December Newsletter, 2016: Training and the general population

A client was sharing with me she gave my number to a neighbor. The neighbor is in her 70s, has chronic low back pain, and recently had a rotator cuff repair surgery. She is concerned if she uses the trainer at her gym, he will injure her, based on the workouts she watches him do with others. “Jennifer would never hurt you,” my client said vehemently in her retelling of the story.

This struck me. It always saddens me when people don’t view their bodies as robust and injury resistant; sometimes, life makes a person feel weak and injury prone. This can make beginning any sort of strength work intimidating, which frequently leads to the person not doing anything, furthering the perception of weakness and frailty. 

I am reminded, over and over again, that people with chronic pain, pre-existing orthopedic conditions, and/or a history of surgeries struggle with finding a place they feel safe and supported as they make their journey back to a world of strength and opportunity. We are taught, both as trainers, movement specialists, and yoga teachers, how to teach for the masses. “General population,” we call the average person embarking on a path of well-being. The problem with this is we are taught how to teach people that already have a fitness base, when in actuality, the general population folks are the ones that are scared to step foot in a gym or studio. They feel they aren’t fit enough/they don’t want to be hurt/the work ahead is too daunting. How do we reach these individuals and make it feel like they belong among the “active population?”

I used to feel a jab of irritation when someone told me he felt pain during an exercise. The irritation was directed at myself, because every time it happened, I found myself thinking, “why didn’t I know that would hurt?” And so I educated myself, on anatomy, biomechanics, neurology, pain science, the science of stress, strength, mobility, and psychology. My influences are many, and continue to grow, because my education is not done. This is what enables me to successfully work with the “difficult ones,” the general population clients with injuries and surgeries, and get them strong and flexible without aggravating their conditions. It also makes me a better trainer for the ones that are already active; I can find ways to make them more efficient and guide them in a more comprehensive way to total body strength and mobility.

If you work with people in a one on one setting, know that these individuals are underserved and are searching for ways to become active. There is no one technique (at least in my experience) that works for everybody, but by listening, regressing, and working slowly, these individuals can achieve the sense of strength we all deserve.

Yours in health and wellness,

Other news:
Ariana Rabinovitch is launching an exciting website examining research and its application to movement sciences. As part of the project, she is conducting a series of podcasts where a few of us geek out on a research study. Mine is on low back pain, but I strongly encourage you to check out the others:
(For more information about the yoga and movement website, sign-up here:

Speaking of podcasts, I was also interviewed by Tony Federico of Paleo Magazine on movement training. Link here:

My friend, Gyrotonic teacher extraordinaire Domini Anne, is releasing a series of movement warm-ups. For free. Check out her site:

Upcoming events:
Exploring the foot and hip connection, Saturday, 11/19/16 at Be Well Personal Training, 9:30-11:30. More information:

Hips, shoulders, and thorax, March 25 and 26 at 360 Fithaus. Details and registration information coming soon.

Introduction to Movement as Play, Saturday, 12/10/16 at Be Well Personal Training, 10-12. Co-teaching with Caleb Chiu. More information:

Body, Mind, Nature Retreat, June 2-June 4 at Mayacamas Ranch, Calistoga, CA. Co-teaching with Catherine Cowey. (Early bird registration ends February 1).More information:

Recommended reading/resources:

“The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint,” an online course by Tony Gentilcore and Dean Somerset. This is a very good resource for movement professionals (and a great learning opportunity from your own couch): My most recent on Breaking Muscle. Mindful movement. I thoroughly enjoyed this perspective on Kelly McGonigal’s book (which I have read and referenced several times). bra
Another one on the science of stress (the book this is based on is quite good, too).
How the runner’s high affects our brain in the long term
Hamstring tendinopathy and how to work with it.
Mirror neurons and increased locomotion in an elderly population. Maybe we are who we hang out with?
I attended this earlier in November. It was a nice overview of the importance of repetition with variability, with some pain science (and Feldenkrais variations) thrown in.
The splits is my nemesis. Great outline of how to get there.