Skill Acquisition/Learning [5]

On the left is your brain when it has enough oxygen, like when you train aerobically.

On the right is your brain when it doesn’t have enough oxygen, like when you train anaerobically.

brain oxygenationGuess how much learning the brain on the right is capable of versus the brain on the left.

Exactly.  None.

When you are performing Hi Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), when you are in the red zone, when you exceed the capacity of your core muscles, when you can no longer breathe diaphragmatically, when you are working at a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of at 8 or higher… you are training anaerobically.

RPE 2016-01How ‘smart’ do you think you are when your are training at this intensity, training HIIT?

Exactly. You aren’t. There isn’t enough oxygen available to the higher functioning/executive decision making parts of the brain for you to be smart (hence why any child diagnosed with attention deficits and/or learning impairments in either academic, athletic or performing art environments should have their breathing assessed).

How ‘smart’ do you think your decisions are when you are in such a state?

Exactly. They aren’t. How can they be when you aren’t thinking, when you are reacting, when you are in survival mode depending on flight-fight-freeze reflexes. Ever reflect back on a moment while training or competing and wonder to yourself what was going through your mind that made you… run a red light through an intersection, cross a road without checking twice, taking that double black diamond trail, doing that extra interval, that extra hill, that extra rep with extra weight? Now you know.

How ‘smart’ do you think you’re becoming at executing skills, at learning strategy, at refining awareness and performance evaluation, at coordinating patterns of movement to move with greater ease, with greater efficiency, with greater agility, balance, speed, strength, and with greater endurance?

Exactly. Not at all. You aren’t improving in any facet of the execution of sport specific technique in an anaerobic state.  You are resorting to hormonally induced surges of power to attempt to cause yourself to lift heavier weights, to run faster, to pedal harder, to last longer. And we call this… fitness? Fitness is not based on training the neuro-endocrine system to pump out more hormones while temporarily inducing a state of perceived stress. That’s blatant ignorance, all out stupidity, and not only is it unhealthy but it it risks causing cardiovascular accidents in the short term, and cardiovascular disease in the long term. If that’s our definition of fitness then we truly are walking around with blue brains (i.e. no oxygen reaching the brain).

HIIT is not training because you cannot and will not gain any skills, nor will you improve in the execution of any skill while performing HIIT.  HIIT is peaking for competition, that’s it. HIIT is last of the last bit of training, to push the needle just a bit into the red zone prior to competition. It is not a lifestyle, because it leads to lifestyle diseases.

If you want to improve in sport, its not about how much adrenalin you can force your adrenal glands to puke up mid workout by resorting to getting all psyched up, ramped up, or by how deep into beast mode you can go.

If you want to improve in sport, then its all about skill acquisition, and skill acquisition happens at low RPEs, at low intensity, where oxygen and blood are in abundant supply to the brain, muscles, all vital organs and when the conditions are non threatening ensuring that survival instincts are not triggered, when the athlete is able to oscillate between diffuse and focused mindsets, when learning, attempting, experimenting, and then evaluating, tuning, refining, and applying the lessons to be smarter are possible.

Smart training leads to a mentally nimble, physically flexible, and emotionally stable athlete who is able to evaluate moment by moment while training or competing all aspects of both their performance and that of their competitors leveraging all their skills simultaneously and consistently to deliver peak performance after peak performance. Smart training yields resilient, robust, dynamic, capable athletes who can translate their skill set from sport, to academics, to the arts, to business, leading a life that is as dynamic out of sport, as it is in sport.

Hard training leads to a hard body, hard muscles, a hard heart, hard arteries, hardened joints, a hard head, and an athlete who is hard fixed in their belief that every problem is a nail, and hitting those problems harder and harder with a hammer is the definition of training. In time, this athlete will suffer either a self inflicted injury, heart attack, stroke, breakdown, melt down or will simply blow up. Because of their hardness they are blind to see that they have done it to themselves, not because they are lacking in anything, but because they have hardened themselves to the point that they have become fragile, brittle, the exact opposite of what they wanted.