Holly Middleton

Habits & Health episode 93 -Holly Middleton - Take back ownership of your body

Habits & Health episode 93 with Holly Middleton, a movement coach who helps your body to move the way it wants to so you reclaim ownership of your body.

She specialises in restoring global movement patterns by fine-tuning movements of the skeleton. 

Through gait analysis, foot function assessments, and joint-by-joint movement screenings she teaches clients to restore missing movement patterns and coordinate them with whole-body movements. For the athletic and curious-minded clients who want to become more body-aware and uplevel their performance.

02:40 What is a movement coach?
05:11 Differences between a movement coach, osteopath, chiropracter etc
07:05 Injuries caused by footwear
10:25 Perception of our bodies
14:19 Katie Bowman
15:20 Barefoot shoes
21:14 Foot agility
22:56 Warming up before activity
24:33 Common injuries
27:46 Stretches that should be avoided
31:44 Dynamic stretches
32:59 When to do static stretches
34:44 Insoles
37:43 How Holly got into this field
40:34 Hollie’s typical clients

Favourite Quote

“Where you think it is – it ain't”

Related episode:

93 – Holly Middleton


Habits & Health episode 93.

Welcome to another edition of habits and health. My guest today, Holly Middleton, who is a movement coach. Specializing in restoring and global movement patterns by fine tuning movements of the skeleton. She does this through gait analysis, foot function assessments. And joint by joint movement screenings. And teaches clients to restore missing movement patterns. So we talk a lot about, the functioning of the body, and about behavior and many other areas. So that’s this week’s episode with Holly Middleton. And as usual, if you know anyone who would get some value from this, please do share the episode with them. Hope you enjoy this weeks show

[00:00:56] Tony Winyard: Habits & Health. My guest today, Holly Middleton. How are you, Holly?

[00:01:01] Holly Middleton: I’m great. Thank you.

[00:01:03] Tony Winyard: And we are in Vancouver

[00:01:05] Holly Middleton: I’m in Vancouver. That’s right on the west coast of Canada. That’s my.

[00:01:09] Tony Winyard: and you were telling me you are native, which is not so usual you were saying.

not indigenously native, but yes, born and raised. three generations, four generations now with my nieces and nephews. it’s, yeah, there’s a lot of people. It’s a very cosmopolitan city. A lot of people move into Vancouver and, so to find people that are born and raised and have a few generations here is less.

[00:01:31] Tony Winyard: So for anyone who maybe doesn’t know anything about Vancouver, what is it most famous?

we are known for our mountains and our sea and our beautiful natural areas. So a lot of people are drawn here for skiing and our mild climate. so if you like outdoorsy things, you like sailing. Fishing and hiking and skiing and yoga and all those sorts of things. We’re known for that. based on our industry.

[00:01:55] Holly Middleton: We’re known for our natural resources. So there were a lot, there’s a lot of, natural resources, types of industry, but we also have a really big movie industry now. So we’re Hollywood North and there’s lots of people here that work in tech and it’s growing and growing. And so you’ll find if you meet anyone on the street, it’s likely they work in film

So it’s an interesting, mix of people that live here.

[00:02:20] Tony Winyard: You certainly sold it. it sounded very enticing, so

[00:02:23] Holly Middleton: except for the cost of living. But otherwise everyone wants to live here. Yeah.

[00:02:29] Tony Winyard: I think that’s the same for many places at the moment, but yeah, we won’t get into politics. as far as what you do, so you’re a movement coach, so what is a movement coach? do you define.

[00:02:40] What is a movement coach?

[00:02:40] Holly Middleton: Sure a movement coach is somebody who is helping you with the fine details of your movement in your body. And so my approach is a very fine scale eagle eye, looking at what is and isn’t moving inside your body or on the outside of your body. So looking at those little movements in the holistic approach of what should be going on in my body when I bend my knee, for example. And so we want to know what’s going on throughout that, that whole chain of command throughout, your whole body and trying to find out what’s missing in that chain of command. So if you’ve had an injury and you hobbled around for a little while, or were careful about a a shoulder injury that’s gonna change your patterns of movement, whether you’re aware of them or not, and many of us are not aware that those things have gone on. And so what I’m doing is I’m looking through that history of what’s happened in your body and how that shows up in your movement today and how those patterns that you’ve adopted through all the experiences in your life have changed your movements and how that is related to the things going on, the aches and pains, the frustrations or the movements that are just out of reach for you. And so I work with folks that really want to get into those details and figure out the why behind what they’re feeling in their body, the why behind not being able to do certain things in their body.

Being able to reeducate their brain, their nervous system on what movements are actually available, but have been blocked off as unavailable, and being able to get their whole body to participate in doing that together. And so that can be teaching your foot how to move differently. It can be teaching your knee and your shoulder to participate in a movement together.

It can be reteaching you how to breathe and put air into different parts of your torso to change your posture, and then the range of motion in different parts of your body. So it really depends what happened in your body and how we can start to remind your body of what it’s missing to try to unravel the frustrations that you’re experiencing in your movements day to day.

[00:04:51] Tony Winyard: Say someone is? yeah, they’ve done, maybe they regularly exercise, they’ve had some kind of an injury, and now they’re trying to decide between seeing a movement coach, a physiotherapist, a chiropractor, osteopath. What would be the difference, what would make them decide on one over the.

