Part 2: A Hero’s Journey and Back from PTSD: Captain John Croucher, Platoon Leader of the PPCLI First Battalion

Part 2: A Hero’s Journey and Back from PTSD: Captain John Croucher, Platoon Leader of the PPCLI First Battalion


Officers endure 25 kilograms of body armor, a Kevlar helmet and a tactical vest gleaming with weaponry, heavy equipment on their backs, and regular army issue sunglasses and scarves pulled up over their faces to protect against the dust that seems to billow out of every crevasse; where our Canadians are deployed to the Afghan landscape, moving across the desert like sand-colored, camouflaged characters from a mainstream movie flick.

In 2006, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed approximately 2,500 Canadian Forces personnel to Afghanistan; of which 1,200 comprised the combat battle group. Platoon commander Capt. John Croucher — Captain John to his troops or simply “The Sir” was assigned to the the PPCLI First Battalion.

The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI, generally referred to as The Patricias)  is one of the three Regular Force infantry regiments of the Canadian Army of the Canadian Forces. The 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (1PPCLI) is a mechanized infantry battalion and uses the LAV III (light armored vehicle) as its primary fighting vehicle, used to patrol and survey. The battalion is made of four rifle companies, one support company and one command and support company.

I met Captain John Croucher in 2007, after his deployment as part of his rehabilitation treatment. It was a day I would never forget, and his personal story is one that I continue to carry with me. His bravery, courage and strength go beyond the call of duty and his ability to endure and persevere after severe injury and occupational stress are a tribute to what the make and model of a solider should strive to be. What always struck me the most was how humble he was, how open he was about his experiences, and how his thoughts were always for his men – their health and well-being, pre and post deployment – always for  his team, his platoon. He  put others first; it was and has always been one of his most endearing qualities.

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The Art Of War:

Most of what we know of war, what we “think” of war; is not what is all encompassing of war. For those of us who never step off the comfort of our own soil in our own backyard, our representation of combat is merely what we see in the news, in the media or in movies. We cannot fully appreciate what it truly means to go to war, what it means to lead men into battle, to be responsible for their lives and your own and more importantly, to put your life on the line for your country – for the security of your family. Yet, Captain Croucher does and during my year and half as his movement and rehabilitation coach; he confided in me several times about the war in Afghanistan, what it was like and his role as platoon leader.  I had always had a yearning to serve my country and have always respected and honored the code and community of our military and law enforcement officers, hearing these stories were at times comical – boys being boys, very GI Joe, and other stories of hardship. It is no easy take being a solider. It is a discipline and a family unlike any other. One routed in…  “one for all.”

Afghanistan has always been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and a passage or  human pilgrimage, since the dawn of time. Three decades of war made Afghanistan one of the world’s most dangerous countries and with this comes a dangerous place for civilians and villagers as well to reside.

Captain Croucher’s duties; not only included platoon leader, but included communications, negotiations and meetings with district governors, village headmen and local police chiefs, when and if necessary and most often these took place in village mud huts, open orchards and the occasional office. However, I have been told these “offices”  are far and few between. The national drink of choice is chai or sweet hot Afghan tea, and by the sounds of it Captain Croucher drank a lot it on his deployment.

In a Globe and Mail Interview with journalist; Christie Blanchford, Captain Croucher confided;  that many elders are frightened of the Taliban, many villagers do not want trouble, and allow whomever to come into their houses late at night demanding food and shelter. They really have no say in the manner. This is no way for anyone to live. Any country where the lines between law and human rights are blurred, people live in fear, they are afraid for their lives and those of their families.

“Some of them might be sympathetic to the Taliban, but most of them aren’t on anyone’s side. These people just want to be left alone.” – Captain Croucher.

Canada in Afghanistan:

Canada has always been a strong supporter of the United Nations Peacekeeping, and has participated in almost every mission since its inception. These efforts are focused on four priorities: (1) investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health; (2) advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, through the provision of up to 950 CF trainers, support personnel, and approximately 45 Canadian civilian police to help train Afghan National Security Forces; (3) promoting regional diplomacy; and (4) helping deliver humanitarian assistance.

Canada’s role in 2006 (and all deployments over-seas) is not always just combat related, but includes elements of peace keeping and supporting and protecting the civilians; their needs range from a new water well to such basic supplies as blankets and food. Reporting back the needs of the village was also part of Captain Croucher’s position; this helped to bridge gaps, keep the peace and formulate Intel.

At the young age of 33, confident and in peak physical shape; Captain Croucher seemed invincible and his team respected him highly. The name “The Sir” is a testament to that honor and respect. With considerable pride, John spoke with confidence, that he had been deployed with 38 guys, and with 38 he returned to the mud-walled compound every patrol that Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry they then called their home away from home. Day in and day out they would patrol. Captain Croucher would always say patrolling is a necessary evil, and IEDs are always on their minds. Officers know the danger, yet no matter how much training one undergoes to prepare for combat, you never really can prepare enough. Always be ready, always be on guard.

May 25, 2006:

May 25th 2006 was not unlike any other patrol day; the officers went through their daily checks, headed out, but it was on this day that Captain John Croucher’s world would change. On May 25th, Captain Croucher’s LAV was hit by an IED; which this would be the third to hit Alpha’s second platoon. This strike left Captain Croucher severely injured. His recount of that day are words I find it hard to read. This excerpt is taken from an interview with The Globe and Mail’s journalist Christie Blanchford (2).

“My first push with my arms immediately told me that I was getting no help from my legs. I pushed myself out and onto the back deck of the LAV.

“I was on fire, the right side of my body from toes to mid-body was on fire. I tried patting myself out when I noticed that my right hand was burned extremely badly. I was having no luck putting myself out, and knowing that the guys were on the ground, I rolled myself off the car, falling to the ground some eight feet, where the guys noticed me and started to put out the fire.

“The pain was incredible but the crew had a stretcher beside me in no time. Within seconds I was rushed back to the safety of cover behind a G-wagon, all the way demanding to know how many guys were hurt, very concerned about these numbers and the possibilities as I watched the vehicle go up in flames. The checks confirmed that everyone else was okay, non-life-threatening injuries only. My only thoughts were for my crew. Myself, I took the worst of it, but that’s the way every commander would want it: Keep the men safe.” 

Captain Croucher’s injuries included first- and second-degree burns from ankle to hip on his right leg and on his hand, as well as a broken fibula and tibia. His right ankle was literally a shattered mess, where he had to undergo eight surgeries at three different hospitals in three different countries; the first a Canadian-led base hospital at Kandahar Air Field, the second at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and finally the third in Canada at the University of Alberta, and to top it all off  a shattered heel and a large puncture wound from shrapnel; where 70% of his lower limbs had significant reduced motor control and atrophy after the long stint in the hospitals.

When I started working with Captain Croucher he had difficulty walking, and performing basic movement patterns like bending at the knees into a hip hinge, or rotational patterns that required the ankle, knee and hip to work together. The neuromuscular control had to be re built from the ground up and from the inside out. Restoration of muscular strength, stability of the neighboring joints, and mobility/ degree of freedom in lower quadrant was the primary focus of our rehabilitation.

As tough as a man is, no matter how resilient they are, that sort of traumatic experience can leave a any man scarred psychologically and Captain Croucher had a long road of recovery ahead of him. The physical trauma; albeit long and arduous for Captain Croucher, was not the major obstacle. Captain Croucher knew shortly after his injury that the major barrier would be overcoming the sheer horror of the experience and mentally and emotionally processing it all.

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The Nightmare of PTSD:

After a month or so from the attack, after the haze of pain killers started to wear off; Captain Croucher started to make a list of the “things to do” to get back to active duty. “The Canadian Armed Forces has screening protocol in place for post deployment, mental health screening. I knew a month or so after that I could be suffering from PTSD and I wanted to get the best treatment I could, so I could get back to active duty,” he said in a phone interview with me. “

Captain Croucher went on to say in our interview several weeks ago; “there is still a lot of stigma attached to being labeled with PTSD, and many officers do not come forward. The CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) were not ready for the amount of injuries coming back when we first deployed officers to Afghanistan, therefore we just  didn’t have enough professionals to go around. After 2006, the CAF implemented better strategies, mandatory post deployment mental health screening, and consult with leaders in these fields. ”

Captain Croucher had always been a step ahead of the rest; a loyal military and family man, a great friend, and someone who always stressed being proactive and diligent in the face of adversity.During the early stages of his treatment, Captain Croucher knew Vancouver had some of the top resources for treatment so he put in for a transfer.

After Captain Croucher’s transfer to Vancouver he started his treatment with a Vancouver based clinical psychiatrist, by the name of Greg Passey; who, Captain Croucher said was instrumental in his treatment and moving forward with overcoming PTSD. Mr. Passey has spent over 22 years in the Canadian Forces as a Medical Officer in Canada, Norway, the United States, and Rwanda, specializing in PTSD, occupational stress disorders/injuries.

Captain Croucher also received support and treatment through the 39th Brigade, composed of Canadian Forces (CF) and Primary Reserve units, all of which are at the 39 CBG Headquarters located at the Jericho Garrison on West 4th Avenue. For his physical treatment and rehabilitation, I was honored to support Captain Croucher with weekly movement and yoga classes, and he continues to be a good friend and someone I admire greatly.

Now, more than ever Canadian soldiers are coming forward to make claims for psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Captain Croucher noted that there has also been a large concern within the military on officers claiming to have PTSD and associated stress disorders for disability insurance. Since mental health is subjective and we do not yet have wide spread standardization for screening, treatment etc it can be difficult to navigate the system on your own and it can also be hard for professionals to diagnose.

Back in the Trenches:

Today, Captain Croucher is back in Edmonton with the PPCLI officer working at 1CMBG;  in the light infantry battalion, they are trained in a variety of insertion methods (parachute, helicopter, vehicle, boat, and most importantly by foot) and in a variety of complex terrains (e.g. urban, mountains) that would prove difficult for mechanized forces. Most recently, Captain Croucher was deployed a little closer to home –  to Calgary to help support rescue and emergency response during the latest flood.


For those who struggle with significant life challenges, who have seen and experienced beyond the normal range of trauma, those who live each day with chronic pain – there is hope. If you are a returning vet or a family member of a returning vet  I would encourage you to ensure there are no mental health risk factors. This can be performed with a professional or you can take the self-test located (here), through the PTSD Association.  The stigmatization and labels that come attached to “the invisible wounds” are of immense magnitude. Unfortunately we live in a society that does not acknowledge the deep wounds that cannotbe seen. But this is changing as rapidly as the numbers of people with PTSD are increasing and more people are speaking out and telling their stories. Hero’s like Captain John Croucher.

Happy Canada Day!



(1)     Canadian’s In Kandahar – National Post

(2)     “Absence from his men adds salt to his wounds;” by Christie Blanchford, Globe and Mail on July 14 2006 Christie Blanchford:

(3)   The book “Fifteen Days” by Christie Blanchford

(4) PTSD Association –

Chronic Pain Series Part 3: Disarming PTSD & Occupational Stress Injuries

Chronic Pain Series Part 3: Disarming PTSD & Occupational Stress Injuries



What is subjectivity? 

Subjectivity, is a term used to determine a person’s perception, experience, feelings and beliefs. Most often, when it comes to chronic pain and mental health screening the “subjectivity” and indicators of risk, are still a large grey area and can be “subject” to interpretation.  Why? Because the reality is – the only person who can truly know 100% how you feel, how an experience has affected you – is you, and you alone. The rest is objective; as health care providers we make the most appropriate call we can based on our assessment; and this is where the grey area resides.  As much as subjectivity is a process of individuation, it is equally a process of socialization, taking into context the cultural environment, and the experience of interaction with people, places, and events.  These things change a person, and the debate on the best way to form a SOP (standard operating system) for diagnosis, treatment, prevention and programs is one hot topic that continues to be an on going theme in my research.

Over the last several articles,  introducing chronic pain, we have used the term `biopsychosocial model;` (bio) means biological, psycho (means psychological) and social (means environment); all of which refers to the body`s physiological, adaptive response to fear, pain and our environment. This model is the cornerstone of my research and although some of us may be born with a biologically determined, heightened sensitivity to stress, this fact alone is insufficient to create an anxiety disorder or even a precautionary risk factor for occupational stress indicators. Yet, it can give us great insight into being more receptive to persons who many be at risk. For instance someone who has had a long standing degree of child abuse, may be greater risk for depression or PTSD if he or she takes on a role involved with law enforcement, social work or combat… or on the flip side, it could be a leading reason they excel at these professions if they have the right coping strategy and insight. Again… there’s that grey area again. There has not been enough data collection to support either side.

Let’s review that model again’ the psychological factors in the biopsychosocial model refer to our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions about ourselves, our experiences, and our environment. These cognitive patterns affect our perceived sense of control over our environment, and affect the way we assess and interpret events as either threatening or non-threatening; which are highly subjective.

Chronic Pain & PTSD:

Chronic pain and mental health screening, diagnosis, and pathways to direct treatment, are not yet fully standardized in our medical system, but, we have made much progress over the last decade with more health care providers looking at the integrated approach towards programs and services for people living with pain and people with dual diagnosis with mental health or trauma.

In an article written at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, titled “ The Experience of Chronic Pain and PTSD: A Guide for Health Care Providers,” states a current PTSD prevalence of 35% was seen in a sample of chronic pain patients, compared to 3.5% in the general population. Trauma is not just physical or mental, it is both; all encompassing.

The human body and brain are one of the most complex and quantifiable conundrums, because there is still so much we do not yet understand about why one person can experience chronic lasting pain and another does not. Or, for the purpose of our discussion topic day; why one person can experience a traumatic event and suffer from PTSD, while another does not. It is a question that remains unanswered.

What is PTSD & OSI?

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, and sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening event. It can leave the person feeling intense fear, anger, and hopelessness.

Operational Stress Injury (OSI) is best described as any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from operational duties performed while serving in the Canadian Forces or in law enforcement or any emergency response profession. Difficulties may occur during combat duties, after serving in a war zone, in peacekeeping missions, or following other traumatic or serious events not specific to combat.

