Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Playing versus Exploring

Summer is approaching and my Unzoo Movement season will change accordingly. The primary goal of this season is to engage the primal movement experience with more freeform natural movement, higher volume & complexity, and varied intensity. Two key elements of this season are Play & Explore days. What do I mean by that, aren't they the same thing? Here's a short definition of my meanings in order to find ways to propagate them.

Playing and exploring are definitely overlapping concepts. Yet different. Probably part of a spectrum. From a movement & mind perspective they should have different results. Firstly though, what are the similarities? A relative lack of structure is a key one. Generally when you play or explore you don't really know what is going to happen.  Compared to a structured strength session of say; the classic 3 sets of 10 reps, or a Cross-Fit WOD such as 20 minutes AMRAP of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats - play  has a guided format with game rules as a way of controlling the flow of movement and events, whereas exploring has even less structure and might involve some basic parameters such as place, direction, pace, perhaps a destination or maybe an objective.

Another commonality between play and explore is they way they make you feel. Doing a "killer workout" will likely leave you a bit stripped and beaten, you are "spent". Sometimes there can be euphoria, but it is a depleted kind that needs to be replenished & recharged afterwards. Don't get me wrong, I like a killer session. But playing and exploring are something else again. The lack of structure can lead to flow, or movement aliveness. Your energy picks up and you are revitalised on the fly.

Now for some differences for definition;

Play is mostly based in one location, can accommodate or require more than one person, can have a creative movement focus, and be fun & light.

Just some examples - natural parkour at The Epic Tree, a random ground movement course down slopes, obstacle games such as playing "lava" - not touching the ground, or hide & seek stealth games, slalom in a forest, playing chase/dodge/catch with friends or a dog, mucking around with jumping/balance/brachiating, creative movement sessions, rough house games, skill play, boulder climbing play + rock hopping and tree crawling, rock catching...
Play with old combos, find new games, or discover old ones.

Explore; transitory/terrain based, ok solo, maybe even better, functional, possibly more serious, maybe experience awe, or even discomfort/fear?

Some examples; going off track, venturing into new territory, exploring old territory in a new way,
embracing discomfort (make your own mud run, try new climbing approaches)
make new obstacle courses or combos, find new places.

So in a nutshell, explore is new focussed, play is practice focussed. Explore = make a new obstacle course. Once that is done Play = have a go with it.

Does that make sense or have I stuffed it up? I will experiment with it and find out.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A short blog on how to Unzoo your smart phone.

The balance between nature and technology has always been a source of tension for us humans; we create the technology but it threatens to consume us. This is the Zoo Human Syndrome. The theme is rich in history, and never more significant than in our present and future. The Unzoo position of "go back to move forward" accepts the evolutionary context as the key vehicle for integrating nature with our tools/technology, as opposed to technology being used by humans to dominate nature. Remove the tension, then move forward.

The Unzoo Mantra is: "undo the zoo by working with nature" We do this by applying an evolutionary context to reverse our "nature versus technology" condition into a better integration of humanity and our tools.

So how do we apply this to our modern day Frankenstein, the smartphone? Is the smartphone really a Frankenstein even? It is if it has become your zoo - a technological cage that subverts your human nature. Have you here the term "phubbing"? Its when two or more people snub each other in favour of interacting with their smartphones. Smartphones can be very zoo, they can remove you from the here and now, serve no primal purpose, and create negative mental states in a variety of ways.  Constant connection, interruptive alerts, addiction to updates, losing time are just some examples of the smartphone zoo. 

Think of what our tools are meant to do for us; extend our natural abilities to help us complete an existential task. Think of the chimp using a stick as a tool to extend its reach into places its fingers can't reach so that it can feed on termites in a termite hill. That's an Unzoo tool - it satisfies a primal need, extends our abilities, and roots us in the here and now.

