A program in Simple Form
In this article I will give you the tools to enable you to put together your own fitness program. Today, I will be your advocate. I will be as direct as possible with the intention to help you avoid pitfalls, potential injuries, wasted time, bad experiences, and of course save you a lot of money and frustration. The following ideas are my observations and opinions based on my personal exposure to great teachers.
Who is this intended for?
This article was written for the person with little or no experience. Any age. Any ability.
To provide the reader with accessible, simple, real world, effective, and life preserving programming for well-being. Although this is written for the novice, the same information provided applies to all athletes as well as younger individuals. I took the most critical information and packed it into the smallest package possible.
The goal is to give the reader everything he/she needs to create a lifelong program with maximum benefit.
Benefits of age
A majority of people I work with are 50 years and beyond. As a movement instructor, turning fifty is a significant milestone regarding, not only how I train students, but how I apply “resiliency training” to the way I live.
Although, I train younger athletes, there is a very different energy and mindset. There is a major advantage the older student has over the younger one. First, the older person knows their body extremely well. A young person does not. They can’t “feel it”. They don’t have the emotional and physical baggage of 50 plus years of living in their “earth suits”. The older person has another advantage. We process fear differently. Around that half Century mark, mortality enters the picture. We understand our time on earth is limited and things we took for granted are now gone.
But… What if I told you that it is possible to reclaim a lot of what you have lost? Enable yourself to regulate mood, energy, sleep, and to move well and with strength.
It can be done. It takes less physical exercise than you think. But you must have a well thought out plan. Continue reading. The following article is based on my opinions I have collected through 30 plus years of training and stealing tactics of a lot of other outstanding trainers I’ve been fortunate to learn from.
The sad state of the modern American Condition.
I am a people watcher. I like going places and observing. After a recent trip it became really evident. At one event, approximately eight out of every ten males did not look well. And almost a 100% of the women were overweight. This is a major problem in this country.
The only change you can control is your change. And, at best be an example to children and others who are struggling. To be fair, it is a difficult task. The deck is stacked against the average person struggling with health. Our culture revolves around convenience for sale, cheap and polluted food, and drugs, drugs, drugs. The following blueprint will make the process easier, “super” effective, affordable (cost $0.00), and adaptable to your goals and lifestyle.
How to use this article.
1) Read the entire article first. Yes. The entire article.
2) Print this Article!
3) Show this article to your doc. It is always a great idea to get the “thumbs up” before starting a new program. Especially if you have a history of specific conditions.
4) Take note of the pictures along each movement description. For the readers, I will embed some really helpful books regarding breath, diet, lifestyle and movement.
Step 1- “The Why”.
If you’re still reading this, you have “The Why” although you may not know it yet.
I don’t recall any of my mature students (over 50) ever say, I want a six pack or a beach body. No. Most people are worried about being able to move well. This includes regaining range of motion in all joints, moving without pain, balance and coordination, reclaiming functional or “real world” strength, and work capacity.
All of these things can be improved at any age. But if its gonna stick, you must have a Why!
Examples of “The Why”.
1) Dignity- I want to take care of myself. I want to be useful.
2) I want to live long enough to take care of my pets.
3) I want to take an active part in my grandchildren’s life.
4) I want to be an example for my children (or other people’s children).
5) I want to be able to pursue and enjoy my passions or hobbies until I die.
“The Why” is very important to the process. You have to have an emotional driver that keeps the process going until habit forms. Some may find their “Why” buried beneath their desire to experience life beyond their children (Grandchildren) or maybe a love for an activity as simple as gardening or hiking. Another great example would be remaining healthy in order to care for someone you love who cannot care for themselves. Obviously, the stronger the emotion-the more horsepower the “Why” will have.
If you skip “The Why”, chances are you will fail. I’m just telling you in advance.
So, read that again.
If you skip “The Why”, chances are you will fail.
“The Why” is simple. It is the foundation.
Step #2- How to approach planning.
Every individual is different.
Although training specifics vary person to person, I always use a “Hierarchy of Frequency” which applies to every human being. It is a very sound way to approach health as a whole. The name sounds complicated, but it is very simple. Place a priority on what you do the most and work your way down. These are strictly physical actions. I feel emotional and spiritual components are more part of the why.
Hierarchy of Frequency
3) Drinking (Hydration)
4) Eating (Fueling)
5) Sleeping (Rest)
The average person is breathing every few seconds. It’s the first thing and last thing we do on earth. It is the most important component of the hierarchy. If you stop, you will die in short order. Breath control is absolutely mandatory.
