Manual Osteopathy: Towards a Model of Holism

“The job of the physician is to find health and give it motion, anyone can find disease.”

– Andrew Taylor Still

My journey to studying and practicing manual osteopathy was not a straight and direct path. I became very interested in rehabilitation and corrective movement at the age of 17 when I had to rehabilitate myself from a disc pathology suffered while lifting weights (some of the ridiculous things that happen in a high school weight room caught up with me). I already had a keen interest in how the body works from my Advanced Placement Biology class during my junior year of high school. I was particularly interested in Endocrinology (as I am still). Immediately out of high school I landed a job with a prominent local Personal Training company. Inside of a year, I was a finalist in the 2000 Met-Rx World’s Best Personal Trainer Contest (16 finalists out of close to 20,000 entries if I remember correctly).

At that point, I was exposed to the work of Paul Chek, HHP, Founder of the C.H.E.K Institute in Vista, California. As far as I could tell, Paul had the most comprehensive program on the planet for nutrition and lifestyle coaching as well as corrective exercise and high-performance conditioning. I dove head first into the material and immediately began seeing tons of clients suffering from a myriad of spinal pathologies. About a year later, in 2001, I flew to Rhode Island to meet with a group for a possibility of joining their team of rehabilitation professionals in a new clinic in East Greenwich. At that point, every single time I was in an airplane I would quite literally go completely deaf in my right ear upon landing. It would happen without fail every time I flew, which at that point was only a half dozen times or so, but it was still an annoyance. I would not be able to hear out of that ear for at least 2-3 days and it was super unsettling. Upon landing and being picked up by my soon to be colleague, I explained the symptoms of this hearing loss in detail during the drive to the clinic. Once there, one of their therapists, and now dear friend and colleague, Jennifer Beauregard, asked me to hop on the treatment table. She put me through a general and specific cranial treatment and my ear opened up on the spot. At the time, I had no idea how that was possible and was super impressed (not an easy thing to do). Jennifer explained things to me and mentioned that what was done was based on osteopathic principles within the cranial field. I was intrigued and began my readings in the area, which started with the work of Dr. John Upledger, D.O. and his contributions to CranioSacral Therapy.

Over the next couple of years, I read everything I could get my hands on related to the cranium, the PRM (Primary Respiratory Mechanism), and eventually came to the work of the founder of Osteopathy, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. I read his book Osteopathy: Research and Practice for the first time in 2004. I found myself drawn to Osteopathy and its philosophy of the body and its ability to heal itself when given the opportunity to do so. The philosophy of true Manual Osteopathy; Osteopathy the way it is meant to be practiced is based on four basic principles:

1    Each structure in the body supports the body’s functions. Structure and function are reciprocally related.
2    The natural flow of the body’s fluids – lymphatic, vascular and neurological – must be preserved and maintained.
3    The human body is the sum of its parts. Its physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive systems do not work independently -they work in harmony. The body is a system of systems.
4    When the body has no restrictions, it has the inherent ability to heal itself.

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners recognize a patient as an integrated whole. When all of the body’s components are in balance, a person is complete and in total health. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners work to maintain, improve and restore the normal physiological function of interrelated body structures and systems, enhancing the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Using various manual assessment and treatment techniques and modalities, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners work to identify and ease restrictions, constrictions and pain; reduce swelling; improve tissue mobility; and promote proper function and healing in people of all ages.
Also, during that time (2002-2004) I took courses on Cranial-Cervical-Mandibular Disorders, some in person seminars and some via home study courses. I was not terribly confident implementing the complex “stuff” I was learning with regards to the cranium, TMJ, and cervical spine, but I began studying Muscle Energy Techniques (MET) after stumbling on Dr. Leon Chaitow, D.O., N.D.’s work on the subject. The results I was able to achieve with clients who had already seem their limits with conventional treatment for lumbar spine pathology spoke for themselves. I was led to the founder (depending on who you read of course) of MET’s work, Dr. Fred L. Mitchell, Sr. I read his work, and the work of others on MET for low back, hip, knee, and ankle issues. All the while I was continuing to work my way through Paul’s C.H.E.K Practitioner program. In 2005 when I completed my Level 3 training in that system, everything changed for me. At that time, I came to realize that a lot of what I considered to be the “cool stuff” in the CHEK Program is actually based in osteopathy (Paul himself started his career as a trainer on the U.S. Army boxing team and learned to care for athletic injuries from an Osteopathic Physician). From that point, I saw Manual Osteopathy as possibly the most comprehensive philosophy for care of the human framework that was ever devised. Over the next decade, from 2005 to 2015 I worked with what I would estimate to be between 1,200 and 1,700 clients dealing with acute and chronic pain syndromes of various types with the majority of my clinical work addressing neck pain, back pain, and headaches. Using a combination of all of the things that I had been taught throughout the years – CHEK, NMT, Trigenics, MET, CST, etc., I began to create my own style of assessing and correcting chronic pain syndromes in my clients. In 2015, I decided to take over a decade of self-study and officially complete my studies of Manual Osteopathy with the National University of Medical Sciences (Spain) / National Academy of Osteopathy (Canada). The journey will not end there (quite the opposite actually). Once I complete this D.O. program, I plan to continue my studies of osteopathy, particularly Cranial Osteopathy with the Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy in addition to continuing my studies and courses based on the work of world-renowned French Osteopath Guy VOYER.

