Miyamoto Musashi – The Book of Five Rings
The title of this post is a quote from the Book of Five Rings, or Go Rin No Sho in Japanese that was written by Miyamoto Musashi almost 400 years ago. Written in approx. 1645 but still applicable today. Continue reading my post to understand why.
How we do things can be very important. If you are an elite level athlete how you do things can result in a win or loss. In elite level competition, the winner is sometimes determined by hundredths or even thousandths of a second. And if competing in your chosen discipline is how you earn your living that can result in a gain in thousands or even millions of dollars or a loss. For the rest of us, the difference can be continuing to do the thing we like to do or prevented from doing these things because of injury, of loss of motivation. Let me explain further by breaking this out into 2 categories:
Let’s talk about motivation. I’m going to tell you a story that may help make this clearer. A number of years ago I signed up for an introduction to running clinic being offered at my workplace. The clinic was advertised as a way to dip your toe into the water of running, a way of educating yourself on how to run and possibly finish up by running a 5k race. The first day we all suited up in our running gear and then went out and ran a mile, or attempted to run a mile. Most of us, pretty much all of us, had not run a mile in quite a while. Months, maybe years for some of us since the last time we ran or even did something physical that would tax the cardiovascular system heavily. We put on our shoes, shorts, and t-shirts and went out and ran a mile. Some of us did. Not everyone completed the run and not everyone came back for the next class. If I were to be blunt in describing this I would say our instructor broke some people. Unintentionally but that is what happened. She took a group of office workers mostly in their 30’s or 40’s and had them run hard for 1 mile. I look back at this day with much clearer eyes, much more educated eyes and I can respectfully say that was the wrong way to run a clinic. How can I say that? If the goal is to get more people passionate about running and to then help them learn how to run and then continue to run that did not happen. If you were one of the people who did come back it was due to sheer determination to continue and not quit.
We tend to be motivated to continue to do things when we feel good about what it is we are doing. Seeing and feeling results can also build or maintain motivation for most people. Some, not many, are motivated by negative experiences, negative peer pressure, or competition. The classic example of someone driven to succeed to prove everyone wrong which usually means prove their parents wrong, or prove their ‘friends’ wrong (friends who think they are motivating you by putting you down are not really friends, lose those toxic people in your life). And is motivation out of fear, or hate healthy? What consequences come with that?
So how would I run that first day of the running clinic? I would probably follow a proven approach of running and walking. I would also assess my students and off of that determine the run/walk interval. 1 mile converts to 1600 metres approximately. So I might try 400 metres running followed by 100, or maybe 200 metres at a quick walk. That works out to approximately 3 intervals. This gives the students an opportunity to run and then also get their breath back if you will and also an opportunity to gear up for the next interval. Also, it’s not going to be overly taxing. And in the end, everyone ran a mile and can walk away proud of that fact. Motivated for the next class to learn how to improve and motivated to run again.
At the beginning of any activity that is new, we should treat that in the manner that it is new. Are you better at your job today than when you first entered your profession? Absolutely!
If you do things that are of no use, are an impediment, create disinterestedness, build incuriosity than you will not continue. You need to do things and only things that build confidence, curiosity, passion, drive. Those things that fulfill you. Only then will it become something that you will want to continue with. Do only the things that are of use.
Let’s move on to the second point. Before I forget, I have broken this into 2 points but there are more. Perhaps I’ll expand on some of the other points in an upcoming post. From years of coaching in the personal training industry and also instructing in martial arts, I have seen many examples of this. People failing to properly warm up, failing to listen to their teacher, failing to adequately rest, failing to properly cool down, failing to use proper technique. I can continue but this should make the point.
Do things that are of use
If you look at the quote ‘Do nothing that is of no use’ it also infers the opposite. Do everything that is of use. The incorrect technique will lead to injury. Let’s take running as an example. All of us know how to run just like we all naturally learned how to crawl, walk, and then run. We know how to run instinctively because we had to run away from predators, in short distances to safety if possible, thousands of years ago. It was for survival. But that does not mean we know how to run 5km’s every day, a 10km race, marathon, or an extreme endurance event.
Although as human beings we have a body that is built almost perfectly to run long distances (Kenyan’s would run for days tiring out their prey before killing them) most of us don’t know how to run properly. The majority of people who have not had proper training think that when you run you land on the heel, then roll forward and push off of the toes. I think most people believe this because if you look at a pair of running shoes the heel is extremely cushioned. Why would you not land on the heel with all that cushioning? Now, go by a pair of minimalist shoes and try that. Shortly into the run you’ll have to stop due to intense pain.
So if I have running shoes that are greatly cushioned what is wrong with landing on the heels? Without going too deep into it, it’s the body position when you do this that can lead to other injuries such as in the knees, hips, back, shoulders. If we are such good runners because we naturally know how to run then why do so many people get injured? Repetitive stress injury is one reason. Constantly doing one thing such as running is not healthy for your body. The body will strengthen certain muscles, the muscles doing the work, and the other muscles, usually the muscles opposite the ones doing the work are not getting worked out as much. Muscle imbalances build up and this also leads to injury. Also, the muscles that are primarily being used are used in a certain way, a certain range of motion. If you look at running the hamstrings and quads are not engaged in nearly the full range of motion they are capable of. This is one reason why I’m a proponent of incorporating variety in your workouts.
Now, I get it. I get how people get hooked to doing one thing. I was one of those people who fell in love with running. My long runs would typically consist of runs ranging from 20km’s to 40km’s depending on the week. That feeling you get from the endorphins and hormones being released can be incredible. But you have to incorporate other training that will in the end give you a well rounded balanced body. I’ve run into people who when they find out I train in Karate they tell me they used to do Karate until they got injured doing it. Unless it was due to sparring or another underlying issue I guarantee it was due to incorrect technique. How do I know? Because I educate myself on these things, on how mechanics of the body work to produce power and how improper mechanics will cause injury. Also, I’ve been to Okinawa a number of times training with Okinawan’s who are in their 70’s and 80’s and they are training and doing the same things much younger people are. If Karate killed your body how is this so?
Fitness should be something for life. Things you enjoy doing should be things you do for your life. Just like eating. Look at the history of fad diets. They all end up in failure, they are unsustainable. Whereas you look at one group of people that have the largest amount of centenarians (Okinawans) and they historically eat a diet comprised of 85 – 90% complex carbs.
Do nothing that is of no use. Think about this, deeply. And if you don’t know what it is that is of no use, that’s ok. Everyone at one point is a beginner. That is why there are experts in these areas; personal trainers, running coaches, swim coaches, sensei’s, etc. Invest in yourself. Why wouldn’t you do that? I guarantee that you’ll be glad you did now, and years and years from now. Don’t eliminate those things that are of no use and it will probably be a short trip.
Yours in health,