Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Non-Book-Report: Not Pushin

(This photo is a detail from my vision board from the quadrant about my fitness goals.  I chose the images because they are about yoga, and include tree pose, which is really really hard for me.  I think the photo works better than I could have known at the time I put it together for what I have to say today.)

I have a whole big pile of books that will feature in future Friday Book Reports.  If I didn’t care about finishing my notes before writing, I could write about one of them today, but I’m going to apply one of the ideas in that very same book:  not pushing.

Not pushing is hard for me.  If doing something is good, clearly doing it harder and faster and more must be better.  Maybe not.  Sometimes we need to be patient, like with a shy puppy.  We need to be present and let the puppy come to us when she is ready.  We can let the situation unfold gradually.

Or, to use a different analogy, some steps in construction take curing time.  Concrete isn’t ready right away and hurrying it causes problems.  (Does anyone remember the sign on 880?  “Stop Casting Porosity?”)  When what we are doing is worth doing well, sometimes it is worth doing slowly and with patience, respecting the materials we are working with (even, or especially, when those materials are our bodies!).

What are we doing today that could benefit from a little not-pushing?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A little negativity can go a long way...

Most of the time, I like to focus on what we are doing right.  We all need encouragement and really, enough negative voices already exist.  But.  Sometimes it is useful to have a list of the common mistakes.  Here are a few things to avoid in our workouts:

• Choosing the wrong weight.  Sometimes we really want to use that bigger dumbbell.  The thing is, when we pick one that is too heavy, we have to use bad form to lift it, which can cause us to recruit other muscle groups, reducing the effect on the targeted muscle groups, or, worse, get injured.  When we use weights that are too light through an unfounded fear of bulking up or because we’re being lazy, we just waste our time.

• Always doing the same thing.  Our bodies get bored.  Yes, it is nice to go to the gym and zone out and get it over with, but the point is to improve.  Autopilot is not the road to excellence.  If we’ve been doing the same workout for more than six weeks, we need a change.  Switch from machines to free weights.  Swap the treadmill for the bike.  Go hiking.  Change is good.

• Using bad form.  I know it isn’t fun to be picky.  It’s even less fun to mess up knees or tear a rotator cuff.  Paying attention to the joints and keeping them properly aligned saves a world of pain and suffering.  Yes, it may mean that we have to use a smaller weight (see that first item, above) when we do the exercise correctly, but we will get real gains, not fake ones.

• Skipping the stretch.  We have lots of reasons not to stretch.  It’s not like it takes a lot of time, so we can always do it later.  We’re in a rush.  It can’t possibly be that useful because it feels good, and isn’t gym stuff all supposed to be horrible?  Here’s the thing:  strength is pointless without range of motion.  We all get less flexible as we get older, and we are all getting older.  Let’s not doom ourselves to having someone else tie our shoes for us.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The quality of form avoids strain... (sorry, Mr. Shakespeare...)

We’ve made it a couple of weeks into the new year.  I hope we are all persisting in building our new habits or continuing to work our previous good habits.

At first, when we start working out, the very most important thing is to show up.  What we do and how we do it are far less crucial than just getting it done.  Of course, that’s just the beginning.

Once we are used to doing the work, we have to start paying attention to the quality of that work.  There are good reasons for this, including not getting injured and using time effectively.  Something will certainly happen if we wave weights around at random, but it may not be what we actually want.  Paying attention to where our joints are, which muscles are working, and where the challenging bits are can make our workouts safer and our bodies stronger and cuter.

We can do this.