For me, the philosophy of true Manual Osteopathy resonates very highly. Everything that is alive on our wonderful planet has an innate intelligence contained within it. The seed of a redwood tree has intelligence, a dog or cat has intelligence, and so to does the human body possess an intelligence that conventional medicine largely ignores.  Manual Osteopathy honors the Intelligent Designer and provides a means to allowing that innate intelligence to flow and foster health and well-being. Giving the body what it needs with regards to air, water, food, movement, thought, and rest unlocks its greatest potential. For me, nothing is more enjoyable to study, practice, and witness in my daily Life.

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What Do I Do…Exactly?

I have been in the rehabilitation, health, and fitness profession since 1999. The vast majority of my work has focused on clinical applications and chronic pain since 2002, working primarily with spinal pathologies, back pain, neck pain, and headaches. To date, I have helped countless people overcome pain, where the more “traditional” approaches have failed. Have I helped everyone that has sought my services? No. Everyone has not met with success. Why? Well, as I often inform my 10 year old, “You get out what you put in.” Unfortunately, some people are simply not willing to put in the work required to overcome their pain syndrome.

After many years spent working and reaping success in my field, I am still questioned by friends, family members, acquaintances, etc. exactly what it is that I do. Apparently, the rather frequent inquiry is due to my own inability to effectively and efficiently answer the question. A question I will attempt to answer in this article as it pertains to the physical/rehabilitation side of my practice.

About the Physical Side of my Practice

To make a very long story somewhat short, the concept of my work involves removing tension that obstructs optimal mechanics in the body, as well as addressing musculoskeletal issues. No, I am not a Massage Therapist. I am not a Physical Therapist. I am not a Chiropractor. I am not a Rolfer, Heller Worker, Physiotherapist, etc., and I do not hold a medical license of any kind – nor do I desire to.

At present, I am finishing up my D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) in true, European-style, Manual Osteopathy – “official” title will be Osteopathic Manual Practitioner here in the States. I’ve studied and taken courses in many different disciplines, those of which you can interpret on my “About” page.

In my opinion (which is based on a decade of education, study, experimentation, and research), Manual Osteopathy is the most complete system available for care of the human framework. And as most of you are probably wondering, “What the hell is Manual Osteopathy?” Osteopathy is a philosophy that was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. (1828-1917). Osteopathy is a client-centered discipline based on understanding the relationship between structure and function in order to enhance the body’s inherent ability to heal. It relies on skilled manual therapeutic techniques (though it is much more than a system of techniques) to assess and treat the client/patient, guiding the natural self-healing properties of the human body. The philosophy of Osteopathy is based on four basic principles:

1 The body is a unit – the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
2 The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
3 Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
4 Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

I was first introduced to Manual Osteopathy in 2001, and self-studied much of the literature for 2-3 years before undertaking training and courses for the use of manual techniques in the field. During my early manual osteopathy studies, I was introduced to Muscle EnergyTechniques (MET).  I am personally very fond of Muscle Energy Techniques and their original development by Fred L. Mitchell, Sr., D.O.  Reason being, I am a huge fan of shit that works, and MET, when applied correctly and at the appropriate time, works. Currently, I have a keen interest in the theory and mechanics involved with Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, and my thesis will cover a bit of this topic as it relates to permanent pain elimination. 

So (as I take a deep breath), what does that really entail for clients seeking my services…how do I help them, and, more importantly, how do I help them help themselves?

The Process

First and foremost, I orchestrate a consultation with my clients to discuss their case in detail, which is accomplished either in person or over the phone. Typically, I serve as a ‘last resort’ for the client. By the time they get to me, they have been through the medical ringer and have seen anywhere from a few to a dozen traditional professionals for their pain with little to no results. My job is to look where no one else is looking and “see” what no one else sees.

Following that, I conduct my assessment, which is based on evaluating the cranial nerves and Higher Order Reflexes in order to identify where the greatest roadblocks in structure and function are located (also a component of my upcoming thesis). From there, I use “non-manipulative,” hands-on, manual techniques combined with movement re-education in order to help clients eliminate their pain – for good. The client is always actively engaged in their rehabilitation process.

Clients will typically see me for one-on-one work for anywhere from 3 to 6 sessions (some less, some more, depending on the case), and I l always administer “homework” in order to speed the process along. Again, the client is always actively engaged in their rehabilitation process.

