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.
“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?
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.
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.
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