Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Create The Environment For Success

"Environment is the invisible hand that shapes behavior. Creative manipulation is an underrated tool in affecting rate of skill acquisition."
Coach Stu McMillan

One of the things I've kept in the back of my head was the comment that you may think you have always known something when you hear it, because it seems like common sense, but yet it's actually a new concept for yourself when you stop to think about it. 

This was a light bulb moment when I saw the above quote by my friend, Stu McMillan, head sprint/power coach at Altis. Part of me has felt like I've always known it and have stumbled upon some success with using this method, but I believe it was with out fully realizing it.

Essentially, manipulate your environment to create an outcome that you desire. I'm looking at it more from a lifestyle design and therapy lens then sprinting or athletic technique, but principles stay the same.

I was trying to incorporate more aerobic work this winter. I came into the spring far behind my goals last year. This winter I got a trainer to ride at night after I put my kids to bed. I used it. When I left it up with bike attached I used it more. It became even easier to just head to the basement and jump on. Very little set up now. I was shaping a new behavior. A time, a place and a reminder to shape the acquisition that I wanted, aerobic fitness.

Often times, runners and bikers become quad dominate and lose hip strength. This can lead to the development of knee or hip pain. One of the goals is to introduce the athlete to new exercises that they incorporate several times a day. My favorite type of exercise is one where failure is helpful, the brain is challenged, the outcome (hip strength) will happen if effort is applied and doing the movement keeps the strong (overpowering) muscles out of the equation without the athlete having to "think about it." Just try. The outcome will happen. The exercise is the environment for the new behavior. I often have them do some rolling exercise that proceeds the training. I do believe this has some value in tension modulation and some core muscle stimulation, but I also want that physical reminder. I see the roller or ball. I remember to do it.

For people that stand at a desk or work at a counter. Having a 6" stool/block to rest a foot on will change how much fatigue will be in their low back. A simple environmental instrument to change how you move.

There have been books written about the subject that cover in more depth this topic, but I always read/perceived that it was just taking away temptation. I realize now, removing the temptation is environmental manipulation. Removing food you don't want to eat from your home, eliminates the late night temptation. Placing a remote control in a closet or room usually means less TV watching.

Look around and pay attention. It can be a negative influence. Try to see how the environment is being programmed to manipulate or influence your actions, behaviors and thoughts. There are specialists that are hired by stores and retail to show certain colors, certain music, what's eye level, were the lights are, all to manipulate your actions/thoughts without you realizing it. Did you know the color red tends to get you to buy more, whether in person or online.

Take a survey of what you want to accomplish. Brainstorm some simple ideas and then create simple changes to the environment that you live to accomplish the behaviors that you want. Use the invisible hand of environmental manipulation to your benefit.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Homemade Gada Mace

Last month I was doing some more reading on circular strength training.  Often we train in just one plane of motion.  For example, a deadlift is primarily a sagittal plane movement.  Circular strength involves moving an object in a rotational pattern.

A deadlift done well centrate joints and allow you to have synced up the musculoskeletal system.  My theory from what I've been reading is that rotational should do that for joints, such as the shoulder that have plenty of movement.  This is why doing something like a rotational squat can be very therapeutic.

I had purchased a 20lb mace from Onnit last year.  For me, it was to heavy and short for my strength. After reading more on the history of the Gada, developed it appears first in India, 48" seems to be the best option.  You can buy a Gada for about 55 dollars.  I actually thought it would be fun to try to make my own and let my oldest daughter help.  Total cost was a little under 15 dollars.  It probably took under 20 min to put together and I let the concrete harden for 3 days.  It turned out pretty well.  Very smooth feeling at around 10lbs.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Weekend in Toronto: Back to the Basics

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of driving to Toronto to take part and learn at the first Functional Range Assessment course.   FR is a system of techniques and training, the assessment course is designed to tie them together and allow the practitioner clear cut guidelines in what direction to take an athlete or patient.

The best thing about the FR is the science driven teaching, and the teaching is top notch.  They are the most well taught seminar series I've ever taken (and I take a lot of seminars) and it shows in the caliber of attendees.  That for me has become just as important as the seminar taught, the quality of the attendees.  I've found I soak in just as much great info from the people attending as from the presenters when the material being presented is top notch.

