What do GAF and The Voice have in common?

I skittishly admit that I love to watch TV. The Voice is a favorite right now because it’s fun, theatrical, identifies and develops up-and-coming talent of all ages and involves home-audience participation to perpetuate the next show. It’s a formula that draws record audiences not to mention record sales on ITunes.

But, the best part for me is watching the coaches inspire and ignite a higher passion in the contestants. Even deeper, as a coach and life-long student of the craft, the show feeds my fascination with the many separate interactions that attract and connect a coach and student to inspire transformation.

Inspire transformation. That’s a lofty purpose for any coach indeed.

The coaches on The Voice mentor their charges to hone their “instruments” and become more sophisticated vocal masters whether it be pop, R&B, folk or what ever.

For me, it’s about mentoring my students to become more sophisticated physical masters of their own bodies. 

This mastery poses to be a very complex puzzle because every “body” is different every day, and I have to say, even more so after the age of 50. Oh, the bitter truth.

What does it mean to be sophisticated physical masters of our bodies?

Here’s an example. Early in the week, three students came in for a group training session. I asked how everyone was doing and all three sluggishly reported muscle stiffness and soreness. Sound familiar?

I shifted gears from my original game plan and guided them through a routine of pelvic rocking, pelvic circles, slow spine rippling and sequential, non-forceful pelvic/thoracic/cervical rotations to see if these small movements would ease their discomfort. And they did!  

All three felt better and one reported feeling lighter and freer inside her body when she went on to do her workout routine.

Every one of these students had developed these movement skills in prior lessons. We just put them together to solve an uncomfortable temporary physical problem.

Of course, unless you’re a student of mine, you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “Whaaaat?” That’s ok.  

The point is there are things you can do every day to resolve many restrictive and inhibitive physical problems to help you feel and move better.

That’s what the coaching at GAF is about . . .

  1. Teaching foundational movement and postural skills
    plus relevant massage techniques to our students to
    build the knowledge and expertise required to move
    well with less pain.
  2. Helping our students develop better body awareness to
    guide daily goal setting by tuning in to the immediate physical restrictions which inhibit pain-free movement.
  3. Showing them how to draw from their knowledge
    base and create a plan to ease their physical restrictions and pain.
  4. Guiding them as they implement their plan.
  5. Helping our students reassess and make decisions on what else to do to improve freedom of movement before heading into a workout, bike ride or next activity.

So that . . .

Every student gets more skilled at our process to understand and take care of the “body” that’s different every day. 

Day by day, with each successful experience, our students become more sophisticated masters of their bodies and skilled problem solvers.

Just like on The Voice where greatness is born, at GAFcompetency is born . . . the kind that inspires self-mastery and a new confidence that one can change the direction of down hill after 50.

Now that’s transformation! 

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Surround Yourself With Amazing People and You’ll Be Ok

I took a few vacation days earlier in the month to go to Oxford, UK and celebrate with my son at his degree ceremony and a well-earned 30th birthday to boot. It promised to be a glorious twofer and more than a brilliant excuse to get away. Time was short, five days to be exact, so I knew it would be jam packed and a push for one who’s only an occasional wanderer from home.

In fitting style, we attended all the grand Oxfordian festivities and “subfusc” formalities, broke bread with his friends and their families and generally got swept up in the serious ceremonial excitement.

My son, a very thoughtful young man, had earlier questioned the validity of such magisterial recognition in a reflective moment of philosophical speculation. That’s what Oxford students do. But, when all was said and done, he was swept up in this moment of personal confirmation just like the rest of us.

The birthday bash was a brilliant success, too. We arranged to party at his favorite Indian restaurant with peshwari naan, mango lassis and chocolate cake for friends all around.

Yup, I was a proud parent, and enjoying every minute of my time with my son.

But, something was lurking behind the scene . . . an insidious little problem that at first was only worth a passing thought. By day three, my outlook changed dramatically.

At first, it felt familiar; a pain in my left eye that I’d experienced many times before. At home, I would have rested and protected the eye from the elements.

