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.
“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.
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 says “toughness 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.
- Physical Living: TacFit Fire Fighter – http://physicalliving.com/tacfit-firefighter-review/
- Resilience Breathing: http://www.breathinggift.com/
- TacFit: http://www.rmaxi.com/tacfit/
- TacFit Fire Fighter: http://tacfitfirefighter.com/2013/03/28/tacfit-instructor-certification-spring-2013/
- Interview with Scott Sonno by John Sifferman: http://youtu.be/9Z2352Gl7dE
- Physical Living: The Premier “Tactical Fitness” System:
- TacFit Instructor Certification Manual 2013 and CST Instructor Certification Manual: You’ll have to take the courses to get all the info!
- LEPAT – http://www.lepat.com/