STEVE MAXWELL ON MOBILITY AS THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
STEVE MAXWELL ON MOBILITY TRAINING
Katy Mackay: What is mobility?
Steve Maxwell: Mobility is the ability to move through your full range of motion with strength – as opposed to flexibility, which is largely static, usually doesn’t have movement and doesn’t necessarily require strength. You can be flexible but have poor mobility, but you can also be a little bit tight, but be very mobile. Of the two, you are much better off being a little bit tight with good mobilitythan being super flexible with poor mobility.
Katy Mackay: Why is mobility so important?
Steve Maxwell: Because this is what allows you to move through life. For example, my father, was an avid runner and weight trainer, he’s 87 years old now and the poor guy can’t even touch his toes. He was always moving but he didn’t really take care of mobility. Simple things like tying his shoes and getting up and down off the floor are really difficult for him. Despite the fact that he was running and weight training his whole life, its not enough, he needed to be doing daily mobility training as well so not to lose the basic movement patterns.
Katy Mackay: What exercises can we do to improve mobility?
Steve Maxwell: The basic movement patterns that you used as an infant are very stimulating for the brain. It’s been shown over and over again that when you repeat these movements it helps you regain lost movement patterns. It’s not complicated at all, simply crawling around on the floor, doing commando crawling, and baby crawling on all fours, is very stimulating to the brain. There are archetypal human postures that a lot of Europeans and Americans can’t do anymore. Ask someone to do a proper full squat, and they can’t do it.
Katy Mackay: Why can’t they squat?
Steve Maxwell: The body adapts very quickly to everything you ask it to do – most people are very adapted to sitting. Shortened hip flexors, shortened hamstrings, forward head, body curved, forward shoulders – their whole posture is skewed, so now it’s almost impossible for people to stand straight, move properly, squat properly.
Katy Mackay: Does sitting at the desk all day ‘undo’ our good work in the gym?
Steve Maxwell: Yes, it does. Even if you train for one hour a day, which is more than most people do, you still might have 23 hours of inactivity. As you get older your ability to move will become less and less. This is what happened to me, I was in my mid 40′s and I realised my body was really stiff. Now this was partly due to my training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – you can’t involve yourself in bodily contact sports without your body suffering. But it also had to do with the fact that I did an awful lot of sitting. I was very tired from my workouts, so I sat down a lot of the other time.
Katy Mackay: What about people who have to sit down most of the day because of their job?
Steve Maxwell: That’s where my little mini-resets come in. You can literally reset the brain through movement. And it’s very simple stuff, you can do it at the desk. You can get up and touch elbow to knee, get up from the desk and basically march in place, kneeling on all fours and rocking, the head needs to move a lot. Just take little mini mobility breaks throughout the day, and that will help to undo the sitting. A standing work desk is phenomenal.
Katy Mackay: Steve can you tell us about that device on your wrist?
Steve Maxwell: It’s called a Fitbit – it’s a pedometer, it shows the number of steps I’ve done today. Today I’ve been a little lazy – I’ve only done 3888, the goal is at least 10,000 a day. I understand a lot of people are limited with their time, so take the stairs instead of the elevator; park as far away as you can from the car to walk a few extra blocks – just walk as much as possible.
Katy Mackay: That’s obviously not for weight loss, because you clearly don’t need to lose weight…
Steve Maxwell: It’s for mobility. Our bodies were meant to move. We were never meant to be still. Walking is one of the best things we can do – it’s not enough to workout, we need to be active throughout the day.
Katy Mackay: What do you think about running?
S: Running is one of the natural human activities; along with crawling, walking, climbing, throwing, lifting, carrying, and rotation. Most people don’t do these fundamental human activities anymore. It’s what we are hard-wired to do, so it makes sense that we should spend most of our time doing them.
Katy Mackay: A lot of people develop overuse injuries from running though…
Steve Maxwell: Part of it is because people sit so much they develop muscular imbalances, and then when they do try to run, they run improperly. Then they wear thick, over-engineered running shoes, which throws their gait off and encourages heel striking. If you run like natural man, like our ancestors, you would run in barefoot or with very minimal shoes, you would learnt to run off the forefoot and take smaller strides.
Katy Mackay: So do you recommend people make a transition to a more barefoot-style of running?
Steve Maxwell: You’ve got to gradually wean yourself off and build your feet. A good way to do this is to walk barefoot in the sand, or in the grass. Don’t do a silly thing like I did – I went out on my first day with a pair of Five Fingers, ran 5 miles, and I was unable to run for three weeks. I basically crippled myself. There were muscles in my feet and ankles that just were not strong; they had over-relied on my supportive running shoes. I was quite shocked. I thought I was all that – I wasn’t all that! That was 2006. I have been running barefoot since, usually on grass or dirt. Or I wear very thin shoes on the concrete. Not so much to take the impact, just for the roughness of the road.
Katy Mackay: Do you run long distance?
Steve Maxwell: I couldn’t care less about distance, I just run for time. Usually between 20-40 minutes. I run at a very low percentage of my VO2 max – it’s the art of effortless running. Our ancestors could run for hours like this. If you’re just running for fitness, you do not have to run really hard. 60% is fine. You are getting most of the health benefits. For people out there who are competitive runners, that’s fine, just make sure you’re breathing in through your nose and diaphragmatically.
