Guest post: Harm reduction and the community herbalist

FullSizeRender.jpgFullSizeRender.jpg

INTRO–Hi, readers! welcome to the first ever FWF guest post.-Traci

Harm Reduction and Herbalism

By Rippy, herbalist and owner of Riptide Herbs

*This is based on my experiences in the field. I would like to state that there are many methods and principles out there that work for folks; these are some that have resonated with me as a community herbalist*

 

The Principles of Harm Reduction are most often applied to folks who misuse substances.  However, these principles can also be applied to interfacing with folks in general. What brought me to this topic has been my own work with active drug users and folks who have misused drugs in the past.  Illicit drug use is commonly associated with drugs like heroin, meth and crack, but it’s important for us to think about drug misuse happening with prescription and non-prescription drugs as well. I think this is an important caveat as with the recent opioid epidemic and health crisis in New England (and other areas)– often times the misuse has started with prescription drugs. If you want to read more about this please check resources listed below.

 

The Principles of Harm Reduction as distilled from The Harm Reduction Coaltion.org

http://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/

 

“A set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences…Harm Reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies…to meet [folks]“where they’re at”. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies are designed to reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.”

SO FUCK YEAH TAILOR IT, MAKE IT YOUR OWN AND APPLY IT!!

The Harm Reduction Coalition has come up with these evolving principles:

Work to minimize harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them

  • Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being-as the criteria for successful interventions
  • Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people
  • Ensures that folks have a real voice in the creation of programs (protocols) designed to serve them
  • Affirms folks themselves as the primary agents, Seeks to empower folks to share information and support each other
  • Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other inequalities effect both people’s vulnerabilities to and capacity for effectively dealing with their health

 

How can these principles be applied to Herbalism?

 

  • Let us broaden our scopes, suggest that any momentum, movement, is good and implement a client-focused model.
  • Let us adhere to the notion that folks coming to us are knowledgeable about their bodies.
  • I often hear conversations about accessibility, especially when applied to the sliding scale model. Instead, I want to hear conversations about approachability. Let us ask ourselves, how do we as herbalists make herbs “approachable?”

 

My thinking is that most folks do not want to hear everything they have to cut out of their life; everything they have to give up and stop doing. Often I hear the rhetoric of “no alcohol, no sugar, no coffee, no grains, no wheat, no fun? Let us NOT draw a hard line. The first step to bridge the gap, rather, should be how to use food as medicine, and how to integrate herbs (especially with no contraindications) into a person’s CURRENT lifestyle.

 

I want to encourage herbalists to meet folks “where they’re at” while remaining aware of their own internal biases and dialogue and applying the principle of cultural humility. Cultural humility is the idea that one’s cultural lens and perspective is not superior to another’s, just different.  Cultural humility allows us to approach cross-cultural situations with a humble attitude and to have an openness to the reality of others.  Cultural humility is sometimes referred to as cultural competency. However, ‘competency’ has weight and gravity; that we are finished; that we have learned. It’s never learned as in complete/competent—it’s a lifelong learning process (Tervalon, Murray-Garcia, p 118).

 

A part of this process has been learning from the folks I interface with daily, in a polluted city, with limited resources. I work with folks who are living on the street, not sleeping, not eating, living with co-occurring infections, misusing substances and facing limited resources and socio economic barriers that include classism, racism, sexism etc.

 

Question: When folks are going through active withdrawal from opiates, will they listen to your opinion on what they should do and what they shouldn’t do? Will they listen to you if you tell them how to live their life?  Hell no!  Folks are attempting to manage their life in the best way they know how.

 

Instead, harm reduction can come in many forms. It can come in the form of a cup of tea, a sweetened cold brew, ramen noodles with some freeze dried shitake mushrooms, creams to help with track mark scars, ginger chew candies to help with nausea.  It’s important to offer options, a smorgasbord, and encourage folks to try different options and experiment.  Ultimately, it will be their choice to take it or leave it and I encourage folks to do so and experiment. I encourage herbalists to think about these principles and ideas and experiment with integrating it into their own practice.

