Archive for July, 2010

Garbage in, garbage out

July 29th, 2010 No comments

According to a recent story, the principal at a Wisconsin high school reduced fighting, weapons-carrying, and general lack of focus and discipline in the school by changing the menu.

Here’s the article.

Categories: modern life, nutrition Tags:

Shake your booty

July 26th, 2010 No comments

When I run, I’m always concerned about form … not so that I can look good or please some God of running, but so I can feel relaxed, run efficiently, and above all, avoid injury. I evaluate my form by checking my bounce, the sounds made by my footfalls, but mostly by looking for tightness, imbalance or tension in my body.*  If I didn’t do Zhan Zhuang (standing practice), I would be less equipped to notice these feelings, because with Zhan Zhuang, you basically have nothing to do except notice those feelings. Well, that’s simplistic, but you get the idea.

While running, one of my challenges is to reduce the feeling of tension I get in the back side of my body as I run. I feel pretty good when I run, but there’s a lingering effect of tightness back there which I alleviate when I stretch afterward. But why do I have to stretch this out? It’s not the running itself that’s causing the problem, it’s how I’m running, what I’m doing when I run. Either I’m off-balance fore & aft, compensating for the imbalance, or just habitually tensing things back there for some reason … maybe I do that all day.

In cases like this, usually my answer is to change the form, relax the body part, or do a combination of both. The challenge with the relaxing is to still keep doing what you’re doing, whether it’s running or just standing up. If we relax too much, we may lose connection & structure, and create too much motion, leading to a need to compensate in ways that may create more tension … or we may injure ourselves due to eccentric loading that would come from too-loose form.

Well, the other day, I noticed something while running: my butt was jiggling.

It wasn’t much, and it might not have been visible. But with each step, I felt a tiny jiggle back there. So I thought I’d pay it some attention — nothing more, no change in form, just relax enough so I could sense the vibration there.. As I did that, I was able to relax it a bit more, and a strange thing happened: I felt a tiny increase in speed. It was if I had removed a restraint of some kind. I also felt smoother, and after the run, the muscles at the top of my glutes didn’t need as much stretching.

It’s all about cues. We all can use some kind of trigger or cue to do what needs to be done. In this case, for me, it was to pay attention or be aware of the softness of a body part. Whether it was fat or relaxed muscle, I don’t know, and it’s not important right now. I’ve discovered something that I’ll look into again.

Of course, I could only sense something this small because I had spent a lot of time looking inside while doing Zhan Zhuang and slow exercises. Also, I’ve made keeping a calm mind a priority. Without that, we can’t feel inside the little places. If I were a religious man, I’d say that that’s where God is …

… in the little places.

(* The sharp-eyed reader may recall that I’ve advocated the idea of “just running” in the past, where the runner attempts to run in a natural fashion without too much intervention. However, I currently believe that in many matters, we flow between two states: a training state and an execution state. In this case, when training the correct, natural form, we study, examine and correct to create good, natural habits, but when executing, we act according to current habits but occasionally act according to nature if we learn to “get out of its way”. The whole thing is a process of discovery. I’ll clarify my position on this in a future post.)

Categories: fitness, interdisciplinary, running, Yiquan Tags:

Talent or affinity?

July 22nd, 2010 No comments

Once a week, I teach a college course related to my work. Faced with the energy of 22 young people at or near the end of their schooling, I often have to evaluate their readiness to enter the work environment. What often comes to mind is the question of their relative level of talent. Some are talented in areas directly related to the course, others have more peripheral talents, leading me to wonder how they will proceed after graduating. Will they apply themselves according to their talents?

… but the word “talent” comes with some baggage. Normally, we associate the word with the arts, success and a clear path obvious to all, if not the talented one.

Associations can be useful, but in some cases, they’re a burden, preventing us from seeing possibilities. Is it no less valid to consider a talented mechanic, manager or mining engineer? Sure, within a field, a person may be considered talented by his/her peers, but outside the field, our use of the word “talent” may discourage some from seeking their true calling or exploring their gifts.

Instead, I prefer the word “affinity”.

There is less baggage associated with the word affinity, and it is more of a direction than a classification, burden or goal. If someone has an affinity for something, to me it implies that they are able to explore that direction to the best of their abilities, while if we say someone has a talent for something, they are now required to perform to a prescribed standard, and that they have a responsibility to perform, lest they waste the talent.

“Affinity” can also be applied, without judgement, not just to an occupation, but to a number of occupations. To say that someone would be a talented accountant is restrictive, but to say they have an affinity for numbers is much more open, and allows the person to explore his/her affinity within a number of occupations at his or her own level of skill.

It says less about what you are, and more about what you have. Consider that, if you will.

Categories: a little clarity Tags:

A little martial philosophy

July 8th, 2010 No comments

Occasionally, I come across some martial philosophy that applies to more situations than an impending blow to the privates. For example, here’s a quote from Bruce Lee, who created the martial art Jeet Kune Do:

“Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.”

This next quote came from Bruce, Krishnamurti, the universal ether or was paraphrased from (or to) Twelve-Step programs:

“Research your experience, absorb what is useful, reject what is useless; add what is specifically your own.”

Finally, this comes from The Healing Art of Tai Chi:

“Relax, breathe, feel the ground, do nothing extra.”

The first quote was new to me, and I shall reflect upon it. The second quote has worked for me given my desire to learn from many sources and determine the elements common to those sources. As for the third quote, although I think it’s one of the best to recall while practicing Tai Chi, it often requires some reflection to determine what is … “extra”. However, after some practice, what is “extra” becomes easier to separate from what is essential, or of the essence.

Categories: philosophy, Tai Chi, Zen-like stuff Tags: