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The Weak Link

Updated: Apr 8

It seems like it’s been forever. As life likes to sometimes do, curveballs get thrown.

Just as I got the blog and site online, our landlord decided to sell the house we were renting, and we had 90 days to find another place to live. It’s a tough housing market where we live, so needless to say it was stressful and unexpected.

Moving is one of the most stressful experiences, even if I am excited about it. Being forced to do it, adds a whole other layer of stress. I think it messes with my primal instinct of needing and seeking shelter.

As with most hand grenades that can get throw into life, there is always a silver lining. Being forced to move and look at our living situation caused us to look at all of our options, one of which buying a house versus renting one.

It turns out that we were in a position to make it happen, and I would have never even looked at it unless this situation came up.

Long story short, we are finally moved in to our own house. We went from getting the letter from the landlord to getting preapproved, finding a realtor, buying a house and moving all of our stuff into our house in just under seven weeks!

Needless to say, there was little time for writing. I was able to keep up with my training. Because I train early in the morning, I always have that time before the sun rises for training, so my only excuse for not doing it is laziness. My morning training time is my time, and even after days of packing and moving boxes and furniture, I was still able to drag my sore and tired body out of bed to get it done. Many of those training sessions brought my body back to life.

The physical act of moving was a great litmus test of where my level of fitness is. Very few experiences can test your level of strength and endurance quite like moving furniture and boxes for days on end. Lifting and loading constantly can tax your body in a special way like very few things can. The constant repetition of lifting varying loads up and down, as well as all the odd angles that awkward objects can throw at you is one of the true tests of strength. The marathon of repeating it over and over again for hours, and days on end is a test of mental and physical endurance. There is a reason that friends run for the hills at any mention of “moving.” I am yet to meet someone that says they genuinely enjoy moving. Despite working full-time, I had to keep going and make it happen.

I think one of my “ah-ha” moments to where I really understood how far I have come in my fitness levels was when I was able to slide a refrigerator up into the moving truck without a ramp by myself. I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of being able to do that. After I did it, I stopped for a second to reflect on what I had just done. Progress.

I guess I kept asking myself “If I can’t get this big heavy couch from point A to point B, why am I getting up every morning and training the way I do?” Fortunately for me, the whole experience was a positive affirmation that my commitment to training and my methods were working in my life. My commitment to training every day allowed me to hang tough, keep going and handle what was thrown at me.

However, the whole experience was not all roses, and it exposed an area that I really need to focus on.

Each morning, during the entire processes of moving, I would wake up and my back, particularly my muscles running along my spine, were extremely tight and sore.

I had to tough through the pain and discomfort every day, which was a victory in itself, but more so, it showed my that I need to focus much more effort on my functional mobility and movement.

What is the point of slinging a refrigerator up into a truck if I am going to be stiff and labor moving around throughout my day?

The point of all of this daily training for me is to make my daily life better through movement and to be healthy. If I have weak areas, I need to attack them because the chain is only as strong as the weakness link.

That being said, I had thought that I HAD been working on those weak areas of my lower back strength and flexibility. I had felt for a while that my hip flexors, lower back, and hamstrings were very tight so I had been stretching regularly every day, without fail, as part of my daily training routine. I also had been working my abdominal muscles extremely hard with all my hanging leg raises and planks, so I feel that my abdominal strength is well above average.

Taking all that into account, what is the problem?

I am starting to question the effectiveness of traditional static stretching.

Since I have been training, way back into my high school days, I have heard the mantra of getting into position for the muscle that I am stretching, and holding that position for at least 30 seconds then trying to go a little further each time and holding that position.

I have stretched in this method my whole life, and with fairly regular consistency, even when I was completely out of shape, the entire time.

Then why have I still always felt tight and stiff?

When I was in my early twenties and getting deeper into my chef career, I was experiencing terrible low back pain. Standing for hours on end was becoming excruciating. Standing up straight was miserable.

I stretched every day. I had been stretching every day since high school, but I was still hating life.

I started by changing my shoes. I got really great kitchen clogs and that helped relieve some of the pain, but I was still uncomfortable all the time.

Around that time, I had read about the old-school wrestler’s bridge and how it helped people fix their low back pain.

It involves arching backwards and resting the forehead on the ground while the feet are planted on the ground, and the back is off the ground.

I had messed around with it in high school with some of my wrestler buddies, so I was familiar with it.

This movement defies everything that I had been taught about the back, neck and spinal cord.

I started practicing the backwards wrestlers bridge in my bed at night, and sure enough my low back pain started to get better.

The bridge feels like a stretch but it also requires a good amount of strength, control and focus to hold it for an extended period of time.

I still practice the bridge regularly, and have added pushups into the bridge position. More progress.

That whole experience with lower back pain, and my recent discomfort with the moving process has me questioning traditional stretching.

I feel like it doesn’t work for me, and there are better ways to accomplish what I need to accomplish.

I already have ten or so exercises that I use every morning to loosen up in the morning, so I am going to add some active mobility movements into my morning routine.

I am going to work some fluid yoga-style poses into my morning. I am going to move from one movement to the next. I feel like it will resemble something close to a Tai-Chi routine. I don’t know much about Tai Chi except that when I was younger, I would watch a group of seniors run through their routine every morning on a tennis court in my apartment complex. A lot of these folks were easily in their 90’s, and they were out there every morning like clockwork. There must be something to it.

For me, fitness has to be functional. It has to improve my health as well as my quality of life. I should be able to go through my daily life performing the basic movements of life. It also has to be at a level to where I can respond in an emergency, move a couch upstairs, open a pickle jar, climb a ladder, dig a ditch or hike through the woods without collapsing.

I am going to take that idea of a fluid, constant movement routine using poses and mobility exercises that I know and build a daily morning program.

I am going to ditch the static stretching for a time being and substitute my new routine.

I want to see if it makes a difference in my quality of movement.

Hopefully it will cure this chronic back pain once and for all.

Stay tuned.

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