Mobility is King

Catching up

The last six weeks or so have been both calmer and yet… Weird. Weird because of the after effect(s) of the flood last month. In the large: the devastation to the front range of Colorado is immense, and almost beyond any words I could write. 17000 houses damaged or destroyed, untold property damage from several rivers breaking their banks. Several people died. Years of rebuilding. A humbling and daunting time.

Along with a handful of photos I posted on my FB page, there are also a bazillion more all over the Colorado based news channels, if you’re inclined to look…

Closer to home, we got our basement squared away, carpet cleaned where water came in through a window well from the rain. And we thank “the powers that be” that we got off lucky. So very, very lucky…

Crews of workers (I’m not sure if they’re from the city or county) have been working on the torn up river bed next to our house. Replacing cracked and broken sewer pipes, storm water pipes and the riverbed itself. Removing debris. They work six days a week from seven am to sometimes one am the next morning. They are making amazingly fast progress.

Beyond that, with the exception of some work stress (more for my wife than for me – though I have a bit as well) things are finally calming down. No more relatives in the hospital, no more friends passing away unexpectedly. Hopefully it will stay that way for a long, long time!

I am even, slowly, getting some writing done! Who hoo!

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Recently, I was in a conversation with a client I work with about my own training. With the exception of a few times over the years where I’ve posted my training online, I don’t talk about specifics much.

I have a methodology I use. One that involves assessment, correctives (if needed), and then specific tools and exercises – depending on goals – either mine or a client’s – to meet set goals (and play, lots and lots of play). A system that I’ve been learning and working on for a long, long time. Distilling forty-one years (this year) of education, athletics, and competition.

The “base” of the system I use is the idea of movement over muscles. Now, today, a lot of trainers use verbiage like this. I am not the first to think it, or use it, though I have been thinking it and using it for a long time. I am just not very vocal about it on the inter webs. Self promotion has never been my thing. Ask around…

Movement over Muscles

When most people were young (at least in the West), they had a relatively large movement palette. They rolled on the ground, ran, climbed trees, wrestled, rode bikes, swam, played chase games, threw balls (and objects), jumped off roofs, and more. Then somewhere around late grade school or early junior high (middle school) they get hooked into organized sports: soccer, football, basketball, baseball, tennis, track and field events, etc. And their movement palette shrinks to the confines of the sport they chose. If they are “lucky,” they’ll participate in that sport till the end of high school or college. After college, jobs, career (not always the same thing), starting a family start taking precedence. Maybe they go to the gym and lift some weights and do some form of “cardio.” Once in a while they go camping in the mountains and do some hiking or fishing. Run a marathon, do a triathalon. A few “adventurous” types might even do a little hunting. And that’s the bulk of their movement for the next forty-fifty years. And that’s if they stay at it. By the time they are in their sixties or seventies they are moving less and less, till one day they find they are sitting or lying down more than they are moving. And then it’s over.

I don’t want to be that person. I have never wanted to be that person – even when I couldn’t have put the idea into words. I want to stay mobile and strong till my last day on this beautiful spinning insane asylum. I want to challenge myself (safely of course) to new and more complex movements and patterns to keep my musculoskeletal system, neurological system, and brain plastic, sharp and strong.

Now for me, beyond nutrition, sleep and recovery – which are related overlapping domains – mobility is king. Strength is queen. Others like to reverse those attributes, and that’s fine, as long as they are addressed. I have mobility as my first place attribute because I feel that it is the most important of the attributes. As the saying goes: strength without mobility is like firing a cannon from a canoe. Mobility without strength is like trying to spear a lion with a rope.

You need both.

The question then becomes: how much strength and mobility do you need? And therein lies the rub.

The answer of course is: it depends.

It depends on what your goals as an athlete are. What are the “fitness requirements” of the things you like or want to do?

For example, I love no-gi submission grappling. To be good at it, you need a strong technical base, excellent “cardio” (heart and lungs), above average mobility and be as strong as you can be without dedicating your life to the iron (weights). Strong is relative. Strong in submission grappling would make a powerlifter giggle.

At 196lbs my training squat max is (right now) about 425lbs. My best ever was 560lbs. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t even qualify as “good” weights within powerlifting circles.

So definition of goals is a must. You also want to decide whether you want to specialize on an athletic endeavor or be more of a generalist. For me, I decided a long time ago to be more of a generalist.

Now a specialist, like a powerlifter, might say that because I am a generalist, and don’t spend the majority of my time building up my bench, squat and deadlift, that I am weak, and probably a pussy. And on the platform, they would be right. But outside of that one narrow place of performance I am going to take that powerlifter’s lunch money.

I have done it many times on the mat (with witnesses 😉 ).

