In the short time since making the video, my neck has improved. There was still a niggle of tightness at the base of the right side occipitals that I missed while filming. Probably due to being a bit rushed. I have since used the Thera-cane on that spot and my neck feels much improved.
I hope you find this video helpful. Below is a link for the Thera-cane. Please leave a comment if you have a question about this video or suggestions for a future demonstration.
This is an Amazon affiliate link. I am sharing for two reasons 1) because I love the product and 2) If you make a purchase after clicking it, I will get a commission. This is a great way to help support The Art of Fitness. Thank you for your support.
I am offering a new group class, Developing a Movement Practice. This will be a one-off experimental class focusing on exploring who are you as a human mover; developing the beautiful expression of your movement practice; and how to embrace play to prevent and reverse early onset boring adult disease.
This class will be based off what I do in my one-on-one sessions, except in a small group format. Which means it won’t look anything like what I do in one-on-one sessions. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what this class will ultimately look like. It will be a total interactive experiment. My primary goal is that you leave with a better understanding of your body, human movement, and the art of developing a movement practice.
Because this class is an experiment and I love the concept of Gift Economy, I am offering this class as a gift. I will not charge anyone who attends *(I will only charge if you sign up and no show). I have no expectation of any payment, donation or otherwise. **If you find value from the class that you feel strongly enough to gift back, I will happily accept your gift.
Cancellation or No Show
*This will be a small intimate group. I’m only opening it to four people. Please do not sign up unless you are committed to showing up ready to learn, participate, explore, and play. In the event that you do sign up, cancel within 72 hours, or no show, you will be charged $100. This policy will be strictly enforced.
**If you wish to give back but don’t know how much, my perceived value of this class is between 0-$100 per person.
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 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.
Do you know someone dealing with pain or injury? Please share this page with them.
It’s summertime, and the thing I love about the summer is that I get to spend so much more time barefoot. As many of you know by now, I am an enthusiastic barefoot advocate. I believe that a barefoot lifestyle is important for health, wellness, and a lifetime of pain-free movement. Which is why I’m offering my summer shoe review for 2016.
Going barefoot is not without risk. There are times, based upon terrain or circumstance, when shoes are necessary. These circumstances may include the Hill Country’s unforgivingly rocky hiking trails combined with lurking thorns and thistles … and, of course, the need to walk into “No Shirt No Shoes No Service” businesses.
Funny thing: Prior to transitioning into a barefoot lifestyle, I basically owned two pairs of shoes — basketball shoes and non-basketball shoes. Over the past six-plus years that I have embraced a barefoot lifestyle (I am completely barefoot 90% of the time), my shoe wardrobe has greatly expanded.
Like tools, my shoes have taken on functional purposes. I have a tool for every job. I have trail sandals for most running, climbing, jumping, sprinting, and just overall challenging movement; casual sandals for comfortable wear, such as going to the grocery store; dressier shoes; cold weather wet shoes; cold weather dry shoes; and more. For someone who is barefoot as much as I am, I have quite the shoe collection!
FLIPPIN’ AND FLOPPIN’
This time of year, most people reach for their trusted flip-flops. These are, in my opinion, one of the worst shoe choices you can make. The lack of a simple heel strap to keep the shoe attached to your foot means that with every step you take you must grip your toes just to keep the shoe on your foot. This creates an unnatural gait pattern.
For short durations, if you have no significant movement dysfunctions, this may not be a big deal. However, if you already have a history of poor gait mechanics (which most people do), wearing flip-flops for extended periods can create problems. This is especially true in the spring as you are transitioning away from heavy supportive winter boots or shoes which weaken the muscles of the foot. This not only can manifest in foot pain, but can also show up as knee, back, hip, and neck injuries.
DITCH THE FLIP-FLOPS AND OPT FOR QUALITY SANDALS
Summer Shoe Review
In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate for many of these products. This means that if you purchase one after clicking one of these links, I will get a small commission. That said, the only reason I am an affiliate for these products is because I believe in them 100%.
I do most of my hiking and running on rocky Texas trails. I haven’t built my barefoot ability to be able to go through miles and miles of gnarly rocks and cactus. Nor do I feel it necessary to become that hardcore barefoot. I need something to protect my feet. When I do need to wear shoes, I want it to be the least amount of shoe possible. That is why I love Luna sandals.