[00:05:11] Differences between a movement coach, osteopath, chiropracter etc

[00:05:11] Holly Middleton: So as a movement coach, I’m going to be helping people after they’ve healed. So we’re not gonna be helping you while you are still healing the sprain or the broken bone. We’re gonna be helping you once everything is healed and ready to go. So we’re kind of the icing on the cake after you’ve gone to see everyone else.

Once everything’s healed, once you’re cleared to move again by a health professional that can clear you for that, then I can step in and say, Okay, we need to reteach foot, how to move after that sprain. We need to be able to teach your knee what to do, rather than, I’ve been on crutches for three months and I’m totally moving differently.

So we need to put you back to those factory settings that you had beforehand. To be able to teach your body what it’s forgotten because it was better to move in a different way that didn’t hurt while you were healing your injury. And so your physio, your chiro, your osteopath, can help you heal and have all of the structures ready to go.

The movement coach then steps in and makes sure that you’re not vulnerable to re-injuring yourself again. So how many people have sprained their ankle many times? How many people have put their back out many times. How many people have had bunion surgery and then had the bunion come back? So that relates to not going back to your factory settings after the injury, just getting on with the same old patterns, and then having the problem crop up again and.

And so I help you not go back to those old patterns to remember your factory settings, patterns, and work with you to help you feel, okay, that feels better or that feels worse. This is a better movement for me because it’s alleviated these things or suddenly that muscle’s working again. And so my approach is after everything is ready to go, I help you go to a state where you’re not gonna be re-injuring yourself, or you’re gonna be moving in the best possible way that you can.

[00:07:05] Injuries caused by footwear

and I wonder how many of the injuries that people get in the first place are caused by their footwear. money that people spend on all these fancy, we call ’em trainers here. I dunno if you call ’em running shoes or

[00:07:18] Holly Middleton: That’s right. Runners. Yeah.

[00:07:22] Tony Winyard: but from what I understand, they’re the cause of many injuries or they’re the initial cause anyway.

we like to think that, we have something external to ourselves that we can blame for things. So it’s a common thing for humans is that it’s not me, it’s something else or someone else. And so we often see that shoes get blamed for poor movement patterns in your feet or vulnerability to, to injuries.

[00:07:45] Holly Middleton: But the way I like to look at it is that actually you are responsible for your own body. you’re the driver of this bus. You’re the one who’s in charge. it’s just like diet or anything else in your. If your environment is there and providing you with the things that you need to be able to move well, then the environment is gonna support you.

But at the same time, you have to do the work to design that environment for yourself so you can be surrounded by junk food and choose not to eat it . Or you can be surrounded by junk food and succumb to it. Same thing with your shoes. You can be in your shoes all the time and have your shoes impact your feet and your injuries, or you can be responsible for your feet and give your feet all the things that they need to be feet to be happy Feet.

not have your footwear influence that. So I was a dancer for a long time. I was a ballerina, I was a salsa dancer. Both of those have very restrictive types of shoes and very specific types of movements that your feet do, and you have to be very strong in your feet. But those shoes are always putting your feet into certain sort of constricted positions.

And if you’re not going to unravel those patterns by taking responsibility for your feet, then your feet are going to be shaped like the shoes that you’re wearing. And so what I learned the hard way is through a foot injury when I was dancing salsa, was that I needed to take responsibility for my feet.

That during my rehearsals, during my shows, Those shoes were impacting my feet by restricting all of the things my feet can do. I needed to take the time afterwards to put my feet back to being feet, and that’s me being proactive and making sure that my environment is not impacting my, my feet. My shoes may be forcing me into certain patterns, but I can still be responsible for how I want my feet to respond to everything they experience in their daily life.

that’s what I recommend for people is to be able to take responsibility for your body if your knee is bothering you. Do something about it. Figure out why that knee hurts and the other one doesn’t. And maybe there’s some learning in there that if your knees are the same age and one of them hurts, maybe it’s not age that’s causing the pain in your knees.

Maybe it’s something else that’s going on. And so it’s just a different way of looking at it, of responsible for the body. What can you do to make sure that those environmental influences are not, detrimental to how you want to feel in your.

[00:10:25] Perception of our bodies

[00:10:25] Tony Winyard: You talk about responsibility, but isn’t the problem for many people, they just don’t even have the awareness in the first place that, that there’s a possibility that the shoes are causing a problem, and so they don’t even consider that could be the cause of the problem.

[00:10:38] Holly Middleton: Yeah. And I find that, that’s a couple of things that I really wish that things would change in our perception about our bodies. One of them is that, like you say, that we don’t even know what we don’t know. So we’re not really educated on our bodies and what our bodies are meant to do. and so people come through the door and they meet me and they say, I had no idea my knee was even doing that.

I had no idea what a knee was supposed to. I had no idea my back was doing this opposite thing than what it’s supposed to do. cos, you live in your body 24 7, you’re not aware of what’s going on. And that’s for a good reason. If you knew every little cellular process that went on and every little movement of every muscle, you’d never get anything done.

And so your body likes predictability, it likes sameness. And so it likes to be able to do the same thing all the time. And if we’re not able to know what’s going on in your body, if you’re not taking ownership of your self. If you’re not sure what’s going on with yourself, you’re not checking in, assessing and figuring those things out, then you’re just not going to be aware of what’s happening.