Ask anyone that has worked with me. They will tell you that I am a ‘why’ guy. My clients are extensively educated on why we are doing what we are doing for their particular case. I leave no stone unturned. Techniques I employ are very gentle, and the client’s body is the guide. I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of aggressive or harsh techniques for joints or soft tissues. I prefer to work with the body rather than against it. As I always translate to my clientele, “Nothing I do is forceful…if you use force, the body will create a counterforce, and you will chase your tail forever.”

I am also a straight shooter. I do not blow sunshine up anyone’s rear end. I inform all of my clients that if they are not experiencing a pain reduction and an ability to move without pain within the first 3-6 sessions, I will refer them to someone who I feel may be better equipped to help them (this is rare, but it does happen).

It is not my objective to make clients dependent upon me. My goal is quite the opposite. I want to get my clients as self-reliant as possible, as fast as possible, and they can check back in every month or so, or as needed if something pops up for what I call a “tune-up” session. Those sessions may last 30 minutes and includes tweaks to their home program(s).

And there you have it: what I do on the physical side of my practice in a nutshell. I’m not sure if that effectively answers the question, but it’s what I have for you at the moment.

Thank you for reading!

Low Carb Bafoonery

Note: The following is an excerpt (about 5%) from the Truth about Carbohydrates Lesson in my Food First Program.

Sugar Got Hosed!
“Low-carb” approaches to DIE-ting have come and gone over the years since the approach of good ol’ Dr. Atkins became popular in the 90’s. We have now reached the point where just about everyone thinks that all carbohydrates are inherently “fattening.”

The current public view of carbohydrates and their role in human nutrition can be summed up in the following statements:

“Carbs spike your blood sugar.”
“Carbs make you gain weight and get fat, especially around the belly.”
“Carbs are not as important as proteins and fats.”

In many cases, cutting back on, or attempting to severely restrict, carbohydrate consumption can be tremendously detrimental to one’s physiology and health.

Here’s why:
The ridiculous statements above are taken out of context and represent an extremely narrow view of the biological complexity of carbohydrates and sugar. Oversimplification is the enemy here. In other words, they miss the forest through the trees.

The Price of Carbohydrate Restriction
“Low-carb” DIE-t, restricting your carbohydrate intake too drastically, or for too long a duration, can lead to the following:
• Decreased thyroid output
• Increased cortisol output
• Decreased testosterone
• Impaired mood and cognitive function
• Muscle catabolism (breakdown of tissues)
• Suppressed immune function

[Note: The above are magnified in the presence of any sort of regular exercise regimen.]

In other words, your metabolism actually slows down (both short and long-term), the stress response is initiated, and the output of stress hormones goes up, and your muscle-building hormones go down. None of these things are good if your goal is to build muscle, lose fat, and improve body composition (the way you look, neked!).

 

 

Carbohydrates, Thyroid, and Metabolism
Every single cell in the body requires thyroid hormone (T3) for optimal metabolic efficiency and energy production. Generally speaking, T3 is the most active of the thyroid hormones and plays a huge role in blood sugar regulation and proper metabolic function.

The thing is, the thyroid gland itself does not produce an abundance of T3; it does, however, produce quite a bit of T4. That T4 must be converted to the more active form, T3. This conversion is enzyme-dependent, and the majority of it takes place peripherally in the liver. The enzymes that are responsible for this conversion are known as type-1 deodinase and 5’ deodinase, respectively. The type-1 deodinase enzyme is glucose-dependent! This means that if enough glucose is not in sufficient supply, the conversion will be down-regulated (slowed or inhibited). This will lead to a decrease in overall T3 levels and a decrease in metabolic rate and efficiency. The other enzyme, 5’ deodinase, is actually selenium-dependent. Therefore, a selenium deficiency can also, potentially, lead to decreased T3 production.

Low T3 levels can lead to a condition some experts call euthyroid sick syndrome, in which people are constantly cold and very lethargic.

Research has demonstrated that T3 is very sensitive to caloric and carbohydrate intake. When calories and carbs are too low, and glucose is in short supply, your T3 levels drop. (Vermont Study)

It has, furthermore, been demonstrated that another hormone, called reverse T3 (rT3), is also sensitive to calorie and carbohydrate intake. Reverse T3, as the name implies, inhibits T3, and lowers metabolic rate and efficiency. What do you think happens to rT3 levels when one does not eat enough carbohydrates? You guessed it – rT3 levels go up and block the pro-metabolic effects of T3. On the flip side, eating the right amount of carbohydrates from the right sources can down-regulate (inhibit) rT3 production. That’s what we want!

 
Low-Carbohydrate Diet = High Cortisol and Low Testosterone
Yet another detrimental aspect of the low-carb approach is elevated levels of cortisol, particularly in those individuals who are participating in regular exercise. Keep in mind, that many individuals implementing the “low carb” approach are exercising themselves nearly to death on a weekly basis.

