Move & Think, Think & Move

Yesterday one of the bestest of friends sent me a picture from The Chive with the note, “Your son one day.”  This was the picture:


Awww, isn’t that cute?  Except it’s not, for my response was, “If my son ever deadlifts with a rounded back, I’ll disown him.”  This is only half true.

As a 25 year old my future children’s movement abilities aren’t on my priority list, but when it does happen, the odds are very high that my children will move well.  Fortunately I’ll have nothing to do with it: Children inherently move well.

Movement is what we do.  As animals, as humans; we are designed to move.  As you’re about to hear, “Movement is the only way to affect the world around you.”  Check out this amazing TED Talk on the matter:

Movement as a whole, and new movement in particular, seem to have this power to inspire and empower us in ways that other activities cannot.  Anyone who has danced, rolled, or moved in a state a flow has experienced a certain tranquility in movement.  It’s calm, effortless, and subconscious.  Movement has a seemingly magical capacity to entrance us.

It can also be exhausting.  We’ve long known that exercise can limit our ability to complete cognitively demanding tasks, and we’re now recognizing that the inverse is true.  A recent New York Times article discussed “How Intense Study May Harm Our Workouts” because a tired brain perceives exercise as harder, leading us to quit earlier.  We know have confirmed our suspicions from high school, when that session at Extra Help made practice or rehearsal that much harder.


Considering this evidence along with what we already know in the field, I have a feeling that it’s not studying as an act that’s causing us to tire, but it’s the overall load of activities that leads to central fatigue.  If we train to exhaustion, studying is harder.  If we study to exhaustion, studying is harder.  Our capacity in any given situation is limited, but with practice, it’s limitless.

Progressive Overload is less of a theory and more of a philosophy; in any situation that we want to get better, we need to refine the accomplishments of yesterday to become better today.  Our movement-centric brains have the same subconscious desires as we have for our conscious goals.

Other recent evidence suggests that we can have a similar response to when watching movement than we do when we’re actually moving.  It seems that in many ways, our brains are primed to desire, analyze, and create movement.

Movement is Cognition, Cognition is Movement*

How often are you completely engaged in your movement?  How often are you moving while you’re learning?  We needlessly, perhaps negatively, separate the two, but they’re closely related.  We should regularly practice big-bang exercises to refine those patterns, but we should also regularly learn new exercises to create cognitive challenges.

I’m not saying that you should do obscure math on a white board between sets of kettlebell swings, or count backwards by 7’s while you’re squatting.  I’m saying that movement is a cognitively demanding process, and we need to find balance between the many variables that are parts of our exercise and general physical activity.

If you’re intellectually active throughout the day, find more meditative exercise approaches.  If your day is mentally quieter, find exercise that demands more thought.  If most of your day is at a desk, create more diverse movement while you’re training, and if your activity is diverse, become brilliant at the basics.  If you’re a dancer, less Zumba and more deadlifts.  If you’re a desk-jockey, experience more free-movement, be it yoga, pilates, or actually completing a full warm-up.

Find Balance or Else.

We need to find balance.  Balance between what is easy and what is hard, what we want and what we need.  Your body inherently wants to move, but the approach to movement changes based on where we are at that moment and on our long-term goals.  Find movement that you can think about, and think about your movement to get better.  It’s the only way.


*If that’s not the least sexy subheading I could think of…

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