using the known to find the unknown.
Every program, protocol, method and tool that is available to you, is merely giving you an alternate way to approach your [problem, goal, or greater life puzzle]. It is not providing a solution to it.
The word 'solution' is mostly misleading, especially in regards to the body. It has been improperly used to suggest that there is only one answer and that it is a finite one, and that it can be found somewhere. (Solutions can be easily sold, while process/evolution cannot). The word solution is actually a process in itself, dynamic in nature. It is something that we must create from our collected experiences and requires a particular self awareness to change as we do. Today's solution will not necessarily be tomorrow's, but the process of arriving at that solution will most likely help us to find what we need. We must develop a way of processing, and not answering. There is no single, finite answer waiting to be found.
Everyone has a perspective to offer but you must be able to apply the lessons/concepts to yourself for them to bring any success. I built this site to offer as perspective on quality of life - an approach to fitness, that's not about fitness at all. The idea is that as you read, it is actually about you.
The point of other perspectives is to help bring more awareness of yourself, to notice which parts are reflected back and which might be hidden away.
we need to develop our own
It is NOT a linear path, but rather a vast network of coordinates, based on all the different experiences we've collected. Perhaps there are some engrained paths between a few points that we frequent- our habits and tendencies. A few other paths less traveled and harder to remember highlight our problem solving skills. It is easy to feel stuck when we think there is only one path that we should take, but the cool thing is, we can take any path we want. We can get rid of old paths and even build new ones. it is possible to create new points and expand our network and options. Progress is relative, experimental and messy.
daily objective - find a starting point
where are you?
awareness of behaviors before actions.
Think about going to the bookstore blindfolded and picking one from the self-help section. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. Pick another...
If you are not aware of your own behaviors and why they exist as they do, then how do you know what needs to change?
return on investment.
Your home needs repair but currently you only have the time and money to fix one or the other- the foundation or the facade.
Which has the most impact on your physical state throughout the day?
The big picture.
Imagine that you could instantly have the body that you want and it is capable of doing all the things you want.
What will you do with it now? Will it be used it differently?
This is not always as accurate as we may think. It is largely based on our preconceived expectations- we see what we want to see, we hear what we want to hear, etc.
Are you listening or answering?
establish your 'normal'.
Which factors have the greatest influence?
Good, bad, tight, sore, allergies, headache, indigestion, new pain, chronic pain, hungry, etc. If you're just starting to track how your body feels, keep it simple. Add details as you develop a good understanding. Jot down a quick +/- in a notebook if it's easier to track.
Are you able to focus on what you want/need? Other projects on your mind? Have you taken care of constraints so that you have some time to spend as you like?
Considering body condition and head space, there are two major factors that entangle all of these together- stress levels and sleep quality.
Stress (life) management
These are our life batteries - a visual assessment of stress levels and our management of them. Exercise is stressful, work and relationships can be very stressful, and an endless amount of things to worry about, make stress management an important factor in the prioritization of daily/short term/long term goal setting. Fitness is not the same thing as wellness. (Wellness allows fitness).
Do your actions reflect your intentions? Are we increasing the rate at which our battery wears down?
with a 'normal' maintenance level established,
considerations can become progressive training concepts.
train the path of least resistance.
return on investment considerations
- Progressing the warm-up and sub-max levels to increase work levels. If the warm-up becomes more advanced, so will the work, but with much less effort.
- Progressing resting positions and the transitions between them. If posture is more efficient at rest, it will also be more efficient while working. If you can increase the range of your resting position and create new resting positions, you will gain a greater work capacity from less effort.
big picture considerations
- Increase ability by expanding comfort/safety levels of all activities (and everything else that composes your life) - there is not a final marker of success to achieve, just continual progress. There is no 'deadline' but death. Health nor progress are short term endeavors and seeking out 'short-cuts' or 'hacks' will do nothing but take you on a life long detour.
- Thinking of the level you trained at years ago, last month or even yesterday, will hold you back in today's training if your perception can't shift away from 'had' and towards 'have'. A productive warm-up will always follow the same process (not to be confused with the same exercises), because the objective will always be the same- connecting a stable system that is ready for loading. Any session can be easier or more difficult depending on the collective of our daily experiences. Your will-power is not in charge here, and if it is allowed to be, not only will you feel more physically exhausted but emotionally as well.
(Resistance of), Gravity.
We start life on the floor and work our way up to standing, only to eventually struggle getting down to and back off of the floor as adults. The ground is a useful tool, and if you should stray too far, it will hurt a bit more when you fall.
Ground provides stability for the instances that we may not have it. It also provides a point of reference and a source of feedback, but most importantly it provides us the opportunity to produce downward force...
newton's third law of motion
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
Movement from the ground, up
If we cannot press down, we cannot be lifted up. Efficient movement happens sequentially, following the line of least resistance, and beginning from ground level (where the effects of gravity are weakest). The 'ground' is interchangeable with 'object'- gymnastic rings, barbells, boxes, rock walls, crutches, chairs, etc.
