Today's topic is a brief dive into essentially what my life's work in fitness and movement has all been about.
The intention of movement.
Have you ever wondered why or how performing simple tasks that don’t seem to cause you any immediate pain or discomfort can suddenly leave you in crippling agony, or lead to torn ligamentous tissue without a sudden sports injury?
Ever bent over to pick up the laundry basket, the same way you’ve done it 100 times, and suddenly tweak your back?
Or after years of not playing high school / college sports anymore, your chronic knee pain you’ve developed is diagnosed as torn meniscus and you go ahead and get surgery for it. A few years later, you’ve got the same issue again?
The human body is an amazing skeletal machine, held together by ligaments, and manipulated by muscles attached to the bony structures with tendons. With this machine we can accomplish some very incredible feats of movement and manipulation, even ones that look like they are not supported by good physics, and all the while, prevent injury to the structures that hold everything together.
But we are also capable of leveraging and applying force off the structures designed to bear load and putting it onto our bones, our ligaments, and our tendons. Fortunately, we aren’t so breakable that moving in such a manner guarantees we are going to break down, but when we are constantly grinding forces into structures not suited for those forces, eventually, something will have to give.
This is where the intention of movement comes in, and the theories behind it for moving effectively, efficiently, and safely.
Before I dive into that though, I want to clear some air.
There is no such thing as “bad posture.” There are postures our body is not prepared for, and there are postures we spend too much time in.
Understanding this core concept will help you move forward in understanding how to move intentionally, and recognizing what postures you spend too much time in and bringing your body back into balance.
The tensions we generally experience are as follows.
Muscular Efficient and Inefficient Tensions are two sides of the same coin. We can produce movement using both efficient and inefficient tension and generally speaking from the outside the movement appears to be exactly the same.
Let’s explore this a little deeper with some examples and analogies.
If you were to hold a glass full of water out in front of you, and pour it out slowly. If you were performing this movement with inefficient muscular tension, you may start to feel a nagging, burning, and otherwise uncomfortable sensation in your trapezius muscle or various neck muscles connected to the arm you’re pouring the liquid with. Inherently, you’re not doing anything that’s going to cause you injury, and you are accomplishing the goal of pouring out the liquid.
If you were to perform this same action, with muscular efficient tension, you would feel a work-like fatigue in the muscles of the shoulder, and the structure of the arm and the shoulder would be gently hugging your rib cage.
In the example of inefficiency, a group of muscles that are by design, more suited for other types and ranges of movement, have become the primary movement centers to create the action we are seeking. In a more lamens explanation, your trap and neck muscles are overpowering your rotator cuff muscles.
In the example of efficiency, the rotator cuff is engaged and working effectively, making it so the effort of the movement is balanced through the limb and not creating and nagging or painful tensions in the body, it is just producing efficient and effective work.
Ideally, we want to favor muscularly efficient tension, and identify movement patterns that rely on muscularly inefficient tensions so we can strengthen the muscles that aren’t pulling their weight, and identify muscles that may be suffering from being tight long, or tight short due to our average postures. Then we re-train our mechanics for the movement we are trying to accomplish in the most effective and efficient way for our body and our structures.
Pinching Tension is a tension sensation that we get when a muscle, nerve, or bone is pressed, pinched, or otherwise impeded by another muscle, or bone. It can also be experienced when we relax muscular flexion and “rest on the joints” of a particular structure.
Some examples to help build the understanding.
If you were to lower yourself into a squatting position, and at the bottom of your squat you relaxed and released the tension in your muscles, you would be transfering the weight that was being controlled by the muscular flexion, into the knee joint, putting all of that loaded weight directly onto the bones, and the ligaments.
On the surface, this looks, and probably doesn’t feel like it’s causing any damage. But, when forces are put onto structures such as that, over time, it wears them down, and grinds them. As well, the sudden reactivation of the muscles under load can absolutely pull and cause acute shifts in tension that can damage the structures.
An example of that, would be if you took a heavy load into your squat, relaxed the tension off the muscles into the knee joint, and then tried to reactivate the tension in an explosive motion upwards.
There is a reason why during movement we want to keep tension in our muscles until the movement is complete. It keeps the joints safe and unloaded!
Some other ways we can experience pinching tension is when we approach a stretching posture for a muscle group, but through either faulty mechanics or structural inability, the tension of the stretch is placed directly onto a joint or juncture that is not the intended area of stretching.
A good example of this is if you attempt to enter into a pigeon stretch or pose, and begin feeling tension inside of your knee, as opposed to your hip or hamstring complex.
Another way we experience pinching tension is much more apparent. If a nerve is placed into pinching tension we will typically get a “shock” of either pain or numbness that quickly spreads down the length of the affected area.
Generally speaking, pinching tension is a tension we want to avoid.
