General How-To For Fixing Mobility Problems

How do I fix my bad mobility?

This is an incredibly vague question. There is a strong association with the terms flexibility and mobility. Like if I increase my range of motion, then that means I also increased my mobility. 

That is not how it works.

Mobility and Flexibility are different words and they refer to different things. 

Flexibility is just simply how far you can move around a joint. When you see yoga people stretching for the sake of getting deeper and deeper into a position, even though that position has nothing to do with anything, they are working on increasing their flexibility. They are just trying to lengthen their muscles as much as possible. And that just isn’t useful. Unless your goal is to be able to just stretch out a muscle as far as possible. But there is never any real reason beyond that.

There. I said it. It is NOT useful to stretch muscles out as far as they can possibly go. In fact, it is downright stupid. 

However, if I am moving my body in such a way that I am increasing my capability to display full range of motion positions, such as a full squat, deadlift, or the overhead position, and then work on utilising that position in order to more safely, and more powerfully, accomplish work, THEN I am working on mobility.

Do you understand?

Just simply being able to bend a joint really far isn’t the point of anything. And furthermore, for some positions, some people may actually dislocate their own hip or shoulder in order to get their leg or arm to move further. This is silly. Just being able to go as far as possible is not useful. And it WILL hurt you eventually. Either then when you are going to ridiculous lengths, or down the road after you have practiced it long enough. You will hurt yourself in ways that will follow you for years. Needlessly.

When you feel like you are stiff, tight, or just cannot move with as much range of motion and strength as you want, that is when you make the decision to start doing mobility work. The first thing to do here is to review the archetypes. That may be a new word. Archetype just simply means a model used to display things we should emulate. I use this term because I think it sounds cool. But also because these archetypes are positions that display full, useful range of motion and are positions needed for everyday life. In terms of exercise, we have a few archetypal positions. You can review them in my blog post located here: https://www.ehmobility.com/blog/2017/7/15/archetypes-the-models-to-understand-how-much-flexibility-you-need

In that post, you can see all the major positions that are actually necessary for everyday life and sport, and they also display what is full range of motion. In other words, how far your joints should be able to go. Any further, and things may get sketchy. Continuing to go further, and you may start to develop problems. For example, the deadlift position displays full hip flexion. This is the amount of hip flexion that you actually need to accomplish work. Full range for the deadlift means, with the knees slightly bent, you should be able to reach down and pick something up off the floor with a completely neutral spine. Being able to go a little bit farther is nice. Being able to go a lot farther is pointless. What this means in relation to real life is that you should be able to reach down to pick something up off the ground without threatening your spine with injury. There is no purpose behind being able to put your elbows to the ground from a standing position. Again, things like are just silly and ridiculous and should probably be avoided.

So first and foremost: Go through these archetype positions. That is the squat, lunge, deadlift, overhead, front rack, hang, pistol, press, and abdominal vacuum. Find one you have difficulty with. You can go through all of them and find that all of them suck for you. That’s fine. Pick one to start with. I recommend finding the one that feels tightest and is also most painful for you. That is how you are going to spend the next four weeks. Working on that one position. Every day.

Regardless of which position you need to work on, there are some simple guidelines and tools you can use to make it better, stronger and more pain-free. The purpose of this article is to give you as high-quality, cookie-cutter help as possible. 


  1. Always test and re-test position. For example, test out your squat. Get a reminder for how to squat optimally in the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J55rwXKJ8h4
    When you squat, try to analyze your body for which part gets stuck first. Where are you feeling pain the soonest? Which joint seems to just stop moving first?
    Take that as your focal point for the general area you need to work on. So work on and around that area and then squat again. Better? Same? Worse? You can find more videos and examples of the other archetypes across YouTube. 

HOWEVER
Do not work just at the specific point of pain or stiffness. Instead, do what we call perimetering the area. In other words, work around it. Examine what is above, below, and beside the specific spot of restriction you took note of and work there. 

  1. Grab your sturdy fitness band, and pull the nearest two joints around. You can learn a bit about using a band for this purpose here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvxGhQEAt_8
    If your knee is hurting you, pull on your knee, but also your hip and your ankle. If it is your shoulder you feel is stuck, also work on your neck and your elbow. And pull the joints around in as many directions as you possibly can.
    If you are going to be pulling on your hip, place the band high up on your thigh, as high as is possible and comfortable, anchor the other end onto something really sturdy, and pull your thigh forward, to the inside, to the outside, and pull it backwards. And then also pull it at every angle between all those sides. Same thing with a wrist, a shoulder, an ankle...every joint.
    NOTE: If you want to pull your neck around, don’t put the band around the front of your neck and pull it back. Be sensible. 

  2. Next bit is to grab your soft self-massage tool (not a lacrosse ball because those things are just too dang hard and are too inclined to bruising people but if that is all you have then you use that. Just be gentle with yourself). So just like how you used your band to pull on the joints around the area of restriction, you are going to use your soft massage ball or foam roller or whatever it is that you have (Yoga Tune Up® balls are the best tools out there for this: https://www.tuneupfitness.com/shop/self-massage-therapy-balls) and you are going to roll around on everything AROUND the painful area. You do not have to go directly onto the painful spot. That might aggravate things and make your body very defensive, which will just make things overall more tight. Start farther away and work your way in slowly over time. For example, if your shoulder is feeling tight and painful, maybe start by massaging around your elbow and also your jaw and neck. This will help to create slack that will reduce the tension in your shoulder as everything around the elbow and the neck and jaw connect into the shoulder. You could also work on your upper back. Just get rolling. Roll around, be gentle, and focus on creating motion in the tissues. Motion is lotion.

  3. If you have swelling, and if you absolutely, 100%, unhesitatingly believe that there is no problem with using it, grab your voodoo floss and get to flossing. I have a video here to help you learn to use it if that is something new to you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW7prPkvJSE
    Flossing is an absolutely amazing tool but it takes some getting used to. And it is always a max of two minutes of use at a time. Typical prescription is two minutes on, two minutes off. 10 rounds.

