Roundtable #4 – Bookends of Practice


Roundtable #4 – Bookends of Practice

Feature photo morzaszum from Pixabay.



How do you begin your training sessions?  How do you know when you are done?


For me, it’s hard to tell an end when everywhere I go I see things to hang or dance on.  In my Jam sessions I tend to start off with light movements to warm up… Which usually turns into full blown dance and stretch sessions combined. I know when I’m done usually because I have to be somewhere else or my body is too tired to move properly.  I just go with what feels good these days. When I was new or felt like I had to achieve what others were doing I stuck to rigid schedules, but found that when I strayed and did what felt good that’s when magic happened. Nowadays, I struck to the magic only.  — Krystyle Bryn


I begin gentle mobility work. It gives me an opportunity to check-in with how I’m feeling and let’s me know if there are any areas I need to spend a little more time with. I end by lying on my back and breathing for about three minutes, down-regulating my nervous system before I start my day.
I know when I’m done when the workout program I follow says I’m done. Hiring a coach to write my programs takes the overly critical self-analysis of what I’m doing off the table (or the chance that I will spend an entire hour just mobilizing and actually lift some stuff). It also ensures that I actually progress and try new things. It’s easy to see when the person being taught is ready to move forward; it can be much harder to accurately gauge the same thing for ourselves.
Monitoring fatigue levels and output allows me to assess if I need to end early or reduce set/rep scheme, but I find consistency, open monitoring, and working from a place of curiosity rather than focusing on the end product allows me to have a fairly accurate idea of what I can physically accomplish.  — Jenn Pilotti


My personal training begins with five minutes of gratitude, breathing, and stillness.  This helps me clear myself of whatever I was involved in prior to training. I fit the session into an hour to an hour and a half window.  The sets and reps are predetermined and I will stay with a routine for five weeks. My coaches write a program for me.  This helps me take an objective view to my training, does not allow me to slack in work load, and keeps me accountable to someone other than myself.  I get two sessions in on an ideal day but make sure to get in at least one session in if the day gets complicated.  Starting from new every five weeks helps me practice non attachment and allows me continue to work on the things I suck at.  I approach each session and block with a  beginners mindset.  — Nelson Cuadras


As most of my training revolves around running and competitive stroke work, my movement prep involves task specific muscle activation and pattern work. For running, I perform some long stance Glute-Hip Flexor activations and pelvic rotations, along with Thoracic Rotations and arm swing holds. This helps me map where my activations may be off, from run to run.  For swimming, I’ll perform a variety of trunk musculature activations from an overhead hanging position, with varied foot positions, based on any particular stroke. Again, mapping where my full body tension doesn’t fall in line.
As both are movement mediums which should facilitate postural elongation, I cool down by doing some triplanar body scanning and then spend some time upright, in the longest standing posture I can create. Tension in places that limit my upright stance, illuminate my accuracy, or lack there of, through the course of my movement session. Put a pin in it and then refine.  — Gary Stockdale


I always start with mild articular movements to asses how my body feels each day. Usually accompanied with soft music and on the floor, sometimes I spend more time on tight areas and try to soften them by movement exploration. In the assessment period, depending on how my body feels that day, I form a rough training “idea” for the day. Things that I want to work on, things that my body definitely will feel better after or things that I SHOULD improve -depending on my long term goals-. In every training session I try to give 10-20 minutes to something I really suck at, so that I continue to get better at them. But I only keep this to a minimum, so I mostly have joy in my training, instead of frustration.
I know my body quite well now, so when it is not productive or fun anymore, I tend to start cooling down with more mobility or target specific stretching exercises. If I am feeling super strong that day, it is hard for me to understand when to slow down, because my muscles do not get tired anymore. So I throw a handstand drill for every 20 minutes of training to know when my nervous system is getting tired. When I start to struggle holding a balance or control the handstand, I know it is time to slow down and finish for the day.  — Sevinc Gurmen


