267: Hunter Cook on Why Sports Aren’t Good for Kids & Solving Joint Pain

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Solving Joint Pain & Why Sports Aren’t Good for Kids With Hunter Fitness
Wellness Mama » Episode » 267: Hunter Cook on Why Sports Aren’t Good for Kids & Solving Joint Pain
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The Wellness Mama Podcast
267: Hunter Cook on Why Sports Aren’t Good for Kids & Solving Joint Pain

Hunter Cook of Hunter Fitness became a close friend when I visited Finland this year with Four Sigmatic. Ever since, I have been implementing his systems and at this point I am totally sold on his approach to mobility training and overall physical health.

Today we’re covering all things joint health — how they function, as well as ways to protect and strengthen them when exercising or playing sports. We’ll also tackle the controversial topic of competitive sports for kids and practical ways to protect kids from injury in the line of play.

Hunter has a bachelor’s in Kinesiology with a focus on exercise science, and he now teaches the FRC Mobility Specialist Certification and his Kinstretch Instructor Certification. We’ll explain what both of those mean in detail, but basically he teaches all over the world and has a long list of clients from professional athletes and trainers, to celebrities, and to regular people just like me.

Episode Highlights With Hunter Fitness

  • The difference between flexibility and mobility
  • Why sports aren’t good for kids and how to undo the damage if they keep playing
  • What we all need to know about our joints and how they work
  • How and why joint pain happens and how to build stronger joints
  • Foolproof ways to injury-proof the body through natural movements
  • The best types of movements for kids and adults to maintain lifelong joint health
  • How I (Katie) messed up my back and what you can learn from it
  • What CARS are and why you need them
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Do you think kids should play sports? Will you change anything based on his advice? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the “Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and I’m here today with someone I can’t wait to share with you. Hunter Cook of Hunter Fitness became a close friend when I visited Finland this year with Four Sigmatic. And I have been implementing his systems ever since, which is why I couldn’t wait to share him with you. He has a bachelor’s in Kinesiology with a focus on exercise science and he now teaches the FRC Mobility Specialist Certification and his Kinstretch Instructor Certification. We’ll explain what both of those mean, but he teaches all over the world and he has a long list of clients from professional athletes and trainers, to celebrities, and to regular people just like me. So, Hunter, welcome and thanks for being here.

Hunter: Thank you so much for having me, Katie. I’m excited to be here.

Katie: I think it’s gonna be such a fun conversation. And to start with, I think it would be really helpful if you could explain what you do and how it’s different than a lot of other ways that people teach similar material.

Hunter: Sure. That’s a loaded question because I could just talk and not let you ask any other questions for the next couple of hours if you let me go off on that. But I’ll try and summarize it. The umbrella term that covers what I teach and what I do with my clients and athletes is mobility work. But that’s a muddy word in the fitness world today because a lot of people claim to be doing mobility work, but everyone is doing wildly different things and it all falls all under the umbrella term of mobility works. So, the best way I can explain this is that I try and teach people a way to exercise that gives them back the degrees of freedom in their joints so that they could actually do whatever their activity is better and easier or with less insult to their body. And what I mean by that is a lot of people are exercising, just being told what to do. Like, let’s say you go to a CrossFit gym or a personal trainer and a lot of people are just being fit into the mold of their trainer or gym. They go and they do the word of the day, but without any really assessment protocol to see if their body is ready for that kind of activity. So, my job is almost like a preemptive step to just send anybody to a CrossFit gym is I try and see where people’s bodies are when I meet them. I assess them and I see what they wanna do. And what they wanna do is wildly different person to person.

So, some people want to CrossFit, some people want to Zumba, some people are circus artists, and some people are just grandmothers that wanna play with their kids pain-free. And my job is to take them from where they are and give them back the degrees of freedom and the ability to do the things they wanna do with less insult or with less injury or with less problems for the future. So, ultimately, what I do and, an umbrella term, like I said, it’s mobility work, but I think it’s actually much more than that. It’s a protocol to give people back the prerequisites so that they can live their lives. But a lot of things fall into that category. So, what I do is I teach people how to gain range of motion back, I teach people how to have a practice on joint health and longevity, which is probably the missing piece in all of fitness, and I teach people how to have a focus to train the way that they like to train but simultaneously, at least have the idea of injury mitigation in mind, which is another way to say injury prevention, but I just don’t really believe injury prevention is possible. So, I like to use the word injury mitigation more than prevention. But it’s a complicated series of sentences there but ultimately, I try and teach people how to take care of themselves better so that they can do whatever they wanna do better.

Katie: Yeah. So, okay. On that note, I wanna go deeper on the joint health thing because when you explained this to me, it blew my mind. I’d never heard this like the way that you explained joints and how that’s different than just straight up mobility because I think for a lot of people if you say joint health, they just think, okay, lack of pain or being able to move it. But you have a very specific system. And you also explained about the things that influence joint health that people may not think of. So, can you walk us through that?

Hunter: Sure. So there’s a few different things. When I first started talking to you about this stuff, I eventually ended up teaching you. But I showed you what we call in the FRC system or the functional range systems, the morning routine, which is a daily habit of taking all of your joints through as much pain-free range of motion as possible in a rotational manner. And it’s something that I believe 100% of humans should be doing. I teach it to all my clients, all my athletes and over time, all of their family and friends as well. I believe it’s the low hanging fruit of mobility, but one of the reasons I teach it and the important things about it is that it checks off several boxes that I find to be important.

One. When I watch your joints move, it acts as an assessment for me. But the more important thing, and this is something I explained to you in person, it’s hard to get across over a podcast but when I teach you about your joint mechanics a little bit more, I taught you a way to assess yourself every day. So, I taught you, and this is something that anybody, if they find an FRC person in their area, can learn. But I taught you a way to assess your own body every day with that morning routine because what I taught you was there are green light, red light scenarios to understanding if a joint is just, say, stiff and immobile or if there’s actually biomechanical issues, if there’s actually a problem. And that was the term that I used with you called closing ankle joint pain. I informed you of what that means from a joint mechanics standpoint and how that’s not something you could train through. So, when you’re doing your morning rotations, if you have closing ankle joint pain, that’s something that has to be referred out to a therapist.

So, now not only am I assessing my clients when I watch these movements, but I taught my clients how to assess themselves on a day-to-day standpoint because if you’re going through a daily assessment, you make decisions for all of your other exercise and human movement better because if something’s going wrong with your hip, then maybe going to CrossFit that day and doing squats or going to a dance class and doing certain movements isn’t the best idea right now because closing ankle joint pain specifically, is not something that you could just train through. Going back to the joint health and longevity concept, besides just the assessment protocol that not only have I assessed you and have you learned how to assess yourself on a daily basis, but one of the most important things about the morning routine practice is you now have a daily practice that keeps the deep stuff of your joints healthy. And what I mean by that is when we workout and everyone knows this, but I’m gonna do a little refresher. When we work out, what we’re really doing is damaging our tissues.

So, if you go to the gym and you do bicep curls, you’re not building stronger biceps by working out. What you’re doing is just damaging muscle tissue. And then the amazing thing about the human body is that as long as you recover well, and that falls under the category of sleeping enough and eating well enough, if you recover well, not only do you repair that damaged tissue back to the prior state of function, but it recovers better. So, you build more, you lay down new and better tissue than what was there before. And that’s what really strength training is. Strength training is damaging your body and then allowing it to recover better. Damage your body and allowing it to recover better.

