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Process

Getting Functionally Fit

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Dr Tim Brown has been working with elite athletes for decades. He’s the go-to guy for sports injuries but has also emerged as the point person for performance and injury avoidance. This comes from his understanding of movement and how the body likes to stay in alignment.

I had a chance to interview him in our studio and then get out on the field and hang with a couple of his Allstar patients. Dr. Brown helps us understand the importance of movement in our daily life and why it’s important to support our posture.

If you align your body, things move better and you’re less likely to get injured. Those injuries sideline us in life. Dr Brown shows us how to do this. I got him to share a powerful practice called “The Five Tibetans” with us on the set as well.

Check it out – you don’t want to miss this one. It is #2 in a 4 part series of TV shows we filmed earlier last year. It took a while to get them through the edit process as we were trying to figure out the format. You’ll notice one athlete was preparing for the Brazil Olympics. We ended up settling on the more open format you see on the show lately with more time to chat with people and get into conversations that matter. Nonetheless, I’m still keen on exploring ways to get out there and take the show on the road. Your feedback is most welcome 🙂

Summary

  • We try to educate the patient more so they need their doctor less
  • The core is from the diaphragm down to your knees all around at 360 degrees
  • All power needs to move through the core

Interview Notes From The Show:

Pedram:

With us today is Dr. Tim Brown. He is the go to guy for sports medicine in our world. He is an innovator treating sports injuries, keeping athletes doing what they’re doing. We’re talking about NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, surfing, beach volleyball, the who’s who go to Dr. Tim Brown and you’re about to find out why. Welcome.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Thank you Pedram, it’s such an honor to be here. Congratulations on the show.

Pedram:

Thank you, you know what? You and I spent a lot of time working with patients. Yours is the phone that rings when a top level athlete needs to be well. Your capacity to help these people is why your phone rings. Let’s get into your philosophy a little bit.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah, thanks Pedram. Well we are what we eat, think, and do. There’s no way around that. It allows us to kind of capsulize for each patient, and look at them individually based upon what their activities are during their regular days. What do they do when they train? What do they do when they’re no training? Are they sitting all day outside of training? What do they eat? Do they eat processed foods that create a lot of inflammation, or are they into the organic grow? What are they thinking? Are they in the moment, or do they live in the future and are constantly under stress? Maybe they’re someone who is very judgmental, and that person tends to live in the past.

There’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat, there’s a lot of different great doctors, and great philosophies out there that can help people. What we try and do is really to put the responsibility make on the patient. To educate them, so that we see them less, and they’re taking care of themselves, and participating in their own healthcare more.

Pedram:

You know what? That is the song of the new functional healthcare model. It’s not the MASH unit, “Oh you broke, we’re going to fix you.”

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

Your philosophy around the core, and how training has been kind of off and what is now happening with it is really exciting. Let’s first redefine core if you will.

Dr. Tim Brown:

The core is certainly a topic that is much talked about. It’s not all about doing crunches, it’s really about treating the core, the center of your body, which is actually from your diaphragm down to your knees. It’s about treating that in the front, in the back, and on the sides equally. Just cause we see the front doesn’t mean that’s the only part of the body that we need to train. We need to train in 360 degrees. Where our core exists in the middle of our body, the core is inherently weak and unstable. In fact, the more unstable that area is, the more likely we are to have problems in plan. Not just in our back, but in other parts of our body. We’ve found that by stabilizing or controlling the core area, we’re able to actually treat the core like it’s your cars transmission. Whether the energies coming from the upper body or the lower body, it has to go through the transmission for that body to be translated along what we call the, “Kinetic chain of movement.”

Pedram:

It’s great because you get into these gyms, and you’ve got people just crunching away, looking for their abs, and all this.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

We’ve been trained to think that way, and now you’re working with all these professional athletes and there’s this really different top down version of thinking.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah, I think maybe best term, or framed up in this way. We moved really well when we were four years old. All of us moved like champions. Then a little thing called school happened, and we start sitting. I think that’s kind of the bane of us all is this sitting thing. We sit on average 9.2 hours a day in the United States. When you sit, your body runs on electricity. When you move you’re creating electricity, when you stop moving electricity dies, or dims down. When electricity’s not getting to your cells, and organs, and tissues, it’s basically becoming hypoxic. It’s dying of lack of oxygen and blood flow. When we sit for longer than 20 minutes, that’s all it takes to do something that’s irreversible in your body. For every 20 minutes that you sit, if you don’t get up and move around, you’ve just done a tremendous disservice to your body, let alone what that’s doing to your core. Quite frankly over time that’s what creates the wear and tear that ends up in an injury for most of us.

