Friday, April 23, 2010

Relax and Breathe (and Win)

There's been a lot of discussion lately (nothing new it's been around for 1,000's of years, just more if it) regarding breathing patterns. In particular, the importance of diaphragmatic breathing and its role in postural function by means of improving the "inner unit" activity.

The idea is to work specifically on diaphragmatic breathing by way of focusing on the intake of air and the expansion of the entire abdominal region (anterior/posterior/lateral). Patrick Ward and Carson Boddicker have been going into great detail the specific mechanics of this form of breathing. I suggest checking out their blogs if interested in more detail, they both have great information.

Here's a blog post I had from a couple years ago regarding breathing:

Breathing and the Spine

To add to some of the concepts, my thinking is that focusing directly on breathing might not be the best route to take when trying to improve a breathing pattern dysfunction. The reason being, is that breathing is an autonomic process and in the history of human kind is not really "natural" as something to have to worry about. Of course we are in a day and age where everything is a little 'screwed', but I think it's might be more effective to work with the sensorimotor system with which we have greater voluntary control over. Obviously we have, or we can develop great control, of firing specific muscles or muscle groups, and in the case of an altered breathing pattern we tend to use an 'upper-chest' technique, utilizing the muscles of the chest, shoulders and upper back. I have found it to be fairly successful in working on just relaxation of those muscles. If these 'upper-chest' breathing muscles are neurologically quiet, then what other option do we have than to resort to diaphragmatic breathing? ... plus the skill of muscle relaxation will go a long ways in improving motor control and potentially skill; not to mention the potential effects of reduced anxiety, etc... If one can truly relax, breathing usually falls into a normal, healthy rhythm; brain waves, heart beat, all of physiology falls into a more coherent state.

So much goes into muscle activation these days, but so many coaches miss the point that it is equally important to have the skill to relax muscles. But to take this even further... what's the root cause of excessive muscle tension and abnormal breathing patterns? What's the cause of the anxiety that causes the excessive muscle tension and abnormal breathing patterns? What's being done about those causes? The key is to keep asking questions? All those things need to be considered and dealt with. Dealing on one end, just the mechanical, may or may not, stop the leak while it is still "pouring rain outside"... and even then it's still just one small piece of a puzzle (cliche... I know), not the magic bullet. ... AND it's just another symptom, but I digress.

Some specific techniques:

Progressive muscle relaxation

Autogenic training

... or a classic, "Relax and Win" by Lloyd 'Bud' Winter, if you can find a copy... (or for a great overview of Bud Winter and "Speed City" email Carl Valle ( about his the mediacast he recently put together)

.... or any Relaxation Technique... which could just lead back into working specifically on breathing... so then, I guess, just find what works best for you or each individual. Have options and keep asking questions.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Attention Western culture

I know this is so common that it should not surprise me and I'm sure doesn't surprise many others, but...

This morning I saw a young child under the age of 1 being fed waffles with syrup for breakfast.



Really any age eating this stuff is a scary thing. This absurdity just continues to blow my mind, however, sadly our culture knows no better; it's all we've been taught or grown-up to know. The idea that those who are the "powers" know what they are doing. Carbohydrates (outside of vegetables and some fruits), too some extent, is no different than crack cocaine. Then later in life we try to eat well and that "crack" is tempting us from all angles. We need to realize that we have a "drug" problem.

C'mon people! We have to wake-up and stop 'feeding' into this shit. We need to quit buying all the absolute garbage that is being sold as "food". It

Does not anybody question all the problems we are having as a society right now. Obesity, all the chronic diseases, almost any/all of our medical issues, or even just the common occurance of being sick all the damn time... or just feeling lethargic day after day. These high carbohydrate, sugar loaded, processed foods are weaking our immune systems and slowly killing us in every way possible.

The other major factor we need to quit, is to stop 'fueling' the technological side of things that is making any form of human movement an anomaly.

Two quick, simple answers: Healthy food and movement.

Has anyone seen the movie "Wall-E"?

Yeah... that's most likely us if we continue down our path.

HOLY F**K people, wake-up... take your lives back.

Sure I am being, what some may think, a little radical right now (if you haven't figured out that I am a little fired-up this morning). However, sorry for you, this is theraputic for me... (even though being ME focused is also part of our issue too).

Experts are now telling us that this generation of children will be the first generation that will not out live their parents! If you're a parent... THINK about that for a moment.

It's like my good friend Joe Schmidt said the other day; 'most parents would take a bullet for their child (at least I'd hope), but apparently not if it's a "slow bullet" that is destroying their health.'

(Deep breath... siggghhhh...)

I feel bad, because it is not really any one of the American people's fault (well maybe it is to some extent), it's just that we have been led to believe many false things about the food we eat. Even many of the experts and producers don't really know the harm we're doing. And this topic could run very deep... into our way of educating; how schools really don't teach us to think, etc.; but we have we have to start challenging our belief that all is right with the way we are doing things.

I guess it comes down to our values. It's funny... if you ask people what's most important to them, what do you think they'll answer?

If you're not sure on where to start with any of this to make a change, drop me a comment or send me an email. I'd be glad to direct you to some resources as best I can or get you in touch with some very well qualified people. No hidden costs.

One that I'd start off with recommending is Michael Pollan's latest book, "Food Rules". A simple guide with a bunch of very simple rules to follow regarding eating. You can probably find it anywhere for around $10.00, or better yet check your local library... that's a pretty good place to WALK or BIKE to, to 'hang out' for a while.

I am NOT sorry for this rant,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ahhhhh, sleepless nights

This is what happens: one of my two little ones (usually my 11 1/2 mos. old son) wakes in the middle of the night and I can't get back to sleep. My mind starts racing at a speed I just can't seem to control and I lie awake thinking, just thinking, trying to make connections... so instead of just thinking I am typing... this blog post.

