So, Al Says He is Writing a Book
“As mentioned, my upcoming book will cover a plethora of topics: Zen, Punk Rock, Motor Leaning, Psychology (unfortunately), Baseball, Personal Matters; and of course, the only topic by which you enter any topic from — Life. While I understand not all these topics will be attractive to all readers, rest assured the strong parallels they share relative to the evolution of Automated Muscle negate any differential or segmental influence.” — Albert Coleman
I’ve been in the exercise business since 1998. I know, not overly exciting news considering the intellectual giants that community is commonly known for (he says factiously). But if you are going to read a book on exercise, wouldn’t you want to do so knowing its author has some field experience?
What if however, you got lured into a book that claims to be about exercise but really has themes that are more broad, universal, and random in nature? Themes like Zen Buddhism, philosophy, motor learning and skill development, baseball, athleticism, rock music, psychology, love and other such seemingly unrelated things? What type of person would you trust has anything of value to say about any of the aforementioned?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer any of that for you, but I can tell you who I’d trust. I’d trust the obsessed. I’d trust the desperate. The ones who will dive into anything they do with reckless abandon because they don’t know another way. Those are the ones who can’t lie to themselves or others because that would require, they be holding something back; and the obsessed don’t do that. That’s what makes them obsessed.
Make no mistake, I’m not anybody special nor do I have any particularly impressive credentials that should convince you to listen to me, other than the fact that I’ve messed up more than I’ve succeeded and that most of those errors have occurred in the wake of reading something from “experts” in whatever field of study I happening to be going on about. I take full responsibility for misinterpreting those authors messages. But that’s the risk you take when you write stuff for folks to read and quite frankly, that is the point of writing. If every person reading every word ever written by any author interpreted the writing not only in the exact same way as the author intended, but every reader themselves had an identical understanding of said writing, how much fun would that be? I’d never read if that were the case.
The purpose of writing on any topic is for the author to formulate an expression and personal interpretation of a given subject matter with the hopes that it resonates in some small way with the intended readership. What utter crap, relative to expression!
Don’t we have science and science writers to tell us what’s what and what exactly it is we should be gleaning from the available and current data? We think we don’t want a personal interpretation and that we want everything straight from the horse’s (scientist or Dr’s) mouth so that we don’t get led down the wrong road by a huckster who is just playing to trends. Notice I said, “we think.” I say this because anyone who has twisted their legs into a lotus posture and straightened up their spine while staring at a blank wall for any significant time-period, will tell you that they know without reservation that thinking is always real but not true. It can’t be because we think in symbols and symbols are………wait for it……. symbolic. They are representative of something other than themselves and therefore can only ever vaguely approximate what they are pointing to.
What I’m getting at here isn’t that we shouldn’t be basing our decision making about the relative aspects of life on the knowledge derived from modern science, psychology, and other such germane topics. We absolutely should. We’d be in some real deep shit if we tried to understand the theory of gravity through the writings of a Wiccan. We need rational and objective premises with which to plug into our logical calculators. Logic: that stuff works when it does. Which it doesn’t always.
No, my point here is that if you ever look back through the writings that have influenced you in any transformative way, it wasn’t the information you were reading necessarily, but the author’s expression of that information. Yes, that even goes for hard, cold science. Whatever research paper you are reading was written by a person or group of people attempting and hoping to objectively report their findings in a non-biased manner, ultimately to find objectivity get tainted at the last second as that objectivity must come out of the mind of a subject before pen hits paper. You can’t get around an individual interpretation of “the research”. Yeah, yeah, I know; good research accounts for this. It still sucks ultimately if it leads you to a belief. If there is one thing you can quote me on with my permission it’s this: Belief in the belief that what you believe or have been led to believe is true about anything at all, is Sin if there ever was such a thing. Belief in God or Science have the same common denominator.
If you are anything like me, it is ideas that have transformed you and the world around you. We read because we seek truth, but we will only find that truth if we hold our ideas about things tenuously and if we are willing to have those ideas shattered in an instance. And it is that shattering that breaks things apart so they can reform differently. If like myself, therefore you read, then I trust that the following collection of writings will not only entertain you, but also help you find your own path to life. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t jive with my interpretation of exercise, philosophy, life or whatever else I may drivel on about. What matters is that if you choose to read this, then you will gain some insight about how the being known as “you” will interpret the teachings herein. That my friend is awareness and is what subsumes all knowledge.