While it is considered normal to experience some form of distress after being exposed to a traumatic event, for some individuals, the symptoms persist. The long-term consequences can include, but are not limited to problems with interpersonal functioning, cognitive and biopsychosocial functioning, mental health  disorders, as well as substance abuse disorders, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and conduct disorders.

More importantly, for those in professions where high stress is part of the nature of the job, like in military or law enforcement, coming out and saying “I may have PTSD” can seem like a great blow to the ego. Much like mental illness or chronic pain… PTSD comes with a label and the stigmatization attached to that label.


The Multi-Method Model: Screening 101

Psychologists and Psychiatric doctors are taught early in their training that assessment of human behavior and emotion is best done within a “multi-trait, multi-method” model.  The bases for this model are (a) the human condition, and (b) statistical limitations on measurement. As care providers we have a difficult time ascertaining the accuracy of patients’ pain severity, because of the nature of subjectivity. This can include chronic pain or mental health indicators. The body’s pain receptors or neuroplasticty just feels pain… it cannot differentiate between physical or mental always.

How do we really know when someone has an occupational stress injury or PTSD? We know that chronic pain, mental health and possible disability that often comes with it can lead to a cognitive reevaluation and reintegration of one’s belief systems, values, emotions, and feelings of self-worth and self responsibility , more importantly,  how one feels about the capability of performing their job and living their life.

Assessing PTSD can be tricky and it takes time and patience.  Measures vary in their sensitivity, specificity, and clinical utility for different settings and populations. Time permitting, the use of both self-report and interview-based assessments is recommended.  Health care providers generally assess by administering cognitive and physical examinations, having patients perform various tasks, if chronic pain is an indicator they could include exercises that help the provider evaluate the patient’s strength, flexibility and reflexes. When it comes to assessing mental health or PTSD risk factors, these exercises can range from one on one interviews where the professional looks for behavioral markers, assesses mental acuity, emotional triggers and cognitive thought processes.

Despite all of our understanding thus far on both chronic pain and mental health, the relationship between traumatic event exposure and adverse emotional or mental triggers/ affects remains still a very large grey area. Despite efforts to fully understand the relationship between traumatic event exposure and adverse mental health outcomes, our ability to quantify why only some trauma-exposed individuals become emotionally affected remains challenged.

Canada Steps Up:

Canada has some of the top tiered standard operating systems in North America, yet as a whole we can only train our officers so much, we can only prepare them so much and it is only until they are placed in real life situations can we truly know if PTSD or mental health risks will be a factor. Over the course of the last half decade Canada has been recognized as a world leader in fighting stigmatization and raising awareness of mental health illnesses.

In fact, through the Canadian Armed Forces, we have the greatest ratio of mental health care workers to soldiers in NATO, however most of what we now know and have implemented has been post deployment and is still a work in progress

Historically, PTSD has been associated with military personnel and the traumatic experiences involving combat and warfare situations, as well as emergency responders such as law enforcement and fire and rescue, but this can occur in any individual who suffers some form of trauma. The prevalence of PTSD is substantially elevated in patients with chronic pain, which is no wonder, as we know the nervous system cannot differentiate stress from the mind or body, all it feels is pain and stress. Officers that are on the front lines, are injured in battle or have had to be deployed for long periods of time have a higher degree of risk for both PTSD and chronic pain. Combat changes people, and pain changes people.

Many officers in law enforcement who are involved in confrontation, who have to work long shifts, operate on little sleep and have to deal with the worst of people’s worst days, day in and day out, also have a higher risk because of the nature of the job. This is not rocket science; and even though it has been very slow, the government is finally recognizing the need for greater resources and prevention nationwide.

The Canadian Armed Forces: Standing at The Front Lines

The first Operational Traumatic Stress Support Centre (OTSSC) opened in 1999. “ Lessons learned about psychiatric casualties from World War I (shell shock) and World War II (combat exhaustion, which comprised up to 25 per cent of all casualties in the Italian campaign) had been forgotten by the Canadian Forces (CF) by the time they were engaged in the first Gulf War in 1991.” Wrote Greg Passey, MD, CD, FRCPC  (1)

Canada’s role in the Afghanistan War began in late 2001; where we sent first Canadian soldiers secretly in October 2001 from Joint Task Force 2, and then the first contingents of regular Canadian troops arrived in Afghanistan in January–February 2002.  At the height of the war, during 2006, the high level of casualties and injured troops was overwhelming. Since then, the Canadian Armed Forces has made leaps and bounds in providing officers with necessary resources; however, many say there are still not enough professionals to go around. Even though all recruits must undergo rigorous screening both physically and psychologically prior to and post deployment, there are not enough operational stress injury clinics outside of the main facilities.

In 2011, the Canadian Forces released a study noting that of 2,045 randomly chosen personnel who served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2008, eight per cent were diagnosed with mission-related PTSD. An additional 5.2 per cent were diagnosed with Afghanistan-related mental health disorders other than PTSD, like depression. (1)

In an article written by CTV news, dated July 20th 2011; by Dr. Greg Passey, who is a trauma psychiatrist and a former military medical officer, says the situation (PTSD and suicide) is all too common.  He says despite all the progress that has been made in raising awareness of PTSD, the stigma is still there and is a huge obstacle to overcome for many people in and out of the military.

“There remains a lot of misperception and ignorance within the military in regards to issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re often viewed as people who are disciplinary problems,” Passey told Canada AM in this article.

Even the term ‘mental health issues,’ is stigmatizing, because it doesn’t speak to the severity of the illness, nor does it produce metrics to use for treatment. The brain is a physical organ. It has physical abnormalities and diseases processes and injuries. And so we should be talking about brain disorders. While they’re in the military, the resources aren’t too bad. The difficulty is once they’re released. And the reservists who have to depend on civilian resources; they can get lost.” (2)

He goes on to say that even with the recent recognition of PTSD, there are still not enough psychiatric resources and professionals to go around. The situation can become worse once a soldier retires or is discharged because they leave the support system.

In 1991, the majority of military psychiatrists at that time were centralized at the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa. Members of the military requiring assessment or treatment had to travel to Ottawa, which added to the stigma of mental health diagnoses. However, since 2006, the CAF has structured operational stress injury clinics all over Canada, all of which provide assessment, treatment, prevention and support to serving CAF members and Veterans. Each OSI clinic operate on an outpatient basis only and include one-on-one therapy sessions and group sessions to address PTSD, and mental health indicators and other issues that are occurring as a result of experiencing one or more traumatic events. Even though the CAF has made many changes and additions to support their troops; there needs to be a higher political agenda pushed forward and pushed up the food chain at the health care systemic level. (1)

Law Enforcement:  In The Line of Duty

At the JIBC (Justice Institute of British Columbia), all new recruits undergo block training where they prepare for the stressors and are offered courses/materials to better understand the complexities they could encounter on the job. They offer classes like; critical incident and stress, acute reactions to trauma and grief, incident reduction, front line workers guide and a all supported by the Public Safety Library. This relates to both law enforcement and fire and rescue candidates.

All new recruits with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) are offered a health and wellness workshop style day at Copeman Healthcare, one of Vancouver’s leading private healthcare facilities; and home to my employer with Fit to Train.

New recruits come to Copeman Healthcare center and are offered preventative tools to ensure their optimal physical and mental health are looked after. Speakers from the physiotherapy and Kinesiology department, as well as the medical and psychology fields speak on topics related to long term health and law enforcement. Dr. Mackoff; a Registered Psychologist consults to a number of police departments both in Canada and internationally. As a psychologist Dr. Mackoff treats individuals experiencing difficulties with anxiety, trauma, depression and relationships. Dr. Mackoff has an interest in providing psychological assistance to individuals who are coping with health related difficulties

The RCMP’s Occupational Health Services, have specialized health practitioners who screen and monitor all members to identify mental health risks, as well as OSI clinics all over Canada, close or within detachments. RCMP officers have direct access to Canadian medical and psychological practitioners of their choice; inclusive of general physicians, psychiatrists, and community-based psychologists; asll of which fall under the RCMP’s Health Care Entitlements and Benefits Programs.

In October 2012; the Ontario Ombudsman released a report, “In the Line of Duty” in which was an investigation into how the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services have addressed operational stress injuries affecting police officers; where 34 recommendations were outlined.

Much like the RCMP the OPP found that one of the obstacles facing police is that the force has not done any significant research into the OSIs among its officers, that the periodic screening is voluntary and there is a high level of stigma associated with OSI.

In the BOLC “Badge of Life Canada” online blog; they featured 2 of those recommendations (3) :

Recommendation 1:

The Ontario Provincial Police should take additional steps to reduce the stigma associated with operational stress injuries existing within its organization, including:

  • conducting a comprehensive review of its education, training, peer support, employee assistance and other programming related to these injuries

Recommendation 2:

  • consulting with experts, police stakeholders, the Canadian Forces, Veterans Affairs Canada, and other police organizations
  • researching best practices relating to addressing operational stress injuries in policing; and
  • developing and implementing a comprehensive and co-ordinated program relating to operational stress injuries. Subsection 21(3)(g) Ombudsman Act

Furthermore, a study from Carleton University found that officers in Canada are facing greater pressures at work that may be taking a greater physical and mental toll on police than previously believed.


A PTSD Mobile Coach:

The use of technology has also been a great turning point in chronic pain and mental health. The new OSI mobile app is a new channel for Veterans and serving personnel in the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP to get information and resources on operational stress injuries.

The PTSD Coach Canada app is designed to help you learn about and manage symptoms that can occur after trauma. Features include; reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work, tools for screening and tracking your symptoms, easy-to-use tools to help you handle stress symptoms, direct links to support and help and is always with you when you need it. Form more information please visit this (link).


A Local Hero: Captain John Croucher, PPCLI officer working at 1CMBG

This is a story that deserves its own headliner, its own article. Captain John Croucher’ otherwise known as “The Sir,” to his men served in Afghanistan in 2006. The platoon captain of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry; who on May 25th, 2006 was severly injured after an he and his 20 officers, and their LAV was struck by an IED. The third to hit Alpha’s second platoon, or the 1-2 as it’s called; Capt. Croucher underwent eight surgeries at three different hospitals in three different countries, first in Afghanistan at the Canadian-led base hospital at Kandahar Air Field, then at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and finally in Canada at the U of A.

In 2006 Cpt. Croucher came to Vancouver to receive treatment for PTSD and further rehabilitation and I was the lucky Movement Coach who was given the privilege to work with Captain Croucher weekly for nearly 2 years. He remains one of my dearest friends and is one of my hero’s.

Next week hear Captain Croucher’s story and his first hand accounts of overcoming injury, breaking the stigma of PTSD and his role back in active duty, as well as some of the positive changes our government is making in OSI standardization, as well as some of the gaps that may still need bridging.

June is PTSD National Awareness Month, let’s support our troops!



Chronic Pain Series Part 2: Mental Health & Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain Series Part 2: Mental Health & Chronic Pain

Mental Health and Chronic Pain:

Mental health and physical health are fundamentally linked; there can be no denying that people in pain, feel stress and it is this cycle of stress that leads us to consider our mental health. People living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population.

Living with chronic pain every day puts a strain on your psychological well-being. Keeping the mind healthy while the body struggles to finds ease is not always easy, but it plays a huge role in coping with day to day pain. It is a perpetual cycle that acts as a feedback loop in both the brain and the body.

On the flip side, it also goes without saying that people living with a serious mental illness are at higher risk of experiencing a wide range of chronic physical conditions.



It is no secret that there is a link between chronic pain and certain mental health concerns, like depression. This can be extremely frustrating during the diagnosis stage, because of the dual diagnosis of chronic pain. In fact, depression is often one of the first conditions that doctors try to rule out when diagnosing chronic pain. As many as 50% of people who suffer from chronic pain also have recurrent clinical depression. Billions have been spent on healthcare per year, yet chronic pain is still not high on the medical agenda.

So what is Clinical Depression? Clinical depression is more than a feeling of sadness or low, down and out mood. It is a psychological state that causes fatigue, lack of motivation, appetite changes, slowed response time and feelings of helplessness, inability to partake in the things you love, which is doubled by the pain of……pain. Depression has physical symptoms as well, including aches, pains and difficulty sleeping. Does this not sound familiar? Does this not sound a lot like many of the same symptoms of chronic pain? YES.

Depression is more than a side effect of chronic pain: the two diagnoses are often so interwoven, that they can be difficult to separate the two for proper treatment and resources. Chronic pain can keep people from doing the things they love. Pain changes how our body’s move, and how we relate to the world. It changes our mood; therefore, it’s safe to say that people who have chronic pain tend to be less active than those who are healthy, because their minds and bodies cause them to slow down and the anticipation of pain receptors leave little room for getting excited to move around and be merry. Again, we see this constant cycle of anxiety around pain.  Not feeling happy with your quality of life is often an emotional drain. With few outlets available for stress relief, it is easy to fall into a downward spiral that leads to depression.

In the Vancouver Sun on April 15, 2013 there was an article “Chronic pain: Managing it, living with it: Health system lags in chronic pain treatment,” outlining the need for chronic pain to be higher up on our medical systems agenda.

 “Depression can make people’s pain feel more intense as it can potentially stop them from feeling hopeful and they can lose motivation to do the work of recovery, which adds up to more pain, she says.

Diagnoses related to chronic pain are therefore difficult. Complex pain is a biopsychosocial issue as opposed to acute pain,” says Squire. “So that means we’re never just assessing the painful part, we’re assessing somebody’s mood, usually their sleep. It has cognitive effects, so they’re quite complicated assessments.”

We still do not have enough data metrics and research to support the proper pathways to treat people with chronic pain, but there are many organizations that are coming together to change this. Two of those organizations are PainBC and Change Pain Clinic, located right here in VancouverBC, but we will get to them in just a mere moment. Let’s look at the cycle of stress.


