Wild Geese Martial Arts is Paul Cox & Dave Hedges.
Together they lead a team of dedicated and highly skilled instructors covering several martial art styles as well as fitness, strength & conditioning and movement therapy.
Watch how he is off guard, he’s leaning forward to take a video, he is comfortable and relaxed when he takes the impact.
Bear in mind he is also a man in his 70’s
See how he responds to the impact?
He moves with it, he turns to face, he is balanced and poised.
At 70+ years old, Arnie is still the goddam Terminator!
He is a product of a lifetime of disciplined training.
He has worked hard to keep strong and maintain muscle mass as he’s gotten older.
And it shows here.
He said afterwards that he “thought he was being jostled by the crowd” not being kung fu kicked.
If ever there was an advertisement for lifting weights into old age, this is it.
Now it also helps that Arnie has trained since his youth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now,
It doesn’t mean you can’t get back into it now.
A huge amount of people simply stop training in their middle years, usually due to time and family commitments. This is understandable.
Some never come back because they’re not able to put in the time they used to, or they’ll never return to the competitive levels they once were at.
And I get that too.
But listen, you don’t need to be competitive.
You’re life doesn’t have to revolve around the gym.
But you can and should train.
You want to be the man who can shrug of a flying kick in your 70’s
You want to be vital and strong long into your twilight years.
I certainly have no intentions of letting my kids beat me in an arm wrestle at any age!
And if you don’t know where to start, drop me a line, I can help.
The things we take for granted are probably the things we should be paying the most attention to.
On Monday I talked about mobility work for the hands and wrists. And today I get an email from an online client exclaiming “OMG, I’ve never had a forearm pump before!”
Which suggests the forearm muscles, those that control the hand and wrist are potentially under-stimulated and in need of some care and attention. As a kettlebell lifter, mine are often over stimulated and in need of care and attention.
Either way, hands deserve care and attention.
But let’s go deeper, let’s talk about breathing.
Most people I work with fall into one of two camps. Those that have never considered the role of breathing, and those who have been taught certain methods, usually as that method is the one and only way to breathe.
I’m here to tell that there is no one right way, but there are many ways which are correct, and it all depends on the context.
For a shortcut, I wrote an “Instruction Manual” for breathing which you can find here
But outside of the gym or exercise class, does how you breathe matter?
Short answer: YES!
If you do what most people do and breathe high in the chest with an open mouth, then then it’s not a reach to guess you also feel tightness/stiffness in the neck and shoulders. What about the hips, would they also be tight?
How’s your stress levels?
High chest breathing, especially with an open mouth is highly correlated with the stress response. Think back to pre civilisation, think Game of Thrones type of living. Each time your life is on the line, the stress response kicks in and the head drops to protect the neck. The shoulders lift to protect the neck. The breathe speeds up in preparation for immediate action.
Adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, priming us for physical action.
Yet how often does that physical action manifest itself?
Unless you get to the gym, go for a run or get some form of physical exertion in, it doesn’t.
Having a good belly laugh and banter with a comrade is a great alternative to the physical exertion. Do you get that opportunity?
Once the stress is over and the physical manifestations we call the stress response have dissipated, we are supposed to return to deeper, diaphragmatic breathing and an open, relaxed posture.
I’m going to make an assumption here.
I assume you use your hands a lot more than those biceps or rectus abdominis that you love showing off!
If you’re reading this blog you are very likely a person who swings kettlebells, does pull ups, deadlifts, plays Judo/BJJ, goes climbing, mountain bikes as well as doing all the normal stuff modern life asks from us.
Look through that list and you’ll see that everything requires the hands to be in good nick.
Everything on that list requires the grip to be strong and better than just string, but reactive and enduring.
Training usually requires a closing grip, which means our finger flexors on the inside of the forearm take a beating.
Our forearms are one of the sets of muscles in the body that are deliberately imbalanced, the flexors that close the hand are far stronger than the extensors that open the hand (as I explained this one day to Son no 1, he jumped in, “You mean like a crocodiles mouth” which is the best explanation you could ever get.)
Problems arise of this imbalance gets to far out of line, or the forearm flexors simply get tight from all use.
I do see people quite frequently who struggle to do a simple push up comfortably because of the fore arm flexors being tight.
There are some very simple and highly effective exercises that are used by gymnasts and traditional martial artists the world over to prep the hand/wrists for the hard training to follow, and also to keep the hands fresh and aid recovery from the training.
The two that I recommend you add into training today are: Finger Pulses and Palm Pulses
Both these exercises can be practiced nice and light, just going through the motions for releasing any excessive tension held in the muscles, say the day after training, or as part of a warm up.
Or you can put some weight on the hands and challenge the tissues to develop some strength, nice to do after a grip intensive session such as Deadlifts or Kettlebell Snatch.
