Build Stronger Feet and Balance

I really am a terrible person but I just can’t help myself laughing out loud, a literal lol when I watch one of those videos with people slipping, falling, crashing their bike on a straight road and of course cats slipping off the kitchen counter. 

It is an innate human thing to do – laugh at someone else’s expense. This very natural response is called Schadenfreude. ‘Schadenfreude is when we laugh at someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude comes from the two German words, Schaden and Freude, harm and joy’. Psychology Today It’s our built in response to avoid fear or pain. Simple hey!?

Personally I’d rather not fuel someone else’s avoidance of feel fear or anxiety by not tripping, falling, slipping, to the best of my abilities anyway. 

Another failing of mine are my feet. My big size 46 feet. I used to torture them by squeezing them into tight, rigid cycling shoes. I wore these specialised shoes for 20-25 hours+ a week for a few years when I raced full-time in the 90s’. The firmness of the shoe helps not waste energy pushing into the pedals but can and does result in pathetically weak feet and ankles if no other training is carried out.  

Apart from neurological conditions, weak feet and ankles are leading causes of trips, falls and knee pains. 

While my feet are better now than right after I hung up my bike and stiff shoes (because of knee problems), they have suffered anyway. I tend to train in the gym barefoot or in socks which has helped me immensely. No more orthotics for me. However, I noticed for ages how my bush walks took their toll on my feet and ankles despite wearing expensive barefoot style shoes. Cramps, aches and occasional plantar fascia inflammation all made walking less enjoyable. Until…

Until I discovered balance training. 

In 2016 we had some renovation work done on our house. One length of hardwood removed nearly ended up in the builders skip. This piece of 5m, 8cm x 20cm chunk of hardware made me immediately think ‘balance exercises’ in the gym. I was mostly thinking of adding this for my senior gym members as part of fall-prevention training. 

Sadly I didn’t action this right away. Thinking people would label me as mad as a fish I wasn’t brave enough to unleash the beam. Until… 

Ol Faithful

… Until I finally attended the level 1 Certification with MovNat in January 2020. The curriculum includes many aspects of natural human movement. The preparation manual included many movements to practice including balance. I didn’t really think much about the effort of walking along a length of timber until I realised how inefficient I was. Not wanting to flunk my cert because I couldn’t balance walk, I put in much practice. Pretty much daily I spent a minute here and there walking forward, backwards, shuffling sideways, duck-walking along the timber and other really quite fun moves. This was between November 2019 and January 2020 and during this time I was still doing my weekly off-road walks that I’ve always done. Very rough paths, loose stones and rocks and bits of trees etc.

I can honestly say my body had an epiphany earlier in the year. Were I normally have to focus on where I’m placing my feet to avoid an ouchy, it’s as if my feet just all-of-sudden intuitively knew where to go. These past 6 months of ongoing off-road walking have been fantastic. More relaxed, faster when I need to be and so much more efficient with fewer trips or stumbles if any at all. Best of all, my feet and ankles simply do not give me any negative feedback afterwards. No tight ankles. No big toe pain. No plantar fascia pains. My feet have learned how to be feet again it seems.

Doing more reading has supported my thoughts that balance training effectively fine tunes the feet and ankles and their reflexive strength and endurance. 

I do still daily walks on my cheap ol homemade balance beam that was saved from the builder and I have all my clients routinely walking and working on some 2x4s from Bunnings. At $5 each these have been great investments. A lot cheaper than recovering from a painful fall or trip. I’m not saying a trip or fall will never happen, cause hey, ‘life happens’, but luck favours the prepared.

If you spend your day in hard soled shoes and complain of sore feet and ankles, I really do recommend you call over to your local hardware store and pick up a length of 2×4… or check out the builders skip in your suburbs. 

Here are a couple of videos of simple balance drills, starting with one not needing any equipment at all, just the floor beneath you.

And if you can get hold of a 2×4 or similar, here are some great exercises to practice.

Wooden board is optional, but it puts a sense of reality into the practice.
A little bit more tricky, but also fun.

Got any thoughts or experiences? Why not get in touch.

The Squat Get Up

Adaptability is sown from practicing specific variety and getting to the floor and back up safely, effectively and efficiently happens by no accident but by frequent practice.

I’ve spoken about the benefits before of being able to get up from the ground with strength, grace and perhaps some flare and the Squat Get Up has all of those aplenty as well as great mobility.

Like the Side Bent Sit Get Up, the Squat Get Up entails a back roll, to a deep squat position and then standing up.

