Ryan Walker (Coach Ryan) is a life-long athlete, Health Wellness Coach, and biomechanics geek with over 13 years of experience as a Personal Trainer with an emphasis on teaching biomechanical efficiency, from an evolutionary perspective, and postural restorative work. He’s also a Licensed Massage Therapist with over 8 years of experience.

After battling severe depression and anxiety for over two years in his early 20’s, he developed a passion for helping people discover, not only how to move freely and sustainably, but how to live and behave in a way that is consistent with our evolutionary biology and in a symbiosis with the natural world.

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Ryan Walker about four fitness myths to leave behind.

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

– How the myth of isolation suggests that muscles work independently when muscles are really interconnected.

– Why functional movement, not muscle growth, should be the primary focus for exercise.

– How many gym exercises do not enhance natural movement patterns.

– Why it’s important to consider psychological, emotional, and other wellness components for your overall well-being and movement.

– How people should focus on correct posture and alignment through myofascial release, core integration, and lumbo-pelvic exercises.

 

Connect with Ryan:

Guest Contact Info

Instagram

@coachryan1

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

Episode Transcript

Steven Sashen:

Fitness myths. I mean that I talk about these when it comes to footwear, but let’s like open up to the rest of your body as well. Even just the philosophies about what you might be doing to get fit and where these myths came from and what’s replacing them, hopefully happily now and moving forward. This can actually give you the results that you would like. That’s what’s happening on today’s episode of The Movement Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body, usually starting feet first because those things are your foundation and we break down the propaganda and the mythology, sometimes the straight out lies you’ve been hearing about what it takes to run, walk, hike, do yoga, CrossFit, Dance Dance Revolution, hang gliding, you name it.

Basically, the short version is we want your body to be able to move effectively, efficiently, and enjoyably, and that’s what we’re doing by breaking all that stuff down. I’m Steven Sashen from xeroshoes.com, your host of the Movement Movement podcast, which we call that because, that was an awkward sentence, because we’re creating a movement about natural movement and that we part involves you. It’s really easy. Just spread the word share. Give us a thumbs up, give us a good review. Visit our website at www.jointhemovementmovement.com to find other episodes and ways you can engage with us on social media. Look you know the drill. If you want to be part of the tribe, just subscribe and let’s see if we can help change the world by reintroducing people to letting their body do what it was made to do. On that note, let’s jump in. Ryan, welcome to the podcast. Do me a favor, tell people who you are and what you’re doing here.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, my name’s Ryan Walker. I’ve been a movement fitness nut since a very young age. I was obsessed with martial arts, acrobatics, tumbling, gymnastics. Eventually found my way into a weight room at a very young age, and it was all over from there, three, four hours in the gym, obsession with bodybuilding culture, competed in CrossFit. Coached the sport for a couple of years as well. Eventually developed some pretty debilitating hip pain, which made me stop and reassess and kind of reach back in the bag of tools in terms of biomechanics with my education. Also being a massage therapist for coming up on nine years now, having been a big fan of anatomy trends, if anyone’s familiar, Tom Myers who’s kind of the pioneer the whole myofascial movement. I started kind of stepping away and from the dogma of the fitness industry and assessing, “Okay, how am I designed to move? What does human evolved movement look like? Standing, walking, running, and throwing what I’m doing in the gym? Is that simulating or conducive to improving those biomechanics?”

Another thing I might like to add too is around the age of 20, I developed a pretty severe amount of depression and anxiety disorder for about two years, and during that time, after having emerged from it helped me also realize how much psychological or the psycho-emotional component plays into wellness and movement as well. There’s a whole spectrum of wellness and components to wellness that we need to take into consideration. Not simply just biomechanics, but all of these other components. That’s essentially me in a nutshell, and yeah, excited to move forward with you.

Steven Sashen:

Well, two things. First of all, for anyone who’s watching, because I know people will ask, I had some shoulder surgery three weeks ago, so wearing a sling, blah, blah, blah, doesn’t really matter, although it does relate to something you said, which is this was kind of brought on by an old gymnastics injury. What did you do gymnastics wise?

Ryan Walker:

Well, I say gymnastics. I was kind of more of a pseudo-gymnast. I developed a passion for gymnastics around the age of 13, 14 years old, and I started tumbling at a gymnastics facility in Mobile, Alabama where I was living at the time, and I remember I would show off in front of the head coach, men’s coach, and I would do all these fancy moves and he thought, “Oh, you would’ve been a great gymnast, but you’re too old.” I’d go out in the yard and I would tumble and that sort of thing, but more of a pseudo-gymnast, a lot of handstands, a lot of the conventional movements you would see in gymnastics, and that ultimately, a lot of those movements that they accumulate, that joint damage will accumulate over time, as you’ve just mentioned, ultimately leading to the shoulder injury. You can only do so many handstand pushups before your shoulders-

Steven Sashen:

Well, this was more like rings and whatnot before we had the strength. We didn’t think about building strength first, but just to give people some inspiration, I want to share, do a quick five second screen share. This is something that I did couple of months ago, and to be clear, it’ll show it on the video, but I did this when I turned 61 and here’s the screen share where we go.

Ryan Walker:

Oh, very nice.

Steven Sashen:

That’s my hopefully inspiring people to keep doing things as they continue to age. My goal is to be the oldest guy to do a standing back flip on the floor. I want that Guinness Book world record on my wall. Back to you for the win. From what you learned from where you were starting, where you ended up now, I’m going to put you on the spot. Can you think of, I was going to say, what’s the number one fitness myth that you’re dealing with or that you see people, but if you can’t do just number one, what’s the Mount Rushmore, what are your top four?

