Active Concept Training

Mobility, Motivation, and Mindful Conditioning

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lotsa talk about running shoes

Posted by Chad on July 26, 2010 at 9:52 AM Comments comments (0)

Do we humans run like we used to?  For most of us, that answer is no!  We run based on how the shoe companies have told us to.  Their motivation?  To sell shoes...and we listened!!  LOUDLY!

The link below tells us just how long it takes for feet to change based on our footwear.  (Hint--not long!!)




Chris McDougall, the author of Born to Run, gives us news we've been wating on...from the horse's mouth!  Nike fesses up!





Forget the heel strike, please.  You can run in any shoe, just run correctly.  Running correctly prevents injury and pain.  Go figure!  Doing anything with correct form tends to do just that!  Just ask any cyclist, olympic lifter, swimmer, etc.

Why did it take so long for this to come out?  Well, we are people who like to listen to those in the know...unfortunately, those who we thought were in the know, were in the business of selling shoes.




Matt over here,

has put together a nice piece on barefoot running...take a look.




Take this lesson and learn from all walks of life!



restoring lost function--threat modulation!

Posted by Chad on December 1, 2009 at 6:42 AM Comments comments (0)

Below is from Chris at Conditioning Research.  Once again, what you do during the course of the day DETERMINES how your body will react...flight or fight/move or don't move.  Is it starting to make sense now??  He is speaking on a seminar he took about Z-Health.

"This seminar did what the books and articles I've read previously have failed to do - it put the exercises into context, it explained the reasoning and the theory that justify the moves. It makes more sense now - it is about threat modulation...reassuring your nervous system that things are OK.

We went through a lot of theory and then applied it to some kettlebell moves.

I'll try to present the arguments here and develop some of the ideas in future posts:

  • The body is oriented on survival not performance (this links to some paleo/evolutionary fitness ideas. What are we designed for? survive, to escape danger, be it a predator or anyother threat).

  • Take a neurological perspective- look at the nervous system as central - it is always "on", it is fast and it is plastic (malleable - you can learn things that stick). It is always active, always adapting to the demands that it is facing. Back to the old SAID principle - your body will adapt to what you do with it

  • Your neurology is binary - it recognises only 2 states - THREAT or NO THREAT

  • A THREAT state limits efficient movement in some way or other - there could be pain or tightness or weakness for example, or a limited range of motion.

  • A variety of things can induce a THREAT state - lack of movement, fear of falling, being unbalanced, stress.....even poor body position - the arthrokinetic reflex for example.

The challenge then is to reduce threat signals to improve movement and performance. 

So how do you do this?

  • Focus on Proprioception - this is more than balance, it is about you brain knowing where you are in space....but more it is about your state. 

  • Mechanoreceptors - thes eare within muscles focussed around joints. They map movement. It is an active map of where we are and where we are moving....They send signals to the brain, the nervous system.

  • Movement will send signals through the nervous system, activating these mechanoreceptors.
  • Lots of movement can "drown out" the pain signals.

  • Movement will encourage the nervous system to see you as in a NO THREAT state.

  • It is all about trying to maximise the stimulation of mechanoreceptors, to keep movement signals going through your neurology, keeping your proprioceptive system active and so to modulate your state.

Specific mobility drills promote movement around each joint to promote a NO THREAT state.

'It turns out that there are some great ways to talk with the nervous system via movement.  We’re designed to move.  We have joints in our bodies for a reason. So by moving the joints actively we are sending loads of all clear/no threat signals to the nervous system.'

There are other things you can do too to promote that state - careful breathing, go for a walk without shoes (or minimal shoes--this is my addition and opinion) etc.

Paul Chek has a similar idea.  He says that we are basically always working into extension, against flexion. Flexion pulls you together, the flexors pull you into a foetal postions. Think about it - your abs,biceps etc, you curl up into a ball. This is how you start and also how you finish - old people gradually curl up again - there flexors get stiff and they are pulled over, stooped. As we are fit and healthy, weare extended - your back, triceps, glutes, and quads fire and you standstraight. Rif says:

'It’s easy to forget that our bodies are under a constant source of pressure from gravity at all times. Gravity is always trying to bend us over, push us down and return us to the fetal position we started from. Many of the muscles in our body are all to happen to ‘go with the flow’ and bend us over into a ball. Our modern seated lives do not help this at all.  It’s easy to go from bed, to chair, to car seat, to office seat, back to car seat to couch to bed every day. And then we wonder why our backs or necks hurt or why the exercise routine is not working as well as it should.'


Where this fits in that the foetal position is the threat response. All the flexors fire and you curl up. When threatened, your posture collapses."

