[Note from Joan: I first met Tim in 2010 at Katy Bowman’s Restorative Exercise™ studio in Ventura, California. He was conspicuous by his enthusiasm, his knowledge of anatomy, his famous saying, “I want to grow up to be Katy Bowman,” and the fact that he was one of only a handful of men attending the classes. He was already certified as a Restorative Exercise Specialist™. He had and has an amazing ability to model and teach Katy’s practices. When we collaborated with Katy in co-authoring the book, Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility, it was Katy’s genius idea to put his photo on the back to serve as an incentive to encourage men (as well as women) to investigate “You are how you move.” (www.nutritiousmovement.com.) Here is his story with some awe-inspiring photos and videos showing how moving differently has created a better outcome for him even as he is aging (born 1955) – right along with the rest of us. He is also our coach for our Chin-Up Project.]
Guest Author: Tim Harris, Nutritious Movement Restorative Exercise Specialist™
My sports were road and mountain bike riding and beach volleyball, with a side of racquetball and wallyball. I grew up, and still live, at the beach, so I did a lot of body surfing. I spent much of my youth doing handstands and “ells”, tumbling and swinging, hanging and flipping on and off the swings, rings and bars that were installed at “Muscle Beach” in Santa Monica, California. Throw in some running and the infrequent triathlon of the “cardboard man” intensity and there’s my exercise profile. And things were going well for a good while. I was following the 20th century mantra that sports equals health. And while I certainly got some health benefits from sports, what I really got was good at the repetitive motions that were required for that sport. And I had a lot of fun and stress release, benefits not to be scoffed at. But was I truly healthy?
Starting in my mid-thirties and continuing to my early fifties, I began to spend more “off sport” time trying to mitigate the aches and pains brought from the “on sport” time. I still played at a high level and rarely felt pain while doing these sports. But, it got to the point where I hurt a lot AFTER. Plus, I was spending almost equal time stretching and doing yoga, getting massage and doing self massage, and occasionally taking NSAIDS, to deal with the pain, with minimal and temporary results. And I wasn’t the only one, based on observations and conversations with my fellow athletes. Nor was this just an amateur/weekend warrior experience. All professional sports teams have a Disabled List (DL) and there are frequent cases of season and career ending injury. Is that health?
“Fit Wreck” is the term to describe what I was feeling in my own body and seeing around me. Or perhaps, fitwreck like shipwreck, washed up on the shore of too many sports, done too often or at too high an intensity. I was faced with the evidence that I was engaged in actions that, while fun and embraced by my culture, were not having the results I desired. What did I do when faced with this evidence? Did I lower the intensity, decrease the frequency or (gasp!) quit? Alas, no. Must be something wrong with my technique, I thought. Or I wasn’t doing the sport enough. I consulted and played with better players. I practiced more. I warmed up longer. I did more of the same expecting different results.
On the advice of a colleague, I checked out this little gym that was a 3 minute walk from my house. I knew it was there because I went by it going to and from the volleyball beach. Inside were people being instructed in unusual movements, stretches, and exercises. This was my introduction to Restorative Exercise™, now called Nutritious Movement™. It was movement kindergarten, assessing how I moved, how much of me moved (or didn’t), where I was over and under working and what to do about it. I got a private session and came to all the classes. It was recommended that I walk, and I began getting instruction on how to do that. I felt I already knew how to walk, for cryin’ out loud! However, I respected the advice and I was experiencing some interesting physical changes. So, I gave it a shot. It turned out that with each step I was essentially falling then stopping my fall. That’s not walking, nor is it much work. This was reminiscent of my experience with swimming lessons. I grew up at the beach, swimming and bodysurfing. I was a very good swimmer, I believed. Wrong. Once I got instruction in better technique, I could swim farther with less effort. Same thing happened with walking.
This was 2008. The financial crash erased 35%-40% of my massage clientele which gave me the time to walk and attend class (win?). And two weeks after starting, the studio moved 4 miles from my house. More incentive to walk (win!).
Over the ensuing 10 years, changes occurred. I walked a lot on flat ground, uphill, downhill, on both manmade and natural terrain. I went from well shod to minimal shoes to barefoot. Periodically, I stopped playing volleyball. I cycled only for transportation/shopping when time and/or distance precluded walking. Hanging and swinging were reintroduced to my movement repertoire. And I minded the geometry of my skeleton. As I hope the videos and photos show, I got results. Plus, my back, which had been a problem for nearly 20 years, bothers me less and less often, even after playing volley ball.
My life is made easier by all the labor saving devices and conveniences of modern life. Mechanically, this reduces the amount and variety of my movement and makes me comfortably sedentary. (I know, I know. Not you. You move all the time and hardly ever sit. You might be surprised by how much you do sit.) Common sense (and science) tells me I must move to be healthy, so I exercise or do sports. This sedentarism paired with exercise/sports is what I believe caused me to become a fit wreck. Now, I not only move more and move more of my parts, I also rest more. Much of the time and energy that went toward sports I now direct elsewhere. I often walk for transportation and to shop which requires that I carry my possessions, some water and food as well as my purchases. That’s not like my forebears’ hunting and gathering, but it’s a start. [See three videos below.]