Monday, May 20, 2013
Well why not?
Just taking a moment to celebrate the folks who have helped inform our practice, shape our experience. Some of them we've met and worked with; others we know through their work, but feel like it's had a personal impact.
Why not give them some space? Let's have some time just to remember who they are and what
As i just wrote on the begin2dig page at facebook:
in physical culture, in terms of influence, i can think of a couple - including folks i've not met. A core is Clarence Bass.This guy was into lean and ripped for "normal" people way before it was cool; when John Berardi was thinking about Grad School, this guy had books for people wanting to be healthy, recovery well, feel good (look good). He was also there on the web with a treasure trove of articles before most folks were thinking about their business model to create value with good content before asking someone to buy something. By all means look through his site. You'll see he's the guy (for good or ill) who introduced the community to the Tabata protocol - the real one.
What i admired about this person is that he trained as a lawyer but treats his body and being lean as a sane and steady life progress. He steps up to compete, to self-test, and he engages both the literature and the people behind the literature. I wouldn't have encountered Pavel Tsatsouline without Clarance Bass. He's a kind of role model as well in terms of how he writes about his experience and practice in physical culture. Never met. That's cool, too...If you haven't encountered him, he's the guy to whom pavel dedicated Beyond Bodybuilding.
We've never met or connected, but yup Bass is plainly who i think of as similar goals for what i'd like to have b2d be able to offer for folks. Thank you very much Clarence Bass for walking the talk for decades, and showing that folks from any profession can ask good sound questions, develop expert practice and help others in the process.
Happy International Coaches Day, all.
Share this Coaches Day Tweet on Twitter coaches day post on twitter, and @ckshowalter suggests, use the tag "#coachesday"
Who are you celebrating today, this year? Are there two excplit things/reasons/ways you can think of that are aspects of what puts this person on your Coaches Wall?
Keen to hear. let's celebrate.
Coaching Approach: 9S
Remembering Shane Autry
Friday, May 17, 2013
|is the interface of the piano easy or hard?|
(question paraphrasing bill buxton on design)
I'm going to suggest that this easy/hard thing is the transfat of the coaching/teaching world: developed with the best of intentions, it's still a cheap substitute for the real thing and yes, increasingly considered harmful. I'm going to propose that, on the "considered harmful side" specifically that describing concepts to be learned in a lecture or coaching session or seminar as easy or hard does not help learning. Indeed, it may even inhibit it.
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I'll warn you ahead of time: i've found no research in pedagogy directly to say that framing something as easy or hard is problematic, but i hope you'll walk through the arguments with me and perhaps consider the value of exploring an alternative framing to easy/hard. I'll propose that below, too.
By way of context, two things, first, why talk about this subject on b2d? Since so many of us reading b2d either coach, teach, or find ourselves in learning contexts around health, fitness, wellbeing, it seemed appropriate to situate this particular exploration here at b2d. Second, the easy/hard description itself. It's very difficult (dare i say hard?) to look at any kind of challenging situation, perhaps quite a bit in athletics, and not see the space framed as hard or easy. We all, it seems, have an easy vs hard meter running in our heads. Perhaps this meter has something to do with safety/threat response and protection.
When it comes to teaching, however, I question the value of framing a learning concept as easy or hard when presenting it to learners. There's a number of issues i'm going to work through below, but by way of context, calling something easy or hard out of the box asserts that a concept, a priori, has almost a set learnable state. Is that really ever the case? Consider the existential assessment of Math Class by Barbie circa 1991 (video below and CBC overview video here - check out the "did you know" tab - what's great are the girl math students' responses to this - story ends at 1:42 but the whole thing is historically interesting. anyway...).
some may remember the 1991 Barbie Recall for the infamous "math class is tough"
To unpack easy or hard in a teaching context, let me unpack an example that i heard repeatedly the other day when observing grad students give a guest lecture to undergrads. The number of times i heard "i'm making this as easy as possible" felt legion. And each time i heard it i got more and more distressed - though i didn't have a clear sense of why at the time.
So what's wrong with "i'm making this as easy as possible for you" - Here's just a few possibilities. It seems that framing has two particularly negative impacts on the learning experience for the student (though it probably feels great for the teacher):
On the personal side:
- for good or ill, the "i'm making this as easy as possible" puts the focus of attention on us and our sense of personal greatness and "teacher as star" rather than on the material at hand and the students' needs. Look at what we've done.
- related to the above, surely it's our job to make material accessible to the audience to whom we're delivering it - at all times. So why draw attention to our struggle? Are we looking for praise? we want to be loved? need a hug? right then? because dam it getting this lecture cost us, boy.
On the Content side:
- is being "easy" a plus? easy can be boring
- what if the person doesn't get what you think is the "easy" explanation? does that mean the problem is with them?
Let me drill into a few of these a little more
There are all sorts of noble reasons to say "i'm making this as easy as possible for you"
There are likely at least two positively motivated intensions and one unforced error in this "easy/hard" framing - we'll take them in turn:
- One is: please be aware of how important this topic is; i wouldn't have put all these cycles into crafting this experience if i didn't think it was valuable - so please, really pay attention.
- The other thing going on is a kind of faux empathy: boy i sure had a hard time with this so i'm going to make it easier for you so you don't go through what i went through.
- Maybe it's just inexperience.
