In part 1 of this series, I revealed what I called my Freedom Framework, a 7-phase approach to reclaiming your body, health and mindset. Every Monday, in the weeks that unfold, I’ll be detailing the 6 key elements that need to be integrated into the 7 phases:
- Workflow, and
And, once a month, I’ll be adding in my own personal progress updates.
Please note, too, that while I laid out the Freedom Framework as 7 discrete phases, as a few people noted in the comments last week, the reality is that certain of these phases will co-mingle/crossover and certain others will require tight integration between critical elements as well (like exercise and nutrition). Don’t worry, it’ll all get clear as this adventure unfolds over the next few weeks.
This week, I’m sharing how to work the first key element—exercise—into the Freedom Framework.
So, why am I starting with exercise?
Because exercise is life’s magic bullet!
A mountain of research over the last 3 decades reveals that exercise is, in fact, the master key, the catalyst to forward movement in nearly all the critical areas of life. It improves:
- Mood – While not a cure,, studies show exercise helps lessen the effects of depression, anxiety and help reduce chronic stress which can often lead to depression and anxiety disorders.
- Eating urges - Certain types of exercise can help alter your physiology and change your brain chemistry to reduce cravings for food (but research suggests other types of exercise may actually increase appetite). And, through it’s effect on depression, anxiety and stress, it goes straight to the source of many compulsions to eat as a way to self-treat.
- Weight - Exercise burns calories, especially cardiovascular exercise performed at a high level of intensity over a longer period of time. This calorie-burning effect can be further enhanced with something called “interval training” which alternates bursts of high-intensity bouts with gentler recovery periods. There has been evidence to suggest interval training also creates an “afterburn” effect (‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ or EPOC), leaving your metabolism higher for hours after working out. Also, as mentioned above, by changing your mental outlook, it may diminish the desire to overeat. And, exercise also has the ability to add lean body mass or muscle, the most metabolically active tissue in the body. Translation – muscle burns more calories, so it is essentially the bodys fat-burning engine. The more you have, the more you burn 24-7, even while you sleep, though there is increasing debate about just how big the impact is. We’ll go into the different ways to train to have the maximum impact of weight and metabolism in Part 2 of this. topic.
- Sleep – Exercise may help improve both the duration and quality of your sleep in a number of different ways, both through it’s role as a stress-reducer, chemistry-resetter and, if timed right, by raising your body temperature, then dropping it just as you’re ready to dose off to sleep.
- Productivity – Exercise actually makes you more productive. A classic NASA study revealed that during the 7th hour of an 8-hour day, employees who exercised on a regular basis were able to continue to work at nearly 100% efficiency, while non-exercisers’ productivity dropped a whopping 50%. Now, imagine if you carried that out to the now common 10 or 12 hour day.
- Creativity/Cognitive Function – Research now shows that what was once thought impossible, daily aerobic exercise actually has the ability to grow new brain cells and restore a certain amount of cognitive function as we age. But, even at a younger age, regular exercise creates chemical and electrical changes that increase creativity, problem-solving and cognitive function
- Disease risk – A wealth of research now shows strong reductions in the risk for not only heart-disease and stroke, but a variety of types of cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons and more.
- Pain – Similarly, it’s now well established that the right approach to movement can not only be highly-effective in helping to reduce chronic pain, but also keep it at bay. The reasons range from correcting postural dysfunction and alleviating muscle strain to reducing inflammation, altering the nervous system’s pain pathways and changing the chemistry associated with pain.
And, here’s the critical thing, I have a confession to make…I was wrong about something!
A while back I published what went on to become a huge post on exercise that argued for adopting an approach to movement that was driven by the need to find activities that engaged your mind and, in doing so, make exercise fun. After working with thousands of clients, I still believe that with all my heart.
But, when you’re over 40, out of shape and coming back from a largely sedentary existence/injuries, you can’t approach it the same way you did when you were 20. Trust me, I know. I did. Many times. And I’ve paid the price…many times.
So, when integrating mind-engaging movement into the Freedom Framework, I’ve slotted it into the middle phases to allow for adequate time and attention to building a foundation and beginning to fix what’s broken, before diving into more mind-engaging, yet often more “freestyle” movement that requires a real base.
Say Bye-bye to the cookie cutter…
Also, you won’t find any formulaic 8, 12 or 16 week programs here or the classic 3-pronged—Strength, Flexibility and Cardiovascular—approach. Those work great as cookie cutter systems, especially when you’re younger, but once you’re into your 30s or beyond and grappling with injuries or chronic pain, simply addressing these three elements in a standardized protocol just isn’t enough (or intelligent) for most people.
Which is why what I am sharing in this series of posts is not a standardized “system,” but rather a dynamic big picture “framework” that could take anywhere from a few months to a few years to move through. It’s not so much about providing all the answers as it is about telling you what you think about and when, then pointing you to resources that’ll let you find the most intelligent answers for your own body, mind and health at each step along the journey.
