Stillness and Physical Fitness as Opposites

shadow71This follows on the theme of listening to and knowing your own self and your own body.

In a recent exchange, David answered the question ‘what, if anything, had he observed about the wisdom, or evidence of the benefit of developing and mastering the ability for stillness and deep relaxation as a counterweight to developing fitness and capacity for high activity for ADL (Activities for Daily Living)?’

I also asked David, ‘Would you say that the extent to which you can develop and deepen the one (either relaxed stillness or high, dynamic physical activity) enhances and influences our capacity to develop and strengthen the other? His answer is below.


Hi James,

What a good question. But it presupposes that ’stillness’ and ‘deep relaxation’ are separate components of life and not related to exercise. On the contrary I would contend that in order to exercise most effectively and efficiently you will be employing both those aspects.

Sounds like a contradiction, but relaxation is NOT a passive state. We work at being relaxed. In other words we have to allow the mind to take control of the body and putting a muscle into a relaxed state is as much an ‘activity’ as putting that same muscle into a state of extreme effort.

Indeed when we are exercising at the top level we look for the ability to isolate the working muscle and save energy by relaxing all non-involved muscles.

How often have you seen someone in a gym doing leg extensions with a tight neck, grimacing face and bulging arms as they hold on to the seat. So not only are the legs working hard, but the rest of the body as well. All unneccesary and all burning good energy. If you can isolate the muscles (in this case the quads) and let them do the work, then you will be in total harmony with the exercise. Part relaxed and part tensed.

Look at top quality sprinters: the legs are working to max capacity the arms are driving BUT the face and the shoulders and the hands are relaxed. Perfect harmony. Not easy to achieve, but demonstrably possible.

And finally in martial arts there is a great emphasis on working with relaxed muscles that only ’switch-on’ at the point of contact.

A good question with loads of corollary implications.

Hope this helps explain.



P.s. For the perfect combination think of the traditional biathlon – a combination of the highest demand aerobic sport, cross-country skiing, with the stillness of target shooting. The elite athletes have to switch almost instantly from massive intensity and heartbeats up in the 170’s, to complete calm, bringing that heartbeat down to 80’s and then shoot in between heartbeats.

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