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efortless

exercise
A Guide to Fitness, Flow States
and Inner Awareness
Grant Molyneux
First edition
Copyright © 2008 by Grant Molyneux
First Paperback Edition – November 2008
ISBN: 9780981145303 (trade paperback)
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be repro-
duced in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or any information browsing,
storage, or retrieval system, without permission in writing from
the publisher.
For information on bulk orders contact orders@frontlist.com
or fax 403-253-5642
Distributed to the trade by Ingram Books
Disclaimer – Client’s names have been changed to protect their
privacy.
Acxnowtcocucnts
As I reflect on those people I owe a debt of thanks to, I’m
reminded of the adage, “All is one.” No truer words have ever been
spoken. These words point to the universal truth that every atom
and molecule in our universe is intimately linked to every other
atom and molecule. In this way everything influences everything
else in an exquisite balance and interplay. So it follows that this
book is simply an outflow of all the positive interactions I have had
with the hundreds of clients I’ve had the opportunity to work with
over the past 30 years. This book is really their story. It was born
out of a desire to communicate the practice of effortless exercise
and to share this vision of movement with others who value
quality, integrated and sustainable fitness. I have had the good
fortune to witness numerous personal transformations and peak
athletic performances. My deepest thanks go out to all my clients
who have trusted my methods, found the courage to take the path
less traveled and embraced an effortless approach to fitness.
Thanks also to Wendy, my wife and alchemical editor. She
has transmuted coal into diamonds, taking my often rough and
disjointed concepts and weaving them into a cohesive whole.
Without her, this book simply would never have made it out of my
computer. I can still here her shouting from her upstairs office,
“Listen to this …!” followed by wails of laughter. She toiled endlessly
over this manuscript and to this day knows it more intimately
than I do. She often catches me up on details I have long since
forgotten; she truly has been the wind beneath my wings.
Lastly, I would like to thank Judy McCallum, Peter Neiman, Keith
Hanna and Lee Coyne for critiquing the manuscript and providing
me with invaluable insight, connections and suggestions. They
too have shaped the final product to a point of inclusion and
refinement that makes me feel confident of the final product.
Again, and I can’t say it enough, many thanks.
CONTENTS
F6vwtvo j
Citvfrv +: Drri×i×c Err6vfirss Exrvcisr ::
The Effortless Exercise Vision +z
Intuition and Inner Awareness +¸
A Personal Journey +8
Health and Fitness Pyramid zo
Sustainable Exercise zz
Effortless Exercise # +: Listening to Inner Body Energy z¸
Citvfrv z: I×svivro M6fivtfi6× z¸
The Passion of Play z¸
Permission versus Prescription z)
Staying On Track z8
Putting Fun Back into Fitness ¸+
Creating Resonant Experiences ¸z
Effortless Exercise # z: Practicing Awareness ¸¸
Citvfrv ¸: Cvrtfi×c Fi6w Sftfrs ¸)
The Power of Warm-Ups ¸)
The How to of Warm-Up z+
Check-In Phase z +
Warm-Up Rule z z
Hydration z ¸
Fuel z z
Breathing z z
The “Itch” z ¸
Monitoring Heart Rate z6
The Crucial Cool-Down z8
Check-Out Phase z 8
Short Sessions ¸o
Effortless Exercise # ¸: Entering Effortlessness ¸+
Citvfrv z: Err6vfirss E×ouvt×cr ¸¸
The Push/Pull Concept ¸¸
Finding the Flow ¸6
Nasal Breathing 6o
The Heart Connection 6 o
Respiratory Efficiency 6 +
Parasympathetic Calm 6 +
How to Nasal Breathe 6 +
Darth Vader Technique 6 +
Upper Limit 6 z
Breath and Pacing 6 z
Tips for Runners and Swimmers 6 ¸
Effortless Training Heart Rate 6z
Aerobic Intensity 6 ¸
Determining your Effortless Training Zone (ETZ) 66
Method +: Exercise Experimentation 6 6
Method z: Nasal Threshold 6 )
Method ¸: Blood Lactate Testing 6 8
Max VOz Test 6 ¸
Setting your Lower Limit 6 ¸
ETZ Adjustments ) o
ETZ is Sport Specific ) o
ETZ Tips ) +
The Rejuvenation Zone )z
Beyond Heart Rate )¸
Effortless Exercise # z: Discovering Zen Experiences )¸
Citvfrv ¸: Siuvir Firxiniiifv t×o Sfvr×cfi ))
Pursuing Integrated Exercise ))
Effortless Flexibility )8
Stretching and Injuries ) ¸
How to Stretch Effortlessly 8 +
Effortless Strength 8¸
The Strength Curve 8 z
The One-Set Strength Process 8 6
Progressing Effortlessly 8 )
One-Set Summary 8 ¸
Generic Weight Training Schedules ¸ o
Multiple-Set Training ¸ +
The Rest Requirement ¸ +
Effortless Exercise # ¸: Valuing Relaxation and Rest ¸z
Citvfrv 6: Err6vfirss Pv6cvrssi6× jq
The Forward Training Plan ¸¸
The Ten Percent Tip ¸6
Exercise Anchors ¸)
Mind Games ¸¸
Sustainable Change +oo
Measuring Fitness Backwards +o+
Walking Experiment +o+
The Magic of Consistency +oz
Changing Perceptions +oz
Marathon and Racing Tips +o¸
Effortless Exercise # 6: Progressing as an Intuitive Process +o6
Beginners Progression – the one minute solution +o6
Training Progression – the ¸o percent solution +o)
Citvfrv ): I×juvirs tvr t Girf ::o
The Injury Epidemic ++o
“Mind Over Matter” Thinking +++
Avoid Injury Through Intuition ++z
How to Mend Injuries ++z
Eight Healing Steps ++¸
Illness as Injury +zo
Health and Fitness +z o
Resuming Exercise +z +
Light Weight Lifting +z z
Tips for Swimmers +z z
Environment +z ¸
The Overtraining Trap +z¸
Less is More +z z
Recognizing Overtraining +z z
Freshness Question +z ¸
Effortless Exercise # ): Healing Practices +z¸
Citvfrv 8: T6wtvo t Lirr Tiur 6r Exrvcisr :z8
A Typical “Workout” +z8
Internal versus External Focus +¸o
Distractions +¸z
Media +¸ z
Conversation +¸ ¸
Group Training +¸ ¸
Group Training Guidelines +¸ z
Setting Goals +¸¸
Pacing Effortlessly +¸¸
The Heart of Exercise – Enjoyment +¸8
Effortless Exercise # 8: Enjoying Each Session +z+
Rrrrvr×crs :q¸
An6uf fir Aufi6v :q)
9
FORWARD
Thirty-three years ago, as a first-year physical education
student, I questioned my physiology professor about what might
be the ideal kind of exercise. His immediate response was, “The
kind that you do!” As I was learning about self-discipline, this was
wise counsel at the time. However, as my life has evolved, I have
come to understand that although the best kind of exercise may be
the “kind you do,” the exercise you continue to do must eventually
become “effortless.” Grant understands this. Self-discipline and
effort may get you started, but they won’t get you healthy.
Although “effortless exercise” would have been inconceivable
to me as a university student, I understand today the message
Grant shares in his book. When exercise is incorporated into the
unique needs of your mind, body, and spirit; when it becomes
integrated into your creative authenticity; when it shifts from being
a “workout” to a “practice” aligned with who you are as a person,
exercise can, indeed, evolve to a place where it becomes effortless.
The body knows what kind of exercise is right for you and how
much is enough. However, it requires that you stop exercising
and go within to discover this. Many of us need rest, quiet time,
and relaxation much more than we need exercise. As you listen
closely to your body and its ever-changing needs, you access all
the wisdom required to create an exercise practice that will not
only be life-changing, but will be with you for life.
For twenty-five years, as a nationally-ranked competitive
runner, running was effortless for me. This didn’t mean that there
weren’t days that I hurt from the training. It often took discipline
and effort to get my running shoes on and get my feet on the
trail. But being effortless meant that I was intended to run in my
life. It came to me like swimming to a swan. Even when I started
running in junior high and I couldn’t run a mile without walking,
Grant Molyneux
10
it was still effortless because it felt authentic. My particular body
and psychological makeup were meant to run. I knew this without
even knowing that I knew it.
After running competitively for nearly three decades, my
consciousness began shifting. I was running nearly six-minute per
mile marathons, but I couldn’t sit still for six minutes. I began
to understand that even though running was natural for me, I
had used running as a way of running away from myself. As my
consciousness shifted, so did my relationship to running. As I
began growing into a new awareness, running evolved into an
effort, and I knew then it was time for less running. It was time to
start doing other forms of exercise that deepened my connection
with my emerging authentic self.
As I age, I have become increasingly respectful of the diversity
of the human experience and the diversity of the ways of getting
beyond mere physical health to an authentic life that integrates
the physical, mental, and spiritual sides of our nature. I give credit
to Grant for being a major contributor to starting me on this path
almost fifteen years ago. The first thing I learned from Grant was
the difference between health and fitness and how much of my
competitive experience compromised my health in an effort to get
“fit.” As he slowed me down and helped me tune into my body, I
began to connect with my authentic desires. As I learned to listen
to my body, I emerged into exercise that was integrated with my
whole life. As I continue to adapt and re-align my habits with who
I am, exercise continues to be effortless.
If you are curious about transforming your relationship with
exercise; if you are finding that exercise is merely a “discipline” to
squeeze into a busy life; if you find yourself pushing and injuring
yourself in your exercise regime; or if you feel guilty when you
don’t meet self-imposed, unrealistic expectations of yourself;
and if you want to develop a relationship with exercise that is
authentic, holistic, and effortless, then this book will change your
life as you discover and honor your own unique path. I wish you
all the very best on this journey. It is well worth the effort to make
it effortless.
David Irvine,
Author, Becoming Real: Journey To Authenticity
11
CHAPTER : DEFINING
EFFORTLESS EXERCISE
Learning To Go Within
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you felt great every time you exercised
– every step of the way? What if you could consistently reach a
flow state, where time stands still and you move along effortlessly,
where you experience the bliss of the runner’s high and benefit
from all the positive health benefits of exercise without any of
the downside of pain and injury. Ask yourself, “What part would
exercise play in my life if I experienced heightened vitality during
and after each session?”
Wouldn’t it also be motivating if the process of exercise was
always enjoyable and positive? Consider how you’d view exercise
if you didn’t have to push through physical pain and worry about
becoming injured. What if you were able to reach your goals harmo-
niously without the struggle and strain of stressful workouts?
Imagine what your life would look like if it became effortless to
maintain your ideal weight, play with your kids, climb a mountain
or participate in a triathlon on any given day, at any given age.
If you answered a resounding “Yes!” to the above questions,
then this book speaks to you. Its content focuses on the quality of
the exercise experience. Whether you’re a beginner or wanting to
win an Ironman triathlon, the quality of your exercise ultimately
determines your outcome. And it’s the quality of the experience
that keeps you coming back for more. The ideas in this book help
you to go within for a deeper, richer experience of your body in
motion. Effortless exercise focuses on quality training, beginning by
listening to your inner body sensations and integrating this energy
Grant Molyneux
12
with simple scientific tools to create sustainable lifestyle fitness or
peak athletic performance through meditative flow states.
Because this book is a paradigm shift for many fitness partici-
pants, certain key ideas are restated from chapter to chapter to
act as a reinforcement of the effortless exercise vision and to illus-
trate how it differs from traditional thought and habitual behavior
patterns with regard to various interrelated fitness topics. In this
way, some chapters such as Injuries are a Gift can stand alone and
may be approached in this way. Give yourself permission to read
this review material if it speaks to you or effortlessly read on.
Tec Erroattcss Excacisc Vision
It is true that an energetic flow state can be dialed in with each
and every exercise session. You simply require a new vision of
exercise to guide you toward the effortless state and teach you
how to prolong this experience. Effortless exercise runs counter to
the “no pain, no gain” paradigm so common in our culture today.
Also training effortlessly doesn’t require expensive technological
bells and whistles or complicated criteria based training charts or
hiring a personal trainer – it’s about getting in touch with a calm,
balanced and highly conscious state of intuitive fitness that lies
within you.
Learning to find the effortlessness within exercise frees you
from having to motivate yourself to “do” exercise ever again. You’ll
be drawn into fitness like a magnet and experience the life giving
power that is fundamental to movement. Here’s an example of
how one runner discovered that a marathon can be an exhilarating
experience rather than an exhausting one:
I recall a first-time marathoner who agreed to train
in the effortless flow state. When we started, I asked
Dean to wear a monitor during all of his training runs.
In the first week, on each run, he wouldn’t warm-up
and he’d let his heart rate jump to +6o beats per
minute every time. Once I explained the effortless
vision to him, he was able to bring his heart rate down
to the mid +¸os and run effortlessly. Dean “plodded
along” as he called it for months but gradually his
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times got faster and his experience of effortlessness
became deeper. We both witnessed his body unfolding
and developing in an unforced and natural way.
After a year of consistent injury free training in a
state of inner harmony and flow he entered in the
NY city marathon and ran this first marathon in the
absence of any stress or pain. He asked me before he
left what pace would ensure he had a successful overall
experience. I responded by telling him: Let your body
be your guide, keep it aerobic, keep it below your
threshold, breathe through your nose and enjoy New
York. After finishing the race, Dean called me from
the plane on the way home and his first words were,
“When can I race again?”
I reflected on this comment deeply because most people view a
marathon as a goal that, by nature, must involve pain or suffering
of some sort. This marathoner’s experience was one of enjoyment
and pleasure, and he couldn’t wait to sign up for the next race.
Training effortlessly works for the young or old, competitive
athlete or weekend participant – for anyone wanting to approach
exercise in a sustainable way. This book examines a different way
to exercise. How different you ask? It’s for those of you who are
discouraged by the “mind over matter” approach and are seeking
a graceful approach. It is also for those fitness participants who
are interested in maximizing their exercise experience every day
through experiencing that “runner’s high.” And it’s for those
who simply want exercise to bring them enjoyment, vitality and
longevity as a lifestyle activity.
The effortless vision of exercise calls for a shift in your external
expectations and traditional thoughts about exercise and asks that
you give yourself the permission to honor your body’s inner process
first and foremost. Once beginners and experienced athletes alike
learn to listen to their body’s energy they can integrate this inner
wisdom with scientific knowledge to create a unique personal
training program. Effortless exercise represents a dynamic balance
that draws on the best of both worlds. Where science is concerned
Grant Molyneux
14
within the effortless experience, it’s all about balance, integration
and sustainability.
I use the yin/yang symbol as an illustration: You need a balance
between the two opposing energies of light/dark, male/female,
objective/subjective or science/intuition to create an inter-
dependent and unified whole. The same goes for exercise. If you
train solely with your intuition you may find yourself under training
and unsure about measuring your progress properly; if you train
only scientifically you may find yourself over training or injured and
confused about technological complexity. I like to think of the line
between intuition and science as a sliding scale. It moves in one
direction or the other depending on your age, experience, aerobic
base, health, injuries or athletic goals. Sometimes more intuitive
listening is needed to heal an injury, and during race planning a
greater need for scientific prediction may be helpful. But most
importantly, the balance is specific to your unique physiology, and
your intuition can best predict that specificity with accuracy.
It’s my hope that this book helps you explore the power of
exercise as a tool to reshape your training from within as opposed
to training being only the exterior force of having to accomplish
exercise as a means to an end. Because there is no shortage of
excellent research, books and magazine articles on scientific
training programs, the main focus of the contents will be on
understanding and strengthening the often overlooked intuitive
side of the exercise experience. We’re going to flip the experience
of training upside down and embrace a process oriented mindset
to bring a deep richness to each and every moment you move
your body. It’s from this place of ease and effortlessness that most
world records are set.
After watching Usain Bolt easily shatter the world record 100
meter dash time at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was clear to me
that he was effortlessly engaged in a process that went well beyond
a simple physical experience. We all witnessed his enjoyment, his
elevated and effortless energy and the sheer magic of his perfor-
mance. There was an absence of stress and strain and pain. He
embodied the effortless experience. This book points towards a
similar integrated fitness experience. You may have had that same
experience when a race felt easy, or you were floating along during
training or you were caught up in the moment and accomplished
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a personal best you thought unattainable. This book teaches you
how to dial that powerful experience in and capture the deeper,
inner experience of exercise.
The effortless exercise experience guides you graciously around
the athletic “wall” rather than insisting you crash through it with
more hard work. My thesis remains that if I teach you how to reach
a meditative flow state during exercise that you’ll want to exercise
every day for the rest of your life. I won’t have to motivate you to
do it; you’ll want to do it because of its intrinsic value. All the outer
benefits we fitness professionals profess come from this place of vital
inner energy, but it has to start from within to be truly authentic.
Developing this passion for movement is at the core of the
effortless exercise practice: Learn to exercise in an empowered,
sustainable flow state and you’ll never become sedentary again. Many
clients have remarked upon how easy and great it feels when they
exercise in this fashion. They reflect on the joy exercise brings them
and how they are drawn magnetically to do more. It’s immensely
rewarding to see their fitness develop naturally from within.
Each and every one of us has a unique physiology and is
equipped with an inner wisdom that is often neglected. Tapping
into this inner wisdom and freeing its power is the key to
developing an effortless exercise program that’s right for you.
This book and its exercises and stories are invitations to listen to
your inner body energy; it’s from this intuitive place that you learn
how to avoid injury, progress without strain and coax your body
to greater physical heights. You’ll exercise in harmony with your
unique physiology, and you’ll be equipped with tools to develop
your physical talents in the direction of your choosing.
It’s exciting to feel yourself gliding along in that flow state, it’s
exhilarating to experience the ease of movement that your body was
designed for and it’s downright empowering to experience the full
depth of the exercise experience. If you’re ready, let’s go within.
Intuition tno Innca Awtacncss
Before you sign up for that running course, hire a coach to help
you lose weight or even buy a heart rate monitor, begin by getting
in touch with your inner body energy through becoming aware of
the link between your intuition and your physical body. Effortless
Grant Molyneux
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exercise requires first and foremost that you listen to the unique
energy signals of your body before, during and after exercise. The
effortless exercise experience begins by cultivating awareness
through alert stillness.
The real art of fitness – the skill, the proficiency through practice,
the miraculous creativity and the unique personal evolution –
develops through a conscious inner connection with your body. This
deep connection to your individual physiology respectfully takes
into account your age, weight, strengths, injuries and illnesses.
This way you ensure that you are consciously driving technology,
rather than technology unconsciously driving you. Fitness experts
can measure your chemical parameters, gifted athletes can share
their training protocols with you, but only you can truly listen to
the internal signals your inner body energy sends you. Everything
else is your intellect rationalizing and analyzing input from the
external world. A mind game, really.
When you give yourself permission to quiet your mind and
focus solely on internal signals and cues, rather than being driven
deeper into stressful training situations by analytical thought,
over time and guided by a deeper intuition, you become your
own Master Coach. It’s from this place that world records are set,
where time stands still and the true potential of each person’s
body is realized. It’s here that exercise becomes an effortless art
form. Over thinking drops away and you become one with the vital
energy of exercise.
By way of example, let’s consider the cheetah, one of the world’s
fastest animals. The cheetah follows his instinctive cues: he hunts
when he’s hungry, runs with purpose, conserves his energy, rests
when he needs to, and licks his wounds when he has to. His energy
is naturally in balance. You’ll never see a cheetah over thinking his
run program, comparing his hunting split times to his spouse’s
times, or limping around with an overuse injury because he over
trained trying to keep up with the younger alpha-male cheetahs.
The cheetah stays in balance and harmony because he listens to
his inner body cues or to what his instincts tells him.
Instincts are inborn survival behaviors, and animals simply
react without thought. For humans, intuition is more complex.
It represents a pre-thought knowledge or a deeper wisdom of the
organism. We are different from animals in that we possess free
effortless exercise
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will and can choose to act or not to act on our intuitive impulses.
Where fitness is involved, athletes often cloud the big-picture by
over thinking every detail of a training program and by valuing
scientific knowledge over their own intuitive wisdom.
Given appropriate training time, an attitude of trust and
oodles of patience your body’s inner energy signals will guide
you towards optimum health and fitness. The greatest barrier to
athletic success and a contributor to injury is Western society’s
impatient, “fast track” attitude and our need for instant gratifi-
cation, quick results and the constant need for progress. Initially,
effortless exercise sets aside external expectations, future plans,
past failures and competitive egos. Instead, it begins with a total
acceptance of where each person is at this moment in time rather
than where he or she desires to be sometime in the future.
Rather than beginning with a scientifically tested exercise
program, charts created in laboratory situations, magnificent
technological tools or expert advice from the latest fitness guru,
begin by simply learning to calm your intellectual mind and sense
the energy signals your body sends you. In this way, the effortless
exercise experience flips the usual training process upside down
and begins by asking you to trust your intuition – call it what
you will: gut feeling, first impressions, or higher consciousness
– and give yourself the essential permission to become alert
to your life energy as it animates your body. Committing to the
idea of permission, which supports implementation of the entire
effortless exercise process, your fitness potential gradually opens
up as you experience a deeper personal empowerment.
This is because your intuition remains in tune with every
blood cell, nerve fiber, muscle, tendon, ligament, and organ in
your body. It’s an excellent internal monitoring system. At any
moment this subtle awareness can sense if you are in pain, stiff,
well rested, dehydrated, getting ill or full of energy. Highly intuitive
athletes are capable of letting their intuition direct their actions,
they harmonize with the environment and aren’t afraid of facing
challenge and change.
Working to rehabilitate exhausted and injured athletes, I’ve
found their intellectual thoughts are conditioned to detach from
their inner body energy fields and that they thrive on second
guessing the intuitive process. Their mentally tough egos also get
Grant Molyneux
18
involved and further override this patient voice by driving their
bodies toward their goals through “no pain, no gain” training and
a “win-at-any-cost” attitude.
When our competitive egos take over or we obsess about
meeting the schedule of an externally generated program, we
become unbalanced through excessive anaerobic stress and
eventually run into problems. Here, potentially successful athletes
are left prematurely injured, exhausted, immune suppressed and
unable to fulfill their plans when they rely exclusively on external
goals, a short training time frame and generic scientific training
programs. Without the permission to allow a deeper sense of
intuitive wisdom to come into play, this type of training scenario
can truly be described as “mind over matter.” My past training
challenges certainly illustrate the need for balance and integration
very well.
A Pcasontt Jouancv
It’s human nature to resist what we know is good for us and
to have to learn life’s lessons the hard way – through pain, trial
and error. Suffering seems to bring our experience more drama
and meaning. We feel as if we have won against all odds. It’s also
human nature to keep looking outside ourselves for that “magic
bullet” training program that carries us directly to our future goal.
Let me share my personal story with you:
A few years after I graduated from University with
my Physical Education Degree, I dabbled with running.
Then in +¸8z, I saw the Ironman triathlon on Wide
World of Sports. I immediately felt drawn to the sport
of triathlon. Something ignited a passion within me
and sparked a desire to embrace this multi-sport. In
triathlon, I saw a way to stay fit in three different disci-
plines. I thought, “What a great all-round physical
developer.” I was hooked.
The first ten years of training were all about
competing – an egoic outward focus. I was young,
strong, and had time to train – so train I did. I experi-
effortless exercise
19
mented with every known scientific exercise program
on the market. I raced as much as possible and
focused my attention on going faster. And my times
got quicker, but I was overriding my inner body energy.
Through those ten years I accumulated +¸ leg injuries,
was frequently sick and often exhausted, and, for the
most part, felt unhealthy. I always complained about
how this or that felt wrong and found racing stressful.
Eventually I got married, my son came along and I
started the inward journey of listening to my intuition. I
was sick of being tired and tired of being hurt. Over the
next ten year period a deeper learning began. I slowly
started becoming aware of my inner body energy.
It was tough at first, having been schooled in the
old “no pain, no gain” mentality and strong habits are
hard to break. In fact, I even returned to University
for my Master’s Degree in Kinesiology seeking further
intellectual answers from the scientific approach,
without realizing that “all that data” was cluttering
up my brain and silencing my intuition. Somewhere
within me I must have still believed that science held
all the truths and answers.
Over time, through listening to my intuition,
my body healed. I started to feel well once more.
Eventually I discovered the joy of exercise returning,
and, like a kid, I became magnetically drawn into
exercise again. But I found I had to be diligent in the
intuitive listening process. With each step forward I
had to remain conscious every second of my training,
because slipping back into my old habits, while easy,
resulted in my body sending me two steps backwards
with yet another ache or pain to deal with.
It then occurred to me that my injuries, though
driven in deep, were my greatest teachers. They kept
me honest, ensured I listened to my intuition and
Grant Molyneux
20
coached me on the path toward healthy fitness. It
is true that my injuries lead me toward the effortless
exercise experience and made me into the coach I am
today – and I’m deeply grateful for that.
Today my exercise experience remains focused on participation
and realizing how well my body functions in harmony with my
health. My fitness sessions remain diverse and ever changing, but
at the heart of training reside these simple intuitive truths:
Always seek the flow state quality of effortlessness
Be diligently alert – remain inner body aware during each
exercise session and act on these cues
Give yourself the permission to exercise in harmony with your
health and intuition
Remain integrated in your exercise approach – involve body,
mind and spirit
Be totally present in the moment, and reap the enjoyment of
the process today
Simply stay consistent with exercise frequency, and tomor-
row’s goals unfold in powerful ways
Hcttte tno Fitncss Pvatuio
If you honor your body’s prompts of stiffness, pain and fatigue,
your body will keep your fitness program in alignment with
optimum health and wellness. In the health and fitness graphic
outlined below, greater levels of fitness are progressively possible,
provided they are built upon a solid foundation of health. You simply
cannot achieve greater fitness if you are unhealthy.
When asked, many athletes admit that there were subtle clues
along the way to becoming injured or ill, but they ignored them and
continued to train through the strain. It’s best to error on the side
of patience and only add progressive building blocks of duration
and intensity if you have a solid foundation of health to support
this growth. Be alert to your inner energy and you’ll sense if your
body is healthy, energized and ready to go forward or if it needs to
maintain the current level of activity or even rest and rejuvenate.
Pain is your body communicating to you that the activity is harmful
or at the very least unsustainable in the long term. Pain represents
effortless exercise
21
a call for deeper listening, greater awareness and a change in your
current training process.
If effortless exercise resonates with you, then you’re ready to
follow your inner prompts and trust that your intuition provides
the holistic choices and the right course of action for your physi-
ology. Allow your intellectual mind to be guided by your intuitive
impulses and create feelings of motivation, inspiration and flow.
Simply listen to these inner impulses and then act on them.
This type of exercise is always healthy, promotes growth and is
pleasurable. We all know this intuitively, but often allow our rational
minds and the pressures and expectations of the outside world to
talk us out of taking the appropriate action. At times like these, the
best Coaches become energy conduits by helping clients realize
and act on the validity of their inner strength and intuitive wisdom.
This type of awareness is the birth place of positive change. Once
established as the foundation of their exercise process, many
individuals find that the simple skill of intuition can be used as
guidance in other areas of their lives. It is a profound truth that all
answers lie within.
ÌLL ÌNJURED SEDENTARY
HEALTH
FÌTNESS
SPORT
PERFORMANCE
SPORT
PERFORMANCE
HEALTH AND FÌTNESS PYRAMÌD
Grant Molyneux
22
Often people don’t realize that they can be fit and unhealthy.
I was a walking example of that. I call this state the “walking
wounded.” Many athletes live in this ironic state, and couch-
potatoes fear its pain and suspect its mixed messages. In today’s
atmosphere of fast food and quick fixes, competitive, mentally
tough people drive their bodies into unhealthy stressed states in
pursuit of the immediate rewards of goal oriented success.
However, you can choose to enhance both your wellness
and athletic performance through sustainable exercise. You can
compete in a marathon or Ironman triathlon with this effortless
approach, all it takes is the mindfulness to remain present as you
train. It also requires more patience and an investment of a greater
portion of training time to reap the benefits than conventional
exercise regimes would have you believe. With effortless exercise,
you enhance your performance by aligning your life energy with
healthy, progressive exercise, allowing your body time to adapt at
its own unique rate. It’s pleasurable and injury free. It’s the bigger
picture of fitness for life and it’s sustainable in the long run.
