Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Bodyweight Training

February 28th 2013

In my last article, Fitness Activities and Habits, I coveBodyweight Exercises - samplered some of the ways to bring more fitness into your lifestyle.  One of the things I’ve always focused on in any fitness and sport I get involved in, is to study, research, learn and visualize as much as I can with resources from friends, books, online, experts or wherever I can get it.  I enjoy the learning aspects of developing new skills, movements, and abilities for my fitness activities and so this article jumps in on one of the those, fitness training using bodyweight training.  Basically, bodyweight training involves using your own body as weight resistance for developing your strength, balance and flexibility.

No Equipment Necessary

I’ve used training equipment at the gym and had some of my own over the years and I always thought they limited the movements I could train for.  Some machines and equipment certainly have an advantage to isolate muscles and make weight gains very simple to adjust, but they still need adjustments, maintenance and a lot of space or a facility to keep them in.  That was something that I just never liked.  Bodyweight training doesn’t require any equipment to get started and only a few simple things are needed to really expand your workouts.  Your body is the main weight you need and this method uses different leverage angles and resistance with your own body to train.  For example, pushups are a classic bodyweight training exercise and most people know of one or two types of pushups you can use for training.  I know of 36 different pushup styles (no, I can’t do them all yet), that you don’t need any equipment for and they all work slightly different muscles and vary in difficulty from simple (which anyone can do) to extremely difficult (which could take years to get strong enough for).

The little equipment that does help in bodyweight training is quite inexpensive or you can build or use  household items for many of them without spending a dime.  The best equipment I’d consider for bodyweight training is and you certainly don’t need all of these are:

    1. Gymnastic rings
    2. Small barbell set
    3. Medicine ball
    4. Exercise ball
    5. Stretch bands
    6. Parallette bars
    7. Wobble board

Training on Your Terms

Bodyweight Exercises - hand balancing

So, since the majority of the exercises can easily be done with no equipment at all, this method of training makes it possible to do anywhere and anytime.  Your workout program can be easily be done while traveling, it can be done when you only have a short amount of time.  Since you don’t need to drive to a gym or remember to bring your gear bag to change clothes and you don’t need to have a membership or pay any fees, the training becomes completely on your terms.  You can train for 5 minutes or 2 hours, before work or in the middle of the night, with or without a buddy, once a week or every day, whenever and wherever you feel like it.  This such a huge advantage over traditional training methods that most people use at a gym or fitness facility.  As long as you are self motivated enough to actually get started for some training, the accessibility to training however you like, is an immediate advantage for bodyweight training.

Progressions

The next area of bodyweight training that I have found to be a serious advantage is that the various muscle groups and exercises you will work on, start simple and get more complex as you get stronger.  The exercises change and get more interesting as they get more difficult as well, which doesn’t happen as much with programs for pumping iron for example.  You start with bicep curls and even as you get much stronger, you will likely still be doing bicep curls.  I’m not saying that is bad, cause its not, I just find the variety is better with bodyweight training and the exercises are far more interesting to work towards and accomplish.  The pushups for example that I mentioned above, start simple for beginners but to progress through 36 different pushups, you are going to work through many different muscle groups, body positions, balance techniques, postures, speeds and dynamic movements in order to get to the most difficult ones.  This makes progressions interesting and an excellent challenge to help motivate you towards the next type of pushup.

A Balanced Workout

Balanced training is very important in an exercise program so that you don’t focus on one area of the body way more than another.  This can lead to major muscle imbalances, injury and posture problems over a period of time so its important to work on a variety of muscles and not to do too much muscle isolation, which unfortunately is all too common with inexperienced or unknowing trainers.  While bodyweight training has the same risks and concerns, its a lot less likely since bodyweight movements as you progress use more and more muscles of the body together for each movement, instead of isolating muscles as you progress to build strength.  Core muscles and the lower back with hip and pelvic regions become crucial in many of the exercises so it leads to much more balanced workouts with muscle tone in whole areas, not specific muscles.  Another huge advantage is that many bodyweight exercises not only develop more strength, but also bring challenging elements of balance and flexibility into the exercises, which help to balance the muscles used and develop higher levels of mobility and general body movement.Bodyweight Training - rings

It’s Simply More Fun 

Last but not least, I think bodyweight training is a lot more fun because of its simplicity and ease of getting started, and strangely appealing as you seek more complex progressions and master a series of movements.  To me, this has always been more motivating and the fact that I can bring in balance work with a huge number of exercises, keeps me very excited about bodyweight training and I expect to be sticking to this method for many years. I hope its something you are interested in learning more about and will enjoy it as much as I have.  In fact, I’ve built (well still building) a web application for browsers and mobiles to track and train bodyweight exercises, which I’ll share once I’ve got some beta testing completed.

In the meantime, would love to read your comments or questions and enjoy these couple links to some common bodyweight exercises:

 

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 3 Comments »

50 Ways to Get Smarter

August 6th 2012

There are a lot of things people often seek and knowledge is one of them.  The traditional sense of knowledge however, is not strictly learned by traditional methods such as schooling, there are so many methods to learn and get smarter, I thought I’d start a list of the ones I know to help break the barrier that going back to school is the only way to get smarter.

  1. Use free class material often online at various schools
  2. Find and study the text books from classes without actually attending (old text books are very cheap or even free as an added bonus)
  3. Read online blogs on topics of interest
  4. Have discussions online in forums or as comments about a topicget smarter
  5. Start writing your own content on a subject
  6. Start your own blog and commit to writing on a regular basis on subjects of interest
  7. Video a short documentary on a subject
  8. Create a link page or resource list that you learn from and refer back to
  9. Read books from experts on a subject and a wide variety of books (fiction AND non-fiction)
  10. Read books from those who oppose a particular subject to broaden your knowledge
  11. Look up and remember classic sayings so you know its origins
  12. Study a new word in your native language to expand your vocabulary
  13. Study with online courses or take up a new skill through self learning or by classes
  14. Listen to your spouse (or significant other)
  15. Share experiences with others and find lessons in those experiences
  16. Tell stories and listen to stories from others
  17. Take your hobbies more seriously and join hobbyist clubs / organizations to learn from others
  18. Compete in a hobby to force yourself to learn more about it
  19. Take up a trade or craft and become more skilled in that area through practice
  20. Teach something you know to others and gain insight through their questions and methods of learning it
  21. Sit down with your elder relatives and ask them for words of wisdom they have found in life
  22. Ask professionals in your industry of work about the most important things they have learned
  23. Don’t believe everything you hear or read the first time, verify it and check a second source
  24. Learn some brief biographies of famous people from your famous quotes or sayings, you might be surprised at how much they knew you can learn from
  25. Read biographies, sometimes these books share more insight about life then the best instructional books or courses
  26. Take courses on topics you don’t know a lot about yet.
  27. Attend and participate in community groups that share and teach new topics
  28. Find associations that help organize like-minded people together for discussions
  29. Join a book club or study group
  30. Join toastmasters or other public speaking group, as they continuing teach and help you learn new topics
  31. Get a mentor to help ask you questions about self-discovery
  32. Use a life coach to learn more about your self
  33. get smarterWatch TED videos online
  34. Subscribe to various technical feeds or technology newscasts to keep up with technology
  35. Use podcasts to learn new subjects or news
  36. Listen to audio books while you commute to always learn more
  37. Learn a second language (or third)
  38. Travel to experience and learn more about other cultures
  39. Stop watching television or be more selective to only watch education content
  40. Add some documentaries to your movie selection
  41. Do some volunteering or community service to learn about local problems
  42. Look up tutorials or learning topics with online video such as at YouTube
  43. Take on a project yourself instead of hiring it out, to learn how to do it
  44. Pay or hire out work you ‘could’ do yourself, so you have time to learn more new things
  45. Dedicate some fixed time every day to learning, at the same time since the brain works best repeating new actions
  46. Learn to gain a better quality sleep so you are well rested without losing more time to sleeping
  47. Eat healthy foods and a diet that promotes good brain activity and body functions
  48. Get daily exercise as blood flow and metabolism help activate the brains memory
  49. Practise memory improvements as it can help you learn all things easier and faster
  50. Know and emphasize your own learning patterns, whether they be audible, visual or kinesthetic

 

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 7 Comments »

Resources: June 2012

June 29th 2012

Great Blog Resources

As usual, I like to share a handful of articles and resources I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks and this month I have a great set of useful links I’ve found and enjoyed recently.  www.hypnosisdownloads.com – Mark Tyrrell, a previous guest author here at LearnThis.ca wanted to share this site he has been involved in developing. Success Does Not Equal Happiness – A ready here, Jay, provided me with this free course he offers to anyone to learn more about finding happiness in life.  Take a look! 43 Things Your Future Boss Wants You to Know– A great resource if you are looking for career development tips.  All links to detailed articles on each item.

