The Get Up

If you’ve worked with me in the studio over the last five years, you know I’m a fan of having my clients practice getting up and down from the floor in a variety of ways. Sometimes with one arm pointed up toward the ceiling, sometimes holding a toning ball or dumbbell. These are variations from a tougher but still highly functional exercise called the Turkish Get Up

Many of you also know why I feel it’s important to practice this: I want every client (and instructor) in our studio to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can get up and down off the floor unassisted until they are 90+ years of age. I call this playing the really long game.

What you don’t know is who inspired this idea in me and taught me how to do the Turkish Get Up. The man’s name is  Isiro Steve Cairns, a Brit from Liverpool, and we ended up as partners at a Functional Movement Systems (FMS) training in Raleigh, NC in 2014. 

In addition to being fellow craft beer lovers (even though he’s holding wine in the picture), Steve and I share a passion for helping the people in our community to keep moving well for their entire lives. At that time, Steve was still connected with his British Special Forces unit and was helping them to develop training approaches to increase the pass rate for new recruits who were increasingly experiencing injuries. He had an idea that retraining primitive movement patterns that FMS teaches, like breathing, rolling, crawling, creeping, and climbing might be the key to preventing injuries. He took his experiences at FMS back to the UK with him and combining these with other training modalities over time, he was able to move the pass rate for the physical exam from 1% to 50%, which is amazing.

Beyond his experience with the military, Steve began to think about how he might apply these same ideas to working with other populations, older, younger, rehab. 

And then he had a stroke. Steve experienced a bleeding cavernoma in his brainstem that left him unable to walk. As Steve put it to me recently:

I developed my knowledge and theories further to the point I’d just about brought it all together and needed a platform to prove my ideas. It was then that fate chose to give me that very opportunity by first giving me a brain tumor that bled, causing a stroke and removing my ability to walk, and then the surgery to remove the tumor also removed my ability to crawl!! And hey presto, the perfect test case.

As he met with doctors and therapists following the surgery, who explained their approach to rehab and the likelihood of only a very poor recovery, Steve made the choice to use himself as his own test subject. He checked himself out of the hospital after only seven days, went home to his family, and got to work.

Rather than have me tell you what happened next, I will let you see for yourself. Click here to watch a short video of Steve’s process and progress that his surgeon later presented at a conference.

I was unaware that any of this had happened to Steve until one of our shared friends from FMS posted the video link on Facebook. I was shocked at first, but also hugely inspired by what I saw. I reached out to him to see how he is doing and I was thrilled to learn that he continues to make progress, and is now working through a number of organizations in the UK and USA to help coach others with similar experiences. 

He puts himself through his training protocols* every day, continuing to refine his methods, not just because he knows he has to if he wants to keep moving. He’s doing it for his family, for his community and for people half way around the planet who are trying to do their best to move well again. 

In his story I am reminded again of one of the great effects of training regularly over years, much in the way that many of you have: It builds resilience. It is one thing to strengthen your ability to get yourself down on the ground and get up again. It is another to get knocked to the floor and then still summon the will and the way to rise again. 

Steve also asked me to add a second effect of training regularly: it builds friendships. I concur!

Best wishes to you for a great March (into Spring!),


*for some sample videos of Steve’s movement training, check out his Youtube page called Reset Rehab.

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