The Luna sandals are my go-to for the trails. I own the Leadville model, and I love them because they are incredibly secure on my feet. The nylon strap on them is perfect for regular running, trail running, climbing, tracking, traversing. The last thing I want when I’m bounding through rocky terrain is for the shoe to slip and to lose traction between the shoe and myself. The strap doesn’t stretch or give, so I keep the shoe fairly tight on my foot. I wear these shoes 6-7 months a year for more extreme movement.
The downside of this sandal is that the strap and buckle system aren’t super comfortable. They bite into the top of my foot a bit, not something I want in casual footwear for restaurants and grocery stores where shoes are required. In addition, I am not a fan of their Monkey Grip Technology (MGT) footbed. The MGT took a long time to break in and creates hot spots under my feet. I prefer the leather footbed option.
Earth Runners Sandals are my go-to for everything else. These are plush comfortable sandals, and the soft leather strap and buckle system feels super comfy on my foot. They also look nice, so you can get away with wearing them to casual events. I get tons of compliments on these sandals. When you need a shoe that looks good, feels good, and is comfortable, these are great sandals.
Overall, I don’t have any major complaints when it comes to these shoes. I did find that the super thin sole took a very long time to break in. Since I don’t wear shoes much, it took even longer. With daily wear, I’d expect it to take between 2-4 weeks to fully break these shoes in.
Also these sandals are exclusively casual wear for me. Because the leather has a “stretch” to it, I don’t wear them for outdoor activities. If I’m running, climbing, or jumping, the sole has a tendency to slide out from under my foot. I need the sole to remain solid under my foot.
Earth Runners also make children’s sandals, custom-made based on a tracing of your child’s foot.
SOMETIMES YOU NEED A FULL SHOE
Even in Austin, you occasionally need a full shoe for more formal occasions.
I have the Soft Star Shoes Rogue model, and I love them. They have a Vibram TM rubber sole, and a sheepskin-lined footbed. Basically a moccasin style shoe, these are easy to slip on and off, and they keep my feet warm for chilly Texas winters and relatively dry when it’s wet. They’re not super fancy or stylish; they are just nice comfortable shoes.
These are also incredible for kids. Early walkers need shoes on their feet to keep them warm (and of course, shoes are required for school), but you especially want children to really feel the ground and interact with it as they’re learning. If a shoe interferes with your child’s development as they learn how to walk, the effects will last into adulthood.
I have several different pairs of Vivobarefoot shoes, and my son has their rainboots and daily wear shoes. These are really comfortable shoes, and they carry a number of styles, from more casual to dressier shoes. These are shoes you can really live in. I have their running, casual, and dress shoes. Honestly, the only downside is that they are pretty pricey. But they do hold up well and give you the options you need.
Do you have a barefoot/minimalist style summer shoe review that you love. I’d love to hear about it. Please share and tag me through social media.
This is a guest post from Kimberly Culbertson, who just celebrated her one year moving better anniversary with The Art of Fitness!!
Today marks a full year of movement therapy with Jesse! I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I began the journey, but I’m glad I did 🙂
I wasn’t exactly in the market for a new movement paradigm, but I overheard Jesse talking with a colleague at Orange Coworking, and I was curious enough to brave a conversation with a scary personal trainer. (Okay it turns out he’s not really scary at all. Quirky, maybe.)
The truth is that I’m not “the athletic type,” although, as I type that, I can almost hear Jesse sternly begin a little speech about how every human is meant for movement. After surviving middle school gym class, I had mostly kept my distance from fit people, and to a certain degree, from movement in general. I’ve been gifted in more intellectual pursuits, and movement in the physical world has always been a secondary activity, a necessary evil.
My whole life is marked by seasons of dieting and various spurts of exercise, but it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started to see fitness and strength as markers of self-care and even self-love. Despite genuine effort though, I consistently began some workout program, injured myself within a couple of months, and then had long seasons of pain and recovery. I had bad knees, a reverse curve in my neck, foot pain, messed up shoulders, and a long line of people ready to tell me that losing weight was the only real solution. But losing weight requires exercise and exercise causes injury, so pursuing weight loss turned me into a depressed, she’s-a-little-bit-crazy person. And that person was in pain.
