My first semester back to school is in the books, and I’m happy to report that I received all A’s for my effort! No rest for the wary, though! Last week, I started summer classes at Texas State University–Developmental Psychology and Medical Terminology. Summer school classes are daily and intensive, which means some major changes to the availability of Massage Therapy and Coaching sessions. To make up for the lack of morning appointments, I have opened up some new summer hours. You can view my current schedule here.
What are the steps to leading a pain-free life? Believe it or not, they don’t include lying around waiting for the pain to end. There’s no pill, magic formula, injection, or surgery that can take the place of healthy movement. Pain often stems from immobility or lack of movement. I find that most cases of chronic pain can be solved by learning how to move the body and developing a daily intentional movement practice. In this workshop, I’ll be sharing some easy-to-implement, daily exercises for restoring lost movement patterns to reduce pain and improve your life. Bring a mat if you have one, and be sure to wear clothes you can move in.
August 24, 2017: Finding Balance
Contrary to popular opinion, balance is not about maintaining a static position, such as standing on one leg for a long period of time. To feel steady on your feet and avoid falling well into advanced age, you must develop dynamic balancing skills. After a fall, our tendency is to go into a state of fear, caving into ourselves, becoming rigid, and afraid to move. This state actually increases the likelihood of another fall. Instead of moving in fear, you need to challenge your balance in order to re-calibrate your nervous system. Join us for a workshop that will improve your overall balance, reduce falling, and even provide strategies for a safer fall! Bring a mat if you have one, and be sure to wear clothes you can move in.
I am excited to share some big news—I am going back to school! Actually, classes began a few weeks ago. I stopped going to school over 13 years ago, just short of reaching my degree, and I have regretted it ever since. I promised myself that I would return and get it done. So when the opportunity presented itself, I was did not hesitate.
I am now pursuing a doctorate degree in physical therapy at Texas State University. I am focused, dedicated, committed, and more than a little scared out of my mind. It will take about 5 ½ years. This will be a huge challenge, one I’m excited to tackle. I’m not interested in maintaining the status quo. Taking the easy route now equates to my future lack of personal growth. My best friend once asked me, “In five years, where will you be if you do nothing compared to taking the hard choice now?” Change is scary, but I am all in. I am excited. One thing I’ve learned at this stage in life is that these types of opportunities are fewer and farther between as we get older. It is a privilege to become a student again and to show my son that learning and growth are a life-long pursuit.
As I once again step back into school, I look forward to deepening my knowledge and passion of the human body and movement. I absolutely love what I do. Helping people change their lives through movement and learning about their body IS my calling. I’ve known this from the very moment I decided to become a personal trainer in San Diego almost 20 years ago. As a physical therapist, I will have the opportunity to help change more lives through movement.
During this time, I’ll be a full-time student, full-time business owner, and full-time dad. Talk about a stretch. I can only imagine the person I will be in 5 ½ years. I suspect it will be transformational. I know I’ll have to learn so much and not just educationally. I will have to grow up emotionally and spiritually as well. To be successful, I will have to develop better organizational habits, time management skill, and take advantage of every spare moment to be present with my son.
What Does This Mean For My Clients?
Clients can continue to expect the same great results from working with me, whether they’re coming in for massage, personal training, or logging in from anywhere in the world for online movement therapy sessions!
With a full-time class schedule, my business hours are filling up fast.
When you hire me for massage therapy, you’ll be an active participant, helping to discover how your body is currently moving and creating a program to restore mobility, regain function, and reduce pain. Massage therapy can be much more than a chance to zone out for an hour–it’s an opportunity to learn about how your body moves and leave with tools of how to move more effectively.
My approach to personal training and coaching is to develop long-term, lasting results by focusing on creating a lifestyle and paradigm shift around how you feel in your body, how you move, how you engage in movement, and how you develop movement skills that will last a lifetime. Instead of unsustainable short-term gains, we will develop life-long habits of moving and being in the world.
After numerous requests for long-distance coaching options, I am now offering—and really enjoying!—Online Coaching. Using either Skype or Facetime, each live video coaching session have the same goals as with in-person sessions.
When I had the idea for this series, my primary goal was to introduce you to some amazing movement coaches from around the world. My hope was that you would learn from them about movement, philosophy, and life in general, as well as get a feel for what kind of qualities to look for in a movement coach, personal trainer, physical therapist, Yogi, etc. More importantly, I want you to be as inspired by their stories to move more, move often, and move well. The coaches I already have or plan to profile are colleagues and friends who I following socially and have been learning from for years. What I am finding, as a profound secondary benefit for myself, is how much I am learning about these coaches too, their movement theories and philosophies, as well as movement in general. They are my teachers, too. This profile on movement coach Gavin Broomes is no exception.
