There is a huge "Renaissance" going on right now in the fitness/health industry right now. With the growing popularity of social media and the increase in technological advancements, information is able to spread faster than we ever thought was possible and that is why there is so much rapid change and growth. I imagine this trend will continue. Let's face it, this is an exciting time to be alive. Change is in the air and in our lifetimes we are able to see tremendous change in ever industry which affects each and every one of our lives.
A Renaissance can classically be defined as a revival of art, literature, studying, research and culture. If you are in in the fitness/health/movement field, you undoubtedly have recognized the "shift" that is and has occurred. One easy example to see is the emphaiss on training "movements" over muscles. This single change has been one of the most profound shifts in our industry for the better. Of course, no change is void of problems because as the pendulum swings from one side to the other side often we forget that there is a lot of GREY area that often gets overlooked.
Two areas of particular interest I would like to highlight are the following:
1) Pain - and the neurobiology of pain.
2) Play - the importance of play for a balanced life and for increased health and performance.
Regarding pain, we are now learning so much more about what pain is, what it isn't and how the brain processes proprioceptive input in order to produce the sensation of pain. What has truly been an "AHA" moment for me is when I learned that pain does actually exist in your tissues, muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments and body. Pain is an output of the brain, not the other way around. The pain expert you need to study is Lorimer Moseley. The question to ask is this; Is pain an illusion?
Watch the following video of Lorimer Moseley explain the biology of pain:
So in watching this video we understand that pain is an illusion 100% of the time. Yes, I repeat it is an illusion. That doesn't mean we should ignore pain because people that don't feel pain die early deaths. Pain has a purpose and that purpose is survival. However, what is absolutely essential to understand is that a lot of chronic pain people are experiencing can be diminished by changing the meaning of the pain in the brain. Very often people get stuck in these pain patters because once pain pathways are set, the pattern can become facilitated. Often is just takes a different thought or a bit of knowledge about the present pain to calm it down and often eliminate it.
My Personal Experience with Chronic Pain
I have suffered from chronic low back pain since I was 12 years old. In my 20's I discovored that I had degenerative disc disease in almost all of my lumbar discs (all SIX of them...yes. I have six lumbar vertebrae...most people have 5). In January of 2012 I started to develop a sharp burning nerve pain in my right glute and down my right leg to my ankle. Travelling was almost impossibe and since I travel a lot, it severerly limited my ability to sit and to flex forward. Come June of 2012 I was so disheartened that I went to see the spine surgeon, got an MRI, and saw the low back was now worse with multiple disc bulges and foraminal stenosis that was more than likely the cause of my pain. Frankly, not being able to bend over and tie my shoes for six months was really wearing on me. The pain was agonozing and I seriously considered getting surgery to alleviate the pain. All I could see and mediate one was the terrible image of my lumbar spine being squashed and full of problems. I am conviced this worsened my pain.
I was scheduled to go to Santiago, Chile at the end of June and I was just getting ready to cancel my trip because there was no way I was going to survive the 16 hour plane ride. In an heroic last ditch effort to get relief I posted something on Facebook about my pain and Z-health master instructor Zachariah Salazar offered to help through a Skype session. I gladly accepted and he ran me through a session that ended up being one of the single most profound experiences of my life.
He took me through various nerve mobilization exercises to try and create some space in the nerve sheath and reduce my pain and improve my ability to move again. Several didn't work but then we found one that did. And in less than 10 seconds, my pain was reduced from a 10 to a 1. How was this possible? In six months I had no relief and then in 10 seconds with Zachariah Salazar he taught me a nerve mobility exercise that almost elimated my pain plus restore my ability to touch my toes again and tie my shoes.
It was at this time that I realized how important my perception of problem was. I had been telling myself how screwed up my back was and constantly showing friends and clients my horrible MRI. And this was the problem; the more I focused on the image of my crushed discs the worse I got. Once I focused on creating space and imagining that the nerve was getting healtheir I got instantly better. I am 99% pain free right now and I can fullly flex and bend forward.
Take away points:
1) Don't mediate on the HOW BAD everything is. Stop looking at your X-rays and MRI's. Focus on the solutions and getting better.
2) Question your brain and the thoughts you have regarding your pain. You just might find that your pain severely diminishes.
3) Attain knowledge. Soley studying the recent advancements in the biology of pain as Lorimer Moseley talks about will help your pain levels.
4) Be careful with your language. Language can increase anxiety about your pain and make things worse. " I have a slipped disc" or " I have a CRUSHED disc." Be careful. Your brain just might believe you an increase your pain to an all new level.
The next topic I want to talk about is PLAY and amazing research that has been done in this important field. It is quite sad that we even have to talk about play because play is something so natural to humans and animals and has been part of our evolutionary journey for thousands of years.
The PLAY expert that I refer to is Stuart Brown. I had the privelage of sitting next to him in an airplane in December anad we had a great conversation about play, primal movements and sprinting. Talk about a dream come to. I had just been studying his work and the guys sits down next to me in an airplane. WOW!!!! Coincidence? I don't think so.
You may not know this word. But remember it :
Neoteny - the retention of immature qualites into adulthood
According to physical anthropologists, humans are the most neotenous, most flexible, most youthful, the most plastic of all creatures and that gives us a heads up on adaptability. The ability to play is our natural birthright and for many is the cure to most of life's ills.
Check out Stuart Browns website the National Institute for Play. Great resource. Also his book PLAY is a must have, especially if you are working with clients. Primal Move, the movemet based system my Peter Lakatos, is also heaviliy reliant on Play and the principles of FLOW.
Play has a biological place, just like sleep and dreams do. The next step for most people is add more PLAY into their lives. It will greatly enhance your life and enhance your creativity in other areas of your lives. For some this may mean getting back into team sports and for others this could be playing tag, ultimate frisbee, tennis, badmitton, or golf. Many people will find the regular practice of Primal Move in groups will serve as tremendous play as well as a great as metabolic stimulus.
The bottom line: Get out there and play my friends!!