I have gone back to using the smartphone as a tool. So I kept the phone. And the camera. And anything else I would use to make my life a bit more functional; txts, clocks/alarms, a calendar, map, note taker, weather, calculators, fitness tools such as Apnea trainer, GymBoss, Strava, some music apps such as Spotify, and a guitar tuner. Even The Internet, for when I need it. That's about it. Stuff I can use in the here and now that makes my life work a bit better. Note this approach is different to another method of "smartphone mindfulness" where you lock your phone in a box and try to go cold turkey. That's just like having treats in the pantry locked up but still there, calling out to you. The best way to deal with temptations in the pantry are just to get rid of them. 

I got rid of stuff that takes me away from the here and now; social media - goodbye Facebook, Instagram and whatever. Goodbye media - youtube, news apps, on demand apps. I can look at all that stuff on a PC or TV later.  

Guess what. It works. Take the zoo stuff off your phone and it goes back to being just a tool, and you end up not needing to fill all the space in your day with empty digital noise. That's the thing with technology, just because you can do it doesn't mean you need to or should. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unzoo theme: 'Control creep' - the crawling hand of surveillance

The tension between technology as a tool for humanity versus being a weapon continues:

'Control creep' - the crawling hand of surveillance

Kathleen M. Kuehn looks at the role of data in the increasing control we're afforded in our lives, and explores how that data may be used to control us.

Key outtakes:

It is no longer all that controversial for Westerners to say that we live in a surveillance society. Once characterised by authoritarian, non-democratic regimes, most of the “free world” now readily submits to the routine collection, storage and analysis of personal data, whether it’s for the purposes of governing a population, or influencing people’s behaviours (such as where we go or what we buy).

But what about celebratory innovations like smart cities, smart homes, that seek to improve our lives in immeasurable ways? The “internet of things”, virtual reality and programmes driven by “big data” also depend on the tracking, collection, storage and aggregation of formerly discrete datasets. These often include an individual’s personal information, habits, routine communications and location. The sensor networks only become “smart” as they get to “know” you better (perhaps better than you know yourself).

So far, more data has not unilaterally meant better information and knowledge. And before we celebrate the way digital connectivity offers us more control over our everyday lives, we might instead question the ways that all this data might be controlling us: what does it now mean to be “free” or secure in the face of ever-expanding surveillance?

The Unzoo Perspective;
Unzoo is primarily about making sure we use our tools (technology) work for us within an evolutionary framework - both considering where we have come from and where we are going.

Even though we continue to evolve in current times, the impact or artificial selection is probably a stronger influence now, and therefore the need to balance our human/technology development is more imperative than ever before.

There are no answers in the Kathleen M. Kuehn article, it is a cautionary tale that asks the questions. So what might the answers be in this case? Unzoo would offer two possible approaches;

  1. get off the grid and go closer to past evolutionary status - lower tech, closer to the environment. 
  2. stay on the grid and work to find the balance. Much harder! But long term payback might be worth it. Hippies from the 60's would favour the off grid approach, but then the process of our evolution would falter. Not a bad thing perhaps, but I favour the true Unzoo approach, this one, where we work to make the technology work for us and not against us. Usually that refers to our true nature as formed by evolution, but our evolution is now merged with technology and there are great developments possible if we can avoid the corruption of the process. History does not favor us in this, but the goal is there anyway.  How can we benefit from the internet of things without becoming caged by it? Any ideas? 
  • A parallel internet that blocks (somehow) surveillance use? May be an "off the grid" internet?
  • Identity cloaking or cloning.
  • Dark web "lite" use

Friday, August 12, 2016

Unzoo Flipboard September Scrapboard

Unzoo on flipboard.com

Scientist Predicts a Sixth Mass Extinction in 2100

Robot eyes and an implant that detects magnetic north: meet the biohackers

Technology will not save the world — we will

Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark review – we are ignoring the AI apocalypse


Nobel laureates cite top dangers to human survival -- overlook gravest one

A key government report on climate change is out. Here's what you need to know

We have unrealistic expectations of a tech-driven future utopia

It’s time to talk about the potential value of limits on technology.