So, movement is important?  Is that what's missing in today's society?  YES.  It's not so much about weight loss, but moreso about how your body functions in a healthy way--in other words, is it firing on all cylinders?  Movement MAKES it fire on all cylinders--lifting heavy, joint mobility work, steady state 'cardio', intervals and other high intensity training--it is ALL needed to be a better YOU!


it takes a long time

Posted by Chad on November 30, 2009 at 8:52 AM Comments comments (0)

It takes a long time to become proficient at a skill...some say 10,000 hours.  One thing to be thankful for, in this Thanksgiving time of year, is the ABILITY to become proficient at a skill.  Some of us want to learn more, some want to run better, some want to lift heavier.  Just keep going, and remember, on that day you don't want to work out, there is someone out there who wishes they could.

If you have a goal, stick with it through this holiday season.  I read that per day, we eat an average of 600+kcals MORE than that adds up!!  Keep that in mind when you go back for seconds...

Every day I am reminded of what human movement is, and how good we are able to squat, pick things up, and run without shoes--just by watching my young 17 month old son.  You ask how do we stay that flexible?  You say my knees can't do that anymore.  Well, we are meant to move, SO DON'T STOP!  If you did stop, you can get it just may take time...some say 10,000 hours.  Better get started before that grandkid wants YOU to get on the floor to play!!!

Be thankful you can.

blogtalk radio interview!

Posted by Chad on November 23, 2009 at 1:37 PM Comments comments (0)

The Victory Lap. Everyday People Pursuing Wellness Everyday 10/25/2009 - Leon The Encourager on Blog Talk Radio

Above is the link to Blogtalk radio, and to Leon Bullard's interview with me.  We talked about the science behind Activce Concept Training, and what I think is important when it comes to overall health, fitness, and living life.  (If the link doesn't work, try to copy and paste the second address in your address bar.)

Have an absolutely fantastic Thanksgiving.  Every day I think about how my life has treated me, and how I have treated my life--and what I need to do to be a better steward of the human race.

Feet, don't fail me now....

Posted by Chad on November 17, 2009 at 10:46 AM Comments comments (0)

The arm bone is connected to the ankle bone?  REALLY?

Kick Your Shoes Off, Free your Feet, tell your nervous system you care!

"There's been a LOT of work in the past 4-5 years about new research in foot ware and care. Guess what?  Feet work.  All by themselves.

Guess what else?  Shoes stop feet from working. That's a pretty global condemnation but it's true: with a handful of exceptions, modern shoes are based on 200 year old technology (the lasts of shoe design), and for the most part are way way way too restrictive to let our feet do their thing.

It's not just four inch heels or wing tips that are the problem: it's also flip flops and horror of horrors those gorgeous high tech trainers with designs to "correct" supination or too much pronation or heel strike or whatever. And just when you realize that that's as bad as putting the foot into a cast, we find that flip flops and Birkenstocks sandles are equally horrific for other reasons: toes have to claw onto the sandle to keep them on. Despite claims that such "foot muscle work" is good for you, it really isn't. The body doesn't keep our feet in flexion (toes curled) with every step we take when we walk barefoot.  Why?  Our feet are one of the most jointed parts of our body (after the skull and the hands) and yet daily, what do we do? Lace up shoes to restrict those bones from doing what they were designed to doto support us: MOVE. THere's a fantastic piece in the New York Magazine from earlier this year that describes most of the latest research and why shoes suck.  Recommended reading.

Lots of joints in the foot, huh?


One benefit of freeing the feet this article doesn't touch on is the relation of squished feet to the nervous system.  We don't talk about the nervous system much, it's just sorta there, right?  But here's the thing: the nervous system, as described by Eric Cobb, is hard wired to check only very few things. One of these, demonstrated in the startle reflex, is not fight or flight, but the very binary Threat or NoThreat. "We're geared to optimize for survival, not performance," according to Cobb.  Most of the nerves in our bodies designed to detect how we're moving in space are at the joints. Guess what happens interms of that Threat/No Threat thing if our joints are squished and so not sending happy  "we're free and moving" signals back to the rest of the system? Is that going to be interpretted as a Threat or a No Threat?

AsCobb demonstrates in his seminars, because we're totally connected systems, optimized for survival, if we get a message somewhere in our body that says there's a signal interruption, other parts of the body respond - and they respond immediately. In one demo, Cobb did a muscle test on a barefooted athlete to check for hamstring (back of the leg) strength. Rock solid. He then simply grabbed the athlete's foot, holding it snugly as in a laced shoe, and did the muscle test again. It was like those leg muscles got unplugged. Why?

This shut down response is part of the signaling process that says if there's something wrong somewhere, we your nervous system, don't want you exerting effort that could put you at further risk.  Attend!

So above and beyond all the amazing stories about how shoes are bad for us biomechanically - because they get in the way of our own vastly superior biomechanics - they're also bad for us neurologically. Squished or non-mobile joints tell our body there's a problem. Every step we take with these immobilized joints sends that message "there's a problem; there's a problem: threat threat threat."

