Until this point, I haven’t shared the whole story about how I’ve healed my body from years of neglect.
For too long I’ve been trying to make a logical argument about why mainstream fitness is broken and how we got to this strange, disconnected place.
And I’ve recently realized what a giant mistake that’s been.
Because the reality is that understanding why things are the way they are doesn’t change much (if anything).
So it’s time I share with you exactly how I’ve transformed my body
I’m including all the messy parts because I think those are often much more valuable than the well-groomed, before-and-after picture stories with perfect lighting.
And believe me, my journey to rebuilding my body from a hunched-over, fragile desk worker to the adaptable, resilient strength I enjoy now is far from a nice and neat overnight success story.
My hope is that it will inspire you to create and build a new story with your body.
If it does, please share with myself and the rest of the tribe. I’ll give you some details on that at the end.
Before I jump into things, I want to be clear: I didn’t always have the outlook on fitness and movement that I do now.
In the beginning, I just wanted to impress people and look good naked
My journey didn’t start with wanting to be resilient and injury free. In the beginning, I just wanted to look good with my shirt off, and be able to perform cool tricks with my body.
But for a long time, I ignored my body completely. The thought of exercise and going to the gym just felt boring to me. Watching Netflix, going to the bar after work, and playing video games was much more appealing because of the instant gratification it offered.
It wasn’t until years of neglect working at a desk for 8-9 hours, not eating well and generally wrecking body that something changed for me.
I got inspired by Bruce Lee, and I was instantly drawn to learning the martial art he had synthesized from a decade of study, Jeet Kune Do.
So I sought out a teacher. And once I found one, I was hooked on training.
Nhan introduced me to things like barefoot running and practicing martial arts outside, not just in a sweaty gym. He also introduced me to what would later become my nemesis: training with gymnastic rings.
All of a sudden fitness was fun to me again, and it was all I wanted to do.
But all my enthusiasm mostly lead to overtraining and injury
Look, I was excited, okay? I had high aspirations for myself and set my standard of achievement against the likes of Bruce Lee and Olympic gymnasts.
Looking back, my naivete was kind of charming.
I was raised to believe you could “be whatever you want,” so that’s what I aimed for.
I wanted to be able to kick someone in the head and do an iron cross. The problem was that I had no idea what I was doing and had very little body awareness. So mostly, I just ended up injuring myself.
That didn’t stop me, though. I dedicated myself to corrective exercise, working on my posture, and spending hours a day doing mobility exercises.
But the sad truth was that despite spending hours daily in the gym, I hurt all the time.
Something as simple as reaching to pick something off the floor could create a spasm in my neck or back. A basic movement like a pull-up could send my shoulder into pain that would take weeks to undo.
I woke up feeling like an old man in a 24-year-old body and couldn’t figure out why, or how to fix it.
Wherever I looked, I found something wrong
It seemed like no matter what I did, there was always something going on with my body. I would stretch my neck and find some relief, then my shoulder would start bothering me. I’d do some yoga, then find my ankle or hip yelling out in pain.
I wanted to be able to run, climb, do cool parkour movements and have fun moving my body, but it felt like no matter what I did to try to fix myself, nothing seemed to give me lasting results.
There were a lot of days where I felt hopeless, and honestly, like giving up.
And while I’m ashamed to admit it, some days I found some guilty pleasure hearing about others injuring themselves or dealing with chronic pain. It helped me feel like I wasn’t the only one that was broken.
Those were the worst days, the days where I felt depressed and like giving up.
But luckily, I’m a pretty damn stubborn person, so I kept searching.
I spent thousands of dollars on treatments, coaches, and body-mind therapies
It wasn’t just Youtube videos, online courses, and coaches that I worked with to try to fix my body.
I worked with countless massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and even mystical energy healers.
There were the times I tried aligning my chakras, doing daily qigong barefoot at sunrise, and of course, working endlessly on my posture. The nutritional side didn’t go unexplored either. I guzzled bone broth, ate paleo, downed turmeric, inhaled probiotics and sipped mysterious mixtures of Chinese herbs.
Some of it gave me relief, but the pain and dysfunction always found a way to creep back in.
I know now that one of the biggest mistakes I made was healing then jumping straight back into challenging movements gymnastics and martial arts training too quickly.
