MAKING YOUR HEAD SPIN
So the last post seemed anything but simple. I talked about your heart rate, arteries, and all the moving systems that are involved on a daily basis. My hope is that by the end of this post you have somewhere solid to start that you can then apply to any sort of training regimen you endeavor. Whether you’re training for performance, injury prevention, general sustained health, or to feel healthier in your body, the following systematic approach is an easy one to implement on your own, as long as you’re willing to do it.
First off, we have so much to consider when ‘working out’. Part of us do it because we have pent up energy, others do it for a sense of ‘achievement’, and some of us do it out of the fear of getting out of shape. So right there, exercise means different things to each person. It may be an escape for some or destination for others. Either way, the common thread across all humans (I think) is that we want to feel better. But what does feel better mean? When you think of ‘better’ what does that imply? Are you considering emotions, like “happiness” with ‘better’? Maybe you’re more of a sensory oriented person and better means, “out of pain,” to not be feeling your nagging neck. To somebody who is in an office all day, ‘better’ might mean, “energized,” as in outside, away from the office with a feeling of invigoration. So you see, better is an ambitious term as it is so subjective to an individual. So what the heck do we want out of ‘working out’?
THE QUEST FOR PROGRESS
Once again, your nervous system knows best. I think, and I could be way off, that our bodies, our minds, feel happier, more energized, more comfortable, when they experience coordinated patterns of synchronicity, vibrations, and rhythm. After all, everything in life happens on a wave, we really are just big vibrations (but lets not go in this direction of conversation, shall we?) Think about laughter with people, how it makes you feel. Or think about the sight of seeing someone or something you love at the end of a long day or week. Can you remember what its like to feel so at ease in your own skin like when you walk out of a great bodywork session? Or how about a day of hiking or strenuous physical activity, don’t you love that sensation of complete exhaustion, like you earned something? Each of these scenarios produce vibrational rhythms, a symbiotic dance of interacting systems. It leaves us feeling like we got something out of nothing, at the cost of losing nothing. What I like to think of as real progress.
An effective training regimen incorporates a full body-wakeup. Your training has got to stimulate the senses, the organs, the emotions, the breath, everything has to be mixed into the equation! A workout that isn’t fun and leaves you smiling deadens the experience of waking up the body. If your breath is in a constant sate of being held or your mind isn’t in the movement, it deadens the experience of exploring new untapped potential and territory in the body. And so this is step number one of making it simple, wake up your diaphragm!
YOUR DIAPHRAGM GOVERNS THE REST
Diaphragm wakeup: Lay on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, and start breathing. Notice where and how you move as you breathe. When you take an inhale, I want you to inflate your belly as much as possible, and on your exhale let them stomach sling-shot as close to the spine and floor as possible. Do this about 10-30 times. Figure out how to move your ribcage and pelvis with your breathing. On an inhale, gently arch your low back 1mm off of the ground, let your sternum lift to the ceiling. On your exhale, softly curl your tailbone under and sink your ribcage and sternum towards your spine. Want more of a challenge? Inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 8. Put a block between your thighs in order to associate lower body tension thus allowing upper body tension to lessen. Do a 90/90 at the wall. The list of varieties to wake up your diaphragm is endless. Remember- breathing, especially diaphragmatic breathing, gives you more energy. It warms you up from the inside out, letting your body know that its time to train. Working out burns energy, breathing gives energy. Notice I had you do it with pelvic and ribcage tilts, this adds the oppositional sequencing to the warmup. So we can check off that box. Breathing mixed with the pelvic/thoracic movements also covers the rhythmic and vibrational tasks we wanted to accomplish. So whether you feel it or not, you are actually more ready to do anything physically strenuous because you’ve communicated with your neurological system, the spinal column, the diaphragm, essentially the deepest layers of your core. When you stand up how do you feel? What do you feel? All of this is useful information.
So big takeaways. Lay down, breathe, incorporate gentle movements of your pelvis, ribcage, and head into the breathing. Wow, that was easy! And whether you feel something or not, what you’ve accomplished is significant. You’ve slowed down, you’ve warmed your diaphragm up, and you’ve driven neurological command into your spine and nervous system. So when you start ‘exercising’ your body has that much more information ready at its disposal.
INSIDE OUT, CORE-TO-EXTREMITY
When it comes to getting ready for the next step in simplifying your workout I want you to think about your joints. Shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, ankles, wrists, your neck, all of them. You’ve got to get blood flow circulating throughout your system. My advice, is to keep your mind focused on being intentional with what to do next. Bask in the diaphragm breathing that slowed you down a bit and try to cultivate this inner awareness of how to systematically build your body. Knees down movements are good (this is referred to as a quadruped or tabletop position), but so are kneeling, and low lunge positions. Even being on your back and moving through some slow dead bugs to practice some spinal bracing can be useful (as long as the stomach isn’t coning up, more on that in later posts). When you stand up, do some neck circles (see video below), or maybe some other joint motions. Again, my page is loaded with plenty of body motions to get your working. The best advice I can give is to be strict with your movement, do your best not to flail through it, waving and swaying around. Be disciplined! This is why this is my second piece of advice to simplify your game plan, get the muscles around all the distal joints to activate so that they start feeding the spine freshly oxygenated blood. This will start to give your spine more decompressive forces and help assimilate your intrinsic core stabilizers. Basically you want to lengthen your spine muscles before your extremity muscles, and you do this through recruiting the upper and lower body musculatures.
A warmup may looks like this:
-Breathing on back with feet at 90/90 on wall and block between thighs, 15-30 reps
-Quadruped knee hovers for 3-6 breaths at a time, 3x
-Low lunge hinges with back knee hover off ground
Eventually Stand up and perform
-4 Neck CARS in each direction
-4-6 shoulder cars in each direction
-2-4 deadbugs per side
Then you go do what you’ve been wanting to do, and already you’ve spent 20-30 minutes doing high quality work preparing you for whatever activity you had planned.
For different variations of movements to do, check out my YouTube page here, click a video and try to follow along. Then the next day, try to do it without the video, or at least to the best of your ability.