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, I would say isolation. Learn how to integrate your movement. Again, if people just Google fascial lines, you’ll see how muscles are actually connected, which they found through cadaver dissections that muscles don’t work in isolation. That back flip you did as you were hinging forward and throwing the arms into extension, the back line, which are all the tissues on the posterior line of your body are lengthening and just like a rubber band in order to unlengthen, we’re going to rapidly snap that tissue back, opening up the front line of the body and then tucking. Right? I would say the biggest myth is this idea of isolation and fixation on hypertrophy over function.

Steven Sashen:

That’s a good one. To be clear, if you are for whatever reason fixated on hypertrophy, isolation is an important thing, but because otherwise you’re not going to necessarily get the stimulation that you need, but the number of people who really need that versus something where if you’re working functionally, and I don’t like the term functional fitness. I’m not a big fan of that. I can ask you your thoughts on that one, but yeah, that’s a good opening because all I can think of as soon as you said it is just the image from Pumping Iron of Schwarzenegger doing bicep curls, and it’s like everyone thinks that’s what exercise is.

Ryan Walker:

Right. Yeah, absolutely. If you look at again, the kind of evolution of movement, standing, walking, running, and throwing, we go from infancy crawling around on all fours. Then eventually we build the shoulder girdle and hip strength that we need in coordination of reciprocation with the arms and legs to getting to a standing position. Then obviously once we can stand, we start initiating gait cycle, running and then throwing. Now, that’s not to say that that’s all that human beings can do, but that is objectively how we’ve evolved to move as human beings. When we start taking symmetrically loaded, ergonomically designed barbells and moving them bilaterally and putting these reciprocating motions that we’re designed to do on the back burner, we’re essentially taking these arbitrary movements and prioritizing them over evolved movement.

Now, what I’m going to say throughout this podcast is going to ruffle some feathers because it is kind of contradictory to what a lot of people have been led to believe about the fitness industry, and I want everybody to know that I hold no ill will toward people who do bodybuilding, who do strength training. I did it for over 20 years. I’m just here to try and lend my expertise and insight and biomechanics, my background as a massage therapist to the listeners so they can hopefully at least integrate some of these concepts alongside the training that they’re doing in the gym.

Steven Sashen:

Well, so let’s jump into that then. In lieu of doing some isolation exercise, bicep curls for your biceps or bench press for your chest, which affects a number of other things as well, that’s more of a compound motion that that’s less isolation, but still kind of. Give me some examples or give everyone some examples of what they might be doing instead and ideally something they could experiment with if they’re taking on a walk right now or in a place that they could do that, and if not, when they get to a place where they could do something.

Ryan Walker:

Certainly. Well, first and foremost, I always encourage them when I’m working with clients, the first thing we look at is just posture. What is your standing looking like? I try to address any lumbopelvic instability, hyper kyphosis in the spine, tissues that are pulling the skeletal structure out of alignment. That should be people’s number one focus through myofascial release, through core integration and lumbo pelvic stability exercises, just getting themselves axially loaded where their skeletal structure is aligned over itself. That way they’re not fighting against the mechanical tension of gravity in their head, being in front of their body, et cetera. What I would encourage people to think about is, okay, let’s say, let’s take the pec for example. Let’s take a pec fly. Now the pec is going to abduct the arm, the transverse plane.

Steven Sashen:

For people who are listening and not watching, let’s describe some of these. First of all, for people who don’t know what a pec fly is, so describe that and just then describe the abduction as well so people can get it their head.

Ryan Walker:

Certainly. Yeah. Imagine you’re laying down on the bench, you have two dumbbells extended up above over your head, and you slowly lower your arms out to the side. You’re going to be stretching the pecks and then contracting them back to that initial position.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. The image that I have is well flying, but yeah, be a bird. Lie in your stomach, lift your arms up, flap them down. Now flip your whole body over. That’s the picture that I have for what a chest fly looks like. The abduction, the A-B duction, there’s adduction, A-D deduction. The abduction is when you’re bringing your arms back from being stretched up to pointing towards the ceiling on your chest.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, I’ll try to be more mindful of the terminology of using.

Steven Sashen:

No, I’m cool. It’s okay. I’ll just stop you if we get to one that I know definitely has a high probability of needing an example/definition.

Ryan Walker:

Thank you. Certainly. Let’s take the pec for example, and let’s apply it to more of a functional context. What I immediately think of is imagine taking, this is just what comes to mind taking a machete and you’re slashing across the body. Right? You’re doing a swinging motion. Now the pec plays a huge role in that because it’s allowing, again, for you to A-D duct, bring that hand back in toward the midline midline. But if we look at that motion, it’s not as simple as just the pec contracting and lengthening. There’s a whole core rotation. The obliques need to rotate. The contralateral, the lat on the opposite side of you is going into a lengthened position. You’re pivoting through the toe and then slashing back in that other direction. The reason I use that as an example is when you’re doing these isolation movements, a bicep curl, try to imagine, okay, well, how would this muscle function in a more functional context?

Another example, a great one is the bicep. The bicep plays a huge role in running. When I’m running, it’s what flexes my arm up, pulls my lat into a rotation, which pulls my trunk into a rotation, and then now the lat and the opposite glute have to co-contract in order to move my body through space. There’s a number of different exercise variations that you can do. Some of them very, very complex. I think people are moving in a good direction when they do compound movements so two or more joints moving at one time, but think even further. How can I adapt this more to my human evolved biomechanics?

Steven Sashen:

Well, on let’s back up to the bicep one. While you said it might turn into a complex movement, now you got me dying to know. Give me an example of what that would look like where you’re adding those extra joints, but is, I don’t want to say a focus on that bicep, but at least it’s attending to it, if you will.

Ryan Walker:

Let’s take say like a medicine ball, explosive press. It’s very similar to doing a bench press. My shoulder has to go into extension. My pecks need to lengthen in order to contract, but then I take a step forward and explode outward throwing the ball out in front of me. That would be integrating more of the fascial lines into one movement versus simply just doing a bench press as an example of a compound movement. But again, you’re lying in a supinated or a supine position on your back pressing upward, which doesn’t really translate as well as it could if we were moving more through the X and Y axis of three-dimensional space.

Steven Sashen:

That’s a good one. Anything else? Isolation, that was one of our big myths. Anything more on that before I hit you for myth number two?

Ryan Walker:

Certainly I would say, oh, well, with regards to that, I think we’re okay. I can move on to another myth if you’re ready.

Steven Sashen:

Let’s do it.

Ryan Walker:

I would say using exercise almost as an addiction to address over consumption. I think a huge part, fitness is a form of stress. It’s a eustress, it’s a good form of stress, but by doing it too consistently, too frequently at moderate to high intensities is actually I think doing more harm to people than good. I think people need to start being a little more mindful of getting the parasympathetic nervous system activated a little more, resting and recovering from your exercise. I think this idea of, and I think CrossFit really kind of brought this culture to the mainstream of just this chronic exercise, two, three a day workouts. I would argue that that’s not sustainable or healthy for people.

Steven Sashen:

I wish I can remember the name of the researcher who wrote this book. I think it’s called Dopamine Nation. The basic premise is that in your brain, there’s kind of a set point for enjoyment, let’s say. If you do something really enjoyable, your brain is trying to bring things back to normal and it’s going to give you something that might be less enjoyable. It could be a fight with your spouse, it could be who knows what. One of her recommendations for not crashing, in fact, her theory on addiction is that you’re not addicted to the substance. What’s going on is that the substance is necessary to get you back to some level after. You take some opioid, you feel really good, then your brain crashes. It’s not that you’re addicted, it’s that you need to do something to get back up to normal, and that’s going to be that opioid.

That’s where you learn that thing gets you back, and then eventually you need more and more and more and more and more. She does bring up exercise is actually an interesting thing. How do I want to say this? The way exercise can become addictive is very much the same. You go to the gym and what you’re doing or you go for a run, whatever, what you’re doing is stressful. But if you do the stressful thing first, instead of the pleasant thing first, your brain wants to adapt by giving you something pleasant. The addictive part of exercise can come from that. You get that pleasant thing and it’s like, “Oh, I need that.” But the only way to get that is by putting myself through that stress, and eventually you need more stress because that first level doesn’t work as much. It’s a very interesting neurological approach to thinking about these things. To your point, thinking about not that you want to stop, but that you want to pay attention to that relax and recover component, independent perhaps, so you’re not building this sort of addictive pattern.

Ryan Walker:

Absolutely. I actually just read that book, so it was interesting you brought that up.

Steven Sashen:

Oh, no shit. You should have stopped me. You could’ve done the synopsis. You didn’t need me.

Ryan Walker:

Well, when I say just it was about three months ago. The details are a little, that was actually a good refresher. But the other thing I would like to draw to people’s attention is a lot of the chronic exercise is coming for a lot of people from a place of over consumption. This comes down to a behavioral change that we’re using exercise to address over consuming. It’s really, like I said, wellness being the spectrum. There are certain behavioral patterns that we want to install in our lives so that way we can be supportive of the others. If I’m over consuming, well then I’m going to have this compulsion to go to the gym and burn calories. It’s really this nutritional lifestyle balance there. There’s so many factors to it. I could go on and on. That’s just one quick point I wanted to make.

Steven Sashen:

Well, it occurred to me that’s such a puritanical thing. You do something that you think is somehow morally bad, over consume, and then you have to go punish yourself to make up for it.

Ryan Walker:

Right.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. I never thought I’d of that perspective on an exercise, but that’s a real one for a lot of people.

Ryan Walker:

That kind of plays into a lot of the bodybuilding culture too. I mean was as much of a meathead as they get. I was eating a huge caloric surplus to support weight on my frame that was outside of my natural point of where I needed to be. For me, I’ve prioritized function over aesthetics, but with the improved function, aesthetics have come, and now I don’t have to worry about counting my macros or maintaining this caloric surplus in order to hold on to all this excess tissue. A lot of it comes down to what’s sustainable for people.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I just want to highlight the thing you said that with, and pardon me if I’m not going to get it verbatim, but with proper function, the aesthetics followed. I think that’s something that maybe people worry about that if they’re just doing, if they’re not going in and doing bicep curls, how are they going to get their biceps bigger enough to, in theory, attract someone of the appropriate desirable sex? But the idea that being functionally, I don’t want to say efficient. Functionally … How would you fill out that word about how proper functions can lead to the aesthetics that are right for you. I think that’s another piece. There’s a comic named Dom Marrero, who’s got this great bit, I’m going to butcher it just by the intro to it, where he says he loves when people go into a hairdresser and they come in with a picture, it’s like, “I want to look like this.”

Yeah, that’s a male model. You are an ignorant slug. He just goes on forever. It’s like, but we do the same thing. We just assume that anyone can become anything. You see a picture of someone you like, I can look like that if I do fill in the blank. And that’s just not the way these things work. There’s a great story. I don’t remember who said this one. It was a guy. He said, oh, oh, oh, okay, Doug, I’m not going to remember his name. Doug McGuff. He was saying, “Look, so much of what your body’s going to do is genetic. And here’s a thing that I can tell you. There’s a bodybuilder that I knew who had the greatest calves in bodybuilding. He had a twin brother who never lifted a weight in his life, had better calves. There was another athlete who had the most incredible biceps in bodybuilding, had no calves and could never do anything about it, trained them the exact same way, couldn’t make them work.”