 

Below is a list of resources that I have found helpful and inspiring:

 

  • The Harm Reduction webpage including the Guide to Getting off Right and Harm Reduction Newsletters specifically Witch’s Brew articles that feature herbal remedies
  • Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
  • Chasing Heroin, Frontline Documentary, PBS
  • Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education by Tervalon, M, & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9, 117-125.
  • Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa, Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating by Stephen Bratman
  • Donna Odierna, herbalists, MPH, Harm Reduction, Herbalism and Needle Exchange
  • Motivational Interviewing, read about it, go to trainings

 

Questions or comments? Please contact Rippy at: emkmoulton@riseup.net

Book Review: Deskbound

IMG_0425

I just got my copy of the brand new book Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett, with  Juliet Starrett and Glen Cordoza. Finally! Before I get into the book, I have to say, I am biased– I am already a fan of the Starretts–I like their giant quads, their cheerful, funny approach  and their seeming lack of douchiness.  And I already like the books Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run and Mobilitywod. To me, Kelly Starrett stands out amongst the many people talking about bodies in that he’s not waxed up, he seems to be respecting ladies, he and the others in his books and videos seem just like regular people. It’s like Yep, here’s a strong lady lifting stuff and it’s no big thing.  Here’s my kids,  here we are just running around. Refreshing.


OK, so Deskbound. It is about the sedentary life that is very common in our culture right now, why it matters, and what we can do about it. It is definitely about sitting, but, you know, it’s like 300-something pages, it offers a lot of information and solutions. Sitting is an issue that affects herbalists because 3 of the most common complaints we get are pain, digestive issues and “stress”/sleep issues. ALL of these issues may be helped by our changing the ways we move and live, so every time we hand out a product to fix something caused by a behavior, we are participating in, we are co-creating this cultural imbalance.

Yes, we are part of the problem, too.

So throughout the book, they are not afraid to say ” ____is a problem, here is why, move away from ___, here is how.” It is a format that actually makes sense, feels do-able and practical to me.

There are a lot of visuals, both photos and drawings, that help to make the concepts clear. The approach feels like systems thinking, where we identify and unravel underlying causes, make connections, which excites me. I’m seeing lots of focus on standing and walking, which might sound boring but IT’S NOT–basically, how can we do these better, and how  will that support our overall health.

And the concept of “environmental loads”–  everything from shoes to chairs– is one that may be useful in talking about what makes us unwell–often we hear, in the alternative health community, about fears of chemicals or radiation, GMOs or “toxins”, from people wearing heeled shoes, sitting all day who don’t lift heavy things. HEY! It’s not the “toxins” that are going to get you, people! Go for a walk!

I also appreciate that there isn’t a diet section. I’ve experienced reading a book about movement or health which suddenly shifts into what to eat, or some pseudoscientific or religious views, or both, and it’s an immediate buzzkill for me.

My only complaint about this book, and much of the media around sitting, heck all fitness, is that they seem to be speaking to “white collar” office workers first. My personal background, community and family are filled with factory workers, farmers , cleaners and carpenters. While this information definitely applies to nearly all types of workers, some interpretation will need to be done to make this feel super relevant to much of the working class.

So go get this book, and learn how to perform basic maintenance on your bod. Bring it to your own community, bring the concepts into your practice, your teaching, or your way of thinking. The next big shift in our culture is out of the chair, and this book shows us how and why.

Changing the way we move will eventually help to change the way we view our bodies–we don’t HAVE a body, we ARE a body, and this book is an owner’s manual.IMG_0933

 

 

Special Social Ops

IMG_2329

A modest proposal:

Have you ever gone to an herbalist conference? I have!

Have you ever felt lost and alone at an herbal conference? I sure have!

Have you ever wished someone would solve this problem?  I have–times 1,000.

I love events such as classes, conferences, herb swaps and community celebrations. But many times I have felt like a molecule in a sea of atoms, wandering around trying to figure out how people make friends. I have practiced and now I have the ability to randomly inflict myself on other people. But crap, it’s still hard sometimes.

I would love to help solve this problem for others!

I propose that organizers of events finagle a Special Social Operative to help bring people together and create the best possible space for events.

This person would ideally be a dialogue facilitator, an introducer, a bridger of gaps and a destroyer of social barriers. An emotional logistics coordinator who can take the social temperature of individuals as well as the group and distribute hugs, nervines and directions to the bathroom as needed.

This person (could be more than one person, actually)  could help create a space for blowing off steam in between classes, plan check-ins or movement breaks and help mediate misunderstandings.

