If you haven’t met Jeff Kuhland before, it’s probably because he’s been so busy trekking through the back country via compass and topo maps, battling river rapids by raft or kayak, pulling all-nighters in some obscure wilderness with his adventure race team, competing in all kinds of races from track sprints to ultra-marathons, and enjoying many other larger-than-life adventures. This guy is truly living it, and when he’s not out having fun, he’s in having fun by helping people get healthier, get fitter, and reconnect with their true nature.
I met Jeff at one of the very first MovNat retreats that was held in the USA back in 2009. He was assisting Erwan Le Corre during all four of the 5-day seminars – as an intern, of sorts. And when he was not working on some administrative tasks (e.g. cooking, cleaning, etc.), he would join us for MovNat training during the day. Sometimes he would join our group, or just do his own thing off in the distance – stealing a glance or two from the participants (we’d be thinking, “how’d he do that?”).
Jeff happened to be my partner during my very first MovNat combo workout. Erwan setup a little circuit of sorts for the whole gang, and we did it in pairs. So, Jeff and I ran on a fallen tree trunk (ie balancing), competed in a tree-branch pullup contest (he won), and then we threw large rocks at each other (err… to each other), and finished with some tree-trunk deadlifts. Erwan gave Jeff and I the heavy one. Thanks buddy.
The retreat was held at a park campground, with the usual assortment of amenities (including people who “camp” in RV’s that make my house look primitive). And so, after a long day of training that finished with our partner combo workout, Jeff and I decided it would be prudent to battle it out in a game of tether-ball. It took awhile, but in the end, Jeff whooped me – bad. But I did dominate in a game of horseshoes later – my redeeming glory.
So, that all goes to say that Jeff is a pretty cool guy, and I think he’s got a heckuva lot to offer the Physical Living community. So, when I reconnected with Jeff for the first time in awhile, and found out that he’s been writing some articles for Breaking Muscle, I asked if he’d be willing to do an interview for you here, and he happily agreed. So, let’s dive right in.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself including your background in athletics and fitness and also what you do today?
I have been into athletics since I can remember, playing soccer growing up. In high school I discovered Track & Field and the bond has never been broken. Track offered competition in its purest form, you against the clock and those around you. Once you ran the race there was no interpretation of the score, or how one played. Running events are a direct reflection of your genetic makeup, and hard work to maximize your potential. I ran Division 1 at James Madison University Competing in the 400meter. Since then I have explored ultramarathons, rock climbing, mountain biking, and much more. I excelled in Adventure Racing winning a national championship with my team and placing 17th in the world. I currently manage a CrossFit gym and am planning on competing next year. Today, I am a fitness director at the YMCA, personal train 10 hours a week, coach CrossFit classes 20 hours a week, and keep active in the fitness community through writing, and am developing my own website at www.athletichuman.com.
One thing I remember chatting with you about is adventure racing. You’re a big fan of this, and have completed many different kinds of adventure racing events. What do you enjoy most about this type of event and why have you stuck with it for so long? Also, how could someone get started in this area?
I love adventure racing, it’s a very raw sport like track, but incorporates navigation skills and mental toughness. Races are classified by the time duration of the event (i.e. 6 hours, 12 hours, 24+hours) I enjoy that races are physically demanding but because you have to navigate using a compass and topographical map you must stay mentally engaged during the entire event. The races that I did were through www.checkpointtracker.com
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see new and experienced trainees making in their fitness programs?
The biggest mistake I see people making is exercising with bad movement patterns, and poor training plans. People often do not understand what good movement patterns look and feel like. Going through a movement screen such as the FMS and working with a professional trainer/coach can teach people how to not only safely but efficiently workout. You can also take time to learn this information yourself through various sources and many of them free online.
Tell me about your experience with MovNat? What drew you to it and what value have you found in this system?
I originally got involved with MovNat in 2009. I was forwarded onto Erwan Le Corre through a series of contacts and was given the opportunity to work with him. We hosted 5 day seminars in Summersville WVA teaching people natural movement skills, a physical culture, and natural eating. The Workout the World Forgot video which Erwan originally produced sparked my interest and after talking with him I was convinced he had something unique and valuable. Erwan has an invaluable understanding of natural human movement, how to teach it, and how to help you live a healthier, happier life. MovNat systemically teaches you how to move properly through all your human abilities, allowing you to make quick progress.
How have you integrated MovNat into your own training and that of your clients?
