Movement Minute - 5 Lessons from Fighting the Monkey

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to take part in a truly incredible experience.

 

This was kind of experience that was really fun at the time, but has resonated even more in the weeks since.

 

My perspective on movement was radically expanded.  I wouldn’t hesitate to say this was a true game changer.

 

I’m talking about the Fighting Monkey Intensive Workshop

 

Now, I’m not going to try to fully explain what Fighting Monkey is or who the creators are.  To be honest, I'm not 100% sure yet myself.  

 

You can check out the videos and do the research for yourself. To be honest, you’re either going to be strongly drawn to it or uninterested. 

 

If you need the logical road map neatly laid out for you before you test the waters, this probably isn’t for you. And that’s cool, not everything is for everyone.

 

The principles can be laid out, but it’s on you to find the appropriate application.  I know this can be unnerving for many people.  In a world where dogma is constantly being pushed on us, I appreciated being encouraged to find my own meaning.

 

As for the Intensive, I spent 5 days with 23 other movement weirdos and 2 of the most genuine teachers I have ever encountered. 

 

We explored movement and stillness.

We learned to create deeper layers of strength via structural integrity.

We emphasized rhythm, timing, coordination, touch, and interaction.

We broke down our individual walls to collaborate and challenge each other to become better movers.

We worked. We played. We cooked. We processed. We connected.

We used to movement to embrace what really makes us human.

 

And when I got home, I realized this was just the start. The rabbit hole goes much deeper.

 

I’ve still been tumbling down this rabbit hole and considering the bigger picture.  

 

The Fighting Monkey Practice is something that needs to be experienced and evaluated by the individual.

 

I took a leap of faith investing in this experience.  The ROI was a connecting of the dots and a fresh new perspective.  These are my 5 greatest lessons from the Fighting Monkey Practice.

 

Study in your own universe. The external environment creates a great deal of activity and noise, it's all very easy to get wrapped up in.

Take time to cultivate stillness as a way to observe your internal experience.

Sense your body from the inside out - the alignment of your skeleton, the tension / relaxation relationship in your muscles, the quality of the breath, the activity of the mind.

Don’t assume that because you have a body automatically means you’re an expert operator.  Be a continual student of yourself.

 

Go deeper into the story.  We are often presented concepts without the context of how the concepts came to be.  At a certain point, we cease asking questions; we assume we know what we know.

Do we have the full story or could we dig deeper? We fail to see what was before the concept, what were the circumstances around it’s creation, what updates must occur to apply the concept to our lives.

 Acquire knowledge in the pursuit of the full story. At the very least be aware that there’s more to know around what you know.

 

Embrace totality.  Similar to the last lesson, we’ve got to learn to see things as whole, both what’s visible and invisible.

At any point, we hold a specific vantage point where some things are clearly visible and others remain hidden from our view.  However, there is a subtle art to “seeing" the bigger picture.

In problem-solving, this is abstraction of the mind. In relationships, this is empathy.

To fixate on a single point is to dishonor the whole. Our development will be better served by embracing totality - being aware of our assumptions of what’s visible in order to wrap our head around what is invisible.  

 

Lean into the fire. “Cook” & “Work!” Two common commands from my teacher. It’s incredible how much is communicated in these two, four-letter words.  

“Cook.” As in prepare your tissues with skill and care. Vary your methods and your temperature.  Sometimes follow a recipe, sometimes off-the-cuff.  Always with precision and intention.    

“Work!” Not for the sake of arbitrary exertion, but for research and ultimately expression. Get out of your head. Get out of the way of your body and move.  Let it flow through you in the moment. Process afterwards. The work is the fire forging your practice. 

Cook with care to increase the quality of your work. Work towards expression and the transformation of reinventing yourself again and again.  Lean into the fire and rise like the phoenix.

 

Tell your story through your movement.  Your defining experiences, current habits, beliefs, injuries, and emotional state all reside in your body. They emerge in your movement, they sculpt the form you assume.

Sometimes you practice the form - you set an intention for how you want to show up and act accordingly. Sometimes the form practices you - you become attached to past performance and future expectation, handcuffed to the monkey mind. Either way, you tell your story through your movement.

An amazing thing happens as you become aware of the deeper layers of your story and allow it to emerge.  You find healing and resolution. Your movement practice deepens and grows richer.  You release yourself from the narrative you’re clinging to and create space for some a new story.  


I finish this post with an exhalation from the soul. These thoughts have been swirling around for a few weeks now.  It's definitely taken some time for everything to sink in.

 

Fighting Monkey isn't neatly packaged for mass consumption. It's meant to be speculated on and savored. It's meant to challenge your comfort zone and expand your pre-existing notions.   

 

It wasn't so much what I was taught as what I learned in relation to my own mental & emotional challenges.  

 

The fact of the matter is, we are all dealing with our own baggage.  We are all "fighting the monkey" at various points in our journey.  That's the human condition.

 

Don't get me wrong, the FM movement practices are amazing.  However, my biggest takeaways came from the conversations we all had between training. Practice & process.

 

The magnitude of the whole experience was far greater. For me, it was about understanding deeper layers of myself, leaning into my personal journey, and connecting with an awesome community of people out there seeking something real. 

 

If you’re sensing that there’s something deeper to this movement culture than macacos and muscle-ups, I might suggest The Fighting Monkey Practice.

 

It might just be the missing piece that you didn't know was missing.

Movement Minute - Landmine Pressing + Ground Movement

A few weeks back I started doing some soft tissue work on my adductors using the barbell because that’s how I get my kicks in life.  

 

From there, I was reminded of the “Landmine” press, a staple in functional fitness.  The barbell slides into a fitting that swivels allowing for all kinds of cool pressing and rotation exercises.  In the absence of the official fitting you can place the end of a barbell in an old shoe or wrapped in a towel wedged into a corner.  I rested the bar in the center of a bumper plate. 

 

In MovNat we actually train a similar set up when we’re lifting logs (I did a Movement Minute on this last fall).  We take advantage of the stability of having one end of the object on the ground while we position our support underneath.  Lifting long objects is proof that physics can be fun as it makes lifting awkward object super efficient. 

 

We’re still working on getting some lifting logs in at CoMotion and most average gyms frown on you bringing your own. The barbell doesn’t provide the cool contours and textures of the log but it works just fine; consider it spring training. 

 

I used basic sitting positions as the foundation for this practice.  Beginning in a bent sit and executing an overhead press being mindful to maintain spinal alignment and support. Then switching sides in a side bent sit position while supporting the barbell.

 

From kneeling was probably the most practical of the variations.  Going from low kneeling to tall kneeling with a press overhead.  Stepping out into a half kneeling position just made sense and I started to think about getting to my feet or shouldering the load.  Rotation side to side in a tall kneeling position was a great drill I’ll definitely use with my clients.  

 

Lastly, I used a posted arm in a tripod transition variation to play around with changing my orientation.  Looking away from the bar offered up a nice stability challenge. Rotating and pressing the weight is what I usually see with the landmine, but it was also cool to stabilize the object and figure out how I could rotate myself.  

 

Try this out as a warm up or as part of a mobility / light practice day. The Olympic bar weighs 20kg /45lbs which was a decent weight for these drills. I would only add more weight if I were planning on staying primarily in the sagittal plane and focused on straight pressing and getting up from the ground.  To modify, you could use any long object that might be laying around your house; your 2x4 balance beam (6'-8’) would work well.  

 

There’s a lot to play with here and plenty of opportunities to get creative.  For me creating or finding new and interesting environments is a huge part of how I approach training.  It’s in these environments where I adapt and figure out how to apply my skills in new places.  This adds an element of problem-solving which keeps the work fresh for me. In turn, this practice helps me see problems as opportunities to devise creative strategies. We are truly creatures of habit but we are endowed with amazing abilities to adapt to new situations. We’re only limited by the boxes we confine ourselves to.  Embracing curiosity and taking a moment to ask “I wonder what would happen if…” could make a world a difference in your perception. 

Movement Minute - Get Up Challenge

Get up from the ground. Get back down. Repeat. It’s just that simple…not always that easy though.

 

Get ups are simple but foundational movement patterns to take us from lying on the ground to on our feet. One moment we’re chilling, pondering deep thoughts (or not). The next moment, we respond to a stimulus and we’re on our feet. If we’re not regularly practicing these patterns, it might be a little longer than a just a moment.  

