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.

The Movement Minute - High Step Ups & Hip Mobility

The Movement Minute is a segment I started a few weeks,  movement goodness in under 2 minutes.  It's a quick highlight of a movement practice to help bring more play and creativity to your fitness.  I've been digging how it has been shaping up so I’ll start keeping them archived here in the blog.  

 

This week, I was going to play with some handbalancing but during my warm up I took a detour towards hip mobility.  There are worse places to get distracted.  Stretching turned into stepping and this cool blend of practice was the result. The movements remind me of dance, martial arts, yoga, and hiking.  

 

Historically, flexibility/mobility have been pretty much the most confusing pieces of my fitness practice.  How long? What’s the right form? Stretch before or after? Does it cause injury?  For years, I remember not being clear on anything about stretching. 

 

I stretched more as a kid because it felt good and I was bendy. I look back now and see somewhere along the way I got the message that stretching is for women, dudes gotta lift.  Also, that stretching put you at risk of injury, so said the studies.  It’s crazy when your intuition can just get completely undermined by enough external influence. 

 

The years passed and the training (read: damage & tension) added up I was slowly wound up tighter and tighter. Over time, all that tension just becomes our reality.  We don’t even remember any other way, don’t know how much health we’re missing out on.  We just chalk it up to the aging process and let out an obligatory sigh.

 

My biggest challenge was that stretching (as I knew it) was boring and had too many rules.  It’s taken time and some experimenting but I’ve been finding ways to integrate more stretching into my life.  As a basic template for my stretch sessions, I focus on just 1-2 stretches and set a timer for the length of practice. This simplicity goes a long way in producing results and preventing boredom.

 

In this Movement Minute, my two main patterns are the straight leg stretch and high step up. 

 

The straight leg stretch is classic, but I want to train it like a dancer or a martial artist would…not like a weekend warrior trying to fit in a run before Sunday football.  The stretch is active, I’m not just allowing the position to stretch me. I am using strength to pull my toes back and engage my quad. I’ll fold forward or hold myself upright and draw the hip back into socket.  I’ll rotate through my shoulders to bias different parts of the hamstring. I'll rotate my entire body sideways to shift the stretch to my hips and inner thighs. These little “flossing” movements coupled with deep breathing make a huge difference in relieving tension. Additionally, I try to actively lift my leg on and off the platform.  This active control is not really all that fun (get ready for some cramping) but damn it builds strong hips.

 

The high step up is a practical task turned mobility work.  From a standing position, lift your knee as high as possible and find a platform just a little higher to step up to.  You can see I use my arms to help me up but I am focusing on pulling from the crease of my hip.  The idea is to express and build strength when the hip is in a deeply flexed position. This combination of strength and stretch is what build mobility.  In the variations, I’ll try to hold the bottom position, bring the back leg up, move from sitting to squatting. If I let my hip open to the side, I get a stretch that feels a lot like the “pigeon” yoga pose.  Gravity and resisting your own bodyweight are the secrets to unlocking the hips in this practice. 

 

Other variations emerge from these two patterns as I continue changing positions throughout the 15-20 minute timeframe.  Find the appropriate height for the platform and you'll likely see and feel improvements in a matter of weeks.  The pay off comes when you go out hiking or climbing and you discover you're Spiderman.  Open hips and hamstrings make everyday movements no big deal.  You’ll actually enjoy physical tasks more when you feel a greater degree of control in your body.  Enjoy the little things, like your mobility, and you'll retain these abilities for a lifetime. Want to defy your age? Get those hips moving and stretch a little bit everyday. 

Lessons From an Urban Interlude

FALL TRAINING SEASON BEGINS

Around the middle of August, summer starts to drag and I’m officially over it. The midwestern days and nights are uncomfortably hot and humid and life slows down accordingly.  My thoughts drift ahead to cool air, crunchy leaves, hoodies, and football.

 

Enter Fall. So much room for activities, it’s by far my favorite season.  But fall will ghost on you if you’re too concerned that winter is coming.  Resist or deny the passage of time and you end up missing out on all the good things; I’ve learned this lesson in years past.  At least there’s no Ice King or army of the dead on the way, so we’ve got that going for us. 

 

These are the days, right now.  The ones that are simply too beautiful to not immerse myself in; I’ll call today the official start of Fall Training season.  As usual, I spent the morning glued to my computer.  Eventually, I closed my laptop and wandered towards downtown.  I found myself at the base of Milwaukee’s iconic orange statue in O’Donnell Park (I never knew this but its appropriately named "The Calling”).   Perfect place to land today.

 

The air holds a touch of crispness while the sun warms the entire landscape.  A fleet of clouds drift through the sky; abstract reflections on the face of the Northwestern Mutual building.  The dull clap of Feiyues meeting the pavement.  The roughness of the stone scraping the skin of my fingertips.  I’m just saying, when you step back and take in the full experience, damn, it’s inspiring.  

 

MOVEMENT BREAKDOWN

This is a huge outdoor pavilion characterized by concrete structures, railing, and open grass space.  I rarely train here and I have no idea why; the opportunities are exceptional. It’s well suited for how I train in the fall - parkour and calisthenics, somewhere between work and play.

 

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by what to do in such a large space.  Choosing boundaries and focusing on 2-3 movements provide just enough structure to guide the practice.  I sectioned off the area to practice jumping, squatting variations, and handstands.  A session like this I love to freestyle for a bit to see what kind of drills emerge; after that, repeat and polish.  My warm-up was two rounds about five minutes each; the video captures round two.  Here’s a list of the movements and a short description.   

 

Single-leg Balance / Falling Step - It always amazes me how basic single-leg standing wakes up the hips and core, great stability.  Falling forward steps build “touch” and hip mobility. Developing sensitivity to accept weight dynamically through the legs and a nice dynamic stretch.  

Deep Knee Bend Step - From the falling step transitions easily into a single-leg knee bend. Engage the single-leg and torso (push into the ground, brace the abs, draw shoulders back)  to step the back leg forward and back.  Knees and quads are getting some serious work with this movement.  It’s one to work up to, but once it’s locked in it’s a very useful balancing position.

Deep Knee Bend / Forward Fold - Standard deep knee bend, I always emphasize the upright posture for alignment.  In the fold, the heels drop for a deeper stretch in the posterior chain and the feet & ankles get some extra activation.  Practically, this is a nice little counterbalancing movement should you find yourself flailing. 

Squat Side Stepping / Shifting - An essential variation for me, I love it. The ledge makes this one much more challenging.  That single-leg deep knee bend comes in handy right about now.  Shifting weight with a wide stance builds hips that are strong and mobile.  This is one of those “fountain of youth” type of movements. 

Lateral Shuffle Crawl - I was surprised I didn’t fall off at some point, maintaining balance between each stride is tough. The ledge really challenges you to keep your body in-line.  If the forward fold mobility is present, it's a great drill for press handstands and cartwheels.  

Handstand - Small variables makes a significant difference in a precision practice.  In this case, the little bit of height and some gusty winds made handstands extra challenging.  Later, I trained my 1-arms on the ground…because I’m not that cool yet.  However, I did manage a little weight shifting at height. 

Split Jump - Warming up this sneaky complicated movement. Approach, take-off, landing- in each phase a lot goes into the split jump.  This little ledge is a perfect way to reduce impact and practice precision landings.  And of course you gotta train taking off of both legs.  Shout out to my homie, Brandon Sewall, who is even more obsessed with the idea of "both sides” than I am.