And then we end up going to people that are professionals, the doctors, the ologists and things, and think that they’re the only ones that are going to make everything better. And that’s not to say that I don’t believe in science. I have a PhD in biology. I’m very much a person that believes in the logic, logical construct and the importance of science.

But I also think that we also have a responsibility as the owner of this body that we have to understand what’s going on to be able to listen to it, but also,often those ologists, all those doctors, they give us what everyone asks for. Everyone wants the quick fix. Everyone wants a pill to make it go away.

Everyone wants the surgery so it’s done and over with. So we can get on with the other things instead of actually paying attention, slowing down, figuring out what we want for our bodies and what our bodies are trying to tell us. And so the doctors not to blame them at all. They give us the easy ways out cuz that’s what everyone asks for.

Very few people want to sort this out themselves or think that they even can. So with the help of a movement coach, you can figure out what’s going on in your body and you can keep yourself well on your own. If you know what your knee’s supposed to do, you know what your typical strategy is that your body does to try to get stuff done because of your injury history, then you can be the very one that can figure out what’s going on.

You can listen to your body and know, aha, there’s that little niggling thing. I know what my body needs when that niggling thing comes up, instead of, Oh, my knee hurts, I’m gonna go see somebody. And so the more that you understand your body, the more you take ownership of it, the more empowered you are with your body, the more you can do it yourself.

But many people don’t wanna do it themselves, and that’s okay, but people don’t realize that you actually can do it yourself if you’re just given the knowledge, the information, and the awareness about yourself. And so that’s the beauty of what I’m doing and why I love it so much is because you’re now the owner again. You can figure that out. You can go to someone to help you to figure that out. You can go to doctors to heal broken bones or things that are going wrong in your body, and then you can figure it out for yourself and it’s empowering. I think most people would feel really great about that, that they’re in the driver’s seat with their body again, instead of afraid and not sure what’s going on and not sure what the prognosis is gonna be, that you can actually be in charge of that if you want to and if you don’t, that’s okay.

[00:14:19] Katie Bowman

[00:14:19] Tony Winyard: I remember about, about seven, eight years ago. I can’t remember exactly when. I think, yeah, it was around 2014. I read Katie Bowman, I think it was Move Your DNA

[00:14:29] Holly Middleton: Yeah.

[00:14:29] Tony Winyard: and, read a couple of her books and it really changed my thinking around much of this. And I started transitioning to, Barefoot Shoes around that time.

Now for the last five, six years, I don’t have any shoes that aren’t barefoot shoes. Like all of my footwear is I have Vivo barefoot shoes. With the one exception when I play football, I can’t find any decent, um, boots and all of the football boots seem to be, so I’ve got quite wide feet, and especially since I’ve been wearing these vivo barefoot, they’ve got even wider.

so the football boots are so constricted and often really hurt my feet. But what I have noticed is in this period, as I say, it’s seven, eight years, whatever it is now, since I’ve been just wearing these shoes, I don’t get any pains in my knees or even hips or anywhere now.


[00:15:20] Barefoot shoes

[00:15:20] Holly Middleton: Yeahand I agree that Katie Bowman has been a big influence in myself. When I first started this work. I devoured her books. she’s such a tour de force and she’s such a good writer and so good at explaining these things and getting people, enthusiastic about, natural movement and changing how they do everything in their lives.

For example, right now I’m sitting on the floor. I always sit on the floor whenever I can. it’s just a quick hack to be able to keep your hip mobility without having to change anything else in your day. but what you say about barefoot shoes is what a lot of people find is that, again, it’s changing your environment.

If you change your environment, what your body experiences, then it starts to thank you for giving it what it’s been trying to tell you all this time. And it’s often that the one of a quote that I really like is “where you think it is, it ain’t”. And when your knee is barking at you, it’s probably not your knee that’s the problem. It’s something else that the knee is just the thing that is screaming at you and that there’s somewhere else in your body that wants you to know. to give it a change that it needs. And, the simple change of your environment with your footwear choices, can give you, that feedback throughout your body. As long as you transition well, it sounds like you didn’t have any problems with it, but a lot of people that have worn more. traditional shoes that have worn them for many decades. you need to prepare yourself for being able to transition to something else. And so I often see people get very excited. they discover Katie Bowman’s work.

They discover these sorts of things. They get very excited. They find the perfect shoes, and then things don’t feel good because they’ve just, they’ve gotten very excited and I love that enthusiasm. But they haven’t prepared their body for what their body needs. And some people like myself, I didn’t have issues with it because I was very active.

I was a dancer, had really good mobility, very strong muscles, and my joints moved well. But for folks that haven’t had that experience, their body is not going to be ready for that. and as we often find is that healing isn’t linear. We think, just like we watch TV that the murder mystery is solved in an hour and everything’s so tightly wrapped up and neat like that, but our healing isn’t linear like that.

Things will come and go and as new inputs go into your body, like the barefoot shoes, your body is going to notice that and make changes and some of those changes might hurt. And then people think they’re on the wrong track, . But it’s that your body’s adjusting. Your body is fantastically clever.

It’s figuring out what it needs to do, and we just have to give it the inputs and the feedback that it needs to transition nice and smoothly to do that.

