Reflection and reading ideas (with cliff notes)

This time of year is always a bit reflective for me. A year has ended, the days begin to get longer, and I turn another year older. I used to find January a bit depressing, mostly because I never felt fully satisfied with what I was accomplishing in life. This changed about five years ago, when I found myself not only committed to my work, but passionate about my abilities to help people live stronger, more fulfilled lives. Part of this passion was fueled by an increased devotion to writing and research; it was also fueled by taking the time to learn and understand the information I was studying through courses on the weekends. This involved learning how not to procrastinate and focus on the goals of my future self. James Clear wrote an excellent blog on this topic, which is listed in the reading below. 

Part of getting another year older means I also take stock of my physical self in terms of strength, aches and pains, and general well-being. When I was in my late 20s, I felt a general sense of unease. My body didn’t feel good, and I was concerned about what that meant for my 80 year old self. Despite a regular yoga practice, I was still chronically stiff, and using a high tension threshold (i.e. abdominal bracing and clenching) to keep myself upright. This slowly changed when I became one of the thousands of people to read “Born to Run.” I switched to Vibrams, which led to better ankle mobility and positively affected the way I interacted with the ground. I also started graduate school, and learned how much I didn’t know and how many questions the research didn’t fully answer. This led to neuromuscular techniques, and 2 years learning how to a) get my ribs down b) breathe into my mediastinum c) use my adductors and hamstrings and d) be completely paranoid that the positive changes I implemented were going to go away overnight. Somewhere during this time I also started studying Feldenkrais, which dramatically improved my recognition of self and my overall motor control. The wonderful part about going through this re-education is when I began diving into structured strength programs this past year and a half, I felt strong, capable, and with my heightened body awareness, I was able to find correct positioning, notice fatigue, and work on some things I had been avoiding with ease. Too often we avoid the mental work required to move well, because it’s tedious, or uncomfortable, or isn’t flashy and interesting. It also often leads to accessing areas we have been avoiding, which leads to a different type of work that isn’t exactly fun, but it allows for better movement in the future. If you are a physical person that enjoys the skill of movement, I highly recommend taking the time to do the work. It will make your overall movement quality much more efficient, improve your mobility, and give you a newfound sense of strength and control. This doesn’t mean you have to spend as much time (or energy) as I did; I see dramatic improvements with my clients when I spend 5-10 minutes a session on areas that are unclear or difficult for them to isolate. This can also be done in a class setting, and yoga practitioners would dramatically benefit from learning how to isolate and control body parts before heading into integrated asana practice. Despite the charts I stared at during my undergrad showing peak physical performance occurs at 25, I am in the best shape of my life. It’s not by doing more or killing myself each workout; it’s by working smartly and taking the time to explore my weaknesses.

Recommended reading:
There have been some excellent articles, studies, and blogs released in the last 30 days. Here are a handful of things worth reading: 
I am writing a blog on the benefits of a mobile spine. This study looks at the effects of spinal mobilization in back pain subjects. This supports what I see with clients, so I was excited about it.
I have found this to be true over, and over, and over again. Strength before surgery makes a huge difference.
The effects of exercise reach far beyond simply getting stronger. John Ratey’s book “Spark” dives into this more deeply if you want to learn more. (And type of exercise doesn’t really matter, so if everyone could stop claiming one modality is better than another, the public might get a little less confused).
Embodied cognition, the brain and the body aren’t separate, and yet another book for me to read.
A senior yoga teacher’s well-written discussion about her evolution, and why just because “that’s the way it’s always done” means it should still be done that way today.
Exercise reduces low back pain. (I read the study a little more closely- non-specific chronic low back pain, which means there isn’t a mechanical cause). This meta analysis was quite large, and again, the type of exercise doesn’t seem to really matter. Understand how your body works and get strong. (This should be a mantra of fitness professionals everywhere).
Interoception helps people cope with stress. I wrote and entire blog on the concept of interoception. If we learn how our body is responding under different circumstances, we can improve our resilience to stress.
Procrastination- why we do it, and how we can stop getting in our own way.


Upcoming events at Be Well Personal Training:

Move Better- finding skill and ease in exercise and movement, Saturday, 2/6 12-1:15. Exploring the eyes, neck, and shoulders
Move Better- finding skill and ease in exercise and movement, Saturday, 3/5 12-1:15. Exploring the bodyweight squat
(These are also available to purchase online if you can’t make the live class and want access to the content). 
Cost: $20/class

Upcoming events elsewhere:

Stress, how it helps us, and the mind/body connection
Date: February or March, TBA
Location: The Treadmill, Carmel, CA
Cost: Free (More information available at

Low back pain: a workshop for movement professionals
Date: April (Saturday TBA)
Time: 1-4
Location: Move-SF, 2863 California Street, San Francisco, CA
Cost: $75
(More information available at and by the end of January)

Body, mind, nature wellness retreat:
Date: Friday, 6/2-Sunday, 6/4 2017
Location: Mayacamas Ranch, Calistoga
More information: coming soon
I realize this is a long way away. It was the earliest weekend they had available, and I am super excited to be co-hosting this with Catherine Cowey, an extremely talented trainer from San Francisco. We are keeping the group small (24 people) in order to provide high quality instruction. The goal of the weekend is to explore movement in a variety of ways, reconnect with nature, and practice meditation techniques that are easy to implement, We will also explore our relationship with stress, why stress isn’t necessarily bad, and how establishing a good mind/body connection can influence our stress response. If you would like to be contacted when registration opens, please e-mail me.