Monday, August 20, 2012

My Way or the Wrong Way

There is something in the human psyche, certainly in the American psyche, that hates to see somebody satisfied with his or her lot. It's not quite Mencken's quote–"Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time."—but it does seem to come from that same part of the mind: Why would you be doing things your way when you could be doing them my way? Since, you know, my way has to be better?

And how can you say you are happy and satisfied with your life? What's wrong with you?

At its best, this is an attempt to share something folks have found they think is of great value, ranging from religion, to diet and exercise, to politics, to beer. Lookit, lookit, here! I've found something wonderful! Check it out! It will make you happy, smarter, it will whiten your teeth! Come and see!

Done it myself. It's hard to suppress. You want to share it, help your friends out. You have good intentions, really, you do. 

You've bumped into this, haven't you? Or even been guilty of it yourself? I have, both counts.

I'm about to be guilty of it again, right here, right now ...

So, a couple of Joseph Smith's boys or the Jehovah's Witnesses knock on your door, or your dotty old Aunt Sally tries to fix you up with the Pastor's spinster daughter. Still good intentions, albeit a tad obnoxious because of what it implies:

That you need help. That they can provide it.

When the two nice young men from Orem in white shirts and ties knock on the front door and want to tell me about the plates of gold and the Lost Tribe of Israel and Jesus in the New World? Excuse me, but I'm as old as your grandfather, you really think I haven't come up with some way of looking at the world by now that I need lessons from an eighteen-year-old kid whose entire life experience is UtahListen, children, I appreciate your zeal, but I have my own beliefs and I'm happy with them. You want a glass of water or something?

Below that, it can devolve into mean-sprited stuff, the isms–racism, sexism, nationalism. The notion that if somebody doesn't agree with what they believe, they are so wrong they don't deserve full human status. You believe that? You are a heretic! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail!

Vote? You want to vote? But look at you! You aren't one of us! 

A few years back, a silat guy I knew slightly went charging off on the my-way-is-better-than-your-way rant. I should, he said, come to his house and learn the Real Deal™. Because his was the  One True Path™ and what I had, while okay, was the art of a lesser teacher, nice guy, but really ...

Really? I don't think so, so I'll stay here, thank you. Glad you like what you found.

But–but–you don't understand! Why would you do that? Stay with something when there might be something better? 

Well, first, because I think you are basically full of shit and it isn't better. Second, because even if it is filet mignon, I'm happy with sirloin here, like the taste better, and I'm getting what I need to sate my hunger. How much better can it really be?

But no: Got to be higher, faster, stronger. 

I have a friend who, every so often, finds a new and improved way to work out, and he shifts from what he was doing, which was working perfectly fine, into the new and improved method. You should try it, he says. It's really good. Better than what you are doing.

Probably. But if I'm not in as good a shape as I might be, it's not because I don't have the tools to get there, I do, and they work just fine. It could be because I'm too lazy to use them. Tossing them and getting a new set won't fix that. Or it could be because I don't want to go there.

Because, you know, I'm happy here ...

See, at some point, you might come to realize that you are high enough, fast enough, and strong enough to do what you need to do. And elect to maintain rather than increase. You balance what you need, what you want, and what is possible. And you have to be realistic about the last. What is fit for an eighty-year-old desk jockey is not the same as what is fit for a twenty-five-year-old Olympic sprinter, now, is it? If I tried to train like the sprinter, it would kill me. I can probably keep up with the old desk jockey most of the time.

For those of you who are going to shake your heads and blather on about how the only limits you have are mental! that age doesn't matter! that what you can do is unbound and unfettered!? Try this: Jump off a tall roof and try to fly by flapping your arms up and down real fast. Let me know how that works for you–if you recover. 'Cause my money is on gravity and the biomechanics of an unaided human body = Wile E. Coyote augering into the hard pan way down there below the cliff, waaahoohoohoohoooo!

There might not be limits, but my ability and yours to get there from here needs more than positive thinking. 

Jump, Steve, jump! Fly, Steve, fly!

Can I get a bomb-falling whistle and ka-boom! SFX here?

If you can fly this way? By all means talk to me, I'll listen. A working demonstration tops talk all to hell and gone. 

Had a well-known and highly-regarded PE teacher tell me once that there was no such thing as over-training, only under-recovering. Really? You can make that rope longer by cutting a piece off one end and tying it to the other end? 

We might say we don't believe in it, but a lot of us want magic. The magic pill, the magic bullet, the secrets of the Illuminati. Folks are always looking for a better path. Nothing wrong with being a seeker, with wanting to better yourself, learn more, achieve something. Life is about learning lessons and growing. However, that doesn't always mean you have to jump from this lane to that lane like some teenage driver in his daddy's BMW cutting through traffic as you wend your way up the mountain, hoping the new route will be faster, smoother, or more interesting. You can do that if you want, but that's not how I drive.

Sometimes, like the tortoise, you can achieve a lot by moving along slow, but steady, on a path that works for you. In a short race, yep, my money is on the hare. For a long race? Not so much. And if you are happy on your trip? Doesn't mean you are wrong because somebody else says so. They don't know you like you know you. 


Dojo Rat said...

I am the Torotise, koo-koo-ka-chu!

Dude, I am 53, I don't like to travel, and I won't take a phone call that goes over three minutes.

But shit gets done...

Joe said...

My wife's coworker (a 24 year old MMA nut) gave me a lecture on how my years of learning Jujitsu, Kendo, and Aikido were complete wastes of time.

Thank God I was able to meet him and see the Light.

Master Plan said...

This part:

I have a friend who, every so often, finds a new and improved way to work out, and he shifts from what he was doing, which was working perfectly fine, into the new and improved method. You should try it, he says. It's really good. Better than what you are doing.

Interesting to me, the "better than what you are doing", bit.

Better...for what?

More importantly tho is after you decide what it is better do you measure it? The better-ness?

Are pushups better than bench press for....martial arts?
Are dynamic multi-planar flow-based movements on an unstable surface better than heavy powerlifting for....core strength?

Because how can you test that?

If somebody had a better way that took me from 2 hours a week in the gym down to 30 minutes with the same performance that would be clearly better. But if I still have to spend 2 hours a week in the gym and I only get better performance in the new material...what improved?

Of course if you are a workout nerd then just doing something different to try it, see how it feels ("see" how it "feels"? lulz) and all of that is reason enough. But probably not reason enough to change something effective.

Still tho...effective...for what? Better...for what?

And how are you going to test that?

Steve Perry said...

Couple years back, I did a post on the ROM home gym, a nice fourteen-plus grand exercise machine that the makers claimed would reduce your workout to four minutes per day -- upper body one day, alternating with legs the next.

A total workout in eight minutes over two days? Pretty impressive.

Fourteen grand is a lot of money, but for a rich guy who wants to be fit with minimal time invested, that apparently is a selling point.

The makers went out of their way to allow as how interval training was, you know, actually better than aerobics and all, since four minutes ain't gonna give you any aerobics. Struck me then (and now) as a rationalization for what the machine couldn't do.

If you want aerobics, it's a while before it kicks in, and you still have to do it for x-minutes to get the effect.

I think my buddy's thought is that the new stuff is more efficient, and thus you can get the same results with less time. Increased intensity means you don't need to go as long to get the same effect.

That's true. Work harder instead of longer. There is a risk, though: Higher intensity makes for a bigger chance of injury. At my age, longer and slower is much more appealing. Guys who push really hard get hurt more often than if they don't.

I know the protocols the system uses, and they are good, but there is a hint of snake oil at the edges that always makes me smile a little. My bullshit detector pings. Wait. Hold on. Say that party again?

Some of that comes from tech-talk, which sounds cool but doesn't really mean anything, like listening to Star Trek engineers go on about the warp drive. You start hearing phrases like "incrementally resetting the receptors for efficient integrated movement," or "adds an element of sensory information to the movement by limiting the potential of deviation?"

Uh huh. Right. Even if it is good, that kind of stuff doesn't help, and in my case, it irritates me ...

Kris said...

Sorry, very non sequitur, but I have to ask... I was just doing a search on your book covers in large format (to use as a ereader wallpaper) and got a result that said you had written PSI Force (Marvel comics). Is that correct? I actually remember reading that, back in the day, long before I had ever heard the name Khadaji.

Steve Perry said...

Kris --

Nah, that wasn't me, it was the other guy, the one who got murdered a awhile back. I had only one venture into comics, a five-issue SWs miniseries for Dark Horse.

Master Plan said...

Heh. I totally buy a 4 minute a day workout. Just...workout 4 minutes a day. Might not be a very GOOD workout, but no reason at all you couldn't just workout for 4 minutes and call it good. ;)

I feel confident my 12 minute a day workout will provide nearly 3 times the results tho. ;D

I think ultimately you'll hit time and recovery limits regardless of anything else. Most of us only have so much time we actually CAN spend on frivolous exercise in a week for one thing. Martial arts + lifting + running + yoga + another sport doesn't leave too much time for work, family, leisure, travel, and of course just rest and relaxation. By the same token you hit recovery limits as well. Even if I can go at 100% for 20 minutes and get the same stimulus as a more moderate 60 minute workout and not injure myself by constantly going at 100% I can't then do three times as many of those 100% workouts and get three times the results even tho it would still only be 60 minutes of work, just won't work given the inability to recover sufficiently to continue to give 100%.

Given those two limitations and given that a body has only so much adaptive capacity beyond which you get diminishing returns I think it probably isn't very relevant at all what type of exercise you do, just so long as you are doing something and continue doing it.

You must be talking about a SS project. Nobody else is that wordy. ;)

Psi Force! I remember that one. Some good early Mark Texiera work in there.