Week 11 Air Insight: Flexibility

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Flexibility

Critical Concept:  Our strength is in our flexibility
There are obvious parallels between physical and psychological flexibility.  These aspects of our lives are governed by the same laws.  Mastery over one will allow you to easily master the other.  Increasing your flexibility in either domain requires equal parts will, skill and trust.  As you reach the outer limits of either mental ease or tissue integrity, you experience a peculiar sensation of insecurity.  This position is uncomfortable.  But isn’t that the idea?

Flexibility is under-rated.  People spend too much time in the Comfort Zone.  The human animal thrives on stress, adaptation and repair cycles.  Our day is comprised of a complex system of challenges, communications and interactions.  For the most part, we get to choose the degree to which we engage life. Each day presents with a myriad of opportunities to get stretched.  Look for them.

If you pay attention, you can feel individual fibers exploring new ranges of motion.  This is true for the body and the mind.  When you choose to move from the Comfort Zone to the Stretch Zone mentally or physically, you form new synapses that help you cope more effectively in the future.  There isa plastic effect that will expand your capacities as long as you continue to draw on them.  What you feel is the expansion of your scope.

If the heat in the kitchen goes up, you’ll find yourself at the next level:  the Stress Zone.  It’s where big dogs play, things hit the fan and rubber meets the road.  There are two truths regarding this zone:

1.  It’s a nice place to visit, but you don’t want to live there.

2.  It’s where growth happens.

Beyond this point, at the center of these concentric rings, is the no-go zone:  the Break-Down Zone.  Our brains and spirits are a lot like our joints - under constant duress and strain, they break down, whereas if they are underutilized, they decay and become arthritic.  Everyone spends some time in the breakdown lane at some point in their life, but those who invest the time to learn how to change a tire get “back on their way” much faster.

If our strength is in our flexibility, how do you know when to say “when?”

I’ll offer this heuristic (rule of thumb):  when increased flexibility will strengthen the situation, stretch.  The fabric of our lives will behave much like the tissues of our bodies.  When we choose to warm up properly, practice and stretch out before the stress of the game or workout, our capacities expand, injuries are reduced, and our strength and performance improves.

Follow this order: warm-up, then workout, then stretch.

Often people will try to stretch before they warm up.  This is a bad idea.  Never try to stretch a cold tissue.  Always start your activities or workouts with a gentle, yet progressive warm up.  Increase blood flow to tissues first, this will increase their pliability and reduce the chance of injury.  It is acceptable to lightly stretch through your activity, but again - make sure that this is done progressively.  Stretching at the end of your routine is a vital behavior.  Never rush the end of the workout or skip this element.  A key to achieving your fitness goals is consistent training over time.  In other words, you must avoid injury.  Stretching regularly will not only increase your performance, range of motion and comfort, it will mitigate injury as well.

In order to have an extraordinary life, you have to make extraordinary choices.  Listen to your life, seek out the “rubs” - the insecurities and the limitations.  Lean into them, relax and exhale.  Change your interpretation of that burn and trust.  Just know that on the other side of it you’ll be stronger, even if you might be a little sore, a little uncomfortable.  But isn’t that the idea?

Summary Checklist

  • Add activity every day in every way
  • Calculate Energy Balance
  • Add Functional Training
  • Use variety in your workouts
  • Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
  • Gradually progress to a higher intensity
  • Adopt the Buddy System
  • Get your spine checked by a chiropractor
  • Do what moves you – have fun, employ Goal Setting and Clear Standards
  • Increase your flexibility

Being Fit vs. Being Healthy: The 10 Facets of Physical Fitness

by admin

Does this look natural to you?
(Okay, for many of you this is outright disgusting and for others, compared to the many American men sporting monster bellies, it’s a breath of fresh air.)

