Somanaut's Blog

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Perspective on Exercise

I used to lift weights. I liked it. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was still satisfying. Then I got hurt. I took time off. I went back, got some good results, got hurt again. What was wrong?

It was not my body, but my mind that was the problem. I pushed myself, sometimes casually, sometimes compulsively, but rarely skillfully. I did not apply my knowledge of bodily learning to my time in the gym. I got focused on short term goals, and lost sight of the importance of enjoying and respecting the body I have.

Our culture has a very dysfunctional relationship with physical existence. We look down on sweat, exertion, and physical skill.  Even worse is our take on physical pleasure.  The result is we don’t know how to safely enjoy the activity we need.

We pound our bodies, braving punishing training that works for a short time. Much of our information and techniques come from athletic training that is designed to produce results in a few weeks. After the season, there is time to recover. Athletes have very short careers. What is the wisdom in emulating them?

We lack training that takes a life long perspective. Risking serious injury for short term gains make little sense for non-professional athletes. Taking the time to learn to be active in safe and pleasant ways  is reasonable when we have decades to enjoy the results.

Our financial system pays great heed to quarterly reports. We are seeing some disastrous results from this short term focus. Likewise, training as if we have only this next season or year is risky and short sighted. Losing money is painful, but if an investment goes bad, we can move on. If our health goes bad, we are stuck.

Life long training needs to be learning focused. By creating a positive learning system for ourselves, we can enjoy attending to our physical health. Pleasure is a sign of organic success. Pain is a warning of failure. Appropriate challenges are engaging, but not destructive. There is nothing wrong with working hard, but it is critical that we are interested in the process. Intense effort demands attention. Inattentiveness leads to injury, and injury can accumulate. Our new training model must be based in awareness.


September 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. hi dan,

    i work a lot with athletes and active seniors who want to work out safely, here’s a “feldy training tips” worksheet i put together.



    Learning and Awareness

    Learning is a function of awareness. Through the process of developing self-awareness, individuals discover and learn new ways of using their entire self. Becoming aware of the differences between efficient and inefficient motion is the first stage of the long-term retention of any skill. Repeating a motion only has value after the motion had been learned. Allowing people to explore possible solutions is a critical aspect of the learning process. When it comes to learning, you may consider using a learning/exploration strategies even when looking for specific alignment and results. Awareness and self-discovery skills are far more useful than following a cognitive “how to” list.


    How to improve faster and get better results from your workout, whether you are training for performance, competition or just general fitness:

    •Differentiate: Avoid the “no pain, no gain” myth. There is a big difference between progressive overload and injury. An injured body develops inhibitions and compensations that restricts learning of skills.

    •Customize: Your body will learn in its own way, influenced by your own physical traits and your unique history. Don’t expect that your body will be able to do each exercise exactly the way your coach could, or the book you read described.

    •Focus: A casual workout will bring casual results. Know the purpose of each exercise, whether it’s to strengthen, stretch, or develop muscles or to improve your coordination or balance. Be sure that you are doing what you are intending to do.

    •Refine small movements: Each sport has small movements and skills that are its integral parts. Even drills can often be broken down into more specific portions. Create routines which allow you to refine each small movement, so that your body knows each one backwards and forwards, literally!

    •Allow the body to learn naturally: Start each exercise with its simplest movements, using repetition to anchor the pattern of movement. Gradually add the more complex or intense elements. Don’t feel you have to rush.

    •Increase your Precision: Attend to the details of your skills – your breath, the shifts in your weight, the stretch through various muscles and the corresponding contraction of other muscles. Awareness is the difference between “going through the motions” and really experiencing the skills. Coordination developed through the use of awareness with precise movement is recalled in a competitive situation.

    •Rehearse Mentally: Use your imagination to refine your skills. Being able to create your ideal performance state (including thoughts, emotions and muscles) enables you to regain control in a sport setting.

    •Rest: Your body integrates what it learns during rest periods. Take care to give yourself adequate time. You’ll be surprised how much better you can do after a little break.

    “Make your training a habit. If you choose a convenient time, you will be able to abide by regular exercises. If you make it difficult, you will soon find a-hundred-and-one alternatives instead. Occasionally break the regularity. Do not make your habit a compulsion.”

    -Moshe Feldenkrais

    “There is work for a whole lifetime until the whole back and chest truly
    participate in a full image. In other words, the same amount of time is needed to be an artist in the control of the body as an artist in physics, music, art, or anything else.”

    -Moshe’ Feldenkrais, D.Sc.

    Comment by dwight pargee | September 14, 2009 | Reply

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