They would ideally be armed with Very Clear Signs, a bunch of fun icebreaker-type games to help us reduce our social inhibitions and create connections and a big ol’ box of toys–for example, I have one of those big gym-class parachutes, some jump ropes, balls that bounce in all kinds of silly directions, art supplies  and some obstacle course props.

Planners may also consider adopting the system currently used at some Neurodiversity conferences where people who’d like to be approached display a green card, and those who want cheerful social coordinators to back the heck off display red.

We now generally abandon all of this to the commons, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever felt left out.

I think that by including a social operative in our event planning we can encourage some team-building and bonding, creating a more intimate event which feels even more fun than ever. It could also take some of the pressure off of organizers, who may have “actual business” to attend to.

I would love to help develop this role, putting my hard-won skills to use, and I look forward to conversations that can be created around making it happen.

IMG_3002

Book Review: Yoga–Fascia, Anatomy and Movement

Disclaimer: I have a love-hate relationship with Yoga. I am a big fan of moving around, and Asanas are one interesting way to do so. But I find some Yoga to be extreme. I love inner journeys, but I cringe at “Namaste”. And ultimately, I am turned off by the Yoga industry, by the strong association I find with positive thinking and by what I feel is the cultural appropriation and/or misunderstanding aspect of Yoga’s roots.

But Yoga is, at this moment in time in the West, many things and some of them are worth hanging onto, and I believe we can acknowledge these issues and move on.

So this is the personal context in which I was searching for a book to add to my movement-book-collection. I found that the majority of the Yoga books were either focused on looks, such as weight loss or the mysterious concept of “glowing”. Or had a spiritual angle, which I prefer to avoid.

I found Yoga-Fascia, Anatomy and Movement by Joanne Sarah Avison on Amazon. There were no reviews and only 1 copy available, and it was expensive compared to the other books I looked at, about 50.00. I’d never heard of the author, who according to her bio teaches in London, and it felt a little gamble-y to spend that much money on what I considered a longshot. But the foreword was written by Tom Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains which is a groundbreaking and intense tome so I went for it.

IMG_1022

The result: the book is a masterwork. It is written for an audience of Yoga teachers–and I like that because I believe that if you want to really get into a subject, try to read books written for teachers of that subject. It’s got a whole different tone compared to books written for the masses–it’s an assumption that you, too, are passionate about this subject. There’s no feeling that she has to sell the tickets, cause you’re already on this bus.

Fascia is a newish subject, and one that I haven’t seen a lot of books about yet. I’d love to see a short, snappy, funny and photo-rich Fascia book with easy infographics that appeals to a wide audience…maybe it can come with a tennis ball and a  mat…but until then, we have to accept the challenge of more advanced works.

There are a few moments where I feel like she knows her subject so well that I am not quite getting it, but I suspect that is more my fault for not actually being a Yoga teacher. I haven’t been able to sit down and read it cover-to-cover, I keep jumping around from chapter to chapter, getting up to try things, taking time to think her ideas through. The book is as dynamic as the subject, which says a lot about her depth of knowledge.

I particularly liked that there are drawings and photos but no photos of very well-dressed super-perfect glowy people doing Asana on their stand-up paddelboard.

I particularly liked the back third movement section, and found that more accessible for entry-level people than some of the (albeit super interesting) theory.

And I appreciate that there is NO diet advice. At all. I have noticed many otherwise great movement or exercise books, such as Barefoot Walking and Strong Curves have large  sections on the authors’ ideas about food. Eat more, eat less, eat raw vegan, eat Paleo, eat this not that. Listen, writers, if I want a food book I will get one. Thank you to those who deliver movement content without assuming I need a diet!

Ultimately, I believe this book is going to be like the Velvet Underground, in which it quietly changes the world, becomes a favorite of those who are teaching and writing about t he subject and inspires a million people to start a band.

I am going to go ahead and suggest that if you have any interest in Yoga, movement, fascia, bodies or theory around these subjects you seek it out immediately.

Towards a more multi-faceted view of injury-pain management.

not exactly, bro.
not exactly, bro.

Last weekend, A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys was talking about the band’s reunion show on NPR, and mentioned that they were icing their back and knees backstage after dancing, which gave me 2 different reasons to grit my teeth while listening to Morning Edition.