 

Get ups have a ton of real world application for every body. Studies have even shown the link between get ups and longevity. Practice of these basic patterns paves the way for life long health.  This concept of “health before fitness” insures that we have a good foundation of health upon which higher fitness can be built.

 

There are many different variations of get ups that can be made part of our fitness training.  The most popular (and hated) example would be the burpee (AKA the sprawl, squat thrust, or whatever the kids will call it next.)  I like to practice a variety of get up patterns as part of my ground movement practice. They strengthen the body, develop better mobility, and are great for elevating your heart rate.  

 

For today’s Movement Minute, I put together a sequence of my favorite get ups, to challenge you to explore the possibilities in this basic task. We’ll look at 6 variations. By adding volume and intensity to the mix you’ll better ingrain the practice in your body (muscle memory) and learn to find a higher level of movement efficiency as you start to fatigue.  

 

The challenge is 1-3 rounds of the following sequence:

  • 10x Tripod Get Ups
  • 10x Cross Back OR Cross Sit Get Ups
  • 5x Knee Jump Get Ups
  • 10x Kneeling Get Ups
  • 5x Knee Jump Get Ups
  • 10x Squat Get Ups
  • 10x Rolling Single-leg Get Ups

 

If you’re new to these movements, start with 1-2 rounds focusing on quality of movement.  If you’re familiar with these movements already, challenge yourself to 2-3 rounds. This little sequence can also be a great pre-training warm up or quick workout.

 

To increase the challenge, try loaded get ups.  Wear a weighted vest or a hold an object like a medicine ball - I recommend 5-25 lbs.  If using load, you may want to modify some of the patterns, especially the knee jump get up.  

 

You can also dial up the complexity for an extra challenge.  When you get up, change your orientation or move to a different stance.  This will break the monotony and develop your ability to be more adaptive and really “own” your movement patterns.

 

Now, for the bigger picture "why". To me, this practice is symbolic of life.  

Get knocked down, get back up…as many times as it takes. Create a solid base underneath you and stand up with strength and grace. Stay aware of your environment and be prepared for what's to come next.

 

Life will knock you down again and again, but it's only to help you grow stronger.  Train with tenacity to live with resolve and resilience.  Anti-fragile becomes your new normal and you'll meet life's setbacks with a smile and bounce back.

Movement Minute - Learn To Fly

One of the main reasons I began pursuing movement-based fitness was for the feeling of freedom. 

 

I would spend hours captivated by YouTube videos of kids practicing parkour - sprinting, climbing, crawling, and vaulting through their environment like water. The next day I would go out and practice for hours on end.  I’d walk through the neighborhood looking for opportunities to interact with something besides a barbell or a fitness machine.  

 

You see the gym had become a prison for me.  A white-collar, $200 per month, all-inclusive prison with pool and steam room.  That part wasn't all that bad, not until I stopped growing. That's when the walls started closing in.

 

It took a while to realize the toll this environment was taking; it was sucking the life out of me. Seemed like everything about the establishment wanted to hold me down and keep me in the box - my managers, my colleagues, the rules, the accepted means of physical training.   Maybe you’ve had a job like that though. Run.

 

Out the back window you could get a glimpse of freedom. A skate park, a wide open field, and a beautiful playground in the woods. Sunset Park was my oasis in this mad world. 

 

In that park, I learned what freedom of movement means to me.  It meant escaping constraints and bad vibes. It meant having fun with my fitness again. It was just doing it just for me. It felt like flying.  No coincidence, vaulting is the movement that most closely captures the essence of what I was feeling in these times.

 

From that taste of freedom, I could better understand the toxicity of that particular gym environment.  I was pouring in my efforts and I stopped getting anything back.  All my passion and enthusiasm for movement was being squashed. I couldn’t see it until I got out of it - that’s good old fashioned Midwestern work ethic, for you.  I made an important decision that flying was more important than a comfy cage. 

 

With that I peaced the fuck out.  

 

That was years ago. Since then I’ve floated, floundered, experienced epic highs and deep lows, and learned volumes about myself.  My movement practice has been there with me through it all. Each facet means something to me and as you may have guessed, vaulting has a special place reserved in my heart.  

 

So that was a really long introduction to what I wanted to share today, some vaulting practice. 

 

These are mostly variations we teach in MovNat. I love to get into a flow of overs and unders with this rig we have in our gym. I practiced the individual pieces for about 40 minutes before I got into a more improvised flow.

 

The tripod vault is my standard. It feels safe, works at all speeds, and is versatile to pass over or climb on top.


The split vault is super efficient (lazy) and works well for for these railings.


The side vault and turn vault remind me of hopping over fences as a kid.  Pushing through the locked out arm insures that you pass over smoothly. 


The front (kong) vault has always intimidated me, fear of face planting.  It takes trust to time the jump. Learning where to plant the hands and how to apply force through the arms is key for a clean exit. This one is super badass and worth the time to learn. 

 

Vaulting is on the complex end of the spectrum; there are a lot of moving parts. It’s important to break down each movement into a progression of drills to embody the technique.  Good coordination and timing is required...that takes a lot of time and a lot of repetition. The mental factor is high; you can quickly psych yourself out and form a block. In that case, sometimes you work through it and sometimes you put it on the shelf for a while.  Either scenario is a valuable chance to check your ego.

 

For me, vaulting is a lesson in working with the fear; using it as a tool to grow. Training through that fearful headspace provides some powerful life lessons. Leaning into that fear we stretch the reach of our comfort zone. That’s why I practice. 

 

Find the environments that allow you to thrive. Break down complexity into manageable steps. Approach challenges with a playful mindset. These truly are timeless principles, applied and absorbed through fitness. 

 

Sometimes life feels like a cage, constrained by rules and tradition.  Sometime you need to do something new to feel something different.  Let your body out of the cage for a while and see what it does for your mind.

#GroundMovementMonday - Hip Rotations & Kneeling Positions

Slowing down the flow for this week in favor of more static holds to challenge balance and activation.

This type of flow feels especially restorative for me as it target some of my tight areas.  There's a high emphasis on internal and external rotations which always seem to balance out my hips and keep my knees feeling good.  Don't move into any painful movements. Rather use these patterns to make you strong in some new ranges of motion.

I also put a lot of reaching patterns in this flow that challenge balance. The key is active engagement in the seated and kneeling positions; I'm never just resting on my support. I am rooting into the ground and creating length throughout my body whenever possible.  Stability doesn't just happen, it comes from the inside out. 

Seize this opportunity to slow down and savor your practice time. Stretch, breathe, and allow the movements to connect and land in your body.  It's a little different, a little weird maybe, but exactly what I mean when I say "love your practice."

Movement Minute - Parallette Practice

Somewhere back in 2010ish, I remember getting my first glimpse of just how strong and ripped you could get from just bodyweight training alone.  I came across an underground group of physical culturists who trained on playground equipment in the boroughs of New York. The physiques on these guys were only eclipsed by their ability to perform impossible feats.

 

My head nearly exploded the first time I saw a planche push up. I had never seen anyone do anything nearly as impressive in the gym. I knew I had to explore this culture and bring some of it into my own practice.  This was the inspiration for buying my first pair of parallettes.  

 

In the fitness world, parallettes or “p-bars” are a highly underutilized tool.  At first glance they look only like glorified push up handles, easy to dismiss. CrossFit really popularized the tool by bringing L sits and handstand push ups into the training fold.  Whenever I visit a CF gym however, I see the parallettes (usually the DIY PVC versions) taking up space in the corner.  

 

Hmmm, why is that?

 

Well maybe you start out with a few sets of push ups. OK, nothing special. Then an L sit. 5 seconds in your quads are cramping, your core is in knots, and your cheeks are shaking. For there on out it’s pretty easy to say “ok, I'm good, pass the barbell.” 

 

The parallettes require very intentional progression…which in turn takes some creativity.  You also get a lesson in patience and being present in your current level. You cannot skip ahead without having a built a foundation, this makes parallette training very honest.  With the p-bars, you’re at where you’re at. However, this give you a chance to get creative with the drills that work for you. 

 

Patience and consistency are rewarded in calisthenic training as the p-bars can yield both strength and size (hypertrophy) when used properly.  The secret is time under tension.  Parallettes encourage you to place a higher degree of stimulus on the nervous system through sustained strength and stability.  

 

The video is an example what some of my parallette training currently looks like.

  • Handstand to shoulder (bent arm) stand
  • Shoulder stand to L sit
  • Elevated pike push ups
  • Knee tucks.