  4. Going back to number one on this list, re-test your position after each mobilization. The point of all of this is to restore position, to restore function and performance. Pain and stiffness subtract from performance. So each time you spend two minutes massaging your thighs, get back into a squat. If there was a change and you can squat better, awesome! Keep doing that every day. If there was not any change, either do more or move on. Don’t waste your time if doing the same thing is not doing anything for you that is observable, measurable, and repeatable. If it is not those things, it is not useful. 

Consistency is what makes this all work. EVERY SINGLE DAY. That is how often mobility work needs to be done. 

To continue getting information and help, or if you want to ask questions specific for yourself, be sure to follow me across social media!!
www.facebook.com/ehmobility
www.youtube.com/ehmobility
www.instagram.com/e.h.mobility

Using cold water for fitness

We are adding ice cold water to our recovery methods.

We have a lot of methods and tools for helping people to recover from workouts and from injuries more quickly than if the individual just simply rested without any conscious work. Foam rolling, compression floss, using devices like the Marc Pro, compression sleeves, deep breathing exercises, oxygen chambers, infrared room and saunas...the list goes on. And all these methodologies work in their own way to stimulate deep relaxation, or to increase blood flow, drain swelling, increase oxygen consumption and just simply boost healing in general. However, none of these tools can reasonably do all of these things all at once, and the tools can only affect specific parts of the body at a time. Unless of course you submerge yourself into a tub filled with ice water. 

Using ice baths has been controversial for a while, and there is rather limited and inconclusive research on the efficacy of using icy water for recovery. Yet people all across the world, for many years, swear by its efficacy for decreasing soreness after workouts and quickening healing. If you watch the Crossfit Games, you can often witness the professional athletes soaking in ice tubs between their workouts. But rather than looking at anecdotal evidence and poorly performed research, it may be more beneficial to look at what effects icy water has on the body, and how those effects can be used towards a specific, known, objective. In this case, the objective is always to recover faster and more effectively.

When people talk about whether ice baths are effective are not, it always reminds me of when people talk about stretching before and after a workout. Some people are for it, some are against it. This is because it SEEMS like a good idea that if I stretch a joint around, it will become looser, be able to move in a greater range of motion, and therefore I will be able to move more powerfully. However, there has been plenty of evidence over the years indicating that static stretching before workouts has virtually no effect on preventing injuries such as muscle strains. Meaning that people can do all the stretching they want to, they are still periodically getting injured while playing their sport or exercise. This is widely known. It is significantly more effective, and relevant, to perform a series of movements similar to what you will be practicing and moving through full ranges of motion at varying and increasing intensities. So why do people continue doing simple, ineffective static stretching for a warmup? Simple. They don’t really know any better. We will continue to do what we have always done until there is an actual need to change. And the individual has to believe in the change to adopt it, and they have to want to make a change. But often, there is no WHY for doing things differently. Same thing for using ice baths after a workout. WHY would I intentionally make myself so uncomfortable without any clear, concise, specific reasons? 


Where does your belief come from?


It is largely up to the coach to provide the beliefs for the athletes to follow. But if the coach cannot adequately explain why things are done, the athletes may or may not believe that belief themselves. The athlete may blindly follow, and just trust that everything done is done for a purpose. He or she doesn’t have to know that purpose. They will just simply follow. Others will ask why and want to understand before following through with a task. And jumping into 10C/50F water hurts. At least at first. So if you take an athlete and have them submerge into an ice bath after the workout, without concise and specific reasoning, they may listen and just simply take it. Or, they may question its purpose and be more prone to just getting right out. Either way, the methodology is well off. And since the research regarding this topic is so inconclusive, it can be difficult for coaches to understand it themselves, much less impart that knowledge to their athletes in ways that can be understood. And so it becomes “Do it because that is what I say to do. It will help because I think it will.”
This is a big problem. Especially since ice water can kill you. 

So let’s begin with why. Why would you want to lay yourself down, up to your neck, in a tub filled with water and enough ice to make it about 10C/50F degrees? The why is because it will drastically reduce your healing time, lead to less soreness and inflammation, will teach your body to better use oxygen, which means more fat is burned and metabolism is even higher overall, and because it allows you, over time, to better tolerate both cold and hot weather which will make working out outside easier year around. That’s a nice list of reasons. So there is your why, but HOW does this even work? How can getting into icy cold water do anything to make your muscles heal faster and to burn fat? 


How this happens depends heavily on how you prepare and handle yourself before, during, and after the process. Lack of preparation can lead to nothing but severe discomfort, shock, and in extreme cases, death. Yes, staying in 10C/50F water can and will kill you if you do not know what you are doing. Hypothermia is a real threat if you aren’t taught how to go about cold temperatures. Hypothermia means that your core body temperature drops below 35C/95F and is kept there. Normal body temperature is about 37C/98.6F and going into 10C/50F water will lead your body to balancing out towards that cold temperature. Your internal organs will begin to shut down, you will become numb across your whole body, incapable of feeling anything but cold and incapable of moving very quickly. So if cold water does this to you, how in the world can it help your fitness and your recovery and health?

Cold water does things to you. If you don’t understand these things, things get bad.

It is important to understand here that there are two major paths to take with handling cold water immersion. You can either jump in, clench your teeth, and just take it. It’s like if you get in a fight, you can just simply stand there and get punched repeatedly in the face. If you can take it, good for you. The assailant will eventually get tired. Maybe that will work for you. You will be bloody, parts of you may break, and there will be a lot of pain. Or you can breathe, move, and adapt to the situation by fighting back.