Anyway…

A while back, movement coach Ido Portal said on FB, that fitness is a part of movement, not the other way around, and I agree. A person can increase their fitness on just about anything. Do a handstand, awesome! Cool party trick. Do two and you’ve increased your fitness – but only to do handstands. Do a hundred (within a specified time period), you rock at handstands! But can you squat? Deadlift? Olympic lift? Do a front lever? How is your locomotion, and so on… Fitness is “activity” specific.

After defining your goals, how do you go about setting up your training program? Start with basic movement patterns and then systematically build on and sophisticate them.

Set a new goal and repeat the process. Maintain what you don’t want to lose. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

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Because I’ve been asked about them many time before, here are my training maxes. Please note that these are my best ever, not necessarily where I am today.

Squat: 560lbs

Deadlift: 430lbs

Bench: 400lbs

Overhead Press: 210lbs

Power Clean: 285lbs

Jerk: 230lbs

Snatch: 200lbs

For balance I feel I should add that I can also do the splits in either direction, touch my forehead to my shins, relax in a flatfoot squat for 30+ minutes and outside of occasional training “owies” have full range of motion in all my joints. I love (and practice) martial arts (boxing, muay Thai, Judo, no-gi submission grappling, FMA, “gun-fu”), gymnastics, yoga, Olympic weightlifting, strength training, Ginastica Natural, Parkour, and more.

My goals involve the continuing exploration, refinement and development of my body and movement palette.

Onwards and Upwards!

Evacuation Order

Hard, stressful, weird couple of days! After three days of continuous rain, the Big Thompson River flooded on Thursday (Sept. 12, 2013) and we had to evacuate. We left and stayed with a relative in Broomfield.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning CDOT closed ALL highways between Denver and Loveland due to flooding. We spent a STRESSFUL night Thursday night, imagining all kinds of terrible things about our house, neighbors, and friends all over the state…

In the morning we found out about the highways. About 2pm – after a much needed nap, we found out two of our neighbors had gone back home. They checked our house out for us (NO DAMAGE!!!!) and we decided to come home. Using the Internet we found that 287 was mostly open, except for a couple of detours in and around Longmont. We made it home after a 2+ hour trip (normally 45min.).

Found our house intact (YAY!). Also found out that several neighbor’s places were broken into and robbed (Boo!).

About ten minutes after we got home, we were watching the river, standing outside on our deck, completely floored by the new reality of of our redesigned terrain. As we were standing there watching, a 40ft. Cottonwood was undercut by the river and brought down. It took, maybe, three or four seconds. Crazy scary… I sometimes joke that I can “bench press a bus,” but this kind of power was beyond anything I’ve ever seen. It was truly one of the most humbling moments of my life.

After chilling out for a few minutes, and unpacking, we spent some time hanging out with our neighbors, then spent some time watching and fretting about all the “looky-loos” endanger their lives crossing police lines to get close to the crazy-fast, torrential, flood waters…

There are times I fear for the human race. Natural Selection in action.

I have some more pictures and video on my Facebook Page:

Broken-Trail

 

 

Movement Spectrum

I am a physiology, neuro, movement geek. I am a student of Physical Culture.

There are things (within physical culture) that I am good at, there are things that I am working on to get better at them, and there are things I either haven’t tried yet, or things I don’t care about enough to try.

After an off-line discussion with a friend about movement, I had a thought that I would try and write down some quick thoughts on “all things” movement.

First off, understand that this is far more a note to jot some ideas down than a Magna Carta. As I learn, re-learn, grow, un-learn and discard practices, tools, techniques, etc. I amend my thinking.

Secondly, understand that I am no movement “guru.” I have trained with a few over the years, and want nothing to do with any of that kind of thing.

So, onward into the breech…

Simplistically, there are three categories of movement: there is movement that you do alone (keep it PG-13!), movement done with a partner (PG-13 damn it!) and group movement (sigh…).

There are several types of approaches to movement: play, studious, progressive, segmented, flowing, and professional (as in, you get paid for it). All of these approaches can (and do) overlap. There are most probably other approaches I don’t know or haven’t really thought about. Remember, this is a note, a jot, not a manifesto.

There are a number of fields of movement study: martial, dance, gymnastics, group sportive, acrobatic, climbing, arboreal, locomotive, individual sportive, performance art, and about a humpty-gazillion more.

Environment plays a huge part in the types, ranges and “rules” of the play. The things you might do in a forest are going to be different than what you might do on a beach, in the water, on a cliff face, or in an urban setting. Though, as in most things, there will be cross-over.

A person can either be more of a generalist – in terms of study and acquisition, or a specialist. This line – from generalist on one end to specialist on the other is not two single points on a graph. It is a spectrum. Though to be fair, IMO, most people fall more on the specialist end than the generalist side.

As a student of movement, a person has to understand that most movement disciplines can take months, years, decades, or a lifetime of study to master. Also, that any specialization carries with it the chance of over-specialization, movement compensation and limitation.

