Saturday, February 20, 2010

Youth wisdom... better yet, youth fun

I became aware of The Peckham Experiments after reading Josh Leeger's blog the other day. The Peckham Experiments were a series of studies done in southeast London in the early to mid 1900's looking at the health of the working class and everything that contributes to it when people are given access to a quality 'community'.

After reading through some of the information on the site, I came across a few paragaphs that I was completely amuzed by (I had to smile) and I think epitomizes the wisdom of young children and how adults need to take a lesson from the youth; being too "adult-like" in particular...

Here are the paragraphs from the site (even a well-directed recommendation regarding bare feet):

"A boy of 11 leaps through the air from a swinging rope and lands on the ribstalls; three boys are sitting contently on the top rungs of the rope ladders, five girls are playing a game on the 'window frame', while three girls and two boys have a large light ball and dodge among their fellows as they play; two groups of boys are wrestling on the mats; one boy is using the punch ball and five small boys leap from horse to swinging rope and back again."

"The gym was conventionally equipped, with ropes and rope ladders, suspended from a ceiling two storeys high, wall bars along two walls, a 'window frame' reaching almost to the ceiling and covering one end wall. There were booms, vaulting bucks, balancing forms, parallel bars, a punch ball, coconut matting and so on and an ingeniously sprung cork-covered floor. For the sake of the floor and to enable the children to use their toes for balancing and gripping and to become sure-footed, a barefoot rule was rigorously enforced."

Few adults wanted to use it, but for the children it was a great playground. Although a young physical education teacher was appointed shortly after the Centre opened to teach gymnastics classes, only a few turned up for them and then not very eagerly. She therefore introduced a game called 'Shipwrecks', placing all the equipment so that it was possible to move around the gym without touching the floor. She quickly dropped the idea of having a 'catcher' as the children did not like being out. They played this day after day and when the teacher left in the autumn of 1936, no-one replaced her. "It was found unnecessary to have anyone minding the children as they played. At times they played shipwrecks, trying out new movements - monkey-like leaps and swings- as they played, but mostly they worked individually at devising new skills and actions, being 'Tarzan' or 'Jane'. They practised these acrobatic skills hour after hour and day after day, placing the movable equipment to suit their needs.

Some of the equipment was used in a way for which it was not intended and which horrified conventional teachers of gymnastics; knots were tied at the ends of the climbing ropes, for example, which after a time, could never be untied. "

... and I would say to the kids... "keep tying that s**t tighther" ... hahahaha!!!

These paragraphs reminded me of Frank Forencich's blog post I alluded too in a previous post; "Just don't do it: the case against exercise".

Do you think the Peckham children did not get physically educated? There's some giant lessons to take from this.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You can't teach speed?

"What gets measured, gets managed." -Peter Drucker

How often has one heard that speed is genetic, or that you can't coach speed. It's probably the most dogma related human skill; something that either you have or don't. Sure we can make someone stronger, more mobile, better conditioned... but speed? Not a chance...

Is it the one untrainable human quality or does it lack the proper attention? Why do track athletes even train if one can not get faster?

In the weightroom, the athlete has immediate feedback, did I, or am I completing the task? i.e. squatting 405 for 1 rep. For the athlete there is always a “gauge”; the weight. Strength training becomes a skill for which there is constant and immediate feedback, for quality 'learning' to take place… increasing one’s myelin production.
With speed work/sprinting, how often does one have an immediate feedback mechanism or “gauge”? Is the athlete always sprinting against or after a measurable indicator that is immediately available to the athlete’s sensory systems for adjustments and corrections, or in the case of something as fast as a sprint, “I need to be moving faster”; like a lure or rabbit in greyhound racing. Or racing an individual who is slightly faster, which gives the athlete the IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK; is success being attained or not. This would allow for the skill development or ‘learning’ of speed, using greater intention to accomplish a specific task.

Without an immediate, obvious, and available indicator, the athlete has not much direction to channel intention. With the available feedback, i.e. racing an individual slightly faster or going after a lure, may also shift attentional focus from an internal focus, to an external focus, which has been shown in motor learning to enhance performance.

How often do athletes work on speed, and when they do, are they just guessing that they are going their fastest? Or is it 'hoped' upon that the work in the weightroom will magically create the speed. An example in collegiate sports is the first year freshmen's first practice in college. It's completely evident by the speed of movement who the freshmen athletes are. But over time this distinction becomes more and more blurred. As a strength coach I would like to think it's the training they are doing, but my guess is it's the fact that every day in practice they are competing against faster competition... FEEDBACK. Day 1 they know they are getting their ass kicked in every way possible, and that if they don't bring the proper intent with each move, play, shot they will be 'exposed'. It's the feedback and the subsequent adjustments (increasing one's standard and volitional output) that lead to the improvement in speed.

Then, ultimately the question comes, "faster in what?" A 40 yard dash, fast to a 50/50 ball, faster reaction to a line drive?

It's about training to a different standard. It's the athlete who is always looking for the best opponent(s) to challenge... to 'grow' one's self requires the proper environment and mindset to have and seek these challenges out. Playing with/against faster opponents, racing the clock, basically anyway that can be compared or measured. The weightroom is easy; the poundages are there, loaded up on the bar, with feedback readily available. The key for speed is finding the challenges which provide the feedback and having and taking advantage of the opportunity to develop this skill.

As I think it was Dan John who said, "I said it was simple, not easy."


Monday, February 15, 2010

President's Day Variety

Just signed into Twitter... I should know better... it just fuels my ADHD. Anxiety triggers all in one place, haha!! So without further ado...

-Speaking of ADHD, it's just another symptom.