Susttintatc Excacisc
All resonant flow experiences are simply energy working in and
through you. Trust that when an activity or exercise feels vital you
are working in a positive state of inner and outer harmony. This
type of exercise doesn’t lead to injury, but instead promotes an
abundance of health and vitality deep within you. It also provides
sustainable training that guides you toward higher levels of fitness
and eventually to your greatest physical performances. It’s from
this flow state of effortless ease, when all your energy is positively
aligned, that miraculous athletic endeavors occur.
As each day unfolds, I am convinced that scientific training
programs cannot alone substitute for my intrinsic wisdom. Born
out of consciousness itself, intuition is immediately accessible
and limitless. The effortless exercise vision provides athletes
with an exquisite balance point supported by intuition, inspi-
ration, creativity and consciousness. Exercise becomes more
process orientated and less goal orientated. It is more about
direction than outcome. The synergy created is incredible when
you practice inner body awareness and then follow your intuitive
effortless exercise
23
prompts with action. You may even find yourself achieving goals
and performances you had not thought possible. Begin with the
following effortless exercise and let it guide you toward a new way
of exercising in joy, health and harmony.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 1: Listcninc to Innca Boov Encacv
To get in touch with your intuition by way of being aware of
your inner body energy, begin with the following listening exercise.
Dress in comfortable clothing and find a quiet room where you will
not be disturbed. Sit in a chair or lie on the floor. Experiment with
both positions until you find the one that works best for you.
Relax. Begin the process by closing your eyes and relaxing
your entire body.
Breathe. Take three deep nasal breathes and direct your focus
deep within your body. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and
abdomen as the air enters and exits your lungs.
Calm your mind. Now cultivate open awareness versus intel-
lectual thinking. Relax your rational mind. This means letting go
of all preconceived thoughts formed out of critical, analytical, or
rational reasoning. Rather than focusing on thinking, open yourself
to awareness, an awareness of your body. Do not allow your mind
to wander over thoughts about your outer appearance or athletic
talents – tall, short, inflexible, strong, fast or slow. Instead, focus your
awareness of the vital energy that animates and is alive within you.
Focus. If you currently have an injury, imagine a cell in that part
of your body, if not start with a cell in the index finger of your right
hand. Focus your awareness on the life within that cell. See the
cell glowing with white light and vibrating with life force. If your
mind wanders, bring it back to this receptive, open awareness and
continue to take deep breathes.
Sense your body energy. Allow the light and energy to transfer
to the surrounding cells in your finger. You may experience heat
or a tingling sensation. Now, allow this heat and light to travel to
Grant Molyneux
24
your whole hand and eventually to your other body parts. Feel it
animating your entire body with heat and light and energy.
Be aware. Remain in this glowing state while allowing the
energy to radiate out from your body in all directions and breathe
into this state of energized “Being.” Relax, breathe and be aware.
Perform this exercise as often as possible until you gain a profi-
ciency for connecting to you inner energy state. Soon you’ll find
you can reach this meditative state quickly and maintain it with
your eyes open. This then creates a conscious state of awareness.
Besides feeling relaxed and blissful, improving your immune
system, and increasing your body’s healing abilities, it quiets your
mind and brings you powerfully into the present moment where
you can act from this vital energy with intuitive wisdom. This
exercise assists you when you start to move your body and creates
exercise that’s “meditation in motion.” Try practicing this exercise
before your next training session and be alert to what follows or try
this meditation on the starting line of your next race and note the
difference in your athletic experience.
25
CHAPTER : INSPIRED MOTIVATION
Finding The Passion Within
Let’s start with children. Kids have a natural desire to move and
play. They’re a great illustration of motivation that comes from
within. Watch them play hide-and-seek or tag, and you’ll notice their
ease of movement. Without working on it or even thinking about it,
children naturally have great running form. They work with gravity
rather than against it; they seize the moment and wrap it in joy.
For them, as for the cheetah, movement is instinctive. They focus
entirely on the passion of their play and truly live in the moment.
Tec Ptssion or Pttv
In our early years movement represented play and freedom.
Somewhere along the line trainers turned it into work – or more
specifically, a “workout,” which by definition became hard work. In
our quest for greater levels of fitness, all the joy, spontaneity and flow
of exercise have been replaced by hard work, pain and strain. Indeed,
exercise has become grueling work instead of passionate play. Sadly,
for many people, fitness becomes only a means to an end: to lose
weight, to look thinner, to race faster, to beat your opponent. Western
society seems to have lost touch with the joy of exercise.
How many times have you heard the adage, “Train through it.”
This training demands that you disconnect from your intuition
and override your body’s internal energy signal of pain, illness,
injury, stiffness, or frustration – let’s just call these prompts
negative energy. This training advice usually leads to stress and
greater physiological problems.
Grant Molyneux
26
Imagine if we went into schools, recreation centers and obesity
clinics and replaced the demand to “train through it,” meaning
pain, with the invitation to “train with it,” where “it” represented
the passionate flow state of permission, play and pleasure.
Exercise could then carry with it a positive rather than a negative
impulse. We’ve all had experiences where we felt like going for a
walk, climbing that mountain or hopping on our bike, but instead
we ignored this inner motivation and fell back on our prescribed
training schedule because the coach, our competitors or that
recent magazine article told us to “workout” differently.
To transform “workouts” into passionate play, listen to which
direction the positive energy current is flowing in your body on
any given day, and then follow that creative flow with passion and
enthusiasm. Consider taking a week and following where your
inner energy takes you with regard to exercise.
My wife is a great example of following her exercise intuition.
She has never aspired to become a competitive athlete, but
enjoys a variety of cross training activities. The only activities she
schedules are two weight training sessions per week. She also
remains aware that she must remain consistent and lengthen the
duration of some of her aerobic workouts over time for her fitness
level to grow. The rest of her program remains flexible. What this
means is that on any given day she can wake up and go in the
direction of her energy, intuition, and passion. If she feels the need
to stretch, she attends a yoga class. Or she may say she feels like
a run in the sunlight and fresh air of the forest. The key here is
that she’s in touch with the present moment and what her body
intuition tells her at that point in time. And in over 30 years, she
has never sustained a chronic injury. For her, fitness is about the
joy of movement, staying strong and functional, and connecting
with her friends and the cycles of nature.
While competitive athletes do have disciplined schedules to
follow, many athletes also follow this motivational technique,
allowing their intuition to act as a guide in the training process.
Remaining flexible and free to make intuitive training adjustments
sustains and extends long term athletic careers. It allows the
positive energy of choice, recovery, cross training and adventure
to infuse their training program and redirects negative stress.
effortless exercise
27
Consider adding some passionate play to your program.
Whether you are a beginner, recreational or competitive athlete,
your body’s unconditioned intelligence remains in a constant state
of flow; learning how to direct that flow in the area of your passion
is the central motivational theme of effortless exercise.
Pcauission vcasus Pacscaivtion
The first step in the effortless exercise experience is to reconnect
with what motivates you and pursue that movement with passion,
with all your life energy and commitment in the present moment.
Give yourself permission to follow the prompts of your inner body
energy field on a daily basis.
If you love a particular sport and have a prescribed scientific
program to follow, don’t toss this plan out altogether. However,
keep every day open to explore a different direction. Tune in to
your inner body energy in each session to confirm if this schedule
is aiding you in building fitness and health in a positive way or if
you need to make intuitive adjustments. There are subtle benefits
derived from following our intuition that we actually cannot
perceive or even detect on a scientific level. One of my favorite
coaching encounters illustrates the artful use of body wisdom:
Sixteen year old Luke was a provincial level triathlete
and a master of body awareness. I remember checking
his log on many occasions and I’d see numerous ¸ and
+o minute runs. I asked him what these seemingly
short sessions were all about. He said that he would
go out for a run and if it just didn’t feel right, he’d
walk home.
This told me that he was aware of his inner energy
and had the courage to turn around, even though he
had pressure to perform competitively. I then asked
him what he would do on those days. He said he
simply went home, rested and would continue his
training tomorrow. Now that’s mastery of being self-
connected! He, in fact, was never injured in the years I
Grant Molyneux
28
coached him. He simply never pushed himself to that
point because he paid attention to his body’s signals.
I remember remarking on his performances,
which were outstanding. He won the provincial junior
triathlon championships many times on one-third
the training volumes his other competitors were
involved in. It is interesting to note that Luke also
never concerned himself with what others were doing
in their training. He’d found success in the process of
inner body awareness and he masterfully maintained
that marvelous balance between science and intuition
for one so young.
On days where your prescribed training schedule becomes a
stressful “workout” follow Luke’s example, and based on your
intuition, cross train, shorten or stop your workout, or rest. Ask
yourself what you’d enjoy doing instead of your prescribed training,
move in the direction of your passion, then be totally accepting
of your decision and honor your unique physiology. As much as
possible, aim for comfort and balance in each exercise session.
Like the example above, competitive runners and triathletes
often use scientific training programs as guidelines, but first and
foremost they follow the warm-up process outlined in Chapter 3.
Warm-up slowly and if you feel vital and want to proceed with your
scheduled program – go for it. If, for good reason (e.g. I’m experi-
encing pain, illness or exhaustion - not I’m too lazy and would
rather lie on the couch, eat chocolate and watch TV), you don’t feel
the energy to follow through, adjust your training for that day and
don’t feel guilty. Forcing athletes to follow strict scientifically tested
regimes leads to burn out, drives added stress inward, impairs
growth and leads to injury; while allowing athletes the time and
permission to develop their unique talents in an intuitive process
fosters both improved health and sustainable performance.
Sttvinc On Tatcx
Once you’ve found an activity you enjoy, staying motivated
relies on your ability to create positive exercise loops. This involves
effortless exercise
29
engaging in exercise in such a way that the whole experience is
positive, playful, and draws you back for more. Once you’ve
created a positive experience, the vital energy generated returns
and strengthens your motivation to seek out that experience
again. This energy binds and regenerates all levels of your being:
physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. You’ll feel empowered.
Most Westerners, however, approach exercise in the exact
opposite fashion – through force. Just look into the faces of people
at your local gym and what do you see? Strain, suffering, grimacing
or some form of discomfort. Experiencing negative energy pushes
you away from exercise. The experience of suffering and struggle
creates a negative motivation loop and eventually leads even the
hard core exercisers to the side lines due to a plateau in results or
mental burn out.
Sedentary individuals have figured this cause and effect
situation out already. They look at those who exercise and, for the
most part, see struggle, discomfort and competition. When the
training experience doesn’t appear to have an intrinsic up side they
ask, “Why would I put myself through this?” People beginning or
returning to fitness find themselves sore, discouraged and most at
risk. And why is that? Because they place all their faith in scientific
programs and will power; instead, view science as a marvelous
tool in an integrated exercise process. Remaining solely focused
on external, generic exercise programs interrupts beginners from
listening to their inner body signals and doesn’t encourage the
permission needed to act on their intuitive cues.
Traditional approaches to exercise prescribe a scientific training
schedule, based on the standard fit formula, which outlines the
frequency, intensity and time needed to gain a certain external
result. And these results are often driven by a future oriented
goal and therefore short-circuit process oriented training.
The programs in fitness books and magazines are designed
in cook-book fashion by scientists or coaches from the event
backward, whereas effortless exercise is designed from where you
are today forward. While these experts have good intentions they
create an experience that, for the most part, turns out less than
optimal for most participants. Canned programs are generic in
nature and don’t take into account your fitness background or lack
of conditioning, age, weight, genetics, past injuries or illnesses.
Grant Molyneux
30
The overreaching aspect in these generic programs turns exercise
into hard work.
Ultra-endurance athletes who at one time or another have
crossed over the line talk about the energetic debt to be repaid.
They tell me, “You can’t escape it. If you’re going to push your
body, it will eventually push back.” Don’s training story surely
illustrates the benefit of effortless exercise and how it created a
healthy, positive training loop for him.
Don was an avid ultra-marathoner. I asked him
to conduct an experiment to experience the difference
between two training methods. He performed two
6 hour trail runs a few weeks apart. In the first run,
he allowed his heart rate to climb and average in the
+¸os, breathed through his mouth and basically ran as
he usually did. I asked him to report how he felt after
that session and in the following days. Basically Don
felt tired, took about four days to recover and even
needed a nap on the afternoon of his “big” run.
On the second run a few weeks later I asked him
to cap his heart rate at +zo, breathe through his
nose, warm-up and cool-down for at least ¸o minutes
each and pay very strict attention to his natural
environment, being present and enjoying the trail as
he ran. He reported a completely different experience.
Don said he felt invigorated after training, he didn’t
need any recovery days and, in fact, went running the
following day. He loved the experience and wanted to
repeat it again the following weekend.
In his own words: “There was no comparison, I
recovered much quicker and felt as though I hadn’t
even worked out when I breathed through my nose.
When I breathed through my mouth, it took me four
to five days to recover!” I saw a new excitement and
enthusiasm within him; he was fired-up for more. Don
created his own positive exercise loop and was drawn
into becoming an effortless ultra-endurance athlete.
effortless exercise
31
For fitness to become a lifestyle it is important to create
and maintain positive exercise loops. You can find that balance
where your body grows stronger and exercise is enjoyable. I’ll
cover the specifics of heart rate, nasal breathing and warm-up/
cool-down techniques later in the book. For now, in your daily
training process, begin to let go of the obsession with time and
future goals, and view exercise as a process of daily enrichment
and vitality. If you exercise as if it were meditation in motion, a
quality of calm presence enters your life, and you welcome your
next training session.
Puttinc Fun Btcx into Fitncss
Over 93 percent of North Americans list “good health” as their
number one priority. If you ask a hundred people at random if
they think exercising is a good idea, all of them will answer with
a resounding “Yes!” Yet less than 15 percent of North Americans
actually exercise enough to accumulate any health benefits, and
the average American spends less than two percent of his or her
waking time exercising. Why is this? The answer is simple: We
do not ENJOY exercise. If people enjoyed exercise, we’d all but
eliminate many of our current sedentary lifestyle diseases.
Look at other activities that our population engages in:
watching videos, watching sports, going out to dinner, smoking
or drinking. At the core of these behaviors is a basic attraction to
the activity because we perceive it as pleasurable. Most people
seek out pastimes that bring them pleasure, that’s only natural. If
schools and fitness professionals embraced a method of exercise
that made the experience of movement enjoyable, motivating
participants to continue would become much easier.
The largest jump in health benefits occurs when we leave
the sedentary state and simply get moving. Yet it’s not enough
to simply sell people on the health benefits. To be successful,
Western fitness professionals need to alter peoples’ perception
of exercise by making it attractive, fun and exciting – in short,
a resonant experience. Many of us might find the motivation to
get off the couch and less reasons to avoid the pain of the next
“workout” if we were given permission to exercise in harmony and
well-being. Performed in a flow state, exercise becomes a powerful
Grant Molyneux
32
motivational magnet and provides for both a rewarding athletic
career and an enjoyable lifestyle pursuit.
Most people exercise for outer reasons: to lose weight, improve
their health, live longer, accomplish a goal or set a personal best.
These reasons always involve delayed gratification, hinge on
future events or offer external, material rewards such as a better
body or a race medal. On the other hand, if you consider an
exercise experience that emphasizes the process in the present
moment – enjoyment of movement – exercise becomes play or
at the very least you take the “work” out of your workout. Each
training session becomes a positive energy experience where
physical results and performance become natural by-products of
this inwardly guided health oriented process – and over time, the
goals take care of themselves.
Cacttinc Rcsontnt Exvcaicnccs
The key to getting people involved and keeping them motivated
for a life time hinges on creating a positive energy experience. Here
are some tips to help you get started:
engage in exercise that you are passionate about
exercise when you experience that excitement
exercise in such a way that it always makes you feel vitalized
each and every moment during the entire session
monitor that exercise leaves you feeling refreshed and invig-
orated immediately after the session and also the next day
be aware that pushing to exhaustion drives additional
stress into your body and ultimately leads to physiological
breakdown
The effortless experience remains attainable regardless of where
you find yourself on the fitness scale, whether you are sedentary,
overweight or a seasoned athlete. Seeking a flow state is the in-
tent of each practice session. A state where you spend time slowly
warming-up, listening to your inner body energy prompts and then
allowing your intuitive knowledge to guide you to ever increasing
intensities without strain. Michael’s story illustrates how this pro-
cess worked in a beneficial way for him:
effortless exercise
33
Michael came to me frustrated and confused about
how to get started on an exercise program. He had
been sedentary for many years, was afraid of getting
injured and didn’t know where to start amid all the
confusing media hype. He was also overweight and
uncertain about joining a gym.
I resisted putting him on a typical program to
get fit and lose weight. Instead, I asked questions
and listened carefully. I queried him about what he
enjoyed doing the most and he immediately said he
felt his best walking. He said it was easy – something
he felt successful about. He especially enjoyed being in
nature and that this didn’t require a trip to the gym!
He could walk when away on business and he had no
fear that the activity would injure him. Walking made
him feel great. I sensed enthusiasm. Walking repre-
sented a resonant experience for Michael because it
helped him avoid his fear of the gym at this time and
instead allowed him to connect with nature, which
was a positive and renewing activity for him.
Next I asked him exactly how long he could walk
without feeling any discomfort or any negative stress.
He quickly replied +o minutes. And so we started there.
A year later and ¸o pounds lighter, Michael enjoys his
hour long walks daily. He knew where to start; all he
needed was the encouragement and permission to
trust and follow his intuition.
If fitness goals are perceived as daunting, many people won’t
even get started. However, one effortless step in the right direction
creates momentum for the next one, and so on. With a trimmer
body and a firm exercise base, someone like Michael could start
hiking in the mountains, add a walking trip to his European
vacation or ultimately plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro if he so
desired. Regardless of where your fitness is today, positive energy
pervades effortless training, sessions are enjoyable, injury is
Grant Molyneux
34
avoided and peak athletic performances can be realized without
added stress.
For the amateur, the magic of staying active and physically fit
for a lifetime centers on discovering this resonant experience: a
physical activity that you’re drawn to, that you enjoy, where time
seems to fly by when you’re engaged in it. Think of motivational
energy pulling you toward an activity you love rather than pushing
you away from an activity you dislike. It’s about becoming internally
process oriented and following that passion with enthusiasm.
Positive exercise loops create greater health and fitness. More
importantly, exercise progression is guided from within. Your body
naturally makes the subtle adjustments necessary for greater
fitness. If you are aware of your inner body energy, this subtle
vitality tells you exactly what exercise is best for you, when’s the
best time and how long and how hard to exercise. Your job is to
simply become aware, stay connected and then take action. If you
seek resonant exercise experiences and remain consistent with
your training, the marvelous organism that is your body takes care
of the progression for you.
Still, many people remain difficult to motivate and ask, “Why
exercise in the first place?” Let’s consider a mystical answer to that
question: Exercise allows your body, mind and spirit to vibrate at a
higher level. It encourages you to ultimately sense this inner energy
field and allows that energy to grow within you and regenerate you.
However you define that feeling of life, that internal force you feel
when vital energy flows through you, exercise is simply a tool that
increases that vibrational flow. Like the word “recreation” states,
we re-create the vital energy of life every time we move.
Ask any 25 year, five-day-a-week exerciser and they’ll tell you the
fundamental reason they exercise is because it makes them feel
vital. It’s a positive energy experience, during and after exercise, and
it’s a natural high. The health benefits and performance enhance-
ments are all by-products of your body, mind and spirit in action.
At the core lies the fundamental truth that exercise is enjoyable
when undertaken in the harmony and balance of effortlessness.
Through effortless exercise we experience the power of our life
force. It doesn’t matter about age or ability level, we all possess
the wonderful gift of movement; and through this positive activity
we become much more internally energized, empowered and
effortless exercise
35
connected to our authenticity. Find your passion and re-connect
with resonant energy experiences.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 2: Patcticinc Awtacncss
Here are some tips to keep you focused on your passion and
ensure that exercise motivation is being created out of a sense of
inspired positive energy.
Re-connect. For the next week become aware of the subtle inner
body energy clues pointing to the desire to move. Don’t judge
these signals, simply sense them and if you have the opportunity
to act in the moment, do so. Follow your exercise inspiration with
enthusiasm. If you don’t have the opportunity, simply take note
of the impulse and when you have the time allow yourself to be
drawn into this type of exercise. Try exercising for a week without
a schedule but in total body awareness and see where this experi-
ence leads you in your training.
Seize the energy of the moment. If you are having difficulty starting
an exercise program, first become aware of any ideas that come to
you and seem enjoyable and easy to take action on. What did you
enjoy as a child? Don’t spend time thinking about this intellectually;
in fact, don’t think about it at all, simply act on playful inspiration. If
you find yourself drawn to these ideas try them out as soon as pos-
sible. Don’t set any criteria around your exercise, start moving, be
alert and allow your inner body energy to dictate how far and how
fast you go. The key is to experience the effortless state. Be sure to
under do it and thereby create a resonant training session so you’ll
remain drawn into more exercise in the near future. If you have a
positive experience you’ll want to embrace it again.
Motivation. To assist in your motivation to exercise reflect on
the answers to the following questions. If you find an immediate
desire, pay attention to the energy and follow it in that exercise
direction.
Do you feel drawn to nature?
Do you like music?
What inspires you about exercise?
Grant Molyneux
36
What is it about movement you enjoy?
How do you want your body to feel when you move?
Do you experience more energy from movement?
Do you enjoy working out with people?
Pay attention to these details and try to incorporate them as much
as possible in training. Work with your strengths and capitalize on
the energy created in positive exercise experiences.
37
CHAPTER : CREATING FLOW STATES
Being Drawn Into Exercise
Think of the effortless exercise process as being akin to an airplane
in flight. I don’t think anyone looks forward to a plane trip filled with
turbulence, fuel shortages or crash-and-burn landings. Everyone
hopes for a safe round trip. One where the pilot arrives and checks all
the working systems, then once everyone is on board he slowly taxis
down the runway and makes a gradual climb to cruising altitude.
The trusty pilot maintains this steady state for the length of the trip,
making adjustments if need be, and then begins a long, slow decent
into the destination city, followed by a soft touch down.
Effortless exercise follows the same progression: check-in,
warm-up, training pace, cool-down and check-out. To produce this
meditation in motion, you begin by first finding a sense of calm
through nasal breathing, next becoming aware of your inner body
energy, feeling the pull of your resonant exercise experiences, and
then from there you finally start to move.
If you create a seamless bridge between rest and a flow state,
then you become drawn deeper into exercise. What’s even more
important, you’ll find the exercise experience extremely enjoyable.
With time and practice, you’ll also be able to access the “high” of
peak performance that many athletes find elusive and which only
seems to occur by chance. Here’s how to create the meditative
and intuitive Zen experience of effortless exercise.
Tec Powca or Wtau-Uvs
Dialing in to the flow state requires that you warm-up. Always. I
can’t over stress the importance of this critical step. Over the years,
Grant Molyneux
38
I have conducted a secret survey. I’ve asked countless participants:
“How long does it take you to ‘feel good’ when you exercise?” Most
answered around 30 minutes and some said they never felt great.
I then asked them about their warm-up protocol. Most said they
skipped the warm-up altogether so that they could spend more
time training intensely and maximize their workout time. Others
said they began slowly, but after a few minutes they would take off
at their normal training pace. In fact, many athletes confessed that
they experienced a negative “I want to stop” feeling in the first few
minutes of exercise and mentally pushed through this sensation.
What I’ve rediscovered is the value of a proper warm-up; and
it is crucial when creating an effortless exercise experience. There
is just no way around it, to warm-up takes a significant amount
of time. You are asking your body’s systems to make a seamless
transition from a resting state to a dynamic flow state. It takes
time to turn on those support systems and reach the internal
body temperature needed to function optimally during exercise.
If you begin your workout in a stressed or agitated state with
an elevated heart rate, you will continue to drive your heart rate
even higher into your anaerobic zone during exercise. This type
of high intensity exercise is stressful to your body and difficult to
recover from. It’s a physiological truth that the harder you intend
to exercise, the longer you need to warm-up. I advise clients that
before a 5km race they should run for an hour to warm-up. That’s
right; it takes an hour to be physiologically ready for such a short,
high intensity race.
If you carry over a relaxed meditative internal state into your exercise
session, then you discover your body becoming more comfortable
and relaxed as the session unfolds. This allows the rested and calm
feeling of your warm-up to spill over into the dynamic motion of your
workout. Being calm internally means you can create greater motion
physically, all in the absence of negative stress.
Let’s consider man’s best friend – the dog. If each time you
took your dog out for a walk, you strapped his leash to your bike
and rode off at break-neck speeds pulling him along behind your
back wheel, it wouldn’t take long before he’d be hiding under your
bed licking his skinned foot pads when you invited him for his
next “walk.” Certainly dogs love to run, but they also like to do it
at a pace they can sustain, and they integrate it with other activ-
effortless exercise
39
ities such as sniffing the wind, stopping at the odd pole or two
or tracking the scent of a rabbit. They enjoy exercise because the
experience is one of comfort and balance.
The actual parameters of a proper warm-up can vary daily, based
on temperature, time of day, how rested you are, etc. You wouldn’t
turn on your car and race out of the driveway at high speed and
expect the engine to purr along either. On a cold day it often takes
a considerable amount of time to allow for all the engine parts to
become lubricated and heated to the point where they perform
smoothly. The same principle applies to your body. By easing into
exercise, allowing only the feeling of effortlessness to guide you,
you’re able to access the flow state every time you exercise.
That’s why it’s important to follow your inner signals and
allow yourself the flexibility and permission to make daily adjust-
ments to warm-up duration as you seek your normal exercise pace
and heart rate. Over riding this key practice creates unnecessary
physiological stress and pushes many athletes away from the
quality experience they seek.
There are many physiological benefits of a proper warm-up, but
the single most important function of this transitional phase is the
sensation of flow and the heightened experience of the exercise
“high.” This state can only be accessed if you allow your body to
determine the pace every moment of the session right from your
first step. And this is where the skill of inner body energy awareness
is such an asset. Robert found that a proper warm-up improved
both his run distance and speed without any additional training:
Robert was a long time triathlete who regularly
trained hitting his pace in the first few minutes of every
workout. After fully explaining the effortless vision and
outlining the benefits of a proper warm-up he decided
to give it a try.
One weekend, when he had no commitments he
started his workout with an extremely slow walk and
allowed his body to prompt him toward his training
pace. He spent the first 10 minutes calming his mind,
walking slowly, checking-in with his body energy and
allowing his physiology time to adjust. He focused on
Grant Molyneux
40
his form, relaxing all of his non-working muscles and
waited for his body to give him the impulse to pick up
the pace. He didn’t set any parameters, expectations
or time around the warm-up. He simply went with the
flow of his body’s systems.
Once he felt like running, he began with a slow jog
– all the while listening for discomfort. If he sensed this
he would walk again. His short warm-up run phase
started to lengthen. Robert’s one hour run became a
three-hour quality effortless experience. He described
the feeling of floating along and never experiencing
mental or physical stress of any kind.
When we discussed it later, he mentioned it took a
good 45 minutes until he hit his normal pace and felt
fully warmed-up. He also shared the fact that he never
experienced that stage in the beginning where he often
felt poorly. During the middle of his run he said he
found himself running faster than he had ever run
in training and was astounded that he was traveling
so fast without any additional effort. With a proper
warm-up, Robert constantly runs farther and faster
with none of the down side he used to experience.
To further explain the process let’s return to the analogy of
an airplane getting ready for take off. Rarely would a pilot jump
into the cockpit, rocket down the runway and climb vertically to
30,000 feet as quickly as possible. Before the plane has even left
the airport the pilot has spent up to an hour checking all of the
gauges, dials and systems and ensuring that all passengers are
on board. The same applies to exercise participants: Spend five
minutes and preferably :o minutes in the check-in phase of the
warm-up. Begin exercise very slowly while you remain calm and
listen to your inner body energy. Once all systems are a “go” and
you’ve taxied down the runway, you are ready for take off. Still, you
only pick up the pace slowly. Remember it takes a good half hour
at a very slow assent rate to reach cruise altitude. You’re not in a
risky rocket pulling G forces and worrying about blowing apart.
effortless exercise
41
You’re in a passenger plane where getting to your destination
safely is most important. The same applies to exercise, if you’re
seeking comfort and balance while in a dynamic state of flow then
it’s important to warm your body up very slowly.
Certainly this warm-up practice is health building for first time
or lifestyle exercisers, but competitive athletes report that they
are more often able to reach states of peak performance through
maintaining an internal feeling of calm, comfort and flow. Many
have commented that a proper warm-up puts the enjoyment back
into training and competition.