There is a lot of advice available via the internet which combines RICE-rest, ice, compression, elevation- with ibuprofen for assistance with pain from an injury or post-workout pain and muscle soreness. But RICE has been debunked.

I see icing suggested for nearly everything from Plantar Fascitis,  both chronic and acute pain, “heel pain”, back injury, too much running. Heck, my kid was given ice by the school nurse for an earache! (shudder.) This is not my personal strategy. I am most likely to use– and recommend– basic self-care strategies like active recovery, warm or hot soaks with Epsom salts and herbs, gentle massage,  lymphatic activation and herb-infused liniments or infused oils. In certain cases, rest.

And longer term,  I suggest working towards prevention of injury. Strengthening the fabulous glutes, addressing your  weaker areas over time, improving balance and proprioception, building protective muscle with weight-bearing exercise, releasing tension with bodywork and personal mindfulness practice, sleep, exploring movement and mobility every day, hydrating with both water and good fats, eating bone broth and gelatin and paying attention to your nutrition may all help the body to resist injury and recover more quickly.

(Just a quick note here, I am saying “help”. Accidents happen, and I am not alleging that  there is ONE answer. Always seek medical care in an emergency and take the advice of your doctor, not some lady on the internet.)

To me the strategy of RICE and NSaids for pain ignores the causes of pain, ignores the lymphatic system’s role in our health, ignores the existence of fascia and values short-term relief over long-term wellness, helping us to feel like we are “doing something” whether or not it actually supports healing. Rolling your foot on an icy bottle to fix Plantar fascitis seems to misunderstand  how the body works as well as what preventive care means.

Yes, there are times when a quick-fix is the right choice for an individual, and should remain available to those who need to git-r-done, for whatever reason. I don’t wanna judge your choices.  But ultimately, I believe that the tide  of opinion, as well as solid scientific fact,  is turning away from icing and immobilizing and towards active recovery, and though many establishment folks are resisting a deeper view of recovery it IS happening.

When the doctor who coined the term RICE has officially retracted his support for the method we may want to reconsider, hmmm?

What I am really asking you to do is just think it through. I believe much of our current attitudes towards health in general and pain management in particular do not come from places of deep wisdom, innovative testing or knowing what is truly the best but what is easy, available, marketed, affordable and culturally sanctioned. Many people do not want to ask WHY we do things and whether they are right. And sometimes  health care professionals (including herbalists!) don’t have the time or desire to stay up on the latest information, to question their own practices–or don’t have the time to spend with each patient to truly support them. Maybe we just need to get them fixed up quickly.

Not everyone believes in self-care or preventive care. We claim that we “don’t have time”. We don’t always want to notice that we are overdoing it, that we are relying on poor movement patterns to get something done faster or generating force now at the expense of our longer-term health. Or that we haven’t exercised in 20 years, and it’s catching up to us. And perhaps there are issues inherent in the structure of our culture that tell us we have to shut up and move that entire pile of bricks RIGHT NOW. Perhaps marketing and “fitspo” tell us that if it doesn’t hurt we haven’t done enough. And perhaps some  people are not willing to feel a bit of discomfort in the short term to benefit longer term health. It is possible that our culture fears discomfort and pain, misunderstanding that sometimes pain can be just a symptom or a signal which is suggesting that we address underlying causes, look at our movement mechanics and patterns and imbalances.

Ultimately, I suggest you decide for yourself what is best for yourself. Wellness isn’t always as easy as “just take something” or just slap an ice pack on it. Addressing underlying issues can be a pain in the ass, literally. Self-care can be work, it can be play if you let it, but it definitely requires more thought than swallowing a pill. And those shoes that are slowly destroying you look so cute! There is a side effect to self-care though…a feeling of self-empowerment; the knowledge that we have a certain responsibility to help support our own health. I’ve got a few links here for you to explore, and trust me you can find a LOT of links to represent the opposite side–though not much in the way of great scientific studies to support RICE or preventive ibuprofen before a workout. (ugh!)

So let’s think before we reach for ice, and certainly before we perpetuate the ice myth to others. Ice is on its way out, kicking and screaming perhaps, but better late than never.

