In October we traveled to Chicago for Be Activated Level 1 and 2 with Douglas Heel. Check out how those 4 days went from my perspective and then read it from Spud's. This was a game changer for both of us, and we are excited to share it with every one.
There is no denying that 2016 has been a kick in the balls for a lot of reasons. In our house the biggest hit came in April. On April 21st Prince died (which was super epic in my life) and on April 22nd Marc was diagnosed with the big “C”, cancer. For the next 4 months we were consumed with his treatment and everything that came along with it, plus that dreaded question: “what will the future look like”. Needless to say, when that was all over both of us were looking for something new and exciting, something to change our lives in a more positive direction.
While Marc was recovering from treatment he read an article by our friend JL Holdsworth called “That Shit that Fixed Dave’s Shaking”. The article was about a technique/philosophy called Be Activated and it was very intriguing. So intriguing that Marc went online and found the next seminar and we got signed up. Without knowing much about the program we set off to Chicago to spend 4 days learning.
I am going to tell you that Marc and I both thought we were super ready for whatever Be Activated had to throw at us. We would tell you we were open minded, receptive and ready to be believers. And then the class started. After a two hour get to know you session where we went around the room and everyone introduced themselves the class began. I don’t know about you, but I tend to find introduction sessions a bit tedious. This one was no different. I was irritated when it was over because it felt like we had spent precious time learning about the people in the class (who I didn’t really care about) instead of learning about Be Activated. So up went my first giant wall.
When I introduced myself I mentioned that I was three weeks out from a powerlifting contest and so Douglas (the leader) said that he would test me first when we started the session. So, at the right time I came up in front of the class, crawled on the massage table and Douglas ran through the initial test and I scored as a ZERO. Do you know who else are zero’s in this system? People confined to the bed who cannot move, people with severe PTSD, people with severe depression. Even better, they discovered that I was a ZERO adrenaline – which meant that I was a zero until someone yelled at me, screamed at me and then everything turned on. Without adrenaline I was pathetic, with adrenaline not so pathetic. Not so great when you realize that adrenaline only gives you about a 10 sec grace period of strength before your body completely fails. And…the second great wall of Susan went up.
One of the things that Douglas stressed the whole time during class is that the space is safe. That is why we spent so much time introducing ourselves at beginning, it is easier to feel safe in an environment where everyone is sharing than one where no one knows each other. I didn’t know why this should matter, we were there to learn muscle activation techniques so who cares if it is a safe environment. What I didn’t know (and would learn) was that there is also a HUGE emotional component to this philosophy. Not only are our muscles/bodies bound up due to working out or injury, but they are also bound up with emotional scarring. That emotional stuff locks your body down just like a tight muscle does and releasing these areas can also mean releasing a bunch of emotional gunk…fear, anger, sadness…you name it and activations can release it. The more I realized that at any moment an activation could make me face some emotional trauma that, in my mind at least, I had walled up safely never to be dealt with, the higher the great wall of Susan became. I had no intention of letting myself lose control so much that I became a sniveling wreck on a massage table.
The rest of the day went well as we learned the foundations for the Be Activated philosophy and started learning the basic activations and working on each other. At the end of the day we had gotten to the hamstring activation. For me, this was a big activation and while on the table I started to cry. I am not big into crying because I don’t like feeling vulnerable but I couldn’t quite hide the emotions I felt when my partner was working on my activations. And then things got interesting. When I sat up and started to pull myself together Douglas walked over to check on how we were doing. As I was about to talk about what happened and what I was feeling, my partner started crying. Suddenly, instead of it being about the breakthrough I was feeling, all the attention went to my partner and her breakthrough. So, I went to stand up and give her a hug and was told “if you stand up and touch her while she is working through her process you will leave my course and never be allowed back”. I was FLOORED. Not only was I dealing with whatever shit had just come bubbling to the surface during my activation, I had also just been made to feel the ONLY way that I know will shut be down quicker than anything. And I had been told that by the one person who had been telling us all day that the room was a safe place. So I got my stuff, found Marc and left holding back tears. When we got into the cab I let it fly. I cussed and raged. First I said I wouldn’t go back and marc could go and I would just stay in the room, and then I said “hell no, I paid for this and I want the knowledge but I will not give anything of myself again”. I was crying and cussing so badly that I think our poor shuttle driver was terrified. That night we ate at Ditka’s Sports Bar and watched the Cubbies win their way into the World Series. We ate in almost total silence…me fuming and Marc at a loss for what to say to make it better.
We walked in to the room on day two and the atmosphere was completely different than the day before. Try as I might, I could not find the anger that I had the night before. I could tell you that Douglas was different, or hell, that everyone was different, but the truth was I was different. My anger from the day before was actually a HUGE emotional release caused by the hamstring activation. I wasn’t just a raving lunatic that had been angered, I was just like everyone else – dealing with emotions that had been bottled up for too long. When I stepped into the room on day two the anger had simply vanished. I was finally ready to listen and accept everything I was learning. And, it all started to make sense.
