Former guest on the podcast, triathlete and Feet Freex shoe creator, Jessi Stensland is here to unpack more of her evolution as an athlete. Starting as a D1 swimmer, making the Olympic trials, transitioning to triathlon, and finally competing in ultra Mountain Bike races are all a part Jessi’s athletic journey. Her continued athletic evolution has a different focus than simply “winning” a race. Creating a long-term health and high-performance lifestyle is now the primary focus for Jessi. The idea of being “kinterractive” as Jessi defines in this podcast, is one of nature, activity, love, and connection.
Welcome to the Cycling in Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and right relationship to your life.
Colby Pearce 00:25
Greetings, listeners. We are back for another episode of Cycling in Alignment. I’m so grateful that you have joined me and my guest. Today, Jessi Stensland returns, she’s back from Oaxaca and in town, so we got to sit down and have a chat in person. And we chatted; she and I have a lot to talk about. We were speaking for over three hours in the end. Jana had a lot of work to chop it down into a reasonable length and so some of our conversation is a tiny bit condensed. But never fear, there are tons of nuggets in there. Wisdom nuggets that Jesse brings us. In the beginning, were a bit more philosophical and towards the end, we get a bit more practical in terms of movement. We start talking about the limitations of movement in cyclists and some of the ideas we have to get around that.
Colby Pearce 01:24
So I’m going to cut you free to enjoy our conversation and bask in the energy that is Jessi Stensland.
Colby Pearce 01:32
That said, one quick bit, one quick note: at one point, we talked about the definition of love, and Jessi’s own term, “kinterractive”. I thought it was really fascinating that Jessi came up with a definition for her word “kinterractive” that was quite parallel to Paul’s definition of love. And on the spot, I attempted to recite Paul’s definition for love and it was pretty close, but just to clarify, Paul Chek’s definition of love, is as follows: “I define love, as the flow of energy and information through empathic and or compassionate connection to self and or other.” That is Paul’s definition he has come up with over the years of all his medicine work and deep internal reflection and meditation. He also has a definition of love as “consciousness becoming aware of itself”. So as you get further into the episode, and hear Jessi’s definition of kinterractive in her explanation of how she created this word to describe different things that she felt needed to be described, there was no word for the things she’s trying to convey, then you’ll see where we’re going with this.
Colby Pearce 02:51
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Without further prognostication, or beating about the bush, please enjoy Jessi Stensland.
Colby Pearce 03:06
Hi, Jessi! Welcome.
Jessi Stensland 03:07
Hey, Colby! Good morning.
Colby Pearce 03:09
So good to have you here.
Jessi Stensland 03:10
It’s lovely to be in studio and back in Boulder.
Colby Pearce 03:14
Our connection is going to be much better this time.
Jessi Stensland 03:16
Wow! That was a struggle.
Colby Pearce 03:16
The last time we spoke to Jessi she was in Oaxaca and the internet, as remarkable as it is, was given us a couple elbows here and there.
Jessi Stensland 03:26
Oh, I always did my best, but this is way better.
Colby Pearce 03:31
But we’re missing the bird noises.
Jessi Stensland 03:32
The bird noises and the dogs and the chickens. Oh, you’re killing me, bringing me back.
Colby Pearce 03:39
We have chickens in our neighborhood now.
Jessi Stensland 03:40
Yeah? I’ve walked around, I’ve seen – I didn’t see maybe yours or your area –
Colby Pearce 03:44
Jessi Stensland 03:44
But the birds, I was noticing more actually. Oaxaca helped me notice birds more. So even on Sanitas this morning, a magpie, if you know what that looks like – the big long tail and it was black and white – but I had never seen it. And a woman passed by and I said, “Do you know what that is?” Like amazed. And she said “It’s a magpie. It’s very normal here.” And I was “Wow!” But I’ve been up and down Sanitas over the past 10 years, and I just wouldn’t have noticed and thanks to Oaxaca, or maybe my progressing years where I actually noticed birds a bit more – Yeah, it was beautiful to see.
Who is Jessi Stensland
Colby Pearce 04:17
Jessi, paint a picture [for us], who are you? Where’d you come from? What’s your study?
Jessi Stensland 04:22
I was a swimmer, born and raised a swimmer, as well as had a very active family. I went to school in Washington DC at George Washington University, was a division one college swimmer for four years and overlapped that with my first triathlon. So my degree, I guess that’s important too, was in exercise science. So pre-physical therapy one would say. I love the body and I immediately was working in personal training and also in different therapy settings to get experience. Like I said, I overlapped that with my first triathlon. So that made me look westward to San Diego back in 1998 I headed that way for a lot of reasons: the nature, the feeling I had there was a little different than the East Coast that I’ve ever felt when I visited say San Diego, CA. Plus the triathlon community out there immediately enveloped me in my first triathlon camp in 98 with the pros, there were only handfuls back then. It’s a long time ago now, but San Diego was the place. So that just opened my eyes and I moved. I couldn’t help but move out there. So at 21 years old, I’m out in San Diego, working, not a professional triathlete right away, but within the year was racing against the best, wanted to do more competition, so turned professional. By 2000, I was racing professionally, not just locally – I guess I did jump on the bandwagon pretty quickly. And I was working for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. So that also had begun.
Jessi Stensland 05:52
My background in sports marketing, management, race management, also what became being able to be my own agent in that way, because I was seeing – throw this in there, whether it’s relevant or not – but I was basically seeing a running race as the connector between the businesses who wanted to reach the audience and the runners themselves. So as an athlete, I was kind of like the same as a race: I needed sponsors, they wanted to reach the athletes I was reaching as a professional athlete… So that really helped get my career supported because I got smarter and smarter from how the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons really created their business plan. Still a very authentic athlete, but just a little bit of background really, really helped. So they were super supportive as well of my triathlon from the beginnings and always have great memories of working for them for quite a few years with that team, which let me also, again, be the athlete that I was, put my professional triathlon training first and racing – I can’t discount that.
Jessi Stensland 06:53
So after that, let’s see… what else…. I got into the mountains. So I was -wait, okay, I’ll go back. 2004 Olympic trials, so I did get to that level and it was amazing. And that kind of relates to all the movement things we’ve talked about that I’ve learned since because I had that nugget, that carrot out in front, it really did make me seek out every possible opportunity to be my absolute best and I do think that journey gave that to me, as far as triathlon could give it to me. So triathlon gave me a whole lot and was the factor that made me seek and seek and seek what it really means to do well in human performance. How many years later is it now? It’s almost 20 years later, I have a whole nother aspect including nature that means to me what I consider human performance to bridge those two…But I love having the background in super, super severe professional sport to go back to and understand.
Jessi Stensland 07:48
Once I wanted another challenge, I ended up in the mountains; mountain biking, Xterra triathlons – and why that’s important is because it got me closer to nature. I didn’t realize how far I was from nature by sticking my head in the pool, riding my road cycle on concrete or road bike on concrete. Sure we were out in the outdoors, but wow. The first time I hit a trail to just see what this Xterra thing was about, I rolled an ankle in the first four miles, I still finished the half marathon, but the moment I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t walk. The next day my core was so sore, but it was because running, making twists and turns on that run, I remember your whole body you have to tweak it to quickly go another direction, so that was all new for me. I didn’t blame anybody else but myself for not having the quickness to not have gotten that injury like I couldn’t react quick enough or didn’t know where to put my foot because my brain had never had to think that way.
Jessi Stensland 08:49
Speaking of cycling, this is a cycling podcast, mountain bike rides across South Africa and Namibia, so six day mountain bike stage races, one of the first that went from Windhoek to Swakopmund in Namibia back in 2012 and 2015, Joberg2c which was the 900 kilometers on the mountain bike.
Colby Pearce 09:06
I didn’t know you had done those, Wow. Wow.
Jessi Stensland 09:09
Epic, that was a little too epic for me, but the others were amazing.
Colby Pearce 09:14
Were you on a team or solo?
Jessi Stensland 09:17
It was a team of two both times. I say that cuz I kept being around people who were super competitive and this and that. I can always hop in. I was always strong enough because my lifestyle just kept me having fun being strong; really my training for that 900 kilometer race, which I was on the bike six to eight hours a day, I mean, I can’t imagine it was any less than that. But I wasn’t racing-racing it, let’s just be clear. By that time I was really just out there having fun, eating whatever they wanted to feed me at the aid stations which was a whole big party. Every aid station, you can imagine, South Africa the beers the.. I don’t know everything else.
Jessi Stensland 09:55
I’ve worked for Vibram Five Fingers, got into feet and developed some foot wear and was flying all over the world for that, which a little crazy because mostly, as you know, I just got back from a year in Oaxaca, where I’ve been living very simply.
Colby Pearce 10:13
People talk about working with plant medicine all the time and ostensibly the idea is to deconstruct the ego and to visit the void and forget who you are, forget that you’re human. And it sounds like maybe in a way, maybe you can speak to this or you’ll agree or disagree, perhaps, or add to it, but when you go and live in the bush of Mexico for five months, and you’ve learned how to fish with a line, and build a fire and sleep outside and be dependent upon yourself and humans instead of all the social constructs that we have here, all the Whole Foods and Tesla’s and things – and I’m not bagging any of those things – but it sounds like what you’ve done is deconstruct your reality; all the things that you’ve been conditioned to live in and amongst for your whole life, and you’ve taken all those away and reduced and now you can come back and understand more about the goldfish tank we live in here.