The thing about when we damage muscle tissue is that it does its job so well to recover because of the amount of vascularity and nerve tissue that’s naturally flowing through our muscle cells. So, we have a ton of veins, a ton of arteries going throughout our muscle system that you could get a good workout and then just lay on the couch for a couple of days and not have to do anything else and your muscles will recover adequately. They always do. You’re sore for a couple of days, then they recover better. With our tendons and ligaments, which is just a different form of connective tissue. But we’ve all heard those names before, if they get damaged, they will recover, too. There is vascularity going through our veins and through our tendons and ligaments. It’s just less vascularity. So, instead of taking 2 to 4 days to feel 100% again, it might take weeks or months. But once again, if you recover properly and give it the right stimulus, which is typically physical therapy, if you put good inputs in and give it enough time, tendons and ligaments once again can not only be brought back to the prior state of function, but they could be brought back better. So, if you do therapy properly, you should be making sure that you’re making that tissue more resilient over time so that you don’t get injured again in that same area.

The problem with joint space, so if you imagine like bone, bone, and that cartilage capsule space that’s just between the bones is that some joint space has very little, almost no vascularity and some joint space actually has no vascularity whatsoever. Meaning it doesn’t have its own source of nutrition to just bring for that tissue to recover. But it is human tissue like that cartilage and capsule stuff is human tissue, meaning it’s cells that needs nutrition. So, the only thing we know that actually brings nutrition into that joint space is movement. So, when we move our joints through our greatest range of motion, that kind of pressure change that you get from those tissues moving near each other actually brings nutrition into the joint space that doesn’t have its own vascularity. And that’s a way to have a focus on longevity or a way to make sure that you have a healthy practice that actually keeps our joints healthy. Because once again, if you… That right there, by the way, is why sedentary people have just as many joint issues as active people because just not moving is not the solution here either. Because not moving is making sure that you’re not getting health into all the areas of your joints, not getting nutrition into all the areas of your joints.

So, another analogy that I use to explain this is for your hygiene for your teeth, you learned this as a kid that every day you have to brush your teeth because brushing your teeth every day is a preventative measure to make sure that you take care of the hygiene, you don’t let cavities buildup, we don’t make sure there’s any dental hygiene problems. So, you have a daily practice every morning and every evening, you brush your teeth. What I compare the morning routine of joint movements too and what I taught you is it’s the brushing your teeth of your joints. So, now every day you wake up and you move your joints in the manner that I taught you and it’s not because it’s fun, it’s not because it’s exciting, it’s because it’s the brushing your teeth of your joints, it’s the preventative thing that you do on a daily basis to make sure that you’re injecting movement into your life that keeps the hygiene of your joints healthy. Does that make sense? It’s the one thing you could do on a daily basis to make sure I care for the deep stuff in my body. I care for the joint space and I wanna make sure that as I get older because degeneration of our joints is a very real thing. As I get older, I’m doing everything in my power to just make sure that I’m taking care of my joints the best I can. And really the analogy of brushing your teeth is the best thing I can come to what I teach from a daily movement standpoint.

Katie: Yeah. I’ve definitely made it part of my routine just like brushing my teeth and it’s great in the morning because I feel like it just wakes me up and also just makes me feel great for the day. But I also wanna go deeper on how this differs from, for instance, just flexibility because according to some of your Instagram posts, you’re highly flexible, which I think is also unusual for a guy with a lot of muscle. But I’m thinking people listening, some of them may be thinking, “Oh, I already do yoga,” or “I already do something that involves stretching. So, do I even need something like this?” So, can you speak to the difference there?

Hunter: Absolutely. So, I want you to try and imagine all the different things we could do for our body from like a health and fitness and movement standpoint. You could almost put into two different categories of a passive modality or an active modality, meaning that something’s either being done to you or you’re doing something to create movement. So, a lot of what people are doing for mobility work or stretching work or flexibility work is passive modalities. So, stretching, for instance, is a passive modality. You’re letting gravity or somebody else, maybe your trainer, just push you into your end range of motion to elicit a stretch response in a certain muscle. Now, the problem with that and other passive modalities, other passive modalities just include a lot of therapy. So, massage, somebody else just rubbing your muscles is a passive modality, you laying on a foam roll is a passive modality because it’s just a roll pushing into your muscles.

When you do passive modalities, you get what we call passive results. Meaning that nothing from an active standpoint has changed when you’ve only put passive inputs into the body. But when people say that they want more flexibility, what they want more flexibility for isn’t to… Well, then maybe some people fall in this category, but it’s not just to make a good, cool, bendy Instagram photo. Yes. The Yoga community, that falls into that category. But when most people think of flexibility like, “Oh, my back is really tight, my hamstrings are really tight, I need to be more flexible.” What they want really is to move better and feel better. So, they want a better active lifestyle without the negative sensations that comes along with having a tight body or tight muscles. So, if they want that, if that’s really the end goal, is to move better and feel better actively, which is life, then you have to put active inputs to get active results. Passive inputs will only give you better passive flexibility or passive range of motion, which is not our goal.

Once again, if you could try and convince me that your only goal is passive flexibility, which I would then have to ask why because I can’t see a reason for that at all. But the only reason I can imagine somebody would say to me, “I don’t care about active, I only wanna be more passively flexible” is if your job is just to make bendy photos on Instagram like a lot of yoga people do. So, if your ultimate end goal of life is just to make more bendy, more passively flexible photos, then yeah. Just keep stretching, just keep making everything loose and not active. The problem with that though is that those people that are really bendy and flexible don’t actively feel good. They do not feel comfortable in their body. And I can confidently say that because I work with personally some of the bendiest and flexible people I’ve ever met in my life, the whole Los Angeles yoga scene, which is a very popular there. If you think of your top three favorite Instagram yoga professionals that you follow because they make the prettiest pictures, I’ve probably worked with them. I’ve probably worked with them to teach them a little bit more about their body because they came to me in pain at some point. I can almost guarantee it.

Even more bendy than that, I work with professional dancers and I work with Cirque du Soleil artists, which are even more bendy than the yoga crowd. And a lot of them are in terrible pain as well. And unfortunately, if you look up what to do when your body is not feeling good, a lot of people just suggest passive modalities. So, just roll on this foam roll, just stretch more. But once again, the problem with that and the reason why that myth keeps getting passed on from person to person is that those passive modalities feel good. And that’s where the problem lies, is that somebody will, if somebody has a tight back or tight hamstrings or tight hips, they’ll roll on a foam roll and then stretch and then they feel better. So, they’re like, “Oh, this is clearly what I needed.” What that is, it’s called really short-term potentiation or you’re getting a temporary analgesic effect, meaning that temporarily, your nervous system is just tricked into feeling better that the modality that you put in just tricked your nervous system into stop thinking of those tight sensations for a little while, you have this little window of time where your body moves better and feels better.

But 99 out of 100 times, if you ask anybody, this is what happens is that, let’s say the front of their hips feel tight. This is like an office worker. So what they do is they are told by their trainer or they look up online and they’re like, “Okay. Here’s some hip stretches.” So, then they stretch their hip and then that person goes to bed, wake up the next day, tight hips again. So, then they stretch their hips again, feels better temporarily, then they go about their day, wake up the next day, tight hips again. Now, what I can confidently say is if you keep doing the same thing over and over again and your body keeps undoing it, so if you’re “tight” and then you stretch and then when you’re done stretching it tightens back up again, I can confidently say that that stimulus alone is not what you need because your body is smarter than you.