These drills will pave the way to the more advanced skills I’m working towards, the planche and handstand push up.  I’m not sure I’ll ever fully solidify those skills, but the progressions alone can craft an impressive physique that performs. 

 

Overall, I find bodyweight training to be more engaging and more applicable to practical performance than isolated weightlifting. While weight training strengthens the pieces of the body, calisthenics integrates strength through the core of the body.  It’s a personal preference but I encourage everyone to invest at least a little time learning to manipulate their own bodyweight. 

 

I know, I know. The learning curve. It’s damn steep. But for real, what’s the rush?

 

There is no rush. There is no finish line. There are no standards.  There is just you and the massive amount of potential that resides within. Acknowledge that shit. Nurture it. Draw it out. All it takes is a step; the step builds momentum and becomes belief.

 

So take a chance on your greatness and get started. 

Stop Overthinking Mindfulness: Simple Strategies for a More Present Existence.

Lake Park Mindful.png

Trending: A More Mindful Existence

Mindfulness is quickly emerging as one of the hottest new trends in today’s culture.  Practices such as meditation and yoga are gaining increased attention for their ability to help us foster a mindful existence. Tech companies are creating products to deliver mindfulness to us. Corporations are jumping on the bandwagon to support their employees in navigating life stressors.

 

As our way of life continues to pick up speed, we’re collectively becoming more aware of the need to pump the brakes and smell the proverbial roses.  We are overstimulated, constantly distracted, and increasingly isolated from deep human interactions. We bounce from place to place, person to person, thought to thought with knee jerk quickness. Meanwhile, expanding our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings has become foreign, even unsettling to us. 

 

Deep down, we may intuitively sense this disconnect and feel drawn to the concept of mindfulness.  After all, who wouldn't like to feel less stress, more connected, fulfilled, and happy? Mindfulness is more than just a new buzzword, it is a pathway towards balancing our lives. But how do we get started?

 

As a coach, I see the practice of mindfulness eluding many people.  Just like in our daily lives, we often turn what should be simple and intuitive into an overly complicated mess of minutiae. 

  • What’s the proper technique? 
  • Where do we begin? 
  • How do I know if I'm on the right track? 
  • What does it feel like?
  • Am I doing it right?

 

Stop. You’re overthinking it.

 

In this article we’ll unpack this thing called mindfulness and explore the ways to make it work for you. Let’s set aside traditional practices and let’s forget about what the gurus are doing for few minutes.  Let’s strip away all the mysticism. Let’s focus less on mindfulness “tactics” and more how to keep it simple and consistent for transformational results.

 

 

The Big Picture of Mindfulness

No doubt there are many different approaches, practices, entry points, and language around mindfulness.  We could sit here splitting hairs over these small differences or embrace the big picture and act.

 

You may have heard mindfulness is “being present.”  To elaborate, let’s define mindfulness as intentionally paying attention. What are you paying attention to? In particular, what is going on around you and within you.  Mindfulness is about paying attention to your external environment, your internal experience, and the connection between the two. 

 

A key element of mindfulness is observation without evaluation, analysis, or judgement. This is so simple we often get off-track. Our brains are wired to search for problems and solutions.  Be sure to say “thank you, brain” because overall it’s a good thing.  However, left unchecked this becomes a habitual pattern that may distract from the present moment. There’s something to be said for just taking it all in.  Mindfulness is not just going through the motions or flipping through the channels of your mind. Mindfulness is experiencing the many flavors of your life.  

 

The Real Benefit of Mindfulness

Another place where we get derailed is understanding the benefits. Mindfulness is a subtle practice, the benefits come into focus with time and consistency.  This runs contrary to our culture of instant gratification. There are many potential benefits, but perhaps the most universal benefit of mindfulness lies in it’s ability to shift us towards embracing the process of life.  

 

We’d love to predict the future or have some way to insure what we want to happen, but we learn time and time again that just ain’t how it works. Mindfulness trains us for acceptance.  Through practice, we learn to see the silver lining of every cloud.  We learn to appreciate the good and the bad.  We learn to recognize that the nothing lasts forever; the landscape is always shifting.  In essence, mindfulness is how we can fully embrace this wild ride on our rock hurling through space. 

 

Ending the Search

We might hear about mindfulness on a podcast or read an article in our newsfeed and think “I that’s totally what I need!” We then launch a massive search for more articles, books, apps, teachers, classes, and retreats.  We look everywhere in a Google-fueled quest for the answers, how else are we supposed to know if we’re doing it right? 

 

But in our haste we forget to look in the most important spot, inside us.  Mindfulness is an innate capacity, like strength, mobility, or balance. It’s not an add-on or an upgrade that you need to acquire, it’s already inside you.  Of course, learning new approaches and techniques is a part of strengthening your ability.  All the resources and tools out there can be very helpful but recognize that the ability is already a fundamental part of you.

 

By seeing mindfulness as something you’re drawing out (rather than bringing in) you’ll relieve the pressure of trying to “do” something or force results.  Understand that it’s your practice and it’s an on-going process.  No one can do the work for you or tell you how it should be done.  Be open to learning new approaches and feel confident in putting this information to use in a way that works best for you.

 

Building Your Practice

Mindfulness can be applied to just about any practice. Start with a vehicle you’re comfortable with. Ask yourself where you’re already spending your time and energy.  Consider how you could engage in these activities more mindfully. I’ve personally come to access a more mindful lifestyle through my fitness training and spending time in nature. 

 

Prior to embracing mindfulness, my fitness was defined by pushing forward at all costs. I rushed quickly from goal to goal. Over the years, this got pretty old. I shifted my focus to mindfulness and began feeling my movements from the inside out.  It was no longer solely about more reps or more weight, but also observing the sensations and emotions arising from the movements. I experienced greater patience with myself and for the process of change. This resulted in fewer injuries, increased body awareness, more effective training, and higher overall performance. 

 

Spending time in nature has also been a way to access a mindful state. I’ve placed more awareness on taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and textures.  Navigating more complex terrain requires a greater degree of presence which prompts me to turn off my auto-pilot and engage. I’ve learned to appreciate not just the comforts of nature (sunshine and warm temps) but the challenges as well (rain / snow, cold, wind, mud, bugs, etc…) My nature adventures might last 5 minutes or 5 hours but the experience coupled with mindfulness always leads me to a sense of awe and connection.

 

Start with any activity you’re already familiar focusing on. These are your strongest vehicles to access mindfulness. These activities are where mindfulness will click for you and begin to resonate through the different areas of your life.  It doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary; everyday tasks make for great mindfulness practice. Try out some of these jump off points to start practicing.
 

  • Unplug your workout. Put your headphones away and get off the machines.  Choose 3-5 different movements or exercises and perform them mindfully with quality in mind.  Sense your muscles activating, your heart rate and breathing changes, your stability or instability.  Acknowledge what emotions or feelings stir up and eventually settle. Notice your reaction to these feelings.

 

  • DIY yoga / stretch. What are you trouble spots? Start out with just one good stretch that targets one of these areas. Stay in your body as you stretch, don’t check out. Pay attention to the sensations and your breathing.  Hold the stretch for longer than you’re used to 2-3 minutes. Move in and out the stretch. Change your body position slightly to stretch slightly different angles. 

 

  • Take a walk in nature. Get off the beaten path and remove some of the barriers between you and the environment. Go barefoot or make a point to touch as many objects as you can. Find a comfortable place to sit and take in the sensations, smells, and sounds.  

 

  • Savor a meal. At least once a day, take some extra time to enjoy what you’re consuming. We know how easy it is to rush.  Eating too fast or working / texting / surfing our way through a meal to the point where we’re not really even tasting what we’re eating.  Put your devices away and enjoy something nourishing and flavorful.

 

  • Create something.  Draw, write, build, film, act, play, sculpt, photo, dance, design. Let go of the pressure of having to make something “good” and just create something for the sake of it.    When you’re finished, don’t judge it or get attached to it. Realize it won’t be the last thing you create. Acknowledge and appreciate the product and the process of creating it.  

 

Let It (Over)Flow

When mindfulness becomes a routine practice it reshapes your perspective on the world. Mindfulness becomes a habit that overflows into the other areas of your life.  Consistent practice enables you to access a mindful state in both mundane activities and in stressful or emotional situations.

 

It's great that we have many resources and support around mindfulness training. These resources serve us best when they are used to help us individualize our approach. There may be a wealth of techniques for mindfulness but it's your personal responsibility to integrate them in a way that works for you.  