Jessi Stensland 11:09
I’m well aware of the privilege or the opportunity I had to do the travels I had, to add up to what even took a while, many, many years of just – it doesn’t all come at once, but it does take an initial something, an initial step, something to get you to the next step. And so, like I said, it doesn’t all come flooding at once. It’s not for everyone. I’ll also say that I was the lone person riding the bike only two or three kilometers away from the beach in the tourist area where the lights ended and even the locals were saying, “Aren’t you scared?” People are saying “What? You do that every night?” “What” being a 20 minute bike ride to absolute quiet and darkness every night. Of course, I still had the ability to jump back in with everybody on the beach anytime I wanted. So – what was I saying – it’s not for everyone in that way and it didn’t come all at once.
Thinking about choices
Jessi Stensland 12:08
But the question is, if it is for you, if you are curious, or even taking those small steps to get there… So many things we do just because it’s always been done and we haven’t had to think twice. Have you thought once about not sleeping in a bed? I can’t tell you I did until a few years ago and now it’s so obvious to me. That’s one example. I’m also shedding and shedding things like that.
Jessi Stensland 12:34
When you say everything’s a choice, coming from a place where there are no choices, or there’s fewer choices: whatever is growing is what you’re eating. Whatever is around is what you have. Some people live within only a block their whole life basically, right?
Jessi Stensland 12:53
Why is that important?
Jessi Stensland 12:54
Oh, and then I was for example, to bring it to reality here: Just the awareness I think of how much healthier we would be if we were aware that just having that choice. And then you can choose to make that choice as compared to a more difficult one or otherwise. Like walking up Sanitas today I took my shoes off when it got a little warmer on the way back down. And same thing, I can choose to step around on almost flat smooth spots the whole time, but if I want to do a straight line, if there’s a huge boulder and I got to take a huge step up, get my hip mobility, my strength, get into almost that like pistol squat stance before I step back up… Things like this: just walk straight, don’t always walk around – what if that was the only way?
Jessi Stensland 13:32
We have the ability, I mean the privilege here, to see the choices – that alone is a thing – that we can be appreciative of and not be overwhelmed by. What I’m seeing now, having gotten off social media and all this information overload, is that we’re almost swimming in so much information and so many choices that we don’t even see that we have these choices because they’re overwhelming. Versus you have a couple of choices, like you give a kid, two choices. Keep it simple. We have so many.
Jessi Stensland 14:01
So going back to this idea of what do we make that choice? Well, I can make the choice to go outside without my jacket, be cold for a second, let my body adapt, take that little moment of uncomfort which I have learned is good for me.
Colby Pearce 14:16
We grow up in society with certain constructs and expected behaviors. And that’s just the water we’re swimming in as goldfish. And then when we reduce that down to bare essentials, then we can go back and add in, critically examine each of the behaviors, each of the things that we partake in. Whatever it is.
Colby Pearce 14:39
Pick a construct. It can be driving, it can be applying makeup. It can be using deodorant or not. There are a 1000 choices we make in any day that are just hardwired into us. When we really are free to critically examine all these behaviors – I think it’s so interesting, I’ve had this conversation with so many clients. In my observation, generally speaking, people tend to sort of clamp down very rigidly on some of these discussions or these ideas of letting go. Or, alternatively, they’re just ready to move on. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought about that.” Okay, let’s try it without. Or let’s try changing to a different choice. Make a different selection instead of driving here and paying for a ticket to go to the ski trail, I’m going to choose to do a different activity today. And then that eliminates gas and ticket price and cost and transportation time and all the equipment I have to own for skiing, blah, blah, blah. And all those choices: what color hat do I wear it when I go cross country skiing? All those little things that we decide. Those are trivial things, but decisions come at a price, especially when, as you mentioned, we’re overburdened or exposed to so many choices, so many choices.
Social media’s negative influence
Colby Pearce 16:05
I think one of the most negative consequences of social media is that it adds weight to those choices. It adds perceived judgment because we tend to look into the world of Twitter, Instagram, or whatever and we have this imagination that we are actors in a studio, that we’re actors on a stage, and that everyone’s watching our lives. And to a degree, that’s kind of true in a fabricated way on Instagram or Twitter because you’re posting pictures about your life and you’re having these experiences. And then other people see those experiences and there becomes this mirroring effect. How do they see me? How do I look in that photo? Do I look flabby or wrinkly? Or not tan or too tan? Is the angle funny? Does my nose look weird? What am I doing? Am I doing some super cool elusive thing? Or am I walking down a street or doing something boring? Or do I look sad? And all the other infinite value judgments that we can imagine other people assigned to our little digital experiences. And that becomes a hallway of mirrors. Right. And that’s what social media is. It’s a hallway of mirror so you go searching for certain things, you’ll definitely find them no matter how dark they are.
Colby Pearce 17:23
So, I’ve started to play social media less. I can see both sides of it for sure. There are certain aspects, I just think of as do not fly zones, don’t care at all, just completely ignore it. I also don’t watch a lot of news for the same reason. There’s a balance. I also do want to know, you know, that Biden was sworn in as president. That’s useful information. I’m not saying I don’t want to know what’s going on.
Jessi Stensland 17:48
I understand perspectives when it comes to social media. I have gotten off of all of it. I was at the heyday of my career when this all came about. So I was on it since 2006 or I think Facebook was 2007. So how many years now is that? Fourteen or 15 years of – I remember this from years and years ago now – every stoplight, if there was a moment you’re touching the screen. And I’m so far from that now.
Jessi Stensland 18:17
I did it step by step. But this year, I completely got off. So I’m just giving somebody out there, I know it’s not for everyone to hear, but like they say it might be for somebody to hear, that it is totally possible and that your life gets filled only with rich things otherwise. You still need to be connected if you’re not otherwise connected to anything, and then you can start seeing it for what it is. But I would rather that then be inundated.
Jessi Stensland 18:46
The more I was off that type of communication, I had to find ways to communicate, which has led to more in depth emails and calls that I ever had. I don’t even use, now, WhatsApp anymore. I do message a little bit still, but most people, other than my immediate people, I’m on emails, longer emails, or phone calls. So you fill it with other ways when you don’t rely on a third party to be involved in your life. I feel like all those ways [social media’s] have a third party involved in your life instead of a phone call to a person and email to a person. No one’s involved. So I didn’t think of it until I just said it that way. But that’s how it started me on my journey I’m seven years into that journey when I got out of other things that were a third party in my life that I don’t need any more.
Colby Pearce 18:56
That’s a very simple way to look at it. As soon as there’s a third party that is interpreting or facilitating your communication, inherently, that third party will have an agenda. And that agenda is almost always making money for their shareholders. So the critical question is do I want to use this third party to communicate in some way? And if so, I have to accept their terms. And then that has immediate and far reaching implications.
Jessi Stensland 19:57
If I relate it back to 2012 I gave away or sold everything save for my two bikes, my computer, camera, and a backpack and went off to see the world. The more I gave stuff away, the less I had – that was coming from years of sponsorship and how many pairs of these kinds of shorts do I need? I realized now I need one not 10 they’re taking up space, I have to pay for that space. So it was easy, but it wasn’t one decision, it came over three or four months. It became like, “Wow, that’s right. Why would I need these? I can digitize my photos. I don’t need to lug them everywhere.” So, little by little.
Jessi Stensland 20:30
Well, this year, the digital detox, I didn’t have any idea of where it would lead. I did this and then that and the more I did it, the more I did it. I never had to look back. It wasn’t like one day after I was like, “Where’s Facebook?” But I just wanted to relate it back to that physicalness, my physical things, of getting rid of those, getting rid of this because it’s in my face. It’s taking up space. If I’m seeing it, I’m not seeing something else. How many things do you see every day that aren’t of use? And when you start to look at it that way, “oh, it’s no big deal, another picture of my friend with his dog.” I love with my friend, I love his dog, but wow, I still spent a miniscule amount of time seeing that in my life. What else do I want in?
Jessi Stensland 21:15
I have to say my life has gotten so much richer even knowing I’m missing a few things. I’m definitely missing a few things. But I really do believe it’s not, at least right now in my life, it’s nothing compared to what I’m capable of filling it with and that’s very simple. It’s not a lot, but at what I’m capable filling it with or have to have to fill it with, have to figure out a way. In other words, I’m not just sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone to fill it for me. What do I want to do? Call another person. Who was on that list that I haven’t talked to in a while? What thing do I want to create? What thing do I want to search for right now on the internet because it’s amazing, right?
Jessi Stensland 21:49
My kinterractive theory and word, which I don’t know if we ever talked about, it just gives you that lens to look at every moment of life. And every moment of life not more important than another; like whether you’re sleeping or you’re eating, whether you’re looking at someone in the eye, wherever you are, whether you’re scrolling at that moment to really say in this moment how kinterractive am I being?