Another benefit of the slow warm-up is that it encourages fat
burning. Our bodies naturally want to burn sugar as soon as we
start to exercise. In fact, many of us have conditioned ourselves to
burn sugar from the first step we take because we ramp-up quickly
into a stressful anaerobic state. We’ve trained our bodies to expect
this stress.
Turning on fat burning metabolism takes time. If we don’t
spend enough time warming-up or we go out too fast, we’ll switch
to sugar burning and default to sugar burning mode during every
training session. Once in this stress induced state, it’s very difficult
to reverse this condition during exercise. That’s why it’s critical to
warm-up slowly. If you were a pilot on a long-haul flight, you’d
certainly want to have enough of the right kind of fuel to reach
your destination without any additional engine wear.
When you start exceedingly slow, your body has time to match
the energy demands moment to moment by utilizing oxygen and
burning fat through aerobic metabolism. It takes at least 20 minutes
to fully turn this fat burning system on and the pace must start at a
slow rate and build very gradually to ensure the desired outcome.
Tec How to or Wtau-Uv
Ceccx-In Petsc
Begin with the check-in phase. Just prior to the exercise session,
get in touch with your thoughts and feelings regarding the activity
you’re drawn into. To flow effortlessly from a rested state to an
exercise state you must first be drawn into an activity that you’re
passionate about. If you feel enthusiasm and anticipation before
Grant Molyneux
42
you exercise, then you’ll benefit from this positive energy. If not,
consider whether you should workout. Don’t be fooled by your
thoughts, often temporary and transient feelings of tiredness
or low blood sugar mask a deep down need to exercise and
rejuvenate your body systems. Eat, hydrate and then spend a few
minutes in meditation, calming your breathing and connecting
with your inner body energy (as outlined in the exercise at the end
of Chapter One) before you write a training session off.
Some clients also find that music creates a mindful state both
before and during your check-in phase. The atmosphere created
by the right rhythm, beat and vibration invites calm and relaxation
and brings a certain inspirational energy to your check-in. Soon
you’ll be able to hum this tune in your head and re-capture this
grounded energy at will, such as at the start line on race day.
Wtau-Uv Rutc
Next, practice the warm-up rule. This is also part of your motiva-
tional strategy. Often, if we don’t make exercise a priority in our
lives, it simply gets overlooked. Be sure to create space in your life
to exercise and make going out for your warm-up non-negotiable.
A multiple marathon finisher expressed this fundamental rule in
his own words:
My own experience is that on days when I do not
feel like going out, I still do, but I give myself permission
to come back home if I do not enjoy the run after +¸
minutes. In ten years I have yet to come home! When
I ran Boston in +¸¸¸, Grete Waitz, ten time winner
of the NY City marathon, gave a workshop the day
before. She said what I am saying above; only she
limited it to +o minutes, instead of my +¸. Put it this
way, I have never stood in the shower after a workout
and said; “Now that was a mistake going out.” The
hardest part for some is to tie their shoelaces – after
that it is a piece of cake. Few people have to enter in
their day timers “take a warm shower,” “eat desert,”
or “make love.” Whatever we enjoy becomes easier to
do and remember.
effortless exercise
43
This means that if you have any mental excuse, except illness
or injury, you must go out and at the very least complete your
warm-up. On lazy days action the push energy of your will power to
help you get started. Once you have chosen your activity only plan
to warm-up. Continue inner body listening during the warm-up
phase, where you remain body alert and go out extremely slow,
then you have the pace right.
It should feel so easy that it’s absolutely effortless and almost
difficult to go that slow. If you’re planning a run, then it starts with
a slow stroll, not even a walk. If you’re riding your bike, then put
it in first gear, ride with the slowest cadence possible to maintain
balance. The trick is to start effortlessly and to maintain this
sensation as you progress throughout your entire exercise session.
As you move along at this slow pace your body sends you signals.
Your only task is to simply listen to these signals. This is also a good
time to learn to relax all your non-working muscles, especially the
muscles of your jaw and face. Practice this experience of letting go
of all inner tension both physically and mentally. Soon you’ll find
that as your body warms-up the feeling of laziness disappears and
is replaced with the pull into energy and vitality.
In fact, under the effortless exercise experience the only
primary criteria that you need place on an exercise session is that
you simply go out and warm-up. The other parameters such as
intensity and duration all become secondary. Let your body’s energy
determine where it wants to take you. Let this transition phase pull
you through the experience and if the feeling improves go into
exercise further, if it worsens consider quitting or slowing down to
recapture the feeling of comfort and balance. The key to warm-up
remains: Be aware, listen and take appropriate action. Let go of
expectations, judgments, comparisons, future goals or negative
self-talk and enjoy the movement and the moment. Many people
discover that once they have tied their shoe laces and warmed-up,
the negative thoughts and low energy levels have disappeared and
they go on to enjoy a revitalizing exercise session.
Hvoattion
There are a number of other practical items to pay attention to
before you begin exercise. First, make sure you are well hydrated.
How do you know if you are hydrated? Simply by the color of your
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44
urine. Yes, that’s right. It should be almost clear. If it is dark yellow
it may take a day or so until your fluids are replenished. Would
you take your car on the highway without checking the fluids and
the oil? Of course not. Once you feel thirsty, it takes your body q8
hours to rehydrate completely. Make sure you are well hydrated,
and carry a water bottle with you at all times.
Fuct
Also about a half-hour before your exercise session, eat a snack
that contains quality protein and fat. A whole wheat peanut butter
sandwich and a glass of milk is a quick combination. This balance
of macronutrients helps give you the sustainable energy you’ll need
for prolonged exercise. Be mindful of over consuming sugar before
you exercise because the energy rush and subsequent crash will
occur while you’re exercising and become an obstacle to reaching
the effortless flow state. Also, by eating sugar before exercise you’ll
encourage your body to prefer sugar during exercise and this
naturally shuts down your fat burning metabolic pathways.
Try eating consciously as well. This is a simple and natural
way to help with weight control. Eat your snack slowly and allow
your body to tell you when you’re full. Savor every bite and enjoy
the taste. Practice this at all meals and you’ll be surprised how
often and how much you actually over eat. This way you can enjoy
smaller quantities of those foods you love, rather than experi-
encing the scarcity that dieting engenders.
Bactteinc
The last and most important pre-exercise item is to practice
conscious breathing. Take some long deep breaths through your
nose to help you relax your body and calm your mind. Breathing
through your nose entirely on the inhalation and the exhalation
stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and lowers your
heart rate, thereby giving you more reserve for exercise.
Many world cultures have expounded the benefits of paying
attention to your breath as a tool for becoming present. Use this
simple tool before and during exercise to keep your body/mind/
spirit matrix unified and able to support the effortless experience.
Being conscious of your breath anchors you in your inner body
effortless exercise
45
energy rather than becoming lost in your busy, intellectual thoughts
or other distracting, external stimuli.
Pay attention and feel each breath: Enjoy the sensation of air
moving in and out; be aware of the energy this creates. Your heart
rate is intimately connected to the quality of your breath, if you
have calm, slow, rhythmic breathing, then your heart rate will be
lower and your overall feeling of comfort at any exercise intensity
will be greater. As you warm-up, sensitize yourself to hold on to
this feeling of calm and allow the slow, relaxing breaths to become
a rhythmic guide-post during your exercise.
The technique of nasal breathing will be covered in depth in the
next chapter, but suffice it to say that even competitive athletes can
run intervals all the while practicing nasal breathing. They experience
greater comfort, recover after each interval faster and have much
lower heart rates at varying intensities during the intervals.
If at any point your breathing becomes labored, especially during
warm-up, slow down to re-capture the feeling of rhythmic, easy
breathing. Let breath be your guide for ramping up the warm-up,
especially in the initial stages of effortless exercise training.
Tec “Itce”
During this slow warm-up stage your body may send a signal
that you’re tight and need more time to loosen up, it may send
a sensation that your knee is hurting and you should stop this
session or it may send you a cue I call the “itch” – the impulse to
speed up. Your job is to honor all of these signals and respond to
what your body is telling you. If you receive any negative signals
alter your pace, breathe deeper and see if you can quiet your body’s
stress; if you can’t, it’s time to stop for the day.
Stiffness is the precursor to pain, and pain is the precursor to
injury – don’t force yourself to push through these sensations. That’s
a mind trap. Listen to your body, not your mind. Your body knows
better; honor this intuitive knowledge as it guides you toward well-
being. Instead, alter your pace, become conscious of your form and
allow your body to slowly adapt to what you’re asking of it. You’ll
find you can circumvent aches and pains and finish most exercise
sessions in an effortless fashion. It simply takes time, patience and
a conscious effort to break with old training habits and expected
outcomes created by pre-set workout criteria.
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46
If you’re able to diminish the stress, you can progress deeper
into the exercise experience. When you experience the “itch,”
that’s your first cue to pick up the pace. When you feel this sense
of energy and flow, slowly take your pace up a notch. Stay with the
experience of your body’s desire to go faster. At this point do not
be distracted by external signs such as your watch or heart rate,
simply be patient and alert and act on your internal impulses. On
your first time out, you may not experience a flow state, that’s fine,
but be assured that you’ve started the process of effortlessness.
How long should a warm-up last? This depends on many
factors. It can last up to 30 or 40 minutes or longer depending
on the weather and the event. Every day is different and each
person’s physiology is unique. If you’re in a warm environment, it
can happen quickly; and if you’re in a cold environment, it may not
happen at all. That’s why when exercising in the cold it’s paramount
that you dress in layers to keep warm, otherwise you invite injury.
Listening for the “itch” is the best internal indicator that your body
is warmed-up, ready to increase your exercise intensity and enjoy
an effortless exercise session.
Monitoainc Hctat Rttc
There are a number of body generated signals you can listen to
as you warm-up and level off into the aerobic portion of exercise.
One of those is heart rate. The details and how-to of training heart
rate zones will be covered in detail in the next chapter. For now, let’s
examine the scope of heart rate as it pertains to the warm-up only.
Before you start to exercise you should be both relaxed and as
alert as possible. This calmness within, as measured by heart rate
(HR), should be well below 100 beats per minute (bpm) for most
people. If your heart rate is above this, then you are already in a
stress induced state and the likelihood of reaching a flow state
or burning fat as a fuel source during exercise is greatly dimin-
ished. It follows that the lower your starting heart rate, the lower
your heart rate remains during exercise with greater effortlessness
being the result. Healthy exercise progressively trains your body to
accomplish greater work loads at LOWER heart rates. If you start
your session with a low heart rate, you will stay low and you will
effortless exercise
47
finish low. This helps to release stress and tension both physically
and mentally.
Try this experiment with your heart rate. Begin your session in
a meditative state. Dress slowly. Then sit quietly for five minutes.
During this period breathe through your nose only, slowly and
rhythmically, become aware of you inner body energy. While
continuing to relax and breathe, monitor your HR. At whatever
low rested HR you establish, begin moving toward the “check-in”
phase of your warm-up. Try to stay within 10 bpm of this rested HR
during the internal check-in phase.
Over time, you’ll find that if your HR was 75 bpm while sitting,
then as you start to exercise you’ll be able to note yourself moving
along around 80 or 85 bpm. By repeating this process before
exercise you’ll learn to capture the feeling of meditative calm, which
then carries over into your exercise session. You’ll also access fat
burning as an energy fuel and be able to access the zone of peak
performance on a regular basis. Ross’s triathlon story illustrates
the benefits of nasal breathing and a low HR in creating meditative
calm at the beginning of an important race:
Ross was standing in the water at the start of an
Olympic distance triathlon. He had begun his pre-race
ritual of wading into the water, swimming a little and
then positioning himself so that he could meditate for
at least five minutes before the gun went off.
Halfway through his meditation, crammed in with
other swimmers, he heard the beep of his neighbor’s
heart rate monitor. Aware of this he quietly asked this
competitor where his HR was. One hundred twenty
bpm was the response. Ross was comforted to acknow-
ledge the reading on his monitor was solidly in the 70s.
He took the swim start in stride and went on to have
a race experience that was smooth, comfortable and
relaxed. Ross couldn’t help wondering throughout the
day what his fellow competitor was experiencing, as he
had started out in an entirely different fight or flight,
sprint-to-the-finish adrenaline state.
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48
Practice warming-up in this way, and you’ll soon find that you’re
able to exercise or race from a new place of calm, presence and
empowerment. You’ll also find that the enjoyment of both exercise
and competition skyrockets as you’re drawn into this positive
exercise loop. Honor your body with a proper warm-up and it will
open up to the Zen of peak performance.
Tec Caucitt Coot-Down
If we continue the analogy of an airplane trip, then after the slow
assent of the warm-up you level off and complete your training
session in a flow state of effortlessness, ending the trip with the
gradual decent of the cool-down. Just as the warm-up is crucial in
creating effortlessness in peak exercise, completing an adequate
cool-down is essential for your body to make a healthy transition
back to a rested state.
Ceccx-Out Petsc
The overlooked and often neglected check-out phase of exercise,
which is often truncated early, directly contributes to the epidemic
of injuries in exercise participants. Because our society values the
intensity of the workout and we’re often forced to fit fitness into our
busy schedules, once our main exercise session is over we rush off
to our next commitment, leaving our bodies to try and re-balance
the stress. Without the graceful transition to a rested state, our
bodies are left stiff and sore. These symptoms are a function of
skipping the cooling-down. Post-exercise soreness (myositis) may
also be the result of excessive exercise: pushing your body too long
or exercise that is performed at too high an intensity.
A progressive cool-down following your main exercise set
allows the body to gradually re-distribute blood flow back to the
internal organs, allows muscles and tendons to return to their
pre-exercise state, encourages proper removal of waste products
from muscle tissue and allows for a return to normal homeostasis
after exercise. Joyce’s story testifies to the greatest benefit of a
proper cool-down – that it circumvents feelings of pain or stiffness
and leaves you refreshed and rejuvenated:
effortless exercise
49
Joyce liked to lift weights. However, one of her
common complaints was that it always left her stiff
and sore. She would push herself because she liked the
muscle development, but never cooled-down, thinking
that squeezing the last possible moments out of her
weight session would benefit her more. After suggesting
that she ride the bike easily for +¸ minutes after her leg
day and swim slowly for +¸ minutes after her upper body
day, she reported she felt great for the first time. The post-
exercise soreness went away; and she found that she was
ready to train again the next day, instead of requiring
rest or struggling through a painful weightlifting session.
Joyce discovered that cooling-down consistently allowed
her to flush her muscles of the wastes accumulated
through high intensity exercise, and it allowed her to
transition gracefully into a rested state.
By properly cooling-down and allowing the body to flush the
muscles of waste products and cleanse itself through movement,
we dramatically reduce post-exercise discomfort. This benefit
makes intuitive sense, as active recovery has shown to be more
effective than passive rest in the reduction of post-exercise
stiffness and soreness.
Many top professional hockey teams require their athletes ride
stationary bikes post-game for 15 to 20 minutes at a low level of
intensity to speed recovery and allow for better game performance
the next day. At the end of your exercise sessions try progressively
reducing your heart rate to below 100 bpm and keep it there for
at least five minutes before you stop. This is the final check-out
phase of your exercise session. Everyone who has embraced this
process says it allows them to dissipate any discomfort, leaves
them feeling terrific for the rest of the day and fully recovered for
subsequent sessions.
It’s similar to the airplane taxing down the runway post landing
with everyone still clipped into their seat belts until coming to a full
stop, engines off and the “fasten seat belt” sign turned off as a last
precaution. Proper cool-downs take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes
and may take even longer for some individuals. As a guide, use your
heart rate, which should be below 100 bpm for at least 5 minutes
Grant Molyneux
50
during the final check-out phase. Your breathing rate should be slow
and entirely through your nose, providing a feeling of calm, ease
and well-being. These tools indicate if you have made the successful
recovery necessary for a healthy resting state.
Seoat Scssions
With that said about the time it takes to warm-up and cool-down
properly, what can you accomplish if you only have a short time
to exercise? This scenario is very common in modern culture. The
first mistake in attitude or perception is to try and “cram” what you
can into this time space. An effortless exercise experience within a
:¸ or zo minute time frame would consist of only a warm-up and
cool-down. In fact, with only 15 minutes to exercise you may only
accomplish a check-in and check-out phase.
On stressful days give yourself the permission to get in touch
with your inner body energy, relax, limber up and enjoy stress
reducing movement. I still encourage clients to hop on their
stationary bikes or head out on a run with very limited time. In
these cases start slowly as with any other session, leave the stress
of the day behind, breathe and become totally aware of your body
and the exercise process. Allow the session to unfold until you
need to start slowing down again in order to finish on time. Often
clients only reach a heart rate of 100 or 110 bpm and never break
a sweat. But in these cases the mental break from routine and the
aerobic activity leaves them refreshed and vitalized. Here’s how
one client was able to develop her running on limited time:
A few years prior, Kaitlin had participated in the
Ironman triathlon. Now, time had passed and with
two little children in tow, she was worried about
maintaining her fitness. After much discussion we
found that zo minutes was all she could realistically fit
into her busy day, either during the kids’ nap time or
later at night. Since Kaitlin was motivated by concrete
goals we set up the challenge of running for z+ days for
z+ minutes each day on her treadmill. She had heard
that it takes z+ days of repetition to develop a habit –
so off she went with this in mind.
effortless exercise
51
Well, her z+ days turned into many months of
running. What was most interesting was her increase
in fitness. Through this process her speed at her aerobic
heart rate increased from µ.6 miles per hour (mph) to
¸.µ mph in three months. Her new speed was equal to
the pace she had attained during her Ironman training,
and she felt more comfortable now than back when she
was running only three days a week. Kaitlin’s an example
of a little goes a long way; her secret - consistency.
These short sessions reinforce my belief that the number one
objective of exercise remains the cultivation of a healthy body and the
reduction of stress. I used to try and cram a session in, shorten or skip
the warm-up all together and forget the cool-down, all the while trying
to race out the door and hit my target heart rate as quickly as possible.
These sessions left me stiff and sore and were the root cause of many
of my injuries. Exercise was viewed not as a process but only as a
means to an end – a future personal best or a race goal.
Now, exercise represents a chance to become present and enjoy
each resonant session. Once I let go of the expectations, stress and
strict criteria around my workouts, no matter how much “clock
time” I have, I’m still able to create a quality exercise session.
Provided one is consistent, future goals unfold effort-
lessly, without worry, discomfort or injury. These short sessions
now become an extension of every other session and a further
opportunity to transform movement into meditation. Honor the
warm-up and cool-down process, and in turn your body will grant
you greater strength, speed and vitality.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 3: Entcainc Erroattcssncss
Here are a couple of simple exercises to practice over the next
week that will help you make the transition from rest to exercise,
all the while creating effortlessness from within.
Create an inner stillness. For one week suspend any expectations
or hectic energy around getting to your workout. Drive to the gym
slowly, put your clothes on consciously, sit for a few moments and
nasal breathe to calm your heart rate before you head out for your
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52
session. Focus on creating an inner stillness. Now as you start
to move, it’s imperative that you move at the slowest possible
rate. This pace for runners will be a slow walk, for cyclists a very
slow spin perhaps a 40-50 cadence in a very easy gear, 1st , 2nd
or 3rd. Resist starting on an uphill. If you’re exercising indoors,
at the pool or on a machine set the numbers to the lowest level
and simply start to move. Perform the check-in and warm-up, re-
lax all of your non-working muscles, breathe through your nose
and establish inner calm. Let your inner body energy signal you
to pick up the pace. Be patient and wait for this to happen. Don’t
put any mind generated expectations around your experience
simply listen. When you feel the “itch” to do more, progressively
and slowly build your speed and maintain the feeling of effortless-
ness throughout the main set of your workout and the cool-down.
Don’t let outer stimulus distract you, maintain an inner focus and
enjoy every moment.
Cool-down exercise. Once your body has signaled it’s time to quit
for the day, initiate the cool-down process and progressively ramp
down your pace. Take time to do this; don’t simply “jump” to a
slower pace. This may take 20-30 minutes. Now, spend five min-
utes exercising (if you were running this will be walking) at a level
below 100 bpm on your heart rate monitor. Let your senses take you
into the present: look around, feel the breeze on your skin and hear
the sounds around you. Now, go inward and breathe through your
nose, calming and relaxing all of your non-working muscles. Spend
the full five minutes relaxed and below 100 bpm and then stop if you
wish. Notice how you feel for the rest of the day. Pay close attention
to any difference in discomfort, stiffness or soreness. I’m sure you’ll
feel great and ready for tomorrow’s exercise session.
53
CHAPTER : EFFORTLESS ENDURANCE
Maintaining A Flow State
If you’ve ever watched an inspired athletic achievement there is
fluidity and ease in the performance. They make it look easy, as
if they’re at one with the activity. This is the true artistry of great
performers, be they an athlete, musician or dancer. Attaining just
such a flow state during performance occurs when you are relaxed
and drawn into a resonant experience. There’s a deep desire to
continue; in essence, you are being pulled into doing more. In
fitness, this “pull” comes from creating an experience where your
body progressively opens up to exercise. Think of it as tapping into
authentic power rather than using external force. To help further
clarify this experience, let’s examine the concept of push/pull.
Tec Puse/Putt Conccvt
The push/pull concept applies to energy – life energy. Exercise
is all about creating more of this vibrant energy. An awareness of
how this energy flows within your body is critical when creating flow
states of heightened experience and performance. Understanding
when you cross over into a push state rather than being pulled
along in energetic synergy is the key skill in attaining an effortless
exercise experience.
What do I mean by push/pull? Simply put, it is the direction that
energy flows within you. If you were leading a stubborn donkey up
a hill, it would be easier to pull it toward a tasty carrot dangled in
front of its nose rather than trying to push and whip its backside
up the steep grade.
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Ask yourself are you swimming upstream or downstream? Are
you working against something or flowing with something? Are
you being intuitively pushed away from an activity or intrinsically
pulled into an activity? These questions outline the nature of the
push/pull concept.
I’ve compiled a list of adjectives below that best describes
the energies involved in the push/pull concept. Carefully review
the list and consider which side more accurately describes your
exercise experience.
Pull Push
Comfort and Ease Fatigue and Exhaustion
Play Hard Work
Inner exercise –body energy Outer Exercise–intellectual mind
Intuitive Scheduled
Emotional/Spiritual Mental/Physical
Stress Reducing Stress Inducing
Alert Awareness Mental Toughness
Engaged Disengaged
Non-Criteria Based Criteria Based
Integrated Physical
Enjoyable Painful
Empowered Forceful
A review of the descriptive words shows how often times the
push energy comes from outside you: that new training schedule,
the coach you’ve hired, group training or competition goals. It
represents what you feel you should be accomplishing and usually
represents stressful energy created through will power or mental
force. Here, your reasoning mind disconnects from your body’s
energy cues and drives you toward your goals. This type of training
is often painful and exhausting.
On the other hand, pull energy originates inside you: your
passion for and enjoyment of movement, resonant exercise
experiences and mind/body/spirit flow states. It represents an
empowered energetic experience occurring in the present moment,
where the experience is motivating, liberating and life sustaining.
It’s synergistic and effortless.
effortless exercise
55
That said, it takes a certain amount of will power or push
energy to get us moving sometimes and at some level this energy
works. It gets things rolling and helps us to take action. However,
it also requires sacrifice in the short term or the reliance on
others for support or motivation. Careful listening is the key and
mindful integration of these energies keeps training sustainable.
I encourage clients to be conscious of the balance between push
and pull energies and to focus on amplifying the pull energies.
To illustrate this point, let’s consider the example of an aerobic
exercise session. Let’s say you have an impulse to go for a bike
ride. You’re energized, have free time and look forward to the
summer sunshine. Before you’ve even mounted your bike you’ve
already experienced the pull state without any intellectual analysis,
a criteria based program to meet or a future goal to shoot for.
Go with your intuition. This non-criteria based exercise session
is then designed from the inside out. Expert advice is great, but
listening to your inner body energy is the soundest starting point
for any exercise session. It’s like dangling a carrot before a donkey
and lends enjoyment and enthusiasm to your training.
The opposite scenario might occur if it’s raining and you’re
tired from yesterday’s weight lifting session, but your training
program charts a bike ride – so you’d better go, right? Even in
this guilt-producing situation listen to your intuition and do not
push yourself into a negative energy workout. Instead, spend a
moment attuning to your inner body energy and consider which
activity, if any, you feel intuitively pulled toward. If your health or
fitness is border-line, I would go so far as to say that any exercise
you are not drawn into has the potential force to create negative
energy and result in additional stress that contributes to further
break down. If you choose an alternate activity, then give yourself
permission to focus only on the warm-up process. If you’re having
continued difficulty achieving effortlessness, pack it in for the day
and give your body the solid rest it requires.
However, if the slow warm-up produces the “itch” for more, you
have become one with the exercise. If you stay alert to you inner
energy cues and don’t allow your competitive ego or intellectual
thoughts to force the session into a “workout,” you’ll experience
the “high” of exercise. You’ll reach that zone where time seems
to slow down and the session flies by in effortless ease. Often
Grant Molyneux
56
you’re able to exceed what you thought you could accomplish
that day. Again, it’s like swimming downstream. Also you’ll rarely
need to force yourself to exercise, as this now occurs naturally
from the inside out. Spontaneity and permission are great cures
for boredom and burn out.
Finoinc tec Ftow
In non-criteria based training it’s important to calm the voice
of intellectual analysis and follow your deeper intuitive knowledge.
Learn to trust your inner body signals, so that as messages
become clearer, your intuition grows stronger. Internally you’ll feel
comfort and ease, while externally you’ll notice that you’re creating
progressively greater dynamic motion. Healthy development
occurs and little downside exists with this type of exercise, and
miraculous world records are created here. These achievements
occur when preparation and flawless execution align with the
higher consciousness of intuition and find expression through
a great internal calm. Watching such performances it is evident
that there is more at work than mental toughness and physical
effort. The athlete’s fluid movement, facial expression and calm
breathing appear to be functioning on a higher plane than those
of his or her competitors.
In my years as a coach, I’ve noticed that a greater portion
of clients tend to train solidly on the push side of the energetic
equation. Many turn exercise into a struggle of will power. They
push right past any sensations of discomfort into stress and pain
and rarely experience the bliss of an effortless peak performance.
I believe there is a delicate balance between pushing a bit harder
or backing off a little to experience the effortless pull back into
comfort and ease. The push/pull pyramid graphic below illus-
trates the integration of energies required to reach peak exercise
experiences.
effortless exercise
57
And if the ultimate goal of exercise is to experience a positive
flow of energy within our bodies, then getting in touch with this
energy that pulls us into exercise should be our primary focus.
However, allowing ourselves the permission and flexibility to
go with this flow is counter-intuitive to our Western attitude
toward exercise. With all the best intent, many participants
continue to shape themselves to rigorous criterion based
schedules, short training time frames, excessive anaerobic
workouts, little rest and recovery and eventually discipline
themselves into overuse injury.
When we over engage our thinking minds in dynamic activity, we
actually short-circuit the natural flow of energy and become pushed
out of the effortless state. Have you ever tried to “think” your way
through a golf stroke? This approach almost certainly creates
disaster. No question, practice on form is required to improve;
however, natural movement is the goal, where your body’s sense
memory knows instinctively what to do. In fact, that’s the ultimate
goal of practice: To allow your body to rehearse skills to the point
where movement becomes automatic and your body moves with
E
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T
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W
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F
O
R
T
PEAK
PERFORMANCE
FLOW
STATE
PUSH PULL
ÌNTEGRATED
ENERGY
ÌLL
ÌNJURED
SEDENTARY
PLATEAUED
PUSH / PULL PYRAMÌD
Grant Molyneux
58
grace and energy conservation. And so it follows that since our
goal is to deeply entrain the feeling of effortlessness, we must
progressively condition ourselves to experience greater effort-
lessness rather than teaching our minds and bodies to expect and
perform in stress and pain.
When giving presentations, I often say the word “exercise”
and then ask the audience what their first thought or emotional
reaction to that word is. Sometimes to drive my point home,
I use the word “marathon” instead. The majority of people’s
response can be boiled down into one common denomi-
nator: PAIN. And being a proponent of effortlessness, I have
to ask, “Why is that?” And most people confide that their
experience with exercise has been on the negative push side of
the equation. They bandy about old adages like “no pain, no
gain” or “mind over matter.” And again I am reminded that the
prevailing exercise attitude remains that one must suffer while
exercising for it to be of any value. If it’s not painful, you’re not
progressing.
