Active Recovery and me!
I first learned about Active Recovery last year from two converging sources. Working with a coach at the time (Shoutout Misbah Haque!) who’d been helping me rehab my back and training me to get in shape despite the injury that had me perplexed for years.
The other source was through the Flow Genome Project’s 2019 Coaching Certification Program (learn more about the intro to Active Recovery here).
Through training with Misbah of Revival Strength, I learned how to push myself in safe, scale-able ways. He was able to teach me about the importance of rest and recovery and I fully trusted him to incorporate it into my weeks. Misbah also introduced me to the concept of Deloading. Teaching me that every 7-8 weeks I would get a full DELOAD week to rest, digest, and decompress after working through a hard training phase.
Adding a DELOAD into my strength training cycles was a new and welcomed concept for me. Honestly even as a trainer, I’d just never taken rest that seriously. To me, previously, rest days looked like a Sunday full of snacks, sweats, watching Netflix and “resting” on the couch then back at it Monday.
Even though I knew better, there was an anxiety underneath all the work I was putting in. “I can’t stop, I’ll lose my gains,” and “I might get heavy again.” Valid fears, considering where I came from, however not updated into the present moment of all the resources, faculties, and support I had around me to continue living a healthy lifestyle.
It could also be said that it was almost like the unconscious was driving me. Even though I was doing all the right things. Eating well, working out, taking care of myself, being morally and financially responsible… The impulse on the gas pedal to GO was fear.
This didn’t last long. I collapsed under the pressure. Trying to outrun our anxieties only lasts as far as we can “GO” without filling up. With that said, grief also played a vital role in the mix. Kind of bursting my bubble open with more emotions, more perspectives on life, and more realities to really attend to.
I needed to find a way to incorporate all of these feelings, perspectives and realities in a way that functionally worked for me and my lifestyle.
What I learned was how to incorporate my workout program in a way that pushed the needle of progress forward, but didn’t diminish my day to day happenings, interactions and relationships. AKA, using a Sunday to go on an adventure, go hiking, spend time with friends because I am Not too tired, and I am invigorated and vibrant.
The second source that I learned about Active Recovery through was the Flow Genome Project’s Flow Fundamentalsprogram.
In the cycle of Flow we are primed to understand that the steps are:
1) Struggle 2) Release 3) Flow 4) Recover.
Ahhh, there it is again.
So, you’re telling me that in order to produce more Flow, Peak Experiences and authentic connections in my life that I need to actually R E C O V E R ?
What a paradox! To do more, do less. Huh. O.k., I understand this logically, but how do I really incorporate this in my day to day E M B O D I M E N T?
In 2019 I underwent the process of becoming a Peak Performance Coach with the Flow Genome Project’s inaugural coaching program. Throughout the coaching certification, many themes were bridged along the weeks.
What story are you telling yourself?
Have you digested your grief?
Are you practicing resurrection?
Are you moving towards the first mountain or second mountain?
Where can you help/teach/coach others and still maintain your own balance?
Have you fully integrated?
All the questions that really start weaving their way into the root of who you are, what you’re doing, and the beliefs you hold in your system (not just the things you say you believe). We’re talking action and embodiment here and how your nervous system really and truly responds to life and situations.
I realized throughout the course, that I was running off of some old mental frameworks. “Need to save people” being a prevalent one. Fully feeling as though I was giving through my own story and triumph of weight loss and strength training and that somehow I could impart this inspiration to and for others.
Which I did and still do. But again even through this, I was still running away from a lot of anxieties and not tending to those old sore spots. I was pushing through, making things happen, and showing up but not showing up with full capacity because I was not recovering.
After reading The Power of TED: The Empowerment Dynamic by David Emerald I came to understand that I was a pure and true Rescuer in all facets of my life.
No wonder I feel tired all the time, I thought. Yes. I too was, have been, and still sometimes find myself on the burnout train.
In order to hold and really embody all the complex ideas and movements that were coming my way it was paramount that I started incorporating and getting really serious about an Active Recovery program.
For me, this started with a 4-week N=1 (n is you, for the experiment and your own findings) research project where increasing Active Recovery in my life in a consistent way became the focus. For the experiment, I chose to commit myself to getting weekly 90-minute massages… to slow down, unwind, take care of me and my body in soft, gentle ways. Um ya, not a bad experiment to conduct!
At first, it felt weird to not have a demanding schedule on Tuesdays, massage day. The thoughts came rolling in, I should be working out, I’m gonna mess with my gains, and the dreaded old I’m gonna get heavy… Whoopsies. Old narrative loops coming through!
