The Imperative of Learning a New Skill

 

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Everybody has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is. – George Lucas

We have heard that the human brain needs new tasks, new environments, and new challenges to keep itself in tip-top shape. So how can you apply that concept of “shaking it up” to your health and fitness?

If your chosen sport or fitness activity is cycling, do you think your body has become familiar with the movement patterns? If it is racquetball? The same answer applies. Your body gets used to those patterns and frankly it’s easier than when you started, right? Remember though that Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) are some of the most common causes for injury. You can become injured because you are taxing the same muscles, joints, and neurons over and over and over again. It’s likely there are whole muscle groups and neurological pathways that have not received equal “love” from your workouts.

So share the love.

Teen girl exercising with towel around her neck

I can hear our beloved clients donning their Fitbit who love their “cardio” burn question me about trying something new.  “Will I get in my steps, burn 800 calories, and have a pool of sweat?” And I imagine my answer will be, “Wait and see.” We love it when clients ask “why?”  I love it that so many of our clients are curious. Curiosity can lead us in directions that are so rewarding. As long as we are open minded and pliable enough in our mindset, the world is literally our oyster.

Do you think it is harder on the body to accomplish something new than not?

I think you know the answer to this.

Unfamiliar movement patterns have an extraordinary effect on brain health, according to Maggie Morehart, a coach and fitness enthusiast in Findlay, Ohio. She says, “Learning a new movement is so good for you they may even prevent memory loss and neurodegenerative diseases. Just as resistance exercises strengthen muscle fibers, learning new skills strengthens the connections between neurons and different areas of the brain.”

According to Dr. Thomas Gordon, learning a new skill (no matter what it is) involves four phases.  Dr. Gordon is known as a pioneer in teaching communication skills and conflict resolution. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, 1998, and 1999.

He believed being aware of these stages helps us better accept that learning can be a slow and frequently uncomfortable process.

4stagesnewskill

The Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill

Stage 1 – Unconsciously unskilled. We don’t know what we don’t know. We are inept and unaware of it.

Stage 2 – Consciously unskilled. We know what we don’t know. We start to learn at this level when sudden awareness of how poorly we do something shows us how much we need to learn.

Stage 3 – Consciously skilled. Trying the skill out, experimenting, practicing. We now know how to do the skill the right way, but need to think and work hard to do it.

Stage 4 – Unconsciously skilled. If we continue to practice and apply the new skills, eventually we arrive at a stage where they become easier, and given time, even natural.

So, how do you become interested, passionate, or find results of a fitness program?

new skills, 3D rendering, blue street sign
new skills, 3D rendering, blue street sign

First, friends or family members get you hooked and you can spend time with them.

Second, you learned the skill (tennis, golf, cycling, running, whatever) as a child and enjoy the feeling you get when you engage in the activity.

Third, your doctor said those often whispered words “You need to start exercising.”

There are countless ways we begin and continue with a fitness program. I venture to guess those who stay with it are becoming skilled in whatever method of exercise.

For me, I was encouraged by my coach, Max Shank, to practice a new skill called the 5-Minute Flow. The 5-Minute Flow is good on the body and mind. When he originally created it, he intentionally left the exact programming of your 5-Minute Flow to you. When I asked him for my movements he wanted me to do, he told me that was up to me. How uncomfortable was I? Very.

However, practicing the 5-Minute Flow every morning for the month of May was not only a great way to awaken, it helped me with some of my pesky tightness and aches. My hips opened, my t-spine became more pliable, and I breathed. I actually breathed better. And, yes, my workouts were MUCH more effective. I felt them in the right place.

Andrew Read says, “But soon enough we’re again encouraged down a path of sport specialization and instead of learning new skills and moving more, we end up performing just a few things over and over.”

What Read explains and is frankly frustrated about is that we are getting ourselves and our children into specialized sports. Therefore, they are not moving their bodies in different movement patterns risking injury and boredom.

A new skill can give your muscles the feedback they need. You will “feel” it more and you will learn where your body was being neglected (due to that soreness).

What new skill do you want to try? I promise, the rewards will be good for your body and mind.

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