Movement and the mind, walking in San Francisco

I recently heard a podcast between Daniel Vitalis and Ido Portal. Vitalis is a “rewilding” leader who teaches ways to live in tune to original human ways. Portal is a natural movement practitioner.

Portal said that the human brain developed to the size we possess today in order to power greater complexity of physical movement. We have so much ability in our bodies to move in such intricate ways because of the size of our brains. I haven’t had a chance to verify the research behind this statement, but I have had an interesting experience last week that correlated with it.

Recently I was offered employment, which required an initial two-day training in San Francisco. I didn’t want to make the two-hour drive back and forth for two days, so I stayed with a friend near the training site. I took the train up to the closest station, walked the hilly streets the rest of the way, and then used buses and ferries to get to and from my various destinations through the week.

Because the City was mostly clouded and chilly, I had no qualms about hard fast walking. On my last day I walked over 12,000 steps and scaled 33 floors, according to my phone. I’m pretty sure that a few of the hills I climbed were at least four stories high. Add the stairs at building entrances, transportation terminals, and walking bridges, and 33 doesn’t seem like that much.

I noticed that I was much more upbeat than usual. From the moment I woke to the moment I went to bed, I had a very positive mindset about things. I felt like I could do anything.

My mood was lighter and I was also more willing to take on challenges. Part of my motivation was probably from the necessity of catching transportation before it was too late. I was on a schedule, and I had to make it on time to places. The other thing is that I was always very early for everything. I wanted to decrease the risk of being late as much as possible. I was up at five for a ten o’clock training. It’s such a great feeling that comes with being ahead of schedule.

Above all else, though, was the constant moving. I was walking, walking, walking. I loved it. My ankles became uber mobile. Up to three days after I got back, I was able to sit in a squat with feet much closer than usual. My normal tightness from sitting was absent, although I certainly sat a lot during training. At times I was sweating, at others I was huffing and puffing, and mostly I was warm and mobile.

My conversations with people were positive, productive, and often powerful. I spoke with some people I might not normally have spoken to. I was quicker to respond, more creative, and more alert. And I slept better.

Yes, there are many factors involved. Different environment, new job, temporary situation. However, I deeply felt the connection between lots of moving and mind stimulation. I don’t know if I would have been the same way had I driven my car everywhere, sitting for hours in traffic. I don’t think so.

Those four days in San Francisco will never leave my memory. Aside from the amazing training experience, my awesome friends who showed such kindness, and the humming life of the City, I will always remember the vigor I felt from significant movement every day.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Playing

Moving through playing is more varied and inspired than routine exercise. A training routine develops you to become stronger in focused ways, but playing is an outlet for movement based on feel and natural sequences.

You might run a certain number of miles every day, but unless you run around with your dog on a field or play a sport or do some sort of randomized mode of running, you won’t really step and move and slow and accelerate in ways other than the straightforward path of the usual jog or sprint.

One way to do “sprints” without making it an uber-structured session is to just kick off the shoes on a field of grass, jog and shake things off for a bit, and get bouncy. As you make your way around the field, find little moments to make quick bursts of running, and then come back to a light jog or bounce. Go with your feeling, and make sure to stay on your toes more and keep the integrity of your entire body. Don’t make dramatic flails or lunges. Keep it all close and within your range. Stop running if you feel any twinges of pain or joint misalignment.

I bring up the topic of playing because I realize that people who don’t have an established background of sports or training most likely have played as kids.

I remember playing tag with my sister and the neighborhood kids. One person is “it”, and has to chase down and tap someone else to not be “it”. Then that new “it” person has to do the same to someone else. It was a hilarious game of running, dodging, laughing, and sometimes crying. Lots of moment to moment movement tactics too.

Don’t hesitate to play when you get the chance. Bust out the football or frisbee at the park, race your dog or your kids, or just goof off by yourself if you aren’t embarrassed. If you do feel a bit shy, just start off with some jogging steps, squats, jumping jacks, bounces, however you feel like moving.

The routinized training for strength and other physical building is great for getting you from point A to point B. It’s important, though, that you keep the integrity of your own movement patterns. With any exercise you utilize for strength building, you must use your own ideal positions and technique. But fitting yourself into specified exercises might lead you away from your natural rhythms, ranges, and strengths.

Play can bring back this instinctual ability to move freely and spontaneously. Since you’re focused on the game or the mood, and not the movement, you are more likely to move the way you are best able.

The connection between all of this is that play teaches us to move, training builds strength in those movements, and better movement allows for better play.

Live powerfully,

Steve


Check out these examples of great movers:

movnat.com

http://www.tacfitacademy.com/

Ido Portal

Lots of inspiration from:

Daniel Vitalis

Something

Brilliant Friends!

Big changes come from small efforts over time. I’m finding that regular movement is very important.

What do I mean by movement? Mostly walking or pacing, sometimes jogging, and every once in a while sprinting. Shake things off, wiggle around, clap your hands in front and behind, jumping jacks, whatever. Watch me move between exercises. I look goofy!

Moving every day has incredible effects. I don’t have to stretch as often to be mobile. The knots that show up in stressful situations are fading. And naturally, moving is becoming easier and more natural. Believe it or not, I sometimes forget how to walk with a good posture, good steps, good breathing.

Even when I had a three times a week gym schedule, I wasn’t moving enough. Believe it or not, I was squatting three hundred pounds and I was still sedentary. Because I would drive to, and then from the gym. Most of my life was spent sitting. Sitting in the office, sitting in the car, sitting at the dining table, sitting on the couch. Even a quick jog would leave me breathing hard.

So, I decided to change my thinking about physical movement. I started doing something, sometimes a lot, most times medium, sometimes just a little, but every day.

Don’t underestimate the power of some movement every day. Believe in “something versus nothing”. Don’t fall for “all or nothing”. Take a walk. Go with someone if you can ask. Take your music or podcast. Try phone calls. As a bonus, I must suggest going barefoot. Something!

Live powerfully,

Steve

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Build Your Squat Episode 2

Brilliant People.

In this episode, I talk about how to ease into the squat, and what to do with your feet, your knees, and your butt. If this is your first time ever, it’s a good quick intro to squatting. Even if you’ve just been out of practice for a while, or if you’re a hardcore weight lifter, take a second to look at your squat technique.

It takes just a few things for you to maximize your output, strengthen your knees, and use your back correctly with the squat. My priority is to help you do this ultimate human movement the right way. Train with these few simple mental cues and build your squat to enhance your life.

Be gentle, take it slow, and build with care.

Live powerfully!

Steve

Why Your Back Is Hunched

NL 128 Beach Squat The Brilliant Beast Blog.jpg

Do this quick test: stand with feet pointing forward, at shoulder width or less, and get down in a full squat. All the way down, until your knees can’t bend anymore.

Have someone take a side angle photo of you or be next to a full length mirror. Is your back pretty straight? Or is it hunched over your knees? What about your head? Is it in line with your spine, or bent forward or backward?

Make sure your feet are planted from heel to blade to toes. Use your feet’s grip on the ground to support yourself, and try to straighten out your torso. You want your shoulders back and head in line with your spine. Possible? Or not even a bit?

Okay. If you had a lot of trouble lifting up your torso, you probably have stiff chest, shoulder, and bicep muscles. I get this after bench press sessions, lots of sitting, and lots of walking with a heavy pack when traveling. In all these scenarios, I’m straining forward or in a position that gets the front muscles short and tight.

The result is forward hunching. My favorite remedy is shoulder dislocations. Do three sets of ten of these, and feel the crazy tightness loosen up. It will open up your squat, but it will also help with long hours sitting at work and in traffic, standing taller, and easing upper back and neck aches.