I found the weekend to be an unexpected blending of one message that was penetrating my thick skull.  Get better at the basics.  A simple thing like measuring/checking joint angles, "Can your joint move like a human joint should?"

It is often stated that when something is basic and true, you think you have known it for ever when you hear it.  When you stop and think about it though, you realized, no you didn't.  It seems obvious at the moment, but sadly it was not.

"If your mobility training doesn't cost you anything, it won't give you anything either.  Mobility training shouldn't be easy."  Michael Ranfone

I am always amazed when I hear Dre or Mike teach at any of the FR seminars that this stuff wasn't what I dropped big $$$ to learn in chiropractic school.  For example, vision, hearing and articular capsules are the 3 senses that can bypass the CNS and go directly to the brain (Motor Cortex).   That is just one example of the nuggets of knowledge that you can gleam.   We have doctors that check our eyes and our ears, why not our articular capsules.  This is also why doing your CARS (controlled articular rotations) are such a big deal every day.  #everydamnday

The undercurrent when FR wasn't going on was also, for me, about the basics. A book by Ben House called Still Standing, was recommended to me by a friend.  Synchronicity is a very cool thing, as I had just started reading Dr. House's work online.  I read it that night (quick read that I recommend) that had to deal with lifestyle and blood work.  Blood work and what you can learn from it, has been a new interest of mine.  It further stoked my fascination with blood work and lifestyle changes that can influence it.

How many times did your parents tell you to chew your food.  The book recommends 30x just to start to get a reset on your digestion.  Something so simple, but yet can impact your health.  I'm always done first, when it comes to eating.   When I literally started counting my chews, I realized I wanted to swallow my food on number 3.

It also brought to light mindless eating, whether looking at my phone or my computer, I always reverted to old habits.  Chewing 30x brought you to the present.  Mindfulness.

Eat 10 fist sized servings of vegetables every day.  Again, how many times did you hear, eat your vegetables from your parents.  How many of us do this?  Basics.  Health.

During some of the break out hands on sessions, I was able to pick @danajohnflows brain about all the different 90/90 hip positions to increase tension and build internal hip rotation.  It was the subtle changes of positions that allowed the stretch or tension to go from non existent to high.  Something you wouldn't see in a video.  It was a basic stretch until a slight variation made it not.  That was the weekend in a nutshell for me.  Taking the basics, getting better at them,  owning them, mastering them.

The weekend was a great learning environment, FR always is.  You can't help but get better.  Amazing lectures, hands on that you can immediately use with your athletes and patients, and awesome attendees that increase the learning environment.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Years Resolution That Everyone Can Use: More Sleep

It is exactly the time of year where people make resolutions to enhance the New Year.  Most resolutions are designed to be health enhancing.  Lose weight, get fit (whatever that means) save money, these all seem to be high on peoples list.  One thing you don't here often when asked for new years resolution is get more sleep.  

Sleep may be the most important keystone in your quest to build a healthy lifestyle.  The more we learn about the science of sleep the more we realize its importance.  Last years research showed that sleep is like taking out the garbage and clearing the waste from our brain.  Not sleeping and clearing out these wastes has been linked to neurological disease such as Alzheimer's.  Sleep has been shown to physically have links to obesity and diabetes.  

It is estimated that people are sleeping 1-2 hours less per night then the same population group in 1950.  That is quite a lot of sleep.  Perhaps it just isn't nutrition that is making us fat as a country, perhaps it is lack of sleep.  

Sleep:  The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Brain by Nick Littlehales,  was one of the last books I read in 2016.  It's a quick easy read with some solid practical points.   Nick was one of the original sleep performance coaches who started helping Manchester United Football in the early 90's.  Since then he has gone on to help teams like Team SKY that won the Tour De France recently.  The following are some of the key take home points that I thought were worth sharing.  He calls this his R90 program.  

Think of sleep as 90min cycles.  You want to accrue 90 min cycles.  Learn what works for you.  Most people will need a minimum of 4 cycles or 6 hours.  I personally do best with 5 cycles or 7.5 hours.  Now multiply this number by 7 (days in the week)  So my perfect would be 35 cycles.  So a great week according to R90 would be 30-35 cycles.  Forget the I had a bad nights sleep mindset, think of it as a long term health mindset.  I met my cyclic needs this week.  