MovNat has been valuable in my training most specifically in terms of mental toughness, awareness of my environment, and adaptability. We often get stuck into a rut of training at the gym in very linear patterns. Most people move forward when running, biking, and lifting. We rarely take time to balance, jump for accuracy, climb, and many other movements. The gym environment is often very sterile and people lack the creativity and mindset to train a variety of directions and patterns. People no longer squat low, crawl, and explore their true potential. This has translated directly into the way I train clients and the movement I lead them to explore. MovNat has been one of the pillars of my training beliefs.
In your experience, do most people really need to relearn such fundamental movements like how to squat and run? If so, why do you think this is?
Yes, every single person I have worked with has had room for improvement in their squatting and running. I was a division 1 athlete, a national champion adventure racer, and have completed a 54 mile ultra-marathon. And worst of all I thought that meant I knew everything there was to know about running and lifting.
Could you tell me about the role of corrective exercise and prehabilitation in a functional training program?
Corrective exercise should be used in conjunction with a movement screen to gain or regain normal movement patterns. This includes opening up the proper mobility and stabilizing through the range of motion. Corrective exercises have become a part of my personal routine and a critical part of all my clients’ routines. Prehabilitation in my view is essentially the same as corrective exercises. If people move well, are strong, and flexible that is the best possible prehabilitation program.
What is the Functional Movement Screen, and can you tell us about your experience with it?
The Functional Movement Screen is a series of seven tests that lets you assess a person’s movement patterns. The best part of the Functional Movement Screen is its long standing history and the standardized test. It has been critically evaluated and is scientifically proven to be effective. Gray Cook has built this system with colleagues in an effort to help people move more effectively, prevent injuries, and improve the quality of life for people.
How can we use mobility training, stretching, and other similar modalities to improve health, fitness, and performance?
Of course! People have become inflexible, stiff, and move poorly due to limited mobility. This is a critical part of any training program. There is an optimal level of flexibility where we can achieve full range of motion in all our movements. That doesn’t always mean more flexibility is better. You need to be flexible enough to perform the necessary movements but additional flexibility doesn’t yield better results, it can allow you to move too far and have potential risk on injury.
You’re a big fan of foam rolling. How does this work and what’s the value of this method?
Foam rolling is your way to perform self-massage. Self myofascial release, is applying compression to muscles to break up tightness, adhesions, and restrictions. I’m a hug fan of foam rolling and believe it is powerful enough to restore movement, increase health, and make a difference in your life.
How important is rest and recovery and what are some of the best methods to maximize it?
Rest and recovery are critical to the athlete and average person. The ten elements of rest and recovery are sleep, hydration, nutrition, posture, stretching, self myofascial release, heat, ice, and compression. Check out www.athletichuman.com for more information coming out on these topics.
Would you say your training methods are more systematic or instinctive/intuitive? Or, a blend of both? And if so, how do you strike a balance?
My training methods are a blend of both systematic and instinctual. I believe that you need to plan training sessions, set goals, and establish progressions. However each day you may not always feel optimal and be able to hit training goals. Sometimes a day spent stretching and rolling can be more beneficial. Also sometimes you are going to have a great day going above and beyond what the programmed progression.
What is something you wish you knew about training when you were younger and just getting started?
I’m not even sure where to start with this question. There is so much I wish I knew back in my track days, and even when I first started training. The biggest are self myofascial release, the importance of strength/power training and what proper movement patterns look like.
Who are some of your biggest influences in your career and professional development, and what are the main lessons you’ve drawn from each of them?
My first two great influences were my cross country and track coaches. Jerome Loy is the cross country coach at Jefferson Forest High School, and William Walton is the head track coach at James Madison University. Both men had great running careers, and are inspirational to all those around them. I strive to become a coach like them, changing the lives of people around me. Since then MovNat, FMS, and CrossFit have become the largest defining characteristics of my professional development. FMS has given me greater understanding of human movement, what correct patterns look like, and how to begin to fix suboptimal movement. CrossFit has given me back the competitiveness of track and retaught me how to use intensity properly. It has reopened me to hard work and getting out of the old gym paradigm. All three of these certifications break the norm, and offer superior movement, fitness, and results. The other area that has made a huge difference is self myofascial release, learning how to use foam rollers and other implements to fix muscle tone and re-establish functional movement.
Where is the best place my readers can find more information about you and your work?
Thanks for a great interview, Jeff!
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