People, We’ve Got to Stop Icing Injuries. We Were Wrong, Sooo Wrong | Community Video

http://www.mobilitywod.com/2013/07/community-video-peoples-weve-got-to-stop-icing-a-year-later/ (video)

http://www.tabatatimes.com/de-iced-end-cold-war/

http://www.tabatatimes.com/stillness-enemy/

http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

http://www.kennykane.com/gary-reinl/ (podcast)

http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_09_2013_Ice_Achauer2.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/ice-baths-strength-soreness_n_3795622.html

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/the-top-5-ways-fascia-matters-to-athletes

http://www.katysays.com/diseases-of-captivity/

http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2012/03/everybody-hurts-sometimes-relieving.html

http://www.liberatedbody.com/welcome/ (podcast)

http://www.therollmodel.com/

http://herbcraft.org/solseal.html

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/bodywork/performance-plate/Athletes-Guide-to-Bone-Broth-Soup.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/01/22/how-bone-broth-became-kobe-bryants-secret-stone-age-weapon/

http://bearmedicineherbals.com/a-general-guide-to-creating-an-effective-pain-liniment-or-salve.html
IMG_3343

10 Cheap or Free Self-Care Ideas to Stop Feeling Like Crap

I am working on a class called “How to stop feeling like crap” about sharing the joys of self-care and as a little taste, here are 10 ways to get started on that endeavor. These may be cheap/free and fairly straightforward, but I won’t say they are easy because an object at rest stays at rest, and you might have to expend some effort to get the flow moving again.
But what the hell, a little effort in exchange for a lifetime of less crappiness is probably worth it, my dears.
So here are a few suggestions, and as I continue on this project I’d love to hear how YOU support self-care. Please note that while I do believe self-care will help support us, both short-term and long, none of these will induce a magical state of pure positivity, and I’m not going for that anyway–life is partly dark and that is OK. Sometimes the darker moments should be explored. And, as with any random advice from a stranger, it does not replace medical care–please know that if you are truly suffering you can ask for help, maybe from a professional if needed.
IMG_1068
1. Get something off your chest. Secrets can be very heavy. Repression and festering anger or sadness can lead to a lifetime of simmering pain. You might not get a resolution when you express your feelings, but you definitely will not get a resolution from silence.

2.Take some Vitamin D! I love making my own Vitamin D but realistically speaking, it is -10 this morning and if I go outside nude I’ll quickly die. So I bolster myself with taking vitamin D, and I’ll be darned if I don’t feel less wintery doldrums. Don’t take my word for it though, there are tons of studies on D–and it is widely available.
http://www.examine.com/supplements/vitamin+D/

3. Go for a walk. Walking to me supports thinking and processing physically, mentally and emotionally. Walking is available to most people, (other movement options may replace it for those who can’t) and is the main piece of my meditation practice. I can’t say enough about walking-it’s weight-bearing, building bones, moving lymph and promoting circulation. But beyond the health benefits, it is a way of participating in the world.
http://www.katysays.com/caution-kids-not-walking/

4. Support your lymphatic system. I am delighted to hear about more people feeling the lymphatic love. I believe the lymphatic system is super important to overall health. It is a vital part of your immunity! When I am feeling a cold coming on, I don’t reach for a bottle of Echinacea-Goldenseal extract, I go for a walk! The lymphatic channels don’t have their own separate pump, we move the fluids by our own actions, or lack thereof. This can be supported in part by engaging in various types of movement, taking lymphatic herbs such as Cleavers, Calendula, Alder, Mullein, Ocotillo and gentle body massage-ideally all of these combined.
http://www.kahnacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/organ-systems/lymphatic-system/v/lymphatic-system-immunity

5. Enjoy an orgasm. It’s not a sin, you’re not dirty, you have the right to enjoy living in your body–and it can be a great way to release tension, move through pent-up emotions and sleep better now. I am not going to tell you how, but I can assure you that it can be looked up on the internet if needed.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/secrets-longetivy/201102/orgasms-health-and-longevity-does-sex-promote-health
Sorry that article is so heteronormative…
UPDATE: OK, another piece of advice, maybe don’t search the internet for links on masturbation.
6.Eat fat. Healthy fats, that is–don’t chug the fry oil at Taco Bell. Think grass-fed butter, Coconut oil, pastured animal fats, duck fat, Olive oil. Free-range eggs, cream, avocados. Fat helps us to absorb and use some of our vitamins better, lubes up the joints and plumps up our eyeballs. (unsubstantiated claim, but it’s funny) Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. It is satiating and delightful. Avoiding fat might make you cold, shriveled, bored of another skinless boneless chicken breast and squeaky-jointed.
http://www.chriskresser.com/have-some-butter-with-your-veggies

