Integrate Play into a Busy Study Day – Feb 3

How do I integrate play into a day I have to sit for long periods of time?

The weekend is catch up on school work. I spent most of today studying, minus an hour at the lumber store. I have three chapters of chemistry to cover this weekend, a paper to write, and online lectures to watch. I knew early on it was going to be a day of sitting. So I set an intention to get up often and integrate play to give my brain a rest while stimulating my nervous system with movement.

I was able to film most of my study breaks. I started with this nice 10-minute movement session to open my body up.

I love doing balance work during study breaks. I find it is just the right type of nervous system challenge to allow my brain to rest intellectually while being stimulated. Afterward, I feel like I get a brain boost.

My knee is noticeably sore, not quite painful, but it’s speaking to me. Balance is considerably more challenged than it was a couple weeks ago. I have had to cut down on hiking and squats for repetition. Walking across campus is already an aggravation. I feel like this level of balance work is right at the edge of pushing my knee to recover without making it hurt worse. I feel like I’m walking a fine line right now. It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a better picture of why my knee hurts.

Even just a couple minutes of balance play on the slackline makes a massive difference in my studying. I find it great for stimulating creative thinking… Which is how I learn best.

The slackline really brings out the challenge with my left knee. It’s amazing how much pain can disrupt proprioception. Two weeks ago, my left knee was just as solid (or unsolid) as my right knee. Today it felt super hard to control, especially when I stood up from my left foot. I put more focus on standing on the left side.

After noticing how proprioceptively challenged my left leg was, I decided to add some challenge to my vestibular system. This really shouldn’t be so hard… But it was freakin hard. I haven’t been working on this much and I really need to.

I’m trying to maintain balance in different foot position while moving my head and eyes. The last couple minutes I had my eyes closed.

I am feeling a bit more control in my shoulders. A year ago, I could explore a ton more space on the parallette bars. Up until this past week, I stayed off of them for the past year due to shoulder and elbow pain. This is definitely a positive sign of more recovery.

This session was only a couple minutes, but I felt sufficiently physically challenged with a boost to my nervous system.

I’m finished with sitting to study for the evening. Instead, I put on a chemistry video while doing a Movement Restoration session. This felt perfect after a full day of school work.

I am loving staff work at the moment. It is super challenging. I love how it feels as I work to maintain my posture through a tall spine, with my shoulders engaged to my core, while reaching away through my heels, toes, top of the head, and arms. I was able to find an amazing full body lengthening of my spiral spine, side body, and backline from feet to fingertips.

This was a great finish to a solid day of moving. None of my movement breaks lasted longer than 10 minutes. All combined, I got over an hour for the day. Considering the amount of school work I have to get through, this was a better movement strategy for my body compared to sitting and studying for 8-10 hours in large blocks with a one-hour workout managed somewhere in the day. What I love most about today was that all my movement breaks felt like I was playing.

My brain won’t sit for long hours at a time and retain information and my body will revolt if I don’t move regularly. By taking short movement breaks, my body felt better as the day wore on; my nervous system felt appropriately stimulated; I felt more capable of tackling the coursework I’m attempting to learn, and I had an overall productive day.

Spiral Staff and Wrist Mobility Movements -Jan 30

I really didn’t want to move on this evening. My day started at 5:30a. I was at school from 7a-3p and then worked till 7:30. My knee was achy from trudging across campus. The hills wreak havoc by the end of the day… especially downhill. The voice in my head was very adamant that I needed to lie down. The more I checked in with my heart and body, the more I could feel the voice was wrong. It was because of my long day and achy body that I needed to move.

The next question was how hard. Did I need an easy restoration or a workout? I made my way to my movement space and proceeded to listen and allow my body to tell me what it needed.

In this session, I worked on wrist and shoulder mobility. I pulled out the staff for the second time in a week. I love using the staff to explore shoulder to hip mobility. I picked up some of these staff movements from my teacher Joseph Schwartz of Applied Anatomy. It is super challenging and feels amazing. I forgot how much I love using such a simple tool. The half kneeling spirals feel simply amazing. So much unwinding from the day.

I love working on my deep resting squat. Three years ago, I could not even get into the deep squat position without falling over backward. It took me about seven or eight months to just get down, but I could only hold it for about 10 seconds. It took me 6-8 more months to develop a full minute.