Aliens from another dimension might have created our universe, according to a speculative new study

An Architect’s Masterplan: Liuzhou Will Become A Unique Smog-Eating Forest City

How do you train for obstacle course racing? Each month we ask a different runner, coach, or race organiser from across New Zealand or beyond for their workout suggestion.

Elon Musk: The World’s Population is Accelerating Towards Collapse

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Unzoo returns...

Whoops...sorry, slight sabatical. Wow, actually a year! Time does slide by.

Okay - last post was about trying to integrate both structured and unstructured movement sessions into my movement practice each week. My approach was flawed in that it involved trying to schedule the unschedulable. A year later I am pretty happy with where I have landed in terms of my movement sessions.

Here's the basic gist;

On a weekly basis:
  • Engage the full primal fitness spectrum - sprint, lift heavy things, move frequently at a slow pace. (credit to Marks Daily Apple)

  • Unzoo your movement - move like a human bro! Breathing, walking, running, balancing, crawling, climbing, swimming, (and related aquatic skills), lifting, carrying, throwing, and self-defense skills such as striking and grappling. (credit to MovNat)
  •  Zoo your movement - yes it has a place. When it's dark, cold and wet during winter it is more "efficient" to embrace a little human zoo-ness in the form of  skills & drills, modern calisthenics and a CrossFit-like General Preparedness Program. (credit to CrossFit and others)
  • Summer training, for me, is when fun really surfaces. The goal of my Winter training is to develop to be strong, fast, skilled and robust. When Summer comes play gets the priority. Just chose a location or activity to engage and let it be. It's also when I add in a restorative session to balance the higher activity levels of the season.

  • Move in nature. Sorry but I just can't compromise on this key aspect!

 So what else is happening in the Unzoo scene?  
Well, the Paleo Diet is now fully mainstream,commercialised, and still going. Being corrupted, some would say; indeed at the Ancestral Health Symposium last year there was plenty of concern about the direction of the ancestral health movement and a wonderful suggestion that it should perhaps "stay radical to stay pure" much like the concept of feminism has managed to do (argueably).  I am happy to stick to the basics of avoiding the 3 neolithic agents of modern disease - sugar, gluten, and industrialised oils. Plus not being rigid with it, so I can relax, experience and evolve!

In my Flipboard Unzoo magazine recent headines cover:

Some of it inspiring, some of it not so much...

That will do for now.
Unzoo you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What's the difference between the Unzoo Movement and the other stuff like unstructured natural movement?

That was a question from Max of Movement Unleashed in response to an earlier blog post from me on An Updated Unzoo Movement Template. I said I might do another post to expand on this, so here it is...cheers Max.
(by the way, I fully acknowledge that Parkour already use a mixed method approach to some degree - for instance APK sessions range from classic push up conditioning to structured movement sessions, to less structured exploratory or creativity sessions)

The earlier post described how I was experimenting with different training methodologies in an effort to cover a broader spectrum of general preparedness fitness and experiences. I will clarify the differences a bit more here.

I currently do a weekly rotate of three different training methodologies. The first is Classical Functional Fitness. This is a pretty loose term in the fitness industry but I am referring to compound movements as opposed to isolated body part exercises such as bicep curls. This is stuff like CrossFit, boot camp training, classic old school strength and conditioning (S&C) training. It includes movements such as press ups, burpees, kettlebell swings, pull ups and so on. Here's some examples from CrossFit:
 And here's a classic CrossFit body weight workout example:

5 pull ups
10 push ups
15 squats

as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes

In my opinion these are industrialised movements*  that are great as a way to focus on pure strength and conditioning. They are simple movements that are relatively easy to learn and perform and are therefore safe to use when engaging high intensity training. The strength and conditioning from this type of training will contribute to some degree of "Effective movement" in that it can allow you to complete a movement not trained for - a form of General Physical Preparedness or GPP. In a nutshell what I mean here is that I can get really good at pull ups and that might help me perform some more applied climbing movements effectively as in "I can do it", but it may not be efficient movement. So unless I engage in true natural movement, I am likely to be fit but a bit clumsy.

