Toward a useful physical education

We have widespread ill health. And in the US 42% of us have become obese. PE didn’t help most people.

Entertainment, porn, and sports show us buff physiques to consume. We prominently reward athletes. And advertising sells us convenient food.

We train people to external direction. Our received ideals of fitness come from military preparedness. And we measure and praise performance. Why?

Ill health increases. And the fitness industry grows. This is not working. This fitness does not help most people.

We are going to spend too much time sitting. We are going to look at screens a lot. How do we teach ways of moving as lifelong harm reduction?

Hope

We must teach hope because without it everything else we can teach won’t get used.

Hope is not accomplishment; like kindness it is learned by receiving it and doing it. Someone shows to us hope for ourselves. This is the essential encouragement. And it needs lots of gentle reminding. Many small experiences show us that we can do things to help ourselves. We learn to have hope for ourselves.

Hope is teachable. We give a person hopes for them. We give a person experiences to show them that they can do many simple things to help themselves feel better. And we strengthen hope with practise. We need to put teaching hope into all the ways we teach. It is the essential motivation.

Hope is familiar and likable though unexpected and too uncommon. When we understand the need and put it into everything, many small moments work well to build and reinforce it. But we do need to keep reinforcing hope as dissatisfaction is always there waiting outside in the culture around us.

hope… replaced by the sacralisation of progress as comfort.

John Berger, Another Way of Telling, 1982

Enjoy

We are told to do what betters us. We are taught to push to make gains. That comes to discourage most people.

Please get up and do a good exercise you know. Then pause and do it again and focus on reshaping it to make it feel good. Repeat it and get better at making it pleasurable for anyone to do.

We can teach ways of moving that feel good. We can guide people to focus on and value their enjoyment, and guide people away from externals. Ask what feels good. Teach doing to feel good rather than doing to become.

Why get off the couch? Because you have easy ways of moving that feel really good and that leave you feeling good. Teach what does this. Teach moving as pleasure not as remedy.

This is odd to teach. People like to feel good, but they don’t expect moving to feel good. And they will keep looking for evaluation. Keep pointing them away from the external and in to how good they feel.

Feel

We can feel so much about ourselves that we cannot see. But we get trained to ignore ourselves. We are taught to look from outside ourselves at our appearance and our performance.

We sit and watch so much of our time, and our interactions have become so much about what we see. But to help ourselves we need to not think of ourselves in the mirror, not see ourselves from the outside as a camera. To help ourselves we need to listen to ourselves.

We can learn to feel how we move. We can learn to feel how we are inside. We can learn to feel how we are without thoughts of looking or measurement.

We can teach people to feel how they move. And we can teach touch to guide feel as we align and muscles engage and extend. We help by asking a person how they feel and showing them how to feel in detail. We can teach rich self-awareness, and this feel for ourselves is a guide for what is good.

This is surprisingly hard to teach. It needs repeating and guiding and sure touch. And people will still ignore themselves and ignore how they feel and look for something external. We repeat and guide them to feel and value their inner senses.

Food

Food leads to ill health for so many people. Pointing that out doesn’t help. Facts don’t help. Diets don’t last. We have the numbers showing that what we are doing fails to help people.

Food gets sold to us for immediate satisfaction and pleasure. And it is good; let’s enjoy good eating. But then ask personal questions past our immediate pleasure.

We teach people to feel how they move, and teach them to move to feel good. We teach people to guide themselves by what feels good, and teach them to value feeling good and value their inner senses.

Then we can ask if a food feels good. We have senses that can answer this question. And we can train and value using these internal senses.

Eat and then an hour later ask yourself how the food made you feel. You can answer this. And we can get better at asking and answering the question. Are you hungry? Do I need more water? When does food make us feel tired? Do you feel cold? Do I need more? When do you need to eat? Why do I feel irritable? How did that come out of me? When is hunger useful? Etc. Feel yourself and value what you feel. What feels good?

We can learn a feel for our digestion and metabolism: the nerves are there. Go away from taught ideas of food. Enjoy food. And also ask the internal personal questions and feel what food does to you.

We can teach this feel for food. Learning this feel for what food does to us and valuing and trusting our feel for ourselves motivates and guides reshaping how we eat. This is internal and self and not being told what to do and goes away from food as sold.

This is really hard to teach. It is easy to feel but hard to do: it is just not how we are constantly taught to think about food. We are taught to ignore ourselves. And food has been loaded with ideas of virtue and failure, and advertised as immediate gratification. This is not how we have been taught to think about food: we are taught to not trust ourselves. It needs speaking from embodied self person to person and a lot of gentleness.

Repeat

We’ve been told to push hard. But how to train a muscle is not how to guide a person.

We learn and teach patterns. We help a person learn to feel and reshape their ways moving to help them move away from discomfort and ill health. And for this, doing it again does more than doing it harder. And doing it again tomorrow does more than doing it longer today.

We could spend hours trying to do a tennis serve well or any way of moving. But even when the muscles are willing another fatigue comes followed by frustration. Doing some today, and some tomorrow, and many days, works better.

This is hard to teach. It goes against trained expectation. Some people will at first want to do more that will hurt and set them back and frustrate and discourage them. But repeating does work. Training our nerves and kindness do work. And over weeks we show how it works.

Laugh

We have this wonderful natural way of not taking ourselves too seriously. And it can come easily when we let it.

Fitness has become this serious and professional thing. It has become daunting and virtue and failure and moralistic and keeps people away and keeps them from getting up and doing. Reliable demotivation. It fails, and we have the numbers measuring the failure.

Laugh! Enjoy. Teach moving to feel good. Wear ability lightly. Completely change the plan on the spot. Experiment in public and make mistakes. Go down wrong turns and come back. Revise. Don’t be right. Take off the uniform.

It can be hard. I get paid to know what I’m doing, and I need to appear competent. But to help a person focus on how they feel and learn from it, I must not be right. I keep my knowledge and ability quiet to do my job well. When I ask a person how it feels, I need them to look inward and ask and answer if it feels right inside themselves — not look to me.

Laugh and enjoy and kindness and ease and gentleness and patience and warmth and all the nice things about being human are the essential parts of the job I must bring to each person to teach moving well.

We keep building lifelong feel for the joy in moving.

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