When you think of squatting, the upper body doesn’t seem to be involved. But the mobility of your torso actually affects your ability to squat.

It’s not always necessary that you are in the full squat with a straight spine. Lifting something heavy is a different story, but when you’re just getting into a squat, you can have a rounded back without harm to yourself.

The extent to which your back is straight or curved is, though, an indicator of your mobility. If your back is very hunched, it could mean that the tissues of your abdomen, ribs, chest, and shoulders are tight.

If the front of your body is tight, it’s going to pull you forward and make it hard to straighten up. Work on your normal sitting and standing positions. If you’re slouching, get yourself upright. Open up the chest and shoulders, and stretch out your biceps. And squat every day to test yourself.

It’s a constant work in progress for me. The more I’m able to keep my torso aligned, the better time I have living each day free of aches, kinks, and pain.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Descend Like A Panther

A very random, but hopefully useful, bit on movement. Stairs.

I take the subway everyday in Seoul. Train boarding platforms are two or three, sometimes up to six floors underground. So there’s a lot of staircases.

Most of them are automated, AKA the escalator. Some of them are not. So everyone who takes the rail here has lots of time on stairs.

Going up the stairs is obviously the dreaded part for many people. It’s hard, it’s hot in the summer, and there’s hundreds of people crowded against each other. But in a physiological sense, going up is usually the same every time. It’s like doing a bunch of one-legged squats. Going down is the tricky part.

I noticed that sometimes going down stairs is easy and effortless. It feels like I’m gliding down. I’m quick and quiet and smooth, like Bagheera. And then other times, it’s choppy. My feet are stomping, my body is jarring, and I can’t seem to get in a good rhythm. I’m the Tin Man before Dorothy pumps oil into his joints. So what’s the deal?

It’s all about centering. I wrote you about staying close to the center, in a meta sense. This is the physical counterpart to that. Whether we stand, squat, or deadlift, we’ve got to stay close to our center of gravity and balance for optimal movement. When we’re walking, running, or going down stairs, though, we have to keep that center just ahead of us.

Take walking, for example. Try to walk slowly with a perfectly upright posture. Head above shoulders above hips above feet. Try to speed up the walk a bit. You’ll start to feel awkward. If you’ve ever dreamed of running through invisible molasses, it’s kind of like that. Hard to propel yourself forward.

Lean slightly forward, and you feel the balance shift forward. It’s a natural thing we do. When we run it’s more extreme. And when we go down stairs, it’s also the same. But I seem to have trouble with this every once in a while. And when I look around, I see a lot of people with the same issue: stompy, jarring, awkward movement down the stairs.

It’s probably because we don’t have much practice on stairs. I started to pay attention to my body as I descended into the stations. If I leaned forward with my upper body and kept my head in line with my spine, I noticed things got more natural. My steps were timed better, I was landing with the ball of my foot rather than the heel, and I was able to engage into the next step down more easily. The panther was back.

When I forgot this, if I was tired, or distracted, I would find myself sloppily crashing down again. Feet slapping against the steps, hips jarring, and timing all off. If I examined myself, I would find my head and shoulders too far back, as if I were still walking on flat ground. Readjusting to lean slightly forward not only fixed my mechanics, it also caused me to be mentally engaged with the task of going downstairs. Being present to our movement is just as important as being physically strong or nimble.

And this last part is important to the long game. We know about the geriatric population being prone to falls. Well, guess what. We are all part of the geriatric population, now or later. I think younger people are just lucky that they are slightly more nimble, slightly quicker and avoid disasters when they aren’t paying attention. We all have the opportunity to develop better movement skills.

Be mindful of your body mechanics the next time you approach a staircase. No matter how big or small it is, make each step smooth and quiet. Take each step down with intention. This counts for sidewalk curbs as well. When crossing the street, make that first step off the curb with focus. Our attention to the smallest things scales to the biggest things in life.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily