Over the winter break I had the privlege to visit Chicago and shadow Dr.Tom Nelson. I have discussed the importance of mentors on a previous blog I used to contribute towards, but I would like to expand on that discussion in the context of my visit to Chicago.
Dr. Tom Nelson is one of the most chairasmatic, authentic and wise individuals I have ever had the great fortune to meet. He exudes a sense of calm and peace that instantly puts his patients at ease. He not only moves with a 1-2-3 seuquence but lives his life 1-2-3.
Dr.Tom learned the Be Activated Muscle Activation system directly from Douglas Heel and has been a leader for spreading the Be-Activated Muscle Activation philosophy and transferring the health care system from the inside out. He now helps Douglas Heel teach Be-Activated Muscle Activation workshops in Chicago, while running a Be-Activated Muscle Activation clinic combined with a "traditional western medical practice." Seeing the effectiveness of his combined practice up close and personally was truly inspiring (visit his website to learn more).
So why was learning and shadowing Dr.Tom such a tansformative process for me? Was it because of his experience and his clinical acumen? While they are impressive, what made my learning experience from him so enriching were his ardent desire to teach and mentor me. This is a lesson that you can take away from my experience so that you can be the best that you can be.
He should be better than me, otherwise that means I have not done my job."
I remember a patient had asked me if I was going to be as good as a doctor as Dr. Tom. Immediately he responded, "he should be better, otherwise that means I have not done my job." If you want to be an excellent athlete, dancer, musician, or anything else your heart desires it is absolutely essential that you find a mentor that has transceded their ego and is passionate about promotiong your learning. I have been absolutely blesed to have many mentors such as Dr. Tom help guide me throughout my life. If you are committed to being the best that you can be it is essential that you search out a mentor that is not seeking an ego boost but is dedicated to teaching you and your success.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
This is part II of Sam Wuest's guest post. Make sure that you check out part I. He is now describing some theory and illustration of the Be Activated system. Sam competed for the University of Maryland's and Boston University's Track and Field teams after setting school and conference records in high school. Sam won all-conference awards in the America East and has competed internationally post-collegiately. Sam currently coaches collegiate Track & Field at a small college in Massachusetts.
Heel’s system is designed to uncover compensation patterns in the body. It revolves around posture, breathing and muscle recruitment, which all go hand-in-hand. Every movement must start in the center of the body and move outwards, effectively expanding the body, instead of starting at a distal (far from the center) area and moving inwards, which causes a collapse in the body. Heel divides the body into zones, pictured below. 1-2-3 is the ideal muscle sequencing pattern, anything else is a liability for injury or subpar performance.
Zone 1: The Diaphragm, Psoas and Glutes:
Hip flexion and extension is the body’s primary priority – it cannot move without it. The psoas and glutes are designed to flex and extend the hip – they are in the best position to do so. The psoas will not be working properly if the diaphragm is not working properly, because the fascia encasing the diaphragm also wraps around the psoas. If breathing is compromised, due to stress or bad posture, the functioning of the entire body will also be compromised. If the glute/psoas can’t do their job correctly, another set of muscles will take over in order to move. I say “set” because no single muscle can do the job of either glute or psoas.
The diaphragm is involved because the fascia holding it in place connects to the psoas. If the diaphragm shuts down due to stress, poor posture or other reasons the psoas cannot do its job. Due to reciprocal inhibition, the glutes cannot fire if the psoas cannot fire. If the glutes cannot fire, the hamstring will do its own job AND take over for the glutes. Because these muscles are supposed to fire first in any movement, if you can’t breathe deeply into your belly, you won’t sequence properly.
Sequencing should be 1-2-3. However, most athletes are firing zones two or three first – this means that they fire their quad and abdominals together to make up for a misfiring psoas (leaving those muscles unable to effectively do their own jobs) or firing their shin or even hand muscles first. I was surprised to see how many athletes cannot get their brain to fire a hip flexor without tensioning the ankle joint first – these athletes may have shin splints, Achilles problems, chronically tight calves or any other disfunction stemming from the way they compensate when their feet hit the ground. The predictive value of an athlete’s sequencing pattern has been pretty on point in my limited experience testing this in my athletes.
