Friday, February 4, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life!

Variety is the spice of life and the same is true with an activity (exercise) program.  The best way to ward off boredom and meet your goals is to change things up.  Remember, that exercise is simply something you haven't done before but that doesn't mean just do one thing over and over and over again.  There are several ways to include variety in your workouts but before we get to that lets have a little lesson on 'Motor Learning'!  All these years of learning have taught me that there is one major thing that influences the activities people select and it is (drum role please!!) (now we go to commercial, just like TV shows, building the suspense)  People don't like to Look Stupid!!!  There you go, how genius is that!  But, I find it is actually True!  It hits people in varying degrees but it is always there!  Here is the problem, there is a set pattern of learning movement that has been studied over and over again and the first phase no matter who you listen to is the 'cognitive or mental' stage.  In other words we learn the steps involved like a recipe and we follow it step by step, consciously thinking of the next step.  We might as well call this the 'ROBOTIC' phase because that is exactly what it looks like!  It doesn't look very good but it is an important step in the learning process, if you try to jump this phase you will never have full command of the movement later.  So set aside the American ADD (the need for instant gratification) and realize that it will take time to learn a new movement and its OK to laugh at ourselves as we are learning.  Everyone learns at different rates but you CAN learn any movement if you are willing to put in the practice.  It is estimated that to truly master anything it takes 10 years of specific practice (that is to be world class) and yes it is true for everything from mastering the piano, to learning computers, to the Beatles!  So, knowing this give yourself a break and try some new things.  Remember, we are not talking "exercise" here we are talking activities because the more activities we do the more CALORIES we BURN!!!  Dancing (check), walking (check), hiking (check), martial arts (check), yoga (check), and on and on and on.  But here is the funny part, we like to do what we are already good at, so the strong people, they go lift weights and the very flexible people they do to yoga and Pilate's and the people who have a ton of experience dancing, they go dance.  I'm just saying if over all fitness is your goal then you need to mix it up and keep trying new things then it will be a lot more fun reaching that goal. 

Back to the motor learning, after the 'mental' phase and with enough repetitions a strange thing starts to happen!  You don't have to "Think" about every little step any more and the movement begins to look more fluid (second phase of motor learning)  now if you keep practicing eventually the movement becomes 'automatic' where you don't have to think about it at all.  This is the problem, we see someone do a movement and think 'wow, that was cool, I bet I could do that' and then we try it and we look 'goofy' and can't seem to do it.  Now its decision time, we either proclaim the whole thing "stupid and a waste of time"  (translation:  I just embarrassed myself and need to get the hell out of here) or we ask "show me that again" and we try to figure it out (enter the motor learning and the robotic phase).  If our ego doesn't get in the way and we actually truly practice the movement we can learn anything.  Think about this why is it that when a baby starts to learn any new movement, let's take walking for example, its a huge event and we constantly cheer every slight improvement!  We clap and cheer and video tape and call our family and friends when they take a step. But, something happens as we start getting older, we lose patience for kids trying to learn new tasks or movements.  You hear it every where "NO, NO, NO, I told you to shoot the basketball this way or swing a bat that way" and the granddaddy of them all "how many times do I have to tell you!!!"  I just keep waiting for the kid to turn around and say 'according to research, about a million!"  We are just as hard on ourselves "I'm so stupid, I just can't get this" or "I'll never get this".  Give yourself and the kids a break and realize that the more complex a movement is, the more time it is going to take to perfect it.  You cannot and will not have Tiger Woods (I know, but he does have a great swing) or Phil Mickelson's swing until you are willing to put in the hours and years of experience with top coaches, to constantly refine the movement.  But then again that really isn't the goal here now is it.  So, go out there and make your self look stupid, learn new activities and laugh at yourself along the way and when the 'critic' tells says your not very good, tell them your just a baby!

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