At WFA we believe deeply in the value of learning; in fact, there’s plenty of science to support the strategy of using exercise, particularly strength training, to prepare the brain for learning.
Today, let’s consider learning in a new way:
What’s the process of learning a new exercise?
Let’s talk Legos for a moment. Modern Lego kits come in sets that let you build the thing that’s on the front of the box – a pirate ship, the Death Star, or the Statue of Liberty. As a kid, I would always build the thing on the box, following the provided instructions, exactly once. Why?
Following the instructions gives you a chance to see how pieces can be used, it provides a template for future creativity, and it’s an accessible introduction to a theme.
But if you only follow the instructions, if you’re limited to doing what you’re told to do, you just keep building the same pirate ship again and again, without deviation. No creativity. No learning. No growth. No progress.
Stop building the same damned pirate ship again and again.
The beauty of Legos is the chance to do something new, something different. To take the pirate ship’s sail and attach it to a sailboat, or a spaceship, or to use it as a cape. Or maybe you take the ship’s rudder and make it into the flipper for a pinball game.
Take what you learned, and then play. Explore. Get creative.
Here’s a great example from the other day. A client of mine, a runner, noted that she has IT band pain after a lot of her runs. She’d been to a physical therapist in the past, but couldn’t remember the exact exercises she was told to do. So we took 5 minutes in a 60-minute class, and we worked to find a muscle that wasn’t working (it was her glute medius). First, we looked it up on an anatomy chart, so we could see where it is, and what it does. Then, we tried a few different exercises until we found one that allowed her to feel the muscle work. And then we started to stress the muscle – asking it to do more and more work. Finally, we left it with her homework assignment: stress and strengthen her glute meduis every day.
We started by looking at the Lego box (the anatomy chart), then we played by the rules (she did the exercises I told her to do), and then she started to get creative, looking for other exercises to get the muscle to fire, maybe even more efficiently than what I’d given her.
When you’re learning a new exercise, you’re going to move through these three phases:
- Learn the pattern, so you can move through the positions that make up the exercise
- Polish the movement so you’re smoother, more confident, and spending less time on the minutiae
- Finally, and forever, you personalize the exercise; you apply adjustments to make it work better for you, maybe working around injuries or limitations, or changing it so it makes you stronger in the exact ways you need.
Start by looking at the box and reading the instructions. But after that, it’s up to you to F#cking Figure it Out.
If you’re willing to walk that road – moving beyond being told what to do and taking responsibility for your own growth and experiences, we’d love to meet you.