The Sitting Generation
Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, left me with a thought I cannot forget. It helps to explain why our bodies often experience chronic pain and injuries. We were not made for the life we are living. Simply put,
"For 2000 generations we were hunter/gatherers. For 200 generations, we were farmers. For 20 generations we operated machines. And now, for 2 generations, we are the Sitting Generation."
We went from hunter/gatherers to farmers to working machines to simply sitting. No wonder when we get up to move, we are achey. In pain. Stuck. Rigid. Immobile. What do we expect? Our bodies were made to move. Yesterday, I went to speak at a local city employee wellness sponsored luncheon. I was invited to present the benefits of fitness and making wellness a lifestyle, not something you SIT around and talk about. But something you actually get up and DO. I carefully planned what I was going to bring and wanted to provide as much information as possible. I had my employees putting together fun workouts and information for them so we could really get our message across. And if you know me, I like to be as prepared as possible, and so I took this invitation very seriously and rearranged my schedule to make it a priority.
My experience was so much different from what I had expected. I arrived at this beautiful room and was greeted by someone who was there in place of the person who organized this. There was a buffet lunch from a local grill restaurant with enough food to easily feed 30-40 people. It included white rice and beans, vegetables, and a combination of chicken and steak. I declined a plate, knowing that I could have eaten a plate of vegetables, but I am currently not eating meat, and I don't eat the rice or beans. I also didn't want to be eating while I was talking and based on what I may have put on my plate, it is my experience that it makes others uncomfortable when they eat without mindfulness of what they are eating in front of others who eat mindfully.
Instead, I made conversation with the two women who entered the room, got their plates of food and sat down. It turns out, that was it. An entire city with a staff of employees near 100 and 2 people come to their wellness speaker and luncheon. Ok. I was prepared for 20. But 3 works. They had no idea of who I was or where I was coming from and so our discussion began there. I created The Energy Lab. And The Energy Lab is hard to explain until you step into the doors. Our conversation began with my background and how it led me to bring The Energy Lab to life, which eventually turned into an understanding of creating a life of wellness. The Energy Lab is not a gym. It is a lifestyle where our goal is for each person to create the best version of themselves. I could see lightbulbs go off as I directed many questions back at them. How do they like to move? How do they eat? One of them had a habit of exercising for a period in her life and then lost it. I asked her what kept her going then and why did she stop. One woman has used current books that offer advice on eating well to turn around her nutrition and her family's, but she does not move outside of being at work. They talked about sitting on their couches at night. They talked about their desk space and office space. I got up and moved and showed them movement prep and what that means. I wanted to get them up to try it, but there were plates of food in front of them and food inside of them. Despite my intuition that it should have been a moving discussion, the protocol for a wellness discussion/lunch is to sit and eat. I was so struck by that.
But what was even more striking was the number of people, other employees who were invited to the discussion, who came in quietly, grabbed a plate of food and left. They grabbed their food and walked back out. Really? is all I could think. So the city is spending money on educating their staff to live healthier lives by buying them lunch. The speaker who shares his or her time to come and to educate is left in a room with 30 empty chairs and 3 filled ones to do the job of what the program was designed for. I took a deep breath and refocused knowing that I could touch the three women sitting in front of me. I applaud them because they are on the right track. They talked about how difficult it is to get their families on board with nutritious food. They talked a lot about why they don't have time and about the things that get in the way of making good choices. They talked about the parts of their bodies that are in pain. But they were there to learn.
My work was cut out for me. And so I began. I will share this with you in the hopes that more people can benefit from education about living well. I am fortunate and thankful beyond words for the broad range of people who do come in to The Energy Lab and listen and take what they have learned into their lives. I am also thankful for my mentors who I have learned from (Michol Dalcourt, Annika Kahn, John Hardy, Derrick Price, Derek Vandenbrink, John Sinclair, Todd Durkin, and many peers I learn and move and play with)! Here is what I shared:
- Our bodies were made to move, not to sit for as long as we are sitting. All of the conveniences that have been created to make our lives easier, have had the opposite effect by making our health worse, which in turn will lead to making our lives harder. Right? Scheduling doctor's appointments, time missed from work for doctor's appointments or sickness, taking care of sick or injured people in our lives, living in pain are all things that make our lives harder not easier, despite that we can now sit on the couch and use a remote to turn our TV or fan or alarm or garage door on and off.
- We all have to work and most work requires sitting. Some people realize they should move too, so they leave work and then go get a really hard workout in, taking their body straight from a stuck stress, laying the fascia down in a sitting position all day, to movement. They suddenly begin to move and tear the fascia right out of its pattern that it spent the day shaping itself to. The fascia is almost always dehydrated because chances are that not enough true water was taken in (coffee and tea seem to be the preferred beverages of choice and I'm not even going to go into the soda conversation). What happens next when we go from sitting all day to sudden and intense movement without preparation of the tissues is usually stressing out an already stressed-out body more - usually injury or chronic injury which happens over time as an accumulation of stuck stress. The worst part is that then the exercise, the movement, the anything-else is blamed for causing the injury; not the lifestyle that led to it. Usually the old lifestyle resumes with less movement because fear gets in the way that the same thing will happen. Unless we change our lifestyles, the same thing will happen. What next? There needs to be a disruption, a shift, in the current way of thinking. I am willing to be that and to offer The Energy Lab as a place to cause that shift to occur.
- How does it work? Our fascia is the bag that creates our shape and supports us, giving us our shape stability. The fascia relies on hydration. Hydration needs to be both internal and external. An example again is true water for external hydration, and movement that lays down the lines of stress for collagen production to keep the fascia tensile and supporting our structure with integrity (tensegrity). Internal hydration is when we can stimulate fibroblast production to smooth out our cell walls so that our insides can "drink up" the external hydration we are providing. When our insides are hydrated our bodies glide instead of "klunk". (MELT Method, Jungshin Fitness, Movement Prep, Loaded Movement are all example of ways to stimulate collagen production and hydrate the body from the inside.)
- Get your mind right and allow yourself to transition to "your time" in your exercise program. That means you are connected to your body and can listen to it. To listen to it, you have to be able to hear it, which is best done when you are in tune and not watching a TV monitor or electronic device, but are truly present.
- Your nutrition is responsible for the way your body looks and the way you feel. Exercise is necessary to maintain muscle tone and metabolism. Even if you lose weight through nutrition alone, at some point if there is no muscle present your metabolism will slow down and it will become more and more difficult to lose or maintain weight. With exercise and strength training, the weight you lose will have a better chance of staying off if you continue to eat clean because muscle burns 9 calories per hour whereas fat only burns 4 calories per hour. The stronger you are, the more you are constantly burning.
- To stay engaged in an exercise program, variability, movement prep, and fun are all essential components. If you enjoy the community and are in a non-threatening environment it is even better. You can of course, work out hard, but be sure that you transition from your sitting day or your driving day or even from your standing in a certain position or sleeping in a certain position first!
After an hour and half, I wrapped up, hoping that I had touched those three women in some way. I left them with a free pass to try out our "fitness playground" and wondered if I will ever see them again. I would do it again, hoping that in some small way it made a difference. You never know. I encourage you to never pass up an opportunity to learn, especially when it comes to something as miraculous, fragile, and important for everything we do and everything we are as our body is.
This article is another example of how more and more we are understanding the dangers of our sitting generation - http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005