 

Keep your sights set of the big picture behind mindfulness - being passionate about paying attention. Instantaneous results won’t happen, but over time the shift that takes place is monumental.  This process is paved by recognizing that mindfulness isn’t something you become, it’s what you express.  Put forth the effort with the understanding that being mindful is something you’ve always done, now you’re just turning up the volume. 

 

In ways big and small.

Day in, day out.  

Craft your life with intention for the things you love.

Don’t overthink this mindfulness thing. 

Movement Minute - Fix Your Lunges

For months now, I have been all about the lunges. Making up for lost time, I guess.

 

I pretty much abandoned them some years back. It wasn’t my fault though, I was drunk on some strength & conditioning kool-aid at the time.  Everyone wanted huge squat and deadlift numbers, lunges just weren’t that cool.  

 

But now mobility is what’s hot in the streets so lunges are cool again. Funny how that happens. Turns out that I actually lunges a lot, they're a huge part of my movement style. I don’t necessarily load them up a ton but instead there's a lot to play around with in terms of speed and different angles.  

 

The downside of lunges (but really an upside) is that they require more neuromuscular coordination.  I see lunges performed incorrectly all the time. Sometimes it’s super ugly and I shake my head as I turn away in disgust. Most of the time though the issues lie in the small details that go unnoticed. A few good cues can make a huge difference.  

 

So this week we’re looking to clean up some common mistakes in this natural movement. If lunges have given you problems in the past check out these fixes that may save your knees.  Stop thinking of a lunge as an exercise instead of a practical movement you use in real life.  There is no single perfect form. Rather, it’s a good look to understand the basic mechanics and explore lunging in many different ways.

 

Here are some of the variations to try:

The half kneeling get up.  This is a transition from kneeling to standing via the lunge. The half kneel is a strong position to start the lunge, beginners should start out here. The core is kept strong and the front hip engaged. Push directly down through the front foot, pressing away through the back toes to stand up

 

The split squat isn’t a true lunge but close enough.  It requires more range of motion and strength. A key point on the split squat is keeping the spine long and core strong while standing up out of the bottom position. Again, the front leg is doing the majority of the work, the back leg provides the assist.  

 

Dynamic lunging is a more athletic expression.  Keep the tempo slow and smooth as starting to practice, the speed will come in time.  Focus on all the details: “falling” into the lunge, contacting the ground, absorbing through the hip, strong posture, driving through the ground to standing. 

 

Seems simple, right? What could go wrong? 

 

Well, a few things. Structural integrity can break down, there might be some muscular imbalances, mobility restrictions, or some combination. The knee of the lunge leg may want to drift inward.  There might be a failure to load the hip properly or a problem with the sequencing. There might be a loss of posture. Mostly likely there will be some combination. Notice the theme. 

 

The common faults happen for a number of reasons. Many of them are related to the fact that, as a culture, we sit way too much. We need to balance out that time with more movement.  Nothing major, nothing excessive, just human movement.  Practice doesn’t have to be a be a big deal nor does it have to be perfect right away.  Just stay curious and mindful, you’ll keep peeling back the layers and finding new depth. It never gets old and it will keep you young.

Movement Minute - Hang & Handstand SuperSet

This was one of those weeks where nothing extraordinary was coming up, just putting the in work to move the needle towards better. Amidst that work, sometimes you just stumble across something interesting or inspiring.  

 

I almost passed on the Movement Minute this week as I'm out in San Francisco attending the Wisdom 2.0 conference.  Before leaving, I did capture some good training footage. I was really happy with how this hanging and handstand superset turned out and happy to share.

 

This is a quick and effective upper body workout. It might be tempting to jump right in but make sure you take the time to warm up properly for at least 5-10 minutes.  Mobilize your wrists, shoulders, and thoracic spine. Fire up your core and posterior chain because these areas are really going to get tested in this one. Personally, I spent a lot of time working on my calves and hamstrings.

 

The common denominator here is compression strength, the kind that comes from deep in the center of the body. You’re trying to create an L or V shape that can withstand the pull of gravity. The deep core muscles and hip flexors engage to hold the body in a folded position. In addition the posterior chain needs to be mobile so as not to put on the brakes on the whole situation. This kind of integrated strength makes me feel greater balance in my strength and mobility, it also can unlock some very cool skills. 

 

This all came about because I’m on a big L sit kick lately and I want to master 1-arm hanging leg raises. I’ve got some weakness in my pulling strength that I get to clean up. Right now, 1-arm hanging Ls feel crazy hard for me so I’ll keep leaning into that challenge. The hanging leg raises require a "pull" into the bar while using the core to lift the lower body into the fold. Easier said than done

 

The straddle press handstand is a nice pushing complement to the pull of the hang. I’ve got these down pretty well (from standing, at least) so conditioning with some reps is a good look. This movement is all about pressing into the ground for a stable foundation while the core lifts the lower body into the handstand. Also, easier said than done.

 

I consider this a conditioning workout so pick your progressions wisely.  It’s important to find variations of these movement that you’re comfortable with and that will hold up under some fatigue. Two modifications I suggest are hanging knee tucks and handstand hops.

 

I have great respect for both of these movements; there is so much going on with each. You’ve got to be intentional to make progress, slowly and incrementally. There are tons of little drills to build up the capacity, way too many to talk about here. My point is just that this isn’t a “one and done” challenge, it’s going to be a long process.  The cool thing is the process shapes not only the body but the mind and heart too. Complexity to challenge the brain and expression to inspire the soul.

 

This isn't just a quick hit of exercise. No. Building a movement practice is a long-term investment in your overall growth and development. Expansion in all directions. The movement is about more than just moving. So love your practice, because when you do it's going to give back to you in some incredible ways.

#GroundMovementMonday - 2.13.17

What we do on Monday sets the tone for the entire week.  I don't want to wake up on Monday only to put on my war paint and run screaming into battle.  Conversely, I don't want to linger in the aimlessness of Sunday afternoon either. 

 

To me, Mondays symbolize a blank canvas, the beginning of a new creation.  This can be both daunting and exciting...for me it's usually more on the daunting side. 

 

Lately, I've been really looking at the practices that set me up for a successful week.  The theme that's been emerging is intentionality.  Laying out my intentions for the week and finding ways big and small to align my actions accordingly.  This is the essence of building a life that your personal masterpiece.

 

Moving with intention and falling into the flow of life is the inspiration for  #GroundMovementMonday.  A few minutes dedicated to mindful movement and checking in with yourself.  There's a long week ahead, but it will go quick - it always does.  Focus your attention, set your intention, and let's get it.  

Movement Minute - Depth Jump to Roll Progressions

More Than Just Flash

This week we’re getting into something pretty sexy; breaking down progressions for the Depth Jump to Forward Roll.  

Picture this: You’re out running on an epic mountain trail. You leap atop a fallen log and jump outward to cross a small creek to lush green grass on the other side.  The jump is far but you it land and allow your momentum to carry you smoothly into a clean forward roll.  You pop right up and continue running like it ain’t no thang.

Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.  

A little idealistic? Maybe.  A more practical scenario might involve you taking a fall.  The smooth transition into a roll is useful for dissipating the impact of a drop from height or a sprawling jump.  Your ability to land and roll could be the difference between a serious injury and just a close call. 

You COULD live your whole life just fine without this type of physical competence.  However, performance skills give us a greater margin of error in an unpredictable world.  Developing skills like these comes with a definite sense of confidence in your ability to navigate new challenges.   Just a little justification beyond the fact that is some cool looking shit.

 

The Break Down

The depth jump is what we in MovNat call a skill-to-skill transition.  We have two distinct skills here: the depth jump (jumping down from height) and the forward roll.  Each skill is developed in isolation, but in time trained to seamlessly transition into other skills. Start by mastering both the depth jump and forward roll, separately.  Then start to train the space between these two movements, the transition. 

 

Warm Up

In this break down, we'll start with movement prep. I like to warm up my feet, ankles, knees, and hips with squat walking, dynamic stretches, and small jumps.  Activating the musculature and prepping the joints is essential, especially for dynamic training like jumping.  I also like to go through some light rolls to dial in the necessary timing for this skill. 

 

Progressions: Beginner to Advanced

For beginning drills we'll start on the ground. From a squat or knee bend, let your weight shift forward and transition into the crawling position (we talked about this last week.) This is a key piece of the transition between the jump and roll as it lowers your center of gravity to execute the roll.  