Your breath is the key to making ice water immersion work for you. Pretty much everyone will notice, whether they do a full body dunk, or just have cold water poured suddenly on their back, that cold water takes your breath away. Often, people will gasp, taking the massive inhale but not being able to exhale easily. And then the breathing becomes incredibly fast and shallow as long as the cold water is being applied to their body. This is where proper preparation comes into play. 

Breathing makes all the things better.

All breathing is not created equal. How you breathe matters, and how you control your breath can drastically change your entire physiology in a multitude of ways. Basically, there are three different ways of breathing and the difference is the proportion of exhale to inhale. 

You can breathe with your exhale and inhale aligned and lasting the same duration. 5 second inhale, and then a 5 second exhale for example. This is neutral. This means it alone will not really influence the sympathetic nervous system (increased stress response) nor will it impact the parasympathetic response (increased relaxation). It just keeps you right in the middle. 

You can also breathe with a bias on the exhale. So imagine taking a 5 second inhale, but a 10 second exhale. This is a breathing pattern for stimulating relaxation. Part of the reason for this is that the diaphragm, your big, primary breathing muscle that skirts all around the inside of your ribcage, slowly massages over the vagus nerve during deep breathing. The vagus nerve is your primary nerve for creating the sensations associated with relaxation. Decreased heart rate, lower body temp, lower blood pressure, increased digestion, healing, immunity and many other things. As this nerve becomes stimulated, it increases these sensations and effects. 

On the flip side, having a bias on the inhale, creates the opposite effect. So imagine breathing in for 5 seconds and exhale for 2 seconds. Try doing that for a solid minute. The inhale probably won’t be a full 5 seconds after the first few breaths. That is fine. Because it is physically impossible. But keep trying to take a big inhale. This will quickly produce some different results that you can easily feel within minutes. The vagus nerve will not be as stimulated, so there won’t really be a relaxation response. Rather, it will be a stimulating effect for the whole body in the way of a stress response. As you breath in quickly and deeply, but only partly exhale, your lungs will fill and remain filled with oxygen. This will speed up how quickly oxygen gets absorbed into your bloodstream. That’s really important, but I'll talk more about that later on. Every time you inhale, your heart rate will speed up. Exhaling will lower your heart rate over time, but as the exhale is being limited, there will be a bias towards an increased heart rate throughout the time of breathing like this.

Control your breath. If you don’t, you can’t control your body.

You may notice that this type of breathing, with a big inhale but small exhale, looks just like a mechanism that can happen during a stress response, or an anxiety attack or even during an asthma attack. It looks like hyperventilation. You can also see this happen to people who submerge themselves suddenly in 10C/50F water without proper prep. But in this case, we are hyperventilating in a controlled way. It is not happening as an uncontrollable reflex, but rather as a conscious, controlled, intentional preparation. Performing this type of breathing for a few minutes before going into that cold and icy water can may or break the experience for you. It is the single most important aspect that allows your body to effectively FIGHT the cold, rather than just trying to deal with it or ignore it. Which, as I alluded to earlier, can and will kill you if you aren’t smart about it. Being out in 10C weather, not even water, just out in the open air, can kill people if they aren’t appropriately dressed or conditioned for that temperature. This practice is never about IGNORING the cold. It is never a case of detaching yourself from the cold. It is about facing it head on.

How does hyperventilating help you? First, I want to state that I have seen some people in the fitness world refer to it as superventilating when done in a controlled way. Hyperventilating has a negative connotation. So from now on, the term super-ventilating will be used. [In this case, as prefixes, hyper- and super- mean the exact same thing. Which is just “Above” or “Over”. So super-ventilating literally means “over-breathing” or breathing above what is normal.] Superventilating creates a stress response. This means that it will cause your body to release cortisol and therefore adrenaline. Now cortisol and adrenaline have very interesting effects on the body that coincidentally provide a massive help with being able to tolerate the cold. And again, we are trying to make this article as objective as possible. Just looking at the fundamental facts regarding how certain chemicals affect the body. Adrenaline increases blood pressure. It does this via what is called vasoconstriction. Vaso- referring to blood vessels (think vascular) and constriction means to make tighter. So as your blood vessels become tighter, there is less space for blood to move through, but the pressure from your heart increases as adrenaline also increases heart rate. Therefore, the speed of blood flow greatly increases. This creates more friction along the walls of your blood vessels which creates more overall body heat. 

Stress is not bad. Stress is the mechanism that drives adaptation.

When your blood pressure goes up, if there is any stagnant blood flow (see varicose veins) or swelling, there is going to be extra pressure going through these areas. The extra power in the blood flow can help to get these fluids moving. And remember how we mentioned earlier that by holding more oxygen in your lungs with your massive inhales, this also increases the amount of oxygen available to diffuse into your blood supply? Couple that with the increased blood flow, and suddenly more oxygen can get all throughout your body and your muscles. A big part of that this means is that there can be a massive increase in aerobic metabolism. Aerobic metabolism just simply means the collective chemical reactions in your body that chiefly use oxygen molecules to complete their reaction. Many of these reactions, the ones a bit more related to exercise and the topic of this article, are used in order to fuel production of ATP. Adenosine Tri-Phosphate. You may have heard of this before. ATP is regarded as the universal energy currency for virtually all animals on Earth. Essentially, it is a molecule with a bond known as a “high yield” bond. This means that when this molecule breaks, it is a powerful break. Imagine the difference in energy yielded from burning a sheet of paper as opposed to burning a similar sized piece of wood. The wood will release much more energy (fire) than the paper. It has a much more rigid structure that is ideal, compared to simple paper, for releasing heat as the molecules that make it up break down violently. 