Even within your own body, there’s going to be some parts that are responsive and other parts that aren’t. You’re going to look like how you look. And there’s some people based on their biochemistry, who, I had a friend, actually like this. This guy was 6’4″, 175 pounds. He was skinny as a rail. We would go to a Nautilus gym and he would lift the stack on every machine. The guy was super strong. He weighed nothing because he produced so much myostatin that he couldn’t have any muscle growth, but he got really strong. It’s an interesting, I’m highlighting it, because it’s something I know I don’t about as often as I might. I thinking about it this morning that I have certain parts of my body that are just my dad, certain parts that are just like my mom. There’s jokes in there that I’m not going to make, and that’s just the way it is.

I can’t train around those. That’s the way this thing is fundamentally built. I don’t think we really pay enough attention to that. Tell me if I’m wrong from what you’re talking about, about functional movement, and we’re going to dive more into that. You’re going to end up being arguably, I don’t want to say the best you can be, because going to take a lot more attention, but you’ll certainly start to optimize the parts of you that can be optimized and you’ll end up being a better version of you, if not the best version of you.

Ryan Walker:

Certainly. I think people have become kind of used to the idea of having aches and pains, joint aches and pains. Especially as a massage therapist, it’s become so normalized, but it’s not the inherent condition of a human being. We’re not supposed to be walking around with knee pain and hip pain. If you’re experiencing that, which I’d imagine a majority of people listening right now are experiencing some sort of chronic ache or pain or injury that if you optimize, you focus on optimization of biomechanics, your body should be, and I say should. Right? Because I don’t want to make any guarantees, but should be moving without pain. You should be able to move freely through three-dimensional space without limitation. That’s something I want to get across to people, because it’s having that mid shoulder, the pain between the scapulas, that could be something excessively protracted scapulas. Right? If you could get into some mild fascial release to the pecs, get the scaps to sit neutrally over the ribcage like they should, you’ll start to see those things go away.

Steven Sashen:

Well, and backing up to the very first thing you said about posture, one of the things that we hear all the time when people put on a pair of zero shoes, like, oh, it feels like my posture’s changed. Yeah. We’re not elevating your heel and shoving your pelvis forward, and then you don’t have to adjust. There are a lot of people who’ve had tremendous benefits from just getting out of something that just gets in the way or just alters things in a way that’s unnatural that we’ve been sold literally, sold a bill of goods about for the last 45 to 50 years. Of course, we’re also doing things now that are adding a level of stress. I’m going to be the first one to admit it. Running a rapidly growing business, not the most relaxing thing in the world. If it weren’t for my hot tub, I’d be dead. No, that’s, another very interesting point. All right. I’m going to hit you. Do we have a number three in your Mount Rushmore?

Ryan Walker:

That was kind of number three is the normalization of pain and dysfunction.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, no pain, no gain, baby.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah. Then just to kind of touch on, number two we talked about is kind of identifying these arbitrary standards of aesthetics. If we look at these bodybuilders, and I think it looks awesome, it looks great to be jacked, but we also have to realize too, where is this paradigm coming from? I just want to encourage people to step back and ask questions. Why does having 20-inch biceps, why is that considered aesthetic? If you look at sprinters, I’m actually starting to think that track and field athletes are some of the most functional, I know we don’t love that word, but it’s the only one I can think of, functional athletes. They’re running, they’re throwing, they’re jumping, and they look great.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I can tell you about sprinters. Sprinters bodies have changed a lot in the last 20 years because a lot of sprinters, A, came out of football or were at least doing football as well. A lot of sprinters just spent a lot of time in the gym doing kind of everything you can think of. If you look at them lately, they have much less, many of them, not all of them, much less developed upper bodies than they used to. Many really, really good sprinters right now, Noah Lyles, for example, if you bumped in him on the street, you would never think he’s the fastest man in the world. He’s not big, he’s not jacked, he’s not huge. He’s wearing normal pants. You won’t even see that he’s got legs, let alone a butt. It’s really changed.

Now, of course, the joke is, a couple years ago right before the world championship trials, I’m watching the World championship trials for the US team, and these guys were huge. Then two weeks later, the world championships, or two months later, not so huge. Clearly whatever they were taking for the nationals, they were not taking for the worlds because they were having a different type of testing going on. There is that. Again, some of that really is just body dependent.

Carl Lewis was not a big guy, but he was running against really big guys who were pretty close to as fast as he was. There’s a guy that I train with, a guy named Sean, who he probably weighs about 225 right now. How old is Sean? Let’s say 35-ish. Still incredibly, and I don’t mean 230 pounds of just muscle. The guy has got some serious body fat. He’s the first to admit it. It’s just not going away. He still runs unbelievably fast. He’s that strong, and his form is that good, that efficient, that he can still run really well, even at that weight with all that extra baggage. It’s wild to see.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We can jump into, or you go ahead and take the lead. Where would like go?

Steven Sashen:

No, I was going to say jump away.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah. That’s why I talk about prioritizing posture first, because what you were saying about the friend who’s running with good technique. Right? Because if, for example, what you typically see in people is a kypholordosis, it’s very common. It’s part of the slouching culture. That is going to be when the thoracic spine is in an excessive forward flexion, and the lumbar is in an a hyperlordosis, a hyperextension.

Steven Sashen:

Let’s do that for people. The thoracic part is your shoulders are rounded over basically what you’re like when you’re hunched over looking at your phone. The lumbar part of that is the opposite is that combination. Like you said before, often that’s also going to have your head way in front your body typically as well.

Ryan Walker:

Right. And why it’s so important to first address those postural distortions first is let’s say you don’t address those and you go straight into running. Well, what I see in a lot of people is if my thoracic spine is locked into a forward flexion position, one, I can’t get enough rotation through that thoracic spine because in order to move myself through space, there needs to be a counter rotation at the hips with the thoracic spine. That creates almost like an unwinding through space. If I’m stuck, I can’t rotate. My scapulas also can’t move into flection efficiently either.