Stretching Tension is probably one of the easiest tensions to identify, as it is the sensation of muscular tissue being stretched and reclaiming some of its perceived elasticity.
Tension such as this can be easily identified and felt through many different movements and motions, for example, if you were to bend over to touch your toes, you would more than likely feel a stretching sensation in the back of your legs.
Being able to identify these different tensions can help you create your own personal roadmap for “Un-F%^&ING” yourself if you experience chronic pains and aches, or find yourself getting injured constantly from activity (Of course, this is all assuming your issues aren’t related to something structural and are just from mismanagement of tension and inefficient movement patterns.)
That being said, truly learning, understanding, and reprogramming your body takes a long time, a lot of patience, and self education.
Oftentimes, when I begin working with a new client and identify their inefficiencies, after a month or two, they almost always ask me this question “How come my weak side seems to get it, but my dominant side seems stuck?”
This is because it is much easier to write a new movement “program” than it is to rewrite an ineffective movement “program.” It takes MANY reps to build good form equity and solidify the pattern so you can automatically default to it. It takes MANY reps AND MANY more reps to overwrite something that has already been your default mechanic for quite possibly decades.
The other thing to remember, is that it’s also impossible to just completely get rid of the old programming as well. Which means, most of the time, you will need to maintain a modicum of awareness of how you are moving to prevent yourself from reverting to old patterns that landed you in injury town to begin with.
This is why we primarily see repeat clients who go through therapy, start a good program prescribed to them by their therapist. Get better, get stronger, disregard the therapy work because they are “cured” and then end up re-injuring themselves in almost the exact same way.
To keep yourself injury free, you need to always be aware of your movements, and you need to always be working to optimize your movements. This means, you NEVER EVER STOP DOING THERAPY WORK even after you are fixed. In fact, a good chunk of your warm-ups before activity should be focused on therapy work and waking up muscle memory for good movement patterns.
Move with intention. Move with purpose. Keep your mind's eye focused on what your body is telling you. Trust me. It knows best, you just need to learn how to listen.
Locking Down Your Nutrition During Lockdown
Hello friends! Happy Friday.
So, here we are, cruising through April. Still social distancing. Still in Pandemic Land. It’s tough on all of us, and I know it can be very frustrating and anxiety laden when we consider just WHERE the light at that dang end of the tunnel is.
Unfortunately, it’s exact point in time is outside of our circles of influence and to help us reclaim our sanity we’re going to take a little step inside one of our current circles of influence and look at our nutrition.
During these times, especially for those who find themselves out of work, it is very very important to carefully plan how we spend our finances during this time.
We also should be planning our shopping trips carefully too, hopefully making it so we only have to venture to the market 1x per week.
This is the perfect recipe for taking more control and charge over what you’re feeding yourself and putting into your body. Also, believe it or not, but buying fresh whole foods in bulk and taking the time to prepare and cook them yourself will save you a butt ton of money that you might otherwise spend on pre-packaged meals or ordering out. So not only is it good for your health, it’s also frugal!
So where do we begin?
If you don’t have much experience shopping and cooking this can seem like a tough task and may bring on some anxiety.
We’re going to start with the basics and keep it straight forward so you can crush this!
1.) Know Your Store.
Most grocery stores are laid out the same. Whole fruits and vegetables are on one end of the store, meats, dairy, and finally frozen / refrigerated foods tend to then roll around the perimeter of the store, sometimes ending in the grains if they aren’t combined with your fruits and veggies section.
See, that’s not so bad right? The golden rule is that most of your shopping will be done on the perimeter of the store, saving only choice items being purchased from the middle isles.
2.) Make a Plan Before Venturing Out.
Just like with anything that you want to be consistently successful with, you need to have a plan in place. Make yourself a meal plan for the week, roughly outlining what you plan on having for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Once you have your meal plan, make your grocery list based on that so you don’t end up doing “browsing shopping” which is just bad-news-bears.
3.) Don’t Shop Hungry.
It’s hard enough making good decisions based on logic and reason. Don’t do this to yourself and make it even harder.
4.) Stick To Your Budget.
Budgeting is tough, and it’s even tougher when financial futures are dicey. There are tons of great apps out there for finding coupons and other ways of saving as much money as you can on groceries. As well, lots of stores do reward programs and give you points or cash back for buying store brand over name brand.
That’s it! See, it’s not so scary. You just have to practice, and have a good plan in place.
Now .. to address those who aren’t too concerned about finances during these times. I urge you to consider adding into your meal plan at least 1x a week where you order out to help support the local economy around you. You can afford those calories and the restaurants you patron will thank you as well, and hopefully, we can all lean on each other and continue to prop eachother up in these tough times.
Human beings are social creatures, that’s why solitary confinement is one of the worst things you can do to a person. So let’s all be a little kinder, and let’s all work a little harder to see the bright side and make someone else smile.