Then I ask these participants, “What if you could experience
exercise that was wholly positive in nature, effortless and still
meet your goals?” I go on to show countless marathoners and
Ironman triathletes that through non-criteria based exercise
have finished these events effortlessly, with solid times and
many with personal bests. It is possible. It boils down to
consciously balancing the push/pull energies every time you
lace up your shoes, strap on your helmet or snap on your nose
clip. Most people’s experience of the Ironman triathlon is one
of fatigue and exhaustion. I recall one client who didn’t make
the race a daunting goal, but used non-criteria based training
to embrace exercise for the joyous experience it can be in and
of itself:
Emily embraced the concept of effortless exercise
as she trained for the Ironman. On every bike ride she
listened to her body and adjusted her pace, and she
only ever watched her heart monitor occasionally to
ensure she wasn’t going over her aerobic (effortless)
threshold. When I asked her what HR she rode at she
said it would average as low as ++o bpm. She wasn’t
effortless exercise
59
driven to push harder as she knew that on any given
day her body would tell her exactly how hard she
needed to train.
Emily was a master at inner body energy awareness:
She always kept her experience in comfort and only
allowed herself to go faster or work harder when she
felt the pull energy to do so. She didn’t speed up her
training when other competitors did so, but only when
her body gave her the signal “let’s go.”
Emily went on to have a successful Ironman finish
in under +¸ hours free from the pain and hardship
most would assume occurs from racing that distance.
She wasn’t even sore the following day, because she
had learned very early on to listen to her body and
follow its infinite wisdom. The good news is that Emily
has gone on to enter many more Ironman compe-
titions because she enjoys the training and the race
experience equally well.
If you find yourself heavily weighted on the push side with tradi-
tional training protocols, try the non-criteria approach for a month.
Experience exercise in such a way that you put no parameters
around each session. You simply allow your intuition to point you
to a particular activity and then allow your body’s energy signals
to dictate the intensity and duration of your session. Give yourself
the freedom to explore the experience in the present moment, all
the while seeking comfort and ease.
At the end of the month evaluate your energy, health and fitness.
You may find yourself soaring to new heights of performance –
effortlessly. What you also discover is that this system ensures you
have an automatic, guiding system that protects you from over
exercising and injury. Long before you have driven stress in too
deep, your body will have given you signals to slow down, change
direction or stop.
When we exercise in balanced effortlessness we pull negative
stress out of the body and become not only fitter but healthier.
Instead of dealing with fatigue and injury, exercise becomes rejuve-
Grant Molyneux
60
nating, refreshing and life enhancing. Once you are aware of and
can listen to this inner energy it’s possible to re-integrate scientific
protocols back into your training program and create a unique,
balanced sustainable exercise practice.
Ntstt Bactteinc
Every time I pick up a book based on the philosophies of the
Eastern cultures, I am reminded of the benefits of breathing exclu-
sively through your nose. For millennia humanity has known about
this health enhancing habit, but in our Western, fast paced society
it has become a forgotten piece of wisdom.
Can you picture being in comfort and ease when you are panting
and your breathing is frantic? Can you picture fluid execution
while you are gasping for breath? It is impossible to remain calm
physically if your breath is not also calm. One skill that creates the
calm flow state of pull during exercise is nasal breathing. Once
mastered, low breath rates during exercise greatly aid accessing
effortless states.
At birth we naturally breathe through our noses. Babies
switch to mouth breathing in response to stress: we want
food, so we cry. Later, we learn to breathe through our mouths
to remain competitive during exercise, forcing ourselves past
the point of our current conditioning. Needing to open our
mouths to breathe during exercising is one of the first cues that
we are entering the push state and exiting effortless exercise.
Shallow, mouth breathing eventually becomes the norm in our
day-to-day lives, and we carry this over into exercise. Mouth
breathing is also a clue that you are experiencing stress even
at rest.
Tec Hctat Conncction
Did you know your nose is intimately linked to your heart? Short,
shallow mouth breaths promote a faster heart rate. This reduces
your efficiency and ultimately lowers your exercise potential. If the
goal is to go farther, be stronger and go faster with less effort,
then training to become a proficient nasal breather during exercise
surely enhances performance, reduces heart rate and improves
effortless exercise
61
recovery. It also creates an internal calm and peace – the place
where you reach a Zen-like flow.
Rcsviattoav Erricicncv
Because the nasal passages are small, when you breathe
through your nose you’re forced to breathe longer each cycle
and that causes more oxygen to go deeper into the lungs, hence
creating greater respiratory efficiency. Also, nasal breathing enables
you to use your diaphragm more. This movement exercises the
diaphragm muscle and massages your internal organs.
The nasal passages are also lined with tiny hairs, which filter the
incoming air. This enhances your immunity to viruses and reduces
the susceptibility of becoming ill. Nasal breathing also warms the
air as you breathe, protecting your lungs from the shock of cool air
and allows your lungs to work at a higher efficiency.
Ptatsvuvttectic Cttu
Perhaps best of all, breathing through your nose stimulates
your parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for
calming you down. So if you train yourself to breathe through your
nose, you can literally pull stress out of your body while exercising.
Conscious stimulation of the parasympathetic system promotes
greater levels of vitality and better health. Nasal breathing is one
of the most important skills you can learn to perform before,
during and after exercise.
How to Ntstt Bacttec
To encourage a meditative state, each exercise session starts
with your breath. Begin by paying attention to your breathing
during rest. Establish a practice of deep, slow, rhythmic, nasal
breaths while simply sitting still. Allow yourself to be conscious of
your breath, this quiets your mind and brings you into the present
moment. This process creates the inner calm needed to experience
effortless exercise.
Dtate Vtoca Tcceniquc
One technique used in Yoga practice is to inhale, then exhale
all of the air through your nose slowly while constricting the back
of your throat. If you’re doing it correctly, you’ll make the same
Grant Molyneux
62
sound that Darth Vader made in Star Wars, that deep raspy hiss.
Again, let the air fill your lungs naturally; don’t force it in. As the
air flows inward, don’t breathe with your chest, instead let your
stomach distend. Think of deep, belly breathes, and focus on the
vitality this creates within you.
Uvvca Liuit
During exercise it is easy to teach yourself this technique,
provided you start slowly and give yourself time to adapt. Your
goal is to establish this calm breathing at the beginning of your
exercise session while warming-up (i.e. between 8-12 breaths a
minute). As you progressively pick up your pace hold onto this
calm, breathing deeply as long as possible, and pay attention to
the point where you start to breathe through your mouth. This
point corresponds to the upper limit of your current effortless
training zone. Going beyond this takes you out of comfort and
balance and induces stress. In this way, nasal breathing becomes
a simple form of monitoring your exercise intensity.
Bactte tno Ptcinc
Keep in mind that nasal breathing, like any skill, improves over
time. One of America’s leading ultra-marathoners uses nasal
breathing exclusively to pace herself. She often starts in the middle
of the pack, walking up and cruising down hills, allowing her nose
to determine her pace. By half way she has caught most of her
competition, and by the end of the race she often finishes first –
even first overall. She finds herself much fresher than the rest of
the pack, invigorated and able to continue if she so desired.
I have coached many endurance athletes who now run intervals
all while breathing though their noses. Be patient with yourself.
When your nasal breathing threshold expands, know that you have
expanded your effortless state to a higher level as well.
Many people experience difficulty at first. You may have feelings
of too little oxygen intake or experience nasal drip. These are
signs that you’ve been pushing your exercise experience out of the
effortless state and into the stress zone by breathing through your
mouth. At these times it’s important to slow down, have patience
and continue the nasal breathing practice. Seek to find the upper
limit of comfortable nasal breathing. One of my clients described
effortless exercise
63
how he eventually completed a nasal breathing exercise session
and how he experienced great pacing and didn’t experience post-
workout stress:
Jason, an avid triathlete, remembers one particu-
larly break-through bike ride. Over time he was able
to continually pick up his pace while maintaining a
steady nasal breathing rate of +z breaths per minute
(he has a resting rate of +8). On this memorable ride
his heart rate remained in the +¸os no matter how
hard he pedaled. He also reported that his physio-
logical parameters remained calm throughout the
session. Jason was conscious of the fact that he was in
a flow state and felt a sense of elation as he zoomed
along. He said he felt great – both effortless and
connected.
Nasal breathing takes practice and can take a few years to fully
develop the habit. Give yourself patience when acquiring this new
skill; it’s worth the effort.
Tivs roa Runncas tno Swiuucas
Runners find it best to practice this nasal breathing when
walking during warm-ups and cool-downs. Your goal should be to
take 7-9 steps per inhalation breath and 7-9 steps per exhalation
breath. This ensures that you have good control of ventilation and
remain extremely calm. Work towards this slowly, and focus on
making your breathing as fluid and rhythmic as possible. When
breathing out through your nose, practice constricting the flow
of air in your throat by making the Darth Vader sound mentioned
earlier.
For swimmers, it’s necessary to sip the air in through your
mouth and use nasal breathing on your exhalation. Pay close
attention to your breathing as you swim, and endeavor to make it
as calm and relaxed as possible.
Don’t force yourself to breathe through your nose, rather allow
yourself to pace your training properly so that nasal breathing
becomes relaxed and rhythmical. The main downside to nasal
breathing is developing a runny nose. Carry some Kleenex and
refrain from practicing too much nasal breathing in extremely cold
Grant Molyneux
64
weather. Over time your nasal passages open up naturally and you
find your runny nose disappears. Remember that your mission
is to seek effortlessness and your breathing should be a natural
extension of this practice. After awhile you’ll notice that you don’t
need to focus strict attention on your breathing anymore, as it
becomes part of your body’s intrinsic sense memory. You’ll also
notice that this form of breathing eliminates facial strain and
eases your perception of exercise stress.
Just like the runners who can perform intervals while nasal
breathing, with time, you too can train yourself to breathe through
your nose and extend your effortless experience into progres-
sively greater exercise intensities. Many athletes have been able
to reduce their exercise breathing rate to a lower count than their
resting rate. Think about exercising for an extended period of time
all the while allowing your respiratory system to relax and your
body to actually de-stress. Nasal breathing remains pivotal in
creating a unified body/mind/spirit connection and producing a
calm flow state. I enjoy telling my clients that in time your nose
will out perform your mouth!
Erroattcss Tatininc Hctat Rttc
The science of heart rate technology can become complicated
and many people find it overwhelming. Others simply wear a heart
rate monitor to see their heart rate level during training with no
idea of how to use it as a tool in tandem with their intuition. Many
coaches use multiple zones with workouts becoming mental/
technological distractions where athletes’ entire focus is on their
watch and detached from their bodies. Over the years I have
simplified the use of heart rate monitoring during exercise. I use
the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) because I’ve seen many
clients struggling to succeed.
The main purpose a heart rate monitor serves is setting the
upper limit of your effortless zone. Once you’ve experienced what
this feels like, actual monitoring becomes secondary. Don’t over
monitor. Simply use this tool to reinforce what your intuition
tells you. Learn to trust your body first and use your heart rate
as a secondary check-in device. Seamlessly integrate this piece
of science, and always default to what your intuition tells you
effortless exercise
65
based on your inner body energy signals. Occasionally you may
find yourself either below or above your prescribed zone due to
temperature, hydration or the onset of an illness. As long as you
feel effortless, stick with that.
Begin by finding your flow state and determining the corre-
sponding heart rate zone for your unique physiology. So exactly
what is your effortless training zone (ETZ)? Scientists have
attempted to answer this question for decades, using a variety of
prediction formulas and various tests. All of these methods do
work, but only for some people and only some of the time. Why?
Because heart rates differ from person to person and can fluctuate
from day to day. I’ve seen a 40 beats per minute (bpm) difference
in training zones between two people of the same age and fitness.
In situations like this, science sometimes fails us and intuition
helps to individualize training zones based on each person’s
unique inner body energy. With this integrated approach in mind,
fitness and health can develop simultaneously.
The effortless training zone (ETZ) is the heart rate range that
provides the greatest gains in both fitness and health. It’s where
you experience flow states. There exists a balance between devel-
oping your fitness and improving your health, and often individuals
step over this line, sacrificing their health for minimal or even
negative returns in fitness.
Once you’ve determined your upper ETZ limit, your monitor
aids you by providing additional internal feedback. It alerts you
if you’re under stress and helps you slow down on those days.
Monitors also help you to pace yourself properly on days when
your intuitive skills are clouded and when you’re having trouble
connecting with your inner body energy.
Acaoaic Intcnsitv
Scientists have proven that aerobic exercise yields the
greatest health benefits and provides the best foundation for all
endurance sports and supports our quality of life as we age. In
the effortless exercise vision, intensity only increases providing
it remains aerobic during training – remaining relaxed, balanced
and comfortable. Even if you are training for high levels of compe-
tition, effortlessness remains your number one objective. There is
no need to exceed this zone except during the final training phase
Grant Molyneux
66
before a competition, while preparing yourself for the specific race
intensity anticipated. Experiencing how fast your body can go is
exhilarating if you maintain internal calm and presence. That’s the
key to effortlessness: calm inside, dynamic motion outside.
Dctcauininc voua Erroattcss Tatininc Zonc (ETZ)
So how do you determine what is the optimum zone for you?
In working with athletes, I’ve developed ways to help clients
determine their upper limit of their effortless training zone. These
simple methods take into account body cues and signals during
exercise and focus on maintaining an aerobic state of maximized
health and fitness, hence the term Effortless Training Zone.
There are three methods used to determine the upper limit of
your ETZ. You can use a combination of these methods or simply
go with the one that suits you best. I find that through using all
three approaches while coaching, I have been able to accurately
determine what’s best for my clients. In the final analysis, the
heart rate zone you choose should always bring you to a balanced
place of effortlessness. Always default to your experience and use
this science as guidance and back up information.
Mcteoo 1: Excacisc Exvcaiucntttion
The first and most important way to set your upper limit is
through your sensation of comfort, balance and effortlessness. In
the ETZ you should feel as if you could continue to exercise all day
in this manner. In other words, you experience no need to stop at
any time, that your pace is even and you are in balance with your
effort. Experiment with a variety of heart rate monitored exercise
sessions to see just where you are most comfortable. Adding five
beats to the HR number where you feel the greatest flow state
approximates your upper limit nicely.
Then ask yourself two critical questions:
Could I repeat the same workout right away without any rest?
Did I have the sensation of effortlessness the whole time I
was exercising?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions and, for the sake
of example, you were exercising at an average of 125 bpm, then set
your upper limit at 130 bpm.
effortless exercise
67
I have enjoyed cycling for years and have found that the mid
120s feels absolutely effortless for me. Using this method for my
cycling, I have set my bike upper limit at 130 bpm. I exceed this
limit on occasion, provided I still feel effortless. Keep the push/pull
concept in mind in these cases: It’s okay to work at a faster rate or
speed, but it’s not okay to struggle.
Experiment with a variety of sport-specific workouts over
different time lengths to determine if your zones differ in various
situations. Be sure to use the warm-up and nasal breathing
techniques. Keep a journal or chart these activities, speed, distance
and heart rates. Through this self-knowledge you’ll learn where
you experience the greatest flow state and over what distance or
duration. This is a trial and error method, but it gets you in touch
with the state of effortlessness most accurately and in the process
teaches you which heart rates are linked to certain internal body
states and sensations. Your monitor reveals to you when you
are tired, getting sick, having a drop in energy or when you feel
invigorated. If you notice low heart rates with great speeds, it’s
an indication that you have an efficient aerobic system and have
increased your body’s ability to handle exercise.
How do you know if you’re exiting the ETZ? You start to struggle
and push mentally and physically. You feel the need to begin to breathe
rapidly through your mouth. Also, your legs start to burn and you
have the desire to slow down or stop. All of these sensations pull you
away from a heightened flow state and lead to discomfort and pain.
Prolonged training in this fashion eventually leads to injury.
Once you’ve experienced these anaerobic conditions, set the
upper heart rate limit on your monitor below any of these stressful
states. With conscious practice you may not need a heart monitor
to exercise in your zone. I have found experienced athletes can
guess their heart rates to within five beats without looking at their
watch. They have become masterfully in tune with their bodies and
developed an inner awareness about the upper limit of their ETZ.
Mcteoo 2: Ntstt Teacseoto
The second way to determine the maximum limit of your ETZ
is the point at which you lose your ability to breathe comfortably
through your nose. When your ventilation is rhythmic and relaxed
you are truly in an aerobic flow state. Once your breathing becomes
Grant Molyneux
68
labored and you start breathing through your mouth you’ve
become partly anaerobic and are starting to experience exercise
induced stress.
If your break-over nasal breathing heart rate point is lower
than the number determined in Method One, then use this lower
number to determine your effortless exercise zone. If the nasal
breathing heart rate is higher, stick with your Method One number.
Either way, use the lower number. One tip: If you’re an experi-
enced athlete try breathing through your nose on several training
sessions before you determine at which heart rate you break over
into mouth breathing.
If you’re accustomed to breathing through your mouth during
exercise this method records a far lower heart rate than you would
expect. The reason for this is that shallow, fast breathing has
conditioned your body to expect exercise stress. This translates to
higher heart rates and in turn drives you out of the zone of effort-
lessness far quicker. If you start using your nasal threshold heart
rate for training, eventually your nose, heart rate, nervous system
and body recondition and you’ll be able to attain effortlessness
at higher speeds and lower heart rates. In other words, you’ll be
able to increase your pace without going out of the flow state of
effortlessness. Fundamentally, this change in training method and
physiological development becomes an extension of your ETZ and
indicates that your fitness is improving and your body can handle
more exercise intensity in a natural way.
Mcteoo 3: Btooo Ltctttc Tcstinc
The third way to determine the upper limit of your effortless
training zone is through a simple blood lactate test. This test is
best reserved for endurance athletes who want another objective
measure of their zones. Use a blood lactate level of 2mmol/L to
set the upper limit of the effortless training zone. As a coach, I
look carefully at these results for the point where the resting values
start to increase from the baseline. This point corresponds to the
intensity where your body has started to become anaerobic. Also
take into consideration the previous two methods. Intuitive data is
just as important as the levels of lactate that accumulate, because
lactate levels can vary day-to-day and session-to-session. If you
effortless exercise
69
have access to this testing, use this data in conjunction with the
other two methods to determine which zone feels right for you.
Here’s how lactate works. When lactate begins to accumulate
in your system this is a sign that you are starting to access your
anaerobic energy system to keep exercising. It’s a signal that your
body can’t maintain homeostasis or balance and that it has to
dip into its emergency energy stores. This creates internal stress,
makes the muscle environment slightly acidic and pulls you away
from healthy exercise. While small amounts of anaerobic exercise
are necessary to prepare you for competition, remember that this
is a stressful exercise state and prolonged training requires signif-
icant body resources to affect proper recovery. If you need to train
your anaerobic system for competition, then do so in as effortless
a manner as possible, holding onto nasal breathing and inner
calm for as long as possible while you increase intensity.
However, if the goal of exercise is to maximize fitness while
enhancing health, then exercise performed in the absence of
accumulating lactate leaves you refreshed and vitalized. This is the
central theory of the effortless exercise training system, which is
based on always staying in the health building aerobic state of flow.
Not only do you maximize your endurance and minimize injury,
but the training becomes positive and extremely pleasurable.
Mtx VO2 Tcst
Some clubs offer what’s called a max VOz test to determine
cardiovascular fitness. If you have access to one of these tests pay
particular importance to the upper limit the tester gives you for
your aerobic zone. Most clubs use a five zone method. Usually
the top of zone two – the aerobic threshold – is noted on your test
results. Use this heart rate number in conjunction with the other
two methods in determining the upper limit of your ETZ.
Scttinc voua Lowca Liuit
The lower limit of your ETZ should be set zo bpm lower than
your upper limit. This 20 beat range gives you enough flexibility
to pace a variety of workouts. It’s not necessary to “red line” your
zone and always drive your heart rate up to the top, as the benefits
of fat burning, health development and efficiency are actually
greater in the lower portion of the zone. Let your focus on inner
Grant Molyneux
70
body energy, nasal breathing and the sensation of effortlessness
guide your training within this range on any given day.
ETZ Aojustucnts
Begin by using the lowest heart rate any of the above methods
give you, especially as you learn more about your unique body.
Reserve exceeding this number until the time comes when you are
pulled into the activity. That way you’re guaranteed to stay aerobic
and effortless. As you become more comfortable exercising and
breathing, you’ll find that your heart rate beats per minute may
decrease, that’s an indication that you are becoming fitter and are
more able to handle the stress created by exercise. Always let your
intuition guide you in choosing the method and zone that works
best for you.
When setting your upper limit heart rate it’s important to use
a number that you feel comfortable with, rather than an intellec-
tually or scientifically predicted number. If you find that over time
you are always five beats higher, then perhaps it’s time to adjust
upwards if you’re healthy and improving physically. You could also
find that you are always in the bottom of your zone and need to
adjust downwards.
Still, remember the experience of effortlessness remains the
primary focus of every exercise session. Default to your intuition
first and use your monitor as a secondary guideline. Don’t become
a slave to technology. If on any particular day you feel best training
30 beats lower, stay there, and perhaps on other days when you
can charge up the hill in a flow state, go for it!
ETZ is Svoat Svcciric
Your ETZ is sport specific. Also it is individual and changes
over time as you become fitter. You could have three different
zones if you participate in three different sports on a regular basis.
Also, your ETZ numbers will differ from your workout partners
and competitors, so don’t be tempted to compare training
heart rates with those of your friends. With consistent training,
your body becomes stronger aerobically and this allows you to
exercise at increasingly faster tempos with progressively lower
heart rates. When this occurs, it means that you may adjust your
effortless exercise
71
zone downwards over time. Then congratulate yourself – you are
becoming both healthier and fitter!
ETZ Tivs
Here are some special circumstances where you may adjust the
zone upwards or downwards, depending on your overall exercise
status and health. Make these adjustments after you have deter-
mined your ETZ based on the methods above. These tips are used for
special circumstances and are arbitrary adjustments to ensure that
you exercise in an effortless state, free from exercise-induced stress.
Lower the zone 10 beats if you are currently sedentary
Lower the zone 10 beats if you have been recently ill or are
on any medications
Lower the zone 5 beats if you become ill often and exercise
sporadically
Keep your zone if you have consistently exercised 3-4 times
a week for more than 2 years
Raise your zone 5 beats if you are an athlete that has trained
injury free for more than 2 years
Many individuals like to fine-tune their zone based on the follow-
ing more detailed questions:
Can I exercise all day in the middle of this zone?
Does this zone feel effortless all the time?
Is my form/technique impeccable in this zone? This partic-
ularly applies to runners. If your zone forces you to run
too slow and fall into poor form adjust the zone upwards
slightly
Is my breathing unconscious, or is it labored?
Do I feel the sensation of comfort and balance?
Can I talk easily at this exercise intensity?
Do I find recovery is quick and complete after a workout in
this zone?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, then you are
squarely in the middle of your ETZ. Provided you can hang on to
the feeling of flow, it’s alright to exceed your ETZ. This, in fact,
becomes an extension of your body’s ability to exercise at ever
increasing external workloads while remaining in an effortless
state internally – the experience of any peak performance. So
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72
remember the practice of effortlessness consists of intuitive flow,
nasal breathing, activity in the absence of struggle, flawless form
and enjoyment.
Tec Rcjuvcnttion Zonc
Many clients come to me with chronic injuries or suffering burn
out from the anaerobic intensity of generic training programs. On
these occasions I prescribe exercise that is wholly rejuvenating in
nature. This exercise gives you nothing but health benefits and
restores balance to your body quicker than full rest. The upper
limit of this Rejuvenation zone is set at the lower limit of your
effortless training zone (ETZ). In other words, you exercise at a
limited intensity that is far below your capabilities.
This zone is used for recovery from illness, injury and full
recovery from any increased training period. It is also used for
easy sessions when you’re not feeling your usual energetic self.
I recommend all runners and triathletes walk once a week for
recovery and profit from the rejuvenation this training provides.
Don’t underestimate the power of this form of training and its
health benefits. Walking leaves you refreshed and ready for your
next day’s training:
Jodi is an avid triathlete who trains following the
Effortless Training Zone concept. Over three years she
developed her efficiency to the point where she can
cover the same distance that took her ¸o minutes in
year one, down to zo minutes by year three. She also
regularly practices the habit of taking a recovery week
every three weeks. During this week she completes all
of her workouts at ¸o% her normal training distances
and drops her intensity down into her recovery zone.
Jodi has been injury free and fresh; her performances
have improved every year.
She has always said that she looks forward to the
recovery weeks as they keep her motivated, rejuvenated
and eager to get out there for more training. Jodi has
learned to keep the positive energy flowing forward.
effortless exercise
73
What’s more interesting is that she feels excited to
exercise every day and drawn to do more as her goals
become more ambitious. It’s exciting to see someone
get healthier as they engage in progressively longer
endurance events year after year.
Exercising in the Rejuvenation zone is also excellent if you are
new to fitness. Using these lower parameters ensures that you
avoid injury, which is a very common fear among the sedentary.
Also, this zone allows the non-exerciser to experience all the
vitalizing aspects of movement in the absence of any pain or
discomfort. You only experience the pull of exercise, which creates
a greater desire to want to repeat the session. This zone promotes
resonant fitness experiences and encourages habitual lifestyle
exercise for those not interested in racing and competition.
It is here, in the Rejuvenation zone, where the positive pull state
of exercise germinates. Think about that statement for a moment.
If we eliminated the negative stress associated with exercise and
turned fitness into an invigorating experience, we could inspire a
whole generation into becoming more open to activity and that
would have a dramatic impact on society as a whole. Most partici-
pants’ experience with exercise remains negative in nature. People
dislike exercise because they perform it too strenuously, driven by
the perception that this is the only way to get results. Try a few
sessions in the Rejuvenating zone and see how it makes you feel
during the activity and for the rest of your day. I guarantee you’ll
be hooked!
Bcvono Hctat Rttc
For some people, heart rate monitors are a great place to begin,
providing biofeedback for those of us who are no longer connected
to our intuition, inner body signals and the fullness of the present
moment. Once hints of effortlessness are experienced, scientific
technology (such as a heart rate monitor) become a transitional
tool. In this case, the specifics of science aid us in understanding
more about the mind/body/spirit connection, affirm our intuitive
wisdom and encourage us to develop a healthy aerobic efficiency.
The monitor can assist us to look within and become present in
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74
each exercise session. To rely too heavily on technology, however,
becomes an unconscious act of looking for answers outside of
ourselves. Remember, a heart rate monitor tells you one thing:
your heart rate. Your intuition tells you an abundance of infor-
mation simultaneously. Such tools are great learning devices or
benchmarks that tangibly demonstrate what our intuition already
knows – through conscious inner awareness.
Over time, you’ll be able to exercise in integrated balance
without the aid of the heart rate monitor. Body awareness is
something that is built up through direct experience, and then
conscious practice of movement in your unique ETZ finally
becomes intuitive wisdom – the Zen of effortless exercise. Once
the art of inner exercise has been assisted by heart rate technology,
a return to training through intuition is needed to reconnect on a
deeper level with your body’s energy. Remember you carry with you
the wisdom to make conscious choices while you are exercising,
always listen to the subtle feedback your body sends you.
Becoming a slave to your monitor actually pulls you away from
your effortless exercise zone and may contribute to injury. Take, for
example, a day when you feel terrific, but your monitor is holding
you back to the point where your pace feels labored. Training
here could lead to injury, because you are over-riding your natural
feeling and intuition and following the monitor too closely. In this
situation, it would be better to seek your effortless training pace
through body energy feedback plus nasal breathing and allow your
heart rate to drift upwards.
The opposite can occur as well, perhaps you’re running and
every cell in your body is saying that you’re going hard enough for
today, but your heart rate is low. Stay where you are, seek comfort
and ease and don’t force your heart rate upward in your zone. Your
inner body energy is signaling you to enjoy a rejuvenation session
or perhaps you are dehydrated or becoming ill. At times like these,
keep outer expectations in perspective and remember that heart
rate is simply one variable in the complex system that makes up
your body.
