“Be prepared!” Whether you were a Boy Scout or not you’ve likely heard this everywhere. For Skylar Pond D.C., functional medicine is all about preparedness. Doing what you can now to avoid pain or discomfort later! Skylar may be an expert sports chiropractor, but he also has some tips for those of us who aren’t professional athletes.
After suffering from a tear in his right shoulder while pursuing a career in competitive rugby, Skylar was given two options. He could either get surgery or stop playing the sport he loved. He created his own option and developed a demanding and experimental shoulder stabilization routine. This allowed him to continue to play rugby pain-free! Skylar was inspired to share that same level of success with others, so he became a sports chiropractor. He now works with Seattle’s own rugby team, The Seattle SeaWolves, and even competes with the Ivan Salaverry MMA team. Click below to listen to this fun and educational interview, or read on to see our highlights!
So what is functional medicine?
Functional medicine can be applied in different ways depending on the practitioner and scope of practice. The basic concept of functional medicine is focused on being proactive, not reactive. You’re trying to build your durability, strength, and capacities. Reactive medicine would be like going to the doctor for a stomach ulcer and coming out with some medications and possibly need some procedures done. Functional medicine is more like doing an assessment of your gut biome and what’s going in in your stomach before the ulcer happens. It’s about figuring out what you can do to optimize your health. Are there any foods or supplements you should add/subtract? What more should you be doing?
You could look at it physically, too. Your shoulder isn’t broken right now, but if by improving your scapular stability you could overhead press 15 more pounds with no pain- and reduce the risk of injury. That simple concept applies to many different avenues of health, wellness, and performance. Functional medicine is about building your durability, capacity, and strength now. Not waiting for the injury to come but to build up your reserves while you’re ahead of the game.
How important is mobility?
Extremely. Even 5 minutes every day will give you noticeable results. It’s definitely going to benefit you more the earlier you start. Open up those hips now and it will save your back later! Starting as soon as possible fits into that functional medicine perspective for sure. There can be a point where your mobility training will be reactive to counteract any current issues you’re having. There’s only so much flexibility that we’re going to be able to get if you haven’t been working on it. So it’s so much more effective if you just start before you’re already hurting. It takes so much pressure off the spine, knees, and ankles which really pays off as you age!
What should I be doing to build a mobility routine?
Mobility routines don’t have to be perfect, but a little bit of structure will go a long way. Your hip mobility is probably the most important. A good set of mobile hips takes a lot of pressure off your knees, ankles, and lower back. What I do myself and recommend to others, is to close out your workout with over 3 minutes of stretching per leg. If you’re doing a saddle stretch, you can just do five minutes right there. It’s kind of fun to think, “If I just put in my 3-10 minutes after my workouts I’m on the trajectory to being able to do the splits.”
Anything over 2 minutes is enough to create an actual change in tissue length. I don’t know where the idea of stretching for “30 seconds really hard” came from. What’s far more useful is to get into a position where you are experiencing a 4/10 level of discomfort. Camp out there for a couple minutes. You can move around a bit to adjust if you need, but just being consistent with a couple small stretches like that will make a tremendous difference. Even just two days a week will bring you closer!
That’s the most gratifying and simple way I’ve gone about hip mobility. Simple, directional movements held for a long time, like yin yoga. You can go to Romwod which I also recommend to patients. If you like to have something to follow along with, subscribing to something that will help you build that habit is money well spent.
How important is daily movement?
Living an active lifestyle is different than just checking a box and doing the bare minimum. It really is critical to get moving every day, especially as you get older. Our bodies are our freedom! It’s what gives us access to experience anything we want. As we get older our bodies will become solitary confinement prison cells if we allow them to. It’s a material that wants to shrink. An active lifestyle is how you maintain that mobility and space in your body to move.
What we do today will either feed towards our freedom in the future or it will take it away. Our bodies are either going to either imprison us or liberate us and maintaining that everyday active lifestyle is your key to liberation. It doesn’t need to be the same every day, it doesn’t need to be strenuous, you don’t need to max out every day. Even if it’s just mobility work like stretching it needs to be done every day. You’re already doing something to change your body every day, but the real question is, “Are you doing something that’s going to change your body in a way you like?”
What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting?
Personally, I really like 16:8, which is the most convenient for me. There’s great data out there looking at your regenerative capacity when you’re taking advantage of intermittent fasting windows. In the 90s and early 2000s, we were all looking for 7 meals a day so our bodies wouldn’t break down our own proteins. Research, though, pointed out that you don’t just arbitrarily digest your own proteins. Like the whole concept of culling the herd, your older, weaker, and less useful cells are the ones your body will break down for fuel. That opens up the capacity for healing and regeneration. You need to have a healthy stomach lining and that downtime between meals. It’s very helpful for joint and tissue repair as well as regeneration.
Do you have any tips for fasting?
There are a number of different fasting styles so I encourage my patients to experiment. Some people like doing a true, hard fast once a week which isn’t for everybody. I prefer the more accessible approach. If you really can’t give up coffee for the day, try a black coffee. There are little changes you can make to see what your body responds positively to. Basically, if you just kick your breakfast to 11 AM you’re there. You don’t even need to think about it as intermittent fasting. Just a late breakfast and an early dinner. That will stop late-night snacking which is going to give you so many benefits on its own.
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How can I share this with my family?
Children these days need help, guidance, and a challenge. It starts with their mental space. It’s hard to be active if you’re lacking self-worth, feel isolated, or depressed. Children need to feel loved, safe, and secure. There’s a big, difficult, exciting world awaiting them! I surprised my family with Transcendental Meditation training for Christmas, and my children are really benefiting from it. They will wake up and meditate on their own, twice a day at least. They’re taking ownership of their mental space and seeing what their thoughts are and getting space there. Setting that foundation has been a huge tool for the health of my kids. Coupled with making sure they feel loved, supported, and empowered to take on challenges and risks.
On the physical side, if you have a physical skill or hobby do your best to share it with your child! I was really into competitive Crossfit and kettlebelling so I shared that with my children. Now they’re Olympic lifting and kettlebelling. They have been training with me for years, so we can go very heavy. I know better than to recommend that to everyone, though. It takes time to build the correct form and strength so you won’t get injured.
Really, teach my kid to lift?
If you ask a 9-year-old to squat, of course, their form will be terrible (they’re 9). But children’s joints are made of sunshine and smiles so they won’t have that painful feedback that tells them their form is incorrect. If I tried to squat the way a 9-year-old does, I would be in a lot of pain all over. So even if your child isn’t lifting weights, it’s really advantageous to get a child to move as if they were a powerlifter. They’re moving in a way where it would be safe to lift 700 pounds in a deadlift. Not only will they be more efficient in all of their movements going forward, but you’re also setting the pathway for healthy joints and mobility.
Whether you’re going off the deep end like I have, or you’re going to stay in the shallow zone, teaching an optimal movement pattern is a wonderful gift to give to your children. They should know how to back squat, front squat, deadlift, how to breathe correctly, how to lock in-it’s a lifelong tool that will diminish the need to see doctors and chiropractors in the future.