Exercise for HEALTH: the story of Amy

Here is a case study to showcase what training for health should look like. It’s definitely different than training for peak performance. While the physical freaks, the hardcore, and the professionals may have their day in the spotlight, most folks just want to be healthy and look good.

In the grand scheme of things, nearly all of us should look to the Exercise Moderates.

You may not want to listen to my advice.

This, from the guy who works in physical rehab and sports performance. Who takes time and effort trying to deliver original content on a training related blog. A guy with a hobby that includes speed and lifting massive masses of mass. A professional in the biz, who enjoys reading and thinking about training and sharing the journey with others.

But what if he’s wrong? Or less correct than say, someone with a different perspective? Someone who lives at the same address who doesn’t put in near as much effort?
I know my wife better than anyone on the planet. I know Amy’s history, her ways and inclinations. I understand her and what it means to be her – to a point. Of course we see the world differently. We don’t agree on every jot and tiddle, nor do we feel the need to.

Amy is an Exercise Moderate. She values training enough to make time for it, and little more. I don’t understand such creatures. It simply does not compute. Amy never was a serious athlete. She does not love or hate sports or exercise.

Amy knows plyos!

She is usually able to overcome the anti-exercise inertia that we all experience. She gets it done. She knows and believes in what’s good for her, the prevention of osteoporosis, the maintaining of strength and balance, and the blood flow to the brain. She has experienced how it makes her feel.

Three to four days per week, Amy runs for approximately thirty minutes and then lifts weights. The resistance exercise is an abbreviated total body routine against free weights and gravity; a few circuits of movements such as squat, push-up, row, deadlift, and lunge variations.

Posture, balance, strength, stability, check, check, check, check…With minimal equipment and no travel time, the ceremony is finished within 40 to 50 minutes.

If she’s feeling a bit soft, she’ll reign in her diet a little. If her back or neck aches, she’ll do a handful of select stretches and upper back strengthening. Even more spectacular and startling is that fact that she accomplishes this without drama or fanfare.

This is likely the absolute best way to go for health. We are finally pinning this down, and it makes sense. A number of studies have suggested that moderate exercise appears best for longevity, and while exercise is critical, the “more is better” mindset needs to go.

Although joggers as a group appear to live longer than sedentary nonjoggers, moderate joggers have lower mortality rates than sedentary nonjoggers.

However, strenuous joggers – people who ran faster than 7 mph for more than four hours a week; or who ran faster than 7 mph for more than 2.5 hours a week with a frequency of more than three times a week – have a mortality rate that is not statistically different from that of the sedentary group.

The dose of running that was most favorable for reducing mortality was jogging 1 to 1.4 hours per week, with no more than three running days per week, at a slow or average pace,” the authors wrote.

In truth, the problem may be that the Exercise Moderates are not the ones who feel compelled to work in fitness, study exercise through research and experience, or write health/fitness blogs. They have received the numerous benefits of their efforts. And they have moved on.

In time, somebody will have to care for the couch potatoes (metabolic disease) and sport/fitness fanatics (orthopedic disabilities).

– – – – – – – –

This is Amy
She doesn’t feel the need to compete at anything.
Amy overcomes many legitimate barriers and the internal inertia that resists movement.
She doesn’t need a training partner or app.
She does, however, need some music.
Amy can perform one unassisted chin-up but could care less.
She doesn’t make a big deal about personal records or set-backs.
Amy doesn’t complicate and obsess regarding her diet.
Amy is smart.
                      Be like Amy!

Compassion after the Flu

Yesterday, for me, was a day after the flu. I was able to manage going about my business just fine, not flat on my back like the previous day and night before that.  I haven’t been wiped out like that for a few years, and yesterday was like a glimpse into an alternate reality.

By the grace of God, I’m not prone to depression or -real- anxiety. I worry some. But my shortcomings fall far more along the lines of pride and short temper. What I felt yesterday was not right or wrong. It was real, beyond my control, and quite different than my typical existence.

I have read a fair amount about depression and try to listen to those who deal with it. I know a few things. But this is not understanding.



The day after the flu, even an optimist sees through a clouded lens. Extroverted tendencies are squelched. You would much rather sit in the car than go talk to the other parents at your sons soccer game. You don’t really think about. You just…sit there.

Inertial is heavy and nearly overwhelming.

Professional goals? Fitness or life goals?

“Get through the day,” is the only thing on your agenda. Activities require effort and why on earth would you want to play, exercise, or move anywhere beyond what’s required?