The Cycle of Stress:

Pain activates the areas of the brain that respond to stress; through pain receptors. This is one of the body’s coping strategies for dealing with acute pain and for protecting us from harm. It is a survival mechanism that’s been encoded in our DNA since the dawn of time. When the brain gets the signal, the brain reacts by sending the body into high sensory overload and overdrive, to prepare for fight or flight. When the pain goes away the signals are supposed to stop.

However, we see with chronic pain, the fight or flight signals don’t turn off, and the nervous system stays in a constant state of high alert, like an alarm in the morning that won’t shut off. You can imagine how annoying and frustrating that would sound like; at some point all you want to do is throw the freakin’ alarm clock against the wall and drop “F”bombs right, left and center.

Now imagine that constant alarm in your body 24/7. It can feel debilitating, maddening and deafening. The body does not get a break from the brain’s stress chemicals and too much stress without time off eventually wears the body down, which can leave you vulnerable to depression.

Stress management can be complicated and confusing because there are different types of stress,  each with its own characteristics, symptoms, duration, and treatment approaches.

Now, not all stress is bad, but when we do not know how to cope or adapt to the changing landscape, it can do more harm to us, then we realize. In most psychology journals, psychologists describe four types of stress – hyopstress, eustress, episodic acute/ hyerpsress and chronic/ distress:


  • Hypostress: insufficiently low stress
  • Eustress: sufficient, adaptable stress, positive stressors
  • Episodic Acute /Hyperstress: recoverable, high stress, “A” type stress
  • Distress: excessive, unadaptable stress, inability to recover or cope


The emotional trigger and response is critical in establishing greater levels of resilience, in hopes of instigating more positive coping strategies that can greatly improve ones ability to cope under stress.  These include options such as; gentle and restorative yoga, breathing classes, meditation, music therapy, light movement classes, even brain entrainment. All of which have shown to be successful when applied to their treatment and personal coping strategy. Of course, none of these alone will do the trick, but an integrated system designed for YOU  – can offer you renewed HOPE.


The Biopsychosocial Model:

The biopsychosocial model (abbreviated “BPS”) is a general model or approach positing that biological, psychological (which entails thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and social factors, all play a significant role in human functioning in the context of disease or illness. Indeed, health is best understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors rather than purely in biological terms The biological component of the biopsychosocial model seeks to understand how the cause of the illness stems from the functioning of the individual’s body. The psychological component of the biopsychosocial model looks for potential psychological causes for a health problem such as lack of self-control, emotional turmoil, and negative thinking.  (Wikipedia)

Rather than offer you a full synopsis on this model, it can be best viewed in this riveting presentation featured in April via Pain BC:

For those of you interested in the cross pollination of these fields, I highly recommend you take the time to view this presentation.


Renewed Hope

Our community mental health sector, as well as our community in chronnic pain management, is undergoing a province-wide transformation. Many organizations, including local branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association, grassroots organizations in pain specialties have received new funding for service enhancements over the past several years; however it is not enough. Policy making and governance are high on the agenda to support long term, sustainable change at the higher levels. With new policy and adequate funding this can offer those patients with pain who may not be able to afford services and programs new hope in optimizing their health and wellness.

PainBC and teams like Change Pain Clinic are two pioneers in the areas of chronic pain who are paving the way for a renewed sense of dignity and hope for those who live with chronic pain and dual diagnosis in mental illness.

Last week we looked at PainBC, but I wanted to draw your attention to the previous “Empowering Self Management of Pain” webinar series. A series of webinars that aired in May brought forth the power of how innovation and technology can bring people with pain together to better understand their conditions and the power they have to take charge and manage their own personal health and wellness. In case you missed them please watch them all here –

Change Pain Clinic:  

A passionate team about leading health care system change for everyone burdened by pain. Since it’s fruition in 2009, founders Brenda Lau, Greg Siren and Judy Pryce have been collaborating on ideas on how to improve the lives of pain patients and pain practitioners. An integrated team of clinicians and health practitioners brings together the necessary skill sets to truly revolutionize how we look at, deal with and treat people in pain.

More importantly, a team readily open to put themselves on the line to change agenda, governance and policy within our medical system. Word on the street is Fit to Train Human Performance Systems may just be combining forces and joining this revolution. I feel honored to be part of this team and part of this revolution.

Not Myself Today: Partners in Mental Health

In January, a major step forward was taken with the launch of a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety, which promotes good mental health and prevents psychological harm in the workplace. This is an important start.

The Not Myself Today campaign was created to proactively deal with our mental health. Every one of us has had a day when we don’t feel like ourselves. Now, imagine living with those feelings not just one day, but many days – and the shame, discrimination and lack of treatment and support that goes with it. This is especially critical at work – where so many of us spend so many hours a day. This campaign is designed to better understand and break the stigma around mental illness. As we know much like chronic pain, the stigma is the same. If you can’t “see” it…how do we tell others about how we “feel.” This campaign aims to change that and to bring people who feel miss understood…together to join forces… so they CAN and WILL be understood.



The moral of this story, is that there are those of us who understand, who are here to help and offer support. There is hope and dignity in this struggle and as we continue to forge forward, more and more options are available to those who live with chronic pain and mental illness. I would like to close by offering you a fan-freakin-tastic quote, by one of my mentors, who has undergone his own transformation with chronic pain, injury, being stigmatized with labels; a man who is a fighter and has come out on the other side stronger and more resilient. This is quote from one of his blogs titled “Strive but do not Identify with the Struggle.” Enjoy….


 “What you fight for, and what you refuse to struggle against, defines who you are. Fight for your values, but do not live in strife. You can do a thing, without becoming a thing, just like you can face defeat, but not be defeated. Stop keeping track of the mistakes you’ve made, the fights you’ve faced and the defeats you’ve suffered. You will again, but you will not become them by doing do; only by thinking you are.

Focus your attention on the right decisions you’ve chosen, the flow you’ve facilitated and the triumphs you’ve allowed. Steel against the negative until you no longer need to direct your mind, and you have trained yourself to be free of judgment at all. Judging a person doesn’t define who they are, but who you are; judging yourself is the same. The process of judgment limits us by the boundaries of its definitions.

Do not identify with the discord, even when life surrounds you with a cacophony. Remain in harmony with the melody of your soul despite the noisy world, and you give everyone with whom you harmonize, a chance to tune in to their own melody as well.” 

– Scott Sonnon


Next week we look at chronic pain and PTSD in our military forces. Serving those who serve and protect.







“Chronic pain had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. Pain that stemmed from her back, pain that seemed to turn on and off like a light switch, progressively worse during times of high stress and seemed to manifest for no reason at all. Some days it felt debilitating, burning deep inside, referring down her leg, up her entire back, into her digestive track, some days it seemed like too much energy to get out of bed. A deep dark abyss of unanswered questions, a chase for time, where the doubts, those shadowy parts of oneself that reside in all of us from time to time…lay  just behind your every step forward and seem to start catching up to you, and it is exhausting work; the continued work to bury them deep down inside. Why me? Why Now? Have I not lived through enough? What if it’s cancer?  Is it left over trauma for a decade of child abuse? Is it all in my head? Her mother had bi polar and suffered from chronic pain, could it be genetic? Where ARE the answers? The questions are exhausting.

 For years, she did not speak of it, she would say.. “oh it’s just an injury from running,” .. “it’s nothing major,”…. but then those deep dark questions would rise back up like a tidal wave.” – Sarah Jamieson

This was a passage from one of my journals when I turned 30, 2 years after the passing of my mother and the beginning of telling my personal story, my journey through chronic pain, mental health and surviving trauma. Spending the last 2 decades in silence on a personal path of recovery and meaning to better understand why and how “pain” exists in the body and mind, and to find out if there is a connection between onset of chronic pain and those who survive childhood trauma. The silence is no more. For those of us who have survived trauma, we each have a story to tell, and we must find strength in speaking out.

For today’s post I would like to limit my scope to an introduction to chronic pain to give you a better idea of some of the positive points of interest I am engaged in.

I share this with you because as a medical community, there is so much we still do not understand about the human psyche and about chronic pain overall, but many of us; patients and medical staff alike, are coming together to try to offer better diagnoses, treatment and services to those who suffer every day with chronic pain. More importantly, for people like me, I tell my story, so that we can build better awareness around chronic pain, break the stigma attached to it and provide a beacon of hope for those to stand tall and who can see a quality of life they wish to live and lead in the future.

What is chronic pain?

It seems like an easy question, yet in fact it is not. In medical terms the distinction between the terms “acute” pain and “chronic” has been by determining an arbitrary interval of time from onset, usually using markers for acute pain lasting 3 months and chronic pain lasting longer than 6 months.

According to WorkSafeBC policy, chronic pain exists when two conditions are met:

  • The pain is still present six months after an injury or an occupational disease;
  • The pain is present beyond the usual recovery time for the injury or disease.

WorkSafeBC identifies two types of chronic pain:

  • Specific pain — pain related to a physical or psychological cause.
  • Non-specific pain — pain that exists without a clear medical reason.

Answering the question “what is chronic pain” is difficult, because it manifests uniquely in each person, it is not easily diagnosed, and it is not easy understood by our medical community and for many who live with chronic pain. For many who live with this day in and day out there is a giant pink elephant in the room called – stigma.

Chronic pain is under-recognized and most often under-treated and it has reached epidemic proportions in this country, affecting almost six million Canadians.

Did you Know: “That means more than 1 in 5 British Columbians are living with chronic pain; which results in the daily suffering, the breakdown of family and other relationships, the potential for addiction as a way to cope, the loss of productivity and purpose, the risk of becoming impoverished.”   – Pain BC


Chronic pain needs more of an agenda in our medical and therapeutic communities and many are starting to come forward to ensure chronic pain is not just on our local agendas, but provincially and federal agendas as well.

One of these organizations is called Pain BC, a local non profit organization formed in 2008.

Who is Pain BC?

Pain BC is made up of patients, health care providers, and leaders from academia, members of relevant non-governmental organizations and others, who share a passion for reducing the burden of pain and for making positive change in the health care system in British Columbia. I joined this board only a couple months ago and over the next 2 years my plan is to be a strategic part in raising the awareness of chronic pain and changing current landscapes of how we diagnose, treat and offer services to patients with chronic pain.

A dedicated group of well-educated, compassionate and appropriately resourced health care providers are essential allies for people during their journey with pain. Equally important is providing people in pain themselves with the education they need to become actively involved in their pain management, and giving patients a renewed sense of control and ownership over their lives and health.

Pain BC aims to deliver practical education sessions, providing assessment and other tools to guide and streamline practice, and continue to build partnerships to help advance systemic improvements, are all key to ” helping the helpers” improve the lives of people living with pain.

 Did you Know: Despite its prevalence, a recent survey demonstrated the lack of public awareness and education around chronic pain. Twenty-one percent of respondents indicated they suffered from chronic pain while only 47 per cent of Canadians surveyed “fully believed that chronic pain is real.” Chronic pain is under-recognized and under-treated. Chronic pain affects people of all ages. In Canada, one in five people suffer daily from chronic pain. It is a ‘silent epidemic’



The Canadian health system is operating on an outdated understanding of pain. Growing awareness of the human and financial costs of chronic pain has catalyzed an international movement to address the needs of people living with pain. Pain BC is adding our voice to others around the world calling for improved pain management. It’s time for a change.


Pain BC’s Vision:

Pain BC works toward an inclusive society where all people living with pain are able to live, work, play, relate, and learn with confidence and hope, and without their experience of pain being a barrier to pursuing their lives, through:

  • Reducing their pain and mitigating the impacts of their pain on all aspects of their lives and their families’ lives
  • Accessing the pain management resources that they need, ranging from prevention to self management, and early identification and intervention to more complex and long term pain management programs.

Self Management Support:

One of the key components of Pain BC, is the opportunity to empower patients to become leaders in their own lives. Self management and strategies are key to any successful endeavor, it is a critical piece of the chronic pain management puzzle. Research has shown that self management of chronic pain can significantly improve people’s quality of life. We all want to be leaders in our own lives, do we not?

Self Management Programs are collaborative partnerships between those suffering from chronic pain and health care professionals.

For more information:


Resources for Health Care Providers:

Health care providers treating patients with chronic pain are presented with unique challenges. Pain BC’s mission includes educating those health care providers and providing them access to the best resources available so that they may help their patients as effectively as possible.

To that end, Pain BC has compiled information on Assessment Tools & Clinical Guidelines,  Clinical Resources, Conferences and Training, Program Design and Operation, a directory of Pain Clinics and Services, as well as a list of Links of Interest. As part of our continued work in supporting health care providers, we also provide unique memberships FOR healthcare providers to get more engaged in chronic pain; and this includes everyone from doctors and nurses, to physiotherapists, chiropractors and anyone offering skill sets in pain management and therapeutic modalities.

Pain BC provides brochures and information at your finger-tips to help better serve your community.


What Makes Pain BC Unique?

Apart from it’s partnerships and integral work behind the scenes, Pain BC offers innovative ways for patients and practitioners to get involved. The list below is just a snippet of what is offered and what is in the Pain BC pipeline for 2013/2014:

  • Pain Waves Radio: Pain Waves Radio is a call-in internet radio show created by non-profit society Pain BC, where listeners can listen to, and interact with, leading chronic pain experts as they discuss the latest pain management research, tools, and trends. For more information:
  • Salons: a workshop style evening, that explores the art of public conversation.  An enhanced dialogue where speakers are chosen to present on a theme, and the flow of the event is not dictated by a regimented set of parameters, but around organic dialogue. It is meant to be interactive in an atmosphere of free flowing idea generation that is goal oriented and builds awareness on the topic at hand.  
  • National Pain Awareness November 3-9th 2013 A national conference focused on addressing chronic pain across the country. For more information please visit :
  • Become a Member or a Volunteer: Pain BC needs you to get involved and take action on chronic pain. In order for us to break the cycle of pain and stigma, we as a community need to work together. Benefits of membership include a subscription to Pain BC’s e-newsletter, eligibility to attend education sessions and conferences for free or at reduced rates, and participation in networking events and discussion forums.
  • Be involved in Research: If you are over 15 years of age and would like to participate in a Chronic Pain Survey, the CIRPD is seeking input from people with chronic or persistent pain to better understand what types of information resources are being sought.