A student of movement should also know that generalization, is, to a HUGE degree, a myth.

There is NO WAY possible to be a TRUE generalist, because the fields of “play” are simply too vast. A person might “master” a small handful of “tricks” from a few of the fields, but never the field itself – as that would make him a specialist. You want to master hand balancing? There are something like 30-50 different hand balances in yoga alone (maybe more). Now add in the hand balancing work of gymnastics. There will be a little crossover in places, but a lot of distinct movement. Now add in acrobatics. B-boy, or interpretive dance, etc. Get the picture?

Love grounded flow-locomotion? Unending possibilities. Now add in high-level rugby play. How much time for practice would you need to do both? And do them well?

From “generalist” to specialist is a spectrum with many stops and levels. Movement play is a matrix of possibility, interest, and commitment.

Personally, I love martial art, especially those of Judo, submission grappling, boxing and Muay Thai. I love flowing ground based locomotion, tumbling and yoga. I enjoy Olympic lifting, strength training, kettlebell play, basic gymnastics (ring and floor), basic Parkour. Though, while I enjoy and play them, I won’t claim any particular expertise with them.

In my youth I was a decent amateur fighter. I played baseball, volleyball, tennis, and some track events. But just because I did them in my past doesn’t mean that I am a volleyball player, a hurdler, or a javelin thrower now. And while I sprint, and am pretty fast – at 51 – I am nowhere near what I was at 16, 18, or 25. Same goes for fighting. I train, but no longer compete. I keep my skills as high as I can, but am coaching more now than banging away in a ring or cage.

I play with arm balances, and handstands, but, compared to a lot of the “big name movement gurus” I freely admit to being barely passible at them. And, realistically, and without ego, I most probably move better than 95% of the people in the world. The top 5% move like butter over a hot skillet.

And that’s okay. It is time and process. I am as good as the time I spend playing the movements. This should be obvious, but I’ll state it: the more time I spend, the better I am at those things. The inverse is also true. This will be true for you as well.

Which brings me to interest. I personally have an interest in combat sports, but no real interest in “traditional” martial arts – though I’ve played more than a few of them in my past. Upon occasion, I “dance,” but don’t have much interest in learning the nuance of jazz, modern, tap, ballet, or B-boy.

As I said before, I love ground-based, flow locomotion, but with a family, full time job, teaching schedule, etc. I only have limited access to teachers of say, Capoeria, Parkour, or Ginastica Natural. So, access also limits interest and thus the possibility of acquisition and mastery.

Interest – or lack of it – then plays a part in whether I am more of a generalist, or more of a specialist. As it will for you.

It’s relatively easy to be a specialist. In sport, look at powerlifting, olympic lifting, marathon or ultra running. In life, look at an office worker, lawyer, banker, or baker. And while a person can be more of a generalist, and there are examples from life, movement methods and sports with large palettes, no one can be a true generalist, no matter what is claimed.

Where are you on the spectrum?

Back from Texas

Back from a few days off in Texas, hanging with family for nephew Zach’s graduation. I had an excellent time (except for the heat – I generate enough of my own, I don’t need help 😉 and getting in a fender bender coming out of Lady Bird Johnson’s Botanical Gardens)…

Now back at it… After a slow start to the day, I did some mobility work, arm balances, a little locomotion body flow and some yoga. Followed it up with a light Jiu-jitsu session – working on positional flow and some light rolling… Feeling groovy… Strength work sometime later today, either before or after chores…
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A couple of cool things:
This made laugh and shake my head: June 2, 2013 5:33pm

And this. A highlight reel of Ramon “the Diamond” Dekker – one of the best Dutch Muay Thai/Kickboxers – who just passed away earlier this year.

Resurrection and Redirection

WARNING – WILL BE LONG! 🙂

It is time to resurrect this blog. Some might say past time (and some might ask why I don’t just let it die a peaceful “death”). Hopefully, all will be explained.

A lot of things have transpired in the intervening months since I wrote last (was it really back in November? Sheesh).

What’s Been Going On

I went to Spain with my family over the holiday weeks. We were gone for a little over two weeks and had an up and down trip. We all got sick the first week we were there. I got a respiratory infection (when we got back I went to my doctor for a lingering cough and was told it looked like I was getting over pneumonia – ugh, and go immune system!) My wife got both a respiratory infection AND a digestive tract bug. We almost took her to an emergency room on Christmas eve, because she had strained abdominal muscles coughing and was dehydrated. Luckily she got better, quickly. My daughter also got a lung bug… If we could have flown back early I think we would have – we were all so miserable. But we persevered and by the second week were on the mend (except for my cough).

