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

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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