The Missing Foundation for Fitness

“The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

And he spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

But others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

There are 3 possible places to sow the seeds of your fitness journey.

1) On stony places – this is the sin of shallowness. It’s equivalent of focusing on superficial goals without building a foundation.

2) Among thorns – this is the problem of surrounding yourself or working with the wrong people. The fitness industry is full of people who see you as a dollar sign and don’t care about truly helping you.

3) On good ground – this is to build a foundation of authentic movement. This will produce good fruit like:

  • a reduced rate of injury,
  • a movement foundation that will last a lifetime,
  • the ability to hunt the backcountry into old age,
  • the ability to play with your grandchildren,
  • and to be a functional human being that isn’t in chronic pain.

Put simply: Movement quality is the seed for all good fruit. If you neglect it, you will fail on your fitness journey.

                                                       

Challenge vs Difficulty

The role of a fitness program is to provide an adequate challenge, not make things as difficult as possible. Anyone can design a difficult workout. For example, do a 1000 burpees followed by heavy snatches until you puke. This is an incredibly difficult workout. It’s also incredibly stupid.

A challenge on the other hand provides the right amount of difficulty and is aligned with the SAID principle – Specific Adaptions to Imposed Demands. This means that the fitness program (the imposed demands) should be designed around desired goals (specific adaptions.)

In the initial phases of a fitness journey, the goal is to develop a foundation of authentic movement. This is the foundation for a pyramid of health and fitness. It can be the most frustrating phase of a fitness journey.

 

Many of my clients want to jump in full swing with a ‘no pain; no gain’ mentality. They want it to be difficult because they believe that makes it a good workout.

Difficult high-intensity workouts must be earned by developing a body that can withstand and adapt to them. If your body is weak and you can’t perform a proper squat, your workouts need to revolve around regaining full range of motion. This requires a combination of self-myofascial release, activation drills, and stretching along with low-intensity cardio until authentic movement is achieved.

 

The Gap Between Wants and Needs

There is a huge gap in fitness between what people want and what they need. Fundamentally, this is a knowledge gap. There is a psychological phenomenon where the less you know about a subject, the more you underestimate its complexity. This is common in fitness.

“Fitness is simple. You go to the gym a few time a week, run a few times a week, and spend a bunch of money on supplements. Everyone in the world is capable of moving, why are you making it so complex?”

Everyone is capable of moving, but few are capable of moving well.

How many people do you know that struggle with shoulder, back, knee, or neck pain? Answer: Probably most of them.

How many people are overweight or obese? Answer: Over two thirds of the population.

How many people do you know that can perform a full range of motion body-weight squat with perfect form? Answer: Probably no one over age 4.

Movement is simple. Watch a toddler move. They naturally move how human beings are designed to move. Then things start to change. They start to go to school where they spend 6+ hours sitting in a chair. They start eating processed food throughout the day. They come home just to sit in front of a TV, computer, or video game.

As soon as they are done with their 12-16 years of school, they move on to a desk job where they spend even more hours sitting. The average American spends 13 hours per day sitting and another 8 hours sleeping. The human body is not designed to be this sedentary. The result is a crisis of obesity and related disease, chronic pain and the accompanying opiate addictions, and the skyrocketing rate of “ADHD” among our youth.

This is NOT how our bodies were designed to work. If you want to live a healthy life, you ABSOLUTELY have to do something to counteract the muscular imbalances that are caused by modern sedentary lifestyle.

 

Marketers Create the Gap

The role of marketers in our society is to position a product in a way that creates the most desire and sales from their target demographic. To be effective, marketers study the buying behaviors and desires of the market. They find the biggest pain points, the areas where they know people will buy based on emotion.

They hammer on your lack of confidence about your body. Then they package up the solution into a pill, fat loss supplement, beachbody workout (what the hell is a beach body, anyway?), protein powder, or one of countless other worthless fitness gadgets designed to funnel money from the pocket of the consumer.

They study you and tell you exactly what you want to hear. This would be great, if their products actually lived up to their claims. Anyone who has read my Unbiased Guide to Supplements knows that there is no regulating body for the supplement industry. This means they can say whatever they want on their products and suffer no consequences when their claims are dishonest.

 

Closing the gap by understanding pain

The purpose of bodily pain is highly misunderstood in the entire health and wellness field. Pain is not the problem. It is a symptom of the problem.  It is the nervous system’s way of communicating that something is dysfunctional. 

Masking the pain with painkillers does not fix the problem. It would be like if your check engine light came on because your transmission was leaking. Pain is like a check engine light for your body. When the transmission is leaking, the solution to that problem isn’t to turn off the check engine light. The transmission would run out of fluid and be destroyed.

The difference in this analogy is that you can always buy a new transmission; you can’t buy a new body. Consider that next time you take pain pills for your lower back pain. To treat pain, we must find the source of that pain and correct it. Understanding and eliminating the source of pain is the appropriate way to handle it.

 

3 Sources of Movement Dysfunction

The source of movement dysfunction and pain can be simplified with 3 categories.

1) Developmental –Something occurred during your developmental years that fundamentally changed the way you move. A quick growth spurt partnered with minimal activity is a common source of lifelong movement dysfunction. Another source of movement dysfunction is asymmetrical movements like throwing, shooting, and kicking.

2) Traumatic –An injury causes permanent movement dysfunction. The nervous system compensates for pain by changing the way the body moves. An incomplete rehabilitation process means that the body never returns to the way it moved before the injury. Athletes who take pain pills or “play through the pain” often suffer lifelong movement dysfunction.

This is how I became so interested in movement quality. Playing through one injury led to countless others and eventually a torn ACL that ended my college football career.

If it’s the only thing you take from this article, do not encourage kids to play through an injury. It’s not as simple as developing toughness. It’s sacrificing their long-term health for short term gain. Most people that follow my work have a goal of maintaining a functional body well into old age. Why would you want anything different for your children?

3) Acquired – Unnatural activity completed on a natural movement base or natural movement repeated on an unnatural base. In other words, you completed a normal movement (i.e. running) on an unnatural movement base (poor breathing and stride mechanics.) This leads to injury and people believing that running always leads to injury. No. Dysfunctional running leads to injury.

The other source of acquired dysfunction is completing an unnatural movement (sitting for 12+ hours per day) on a normal movement base. Over time, this leads to a series of muscular imbalances that destroy the natural movement base.

 

The Movement Screen

A movement screen allows for an objective view of the body’s current state of movement. With movement mapped, the next step is to break down the compromised movement patterns and uncover the source. Then a corrective exercise plan can be developed to return movement to a functional baseline. At this point, the risk of injury is dramatically reduced, pain is eliminated, and the athlete can safely focus on building a base of strength and conditioning.

Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is an attempt to standardize movement by breaking seven movement patterns down and allowing them to be scored on a scale of 0-3.

This provides a baseline to understand injury risk and to measure the effectiveness of corrective exercise by retesting against the baseline.

 

Poor man’s movement screen

I put together a few videos so that readers can test themselves at home. These screens are not a replacement for a professional screen. They are superficial screens meant to encourage a deeper evaluation.

They are designed to test for the three most common postural problems: chest breathing, anterior pelvic tilt, and a rounded upper back. If you fail any of these screens, correcting the underlying issue should be priority number one in your fitness journey.

 

My Intake Process

My intake process for new clients starts with a comprehensive background questionnaire. I review the client’s health history, previous injuries and pain, and past fitness programs. Next is a movement screen and assessment to map movement patterns and uncover muscular imbalances.

This is followed by an in-depth discussion on goals and expectation management. Expectation management is a timeline to reach goals along with the required sacrifices. That’s how achievement works; you sacrifice something in the present to get something better in the future. My job is to make sure that the present sacrifice is minimal to achieve the maximal future reward.

 

Schedule a Mountain Fit Strategy Session

Movement is a trade and a business. When the electricity is malfunctioning, most untrained people don’t try to fix it themselves. They hire someone that is trained for the job. The same is true for plumbing, mechanical work, and all the other trades.

Yet, it cannot be said about movement. This seems bizarre to me. The human body is THE most complex thing in the universe (if there is anything more complex, it is beyond our understanding) and you only get one for your entire ride on Earth. Movement screens should be routine as cancer screens and dental check-ups.

Skip them if you like, but you won’t be able to claim ignorance when you spend the last 10-20 years of your life limping like a cripple and spreading resentment.

So, where will you sow the seeds of your fitness journey?

If you wish to sow them on good ground and receive good fruit, I invite you to fill out the survey below and schedule a free Mountain Fit Strategy Session. Spots are extremely limited so fill it out asap, weather you want some quick advice or to chat about the possibility of us working together. All my coaching is done remotely so I can work with you anywhere in the world.

 

 

One last thing.. If you learned anything new from this article, I encourage you to hit the like button below and to share this post on Facebook. This is a message that needs to be seen by as many people as possible.