Squat Spiral / Crawl -  Single-leg knee bend, again! Now spinning on the toes, it’s tricky, tricky, tricky…Spatial awareness, rotation around a central axis, and just a badass looking transition.  Right into a crawl, exit stage right. 

 

TAKEAWAYS

So many little lessons show up in training if we take the time to look closely enough. These same lessons typically apply to life in some way.  They usually serve to reinforce what we already know and keep important themes at the forefront of our attention.  So here’s what I took away from this particular session.

 

The warm-up set the tone for the rest of the session. The movements naturally progressed to more challenging expressions. It was a very playful session but also very productive.  Building out some parameters kept me reigned in just enough.  

Takeaway:  When creating anything: set an intention and work from an outline. Not having a plan can be as paralyzing as an overly restrictive one.   

 

There’s a kid in the candy store effect on a day like this. It would’ve been easy to skip a proper warm up, but I resisted the urge to dive right in and indulge my desire to soar through the air.  As a result, my practice had a definite crescendo and come down.  No injuries or major mistakes. Win.  

Takeaway:  Slow your roll. Exhibit some patience. It ultimately makes the whole experience more fulfilling. 

 

I wasn’t very concerned with the people around me, but I did make a conscious effort to approach my training in a certain way.  I understand that my monkey behavior is a bit deviant. From the outside, there are a lot of questions or assumptions.  In our litigious culture, everyone is concerned that you’re going to get hurt and sue.  I strive to make it clear that I’m working with rhyme and reason.  I don’t push to be daring, so much as dialed-in.  If conversation arises, I love the opportunity to share what this is all about.

Takeaway:  DON’T be concerned with judgement from other people.  DO be conscious of how you’re actions are being perceived. Always be an ambassador for your values.

 

I could’ve just pushed through my intuition and trained at the gym.  It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  I could’ve trained all the same movements, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same experience.  The walk, the training, the sunshine, the wind, the people, it all created an experience to renew and challenge me on a higher level.

Takeaway:   Work needn't be a grind all the time. Stop, check-in, listen to your body, and consider what it would benefit from most. Sometimes it’s ok to just savor the flavors. 

6 Keys to Training While Under Stress

In case you didn’t know this about me, I am highly revered across many circles of young children.

 

My movement skills have brought me a great deal of notoriety, second only to Johnny Karate.  My prowess in crawling & climbing and playing better than pretty much any other adult around has earned me the nickname Jungle Gym Kellen.

 

I’ve been riding high on this title and all the fame and accolades associated with it…you know free juice boxes, VIP playground access, mobs of small fans.

 

So this is what it’s like being Drake...

 

And then this week it all came crashing down.  The ugly face of fame revealed itself.  One of those filthy little buggers got me sick with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.  Look it up.  Actually don’t. It's a virus, it's gross, and depending on the strain it’s pretty much the most annoying week of your life. 

 

So that’s it, I’m done.  Out of the game.  Hanging it up. I’m officially retired. 

  At my peak, I was almost this awesome.

At my peak, I was almost this awesome.

 

At the time of writing, it’s 4:54 AM.  I can’t sleep.  I've been out of commission for a few days.  I rarely get sick so obviously I'm grumpy AF.  But my fever just broke yesterday so clearly I'm going to train.  Monkeys got a monkey, after all.  The show must go on.  This post details how you can train effectively when you're dealing with some extra stress.

 

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of illness where you’re on your deathbed.  Or when you’re overwhelmed with the kind of stress associated with a traumatic event.  We’re talking about the minor interruptions here.

 

Learning how to train while you are sick or stressed requires a delicate balance.  Conventional thinking might suggest that you stop moving all together at first sign of a cold.  Let's be clear, this.is.absurd.  On the other hand, if you're like me being sick / stressed is a temporary limitation you probably don’t deal well with.  The idea that you might need to slow your roll for a while is like being grounded as a teenager - all kinds of F.O.M.O. and maybe a tantrum in there too.  

 

The video is sharing some highlights from my recovery practice this week.  The movements are scaled from what I do and not intended to be an exact template.  If you find some new patterns in there, great, but expressing the movements in a way that works for your body is the bigger takeaway message. 

 

As usual, the intention put behind the practice is more important than the logistics.  The beauty of recovery practice is that it creates space to focus on being over doing.  The benefit to stress is that it makes use stronger, builds our capacity to be anti-fragile.  In the process of managing stress, you'll learn a lot about your body and grow your intuition.  It's good to deal with a little bit of suck every now and then.   

 

As you are managing your movement practice amidst some stress, keep these 6 key points in mind along the way.

 

Mindset 

First, get your mind right.  Now is NOT the time for PRs.  Your mindset should be focused on giving back to you body.  It's easy to fall into the trap of pushing for more performance.  It’s also common to train hard to release mental / emotional stress, and end up adding extra physical stress to the body.  It takes discipline to keep your mindset focused on listening to what your body has to say, rather than challenging it to achieve.    

 

Familiar Patterns / Relaxed Movements  

The movements best suited for recovery are the movements that are already to familiar to your brain and your body.  Break down the movements into smaller pieces and learn them inside and out.   Stress manifests itself physically as muscular tension.  So strive to move in a relaxed state.  I modified my back bends, arm balances, deep squat, hanging and used deep breathing to release areas of tension.

 

Positions of Stretch  

Along the same lines as using familiar patterns, recovery practice is about revisiting familiar positions that create relevant sensations of stretch in your body.  Slow down the tempo as you search around for tight muscles.  Find a position of stretch and camp out there for a while - breathe deeply and make small adjustments to refine the position.  My tendency is to store tension in my hips and lower back - most of the ground positions I end up in target these areas.    

 

Spinal Articulation & Circular Movements

The saying goes, “you’re only as young as your spine.”  For this reason, I pay a lot of attention to flexing, extending, bending, twisting, and rolling movements.  The spinal column is incredibly versatile.  We take that for granted and before too long disuse causes the spine to become stiff.  Our brain loses it’s ability to map out and control how all the individual vertebrae articulate.  Then we get stiff and chalk it up to being old.  These waves and circular movements provide great input to help the brain remember that the spine is meant to for a wide variety of good movements. 

 

Shoulders & Hanging 

Our shoulders do a lot for us and they deserves some love.  Stability in the shoulders is developed in the crawling movements.  From a standing position, the arms / shoulders are free to articulate in a full range of motion.  Circular movements and reaching (push / pull) work well here.  Again, the brain gains a better understanding of shoulder mechanics and the joints are lubricated.  From a hanging position, the shoulder girdle traction is a welcomed stretch to the tissues and may help the joint center in-socket.  Where climbing / pull-ups are more performance-oriented, hanging variations support healthy shoulders without over taxing the body.

 

Breath Work 

Traditionally, a cool-down is some half-assed stretching mixed with some chit chat or smart phoning.  I’ve always figured "what’s the point?” My experiences in yoga highlighted the power of breathing to close a practice, what’s known as “savasana”.  I realized that this few minutes at the end of a class was a big part of why I left feeling so good.  I translated the practice to my training, closing with a series of 30 or so deep breaths in a comfortable seated position. Feel the belly, ribcage, chest, and back all expand as the lungs fill.  Allow the breath to release without force. The body oxygenates, the mind calms, and some space is created to reflect on the training session. 

