Becoming Fluent, part III

I've been reading this awesome book by Dan Lieberman (he's the Harvard professor/dude who did a lot of the actual research that supports the bare-foot running movement) about how and why the human body evolved the way it did. 

Again and again, he hammers home the point that the more stressful the environment, the more strongly certain traits were selected for. A basic example: when food is really scarce, the slightly more spring-y foot structure of early upright humans allowed them to be just a little more efficient, to walk and run just a little further, and to be just a little more effective at finding food than their more flat-footed brethren.

And that meant that the spring-y-footed humans were slightly better at surviving, reproducing and passing on their cool feet. Which makes all the difference when we're talking about evolution.

Now, in this third installment of our series about Becoming Fluent in the language that your body actually speaks (catch the first two HERE and HERE), we AREN'T talking about evolution, exactly (because evolution generally takes tens (or hundreds) of generations, at least*).

But we are talking about communicating real information, effectively, to your body. Just like stressful conditions caused humans to evolve more quickly, to change your body, the messages need to be strong enough, clear enough, stressful enough, for the body to actually take notice. 

If instead of talking about an ecosystem of many plants and animals (like the African jungles and savanna from which we all came...), evolving over hundreds and thousands of years, we can imagine our own bodies as little mini-ecosystems that try to balance out the various stresses that are imposed upon us, we start to get an idea about what effective intervention on our own body really looks like.

Most of the time, when we talk to our clients about stress, we start by talking about things like work stress, not sleeping enough, emotional stress, crappy-food stress, all of which are real, stressful inputs on our bodies.

And our amazing human organism can do the necessary somersaults and adjustments to withstand quite a bit of that kind of stress ... until it piles up, becomes unmanageable, maybe starts to cause pain. The life stress has gradually moved their body to a place that they don't want to go. That's usually when they come find us :). 

When those kinds of stresses start to pile up, the first job is always to work to take away some of the stressful inputs (this is when actually tuning in to your own self is critical; think CARs, meditation, etc.). 

But then, the next step is to add stresses that nudge the body in the direction we do want to go. You can think of these as "positive stressors", but make no mistake: they are necessarily pushing our body in a way that is NOT the norm**. They must, otherwise the body has no need to take notice, and change

This is why doing deadlifts with 12 pounds is probably not worth your time. But deadlifts that are sufficiently heavy will make your body perk up, take note, and change to be stronger. BOOM... "get stronger!" message = communicated to your body.

It's also why in Kinstretch class we ask people to push themselves to create high levels of internal tension as they explore end-range, stretched positions. BOOM... "get more mobile!" message = communicated to your body.

It's also why things like deep breathing (think controlled hyper-ventillation) and breath holds can actually have an effect on your blood vessels, pulmonary system, cellular energy production, and even immune response (Whhattt?!). More on that next time... :) 

So! as you head into this weekend I encourage you to think about what kinds of stressors you are applying (...or allowing to be applied...) to your body.

Are they helping you go where you want to go?

Be well! 
- Coach Will
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*There are some really interesting instances of "faster" evolution, but I'm already out of my depth so just read the book if you're curious. 

**Dosage is really important at this stage: too much too soon can just be too stressful on your body, and cause the opposite of what you want. So listen up to what your body is telling you!!