Saturday, April 16, 2022

Taking Inventory

Many people ask what is the purpose of a warmup? -- thinking they should go straight to a personal best, each and every time.  But before one can do that, one should know what their present momentary capabilities are -- or they risk overestimating those capabilities, and less often, underestimating them.  In either case, one is out of touch with the present realities -- thinking that their present capabilities are as they were 20 years ago, or as they hope they might be 20 years into the future.  And the whole point of any exercise, is to find out precisely where one is, and is capable of doing -- not just yesterday, or tomorrow -- but in the present moment, which is the only reality.

The truth of any matter, is not what one thinks -- but the actuality of each moment -- good, bad or indifferent.  The worst is fearing to find out what that actually is -- preferring to live in one's fantasies and delusions of what they would like to be.  It gets worse with age and time.  Many mistake what they did 50 years ago as what they are still capable of doing presently, and don't want to learn otherwise.  But when one knows their present capabilities, they can improve -- from that reference point, rather than further deluding themselves by not putting themselves to the test anymore.

In this way, people lose contact with their present capabilities -- and prefer to think they are something other than they actually are.  That is the importance of actually finding out -- by doing -- tentatively at first, and then going a little bit farther.  That progression of course, is the familiar warmup -- starting at one's lowest level, and gradually moving up -- and in that systematic way, achieving personal bests and even world records -- for those who are genetically and environmentally gifted for that development.  Nobody just starts at the top -- and moves up from there.  In fact, those who go the farthest, usually start with the rudimentary basics done extremely well -- upon which they have a firm foundation to go far -- unlike those who find themselves at the top, without knowing how they got there, and have no way to go but down.

In many cases, it was their youth alone, that put them at the top, and after that, they have no idea how to grow further -- and that is where most of the gains come, and especially when many have given up that further growth is possible.  Unfortunately for many, that is as soon as they graduate from high school or college, and they are certain all of life is downhill from there.  Those are the ones that are obvious, but less obvious are the ones who give up at any age -- thinking that is all there is, so why bother trying anymore?

If one never tries anymore, one will never find out and learn anything new -- and particularly, how much they have changed -- and not that they and the world, has stayed exactly as they wish to remember it -- forevermore.  Invariably, that is themselves at their peak of capabilities -- and not that there could be any improvement -- from what they would like to think.  The obvious best way to find out, is to start tentatively and gradually, and work one's way up -- from the lowest bottom to the highest top -- and so they are familiar with every inch of the territory -- and where to go from there, and how to make the appropriate adjustments.  

The novice, on the other hand, thinks whatever they do is good enough -- so the need and possibility of improvement seems unnecessary and meaningless.  They cannot tell the difference between good and bad, better or worse, and so meaningful improvement is not possible -- just the repetition of one thing -- good, bad or ugly.  The perfectionist, starts with the simplest movement perfectly -- before they go on to higher -- as it is obvious to them, that if they cannot do the simplest movement perfectly, making it harder will make things worse -- and that is precisely what happens in many people's workouts.  They begin and end arbitrarily and thoughtlessly -- and wonder why they don't get the results the "experts" promise, and think there is some mysterious, great secret to getting anywhere.

First, they have to be pointing in the right direction to get where they want to get -- and not simply heeding the advice of experts to just go anywhere, and somehow, they will end up in the right place.  It never happens that way.  People hit what they aim for -- more often than just hitting out in any direction -- thinking that is the same.  One starts slow and easy, and lets the hard take care of itself.  But starting hard, makes it impossible -- or even distinguishing the difference, because from the get-go, one is already taxed beyond their sensibilities -- and they know nothing else, particularly how to make the proper adjustments when things do not go according to plans.

More often than not, things will not go according to how one wishes they would -- but the most accomplished, know how to make those adjustments so well, they seem like they are all part of the plan -- and it is, because that is what they have prepared themselves for -- the challenges at any level, and not just the one they hope it will be.  That would be easy -- but it seldom works out that way.  The most proficient and prolific, are capable of making those fine adjustments -- while those only wishing it were so, merely delude themselves further.

That is the value of being able to ease into any activity -- and not just operate on an all-out or none basis -- as though one can turn on any capabilities at will, and realize one day, that they won't -- and don't know how to get into that mode from humble or impossible beginnings.  One day they wake up and realize that the precipice is too far from the other side.  It's not that people grow too old too fast, but they forget how to take baby steps that made anything seem possible -- with practice and persistence.  Instead, they grow impatient, and think that the simplest, easiest, most basic movements are unnecessary to practice -- and desire only the world records, or at least personal bests, each and every day -- even if only in their wishful-thinking.

Then one day they wake up and realize they no longer have those capabilities they took for granted would always remain with them.  It all seemed too easy -- and thought it would always remain so -- but now was nonexistent and impossible even to consider.  They had lost the faculties they thought would always remain so -- just because they wished that it were so.  It's not that one has to lift a great resistance to make it worthwhile and meaningful.  Just retaining and perfecting the movement in itself, is 90% of the gain.  Among the older crowd, the difference is not who can perform a movement with record poundages, but those who can do the movement at all -- and those who cannot.

It's not that they cannot do a movement with 500 lbs in their later years -- but that they cannot even do the full-range movement without any resistance at all.  Through all that excessive wear and tear, they cannot even do the simplest of movements involving those joints any longer -- that just being able to do so without great pain and discomfort as well as drastically limited range, would now be a monumental accomplishment.  An older person who has retained all their faculties -- rather than the increasing norm of disability in all its variations -- is the distinguishing difference between those who are thriving, and those on their way out.

For these people, even doing the warmup is out of the question -- when that is all they have to do to retain that mobility -- every day of their lives.  It just becomes easier to tell the winners from the losers - without establishing a course to see who can crawl over the finish line last.  Range of motion tells one everything they need to know about present capabilities.  That is generally regarded as "liveliness," or vitality -- that produces robustness -- just in their being, and doing ordinary things.

It is not the amount of weight one loads onto the apparatus that is productive, but the movement itself -- and quality (range) of it.  That is what the muscularity is designed to express and articulate -- especially and particularly, as one grows older.  That's all there is to it.


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