14 Fascinating Theories from Leadership Studies – Another link sent in to me about leadership, which I really like.

101 Timeless Lessons Life Teaches – A great list of lessons at Marc and Angel 12 Dozen Places to Self Educate Yourself Online 14 Zingers: How to Listen for Employee Engagement Great life learned lessons from David Zinger

Video Links and Articles

The Highest Rated TED Talks – If you don’t know about TED talks yet, you should, they are fantastic inspiring talks/presentations on a range of great topics

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 6 Comments »

10 Ways to Train Your Brain

June 14th 2012

I love the topic of the brain and learning more about it.  You can take this subject further with a fantastic book I’ve recommended called, The Brain That Changes Itself.  Today, I welcome a new guest poster, Melissa, on one of my favorite topics, training the brain!  I hope you find some good tips here and please add your own in the comments.

Years ago, it was believed that the human brain only declined in ability as we aged. Today, however, studies are showing that this isn’t true, and that there are a number of things we can do to exercise and strengthen our brain power long after we’ve finished our school years.

Our brains contain a neural network that relays information to our body parts through electrical and chemical signals. These signals are what keep our bodies functioning normally. Every action and thought (from smelling your mom’s delicious pot roast to crying after watching an especially devastating TV drama) is controlled by this system of neurons.

Your brain’s neural network begins its life when you are in the womb by growing at a rate of 15 million neurons per hour. When you are first born, your brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons that are capable of growing and adapting to your new environment. From this moment until about age four or five, your nervous system is primed and ready to help you learn all the basic functions of life; walking and running, feeding yourself, speaking a language, tying your shoes, reading and writing etc.

Up until your teenage years, there are “windows” open in your neural network that allow you to easily learn new skills; such as math, a new language or sport or playing a musical instrument. And although these windows become smaller as we age, scientists say that we can keep learning new skills with ease throughout life by following these ten tips.

1. Stop the stress

Scientists are finding more evidence that shows stress can actually kill brain cells. If you find yourself frequently stressed out about everything, it’s time to take a deep breath and calm down. The hormones that are triggered by stress are actually only intended for short-term emergency situations and can actually damage your brain if constantly released during the day.

2. Get enough sleep

Neuroscientists are now starting to believe that sleep is not just for resting the body but for resting the brain, as well. Their studies show that sleep helps our brains consolidate the memories and information from the day before into a more permanent form. According to Mark Mahowald, a professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, any amount of sleep deprivation will reduce brain performance. Mahowald says that “one complete night of sleep deprivation is as impairing in simulated driving tests as a legally intoxicating blood-alcohol level.” How much sleep is enough sleep? Most doctors say we need an average of seven to eight hours of complete sleep every night.

3. Practice brain exercises

Just as your body improves in function with regular exercise, your brain also needs regular exercise to stay strong and healthy. You have probably heard the phrase, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” This is very true for your brain. One way to exercise your brain is by simply learning new skills on a regular basis. For example, try a new recipe at least once a week, try a new class at your gym at least once a month and pick a craft, musical instrument or language to learn over the course of a year or two. There are also hundreds of websites devoted to exercising your brain through memory, focus, problem-solving, speed and spatial reasoning games.

4. Use your non-dominant hand

Those who are naturally ambidextrous, as described on ultrasoundtechonline.com,  can skip to the next tip, but for those of us with dominant hands (right-handed or left-handed), try using your non-dominant hand to do basic tasks at least a few times a day. For example, if you are right-handed, try brushing your teeth, eating, dialing phone numbers and locking and unlocking your door with your left hand. This helps to “wake up” a different part of your brain.

5. Break free from monotony

To keep your brain stimulated every day, look for new ways to do old things. Learn a new route to work, upgrade your email account to the new version, read books for entertainment instead of watching TV (or vice versa), etc.

6. Never skip breakfast

There’s a reason breakfast is called breakfast. When you wake up in the morning, your body has generally been fasting for ten or more hours. We learn in basic biology that humans need food for energy, and your brain needs energy to function at its best. If you skip breakfast, you are denying your body and your brain the energy that they need to get through the day. For peak brain performance, never skip breakfast, and follow a healthy diet that includes a daily multivitamin.

7. Get moving

When bad things happen, we get sad, but sometimes we can feel sad or depressed for what seems like no reason. Depression can negatively affect brain function, especially memory. One way to combat depression is through daily physical exercise. Whether it’s a quick walk around the neighborhood or an hour workout in the gym, exercise helps release feel-good chemicals in our brains to alleviate the effects of depression and stimulate our brains.