The first thing I encourage is to shut the mouth and breath through the nose. The nose is meant for breathing, the mouth is for consumption of food and drink. As far as mouth breathing is concerned, it is used in duress (stress). If your running from a mountain lion, you’ll be breathing through your mouth. Emergency.
So, close your mouth, take a sniff, feel the tongue stick to the roof of the mouth. You are in an anatomically correct position to breathe and move with more strength. The tongue closes a neurological circuit in the nervous system and is in the position to protect the neck. It is the basis for all movement as we move forward.
Nose breathing puts us in the Parasympathetic or the “rest and digest” state.
Sympathetic- (opposite of Parasympathetic) is “fight or flight”, not where we want to be all the time. You only want Sympathetic on demand-remember that mountain lion?
The nose not only is an awesome filter, moisturizer, and temperature control, it also turns on your diaphragm. Without a functional diaphragm you cannot have real strength. It is considered the “captain of the muscle ship” regarding the trunk (a.k.a. the core). Leave that behind, and you have no true foundation for strength development.
There are entire books written on nose breathing.
So. Let’s just break it down…
Benefits of nose breathing
1) Efficient filter, moisturizer, temperature control.
2) Engages diaphragm/stabilizes spine.
3) Soothes the Nervous system (anti-stress tool).
4) Gets oxygen deeper into lungs.
5) Provides greater profusion of oxygen into the blood.
6) Increases arterial oxygen uptake 10-20%.
7) Promotes healthy hormonal balance.
8) Energy on demand!
Movement-not necessarily “exercise”
“Exercise for the sake of exercise, is just that…exercise.”Anonymous
There are several systems that focus on movement quality. The ones I have seen are quite good. In the end though I use the Original Strength system for a very specific reason.
Easy to teach, easy to learn, and is immediately effective. It’s just so damn simple! It focuses on developmental whole movements that restore basic movement patterns such as diaphragmatic activation, head control, rolling, rocking, and engaging gait patterns.
If you are 50 or over, you have a lack of movement quality. No amount of exercise will correct this. The way we approach the movement component is to work on the five movements that are hardwired in the Nervous Systems. By rediscovering these patterns which are the basis for all human movement we can begin regain our natural strength. We all possess a baseline of strength that is actually quite impressive. But we must be able to turn it on again. At that point “loading” the movements are an option for greater strength, but is not necessary in all cases. Once again what are your goals?
Benefits of a movement system
1) Increases baseline strength.
2) Increases balance and coordination.
3) Restores strength, mobility, and strength in all joints.
4) Calms the Nervous System (Engages Parasympathetic state).
5) Brain and Nervous System health.
6) Feels great at any age.
A movement system like OS is a stand-alone strength program or a system that can be integrated into any sport or activity.
Question: How do you feel the first thing in the morning as you “jump” out of bed?
This is a great indicator of healthy breathing and movement quality. If you are over 50, not tired, moving well with no pain, energetic, and immediately ready to go you are probably doing many of these things. If this isn’t a daily occurrence … you need it.
The body requires water to survive. This one is about as basic as it gets.
The thicker the blood, the harder the body has to work. How do you put less load on the body? Drink water. Not juice or diet sodas. Water.
When I hear people say they do not like the taste of water. I reply, “there is no taste… drink clean water.”
I would say a very easy rule to follow is when your thirsty, drink water.
Once again drink water. How much? Enough to satisfy your thirst.
I am not a nutritionist. But this one is as almost as simple as hydration. If you have no serious medical conditions or allergies there are simple rules that you can apply to your new program.
1) Don’t eat out of boxes (Cereal is for children).
2) Treat sugar as if it was poison.
3) Treat wheat as if it was poison.
4) Eat clean (organic) meat and eggs.
5) Eat multiple colored raw vegetables (colorful salads).
6) Cook with healthy oils such as Coconut or Olive Oil.
7) Eat various nuts (except peanuts) for healthy fats needed for repair.
There are super effective diet programs available, but this is a great general guideline.
1) Restrict Blue Screen viewing (computers, phones, and TV’s) 3 hours before sleep.
2) 8-10 hours of quality sleep in a dark room.
3) Restrict consumption of food or alcohol before bed.
4) Nose breathing will enhance rest during sleep. This is a large component of rest and is beyond the scope of this article. For more information about the subject read or search for the “Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown.
If you are tired in the morning or during the day, you’re doing it wrong.
The physical part of health is easy.
Why? All the above ideas will give you more than enough energy to begin a simple physical program and much, much more. If you begin to change habits as mentioned above, very little exercise is needed. But this depends on what your goal is.
If you have no energy, there is no physical program that will work.
You are wasting your time. You will fail. The deck is stacked against you.
Through my experience. I have found this to be 99.9% true.