Now there are several categories of people that will struggle with this.  Parents of young ones come to mind, first and foremost.  In his book he outlines naps called controlled recovery periods.  Done right a 20 min CRP can equal a cycle.  

The Pre and Post bed routines are critical.  Light plays an enormous roll in this time period.  These are also 90 min.  Try to get sunlight on your eyes as soon as you can.  If you live in places that won't see the sun for like 3 months like me (lol) he suggests a blue light alarm that mimics a sunrise.  Avoiding stressful email/computers/blue light before bed.  He suggests mindless task of work that needs to get done anyway.  Picking up your house.  Folding clothes.  Get things ready for the next day.  It was interesting to note that for me I realized I had instinctively found 90 min to be the minimum time I wanted to have from wake up till I left the house for work or appointment.  

Using some Psychology with this one, he thinks people sleep best with the non dominate arm down and in the fetal position facing out.  So if your right handed you sleep on the left shoulder looking away from your partner or bed.  

His ideal sleep environment was actually married couples sleep in separate beds.  Probably not practical, but I remember my grandparents who were born in the 10's had this type of set up when I was very young.  Perhaps another clue on why we sleep less today.  The next best option is the biggest bed you can possibly make work for the bedroom.  Spend money on the mattress not on the frame.  You should be able to lay on your back without crossing your legs to determine if it's the right softness.  You shouldn't need the use of a pillow but it's fine if you like one.  

The room is completely black.  No TV.  No smart phone, it is kept in another room.  Temperature around 68F. 

Do everything in your power to figure sleep out without the use of sleeping pills.  A 2012 study linked the use of sleeping pills to an increase mortality and cancer.   Those verse a placebo gained only 22 minutes.  Not worth it.  

The science of sleep and how it affects our physiology is truly an amazing and important reality.  It is indeed the cornerstone of health.  Don't kid yourself on not needing it.  Losing weight, gaining muscle, feeling better, thinking clearer, staying healthy both body and brain all rely on sleep, so if any of those were in your new years resolutions, pick sleep and perhaps you can achieve them all.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tradition Vs Nostalgia

Tradition is often defined as the "transmission of custom or beliefs from one generation to the next." 

Nostalgia is often defined as "sentimental affection or longing for the things or time from the past. "

I believe we often blur nostalgia for tradition.  We look back on a few things through a hazy lens and remember something as tradition.  In the same way that coaches and therapists could look at a method and confuse it with a principle.  We start to blur them, instead of remembering nostalgia for what it is and for what it is not.

Here is an example that I think illustrates the cost of tradition and nostalgia.  Growing up playing football in high school and college one big tradition was the use of two a days.  In college it's often 3 a days.  That's two practises a day, usually separated by lunch.  Two a days often consisted of skills, plays and hitting and then whatever random conditioning drill the coach thought up.  Lunch. Nap.  Then repeat the morning all over again.  For two weeks.  Most players entered two a days at the peak of strength/speed and conditioning.  You just spent three months doing nothing but lifting, running, pass catching and agility work.  You are in amazing shape.  Most started the season, weaker, slower and perhaps nicked up.

This is where nostalgia butts heads with tradition.  Football coaches are usually ex football players.  They look back on what they went though (nostalgia) and think they are keeping tradition alive.  They were convinced that they are not in football shape.  So they do things like one on one hitting drills over and over, convinced it made them tougher  and in better "football shape."  Looking back on it, I realized I never really felt great again until about 3-4 weeks into the start of the football season.  I know many of my teammates felt the same way.  The strength numbers and speed numbers that you had at the start of two days, didn't return until a few weeks into the regular season.

It was interesting when a professor from another country came to watch a practice and he asked the coach why are your players beating themselves up when they have a game in two weeks.  It took an outside eye to look at a "tradition" and expose it as perhaps nostalgia...because that is what we do.  How often do we see breakthroughs come from an outside eye asking if what we are doing is chasing nostalgia or keeping a tradition.  How often are they criticized and ostracized when they do?