[00:18:00] Tony Winyard: Could you explain, Isome listeners maybe thinking why would you want to wear barefoot shoes?There’s a lack of awareness around the sort of the atrophy in the muscles, from the cushioning that most shoes give us, and especially some of the sports shoes.

There’s so much cushioning on there. It just causes a lot of the muscles to atrophy, doesn’t it?

[00:18:17] Holly Middleton: Yeah. before I forget, you were talking about your football shoes. There are some brands now that are creating athletic shoes, so make sure you look for those. They are listening, that people want those. but in terms of the traditional shoes, what happens is that, There’s a bunch of features in the shoes that, there’s a lot of, there’s a long history as to why those features have found themselves in our shoes.

without going into all of those, you can find those if you look on the internet. but they’re essentially changing the mechanics in your feet, so they’re encouraging certain movements that happen too soon or too aggressively, they’re supporting your arches. Instead of letting them drop and rise, there are, a lot of cushioning underneath there.

[00:19:00] Holly Middleton: So it’s preventing all of the nerves in the soul of your foot from experiencing the ground, and we have an incredible number nerve endings in the bottom of your feet so that when we step on something, we know what we’re stepping on. Kind of important, right? But if your body has a marshmallow under it all the time, a lot of those signals just go to sleep.

cos they’re like, Well, there’s nothing there, so we’ll just go to sleep. But also, when you strike your heel on the ground, you are meant to be able to feel the reverberation through your body. As you strike on the ground, but if that doesn’t happen, your body’s gonna strike harder to try to get the feedback it expects from the ground.

But with a cushioned shoe, that’s gonna be more and more impact as your brain tries to feel the ground. And so we have a lot of things that are changing our feet. On top of the fact that we mostly walk on flat level floors all the time, ancestrally, we would even a couple hundred years ago, we would’ve had uneven things that we were walking on all the time, carrying things on uneven ground.

And that’s just what our feet are designed to do. Our feet have a quarter of all of the joints in your body and your body is efficient. It’s not gonna create joints that it doesn’t need. those joints are meant to be able to form themselves to whatever you’re stepping on the ground. And if they never get that experience, then it means that all of those tissues that are in your foot, and there’s lots of them. Never get to get long and short.

So if you have muscles in your body that stay still. So if you’ve had your arm in a cast, your neck in a brace, anything like that, you know the muscles just atrophy. And it’s the same thing if those muscles never get long and short, they never contract, if they never get any feedback, they just go, Well, coffee break, they don’t really have the strength to do what they’re meant to.

And then people say, I can’t walk barefoot anymore because it hurts. I can’t go hiking, I can’t walk on the seashore, Any of those sorts of things. It’s because your body has just never been given the feedback it’s asking for in your feet.

[00:21:14] Foot agility

[00:21:14] Tony Winyard: Was gonna say, isn’t it the case that your toes are supposed to be as agile as your fingers, to be as much flexibility.

Yes, they are. And so the structures are analogous between your feet and your hands, which means that you have essentially the same types of structures in your feet and your hands. And so our hands are dextrous because we don’t keep them in gloves all day long and bunched together. And we’re constantly typing, writing, cooking, all of the sorts of things that we need to do.

[00:21:45] Holly Middleton: Whereas with our feet, if they’re in shoes all the time, they just don’t move. And so your brain just goes, Well, not necessary. And it, it prunes away all of the connections of the independence of all those parts in your feet because your body is efficient. If you don’t need it, it’s gonna get rid of it.

Just like if you stop running, those muscles you won’t keep those muscles cos you don’t need them. We’re really efficient beings cos that’s kept us around on the planet for how many millions of years. And so your body’s clever. It’s only gonna keep what it needs.

And so that when people often see on social media, You’ll see a video of someone painting with their feet. Like they’ll have a paintbrush in between their toes, and everyone’s amazed, Wow, how come their toes are so agile, but we’re all supposed to be like that.

[00:22:34] Holly Middleton: Yeah, maybe not. being

[00:22:35] Tony Winyard: Or maybe not the artistic ability, but

[00:22:39] Holly Middleton: yes. But we should be able to have that movement in our feet, that should be accessible to us because when you, how many times have you stepped off a curb and twisted your ankle because something was slightly uneven? That shouldn’t happen.

That’s just, we should be able to manage anything that’s underneath our feet.

[00:22:56] Warming up before activity

[00:22:56] Tony Winyard: I mentioned football before and, there’s a football team. It’s a men’s over fifties team. And there’s some guys in this team that are in their fifties, sixties, and even seventies. It amazes me how often, after the game I see these guys don’t do any kind of a warm down. many of them and I’ve mentioned to them a few times the importance of doing a warm down and many of ’em don’t, I dunno what it is that they think, but they just ignore it.

They think, they seem to fear. It’s not important. So what would you say if any of them, I do manage to get ’em listening to this, what would you say to them, why it is so important and they don’t do a warm up either to.

[00:23:30] Holly Middleton: Sure, Yeah, . So the, when you’re cooling down after exercise, it helps your tissues not be as sore the next couple of days. So it helps them wind down from what you were doing. And we all know after exercising that you end up with, soreness for the next couple of days, and that’s just your body adjusting to the little.