Introducing Movement Coach Gavin Broomes
I am excited to introduce Gavin Broomes B.Sc., FTMA(c). Gavin is originally from Canada and is currently living in Argentina. He is a Neuro-Rehabilitation Specialist and Movement Analyst specializing with children with Cerebral Palsy and other disorders of movement and posture. Gavin is a highly regarded and respected coach and educator within the natural movement community.
Gavin has worked almost 25 years in health, fitness, and physical rehabilitation. His experience extends from clinical sports medicine clinics, high-performance training, and rehabilitation with professional and Olympic athletes. However, his current passion is working with children with Cerebral Palsy and other movement and posture disorders.
Movement Coach Gavin Broomes is a truly special kind of movement coach, and I don’t say this lightly. Anyone who works with children, especially children with disabilities is incredibly special. It has been my experience that those who work with special populations tend to have an immense sense of humility, empathy, compassion, and grace. Gavin has these qualities in spades. If you take a look at his website The Fascia Therapy Blog, you will quickly see how he takes the focus off himself and dives into the heart of teaching and learning. The story of how Gavin went from working with high-level Olympic athletes (the level that most movement professionals dream or strive for) to special needs children is fascinating and speaks volumes to his huge heart.
He was working at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada in the Exercise Science department as an anatomy lab instructor and Strength and Conditioning course instructor. In the summer of 2006, the department was going through budget cuts and he was told his contract would NOT be renewed.
He received a call from a private clinic in east end Montreal offering an interview for a job working exclusively with children and individuals with neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders (Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc..). He accepted the offer. As it turned out, the job was actually fascinating, engaging, and incredibly challenge. As Gavin states, “although the choice to change my professional trajectory had it’s genesis in an external factor, it turned out to be the most influential ‘stimulus” to my continuing education and learning…when we see the body at it’s most fragile (I work with the most severe cases), we get a greater understanding of the fundamental necessities for human life, physical robustness, and systemic health.”
An interesting “plot twist”, after accepting the job he received word that the university decided to renew his contract…but he had already committed to this new job and was already hooked and engaged!
“I have seen the most exceptional of athletes as well as the most profoundly weak individuals (even worked with children who were less than 1 month old and fit in my hand…a wonderful and priceless perspective!!”
Most of the movement coaches I follow have very similar movement philosophies. However, we all have a very different perspective, language, experience, and education from which we derive our philosophies. Gavin has a highly intellectual understanding of human movement. He has a movement language that can shoot over the brow of many movement coaches as well as any laymen movers, but the essence of his movement philosophy is quite simple, yet incredibly meaty. He sums it up this way:
Movement is not a part of life nor a “way” of life…it IS life.
When you understand the evolutionary perspective (or WHY we are engineered the way we are) of movement, then the WHAT and the HOW become infinitely clearer.
Movement is not “something you do”… it is most certainly an EXPRESSION of self. Therefore, there is no true “wrong way” to do things.
If you are at all familiar with me or this blog, you know how much these three points above resonate with me. It is my life’s purpose to grow into the best physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually healthy version of myself possible and to serve others following a similar path. I believe that to experience optimal health we must learn and embrace everything that makes us human. We evolved in a very specific way to thrive in our environment. As our environment has changed, it has changed how we move and express ourselves as humans beings. Every moment we sit at a computer, television, or in a car we are losing a little piece of what makes us human… We lose a little bit of our humanity. This doesn’t mean we have to ditch our modern technology. It doesmean we have to make a conscious effort to reconnect with the essence of what makes us human.
One of the things I love about movement is that it transcends the physical. Humans are multidimensional beings. We have physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual levels. The language of movement has the same meaning no matter which level you are speaking of. If you are tight, restricted, rigid in the physical plane, you are experiencing the same intellectually, emotionally, and more importantly spiritually. If you want to feel fully, express fully, love fully, you have to move well on every level. Movement IS life. It is not “something that you do,” it is the very expression of who you are in every moment.
Gavin’s movement evolution came from the realization that the more conventional or traditional methods of “being fit” were deficient at addressing the practical challenges of the “aging population.” Basically, as he got older, he realized there was more he could and needed to do to not “just be fit and healthy”, but also fully thrive. This mindset spurred an evolution in his coaching and teaching as well. If movement is life, moving more means living more. Since movement is an expression of self, moving more leads to greater knowledge and expressibility of self. In order to be a fully vibrant, thriving human being, you must continually move and adapt your skills as a human mover.
The most profound shift Gavin sees in his clients is in their overall approach to health and exercise. The straightforward re-connection to nature and natural movement transforms movement from what previously may have seemed like a chore, “I have to workout,” into a lifestyle shift that is actually pleasurable to do, “I get to move.” If it is a habit and is pleasurable, then it simply becomes part of your fabric.
Movement Coach Gavin Broomes finds that his clients face the biggest hurdle as they move through what is essentially a major “paradigm shift” in mindset. In other words, it is hard to get past the idea of needing gyms, fitness clubs, weights, sets, and reps in order to tap into the physical resources we already have. The concept of efficient and effective physical health derived outside of the traditional mainstream fitness industry is difficult to fully embrace at the beginning. To help them get through the shift, he pushes them to just experience it; once they have the “visceral” experience of moving in nature, they quickly develop the intrinsic understanding that “hey, this is good and it’s fun.”
