficial.”
No one knows how Pax went from 25% heart function to a fully functioning heart four years later. His cardiologist could hardly believe it and still can’t explain it. Body For The Ages tells the story as Pax sees it. His methods may or may not restore damaged hearts, but the Pax Beale story carries a message of hope for everyone.
Pax is a can-do guy; that much is certain.
Record of Achievement
For over 40 years, he’s been a successful entrepreneur and businessman. Among other things, he owned and operated various medical enterprises, including the San Francisco Eye & Ear Hospital, Cathedral Medical Center, Women’s Hospital of Oakland, Total Health Medical Center, King Health Plastic Surgery Centers, over 20 same-day surgery centers and clinics, and BackPax Medical Center, a premier back rehabilitation facility. He also holds six U.S. patents for nutritional products and fitness equipment.
What’s more, he has a lifetime record of success in sports, including football, track, triathlon, basketball, and boxing. You name it, and it seems that he can learn to do it, and do it well.
He ran over 30 marathons and is credited with co-founding the first Run For Fun Joggers’ Club in the U.S.A. He raced a 30,000-ton ocean liner from San Francisco to Alaska on a racing bike—and won.
At 49, he took up swimming to cure a severe back problem. It didn’t, but at 50 he became the only person to swim from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, at night.
Swimming led him to weight training at the age of 53, also in hopes of curing his back problem--it did--and eventually to bodybuilding competition. He succeeded again, winning the Mr. USA-Over 40 competition, at 61. About that time, however, something went very wrong.
Crippling Chest Pain
In his late 50s, Pax began having chest pains and feeling exhausted during workouts. “I began to notice that his aerobic/cardio workouts were becoming difficult for him,” his wife Sophie writes. “In fact, he would collapse on the floor in order to catch his breath after being on the Stairmaster. He would lie there for a few minutes gasping, then insist he was all right.”
Attributing the problem to “exercise-induced asthma,” he made some adjustments and continued training with the pain for well over a year, in preparation for the Mr. USA. As noted, he won. A short time later, however, he collapsed in the gym and was rushed to the hospital, where his worst fears were realized. In spite of a lifetime of sports, decades of endurance training and a few years of bodybuilding, he was diagnosed with severe blockage in his coronary arteries. In 1991, at the age of 61, he had emergency bypass surgery, which left him with a severely damaged heart.
Pax blames not starting to lift weights until age 53, a bad diet and probably genetics. His father died from heart disease at 61. Whatever the cause, Pax refused to accept the life of a cardiac cripple. The doctors said the oxygen-starved tissue in his heart couldn’t be revived. He didn’t buy it.
Pax had been doing the impossible all his life and began looking for a way out. He researched various medical and lifestyle solutions and experimented with some ideas of his own. The final result is the Body for the Ages system described in his book. It includes four steps: Basic Nutrition, Method of Training, Nutritional Supplements, and Total Commitment.
Step one and step four are not likely to generate much debate. Basic Nutrition is just that, basic. “Eating clean,” as he calls it, means low fat foods, high quality protein with each meal, and complex as opposed to simple carbs. No added fat or sugar. There’s more, but that’s the thrust. It’s a sound approach. Read the book for more details.
Total Commitment means staying motivated and positive, like Pax. Don’t rest on your laurels; commit yourself to becoming a better, healthier bodybuilder. Good stuff, common sense. Again, read the book.
That brings us to the other two steps, which are admittedly controversial. I’m enthusiastic about one, but dubious about the other.
Lifting for the Heart
Pax does 30 to 40 minutes a day on a stationary bike to burn fat. He relies on weight training to make and keep his arteries and heart healthy. The Pax way of lifting, however, is unique. You won’t find it in any other book.
Control your blood pressure; don’t hold your breath. “If you have heart problems,” he writes, “[you must learn] the skill of always exhaling while putting forth maximum effort in bodybuilding exercise.” That’s not new. How he gets there is novel: Train one arm or leg at a time, for 8 to 12 reps, and rest only 30 seconds between sets. You’ll find many more important details in the book, but those are the key elements.
Pax says training one limb at a time makes it easier to control your breathing. To make the case, he compares one-limb training to the barbell squat. “The problem with the squat,” he explains, “is that you have to recruit almost every muscle in the body…to support your posture.” This makes it “almost impossible” to avoid holding your breath. Training one limb at a time “gives you the luxury of concurrently relaxing all the other muscles in the body.” It allows you to concentrate on breathing.
Doing sets of 8 to 12 reps with 30-second rest periods follows the same line of reasoning. “You tax your heart less by gradually increasing the demand on it,” Pax writes. “[Doing] one repetition to prove your strength is not my idea of gradually increasing the demand on the heart,” he adds, driving home the point. By the same token, short rest periods make you less inclined to hold your breath.
Pardon the pun, but Pax knows he’s out on a limb. “The immediate reaction of some cardiologists might be that I am off-the-wall with my thinking,” he acknowledges. Hear him out, however.
