Monday, March 25, 2019

Learning is Asking an Emotional Question

Growing up, if you asked me what learning meant, I would have answered that learning was the memorization of "stuff."  Ask me a question and I will repeat what I had "learned."  Ask me in a week, and I might not remember it anymore.  I got the A and moved on to the next piece of information to be memorized aka learned.

Is that really learning?

In college, I had the fortunate opportunity to have several, several teachers that didn't allow memorization to be tested.  Concepts were expected to be understood.  They couldn't be memorized.  It took several failed attempts to memorize super large quantities of data to change the pattern of my study process.  Concepts were understood, learned.

Is that really learning?

I had several opportunities to play sports in different settings.  From baseball and soccer,  to football, rugby and bobsled.  Skills were taught.  Techniques were practiced.  Practice until you can do them well.  Looking back, I realized I practiced till I could do a skill, without really an understanding of the why.

Is that really learning?

Taking a poll of my younger self.  I would have stated, I don't like school, I don't like reading, I don't enjoy "Learning."  I just want the end result.  Give me the answers.

Present day, one of my favorite things in life is reading, I'm not really in a Joy state if I'm not learning things, if I'm not pursuing something.

Pursuit.  Pursuing is an emotional thing.  Your whole being is involved.  It implies passion and thought and commitment.  My present self would go back and tell my younger self, you do love learning.  You just don't get what that means.  Learning is finding the secrets to the subject your interested in.  The answers to an emotional question.

What are the emotional questions?

My first emotional question was how do I play football in college.  As a 119lb freshman in High School, the answer was get bigger and faster.  So I learned about training.  I showed up and trained.  I asked questions.  I observed other athletes training.  I wrote every coach I could think of and asked how to train.  I experimented with training.  I devoured a lifestyle of training.  This bled into not only lifting weights and running, but I learned about other methods of training.  I remember writing Istvan Jvorak and learning and using his Complexes and not understanding how all of a sudden by lifting lighter and faster I put 4 more reps on my 225lb bench and 3 inches on my vertical in 12 weeks.  I read up on nutrition and supplements.  I read about hormones.  I learned about wave cycling.  But, I didn't know I was learning.  I was just pursuing an answer to a question.  I never said to myself.  I'm going to study new rep schemes tonight.  I'm going to study some biochemistry tomorrow.  It just happened.

My view point at this point in time is that a thing can't be learned if it doesn't come from an emotional question.  The answer will be superficial at best without.  You may know the answer, but only when the question is exactly what you studied.  Life very rarely gives the story book question.

I knew how to rehab a tendon a year and half ago.  After my own achllies tendon tore a year ago,  I pursued the answer to how to sprint again.  Now I KNOW how to rehab a tendon.  The intricacies of reps/timing/nutrition.  Tendon research.  Tendon researchers.

In 2013, my daughter was one.  I realized I couldn't squat deep anymore.  My mobility had deteriorated.    My emotional question was how do I regain my mobility.  Again, deep dived into mobility training and theories.  Functional Range Conditioning kept popping up.  Dr Andreo Spina, created a system.  An amazing process of principles.  I regained my hip mobility.  More importantly I learned about mobility training.

I don't think you necessarily have to have your own tendon failure to learn about tendons.  But, I do think there must be an emotional connection to your question.  Perhaps it's a friend, family member or patient that drives you into the pursuit.

A person picks up a bow and arrow and shoots it at a target.  They miss. They keep practicing.  They get better.  They start to love archery.  They ask the emotional question, How do I get better.  They learn about wind.  They learn some physics and geometry.  They start making their own arrows.  They study the history of the bow.  They practice breath control.  They test equipment.  They learn the bow and arrow.

Ask an Emotional Question.

Practically speaking we live an an amazing time for available information.  One of my favorite ways to spearhead an emotional question is search out a a concept or person with books/podcasts and articles and listen and read everything that person has done for several days/weeks.  Then if my pursuit is still calling me, you dive into the research papers and textbooks and see how to apply it.  

But again, those deep dives are coming from an emotional question.  Right now,  I have two questions that I'm asking.  One.  How do we create Biological Durability.

"Avoid inactivity of your organism as you would avoid severe illness and cultivate the endurance function as a pathway to biological durability."  Ernst van Aaken.

Two.  What do we know post cancer?  Valter Longo keeps coming up.

These are all my theories and thoughts, and maybe I'm the only one that learns this way.  It would be great if I could just pick up a topic and own it thoroughly, but I'm not wired that way.  I don't think I'm alone.  I do think that we can cheat the system though.  By simply asking better questions, finding that emotional connection, we can learn better.

