Training Intuitively Part Two.
I wanted to write more about intuitive movement, but I wasn't sure what to say. Apart from 'do what you love', how do you instruct someone to move intuitively? How do you encourage people to move, to exercise or train, in a way they find enjoyable and satisfying? How do you know where to start, if you don't like to exercise?
I have known so many people who are resistant to training because they feel trapped, constrained by the feeling that they have to do this thing, this thing that they hate. That they must spend 30 minutes on the treadmill, on the bike, or 'doing' weights, and for what? Improved health and vitality? There are so many different programs out there, and it's crap. Which is to say it's all good, if you like it, but if you don't - it's a complete waste of your time to train. You won't get a thing out of it, except for more negative associations. And where will that leave us?
"Oh, but at least you'll be training, and even if you hate it, the exercise has to be good for you - physically?"
You hear that kind of objection. I don't buy it for a second. This thing, that I call me - the body and mind aren't these two separate things. You can't do something with your body that you despise, that makes you feel trapped and abused, and be working towards your health. You just can't. This is why I don't go to boot camps, and it's why I don't run them. I don't want to sacrifice my autonomy and own good opinion for the sake of burning calories. Those fucking calories.
Train when it's fun. Don't train when it isn't. Finish your session when it's still fun, not when you've squeezed all the joy out of it. Not when you're too depleted to care.
I saw a clip the other day, it was all about that whole 'you gotta want it' stuff. Really? How is 'wanting' it more going to grant me the skill of applying myself to a task with commitment and dedication? How is it going to help me break down my program into realistic and efficient steps for progression? What happens if I stop 'wanting' it - do I stop training? What happens if I 'achieve' it? How is 'wanting' it superior to enjoying it? How is 'wanting' it superior to intelligent program design? Or superior to moving with joy and spontaneity?
Everyone seems to think that they need to be hard on themselves if they're going to get anywhere. They need to punish themselves, push through failure, do this extra set of whatever whiz-bang blah-de-whatzit, that is the secret to lasting badassery.
Where does it get us? Anywhere at all? I've done the 'push through' stuff, disciplined myself to training, and now I'm training in a way that I actually enjoy - now I'm stronger and faster than ever before. I'm working on my own weaknesses in a way I enjoy, I'm working on weaknesses while playing to my strengths, and I've progressed not because of discipline, pushing or punishing myself, but because of self-education, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of what I like, in the moment. Not what I 'want' in some sort of vague future-success, athletic-based-badassery capacity.
What does it mean to have a real experience of exercise? It's like mindful eating. Firstly, there's no such thing as exercise that isn't real. A distracted experience is just as real as a focused one. All experiences are valid. An idle whatever is no less useful or worthwhile than a dedicated and concentrated thingy. If you're paying attention, you'll learn something, and if you're not paying attention, who cares? Who wants to concentrate all the time? How does that help make things fun?
Sometimes a light, distracted jog is great. Sometimes dedicated and focused skills-acquisition is what I need. Sometimes it's many simple repetitions of a hard exercise. Sometimes with friends, but mostly alone these days, doing my thing. I never liked team sports. I don't play well with the other children.
What is the free, unencumbered physical expression of emotion? And is that a goal worth working towards, anyway?
And how do we undo all the damage that calorie counting has done to us, as a society, and as individuals? How do we rehabilitate our idea of training?
For answers to these and other questions, simply purchase my $1000 program 'How To Fix Everything That's Wrong With Everything'.
Note: program may not actually exist.
Read Part One.
Read Part Three.
