How do we see ourselves? In addition, how do we sense ourselves when we are in action and participating…in anything, be it an active sport or a group discussion or even a casual conversation? The image in our mind may not necessarily match what we actually look or sound like (from the outside) as most of us have experienced when we see or hear a recording of ourselves.
“I don’t do that…do I??” This is the groaning reaction I and some of my team mates have had while reviewing a coaching video of an outrigger session. In my mind’s eye and in my perception of the way my body moves while paddling, I feel as though I have incorporated every instruction and technique that has been offered. Sadly, it is not so…
I am pretty well-acquainted with my body and all it’s foibles. It’s been quite a long time since I was a skinny kid experiencing a growth spurt and in fact I am now losing some height (a fact of aging and if you grow tall early, then you’ll always think of yourself as tall). To counter that I am doing the weight training program at the gym and I “hang”. Installed in one of the doorways in our house is a chin-up bar. At least once a day I simply hang from the bar to stretch out my shoulders and at the same time (bending my knees) I let my body weight pull my spine downward creating space between the vertebrae. Yes, it sounds a little bat-like but it feels so good.
Most of the articles I have been reading these days about self-perception and aging have been very encouraging…here is an excerpt:
“In particular, senior athletes who keep training and competing over 50 years of age are considered an example of successful aging. In fact, they tend to preserve lean body mass, healthy weight, and high levels of fitness and physical tasks of daily life, which significantly reduce their risk of diseases.
For older athletes, participation in competitive sport represents also an important strategy to express youthfulness and negotiate the remarkable bodily changes associated with advancing years.
…exercisers seem to have a more positive body image than non-exercisers.” http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0160805
So, all this is good (even great) but it still doesn’t address the seeming disconnect between how we envisage how we move with the way we look from the outside. This is where the coaching comes into play and how we try to match up that ideal image with our body movement. The best news I have found lately is about FASCIA. As we learn a movement, be it dancing, yoga, paddling, riding a bike…our brains processes it, but our body carries it out. I just read about this in the book “Natural born heroes” by Christopher McDougall, a story of a group of men on the Island of Crete. The point he was making was that some movement, primal functions such as throwing, are “grooved” into the fascia and it automatically reacts, without our thinking. “So once you’ve grooved a move into your fascia, get out of its way. It reacts and remembers.” (Pg. 76)
To know that another part of the body has a memory, besides the brain, is comforting. Some days my brain-memory feels a little stuck when retrieving facts. Practice, practice, practice is going to pay off in the long run. One thing our coach has repeated to us (now I see the pattern) is that at the end of the session when our bodies are tired and the temptation is to collapse in, that that is the time to really focus on perfect technique. This is the time when the “groove” is reinforced, goes deeper into the fascia-memory.
Another intriguing fact from an article posted at ideafit.com is that “…mood influences fascia” and that emotions travel through the fascial web. If you come to practice in a bad mood, that is the day things won’t go so well. Also, the connective fascial matrix has 10 times more proprioceptors (any of the sensory nerve endings that give information concerning movements and position of the body) than muscle…which means it helps us react faster than the conscious mind can respond. The other day at work I was carrying a bowl of hot pasta set on a plate to the lunch table. The bowl began to slide and somehow I managed to react in some automatic way and keep it balanced and not fall, luckily for my co-worker who would have been the spill-victim. Thank you Fascia!
The more I read about fascinating things like fascia and tensegrity, training and healing, or how researchers classify older adults (late middle-aged, (55–64 yrs), young-old (65–74 yrs), and old (75–84 yrs) and successful aging, the more I think that Nike nailed it in one phrase – Just Do It.
P.S. The CORA Lotus Icebreaker race is next weekend, January 13…wish us luck!