Welcome to Part 2 of my report on my learnings and ideas sparked by the Equinox High Performance Living Symposium I attended in NYC in November. I covered the work of Gray Cook in Part 1 and now I am going to somewhat cover Brandon Marcello's exciting and entertaining lecture called “Recovery and Regeneration. What is it, why we need it, and how to implement it”.
Although Brandon’s talk was chocked full of helpful tips and great takeaways, when I say somewhat cover, I actually mean I will not be expanding upon his list of best practices for Recovery and Regeneration (R&R) in this blog entry (sorry Brandon, not that he'll read this anyways). Instead, I will be expanding on the psychosocial factors that influence the value of R&R.
I believe it is my responsibility to take from my Part 1 blog entry on Gray Cook’s screening protocols, and assess the influencing factors to an industry’s shift towards more R&R. I hope to speak on why I believe we at Equinox are so gung-ho about R&R. Why now? And to what value can R&R provide you beyond just stating the what-to-do’s, why-to do's, and how-to-do's.
My thoughts and opinions are my own, they are a mashup of my influences from all aspects of life, and this blog entry is aimed at curious ‘Lifestyle as Medicine’ ambassadors, and holistic health and fitness advocates. Those that enjoy a unique creative writing style, filled with poetic inclinations, philosophical undertones, well-intentioned life-enhancing information, and pop cultural references will be most entertained.
My blog will first evaluate the source of our imbalanced exercise approach. The mere fact that R&R is a trendy topic of discussion is a sign that we are working out too frequently and too intensely without much regard for restorative practices. Secondly, we need to adopt a continuum-based diagnostic approach to objectively map our motivations, and manage our actions. All things in life can scale and change, therefore I believe a continuum lense is vital to gaining a healthy perspective. And lastly, we need to forge a platform for context-driven decision making, and by that I believe we need to ask the right questions in a manner that allows our perspectives to be free of bias and dogma. From these three investigative strategies can we truly benefit from Brandon Marcello or any health professional’s Recovery & Regeneration recommendations.
We are walking contradictions. We are big talking indecision makers. We are our own self driving slave drivers. A climate of ambivalence in an ecosystem of overabundance has weathered us down into a thunderous existential crisis. Two roads diverged in a wood, we somehow know to take the road less traveled. Being that the journey was the destination all along, we end up finding ourselves, but frighteningly realize we were never lost, just dazed and confused. What use is motion without a compass? What use is a target without a map? And what good is direction without a destination?
I find my life so fascinatingly contradictory at times. I run before I crawl. I act before I think. I expect the unexpected. I want what I can’t have. I say what’s not on my mind. I strike when the iron’s cold. I always know when I never try. I’m afraid of what I can’t control. I have a bad habit of closing doors when they’re open. I hate myself for loving too honestly. I’m constantly torn between ‘if it’s meant to be it will be’ and ‘if you want it go and get it’.
The contradictions we all experience are created by our desire to do more with less. We consistently go beyond our means and expect to gain without loss. Our meritocratic free world has morphed the sadistic work-life balance into a masochistic world of life-work balance. Instead of working 9-5, people brag of the 5-9 workday. “Being busy” is like wearing a badge of honour in today’s societal cult of productivity. This seductive results-driven high performance lifestyle has got me thinking why and to what end? Why high performance? Is the alluring lifestyle sustainable? As a fitness coach with high standards, high expectations, and high aims, I teach towards high performance. But the human in me begs the questions: am I liberating or limiting my students when I push them to their maximal threshold, to the point just before collapse, and to the place where the uncomfortable becomes comfortable. I’m either a hero that helps people fulfill their dreams or I’m a villain that walks the fine line between sociopath and health coach vigilante.
I ask them and myself, how hard is hard enough? How fast is fast enough? How smart is smart enough? How excellent is excellent enough? What is enough? What is the limit? Why do we try to outsmart Newton and disprove his 3rd law of motion, when we know “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Don’t we know that this behavior of too much yang without enough yin will lead to acute/chronic injury and adrenal fatigue. Why do we spend so much time working-out when we should be balancing it with more working-in?
Finding Traction is a documentary about Nikki Kimball, one of the world’s most successful female ultramarathon runners. (I have a point that I’m making that conveniently uses this recent Netflix doc, so sit tight.) The movie documented her rollercoaster of a journey through the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont, the longest hiking trail in the world. I deduced her purpose for running into three main reasons: legacy, physiology, and psychology. (I will get back to Nikki.)
Freudian psychoanalysis says that in order for humans to satisfy biological and psychological needs, they are motivated by two things and two things only: pain avoidance and pleasure seeking. To find traction and clarity on our quest for a healthy balanced lifestyle, I envision these two motivations put on opposite ends of a continuum spectrum; pain avoidance on the left side, pleasure seeking on the opposite right side. I envision Nikki’s three purposes for running plotted along this continuum; legacy closer to pleasure seeking, physiology off center more to the left, and psychology a little further to the left for Nikki since she suffers from intermittent depression. From this plot, I am then able to scale her three running purposes more objectively rather than define them as either pain avoidance or pleasure seeking absolutes, because after all, one’s purpose can shift and change relative to many confounding factors.
The continuum-based thinking puts dualities like hero and villain, black and white, strong and weak, on even playing ground fielded by opportunities to scale. In reality, we are both the hero and the villain, we see in shades of gray, and we fluctuate between strength and weakness and elicit value from both.
Set on a continuum, Nikki’s three reasons for running plotted along Freud's two motivational forces, is a method to measure any and all actions. Let us use this method to release our obsession with absolutes and encourage a more rational and relative approach to what we endeavor. It’s just like weighing the pros and cons of our actions. Before jumping into a decision, take a second to assess whether your action is pleasure seeking or pain avoiding. Am I foam rolling because it feels fantastic or am I doing it because I want to avoid potential injury. This will validate your reason for foam rolling, and thus will encourage you to do it more often with more meaning. When we know why we do things, what we do becomes much clearer.
Another strategy to add to our arsenal on decision making when implementing more R&R in our lives is to ask the famous 5W questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, (+How). They are the questions we are taught to ask regarding anything and everything. They are the pillars to finding answers. I enjoy personifying words because I believe they bring more meaning and relatability to my life. I am particularly excited by Will Smith’s new upcoming movie Collateral Beauty. His character personifies words and he writes letters to them. They are time, love, and death, and they respond to him in the form of people who are other characters in the movie. I think this concept is wonderfully imaginative and a bit cheesy, but I love Will Smith cheesy!
Below are my (cheesy) personifications of the 5Ws and how they may help provide you direction. Here’s some of their advice (take your time absorbing these, read it over a few times, and visualize a famous actor to personify each of these words):
Mr. Why: "Be clear about your purpose and intentions, communicate them with confidence, and in return the path will be bright and enlightening".
Ms. What: "Be strategic about your best practices, organize them accordingly, and in return the stepping stones become firm and uplifting."
Mrs. Who: "Be vulnerable to your guides, show humility, and in return people will catch you when you fall, and will be the wind at your back when you least expect it."
Mr. How: "Be unrelenting about effort and execution, be bold and consistent, and in return your tools will widen your range of ability and accelerate your pace."
Ms. Where: "Be open-minded about uncontrollable climate, storms will come and go, be proactive and adaptable, in return your perspective will shift and thus reveal a deeper sense of self."
Mr. When: "Be brave about uncertainty and doubt, befriend fear and embrace the unknowing, and in return you will know why this was all meant to be."
Hopefully this Part 2 blog entry has provided you with insight on how to think about R&R, not just as a means to an end, but a justification to reach a higher purpose and deeper meaning. I hope the continuum approach and the personification of the 5Ws are two strategies that can help you make better decisions. They are methods that can help you screen for, regulate, and determine the most effective course of action regarding your journey to optimal health. It may help you decipher movement as use or abuse, nutrition as utility or futility, and R&R as gain or pain.
Just remember, when you are clear with Mr. Why, Ms. What teaches you efficiency, Mrs. Who reveals opportunity, Mr. How coaches you effectiveness, Ms. Where steers discipline, and Mr. When reminds you of patience and appreciation.
Thank you for reading my blog.
All the best on your R&R endeavors, and next week, I’ll be posting my Part 3.
Always a pleasure,