Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Default is Atrophy

Hunch Back Posture Problems
“Our default is atrophy,” says Charlie Bellia – if you don’t use it, you lose it. That goes for muscles, languages, skills. That’s why it’s so hard to get back into working out when you stop for a couple weeks.  Your brain is efficient; it’s the best spring-cleaner, trims out all the extra fat, anything we don’t need, it gets rid of. Our instincts tell us that if you work your muscles to the point of fatigue, those muscles need to be stronger. It’s survival, explains Charlie, if you get too tired hiking up Mount Si, your brain senses that it could be, on the most primal level, dangerous. Working your muscles tells your brain that you need them. And if you demand more of them, they rise to the occasion – that’s what they’re there for. Their function is to work for you and your movement needs.

Lydia Condrea, a linguist and language teacher, tells her students that their brain is lazy. Unless they can trick it into needing to work to find other ways to communicate, it will default to the system it is most comfortable in. That is why it is nearly impossible to really pick up a new language in a situation in which you rely heavily on your native language or one that you already know well. When I studied in Rome during my sophomore year in college,
I learned the most when I was at home with my host Mom – she spoke no English, so I was forced to communicate with her in Italian. Using the limited vocabulary I had, I quickly learned new words and getting my point across and comprehending became easier and easier.

If you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s why when so many of us spend hours hunched over in front of a computer screen, our chest muscles atrophy and get shorter, while the muscles that stabilize our shoulder blades get stretched and loose and weak since they do not work to hold our over-extended shoulder blades in place.  To correct this under and over-use and imbalance of muscle relationship, we have to stretch the chest muscles and strengthen the back muscles by making them feel needed again… and correct our posture.

We are not meant to be still; we are made for challenges to our body, our mind. If you want to keep your skills, keep your muscles, learn something new, you’ve got to push yourself to a point of fatigue. The little bit of smoke coming from your ears is a good thing. Nothing worth having is easy. But it feels so good.

Our default is atrophy. Use it or lose it.

Todo lo que vive, se mueve – Calle 13 – Si te detienes el corazón se atora; Lo que no se mueve, no se mejora. Everything that lives, moves; If you stop, your heart gets blocked; that which doesn’t move, doesn’t improve/grow.

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