I’m guessing my adventure will take around a year just to get to a pain-free, lean, relatively fit state. And, I’m good with that, if it sets me up to wildly more capable, alive, healthy and pain-free for the remaining 200 years of my life.
With that in mind, let’s dive into what’s important for each phase as it pertains to exercise.
Exercise Phase 1 | Foundation: The purpose of this phase is to clear the decks, remove obstacles, do a bit of research, set up your physical setting, see doctors or other health care professionals to both rule out causes of pain and discomfort that need medical intervention and diagnose what needs diagnosing if needed and set daily actions in motion for each of the 6 critical elements. This is also a time to do a bit of research on the different types of offerings available to you in your local area.
- For me: I’ve also begun to integrate basic cardiovascular and range of movement exercises. At this point, they are more about beginning to establish the regular habit of movement, prepare my joints and connective and benefit from the mindset, brain-power and other broader wellness benefits of moderate, gentle cardiovascular exercise. Strengthening and calorie-burning on a level that makes a real difference will come later.
Exercise Phase 2 | Repattern, Rebalance & Rebuild: Over the years, I’ve studied a wide array of approaches to movement, exercise, conditioning, postural assessment and rebalancing and pain reduction. And, I’ve become trained in certified in a bunch of them, from being an Egoscue Method Postural Alignment Specialist to an American College of Sports Medicine Health/Fitness Instructor and even a Yoga Instructor.
Throughout all of this, one common theme keeps emerging, especially when you’re dealing with a “grown up” (translation “pained in some way”) body. When at all possible, rebalance your body’s posture and repattern the connective tissue (tendon, ligaments and fascia) to remove the dysfunctional posture BEFORE moving into a more intense strengthening phase.
Effective approaches to “self-treating” in this phase may include:
- Certain types of yoga (primarily Iyengar, Bikram (super-heated environment, may not be appropriate for all), Anusara and some gentler “hatha” approaches)
- Tai Chi to a lesser extent
- Trigger point/myofascial self-massage/therapy
- Certain approaches to stretching (though aggressive stretching may actually exacerbate trigger points and primary areas of dysfunction)
- MELT™ and other types of therapies that integrate rollers and balls for pressure
- Feel free to add others you may know of in the comments (without spamming)
For more intensive solutions guided by qualified therapists, check out (Note: the quality of any of these approaches will be heavily dependent upon the skill, training and ability of the individual rendering services, so take the time to investigate who’s really good):
- Structural Integration a/k/a Rolfing, Hellerwork, and Kinesis Myofascial Integration
- Neuromuscular/Myofascial Therapy – highly specific type of bodywork
- Postural Alignment Therapy – Egoscue is one of the most popular
- Osteopathy – more traditional Doctors of Osteopathy use primarily manipulation
- Acupuncture Physical Medicine – specialized approach to acupuncture for the fascia
- Feel free to add others you may know of in the comments (without spamming)
For me: I know enough to know (a) what I don’t know, and (b) that I need help. So, prefer a combination of outside and self-treatment. My body’s been through the ringer over the last 5 years with major shoulder surgery, two broken feet and a huge shift to being sedentary. And, even though I am unusually well versed in modalities to correct what’s happened, I know that I need help to do it right.
So, I am exploring a mix of self-treatment, neuromuscular therapy, yoga, tai chi and possibly osteopathy into my adventure with the goal of settling on a small number of activities that’ll work in a complimentary manner, along with my daily gentle base-building, brain-power and mood boosting cardio.
Executive decision time – Splitting this post.
Okay, so I’m realizing now that this post is getting really long and it’s only halfway through. Plus, if you’re like me, you need to take some time to explore the first two stages before you can even think about what’s coming next.
So, I’m gonna end this post here and share Part 2 with you guys next week. That part will layout my approach to movement and exercise for the final 5 phases of the Freedom Framework:
- Exercise Phase 3 | Explore
- Exercise Phase 4 | Expand
- Exercise Phase 5 | Demand
- Exercise Phase 6 | Overcome
- Exercise Phase 7 |Manifest
Be sure you’re subscribed below so you don’t miss Part 2 or any of the upcoming parts of this series.
Oh, and one last thing, as always, please feel free to leave your thoughts and questions and recommendations in the comments. Especially if there’s something you want to make sure I address in next week’s post.
Don’t miss the other articles in this series:
- #1 – Fat Bottom Bloggers: Is Your Blog Killing You?
- #2 – 6 Key Elements and 7 Critical Steps to Reclaim Your 40-Something Body
- #3 – How to Get in Shape When You’re Over 40 and Injured
- #4 – How to Exercise When You’re Over 40 [Part 2]
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