What does a 1-2-3 look like in action? Here is Irving Saladino, Olympic long jump champion from Panama. In this picture, notice the lack of tension immediately after takeoff – you can see it in this slow motion video as well, fingers lightly curled, jaw lightly closed, toe mildly up, but there is no excessive tension in these areas when he raises his free leg upon takeoff. His psoas muscle is able to do its own job, the hands and face (which cannot add anything to the jump) are able to relax because they are not called upon to work. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbLZKY2CRk4)
What does a malfunctioning pattern look like? Here I am, in two separate pictures. My pattern on the right is a 3-3-3 arm – this means that in order to flex my right hip, my brain sends tension to my left hand first. My psoas on that side cannot do its own job, so the brain tries to add tension in other areas to assist in hip flexion. This is why I make a strange claw with it as I jump. This need-for-tension in my hand explains how I could hit my head on the rim, but could not get anywhere near that high with a basketball in my hand – holding a ball forces my hand to open, and as a result, my brain cuts the amount of power it gives to my hip drive. This is a setup for injury as well, because my strength levels drop when I cannot/do not close my left hand. It also explains why I have injured my left thumb so often – my hand thinks it has to do hip flexion, so when it has to do its own job it is tired or out of position. My face is also holding a ton of tension, which is only hindering my ability to jump far. My mind-body connection had blown a fuse, it didn’t know which muscle to fire when. While I had some success this season, I also missed almost all of it because of injury.
The way we get it working again is first by working with the breath – if the diaphragm isn’t working nothing will work properly – and rubbing neurolymphatic reflex points that cause our brain to wake up muscles that it has stopped using, whether because of stress, bad movement patterns, or other reasons. The result is that there is a measurable difference in performance in controlled tests. That difference can be flexibility or strength, depending on the area. The pre/post test differences are often shocking – 45* to 90* range of motion in the hamstring, two fingers pushing down a raised knee to my full bodyweight on said knee. It can resolve pain and optimize performance. It’s pretty cool.
I hope you enjoyed these guest post from Sam Wuest detailing his experience with the Be-Activated system.Be Activated is super cool. It has completely changed how I view the human body and elite athletic performance. If you have any questions make sure to leave a comment. If you are interested in learning more about activations make sure to contact me and click here for more information.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Today we have the privilege of a guest post from Sam Wuest. He is reflecting on his experience 4 weeks after having the privilege to attend a Douglas Heel workshop. Sam competed for the University of Maryland's and Boston University's Track and Field teams after setting school and conference records in high school. Sam won all-conference awards in the America East and has competed internationally post-collegiately. Sam currently coaches collegiate Track & Field at a small college in Massachusetts.
This system has completely changed the way in which I look at the body and mind - posture, body language, breathing, recovery, focus, and performance. I now activate almost every point we were shown every day, in the morning and/or before training. I have many of my athletes do a smaller version of activation before practices/workouts. Our reactions are below:
What’s changed for me?
Running/jumping feels effortless
Used to sleep with a pillow between my legs because hip pain would wake me up at night, and have avoided playing basketball to avoid aggravating my hip's FAI impingement/damaged labrum – pain is completely gone at rest and during intense activity.
Low back (SI joint) pain gone a few hours after bothersome activity (heavier weight training) instead of a few days. This recovery time is still getting shorter as well (update: have not had pain in several days, for the first time in a year).
My usual head-tilted-to-the-right posture has diminished significantly.
Left hip can raise up above 110* while standing, when it could not go much past 90* previously
Significantly less soreness in hamstrings after sprinting/doing posterior chain work, more soreness in the glute.
Passive range of motion of the gastrocs (calves) went from barely 90* to 15-20* past that – if the calves can only get to 90* the whole body will have to compensate.
Previously fractured area of my right foot no longer goes numb in the cold/with tightly laced shoes - felt a serious rush of blood in there during one particular treatment.
Right knee pain can be reduced/almost entirely eliminated immediately by rubbing a particular point and repeating 1-2x daily for a few seconds - and every time it comes back it comes back less.
Neck and shoulders no longer stuck in forward position – feel taller, more confident, with significantly less tension.
Jaw finally jiggles while sprinting – gotten rid of harmful tension there.
Have not gotten my usual monthly migraine, even with a more stressful month than usual.