That is really all heat is. Certain things can vibrate or break apart, and as they do they create movement. If that movement is high enough, it becomes hotter relative to what is around it. An electric stove hob is often made with something like sand or another material with a high resistance to electricity. Encased sand has an electric current run through it, and because the electricity cannot move easily through sand, this makes the sand vibrate like crazy. This makes it super hot, hot enough to cook food and boil water. It is a similar, though a much different, mechanism that creates chemical heat in our blood. As ATP gets broken down in our cells, it creates a lot of movement. Essentially it is a tiny explosion. The process glycolysis, which is the aerobic system which breaks down simple sugar in order to create ATP, is a combustion reaction. Just like the engine in your car is probably an internal combustion engine, which ignites petrol to create a contained explosion to create motor movement, the break down of ATP is powerful enough that it just simply gets all other molecules around it moving. (The only reason glycolysis may not ever be called a combustion reaction is that is happens too slowly for there to be a respectable explosion or fire. Also, if that were the case, we would die. Or we never would have been born to begin with.) But really, that is all body heat is. A lot of movement and vibrations in one area relative to another area. This is why if you fill a tub with hot water, when you first put your hand in, it may hurt. Your hand at rest, will not be as close to the temperature of the water. Keep your hand in and the blood flow in your hand will increase. Meaning the temperature in your hand will increase. Now there is less difference between the heat of the water and the heat of your hand. You no longer perceive the water as being as hot even though the temperature of the water may be exactly the same as it was to begin with. The temperature in your body increased, and that is what will make that water more manageable to work with. It’s the exact same deal with cold water.

Your breath fuels your body. 

But that heat needs fuel. ATP is the fuel for that heat, and oxygen is the fuel for the ATP. Breathe deeply, you increase oxygen supply and make ATP production much more efficient. So the method for getting your body ready for ice water, and able to utilise its effects in a healthy way is to begin with this sort of superventilating breathing. Breathe in fully, as full as you can. And just let it go but only for a few seconds. Perhaps start with an exhale half the length of the inhale. This will stimulate adrenaline production and will saturate your blood with oxygen. Your body will now be much more prepared for being able to tolerate the cold water. When you are first starting off with this, the next step is going to be incredibly difficult. And this is, in my opinion, the MOST important moment of using an ice bath. Jump into the ice water quickly, covering yourself up to your shoulders, and take ten breathes EXACTLY like the ones you were doing before you jumped it. So breathe a big, huge, inhale. Big as you can, and let it out for just a few seconds. Continue that for at least ten repetitions. This will drastically help to keep you from losing your breath to the cold.

If you can continue this breathing pattern, you will feel just fine within a couple of minutes. If you lose your breathing, get out, keep breathing, get warmed up, and try again later. Your breath is the key. If you lose that key, the cold water will just hurt you and you will get minimal benefit from it and probably will just learn to hate it. 

You have to keep this breathing pattern up for as long as you are exposed to the cold water. It will continuously provide the oxygen to fuel ATP production, and the adrenaline will get it through your body quickly. In addition to that however, you will now also be getting the benefits of the icy cold water! Adrenaline will increase blood pressure, but so will the cold water. And the cold water will have a much more widespread effect for this. Any part of your body exposed to the cold water will constrict. In terms of healing, we can see this as having the effect of clearing out swelling and stagnant blood flow. This leaves less waste for your body to clear out by itself when tissues are healed. 

Making adaptations is what you are best at.

Another interesting effect is that the cold will create an even greater need for body heat. Just simply have the oxygen in your blood isn’t necessarily going to make too much change, and it is not just simply oxygen that creates ATP. There are processes that break down sugars and fats and proteins to derive the necessary chemicals to generate ATP and oxygen is what fuels these processes. So over time, as you repeatedly subject yourself to cold water, your body will become more and more efficient at going through these processes in order to generate more and more body heat. Our body’s are constantly working on adapting to any stimuli that they are repeatedly exposed it. Over time, hanging out for a few minutes in 10C/50F water is easy. And that is all you really need. This doesn't have to be done for 10-15 minutes or longer. Start with 30 seconds. Work up to 1 minute and then to 2 minutes. Go up from there if you wish, but it isn’t really needed unless you are specifically working on building up your endurance for sitting in cold water. 

One more interesting tidbit is how this can affect your ability to manage both cold and hot temperatures. While they are not exactly the same, the ways your body deals with the cold are remarkably similar to how it deals with heat. Essentially, in both cases, your body raises its body heat. For the hot weather, your body temp raises to balance out with the outside temperature and you sweat to draw that heat out of so you do not overheat. At least not as quickly. And for the cold, your body also heats itself up to get further away, temperature wise, from the outside temperature. So there is potential for developing more of a tolerance for hot and cold weather with sufficient practice with ice baths.

CONCLUSION

Respect the cold water. Being ignorant about using it after workouts can be dangerous. The benefits are many and can be substantial but only if you learn to correctly tolerate it. Breathing with superventilation allows you to stay much warmer and in control of your body as it is exposed to the cold water. 

I’m not going to point out a single bit of research formally done on this topic. Go to scholar.google.com and you can find many papers written on Ice Baths and Recovery. But not a single one covered being appropriately prepared. That means the research was shoddy and there is no reason to go by it. Instead, I’m going to follow an objective understanding of how breath and adrenaline affect the body and apply that to being used in cold water. 

If you try these methods out yourself, here are some guidelines:

  1. Practice the superventilation several times before trying it out in ice water. Do it on your back as well, as it can make you super dizzy. NEVER do this while driving, or operating machinery or while doing anything else. Seriously, just do it while laying down. Don’t be engaged in any other tasks except maybe timing yourself with a stopwatch. 

  2. Have a friend there with you. They will either be there to do it with you and/or encourage you along, or will make fun of you as a friend. Either way, having a buddy helps. It’s almost always more fun to suffer with your friends. Hence why Crossfit is so popular. Amongst other group workout classes.

  3. Don’t consume drugs or alcohol with this practice.

  4. Listen to your gut. If you need to jump out of the ice water, DO IT! This is NOT about IGNORING the cold. Don’t ignore it. Listen to your body.

  5. Absolutely nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you need permission to jump in cold water.

  6. You don’t have to use ice water. Go stand in the shower and make the as cold as it will get. Probably won’t get as cold as 10C, but it will do well enough if that’s all you can do.

  7. Something else you can try doing is just doing a quick dip in the cold water, say about 5-10 seconds, get out, continue breathing, and then go back in after another minute or two. It’s kinda like a warm up for it and can help you to get ready faster.

  8. Have fun. Fitness should be fun. If you aren’t loving it, stop. Stop doing things that you hate. It ain’t healthy.

Overtraining Syndrome

Working out is a wonderful thing. Regular and intense exercise keeps you at a healthy body weight, keeps your muscles toned, your bones dense, helps you to sleep better, feel happier more regularly, and joining group fitness programs can be a fantastic way to make long-lasting friendships. The benefits are quite extensive. But as with anything, you want a moderate amount of exercise in your life. Meaning not too much. But how do you establish how much exercise is too much? What are the results of exercising too much, and is it really such a bad thing?

Yes and no. Exercising too much is probably not really a thing for most people. This is because while it is amazing and yields a lot of benefits and humans need exercise/physical stimulation/movement in order to live well, exercise is also stressful and there is only so much most people are willing to put up with before saying enough and taking a break. Fatigue builds up and continuously nudges you to slow down and stop. So an individual training session is unlikely to have much of a detrimental value. If it is your first workout in a long while, pushing yourself may leave you quite sore and sleepy for a few days, but you heal and get stronger. No lasting damage. Just lasting awesomeness if you continue to move regularly.

Now the point of exercising, of going to the gym, is to get better at doing things. Lifting weights, running, jumping, gymnastics...using your body. In other words, you should be going to the gym to make adaptations. Changes in the capabilities of your body and mind. This means breaking your body down in some way so that it has to build itself back up stronger than before. Exercise itself does not make you stronger; RECOVERING from exercise makes you stronger. This is a vital point to understand. It is in-between the workouts, especially during sleep, that you adapt and develop. And it is when this recovery does not happen appropriately that problems will occur.

Overtraining syndrome is a condition used often within the realm of athletics. It describes a set of symptoms associated with a sustained fight-or-flight response. These symptoms include chronic indigestion, irritability, inability to sleep and focus, lack of healing/recovery from workouts and also any injuries, and a chronically raised heart rate. Amongst many other things. When discussing this condition, it is important to keep in mind the fact that human beings are ever-adapting creatures, constantly adjusting to stimuli in the environment, and creating lasting changes to any lasting stimuli.

When we workout, we go through (or at least really should go through) a warmup. A warmups purpose is to steadily increase your respiration, perspiration and body heat, and get the neuromuscular system (the part of your body in control of how your brain interacts with your muscles/movement) engaged to better allow you to move in whatever way it needs to in order to perform the exercises more efficiently.  For example, if your workout is going to be 10 reps of 400-meter sprints with a 90-second rest between each sprint, you may start off the session with jogging, lunging, stomping, squatting and other movements to exaggerate the ranges of movement used when sprinting. You progressively go through these movements with more and more intensity over the course of about 15-30 minutes or so. By the time you are ready to begin the sprints, you should be sweaty and breathing hard. If you are not hot and breathing hard at this point, you have not warmed up. Do more.

Physiologically speaking, what you did while going through that warmup was engaging your sympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your nervous system that controls making you more stressed out. So increasing blood pressure and heart rate, giving you tunnel vision, quickened breath, amongst many other things. This is opposed to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the exact opposite, making you more relaxed. So when you workout, you engage the sympathetic nervous system while disengaging the parasympathetic. Sympathetic is stress. Parasympathetic is relaxation.

Going back to the human body always adapting to stimuli, this includes internal nervous system functions. This is otherwise known as creating habits. If you practice running frequently enough, you become better at running. If you practice playing the guitar frequently enough, you will get better at playing the guitar. Same applies to driving, archery, math, welding...any practice. Your body will make changes so that certain details of the practice can be performed on auto-pilot so you do not have to be constantly and consciously focusing on every little detail. Imagine how stressful driving was the very first time you got behind the wheel. With practice you became accustomed to steering, stepping on the pedals, controlling AC and temperature, radio and other functions. And instead of having to focus on each individual task, you could start to do things without much thought, becoming, hopefully, more efficient at driving. Instead of looking at the AC controls to change them, you can alter them as you want without looking. You have adapted to driving and made a habit of the skills needed to do so.

The sympathetic nervous system is not something that should persist for long. Not being able to digest, or sleep, or heal will kill you. The arousal developed from warming up should only last as long as the workout. Once the workout is completed, the parasympathetic nervous system needs to be engaged so that you can relax. However, if you never do relax, then the sympathetic nervous system can persist. Imagine an endurance athlete. A marathon runner. Someone who regularly goes for runs that last for hours at a time, and therefore maintaining a sympathetic nervous system for an extended period of time. Not just 10-30 minutes at a time. These individuals will, over time, have much more practice making an engaged sympathetic nervous system a habitual occurrence. Meaning that the likelihood of the sympathetic nervous system persisting, never turning off, becomes more and more likely as the athlete continues this form of training. Not suggesting this type of training is bad at all, but that individual or any individual who is frequently subjected to a lot of stress will need to balance out the stress with conscious relaxation. This needs to begin the moment the workout is completed. This is what the cooldown is. Disengaging the sympathetic nervous system and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system.

