Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Reward (or Punishment) of Conditioning

Conditioning is defined as the process of modifying a person's behavior.
For athletes or recreational physical enthusiasts, physical conditioning refers to manipulating the variables of exercise (sets, repetitions, resistence, volume, frequency, type of exercise, etc) to achieve better performance.

There is also psycological or mental conditioning for athletes specific to their sport (ie visualization of wining a race, gaining more mental toughness and the ability to perform in front of thousands of fans, etc).

For human beings in general, we must be aware of the process of conditioning and how it works. First, a process is defined as either a) a series of events to produce a result, or b) a set of procedures to produce a product or outcome.

If we really consider these definitions, there are really two extremes or poles we could use to describe conditioning for people and what that might look like.

First, a process of modifying one's behaviour as it is dictated by a series of events. This definition connotates a lot of things happening over time that lead to a conclusion. It takes choice, action, and responsibility out of the hands of the person. This is a victim.

A victim, over time, encounters more and more adversity and they get better and better at singing their sad song and generating sympathy over situations they feel the world wronged them.

Psycologically speaking, the victim (unchallenged) learns to harden their beliefs and even validate themselves as a victim of circumstance who others should pity or even help out.

Physiologically speaking, being in a constant state of stress raises cortisol (human stress hormone) levels which leads to a decreased ability to burn body fat, and changes the body's sensativity to insulin making them a more likely candidate for diabetes. Furthermore, our nervous system, energetic system, and musculoskeletal systems all respond to the demands placed on them. The less active you are, the more muscle and bone atrophy that occurs as well as biochemical and energetic changes in the cells leading to less physical capacity and greater chance of metabolic syndrome, bone breaks, obesity, and a laundry list of other health risks. Stress, in fact, is the only common factor doctors have found among the top 5 causes of preventable disease in Canada.

The physiologic stress outcomes add more fuel to the fire ("why me, all the hardships in my life and now diabetes?"). This is not to say all diabetics are victims; farm from - it is just to demonstrate how people can make life harder for themselves by not taking personal responsibility for their choices and direction in life.

The other end of the spectrum would be defined by the user. Instead of 'a process of modifying one's behaviour as it is dictated by a series of events', a victorious person or champion would have a different definition. Maybe - "I am the sum of my choices" or "my life and my choices have led me here and now the rest is up to me".

Well, on a psycological level, achievement, empowering events, and giving back to the community or helping others all lead to a positive impact on self- worth, self-efficacy, and whether or not someone actually likes themselves.

Physiologically speaking, healthy endorphins released by philanthrpic or empowering activities have a reversal affect on aging, positive correlation with immunity, and even as close as we can gauge through research, a longer life span. Also, increased physical activity forces the body to become more conditioned for activity - increased lean mass and bonme density, more muscle helps burn more calories at rest, and decreased body fat.

Conditioning, for a human, can literally be the difference between a healthy, fit, attractive, optomistic, wealthy success story, and an overweight cautionary tale who people only remember with sadness for them.

Because the more we make a choice, positive or negative, the more our psyche is conditioned to mkake ssimilar choices in the future.

As such, you will either be rewarded, or punished, by your choices (consistently) over time. Make them count.

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