Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Movement Ecology

I'm probably the only person who follows both of these folks...
I have lots of thoughts forming in my head and I think I have a really good (and long) blog post about some recent connections that I made. Unfortunately, I don't get enough quiet time to actually form coherent thoughts and make a good well-thought out post, so we'll just go with a series of shorter posts and hopefully the whole series will make some sense.

Today, let's start with two people that I follow who are in totally different fields. I bet there are very few people in the world who subscribed to both of these authors (If you're one of them and also are following me, then you should be lifting with us. Get in here!) On the left is Katy Bowman, a biomechanist who writes about the importance of movement. On the right is Gail Tverberg, an actuary who writes about energy and the economy.

If you're bored at work, pick either of those links and just spend your day going down the rabbit hole. You won't be the first. I think the reason I like both of these authors is that they take a very physics-minded approach to their fields. Physics is the fundamental science and it does drive everything (says the theoretical physicist).

Extreme sedentarism is so deeply ingrained into our society and culture that we can't even recognize it. If I can just get you to think about moving more, then we're one step closer to reversing the devolution. Movement is fundamental to being human and by not moving we are actually changing as a species.

Katy uses the term "Movement Ecology" to describe how movement is simply another part of the natural world; I like to say that movement designs the physical world and the physical world affects movement. It's two sides of the same coin (like space and time, ugh, more physics). The example that's been stuck in my head is the effect of chewing on the brain.

We all think that our circulatory system is centered around our heart pumping blood to the rest of our body. That's the simple picture. But if you sit down and think of the fluid mechanics (gah, when will the physics stop?), there's no way that you can generate enough force everywhere in your body simply from your heart pumping. Your brain actually doesn't get much pressure from your heart - it's up higher than your heart and all the filters and special things up there (like that whole blood-brain barrier) dampen the effect of your pulse. So how does your brain get the blood (and oxygen) distributed to it? Chewing! The physical act of chewing creates forces that distribute the blood deep in your brain. You have big muscles on the side of your face that are connected high up in your head, those movements nourish you.

So what happens when you make a smoothie instead of chew your veggies? What happens when you don't sit down and thoroughly chew your meal? What if you only eat the tasty tender cuts of meat and never have the tough cuts that you'd get in whole-animal eating? You're missing out on a key movement that your body relies on.

Many cultures have "chewing sticks" (in the 80s we had bubble gum). But those chewing sticks are more than just some wood to chew on. 1 - they help nourish your brain by keeping your jaw active, 2- they help strengthen your jaw (notice how traditional cultures don't need their wisdom teeth out?), 3 - you are ingesting cellulose and exogenous bacteria that were on that tree that feed your gut. You now have a relationship to the tree (and the bacteria that live on that tree) because of a need for movement - a physical manifestation of movement. Through movement (chewing) a tree nourished your brain.

What about our chairs? Chairs used to be a place to sit down and rest. Now when a baby is 2 days old they get put in their bucket to go into the car on the way home, then they sit in their bouncy chair, then they go in the carrying bucket, then when they're older they get a bucket-shaped car seat, then when you get your first car you get bucket seats. Then when your back starts hurting, you call your ergonomics department (EH&S) at your company to get a better chair. Every generation gets more sitting sooner than the next, the lack of movement is shaping our bodies and since our bodies can't support themselves it affects the design of the next round of chairs. Our sedentarism is expressing itself in the design world as something that's just normal.

I can't do justice to the idea of Movement Ecology in a single short blog post, but that's enough for today. As you go through your day today, pay attention to your own need to move (or sit still) and how it makes you feel. Do you get antsy if you have to sit still? I know I probably drive everyone in meetings around me nuts because I can't sit in a chair like a normal person and I'm always fidgeting. I'm also always chewing on my pencil in a non-professional way, and I didn't realize why until Katy mentioned it.

Where does energy economics and Gail come into this? More later this week...


row 500 / run 400
crawling lunge
10 KB swings or snatches
double KB overhead lunge
10 TGUs or windmills
10 goblet squats
5 pull-ups or push-ups or dips


clean 8-5-3x5


2 windmills between strength sets

Group Workout

5 rounds:
1L, 1R kettlebell clean from ground + push press + 2 overhead squat 
5L, 5R kettlebell swing clean


as quickly as possible, 3 rounds:
row 200m
20 kettlebell swings at a moderate weight


2 minute double kettlebell rack hold


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