"We're Talking About Practice"
To quote Alan Iverson, from the infamous interview back in in the early 2000's, "We're talking about practice. Not the game... not the game...We're talking about practice".
A classic press conference.
If you don't care to watch the 2min clip, let me sum it up for you; The context may be different than my post here, but within his press conference, Alan Iverson says "Practice" about 20-times. Love it!!
The definition of practice is:
...to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency.
I'm no longer a believer in the old saying "practice makes perfect". Especially in the context of our health because there's no "end point". There's no "finish line". Health is a life long practice. Meaning you are always taking action and learning. Also, I'm becoming a believer that perfection is like art. It's different for everyone. I may go listen to live music and after a song say "they did that song perfectly!" Meanwhile, you may not be thinking it was THAT good. Does that make sense? Like beauty, like art, I feel perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
What I do know is that practice is the path to improving yourself in whatever you're setting out to do. As an athlete and musician, practice was what allowed me to get to the levels of performance I achieve/achieved/will achieve, by the following;
Ups and downs
A love for what I'm doing
Accepting some help along the way
This is true for EVERYTHING we do for 99% of us. You CANNOT expect to jump into something and be able to do it, or be proficient at it. You have to practice. We have to have patience. We have to take action.
Here's a few examples of disciplines/activities that require practice over long periods of time to become proficient:
Martial Arts. These men and women train for YEARS to learn the discipline.
Artists. Painting, sculpting, drawing... these folks create more and more, time after time, as their practice evolves to new heights over long periods of time.
Olympic Weightlifting. These athletes train for YEARS to build their efficiency and technique to move incredible amounts of weight.
Professional athletes. These men and women practice and play their sport, and harness their skills constantly over YEARS.
YOU. Learned to walk, read and write with consistent effort, action and over a period of time.
~EVERYTHING we do in life is about PRACTICE ~
This is why I love using the words "Health Practices". It reminds us that it's a never-ending element of our lifestyle. We will do great things... we will take a few steps back at times... all the while LEARNING more and more about how to better take care of ourselves inside and out. I honestly find it inspiring to look at our health in this way. In practice, you CAN'T "FAIL". You either practice, or you don't. It's pretty straight forward, and I find it really takes the stress out of my health practices when I'm prepared for guaranteed ups and downs.
Where am I going with this?
Think about your health right now. Today. How do you feel? Do you have annoying aches and pains? Do you feel tired from lack of sleep? Do you feel stressed because you have so much to do? Write these things down if you like.
Now ask yourself, about each thing you thought of; "What actions am I taking to improve/progress/change this?" Doesn't matter how big or small the actions are. Be honest with yourself. If you can't think of something, it may be an opportunity to implement a practice into your daily routine. It's also a reason to NOT beat yourself up about it right? Why would whatever it is change/improve if you're not doing something?
I had a conversation with a family member on the weekend along these lines. He's having some stiffness/discomfort in his lowerback, and is reluctant to go to physio because he doesn't like the thought of "putting in the work". I show him a couple of exercises to (hopefully) relieve some of the symptoms, both of which are on the ground. "I can't get on the ground" he says (also common for many folks). I remind him it's not that he physically can't, it's that he doesn't. His body doesn't practice getting up and down off the ground, so why should it be able to do it easily and efficiently? (I also suggested this is most likely part of his back issues - lack of mobility/variety in movement).
I heard Katy Bowman (biomechanist, author) say on her podcast as well, that "when we can't do something or something is difficult, we tend to find ways to work around it and/or avoid it." When it comes to the human body, that means we are practicing NOT doing certain movements when we avoid them. When we finally do ask our body to do it, we act suprised and/or stressed that we can't do it or can't do it with ease.
Don't we sound silly sometimes??
Change Your Thoughts to 'Practice'
Instead of approaching an aspect of health by saying;
"I have to do 'x'"...
"I should do 'y'"...
"I have to get into the habit of 'z'"...
Change your approach to PRACTICE;
"I want to start practicing doing 'x'"
"I'm going to practice 'y' every day"
"I'm heading out the door to do my movement practice"
Try the PRACTICE approach for a while and see how it makes you feel. Especially if you've never approached your health in that way before!