Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Book Report: Leonardo da Vinci

Walter Isaacson’s book Leonardo da Vinci may not have anything to do with fitness directly.  It’s a biography of the quintessential Renaissance man:  artist, scientist, engineer, anatomist, visionary.  It’s also a really good book full of fascinating details and gorgeous pictures.

I’m writing about it because there are at least two aspects of Leonardo’s work that can apply to fitness (no, not that the pictures are of extremely good-looking people).  One is his attitude toward combining theory and practice.  Leonardo was largely self-taught.  He read books and discussed theory with the experts of his day, but he also put a huge value on experiment, which allowed him to improve theory based on data and to interpret data based on overarching theory, enriching both processes.  When we attack the work of the body, it is helpful to know and use the theory and then to test it out on our bodies, seeing what works best for us.  When we think about goals and how to reach them, when we concentrate on what is happening when we move, we learn and progress faster.

The second aspect was scrupulous attention to detail.  When we work to perfect our form, good things happen and bad things don’t.  We can treat ourselves like masterpieces, worth the effort.

Maybe I’m reaching to make connections where none really exist.  I’m okay with that.  This was a great read, deeply inspiring.  Check it out.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Get home before dark...

When I was a kid and I was naughty, my mom sent me to my room (at least until she realized that I kind of liked going to my room because there were books in there and my little brother wasn’t in there).  Her goal, of course, was punishment because she believed it would lead to better behavior.  I definitely believe in better behavior, but I’m not sure it comes from punishment.

My new plan to get better behavior from myself—yep, I’m a grown-up and I have to monitor my own actions—is to send myself outside when my behavior needs modification.  A great many things can be improved by a walk, whether it is a quick round of the block or a more extensive tour of the neighborhood or a hike.  Outside exercise is more effective for reducing depression.  There is a whole raft of data about the benefits of “forest bathing.”  For me, I think there is something about sunlight and fresh air.

I know I’m not the only one who could benefit from a little more outside time.  The days are getting lighter.  The time has come!

Anybody want to go out and play?  I’ve got a football and a Frisbee…

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Training to Fight the Power...

Most of us, in our culture, have too much stress.  The best way to cope with stress is to do the hard work of figuring out how to make systemic change so we don’t have to deal with the same levels of stress any longer.  You know, feed the hungry, empower the powerless, reduce the inequalities, find meaningful and remunerative work, all that stuff.  Sadly, that stuff is beyond the scope of my professional practice.

Dealing with the stress in the meantime, however, can be helped by fitness practices.  Here are three to get us started.

1.     Do cardio.  It improves mood.  It gets “the little gray cells,” as Poirot would say, in top working order.  It will make us faster when we do decide to run away and join the circus.
2.     Eat decent food.  We all run better with an appropriate balance of protein, fat, and carbs.  Cooking is a grounding experience.  When we eat with other people, we can reconnect with our families and friends.  Commit to what is good for us in the long term.
3.     Work on strength and flexibility.  These two skills make us feel more powerful.  When we are strong and flexible in our bodies, it helps us apply the same ideas to our minds.

We can do this.