 

That’s all for now.  Hopefully, this little virus of mine is eradicated promptly.  In the meantime, I’ll keep a smile on my face and I’ll keep moving.  

Let me know if you have any questions regarding recovery practice and sign-up for the newsletter for more ideas on how to master your practice.  

The Mindset to Winning At Life

 

The Game of (Your) Life

No, not the board game.  The messy, uncomfortable, beautiful game that is your life.  The game in which you can be any character or walk any path your choose.  The one with far fewer concrete rules, infinitely more options, and no instruction manual...not even one of those super vague IKEA manuals.  Looks like we're figuring this one out together.

 

We’ve all had times of deep existential reflection where we examine our purpose for being on this planet.  Usually the thoughts are scattered and they quickly overwhelm us.  So we busy ourselves with logistics and tasks.  We put those philosophical questions on the shelf until the next event that triggers our soul search.  Therein lies the ultimate balancing act...

 

How do we live a life of purpose and intention without getting overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all?  

 

When we can strike that balance, we’re showing up in the world and giving value to others.  

When we’re focused on the mission at hand, but keenly aware of the bigger picture.  

When we hold love, authenticity, and vulnerability as priority and let it shine in all that we do. 

 

This, my friends, is winning at life.  

 

Now...how do we get there?  First, let's expand of definition of “winning”.  Our mindset around what it means to win at life is essential to making it happen.  It isn’t only synonymous with more money and toys or dominating the competition.  

 

To win at life means we’re thriving in our existence - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

But we're in the midst of a culture of scarcity.  Fear and our economic framework drive a mentality of scarcity.  Hoarding, excess, and hyper-competition are the themes.

Beliefs in a scarcity mindset sound like this: 

  • If another person succeeds, ultimately it means there’s less success available for me. 
  • Generosity is a fool's game.  You should never give without away your resources for nothing in return. 
  • In order for everyone else to get by, I need to keep myself small and survive on scraps
  • It's a dog-eat-dog world out there. Cling tightly to what you've got and don't give up and inch.

 

I’ve been there, entrenched in a scarcity mindset.  Funny thing is that, other than this story, there was nothing scarce about my upbringing.  We didn’t have all the things but we definitely had everything we would need…adequate food/water/air, a home, education, and love. 

 

Yet, I look back and see that I was constantly gripped by a fear of "not enough”.

The illusion that I don’t have enough and therefore I am not enough.  This led to the thinking that I’ll be happy when…

  • When I have enough money
  • When I live in the right place
  • When I have the right support system

 

Now, I look around and see evidence of this mindset everywhere.  We see obstacles as immoveable and become paralyzed.  We deny our personal power to create change. 

Instead, we settle into waiting and wasting time...and nothing changes.

 

a THRIVING EXISTENCE SITS PERPETUALLY OUT OF REACH.

  

This is rooted in old stories and fairytales.  One where if wait we long enough, good things happen and happiness results.  We wait for life to happen to us.  This vicious cycle is mentally and emotionally crippling. 

 

IF YOU ARE TO THRIVE, YOU NEED TO INTERRUPT THAT BULLSHIT.

 

The good news is that with just a simple shift, you can begin to deconstruct this inherited story, reclaim your power, and build something stronger.  The new story is that you can choose your own adventure.  

 

YOUR PERCEPTION DICTATES YOUR REALITY

It all begins with the awareness that regardless of what happens you have a choice on how you view it.  Nothing is inherently “good” or “bad” until you decide it is so.  You may choose how you perceive the world and therefore how you show up in it.  

 

To go a little deeper, life is not happening to you, you are creating it.  

 

Understanding this logically is not the same thing as truly feeling it to your core.  

 

When you focus your efforts on what you control, you reclaim your power.  You basically become a magnificent unicorn.

 

However, it is a gradual shift.  A process of continually peeling back the layers.  Everyday is an opportunity to bring creativity and enthusiasm to your thoughts, choices, and reactions. 

 

Is this some buried secret of the universe or woo woo new age jibber jabber?  

 

For me, it's just a strategy for dealing with the paradox of life.  Strip away any context that doesn’t work for you.  All that matters is acknowledging that you have a choice.  By taking ownership of your internal experience through the changing conditions of the external world, you position yourself to expand and thrive - A.K.A. Winning at life.

 

GROW YOUR COMFORT ZONE…FOR THE WIN

The old story frames thriving as dependent on ideal conditions - financial wealth, a flourishing career, a loving family dynamic, vitality & health. 

 

I would argue that these are not actually conditions necessary to thrive, they are products.  Thriving is the result of accepting and adjusting to the flow of life.  Falling into the flow means learning to see the opportunities to for self-development within everyday occurrences.  

 

We all have a comfort zone, I visualize it as our own personal bubble.  Within this bubble are all the experiences we’ve assimilated into our lives, colored and textured by our perceptions of them.  Beyond the comfort zone lies what is currently unknown to us. 

 

Bubbles overlap where we hold shared experiences with other people.  This drives connection and empathy that builds deep relationships.  Within these spaces we can redefine ourselves and we can expand our own comfort zone.  

 

This bubble analogy highlights a simple concept, we are constantly shaping and being shaped by our reality.  You can choose to outfit your bubble as a bomb shelter and wait life out.  

Or the alternative: Fill your sphere with high-quality energy, build empathy in your relationships, and watch yourself and your tribe expand. 

 

Start a winning streak by doing the inner work that stretches your boundaries.

 

This work is the foundation for how you show up and connect with others.  Relationships that hold authenticity and vulnerability keep us growing and thriving. 

 

On the Road to Winning

Winning at life is a process of shaping your perception, showing up as your awesome, authentic self, and expanding your comfort zone.  When winning ceases to be dependent on what happens, you can focus on true growth.  Regardless of what goes down, you're constantly learning, growing, expanding, winning.  

 

That timeless state of being “unfuckwittable".  

 

You’re going to stumble.  It’s going to take much practice. And you’re never going to be anywhere near perfect. 

 

But you putting in the work to play the game of life at your highest level - that shit matters. 

 

The subtle shifts in your perception create subtle shifts in your interactions which, over time, lead to massive shifts in the overall consciousness of humanity.  Taking responsibility for your personal expansion is how you play your part.

 

We’ve covered a lot of ground here.  Let me leave you with a review of the key points to keep in mind daily as you build momentum and thrive.  

  • Reality Check.  Remember your reality is created and reinforced through your core assumptions of the world.  Like a smartphone app, core assumptions need to be updated regularly.  Observe how your behavior stems from your core assumptions. From this awareness, you can recognize what assumptions may be revised to drive new behavior and expansion. 

  • Speak to Yourself with Love.  Have you ever caught yourself trolling yourself?  We say the most bizarre, outrageous, hurtful shit to ourselves. We are our own worst critics.   We harp on the illusion of perfection and diminish our power with negativity.  Yet, you are the hero of your own story.  You get to advocate for your needs, accept your flaws, and continue striving for better.   Practice positive self-talk.   Cut yourself off when you start spiraling into the negative and start showing yourself unwavering compassion and confidence. 

  • Practice Empathy.  Empathy is the frequency of connection. It honors the reality that everyone is doing their best to navigate this human experience amidst their own baggage and pain.  When you let go of the need to defend your views, you'll connect more deeply in your relationships   Every interaction is an opportunity to practice.  Empathy comes through in both words and gestures. It genuinely communicates “I feel you”.  When empathy is mutual, everyone wins.  