Research has consistently demonstrated that those who exercise with low carbohydrate consumption have a sharp decline in their testosterone and other anabolic hormones. These same individuals correspondingly exhibit higher levels of the catabolic (destructive) hormone, cortisol. This is the perfect recipe for losing muscle and gaining fat. I do not know of anyone with either of those as part of their health or performance-related goals.

 
Low Carb Bafoonery and Female Physiology
I have worked with countless women who attempt a “low-carb” nutritional approach in an effort to create short-term weight loss and/or long-lasting health. Unfortunately, this approach creates far more problems than it solves, long-term. The damaging effects of low-carbohydrate diets on hormonal physiology is far more pronounced in females than it is in males because, well, females are simply more fragile hormonally than males (no real shocker there).

Due to altered endocrine (hormones) physiology, here are a few of the issues that females are likely to experience as a result of their “low carb” efforts:
• Irregular or absence of menstrual cycle (amenorrhea)
• Decreased fertility
• Hypoglycemia and blood sugar swings
• More body fat
• Loss of bone density (cortisol and estrogen demineralize bone)
• Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues
• Chronic inflammation
• Swelling, water retention, and edema
• Chronic fatigue
• Various insomnia (sleep) issues
• A host of other chronic problems

None of the above issues are on any female’s “Wish List”. Yet, many of them continue to struggle with one or more effects as a direct result of the low-carbohydrate diets that are endorsed by the so-called “experts” in the world of nutrition. In some cases, I have seen females struggle with this approach for years, even a decade or more, and CONTINUE the same nutritional strategy. The amount of metabolic damage created with this approach is staggering. More of the same equals more of the same.

The End Game…
The $64,000 question is, “How many carbohydrates should I eat in a day?” The answer is…I don’t know. Carbohydrate consumption is highly individual and depends on a number of factors. Your goals, genetic make-up, the sources of the carbohydrates, activity level (type, duration, and frequency), total caloric intake, current carbohydrate consumption, total protein and fat intake, and many others.

It takes time and work to customize your carbohydrate intake for YOUR PHYSIOLOGY. Simply dropping carbohydrate intake in the basement because some “expert” says its a good idea is playing Russian Roulette with your physiology and metabolism. It’s not about “high carb” or “low carb.” It’s about the “right carb” intake for you at this moment in time.

If you are willing to put in the work to customize your carbohydrate intake (and overall nutrition – don’t get it twisted it’s not only about carbohydrates), you can repair metabolic damage, improve your physiology, and look and feel the way you want.

For those willing to put in the work, the “low carb” world of nutrition can be forever a thing of the past. More importantly, your physiology and health will thank you for it!

Experts, Calories, and Metabolism

I would like to preface everything below by stating that it is my personal style to point out when there is a problem with something. I have been this way my entire life, perhaps to a fault. Some see it as being negative or condescending. Some people think I am the most arrogant prick in the Western Hemisphere. Others love me for it. I see it as observation. When we know there is a problem, we could be very well served to call it out and then seek more effective and efficient ways of solving said problem. The problem must first be acknowledged. With that said…

How exactly does one become anointed as an “expert?”

I ask this because I have seen more so-called “experts” saying some of the dumbest shit I have ever heard and people actually believe the nonsense that comes out of their mouth.

Where nutrition is concerned, filed in the ‘dumbest shit ever folder’ is the “expert” advice that says losing weight is as simple as “calories in versus calories out.”

Let me be extremely clear here…any expert that spouts off this kind of ridiculousness is no expert at all. I stand by that no matter what “expert” is in question.

If you can spare a moment, I would like to share a story with you…

During my 16 years of helping people overcome virtually every health challenge you can image, I have had a ton of people seek my help for “weight loss.” One of the very first things that I do with most of my clients is to ask for a 3-5 day food and exercise log. What I have observed amongst the individuals that are seeking “weight loss” is that they are typically eating somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,400 calories on an average day. Most of said individuals have been eating that way for a very long time…sometimes a decade or more (true story – and I immediately got hungry after typing that). Along with their low calorie intake comes numerous hours at the gym doing some form of what can easily be classified as physical abuse.  So…we have a large population of people that are barely eating enough food to survive while at the same time beating the living crap out of themselves in the gym (as much as 10 hours a week in my experience), and they are getting bigger while they do it.

The thing that people need to understand that many of the “experts” dispensing advice are not telling them is that the human body is not stupid. In fact, for my money, it’s the smartest thing that exists (right up there with Mother Nature herself). If you go on a diet that involves radical caloric restriction – yes, the ever-popular 1,200 calories a day classifies as caloric restriction – the body will respond to that stressor appropriately.  True, you may lose some weight; hell, you may even lose a lot of weight initially, but eventually the metabolic damage you create will catch up with you. If you are in a hypocaloric state (not eating enough calories) for an extended period of time, you do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of having optimal thyroid function. Why that’s important is because it is the thyroid that governs pretty much your entire metabolism. In fact, it does not even take much longer than one damn day for the negative effects of not eating enough real food to begin to manifest. Consider this – within 24 hours, yes just 24 measly hours, of going on a low calorie diet, which is defined as eating less than 1800-2000 calories per day (according to the World Health Organization), you immediately begin to disrupt your brain chemistry. You also are likely to increase fat storing (lipogenic) enzymes in the body.  This is particularly important for females who already have three times the amount of fat storing (lipogenic) enzymes as fat burning (lipolytic) ones.  This does not even take into account what happens to the thymus gland and your immune system (hint – the thymus begins to shrink and immunity starts a downward spiral into the toilet). Any changes in brain chemistry (neurotransmitter balance, etc.) will lead to cravings; another reason people who are on such “diets” tend to binge eat.  Low calorie dieting is especially damaging for anyone with a history of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or alcoholism.  Remember, all of this occurs after a SINGLE DAY.  Why set yourself up for failure by eating this way?  Anyone with a history of chronic low-calorie dieting is most certainly going to have severe issues with their physiology, including but not limited to, altered energy production, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and so on.

When I see someone essentially eating the nutritional equivalent of a cardboard box on a daily basis, the very first priority is to have that individual SLOWLY increase their caloric intake until they are eating like an actual human being. Once we have an acceptable amount of food and calories actually being brought on board, we can then begin the process of fine-tuning meal frequency, macronutrient ratios, and discussing effective weight loss and body composition strategies.  Quick side story…I recall one of my clients in Canada who was in her late 30’s and could not drop an ounce of weight no matter how little she ate or how much she exercised. Turns out she was eating about 900-1,100 calories a day (some days struggled to get that much in) and had been doing so for over 4 years!  Roughly eight months later, she had doubled her caloric intake, decreased the amount of time she was exercising, and lost 13 pounds from where she started (initially gained 12 so actually lost 25 total). On top of that, she had a regular cycle for the first time since she was 16, was sleeping better, and her skin cleared up. That’s not a long period of time to accomplish something she was trying to achieve for over 6 years time. She is certainly not the only story of her kind.

A lot of people do not enjoy this process.  Admittedly, the above client did not enjoy it either.  Why?  Because it often leads to weight gain initially. Most see this as a bad thing, but the truth is that this is the healthiest way to repair the metabolic damage created from months or years of abuse. Sadly, I have had more than a few clients work with other professionals that unfortunately further decrease their caloric intake in an effort to shed the weight. How someone can make such a recommendation is honestly beyond my comprehension.

In the end, I have seen people gain weight eating as little as 800 calories a day while exercising themselves to death – very little calories in and an assload (that’s a technical term) of calories out. I have also seen people get leaner and lose weight eating 3,000 calories per day exercising less than they ever have previously – more calories in and less calories out. The calories in versus calories out game for weight loss and improved body composition is completely full of shit. People or “experts” promoting that as any kind of a solution to anything need a hard lesson in physiology and metabolic efficiency because they clearly know very little about either.

Anatomy of a Goal

There are basically two types of people in this crazy world: proactive people and reactive people. Believe it or not, that’s it. Everyone you know will fall into one of those two simple categories. While a dissertation with a ridiculous word count could be written to compare and contrast the two, from my perspective, the basic difference is that proactive people co-create the Life they want while reactive people sit around and hope things will happen.

My intent for this article is to share an “on-the-surface” outline of how I feel proactive people are able to co-create exactly what they want. [Please note that what follows is my take on an article written over 12 years ago by Coach Charles Staley entitled Goal Orientation]. With the dawn of yet another New Year comes the nauseating (at least for me) New Year’s Resolutions and attempted goal setting. Here is how you can actually achieve what you are looking to achieve in 2016!

When looking at setting and achieving goals, the questions that must be answered are:
1. What exactly do you want? Stated differently, what is your goal?
2. How badly do you really want it?
3. How serious are you? No…really, how serious?
and…
4. Have you considered what you will have to give up to get it?

Let’s explore each of these questions individually:

What Do You Want / What is your goal?
For the purpose of this post, I will use Charles Staley’s definition of a goal (as a side note Charles is one of the best Physical Preparation Specialists and strength coaches in the world and has been for a very long time).

A goal is: a written expression of desire to accomplish a specific, personally meaningful objective within a specific, predetermined time-frame. It might interest you to know that there is good research that shows that fewer than 2% of all people have even a single written goal at any time.

A couple of points to make with reference to the definition above.