For the roll, take note of the forward shifting of weight and elevation of the hips.  These two features create the momentum and allow a smooth entrance in to the roll.  Use the arms / hands to guide you through a smooth transition to the back of the shoulder.  Exit the roll on the opposite hip with a figure 4 leg position.

Start training the transition by performing a broad jump to a crawl landing. Progress to depth jumping from a box to ground and into the crawl position. Rep by rep, make this transition from depth jump to crawl position softer and more controlled.  Feel your momentum shift forward as you catch yourself with your arms.  From that shifting of bodyweight, you’ll transition into the roll.  Depth jump to a crawl position, pause momentarily, and then execute your front roll. Repeat this sequence, gradually reducing the pause between the crawl position and roll.  

Advanced progressions include executing the jump at higher speeds or from swinging off a bar or branch.  The environment you train in has a big impact on how you move.  Keep the complexity manageable so your body can effectively learn the skill. Build your confidence with these advanced expressions on training mats or soft ground and take a progressive approach so you can feel the skills come together.

 

The Process

Remember that this skill is for the sake of higher level performance...which means you gotta earn it!  First step is building a foundation of proper mobility and stability that comes from restorative movements like moving on the ground, balancing, and squatting.  Mindful practice of each of the individual skills is also very important. This isn’t a challenge just to dive into.  On the contrary, see how many moving part are here and respect the process.  Play the long game. Intention, consistency, and progressive practice day in, day out redefines what’s possible in our lives.

Keep moving and love your practice.

-Kellen

Movement Minute - Clean Up Your Crawling

Hey! It's been a minute. Happy New Year.

It's great to bring back the Movement Minute for 2017.  My aim is provide a lot of value in this little segment.  Being a movement junkie for many years now, I've come to realize that good movement lies in the details. So in addition to movement demonstrations I'll also start adding explanations of more nuanced elements of these natural movement practices.

This week we're talking about crawling and the importance of stable shoulder positioning. The idea is that when supporting bodyweight through the arms, it's crucial to have a solid connection to the ground, sound structural integrity through the arms, and active engagement through the shoulder girdle.  When you start crawling around in space, maintaining proper shoulder positioning and support is crucial to avoiding injury and moving like a ninja. 

The video will explain the key points to keep in mind for the upper body when going through crawling patterns.  This will not only make you a cat-like crawler, but also improve your push-ups, presses, overhead lifts, and even handstands.  When you step back to look at it all, it's pretty cool how all these movement patterns connect.  Step back more and you'll begin to see how these movement connect to the larger context of your life, but that's a conversation for a different time. 

That's all for now, friends. Keep moving, love your practice, and savor the process.

Movement Minute - The Squat Get Up

The single-leg squat get up is one of those stupid little movements that looks so easy but is so humbling if your hip mobility is lacking.  This is the natural movement equivalent to pistol squats, which have always been a challenge for me. 

For a long time, my attempts were fumbling my way off the ground a few inches only to come crashing back down in an awkward thud.  (Some ninja I am) 

I then proceeded to sweep this one under the rug.  Can’t win ‘em all, right? I had plenty of alternative means of getting my ass off the ground so I wasn’t too worried about it.  Maybe it will just show up if I keep practicing around it. 

 

It didn’t. This movement kept gnawing away at me, but I kept ignoring it. 

 

My ignorance caught up to me during the physical tests for the MovNat Level 3 course. There was no way around it now. I skirted by on the slimmest of margins.  But the message landed; I needed to ditch my excuses and start earning this one.

 

No one variation will make or break your movement practice. The important thing is whether or not you can get up from the ground without using your hands.  Once you can do this one way, you can begin to look for other options to expand your toolbox.

 

Honestly, I’m still earning this one. I have seen this movement come with the greatest of ease for many people, but this one has been the Achilles heel for me and others. However, I have made a lot of slow progress over the years.  But in my experience, slow progress is real progress.  

 

The initial reaction is usually one of rationalization; I can’t do this because [fill-in-your-favorite-excuse].  I lift weights too often. My ankle dorsiflexion is just sooo bad. It’s a stupid movement anyways. Been there. 

 

An amazing thing happens when you stop looking for reasons why you can’t do something, you start looking for a solution.  

 

The single-leg squat get up requires that you are strong in hip flexion.  From a seated position, pull one leg in planting the heel as close to your groin as possible.  Use the strength of the ankle, hip, and core to transition support from seated to standing on the foot in a pistol squat position. Complete the get up by standing up from the bottom of the pistol position. Simple, but not necessarily easy.  

 

The video feature the progressions that have helped me build better hip mobility to start making progress.  Here is a short description of the main drills:

 

Sitting Variations

All of these various sitting positions have stand alone value for building strength and mobility. Specifically, these sits have helped me build strong hips and core strength.

  • 1/2 Long Sit - one leg straight out in front, one leg bent
  • Bent Sit - knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Side Sit - one leg tucked in front, the leg wrapped back behind the body
  • Butterfly Sit - soles of the feet together, actively pulling knees to the ground

 

Use active muscular engagement in each of these positions, you goal is to squeeze the creases of the hips in a fully flexed position.  This feels awkward at first but as your body gets more comfortable with this strength it yield more range of motion.  When you demonstrate greater responsibility, you are rewarded with greater freedom. Just a little embedded life lesson.  Anyways, I hold the strongest posture I can manage and even introduce reaching and rotating motions in all planes to further build active mobility.  

 

Squat Get Up (assisted)

The transition from the long sit to the bent sit and then up into a deep squat positions.  This one can be scaled by bolstering the hips a few inches off the ground lessening the demands of hip flexion.  The mobility badasses of the world can perform this variation without the use of the hand, no problem.  Us, tight/weak hipped folks, may use the assistance of our hands to transition into the squat position.  You can use some momentum to pull the feet in; I don’t call it cheating, it’s nervous system education. 

 

Rolling Squat Get Up

Using the momentum of a full supine roll is a great way to transition into the deep squat. For the longest time I struggled with this one, but it taught me a lot about the timing involved in the squat get up.  

As I'm coming up from the roll, I pull my feet in strong, push my knees open, and reach forward to bring my center of mass over my feet. My times I’ll stall here and just practice rolling into my deep squat and mobilizing the hips in the narrow stance. 

 

Rolling Single-leg Squat Get Up

The same movement as above, but when exiting the roll you only pull one leg in and pull into the pistol squat position.  Some flailing and balancing my occur but this is a very educational movement to teach the joints stability.  

 

Tuck Single-leg Squat Get Up

Next, I take away most of the momentum and just use a small rocking movement and hard tuck on the leg to transition into the pistol squat position. I love training these last two progressions for reps and I cite this as the biggest contributor to my overall progress.

 

Single-leg Stand Up

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that standing up from the pistol position is hard.  If you’ve never worked pistol squats before this may be the challenging piece of the puzzle for you. I suggest using the assistance of a fixed object to start building the strength.  When you can perform 1-2 reps without assistance keep “greasing the groove” with many sets spread out through the days and weeks.

 

The bigger point to highlight here is that sometimes it’s the simplest movements that get overlooked because they reveal glaring holes in our game.  Rather than turning away from the things that humble us, lean in and start creating a path. The skill is a nice addition, but the process is where we cultivate the tools to become better students. 

 

The Single-Leg Squat Get Up isn’t sexy or impressive, it’s just basic human movement.  On the other hand, if don’t possess the mobility for it you don’t have to shut down your training and hit the panic button. We needn’t be fanatical about acquiring elusive movement skills, but don’t discount them either. Try this one out. If you got it, cool; now refine it.  If not, try some of the progressions and practice the ones that feel the most relevant to you at least several times per week.  

Check-in from time to time on the full pattern and recognize your progress and little wins along the way.  It might clean up in a few weeks, or it might take years.  What matters most is that you're willing to put the time in sucking at some something, knowing all the while that it’s only a temporary situation.  Better comes along naturally. 

Movement Minute - Hanging Variations

Hanging is Everyday Movement

Step back to see the big picture of modern life you see the ways in which technology and convenience enhance our lives but also deprive us of nutritious movement.  This concept of mindfulness is applicable here, observing the current reality without judging it.  Nevertheless, this thing called natural movement can really change your perspective on healthy living.  