Butt (glute muscles) have grown significantly relative to others.
Maintaining posture feels easy/effortless by focusing on breathing – in slouching I am aware of how much it restricts my breathing!
Can breathe into my belly with no extra effort.
I can get out of fight or flight stress response much more quickly than before to make rational choices while under stress.
I do almost no stretching now - once the right muscles fire, your body removes the tightness it created as a way of protecting itself from your dysfunctional movement patterns.
What’s changed for my athletes?
I have tried the technique (mostly zone 1 – diaphragm/glute/psoas) on friends, family and a large portion of my collegiate track athletes – their reactions listed below. The first few are almost universal, while others are more specific; although I may have included a specific quote all reactions I list here were mentioned/seen in more than one athlete/client:
Improved strength – ability to contract zone 1 (psoas/glute) without tensing jaw, shin, or other distal areas to assist – meaning changed order of sequencing - more on that in part II
Ability to breath into belly more easily/more deeply
Changed posture – taller, reduced head forward/rounded shoulders position
“I feel lighter”/”like I lost 20 pounds”
“Effortless” feeling while walking/running/sprinting
“I didn’t notice much until halfway through my run – my legs didn’t feel heavy where they usually do”
Improved mechanics while running – greater push through hips, knees appear to pop up without extra effort
Relaxation – at rest, and seen while running (ability to relax jaw)
Improved ranges of motion – as drastic as hamstrings going from 45* to 90*, calves from 0* past 90* to 25* past 90* in one 10 minute session
Reduced/eliminated pain in back/hip
Reduced anxiety during strength test after treatment (less feeling of “things about to snap”)
And my favorite reaction, from an athlete that was clearly not sold after treatment, halfway through the toughest workout of the week: “I just feel so loose right now. I feel amazing.” Then he proceeded to crush the rest of the workout.
The morning of the Super Bowl was a little manic for me – our local Patriots were playing that night, and a blizzard was scheduled to hit before work the next morning. But both of those things were not really on my mind, as I was trying to reserve a spot at Douglas Heel’s “Be-Activated” Level One seminar the following weekend, looking into the last-minute travel arrangements that would go along with it.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect – the videos/articles I saw showed results, but since this system didn’t fit into my previous knowledge – touching points on the stomach to gain flexibility in the calf, for example – part of me was not sold. We worked in partners on both days, one partner for each day, to learn activation. My partners were novices in activation work, as I was – one had experience with manual therapy as an osteopath, the other was a high school track & field coach. Video from another course, but similar to what we saw (and experienced) while in Chicago.
**Part II of this article will explain some of the theory behind why this works**
Felt cleansed afterwards – endorphins out of this world, perhaps partially because some of the points were so painful – but I also felt that I had let go of things that my body and mind had held onto for years. Difficult to describe, but profound and worth mentioning, since I am not the only one who mentioned feeling that way.
I have studied Zen, tai chi, and chi gong for 7+ years…I thought I knew how to breathe into my belly. After that day I took breaths into my belly that I don’t think I had taken since high school, if not longer – activating the diaphragm and psoas made an impact on the quality and natural depth of my breathing.
I visited a friend that night who is living in the area - he remarked that I seemed "really excited" about my work as we talked - I had a ton of new energy, that's for sure.
As a former athlete recovering from several injuries, a couple in particular combining to end my college athletic career early, I have always felt a feeling of the wheels about to fall off while sprinting. It's not a happy feeling, it is my brain receiving signals from my body that something ain't quite right. Upon returning to practice, I noticed myself running back and forth between coaching venues the way a kid runs – getting somewhere serves as an excuse for the joyous activity that is running. I was bouncing off of the walls with energy. That feeling of the wheels falling off being imminent was completely gone and I felt freer than I had in a long time. Later that week, there was a day in which my car’s battery died and I had to wait at the shop all day, missing both of my jobs for that day – despite the initial stress, I was able to return to a state of acceptance about missing work by focusing on my breathing and my posture. The next day, I had too much energy and a blizzard was threatening after I picked up the car – I didn’t have time for a workout at the gym, as the snow had already started to fall, I knew my sanity for the next two days holed up in my home was at stake. So I laced up my trainers and ran. A couple minutes in I noticed that I didn’t feel any tightness, so I turned it up for a stride. Before long, my “run” turned into sprints on pavement at about 85-90% intensity. In 30* weather, with the snow falling – without any tightness, without the usual anxiety accompanying maximal effort. It was awesome.
