Sunday, February 19, 2012

Break.Through. (originally written for Juno Fitness)

What is an athletic breakthrough?  Is it completing more reps, winning a match, lifting heavier weight, losing weight, gaining muscle, running faster, passing the CPAT?  Or is it tapping into the mind-body connection and working intelligently within the physical system to strategically create a breakthrough performance? 

Culturally there is a huge push toward working hard in the gym, burning tons of calories, manning up to ass-whooping workouts that leave participants lying on the floor in pools of sweat unable to remember their own names.  Everyone gets a reward for this type of behavior, be it in the form of an ego pump, a reprieve from feeling lazy or the relief that bodies can actually go that hard when driven.  Of course, there is a fitness level that comes from this too, which is *generally* pretty good. 

The effort in the extreme workout is laudable.  Participants have learned how to face physical exertion and endure discomfort - the opposite of remaining sedentary.  Culturally, that is a leap which deserves positive recognition.  The challenge is in preventing those workouts from becoming leaping points to physical disconnect at which point they cease to advance athletic development.

Athleticism implies a mind-body connection.  One of the compelling factors in consistent physical practice is the flow state or the zone.  In the flow state there is an interplay between challenge level and immediate feedback which provides a deep sense of satisfaction.  As we improve our athletic development, aiming for the flow state keeps us in a healthy range.  If we move out of flow, we move into something more like force or strain and there is a split between our mental/emotional engagement and our physical exertion.

John Douillard, author of Mind, Body and Sport recommends breathing through the nose during physical exertion (when possible - some sport specific technique doesn't support this).   Breathing more slowly allows more oxygen to enter the blood stream and keeps the pace of our movements consistent with what we can be present with.  As technique improves and physical adaptation develops, we move more quickly with this breath style.  

Developing athleticism does involve hard work.  There are points of significant physical discomfort.  The difference between strategically crafting a breakthrough performance and going balls out without a plan is implementing intentional mind/body connection and sport science.  

Next time you hit the gym ask yourself:
What is my big picture goal? 
What is my goal for this workout?
Where does this workout fit within my big picture goal?

Ask us to help you pinpoint where exactly you are in relation to your breakthroughs.  How can we help guide you toward improved mind-body connection in the midst of your badass workouts?  We want the whole package, and we want that for you too.  

written by Carey Rockland for Juno Fitness

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lemming Rebels

What goes on for you when rejecting a fitness or nutrition plan?  What uncomfortable feelings come up when you consider following one?

Is there some idea that following a plan is an admission of defeat, like your way didn't work? Will you lose your edge? Is it finally time to grow up and do the responsible thing? Is it an admission of aging?Will you become a boring spokesperson for a boring life?  Are you afraid it will be uncomfortable?  Is there an aesthetic component that is either compelling or frightening?

Those are some thoughts I brought up at our Athletistry meeting yesterday. I asked myself why I sometimes step away from the Ayurvedic nutrition and supplementation I have available.  It was an exercise in understanding mindset.  We went deep into why we sometimes encounter aversion to our own practices to better understand what our clients might sometimes feel.

At one point I mentioned that if I did everything right I would no longer feel like a rebel.  Then TJ said that during her time with Noah Levine he said or conveyed that: "The strongest form of rebellion is to control your own mind and body."  She said that many lemming-rebels historically have thought they were rebelling when in fact they were succumbing to mass marketing.  For example, marketers sold rebels-past on the image that smoking is cool.  People smoked, funded tobacco companies and died from it.  That was not well thought-out rebelliousness.

When we weed out the false concepts that block us from taking action on what we actually want, we make progress.  Accessing personal power can require blowing through some tricky BS, but more often than not, it evaporates upon analysis.

What blocks do you put between you and your health?  How can they be unraveled?  What is waiting on the other side?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Women's Self Preservation

Sharon Sanghera (of Vincit Magazine) and I just launched the Women's Self Preservation Program.  Last weekend we presented a seminar called, Venus Tactical Training, which covers incident prevention, de-escalization and self-defense.  It's cool to work with a room full of women on movement and mental strategy to become more aware of safety and surroundings.  The Women's Self Preservation  Program also offers courses and material on exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, empowerment and leadership.

I never thought much about doing single sex programming before even though I went to a women's college.  One thing that got my attention was an interview I did with the Sweaty Betties and Leticia Ribeiro for Vincit Magazine.  The Sweaty Betties are a women's only grappling group affiliated with the Gracie Humaita fight team.  They brought 6 x World Champion Leticia Ribeiro to South San Francisco for a women's only grappling camp back in December.  The experience of 60+ female grapplers learning from a female world champion was unforgettable.  The Betties conveyed what it was like to train almost exclusively with men and the breakthroughs that suddenly occurred when they made a point to train with other women.  

I have been grappling/practicing BJJ for about seven years now, and for much of my instruction I have been one of very few women on the mat (this is changing).  My process around grappling began with getting used to full contact and spacial awareness.  My childhood socialization did not cover it and one season of recreational rugby barely scratched the surface.  I remember my first boxing experience around the same time - I was learning to spar and every time I threw a punch I would laugh and apologize.  It was automatic.  I remember noticing that the guys were not having that problem.  It took a few months to feel as though I had reached neutral ground in my relationship to the contact that occurs in combat sports.  More girls are being raised with the option to explore these sports, but it will still be a long time before this becomes common.  Sport participation or not, girls and women should have a sense of the space around them, know how to "hold base" (maintain balance) and space, and be reasonably prepared to handle physical contact if necessary. 

Creating a space for women to learn to defend themselves is powerful.  It creates a safe container to develop physical awareness with others doing exactly the same thing.  This is not martial arts, per se, but it is human movement, mindset and emotion.  We do have men in the class assisting, and we will open some programs in the future.  Right now, the specificity is compelling and effective.

We look forward to evolving this project, and we are excited about what is possible.  Info on upcoming seminars may be found on our website, our FaceBook page, and Twitter: @WSPreservation.