For thought: In standing or walking, the feet are controlling the pelvis, providing it lift- the legs can push the pelvis away from or pull it back toward the ground. It is very different to stand actively from the ground, up - rather than standing with the shoulders 'pulling' you up. This is most easily spotted during box step-ups, lunges or even stairs where you might observe people simultaneously shrugging their shoulders and pushing off the ground to get up. An efficient lunge would continuously press through the ground (which means much greater single leg stability), to lift the pelvis. The ribcage plays a supporting role, simply following the lead of the pelvis (not resisting it).
It is no wonder that everything eventually crumbles from the top down, including our posture, requiring additional support from the ground, up. Perhaps this could be viewed as a consequence of inaction.
Direction of force travels in a straight line. Notice this posture is at an angle, but the cane is perpendicular to the ground.
if ya can't beat 'em,
An efficient short chain, allows movement from bottom to top and top to bottom. The cat-cow provides a position that allows for contrast and comparison of this.
Loading one, allows the other to move. Since the pelvis and ribcage are on a spectrum of leading and supporting, load can be transferred from one anchor to the other as need be, increasing the number of movement options available. If both try to lead simultaneously, the ability to create an internal structure of support is obsolete and movement ability becomes greatly reduced due to resistive tension...
Most time is spent on the feet, therefore the pelvis is inclined to dominate during most activities whether it should or not. It can have some trouble giving up the spotlight at times.
all shook up.
(the other resistance), tension.
While there are strategies to manipulate the effects of gravity, we cannot control it. Tension however, we can learn to feel and control. As you become more familiar with tension in your body, I would start thinking of it as an assessment of safety and comfort, not just in regards to exercise but in all facets of life- work, relationships, etc. Whether you notice it or not, your body will pick up and reflect any life experiences that you are going through. Again, 'awareness of behaviors before actions'.
assistive vs resistive
Assistive tension supports and solidifies the position that you are in or transitioning to/from. An internal structure gives freedom to the external structure.
Resistive tension creates an external structure (exoskeleton of tension), to compensate for the lack of an internal one. This makes movement feel restricted and difficult to sustain.
Which wheel would you put on your car?
dissociation of breath with movement
If you've ever been out on a cold winter day, perhaps you can recall the feeling of tensing to keep warm and the difficulty it brings in moving around as the tissues start to feel almost cramp like. The muscle tension you created also came with a shortening of the breath, a protective response of the body. Deep breathing in this situation feels very vulnerable and difficult to do. This is an exaggerated version of most people's daily experience and the one major obstacle that makes exercise feel so challenging- a dependency on holding/shortening the breath.
There are muscles that are specifically for the breathing process. If our posture is slacking, those muscles get recruited to help stabilize the spine instead, decreasing the ability of the ribcage to expand, therefore diminishing lung capacity over time and creating just a little bit more tension everywhere to keep things 'stable' by restricting movement.
If our breathing and posture are allowed to function independently, we create an efficiently stable system that is capable of pursuing our ego's desires. In scenarios such as weightlifting, holding the breath takes advantage of an already stable system.
reducing excess tension to increase the capacity of our safety bubble.
flexion- as self preservation/protection.
Everything about our body was designed to keep our attention in front of us, especially our attention span and subsequently most of the things we choose to fixate on. Everything that the body needs to protect is right in front of us- as we 'close' into the fetal position, limbs are ready as the last line of defense. Flexion is a protective response and by default, a perceived place of comfort/safety,
reenforced as such by gravity and our behavior/breathing.
extension- as strength potential.
By contrast, extension is an act of 'opening', the exposing of our most vulnerable parts. Extension is our most efficient/stable position and therefore holds our greatest strength potential. It is a position that must be trained, maintained and refined, if this position is inefficient, weak or fails, we will automatically default into flexion as a means of self protection.
rotation - the connector of hemispheres.
This is the weaving/layering of known coordinates to create a tangible idea of depth. The objective here is to connect the body into one sensory piece- filling in the blank spots with sensory information as you progress. This can be done in endless ways- layering/connecting the anterior and posterior chain, the two front hip bones (ASIS) to the tail bone, the sternum to the sacrum, big toe to VMO, etc.
Mapping brings our 'parts' into a network/system.
As we learn of our body and different movements, we create points of reference (coordinates) to help us remember them. Most often these coordinates help us to gather a better idea of our topography and how to travel across the surface from one point to another- much the same as looking at a route on a two dimensional map. In this way we can develop a good understanding of the anterior chain, posterior chain, anatomical features, etc.
Coordinates develop 'parts'.
navigation - proximal to distal
This is the process that helps organize the network/system in producing movement. The most efficient body works from the inside, out. Similarly are the limbs, they (should) work in a sequence from closest to your center (point of attachment on the body, one of two anchors), outward. Perception of this process can be misleading without consideration- our hands and feet are highly sensory and like flexion, develop the tendency to steal the show and our attention since we can see them as they do things for us. For instance, if you lift a gallon of water out of the refrigerator, is it your hand/arm doing all the work or do you use your whole arm as leverage on top of body structure?
coming together & falling apart
- increasing quality of life
- expanding the safety bubble/efficiency
The warm-up for daily training: to connect the body and prepare it for the specific and more difficult loading ahead. If starting a session and feeling 'fried' from work/life, the process will probably take a bit longer.
The work: our system durability gets tested and if breakdowns happen they will be here.
The cool-down: reconnecting the body to minimize the stress level of the nervous system. If we create more stress than we can manage- recovery becomes an issue, so why not implement proactive recovery tactics, especially if tomorrow is also a planned training day?
Event preparation: if I have a hard backpacking trip coming up, my preparation is spent in connecting my body, working out any kinks in the systems and making sure posture and gait are as efficient as they can be. In the couple weeks leading up to this, it is a process of refinement and full recovery.
The event: anything can happen on a backpacking trip or any new environment and again if breakdowns occur from pushing our boundaries, it will happen here.
Post event: recovering and reconnecting from any damage that might have happened from pushing the limits.
Where I live, summer is the best weather season and so I plan my year to take advantage- I like to have my summer off from any expectations regarding training, I would rather have fun and get outside climbing and hiking spontaneously than be in a gym. It serves as more of a 'maintenance season', my body gets to relax/recover more than the rest of the year, though I still enjoy many bouts of my most physically demanding activities throughout the summer. Temporarily 'letting go' of training goals is much easier said than done, but provides a worthy practice in action and reflection.
As long as you're still living, life will be filled with all of the previous increments of time. The idea of continuously putting in work to bring yourself together in preparation of potentially falling apart serves a much greater life philosophy. In the instance of the unexpected, injuries, emergencies, it is immensely helpful to have a 'core-self' that you know is dependable, to help get you through difficult periods- and hopefully that's what we are building here.
tools for connecting.
soft vs hard
The simplified ends of a movement spectrum. Soft movement is safe movement- efficient, light and minimal stress on the nervous system. It is the general warm-up, cool down, recovery, connecting and reconnecting of the body. Hard movement requires more tension for a higher demand. It is our specific warm-up, skills and working sets, events and tests.
Typically we can also identify our body type as one or the other, a soft person has an easier time relaxing and a hard person is often a bit more tense. It can also vary depending on the day and recovery- do note, hardness tends to 'break'. To not break requires more effort in creating 'softness'.
Similar intention as the old adage, 'greasing the groove'. Rather than in a mechanical sense, it is a particular sensation in the tissues as they sequentially produce the movement. It can be refined endlessly- a practice in keeping fully connected to a movement without exerting much of any effort at all. It is about relaxing as much as possible to find the systems and slings that like to move together within your body. It is a process of building simultaneous movement knowledge and empathy.. can you watch a movement happen and feel the sequence within your own structure?
shake, wiggle, whip, wave & roll
Yes, dancing can check off all of these movement quality boxes. Dancing, like sport in general, is the balance of control and letting go- the result of a trusted and dependable (connected) body. All of these qualities are important assessments of safety, practiced on a spectrum of control, working toward the ability of letting go. A rigid body, is one that feels unsafe and cannot relent the tension required for fluid movement.
speed as a test of body comprehension
Practicing the slowest movement patterns will earn you the right of speed. Skipping out on the nuances of slow movement will lead to a body filling in a lot of blanks that occur while moving at quicker speeds. Blanks are points of disconnect, a sensory break in sequence. Taking out the 'guess work' makes trust a bit easier to attain.
You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.
Use what you already like and care about to expand it's scope. Be aware that if you want to do something better or even look better, your mind has to be on the same page as your body and in a sense, your body has to grant you permission to make the changes you desire. Care gives purpose and acts as a guide (and sometimes negotiator).
Start with what you know- it's much easier to expand on that then having to apply abstract notions that don't have any meaning to you (even if they sound like a good idea). To push the threshold of your safety barrier back, you do have to pay attention to what makes you feel safe and why, to eventually learn, how. Speaking of good sounding ideas.. making your body more comfortable doing the things you have to do all day, everyday, might be worth considering.
The concept of contrast uses what is known to reach toward the unknown. However, this is not a 'shot in the dark' approach, rather the construction of a dynamic spectrum of contrast by comparison. Everything exists on a spectrum. Contrast has the ability to make the abstract, approachable. It gives us the freedom to explore the grey instead of defining by black or white.
you don't know, what you don't know.
you can't change what you don't know.