Drawing Attention to the Performer's Process - example. To paint a big picture, consider a grade two teacher teaching students in math how to carry the one in addition. What would we think if the teacher said to the students "it's taken me two years to really figure out how to teach you this cool way to build up numbers ... i've finally figured it out how to make it as easy as possible for you" Would we find that inappropriate? After all, if that was such a challenge, perhaps this is not the best person to be doing this job?
Or similarly, would we be surprised if Hilary Hahn in the middle of a magnificent performance said now, i really want you to get that i'm making this next bit as easy for you to hear as possible because it's full of difficult changes that you might miss if i don't enunciate these special parts. And oh yeah, this wasn't easy for me, either. It took my 6 months of practice to get this just right - so - i really want you to appreciate it. Maybe, on a DVD of the performance, that kind of discussion would be great in voice over, but do we expect it during the performance? What makes the DVD voice over appropriate and the performance not?2. Supposed Empathy and the cost of mis-predicting?
Back to our case. While the material may have been a challenge for the given presenter to summarise effectively, it may actually not be that problematic for the class or at least some of the people in the class - especially if prep'd right for that group. So who might we insult with our presumption? Especially if our prep hasn't been bulletproofed? In other words, someone might be having a "hard time" with the material as presented because the presentation isn't as clear as we assume it to be. Oh dear.
One other tick that was hideous to experience was the guest lecturer rushing through material by seeming to engage the class: "what's X" the teacher asks. Two people give an answer. "Right" says the instructor "super easy; piece o' cake...ok what's Y..." same thing. I'm watching a bunch of students going er, no, not a piece of cake - i don't even know what you're asking. What was interesting to observe was the next part of the analysis by students now not focusing on the material because they're derailed. Some thought the instructor was a git; others thought the problem was with them. In either case, the students were no longer engaged in the material.
If what we present actually results in students feeling confused or slow, and we've just called it easy, what have we done by asserting this is as "easy" as it gets? That the student is just stupid? Or conversely that we are idiots? What might either do to students' sense of engagement and commitment? Is it facilitated or inhibited?
Is there, therefore, any pedagogically valuable reason to assert that material being presented for students to learn is a priori easy or hard?
3. The Rookie Unforced Error "Teaching is Tough!"
The unforced error i saw a lot of today was really a rookie mistake: a less experienced teacher/coach may fall into feeling, wow trying to find a way to convey this hard stuff so it's easy for you is really hard, but i did it - i must totally rule! you are so lucky to have me as your teacher today.
Dude, that's just teaching. That's your JOB. As teachers/coaches, we're supposed to make the path clear to learn what needs to be learned at that time and in that place. And yes, that's what the best teachers do every class, every lecture, every talk, every coaching session.
It's work and there are skills - skills make certain parts of the task less challenging (dare i say easier) so other bits can be attended: just ask any starting out prof how long it takes to prep a course the first time they do it vs the fifth time (i did not say the second third or fourth).
It's this self-consciousness, this drawing a group's attention away from the material and to our process - this meta-teaching, that kept being expressed in the classes yesterday, that painted the big ROOKIE sign that reads: 1) haven't had to do this teaching thing too much (rookie) (2) i like teaching (awesome! need more great teachers) or (3) i think i succeed in here because i make people like/appreciate me.
But is that meta-teaching where the learning we want to happen at?
Flow vs Hard/Easy
As an alternative to framing something as hard/easy, we might want to check if we have helped students achieve Flow.
Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and colleagues developed the notion of Flow based on work to explore the propoerties of task or process engagement, (overview). The attributes of Flow are based around skill and challenge:
|flow state as challenge vs skill (source)|
I've thought sometimes it's not always possible to find flow when learning something new: sometimes we just have to suck it up and do the reps. But i've come not to believe that: that there is skill and flow in each rep if we give those reps the appropriate attention to wrestle from them what we need to learn.
If we go to the problems with a target, so we know what we plan to discover from each bit, we can get pretty flow-ish. The challenge there is that that kind of process takes time and attention, and sometimes we're in a hurry to get IT whatever the It is.
What i've found in my own practice is that if i'm too tired to bring that kind of attention to a learning task, i need to reenergise and maybe do something else, and come back. Rarely does rote dogged determination result in an "ah ha" But that's another topic - just suggesting that in my own practice flow can be developed for our path choices when we learn how to break something down for deliberate practice. This point as i've written about before is where a coach can really help with that process of assessment for attention.
Teaching for Flow
This isn't the place to go into pedagogical methods. Suffice it to say that good, experienced teachers have many reps at finding a good flow state in a class. They have taken time to reflect on pedagogy however and to explore techniques for engaging with students. Pedagogy is a considerable field of enquiry. They learn new skills. While some folks wing it, some folks actually consider formally what techniques help progress learning. They treat teaching as a professional practice and as an evolving approach. As pedagogical scientists they consider variables from room condition to gender to preparation to social background to the subject itself. Complex, eh?
The result of their diligence, however, is that students stay engaged. When they leave the classroom, the students are not thinking what a bravara performance by the teacher, but what they can do now that they couldn't do before.
It takes more work from the teacher to figure out how to do these things, but what we see watching their work is that words like easy and only if ever rarely used to describe the learning process, and few will draw attention to themselves instead of the material.
