Author : Roy Palmer
Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Roy Palmer, author of Zone Mind, Zone Body: How to break through to new levels of fitness and performance-by doing less!
Good day Roy and thanks for participating in our interview.
Roy, please tell our readers something about yourself and how you became interested in The Alexander Technique and perhaps give us a brief explanation of what is this technique?
Since a very early age I played sport and as I grew older I came to love the competitive side as well as the challenges sport offers. However, in my early twenties I began to experience back pain and when conventional treatment only achieved limited results I came across The Alexander Technique. I soon became fascinated with this subtle technique that brought almost instant relief to a problem I had had for years. Not only did it help my back but it also led to huge improvements in my sports of karate, running and cricket.
Briefly, The Alexander Technique is a re-education system that makes you recognise where you are making life harder than it needs to be. For me it was mainly due to how badly I moved, although until my teacher brought these to my attention I was completely oblivious of them. She got me to repeat some very simple movements and then made a few slight adjustments to my neck, shoulders and back and then asked me to perform them again. To say it was a life-changing moment is not to overstate the experience. I was amazed at how much easier it was. Of course it takes time to learn how to do this for yourself but it is possible with practice.
Needless to say I was hooked and decided to quit my job and enroll on a training course and three years later I qualified as a teacher. That was ten years ago and since then I have taught people from all backgrounds to help with a wide range of problems. My own special area of interest is sport and it’s my ambition to make this remarkable technique as widely known in the sports world as it is in the performing arts.
What motivated you to write Zone Mind, Zone Body: How to break through to new levels of fitness and performance-by doing less?
I had written a book five years earlier called. ‘The Performance Paradox: Challenging the conventional methods to sports training and exercise’ but I was not really happy with the end result – and it took over two years to write! It was as the title suggests a bit of a rant against what I saw (and still do) as poorly thought out exercise methods that cause more harm than good. It was quite difficult to read so I never felt I had put my point across.
I had continued to write for my website and started to find the process got easier with practice and so began to contemplate writing another book. In 2004 I received a telephone call out of the blue from Greg Chappell (ex-Australian cricket captain and current coach of India). He had read some of my articles on the Internet and was in London for a few days and wanted to meet up. As a child I had sat and watched Greg play for Australia against England and here was on the phone wanting to meet up. I gave him a practical demonstration of The Alexander Technique and we spent a few hours discussing our theories on training and fitness. His enthusiasm was enough for me to get back in front of the keyboard and start on the project.
I specifically choose to write about ‘The Zone’ – the almost mystical state sports people experience when performing at their peak – as it had always fascinated me why some days I felt in The Zone whilst the next I could be absolutely useless. One other motivating factor was the continuous stream of new fitness books that offer nothing new but keep repeating the same old advice that I believe has no scientific basis behind it.
What does the Alexander method refer to when it states, “Let the neck be free?”
This is a vital part of The Alexander Technique. F.M. Alexander, its founder, discovered that most adults prepare for movement by first stiffening their necks. Try it for yourself. Try to get out of a chair without pulling back your head, lifting your shoulders or pushing with the lower back. I must have taught over one thousand adults and have yet to find one that doesn’t do this. So why should it matter? Well the most sensitive muscles we have in our body are at the base of the skull and attach to the top of the spine. These muscles fed information about our position to the nervous system that along with signals from our inner ear, eyes, joints and other muscles help us to balance and coordinate movement. If we tighten our necks we can feed ‘false’ information into the system. It’s a sort of brake for the body. If you can release the neck muscles you take the brake off – this explains the sensations I experienced in my early lessons.
Alexander uses the word ‘let’ because he found that you cannot ‘make’ your neck free because any attempt to ‘do’ something results in your muscles responding to that thought with the end result that your neck gets tighter. So the only way we can prevent putting the brake on is to ‘let’ it be free and stop the thoughts that will lead to the signals telling your neck muscles to tighten.
Alexander had a wonderful saying that goes ‘your muscles will do exactly what you are telling them to do – but do you know what you are telling them to do’. I know I certainly didn’t and I have found the majority of people I have taught don’t. This even applies to athletes who compete as quite a high level. This is a very subtle technique but it can have a huge impact on performance – and that’s not just in sport.