Shaped by His Movement Environment
Being a profound nature lover, Gavin tends to gravitate towards the rural and urban landscape. His philosophy is squarely rooted in randomness, variability, and volatility, which requires that he seeks out those locations and “equipment” (trees, rocks, walls, fences) that manifest those very characteristics.
The environment essentially dictates the “plan for the day.” Whether it be the specific location or the weather, the randomness of nature presents a unique opportunity to work through those intangible “skills” (physical and mental adaptation to change). Which, when you think about it, is perhaps the most important metric to our everyday lives–how well we adapt to gradual or random changes in our immediate environment (whether they be physical, emotional, social).
There is so much more about Gavin I would love to add to this profile. In fact, I cut out a ton to keep this readable and digestible. Gavin has a couple of really interesting projects he is working on. He is currently offering some private coaching, generally within the context of injury rehab. He is working on a project for next summer that uses movement and the natural environment as a catalyst to mitigate the effects of PTSD for urban responders (fire, police, military, paramedic). Be sure to follow Gavin below and if you’re not a subscriber to this blog, do so now. I’ll keep you updated.
Movement Coach Gavin Broomes Bio
Gavin Broomes is a graduate of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada (1997) with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and a specialization in Athletic Therapy. He is the creator and co-founder of Fascia Therapy which is a neurorehabilitation concept as well as the GBM Method which implements innovative approaches to performance and injury rehabilitation. Adding to 24+ years of professional practice, Gavin has been fortunate enough to have worked closely with people along the entire spectrum of physical aptitude ranging from the elite athlete to the most severe manifestations of movement disorder such as Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis. Gavin got the “teaching bug” during a brief stint at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada as an anatomy lab instructor for 5 years which has continued to manifest itself in the varied teaching and educational workshops he provides to this day.
This is the second post in a series of profiles on Movement Coaches from around the globe. I’d like to introduce the people who, for me, teach and inspire the culture of movement as a system of wellness and more importantly… growing and thriving in life. You can view the first Movement Coach Profile on Eric Brown here.
I feel like my young son impatiently awaiting a camping trip, birthday, or big holiday. I am super excited about this next movement coach whom I get to profile. She is the embodiment of everything I love about the culture of movement–skill, strength, play, fun, tribe, laughter, and so much more.
Introducing Movement Coach Astrid Boesser
I am thrilled to introduce Astrid Boesser, the plotter, sister, and sarge to a super fun tribe of free, multi-talented monkeys. She is the owner of Monkeyfit in Mörfelden-Walldorf Germany, specializing in playful outdoor training including parkour, play, roughhousing, fighting monkey, movnat, calisthenics, movement games, prehab, and other seriously fun stuff.
I haven’t met Astrid personally (yet). However, if you take a gander at some of her movement videos below and on her website, you will quickly see why I love her style. She has a powerful commitment to supporting and encouraging her tribe to live a joyful, modest, self-paced life. She lives what she teaches and it shows on her face and in her community.
Movement is life! How we think, engage, train, and play as a human mover transcends all aspects of life. If you feel stuck, unmoving, unengaged, unchallenged, unsatisfied, or unfulfilled in life, changing the way you think and explore movement can lead to massive life change. This is why I consider a coach’s movement philosophy to be paramount to the quality of the coach. A good coach doesn’t just provide you with a kick-ass workout, they also provide a learning opportunity for you to discover yourself!
Astrid’s movement philosophy is simple and powerful.
Rather than chasing results, live in ways that might just yield them.
Build a broad foundation for physical and mental resilience
Be prepared for whatever shit comes your way.
Ability is what you can do now, without warm up, regardless of circumstances, while staying intact.
Seek out primal over artificial, diverse over monotonous, whole over isolated, elastic over loose.
Train every aspect – left & right side; front & backline; hard & soft; fast & slow; in & out of alignment.
I absolutely love movement coach Astrid Boesser’s list, especially the first and last bullet points. In our fast-paced culture, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on the “results.” Hitting personal records, lifting more weight, logging in more miles, and just generally striving for more, more, more–the quest for quantity instead of quality. We are only as good as our last lift, race, or event. However, for most people, these “results” don’t offer much if any practical or functional improvements to our life. We build an image of ourselves with eggshells. All it takes is one small injury or accident, the numbers go into the toilet, and the whole thing comes crashing down. True results come from having the practical skills to thrive in all areas life throws at us both good and bad. “Live in ways that might just yield them” is a completely different way of looking at how and why we move the way we do. That is powerful stuff and I’m totally stealing it for myself… and my clients.