 

Perhaps no other movement embodies the “movement phobia” we have in our culture better than hanging.  Life is simply not set up for us to climb.  Climbing gyms exist as a haven for specialized skill work; that’s awesome but hanging should be as common as walking.  In everyday life, there aren’t many easy opportunities to hang…so we don’t hang.  Habitual sitting and screen staring dominates our time as pulling movements are devalued.  We return to the monkey bars like it was a vintage toy only to find the ability is long gone.  

 

The focus for this week’s Movement Minute is an array of hanging variations to show some love to your shoulders and bring this very human movement back into regular rotation.  The video shows a lot of fun stuff but don’t worry we’ll also cover applications and progressions so you can figure out how to hang your way. 

 

Going Beyond Pull Ups

One of the reasons I think hanging gets swept under the rug is the 1:1 association with pull-ups.  People see a bar at the gym and that’s automatically a “pull-up bar.”  Now I have nothing against pull-ups, but they’re a small piece of the bigger picture of how we can use our shoulders in a climbing context.  Trying to do a pull-up before your body is ready is either demoralizing or it looks like a train wreck.  If you can do pull-ups and you’re mindlessly banging out reps, over time your tissues and joints can get bound up and become stiff and painful.

 

Balance the practice. Make pull-ups a part of a larger scheme of climbing and hanging movements in your training and everyday life.  Consider the possible reasons you would want / need to climb around as well as the design of your shoulder.  By thinking beyond the context of just exercise you’ll begin to get a sense of the many options and expressions for hanging.  Let’s take a look at some possible applications.

 

Shoulder Prehab

I mentioned the common imbalance that occurs when we sit and compute all day.  We end up slumped forward and when we spend enough time like this we mold into the shape.  This posture does nothing for our strength and mobility zero favors but sets us up for injury and breakdown.  

The standard active and passive hang, scapular retractions, bent arm pull thrus, German hangs, and spinning hangs are prime examples of variations that can rebalance the shoulders and prevent breakdown / injury.  Our shoulders are capable of a lot of movement, the goal is to develop this range of motion with build strength around it. 

 

Training Practical Skills

The practical application is always a good place to look when determining a “why” for training.  Endless pull-ups will get you swole (possibly overly swole) but can you hang for extended time? Can you climb on top of a surface and move in all planes?  Good questions when it comes to the idea of being strong for the real world.  Here are where some of the video variations apply in terms of practicality.  

 

Endurance

Leg hooks and elbow hooks are useful tools for endurance hanging.  Bodyweight is distributed across more points of support and the connection is closer to the center of gravity which equates to hanging for longer.  Hanging for extended periods teaches a lot about breathing and learning to keep the effort where it’s needed and relax everywhere else.  

 

Climbing & Traversing

The leg hooks and the forearm hang provide additional support and better leverage for the practical task of getting on top of the bar.  The swinging traverse and power traverse build strength in the front and transverse planes. These skills are good options to diversify training and build adaptability for different environments.  

 

Rope Climbing

The rope can be intimidating as it demands greater grip strength.  However, the additional support provided by the leg wrapping techniques makes it very doable. The video highlights two different rope climbs - the inside wrap and the outside wrap.  Both are secured by squeezing your legs inward and clamping the rope with your feet.  

 

Modifications

Holding the weight of your body in your shoulders and arms takes a great deal of strength.  Any of these variations can be modified but the tricky part is finding the right environment to practice in.

Hanging becomes more accessible when you can keep some of your bodyweight on the ground (or on a box) and exert effort. This effort is the stimulus that will strengthen the muscles, joints, and nervous system.  I’m not a huge fan of assisted pull-up machines or resistance band help because it’s easy to lose the internal focus on the sensations and the effort. These tools can create the appearance of strength without building a true foundation. 

Once again, mindfulness and consistency are the keys to unlock the potential.  The consistency piece comes together when you can infuse your lifestyle with more opportunities to climb. Install a bar, a set of gymnastics rings, or a climbing rope and take time each day to hang.  Hang for the sake of hanging. Hang because it feels like freedom. Hang because you value your health first and the performance goals will come together in time.  

Movement Minute - Minor Adjustments

Minor Adjustments

Maintaining a state of balance is a on-going process of making minor adjustments.  The appeal of balancing practice for me is recognizing how impactful a subtle shift can be, the difference between stability and “flailure”.  

 

Naturally, this week’s Movement Minute revisits the 2x4s for a balancing sequence and some musings on why this practice is so relevant to life.  

 

First the practice. Two wooden planks laid parallel to one another; a simple context to dial in your mindfulness and focus. 

 

I planned on some jumping, vaulting, and squat walking for the day’s session.  This balancing sequence was a perfect warm-up. I performed 3 rounds with a short rest in between sets.  I started with a free-form practice to build the sequence.  In the second and third rounds I try to polish up the movements as much as possible.  It’s fun, but I don’t get lost in play. The intention stays rooted in quality movement.  I performed the following movements for about 10 reps (best arbitrary number ever). 

  • Deep Knee Bends 10x
  • Deep Knee Bend Reach10x
  • Tall & Low Reverses 10x each
  • Precision Stepping 3 x 10  Lateral, Forward & Pivot, Rotational 
  • Jump Switch 10x 

 

Points for Better Balance

For static balancing you might find stability in a visual focal point, but bringing movement into play requires you to feel movement from the inside out.  Your sense of touch provides you a wealth of information to make the minor adjustments of balance. Your feet and hips are greatly responsible for processing position changes and making the calibrations to keep you steady.   

 

Balance is dependent on how well you can keep your center of mass over the structures that are supporting you.  Understanding this concept will demystify balance and give you a way to troubleshoot. 

 

Practice slowly at first.  It's tempting to use speed to mask inefficiency. Build strength in a diverse array of positions and practice moving in and out of those positions.  Slow practice becomes smooth, fluid movement; an integration of techniques with symphonic execution.

 

Balancing is a Metaphor for Life

Some days I'm on point, some days a hot mess.  And just when I think I have it all together, something unexpected comes my way.  Life is a series of interruptions to my love of stability and predictability.  It again comes to down to how apt I am at making the minor adjustments to these hiccups.  Lately, I’ve been coming to grips with this paradox of life. Training continues to provide a tangible way to trust that, with intention and effort, everything will work out.   

 

This particular practice appeals to my introverted nature; slow and methodical while I understand every part of the movement.  Similarly, if you have trouble slowing down in your life, this routine could potentially help you hit reset.  I think of it as a moving meditation; a chance to be patience and present within the process. 

 

Balance isn’t inherited. It’s something to hone through exploration and trial & error. Balancing atop a shaky foundation is not balance at all. True balance comes from spending time out of your comfort zone and earning your stability. It feels like you’re in control, even when the situation looks precarious from an outsider’s perspective. While that control may be fleeting, time teaches the subtle art of rolling with punches.   

Movement Minute - Minimalist Conditioning

Thanksgiving is over and winter is officially knocking at the door.

 

The summer months supply a generous amount of daylight and warmth that make outdoor excursions a pleasure.  Even this fall was kind enough to keep the party going. Now, it’s just dark and cold and my routine is in serious shift.  It's not without it's charm...at least that's what I tell myself.  

 

Anyways,  I thought it would be a good time to share a simple, no-equipment conditioning workout for this week’s Movement Minute.

 

I’ve said it for years, training fluctuates with the different phases of the year.  Better to roll with it that than to resist. The biggest changes I find myself adapting to right now are more time indoors and the craziness of the holidays.

 

As temperatures drop, training outdoors is more of a personal challenge than something I can’t wait to do.  Running, jumping, tree climbing, rock hopping, it’s just not as much fun outside when you’re all layered up. I’ll get outdoors some but when the choice comes down to frigid temperatures and the gym, I’ll usually take the gym. The challenge is figuring out how to move more when you’re confined to a smaller space.

   

Accounting for the holidays and all the eating and drinking that come along with them is a legit struggle too. I end up doing more conditioning work in the winter just to compensate for the fact that everywhere I turn are cookies, pies, and delicious sweet treats.  Turn around again, and there’s just booze…Wisconsin’s #1 coping strategy for the winter.  Sure, pour me another.

 

THE HOLIDAYS ARE A TIME TO SLOW DOWN, TO ENJOY GOOD PEOPLE AND RICH TRADITIONS. I REMIND MYSELF TO KEEP my FITNESS AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBle during this time of year.