Also, shameless self plug! If you need some killer meal plans or recipes to help you make the most of all the time you’re going to have to spend in the kitchen, head on over to our School Store and pick up one of our three cookbooks! (Or all 3!) each one has 2 meal plans and corresponding grocery lists already done for you!
Hey friends, Dan here, coming at you with an op ed piece on the constructs of “Social Media” and how its place in our world can and should evolve with the pandemic we are faced with today.
I grew up in a very interesting stretch of time. Some of my formative and developmental years were spent without the world wide web, social media, Prime delivery, smart phones, and a lot of the other technological “conveniences” that seem so integrated with life today that it can be a challenge just trying to imagine the world where these things don’t exist anymore.
We can instantly access a world wide database of knowledge and educate ourselves on any topic we choose. We can read scientific studies, great works of literature, editorials, opinion pieces, blogs, crowd sourced information databases, you name it.
We can keep the world aware of what we are doing on a daily basis with a single post, and we can also shape and mold the “image” of who we are in the digital space by editing and trimming the aspects of our life on film through physical and lingual “filters.”
We can connect with friends, family, and meet new people across the globe with a screen and a camera.
We can order things at the push of a button, and if we pay a little extra, it can arrive to us at a speed that only an assembly line full of AI that LITERALLY guesses what you are going to order next could provide.
And yet … the more interconnected our world becomes, the more distant we as humans seem to become with each other.
Many face to face interactions with other humans, replaced with machines and devices that prioritize speed and accuracy over the human touch.
You don’t even have to CALL the restaurant anymore to place a delivery order.
Is this bad? Is it the leading cause of “the downward spiral of humanity and society”? Honestly, that’s impossible to quantify or test with reliable data because there are far too many variables to control. The rate of technological growth and the rate of human social disconnect is absolutely related but one does not also inherently hinge on the other.
This convenience, of super connectivity, seems like it can’t even be halted by a pandemic.
Even though we are in pretty much a national and international shut down, my orders and deliveries through Prime are basically still arriving incredibly quick. Granted, this is through the hard work of people and a fusion of technology, but can you think back to a time before such a convenience existed, and fathom that that same convenience could still exist in a global pandemic?
With what we are currently facing, isolation, and a lack of human contact is now starting to take the center stage. Considering humans are very social creatures, its impact is very real and very easy to feel for many of us.
We are isolated to our places of refuge, but still have ALL of the technologies at our disposal that simultaneously keep us connected, but also allow us to disconnect and not interact with other people.
This is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what we have let social media evolve into and decide where we want the future of it to lead. Afterall, the very first word of it is “social.”
We can use these platforms to reach out and talk to friends, loved ones, or complete strangers.
Currently, we are all going through the same thing. Situations like this are social equalizers (no, they don’t disrupt or change social inequities) but despite someone's material standing in the world, we are all human beings, and human beings have an inherent need to be part of a group, to be social, to be seen.
Honestly … for the last few years I have struggled with being a part of social media. I let the aspects of it that were fake and disingenuous turn me off and help me tune out. Starting to avoid it, and try my darndest not to exist on it. Or at least, I thought that’s what it was.
It was really more of an excuse to tune everything out, and a lot of the people who were immediately around me.
My loneliness I attributed to how “stupid social media” was changing the world, was just a projection of how I was feeling inside. No inanimate object or concept can directly influence how we act.
Currently, I am trapped in a house. Trapped in a house with 2 animals that dote on me, and the love of my life. The absolutely least stressful things in my world right now are those 3 living breathing beings. It’s allowed me the time to pause, breathe, and really reconnect with the one person I was inadvertently drifting from, and start applying more of my energy into giving the two creatures who loved me unconditionally no matter what I do, more of my time and undivided attention.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky to be trapped in a house under pleasant circumstances.
But here’s where I want to share the other life lesson I’ve been learning recently as a part of this experience.
You can connect with people, in a very genuine way, that doesn’t involve you being in the same room. Of course, nothing will ever replace the aspect of human contact, touch, and the energy you can feel by being in the presence of someone else.
Thursdays; I gather a group of my friends together on a platform called Zoom, and we teleconference so we can hear each other, and see each other. It’s the same group of people I used to play trivia on Thursday nights with (when I wasn’t working or isolating.) We get together on this video platform, and through the wonders of technology and connectivity, we all play a game called Quiplash with each other. It keeps us laughing for hours while we reconnect, and discuss with each other how life in the pandemic era is going. Creating new memories, and sharing old.
I used to miss a lot of trivia nights, again, in favor of working, or self-isolating. I haven’t missed a single Zoom call yet with this group, and I don’t plan on it any time soon.
Another fun fact … our “trivia group” has also grown in number, as the ease of which we can actually connect and play games together from the comfort of our living room has become more apparent.