It’s a given that aerobic exercise doesn’t induce spikes in blood pressure to the same extent as weight training. Then why not make aerobics your only form of exercise, especially if you suffer from heart disease? “The reason is both types [of exercise] have different effects on the body,” says Pax. “You want the effects from both.”
Pax believes his method of weight training stretches the coronary arteries in the same way as angioplasty, but without damaging the artery. “The arterial wall has to be permanently damaged for it to remain open after the balloon is removed,” Pax writes. On the other hand, his form of weight training gradually stretches and remodels the artery, “with no damage to the elasticity or strength of the artery wall.”
“I expand the arteries an average of eight times per set as a result of the repetitions I perform,” Pax explains—as opposed to once with angioplasty. “If I do 25 sets with eight repetitions per set in a workout, that equals a total of 200 reps.” He says this repeated gradual stretching of the arteries makes them more flexible, while “never exceeding the limits of elasticity, and therefore never damaging the integrity of the artery wall.”
“The body gets good at what it practices,” says Pax. “That’s a physiological fact.”
“Just think, if a person does 75 moderately-high-blood-pressure repetitions per workout [the last three reps of each set] and does five workouts per week, then that’s a total of 375 artery-wall-conditioning reps a week! Nothing else can approach it.”
Pax says lifting weights in this manner “offers a heart-conditioning benefit that aerobics does not.” He believes it makes the arteries more flexible and may even expand them. “There’s some belief--and, in fact, a strong belief--that is exactly the effect my weight-resistance training has had on me.”
This insight may be Pax’s main contribution. Like the invention of Heavyhands by Len Schwartz, Pax has developed a new form of exercise therapy--to recondition and perhaps remodel damaged hearts. Bravo!
And he’s not done.
Pax believes his unique method of weight training began the process of remodeling his heart, but insists the addition of pyruvate in the last ten-months of his four-year experiment was the final breakthrough. “I was not able to rehabilitate my heart, even though I was training with as much dedication as possible,” Pax writes, “until I added the nutritional supplement pyruvate to my regimen. Pyruvate was the key, the catalyst that made all the difference.”
Pax “became so enamored” with pyruvate that he began manufacturing and selling it (bonded with creatine).
“Weight resistance training, as dictated in my book, in combination with Creatine Pyruvate remodeled my heart,” he told me. “Creatine Pyruvate is a vasodilator and that was a factor in how my body adapted to the exercise. I feel certain that pyruvate therapy has enhanced the regeneration of my ischemic [dead] heart tissue.”
Pax is persuaded. I don’t question his sincerity. After all, as he reminded me: “I have the trophies, have cheated the Grim Reaper, and got the girl.” That’s his theory and, as he says: “Nobody has a better one.”
In support, he cites patents granted to a respected researcher claiming that pyruvate therapy can enhance muscle energy, and a recent German study showing that pyruvate infused directly into the heart of patients with known congestive heart failure “increased their cardiac output by a healthy 38 percent.”
Pax also emphasizes that he holds more pyruvate patents than anyone else in the world. That gives him exclusive right to certain claims, but it doesn’t prove the validity of those claims. Many patents are issued for plausible theories that don’t pan out.
An Internet search failed to produce hard evidence that dietary pyruvate is an effective treatment for heart disease. Some studies suggest that it may provide a small boost to weight loss and energy levels, but only when taken in much larger doses than usually found in dietary supplements. The consensus seems to be that the evidence on supplemental pyruvate is contradictory, insufficient and shows minimal health benefits. Pax acknowledges in his book that pyruvate has a checkered and controversial past as an aid to weight loss and endurance. “The saddest thing about all this,” says Pax, “[is] that in the process pyruvate as a supplement was tainted and stigmatized unfairly. It is, in fact, a wonderful supplement, especially in the Creatine/Pyruvate form” we manufacture and sell.
I believe it’s safe to say that Pax is the only person who may have remodeled his heart while taking pyruvate by mouth. It is true that adding pyruvate to the drugs used to stop the heart during surgery has been shown to reduce damage and improve cardiac recovery following surgery. The problem seems to be that pyruvate is not able to penetrate the cells to the same degree--or perhaps not at all--when taken by mouth.
You’ll find many more interesting details about creatine pyruvate in the book. Read what Pax has to say and decide for yourself. In the meantime, put me down as unconvinced. As Pax says, “time will tell.”
Pax and I agree on most things, especially taking charge.
“My intent is not to have a good story to tell, but to get compliance to a lifestyle that will help others,” Pax wrote in a recent email. “Compliance is the weak link in a lifestyle change, be it required for the heart, to stop smoking, alcoholism, drug addiction, or laziness. Compliance is the key.”
“You must take charge of your health. It can’t be delegated.” That’s the Pax Beale philosophy.
He urges people to find a doctor who shares their vision. “[You] want the cardiologist to think in terms of why we should work out, not create reasons why we shouldn’t,” says Pax. “A doctor who wants to control you is a doctor you don’t want. If you are not acute, then you should be in charge.”
“Listen to all sources. Make it a game. Decide you are going to upstage the odds-makers and, more likely than not, you will!”
Words to live by if ever I heard them.
(For more information or to buy Pax’s book, visit www.bodyfortheages.com.)
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