8. Memorize phone numbers

Remember the days when you kept your close family members’ and friends’ phone numbers locked in your memory? Today, we all rely on our cell phone contact list to keep that information for us. To test your memory skills, (and save you from a potential phone-number-loss emergency) try memorizing at least ten of your closest relatives’ and friends’ phone numbers.

9. Use cash instead of a debit card

By using cash to pay for everyday purchases, you are forced to count. It may sound ridiculous, but you would be surprised just how easily basic math skills can be forgotten when not used regularly.

10. Dig through a memory box

To help jog your memory, try looking through old photographs and keepsakes. These items will more than likely help you remember important people and events in your life that would have otherwise gone forgotten.

A freelance writer and blogger, Melissa Miller specializes in writing about the education field. If you’re considering pursuing an associate degree online, Melissa’s many posts on the subject can help light the way. Email her at melissamiller831@gmail.com with any feedback.

Resources: http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html#journey

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 6 Comments »

Locking in the Drive of Persistence

June 11th 2012

Persistence is a trait that many people strive to hold onto but find themselves unable to keep it for a long time or limit the areas they seem to have it.  I believe persistence is a trait like no other, as it drives itself when you learn to be persistent in your actions and you can use persistence itself to motivate your actions.

So what is persistence?

Persistence goes a lot deeper than most know.  I feel that persistence cannot be demonstrated in a set of actions in one topic, but have to be applicable in a variety of topics over time.  Persistence is something that will always be tested and if a person is able to stay on task, despite changing circumstances, then that starts to show persistence.  However, all too often a person starts on a path and when circumstances change or the odds go against them, they use that as an excuse to stop or change without have persistence to keep driving towards their goal.  To really show and develop persistence, it must exist without oneself not for the task or goal itself, but for the actual drive and motivation required to get there.  Persistence at its deepest level will drive a person to seek motivators and reasons to keep going, even when circumstances change!

Adaptability vs. Persistence

So once persistence takes hold in a person to drive them to stay motivated, there may be times where being persistent towards an old goal is no longer relevant.  In this situation, some adaptability of that persistence is crucial to avoid letting your persistence kill what is important (since that will obviously change over time).  Adapting the motivations and behaviors towards a shifted goal or new set of actions can keep that persistence behavior happening, which you want, yet direct it now towards a more important or different goal, leaving the old one behind.  Knowing that you are adapting your direction and shifting your actions is far more valuable than loosing motivation towards an old goal and failing at it, only to feel burdened when starting again on something new.  Know and recognize your progress you had made and recognize your behaviors toward each of those achievements, as you can now apply that towards your new adapted goals and direction.

Of course adaptability used to often will kill persistence as you won’t be able to recognize progress if your direction changes too often.  I can’t tell you how often this is, but I am certain that persistence should feel more dominant than adaptability when it comes to balancing them and locking in the trait of persistence into your character.  I’ve also learned over years of personal development that many of the same needs arise over and over.  You can be persistent in working on mastering them or you can jump around and adapt to quickly leaving yourself only to revisit again later without having mastered it when it shows back up as a need in your life.  This happens in work as well and I’ve experienced the same thing, pushing a skill further than most would to learn it, teach it to others and master it so you can rely on it again in the future will leave you with easier future success when you need to rely on that skill again in a later circumstance.  All the skills I’ve dropped to adapt to something new, have come back some time later and I’ve had to revisit them.  Balancing the persistence to master them versus adapt to new needs is tricky.

In my experience, people are typically working on improving their skills, their jobs or relationships in multiple areas at once.  Usually, you can adapt in one area that really needs it and stay persistent in the others to you are not always dropping skills before mastery.

Persistence to Mastery

Mastery is when a skills or set of behaviors becomes so automatic and natural you can do it well without thinking about it.  This is what persistence leads to with enough practice.  I love the process and results of mastery in skills and in my experience it is also persistence that gets me there.  There are several models or stages of learning that relate to mastery:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – not aware of what you do not know or need to learn
  2. Conscious Incompetence – You learn or become aware of what you do not know
  3. Conscious Competence – You’ve learned to do something when thinking about it
  4. Unconscious Competence – You’ve learned to do something so well you no longer even think about it

There is another stage of this learning process and can take you all the way to mastery.  These 4 stages will get you to an expert level and is where most people stop, when they become experts in something.  You know it, can do it, can even tell others how to learn or do it themselves.  However, persistence can drive you even further.