As most of us have experienced, if we don't attend to the quiet signals,our body has a way of sending messages out to get attention. And not necessarily at the site of the problem. Restricted feet lead to knee issues, or a hip issue or back issue, or shoulder ache or a jaw pain or maybe a wrist pain, to name a few hot spots."

This post was taken from 'IamgeekFit' blogger. It struck some cords with me as to what I've been trying to tell folks for a while now. Here'sanother example--for ladies who wear pointy toed, high heels, what is the first thing you do when you take your shoes off? Take a deep breath, right? That's because the feet have been CONFINED.

You go geek fit dude...

functional training vs sport skills?

Posted by Chad on November 10, 2009 at 8:52 AM Comments comments (0)

Below is a post by Chris from Conditioning Research.  He talks about the ongoing dilemma on the topic of "functional" training, especially that of sport specific training.  In my opinion, we have lost our way a bit.  Just becuase you swing a heavy bat, will not make you a stronger, or a better, hitter.  Proper strength training in the weight room (or with the logs and boulders outside) will garner strength gains, but to be a better hitter, you'd better work on your swing!

"This is continuing my musings about functional training.  All I am reading now - and this is beyond blogs into academic textbooks - explains that there is strength training and there is skill training. You must use appropriate moves and approaches to gain strength but you must also develop skills. Practice your specific movements for your sport.

You will also know that I am interested in self defence via Krav Maga. For me that means simple easy moves that need to be drilled, hard wired in. The simpler the better so they survive stress.

So there is strength training....and I am coming more and more to commit to the approach of Doug McGuff....and then there is skill training - repeated practice to program in the skills and moves that you need to get as automatic reactions. Don't mix the two....

Get strong....but then develop your movement skills.

It is like the idea in Gladwell's Outliers

'A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the "10,000-Hour Rule". Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using thesource of The Beatles' musical talents and Gates' computer savvy asexamples.[3]   The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, "so b ythe time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, 'they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'"[3] Gates met the10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it. In Outliers, Gladwell interviews Gates, who says that unique access to a computer at a time when they were not commonplace helped him succeed.  Without that access, Gladwell states that Gates would still be "a highly intelligent, driven, charming person and a successful professional", but that he might not be worth US$50 billion.[3]  Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years. He also notes that he himself took exactly 10 years to meet the 10,000-Hour Rule, during his brief tenure at The American Spectator and his more recent job at The Washington Post.'"[2]

the best post on mobility I've seen!

Posted by Chad on October 28, 2009 at 4:29 PM Comments comments (0)

From a guy on a blog called "Begin to Dig."  Absolutely classic explanation on mobility!


Move or Die? Movement as Optimal Path to Strength and Well Being

"This post is an intro to why *good* movement is a big frikin' panacea to most of what ails us. No kidding. Move well; be well. In this series, we're going to look at different attributes of movement -joints, muscles, skin, lymph everything - but first, let's start with an overview of what movement seems to mean to our governing system -the "always on" part of our bodies that monitors and messages about every process in our bodies, our nervous system - and then consisder a pretty direct route to cuing up those happy messages to it via dynamic joint mobility.


Movement = well being.  We are designed to move. And apparently to move at speed: our bodies are apparently designed to support running more so than even walking. Perhaps not surprisingly, Use it or Lose it for humans could be redefined potentially as Move It or Lose It.


Our physiology works on a move it or lose it principle: by Woolf's Law and Davis' Law, we get to keep only what we use, and use is determined by - yes -movement. Don't move our muscles, function degrades; don't use our bones, bones degrade, don't move the joints, joints degrade. Movement means strength, fitness, digestion, respiration, skin tone, joint health, heart health, everything health. Could it be that simple?


Everything about our beings responds best to movement: movement therefore seems to mean a big neurological thumbs up. If we are able to move, we're good to go, to flee, to hunt or to gather.


On the other hand, if our nervous system either perceives or receives a threat of any kind, movement is what pays: sore shoulder means reduced range of motion; shoes too tight so joints are compressed and less able to function as designed means less muscle power for a deadlift. Loosen up those shoes (or get rid of them), do some foot mobilization work (ankle circles; toe waves) and power is restored to the system. We react *that* quickly, as reflected in the SAID principle.


SAID stands for "specific adaptation to imposed demand." Eric Cobb, DC, c0-founder of Z-Health adds "exactly and immediately" to the SAID mix. In other words, our bodies respond exactly and immediately to what we're doing.


We see evidence of this immediacy all the time.Go to pick something up, our muscles don't wait to turn on to support that position; they do so right away, courtesy of the nervous system.We are about to go on stage to give a talk, and our heart rate accelerates right at that moment pumping more blood to our peripheral limbs; likewise hormones are released to prepare for flight to deal with the perceived threat of our anxiety. That response happens as soon as we perceive the moment of threat - which may be long before, right before or during the event.


