Many focus on aesthetically shaping their body, but no one knows it gives the illusion of a healthy body. It is time that we educate ourselves on what physically fit looks like. Today, John Lindsey, the Fitness and Wellness Director at The Ford Field and River Club, takes us into The Movement Journey to improve our ability to move. Because of his experience and research, John provides value on the mobility work to maximize your body’s movement capacity. Finally, he also touches on the things to look out for first before doing your mobility work. Tune in to this episode and expect some miracles in your body once you start your movement journey with John Lindsey!
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The Movement Journey With John Lindsey
We have a phenomenal guest lined up for you. We have John Lindsey of The Movement Journey. If you want to see some amazing mobility and stretching techniques, check out John's Instagram, @TheMovementJourney. He does some incredible stuff. Make sure you check him on Instagram. He's got a huge following. He has a wealth of knowledge on personal training, mobility, and stretching. It was a pleasure having him on the show talking to him. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Please welcome John Lindsey.
John, how are you?
Good. Thanks so much for having me on. I'm excited to chat.
One of the things I love most about your story was it wasn't always that easy for you to do these movements you are doing now. I saw a video that couldn't touch your toes in college. Is that correct?
When I was in grad school, I was 23 or 24 and I was going for a Master's of Science in Sports Medicine, a very exercise-related degree, I was personally training people on the side while I was doing that. I don't know if it was a wake-up call. Mobility was starting to become a thing in the fitness realm podcast.
We are starting a fitness podcast. We are starting to get traction. I was hearing the word more and more and I had a wake-up call of, “I'm hearing all this stuff about it. I need to devote some time to it.” At the time I couldn't touch my toes. I couldn't squat past the parallel 90 degrees. I would have chronic low back pain after lower body workouts. I honestly felt bad because I was teaching people how to move better as a personal trainer and I was like, “I'm a wreck.” I need to figure myself out before I continue on this journey of helping others.
Did you have an athletic background going into this? Did you play sports or was this a passion of yours, movement, and all of that?
I played soccer fairly competitively in high school. I wasn't elite or anything like that. I have always played pickup sports, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and things like that. I never was truly passionate about any sport. Even going back to high school, I was always more interested in general fitness. I liked being in the weight room. I liked learning how to progress programming for lifting and stuff like that. I was always intrigued by that. When I was an undergrad, I assisted with the Olympic weightlifting staff. I was always intrigued by more general fitness than I was as far as specific sports go. I would say I had somewhat of an athletic background.
When you are 23 or 24 years old, movement is not terrible, but like you said, You can't touch the toes and squat parallel. Did you start in research? Did you start doing some stuff on your own to see what was what?
The first intro into mobility work for me was if you know Kelly Starrett at all. He wrote a book and then it was a brand called Mobility. It was called MobilityWOD. The book was called Supple Leopard.
It was more so a crossfitter’s guide on how to structure mobility work, but it was well written. It's not the most amazing stuff in the world and it's not mobility things I would program for anyone, but it opened my eyes. If you want to be more mobile, you need to program and take this as seriously as you take your strength work and as you take your aerobic work. If you want to make big progress in aerobic work or strength work, you prioritize it. You do hours of it a week. Mobility work is no different. The big eye-opener to me was, “This isn't a warmup before my workout or a quick cooldown after a run.” You have to dedicate some time to getting results.
My first intro was MobilityWOD and Supple Leopard stuff. From there, a functional range conditioning. I don't know if you are familiar with that. They work with a lot of physical therapists and chiropractors. It is another brand of mobility work. They certify people in FRC, Functional Range Conditioning. They have a lot of cool techniques for muscle activation at the end range to help build strength through range and increase range of motion. That was probably the biggest after Kelly Starrett stuff, and then getting into FRC for a few years was probably the biggest moment I had where I was dedicating my time to their techniques and seeing quick progress.
I assume it's much like strength training where it's tough to see results on day one in the first couple of weeks. What's the progression like for you with your mobility when you first started?
It is tough to see progress right away, but with stuff like functional range conditioning, to me, it was so different than traditional. The soccer practice warmup you did in high school where you cross your legs and try to touch your toes, cross your legs the other way, and do that piriformis stretch like the general stuff is so different than that. Even though I didn't make progress on day one, I was like, “This is it. I can tell this is something I have never been exposed to. I know there are going to be results from this.”
Even though there was no immediate progress, it was clear that this was going to be a new stimulus and I could sense that there were going to be results. I was dedicated early on. I did see some decent results 2 to 3 months in, and that motivated me. It was clear. I was dedicating a fair amount of time. I was probably at my peak of doing mobility work. I bet I was doing 1 hour a day, so 6 to 7 hours total a week. That's a pretty big stimulus. It's much less now, but I got the bug there for about 2 to 3 years.
