Science and Training for Adventures

Dr. Bookspan's

My work in extreme physiology, also called environmental physiology, is the study of the human body in extremes in environment: cold, heat, altitude, immersion, high G-forces, injury states, micro-gravity, environmental forensics, Military maneuvers, exercise, high and low air pressures (hypobarics and hyperbarics) - how to survive and perform better in these environments and other work which funding sources have gone out of their way to meticulously ignore. As a child, I sat in the snow watching my father and grandfather walk barefoot over ice and snow to go ocean swimming every day. My grandfather was the oldest member of "The Icebergs" ice swimming club.

Scroll down for rare photos and free articles about it all from high to low. Don't miss the Dancing Penguin bio link at the end. Keep scrolling and reading.


Here I am out, standing in my field

Arctic photo of Dr. Bookspan by Capt. Jim Caruso, MC, US Navy Undersea Medical Officer         


Dr. Bookspan photo by Robert Troia

Fixing Injury and Pain Research
Functional Exercise, Better Biomechanics, and Top Training

My career as research physiologist took me to military, university, and training centers from undersea to mountaintop to jet cockpit. I was given the toughest assignments to find why common training and rehabilitation methods don't work, and what does. Strong brave men got hazardous duty pay just to have a day with me. Methods I developed are now learned in school by doctors, trainers, physical therapists, Navy divers, chamber operators, combat swimmers, police and military, and top athletes. Doctors and fitness instructors come to me as patients to find out why they have back and other pain and what to do about it. I pioneered functional fitness training. Click here for more on Functional Training. Click here for Appointment Info to learn top training for yourself or your groups. I was the first to develop fitness programs aboard cruise ships, and was told it would "never catch on" - photos and stories below, keep scrolling.


"It seems the movie heroine Laura Croft, played by Angelina Jolie, was created based on you.
In case you didn't see it, think of a female Indiana Jones."

- Karen Kukurin, Los Angeles


Dr. Bookspan's Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine - The Fixa U (tm)


The Fitness Fixer
My Former Column of nearly 800 articles, plus Twitter
When Medicine and FItness Aren't Healthy, We Fix It, and Boy Do They Need it


For more than four years, I brought my column "The Fitness Fixer" (tm) to, providing close to 800 articles - not repeating what "everyone" says, but primary source research and information. My original research and innovations in improving fitness and medicine to be healthy, developed through years of study with thousands of patients and students. I developed no-cost health to people and communities to be healthier stronger happier, not through sets and reps of artificial "moves" or burning electricity for artificial gym equipment, but human-power function and healthier movement and everyday actions.

When Healthline stopped running my column in 2010, the company archived most of the articles, keeping most accessible, but removed all the movies I had made specifically for understanding the concepts, the interesting reader questions and my answers, and almost all my photos and illustrations. They also removed "label" tags which would have allowed you to click a topic label to group all the many articles about one topic together on one page. In 2012, for some reason, they cut each of the nearly 800 articles into two-page articles, but changed many of them so the end is at the beginning,  with reference end-links in the introduction making many unintelligible.

If you are a major Health Source who would like to run or syndicate this top column,
tell me about your ideas - SyndicateTheFitnessFixer @


INDEX of Articles. I put an INDEX of almost all the article links here on my site - Fitness Fixer Index.

Some Helpful Topic Examples: Here are some of the short Fitness Fixers - I hope they are still there when you click:


Free Summaries of Fixing Pain, Changing Fitness and Medicine to be Healthy -
Not all Exercise is Medicine

Dr. Bookspan and friend. Photo © Paul Plevakas


Diving, Hyperbarics, Altitude, and Extreme Environment Research

Conducting altitude decompression studies at UPenn Medical School.    Free-diving moorings for the pioneering program preventing anchor damage.


Since I was a child, I wanted to study science under the sea. I grew up to study decompression physiology, diving maneuvers and countermeasures for SEAL teams and combat swimmers, oxygen toxicity and exercise during submersion. I lived and worked in laboratories underwater, competed in cold water middle distance swims, taught SCUBA, studied the Ama-San diving women of Japan, and researched barometric effects on human performance. I have studied combat swimmers and done extreme swims with them for fun. For military survival protocols, we blasted pilots in ejection towers and spun them in centrifuges and other scientific thing-a-ma-bobs. I put men in vats of freezing water to see how we can keep pilots alive after bail-outs and how to get covert swimmers to their objective, and, I found out, an entire separate topic to get them back again.

