In other situations, where I'm standing or walking for as short as 30 minutes or less, I start to have the typical back pain, which is quite bothersome, but I was used to it as this has been a longstanding problem since childhood.
However, this time it was different. I noticed that I'd have considerable pain and stiffness, especially in the lower back and groin area, after sitting for just an hour, which is a stark change. This concerned me, because I never had any issues with sitting before.
Further, I started to become more active due to the motto, "sitting is the new smoking", and just standing for 5 minutes caused rather bad back and leg pain.
Additionally, I was disgruntled about how, despite doing weight training, it was still difficult for me to push open heavy doors and carrying groceries around. I haphazardly tried weight body training as discussed here in my review of Your Body Is Your Barbell, but no real progress since I couldn't do even the simplest moves in the book, so I sadly gave up.
Indeed, a lot of the functional strength and bodyweight books are too difficult even at the easiest level, that there's no way I can make progress.
After doing research, I stumbled upon Tim Anderson's The Becoming Bulletproof Project, especially as the book got insanely great reviews on Amazon, and most if not all were hyperbolic! I decided to try it out, especially as it's free for Kindle members (there is a free trial available). I was very impressed with the book, so I purchased a copy.
Just doing the two things he mentioned - keep tongue at roof of mouth, and diaphragmatic breathing, improved my energy levels. When I started doing the reset exercises (these are gentle warm-up exercises before the training), my pain significantly improved.
The book is delightfully short and concise, as Mr. Anderson did a great job explaining exactly why the reset exercises help with pain and improve mobility. He also explains why you'll feel bulletproof when you succeed in these difficult tasks. For this review, discussing these reasons are beyond the scope, but he does a great job explaining and encouraging you, that you get hyped.
The sample beginner exercises are quite "harsh" as they seem to be more anaerobic (heart rate gets up to 110 at the most per polar heart rate monitor), but we need to do this for 10 minutes straight! Note he does give progressions, so if you can't do, for example, leopard crawls, start with baby crawling and build up.
I recall that we can only be in anaerobic mode for around 2 minutes before you go into aerobic states, but by then, you'd be gasping for breath. In other words, I feel that if I can do the beginner exercises with ease, I'd be a complete badass, and indeed bulletproof for me. I appreciate Mr. Anderson discussing how your idea of bulletproof is based on what you feel, not per cultural and societal expectations. The intermediate/advanced seemed extreme to me, but definitely something exciting to aspire to!
He doesn't shame you at all if you're satisfied, like me, just to have no pain, improve mobility, and able to carry groceries and push doors with ease, even if you never progress to intermediate!
Further, all the exercises listed in his beginner exercises template, can be done at home. For the battling ropes, since fitness centers are closed due to Covid-19, I substituted ropes with the transferring water exercise instead. I wrote to Mr. Anderson, and he told me you can use large beach towels instead, but at that time, I found the transferring water exercise more intriguing.
Due to the challenge aspect, the exercises are actually fun. There was one day when I bolted out of bed, excited to see if I can improve my time with the leopard crawl.
I noticed I'm very consistent with exercise if it's fun and there's a goal to reach. Certainly, one of the most fun exercises is the leopard crawl which is exactly like baby crawling, except knees off floor.
For me, the exercises were quite hard, especially going at it for 10 minutes, up to 20 minutes with rest. I felt like quitting. For the climbing mountain routine, I had to substitute real pushups for wall pushups, but nevertheless, I was able to do all the routines in his Set A beginner sample, with modifications.
I didn't want to quit though, and sleeping on it, I recall the challenge of the Jacob's Ladder (Exhibit A). At first, I can only do
|Exhibit A: Jacob's Ladder|
I believe anyone, after being able to do the baby crawl with good form and ease, can do 1 second of the leopard crawl, and then just add another second the next day, and build up. Who cares if you take one year, because you made it and you can achieve longer times!
For now, Day 1 of Leopard Crawl, I lasted for 1 minute 30 seconds. By adding 15 seconds every day, I can get to 10 minutes eventually! Mr. Anderson was absolutely right, if you can do this for 10 minutes straight, you can easily do well over 30 minutes. As of this writing, at day 14, I'm already at 6 minutes, and I skipped several days. Hence I can see myself getting to 10 minutes and beyond very soon.
In fact, I know I can do it! This is the exact experience I had with the Jacob's Ladder - when I got to 10 minutes, I was able to add full minutes, getting to 20 minutes very quickly! Indeed, the slowest growth was going from a few minutes to 10 minutes, which took well over a month.
Mr. Anderson is very inspirational as he has a "you can do it attitude", because the reality is, you CAN do it! Just start at very small increments and you can easily get to 10 minutes, I can see your being able to do 1 hour if pressed!
I have no doubt that a 60-year old gentleman was telling the truth about how he was able to do 45 minutes, and I know in my gut that he's telling the truth, and I feel he can do more than that if he wanted to. If you get to 10 minutes, you can do way more.
The leopard crawl appears to be for cardio conditioning. For the functional strength of this program, and this is truly functional, some of the other exercises include walking with arms swinging, carrying backpack of 30 pounds (women, more for men) for 10 minutes straight, resting if you have to, but making sure you do the work for 10 total minutes.
Suitcase carries is another exercise. Indeed, these are the exercises we do daily! I may even add going up and down stairs once I get better.
For the first week when I followed the program to the letter, lifting gallons of jugs was actually easy and they felt light! I was impressed, as before, I strained carrying gallon jugs. I strained even when I was at the "height" of my health when I was doing multiple sets of dumbbell exercises, with repetitions of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6 to failure.
Inspired by improvement in pain and getting functionally stronger that was quite noticeable, I resumed my goals of walking 10K steps daily. Before, I couldn't bear the pain with less than 30 minutes of walking 2 miles per hour, even while playing video games to take my mind off the pain.
However now, I only have some back and leg pain after 2 to 3 hours walking at 2 mph! Doing the bulletproof reset does help ease the pain considerably (perhaps around 75% improvement) but not quite at 100% pain-free. 75% is incredible! It felt so empowering that I can walk for such long periods of time without pain (until the very end).
In the upcoming posts, I'll discuss the two other methods I used, where I was able to eradicate pain, these exercises being fun and not something you skip because they're too boring.
In conclusion, Tim Anderson's book is incredible - if you're cleared by your doctor, and you're suffering from pain and feeling weak such that you struggle with carrying groceries, this book is for you.
Why not give the book a try? Subscribe to Amazon's free trial and check out the book for yourself! If you find it works, then it's definitely worth getting a hard copy for easier reference.
Review of Neff's Self-Compassion