(*by industrialised I mean it's not natural human movement in terms of either the actual movement, the repetition volume, or the use of nature)

And then there's Unzoo Movement, which is just the name for my brand of Natural Movement training. I should have called this method Structured Natural Movement.

My version is not hugely different from other natural movement practitioners except I embrace only training outside (huge benefits people - no compromise!), and have an eclectic and exploratory/experimental approach to training. So even though I practice natural human movement,  I will borrow ideas from outside of that discipline and play around with methods, pretty much like I am doing here. Natural Movement training takes you from just doing effective movement to doing efficient movement. To carry on the example above, I might not actually be that great at high intensity pull up training, but be well versed in more complex climbing techniques and be able to climb more efficiently than a classic S&C practitioner.

Here's a standard MovNat MOD
Warm Up Mobility – 3 rounds
Rotational Rocking - clockwise x3
Rotational Rocking - counterclockwise x3
Forward Roll x3

Forward Rolls x20 - begin to roll faster, and from a taller position

Combo - 3 rounds
Rotational Swing Throw and Catch x6 - each side - 15lb object
Leg Swing Jump - 5ft - 2x2ft target
Rotational Rocking - 1 circle each direction
Chest Throw and Catch x12 - 25lbs

And here's a sample of an Unzoo Movement week; basically the same as MovNat but a bit more structured around the full movement-energy spectrum of speed, learning & practicing body movements (internal freedom), combining movements for flow and transition, adaptive movement to environmental/situational context (external freedom) and movement volume (stamina & mental toughness).

You can see that the types of movement engaged are very different from the standard S&C movements, and this practice leads to a more complex set of movement skills that are geared to more efficient natural movement patterns (employing the SAID principle of specific adaptation to imposed demands).

In the end I am trying to develop what Rafe Kelly calls "Movement Aliveness".
 aliveness is about being able to deal with more variables and to step outside of the preplanned and and be able to adapt, this means the capacity to improvise.

For that, it seems the best methodology is unstructured training in nature. But it needs the other two methods as building blocks.

Here's a bunch of quotes from Rafe's work that have influenced my thinking in this area:
  Essentially, complexity translates better to simplicity rather than vice-versa. The natural environment is much more complex. Movement as a paradigm is still incomplete without nature. Our bodies and our capacity did not evolve for flat surfaces, or simplified tools like barbells or even rings. We are meant to move over terrain, to move diverse objects, to move in coordination or competition with other living things.

Being a mover might give you patterns and attributes, but can you express them in broad contexts? Is your skin robust to sun, wind, rain, snow and sand? Can you swim in cold water, can you sprint sand, scree, or wet mossy rocks? Can your crawls solve passing under fallen logs or moving through dense tree branches? Can your jumping, and swinging, patterns deal with the pitch and sway of tree limbs? Go play outside. Move like a human.

Training is about increasing your tolerances, expanding the differences between the most you can do and the least, this goes far beyond the most force a muscle can produce, it goes into the motor patterns your nervous system can create and control and the situations you can apply movement too, it dealing with wet, dry, slippery, abrasive, cold, hot, dark, light, fear, anger, frustration, vertigo and claustrophobia. It’s balancing on a log barefoot while waves smash you and being and finding stillness. It’s being able to know if you can make a jump from a slanted tree branch under another overhanging branch to a final branch which will pitch and yaw when you land on it. What are the variables you can solve, what are your tolerances. And the secret is the things that were once unpleasant become joyous when

I place a big emphasis on what I call exploratory movement play in my training, prior to attempting high intensity or complexity movement I like to explore a space at a gentle pace, looking for flow and interesting movement. This gets my body warm, develops a kinesthetic map of the areas I plan to train in and gets my creativity going, it also develops improvisational ability which I find many movers lack. In order to truly claim mastery of a skill set you need to be able to express it in improvisation. Life is improv - until you can improv your skills are not alive. They move inside the circle of what you can do.