Colby Pearce 22:11
Tell me, what’s kinterractive?
Jessi Stensland 22:11
Kinterractive is… you know, people have a lot of labels. I don’t mind words, words are beautiful, but when words lose their original definition or value or get like, one guy would say, kidnapped and you can’t use them anymore – one that’s close to my heart is barefoot. The first time a person had to ask me, truly asked me, intellectually “What does barefoot mean to you, Jessi?” In terms of shoes are now being called barefoot shoes. What does that even mean? It means nothing’s on your foot. So then they kidnapped the word, it can’t be used. When people asked me “Oh, you run barefoot? But do you run Barefoot?” And I said, “No, I run. You run in shoes.” I want to go back. These descriptive have all come from consumerism, right? No, I’m just running. Like, let’s not put a label on that. And so counteractive.
Jessi Stensland 23:07
When people started to see me jumping around on things they asked me “Oh, what are you doing? Is that CrossFit? Is that parkour? Is that yoga?” No, no, no. I don’t know. Or “Yes, that’s inspired by parkour” Or “Are you vegetarian? Are you vegan?” When I order hummus. “No. I just ordered hummus.”
Jessi Stensland 23:28
So I needed a word. And I kept seeing all the ways we’re insulated by nature. Insulated from nature rather. Shoes and clothing and indoors and gosh, it got a little heavy. I said, ‘No, you need a positive spin to that.’ So instead of being insulated, what’s the positive side of that? Meaning, what do we want to be? Interactive. We want to interact with nature. We want to be interactive. I said immediately how this word, “interact” hasn’t been kidnapped. It still means a two way flow of energy or information, right? We’re interacting. It’s a strong word. I liked it right away. And then I said, ‘Okay, I need movement and nature in that word.’ So how do I get that in that word? “Kin” the “K” came up pretty quickly for kinesis which turned into “Kindred” for care and compassion, “kin” as an family community. It had quite a few: community, care and compassion, movement – there was one other good one in there – So it meant a lot to me. And then I said, ‘Okay, how’s nature getting in this word?’ And there’s an extra “r” for Terra, t-e-r-r-a. Simple as that. So it’s contracted with two “r’s”.
Jessi Stensland 24:41
It became a word I needed when people said what are you doing? So 4am at a bus stop, I’m doing handstands and someone asks me what am I doing. At first, I had to come up with I’m “kinterracting”, I’m being kinterractive, Like I was messing around with this. What it turned into was this idea of saying if you have a lens and a working definition of people, places, things, ideas or actions – basically everything – to what degree it allows for the constant and ever changing flow of energy, which is information, but lets go with energy, within nature. Because we are nature. So if I had to say within in between mother nature and human nature, that means there’s humans and there’s Mother Nature. No, we’re nature.
Colby Pearce 25:27
One thing that came to me right away is, I mean, your definition of kinterractive is so fascinating to me, because, I’ll rif this from memory, but I’ve heard Paul Cheks say many times his definition of love, which is the flow of energy and information between compassionation and connection with others. I butchered it a little bit. But those are the key aspects. And he used the same words: energy and information. So the second you said that I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty powerful.” Because this is a definition Paul has come up with on his own through years of meditation, his definition of love. Let me try and get it right. This is my Paul Chek exam right here. He’s gonna flunk me out of the Academy if I can’t say this on the podcast. Not that Paul is in my pod, but… It’s the flow of energy and information between compassionate connection between self and or other. I still butchered it a little bit, but that’s the basic concept. And so that is pretty potent to me.
Colby Pearce 26:35
I suppose that what you’re saying is that any kinterractive moment or activity could ultimately be reduced to love? Maybe you disagree, it’s your word, but I mean, what else is there?
Jessi Stensland 26:50
I’d go there. Let’s go there. So a few years ago, I knew I love it because it’s similar and so I want your opinion on this too, or anyone listening, when I was trying to make a mind map or so of what’s important, what’s at the core of everything, what comes out from there. You know, a smile is not insignificant to walking down the street, but is it the first thing that leads to the biggest thing? Or is there a big thing that leads to the smile? So basically it was a bunch of circles with a bunch of words learning, teaching, nature, love, smile, communication and where did they fall in terms of the core of life or an out? What ended up for us, a friend was working on it, nature and love, were in the middle, and all these other things went out to big things like teaching, learning, etc. all the way out to the little things, you could do like eye contact, smiling, and I think it can go both ways. So, this will get back to the point we’re talking about, smile can lead to getthing someone closer to this core of being natural and feeling love versus having to start with all these things until you then actually smile. I think you can work from the out in, the little things to the in, or obviously have all that nature and love and put it out there and go outward.
Jessi Stensland 28:11
That said, nature and love were in the middle. And to this day, and for a while now I’ve of course said love wasn’t just about a single human relationship I might have, this is about every single moment of life. For me, love is a quality, is an appreciation, is a thing that is because of that. So for me, I’m putting nature at the core from now on. And love is a beautiful a feeling that comes out and from that.
The purpose of movement
Colby Pearce 28:42
What would you say is your purpose for movement? Why do you move? What does your movement practice consist of now?
Jessi Stensland 28:49
A friend of mine said it really well, they’re a performance coach, “Babies are born with the ability to do every single thing. And they have to learn how to not do every single thing and actually get coordinated.” Where we, once you’re conditioned and want a new a new skill, have to get that coordination.” It’s quite the opposite. Let’s think back to what we’re born with and start there. In our context of seeing where the world starts to funnel us into certain movement patterns early on: sit up straight, sit in your chair, sit, sit, sit, sit, get squished into this car seat then wow. We have this body that truly can do everything. And every joint has a range of motion that it was born with. (Let’s just say in the perfect world and the perfect body.) The hip swings all over, the shoulders have mobile joints and stable joints.
Jessi Stensland 28:50
So my purpose for a long time has simply been to maintain that one range of motion and nervous system access to those ranges of motion. I was limited when I learned these things. So I had to get back some ranges of motion, I still do, I’m very conscious about that now. At least I know how the ankle used to be able to move. How I was limited with all my shoe wearing and my sports, but I’m getting it back. I’ve seen it come back. How many years on in this game and I can still get movement back. So my movement age is going only down and down just being true to the fact that I know what it was functioned and designed to do. There’s no reason other than me not using it in that range. I’ll give you a quick example; when I started to do high kicks, just like in capoeira or whatever martial art, I was learning just a practice of a few kicks high, right? So I got really strained in my hip flexor. Well, why? If I asked you that, do you know immediately why I would have been strained in my hip flexor by doing high kicks?
Jessi Stensland 29:50
Not used to have range of motion with that much force.
Jessi Stensland 30:41
Right. And what muscle gets used over 90 degrees of flexion in the hip is your hip flexor, right? So here, you’re doing a high kick using it at 120 degrees, and at a really high force. Boom. I did a set of them one day, and I couldn’t do them again for a couple of weeks. I was like “Wow, this is great.” It’s kind of like when I learned about the cartwheel; I’d rather do cartwheels to open up my left side which I had a harder time with it because I’m a righty. I’d rather do that than a stretch here a stretch there. Cartwheels, because they open if you do them well and right and progress through them and actually do them, they really open things up.
Jessi Stensland 31:32
So little by little, just by being curious about progression and adding in fun, different things, surrounding myself with people doing different things that I’ve never done. And now realizing, “Okay, I don’t need another example. I just know that the shoulder moves this way, the hip moves this way,” I’m going to wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, truly just to honor and be true to what I know of the body. And to keep myself well.
Parkour mantra: To be strong, to be useful
Jessi Stensland 32:00
If I could take a line from parkour, to be strong and to be useful – that comes in handy right now, actually. So one of their mantras is “to be strong, to be useful,” which I think is different than I’ve heard before, right? When you’re an individual sport athlete, you want to be strong because you need to get your butt from point A to point B. Tthere’s other groups of people and humans and philosophies on this, but they definitely drove the point home “to be strong, to be useful.” So I have been aware of that ever since, and even before, I met them. You don’t necessarily talk philosophy when you’re crushing it in the mountains, and maybe even mountaineering or my mountain bike sports, whereas in parkour, they had to create an urban setting of what is the purpose of us doing this? And so they actually did have to put words to it and the meaning for it.
Jessi Stensland 32:50
If I was to talk about the body in general and movement, I know that there’s a true range of motion that we’re born with, we can see it everyday in babies that are born, I can now assess a little bit as to where I’ve been limited and where I can start to get some of that back in. And no, I’m not going to get it all back, because I’m not going to just stop my life and do only movement. But I’m going to get there. I also need to use that range of motion that I have everywhere, which means nervous system, which means sensory input, which means all the sensory organs, including my hands, and my feet, and eyes, and ears, and all of that being true to that, because I need that sensory input to actually connect to the muscles to use those ranges of motion in a relaxed, efficient and actually just to be used at all and not go away.
Jessi Stensland 33:36
So now I know how and what and why. Staring at screens all day is not keeping our eyes at the most depth perceptive and all the things we need. Not touching, not having our hands and our feet touched. We know these things now. So I’m being true to my nervous system to keep that just functioning and which means I see different things I touch different things. I do weird things. I make weird movements.
