Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardstyle Ventura 2010 (My Little Pony)

I'll occasionally go to some master-level workshop to beef up my skills and have my technique evaluated. This weekend was Hardstyle Ventura 2010 (www.hardstyleventura.com), a workshop devoted to bodyweight exercise and kettlebell training. The list of topics is outlined at the site, and I won't belabor the table of contents here. It was outstanding. It was overcast and windy and chilly, but it was outstanding.  There was far too much to cover here, but I took home a handful of very personal observations.

When an experience brings you back to step #1, you find yourself reconsidering what you've called "progress". My HKC workshop in January, a bad nerve pinch in June, now HSV 2010. While Dr. Mark Cheng led us through a Horse Stance drill, I struggled just to stand up straight. Cheng writes here on how this ancient Chinese martial arts drill has improved hip mobility and relieved back pain in his students. There are some challenging statements in the article, challenging even for the very athletic. I found them reflected in a few quotes from the workshop, some paraphrased from Gray Cook and others with our gratitude.

"The greatest athletes are not those with the best movement patterns.  They are the ones with the strongest compensations."

"If you argue on behalf of your weaknesses, you will own them."

"Adding weight to a movement reinforces that movement pattern."

(from another trainer in the crowd, to our impatient clientele) "You move like ####. You shouldn't even be lifting weights. If you're not willing to put in the work, you're just wasting my Chi."
(My personal favorite. You sort of had to be there.)

So why was this event such a game changer? That Horse Stance indicated not only the last remaining weakness in my injured knee, but a stiff, clunky ankle that I sprained in high school. That sprain was 25 years ago, but it affects my arch and my gait to this day. Now I have drills to treat these two deficiencies and a screen to evaluate their progress. The progress will be obvious as it happens.

I've been proud of my squat for three months now, but I was splaying my feet unnecessarily. I've been proud of my new overhead shoulder range, but I was arching my back. I have been compensating because of injuries that won't get better and adding more weight and work every week, everything "wrong" from this workshop.  My injuries have not healed. Research shows that while learning a new activity, one really bad repetition may require as many as 10 good repetitions to re-pattern the behavior in memory. I hope I can integrate my corrections instead of starting over from scratch.

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