7. Find your nervine. Essentially, I believe in having a plant ally or two to call upon in times of duress. Try a few nervines, or speak with an herbalist familiar with nervine differentials who can help match you with the right simple or blend. Nervines help support our entire nervous system and restore function, help us manage stress and help us relax. My very very favorites are (tinctures) Milky Oats, Scullcap, Hawthorne, Blue Vervain and Passionflower-but don’t limit yourself to my list. I love many…Explore!
http://www.bearmedicineherbals.com/relax-already-selected-nervine-differentials.html

8. Hydrate. One of the cheapest fixes I can think of, after “Take a deep breath” perhaps, is to be sure you are drinking enough water. Please don’t ask me if it can be herbal tea or lemon water…if you can’t decide or yourself, dehydration is not your main problem.

9. Address your micro-biome. Ok, so you’re basically a big ball of bacteria. With a little fungi and virii thrown in. (It’s viruses, but who’s checking?) It seems like a lot is unknown about the micro-biome, but one thing is clear: it’s kinda important. So examining your usage of antibiotics, internally and externally plus supporting your biome with everything from hanging out near soil, snuggling farm animals, eating ferments, possibly using a probiotic–(though be wary of the current marketing of probiotic everything from nose to tail, ass to entrails) basically just let go of the idea that a bacteria free bubble is better or even possible. Cause it ain’t.

ww.fourhourworkweek.com/2015/01/10/microbiome/

10. Bodywork! Ok, this one may require a little cash outlay. I suggest seeing a massage therapist at least occasionally as well as doing some self-massage at home, trying a bumpy massage ball and/or muscle roller, exchanging basic massage with a partner and walking on varied surfaces, which stimulates different parts of your foot than walking on a treadmill.
http://www.westsidewell.com for great accessible massage therapy and affordable classes too.

And remember, the idea is not achieving some delusional state of perfect happiness but acquiring the support, connection and strength to move through the ups and downs of life. Neither judging others for their chosen self-care choices (or lack thereof) nor forcing walks and herbs on ourselves or others will solve much without the work of letting go, letting ourselves be good and bad, dark and light, happy and crappy and everything in between. There is a lot of greyscale in the human life and that is just fine. It’s not all about shine, glow and heart. Sometimes it’s about git-R-done. But if there are ways to feel the best you can without a huge outlay of cash or time, why not give it a try?

IMG_0440

Work! It! Out!

Runnin'
Runnin’

Recently I have been exploring fitness education for herbalists. I am a big advocate for movement and I do not currently see much movement-herbalism integration education, but it is my passion. I have lived my own personal journey from being scared of movement to being a huge advocate for and do-er of movement. I have put together a list of resources for those who wish to further their knowledge of the body, and I’ve decided to make it share-able–since, as I will repeat like 10 times–I really believe in this.
And I’d love for this to be the beginning of a bigger conversation. Tell me what resources you like, and why you do or don’t agree with me. Help me make this list more diverse. Let’s co-create the inclusive and inspiring and integrative movement culture of our dreams! Let’s build bridges across our divisions and go forward together!
So….I believe in movement. But first, my spiel:
I hear that herbs won’t “work” without diet and exercise and I think that is bull. It assumes that your diet is problematic and you’re not already exercising. And it assumes that the speaker knows what diet and what exercise is right. The fact is, sometimes herbs just work. You could be a lazy-ass, sitting around eating chips all day and maybe herbs just fix you up. Or you could be The Zumba Queen living on barley and carrot sticks and just drop dead. Wellness is complicated and none of us has figured this all out.
That said, I do believe that nourishment and movement support health in most cases. I do believe able-bodied people have the responsibility to maintain a certain level of fitness–not to avoid offending people with one’s poor aesthetics but to be of real service.
Who will help our elders safely cross streets, run into burning buildings and save kittens from trees if we all reject fitness? Don’t assume someone else is coming to save you.
It is often stated that fitness is a personal choice. But I believe that when we reject basic training we also reject service to our community and our own self-defense. There is value in being able to outrun anything, from an attacker to an alligator.
And if you actively reject your muscles in order to perform femininity you are part of the problem.
(I want to be very clear that I am talking about able-bodied, basically well people.)

