5 Things We Learned in 2015…
We, at Higher Performance Network, have read, watched, listened to, researched, and sifted through a lot of stuff this year… like borderline too much. But with going through that much information, you start to get the big picture of what people are collectively trying to say. You begin to understand where the lines are in our thinking, and possibly even where we’re headed.
We tried to check out stuff from all different areas of the performance game and from all different kinds of people. From the practitioners, to the researchers, to the athletes/performers themselves, to the coaches, certain themes began to emerge. And while we try to be as unbiased as possible, undoubtedly these conclusions will have been drawn through our lenses, and they may not represent the way that you see things. That’s ok. And while there are always more questions than answers, we did come up with five big things that we learned this year. So here they are, in no particular order:
1. Generalization of movement is the future
This will probably come as no shock to most of you, as anyone who’s been around the performance world or movement world has seen this coming. We’re learning more and more about good movement and trying new strategies for creating it. We’re learning that the human body is designed to engage in a wide variety of movements and that engaging in only one form of movement not only reduces our athletic potential, but also may lead to decreased longevity and an increased risk for overuse injuries.
There’s been a huge spike in the popularity of Erwan Le Corre’s MovNat, Ido Portal and his signature method, Mike Fitch and Animal Flow, and a number of other programs, all designed to teach people how to become great and adaptable all-around movers.
We’re seeing professional athletes striving for generalized athleticism in addition to their specialized sport-specific skills. Videos have surfaced this year of NFL players doing pilates, UFC champions training in generalized movement practices, MLB stars practicing extreme plyometrics, and a number of other high-profile athletes engaging in generalized movement practices.
It’s not just the professional athletes who’re doing it. The huge popularity of CrossFit has brought generalization into the mainstream. And CrossFitters themselves are seeking new forms of movement beyond WODs and power lifting. There’s a whole “movement culture”, as Ido Portal would say, and it’s growing and spreading rapidly.
We also saw evidence this year that early specialization in sport can have negative consequences for young athletes- on performance, burn-out rates, and in overuse injuries. Yet another reason why generalization of sport and movement will be the future.
We also think that this generalization revolution is going to create a culture in which we heed Gray Cook’s words on prioritizing moving well before moving often (and moving heavy loads). For more on this and why it’s important, check out this post of ours.
Generalized movement training is the answer to the sick and sedentary culture that’s pervaded America, and the world as a whole. It’s here to stay, and that’s a good thing.
2. The ice age is ending
No, we’re not talking about global warming. We’re talking about icing in sports medicine. Early in 2015 we read a book by Gary Reinl called “ICED: The Illusionary Treatment Option”, and it changed everything for us. Throughout the year we saw more and more evidence stack up against icing for injuries and post-exercise muscle soreness. We even saw the founder of the standard RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) protocol, Dr. Gabe Mirkin M.D., say that ice was longer beneficial for post injury recovery. All of the evidence seems to be pointing towards icing not only not being helpful for reducing inflammation and speeding along recovery, but also that it might actually being detrimental to the process.
And while icing is still mainstream in the performance world as well is in mainstream culture and health practices, we made some progress this year. Look for icing to be further defamed in 2016 and for more momentum against its routine use for anything other than pain reduction.
We also learned that the jury is still out on other forms of cryotherapy. There isn’t conclusive evidence as to whether cool baths, hyper-cold cryo chambers, or cold plunges have any benefits. Most likely they do for overall immune function, energy, mental training, stress reduction, and a number of other areas outside of acute tissue repair. So while their may yet be other benefits to some forms of cryotherapy, it’s definitely time for a paradigm shift to take place when it comes to ice. When in doubt, stop routinely reaching for the ice, and instead try using any of the multitude of other recovery tools and methods that are out there!
3. Stress sucks
We all know that stress sucks when we’re experiencing it. Whether it’s work-related, money-related, relationship-related, a combination of all three, or from some other source, it all sucks. What we didn’t really know was just how bad it really is for our bodies. This year we saw research that showed that stress keeps us from performing our best, it delays recovery from training and from injury, it reduces the gains that we get from exercise and training, and it makes us look and feel like shit.
So now that we know more about just how damaging chronic stress is for our lives, our health, and our ability to perform our best, we need to do something about it. While making your goals or resolutions for 2016, make it a priority to add in daily stress reducing activities. And they have to be healthy ones… Going out and getting hammered with your friends or binge-watching a new TV show all weekend can definitely relieve some stress (temporarily) but they’re also adding other forms of stress to your body in the form of lack of sleep, alcohol, and lack of movement.
