Check In For Healthy Pain-Free Movement

Whatever workout you have planned for today, take a moment to ask these simple questions along the way:

  • Is this movement appropriate for me?
  • Is it painful?
  • Does this feel safe?

No Pain, No Gain?

As you consider these questions, keep it simple. Pain is always a yes or no question. We tend to qualify and discount pain with “it hurts a little, but once I run through it a bit, it starts to feel better” ; “it doesn’t hurt that bad.” ; or my personal favorite “No pain, no gain.” It is a dangerous game to “push through pain.” The mantra of “No pain, no gain” is often what many people say right before they injure themselves. I prefer the mantra of “No pain, no pain!” or “No pain, all gain!”
check-in for healthy pain-free movement

Pain is the best coach you will ever have… if you listen.

Ask yourself these questions, really listen to your body, and honor the answer. If you’re feeling pain, tune in and listen to why.

  • Is your body asking you to stop?
  • Is your body telling you that this movement isn’t appropriate right now?

Be present with what you are experiencing in this moment. If your body is telling you to stop, then stop, and find a non-painful movement or exercise that feels safe. Painful movement is not healthy movement.

Not sure how to listen well? An experienced Movement Therapist, MovNat Certified Natural Movement Coach, personal trainer, or fitness coach can teach you healthy pain-free movement as well as to recognize and respond appropriately when you do feel pain.

Your Mindset Matters

Where do your decisions to move come from? Most of us choose to move based on where we are emotionally. If we are operating from a place of self judgement, anger, or insecurity, we are far more likely to ignore pain, push it too hard, and/or experience greater physical injury.

For example, the person who goes for a run because they think they are not good enough–they are not operating from a foundation of love, honor, or respect for their body. They are punishing themselves. Every step they take reinforces the mindset of “I don’t like myself.” They are more likely to not only ignore a painful condition, but to push even harder in spite of it. How will this feel over time? They are not moving away from self-loathing by working out. They are reinforcing it. Every painful step drives the self hate deeper. This person may look incredibly fit and healthy on the outside, but every time they look in the mirror, they see someone who is less than.

If you judge yourself harshly, you are less likely to listen to your body. Every movement or exercises decision you make from this place of self judgement reinforces a negative mindset and sets you up for potential pain and injury. These injuries are your body’s way of saying pay attention now! Injury will stall your progress directly in its tracks and drive you deeper into self-loathing! Even worse, it will affect how you recover from injury. You will be more likely to do too much too soon and fall into the injury cycle.

When we are operating from a foundation of loving, honoring, and respecting our body, we make healthy movement decisions around our health and well being.  Changing your mindset will make a big difference in your experience and your outcome.

Healthy Pain-Free Movement

Is there a pattern of self-judgement playing out in your fitness activities? Shift into a mindset of love, honor, and respect and use these simple questions to check in with your body throughout your workouts. Making a habit of tuning in this way will set you on a path to engaging in healthy movement that makes you look and feel fit and healthy on the outside as well as on the inside.

Don't Blame Arthritis for your Pain

Recently, I received a wonderful question on The Injury Corner — a Facebook group I moderate that provides advice and guidance for anyone dealing with chronic pain and injury.

A podiatrist has told me that I have arthritis in my big toe. It’s painful to fully flex it and it’s throwing off my gait, which as many of you know, is foundational to proper function. He didn’t have any suggestions for correcting it other than giving it space (said I’m too young for surgery as that surgery is so debilitating). Any suggestions here for either alleviating it or working around it?

I love this question because it touches upon something I hear frequently. “I am in pain because I have arthritis.” This is a statement that I do not fully agree with–primarily because it sounds an awful lot like “It’s because I’m getting old!” — which I write about here.

There are two main reasons I disagree with the commonly held belief that arthritis = pain.

1. The Failure Prescription
2. Arthritis is a symptom, not the problem

The Failure Prescription

I’ve borrowed this phrase, “The Failure Prescription,” from one of my mentors, Dr. Kathy Dooley. Most people, when told they have arthritis, assume there is nothing they can do about the pain, other than treat it with drugs, topical pain relievers, injections, and/or surgery. This is not a treatment prescription to thrive–it is a prescription to fail. In the case of a failure prescription, there is little strategy for change, help, healing, recovery, and most importantly…hope. A failure prescription suggests that pain is just the way life is supposed to be and there is nothing to be done about it.

I don’t believe in failure prescriptions. Call me an idealist, but I believe there is always hope for some sort of meaningful change. As a Movement Therapist and a life changer, I do not write prescriptions to fail. Instead I offer hope.

Degenerative Arthritis = Symptom, not problem

Just as I’ve written before about pain being our body’s way of alerting us to an underlying problem, so arthritis is a marker of a larger issue. The underlying problem responsible for both the arthritic condition and the pain is simply how well, or not, you move.

In my experience, osteoarthritis and pain are both caused by dysfunctional movement patterns and are primarily related to gait — i.e. the way you walk and run. In the world of movement therapy, gait is huge. It is the movement pattern used most frequently and with the longest duration of any other movement pattern in a human being’s life. From the moment we are born, every movement made prepares us for walking upright. Once a person does begin to walk, every movement thereafter is built upon this gait foundation.

If you have inefficient movement anywhere in your body, it will show up in your walking gait. When this inefficient movement is assessed, corrected, and cleared from your gait by a skilled movement therapist, you will see greater efficiency and quality return to other movements. The positive side effect of this type of therapy? With healthier, higher quality movement you will experience less wear and tear on the joints and more importantly, less pain.


A person rubbing painful hands. Arthritis.There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation of joint tissue. As a Movement Therapist, I do not work with autoimmune disorders, as they are outside my zone of expertise. For the purpose of this discussion, I will be specifically addressing osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the bone and cartilage caused by “wear and tear” of a joint, and is generally blamed for pain and stiffness in the knees, hands, hips, and back.

It is helpful to note that arthritis is not always symptomatic with pain. Many people have arthritis with no pain at all. In fact, “up to 60% of people with radiographic knee osteoarthritis may not complain of pain.” For example, I have degenerative arthritis in my surgically-repaired right knee. The degeneration can be seen in x-rays, but I don’t experience arthritic pain in my knee.

Also, just because pain is present and arthritis is present, doesn’t mean that arthritis is to be blamed. There is a correlation between the two, but that doesn’t always equate to causation. This is an important distinction to make. If a symptom is diagnosed as the problem, you will waste time, money, and frustration chasing relief for something that doesn’t resolve your pain. Your pain and injury can become further aggravated if invasive interventions such as injections, orthotics, and surgery are used to treat the symptom (arthritis) and not the problem (how you move).

Let me reiterate: arthritis is not the problem. How a person diagnosed with arthritis moves is the problem.

This is the primary reason I recommend exhausting all non-invasive options prior to undergoing surgery or other invasive procedures. I frequently hear from clients who’ve gone through 1, 2, 3, or more surgeries–and yet their pain hasn’t improved. Prior to seeing me, many of these people had unnecessarily resigned themselves to a life of chronic pain. Thankfully they continued looking for help and are now not only able to move with less pain, but are also returning to the activities they love. Here is an example of a woman who was able to recover from eight years of painful “arthritis”.

Mobility & Stability

Is Arthritis the cause of back or neck pain?For healthy efficient movement to happen you need both mobility and stability throughout the body. Mobility is simply the ability to move freely. It is the wide range of movement your body is capable of performing. The greater the range, the greater the mobility. Defining stability can be a bit trickier.

I used to think that stability meant rigidity. But as I’ve learned from another great mentor of mine, Gary Ward of Anatomy in Motion (AiM), with human movement, there is no such thing as rigidity. We are always moving, constantly passing back and forth through a state of being neutral. In this context, “neutral” is just a moment in time between two opposing extremes. For example: try standing still, and feel yourself sway back and forth and side to side. Now try to prevent this swaying. Notice that the more you try to prevent the movement, the harder it becomes and the more you actually move? In our natural state of constant motion, it’s impossible to completely still movement in/of the living human body.

With this in mind, stability does not mean rigidity. Rather, stability is dynamic–it is the braking mechanism of motion. Imagine stability like the brakes of a car: it is the ability to decelerate joint movement against gravity to prevent excess or unsafe motion.

At first, it may appear that mobility and stability are antagonistic to each other, fighting and at odds with one another. But in reality they are not. When your body is moving well, mobility and stability work like two beautifully choreographed dancers: giving and taking in perfect balance, neither one more dominant nor important than the other. Mobility and stability working in tandem allow graceful, precision movements through wide ranges of motion to take place.

Then where is the breakdown?

When injury enters into the body, movement becomes inefficient. What used to be perceived as a safe movement become unsafe. When this happens, the body will sacrifice mobility for greater stability. In an attempt to protect, the body creates excess stability either in the soft tissue, such as tightening up a muscle, or in the skeletal structure through joint compression. Joint compression can lead to arthritis.

XRay of joint compression of the big toe causing arthritis and pain.In the example from The Injury Corner referenced above, I would expect that the joint of the big toe is compressed similarly to this picture. Compression is an excellent stabilization strategy for your body to protect itself from harm; it’s like an internal bracing system, similar to wrapping a sprained ankle or knee. If a joint is unstable due to muscle weakness or inhibition–stemming either from an injury or repetitive poor movement–the joint can compress, making itself rigid and stable. Some of the range of motion of the joint is lost, but the compression allows for continued movement.

