Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Exercise Ecology pt 2

In part one of 'Exercise Ecology' I talked about the idea/concept of viewing the body from a systems science (ecological) viewpoint, and about how this effects how we view training and select exercises.

Today, I want to muse a brief primer to something that I find fascinating, and will no doubt be re-exploring many times in coming years.  That is, what type of physical training best prepares us for the rigors of the Information Age (or other future)? This is a general outline and musing, please feel free to post anything you think needs to be added, or is interesting. 

Well, firstly, I am thinking of a hedged bets style training, in case of long decline towards a salvage society and Ecotechical future. (Not reading the ArchDruid Report?? Why not?! One of the best blogs on the internet, IMHO).

So, training for salvage society via hunter-gather style natural movement training, and, training to buffer stress, enhance creativity and engender positive bodymind states.  This is cool, as I find all the natural movement/outdoor training; re-wilding and survivalist stuff fun! Training this way also engenders a certain degree of adaptability and general skill on a physical level, which by my reckoning carries over very well to mental adaptability.  

Training for mental agility and neuroplastic effects definitely makes my short-list of goals for training (for either Ecotechnical style future or Information age future).  Having a solid base strength, flexibility, agility and graceful (smooth, controlled movement) strikes me as a good foundation - then add in all types of skill and movement patterns from martial arts; yoga; athletics; climbing; hunting; sneaking about being quiet; archery/throwing; using small boats (canoe/kayaks); swimming; juggling; etc.  Keep at a skill long enough to get an improvement, notice when you are flagging in skill acquisition, and cycle on to a new skill - or have a strategic break and re-focus.  Play to strengths, but work on weaknesses. Nice expert generalism theme to all this (which I love!).

Exercising for nootropic effect goes well with physical training strategies for neuroplasticity, and teamed up hopefully buffer all the sights/sounds/things assaulting our nervous systems all day long.  Basically, using strength & conditioning; sleep; diet; lifestyle and bodymind practices in a sensible, and pragmatic way that avoids over-training and other un-healthy outcomes of training incorrectly, or too much, and aims to engender positive effects on neurochemistry and neurotransmitter balance in preference to very high levels of strength or fitness/conditioning. Principles of 'minimum effective dose' apply here.

Tom Myers, in his brilliant Kinesthetic Dystonia pt 2 article (which is on my 'essential reading' list, for sure), talks about a lot of what I've mentioned already (plus other cools things, such as how our PE system formed; the 'warrior-hero' ideal and agricultural society; and fills in some the back-story (if you haven't done that yourself already).  Do try to get a copy and read it.

He also mentions physical training to enhance creativity; embodiment (he refers to as somatization) and the need to move away from repetitive exercise in schooling, towards creative, explorative movements. Cool. 

I definitely agree with the movement training to enhance creativity aspect, and would put that as one of my primary categories for this topic.  Not just having regular 'movement breaks' away from the computer, or whatever project - but just moving; playing, being and feeling alive; moving about and exploring in an intuitive manner, and digesting information gathered mentally, whilst resting the cognitive aspects of the bodymind. 

The use of restorative methods and using lighter, more yin training types (qi gong/soft yoga/joint mobility/etc) for recovery from training sessions (and recovery from life in general - it can be draining just getting the groceries in the larger cities), and for their other positive effects on the bodymind. Also to buffer the increased speed and stress of this world of 7 billion and counting humans. 

If you don't have a sport or activity to train for, it might be worth considering an 'ecological' mindset for you physical training.  Most articles you read in popular media are touting on the industrial era 'body-as-machine' mantra, but me thinks that era is going the way of the dodo.  Why not start to think of structuring you training to help you with whatever else you do in these chaotic, speeding up times?

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