  • Join Your Tribe. Lead Your Tribe.  The people that recognize your particular brand of weirdness.  The people that you gather around the campfire with and share stories. The people that help you get to know yourself.  Those are your tribe members.   How do you find them?  Identify your 3 biggest values and live as an example of them.  Stand in those values with no apologies.  One-by-one your people will find you and your voices grow louder together.  You’ll empower each other to step your game up to new heights. These relationships and spaces are where life is won.

 

For anyone out there stuck on repeat.

For anyone out there struggling to find their way through this maze.

For anyone out there that feels deep down that they have so much more to offer.

 

This was for you.

 

You’ve got all the tools you need and more power than you know.  Moving forward starts with your perspective.  Your challenge is to keep putting yourself out there, keep exploring.  You might have gotten the message that winning life is about keeping up in the human race.  

 

Don’t get it twisted.  

 

The game is won when you go into your depths and emerge to tell your story. 

 

The Paradox of Life

20120930-DSC_6861-Edit.jpeg

 

The Paradox of Life

"Man makes plans & God laughs."

The comical truth of this proverb has always brought a smirk to my face.  It sums up what I call the paradox of life.  We love to have a sense of order and control around our experiences.  Yet, life pays no mind to our individual agendas.  The paradox is that we’ll always be creatures of habit in a random world. 

 

Life is movement.  Life is change, instability and uncertainty; a continuous flux of fleeting moments.  The events that take place in our lives are inherently neutral until shaped by our perception.  We build our reality based on how we interpret events.  Life is a stage for our stories to play out.  Life provide the subject matter and we do our best to improv.   

 

Humans seek efficiency and stasis.  We want to view reality from a fixed vantage point.  We crave routine, clean lines, and predictability in this ever-changing world.  We cling to past events, fixate on future outcomes, and repeat patterns of behavior.  We create stories and cast ourselves as recipients of tragedy or triumph.  We are well-crafted for movement, but we resist being moved.  

 

Life is constantly applying forces that will mobilize us, test us, or inspire us.   We falter when we feel these forces and push back.  Push is cancelled out by push back resulting in no net movement.  Think of time where you had the chance to leap at a opportunity, but you passed. That’s push back, or resistance.  Usually, the opportunity presents again (life is cool like that).  When we choose to move with the push, we create a different outcome.  Lowering our resistance, we generate momentum and drop into the flow of life.  

 

"Adulting" is more than holding down a 9-5 and paying your bills.  If that weren't difficult enough, it's also about building self-awareness and managing the paradox.  The higher our awareness the more apt we are at making adjustments to stay in the flow.  Indeed, adulting is difficult.  I'll offer a few points that have kept me grounded along the way...

  • “This is bigger than you.”  Best.check-in.ever.  Acknowledging that my story is unique but one of many that is woven into a much larger tapestry.  Knowing we’re all out here doing our best with what we’ve got.  I recognize that how I show up in life affects the world and I take that seriously.  Love people and bring it to them with compassion. 
  • Own that shit.  Own your responsibility for adapting to what life throws your way.   Own your strengths and weaknesses. Define them with objectivity, wear them with pride, and love them hard.  Own the choices you made to get you to where you are. Own that you’re not limited by your current situation.  Empowerment comes through ownership and accountability.
  • Fortune favors the bold.  Boldly trust that the paradox exists to support you in becoming a better version of yourself.  Boldly, hold faith in who you are, over what you’ve done.  When we face the unknown with deep self-confidence, life makes way for us to excel.   Upon this, create an unshakeable foundation and "dare mighty things".

 

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Movement || The Paradox

Shit got weird, didn’t it?  Yup.  It usually does and that’s exactly why Movement || Life exists.  It’s all for the sake of connecting practical movements to abstract ideas.  To connect movement practice to core values and higher consciousness.  To view movement as a tangible vehicle to create more depth in this human experience.

 

In our current frame, both movement and life are subject to compartmentalization. It is easier to micromanage movement as fitness or exercise.  It is easier to micromanage life as a collection of the roles we play.  Yet, in this, we often segregate the body from the mind and ignore our heart's input all together.  This input is our intuition and we can develop it to be a powerful guiding force.  To hone intuition is to strengthen the internal compass that serves us in navigating life and facing the uncertainty with confidence. 

 

Movement has been my vehicle to build intuition.  Fitness was always my outlet for self-expression and empowerment.  Then I tumbled down the movement rabbit hole and began to experience the world in profound new ways.  Now, the life lessons I learn are reflected in how I train.   Sound bites and "truth bombs" on better living are all over social media.  They are repeated and reposted until the deeper meaning is lost in the click of the “Like” button.  But it's not enough to know these lessons, I want to live them. 

  • Stay present in the process.  By exploring what my body can do in different environments, I stay aware of my strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.  I am fully immersed in my work such that comparisons and judgement fade away.  In my process is where I expand, the end goal is just a mile marker.
  • Relaxing into flow.  Tension provides stability. Relaxation enables change. Too much tension, we are slow to adapt.  Too relaxed, we are unfocused.  Am I not trying hard enough or trying too hard?  When balanced properly I find a state of flow and perform optimally.  
  • Expansion occurs in recovery.  Alternating periods of stress and recovery (work and rest) enable growth.  Our culture places high value on taking action, but rarely recharges properly.  In training and life, this leads to breakdown or stagnation.  I have learned to take my rest as seriously as my work.
  • Relationships are reciprocal.  I used to ask a lot from my body and expect high performance.  There was an imbalance in my relationship with my body.  This is the same as that girlfriend I took for granted or that one I put up on a pedestal.  Now I seek ways I can give in my relationships.  Even something as simple as giving myself some compassion.  Harmony, interpersonally and intrapersonally, comes through giving and receiving. 
  • Growth minded.  In a fixed mindset, I’m entitled, self-centered, and impatient.  Through my practice I'm building a growth mindset that will sprawl through my life.  This is a mental place where my achievements are the result of my effort and my worth is not solely tied to success or failure.  

 

This is so much more than fitness, circus tricks, or whatever else resides on the surface.  Go deeper.  Movement is a means to understand the craziness of life and practice the values that you choose to be about.  The paradox is always going to be in place.   We get to find our own means of managing the uncertainty to expand and thrive.  There will be happiness, sadness, pain, fear, love, and laughter.  It’s a package deal.  If you choose to insulate, you numb yourself to all of it.  If you choose to lean in, you have to know you’re going to fall flat at times.  

That’s how it is.  

Might as well go for it.  

How Natural Movement Changed My Life: Letting Go

Movement & Life...como viene

Natural Movement has been the impetus for me making some major changes in my life.  What began as a simple shift away from exercising in the gym to training in the outdoors, turned out to create a profound shift in how I see the world.  In the gym, everything was laid out for me, everything had a specific purpose.  In the natural environment it quickly became apparent that I I couldn't just change the lay out to suit me.  A tree is not a piece of equipment, and it's on me to figure out how to climb it.   Outside, I got to survey every landscape and adapt accordingly, a union between body and mind.  And within this practice I was learning a huge life lesson. Take it as it comes. 

 

Life is happening right now.  You choose to resist it or you can choose to accept it.

 

My life had been characterized by resistance.  Firm agendas and limiting beliefs on how I should train, work, play, interact, love, etc...  I viewed every life obstacle as a problem that needed to be fixed.  In training, physical obstacles weren't problems, they became learning opportunities.  This opened the door to see life challenges through a different lens.

 

Take it all as it comes. accept it with gratitude.  

 

Damn. That moment when you realize you've spent a lot of years fighting against the current of life.  As my awareness has grown through training, I see how I've been relying on so many crutches.  Behaviors and actions that have held me back from living an authentic existence.  

Crutches keep us comfortable.  Losing them means standing on our own. This is self-work. It's uncomfortable, it will stretch you, it will leave you vulnerable...fuck it, do it anyway.  

Part of the problem is we've all become so conscious of not losing face.  Yet, everyone has their baggage.  When we take ownership of our baggage it creates space for a new story.  Take a deep breath and go first...

 

Health & fitness crutches.  All the programs I've followed. All the supplements I've consumed. All the flashy athletic apparel, accessories and apps I had to have.  Beating my body into compliance with my "fitness goals". Though it all served a purpose at one time, none of it was ever as necessary as it seemed.  Now, I can let that shit go and create health on my terms.

Relationship crutches.  Settling for texting over talking to avoiding deeper connection.  Shutting down to escape pain. Clinging to my ego.  Taking the people I love for granted because they have always been there…someday they won’t be.  These crutches once served to insulate me from a world that seemed cold.  I ended up freezing my heart.  Time to let that shit go and love as freely as a I move.

Everyday crutches.  A mindless acceptance of convenience via elevators / escalators / chairs.  A dependence on constant electronic connection & entertainment. A reliance on substances to amp & mellow.  An addiction to junk food & junk media.  A general avoidance of anything uncomfortable  - temperatures, sounds, opinions, activities.  The tighter I grip the reigns the more elusive happiness becomes.  I've been playing it safe and small, but just getting through the day unscathed is no longer enough.  Let that shit go and immerse yourself in your life.

 

I still cling to some of these crutches, it's a work in progress.  Time isn't the enemy, it's an inspiration.  This is my continual journey of letting go and creating more with less.   All it took was an interruption to my mindset of entitlement and fear.  For me, that interruption has been natural movement.  A vehicle to embrace my unique greatness.  A grounding force in my commitment to stand on my own and live in my own standard of excellence.

 

And I recognize that this strength resides within us all. 

What kind of interruption will shake your soul?

How Natural Movement Changed My Life - Freedom to Move

 Photo credit: 414 Photography

Photo credit: 414 Photography

Making Sense of Movement

It's been just over four years since I started practicing and teaching fitness from a natural movement perspective.  When I started, I was traveling around the country every week leading events, sharing MovNat, and figuring out movement on my own terms.  I hit a wall after about 18 months and decided to step away to assess.  I didn't know if MovNat would just be a phase, that thing I did once upon a time or if it would stay with me.  I took a 2 year hiatus from working for MovNat but I never stopped applying the principles in training, coaching, or in my life. I see natural movement (or the absence of) everywhere and in everything I do.

Now I am back on the MovNat leadership team and just returned from events in Los Angeles and San Diego. These days, I'm coaching from different place. I am honored to use these events as an opportunity to share how I MovNat and allow others to find their own style. What started as a set of techniques has turned out to go so much deeper.  While MovNat is a phenomenal foundation for any fitness endeavor, my message is that it can be so much more - if you're open to it.  For the first time I'm sharing, from the heart, how MovNat has changed my life.    This will be a series of short posts where I briefly explain some of the layers in which Natural Movement has enhanced my life.

 

Freedom to Move

My experience of the mainstream fitness industry in a nutshell...

So many systems, so many tools, so many people pushing shit that doesn't work, so many people clinging to dogma,  so many people trying to hack their way to health without building a foundation, so many people sacrificing health for excessive fitness, so many people confined to their comfort zone.

And just as I was starting to question this whole paradigm, MovNat came onto my radar.  I was tired of arbitrary workouts and running myself into the ground. I was tired of chasing goals that weren't really mine. I was really tired of judging myself and comparing myself to others.

I wanted to define fitness on my own terms.

I didn't want to conform to a mold or be limited by any one identity - CrossFitter, bodybuilder, yogi, runner, baller...I wanted to embody many of those qualities. I wanted to be strong, fast, powerful, flexible, athletic

...and pain free, confident, disciplined, focused, connected, and joyful.  That's all, really am I asking too much?

Natural movement provided me a framework to create this in my life.  A way to decipher the primary concepts of any fitness system / discipline and take away the most relevant pieces to add to my practice.  MovNat helped me see the connection between different dialects of the language that is movement.  More than a set of techniques, MovNat became a way to understand the connection between the many different compartments out there.  To begin tearing down the walls and creating an integrated approach to training that suits me as an individual.  As a result, my training became about how I move through the world for practicality, play, and personal expression.  Regardless of the time of day, location, or situation, I feel confident and free to move to support my health.

And now I get to pay it forward.  Come work with me at a MovNat workshop or Schedule a Movement Mindset Session and start creating change today.

Free Movement Snack - Overs & Unders

Free movement is playful, practical, and personal. It’s a means of exploring the world at large. The ability to move with confidence and to adapt to any environment. Free movement comes from dedicated physical preparation and holding a child-like mindset of curiosity.  These Free Movement Snacks are meant to give you some philosophy and some to structure to help you see the world in opportunities and begin to take movement out of the box.

The Philosophical

We are the sum of our patterns.  Sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 10 years...your desk becomes your prison.  Spend a lifetime playing it safe, refusing to believe in your own greatness...your mind becomes your prison.

When continuous effort yields no change in scenery.  When every thought is edited and every action is scripted.  When every step is forgotten before it was ever taken.  This is the treadmill.   Whether we're speaking in terms of movement or living,  the treadmill is not the optimal environment in which to grow.

Spend enough time on a treadmill, your life will become one.

Movement is how we interact with the world.  If these interactions are solely outcome-dependent or mechanically-assisted we are patterning an existence of disconnection.

How you move matters.  Not just to your body, but to your being.  Through movement we can break the patterns of fear and limitation that are restricting our human experience.  The process of moving naturally can lead us to different patterns.  Limitation can turn into opportunity, doubt can transform into confidence.

Day-to-day, the way in which we move patterns what we expect out of this life.

Expect to be a dynamic being. You are capable, adaptable, passionate, and authentic.

Expect to be mindful.  Be conscious of your environment and the other organisms you share space with.

Expect to create your existence.  Your current circumstances do not dictate who you are or what you are worth.  Accept responsibility for living your own truth.

 

The Practical

Overs & Unders are a simple practice that promote mobility, balance, spatial awareness and foster the process of moving intuitively. Commonly seen at higher levels in the parkour world, the practice can be scaled to any level.  Isolated techniques of vaulting, crawling, jumping, and low gait provide a greater array or options to move through the given context - here I'm playing within a scaffolding rig we have at our gym, but it could easily be a park bench, bike rack, or hand rail.

The fluid quality of the movement (and the conditioning from this practice) is earned from basic mastery of a few techniques.  Mindfulness in practice leads to skill. Skill leads to options. Options lead to expression and flow.  Begin with training the following three techniques and gradually transitioning between them.