Like this.

Unlike the other get ups I’ve covered so far, the squat get up does actually require a few more physical competencies before being able to perform it.

  1. Having a a happy spine is essential to roll back on the floor.
  2. Having good hip mobility to roll into the deep squat position is needed.
  3. Having adequately mobile ankles is essential too, to sit in that deep squat.

Thankfully, practicing each of the components of the Squat Get Up will nurture these qualities.

As usual, let’s get to the video demonstration.

It should be reasonably obvious what’s going on with this get up, but let me list the key points.

  1. Start from a tall sitting position, knees flexed. Holding shins is optional.
  2. Flex spine and roll back onto the upper back, keeping chin tucked in.
  3. Roll back to the tall sitting position.
  4. With momentum and reaching arms in front of you try to roll into a deep squat. The feet might be close but a little wider is fine too.
  5. Stand up and return in the reverse sequence.

Got any feedback or do you need any personal help with the get ups? I’d love to help. Get in touch below.

Animal Flow in Brisbane

With everyone now able to roam more freely in the fresh air, I think it’s time to have fun, learn some new skills, get stronger and fitter and look cool at the same time haha.

Yes, I’m being upbeat despite all that has been going on, but that’s exactly how I feel when practicing Animal Flow. I get to escape in the details of each and every movement, the alignments, the breathing and how to transition from one position to the next movement.

A typical session will see me mobilise my joints in preparation before ‘switching on’ all the important muscles needed for the work ahead. I’ll then typically practice each movement on the planned flow before building that flow from start to finish.

I could talk more, but if you’ve read this far, maybe you’d like to join me in my upcoming small group classes to learn more about this unique strength and fitness system.

Here are a couple of videos to get you thinking more…

  1. The practice of the Kick through movement.

2. A full flow demonstration with some extras at the end.

To really encourage people to try Animal Flow I am currently offering personal sessions at a reduced PT price.

  • Classes will be 45 minutes in length.
  • $45

These can be booked in via the FitStrong booking page.

Interested? Get in touch to learn more.

Forget Calories…We Move Better and Stronger

At FitStrong I help people get fitter, stronger and more mobile. Not just for the sake of it though, but to become better more useful versions of ourselves. 

We work on the skills that lead towards our goals building confidence, competence and physical autonomy without an emphasis on ‘busting a gut’ or ‘smashing out sessions’. I like to consider training as nourishing our bodies rather than punishing it. 

We don’t however use exercise to burn calories – what a waste of life that is. I do promote wholesome eating. Trust me when I tell you that any time you work on eating more vegetables, more proteins, more water and less processed foods; that great things happen. 

If you realise that you need to move better and stronger, why not book in for a chat about what you need and how I can help. 

Jamie

‘Just having some fun’

What is The Most Useful Piece of Strength Equipment?

Here’s an age old question I get asked frequently. ‘if you could only train with one piece of equipment what would it be?’

I can only really give my opinion based on what I most frequently use to practice being strong. I’m talking NOT about stronger in the deadlift, squat, press or something specific but rather what I do use to practice being purposefully strong throughout my being or body if you prefer. 

My answer? The Floor.

Yeah a wee bit elusive and maybe corny and odd for the less initiated who might proclaim, ‘like duh, you got to rest your dumbbells on the floor dude’! (People still say dude don’t they?) 

Apart from using the floor to rest dumbbells and equipment on, the floor plays host to opportunities for using your body to move, to balance, to jump, to push off from. 

Last weekend Animal Flow founder Mike Fitch hosted a video conferencing class for the hundreds of us instructors around the world. I joined in with another 600+ instructors where we participated in a 80 minute class! No equipment, just our bodies, the floor and a small handful of engaging movements we practiced before sticking them altogether in a smooth flow. 

As you hold a position with precision on the floor for 30 seconds you can’t help but be reminded of how much strength is required to be still, calm and attentive to form.

The ground as an environment can also throw variability that teases your limitations further. Have you ever tried crawling backwards up a slight gradient? Wow – ‘Holy Triceps Batman’ – it’s intense. 

Being able to get down to the ground and back to standing is a skill that requires practice and strength. You might not think of it now but when you’re 55+ years of age, getting off the floor can start be become a tiresome undertaking not without its risks too. Practice often mindfully getting down to the foot and back up. It could save your life some day. 