How do I train myself? I tend to get bored and curious a lot, like a child.  So I often will make or follow programs based off of what tickles my fancy for the time being.  As of late, I am doing a conjugate method style program mixed with some kettlebell strength skills and filtering those through the Functional Range Release and Conditioning mentality to ensure that I have the true “ownership” of my joints, nervous system and mental awareness to stay safe and maximize my lifts. For example, for my midweek max effort press day my routine may look like this:
-Typically start on the ground and roll around and move various joints and make sure I am breathing properly, my diaphragm is pulling in air well and my pelvic floor is engaged and ready for a training bout. All the while I am taking notes on the rest of my body as I move things around.
-From there I will work a few shoulder and scapular controlled articular ranges of motion (CARs) to see what isn’t feeling great and mobilize and better that specific spot. I do this for all joints or sticky spots. For this training day, I know that my left shoulder in external rotation is not as strong as the right, has some pain at times, and doesn’t allow me to bent press the same as the right. It is a mental game to try and figure this out so that I can perform one of my favorite skills with a bell or weight.
-Having said that, I will then work external rotation isometrics, sleeper stretch, and back it up with progressive and regressive angular isometric loads (PAILs n RAILs)
– I will move on to see if I have the proper prerequisites for the lifts I plan on doing. Some of which for the bent press day would entail spinal rotation, scapular and shoulder stability, ability to get into the loaded hip.
– I then know I don’t have the proper stuff for a “legit” bent press, so I regress it a bit to a heavy windmill for a single repetition as I would for a heavy bent press.
– I continue to train a couple more specific heavy skills and lifts before focusing on a ton of accessory work to reinforce what I aim to accomplish with the heavy stuff. This is where I would do a ton of “naked” bent presses to groove the pain free bent press with no weights.
– After I train I like to take some time at the end to sit alone and calm my nervous system down. I’ll do more breathing, do some FRC and PRI positions, again it totally varies.
– Last but not least, I eat!!!  — Brian Fox


I have pretty much gotten to a stage in my training that I let my body dictate what I want to do that day. My beginning would always be done in the morning so I will have a general idea of how I feel by the time I get to the gym. Generally in my own practice I am very conservative with my energy, I prefer to challenge complexity over weight these days, rather than loading up on heavy squats I would rather change the tempo of the squats or add pauses at certain points and I ALWAYS make sure to combine squats with a lunge or deep split squat variation to keep my knees and hips happy. As for the start of my session I will generally have a few tests like a deep lunge stretch and toe touch, overhead reach and I’ll test my neck and how it’s moving, if they all feel good I’ll do what I want to do but if not I’ll generally spend more time working on rotational based exercises.
Why I try to be conservative when training by myself is because I am surrounded by very motivated people that like to workout HARD and lift heavy, I enjoy joining in quite often and can sometimes find myself overtraining quite a bit. I’m sure anyone that knows how their body reacts to certain mobility work and can take DOM’s away quite easily is very aware it’s easy to forget yourself and find that you are just constantly training hard and taking the symptoms away… not too good for the nervous system.
Balance, coordination and symmetry are my favourite things to work on at the moment, anyone that’s following me recently will notice almost everything I am doing is me standing on one leg, the automatic core response and constant rebalancing is just a feeling that I love while pressing, and of course being me, I have to see how heavy I can take this…. within safe boundaries of course.
As an example here was the start of one of my sessions, I was trying to get better at juggling so I decided to try it on one leg to make it harder (to make it easier) and just from playing around I eventually started taking myself through standing hip CAR’s and paused at certain points trying to maintain the tension and then try juggling, I have never been so “switched on” in my life!! It was awesome!

I am also quite found of making people smile, so generally I will try to finish my sessions with making a video of something amusing that lasts thirty seconds that will make 10 people probably roll their eyes and laugh, doing pistol squats on a tire holding two sledgehammers, or handstand walking through the town, little silly things that are actually quite challenging!

What I have found motivation wise is that even on days when I don’t feel like doing things, the amusement that I get from doing a funny video generally gets me moving, and I’ll usually do it anyway and then find I train afterwards!
My training goals are literally based on things I find interesting or fun! nothing is off limits, if I want to learn how to dance or join a circus I will! There is no “being ready” for me, waiting to do something or trying to prepare for it is a waste of time! (As long as you have the mobility for it.)
So yeah! Start of session is to see how the body feels, middle is to work on movement and test training theories for my athletes and finish is to do a silly video that maybe inspires someone to not take themselves so seriously and enjoy moving! Everything else I do is based on spontaneity! “Wanna workout??” Emmmmm YEP!  — Tom Morrison