So, if you keep putting in a stimulus like stretch or a foam roll and then you have to do that day after day after day and it’s not moving in the right direction as the weeks and months go on, you are not putting in the right stimulus for your body. But it’s hard to believe that because as soon as you’re done with that modality, you stand up and you feel a little bit better. But I’m trying to convince people over time and what we’re trying to do as a community with the functional range systems community over time, is to teach people that there is a way to train and a way to take care of your body so that that feeling that you get when you’re done stretching, you could have just all day that we’re just not teaching people how to take care of their bodies right.

So, I don’t want you to have to wake up out of bed and be stiff and miserable and it takes you like an hour to warm up just to feel normal and then play with your kids, I want you to be able to wake up and spring out of bed and just feel great. And now, depending on the start point for somebody, that doesn’t mean that I can accomplish that in a week or two weeks. If people have been taking care of their body for decades, it’s gonna take a long time to undo the sensations that they’ve built up in their body. But ultimately, what we’re trying to do when we compare flexibility and mobility is train in a way so that you wake up out of bed and you have all the mobility you need for the day, for your activities, for your sport, that it’s not like you have to warm up or go to a yoga class to feel comfortable, that you could just wake up and get out of bed and feel comfortable. And the way that we do that is we teach people really what mobility work really is, it’s just specialized strength training.

So, it’s creating a way to teach people to train their body that is using strength training principles but getting their whole body strong through their full range of motion, not just their mid-range of motion, which is where most exercises exists, but also their muscles long and short ranges so that their body is way more prepared for their daily activities or their sport or their life or picking up their kids or whatever it is. But I’m not even sure if I remember the original question or how long I’ve been answering this question for. But ultimately, I think one big end goal between understanding the difference in flexibility and mobility is that what a lot of people are doing is flexibility training, which is just passive modalities. And we’re trying to teach people to have strength plus that flexibility, strength through their flexible ranges so that they’re strong through their flexible ranges, so that we have that focus of health and longevity, we have that focus of injury prevention, and people don’t have to spend so much time warming up or stretching just to feel good about their day.

Katie: That makes sense. So, to clarify, it’s not that stretching or foam rolling in itself is bad. You said it can offer a short term relief, but you shouldn’t view that as actually the solution to the problem. You’re not having that because of a stretching deficiency per se or a foam roller deficiency, there’s something else you need to address. Am I getting the right gist?

Hunter: Right. So, I always tell people when I teach them… My job is to teach people about their body or to teach other trainers how to take care of their clients better. I travel around and I teach the seminars as well to teach this system that I learned from Dr. Andreo Spina. I travel the world and I teach his system to trainers and chiropractors and physical therapists and physios all over the world. And my job is to, I always tell people, “I’m not trying to take away from your toolbox, I’m trying to make you understand the toolbox you have a little bit better and then add to your toolbox.” But I wouldn’t tell you to take something away. So, I’m not telling you not to stretch because a part of taking care of other humans, like if my job is to take care of other humans, my job is to make people feel good too. But I also can’t lie to them. So, what a lot of people are doing is they’re telling people that stretching is a solution. Stretching isn’t the solution. Like I said, if you stretch when you’re tight and then it just tightens back up, I’m gonna tell you stretching is not the solution, but if it feels good, go for it. It’s just not the solution. It has to be combined with something else for it to be the solution.

So, another example is like just that’s one example saying if it just keeps tightening it back up. Another example for why people feel tight is a capacity issue or almost an endurance/strength issue. So, an example I can give for that is if I go for a run and my fiancé comes with me, and let’s say I’ve been running way more often than her, we’re gonna go a few miles into the run and my tissue, my muscles are more prepared for that mileage but hers isn’t because she hasn’t been running as much. That’s not a good example because she runs just as much as me, but theoretically. But let’s say we’re a couple miles in and now her body is starting to fatigue, one of the body’s mechanisms for when it fatigues is it’s gonna tighten up. So, a couple of miles in, she’s gonna say, “My calves are really feeling tight.” And her body is starting to just say, “I’m done. I’ve hit capacity for mileage right now.”

So, if her body’s hit capacity and it’s now defending itself by tightening up that area, the solution isn’t stretching it. Once again, it’ll feel good to stretch the calves, but she’s not gonna be able to stretch the calves and then just trick the body into running a few more miles. Her body has hit its capacity. So, the solution is just like anything else, get stronger. So, she’s hit her capacity for the day so now she has to recover and then the next time she comes back to running, try and go a little bit further. But that’s another example where people just assume that if something is tightened my body, I have to stretch it. But very, very rarely is that the case. So, that’s still me not saying, “Don’t stretch.” Because if stretching feels good, I’m all for it. I just want you to know what it’s doing.

So, now the same thing with foam rolling. Foam rolling feels good. If a client is running late and there’s a foam roller on the ground, instead of just sitting there doing nothing, I might roll on the ground and roll on it because it feels good, but it is not doing what 90% of personal trainers and physical therapists say it’s doing. You are not breaking up adhesions, you are not breaking up scar tissue, you are absolutely not doing self-myofascial release, and it’s not even showing, although a lot of people believe this, it’s not even showing really an increase in circulation in that area, increase in blood flow in that area. Once again, we don’t actually know what it’s doing. It’s not an easily studied thing about the human body because a living human anatomy is hard to study when we’re implementing these things. But we do know that it’s not doing what most people are claiming. That’s been proven already even though every trainer still uses those terms like self-myofascial release and breaking up adhesions. Our best guess is really like a, once again, a temporary analgesic response. We’re tricking the nervous system into feeling better and giving you a little more movement for a short window of time and a little bit of pressure change with fluids in that area once again, inducing an analgesic effect and a change in the nervous system’s representation in your brain for a little while.

So, once again, I wouldn’t tell people not to foam roll, but a lot of people are foam rolling because they think it’s granting them mobility. So, if that’s the case, I just inform them that that’s not true. That is not what’s happening. You’re getting a little temporary window. And if you understand that and still want to use foam rolling because you’re granting yourself a little window to move better in, that’s fine. I just think we have to stop lying to our clients about what’s actually happening when they foam roll. They’re not breaking up adhesions or anything like that, they’re not doing myofascial release.

My only qualm with it is that a lot of people do not move well and have very poor range of motion. So, what they’re doing, let’s say somebody has really bad hips, so their body over time has limited their range of motion dramatically because their hips are getting unhealthy. So, now they can’t squat very well, their body is purposely limiting them. And I always tell my clients, “Man, your body is smarter than you, your nervous system is smarter than you.” So, if it’s taking away range of motion, there’s a very good reason for that. So, if you haven’t taken care of yourself and now you’re stiff and immobile and you don’t squat well and you go to the CrossFit gym down the street and the wad of the day is to squat deep. And what you do is you now foam roll to temporarily trick your body into granting you a little more range of motion, which is a little window of time. And then you’re taking that little window and maximally loading that tissue that wouldn’t even let you get to that position unloaded a few minutes ago. But now you just tricked your nervous system into getting a little bit deeper and now you’re gonna start loading that tissue in that tricked down position where it’s now letting you get a little bit further.

I think, and this is opinion, there’s nothing I could say besides this. I have to admit this is my opinion and that’s the opinion of many of my colleagues, that we believe that if you have to trick yourself into getting the range of motion you need for a workout, that’s probably not a good idea. Once again, and I can confirm that in just a sense that I know there’s a way to train the human body to give you back that range of motion so that you have that range of motion cold. Therefore, if you can represent, then you can get down into a squat unloaded that you have healthy ankles, healthy knees, healthy hips, healthy spine and that you could demonstrate that you could get in that position unloaded. By all means, let’s load you for sure because if you want a strong person and we want longevity in our lives, we have to strength train.

