Seeing the Body Learn

October 1, 2009

With only a few updates up over the past several months, it is obvious that none of those lead back into a more consistent blogging routine, so this time I’m not going to say or promise anything about upcoming posts because as I’m realizing more each day actions speak louder than words.

With today’s philosophical moment out of the way, its time to move on to the meat and potatoes of this post :)

Twice a week I work with a small group of 5-6 year olds on “speed” training. First, a few things: a) when I got my first training certification, I never expected to work with this age group and b) these two hours of my week are a couple of the most fun hours I have! But what I really want to write about is seeing learning in action. Each session these kids come back noticeably better in coordination drills, on keeping their balance on one leg, or with using decent arm drive technique while running — even their parents notice the difference week to week!

I think it is one of the coolest things to see this happen, especially at this age since the week to week improvement in movement/skill quality is so apparent. It is also why when introducing a new skill, I constantly remind myself to not overcoach it. I like Brian Grasso’s term “guided discovery” — the gist being that when a new movement or skill is introduced the body might not produce a perfect looking movement pattern right away or that first day, but from the get-go it is problem solving. And particularly with a younger age group, it is important to let the body’s nervous sytem problem solve without imposed limits. Then once the training session is over the nervous system is still at work making connections (basically like sorting through information) between it and the muscles to  be able to perform that new movement in the future.

To an extent I still coach like this with our older athletes (with both groups safety is kept in mind of course) because improved coordination and having experienced a greater variety of movements often means greater athleticism. Just because an athlete is 16, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been exposed to every sort of movement — nor does it mean they cannot learn new movements and new ways of coordinating muscle actions — it might just take a little longer for these individuals to pick something up since their nervous systems are more “set in their ways”.



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