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Why It Is NOT Just A Fitness Program

myofascial stretching

I thought for a long time that DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training would be my best and biggest contribution to the fitness industry and those that wanted to improve their health. The system made such a big impact on myself and Jessica I thought, “you can be happy with what you have tried to offer people.” However, now being closer to 50 than 40, I started to take more inventory of what I really wanted and was feeling.

I’ve shard numerous times that I have had a spinal disease diagnosed since I was 14. That has led to a host of very real structural issues that took a toll on me physically and mentally. However, as I look back at life, I was ignoring something really important in myself and my clients that now I can’t unsee!

fitness program

For almost as long as I can remember I’ve battled controlling my mental side. Very much my personality has been all or nothing and in some ways that has served me well and others has been problematic. It was a few years ago when DVRT was going super strong, but I was not! Not only were some of the physical changes challenging, but I was starting to see that although I had achieved a lot of goals I set for myself, I wasn’t all that much happier or satisfied in life.

There wasn’t anything “wrong”, but I could tell I wasn’t healthy in all the ways that I needed. Like so many of you, I’ve had my fair share of life traumas that are probably at the root of a lot of what I was feeling.

When I was 5 years old I remember being told my Mom had cancer, being very close to her I didn’t know exactly what that meant other than she would be sick a lot. Many days before school we would go to the hospital first and visit her and I can remember waking up a lot of mornings seeing my Dad helping her with treatments. She would pass away when I was 8 and that was a pretty significant blow in my whole family’s life.

whole person fitness program

 A pic with my brothers and Mom a short time before she passed.

My Mom was an elementary school teacher and loved teaching kids and had a special love of animals. I like to think that is where I get my love of teaching and animals as well.

Something special Jessica and I like to do together is volunteer at the local animal shelter.

I share that with you because it then makes sense of what would happen later. At around 13 I was diagnosed with pretty severe depression and not too shockingly, my brothers did as well. My Dad dived into work to deal with his grief and without knowing it, it set forth an underlying issue in dealing with stress, emotional challenges, and more. Ironically, dealing with the death of our mother wasn’t something that was ever recommended.

You could imagine how things got even more challenging when my stepmom, Renae, who we had become close with when she came into our lives was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 18. I don’t share this with you because I want make you sad, but rather, helping explain why I felt like there was something in my health journey that I never really conquered.

I believed that being successful, having a good partner and family would all give me peace. While I felt very fortunate to have those things happen, I was shocked that I still didn’t feel the peace in my mind that I had hoped. Even having gone through therapy many different times in my life, I still couldn’t find a way to manage my emotions and reactions to many of life’s stressors.

There was even a growing feeling of guilt recognizing that I had nothing that bad happening to me (compared to many other people in the world) and why couldn’t I just find that peace I had always strived for in life?

What My Fitness Was Missing

Without really knowing it, I had used my years of basketball and working out as a way to manage and deal with a lot of these feelings. Trust me, being physically active probably gave me way more management of things than if I wasn’t being physically active. However, there was a limit.

I remember the ONLY times I have hurt myself in the 30 years I have been lifting is about 3-4 times when I was going under great emotional distress. Ironically, only now I understand WHY that happened.

In the last several years I started realizing what my fitness was really missing, I was only addressing the physical side! That sounds like the obvious as most people who start a fitness program want to “get leaner”, “lose body fat”, and “get fit”. When I was a young coach, I wouldn’t have thought anything of those goals, but now as a more mature coach and looking back on many clients I didn’t realize the truth.

Yes, those were the goals they mentioned, but as I got to know my clients, these goals seemed to be secondary to something else. More times than not, my clients used these goals as a way to strive for happiness. In a lot of cases they were battling things in their lives just as I had that were not giving them the peace or type of life they wanted.

The only thing I could have offered them at the time even if I DID recognize this at the time was the physical training. All my mind would have done is tried to possibly get them to train harder, more consistently, etc. I didn’t have any tools to make the difference or provide them with the tools they actually needed.

I started to study and appreciate something known at the psychosocial model of health more and more. This is slowly changing how medicine and health care is looking at health. In fact, Harvard is hosting a conference this year on the “whole person” as a theme of changing how the medical model has to change. This isn’t really a new idea, many cultures (especially Eastern philosophy, but others as well) have always believed the whole person was something we had to look at not just the physical.

Now, there is NO WAY that I would say that what I am going to share or recommend should replace speaking with a mental health professional, but there are reasons that I am sharing them with you because I believe they are incredibly valuable tools to have in our lives.

There is A LOT of evidence that our mental state has HUGE impacts upon our physical and it can even be vice versa. This is the premise for mind-body practices and research like this 2018 paper is fascinating, “Interoception is the sensing of internal bodily sensations. Interoception is an umbrella term that encompasses (1) the afferent (body-to-brain) signaling through distinct neural and humoral (including immune and endocrine) channels; (2) the neural encoding, representation, and integration of this information concerning internal bodily state; (3) the influence of such information on other perceptions, cognitions, and behaviors; (4) and the psychological expression of these representations as consciously accessible physical sensations and feelings…We present a neurobiological overview of interoception and describe how interoceptive impairments at different levels relate to specific physical and mental health conditions, including sickness behaviors and fatigue, depression, eating disorders, autism, and anxiety. ”

I’m not claiming if you ever become sick or have health issues they are just your emotions running wild, however, this is a great deal of evidence that many illnesses can be traced back to life experiences, our mental state and more.

These are two great resources on such topics!

So, what can we do and how do we help develop habits that can have a positive impact on us mentally and physically? Well, you have probably heard a lot about two of them, breathing exercises and meditation. Now, if you just rolled your eyes hard, let me explain.

There is A LOT of research on both specific breathing exercises and mediation helping calm down our nervous system and placing us in a better mental state to deal with life. Yesterday I covered some great breathing foundations (you can read HERE if you missed it) and I recommend using them whenever you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, or out of sorts. They are just the start though and for some people it is hard to sit quietly a breathe and that is also why some say they can’t do things like meditation (although many misunderstand meditation, but that’s a different post).

That is why I like using movement as a way to introduce both to people. There is some newer research coming out on what is being called “meditative movement” (this would involve practices like yoga and qigong for example) and the results are VERY positive in improving how people feel and change their mental states (you can read on example HERE)

I’ve personally found focusing on movement and breath to be a great way to bring breath work, mediation, and even mobility and stability training all together. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be complicated.

The reason that I wanted to create our Myofascial Integrated Movement program wasn’t to just have something new to offer our DVRT community. It actually is because this specific practice has made such a profound impact not just on my movement, chronic pain, and mobility, but I feel like I’ve never been in a better place mentally. The practice that started in short little bouts is now something I look forward to doing frequently throughout my day.

How can you use such ideas? Below is a routine you can do that is focused more on the moving meditation idea, you can also just use ONE of the drills and do about 10 repetitions (or 1 minute in the case of spiral knocking) when you wake up, before you go to bed, if you feel like your are getting overwhelmed, or your energy levels are feeling low. Try it and be open minded enough to see if it can help you too! I’ll be honest, it isn’t magic, but it can be an incredible tool to make things better in your mind and body!

You can still get our new Myofascial Integrated Movement program for 30% off with code “mim” HERE through this weekend.