  • Duck under. Pass under the obstacle by hinging at the hips and maintaining a flat back position with hips and head at the same level.  Practice passing just under the obstacles and close and quickly as possible without making contact.  Lower obstacles will demand greater hip mobility and challenge posture.
  • Tripod Vault.  Support is created on the hand and opposite foot.  Approach the obstacle, place the support hand followed by the support foot.  The free leg passes under the body and over the obstacle to contact the ground and continue movement.  As the speed increases, the support leg will bear far less weight only touching the obstacle for a brief moment in transition.
  • Turn Vault. Place two hands on the bar offset from the midline of the body.  Jump upwards and tuck the knees.  As the body elevates over the bar, twist towards your hands.  Hands will release from the bar briefly and reposition as you change orientation 180˚.  You land facing the opposite direction.

Pattern an existence that reflects your greatness and live that shit every.damn.day.

-Kellen

Life, Training, and How To Savor The Process

It's good to be back from a little writing hiatus.  I find there's an inherent ebb and flow when it comes to creative development. There are periods of dynamic growth alternated with frustrating traffic jams.  This phenomenon is simply what I have come to call the process.  The process is always running in the background of everything we do.  Admittedly, I'm obsessed with observing the process and so it's the subject of today's musings.

The process is life unfolding, the passage of time coupled with the intention to do something with that time.  The process is messy, uncomfortable, challenging, and unique. To go through the process requires tenacious effort and unwavering faith.  The process gives us what we need, at the time we need it. Life is a process and every endeavor in life has it's own process.

To better make sense of the process, we build outcomes. Landmarks or endpoints within a process.  Outcomes allow us to plot a course and make deliberate moves from point A to B.  They are clean, easy to grasp, and allow room for comparisons.  Outcomes build our confidence within boundaries.  We love us some outcomes in today's society.

The process and the outcomes are interrelated concepts.  The process is an infinite sea of potential, the outcomes are our course in navigating these waters. All process and no outcome - we drift aimlessly.  All outcomes with no mind to the process - we become trapped in our own design. We need both frameworks to enjoy a full human experience.  Yet as I look around, I see lot of focus on outcomes and very little love for the process.  As I reflect on my journey in training, I know there's room for a better balance.  We must take time to savor the many flavors of the process.

Outcome-focused Imbalance My fitness started out as a chase for outcomes, namely a "beach body" or high performance.  There was an underlying assumption that the more fitness I could attain, the better my health would be.   I spent years pushing my body hard towards the outcome of health.

I began to feel the physical and mental toll.  I was burning out my energy systems.  I was fragile, constantly injured. And worst of all, my thinking was ultra rigid - I had become a slave to my routine.

I had spent years confined to formulaic exercise and mechanical movement.  I had to break the cycle of mindless fitness goal setting.  My preoccupation with outcomes was robbing me of my humanity and turning me into a machine. The harsh reality set in. I was out of balance. My fitness was actually costing me my health. This was the result when chasing my outcomes became more important than the process itself.  It was time to reevaluate.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."
-Anais Nin

Process-focused Growth I didn't one day just say "fuck it" and throw out all my goals.  It was a process just to embrace the process. My new goal outcome was getting back to balance.   Gradually, my attention shifted to movement skills, exploration, diversity, and play.  I came to a greater appreciation of quality over quantity and joy over obligation.  Increased mindfulness curbed my tendency to rush haphazardly to the next step.  I learned to be more present in the moment. I learned how to patiently build myself up one day at a time.  Progress was the by-product.  It all started flowing more easily once I got out of my own way.  My growth was deeper and more sustainable.  I was on my way back to being a human.

We live in a culture that obsesses over outcomes, demands achievement at any cost.  For me, natural movement training was the endeavor that plugged me back into the process.   Mindful movement and minimal living became woven into my lifestyle and progress began to unfold organically.  Ultimately, this physical progress would lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual development.  Over the years, the process beneath my movement training has illustrated an array of valuable life lessons and brought me to a deeper understanding of myself.

As a coach, I strive to do more than just hand out the blueprints to better fitness. I work with my clients to build a process-focused approach to training. By drawing awareness to the process we explore the spaces between training and life for a richer existence.  Here are some quick ways to gain more process-perspective in your own life.

Embrace your failures. You're not entitled to the outcome you are pursuing.  Learning through your failures builds your intuition and molds your understanding of what works for your body.  Josh Waitzkin calls this "investment in loss"-  failing fast and failing often is essential on the road to mastery.

Question the beaten path. "...because that's the way things have always been done" is not an acceptable reason for doing anything.  A better approach exists.  Conventional will only get you so far. When it comes to your personal practice,  individualization is everything.  Do you, and fuck the naysayers.

Learn from everyone, everywhere, always. I have been privy to many great thinkers and a lot of bullshitters. There were lessons to learn from all of them.  For any given interaction or observation, find a message can you take away.

Handle your shit. Your issues will stay your issues until you resolve them. Physical, mental, emotionally - baggage is baggage.  Search for the root causes of your chronic injuries. Challenge your self-limiting beliefs. Recognize your patterns in relationships.  Awareness is the first step to transcendence.

Unzip your files.  Apply new knowledge and make it your own through experience.  Revisit old concepts that you've packed away, see if there's an opportunity to build a deeper understanding.  Learning is an ACTIVE process.  Make space in your life to synthesize your own values, to answer your own questions, and to build your own frameworks.

Live life with vigor, ambition, relentless determination...and stay humble enough to remember that none of us has all the answers.  Never stop exploring.

-Kellen

Rings: The Best Workout You're Not Doing

When in comes to strength & conditioning, it’s the simplest tools and methods that stand as the most effective. Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls build strong bodies and are never out of style. Let’s face it, there ain’t nothing like the old school. Today, I want to talk about an often overlooked tool.  A tool that has the potential to build freakish upper body strength and maintain healthy joints and connective tissue.  A tool that is ultra versatile, portable, and affordable.  A tool that, with the right training, will sculpt your physique and turn you into a superior man.

I’m talking about the gymnastics rings, the greatest upper body workout around. Seriously.

For the record, I’m not gymnast (file that under shit general movers love to say). Like you, I’m a regular guy that just wants to be strong, lean, and athletic for a lifetime. I’m always experimenting with different practices that might support these goals.  My journey into ring training started a few years ago by playing around with different movements and skills.  However, it wasn’t until I finally bought my own pair that I got the full experience.  This was pretty much one of the best investments I’ve made for my physical training. In hindsight, I wish I had been put on to the benefits of ring training much earlier in my journey.

5 Reasons to Train Rings Gymnastics rings don't get a lot of hype. They're absent from mainstream gyms and under-utilized in many CrossFit gyms.   But I’m telling you, the rings are legit - do yourself a favor and buy a pair.  And in further support of that cause, here are my  top 5 reasons why rings are the greatest workout you’re probably not doing.

1. Building Muscle Gymnastics rings are an effective way to build muscle. You can half-ass your way through some basic calisthenics and weightlifting. Not so much with the rings, there is no cutting corners and no bullshit.  You have to earn every single step forward in ring training.  Building muscle is about stimulating your muscles to grow.  The amount of stability required to perform the exercises properly supplies this stimulus and growth happens.   The secret is simple, rings make you work harder to control your own bodyweight.