A goal must be stated in writing: If it is not written, it is not a goal. Writing something down is the very first step in manifesting a goal as a physical reality. The ancestor to every action is a thought. Write those thoughts (goals) down. It may be a wish, or a weak desire, maybe even a fantasy, but it is not a goal if you do not write the damn thing down. Period. This is where you reach for pencil and paper…

A goal must be specific and measurable: Emphasis here is the word specific. Your desires to “be a better business owner” or “look a little better in a bikini” are not goals. They are merely statements that are entirely too vague. We need to specify which parts you want to look better and in what way, or in what areas you plan to improve your entrepreneurial skills. For the latter goal, we need to discuss body composition and what kind of objective we have here. In order to be specific, your goal must be measurable in some way. In this bikini case, specific body fat percentage and circumference measurements are warranted.

Why Do You Want It?
Few people investigate this aspect of goal setting. This is a disservice to the process of goal attainment because as Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last) says, “It all starts with Why!”

A goal must be personally meaningful and be worthy of your unconditional love and resolve. The most important word in that previous sentence is “personally.” If the desire to achieve your goal is being driven by anything outside of yourself – trust me, you have set yourself up for failure right from the start. Your ‘why’ must have real value to YOU. The desire to lose a few inches off of your waistline because your wife says you are looking a little soggy around the midsection is not the best energy to place behind your goal of achieving a better looking body. Next, consider if this goal is really worth the considerable time and effort that it will take to manifest. If not, redefine your goal or go back to the drawing board and create an entirely new one altogether.

What will you have to give up in order to achieve your goal? This is an important question to consider. In order to achieve your goal, you will have to dedicate substantial energy and resources to the cause. There may be “things” that do not serve to move you towards your goal at the appropriate speed that may need to be given up. As a rather crude example, if you desire to improve body composition, you may have to give up eating a nightly bowl of ice cream. You may also have to give up partying until 2 a.m. in the morning in favor of restorative sleep. Time glued to the television may be better served dedicated to food preparation and gym time.
Given that the following is true:

More of the Same + More of the Same = More of the Same…

You know that in order to achieve something other than what you currently have, changes will have to be made and “things” that do not serve you in becoming the greatest version of your Self are best if given up and discarded.

A goal must be challenging, but definitely not impossible: If your goal is not challenging, you are not likely to set in motion the energy it will require to attain it.

How Long Will it Take?

Most of the “experts” will tell you that a goal must have a specific date of completion because time-frames and dead lines are what create pressure to get the job done. I disagree. How long will it take? Who cares? For me, it’s about falling in the love with the process of achieving the goal – the process of becoming the greatest version of your Self.

Anyone who is truly great at their craft – be they an elite athlete, coach, therapist, entrepreneur, musician, singer, author, etc. has been in love with the process of becoming great (no I am not saying that it is always sunshine and rainbows). Greatness may or may not have been the goal the entire time, but the love of the process was a pre-requisite to their greatness. If you do choose to place a deadline for your goal, the time frame for your goal(s) must be aggressive, but also realistic as well as flexible. Your time-frame can be modified on the fly in the event that you experience set backs or advances during your journey. A sound strategy that I have observed in proactive people is that they are always prepared for a “setback” and respond readily and positively to them. Above all, enjoying the journey to obtaining the goal is a critical aspect of the proactive individual.

To Share or Not to Share?
Let’s face it – a LOT of people just plain ol’ suck; and really do not want you to succeed – if that offends you, too bad.  In fact, deep down, many of them are routing for you to fail. These people take many forms and are quite often some of the people that you are closest to (spouse, parent, child, sibling, and co-workers, all the way down to the nonsensical, random acquaintances that you may experience).

Depending on your personal psychology, you may not want to automatically express your goal to everyone you know. Considering the various levels of consciousness around you, you are likely to receive a wide array of responses when you share your goals with others. For example, if you thrive on proving people wrong (picture me raising my hand with a really excited look on my face here), then it may serve you to express your goals to those who are most likely to doubt your abilities. By the same token, if you have thin skin and prefer only positive feedback, avoiding such people like the plague in favor of those who will be nurturing and supportive of what you are trying to accomplish is probably a better battlefield strategy.

It has been my experience for the past 16 years that if you are pursuing challenging goals, especially those that involve taking your health, body/fitness, and vitality to the next level, “herd mentality” will view you as a freak, an outsider, a weirdo, an outcast, or perhaps an idiot. It is also my opinion that these people are simply pissed that you are doing what they themselves want to do, but do not do for various reasons. If this drives you, use the negativity of others as fuel and enjoy the journey of completing what others say cannot be done.

 
Fear of Failure
F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Do not let fear stand in the way of you achieving a meaningful goal in your life. As Caroline Myss, PhD has stated, “Take the riskiest path you can find.” There is much more to say here but I will leave it at that for now.

Are You Moving towards the Goal at the Appropriate Speed?
Once you have created your achievement plan and have put your nose to the dirt, you need to have a reliable way of assessing whether or not your plan is working. You must test quantifiable outcomes on predetermined dates, and then implement changes if these tests do not reveal the kind of progress you seek (being prepared for setbacks). When implementing change, it is critical to change one variable at a time, while holding all other variables constant. This will allow you to fine-tune your approach to achieving your goals most efficiently and effectively. Remember, even if things do not go according to plan, one with a plan will usually outperform one with no plan.

