21DFX – Day Seven

21DFX - Day SevenOh frabjous day, calou calay! 21DFX – Day Seven was Yoga!

Yes, yoga. No weights. Man, did I need this.

So, here’s what’s bound to be a sticking point for the dudes in the audience who are contemplating this program – yoga. We fellas are not known for our acceptance of anything introspective, thoughtful and mellow. And heck, most of you guys probably don’t even regard yoga as exercise.

Well, you’re a bit of a fool if that’s the case. I’ll explain later.

For now, this is about me, dammit. After six days of 21DFX, in which I worked HARD on every single workout, and even got pushed beyond my capabilities on day five and day six I was so, so, so very grateful for a day of active recovery.

I was a little scared that Autumn was going to sneak some kind of plyometric yoga thing in here, or require me to do poses with a 15 pound dumbbell strapped to my neck.

So, why was I so overjoyed? Because one of the toughest lessons I had to learn in my fitness journey was that strength is built on rest and recovery. These workouts do damage, and damage cannot be repaired while the muscles are still being stressed. If you don’t take rest days you’re a bit like the highway department trying to repave the road during rush hour. It’s not going to work. Worse than that, you’ll probably end up injured.

So, why not just take a day off? Maybe watch a ball game?

Well, because it’s February and pitchers and catchers have only just reported to spring training, for one thing, but also because there’s another element to fitness that gets neglected way too often, especially by dudes – balance and flexibility.

Want to know how old someone is, physiologically speaking? Have them stand on one leg. Really want to have some fun? Have them stand on one leg and bend forward to pick something up. The neurological connections between the brain and the body are the essential measuring stick of youthfulness and physical capability. A badass soccer star isn’t just great at the game because he’s physically fit, he’s great at the game because his brain controls his body down to a fine degree. The neural pathways that fire and send the signals to his muscles to move in a certain way to execute a specific set of movements to nail an over the head bicycle kick shot into the goal are fresh and well traveled. You get creaky and less able to move not because you’re getting old, my friends, but because you’re not using the neural pathways that control your body enough.

Think of it like a path through a dense forest. If the path is traveled often by hikers and backpackers it will be clear and easy to navigate. You can use it to get from one part of the forest to the other without a lot of effort. If no one uses the trail for long enough it gets overgrown in bits. The trail is still there, but using it takes a lot more work. That’s what’s going on when you try to do something with your body that you used to be good at and now can only do with difficulty.

Sure, age causes some degradation of strength and stamina, but nowhere near as much as most people assume. You don’t get bad at stuff because you’re old. You get bad at stuff because you spend too much time doing other things. The neural pathways for controlling the TV remote are, for example, no doubt in perfect shape.

This is where yoga comes in handy. Yoga forces us to use the pathways that control fine muscles throughout the body that connect us to the floor. The balance moves and stretches make us more nimble and fit because they clear the underbrush off the trail.

So, hurray for yoga day. And thanks, Autumn, for not making me strap a dumbbell to my neck to do 21DFX yoga.

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