All I’m saying is I don’t think people should be using foam rollers to trick their body into granting more range of motion and then load it. And then once again, the whole industry as a whole shrug their shoulders and says, “I don’t know why injury rates are going up across the board, injury rates are going up in general population, injury rates are going up in sports, athletics, everything.” And to be honest, I think one of the biggest problems is the fitness industry. I think the fitness industry is not doing its job educating their clientele well enough to really take care of their bodies better. And foam rolling is as one of these issues, but that’s still not me saying don’t foam role, just tell people what it is or understand what actually is happening here.

Katie: Yeah. That makes so much sense. And you’ve mentioned the nervous system a few times now and I’d love more explanation on this because it really blew my mind when you explained, for instance, if you take a person and disengage the nervous system, what their joints are actually capable of. So, can you explain a little bit deeper, how does the nervous system come into play when it comes to our joints?

Hunter: Sure. I’m not a neuroscientist, so you’re gonna get a dumb down analogy version. I have to teach this at the course too, but it’s definitely something worth looking into but it would take a lot of effort for me to fully… I’m gonna be honest, the nervous system is the most complicated thing humans have ever studied, which is why I think it’s so funny to talk about. I try my best to explain it in a seminar format of my understanding of the nervous system. But if you, this is something I steal from Dr. Spina himself. I’ve heard him say this several times. But if you ask a trainer about the nervous system, they are confident in their answer and they have charts and books and lines drawn to things about this turns this on and that turns that off and they think they have it figured out. Chiropractors, massage therapists, personal trainers all have this confidence when they talk about the nervous system. But then you talk to a neuroscientist or a neurophysicist, somebody that spent their career and life dedicated to understanding the nervous system and you ask them, “Hey, what do we understand about the nervous system?” They laugh at you like almost nothing.

So, when it comes down to me talking to you about the nervous system, I’ll give you my very limited understanding of it, but I’m still confident in my limited understanding of it. It’s just that what we understand about it is very little in the scheme of things. Because we understand a lot about our muscular-skeletal system, we understand a lot about other systems in our body, but the nervous system is horribly complicated. We have trillions of nerve cells communicating to each other every millisecond. Meaning that between those trillions interacting to each other in a millisecond, this is a stat that I’ve read in a neuroplasticity book that I read recently where it said, because of the trillions interacting with each other every millisecond, that means every millisecond there’s over a quadrillion interactions every millisecond, which is more atoms than there is in the known universe as interactions per millisecond in every one of our bodies. Which is just a mind-blowing statistic to me. It’s absolutely outrageous.

And then to understand that, there are so many zeros in that number, but yet the trainer down the street understands our nervous system. So, I wanted to just start with that to let you know that I don’t understand the nervous system, but I’ll tell you what I know about it a little bit in the sense that our nervous system is the main thing that governs our range of motion. It’s not our musculoskeletal system, it’s not our bone hitting bone or just your muscle decided to wake up and be tight today. Our nervous system is what governs it. And just an extreme example of how I know that is one way to shut the nervous system down is with anesthesia. think when you get surgery. And you’ve seen pictures of me on my social media, and like you said earlier, I’m a very bendy person, I can get my leg behind my head, I can show an extreme range of motion with my hips, my shoulders, my spine.

Now, imagine a person on the exact opposite of the spectrum. They reached out to touch their toes and don’t even get close. If you put that extremely “tight person” under anesthesia and you try and get their leg behind their head, no problem, it’ll go there because the nervous system is temporarily shut down to protect the joints. Does that make sense? So, you can take the stiffest, most least mobile person in the world, take their nervous system out of the equation and turn them into a Cirque du Soleil artist. They’ll obviously be anatomical limitations. I can’t say that confidently for every single person, but it’s just the idea that I wanted to get across. That’s why a lot of joint surgeries, one, because they’re doing surgery, they have to be out. But it’s very productive to do the surgery when they’re out because there is nothing restricting the range of motion. You could crank the joint, pull on the joint, cut open the joint, no problem because the anesthesia is taking the nervous system out of the equation and the whole system is just relaxed to let you do its job.

So, it’s a very interesting thing and then when that person wakes up, it goes right back to the setting it was at before “tight” and that person can’t touch their toes again. So, the nervous system is gonna be what governs our range of motion. That being said and knowing we have a limited understanding of it, all I can say is that we can’t separate our biology and our neurology, but you do have to take both into consideration when you’re training somebody. So, I always tell people my goal is both simultaneously trying to influence your biological system and your neurological system, but it is gonna be your nervous system over time that’s being convinced that change is allowed, which is once again, it’s gonna require active inputs from training to do that convincing because your nervous system is not easily convinced. It is not something that’s gonna come from passive modality. Once again, the passive modalities that people are doing are tricking the nervous system into granting you a little more range of motion. But when your body realizes that it was tricked and that you didn’t use that temporary window to convince that it’s worth keeping, your body will just take that range of motion back away again.

So, that’s once again, a lot of people, if you look at mobility work on YouTube, they’re doing band distractions, and foam rolling, and massage, and Thera guns and stretching. But if you ask those people, “Honestly, has your range of motion really improved?” Or, “Is your body feeling better, long term, not just while you’re doing modality or has your cold mobility improved?” The answer is no because I can go back to gyms I worked at 10 years ago and the same people that were just ending their workout with the same stretches, so they lay on the ground and stretch their hamstrings, stand up, stretch their calves. I guarantee those people are doing the same stretches 10 years later as they are now. Which is crazy to me because once again, if you’re doing the same thing over and over again and it’s not giving you the results that you want, why are you doing that same thing over and over again? It doesn’t make sense to me. That make sense?

Katie: Yeah. Totally. Okay. So, shifting like super practical for selfish reasons right now, I mentioned this to you a little bit before we went on air, but feel free to call me out. Do not hold back. So, I just spent four days in an event where I was standing on concrete floors and not sitting at all. Standing or walking slowly for 12 to 14 hours a day and holding a purse on one side. So, I know lots of things wrong. But within the first day, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. My lower back really hurts.” And it kind of continue to progress. Not to mention, I also wasn’t sleeping normally there. And then by the time I got home, I sat down on the floor Indian style for a little while with the kids. And when I got up I was like, “Oh, this is bad.” So, my lower back on my right side especially is super, super sore and I feel like I’m feeling my age for the first time. So, I’m over here in a pity party. But I would love for you if you can use me as an example, dissect what’s going on and all of the things that are wrong with this equation.

Hunter: So, there are so many variables here to be able to say, “You know what, Katie, if you just did this, it would solve it,” because the human ecosystem is so complicated. There’s no way for me to say, “Oh, man. If you just wore different footwear, you would have been fine. Or if you just sat down every 20 minutes, you would have been fine.” There is no way for me to know that answer. But for a lot of people, remember my calf getting tight and running example, a lot of people that just feel bad at the end of the day is because the insults of their day exceeded their body’s capacity. So, the amount of stress that their tissue went under by, say, you walking on concrete and standing for 14 hours and interacting with people and only having weight on one side of your body with a purse just exceeded your body’s ability to deal with that load. So, over time, tissue breakdown does happen. That’s ultimately what an injury really is.

Another brilliant nugget that I pulled up from Dr. Spina over the years is that really when an injury happens, whether it’s an acute injury or chronic injury over time, it’s just that the load going into the tissue, whatever tissue, any biological tissue, the load that went into that tissue exceeded the load-bearing capacity of that tissue. So, the insult was too high and your body couldn’t deal with that insult, so tissue breakdown starts to happen. So, once again, when you’re in that scenario and you don’t feel good, if stretching makes you feel better, I’m all for it. Because once again, a part of human care is making people feel good. So, I’m all for that. But ultimately, if we can admit that the injury or insult or ache happened because the amount of load coming into tissue, whether it’s your whole system or just ankle or just low back or just hip or whatever else, exceeded the load-bearing capacity of the tissue, then our solution for this isn’t stretching long term. Our solution is to increase the load bearing capacity so that the next time you have a 12 or 14-hour day, your body goes, “Oh, I was way more prepared for that.”