I just give that example for people to understand that why it’s so important to first address posture, take into consideration the shoe wear you’re using. I’m sure your listeners know all about this, but if I want to just for the listeners, explain axial loading and how important that is. Axial loading is essentially when our skeletal structure is aligned over itself. I like to use the analogy of taking a two by four and standing it on end. It would take very little pressure to knock that two by four over. My brain’s not going to let me fall over my face. Let’s just say my head comes out in front of my body, even if it’s an inch, what’s happening is my body naturally wants to fall forward. Again, my brain’s not going to let me do that. What’s going to happen is unconsciously I’m going to create a hyperextension, like a butt sticking up in the air kind of position to push my body back over in aligned position.

It’s very important for people to understand that, and especially with shoe wear with elevations in the heel, what that’s doing is it’s pushing the center of gravity forward, which is why I’m such a fan of the zero shoes, the minimalist shoes, and obviously we could get into foot pronation and how that translates up the kinetic chain as well and more of you start to see more of these S-shape curvatures, these scoliotic curvatures in people’s spine as a result of over supination or over pronation in the feet.

Steven Sashen:

There was something I was going to add to or ask you about that. Well, the pronation thing is an interesting one because there is appropriate pronation, part of the spring mechanism of your lower leg. And then there’s the part where you’re just not strong enough and therefore, or you have hyper pronation because you’re wearing a shoe with a sole that’s stiff and is flared so you’re hitting an outside edge and it’s making your foot kind of flop, and you don’t have the time to then accommodate that and sort of adopt a strong position when if you’re running with natural form and you’re landing midfoot or forefoot, it’s almost impossible to pronate because you’re landing in a strong position. Even when and if your heel comes down to the ground, it’s doing that with your arch fully loaded and something strong so there will be some pronation. It’s a natural thing.

In fact, it’s funny, there are a number of world-class, world champion distance runners who when they’re running, you can see their inner ankle bone practically hit the ground, massive pronation, but it’s ironically, it’s under control for them. That’s just the way their body works. But I was in the lab with Dr. Bill Sands, who used to be the head of biomechanics for the US Olympic Committee, and he talks about the hyper pronation where you just can’t adjust fast enough. That’s the part that becomes problematic. People who are wearing normal shoes have this problem because if you’re wearing a shoe where it’s got a big thick heel, you land on your heel, then your heel’s a ball, you’re unstable. By the time your foot comes down, your arch is not engaged. Unless you’re perfectly aligned, which no one is, then you’re going to end up falling outside supination, inside pronation, one or the other. Yeah, like you were saying, that’s going to work its way up the chain and have impacts all the way up to your neck.

Ryan Walker:

Right. That’s why I’m such a huge fan of taking care of myofascial elasticity. fascia has a viscoelastic quality. If we break that word down, visco viscosity and elastic, having an elastic quality to it, and just like if you took a wad of Play-Doh, it’ll hold its shape, but if you lay it on the table over time, it will start to kind of melt and flatten out. If you’re fascia is healthy, it should have this rebounding effect where it’s very adaptable. Many people have gotten stuck in postural distortions where the tissues, those myofascial tissues have become dehydrated and adhere to one another. That’s where you get fibrotic knots, trigger points, things like that. This is why with so many clients, I put them on a very aggressive myofascial release protocol because if you have an adhesion in that tissue, well, what it’s doing is it’s distorting your length, tension relationship in the muscle.

Now the muscle, let’s say you hit midfoot strike, your calcaneal tendon’s going to lengthen, and then along with that is the calf is obviously going to lengthen as well. If there’s an adhesion in there, just like if you took a rope and you tied a knot in it, well, it’s not going to get the length potential that it could have. That’s another one I really encourage people to do is explore, get a lacrosse ball, get a tennis ball, explore areas where you have a lot of hypersensitivity, spend some time on that.

Another thing that I see a lot of people doing with foam rolling is they’ll get on a foam roll and they’ll roll their quad out back and forth for 30 seconds and call it myofascial release, but it’s not because fascia is made up. Again, it’s viscoelastic and it’s made up of a thick atropic protein. If you take corn starch and water and it holds again that hardened shape, you can tap it, you can punch it’s not going to move. But if you put your finger on it, your finger will slowly sink into that material. When you are doing your myofascial release, it’s really important that people spend a minimum, this is what you see with deep tissue massage or structural massage, is that slow deep compression into the tissue even getting all the way to the bone where the periosteum is, right? The fascia that encases the bone. I think that goes along with what you were saying with the people who pronate, but there’s a springing effect that happens if the fascia is healthy.

Steven Sashen:

Got it. Just to highlight that, because people do myofascial release incorrectly more often than not, this could be one of our other, this is a subset of our top four, our Mount Rushmore of mythology. Just rolling over something can feel good, but it’s not actually doing the thing you want. And just by staying on that point, and what I tell me if this is something similar to what you do, if I’m finding some spot in, I don’t know, I’ll say my hamstring, for lack of a better example. The thing that I’m going to do is gently, well, to the extent that you can be gentle when you’re shoving a lacrosse ball almost down your femur, but I’ll flex and extend that leg. I’m basically staying on that point while moving that muscle through a range of motion, which is part of what seems to actually have an impact. Do you disagree with that idea?

Ryan Walker:

No, I think that’s good. A little bit of active lengthening. It really, really helps. It helps kind of create a flossing effect over that tissue.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Yeah.