We worked on activations all day, learning the sequences and then trying them out on different partners. The day is actually a blur to me. We learned so much. And with each activation I felt myself coming down, breathing and re-setting. The philosophy is based on the idea that to stay alive our bodies have to be able to move and breathe. Breathing is the foundation and is the first activation. Think about how stressful our lives are versus the cavemen. Cavemen had moments of stress (being chased by a saber tooth tiger) and even longer moments of calm. Our bodies were made to be able to pump out the hormones we need to deal with stressful situation and then once that stress is over we are supposed to be able to come back down to a normal, calm state. But with our lives today we may wake up super calm and then the phone rings and it is a crisis, we deal with that crisis and start to come down and then someone bumps our car in a parking lot, so before allowing our body to come all the way down into a relaxed (normal) state we are already jacked back up to super stress. We end up living at the top end of the stress cycle, coming down slightly and then jacking back in. Our bodies lose the ability or desire to get back down to the desired state. Be Activated acts like a staircase that allows you to go from a super stressed (imploded) state back down to relaxed one step at a time. Each activation allows you to take a step or two or three down the staircase. The cool thing is you can actually feel this with each activation. As well as the activations, this was the biggest take away from day two. I actually saw and felt that it was not only possible but okay to let yourself come down and not be so jacked into life and stress.
This started Level II. We lost some people who had only come to Level I and we gained some new people. This time when we went around the room and introduced ourselves some of the people from level I started giving out more information. For instance, we found out that one guy had Tourette’s syndrome. He told us about how Tourette’s had impacted his life and how he had learned to manage his ticks. It was an amazing story, and watching his body respond to the level II activations was so exciting, sharing that story allowed him to “put it down” and accept all the changes the activations had for him. You could visibly see what a difference it made in him.
Based on some of the stories from people we were given this philosophical question to think about. What is the big wave in your story? How do you deal with it? The leader, Douglas had shared a story about surfing big waves and being caught under the water. In this particular story he was faced with the thought that he would drown. Obviously, he didn’t, but the point was what are we each dealing with that puts us in that same mind set, what seems like it is going to drag us down and not let us up. How did we deal with it before, and how would we deal with it now that we had been given so many tools.
This might have been the most interesting day of them all. We did a lot of activations in our mouths and if you haven’t seen a room full of people with blue plastic gloves on all sticking their fingers in their mouths at the same time, then well you just haven’t seen anything. We learned several other advanced techniques for opening the rib cage and the pelvis as well as adjusting the sacrum. But the most exciting was the visual field work.
Have you ever considered that you might have a place in your visual field that might make you weak? Does that even make sense? Obviously, there are people with vision issues – maybe you can’t see up close, or you can’t see far away. Maybe you wear bifocals. That isn’t really what we are talking about. I am talking about a place in your visual field that literally makes your body weaker when you look there. For instance, say you were in a car accident. Someone ran a stop light and hit you on the driver’s side door and you didn’t see them until right before they hit you, you saw it coming from the bottom left hand side of your vision. It is possible to hold a “weakness” from that point on any time you look to the left and down. Maybe you have noticed that when you drop a pencil on the floor and reach to pick it up you are somehow always fumble fingers when the pen is to the left of you, but not when it is on the right. Now expand that to the receiver on a football team. What if they had taken a huge hit from the right while trying to catch a ball in mid-air. From then on, they fumble any ball that comes to them on the right side but are still nearly perfect when they can catch the ball on the left side of their body. These are visual field weaknesses. Once you know if they exist, you can run through your sequence of activations and usually find one particular activation that makes the client go “Ah ha!” or “Eureka”. Hit that spot and then have them report what they feel. The results people got were pretty stunning.
Marc was one of the ones whose visual field was tested and the story is pretty amazing. You can read his account first hand in his article. I will give you a little teaser….it involves the big crash under 1,200 lbs. back in 2007.
Breathing Independent of Movement:
This was the biggest brain challenge for me. I got all the activations. I understood the science. I even could grasp the voodoo-ey “woo woo” part of the philosophy. The one concept that threw me for a loop though was “breathing independent of movement”. As a powerlifter I have been taught to get a big belly full of air and hold it throughout a rep, or several reps. I was taught that a belly full of air would help me “brace” better. Another command you hear a lot in powerlifting is “put your belly on the belt” so as you squat down, push your belly out against the belt to create a solid foundation under the weight. Being told that I should breathe throughout a heavy rep really rocked my world. It isn’t that I didn’t believe what I was being told, I just couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to make it work.
To prove the point, and to get my brain to accept the concept, Douglas had me stand in front of the class, get my normal squat stance, set up like I normally would (big belly full of air) and perform a squat. As I squatted down (still holding my breath) at various points he would touch me lightly with his fingers, and each time he could push me easily. I was “stable” in my belly but unstable on my feet. Then he had me get into my squat stance and find my belly breathing. Once I found my breathing he told me to squat but continue with my rhythm of breathing. As I squatted he pushed me in several spots and I was stable against the force – all the way down and all the way up. We also practiced planks both ways – locked, tight abs and no breathing vs. belly breathing the whole time. Universally we were all stronger when we were belly breathing. And just in case you think you aren’t working your abs if they aren’t tight and locked in…just go do a plank and breathe the whole time. You will see how tired your abs get.
When got home I played around with breathing during my squats and could do it effectively up to 235 lbs. I am not confident enough to use this technique on weights heavier than that, but I will certainly be slowly working on this technique. It is different. Breathing this way during your lifts also keeps you from being an adrenaline junky. You just can’t get all jacked up and locked in if you are getting adequate oxygen to your organs and muscles. There is no fight or flight going on. This is something else I have to get used to, since I tested as a Zero/Adrenaline, my goal is to train to be strong without needing that shot of adrenaline just to get by. There is so much to do and try that it makes training exciting again.
The End Result:
Basically, Be Activated has given us our mojo back. It has given us a ton of new information and ideas on how to change our training. It has challenged some long held beliefs and made us question much of what we thought we knew. It has made us more aware of our bodies, how they work broken and how they should work when optimized.
I have used it with a few clients and friends and it is exciting to see the changes that they get immediately. It’s a new path to walk down, but it is a much calmer path than the one we were on before. I am excited that Marc and I made this journey together.