“Train every aspect” is equally important. Walk into most gyms and you will see people training within a state of neutral. Everything has to be aligned the “right” way. However, nothing in life happens in this state of “neutral”. Your neutral squat and deadlift may look perfect in the gym, but how do they help you move a couch down three flights of stairs? If you don’t specifically train your body out of neutral, you are not preparing your body for the practical experiences that take place in life. You may be getting stronger at your lift, but this doesn’t exactly translate into getting stronger at life!
This doesn’t mean that squats and deadlifts aren’t valuable, they are. However, through movement coach Astrid Boesser’s philosophy, we get a greater context for how these types of lifts can fit into our larger movement paradigm. It is Astrid’s philosophy of movement that provides her tribe with an opportunity to look for something deeper. What can you add, to how you currently move and think about moving, that would provide some serious soulful nourishment?
Movement coach Astrid Boesser teaches how to change your mindset to become happier, more creative, courageous, and capable. She challenges her tribe to tackle and overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them. That daily life is a series of opportunities to move and play. Not only out in nature, but also as you wait for the train, walk the dog, hang with friends, or with your kids. Rather than feeling bored or rushed, you get to explore the opportunity to play- -squat, hang from a canopy, balance on a curb or rail, or go for a handstand. As children, we are encouraged to play, why not as adults?
Astrid believes that with this shift, formerly disliked chores turn into infinite possibilities to use and expand your abilities. You might start wiping the floor in a low squat, take to hefting home groceries, look forward to heavy gardening, and generally begin to see an upside to any strenuous task or adverse circumstance. You may even feel magically attracted to climbing frames, trees, rails or walls. Next thing you know, you’ll be dragging all your friends along too.
Shaped by Her Movement Environment
Fitness has always been a part of Astrid’s story, but her career really took shape when she chanced upon Erwan LeCorre’s The Workout the World Forgot and saw Thomas Couetdic play on rails like a monkey (in between showing clients how to coach in an unassuming, sane, natural and empathic way. She immediately knew this was what she wanted to do with her life. As she studied, she gained insight and kept learning, about herself, how we all sometimes stand in our own way, and how we can evolve.
What fascinates her about parkour (or any strenuous or risky physical practice) is the mental aspect. The moments you venture beyond comfort, face your fears, learn to manage them, eventually dare and manage something you previously thought you couldn‘t accomplish–that‘s when you regain freedom. It‘s an exhilarating joy and well worth the effort.
When she’s ready to move, she turns to the natural playgrounds around her city: forest, river, lake, station, dunes – using whatever she can find like walls, logs, sand, and tires. Occasionally she brings along toys like sandbags, practice balls (Fighting monkey), sticks, rings, or rope. In locations like the lake or dunes, with their vast reservoir of sand, she practices tumbling or plays with sandbags. Whereas the forest and river inspire her to climb, vault, crawl, balance, and perform jumps across the water.
When she’s coaching a client, Astrid prioritizes a playful spirit and creative vision–she wants each individual to experience joy in exploring and testing his or her abilities. To develop the ability to spot creative opportunities to move, play, and grow. She encourages a growth mindset and the willingness and confidence to change. This requires the ability to use one’s mind to realistically assess their current abilities; analyze what it takes to accomplish what they want; listen to their body, and choose suitable progressive steps to reach their goals. Clients learn to apply positive mindfulness to focus on the details they want to improve. They learn to utilize their breath, regulate their nervous system, and recognize and appreciate each small improvement as an evolution.
As they evolve, they are able to confidently move forward, bravely face, adapt to, or overcome whatever life throws at them. They develop a habit of listening to their heart and creating a balance in life that enables them to live sane, healthy and happy. She encourages all of her tribe to relearn how to play, feel genuine joy, overcome inhibitions, become comfortable being loud and wild, build a community, and most importantly to get dirty!
She enjoys watching as her tribe become happier, healthier, and more self-confident. Seeing their awareness of the positive changes in life. Sharing in their excitement as both physical abilities and body composition and appearance improve. The best part is witnessing how much they get back to loving themselves.
Astrid finds that the biggest challenges new clients face are the mental blocks: low self-esteem, lack of confidence in their abilities, fears, and inhibitions. Occasionally this is paired with high ambition and a lack of patience. Some clients have to let go of being excessively goal-driven, interfering with the experience of how can play help me? And what do I gain in this game?
To help them move beyond these hurdles, she listens and observes closely, spurring some on while reminding others to take it slow. She offers suitable progressions that, while challenging, allow them to manage what they‘re practicing, go out with a sense of achievement, rejoice and gain confidence in the process. She gently challenges folks to face their fears and find ways to step through them… Always, she keeps things fun!
Examples of Astrid Boesser’s Movement Coaching
Grateful for learning from grandparents (plant lore, love of nature), parents (tree lore, fishing, adventurous spirit, self-reliance), competitive cross country skiing (discipline, grit, patience), TaekwonDo (hardness, physics, tolerating pain, managing emotions), Wing Chun (elasticity, whiplash effect), fast pitch softball (coordination, throwing, catching, batting, pitching, teamwork). She studied agricultural sciences (ecology), self-taught: herbal medicine, nutrition sciences, mythology.