Complicated heart rate zones force you into your intellectual
mind and out of touch with your body’s signals. Much of this type
of coaching also requires that you begin working intensely before
you are properly warmed-up and for too extended a time period.
effortless exercise
75
In many cases, the root cause of injury can be traced back to an
intense workout where mental toughness in the short term was
used to shoot for a long term goal. Integrating non-criteria based
exercise could have prevented the negative stress and circum-
vented the injury. Instead of ending up in rehab, the athlete could
have enjoyed a rejuvenation session and been fresh on race day.
Enjoy the permission, freedom and diversity of non-criteria based
training and use the monitor and the ETZ methods as guidelines
to attain effortless flow states.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 4: Discovcainc Zcn Exvcaicnccs
Finding that floating sensation during exercise is an experience
that most athletes crave. Wouldn’t it change how you perceive
exercise if you could experience this heightened state each time
you exercised? Here are a few tips to help you define and discover
the meditative and intuitive Zen of effortless exercise.
Find your effortless training zone. For the next two weeks make
a mental note of your heart rate whenever you feel the sensation
of effortlessness. Take note of your sport, the external conditions
(weather, heat, workout surface, etc.) and your average heart rate.
Over time, you’ll notice a pattern and a common heart rate aver-
age will become evident. Use this number as the middle of your
ETZ and add 5 beats per minute to this number to set the upper
limit ETZ. Don’t judge this number and don’t compare it to your
friends or competitors. This becomes your individual effortless
training zone, as unique as your finger prints.
Experience meditation in motion. For a week try experimenting by
setting no goals around your exercise. Simply set time aside in
your schedule for exercise and then when you get there let your
intuition and enthusiasm determine what you will do. Once you
engage in movement let the workout unfold naturally and let your
inner body energy pull you into the session. Listen for body feed-
back every step of the way and let this determine the length and
the intensity. If you routinely exercise on a treadmill drape it with a
towel so you can’t see the readout – silence the mind distractions
Grant Molyneux
76
of time, distance, pace and intensity. Create a movement medita-
tion with deep breathing and being present in the moment.
Train in the Rejuvenation zone. For two exercise sessions this week
set your maximum heart rate 20 beats below your ETZ upper limit.
For example if your ETZ is 120-140 bpm, set your monitor to beep
at 120 bpm. Set the lower limit at 15 bpm or as low as it will go on
your monitor. The watch will then be silent except when you are
going over your maximum HR. Follow all the pre-exercise routines
discussed in the warm-up chapter. Keep this session extremely
easy and note how refreshed you feel afterwards. This is a great
exercise for ultra-endurance athletes to perform on long workouts.
For example, Ironman triathletes can go for a 5-6 hour bike ride
in their Rejuvenation zone. This is also an excellent exercise for
ultra-runners who train and race on trails; it teaches them to walk
up the hills and pace themselves properly for events that are often
longer than a day. Both athletes typically return refreshed and en-
ergized for their training sessions the following week.
77
CHAPTER : SIMPLE FLEXIBILITY
AND STRENGTH
Developing a sustainable practice
The effortless vision applies to all forms of exercise. Consider
putting your intuition to work when it comes to strength and
flexibility training. In the West we tend to separate the elements
of physical development into cardiovascular, strength and flexi-
bility and then pursue developing these qualities separately in our
programs. Off we ride on our bike to get our heart pumping, off
to yoga for our flexibility and off to the weight room to “pump-up”
those muscles. While this physical development approach does
work, it can be disjointed and complex. And depending on what
advice you receive, weight training and stretching could well be
counter-productive to your specific sport. Flexibility and strength
gains can be made simply and sustainably, through relaxed
stretching and a one-set weight approach.
Puasuinc Intccattco Excacisc
Ideal, integrated exercise would combine endurance, strength
and flexibility in one exercise activity. While a few of these holistic
activities like dance and gymnastics actually exist, not many adults
are capable of trading in our running shoes for the fluid grace of a
pair of point shoes or the strength needed to master the pummel
horse. However, we, none the less, need to remain conscious
of body development and balance in our training choices. It’s
important to incorporate strength and flexibility into our cardio
programs or vice-a-versa. I have witnessed participants in Total
Immersion
+
swim classes gain shoulder flexibility just through
Grant Molyneux
78
practicing the drills with ease and impeccable technique. And one
ultra-distance runner has used Chi Running
z
techniques to gain
hip flexibility and add the element of relaxation to her training.
In seeking fitness activities, always look for integrated training
sessions whenever possible. But if you must separate flexibility or
strength sessions, bring a calm awareness to each specific activity
and follow an effortless execution approach, including a warm-up
and cool-down.
If you feel the need to develop your strength or flexibility, then you
are right. Follow this intuitive call. And more importantly, follow the
subtle specifics of what your unique body seeks. Honor its uncon-
ditional guidance. Say, for instance, you feel tight in your shoulder
area, that’s the cue for you to pursue a flexibility program for this
particular area. Or perhaps you feel you lack leg strength, then focus
on leg development through a specific sport or in the weight room.
The key focus remains: Listen to your inner body signals, follow this
intuition, and build your program from the inside out. Also continue
to tune in as these specific programs develop to ensure that flexi-
bility and/or strength is supporting your effortless experience both
energetically and physically. If you are experiencing continued pain,
stiffness, soreness or an inability to recover, then consider if you are
pushing the training and seek instead an energetic pull state.
What follows in this chapter is a description of how to approach
effortless flexibility and strength development. The choices of
exercises are as diverse as there are readers of this book. Work
with qualified professionals to find out what exercises are available
and seek their advice regarding your form, but remember to listen
to your inner body cues. If any exercise remains overly stressful
and you must mentally push yourself to perform it, discard it and
move on. Just as you would develop your cardiovascular system
effortlessly, any gains in flexibility and strength should evolve and
complement your training in a natural, integrated way. Following
the suggestions below allows for development of these fitness
qualities in a positive way.
Erroattcss Ftcxiaititv
The pros and cons of flexibility training have been debated
endlessly. And the debate continues with each new article. For the
effortless exercise
79
purposes of effortlessness, suffice it to say that flexibility is a needed
quality as we age. There’s an old saying in the yoga community
that states: You are as young as your spine is flexible. It’s true,
we lose physiological parameters including strength and flexibility
as we age, our movement becomes tight and restricted and we
lose general functionality. However, decline can be minimized
through regular flexibility practices, undertaken in a progressive
and effortless fashion.
Place your main focus on the quality of your experience. It’s
far more important to be aware of how you stretch rather than
what exercises you perform, because you can develop high levels
of fitness in any area provided you go deep enough into the
experience. Most people always push too far and stretch to the point
where they feel pain. They think, “Now I’m getting somewhere!”
But stretching the muscle to this extreme range actually tightens
the tissue as it contracts to preserve its integrity.
So what have we been doing incorrectly? Two things:
Trying to stretch a muscle when we are loading the muscle
and therefore creating tension instead of relaxation
Pushing too hard during stretches, which creates further
tension and risks injury
Paradoxically, this type of stretching becomes counter-
productive because the critical relaxation phase essential to
permanently change the resting length of the tissue is missing.
For stretching to be effective, you must relax.
Stactceinc tno Injuaics
Let’s examine why stretching has been linked to a higher
incidence of injury in athletes. Many sports require that muscles
shorten during the event, and then athletes or their coaches seek
to lengthen them with a flexibility program. It’s like trying to mix
oil and water: you run for an hour and shorten your muscles, and
then you take five minutes afterwards to stretch – sometimes
with disastrous results. It’s this counter action that contributes
to injury.
The practice of stretching should focus on relaxing the muscles
while you elongate them. The key here is to become aware of how
a proper stretch feels, through developing body sense memory.
If you place your alert concentration on the muscle you require
Grant Molyneux
80
to stretch, breathe deeply and focus on the sensation of relax-
ation, you can then allow for progressive opening, benefit from
a new resting length and ease existing tension. The more force,
strain and effort you put into your stretches the more resistance
you create. This may seem counter-intuitive, but with flexibility
training, less is definitely more. And in the long run, consistency
is more important than end range.
Be aware that the further you push a stretch, the longer it takes
the muscle to relax. Gyms are full of people holding extreme,
end-of-range stretches, creating few flexibility benefits and possible
ligament and tendon damage. Many people also end their stretch
before the muscle has had a chance to relax. In this case, all they
have accomplished is triggering the muscle defense mechanism,
which shortens the tissue in an act of protection. I’ve had
clients report that they become tighter even though they stretch
religiously, and without honoring this knowledge, they redouble
their stretching efforts. If these individuals continue to stretch in
this way and over ride body signals they become injured, which
is simply the body’s way of forcing them to stop an unhealthy
practice. The alternate solution is a relaxed method of stretching
– an effortless approach. One of my clients, James, found that
relaxation was much more powerful than force, when it came to
remaining a limber athlete:
James was an avid triathlete who always battled
injuries. His illiotibial band (the muscle and tendon on
the outside of his leg) was always tight and sore, and
he stretched it to relieve the pain. After working with
him for a few months I realized that this was a chronic
problem and asked to see his entire stretching routine.
He would hold his stretches to the point where it
required a lot of effort and only backed off when he felt
excessive pain. He also would end his stretches after an
arbitrary time period, failing to sense if the muscle had
relaxed. As soon as I had him stretch effortlessly, in a
non-weight bearing position and with relaxed muscles,
his chronic pain dissipated. He’s injury free today and
significantly more flexible. He now prefers to call his
stretches limbering!
effortless exercise
81
Finally, many people find that stretching can also become a very
empowering spiritual practice. The entire field of yoga devotes its
teachings to this end. It can become more than a simple physical
task for an external benefit; it can become a window into relax-
ation, wisdom and healing.
How to Stactce Erroattcsstv
How do you perform a relaxed stretch? Begin with all of the
practices learned so far: body awareness, nasal breathing, a low
heart rate and a meditative calm while moving slowly into exercise.
Before you begin stretching perform a warm-up, ensuring that all
your muscles have the proper heat and blood flow available for
stretching effectively. I don’t recommend stretching before your
warm-up as that would only contribute to further muscle contrac-
tions or at the very least you’d have to wait much longer for your
cold, short muscles to relax into each stretch.
Posture: Pay attention to the starting position of your stretch. If it
requires your muscles to contract to hold the position, then you
are probably engaging in a stretch that’s counter productive. If the
position allows you to relax the muscle that you intend to stretch,
then you’re correctly positioned. Seek out non-weight bearing po-
sitions that allow maximal muscle relaxation; after all, it’s hard to
relax when you’re struggling to stay balanced.
Awareness: Once in your optimum stretching posture, instead of
unconsciously going through the motions, analyzing your work-
out, thinking of your presentation at work or even making out a
grocery list – become present and focus your awareness inward
on the muscles you wish to lengthen. Feel NO tension in these
muscles. This step of connecting deeply with your body is impor-
tant and becomes your beacon for sensing the difference between
relaxation and the development of muscle tension.
Point of Tension: Slowly and gradually move into your stretch until
you experience your very first awareness of tension, and stop there!
Relaxation: Now wait in perfect calm, breathe through your nose
and remain alert until you feel the muscle relax back to a point of
Grant Molyneux
82
no tension. You’ll feel the muscle letting go. Instead of using force,
you have switched to surrender and once again are flowing in pow-
erful alignment with your body’s energy rather than mentally fight-
ing against your physiology.
If you resist relaxation, go too far, and don’t allow the surrender,
tension persists. If you let go, the tension dissipates and disap-
pears. It’s ironic, but there is greater flow and natural power in
surrender than in force. As a footnote, many clients report they
have used flexibility training as a metaphor to learn to let go in
challenging life situations as well.
Be prepared and patient as the relaxation phase might take a
long time. If you’ve gone too far into the tension range, the muscle
may not relax at all. Remember the intention of stretching is not
to be able to do the splits in two weeks, but to allow your muscles
to relax and change length. If you barely approach the sensation
of tension and stop here, you may find the muscles relax quickly,
which allows you to then move further into the stretch. This
enhances your range even more, provided this second deepening
movement occurs through relaxation.
Being conscious of relaxation when you stretch helps you avoid
injury. In fact, the more you feel the positive energy of relaxation,
the more you become pulled into greater ranges of motion. Since
you’re now working within your body’s unique parameters and
not pushing your end point, you gradually witness a lengthening
of the tissue, without stress, effortlessly. Additionally, you create a
permanent change in the resting length of the muscle and develop
a motor and muscle memory of relaxation while exercising. The
practice of awareness, calm, balance, ease and flow reinforce
behaviors consistent with healthy exercise.
Example: Let’s work through an example of stretching. Take your
hamstrings. By bending over from the waist to stretch, they’re
actually trying to support you in this upright position. In effect,
you are asking them to contract to hold you up and simultane-
ously stretch by bending forward. If they are contracting in this
way, they can’t relax and change their resting length. Therefore this
posture does not provide the maximal relaxation needed to make
the greatest flexibility gains.
effortless exercise
83
Instead, isolate the muscles you wish to stretch in a non-weight
bearing position in order to allow them to relax. When stretching
the hamstrings, this means lying on your back with your feet up
against a wall so they are not used for stability during the stretch.
Take it to the position of first tension then rest here without an
arbitrary time frame until you feel the muscle group relax. Be aware
that the farther you push into a stretch, the longer it takes the
tissue to relax. Take this time in stillness to simply breathe deeply
through your nose and be totally alert to the play of tension and
relaxation as you consciously change the length of your muscles.
Erroattcss Stacncte
In our society, fitness remains largely defined by an outward
show of strength. You can see and admire well developed muscles,
and so the focus of most fitness programs remains the devel-
opment of the muscular system. Weight training and weight lifting
programs have proliferated and we have gotten stronger, but are
we healthier? Unfortunately strength training can be unhealthy, if
performed too intensively and too often.
Anaerobic exercise such as strength training creates a slightly
acidic condition within your muscle cells. This temporarily upsets
the acid/base balance within your body and leaves you in a
stressful state. Hence you feel pain, or you feel delayed pain after
exercise. Many times this pain lingers for up to a week as your
body re-balances its chemistry, recovers and repairs. Re-balancing
is paramount for long term health and is a natural rejuvenation
process following exercise. However, dipping into anaerobic
exercise too far or for too long creates long term damage, leads to
overtraining and accumulates fatigue.
Most of us have experienced muscle soreness after exercise
at some point in our lives. While mild stiffness is normal after
strength sessions, this is not a normal or healthy state to be in
consistently. Muscle soreness is delayed in onset and can last for
a few days with the peak usually occurring about 48 hours after
exercise. Any new movement, high intensity exercise or rapid,
powerful muscular contraction may bring on this soreness. Also,
any negative contractions called eccentric muscle contractions
(lengthening of muscle tissue while resisting the lengthening
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84
process) such as running or hiking down hill contributes to the
most intense muscle pain.
Soreness is your body’s way of telling you that you did too
much and becomes your cue to adjust your training back into
the effortless, pain free zone. Let pain guide you to adjust your
program to an energetic, healthier state, which allows your
muscles the recovery needed for maximal development.
The quickest way to discourage a beginner is to have them
experience soreness post weight training week after week. Most
people avoid exercise because of perceived or real pain, and even
the most committed athletes develop feelings of avoidance in the
face of constant pain. I once worked with a triathlete who came
to me seeking effortlessness, he said the first six months of his
weight program left him in constant pain – and he had big stiff
muscles to prove it too.
Extreme muscle damage, especially at the beginning of an
exercise program, is a very powerful anti-motivator for participants.
When beginning and maintaining strength programs, a gentler
training approach hooks both young and old onto the pleasurable
benefits of exercise and keeps them exercising in the long term.
You can develop strength without strain or struggle using a
one-set process. Once again, follow your body’s internal cues and
signals, progressing when your body is re-balanced chemically
and ready to do so. Couple this with adding weight increments
that are as small as possible and this ensures that you remain
on the pain and injury free side of fitness. What this requires,
however, is greater patience, conscious choices and diligent
consistency when learning which loads and repetitions work best
for your body. I’m going to limit the scope of the strength training
advice under the effortless exercise vision to the one-set process
because it maximizes gains and minimizes workout time, injury
and soreness.
Tec Stacncte Cuavc
Once you’ve lifted weights or performed strenuous training the
first stage your body experiences is the recovery stage. After anaerobic
activity recovery leaves you feeling sore and lasts from one to four
days in length. After an intense effort like a short race, hard lifting
session or a downhill hike, recovery can last as long as a week. To
effortless exercise
85
train again with anaerobic intensity while sore invites problems.
Mild active aerobic recovery in your Rejuvenation zone or complete
rest is what’s required now to re-balance your inner chemistry.
STAGE 1
RECOVERY
BASE
LÌNE
TÌME
STAGE 2
GROWTH
STAGE 3
RE-TRAÌN
SORE
STÌFF FRESH
STRENGTH CURVE
After the acute recovery period, and as the soreness dissipates,
you enter a second stage of growth usually characterized by stiffness.
This is the stage where your energy returns and your muscles
begin to lay down new tissue and strengthen. You feel better and
eager to resume training once more. This stage also lasts anywhere
from one to four days and represents the time when your body is
laying down extra resources to better prepare for similar stress in
the future. In the growth stage, it’s imperative to be aware of your
body’s signals of lingering stiffness as this is where rest is
paramount. Training again during this upswing only limits your
gains. It’s not until the stiffness has dissipated that you are physi-
ologically ready to train again. Wait until you feel limber and fresh
to exercise again.
The recovery and growth process is unique to each person’s
physiology, maintaining arbitrary “cook-book” training schedules
often interrupts the full benefits gained through inner body
listening. Strength training programs designed with a frequency of
greater than twice a week are counterproductive, unless the loads
are small and the sets and repetitions are held to a minimum.
Since strength is developed through the application of intensity,
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86
this type of training benefits from being performed infrequently,
especially as you advance in your training.
In a beginner’s program you may train three days a week. As
you advance you may switch to two days a week, and then in an
advanced program one training session a week per body part is
sufficient to bring maximal gains, provided you continually apply
the appropriate intensity and listen for the point of full recovery.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow:
If you are sore at all, don’t train
If you are stiff at all, don’t train
Only train when you feel fresh
These sessions will feel effortless, and you’ll be using your
maximum available resources for training. What’s even more
empowering is that when you train refreshed, you’ll find yourself
wanting to add more weight. That’s exciting because you’re
witnessing a dynamic, healthy increase in strength, without forcing
painful and often counter productive growth to meet the expecta-
tions of external programs.
Tec Onc-Sct Stacncte Paoccss
For beginners, here’s a step-by-step guideline to develop an
effortless strength practice:
Step :: Pick a light weight. That’s right, a ridiculously light weight.
If you’re new to strength training or re-starting, begin with a load
that’s very low for each exercise of your first session. This becomes
your starting weight. Since most people feel pretty strong on their
first time out, it’s easy to over estimate what you can lift, and this
may leave you with an inability to comb your hair! Give yourself the
permission to consciously under-do the first session.
Step z: Limit yourself to one set per exercise and do not lift to any-
where near failure. Remain aware of how each exercise feels; if you
sense any discomfort, stop. Lift with comfort. Perform each repeti-
tion slowly and breathe through your nose. On every repetition ask
yourself, “Can I easily do the next one?” If not, stop there. All you are
seeking to accomplish in this first session is to stimulate the muscle
to grow a small amount. Since this effort is more resistance train-
ing than you have been doing in the past, only the smallest amount
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87
is required on your first session. You’ll leave the weight room re-
freshed and minimize muscle soreness and stiffness. In fact, you
may not feel anything the next day; that’s your body’s signal that you
have done it correctly and will be able to lift more next time.
Step ¸: Use proper form and technique. It’s paramount that you
perform your exercises with impeccable form, smoothly and slow-
ly, paying attention to the ease of movement. Lift to a count of
two going up and a count of two going down to ensure that you
use muscle force to both lift and lower the weight. Record the ex-
ercises that you resonate with. When others create struggle, ask a
professional for alternatives. There’s no end to the variety of exer-
cises that you can use to train all the muscles of your body. Also be
patient. In the first few weeks your body will be making all the nec-
essary neurological connections to basically re-wire your mind/
muscle connection. You want this re-wiring process achieved in
an absence of pain and through brilliant form. From form follows
function, and from function comes the strength you desire.
Step q: Recovery and growth. Once you have completed your
first session, you now need to wait and sense your body going
through the recovery process. Some mild stiffness may occur, but
you shouldn’t be sore. If you find you are sore you need to wait
until the soreness has dissipated (phase one complete) and then
the lingering stiffness has left (phase two complete) until you re-
engage in your next weight lifting session. This could last up to a
week if you’ve over exerted yourself or chosen too heavy a weight.
If you’re stiff, wait a full day after this feeling has gone to re-en-
gage, that way you’ll be back at it again fully recovered.
If you under did the first session, you may not feel any
discomfort post-exercise. That’s great, and a signal that you can
train again soon. In this situation, wait one day until you resume
training. Basically train every other day if you feel comfortable and
refreshed after your sessions. This also signals that you are capable
of adding one more repetition to each of your exercise sets.
Paocacssinc Erroattcsstv
After your first session keep a record of the weights lifted and
how many repetitions you completed for each exercise. Next session
Grant Molyneux
88
your only objective is to seek the sensation of effortlessness. Repeat
the same number of repetitions you completed last time. If you
cannot and experience discomfort, leave it there for the day and
return again for another attempt once you have recovered. If you
are successful and find that your body is able to lift more, increase
by the SMALLEST possible increment – one repetition. That’s right,
one effortless repetition. This then becomes your new standard; be
sure to keep a record of these progressions. Remember that the
weights and reps are simply a guideline and never a substitute for
awareness and intuition on any given day. During every workout and
every repetition seek to focus your mind on the movement, don’t
let your thoughts wander and don’t disconnect from your body’s
sensations. Remain in comfort, exercise slowly with good form and
breathe through your nose. Enjoy the sense of energy, strength and
well-being in each session.
Once you can complete 15 repetitions of any given exercise
with proper form from a position of effortlessness and feel fresh
post-exercise, you are ready to increase the load on your next
weight lifting session. Add the SMALLEST amount of weight to
each exercise – that’s right, the smallest amount available to you.
Lift this new weight in alert attention, listening for any discomfort.
Once you feel any strain, stop and record your repetition count for
this new weight. From here, build up to 15 repetitions once more
before adding your next small load. One of my clients came to me
in middle age concerned about osteoporosis and how that would
affect her activities and vitality in old age. Here’s an example of
how the one-set process helped her:
Christa was into her forties before she started her
strength program. She intuitively felt she needed to
become stronger. Concerned about her bone density
and becoming frail, she started a full-body strength
program. First we selected eight basic exercises that
suited her. Before she even lifted a weight I asked her
to consider what weight she felt she could handle
with ease for +¸ repetitions. She experimented picking
many off the rack until she felt comfortable with her
selection. Once she selected a weight I asked her to use
effortless exercise
89
the next lighter weight on the rack. This guaranteed
that she would stay in the effortless zone.
Christa started with the one-set process and the
guideline to stop when she started to feel any sensa-
tions of strain. She reported being stiff the next day
and the following day when she was scheduled to lift
again, so she performed a light cardio session instead
and waited until she was pain free the following day.
Within a few weeks she was able to increase her starting
weight and experienced an increase in strength and
body awareness. Today she has increased her load on
every exercise by over zoo% and is still exercising in a
pain free effortless state.
Provided you stay within these one-set parameters and remain
sensitive to the internal process, you’ll be able to guide yourself
towards greater levels of strength development injury free. And in
the absence of constant muscle soreness, you’re able to enjoy all
aspects of your fitness experience.
Onc-Sct Suuutav
Hear are summary questions and answers to consider following
your weight lifting sessions:
Are you sore at all? If not, wait one day and lift again.
What muscle groups are sore? Wait for soreness and stiffness to
dissipate then lower your weight and/or repetitions during your
next session. Pay particular attention to the sensation of comfort
on these exercises and be alert for any discomfort, then stop.
Which exercises are linked to this soreness? If you struggle with
a certain exercise, discard it and start with a new one next time.
When has the soreness ended? Now you are in the growth
phase experiencing stiffness, wait for this to go away, add a day
and train again.
Are you stiff? If so wait for this to disappear, give yourself a buffer
day and repeat your session listening closely for discomfort. You
may need to lower your weights.
Are you fresh and ready to train again? With any sensation of
stiffness wait, if you feel limber you’re ready to train again.
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90
Plan your next session around recovery and muscle growth, not
by the calendar and wait until you have passed through both
phases before you exercise again. Strength gains are retained for
many days after the stiffness phase has ended, so you won’t lose
conditioning by waiting an extra day if you are unsure. In fact, as
you progressively increase intensity, you’ll find the frequency of
needed sessions, decreases. Most experienced lifters train each
muscle group only once a week because they have learned, often
through painful trial and error, that this amount of recovery and
growth is needed to continue to see progress.
Gcncaic Wcicet Tatininc Scecoutcs
Most generic strength programs based on two or three
arbitrary sessions a week simply don’t allow for adequate recovery
between sessions. If you religiously follow these schedules, you
end up training again while you are either recovering or growing
from the last session. You’ll find you have to disconnect from the
physical pain and mentally force your way through the session. By
truncating the muscle growth process you drive additional stress
into your body and diminish the full strength gains of this cycle.
Individual response to the strength building process cannot be
predicted or planned. By following your inner body cues you’re
guided toward the optimum strength progression that’s tailor-
made for you. This brings to mind Ryan’s story. Many years ago,
I remember asking this young triathlete, who had the body of a
Greek god, about his strength training secret, and I was astounded
at the simplicity of his approach:
Ryan was a solid age group triathlete who spent
considerable time building his aerobic base. What
struck me about this particular athlete was his fabulous
muscular development. When I asked him about his
program he remarked that he didn’t have much time
for strength training, so he kept it simple. His strength
routine consisted of push-ups, curl-ups and squats –
that’s it. Exercises he performed at home, without the
need for specialized equipment, in the evening before
he went to bed. He remained consistent with this
simple strength set and had done these three exercises
effortless exercise
91
for years. Ryan said he felt this program gave him
the strength he needed for his sport and he had the
physique to prove it.
I recommend beginners and fitness enthusiasts stick with
one-set per exercise for an extended period of time to allow their
bodies to fully adapt to the load increases. For beginners the
muscle development process could take years to unfold. In fact,
many clients have found they experience gains for a considerably
longer time by following this simple one-set method.
Muttivtc-Sct Tatininc
Reserve multiple set training to sport applications and muscle
building sports where the primary focus of the entire program is on
muscle development. For most general fitness needs the one-set
process is sufficient. If you find that you have no soreness or stiffness
and cannot break through a plateau in strength, then it’s time to
add a second set to your routine. This adds volume to your training
program and allows you a second chance at exploring your failure
point, which stimulates more muscle fiber recruitment and growth.
Much has been written about the optimal number of sets
needed to receive a training effect. Many programs use multiple
sets, pyramids, super-sets all designed to stimulate more muscle
fibers into action and increase the training effect. While these
techniques all work, they are all designed for the advanced lifter
seeking to maximize his or her muscle development. If you’re at
this phase of training you can benefit by simply adding the intuitive
guidelines of the effortless approach to your process.
That said, since most of the strength benefit comes from the
intensity during the very first set and one-set minimizes your
residual muscle soreness post-exercise and avoids overtraining,
I only prescribe single-set strength training for fitness oriented
clients. That’s all you need, unless you want to explore your
ultimate strength potential.
Tec Rcst Rcquiacucnt
Post-exercise, we build muscle through rest. In relaxation and
stillness our bodies become stronger after any endeavor. As I have
already mentioned, the frequency of most advanced strength
Grant Molyneux
92
programs actually minimizes rest and puts the participant in the
recovery or growth phases on their next session, which prevents
maximal effectiveness.
The optimal period of rest between sessions should be three
to seven days. Most weight lifters tell me they can lift more and
are fresh during their next session if they allow for this level
of recovery. The more weight you lift, even if you lift from an
effortless perspective (i.e. the heavier the weight you lift and the
closer you train to failure), the longer you need for recovery. Since
you’re limiting your intensity as a beginner, resting between two
or three sessions a week may be fine. However, later, when your
weights become heavier, you become stronger and your ability to
hold on to comfort and effortlessness increases, you’ll need to
lengthen your recovery time between sessions. As you progress,
pay particular attention to the duration of the rest phase to avoid
overtraining.
Always rest if your body is sore, stiff or if you feel fatigued. This
is the body’s innate wisdom communicating that it still requires
recovery and needs to remain in the re-building process. You want
to weight train when you are fresh and supported energetically
by a flow state. Without having to spend time analyzing this or
planning ahead, your body recovers beautifully and always takes
the precise amount of time needed to ensure the greatest beneficial
change. It’s automatic and fool-proof; simply bring awareness to
your strength training process to maximize your gains.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 5: Vttuinc Rcttxttion tno Rcst
Here are a couple of reminders to fit seamlessly into this week’s
sessions that may alter the way in which you approach flexibility
and strength exercise. Be sure to warm-up as described in Chapter
Three before you stretch or lift weights.
Flexibility. For the next few weeks whenever you stretch become
present as much as possible. Start your stretch from an un-
weighted, relaxed position. For example you could stretch your
hamstrings by lying on the floor with your legs up a wall, or you
could stretch your calves by standing upright, your weight through
your heels and the balls of your feet on a book. If you can’t relax
effortless exercise
93
the stretching muscle try a different position or movement until
you are capable of starting in a relaxed position. Now, as you move
into the stretch, pay very close attention to the tension within the
muscle. This sensation comes on slowly and very lightly at first,
and as you get better at paying attention to this feeling you’re able
to find the point of tension sooner and relax quicker. Once you feel
any tension at all simply hold your position and breathe calmly,
relax and listen for any feelings of pain or stress. Wait for the ten-
sion to relax and subside. This may take some time so be patient.
When you feel the muscle relax, you may repeat the process taking
the muscle to a slightly greater range of motion.
Beginner’s Strength. If you haven’t already started a strength train-
ing program, try this simplest of practices. Pick four simple exer-
cises: squats, shoulder press, push-ups and curl ups. Now pick a
light weight (or simply your body weight) and complete four easy
repetitions of each exercise, paying strict attention to your form.
Rest for two days and pay attention to how you feel. If you didn’t
feel any discomfort, simply add a repetition to each of your ex-
ercises. If you were sore at all or in any of the specific exercises,
back-off to three repetitions of these exercises next time and re-
peat the process until you can do 15 repetitions comfortably.
Effortless Strength. If you are already on a strength program con-
tinue your protocol; however, make sure to warm-up longer and
more progressively as outlined in Chapter Three. Then pay par-
ticular attention to lifting slowly, breathing thorough your nose
and being in comfort the whole time. Once you reach the repeti-
tion where you feel the comfort fading away stop the set there.
Do not go any further. Now evaluate how you feel immediately
post-exercise and rest a full day after any stiffness has dissipated
before your next session. Repeat this workout and see if the dis-
comfort point moves further away and if you are capable of lifting
one more repetition next time. Enjoy this process and see if you
have more energy to weight train with appropriate rest.
94
CHAPTER : EFFORTLESS PROGRESSION
Unfolding The Future From Today
Clients often ask how to get started on a program? How much
exercise is ideal? How to progress and become fitter? When
training to run a marathon or an Ironman, what program should
I follow? My answer to all these questions is simple, “Create
your own program from the inside out.” I’ll help to guide them,
but the single most important realization about any exercise
program remains: Seek your unique optimum balance point.
Let your intuition act as your master coach, and then integrate
scientific knowledge, technological tools and training advice in a
sustainable way.
For years, like other coaches, I put clients on external, criteria
driven programs that didn’t take into account the primary driving
force of energy within their bodies. These mapped-out schedules
didn’t leave room for intuitive feedback before clients engaged
in exercise, during any of the thousands of moments during the
session when they received signals from their bodies or post-
exercise when they were recovering. Clients didn’t have to listen;
they just had to do what they were told. In fact, it was better if they
turned off their body/mind connection and simply used will power
to push their workouts through to completion. These prescriptive
models only point to the surface expectations of the exercise –
meet your future goal.
I wanted clients to explore the depth of every experience
so that exercise became richer, more enjoyable and impec-
cably matched to each person’s unique needs. I no longer
wanted to tell clients what they should be doing, but have them
experience and gain knowledge through inner awareness. I
effortless exercise
95
wanted each session to become a resonant experience. And so
we used science and external programs as rough guidelines,
remaining alert and not allowing the desires of competition
or ego to drive their training out of balance. In each moment
they stayed present, aimed for effortlessness and let the future
unfold from there.
Tec Foawtao Tatininc Pttn
Effortless exercise programs are built from today forward, not
from your future goal backwards – thus the name forward training
plan. If you artificially put yourself on any program, the interface
is always less than ideal. Future goals don’t take into consider-
ation your unique starting point and how your body responds to
each session. Getting to your goal can be effortless, provided you
train forward, practicing inner body awareness and giving yourself
permission to intuitively alter each day’s session.
Most exercise programs are constructed starting with the finish
line in mind and working backwards to today. They don’t address
these fundamental issues that are impossible to predict:
Exactly where is your current level of comfortable exercise
right now?
When you start to expand your program, how exactly will
your body adapt to these changes as you move forward?
Will the adaptation always be constant, and if not, do you
have the tools to correct mid-stream?
It’s natural to measure ourselves against the future: that exciting
goal we want to attain. We’ve been schooled from a young age
to look to the future for solace and success. Remember that
the future only ever exists in your mind. So don’t get caught
up over thinking the future and forget to enjoy the moment.
Having goals, however, provides you with enthusiasm and
direction. The missing puzzle piece is allowing your body to
dictate the timing of change. Goals set your direction and give
you the framework; your body sets the velocity and creates the
quality experience.
Most people train backwards, always looking at their goal first
and where they’d like to be or what they should be achieving.
Consider reversing this and train according to where you are
Grant Molyneux
96
right now. Basing your program on what you can currently
handle ensures acceptance and gives you permission to begin
a program that lets your body dictate a healthy progression.
Do not allow your intellectual mind or scientific programs to
overwrite this intuitive hard wiring. Allow the infinite wisdom
of your body to unfold and protect you when it needs to recover
and rebuild.
Tec Tcn Pcaccnt Tiv
To improve your fitness level by using this forward approach
is simple: Increase your distance or intensity when your body
allows you to do so, all the while retaining a state of comfort.
If you need a concrete guideline use the 10 percent tip: You can
add up to :o percent to any week of training or any given exercise
session, but not more and only when your body feels fresh. Never
add just because your mind thinks you should. Always capitalize
on that invigorating inner body energy and practice intuitive
listening to know when it’s the optimum time to increase. If
you’re in doubt, maintain your training and don’t add distance
or intensity. Only increase on those days when you feel the pull
of an effortless flow state.
Also don’t subscribe to a rigid schedule either, use it as a basic
plan and add distance and/or intensity to sessions on the days
you feel vitalized. In this way, your program evolves naturally from
the inside out and is constantly aligned with your present health
and fitness foundation.
The first step is to establish where you are right now. Begin
by reflecting on what an effortless program might feel like. Ask
yourself:
How many workouts can I accomplish per week?
How long and at what intensity am I capable of exercising?
Do I feel invigorated post-exercise?
For example, let’s say a thirty minute session is your current
comfort level. It makes you feel great and you can do it any day
of the week. Now, allow yourself to use this as your anchor or
benchmark, with the caveat to go further only when you feel
energetic and effortless. On days when you’re tired or in pain
you can slow down or stop exercising, but don’t stop a session
effortless exercise
97
because of general laziness. You’ll honestly know when it’s right
to pack-it-in for the day and later often catch yourself saying, “I
know I should have gone home.” Let these situations become
your classroom to learn about your physiology, strengthen your
listening skills and protect you from injury.
Progressing in this way minimizes all the detailed intellectual
analysis and leaves you in harmony with your current abilities
and comfort level. Your progression occurs at mother-nature’s
own rate or the rate of your body as a unique organism, if you
will. All of the commonly manipulated variables in a training
program change in accordance with the innate inner body vitality
as communicated through intuitive wisdom. In effortless exercise
sessions you match your intensity and duration seamlessly with
your physiological abilities. In effect, the more adept you become
at developing the depth and interconnectedness of each session,
the better you’ll become at unfolding your body’s strength and
potential over the course of time.
Excacisc Anceoas
Here’s another way to look at your program, given that you are
already exercising and have some history to work with. Reflect on
your existing schedule, and how these workouts leave you feeling
post-exercise. If you feel energized with no residual stiffness, then
simply plan to repeat the same sessions this coming week with
one caveat: Allow yourself the flexibility to do more if your session
feels effortless.
For instance, if last week you completed two runs of 12 minutes,
this week plan on doing the same two runs, but let yourself add an
extra run if you’re drawn to do so. Or add some additional time to
the run if you feel fresh. Now this new week becomes the exercise
anchor you have grown into naturally. Avoid being swayed over by
impulsive thoughts that come out of ego, competition, scientific
schedules and future goals. Only increase when your inner body
energy and its internal signs are positive.
By using exercise anchors you create a grounded place that
reflects your current standard of physical development based on
your inner wisdom. That’s the key, being solidly present to inner
body signals in each moment in every exercise session, rather
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98
than disconnecting from your body and pushing yourself toward
your future goal. Here, you’re allowing your body’s potential to
unfold in a natural way, in the absence of over thinking or artifi-
cially forcing the progression:
Barry came to me out of shape and +oo pounds
overweight. I asked him how far he could walk
without getting tired. He said zo minutes. I suggested
that he start walking +o minutes each day, and once
he could string at least three days together he could
add two minutes to his walk. That was the external
guideline or exercise anchor.
I was careful to suggest a get fit plan that was well
under his current abilities so that at the outset he
would feel this was easily do-able. And so he started
effortlessly. I also ensured that the amount I asked
him to increase was ridiculously small, which again
facilitated inner listening and allowed his body to
guide the progression.
This gave Barry the confidence he needed to
follow through each day. I cautioned him that to
add two minutes he must have completed three
consecutive walks at his last anchor point and to add
time he must feel effortless and remain in comfort
and balance. A year later he walks µ¸ minutes daily
and has lost 8o pounds in the process. Now he’s even
considering a running program.
When you train in this way your mind is not in control of the
progression, your body is. You’re not saying, “I did a three hour
bike ride last week, so this week I must do a four hour ride.” What
you’re saying is last week’s three hour ride is banked and felt fine,
and you plan on repeating it and will give yourself the flexibility to
do more if it feels effortless. If not, you’ll maintain your anchor
and stop at three hours. By continuing to repeat your anchor
session your body becomes stronger, you’ll never backslide and
your fitness grows naturally at a healthy sustainable rate. Also,
you don’t force yourself through illness or into injury. You’ll find
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99
your body changes in waves and often never when you anticipate
it’s going to change. Life is organic, and often difficult to predict.
Feel free to use your schedule or program as a loose guideline and
allow the effortlessness inherent in each moment to inspire you to
greater levels of fitness.
Mino Gtucs
Many clients find it difficult to re-tool their habits and belief
systems about fitness and struggle to find the trust to follow
their internal energy and intuition and not rely on thoughts
generated by external stimulus. Most people become injured
or fatigued when their minds get ahead of their bodies’ devel-
opment. It’s usually driven by an external goal and the anxiety
gap created in your head by comparing your present fitness
level (where you are now) to your expectations (where you think
you should be now). When these thoughts appear, consider
repeating the exercise at the end of Chapter One. Calm your
mind and become present within the energy field of your
body by allowing your body to dictate the progression of each
session. Patience and presence are the mantras of effortless
exercise progression.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s not much change or
development! Or how will I really know if it’s right? The problem
here is that you’re thinking again. Stop the mind games, seek
effortlessness and trust your body’s energy to take over from
there. As long as you feel fresh each week and as long as your
body sends you positive signals, keep exercising farther. Over time
you’ll develop to a level you never dreamed possible, and it will all
be created from within, effortlessly.
When you actually look at what kind of change is needed in
each session to make big changes over the long run, this change
is only a small increment. I always encourage athletes not to run
the race until race day; instead, take care of each session, seek the
flow state and the race takes care of itself.
Using forward training over time, you naturally find the training
distances, frequencies and intensities that work best for your body.
You become your own best coach. It’s natural to experiment with
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100
other methods, but remember to match your choices with what
resonates with you and trust your intuition.
Susttintatc Cetncc
The most important reason of basing each exercise session
on where you are right now and not on the needs of your future
goal is that you capture immediate success. This week you can
better last week’s training. You can be just that little bit stronger.
Long term, sustainable change occurs in this way. Additionally,
this helps you feel great, gone is the guilt, stress and worry, not
to mention the stiffness, soreness and injury. All of your positive
energy is focused on each exercise session where you remain
calm, balanced, and comfortable. The out-flow of benefits
returns to you in the form of regeneration, vitality, sustainability
and healthy progression.
Should you insist on pushing your progression to match an
arbitrary program, you may end up over reaching, which creates
an energy backflow needed for recovery and often results in
regression. With effortless progression, you rarely over reach
your current physical potential because it’s based on present
moment training. It’s beneficial to carefully integrate external
criteria and allow yourself to be intuitively guided toward
greater fitness.
Scientists have been searching for the optimal dosage of
exercise for years, and this training specificity actually lies dormant
within each of us. While many exercise participants still seek the
external “one size fits all” training program, I encourage you to
become internally process oriented. Take the responsibility to
hone your awareness, trust your intuition and find the courage to
follow the effortless experience.
Work with the forward training plan, establish your anchor
and practice impeccable body awareness. It’s a useful skill many
clients use to stay fit, healthy and progressing injury free. It’s
also a practice used by individuals who compete in the Ironman
triathlon or who run marathons or ultra-marathons. These
athletes base their training on current, established anchors
and by progressing slowly and only when their bodies’ signal
them to do so. Through the quality of their exercise experience
effortless exercise
101
they expand their fitness to meet their competitive goals in an
integrated and sustainable fashion.
Mctsuainc Fitncss Btcxwtaos
Now if we train forward, we need to measure our fitness
backwards. I teach clients to measure their success based on their
exercise history and the positive increments of change they have
made in the past. Take, for instance, losing 100 pounds. If you
look at this project every day measured against the goal, you’ll
get very depressed. But if you look at the week you’ve just lived
through and you’ve exercised 5 times and lost two pounds, you’re
already better than you were a week ago, and that’s something
to get excited about! This way you’ll always feel great about the
present moment.
You can also train for a marathon or triathlon in this way. Start
with today. Go out and swim, bike or run effortlessly. Stay in present
moment awareness and enjoy every second. Note the time frame
you could stay effortless and when fatigue set in. Note how fast
you traveled and how you felt. Take these parameters, determine
the length of time and intensities where you experienced a flow
state and set out to duplicate them in your next session. Let the
training grow from there. Increase your distances when you feel
recovered, fresh and pulled into your sport. Soon you’ll be at the
start of the Ironman assured by just how simple this process was
to achieve.
Wttxinc Exvcaiucnt
I have found through experience that five minutes of running
turns into ten, and then ten into twenty, and so on. Try this exper-
iment: Go out for a 15 minute walk and plan on going out for a
walk every day. Pay attention to breathing through your nose and
staying present to inner energy signals. Allow your body to dictate
the pace and stay in comfort and balance. Your only objective is
to seek effortlessness as you walk. Now, take note at the end of 15
minutes of how many times your inner body energy actually has
said, “Let’s keep going.” Most people report that over ¸o percent
Grant Molyneux
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of the time they felt like going further. After a week of applying the
Ten Percent Tip see where this permission has taken you.
Usually after a few months of walking, clients report that they
have felt an inspiration to run. So I respond: Try 20 steps when
this happens and every time it happens run 20 steps. If at any time
you feel like doing more, take a few more steps. I have had many
beginning exercisers seamlessly start running in this way – easily,
effortlessly and when their bodies are ready to do so. Some have
gone on to complete marathons. Further guidelines for this type
of effortless progression are summarized in the exercises at the
end of this chapter.
Tec Mtcic or Consistcncv
You can’t talk about progression without talking about consis-
tency. If you’re not consistent your body regresses, and you’ll notice
you need to slow down and shorten your workout time. On the other
hand, if you’re consistent, your program expands naturally. It’s also
easy to be consistent when exercise is perceived as effortless. Since
the exercise itself is enjoyable and the feedback to go out again is
positive, less motivation is required. This creates a positive exercise
loop where you not only feel revitalized but build a solid health
foundation as well. I like to imagine how fit our population could
become and how the burden on our healthcare system could be
alleviated in this way. This type of training also wouldn’t require
screaming personal trainers because intuition, acting as a master
coach within, would be gracefully making the changes needed.
If you’re an endurance athlete consider using the same
approach for your weekly long workout. On your next long session
set out with no specific time in mind, warm-up, nasal breathe and
seek effortlessness, holding onto this feeling as long as you can.
Slow down and walk when you lose that feeling or experience pain
or discomfort.
Let’s say you ran for 90 effortless minutes and then started to
feel tired, you walked and cooled-down. Afterwards, you felt great
because you didn’t push yourself to the point of fatigue. Take this
standard 90 minutes and plan on repeating it next week. Then over
the next few weeks you’ll find days where you’ll want to keep going,
perhaps another 15 minutes, and before long your anchor will change
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103
to 105 minutes. On other days you may stop short of your anchor
time. Over the long term and on many days your body will effort-
lessly run farther, and when you capture those flow state moments
you’ll find you expand your athletic abilities into new territory:
Graham, an avid triathlete, tried this approach
one weekend where he simply focused on warming-
up properly and staying in an effortless state. Since he
usually worked out in groups, he decided to go it alone
for this experiment.
He found it took him about ¸o-µo minutes to
properly warm-up, but once he felt warm he simply
did not want to stop. He ended up running for two
hours in a pain free flow state. He set this as his new
anchor, even though his training program had him at
three hours for his upcoming marathon. Every week he
set out in the same patient way seeking effortlessness
and within three months was up to three hours again.
Graham remarked how easy these three hour runs felt
now and that they were a world apart from his old
“got-to-hammer-it-out” group efforts. He reflected
that his other long runs with his friends always became
competitions and drove pain into his body.
He ran a personal best marathon later in the
year when he was ready and completely enjoyed the
experience. Now, with this renewed sense of energy he
really looks forward to his weekly, long workout.
Provided you keep up with your long, effortless sessions (and
you’ll want to because you’ll feel excellent), the fresh days where
you’re ready to add progression exceed the days you remain at
your anchored standard. Working within the permission of the
present moment your distances change, and they change at the
appropriate rate your body can assimilate them, all the while
preventing overtraining.
Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the time wars between what
you should do based on a future race or event. Also don’t get caught up
in losing weight by a particular date, simply set out to lose constantly.
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Honor your body, listen to it and allow it to steer you towards your
higher goals at its own internal rate. Rather than worrying about the
future, focus on and dedicate yourself to each day. As the saying goes:
If you take care of today, tomorrow takes care of itself.
Cetncinc Pcaccvtions
I also use this approach to progression with people who have
never exercised. I always ask them, “What do you consider a really
short workout?” Let’s say the answer is 10 minutes; I’ll start them
with a 5 minute workout. Why so short? Because from the outset I
have aligned their mind with their body, I have set positive internal
energy in motion. They think about if for a minute and I hear them
say, “That’s easy!” Perception is everything.
Now they set out to accomplish what’s easy, or what’s effortless.
They repeat this over several weeks and, sure enough, I find they
end up asking me when they can lengthen their sessions. So we
do, bit by bit, and it always feels like the increase is achievable.
Exercise engaged in from the pull side of the equation allows
beginners’ bodies to make all the necessary internal changes
easily. That’s the key in progression success.
You know your training standard has changed when your perception
of your workout changes over time. I have asked many marathon
runners what their perception of a 30 minute run is after their training
program is over. Their answer: “Short. Not even a warm-up!” Then I
ask if there was a time when a 30 minute run was long? Their answer:
“Yes!” What has changed? Not the actual 30 minute time frame, but
their perception of the experience, because their level of effortlessness
has expanded to swallow up the time frame. Time becomes relative.
The 30 minute run session is now perceived as effortless, just as the 5
minute walk is easily do-able to a new exercise participant. This natural
adaptation process can unfold for anyone, simply be consistent and
allow your body to guide the progression. I encourage you to train
forward and train from within.
Working in an effortless manner, you’ll find as the weeks tick
by that you have added extra time to half of your workouts and
possibly added an additional session each week. The majority of
my clients have experienced wanting to add time or sessions to
their program. This is an exciting outcome and brings nothing but
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105
positive energy to the whole training experience. If you are always
in the state of desiring to do more, you know you’re under training,
and that’s a better position to be in than pushing, overtraining and
becoming exhausted or injured. Progressing in this way ensures
that your energy always flows in a positive direction – it’s analogous
to swimming downstream.
Your body eventually finds its equilibrium from within and
sends you signals when it needs a break. With this approach you
find progression easy, simple and effortless. It’s also fun because
there’s no stress. It really is a “no-brainer,” you don’t have to think
about it – simply listen and add on when your body is fresh and
brimming with energy. Don’t limit your progression. Allow yourself
to develop and see where you can go.
As a word of warning, do, however, limit the upside. Some clients
have felt so euphoric after the first month that they arbitrarily go
out and double or even triple a workout, thinking more is better.
While this longer workout may feel effortless, sudden giant leaps
forward violate the principle of gradual progress and can lead to
regression in the ensuing weeks. It’s probably better to add the
smallest increase to each week, that way you’re guaranteed a
natural, built-in governor for overtraining.
If you are thinking about where your body should be and how
fast you can push it there through rigorous, short term training
you’re creating a great deal of stress to meet your goal. On the
other hand, by following your body’s intuition and remaining in
a state of flow, stress simply falls away and effortlessness fills
the void. Here you are constantly matching your exercise dosage
to your current capabilities and expanding it from a position of
balance instead of from a position of struggle. Progression occurs
in the absence of exercise induced stress, as this type of devel-
opment is perfectly matched with each athlete’s abilities.
Mtatteon tno Rtcinc Tivs
Many runners who thought they could never run a marathon
have followed this process and found themselves completing
many events. They tell me the interesting part about the process
is the absence of struggle. The key is consistency. The hard part
is having faith. The system does work; it simply takes a bit longer.
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106
And since you have the rest of your life to enjoy a lifestyle of fitness,
isn’t it wise to take time with your progression, rather than risking
the start/stop syndrome many fall into. Clients often tell me that
they have learned the important lesson of patience through the
process of effortless progression.
Where racing is concerned, I council athletes to enter races
when they sense that the race distance ALREADY feels easy. I
encourage them to wait until they are conditioned to handle the
task easily before they sign up, not the other way around. They
focus on each day’s training and only use the future oriented goal
as direction. You’ll know intuitively when you’re ready, and the
energy around the race will be positive because you’ll be confident
in your abilities. You’ll be drawn into the race, eager to get out
there and aligned with the energy flow of the day.
When I ask any 20 plus year exerciser about their training they
invariably answer in simple terms, “I train almost everyday, as hard as
I feel like going, and as far as it feels right.” Many don’t wear watches
or heart rate monitors anymore. They have naturally found their place
of optimum exercise. They are masters of inner body awareness and
intuition. Take a lesson from these long time athletes, train forward
and eliminate all the negative stress exercise may be causing you.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 6: Paocacssinc ts tn Intuitivc
Paoccss
With a non-criterion based training approach it may be difficult
to figure out where to get started and just how to add proper
progression. Below are two approaches, one for beginners and
one for those who are already exercising regularly. Both are simple
but powerful approaches that help you create structure around
your exercise. Many people struggle without the boundaries and
direction of structure, if you’re one who likes guidelines, here are
a few tips to put the practice into motion.
Bccinncas Paocacssion – tec onc uinutc sotution
First, pick an activity you enjoy. I’ll use walking and running as
sample activities, but you can choose any sport you enjoy. Seek
activities that you are passionate about, activities that pull you
effortlessly off the couch.
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107
Determine a duration and frequency that ensures success and com-
fort. Pick a duration that you feel you can comfortably engage in
consistently 3-5 times a week. Let’s say 10 minutes is your anchor
session. If you’re overweight or have been sedentary for a long pe-
riod of time cut your estimate in half and begin with 5 minutes.
Each week add : minute to your base time in each session. Week
one, you walk 10 minutes; week two, you’ll walk for 11 minutes;
and week three, 12 minutes, etc. Follow the warm-up, nasal breath-
ing and effortless exercise guidelines as outlined previously for
each session. Soon you’ll ask, “Could I run?” I suggest that you
honor that question in a simple way.
When you get the impulse to run, take zo running steps. Don’t
worry about the speed, simply jog. Bring alert awareness to your
sessions and listen internally as you seek effortlessness. Then walk
and re-establish the calm and ease if you feel it took you out of an
effortless state. Once you feel the urge again, 20 more steps. I
suggest that you try 3x20 steps in each of the sessions for the first
week you feel like running. In week two you can extend this to 4x20
steps. That’s about 1 minute of running during each session.
Next progress by I minute per session per week. So by week 3 you’re
doing 2 total minutes each time out. Divide it up any way you like. One
day that might be 4x30 seconds, the next day it might be 2x1minutes.
Let your inner body energy determine the details of when you walk
and run and use the minute guideline as just that – a rough guideline.
If you keep progressing at this rate, in a year you’ll be running an hour
each time and ready to try a 10km race. In 2 years, 2 hours; and 3
years, you’ll be signing up for a marathon, all effortlessly.
Tatininc Paocacssion – tec 50 vcaccnt sotution
If you have a specific sport you’re already involved in, here’s
some guidelines to ensure you bring intuition and effortless flow
to your training program.
Focus on an activity you’re already involved in. Take some time in
stillness to reflect about those aspects of your sport that you enjoy
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108
and those that create stress or negative energy. What part of your
training leaves you stiff and sore? What pulls you into exercise ac-
tion? Then answer the following questions:
Am I happy with my current program?
Do I feel fresh and excited to exercise each session?
Do I perceive I can accomplish more without any added effort?
Do I sense I need to back-off?
Is the current program an easy and effortless fit for my lifestyle?
What changes would I make to the sessions to fit them into
my daily schedule?
Are there any times when I have free time to exercise? Can
I create some?
What would be my ideal training week?
What one small change would I make to my program to
move towards my ideal week?
Commit to spend more time in the aspect of your sport that draws
you in and creates vitality and effortlessness.
Determine an easy duration based on your current fitness and a
frequency that ensures success and comfort or start with ¸o per-
cent of your current training base. Use the past few weeks of your
personal exercise history to help you arrive at a successful predic-
tion of what suits you. If you are having a difficult time determin-
ing a suitable anchor session, I suggest you take your last week’s
schedule and do about 50-70 percent of your current frequency
and duration.
Follow this activity anchor for two weeks without change. Always
seek to create comfort and ease during all of your anchor ses-
sions. Follow the warm-up, nasal breathing and effortless exercise
guidelines as outlined previously for each session.
After the first two weeks add no more than :o minutes to your an-
chor and limit yourself to adding no more than one extra workout a
week. Otherwise stick to your standard anchor where duration and
frequency are concerned. Bring alert awareness to your sessions
and listen internally as you seek effortlessness. If your exercise an-
chor is easy and do-able, you’ll perceive and experience your body
becoming revitalized and stronger with each passing day.
effortless exercise
109
Finally, review the bulleted questions above once again. Be mind-
ful and note both your body’s and your mind’s response to the
experimental two week plan. Act on what you have learned.
110
CHAPTER : INJURIES ARE A GIFT
Reframing Negative Experiences
Many of the clients who seek out my services do so because they have
become injured through traditional training methods. They come
looking for alternate ways to reach their goals. Healing their bodies is
often an easier task than re-tooling their belief systems about exercise.
And many once the injury is healed go back to their old ways of training
once again. As they say, old habits die hard. The shift in attitude begins
by reframing injuries and seeing them as a gift. Injuries are the voice
of our inner body energy telling us to stop what we are doing because
it is unsustainable, stressful and unhealthy. And injuries, if honored,
allow us to develop a greater body connection and heightened sense
of awareness. They become our greatest teachers.
Tec Injuav Eviocuic
Over the past 30 years an unprecedented number of people
have taken up exercise. During this time we have also experi-
enced an upswing in scientific knowledge with regards to physical
training. With all of this available expertise, why then are athletic
injuries an epidemic among the physically active? The answer is
simple: We view exercise in an intellectual way. Scientists create
training protocols in their laboratories, coaches push us to meet
these external goals, and in the end physiotherapists analyze what
went wrong and try to heal us. We continue to engage our intellect
in a “mind over matter” approach where we train right past the
first sensations of physical discomfort and rarely act on our
intuition. Or, if we sense our inner body energy, we ignore these
subtle distress signals, push through them and injure ourselves.