2. Joint Health, Functional Strength & Body Awareness The rings are a unique tool that allow you to strengthen a greater range of motion and force the body to be connected.  The slower progressions through exercise allow the shoulders and elbows to adapt for greater strength and resilience.  The exercises build functional strength in the sense that the body must be connected to be successful. This yields a more effective training and significantly increases body awareness.

3. Versatility  It's not all about iron crosses, levers, planches, and other such freaky gymnastic skills that may take years to master. The basic progressions for strength & conditioning as seen in the video are great for general fitness.  Pretty much anyone can learn these exercises and understand how to adjust the leverage to make an them easier or harder.  This stuff won't win you any gold medals, but it will get you ripped and impress some people.

4. Portability The rings travel anywhere and it's easier than you think to find a place to hang them.  At the gym, hang them on a pull-up bar or squat rack.  I’m a big believer in moving outdoors as much as a possible.  Explore your local parks and you’re going to find a few perfect tree branches or playgrounds to accommodate your ring training. Bonus you’ll get in more nature time and more walking time and you need that.

5. Cost Expect a decent pair of wooden rings to run you about $70 USD. Plastic rings will be around $40 or $50 (hint: buy wooden), or the DIY-lovers can construct some for under $20 (biased opinion: buy wooden).  Regardless of your choice, this is a nominal fee for “tha gainz” that are going to be yours.  Training equipment is an investment in yourself.  When it comes rings the cost / benefit ratio is unbeatable.


Starter Ring Workout

Lastly, I want to leave you with a template to structure your ring sessions. These are the  most foundational skills from the video that will build your strength and joint integrity.  The workout can be performed in straight sets or supersets.  As always quality of movement is king, scale each skill to your current level.   Build up slowly and safely on your path to more bad ass skills and combinations.

A1. Ring Push Ups / Plank Hold - 8 Push Ups / 10s Plank Hold,  4 sets A2. Body Rows - 15 repetitions,  3 sets

B1. Arm Support - 10-30s hold, 4-6 sets B2. Dips - 3 repetitions, 6 sets

C1. Pull Ups - 3 repetitions, 6-8 sets C2. Active Hanging Tuck / L - 10s hold, 5 sets

D1. Triceps Press - 8 repetitions,  3 sets D2. Biceps Curls - 8 repetitions,  3 sets

Free Movement - Tree Climbing Shorts

Free movement is playful, practical, and personal. It’s a means of exploring the world at large. The ability to move with confidence and to adapt to any environment. Free movement comes from dedicated physical preparation and holding a child-like mindset of curiosity.  These Free Movement Snacks are meant to help you see the world in opportunities and begin to take movement out of the box.


Seizing the opportunity When the stressors of life build up throughout the day, eventually my focus and productivity start to break down. When this happens I'll take a 30-minute movement break to recharge my spirit and reclaim my focus. These breaks get me moving beyond the context of training and create a new normal for how I move day-to-day. And that's where free movement comes in making climbing trees well within the boundaries of my normal.

These tree climbing shorts happened during a recent movement break a few days ago. I just meant to go for a walk but if I see a climbing tree, I can't resist. The way I see it, what good is training if it doesn’t enable your freedom?

There are 2 more tree climbing shorts from this session on my YouTube channel here and here.  The intention is to help you introduce some free movement into your own practice.

Breaking down the physical skills Vertical jump:  A lot of coordination involved in the jump alone, but the real tricky part here is spotting the catch.  Keep your vision locked on where your hands will catch the branch. Take a test run and touch the target spot a few times.  Assess the integrity of the branch and whether you'll have adequate power.

Hanging & Brachiating: The ability to hold the hang takes a fair amount of grip and wrist strength. Side note: I feel a lot of carryover from working false grip on the rings. Coordinating the swing of the body requires the perfect blend of tension and relaxation. The body needs to be slightly rigid to move in one piece to create the momentum for movement. Relaxing the shoulders enough to fall into each backswing is key to finding the rhythm.

Swing Up:  The classic MovNat technique. This one will take some time, but feels so good when you nail the timing. You learn to love the scrapes that come along with the learning process.  One leg hooks over the branch, the straight leg swings down to produce the upward momentum to efficiently transition on top of the branch.

Balancing: This ain’t 2x4s or logs, the stakes are higher.  So take what the environment gives you.  Take the time to really establish and trust every foothold and hand hold  Feel the shifting of your weight with every movement. Learn to use your shoulders, knees, thighs, and back as points of support.  Always maintain a sense of control.  Move with intention. Breathe.

Slap Landing:  Perhaps a good rule of progression would be don’t climb a tree you wouldn’t be ok jumping out of. The slap landing increases that comfort zone.  This technique disperses the force of the landing across a greater area. The slap uses the ground reaction force in a rebound effect that brings you back upright and on your way.

Benefits Often times I get asked, "why would I ever do this?".  It's a tricky question because climbing trees is about the feeling.  Words simply don't do justice to the experience.  However, here are some of the perks that might get you to try.

  • Sneakiness. You’ll feel like a badass spy once you realize people walking by rarely notice you.  A lesson in restricted vision and low levels of mindfulness. Don't abuse your new super power.
  • An overt sense of human freedom.  People might see climbing trees (or life, in general) as inherently dangerous.  Yet when you're up there being mindful and making solid decisions you come to understand that you are in control - in the trees and in life.
  • Crazy tactile stimulation and novel proprioceptive input. Tree bark feels amazing the same way walking barefoot does. Your sensory system lights up and craves more…pretty soon you’re groping every tree in sight.  As a result your kinesthetic intelligence increases.  Read: climbing trees makes you smarter.
  • Diverse loading patterns and cognitive problem solving. Trees provide a unique context to which we must adapt. As a result, the body experiences unique joint positions and diverse forces. Moreover, our minds are allowed to do what they do best, problem-solve.
  • Ridiculous amounts of fun. If I could only give one reason, it would be this.

Get started Start reasonably. Do NOT go out to the park with the intention of climbing trees like when you were 8 if you have not done so since then.

DO go to you nearest natural area and OBSERVE. Survey the area and take an inventory of the possible opportunities.

If you’re just getting started spend a lot of time hanging.  Find a limb, spend a minute or two hanging and then move on to others. Build your conditioning with lots of attempts and lots of rest in between.

Now, if you’ve got some experience spend some time at one tree.  Figure out a route and practice moving through it with greater efficiency.

Take time to sit & relax. Take in the view. Let the natural curvature of the tree cradle you.  This is life.

Laying the Groundwork - Integration

Laying the Groundwork is a presentation of how I conceptualize movement.  My intention is to share the tools and methods I use in hopes that it helps others build their own culture of movement. There's nothing magic here, just an in-depth look at basic movement that through practice will yield greater awareness, foster new connections, and set the stage for substantial growth.  Movement is a gift -  value it, enjoy it, and share it.

Free Movement

The Groundwork Integration video represents a blending of all the developmental positions from the Groundwork series - quadruped, side sit, supine, prone.  We've taken time to work the individual movement variations so they can be woven together into fluid movement for the purpose of self-expression, play, or practical function.  This process of integration results in what I have come to call free movement,  the ability to move like water through any environment.

Free movement allows us to play, create, and interact within any environment. Free movement is a state of mind; a different lens to view the world.

Through this lens it becomes clear that life is rich with opportunities to move.  When we move freely, health and happiness become our primary motivators. I know this may sound fantastical, but maybe you can see what I'm saying through my movements more clearly than my words.