7/4/2012 11:16:57 pm
This question of wanting "it" and, more importantly - "what happens if we achieve it?" - I have only just begun to understand what happens, and I think it's the biggest lie we're sold, the idea of achieving "it" - the perfect body, lasting fitness, lasting change. Nobody wants to think about or be shown the answer, because it's not glamorous: it's football players whose careers are done by the time they're 30, who thicken up and get health problems like everyone else; starlets who hit 35 and are "too old for Hollywopod" so they turn their bodies into fitness machines only to be criticized by the media for being too "stringy" or muscular and yet they have to maintain that dedication to "fitness" because it's that or stop and get soft and plump; it's me and my sporadic, tired relationship with exercise, feeling like I'm not fit enough because I hardly ever go to the gym and hardly ever really "work" and pretty much never "want it" and yet every time I actually *test* my "fitness" it is awesome - I can sprint multiple times and recover super fast, I can lift heavy shit, I can work harder than ever before. I just don't do it all that often, because when you can work that hard, working out gets...confusing. We're meant to "want it" and "kill it" each time we exercise, but that's easy when you're not very fit, I guess? I've had to make a real effort to dial back my workouts and exercise intuitively, because exercise is good for me, and I need it, and I need it to be sustainable. And of course, though I seem to have this "lasting fitness/change" that everyone says they want, my body composition isn't magically ripped and shredded and cut and all those other apt terms for what happens when you starve yourself which has nothing to do with exercise.
7/5/2012 07:25:23 am
And the conceit - don't have the result you want - well, "did you try wanting in harder? Do it harder! If you aren't thin, then you didn't want it enough". As if that's all you have to do - but we're not encouraged to actually think, we're encouraged to keep hitting our head against a brick wall, we're told that thinness is achievable through strength of will, through blind obedience (don't question it, don't do that, because then you might discover there aren't any answers) and we're told that it's worth it, despite the measurable and very real damage it does to all of us. Oh, it drives me nuts (clearly)!
7/6/2012 05:39:09 am
However...my own experience is that starting to train again after a long absence (and sometimes even maintenance) is seriously un-fun. I'm fat, I work a desk job, I live in a city where we drive instead of walk, and I have been through periods where training was not an option for me for whatever reasons. So to start--again!--with any form of exercise can be really painful. And it takes several months for it to start to feel good again.
7/6/2012 12:43:44 pm
I think training intuitively can absolutely include things you don't enjoy - Ragen Chastain talks about that sometimes on her blog, that there are things she trains at that she wouldn't if it weren't for dance. I think that's where "wanting it" comes in - what you want is to be able to do something you love that fulfills you and satisfies you (hiking, dancing, whatever), but in my view at least, the idea of getting thin or buff or whatever isn't the same thing, there's a distinction to be made. You can sustain doing things you don't enjoy for the sake of doing something else you love, but the goal of being thin is really just about more hate. So I don't think you're being too literal, I think you're asking important questions.
7/6/2012 02:40:34 pm
Funnily enough, I was going to reply with a big squats rant! But Aiyesha kinda beat me to it. Kinda.
7/6/2012 02:45:22 pm
.....developing your glute (butt) muscles. Only 'do more' or add more into your training if what you're doing is inadequate for your progression. This way - even if it's not fun, at least it'll be efficient.
7/6/2012 02:47:24 pm
Eeek! That was convoluted. I'm not sure if I managed to express what I wanted. Still, use your sense of enjoyment or satisfaction as a guide, even if you're negotiating waters you don't really like. Fire away questions if you've got 'em!
7/9/2012 09:15:01 am
No, that was pure awesomeness! Thank you Chris and Aiyesha for your suggestions. I am going to definitely check out the squats, which frankly I have avoided for years because of my creaky knees. But I wonder what you suggest for calf development. Because we like hikes with a lot of elevation gain (and because I struggle with plantar fascitis), I find that I get really flat footed (no spring in my step) unless I do some maintenance during the week--usually in the form of toe raises. In your opinion is there a different exercise that would work as well or better?
7/9/2012 11:52:09 am
I've never found calf raises to be particularly useful, and I suspect poor quality calf raising led me to some issues with my plantar fascia too. If you're going to do them (if you find them helpful), don't let your ankles roll out to the sides - ie. keep your weight over your big toes, and keep your ankles aligned straight above your feet. It's harder, but I think it's better for alignment.
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