What are you ending this year? What are you starting the next? What will continue?
What have you learned this past year? What is still a mystery? What does 2018 hold in store for you?
I understand that our calendar year is somewhat contrived. Nevertheless, it holds a power over me. And it’s not just me, it holds our collective attention. And where other people focus affects my focus.
And so I turn my mind to the past year…and the next year. What do I want to change? What do I want to remain the same?
Did I head in the right direction? Am I going the right way now? How has the past year going to affect my next year?
This past year was one of the most challenging of my adult life. So many things that could go wrong…did go wrong. Want a partial list?
I moved-twice. Made less money than ever before. I lost an important adult friendship.
I developed a new pain issue so I wasn’t able to practice BJJ. Since I wasn’t able to practice BJJ, I lost my adult social outlet. And then finally, my Father died.
Many of the “downs” I experienced in 2017 were beyond my control. It was just part and parcel of being alive. Which leads me to the ever present question in my life: what can I do?
What can I do about my living situation? Money? Friendships?
What can I do about my pain? My Martial Art? My loss?
For every season, no matter the season, there is a question. That question is the same question: what can I do? And no matter whether I’m in the midst of a low point or high point, I ask that same question.
As the new year approaches and I think what I want to different this year, I’m asking that question. And the answer to that question tells me my first action. And if I can’t perform that action, I ask the question again. I keep asking until I find something I can do.
The basis of what is taught in The Movement is the relationship between sensation and motion…between every feeling and action. For every feeling, there is an action. For every seasonal problem, there is a question and there is an answer.
There is a problem with this…ok there are a lot of problems. The first one is a misnomer. Motor Qualities aren’t really qualities, they’re quantities.
These quantities are easily defined. There’s a key term used in all of these definitions. It’s not motor, it’s movement.
Whenever we think about strength, speed, endurance, mobility, and flexibility, the definitions can be a bit divergent…and complicated. But when you include just one word to their definition, it simplifies things. That one word is: movement.
Speed is fast movement. Endurance is repeated movement. Strength is movement against resistance.
Power is fast movement against resistance. Flexibility is range of movement or motion. Mobility is the ability to differentiate movement. Stability is the ability to resist motion.
You’ll see some rehab or corrective strategies that try to order these movement quantities. First, you have to be stable: so we’ll do these bridges or planks. And once you can not move from these positions – we’ll move on to the next phase.
In the next phase, we’ll work on your flexibility, so you need to get yourself into these positions. And once you’re in those positions, you’ll need to hold those for a set period of time, too. And once you reach those mile stones, it’s time to work on the next phase.
And in this phase, we’ll work on actual movement…but not the actual movement that injured you. You’re going to do this other movement…and you’re going to do a lot of it. Don’t get ahead of yourself…there’s a lot more phases to go through. Sigh.
Once you can do a non-related movement for a certain number or reps, it’s time to transition to the next phase. In this phase, you’re going to start assuming all of your previous activities…except of the one that hurt you. Good luck not hurting yourself.
When you’re completed this predetermined activity over so many days, it’s finally time to get back to the lift that hurt you…or that you can’t do. But can you really do it? What if it hurts?
Do you ever wonder if these assessments and phases of development are off? Way off? Isn’t the road back much, much simpler?
What if, instead of focusing on the whole of movement quantities, like speed, strength, stability, mobility, endurance, and flexibility….we focused on what makes up all those things: movement. And what if we focused on the specific movement we couldn’t do…instead of exercises that are “supposed” to help? What would that look like?
First, we would break down our pain inducing movement into its constituent parts. If it hurt to do a deadlift, we would look at the component movements of the deadlift…and not just the parts that hurt. Let’s say it’s a sumo stance deadlift.
Bare minimum, that would entail ankle dorsiflexion and extension, knee flexion and extension, hip flexion and extension as well as external rotation and hip abduction and adduction. And then we’d have to get more specific? Does this lifter move his pelvis when he deadlifts…does he move his spine?
When we’re looking at the parts of a deadlift, we have to look through new eyes. Just as a mechanic looks at a machine, we have to look at our bodies. We have to see like a BioMechanic.
All of these parts of a deadlift are movements. And we have to see which one is causing the problem. Is the ankles, the knees, the hips…if so, which one? Is it the back?
For a mechanic, he’s just take the old part out and put a new one in. But we can’t do that. But there is something we can do.
Most of the time whenever we have a part of our body that is in pain or restricted, we can’t just switch it out for a new part. Even when we can, the outcomes aren’t necessarily going to be good. We have to be more sophisticated about our bodies than a mechanic is about a car.