A lot of athletes will often do their workout and then just simply carry on with their everyday life or job right after. No cooldown. Or at least no real cooldown. Sorry everyone, but spending 2 minutes on static stretching doesn't absolutely nothing of value. There is no disengaging the sympathetic nervous system intentionally. With an individual occurrence, things may not be so bad. Their heart rate may stay up for a while, but it is unlikely that any serious problems will arise, such as an inability to sleep or to eat without puking or pain. Eventually, the parasympathetic nervous system will engage on its own. But if this becomes a habitual occurrence for the athlete, skipping the cooldown and not performing any actions to intentionally relax their body, the sympathetic nervous system can become permanent. This is when they stop sleeping (deeply) even though they feel tired all the time, they can become perpetually sore as their body never recovers, and eating can be uncomfortable as the digestive tract will not work very well. It will also compromise their immune system, making it significantly easier to get and stay sick. This is when we say an individual has Overtraining Syndrome. And it can last anywhere from days to years. It depends on how much that person overworks their body.

The real problem here is not working out too hard or too often. The problem that creates this Overtraining Syndrome is the lack of relaxation incorporated between the workouts. Again, it is important to always remember that exercise does not make you stronger. Exercise breaks you down so that you can be built back up stronger than before. But that building up only happens after the exercise. In many cases, less exercise can really mean more results. If you can’t sleep or absorb nutrients, you won’t recover. And so you won’t get better at whatever it is you are going to the gym to do. So in a way, the exercise becomes futile at this point. A waste of time. Personally, I consider the warmup and cooldown to be the most important parts of the workout time. The workout itself is probably the more exciting bit, but a great warmup can significantly boost your performance in the workout, and a great cooldown can drastically enhance how well you recover from and get stronger from the workout.

Signs/Symptoms of Overtraining:

  • Chronic indigestion

  • Chronically sick

  • Trouble sleeping or even complete inability to sleep

  • Constantly tired between workouts

  • Chronically sore

  • Heart rate is chronically higher than normal

(This is all considering the individual is exercising a lot. However, other activities can create this. Essentially any activity that creates stress is relevant here. Being a drummer, having a desk job that always makes you want to pull your hair out.. you can use your imagination a bit.)

Some tips for having a better cooldown, and therefore mitigating against developing any of the symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome include the following:

  • Breathe deeply. Exercise takes your breath away. Focus on reclaiming your breathe ASAP to cool everything down in about the fastest, most efficient way possible.

  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after the workout. That includes throughout the day, every day too.

  • Practice a lot of stretching/mobilizing/deep tissue work after the workout. Especially in your upper back (Yoga Tune Up® balls are the best thing to use here) and also in your abdomen (the Coregeous ball is the best thing to use here). Getting a professional massage is also great.

  • Taking a cold shower or taking a full body dip in a tub full of ice water can help flush out inflammatory factors quickly. Doesn’t have to be a long exposure; just 30 seconds can be beneficial. Also, once you are accustomed to it, the icy cold water feels amazing!

  • Getting into a sauna or sweat lodge can help your body to relax as well. As with cold exposure, it doesn't have to be for a long time. Just a few minutes can begin to create change in your body.

  • Have a nutritious diet. Consuming enough fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals help your body to recover without having to eat itself. Speaking of carbs, insulin counteracts cortisol, one of your main stress hormones. Everything in moderation, but consuming some sugar can really help people to relax from a stressful event. This is why a person might be given a sugary drink after a stressful encounter like a fight. It’s easier to swallow a fluid than a solid and the sugar will help to counter the cortisol dump.

  • Do some deep tissue work right before going to sleep. It will help you get into a deeper parasympathetic response and can help you sleep deeper.

  • Spend a dedicated minimum of 30 minutes cooling down after a workout. If you don’t ever have the time after your workout, consider shortening the workout. Recovery is the priority. Recovery is when you get stronger. You exercise to get stronger in some way. So focus on your recovery to make use of the exercise.

Fixing health problems on the largest scale possible.

Wanna know how we can fix a ton of health care problems within an entire country in as little as within the next decade? Teach your children to squat. And teach them by doing it yourself, and doing it frequently, all throughout the day.

 

Most of the problems you are ever likely to have will be brought on by your own self. Whether it's from your own ego, ignorance, or whatever, a lot of the issues we face are our own fault. In my field, this directly refers to musculo-skeletal dysfunction. If you tear your ACL or meniscus, there is a 98% chance that it was 100% preventable. Unless it tore because somebody fell on the side of your knee and broke your leg, or unless you developed a disease which caused it (not sure that exists, but who knows, I am not a pathologist), then that ACL/meniscus tear happened because of the way you were moving. Most likely because your knees collapsed to the inside every single time you squatted, sat down/stood up/sat on the toilet/got in and out of your vehicle. And after 10 million repetitions of that from the age of 3, something had to give. That is most likely why your ACL tore. If you have hammertoes/bunions, it IS possible that you were born with some kind of congenital disorder that warped your skeleton. I believe that can be possible. But unless that is the case, your warped feet happened because you spent YEARS walking around ALL THE TIME in shoes that were way too small and which crushed your toes together all day, every day.

 Low back pain is absolutely rampant. In America, you can basically say that if you are a human being, you are going to have chronic low back pain. Not just an episode here and there. But CHRONIC, incessant, unrelenting back pain. And it will suck. Life, joy, being able to help yourself and others, being able to navigate your own life, to be independent...yeah those things start to suck. Being in pain sucks. Especially when you have no idea why its there, and dont have any reliable way of dealing with it. It just plain sucks.

So here is a question: If back pain is so incredibly common, and doctors receive soooo many patients who complain about back pain, why does there seem to be so little legitimate help? It seems like most of the help is exercise that may or may not help, very basic stretching that may or may not help, and pain pills that also may or may not help. Or some of the advice may be to stop exercising altogether. Just stop moving. Stop being a human being. But just like those other examples, the vast majority of back pain cases are 100% preventable. It didn't just happen out of the blue. It didn't just happen because you just had your 50th birthday. It happened either because you developed a disease which caused you to display pain in that region (low back aches are common with influenza, for example), or because your got hit or you fell and you broke your back, OR it happened because you sat so flipping much that your tissues and so many other factors got incredibly tight and repeatedly tugged on your spine/central nervous system millions and millions of times for years. Eventually your body had to start screaming at you to get your attention. Simply because you were not taught how to really listen to your body, and likely spent much of your youth being taught how to ignore yourself. How to ignore what you're feeling. How to ignore everything that comes out of you, on all levels. 