- It's interesting... the idea is to continually get better at something. Athletics, business/work, parenting, whatever. The whole idea is that we are never satisfied and want more. The problem is, we are always looking ahead, yet the best of us only comes out when we are content; desiring no more or satisfied. This 'state' puts us completely in the present and gives us a chance to be/work/play in a flow state or 'in the zone'. Yet paradoxically, being content or totally consumed in the present is what really allows us TO improve, at a high rate. Contentment means we are ready to accept the change of one state to the next... improvement.

So this might sound odd to those that are always preaching improvement, but... be content and realize that getting better will happen. Because to be content, there can be no faking it and whatever it is you really enjoy, getting better is and will be the only option. ... so the moral is, find something you truly enjoy, something you love, otherwise you're wasting everyone's time and energy and certainly aren't doing the world any favors.

- I am completely amused by the sheer number of methods and systems there are in this field I work. I guess it's the logical outcome of a culture that has started by working larger to smaller and the hope is to 'tackle' the 'big picture' by breaking it down into the smallest of pieces. There's many different movement systems and training methods all fighting to memetically infect themselves into the user to manifest to be the end-all, be-all answer... or more simply, to make more money than the next. What I find as a coach, is it's liberating to not have any financial or emotional connection to any one method or system. This allows me to learn freely, while applying freely, what might seem necessary at any particular moment and time.

What gets lost in the "chest beating" guruism is the environment, tribe and individual. How can any one system perfectly match the specific context and individual(s) background? It's like the seperation of studies in Western culture. Great... psychology, but what about physiology. Ok... physiology but what about psychology. Awesome psychology and physiology, but now, what about ecology? How about culture and religion? Socioeconomics is a factor. The list could go on and on (and it's here)... but these are factors that need to be taken into consideration as a coach. All of these create an individual(s)'s backdrop and gives them THEIR perspective. And their perspective can and will change the outcome of any one system or method, or even specific diets or responses to certain foods. All aspects of everything are relevant... Fields such as psychoneuroimmunology are starting to ask the more 'correct' questions and see things from a broader perspective.

And... I must consider all these as a coach and test out different methods, but I really think it ultimately it comes down to coordinating self-exploration and understanding. This is where true learning takes place. In individual sports, this is paramount because to really, really be successful; one must figure out what they REALLY want and need. Within the team setting it's finding this balance of me and my team; what's best for me and what's my sacrifice to give to my teammates. My job as a coach is not to dictate, but to assist in this exploration, utilizing the means and methods necessary; not pigeonholing things into one system or way of doing things.

- With all that being said, athletes frustrate me when I'm not so sure they want to be there. Please don't waste my or your time!

- Josh Leeger had some absolutely excellent posts regarding teaching, communication, animal behavior, and science. One aspect was questioning science and how well it is actually "communicating" to people to create change. Sure a study or studies say this or that, but how many people really do something different because of it. Basically as Josh said, "Science is not a field of activism. It is a field of questioning and answering."

Here are some of my thoughts I posted:

Alright, I am going to try to make some connections here; with this post and your last post on teaching and communication, because I think you bring up some great points/questions.

I think it’s a situation in which science does not tell a “story”. Stories require emotion and that will not get a “scientist” published in a “professional journal” (using my low voice and straigthening up my collar). Case and point: for years now, performance coaches have been touting barefoot training/activity, but the problem has been that all of it has just been ‘rationalizing’ it with all the “scientific” reasons it’s important. Then comes along Christopher McDougall and he writes a STORY which just so happens to promote barefoot running/activity. “Born To Run” took the science and plugged it into a ‘tale like’ narrative that made people laugh, cry, grow anxious with suspense and excitement, made many angry (at the shoe industry and doctors telling runners ‘otherwise’) and most importantly motivated people to get out and run barefoot. Even though there was plenty of science, it was the emotion that drove this story to become “A MOVEMENT”.

… and all this ties into communication, because as you said, 97% of (effective) communication comes from emotion. 87% from body language; which again as the word emotion means ‘to move’ or ‘motivate’ and another 10% from tone; as I would argue is emotionally driven as well. Taking the body language, combined with our powerful mirron neuron system and tone of communication, emotions become the driver of all our ‘movements’. Darwin even pointed out the power of emotions in his work “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”.

So in order for science to work it needs to be communicated through stories. It seems as though science is just fuel for rationalist thinking. I don’t necessarily think rationalism is always wrong, it’s just that I think emotional communicating in the form of storytelling is an important key to getting massive action, change and improvement. Choose the right weapon for the specific battle.

An aside… I’ve had these discussions with my dad; but I think at the most fundamental level, Obama beat out McCain because of emotion. Taking, again your post on communication, Obama had better body language (the guy is an athlete, you can see the way he moves himself and McCain… well… he just can’t move period; not to be offensive in any way from his prior situation) and a more emotionally powerful message, which created the tone. These two combined (body movement and emotional tone), communicated to the majority better than McCain. Obama rallied people around “hope” with his unflappable and warm smile, and energetic body movements. All his followers’ mirron neurons just engaged these emotions into their bodies, and just ‘felt’ he was the man for the job.

… just my theory anyway.

- Female athletes have been challenging me lately... and it pisses me off. Not the ladies, but culture. Our culture sucks on a lot of levels and when image is of as high of importance that it is, real training is difficult. This ties into many of the factors I discussed above. The materialistic belief system runs deep.

Alright, I am getting tired again and I'll need to be up in another couple hours. Hopefully none of this is too confusing; I'll probably wake up tomorrow, check my blog and wonder WTF went on, on here...

Get some sleep,

Thursday, April 1, 2010