There’s tiny little injuries that happen inside your muscles as you’re working them. And as they get stronger, that healing process is a little bit painful. So when you do a cool down, it can help you not feel quite as much of that soreness and tenderness, the next couple of days. And it can also allow for more resilience in all of your tissues so that they are, less prone to injury because they are, nice and lubricated and able to move past each other when they need.

So cooling down, and it also transitions you, prepares you for the next thing you’re gonna do in your day. we’ve all known sprinting and then getting in the car and being incredibly stiff when you get out . So things like that, it helps you, feel a little less worse the next couple of days.

[00:24:33] Common injuries

[00:24:33] Tony Winyard: So what would you say, Iin your work, in the people that you are treating. What is the most common injury you come across?

it’s really varied because people come to me a lot of the time for foot injuries, and there’s a whole variety of different things that they are experiencing with their feet. and I see people for things all over their bodies. Of course, the lower back pain is a really common one. and that’s often just your whole, the whole chain of command isn’t coordinated as it’s supposed to be.

[00:25:02] Holly Middleton: And we also have a lot of beliefs about our bodies, about how they’re supposed to move. So some people, they’ll have been told knees are supposed to do one particular thing and they’re really not supposed to do this other particular thing. And then when I teach them how to move their knees.

Through the full range of motion with everything else coordinating. They’ll often say, My knee isn’t supposed to do that is it? Even strength and conditioning coaches have said that to me. I don’t think my knee is supposed to do that, is it? I’m like, Well, it’s doing that right now. That’s what your joint is designed to do and it’s pain free.

So we want to teach your knee what it’s supposed to do rather than what we’ve been told it’s supposed to do. And that’s true with a lot of our body parts. So I shouldn’t, for example, I shouldn’t stand in a certain way or someone’s told me to fix my posture, we don’t really know what posture is.

And if you took a whole room full of people in, andd them to stand up straight, they would make the motion to stand up straight each one individually in a completely different way. So even if we tell people what we would like them to do, stand up straight, they’re all gonna do it slightly differently because of their history, their injuries, the sports they played, their belief systems, all of those things.

And so that’s why the way that I coach people into things is very specific. because everyone comes in with their beliefs, with their assumptions about how a body is supposed to move and things that will hurt me. things that won’t feel good, things that were always bad movements for me. But then when I get them to move well with everything coordinated together, and then I check in with them, does that feel okay?

Oh yeah, fine. Your back doesn’t hurt. No. look what the position your back is in. That’s the position you told me it hurts when you do that, but it’s not hurting now. Because we’ve coordinated in a way, that is the way the joints are meant to be put together. And then your body accepts that is okay to do.

And so in terms of the kinds of things that people come into me for, it’s not necessarily a certain type of injury. It’s usually I’ve tried everything. someone said, I should come to see you because you’re a movement whisperer. Or they call me different things. a good troubleshooter, whatever it is, that I’ve tried everything else, and someone said that this might be the thing.

and what you said this just then about people thinking they shouldn’t do a certain movement or whatever it might be. Reminded me about, there’s quite a few stretches that many people have always thought, this is the way stretches should have been done for the last 20, 30 years. And in recent years, there’s a few of them.

[00:27:41] Tony Winyard: We now realize you shouldn’t be stretching like that. That’s actually causing more problems than it’s solving.

[00:27:46] Stretches that should be avoided

[00:27:46] Holly Middleton: Yeah, there are definitely ones like that. So this is the curious thing about the body, especially about muscles, is that a muscle can get long in certain parts of it and short in the other parts of it at the same time. And so a muscle is busy in all the different directions, in different ways all the time.

And so it’s a puzzle to puzzle yourself through trying to figure out how to stretch a muscle ,because you can find a position that will give you a nice deep stretch throughout the length of the muscle, but in fact, the muscle never does that in your daily life. It’s going to be doing something quite different from the position you get yourself in to give it a good stretch.

[00:28:31] Tony Winyard: Mm.

[00:28:31] Holly Middleton: And so if you stretch it in that way, a couple of things are gonna happen. First of all, you’re going to stretch a muscle in a way that is not really designed to do.

your brain is not gonna know what to do with that. It’s gonna be, it’s probably gonna make it feel really blocky and aggressive and, intense.

And the second thing is that, a stretch on its own is not really teaching your brain what to do with that information. So you may stretch a muscle and it might feel good, but then if you’re not gonna teach your brain what to do with that stretch, it’s just gonna see those as independent events.

So I’ve often had people come to tell me,I’ve had foot pain and so I’ve worked on these different exercises for my feet, and then I’ve noticed that I have, some range of motion issues in my hip. So I was working on the range of motions in my hip, but nothing has changed. My feet still hurt. So I asked them, So how are you doing your foot exercises?

What’s the context for. And they say, Oh, I’m usually sitting at my desk and then I’ll do these exercises with my feet. And then I ask them, So what’s the context of your hip mobility? Oh, well, you know, I’ll get down on the ground and I’ll do my hip mobility. and then that’s it. And I said, So do you integrate those things together?

no. No, I don’t. I was just given those things as independent things to do, thinking that those things help. , but what’s happened is that you’ve given yourself some exercises to do, but you haven’t taught your brain what to do with that. So it goes, Okay, fire that muscle. In what context? What do I do with that?

