Shakira. What do you think when her name comes to mind. A gorgeous Columbian singer? A talented dancer? Gerard Pique? Waka Waka?(Its time for Africa……not Pac Man!). For me it is a drunken day in a building site in Lahinch Co.Clare with my good friend Declan Kennedy – a story for another day. Which ever memory or song springs to mind, Shakira has given the world plenty of food for thought. One of her best contributions in my opinion is the phrase she coined “Hips don’t lie”
I, for as long as I can remember, have had insanely tight hips. I attribute this possibly to genetics but also many other factors. Prolonged sitting all my life. Terrible posture from my youth (Hoodie up, head down, school bag over one shoulder). Wearing awful footwear – (Adidas and Nike shoes with flat soles, look great, bad for feet). Playing football up to 5 times a week and never warming up or warming down. Etc Etc. Poor hips lead to an endless world of other catastrophes waiting to happen. As Shakira said, Hips don’t lie!
As I mentioned in a previous article, I have been “practicing” yoga for the past few years. The reason I put inverted commas around the word “practicing” is that the word means “to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it” With that definition in mind, I really didn’t practice yoga. I went to some classes sporadically over the years, attending a retreat here or there, occasionally stringing together a few weeks of self practice in a row before eventually “giving myself a break” or forgetting my routine altogether. This occurrence has been common place throughout most of my life when trying to integrate healthy habits into my lifestyle. I have pinpointed many reasons for my repeated failures, the most obvious one being biting off more than I could chew. While starting yoga I was also trying incorporate going to the gym 3 times a week, playing football, going swimming, rock-climbing, hiking, cycling, etc etc. I became to know myself by my alternate ego, Jack. (Jack of all trades, master of none) I got a little bit better at most of those things, some more than others, but never really progressed sufficiently. Now, I still do believe variety is the spice of life, but sometimes it is essential to set aside time to concentrate on one thing alone, accomplish what you set out to do, and move on.
This is the reason I began the 30 f0r 30 Ido Portal Squat Challenge.
For those not familiar with Ido, he is a coach who deals with any array of topics from nutritional approaches to movement & health to functional anatomy & physiology to methodology of the training process to mental aspects of movement practice and more. He recently achieved some added fame in Ireland and Internationally by being involved with The Notorious Conor McGregor.
Here is how he describes the benefits of the challenge : If you are serious about your mobility, hip/knee/ankle health, improving your digestion and elimination and more – you should take your RESTING squat seriously. Its free and will do you more good than a lot of expensive shit. I think he sums it up pretty well.
The Challenge consists of sitting in a deep squat position for a combined total of 30 minutes a day.
The Rule of the 30/30 Squat Challenge
Rules of thumb:
1. No REST days during the 30 days.
2. Relaxed spine – no need to try to remain erect or with neutral spine. Its a RESTING position.
3. Width between the feet – around shoulder width apart but should be individualized and experimented with – aim for maximal depth and relaxation.
4. How much feet should be turned out or should they be facing forward? Don’t let anyone sell you the idea of ONE perfect position – this should be individualized and experimented with – aim for maximal depth and relaxation.
5. Knee pain? Hip pain? stand up and move around. Resume the squat and work in small short bursts of squatting throughout the day.
6. Footwear? Best – barefoot. Second best – minimal footwear.
7. Keep your heels on the floor if possible. If impossible, try a small heel support until you gain the proper mobility to squat flat foot on the ground.
8. True sign of good squatting? When you get tired from STANDING – you squat and not vise versa! True story!
9. How deep should you squat? There is only one answer – DEEPER.
I should also comment that this was the third time I had attempted this challenge. The first time was in 2014, the second endeavour followed close by in 2015, with 2017 finally being the year I completed it. I mention this for a few reasons. One, I am taking myself and my personal development more seriously this year. Two, I am moving away from my alter ego “Jack” and spending more time as Cathal, who takes on one thing at a time and finishes it. He is more determined but also more understanding and kinder to himself. Three, I made the challenge as easy as I could for myself to complete it. This is a major point. The two previous times I undertook the challenge, I was frustrated by having to take out my phone each time I would squat, flick through the screen to find my timer (Hope I had not erased my earlier times or the clock was not still running and showed 3 hours and 20 minutes and counting!) and begin the process. This might sound silly to some but it did really annoy me. To make the challenge more accessible to me, I invested in a watch.
On my girlfriend’s brother’s recommendation (Thank you Shane 😉 ) I purchased a simple Casio digital watch. (One of the best purchases I have made in 2017, and subsequently I am now a watch person!) This simple acquisition made my time tracking so much more manageable as I could simply squat, press a button, swear to sweet baby Jesus as my shins were burning, repress the button and stand up. The swearing became steadily less frequent and my time spent in the squat position lengthened. Strange how if you practice something consistently is gets easier eh!! 😛
The challenge still presented difficulties. My notoriously tight hip flexors and hips did not originally thank me for my deep squats. They moaned and complained as I would press my button and pop a squat. “Oh this again, fuck sake Cathal, I told you we don’t like this position, can you not feel the tightness and dull pain we are sending your way?” I did feel the burn, but knew with time it would improve.
And it did. Originally I was using my coffee table for support, a door frame, a corner of a wall. Anything that was available at the time. Everybody is different, or should I say everyone’s body is different. Some people may find this position extremely easy, while others may not even be able to sit into it. Either way, this challenge is for you.
Eventually my times increased, I moved away from the tables and those pesky tights hip began embracing it. “Oh this again, this feels nice Cathal, maybe sit a little longer this time, we are feeling all loosey goosey 🙂 ” On my final day I sat in a deep squat for a full 30 minutes, something 30 days previous to this, I never would have imagined possible. There are plenty of progressions and regressions for this challenge/exercise which can be found on the Facebook 30/30 squat challenge page. From this one challenge there are more benefits then just opening your hips.
To conclude, this challenge brought me many things. Looser hips, increased foot mobility and ankle mobility, pride in the fact I completed a challenge, a new understanding of progression and discipline, a new friend (my Casio watch) and a deeper appreciation for Shakira. 🙂 Why not give it ago!