For sure this guy looks big and muscular; for sure he looks strong; but there are a couple of questions that begged to be asked: 

1.    Is he healthy? 

2.    Is he fit?

These are not only interesting questions, but important ones as well.  There are many ways to look big and strong, which can give the impression of being healthy and fit, but is big and strong healthy and fit?  A body builder or even an Olympic weight lifter is unquestionably strong; but … fit? … healthy?

Rule One:  To be healthy, you must be fit. BUT, a person can be fit, and not be healthy. For example, it’s highly probable that the man pictured above has taken steroids to get the way he is.  It’s hard to know whether he can run, jump, and do sustained exercise over time – a sign of being fit. We do know that steroids destroy one’s health over time in many ways.

Bodybuilding and fitness magazines are filled with pages that boast men and women with bulging muscular figures, super-tanned bodies, and not a trace of fat on them.  At first glance at a bodybuilder or fitness model, you might say “Wow, they look incredibly fit!” But, physical appearances can fool you. While bodybuilders and fitness models are certainly adept at sculpting their bodies by doing exercises that isolate particular muscle groups, they are often far from being healthy and fit; and they are often even far from being functionally fit. There can be benefits to isolation and machine exercises, but if your goal is to maximize your overall health and your ability to perform everyday tasks and challenges, there are a different set of skills on which you should focus.

At Bonfire we advocate exercise regimens that use what are called universal motor recruitment patterns – exercises that get your entire body moving in symphony…efficiently, effectively and quickly from one place to another with strength, balance and agility. These movements are universal in that they are found everywhere.  These basic movements are used in everything you do in daily life, from homemaking to physical labor to sports and recreation; they include:

  • Jumping
  • Lifting
  • Reaching
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Throwing
  • Running
  • Climbing

These functional movements mimic what you do in life versus calf-raises, pec-flies or leg curls, which are non-functional, isolated and artificial movements that do not serve us in real life activities. Universal motor recruitment patterns are safe, in fact the safest kinds of movements you can do. Adduction/abduction machines, lateral raises and flies are not natural, and thus are not inherently safe movements.

Also, when doing universal recruitment type of exercises it’s very demanding on the cardiovascular system which makes your ‘workouts’ very time efficient – you get an awesome workout in a very short period of time.  For more on this subject, please read Short Interval High Intensity Exercise.

The 10 Elements Of Fitness
According to Crossfit.com, if your goal is optimum physical competence then there are 10 general physical components that need to be considered:

1. Endurance (Cardiovascular and Cardio-Respiratory): This is your body’s ability to use and deliver oxygen to your body.

2. Stamina (Muscular Endurance): This is your body’s ability to store, process, and use energy.

3. Strength: This is the ability of your muscles or a muscular unit to apply force.

4. Flexibility: The ability to maximize the range of motion of a joint.

5. Power: The ability of your muscles to maximize their force in a minimum amount of time.

6. Speed: The ability to minimize the amount of time it takes you to accomplish a task or movement.

7. Coordination: The ability to combine several different movement patterns in a single distinct movement.

8. Accuracy: The ability to control a movement in a given direction or intensity.

9. Agility: The ability to minimize the time going from one movement to another.

10. Balance: The ability to control the center of gravity of your body in relation to your supportive base.

The first four (Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility) are organic (natural) and are developed through exercise and training.  Science has shown that improvements in each one of these components can be confirmed biologically (actually under a microscope) as you improve your training.  The last four (Coordination, Accuracy, Agility, Balance) are neuromuscular and developed through practice and repetition. These are improvements that we see with specific challenges and tests.  Those that are a combination of both (Power, Speed) are improved when exercise and training are combined with practice and repetition over time.

The Bonfire Health exercise program has been designed to help you build all 10 of these fitness elements regardless of your age or current level of activity.  All of the workouts are tailored to any fitness level and are composed of movements that will help you build outstanding results in your health and fitness.

We were built to be healthy and successful; we were meant to move.  Follow the Bonfire program and unleash your potential to be strong, fit, functional, healthy and ready for life’s challenges!