While the initial rush has worn off, I am in significantly less pain on a daily basis than I have been in at any point in the past 6 years, and my posture is effortlessly so much better. Perhaps just as important, my relationship with stress has changed – I am much more able to address situations calmly, with an open mind. By changing my posture, I can change the way that I feel and think for the better – perhaps because our posture influences the hormones our body releases. I really buy into Heel’s saying that “what’s in the body is in the mind, what’s in the mind is in the body.” Look in a mirror, close your eyes, then picture your most embarrassing moment in vivid detail. Open your eyes again. From demonstrations I’ve done with my athletes, 100% have adopted a forward neck, rounded shoulders, hip-out-of-alignment posture, sometimes even with crossed arms. How can you perform in that position?? Any trainer, coach or mom can tell you that a body looking like that cannot safely and effectively perform. On the flip side, the posture that kids adopt on their best days – a light, open posture – is exactly what Heel’s system builds. This is the position that trainers dream about their athletes getting into, and coaches picture when they picture their team succeeding. Don’t take my word for it, watch people on their best and worst days. Change the body and you change the mind, change the mind and you change the body.
To learn more about activation, and to try it yourself, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or check out this list of US practitioners (http://itccca.com/9825/2015/02/dont-implode-explode-be-activated/)
I have to thank Joel Smith, Tony Holler, Dr. Tom Nelson and Chris Korfist for providing enough information/excitement for me to fly out to Chicago to learn from Heel in person. Smith, at just-fly-sports.com for posted an interview with Chris Korfist in which he mentions Heel’s Activation work – causing me to google around and see Tony Holler’s articles on Activation, Nelson’s videos/website (activateanddominate.com) on the activation work he does with Nazareth’s football team, along with actual injury statistics and player/coach reactions.
You can read Smith’s articles here:
You can read Holler’s articles here:
I hope you enjoyed this guest post from Sam Wuest detailing his experience with the Be-Activated system. Stay tuned for part 2. If you have any questions make sure to leave a comment. If you are interested in learning more about activations make sure to contact me and click here for more information.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Since this is my first blog post I would like to briefly describe my story and why I have created this blog. I had the privilege to compete for Boston University's NCAA division one track and field team. It was an amazing experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. However, my potential was hampered by recurrent injuries despite the fact that I was following exactly what my athletic trainers and doctors were telling me to do. This led me on a journey to rediscover the joy of pain free movement. Since knowledge is only useful if it is shared, I would like to share something that has helped allow me to regain my health and be stronger than ever.
I had the privilege to attend Douglas Heel's Be Activated Workshop. It was a truly life transforming event. It not only resulted in huge changes in my physiology but also completely transformed the paradigm through which I view the human body. His workshops made me realize that there was a systemic issue that was underlying the high frequency of my hamstring injuries.
An infection care model (one pathogen, one cure) had been applied to sports injuries, which are a multifactorial problem. The athletic trainers and doctors had focused solely on my hamstrings. However, my hamstrings were NOT the issue. My hamstrings were actually working perfectly. I had improper muscle sequencing patterns so I was asking my hamstrings to do more than they should ever have to. They tried valiantly to pick up the slack from other dormant muscles. But periodically they would rebel, and would shut my body down for weeks at a time.
Why? This is a question it seems our society has forgotten to ask, especially surrounding injuries. Non-collision injuries should NOT be the norm. Your body is perfectly engineered to allow you to move effortlessly and pain free for your entire life. Your joints should outlast you, not the other way around.
I am extremely passionate about this Be Activated technique not only because it is the best method I have found to deal with pain and athletic limitation but also because it addressed the causes of my muscoskeletal dysfunction. Always ask why something is happening. Do not accept the limiting belief that you have to live in pain or will be unable to enjoy your favourite activities unless it is due to the most extenuating circumstances.
If you are interested in learning more about the Be Activated System or would like to book an a session visit this page.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
I am a medical student who is obsessed with the Be Activated Muscle Activation Technique, mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive.