EducationFitness philosophy

2 important fitness lessons of 2014

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To be honest, I began this blog post by jumping on the New Year’s Resolutions bandwagon, but just a couple days shy of my deadline, I decided to take a different direction and instead look in the rear view mirror.

I learned much over 2014 and interviewed some really amazing people. And if you were to distill my intellectual travels over the past year down to two of my most important fitness lessons of 2014, they would be the following:

#1: Movement is more than just lifting weights (much more) and

#2: You really can change your body’s posture if you are committed to it.

Let’s take a closer look at these two ideas.

1. Movement, and what it really is

If you follow my blog you’ll no doubt expect me to mention two of my greatest influences as a part of the subject topic. But before I do, let’s take a step back and talk about movement.

What is movement?

Is it kicking a soccer ball? Lifting a weight? Does it have to be fast and plyometric or slowly executed?

Here’s what I think it is: I think it’s moving your body through a healthy range of motion with an appropriate blend of strength and flexibility.

Clear as mud? Here’s another one of Ido Portal’s (oddly named) videos to visually get the point across:

If the video above is something new to you I encourage you to start doing a little research in Ido Portal and Movnat – two fitness philosophies that are doing some really cool things.

What’s been really fun and eye-opening over the past year for me is meeting all the unique movers and fitness people out there. I’ve met aerial silk instructors, ballerinas, dancers, Movnat’ers, gymnasts and yes, even CrossFitters.

And what started to become clear after working with these people is that those who were primarily doing bodyweight exercises were strong – really strong. They were training with exercises that were joint friendly, proprioception enhancing and downright fun.

These bodyweight athletes were also improvising much of their workouts. They weren’t training so much as they were playing. That’s a key differentiation that I think can help a lot of people get excited about fitness today.

Less repetitive motion and more play.

Starting to understand now what I mean when I say movement?

Movement is the most challenging, scalable and life affirming form of physical education. Expect to hear more, much more, from me in 2015 on this concept.

2. If you really want to, you can change your posture

In short, it’s really, really hard to change your posture and keep it that way without a full blown change of lifestyle, but it is possible. I spent the better part of my 20’s learning this the hard way. With any luck, I can help you to skip a couple steps.

Allow me to give you the fire hose version of my soft tissue/realignment/postural experience over the past several years. It all began with…

Rolfing

I was first referred to the world of rolfing by a chiropractor. He and I had developed a healthy rapport of discussing fascial anatomy and biomechanics and after one visit’s conversation, he rummaged through his drawer and found a card for a rolfer he knew. He thought that she would be a great person to help me realign my posture and keep my soft tissue in order.

So, I ended up visiting her once a week for about a month and half. Long story short, I saw no long term benefit. So, I tried another very experienced rolfer. Two months and several thousand dollars later, I am sad to say that again, I didn’t see any long term results.

I was a bit frustrated at this point, because I was soooo sure that rolfing was going to cure all my problems. It was expensive, evasive, hands on, practiced by physiology gurus, it had everything going for it.

In hindsight, I think I know why my body didn’t take to it well. I was having this soft tissue work done for about one hour a week. However, I would literally drive right back to the office after my session and plop myself down for another 5 hours of work.

Of course, none of this should mean that it won’t work for you, I can only speak for my own experience.

Regardless, after my unsuccessful stint with rolfing, I wasn’t sure what else to do…

Lifestyle change

After I left my corporate job in January of 2014, I was hell bent on finding a way to fix my posture. And part of me thought merely by leaving the office environment I would be cured! Admittedly, I did see a noticeable improvement in my pelvis position in the months after ditching the cubicle, but the impact only went so far.

I did have one very interesting conversation with a young yoga instructor. After showing up for an afternoon class, and being the only student in attendance, I decided to pick his brain during the course of the yin session. Turns out, this guy used to suffer from pretty severe scoliosis. What was it that relieved his symptoms? You guessed it, yoga. But here’s where things got interesting. I asked him how much yoga he did in order to see the results he described.

The answer?

One year. And almost every day during that year.

Up until that time, I had spoken with a lot of health and fitness professionals and to be quite honest, the response from this young yoga instructor (with far less experience that any other expert I had encountered), made the most sense.

If you want to get good at something, you have to do it everyday. Now don’t extrapolate this to resistance training, but when it comes to posture, you need to remind your body once a day what you want.

And this is nothing new. After all, for years I was reminding my body in the office environment that I wanted my hip flexors shortened and my trapezius contracted.

Our bodies have this frustrating tendency to do what we tell them to do ;).

Fast forward a few months…

Egoscue

You can call it what you want, but the term I know it as is Egoscue. Another way of looking at it is body engineering.

Similar to rolfing, I stumbled across this method completely by accident. There were no billboards, no ads in fitness magazines, just the endorsement of a friend of mine while on a mountain biking ride.

I’m tempted to write a mini-thesis here on the merits of Egoscue, but let’s keep things short and I’ll save it for a blog post all its own. After a 90 minute assessment, the practitioner I worked with assigned me a ‘menu’ of corrective exercises. Simple and yet very challenging movements. All bodyweight. Some were stretches that I would hold for a minute. Others would be simple movements that would seem ridiculously easy at first, but would soon find my legs shaking with fatigue.

But here’s the thing – I did these exercises (~40 minutes in all) 6 or 7 days a week.

And guess what? Things changed. My pelvis rotated back to where it should be and my movement started to really clean up. Here’s an example. When I first went in for an assessment early on, I carried about an extra 20 pounds of bodyweight through my right leg. Yup. After about a month of Egoscue practice, I went in and asked to stand on the scales again, without doing any stretches or corrective work whatsoever. The result? Each leg was within a couple pounds of the other.

So, egoscue worked (and is working) for me. Will it work for you? Who knows, but it’s worth a shot in my opinion.

Coming full circle, changing your body’s posture is achievable. It’s also really tough. I spent about 40 minutes a day doing so. This is in addition to my normal fitness routine. Many people probably won’t be able, or willing, to add this sort of commitment into their daily grind.

But most things in life worth having aren’t easy anyway :).

Wrap up

So where does this leave us? Or, more specifically, where does it leave you?

On movement, I am convinced that all of us need to be moving in more unorthodox ways. We need to do a little less cycling and urban running and a little more crawling and dancing and martial arts and aerial silk and all that fun stuff!

And this is all scalable. If you don’t have the mobility you once did or if you have clinical issues staring you down, put on your creative hat and see what else you can do.

On posture, remember: it’s never too late to improve your body’s posture. It just gets more challenging :).

***

As is often the case with my blog, I am trying to encourage you to think a little differently. To begin to understand that health and fitness isn’t always about lifting barbells and running 10k’s, instead, that it’s about movement. And that can mean different things to different people.

In closing, I ask you a very fundamental question, but one that I sincerely hope you will take some time to answer for yourself – How will you choose to move in 2015?

By Ryan Wagner

What did you learn in 2014? Let me know in the comments below.

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