Generally one joint goes into a stabilization strategy to protect movement within itself or for another joint above or below it that may be hypermobile and unstable. To prevent further injury and keep the body moving, your nervous system locks down the joint, preventing too much load on an unstable structure. Note that the stiffness or rigidity at this particular joint is a bracing strategy that allows dynamic mobility and stability to take place in the rest of the body. (A rather important strategy since movement is key to survival!)

This joint compression then occurs with each step taken–and when a joint compresses, it squeezes out nourishing and lubricating synovial fluid. As a result, the joint no longer tracks smoothly or efficiently, surrounding tissue can become inflamed, cartilaginous tissues become brittle, and the overall structure of the joint itself will experience greater wear and tear.

It is this excess stress of joint compression that is the cause of pain in arthritis sufferers. It is this lack of nourishment and joint health that is the underlying cause of osteoarthritis. Arthritis is not the cause of the pain, it’s a symptom.

Poor movement quality is thus the underlying problem that created both symptoms of arthritis and pain. Healthy efficient movement is The Healing Prescription, and it is possible. In contrast to The Failure Prescription, arthritis can instead present the opportunity for hope–a call to alter your movement patterns in a way that can fundamentally change your life for the better.

To do this, you will need help from someone who specializes in movement therapy. For optimum results, I recommend seeking out a highly skilled movement therapist specifically trained and experienced in assessing muscle function, joint compression, and gait mechanics (i.e. the way you run/walk). Ask around, interview several therapists, get multiple opinions, be picky, and ultimately choose the person who best addresses your needs and goals.

The Healing Prescription

With a different “diagnosis,” there comes a new “prescription.” If the problem is caused by a dysfunctional movement, then it can be resolved by correcting the dysfunctional movement patterns and replacing them with healthy, efficient, pain-free movement. A skilled movement therapist can help you learn ways to move better. Better movement = less joint compression. Less joint compression = less symptoms of both arthritis and pain.

You have the ability to heal. By shifting your perception of arthritis, it is possible to see that it is not a prescription to fail. This is your prescription to thrive.

Why an Injury Recovery Coach is a Key Player on Your Recovery Team

When I had my first and second knee reconstructions, I didn’t know where to go or who to talk to. I was making life changing decisions for myself while I was in a state of fear, anger, and self judgement. At the time, I was in the Navy in San Diego, CA sleeping on a friends couch. I was half a continent away from my family, and my best friend was going through BUD/S training to become a Navy Seal. I felt alone and isolated. I didn’t have a team and I did not know how to ask for help. I needed a recovery support team.

We all experience those times in our lives where we need the help of others. Healing from pain and injury is one of those times. It makes a huge difference to have family, friends, coaches, therapists, doctors, etc focused specifically on helping you recover. The stronger and more supportive the team, the faster and fuller the recovery. When I look back on those days 17 years ago, I wish I had someone in my corner like Heidi Armstrong of The Injured Athletes Toolbox.

Heidi is an amazing person. She is incredibly gifted and passionate about helping people heal and recover from the devastating effects of pain and injury. Her gifts lies in her huge beautiful heart, but more importantly in the fact that she has been there. She has experienced it, lived it, and is living it today. I love her story. She is inspiring. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her work. This is her story. It should be shared with any friend or family member experiencing pain and injury.

Thank you Heidi for sharing.

~Jesse James Retherford

Tell me a little about yourself and your story?  What was your path to becoming an Injury Recovery Coach and what inspired you to create Injured Athlete’s Toolbox?

Jesse, you’re incredibly gifted at connecting with people, and you’re the first person I’ve met who shares a similar philosophy about the mental aspects of injury.  I appreciate you offering this space to talk about my work as an Injury Recovery Coach.

Fifteen years ago while racing my mountain bike, I had a spectacular crash resulting in a complicated knee injury.  In an instant, my identity changed–from an athlete to injured and broken.

At the time I was living with my best friend, Christine.  Cassette tapes changed my life–in the year 2000.  Why I had a righteous cassette tape collection in 2000 is another story.  I was supposed to be elevating a very swollen post-operative knee.  Instead, I did what any agitated and irritated injured athlete would do–I grabbed a bottle of Windex and sat on the floor cleaning my cassette tapes, with all the passion of my Italian ancestry.  Christine walked in from work and looked at me with a combination of shock and disgust.  “What the heck are you doing?” she said.  “I’m cleaning the cassette tapes!” I declared.  “Um.  Aren’t you supposed to be laying down with your leg elevated?” she said.  “Well.  If I don’t clean these cassette tapes, who will?” I said, undeniably winning the debate.

I was overdue for an intervention–that or Christine was going to toss me off the balcony.  “I’m going to my bedroom for 10 minutes, and when I come out we’re going to talk.” Christine said.  She emerged, sat in front of me and said, “You know I love you, right?”  “Yes.” I said.  “This (she pointed to my mess of Windex, paper towels, and cassette tapes) isn’t going to work anymore.  You need to find another way.”

