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HealTHis: Skill

After a couple of weeks away, let's dive right back into the HealTHis series with the skill article.

Before I attempt to tell you how your skills are a measurable aspect of your health, I should probably outline what I mean by your skills in the first place. Whilst the definition of skills could be quite wide-ranging, I would suggest that with regards to health it would refer to coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. These are an extract from the list of 10 physical skills taught to us by CrossFit. It is in these four physical skills where I would suggest we could measure somebody’s skill, whether that be in the gym, or in their daily lives. An important point to note would be that there is no limit to the disciplines across which one could be skilled. For the purposes of health though, I would suggest we would need to measure skills that improve the quality of one's life and the ability to perform the tasks required day to day.

It's simple to think of skills in a solely gym or sporting setting, however, one would also need to be skilled in their daily tasks and their job. The body is known to adapt to different stressors placed upon it, and learn the most efficient way to achieve a given task, which could be referred to as the acquisition and refinement of skills. Movements we are required to perform daily in the course of our lives, or through our work will naturally become movements in which we are highly skilled. The more skilled we are at our job, the less stress this places upon us, and therefore our work will have a less detrimental effect on our physical well-being. In addition to being skillful in our work, it would also be useful to develop a wide range of physical skills across broad modal domains. Not only would this grant us access to a wider range of activities and physical applications, but also help safeguard us against injury when certain tasks are required of us. Some of the movements performed in a gym setting, in particular a CrossFit gym, might at first appear excessive or even unnecessary. If we show a complete newcomer a squat snatch, or a ring muscle-up, they often look understandably confused. Whilst these are high skill movements, they are also fantastic training tools for developing complex motor control patterns which in turn become usable skills. By mobilising and harmonising these large kinetic chains, within the body, at will, we develop transferable skills which can be applied to complex movements required of us in our daily lives. Whilst it could be credibly argued that even the greatest of sportsmen could further refine their skills for the vast majority of us, there comes a point at which our skills are good enough for our daily lives and our work. Training effectively in the gym provides us with an opportunity to broaden our range of physical skills, further improve mind muscle connection, and develop the aforementioned for physical skills.

Without meaning to put too fine a point on it, a more skilled human is a more useful human. We cannot possibly predict the range of physical tasks that may present themselves on a daily basis and over the course of our lives. the more wide-ranging our skill-set, the more well prepared we are for these tasks and in turn, the better we will resist injury from uncommon movements. If we break down the previously discussed physical skills, We may develop a clearer understanding of what would constitute a skilled human.

Accuracy refers to our ability to control a movement in a given direction, or at a given intensity. A great example of this would be to throw a ball or to hit a moving object with a bat.

Balance refers to a person's ability to place and subsequently move their centre of gravity in line with their base of support. Good examples of this would include a single leg squat, or a handstand hold.

We would describe agility as minimising the time between different movement patterns. A perfect, yet highly skilled, example of this would be the burpee muscle up.

Finally coordination could be described as a person's ability to combine several distinct movement patterns. Examples of this could include the clean and jerk, or the ring muscle up.

With regards to altering your daily schedule to ensure you develop your skills throughout your life, I would recommend breaking skills into three distinct areas; hobbies or interests, professional, and general. Hobbies or interests could include the skills associated with playing a musical instrument, fishing, or playing a sport. Skills for your profession could be as wide-ranging as using a hypodermic needle, operating heavy machinery, or using a sewing needle. General skills of those we have discussed which can be developed through a wide ranging varied fitness programme. For the majority of us, we won't have to dedicate any additional time to developing our professional skills, although for some people this may be beneficial. Of the remaining two areas, the majority of people will naturally devote more time to developing the skills which they enjoy. Whilst these themselves are beneficial, it is important to remember that we also need a broad range of skills as well as very highly refined skills in one particular area. Fortunately though, of all of these articles, I believe that skill development is the easiest to implement into our daily lives. Everybody should be making time for hobbies at least 2 to 3 hours per week, and taking part in some form of fitness most days for around an hour. Assuming your training is well coached and programmed, this alone should take care of your requirement to develop a broad range of physical skills. As for your hobbies and interests, it should go without saying but these will help your health in many more ways than just improving your skills. Remove the guilt associated with taking time for yourself, and schedule in two to three hours per week of time to spend on your hobbies or interests. The dexterity and fine motor control associated with many hobbies is invaluable, not only in our lives now, but in retaining our faculties as we age. As we have discussed in previous articles, especially when we've discussed the cognitive processes, challenging the mind on a regular basis can work wonders for our mental health.

Whilst this article is not suggesting any radical shift or change, for those of you already physically active, the two to three hours per week which it does suggest you change, could prove themselves to be extremely valuable in maintaining your overall health. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the issues discussed and your suggestions for hobbies and interests which help you maintain a level of coordination, balance, agility and accuracy.


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