Chronic pain still has a long way to go to be understood, but the more we continue to bring interested parties together, the more impact we can make and the more we can shrink that pink pachyderm, in the room. There is hope for those living with pain, it does not have to be a way of life. Being a leader in your own life, starts here.


Pain BC:

Canadian Pain Coalition –


UnCovering & UnCooking the FMS Model: Primitive Patterns, Myths & Strategies

UnCovering & UnCooking the FMS Model: Primitive Patterns, Myths & Strategies

Last week we taught an FMS Level 1 and Level 2 (Advanced Corrective Exercise) combo course at Copeman Healthcare to a sold out room of 29 eager students, coaches, trainers and clinicians. Over 130,000 + health professionals have joined the legion of FMS certified coaches around the world, and I felt very proud to be one of the assistants to one of the few teachers in North America who teaches the level 2 course. Behnad Honarbakhsh is one of Vancouver’s leading physiotherapists who specializes in not only traditional physiotherapy, but also, acupuncture, IMS (intramuscular stimulation), NLP, energy work, and soon to be Osteopathy. People have coined his sessions as “miracles” or “voodoo,” and I would be agree being a patient, as well as an employee and friend.  There is a vast wealth of knowledge and experience in our team at Fit to Train Human Performance Systems.  Now, enough of tooting the FTT horn… onwards to the main component of this article.. Uncovering the FMS model: Primitive Patterns, Myths and Strategies for corrective movement.

As Fit to Train’s only Movement Coach, new FMS professionals come to me with questions to learn more about how to apply this new tool and the corrective exercises into their current scope of practice. Many of which are strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers who find it overwhelming with all of the information to then make the transition from doctrine to strategy. My response is always the same: Keep.It.Simple.



Modern fitness and training science has bestowed upon us the ability to create strength and power in the presence of extremely poor dysfunction. This dysfunction means that fundamental movement patterns are limited, asymmetrical or barely present. Just because we can make people bigger, faster and stronger on top of this does not make it right. Seated, fixed-axis equipment perpetuates the illusion of fitness without enhancing functional performance. And what about “weak core” or “weak glute medius,” these are the two biggest myths in our industry. Number one, how can you tell it’s a weak core or weak glute med? How can you tell if a client is “firing” it. Answer – is you can’t. One muscle does not make the human body move properly. For active clients and even well trained athletes, it will be inhibition of sequential movement that results in poor tissue movement and tissue health. This falls into 3 categories (1) mobility (2) stability or (3) motor control, and most often because joints have a relationship with it’s neighbor and neighboring quadrant, you see all 3 scattered in different interactions between joints, tissue and posture positions.

Utilize all of your tools to uncover an individual’s dysfunction and then work to correct it. The result will be an individual who moves more efficiently, thereby creating a foundation for more effective strength, endurance and power training.

1.  THE TOOLS : The FMS Screens (which includes the FMS, SFMA for clinicians and the Y Balance) are all just screens to offer you a baseline on a clients strengths and compensatory movement.

2. THE SCORE: work on one asymmetry at a time, as you we see changes in them all. Use the breakout tiers  provided on the most asymmetrical score (ASLR, shoulder mobility, primitive patterns etc).

3. THE STRATEGY: Corrective movement exercises  are designed to “prep” the body for movement, any movement that the coach has prepared for that particular client. Your role in your warm up is to assess risk, remove negatives and prepare the client for the session.  If you are a trainer, corrective movement can be the first 10 mins of the hour. Like all else, what the client does on their own is part of the overall strategy of personal goal attainment. Ensure you offer them guidance and encourage them to perform their specific corrective exercises at home between your sessions.

The “Core” is the Foundation to Primitive Patterning: Gray Cook; Sequence of Core Firing Video: 


As a Movement Coach, I have the opportunity to spend an hour or more with each client and coach them on these fundamentals. Corrective movement is a modality within the health and wellness realm; which we like to call the “transition zone.” Corrective movement opens the door for coaches and professionals in the fitness industry to screen, assess and correct breakdowns in a client or athletes movement mechanics.

In my practice I use this style o f training to (a) pre screen a client who may need to see a physiotherapist or medical professional or (b) the client has been referred by a physiotherapist or medical professional and thus, my role is to “transition” the client from the clinical to the coaching again. This work compliments the work of most trainers and coaches, as it allows them to maximize their role with an athlete or client. There is no competition between myself and other trainers or coaches, because what I mainly teach is the technique and how cleaning the slate, removing negatives etc, applies to all areas of the athlete or clients life; while at the same time reinforcing the coaches strategy. An integrated team approach.

Even in the strength and conditioning realm, I have the opportunity to teach or in some cases re teach the fundamentals of lifting and transitioning. As the body becomes more efficient in mobilization, stabilization,  and neuromuscular adaptation they will ultimately be stronger and more fluid in movement. With this comes a risk of injury if we, as coaches, do not properly teach those new fundamentals the athlete or client are experiencing.

Video: Asymmetry in Movement (DVD Key Functional Exercises You Should Know): 


The following video selections are favorite videos I have chosen from the FMS library for you to be become more familiar with Corrective Movement, common mistakes and myths in the industry and the written portions of the article is direct excerpts from Gray Cook’s website and movement book.

Movement Competency: The ability to employ fundamental movement patterns like single-leg balance, squatting, reflex core stabilization and symmetrical limb movement.  This can also include basic coordination with reciprocal movement patterns like crawling and lunging. The central goal is not to assess physical prowess or fitness, but to establish a fundamental blueprint and baseline of quality not quantity.

Physical Capacity: The ability to produce work, propel the body or perform skills that can be quantified to establish an objective level of performance. If movement competency is present at or above a minimum acceptable level of quality, deficits in physical capacity can be addressed with work targeting performance. If movement competency is not adequate, it would be incorrect to assume that a physical capacity deficiency could be addressed by working only on physical capacity.

Growth and development follow the path of competency to capacity, but how many fitness and athletic programs  parallel this time-honored gold standard of motor development? If screens and standards for movement competency are not employed, we are programming on a guess. Furthermore, if our testing does not clearly separate movement competency tests and physical capacity tests, we exchange a guess for an assumption.

 VIDEO: Applying the FMS Model (6 min from the DVD Set “Key Functional Exercises You Should Know”):


Exercise professionals too often overlook the fundamental movements because highly active individuals can often perform many high level movements without easily observable deficits. The Functional Movement Screen was first introduced to give us greater relative insight into primitive patterns by identifying limitations and asymmetries. The FMS screen is a way of taking it back to the basics and recognizing that these patterns are fundamental; a key factor is that they are common during the growth and developmental sequence, and thus taking it back to primitive movement, we may be able to overcome some of these common compensations.

 VIDEO: Gray Cook:  Common Mistakes Made in Corrective Movement vs Strength Movement 


Consideration of primitive patterns can help make you a more intuitive, and intelligent exercise professional. Very often we become experts in exercise without considering growth and development, which is where the fundamentals of movement were first established. As explained in this video, these fundamental movements include rolling, pushing up, quadruped, and crawling. This foundation is often neglected in the approaches we take to enhance function and/or performance through exercise programming.

The first rule of functional performance is not forgetting fundamentals. In order to progress to movement we first learned to reflexively stabilize the spine, in order to control movement more distally in the extremities, this happened naturally during growth and development. However, many individuals lose the ability to naturally stabilize as they age due to asymmetries, injuries, poor training or daily activities. The individuals who do this develop compensatory movements, which then create inefficiencies and asymmetries in fundamental movements.

VIDEO 2: Gray Cook and Lee Burton: Secrets of Primitive Patterns:


Yoga Outreach Retreat on Cheakamus River – May 24-26

Yoga Outreach Retreat on Cheakamus River – May 24-26

Michele-Labelle-DancerJoin Yoga Outreach for a weekend long retreat on the peaceful wooded banks of the Cheakamus River only 45 minutes from Horseshoe Bay, but light years from the city…

This year’s theme is Connection. Enjoy a transformational weekend of rejuvenation with warm people, sensational food, and inspiring instructors.

All proceeds go to Yoga Outreach, a registered charity sharing the life affirming gift of yoga with adults and youth facing challenges in their lives.

Don’t wait to join for this fantastic retreat weekend. More details below or on the Yoga Outreach website.

View the schedule & workshops HERE

Please make note of the class codes for your preferred classes as you will need these to register! Please only choose one class per time slot, if there is no class code it means there is no size limit on the class and you do not to need to register.

Click here to Register Now!

Option A: $395 ($325 for current YO volunteers)
Includes all classes, two evening events, five gourmet meals, snacks and beverages as well as shared accommodation (up to 4 per room, 4 rooms per cabin) in rustic cabins nestled in the heart of the forest.

Option A TENT: $395 limited number
Includes all classes, two evening events, five gourmet meals, snacks and beverages as well as a spot to pitch your tent in the heart of the forest, access to a washroom and shower facilities in included.

Option B: $435  only 3 spaces left 
Includes all classes, two evening events, five gourmet meals, snacks and beverages as well as shared accommodation (two per room, one bunk bed) in the conference centre at the edge of the forest.

Option C: $475 SOLD OUT
Includes all classes, two evening events, five gourmet meals, snacks and beverages as well as private accommodation in the conference centre at the edge of the forest.


FlexibilityPRO “IS” Bill LeSuer: Not Your Average Major League Coach

FlexibilityPRO “IS” Bill LeSuer: Not Your Average Major League Coach


Bill LeSuer’s tag line above his treatment table. In this office you will find no fluffly blankets, no zen music, no candles or babbling brooks. This is NOT your regular body worker. Bill is indefinable, and he is has an incredible gift. Oh, and the room, sweet baby popsicles … is a little slice of man cave heaven.



Bill is a native of Brooklyn, NY, but has earned the nickname “Frenchy” from his French Canadian roots.  Most of the sports industry will know Bill from his medical staff days with the Major League Baseball Team, but before that, before the reinvention of his life, Bill Le Seur was a fireman in Fountain Hills, Arizona. In 1993, at the age of 33, he decided to make a change. Like many of us, reinventions of oneself are usually brought about by a life changing event. In December of that year, he was involved in one of a fireman’s greatest fears going to a call; known as the infant code. Unfortunately, the infant code was at his own house. After unsuccessful CPR, they lost their daughter Taylor. Any event of this magnitude is undeniably life shattering, life changing and life altering. It can either break you, or your learn to build yourself back up. Bill knew it was time to find his calling.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I had this very strong, overwhelming feeling that I really wanted to help people. While working my shift one day, I saw an ad in the paper for a Massage Therapy School in Scottsdale,”

Upon completing Massage Therapy School, I thought to myself “I must get this to athletes.” Now keep in mind, this is 1993, there was no such thing as muscle therapy in Major League Baseball. “I WILL BE THE FIRST” I decided.” –  Bill


Bill began his career on the Angels and the Dodgers Major League Traveling Medical Staffs. Interning at the age of 33, he worked his way up the ranks. A simple kid who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y, sitting in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium with his Dad and brother, was now a grown man standing on the field.


“One day Paul Bradley introduced me to a gentleman “This is Jim Merrick, Pitching Coach for the Milwaukee Brewers Rookie ball team.” My stomach churned, “no way”, I thought. So this is why I’m here. Turns out Jim Merrick had a painful hip. “What do you do” asked Jim. Before I could respond, the trainer blurts out “he’s a rub guy.” I got Jim on the table and treated him for about 30 minutes. It was at this moment that I knew I wasn’t just a rub guy. I wasn’t going to massage him, I was going to release his hip muscles. He gets off the table and walks across the Training Room to test out his “new hip”. He turns around, looks at me and says “Would you mind working on some of our players?” – Bill

The major reason Bill has been so successful, is because he did not conform to traditional “massage” or “stretching.” He took a tool and molded it, to create a niche that suited his players and supported growth, that was also quantitative. A player plays better, less pain, joints mobile – it works.  When you walk into his office the walls are filled from one wall to the other of “Thank You’s” from every major player in the MLB, NHL, NFL, Olympics Track and Field, even, Arnold pump you up” schwarzenegger,  Robert Plant Led Zepplin. The guy has more thanks you and testimonials on his wall, than I have facebook friends!  Joe dimaggio is on his wall. LEGEND!


“I created the positions of Muscle Therapist and Flexibility Coach in a Major League Training room back in the mid-90s at a time when no teams recognized this type of work. I got my start with the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Organization and also spent a couple of seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks Training Staff at the end of my career. I was the personal therapist to 3 times Gold Medal Olympian Gail Devers, and also was a member of the 1996 British Olympic Medical Staff. I’m the owner of FlexibilityPRO Studio in North Scottsdale, AZ” – Bill

bill national_anthem


It is a series of precise palpation techniques that actually releases muscle groups. This allows full extensibility of the tissue, allowing the athlete to achieve their fullest potential and performance. After many years of treating Major League Baseball players, Bill realized that most of the injuries were from a direct result of poor muscle condition. Pulling tools from his coaches toolbox he developed and founded a treatment plan called (PFT) Performance Flexibility Training.

This therapy includes a systemic and comprehensive evaluation of the client’s tissue health; taking into account; contractures, adhesions, and restrictions in the muscle tissue. In order to improve tissue health; one much focus on removing these negatives; which are done through precise palpation techniques, along with improving the elasticity in the fascial system and the relationship between the musculoskeletal and fascial systems.

Upon meeting Bill, I wasn’t sure what to expect…RMT, PNF, FST? All of these techniques aim to provide the same thing – improve tissue health. However, Bill has been able to pull from all of these tools AND use palpation techniques, I have never experienced before to restore pliability, flexibility and range of motion. Our muscles and fascia are made to move, our bones are made to float and be pliable. Bills technique does just this. It resets the nervous system, improves proprioception and identifies where a client may lack the ability to sequentially engage or activate tissue in their body.

For example, as a ball player, if you are asked to contract your right quad and you contract both, asked again and you can’t differentiate between firing your right to left… this is risk factor and most likely will result in a lower mechanical injury down the line. Much like FMS and how we approach our operating systems in Corrective Movement, Bill’s approach is to address the cause of the dysfunction, not just chase the symptoms.