Firemans carry with my friend Erick
My good friend, Erick, and me reliving the months when I could barely go up and down stairs

I was in a deep, dark hole, unable to see daylight through pervasive anger, impatience, bitterness, and frustration.  I was largely incapacitated, barely able to do daily living activities.  For a while, I even talked a firefighter friend into carrying me downstairs just so I could be outside.

Christine’s intervention forced me to make radical changes.  Over subsequent months, I inefficiently but inexorably established a team of people to help–a new orthopedic surgeon, a new physical therapist, and a psychotherapist among others.  With their guidance I climbed out of the hole armed with a positive attitude and life tools that still serve me daily.  I immersed myself into creative endeavors  like photography and writing.  I began volunteering.  I wasn’t able to ride my bike, but I could practice yoga and walk a bit.  I dealt with issues from my past that haunted me.  I focused more on can than can’t, and I created a daily mental training program to replace my cycling regimen.  Had I ignored Christine, my lengthy recovery would likely never have been successful and surely destroyed me mentally.

After witnessing my dramatic improvement in attitude, the same healthcare providers who helped me began calling–“Heidi, I have an injured athlete-patient.  He needs someone to help him out of the hole.  Can I give him your number?”  Over the past 13 years, I’ve appreciated helping injured athletes refocus their focus from training and racing to recovery.

In short, injury recovery coaching chose me.

With Dr. Steadman
Heidi with Dr. Steadman at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado

For several years, I enjoyed a complete recovery and then, as [bad] luck would have it, I suffered a severe and obscure fracture to the same knee while Nordic skiing in 2010.  The fracture led to arthrofibrosis–a rare and chronic scarring condition.  Very few doctors know how to treat arthrofibrosis.  It’s a tough road for surgeons, let alone the patients.  After two surgeries in Austin that distressingly just made my condition worse, I traveled to see the best–Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado.  At my first visit he gave me a 20% chance of being normal.  It’s 3.5 years later and I’m still working hard to finish in that 20%.  I’ve had six surgeries in Vail, and have learned to walk again multiple times.  I’ve spent more than two years on crutches, and more than a year sleeping in a CPM (a device that slowly bends and straightens my leg).  Every nook and cranny of my life has been upended.

Part 1-Learning to walk again
Reaction to my first steps off crutches in two years with my PT in Vail, Luke

The tools I used to emerge from my first injury journey mentally sound and stronger are the same tools I use to navigate my current journey.  I learned how to manage injury the right way only by doing it catastrophically wrong the first time. Injury is a most unforgiving and rewarding teacher, much like the nuns who taught me to read and write.

Saying goodbye to CPM, a happy day indeed.
Saying goodbye to my CPM, a happy day indeed.

In 2012, while spending months at The Steadman Clinic with other patients of all stripes, I had a realization:  irrespective of age, sport, level of proficiency, and gender, injured athletes suffer in similar ways and achieve success through similar tools.  I had a brainstorm–what if I could uncover the common behaviors and paths to success and turn my passion for helping other injured athletes into a career?

I tested my idea by interviewing a diverse group of healthcare practitioners who work with injured athletes.  It didn’t take long to identify a gap in our health care system.  Many providers and coaches had neither the time nor the experience to mentally and emotionally support a frustrated and impatient injured athlete.  Most had no idea what to say when a patient broke down during an appointment.

In my second chapter of research I tested a hypothesis of “similar suffering” through interviews with injured athletes of all ages (14-74) and levels with the goal of discovering recipes for success and common struggles.  Every injury journey is different, but common threads connect those who recover faster and stronger, and the struggles are almost universal.

What do you do as an injury recovery coach and how can you help injured athletes?  Talk to me about how you work with clients.  And what can a client expect when working with you?

About half way through my research, I re-defined what makes an athlete.  To me, an athlete is anyone who uses movement to connect with themselves or their life.  No movement leads to disconnection, and that’s where things come unglued.

Athletes face different and unique emotional challenges following injury.  What I hear most often includes:  I feel worthless and without purpose; my social network is gone; what if I can’t compete again; I’m jealous of my friends; I’m angry; I don’t want to ask for help or be a burden; I have to move to feel balanced and relieve stress.

Through Injured Athlete’s Toolbox as an Injury Recovery Coach, I work with injured athletes from around the world to:  empower them to overcome the emotional fallout of injury; recommend a proper care team of skilled providers who understand athletes; identify activities that are injury-friendly and physical therapist-approved; prepare for doctor’s appointments; navigate our [nightmare of an] insurance system; provide swimming and cycling instruction.


We’ll work together to identify your physical and mental barriers and your goals.  Are you pervasively frustrated?  Does your family find you insufferable?  Feeling impatient?  I know how to find your patience, even if you, like me, were never particularly patient to begin with.

We’ll talk about the gritty part of injury–the emotional roller coaster–that only another injured athlete can understand.  Together we’ll create a plan to make concrete progress toward your goals.  We’ll work together, making you more resilient.

Care team

We’ll work together to find the best physician, physical therapist, and additional practitioners based on your injury.  I can teach you how to interview healthcare providers, ensuring you get the best support for your injury.

Identify activities that are injury-friendly

Despite injury, you still want to move.  We’ll identify activities that are friendly to your injury but liberating to your soul.

Prepare for medical appointments

We’ll create a plan for healthcare appointments, enabling you to communicate the salient facts of your injury.  I can also attend, take notes, and review with you afterward.  Did you know studies show we remember only 30% of what happens in a doctor’s appointment?  It’s likely you won’t get to visit with your doctor as much as you’d like, so it’s important to make the most out of each appointment.

Navigate our insurance system

What do you do when you get an $85,000 hospital bill in the mail that was rejected by insurance?  I’m not making that up.  It happened to me.  Together we’ll determine a strategy for engagement with your insurance.  No doesn’t always mean no.  Together we’ll get more yeses.

Provide swimming and cycling instruction

Leadville Trail 100 finish lineI have 20 years of experience in both swimming and cycling, including swimming at a university and cycling for a national level mountain bike team.  I can help you learn these activities that are often injury-friendly.

I work with each client one on one, in person if they are in Austin and via Skype if they’re not.  Together we’ll brainstorm the challenges at hand and your goals.  We’ll create a focused and structured plan including:  proven therapeutic activities that will keep your mind occupied and help you work toward your goals; mental exercises to regain and maintain an optimistic outlook; physical exercises that are enjoyable and PT-approved.  Throughout your journey, you’ll have a guide when you’re feeling lost and someone to talk to who gets it.

Injured athletes who meet my coaching with time and diligence can expect to feel empowered, more patient, hopeful, mentally and physically connected, less frustrated, and more resilient.

Who can you help?

When I initially meet clients, they often feel impatient, frustrated, without the self-confidence their sport reinforced, and lost.  They feel broken down and unmotivated.  They want to talk to someone who gets it–someone who will help them move forward.  If I hadn’t experienced the dark side of injury, I’d be unable to truly connect with and coach other injured athletes.  I’m comfortable jumping in the hole with clients I coach because I know the way out.  A typical case involves working together over the course of 8 weeks.

If:  the preceding paragraph describes you; you’re making poor choices that dishonor your injury; you aren’t improving physically and need a new care team; you need to find ways to move that are injury-friendly; you require help preparing for medical appointments; you’re feeling lost dealing with insurance…I can help you.

With 20/20 hindsight and specific to your path of injury, healing, and recovery what is it that you are most grateful for?

In an interview for an article in the Austin American-Statesman, Pam LeBlanc asked me something similar.  She said, in just a sentence, can you tell me what you learned from your own injuries?  What have they taught you about yourself?  What good came of them?

My answer to Pam is the same answer to your questions:  Through my injuries, I discovered talents and interests that expanded my world and enabled me to become more mentally balanced and graceful.

Anything else?

I tell clients:  You may feel somewhat hopeless right now. You do have hope; hope is a conscious choice. Perhaps it’s squirreled away in some dark corner of your soul covered in cobwebs and dust. Dust it off and breathe new life into it by practicing a new mental approach to injury.  The only way out is through, and I’ll be with you every step of the way.

My best friend bringing the party to me, writing a haiku on my TED hose. It reads: White compression socks…Make me feel eighty years old…So thankful for you.
My best friend bringing the party to me, writing a haiku on my TED hose. It reads: White compression socks…Make me feel eighty years old…So thankful for you.

Jesse, thank you again for allowing me to share my journey and my work here.  Most of all, thank you for being you.

Follow Heidi on Twitter: @InjuredAthTbx and on Facebook: Injured Athlete’s Toolbox

The Art of Fitness is Growing

My biggest goal of The Art of Fitness is to help change the lives of as many people as possible. In order to do this, TAO-Fit must grow. So I’m excited to announce– I’m hiring.

I am seeking a personal assistant. If the description below fits, you’re interested in joining The Art of Fitness, and helping change lives, then please respond to this post.

Please forward this job description to any top notch friends or family members who you think may be interested.



Personal/Business Assistant Position

Jesse JamesRetherford / The Art of Fitness

This is a part time position working one-on-one with the primary therapist at The Art of Fitness. For more information on Jesse and The Art of Fitness, visit his website:

This is a contract position starting at 5-10 hrs/week. This position has the potential to expand and grow in both hours and pay.