Ryan Walker:

It’s very similar with what you’ll see with ART or active release technique, you’ll have a practitioner grab onto your pec and they’ll say, okay, now extend your arm up over your head slowly. It’s not at all comfortable, but what you’re going to do is you’re going to pull that myofascial adhesion through that pressure, breaking it down, and then as they bring their arm back, it’s just going to floss over that tissue. Yeah, I like the active flexion and extension over that pressure.

Steven Sashen:

There’s a guy that I’m blanking the name of this company, unfortunately. I’m going to have to find it. Who does a similar thing to that, to ART of let’s find where something stuck. I’m going to press on it really hard. Now you have to move your arm through range of motion, although he does it with electricity. He makes the muscle contract more than you could on your own with electricity and then move your body. Same thing, it is incredibly unpleasant while you’re doing it. The moment you’re done, it’s like, holy crap, that was the greatest thing ever. It’s back to that dopaminergic effect. It’s like you put yourself through something unpleasant, then there’s this great release, and the next thing you’re just like, all right, now work on this spot. It’s very entertaining.

Ryan Walker:

It is strangely addictive, myofascial release work, because I have clients who at the end of our session, I say, “Okay, we’re going to foam roll the quads.” And they’re just like, “Oh, god.” But when they get up and they feel that their hips are able to get into extension more, their knees are able to flex more freely. You think, oh my gosh, imagine if I spend an hour doing this. How am I going to feel? I love sitting down, put a podcast on this one, of course, and get into those tissues. Listen to a podcast, put something on the background. It’s hard to get yourself to do it initially, just like anything that’s hard to do. But once you get about five minutes in, you start feeling these releases almost like this kind of twitching in the muscle fiber. To me, that’s success because that’s a remineralization back to those fibrils that were once stuck and not getting the neural input and feedback they should have gotten.

Steven Sashen:

Well, that’s an interesting point actually. I wonder how much of it is, excuse me, actually impacting the fascia versus sending a signal to your brain that it doesn’t need to be sending a signal back to the muscle spindle fibers to contract that muscle. I’m not saying it’s one or the other, it just may be that there’s an overlap between some habitual tightness because your brain has habituated to sending out signals saying, keep this thing tight. It relates in my head to when I watch people running, I’ve got a lot of really good runners in my neighborhood, and I watch them running in a big, thick, elevated heel shoe, but they have really good form. They’re landing, midfoot, everything landing under their body. Everything looks good, but their heel can’t come down to the ground. When they put on something minimalist, they go, “Oh, see, it’s hurting my achilles.” It’s like, “No, no, no. You’ve taught your brain not to let your Achilles stretch fully.” Now you have to slowly just teach your brain, it’s not changing the tissue, it’s just teaching your brain that it’s safe to do this. Then it will be.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, absolutely.

Steven Sashen:

All right. Do you have number four?

Ryan Walker:

Number four, this kind of goes along. Are we still on myths or?

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, let’s do, if you have one more, we’ll do one more myth, and if not, we’ll go into the anti-mythology.

Ryan Walker:

Okay. Let me think. I know there’s tons, but I’m on the spot right now. Obviously I’m reaching, let’s see.

Steven Sashen:

Want me to want to whistle the Jeopardy theme song?

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, that’ll help. Thank you. Oh, okay. I’ve got one. This kind of falls back in line with weightlifting. A lot of the movements, conventional movements that people are doing in the gym is if you look at the way people are loading their bodies, loading their bodies in this kind of Z axis, this vertical up and down. If you look at a majority of movement, especially running, it’s happening again through space, through a horizontal plane. What I would encourage people to start consider doing is moving loads through that range of motion, through a horizontal plane of motion versus axially loading. Another reason why I’ve deviated from a lot of the conventional training is I’m not a big fan of loading up the spine. I know that’s going to be really controversial for people, but if you go to see a doctor because you have back pain, typically there’s something happening in the nerve or in the spine, maybe it’s a disc bulge is laying on a nerve, and that’s creating a problem. What do we do? We encourage people to traction that. Right? Let’s take pressure off of that nerve.

Once I stepped back and I started looking at things through more of a functional training lens, I started thinking, well, why would I voluntarily compress my spine? Because ultimately I’m doing the opposite of what I should be doing for spinal health. Again, I know that’s going to ruffle some feathers, but since I’ve gotten away from that-

Steven Sashen:

Wait, wait. Pause there. Why do you think that’s feather ruffling? Because it seems so obvious that you don’t want to put excessive downward force on the disc and through the nerves in your spine. What kind of people find that getting their panties in a wad and things in a twist and feathers in their ruffle and et cetera?

Ryan Walker:

Well, and that’s where the kind of dogma with the fitness industry comes in is when you do something for so many years and you tell people, Hey, that’s probably not the best thing for you there’s going to be this cognitive dissonance. Right? It’s like telling a Pentecostal Christian, “Hey, God doesn’t exist.” What are you talking about? I’ve invested all this time and energy. Really what it comes down to is having a sense of humility and openness to learning. I’m after objective truth. What works? If somebody can prove me wrong, I’ll do it. I’m totally fine with being wrong. I just know that I went from debilitating hip pain a year ago, not being able to get up out of a chair to no pain, decompressing my spine with the movements. If you’re moving in a way, again, that word functional way movement should actually be decompressive to your joints into your spine.

If your posture is where it should be and you’re running, when you hit the ground, a pressure wave moves up through the body. If my fascial visco-elasticity is where it should be, I’m going to be distributing that shockwave through the body in an equal way. But if I don’t, let’s say I don’t have lumbopelvic stability, I have hyperextension in the spine, I’m going to basically be taking that pressure wave right into the lumbo-pelvic hip complex. I’m kind of going off on a tangent here. I’m not sure why I brought that up.