Keep Learning.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Circadian Rhythm of Life and How to Enhance It

The weekend marks another spring forward time change.  Setting the clocks forward often means a loss of an hour of sleep for many people.  The reason many people have a hard time with time changes is because our bodies naturally adopt a certain ebb and flow to the sleep/wake cycle.  We can essentially train our self to fit our lifestyle.  This can be good and bad.

The good.  Humans greatest physical attribute is perhaps its ability to adapt to its environment.  Cold, hot, sea level, mountain living, city, country, much like a coyote, humans will figure it out and thrive. 

The bad.  We are so good at manipulating our environment to survive, we have altered our natural rhythms of life that we have built into our cell biology.  We are finding this to have some serious health consequences.  

First, some science.  Chronobiology is the study of circadian rhythms.  Humans have built in biological clocks (an innate timing device) in every tissue and every organ.   Biological clocks produce and control circadian rhythms.  There is a master switch in the brain that is composed of 20,000 neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that controls the biological clocks.  This resides in the hypothalamus and receives input through the eyes.  This is an important distinction as this will show the significance and power of light.  

Light has the ability to turn on and off genes that control biological clocks.  Because of this powerful impact light has,  it becomes very important how much we get and when we get it.  To jump start a day, let sunlight hit your eyes.  Sunlight has blue light.  It creates a power trigger for alertness.  Equally important as the sun sets, eliminate or diminish all blue light to allow the body to start producing melatonin (sleepiness hormone).  This also coincides with a slight reduction in body temperature.   Staring at a computer or cell phone is just triggering the biological clocks that it still daytime.  In the absence of light, humans are still wired for around a 24 hours of sleep/wake.  Light just influences how we go about regulating other circadian rhythms in the body.  

Our natural circadian rhythm is built around a 24 hour cycle(day).  There are also other parts of our biology that have circadian rhythms in it.  One of the most important is cell metabolism or energy.  Every cell has an organelle called mitochondria in it.  Mitochondria are the power houses of energy production.  They have a fusion/fission pattern.  If this is disrupted, energy production is compromised.  This pattern is linked with circadian rhythm of the body.  How and when energy is produced is in direct relationship to the health of your rhythm.  Disrupt your circadian rhythms and disrupt your mitochondrial ability to produce energy. 

Performance can even be potentially thought of as having a rhythm.  It has been speculated that peak alertness is around 10am.  Coordination around 2pm and peak cardiovascular and strength around 5pm.  I have heard these numbers thrown around before but couldn't find much on the origins.  Peak body low temperature is around 4am and peak body high temperature is around 7pm.  Perhaps they were able to coordinate it with this.  I for one have never felt strong in the morning when lifting weights.

Other organs also operate with a circadian rhythm.  The liver is a prime example.  Liver enzymes that help to convert calories to energy are stopped being produced at night.  It is producing enzymes to store energy. To take in a large meal before sleeping then disrupts this natural rhythm.  Like light, food then becomes a powerful environmental trigger for supporting the natural circadian rhythm.  This is becoming known as time restricted feeding.  There have been many health benefits shown for creating a smaller window for eating.  Instead of 16 hours of eating, trying to get to 10-12 and even 8 hours.  For myself, I've been trying to do 10-12 as this allows me to still support biking/lifting and a social life.  

Skeletal muscle makes up 40% of all tissues in our bodies.  It also contains biological clocks that influence circadian rhythm.  The last decade has brought lots of research on studying how exercise influences this rhythm and whether there truly is an optimal time of day for exercise.  There have been many studies of mice that show that exercise influences and enhance the health of the biological clocks, but to date no consensus has been shown at what time or what is "best."  Most studies have been done with endurance activities, but resistance exercises have also shown to have an impact on the genes and gene expression of the biological clocks.  

As humans we have built in rhythms.  These rhythms drive almost all aspects of our physiology.  Because we are so amazingly adaptable, we can fight against these natural rhythms for years, perhaps decades, before any "wear and tear" or signs of distress show.  There is a difference between adequate and optimal though.  Science is in agreement, for optimal health, the circadian rhythm must be respected and nourished.  

The 3 most powerful tools we control are LIGHT, FOOD and EXERCISE.  Establish routines for all three.  There will be arguing over the minutia, don't let this paralyze you.  Get 7-9 hours.  Eat in a certain window of time consistently.  Try to exercise everyday around the same time when possible.  Following these three principles will give perhaps the best foundation for a healthier lifestyle.