This position provides support in four main areas: 

1) Client Management 

•Tracking appointments
•Updating client lists

2) Online Presence
•Editing and creating content for newsletters, social media, and blogs

3) Outreach
•Coordinating events/workshops
•Seeking opportunities to collaborate with local businesses/organizations who also have a focus on recovery, fitness and wellbeing

4) Business Development 
•Expanding business opportunities

The perfect fit will have the following skills:
•Strong written communication. From blog posts to appointment reminders, you should feel comfortable focusing on a topic and connecting it to your readers. Much of the writing will be transcribing or editing from Jesse, but having the skills for creating strong original content is a plus.

•Strong verbal communication. You should be adept in connecting with local businesses, organizations, and individuals with the purpose of scheduling events, networking, and general outreach needs.

•Professional familiarity with Google Docs, Mailchimp, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter. These are the primary hosts of TAO-Fit’s online presence.

•Ability and willingness to brainstorm with Jesse and take initiative in developing a project

•Event planning/organization

•Marketing/Business experience with online product development and release

•Entrepreneurial Spirit

•And because this work is all about helping people live as well as possible through movement therapy, a personal interest in movement/exercise/health is very helpful

Position begins early May. Some remote work possible, but weekly check-ins and in-person work is preferred. Pay begins at $12+/hour depending upon experience.

To Apply:
Please visit the website and then write a one page cover letter stating:
1) why you are a good fit for this position and
2) one thing that interests you from the website.

•Email cover letter and resumé to [email protected] with the subject “PA Job”

Why a Movement Specialist is a Key Player on Your Recovery Team

Recently I was honored to be interviewed by my good friend Heidi Armstrong of The Injured Athletes Toolbox. Heidi is an injured athlete advocate and an amazing person.

One of the most important keys to the healing and recovery process is building a solid health care team. If you want your team to be stellar, Heidi is the first place to start. She will help you develop a plan, provide you with new tools to assist in your recovery, guide you through the insurance maze, find great medical professionals, and help you ask them the right questions. Most importantly she will help you move through the emotional setbacks that come with pain and injury. I highly recommend you check out Heidi’s website and blog.



Why a Movement Specialist is a Key Player on Your Recovery Team


It’s Because I’m Getting Old

Tweet: It hurts because I’m getting old!

I have been a movement professional for over 15 years. In that time, I’ve had the pleasure to help hundreds of wonderful people move better and feel better, reach their fitness and health goals, and create positive change in their lives. I work with an incredibly diverse clientele of athletes and nonathletes, moms and dads, runners, cyclists, Yogis, and much more. I have worked with kids as young as 8 and as old as 94.

Over the years of working, there is something that I’ve noticed. The younger clients (roughly under 35) tend to blame their pain issues on specific traumatic injuries, e.g. sports injury or car accidents. When it comes to my over-35 clients, however, the most common reason given for why they are in pain is:

older lady crow pose. it's because i'm getting old“It’s because I’m getting old!”

Each time I hear this statement–and unfortunately I hear it a lot–I cringe. Why does it make me cringe? Because it is a perpetuated myth that pain and movement dysfunction are simply caused by the aging process and we have no control over it. I have news for you: this myth is total BS. What’s worse, buying into it limits a person from proactively exploring the body’s ability for full, healthy, pain-free movement–regardless of age.

It’s not that age isn’t the primary factor in pain; age does play a role. But not in the way you think. Age plays a role because the older we get the more time we’ve had to practice poor, restricted, unhealthy, and eventually painful movement patterns. I call this The Movement Equation: Time x Repetition = Improvement. I will explain this in more detail in a bit.

Why we hurt
Yoga stretch. it's because i'm getting old.The majority of chronic pain and injury in our culture is due to how we move. The body has an immense range of healthy movement potential such as squatting, lunging, crawling, climbing, jumping, and so much more. If you do not move to your fullest potential on a regular basis you slowly lose the ability to move fully into it. I call this the
shrinking movement box.

For example, can you do any of the following: squat with your butt to the floor, reach behind and touch the base of your opposite shoulder blade evenly with both hands, reach overhead while rotating your trunk. If you cannot perform these functional movements without pain or restriction, you’ve lost some of your functional movement potential.

Woman checking shoulder mobility. it's because i'm getting old.Losing functional movement means you are slowly being wrapped tighter and tigher into an ever shrinking movement box. Eventually, when you must move outside the box — e.g. bending over, lifting something over your head, or reaching and turning backwards, you experience pain and/or injury. The injury results because your body no longer feels safe moving outside of the box. Exacerbating the problem, many people who experience this kind of pain, due to the fear of making thing worse, move even less–thus shrinking the box that much more.

Due to this reaction, once your movement box begins shrinking it will continue to shrink. This brings me back to the movement equation.

The Movement Equation: time x repetition = improvement
In this equation, Time is how many days, months, or years you’ve been moving in either good or poor movement patterns; repetition is literally the number of times you perform a movement pattern during the entire specified time period; and as you know, whatever you practice leads to improvement— in this equation, improvement is not necessarily a positive or negative thing. e.g. healthy practice (moving fully into your potential) improves healthy movement, and unhealthy practice (moving within an ever-shrinking box) improves unhealthy and restrictive movement.