Stretching a muscle group without manually releasing the dysfunctional tissue is like waxing a dirty car…. An important step has been missed. Using a simple analogy…..we all know how far you can stretch a tube sock. This represents healthy tissue. Put three staples in the center of the sock. These staples represent past injuries, adhesions, contracture, and fascial restrictions. Now try to stretch the sock. Not too much movement between the staples is there? No amount of stretching will remove these staples. ” – Bill

As a movement coach, I am asked all the time; “I stretch every day, why am I still tight.?” My answer is always simple; what is the state of the tissue, and second, what is your approach to “stretching.” As you all know, I use that term loosely. First off, a compensation or dysfunction is rarely one muscle; it’s a series of muscles and a pattern that works inefficiently as a team. Secondly, most of my clients that ask this are athletes who put their bodies through intense training, contact and rigor.

One needs to understand that you tissue health will look much different from that of, let’s say a Yoga teacher on a resort beach. Tissue holds contracture’s, adhesion’s and scar tissue – thus inhibits movement and dulls facilitation and activation. Standard stretching, PNF or FST will not get you to where you want to be. You need to move that tissue around so that it can move freely from it’s neighbor and slide with the surrounding tissue.

The palpation technique and transitions from technique to facilitated stretch back to palpation etc is what makes FlexibilityPRO so unique and successful.

What we deduced in my session with Bill, is that my left side has significantly reduced proprioception and activation (less responsive), and my right is overly responsive, to the point my sensory feedback was much more pronounced.

Bill’s unique ability to sense muscle tissue condition has enabled him to assist world class athletes in increasing their performance. He is widely considered to be one of the foremost consultants in the field of performance muscle therapy.

I am sure Arnold would agree, when I say this – Bill LeSuer is the terminator of tissue! No more dysfunction, no more restrictions, no more pain. Subtle, extensible, pliable and just down right read to perform tissue health. If you are not aware of this man’s talent, I suggest you start following his blog here –  Thank you Bill for all that you give this world, for stepping outside the box and becoming a leader in an industry that “po-poos” “rub guys and gals” your technique just makes us all stronger and better people, as well as athletes. It was an honor to learn from you.




“Your ability to adapt is directly related to your ability to control breath in movement.” – The Jamieson Mantra

breathing 2

The average adult takes 12,000 to 25,000 breaths per day; most of which is habitually taking place high their chest. In effect, this places great stress on the heart and nervous system.

Breath in it’s simplistic nature, is what keeps us alive; without the breath, all organs, tissue and senses diminish and ultimately perish. Does it not make sense then, to include breathwork and conscious intention to breathing patterns as a primer for re conditioning healing and restoring the body’s precious structures.

When we learn to master and apply healthy breathing techniques, we can immediately begin to better adapt  and transform our structure (inside and out). As we begin to feel better by breathing better, we start seeing the reflection of this optimal way of life in all other areas; our relationships, our livelihood, our creativity, our physical and mental fortitude etc.

Breathing Patterns Are Like Fingerprints

Every physiological, biochemical, emotional, psychological, and physical state has a corresponding or associated breathing pattern or quality to it; which works in conjunction with all the other systems. The way we breath when sitting calming, meditating is different than the breathing patterns we use for solving a problems or making decisions at work and our breath changes when we go for a run in a steady state vs lifting heavy objects at the gym.

At the most primal level, our ancestors understood that they had to attune and synch their breath to the hunt or for basic survival. If chasing after an animal, they needed to tap into a steady state of breath to correspond with long bouts of persistence hunting and stalking their prey, while at other times they required quick burst of energy to either flee from an area that posed a threat, or at the end of the persistence hunt, catch their dinner. This required multiple breath patterns that need to switch on and off and control the rest of our physiological systems.

DID YOU KNOW: The average person reaches peak respiratory function and lung capacity in their mid 20′s? As they continue to age they lose between 9% and 25% of respiratory capacity for every decade of their life! The findings resulting from a 5,200-person clinical study group observed over a 30-year span showed that the way a person breathes is the primary measure of potential life span. (From Framingham study)

Eustress Vs Distress: Stress Resilience

For instance; under conditions of imminent, unanticipated, or rapidly changing threat, activity in the thinking brain is shifted to the reactive brain, which generates the individual’s emergency response—fight, flight, or freeze. In TacFit this is called freeze, flinch, force or flow. Specific patterns people adopt when facing high levels of stress. These patterns (both breath patterns and brain patterns) can set in motion a series of stress related cycles in our body, even well after the threat is no longer there. The emotional trigger is; and therefore, establishing higher levels of resilience and instigating more positive coping strategies can greatly improve your ability to cope under stress and anticipate using breath work as a means to control your internal systems in times of stress.

Not all stress is bad, but when we do not know how to cope or adapt to the changing landscape, it can do more harm to us, then we realize.

In most psychology journals, psychologists describe four types of stress – hyopstress, eustress, episodic acute/ hyerpsress and chornic/ distress:

  1. Hypostress: insufficiently low stress
  2. Eustress: sufficient, adaptable stress, positive stressors
  3. Episodic Acute /Hyperstress: recoverable, high stress, “A” type stress
  4. Distress: excessive, unadaptable stress, inability to recover or cope

Stress tolerance is the power to endure stress and much of the tension we feel during these periods can be tolerated, diminished and re structured for positive outcomes, when we control the breath. When we breath we begin to build, what I call “Stress Resilience.’ This is the ability to anticipate stress, cope and adapt to the changing landscape while remaining neutral and calm through the use of breath work.

In a more therapeutic sense; with practice, you can ultimately accomplish the same things that great yogis and Taoist masters can. You can control the function of your immune system, your endocrine system, your cardiovascular, digestive, and nervous system, by mastering the art of breathwork. Strength and inner harmony is not something you get from improving mere strength, applying load and force to the body or popping a pill, or rolling out a mat – it is through conscious intention, breath and easing the mind of distraction. This is called Conscious Breathing.

Conscious breathing techniques have been utilized in ancient Buddhist/ Taoist traditions to master the capabilities of the mind and physical body to find inner and outer harmony. As we become more aware of each breath, we are reminded that we can indeed, control the outcome and our responses to uncontrolled forces. Can you imagine that in any challenging situation, in any stressful moment, at any given time you had the tools and power to shift your life, adapt and transform?

This can be quite profound.

DID YOU KNOW: According to the ADAA, and the CMHA anxiety disorders are the most common illness in North America; affecting 40 million adults in the US ages 18 and older (18% of the US population), and 1 in 10 Canadians. When we breathe with shallow, constricted breaths, we are adopting one aspect of the emotional posture of anxiety.

The Inner Breath and the Outer Breath

Breathing has two levels: the outer breath and the inner breath. The outer breath is  air: oxygen and carbon dioxide. The inner breath refers to energy. This subtle element in the air is often called “spirit,” or “the breath within the breath.”

For example, the physical level has three levels of its own: getting breath into and out of the lungs; getting breath into and out of the blood; getting breath into and out of the cells. Our blood needs to be nearly saturated with oxygen if it is to supply life to all the tissues and organs and systems of the body, and the trillions of cells that require movement and contraction/response.

DID YOU KNOW: The body goes to extreme measure to maintain an optimal level of pH (7.35 – 7.45 in the blood). The most powerful system for removing acidic stress & keeping the body pH optimal are the lungs.

 Breathwork can mean strengthening, toning and coordinating the breathing muscles to improve ventilation; which in turn improves systems integration. We use 3 diaphragms when we breath; vocal, respiratory, and pelvic.  This second step in respiration depends on the partial pressures of gases,, the infusion of blood vessels in and around the lungs, and of course, cardio-vascular health and the ability to understanding that regulation and balance of intra-abdominal pressure through breathing stimulates our ability to engage and facilitate our core!

Over-Breathing is just as stressful as Under Breathing:

You have heard me talk a lot about “deep breathing” and the hyper around “breathing to stimulate the nervous system.” For example; many people are told that you can “super-oxygenate” your cells through deep rapid breathing. This is incorrect and can do more harm than good. Your blood is already 90% saturated with oxygen, so the likelihood of getting more O2 into your blood is slim.  In fact, hyperventilation can actually reduce the supply of oxygen to your cells, because in the process of “over-breathing,” you blow off too much carbon dioxide.  In turn, this can cause constriction of the micro-vessels, which prevents blood flow to the tissues and cells itself. The goal is to synch breath with movement and to learn how to put all of these puzzle pieces together to improve all systems, not just those involved with breathwork.

DID YOU KNOW: Studies show you can reduce the supply of blood, and therefore oxygen, to the brain by 40% in just one minute, by hyperventilating. Deep rapid breathing is good up to a point, but beyond that point, you can actually starve your body of oxygen.

This is a great seg-way into how to breath with strength and conditioning.


Breath Controls Heart Rate:

Once of the benefits to working with a coach, is the opportunity to put breathwork into real time action.  In order to adapt through our workout from warm up, to peak to cooldown, the first step is getting air in and out of the lungs; so that it can signal the rest of our systems to react; which involves muscular, anatomical, structural conditions and dynamic response. It is here where work can be done to increase lung volume and respiratory capacity.  Many studies prove that the greater your lung capacity is, the longer you will live, the longer you can tolerate stress (both positive and negative) and the healthier you will be.

The most important factor in a clients success; whether they are training for a marathon, a fight in the ring, preparing for active duty or merely overcoming the obstacle of substantial weight loss – is HRV.  Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon where the time interval between heartbeats varies. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. We can use this as a bio marker in training, but we must first distinguish between the Autonomic and Voluntary (or Somatic) nervous systems first.

In the TacFit Certification Course Manual 2013, page 36, Scott Sonnon describes this perfectly.

  • Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls the bodily functions necessary for survival  (includes breathing, digestion, heart, blood pressure, organ function etc)
  • Voluntary Nervous System (VNS) involves the consciously controlled daily functions like exercise, work, sport, yapping etc.

He then offers the sub divisions or “sub-branches:” of the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems which exist to better respond, control, adapt to our fight or flight, primitive patterning, genetically coded in our DNA.

  • Sympathetic System (SNS) controls the “fight or flight” reflexes. When we encounter stress, it increases physiological performance, from slow release drip when we perceive skills equal to the task, which gives you access to what sport psychologists call “The Zone” or “Flow-State.” Or it triggers a fast-release dump when it perceives your skills re ineffective or insufficient, what combat psychologists call “The Vortex or “The Suck.
  • Parasympathetic System (PNS) balances the SNS alarm system’s of “fight or flight. This system dictates how much we recover from training and stress. This is the yin/yang in constant flux, which is a primary factor in regulating our health.

Heart rate changes with every breath .When we exhale our PSNS sends signals to slow the heart rate, and when we inhale, that PNS signal dissipates and the SNS tone returns, causing the HR to increase yet again. It is a constant cycle.  This ebb and flow offers us a look a the state of our autonomic nervous system.

FACT: “When the “rest and digest” PSNS response triggers, we find a higher HR variability; but when “fight or flight” reflexes usurp our ANS, then HRV is lower. That variability accurately reflects your current degree of adaptive recovery from the sum total stress you are facing and the threshold you’re currently able to accept.” – TacFit Certification Course Manual, Page 36

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Strength, combined with focused breath = evolution

For instance, in Movement Coaching and Corrective Program Design, I find higher degrees of flow-state” and improved movement patterns when the client understands this methodology. In my S&C hours, I find better results and performance when the client understands that the transition from exercise to exercise and recovery breath is just as important as the lift of drill itself.

For example in Movement Coaching: breath enables stabilizers to be more efficient in facilitation. When your stabilizers efficiently align your joints, there is crisper coordination and crisper contraction. Sometimes it’s not that you become stronger in your prime movers, you became more efficient in your integrity of movement and breath. And efficiency is another way to get stronger.

In S&C (Strength and Conditioning): When load or stress is applied to the officer or athlete; immediately, the elicitation of SAPS,  fine and complex motor skills deteriorate, . The mind starts to get distracted and lose focus. When a client rapidly approaches HRmax, they become winded and out of gas, breathing rate increases. This is an evolutionary survivable reflex, but only useful for gross motor control, not fine or complex motor control. Therefore, training the client from “survival breath” to “recovery breath’ technique is vital. This enables the client to anticipate HRmax and to apply this technique; which trains the client to recover the inhale (which switches off the reflex of hyperventilation) and then reclaim the exhale. (refer to Scott Sonnon’s “Breathing Gift” for techniques). This allows the client to start mentally focused, adapt to the work load, start responsive to technique and coaching cues and have better recovery leading into their desired set.

Breathing Techniques

During your workout, there will be various techniques you should use to ensure you receive optimal results, recover more effectively and use as little energy as possible in good form with higher levels of effective training. We can recover and become stronger if we are able to increase this understanding. The five sequence technique of “Resilience Breathing” cannot be described as a singular technique, as it involves a series of techniques strung together to produce a synergistic effect. They address the challenge of reclaiming breath from involuntary reflex back to voluntary control while counter-acting the reflextive breathing elicited by distressing situations.

For more information on Resilience Breathing and techniques please download this free gift from Scott Sonnon and Rmax International:

DID YOU KNOW? When given an optimal diet and exercise program, the respiratory system is responsible for eliminating approximately 70% of our metabolic waster materials! The remainder is eliminated through perspiration (19%), urination (8%) and by “going number 2’ (3%).

Now, that’s a great note to end on isn’t it! Moral of the story: “master your breath”


Part 4 Movement Culture: Physical Preparedness & Natural Relaxed Readiness

Part 4 Movement Culture: Physical Preparedness & Natural Relaxed Readiness


Over the course of the last several years I have been knee deep in research, cross referencing the many aspects of primal movement, movement culture and survival training, to better understand the impact on the body, and of course how this “movement culture” can also open up new channels towards understanding our own personal human potential, in both life and sport.

The last decade, as an industry, we have seen many trends in the health and wellness field surface, yet no matter what cool and ingenious products one can come up with; it seems we always come back to  the basics. There is no better tool to use – than that of our own body,learning how to  regulate our systems, as well as understanding our innate  primal movement.

