What I Learned at Perform Better Chicago 2012

Sometimes holidays are relaxing. Sometimes they are an assault on your senses and challenge your very essence. Such has been mine so far.

I spent a few days in Toronto with my good friends Jay and Cheryl and their newborn son Carson. This was an eye opening experience to say the least, but very enjoyable spending time there and it’s so good to see my friends happy with a healthy baby boy. And to watch how a newborn moves.

I then flew straight to Chicago with a day up my sleeve to get organized before the conference started.

perform-better-2012-gray-cookGray Cook started Day 1 on ‘Mobility, Motor Control and Movement’ with the most important piece about how some people don’t have the ‘motor control skill’ to put themselves in the right position for an exercise. They need some extra training to learn how to sit back into a squat or drop all the way down into a pushup. I’ve got some more research and experimenting to do regarding this topic as it’s very in depth but I’ll talk more on motor control further in the article.

Day 2 began with Lee Burton talking about trigger points, mobility and flexibility problems and where to start. He suggested that any of these things could cause the other and that it’s not just that one cause every time. This got me thinking about internal stress due to an unhealthy environment and its potential causes because this is something I’m affected by.

I discussed this over the weekend with a physiotherapist and a few others who all agree that if the health of one of the body’s systems is compromised, it can affect other systems.

Remember it’s not ok to train hard and do the physical stuff without getting quality food in because the digestive system will have a negative effect on the physical system anyway.

I then went to listen to a guy named Dave Jack. I’d only heard the name before then event but new nothing about the guy. But I met him that morning with a bunch of my friends and he was captivating in the way he spoke to everyone.

His talk was ‘From Good to Great’ and focused on helping us become a better trainer. One of the best parts of his presentation was making us discuss things we are really good at and keep striving for excellence. But the highlight was how he introduced himself personally to everyone in the room and shook their hands to make them feel welcome.

I skipped around for a bit as I was hearing repeated presentations from the past few years, and I ended up doing Indian Club Swinging with Ed Thomas. It’s been at the conference the last 2 years and I’d stayed away thinking it a little strange, but I walked in and had a go. My insanely tight shoulder has felt great ever since! Not something you will see at Bootcamp though as it is very hard to learn the patterns. You brain hurts trying to do it.

perform-better-2012-stuart-mcgillStuart McGill, the guy responsible for the lack of situps and crunches at Bootcamp, talked on painful backs and showed a few helpful hints and exercises that I’ll definitely be using in training. I then went and did some more hands on training with Gray Cook doing some basic screening and corrective / functional exercises. This relates again to motor control and comes with some exercises you’re sure to hate me for including band resisted bear crawls!

We finished the day with fitness comedian Tim Wilkins lightening things up before heading upstairs to the social, where the presenters and attendees can talk, drink and see who has the biggest biceps. By this stage my brain was in meltdown but it’s worth it getting to know some of these guys.

By day 3 my brain was fried and shutting down and I couldn’t absorb much any more. I’d talked with Rachel Cosgrove the day before about what women specifically need in their training programs and made it to her presentation with was very interesting. I picked up her book to fill in the gaps as I headed back to my hostel for a two and a half hour sleep missing the rest of the day’s lectures.

I did make it back that afternoon but only to arrange another book and to talk with some friends. Sometimes that is more valuable than the lectures anyway. I was in bed by 6pm and slept until 7am.

perform-better-2012-metabolic-trainingUnfortunately the last day was pretty much a blur due to the massive migraine I picked up the previous day. But I still picked up a few things. Mark Verstegen spoke again about barefoot training and the good and bad points about it.

Barefoot training will help the body to move better and in the long run help with realignment and possibly reduce injuries.

But you must keep in mind that you can’t just step out of high heels into a barefoot running shoe, because your calf muscles are already so tight from the heel height that injury risk is very high. It needs to be a gradual reduction of heel heights to get your body used to the change.

You may also benefit from several pairs of shoes during this time. If this is confusing you, don’t worry. This topic warrants a whole article itself and after another chat with Mark and his team, what I’ve been suggesting about footwear in the past has been spot on.

perform-better-2012-bear-crawlsThe most intriguing presentation of the conference was on motor control, which I’ve mentioned numerous times above. Greg Rose suggested that the reason we can’t do certain exercises in perfect form or have pain in some movements may be to do with the fact we have forgotten how to move properly.

As an infant we learned how to move systematically. We lay on our back and started waving our arms, legs and head. Then we learned how to roll over and get on all fours. Then we were crawling and getting up on one knee then two, then standing and walking.

Well it turns out that we can’t all do those movements we once did and they may require a do-over. So I’ll be looking into that more too, as well as implementing several movements that can help correct some of this dysfunction such as carries, chops and lifts, crawling, kneeling and some more corrective stuff.

Once again it proved to be totally worth the trip and I have plenty to bring home with me including new exercises, corrective work, books, dvd’s and some new equipment to play with as well. I’ve also got a ton more friends to bounce ideas off and will no doubt make my way home relaxed and refreshed.

Tomorrow I’ll be leaving Chicago with a bunch of gyms to visit in between. But not too much work. Holidays need to be relaxing too.

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