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111
If, on the other hand, we were to first teach participants how to
listen to their bodies’ signals and give them permission to seek
effortlessness when exercising, then the vast majority of injuries
could be prevented. And why is this? Because at the heart of every
injury lies a disconnection from your inner wisdom – a failure to be
conscious of and honor your unique vital energy. When you allow
this intuitive inner wisdom to act as your compass, you prevent
injuries before they happen.
“Mino Ovca Mtttca” Teinxinc
Taken at its most basic level injury is simply stress driven into
your body to a point where you experience intense pain, damage
and dysfunction. Pain is the messenger. If not heeded, injury
becomes nature’s way of putting a stop to unsustainable activity
since you were unable to stop yourself sooner through awareness
of quieter body messages. Long before anyone gets injured there
are always inner energy signals of impending failure: fatigue,
sloppy form, aches, tiredness, lack of motivation and depression.
It’s the Western culture’s mantra of “no pain, no gain” that keeps
both beginners and mentally tough athletes exercising through
these clues and eventually becoming injured.
Being present during movement and learning to make subtle
corrections the moment something seems amiss remains the key
to circumventing injury. Once you’re able to practice inner energy
awareness you’ll discover a world of opportunity to enhance your
training. The single most important step in your athletic career
is mastering the skill of being fully present and conscious during
exercise.
Geoff Galloway, one of the world’s leading running coaches,
maintains that the critical element in any running program is staying
injury free. However, to change your training habits, your analytical
thinking, and your fitness expectations takes an immense amount
of personal courage. It’s a challenge to renounce the “canned”
training program, let your buddies go, contain your competitive ego
and do what’s right for your body in each exercise session.
Exercising outside of an effortless state creates trouble long
before you encounter a full blown “got-to-stop” injury with acute
swelling and pain. Any commitment to pushing too hard and for
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112
too long creates stress and eventually results in an injury. It’s easy
to overdo any training program. We all know that intuitively. A
commitment to seek effortlessness keeps us out of the injury tent
and fit for a life time.
Avoio Injuav Teaouce Intuition
So how do you prevent an injury from ever happening? Simply
exercise your intuition; practice awareness and then act. Your main
job in the effortless exercise experience is to listen to your body’s
cues and signals. For example, perhaps you find yourself warming-up
for your run one day and you just can’t find that effortless sensation,
every step hurts and it’s a struggle. Let go of your expectations and
walk home. Or perhaps you’re gliding along one moment and the
next moment you find that blissful feeling gone. Slow down and try
to recapture that flow state; if you can’t, walk home.
In these situations perhaps your form had deteriorated to
the point where your stride was off and you were struggling to
maintain your pace. The rational choice would be to push on and
meet your goal, the intuitive choice would be to adjust your pace,
check your form and try to recapture the feeling of effortlessness.
The greatest hurdle to overcome in these situations is not your
body but your mind: its expectations, guilt, analysis, over thinking
and criticism. It’s really your mind that is out of sync with your
life energy and its intuitive impulses. Remind yourself to stay
connected during these exercise sessions. What‘s important is
that you keep listening to your inner body energy and hone your
skills by repeating effortless training experiences. Above all else,
seeking this flow state is your greatest injury prevention ally. Had
you not tuned into your intuition, twenty steps of bad running
form could create an irritation that leads to a future injury.
How to Mcno Injuaics
That said, what do you do when an injury occurs? First, bring
the pain into full acceptance and open awareness, and then let it
guide you. If you have swelling, ice the area and take a few days
off. I find a short period of complete rest always helps the healing
process and gives you time to reflect on the energy signals that you
effortless exercise
113
may have been ignoring. Taking this time off to relax, rebalance
and rejuvenate allows you to find the stillness and calm you need
to reconnect with your intuition.
Next, take an inventory of the weeks leading up to the injury.
Here’s a place you can use your intellect to good purpose. Ask:
How did you feel?
Were you engaged in the effortless process?
Were you training on new shoes or equipment?
Did you become ill, sore or run-down?
Did you get adequate sleep?
Think of every possible question you could ask and undertake a
complete inventory of the weeks preceding your injury. Usually you’ll
find clues, subtle messages that were sent to you through your
intuition, which you can learn from, act on and make wise training
adjustments. These clues help you mend the injury and, more impor-
tantly, teach you to become a more conscious, intuitive athlete.
It’s from this position of attunement with your inner body
energy that healing takes place. What’s more, the injury guides
you to seek pain free methods of exercise – if you let it. See your
injury as a gift, and avoid the temptation to override the wisdom
of your body and go with the competitive rational of your mind.
Feel the answer in your bones and follow it. Listen. Don’t judge,
don’t superimpose external solutions, simply let the pain guide
you toward wellness.
Most injuries are not serious and with internal work and reflection
you can find the root cause of the problem. But don’t get caught in
the symptom treatment trap – this is a band-aid approach and not
a solution to the situation. Always look for the root cause; that’s the
true key to mending any injury. Once you correct this imbalance,
it’s a simple matter of progressively ramping up your training again
while staying aware of your inner body signals.
Eicet Hcttinc Stcvs
Here’s a simple self-mending checklist of items to consider
when you’re injured and want to return to effortless, pain free
exercise. Many clients use these eight steps to help them reframe
negative training experiences in a positive light. While this list is
not all inclusive, it describes the internal journey and aids you in
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114
illuminating the cause of your problem. Also, this list teaches you
the key steps needed to prevent injuries from reoccurring.
Step :: Don’t Name the Problem. Our society is obsessed with
naming and categorizing problems and providing band-aid solu-
tions. By naming your injury you solidify it, make it your enemy
and give it power. Simply recognize your experience of pain, its
severity, location and expression and let it guide you towards heal-
ing. The journey begins by listening and making unique adjust-
ments to your training behavior that minimizes or eliminates the
pain and maximizes the feelings of vitality. Accept the pain and
own it. It will lead you into healthy activities and teach you how to
exercise again pain free.
Of course, if you are in pain while at rest, then you should
cease exercising until you are pain free once more. This allows
for acute recovery to take place and creates time for you to assess
the problem. During this acute phase, it’s not a bad idea to ice
the area, as icing reduces inflammation. Pain signals that your
body is healing and still requires additional rest. However, many
people continue to exercise through pain, overriding their bodies’
natural wisdom. This strategy rarely works in the long run. It either
worsens the injury or prolongs it. If the area is sore or inflamed,
you need to honor that signal and rest.
Step z: Keep Exercising. Once pain free when at rest, re-engage
in exercise, but in ways that are entirely unassociated with the af-
fected area. Find an alternate activity that rejuvenates and doesn’t
aggravate the injury, and perform this exercise to the full extent of
your current training program. For example, if you have a running
injury, consider swimming during recovery. It’s very important to
keep training for both psychological and physiological reasons.
Fit bodies heal faster and circulating blood heals the injured area
more effectively, while ceasing training often results in discourage-
ment and a loss of conditioning, which further complicates the
retraining process. With certain minor adjustments you may find
you can perform your chosen sport in a way that doesn’t aggra-
vate the injury. The necessary awareness you bring to the process
leads you to develop new skills needed to prevent the injury from
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115
reoccurring and may very well add a dimension of balance that
prevents new injuries from developing in the future.
Step ¸: Avoid Stretching. This next piece of advice may fly in the
face of traditional science, but it’s my experience that injuries heal
faster if you don’t stretch them. Many injuries are a direct result
of pushing soft tissue through a greater range of motion than it’s
accustomed to in daily exercise. As stretching is an inflammatory
activity, it may prolong the healing process. Let the area heal at its
own rate within a comfortable range of motion. I instruct recover-
ing runners to reduce their training intensity by lowering their
heart rate and shortening their stride, this allows the injured area
to work well within its comfortable range of motion.
Sports such as running, cycling and swimming that are repetitive
in nature don’t require extreme ranges of motion. While coaching
these types of injured athletes toward recovery this is what I’ve
discovered: Those athletes that don’t stretch, rarely become
injured. Ironically, those that do stretch seem to be injured more
often. The reason I believe this may be occurring is that they are
requiring their muscles to perform a flexibility movement that is
contraindicated to the natural conditioning effect of their specific
sport. In effect, they are trying to develop two opposing qualities
at the same time, often with disastrous consequences.
While this may be possible for gymnasts, figure skaters and
ballerinas, it does, however, leave many of us at risk for muscle
and tendon tears. Stretching is actually counter intuitive for many
sports. If you feel you are stiff, that may be a direct result of not
warming-up gradually, exceeding the effortless state and/or not
cooling-down properly. I advise many athletes to simply cool-down
very slowly and they immediately feel fresh and limber. So when
injured, don’t stretch; instead, refocus on a proper warm-up and
cool-down.
Step q: Heat the Injured Area. Heat heals and increases the vibra-
tion of all the molecules and atoms in the affected area, which
speeds the recovery process. Ice, on the other hand, prevents
over inflammation of an injured area yet doesn’t contribute to the
body’s natural healing process. Use ice in the acute injury stage
to keep the inflammation process in check and dampen the pain,
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116
then switch to heat in the chronic stage to allow the body to in-
crease its healing rate.
Bringing heat, nature’s feel good remedy, to your injury not only
speeds recovery, but it allows you to move again in a fluid fashion.
Also, if you are accustomed to training in a cold environment, the
value of warming-up is critical because the body requires heat to
flow effortlessly. This freedom of movement allows you to regain
normal ranges and patterns of movement faster and prevents you
from creating a secondary compensatory injury due to poor form
or technique. So find a heating pad and wrap up that injury.
Step ¸: Post-Recovery Adjustments. Once the pain and swelling
have abated, start your training by making two adjustments.
Begin by lowering your training heart rate by 10 beats per
minute. This advice may seem strange, but the mechanism is
elementary. By lowering your heart rate you shorten your stride and
reduce the mechanical stress produced by exercise. Additionally
you also lower the forces that you are generating through and over
your joints, often enough to allow the injured area to recover. You
also oxygenate your body to a greater extent, which brings needed
nutrients into the injured area and promotes effortlessness. Here’s
a place where the integration of heart rate monitor technology acts
as an excellent objective indicator. This downward adjustment
allows you to experience exercise well below your limits, experience
the sensation of movement in the absence of any exercise induced
stress and stay injury free in the future. Since all injuries are a direct
result of training and/or overtraining in one form or another, this
governing step goes a long way toward healing and is often the
only action athletes need take to become healthy again.
Next, focus on increasing your warm-ups and cool-downs by at
least 50 percent. Here you smooth out the transition between rest
and activity and greatly enhance the health benefits of exercise –
this helps you heal faster.
Both of these adjustments are subtle ways of teaching athletes
that they were too close to their training limits. By making changes
and implementing them over a month or two, many individuals
experience a heightened sense of health all the while continuing
to train. Many times this subtle care is all that’s required to tip the
scales and allow the body to rebuild itself.
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117
Step 5: Discontinue Anaerobic Exercise. While injured, cease
all forms of anaerobic exercise including weight lifting until you
feel better. Many health practitioners prescribe strength training
because logic dictates that this keeps the injured area strong.
However, the strengthening and tightening caused by weight
training is often the root cause of injuries, and once discontinued,
the injured area rests and recovers faster. The white, fast-twitch,
anaerobic muscle fibers are usually the ones injured through train-
ing; it’s rarely the aerobic, slow-twitch, red muscle fibers. When
you’re injured, stick to aerobic activity only, and allow your body to
rebuild around this health enhancing exercise.
And specifically why is anaerobic exercise so stressful to your
body? There is evidence that the oxidization stress raises free
radical production within our bodies. Eating fresh fruits and
vegetables with their balancing anti-oxidants and training aerobi-
cally helps to keep this situation in check.
Also anaerobic activity upsets the acid/base balance and pushes
you into an overly acidic state. Normally we can recover from this
state fairly quickly because our bodies have a natural mechanism
to do so; however, this requires energy, often the energy needed
to recover from an injury or even the energy required for growth
in your program. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, promotes
good health because it doesn’t upset this chemical balance and
allows you to train in a natural basic state.
By removing added acid stress and ensuring your body trains in
a stress free environment, injuries subside or disappear altogether.
It’s simply a matter of balance. Remaining conscious of aerobic
versus anaerobic training and how it affects body chemistry you
learn to allow recovery time to outstrip the tearing down process
of high intensity training. This allows existing injuries to heal
and guards against old ones from reoccurring or new ones from
appearing. Also, aerobic exercise encourages greater blood flow
and improves healing, promoting a quicker return to your former
activity level.
Step ): Allow the Pain to Guide You. If your body feels better as
you warm-up, then continue to exercise. If you feel fine during your
exercise session, continue. However, if you feel the honest sensa-
tion that you should not exercise, then discontinue or modify by
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slowing down. Relying on your intuition in this way is the key to
mending your injury. We often override these body signals, allow-
ing our minds to take over and push through the pain in search of
our external expectations and short term goals. Let pain be your
training compass.
Listening to the subtle cues of your inner energy puts you in
touch with your body and opens the door to intuitive wisdom
as you chart your way through the exercise maze. Most injuries
are caused by a disconnection in this listening process. To heal
completely and remain healthy we must stay in touch with the
energy flow within our bodies. Let pain be a warning sign that all
is not well. Honor that pain the moment you feel it.
Also, monitoring how you feel after an exercise session is
paramount in sustaining a healthy approach to fitness. This is
sometimes difficult because it requires patience and a keen sense
of awareness with regard to your symptoms. Be sure to give yourself
the time and permission to heal. Think of pain as a friend, rather
than an enemy. And, of course, always let the problem teach you
about your unique physiology and training needs and then inter-
nalize this wisdom, as it will be valuable information in the future.
Just as you don’t name your problem, don’t allow pain to become
your prime focus. If you get caught in the trap of monitoring your
pain sensations too acutely you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s a good
idea to assess your level of pain on a week-to-week basis. If it’s
improving, then you are under training and allowing your body to
heal in the long term. If the pain remains the same week-to-week,
then you are prolonging recovery and your training level is too high
to sustain. Back-off a degree, and assess the situation next week.
Step 8: Work on Your Form. If you find yourself constantly battling
injury, consider changing the way in which you exercise. Most in-
juries result from a loss of form. Whether it’s becoming tired on
a long run or a missed turn on the ski slopes, almost all injuries
can be traced back to a mistake in technique. Vow to become a
student of good form. Go back and examine your skills, get some
upgraded instruction, but above all practice flawless execution.
With running, many injuries are a direct result of impact forces
and occur from excessive training on hard surfaces. One of the
most beneficial training alterations is to switch to a softer surface.
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119
Concrete is the hardest surface followed by asphalt, dirt, cinder
and wood chips. Whenever possible, seek out the forgiving nature
of grassy trails. These nature-made surfaces cause small changes
in gait and foot strike on every step, which minimizes chronic
overuse and repetitive strain injury.
Shoes also affect your form. Check if you have excessive wear
or need a new pair, as the impact forces may have become too
great for your body to absorb. Shoes whose soles are too thick,
too long or too short or any gear, for that matter, that does not fit
well or is unsuitable for your body can be a root cause of injury.
Examine your favorite activities and the training tools you use and
decide if they are up-to-date and the best match for your physi-
ology. And remember, less is often more. Don’t fall prey to market-
ing’s latest technological fad. Some of the best marathoners are
born in Kenya where they run barefoot most of their lives.
By following these eight steps and paying close attention to
the presence of pain while seeking effortless, you’ll be back on
the road to fitness in no time. Lynn’s story shows how these tips
helped her to find balance and achieve her dream:
Lynn was ¸o years old and running a marathon
had been a lifelong dream of hers. She and a friend
trained regularly, and they followed all the “expert”
advice they could get their hands on. She came to
me experiencing a painful left knee and a perpetually
tight hamstring. I asked her to run with a heart
rate monitor for a week and come back and tell me
exactly what she observed. We found she ran between
+¸o-+6o beats per minute, often reaching that in the
first few minutes of each run. Also she loved to sprint
to the finish and then attempted to stretch away the
lingering stiffness.
I suggested that she lower her training HR to the
+¸o range, warm-up for at least zo-¸o minutes and
cool-down with a post-run +¸ minute walk. I also
advised that she discontinue all stretching and adjust
her training mileage based on her sensations of effort-
lessness and flow. After three months of this type of
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training her pace had quickened by over a minute
a mile, and when asked how her leg was doing, she
couldn’t recall which leg was injured. Now Lynn looked
forward to each run and attained her goal of running
the New York Marathon a year later.
By backing off and allowing the body ample time to regen-
erate itself, you harness the power of nature to heal your injury
from within. Injuries are often the end result of overuse or a lack
of balance. More importantly, you learn something about your
unique energy in the process. Seeing your injury as a gift allows
you to reframe a negative experience and re-learn how to exercise
in a pain free fashion. This is how injury often points the way to
becoming a master of effortless exercise.
Ittncss ts Injuav
No one anticipates getting sick, but from time-to-time we all
come down with some illness. You catch a virus, get run down or
your immune system fails in warding off environmental pathogens,
and the next thing you know – you’re sick. So the question often
asked is how does one approach exercise during illness?
First of all, illness is a chemical injury to a healthy body. It’s
a stage when your body works overtime to regain its balance.
Illness presents an excellent opportunity for you to practice your
intuitive listening skills. Begin by listening to the state of your
inner energy. If you don’t feel like exercising, don’t. Listen to your
intuition even though your mind might be chatting away saying
you need to get out there or you’ll lose your fitness gains. What
many people don’t understand is that if you do exercise, you’ll lose
even more, because exercise drives added physical stress into an
already energy taxed, ailing physiology. Exercise strenuously and
it takes you even longer to recover. Instead, listen carefully to the
wisdom of your body and proceed only at the rate that a return to
full health dictates.
Hcttte tno Fitncss
As explained in the health and fitness pyramid in Chapter One,
you can only build greater levels of fitness on top of good health;
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you can’t make fitness gains on top of poor health or sickness.
Therefore illness signals a time for rest and recovery. Here’s a
simple rule to follow: For every day of fever, take one full day of
recovery after the fever has subsided. If your body increased its
temperature to fight off a virus, then the illness has taken hold, and
even after the fever has broken, your body is repairing and recov-
ering its balance – give it adequate rest time. In fact, returning to
exercise too soon after illness and/or working out at a high intensity
is the single largest mistake made by most athletes. Don’t fall into
this trap, be patient with yourself and take the appropriate time to
recover completely. If in doubt, always choose rest over a workout.
Don’t worry about set backs, that’s your mind and ego getting
involved in the impatient demands of future competition. Follow
your intuition and listen to your body’s wisdom.
I’ve also heard people say, “I’ll sweat it out.” Know that
increasing your body’s metabolism gives any virus an added
opportunity to spread. On the other hand, you don’t want to get
chilled while you’re sick, as this too deepens your illness. In those
first days, when your throat feels sore or your stomach is upset, if
you take added care, sleep more, rest, drink lots of water and take
vitamin C, you’ll have a better chance of truncating the illness and
returning to exercise sooner.
Rcsuuinc Excacisc
Once a cold or flu has run its course and you feel your energy
returning, you’ll be motivated to exercise again. This represents the
danger zone, you must listen carefully during this period as you’re
not one hundred percent healthy yet and any setback guarantees a
longer time to full recovery. During this post-illness period cut all
workouts in half, warm-up and cool-down longer, and drop your
training heart rate by 10 beats. If you do exercise, go out for a
ridiculously short, easy session and evaluate your recovery from
there. If you’re fine the next day, you have the go ahead to repeat
the session. If not, you need more rest; however, since you didn’t
tap into your energy resources you won’t have lengthened your
recovery time.
If your cold is above the neck and you have the energy to
exercise, it’s probably fine to go out for a light session. If you have
bronchitis and still have the desire to exercise, go easy. However,
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if it’s below the neck and you feel lethargic or weak, don’t force
yourself to exercise; it will only get worse. The most important rule
to follow if you’re fighting a chest cold remains ONLY BREATHE
THROUGH YOUR NOSE. Nasal breathing warms the incoming
air and minimizes respiratory stress. Let breathing in and out
through your nose govern if you should be exercising at all. If
you’re unable to breathe in this manner, then don’t exercise. This
is your body’s way of telling you to stop physical activity until the
illness has subsided.
Licet Wcicet Lirtinc
All talk of healthy rest aside, one of the negative aspects of bed
rest or being sedentary is that our muscles deteriorate very quickly.
If you know of anyone who has been in a cast, you can see this
atrophy in just a few short weeks, and six weeks in a cast may leave
the muscles unable to ever return to their original strength and
size. An easy and non-energy draining activity to engage in when
you’re sick is light weight lifting. Since weight lifting is primarily
localized in specific sets of muscles, you can keep the systemic
or whole body stress down, while keeping your muscles working.
For example, you could do one set of push-ups on day one, a set
of curls on day two and a set of leg presses or body weight squats
on day three. This should only take a few minutes each day, but it
goes a long way toward keeping your muscles strong. This amount
of exercise is insufficient to create an acidic chemistry and worsen
your illness, yet it provides muscle maintenance and minimizes
atrophy. Don’t consider weight lifting if you are bed ridden, forcing
exercise in this situation is counter productive.
Tivs roa Swiuucas
If you happen to be a swimmer, stay out of the water till you’ve
recovered, as swimming involves being immersed in a cold
environment and requires a fixed breathing pattern through your
mouth. Both of these elements make an illness worse. Mouth
breathing creates stress and makes a sore throat worse and
getting chilled weakens your immune system, allowing viruses a
chance to set in. Instead, if you feel well enough, stick to light
cardio sessions and some limited weight training. Only return to
the pool when you are fully recovered.
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Enviaonucnt
If you exercise in hot or cold environments, exercise with caution
and dress accordingly; you want to keep your body temperature
constant rather than getting over heated or chilled. Long distance
runners should avoid long runs in the cold as they risk becoming
further chilled as their sweat evaporates. Overall, take extra rest
time, stay attuned to your intuition, and allow the illness to run its
full course. You’ll come back quicker and avoid driving the illness
into a chronic phase.
Tec Ovcatatininc Tatv
I have found that most athletes over train. That’s a very bold
statement. However, I’ve come to this conclusion by simply asking
athletes how they “feel.” The majority answer that they are tired,
beat-up, fighting through pain or they’ll be happy when the race is
over – all signs that they have tapped too deeply into their bodies’
natural ability to tolerate exercise.
Over all, athletes tend to be competitive and goal oriented;
many fail to embrace the ongoing process of exercise. They focus
specifically on the future results of an event rather than allowing
the event to be the outflow of a vital, sustainable lifestyle or training
program. In other words, their minds are ahead of their bodies.
If you train and progress in the absence of any goal, then you
are truly a process oriented athlete and likely providing the right
duration and intensity of exercise for your body’s development
and well-being. If, on the other hand, you are goal fixated, then you
are probably in an over reaching state of disharmony that can’t be
sustained in the long term. This, by definition, is overtraining.
It’s easy to fall into the overtraining trap because our outwardly
focused society constantly reinforces us to look outside ourselves
for success and solutions. When we buy into this belief, our
competitive egos get caught up in the latest training program
and our minds plough forward dragging our over stressed bodies
along behind. We disconnect from balanced exercise in pursuit of
external, future goals. Failing to be present as we exercise, failing
to follow our intuition, failing to be patient with our progress and
failing to give ourselves permission to recover properly results in
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over trained athletes that become disillusioned, injured and often
never reach their desired goals.
Lcss is Moac
Fortunately, my filing cabinet overflows with case histories of
athletes performing very well on less training. I recall one ultra-
marathoner who ranks well in competitions all over North America,
who only runs three days a week. When asked why he trains on low
volume, he told me it’s because he learned through experience
what feels sustainable for his body. He uses a scientific program
as a guideline and planning tool, and he honors his body’s internal
messages as well. Intuitively fine-tuning scientific programs in this
way has kept him healthy and competitive where others, lacking
this fine balance, have been side lined. In his case, the old adage
of “less is more” applies.
Also many triathletes and runners improve on less mileage
and intensity. What’s even more important is that exercise enthu-
siasm returns, the aches and pains disappear and the competitive
spirit flourishes again when you err on the under-done side versus
the over-done side of exercise. It’s better to show up on race day
under trained and fresh, rather than over trained and tired. I’ll put
my money on the under trained athlete every time.
Rccocnizinc Ovcatatininc
But how do you recognize overtraining? Simply ask yourself
how you feel. Feeling vital is your body’s natural state. And the
training process should leave you feeling fresh the majority of the
time. If you’ve been battling an ache, pain or fatigue longer than a
week, take a serious look at your exercise program and give yourself
permission to experiment with the effortless exercise process. For
a refresher, go back and answer the bulleted questions in Exercise
# 2: Training Progression at the end of Chapter Six. I also suggest
benching your ego until you need it for the next race, because it’s
usually not a good ally during the healing process.
Exercise acts like a double edged sword: It can pull stress out
of your body or it can drive stress inward. Overtraining drives
stress into your body and results in your system directing all of its
available energy toward recovery. Nothing is left over for growth.
Once you step back to the point where the need for recovery is
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125
minimized new growth can occur and you become fitter, fresher
and stronger.
Remaining sensitive to the level of stress your training creates
is essential. Many people wrestle to break with tradition, which is
often a difficult task, but to heal and progress it’s essential to find
the courage and inner strength to break damaging long term habits.
If healing is to occur it’s critical to back-off exercise intensity or
volume, disconnect from your ego, put the future race expectations
aside in the short term and develop an awareness of what your body
requires today so that you can access healthy flow states.
Exercise should leave you feeling invigorated and enthused
about training, instead of exhausted. If this is the case, then you
are exercising in the growth zone. However, most athletes live
in the recovery zone, rarely experiencing growth and constantly
flirting with injury.
Facsencss Qucstion
One quick way to get into the growth zone consists of asking
yourself the freshness question every morning and following it
with an honest answer. Ask yourself, “What length and intensity of
workout can I accomplish today that will leave me feeling fresh and
invigorated tomorrow?” Next, to circumvent expectations and ego,
cut this workout by z¸ percent and start there. Within a short period
of time, usually a week or two, you’re chomping-at-the-bit to do
more. That’s when it’s right to add training – not a moment before.
At this point, when your body has caught up with your intel-
lectual expectations, you’ll experience mind/body synchronicity
in each moment of each exercise session. This is the essence of
intuitive fitness. The Kenyans are masters of this process, they run
every day, but their motto remains, “Run today, so you can run
tomorrow.” Some of the most accomplished lifestyle athletes use
this approach as well, and it’s interesting to note that they remain
injury free because they have mastered the art of listening to their
bodies’ inner guidance system.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 7: Hcttinc Patcticcs
Here’s a list of self-mending practices to follow when you’re
injured and want to return to pain free exercise. These healing
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steps help you reframe negative training experiences in a positive
light. While this list is not all inclusive, it describes an internal
process and aids you in solving the root cause of your injury. More
importantly, this list teaches you the key steps needed to prevent
injuries from reoccurring.
Find the Root Cause of Your Injury
Recognize the pain, feel it, be present with it and let it be
your coach and teacher
If there is swelling, ice the area and take a few rest days
Review your training in the weeks prior to the injury for body
clues and signals of discomfort
Have you been ill or run down?
Has your sleep pattern been disturbed?
Are you using new equipment?
Have you suddenly ramped up your training or begun a new
sport?
Are you practicing a balanced form of exercise or are you
focused on external advice alone?
Have you begun training with a group?
Are you forcing yourself or are you engaged in the process?
Is your anaerobic training excessive?
Are you focused on an external goal?
Could weight training be exacerbating the injury?
When and how are you stretching?
Are you allowing for adequate rest, recovery and growth?
Do you warm-up and cool-down adequately?
Eight Healing Steps Summary
Don’t Name the Problem
Keep Exercising and Training
Don’t Stretch
Heat the Injured Area
Make Post-Recovery Adjustments
Discontinue Anaerobic Exercise
Let the Pain Guide You
Work on Your Form
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Exercise During Illness
For every day of fever, take an extra full day of recovery
post-fever
Post-illness, cut workouts in half, warm-up and cool-down
longer, and drop your training HR by 10 beats
Ensure short, easy exercise sessions and evaluate your
recovery from there
Practice nasal breathing, and if you can’t breathe through
your nose – slow down or rest and recover
Freshness Question
To ensure you stay in the growth zone, ask yourself the freshness
question every morning.
What length and intensity of workout can I accomplish today
that will leave me feeling fresh and invigorated tomorrow
and ready to train again?