The United States of America contains something like 3% of the worlds population, and it consumes about 80% of the worlds opiate supply. You can find the actual numbers on google. Do you know how these pain pills work? Most of the time, they work to slow down and inhibit the nervous system from working. This is why ibuprofen comes with a warning about operating machinery and driving after consumption...it makes some people drowsy. Essentially, these pain pills just numb your body. They make you detached from your own body. Just like if a part of your body becomes really numb from something cold, or if a body part falls asleep, you become unable to really communicate with that body part. So also essentially, pain pills help you ignore the problem. When has ignoring a problem ever legitimately fixed said problem? Basically never. Even if you have convinced yourself that the problem was fixed, it probably really wasn't. If I get a huge cut on my arm, get injected with morphine so I cannot feel anything anymore, and then just let the cut be...things are probably going to get bad pretty soon. Especially if I continue moving in such a way as to open the wound each and every time i move my arm. Which is going to be easy to do if I cannot feel anything around it. 

If I go walk around in the snow wearing nothing but shorts, I have two options: I can either focus and maintain a stable body temperature and legitimately remain warm against the cold, or I can ignore the cold. If I just simply ignore the cold, tough it out, I'm going to die. Because I ignored the cold for an extended time and got frostbite and then passed out. Not a great way to go. And unfortunately, this happens to a lot of people. In my own home state of Alabama, we get about one snow day a year. Sometimes people get stranded on the interstate because of wrecks and such. And they get tired of waiting, and get out to walk home. But they don't have the clothes or food to remain out there long. Because they are not acclimated to the cold. Again, it rarely snows down here. And people from here have died from exposure doing that. 

Yet there are some people out there who can thrive out in the cold. Wim Hof for example teaches people in just a few days to maintain a high body temperature in freezing temperatures. You can look Wim Hof up on Youtube. It is fascinating watching what he cant do, and how he can train people up to climb a snowy mountain, after something like 3 days of training, wearing nothing but shorts and climbing shoes. What is the difference in these sets of people? Simply put, education and training. 

Why do you speak English? Or whatever language you speak. Because it's what you were taught. And if you grew up in England, you would speak with one of the bajillion British accents you can find in that country, depending on which city you grew up in. If you grew up in France, you would speak French. If you grew up in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim. If you grew up in South Korea, you would be eating Kimchi (a kind of seasoned, fermented cabbage. Similar to sauerkraut) and would probably not mind it at all because as far as I have learned about it, South Koreans eat a ton of kimchi. Why? Because of the culture. Because of the environment. Humans tend to largely be who they are because of the people around them. Humans are social animals. We create tribes and share ideas and things. It's what we do.

So if kids are raised in a culture that speaks English, they will grow up speaking English. So what might happen to kids if they grew up seeing all the adults and other kids squatting ALL THE TIME?

Kids already start squatting as soon as they can walk. And I do NOT mean a half-squat. This is not taking your thighs to parallel with the ground. That is HALF range of motion. I'm talking about the squatting you see children utilizing when they play or rest. A full, butt to ankles squat.  It is a very natural thing. It expresses decent ankle range of motion, full knee and hip flexion, and a decent amount of ankle and hip external rotation. And we know for an absolute and irrefutable fact that lack of ability to squat well for decades can directly lead to a massive amount of physical dysfunction. In other words, squatting regularly is incredibly healthy for your lower body. Check my earlier blogs for more info on all that. In fact, a lot of that back pain I mentioned at the start of all this, along with foot, ankle, shin, calf, knee, thigh, and hip pain, may be caused by a lack of ability to squat well. Squatting maintains full range of motion. If you lack full range of motion somewhere, that means there is excess tension in someway, somewhere. That excess tension is going to make things bad if it is ignored. The real big problem here is that it may literally take 30 years before it shows up as a significant injury. Because humans are awesome and resilient. And also because we are often trained to ignore our problems, to ignore our pain. To man up, grow up and to be out of touch with how we feel on the inside. Often to become overly concerned with the things outside of us which we have absolutely no control over. 

So if we are thinking along the lines that position is power, and that we need to maintain full range of motion in our joints in order to keep our muscles and joints strong and healthy and pain free, then we have a pretty easy way of helping to prevent back pain from occurring in the future: start squatting around the kids. Seriously. Do it. Learn how to do a freakin squat yourself, start doing it all the time to get acclimated to it, and start making a habit of squatting whenever there are kids around. Need help getting better at squatting? Check out my videos on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkns9B1fNU1E6VtEPNfTtKw/videos?view_as=subscriber

Yes, ACL and menicus tears and flat feet and shin splints and bunions and hammertoes and labrum tears and IT band syndrome/Runners knee and about everything else are pretty common in adults. And a lot of these problems developed because you were not educated well when it came to footwear and maintaining your own body. This idea of learning HOW to move well isnt something that is very mainstream yet. But we are working on making it so. Hopefully teaching people how to increase their mobility and correct their movement when it comes to walking, running, squatting, deadlifting etc. will soon be a common thing in primary/elementary schools. 

I think this is incredibly important. Create a culture where we squat all the time. Same as people do in Thailand and Japan, where people will often wait in line in a squat. I had a Japanese teacher in college, and she would seriously sit in a squat if we had to wait on a previous class to end and evacuate that classroom. Full butt to ankles squat. Ass to grass. And she squatted and stood up very easily. She never struggled to move your own bodyweight around. Because she was taught to do so and grew up doing it. And I will wager that cultures which value such things as USING THEIR OWN BODIES with full ranges of motion have drastically less chronic pain problems. 