20+ years of experience as a partner, group fitness instructor (focus: bodyweight, HIIT, Yoga, Mobility, prehab) as well as web- & printdesigner—earning most of what I need via the latter so I‘m independent and, coaching wise,free to share exactly what I believe in; especially in MonkeyFit.
“I like to learn from everyone, friends, fellows, monkeys, traceurs, coaches; by good or bad example. ;)”
Astrid’s Awesome Movement Workshop
If you are in Germany or able to make the trip, I highly recommend joining one of Astrid’s awesome workshops like this one below.
The next time I am in Germany, I will be making a date to train/play with Astrid. I suggest you do too.
As a movement professional, I follow some of the top movement coaches around the world. I am incredibly grateful to call many of them teachers, colleagues, and friends. In the world of fitness, it is incredibly challenging to separate great movers from great coaches. So I am starting this series of Movement Coach Profiles to introduce the people who, for me, teach and inspire the culture of movement as a system of wellness and more importantly… growing and thriving in life.
Eric’s movement philosophy really resonates with me. Whether in the woods or in the neighborhood, “practical, in nature – pun intended,” he shows people how to master their natural movement abilities; develop movement skills to be of service for their community. He teaches a way of moving and being in the world that prepares them so that no matter what life throws their way, they can live a full, healthy, vibrant life.
In my eyes, something that really sets movement coach Eric Brown apart from mainstream fitness is his focus on developing practical movement skills. You can find tons of “coaches” with videos of themselves doing amazing physical feats. However, what someone can do and what someone can teach doesn’t always match up. I see a ton of coaches so focused on teaching the big sexy Instagram movements, that they can actually hurt their clients. Eric instead focuses on the basic progressions to build a solid movement foundation. It may not look sexy, but it is the stuff that when done well… will improve your movement and change your life.
Shaped By His Movement Environment
As his movement practice has evolved, Eric has come to see his environment as an extension to his movement. He is constantly observing his surroundings, looking for opportunities to move, explore, and play in everyday life.
Eric doesn’t spend much time in the traditional gym. If he has to be in a closed-space, he prefers an open floor plan studio to a gym (a throwback to his martial arts upbringing). For the past several years, his main training areas have been the woods, parks, and home. He is in the process of setting up a training facility for the MovNat Dallas and Never Afraid To Move (NATM) businesses.
Whether he’s in the woods or in a training facility, he uses his environment as a guide; there’s always a an opportunity to use his mind, body, and spirit in a way that will help him grow as a full being. One of his favorite spaces in Dallas for movement is the Cedar Ridge Preserve. With the trails, trees, hills and different terrain, you can use just about all of your natural movement skills.
Another thing that sets Eric apart is the way in which he leads by example. Check out the tremendous videos of his below to see his passion for movement and how he lives what he teaches. I consider this to be another sign of a great coach and teacher.
As a movement coach Eric Brown’s goals for clients involve more holistic metrics than typical personal training goals. For Eric’s clients, the number one hurdle is slowing down. He works with each individual to keep them from jumping too high or too far, or from trying to lift too much to fast. He wants them to see and feel the power of what is available within their body. That they develop ownership of these skills so that, when they are needed in real life situations, they can have trust and confidence of their body to respond well. He tells his clients, “Patiently persistent practice produces proper practical progression,” because who doesn’t love alliteration. But more importantly, if you begin with small steps, and put in the time, you will achieve mastery.
Eric demonstrates movements and provides his clients with video so they can continue their practice and progress outside of their sessions. He breaks the big movement skills into smaller bite sized progressions. A strong focus on the baby steps until you are ready to tackle bigger more complex movements. He reminds his clients to “find your best self in your movement,” and “motion makes magic.” Over time, clients shift their mindset with small movement victories. At the end of the day, he’s trying to help their dreams become realities and memories, as they continue to move the mind, body, and spirit into the truest expression of themselves.
Eric Brown is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, Master Training Specialist and Naval Special Warfare Center Instructor of the Year. Having trained and instructed in a variety of physical and mental disciplines — e.g. obstacle courses, calisthenics, rescue swimming, ROPES challenge courses, combative arts, neuro-associative conditioning — Eric has experienced a wide breath of life lessons that have brought him to a deeper understanding of his role in life and society. A family man, he enjoys moving with his wife and young son, fulling expressing his “NATM – Never Afraid to Move” way of life. As a Level 3 MovNat Certified Trainer, his mission is to increase the quality of life for the young and old. Letting those open to the training know that consistency is the key to moving and feeling better. As he often says, “Patiently persistent practice, produces proper practical progression.”