My deep resting squat is not perfect by any means, but this is a massive improvement, with room to grow. I’ve put in a ton of work and can feel the payoff in my body. I still experience chronic pain, but so much less of it is from back pain, hip pain, or neck pain.

In this session, I continue to play around with the staff focusing on the mobility relationships between the scapula, thoracic/lumbar spine, and hips.

By the time I finished with this short session, I was feeling really good about making the time to move as opposed to doing nothing. It was a choice well made.

Whenever I work on shoulder mobility, I make a point to add some stability work. This is a very short addition, but I was tired and already achieved what I needed from the evening’s overall session. My focus at this point was to load up the shoulders and try to get to bed by 10p. That 5a alarm clock is pretty daunting at this point in the evening.

I begin with some pendulum planks and then slow bear crawls. On these bear crawls, I like to exaggerate the stability movements of the scapula around my rib cage. I want to ensure that I can absorb the forward crawl from an open to a closed packed scapula and that I can drive away from the closed packed to open scapula going backward. This is to make sure there are no gaps in my scapular stability… which there are… and I’m always working on them.

Five-Minute Early Morning Movement Restoration -Jan 29

“I don’t have time to move,” is the most common thing I hear. I hear it not only from my clients but more importantly, from within myself. It’s that nagging little voice that tells me “I’m already doing too much,” or “I deserve a break.” Sometimes it’s true, but most often it is a fabrication.

My schedule feels slammed, 16+ hour days, starting at 6a, with very little breaks between clients, study, and parenting. There are days where I don’t have time for a designated time-consuming movement session. Instead, I have to feed movement to my body in 30-seconds to five-minute snack breaks.

That is the case in this five-minute early morning movement restoration session. I moved all day, throughout the day with clients, but still needed a bit more. This five minute morning routine felt like infusing strong coffee directly into my body. I felt opened up and ready to flow. The rest of the day was slammed. Some days this is all I can get and I’m grateful I didn’t listen to the voices in my head telling me I didn’t deserve it.

Movement Restoration w/ Hand to Shoulder Stability and Balance Challenge – Jan 27

After last nights gentle movement session, tonight I realized I needed to work a bit. This was a really nice Movement Restoration session with a focus on hand to shoulder to core work. It warmed me up really well and had a nice level of challenge. I kept the movements as slow and fluid as possible while pushing my edges.

This is the best shoulder ROM I’ve had in months. It’s hard to believe that six weeks ago I could barely move my arm in certain positions. I’m pretty pleased with the level of recovery. I still have a long way to go to get back full function.

This was the second half of the night’s Movement Restoration. My shoulders feel really good, so I feel like pushing myself a little bit… but not too hard. Considering the combinations of knee pain and being only a few weeks into recovery for elbow tendinopathy, I can’t do high intensity… It’s too risky and not worth it. At 44, and with my injury history, setbacks can be huge. So I have to skirt the line of pushing myself and listening to my body… I’m not always successful…

I loved this workout. I worked on crawling variations focusing on moving slow and controlled, which can be pretty damn hard. I felt strong in all the positions. I found a balance movement that really challenged me. I love being frustrated by movements. I love the challenge of being frustrated by movements. It kicks my ego’s ass and felt like a really good workout for my hip stability and control.

The only downside to this workout is when I kicked up practicing handstands on the wall. I kicked off with my left leg and felt a pop in my knee. It felt like a good pop, but considering all the pain I’ve been feeling, it has me nervous. Thankfully I got to finish off on a bright spot with two relatively slow and controlled chin-ups that felt really solid. I haven’t been able to do a single pain-free chin-up in months. Another good sign of recovery for my shoulders.

I will monitor both shoulders and knee tomorrow.

Much Needed Self Care – Jan 26

It was a tough, challenging, and overall good week. With the second week of school (the first full week without ice days), my schedule has blown up. I love school. I love my work. I love being a father. These things fill my cup and keep me going. They also stress and strain me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I haven’t filmed my movement as must this past week, which means I haven’t been moving as much as I’d like. Not only has my schedule become super busy (16+ hour days), but my knee has gotten worse. The irritation in the joint has been slowly increasing over the past few months. It’s bad enough that I made a trip to the doctor, got x-rays, and an ortho appointment scheduled for two weeks. I

Pain sucks. It sucks to hurt. It makes it hard to move. I feel a little down all over. There have been times when I would feel depressed. It sucks, and it’s a fact of life. A reality for this body that I inhabit. When I physically hurt, it doesn’t matter how great I’m feeling in life as a whole, a part of me is sad and frustrated.

