Saturday, August 07, 2010

The State of the Art

Forty years ago, I began a program in the basement of the Boston YMCA titled "Scientific Weight-training," (maybe the first adult-education, co-ed classes on the subject) partly to test the claim made by Arthur Jones, that one only needed five minutes and five exercises, to work an individual to complete muscular failure (exhaustion), because such a high-intensity workout, was the best way to stimulate maximal gains, although such a workout, when first undertaken would also result in extreme muscle soreness the likes of which one would never encounter otherwise -- but after the initial shock, one could then engage on that level without as severe effects as experienced the first time.

Many people, working out that way for the first time, would predictably get sick and throw up, but surprisingly, those who never got over that reaction, tended to be those who were otherwise those one expected not to -- the best conditioned athletes, or those who ran the Boston Marathon. As I think back on those days and the reason for that paradox, the obvious answer to me, is that they were the ones who by training, pushed farther than learned to withdraw -- which would be the intelligent response to such trauma.

In any maximal exhaustion, the wise body, would learn to first increase the reserve -- and not the capacity, for exhaustion -- to failure. This is a critical survival response -- observed daily in the wild kingdom, of animals always holding back rather than going all-out, because even if one does manage to catch one's prey, if one is totally exhausted in that effort, one then becomes the prey of a fresh predator, who merely has to happen onto that opportunity for victory.

And so a primal, intelligent response of survival (fitness), is the imperative that one never go to complete failure and exhaustion -- under any circumstances, because that would never be an intelligent thing to do. Thus a better guide than unilaterally going all-out, is to first determine the level of power, capability, and reserve (fatigue), in the other, and then exerting only enough to surpass it appropriately, and if it cannot be exercised with a probability of success, one quickly learned to recognize that, and save oneself for a better time and circumstances.

That is also a huge part of "game strategy," which is first taking in and assessing the information, before acting without any attention and regard to its appropriateness -- resulting in a fatal, or critical defeat. This is also the judgment critical to undertaking and accomplishing anything -- which is usually thought as a separate and unrelated subject, but certainly, is integral to all undertakings.

One has to improve one's chances for success, in all the many ways, before it is enough, just to play the game. With few exceptions, most games are not over in five minutes -- and so, a great part of the conditioning for life, is how does one persist long enough to have a good chance of prevailing?

So while it is often impressive what one can do in five minutes, what matters is how long one stays in the game -- which in most athletic competitions, ends usually by age 50, at which time many think they've done enough for the rest of their lives, even if they never do anything again. Thus a better question to ask, "Is what manner of conditioning, allows one to persist at it all one's life," and not quit at any time?

Surprisingly, it still takes that five minutes, of five well-designed, intelligent movements, to maintain and improve the range of useful movement, and particularly, the expressions at the vital head (face), hands and feet that ultimately account for discernible and useful movement, in those regarded and perceived as vital, fully-capable, responsive human beings.

Even in the worst case scenario when responsiveness is not certain, one would best determine that by asking for an affirmation at any extremity, and not that they comply with a situp, pushup, or one lap around the track -- as a "yes." This is particularly important in determining whether any efforts to increase one's capabilities begin at a minimal "1," or the futile "0." That's always the biggest difference, and not going from 100%, to 110%, or whatever sports hyperbole one fancies.

Thus the state of the art in conditioning, is first and foremost, one's understanding -- before any effort is made -- instead of charging out enthusiastically into the arena, and finding that real lions fill the coliseum.

Even what we used to call the "ravages of time," are not the same for everyone -- and those who learn to work with nature (environment) display an ease and comfort in moving in that environment, rather than those trained to reflexively struggle against it and everyone else, thinking misguidedly, that simply that is enough to get to the "top," and have one's way with everyone else.

That is especially true of one's regard towards one's self, or body -- that it is an enemy to be tortured and tormented, or one can befriend it, and thereby rely on it, to do what beneficially needs to be done. The trite cliches, are not about understanding but a way of preventing one from thinking deeply about these things -- which some would call "meditation," or the mental aspects of the preparation (conditioning).

Adepts and masters of any activity, realize this growing importance of their "practice" -- if they are still at it until the day they die. And if that is the case, that is why they are masters at what they do -- and not simply recall increasingly, their former days of glory as though that were their best and highest understanding, and state of the art.


Post a Comment

<< Home