But because I didn’t really know my body, I wasn’t aware of the damage and counter-productiveness of what I was doing.
And most of the experts didn’t seem to think that healing from chronic, long-term injuries was possible.
“This is just something you’ll have to deal with”
The most maddening thing was when I would ask body workers how to permanently heal from the pains I was facing, and most just smiled, nodded and said:
“Your shoulder is probably just like that, sorry.”
And you know what, for a while I believed them. I thought maybe that healing from injury and the imbalances I’ve ingrained in my body through years of desk work were just too much to undo.
Maybe I was just “like this,” and needed to accept a sub-optimal, broken body.
Maybe having the body I truly wanted wasn’t possible, and it would be easier if I just accepted that this is just “the way things are.”
But that was a conclusion too depressing for me to accept for very long.
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I refuse to settle. There was a voice within me that kept saying “Healing, total healing is possible.”
And then I was led to a strange, unexpected breakthrough…
How the floor became my teacher
When I read the headlines that sent shockwaves through the internet, “Sitting is the New Smoking,” it sparked something for me.
A big reaction to those headlines was the explosion of standing desks. If sitting is killing you, then we should obviously be standing instead, right?
The problem with that, I realized, is that we just end up replacing one static posture for another.
It’s not actually sitting that’s the problem. It’s doing the same thing, all the time. It’s living a life divorced from the way we’re meant to move in nature that’s the real problem.
So, I started sitting on the floor. I started squatting, kneeling and sitting in all sorts of positions while I worked.
I was looking for ways to emulate what I would have been doing as a wild human at work, at home, and in the park.
Which led to my biggest breakthrough of all…
Movement started to become the end (not just a means to an end)
Most people don’t want to hear that they need to address and look at their whole life. It’s uncomfortable, it requires change. You might need to look like a weirdo sitting on the floor or standing while everyone else destroys their posture hunched over at the desk.
I didn’t want to hear that either. I was looking for the Two Movements That Build Healthy Shoulders! and The Five Keys to Fixing My Posture Once and For All.
I wanted to feel better so I could do the things without injuring myself, so I could look good and impress people.
But a funny thing ended up happening. I stopped obsessing over all those things because I found when I focused on the process, things got better a lot more quickly. I felt better when I was staying present and mindfully moving through life.
Things hurt less and I didn’t have all this pressure on myself that I needed to perform X number of sets and reps for every single part of my body to create the ultimate, unbreakable self.
Movement became the thing itself. I fell in love with movement as a journey, as a process, not just a way to gain aesthetics, impress others, or get out of pain.
Am I saying I’m above those things now? Certainly not. But they aren’t the main focus for me now.
What lights me up is learning more about my body, and what it’s capable of. What excites me is feeling the pleasure of movement, of exploring a new place to move, or a new challenging skill to master.
I love being able to have freedom and control in my body and confidence that it’s going to be there when I need to work in the garden, go for a hike or climb a tree.
But I also understand that it didn’t start there for me, and it doesn’t for everyone.
Which is why I want to help you with one of the biggest transformations I made:
How I reintegrated the missing key primal movements back into my life
These are movements you won’t find in a gym routine, a CrossFit workout, or a yoga practice (not that there’s anything wrong with those things).
These are the missing movements you need to learn to reclaim your naturally resilient, strong body.
At first, I did these as an isolated practice, which at first can actually be a good thing because dedicating time to relearn and get acquainted with your body is always a good thing. But over time, I found that it was easier for me to actually do them if I integrated them into my life.
These days I know longer wake up in pain. I have confidence in hiking, climbing, practicing martial arts and rolling around on the ground. Because I know myself and my body, I rarely fear I’m going to injure myself. I know my edges and I’m able to continually push them safely to expand my possibilities for play.
The best part is that movement for me is now automatic. It’s not something where I have to force myself to get off the couch and go to the gym because I feel guilty.
I move because it’s a habit that takes little effort to maintain. Movement has become a joy for me because it’s no longer all about training. It’s about exploring what my body is capable of.
What’s the new story you want to create with your body?
In the next post, I’m going to show you how you can integrate these missing primal movements back into your life.
The best part is that it doesn’t take any extra time.
In the meantime, I would love if you share with me a little about your story and how you feel natural movement can help you.
And if you know someone that has given up or is struggling with their body, please take a moment to share this with them.