Wednesday musings, 1/11/17: context and movement

Motor learning researchers group skills into two groups: closed and open. Closed skills are those done in an environment that never changes. Things like running on a treadmill, lifting weights, and yoga are all examples of closed skills. Open skills, on the other hand, are those that require an environmental response. The environment is always changing, so there is no “perfect” technique because the individual must pick the best strategy to suit the situation. The response is context dependent. Things like trail running, MovNat or Parkour, and martial arts are examples of open skills.

Many of us are guilty of opting for situations where we control the outcome. However, life sometimes throws a monkey wrench at us. A tree branch on the road where we don’t expect it during our walk, a step that’s higher than we expect, or a slippery surface are all situations where we have to respond. If we don’t ever train to be responsive by maintaining adequate mobility and strength, we lose that skill. This leads to lost footing, perhaps a fall, and maybe a muscular strain, or worse.

Fitness is about so much more than how we look. Train yourself to be able to respond. Change your training environment occasionally, even if it’s as simple as doing your regular run in reverse. Avoid the habit of always training the exact same way if you want to maintain adaptability.