The Blue Print
“There are a million ways to skin a cat.” We’ll make this simple.
I will give you two options. One-easy and effective, the other more in-depth and encompassing everything to create a super effective, whole program. Cost-$ 0.00.
#1 Budget Lite with little effort.
Breath practice and walking: A walking program is simple and super effective. The only thing I would add to the walk is to make sure you allow your arms to swing naturally in front of you (it is a neurological reset). The importance of walking cannot be underestimated. According to top tier trainers and medical professionals, it is number one movement for healing professional athletes as well as normal folks. It is healing. If you are reading this, you need healing.
Now that your walking with your arms swinging naturally. Close your mouth and breath in and out of your nose. Begin working on keeping your breath slow, rhythmic, and light. Continually go back to breathing through the nose as soon as you start using your mouth.
Make sure your tongue is resting at the roof of your mouth. If it is not, sniff or swallow. This will reset your tongue to its natural position and optimize neurological benefits.
How much? As much as you can comfortably, but more importantly every day. You should feel good afterwards. Not wasted. The goal is to be fit with more energy at the end of your walking session. Enjoy it! Our time is limited on earth.
If you need motivation to walk, you have not attended to other aspects of your life (go back to the hierarchy of frequency list).
#2 “General Physical Preparation Training for the Adult”-Effective Real-World Training with application for longevity, health, and work capacity.
This layout is “where the rubber meets the road”. This is pure function vs. exercise garbage and dogma. The program is designed to facilitate a strong and healthy life after 50. We are going beyond “Beach Bodies” and getting into real world or “tactical” function. Practices such as Running (I am a running instructor) and other Eastern Practices are not necessary for health and strength. Don’t get me wrong. These are all fine endeavors. If you enjoy mastery of all the above mentioned, that’s great. But they are not GPP programs (General Physical Preparation) programs. The following is a program breakdown that has “carry over”.
1) Diaphragmatic Breathing.
2) The “Big Five”.
3) The “Tactical Getup” and associated floor work.
Start each session with 3-5 minutes of conscious nose breathing. Start with laying on your belly and breath in and out of your nose (to engage the diaphragm). Ensure your tongue is at the roof of your mouth and maintains that position. To find this position, just sniff or swallow.
*** The asterisk symbol before each movement indicates while doing the movement to keep the tongue at the roof of the mouth, breathe in and out of the nose, and lead with the eyes.
***After breathing on your belly, look to the horizon. With your tongue at the roof of your mouth look up with your eyes then allow the head to follow. Then look down with your eyes and allow the head to follow. Your chin should be near your chest. Repeat smoothly 15-20 times, leading with the eyes, and do not move into pain.
***Looking at the horizon after head nods, turn your head while leading with your eyes, look over your shoulder and try to find your heel. Next smoothly look over the opposite side searching for the other heel. Repeat slowly 15-20 times.
***Lay flat on your back with your hands over your head. Look to one side and reach over like you were grabbing a beverage can located around abdominal area. As you reach, your shoulder will pull the rest of your body and roll you over. Once on your stomach roll in the same direction. Repeat 5-10 times. Just think of a child on the floor rolling. Just do it. Ultimately, we all know how to roll naturally, it is hardwired in our nervous system. The only thing I would add is to do it slowly and one roll at a time. You don’t want to begin to “logroll” and get dizzy.
***Get on all fours, look to the horizon, rock back and forth. Do not flex or allow your back to move. Just rock back and forth in a comfortable range 50 times.
***Stay on the floor from the rocking position. Just like a baby begin to crawl forward for a while, then go backwards. Allow your legs to drag for additional feedback. If you have sensitive knees you can crawl on a carpet or use a set of knee pads. Once that becomes easy. Crawl without the knees touching the ground.
Standing Cross Crawls or “Marching”
***Stand up. Touch your right hand to your left knee then touch the left hand to the right knee. Think of marching. Repeat 50-100 times.
The Tactical Getup
*** This drill is based off the “Turkish Getup” which has been around for hundreds of years. Considered by many to be one of the top three most functional movements available. The importance of the getup is that it is a movement pattern for getting up off the floor and returns you back to the ground under “load” or weight.
The tactical getup is even more practical for the over 50 crowd.
Why? The Tactical Getup is customized personally to each individual. Through personal experience I have found that the most important movement skill besides preventing a fall is the ability to get up and down (without load). The ultimate goal is to get up and down unaided. But you start where you are at. I have worked with people who could not get up with the aid of their cane, after only one session, they were able to get up unassisted. It can happen that quick!
How to perform?