Less is more in this case.

“What comes first…the chicken or the egg? Mobility and ‘general, primal’ movement comes first – next, we have CONTROLLED and PLANNED movement which could be described as relative strength/power…FINALLY absolute strength gets introduced into the process.” – Carmen Bott, Human Motion Strength and Conditioning 

In an industry that is constantly in a state of influx, I have found my own training and coaching tools exploring the basics of human evolution through this process.  As a Movement Coach, my initial few sessions with a client is to take the time to better understand how they developed as in pediatric movement; what injuries they may have had in the past as youths and as adults, and then taking into account their recreational and occupational stressors. This allows me to better determine bio mechanical dysfunction and compensation and how to appropriately design their program.

The first key re educational tools I discuss are (1) how they breath, (2) the process of  neurophysiology and development (3) psychosomatic components and the mind-to-body connection (4) motor control and brain neuroplasticity. All of which start with basic primal movement and exploration of one’s range in every joint, muscle and degree of freedom in movement.

Back to the Basics:

Over the last several years we have seen a surge of back to the basics methodology. Now, of course we no longer have to hunt for our food, or run and track our prey, but the fact remains, that this way of life remains encoded in our DNA and this primal movement culture has emerged in full force.

First we have seen the debate of minimalist shoes and barefoot running. The movie “The Perfect Runner,” looks at the evolutionary path of our ancestors, taking us through a scientific lineage that helps unlock the mysetery of why humans made a series of paradoxical trade-offs as we evolved, losing strength and natural defenses as we became hairless bipeds on the scorched African plains; the persistence of the hunt and survival tracking became our top tools in the evolutionary process of modern day man.

“Decades of research to build the perfect running shoe may have created a multibillion-dollar industry, but running injuries are now more common than ever. The runners raised in rural poverty without running shoes become the fastest athletes.’ – The Perfect Runner Movie

Companies like the one I work with; Fit to Train who teaches The Functional Movement Systems, builds on this trend/lifestyle with tools towards understanding pediatric and neurdevelopmental processes to better understand how and why we compensate, injure and “clean up” compensatory factors. Survival and primal movement can be seen at the heart of almost all of the leading organizations and coaches leading the pack today.

tacfit banner 2

“My best martial art coaches taught me more than skills. They taught me intentional stamina: how to pour my effort into the actions necessary to “hold” technique. Effort is like water pouring from a faucet, and technique is the cup which holds it. If the cup is cracked, it leaks. If the cup runneth over, it’s useless (unadaptable) effort.” – Scott Sonnon

In order for anyone to better understand the fundamentals of neurodevelopment and what optimal wellness embodies; they need to have the freedom to move. In our last article; I offered insight into Scott Sonnon’s CST System; where we discussed the 6 degrees of freedom. Bones need to be able to float in the body and the process of optimal movement must start with mobility, then stability, then movement and then strength. Notice, how mobility and movement are independent of each other – they are not the same thing.

Movement Culture seems to embody a framework of different tools; all of which stem from basic survival training, or better known as tactical fitness. Even if you are not a tactical officer or occupy a profession that requires survival training, the principles and methodology behind tactical fitness are fundamentally important because they are the basic primal needs the body requires to move freely, be able to control breath and regulatory systems and more importantly; the ability to adapt to changing internal and external environments.

In March I was given the opportunity to explore and participate in both he CST and TacFit Certification courses, to better understand why these systems are so successful in a wide range of athletes and the general population.  TacFit redefines fitness to “be more prepared, than the challenges you face.” It is not so much a fitness program; but an operating system, a skills support system that lays the foundation to skillful power.

TacFit & Physical Preparedness:

Physical Preparedness is a job requirement for any profession; whether it be for tactical responders or the corporate cruncher. Many (PT) programs do not address or take into account the necessary compensatory changes the body incurs with occupational stresors being applied to the human structure; more over, the sufficient attention on injury proofing the client (not just physically but psychologically and bio-chemically) through attention to active recovery and pre-habilitation training.

Physical preparedness must follow function within the energy systems that allows the client to adapt, shift, explore and maintain optimal health through priming the connective tissue, joints and removing negatives to “clean up” compensations related to the job, as well as sophisticating work capacity in multiple planes, three dimensionally so that the client can excel at work and at play. This transfers over to all spheres of one’s life.

TacFit’s operating systems is used by many high level federal agencies all over the world. This includes police agencies, aviation, Navy, US Marshalls, Fire Fighter agencies and even officers in our own Canadian Military. I have no doubt that TacFit will continue to take our “to serve and protect’ departments to their very best in performance and occupational preparedness.

In this post I would like to offer insight into 2 key areas of the neurophysiological benefits of TacFit and for reader time efficiency; these are combat breathing & the nervous system and The Mind-Body Connection. TacFit is one part physical and one part psychological.

For a more comprehensive overview of the course itself, I encourage you to watch Scott Sonnon’s interview on tactical fitness vs functional fitness and to understand the course itself and certification process, please refer to this overview by TacFit FireFighter.

stress cycle

Combat Breathing & the Nervous System:

When the brain decides to move a part of the body or ask to adapt to a stimulus and gives the command to do so, it stimulates the motor neurons to execute movements, it is the muscles at the end of the chain of command that ultimately contract to move the body part concerned. In times of high stress, the body adjusts this capacity physically and mentally.

We are all familiar with the concept of stress, the pressures of life and work that can cause catabolism, immune breakdown, mental health issues, conceptual inflexibility and a slew of other increases in body (dis)ease.

The CNS (central nervous system) cannot differentiate between physical stress and an emotional stressor. More over, the CNS cannot differentiate between types of tension/stress, and responds by applying tension to the body in degrees and directions.

Your body has multiple automatic responses that are all controlled by your autonomic nervous system. This further breaks down to your sympathetic nervous system and your parasympathetic nervous system. This controls everything your body does without you thinking and usually without control. Such as regulating body temperature, blinking, breathing, your digestive system…etc Well out of the many things you can’t control there are two that you can. This is your breathing and your blinking

Stress triggers growth; it can propel us to great potential or it can breakdown ones potential. As long as stress is handled gradually enough for your body and mind to adapt to the response/stimuli the body will instinctively grow stronger. This is called Anabolism.  On the other hand, if stress comes on too quickly or kicks around for too long without coping strategies, it can weaken us and break us down, we plateau or atrophy or incur injury. This is called Catabolism. The good news, our bio feedback loop can go both ways. If you can control some of the physiological reflexes, you can control the outcome.

A time-honored technique, in controlling stress is the use of breath. Breathing helps you manage stress reactions on the spot. Known as combat breathing; Scott Sonnon calls this ‘Resilience Breathing’. Scott answers the question “How do we stand clearly, calmly, in the face of a crisis and respond with higher consciousness, rather than falling into panic, anxiety, rage, frustration, doubt or hesitation?”

Tactical or not; stress is stress and we all feel it; therefore, it makes sense to offer our client’s strategies in how to better manage stress on and off the job so that they can move more freely and be unburdened by the determent stress can apply to our structure. Here is one feature of combat/ resilience breathing that will help regulate the body and mind in times of stress:

Breathe from your diaphragm, keeping in mind that when we breath we use 3 of our 4 diaphragms (vocal, respiratory and pelvic).  Think of your stomach as a balloon filling with air as you breathe in, and emptying smoothly, automatically as you breathe out.

  • Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4.
  • Hold your breath to the count of 4.
  • Breathe out through your lips to the count of 4.
  • Hold your breath to the count of 4.
  • Repeat until you feel your body and mind relax.


The Mind Body Connection: Neurobehavioral Feedback Loop

The mental-emotional aspect of tactical fitness is one key factor that makes this operating system so successful. In order for us to create effective recovery strategies to navigate through high stress situations we must understand that there is a link between the physical and psychological bodies. Before we can prevent stress, we must first be able to recover from it. This is called building resilience.

Many traditional and conventional relaxation techniques; such as meditation, are in fact recovery methods and offer an open door to internally start addressing stresors that are catabolic to our systems.

We must recognize that ‘Rest” is not the same as “Recovery,” just like “Mobility” is not the same as “Movement.” Rest is relaxation, where there is an absence of activity. When you appropriately recover, you do not require or desire rest. See the difference. Rest should only be required when you do not sufficiently recover from excessive stressors, when you are under-recovered, you oscillate between excessive stress and forced rest; a common, viscous cycle in our industry. Traditional relaxation techniques become unnecessary if one fully recovers from excessive stress; relaxation is our natural state when our various nervous systems function as they should.

As a student and teacher of Yoga for over a decade; I have seen a growing dependence on relaxation techniques, which mimic that of our medical and pharmaceutical industries. Instead of popping a pill, we feel compelled that the only way to relieve stress is by rolling out a yoga mat or meditating… finding our Qi (Chi). Fact: you already have inner Qi(Chi), every teacher on “inner peace” will tell you, inner peace and happiness is found within, not out there in the world. This is true with an internal state of preparedness and homeostasis. As Scott Sonnon said in the TacFit course; we are already strong inside. Meaning when we approach training, we are not trying to get “stronger” but in fact removing the negatives that are keeping us from unleashing that strength, power and state of being that lays dominate inside us.

Now, I am not saying Yoga and meditation are not good at addressing stress and finding internal well being, because they have many long term benefits and that would mean I would be out of a job! What I am saying is that it is merely a tool, not a cure to why we do not manage our stress; more over, like any kind of therapy or recovery strategy we need have a clear understanding of the psych behind why we go, and ensure that we are learning to cope on and off the mat.

“With an undamaged autonomic nervous system, we are innately relaxed and ready. As a result, we have no need for techniques to bring about a trait of relaxation since we exist in a state of rapidly restored relaxation. This is Natural Relaxed Readiness.” (TacFit Certification Course Manual, 2013).



The last 4 articles have given some insight into the various methods of “movement culture” I have found to be highly successful in my own training, and in those of my long term clients. All of these “tools” of movement: primal movement, Yoga, CST, TacFit, Free to Move, Meditation, ect etc – are all similar in nature, because they identify, address and build coping mechanism behind peeling the onion of human evolution and human potential. In order for us to be the best representations of ourselves; physically, psychologically, bio-chemically, we must build resilience, we must understand that stress can be good or bad, that it can build us up or break us down. Being physically prepared for any situation and to anticipate an outcome is what can propel us forward towards reaching higher level of performance; both physically and mentally.

There is a movement revolution upon us; and the question I pose to you, the reader, is will you stand with us? The momentum is building and this movement culture or collective consciousness is taking our industry by storm and is here to stay.  As Scott Sonnon saystoughness is trained, once resilience is gained.

Over the course of the next 108 days (TacFit Cycle) I will offer further depth into the data collection of tactical fitness and it’s relations to physical preparedness and injury prevention;  from the view point of law enforcement and firefighting, as I prepare for the POPAT (Police Officer Physical Abilities Test. This will be an ongoing series featuring my own case study and impact of the TacFit training operating system on my own performance preparing for the LEPAT physical test. You can follow my personal blog here: Sarah Jamieson Coaching, as well as my facebook page.



Part 3 Movement Culture: Surpassing ouRMAXimum with CST

Movement, mobility, stability and then strength

Let me repeat that; movement, mobility, stability and then strength… what to focus on first and how to reach optimal levels of either one has been an on going debate for decades; where I have spent the last 14 years learning a vast spectrum from both sides of the strength and movement models. As a movement coach my goal is to teach the pre requisites or blueprint of movement mechanics. To teach the client the technical side how we apply strategy and how dysfunction limits their potential, on and off the field (or arena, court, track etc).

move culture 3a

To stimulate adaptation and better movement mechanics the body’s joints and surrounding tissue must be prepared and ready to absorb shock, be able to move freely without compensation and restriction, and requires optimal recovery to perform efficiently. After an online post, my friend and mentor, Carmen Bott owner and founder of Human Motion Strength and Conditioning in Vancouver, and professor at UBC and Langara gave great insight into performance metrics with this discussion post…

“What comes first…the chicken or the egg? Mobility and ‘general, primal’ movement comes first – next, we have CONTROLLED and PLANNED movement which could be described as relative strength/power…FINALLY absolute strength gets introduced into the process. Where does on-field reactive agility (which in essence is power) come in?

“Traditional programs (3 x 10 reps of “X”) without a full understanding of human adaptation fails to produce elite levels of anything.” There must be attention to the neuromuscular mechanism”.

CST (Circular Strength Training Concept)

Over the last several months I been looking very closely into an operating system called CST. A concept pioneered by Scott Sonnon, whom I have been corresponding with for well over a year and have featured many times in my articles. Part 3 of our Movement Series features this system, because of it’s “Tri-Ring” Integration that focuses on a balance of work load, and recovery so that the athlete can maximize the effectiveness of the cycle/workout.

Why does CST fit into “Movement Culture” so well? The CST “brand” of movement-based exercises are different from other comparable training because it uses a full scope vocabulary of mobilization, traction, decompression and activation drills to “restore” and alternate stability and mobility structures in the body.  It offers errorless, injury prevention methods by approaching each segment of material as a “health-first fitness” approach, through monitoring the internal experience of exercise towards “flow.”


I attended last weeks CST 3-day certification course, thinking that this would primarily by a Clubbell course (strength course) I was blown away by the detail and specificity placed upon the joint by joint approach, screening (Poise Analysis), breath mastery and attention to the myofascial matrix.

“Bones need to float. Our myofascial matrix is a web, the muscles that drape over our scalp, down to our toes are what give us shape and density. Joints will adopt the position based on compensation and on our recreational or occupational habits. Joints cannot be stable if the neighbor joint is tight and not mobile and vice versa. If we do not provide the body with the functional opposite – tension builds and compensations result in altered movement and distortion in structure. We must work from head to toe, core to periphery, bones to skin” – Scott Sonnon (quote from Day 1 of CST, March 19 2013)

 Inside the CST toolbox are body weight exercises, some based on primal movement and neuro-developmental patterns, martial arts and yoga based movements, and breath mastery techniques all with the focus of “cleaning the slate,” of compensations that can build up in the body from daily life and injury.