The Groundwork series began by looking at all the individual pieces. This final segment is meant to illustrate how and why those pieces might fit together. This isn't a choreographed sequence.  My primary intention is to freely move in the moment.  I have learned to let my imagination take the lead to produce fluid transitions from one position to the next.  Crawling to sitting. Sitting to rolling. Rolling to squatting. Squatting to kneeling. Kneeling to rolling. Rolling to crawling...one movement simply integrates into the next.  There are many nuances that can't be fully expressed in writing. The subtle layers of breathing, alignment, weight shifting, sequence & timing, tension & relaxation are all revealed through consistent practice.  Grant yourself permission to explore.

In recent years, these ground-based movements have become the foundation of my practice.  They keep my body supple, my awareness sharp, and solidify the culture of movement within my life. This daily practice has boosted my movement IQ, allowing me to learn new movements and explore new disciplines with ease and confidence.

Wherever I am - a park, forest, beach, playground, gym, or urban setting - I'm able to express free movement.  To me, that is a beautiful freedom to have.

And before long, I came to recognize that freedom overflowing into all areas of my life.  Shall we go a little deeper?

The Movement / Life Equation In a complex environment, like the body, nothing operates in isolation. I see many people struggling to (micro)manage their lives.  They use brute force to will themselves towards goals. Ultimately, this force is always opposed with some kind of resistance.   The answer is found in flow, not force.

Free movement enables a connecting of the dots and allowing the whole lifestyle to come into view. How you train, how you work, how you leisure, how you fuel, how you heal & recover - it's all intimately connected.   Zoom out - Work. Family. Friends. Fitness. Nutrition. Recreation. Emotion. Spirituality - it's still all connected.

Infuse each individual piece with mindfulness. Integrate them all into a single way of life.  Experience the positive upward spiral creating a better, fitter, healthier you.

So I got to thinking, how could we ever quantify all these elements and the space between?  Could an equation ever represent the recipe for happiness?  The Movement / Life Equation is what I ended up with.  Movement provides a parallel to life, we are how we move.  Mindful movement promotes mindful living.  Integrated movement promotes an integrated worldview, an understanding of how everything connects.  The sum is a life that is aligned from within, a life worth living.

Mindfulness + Integration = Alignment.

This formula understands health as a composite of all your thoughts and actions. A blend of what goes on inside you and around you.  Good health broadcasts positivity into the world.  It sets in motion a continuous cycle that enhances the environment and the health of others. Making your health a priority in every action you take enriches your human experience, and the world around you. Maybe a bold statement, but I would be remiss to overlook that there's much more going on here than movement tricks. It all begins with you...and returns to you.

M+I=A.  Be present. Move and live, freely.  Because your health matters. To all of us.

This is the final installment of the Laying the Groundwork series.  This series has been a personal journey to articulate the connection between how I move and how I live.  Hopefully it's given you some ideas to contemplate.  The development of your movement practice is highly personal, unique, and encompassing.  The process that unfolds is one of self-discovery. I hope you're use these fundamental ideas and movements to build your own practice. Within these basics lies immense depth.  To tumble down this particular rabbit hole is an incredible journey. Dive in and enjoy it.

-KM

Free Movement - Solo Throw & Catch

Free movement is playful, practical, and personal. It’s a means of exploring the world at large. The ability to move with confidence and to adapt to any environment. Free movement comes from dedicated physical preparation and holding a child-like mindset of curiosity.  These Free Movement Snacks are meant to help you see the world in opportunities and begin to take movement out of the box.


 

The current state of the human condition presents an odd paradox that I'm really not cool with; we're becoming very comfortable with allowing external sources to direct our internal experiences.  A by-product of the age of information, we are becoming much more likely to Google the answer, before even attempting to ponder the question.  Fuck the process.  We want the facts...summarized in easily digestible language...10 minutes ago...with a ribbon.

Everyday I see this paradox manifest as I witness people on the chase to be fit.  The mainstream health industry (external source) dictates the standards of fitness for us and will gladly sell us what we need to chase those standards. 'Murica: where cardiovascular capacity and obsessive strength rule the day and more is never enough.  Meanwhile, other valuable qualities fall through the cracks.  Skills such as balancing, agility, quickness, coordination, and fine motor skills go unused or undeveloped.  Too often there's no bridge between our childhood practice of play and our adult practice of exercise.  All the hours spent in the gym exercising won't translate into the ability to move with fluidity and grace through any environment.  Random acts of fitness will not equate to free movement.

I'm here to tell you that there's a different way.  We can take this concept of fitness and define it on our terms. We can mold it to the landscape of our unique lives.  Fitness needn't be an overwhelming act of drudgery or self-abuse. Fitness shouldn't be a product to sell but it can be the product of a life-in-balance. I'm here to tell you that movement can be mentally stimulating, spiritually inspiring, AND physically effective.

How do you get to this state of mind? You were there once upon a time...

Back before exercise,  before sets & reps, counting calories, calculating macronutrients, before HR monitors, FitBits, and tracking every.possible.metric.

Back before we magnified every bodily imperfection. Before we knew how to actively dispute our own happiness. Before we became experts in undermining our inner strength.

Before all that egoic drama, we lived in a perpetual state of wonder, fueled through play.  As kids, we met each day with unbridled enthusiasm for the all the potential adventures and small mysteries we might encounter.  Play sessions were organic and spontaneous.  Our energy levels soared into the stratosphere.  When  we were exhausted the come down was a smooth descent, not a crash and burn. We moved for for the sheer joy of moving, and we moved beautifully.

In my work, I have been shocked to find how few adults are less than competent in their ability to cut loose and play.  So you want to grind through 26.1 miles of sweat, blood, and urine to put a bumper sticker on your car, but play sounds like a silly idea?  Play is exactly what is going to keep you young, vibrant, sharp, and flexible - physically and cognitively.  Do your research, if you're skeptical.  The rest of us will be over here living it with a smile.

I respect the resistance that we have towards this lighter way of being; it goes against what we've come to know as fact.  I understand that positive experiences enable a shift in perspective. That's why I'm all about offering up movement nutrition.  Today's snack: a game of catch.   Throw & catch is the epitome of play. What kid didn't grow up playing catch or throwing rocks into a lake or at an empty soda can?  That's right, kids with iPhones...(Angry Birds doesn't count and that's probably not even a relevant reference anymore *sigh*).  And beneath the surface lies more movement goodness than you realize - cardio interval training, multi-planar movements, plyometrics, hand-eye coordination, reflex conditioning, and that key element of fun (you're probably deficient).  Play with a partner or if you are lonely only child, like me, play solo against a wall.

I'd suggest beginners start off with a soccer or tennis ball. Use simple throws and catches at a reasonable distance to build rhythm.  As your nervous system lights up begin to add complexity: moving side-to-side, forward / backward, catch and throw off the bounce, field grounders, pop flys, over-the-shoulder, reach for the sky, 360˚ spins...let your imagination run wild for a change.  Ego check: if you can't move dynamically enough to make this a cardio event, that should tell you something about the imbalances in your movement skills.  If you can't control your vehicle with precision, don't prioritize a bigger engine. The physical complexity of this game will regulate you. The simplicity of this game will help you redefine just what you're fit for.  You'll have more fun that you can imagine.

Play has no performance standards. Engage in your movements. Focus in your body. Breath. Smile. Be a kid. Embrace freedom of movement. Trust the process.