[00:30:10] Holly Middleton: I don’t know what to do with that. And so the work that I do is different because what it does is it teaches your whole body how to move and use those muscles when they’re supposed to. At the time that they’re supposed to .In the direction that they’re supposed to. Coordinated with everything else. And so people who have come to me with the best intentions and they’re troubleshooting and they’re trying to do everything themselves and like we were saying in the beginning, taking ownership of their body and trying to figure this out on their own, that’s great.

But the missing piece is the integration. And so that’s what happens with stretches is that we can find a stretch. It stretches the things. It feels like it’s doing its thing, but the brain doesn’t know what to do with that. And so it may alleviate your aches and pains in the moment because you’ve given the muscle some feedback, the muscle feels loved, it’s been given some input, but then your brain is, doesn’t know what to do with that.

So that’s what I find is the missing piece all of the time, is that we try to make changes in our body with the best intentions and we’re empowered to do that, but we’re not actually giving the body what it is asking. Which is that the holistic piece, getting everything to do its job when it’s supposed to with everything else.

[00:31:29] Tony Winyard: If anyone’s listening now and is now maybe confused and thinking, what stretches should I do and should I do? I forgot the names of all the different stretches now dynamic stretches and there’s all the various other types of stretches and they’re now thinking, should I do this?

Should I, where can they go? What? What would you say to anyone who’s confused now?

[00:31:44] Dynamic stretches

there’s a lot of resources online for finding the right types of stretches to do, and, there’s dynamic stretches are wonderful because they put you through a range of motion. They get the muscles moving with the joints. They are a warmup. They’re a preparation for the exercises you’re going to do.

[00:32:02] Holly Middleton: And I would say if there’s any kind of warmup that you’re going to do before an activity, it would be dynamic movements that are mimicking the movements you’re about to do, but without all the load, without the intensity of the thing that you’re going to. So the best warmup would be preparing your body for the movements you’re about to do, but without that intensity, those would be dynamic types of stretches that are preparing.

So doing a static stretch before your exercises might feel good, but if you’re not doing the dynamic stretch afterwards, it’s actually preventing your body from having the power and strength that it needs, it kind of shuts off those muscles. So I would recommend if you’re going to do a warmup and you have limited time, do the dynamic warmup, prepare your tissues for the range of motion that they’re about to do.

So your brain goes, Aha, we’re gonna do these things.

[00:32:54] Tony Winyard: So are you saying there’s no time when a static stretch is necessary?

[00:32:59] When to do static stretches

[00:32:59] Holly Middleton: No, I would say that if you are somebody who is trying to do a very extreme type of movement, so for like gymnasts, dancers, people who need extreme range of motion,

Static stretches are very useful because you have to do the splits. You have to be in these really extreme positions to properly execute and safely execute those movements.

But for most of us, the static stretches aren’t necessary for you to prepare your body for what you’re going to do. and there’s lots of back and forth about this, Lots of research about this, about stretching and what I’ve heard from listening to the experts is that static stretching is really good for, people that need to do extreme things.

But for most of us, the dynamic warmup is what your body needs to prepare you and as a cool down afterwards, static stretching often will not give your body feedback for what you want it to do. If what you’re trying to do is alleviate aches and pains. So say, My calves are really tight. I’m going to stretch them.

Your calves would actually prefer that you taught them what a calf is supposed to do rather than stretch. If you’re about to do,you’re about to run on the soccer pitch or the football pitch, sorry, different words, different continents, then you want to put your body through a dynamic warmup that’s preparing it for what it needs to do.

So if your approach to aches and pains is I need to stretch more, then I would encourage you to ask yourself what kinds of things your body isn’t doing that stretch is trying to solve. Time and time again, I see people that come in and say, I just need to stretch more. My posture is bad. I need to sit up straight.

What they’re missing is actually the integration of what is your body not doing that it wishes that you would?

[00:34:44] Insoles

[00:34:44] Tony Winyard: Going back to feet, we were talking about feet quite a bit before, and I, 20 years ago, I ran a marathon, and before running the marathon, I was told by a podiatrist, he gave me some insoles for my running shoes. And from what I understand, there’s been a lot of. I think the science maybe, or the belief has changed a lot around insoles in the last few years, can you elaborate on that? Do you know anything about that?

[00:35:10] Holly Middleton: Yeah, so insoles, they can have, some good purposes. So there’s some insoles that will help you with, for example, giving your feet more feedback about the floor. So if you’ve lost all those sensory connections because of the marshmallowy types of shoes, there’s some great insoles that help your brain wake up and go, Ooh, there’s a sole there.

And start to make more, more targeted connections to the soles of your feet to get them to move better. There’s insoles that help you with, for example, Motion control to prevent pronation and things like that. there are reasons why we want to have orthotics and things in your feet. So for example, if you are healing an acute injury, you need to not move those tissues for a while.

It’s if you, if you broke a bone, you want to not move that , those sorts of things. So if you’re in an acute healing phase, we want to stop movements from happening so the tissues can heal, but then we want to move them afterwards. So there’s that. There’s also, if you have, connective tissue, disorders, things where you have hypermobility, we may be able, we may need to stop movements from happening to help support the body.