Jessi Stensland 34:01
Maybe you can hear me through the pocket, the microphone where I can just do weird motions, you’ll find me shaking. Look at kids! You do not think they’re weird. They’re waiting in a line. They’re laying on the ground. They’re doing all these things, and it just goes by, but the genius in that, and what we limit and when we stop that and it looks weird because it’s not accepted, I’m definitely over it that. So if you see me walking down the street, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. And I’m throwing my arms over my head, wiggling for a second, or whatever.
Jessi Stensland 34:33
So all of that to say, Yeah, I want the ranges of motion that are pretty easy to see. It’s in a baby every day. And I want to keep active to do that. So the purpose is to be able to just live life understanding that and then for others in whatever way I can.
Endurance sports as a movement practices or inhibitors
Colby Pearce 34:53
Beautiful. So I think we’re in agreement here. I’ve kind of boiled it down for me, my movement practices, about two things. Connection with nature, connection with self, internally. You could divide it into external and internal, although the truth is, since we are nature, it’s really all the same thing which comes back to nature – which kind of reinforces your point and `philosophy. But that’s what I find, whatever I’m doing, if I’m running on a trail, I’m feeling the trail, I’m trying to connect with the contours of the rocks and thinking about where the foot strikes are, and thinking about the rhythm of my run, and my breath and my posture and my arm swing and how I’m changing my bounds based on the terrain. When I’m just riding, I’m not just riding, for me, stabbing at the pedals or trying to be autonomous or automatic, I guess, would be the right word, about my pedal motion, I’m consciously engaging the pedals. Even though it’s repetitive motion, you’re doing it 1000s of times in a single ride, for me that can be meditative. For me, it’s an old pattern, obviously, I’ve been riding bikes for 35 years, so that is a thing. In a way it feels like home, but I do it in different ways than I used to. There used to be a different ethos that.
Colby Pearce 36:09
Yeah, well, when you’re competing as an athlete, it’s always about adding load, more is better, yang, preparing for competition. You subscribe to that mindset, that more is better; that was definitely part of my mo for a long time. And I learned those lessons the hard way by falling down, metaphorically, and crashing my body and being smoked in June from training way too much in the early season, and all those lessons that we have to learn as part of the warrior phase of our athletic development. And that’s all part of the adventure and the journey.
Jessi Stensland 36:09
Yeah, how’s that?
Colby Pearce 36:43
But then it evolved from there. And now my practice is, I may compete from time to time when it fits and when it feels right and feels authentic, but – well, COVID aside – there’s going to be few opportunities, or few I would say instances, where I would expect that to happen, but it might, and it would really be far less about me, I have nothing to prove to anyone, myself or other people on how fast I am or am not on a bike. I mean, who cares? From where I’m at, I’ve already done all those things, and unreturned all those rocks and been the best that I could be and that’s fine. I still enjoy practicing the sport and that may end up happening in a competitive setting at some points, it may not. It depends on probably some circumstances, some social aspects like are some of my friends racing, would I get to travel to the race with them?
Colby Pearce 37:25
I was just having this conversation with my friend Don the other day, and we’re talking about doing a mountain bike race later this spring in Colorado. And he was like, “Yeah, we could do this and I always was go” – he’s done it the last few years. I’ve never done it. This is the Gunnison Crawler. I’ve never done that race and I was saying to him like yeah, what’s your rhythm? And he was like, “Well, I go here and I usually drive this night and then I get a hotel…” and I was like, “Would you be open to camping? “Like, we’re not here to win this thing so who cares? If we don’t get a great night’s sleep because it’s a little bit windy or we get rained on or whatever, I don’t really care that much. I’m still gonna enjoy the ride the next day. To me it’s just a ride that I paid for with a numberplate on and I’ll go fast. He was like, “That’s a really good idea. I can be done with that.” So rethinking these things. That changes the bar for me a little bit.
Colby Pearce 38:11
But fundamentally, my movement practices, all those things, it’s connection with the body and feeling that flow state.
Colby Pearce 38:23
I think one of the most pervasive mindsets that has trickled into a lot of different endurance communities somehow, is the simple, really old school, weightlifting paradigm of 12 reps to failure. And the really old one is like every set, you have to go to failure, right? And there’s only a very, very narrow range of applicability for that statement and even then it’s an extreme statement. By definition, it’s very myopic, but if you’re trying to build maximum amounts of muscle, if you’re a bodybuilder, or you’re competing in a strength competition, then maybe that can serve you at times. That’s, I studied this a lot, but I’ll still say it’s out of my area of expertise. But for some reason, that mindset pervades everything we do from intervals to endurance rides, to riding at the top of any given zone at any given moment.
Colby Pearce 39:16
I just spoke about this in the last pod that I think dropped this morning, maybe. So the idea that the Type A mentality is always maximizing everything to a degree. So if I asked you, if I was your coach, Jessi, 20 years ago, and I said, I want you to go on a four hour zone two ride and you went and you said, “Okay, my zone two heart rate is 126 beats to 134. And you rode along at 133-134 the entire ride, thinking you were doing it better, and that you were maximizing everything… what’s the mindset behind that logic? Is it that you think that you’re not quite as talented as the other riders in your peer group so then you have to out train them? Or is it just that you’re ticking off that box of perfectionism? Who knows? (I’m hypothesizing all these psychological outcomes for our athletes, not you obviously, in particular.) So that’s the old school mentality of taking that weight training mindset and applying it to everything.
Colby Pearce 40:14
I’m so far from that paradigm now because now for me, connection with self is about just feeling good and feeling my body proprioceptivly, muscularly, feeling a range of motion like you were saying, sensing where the limits are on why is my shoulder not as open on one side as the other? What should I be able to do with it? Why can I not get thoracic extension when I do this exercise? What is the deal there? What vertebra is it? And trying to kind of dissect that. For me, internally, that has its own meaning. Because I want my body to be this perfect functioning machine as as optimally as I can. For me, there’s almost no greater priority than health in a way. Health and love connection.
Jessi Stensland 41:00
But that said, let’s talk real quick about sports – cuz we were talking about sports. And then yes, my movement practice. But this idea that, I could take one sport: running. I don’t want to dig too to my myopically, but the point is, take any sport that you want, and break it down for what it is. Which is, in my sport of triathlon, even swimming and running to be more simple, it’s one, especially on the road in a repetitive motion, it is one repeated movement pattern over and over.
Colby Pearce 41:39
That’s quite limited in the case of cycling or running,
Jessi Stensland 41:42
It is what it is, right? It’s not limited if you think about walking, it’s limited if you think about leaping and bounding and crawling on trees. It’s one repeated over and over and over. And so once I realized that, and I realized what it took to do that, and I’m talking about on asphalt straight ahead, your typical race situation and training, it’s repeated. So we send rocket ships to the moon, we dance – I got into dance a couple years ago, I told you. And they move! They can dance their eyelids, they can answer eyeballs, some of them, some of those wild dancers, they can connect to every part of their body, move it in a different way, stop it when they want. It’s inch by inch in their bodies. And here I am, in a sport where I just had to do this and well and understand what it took. And understand that what changed between me being able to do one hit on the ground, one strike one, one strike on the ground and running, for example, or one freestyle swimming stroke on one side, to repeating that for 26 miles, two miles, whatever it took, and then somehow running injured me. Or running too far injured me.
Jessi Stensland 42:53
So I guess what I want to say is what I’ve learned since is that if we’re true to what that sport really takes, and how to really feed nutritiously, like Katie Bowman will say nutritious movement, what our health and well being needs to do that motion and repeat it as long as I want, then no sport necessarily… we can talk cycling too because that is in some ways a very static position. If I ate such a diverse diet, all the farm foods, and then I had a box of cookies, maybe even 10 that da,y would not affect me nearly as much as you know. And I think movements the exact same way. What body, what elasticity, what ranges of motion, what nutritious whole being, I can do whatever you want, but right now for this five hours, I’m going to choose to sit in this position. And I know it’s going to be a little stiff afterwards, but you’re going to be less stiff because you actually can use your body and all these other ways and your mind knows that and your being wants that. You’re free to appreciate the human form in such a way that you know it should be able to wiggle and you should be able to whip your head around like a rock star your whole life. (And I’m working on that, by the way. So trying to practice what I preach and something I learned from dance. But yeah, my neck mobility just like whip it around anywhere I want and there’s reasons we can get into that.) But basically, when you bring a body that you focus first on all that and then choose to use it repetitively for a bit whether it’s in a job, I’ve been in repetitive situation jobs over my travel times and little stints here and there where my hand starts to be like, “Oh yeah, I’m repeating this motion. Okay, the job is that, but I’m going to do the best I can in anad out.” So same thing with cycling, same thing with whatever repetitive thing you want to think about.
Jessi Stensland 44:40
So I just did wanted to say that. It’s not every sport that does this to us. If we take responsibility, and I know that all lifestyles can’t allow for it, I know that everyone can’t get to this level, it took me a long time to or can get but maybe isn’t there or to get to the point where we’re true to that, but I do just want to say it’s a privilege to do sports. I feel to the level that we do it as you’ve pointed out many times I know. You don’t have to grow your own food, you do not have to walk to even get your food you know, nothing like that. People are doing that though. I just came from Oaxaca where you don’t have time to do extra because your workout is getting your food. We can just push a button in the microwave or on the computer or whatever.
