Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘learning’

Encouraging Words

I found another great podcast, that has two men getting philosophical about their lives and workouts. Just to tease for a moment, the idea that men are able to get philosophical and introspective is refreshing and surpising. The podcast is called “fitcast“. One of the guys lost 100 lbs, and the other is his trainer. This isn’t one of those- “here is the research on one of these topics” kind of show, it is more musings and thoughts of working out and all of life. Chuck, the man who had lost the weight, made several points I want to touch on here. First, though, I’d like to pass along to those who are not into the gym culture. Gone are the days of the gym being filled with “meatheads” picking up heavy things and dropping them. At it’s heart, resistance training is still picking up heavy things and putting them back down, but the people doing so are much more self aware and articulate about it. Some of the things we do in the gym apply so easily and well to the rest of your life. Set goals, make them small, incremental, measurable and achievable. Keep a log. Do things that fit your goals, but also interest you. Don’t waste time. Stay focused. Refocus every so often. Rest. Review what you are doing every so often to see if it still fits your goals. These lessons learned in the gym can apply to gaining discipline in any area of your life.

Chuck was talking about living an active life in one episode. Not the idea of getting more exercise, but the idea of taking control of your life and being an active participant, rather than a passive one. He said that it started with the idea of logging food-“I can’t do that, it’s too hard, it’s not me, I eat what I eat…”, then he started, it got easier, then it became part of who he was. Then it was sleep, he had trouble with that. He started with the same excuses, and made the same journey. He then summed it up with his current battle with stress. The reason this has me so interested is that I don’t see any aspect of your life in isolation. Nothing you do happens in a vacuum, and everything you do affects everything you do. The lessons you learn in one area of your life apply to others.

I spoke about this in an earlier blog, but the whole concept of fitness can be a parable or metaphor for the less tangible parts of your life. You can grasp the discipline it takes to control your eating easier than the discipline to control your thoughts. You can see how taking charge of your body brings visible results, leading you to realize the same can be true of your emotions, finances and interpersonal connections. It is easy to see how even the first baby steps in the right direction lead to positive feelings and results when it comes to eating and exercise and this can give you the confidence to try the same techniques on the rest of your life.

I forget who said it but I remember a quote that said “If you could truly know a leaf, you could understand the universe”. I agree with that idea, since the more I learn about the things, the more interconnected everything is. There are 4 chemicals in your DNA, there are 4 harnesses on my loom. Ok, that last one was a joke. But, that thought popped into my head, since only 4 chemicals make up the unimaginable diversity of life, and the 4 harnesses can make an infinite number of patterns on the loom. Most things are pretty simple at their heart, and only seem complicated from the outside.  If any of you know  the story of the Gordian knot, a king tied this elaborate knot that appeared to have no ends and said if anyone could unravel it he’d get a great prize.  No one could do it. Alexander the Great comes along and slices it off with his sword.  I’m using this as an example of the excuses we put up against change. “If you had the problems I do” “It would be easy if I had your life/body/money/spouse” “I have children/grandchildren/a needy spouse.” Cut through all those and try something against that problem. Set one goal, make a specific, measurable plan to achieve it, write it down, then track your progress. I hate counting. I’m not good at it, my mind loves to wander. However, most everything I love now requires counting. So, I count, and surprise! I’m much better at it than I used to be. If I had said, I’m lousy at counting and there’s nothing I can do about it, then I wouldn’t be able to knit, warp a loom or teach an aerobics class. In fact, anyone who knows me knows the idea of me teaching an aerobics class is hilarious. I don’t have a good sense of rhythm, I’m not musically inclined and there’s that whole counting thing. But here I am. I’m not going to say I’m the greatest at it. I do believe I’m constantly improving. That’s the point. Along the way I lay to rest old bugaboos, prejudices and fears and have a great time while doing so.

 

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Learning to Learn

I really wanted to write this article on the stages of learning. Partly because it has surprised me how consistently the patterns of learning stay the same, no matter how different the subjects are.  I have learned a lot of new things in my life, and each time there are stages to the learning, that once recognized become comforting. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

There are three stages, which are mostly linear, although at times you can slide back and forth from one to another. The first stage is the “Left handed fork” stage, where the learning is clumsy, slow and frustrating, like trying to eat with your left hand. This is when you are most likely to get discouraged. If you are not talented in an area, or if what you are learning is completely foreign, this stage can be quite extensive. I doubt anyone enjoys this stage, but it is necessary to get to the later ones.

The second stage is “Confidence”, when the learning is getting enjoyable. Think when a kid is learning to ride a bike and starts screaming “I got it, I’m really doing it.” For more complicated learning tasks, like learning a computer, it’s when you have a framework to in your head to plug the new information into. If you have natural talent or some familiarity in an area, you can slide into this stage almost immediately. This is where the real enjoyment begins. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is the most fun stage, making learning addictive. This is when you start “playing” with what you are learning.

