The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Writing, Drinking, and Working Out

I have enthusiasms in life, and fitness/health is one of them. I also like saving time. The "Golden Hour" concept is one I come back to repeatedly. For various time-crunch reasons (busy!) I wanted to see what I could accomplish in 30 minutes, plus the "Five Minute Miracle" protocol of short skill breaks during the day.

Hmmm. Fitness-wise, I love the CST/Sonnon protocols. Scott's idea of a performance pyramid beginning with health, followed by fitness, followed by skill (and then possibly competition) is a good one: start with the basics first.

And what are the basics of health? Well, skeletal flexibility provided by joint integrity is probably the single most important pure health thing that a focused exercise routine offers. Basic aerobic fitness can be acquired by a sufficiently active lifestyle, or a half hour of walking in the park every day. But then you really do have to start planning.

I'd say:

1) Joint integrity? Flexibility

2) Basic Aerobic fitness

3) Skeletal muscle strength--upper and lower, pushing and pulling.

4) Burst Anaerobic fitness (useful in emergencies and sports performance)

Are the first fitness components that come to mind. I recently came across an expression of Scott's work that allows me to create a dynamite 30 minute fitness program in a way I couldn't just two weeks ago. Here's the story.

Scott's "FlowFit" system is a re-tooling of the incredible "Five Tibetans". Scott analyzed it from the perspective of Russian fitness rules, and combined that with the "Shadow Yoga" approach that says that there are only six basic movements the human body is capable of, so that any exercise program must, as a minimum, flex and twist your body to fit them. Basically, they are: Back and forth, side to side, and twisting left and right.

Scott calls these the "Six Degrees of Freedom" that you have to work to have full access to your birthright of easy, spontaneous, powerful movement. "FlowFit" is six exercises performed in rotation, with three performance levels to each of them. It takes about 60 seconds to do all six, and you perform approximately 15 sets...or fifteen minutes.

This allows you to take your body through the Neuro Immuno Endocrine barrier, or "Second Wind". There is a cascade of incredibly powerful effects to be found in this. Crossing this barrier while simultaneously moving through the Six Degrees of Freedom is the kind of physical movement usually only available to experts: experienced dancers, master martial artists, etc. The reason is that as you become fatigued, your coordination drops. So the movements can't be too complicated, or you can't come close to maxing out your aerobic systems.

Hmmm. Scott added something else, the "Breath, Movement, Structure" idea that any physical technique or exercise is created by a balance between breath, muscle tension, and skeletal alignment, and that you should be governed by three basic numbers, each of which is compared to a scale of 10.

Pain should never go above a "3" in exercise, 10 being the worst pain you've ever experienced.

Technique should be an "8" or above. Never let your form deteriorate for the sake of intensity.

If the first two conditions are met, you can take your subjective exertion above a "6", with a "10" being the kind of all-out exertion that can only be sustained a few seconds.

If you follow those rules, you can turn any exercise into an "inner" discipline, where you are paying attention to your internal cues rather than counting reps or plates or distances. Very nice stuff.

FlowFit 2, a more recent iteration, is my favorite. Called "Ground Engagement" it is extracted from grappling exercises, and examines six or seven different ways of falling to the ground. Jesus God...anyone who could do 10 reps in 10 minutes is in simply terrific shape no matter how you slice it.

(There is a flaw in terms of overall fitness--no pulling. No brachiating movement. The same is true of yoga, and I suspect Scott will come up with a version using a rope or a portable "jungle gym" type system to add pulling.) It's hard to work pulling without equipment, and I think Scott wanted to create something that needs non. An "A", even though my comment about the "Flaw" remains.)

But I recently was looking into the second level of "Prasara" (a more Yogic version of the FlowFit idea, and in my opinion the most sophisticated thing Scott has done, providing a link between athleticism and yoga that really hasn't existed in the West.) and went to the web site of Ryan Hurst, of CSTJapan, who was authorized by Rmax to create a "B" series to complement Scott's work. And while I was wondering if I should buy it, I saw a listing for his "Get Lean 6DOF" (Get Lean Six Degrees of Freedom) Program, an exercise regimen he put together for his clients in Japan. Available as a dirt-cheap download:

It looked interesting. Always looking around for greater efficiency, and it seemed that the actual work-out was only 13 minutes of work. Now, there is also warm-up and cool-down yoga included, which takes it up to 25 minutes or so. But I don't need that stuff: I wanted to see what he was up to.