I have taken a break from the balance challenge over the past four days and have reduced squats and split squats at repetition to give my knee a rest. I’m hoping the inflammation will go down. I’ve been moving at every little opportunity possible, but this is the first dedicated movement session I’ve had all week. I’m feeling stressed physically and emotionally. I needed a session to really be soft and check in with my body.

I focused on deep breathing and allowing myself to feel the week I’ve had. I felt my whole body open up physically and emotionally. It was just what I needed.

This is a really nice spinal mobilization Chair Yoga. I picked this up from one of my teachers, Joseph Schwartz of Applied Anatomy (you should totally check out his material).

I love this simple little routine. I express my spine pretty fully through flexion and extension, lateral flexion and extension, and rotation.
I think that anyone who spends any amount of time in a chair needs to actively move their spine in all three dimensions from the seated position. I can feel nice long connected stretches from my fingertips to my shoulders, thoracic and lumbar spine, hips, and knees. I have more of an instructional on this movement series on my client’s playlist.

Tactical Medicine and Firearms Training Courses

I have a good friend who is a former SEAL and private military contractor who is done deploying and wants to teach people some of the lifesaving skills he has gained and used over two decades of service. I’ve known Trevor for nearly 20 years. When I think of men I aspire to, he is in my top five… and not because he’s a Navy SEAL badass, but because he’s also a top-notch human with an amazing heart. I would love to get him to Austin to teach a couple of courses because I want to learn this stuff! I believe this knowledge is practical and useful. The kind of stuff you never want to use, but when it’s needed… you just save a life! I am putting out feelers to see if there is any interest in these classes.
Please send me a PM if you are interested in any of these courses.
Tactical Medicine Training
How to properly use an IFAK medical kit focusing on immediate care/combat trauma type injuries for when first responders can’t get to you quickly. This course aims to create stronger and more resilient communities.
IFAK Course- Blended
– 3-4 hour course
– 20 people per class
Firearms Training
Courses designed to train the proper foundations for becoming seriously competent shooters.
Beginning Pistol- Woman
– a two day, 3-4 hours per day.
– 6 people per class
Beginning Pistol- Men
– a two day, 3-4 hours per day
– 6 people per class
Intermediate and advanced pistol and carbine courses also available.
*All shooting participants must pass a background check
*For folks interested in the shooting courses, combat trauma will be included in the course.

Morning Dose of Movement Caffeine – Jan 22

“I don’t have time” is something I hear in the back of my mind often (It is often a response from clients too). I can easily buy into it. My schedule is busy. Between being a full-time dad, full-time student, running a private practice, and having some semblance of a social life (which is almost non-existent), time is a most precious resource that I am often fighting with or squandering. But just because my “time” is precious, doesn’t mean I don’t have time to spend on caring for my self. The “story” that I don’t have time to care for my self is a total lie; a fabrication born through resistance, and I don’t have to buy into that story.

The simple reality is that It doesn’t take much time to practice self-care. A minute here and there; sometimes more; and 30-60 minutes when the opportunity arises.

This is a really quick and simple eight-minute movement session I did in the morning. It could have easily been 3-5 minutes long, but it felt good, so I kept going.

Once I was finished, my body felt connected, integrated, opened up, and energized. I like to call this a dose of movement caffeine.

Have you had your morning shot of movement caffeine?

Using Climbing as Rehab – Jan 21

It’s been seven or eight months (maybe even more) since I’ve been able to do a pain-free pull-up… I’m still waiting. I do a chin up here, but it is painful on the way down. It’s not tendinopathy pain, it feels more like the inability for the Flexor Pollicus Longus to eccentrically lengthen (a possible precursor to tendinopathy). It’s actually been a few months since I’ve even been able to bring my feet to the bar, so this feels like a huge improvement.

In this video, I’m working on basic climbing exploration, stressing the hand to shoulder complex just enough without eliciting pain. This is great for grip strength and developing scapular stability. After I noticed the pain with the pull-up, I grabbed a bench to unload some bodyweight and grove the movement with less load and no pain.

This is the best my right hand/elbow/shoulder have felt in a long time, but there is still a ton of room for improvement.

Using Climbing as Rehab

Self Massage using a Foam Roller

I am a big fan of self-massage using tools such as a foam roller, Yoga Tune up ball, Yamina ball, Thera-cane, etc. I don’t get into the science and/or pseudoscience of why I love it. My practical experience of self-exploration self-massage, as well as hands-on experience touching others, tells me that there is definitely a value in massage therapy. What that value is and how it works are definitely up for debate.

When I was first introduced to the foam roller over 12 years ago, it was a godsend. I became addicted to it. I would spend 1-2 hours rolling and stretching almost every night. This daily personal exploration is what lead me towards getting my massage license so I could legally touch my clients.

It is also what moved me into the direction of natural movement. I realized over time that every night I would roll out my pain and feel temporarily better and wake up the next morning with the exact same pain. I wasn’t interested in temporary results. I wanted to feel better and slowly learned that I needed to move better. This only took me about 10+ years to figure out. Well to be perfectly honest, I’m still figuring it out.

I no longer get on the foam roller nightly, although I do like to get on it just to adjust and mobilize my spine. I find that somewhere between once a week and once a month I like to do a full body self-massage session. It is a great way to feel what is happening within my body on the tissue level.

This past week, I have ramped up the volume of movement to my body. I started swimming again, went on a bike ride, hiked, as well as walking back and forth across campus with a 30-40 lb backpack. My body was more than ready for a focused self-massage session. This felt really good.

I finished up with a few minutes of movement restoration. I could really feel a difference in my hips (particularly with the pigeon position).

Note: I have over 12 years of experience with a foam roller. I know my body very well. The movements I am doing are not recommended for beginners to intermediate users. You can hurt yourself on a foam roller. Please use caution. Or better yet, hire someone who is highly skilled as a movement therapist to teach you.

The Process of Being a Human Mover

I like to think about the process of being a human mover. Not just the actual moving, but also the creating of intention; set up of a space whether permanent or temporary; type of music that influences movements or no music at all; and what is in my heart (am I feeling resistance to moving my body; am I angry; am I trying to beat myself up for some perception of fault in my being; etc)

This video is my process of moving on a Friday. I have a nice open studio space to practice movement and there is a setup ritual I go through. I like to think about things such as the rituals of movement and the contextual nature of different environments such as soft, hard, abrasive, etc and how these different environments are an ongoing conversation with the sensory system of the body. I like to set up my mats for most of my floor work because they provide soft feedback while I’m doing soft focused work on myself.

I don’t take appointments with clients on Fridays. It is a day to study, do housework, run errands, and most importantly practice some self-love. This was an hour and ten-minute self-love making session (non-sexual). I tended to both my body and my heart. In these sessions I allow myself to feel where there is tension, restriction, resistance, and pain in both my physical body and also my emotional body. Sometimes these sessions bring tears, sometimes rage, and always a sense of gratitude, love, and empathy for myself. Now that I am videoing and posting these sessions, it has brought a new level of checking in. I don’t want to perform for the camera, which means I have to pay even greater focus on how I am feeling moment to moment, as well as why I am choosing to move the way I move. I feel incredibly vulnerable. This is the movement practice that I’ve developed in isolation for years. This is what I do alone. I’ve never shared it with anyone, much less social media. My work is to remain completely authentic to myself even though I am sharing my process with others. It feels powerfully strong to expose my vulnerability. There are a ton of other things about this session that I really loved. I used the foam roller, not to mash muscles into control, but to release movement patterns that I was struggling with. I felt the re-integration of my core in specific patterns. I completely smoked my legs on the balance board. And I had a nice little restorative session after the board to reset my body.

Someone asked me a few days ago about whether my feet, ankles, and calves are smoked during/after these balance sessions. My answer at the time was no, that I’ve been integrating balance work for several years, and my intrinsic musculature was a strength, and it is the big movers (quads and glutes) that have been undernourished over the past year and a half due to my knee injury.

Well, in this session, my feet, ankles, and calves were totally smoked. Everything was harder about this session, possibly because I’ve added a lot of intensity to my movement schedule the past week. I had to put extra focus on maintaining my position on the beam and wasn’t always successful, which made this a Great balance session. I pushed my edges, placing a significant challenge to the muscular and vestibular system.