Katy Mackay: Tell us more about this breathing.
Steve Maxwell: Because of sitting, people lose the ability to breath diaphragmatically. So they use their auxiliary muscles – usually used for emergency – their neck and upper chest muscles. This is a big mistake – it puts you into panic mode and throws your whole hormonal system off. It puts you into fat storage mode, it creates negative stress hormones, and it can cause a whole cascade of problems with the body systemically. I see people out there all the time inhaling through their mouth, gasping and gulping for breath. A Russian guy, Buteyko, specialized in treating people with breathing disorders. But he also specialized in training athletes. It was his opinion, that you’re better off not training at all then doing this upper chest, upper ribcage breathing – what he calls ‘panic breathing’. That kind of thing literally shaves years off your life.
Katy Mackay: In your blog you say we should all be training for ‘health and well-being’. What exactly does this mean?
Steve Maxwell: If doing feats of strengths is what floats a person’s boat, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but they need to be aware of the pitfalls and dangers. Let’s take powerlifting, there are perils involved with pushing yourself to your maximum ability. Whatever your performance goals are, there are always pitfalls. And no one said that was healthy.
But for just general health, I believe in general exercise. Simple movements – push or pull horizontally, push or pull vertically, the squat, the hip hinge, the hip thrust, these are general exercises that will improve your performance in anything, whether it be hiking, carrying the baby, playing with the kids, carrying groceries, things that make it easier for you to do almost any activity. General training, you should never get injured. Proper training should prevent injury. Sport, you get hurt.
WHEN TO WORK MOBILITY TRAINING INTO YOUR ROUTINE?
K: What does the ideal fitness regime look like for someone just wanting to be as healthy as possible?
Daily walking. Mobility drills and my baby training - just do a few minutes each morning when you wake up. Strength training 2-3 times per week is more than enough. The most important thing for that is time under load. If you are interested in increased muscular size, hypertrophy – which is really important for guys my age – you want more time under load. Rarely will I ever do exercises less than three seconds to lift and three seconds to lower. Sometimes I extend it to as much as five seconds up and down. And once in a while, I’ll do really slow, 10 seconds repetition. If you want a real challenge, try 30-second positive with a 30 sec negative.
K: Are you really sore the next day after that slow strength training?
S: Sometimes. The muscular soreness doesn’t necessarily indicate a good workout. That has to do with the actual recovery. A lot of it is diet related, how acid or alkaline your body is, how good your liver is at producing enzymes that help buffer the acid created through physical exertion.
K: Anything else to add to the ideal fitness regime?
S: I find myself sitting more than I would like to, so I make up for it with some static stretches for my hamstrings and hip flexors. I do yin yoga – its slow and meditative.
K: Do you meditate?
S: I usually meditate when I am in that semi-dream state. There was a very interesting guy called Neville Goddard, who said there are two times during the day, right in the twilight zone and when you are drifting off to sleep, when the subconscious mind is very open – a great time to visualize your goals or even see your body in a really healthy state. I do that early in the morning, just as I start to wake up. Sometimes people take the spiritual out, but it really is a trilogy. Body, mind and spirit.
K: Tell us about Ikaria, the Greek island where you have spent some time teaching workshops.
S: Perhaps you have heard of the blue zones, they are areas of the world that have a high percentage of the population that live very old. They have very little incidence of the common degenerative diseases. They don’t have the obesity levels, cancer, and all that. They live well into their nineties, and they have a large percentage of people who become centenarians. And Ikaria is the highest in the world.
K: What is the secret to becoming a centenarian?
S: You certainly can’t knock the stress-free environment. You take people out of the noisy cities and the hustle and bustle – these people are very laid back. And I think a lot of it relates to the fact that they are non-materialists, it seems like an awful lot of our energy is built towards obtaining material things, and then once we obtain them, maintaining them.
I used to own a very well known gym in Philadelphia; I had a big house, double car park. But now I have everything narrowed down to a 65-winter bag. I don’t even have any keys! I used to have a big key ring, with so many keys. But it seems like the less keys I have, the happier I am.
K: Does that make you a nomad?
I am a nomad. Everything I own is in my bag, pretty much, it’s very empowering. I realised once I stripped myself of these material possessions I felt very free. I approach my training in the same way. Stripped down. Let’s cut away all the non-essentials. What is it that really produces good results? If you look at it carefully, it’s not very glamorous. And I guess technically it would be hard to sell because its not sexy. Its basic. Think of it this way: your brain is designed for movement. Movement to the brain is what food is to the body. You need food to sustain your cells and metabolism, but its movement that nourishes the central nervous system of the brain. People forget that.
Katy Mackay - http://katymackay.com.au/
Katy Mackay is a health and fitness coach in Sydney, Australia, and has helped clients all over the world change their lives to become happier and healthier.
With a focus on mobility, strength, kettlebells, functional training, mindfulness and primal living, Katy has developed a unique style of coaching that her clients become addicted to.
Katy discusses lifestyle changes with her clients that will help them achieve their goals and often engages with them on a daily basis to ensure consistency in their diet, training and mental practices.
For more on Steve Maxwell, please visitwww.stevemaxwellsc.com.