Add them into your routine and let me know how you feel.
But this dude got in touch by email and detailed out a very interesting and concerning injury history.
Not only that, there was an equally detailed and concerning history of the lack of results the conventional medical and physiotherapy treatments have had.
Now, before we go any further….
There is a trend amongst the people in the circles I operate to speak out against and be derogative on our medical community.
I am not one of them.
Ok, I do give out sometimes, but I do have the utmost respect for them.
We ALL have limitations. And I think we expect too much from the medical folk sometimes, and possibly they expect too much of themselves.
We NEED their deep and specialised learning.
We also need to know that specialised means narrow focus, and the stuff that lies outside that focus, they may be as ignorant about as the next person.
In fact, I’d argue that the more laser like the focus, the deeper the knowledge within that light, and the greater the lack of knowledge outside it.
Think on this the next time you give out to any expert for not knowing something.
But back to my client.
After an assessment, I gave him homework recommendations and created a training program for him to follow when he came into me two times per week.
He has now completed 4 training sessions. And has been faithfully doing his homework.
His report: After session 1 – He was in bits, felt like the session had targeted in on all his problem areas. After session 2 – Felt much smoother in every movement, worked hard but felt way loser, more mobile. After session 3 – the next day felt a weird tightness build, similar to a normal flare up of his symptoms, but also different. This was followed by an almighty crack in his vertebrae and instant relief of symptoms. Later that day he was asked if he he’d been going to the gym because he looked great!
Session 4, well lets see when he comes in next week.
A few thing stand out here.
1 – three sessions does not change a physique to a noticeable degree, no matter what an internet guru will tell you.
So what changed?
If I were to guess, I’d say that the change was mostly due to a toning down of muscular tension and improvement in posture.
His muscle relaxed possibly due to a lower perceived threat.
His posture improved because it was no longer under high muscular tension.
All this because of the sudden reduction in symptoms and a clear improvement in joint mobility in the vertebra, an are we had flagged as restricted.
His performance in his last (fourth) session was streets ahead of all previous sessions.
Which is nice.
But really what I’m getting at is that all the MRI scans and X-Rays, all the medical tests and a great many assessment protocols have one thing in common.
The patient is static.
But how do we live?
Consider a chain, like the chain on your bike.
If one link seizes, does that chain run smoothly? Can you cycle that bike efficiently?
The answer is clearly no.
If that link is positioned on the straight part of the chain while you take a photo and send it to your mechanic buddy, it’d look normal.
But as soon as he saw the pedals turn to move the chain, he’d spot it straight away and know what to do.
This is why assessments need to include movement.
This is why physical injury responds so well to movement (outside of the acute stuff like breaks, dislocations, tears etc)
Moving assessments take time though, hence why I allow 90-120 minutes per appointment. Good luck getting that sort of time with a flat out medical professional, they’re understaffed and under funded.
To wrap up:
Give the medical folk a break, maybe their doing their best but you fall outside of their expertise.
Be like my guy, seek out someone who deals with movement
Again, like my guy, give feedback, I can’t tell you how important good feedback is, after all it’s you in that body, not me, only you know how it feels!
“Dave, were you just talking to yourself?” askes a client coming onto the training floor.
“Damn right!” I reply, “It’s not mad to talk to yourself, it’s mad not to listen!”
Self talk is huge.
And for most people, most of the time, it’s negative.
“You’re too fat”
“You’re not strong enough”
“You didn’t train enough”
“Ah go on, have that extra bit of cake, and why not wash it down with a beer….”
If you spend a bit of time on the Google looking up self talk, you’ll inevitably come across the self help guru’s who’ll tell you to ignore the negative and focus on the positive, to love yourself and all that jazz.
I’m going to tell you that they’re talking out of their arse and that you NEED to listen to that negative self talk.
But you need to be subjective about it.
Being subjective seems to be a lost art, it’s about creating a bit of distance, not taking it personally.
More like a debate than an argument.
Evil Self, “You didn’t train enough”
You, “I get how you feel, but there’s no way I could have done more and still gotten enough recovery”
Evil Self, “you’re lazy”
You, “My training log says otherwise, progress is clear to see. And I got the kids to school every day, and I even managed to catch up at work!”
Evil self, “Yeah, well, you’re fat!”
You, “Am I? The number on the scales hasn’t changed, but I’ve gone in a notch on my belt and can feel my shorts are tighter across the shoulders”
Now THAT is positive self talk!
But what if you can’t answer one of those questions?
What if “Evil self” has a point.
In that case, you now know what to work on next.
You have now had a spotlight shine on your weakness, your Achilles heel.
Now, just imagine Achilles had been a bit smarter and worn some better armour around his foot and ankle, what if he’d not been so arrogant as to believe he was invulnerable.