-The invention of the chair; another top suspect in the long list of our society's ills. The teams I work with are not allowed to sit on anything that resembles the posture of that seen in a chair. If a person's going to sit, it's going to be on the floor... and not against the wall.

-Frank Forencich wrote an excellent post on his blog titled, "Just don't do it: the case against exercise".

-Variation. The most important principle for health.

-Some days on my lunch break, I drive (I drive... isn't that sh**y) by a local elementary school and am enamored by the children playing at recess. This time of the year, the kids seem to flock to the piles of snow; climbing, pushing or jumping off of, making forts, etc... must be something to playing on hills, not sure exactly what (have ideas), but I'll trust the kids on this one.

-Sets of 4, 7, 9, 11... the obscure rep numbers.

-Well, teams are trained for the day, I am off to pick up my daughter early and we are going sledding.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Less work, more play

Here's a link to a good post I read at Scott Berkun's blog.

Should Americans get more vacation?

If many of our ideals and values are to remain the same in our country, we need more thinking like this. If American's are getting more time off, maybe... just maybe, we all would be more apt to increase our physical and social (true social activity... actually being in proximity with others to communicate without the use of technology) activity. If we are to make any type of change for the betterment of our health, our "leaders" need to adopt more of this type of thinking.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Movement Adherence

It's interesting... as our knowledge and understanding of the details of everything health and fitness get deeper, our country (or Western society as a whole) becomes more 'unhealthy' everyday.

Just take things from a medication perspective; what's one of the greatest challenges modern medicine faces? Prescription adherence.

A major problem is that exercise programs are essentially a prescription, leaving traditional exercise in the same category as medicine. Prescription adherence is, once again, the barrier to healthy movement.

As a culture, we need to find new and different solutions to our lack of movement, and prescriptions of programs are probably not the answer. Sure some may enjoy their 'programs' but collectively I am not so sure this is a sustainable option, and while a motivated few adhere, many are back to a sedentary life shortly after the New Year. It's important to find movement that one enjoys and that other's may enjoy as well. A person must find ways to work movement into everyday life. Just as Daniel Goleman's new book Ecological Intelligence suggests of ways to be better ecological consumers by knowing what we buy, where it came from and what it's effects are on the world; our society needs a shift in consciousness towards a "movement intelligence" in which we understand the importance of movement on our health and well-being, and have the consciousness to be able to make viable decisions within our current environment to attain greater frequency and diversity in our daily movements. Even more important is finding opportunities to get more play into our daily lives... however this is a great challenge, and would be for another discussion entirely, as the speed of life continues to increase and leisure time drops, leading to a decrease in community, which leads to a decline in all things health...

Its education and it needs to come from all places and people. Maybe something similar to what was done with smoking in our country? ... not sure, but we need to work on something...

Personally, as a strength and conditioning coach, I spend much of my time on searching and testing for the most effective ways to get the athletes better (speed, strength, power, agility, mobility, conditioning, nutrition, FIXING DYSFUNCTION... both 'physical' and 'psychological' and the interplay of those two) and what psychology is necessary to get this done... but many times this effort seems very futile. I mean coaches (both sport and S & C) want athletes to perform better and better, yet so many of today's athletes are or have been affected by our sedentary culture; a large decrease in free play outdoors and have learned awfully poor nutrition ("diet intelligence") habits growing up that we are now, as sport and performance coaches, we are to some extent working with 'unhealthy' people.

The thing I continually see is every expert coming out with more and more abstract information and products to fix this, improve that, when all they are is symptom fixes. Maybe we as coaches need to be redirecting our efforts to where it's needed. If we as coaches, athletes and fans really want to see the BETTER performances, the physical culture in our country needs to improve collectively. It may seem selfish on a sport level, but it's really not, because an improved physical culture (as you and I know) isn't just about improving one's physical fitness; it's about improving community, and the likelihood that people/children will be more active physically and socially, leading to better, healthier humans... which in the end, is a much improved canvas in which to create 'beautiful art' in whatever it is one may choose to pursue.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010


In the history of humans, this is the way we are supposed to run. Absolute grace and beauty.


Monday, February 1, 2010


The following was sent out last week after we had a snowstorm which started as rain/sleet and turned to snow, subsequently leaving everything ice covered... ahhh... North Dakota.

What this brought to my mind, which is sad, is the fact that we have become so 'disconnected' with our bodies and ability to move that we need "experts" to tell us how to do EVERYTHING. (... and to cover everyone's ass so that no one gets sued because someone moved their OWN DAMN BODY wrong)

The weather has caused icy conditions on our parking lots, roads, and sidewalks. We will continue to salt and sand to reduce the slipperiness as much as possible. Please report any hazardous conditions to Facilities Management at ***-****. There are some things that you can do to help reduce the risk of falling on ice. Here are some helpful hints.

1. Wear boots or overshoes with grip soles. Slick leather or rubber soles on dress shoes are unsafe on ice.

2. Don't walk with your hands in your pockets. This reduces your balance if you slip on the ice.

3. Take short to medium steps, or shuffle your feet in very icy areas.

4. Don't carry or swing heavy loads, such as large boxes or cases, which could cause you to lose your balance when walking.

5. When walking, curl your toes under and walk as flat-footed as possible.

6. Don't step on uneven surfaces. Step well over or avoid curbs with ice on them.

7. Place your full attention on walking. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by texting, talking on the phone, getting your keys out of your pocket, etc. while walking on ice.

Once again, observe young children. When it's icy they know what to do, or they learn real quick. Children who have yet to be 'scarred' by our culture, know to slow down and if they don't, they fall with grace and skill because of their excellent mobility... and can survive, to learn from their mishap, and play another day.