We have all kept that t-shirt from an event or sport that symbolized something to us.  You haven't worn it in years, you have no plans to wear it.  But you keep it.  That is nostalgia.  It's just symbolic.  It represents something to us.  When you think about it,  what you did or accomplished will never be taken away.  That memory is there.  With smart phones so prevalent now, one can have a digital memory if you wanted to.  It means something because it most likely represents a tradition or principle that you value.  In the great book " The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up," the author asks a key question.  Does it bring you joy.  Traditions will, nostalgia won't.

I think people get into trouble when they chase nostalgia.  It leaves them depressed, they look back on an event or place and try to recreate the "happy feeling," that they remember.  If you're not careful I think it can lead to a fore longing for the past "my life isn't as fun anymore."   Instead I think they should look back on the tradition that they want to continue.  Perhaps it was nothing more then being with family and friends, an activity or place was just an excuse to get together.  The spontaneity that was enjoyed cannot be reproduced, but it doesn't need to if you don't chase it.  New memories can be created when the old ones aren't trying to be remade.

Traditions will perpetuate joy while nostalgia will often do the opposite.  Lets hope we keep our traditions and just remember nostalgia instead of the other way around.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Things You Will Never Regret

I was recommending a Vitamix blender to a friend awhile back and one of the phrases I found myself using was "You will never regret it."  I meant it.  Which got me thinking about other things in my life I would put this label on.  In no particular order.

1.  Vitamix blender.  It will literally change you feeding habits.  You will get ingest more fruits and vegetables into your body.  If you have kids it's a must if you can.  The price tag is steep, but I must have gone through 3 blenders at about 90 bucks each before this purchase.  

2.  Flossing.  It is one of those things that gets pushed to the side when you are tired or it is late.  But, no one ever gets done flossing and said, "that was a waste of time."  It is always a small sense of a win.

3.  Reading.  You can state that was a worthless read, but not regret reading.  The difference, you may have gotten nothing from the book or article, but you are still increasing your ability to talk, to think and relate to a subject.  Conversation about topics is a big way for people to relate.  If you deal with people everyday, just finding a landing point to talk about often leads to better interactions on the important stuff. 

4.  Showering.  You may be exhausted and feel like you will shower later.  I've never regretted jumping in the shower and coming out clean to go about my other daily tasks.  I hate not going to bed without a shower.  Hitting the sheets feeling clean, feels great. 

5.  Studying.  I can remember over studying for tests.  But, I never regretted it.  Way better to look at the answers and rattle them off thinking it is easy, then looking at questions with the scary realization that you have no idea what is going on.  

6.  Preparing for the day the night before.  It could be meals, outfits or a preloading your car.  Setting up to make tomorrow easier is never one of those things you regret.  You often find the realization that it makes life easier and much less stressful.  

7.  Giving a Genuine Compliment.  Sometimes it can be awkward to give someone a compliment.   Not that fake stuff that comes off as just part of the social norm.  A genuine compliment.  It might even feel weird to do, but you won't regret it.  It will probably make someones day.  

8.  Learning.  Anything.  You will never regret knowing more.  For the longest time growing up, I was the kid that wanted to know why I needed to know this, this is going to be useless for my life.  This doesn't have anything to do with what I want to do.  This is wasting my time.  Looking back, learning does a few things.  It widens your window in which you see the world.  (like reading)  The more you learn about various topics the quicker you start to see patterns that perhaps will help with the topic that does matter in your career.  Learning helps you learn better.  The more you learn the more capacity you are building to learn more.  

9.  Eating Better.  That can mean whatever you need it to be.  We can all agree a diet of pizza and fries isn't healthy.  But, we may all disagree on what healthy means.  Either way, choosing what you feel is healthy over what we all will agree on is junk is never regretted. You won't wake up the next day and lament, "why did I eat that salad yesterday!"

10.  Saving money.  I'm going to put this in the category, because you may regret not purchasing something, but you never regret saving money.  At the end of the year, no one says, I wish I had spent more.  There is to much in my savings account.  

Thinking about this stuff hopefully you realize your own unique "no regrets" and it perpetuates more action in using them.  How about you?  What are some things you have never regretted? 