Then you may need a little bit more cushioning. For example, if you’re doing a marathon, that’s quite a distance and it’s probably on concrete, and so you need just a little bit more cushioning because that’s quite a number of, forces hitting your feet over and over and over again. So you want a little bit of cushioning just so that you’re not just really pounding your feet for a long period of time.

there are some reasons why we would want to have insoles. So sensory feedback,pain relief while you’re healing, different, types of,connective tissue disorders or running, on those surfaces. But for most, for all other, settings, we want to be like what you are doing, which is to not stop your foot from doing foot things.

So let your feet be feet, teach them how to move. And often what happens is, like I said, doctors will give you what you want. So if you have this overpronation, which is something that is a misnomer, if you have overpronation, your body’s trying to tell you that it needs feedback on how to move better. And, but most people will ask for insoles cos that’s either all that they know, that everyone that they know talks about.

When I overpronate, I need insolesbut people don’t often know the other approach, which would be teach your feet to move so that they can get stronger and do what they’re supposed to do all on their own.

[00:37:43] How Holly got into this field

So how did this all come about for you, Holly? How did you get into all this in the first place?

[00:37:49] Holly Middleton: So I have a long background of being, inquisitive. I grew up with a family of scientists. I always like asking why, why, why, why all the time. I went through, 30 years as a dancer. So always, trying to keep my body well and, and to keep it injury free, which I was lucky to have. and then I also have, several degrees in biology.

And so when I was teaching, when I was teaching during my grad degrees, I taught anatomy, the comparative anatomy courses that got me really interested in anatomy. And when I, continued on with my dancing, I did end up having some injuries and I had to stop dancing right before a competition. I was really frustrated.

Wasn’t sure what, when I would be back to dancing again, but decided to get down to figuring out all these aches and pains in my body. And so I went through searching online, trying to find out the root cause, the why behind what I was experiencing. And I found a trainer in Toronto who is trained in the same, work that I do.

And she had a cross training program for dancers. So I thought, when I can’t dance, I might as well come back better. And so I did her cross training program and it actually turned up that it,fixed all of the issues in my body. And so it was a matter of me figuring out why these things were happening and being able to unravel them myself.

and during that same time, my, career as a conservation biologist disappeared when the jobs all disappeared, and I decided to train in this approach. So being able to help people through movement coaching. And so that helped all of my logical progressions. Being a scientist, being able to understand biomechanics helped me understand what was going on in the body and love the system’s approach, that logical progression.

[00:39:35] Holly Middleton: Having 30 years as a dancer, being able to watch myself move, being able to analyze movements and have that fine scale detail available. Having the ability to watch other dancers, see what’s a good movement and what isn’t. Being able to replicate that and then teach it to other people, and then really enjoying teaching and, explaining things to people and being better and better at coaching things and being able to help people with their movements.

Those all dovetailed together into what I do. And so I continue to learn and continue to grow in those patterns and being able to help people with the things that were the most effective for me. The changing the biomechanics, being able to understand your body and listen to it, and the breathing patterns, and being able to use your, the breathing patterns to change posture, change, range of motion, and, an overall, mental wellness at the same.

[00:40:34] Hollie’s typical clients

[00:40:34] Tony Winyard: So now the people that you work with, is there, do you have a sort of specific, like niche that you work with? is it generally across the board as far as demographics are concerned or what is that?

[00:40:45] Holly Middleton: It varies. Usually people, are at least 35 years old. It’s about that age where we start saying we can’t ignore things anymore. So about 35 to 65 is my age demographic. more women than men. For some reason, women want to check in with their bodies more than men do. and I tend to work with people that are athletic.

So they are avid hikers, climbers. they’re outdoorsy. They want to continue to be able to walk long distances and enjoy the natural area where we live. and then I also work with athletes, so climbers, fighters. skaters, figure skaters, a whole variety of people like that. And then I tend to,I do a lot of my work online as well. So about, 40% of my work is online. all of my work is done remotely through our internet connection. I’m able to do a gait analysis and analyze all of the movements in your body and help you promote those movements without being in the room with you.

So I have clients in the us throughout Europe, and there’s no need for me toto be one on one with you. We can do it all through the internet.

[00:41:52] Tony Winyard: The show is called Habits and Health, so a lot of what we talk about on here is about behavior and habits. If you were to give suggestions to people listening for good habits to implement, to reduce injuries they may get when they’re hiking, playing sport, whatever,what sort of two or three tips would you say?.

[00:42:14] Holly Middleton: I would say move more. So move in ways that you’re not used to moving because your body loves that. Your body loves variety in its movement practice. So if you always. sit at a chair at your desk, then try a standing desk, try, changing the elevation. So up and down. Like I sit on the floor most of the time.

That helps me maintain my core strength and my hip mobility. so just changing one thing about your day to day so that you’re moving more. In more varieties of ways. for you, what was working was changing to barefoot shoes. So make sure if you’re doing that when you’re transitioning to barefoot shoes, that you are doing it smartly so you’re not just buying a bunch of shoes and wearing them without transitioning.

I can help with that as well, if anyone wants help with that transition. and then I would suggest, getting outside and moving around on uneven surfaces. So being able to give your feet feedback of the ancestral way of moving. So that’s either going and purposefully walking on the bumpy parts of the sidewalk, or walking on the grass and walking on pine cones and sticks and things like that.

[00:43:24] Holly Middleton: Or getting a, You can get a tray and fill it with river rocks and you can stand on that when you’re at your standing desk. so you can give your feet some weird and wonderful shapes instead of the flat level floors that they live on constantly. So yeah, variety. Variety is what your body would like to have.