X-Ray of person hunched in front of computer. it's because i'm getting old.The time portion of the equation is where your age comes into play. The fact is that most of us have been moving poorly for years. Each year as we age, we move less and less. This translates into more and more time spent experiencing less and less healthy movement. Now multiply this effect by 10, 20, 30, or more years: the older you get practicing poor movement, the more hardwired that poor movement has become. And with that hardwiring comes higher incidences of pain. In the movement equation, practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanence. Is that box starting to feel a little uncomfortable?

The good news is that in this case “permanent” is only until you make the decision to change your movement patterns. In other words, you can use the movement equation in your favor– regardless of how old you are. If you introduce quality pain-free movement and practice it daily, over time you will experience greater and greater quality, pain-free movement in your life.

Now…are you ready to change how you move?
Great! The first step to is to change your mindset–this is arguably the most important step.
This is from a previous post It Hurts When I Run:

“The path to quality, pain-free movement begins by changing your mindset around how you move. It begins with a simple understanding:

If I am in pain, then the way I have been moving is hurting me. If I want to feel better, I must change the way that I move. To do this, I must change.”

This change begins by no longer buying into the self-limiting beliefs that your pain is caused by your age. It is not. The pain is caused by your movement choices.

With a new mindset to re-establish your health and vitality, it is time to work on restoring pain-free movement. This part can also be quite challenging. In our culture, we are not taught healthy, restorative movement-based exercise. So knowing where to start is incredibly difficult.

With my clients, I begin by slowly integrating healthy pain-free movement. Each day, slowly explore your full movement potential. If it hurts, then move to the limit of your pain-free range–no further!–then expand into fuller ranges over days, weeks, and months. As Scott Sonnon, one of my favorite movement practitioners, often says, “Move to the tension, not through the tension.” For help restoring movement, I highly recommend you check out his IntuFlow DVD Series. I love this program because it focuses on joint by joint, full body, integrated movement. I’ve been utilizing it for myself and clients as a daily practice. It moves slowly into your healthy pain-free limits, slowly expanding into greater movement over time. I can’t think of anyone who would not benefit from it.

Seek help from a movement professional
baby-squatRemember, the pain you experience daily has developed over years and years. Pain-free movement will not be restored overnight. It will take time and it is important that you grant yourself the patience to re-learn healthy movement patterns. The help of a movement professional who can assess, treat, and provide a corrective exercise protocol can rapidly speed up the process. I often see significant shifts in a client’s movement quality and pain reduction within a few sessions. I send them home with corrective exercises which provides daily repetition to further reinforces these positive changes into powerful life changing improvement.

If you have questions about a specific movement issue, I invite you to join The Injury Corner on Facebook, and post it there. For help finding a movement professional in your area let me know. I will do my best to connect you to the best health care team available.

The above link to the Scott Sonnon DVD is an Amazon affiliate link. I have chosen to support it because I believe in its value.

I would love to hear from you. Please share your experience of pain, injury, and The Movement Equation in the comments below.

Tweet: It hurts because I’m getting old!


My Interview with Beth Berry of Revolution From Home

This week, I had the honor of contributing on an article with Beth Berry of Revolution From Home.

Beth is an incredible writer and dear friend. She writes for National Geographic Green Living and Mothering. Her blog is brilliant and entertaining in its chronicles of her “crazy” life, challenges of cultural and conventional “wisdom”, thoughts and ideas on sustainable/green living, the simple reminder that each of us holds immense power within ourselves to create powerful change in the world, and much much more. I encourage you to check out her blog right after you finish reading this amazing post of ours. In it we discuss common causes of chronic pain & injury, how a women’s body changes post-pregnancy, foam roller therapy, and self care tips for pain free healthy movement.

Rewiring Our Bodies: An Interview With One of My Heroes

^^click above to read.

If this article resonates with you, please share it with your friends and family.

The Injury Corner

Over the past few years, I have offered guidance in online forums to people dealing with chronic pain and injury. Oftentimes in these forums everyone is an “expert.” It is nearly impossible to differentiate a professional Movement Specialist, therapist, or coach from a non-professional layman. The problem is that much of this advice, although well intentioned, can at times be downright dangerous for those who receive it.

Each person posting a question in an online forum about pain or injury has a different life story and injury history, as well as an individual path to recovery. No two pain, injury, and recovery cases are ever alike–what may work for one person can cause harm for another. This is why having a trained movement professional in your corner is so important. A Movement Specialist can offer a full movement assessment, followed by injury treatment and an individualized, corrective protocol to help restore healthy and pain-free movement. If you’re in pain or dealing with chronic injury, you need a full assessment prior to any corrective prescription. This is something you simply will not receive in an online forum.