If you're interested in learning teaching techniques, talk with your favorite teachers, as you would seek out coaches; look to journals of same. There are so many models that challenge the notion of a lecture itself for optimal learning, for instance, that if we're in a lecture setting, we need to ask why: whose interests for what ends is it serving (universities are still largely lecture based). And i'm not even talking about all these bits. Just about one phrase in a learning context. So let's get back to that.
Falling into Easy or Hard: Warning Signs for Confidence and Self-State
Despite the many variables of pedagogical practice, for the specific example of "i've made this as easy as possible for you" there are a few heuristics we've looked at that challenge the value of ever saying anything about easy or hard in any teaching environment. In particular the key idea that would be "hard" to debate is simply that when teaching, the focus is the material, the students, the uptake, not us and how hard we've worked to deliver what people are paying us to deliver, eh? Given that, and given the assumption that most of us teaching actually want nothing but the best for our students, we might be able to use falling into Easy or Hard as warning lights for our own practice
- - Red Alert/action item: mastery: when we hear ourselves saying anything with easy/hard in it in a teaching context, perhaps that's an opportunity to interrogate why we think we're going there. For who's benefit? And is that the best way to achieve the result we want, given the risks it brings? Most of the time going to easy or hard means we still have work to do, and we're not as comfy, as satisfied with that part of the material's delivery as we'd like to be.
- - Red Alert 2: take a break: if we're bailing to a meta-lecture, to talk about the process of this part of the lecture rather than the stuff itself, maybe it's time for a break; we ourselves need coffee or air or something, because we now have a new sign that we're falling off task, losing the plot. Maybe it is challenging material for us to track, so make sure our fuel levels are good to go.
In other words: if i feel i'm having a "this is hard" moment on anything - i know to check how rested, fuelled energised i feel. IF i'm saying this is now easy, or "as easy as possible" (big "hard" undercurrents there), i need to check in what i'm trying to achieve by making this claim at this time.
OVERALL: reducing if not eliminating the transfat of teaching.
The question this post is asking beyond teaching is, in the main, to consider the concept of Hard and Easy. As the song about war goes, what good is it - in teaching, in life in motivation? Yup, i suggest that Hard/Easy is the transfat of education - it's the cheap substitute for finding the Real Deal of Challenge, Engagement, Confidence, Security, Mastery. A little crap in our diets is probably not horrible, and given our lives, is from time to time perhaps inevitable but i hope i've made the case for why reducing it (if not all out eliminating it) may lead to far better results.
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ps this is not a perfect essay - it's been written in fits and starts as i can grab time - but was keen to get it out - which is the advantage of a blog over a formal research piece: it's a great place to put work in progress.
- the irritation of the "i want you to..." coaching cue
- What's your 5H ratio?
- Train the Physical Brain
- Deliberate Practice
- Train Socialising
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
|is it a sign? what does it mean?? latte art readings |
rather than tea leaves...a sort of automatic writing, perhaps?
i continue to explore the lacto path
Roasting one's own coffee rather sounds daunting, doesn't it? It turns out, it's not. And so i begin to wonder at all the hoopla and mystique around roasting and the oh so precious precious ness of it. Great packaging for a product, but ah c'mon! You may come to the same conclusion after the following "it can't be this simple" post.
or of course, there's instant...on the menu in some UK restaurants....
Step 1: get green beans and be as ethical and snobbish about it as you like, as you can pick beans from anywhere in the world.
Green beans stay fresh for YEARS. That seems a big plus. And getting sample packs of bunches of places lets one explore flavours, blends and roasts.
For bean sources:
In the US i keep hearing about Sweet Maria's. In the UK, i've found Rave Coffee.
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Step 2: choose your roasting implement -
There's loads of how-to's on the web from using fry pans ( i wanna be a cowboy...) to amazingly crafted bbq rotiserie turned roaster. Just check out this page of roaster mods (who knew?)
One way to get into it - and you may have this implement for other purposes - just use a hot air popcorn popper. No fuss; no muss. Super overview and video how to here.
Step 3: Load beans into roasting mechanism of choice
Here we see green beans loaded into a popper - usually take about 100g pre-roasted weight. Mark Prince gives a lovely overview of the popcorn popper set up approach here.
|green water processed beans from an ethical, organic, free trade|
all things wonderful, place in Guatemala.
Step 4: attend as required
(learn about first crack, second crack, temperatur, time and immanent flambé)
Step 5: delight in bean roast
It's pretty cool to see the transformation happen, as beans go from green swirls, to yellow, to darker tan to what we recognise as roasted coffee bean color.
|Post processing of beans from the spin cycle and just past|
what's known as "second crack"
Step 6: put in appropriate off-gassing vessel for 18-36 hours pending preference.
Here's where the coffee roast aroma starts to happen, as the beans blow off the gasses from the roasting.
You can use a bag with a gas out valve (the kind of bags starbucks coffee come in - i got a bunch from Rave when i ordered the beans) or, one tip from the Sweet Maria's video tutorial above, get screw lid type mason jars and leave the lid slightly unscrewed for a day or two. And then either transfer to an airtight vessel to keep beans out of light as well, or just grind up for service.
Step 7: Occasionally enjoy the aroma of the roast's progress
It's fun after the beans have been bagged to squeeze the valve bag and inhale a bit to get an aroma for the colors of your coffee as they mature over the next day or so.. It's really happening, this wonderful chemical reaction.
