Time to start a new tradition.
Journalling is something I’ve found great value in, for various reasons. To record day-to-day ideas in the present. To document and learn from the past. And to map out a vague direction for the future.
I’ve carried out a 12-month review around December/January time for several years, but it was only after stumbling upon James Clear’s series recently that I realised it might be useful to do in a more public setting. Plus, I’ve been wanting to get back to regular writing here on the blog. This seems like an appropriate way to do it.
So the following will contain ramblings and insights into 2019 life. From HERO Movement projects and other work-related matters, to training, health & life updates.
I’ll use the following structure to break things up (again, thanks to James who uses a similar process):
I realise that the concept of ‘what went well’ and ‘what didn’t go well’ isn’t bulletproof. Many times in life what initially seems positive can turn out to be a hinderance, and the things we perceive as going wrong lead to favorable outcomes down the line. Perhaps hold that in mind if you do your own review.
I’m not looking to brag about achievements in the first section or seek sympathy in the second. This is just a way to to document what has been, stay accountable, and to practice being more vulnerable.
Hopefully, it’ll provide you with some sort of value, or at least make you feel more normal…
PRINTABLE HABITS PLANNER: You’re more than welcome to use the following structure to do your own yearly review. However, if you want to go a bit deeper and plan your habits for the next year, I put together some printables to help you do that.
– I made big steps towards improving my health this year.
If you’re new to the blog, the short story is I was diagnosed with seronegative-spondyloarthropathy last year (bit of a mouthful) along with a splash of Crohn’s disease. For several years prior, I dealt with chronic joint pain, digestive issues and bouts of fatigue. In fact, one reason I started this site was to dig deeper and hopefully figure some things out.
There have been difficulties this year, but on the whole I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve had in the last 10, health-wise. Flare-ups are less frequent, less intense and easier to recover from.
Things that I believe worked well in 2019:
– I’ve made some progress in the gym.
The above allowed me to enjoy a degree of consistency in training. I wanted to keep things simple and rebuild some base strength, so ran a variation of StrongLifts, followed by Jim Wendler’s 531. I plan on doing video reviews of both of these in 2020.
I stripped things down completely, started with the bar for most movements, and took it slow. I wasn’t looking to make significant strength gains or push the boundaries, but my working weights (typically leaving a few in the tank) in kgs went up a fair bit over a 7-8 month period:
No world records, but I’m fairly pleased with how things progressed. A few things I think may have helped speed things along:
While I enjoyed the simplicity of the barbell and linear progressions, it did lead to some issues, which I’ll touch on in the next section. So for the past few months I’ve scaled back the weight training, and instead picked up…
– Climbing, calisthenics, BJJ + yoga.
I’ve been enjoying all of these this Autumn-Winter, particularly the static problem solving involved with climbing. I’ve also found a lot of joy getting back into bodyweight strength training on the rings, yoga and hand-balancing.
It did me good to go through a phase of structured, measured training with the weights, then to let it all go and move more intuitively. One thing I found with the barbell is it’s easy to get caught up with the numbers, whereas with climbing, calisthenics and yoga, I find it easier to focus on the learning process, as opposed to the end result.
I’ve also enjoyed BJJ, barefoot running and swimming this year, but due to a few niggling injuries and limited time, they haven’t been as big of a priority.
Diving back into a yoga has been great, both physically and mentally. I’ve been fortunate to have found some excellent teachers locally, and have been supplementing that practice with online classes from Dylan Werner, Patrick Beach, Adrienne Mishler and Tim Senesi. I’m looking forward to continuing this into 2020!
– HERO Movement has grown.
A few cool things happened with the site this year:
– Freelance work has been varied.
I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some lovely brands this year on some interesting projects, and have a few lined up for the new year!
– Life has been fairly well-balanced.
We’ve settled into Cornwall life a little better, made some friends and gotten slightly more involved with the community through climbing. We’ve also made it a big priority to get out into nature, with walks on the beach and dips in the sea.
– We travelled a little.
Not a huge amount this year, but we were fortunate enough to head over to Tenerife for a week. We also took a few days up in the Lake District – a beautiful place that’s well worth a visit.
– The health issues weren’t ideal:
Things markedly improved, but flare-ups still happened, planned events were cancelled, training days were missed, nights were sleepless and pain was felt. All-in-all, massive improvements, but still some things to work out.
– I picked up some injuries:
Namely a niggle in my right knee and a pesky rib that liked to dislocate on the regular. Nothing too debilitating, but a little frustrating.
The knee issue stems back to some underlying imbalances in my pelvis that I haven’t fully addressed. Maybe I’ll put together a video next year on what I’ve been doing since. This is one of the potential pitfalls of plans like StrongLifts and Wendler that are based around big bilateral lifts – if you have an imbalance, getting stronger may make it worse and potentially open you up to an injury.