The books that have changed me have all been stories of insight. Even in things as dry as exercise. It is analogy, stories, and evocative imagery that ultimately provides the necessary context for us to clearly view the contents of our consciousness. And that’s what this collection of writings is: a story.
These writings will basically amount to a story about a kid who was obsessed with baseball only to find that baseball contained a truth about life that spawned philosophical inquiry. Eventually baseball obsession merged into obsession with effective exercise and the quest for the honorary title of Alpha Subject (oh brother). That obsession led to an obsession about how to train the mind (not possible, but I’ll get to that later) which only led to more philosophical inquiry and existential suffering. Philosophical obsession with the training of the mind led to Zen Buddhism. The study of Zen Buddhism coincided with a deep dive into the burgeoning field of motor learning and skill development. In these two disciplines I found the most direct expressions of communication for any body of knowledge that I may be trying to disseminate. Motor learning’s modern research and writings led me back to the study of baseball, which ironically re introduced me to things that have showed me the flaws in what I was promoting as “safe and effective exercise.” Also, modern motor learning study is tripping over many insights about how humans learn things in general that the Zen tradition has been carrying on about for a couple of thousand years.
Due to my philosophical predilections and forms of expression, I’ve been asked for a while now to put my insights on exercise prescription and theory into writing. I’ve resisted for a few reasons, some personal and some not. The reason you should care about however is that I could not write honestly, no matter the topic, if I did not write from the space that my near 20-year practice of Zen sitting views it from. The reason is simple; in Zen sitting the thing you call “you” gradually sees things from a perspective that doesn’t dichotomize things into subjective or objective. In that way it is truly the only objective place with which to be scientific in the real sense of the word. I know what that means to some of you. You’ll pass it off as “mystical”, “irrational”, or “illogical.” That’s okay, you don’t have to read it. Do consider this though; I’ve spent over twenty years devoted to an exercise discipline that claims to have the market cornered on “rational exercise.” The sad thing is that for me and most people who either followed or continue to follow this form of “rational, evidence-based, high intensity exercise”, the results have been lame at best, and arrestingly delusional at worst.
Yet somehow the misuse of logic became the basis for something supposedly rational. Do you know what I find rational? If I lift weights, I should have some muscle in some decent proportion to the work I’ve put in. What’s not rational is claiming that your theory of whatever is logical despite the outcome not being congruent with that logic. You know, like if I do one set of bench press to gut busting failure while moving at a snail’s pace and “logically” increase the resistance regularly, I’ll “maximize my genetic potential.” That one belongs next to The Law of Attraction at the next Darwin Awards.
In the words that follow, I don’t claim to have answers to anything. As a matter of fact, my hope is that my experiences only spur further questioning. Questioning, the act of “verbing” a question, is where the “truth” about any matter ultimately lays. I won’t scientifically back up and reference everything I say or suggest. I don’t need nor care to. I read “the research” and use it to my benefit, but I feel no need to create a link between it and what I wax on about. This writing may be irritatingly too stream of consciousness for your liking. I’m sorry if that’s the case, but if you don’t read the craziness that has gone through my head as I’ve gained insight, then I’m not sure you and I are considering the same thing insightful. Besides, it will be fun.
As things conclude, I will introduce you to a theoretical model of exercise instruction that my better half, Nicole, and I have named Automated Muscle. Automated Muscle isn’t meant to be a prescriptive exercise protocol, but rather a way to instruct exercise and physical skills in such a manner that teaches participants a way to approach behavioral standardization. As you will come to find, without a way to reliably repeat and assure the attentional, intentional, and behavioral directive of any activity, you can’t accurately assess the validity of any methodology. Automated Muscle is based on one objective: whatever form of exercise you choose, we work towards optimizing automaticity of that skill to minimize behavioral, psychological, and physiological variables that can negatively impact the outcomes. I will include a chapter that will teach you to use a simple metronome in a manner that will, if properly used, will streamline the path to automaticity. Not ironically, I’ve coined this The Metronome Method.
While I understand that the exercise sections will be what most of you are reading my writings for, the truth is that the most important part of this book is contained in the brief instructions for Zen sitting (for reasons I’ll explain later, I won’t use the word meditation). If even one person reading this gets inspired to start a sitting practice, then this won’t all be for naught. While you might understand intellectually the things I write herein, and may even agree in part, you can’t know what I’m writing about unless you do something akin to sitting your ass on a cushion every day without the expectation of ever getting anywhere with it. Sit and you may just get out of your own way enough to see for yourself.