I downloaded, learned the six exercises and their three levels. He is using a MetCon protocol: metabolic conditioning, or as he put it to me, "Tabata on Steroids." You perform each exercise for one minute, followed by a thirty second rest. Then each exercise for forty seconds, followed by thirty seconds rest. And then each exercise all-out for 20 seconds. Followed by collapsing into a pool of sweat.

Oh, it's not really that bad, but Ryan has done a VERY smart job of combining exercises so that almost anyone can do the lower level, while the higher level...dear God. More, I felt an over-all body burn that was a LOT like what I feel after a driving martial arts class. It works upper and lower, all joints, basic strength and flexibility, high levels of muscular endurance and I'm guessing some damned fine cardio. Coordination yes: but not as much as FlowFit, which allows you to push yourself harder for the general fitness benefit. And because you are using so much skeletal muscle, you can fry your entire system without as much perceived exertion. The sequencing of the MetCon rules mean that your fat-burning metabolism should be jacked through the ceiling.

No pulling, though. I'm getting a "Jungle Gym" portable gymnastic rings kit and will play with that.

In the meantime, here is something that

1) Is dirt cheap

2) Requires no equipment. Well...maybe a clock.

3) Works the "whole" body.

4) Hits every major fitness element

5) Requires little time

6) Requires little space

7) Is scalable to many if not most fitness levels

8) Is adjustable from day to day, and moment to moment--no two workouts need ever be exactly the same

9) Is pretty easy to use (I suggest writing out the six movements on a sign and sticking it to the wall.)

10) Can be downloaded RIGHT NOW if you're an impulse buyer like I am.

11) Seems almost custom-made for serious fat loss

12) If approached properly, could actually be a road to high-level fitness.

13) Won't make you sore--stretching is built-in.

I don't want to rave too much, because the truth is I've only done it three times. But I'm integrating it into my morning program. Because with this, I get the following in 30 minutes:

1) Play a 30-minute Teaching Company course

2) Start with Joint Rotations (Intu-Flow or Warrior Wellness) About Five minutes

3) Ab work. Five Minutes

4) Turkish Get-ups. Five minutes continuous.

5) Djurus. (This is skill, not fitness. Sue me.) About five minutes

6) FlowFit or "Get Lean 6DOF"

(The above program is three days a week: say, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I just do Yoga for 30 minutes. Listening to a 30-minute Teaching Company course. Yeah, I know that I shouldn't really split my concentration like that. Again, sue me. I'm a grown-assed man, and I say that you can get away with it)

Anyway, I can't think of the aspect of fitness I'm not hitting in this program. If anyone can think of one, please point it out. And I'd love for some of the more adventurous of you to shell out ten whole bucks and give Ryan Hurst's Get Lean 6DOF program. It has some of the most current exercise physiology built in, and trust me: if you're still going on data you learned back in High School, you may be thirty years out of date. This is interesting stuff. I'm taking it on the road tomorrow.


Oh! And I'll be in San Francisco Saturday, reading at the "Writers with Drinks" event:

At The Make-Out Room 3225 22nd. St., San Francisco CA, from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open at 7 PM. I think the cover charge is about five bucks.

Love to see some of you there!


AF1 said...

Warrior Wellness/Intu Flow are great, but they take up a bit more time than I feel like giving some days.

Have you managed to condense them into a shorter routine that still hits all the bases? (since I notice that you do joint mobility work for about 5 minutes?)

If so I'd love to hear how yo go about it.

Daniel Keys Moran said...


email me, would you?

Scott Sonnon said...

Steve, excellent review, thanks.

The "flaw" of no pulling is addressed by one of the other 3 rings of Circular Strength Training: Clubbell Swinging. Swinging is tractional rather than compressive force (like lifting weights), and as a result, is a constant state of "pulling". This is why club swinging was integral to old-style yoga, before the yang elements were severed away by yin-centric Westernization.

Sasha White said...

Hello Steven,
I was looking for a contact button on your blog and website, but couldn't find one. I was hoping, to email with you about a private matter. Hopefully one you'd like. If possible, could you email me please?

Steven Barnes said...

AF1: I do my WW joint work in about 5 minutes. As long as I have other mobility work filigree'd in, I'm fine.
Scott is very right about the pulling movements. The reference was to a limitation of yoga. And since I consider yoga to be the most advanced movement system available to the general public, that's just kind of a shrugging sigh. Ah well, nothing's perfect...

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