On Sunday, Jamie and I will be using this same technology to spend time with our families as to not miss out on Easter (no, I’m not religious, but it’s still a tradition to spend time with the family for us.) I was honestly perplexed, and a little downtrodden when I started to think, there would be no family gathering this year at the normal date and time.
But enter technology and now, we can still be together verbally and visually.
The other night, a friend of mine discussed with me how he and his family were able to use telecommunication tech to do their Seder for Passover.
I’ve even been able to use telecomm tech to keep in touch with my clients AND continue training them!
Social media and technology are not the bane of social constructs in society. They are a tool.
A tool used by us, to either disconnect from everyone, or a tool to help us connect with anyone.
It is up to us, and us alone to decide the future of our communication technology and how we use it.
I urge you. Use it to reconnect with those that are near and dear to you. Especially during these uncertain and crazy times. Nothing in life is permitted or given, and we should never have to look back and wish we had connected with someone more before they are gone. Whether they move on and out of our life because we disconnected with them, or they pass from this world, and we are never given another chance to.
I challenge you; use technology to enhance your connectivity, and use this pandemic as the means to practice.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
- Henry Ford
As a preface I want to state: In my lifetime I have failed a thousand times and before I am through I will fail at least a thousand more. This is the art of failing.
But wait … aren’t we trying to achieve, not fail?
Therein lies the conundrum of this fallacy. This fear of failure has been so engraved into us that we spend more time obsessing over the plan itself and waiting for that perfect moment to act that we forget the very simple concept of practice and why we fail in the first place. We fundamentally rob ourselves of the learning tool that is failure.
When talking to a friend about his writing process for raps, I asked him, "What's your secret to writing great lines?" He looked at me and said their was no secret, just hours and hours of pumping out bar after bar. The words he said next resonated with me and still do to this day. "You have to get all the crap out of the way first before you find the nuggets of gold."
With that in mind, I want to tell you a story...
A ceramics teacher divides students into two groups. One would be focused on quality and the other on quantity. The quality group would be responsible for a single clay pot and had the entire semester to plan and perfect their piece to submit for a grade which would be graded based on geometric rubrics and artistic merit.
The quantity group was tasked with completing fifty pounds worth of clay pieces and would be graded on the combined weight of their projects.
When it came down to the end, the quality group had spent so much time fussing over the theoretics of the project and the planning phase that their unpracticed hands were only able to produce a rough design. In comparison, the quantity group, while their first rounds of designs were rough, by the end of their fifty pound mark they started to produce refined quality pieces that showed evidence of practiced hands.
So what does this all mean? I said to you earlier that I have failed a thousand times and I would fail a thousand more, but what I left out is that for each of those failures, each of those mistakes, I also learned a
valuable lesson and through failing was able to refine something for or about myself.
The most physical representation of this concept we can see after spending a few weeks in the gym practicing mindfulness of our movements.
Each set, every rep, is an opportunity for us to dissect what we are feeling and improve our mind muscle connection. Over time, this creates a smooth and refined visual quality to our movements. One thing that I get a lot, is after showing a client a movement and asking them to do the same, without fail they say "Wow! You made this look so easy!"
But it isn't easy. They are watching the end result of many sets, many reps, and many hours of refining technique and movement. Within that time frame, there were many moments of failure. Each moment, an opportunity to learn and develop.
Another physical example of this process we can see in the gym, is how over time, and after exposing our muscles and central nervous system to loads that cause "failure" (either tissues being forced to produce more than their threshold causing micro tears and ultimately hypertrophy, or the wearing down of the CNS from heavy compound movements flooding the body with stress hormone that the body must then recover from) we see strength increases and muscle growth.
Trying new things in your diet such as fasting, macro adjustments, and especially elimination diets provide us with an opportunity to learn what works well for us and conversely doesn't work well for us nutrition wise.
Have you ever heard of a band producing a greatest hits album before they released several albums over possibly decades? Of course not!
Let’s look at another example and tie it in to the quantity versus the quality of failures with opportunity to learn.
Think back to when you first started learning to write your name. You knew what the letters looked like, but manipulating the muscles in your hand and teaching your brain how to work them was a challenge that required many hours over days, weeks, and months to perfect. Do you think about how to tie your shoes, or has it become just a natural part of your life?
Life is a continuity of ebb and flow. You cannot control the direction of the current as we live linearly and always travel forward, but you can always look back for new ways to move forward.
So get out there and fail.
Stop worrying about the process of getting to the goal and start working towards the goal. You’ll learn more and be one step closer in trying and failing than you possibly can debating the best place or way to start. That all being said ... you also need to be mindful of your failures and willing to learn from them.
Afterall ... if you keep doing the SAME thing over and over without actually learning, or expecting a different result, you have stumbled onto the very definition of insanity.
“Why do we fall down?”
“So that we can learn how to pick ourselves up.”