EXTREME STRESS

stress-largerI’ve been in extreme stress lately. Not really the acute type. More the cumulative type.

A big part of the stress is that I had lost my coping strategies. When I was feeling distressed before, I would cope. But now, I can no longer use those strategies.

I’m in a new situation. I can’t do my same old things. I have to do something new…or suffer the consequences.

It when we’re at our lowest that two things can happen. We can go all the down to the absolute bottom (death, how dramatic). Or we can change directions.

We can go up. We can bounce back. The further the fall, the harder the crash…or the higher the bounce.

But in order to go back up, we have to go back up a different path. That path may be external, like a new job, or a new relationship. Or, that path may be internal.

We are not called to evolve when things are easy. We’re called to evolve when things are bad, really bad. They’re so bad we can’t solve them as we are…we have to become something different.

This isn’t how evolution works most of the time. The overwhelming majority of the time those who win, or even survive the game are those who are born to do so. It’s Darwinian.

But it’s when things are at their worst when evolution can be Lamarckian. Lamarckian evolution happens under extreme stress. This extreme stress makes us into mutants.

Under this extreme stress, implicated genes start to mutate in as many ways as possible. If one of those ways can solve the stress, the organism rewrites its genetic code in the structure of the solution. I think this is analogous to life lived at our magnification.

Whenever we’re under extreme stress, we’ll try everything we know to do. When that doesn’t work, we’ll try…whatever. We have to solve the problem before the problem becomes a problem we cannot solve.

And if we do solve the problem, we are forever changed by the solution we find. Extreme stress leads us in two directions: extinction or evolution. So if you find yourself at the bottom, know that if you can make it long enough, you can come out the other side evolved, better, and more…than you ever were before.

Fan Or Follower?

fan-or-followerFollowing has a bad connotation. It makes you a follower. Who wants to be a follower?

Consider this. You follow people on social media. You’re their follower.

When they call for your attention, you give it. And we spend a lot of time on social media (the internet). Thus, we spend a lot of time following.

But what are we following? Are we following politics? Fail videos? Cute cats?

If we’re following them, where are they leading us? Are they leading us towards better? Or are they leading us to worse?

By better, I mean feeling, thinking, and acting. After you follow whomever, when you go their direction, does it lead you in a better direction? Having followed them, do you think, feel, and act better?

I’m currently dealing with a host of stressors. Many of these stressors I have little to no influence over. When I ponder them, I tend to spiral down.

And when I can get a respite from my stressors and my stress (myself), it helps. That respite may take the form of music, a podcast, social media, or an interaction. But those same methods of relief can be methods of procrastination.

I can find myself behind on my output and toggling between these methods. That, in and of itself, isn’t a problem. The problem is it’s then when they don’t make me feel better or act better. I’m following…but I’m not liking where I’m going.

When I find myself in a place where I don’t want to be, I know at least one thing. I need to change who or what I’m following. And who I need to follow is always the same.

Whenever our attention is outward for too long, we can be attentive to ourselves. We can’t be following ourselves. That’s when it’s time to tune in and turn in.

As long as I like where I’m at, what I’m doing, and how I’m feeling, it’s a good bet I’m doing a good job of following myself. But the second one those things change. My attention has to change. I have to stop following others, and start following myself. And that kind of following is the best kind of leading.

(IM)PERFECT FORM

Bn8vC4CCUAABfe7There is a lie in the fitness industry. It may be the greatest lie it tells. If you use good exercise form, you won’t get hurt.

Here’s the truth. What’s the perfect form for any exercise is somewhat different than anyone else on the planet. In fact, if we’re looking with enough granularity, perfect form for you is different every time.

What the industry tells you is the perfect form may be the perfect way to maximize leverage but it’s dependent on one thing. You have to be perfect before you do it. You gotta be sinless before you “come to Jesus.” Now some of you may be calling BS.

“I’m not taught perfect form, I’m taught to scale my exercise.” Really? Are you sure?

Scaling exercise usually entails doing a more leveraged version of that exercise. That could be a pushup from the knees instead of the toes. Or it could be a 1/4 squat instead of a full squat. But are those the only, or best, ways to scale exercise?

What if extending one’s spine needs to be scaled? What if standing symmetrically needs to be scaled? What if so much scaling is necessary that the idea of form needs to be abandoned entirely?

I think the idea of “perfect” form, at least, needs to be retired. And when that is retired, I think we’re going to find a lot of other elements of exercise that will naturally retire themselves, too. And things will return to a far simpler, yet more diverse time.

Whenever we retire perfect form, we stop looking outside for what an exercise is supposed to look like. We change our perspective and focus on what really matters. We look inside and see how an exercise feels.

If it doesn’t feel good, or right, we change our form. We change it until it feels right and good or we don’t do that exercise at all. And when we can’t do one exercise, we look for other exercises.

We stop looking currently in online articles as the best way to do one of the dozen or so exercises we already do, and start looking for other exercises entirely. We may look at alternative equipment like kettlebells or clubs. We may look at other fitness trends like calisthenics or gymnastics and start learning those. Or we may look to the past and see what exercises Old Time Strongmen performed before they fell out of fashion.

Whenever we start feeling how exercise affects us, we start feeling that aspects of a press may feel good, but not all of it…and so we modify it. These modifications leave the press looking less like a 1 Arm dumbbell military press and more like a side press or bent press.

Or our squats may look less like a PL SQ to parallel and more like a hindu squat. Our lunges may look less a forward step and may look we’re bending down and tying our shoes. And our deadlifts may look like how we carry furniture and less like how we are told to pick up a barbell.

And even more interesting things happen when we start lifting this way. The lifts don’t leave us with niggling pains or strange soreness. We don’t feel the need to warm-up, or prepare for the lift…and this does away with a whole segment within exercise.

When I was in youth athletics, we would “warm-up” with calisthenics and stretching (often static). At the end of our practice, we would “cool-down” with more stretching. Times have changed, though.

Warm-ups and cool downs have given way to pre-hab and recovery. But I don’t think pre-hab and recovery practices are all that more intelligent in concept or application than warm-up and cool down. I think they’re all based on a limited view of movement.

Every movement one does is either good or bad for the user. If that’s the case, why would we need to prehab or warm-up for those motions? And if we’re only moving for as long as its good for us, why would we need to recover or cool down?

When we look at a movement practice as something that hurts us, warming up, prehab, cooling down and recovering makes a lot more sense. But when we stop trying to do a movement a perfect way and just move in a way that FEELS perfect to us…and stop moving when it no longer feels perfect, we’ll find that exercise does what it was intended to do all along…it makes us better.

All movement, when done correctly for the individual is corrective exercise for that individual. Exercise has no universal perfect form. Exercise is only perfected when the individual finds the form that is perfect for them.

NO COMPARISON

comparisonquote_blog2We compare and contrast all the time. She has better skin than me. He makes more money than me. Her kids are better behaved.

We’re often warned against comparisons. “Don’t compare your blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel.” Comparisons lead us to feeling worse and doing worse.

I want to offer a thought experiment…that is either already an actual experiment or someday will be. I hope it gives you some comfort. I hope it reminds you that when it comes to you….there is no comparison.

I have a hypothesis. It’s based on logic and history…long history. We evolved from tribal systems.

Within these tribal systems, people had roles. These roles were integral to the survival (and “thriv-al”) of the tribe. My hypothesis is when people have a role, a necessary role to fill, they compare and contrast themselves to others less so than a place where people have no necessary role to fill.

This leads us to our thought experiment. If you had a role that you could fulfill and that role was necessary to those around you, how would you feel – better or worse – than you do now? And would you compare yourself to others – more or less?

Let’s say you believe that if you had a group to belong to and a necessary role to fill, then your life’s work would be in that direction. But the only constant is change. And groups have changed and are changing as are roles.

No longer do we have just one group to belong to or one role. But groups and roles aren’t the only things changing. The groups and roles are changing because the environment is changing.

The environment is changing largely because of technological innovation. And all these changes, groups, roles, environment, technology, etc., are changing us. That puts the onus on us to change with it.

For some that means catching up. For others, it means helping others to catch up. If you don’t have a group to belong, a role to fill, you have some work to do. That means either changing your self or utilizing / innovating technology, the environment, and others to create a new group(s) and possibly a new role(s). Either work is work for which there is no comparison.