Colby Pearce 45:21
Amazon Prime delivering to your house now…
Jessi Stensland 45:23
Exactly, your meal steamy hot.
Colby Pearce 45:25
Jessi Stensland 45:26
So just saying appreciating that we’re able to do it.
Jessi Stensland’s active lifestyle
Jessi Stensland 45:28
The second point was my movement practice. Part of my moving practices these days is my lifestyle choices. So that means that I walk and ride my bicycle everywhere. I didn’t have a car, I don’t have it here, Boulders great for that, of course. And that’s a big deal. Fresh air, we’re talking about all kinds of things in that way.
Jessi Stensland 45:28
Sport necessarily isn’t the only factor, nutritiously. I’ve had enough people say “Running injured me.” Let’s be true to what you were feeding your body. Nutritiously and movement wise I say to be proactive aout listening to your body. What body, what elasticity, what ranges are you doing that you can then choose?healthfully to say, “I love this! I am going for this hour run, I’m going for this hour ride, I’m going to do this every day, but how true am I going to be? So that was one point.
Jessi Stensland 46:15
As far as beds, we’ve talked about a bed before, which could say movement practice. But that means sleeping on a hard floor. Like I’ve told you, you need to be suavecito, you need to be soft and malleable and my neck just melts into the ground. I have never had better neck mobility, not from doing all these perfect ido portal and helpful, helpful movement practices. But I don’t necessarily have to do these things in the mirror and do these circles and these things because I just don’t use a pillow, sleep on the flat ground, and ever since then, I have had a neck I can swing as a rock star in every range of motion.
Jessi Stensland 47:10
So movement practice, right? We’re digging you into what I don’t have to try to move practice because I don’t have crutches or casts or movement limiters in my life; Chairs, not a thing, I write, I sit, and eat, and work on the floors. I’m sitting in a chair right now I’m sitting like sit cross legged, we can move you allow for that. Yeah, so you can still use the chair as a tool and like move around, but I’m not to be a slave to any one position.
Movement in children and “young muscle”
Jessi Stensland 47:36
As far as kids, in Oaxaca and when I’m here I act and relate to kids. I move like kids, when the adults are sitting around doing nothing, I’m the one running around with them. Or at least observing them.
Jessi Stensland 47:50
Okay, movement practice. This is funny yesterday, my brother and I were on Skype with my nieces and nephews. And they were telling us about Disney World. They just got back. And Brett, my brother, and I are sitting there in the screen and Anna and Tara, the kids 10 and 12, were like moving all over and not running and not obnoxiously, but just like she one was on a skateboard. And she was coming back and forth. And the other was like moving her position all the time. And I used to think that was like six year olds even more than once they got to be 12. But I’m looking at a 10 and a 12 year old who are still not sitting still not for a moment. And so I started to do that. So in my screen, my brother was just sitting there, he’s a mover too, but in the moment he can sit, and I started to like do stuff. Kind of funnily and to see how it felt for myself, but like, why can’t I? It was a little bit awkward. Was it distracting? Because then they started to play with it and back and forth. Like why not me and why you! So it’s just an observation. It may not always be relevant or apparent, but wow, they moved 110 times and we would have had one position in our conversation. So it’s just observations like that.
Jessi Stensland 48:57
You were asking me about my movement practice, it’s hard to package up into a box, right? Because of course I could tell you that I should not just shake, but I learned from a dance drilll once that she had us do one body part at a time where we just really let it whip off our bodies. So it was one arm at a time or both arms at a time just the arms whip them, whip them, around everywhere they can go right? Your torso or your shoulders, just do your shoulders, can you do your head, and we did it we whipped our heads around then one leg and then the other leg and then the whole body… Can you imagine what it looks like a roomful of about 20 people and dancers who have crazy mobility – video is amazing. Can your body take that? Most people see me whip my neck around and I have a video of it, it looks amazing, like a rockstar at this age and only because I don’t do extra exercises because I don’t have movement limiters in my life.
Jessi Stensland 49:59
What is whipping? To me whipping is that quick like, thing that might happen, a fall. Right, right. And something you didn’t expect.
Colby Pearce 50:09
Recently I’ve been studying a guy named Joel Greene a little bit, he wrote a book called “The Immunity Code”, and he talks about a lot of different concepts that I think are really core and are parallel to what we’re speaking about. One of the ideas he talks about is the concept of a young muscle. And his definition of young muscle is, can you just walk out the door to your front yard or your street or whatever park, no warm up, and just sprint, straight up, just rocket speed like running from a cheetah. Can you do that without getting injured? And that is one of his yardsticks, a simple yardstick, for having what he calls “young muscle”. And he goes way beyond movement, and he talks about mobility and the things you’re speaking about, for sure.
Colby Pearce 50:57
Then he also talks about things like healing the gut, and having a diet, which again is a parallel, the perfect analogy brought up is that nutritious movement, the more stimulus, the more different varieties of healthy movement we put into our diet, then the more when we need to be laser focused and respond and catch that child who’s about to fall or catch your grandma’s vase that’s falling off a table or react to a slip on some ice or sand, when you’re walking on the street and a car comes around the corner… any number of examples, then you’re capable of having that nervous system strength, but also the range of motion and the muscular coordination and strength all at once. They come together in that nanosecond to protect you from falling.
Colby Pearce 51:06
Or if you do fall, your core is not so strong from doing hundreds of hours of planks, side planks, and whatever seven way hips, not too bad on those exercises, they have their place I think, but then your neck is never trained, because we don’t think about training the neck or the strength of the neck. So if you fall on your shoulder, and you’ve managed to not break a collarbone or wrist, and your core is really strong from the shoulders down, what’s going to happen? You’re going to get whiplash to the side when your head because you’re not doing your Rockstar head whips. We have to think about during accident times of an accident or an unforeseen circumstance, what’s going to break? It’s going to be the weakest link in the chain. And commonly that is the neck.
Colby Pearce 52:28
People don’t think about the neck. Paul Chek teaches that in core exercises, he teaches full spinal flexion and extension, when you’re doing a core exercise, which means including the neck and a lot of times when you start doing that people’s necks are by far the weakest part of that chain.
Colby Pearce 52:45
But I think that concept of young muscles really interesting. And I’ve been kind of as a thought experiment, and also in my own movement practice thinking about how that applies to me. Could I get up and do a full sprint up my block without injuring myself, and I’m thinking about my own range of motion limitations that are based on me being a cyclist for 35 years, and I definitely have them, I made a lot of progress, but there’s always work to be done. And I’ve got my own little kinks and bits to work out in my left ankle and in my left hip and things like that.
A healthy movement checklist
Colby Pearce 53:19
So if we were to compile a list of what you think; the answer might be do everything, jump in waves, push against water. The answer might be sprint up your sidewalk, play with children, practice tumbling, and rolling. But if we had to make like a handy checklist of maybe 10 things of a limitless test that you could give your athletes that would qualify them to be, we’ll say, overall baseline healthy. Would it be a list like some pulling of at least body weight of a certain amount of reps, would it be to be able to do a cartwheel and a tumble? Like how do we narrow that down?
Colby Pearce 54:02
I mean, maybe the answer isn’t something we produce right now on this exact podcast. But this is a concept I’ve been kind of a bouncing around in my head for a while. It’s like, I know I can do some things really well. I mean, if you want me to go run up a mountain, I could go do that right now. No problem. And I could do it at a really good clip for two hours if I needed to. But that’s because I’ve got such an endurance based cycling background that that would come easily to me. But if you had me do, and I’m not talking about David Goggins 1400 pull ups in 24 hours or something insane, I’m just talking about be strong, be useful. Like, can you lift a five gallon water bottle from the floor onto the water cooler without blowing out your back? Can you pick up a small child?
Jessi Stensland 54:45
Put yourself into a boat or a kayak by yourself?
Colby Pearce 54:47
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Can you be upside down and still maintain your bearings and have some sense of awareness and strength to right yourself? Can you hold your breath for a certain amount of time? I mean, can we get beyong maybe what we’re thinking of as movement? I don’t know, do you have thoughts on that?
Jessi Stensland 55:04
What mindset are you bringing to that you believe in the body that you know, that you are aware of it a bit and want what’s better, want to keep curious, and want to just enjoy it and do what you know you can today and keep exploring. Because it will never end in our lifetime, mostly because we started off without knowing this information. I mean, most of us, right? It’s less of like, oh, shoot Big Black X, I can’t do all the things I do in life, no, but to be aware, like so many people hop in their car, not realizing their shoulders are slightly a bit forward, not realizing they’re one foot turns out a little bit to hit the pedal down. Like so many things like just being aware of all the times in life, you’re not just shaking out like a rock star, you know, we’re not are not being a squiggly little kid. We’re not, but it’s okay, just to take a little assessment of it and to really appreciate the additive things then and what they’re gonna do for you to allow you to do those few repetitive things you’re not willing to give up or that you really love to do, right? Which might mean your bed, I don’t know. Or your of course, your cycling or whatever other sports and your sports shoes you have to wear at this point until we make all the better ones, right? Like I think are really humbling or enlightening thing for people to do. And I didn’t do that until parkour was to get myself over a wall. Not only at all but fluidly, efficiently and strongly and uncoordinatedly and not looking like you know –
Colby Pearce 56:26
A flailing Scarecrow?
Jessi Stensland 56:27
Thank you. I need Colby sometimes for the words. Yeah, exactly. And so many otherwise strong humans in otherwise not realizing that about themselves, self awareness, that they didn’t realize they couldn’t. And it’s not an easy thing to do. Pure strength wise and then of course, the technique itself can be learned a little bit more too but just pure strength just save your life get yourself over a wall like even if you can do it, it was hard, it took a while didn’t feel good, want it to be more smooth and fluid.
Scaling a wall
Jessi Stensland 56:56
So if I can throw something out there: a pull ups one thing, a climb yourself up over a wall could be any any wall you pass by walking on almost any street in our world.
Colby Pearce 57:06
Don’t get arrested!
Jessi Stensland 57:06
Oh right, parkour is good at that.
Jessi Stensland 57:10
Upside down; more and more this idea of getting upside down, use a wall if you need to. And that’s doesn’t necessarily need to start on a wall, but like you said, being comfortable. Not just something as kind of intricate as a cartwheel, so many people say, but just even a progression to a cartwheel right where your feet stay on the ground, your hands are on the ground, your butts over your head, anything – there’s no one right or wrong way to do anything anymore, dance, movement practice, nothing you can make any movement. But put your hands on the ground, put your butt over your head and if you just put your feet on the wall, walk yourself forward and back and get off the wall, you can do so many things with like, stretching your thoracic spine out at that point, you can get so creative just with your hands on the ground, your feet overhead on the wall or not on the wall. Crawling is one thing, right? You’re in that horizontal hands are on the ground, heads down, butts there, just to be in a crawling position, get your butt over the head, that’s a whole nother story. Got a lot more weight on your hands, right? Got a lot more range of motion or weight on your wrists as well. And from there, that’s when you put your foot up on two inches, four inches, a foot up and up and up and you have more weight on your hands more strength and then you start to actually move with that walk yourself up and back from a wall or along the wall. Right? So if you’re upside down facing the wall, and you walk yourself left and right. Wow, that’s super strong and talk about a range of motion left to right. And not just this one push overhead. One vertical scenario. So yeah, I love getting people and that’s just that’s wrist that’s hand strength. That’s elbow actually extending, like they haven’t had to how many people do jumping jacks just like this, right? Their elbows, they don’t even realize having the ability anymore to get straight or extend easily. You know, or, or fly like when you start to do jumping jacks with those arms straight, it’s like starts to be that whipping motion I was talking about and that’s people don’t realize there’s no same
Straight-legged toe touch
Colby Pearce 59:06
You see the same problem with knees a lot with cyclists. If you’re extending your knee all the way at the bottom of the stroke than your saddles much too high. That’s repetitive motion and adaptive muscle shortening, right? You don’t reach that hamstring down or that knee doesn’t extend at the bottom of the stroke. And I see people can’t when I ask them to do a forward bend, they can’t do it without a bend in their knees. Yep. And it’s man, not good.
Jessi Stensland 59:31
No. And it’s something new for me actually! That was an ido portal nugget for me which was in there movement classes I was, for the first time completely straightening that leg. In actually my highest level of human performance that I was training and we always were loading because that was the point right when my training so really other than fully extending through plyometrics and jumps, I’m sure I extended my leg and then in running I would hope so at that point still at the speed I was training for and running – to this day, Yes, I can.
Jessi Stensland 1:00:00
But I didn’t think about it until they were doing it more in their practice. And it started to make sense that like, yeah, sure not if I’m going to be completely loaded or pulling – I’m not going to do deadlifts. That’s not the point. I need the whole system, my feet to my glutes and up, but just to have that range of motion healthfully. And I’ve started to do that. So if I ended up, just anywhere in my day, going head down to stretch out the whole posterior chain. I do it with straight knees now 100% of the time because I can feel it. And when I can feel a little shift, it’s not always obvious, like I need to take a deep breath.
Jessi Stensland 1:00:43
To talk about my movement practice lately. Think about a bobblehead, if everyone right now could just like think bobblehead. You can feel the difference, right? Can you feel the difference? Everyone out there listening right now? If you think about it, you could do that with almost every part of your body. You start to feel air coming through that, even when I’m walking I do that sometimes.
Jessi Stensland 1:01:11
Breathing is definitely a thing when you do certain movements, definitely some corrective movement patterns or isolated movement patterns and being able to breathe through them, right? That does shift and change a bit of the weight shift and what opens up and what gets able to get longer. So breathing can be a thing there.
Jessi Stensland 1:01:29
When I’m down in that straight legged position with my head down just to stretch and let gravity take it like I have to bobble head things. I have to bobble head and then it melts even more than I thought it would. But you have to take that little extra moment of awareness, right? And then I feel that somewhere my femur up in my glutes, they move a bit. You can imagine when my knees get a little straighter, a little more relaxed in that position, even straighter than I originally felt when I first got into the position, and everything melts, they get a little straighter. And then I feel a little shift up in my glutes. And then guess where I felt the shift? Down in my feet, and my big toes like pronate almost and get where they’re supposed to be like the big toe pointing more inward where it should be in that straight ray of a line – straight being like a splayed position, right? Not just straight out. Yep. So splayed out because it goes all the way down to the ankle. So again, I’m focused on behind the knee basically, in that stretch, like to really just let that lengthen right there, then I feel it, get it shift that femoral head in my in my glutes. And then I have to use my mind I have to say relax. Relax almost like in a meditation that I’ve had before where he had us like, relax, tighten and relax every body part right? If you’re good at it, then because my ankle is holding me stable up where my hip wants but my foot then at the mid foot can sink in a little more inward pronated. So the hip goes out a little, the foot can go in a little like the whole thing. That was new for me this year.
Jessi Stensland 1:03:15
So back to your point of straight leg and what would I add in, that is another one if I hang down, and I often hang down, I don’t just hang down and feel like I used to. I take a little more time, breathe through it, and feel the change that happens up and down the chain. So that was another thing.
Jessi Stensland 1:03:34
Deep squats, of course.
Colby Pearce 1:03:35
Jessi Stensland 1:03:35
But not just one deep squat, every deep squat in any way you want.
Colby Pearce 1:03:39
Wide stance, narrow stance, weight on one leg, weight on the other…
Jessi Stensland 1:03:43
Just one leg just the other..
Colby Pearce 1:03:44
Lil movement, lil hip motion maybe.
h3>Walking and interacting with the earth
Jessi Stensland 1:03:47
Just play like a kid on the ground and get yourself on and off the ground more often – not never. Your feet on varied terrain and rocky terrain. And this is for everyone. Flat ground is doing our brain and our core and our nervous system and our foot mobility which affects everything else no good, so flat floors I mean all day. I’ve seen anything like that, just one rock in your front yard one rock in your home standing on it for any amount of time like we could go into so many… there’s no reason not to have your foot on some sort of something at any point in the day for for a healthy amount of time doing something else that you’re doing, talking on the phone, having conversation, who knows what but – how should we want to talk about that – but the foot needs to not just stand even walk and you can make it really simple.
Colby Pearce 1:04:41
That’s another little crossroads. Frequently, I’m talking to my clients about when I’m working with them on bike fit and I see limitations in their own movement, range of movement, or their ability to stabilize feet and ankles. You know in cycling, we have that carbon fiber flipper that we use to generate force and push into the pedal and that’s kind of part of the sport, but that makes our feet and ankles weak chronically. So when I’m explaining that to clients, what I’m talking about is actionable ways for them to have an impact on that. And so first of all have a conversation about their foot where they’re using, and if they’re using really big, stiff footwear with a thick soul and a lot of toe drop and those types of things then I’ll say, “Okay, let’s maybe consider graduating to something that’s a little less structured, gives you a little more freedom, gives the foot a little more freedom, but also, we don’t want to blindly do that. I don’t want to have you just start clomping around in your socks or your minimal shoes, however you want to phrase it, we want to have some consciousness to what you’re doing. We want to have consciousness of your foot posture. What are we working towards? We’re not just taking away the structure of the shoes you’ve been wearing for 15 or 20 years or 50 years. We’re we’re also engaging that foot as a tripod. What does that mean? How do you want your weight to be distributed and carried through the ankle and foot as a structure? How are we improving that structure? So I try to plant seeds on that topic with people.
Colby Pearce 1:06:05
And then I also point out how that become actual in daily life. Well, okay, yeah, if you’re used to wearing giant hiking boots all the time, or someone told you 20 years ago that you have to wear an orthotic in your shoe every single place you go and everything you do, and you’ve got foot beds and all your shoes now, okay, then let’s talk about how to progress the foot and make it stronger from there. And one way is to simply walk through your kitchen barefoot, which is going to be a big step forward for someone who’s in that orthotic hiking boot paradigm. Do you have a dog? Do you walk your dog every day? Start to walk your dog in less shoes, right? Maybe, depending on the client, where they’re coming from, how weak their ankles and feet are, and also their injury history – you know, do you have an injury of plantar fasciitis? Do you have an injury of ankle stuff? Do you have a history of a lot of sprained ankles and strained ankles? Did you used to be a runner but you stopped because you couldn’t keep your ankles attached to your body properly or healthy? Okay, then we have to consider all that context, obviously (That’s part of the coaching paradigm.) But we asked them to start to investigate walking through the world with that minimal footwear, consider walking outside barefoot. The rules I give are: there are no rules other than don’t burn, freeze, or puncture your feet. Other than that, go for it. Watch out for dogshit if you’re walking in a park. There are a lot of land mines out there. Okay, fair enough. As we do that, start to explore those minimal paradigms or start to push towards that so that your foot can be a strong stable surface. Because if you can’t interact with the earth, that’s got to be one of the things on our list right? Being able to interact on the earth.
Colby Pearce 1:07:42
I heard a great podcast several months ago that really eliminated this simple concept for me very clearly; anytime we use a prosthetic device, we are weakening the body. Example, let’s say you have a friend who gets in a fender bender, and they get whiplash. And they go to the doctor and doctot says, “Well, you got to wear a neck brace for three months.” Okay, pop quiz, when you take the neck brace off, after three months, are the neck muscles weaker or stronger. They’re obviously weaker, right? Because the brace did the work of supporting the skull for the muscles. So we took off the brace and now your neck super weak, and we have to retrain it okay. Medically necessary in this case because we want to protect someone’s spinal cord, in our example. But what I think is illuminative for some people in this concept is to explain to them that a cycling shoe is a prosthetic device. It is a rigid carbon lever in most cases, or nylon, whatever. And that serves a purpose in the sport to turn the foot into a lever. But it comes at a cost. And the cost is your feet and ankles get weaker. And when we add an orthotic to that, we are supporting the foot – Now an orthotic can have two purposes in my mind, one can be proprioceptive, the other can be mechanically stabilizing. So especially in the case of using a mechanically stabilizing foot bed, a rigid footbed thermoplastic, or even carbon fiber, which is something I’ve used for many years of my cycling career with a lot of posting in the forefoot and, Aaron Anderson, the guy who makes my foot beds told me point blank, you need this. Your ligaments are so lacks in your foot, you’re never going to have the foot strength to deal without this. So I’ve been chipping away at that and trying to make progress and make my feet healthier and stronger.
Colby Pearce 1:09:25
This is part of my project to take the strength I got from cycling, which was a lot of strength and perseverance and durability and endurance and all those things, but also expand on that. But when I see clients who are riding only; I had a client just the other day I said what’s your form of exercise right now? What are you doing besides the bike? He said 99.9% of all my movement is on the bike. I said what are you doing the rest of time? He travels a fair amount. He’s a rep, so he’s on his feet a fair amount but man if sitting is the new smoking, well, I got bad news for you, cycling is just more sitting. Granted it’s got some lunch in it and a little bit of thoracic movement and some pulling and some other stuff. It’s not completely passive, obviously. But it’s still fundamentally more sitting. So what are the consequences of that? And what are the consequences of using these prosthetic devices and one of them is weak feet and ankles.
Jessi Stensland 1:10:15
That’s a whole separate ballgame. Do your sport, wear your shoes like that’s onlyone way to look at it, right? I get it, it just is what it is you want to do it. Totally not separate and could help. I think like, you know, the sport and those shoes is not going to help you do this health thing. But the health is going to help you do that.
Colby Pearce 1:10:31
Yes. It’s a subset, like a Venn diagram.
Jessi Stensland 1:10:34
Colby Pearce 1:10:35
Global foot health, global ankle stability and strength is going to benefit any subset of sport that we choose.
Jessi Stensland 1:10:41
Can you imagine if your commute, which I saw in Costa Rica, 40 minutes to the next village where the guys would come into our permaculture farm. I walk, because I know what I’m about to tell you, I’ve known this about walking for quite a while and how nutritious it is and how it actually gives us glute activation, therefore a little bit of strength, not all the strength in the world, but still, everything works the right way. Hamstring length, I can talk to you all about it, foot mobility, toe mobility, if you take long strides. I couldn’t keep up with this guy. But he did this walk to and from 40 minutes on the beach every day. And he was just walking. Like it didn’t look like he was dressed or walking. No. Boom.
Colby Pearce 1:11:24
He wasn’t speed walking.
Jessi Stensland 1:11:26
No, he wasn’t. also when you’re wiggling those hips. No, he was just walking. And so I’ve realized over the last years studying feet, also hearing from Dr. Emily sprinkle will tell you the same thing. She’s the Barefoot focused podiatrist out of New York, who’s does amazing things, Barefoot Strong. So she also has tuned in on this, and she has great information out there. But I will tell you that how nutritious of a movement walking is to deny that it is part of this aspect that would keep us a whole human. You know, because in the end, we weren’t necessarily having to run, but definitely walk to live life. You might run away from something, an animal, right? You still might want to run at some point. But walking is more of this basic fundamental thing. And I will say absolutely running is too. But let’s look at walking first.
Jessi Stensland 1:12:18
Patricia’s walking stride, pretty easy to think about. Think about you’re nice and tall, you have a deep breath in, you’re just like, think about your mindset to you’re happily walking along. And if you do this full stride, it would mean that you actually do come up at 90 degrees on your big toe. That’s a big range of motion that most shoes don’t allow for right? You’re triangulating and you’re actually pushing the hip out and I got really rigid in a hip once, this left one, where I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t from my pelvic bone down to my femoral head right down to the knee like I couldn’t push. It sounds crazy, but I couldn’t push that femoral head out to the side it was stuck there and it just wouldn’t push out. And now it does. But the other one could because of other reasons I could go into.
Jessi Stensland 1:13:06
So in walking, so you’re triangulating, you’re already having a lot more fluidity that way, as far as forward and bacl – I dont know what order I’m going to say this in but – forward and back. If you take a full stride out, two things are happening: you’ve come up in the back your big toe. So now you’re on your big toe, it’s at 90. They talk about that subtle point where you like fall into your next step. But you’ve taken a long stride which hits in the center where part of your heel way out there. So you’re nice and tall, you’ve pushed a full stride out to your 90 degrees in the back and you hit your heel like way out there. At that moment, if you can imagine your legs are now ones out front, ones out back and you’ve done it that way, your whole hip flexors open, your glutes, activated out the back, pushing off of that big toe. Very fluidly all these things are happening, but it’s happening. You can actually take a big stride that doesn’t look like Uh huh, huh, huh. It can actually just be this strong flow that you can feel your glute activating every stride and the person next to you will never know it. Put it this way, even if my foot was locked down, it would make it harder to do all that I said, but I would still get all those things done if someone told me you have to wear these lockdown shoes, I would still somehow find a way to get those wide strides. It wouldn’t be as graceful I guess is the point.
Colby Pearce 1:14:23
Talking about walking and talking about the foot and the dorsiflexion of the toe, which just in case you want to remember, if you can’t remember the difference in dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, just think of a dorsal fin on a shark which sticks up at the top think about jaws. And that’s what happens when you dorsiflex a toe it’s pointing up like that fin on the back. I like to give that perspective for my clients or listeners.
Colby Pearce 1:14:45
So when we’re talking about that push off phase and that dorsiflexion of the toe and then the subsequent activation of the glute and an extension of the hip which means if you were standing perfectly bolt upright extension to the hip would be pushing the knee behind your butt? That would be extension to the hip right? Just so everyone is on the same anatomical landmark page. What I see very commonly and I’m don’t want to make a sweeping statement like this is the root of all dysfunction, but I will say I see really commonly in bike fitting basically what is a manifestation of a trendelenburg syndrome on the bike?
Colby Pearce 1:15:25
What is the trendelenburg? Well, okay, so you were just talking Jessi about how we want a certain amount of bobble headedness to our joints to our hips to flow and sway side to side in different planes of movement during walking to accommodate that dorsiflexion of the toes so that your head isn’t moving up and down, it may be moving up and down somewhat, but maybe that’s indicative of some rigidity in the body. So when we translate someone into a bike, and we have them pedal, which, if you’ve heard my podcasts on How to Pedal a Bike 1o1 or 102, where I actually talk about how pedal bike for four hours, which is pretty astounding. (# bike dork) Really what we’re doing is we’re putting someone in forward flexion and then we’re basically modifying the gait pattern, in my opinion, neurologically to sculpt it or refine it into what is pedaling motion. And so I see what I believe is basically trendelenburg manifesting on the bike all the time. And when you see that, when I film the rider from a posterior view, which basically means I film butts for a living, I watched someone’s hips. And if you track either the iliac crest, which is the top of we’ll say, the hip bone, or the SI joint, either one, what you see is fundamentally on one side, that marker will trace the path of the foot on the same side. So as the right foot, for example goes, if the crank starting at 12 o’clock or or vertical, as the right foot pushes down and forward and goes through the clock phase, one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock to where the crank is horizontal, the right iliac crest or top of the hip bone will move forward with that foot. And then at the bottom of the stroke as the foot traces down four or five, six to the bottom of a clock, and now the crank is vertical pointing down, then the hip drops down and forward. So fundamentally, what happens is the hip on one side, more than the other will trace the path of the foot. And so we can look at this as one of two different things. One, you could say is that hip is too mobile, or correspondingly, the contralateral hip is too tight. Or it’s a neurological movement pattern, right? Because we all have hemispheric dominance in our movement patterns, especially in walking. It’s just a question of how strongly they manifest.