While a car only breaks down, our body can also build up. And when we have a part of our body that its broken down, we have to figure out to build it back up. And sometimes this is a simple process.
If we can figure out which complex movement is responsible for breaking us, and especially the parts of that complex movement which contributed most, we can simply do the opposite of those moving parts. What was flexed can be extended. What was rotated left can be rotated right.
Simply doing the opposite of a motion or components of the motion is often enough to resolve pain, but if we can’t do the opposite of the whole motion, how does we decide which part of the motion to oppose? And how do we decide when it’s time to start retraining the offending movement, or motor pattern? That decision is based on a binary.
How does it feel to do the motion? Does it feel better to do it…or worse? Our sensations should guide our actions.
This internal governor is far more reliable than any external government telling you how much of any particular movement quantity to perform. Not getting into pain or getting out of pain isn’t about motor quantities. It’s about a sensory response and how your movement practice should respond accordingly.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty” was one of my Father’s favorite sayings. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it means that it’s easy to know what the right thing to do was…after the outcome had been determined. The idea is congruent with, “Well, what I shoulda done was….”
My Father’s favorite subject was History. As a minister, he himself, was a history teacher of sorts. While I focus on science, I believe it’s important to know history.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain. He said, “History doesn’t repeat itself…but it does rhyme” (adapted). I believe that’s true. I also believe others’ hindsight could help our foresight.
Like me, my Father had physical issues starting in his early adulthood starting with his weight. His weight was a lifelong concern for him…as it is for many people of color. And he heard plenty of ideas about how to lose weight.
As far as diet goes, Dad did a couple things common for people his age. He did the grapefruit juice diet (a type of restrictive fasting). He did low fat (And OD’d on Snackwells).
As far as exercise goes, he did LSD (long slow distance). He did this first around the track and then later on the treadmill. This was “by the book” for my Dad’s time…but it didn’t do him much good.
He put off taking medication for as long as possible. He let things go far too long…things that medication would have helped, if not “solved.” Avoidance has major consequences.
He was hypertensive and it contributed to congestive heart failure. He had chronic tophaceous gout that not only deformed his connective tissue but likely his organs, as well. Both of these conditions could’ve been better managed with sooner and better with pharmacological interventions.
His health conditions left him less functional so he wasn’t able to exercise without bringing out more dysfunction…and this hastened his end. Towards the end, he was just trying to squeeze what enjoyment he could out of life. And a lot of his enjoyment came through food.
Most of the time, Dad put off eating until the evening and then feasted. Many others have utilized this same approach of a fasting and feasting window to great effect. But it didn’t work for Dad.
Most of what Dad did that didn’t work was by the book..but it wasn’t his book. Dad’s heritage probably made it to where he needed higher fat, low protein, and very low carbohydrate diet that would have satiated him. But you won’t find that in many, if any, books.
Dad’s body needed to exercise intensely for short periods of time most of the time. Maybe he needed to go a medium intensity for medium duration of time. And he probably needed to go low intensity for a long period of time very rarely…but again, it would be hard to find that in a book.
Now I could take everything my Father did and try to do the opposite. Instead of doing Long Slow Distance, I could do High Intensity Interval Training. Instead of having 1 large meal, I could have 5 small meals. I could go to the Doctor right away for every ailment.
I sort of tried that approach once. Whenever my Father developed Chronic Tophaceous Gout, I decided I would put my health first. So I followed a prototypical Corrective Exercise Approach.
You see, I was a by the book guy, too. Everything the author said to do, I did…to a “t.” 11 months later I developed a Chronic Pain issue that forever changed my life. If you’re going to be by the book…you better get the right book.
I’m no longer by any particular book. I’m by something greater…and far more dynamic. I’m by my body.
When I feel good, I eat higher fat, moderate protein, and lower carb. But when I feel bad, I eat higher carb, lower protein, and moderate fat. When I feel good, I do medium duration higher intensity exercise but when I feel bad, I may no do nothing or very low intensity short duration.
It all depends on how I feel…on my body. And if you follow my body, it’s like following a book. Don’t be by the book, don’t be by my body.
My Father was by the book. For a certain period of time, so was I. It cost us both…gravely. Let our hindsight contribute to your foresight. Don’t be by the book…be “by your body.”
(Newtonian) Physics is fate. Chemistry is fate. Biology is fate.
And yes, even psychology is fate. So what does one do when one is fated? How does one feel when can’t simply make his own fate?
