Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mindful vs. Mindless Exercise

The problem with fitness today is that it is mindless. It is most likely the result of our highly- convenient, technologically advanced, and time-strapped modern lives. We want more out of less; which the essence of efficiency, but it has its limits. In our modern gyms we have the majority of the space dedicated to large, expensive machines. We also have flat screen televisions on every wall. We try to train specific muscles and trim fat off unappealing body parts. However, the majority of the population is more out-of-shape than ever, and continues to blame it on lack of time and motivation. When these people make it to the gym they complain of how bored they are and try to distract themselves with television and magazines.

How disconnected is that? These people are training their body with trivial, unchallenging, isolated movements over and over again. I have talked before how inefficient and less effective these methods are, but also, they are mindless. If you can watch television or yourself in the mirror while performing these exercises, then they are probably not very kinestetically demanding. In fact, Kelly Lambert, Ph.D. has proposed that one of our natural ways to prevent depression is by working more with hands and mind. She discusses this in her new book "Lifting Depression,"

Lambert’s theory suggests that important clues to the mysteries of depression have been in our hands all along. Drawing on innovative research (with rats, whose brains are similar to those of humans), Lambert identifies a circuit in the human brain—connecting movement, feeling and cognition—that is responsible for emotional emptiness, negative thinking, and other symptoms of depression. She reveals how stimulating this “effort-driven reward circuit” with hands-on physical activities that yield tangible rewards builds resilience against the disorder. Involving the hands is especially effective, since so much of the brain is devoted to hand movement.

The brain doesn't recognize specific muscles, only movements. And, this is exactly how I train myself and my clients. Often, it feels awkward for a new client to perform (what I feel is a very basic) movement. With appropriate progressions and practice, they develop these new motor patterns and are able to move easier. Also, in line with Dr. Lambert's research, the client feels a sense of accomplishment and is motivated as their strength and abilities increase.

Below, I have progressed my kettlebell snatch technique to where the 32kg (70lb) is not very daunting. Although I have strength trained regularly for the past 16 years, I had to start with half of this weight to perform this movement smoothly and powerfully.



Holly said...

So how can I learn more about how to use the kettleball in various different ways if I am in CA? Is there an ebook or other tutorial? I only see an area to purchase training sessions, which I assume are in your state?

Dan Hubbard, M.Ed., CSCS. said...

There are various resources available to learn kettlebell lifting and weightlifting in general. However, I would recommend finding someone who is qualified and highly experienced with kettlebell training for you to safely and effectively learn how to lift. I would not recommend simply using a dvd, as kettlebell lifting needs to be adapted to the lifter and progressed in a manner that is appropriate for that lifter. If I knew where in California you are located,I may be able to steer you in the right direction.