Pedram:

 Okay, so someone went to school, played basketball, played baseball, did their thing. Then they got married, got a job. One day someone said, “Dude, you got 40 pounds on you.”

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

They start running, or they start bench pressing, what we call exercise.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

What’s the right way to look at how to get back in?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Well it’s great to start exercising. Movement is life, and life is movement. That’s the bottom line here. If you move through life, you’ll be very happy with your result. If you stop moving and sit at a chair and work for eight or ten hours a day, the results going to be tragic. You’re going to lose the gift and the freedom that movement allows us to have. How we start these things, we recognize it, there are three components to fitness, three main components. One is mobility, one is stability or coordination, the other one is strength.

It’s important that we first gain mobility before we start to do the other stuff. First, gain range of motion. It’s really about reconfiguring that relationship that we had with our bodies when we were kids, when we were rolling around in the dirt and just couldn’t get enough activity in a day.

The More Unstable Your Core, The More Likely You Are To Have Pain - @IntelliSkin via @PedramShojai

Pedram:

Is there a specific phasing? It’s like first of all you’ve got to loosen up, you’ve got to get your mobility.

Dr. Tim Brown: Right.

Pedram:

Then the stability and strength kind of come hand in hand, or are they in sequence?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Well some programs will do them in sequence. Other programs, which is one I’d love to bring up today, it’s called, “Foundation training.” Foundation training integrates mobility, stability, and strength training all in the same movements. For me, I like efficiency. I frankly don’t have the patience with myself a lot of the time to do those yoga sessions that take many, many hours to get where we want to get. What I’ve done is I’ve worked foundation training into my training regiment, and never been more satisfied. I broke my back playing football in college, I’ve got a lot of old injuries from sports. This is thee system for me, and I think everyone needs to take the responsibility to go out there and learn, and find what system works best for you.

The best system for you is the most enjoyable system. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not going to stay with it. It’s critical that you find something that you take joy in, that really makes you feel great. It doesn’t have to be running a marathon. It can simply be gardening all day, and that will get the job done. The key to that is learning how to move well, and that’s what foundation training, that’s what yoga, that’s what Pilates and a lot of other systems teach. I don’t think one system has it all, I think you should diversify.

Pedram:

Okay, so I’m at home listening to this saying, “Dude I spend an hour driving to work, I spend eight hours parked up in a chair, another hour coming back and I hate the gym. This guy’s speaking to me, but how am I going to do it?” How can … you work with all these really high level athletes, and they’re getting paid to be fit.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

How can your average person who’s stuck in this lifestyle that we’ve kind of been prescribed, going to start coming out of this?

Dr. Tim Brown:

There’s a wonderful scientist that headed up on NASA Life Sciences, her name’s Joan Vernikos. She wrote a book called, “Sit Less, Move More.” What her book discovered was that if you get up 32 times a day, you’re going to be fine. What you’re doing is you’re now using … every time you get up you use gravity as an asset. Every time you sit down you use gravity as something that’s really tearing your body down. When you’re sitting down like I mentioned before, everything basically stops inside your body. When you stand up and engage gravity, the body works at a much, much higher level. One of the examples she uses was following John Glenn. At 77 years old Senator John Glenn wanted to go to space. She found this as a great opportunity to do a study. You’ve got these young buck astronauts that are in their 30’s, and in their prime, and then you’ve got this 77 year old that’s very fit, and wants to go into space.

They said, “Let’s do it, and we’re going to study the effects of it.” What they found was because John Glenn was in such great shape at 77 years old, that he had zero differences in the debilitating problems that come with going with no gravity for a period of time. When these astronauts came down and she rehabilitated them, it took him no longer to get to the baseline than the 30 year olds. That was because he was fit. It really comes down to how you address life, what level of fitness you’re in throughout life really effects your ability to recover and stay strong.

Pedram:

That’s beautiful, and the promise of it should make all of us happy. We’re on this arch, right? This aspirational arch. A lot of us are sitting, and crunchy, and getting tired …

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

Getting injured, and all this. then on the other side you have these elite, elite athletes, of which you’ve dealt with some of the top ones in the world. How does this philosophy now translate into performance? Once you start linking things up, how are we seeing this work for performance, and then obviously injury prevention?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah, again here, movement is life, life is movement. We were built to move, in fact we were built to run. If you look back in history, it wasn’t too long ago that we were all running away from big things chasing us. That’s kind of a natural sequelae. Those that were fast enough got away, and those were all our relatives. We have to look at movement and take it very seriously, and recognize that every time we shut movement down we are literally moving more towards the grave. In fact, mortality can now be determined based upon how many hours you sit in a day. Mortality can also be determined on your posture. The more kyphotic, or the more hunched over you become, the sooner you die. Now, we used to hypothesize that was the truth, but now we know that’s actual fact.

