How To Move With More Freedom: Learning To Regulate Intensity & Tension


If you’ve ever felt like every time you ramp up the intensity of your workouts, you get hurt – then this post is for you.

And, if you’ve ever felt the way I used to, like if you didn’t “go hard” then surely you’d lose all of the gains you’ve made so far – this post is for you, too.

Knowing how much intensity and tension to use grants you so much more freedom…

You get actual increases in how much freedom of movement you have.

You get greater amounts of injury resistance so that you can keep at the activities you enjoy doing, without chronic injuries pulling you off track.

You get to know how to sustain results without needing to fear that any letting off on the gas will destroy everything.

In this post, we’ll uncover the very best place to begin tapping into all of the other levels of intensity and tension your body has the potential to access,

And you’ll learn specific actions you can take to learn how to use varying degrees of intensity and tension…

This is Part Two of this article, to read Part One, click here.

Fighting With Your Body

Karen would try to ramp up the intensity, amount, or type, of movement or exercise she was doing, and it seemed like she got hurt every time she did so. When the injuries or setbacks would happen, she felt let down by her body and she was angry at whatever invisible force was preventing her from doing the things everyone else seemed to be able to do.

When we began working together, she wasn’t totally convinced yet that her body was actually capable of working at other intensities without some ache or issue popping up…

Perhaps Karen’s story resonates with your own experience – or – maybe you resonate more with my personal story of intensity and fighting with my body…

For most of my life, I had access to only two levels of intensity – 100% and “sick in bed because I went too hard”. I exercised with intensity. I tackled work goals with intensity. I showed up with intensity in my relationships with other humans.

Where my client, Karen, felt stuck at a low level of intensity and output, I was stuck in the opposite end – with massive amounts of intensity and no access to anything less than that.

I remember clearly the day my mentor, who was also my doctor, said to me as we were discussing my action plan for addressing some health hurdles I was failing to get over, “maybe you could ease up on the running and exercising and work, and go relax a bit?” I looked at him like he had grown three heads.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said.

Because I was still seeing intensity as something binary – on or off, “go hard” or “go home”, all or nothing.

But here’s the thing, you only do things a certain way because they serve you to do them that way. And it served me to go at max intensity. Until it didn’t…via injuries, stress, mistakes, chronic tension, and suffering.

Go hard or go home…or go to the middle ground

Intensity and tension in your soft tissues are intimately connected.

When you ramp up intensity in movement, exercise, training, or sports, you also ramp up tension in your soft tissues. Imagine trying to run for your life with muscles as un-tense as when you’re laying by the pool on vacation…not so much, right?

Ramping up tension and intensity is a good thing when the intensity and tension you generate suits the task you’re facing.

It’s a less-good thing when the intensity and tension you generate does not match what is required for the task at hand, or, when you remain in the high-intensity/high tension state after the need to do so has ended.

If you’re cooking dinner at the stove, and you find yourself closer to the green circle than the purple one, you may want to explore why that is

Despite the fact that fitspo memes on social media are perpetually pushing a message that hints that ‘going hard’ or ‘going home’ are the only two options you have, most of your movement, exercise, training, and living time, is meant to be lived in the space between ‘going hard’ and ‘going home’ – in the middle ground between ‘all’ or ‘nothing’.

You don’t need maximal tension in your erector muscles of your back to cook dinner at the stove on a Tuesday night. And yet…

That’s where you might find yourself if you’ve never learned how to down-regulate your intensity and tension of your back tissues from whatever previous situation required them to hold maximum tension.

Conversely, your body is not some fragile object that cannot sustain the load of carrying a child in your arms, then making some dinner for everyone, then going to your own workout, then having a good night of sleep in bed (all common places that folks mention getting chronically, and frustratingly, re-injured).

When you have minimal play, or “give”, in the system, you have minimal options for adapting to the task at hand…

How To Tap Into The Full Range Of
Intensity & Tension Available To You

One of the easiest places to build more options for intensity and tension into your system is to use your movement/exercise time to learn how to regulate your intensity and tension.

As I wrote in my book, your movement/exercise training time is your ‘conscious, controlled, environment’…your real life is your ‘unconscious, uncontrolled, environment’.

In your training environment, you are deliberate, thoughtful, you focus on feeling various muscles contract, you practice.

In your real life, things happen so quickly you don’t have time to stop, think, plan, and ensure you’re exerting the right amount of force from the right muscles. You simply execute.

And, you’ll execute using whatever you’ve taught yourself to do during your training time.

Your movement/training time is where you have the opportunity to practice many vital aspects of moving well and feeling great…I want to cover four of them with you.

Four Awesome Results From Using Your Movement/Training Time To Regulate Your Intensity:

  • Better signal and focus of your neural drive to your tissues

Neural drive is the contraction your muscles make. “Muscles receive a neural activation signal from the pool of innervating motor neurons (Heckman & Enoka, 2004). This neural signal is the sum of the spiking activities of motor neurons and is referred to as neural drive to the muscle.” You can increase the amount of neural drive you send to your tissues, which can help you improve your mobility, control, and strength.

  • Help yourself kick back into your parasympathetic nervous system

You have two arms of your autonomic nervous system – sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS). Your SNS is your fight or flight response. It ramps up tension, stress, blood pressure, and readiness for fighting, flighting, or freezing – the three things you do when your SNS gets activated.Your PNS is where your body is intended to live most of the time – in the rest and digest response – where the body can recover, restore, and create. Learning to regulate the balance between both systems helps your body to feel, move, and perform, well.

  • Better intention for the intensity and tension you use

What you think about, your body responds to. The placebo effect is an excellent example of thought influencing the physical response in your body. Intensity and tension only work well when you have a strong ability to regulate them. By having better intention for the amount and direction of your intensity and tension, you increase the accuracy of your movements, what tissues you brace and when, and how you organize your movements.

  • Improved movement variability

Remember from Part One of this article, one way to think of ‘movement variability’ is ‘repetition without repetition’ (Nikolai Bernstein). You will do ten squats in a row and they will look fairly similar to the naked eye, but each squat has micro-shifts happening each time in the joints and tissues of your body, making no two squats exactly the same. The more movement variability you have, the more options you have for dispersing load throughout your soft tissues and joints.

So what do you need to do to start getting these four valuable results from your movement/training time?

When I thought about how to best teach you how to create those four awesome results in your movement/training time, I knew immediately I needed to show you, not just tell you…to walk you through it, and have you be able to try what I’m teaching along with me, if you wish…

I’ve decided to host a FREE live workshop this Thursday to teach you how to better regulate your intensity and your tension.

In this workshop, you’ll learn:

  • Specific drills to help you understand how much tension and intensity you’re currently using in your daily life and your workouts
  • Focused movements to teach you how to start releasing any excess tension you may be carrying
  • Practice drills for learning how to ramp up your intensity safely and consistently
  • Plus, we’ll have further discussion on intensity, tension, and how it supports (or detracts from) your freedom of movement

In addition to having a discussion, I’ll be demonstrating movements and drills and I’d love for you to participate with me, but you’ll get plenty of value if you prefer to take notes while I teach and try the drills out on your own later. 😉

You can register for this FREE training right here or by clicking on the image below:


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