So, the solution with a lot of problems, it’s so oversimplified but it gets stronger. Make sure that your body is way more ready for the insult that you go through. And the insult could be sport, athletics, CrossFit, weight training. It could be just life, it could be picking up your kids, it could be doing the dishes. Whatever the insult that you’re putting into your body, whatever the stressor is, you have to make sure that your body is ready for that stressor. And when we’re not ready for the stressors, our body starts to break down over time. And that’s just the reality of it. So, although when you’re in pain, the answer changes because now we have to deal with pain and pain is gonna be the number one limiting factor in movement. The number one goal in pain is to get you out of pain first, and then when you’re out of pain is to get you strong. So, once again build-up load-bearing capacity of the tissue.

So, when it comes to the bright answer for this, and no one is gonna like this answer, but it’s just the reality of it, I can’t give a blanket statement answer for like, “Hey, so when somebody has back pain, what do I do? Or when someone has hip pain, what do I do?” Because once again, there’s so many variables in the human system and the human body is so good at compensating or compensatory movement that I can’t tell you over a podcast what the solution is besides get stronger. I have to make sure that your joints are actually doing their job or that each player, if you could imagine like your body being a team and each joint is being a player on that team, I need to make sure that each player is doing their job because once again, imagine a sports team. If one player was just taken off the team, it has a huge disadvantage. Now, the other players have to work harder. So, when one player in your body, let’s say, hip or lumbar spine or pelvis or whatever else isn’t doing its job, the joints above and below or even further above or further below have to now make up in a compensatory matter for the fact that one thing isn’t doing its job. So, that’s what makes the FRC system so powerful, is that when you come to me, if you were to come into the gym and work with me, you might say, “Hey, Hunter. I have back pain, can you take a look at my back?” And I’ll say, “You know what, Katie, I definitely understand that you have back pain and I’m sorry about that and I’ll talk to you about that, I’ll talk to you about pain and I’ll explain pain a little bit”, but I’m not gonna just look at your back.

When I assess somebody, and this is something, if you’re listening to this and you feel you have body aches and pains that you haven’t been able to figure out, I suggest linking up with an FRC mobility specialist for this reason. When I assess you, Katie, I’m gonna look at every single joint in your body, not just the one that you’re pointing out saying is in pain. I’m gonna look at your neck, I’m gonna look at your thoracic spine, your lumbar spine, your pelvis, your hips, your shoulders, your elbows, your wrists, your knees, your ankles, all the way down to your toes. Just like I did when I first met you, like the morning routine that I showed you. I’m gonna look at every joint and how it moves. Then when we look at how your joints move and the degrees of freedom your joint has, I’ll then say, “Let’s look at what a healthy human hip has, degrees of freedom wise compared to what you showed me your hip could do.” And then when we compare what a healthy human hip has compared to what your hip has, we notice that for a lot of people there is mobility deficits. So, this person might not have hip internal rotation on their right side and the hip flection on their left side. And then my job isn’t to say, “Okay. I’m gonna give you exercises for back pain” because I don’t even know what that means, to be honest.

What I’m gonna say is “Your body isn’t functioning like a human. Your hip doesn’t act like a hip, your spine isn’t segmenting and for some reason, your shoulder can’t rotate at all. And I don’t know why because you just came into my gym and I just met you. All I know is that your hip is supposed to be a hip, your spine is supposed to be a spine, and your shoulders supposed to be a shoulder. So, my job is to just give you the exercises, they’re gonna give you back the degrees of freedom so your body could be human again.” So, when I give you back the freedom to your hip to be a hip, so I didn’t have hip internal rotation, which is necessary for the health of your hip. If I give you that back, and then I took your non-segmenting spine and I taught you how to segment your spine again so that you could distribute and produce force throughout your torso well again, and then I gave you back your shoulder. When your body just goes about its day and it goes back to its sports, even if that’s just life, the nervous system, once again, being something that’s extremely complicated tends to figure things out over time. So, your body will figure out how to move better if you give it back the degrees of freedom back to the articulations in the movements. Does that make sense?

Katie: Yeah. Absolutely.

Hunter: So, going back to the… I just wanna touch on the spine again. A lot of people don’t realize this because people are so afraid to move their back, especially when they’re in pain and I get that. So, I’m not gonna touch upon pain for this comment. This is just saying backs, in general. If you could buy into the fact that what I said earlier that moving your joints in the way that I taught you is like the brushing your teeth of your joints. So, moving the joint is the thing that keeps our joint space healthy. Yes. Our spine is a series of joints. It’s not one joint, we have 24 vertebrae. So, if every vertebra on top of another has joint space in between and every one of those joints is meant to move, it has degree to freedom. There’s a little flexion-extension, there’s a little lateral flexion, and there’s rotation at every vertebra. And depending on where you’re at in the spine, cervical, thoracic or lumbar, the amount differs, but that’s not the point is that each articulation upon each articulation is supposed to contribute to the global motion that our torso goes through.

But when you actually assess people’s spine, because of our current lifestyle, which our current lifestyle is not normal, the way that people are living their lives is not normal. If you assess people’s spine, you’re gonna realize that when I ask for flexion or I ask for extension or anything lateral flexion rotation, there’s only motion happening at certain segments and then other areas of the spine are chunking together like they’re stuck. And that becomes a huge problem because our spine is our nervous system. That’s what houses our nervous system. And there’s that old Chinese quote, “You’re only as old as your spine.” I absolutely agree with that. I just think it’s much more complicated than just saying a silly statement like that. But I absolutely believe it. I think our spine is one of the most important things to take care of. It’s gonna for sure play a part in how you feel as you age.

So, when it comes down to, if movement is the only thing that we could do to keep our joints healthy and we understand that our spine is a series of joints, we have to move our spine to keep it healthy. But if I assess you and several areas of your spine are not moving well at all, so a lot of people have stiff thoracic spines, they don’t move much, then what’s bringing health to that joint space if it’s not moving? The answer is nothing. It’s just that there’s letting that degenerate over time. And then one day, people are gonna wake up and either be in back pain or they’re gonna throw their back out or whatever else and then they’re gonna say, “What did I do yesterday to cause my back to hurt today?” And unfortunately, they’re asking the wrong question. It’s, “I haven’t moved my spine like a spine in years or decades and now today my body is finally saying I’ve had enough.” And that’s what they’re feeling. So, when people say, “I don’t know what I did yesterday, I was just folding laundry and now my back hurts today,” the folding laundry wasn’t the insult. The insult was the last couple of years of not moving your spine like a spine and then just yesterday’s load that you put in just happened to push it over the edge. Does that make sense?

Katie: Yeah. Absolutely.

Hunter: So, it becomes a complicated thing because people want the answer. People say, “I hurt today and I don’t want to hurt tomorrow. What do I do?” And unfortunately, there’s not a quick solution to this. Now, once again, it’s hard for me to touch on pain. I’m not a manual therapist, I’m not a physical therapist, so I don’t wanna touch on that. I would say if you are in pain for sure, I’m gonna once again push towards the system of people that I work with. So, I teach the FRC mobility specialist course, which is working with trainers, physios, physical therapists, chiropractors, but it’s the training modality. But the same system actually has several manual therapy courses and the manual therapists that come out of our system understand what I’m saying about the spine very well. So, I would say if you’re in pain to try and use the “find a provider” option on our website to work with an, it’s called an FR manual therapist or functional range release manual therapist because they’re gonna understand the segmenting spine thing.

