Earlier I introduced the 3 Critical Exercise Errors most people make: Overuse, Misuse and Disuse - and the implications on the sum total stress we experience, how they push us into excessive stress levels leading to pain, injury, illness and even disease. Let’s address 3 Keys to Preventing Overuse, Misuse and Disuse, which are expanded in my upcoming book “Primal Stress: Revive - Survive - Thrive.”
Before I introduce you to these keys, let me start by offering you hard data I invested many years to collect and evaluate. For nearly a decade, I’ve been implementing these methods into government agencies, most importantly because it saves lives, but secondly, because it saves massive amounts of taxpayer dollars. How?
My approach was officially adopted as the Physical Training for the 2012 Spring Class of a major federal law enforcement agency training academy. We rigorously tracked, recorded and measured all of the data to conclude upon the effectiveness of the approach; and conducted an pre- and a post-examination using a standard called the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB). To prove the practical value of the approach, the PEB itself was not even included in the nine PT sessions. The class of federal agent recruits trained in my approach averaged the following improvements as compared to the classes of their predecessors.
- They lost an extra 5 pounds over previous classes.
- They grew 7 repetitions stronger in pushups.
- They grew 10 repetitions stronger in sit-ups.
- They ran 1:33 minutes faster in the 1.5 mile.
- They lost 1.6% more bodyfat.
- They gained 0.5 inches better flexibility.
But these were not the most significant results we achieved. However impressive these statistics are, there is one that is even more important, this federal government training academy suffered zero PT-related injuries: a phenomenon which had never before happened in the history of the agency. The average injury rate of this agency academy was 31%; approximately 15 out of 48 recruits became injured from training. If you look at the investments made, labor and industry costs incurred, law suits filed and won, and personnel replacements required, decreasing (actually eliminating) injuries sustained during training calculated to significant tax payer dollars saved.
They grew stronger and faster, got leaner, lighter and more flexible because of they weren’t overusing, misusing or dis-using their bodies with inefficient training methods. Results don’t lie. These incredible results came from three specific keys which even top government agencies neglect:
- Breath Control
- Heart-rate Recovery
- Compensatory Movement.
Recently, I gave away a free book and video called “Resilience Breathing” where I detailed a very important issue: how to seize back your breathing from the involuntary reflexes of primal stress. If you cannot recover from excessive stress, your breath changes to defensive mechanisms. These are helpful if you’re outgunned on the tundra fleeing a saber-toothed tiger, but for your healthy longevity, they’re counter-productive.
Relaxation breathing typical of yoga and pilates cannot help you until you can consciously access them. But in the crisis of excessive stress, they’re inaccessible since you don’t have the wherewithal to access and apply them. To get clarity back to where these relaxation methods can be used, requires an entirely different set of tools and techniques. If you can’t reclaim control of your exhale from the involuntary inhales, you won’t be able to use relaxing breathing techniques, because you’ll be stuck in a hyperventilation feedback loop. You need to first regain your exhale before you can even regain your presence of mind.
Breath control techniques evolved over millennia in the martial arts, and were rigorously researched for the past century in stress physiology. After several years of studying the psychophysiological methods in the former Soviet Union, applying them in a neurobehavioral clinic for the brain damaged and mentally ill children, I began implementing my findings with sports teams, government agencies, and military, police and fire departments. The above encapsulates the results of implementing effective stress recovery breath control techniques into exercise.
Heart Rate Recovery
When monitoring the breathing tendencies under stress, I tracked and measured the results of different experience levels. There was a direct correlation between the type of breathing you used, and the ability and speed with which they recovered from (and resisted) excessive stress. I hypothesized that if I could pinpoint the exact moment when excessive stress begins, where productive, positive, adaptable eustress ends and destructive, negative, unadaptable distress starts, that I would be able to maximize results and minimize the 3 Critical Errors of Overuse, Misuse and Disuse.
The biofeedback approaches I was taught by the national team coaches, special operations trainers, and researching doctors, during my years in Russia, compelled me to investigate the methods more deeply, so I set about an interdisciplinary study of stress physiology, coaching psychology, biomechanics and exercise physiology. So, I tracked the most successful breathing tendencies, and recorded their heart rates to see who was the most successful.
There is indeed an exact moment when even one more unit of stress will push you over your threshold into distress to where you cannot use good technique, where you cannot see, think or hear clearly, where you cannot move with precision, appropriate force, or proper mechanics. Across this threshold, you cannot even adapt to it and grow because it is purely a hormonal event. Everything you do beyond this wall is garbage. Certainly, it’s useful to have reflexive biochemistry to help you outrun a saber-tooth when you have no skills, but absolutely useless for healthy longevity. And the more that you exercise beyond this marker, the more you cause aches, pains, injuries, illnesses and disease, as well as accelerate the aging process.
This defining marker is your Heart Rate Maximum (HRmax). A quick, but inaccurate formula is 220-age. So, if you’re 40, then your HRmax is 180. Anything above that is garbage. But the closer you get to it, the more useful the positive stress. Stress is good (eustress), as we need it to live and grow. But excessive stress (distress) is the #1 killer in the world. So, the faster you can recover underneath your heart rate maximum, the more “fit” you are. How fast you recover is your resilience quotient, and how strongly you can resist exceeding maximum heart rate is your toughness level.
But damage had already been done. Intuitively I saw this throughout my violent childhood and across my fighting career on the US Team, but only when I traveled the country teaching for the federal government did the common characteristics appear. There was a specific pattern of adaptation that Overuse, Misuse and Disuse forged. I cataloged these patterns and tracked them.
Excessive stress triggers a set of reflexive mechanisms which mutates our posture, movement and breathing in knowable, predictable ways. These protective patterns may help us deal with a life-threatening event if we perceive we lack the skills to survive. But even if we do have the skills to address them smoothly, if our sum total stress level in our life exceeds our threshold we trigger these protective reflexes. If we persist in excessive stress, we adapt to it. The patterns become stronger, tougher to release, and harder to heal. We reinforce the dysfunction.
When you face excessive stress, first compensate for the protective reflexes they elicit. You must compensate with the opposite movement that the stress causes. If you get stressed out and your shoulders start to cringe into a shrug, and then start performing pushups, you can’t have good technique. So, as I explained yesterday in Misuse, you adapt to that stressful shoulder-shrugged version of a pushup, and quickly cause pain and injury to your shoulders, elbows, neck and lower back.
Wash the slate clean of the damages caused by excessive stress before you exercise over them or the strength of your exercise will reinforce the imbalances to greater dysfunction. Revive the natural state of efficiency, and your graceful power returns. You were born a natural athlete. We just need to remove the rusted armor first.
To help these federal agencies I was training, who faced trauma and endured the daily anticipation of violence, I had to first unload the rusty armor they were carrying. I had no idea at the time that with each piece of rusty armor I helped them unburden, I was healing myself from the pain and suffering I felt being born into a household of post-traumatic stress from the Korean war.
Let me give you as a gift what I’ve learned over the years to defuse the strain you face, the frustrations in your health and fitness you’ve endured. Tomorrow, I’m going to announce how you can get my new book, “Primal Stress: Revive - Survive - Thrive”, and a collection of new books and videos to accompany it, absolutely for free. I believe that strongly in the value of these research findings, and the practical tools and techniques they involve, that I want to give some away to “pay forward” what has healed me and given me such an incredible quality of life.
If anything I’ve written above interests you, please check here for the announcement. Thanks in advance, because as we work together to better ourselves, we better the possibilities for everyone… especially the next generation.