Small story: in Paris last week for conference; found a coffee roaster in a wonderful wee market area (the shop is called "brulerie des turnes) - i'd run out of the coffee i'd roasted and ground for the trip (yes and i also brought a moka pot), so went to the shop asking for coffee that had been roasted two days ago - no sooner. Intriguingly this request perplexed the staff. Everyone else wants it just after it's roasted, they said. Oh dear. Well (and then my french failed me in terms of "perhaps they grind it themselves, or do they grind it here?)...Were these staff or owners? I was then perplexed: based on what i've learned (and inhaled) about "fresh roasted coffee" why would you grind coffee just after it's roasted?? Fascinating, oui?
And that's about it.
Just roasting beans is a pleasure. If you find you enjoy it, but don't like coffee, you have a very personalised gift you can share with friends.
If you do like coffee - you're in for a treat on multiple levels, from process to product. Really: you did that! Isn't that cool? And it tastes great.
For some insights into the next part of the process, grinding, scroll down to the end of this post on post processing trauma through manualist interactions (i'm grokking this term). You'll see several videos on cool ways to do manual coffee grinding.
I refer to this roasting process as part of a Manualist coffee "zen" - well ya know it just gives me delight - and perhaps any emotional experience is not particularly zen, but it sounds kind neat. Maybe it should be "delight coffee"??
Anyway, if you give this a go, please shout. Will look forward to hearing your experience.
We'll talk about using a wee espresso pot and about latte art, i'm sure, anon.
DO TRY THIS AT HOME (have some good ventilation) - and let me know - please - what you find.
Possible Coffee Replacement Drink
Green Tea: good for more than what ails ya
Value of Reusable bits - like a tea infuser.
Monday, May 13, 2013
(If you'd like more on DOMs there's a two part story on delayed onset muscle soreness on b2d, referenced in Related Links, below).
|Never been this far out before - and guess where it was DOMsore, later...|
TO address this query, here's a quick 4 step protocol to progress through DOMs that seems so obvious it's stupid. Indeed, it caught me this morning. Thing is, i'm now trying to practice catching this effect ("what is new today and where's its source?) deliberately in each work out.
We'll go over the general bits of what is the protocol, and an example of when to run it, and then we'll go through a worked example, this time with DOMS.
What is New Today and Where's its Source? What Do i Know? What can i Learn?This morning's trigger to the "what's new" is feeling sore in a new way in a new place - or in a place i haven't felt DOMS in some time. So that new thing is what i'm calling the protocol Trigger.
Trigger: I'm sore in a particular muscle group - DOMS sore.
The Protocol Response to the Trigger? Four parts: two at the start of a session; two at the end.
- explore: try the movement(s) we think may have set off the DOMS, and check which part of the movement feels most restricted (due to soreness, potentially)
- think: once we have the range restriction/soreness isolated - think back to what was NEW in that movement the last time we did it. Consider what part of that movement had EXTENSION (stretching out) going on. Question to consider: was this a new movement? or was this a new load? new number of reps? By how much on any of these parameters
- return: - make a note in our logs about the observations and then, later in the workout or at the end of the work out when done, come back to this movement just to find out if being all nicely warmed up provides access to the movement again.
- relax: consciously remind oneself to breath, to relax into this movement - our natural inclination if we've been sore and triggered something is to tense up to want to protect ourselves. The counter-intuitive cue to relax going into that "sore" range of motion movement may just help us becoming more efficient in this movement.
Background: Getting further in an Ab Wheel Roll Out.It's monday. Last friday in my workout i tried ab wheel roll outs - haven't worked these for some time. In fact i've been "working" them indirectly via a suggestion from Jon Hinds, developer of the awesome Power Wheel version of an ab wheel (can hook your feet in or use your hands. cool. hell). I'd asked Jon about getting to a standing ab wheel roll out, rather than from knees alone. He said, if you can do 30 knees to elbows (a movement shown in the clip below at about 15:10), then you can do standing roll outs.
Anyway, i did in fact last friday try the standing ab wheel roll out. Ended up dropping a knee to the mat on the way down, then when stretched out, getting the knee off the mat and rolling back up. Exhausting. Got three of those in.
And then i tried the ab wheel rollouts from the knees. What a surprise - i got full, nose touching to the ground extension in a way i hadn't thought possible before.
Here's how far i'd pretty much made it before:
|mc doing an power wheel roll out in Feb 2013|
that felt "deep" or extended.
And that evening, sitting laid back in a chair watching a movie, my upper ab area right under the rib cage went into such an awesome spasm/charlie horse/cramp that my gooodness that was incredible trying to think fast about what the complementary muscles were, whether to rub or stretch out or breath or just hope to knock myself out.
My upper abs in particular have been having a DOMS experience since then.
Applying the ProtocolTHis morning (we're getting closer to the example now), i have a session where i like to add in ab work and wanted to do some roll outs. Here's the specific worked example of the above protocol.
Start of workout:
1. Explore -
I tried the roll out and well, no, my extension was not getting to where i was on friday to be sure. In fact if felt like i was getting to about where the above picture goes and no further. And sore. oh yes. I then tried the knees to elbows and that was fine so thought, ok i'll do that.
DOMS is about extension for the most part - what *part* of the roll out was new? That last bit of extension. What else about load/reps? Doing three sets of ten - so thirty bodyweight load of extensions in a new range. Interesting - that new part of the movement is where the soreness was. Makes a kind of sense, doesn't it. Interesting to note: a mere thirty reps (and then maybe those few standing-ish ones) set off this killer response. That's worth noting. If i don't want the DOMS next time maybe try half the reps in the new area.