I usually like to start my a training session with one (or more) of 4 things:
1) Controlled Articular Rotations from FRC as an assessment of what my joints are looking for in that moment. One framework I like to use is a simple 1-3 star rating system: ** is average, *** tends to be an indicator that I might respond well to a challenge, whereas * is a request for care of some kind. If I can turn a 1 into a 2, great. If not, I’ll typically be a little more cautious around that joint while training.
2) Sensory Warmup, learned and adapted from Z Health. Making sure I’m giving my nervous system good inputs before expecting particular outputs. This essentially looks like a really weak self massage, and feels a whole lot better than it looks!
3) Improvisation of some kind, usually with music. Sometimes this looks like dance, sometimes playing with a ball, juggling 3 clubs…etc. Sometimes people remark that it looks nice or impressive, sometimes I get weird looks. Interestingly, any reactions I get will play just as big a role in preparing me for my training–for better and for worse.
4) Lying on the floor. When I want to train, but have low energy and/or motivation, I typically start lying on my back. This helps me get in touch with how I’m feeling in a low-stress environment, and I usually find myself getting up and building momentum. Sometimes I don’t, and that’s okay too.
I don’t have a consistent finish to a session, because it depends so dramatically on what I was training and what I’m going to do next. My next activity could be coaching, looking at a computer, eating, walking in frigid weather, biking, driving…I try to leave myself as open as possible to what feels right to make that transition.  — Jeremy Fein


That is a very good question, since I do not follow any specific strength or mobility plan.  Beginnings, endings, assessments and the like. I guess it would be best to give some examples, starting with Monday. Let us say my training has been a mixture out of primal movements on the floor, primarily targeting the frontal, side and back chain, and some moves a la Calisthenics on the monkey bar, primarily focusing on pull ups and chin ups in all kind of variations interspersed with hanging work. Mostly I do some lunge jumps for the warm up and some deep squat hold for the cool down. I end this training by feeling into the different muscle groups, if they are satisfied or if they need some more. If they need more I increase the intensity of the exercises, integrating some very slow moves with static holds and then I am done. Next day, Tuesday, I could go to the gym and do 5 sets each of back squats and deadlifts, after I did some warm up a la primal movement and mobility drills. I end this training with a mixture out of several Feldenkrais group lessons to target lightness in the entire body. Since I probably went heavy on the lifts I give myself a break between 3 and 5 days to start over a new heavy lifts day. Wednesday could be some running on the meadow, one leg balancing with closed eyes, backwards running, sidewards running, up the hills etc., depending whatever is available (forest, many trees, a river with a tree trunk hanging over it). Thursday I am home listening to some music (Electronic, R&B, Folk, Indie) and improvise through movement, focusing on lightness and rhythm. I end this day with some gentle Yoga bends and twists and the deep squat hold. That is basically it. I go with the flow, with the feeling, have some idea in the back of my head, considering my weak spots and my strong spots. Mostly I am focusing a certain part of the training on improving the weak spots and observing training to training what has worked. What was beneficial, I keep and the rest I reorganize to get better results based on my subjective judgement. I do not normally go with general assessments in Crossfit or Functional Training or Yoga, but I am aware of theses assessments, so I keep them in the back of my mind. That was a very small intro into how I mostly organize my training.  — Christian Rabhansl


Beginning sessions have become for me necessarily unplanned, but then again just about everything I do is unplanned, so there’s that. I might close my eyes and figure out what part of my body wants to move first, or just begin moving and letting things flow. Beginnings are for making sure it’s an equal playing field, that nobody is pushing anybody around and that the mind and body are operating as the same team. Depending on the energy type I’m feeling that could be slow and subtle or sprinting while stomping hard into the floor. Whatever balancing acts need to take place between me and the universe.
I’ve filmed and taught so many one hour classes that I think I’m conditioned to internally know when we’ve hit that number, but also that I get a sense of when the energy has run out. This only works when I set out to really train myself, otherwise I’ll get distracted and pick up my phone or something, often but not always to share an idea that came up as I played around.
I often sit still for five minutes at the end. — Sam Faulhaber


