It’s relatively easy to get to a good ‘after’ picture; you eat less (although as you are unlikely to know what the what is that you need to eat less of, you need to make sure it is definitely less, by basically starving yourself), and you need to ensure you move more (seems like a breeze with the abundance of stress hormones coursing round your body from the aforementioned starvation). But I only know of a few people who maintain the same appearance as their after picture, and that is by eating even less (than they were before), and moving even more (endurance events ahoy). I dont know about their internal health so it would be remiss of me to say, but I have learned to tell a lot about folk by their behaviour and I would postulate that on the basis of that, despite their claims, they are probably not living in their best life at all.
The world is awash with every kind of therapist, offering to absorb the pain of change on their clients' behalf; and promising them the world, often by 'prescribing' (I find the use of this word worrying, both from the perspective of the giver, and the taker, of said prescription. But more on that another time). This kind of relationship often leads to good reviews (often just because the client feels obligated after their therapist has put in so much effort to fix them), and good reviews often equal new clients, usually with similar issues and dispositions; and so the cycle continues.
This is obviously a complex subject, and I recognise that in not dumbing it down to x = y, which is incidentally what most of our 'health advice’ does, it may seem a little abstract. However, it would seem to me that the key to remaining cancer free, is to broaden the biological gaze, and consider the body as a system, rather than as parts which can be vaccinated or nuked as appropriate.
Sleep is a particular area of interest for me, firstly because it has been something that has been problematic, for what seems like my entire life. It's only now after spending time addressing the physical factors that are crucial for good sleep health, that I am enjoying more restful sleep. There was a time when I was neck deep in medication and yet would still be lying awake at 2am questioning decisions I made at 19.30 on July 20th 1999. Secondly, because it is usually such an effective baromter of overall health.
As a kid my dad used to tell me “pull your shoulders back!” I recall doing as I was told at the time but having to think about it consciously each time and doubtlessly reverting to what was, I now understand, a relatively poor posture afterwards. As I’ve broadened my interest in the body, from biological, to structural, learning the techniques that Billy uses (more on that here ), I have come to understand that posture is not something you can wooden soldier yourself into when you think it matters, but something that needs to be achieved from the bottom up, like most physiological matters, so that it takes care of itself without us having to consciously think about it all of the time
This week saw my return to the gym after a 5 month absence, and I eased myself back in gently with amongst some other things, deadlifting. At 35Kgs, there is certainly no ego lifting going on here.
You can’t cheat the deadlift though…
Would I like to be lifting 100kgs? Of course. But whilst I may get the bar off the ground, I wouldn’t be able to do it with good form, as I suspect the vast majority of people lifting that weight are not able to either. I saw a meme the other day that said there’s no way of cheating with a deadlift; it said you either lift it or you don’t. Which is obviously nonsense. Y’all can round your shoulders forward, hyperextend the knees, round the back, pull from the arms, not have sufficient core strength to protect the spine, not have strength to hold your head in place, overextend the hips forward and roll the shoulders back at the end (idk why, I think that’s how the body pumpists do it). These are common mistakes, and ones I observe regularly in the gym.
I have a couple of clients at the moment who are telling me me they should be weight lifting; all of them are (unconvincingly) trying to convince me it’s for reasons other than aesthetics. Obviously it’s up to them ultimately whether they embark on a weightlifting routine or not, but it’s important to understand that if your body is fighting for survival (not even being dramatic), the last thing it’s in the market for, is building muscle.
Ok then, how do I tell if I’m in good shape to begin prep for the next strongman / strongwoman competition?
The first thing that you need to consider before embarking on a lifting routine, is to ensure that your body is happy, and not stressed. People often overlook that training - including lifting heavy objects - is a stressor for the body; this is fine, and done in the right way, it can be beneficial to your health. However what many of us neglect to account for, is the stress soup we are already neck deep in, all day err day. Work, financial pressure, social and peer pressure, often under fuelled because of the latest diet trend thats being followed.
You can find a handy checklist at my article Is Your Metabolism Struggling (if you don’t have the bandwidth to follow the link, that in itself is probably indicator enough that the answer to that question is ‘yes’).
Other questions to ask yourself are:
How is your temperature?
How is your heart rate?
Do you have a post lunch slump?
How is your sleep?
How is your digestion?
How is your libido?
How is your cognitive function? Does life often seem like a cryptic crossword clue?
How is your mood overall?
For the ladies amongst us, how is your menstrual cycle (length, disruption to your life from both PMS, and the actual period).
Be honest with yourself; the answers here should give you all the information you need to make a decision as to whether you should commence any exercise routine, not just lifting.
Ok, thats the biology, how about the structure itself?
Well, what many of us neglect to consider is that our bodies - skeletons and muscles - are designed in a certain way - to give us a posture that our body works best in, for optimal health and minimal injury and disease. If we are not in that posture, as many of us are not, for many reasons, then problems can occur. Not least of all, if we have postural issues, but exercise regardless, or despite them, often the dysfunction can be strengthened via neural pathways, and so the compensations are exacerbated, and so the cycle of dysfunction continues.
Next week, I’m going to be talking about what I am doing personally (you can see from this picture that I have rounded shoulders), and some of the things I help my clients with, to ensure we are correcting postural dysfunction, and then strengthening the body as a system.
If you are in the Banbury area, from 6th October, I will have a consultancy room, where, amongst my online coaching packages, I will also be offering Therapeutic Massage. This treatment includes a postural assessment, corrective massage (45 minutes), and stretches to address the postural dysfunction. If appropriate, we will create an exercise programme to build overall strength.
As I talked about in last weeks’ article The Evolution Of The Revolting Dieter, I use the knowledge and skills I have as a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Level 3 Sports Massage Therapist, alongside 6 years of biological study and self-experimentation, supported by Consulting Health Researcher, Billy Craig, to work with my clients at a holistic level, to help them lead a happy and healthy life. Some of that is via hands-on therapy to help with specific pain issues, but mostly it is about teaching you how to get back in touch with your own perfectly good guidance system, and take back charge of your life.
Feel free to drop me a line if you ave any questions about this topic, or there’s something you would like me to cover in next weeks’.
Whilst I have practiced to some extent, I have not had a base in the UK from which to set up my consulting space, and that has hampered me as I never wanted to be in the mobile therapist gang (although I make exceptions for people unable to travel to me), plus I have been gallivanting around Italy for the last four months. However, that will change from the end of this year (still firming up dates), as I will indeed have a permanent space, in Banbury. I will share details as they unfold via my newsletter, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.