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Two Practical Steps to Improve Your Movement and Why You Should Think Twice About Running: Joovvin' with Aaron Alexander

Aaron Alexander

Aaron Alexander is an accomplished manual therapist and movement coach with over 13 years of professional experience. He is the founder of the Align Method™, an integrated approach to functional movement and self-care that has helped thousands of people across the world. Aaron hosts the top-rated Align Podcast featuring the biggest names in movement and wellness. Aaron’s clients include Hollywood celebrities, Olympic/professional athletes, and everyone in between. 

It was an absolute pleasure Joovvin' with Aaron Alexander via a live conversation.  So without further ado, here are his answers to your questions, which have been edited down for enhanced readability...

When describing you, Art Devaney has stated, "I've never seen a big man move with such grace and symmetry."  You're widely considered an expert when it comes to the arena of movement.  For someone that's just beginning to focus on this topic, what are 2-3 keys to starting out on the right foot (pun intended)?

Well, I recommend first figuring out what the heck a hip hinge is as being a baseline starting point. When you see someone bend over to pick something up off the ground, they will almost always grab the item and leverage it up with the mid-thoracic area or even with the lower back. It all just kind of folds over into this broken shrimp-like position, which puts a ton of stress on the spine. The spine is not meant to have that stress. The stress is meant to go into the hips. The glutes are the strongest organization of muscles that you have in your whole body. The hip hinge is the strongest joint you have in your whole body. It's built to bear huge loads, so without a doubt, I'd definitely recommend you start there.

Number two, I would recommend figuring out your feet. As you're standing in place, there can be a tendency for a lot of people to veer out in this kind of random position with a really wide stance. This puts us in a position called pronation, which can cause collapsed arches or collapsed feet. Something people can start to tinker with is just bringing their feet a little bit closer together, so they are right underneath your hips.  There are bones called the ischial tuberosity, or the seat bones. As you start to stack your feet underneath those seat bones, it begins the process of stacking your joints. You can look at each level and call them diaphragms. A diaphragm is a horizontal connective tissue. So your meniscus is a diaphragm, your plantar fascia is a diaphragm, your respiratory diaphragm is a diaphragm, and this continues all the way up to your thoracic area. Think about how you can stack the levels, or diaphragms, to your foot, to your knee, to your pubic floor, to your respiratory diaphragm, to your thoracic inlet or outlet, and eventually to your tentorium cerebelli. Don’t worry what the hell all of this is, but just thinking about stacking those floors starts with your feet.

What is the one fitness activity you hate doing the most, but yields the best results?

I would say trail running is the first thing that comes to my mind. If you’re just running in place, it’s not the end of the world. If you look at the Tarahumara tribe, for example, it's just a part of their daily existence to run from place to place.  And if that’s your life, I think it’s great. But, the tendency of most people in the culture that you and I live in is to have fairly unstable patterns. We have dysfunctional patterns in our physical bodies, and when we go out and run, we express all of these patterns in a very repetitive fashion.  And that's what makes running literally one of the most dangerous sports that you can do. It causes repetitive stress, so I would avoid that for individuals in most Western cultures.

On the other hand, I just finished walking around my neighborhood barefoot, adapting to the terrain as I go.  This takes the ankle joint through a full range of motion. It causes my whole nervous system to have to balance and find a more complex midline. If we start to play with that, it ends up actually increasing our capacity for adaptation and it also ends up being quite healing for the body. Instead of hitting that repetitive stress point over and over again, collapsing the foot every time you take a step in running, it forces you to massage your joints. If you go see a massage therapist, they might take you through various ranges of motion that you might not do normally. Nature takes you through those ranges of motion as well - if you allow it. So, that would be what I say is one of the best things that I don’t really love doing, but after I do it, it's always refreshing.

You've just started to experiment with photobiomodulation.  What intrigues you most about light therapy?

Anything that can get my tissue to regenerate faster, I'm willing to tinker with. I think that a lot of us are light deprived and we end up being stuffed inside of an office way too long surrounding ourselves with artificial light, WiFi, EMFs, etc.  So, I think one of the most healing components that we have in our toolkit of health benefits is leveraging light, In relation to light specifically, I'm particularly interested in expediting tissue healing. That would probably be my main interest with respect to photobiomodulation.

You've had the opportunity to interview some amazing guests on the wildly popular Align Podcast.  Over the past 100+ episodes, are there 1-2 that really stand out?

Honestly, I am more and more enamored and impressed with all the recent episodes. For some reason, this question is really hard for me. I always have to look back at the list, but I really love the work of Kelly Starrett. I think he is a really valuable person in my existence and he has been somewhat of a mentor from afar as I follow his work quite closely.  Kelly was a big inspiration to me and I really value his approach to things like normalizing complex conversations. That’s the intention of my podcast: to take the smartest people in the world and have really common, normalized conversations that a dumpster truck driver can understand and a nuclear physicist can enjoy. If we can find that middle ground where everyone is able to speak that language, I think that’s really important. I feel like Kelly does a really good job with that. 

What is something you enjoy that most people would be surprised to learn?

Rollerblading, but that isn’t surprising at all actually. I like my blades. In my car, I have a lumbar board, a skateboard, my ballerina slippers, some rollerblades, a surf ball, and a frisbee. I try to keep it stocked with things that.  In Venice, California, where I live, there is this long stretch of beach with a little, narrow path that goes on for miles.  I throw some music on and have a freestyle dance rollerblade session every now and again - and just kind of work it out on my blades.

What person(s) of influence are you closely following right now?

The last person(s) I closely followed was Oprah and Russell Brand. I have a tendency of intentionally watching people. That sounds very stocky and creepy.  But I'll just go on a binge and watch people do interviews, watch their mannerisms, and watch the way they approach conversations. I watch their facial affects. The last person I did that with was Oprah. I remember a two-and-a-half-hour session watching her do her thing.

If you could put a billboard anywhere, what would it say and where would you put it?

The phrase I tend to say a lot is, “How you do anything is how you do everything”.   That doesn’t sound as deep and profound upon first blush, but I think there is a lot of merit to it. 

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Thanks again to Aaron Alexander for being a part of the Joovv family!  Also, don't forget to check out the Align Podcast when you get a chance.  Aaron hosts a phenomenal show.

If you missed Joovvin' with us this time, stay tuned for the next one.  We'll let you know in advance on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.