Unfortunately, what a lot of people are doing to get out of pain, like if you didn’t know me and you just said, “Oh, crap, my back hurts. What do I do?” You go to a therapist, either a massage therapist or a physical therapist or chiropractor. And what a lot of people do is they, I use this quote, “they rub the booboo.” Your back hurts so they rub it, they ultrasound, they ESTIM. They move it around. They just do, once again, a bunch of passive modalities. And you will always leave their office feeling better because the passive modalities gave you that analgesic effects. You will leave feeling better. But if your back hurts due to the fact that your spine hasn’t segmented in years and now you put in too much load to certain segments, yes, leaving the therapist office you will feel better but you haven’t done anything to solve why your back hurts. You’re now just putting a bandaid on the issue. So, that’s why a lot of people that have back pain, they’ll go to somebody, it’ll feel better, and then they’ll just have back pain again.

The number one injury you’re gonna sustain after any injury is the same injury again. So, if you have low back pain, 80% of people that have low back pain will have low back pain again, if you hurt your hip or if you say like, what I do is I rolled my ankle because I go trail running a lot. If I roll my ankle and now that I have several times, the chance of me rolling my ankle is much higher because of that tissue being weaker from previous injury. So, with back stuff, I can only suggest linking up with a good person who understands what I’ve been trying to explain about the segmenting spine because it is one of our most important joints to take care of. If somebody came to me and they had a bad back and a bad wrist, I feel bad for the wrist. I do, but I’m for sure gonna spend way more time on teaching that person how to segment their spine than work on just getting their wrist back to function because we could change their workouts to not insult the wrist while we make the back work better. And then when the back is feeling better, I’m all about making that wrist feel better again.

Katie: That makes sense in such good perspective and a good reminder for me.

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Katie: I wanna clarify one thing. So, you’ve talked about how the joints can degenerate over time, especially if they’re not getting nutrition from actually doing the right movements. So, just to clarify, is it possible to reverse that, to bring the nutrition back into to stop that degeneration process or once it’s happened has happened?

Hunter: It’s a loaded question because I’m gonna say I believe some things can be reversed, but other things you can’t. I can’t reverse arthritis. There’s bony changes happening and the actual structure of your joint is changing, whether that’s your lifestyle or activity or job, but the stress that went into that joint and the lack of taking care of it maybe has led to actual physical structural changes. And that can’t be undone. That person though, if that’s the case, if somebody comes to me and they already know like, “Yeah. My wrist has arthritis and my shoulder has arthritis,” I’m not gonna be like, “Oh, man. That sucks. Good luck.” I’m still gonna do everything in my power to say whatever joint space still is healthy and whatever range of motion you do have, we need to maintain that for the rest of your life. You can’t just have a pity party and say, “Well, I have a bad shoulder so it’s just a bad shoulder now.” Absolutely not. I’m gonna do everything in my power to give as much degrees of freedom back. I might not make your shoulder look like mine if it already has bony changes coming in, but you better believe we can get some good work in.

Now, if I’m working with a younger person who is just, and there’s a lot of young people that are in real bad shape, too, and they just have real stiff bodies because they never take care of themselves and it’s not actually boney change that have set in and it’s just range of motion that’s been lost over time and a lack of control of their joints that they’ve lost over time, absolutely, that’s reversible. You’ll see before and afters on my page and before and afters if you follow any FRC person or Dr. Andreo Spina himself, he shares a lot of the testimonials as well of just people gaining back the degrees of freedom of their body and their joints. Absolutely, that’s reversible. But if it’s structural change into the joint, that’s not something that I’m gonna change with inputs. That’s not possible.

Katie: Got It. Okay. So, that leads me to a two-part question. I think the answer may actually be similar and so I wanted to ask them together. The first being I know that you work with a lot of extremely high end athletes and celebrities, people who are doing amazing things with their bodies and certainly, there’s some of those that listen to this podcast but the majority are parents and working moms who are trying to maintain, like you said, the functional ability to do the things they need to do in daily life and who are also parents. And so the two-part question being, from your perspective, what is a good lifestyle and movement pattern if someone is trying to optimize for that? And similarly, what kind of movement and lifestyle patterns should we be encouraging in our children? Because I know we talked about this a little bit in person, but kids seem to be born with amazing range of motion and amazing mobility. And from the first time they walk, my kids can squat perfectly and be comfortable there for 20 minutes. So, how do we keep that amazing mobility that they’re already built with and born with?

Hunter: Sure. Working with an adult, I can’t give you as much of a blanket statement because if I assess 10 people today and then you ask me after I assess them, what’s the best movement for person one, what’s the best movement for person two, what’s the best movement for person three, they’re gonna all be different answers. The one blanket statement I can say because I believe this is the morning routine of controlled articular rotations, which there’s plenty of videos about online or you can work with an FRC person in person which is always better. But moving your joints in a rotational manner through the largest range of motion you can in a pain-free range under a little bit of tension is gonna be the one blanket statement thing I can say every single person I meet, I teach. And I taught you that the first time I met you as well. That would be one like “pattern or movements” I would say everyone needs to get in the habit of doing very few things in life and especially physical fitness. Do I believe the more, the better? I don’t believe the more strength training, the better. I think there’s a sweet spot for every person. I don’t think the more power training, the more speed training, the better. I don’t even think the more flexibility training the better.

But the more body control and the more joint rotations in a pain-free manner, I do believe that falls in the category of the more the better because it’s just something to just inject health and movement into our joint space. That’s one thing I could say every single person listening to this should link up with an FRC person or if you don’t have someone near you, work with someone online. You work with me online, I have my online Kinstretch subscription. Work with someone either in person or online to learn these movements to just get in a daily habit of moving your joints in a healthy way. Now, if you find that you end up having pain when you start doing these movements or you have mobility deficits, that’s where the rest of the work can help solve those mobility deficits. Going back to the question about kids, I don’t think you need to hire me to train your kids, Katie. I think kids need to be kids. Kids need to play, kids need to express their bodies, kids need to play fight, they need to wrestle each other and use their joints like humans.

Now, if you’re gonna ask me what I believe is a good practice for kids to get into, although I always joke around when an adult hires me, I say, “I don’t know what I can do for you but we can save the kids.” I use that joke a lot. For the same reason you’re saying, kids move well and they have healthy joints. So, I do believe joint maintenance is a good goal for kids because if you get them to move through their full range of motion, you get them active, they will maintain that mobility. Range of motion is not taken away from you as the years go on. Range of motion is taken away from you because you don’t use it. Our body works on a use it or lose it principle, but I personally, it’s an opinion, I personally would stick with my kid, when I have kids, it’ll be gymnastics, dance, martial arts or probably all three at different phases because those are body control disciplines that use the human body throughout all the ranges. So, if you think of a dancer, if you think of a gymnast, if you think of martial artists, it is using all of our joint articulations through their full range at some point or another. Whereas compared to soccer, which is not joints through their full range of motion, it’s a sport but it is not full range of motion.

Weight training itself, a full range of motion exercise. So, like say full range of motion squat is not full range of motion hip. Does that make sense? Just because you’re getting to the bottom of a squat, yes, you’re hitting full range of motion for that exercise, but you are not hitting the full range of motion of that joint because the joint does much more than just go through flexion, which is what the hip does in a squat. So, there’s also extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, external rotation. So, even full range of motion strength training, I don’t believe to be enough. But when we have kids, get them to be active, get them to play. Play is one of their best ways to actually learn about their body. So, that’s really the best answer for that. I don’t think kids need a disciplined routine, but I think they need to be encouraged to move their body in more ways more. I know one of the guys that I teach with Dewey Nielsen at his gym in Oregon, they have their kids classes that they call them Ninja classes. And this is something that our friend Travis would love. Travis Brewer, the Ninja.

He’s had some Ninja classes in the gym and it’s really just kids classes, but they just create an environment where they can play like obstacle courses and climbing things and ducking under things and crawling and jumping from thing to thing because they don’t need to squat, they don’t need to do pushups, they don’t need to do pull-ups, they need to move. They just need to be humans, they need to play, they need to wrestle, they need to just move naturally and not be constrained to exercise, which is exercise itself is just human-invented movement. No hunter-gatherer in a timescale of life thousands of years ago didn’t wake up and said, “Oh, man, I have to do front squats today and then I got to hold my plank for a minute and then I have to go to a jog to increase my cardiorespiratory fitness.” They just moved. So, our kids, we wanna encourage to be as human as possible and just get them to move more through their full range of motion.

And if they do end up picking a sport that doesn’t do that, like baseball or football or track and field or whatever else, then I do think that you should try and encourage them to be a multidisciplinary sport child. As in not, please don’t do baseball year round, please don’t do football year round. As each season passes, let them play a different sport per season. So, maybe track and field in the summer and football in the winter and water polo in the fall and let them go through different stimuluses as the year goes on because it’s so unfortunate. But I get contacted by parents now of 13 and 14-year-old kids and they’re like, “My kid is supposed to be a star baseball player but he has to get Tommy John surgery already,” and I put the fault right back on the parent, you tried to specialize your child so early, you forced them to play baseball year-round because you wanted them to be a baseball star and now because of that they’re 13 and need elbow surgery already? Something that was only in adult major league players for years now is in your 13-year-old kid. Nothing is wrong with the baseball coach. I think the fault is in the parents trying to specialize their kids too young. Our children are not meant to be specialized workers or specialized athletes, they’re meant to move like humans.

Katie: I love that so much. And it’s so encouraging because there is a surprising amount of pressure in the parent world to have your kids specialize early. And I hear that so many times. It’s like “What if your kid is gonna be the next Tiger Woods but you didn’t put them in golf at age three or whenever it is.” And part of my response is “Well, I’d rather my kid do something that contributes to the world in a different way than just be Tiger Woods.” But I love that you said that about the functional movement and letting them play because we certainly share a viewpoint on this and, in fact, as we’re talking, I’m looking out my window and my kids are playing in the yard and I’ve seen one climb a tree and I’m like, “Oh, look at all that hip movement” and all the stuff they’re doing. And another is crawling to get under a bush to get a ball and another one just rolled. And so I’m like, I love that they’re doing that kind of stuff. And I also, without knowing that I love that the two things we’ve ever let them do in a structured way were gymnastics and martial arts.

Hunter: That’s awesome.

Katie: And they’ve recently adopted pole vaulting but I’m glad that they have all that other stuff to give them the movement for pole vaulting because it’s a pretty intense sport as well.

Hunter: Sure. I’ll say one thing too which is related to what we’re talking about, but it’s projecting into the years in the future. Since I do work with a lot of professional athletes, like when I work with somebody and it’s a professional athlete he’s like, “Yeah. My elbow is killing me, my shoulder is killing me,” and then I talk to them about their sport. A quote that I stole from another colleague of mine, Mike Ranfone, is that this is unfortunate and nobody likes to say this out loud, but it’s a reality we’re all ready to accept, the cost of high performance. So, the cost of becoming a high performing athlete at a major league level is your health. And nobody likes to say that out loud, but it’s just the reality of it. We put our athletes up on pedestals as like they’re the best humans in the world. No, no, they’re not there. They are unhealthy and they do not feel good and they hurt and they’re breaking down their body much faster than the average person.

Sports aren’t normal. It is not a part of the evolutionary process to take a baseball and hurl it at 100 miles per hour a couple 100 times per week and then wonder why our elbow hurts. It’s completely unnatural to just do the same things over and over again and just get more specialized and more better at just one movement pattern over and over and over again. And then once again, wonder why injury rates are only going up. The cost of that, although hopefully, if you make it to major league level and you’re making millions and then you can support all your family, that’s awesome, but the cost is your health. Imagine a football player after they retire, they don’t feel good, they don’t move well. Hopefully, they made enough money to make that sensation worth it, but they don’t feel good for they have early onset arthritis. Their joints do not move well, they’re in pain a lot of the time. It is not a pretty picture seeing a professional athlete after they retire, which is another conversation I have when I work with recreational athletes. I work with a stay-at-home dad who plays soccer three days a week just because it’s the hobby because he liked playing soccer as a kid but he’s now getting beat up and his joints are starting to hurt but he’s not getting paid for it.

So, I have to ask him, “I know you really like soccer but the last 10 injuries you had were on a soccer match. Is it really worth it? You have young kids, don’t you wanna get on the ground and play with them?” Because if your job isn’t this sport, you have to decide if that kind of breakdown of the body is really worth it. Because once again, and I’ll say it again, the cost of high performance is your health. What I follow that up with because nobody… when I say that to a professional athlete’s face, they look at me like I’m a jerk. And then I say, “So, I’m gonna try and teach you how to still perform at a high level but also try and take care of your joints better.” And that’s why I teach them the controlled articular rotations, I teach them in the morning routine, and I teach them exercises to try and close some of their mobility deficits to try and give them back some of the prerequisites that their sport demands. But since they play a sport regularly, my hope is, this is another thing I tell them, the work I give you is gonna try and shift your body to the right and then your sport is shifting your body to the left and now it’s a game of tug of war. So, I hope that you do enough of the work that I teach you to make things feel better, faster than your sports makes things feel worse.

I don’t always win that tug of war match. It depends on people’s on season versus offseason. That’s why once again, I encourage kids have multi-disciplines throughout the year, but let’s say I work with a professional baseball player and they’re actually going to the world series this year, they’re playing baseball for 11 months straight. They have a one-month offseason. Very rarely am I gonna have a good chance of winning that tug of war match because the amount of baseball they play is making stuff move to the left way faster than the exercises I gave them moved things to the right. Does that make sense?

Katie: Yeah, totally. And I love that you educate about that because I know you work with professional athletes who obviously are not willing to give up their careers just to have a better joint health when they’re older, but at least they’re going into it now understanding that A, there is a sacrifice being made and if that’s a conscious choice, then that’s totally great for them. But you’re also giving them tools to hopefully help mitigate some of that damage while still admitting they’re still gonna be problems from this. You can’t do this forever and not have problems.

Hunter: Absolutely. If I work with a baseball pitcher, which I have in the past here in LA, I’m not gonna make him have a normal shoulder ever. There was nothing I could do. The amount of insult that he put into that biology in his body, I can’t undo that. And I’ve worked with an NFL player last week. One of the largest humans I got to work with ever. And I told him, I was like, “I can’t undo football. Your job is to get down low and crush your head into people. There’s nothing I can teach you to undo that. So, let’s take what we can control. Let’s take the joint space that you have, let’s move that around on a daily basis and try and keep fluid and nutrition coming through there, and let’s try and make your body a little more human again because right now you’re in the mold of football and the closer you are to compensatory football patterns, the further you are from normal human function. So, let me try and give you ways to try and work on both of those.” But once again, I don’t lie to people. I’m like as long as you play football, you’re going to have issues. As long as you play baseball, you’re going to have issues.