What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?
This book was much easier than my second. I made the decision to use a book coach. Mindy Gibbins-Klein. I have always been a bit skeptical about using coaches but Mindy proved very helpful. One obstacle for anyone writing about The Alexander Technique is the subtle and subjective nature of the subject. I read hundreds of reviews on Amazon about other Alexander books or books on mind training techniques for sport and noted that many felt cheated after reading a book that basically recommended they go and try lessons for themselves. For this reason I decided not to write an Alexander sports book but instead looked to write a sort of workbook with plenty of practical procedures. I didn’t neglect the theory as this is important but where I put forward an idea I tried to back it up with an experiment for the reader to put it to the test.
I did get a little bogged down with writing the instructions for these procedures because I tried to use terms as a teacher I would use in a lesson. However, these are always backed up by using our hands - obviously not possible in a book. Mindy, my book coach helped me to get past that to keep it short and in plain English.
The other problem I experienced writing my first book was I only sat down to write when I had an idea of what I was going to say. This time I was more disciplined and set times of the day when I would write. I soon found that once I sat down the ideas would just start to flow and many of them came about during the process of writing and not from my research. I guess you could say I was in The Zone!
Did you do any additional research when writing this book, aside from your own experiences?
I have always been an avid reader and read a few books on physiology, psychology plus a number of biographies by top sports people. I did try to get in contact with Michael Johnson, a truly world-class athlete, but that didn’t come about. I did interview a number of athletes ranging from up and coming stars through to current champions plus a few who have retired. It was interesting that they all used very similar words to describe their ‘zone moments’ yet all were at a loss to explain how they got there.
Of course these days the Internet is an invaluable tool for any researcher although I always check the source or look for confirmation elsewhere.
What do you hope readers will take away after reading your book?
If they take one thing from the book I would like them to get a similar experience to mine in my first Alexander lesson. I will be happy if I can make them go ‘wow’ when trying out some of the movements. It’s a sort of light bulb coming on in recognition that there is a different way to move. I did manage to achieve this with my father, who is 80 this year, when he tried the chair experiment - he even rang me up to say so.
As I said earlier, it is my ambition to make The Alexander Technique a natural choice for sports people in their training. At present few have heard of it or those who have consider it an old-fashioned posture training system. If I can arouse the curiosity of more sports people to try lessons I will feel I have gone some way to achieving it.
How will you be using the Internet to market your book? Will there be any unique ways you'll be marketing your book that is different from how others authors market their books?
Although I have quite a bit of experience with the Internet through my website, marketing is a whole new ball game. I accept that authors should take a lot of the responsibility to market their books as publishers will only do this for so long.
I am trying a number of ways to do this and so far I have written a number of articles on The Zone and published these on websites such as www.ezinearticles.com. I link everything I write back to the specific page on my website at www.fitness-programs-for-life.com/zone_mind_zone_body.html
Like every other author I bought John Kremer’s 1001 Ways To Market Your Books and I have used a number of these (I think I found your site via this). I am experimenting using Google Adwords and targeting sites and keywords where I can keep the cost per click down. I have a number of sports specific pages on my website and use different ads linked to these pages. For instance, I will send runners to a page about running in the zone. I have set up a pdf sample copy of the book with an extract from each chapter, at the end I have links to my book offered by suppliers in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
I am continuously searching for good sports and fitness related website and ezines to review and promote it. I try and do one thing each day.
What has been your experience with Ecademy Press and why did you choose them?
I am a member of the Ecademy network and have been for about two years, it’s a very powerful networking tool and I have made many useful contacts. It was through Mindy that I came involved with Ecademy Press and I have found them very supportive.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
Not really, I just hope people are willing to try something new and give the book a go! :0)
Thanks once again and good luck with your book.
The above interview was conducted by: NORM GOLDMAN: Retired Title Attorney: Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures. Here are Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Review of Zone Mind, Zone Body: How to break through to new levels of fitness and performance-by doing less! CLICK HERE