The 3 Rings of CST meets the Functional Movement Systems and Corrective Movement:


CST & TacFit Trailer Here:  (shot at Wolf Fitness System).

Flow Fit Testing at Wolf Fitness Systems:


In “Part 2 Movement Culture: 6 Degrees of Freedom,” I featured insights into the 3 rings of  CST; which were (1) Intu Flow (joint by joint approach, dynamic range of motion) (2) Prasara Yoga (agility, flexibility and grace) and (3) Clubbells, Kettlebells and Gymnastics (functional athletic strength).

This operating system or motor development direction relates to how the “3 Ring” process is designed to coordinate with the principles of structure and function come first. According to the Prioximodistal principle, development proceeds from near to far – outward from central axis of the body towards the extremities.

This methodology directly relates to the Functional Movement Systems and how I, as a Movement Coach approach my one on one hour. The neurodevelopmental process in pediatric development show us that even in adulthood; these pathways of learned motor control do not just turn off. In fact, these “neurophysiologic growth and development highways” remain open to switching back on even if laying dormant for years. The baby was not told to fire it’s core, to roll over or learn how to stand… he or she just did through experience.

The FMS and SFMA screens are only 1 part of the Functional Movement Systems and the idea behind program design from a corrective standpoint is designed to identify and address dysfunction (or compensations as in the CST vocabulary) and then work the line of that compensation to restore movement to all joints, and their surrounding tissues that are show asymmetrical patterning.

The CST systems provides it’s own screening process that reflects many of the same check points in the FMS systems; taking into account current training, postures, gait, injuries etc. The measuring stick is referred to for performance gains during and after the session, where regressions and or functional opposites are given to “activate” these highways of learning. As re-coordination and refinement continues, new measuring sticks are selected and performance enhancement breeds results.

Isolation Vs. Integration; Segmental vs Systemic: This is another key area that aligns with Movement Coaching and Corrective Movement Program Design. Training lines of movement vs muscles. “Complex training effect,” (CTE) provides additional bang for the buck on the client’s end, because when you pair simple movements together, the synergistic effect is greater than if the individual exercises were performed independently.

This requires attention to transition from one movement to the next, and proper breathing mechanics to pace ones movements and regulate intensity. My sessions in Salinas, with Wolf Fitness Systems; were geared towards high emphasis on transitions and working from one movement to the next to keep “in flow.”

baby bell

Clubbells: Structure, Breath, Movement = Power.

I am sure you have noticed, so far in this post there has been little to no mention of this ancient piece of strength wielding wisdom. That’s because; where it is the shiny, sparkly draw to CST, it’s the peak of the climb, once you have put forth the effort to understand and climb the terrain to the peak.

In order for one to wield and tool or load, your joints must be prepped and motor control must be evident to perform the complex tasks, such as; shoulder or joint packing, arm locks, leg drive, spinal integrity in movement etc. For instance: “If the neck is tight, then the scapula will de stabilize, if the thorax is tight, then the lower back is forced to move and the core de stabilizes.


Myth number one; Indian clubs are not club bells. This is a question I am asked all the time. In the sources section of this article, refer to Scott’s Blog page, Shane Heins (Dare to Evolve) dispels this myth.

 “Martial arts around the globe have used the club not just for combat but for health restoration and strength development, most notably in India, Iran, Okinawa, Burma and Russia. The records go as far back as Ancient Egypt, reaching its zenith at the end of the 19th century. Early versions of the club were espoused by US President Grant, and it was recognized as “the oldest known implement for military gymnastics” (Posse 1894) – a critical section of exercise in the 1914 US Army Manual of Physical Training. From 1904 to 1932 club swinging was an Olympic Sport which resurfaced in the form of the lightweight bats included in Rhythmic Gymnastics, though the club was then viewed more as a juggling implement than as a tool of physical exercise.” (One Tool – Infinite Possibilities™ RMAX International except).

In the early 20th century Scott resurrected this tool and pat-tended International Clubbell Sport. This tool provides athletes with a unique blend of functional, full range, three-dimensional muscular development. Swinging weight in three-dimensions rather than lifting weight in one, creates traction and torque, which stimulate connective tissue strength and elasticity, bone growth and much more. After visiting Wolf Fitness Systems in February, this was one tool I knew had to be one of many in my coaches toolbox.

However, dragging 2x10lbs and 1x 15lbs clubbells across the border in a sport bag, proved to be very amusing for the border cross agent and I may have snagged a new client.

Border guard: “Anything to declare, looks like that’s a heavy bag of beef?”

Sarah J: “35lbs of clubbells sir, and an open bag of trail mix.”

Border agent (no smile): “I’m sorry, what’s a clubbell.”

Sarah J: “Ummm… I’ll have to show you. It’s like a big bat, you wield around.”

Border guard: (sideways look): “wield? …. what do you use those for, what’s the purpose of your trip.”

Sarah J: “ I took a CST and Tactical training course, you swing ‘em, you can use em in 3 dimensional patterns, full range of motion.. (border agent, cuts me off….

Border guard: “You an officer? what do you do for work? Those look kinda big for you.”

Sarah J:  “I am not an officer, my “to serve and protect” are keeping guys like you injury free. Speaking of which, you keep shifting around, your back okay?”

Border guard (half way grin, does not make eye contact, waves hand): “ NEXT.”

Sarah J dead-lifts and cleans bag on one arm…. “Not so small, Thanks.”


Our last article “Part 4 Movement Culture,” will feature TacFit Tactical training and more on movement tools, such as; the clubbell, kettlebell and more.

Movement Culture Leaders:

Please feel free to join our conversation and to “LIKE” the following “Movement” centered pages for flow sequences, articles, tips and trends… click on the links here:



Part 2 Movement Culture: 6 Degrees of Freedom

Part 2 Movement Culture: 6 Degrees of Freedom



6 degrees of freedom, is the foundational groundwork that embodies the ideology behind Prasara Yoga, Intu Flow and Free to Move styles of movement culture, founded by Scott Sonnon. An ancient health discipline forged in an era of need for a modern longevity discipline.

Intu Flow (Free to Move) and Prasara Yoga were designed around the “health first and forever” philosophy through an innovative approach called Circular Strength Training (CST).  A model that focuses on “prehab and post-rehab,” which consists of movement patterns that promote pain free mobility, dynamic flow yoga and natural athleticism, based on the three Rings of the CST System. In this article I present to you 2 of those rings and next week we will discuss the entire CST systems with all 3 rings.


This flowing, intuitive harmony of simple movement, structural body alignment, and simple breathing, assesses and addresses areas of weakness. Intu-Flow brings needed nutrition to connective tissue to “oil the joints”, and revive natural abilities and movement. Intu-Flow provides.

  • Deep relaxation and tension release
  • Increased focus and concentration
  • Enhanced joint mobility and sensory awareness
  • Superior athletic performance


Prasara Yoga is a form of movement which incorporates yoga poses, connected with simple breathing techniques. It is the union of body and mind through structure, breathing and movement to release one’s fears of the self in order to get out of the way of body and mind, in order to release one’s true natural flow.  Prasara provides counterbalance to the body through dynamic flow, thus compensating for positions adopted during daily routines or prior activities. Prasara represents the 3rd mode of Hatha yoga, incorporating both Asana, or postures, and Vinyasa, or breath linkage. Prasara’s “flow” moves the body through all “Six Degrees of Freedom” – its full potential grace as a three-dimensionally energetic being:

  • Heaving: Moving up and down
  • Swaying: Moving left and right
  • Surging: Moving forward and back
  • Pitching: Tilting up and down
  • Yawing: Turning left and right
  • Rolling: Tilting side to side


The Myths of Yoga

One of the main questions I am when I present people to YogaFORM is the same question I an asked when I explain Scott Sonnon’s approach, experience and background is ;“How is Prasara different than traditional yoga?” . My answer is always the same… ” let me ask you this first; what does the word or meaning of “Yoga” mean to you?

Yoga isn’t a “thing,” it isn’t a form of “exercise” (at least it didn’t start out that way over 5,000 years ago). Yoga is a way of life and the translation of the word, means to “unite.” I know this is big statement to make, but if we are to make “healthy living” a lifestyle we must continue to look at the whole picture, not as isolated events. Yoga, meditation, movement – are ways of life – not just things to get fit or keep fit. Another misconception about Yoga is that it’s about flexibility or “stretching.” Yoga isn’t about flexibility. It’s not even about stretching. It’s about removing the restrictions to your natural mobility, strength, power, stamina, and energy. Scott calls this our 6 degrees of freedom. Yoga is about all of these things, and so much more. It’s a way of life.

To bring about equilibrium to the mind, body and spirit; Yoga looks to both internally and externally create unity with your environment; therefore; Prasara, Intu Flow and Free to Move theories refers specifically to the integration of movement, with breath, with structural integrity in movement. In essence; it is not different, it is merely an approach that has evolved to address the needs of our community. It is a joint by joint approach to exploring range of motion, restoring function and stabilization to a body through time.

How can 6 Degrees of Freedom & The Free to Move Methodology Benefit You?

‘Yoga” is a vehicle from which you experience flow of movement and breath, an unbinding of biomechanical and emotionally charged restrictions to work towards your unlimited potential.

In corrective movement we place a high emphasis on identifying and addressing dysfunction and compensation in the body that arises from altered movement causing de stabilization, reduced mobility and tension in tissue health. Most often, I find myself re educating my clients on the neuromuscular adaptation of the integrated systems and one large factor – motor control. Because yoga is tool to be used to explore your interal and external environment it can play higher emphasis on the brain to body connection and the time required to process and adapt to better movement mechanics.

One of the largest benefits of Prasara Yoga, Intu Flow and Free to Move methodologies is the high emphasis on joint by joint movement, and the foundation of restoring movement, and reducing compensation  through compensatory sequences  in a class or client hour. In a client hour you have a 10min window for warm-up, therefore, ensuring that your movement drills are targeted and specific is the key to this style of movement culture. There is also a high degree of technical linguistic representation used in the course/class format, so that you can connect with your audience.




Aaron Cruz; Coach at Wolf Fitness Systems LLC, CST Head Coach, TACFIT Team Leader

“The journey is what brings us happinessnot the destination”- Dan Millman

Leading the classes was “Movement Guru,” as I call him is none other than Aaron Cruz, a leader in movement culture. His awareness, passion for his community and technical representation is by far, what makes him a success and a favorite amongst his clients. His energy is fluid, consistent and embodies a flow that can be felt when he walks into the room.

I attended several classes at Wolf Fitness Systems in Salinas California in February and ALL of their classes (Free to Move, Bootcamp, TacFit, Workshops) all incorporated a high degree of movement mechanics by focusing on the Big Three – Structure, Breathing and Movement – not only is emphasis placed on control of joint mobility, but integrity of how each joint connects to the other. Understanding this is the first step to breaking down compensated patterns, and uploading patterns of motor control for improved tissue health, muscle function and reflex stabilization.

“Impacted: I’ve learned to heal my past injuries (spinal pinched nerves, torn muscles) get in the best shape and health of my life, through mobility, yoga, clubbells and kettlebells. Wolf Fitness Systems blessed me with the opportunity to share this wonderful gift with the willing and determined. The clients I have trained inspire me and continue to. This is why I love what I do and everyone I can help live happier and healthier….even if its just a lil help “ – Aaron Cruz

Yoga Flow Video here:

The Science Behind RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) – Motor Control

Motor control is an area of natural science exploring how the nervous system interacts with other body parts and the environment to produce purposeful, coordinated actions, but it is rarely used outside of human kinetics classes, athletics or the clinical practice because it can be very overwhelming to teach to the average person. The way I like to introduce this into a YogaFORM class or corrective hour is by addressing the body as the hardware, and the brain or “motor control” is the software. We need to de-install the software that is causing you to perform slowly, and reduce system health and upload new software that can promote your hardware to work more efficiently.

In a study done by the NCBI, titled Motor Control Theories and Their Applications focused on a study on the stages in motor learning in a yoga setting based on recent developments of the notion of synergies and the equilibrium-point hypothesis (referent configuration). The principle of abundance and the principle of minimal final action form the foundation for analyses of natural motor actions performed by redundant sets of elements. Two main stages of motor learning are introduced corresponding to (1) discovery and strengthening of motor synergies stabilizing salient performance variable(s) and (2) their weakening when other aspects of motor performance are optimized.

In another study titled; The Plasticity of motor control systems demonstrated by yoga training, the static motor performance was tested in two groups with 20 subjects in each (age range 17 to 22 years, and 5 females in each group). Tests were carried out at the beginning and end of a 10 day period.

The test required being able to insert and hold a metal stylus within holes of varying sizes for 15 sec. Accidental contacts between the stylus and the sides of the holes, were registered on a counter as errors. During the 10 days one group (the yoga group) practised asanas (physical postures), pranayama (voluntary regulation of breathing), meditation, devotional sessions, and tratakas (visual focusing exercises). The control group followed their usual routine. At the end of 10 days the yoga group showed a significant reduction in number of errors (Wilcoxon paired signed ranks test), while the control group did not change.

Our earlier study showed a similar improvement in children (9-13 years). It was interesting to note the same degree of plasticity in motor control systems in young adults. The implications for rehabilitation programmes have been discussed.”



In short, those who practice and lead a way of life that promotes the 6 degrees of freedom, mental fortitude and movements that help to restore function and improve tissue health, will lead a healthier and balanced life. The joint by joint approach places high emphasis on myo fascial lines and then understanding that “our bones should float;” or as Scott mentions in his indepth CST course that our connective tissue is the key towards unlocking the potential within our movements.

