May newsletter: learning and reading list

Learning is a topic that fascinates me. There are many concepts I have struggled with over the years, such as the anatomy of the shoulder, and how exactly the central nervous system works. While I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert in either of these topics, repeated exposure through different educational tools (books, youtube lectures, online courses), writing about the concepts, and using the concepts to teach others has improved my basic understanding and knowledge surrounding these topics substantially. Once in a while a client or friend will ask me a question that 6 years ago would have resulted in me muddling my way through a coherent answer and I find myself answering with ease. This always surprises me, and I find myself asking, “when did I actually finally KNOW that? Is this the result of continued reflection, reading things that are slightly out of my comfort zone, or some combination?”

Motor control and learning is similar. I learn best by exposing myself to things in a variety of ways; despite the fact that I know this, when it comes to training, I prefer to do the same sequence, the same way, every time. This does nothing for my understanding of the material (in this case, the motor skills I am working on). Since I know this, I force myself to a) follow someone else’s program, so I don’t default to the things I “like” to do in the way I “like” to do them and b) I change my physical location of my workouts often. If it’s an option, I will workout outside. If it’s not, I change my physical location in the studio once in a while, so I don’t get stuck and continue to learn. Research suggests studying in different places leads to improved retention. It would follow the same would be true in motor learning and skill acquisition. As humans, we like patterns and routine. To be better at a specific skill, however, we might benefit from not allowing ourselves to become too habituated. 

Wishing everyone a summer of outdoor exploration and learning,

Reading list:
A few of the blogs I enjoyed this month:
(Great hip mobility suggestions at the end).
If you work on flexibility at all, you should follow Dave Tilley. He’s on fire with great information for improving integration and strength in populations that tend to have more mobility than strength (he works with gymnasts, but the information could very easily be applied to dancers and yogis).
Injuries are a huge bummer. Great, short piece on ideas for dealing with chronic injury.
Good piece on the kong vault, but more importantly, a glimpse into how changing your strategy can change your success with a skill.
There is something to be said for this. At a workshop last weekend, it was mentioned the Finnish (I think) instruct their athletes to relax during the deadlift, rather than develop as much tension as possible. And they are lifting heavy weight. Interesting thought.
A little bit of inspiration.
The tibia rotates. This can cause the toes to turn out. Worth a read.
Excellent read on resilience.
Did I mention this guy is on fire?

I read the follow-ups to “War of Art,” “Do the Work” and “Turning Pro,” by Steven Pressfield. They re-iterated much of the information in “War of Art,” but were great reminders that creativity boils down to turning off distractions, sitting down, and doing the work.

“The Brain’s Sense of Movement,” by Alain Berthoz
Not an easy read, but the concept of perception and how it relates to movement was fascinating.

One final note:
I am releasing movement classes, once a month, on Vimeo, available for purchase here:
The first one explores the breath and spine, drawing from several different disciplines. If you are curious about my Move Better class series, this is an opportunity to explore the concepts in the comfort of your home.