Thursday, December 22, 2011

Authentic Restoration

An intriguing area of focus in sport performance is what is going on at the level of the heart and the autonomic nervous system; the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic control of the heart influincing heart rate variability (HRV). Some of the research points towards low-intensity movement targeting aerobic metabolism as an effective way to increase vagal tone therefore HRV. In the "advanced" world we live in, the first choice seems to be some piece of "cardio" equipment, but I am going to argue (as I have before) something much simpler and potentially more effective; a hike through the forest.
My disdain for these electronic rat wheels runs deep, and I can not figure out why there hasn't been a more holistic push to get athletes (all people included) outside to take care of a little stress and enhance recovery.

Walking through the woods most definitely rids of the useless repetitive stress that occurs on some machine. It also doesn't confine mobility, as anyone who has walked in the woods knows, there's varied size hills to acsend and descend, fallen trees to step over, brush to duck under and slide around, and subtle contours of the forest floor to massage mobility into the foot and ankle... all entangled in the serenity of nature; opening up awareness to a primal sensory experience of flora, fauna, sun, and fresh air. As the Japanese call it, Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. But this isn't just some alternative medicine hocus pocus, as there is a lot of hard evidence pointing to the powerful effects of nature on human well-being; things like lower cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate, and an increase in HRV... among the myriad of possibilities that lower stress allows in increased mental and physical creativity.

I recommend checking out Richard Louv's two classics, "Last Child in the Woods" and "The Nature Principle".
 We are great at piece-mealing things together, but we need to dig deeper, and get more real and less artificial with our approach to human performance and wellness.



Mladen Jovanović said...

Cannot agree more Aaron. I do feel 'nature call' especially when I am burned-out. Time alone in the woods/wilderness is something in our human nature (I don't know for females, but it seems we males have this urge: some of us fish, some of us hunt, hike, camp, mountain bike or whatever). We need to get in touch with our wild nature. No new age bull, but something that we evolved from.

Josh Leeger said...

Funny you should post this. I was just hanging out with the Barefoot Sensei today talking about the same thing.

We have some ideas...

First among them - Want to bring an Exuberant Animal to the Dakotas?! Let me know!

Jared said...

Good Post.

You taking your own advice here? Walking the walk ? :)

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

I agree Mladen, something we evolved from and are completely apart of.

I am all ears Josh, we need to talk.

Jared, multiple times in the last few days. I've got pictures and video... albeit not the grand locations your environment provides.