I’m working with some with a Cirque du Soleil troop later today and those circus athletes are some of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever seen. They train for like six, seven, eight, nine hours a day and perform sometimes multiple shows per day. I can’t undo that. I only have like an hour with them per week, I can’t undo that. So, my best job and really what I think personal trainers best job is since we don’t have enough time with people, is to educate them about their own body. Even best case scenario, let’s say, Katie, you live near me, you’re still probably best case scenario only gonna come in two to three days a week to work with me. That’s 2 to 3 hours out of 168 hours. If I can’t educate you about your body and how to take care of it better, do you really think that 2 hours with me is gonna undo the 166 hours without me if you’re not doing what I asked you to do on the hours that you’re not with me? It doesn’t even make sense. So, to try and sell people on just two to three hours of activity being enough is outrageous. I don’t think our job is to workout people, although I understand that’s a part of it. And if you’re a personal trainer, I’m a personal trainer, too, and I get it. I do understand what our job is. I just don’t think it’s enough.

I think my job while training you is to simultaneously educate you so you can take care of yourself as good as possible without me. That’s another thing that people ask me all the time, it’s because I travel a lot. I’m out of the state or out of the country two to three times a month to travel and teach. So, my clients were like, “How do your clients ever get results if you’re never home?” Because they don’t need me. None of my clients need me. I’ve taught my clients every single thing they need to know about their own body so that when I’m in town, sure, great, we could train together, and we could train hard. But when I’m out of town, they know exactly what they need to do without me because I’ve educated them about their own body so that they can take care of themselves better.

Katie: Yeah. I think that’s such an important point that you just made and I love that you have that perspective in working with your clients and with the education. And to loop it back to parents, I think that’s something we definitely should be cognizant of. And for instance, I’ve been doing cars since we met and then now my kids do it with me in the morning because they love it and it’s become part of our morning routine to do it outside in the sunshine.

Hunter: So awesome.

Katie: But to them, it’s just fun. It’s a game. And I think especially for the parents listening, if there are those kids who are sitting in desk for eight hours a day, which is not a normal human movement, and then the only movement they’re doing, like you said, is a very specialized thing, they’re going straight from sitting all day to baseball and slinging balls at 100 miles an hour, none of that is normal for human movement. So, it’s good for us to know so that we can hopefully do things to build in better movement patterns for them, especially if they’re starting that young.

Hunter: Absolutely. I can’t speak on it directly. I am not a parent. I plan on being a parent one day, but I’m not a parent so I’m not gonna sit here and try and be high and mighty trying to talk to parents about how to parent their kids, I’m sorry if that came off wrong. So, I hope everyone understands I’m not a parent. I’m just telling you what I would do if I was a parent when I’m a parent, I would be multidisciplinary and try and make them get into different things. But like you said, a word you used there I love because I think it’s a big part of getting kids to like something. You said it’s a game for them. And man, is that important because I’ve heard the term before, it’s like to gamify, to make a game out of something that’s not a game is absolutely a great way to get children involved in something. So, it’s now a game to do the joint circles with mom in the yard, in the sun that makes it, because if you make it a chore, “Hey, kids, you have to do this,” you better believe and even if they could feel good doing it, as soon as mom and dad say, “I have to do this,” it’s a chore now. And kids don’t like to do chores. They don’t care about their joint health. Kids feel great. They don’t care about the shoulder. So, the fact that you were able to gamify it, I’m gonna have to ask you how you did that, but the fact that you were able to gamify it for your kids, that’s awesome because that’s a way that kids want to get involved with moving like that. It’s so cool.

Katie: Yeah. Absolutely. And I love, like I said, I’m so glad that we met and that I’ve incorporated this in my life. It’s like anything that we’ve learned about health, I wish I could’ve gone back and incorporate it when I was younger, but I loved it. They’re exposed and loving it from such a young age. And of course, I know you’ve mentioned so many different things, I’ll make sure that there are links to all of them in the show notes so people can find them. But also, can you walk us through where people can find you? I know you have limited availability even in your online classes, but where people can find you and learn more and start learning from you in a more direct way if they want to.

Hunter: I guess I’ll just go through the list. On Instagram, which is where most people find me and interact with me, it’s just one word, @hunterfitness. My last name is Cook, but apparently, everyone in the world knows me at @hunterfitness. I started that too long ago. So, that’s who I am. Therefore, the same thing on Facebook. You can look up the Hunter Fitness Facebook page, and that’s on there. You can also go to hunterfitness.com. That’s getting pretty repetitive now, but it’s a way to keep everything in line. So, if you go to hunterfitness.com, you can always message me on there. I applied everything myself, so if you need anything, just let me know if you have any questions. Through my website, there are multiple tabs and options to look at. What Katie is a part of and what a lot of people around the world are a part of is my online Kinstretch Group, which Kinstretch is our solution for group training for this mobility work. So, I have clients all over the world at my online Kinstretch Group and that’s a way for if you don’t have someone in your neighborhood that can teach you this work or somebody is too far or you’re listening to us from another country and there’s no one in your country who could teach you this work, I do have online mobility classes that are available and that’s what Katie is a part of since Katie doesn’t live near me. And besides that, I have to plug what I truly believe, this is not self-serving, it’s really because I actually believe it’s the right answer.

I do believe that when you’re trying to figure something out with your body, working with someone in person is better than online work. So, although I would love to see a lot of people come into the online community, that’d be awesome. If you’re problem-solving something with your body, working with a practitioner in person is always gonna be a better solution. So, the main website as a hub for the system that I use is called functionalanatomyseminars.com. And then there’s a find a provider option on there. And if you click find a provider under FRC, which is functional range conditioning, you can find if there’s mobility specialists in your area just to learn more about mobility work and the morning routine and cars and getting your hips and shoulders to function better. If you’re in pain, then use the find a provider option under FR or the functional range release. And that’s how to find manual therapists that have been to our courses. So, I see people go one way or the other. I always encourage people to try and work with people in person just because learning about your body, it helps to have somebody else’s hands on you to teach. I think biofeedback is a huge tool in learning a lot of this stuff. But once again, if you are not interested in working with somebody in person or just don’t have anyone near you, then I do have that online class available. I do open it up in enrollment window, so if you go to my website, you just add yourself to the waiting list and every couple of weeks I allow more people to come into the group.

Katie: Awesome. And hopefully, I’ll see some of you guys in there with me because like he said, it’s something that I’ve been doing and really enjoying it, something you can do from home, which is great for moms. I still have like 10 more questions I would love to answer or to ask you, but I think we might have to just, hopefully, I can talk you into a round two one day.

Hunter: I would love to come back for a round two.

Katie: Amazing. But I also know how valuable your time is and how many people want some of your time, so I will respect it for now. But, Hunter, thank you, seriously, from the bottom of my heart for sharing. I think you are truly one of the best in the world at this, and I’m honored that you took the time.

Hunter: Thank you so much, Katie. That means so much coming from you. I appreciate it. I’m just honored to be put in front of your audience, that means a ton to me. And I hope I get the chance to come back and talk some more. I would love to answer any other questions that you have. And I hope your audience appreciates the work.

Katie: Amazing. And thank you to all of you for listening and for sharing your most valuable asset of your time with both of us today. We’re so grateful that you’re here and I hope that you’ll join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


2 responses to “267: Hunter Cook on Why Sports Aren’t Good for Kids & Solving Joint Pain”

  1. Laurie Avatar

    Can you give us an idea on how to find out what the morning routine exercises are for mobility?

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