This is What We Do Here

3833334809_f3a260b97b_zThere have been a lot of changes afoot over the last few months- we went from Fascia Freedom Fighters to Liberated Body, we ran the first ever 30-Day Challenge (with the best group of people ever), and the podcast and guides are kicking in the womb! We've also had a lot of new wonderful people joining in the Liberated Body conversation.  That said, sometimes it's good to chat about some of the real basics. Stuff like: Who is "we"?

Hi! I'm Brooke! And while I've been a professional in the "help people to heal their hurting bodies" fields for going on 14 years, I am not a guru from another dimension who's got it all figured out. Instead, I am a passionate learner, dedicated body nerd, and former broken person. And I am at your service (see more about how below) .

There are also two very important people who make this all run, make it all beautiful, and keep me from breaking things (or at least bail me out when I do): Taryn my oatient developer, and Reese my gifted designer.

"We" also includes the brilliant thought leaders who have submitted guest posts, who I have been honored to interview back when we were doing video interviews on Fascia Freedom Fighters, and who I have been interviewing currently for the upcoming podcast (So. Many. Great. Interviewees! I can't wait to share it with you).

Most importantly, "we" is really about all of you out there. When I started this site as FFF I never would have dreamed that I could be lucky enough to attract such a smart, hilarious, thoughtful, and well-informed group of readers. Your emails and chats on Facebook and Twitter have meant the world to me, and have helped me to know how best to be of service. Keep 'em coming.

What we do here:

We support people by connecting them with the resources that can either help them to more happily inhabit their bodies, or simply help them to light up their love for learning about this amazing thing called a body that we get to live in. Or both!

We do that by:

1) Advocating for a return to more natural human movement and alignment. That means addressing the weird environments we spend all of our time in (plushy couches, sitting 12 hours per day, and incessantly staring at screens for starters), and addressing the weird habits that get born out of these environments.

Weird habits also are born out of lousy advice and misunderstandings about the human body that tend to proliferate over time when we lose our connection as a culture to natural human movement. (Ummmm, for example, I do kind of momentarily black out when a client tells me they were told to wear high heels in order to avoid their plantar fasciitis pain. Gah! How can this happen!?)

2) Pointing out the wide, rich array of amazing resources that exist within the spatial medicine fields- often referred to as the manual  and movement therapies. There are so many brilliant creators, practitioners, and teachers out there with work that will help you. So we do our best in the blog and podcast, on Facebook and Twitter, and within what will be the guides, to connect you with the most useful information out there.

We do that because:

1) We're a mess. Oof! We're in trouble as a species right now. I'll spare you the gnarly statistics for the moment, but suffice it to say that rates of chronic pain and physical degeneration are at an all time high. Not to mention that we are all just plain old compressed, depressed, schlumped out, and feeling lousy. We think enough is enough already. It's time to feel good again.

2) The solutions to the mess that we use the most often are just making bigger messes: Dangerous and highly addictive narcotic painkillers that numb your whole life along with your pain, cortisone shots that degrade your tissue health while only temporarily making your pain feel better, and invasive surgeries that have either big risks or poor outcomes (or both) have become our norm. They should not be our norm. There are so many better, less risky options.

What's coming up:

Goodies! So many goodies!

1) The Liberated Body Podcast greets the world on Tuesday, and from then on every Tuesday weekly. I have been working away to bring you some of the brightest minds who are talking about how we can get back to feeling good again. People like Tim and Geoff over at Original Strength, Esther Gokhale, Wendy Powell, Eric Goodman, and Erwan LeCorre with plenty more scheduled. These people have wisdom folks. And I can't wait to share it with you.

From here on I anticipate the weekly content to be pretty podcast/audio heavy. This means that you get more opportunity to learn from thought leaders and you get to do it without having to look at a screen! Hooray! Podcasts can be digested while walking running, swinging from trees- you name it. Score one point for less screen time.

2) The Liberated Body Guides are on their way to being born. Ultimately, they will be an ongoing series of concise multimedia (written, audio, and video) guides that will each address a specific physical concern.

In the spirit of LB being a place that connects you to a wide range of resources, each guide will be a collaborative process in that interviews with experts on each subject as well as video content from those experts will be included. This, again, should help you to get a feel for what manual and movement therapies will be most interesting and effective for you- or for your clients, patients, and students who might also be in need of help.

The first guide is in process and it is on the life-altering topic of short hamstrings. Ok, ok, short hamstrings might not be the kind of sexy topic that gets flashy headlines, but it is an issue that is affecting more and more of us and has wide reaching consequences. So if you're tired of feeling like the tin man in that department, we'll be talking all about it soon.

How can I make your dreams come true?

1) Let me know who you want to hear on the podcast! The Facebook group recently gave me some great names of people they would love to hear interviewed. If you have intellectual crushes on anyone in these fields, go ahead and let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to get them on the show.

2) Vote on what guide comes next! 

I have 3 options floating around for guide #2 (after short hamstrings)- so if there's one you would rather see sooner than later, let me know in the comments. Here they are and many thanks liberated people!!

  • Raising embodied kids
  • Temporal mandibular joint dysfunction (aka jaw dysfunction)
  • Low back pain

Awesome Transformers photo by Nur Hussein




Exercise = Moving Less? Part 2

4746815579_c5bb26afaa_zLast week in part 1 of this post we took a look at The Licensing Effect- research which has demonstrated that people who take a multivitamin then behave in less healthy ways throughout the day because they believe, subconsciously, that their dietary supplementation gives them license to do so- and applied it to exercise and movement. As in, if one works out regularly via some fitness regimen, do they then subconsciously move less throughout their day? (We did  a whole lot of looking at the difference between exercise and movement in the last post, so if you're stumped you can give that a read.) But I believe we left off somewhere around here: “Well my life depends on sitting most of the day, so I guess I’m hopeless. I will have terrible chronic pain, joint dysfunction, and die from this ‘lethal activity’ [sitting] that is required by my job.” In other words, destination: Bummersville.

To avoid abandoning all hope let's dive in and take a look at my low impact, not hard, fairly movement-rich day looked like yesterday:

Yesterday I had set aside a blissful 12 hours to work on current and upcoming projects. Which means I wasn't seeing clients. Which means it was me and the screen, mano-a-mano, all day.  

  • I woke up and worked out at the place that I train 1 or 2 times a week, Tuff Girl Fitness, which is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) gym for, you guessed it, badass ladies. Here I spent maybe 30 to 40 minutes jumping around on one leg in staggered patterns, doing pullups, pushing heavy sleds, climbing ropes, and getting up and down while holding heavy weights- to name but a few of the movements that the trainers devise for us. My heart rate was up, I was a sweaty mess, and I do this because it is fun for me. Not because I believe it gives me permission to sit still for the rest of the day.
  • Then I came home, giddy with excitement to have a whole day of writing and creating ahead of me. Hooray! Oh, but wait, there is the screen...
  • So I grabbed my yoga block and my laptop and set up at my coffee table, sitting on the block on the floor. This is one of my favorite configurations lately, as sitting on the block on the floor causes me to shift and move around a lot naturally. I got a lot of writing done (as I am now) sitting on bent knees, sitting with one knee up and one on the floor, and sitting with both legs extended out in a wide angle in front of me.
  • Then I had a lot of videos I needed to catch up on watching/listening to, which I did in a squat for a while, then standing working with a therapy ball under one foot (and alternating), then listening while rolling around on the floor with the therapy balls.
  • I did some more writing standing (now the laptop goes on the low bookshelf that divides my living room from my dining room), and even did a tad of sitting with a rolled up towel under my ischial tuberosities to avoid the C-curve schlump. I timed it for you guys: I sat in an actual chair during my 12 hour writing/creating project day for 23 minutes.
  • I also took 2 breaks (I should have taken more, yes) to walk around my chilly but beautiful winter wonderland of a neighborhood for about 15 minutes each time. (Often on project days I will set a timer on my phone for either 30 or 40 minute intervals during which I will then go outside and move for 15 minutes before resuming work, but on this day, well, I didn't, so I wanted to give you a realistic picture of what this particular screen day looked like.)

It made for a diverse day of movement, and I have gotten here gradually from someone who used to segregate her work days into "standing/moving client days" and "sitting writing/project days". What I've noticed as I've gradually transitioned to more movement on my screen-heavy days is that the more I do this, I am now very uncomfortable in a chair. You'd think the 23 minutes I spent sitting in a chair was me virtuously prying myself out of the chair and back to standing, but really I got up because it felt icky for my spine.