It is on the edges where I see the most benefit of this type of work. It is where my nervous system learns. If I don’t push the edges, I can remain on the board the entire ten minutes, but what does that gain me? The gym space is a laboratory – a safe space – to push the edges. In this setting, I WILL see failure frequently, simply because I can keep failure relatively safe and it’s a learning opportunity. That is the entire point. To allow my body to learn where the edges exist.

I can then take this knowledge into the natural environment and move within the limits my body knows it can handle. I develop a better sense of balance; improve the depth of positions that don’t cause pain and/or injury; build confidence in my movement competency, core integration, and strength.

I finished my day with a short swim. Swimming is something new I’ve added back in this week. I love swimming as a movement but didn’t have a membership to a pool that I could frequent regularly. So I haven’t had the chance to swim much over the past year. With my elbow and shoulder feeling much improved, swimming feels like exactly the type of physical stress my structure needs to get me beyond the next level of recovery. I have to take it slow. I can only handle about 15 minutes of work in the pool. I’m looking forward to building my swim conditioning to 30-45 minute sessions.

Quick Movement Prep for the day – Jan 17

Quick Movement Prep for the day

My morning appointments have either canceled or rescheduled due to the icy conditions. Which means I get a free morning to play, practice and get some work done.

Sometimes five minutes is all it takes. This is a little five-minute movement session to prep my body for the day and to take notice of anywhere things aren’t moving smoothly. This is like movement caffeine awakening my body and mind. What a great way to start the day.

Deep Squat Mobility

This is a really nice deep squat mobility routine that I love. They have really helped develop my deep squat. Just a couple years ago, I couldn’t even get into this position without falling backward. Once my clients can get into a deep squat without pain, we start to integrate these types of movements to open up their squat even more.

I begin with my heels on the 2×4. My deep squat is not super clean with heels flat on the floor. The 2×4 is a bit of a cheat. It allows me to find my “perfect” deep squat. I like to find where I move well from and then grow my movement from there.

Here are brief descriptions of each movement:
-Cat/cows – moving my spine through flexion and extension. As I come into spinal extension, I am trying to be as long as possible through my spine from hips to the top of my head.

-Deep shoulder rotations – I drop my shoulders as low as I can. From this deep shoulder position, I lift one shoulder to the ceiling while looking up with my eyes alternating between shoulders.

-Overhead reach – Stacking hands on the floor, I reach my arm up towards the ceiling (feeling the opening of my ribcage and abdomen) with my eyes following my fingertips to the ceiling.

-Twist – Sitting into both heels, I place one hand on the floor behind me and reach as far as I can with the opposite hand, alternating side to side.

-Hip Openers – Sitting as deep and tall as I can in my squat, I reach my knee out to the side allowing my foot to roll to the lateral side. I alternate hips and if I’m feeling really open, I’ll do both hips at the same time.

I then do the same movements without the 2×4. Off the board, my squat is not nearly as clean looking (or feeling).

Ten minute Balance Challenge

I came up with this ten-minute balance challenge as an exercise to strengthen my legs to support my knee.

I had knee surgery the day before Thanksgiving 2016. I have regained 99% of the function back to my knee, but that last 1% is a painful and easily aggravated space. That 1% of pain prevents me from any kind of significant loaded lifting. I just can’t place heavy load and repetition on a joint that is easily inflamed. I felt like I needed to strengthen full body movements around my knee to give it the support to hopefully release that last bit of recovery. Since I can’t do loaded work, the only other option is body-weight work, but I would need high repetition, and that is seriously boring.

So I came up with this challenge. Something that took my mind off the repetition and is fun. Plus it does so much more than just strengthen my legs. There is also a significant vestibular challenge, core integration, and flow potential.

In this session, I’m focusing on getting as many squats, split squats, and deep knee bends as possible. It’s a bit less flowy than other sessions. I find that when I am in a split squat with my left leg behind (surgery leg), I feel it opening the space in the medial meniscal compartment where the 1% of pain is located. It generally relieves some discomfort, restriction, or tightness I may feel in that area. Which feels beneficial.

If you’re up for the challenge, give it a try. The goal is 10 minutes per day for 30 days balancing on a 2×4, balance bar, slackline, or other balance tools (variety is your friend). If you’re up for it, film it, and share it. I’d love to see and hear about your progress.

Would you like to see this video at a slower or faster speed? Please send me a comment. I’ll post the link in the comments.