Sunday, February 23, 2014

Renewing my body while tearing it down--playing the "phoenix" game and trying to win

A very long time ago, when I led youth-at-risk wilderness trips, we were often told as instructors, that we had to tear the kids down so they could renew themselves.  I hated the process.  I felt the whole phoenix obsession was bullshit and didn't think, by forcing the kids to hit rock bottom, they would naturally come out a stronger or better person.  I saw it in a similar light to how I saw/see the thought "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger".  It was Russian roulette and the cost, was at times, the kid's psyche.

As a trainer, I've spoken about this many times.  "No pain, no gain" has no room in my training regime.  Pain IS NOT GOOD!  It is, first and foremost, a red flag from the body or mind.  If you don't listen to that red flag, consequences will most certainly occur--maybe not right away, but sometime.  So here I find myself, at the end of a long winter, unbalanced in my body and weak in non-linear movements.  What to do?  First and foremost, as an active individual, I want to prevent pain.  I'm okay with feeling discomfort or "muscle awareness", I just don't want to become injured as I begin to ramp up my training.

On this quest to balance my body and prevent injury, I decided to take a "creative calisthenics" workshop taught by Ben Musholt.  I went into the workshop with a pretty good idea of what we'd be doing.  Friends of mine have been involved in capoeira and parkour for years, and although I teach yoga, I've never--forgive me for this pun--taken the leap.

I don't consider myself "body stupid", the movements I do in and out of the gym are usually calculated and smooth.  I tell people movement is like tying a rock climbing or sailing knot--if it's pretty, it's effective.  Yet "body stupid" is exactly how I felt during this workshop.  I didn't trust this collection of flesh, bones and muscle I've been carrying around for almost forty years.  It was almost as if I was being introduced to a stranger.  To get to the point, I was humbled.  And that's good!  It proves to me I need to get cracking and work on non-linear movements...a lot.  As a cyclist and runner, most of my movement is stuck on a continuous loop of forward propulsion.  Outside of teaching yoga, I rarely ask my body to twist with momentum, spin or invert.  Now, I realize what a disservice I've been giving my body and mind and things are about to change.

The morning after my workshop, I woke with some mild muscle awareness, meaning I felt muscles I hadn't worked properly in quite some time.  And yet, I headed to the gym to practice again, performing a thirty to forty minute workout, mostly on my hands.  This, I thought, could be addictive.  It's almost as if I were a child with a new toy on Christmas morning.  "Play, in all forms, will keep me young" was my mantra as the sweat began to drip from the tip of my nose.

I'm going to try and keep this stuff up during cycling season.  It's stuff I don't have to be inside four walls to perform--which is very appealing once the ground is snow free.  I'm hoping it will not only free my body, but also my mind, as I undertake hours upon hours in the saddle.  Although this type of training is not new, I still need to thank Ben for being at the right place, at the right time--here's to teaching an old dog new tricks!

You can find Ben's book, Mad Skills, here.  If possible, take one of his workshops as well.  You'll thank me for it!

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