If somebody has tight hamstrings or quads, do you notice that that's not necessarily the muscle that needs to be stretched or moved? Do you find that the problems can exist in other areas of the body that are bothering the hamstrings or it's the problem might be in a different location rather than the muscle that's hurting?
Yes. A good example related to that would be, and I'm sure you get this all the time, is, “My lower back is tight. What's a good stretch for my lower back?” Chances are your lower back is fine. It doesn't need to be that mobile to begin with. Let's look at the things below it and above it, assess your mobility there, and hack away at your hips. Hack away at your thoracic spine. That's probably going to feed some slack and make your lower back feel way better.
I found out this early on, and this speaks to functional range conditioning methods, which prioritize joint rotation. Working with clients, I find that they might have super tight hamstrings or quads. If you give them some solid hip rotation work, it's probably not even that great of a stimulus or not that much time. It might be 8 to 10 minutes of work, 5 to 6 days a week.
Unlocking your hip's ability to rotate because its movement happens in the capsule first before a muscle gets pulled on can unlock a lot of things. Your hamstrings might not feel tight anymore because you have unlocked a couple of millimeters of range of rotation. That can feel like a ton when it comes to stretching the hamstringing.
What made you jump into the movement journey? You could have just carried on with doing regular personal training programs, but you are one of the few people that's walking the walk and talking the talk. It's changed your life, but some people continue with their life. What made you want to do this movement journey and help other people do it as well?
It was probably a couple of things. As I said, I was so crazy stiff that seeing some progress early on it was like, “This is so cool.” As someone who's studying exercise science, it was cool for me to see how you could make a change in the body if you put in the work. The nature of mobility work at the time suited my personality.
I liked the science behind it. I was fine with spending an hour a day on what would appear hanging out in the same positions but doing some isolated muscle engagement at the end range. I thought it was cool. It was also functional range conditioning, going to their seminars, networking with people, and understanding that Instagram was becoming like LinkedIn for the fitness industry.
It's gotten away from that now where it's a little more, “How can I be eye catchy and get people's attention?” Several years ago, it was more, “I'm a fitness person. Here's some stuff I'm working on.” I started sharing my movement journey several years ago. It was me showing, “Here's techniques I'm learning.” It's helping me do this. As I did it, my skillsets and my ability to do cool things evolved and became what I was all about and I kept pursuing it.
What does the movement journey consist of? How does it work? Is it people who go on the site and they watch videos? Do you do personal consultations where you can see people via Zoom or whatnot? How does it work if somebody sees your videos? “This looks fucking awesome. I want to start doing this.” How does the movement journey work?
The main way to work with me now is I work with a company called Tribe Fitness and developed an app where you subscribe to the app. It has many different movement paths. If you want to work on your front split, we have five different levels of, “Here's level one. You are tight. Work on this until you hit the prerequisites for level two,” essentially how close to the ground is your groin and then so on.
There are front splits, middle splits, pancakes, and very specific mobility positions. We also have tons of general mobility stuff in there. Not everyone wants to chase front splits, pistol squats, or dragon squats. They want to move and feel better. We have lots of scaled general stuff as well. That's the best way to work with me now. I do take on one-on-one clients online, but at the moment, I'm full so I don't have any. If someone is reading this and they are interested, feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram and I can get you on a list, and at some point, we could work together.
What are some of the key factors to mobility? Anybody can stretch and bend down and touch their toes, but there's a lot that goes into it. There's breathing, stretching, and resistance. What are some of the key factors that play into mobility for you?
You could go a lot of ways with that question. I would say it's working on your weakness. Let's say you are good at traditional yoga poses and you say, “I have my mobility routine. I do this all the time. It's easy,” but then you go to do some sport that requires hip rotation and your hips don't rotate well because, in all of these yoga positions, there's no hip rotation involved. You are setting yourself up holding there.
You are not moving through rotation much or something like that. I would say, “You have got great mobility, but you are not working on that one weakness, your hip's ability to rotate. That could cause you some trouble down the road.” Recognizing your weakness is probably where I would start and making it a priority to work on it.
It’s like how I describe myself as not being able to touch my toes and not being able to squat past 90 degrees. Those two things are pretty good measures. If you can at least touch your toes and squat past 90 degrees or even better hang out in a resting squat for maybe a minute or two, that's a good sign that not only that you have decent mobility, but you are comfortable with it enough and have strength enough to hold that position for an extended period of time.
I hear hip mobility coming up a lot. Is that one of your main focuses?
Yes. The hips we are going to use every day and they provide the most degrees of range of motion in the lower body. When somebody wants better mobility, whether it be for a better squat or they want to work on things like splits or they want to work on better hip rotation for a sport, it's all in the hips. Chances are if somebody lacks the range of motion in the lower body, a lot of times, squats are a great example. They think, “I need to hack away at my ankle mobility to get down there.” Chances are if you prioritize your hips, not only will it get you there quicker, but it's also going to be way easier. It's easier to make progress in your hip mobility than it is in your ankles.
What are your thoughts on pain and stretching? Do you find that sometimes it's beneficial or maybe, “That's not the right stretch. Let's focus on something else or maybe a little bit more.”
A good saying is to aim to strain not for pain. Everyone's pain threshold is different. I probably have a higher tolerance to pain, but I have also been doing mobility work for a long time so I mentally know. This is straining like crazy, but I know I'm okay. I have been here before, I felt this sensation before, and that comes with time, understanding what your body is capable of and what that sensation feels like when you are doing it. Most people probably know their body well enough, especially if they have had any other physical practice, whether it's sports or some weight training. Yes, this feels like a nice big stretch, but it doesn't feel like pain quite yet, so aim for strain, not for pain.
Your mobility is at such a high level. Are you able to build lower back tightness? Are you able to pinpoint it and get out of it or do sometimes you need some muscle work, some chiropractic, and some physical therapy?
I haven't, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't benefit it from. I'm pretty good at understanding my body. I typically do a front split day once a week, but I skipped it because I felt like, “I'm pretty tight.” Me forcing the issue, I know I'm not going to be happy with the results of that workout. It's my body telling me to rest. I'm pretty good, but I'm not good when it comes to pushing through strength work or endurance work because I like to do that when it comes to a structured mobility session. If you are pushing the issue on mobility work, you are going to be sore from it. You are going to be sore like you would with strength work.
I know when I get to a day like, “You have been killing it for 10 to 12 weeks straight without a rest week. let's take a week off.” I'm pretty good about recognizing that, but I'm not when it comes to endurance work or strength work. I like to stay regiment on that and do it. I don't get any traditional, but I do use a Theragun sometimes after long cycling sessions, but that's probably about as close to what I have used.
Have you had any crazy hops or clicks in a good way and even in a bad way while you are doing those stretching or those aside?
When I do back bridge work, I feel my spine. I can almost predict it. I know the second set of this backbend variation. I know I'm going to feel a nice release in my thoracic spine. It happens so often that I can tell. I'm sure most people know before that noise or sensation happens, they feel something in their body. They are like, “It's coming.” That typically happens with back bridge work.
I'm assuming this work has helped you get in touch with your body and how it's feeling. It's probably crossed over to a couple of different areas in your life with fair assumption.
The level of practice I was doing with mobility work required so much focus and attention to detail that it has helped me, especially professionally to build an online business. More or less taking my time or when I make a mistake, it's, “Let's learn something from the mistake. Not dwell on the fact that it was a mistake and not make the mistake again.” When I was in the thick of that mobility work an hour a day learning different techniques, that's the most focus that I have probably ever been in my life. It's trickled over professional life a little bit.
Physical exertion helps out with mental clarity and stuff. Sometimes I find myself when I'm stretching for long periods of time that I almost get into a meditative Zen mode. Do you find that those two almost go hand-in-hand or that's helped with your mental health as well?
I prefer if I want to do something that I know at a high level is going to require a lot of focus. I like to do something more endurance-based or a HIIT-type workout. I did an interval ride on my bike outside before this conversation and I wanted to plan it that way. I'm more locked in. I'm more ready to have a good conversation. Yes, with stretching, but I feel that more so after something good aerobic.
How do you find the discipline and determination? It sounds like you are not skipping too many days. How do you find the will to keep doing this every day? What keeps you motivated?
When people ask that, I almost want to start laughing. I find it fun. It's easy to make time for the fun stuff.
You love what you do.
I don't do nearly as much mobility work as I used to. I'm gravitating back towards more traditional fitness-type methods but trying to maintain the level of mobility I have as best I can. Any physical activity in general, that's my candy every day. I'm going to do something every day. There's no, “Oh, man. It's time to work out.” It's, “Hell, yes. It's time to work out.”
Was that on a personal level you are trying to transfer back over to more fitness stuff or you are trying to do that with clients as well?
A little bit of both. I am getting interested in kettlebell flow work, which I was interested in years ago. It is the traditional strength training type of thing. I am adding pieces of that to my app and I will continue to do that. It's a great way for me to be able to touch other people. Not everyone out there wants to get a middle split, but I'm sure most people want to move better and get stronger. It's nice to be able to add those pieces.
You are in one of those industries where if you stay static, it's not good. That industry is constantly evolving.
That's how I feel personally. It's I can do a front split, middle split, and back bridge. Going into a session for that, there's a little, “I am less motivated more and more because I did it. Can I take it any further? What's the point of taking it any further?” My time could be better utilized by spending some time to maintain those things but less time and then utilizing other time to experience and take on other tasks and learn about them.
How much does diet play into everything you do? Have you tried a lot of different diets? Have you noticed you eat certain things that helped you physically perform better?