The kids are already starting off with limber bodies. And we desperately need to stop taking that away from them. Create an environment in which they maintain their mobility. But that can only happen if the adults take charge of themselves and actually squat too. You dont have to enjoy it. It might be painful for you now. Practice it and it will get better after you demand your body be able to do it. Just like exercising for the first time in a while. You will be sore and weak for a while. You HAVE to get over this stage. Consistency is the name of the game. Consistency is how you create habits. And with habits, you wont have to think about doing it. Squat all the time, and soon you will do it without thinking just because that's what you always do. No thought anymore. If the kids are chronically exposed to that, they will become adults who chronically do it. This is important.

This is my challenge to you all.

Make a difference in the lives of the people around you. I believe it really is that simple. I firmly believe we can make a MASSIVE dent in how much money people are spending on worthless drugs that only make their problems worse long term. I believe we can make a MASSIVE dent in the amount of people going to the hospital for problems that are 100% preventable and were directly caused by excess tension in their body because they lost their range of motion. Get to squatting, and get to fixing up your problems that inhibit your squatting. Teach the kids that sitting in a chair long term is dangerous and creates pain and weakness. Heck, teach them to sit in a squat in their chair. I did this in college. I got weird looks for all of about 5 minutes. Nobody followed my example because I was only one, but my teachers were totally cool with it. Squatting in public aint weird. It's called being a human. 

Coming up, we'll go over some strategies for incorporating squatting and other full range positions (our archetypes) in your daily life. Practical strategies that are easy to use right away so blogs like this can be more useful for you.

 

How to pick a personal trainer or physical therapist

Picking either kind of PT is a serious decision that bears consideration of several factors. Not all PT’s are created equal by any means. They all vary considerably by experience, education, and desire for having their job. Many trainers out there do that job because they love helping people live healthier lives, some do it because they enjoy getting paid to lead a workout themselves, and others may want the job because it’s easy to write up workout programs and give them to a client to do while they spend the entire hour on their phone. For physical therapists, it’s not necessarily much different. Many of the people I knew in college who were pursuing a career in physical therapy first and foremost wanted the job because it can quickly pay 6 figures a year. Several others wanted the job because they love sports, however that makes sense in their own head. And this is not to suggest that you should not want a job for money. Getting paid is always a reason for having a job. But when the entire focus is on getting paid, this can quickly, and perhaps often, lead to less-than-optimal care for the patients/clients. And sooooo many people report that their physical therapist just simply put some massage cream onto their leg and left them to go tend to another client while their leg dried, or the therapist put them to work walking on a treadmill while the therapist went to work with someone else. Seriously, some clients have paid for a physical therapist to tell them to walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes while the PT tended someone else. It happens.

 

A PT, whichever one, is supposed to be a movement professional. Meaning that they help you to clean up your movement to help you live a healthier life. For personal trainers, they should be teaching you how to challenge your ability to move with good posture. Nothing they do should ever set you up for injury or chronic dysfunction. And for physical therapists, they should be helping you to improve your movement after you have already developed some sort of dysfunction, such as after surgery or an injury. Preferably, the personal trainer should be able to fix small-scale movement dysfunction in real time in order to prevent things from getting worse. And a physical therapist should be reserved for the bigger things that a personal trainer could not be reasonably expected to help with.

 

For example, if a client has a problem with their knees always buckling in when they squat, the personal trainer should correct that bad position, and be able to clean up mobility issues around their hips and knees that may have developed from that bad position. But, if that individual had been using the knees-in position for many years and was already destroying their meniscus and/or ACL’s, they they should probably seek a physical therapist who should be able to provide a higher level of care.

 

Lack of finding a quality PT however can lead to such an issue continuing. Let us say that you began suffering from knee pain, and decided you need either a personal trainer or a physical therapist. If the trainer just simply puts you through a workout program to help strengthen your legs but does not address your position and capacity for full range positions, then they are worthless. If you go to a therapist and all they do is help alleviate your knee pain without addressing how you move and why the pain may have developed in the first place, and therefore teach you how to manage and prevent the issue on your own, then that is also worthless. Always remember that it is YOU, the client, who chooses the PT. You never have to settle for whoever you first work with. And don’t assume that just because they have a piece of paper declaring they passed a test, that they necessarily are worth it for you and your health.

 

Here is a list of GUIDELINES to help you choose a PT. Either interview them a little bit or just simply pay attention to how they work with you. If any red flags go off in your head, get another PT. You always have that freedom and responsibility. This list is not necessarily set in stone. Always be sure to ask questions and learn why a PT may have you do whatever it is they do to you. They may have a legitimate reason for doing something that contradicts this list.

 

  1. If your personal trainer (talking one-on-one, not group fitness) only leads a workout and you just simply follow along as best you can, and they never fix your movement or mobility issues, perhaps you should run away.

  2. If your trainer only writes out workouts for you, and does not guide you through the movements, run away.

  3. If your personal trainer does not have any focus on breathing and improving your capacity to breathe, run away.

  4. If your personal trainer or your physical therapist does not teach you about how to move, run away.

  5. If your PT does not workout, run away. And I do not mean work out with you. I mean they need to workout in their own time and be fit. They should practice what they preach. You can ask them how much they deadlift or press. If they can not respond to such a question, run away.

  6. A strain is the result of violently overstretching muscles and tendons. If your PT diagnosis a strain and has you stretch it out, you might want to run away. Stretching something that is overstretched never does anyone any good.

  7. Similar to #6, if you have super tight muscles and maybe nearby joint pain, and your PT has your strengthen those muscles, maybe you should run away. Weight training makes your tissues tighter.

  8. Manners. If they treat you like crap, are bossy, and obviously don’t care really care for your well-being in any way, run away.

  9. Undivided attention. If they are constantly on their phone or focusing constantly on something else that is not you, the client, run away and find someone else.

  10. Professional attitude. Don’t put up with anyone being overbearing, creepy or flirtatious with you in the workplace. If they feel creepy, run away.