To make matters worse, about two years ago I injured my shoulder. It was some kind of swollen, tight, pinched nerve mess in my right shoulder blade, and it didn’t go away after a couple of weeks. The pain was severe and made it nearly impossible to lift my arms while seated. I know that’s very specific, but this was a big problem for driving and typing (and since I was working as a freelance writer, typing was pretty important). With pain meds and chiropractic and electro stim therapy andrest and ice, the pain lessened to about a 4 on a ten-point scale, a big improvement from the original 9-intensity, but still noticeable, chronic pain. After a year, I figured this pain was probably mine to keep.
Enter Jesse, The “Movement Therapy” Coach.
When I sat down with Jesse, my defenses were high. I had a speech ready, and it went something like this: “Look, I know I’m not thin, but I’m not trying to lose weight right now because I like my sanity. I don’t hate who I am, and I’m not trying to earn my right to exist by changing my shape. I do have a 4-year-old, though, and I want to be just as active as he wants to be. And I want to feel healthy. In the past, I’ve genuinely enjoyed working out, but I have an injury that causes me chronic pain, and at this point I’m a little bit afraid to move.”
I didn’t know it yet, but Jesse’s movement therapy approach was exactly what I needed. His philosophy is that fitness should help a person increase function and enjoy movement, and that any external changes are a side effect. Extra pounds don’t disqualify someone from movement in his book, and really shouldn’t be the focus. This was a relief, since my first experience with a personal trainer was a free session with “Tank” (no, really) during which he told me to ride the seated bike until I lost 25 lbs, at which time he might consider working with me more. Jesse, on the other hand, rails against a fitness industry that is primarily “designed to get you laid as quick as possible” and that often results in injury.
Jesse looks at how you’re moving and assesses where your body has “lost” movement. For me, he immediately focused into how little mobility I had in my lower back, and hypothesized that my neck and shoulder pain were related to this lack of mobility. I was skeptical. But I had been focusing on my shoulder for a year with minimal results, so I decided to play along anyway and see where this went.
At first the movements seemed silly to me, and I told him a couple of times, “This does not really seem like a workout.” He explained, and then explained again, that we are starting with movement restoration, and once we get there, we’ll add in skill and conditioning. In spite of my impatience, I did the silly things, and in about a month I realized I HAD NO PAIN IN MY SHOULDER. What was even happening?! Beyond that, my balance had improved, I had less neck pain, and, oh, turns out I actually could do squats! I was sold on this “movement therapy” stuff.
One Year Later
Jesse and I have been working together for a year now. Today is our training-iversary. It sounds a bit melodramatic to say that Jesse has changed my life, but it’s true anyway.
I’m not thinner, exactly, but my body’s shape has changed. Not only have I NOT injured myself in the process, but I have far less pain, and tools to address any pain that I encounter. I do squats like a boss. I climb things on playgrounds with my 5-year-old. I know how to move after I’ve been typing for a while, and since I actually do the movements(!), I don’t get headaches and lose neck mobility during high-stress times. I cannot even believe how strong my legs are. I don’t look at stairs with dread, because stairs are no big deal now. I can do an hour of heated yoga and not die. This is what it is like to feel strong.
But the way that working with Jesse has bled into my life outside the gym is perhaps even more interesting. At this time last year, there were so many things (in working out and in all aspects of life) that I assumed I could not do, and wouldn’t even try. My inner critic was loudest in the gym, but she was seldom quiet anywhere. My fear of failure kept me on the sidelines more than I’d like to admit. Jesse and I have had sessions where the coaching has centered more around my mindset than my muscles, and I am a braver person for it. Over the course of this year, it has become very clear to me that I actually can do a lot of “scary” things, even when I am sure I can’t. Not everything comes easily, but it’s a process, and it turns out that’s actually fine. Normal, even. Just when I am certain that Jesse will give up on me and that I am clearly a giant disappointment, he pulls out his seldom-utilized stern voice and lectures me about self-care, and listening to my body, and being patient with myself.
So I’m a work-in-progress. And I’m actually really enjoying the progress, for once. I’m focusing on becoming strong to be helpful. And to be playful. Because I want my kiddo to remember me in the fray with him and not on the sidelines. He deserves that. And you know what? So do I.
Kimberly Culbertson is a Team Dynamics and Leadership Coach and Speaker, and she co-hosts the Creation Curve Leadership podcast. She is a recovering approval addict, a paint brush loving workaholic, and a walking billboard for hope in all its many manifestations. She is not afraid to admit that latte art lifts her spirits, and she gets a little melancholy when she doesn’t make it into a coffee shop for a few days.