End of Workout3. Return, end of work out.
Having done everything i wanted to do this morning, coming back to this roll out movement was a bonus. What i found is that i could do the movement, and my range of motion was back. I only tried sets of five. Cool. Reforming the movement when no longer super sore - good - more rebuilding the area. and not overloading my body - just reminding it, it's safe to go here.
4. Relax. Really. There is no spoon.
The biggest win of this session, the most potent insight for me is the difference in the movement quality when i reminded myself to relax. Not breath or go loose, but the cue for me was "relax" - i had visions of the muscle firing patterns of efficient practiced movement in my head - where only the necessary fibers are firing for as long as they need to fire, and only as many as are needed. I reasoned that perhaps by tensing in trying to protect myself, i was firing up more fibers than necessary and doing my movement no good in the process - tension, and too much of it, perhaps.
WOW, gang, wow. Relaxing into the movement gave me greater depth, more fluidity and control and ESPECIALLY - less pain. The difference was really night and day.
Now, here's a vid of me doing ten reps after a couple of those sets of five - and please notice something after about the fifth rep: i thought i'd been saying relax to myself in the first five but in the last bunch i really thought RELAX - and i think you'll see that slight shift to deeper, smoother, more elongated.
You can find this and other b2d vids on http://youtube.com/begin2dig
The above isn't perfect (the start position i'm going to try with butt down to keep whole back straight from knee to top of head, for instane), and perhaps it's more a feel than a see thing, but there is a depth difference, and there is a movement quality difference (i just may be keeping it all inside). What do you think?
Two takeaways from this DOMS-exploring protocol - at least that keep showing up in my practice
- Do it AGAIN. It's OK. Just because we don't get a movement the first time we try it doesn't mean we can't come back to it. Failing at a rep is not the same as being toast for that movement. It often just means the pattern + control/strength hasn't come together yet
- Relax! - even when it seems counter intuitive - can yield incredible rewards in the performance of movement. i won't call it the performance of strength. I dunno about that here, and i'm not entirely sure how to apply this yet to my double 24kg Kettlebell press, but something's going on. After all i was able to do the movement both with tension and with much less, and i can tell you which version felt better in all levels from movement quality to pain level to range of motion.
Time and again, do it AGAIN keeps showing up in practice success. Eg, the first time i tried a single leg pistol with a 24 at the end of a work out i had to diss my inclination to say well that's it - end of workout anyway, and say - try it again, maybe? That lead to my very first 24 single leg pistol.
With DOMS, here, i've just been taught another counter intuitive lesson about relaxation to come back into a movement - when nice and ready for it - relax into the movement.
Looking forward to checking that relax bit out in my next heavy pressing day
That will be EXPLORE More, THINK about it - what i know about that movement in me, RETURN to it (without needing it) and RELAX into it -
We've done this example with DOMS, but the "what is new; what's its source; what can i learn" protocol can be run with any new discovery in a movement.
- if you explore these concepts, please let me know what you find.
And remember: you can also:
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Relate Posts:DOMS part 1: what is delayed onset muscle soreness?
DOMS part 2: what seems to work to address DOMS?
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Getting (back) in shape: How begin the begine? Have you experienced this effect when making a sortie into getting back into some kind of fitness space? You do your first workout, see what you can do, and are so gassed by it you think heck, you'll only be able to do this once a week - till you get stronger. Maybe once a year. Or maybe you feel you'll never go back; that was horrible. Totally understandable. Totally reasonable to think gosh so much for my plans to work out several times a week; i need to build up to that. So i'll work out once or twice a week instead. After all finding time to work out more frequently is a challenge, anyway.
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|source of photo|
In the following post, i'm going to argue that a first order of business in any get in shape program is, in the beginning in particular, to think less about intensity (ie working out "hard" one or more times a week) and more about frequency (more TIME in movement is better). I'm going to make seven points about this daily approach to in-shape-ness, that build upon each other, as guidelines for the approach. One for every day of the week, perhaps:
- To move is to be human; practice being human as frequently as possible by moving as much as possible in a day.
- To sustain movement, create it as a habit. To create a habit - something done autonomously, effortlessly - takes thousands of reps - frequent "movement snacks" a la Frank Forencich helps get the reps up.
- To succeed, plan-ify: first, plan ahead; second, plan a plan b. Resilience is Plan B.
- To continue, start lighter than expected and respect recovery.
- To develop, keep a record. Records can be lightweight: what is sufficient to be useful?
- To understand, play. Taking time to explore all sorts of movement experiences is a huge win.
- To thrive, include the brain in practice. Learn about the body; challenge the brain.
Fundamental: make the TIME for movement: practice doing that; then move within the time.
1. To Move is HumanOne thing people have in common who want to get in shape is lack of time under movement. We work at a desk or at a single machine; we move about in the house or work place a bit, but we're not spending deliberate time "in movement."
A first strategy of a workout program, rather than focusing on a specific activity like lifting a lot of weight or swimming the english channel might be the more mundane but powerfully effective target simply to "move more." Consistently. Daily.