What if he’d have thought, I have a vulnerable spot, lets armour that bugger up before someone shoots and arrow into it and kills me.
And this is the hard part.
This is the part people don’t want to do.
This is why books on the subject of “Vulnerability” are now flying off the shelves.
It’s because we want to think we’re invulnerable, but like Achilles, we aint!
And like Achilles, that vulnerability that we ignore could spell the end of us.
Unless you recognise it, embrace it as part of you and then do something about it.
And more often than not, the very thing your self talk is harping on about is the very thing you need to recognise and work with.
There are of course exceptions.
When self talk is telling you to sit on your arse stuffing your face with cheese on toast, that’s a discipline problem.
But the good news is, discipline can be trained just like anything else.
As a coach, being able to communicate instructions to clients is of primary importance.
As a coach, being able to listen is of even more primary importance (primarier??)
It holds true as a Dad and Husband too, but that’s another blog post….
I heard a great quote the other day while out walking the dog and listening to the Blindboy podcast.
If you don’t know who Blindboy is, he’s one half of an Irish comedy act called the Rubber Bandits, famous for their songs, for wearing plastic bags on their heads, and in Blindboy’s case, being a very surprising voice of reason on some deep topics.
In this episode he says, “Good communication lies in the ear of the receiver, you have to talk at their level in a way they understand”
Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist.
And I also know he’s not the first to say this, but it was him that set off this thought process.
I, like most trainers and coaches have a variety of people coming to me.
And by variety, I’m talking not just in interests, but origins.
My female BJJ player from Italy sees the world differently to my Irish male rock climber. He in turn see’s the world differently from the Polish wrestler who sees it differently from the IT guy or the Solicitor.
Different cultures, both from where they grew up, and the environment they spend most time in.
I’m sure you’ve experienced just this when telling a joke, some people laugh, some don’t get it and some think it’s simply unfunny.
Is it the joke, or is it, in the words of comedian Frank Carson, “the way I tell em”
Lets take a very common gym cue: Chest Up
Go to any gym anywhere and you’ll hear this.
Especially at the squat rack. Or from the Kettlebell coach teaching swings.
I’ve used this cue for years, but some just don’t get it.
For them “Shoulders back” gets a better response.
But you know what works across the board?
“Tit’s out, arse out!”
Yes, it’s crude, but that is it’s charm.
There is NO misinterpretation.
Everyone knows what it means.
And it catches the attention far better than “chest up” at least in the early stages of training until the person has acclimatised to the common language of the gym.
If we think back to my last blog post on FEAR, aka the Nocebo effect (as one of my lads mentioned to me yesterday after reading that blog).
Nocebo, in a negative manner, is clear example of poor communication.
It’s often the expert using expert language, language that is alien and possibly frightening to the client.
How to we circumnavigate this problem?
1: we don’t use words like “circumnavigate”, instead we say “get around”
2: Listen. If good comms is in the ear of the receiver, then BE the receiver.
This give you time and opportunity to pick on language use, speech patterns, body language, tone, speed of conversation.
It allows you time to receive the verbal and non verbal cues that can aid you to steer the rest of the session.
By the way, this also what I used to teach when I was teaching self defence, as creating some form of empathy through mirroring the bad guys traits can often buy you more time to diffuse or escape a threat.
It’s no different on the training floor or the clinic.
Put your ego and needs aside, let theirs take front and centre.
“But Dave, your ego is fucking massive!!”
Fair point, I know.
And it’s a battle not letting my egeo and want to show off get the better of me. It took me years to get the hang of it.
Now, I like to let me ego shine by steering people to answer their own questions, create their own solutions and become independent.
My ego gets massaged everytime I take a complex concept and explain in it in a way that my 7yr old son would understand.
One more time:
Good comms is in the ear of the receiver.
If the person you are working with does not understand what you are saying, you may as well have not said it.
Now, after all that, come and test MY communication ability by attending one (or both) of the two upcoming workshops.
The details are right here:
The Pain Science crowd have shone a huge spotlight on how pain operates in the body. And like fear, pain is awesome, in context.
And that’s what I usually tell the people that come and see me about their injuries. I tell them it’s awesome, fascinating and really cool.
What I don’t do is act all “oh, you poor thing” and start using fear inducing words like “herniation” or “fracture” Mostly because that’s not what I’m trained for, I’m not a Doctor or a Physio, so I can’t offer out diagnosis. All I can do identify and follow the breadcrumbs that may allow us figure out how to get rid of the pain, or at least reduce it.
If I can’t figure it out, I’ll refer you onto someone who is better than me.
And you know what they’ll say?
The same as me, no fear inducing nonsense.
I’m not sure I fit under the title of “Healthcare Professional” but I certainly lean in that direction. I’ll yell at you to lift heavier, move faster, breath better. But I’ll also tell you when to slow down, when to rest. And when you pick up an injury, as all hard charging people do, then I’ll be there telling you how fucking cool and interesting that is. And how much fun the journey back to awesomeness is going to be, assuming you’re willing to put the work in.
Which, as you’re in WG-Fit, or you at least read my work, I know you are.
What inspired this post today?
A member that came back to me a while ago because of ongoing injury. Who was making great progress, then maybe upped her mileage a little too fast and reinjured herself. Her physio started talking about stress fractures, disk herniations and nerve entrapment.
All these big scary words from simply putting hands on.
Now, I don’t care who you think you are and what courses you’ve taken, but to bang out all those terms with no evidence other than a bit of hands on, that’s a reach and half.
Can you detect a stress fracture with your hands? I don’t think so, they’re tiny, you’d need an Xray.
But those words get into a clients head and it stays there. Their internal dialogue is now going, “My leg hurts, my physio says I have a stress fracture, so I have a stress fracture, I’m broken”
You have potentially rocked a person’s identity based on what you guess is maybe a problem.
That’s not cool mate.
Fear is cool in the right context. Before a big event, before a job interview, facing down a bear, not in the physio department or the gym. Pain is cool in the right context, when it prevents you doing further damage, it reminds you not to do that stupid thing again, when it causes a surge of adrenaline that gives you temporary super powers. But not when you’re not carrying round an image of yourself as a broken up has been.
Lets keep fear out of Coaching and Therapying.
Speaking of coaching, I’ve two workshops coming up shortly, details are here:
The term one of my clients uses is “RDM’s” which stands for “Routine Daily Maintenance”
Helen Hall calls them “WUJMUMS’s” which stands for “Wake Up Joints, Wake Up Muscles” which she details with clarity in her book:
There is a search box on the bottom right of this page, search “Monday Mobility” actually, scratch that, I’ve done it for you, click here to see it
Yes, there will times where you need specific work and general mobility won’t cut it.
Figuring that out and programming it into a training plan is my speciality.
Sometimes, like in one case this morning, it takes nothing more than eyeballing a person and then giving them one or two movements.
I get a lot of stick for saying this, but we should treat our body like a machine.
Most people have a better relationship with their car/bike/[insert hobby machine of choice] than they do their own body.
But just like you will check your cars tyres, oil and water. You’ll get it washed, you may even hoover inside. You’ll take it for it’s annual service, more twice annually if it’s an old car.
Why don’t you do the same for your body?
Grease the bearings with movement.
Check the alignment.
Fuel the tank.
And pump up the tyres.
It might just be enough to keep you at work and in the game.
We’ve some interesting workshops coming up.
If I’ve got the internet code stuff right, it should appear here:
Pick any high performer you have on a pedestal and they have most of the same doubts in their minds as you do.
Does it stop them?
Sometimes I bet it does. So why wouldn’t it stop you?
The difference is they are exceptions, they are at the top of their game, their lives are built around their performances.
They have teams around them ensuring they are looked after, that they have the mundane taken care of.
You most likely don’t.
You have a job, a family.
But here’s a thing, as much as you might be trying to be all things to all the people relying on you, you need to remember that YOU are also relying on you.
So, step back for a moment and gather your shit.
Get whatever is in your head down on paper.
Simply brainfart the whole lot out onto a page, the bigger the page the better.
Then step back.
If you’ve been honest with yourself, the entire contents of your mind are on that page in what is likely a complete mess.
This is your shit.
Now you can look at and arrange it, get it together, in anyway you wish.
You can see the important stuff, the unimportant stuff. The Now stuff and the Later stuff, the stuff you’ve been putting off.
And I’ll bet that looking after yourself is on the “stuff you’ve been putting off”
Should it be?
Could you spare a 30-40 minute block of time 2-4 days per week to squeeze in a workout, to stretch the muscles, to burn off that cortisol, to pump up the testosterone?
Could you make better food choices? Get to bed a little earlier? Sort out that back pain?
Have you ever tried to stretch your hip flexors only for them to stick two fingers up at you and grip tighter than ever?
Yet, if those hip flexors are tight, then you should be able to lift your knee up high right?
There are a few muscles that can be though of as hip flexors, but the one that gets all the attention is the Psoas.
If you look at this beautiful piece of art from Danny Quirk, you see the psoas journey from the attachments on the spine, down through the bowl of the pelvis and insert onto the inside of the femur:
The caption on the artwork refers to the diaphragm, your breathing muscle.
Take a moment to notice how the top of the psoas and the bottom (rearmost) section of the diaphragm seem to cross over.
Do you think that could be significant?
If you aint breathing well, if your diaphragm isn’t doing it’s thing, then are we able to create intra abdominal pressure and generate power from the spine?
Probably not, so the psoas then has to do the spine stabilising bit, which ties up a lot of it for the hip flexing work.