*** Make sure it is a safe environment to play. If you need assistance, by all means have a safety observer. Just be careful. This is a loose description. Tailor the Getup to fit your specific ability. Get creative. Your body knows how to get up. You just kind of forgot. It becomes natural once you begin to perform the movement.
1) Start laying on your back.
2) Roll to your belly.
3) Come up to the rocking position.
4) The next step is usually the sticking point for most. For more able adults, you can walk your hands backwards towards your feet. And literally stand up (often referred to as the “Baby Getup”).
The other method is to get to the rocking position and get to a knee. Place your hands on your knee to push away from the ground to a standing position. If using a cane, grip the top with one hand and “choke” the cane with the other hand. Take a sniff through the nose, “death grip” with both hands, with the cane planted close to your body push your feet and your cane into the ground (think of pushing the earth away from you). Carefully reverse the process. Note: Be aware that it may be easier to shorten your cane to get better leverage. Like I said this is very personal. Your Getup will be radically different from the next.
The goal is to get up and down as efficiently as possible. Once again, the tactical getup is very specific to your ability. The rules are simple-be safe, get up then down as efficiently as possible utilizing levers such as your hips and even your cane. The more you do-the more it will make sense-the better you get. Yes…the ultimate exercise!
In other words, get up and down under your own power 1-5 times. Be creative!
Fill in the Gaps with Walking
***Integrate walking into your programming. Walking has been referred to as “nature’s back balm”. It is great for everything. If all else fails…go for a walk. You were designed to walk! Again, remember to naturally swing your arms. As all the above movements that have asterisks- tongue is resting at the roof of the mouth, eyes always lead, breath in and out of the nose. The reason is to give each movement a powerful neurological reset along with physical “exercise”.
Other movements to consider (Not covered in this article)
Training the hinge is crucial for back health. What good is fixing your body daily if you are just going to re-injure it the rest of the day by bad movement! The hinge and other critical items are covered in detail in the book Back Mechanic by Stuart McGill P.h.D.. From brushing your teeth to picking something off the floor, mechanics is everything. The provided blueprint will take you a long, long way. But learning to hinge and use the power of your ball and socket is mandatory for strength and longevity.
Breathing and the Big Five movements give you Reflexive Strength to prevent or catch you before a fall. But what if you do fall? Do you know how? Some people may not be able to train for the fall. That’s OK, but if you are physically able, this would be a great time to ask an experienced “ground” person. Local wrestling, Judo, Jujitsu, gymnastic, etc. instructors or practitioners. Falls are potentially fatal! Falling is a skill. If able-learn it. Get comfortable on the ground, one day you may end up there with no one to help you.
Putting it all together
In summary, over 50 health is not about exercise. It is about the decisions you make every moment of the day regarding breath, hydration, nutrition, sleep, and movement. Spiritual and mental health are critical as well. But by adhering to these concepts they will “pull” you in a very healthy direction. Just think if you had mental clarity, felt full of energy, and had the ability to move well on demand. Would that change your perspective on things? I would say absolutely yes. Remember, health is not just diet and “exercise”. It is several pieces of a larger puzzle.
Real world benefits of the Blue Print
The blueprint retraces the steps of your nervous system from birth. These are not things that really need to be learned as much as they just need to be dusted off. Breathing and moving in specific patterns not only changes your state of mind, but makes you stronger without lifting a single weight. Think about the progression. We start you at breath, then move to rolling then rocking, to getting up and walking/running (the human gait pattern).
The ultimate fitness package!
This is a very basic program. It can evolve into much more. But, by performing the program above is all you need to remain very healthy and happy.
It is very important to realize that there is a sweet spot for training movement. You do not always have to increase “loading” by adding weight. This applies to adding more repetitions or time making the movement increasingly more difficult by other means. Sometimes performing the movement is enough. And the more you repeat it over and over, the stronger you will get.
But I want to be “worked out”…
OK try this…
For those who simply want a little more “Huff and Puff”. I would begin the student with 5-minute breath, perform each movement a minimum of 3 minutes. After (slow) rolling, perform 100 rocks, 5 minutes of elevated crawling (knees off the ground), followed by 200 standing cross-crawls, and top it off with five Getups (5 right/5 left). Additionally, simple loading each movement by adjusting speed will amplify the “feedback” making the program even more powerful. Not necessary. Anyways you get the point. The key is to make the movement portion short and sweet. More importantly something done daily. Short daily sessions trump longer less frequent sessions.
It is more important to attempt the movements than it is to perform it correctly.
Remember…. You can’t do it wrong! If you perform the movements half correctly-you will constantly improve because of natural pattern recognition.
Let your body do what it was designed to do. Move well without your permission.
Have fun, be creative, and be your own coach. You have it inside you!