And there you have it – The Anatomy of a Goal. Take these things into account and enjoy being proactive. Having said all of that, and I realize that was a lot of stuff, I would like to leave you with a quote to meditate on which basically makes most of what is written above completely irrelevant – how great is that:

I am personally a pretty big fan of Taoism.
“‘Tao’ means the way — they don’t talk about the goal. The goal will take care of itself; you need not worry about the goal. If you know the way, you know the goal, because the goal is not at the very end of the way, the goal is all over the way — each moment and each step it is there. To be on the way is to be in the goal.”
– OSHO

The Weekend Warrior Syndrome

I recently had a very candid conversation with one of my rehabilitation colleagues who expressed irritation, and rightfully so, at the attitude of some clients who regularly exercise and are at the same time experiencing pain and/or discomfort with their current program and activities of daily living. I will share my contribution to the conversation…

This is for all of the “weekend warriors,” or “regular exercisers” out there.   Just because you regularly go to the gym “x” times per week to see a “trainer”, take regular Pilates or Bar classes, play games in CrossFit on a daily basis, etc., does not mean that you know how to properly exercise, strengthen, or condition…anything.

As I am fond of saying, context is everything, so allow me to provide some. As a Rehabilitation and Health Consultant I see many people for various pain issues. Many of these people have rather significant pathologies in various parts of the body, most notably the cervical and lumbar spines. Many of these people have also failed to achieve results through standard approaches to their issue(s). After performing a rather thorough and comprehensive assessment, I am in a position to create a comprehensive program that will give my client what is needed to overcome the given pain syndrome(s) that plagues them. In most cases, these individuals are “Weekend Warriors” and have some sort of regular “exercise” routine that they are currently, or were at one time, engaged in.

A key point here is that there is no correlation between the consistency with which someone participates in regular exercise and the effectiveness of what they are doing. While I applaud just about any effort to avoid being the average American whose a$$ is only exercised when moving from the couch to the fridge, one must understand that there actually is a science (and an art) to exercise Program Design. How does the outcome of what you are doing match the objective? This is true from the rehabilitation stages all the way through the strength and conditioning of an elite athlete.

When someone who has studied these things designs a program to bring about a specific outcome, it pays to listen to what they say. What stretches, mobilizations, movements, and exercises go into a program have rhyme and reason. The acute exercise variables that are prescribed (sets, reps, tempo, rest interval, etc.) are selected to bring about a very specific result. This means that randomly throwing in one of your favorite exercises during the program is not going to help you. This means that only performing your corrective stretches and/or mobilizations when you feel like it and in no particular order is not going to help you.

Just because you are doing something regularly does not mean that it is effective. For instance, one can regularly engage in urinating on a forest fire. This, no matter how regularly it is performed or well intended the act, is completely ineffective and useless.

In many cases, it is not the individual’s fault. S/he is simply ignorant and does not know what s/he does not know. The issue here is that when it comes to exercise and movement, what you don’t know (or what your “trainer” doesn’t know) can actually hurt you long-term.

I’ve had clients bring in copies of their workout routines designed by Trainer So-and-So and the routine is a series of nonsensical exercises in random order designed to basically just kick the s#!^ out of the client.  Anyone can do that.  Anyone can make someone tired and sweaty, but tired and sweaty does not always equal being effective!  I have seen the same scenario all the way up at the professional and Olympic sport level. This is a widespread issue with no end in sight.

Never mind the fact that the client or athlete has chronic low back pain, a knee issue, and a left hand that goes numb and starts to feel like it is being set on fire when performing any overhead work (shoulder press, pull downs, etc.). These types of “routines” are executed 3,4, and sometimes 5 days a week with a bunch of cardio stuff mixed in. Most of the programs that I have seen appear to be designed by someone who suffers from a severe blood sugar regulation and energy production issues (what the average person would refer to as an attention deficit disorder).

I used to spend a considerable amount of time and energy explaining to my clients why the training program from Jo-Blow Trainer is NOT helping and in fact hurting them. Now I simply ask one straight-to-the-point question, and the conversation sounds something like this…

Client: “Oh, I know how to exercise. I see a trainer two times a week for weights and I do some cardio on my off days, and sometimes some more weights too.”

Me: “How long has all of this been going on?”

Client: “Oh, about two and a half years or so.”

Me: “How’s that training program working for you?”
[The answer usually highlights the complete disconnect that the average person has with their body and how it works.]

Client: “Well, it’s working fine because I’ve lost some weight and I really sweat a lot when I train so…it must be doing something to help me.”

Me: “Yes, okay…so how does your back, knee, neck, and arm feel?”