Then cut this workout by 25 percent and start there. Within
a week you’ll feel revitalized and that’s the right time to add
training – not a moment before. When your body has caught up
with your mind, you’ll experience the effortlessness of mind/body
synchronicity.
128
CHAPTER : TOWARD A LIFE
TIME OF EXERCISE
The Journey Never Ends
When considering fitness as a lifestyle, let’s examine the classic noon
hour workout, which is the touch stone of many people’s exercise
program. Again, I call it a “workout” because that is exactly what it
becomes, more work in your already busy, action packed day.
A Tvvictt “Woaxout”
See if you relate to how this rushed and somewhat unconscious
experience drives you to squeeze every benefit out of your training
time and leaves you stressed and stiff for the remainder of your
day. Here’s how the scenario usually unfolds:
You take a last minute call at the office and find
yourself leaving late for the fitness club, so off you rush.
You arrive and your anxious buddies are looking at
their watches and waiting for you just outside the club.
You change quickly, join your friends and tear off down
the running path. The first few minutes feel horrible;
you realize you’re dehydrated and you’re out of breath
just trying to keep up. From here it gets worse.
You continue to huff and puff as the pace quickens
and the conversation heats up and turns to competitive
race plans. Now you notice that everyone seems to be
jockeying for the lead position, even though it’s agreed
upon that you’re just out here for a leisurely training
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run. You know deep down that talk of racing has just
released a good dose of testosterone. Your thoughts
race between rival comments and your body tries to
pace itself as a worthy opponent in this must-keep-up
scenario.
Finally, as you near home, you notice the conver-
sation stops and the pace quickens yet again; it
becomes an all-out sprint to the finish. Next, you follow
this “workout” with some quick stretches because you
have to get back to the office. While showering, you’re
thinking about racing and your upcoming afternoon
meeting. As you bolt down a quick sandwich and settle
in behind your desk, you wonder why you are already
stiffening up and continue to tighten up the rest of the
day. You make a mental note to stretch more deeply
tomorrow after your next “workout.” Then you rush
off to your meeting.
If this describes your experience, then you engage in stress
inducing exercise sessions. I’d even argue that you are doing
yourself more harm than good. This type of “workout” is more
common than you think. It’s part of the old logic that if a bit of
exercise is beneficial, then intense exercise is even better. Once
again it’s the classic “mind over matter” approach: The mind is
busy driving the body forward, but it is disengaged from subtle
body sensations. An out-of-body-experience of sorts.
Most people approach exercise by doing their best every time
out, always exercising to their limits and pushing the envelope each
time they tie up their shoes. I know many hard core runners that
approach their noon hour runs week-in and week-out in this way.
Often complaints of injuries and pain dominate their conversa-
tions while they streak along the running paths.
I invite clients to view exercise instead as connected play:
where they take time out of work to de-stress, have fun, enjoy
some relaxation, and escape from the concrete jungle into the
world of nature. Your number one training partner is your body,
listen to it first and then listen to your buddies’ banter second.
Enjoy the inner calm created during dynamic movement. If you
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cultivate effortless flow states and harmonize your movement
with present moment energy, with enough practice you’ll even find
group training becomes effortless.
Intcantt vcasus Extcantt Focus
Group exercise programs that focus solely on external or
scientific criteria don’t take into account each individual’s current
fitness level or allow for any intuitive feedback and the need to
act on this input. Here, short term goals or race performances
take priority. These programs start many participants off too
intensively and ultimately affect their health parameters over time.
They decrease your energy, lower your immune system, generate
pain and stiffness and decrease your exercise enjoyment. Future
planning and coping with pain rob you of the pure pleasure of the
activity itself and undermine intuitive feedback.
Activities performed for the intrinsic value of exercise itself
ensure long term success. For example, when I think about
snowshoeing, I’m like a dog – my tail starts wagging. I get jazzed
just thinking about the wonderful day in the mountains with friends
and clients shoeing along in the fresh air, sharing good conver-
sation, enjoying the movement and drinking in the surroundings.
Now that’s my idea of fun. We exercise in comfort and ease, take
frequent scenery breaks, and break trail through some of Canada’s
most pristine powder snow. Last year six of us snow shoed up
to Chester Lake in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in beautiful
sunshine, absolute silence and spectacular scenery! We were the
only ones there.
Snowshoeing isn’t arduous because I have engaged in fitness
for many years. My physiology has adapted to exercise and is
therefore fit enough to handle the activity and pace. I continually
check-in with my inner body sensations and pace myself carefully
to ensure I stay in a flow state. And because it’s not intimidating
mentally, I look forward to the experience.
By placing greater awareness on an integrated pleasure-driven
model we can shift from the position of “do I have to go and
exercise?” to a grounded and self-rewarding position of “I look
forward to exercise!” Now we are drawn to exercise because it
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131
gives us greater energy and vitality. It’s a small dose of “feeling
good” every day.
Great fitness gains can be realized through effortless exercise,
it just may take a bit longer. It’s akin to the fable of the Tortoise
and Hare. Externally focused programs rocket you down the road
faster, but you may fall short of the finish line due to exhaustion or
injury. The upside of moving along at a sustainable and consistent
pace, however, is that the changes remain permanent and the
journey reinforces a healthy lifestyle.
I also use the rubber band analogy: Stretch a rubber band, and it
snaps back. That’s the way most people try to get in shape. They’ll
re-start a program time and time again, constantly stretching their
elastic band and allowing it to snap back. If they sought out a
gentle approach, patiently creating resonant experiences that were
pleasurable, they would soon find permanent change occurring
entirely through sustainable flow states.
Elite athletes know this zone experience all to well and many
runners often talk about the “high” they often experience. Once
experienced, this high becomes a powerful motivator that draws
you into exercise, provided this high is not a false high produced
when you push yourself too hard. You’ll notice the difference in
the experience as the permanent and subtle high lasts longer and
vitalizes you all day long.
When you train intensely and push into pain your brain produces
powerful neurotransmitters that mask the pain and create a false
high. This high is short lived and further inhibits your ability to
listen for body signals of discomfort. Your survival mechanism
kicks in and tricks you into thinking you’re okay so that you can
endure the stress. A false high is then followed by a crash into
soreness, stiffness, moodiness and many days of decreased
vitality. Instead, watch for the first sensations of discomfort and
avoid pushing to the point where your body has to survive negative
stress through a false high. Instead, be ever present and adaptive
and discover the sustained true high.
I believe exercise should be wholly rejuvenating, pulling stress
out of your body. If you’re going to exercise for the rest of your
life why not have an abundance of “feel good” sessions. With a
properly designed warm-up, which allows you to ease into the
session and get in touch with your body as it prepares for exercise,
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you can access a flow state every time out. Then, when you have
attained this zone, exercising in this effortless state allows you to
reach a natural high. It opens you up to a world of possibilities. It’s
exhilarating experiencing powerful, dynamic physical movement,
all the while being in total relaxation and calm on the inside. This
is truly meditation in motion.
Distatctions
That said, many of us still enjoy double tasking and believe it is
a better use of our precious time. However, if you are a beginner,
are injured or working on re-tooling some of your exercise habits,
beware of the effect that distractions have on your mind/body
connection. Here are some situations that interrupt the effortless
exercise process.
Mcoit
Reading and/or watching TV while exercising is like sending
your body out for some exercise while your mind detaches and
gets into the magazine or screen drama. Think of it as losing your
individual focus and tuning into the collective hive-mind of media.
It’s not always wise to separate your mind and body in that way.
Certainly in the initial phases of the effortless process you need
to be conscious of your body and pay strict attention to its energy
signals in order to make the right pacing choices.
My wife is an X-Files fan and received the entire nine seasons
on DVD as a present. At first this sounded great; she planned to
walk or run for 40 minutes each day while watching an episode
of alien abduction or government cover-ups – and there were no
commercials either! However, she noticed that as the action and
intrigue spiked in the show, so did her heart rate. Watching the
show also masked her ability to listen clearly to her inner body
signals.
We found it interesting to witness how the show’s content
affected her thoughts and emotions, which in turn affected her
inner state of calm, breathing and heart rate even though her pace
remained steady. She told me she had to consciously focus inward
on her breathing to bring the heart rate back down. What she
learned was that she needed to remain connected to her body’s
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systems and sometimes consciously detach from the adrenaline
boost of the FBI action sequences.
She still enjoys the exploits of the X-Files, but ensures that she
employs a heightened inner awareness while working out with
media. As far as the experience goes, running on a hamster-like
treadmill in a basement while tuned into TV is no match for the
sunshine, vitamin D, fresh air and awareness that a run in nature
provides, with all due respect to Mulder and Scully.
Convcasttion
Like media, conversation also pulls you out of your body, but
provided you are aware of this fact, you can carry on a conver-
sation while exercising. The trick here is to constantly check-in
with your inner body signals and with your sensation of effort-
lessness. Don’t get carried away in thought, lost outside of your
body and end up pacing your session beyond the comfort range.
Always maintain the mind/body link, breathe through your nose
and stay present. Check-in often and listen.
Gaouv Tatininc
As the story at the beginning of this chapter illustrates,
group exercise sessions tend to cause each member to exercise
with added effort and overextend themselves, because they are
exercising at someone else’s pace. Only when all the members
agree to never put anyone into a push state will group training
work for ALL the members. Of course, the group members need to
understand what that entails and agree to exercise at an effortless
pace for everyone. What I have found through experience is that
group sessions usually turn into competitions or races and, if not
all, most members end up pushing too hard and are unable to
listen to their internal cues.
If you find yourself seeking group exercise, that’s fine, just
honor your internal feeling of effortlessness and communicate this
to your group members. If they are worthy training companions,
they’ll adjust their pace to be in line with everyone in the group.
The effortless group sessions I coach start with a very slow
warm-up and have set guidelines we follow to allow everyone to
exercise at their own pace. We pick an out-and-back route based on
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time so everyone can enjoy meeting before and after the training
to compare notes on how they felt during the session.
Gaouv Tatininc Guioctincs
I employ these three simple practices when leading group
exercise sessions:
First, regardless of sport, everyone takes a moment before we
begin to calm themselves and lower their heart rates to below
100 bpm. Often, many individuals are excited and stressed even
before they start to warm-up. Taking a few moments before we
start to re-ground our bodies and calm our nerves gives everyone a
chance to neutralize the excitement of socialization, focus inward
and initiate the listening process.
Next, the group begins at a extremely slow pace. That means
everyone follows the coach, and they must not pass me for the
first half hour. I start very slowly and gradually build the pace over
the first half hour. There is no cheetah-like racing or speedy rabbit
egos allowed, instead we begin as a pack of turtles would – slow
and steady. If we are biking, that means starting in first gear. If we
are running or walking, we begin with a slow stroll. Regardless of
the form of activity, I start ever so slowly and ensure that everyone
warms-up gradually.
Finally, we agree to a set time with an out-and-back route, that
way everyone has the opportunity to see each other and finish
together regardless of individual pace. (If we pick a distance or a
loop route this socialization doesn’t occur.) Also, and this is most
important, everyone must exercise squarely in the pull state. No
one is permitted to push themselves or their partners out of their
effortless flow state. In this way, small groups of equal abilities
naturally form. They sustain, encourage and respect one another,
and intuitive listening is enhanced.
By following these simple guidelines, overtraining in groups
is greatly diminished and the enjoyment and optimization of the
training effect is enhanced. Permitting everyone to go at his or her
pace allows each participant to focus on optimum development
rather than directing that energy into constant competition and
its greater need for recovery. Once this type of sound base training
is achieved, it becomes easy to sign up for a race, focus on the
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specific requirements and remain confident that you’ll achieve
your goal – effortlessly.
Scttinc Gotts
You’ll notice a shift from enjoyment to heightened enthusiasm
by the sense of purpose a future goal brings to your training.
The effortless process is now fueled by an added intensity. This
intensity has nothing to do with stress and is more akin to creative
energy. Participants who put more importance on arriving at a goal
than enjoying the daily process of exercise create unnecessary
stress. You diminish not only the enjoyment but the quality and
effectiveness of your training. Remaining aware, connected and in
a flow state as you pursue your race goals ensures you’ll become
one of those perennially fit people who are always energized, drink
in life and reap all the benefits that vitality offers.
Most long term exercisers, for the most part, enjoy the process
of exercise and no longer engage in fitness solely for future oriented
goals and their ensuing outcomes and egoic rewards. Alert exercise
becomes a celebration of health and energy, rather than a see-saw
between elation and disappointment, which remains dependant
on the achievement of a desired external result. From time to time
they may focus certain aspects of their training on a competitive,
external goal, but once the event is over they continue to exercise
in a sustainable manner for the joy of its intrinsic value alone.
Ptcinc Erroattcsstv
There are three possible choices available to you at any given
moment during your exercise session. Maintain your pace, slow
down or speed up. Allow yourself to be open to making these
changes based on present moment body cues and signals. If
the activity is becoming work, check your form, pace, breathing,
hydration and training time, and make adjustments to seek that
effortless feeling. Perhaps slow down, or walk if you are running.
Adjust your style, take a break and experiment to find that sensation
of effortlessness again.
As your body temperature begins to rise during a slow progressive
warm-up and you feel your muscles loosening up, you find that
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you’re drawn into the session further and further. When exercising,
you are either pushing the pace through will power or being drawn
along by the pull of flow state energy. Here is where the true fun
begins: playing with the dynamic balance of push/pull energy.
Most individuals use their will power to push their bodies
forward. You know those days, when a workout feels heavy and
sluggish, or you’re tired and you’re forcing yourself to finish it. Or
your schedule says you have to complete intervals today, or the
instructor is shouting for one more repetition while your body is
protesting. We have been taught that this is normal to push, that
without it you won’t get any stronger or progress. If you use will
power exclusively you will become stronger, but you will also pay
the price. Remember the Hare story and the rubber band analogy?
You can sprint toward your goal and stretch your rubber band to
its maximum, but it will snap back and if it suddenly breaks, off
you go to physiotherapy, recovery and re-starting your training
once again. That’s the world of pushing too far into stress. Like
many fad diets, high intensity fitness programs carry with them
the risk of a yo-yo effect.
When pacing yourself, by backing off the smallest amount, you
suddenly feel as if you are floating, being carried along energeti-
cally – that’s capturing the pull state. Staying predominantly on the
pull side of the fitness sliding scale is the art of pacing and flow.
Practicing this art requires presence; it requires that you listen to
your inner body energy. Learning to train within the flow of pull
energy allows your body to adjust to sustainable stress that is in
alignment with the energy of your body, mind and spirit. You’ll
experience less strain and more gain, and you’ll marvel at how this
all came about.
The more time you spend in the pull state the better you feel
and the closer you come to a true effortless exercise session.
Seeking this high, this state of oneness, is the objective of every
session. Each person’s journey into the pull state will be slightly
different and can be opposed to what our intellects tell us or what
we have learned in the past. Sean was a client who overturned
past coaching and training habits to meet his marathon goal from
a fresh perspective:
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Sean had been running for +¸ years. As a
university track team member he had competed
in and won many State titles. Eventually work and
family life took up his time, but it didn’t dampen
his love of running. He had the dream of running a
marathon, as he had tasted the runner’s high back
in his university days. When he started training he
was µo years old and 6o pounds over weight. We
started with some very short walks, and I explained
the process of effortless training. Sean wore his
heart rate monitor, breathed through his nose
and always exercised in the zone of comfort. The
first few months consisted of walking and then it
progressed to walk-running. The pounds came off
and he was able to run for +o-+¸ minutes at a time.
As his body once again remembered the freedom of
running, he remained mindful to always listen to his
inner body signals and only increased his runs when
he felt effortless. We never put a detailed schedule
together, I simply gave him the effortless guidelines
and we monitored his progress.
About two months into the journey we tested his
aerobic speed at his aerobic threshold of +µobpm. He
ran about a +z minute mile. To make a long story
short, he kept at it for about a year and a half, lost the
6o pounds and when we tested his aerobic speed a few
months before his race, he was down to a ;:++minute
mile. Sean now ran almost µ minutes per mile faster
than +8 months prior, all while remaining effortless
and at the same heart rate!
He entered the Royal Victoria marathon, and
the day before the race he tested his speed again
and found it had shifted downward to a 6:¸zminute
mile. He called me that day from Victoria and asked
what pace he should hold in the race. I suggested he
shoot for a z:µ¸:oo; he finished in z:µµ:o8, placing
third in his age category. Sean accomplished his
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goal without stress, struggle or injury and without
a rigid training program. It is true that he was
disciplined and did have the advantage of being a
former runner, but to this day he still remarks on
how enjoyable and inspiring the training was and
how he didn’t miss the shouting coaches from his
university days.
Tec Hctat or Excacisc – Enjovucnt
At the heart of the effortless exercise practice lies the truth
that behavior will be repeatable if the intrinsic value of the
behavior is greater than all the forces repelling it. Creating this
pull or attraction toward exercise is central to a lifetime of fitness.
Once you experience the joy, vitality, functional fitness and flow
that exercise provides you’ll be hooked for a lifetime. Motivation
becomes secondary as you’re drawn in to do more, and as you feel
more successful, you’ll crave this heightened energy experience.
All of the practical and scientific reasons we engage in exercise
become secondary to the full experience of enjoying the present
moment and the bliss of moving in a resonant activity. The central
driving force that motivates us remains that we are more fully alive
when we exercise. Accessing effortlessness through inner calm
creates a desire to exercise that keeps fitness participants coming
back for more.
Vibrant energy is the ultimate reason long time exercisers
continue to exercise and embrace an active lifestyle. We re-create
the vital energy of life every time we move our bodies and experience
the power of life through a heightened metabolic state. Scientists
tell us that everything in the universe is in vibratory motion. At
whatever age you find yourself, movement allows you to become
more internally energized and younger. Exercise vibrates every cell
in your body at a higher rate and creates a greater life force.
View exercise as pleasurable – enjoy movement for its intrinsic
value rather than simply as a means to an end. From this totally
process oriented lens, weight loss and a buff body become
by-products of a sustainable process. Positive exercise loops
create a life long desire to exercise because stress, overtraining
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and injury are side-stepped as you naturally evolve toward your
fitness goals.
Becoming aware of the positive, energizing sensations during
exercise teaches you to move your body in the most efficient ways
and leads to the enhancement of skills and the development of
athletic abilities.
The ancient health system of Ayurveda states that one can reach
their potential of athletic ability provided they train at 50 percent
of their capacity. That’s right, work at half of your capacity and you
can develop all of your potential. This has been a universal truth
for over 5000 years and it’s only lately that the College of Sports
Medicine has recognized that a reduction in training zones from
70 percent to 60 percent is better for participants on all fronts.
I feel that soon you’ll see this estimate coming down again.
This is an interesting paradigm: Do more on less, create more
output with less input, and become strong and fast physically
all the while remaining calm and balanced on the inside. As
consciousness, integration and sustainably become the focus
in the new millennium, more and more fitness participants will
embrace a healthier way of approaching exercise as part of a vital
lifestyle, effortlessly. Here’s a great summary story of how a client
reached his effortless zone and realized a dramatic difference in
his output:
As a seasoned triathlete, Jeff had never experi-
enced an effortless training session before, but he
was convinced he was ready for a shift in his training
dynamics. He always rode his bike at high heart
rates and worked extremely hard. We started his first
session by meditating and relaxing before he got on
his bike. His resting HR was now down to 6¸bpm. In
a state of calm body awareness I guided him through
the check-in phase and asked him to focus on nasal
breathing. This process took about +o minutes, all
while cycling slowly and holding onto the sensation of
effortlessness. We observed his heart rate climb into
the mid ;os. Now Jeff wanted to go faster; he felt the
itch, so we started to increase the intensity. He took
it up a notch.
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Slowly over the next zo-z¸ minutes we coaxed his
body through faster and faster cadences toward his
goal of ¸o revolutions per minute and through +o
gears on the way to his normal gear for indoor riding.
His HR managed to reach ++¸ bpm. He was still
breathing through his nose, and he felt effortless. Then
his knee started to hurt, a very mild pain, he felt a
bit of discomfort. So I suggested he drop a gear and
back the cadence off. Slowly, about ¸ minutes later,
the pain dissipated and he returned to his harder gear
and normal cadence.
Next I asked him to pay attention to when his
body sensed the session was over. That took another
half hour, all the while cruising along feeling great.
Finally he started the slow descent and cool-down.
The cool-down took about ¸o minutes; at that time
he had been on the bike for almost z hours. Cycling at
a cadence of µo with no tension, he managed to get
his heart rate back to 8o bpm.
Jeff remarked that during the mid-point of the
session he was cycling in a gear and at a cadence
that would have given him a heart rate of +6o bpm
the week previously. During this effortless session he
never broke +zo bpm – that’s a savings of µo beats per
minute at the same output. Incredible! Jeff was also
amazed at how easy the session felt and how great he
felt afterwards. The next day he emailed me after his
run saying he felt so good and was so excited that he
couldn’t wait for his next “workout”. I smiled. I guess
it may take a few more sessions to get that word out
of his vocabulary!
Physiologists continue to predict heart rate formulas, propose
ultimate training systems, and devise numerous theories, but in
the final analysis, your body is the finest coach you’ll ever hire. The
solution to pushing, overtraining and injury issues can be found
in an exercise practice that promotes fitness as an experience of
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pleasure, inspiration and vitality. Effortless exercise is a lifestyle
system that integrates simple scientific tools, is process oriented,
creates constancy, promotes inner listening and follows each
person’s intuitive wisdom. Fitness and weight loss become
secondary by-products of this sustainable flow state.
Adopt the effortless exercise process and you can design a
balanced, individualized exercise program. Let your inner body
energy and sensations lead the way, like a guide taking you up a
mountain. Follow your intuition and trust its feedback. Explore the
limits of effortless exercise. You’ll find that every training session
builds on the next and becomes self-perpetuating because you’ll
give your body exactly what is required on any given day.
Erroattcss Excacisc # 8: Enjovinc Etce Scssion
The following exercise encompasses everything discussed up
to this point in time. It represents a journey into enjoyment, effort-
lessness and peak performance. To get there you’ll need focus,
permission and presence. Here’s the step-by-step process for
reaching and exiting the effortless state of blissful movement.
Plan. First, create ample time and space for your session in your
day timer.
Fuel. Pay attention to all the pre-session details, make sure you’re
hydrated and you have had something to eat that contains a bit
of carbohydrates, fat and protein. (I prefer a peanut butter sand-
wich.) Eat this slowly, savor the taste and enjoy eating.
Start in a calm state. Make a leisurely journey to your exercise ven-
ue and arrive calm yet alert.
Get changed slowly. Begin to pay attention to your breath, feel
the air coming in and out through your nose. Put your clothes on
easily, without any tension, try to remain as meditative, relaxed
and calm as possible. Tie you shoes lightly and make sure to have
comfortable, loose fitting clothes that don’t restrict your move-
ment. Take your water bottle to the session with you.
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Breathe and meditate. Now take a few minutes before you start
to create an inner calm and peace. Do this by sitting quietly and
simply focusing your attention to your breath. Feel how easily and
freely the air moves in and out of your lungs. Breathe through
your nose entirely and allow your diaphragm and belly to expand
naturally. Keep the breaths calm and relaxed. You may pause after
expiration if you like, this helps to calm you. Note this base line
heart rate, and keep it as low as possible once you start to move.
Check-in. Now it’s time to start moving. Start with a slow stroll
if you’re walking or running. If you’re swimming, you’ll want to
“float” your way down the first few lengths going as slowly as pos-
sible. On the bike make sure to have no tension and start with a
very low cadence. Your goal for the first 5-10 minutes is to get in
touch with your body, check-out all the systems and hold on to the
calm, relaxed sensation you created in the meditation.
Practice warm-up awareness. Take this time period to listen to
your inner body energy. Listen for aches and pains and allow your
body to unfold into movement. You want to keep your heart rate as
low as possible, perhaps only 5-10 beats above your resting level.
Don’t rush this process and be aware of any anxious thoughts that
come into your mind, observe them, note them and let them go.
Also be as fluid as possible with your form and technique. Note
any tension in your body and envision breathing air into that area.
Relax, listen and be calm.
Pacing up. Pay particular attention near the end of this warm-up
period to any sensations that you want to pick up the pace; I call
this “the itch.” If you do, honor that energy and take your bike
cadence up a notch, change your stroll into a walk or your jog in to
a run. Only speed up a small increment and be aware of hanging
onto your feeling of inner calm and physical relaxation. The key
here is to create more speed with less effort.
Pacing down. If you feel any tension, discomfort or pain creeping in,
back-off a notch and re-establish comfort. Play this cat and mouse
game as you slowly dial up your warm-up pace. Have fun finding
your effortless balance point. Pay attention to any tension in your
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non-working muscles, like your face or during the non-working
phase of your activity, like your recovery arm during the swim. You
want all movement to be as relaxed and fluid as possible.
Find your flow state. Continue taking your physical intensity up-
ward until you feel uncomfortable breathing through your nose
and want to begin panting through your mouth. Make note of
this heart rate point and back-off a notch to regain effortlessness.
Throughout this process stay present, focus on your body’s sen-
sations and remain calm. Enjoy the energy of movement. Allow
physical comfort to dictate your pace and intensity. Listen for any
feeling that you have had enough for the day, if not, keep going.
Practice cool-down awareness. As soon as you get the body cue
that it’s time to end your session, dial back your pace and ease
your way into the cool-down. This is the exact opposite of your
warm-up. Keep your nasal breathing deep, relaxed and calm. Again,
don’t rush your cool-down and be aware of any thoughts that are
leading you into the future, stay present with your body, you are
not there yet, you’re still exercising. Be one with the process.
Check-out. See if you can get to within 10 beats of your meditative,
starting heart rate. To do this you’ll need to dial back your pace a
great deal. Spend at least 5 minutes at the end of your session go-
ing extremely slow. During this time practice being totally aware of
your breath, see how internally calm you can become, how physi-
cally relaxed you feel. Once you have gained this state it’s time to
end your session and resume your daily activities.
Maintain a meditative calm. Carry this peaceful, alert, energized
and relaxed state over into the rest of the day and enjoy the vitality
that effortless exercise has brought to you and those around you.
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REFERENCES
:. Total Immersion
Total Immersion is a method of swim instruction that focuses on
developing a fluid, effortless stroke in any body of water. Developed
by internationally acclaimed swim instructor Terry Laughlin and
refined through 20 years of ground breaking workshops, Terry has
brought the vision of true effortlessness to swimming through his
books and seminars. His method teaches clients how to swim
efficiently using any stroke and focuses swimmers on improving
their skills over a lifetime to capture the joy of swimming as a sport
or recreational activity. For more information about this technique;
to find a coach; check out his books, courses, and DVD’s go to
www.totalimmersion.net.
z. Chi Running
Developed by master coach and ultra-marathoner Danny
Dreyer, Chi Running is a new technique that combines the
ancient principles of tai chi with modern physics and results in
effortless, injury free running. This method is easily learned and
once mastered leaves you feeling fresh and invigorated. It reduces
the impact on your body and teaches you how to glide over the
ground with ease and navigate hills effortlessly. Endorsed by top
runners, medical doctors, and lifestyle participants, Chi Running
is beneficial for all ability levels. This technique helps you focus
on your form and transforms running into a refined, meditative
practice. For a detailed description of this technique or to order
books and DVDs go to www.chirunning.com.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grant Molyneux, Mkin, has coached athletes and fitness enthusi-
asts for over ¸o years. As an avid triathlete with over 71 races to his
credit, he has pioneered alternate techniques and refined his craft
to incorporate concepts of effortless exercise into his coaching
practice. He runs a practice called Vitalize Inc. in Calgary where
he offers fitness, swimming, running and cycling programs for all
ages and abilities.
The scope of his practice includes:
One-on-one private instruction
Total Immersion swim classes and a swim club
Chi Running classes
Ironman for mortals training program
Year round spin (cycling) and running class
Colleague of the Childhood Obesity Clinic
Colleague of Calgary Weight Management Center
Seminars and workshops on Effortless Exercise
Grant divides his time between helping others achieve a greater
level of health and fitness through seeking effortless exercise and
family time with his wife Wendy and son Scott. You may meet him
on the running path enjoying an effortless run.
You can email Coach Grant at grant@vitalize.ca
or visit his website at www.vitalize.ca
Watch for Grant Molyneux’s scientifically integrated companion
books…
Effortless Ironman
Effortless Marathon
…coming in the near future.