Mr. and Mrs. Fitness America!
Mr. and Mrs. Fitness America!

I have a list of resources to share. It is hard to know where to look for good information. The world of fitness is very fraught with issues, from judgmental attitudes, manymanymany stupid useless products, sexual harassment, actively harmful advice, absurd weight-loss programs, dangerous drugs and supplements–it can be very overwhelming. This list is just a place to start. It is just a reflection of my personal journey. Take it or leave it, I hope it can be of use to you.
This list also speaks to the fact that fitness isn’t just going to a gym. It is very much about doing what you can with what you have. There are great resources for bodyweight-only fitness, outdoor fitness, flexible and functional fitness. I have a few resistance bands, a yoga mat, some kettlebells, a pair of minimalist shoes, a used Craigslist rowing machine and a great playlist. It is not all about the money or the gear.
And I also want to address a HUGE barrier to fitness: body shame. Self-loathing will get you nowhere. I was terrified to start fitness-ing. “What will people think?!?!?!” I look back on it now with a bit of humor, but believe me I am very sympathetic to those sitting at home reading this, thinking “I. CAN’T.”
1. Yes, you can.
2. How can I help?
OK, onwards and upwards. In no particular order:

-The women of Crossfit Dynamix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kksQV6al1k
I came across this video one day while searching for something else. I can now admit, I burst into tears the first time I saw it. Because it gives permission to seek strength. Because it speaks to my deep desire to be a part of something. Part of a team. I feel like sometimes we don’t know quite what is wrong. Something is off. That something is a culture of movement. A culture of support.
http://www.Crossfit.com and Crossfit Journal
I am going to be clear. I am NOT a Crossfit fanatic. I do not currently belong to a Crossfit. But a lot of my ideas about fitness and what I do come from Crossfitters. I observe that many leading fitness thinkers are involved in some way with Crossfit. I think it is evolving into many branches, some better than others. I personally don’t care for the Crossfit games or the dark side of the competitive Crossfit or competitive fitness in general. But. Crossfit. Way to change the game, especially for women. And I will say, don’t be afraid of the extremes. Just ignore them if needed. Check it out, take what you need from it, integrate the principles that work for you. The Crossfit journal has some great writing and videos and I find it very inspiring. I will never, ever bother with a 5-pound weight again.
-SIDE NOTE: I will warn you though, Crossfit videos, and fitness videos in general, can be associated with sexually harassing comments.   Who are these people who sit at home watching Butt-lift videos and spewing their sexually aggressive thoughts all over them? They didn’t just THINK it, they took the time to SHARE it. They hit send. Try not to read the comments if you don’t care for truly offensive dirtbags making inappropriate proposals. And to those who can’t watch a fitness video without commenting on the body parts of women: please die now.
-Katy Bowman, http://www.katysays.com, http://www.alignedandwell.com http://www.nutritiousmovement.com
I cannot possibly say enough good things about Katy Bowman. There is no “but”. Just run to the store and get her books. Read her blog, like her on Facebook, check out her podcast, and videos, take her classes.
http://www.Movnat.com
Movnat is natural movement. A big part of my point is that you don’t necessarily need to perform “exercises”. You don’t need to Jane Fonda, friends. You don’t always need a numeric goal. Movement is just the human animal, getting from place to place, moving loads and doing work, just like we have always done.
Running, jumping, climbing over something.
I’m into it.
http://www.IdoPortal.com
Ido Portal advocates for a movement culture, a world where it is totally normal to devote time to moving around and noone will point and stare if we occasionally bust out a pull-up at the playground. He seems like a weird dude, and I like that. His videos make movement seem totally normal, and reminds me how our culture is so separated. No touching, no grappling, no horseplay between consenting adults. Let’s bring it back.
http://www.thefitnessexplorer.com
Darryl Edwards also brings back that playful side of movement. His book Paleo Fitness advocates mostly bodyweight strength training, play, group fitness, outdoor fitness and what I see as a flexible and intuitive path.
http://www.evolvemoveplay.com
My final player for now is Rafe Kelley and he teaches a Parkour/play/natural movement system that I just can’t get enough of, and includes dance and outdoors. His videos and blog are inspiring and fun.