Steven Sashen:

No, no, no, no, no. You got it. Actually here, I’ll bring you back maybe. Then give me an example of some movement thing. Well, there’s two thoughts that I have. So for a lot of people, it’s like, hey, we’ve got to squat, got a deadlift, and there’s going to be a lot of spinal loading there. I’m trying to avoid spinal loading as much as I can. Got a grade two L5 S1 spondylolisthesis with a pars defect, blah, blah, blah. Basically I got a broken spine. I try to do as little as I can, which is sad because I really loved when I was squatting big weights and dead lifting big weights. It’s fun that’s what most people think. If you’re going to work your body, you got to do squats, you got to do dead lifts. That’s one aspect of what would people be doing other than something like that. To add that horizontal movement component to describe something that you would be doing or having people do to have that decompression happening through movement.

Ryan Walker:

The best way, the most basic one I can explain without the visual element is one that I’ll have a lot of clients do is stand with feet hip width apart and reach out in front of them grabbing a cable or a handle, and then kind of mimicking the reciprocating arm motion you would see during gait cycle or running. Right now my shoulder is being traction, I’m opening up the scapula, I’m rotating through the thoracic spine.

Steven Sashen:

Let me describe what you’re doing. You have your right hand extended just straight out in front of your body, and you’re rotating your arm counterclockwise.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, almost into an internally, thumb down.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I was going to say it’s internally rotating, but for people who don’t know what that is. You’re rotating your whole arm by rotating it counterclockwise. Okay.

Ryan Walker:

Right. Right there, I’m allowing that torque to pull my spine into a rotation all the while maintaining good lumbopelvic stability. Right? I’m keeping the “core” activated. Then what I’m doing is I’m reciprocating, I’m pulling and reaching simultaneously, creating a counter rotation, and then opening up my spine in the other direction. Now I’m getting a resistance load in conjunction with this that’s happening.

Steven Sashen:

Would you be using, so if you’ve grabbed a cable, for example, so for the resistance part, would you be having using the cable just on one arm or both?

Ryan Walker:

Just one arm. You can do both. There’s not right or wrong, it’s just when I’m trying to improve, oh, sorry, I keep cutting you off when I’m trying to improve people’s gait cycle mechanics and getting that reciprocation between the arms. That’s what I’m trying to. Because again, people are so fixated on this sagittal plane movement, bilateral movement.

Steven Sashen:

Forward. Yeah, yeah.

Ryan Walker:

When we know that-

Steven Sashen:

Again, just I’m just doing the watching you to English translation. So you’ve got your arm extended in front of you as you’re doing that interim rotation, as you’re rotating your arm counter-clockwise, it’s also you’re twisting your torso, keeping your pelvis stable, twisting your torso, so that your arm and shoulder are moving forward basically because of that twist. Then as you pull back, you’re keeping your arm straight, you’re rotating it the other way. Now you’re going clockwise, you’re rotating your torso the other way. So now your right shoulder is coming behind you as you’re now taking your left arm and having it go forward in front of you and rotating inward. It becomes this multiplanar rotation thing, starting with your arms and your thoracic vertebrae.

Ryan Walker:

Perfect. Yeah. Cool.

Steven Sashen:

I’ll tell you where to send the check. So no, that’s a really good one. So in the time that we have left, and frankly just going over the myths, what I like about looking at mythology is it almost automatically suggests whatever the opposite might be, whatever that more correct way of viewing something might be. Getting past your mythology, what do you want to tackle next? The flip side to mythology?

Ryan Walker:

Sure. I’m open to wherever you’d like to take it.

Steven Sashen:

No, no. Hey, no, this is all you. I was just doing a mediocre attempt at leading based on where I thought you were going.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, I’d kind of like to return to the fascial lines for people, because I feel like it’s such an essential piece in our movement. What I would encourage people to do is, again, Google fascial lines, take a look at the different ones. We’ve got the superficial front line, the lateral line, we’ve got the spiral line, which is a really, really complex fascial line to look at. When we talk about fascial lines, what a fascial line essentially is it’s a sequence of muscles that are tied together through fascia that are all supposed to co-contract simultaneously to drive global movements, big movements. Right? Back flips, running, throwing. Nothing again is working in isolation.

I would encourage people to Google it up and then pick one line that you like and start doing myofascia release through that chain and watch how global movements will change. Let’s say you have the lateral knee pain on the outside of your knee. Well, most people are probably going to go and foam roll the IT band or the TFL, but don’t stop there. Work on all the other lateral line tissues, work on the lateral compartment of the lower leg where the tibialis interior is, and the peroneals. Work up into the obliques and the lats. Then watch how that whole movement will just open up because you’ve released the tissues that are all supposed to work in unison with one another.

Steven Sashen:

That’s a good one. Then I imagine I brought up Feldenkrai’s work a number of times. I haven’t done it in a long time, but it’s something I was really fond of. You know, open up one side and that kind of makes your brain almost wake up to what it forgot was possible. Then the other side often comes along for the ride. I’d like to say my first bare, my second barefoot run when my left leg was injured from my first barefoot run, I had a big blister. I was just paying attention to the good side during that second run. Eventually the bad side figured out what good meant and got on board and suddenly everything was fast, easy, light, enjoyable in a way that it wasn’t a second earlier.

Ryan Walker:

Right, right. Yeah. Another thing I like to have people do is go for a walk. This actually kind of becomes a walking meditation as well, because you’re drawing your awareness to how does the force being distributed through your body feel? For example, the other day I went for a walk and my TFLs tend to get really tense, your fascial muscles on the front of your front and lateral side of your hip tend to get really tight from all the years of martial arts and doing sidekicks and loading up that muscle over and over again. I was walking, I thought, “Wow, when my leg swings into extension, as I’m walking that left TFL is really locked up. It’s keeping me from getting into sufficient extension, putting my leg behind me.” I’ll come home and I’ll make a mental note of that and I’ll get down on that lacrosse ball and I’ll just isolate that tissue for 5, 10 minutes, however long you feel you need to.