But, I was in Oxford. I wanted to go to Christ Church Meadow and the Oxford Botanical Gardens. I wanted to walk to Port Meadow, an ancient area of grazing land still used for horses and cattle, and see the Thames. I wanted to meander through the ancient back streets of Oxford City Center to the Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum. So I did, regardless.

Each day the situation worsened. I found myself going back to my room between outings to rest in the dark, try to recover and then press on to the next destination ignoring the wind, ancient mold and what ever else was being stirred up in the Oxfordshire air and so quietly assaulting my eyes.

Day by day, it worsened.

Day five arrived and it was time for the journey home. I sat with my son at breakfast, hoodie up, eyes closed and visor pulled down tight over my eyes, The bus ride to Heathrow was more of the same . . . resting, protecting my eyes from the light. Waiting for the flight prompted more of the same.

The flight home became more and more agonizing and the thoughts of infection stirred in my thoughts. I had to decide if I needed assistance to get off the plane. I couldn’t keep my eyes open so the answer seemed apparent, yet not at all to my liking.

The wheelchair transporter took charge of my welfare and got me through customs with priority, pulled my luggage off the carousel and ushered me to my friend Mary who was waiting curbside to pick me up.

I needed help into the car and once settled, reluctantly told Mary that I needed medical attention. I didn’t want to impose but there was no other way. We ended up at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary Emergency Room at about 8:00 p.m.

We were hopeful that we’d be in and out quickly since there were only two or three other people there. Poor assumption. Minutes ticked by, then hours.

Much later, the doctor was ready to see me and offered relief with some numbing drops. She did a thorough eye exam and was confused by what she saw. She had to call another doctor in from the hospital for a second opinion. More waiting. More minutes. More hours.

The second doctor finally arrived. He examined me and the two doctors quietly conferred in the hall.

What the docs did know is that I had scratched my cornea and it became infected. The plan was to take cultures to see if anything would grow. That would help in diagnosing the culprit and suggest a course of treatment. So, that’s what they did.

In the meantime, all they could do was prescribe powerful antibiotic eyedrops until I could meet with the cornea specialist the next day.

That was it. Time to go home. It was 3:00 a.m. We got back to my house in short order.

Here it is 12 days later as I write this and the situation hasn’t improved. The pain is still intense. The doc is still trying to figure out what’s going on. I’ve been away from work for 17 days and I can’t see to drive myself to the doctor, the pharmacy or the grocery store.

Sounds bleak and downright depressing.

But it’s not.

I have an amazing team in place. And they’ve all been bringing their “A” Game to the plate.

My team is chosen, vetted and approved. I’m not just talking about my trainers who’ve done such a superb job in my absence. I’m talking about the members of GAF just as much, and my dear friends who call and check, and volunteer and offer. 

We’re all finding our place in this puzzle called “older community.” Who does what for whom and when? How do we take care of ourselves and each other? How do we invest in the team and what will be the return on investment?

I’ve had tremendous validation of the strength of my team over the past year for sure. We pull together. No questions asked.

Thanks guys. I always know I’ll be ok.

unnamed (4)This is Oxford University’s expression of mastery.

unnamed (3)

This is my son’s expression of mastery.
I like his interpretation best.
Keep on moving!
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Movement literacy. How’s yours?

Challenging the intellectual potential of our children is deeply embedded in our core values in this neck of the woods. We raise our kids with a high priority on procuring the best education possible. But, in the United States as a whole, 

14% of adults (32 million) can’t read, 21% read below a 5th grade level and 19% of high school graduates can’t read.

I just finished reading an article entitled The Invisible Cause. It correlated higher-order skills in reading, writing and communication with higher economic and social success, especially as the American economy becomes more technologically advanced.  No surprises there.

As a movement professional, I find a parallel between those statistics of illiteracy in our nation and our overall lack of movement sense and skills. The point in the article was that lack of literacy and education are the invisible cause of many economic troubles. In my world, the lack of movement literacy and education are the invisible cause of disease and decline. I can’t give you quantitative statistics to prove the point, but I certainly observe it all day long.