[00:43:45] Tony Winyard: Okay, well are coming towards the end, Holly. So a question that I always ask everyone is a book that has moved you in any way. So is there anything that comes to mind?

[00:43:53] Holly Middleton: So in terms of my own work, I really enjoy the language of coaching. So anyone who is a coach or a teacher or someone who is trying to express things to somebody to make changes,think it’s Nick Winkleman is the author. So it’s an amazing book that takes all of science behind how your brain relates to trying to make movements.

And he lays out all of the science behind why we would give specific types of cues for different types of athletes at different levels, but also how to design those cues. It helps you practice those cues, develop those cues to be able to be more effective in creating those movements for your athletes.

So I really really like that. we also talked about, my love of Stoicism. So I would say an author, not necessarily a book, cos it’s really hard to choose, but I love Ryan Holiday’s books. He’s one of the, one of the preeminent writers on Stoicism in the history of stoicism and he’s written, a series of books that each talk about the main tenets of the Stoic practice.

Really digestible books. Each chapter is a different story. You can read each story in a few minutes. and just really inspiring to, to start to take on that Stoic practice. just read one story a day and enjoy that. The thought process.

[00:45:18] Tony Winyard: So it makes me curious, can you remember how long ago it was you first started to get into Ryan Holiday or Stoicism, or how long ago was that?

[00:45:26] Holly Middleton: Yeah. About,three years ago. About three years ago. Yeah.

[00:45:30] Tony Winyard: And would you think, has it changed your thinking much?

[00:45:33] Holly Middleton: Yes, a lot. . I’m already a, logical thinker because I, I was a scientist for a long time, and always a questioner of, why things are the way they are, but always interested in my own self growth and how to. To show up in the best possible way that I can as a human being. And so Stoicism has really helped me with keeping an even keel, being able to make the right choices, being able to be a good human towards other people.

Being able to figure out how, what’s the best, the, what’s the best thing right now? What’s the best outcome for everybody? And being able to, to have that mindset of, and it helps as well when you’re a competitive dancer, right? It’s to be able to have the right approach to things without having those external drivers of trying to be better than someone else in a competitive realm.

it really helps with the mindset of all of those.

[00:46:30] Tony Winyard: So if people want to find out more about you and your courses, and I know you have a video, YouTube channel or many videos and so on, where would they go to?

[00:46:39] Holly Middleton: Sure. So if you want to know a little bit more about me and my thought processes, you can go to my website, flow movement.ca. If you are somebody who likes to watch videos and try out tutorials and get to know my approach that way you can go to my YouTube channel. I have lots of tutorials, on that channel.

So again, flow movement therapy. I’m on Instagram as well, not quite as much. I do post of my things there on Instagram. Also flow movement therapy. I do have some courses online, so if you go to my website, I have a course for transitioning to Barefoot Shoes. So that’s a free course called Refurbish Your Feet.

So there, it gives you some ideas of how to get the right exercises for your feet to strengthen them during your transition to, barefoot shoes if you choose to do that. Or not even transitioning to barefoot shoes, just getting your feet stronger and more resilient, So I I have those courses online.

and if you want to work one on one with me, you can also book that through my, through my website Flow Movement Therapy. I’m happy to give people free gait analysis as well if you want to see what’s going on with your gait. So that’s the mainstay of what I do, is looking at people’s walking patterns.

and I can also do free foot function assessments if you want to see what’s going on with your feet. Happy to do those as.

[00:47:57] Tony Winyard: Okay, all those links are in the show notes, so if you’ve anyone listening who’s missed any of those, just look in the show notes and all those links will be there. So finally, Holly, is there a quotation that resonates with you?

[00:48:10] Holly Middleton: I think it’s the one that we talked about earlier where you think it is, It ain’t . So that came from Ida Rolf, who, if you know Rolfing, she’s a, one of the figureheads of. Movement and fascia and retraining your body. so I like to think about that in a lot of different contexts. So where you think it is, it ain’t works in the body.

So if your knee is bothering you, it’s probably something else that’s actually the problem. And the same thing in your daily life. So these things keep coming up over and over again as lessons. Like life is like a spiral that way that the lesson will keep spiraling back to you and back to you and back to you until you learn the lesson.

And so where you think it is and it ain’t also applies to your life. I often have that, that a lesson will keep coming back until you actually learn it. and the lesson is actually in that, that thing that’s that where you think it is, the lesson is actually somewhere else.

So I think it’s a good way.

thank you Holly. it’s been great. I mean it is been some really good information for people and hopefully it’s gonna help people have a lot less injuries, . So thank you for your time.

[00:49:17] Holly Middleton: You’re welcome. Pleasure to talk to you.

Next week is episode 94 with Paula Allen, who is a global leader research. And total wellbeing and a senior vice president at LifeWorks. And is the creator of the LifeWorks mental health index. And she manages the research agenda for LifeWorks, which includes primary research conducted by them exploring data science.

Research collaborations and meta analysis. Giving her a focus on industry leading research. So we talk about some of the challenges for companies addressing wellbeing and mental health. About the stigma that stops people from getting support for mental health. Creating a culture of trust. And many other areas, so we really dig into areas regarding mental health at work so that’s next week episode 94 with Paula Allen

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