It depends on how much sleep/rest I’ve had, what I’m working on at the moment, and if I am in a familiar or unfamiliar space.  If I am in a new space, studio, or gym, I usually take a moment to ‘stake’ out a warm up space for myself. I walk around the area, take in the space, check out the vibe, and keep a look out for a quiet corner or a friendly face. I try to really center into the space and use it as part of my inspiration for the day’s training. After that, I take about 5-10 minutes to set an intention and check in with my body. Sometimes it’s a stillness practice, sometimes it’s a slow solo dance, and sometimes it’s going through rehab drills. I try to listen to my body a lot; sometimes I take a lot quicker to get ready because my brain is already thinking of a problem it wants to solve and by the time I get to the studio, I have accumulated ideas and inspirations. Sometimes, it’s a ‘dry’ day and I fall back into a set routine of drills, improvisation scores, and movement tasks I love, using that to ‘seduce’ my body into movement. Once I’ve worked up a little sweat and cleared my mind, I look at my notes or a playlist I’ve been wanting to listen to.
My training sessions last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours and I try as much as possible to keep moving and not fall into inertia. Especially when you have training partners, it’s easy to turn a training session into a gossip fest so I use timers and minimize conversation until at least 45 minutes into the session. I know I’m done with training when my brain starts to feel fatigued and I’m taking a little longer to react to my partner or move in the space. Physical fatigue doesn’t usually settle in until later. If I am alone, I usually end my personal training sessions with some breathing drills and a short stillness practice as well. If I am with someone else, we do a short cool down together and a recap of what we trained/experimented with that day.
I love practising with others more than solo practice. Music can be a big inspiration for me but I also really enjoy silent practice!  — Steph Lee


Whoa ! good question. I actually don’t know ??? Boredom, excitment, listening to my body. It is constantly changing. Right now I’m struggling about even having a practice. But it’s not the 1st time it’s happened so I know it’s also about staying here, letting things fluctuates and being confident that it’ll come back again. Pushing myself a bit. Creating inner space.  — Nadia Genois


My starts always seem to begin with some kind os shifting/ wiggling/ rolling on the floor.  It is a constant I am familiar with, and it helps me determine what is tight or weak or disconnected.  More often than not, I am finished when my brain gets fatigued;  when I can’t focus or find anymore.  Though I am embarking on more traditional ‘work’ (increasing volume and intensity) as of late, it still feels like my body has much deeper reserves available.  –Chris Ruffolo


 I don’t really have bookends. I almost always start with hanging. There I close my eyes and feel my body and then follow what my intuition says needs to be done to improve my movement or address any recent unpleasantness from travel or a previous workout.  I understand the definition of “new” a few different ways:
  • Macro
    • I start a “new” training program when I have gathered enough information of my previous experimental program or achieved the results I have wanted in a reasonable amount of time. If I haven’t achieved the results I want, I will reflect on why there was no adaptation and what I could do differently.
    • I also might just get bored of what I’m doing and try something different.
    • I may have read something that I want to try.
  • Micro
    • I’m ready to start each individual training session based off of how I feel and how much time I have. If I have very little time I will go straight into it. My “warm ups” are extremely small or non-existent.
    • I have had enough when I have run out of time, or I feel that my quality of movement has deteriorated, hopefully signifying that I have created enough stress for adaptation to take place.  — Austin Einhorn


I don’t have a fixed, go-to warmup routine.  Lately, hanging is the first thing.  Just a dead hang for a start, then I mobilize neck, scapulae, spine, hips, knees, and feet, still hanging and very gently.  Around 1-2 minutes.  I like that because it feels good and it’s a way to check how I’m feeling that day and also decompress the spine.  Then, some floor spirals and more mobilization for the lower body and hips, now loaded (bodyweight) in a sort of deep squat routine.  I usually finish off with some whole body shaking (5-10 minutes) followed by standing or lying still for 5-10 minutes more.
My sessions frequently take a different path to what I had planned, meaning that I don’t get attached to what I programmed to work on for a particular day.  As I explore and play a lot, and this is a spontaneous and creative process, oftentimes I end up spending a crazy amount of time on that, leaving no time for the other stuff.  Sometimes it starts as an active recovery between sets and I never get back to what I was doing.  But that’s OK too, I mean, if that’s what my mind and body want to do it’s all good with me.  There’s no rush, all those handstands, backbends, and muscle ups can wait; it’s about giving yourself permission to enjoy the process.  — Miguel Viero


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