Pedram:

What percentage of brain function is actually attributed to posture, and calibration? I know we talked about this before.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

This really kind of blew my mind so I’d love for you to share that with our audience.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah, Dr. Sperry, Nobel Prize Winner for research found that we use over 90% of our energy that goes to our brain to counter the effects of gravity, so that our body stays upright, we don’t just collapse to gravity.

Pedram:

Hmm.

Dr. Tim Brown:

He postulates that, “Gosh if we just improved posture, how much more time would we have for critical thinking, for immunity, for the body to make up and do things that it needs to do to detoxify some of the things that we’re taking into our bodies based on the foods we eat, or the environment that we’re in.

Pedram:

My goodness, just that promise alone is getting posture and moving. If you’re feeling like your mind is starting to dull, it seems like just recapturing some of that inefficiency is an enormous lift.

Treat Your Core Like Your Car's Transmission - @IntelliSkin via @PedramShojai

Dr. Tim Brown:

Sure, and just by improving posture you improve respiration. We know respiration is a keystone to health. When we breathe shallow, not only do we not get in enough oxygen, but we also switch on our fight or flight mechanism in our body. That happens Pedram, every time we sit down for longer than 20 minutes. We put our body into the fight or flight mechanism. That thing that was safe for that big tyrannosaurus that’s chasing us is going on while we’re sitting at a desk working on our computer. It just doesn’t make sense, and it’s degenerative.

Pedram:

We go from zero to hero, we injure ourselves cause we’re in fight or flight and we’re just not moving, and our brain’s no functioning, and all of that. How do we get off that roller coaster? I know this whole functional movement thing, the arch of that is the mobility, the strength, the stability.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pedram:

Then at that point do you just keep doing what you love, and you keep building your athletic base?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right, Pedram, the balance man, Leonardo Davinci’s balance man, I mean that’s basically fiction. There is no balance man, there will never be a balanced man, there’s never been a balanced man. In fact if there was, now we know that balanced man was sick. We are not meant to be balanced. We’ve never talked about this. We’ve only talked about balance, because we’re so far out of balance that we’ve been trying to get our patients back to balance. Now we recognize that anything that moves on earth is asymmetrical. In fact, it gets down to that spiral thing again. We all move in a spiral fashion. In fact, they did a study where they blindfolded men and women, and had them drive, swim, run, and walk blindfolded. Every one of them, to the man or women, swam, ran, walked, drove in a circle. It was either right or left, and it was mostly to the right. What happened was that it was not only a circle, but what they called it was a, “Clock springs spiral.”

If you look on the inside of a nautilus shell, or if you look at anatomy and you look at the inner ear, you’ll see a spiral. If you look at DNA, you’ll see a spiral. Well, when we move without sight, we move in a spiral fashion, quite literally. In fact it winds all the way down until that person basically is turning around in a circle. It’s predictable on every one of us. What was curious was it doesn’t have to be a human, it can be an animal, an amoeba, doesn’t matter.

Pedram:

All the spiral talk reminds me of Qi Gong, it reminds me of Tai Chi, all these types of ancient practices. It’s interesting that it sounds like these guys kind of had something. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water …

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

Let’s go figure out what was there, and how we can apply that to our bodies now.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right, I think we’re a bit too high tech for our own good sometimes. Sometimes when we find a scientific study, maybe we jump too hard and too fast into it. I really believe that we’re not born with doctors in our back pocket’s, I think we’re born with an innate sense of what’s right for us. I think movement, if we really allow our bodies to do it, it becomes a treasure to us because it just brings us so many opportunities. As I mentioned before, when we lose movement we lose freedom. It’s all about freedom. When you talk about Qi Gong it reminds me of one of the systems I use called, “The Five Tibetan Rights.” It’s been around, it’s controversial in the sense that no one really truly knows their history, but they believe it’s about 700 years older than yoga is.

It was performed really to not just improve the outside of the body, but what was happening on the inside. It was the chakra’s, it’s really about moving energy through those areas of our body where tension tends to build up, and we tend to stop the energy flow. The five Tibetan Rights are really to open you up. They call them the, “Anti aging exercises.” I’m not sure if I’ll go there, but it sure makes you feel great Pedram. The first time I did it was probably, I don’t know, maybe ten years ago. I knew that if I didn’t do this everyday I was really cheating my body out of something special.

Pedram:

The five Tibetan Rights, is there anyway we can just jump in and do that real quick? Can you show us that?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah, no problem. In fact, there’s six, but we’ll give into the sixth one later. We’re only going to do five today because I don’t think you’re ready for number six.

Pedram:

Wow, drum roll please. All right, let’s go there. You know, cheating your body is how I think we all feel. There was this new JAMA study that I’m sure you’re aware of. It was seven and a half hours a week we’re supposed to exercise in order to stay healthy.

We Sit On Average 9.2 Hours/Day In The US - @IntelliSkin via @PedramShojai

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah.

Pedram:

I mean, that’s a full work day.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah.

Pedram:

We all kind of feel behind the stick on this one, like how did we actually realize this, and how do we not have longevity guilt?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Right.

Pedram:

How do we do this, how do we integrate? How do we step into our lives and actually feel like we’re moving, and feel like we’re addressing these needs?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Well I think initially if you’re not moving, then that seven and a half hours just seems gigantic, it seems almost insurmountable. If you look at it and break it down during the day, and you do use some of Doctor Vernikos’s theory about getting up more than a few times during the day, that can mitigate some of the time that you would have to spend in those 450 minutes, or seven and a half hours a week. I really promote finding the things that you love to do, get out there and do them. Walk out there on the beach, get your feet, get your bare feet in the grass, get your bare feet in the sand. Connect to the earths energy, and just move more often. You don’t have to start with seven and a half hours a week if you haven’t been active. It’s about fun, it’s about enjoying life, and it’s about finding those things that just really turn you on, and tickle you, and motivate you to move.

Get out there and move with your friends, that’s another great way to do it as well. Some of those days that you know you should be moving, you’re not going to feel like moving. That’s normal, that’s called being a human. Also being human is friendships. Those friendships can stimulate you to get out there and move with them, even on those days when you don’t. We have a saying in surfing. There’s no bad days surfing, it’s always better that you went out than if you didn’t. Even if there’s no waves. Just by moving, just by communing with nature, and breathing, and laughing with your friends. There’s health in that, there’s wisdom in that, and there’s life in that Pedram.

Pedram:

I love that, I love that. That’s the message that’s [inaudible 00:18:36] guilt ridden energy about the gym, and the treadmills, all stuff that people don’t really like. I know maybe 10% of people actually enjoy the gym, the rest of us … it’s obligatory. You do it because it’s duty, but you have the saying where it’s about training and playing. I don’t want to butcher it.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah.

Pedram:

I’ll have you lay it out because philosophically it’s fantastic.

When We Lose Movement, We Lose Freedom - @IntelliSkin via @PedramShojai

Dr. Tim Brown:

Sure. As we get older we have to realize that we grew up playing to train. We also recognize that we probably got a lot of injuries that way. As we get older those injuries will compound upon that because you’re not fit like you used to be, and you’re not rolling around in the mud, and doing somersaults all day long like you used to be. It’s critical that you recognize that.

Pedram:

Hmm, so I haven’t done anything for months, and months, and months. I run out, I tie up my sneaks, and I have five hours of full court basketball.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah.

Pedram:

That’s going to hurt.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah.

Pedram:

Your functional fitness comes in so that the basketball’s actually enjoyable.

Dr. Tim Brown:

That’s right, yeah. You use that training to allow basketball to be really fun. When you’re not fit and you’re not mobile like you should be, or like you perhaps used to be as a kid, and people that you know you’re maybe a better athlete at are running circles around you, that’s not fun. Step back, be a little bit humble, and really take to heart some of these mechanics of what we’ve spent all these years studying in science on how to make your body work better, how to make it feel better. There’s a method to the madness, there’s a method to be fit that is actually enjoyable. You can enjoy it the whole way.

I tell my patients, “It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Find the pace that works for you, and enjoy it.” Are you the rabbit or are you the tortoise? Well, the rabbit gets there quicker, but did they see and smell the roses along the way? I’m going to hang with that tortoise.

Pedram:

 I feel like there’s this ancient Tibetan secret that I now need to why. Would you mind showing that to us?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Oh it would be fun.

Pedram:

Can we just do that?

Dr. Tim Brown:

Yeah, we’ll do a couple reps, it will be fun.

Movement Is Life And Life Is Movement - @IntelliSkin via @PedramShojai

Pedram:

Excellent, let’s get into that. I would love to see that.

Dr. Tim Brown:

Great.

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