“I am still learning,” said Michelangelo at the age of 87.
Learning is indeed a lifelong experience and there is no doubt about it. We continuously learn through our experiences, both good and bad, mostly through the latter. A simple meaning of learning is the activity or process of acquiring knowledge or a particular skill/s by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something. Continued learning nourishes our mind and soul.
We are all used to habitually following a routine. Living in our time requires different skills, one of the most important of which is unlearning activities, skills and formerly productive (or wise) activities such that new learning can take place. You would need to shift the ingrained patterns of behaviour. Simple, right? You have no choice but to learn something new!
Welcome to the 21st Century.
At 67, Prabhakar Rao is an advanced running coach for distance running. A national-level athlete, he won several major races in India. He continues to hold on to his athleticism despite his age. Being an outdoor person, he prefers running outside 4-5 times a week in the pleasant and green surroundings of his locality. He has been doing this for almost 50 years now. The pandemic put a halt on this abruptly. Imagine the withdrawal symptoms one would go through. With stiff resistance from his family, he had to shift from running outdoors to indoors. He says, “When you are forced to adjust, you begin learning things. We can keep on doing what we do, and if we’re doing it right, we can adjust to almost any circumstances. As a runner and as a coach I believe that’s really important. We respond to the situation in which we find ourselves placed.”
Running on a treadmill is tedious, boring and unproductive. Prabhakar Rao says, “While I do miss running outside, at the back of my mind, I know that with stepping out of home halted for the foreseeable future, and all activities being put on pause, I have to learn to cope with the new training norms that have been thrown at me.”
He is now enjoying his treadmill runs at home and the online training sessions that he conducts for his trainees.
Learning a new skill is always enjoyable. Furthering and expanding your techniques always helps. It’s never too late to make the leap! Running has various techniques and one of the most essential one is breathing. We breathe to fuel our bodies with oxygen. The best answer to get more oxygen into the body is through more efficient breathing.
Kshitij Kashyap is a Human Resources professional working for a large medical technology company. He has been running for several years and always on the lookout for new ways to improve his efficiency and competence. He says, “The Covid season brought a tectonic shift to our lives. We have been forced to cage ourselves while at the same time provided an opportunity to introspect. Possibly ‘unlearn’, try new things and look at new ways of doing things. Such times test our resilience. You can reinvent, upskill and rediscover yourself.”
“I learnt of nasal breathing and wanted to incorporate this in my running technique. Such things can be incorporated when you are doing solo running and definitely not with a group as you tend to get carried away trying to remain with the group. Many runners find it most effective to breathe through mouth when running. But nasal breathing was something that I wanted to try. It has benefits that might make you want to breathe through your nose all the time. It was tough initially but I established a baseline and slowly improved on it. Within weeks I was able to see the difference. My pace improved and also aerobic and anaerobic capacity. I now nasal breathe while running.”
What do you do now when you learn a new habit and unlearn an old one at the same time? What if you wanted to shift one, two or three aspects of your routine? You would need to shift the ingrained patterns of behaviour. Simple, right?
“I had no plans to take up cycling. It happened on a whim. While many people find their time filled with family commitments and activities, there’s always time to learn something new every day, and there were more opportunities during the pandemic than ever to try an activity or acquire more knowledge. From buying a new cycle to riding over thousand kilometres, all in a matter of two months,” says Chaitra Nataraj filled with excitement for her new interest. “It arrived in my life providing solace and focus, uncovering physical and mental strength I did not know I possessed. Cycling de-clutters my mind and makes everything more simple and manageable in the current times,” she adds.
Living in our time requires different skills, one of the most important of which is unlearning activities, skills and formerly productive (or wise) activities such that new learning can take place.
As very rightly said by Mahatma Gandhi, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”