Learning Stages

(Courtesy of Will Taylor, Chair, Department of Homeopathic Medicine, National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, Oregon, USA, March 2007. Please reference the diagram accordingly if you use it.)

This fifth stage some refer as the reflective competence. This is the point where you have become autonomous in this skill to do it unconsciously, but choose to reflect on that, optimize and take it even further.  This is what mastery is; when you decide that the unconscious level can be taken beyond.  Persistence in your thinking, your intentions in how you learn and in reflecting on your learning models no matter what your goals and progress towards those are will bring mastery.  I feel that personal development sends each person on a path towards mastery depending on their interests and I hope for you, that you find the persistence to drive it to the deepest levels, to lock it in with your own motivation factors and find a way to continually reflect, even on your unconscious competence areas.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 1 Comment »

Learning, Humility and Leadership

May 19th 2012

Today I’m very happy to have this great article by Allan Shelton, the author of a new book called, “Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery” which I am currently reading and hope to review soon.  Since I had not finished it before its release date, Allan offered this article for readers to learn from based on Allan life long journey of learning, humility and leadership studies.  I hope you enjoy and please add any comments below.

Often when we speak of leadership we get the sense that our topic is very distant from us and possibly located in some ivory tower. This is because we’re attempting to learn about a lived experience through spoken concept. Leadership just doesn’t happen this way. It is possible to point toward the experience of leadership, but ultimately leadership is on the ground action. Let’s talk a minute about learning and its relationship to leadership:

 

All of us who attended an elementary school know about our principal style of learning. I call this style horizontal learning. The main hallmark of this style is the on-boarding of content through reading, lectures and even written examinations. Like many of you, I embarked on my career after a lifetime of this style of learning. In fact, I continued for years after my college graduation to acquire specific knowledge about the topical areas of my profession. In my case, I was hired by Price Waterhouse, and as a merger/acquisition specialist I was expected to understand economic, transactional and tax theory. This is a fine style of learning but it is only a first step.

 

As we mature, in both our personal and professional life, a new style of learning becomes important. I call this style vertical learning. This is when the concepts and detail that we have learned, transform themselves into a behavioral outcome. Let me give you an example. Most athletes will immediately relate to this one.

 

In most sports, team members are given books of plays, video material and even instruction on a practice field as to how to play their game. However, this knowledge and instruction does not create a good performer. You might have heard the comment that players excel when “the game slows down for them”. What does this mean? The game has slowed down when the learning that you have done becomes part of how you perform. Vertical learning follows the horizontal intake of concepts in your mind. However, performance and leadership take place on their specific playing field and are not conceptual in nature. That means that you must internally transform your horizontal learning into vertical action.

 

Let’s talk about humility for a moment. Most of the time when we do so, we speak of it as an attribute that an individual can possess. In fact, the horizontal version looks like that from the outside. But what does the vertical feel like from the inside? When we think for a moment that we live on earth with 7 billion people, all of whom transact some 100,000 internal transactions per second, a new perspective arises.

 

Learning horizontally places us at the center of the universe of knowledge. But holding how we are really situated within the universe shows us that our conceptual learning is out of focus. We are actually part of a whole humanity – not the center of it.

 

How does that change things? If we understand this difference we no longer need to seek to be humble because in that one observation we can see that we are not as important as we might have assumed. If we touch and feel that experiential arising then we will see that humility simply is. No need to acquire anything, just simply seeing things as they truly are.

 

Here’s an exercise that I often do with the executives I coach: Find 30 minutes at the end of your day and isolate an action from the day for which you were specifically responsible. Then, spend the entirety of that session listing all of the things that were necessary to be in place for the outcome that you authored to happen. What things outside of your control had to be in place for that to occur?

 

When you’re done with your session ask yourself if you see your importance in the same way as you did before. I guarantee you won’t.

 

Why is this important? Because this vertical type of learning will drive your leadership behavior, and your ‘on the ground’ leadership behavior must be geared to allow the rest of your team to follow you. In order to do that you must provide them the room to play on the same field that you do. That is to say – you need to see yourself as occupying the proper amount of space to be an authentic leader. By understanding your position you will not only be able to lead, but you will do so humbly. How could it be any other way?

 

ALAN E. SHELTON is a leadership coach, speaker, blogger, and author. His groundbreaking book, Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery, integrates the corporate leadership and spiritual worlds through his message that awakening is the felt sense that your actions seamlessly reside in who you really are and move in a perfect flow. You can follow Alan on Twitter, like his Facebook page, and learn more about him at his website, www.AlanShelton.com

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 1 Comment »

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