Tuesday, December 21, 2010

27 lessons from 27 years, Part II (21 - 17)

#21 - Breathing is important.
         Breathing is the most fundamental activity for life. Gaseous exchange. Inhale fresh fuel. Remove waste products. Were I to speak only of the body, this lesson would have profound impact. Consider if you will, the typical member of the American workforce: grossly out of shape, winded after a flight of stairs, unable to run more than a few blocks without panting. What factor tells us whether a person is in shape or out of shape? The breathing. I no longer rely solely on physical appearances, I've had my butt whupped by enough Clydesdales in both runs and triathlons to care about how far a belly protrudes. It's the breathing. A person hunched over gasping for air doesn't possess fitness sufficient for the activity he's doing.             

#20 -  Breathing denotes mastery.      
          Consider how breathing denotes mastery of a subject. When you are in full command of a situation, when you're relaxed, when you can breathe easily, that's when you're in control. Have you ever noticed what your body does during times of stress? Why are your shoulders so high and tight? Why are you holding your breath? Did the room just fill to the ceiling with water? Did you stop breathing well because you thought you would benefit from a lack of oxygen? No, of course not. You stopped breathing because you didn't have enough awareness to continue breathing. You stressed yourself into more stress. Someone with full mastery of their craft doesn't forget to breathe. I had the chance to witness some excellent fighters spar. Even in such a tense situation with high level combatants pummeling each other, they didn't forget to breathe. Just because your boss is yelling at you isn't reason to forget breathing either.

#19 - Breathing causes mastery.
          Consider also how to master a subject, you're going to have to breathe. Athletes say it all the time. Newspapers say this constantly about players like Jeter and Mariano. Heck, they even say this about each other. Players who perform well in the clutch have a preternatural ability to "slow the game down" and "let it come to them." Have you ever noticed that when the great Mariano prepares to throw a pitch he breathes out a short breath? Do you think this is mere coincidence? I didn't pay as much attention until Rif spoke about breathing in the training DVD I watched. I won't go into the details now but I would hazard a guess that breathing well isn't only a sign of mastery in whatever you're doing, but also a likely cause. One of the things that have increased the general quality of my life has been waking up at 5 in the morning to spend half an hour doing breathing exercises.

#18 - Never sacrifice the breath for the form.
         Now actually I learned this the first time I did yoga with Kendra but I hope you've already picked out the theme for these 5 lessons I learned. It might be yoga or it might be kettlebell intervals like I was doing this morning. Or it might be pull-ups, writing, anything. If you're going at a pace where you can't breathe properly, you're going too fast. Now there are definitely times when you want to practice being in a state where it's hard to breathe, maximum power sprints and the like, but this shouldn't by any means be your regular state of existence. If I'm not breathing right, expanding the diaphragm, protecting the spine, during my pull-ups and kettlebell drills, then I'm not getting as much as I can from my efforts. Slow it down. Work on the basics.

#17 - Your basics can never be too good.
          Ilio-tibial band syndrome. Tendonitis of the posterior tibialis. Shoulder soreness. Groin pulls. Hamstring cramps. Calf cramps. Those might be the worst of what I experienced this year and they're all likely due to poor emphasis of the basics. I've run with improper form. I've done workouts with improper form and I'm definitely payed the price for my own negligence. 2011 for me will be a year of getting back to basics, of taking a step back to take a step forward. I think about all the excellent fights that I saw this year. None of the fighters had any fancy maneuvers like jumping punches, spinning kicks or other blockbuster summer movie type moves. Left jab. Right cross. Left hook. Right uppercut. 1. 2. 3. 4. Low kicks. Front kicks. Everything is simple to execute. They've just practiced it tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of times. Each time, these high class fighters weren't seeking to add something to their technique. No, they were looking to remove impurities. That's what the basics are. They should form the very bulk of your training menu because this is what separates the good from the mediocre, the great from the good and the legendary from the merely great.

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