The final stage is “Imbedded”, when you no longer have to think about it the subject you are learning, like putting your fork back in your right hand. In a really complicated subject, this stage is not clear cut. If you only use computer programs once in awhile, you may have to fool around with them a bit to remind yourself how they work, but the actions of using the computer are imbedded in you. If the subject isn’t that interesting or necessary, this is where a loss of interest or boredom could set in.

Of course, once you are no longer a child, it is easier to stay in imbedded areas, or only add areas you have confidence in. You have to be able to tolerate embarrassment to stray into those left hand fork areas. Nowadays the world is changing so fast that those who refuse to start learning again get left behind. Sometimes the burning desire to reach a goal carries you though the difficulty. For example, I have no talent with math. All during school I never got into the confident stage.  My knitting and weaving requires math for proper sizing of projects, and I love making things from scratch. That requires quite a bit of math and that goal carried me though the practice it took to get good enough at it. I still make more mistakes than many others might.

Learning karate is what really keyed me into thinking about learning. It tapped into some of my private bugaboos. Growing up, I had no natural inclinations for any kind of athletics. I was a slow learner at things like swimming and skating, I had terrible large motor skills, and excellent small motor ones. I never had any motivation to improve my athletic skills, so I treated most athletic things as something to endure. The one exception was riding a bike. As slow as I was to learn it, it was transportation, and that motivated me to get past the first clumsy stage, then I loved it. If I only could have seen then the pattern of finding enjoyment of something, once past those early stages, I might have tried some more things that I have waited till more recently to try. With karate, the way I was taught showed me some insight into learning, and how to motivate and get past the early difficulties.

Some of the ways to I’ve found to get  past left handed fork stage:

  1. Break a larger skill into smaller and simpler stages to allow a better sense of mastery and less discouragement.
  2. Encouragement by those involved. Strong discouragement of any amount of teasing or disparagement.
  3. Take breaks, don’t try to go too fast. If you are getting frustrated, go back to some part you’ve already mastered and play with that.

Currently I’m learning web stuff, any and all, to try and expand on my Photoshop skills. It’s no small thing I’m after, -CSS, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, flash, fireworks, Illustrator and possibly more. It is overwhelming if I look at it as a whole.  But using the principle of breaking it down, I’m only studying what I am reading at this moment. What got me fired up to write this article was how encouraged I was tonight by the book I was reading  getting easier to comprehend.  I was re-reading an article that I read in June, and  had  set  aside as being beyond my comprehension. In the re-reading, it was far easier to understand, raising up my confidence in my ability to learn all of this information.

I would strongly encourage anyone reading this to go try something new.  Accept the fact that you will look like a fool at first, and won’t be any good at it. Keep in the habit of having something in the “left handed fork” stage in your life so you won’t be thrown by it when there is something you have to learn. Know that all these things become sources of joy as you master them.

Oh, What a Weekend!

The three amigos

trading horses is the best thing we could have done.

So we went horse camping for the weekend, with our friend Brenda. Two weeks ago, after a very “exciting” ride, Gary and I agreed to switch horses. As you can see, everyone is much happier. Romeo is as calm as can be under Gary, and Rufus can go from 0-60 in three seconds flat without scaring me. In fact, I am sooooo sore from riding so much, we trotted and cantered quite a bit. The poor horses are sleeping in the barn, their suppers barely touched.

Camping in general, and horse camping in particular teaches you many things.

  1. It teaches you to be grateful for indoor plumbing.
  2. To be extremely grateful for modern housing, electricity and hygiene.
  3. It teaches you proper respect for your ancestors, and what they lived with, and to wonder at their strength, resilience and ingenuity.
  4. You learn to focus on the immediate. Everything is more difficult, so you have to pay attention to what you are doing if you want to eat.
  5. You definitely learn to get along with others. You need each other in ways you don’t back home. That also means you learn to tolerate each other. Total strangers who’s dogs ticked you off have now caught your escaped horse. They are your new best friends. Even if you still are wary of their dogs.
  6. Gary on the inversion table.

    You'd better have a sense of humor if you put yourself in this position.

    You learn to laugh at yourself. When you are complaining about the dirt, the flies, the rain, the heat and the “neighbors”, that you know you did this for fun, and that you will do it again. The whole concept that something difficult and at times arduous can be fun is weird too. How much fun? Three days living in a space smaller than a prison cell, and like that cell, the bathroom is in the same room with you. Yippee!

  7. There is such a thing as too much love. Rufus and Spike had a love fest going on to the point we had to separate them. Rufus chewed Spikes halter right off. Luckily it was just unbuckled, but that was the first of three escape attempts this weekend.

What did you do/will you do for fun? Remember the ancient philosophy-“That which doesn’t kill you,…makes for a really funny story later.”

 

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