How to Become Resilient

I ask a lot of questions online and in person. One question that I always ask is “What can I help you with? Where are you struggling?” And many people answer back that they are broken, beaten…injured. They want to do more, live more but they’re afraid of getting hurt or hurting themselves further. And to be honest I understand that fear very well myself.

I play rough, I partake in martial arts (BJJ) 5-7 days per week now and if I get hurt I can no longer teach at my live events and workshops or work with many of my clients and athletes. I help people move better and if I can’t move well myself I need to find an alternative…and perhaps a different way to make a living.

But I don’t see that happening anytime soon…I love doing what I do and will walk my path until I turn to dust. So I need an alternative and a way to stay resilient. The tips below are not fool proof, you can and may still get hurt but they will help build a resilient body that’s ready for life’s physical and mental challenges.

Take a tumbling class:
It’s never too late to learn how to fall, how to roll and how to engage the ground…build a rapport with the ground and the Earth.

Once upon a time gymnastics was a key component in our physical education curriculum. And now we’re lacking big-time in this fundamental movement skill because well…we know what happened to our physical education programs in most schools.

Since tumbling is a large part of gymnastics try to take a class or 2 at a local school or YMCA. And it doesn’t need to be too technical. You’re not training for a perfect score or the Olympics. What you’re looking for is confidence in your ability to roll or take a fall without doing major damage to yourself and your structure. Tuck your chin and take it across your shoulder. You may just fall in love with it and stay forever.

If you can’t find a gymnastics class please consider some martial art alternatives like Aikido, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu which should all have rolling and tumbling as a large part of their curriculum. Falls and rolls are actually called “Break-falls” in most schools because you’re learning how to break the fall in a safe manner.

To be honest, martial arts are my preferred route as they teach falling and rolling from many different angles, situations and positions in addition to learning some cool moves for self-defense.

Spend some time upside down:
Many people are afraid of being upside down. I’ve taught some very basic rolling to adults and they were completely disoriented while performing the most basic task. Get over the fear of being upside down.

There are many choices here.

You can try out some Yoga inversions or shoulder stands. You can try out some simple still ring work borrowed again from gymnastics like skin the cat and forward rolls.

Being upside down will directly help with your falling and rolling skills and they’ll become second nature.

Learn how to crawl and learn how to climb:
If you want strong and stable shoulders develop these 2 skills…crawling and climbing. If you want to move like spiderman or batman master these 2 skills. Again, your climbing does not need to be very extreme or too technical. Rock climbing a mile high is not needed. Do some work on a local playground learning to move hand over hand, from support to support, forward and backward, from side to side. There are many regressions and progressions to use and employ. There is something for everyone of every fitness level and body type.

The same goes for crawling, start with a simple bear crawl and add complexity and finesse as your strength and skills develop.

Mix Up Your Training Textures and Terrain:
Give your brain and your body something to work with. Your body craves engagement with the world, with the Earth. It wants to feel the grass, the sand and the rocks underneath your feet. It wants the nooks and the crannies just not on an English Muffin.

It grows and adapts from encountering micro-challenges from it’s environment.

I know runners that can’t run on anything other than a track. I know some people that can only run on a treadmill. I’ve heard some people claim or complain that grass was too bumpy and uneven to run on. Seriously? Grass? Have we become this weak and fearful?

If you’re training limits your abilities to run only on one surface it is drastically lacking and your body and it’s ability to adapt is severely lacking as well.

So how do you make it more adaptable and resilient? By providing challenges in a sensible and responsible manner. Start with some grass running, then move to some easy trails. Then onto rougher, steeper trails.

Now, I’m just using running as an example but you can apply these little micro-challenges to any aspect of your training practice.

Practice the “same-but-different” principle. Stick with pull-ups but use different grips. Use different angles. Use different tempos, move fast and move slow, pause at different spots during the movement. Mix it up!

My outdoor Tic-Tac-Toe board. 

Train in the heat and the cold:
Ever see how swords and other weapons are created? Hot and cold…hot and cold…this is called tempering and you can create the same affect in your training….within reason of course. Don’t be careless and injure yourself but existing in a constant room temperature of 68 degrees and refusing to do anything outdoors is hurting your entire organism more than it’s helping.

You’re becoming a baby and will quickly be crushed the moment real change comes stumping into your world. Build resilience now. Become strong and flexible like a well crafted weapon.

Mix up your training tools:
If you’ve been doing barbell front squats for 56 years try some kettlebell front squats, try some uni-lateral kettlebell front squats. How about sandbag front squats or Zercher Squats etc..

I’m a huge believer in “Consistency on the Fundamentals” but I’m also a huge fan of the “Same-but-different” training principle. Squats are still squats, using a different tool does not make squats something else. Just the details change a bit. You body will appreciate this change in details and will adapt making you more resilient to changes of directions, angles of force and vector qualities.

Master the Art of Roughhousing:

Rough house!

Play rough with your kids, your loved ones, your puppies or kittens. Just do it. Go outside and roll on the grass, wrestle, have chicken fights in the pool. Pillow fights are quite awesome. Play superman and launch your kids into the couch cushions. Piggy-back rides are wheelbarrow races are not just for kids.

Add an element of danger into your play. You’ll adapt. Roughhousing is unique. It lights up our brains and bodies in a way that other forms of movement simply can’t touch.

It teaches us boundaries and limits. It let’s us explore our abilities and creativity. It makes us come alive. And smile.

How do you approach all these tips? Easy. Start small. Take one class at a time. Practice slowly at home.No need to be too aggressive from the word GO.

Let me know how you include those above goodies in your practice…your life. I’d love to hear from you.