Simplicity And Intent.
In exercise, and training, you don’t need to be disciplined or forceful. We are told we need to work hard all the time, but this is not true – this approach rarely results in improved quality of movement. Working hard, valuing effort above awareness and insight, often results in the development of inefficient movement patterns.
One must learn to train appropriately to the day and the larger objective. This is a subtle skill that develops only over time. But I’m not going anywhere, and I’d hope that after another year of training, I’ll be better at it.
For the beginner, discipline and forcefulness are irrelevant, and for the athlete, forcefulness is usually of lesser importance to skill or technique. For a person to be successful at a sport, they generally must be able to effectively apply power to an efficient and effective movement pattern, but at gyms we only value effort, because of the delusion that the reason exercise is good for you is because it ‘burns the foods’.
Ovens burn the foods. But I digress.
Power may require some kind of tension or exertion, but speed and explosiveness are born of relaxation and skill.
Unless you are that rare person who has become quite familiar with what kind of adversity calls you to action, believing you need to be a certain way or adopt a forceful mindset will only make you intimidated by the prospect of going to the gym. Likewise, if it becomes important to you that you demonstrate perfect form all the time, you will start to fear failure, and be hesitant to train with commitment, if at all. The irony is: valuing perfection can be the enemy of progress. We must not be too hard on ourselves when we are undergoing a process of development; you are not meant to be skilled at things you have not yet learned.
Form degrades when fatigue sets in, but training to a point of fatigue, when it’s right for you and your programming, is how you develop strength and resilience. All things are balanced. Perfect form is impossible to maintain under extreme conditions – and maybe that’s what make the conditions extreme – our inability to maintain composure. But what breaks down first? You can work on that in less extreme ways.
There is a difference between testing, competition, and training. Training is a process of discovery. Risks that might be worth taking in competition are generally not worth taking in the gym.
Instead of forcefulness and stubbornness, cultivate a mindset of curiosity. What am I going to learn today? Even if you are training alone, being open-minded and curious can make any training experience educational and worthwhile.
This is the way of peace, respect and learning, as opposed to that of force.
But it is possible to excel in either way. The trouble is, people who respond well to force and the pressure of adversity often expect that all people should respond well to their own methods.
You can be training for many years and still be a beginner, or still benefit from the unprejudiced mindset of a child, or someone new to an activity whose mind is open and fertile because they are viewing things as if for the first time.
There is no need to rush or be in a hurry to become an advanced practitioner or trainee. You will only deny yourself genuine experiences if you hurry. Move at your true pace, invest in what you discover to be engaging, satisfying and rewarding.
Anything that is complicated may be novel or interesting, but at its heart, training is simple.
Rather than search for new adventures and methods you can choose to train simply and become extremely good at certain things over time. This can be very rewarding – you may squat and lunge for years, yet continuously discover new things, and learn more about yourself if you can bring yourself to the experience with awareness and an inquisitive mind – not the prejudiced mind of hatred and judgement.
The many varied programs and methods, the ‘secrets’ that are sold, they squabble over details – rest periods, ideal heart rates, fat burning zones, glycogen depletion, hormonal profiling, numbers of sets and repetitions – is it 10 or 12 – and for what? These differences are mostly trivial, and all of these arguments have failed to produce an accessible method that magically makes a person thin for the long term. They are all irrelevant if you are training for the purpose of learning about your body in motion and discovering what satisfies you in the moment, and over time. If this is your agenda, you will naturally seek out methods that help you to develop in the right way. If you experience injury, you will naturally research rehabilitation, and if you wish to become stronger, or more flexible, or to increase your capacity for endurance, you will seek out appropriate methods, rather than be fooled by hype. If a method promises only weight-loss, and not some kind of improved, tangible fitness result, it is fraudulent. All methods are good for your health, as long as they do not harm you in the process. Injuries are inevitable, but they heal. Real harm is something else.
If you are interested in the possibility of training for the long term, on working on development, exciting new methods may be fun to try out, but ultimately they only become distractions and may interfere with your capacity to become skilled at a thing you value. A twelve week program might get you started, but it cannot hope to serve you for life. Pre-written programs do not help you follow your path and become the person you were always destined to become.
There's a reason I don't like golf, yoga and zumba. When I exercise, I just want to move easily. If it's something too complicated, something I seem to need to practice before I get good at it, I just don't want to do it. Put be on a bicycle where I can remind myself to stretch out my back, watch my cadence and be done with thinking about it. I've exercised a lot more in the past year or two ever since I gave myself permission to do whatever I want and not what I'm "supposed" to do. I figure the cycling I do and enjoy is better than the "better" activity I hate and won't do.
2/28/2014 09:28:41 am
Absolutely. What you are doing is absolutely more relevant than what you aren't. I like learning subtle and complicated things, but it's quite different from getting into your groove and simply doing your thing, that you know, which can be meditative, fun, relaxed or gruelling, depending on what you want and how you go about it. I remember coming down a long set of stairs on the Great Wall of China one time, and just bom-bom-bom-bom, step, step, step, and totally chilling in my rhythm. One of the best zen-in-motion moments I've ever had. Absolute focus and calm. And other times, similar activities have been frantic. Ramble-out!
I love this blog post. I have a question for you Chris. I am female and just turned 47 years old. I had a physical and my doctor told me that my cholesterol was borderline. So she told me to get 150 minutes per week of exercise to decrease my cholesterol and watch my diet. To give it 3 to 6 months and then if my cholesterol isn't lower we would discuss medication to reduce my cholesterol. I have exercised my entire life, but the past two years I haven't done anything. Reason, life situation, some emotional family issues that really had me down. So I am back exercising again, making sure that it is for my health not weight. So what are your thoughts on diet and exercise for reduction of cholesterol. She mentioned also reducing lots of sugar. I don't feel as though I eat much, but it makes me feel apprehensive to eat anything with sugar in it.
2/28/2014 09:56:22 am
Oooh, that is a good one!
2/28/2014 09:57:24 am
Here's part one of the doco, "Heart of the Matter":
2/28/2014 10:03:26 am
Also, re: sugar - there's a difference between having a high sugar diet that has no antioxidant/fibre/thingies in it, vs a high sugar diet that does have antioxidant/fibre/thingies/good fats, etc in it. If you're eating high sugar, the rest of what you eat is still relevant. Sugar is inflammatory, etc. but it can be balanced out by anti-inflammatory things. Without knowing your history, I must remain vague, I'm sorry. Of course, stress is problematic too. "Here's this thing you need to attend to, now try to be relaxed about it!" Groan. I hope it works out well for you. Moderation is a frustrating and vague word. Let me know if you have more thoughts, but know that my specialist knowledge in this area is limited.
2/28/2014 01:43:46 pm
By the way, it does sound like your doctor has given you good advice! Which is super. I think also stress is a big issue, and exercise is great neurologically for improving stress. There's just too much about body chemistry and the production of stuff internally that I don't know. Very few people do. Unfortunately, being ignorant doesn't stop people (us) shooting our mouths off!
Hi Chris, thanks for all of your thoughts. Sorry to respond late, I must have hit the stop alert for comments by accident. lol. I'm just going to do my exercise and enjoy it and eat well, Just consciously add more veggies, I was getting lazy in that department. I like most foods, not a huge fish fan, but I enjoy salmon. So I will just do my best. The internet can be a really dangerous place for information, I find so much anti medication info. Not here of course. :) I am not a doctor, I don't have my doctor's education, she is very nice lady and is only out for my best interest. I was only have a little sugar in my tea, I will try adding some green tea to my diet. I live in Canada, not sure if you have any suggestions that I may have here for the tea.
3/3/2014 11:06:11 am
3/3/2014 11:09:18 am
Oh! And remember: even if your cholesterol goes up, and even if you become sick, this is not your fault. It is not your fault when you get sick. That's only another lie that's told to punish disobedience. We all get sick one day - we are alive, illness is inevitable, and the fantasy that if you'd only behaved differently? Politics of control.
3/5/2014 09:22:33 am
Really interesting piece again, Chris.
3/5/2014 07:04:11 pm
I know, people love to slam ellipticals. Not quite sure why. I use them for warm-ups sometimes because I like the subtle twisting movement through the back, but I tend not to stay on them for long. The thing is - equipment is useful, and you use it to the end that serves you. Damn judgement!
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