You can get creative with your work set up- I like to call the myriad of places my laptop winds up through a day my roaming work station- and you can also set a timer or just plain take breaks for movement.

And this is all well and good for those of us who work from home or who have an awesome employer who gets it. But what about those of you who are working for The Man? You know, the one whose capacity for understanding productivity is reduced to quantifying how many hours you work statically in your cubicle. That one. The one who gets a capital T and a capital M.

You're going to have to fight the power. Gradually and incrementally. Here are a few helpers to nudge your work environment into being more movement friendly:

  • Get yourself a better desk set-up. Standing desks are trendy enough that even if your employer is the crustiest of capitalists he or she should have heard about them and understand that they are a part of many conventional workplaces. And there are standing desk options that adjust so that you can stand for part of the day and sit for part of the day (which you will likely want to do as you adapt, and getting up and down counts as at least some movement). If you have a laptop, your "standing desk" can be any old box you have lying around that will prop it to the right height for you. Toss it on the desk, put your laptop on top of it, and voila: standing desk. If you have a desktop, you will need a little more equipment, but I like this easy version which means an employer wouldn't have to suddenly invest in a brand new desk for you. 
  • Walking is your friend. Come up with reasons why you need to be on the move. Lie and say you have a bladder infection and make a million trips to the bathroom. Or something less humiliating. But figure out the walking routes of your office building and find some reason why you need to be the one putting them to use regularly. Walking is powerful medicine.
  • Pitch the idea of holding walking meetings. Hey, there's even a TED talk you can show your boss about it. It's about 4 minutes long and she's a big Silicon Valley hotshot who has launched 18 billion dollars in products! So how could they argue with that...
  • Knowledge is power. If you want to start a movement (pun intended?) at work towards more, well, movement, it might be best to get your fellow employees on board first. Start from the ground up and send around posts like this one/two part-er (hey now!). Or the great one Katy Bowman did on Breaking Muscle. Or, wait, look! Even Outside Magazine is talking movement not exercise! Show them the research on inactivity, and then watch the break room grumbles turn into a bottom up revolution.
  • Get help. There are actually organizations that can help your employer to see with a broader vision. As one example, Partnership for Prevention is working to make evidence based disease prevention and health promotion a national priority. At this link they have some resources you can download. I'm sure there are other great organizations out there who are helping businesses to implement more wellness initiatives, so if you know of one local to you, get in touch with them! Just be sure to vet them that they are not pushing the same old status quo idea that people need to get more exercise. They do, but they also need to work in an environment where they aren't considered a weirdo for sitting on the floor and frequently walking around. 

If you're taking this on in your workplace, whether that's a larger corporate environment or your very own living room, let me know how it goes! I'm going to sprint around my house now. Bye!

Is Exercise Causing You to Move Less? Part 1

4341141005_78a2ff8524_zWen-Bin Chou, a psychologist and researcher at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan has demonstrated that taking multivitamins causes people to be less healthy due to an ironic effect of dietary supplementation. It turns out that people who believe they are taking a multivitamin subconsciously believe that it gives them some degree of invulnerability, which leads them to make less healthy choices throughout the day. So if they took a multivitamin in the morning, and at lunch are faced with the choice between two trips to the all-you-can-eat burrito buffet vs. a salad and some wild salmon, they'll go for the buffet due to an unconscious belief that they've covered their bases with the multivitamin. Of course we all know a multivitamin is not the same as eating real, whole food- and a recent article in Outside Magazine questions whether they are at all helpful or even harmful- yet the subconscious belief in being bulletproof seems to clearly exist anyway.

Here's how it went down: In two experiments all the participants were given a placebo pill, some were told it was a multivitamin. Those who believed they had taken the multivitamin engaged in less healthful and more hedonistic activities on a regular basis like eating larger quantities of less nutritional food. It's called The Licensing Effect. As in, they believe that their positive choice or behavior (taking the multivitamin) gives them license to then engage in less healthy behaviors ongoing.

So why am I writing about this when I've never written about dietary supplementation in my life? Because I believe it applies to movement as well. So let's substitute "multivitamin" with "trip to the gym" and "eating less nutritional food" with "moving less".

Re-written the licensing effect applied to movement would then read something like: "Those who had gone to the gym engaged in less healthful and more sedentary activities on a regular basis."

We spend our days sitting our butts in chairs, staring at screens and moving in extremely small ranges of motion. I believe this happens for three reasons:

  1. We don't distinguish between movement and exercise.
  2. We don't understand the benefit of movement (not exercise).
  3. We believe that exercise absolves us of not moving for most of our lives.

So let's talk about it:

We don't distinguish between movement and exercise:

  • In a culture that so values stasis (my son goes to public school and even though I adore his teacher, school in this country is basically one big "sit still" training ground) we have handily earmarked "exercise" as "the time we have allotted to move".
  • This stems from what I think is a subconscious belief that there is an "on" and "off" switch to our bodies receiving input from movement. For example: "I'm out for a run! You can pay attention now body..." and then, "I'm sitting in my office chair for 8 hours, you are in the off position now body, no need to pay attention to this..."
  • As I alluded to in that last point, while exercise is one kind of movement, movement is a much broader category which includes standing, walking, breathing, chewing, reaching, shifting, etc. All the movements- large and micro- that you make moment to moment. I thought Katy Bowman (goddess of educating what movement actually is...) did a great job differentiating between movement and exercise in the interview I did with her when she pointed out a baby breastfeeding as movement- and how we would never describe that as a baby "getting his exercise".

We don't understand the benefit of movement (not exercise)

  • I wrote "not exercise" in parentheses because I think we have all been thoroughly indoctrinated into the benefits of exercise. So we'll just leave that as is.
  • Then the question is, if one is exercising, why does movement throughout the day matter too? And the answer is: because we are alive. This means that everything you are doing (or not doing) movement-wise is being registered by your body as input. It doesn't discriminate via the magical on/off switch of paying attention. And that input is what is being put to use on a cellular level to build you up or tear you down.
  • An example: if you, like most, sit for somewhere in the range of 10 hours a day (that's conservative), your body registers a number of things from that and then does its best to help you make that shape more. So your body is thinking, "Okey doke, hamstrings always contracted, check, we'll keep those short. Sitting on sacrum, check, let's smoosh out those vertebral discs to make that shape, compress the respiratory diaphragm, slacken the pelvic floor, and basically create thickenings throughout the spine and thorax which holds you in a C-curve..." This is an extremely tiny slice of what is going on when you hold one shape for a long time.
  • The example above is of what happens structurally; As in, you become the shapes you make most of the time. However, there are also other significant health risks to stasis. Recent data shows that it contributes to mortality from all causes. Yep, heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc. One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that every hour spent sitting shortens lifespan more significantly than every cigarette smoked. And Dr. Levine, an inactivity researcher at the Mayo Clinic, describes sitting as "a lethal activity".

We believe that exercising absolves us of not moving for most of our lives:

  • Unfortunately, even if you workout almost daily and are therefore considered "fit", a workout amounts to a grand total, usually, of somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes of exercising in any given 24 hour period, best case scenario.
  • And since we have discussed that our bodies don't have an off switch which causes them to not pay attention while we are inactive, hopefully it is clear that this is a game of frequency. Not of intensity. I don't care how hard you rock it at the gym at the end of the day. Work out til you puke and blackout (no, really, don't) but it won't erase all the static activity of the day. In fact, going from long periods of stasis to incredibly demanding workouts is a risk for a multitude of injuries, but that's fodder for another post.
  • Our bodies want us to still be hunter gatherers. Oh our physiology longs for the days when a wide variety of movements were required of our bodies all day long as we hunted and gathered for our food! But today we put food on the table- for the most part- by typing away at these computers all day long. And our bodies are confused. Where are the missing movement ranges? Where did the frequency go? While you don't need to abandon contemporary culture and go live in a tree, it helps to acknowledge that you are still wired to thrive with the demands that a hunter gatherer would have had.

Depressed? Oof when I mention this stuff in my classes or in my practice I kind of see the light go out of people's eyes. Which sucks. I believe the thought cycle goes something like, "Well my life depends on sitting most of the day, so I guess I'm hopeless. I will have terrible chronic pain, joint dysfunction, and die from this 'lethal activity' that is required by my job."

Ready? Deeeeeeep breath. There is hope.

The movement part is easy, albeit with a small adaptation period, and you may have to occasionally fight (or even just nudge) The Man. That's it. And we'll get into how to do both in part 2 of this post. Stay tuned!

photo by skittledog