For more reasons than we can count here, simply moving *more* than we do now is a potent target for just about anyone reading this post (including its author). From anecdotes of coaches to research about physical and cognitive practice, it seems the more we move, the happier we are in our performance, from body compoisition to intellectual performance. Yes, we perform more intelligently the more we move (the opposite is also true - so if we're sedentary for years at a time, we're not only not getting younger, we're getting stupid-er (see the Whitehall study)). For the brain, movement with our heart rate elevated is very good. For body comp, it seems moving 5 hours a week minimum of movement/activity correlates with greater happiness about body shape (one ref on this topic).
If we accpet this premise to "move more" first, rather than "lift heavy" or "swim/run far" as our founding premise of wellbeing or of getting in shapeliness, then our strategy shifts from "i must get to the gym X times per week" to preparing for a sustainable movement practice. If it's daily, we need to be able to recover from it to keep doing it. Going crazy is not an initial option. Consistency and Persistence is the biggie. Please note, i do not mean get a cardio program (ie, lots of running or swimming or similar as opposed to lifting weights or sprinting or interval stuff). I mean MOVEMENT.
Practice Variety. Push ups are movements; dancing is movement. Walking is movement. Olympic lifting is movement. Throwing a discuss or frisbee is movement. Moving as many joints as possible in a movement is movement. The more variety of kinds of movement that we practice, it seems, the better off we are in terms of engaging not just our joints but our vision and balance systems as well. Moving harder and less hard also important. It seems we're wired for variety, hence the need to practice variety.
Daily Practice: I Move More. This focus on daily practice can be quite liberating. We have a whole ton of choice - of anything counts. Whether that practice is walking, running, going upstairs, skipping, mobility work, playing frisbee doesn't really matter: it's that we have said we will do SOME movement everyday and we do it. We'll look at how to ensure the practice leads to progressive development, in part 4, below.
2. Building up a Practice-as-HabitREmember the body comp stat of 300 minutes a week to feel good about one's body? If 300 movement minutes sounds a bit daunting for starters, that's understandable too. Change can be pain. No joke: changing patterns of behaviour is rewiring the brain. Change of established patterns takes work. And lots and lots of practice. So making it possible to get many reps in is another aspect of daily practice. We simply need the time to build the reps to make the change to sustain the habit, to do the re-wiring in the brain.
It's a fact that when we're stressed we go to what we've practiced most. If we've practiced being innert more than we've practiced movement, that's our likely go-to place when we often need the exact opposite: movement helps blow off stress (it's hormonal: fight or flight responses mean MOVE; when we don't move those signals keep coming on; move/exercise/get the heart up - we signal we get it; we're responding; the signals change; we feel better).
Thus, the first part of true and enduring get in shape work, it seems, is to accept it into our hearts as a necessary and good thing to do - that we see it as fundamental to be moving more - that that is the natural state; being so sedentary is not natural at all. We who neither reap nor sow. Nor hunt nor build. Living in the head, the digital ALL the time would not too long ago be perceived as a disease state, where our inertia would be pitied, and where if rich we'd be shoved up to the mountains to take The Cure.
So yes, no. 1: accepting that to be human is to move; and if we want to experience our humanness we may want to move a little more, (eat a little less). To move more, we need to habituate movement into our lives. That means lots of practice.
The next point deals with how to get all those reps.
No. 3 In the Plan is Perfection; in Plan B is resilience.Plan for Success. One of the biggest reasons the best laid plans of mice and would be athletes fail is that we don't plan for success - most often because we don't know how. Here's a few tips to help get a new practice in gear. To paraphrase Martha Beck from the Four Day Win (uk | us), plan four days ahead, rather than leaping in at this moment. Give yourself permission to start your new movement program four days from now. Think,where might movement begin, not today, but four days from now? And with that question we can ask, what road blocks can i anticipate? Knowing these, how make the path clear for day four, for say 20 mins. of action? Does that mean 4 blocks of five minutes each? two blocks of ten? to do what? Walk? do push ups? mobility work?
Block out the Time: Make a Promise to Yourself - and keep it. Plan ahead, write it down; talk with whomever you need to talk with who might need to know this is what you're doing so they know, this is what you're doing. To borrow from Steven Covey's First Things First (uk | us), why not put those times for movement practice into the calendar before the week starts?
When we make appointments with ourselves, Coveys' argument goes, we show respect for ourselves. We honour ourselves. That time becomes as important as appointments we set with anyone else. Covey also has this lovely notion that we can't say no to something until we have something to which we're saying yes. If we are committed to being human, and thus to movement; if we get that to move we need to make it a habit, and that to make a habit we need lots of reps, then finding the time to make movement happen in order to get those reps will be a natural YES priority. AND that movement practice will help us be more alive, more present and more successfully present in our engagement with others, as well. Thus, our movement practice times are protected, scheduled and
Making the time to move also throws open many more options than any pre-canned workout program. Movement - rather than a workout program - lets us think about doing something that is natural every day. Some folks have a hard time initially with thinking about "doing a workout" every day. No kidding. That sounds daunting. But moving every day? what's the alternative? be innert every day? is that a desired state to NOT move daily? And yet, if you put a pedometer on many of us, that's exactly what you'll see: we move very little. So actually, it's often pretty easy to move more.