Laughing comes slow. You understand humor in things and you are capable of laughter. But you feel no impulse to add to the party. Sleep comes easy, even though you slept plenty on the previous night and day.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt requires divine intervention.

Depression is not weakness, mental, physical, spiritual, or otherwise. But the huge stigma remains because, in part, we cannot see through that lens until we’re actually…behind that lens. Sure, there may be big-picture issues at play (and with the flu there certainly is). But there is something just…off…something highly chemical about it.

Which means there is something quite chemical, unearned, going on in the lives of the non-depressed, achievement oriented counterparts.  And clearly, the strongest among us are those who strive and achieve, stay the course and generally get’r done DESPITE their depression.

They say that surviving a bout of the flu leaves you stronger. The immune system does not forget.

I do not want to forget the day after the flu, appearing and functioning fine among the living, but grey and cold inside.

The flu is an opportunity for compassion.

Becoming Superhuman: The Story of Emma

This is (pretty much) Emma ; )

Having a larger “strength bucket” provides the greatest potential for…pretty much anything you hope to achieve. Most athletes, and especially young athletes, do NOT need an extreme training program that shoots the moon and stars. But they will reap enormous benefit from training that

1. corrects dysfunctional movement, asymmetry and imbalance

2. generally toughens them both mentally and physically (builds resiliency!), and

3. gives them a relatively safe and consistent path toward building superhuman strength.

In this case study, I hope to provide an example of how we may go about such things…

Emma has been training with me consistently, twice per week, for approximately 6 months. She was fairly well conditioned and had a training base prior to that. Emma was in good health. She could demonstrate quality movement patterns, had good flexibility, and showed no major alignment or asymmetry issues. With fair strength given her age and size, Emma hoped to gain some advantages in her primary sport of pole vaulting.

Six months later, and Emma is already approaching near Superhuman levels of total body strength. I mean, how many normal everyday people that weigh little over one hundred pounds can lift and carry 190??

Emm has squatted more than her bodyweight for 20 reps, is approaching a double bodyweight deadlift, and does chin-ups for reps with some weight added.

With this background information to set the stage, I want you to know, straight up, that there is NOTHING spectacular that I’m doing from a programming perspective. Emma has no major imbalances or asymmetries and she wants to be a good pole vaulter. With these things in mind, our training has focused on…

  1. More strength and core stability. Sure, we do some traditional abdominal and core exercises. But the primary stimulus for improvement is increased loading with good form in deadlifts, split-leg work like lunges, and loaded carries like farmer walks. We do at least two variations of these movements every…single…workout.
  2. Upper body strength and stability. I have Emma do a LOT of chin-ups. She does some variation, usually with intentional core involvement, every…single…workout.
  3. Her sport does demands shoulder strength with core strength in the transverse plane (think side-to-side and not front-to-back as in doing a sit-up). So she does some shoulder/core variation every…single…you get it!

Our weight training sessions are rarely what you would call epic. Sure, I push her at times in terms of loading (personal records!) or intensity of effort. But tests of this sort are the exception more than the rule. Sometimes Emma goes to vault practice after training, and there’s really no need to exhaust her with mindless grinding reps.

We focus on strength and power, doing the basics very well, far more than general conditioning. In fact, with too much endurance work, her exercise induced asthma kicks in, and it’s not exactly a fun  -or- productive work for Emma. Last time I checked, pole vaulters do not need to have exceptional aerobic or even anaerobic endurance.

But they do need a mix of good flexibility with excellent total body stability and power. And the best way to achieve this is through repeating a low variety of relatively safe, total body exercises. I’ve seen athletic girls train for years and fail to achieve the strength levels that Emma already has, in part, because they try to do too much other fluff or overwhelmingly neglect the main things that will get them STRONGER.

Ahhh…imagine if young, old, athletes, non athletes, and everyone else, could manage to set the random exercise and calorie burning aside in order to settle in to a focused, safe progression geared toward building a resilient body and a primed central nervous system.

Emma is well on her way, the story only beginning…

Speed and Knots: The Story of Austin

This is the first in what may become a series of case studies. 

Story – because I see my work as playing biomechanical detective, taking a history, doing an assessment, and spending time with the person in order to come up with more than a diagnosis of a sore body part. A compelling story makes for a more holistic perspective on the “Why” of someone’s physical strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and defeats. Hopefully, these stories will illustrate how -targeted- rehabilitation and performance training makes a difference in…life!

I’ve written two stories so far. First up is a friend who trains in my little home gym (the BLC!) while in the soccer off season. I hope readers will appreciate how athlete-specific training takes precedence over typical sport-specific training. Lean how a few basic but key adjustments to a typical training program can make an outstanding athlete even better and healthier over a hopefully longer career.


There is an outlier among us at the Bonny Lane Club. I would say “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,” but that’s wrong. Martz has EARNED each step of the journey to the MLS (pro soccer) level.

Austin’s acceleration and speed are quite literally world class. Watch the highlight reel. Seriously. Witness professional athletes, grownass men, appear to be running in mud next to him. When they realize they are getting beat to the ball or a key spot on the field, they desperately swipe at him with their arms.

Austin has been granted a mix of fast twitch muscle fibers and joint stiffness. That’s right, stiffness. The stiffness is prominent but not severe. It allows him to move with practically zero “energy leak.” Most of us have some degree of “internal” muscle force generated simply to stabilize our bones and fine-tune joint mechanics. But for people like Austin, every twitch of muscle fiber is efficiently translated to real world, freakishly quick liaustinpic2mb movement. It’s like the difference between pedaling a bike with a loose chain and cracked frame versus a carbon fiber frame and tight chain tension.

Of course this is a blessing and a curse.

Tight hip joints lend toward muscle strains. And with the stabilizing muscles in the spine called on to do so little work, the “prime movers” are overworked, huge and tight. They gradually arch his back and tip his pelvis. By the size of his superficial back muscles (lats and erector spinae), it appears as if Austin performs deadlifts and back extensions 8 days per week. He does not. The guy moves like the flash, can handle a soccer ball with precision, but struggles to lay down and move at the hip without arching or twisting his spine.

In this instance, here are a few things that are NOT likely to cause much long-term relief of chronically stiff and sore back muscles:

  1. Minerals, gels, rubs… (These are fine, but treat the symptoms and not the cause. The muscles are sore and tight from being worked in an altered length/tension relationship).
  2. Ultrasound and massage (Definitely helpful to “quiet things down” but again, definitely short-term effectiveness).
  3. Stretching of the spine/joint manipulation (We are currently doing some of this as well. But Austin’s spine segments move fairly well when muscle tightness is removed from the picture).

With these things in mind, how should Austin (or someone like him) train? I mean, are we really going to try to increase his strength or speed?

Yes! I’m hopeful and stubborn like that. However, the main goals for Austin are

  1. Show up to training camp well conditioned for the demands of soccer.
  2. Show up without injury and  resilient to the physical stress to come (hopefully 5-6 rather than 2-3 years ahead of him).

A second-tier goal includes:

3.  Improve acceleration and speed. Yes, I do believe that even Austin can improve these to an extent. I almost always find that athletes are leaving something on the table when it comes to peak performance.

How is this going to happen? Should Austin be lifting weights at all?

Again, heck yeah! Although at least half of his “lifting” session includes flowing, almost yoga type movements with emphasis on various manners of moving THIS and not moving THAT. Austin will deadlift, but rather than grinding out sets of 3 to 5 reps, he will be pulling modest weight, and focus on finishing each rep with full hip extension rather than lumbar spine extension “arching.”

Austin will be doing a LOT of hip range of motion, with special attention given to positioning of the lower back and pelvis. Mindless or traditional hip stretching are likely to  cause arching of the lower back or impingement of the femur and pelvis (both bad). I would not say that his glutes are weak, but they are definitely outpaced by his quadriceps.

Imagine, if in three months Austin can increase his usable hip range of motion by even 10%, gluteal strength and anterior core strength by 5% each!

Other big-picture, long-term helpful training recommendations include:

  1. Yoga once or twice per week – not random yoga, but with careful attention to gently moving through and not around hip tightness and maintaining proper joint congruency.
  2. Deletions: Remember, what a person is not doing is sometimes more important than anything he or she can add. I’ve encouraged Austin to be satisfied with mediocrity in endurance running. Austin already has well above average middle- and long distance running capacity. His “aerobic base” is absolutely there. Although his speed and acceleration are off the charts, he will never be world class at long distance running. He doesn’t need to be. Therefore, “conditioning” preparation should include intense interval sprints, sled pushes, and other alternatives to grueling mid- and long-distance runs.

Do you think Austin will be an even faster, less knotted up, and more resilient soccer player?

MANY people in this community are quite eager to see how the story unfolds!


“As time goes by and the story unfolds

You can take my life,

You can take my soul.”    -21 Pilots