One thing I’ve noticed, to continue the earlier analogy, is that“movement literacy” in the spine is extremely poor for most of us. At any age, ideally, we should be able to move our spines in many different and complex patterns, at many different speeds, with ease and fluidity . . . just like a cat.

Our spine organizes our body in space. That’s pretty important. As well, a strong, mobile spine contributes to all sorts of positive health benefits from increased cardio vascular capacity and lymphatic flow to better gastro-intestinal health, stronger bones and improved balance. 

Our lack of spinal mobility should be particularly troubling for us all, but particularly for an aging population where we’ve been sold a bill of goods that the human body is a fragile thing to be restored and preserved with medications and surgeries. It’s not. It’s rugged, resilient and remarkable if it’s been used properly over the years and decades.

But poor movement skills and/or lack of movement over the life span begets immobility. Poor movement causes injury and makes us move even more poorly. Lack of movement, is well, just that . . . lack of movement. Perhaps the root cause is societal pressures, momentary inertia or who knows what else.  

As we move less, the spine becomes less and less able to move. Then it starts to hurt when we move it and makes us think that we’re fragile or just getting old. That pain and worry encourages us to stiffen up and move less, which creates higher levels of pain with movement. Then we become afraid to move, equate movement with pain, wonder what the heck happened and stop speaking the language of movement.

So, how do we change our movement literacy IQ? I’d like us to realize that moving ourselves in as many ways and positions as possible continually during the day will keep us healthy. Sure, go to the gym to learn how to move (not on machines though, they teach how not to move). Then, make your activities during the day part of your movement practice also.

How about making washing the dishes a practice in artful movement? How about doing a 10-minute movement routine in bed (with or without a partner) before you get up? Walk in the woods instead of the treadmill to practice negotiating uneven surfaces. Hang out in a resting squat position for minutes at a time. Get on the floor and explore rolling around. I’m not crazy. These are all in the human movement vocabulary and account for our movement literacy.

Maybe it would make sense to measure our health in terms of higher-order movement skills, that is, our movement literacy. The better we can move, the healthier we will be.

As I keep saying, move well and move often. Let’s make it part of the culture.

The Most Eloquent of All

Here’s another You Tube video showing what good movement looks like. Ido Portal is a classic, able to move every joint in every way at every speed. I don’t think he can leap tall buildings in a single bound but everyone has their limits. Take a look, loosen up your joints and learn from a master.

Click the image above to watch the video.

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Move Well and Move Often

I remember a Star Trek episode way back when William Shatner starred as Star Fleet Officer Captain James T. Kirk, long before the celebrated Jean-Luc Picard showed up from the Shakespeare Theatre in London during the latter two thirds of … Continue reading

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Deliberate Practice: the Ultimate Brain Training

I was talking to two of our members about the idea of “deliberate practice” in our work at GAF.  They could easily relate that idea to the way they practice their music together. In their practice sessions, they describe chunking music … Continue reading

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Keeping the brain happy. That means yours.

I’ve been learning about doing our physical training from the point of view of making and keeping the brain comfortable and happy. Maybe you think that your brain already is happy; you’re smiling all the time and cracking up your friends … Continue reading

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Confessions of a 62 year-old jock

True confessions. I have an ego. I sometimes deny reality. I have a standing date with one of our GAF members to workout early every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 6:00. This past Thursday, I tapered back my workout substantially … Continue reading

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The List Maker

My father was a list maker. Every Saturday morning I’d find him quietly sitting at the kitchen table in his bathrobe, cup of coffee close by, knees crossed with a pencil in hand and pad of paper on his lap. … Continue reading

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Big fat “do-overs” keep aging at bay

I’ve often wondered if there’s a tipping point that ushers one into old age. Does it surreptitiously creep in over years or is there some precipitating event that specifically turns the tide? Well, maybe it’s a little of both. If … Continue reading

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Taking a Lesson From the Kids

Babies playfully explore their fingers and toes. They bring the world to their mouths to sense themselves and the world around them. A blank slate at first, they gather and store information with each new movement and sensation. They repeat movements over … Continue reading

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