WHAT COUNTS as MOVEMENT?- Generally speaking ANY deliberate movement where we bring our minds to the fact that we are moving is better than not. So mobility work where we go through each joint in our body to explore range of motion (like r-phase and i-phase movement templates, links about these approaches, below), that's great for many reasons written about elsewhere.
|Mobility Work Example:|
Eric Cobb demo'ing cross body figure 8's in the z-health Neural Warm Up
Validate Movement: Check Seated and Standing Heart Rates. That's easy to test: check your heart rate seated at rest for a bit; check it when standing for a minute or two. Check it after you've walked a bit; check it after you've walked up a flight or two of stairs - get some sense of your body's responses to movement.
Plan a Plan B: Resilience is having a back up planSomething important to have within these spaces is what's a back up plan for an activity if the main one falls through? suppose it's raining and that scotches planned outdoor play for the day? what will put movement into that 30-60 minute slot in its place? Mobility work? bodyweight practice? what are the alternatives?
Having a movement plan B means we're rarely taken by surprise.
No. 4 start lighter than expected and respect recoveryWhen going at something new - like a DAILY movement practice - find out what level of intensity can be sustained for daily practice - we have the rest of our lives - to get more intense. The focus of practice building is to build - in this case, to build skills and habits for a lifetime. And again, the biggie here is often preparing the way for the practice to happen,making appointments with ourselves, and then filling the time with the activity.
The Unbearable Lightness of Sustainability
When we start a movement practice, we can pick a small unit of time - say five minutes. We can propose to walk around the block at a pace where it's easy-ish to keep a conversation going, but not effortless. Let's say that that may seem, after that walk, to have been pretty easy - but
a) how long did it take?
b) what's our post-walk heart rate?
c) what's our heart rate a minute after the walk is finished?
If the goal was to move for five minutes, and the round block walk took five or likely more minutes, and the heart rate after the walk is above standing rate, and a minute later it's closer to standing rate, that is a huge success.
It's a huge success because
1) we scheduled it AND did it - check on keeping a committment
2) we learned something about ourselves in terms of walking pace for five minutes
3) our recovery heart rate shows we didn't over do it
4) we know we can do it again - we have a building block
5) we also have measures for progress:
- time taken to walk a specific distance
- distance travelled
- heart rate at close of event
- recovery rate inside a minute
- success rate at keeping a promise to ourselves
No 5. Progress means Understanding: Keep a Record
Especially while we are developing our practice, keeping a log means that we are keeping it real. A record is evidence that we are keeping our commitment; a record especially early on in practice helps us reflect on what works and what needs work. A record helps us craft deliberate intent. When we put something into words, we reify the practice: it becomes cognitive; it frames our attention. Going through intent to learn - making something new as cognitive as possible it seems - helps to craft it into something that can become - eventually - more reflexive.
The above list of elements in No. 4 about date, time planned; time taken; heart rates - are all simple examples of what can go into a log.
No. 6 - play: it's a learning experiencePlay is a terrific part of beginning a movement practice. As i'm arguing, we don't have to have a "workout program" from day one: we just need to plan to move more. Indeed, more exploration is better. More types of movement is better. Walking one day, doing push ups (off the wall or knees if full ones are not accessible), exploring jogging another, bowling another, frisbee another, swimming another, baseball another, lifting weights - it's all good and fine.
Plans: For many of us, though, we find it easier to develop a movement practice if we plan time ahead for what we're going to do. That's grand. A plan can be - kick a football around outside for half an hour monday; hack around playing squash with a friend for 45mins tues. Push baby in stroller for twenty minutes at a fast-ish clip twice on wed. Swing a light kettlebell for 100 reps total and do 100 wall push ups total for thurs. Take an olympic lifting class friday, recover saturday. Go for a long walk with partner sunday trying flexible shoes that pass the twist test. That's six days of mixed movement. And as long as we're checking those measures of time and heart rate, we have a really cheap way to see what progress we're making, like - i can do the round the block faster and with a lower heart rate and greater recovery this week than last week. That's progress. Time to look at maybe going a bit further or a bit longer. Or a bit harder.
|running in uber-flexible xero shoes|
If we've already decided what our skill sets are going to be - say working with a kettlebell - then super. There are many approaches and schedules out there for practicing kettlebells. If these call for a three day a week schedule, grand. Since to Move is Human, and we want to be Human every day, what will we do on the other days to continue learning about how our bodies move, and to keep moving, to keep up a daily practice of Being Human?
The great thing about movement is we have so many options to find a skill practice that engages our attention sufficiently to keep us from being bored, to keep us engaged and improving. What will that be? Every rep is a learning opportunity: how do we engage our practice to feel like we're learning, doing, having fun?
(At least once in awhile) Get a Coach: I've said this before: everyone needs a coach. Once you've found something you enjoy, do yourself a favour and talk with folks for recommendations about a coach. Find out how to carry out the movements of your sport as effectively as possible. Find the smartest person you can with the best experience and manner. Engage with them about checking your technique. Excellent coaches will not try to do everything at once, but the right thing for now to let you enjoy your practice more. Each time you come back will be a retune to help you get that much further along. This is an affordable, effective way to reduce injury risk and improve performance and pleasure.
No. 7 Respect the Brain While Respecting the BodyOne more aspect of building a movement practice is to learn about our bodies and brains and how one interacts with the other. For instance,
- i've stated that we need to build up time in movement and need to get our heart rates up to a certain level. How come? What about time and heart rate is important?
- I've also suggested that watching for improvements like getting more distance in in shorter time with a lower heart rate is a sign of progress. Progress of what?