 And here's another piece on the subject from a different author:

In Defense of “Play” – Why All Adults Need Unstructured Practice
Training doesn’t always have to be structured and goal-oriented to yield results.We tend to get caught up in “getting the skill” or “getting a good workout,” and while those goals have their place, if we never take the time to explore movement without any specific goals in mind, we lose out on a sense of play and freedom. Unlike the structured approach we generally associate with formal exercise, play is a way to explore movement without any structure at all, much like we did as kids – figuring out all manner of possibilities for maneuvering ourselves from point A to point B.
I think each method is good and should be treated as different and part of the total. Classic functional movement strength & conditioning can feed your natural movement capacity. Here's another Rafe quote in support of this:
The formal practices, the joint integrity work, the barbell and gymnastics strength, traditional sprint and plyometric work these are valuable tools, bridges back to normal human capacities or even means to amplify specific aspects but if you don't go out and move like a human if you don't move your body through nature, your always missing part of your full movement capacity.
There was another quote from Rafe (which I can't find ) that paid homage to the role of Olympic lifting in generating bigger parkour jumps. And of course it's easy to criticise functional movement S&C as unnatural and inefficient, but sometimes that's actually exactly what you want! A burpee may be an industrialised movement, but its a fantastic conditioning tool. An American style kettlebell swing is specifically designed to generate more work than the more traditional Russian swing.

Structured natural movement sessions allow goal focused human movement in a natural context. Then going unstructured takes it to the next level.

Currently I am doing this by rotating the three methods each week. It's early days, but initially to me it seems that the weekly rotation approach is perhaps too long in each method (unless you were developing a specific aspect maybe).

So my next approach might be this; apply a variation of the theoretical template of the CrossFit training schedule to allow for better integration of the methods. Here's the CrossFit template:

 And here's my variation for a movement template:

"Other" in this schedule refers to other activity types, rest, rehab, play, sport, physical labour, epic adventures....

 In this version I cover the energy spectrum over the week, plus internal and external freedom, and vary the combination of training methodologies within the week.Who knows? It could be a really bad idea, but I will explore it and find out if I get closer to movement aliveness.

Friday, April 17, 2015

An Updated Unzoo Movement Template.

Here's a little update on how my  Unzoo Movement training has developed so far. The overall theme appears to be my usual trick of synthesis - combining dichotomies to broaden the spectrum, to develop true general physical preparedness and variety of experience. 

The basis of my training template stems from Mark Sissons Primal Fitness Blueprint: lift heavy, sprint efforts, and long duration effort each week. 
Additional  to that is a MovNat influence with a session on building movement, and adaptive movement. 

My new development has been to create a weekly rotation of three themes: 
1. Classic functional fitness. This includes American Parkour sessions, CrossFit Wods. ( could add others here: gymnastics, martial arts)
2. Unzoo Movement. 
3. Unstructured Natural Movement. 

Here's my reasoning; Be open and eclectic. There has been a bit of focus recently from the natural movement community on the benefits of exposure to environmental discomfort. CrossFit on the other hand has always preached the mantra of becoming comfortable with discomfort. Why not both? I have seen CrossFitters who can't handle outdoor conditions, and MovNatters who can't handle intensity. I have found a similar pattern in myself where doing a functional fitness session will wreck me because I have only been engaging in movement efficiency. Go full spectrum for both. 

An extension of this idea comes from having practiced a bit of parkour recently. Don't just stick to natural environments. Roll on concrete! It's harder and forgives bad technique much less than grass.   Yes, training outdoors in a natural environment is good for you, but why not urban environments too?  Expand your environmental contexts to test and develop your general physical competency and adaptiveness. 

But wait! There's more. Thanks to Rafe Kelly's teachings from evolvemoveplay.com I have further embraced structure vs unstructured experience. It's really the holy grail of movement experience. Taking yourself into the outdoors and engaging in unstructured movement is the pinnacle of combining environmental and situational complexity for mind and body benefit. 

So there's quite a lot there, all good but how can you do it all? You can't easily, so you have to share the time. For me I like to rotate each week from classic functional fitness, to Unzoo movement (structured) to unstructured natural movement sessions. Let's see how it goes.