In an effort to reduce the noise and try to reach people who are asking for help, I created a special I created a special group page on Facebook, called The Injury Corner. The Injury Corner is devoted to providing advice and guidance for those dealing with pain and page on Facebook, called The Injury Corner. The Injury Corner is devoted to providing advice and guidance for those dealing with pain and injury.

I have asked some of the top Movement Specialists in the country to join and contribute their expertise and experience. The support this page has generated in the short month since its creation has been overwhelming. Already, it has reached over 200 members with some fantastic dialogue.

In The Injury Corner, you will not be assessed or diagnosed. The goal of this forum is to provide support, guidance, direction, and help to connect you with the best professional health team available for your needs. In addition to the main forum, I have also created a list of movement therapists who support this group, and posted a directory as a file available to group members. This allows people across the country to follow up in person with a qualified and knowledgeable movement professional in their area.

imgresThe Injury Corner is a safe and supportive space for anyone dealing with chronic pain and injury. I want you to contribute. Share your physical and emotional experience with pain and injury. In order to maintain this safe and supportive space, The Injury Corner is a closed group. Anyone who joins must first be approved before they can read or post on the forum.

The movement professionals involved with The Injury Corner will do our very best to help you change your relationship with pain, begin your healing process, and restore healthy pain-free movement. We will be a resource to connect you to a health team. We will guide, support, and be by your side throughout your healing process.




Click here to join the Facebook Group: The Injury Corner



Foam Roller Self Massage For Calf and Foot Relief

As a Movement Therapist specializing in hands on massage therapy, I help clients improve movement quality to aid in the healing, recovery, and prevention of chronic pain and injury. In many clients, I see a connection between their persistent pain and the health of their feet. Painful conditions of the knees, hips, low back, shoulders, and neck can often be traced through the fascial lines down to the feet. Foot health is one of, if not the biggest determining factors of pain and injury, as well as overall health, wellness, and vitality. To improve foot health, one of the best self care options available is foam roller self massage.

Anatomy of the foot and ankle. Foam Roller Self MassageThere are 26 bones in the human foot, 33 joints, more than 100 muscles, and roughly the same number of sensory nerves that you have on the palms of your hands. The foot is designed to be incredibly dynamic, sensitive, and responsive. Most importantly, it offers the promise of stability in almost any context.

How to Treat Your Feet

1. Take off your shoes! Even if only for a few of hours per day. (Should you wonder why I am an advocate of making the transition to barefoot or minimalist footwear, take a look at Free Your Feet.)

2. Throw out the flip-flops. It is not the job of your little piggies to curl unnaturally (involuntarily & imperceptibly!) in order to keep your shoes from flying off your feet! Consider finding a similar style with an ankle or behind-the-heel strap instead.

3. Utilize a golf ball and The Grid foam roller self massage the arches of your feet and lower leg.

Using a golf ball to self massage the arches of the foot. Foam Roller Self Massage

Foam Roller Self Massage

Foam roller self massage techniques are very simple to learn. It may be painful in spots. The goal is not to force through the pain, but to be very gentle with your body. There should be some discomfort without being unbearable.

Set up on the foam roller under the desired muscle area to be worked on. Relax your body and breathe. Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.

You are seeking out the most tender spot. Once you find it, stop, relax your body as much as you can; and visualize the tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow the butter to melt over the knife. Hold position for at least 30-60 seconds or until you notice a significant reduction in pain, about 30-40%. Then move on to the next painful spot. Do this in 2-3 different spots for each muscle shown below.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and these suggestions are not meant to take the place of a regular training program with a professional. That being said, it’s a good place to start the recovery process. And if you’re feeling acute pain, foam roller self massage will help bridge the gap until you are able to get advice and treatment from a qualified movement therapist.

The Grid Foam Roller self massage by Trigger Point Therapy.

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

The Grid foam roller self massage by Trigger Point Therapy is my go to foam roller. I’ve used it for years and recommend it to clients. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate for Trigger Point Therapy. This means that if you purchase one of their products after clicking one of these links, I will get a small commission. That said, the only reason I am an affiliate for their products, primarily The Grid, is because I believe in it 100%.

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Nutrition 101

Check out this great article on Debunking The Calorie Myth– Why “Calories in, Calories Out” is Wrong by Kris Gunnars of Authority Nutrition. Read it once and after your head stops spinning, read it again. Seriously, this is like taking Nutrition 101.

Some really great take aways. Here’s one of them:
“Optimal nutrition and disease prevention go way beyond just calories.”

Jesse James Retherford

Debunking The Calorie Myth – Why “Calories in, Calories Out” is Wrong by Kris Gunnars

I think the notion of “calories in vs. calories out” is ridiculous.

Foods affect our bodies in different ways and go through different metabolic pathways.

Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat.

Therefore, the types of foods we base our diet around are just as important as the amount of calories we are eating.

Click here to read more…

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