- I've also suggested that exploring many types of movement from game play on a field to lifting weights is good not just for our joints, but for our vision and balance, too. How's that?
- And best, i've suggested that research shows exercise contributes directly to cognitive performance. People who move are smarter than those who don't. What's going on with that?
Never Surrender An approach many folks have is actually to trust someone else to put them through a "program" for x period of time to achieve a specific result. They tend to surrender to the other person the understanding of the process and trust them to get them from a to b, and that getting to B is a great thing to do. Maybe it is; maybe it isn't. How would we judge that beyond the claims of the packaging without having some grounded undesrtanding of how our body adapts to movement? And sure, it's understandable starting out: we just want a plan to get going and feel better. We want to believe There's a Program for That. This desire has helped sell an awful lot of fitness DVDs (like p90x, anyone?). That doesn't mean Programs per se are bad. But yes i will go so far as to say, just doing a program and not delving into what its assumptions are, and whether or not they're valid, is lazy. How many folks have accepted P90X's claim about "muscle confusion" for why P90X claims it is better than any other program? if you don't know what that claim is - really it's ok (though if you're really interested, a critique is linked below). My point is that we bring incredible skepticism to many product claims, but programs, especially when we like the sound of their claims (ripped in 90 days, for example), not so much it seems.
Learning more about how our bodies work is also really really good for our brains' health. After all, our
|7th edition of |
McArdle and team's Exercise Physiology:
Great place to begin
exploring the what and
how of movement
Indeed, in my experience folks who build successful life-lasting, resilient movement practices also develop knowledge around those practices so they can (a) get off someone else's program that may or may not be effective for them over the long haul and (b)begin to build and explore and evaluate/test their own approach to movement and wellbeing.
In SUM: To move is human; to move more feels devine.To review:
1) to be human is to move. Movement works more than joints; it helps our brains; helps regulate hormones, related to how we feel; how we eat; how we sleep; how we engage with others.
2) To move more - that is change for many of us, and for a change to become not a change but normal, a habit, a part of our lives, we need lots of reps. To create the space for those reps to happen, we need daily movement practice - and since the more we move the more natural and human we are, moving many times within a day is optimal. More reps is both better for our bodies and helps create the change wiring, forming the habit.
3) To give ourselves the best chance of success with a new habit, like moving more, we are most effective when we plan our strategy in advance: what are we going to do, when? what do we need to address in order to make sure that time can happen/will not be put at risk? What is our back up plan if Plan A falls through? Plan, schedule and protect that time for ourselves.
4) To make sure we keep going with our practice, what we do has to be gaged to hit a level of effort that enables us both to make progress and not kill ourselves. We need - as part of our plan - to start lighter than we think we need and ramp up progress from there.
5) To make sure we are making effective use of our precious movement time, keeping a log lets us reflect on the success of our practice, as well as reality check whether it is what we think it is.
6) Especially when starting out - play / exploration - is an optimal course. Try out as many skills as we can. If we don't like something - like a ball sport - find out why - it may be a vision issue (can't catch? get a vision (not an eye) check). Even if we have a practice we particularly like, spice it up with variety of movement. That all gets back to point one: we move in many ways - make sure our movement practice moves like a human too.
7) To ensure we can "own" our practice, and engage our brains in our practice, committing to learning about what's happening in our bodies with our movement is a Good Thing, too.
If we follow these 7 points, we will "get in shape" - and more - we'll stay in shape for the rest of our lives. That's a bold claim, but also inevitable: we repeat what we enjoy. Finding a path that is stimulating, pleasurable, repeatable - it's all good. We may find periods where we move less and know we don't like it; we need to get back into moving more; we learn that's where our happy place is. If we have never experienced that yet, this is why it's important to start with consistency of movement, blend in fun and challenge to keep us engaged, sufficiently challenged and improving. This is why we have to make a commitment to ourselves to keep searching till we find a path that engages us.
Once we have something we're doing, or many things we're exploring, every rep is an opportunity to practice, to learn, to re-wire, to adapt, to get better to keep moving. The more reps we find in a day, the more attention we pay to the quality and shape of each rep (hence a coach to ensure quality is entrained) the more we learn the faster the better, the smarter. It's just the way it goes.
Caveat: This 7 point approach to "move more" and get to moving at LEAST 300 minutes a week is not a "minimal effective dose"approach - or what we might call not the best we can do but the least we can get away with. The goal here is not to move the least possible to have a benefit - but to move as MUCH as possible, as to move is wholly human.
Quite frankly, i don't know how one would decide what a "minimal effective dose" of movement is. And why do we want to try to find the least we can get away with rather than the best we can do for ourselves and so be our best for ourselves and those in our lives? Sure we have limited time, but few of us have explored deliberately how we might optimise our opportunities to move. Why not give ourselves that chance to explore that potential?
Full Motion: Herman Cornejo executes a seeming impossible
double tours en l’air as part of David Michalek's slow dancing project.
double tours en l’air as part of David Michalek's slow dancing project.
To get in shape, we just need to move more and better as we go.
To move more,
Prepare, plan, commit, do, learn.
- Rphase, not your daddy's joint mobility program
- becoming bullet proof: iphase
- Hormones: the body's middle managers
- Intent to Learn/ Deliberate Practice
- Motivation: it's a decision
- Full Health: Movement, Recovery, Socialising, Nutrition, Cognition
- P90X - i come not to bury P90X but to contextualise it
- Move or Die