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Wake Up Drills" or Be Activated

The last few months in clinic have brought in some, if I can borrow the new Netflix title, "Stranger Things."  I have had at least 4 people have extremely hard falls that actually fixed chronic pain.  This was musculoskeletal pain that had been present for over 2 years.  One gentlemen had disc pain and was recommend surgery from his orthopedist.

Hard fall on a hip that took all the pain away and stated felt stronger then ever.  Another hard fall directly on a knee that shoved the hip up.  Again, took all pain away in the hip.  (knee was sore for a few weeks ) Lower back pain that went away after a hard fall down stairs onto the butt.  (I've actually had this happen 3x now in the last 7 years)  One had some serious disc pain for about a 6 month period and was in PT.  They all stated they had shot of pain, layed on the ground wondering if they broke something, slowly got up and realized the pain wasn't there.  All felt stronger after the incident immediately.

From a chiropractic stand point I don't believe there was an "out of alignment" joint.  To have that kind of need for that force would suggest a joint that was very misaligned to the point of limping or horrid movement.  One hip I can verify moved extremely well.  (I understand my bias on this and while I could be wrong I'm trying to think of other possibilities.)

For the sake of argument, if it was misaligned, I at this point in my thinking/career, wouldn't feel ethically comfortable putting the amount of force they experienced into 60+ year old hips.   Nor do I think I could actually generate that type of force.

So what happened? 

I don't really know.  If a joint moves like a joint, doesn't have abnormal tension in any of the prescribed motions what's left?  Proprioception of the joint and strength of the muscle is the only things I can come up with.  While I am a big believer in strengthening muscles/movements.  I haven't found that to be that effective with people that have had chronic pain that the joint moves well.  So for me, that eliminated this option.  That leaves proprioception of the joint.  How well the individual can find and use the joint.  This comes back to old school "muscle testing."

I've blogged before about how I don't think we are muscle testing but testing proprioceptive awareness of that movement in that position.  Movement variability even states that every successive test you are most likely not even testing the same fibers and that their is a ton of bias on the practitioners part.   But, my personal bias still thinks we should be able to lock a joint in in all planes of motion without much effort.  (not clutching the table, holding your breath, squeezing your jaw)

This question of what happened with these patients lead me to think about performance and if this could be done at a lower level.  (not having to take a huge fall to make a change.)  After much debate, I decided to take Douglass Heels Be Activated course.  I went with an open but skeptic brain.  I probably asked 5-6 people that had taken the course before their thoughts and opinions.  Really looking for a reason not to go.  All spoke highly.  What made up my mind was the number of strength coaches implementing it into their programming and all stating that the soft tissue injuries have come down.

I've found for me, the most useful tools in therapy from high class strength and conditioning coaches.  The elite use it first and it trickles down.

It was held at the Spot Athletics in Columbus, OH.  (side note...kudos Columbus, you guys have solid 3rd wave coffee scene.)  The owner JL Holdsworth a super respected guy in the strength coaching industry.  The teachers for the weekend were Cal Dietz and Chris Korfist.  Cal is the Strength coach for the University of Minnesota and has been using it with his athletes for over 3 years.  Chris is track coach and been doing it for over 6 years and has worked with Douglass for the full 6 years.  So it was great to learn from guys using it daily with real athletes.  It was equally awesome to be in a room with some pretty respected strength coaches from all over the country.

Without going into the details, it's getting muscles to fire stronger.  When JL spoke of the term "wake up" drills it clicked for me.  By the way JL, if your reading this I'm stealing that phrase!  If you believe in corrective exercises for your patients or athletes, then you can't argue with a wake up drill if it gets the muscle to fire stronger, or have better awareness, or have better proprioception in that area.  (terminology can vary)

Wake up drills make sense to me.  Can you fire the muscle/movement without a compensation pattern.  It's in the compensation pattern that many injuries can possibly be explained.  In my way of thinking it can be easily implemented into a warm up routine.  Just like many injuries can be mitigated with a great warm up, something most athletes fail at, perhaps this will be a way to increase the benefit of the warm up.

Perhaps the falls were just a jolt into the nervous system that globally stimulated the sympathetic nervous system and then a huge parasympathetic release when they realized they were ok.  Perhaps the falls literally "woke up" the muscles around the area.  A figurative defibrillator to the muscle/movement.