- The Equinox High Performance Living Symposium -
Two weekends ago, I flew to NYC to attend a fitness and health care symposium hosted by Equinox Fitness Clubs, the leader in high-end fitness, health and lifestyle. The aim of the gathering was to solve for and release research on high performance living. Top minds in the fields of fitness, kinesiology, physical therapy, neuroscience, psychology, chiropody, medicine, cognitive behavioral science, and regenerative wellness came together to share their recent workings through lectures and practical sessions. These creative scientists presented on their current and future initiatives, and offered opinions and constructive solutions to movement, psychosocial, and overall health and wellbeing. Here is a report on my learnings and thoughts from the presentations that intrigued me the most. This blog entry will consist of 5 parts in no particular order. My intention for sharing this valuable information is to provide you with the latest trends and insights to help open you to new perspectives, practices, and principles.
Gray Cook is a Yoda in orthopedics, physical therapy, and fitness. He is one of the top minds in the world because he can take principles in kinesiology and physiology, and integrate them with modern sociology and psychology, in a manner that inspires us to take action, relevant to our daily lives.
Gray defines ‘hacking’ as a strategy to manage one’s time, activities, and obstacles in a more effective manner as efficiently as possible. His opening thoughts on physical competency and literacy struck a chord with most professionals in the audience. As high level fitness professionals and athletes, we have already hacked movement. We are highly conditioned to move without consideration. We guiltily move effortlessly and flawlessly. We hold the highest and most blinding standards of performance with no regard for sub-par. We move gracefully and full of finesse without thinking. Our autopilot ability to move with perfection has ironically become our crutch.
The problem with most movement specialists is that we take our abilities for granted. We have come to under appreciate the complexity of functional movement systems. Many of us have trouble empathizing with our clientele and class participants because movement has always come relatively easy to us since childhood. In order to hack our client’s movement, first we need to establish a baseline examination process that provides us with data from which to further investigate.
Gray briefly outlined his game-changing "Functional Movement Screen", a test developed to target problems and track progress. The screen is based on primitive movement patterns available to all human bodies. Bottomline, a screening process is an integral tool that should be administered by all movement practitioners. It can prevent injuries from happening, it can establish priorities for movement programming, and it can highlight strengths and limitations.
Gray says that the screen not only enables practitioners, but it empowers them with information on their clients. One major problem our industry continually battles with is physical literacy. We get overly excited and anxious to perform movement that we overlook its fundamentals and our own flaws. We want to perform movement poetry before we even know the movement alphabet.
Even before administering the Functional Movement Screen, I believe there should be a pre-screening that includes communicating intentions, prioritizing realistic goals, screening for cognitive biases, counselling psycho-social concerns, and examining pre-existing conditioning and compensatory issues. If all fitness professionals and movement specialists were to screen and pre-screen with such depth and detail, we'd all be prepared to succeed.
An intriguing observation was Gray’s use of computing terminology to speak on movement coaching. Perhaps his recent lecture to Google altered his vocabulary, but curiously, he used computer science words such as download, upload, plug-and-play, software, hardware, bandwidth, data storage, disk drive full, default setting, compute, and operating system, to better communicate his coaching principles and philosophies. I believe we were witness to a reshaping and paradigm shift of our current state of movement linguistics, not with the intention to complicate, but to better relate to our ever growing tech-savvy culture. For example, I ask my clientele what their default settings are when it comes to times of stress. Alcohol, sugar, smoking, fatty foods, simple carbs? How can you better manage your default settings? Why have these defaults been set? Can new defaults be downloaded or is your disk drive too full for new data? I think you get the point. Of all things, I didn't see an upgrade in movement language and vocabulary as the novel game changing approach to coaching. But hey, maybe it'll catch on with the millennials!
Gray's allusion to the concept of ‘movement as a language’ opened my mind to the necessity for movement interpreters and translators, not just trainers and instructors. I get the impression that trainers and instructors get too caught up in the ‘what to do’s’ and ‘how-to’s’, they under-coach the ‘when’ and ‘why’. As Simon Sinek says, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it".
I just recently watched the film Arrival with Amy Adams and am completely intrigued by Gray's lecture and its correlation to the film's message. If we were faced with aliens that could only communicate with movement, Gray Cook would be the North American interpreter, i.e., Amy Adams' character. To me, he would be the most creative and scientific mind we have to represent mankind, responsible for uniting not only humans with aliens, but uniting ourselves with each other.
I believe what Gray has offered to the health and fitness industry can also be seen as metaphors for our daily lives beyond the gym. Screening ourselves before we tackle a challenge is in essence developing a strong sense of self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-monitoring.
Since one's relationship with movement can determine the bond between mind, body, and spirit, physical literacy needs to be taught at an early age. As integral as learning the linguistic ABC’s is to a child's growth and development, we must put in the same efforts towards learning the physical ABC’s. We must learn to interpret and compute movement through a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis. And it can start with hacking the movement language. After all, actions speak louder than words.
Since actions speak louder than words, perhaps movement will be mankind's secret weapon of the future. Thoughts?
Thank you for reading,