KILTED! is a philosophy that I developed to help guide my quest for better health. KILTED! Can be summarized by 7 simple principles that are crucial if you want to make a transformational change in your life. Today we move to the fifth principle: Expand Knowledge.
There is one overtly obvious reason that Expand Knowledge is part of the KILTED! Principle and another less obvious one.
If your goal is to be healthy, you will need to know what it takes to get healthy. And unless you already know what foods to eat, what exercises to do, and the reasons you need to do them, then good for you. But my guess is that if you did already know everything, you wouldn’t be here looking for information. (And who can claim to know everything?) So, since you don’t already know everything about diet, your metabolism, exercise, and training then, just like me, you have more to learn.
To learn more, you will need to expand your knowledge.
I have very clearly stated that I do not claim to be an expert on many of the topics I am choosing to write about in this blog and website. I knew a little bit about nutrition, and a little bit about fitness before I got started. I have had to do a lot of reading and research. Some of it helped me to organize my posts and to understand the underlying principles behind nutrition and muscle development. Some of it showed me that I was wrong on a couple of points.
But even as I am beginning I already feel mentally stronger. I have become better prepared to take charge of my fitness and my health. And it’s all because I have forced myself to expand my knowledge.
How We Learn
Learning is studied in both the fields of psychology and education (teachers), but it is something we all engage in daily whether we realize it or not. Reading a magazine, studying for a test, watching the news, or getting the directions to a new restaurant are all examples of learning activities. In fact, any time you are exposed to new information, you are learning, no matter how small or inconsequential the information it.
Theorist David Kolb classified the process of learning in 1984 when he published his concept of experiential learning. In it he states that learning happens when the student progresses through the four successive stages of Experience, Reflection, Conceptualization, and Experimentation.
The learner begins by encountering a new experience or situation, or by reinterpreting an existing experience. Next the student with reflect on his observations of the experience, noting any inconsistencies between experience and understanding. Then, he will conceptualize a new idea or modify an existing concept based on those observations. Finally, the student will apply the new concept to the world around him through active experimentation. This experiment will lead to a new experience which can start the cycle all over again.
Experiential learning applies very well into exercise and fitness. For example:
Concrete Experience – I read about a new weight lifting routine.
Reflective Observation – I evaluate the sets and compare it to my current routine.
Abstract Conceptualization – I determine how to add elements of it into my current routine.
Active Experimentation – I perform the newly modified routing for a week.
Concrete Experience – I record the results and continue the cycle…
And the cycle continues as you progress through the Four Stages of Learning. If you’ve never heard them before they may sound silly, but these four stages are rather insightful. I had learned about them before but was recently reminded by my son’s sensei a couple months ago when he brought it up in a class.
Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence
The unconsciously incompetent individual does not understand or know how to do something. Furthermore, the individual either does not know that the skill exists or may deny that it is an important or useful skill. Before moving on to stage 2, the individual must recognize both the value or worth of the skill and their own incompetence. This individual is not yet ready to learn properly. They will likely ignore instruction or will not effectively process it as it is not something they feel they need. With learners at this stage, effective teachers must “take a step back” and help the student learn the value of the skill and recognize their need to develop it.
Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence
The consciously incompetent individual does not know a relevant skill, but recognizes the importance of that skill and their deficiency in it. You could also say this is the point where reality sets in. At this stage, the individual is ready and willing to learn the skill. They will be receptive to instruction. Once the skill can be performed on command, the individual will move on to stage 3.
Stage 3 – Conscious Competence
The consciously competent individual has learned a skill and/or knows how to perform it. However, the skill is at a stage where it requires conscious effort or concentration to perform and may require being broken down into steps in order to execute it properly. An example of this is someone who has learned a dance, but still needs to count each step to stay to the beat or may have to count out the steps pausing after each as you proceed through a maneuver. And don’t expect this person to carry on a conversation while dancing, they need to focus on their dancing to keep from making mistakes. This stage may take the longest to get through as it is the stage of repeated and constant practice and repetition.
Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence
The unconsciously competent individual has mastered a skill to the point that it no longer requires conscious thought to perform successfully. A martial artist who at stage 3 would be going through the mental process of “He’s throwing Punch A, I need to counter that with Block C, Throw Block C,” once achieving stage 4 would simply react with Block C one perceiving Punch A. Driving a car is a great example of unconscious competence as most of us quickly attain the level where we can do other tasks while driving whether we should (like carrying on a conversation) or shouldn’t (like texting, or applying one’s makeup). The unconsciously competent individual is also skilled enough at the task that they may teach it successfully to others.
After reading this, you may ask “Why is that important?” Much like dietary and exercise principles, knowing how systems work can allow us to improve upon and conquer them. Recognizing the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 may help us become more receptive to learning. But this just tells us the stages of learning, what it the actual process of learning? And once you begin learning, understanding the cycle can help you make the most of your learning experience.
Knowing is Half the Battle
With those immortal words, members of the G.I. Joe team signed off from their cartoon show each week after sharing an important safety tip with random children who had almost done something dangerous. Whether for safety reasons or for personal health, attaining knowledge is the half of the battle that must be fought before you can conceptualize or experiment. Once you are well-armed with knowledge, you will be well-equipped to experiment and find what works for you.
So where to begin? Begin with the experts. Consult a personal trainer at a gym. Read fitness articles written by the experts. Read books by dieticians. Consult with or study those who have mastered the skill you are hoping to pursue. Read articles, books, interviews, blogs, etc. The more sources you have, the broader your experience will be, right? But how do you know what will work and what won’t. Who’s for real and who’s a fraud? That’s where I hope I can fit in to your fitness equation.
I have recently begun this journey myself, so I’m not an expert, and at best, I may be a bit more experienced than you are. But I am willing to share my experiences with you, which will hopefully help you move through the learning cycle. Furthermore, it’s all well and good to watch an accomplished trainer do an exercise or explain how you do a sit up when you already have a perfect physique. I hope that I can help translate their descriptions into techniques that work for those of us who are out of shape or have a physique that prevents exercises from being performed perfectly (I’m overweight, and I have a pronounced gut).
I hope to help you learn what makes people fit, so that you can experiment until you find what makes you fit!
But I don’t want you to stop there. Don’t be satisfied with expanding your knowledge of health and fitness. Take it further. Learn something new. Take an adult education class or an online course. Or pursue a hobby. Learn chess, or opera, or military history, or something else that will either make you read or interact with others. Giving your brain a workout is just as important as working your muscles and can prevent or at least delay the onset of forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Research has found that people with more education and intellectually demanding careers have lower risks of dementia. The studies show that higher cognitive function Stems from higher lifetime cognitive enrichment, but mid and late life cognitive activity can be particularly effective in those who did not receive early enrichment. In other words, it’s never too late to start learning! Even brain games and crossword puzzles can be effective stimulation for the brain in later life.
There are lots of options. Start with your local community college and find their personal enrichment courses to learn a new skill. It’s great if you can find something fitness related, or maybe a cooking class, but anything will do. Have trouble justifying the expense? Make it something more practical or work-related. If you already have a degree, go for that MBA you’ve been considering. Or just make it something fun, or something you’ve always wanted to learn about. The possibilities are endless.
But this whole principle in less about what you learn that that you just expand your knowledge.
Be sure to check out Get KILTED! for more information on the KILTED! Principle and links to more relevant blog posts.