Act First, Think Later


 In any field of invention or application for early man, actions preceded structure. In the dawning age of man, this applied to everything. That is, things happened first and man, as his intellect grew, applied rules to his actions. After he recognized what had transpired from his actions, man then considered how that which had transpired might be improved upon and/or communicated to others. He applied structure to his actions to enable this. We call this institutionalism.

The (crude) analogy is this: Maybe 100,000 years ago an upright hominid may have hit a stick on a rock several times in succession. The she-ape beside him might have heard this and moved her hips to the rhythm and the sound. He might have noticed her movement, liked what he saw, and chose to hit the stick on the rock again in similar patterns. This course might have been observed and copied by others. The beginning of music might have been born this way – everything else after would be derivative of that.

 In the begining there was no music theory, only sounds which came to be appreciated.

As man evolved, music evolved and expanded, was more widely practiced, and along the way became institutionalized. Evolved from and applied to music, long after the fist stick hit the first rock, were patterns, time signatures, notes, scales, bars, measures, etc. Over time the evolution of those boundaries became primary to music, and now the great majority of creation in music is taught to begin from within those literal borders. The initial act though, the stick on the rock, preceded these rules and was free to go wherever it might have gone, without fear of violating intuitionalism.

Beautiful structure ensures growth.  Does structure promote potential success, or does it limit potential success?

This applies to all avenues in life; faith, business, politics, science, art, and sport. First there was action; a stone thrown through a basket from a great distance away. Then there was the institutionalization of that action; the foul shot at the free throw line. Institutionalization is the largest part of the process — the process of how we have learned, and how we have advanced as a species. However, institutionalism is also how counter productive paradigms have been created. Actions born of those paradigms, can be why we have often faltered as a species. It takes free thinkers to identify and break from stale, or counter productive paradigms.

Like these other areas, fitness and exercise have been excessively institutionalized into a rainbow of paradigms. Some fitting and appropriate paradigms offer utility for the improvement of a man, and provide a reasonable path he can walk upon in achieving his goals. Others, stale and counter productive, silently steer a man away from his goals, despite his best intentions and the intentions of those directing him.

 Paradigm shift

Man has likely been taking inventory of himself and striving to improve himself with exercise since shortly after, or perhaps even before, that first stick was hit against that first rock to create music – exercise is that historic, and for many reasons. The act of exercise, be it for testing, for competition, or for self-improvement, had to be born of man’s inherent movement and abilities. I am not convinced that the institutionalism of recent science and research can contribute as much to a man’s exercise and wellness, as an individual man can contribute to himself by way of his own trial and observation – the scientific method on a very personal level. That is just my belief.  

 Structure in the form of movement 

 Monkey see, monkey do.  Ehrr, ape see, ape do; I see no tails.

I think of the elderly woman who came to work with me a few years back because she was having trouble getting in and out of her car. So we exercised. I took her to her car, supervised her, had her get in and out of her car cautiously several times during her first workout. We continued this over many weeks. In time, her ability to get in and out of her car improved markedly. I have little doubt that an educated physical therapist would have not used this approach. More likely, he would have just slipped her into a physical therapy paradigm, with minimal results.

 Is she getting what she needs?

  Structure in the form of volume; weights, repetitions, sets, days per week, etc. 

On a large scale, the body doesn’t know 6 repetitions from 12, nor 3 sets from 5. What the body understands much better is fatigue, range of motion, and reasonable exercise form. Much can come from applying fatigue, range of motion, and proper exercise form within whatever number of sets, reps, poundages, and days per week one chooses – relative to one’s goals. Form is key. If one practices exercise form, based on what his instincts tell him about how that movement should transpire, he will likely move properly.

Though I appreciate the value of structure in exercise, I don’t always follow the traditional rules of exercise and encourage many of my students to do the same. Much of what I do and what I teach in the way of movement, I invent. Movements should be born of consideration for the objective one trains for – how exercise might help enhance and protect our lives, or allow us to reach our goals. This desire differs with each individual. 

Even standard exercises have less rights and less wrongs about them than one might think; a bench press done to the neck versus one done to the base of the chest. Lunges done in conjunction with a dumbbell arm curl, an overhead press, or juggling chainsaws. Proceed with caution, and mix things up. Explore range of motion.  Pay attention to form. Don’t cheat an exercise. Breath fluidly. These are the primary rules of exercise. Most every other rule is just someone else’s agenda – rules which limit possibilities. 

I’ve recently come to believe the world would be better served if individuals spent more time writing bibles than reading them.  That is, defining who one is in this way might serve the individual, and the world, better than copying who someone else is pretending to be.  Those who suggest that certain rules should always be applied to certain actions in exercise might be limiting your exercise progress. Further still, those rules might be limiting your enjoyment and your creative outlet with your exercise and your own body. Of course the same could be said of your faith, your business, and your politics. Be well. rc

One response

  1. “. I am not convinced that the institutionalism of recent science and research can contribute as much to a man’s exercise and wellness, as an individual man can contribute to himself by way of his own trial and observation – the scientific method on a very personal level.” You’re not alone. I also believe this. It’s crucial.

    Funny thing you mention the physical therapist going into his structure, he would have with the older lady you were working with. He would have done everything except what you did! Which, currently I now have little faith in Physical Therapist anymore now that a few months has passed by and I don’t necessarily believed I reach a point of healing. Once again I must research my own methods, even if it consumes me to madness.

    “Movements should be born of consideration for the objective one trains for – how exercise might help enhance and protect our lives, or allow us to reach our goals. This desire differs with each individual.” YES!

    “Most every other rule is just someone else’s agenda – rules which limit possibilities.” Couldn’t agree more. It’s why regardless how or what a person tells me about their training or my training I would listen to “me” (for many reasons) the most. The exception being the person themselves (like yourself) can, (not in the sense prove to me), but can “wow” me with their “own” thoughts, experience, wisdom and training philosophy.

    Powerful and thought-provoking blog. I really enjoy reading your work. I feel we share similar views. I also love the way you closed out with the last paragraph. Take care.

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