DVD review: Pushing the Limits

source: Dallas Morning News
original: Dallas Morning News
by: Leslie Garcia
date: 06:17 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sometimes the wonders of the human body hit me as flying in an airplane does. You're minutes from landing, close enough to the ground to finally start feeling safe. You look down and see the houses and the cars, the ocean frozen in still life, the crops in perfect alignment.

And you feel as if you've been given an insight into how God sees the world at work.

That's how I felt while watching Discovery Channel's Human Body: Pushing the Limits: As if I am merely the conduit for everything that happens to make my body work.

The show holds up a mirror. Its re-enacted, real-life scenes leave your mouth agape, your heart pounding, your head shaking in amazement.

Every breath

Afterward, you want to focus on every breath, on muscles you feel and those you trust are there. On capillaries and nerve endings, bones and joints and all sorts of doctor-sounding words most of us will never even see in print.

In an episode on strength, a rock climber reaches for the side of a mountain and a 1,000-pound slab of it lands on him. A police officer in Southern California outruns a burst from a forest fire. A tornado lifts a man into the air; when he hits the ground, not one bone is broken.

With each halted horror, the camera strips away the part of the body we humans tend to focus on: the color of someone's eyes or skin, the size of her waist, the shape of his nose.

Instead it zips into the part we don't see but should: the reminder that inside we pretty much look the same.

Amazing strength

We saw in that first episode the adrenaline-releasing glands above the kidneys. This hormone heightens all the senses; it's a "disaster center in the brain that jump-starts the body." (Yes, I took notes.)

And thus the young man with the half-ton slab of mountain on him is able – even as he is sliding upside down and backward toward a precipice – to lift it off his chest and over his head. It crashes behind him into a thousand pieces.

And the police officer runs faster than he will probably ever need to or be able to again. He called upon "primal strength we don't always discover unless our lives depend on it."

We also watch a man – pale, slightly overweight – swim the English Channel. Then we learn that he gained 16 pounds of fat during training, because fat will serve as his fuel; it will keep him alive as he burns 60,000 calories from shore to shore. Each minute, he will suck in 20 gallons of air; his heart will pump seven times more blood than our hearts are doing right now.

Yes, we sometimes look in the mirror and feel dumpy or dorky. But, oh, we are so much more.

And when you wonder whether you have the fortitude – not to lift mountain slabs off your chest – but to ride your bike around the lake or walk around the block, think about this line from the first episode:

"When it comes to strength, a superhero lives inside all of us."

So start pedaling. Take that step. Your body's itching to show off what it can do.

You can order the four-episode DVD at http://shopping.discovery.com. Cost is $29.95.