Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I just got over, most likely, some kind of rotavirus, and am on the mend. The upside to the rotavirus is that I was weened of my caffeine addiction and appetite for junk food. We'll see how it lasts, but I'm looking forward to a restful day of gratitude with the family, and, appetite-willing, some "re-fueling".

I hope you all have peaceful time with friends and family as well.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and Thank YOU!

- Boris

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Hard Work Making It Look This Hard!

I touched on the topic of falling to the ground, screaming in the fetal position in the post Walk It Out! There's more to "walking it out" after a tough set than the obvious physical reasons. 
The practice of looking pained does (in my experience and opinion) make things feel worse than they really are. And practicing it on a regular basis makes you better at becoming a crumpled, heaving mess on the floor. Not exactly what we're training for, is it?
I know what you're thinking - 'They can't help it! They've pushed themselves to their absolute limit!' I can't respond to this other than to say that, in some cultures, the crumpling-to-the-floor-thing is much more prevalent than others, even if we were to control for task-difficulty and fitness levels. I believe most people would concede this if we pointed to specific examples...
So, if it is true that they can indeed "help it", then why on earth would anyone want to do this on purpose? Because most of us come from cultures where hard-work, regardless of outcome, is praised and rewarded, and perceived light effort (aka "slacking") is punished. Conditioning (operant, not fitness) takes place early for many of us in gym class or in sports practice sessions. Observable effort and exhaustion (or at least the appearance of exhaustion) gets you an "ATTA BOY!" and in the showers early. Taken to extremes, injury can be rewarded with compassion and a lighter work load. Most athletes can remember a time when they saw their injured teammate sitting on the sidelines and thought "Damn, here I am working my arse off... he's got it easy....". Looking unruffled might get you extra "smoker" set as a reward, added (unwanted) playing time when fatigued,  - YAY!
In fact, there are really very good reasons to practice making something that's actually very difficult look like it's easy. If you believe that "perceived exertion" means anything at all (and some training templates are based on rate of perceived exhaustion scales so there is probably something to them), then it makes sense that you would want to do your very best to ingrain the habit of thinking that (and acting as if) 'it ain't no big deal.' Practicing this mind-set and reaction to strenuous physical exertion will make it easier to catch your breath and reset for further exertion if you choose to pursue them, or if they choose to pursue you... Just something to think about.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Man Who Loved Dragons

There once was a man who loved dragons. He built his house in the shape of a dragon. He made paper dragon kites and told dragon stories to children. He also loved to carve dragons. His reputation grew far and wide. Then, one day a dragon flew by, and saw the man's house in the shape of a dragon and thought it would be a good idea to visit this man who, he was sure, would be pleased to meet a real dragon. So the dragon landed and knocked on the door. When the man opened the door, he was so startled that he screamed and scared the dragon away.
- Zen parable
My students saw this parable recently and were puzzled. "What does that mean sensei?" My interpretation was that "the man who loved dragons" is a man who does not live in the present -he lives in a fantasy world. In truth, he does not love dragons, he loves the idea of dragons.
In the training industry, there are internet gurus who don't train anyone IRL (in real life), including themselves to any appreciable degree. Toiling away to create the perfect training split, dispensing advice freely and unabashedly from the safety of their keyboards rather than the sweat and tears of experience. In this way, they are much like our friend above who loves dragons but is scared of the real thing.
It's nice to dream. Plans, models, and reflections are comfortable, and they can be helpful. But, without actual dragons, isn't it all just an elaborate game of pretend?

Picture from