It matters. I never eat like crap. Eating like crap is indulging in. My wife is a private chef and she's a healthy chef. Indulging is more overeating good-quality stuff. I feel a little lethargic and bloated sometimes when that happens, but it's never crazy bad. I don't drink too much. We typically drink once a week now and at a very low level. We might split a bottle of wine maybe a little more than that sometimes, but I used to drink more. You can feel that, but that's something that my wife and I both have progressively scaled back on. For that main reason, you physically feel it and you mentally feel it. It's not worth it to hinder your performance mentally or physically the next day.
You still have to have a day sometimes too.
I can't go tilt turkey. No way. I'm too big of a college football fan to do that.
You mentioned listening to your body about when to rest. What does a recovery day look like for you and how do you judge when to jump back in, or, “I’ve got to take it easy for X amount of days?”
I do that. I recognize that I have been overworked mostly on mobility work. Once a year or two, I will take a full week of training. Even during that week, I'm trying to walkathon. I'm also doing very general yoga flows for 15 to 20 minutes each day. Things like hanging from a bar or sitting in a squat. Nothing is going to improve my mobility by any means, but it's a general flowy movement to feel good and help get some blood flow to stuff that's achy. Even on a rest day, if I don't do my front split day, I'm still going to do something like that for 15 to 20 minutes to warm those tissues up a little bit and hopefully expedite the healing.
Do you know that strength exercising helps with mobility? I know sometimes I will stretch and I will feel tight. I then will do some core work or strength work and then I will go back to that exercise and I'm doing a little bit more than I was doing.
It can. If you are prioritizing range of motion and strength work, even if it's something as simple as a pushup, maybe you are doing it on parallel bars so you can get the full range of motion. Not to burn out the muscles by any means, but if your goal is to, “Let me get to the full range of motion or full stretch at the bottom, stretching out my pec or my shoulders, and pause there, then press back up into maximum scapula protraction,” if you do things like that, the same with squats where you prioritize the full range of motion and lower the weight a little bit, that's going to improve your mobility as well. Strength work and mobility work, there's a lot of carryover.
Are there any red flags when it comes to mobility, some things that you should stay away from especially if you are just starting?
The younger me, I was so indoctrinated into functional range conditioning work. I would have said, “Anything except for this is trash. This is the only way to do it.” Mobility is such a vast term now. It could be in a lot of things and a lot of people define it in different ways. If you are doing something and it feels like it's challenging you in a good way, it's probably improving your mobility, and don't question it too much.
I could see some people trying to do what you do and not getting the results right away. It's important. You have been doing it for so long not to get discouraged. Little by little each day, it's going to come.
I will go back to the point I made. Try to recognize what your weaknesses are. If your mobility work is like yoga-type stuff where you are not isolating singular joints and you are doing these global body positions, things this simple as downward dog press-ups, there are a lot of joints involved. Chances are, if that's your mobility work, one of those joints probably moves well, and so you can create this image of the movement by using that joint.
Let's take the downward dog for example. Your hips might move well but your overhead mobility might not be good. The more you do that move, the more you are going to rely on your hips to get you deeper into the position. If you were to back up a little bit and say, “My shoulders are tight. Let me isolate them by myself,” then you go back to that movement and it's going to be even better. You have worked on what was your weakness, and your chances are getting an injury in that area are going to go way down, and your general body feeling is probably going to be elevated as well.
At the end of every show, I like to ask all my guests, what is one piece of advice that has resonated with you over the years that you would like to give the audience? It could be anything.
Be the coolest person you know. If you are interested in something, take it in full force. Don't just go with the crowd. Read the book you want to read, not what your buddy is reading. Listen to the podcast you want to listen to, not the one all your friends at the gym are listening to. That's what I would do. Getting into mobility work for me was me breaking from my gym friends. It was a new weird thing.
For me professionally and personally, it was an awesome road to go down. That goes back to your question. In life too, I started becoming the coolest person I knew at that moment. It's funny. That was a big step for me to stop caring what other people thought. I was like, “I'm going to go work on my weaknesses here. I don't care if I'm not doing squat day with you guys or bench press day. I'm going to work on me.” That's trickled over into many things I do. Become the coolest person you know.
I have asked that question to about 200 guests, and that is the top 5. It’s one of my favorite answers. Where can people find you online, on social media, and how to book a consultation with you if they choose to?
I do both of my stuff on Instagram. Anything I'm adding to the app is going to be posted there. Follow me on Instagram, and you will see what's going on. If you are dying to work with me, just shoot me a DM, and we will try to make it work. We also have the app, so subscribe there. We’ve got a lot of cool stuff on there, and we are always adding new things.
John, thank you so much for coming on. I love your story and your message. You are doing awesome work. I would love to have you back in time.
Thanks for having me.
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