This partnership will result in Erika working with The Outdoor Journal, its partners, contributors and ambassadors to create a truly unique strand of content. Focusing on the body, and how, with hard work and understanding, anything is possible within the many adventure sports that we cover around the world.
“the importance of applying this knowledge could be invaluable”
Speaking of the partnership, Sean Verity, Director of Content Strategy said: The experience and knowledge that Erika has, both with regards to understanding your body and its capabilities is fascinating. However, its also very interesting to think about how this expertise can lend itself to various disciplines. Climbing is an obvious example, and the importance of applying this knowledge could be invaluable, possibly the difference between life and death to amateur and professional athletes alike.
Outdoor Journal Editor-in-Chief and Founder, Apoorva Prasad said “having known Erika for some time, I’m always fascinated by how her hectic travel lifestyle translates into wellbeing, fitness, health and also outdoor adventure, which are all values that we promote. She is an incredible example of how someone can achieve great things while being true to themselves, and it is an honor to have her join us.”
Canada born Erika Lemay has become a beautifully disruptive icon in the world of live performance, using her body in ways that defy both gravity and human possibilities. Her journey has taken her from her first ballet class at the age of four, to worldwide success and accolades. Erika is recognised as a world-class artist, although her lifestyle is one of an Olympic athlete, with strenuous hours of daily training and performances across all five continents with no off-season.
Erika is living proof that work ethic and daily discipline, can give one the freedom to live an extraordinary life.
“Poetry doesn’t have to be expressed with words”
As the creator of Physical Poetry, Erika claims that: “Poetry doesn’t have to be expressed with words”. She is also a highly-coveted brand ambassador, public speaker and cause activist. She has performed extensively as a soloist guest star with Cirque du Soleil and is an Arts Ambassador with the non-profit Pensare Oltre. Vanity Fair even nominated Erika as the New Queen of Circus in an interview featuring exclusive pictures by legendary photographer and Hollywood icon-maker Douglas Kirkland, who’s latest book ‘Physical Poetry Alphabet’ is a tribute to Erika’s work.
In 2012, in the midst of a brilliant career and with awards from some of the most important competitions in her field, Erika embarked on a new challenge: a complete One-Woman Show, designed to create a true connection with the audience, pushing her boundaries through this 75 minute acrobatic performance.
Tony Riddle: It’s multifaceted. I always use a classic example of my long-time client, Yahuda, who came to me when he was 72. His story gives you some understanding that it doesn’t matter where you are in your evolution, there’s always a point where you can change. He came to me when he was 72, so we’ve been working now for six years together. Initially, he just wanted to re-learn how to walk. This stooped, crumbled up old man arrives at my gym door and his neck is bent forward, his head is bent forward, he’s completely bent in his posture and he wants to learn how to walk.
“Since working with me, he’s walked to Everest Base Camp, Bhutan, the Atlas Mountains, and Mount Kenya.”
I videoed him on a treadmill firstly to show him his posture, because without showing someone what’s happening, they’re subconsciously or unconsciously incompetent. So by showing them the video, they’re now consciously incompetent. He was shocked, “I never knew I walked like THAT!” The first stage with him was to rewild his feet and transform his feet from being shoe-shaped into more wild, natural feet because the foundation is everything. And then I went through various different ground rest positions with him.
Then we learned how to hang. Hanging is so important for unraveling the spine, lifting the rib cage, opening up the arteries, and even restabilizing where the shoulder blade should be on the thorax. It also develops grip strength. We have all the brachiating abilities as all the other apes, we just don’t hang anymore.
Once we have all that we start working on the squat. From squatting, we start to walk and so on. Since working with me, he’s walked to Everest Base Camp, Bhutan, the Atlas Mountains, Mount Kenya, and he loves walking.
