Kinesthesia

If we consider movement to be a language, then what is the alphabet, what are the words and phrases through which the language is communicated? How do we form words and phrases in order to ‘speak’ in the language of movement?

Wiki definition of kinesthetic learning:

Kinesthetic learning (American English), kinaesthetic learning (British English), or tactile learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.

In Howard Gardner’s Frames Of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner describes activities (such as dancing and performing surgery) as requiring great kinesthetic intelligence: using the body to create (or do) something.

Long long ago, children were allowed to be children, and being children, they took to learning, to progressing, to advancing, to being… children.  Without the dopamine triggering effect of device screens which radiate blue light, the only option was outside under the big blue sky. Children learned how to move because they played. There was a time when climbing trees was not prohibited, when scaling down ravines, wading through creeks and along river banks was not banned, back when children actually needed to be reminded to come home from being outside all day and playing. It was a time when children developed kinesthesia – the intelligence of movement – by playing in trees, in backyards of friends, on the street in games of 21, pick up, shiny, by riding bikes until the street lights came on serving to put everything on hold til the next day.

Legends of sport developed by taking play from a one-off experience to a purposeful daily pattern of practice… Wayne Gretzky, Rory McIlroy, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Chrissie Wellington, the Brownlee brothers, and so on.

In a tech obsessed world, where infants are baby-sat by the TV, toddlers by ipads, tweens and teens and adults by their smartphones, how will the language of kinesthesia be developed, let alone retained? It isn’t.  We are losing the ability to speak in the language of movement, and the rising toll is becoming clear (e.g. articles titled “sitting is the new smoking” reveal our growing awareness). We are losing our ability to move, we are losing a sense of ourselves, and the evidence is in the rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases.

Google definition of kinesthesia:

kin·es·the·sia
/ˌkinəsˈTHēZH(ē)ə/
noun
noun: kinaesthesia; noun: kinesthesia
  • awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body by means of sensory organs (proprioceptors) in the muscles and joints

Problem is that we take kinesthesia for granted. We accept that there is specific intelligence to math, to finance, to communication, but movement… there is a general assumption that the ability to move, let alone play a sport is more an issue of conditioning not an ignorance in movement.

A lack of conditioning, we can reconcile: having led a sedentary lifestyle, commuting for years, being a desk jockey at the office, and then again at home in front of a labtop or desktop, couch surfing, internet surfing, its easy to admit that we are out of shape. Admitting that we are ignorant in how to move, is just plain ridiculous. Who would admit that they do not know how to walk properly, run or bike efficiently? We can admit to being out of shape, to having a few extra pounds, to getting a little winded with a brisk jog for the GO train or subway or with a flight of stairs, but a lack of movement intelligence, no way! Our ego cannot take that sort of bruising.

So what happens?

One day after randomly standing on the scale and having to take a double look at the number, or after an annual check up with our doctor, or after a love one draws a line in the sand concerned about our health, or after a coworker (in better shape or younger) suffers a heart attack or stroke, we figure we need to get back into some sort of shape.

Then what?

If you follow the advice of the online health websites you have one of two options:

  • Join a gym and start doing a blend of cardio, weights, and classes (e.g. yoga, spinning), or
  • Pick an event (e.g. a 10k) and start to train for it.

See the issue?

There is nothing about gaining knowledge, increasing movement intelligence, its all about re-conditioning your body.

The assumption made, and the assumption perpetuated is that everyone is “kinesthetically intelligent” (i.e. knows how to move, and how to move well) and all that is missing is the physical effort to recondition the body. If that was indeed the case, then why do each of all of the online websites spend as much if not more web space on injury, injury prevention, recovery training, mobility aides, recovery nutrition, and so on?  If everyone is such a kinesthetic genius then why is there so much written about injuries, recovering from injury, over-training, burn out, illness, etc…?

If you were a varsity level athlete who had exposure to training, to cycles of returning to sport after an off season, building during the season, and preparing for competition, and then recovering in an off season, then the issue may be more of a lack of exercise, a conditioning issue but for how many does this apply? A small minority at most.

NOTE:  Dara Torres upon her return to swimming (the 1st time she was swimming competitively was in the ’90s) had to have her entire stroke reconstructed because she returned to the pool with the same stroke she swam as a teenager. Sounds obvious, but the point is… Dara Torres had to gain movement intelligence – kinesthesia – in order to return to competitive swim training. Dara went on to become the most decorated female Olympic swimmer… think about that (actually she is tied by Natalie Couglin).

Allow me to suggest an alternative…

If you do not have prior training or exercise experience then start simple. No bootcamps, no health club membership, no personal training, no fitness apparel shopping spree, nothing except you (and a loved one if available) heading out the front door for a walk. No devices, just you or the two of you. Take the time to hold hands, smell the air, enjoy the season. Make it a routine. It may start as a weekend routine, but I would encourage you to progress to it becoming a daily routine. Once you have re-accustomed your body to a daily routine of taking time to yourself, then you can start to really explore your potential.

When ready, I would encourage you to find a sport, not a device nor a machine.  Machines don’t teach you about your body, neither do fitness facilities, or health clubs. Find a sport, and find a coach who will start you at the beginning, with the ABCs of movement: agility, balance and coordination. Being able to bench press, snatch or run 5k is not where you need to start, you need to be able to bend, twist, reach, hop, jump and lunge quickly and with ease before you attempt anything complex. These are abilities and skills you need for life, and these are also the foundation for all complex movements such as running, swimming, cycling, and lifting… so why jump to the finish line when you have yet to cross the starting line properly?

If you make it a journey of discovery of your potential then you cannot be anything but enthusiastic.

If you make it a process of learning the language of movement – kinesthesia – you cannot get bored.

I’ve been swimming for as long as I can remember, and I am nowhere close to being bored of jumping in a pool. There is so much to master… how can anyone get bored with the complexity of technique of a Phelps, Dressel, Coughlin, Ledecky, Hosszú, or a Sjostrom?

Oh yeah… the reward.

You will develop a new language, kinesthesia, and with it you will not only start to enjoy your body, your body will start to reward you with freedom of movement, the ability to move quickly and easily, and then with speed, endurance, and power.

All the best in your journey.