The soil and the seed

For the most part, I try to keep all the content on this blog related to fitness, health, and such.  Today’s post gets a bit off course from that, but I think it’s definitely worth your time to read it.  As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.

A couple weeks ago I had some back to back cancellations in the morning.  So instead of pouting about the fact that I got up two and a half hours earlier than I really needed to, I decided to take those lemons and make some lemonade…that’s right party people, lemonade.

The first thing I did was clean out my e-mail inbox.  Since I get all my e-mails on my phone, I don’t spend a ton of time actually on my e-mail.  This is a blessing and a curse.  I like that I can check and respond to e-mails no matter where I am.  On the other hand, I don’t delete them nearly as often as I should.  I had let my inbox build up to 300+ and figured it was time to get rid of most of them.  In short, it felt good to get clean my inbox out.  A detoxification of the electronic soul, if you will.

After that, I decided to do some informal continuing education. (Which, by the way, I believe is a ton better than the formal stuff.  I seriously learn more reading a few blogs a day than I do earning 2 CEU’s.)

I had an e-mail in my inbox (one that had been lost in the midst of the many) of an interview with Gray Cook.  If you don’t know who Gray is, he’s basically a physical therapy samurai, as well as the author of The Functional Movement Screen, and Movement.   He’s got a great approach to movement, how to groove proper movement patterns as well as how to assess a client for dysfunction.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to listen to this interview.

During the interview Gray mentioned the concept of “preparing soil and planting seeds”.  He was basically making the point that any farmer who is worth his salt doesn’t just throw a seed in the ground and hope it grows, but he takes time to make sure the soil is properly prepared for the seed to take root, receive the proper nutrients and grow to its potential.  While he was using this concept to discuss physical therapy techniques and approaches, I found my mind applying it to what I do on a day to day basis.

The soil and the seed.


I see the two elements like this:

-I see the soil as the foundation.  Mainly mobility and proper movement patterns, quality dietary habits, etc.

-The seed is the progression of an exercise in both difficulty and weight, changes in body composition, weight loss, strength gain, etc.

Let’s take a specific example: the deadlift.  Many people I train do not come to me with the mobility or body awareness to perform the deadlift from the ground properly or safely.  (They don’t have soil that’s been properly prepared.)  So why would I attempt to have them perform or even attempt a deadlift (the seed) if I haven’t taken time to prepare the soil, or at the very least see if the soil is ready for the seed.

Before I ever have someone perform the deadlift with any kind of significant weight, I teach them how to push their hips back/set their shoulder blades/pull through their heels/keep proper spinal alignment/squeeze their butts tight.

I prepare the soil.

This way, when it comes time to actually perform the lift, (sometimes this is minutes later, sometimes it’s months) they know what they are doing.  They have a good idea of what it means when I tell them to sit back or tuck their shoulder blades.  Otherwise, they are unprepared and getting set up for an injury.  Does this mean that they will perform the lift perfectly the first time they actually perform it or never injure themselves? No, sometimes things happen, but it does mean that I wasn’t lazy or negligent, and it dramatically increases the likelihood that they will perform the lift well and safely.

While this concept works great for me to illustrate the importance of assessing and progressing appropriately, it doesn’t just pertain to physical therapy or training.  It applies to us as human beings in our every day lives.

Ever know someone one who rushed into a marriage and wound up divorced a few years later?  What if they had taken time to see if this person was right for them, or at least taken time to develop the relationship into a healthy and mature one before they got married?

Or how about someone who bought a house they couldn’t really afford and wound up losing it? (Hello 2009!) What if they had taken an honest look at their finances and waited until they were in a position to actually afford the house?

What if either one of these had actually taken time to prepare the soil before planting the seed?

People aren’t patient.  We want what we want and we want it now, right?  People want to lose 20 pounds so they do something stupid like the Hollywood Cookie Diet or the HCG diet.  Their bodies can’t handle it, so they put all the weight plus some back on.  People want a new car, so they go get one.  Then they hide from collection agencies because they can’t make the payments.

My wife and I are expecting a little baby girl any day now.  We could have spent the last 8 and a half months unconcerned with our expected arrival.  We could have spent our free time doing plenty of other things besides reading books on how to be good parents and take care of a newborn. 

Instead, we’ve been doing everything we can to ensure that when we bring her home, we have some sense of how to give her a healthy, happy and supportive environment to grow in.

The point I’m trying to make is this: somethings are worth preparing for.

I don’t mean to get all deep here, but take a moment and look at your life.  Are you taking care of yourself physically?  Are you nurturing relationships that matter to you?  If you have dreams and goals for your life, are you taking the steps you need to to make those dreams a reality?  Are you taking the time to prepare the soil or are you just throwing seed at the ground hoping it will take root?

Is it easy?  Not always.  Sometimes it seems like you’re taking the most indirect route possible, but it makes it worth it.  It makes your efforts long lasting.  And it keeps you healthy and happy.

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