Minimalist Conditioning

Keeping fitness simple to stay consistent for the long haul is one of the most important factors to long-term success. This 23-movement sequence is an example of what I call “minimalist conditioning” and it's a great way to avoid paralysis by over-analysis and over-complicating your training. Just do it...mindfully. 

 

This is all context-free movement goodness. No equipment necessary, but a timer and towel could come in handy.  This is a great practice to get your fix of nutritious movement and while also getting in an effective, time-saving workout.  Bonus: if you find yourself frozen at your desk or on your couch, this is a really quick way to thaw out. 

 

In the list you’ll find a blend of calisthenics and natural movement patterns. I perform each movement for 60 seconds (30 seconds per side for unilateral movements) before moving on to the next.  This template is a flow from one movement to the next, but you can build in rest intervals.  

 

I keep the focus on my breathing and performing the reps as consistently as possible from start to finish. Thinking about of the potential practical application of each movement will keep you engaged and keep the movement quality high.  

 

I stayed in the shot for filming purposes only; I recommend that you branch out and explore all the space you have. Don’t think of these as exercises to be performed the same way every time.  Instead, think of it all as movement research and figuring out these patterns for your body. 

 

  1. Arm Circles
  2. Shuffle Steps
  3. Standing Cross Crawl
  4. Skipping
  5. Step Overs
  6. Shoulder Pitch Rotation
  7. Squat Rotations
  8. Tripod Get Ups
  9. Side Sit Switches
  10. Plank Shoulder Taps
  11. Sprawls
  12. Single Leg Hinges
  13. Tuck Jumps
  14. Crossback Lunges
  15. Crawl Pass Under
  16. Reverse Plank to Pike
  17. Rolling Squat Get Up
  18. High Knees
  19. Squat Spirals
  20. Lateral Shuffle Crawl
  21. V Sit 
  22. Hollow / Arch Roll
  23. Side Plank Star 

 

This holiday season, don't overcomplicate your life and risk giving yourself an excuse to not move. Keep this routine posted and get it in anytime you need a quick boost.  Set the timer and go, you'll be glad you did.

 

  If you're looking to take your movement & health game up a level for 2017, I am so down to help.

Schedule a consult with me and learn more about online training here.

Movement Minute - Intro to Handstand Training

It was around this time back in 2012 that I started really getting into handstands. I found myself without a gym so I had to adapt. Up until then handstands were just a fun way to pass time, I had no clue how I would approach them for fitness.  I had a little experience and plenty of YouTube videos and that was enough to dive in. 

 

I got to a pretty decent level on my own, but my approach was pretty raw.  It was when I started teaching handstands that I got to look back on my own process and polish things up.  I learned there is a wide variety in abilities and perceptions surrounding handstands. Going upside down is disorienting and can be scary; overcoming the fear is a huge part of the process. It was cool to see people conquer their fears and gain more body awareness. Ultimately, it’s this body awareness that is the true value of handstand training. 

 

Some perspective. Practically speaking, a handstand is pretty much a useless skill. There are tons of benefits, they’re endlessly fun, and will challenge you for a lifetime, but you don’t need a handstand to survive in the world.  Seems a bit obvious, but I know how this chase goes…see shiny object, pursue shiny object, get frustrated when shiny object stays out of reach. 1st world problems.

 

It’s easy to get frustrated; believe me, I’ve thrown a few handstand tantrums over the years. Let that shit go. Truth is you've got a lifetime to practice. Along the way there will be times of great progress and times total stagnation. You can’t force the process, you just have to accept what each day brings. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s the lesson (and the hidden life lesson) to learn.

 

If I had to offer just one piece of advice for handstand beginners: 

It’s not about party tricks or impressing people. It’s about how the practice grows you as a person. There’s no finish line, no endpoint. Let your practice be yours, free of any agenda or comparisons. Have fun (even when it’s frustrating) and let the process unfold how it will. 

Ok, that's my two cents in how to get your mind right, now let’s talk about the drills.  

 

Take Time to Warm Up

Before you go upside down, prep your wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Your upper body doesn’t support much bodyweight on a daily basis so you’ll need to gradually increase the demands on these areas. Even just a few minutes of some simple stretches and mobilizations will go a long way to better performance and injury-prevention.  

 

Crawl before you HS

High hip crawling - forward and lateral. These drills are great for building strength in the wrists and shoulders and build flexibility in the hamstrings.  If going upside down seems sketchy to you, this will get you acclimated to having your hips over your head.  It's a good place to start and revisit frequently

 

Box Progressions  

Feeling good on the floor? Next step is to elevate your feet on a box.  Start in a plank position and then walk the hands toward the box and allow the body to fold into a pike position.  From the pike position, push forward from the toes to bring your hips over your shoulders. To progress further, raise the elevation or play with lifting a leg overhead. It’s very important here to keep your elbows locked out and palms glued to the ground pushing actively through the ground. 

From here you can start playing with how to exit the handstand.  A cartwheel-like motion off the box will teach your body how to bail confidently, no face planting.  As you get a feel for this you can make the cartwheel bigger.  

 

Jump In with Dynamic Entries

After the previous drills, you’ll have a sense of the strength and stability of your shoulders.  If you feel confident you may start to play around with some dynamic entries. 

From a crawl position, shift your weight forward and push through your feet to jump your hips over your shoulders.  Start with small jumps to stay in under balance (over balance is when you flop over). Start with a tuck or frog position, you can then progress to straight legs.  These handstand hops will get you to find that point of alignment and balance.  Along the way your shoulders will get some good strength reps.  

The point isn’t to handstand just yet. Treat each rep as a way to get stronger and more comfortable with inverting.

 

Wall Drills

In hindsight, I wish I would've spent more time with the wall. It’s not cheating, just don't use the wall as a crutch. It’s a tool.  It isn't about launching yourself into the wall, but learning to find the delicate balance in weight shifting and where to place the effort. How you contact the wall gives you instant feedback on each attempt. 

The wall gives you safety and support which allows you to play around with different positions and spend more time upside down. Back-to-wall and chest-to-wall drills offer different forms of feedback and challenges. Entries, exits, and changing shapes are all very accessible from wall practice.  Even when your confidence is high and you progress to freestanding attempts, keep coming back to these wall drills for strength and conditioning.

 

Sample handstand workout

Handstand strength and conditioning work can be blended with other bodyweight movements or weightlifting.  You can use a circuit approach or straight sets.  However, when you become a handstand junkie you’ll want to set aside some time strictly for skill practice.  In any case, here’s a sample handstand training template to guide your practice. 

 

  • Prep Your Body:  5-10 minutes working on wrists, elbows, shoulders, and thoracic spine.
  • Pick Your Drills:  Pick 2-3 drills and determine the number of sets and reps or time intervals.  Examples:
    • Lateral high hip crawl: 3 sets, 30 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets
    • Feet elevated pike (high box): 4 sets, 20 second hold, rest 60 seconds
    • Back-to-wall kick up: 10 attempts, hold wall handstand for 10-15 seconds, controlled exit, rest as needed.
  • Cool down: Wrist / shoulder mobility drills and resistance band pulls / rows (tip: balance out all that pushing with at least a little pulling)

There are some truly incredible handbalancers out there, people who dedicate their lives to this craft.  However, you don't have to be this extreme to gain the benefits of handstand work. Now you’ve got some great strategies and tools to bring handstands into your fitness training. 

Looking for more ways to bring handbalancing and bodyweight skills into your fitness routine?  

I’d love to help! Contact me and let’s set up a consultation to discuss how to bring new life to your fitness. 

Movement Minute - Log Lifting

Well, this has been a heavy week, hasn’t it? 

Like many people, I have been doing my best to process what is happening. Everyone has their opinion ranging from keep calm to freak the fuck out. The only certainty is that this is something of massive significance. This is not just business as usual. Personally, I’m not sure about it all yet and I’m not going to sort things out here in this post. 

 

Today, I just want to offer a simple (and familiar) message:

Take some space for yourself. Step away from the swirl of social media and news reports, if only intermittently.

Quiet your mind while the emotions simmer. Find some stillness so you can be intentional in your actions moving forward.  

Done on that.

 

I’ve continued to spend a lot of time in the parks this week, getting the most out of my autumn training.  Today I just needed to get away from the computer and out of a walk.  Along the way, I came across a log and a little practice ensued, hence the title log lifting.

What stands out most to me about this (interacting with natural objects, in general) is how foreign it seems if you're the product of the city / suburbs.  We kind of treat walking on a trail like walking the halls of a museum. Take in all the beauty but don’t actually touch anything along the way.    