Instead, let’s vow to find healthy ways to reduce stress in 2016. That could mean developing a meditation or yoga practice, routinely disconnecting from the electronics, getting out in nature more often, having a garden, working less, or adopting any other number of stress-reducing activities. Let’s make it a priority, our bodies and minds will thank us for it.
4. Meditation is mainstream, yet very few people actually do it
Speaking of stress reduction, this year, we saw meditation become mainstream. New research came out showing some incredible health benefits of regularly meditating: Preservation of DNA integrity, stress reduction, decreased blood pressure, better sleep, increased creativity, decreased chronic pain, decreased depression and anxiety, preservation of brain matter/function with age, need I continue?
While practitioners of this age-old practice have known the benefits, as usual, we in the West have to have some concrete scientific evidence before even considering doing something. Well, this year we got even more of that evidence. Mainstream medicine, mainstream media, and mainstream culture are starting to accept meditation and its benefits. Essentially, everyone knows that it’s good for you now.
But, we still don’t do it consistently. How many times have you heard people say “Yeah, I should start meditating…” or “I did it for a couple of weeks but then stopped.” Or, how about my favorite, “I’d like to do it, I just can’t find the time to do it every day.” Yet somehow that same person has time to spend perfecting their fantasy team lineup for the week, ranting on Facebook, watching a whole season of Game of Thrones (can’t really blame them for that), or getting to level “who cares” at Candy Crush.
And it’s not just the lazy, overweight, poor lifestyle people who don’t do it. It’s also the people who take pride in their healthy lifestyles. Even the runners and the CrossFitters, the Paleos/Primals/Vegans, the make-your-own-kombucha people, and the people who spend time and money to raise chickens so that they can feed themselves and their family healthier eggs… even they can’t seem to do it. So, even with all the known benefits, we still won’t do one of the simplest, cheapest, and most beneficial practices that any human being can engage in.
So what is it? Why is it so hard for us to sit down on the floor, or in a comfy chair, and just mindfully breathe for 20 minutes a day? I get the resistance to exercise, you get sweaty, it’s uncomfortable, you get sore after, it’s hard work… At least those excuses have some basis in reality. But you can’t sit down and be present for 20 minutes a day? You don’t even have to think… in fact the purpose of many forms of meditation is to not actively think, but just to watch the thoughts taking place. Could that be the problem? Are we so stuck on reality-numbing auto pilot that it’s easier just to not open the door into manually controlling our own mental vehicle? Something to meditate on I guess…
So 2015 was an awesome year for meditation in that it became a part of our mainstream Western culture. Hopefully 2016 will be the year of following through on it and actually doing it…
5. Placebo is still a dirty word, and we’re not sure why
This year we saw yet more research supporting the use of placebo and positive thinking as a performance enhancement tool. We also saw some awesome articles that highlighted the use of placebo and positive cueing/self-talk in increasing performance. Yet, we still look down on placebo as a dirty word. We still feel that somehow it’s not a useful tool, only something to be used to determine the validity of a “real” treatment or tool.
What this tells me is that we don’t understand or respect the role that the human mind plays in performance (and for that matter, health as well). And instead of recognizing its power and importance, and using all of our resources to study it and learn how to use it effectively, we shy away from it. We are scared by the power of the mind to enhance/diminish our performance, so we discredit it, and instead, we focus on a new training method, a new recovery method, or a new supplement that we can take. Science is completely lacking in understanding how the mind works, and we, as a community, tend to only support what science tells us is understood and valid. The end result is us not reaching our maximum potential.
Along with this ignorance comes the idea that the placebo effect is somehow tricking the brain. We feel that we are convincing some weak-minded individual that this drink, or that pill, or this thing will make them perform better, and that’s wrong, regardless of its efficacy. And if we’re able to do it to ourselves, it’s labeled as superstition, yet another frowned upon and unscientific practice.
Ok, I’m done ranting. So now that we know that the placebo effect works in increasing performance, maybe in 2016 we can destigmatize it and learn to regularly harness its power as another effective tool for enhancing our training and performance.
What did you guys learn from 2015? We’d love to hear whether or not you guys agree with our 5 things, and what you guys think is missing. Comment below, send us an email via the contact button at the top of your screen, or connect with us on social media. We look forward to what 2016 will bring and to continually learning from you guys!
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