Connect with Movement Coach Eric Brown and Never Afraid to Move
I run. I run for a lot of reasons. I know that physically speaking, it can/will wear on your body like any repetitive movement. So, if, you’re like me, and are unwilling to give up regular runs, what is the joint-saving balance? I have a regular yoga practice (equally important) but is there something else I should be doing? I run 20-30 miles a week (3-4, 6-8 mile runs); yoga twice a week; Pilates once a week; and if I make my way into an actual gym, I swing kettlebells, pick up heavy things, and wonder around pretending I know what I’m doing. Any suggestions?
I would like to throw a wrench into the popular belief that pain and injury are due to overuse. Chronic pain and injury isn’t caused by the movements we do too much—chronic pain and injury are most often due to the movements we don’t or can’t do enough. While issues of overuse do certainly happen, pain and injury is actually a problem of the underutilization of very specific natural human movements.
We sit in our cars, desks, and couches. We don’t squat to work, climb, crawl or otherwise use our bodies the way they were designed to move. Engaging in these natural human movements provide movement balance. If you aren’t moving in these other ways, your body will adapt and compensate to the ways you do move. This creates the secondary problem of overuse. Overuse is a symptom, not the problem.
This may seem like a subtle distinction, but I believe it is important because it changes our focus regarding how we choose to correct movement imbalances. When addressing an “overuse” injury, the traditional corrective is to stop doing the specific movement that aggravates pain, but what do we replace that movement with? While you may find temporary relief, once you begin running again you’ll be back to “overusing” those muscles.
Most often if there are any corrective exercises even prescribed (and this is a big if), they tend to be specific to the site of pain—for example, if you have elbow pain, you’re given exercises to strengthen the elbow and possibly shoulder; knee pain leads to exercises for the knee and hip, etc. The problem with this is that the injury isn’t only to the site of pain… it is to your entire body. To treat the site of pain without addressing how that part integrates with the whole is incomplete. This is the primary reason I receive so many referrals from clients after seeing multiple physical therapists without resolution to their pain.
Don’t Treat Pain. Treat movement!
Something I tell clients during the initial consultation is, “I don’t treat pain. I treat movement.” It is out of my scope of practice to treat your pain, plus I believe that attempting to do so will render less beneficial results. Instead, I look at how you move, and more importantly, how you don’t move. My focus is on bringing back all the movements you’ve lost in order to bring balance back to the entire movement system. My assumption is that if you move well, with balance throughout the spectrum of human movement, you will probably experience less pain. I call this Movement Restoration.
Restoring Movement Will Decrease Injury
Movement restoration is the exploration, re-establishing, rewiring, remapping, and reconfiguring of your natural human movement—moving the way you were designed to move. Through Movement Restoration, we find what is lost and work to bring those movements back into your abilities: can you lift your arms over your head, squat down to the floor, unstrap your bra, get up off the floor without using your hands, crawl, and climb? And can you do these things without pain? Can you do them well? With mastery?
A Movement Restoration Practice
But how, you might be wondering. What does this even look like?
1. Focus on the micro movements.
In the larger fitness industry, there is a focus on big, sexy, intense movements. Swinging tons of weight around and pushing our body hard feels good, but if you don’t move well at the micro, foundational levels, you’re going to break your body down over time. To move well, you have to focus on the small movements first.
How does each joint move through its full range of motion in relationship to the joints above and below it? How does each vertebrae move in three dimensions: pitching forwards and backwards, side to side, or rotationally? Consider this like a systems check, a movement inspection.
If you move well in one area of your body, in one specific direction, but poorly in the opposite direction, you’ve found an imbalance. That imbalance is showing up in your movement with every step you take and it is contributing to your potential pain and injury.
2. Move all day, throughout the day.
Movement should not be relegated to a 30-60 minute class, run, or workout. We are human movers. We are not supposed to be sedentary beings. We are supposed to move constantly. Restoration movements are so low in intensity that you can’t do too much. Really, you can’t do enough! These are the movements you need to be doing all day, every day, throughout the day. Incorporating them into your home, work, and recreational routines. So how do you move constantly throughout the day?
Move from where you are at. If you spend time in a chair all day, then you need to incorporate movement breaks into your work… in your chair!
Movement is nutrition. How you move is how you feed your body movement. If you sit all day without moving, it’s the equivalent of feeding your body McDonalds. I teach my clients “movement snacks” which are specific movement tools they can use throughout the day. Here’s a video of my level one movement restoration
Here are some simple movements you can perform from your office chair.
Building on the Movement Restoration Foundation
As we move from the micro level to the macro level movements, we begin to focus on developing specific skills. Skill builds upon movement restoration into practical function and purpose.
For example, Shin Box, a restoration movement, moves your hips from internal to external rotation. In skill, we look at going from shinbox to standing, shinbox to knees, knees to standing. This gives you the skill of getting up and down from the floor without bracing with your hands. Cat Cow, the restorative movement, helps you develop flexion in your lower back and spine, which is the foundation for many different skills which use this flexion–lifting, walking, squatting, etc. Movement restoration asks, does the joint work? Can I move in these patterns? Skill asks, can I accomplish this task: Squatting down to pick up a child, getting up from the floor, etc.