I appreciate full-body stuff like freerunning, obstacle racing, rockclimbing, puddle jumping and tracking.
http://www.Mobilitywod.com
I consider Kelly Starrett to be one of the movement geniuses of our time. His writing and videos are inspiring, accessible, interesting and a joy to watch. And he’s funny. I believe he makes learning about our bodies fun and exciting. His books, Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run, are page-folded, covered in wine splashes and often next to my bed.
I strongly suggest checking him out.
– wwww.BretContreras.com
The Glute guy, Bret Contreras is a wealth of information. He advocates for strong glutes as a source of power. And in many ways, they are. I waffled about suggesting his website because there is a strong bias there towards those who are competing in bikini competitions–which I personally feel weird about. And the last thing I want is to add more body shame!!! So I will say:  this resource is not for everyone. But if you are in the mood to get some solid information and can handle a few butt pics then go for it.
He also has a book, Strong Curves. Again, if you can hack your way through the figure model bits, it’s useful. So, I give it 2 buns up.
http://www.Gokaleo.com
I can’t help but love someone who brings humor and sarcasm to the fitness industry. Amber advocates for eating enough food, and critiques the diet industry.
http://www.yogatuneup.com
Jill Miller just released a new book called The Roll Model, and it is just great. I like her videos and I like her style. Pain is a major reason many people don’t move, and she helps to address that. Videos, classes, YTU balls, etc.
http://www.Liberatedbody.com
Brooke Thomas has a great podcast, one of my favorites. She talks a lot about fascia, an exciting aspect of our bodies that is often overlooked. Her e-book, Why Fascia Matters, is interesting and her writing is great. Highly recommended.
http://www.EvilSugarRadio.com
In case you get overwhelmed by all this input, Evil Sugar radio is a down-to-earth weekly podcast by 2 fitness professionals, Scott Kustes and Antonio Valladares. It is controversial, pleasantly obnoxious, always interesting. They have some great interviews and a lot of ranting. Importantly, they actively challenge the sexism, racism and classism which is rampant in the world of fitness, from diet to exercise and everything in between. Inclusion and tolerance are extremely important to me, and I am very thankful that someone is willing to speak about the reality of the industry–while also bringing good information to  people. They also have a lot of links under each show for further information. This is valuable because I like to research further.
And maybe now is a great time to mention–critical thinking, people. Don’t take anyone’s word without thinking, researching and trying. And that applies to me as well!
OK, how about a short list of other books I like:
-Core Awareness by Liz Koch
-The Swing! by Tracy Reifkind (KETTLEBELLS!!!)
-Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia by Ben Musholt
-Kettlebells for Women by Lauren Brooks
-The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony T DeBenedet, MD and Lawrence J Cohen, Phd
-The Parkour and Freerunning Handbook by Dan Edwardes
-Power Speed Endurance by Brian McKenzie
And if you overdo it, I recommend getting bodywork at WestSide wWellness in Providence RI.
http://www.Westsidewell.com

And how about a short list of what to avoid?
Most fitness magazines.
Anything that promotes body shame.
Non-functional exercises that do more harm than good.
Obsessing about every little detail.
Starving oneself.
Trendy doo-dads, like Thighmaster, green coffee beans, 30 days to ripped abs, ass-shaping sneakers and Celery diets.
Ultimately, you are great exactly as you are. You were great before, and you will be great later, whether you work out or not. Movement is not about punishment for being imperfect. Integrating movement into our lives is about stimulating our bodies and minds, about circulating our lymph and running wild. It is about being the human animal, running free through the woods. It is about the future of our mobility, about the ability to get up and down off the floor. It is about creating wellness, having an outlet and giving a shit about lung capacity. It is about power, creating our personal power and cultivating our own inner strength. It is a way to connect, to build bridges. It is a way to add to our world, to serve, to help keep kids out of trouble, to help recovery from physical and mental disorders, addiction, imbalance. It is giving ourselves time to process this screwed-up world and self-care and blowing off steam. Until we see movement as a gift, an opportunity, rather than a thing to check off our to-do list, no resources will fix us.

damn straight it's out of order!
damn straight it’s out of order!