A huge part of that immediate adaptation is the speed at which information travels through the nervous system. Most fibers are sending info at 300miles per hour.That's fast. One might almost say immediate.


Not moving = We have a Problem, Houston.  Movement is so basic, so fundamental an indicator of well being, that *not* moving is, on a gross scale, a sign of illness or duress. Our movement is reduced seemingly in proportion to the degree of perceived or actual threat to the system.  Our movement is reduced if we have: a broken limb, a gut ache, a headache, if we feel depressed. Likewise, we think of aging as a process ofmovement deterioration: the aged are often slower, less mobile, sufferfrom movement debilitations - or are entirely bed ridden, just like theacutely ill.


Irony.We are, despite our awesome craniums, embodied beings. Our modern lives, however, have moved us to a place where, to our nervous system we generally operate, if ya think about it, from postures of illness: we don't move; we sit at desks; we sit in cars, trains and planes. We are more sedentary than ambulatory.


Likewise those postures often closely resemble what's know as threat response or startle positions:  hunched shoulders, head lowered, legs raised towards chest (from sitting) - if our legs and hands were pushed up a bit more we'd be in total fetal posture. And the rolling up into a ball is the big threat protection posture: cover the internal organs, protect the head, eyes and ears. That's a little, er, sick, isn't it?


Response to Modern Life: Dynamic Joint Mobility as a first step, or movement.

If we tell our bodies that we are non mobile, our bodies also respond immediately to this - as we have seen - with Wolff's Law and Davis's Law:  we are rebuilding tissue ALL the time. If we continually sit slumped, the body will work to maintain that position - go to get out of it, we feel stiff. Over a long enough time, the bones remodel to better maintain that position.


A painless and effective way to counteract less mobility is to move: move every joint in the body through its range of motion - that is - through the degree of motion we can voluntarily control. Another name for moving each joint in the body in a focused way is dynamic joint mobility work.


There are lots of joint mobility systems out there; the one i prefer, practice and teach is z-health. I've written lots about why (article index), but the main reason is that the movements in the R, I and S continuum are designed to move each joint really: each joint, from head to foot through as many positions as possibleas many speeds as possible with varying loads. The outcome is building up lots and lots of practice for being mobile in all these positions, means reduced likelihood of getting jammed up such that the nervous system shuts down mobility.


Range of motion is a great way to see how our nervous system may be doing with our body.  We may feel fine but if we go to raise our arm in front of us to beside our ear and it usually gets to beside our ear but today it's only going to beside our cheek something's up. We might not perceive what it isclearly, but our nervous system does.


Doing a few joint mobility drills will often improve that range of motion. Some joints, like the wee bones in the feet and hands don't have a great deal of motion - but they do move. They're joints for a reason - if there wasn't a need for a joint, there'd be a bone, as Cobb puts it.


So smaller joint motions, smaller range of motion. Other joints, like the wrist, pretty big obvious range of motion as we bend the hands back and forth at the wrists. But also therefore important to move those joints through those ranges of motion. Carpal Tunnel or RSI is not usually the result of too many reps, but too many reps in only ONE direction of a possible set of motions."


THIS is why I train the way I do.  Some days, we need joiny mobility work before an olympic lift day, OR a full workout of joint mobility.  Different modalities of workout for different problems/corrections that arise!

Wanna stretch? Why?

Posted by Chad on October 7, 2009 at 1:32 PM Comments comments (1)

"Gentle stretching of a muscle that is already sore is perfectly acceptable, is not likely to negatively affect the muscle recovery, and can be used to briefly minimize the soreness. What about post-exercise stretching?  It is often claimed that static stretching after a hard workout can reduce muscle soreness.   Well, now that we understand the initial cause of muscle damage (micro tears in the fiber during a workout) you should also be able to appreciate that this claim simply does not make sense. Is static stretching going to somehow magically undo what has already happened anyway? Stretching after a workout where the muscles are warm can indeed, when done on a regular basis, increase muscle extensibility. " Tony Webster, PhD Exercise Physiology.



Mr.Webster states the research on stretching that is still being asked about to this day. We've known this for a long time, but Mr Webster puts it succinctly here. How can stretching undo microtears you have created during your workout? It can't. Now, after a run, bike ride, or less intense workout, where microtearing is minimal, a good easy static stretch will help.


The other thing of note is this, if you BELIEVE it is helping, it probably is. Our mind conrols everything, and science or not, if my client who has no other issues, wants to prop their leg up to 'stretch' their hamstring so they can have a better workout, then so be it.


One did our ancestors stretch? After a big hunt, did they plop down and do the hurdle stretch, the 90/90 stretch, cobra, etc?  Just wondering.