There are certain things that are inevitable. What’s the old joke? Death and taxes?
When one is fated, it can feel like a certain kind of life is inevitable. You were destined to win. Or worse, you’re destined to lose.
How can we change our fate…if it’s fate? How do we alter our circumstances when we can’t choose our way out of it? It has everything to do with what you’re conscious of.
There are factors that shape our fate. Included in those are the time, the body, the geography, and the culture in which we are born. Those things are very resistant to change.
But there is one factor that shapes our fate that is the most accepting of change. That factor is our consciousness. Most of the time our consciousness is blown about like a leaf in the wind.
Whichever “wind” in our life is the strongest is what we’ll be conscious of. If we’re driving and there is a car wreck in front of us, we won’t be thinking about anything else. But most of the time, there aren’t stimuli that intense that require our attention.
Like anything else in our body, our brain changes with use. A part of what the human brain does is produce consciousness. And what we’re conscious of can dictate the direction of our lives.
Where some see problems others see opportunities. But how can we change our perspective, or what we’re conscious of, when it isn’t simple as choice. It’s all about advertising.
There’s an old trope in ads. It’s something like it takes 6-10 exposures for the ad to “work.” But what does work mean?
When and advertisement (or anything outside of you) works, it means you buy it. The multiple exposures bring it to the forefront of your consciousness…and you act. We can use this same strategy with ourselves.
Being conscious of something is an intermediate step in change. Conscious Incompetence, right? But there’s more.
It’s not enough to simply be conscious of something. Does that consciousness make you feel like you’re going to do it…or not do it? As Bruce Lee would say, it’s about “emotional content.”
If you want to do something…and it doesn’t feel like you can, find out which of these two directions are possible: Can you find out more about it? Or can you take some small step towards that thing you want to do?
Keep doing those one of those two things until it feels like you can do more. And keep doing more until you can do the whole thing. And a similar approach applies to stopping doing something, too.
If you feel like you can’t stop doing something, you have two directions, as well. Can you research stopping that particular behavior? Or can you take some small step in the opposite direction that would lead you to doing it a little less often, shorter, or with less intensity?
Odds are, you’ll find change possible…even with the reality of fate. But change isn’t as simple as choice. We can’t choose our fate. But our consciousness is a factor in our fate…and the more conscious we are of our fate, the bigger factor consciousness plays in our fate.
I am a Martial Artist. I’ve had multiple teachers and even been a teacher myself. I’ve been better than some of my teachers…but not all.
Most students aren’t better than their teachers. But if a teacher teaches long enough and more importantly, teaches well enough, the student will exceed the teacher. And some of those students become teachers themselves.
There is a mythos in the Martial Arts along the lines of this, “If you think I’m good, you should’ve seen my teacher.” Except that isn’t how nature works. That isn’t how evolution works.
Not every iteration nature makes is an evolutionary step forward. But over the long view of time, those things that work…last. The trend is always in the direction of more adaptive.
And adaptive, often but not always, means better. That means that over time, we should expect better. In sports, we see that.
There is often a phrase, “we’ll never see another _______.” For me, that was Michael Jordan. But since then, there’s been Kobe, Lebron. Given enough time, nature always produces better.
Evolution produces better in a few ways. And it produces better in a few ways for us, personally. But there’s one way I want to focus upon.
There are what is called adaptive mutations. Light colored skin (in the geographical area in which is was adapted) is an adaptive mutation. This allowed people to absorb more Vitamin D from the Sun. But this adaptation, or more accurately described positive mutation, wasn’t random.
There was a stress on the body, a need so great, that mutation occurred (not random). Not just one mutation occurred, but many. It just so happened (or what was random) that among a subset of people one of those mutations was light skin. It worked so well that this mutation became a part of their genome. In evolutionary terms, what works, especially positive mutations, lasts.
Evolution is about change, long term change, over time, a long time, that allows organisms to survive. It requires those organisms to alter their environment to make their lives easier. If they cannot do that, they have to change themselves to make life easier.
Sometimes this personal change is so drastic that they change all the way down to their genetic blueprint in order to live better. The premise of the text, EVOLUTION, A NEW TESTAMENT is this: in order to be happy (in all ways), you have lived in accordance with your blueprint. You weren’t just a product of evolution, you were built to produce evolution…thus, you should expect it.
This leaves you with two major edicts. Change your environment to match yourself. If you cannot, change yourself to match your environment. If you cannot, you must change yourself all the way to the core…or risk extinction.