On “False Performance.”

I believe that the only way to be as fast as I wish I am, is to think myself exactly as strong as I actually am. I constantly overreach, and even more often arrogate capabilities to myself that I don’t actually have.

Want to know how I get injured?

I blind myself to the interface between my body and the world, and I use willful ignorance to dedicatedly circumvent certain truths about the world—truths that accelerate at 9.8m/s² (32.1ft/s²), and, in my case, slam into my feet with around 450 lbs of force. Somehow, I have to bully myself into greater awareness, and greater humility about myself and the world. Somehow, I have to find a way to train healthy and safe.

And to that end, I use the term false performance. I invite you to use it as well.

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4-count breathing: An exercise for runners, meditators, commandos, and everyone else.

4-count breathing is well-known as a relaxing exercise, a form of meditation, and a tactical combat tool. This is a very useful tool for runners, because it helps the body function aerobically at a very high level of performance. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, 4-count breathing is a technique that consists of the following steps:

Square-breathing-296x300

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Systemic archetypes: Shifting The Burden.

‘’Shifting the burden” is a classic systemic archetype, which tends to show up in many social situations—including athletic training. “Shifting the burden” systems show up whenever there is an apparent, “symptomatic” solution to a problem—a quick-fix—which seems to clear it up. However, that solution has the disadvantage of causing side-effects that hinder the system’s capability to put in play a fundamental solution (which actually would solve the problem at its roots).

This archetype is called “Shifting the Burden” because the burden for solving the problem is “shifted” away from the fundamental solution to the “symptomatic” solution:

Shifting the burden m

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Society, running, and biomechanics: A systemic exploration (and a hint of future topics).

Systems thinking is more than a theory or a scientific trend. Systems thinking is an idea, an understanding that reality organizes itself into systems. All the tiny different parts of reality—regardless of whether you cut up the pie into atoms, physical forces, or currents of social change—are interconnected to one another. They all interact in chaotic, highly unpredictable ways.

Systems thinking was designed to try to explain, model, and predict how “stuff” that seems to be completely unrelated from other “stuff”—like externalities—interact to create highly complex behavior: creating a system. Strictly speaking, a system isn’t built out of parts; it’s built out of interactions. It’s possible to have a collection of parts, but as long as they’re not interacting with each other in some particular way—as long as they don’t form part of a structure (a dynamic structure in this case)—they aren’t a system.

Therefore, systems thinking allows us to model how different “chunks” of reality interact.

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Deconstructing “flexibility.”

Throughout our lives, most of us have heard that it is extremely important for us to be “flexible,” for a variety of reasons. Off the top of my head, I’ve been told that flexibility is important to make movement easier, so that my joints don’t deteriorate, and so that I don’t get hurt lifting heavy objects. This is excellent advice. But the problem is that basically all of us go about achieving greater flexibility in exactly the wrong way: by stretching, or more specifically, static stretching. And that is because we don’t understand the concept of flexibility in a mechanically useful way.

One of the main physiological problems of westernized people is poor biomechanics—a phemonemon that basically boils down to the idea that the muscles across our bodies are badly synchronized. Simply stated, they don’t know how to work well together, and when they are subjected to trying circumstances (such as exercise or age), the mechanisms freeze up and become damaged.

For some non-athletes, stretching may help initially. In a very low-risk environment, stretching helps these frozen mechanisms because it increases the net joint range of motion (ROM). This means that the joint can go just a little more before it gets hurt. But that doesn’t solve the problem: the muscles haven’t become synchronized; we’ve only ameliorated the symptoms because we’ve created ROM by isolating the muscles (due to stretchier tendons and weaker muscles), instead of developing their synchronization.

This is a classic case of a systems management problem called “shifting the burden.” We have a perceived need to increase flexibility (because of a particular set of assumptions), and we shift the burden of flexibility away from synchronization and towards isolation. When the symptoms ameliorate, we think that the problem is solved, and we subject it to higher-risk circumstances, such as sports. Soon, we find ourselves caught in an unending roller-coaster of injury.

We can solve this problem. But in order to do so, we must deconstruct our notions of “flexibility.”

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The “hip complex:” The body’s differential.

The “hip complex”—the intricate arrangement of bone, muscle, nerve, and connective tissue that makes up the human hip—is one of the most sophisticated pieces of machinery in nature. As runners, it behooves us to get to know it intimately, because it is the center of athletic power. When the hips don’t function correctly, the body is not capable of dealing with the majority of the resultant torque (from forces produced during walking and running). This is the source of many common running injuries.

Addressing problems with the hip allows the resultant torque to be properly channeled and allocated to the center of gravity, which, during standing, lies squarely within the hips. Therefore, most interventions into the mechanics of the hip complex have to do with maintaining and facilitating the proper flow of mechanical energy throughout the body.

In Donella Meadows’ list of “leverage points” into a system, changes to hip mechanics are characteristic of place # 10:

10: The structure of material stocks and flows.

In this case “materials” refers primarily to the forces that the body generates and interacts with.

It’s important to discuss the hip complex from a few different perspectives. The technical details of how it functions are extremely important. However, even more important is to understand why it operates as it does: If we understand the proper function that it was evolutionarily designed for, and why it is so important to maintain it in correct working order, we’ll be able to divine many of the details of its mechanical function as necessary side-effects of our journey of athletic development.

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