I will discuss skill in greater detail in part three.
Want to learn more about how Movement Therapy can help you? We offer in person coaching and online coaching.
I run. I run for a lot of reasons. I know that physically speaking, it can/will wear on your body like any repetitive movement. So, if, you’re like me, and are unwilling to give up regular runs, what is the joint-saving balance? I have a regular yoga practice (equally important) but is there something else I should be doing? I run 20-30 miles a week (3-4, 6-8 mile runs); yoga twice a week; Pilates once a week; and if I make my way into an actual gym, I swing kettlebells, pick up heavy things, and wander around pretending I know what I’m doing. Any suggestions to avoid running injuries?
Since this is a question I hear often, I decided to share my thoughts here on the blog as well.
How to Avoid Running Injuries?
First, I don’t believe that running will wear down your joints. Running is a natural human movement. If done well, I believe we should be able to run well into old age. Our body should not break down until after we die. I believe that our joints wear down early simply because we don’t move the way our human bodies were designed to move. We move unnaturally and this causes us to run and move poorly. The problem isn’t that running is bad. It’s that we don’t move well; and if we don’t move well, we won’t run well either. Just as if you drive your car poorly, it will break down faster.
So with that said, I think your question on finding balance is a very good one. In response, I’ll pose another question and answer.
How do you become a very good human mover so that you can become a very good human runner?
To become a very good mover, you must first focus on exploring and restoring all that is lost in your natural human movement.
Running as Part of a Bigger Picture
Humans are movers. We run, balance, jump, crawl, climb, manipulate objects, and so much more. It is a part of our design. Movement, at its essence, is intricately tied to our evolutionary prowess. We were not designed to be still, stagnant, rigid, or immobile. But through our technological advancements, we have created an environment in which we go through our day and hardly move at all!
To avoid running injuries and become a better runner, you may need to change the focus away from running and look at your bigger movement picture. Essentially, if you want to become a good runner, become a skillful mover (i.e. running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, lifting & carrying, throwing & catching, and most importantly playing). This is where modalities such as MovNat can be incredibly beneficial, which is why I am a MovNat coach.
A New Movement Paradigm
It is tempting to choose exercises that focus on conditioning, to work on running further and faster or simply as an outlet to release the stress of life. This is what feels good, and it’s how we’ve been taught we’re supposed to exercise–that more is better, harder is better, no pain no gain, etc. However, this is a mistake that leads to injury.
By being hyper focused on aggressive conditioning, you’re teaching your body to move in small specific patterns over and over again at the expense of larger less specific movement patterns. This develops overuse of certain muscles and joints and underuse of others, leading to the imbalances you’ve mentioned in your question. Our bodies adapt specifically to the movements that we feed them. So if we are constantly moving in one way–sitting in front of the computer, for example–then our bodies adapt. We develop rounded shoulders and forward head posture and neck pain and back pain comes with it. When we don’t move in counter directions, we eventually lose the ability to move in counter directions. In other words, when movements are under-utilized, they eventually become unavailable to us. If you don’t use it, you literally lose it. This is the injury to your body, well before any pain sets in.
More Patterns Of Movement
While it feels like a drastic departure to our sedentary existence, running is a movement pattern that actually mimics sitting (lots of hip flexion with a forward head posture). If you’re sitting all day in front of a computer, then you go out running, and that’s your only source of consciously practiced movement, then you are unwittingly reinforcing the same movement pattern that you’ve been in all day. If you want to find balance, strength, posture, ability, then you have to explore the movement patterns that counter your current movements. You must restore the movements that you’re not already doing.
This is where I begin with every new client, restoring movement.
Movement restoration is the exploration, re-establishing, rewiring, remapping, and reconfiguring of holistic movement. Through Movement Restoration, we find what is lost and work to bring them back into your movement abilities: can you lift your arms over your head, squat down to the floor, unstrap your bra, get up off the floor without using your hands, crawl, and climb. And can you do these things without pain? Can you do them well? With mastery?
This is our single minded focus for the first phase of developing a new movement practice. Here is a glimpse of the beginning movement restoration exercises. I will go a little deeper into what Movement Restoration means in my next update.
Want to learn more about how Movement Therapy can help you? We offer in person coaching and online coaching.
I’ll share what prompted me to see Jesse, what happens to your nervous system after an injury, and how Movement Therapy helps. I’ll also share how Jesse is helping me unlearn 5 years of constrained (or unnatural) movement.
No, Jesse isn’t paying me to write this. That’s not my style or his. My hope is that my experience will motivate you to recapture the movements that injury has greedily taken.
If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, read that first, then come back.
After years of injury recovery I knew I wasn’t moving with my former fluidity or balance. I just didn’t realize the depth of my brain’s dysfunctional rut until I saw Jesse. Since even minor injuries result in altered movement, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover how much of my normal mobility I had lost.