Colby Pearce 1:17:49
To rewind for a second, trendelenburg is when you watch someone walking or film them walking, again, from the posterior review, or running, when their weight is supported, for example, on the left leg, the right hip dumps. So the right hip drops down. The really armchair diagnosis, 50,000 foot view, is that the stabilizers of the hip on the left side don’t have the strength to keep the right side from dumping.
Colby Pearce 1:18:19
And we can also see this manifest in lunges. Or if you really want to see it happen quickly, make a cyclist do a split stance kettlebell deadlift. So a split stance means you’re going to take one step forward with the forward foot, then you’re going to put the kettlebell next to the outside ankle of that forward foot. And then you’re going to lift the kettlebell with only one hand and try to press up into a standing posture. So hence, a deadlift without rotation of the hips or the sternum relative to that plane. And this is really, in my opinion, probably one of the closest exercises we can do that directly translates to what cycling is. When you stand up on a hill, and you pull on the bars and you push down on the pedal. That is a split stance deadlift, basically. A suitcase deadlift we might call it. Suitcase meaning it designates that only one arm is doing the pulling, not both. And how stable can you keep your hips under that load? This is the essence of strength cycling and it’s also the manifestation of that trendelenburg is when that hip dumps under load and you can’t keep it from dropping down below the level of the active hip we’ll say.
Jessi Stensland 1:19:34
I was doing it with one leg and wow; that was one of my original aha moments when I started to do kind of training like that as a triathlete, which changed my life at exos. Are you in ipsilateral or contralateral? Same hand or opposite hand?
Colby Pearce 1:19:48
Well, yeah, I would recommend ipsilateral for most of those because when you’re climbing or sprinting, most of the time, what are you trying to do? You’re making a force vector, we’ll say around one or two or three o’clock with the active leg pushing down. You want to pull back with the ipsilateral, or same side arm to counter that force, assuming you have the core strength to transmit the force lines between those two distal segments, the hand and the foot that are generating all that force. This is like why core is so important and having a cohesive line of strength and tension, a global tension between all those systems, right? So you see it all the time in beginning cyclists, and I hate to pick on young women in this case, but I will, because it’s a example we probably all can identify with, but maybe didn’t understand what we were seeing: Take the archetype of a really strong, high school runner, a girl, and then she discovers cycling, goes through her college years, and then starts to ride a bike. And she’s got this massive aerobic engine, but doesn’t have maybe the global strength and conditioning to deal with those forces. And she’s climbing a steep hill, and you can see the hip well, she’ll push down hard on that hip, and she doesn’t have the core strength to control the hips of the hip, what happens is it pushes up, and then the shoulder pulls down, and you get this kind of twisting of the pelvis, or of the whole core, really the body that in the shoulders and hips come out of plane from each other those control centers, right? And that’s a function of, it’s a classic example of an athlete having you know, a disbalance between two things, one, the strength of their aerobic system, relative to their muscular system, but also two specific aspects of their muscular system, namely, the strength of the arm and shoulder, and the control center of the hip down to the foot, but no connection in between. Right. And so we have to learn how to keep those shoulders and planes, the hips in plane and this is, I mean, I’m picking on our hypothetical archetype of a 16 year old woman girl to illustrate this, but when you start to see it, and you’ve learned what to look for, it’s everywhere. It’s everywhere, it’s it the most elite level of cycling.
Jessi Stensland 1:20:41
I’ve had the same experience I watched my body I have to send you the photos of me before and after. So I have it running for me of course cycling as well as part of it and different things happen to my movement on the bike. But the running wow, just no one even thinks it’s the same person, right? So I have had this experience where you’ll catch me on one leg, running and I was just one hip up, shoulders down. And then after that year or really quickly within that year of training with these other movements, and for sure, one of my gold standard movements was always my, I will say contralateral but I don’t think it matters, like all those deadlifts, those straight legged deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, I would call them personally. So whether it be ipsilateral, one leg, contralateral, meaning the weight on either side of the foot that’s down, and then also, two arms, two legs, or one leg, two arms, so two arms, one leg, right? So then you can have a lot more weight on there. And on and on. So all of those I think are great.
Jessi Stensland 1:23:00
But to your point of why it would relate in that way. Contralateral I would use because it made so much sense. They put me in that same like imagine weight in my right hand my left foot down. Yeah and deadlifting – is it dead lifting or just – Yeah, a Romanian deadlift. Yes, on one leg, one arm, one leg. And when I would lift up, they would actually – one little side note to that they would put me in the position of down in like a T. So like my body, my leg, my foot was on the ground, weight was in my right hand and my body was horizontal to the ground with this knee slightly bent. On the leg that was down and they were asking me actually do a row. And when they said, but keep everything else straight and strong. Yep. And I said, in that first week or two of that type of training, I said, I need all my energy just to maintain this stability. You want me to call arm now?
Jessi Stensland 1:23:53
That was my first steps. That was like that aha moment of like, I can’t even keep this straight. I want to do stuff with my arms and my legs, that’s how I get from point A to point B in my races and I couldn’t with that load keep that on there.
Colby Pearce 1:24:05
Isn’t that interesting?
Jessi Stensland 1:24:06
Yeah, that was amazing. You’re taking me way back to the beauty of that those moments of life changing. And back to that then the contralateral up and down. So the RDL contralateral, where the weight was on the other hand, and though as I went up from 10, 15, 20, 30 40, I got up to 70 pounds nice where I can maintain and that was a lot of my frame 120 pounds when it’s 125 whatever it was, but to yet just to be hinge without a shade of that hip
Colby Pearce 1:24:33
That hip or rib, ribcage twisting, twisting right, shoulder dumping and toe protraction.
Jessi Stensland 1:24:39
Nothing, just a machine, just up and down. And wow.
Jessi Stensland 1:24:42
So to relate that back to the bike and I don’t know if you’re here for me to like either justify what you’re saying because I’m on all the things on board or how it relates. But I will say that, talking about that list of movements if we were to do a pure one like that, I could go into pure gold standards that I had, like in the gym stuff, you know, versus like these days I’m playing a little round with the movement more, and I will wrap it back up to these days.
Jessi Stensland 1:25:03
But I did want to say in my Olympic Trials was April 2016. And January was when I started this training from I did tell the story last time, so I won’t go into it, but I had actually quit the sport. Like, weeks before that at the end of 2003. Because my body wasn’t working. Thankfully, they took me under their wing at athlete’s performance exos and I was doing movements like this. One of the hills, there was a hill in this Olympic trials, which was a gnarly, good solid, two minutes of a super steep climb out of your saddle, as soon as you hit it, and just like go up. And I can’t tell you, it was the first time I was in the pack, because it was pack racing triathlon, and I came up the hill, as soon as I hit it, I just stood up. Yeah. And I said, my mind was pushed through the glute, push the glute push through the glute. And I was in a pack, and I was strong on the bike usually, but man, I just didn’t see anything else. But the top of that my face was relaxed, there’s a great photo of it that like captures what I’m talking about, and how it all came together. But like, I’m just up at the top of the hill, like, totally relaxed, because I tell example of this. but I couldn’t push any harder. And nothing hurt. I felt no pain. I felt no effort. I was doing everything I can. And that was like, I was just doing everything I had, and it was perfect to get to the top. And the picture shows the girls behind on the bike. Tweaked of the arms, the shoulders, al the pain faces. And I was ahead of the pack. And they were just they were behind for that moment, you know? And, yeah, so it goes to show this like that’s the part of the machine or the robotic miss that would say that type of training when you’re really focused on a sport thing works in that way, for sure. And same thing with running the single the single two arm one leg deadlift for running out of this world and the plyometrics that come with it and all that.
Colby Pearce 1:26:53
Thank you so much. Wow. This has been amazing. I’m so grateful that you came to Boulder. That you reached out. And we had the time to come in and connect on pod and we got to hear all the amazing things that go through your mind.
Jessi Stensland 1:27:10
Yeah, I love the free flow with you. It’s great. You’re doing such a great job with the podcast. And I’m glad I could be here.
Colby Pearce 1:27:16
Colby Pearce 1:27:22
Attention, space monkeys public service announcement. Really, technically, it’s a disclaimer. You already know this, but I’m going to remind you that I’m not a lawyer and I’m not a doctor. So don’t think anything on this podcast to constitute lawyerly or doctorly advice. I don’t play either of those characters on the internet. Also, we talk about lots of things. And that means we have opinions. I guess opinions are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of anyone who is employed by or works at Fast Talk Labs. Also, if you want to reach out, talk to me about things, feedback on the podcast, good, bad or otherwise, you may do so at the following email address firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s all spelled just like it sounds again. Gratitude.