This style of movement and yoga in general can also be most beneficial for those who suffer from movement disorders, as it allows the space to explore function and control through a therapeutic approach that encourages nurturing, discipline and self healing. This data shows the benefits seen in populations with Parkinson’s, MS, turrets, and epilepsy show significant improvement to stability and mobility in the ankles and hips, as well as spinal orientation, tissue health and qualitative improvements in posture and control of breath in movement.





wolf pack


The EKG system, I would call a hybrid of one part strength and one part movement. Taking in principles skill sets used in “movement,” as well as foundational tools found in traditional kettlebell courses, this style is all – adaptation… of the human kind, and even though Darwin once said, “survival of the fittest,”…truthfully, I think the Hunger Games will go to “those who adapt,will survive.” Moreover, the EKG System integrated unconventional drills found in (Circular Strength Training), Corrective Movement, Yoga and fascial tissue health. Whether your sport of choice is martial arts, soccer, football, basketball, wrestling, tactical response or endurance athletics, this 6 week course will offer you improved stamina, improved technical control of movement, power and agility, and neuromuscular adaptation.


Why? Simply put, from a primitive standpoint, as humans, we are meant to move, react and for the most part the human genome has remained relatively stable since our hunter-gatherer days, but in training and the majority of courses out there (I would have to agree) focus more on isolated exercises as a stop and start, moving from one exercise to the next, with very little intention and purpose in the transition. This is one of the key gaps, John Wolf, CEO and Alpha male with Wolf Fitness Systems, has realized is the missing link in our industry.

He encourages clients to understand the importance of transitional movement skills, as well as the necessary prerequisites before even beginning to pick up a kettlebell. These prerequisites set the client up for success, as well as allow the coach to assess risk before loading the client with weight. Since this course was a 2 hour introduction, we focused on 4 foundational drills; which included a pre screen, very similar to the FMS and SFMA top tier tests.

The body, when it is free to move adapts to challenges. 2 weeks ago I mentioned the “movement culture” trend that has been steadily growing over the last decade, and it is no wonder John Wolf and his team are leading the pack in our industry by combining tools to fit their community and honoring the path of humans in primitive movement.

I will say this again, we are meant to move, whether running from a predator, hauling a carcass, or building a shelter. Humans have always been on the go, often at maximum output for short period of fast locomotion.  Taking this into account, the EKG method focuses on movement skills, not loading the body past what would be considered successful movement.



Attending the EKG Basic Kettlebell Workshop, the class was taken through 4 foundational movement drills; which were the squat, the press, the lunge and row and the deadlift. John broke them down, not only from the technical aspect, but showcasing the 4 positions of pediatric development (supine/prone, quadped, tall kneeling and standing) and how we “evolve” to fully grown adults in bi pedal locomotion. This is of course, the foundation of what we, at Fit to Train Human Performance Systems embody, and as a Movement Coach I cannot tell you how many course I have attended where trainers throw you into the drill without sufficient understanding of how we get from A to B. To hear John reinforce the importance of proper technical progression and screening risk, if one of the fundamental reasons why him and his team are (a) leading the pack and (b) inspiring the masses with his skill sets.


“How do I get from here to there, with power, ease and grace? As we develop these transitional movements, you will find you have an edge in your movement endeavors.” ~ John Wolf



For instance; let’s break down the squat. In corrective movement, we screen the squat in the overhead standing position (deep squat) and if the movement pattern is less than optimal we break down the dysfunctional movement into components.

We teach the client to explore spinal orientation and spatial awareness using the wall, both facing the wall guiding the hands down and back against wall, keeping an upright spine, then we take them to supine and ask them to perform the squat without gravity, and so on.

Each drill, John and his team asked each of us to explore our range of motion and to understand the working relationship and connections of our shoulder to our spine to our abdominal pressure to our hip complex, knees and ankles and feet.

Sound familiar? It should! Can you spell FMS.


Another key component that sets the EKG system above the rest is the idea behind paced work sets. It’s about persistence. It’s not about how many reps you can perform, it’s about the ability to pace yourself and complete the 90sec work sets without stopping or putting the weight down and flawless transitions with intention and focus to detail.

An example of how the EKG System works, let’s take my first day back in Vancouver. Assignment #1 I worked through after a Free to Move TacFit style warm up with work sets around 12mins.

EKG Video Teaser: Circular Clean to Dragon Squat to Windmill Snatch:

Assignment #1

50 Rep Practice Session of the following three movements:

#1 Shinbox Extension dbl 10kg KB 10 reps (1/1 rep count)

#2 Spinal Rock 5 reps

#3 Single Leg Deadlift, 14kg KB 5reps  (1/1 rep count)

The total volume of work is recommended to be broken into sets of 5-10 and worked through slowly in a circuit format.  The goal is to deepen your understanding of each of the movements and to begin preparing your body to perform them under load and in metcon style workouts.  The focus of every rep should be to gradually refine your alignment while performing each movement.

EKG Teaser :


After a few weeks of building the foundation: 

Assignment #3

40 Rep Practice Session of all six EKGv1 body weight movements:

#1 Shinbox Extension dbl rack 10kg KB (1/1 rep count) 5/5

#2 Leg Thread (1/1 rep count) 3/3

#3 Spinal Rock 5

#4 Quad Press 8

#5 Single Leg Deadlift 14kg KB (1/1 rep count) 5/5

#6 Mountain Climber Sprawl 10

The total volume of work is recommended to be broken into sets of 5-10 and worked through at a slow to moderate pace in a circuit format.

The goal of assignment #3 is to increase total work capacity of the EKGv1 movements and to compress the time in which it takes to complete the workload.  The focus of every rep is still gradual refinement of your alignment but should also integrate conscious breath work through the transitions to allow for more efficiency.  Log the total time it takes to complete this work at a slow to moderate pace.


“Strengthening myofascial chains that were historically weak and allowing for a deeper understanding of balance and structure.” How is your current strength programming affecting your structure? Are you finding more strength through greater ranges of motion or is the opposite true?”  ~ John Wolf

Get ready VanCity, because this summer, John and his pack will be coming to Vancouver and taking Canada by storm. If you are interested in hearing more feel free to contact me directly at



Click here: 2 Week Free Trial Here: 

Click here: Locations and Dates for Wolf Fitness Systems EKG Workshops

To Purchase EKG DVD:



The (Move)ment Re(evolution)

The (Move)ment Re(evolution)

human movement 1

What is movement?  Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself and define, what is movement? In our modern age of innovation and creation, I have spent the last decade researching what this concept is; both from the standpoint of biology and physiology in forms of energy on the humanistic level, but also understanding the movement of interdependence in relation to our surroundings.  Over the course of the last several years this idea of “movement” in the health and fitness industry has started to take shape, transform and manifest a trend that many ask; what is it, why is it, and is it here to stay?

Movement Defined:

If we “google” the word “movement,”  (seems like a good place to start as any), there is no true definition of the word itself, it seems it is subjective and can mean many things. Wikipedia (movement as in a clock) suggests ; “movement is the internal mechanism of a timepiece.” Wikipedia goes on to include sub divisions in art and music, motor control for human physiology and onward to a social movement, as in a revolution of sorts. All applies.

At the simplistic level, I feel that this, all of this, is true and if we look closer we can see that they all have varying degrees of commonality. Humans are a timepiece, are we not? Everything in our internal mechanism is constantly in a state of movement and change – we grow, develop, evolve, age, slow down, speed up etc. We are in a constant state of internal dance.

One of the best descriptions of “movement,” I have heard most recently, is by Ido Portal, born and raised in Israel he is a pioneer of movement culture. Literally, that’s his company as well! his video has been shared around the globe and what I love about this dude is the first thing he says is; “I don’t do exercise, that’s not what I do, I talk about movement. Fitness is a small, small, small world within the universe of movement.” He is bang on.

Historically, movement has been used to express emotions and in language to express creative thought, and we can see throughout history that dance and music has been part of almost every cultural lineage as a means to tell stories of epic grandeur and to express one’s inner soul to the world, to be closer to family and to ones spiritual path, to release energy.

The Flow of energy:

Any infinite state of being has energy. Every living thing, human, animal, plant, water, air, earth and fire – is all comprised of energy and is in a constant state of motion, a constant state of flow. As an athlete I was introduced to movement as a young child, dabbling in ballet and dance, then gymnastics for a short term, then martial arts for the past 10 years. Each with it’s own style and expression of movement and motion.

In my professional career, apart from the obvious Yoga Teacher Training and Strength and Conditioning Certifications, I was first introduced to the “free movement” concept when I started playing around with the Functional Movement Systems, over a decade ago.

This system is usually thought of and represented in our industry, as a screening tool to address and identify dysfunction or breakdowns in movement patterning in the human form.  By breaking down the joint by joint approach, the FMS  combined the science of movement, but with a more clinical approach to help bridge the gaps in treatment and diagnosis to prevention and evolving ones perspective on how each joint relates to the other etc.

A school of thought that was born out of the neuro developmental process and paediatric development fields, by researching how we, as infants use motor control, how we do what we do.  As babies we are not told to move, we just do. We weren’t taught to fire our core, or told how to roll over or to use our limbs. We weren’t taught to crawl or walk; it is genetically coded in our DNA. Movement is the expression of our own internal and external connection to our world.

Most recently, over the last 3 years, working full time in a clinic and a sports environment with the FMS systems and Fit to Train Human Performance Systems, I find many people, young and old do not explore movement as we did as children and the body breaks down as a result of de stabilization, and loss of joint mobility. When we are not free to move, our health deteriorates. It’s as simple as that.

Our industry, the industry of fitness is great, however, it does segregate and break up methodologies in order to understand how they can apply to us, but at the same time – they are not separate. For so long I have heard phrases such as: “I can’t lift weights, I am an endurance runner,” or ” only cardiovascular exercise will result in weight loss,” or ” I can’t lift weights, I’ll bulk up.”These phrases are still part of our industry and a re education is deeply necessary to overcome the exclusion of our disciplines and to resurrect the inclusion of natural movement and play.

Now, re educating that to clients who want to lose weight, want to rehab an injury, want to be pain free is the hardest, but also most rewarding part of my job. Every day I have the opportunity to show clients how to improve their well being by proving the quality of movement, rather than merely the quantity is the key component in flow – in going beyond just the movement. When we flow from one movement to the next, with intention and purpose, controlled and methodical appreciation of every joint, muscle, system, breath and connection – we are in flow and we begin to see things differently, we being to feel a way of life, not a moment or fragment in time.

The Movement Revolution:

Yoga and Martial Arts are ancient forms of, what I call a dance of the soul. 5,000 years ago, it was not taught as a form of “exercise” or merely a way to find your Qi in “meditation.” It was and still is a flow of life, our energy force, our communion with ourselves and our surroundings and it is a way of being, not a “thing.”

Yet, it has given birth to many methods of modern day “movement” based trends that are gaining leverage in our industry as the best way to live a fulfilling, happy, enriched life.


Scott Sonnon: TacFit CST & Intu Flow:

“Youth is the ability to adapt and remain in flow.” – Scott Sonnon

Last year I was introduced to a pioneer in this field of movement, none other than Scott Sonnon, founder of the discipline of joint mobility, a world renowned joint mobility program called the Intu-Flow Longevity System.

In addition to this he has created RMAX International, with disciplines such as; Prasara Yoga, the TacFit CST (Circular Strength Training), TacGYM, TacFit Police, TacFit Commando, Recuper8 etc. All of which bring to light the necessary structure and education of movement with purpose that outlines a scope a practice beneficial for any person or professional designation.

You will have to wait till next week to learn more about Scott’s empire when we take a closer look at Intu Flow and Wolf Systems mobility yoga classes.

To learn more about Scott Sonnon, watch this video on how he started his journey in flow:


John Wolf of Wolf Fitness Systems: Evolution Kettlebell Groundworks

Next up, I was introduced to John Wolf, founder and alpha male of “Wolf Fitness Systems.” John is also the Director of US Operations for RMAX International with Scott Sonnon. I sourced out to find John Wolf after watching a video from TacFit Police, as I was pursuing a career in law enforcement last year; which is still a large part of my vision. Learning more about his work with TacFit CST, and Intu Flow, as well as his own creation of the movement discipline called “EKG (Evolution Kettlebell Groundwork);  a style of training that combines the movement discipline of the joint by joint mobility approach, as well as building strength and endurance with kettle-bells, club-bells, and circular body weight training.

Next week I will be flying down to Salinas California to meet John and “The Pack” and to experience first hand this style of training full force.

To see EKG movement in real time, check out this video edited by ESIK Productions:

Through John, I linked up with Animal Flow founder Mike Fitch and through Fit to Train Human Performance Systems I was connected with MoveNat. Two organizations speaking the same language – that movement, play and exploration are at the heart of flow and living a fulfilled life.

human movement 3

MovNat and Animal Flow:

Two more pioneers and leaders in our industry, I have had the pleasure to connect with is MovNat, an organization that teaches real-world physical competency and conditioning based on natural human movement skills, to support a lifetime of physical activity. Their movement skills focus on locomotive skills (walking, running, balancing, jumping etc), as well as utilizing manipulative skills (throwing, carrying, lifting, catching) and combative skills (grappling, striking, hunting… back in the day).

The other is Global Body Weight Training Systems and Animal Flow founded by industry leader Mike Fitch. Animal Flow is a primal workout system combining animalistic movements with elements of Parkour, break dancing, and gymnastics in a freestyle flow of fluid movement that he coins is intense and fun, and I would have to agree.

To learn more about Animal Flow check it out here:

To learn more about MovNat check it out here:

Are you evolving?

Exercise and movement is evolving, and thus are we. Movement will set you free. A revolution in movement is upon us and over the course of the next 4 weeks, I will be offering an in-depth look at movement and exploration my own energy flow, showcasing some of the work of these disciplines. This will involve gruelling hours of play time, jumping, balancing, throwing my body weight around and a few kettlebells in the den, in the park and wherever Salinas takes me and I will be documenting it all.

  • Part 1:  Intu Flow and Prasara Yoga
  • Part 2: Animal and Primal Movement
  • Part 4: Evolve Your Groundwork with Circular Strength Training and EKG
  • Part 3: Tactical Movement for Tactical Response

Look out VanCity because I could possible bring back John Wolf and his Pack and introduce TacFit CST and EKG to the Canadian masses. This is a revolution you will want to be a part of. It will change your life, are you ready to evolve? If you are then, the below leaders should be on your radar.


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