Normally, muscles are supposed to react and respond to movement, but when we’re injured, the body cannot get into the right space (because it’s lacking range of motion) for muscles to work properly. The result: we feel tightness followed by pain.
Despite lots of daily stretching, I felt my body getting more and more restricted on the side opposite of my injury, specifically my hip and back. I learned why from Jesse. Note: It’s very common for second injuries to happen on a part of the body diagonal from the first injury.
Jesse said, “Traditional static stretching isn’t great for movement restoration because it doesn’t challenge the nervous system in gravity. Static stretching has its place, but I consider it like salting your food. A little goes a long way.”
I am in the process of getting an appointment with the orthopedic doctor. I had x-rays last Friday. You can’t see meniscus damage in an x-ray, but the Ortho docs won’t even see you until you’ve had them done. All they could see was swelling in the knee. I’m not in a huge hurry to see the docs. I’m more curious as to what type of tear I have. I won’t even consider surgery for 6-12 months, so if it takes a few weeks to get an appointment, I’m good with that.
I am grateful for the work I do for a living and to have the knowledge about physical therapy that I have. I know the protocol well. I have been actively engaged in keeping my body moving as well as possible over the past week beginning the day of the injury. The big challenge is to focus on exploring what I “can do” not the “can’t do’s”
Pain has been significant and pretty consistent. Some days worse than others. Yesterday was a good day. Today has been rough. It doesn’t so much hurt to move. It hurts more when I don’t move. Sitting is the worst. Up and down hills and stairs are tough because of pain. Hand foot crawls are impossible at the moment. I’m starting to get some compensation discomfort in my left calf and right side low back.
Week One Knee Injury Update:The Can Do’s:
Even though pain has been significant, I’ve seen some substantial improvement in knee function.
-I have 95+% range of motion of the knee, which bodes well for recovery. I can do a full deep assisted squat without pain. The primary range I don’t have is foot loaded tibial rotation.
-I’ve quickly gone from 10 minutes on the stationary bike at level 0 to 4 sets of 10 minutes at level 3. Hoping to get on a real bike in a week or so.
-I can now transition side to side shin box without my hands on the floor without pain. It took 4-5 days to get that function back.
-I can swim. Kicking feels good, although pushing off the wall can be painful. So I have to go super slow. It feels good to have some kind of movement I can focus on.
-climbing and floor work. Push-ups, pull ups, parallette bar work. Upper body is going to be beast by the end of this.
This is the toughest part of a big injury. Toughest to feel and definitely toughest to express. I find myself putting on the straight face with most people, including myself. But the reality is that I feel this injury even more emotionally than I do physically.
It sucks. Movement is a big part of my life. Feeling capable is where I feel strong. The first few days I was constantly seeing all the things I could not do. They started adding up. Emotionally, I was feeling hurt, sadness, uncertainty, and fear. Over the past few days, it’s been anger. I’m basically a big ball of swirling emotions.
This is the hardest part of getting injured. The last thing I want to do is to push these emotions down. I don’t want to suppress. I don’t want to hold onto it. I am willing to feel, even if feeling sometimes feels uncomfortable.
At the same time, I don’t want these feelings to rule my thoughts and choices. It’s easy to spin into a deep dark place and give up. Giving up will not help me heal. Giving up will not teach me about myself. Giving up will not put me in a better place on the other side of this injury. Giving up is not an option. Surrendering to the fact that I am an emotional human being going through a challenging experience; and allowing myself to be ok, is the only choice I see. I will cry when I feel tears come up and I will continue to step, or at times limp, forward.
I am grateful for this opportunity to learn something about myself. I look forward to the person I meet on the other side.
It’s a very simple yet profound choice. Do you see an injury as a setback? Or can you find the opportunity it brings you? Which one you choose will play a major role in the type of progress you make during your recovery. I now get to make this choice once again for myself.
A couple days ago, on Wednesday August 3rd, I felt a pop in my knee (my good knee) standing out of a deep pistol squat position. This is a movement I’ve performed countless times. I was showing a client what a pistol squat was, but my body was not prepared properly to make it. All signs turn towards a torn meniscus. A significant injury.
Yes, it will be a setback to my workout program. It will probably take at least a year to recover from without surgery and even longer if I opt for surgery.
Is this Injury a Setback or Opportunity?
No! It is an opportunity. I get to learn something new about myself; about my body; and about injury, healing, and recovery.
I am reeling a bit emotionally. There is a level in which an injury just sucks. I’m sure I’ll get to explore the depths of emotions such as anger, disappointment, self judgement, and depression over the next few weeks and months. There is always a strong emotional component to injury. Which is why my choice of outlook is so important.
I am willing to feel the emotional rollercoaster that is coming because even in the depths of it, I will learn and grow.
Injury sucks, my movement progress will be setback, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about myself. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
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