Client: “I mean they hurt all the time but I just push through it to get a good workout and my trainer makes sure I don’t do anything to hurt myself.”

I will give you time to read that answer again and let the utter ridiculousness of it sink in a bit more.

Me: “So what you are saying is…you have what I call “weekend warrior syndrome.” You love to exercise, but all of the exercise that you love to do is not in your best interest for overcoming your pain syndrome at the current time, so you are still in pain…and it’s getting worse.  Are you familiar with the definition of insanity?”

Movement and exercise can have very beneficial or devastating effects on the body. Using and performing the right movement at the right time can help unlock the body’s natural healing properties. Using or performing movements incorrectly, or at the wrong time, or with an improper frequency (how often the movement is performed) will create altered mechanics, dysfunction, and pain in the neuromusculoskeletal system…period.  Just because your “trainer” says you should do the movement/exercise, or you do that exercise because you really “feel it” does not necessarily mean that it is the right movement/exercise for you.

How do you know if you are performing the right movement/exercise program for your body’s needs? Simple…have your posture, joint range of motion, joint play, and movement mechanics assessed by someone trained to do so. Many individuals can help here – well-trained Physical or Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths (European or Canadian preferably), Kinesiologists, etc. can all assess these things with great precision. Keep in mind though that the letters behind someone’s name do not guarantee competency.

The trick is finding someone who understands exercise and exercise program design/periodization from both a rehabilitation and a strength and conditioning perspective. Or perhaps you have a team of professionals who are open-minded enough to not try to be an expert in everyone else’s field that communicate with one another for your benefit. Such individuals can analyze your body, movement, and your current training routine. Based on those findings, a properly designed and periodized training program can be implemented that will improve mechanics and function and foster long-term musculoskeletal health. This is of particular importance if you experience any pain before, during, or after training.
Take home message…assume nothing when it comes to movement, particularly if you are in pain. Seek help from the appropriate movement professional(s) and listen to the expertise and advice for which you are paying.

Rehabilitation and Exercise Thoughts…

I don’t post about this much, but I am very active in the rehabilitation and corrective exercise field. I spend several days a week mostly helping individuals overcome chronic neck pain, back pain, and headaches. Currently, my practice is mobile and I see clients in the Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Mandeville areas.

One thing that continuously shows up in my clients with these issues (and others) is that they all want to rush to start “exercising.” And by “exercising” they are usually thinking of the typical stuff that goes on in a commercial gym, programs seen in a magazine, or some of the nonsensical circus acts that pass for exercise programs seen on television. Most of this stems from a desire to lose weight (in many cases) which is born out of the consciousness that beating one’s self nearly to death with “exercise” is the only way to lose said weight.

Another potential reason for the rush to exercise is that many of my clients have already been “through the ringer” with traditional approaches to eliminating their pain – massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic work, acupuncture, and on and on. When all of those modalities fail to produce the desired result (elimination of pain), the individual is left feeling that “exercise” may be the only way to solve the problem.

Here’s the thing…

People could benefit from applying one of Stephen Covey’s habits of being highly effective…putting first things first.

If you have what I call a “mechanical threat” you need to get that taken care of FIRST. If you currently are experiencing pain, it is to your benefit to find someone (such as yours truly) who can help you identify why you are experiencing pain, and then guide you through the steps you need to take to eliminate your pain. Here’s a really quick tip – where you are hurting is very rarely where your actual problem is! In other words, your low back pain may not actually be coming from your low back – it may be coming from your foot, your neck, or maybe even your jaw and cranium.

Once you are pain free, then you need someone (again, such as yours truly) to design and properly periodize an exercise program based on your needs analysis and goals. Trying to exercise through pain is a lot like trying to help by pissing on a forest fire. It may seem like a good idea, but it won’t help much, and the fire (your pain) will continue to rage out of control despite your best efforts.

I often hear people say, “I just want to get back to where I was before I had all this pain.” My response is always the same…”No you don’t!” If you get back to where you were before you were experiencing pain, you set yourself up to be back in the same position you are in currently – experiencing and dealing with pain. You must strive to correct things to the point where you surpass where you were prior to pain so that when you take your body back into that same environment, injury potential is slim to nil and you can continue to do all of the things you love to do pain-free.

Some of you might be saying, “Easy for you to say, you’ve never been injured or in pain.” Not true. I have had several injuries in my life that have required extensive rehabilitation prior to returning to training the way I want to. I am actually currently dealing with that. I have a right shoulder issue involving a 17 year old injury (Type II separation of my right AC joint) in addition to a partial rotator cuff tear. This has required that I change quite a bit in my own training program(s). As I have done before, I will do what is necessary to overcome the injury and return to the type of training I love to do. But when I do so, I will be more structurally sound and there will be no issue of concern.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing pain and having a difficult time overcoming that pain, feel free to contact me or be sure to find someone to properly assess your musculoskeletal system for somatic dysfunction as well as your movement mechanics.