Since taking a step back from weight training and focussing more on calisthenics/yoga/climbing/mobility, I’ve made progress with both injuries, but subsequently picked up some bicep tendonitis from climbing too much too soon 🤦♂️
– I didn’t create as much content as I hoped to:
I belive one of the reasons I made progress with my health this year was that I stripped back my workload considerably. So that meant:
– I missed a few self-imposed deadlines.
I had two new online courses / plans in the works for this last year, but for similar reasons to the above, I didn’t put them out. A fair bit of the content is planned and ready to go – it’s just the process of filming, editing and writing left to do.
I suppose there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to rush these things. I’m continuously learning and my own movement practice is evolving and changing. My fear is that when I put something down on paper or in a course, it seems like I’m saying ‘this is the way’. Whereas in reality, it only represents a snapshot, and not the big picture.
– There are still some things to figure out.
Although we’ve made some steps in recent months, I still don’t feel as integrated into a community as I’d like to be. I’ve also made some steps with regards to social anxiety and mental health, but there’s work to do there too. And living away from my family is tough. As great as it is to have them visit, it’s still difficult not seeing them on a regular basis. Lots of things to consider moving forward!
– The value of doing less and saying no.
It really was a game-changer for my mental and physical health. I grew up with the mentality that doing more and working harder was better, but that’s not always the case. Backing off from work commitments, saying no to more things, slowing down and streamlining seems to be more productive long-term.
– Make time for stillness.
Or life will force it upon you. Similar to the above really. The body and mind need time for stillness. If you spend every waking hour ‘doing’, there’s little time for recovery and processing. For me, that would result in a flare up, which would often mean I’m forced to be still – only reluctantly, and with joint pain and a racing mind. Walks on the beach, breathing, yoga and reading have all helped a lot with that this year.
– The power of the breath + cold.
Breathwork is something I’ve taken a deeper dive into this year. I’ve been using the breathwork app Shift for several months, working on my max exhale time (which potentially corresponds with parasympathetic tone – your ability to get into a rest and digest state). I’ve also been practicing nasal breathing and walking breath holds, a la The Oxygen Advantage, as well as some underwater laps.
Then there’s the Wim Hof-esq breathwork. I signed up for one of the online courses earlier this year, and being right next to the Celtic sea, continued with cold exposure in the ocean, along with cold showers. Because the cold is a stress on the system, I find it more useful when I’m not in a flare. And because of the up and down nature of flare ups, I didn’t make cold exposure a consistent habit this year.
– The importance of good sleep.
I picked up an Oura ring early in the year, and just the simple act of monitoring sleep and activity levels has helped a lot with improving sleep quality. And because I’ve been committed to doing a little less, I’ve been better at sleeping in to get the rest I need. Interestingly, when I look back through the data, the months where my sleep and readiness scores were lowest correspond with autoimmune flare-ups.
– It’s okay to be vulnerable and to ask for help.
This is a work in progress, but since the diagnosis I’ve got a little better at surrendering and asking for help when I feel like I need it. I’m extremely fortunate that Michaela and my family are there to support me. I’ve also gotten a little better at admitting when I can’t do things, or that I need to take a rest. Still not perfect, but baby steps.
– The wonders of the fascial system.
This year I’ve taken a deep dive into the work of Thomas Myers (particularly his book Anatomy Trains). It’s based around the fascial system – an interconnected network of tissues running through the body that for the longest time has been ignored in favour of a bio-mechanistic model of movement and physical function.
When we look through the lense of the fascial system, we realise that the body is much more intricately connected than we previously thought, and physical movement is not always easily explained by the old ‘muscle pulls on bones’ view. It could well be a game-changer with regards to how we think of training the body, as well as addressing postural issues and chronic injuries.
– Go deeper with physical learning.
I’ve read a fair bit this year and completed some online certifications, but I want to take a deeper dive into in-person workshops and training. Things that I’m interested in exploring over the next 12 months:
– Streamline HERO Movement.
I sometimes have the tendency to over-complicate. As HERO Movement has grown, that’s meant there are a few things behind the scenes that are more troublesome and costly to manage than they need to be. So that’s one of my focusses going into the new year – streamlining the experience both for myself, and for people coming to visit.
– More regular content.
Moving into the new year, I’d like to revisit more regular YouTube content. I enjoy planning, filming and producing videos, so I’m looking at ways I can do that on a more consistent basis.
– Produce one to two new courses.
I have two in mind that I’ve been working on for the past year – one is posture-based, the other a more well-rounded movement/strength course. I also have a few ideas to update into Mobility RESET.
– Get more involved with the community.
Whether we’re still living down in Cornwall or moving closer to home, I’d like to get more involved with both the local community, and with people in the movement / wellness space. Both for my own benefit, and to do more for others. Although I’m maxed out on the introvert spectrum, interaction with others is still important and is definitely something I want to make more of an effort to do.
So there we have it – my first annual review here at HERO Movement. Feel free to use the above template as inspiration for your own, or take a look at the printable bundle I put together. Happy New Year!
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