As a SCUBA instructor and hyperbaric researcher working (for no pay, for the greater good) at an underwater lab studying saturation decompression, we opened valves of full scuba tanks and rode them underwater and at the surface like bucking broncos. I studied thermal and decompression protocols with the top developers of computer-modeled cold prediction programming of the day. We made rebreathers out of hot water bottles. We rode bikes underwater.



I found a bubble component to altitude sickness - back in the 1980s and 1990s.

I wrote my own grant to get the study, and used Doppler ultrasound to detect and score decompression bubbles developed in the bloodstream during altitude exposure during actual flights. A friend pilot flew us in a Comanche. I Dopplered us both during several flights. Before my work, bubbles were assumed to occur only after ascent from underwater to surface. Altitude sickness was assumed to be from hypoxia. I found bubbles when going to altitude from sea level.

With this "pilot" data, I did grant work to study bubbles in human subjects using a hypobaric chamber (altitude chamber) to simulate specific altitudes and at specific speeds of ascent.

I reported my findings to the US Navy where I worked as researcher. They did not like it at all because it would fix some errors and the US Navy has no errors. I published some declassified info in articles for dive and wilderness medicine magazines.



Before digital cameras you took a few snaps then waited to develop the film to see what you took. We are in flight. I am removing a precordial (chest) monitor from myself. The lab reversed the print, making it look like I sat left seat (pilot). Funny.


Free Articles: - SCUBA, Hyperbarics, Extreme Environments
my former column The Fitness Fixer on Healthline - almost 800 total articles. As explained above, they ended the column in 2010 and removed most photos, all movies, reader comments, and more. I hope these still load, let me know:



Below, I am in a hyperbaric chamber, just as they were sealing the hatch, hair tightly pulled back for being tested on intubation and I.V. skills during one of the first certification courses in Hyperbaric Chamber Operations, a long time ago with Dick Rutkowski's Hyperbarics International.


I Test On Humans

No non-human animals are hurt in my work, or used at all (except those wanting to play fetch or sit in my lab coat pockets munching seeds). I have lost grants and been turned down by medical schools of my choice for my work advancing knowledge directly applicable to humans (not testing on animals). Healthy Green Medicine.


Public Education:

I am working on a public education program to educate about diving and hyperbarics. Watch this space. Qualified practitioners are invited to apply to contribute in their specialty.


"I can call you the "Peaceful Warrior" and defender of all that is good in this world. Keep up the good work Paladin"
- Derek Barrett



Rare Photos of Dr. Bookspan's Work

I am private and spent a career keeping personal information out of print. Finally, here are a few moments to share:

Examining Movie Star Christopher Reeve

with Doppler ultrasound to detect decompression bubbles, and other medical checks after dives to film his television show about scuba diving. 

Experts in several areas of diving joined the show to explain the underwater world as he dived and explored it. I was his personal medical expert (this show was filmed before his horse riding accident). The show never aired but we did great things.

I had been in a paralyzing accident (more about that here) and my crutches, scars, and body metal bothered them. We did all possible to hide them.


Invited to Dinner by physicist Dr. Edward Teller

at a scientific conference.

Regardless of politics, his enormous intellect and wit are undisputed. He told me the inside scoop on why the public record of his interactions with Oppenheimer was untrue.

During the conference, he first scowled at me when we met, and asked in his deep voiced Hungarian accent, "Vat do yoo know about rrradiation?" My heart sank. My chance to talk to this great physicist and he asks something out of my area. I stammered, "Nothing... sir..."

We talked rapid-fire about medical isotopes, his family, radiation, injuries (he lost a leg in a train accident as a student) and his passion and knowledge of hyperbaric medicine. He quizzed me non-stop on all topics until he furrowed his bushy eyebrows and roared, "You LIED to me - you said you know nothing ... but you know - EVVERRRYthing."


First Dr. Teller quizzed me.
When I passed his tests, he invited me to dinner.


Equations With The Great Dr. Ed Lanphier (Edward Howell Lanphier, M.D.)

in his home in Wisconsin.

Dr. Lanphier asked me to live at their house with him and his wife (Mom Lanphier) in Wisconsin in the dead of winter to work on several studies. Dr. Lanphier was a renowned pioneer in diving physiology and medicine, initiating many top US Navy diving medicine studies. He had been very ill and when he needed someone to finish his work, I was told he sat up in his hospital bed and said, "Get me Bookspan."

Heavy body braces were evident even under my thick sweaters, from my paralyzing accident, later recovered. (I'm debating with myself to upload the ugly photos of lying paralyzed looking like a spaghetti. Here is a glimpse). Often I worked lying on the floor - the bracing did not bend for chairs. It did not bother Lanphier, even when others were not hiring.

As we worked, instead me only finishing his life's work, he and his wife got better, and we were able to do other and new work. No matter what topic I asked him about, he had been involved in it in some way, even the first liquid breathing studies. It led me to always say, "All roads lead to Lanphier."




Photo by Mom Karron Lanphier

Worked Over 9 Years with Dr. Chris Lambertsen (Dr. Christian J. Lambertsen)

at UPenn's Institute for Environmental Medicine (IFEM). I hand-reduced the data for his famous Predictive Studies Series. He believed direct capture of physiologic parameters superior to automating, and I tracked every data point straight from strip chart recordings, intimately learning study results for each subject.

Dr. Lambertsen developed the United States Navy's rebreathers in the 1940s for underwater warfare, including the first oxygen rebreather, the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LARU), and was a pioneer in undersea medicine.

I also worked on Dr. Steve Thom's pioneering carbon monoxide studies and was on the Advisory and Review Board for the Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant to investigate a number of areas in oxidative stress and hyperbaric medicine, headed by Dr. Thom.



Photo courtesy of Dr. Lambertsen


Living and Working Underwater

in Saturation Habitats.

Since I was a small child, I wanted to work underwater. I designed ocean habitats and underwater laboratories for school projects and was told there was no such thing.

In the photo above, I am entering the dry habitat from the ocean below through the bottom hatch. I'm wearing a long surface supply hose plus a small 'pony' tank. Yes, I wore blue jeans for diving.

In the 2nd photo, I am also deep underwater inside the habitat lab. A reporter who came to "get a story" about the lab demanded that, since I am an underwater research scientist, I use a microscope while in the habitat underwater. No explanations convinced her that my work as a human physiologist doesn't use one. I could barely remember from school how to turn it on. She insisted that I hunch over it to look intensely involved.

My actual work was not mentioned in the news story.



Command Performance Teaching Medical Stretches

For Lama Tenzin, Senior Monk and Principal of the Tibetan Medical School in the remote region of Lo Monthan.

The kind Lama allowed physical contact for his learning, teaching me techniques in exchange.




Pioneered Fitness on Cruise Ships

They said it would "never catch on."

Back then, people didn't exercise on vacation. I developed the program and taught exercise on ships in the early 1980s with the first onboard Parcours (free running all over the ship), yoga on the swaying decks (good for balance training), scuba and snorkeling, stretching at sunrise and sunset, aerobics in best 80s legwarmer style, dance, calisthenics, nutrition, many programs all day for all ages in several languages.

I didn't get royalties on my programs but loved being out to sea.

Few people owned cameras back then. Passengers sent me a few snaps that I am starting to scan and put here

I got sun while stretching, old fashioned, on top deck.

Worked as Able Bodied Crew on Tall Ships

I swabbed the decks, the toilets, the dirtiest of bilges.

Why not?

Good hard work in the hard salt air. The photo at right was sort of a joke as they didn't let us swabbies take the helm. After the photo, I went back to polishing the brass.

I carried loads to ship when we docked in ports for provisions each 2 weeks. We slept stacked on litters 4 high. We worked 6am to midnight, 7 days a week. In between, I studied for my 100 ton licence and dreamed about jellyfish. We sailed exclusively in the Devil's Triangle.



I am at left. Hard work in searing sun and salt
scrubbed me golden. Fellow navigator at right.

Anatomy & Physiology Professor in Mexico

at a college to licence teachers.

I think the entrance exam was getting up the mountain to school without a nosebleed.

I had been living in Mexico teaching scuba and working with locals to start their own gym - more photos here.  I mortared and hammered to build the place itself and taught how to teach classes. I worked until my Spanish was good enough to apply and be accepted as Professor at the University level, living and teaching entirely in Spanish.

Many many funny stories. Ask me about them when you come to take my classes sometime



Can you see me? First row with students (in neat uniforms). Fellow professor at left.


Martial Arts With the Fighting Horseback Muay Thai Monks and the Shaolin Monks

I am a 4th degree Black Belt in Shotokan karate.

The pioneers and Masters were my teachers, including Teruyuki OkazakiSan, who learned from the founders. We were later honored to study in Japan.

Our dojo (training hall) in Philadelphia is pictured at right. I am first on left, then Paul Sensei (Sensei means teacher in this context), who makes a fun optical illusion that we are all short. Then our students in order of rank.

I did years of painful rehab after my paralyzing accident (not martial arts related) using my own methods while all around me said I was unreasonable not to accept I would never stand or walk. I started over as a white belt, training for years until earning the black belt a second time.



Paul and I are at the Shaolin Temple (Shaolin Monastery) near Zhengzhou in China. We were glad to attend before it was popular with foreign tourists and before they had a cushy hotel there.

From there, we traveled to the Chen Village, birthplace of Tai Chi, to study from the source. It was a poor backwater with open sewers, requiring a bone crunching trip by 4 wheel drive vehicle. More photos and stories of this to come. Check back here, or with me.




I trained Muay Thai in The Netherlands and then Thailand, fighting in the ring there. A little about Muay Thai kickboxing classes I taught at Temple University is here.

Years later we traveled on our own to the far northern Thai-Burmese border to the Muay Thai Monks on Horseback. They fight drug lords with education and strength. The Monk (Abbot), the Kru Ba, is on horseback. Paul is the tall one in yellow. I am in purple second from right. We stayed with our friend Tiem Pon, pictured first on right. The famous monk is her nephew.

Story is on my web site Kickboxingf Syllabus- Muay Thai Monks on Horseback.

The young monks (nen) thought it was hilarious that my hair is the same color as their Abbot's horse mane. For some, it was the first time they laughed since their families were murdered in border drug wars.



Martial Arts In Japan With The Living Treasures

We lived in Japan to study Martial Arts.

I found work at a medical school and arranged for us to stay with a family we had helped when they were in the US. We did long formal paperwork to be approved to train Shotokan officially. We packed language books and our Gis (dojo uniforms), and moved. Eleven days later, the family could no longer host us, and we were instantly standing in the street in a suburb of Tokyo, suddenly needing to speak more Japanese than medical words and Karate.

Back then, foreigners were usually not rented to, except in special foreigner enclaves, but we managed to get a rare apartment in Tokyo. We passed a small dojo and made brave to go in. We thought we could stay in the back unnoticed. It was a style we had never done - Goju-Ryu, The teacher said "You! You! - HERE!" We had to go up front and prove ourselves. The kind teacher made room for us in his class. After a summer of work, invited us to their training camp (gasshuku) at Mt Fuji. We already had other plans, but changed every ticket to make sure we arrived when and where they said. We got to live and train with Morio Higaonna Sensei, who since then is honored as an Intangible Cultural Treasure.

Worked extra to study Shiatsu there. The Namikoshi Shiatsu school, one of our training schools, has two statues; one of Tokujiro Namikoshi, the inventor of Shiatsu and founder of the school holding two thumbs up, and a second statue of a single thumb. We told the Japanese that in English, "all thumbs" means clumsy, but I don't think they believed us.


Breath Hold Diving With The Japanese Ama Divers

Are there not... Two points in the adventure of the diver:
One --when a beggar, he prepares to plunge?
Two -- when a prince, he rises with his pearl?
I plunge!
-- Robert Browning


Dr. Jolie Bookspan lived and dived with
the Ama of Japan

(click the dancing penguin to see who Dr. Bookspan is)

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