We got to see a lot of cool things while we were there, the artwork at the Prado Museum was awesome! I got to see the original works of some of my favorite painters: Goya, Picasso, Velázquez & Salvador Dalí, as well as others… Toledo was awesome as well – it may be one of my favorite places in Europe that I’ve ever visited… Barcelona was also a very, very cool city! I could go back just to visit it (though it would take a lot of doing for me to visit the rest of Spain). I have put up a bunch of photos on my Facebook page – for those of you living under a rock and haven’t seen them…

When we returned home, I started coaching at Seraphim MMA, working for my friend and head coach Bob Gilstrap – teaching a youth class in MMA 101 – which keeps me in the “game” and hits my MA training buttons. The class is small, but growing. Along with it, I hopefully will start teaching yoga there soon as well…

I have been teaching a yoga class at least once a week for almost three years now (at Gold’s Gym in Loveland), along with a bunch of yoga privates throughout the week… And I’ve started branching out a little and following in the footsteps of some of my friends and coaches – I’ve taught three workshops in the last few months. One on the KB Swing, another on “unconventional” training – where I taught a yoga/ma gymnastics flow progression as well as a muscle up progression and finally the goblet squat as a weighted mobility drill, and finally a TRX suspension workshop… While the classes were small, I had a great time doing them, and got some fantastic feedback and new clients out of them. I hope to do a lot more of these in the future!

My clientele as a trainer has grown the last few months. I was busier from Sept. 2012 to the present day than I was for almost the two previous years. I guess it took a while to get my name out there – not just as that trainer who can do all that “freaky” BW/Yoga/KB stuff, but as a trainer that can ACTUALLY help a person meet their goals…

Funny how the wheel turns…

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About the blog

It’s interesting (to me at least) that when I started this blog/website back in 2005-2006 I built up a readership of approx. 8-10,000 hits a month. Then I moved to TypePad and it dropped. Then the move to WordPress and that dropped by another two thirds… Last year I took a marketing class from a fitness “guru” and changed my website content to something like what he recommended and it dropped yet again – significantly…

And I hated it. The loss of contact. The loss of affiliate sales. And especially the content.

Hated it.

It’s one of the main reasons for not writing for the last few months… Or consistently for a lot longer than that. I hated it and was completely bored by it…

So, I am going to retool it – back to something that I’ll enjoy. Because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned building my reputation as a trainer, it is, if you don’t like what you’re doing, if you don’t know what, how, or why you’re doing it, no one will pay attention. No one will want to work with you.

If you know me personally, you know that one of the things that differentiates me from a most others, is that I’m a polymath-in-training. And I am “into” a lot of different things and wear a lot of different hats. Art, writing, training, martial art, anthropology, physics, psychology, nutrition, endocrinology, comparative religion, mythology, meditation, yoga, pop culture, comics, etc… And back when I actually had a readership, this blog reflected that…

It’s time to get back to the things I love.

And share them.

Training

My own training has been very good the last couple of years, though, lately, finding the balance between my own focus/needs and those of the MMA class has been interesting – especially at 50. Most of the time I can’t just demo something and get out of the way. More often than not, there aren’t enough team members for me to sit out, so I have to perform – at least at some level. And I have one student who is almost my size and weight – and is STRONG – that wants SO BADLY to submit me he can taste it… So on drilling/sparring days it can get on the intense side.

For my training, I have been working a lot of gymnastics (work) for the upper body, along with some targeted lifting for “problem” areas, while doing some weighted work for the lower (deadlifts, squats, Oly lifts) … I occasionally do some BW work for my legs, but really, once I “get” the balance/depth/neural drive thing of single leg squats (for example), they don’t do much for me anymore. I still do some – but they become more mobility drills than anything else (not that I can – or would want to – do a plethora of them – a la Steve Cotter).

I do mobility work and yoga every day – at 50, mobility work is where it’s at – to keep everything moving right and to keep injuries down. If I had to choose one aspect of training to keep – discarding the rest, mobility work would be my choice. It is the foundation of ALL my training (and life!).

My martial practice is mostly satisfied by teaching at Seraphim, but I get in a few extra sessions a week – beyond teaching, drilling, and rolling with students. During those sessions I work on learning and refining my Muay Thai (stand up), Judo (standing grappling/clinch), and grappling (ground). Occasionally I get in some stick, staff, knife, and gun work…

Looking at what I wrote above, it looks like all I do is train all day, but the truth is, I train two, sometimes three times a day, but never for more than 3hrs spread out over the day (and 80% of the time it’s only 90mins to 2hrs – including MA). Never to failure. And I’ve made more – and consistent – gains in the last couple of years than at any time since I started on this journey. Strength, skills learned, work capacity… And all it took was throwing ALL my training on the floor, taking a look at it – and taking some advice from some REALLY smart coaches to understand how to put it together the right way…

Live and learn.

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So, welcome – if you’re new here – or welcome back, if you’ve been here before… Welcome to a new chapter of this exploration…

Comments, as always are welcome.

Onwards and Upwards!