Nonsense. This is nature, our home.  We should interact frequently and it doesn't have to be overly structured.  Prime example: you’re out walking, why would it seem absurd to carry something with you along the way? Especially if doing so were going to make you a super strong badass. Ironically, the coolest thing about lifting awkwardly large objects is the mental challenge to figuring out how to do so (nerd factor). The uneven weight distribution and the rough texture are two elements that make these objects far more challenging than their traditional gym counterparts.  

 

In MovNat, we have some specific techniques for approaching log lifting.  Understand the basics and then figure out how to apply them to each unique piece of context you come across. I practiced for around 30 minutes - 10 minutes of shoulder carries along the trail and 20 minutes playing with different variations of pulling, pressing, get ups, and carries.  Below is a list of techniques seen in the video.

Clean & Press - Not much of a challenge with a small log like this but a 1-arm version was a lot of fun.

Half Kneeling / Crouching Press - It’s interesting to feel the log fall towards you, absorb it and press it up.  Holding the proper tension and stability in these low positions is challenging.

Half Kneeling Lapping / Get Up - I had never tried this before but proud when it worked out so well.  Your thigh serves as the fulcrum for the log. When it’s balanced you can rest or stand up with it.

Squat Lapping - You can transition from half kneeling to a hinge or squat position for the classic lapping technique. Always amazed at how efficient this is.

Zercher Squat - Hold the log in the crooks of your elbow and stand up.  A favorite squat variation for me made even more bad ass with the log.

Log Flip - A variation of the front swing throw.  This one would be cool to do with a partner back and forth or keep flipping for the length of a field. The power output will get ya.

Rolling - This one satisfies my love for tactile feedback, fingertips on tree bark is great. I get so focused on the touch I don’t even realize I’ve squat walking and am now out of breath. Sneaky.

Carries: Waist, Shoulder, Rack, Overhead - All these carries are just fundamental human stuff. It really doesn’t get more practical that carrying something heavy for distance. 

Overhead Press - Figuring out how to keep the log balanced while repositioning my hands and then while going overhead.  Another sneaky skill and I’ll take it over a barbell any day.

 

So maybe the resistance comes from the dirt factor or the scrapes & scratches. Maybe it’s just not being familiar with how the form changes. Mostly, I think log lifting just gets completely overlooked as a viable opportunity - it's extra weird.  But the take away here is that if you managed to get all the way out into the forest (where there aren't that many people) you might as well complete the experience and get your hands a little dirty. You are in museum of sorts, so be respectful; but it can always be a hands-on experience. 

Movement Minute - Balancing in the Forest

We keep getting these gorgeous fall days, and I gotta say I’ve been dropping the ball a bit on taking advantage of them. This past week I did manage to capitalize on an opportunity to get out to one of my favorite natural training spots in Milwaukee, the Beerline trail.

 

My schedule changed and I just stopped coming to this spot, now I’m kicking myself for the prolonged absence.  I was randomly in the area and the weather was balmy so I took to the trails for a run.  You’re right in the middle of the city and would never know it if you couldn’t hear the traffic.  Occasionally you’ll run into a group of college kids smoking a joint, whether or not you stop to partake is up to you.

 

Right away I spotted this beautiful training situation.  A tree had fallen in just the right way across other trees to create a bridge about 8 feet off the ground.  This is a legit playground filled with obstacles, pitfalls, and challenges.  Hang, climb, swing, crawl, step, duck, twist - you'll use an array of different movement expressions to navigate this space.  

 

It’s times like this that I’m most grateful that MovNat came onto my radar.  In the moment, it was just like second nature to balance and crawl and jump off and climb back up.  It was an automatic response to go into “kid mode” and play and explore.  To do so competently and seamlessly is a direct result of the last 5 years of MovNat training.  I’ve had so much fun training this way, I forget how much I’ve changed as a result.  

 

Anyways, there are a few interesting things to point out with this balance practice...

 

Trail running & Balancing.  I love this particular trail because you can run around to train in different little areas like this.  The combination of trail running and balancing will light you up! The quick precision of running mixed the slow, methodical precision of balancing is a great stimulus.  To stand on a shaking tree trunk after your legs and heart are pumping is an incredible feeling and challenge. Go get you some of that.

Justification for the 2x4s.  We typically train balance with 2x4 planks on the floor.  It’s a fun and a super convenient way to practice balancing skills. But this ain’t a 2x4. This is the practical application, this is when all that gym training makes sense. You learn to feel every footstep, hand placement, or change of position.  You learn to feel the control as your joints and muscles adapt to the stability demands.  The techniques become familiar and you learn to keep your breathing relaxed. It’s good to train in the gym but to also put this stuff to real world use regularly. The payoff is significantly higher.  

A natural puzzle. Each opportunity offers unique challenges and features to adapt to. I spent a solid amount of time deciphering these small movement puzzles - how to maneuver around the branch and how to climb on top and underneath. A little bit of danger raises the stakes higher.  You think twice before you put too much weight on a dead branch. You explore exit strategies and possible alternative routes.  Tactical tree climbing, yeah?  Nature really is all about the fine details.  Stay mindful.  

 

Not to sell short the mental stimulation or physical benefits, but there's so much goodness for the soul in this practice.  The physical act of balancing definitely impacts you.  The calm focus you practice in training just seems to overflow into the rest of life. You feel connected and in control of balance. You slow down and reclaim responsibility for maintaining balance within your own life.

I mean that's the real reason to climb a tree, right?

Ha, or at least something to keep in mind as you go climb and balance on something this weekend.  Have a some fun.

Movement Minute - Expansion in Small Spaces

I’ve been on a working vacation in California this past week, spending time in Los Angeles and San Diego. My intention was to hide out in coffee shops between training sessions at the Original Muscle Beach. 

 

Well I never made it to the beach.  That plan experienced some major interruptions but I did get just what I needed from the trip. Funny how that happens. So while I really wanted this post to feature some Tarzan action on the Santa Monica rings, I had to improvise.  The video is not as visually impressive but the message is deeper.  

 

I know there’s no "right" way to travel, but I am just not one for posh vacations. Sitting on a beach and doing nothing might appeal to many people, to me it sounds terrible. The last thing a passionate entrepreneur wants to be away from "work”.  The last thing an introvert wants is to be on someone else’s schedule.  So my perfect vacation means staying in my groove, soaking up culture, exploring hidden corners, and doing whatever the fuck I want, whenever I want to do it.  That's perfection, in a vacuum.  

 

Now, there are no expectations of this perfection.  Actually, when I travel I expect situations that challenge my attachment to the work I love, the routines that ground me, and my pattern of being completely self-reliant.  And these expectations were certainly met.  Thanks Universe for giving me just what I needed, even if it’s not what I wanted.

 

So my challenge was confinement. A new set of temporary parameters for my existence.  I found myself contained on planes, trains, and in AirBnB rooms.  I was subject to house rules and restricted access to the amenities that add convenience to my life. I was on a timetable just about everywhere where I went. In short, my introverted ways were seriously interrupted.

 

And through this restriction, I was able to grow.  Even in the smallest of spaces we can find enough a wiggle room to expand.  And that's powerful enough to break the most rigid mold.  The video here parallels such an expansion.  Within the smallest space on a patio in Escondido, CA I found a solid flow and just what I needed.  There was no need for a giant playground or fully equipped gym, not even a mat. This is simplicity at it's best, an understated honest expression.

 

Just for context, I had spent the entire day up until this point traveling. I just needed some practice to bring me back to life. Just to generate some energy so I could bring my everything for a presentation the following day.  A four-piece flow with some variations - downward dog, crawl kick thrus, knee bends, and a forward fold.  As always there are some variations along the way.  

 

The sensation and sound of my skin skimming across the tile was the inspiration.  The feeling of hands and feet pressing into the cool tile and the outer edge of a foot scraping across surface like the sound of a sword cutting stone. Maybe that’s weird but sometimes that tactile stimulation is the defining why and nothing more is necessary.  The body is always collecting proprioceptive information but the brain doesn’t always have to solve some problem with that information.  There doesn’t need to be a corresponding goal or adjustment; it can just feel good.  Like marveling at a sunset, the movement can simply be appreciated on all levels.  

 

This idea of expansion is yours to flesh out. I'd argue that to bathe in our experiences is as valid a means as achieving defined goals.  In either case, it's in theses small spaces where we expand towards self-mastery.