Balance is another subject you’ll probably ignore until you realise you suck at it. While it’s funny at times to watch someone lose their balance and hit the deck, it bloody hurts and not to mention it can easily keep you out of the gym for a while. Broken hips and collar bones are not so funny. Balance doesn’t need any fancy slack lines, in fact, at our gym we have a selection of wooden boards or even weights plates that we lay out to practice the many attributes of balance skill. Trust me, spend 1 minute trying to lose your balance and fighting it can really make the thighs burn – if that’s what you like. 

Other balance areas include walking split squats with or without a weight, one leg jumps from stepping stones aka weight plates and being able to pivot on those boards without falling into the ‘hot lava’ below. 

Have I mentioned push ups yet? You love of loathe the full push up, but believe me when I tell you there are dozens of variations all worthy of practice. 

 Legs, torsos, arms and life saving skills can all be practiced on the floor beneath you. Don’t leave it at rubber gym mats either. The outdoor nature spots offer even further variability with falling trees, rocks and such. 

Just in case you don’t believe me and need some experiential learning, I am hosting some outdoor training sessions in the coming weeks in our local parks. These will include:

  • An introduction to Animal Flow
  • Real World Strength and Fitness
  • Ground based locomotion

Interested? Drop me a message to learn more and to be placed on the reserve list.

Eye Training!

Most of us happen to live in a very media focused life. Entertainment is served through a screen, we learn and educate via screens and work in front of a screen too. If you have a life mostly void of screen time, I commend you and I’m envious and I’m sure you probably don’t get eye strains much. Limiting range of focus and specialising in short range focus is just not what the eyes are made for. As I often talk about – when you take away a natural element of our being, other parts will suffer. Take away a function of the eyes and the eyes will struggle.

For those who do get eye strains and tired eyes from screen time, yes, time away from the screen should be scheduled but, you could and should take a couple of minutes a few times a week or per day and train your eyes. And you should of course get your eyes tested for general health every year too.

Eye training will not mitigate ageing vision, that’s just part of getting old, deal with it, but you can develop more resilient eyes with the following simple exercises I will share with you.

Be More Erful… the Path to Usefulness

Exercise as a tool to use for personal physical development is fantastic but, is it enough to make an impact on your usefulness in a wider sense?

Here’s my odd question for you; “Are you erful”?

What the hell is erful? Well, I do like to make up words to define ‘things’ which other words don’t quite purvey. In this case, it’s simple the conjoining of er and ful, the suffixes to many (positive) adjectives.

  • Stronger
  • Fitter
  • Faster
  • Powerful
  • Nicer
  • Helpful
  • Friendlier
  • Healthier
  • Playful
  • Useful

Only a few things are important in life. Money, car, mortgage on awesome home, latest iPhone, annual overseas holiday, designer shoes? Nope, I argue these are not vital or important in life if your intentions are wholesome, honest and healthy. No one really cares if you have these. As we get older our family and friends won’t care about what we have. They will be concerned with what we can do for ourselves and others. Can we move well, get dressed, feed and bathe ourselves and do we have good health and friends.

“What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful.” ~ the Dalai Lama

I love to make use of training, exercise and to practice the physical elements that make up a healthy physical recipe for me and my clients but I am really starting to contemplate how we can follow a better recipe for improved general usefulness. Maybe it’s the current situation where coronavirus is now part of our day-to-day vocabulary. Maybe it’s an increased awareness of the people around us. How are they? Are they struggling in any way? Are they wary of me? Am I contagious? Can I help in some small way? If you’re not sleeping so well right now, it’s possibly because your brain is ticking over these thoughts in your subconscious.

I want to be more useful in general to myself, my family, my community in the ‘now’ and in the future.

How do we do that? I am actually not too sure. What I do know is that it’s a practice that starts with turning up, starting something and learning on the fly with hint of preparation of course.

About a year ago I did start this process with the realisation that strength and mobility training to be just stronger and more mobile was less useful than I first thought in the absence of purpose and context. I wrote about this over a few posts but now I realise that the other stuff beyond the strict, formulaic physical actions must be included.

We need more play, more social interaction of the non-internet type, we need more friendly eye contact and ‘hello, how are you’, we need to offer our help to others more often. It would be great if we could develop more of this whilst continuing to be more physically healthy.

My mid 2020 calendar was filled originally with more social sessions in the great outdoors that included meeting up, doing some strength work, play, balance, climbing, cooking up a BBQ and having a laugh. Hopefully soon I can roll these out so I can dive deeper into being more erful!

Are you already erful or do you want to be more erful? Get in touch if you have a story to share or if you’d like to join us some time.

