Newsletter, July, 2017: Intuition versus evidence


I have been reading (and having conversations) lately about the value of evidence versus the value of intuition. Most practitioners fall heavily (and loudly) on one side of the fence, with little tolerance for people on the other side of the fence. Either every single decision has to be evidence based and the only logical solution for “why” to do something should come from a peer reviewed journal article or text book OR the practitioner “feels” out the situation and “intuitively knows” what to do. The why doesn’t really matter. It just works “because it does.”

There are values to both ways of thinking, though I would argue those of us that have practiced and studied for several years draw from both. When I first began writing and putting myself out there, I was seeking the why behind everything. I wanted answers. I studied systems, rooted in anatomy and research, that promised their way was THE way. I quickly found that, though there were takeaways from all of these systems, they never completely encompassed the pieces to get people moving well, without pain. There was always something missing in the systematic application of principles, and even with careful application. I frequently found up feeling myself stuck in my effort to get people moving well. (Before I go on, I should note perhaps the application of the principles was lacking in some way- the problem with being largely self taught is user error is a very real thing). 

During this time, I also read research, textbooks, and books on anatomy, biomechanics, and human nature voraciously, searching for the missing piece. I wrote about the research, deepening my understanding of the connection between human movement and behavior, both separately and their direct influences on each other. 

During sessions that didn’t go well, or when I felt like there was an element to a person’s movement I was missing, the puzzle of the person and what he was experiencing would haunt me. I would replay movement patterns in my head and think about the person while I was running or bike riding, looking for what could be done differently.

I still do this, though it happens much less often than it used to. There will always be outliers, people that don’t fit neatly into a box that can be perfectly squared off and packaged in 55 minutes. These people deserve to be thought about, because usually they are frustrated with their lack of progress. What will best help them often involves multiple facets of their life and/or thinking about things form a different angle.

I began to realize that when I turned the overly analytical part of my brain off when I first looked at someone, I had a clearer picture of what I needed to do to help them move forward. I still used assessments to check my work, but when I trusted what I knew, rather than constantly second guessing myself and trying to apply what a system/research suggested I should do, the individual usually thrived. 

My knowledge is the sum of all the years studying (and continuing to study), what research shows. However, it is also working with people, listening to them, thinking about their experiences around movement and my own experiences around movement. The practical application of evidence from the anatomy/biomechanics/neuroscience realm is very much alive in my work, but so is going with my gut instinct. I no longer discount my intuition, and I find myself regularly making up exercises that come to me, seemingly from nowhere, to best help the person in front of me accomplish a task or improve awareness. 

Read the evidence. Pay attention to people that study, but don’t ignore the ones that just “know.” Some of my best teachers didn’t care why things worked. I picked up cues, figured out what they were suggesting, and discovered the why later on my own. Keep an open mind and trust yourself once in a while. Sometimes, you really do know best.

Your in health and wellness,

Upcoming Events:
Hip mobility and the squat, Saturday, July 8 from 9-11 at Be Well Personal Training. More info:
Jules Mitchell Workshop Series, Saturday, December 2 from 9:30-5:00PM. More info:
Nature and Movement Retreat, Mayacamas Ranch, June 2018. More information, coming soon.

Recommended Reading:
Aerobic exercise acts as an analgesic:
A good review of Fighting Monkey (since I was unable to go, I lived vicariously through this that went and wrote about it):
Exercise and compressed morbidity (far better than it sounds):
“The Big Magic,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Basic gist: creativity leads to a more fulfilling life. Create to be fulfilled, not to achieve greatness or recognition. 

To watch:
Tim Ferriss on “fear setting.” Interesting premise:
Linkin Park covering “Rollin’ in the Deep:” (I was experiencing inner conflict over my lack of enthusiasm for their new album. Feeling nostalgic, I went searching for Youtube videos and happened across this amazing cover that I missed in 2011. Sharing for no other reason than I think it’s worth a listen).