Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ahhhhh, sleepless nights

This is what happens: one of my two little ones (usually my 11 1/2 mos. old son) wakes in the middle of the night and I can't get back to sleep. My mind starts racing at a speed I just can't seem to control and I lie awake thinking, just thinking, trying to make connections... so instead of just thinking I am typing... this blog post.

- It's interesting... the idea is to continually get better at something. Athletics, business/work, parenting, whatever. The whole idea is that we are never satisfied and want more. The problem is, we are always looking ahead, yet the best of us only comes out when we are content; desiring no more or satisfied. This 'state' puts us completely in the present and gives us a chance to be/work/play in a flow state or 'in the zone'. Yet paradoxically, being content or totally consumed in the present is what really allows us TO improve, at a high rate. Contentment means we are ready to accept the change of one state to the next... improvement.

So this might sound odd to those that are always preaching improvement, but... be content and realize that getting better will happen. Because to be content, there can be no faking it and whatever it is you really enjoy, getting better is and will be the only option. ... so the moral is, find something you truly enjoy, something you love, otherwise you're wasting everyone's time and energy and certainly aren't doing the world any favors.

- I am completely amused by the sheer number of methods and systems there are in this field I work. I guess it's the logical outcome of a culture that has started by working larger to smaller and the hope is to 'tackle' the 'big picture' by breaking it down into the smallest of pieces. There's many different movement systems and training methods all fighting to memetically infect themselves into the user to manifest to be the end-all, be-all answer... or more simply, to make more money than the next. What I find as a coach, is it's liberating to not have any financial or emotional connection to any one method or system. This allows me to learn freely, while applying freely, what might seem necessary at any particular moment and time.

What gets lost in the "chest beating" guruism is the environment, tribe and individual. How can any one system perfectly match the specific context and individual(s) background? It's like the seperation of studies in Western culture. Great... psychology, but what about physiology. Ok... physiology but what about psychology. Awesome psychology and physiology, but now, what about ecology? How about culture and religion? Socioeconomics is a factor. The list could go on and on (and it's here)... but these are factors that need to be taken into consideration as a coach. All of these create an individual(s)'s backdrop and gives them THEIR perspective. And their perspective can and will change the outcome of any one system or method, or even specific diets or responses to certain foods. All aspects of everything are relevant... Fields such as psychoneuroimmunology are starting to ask the more 'correct' questions and see things from a broader perspective.

And... I must consider all these as a coach and test out different methods, but I really think it ultimately it comes down to coordinating self-exploration and understanding. This is where true learning takes place. In individual sports, this is paramount because to really, really be successful; one must figure out what they REALLY want and need. Within the team setting it's finding this balance of me and my team; what's best for me and what's my sacrifice to give to my teammates. My job as a coach is not to dictate, but to assist in this exploration, utilizing the means and methods necessary; not pigeonholing things into one system or way of doing things.

- With all that being said, athletes frustrate me when I'm not so sure they want to be there. Please don't waste my or your time!

- Josh Leeger had some absolutely excellent posts regarding teaching, communication, animal behavior, and science. One aspect was questioning science and how well it is actually "communicating" to people to create change. Sure a study or studies say this or that, but how many people really do something different because of it. Basically as Josh said, "Science is not a field of activism. It is a field of questioning and answering."

Here are some of my thoughts I posted:

Alright, I am going to try to make some connections here; with this post and your last post on teaching and communication, because I think you bring up some great points/questions.

I think it’s a situation in which science does not tell a “story”. Stories require emotion and that will not get a “scientist” published in a “professional journal” (using my low voice and straigthening up my collar). Case and point: for years now, performance coaches have been touting barefoot training/activity, but the problem has been that all of it has just been ‘rationalizing’ it with all the “scientific” reasons it’s important. Then comes along Christopher McDougall and he writes a STORY which just so happens to promote barefoot running/activity. “Born To Run” took the science and plugged it into a ‘tale like’ narrative that made people laugh, cry, grow anxious with suspense and excitement, made many angry (at the shoe industry and doctors telling runners ‘otherwise’) and most importantly motivated people to get out and run barefoot. Even though there was plenty of science, it was the emotion that drove this story to become “A MOVEMENT”.

… and all this ties into communication, because as you said, 97% of (effective) communication comes from emotion. 87% from body language; which again as the word emotion means ‘to move’ or ‘motivate’ and another 10% from tone; as I would argue is emotionally driven as well. Taking the body language, combined with our powerful mirron neuron system and tone of communication, emotions become the driver of all our ‘movements’. Darwin even pointed out the power of emotions in his work “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”.

So in order for science to work it needs to be communicated through stories. It seems as though science is just fuel for rationalist thinking. I don’t necessarily think rationalism is always wrong, it’s just that I think emotional communicating in the form of storytelling is an important key to getting massive action, change and improvement. Choose the right weapon for the specific battle.

An aside… I’ve had these discussions with my dad; but I think at the most fundamental level, Obama beat out McCain because of emotion. Taking, again your post on communication, Obama had better body language (the guy is an athlete, you can see the way he moves himself and McCain… well… he just can’t move period; not to be offensive in any way from his prior situation) and a more emotionally powerful message, which created the tone. These two combined (body movement and emotional tone), communicated to the majority better than McCain. Obama rallied people around “hope” with his unflappable and warm smile, and energetic body movements. All his followers’ mirron neurons just engaged these emotions into their bodies, and just ‘felt’ he was the man for the job.

… just my theory anyway.

- Female athletes have been challenging me lately... and it pisses me off. Not the ladies, but culture. Our culture sucks on a lot of levels and when image is of as high of importance that it is, real training is difficult. This ties into many of the factors I discussed above. The materialistic belief system runs deep.

Alright, I am getting tired again and I'll need to be up in another couple hours. Hopefully none of this is too confusing; I'll probably wake up tomorrow, check my blog and wonder WTF went on, on here...

Get some sleep,


jleeger said...

I've noticed the trend you mention in science as well. Scientists like to chase the dragon's tail, instead of look down its throat.

That is, there seems to be a predominance of research about "symptoms." How many studies have been done on single-rep versus multiple-rep exercise, for instance?

But is that really "science?" Or is it just people keeping themselves employed.

Science, to me, would seek to identify what causes muscle to adapt to different stimuli, at the most basic level. Then, knowing that, you can apply that knowledge to any other level.

So, if you do 1 set of 500 hindu squats per day, or 3 sets of 10 barbell squats...you've affected the musculature very similarly (as long as both situations are the same level of "overload" for that individual).

But the movement pattern seems to be even more important. What most people consider a barbell back squat only goes to 90 degrees at the knee joint, while hindu squats, or Olympic squatting collapses the knee joint entirely.

Oly squatting collapses both the knee and hip joints, while hindu squats leave the hips relatively "open."

But also...what are the neuromuscular implications of loading with external resistance versus using bodyweight alone?

What are the sensorimotor implications of doing either one with shoes on versus with shoes off?

Why not just do hill sprints all the time?

Here, I've gotten into specifics, as modern science tends to attempt to do. However, the variables are endless and overwhelming, and worse, different for each individual in their particular time and place.

Science should focus on root causes, and leave the details to practitioners.

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...


I'll send you a pretty good paper.