It amazes me how many tightly regulated feedback systems there are in the human body. I had a hill in the middle of my ride, and I started breathing hard about 3 seconds into the hill. It just floors me to think that the whole chain of cause and effect could be so quick, from the extra energy demand of my muscles to the oxygen depletion to the extra breathing.
Unrelated topic: I had a really intense piano practice the other day, involving (among other things) about 10 minutes practicing the same measure over and over at ever increasing metronome speeds. I felt like my piano ability was improved more by those 10 minutes than by the previous month of casual playing, and I was reminded of a passage from the Scientific American article on The expert mind. It's from a section describing the kinds of activities that help develop expertise quickly:
Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time. It is interesting to note that time spent playing chess, even in tournaments, appears to contribute less than such study to a player's progress; the main training value of such games is to point up weaknesses for future study.
So now I'm trying to find ways to apply this to both my piano and juggling practice. For piano, I think I know all the right techniques, I just have to be disciplined enough to apply them. Probably because I had about 12 years of formal piano training growing up, and got taught a lot of good ways to challenge myself. In juggling, I'm not quite as sure what I need to do. One thing I've started working on is to look at my watch and give a solid 5-10 minutes of time to a hard trick. Drops occur so frequently in juggling that it's easy to be fooled into thinking you've spent a long time on a trick when in fact you've only put in a minute or two.
Ok, tired now. Bedtime.