On the way to work, Yahuda walks to the tube in his Vivobarefoot shoes. Most people ask if he wants to sit because he’s 78. But he doesn’t, he hangs on the bar. When the train’s going he’s hanging, when the doors open he squats. He alternates between hanging and squatting the whole ride. And we’ve just introduced breathing techniques. So he now works on nasal breathing and he does a few breath holds on the tube as well.
Once at the office, in addition to a kettlebell and mobility mat, he has a pull-up bar inside his office with gymnastic rings that he hangs on. At his standing desk, he has a platform that he can stand on with stones in it, so he gets different feedback rather than being on a linear surface.
“If I just make a small change to the way I move today, it will have a massive impact in future years.”
So that’s a person who was completely crumpled up at the age of 72, now at 78 years of age he’ll tell you he’s moving better than he ever has in his whole life. That’s how profound it is. And that’s just by making the small changes.
It’s my understanding that if I just make a small change to the way I move, breathe and eat today, it will have a massive impact in future years. You don’t have to do it all at once, you could pick a month and decide that, “This month, I’m just going to work on my movement brain, next month I’m going to work on my nutritional brain, next month I’m going to work on my breathing brain”. And each time, even if you drop stuff off, you’re still making improvements. Some of it will remain and you’ll figure out what works for you individually. The key to all of this is I have to learn how to be a Tony in this world, not like everyone else. Part of the coaching is to help people recognize that it’s individual specific. On a retreat even, it’s still individual specific. I can hold a presentation and I will be gifting to different people in the room what I feel they need at that particular time and what resonates with them.
TOJ: When you are teaching someone new coordination for walking or running, are those changes happening in their body or are they happening within the brain?
Tony Riddle: Well it’s both. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the movement brain and the body. We have this obsession with physical muscles, but really there are two systems – you’ve got kinetics, which is the forces and you have kinematics which are the shapes you make to produce those forces.
Let’s take running. Running is a skill, right? In terms of the kinetics of running, there’s gravity. And how does gravity become tangible? It becomes tangible through body weight. I make the appropriate running shapes using the appropriate muscles and tendons to produce that force through body weight. It’s a whole system, a hierarchy starting with perception in the brain and moving down through the muscles and tendons. If you were in a petri dish and you surrounded yourself with amazing movers and you were cultured into that petri dish, your mind’s perception of that environment is how you behave. So everyone ends up as amazing movers. If you have a petri dish full of compromised movers with sedentary, poor hip mobility through to the spine and down to the ankle, and you only observe that behavior, that would be your behavior base. The mind’s perception of the environment is the most important thing and it has to go through that tool before you can make physiological adaptations.
REFUSE THE CHAIR
TOJ: What’s a small change that people can make today to rewild their bodies?
Tony Riddle: For some people, their HR department won’t allow them to have standing desks or they have to drive on their commute to work. Sitting is just part of our culture right now. So my view is that once you get out of that chair, or whatever that sitting position is, do something that will rewild the behavior of standing, which is generally squatting or one of the rest positions. I’m about to fly to LA next week, which is an 11-hour flight, and there’s going to be some brutal sitting going on there. But the thing is, I’ll get a pre-fight squat going, and during the flight I’ll be squatting and post-flight as well.
TOJ: How do you deal with instances where it’s not socially acceptable to move freely?
Tony Riddle: I used to live between Ibiza and London and I would do two flights a week. I would choose between various different methods. You can kneel on a flight in the aircraft seat. You can even squat in an aircraft seat. You take your shoes off and walk up and down the aisle or go into a larger area and have a squat, move around and do mobility work. And yeah, people might be looking at me as if I’m nuts, but I’m looking at them thinking they’re nuts for sitting down for that length of time. They’re raising socially extreme eyebrows and I’m raising biologically extreme eyebrows.
Check in with The Outdoor Journal next week as we further discuss Tony’s motivation for running barefoot across the island of Great Britain, daily practices for building the body into a “superstructure,” and how Tony moved past childhood trauma and stepped into his power.
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