The Side Bent Sit Get Up

What a mouthful, but it will do until someone comes up with a better name. It does however describe this get up nicely.

Part 4 of the Get Up series looks at the quirky Side Bent Sit Get Up. Whereas the last part looked at the very bilateral / straight up and down Prone Get Up, the Side Bent Sit Get Up builds in rotation, balance and coordination yet, still with a wonderful component of flow and relaxation. I guess that comes with practice though.

This roll differs from the Strength and Prone get up in that it commences with a roll into position to undertake the actual getting up. This adds some momentum and can therefor add this get up into the category of movements that prepare us for fall recovery. If you’re going to lose balance and fall backwards onto your butt, at least know how to get up with flare and style.

Here’s the video.

The best way to learn this style of get up is to practice. In the video I have built in steps to practice to best prepare for the full get up.

Got any feedback? Maybe you’d like me to appraise your Get Up? I’d love to help any way I can.

What Exercise is Best to Reduce Stress?

Is the type and amount of exercise important in mediating your response to stress?

This is one controversial subject matter. 

So often you’ll hear of Jack or Jill hitting the gym after a terrible day at work, an argument or whatever, and their intention is to ‘smash it out’ a gut wrenching session. We have gyms that now specialise in high intensity systems and that’s all they do. If you join that gym you can guarantee that every session will be a ‘smash it out’ session. 

High intensity exercise has its place. When in a competition, when you’re being paid to do it, to save a family members life or when a pack of wild dogs are chasing you down. 

The idea that high intensity training is what athletes do, so it’s what we all should do is a fallacy. First off, athletes spend an extraordinarily low amount of their overall training time on high intensity training and when they do, it’s part of a programmed period of training building up to competition. Secondly, athletes are not everyone. They are usually the special specimens that have great genes and further, understand the risks they take with their training and how it may impact their bodies. 

The point I’m getting to here is this. Stress is like a fire. The more you pile onto it the more fierce it becomes. High intensity exercise, let’s say anything you rate as 8 out of 10 effort, is putting stress on the body. That stitch in your side when running, that burn in the muscles when you keep pushing out the reps and that headache after the training session; that is just more physiological stress being piled on top of other stress. 

I am not saying my clients or I never work on movements and just sit around taking it easy – we follow designed programs using moderate intensities, efforts and durations. The results always speak for themselves. 

As a guide, if you can practice your training (whatever it is) while breathing only in and out of the nose, you are in the good zone. If your focus is the movement and performing it good, better and ‘betterer’ with nasal breathing – you are doing the best you can. 

Why No Facebook Jamie?

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. … They have their exits and their entrances 

– Shakespear

Knowledge and information are not always power. They can often be overpowering, overwhelming and disruptive to an otherwise emotional and mental status quo. I do feel that social media is not ‘just’ the platform it once was. Sharing has become a new past-time, in hand with ‘look at me’ antics and self-valuation beliefs. Feeling hurt because someone didn’t like your post on a forum is now a thing! Oh dear. What has become of the modern world? 

My lil role as local trainer and wider promoter of healthy lifestyles, strength, moving better is just not being (currently) served by my efforts on the interweb socials. I found myself following the herd and just sharing stuff for the sake of sharing stuff. This takes times. Yes, it takes time to think of ‘what video or picture can I make today to let people know I’m into fitness

To be honest, unless you’ve got a tight fan-base or a huge following, it is increasingly hard to build an interactive audience of likeminded people and especially hard if trying to find paying customers for a small business. 

As a strong believer in intermittent fasting (or intermittent eating) to add health credits, mental clarity and productivity and of course some fat loss, I had the epiphany that I needed information fasting too to shed some unwanted to-do items from my day-to-day life to claim back more time to share to the invested audience that have come to my website for example and the people who already invest in my business as members. I’ve cut back on email checks, rarely find myself sludging through YouTube and now that I’ve erased my Facebook accounts (sorry Zuck), have gained time. 

What’s more valuable than time? 

Think of the times you had less. Less stuff, less things to do, less money like when you where a student, the earlier days of living in your own home; less stuff to ingest. I bet it felt somewhat satisfying. Frugality isn’t a negative thing, it’s a skill. 

So if you’ve asked why I’m not on Facebook, it’s not anything terrible, I’m just information fasting and gaining more time for more important things in my life, like adding to my website content, building new programs for you, reading more. Does it mean I’m not open to restarting a Facebook page in the future? Possibly not but I’ll have a very specific purpose and direction for it if I do.

Back to you. How do you feel about erasing 12 years of facebook?