Obviously you don’t want to do it for an hour on one spot. Then you’re also becoming ischemic in that tissue. You’re drawing blood out. Fascia works like a sponge where we push blood out and then the blood comes back in. Now we have this nutrient rich blood and hydration getting back to the tissue and then go walk again. Like a test and retest and just try to draw your awareness. No headphones, no music, just go walk, draw your attention to how you feel and develop an inner body experience or an awareness, and then address it and then retest it.

Steven Sashen:

I like it. I’m going to give you one to play with that I’ve been using a lot lately that I discovered accidentally. It’s related to what we just said. When I’m walking up a hill, and I can do this when I’m walking on a flat as well, but I especially do it when I’m walking up a hill, my left foot is on the ground behind me. I’m pushing forward. My left foot is behind me and I twist my upper body to, sorry, my right foot is behind me. Let’s do it that way. My right foot is behind me because it’s on the ground. I twist my upper body to the left, and so there’s a stretch in my hip flexor. Then as I’m about to switch legs, when I start twisting my upper body towards the right, I don’t need to do anything with my hip flexor. It was stretched already.

Just by letting go, it’s sort of like the rubber band releases and my leg comes forward just enough to end up underneath my center of mass. By just twisting my upper body and getting my hip flexor to stretch and release and stretch and release, I end up twisting my way up a hill. It takes no effort. There’s like almost no exertion at all. It looks dorky as hell. You look like you’re doing some bad dance thing, but it’s really interesting to play with. I’m thinking about the whole fascial line thing because what’s going on in that twisting, you could do the same thing without twisting your upper body, but it doesn’t really work the same. That whole fascial line thing, literally because can feel it from my shoulder all the way down to my heel when I do that. It’s really, really fun. You’ll have to do it and let me know what happens.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, yeah. That’s an interesting one. I like that. What it also does is it draws awareness to how the synergistic relationship between antagonistic muscles are working together. An example of an antagonistic muscle would be my bicep flexes my forearm and my tricep extends my forearm. That’s how the body moves is technically, it undulates. As I’m stepping forward and my spine is rotating and my hip flexor is flexed, the muscles that are antagonistic to that are all contracting simultaneously as the other set of tissues are lengthening. It is so complex when you start going down this rabbit hole, and I think that’s a great exercise to draw awareness to how that functions.

Steven Sashen:

It’s really fun to just experiment with finding ways to move that just take less effort with the parts that you think need to have effort. You think walking and running are all about your legs. What happens if you start thinking about it from a different place, from your hands, from your shoulders, from your hips? My wife and I, we got our first ever dog a year and a half ago. I have a lot of time every day where I’m just walking the dog and just playing with these movement patterns. There’s different ones that I do downhill versus uphill. There’s things to explore downhill as well that are very entertaining. Anyway, that’s my entry into the sweepstakes for this one I like. All right. What, if anything, were we missing before we start to on our way to a landing?

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, let me think about that for a second. We’ve covered mile fast release, very important fascial lines. Again, nothing’s coming to mind right now, but I’m open to questions to help stimulate any thoughts.

Steven Sashen:

I got nothing. Let’s just do the easy thing. If people want to find out more about everything we’ve been talking about and more about you and the work you’re doing and how to work with you possibly, how would they do that?

Ryan Walker:

Yeah, I’m kind of casual, laid back, just reaching me on a DM on Instagram at @coachryan, the number one, coachryan1. I just recently launched a comprehensive three D movement course where I run people through the entirety of everything we talked about, the myofascial release, the core integration exercises, the foot restructuring protocols, over 70 lessons there. If people are interested in that they can just find me on Instagram and find a link there with access to that program.

Steven Sashen:

Perfect. Well, I hope people take you up on that. This has been super, super fun and you brought up some things that again, I think are obviously highly misunderstood and to find alternatives that are not only, let’s say better, but can feel better. And I mean, I was going to say functionally better, but also just feel better because some of the stuff that we’re talking about. We didn’t even get into this. It’s just when you start using your body the way it’s made, it just feels good. Bottom line.

Ryan Walker:

Exactly. My final thoughts on that is our bodies, we still have the evolutionary biology and biomechanics designed to operate within a natural world, but we don’t live in a natural world. We live in a world on top of the natural world, a modernized world. Not only do I encourage people to start moving in a way that’s consistent with your evolutionary biomechanics, but start behaving in a way that’s consistent with it as well. Right? Sleep as the sun goes down, wake up as the sun comes up, get morning sun on your skin. Don’t over consume. Surround yourself with peers in an environment that is conducive to good health. It’s a full spectrum and it’s easy to get myopic on the movement when there’s so many other factors to take consideration.

Steven Sashen:

Yes, yes. Unfortunately you left chocolate out of that equation, and I think that’s a grave oversight.

Ryan Walker:

Hey, dark chocolate’s great. Right?

Steven Sashen:

Exactly.

Ryan Walker:

Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

Well, Ryan, thanks. This has been a total, total pleasure and everyone do. Please check him out on Instagram @coachryan1. Let me know what happens when you guys do get in touch and you start exploring some of these things and have some fun doing that. And once again, a quick reminder, head over to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. To find previous episodes all the way you can, can interact with us on social media, all the other places you can find the podcast if you don’t like the one you’re using right now. If you have any recommendations or suggestions, ideas of who should be on the show, telling me I’ve got a case of cranial rectal reorientation syndrome, whatever you want to say, you can drop an email to me. I’m at move M-O-V-E, at jointhemovementmovement.com. But most importantly, of course, just go out, have fun and live life feet first.

 

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