Breathe… It’ll be ok. Enjoy the relaxation. This is part of the process. I’d reconfirm with myself. Funny how slowing down and really taking care of ourselves can bring an onset of anxiety. Quite odd really. I suppose that’s just a natural reaction to a change of pace.
Which is what Active Recovery actually does. It changes your pace. Your pace for the race, of…. What are we racing for again? Success? Accomplishment? Notoriety? Proof that we can make it? Survival? … The end of that sentence will be determined by your motivations. The conscious and unconscious ones.
Which brings us to the concept of Extrinsic motivation and Intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic means all the external things that move you towards them. Intrinsic means internal motivators. The things that move you and fuel you internally. Now, this might be a private conversation, so bare with me.
A great example here of extrinsic motivations would be a bigger paycheck, status, a bigger house. Kind of just like bigger and more.
Intrinsic motivators might look like you being better than you were the day before, love, commitment, dedication, loyalty, legacy, etc.
It’s a nice check in with yourself to see where your motivations lay, and sometimes just a subtle shift in this area can create resounding impact on the ease of Active Recovery in your life. If you shift from extrinsic motivation, to intrinsic motivation, you might actually not even need so much Active Recovery in your life. For intrinsic motivators have been proven to create deep internal fulfillment in the ways that an extrinsic one may not.
So, back to the study. Four weeks, 90-minute massages, ahhh. At first I’ll be honest, it was a little tedious to adjust my schedule, but knowing that the adjustments were for rest and relaxation in a productive way fueled an inner movement, there was a spark of intrinsic motivation perhaps.
Once I started getting into the groove of the weekly massages, instead of letting my “To Do” list propel me, it felt like a shift happened where the Active Recovery started ‘holding’ me through my weeks. I wasn’t just trying to make it to Tuesday when I could get another massage to relieve all the stress of the week, I felt relaxed continually after the fact and knew that I’d get to feel renewed in the holding again.
The generation of this feeling allowed me to then relax into my daily roles in life. Also getting to have deeper and more meaningful conversations, sometimes just presence with my partner, family, clients and even strangers on the street.
Now, that’s not to say that it was all easy going. I don’t want to mislead anyone here. Throughout the time of this experiment there were also some challenges for me as any transformational coaching or shifting provides.
As I learned how to slow down and relax more within myself, within my life, and within what I previously thought had been important I also felt an eek of trepidation occur. My sense on the feeling is that I just finally became still enough to notice, unearth and feel things that I’d been possibly ignoring or not fully facing. Old griefs and new shaking off of my body in waves.
For me, this felt quite unnerving. It was new territory in a way that I was not expecting. But I also reached out to every single one of my lines of support in a way that I’d never done before. So through the ‘new layer of grief’ we can call it, I also felt held, supported, seen, heard, and definitely not alone.
What more can we ask for?
Similarly I noticed people around me having their own challenging moments which I was then able to show up fully for, be present to, and witness as a supporter. Not block, leave them alone with, or try to run away from, or shutdown from as I previously would react in the past.
Honestly, looking back now, it was all quite profound.
My best guess, from a purely subjective, personal, non-researcher view is that old layers of the nervous system were being shaken off and released in these moments. Therefore providing new openings, new breakthroughs, new ways of being, and a wider stance of resiliency amidst Life.
Throughout the Flow Genome Project’s Coaching certification course it is very apparent that one of the main goals is to become anti-fragile. Meaning to me, being able to raise and expand your resiliency amidst any situation. Being able to adapt and be present amidst the unknowns. A willingness to show up, be held and simultaneously hold the truth of the moment, whatever that may be.
All deep things perhaps. Doing the interior discoveries and growth work. Which seems like a simultaneous dig/search and expansion all at the same time and coming to find that really, even though it sounds so simple, our Presence to and in the moment is what we are in search of, for connection, for healing, for community, for all the things we think we need. For all the things that hold us back. Our breath, continuing, throughout every single part of the process. Layers unfolding, amidst all the holding, we come to know ourselves in the other, and see we are not alone. We are together, in this, all of us.
*Disclaimer: If you happen to find yourself in a zone of grief, anxiety or overwhelm in your life please reach out to your lines of support. This article is not intended to be the support, only to encourage and reflect on what the process of living fully alive and dancing with life might look like. Considering our different backgrounds, lifestyles, and ways of handling stress everyone’s experience will be different. But at the end of the day, support is support. Building your support system, like a team or crew around you will be key.
Here are some resources to reach out to if you find yourself feeling alone, anxious, confused or overwhelmed.