Weightlifting and Rolfing

Pages: 31-34
Year: 1998
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

ROLF LINES, Vol XXVI – nº 04 – August 1998

Volume: 26

Bill: You lift weights?

Judee: I do. Not the way I used to. I’ve been part of the weight training world for quite a few years. That’s what I did actually before I started the training to become a Rolfer.

Bill: Did you compete?

Judee: That was a partial goal actually. I ran a fitness facility for quite a few years. I’ve never really believed in drugs and it’s really difficult in the competition arena unless you are willing to enhance your weight lifting that way. It was something I thought I might try, but I decided that it probably wouldn’t be something that I’d go very far with. So I opted out.

Bill: When you were doing your Rolfing® training did you hide the fact that you were a weight lifter? I guess it’s pretty impossible for you to hide the fact that you are a weight lifter.

Judee: Yeah. I really didn’t hide it. As a student I didn’t really feel it was my right to challenge the belief among Rolfers about shortening and weightlifting and weightlifting has definitely been connected to that shortening. So I felt until I knew more about Rolfing and understood more about it myself that I was not in a position to challenge the belief that weight lifting wasn’t necessarily the way to go. I didn’t really hide it but I definitely wasn’t very vocal about it.

Bill: And now? Now that you have been a Rolfer for how long?

Judee: 2-1/2,3 years I guess. I started the training 4 or 5 years ago.

Bill: OK, so now that you know something about Rolfing, have you decided to give up your erring ways and never lift weights again?

Judee: Not on your life! Actually it’s modified the way I approach my strength training program. I believe that there’s a lot of strength necessary for most of our leisure activities-in order to do wind surfing, mountain climbing, hiking and all of those physically demanding activities that a lot of people like to do nowadays. So the life styles that most people lead occupations, careers-are not very physically active or demanding for the most part. I’m fortunate because my occupation does allow me to stay strong. Weight lifting allows us to be better prepared to partake in those activities that we enjoy doing on an occasional basis. So the Rolfing has changed the way I look at it. I don’t see it as my principle form of exercise or physical activity anymore, but it really does help me to maintain the structural strength that allows me avoid injury.

Bill: What do you say about the natural prejudice that most Rollers have against bulking up, against creating bellies of muscles as opposed to long muscles.

Judee: Well, I think that the natural prejudice is well founded. My biggest challenge is that the strengthening work doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be only directed toward muscle bellies compared to the whole structure. All the weight training or the strength training education that I’ve been exposed to separates the body into parts, muscle for muscle. Kind of like how anatomy sees the body. You work with each muscle or group individually. The way that I’ve modified the weightlifting for myself personally and for the rest of my clients is to use a lot of the movement concepts. That way we have the ability to work in harmony with the whole body-how each individual area affects the whole. So that natural prejudice for traditional weightlifting or strength training is there. It’s very real that they do shorten, they do end up bulking up in the in the center and not dealing with the whole or how the whole body works together. And that’s where it would be nice to have more education.

Bill: What does it mean practically? How would you translate what you just said into what someone’s actually doing when they are lifting? “Less weight more reps?” I know that’s trite.

Judee: It’s real though. You know it’s like a bridge! Maybe weightlifting isn’t what would be best for people. But a lot of people choose this tool. So how do we as Rolfers allow them to let the weightlifting be effective instead of detrimental to the whole process? It’s not even so much less weight or less reps, it’s more about proper preparation and proper lengthening after the work. The biggest reason that the muscle bellies are so developed is because there’s not a lot of stretching or lengthening after the exercise. There’s actually a better communication between the body parts after weightlifting. The only thing is, there’s so much tightening that it’s not happening properly. If there’s proper posture, that’s really important, if people are conscious about their breathing, if they can be conscious about what’s happening internally as well as what they are doing externally, it makes a big difference in weight training. It becomes not necessarily how much weight or how many, just how much awareness is being used while you are using this type of training. I actually recommend strength training to some of my clients if what they are having trouble with is lack of vitality-that real undercharged system. Lots of times the strength training helps them to get that going. Or even for the system that is overcharged. Or it helps to release extra energy. And I work with each person individually too. I make sure that they work through their limitations, or around them instead of limiting themselves.

Bill: So do you do that as part of a regular Rolfing session? You said you own a weight training facility.

Judee: I don’t anymore but I do have my own equipment. I do share with them. And there’s a lot you can do without any equipment. Just like the movement work-that real body awareness. Allowing people to know what body positioning is proper comes with knowledge of the equipment and the exercises but we can let our clients in on some of the guidelines for efficient breathing, grounding, center balance, joint space, etc. Like to use the structure in a whole way-for instance; using the arm from its proper origin instead of just from the shoulder. And yes, I do try to incorporate it into the regular sessions. I find it important for people to really embody what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Bill: Have you had any clients who just don’t have any structural integrity-whatever energy you put into their system just sort of piddles away, just leaks, they are just incapable of containing? Their bodies are in resignation. Do you run into that?

Judee: Yes I do.

Bill: And how does the weight training interact with that?

Judee: It’s a real challenge because I really believe in the principle of holism. There’s not a lot of energy to focus on any one thing at the beginning. If a person moderates it it becomes something where they gradually or slowly increase the integrity or allow the system to close up. It starts to complete itself or compliment itself. The weight training isn’t for everyone either. You know, I really work with each individual and if it’s something that they feel will help them to keep the channel open or maybe complete some of the channels that are not working in their system then I say “go for it.” I really work hard to make sure that they are going to start it properly so that they can increase in ability instead of detract from it. Where there isn’t support there’s not proper functionality. So if I can help that person lay a solid foundation then that ability to function increases as that happens. Weightlifting is sometimes a really solid tool to help that.

Bill: So if you have a client like that do you space out the sessions so that they get a chance to build some tone before you…

Judee: Most definitely. I like to space my sessions anyway, no matter what type of system I’m working with.

Bill: So what does that mean? A month…

Judee: Sometimes it’s more like 2 or 3 months. If someone’s not dealing with pain, I guess I have a soft heart. I know what it’s like to deal with chronic pain. So if there’s chronic pain involved I may work 3 or 4 sessions with a person in a short time. Hopefully I help them deal with that pain, and then we’ll back off and I won’t see them for 2 or 3 months then they have time to build that foundation before we carry on with restructuring. But I really like to let people have time no matter what the system is all about so that they can really integrate, really have time to absorb what’s happening in their system. And to create new habits for themselves, such as breathing ability, since it is very habit oriented. For them to have the time to release old habits or to allow themselves a new freedom in their habit is important to me. So, I like to keep my sessions spaced apart most of the time.

Bill: Now just basic biographical points. How old are you?

Judee: I am 28 years old.

Bill: And you’ve been Rolfing for 3. Was the gym your main source of livelihood?

Judee: Yes. I was a fitness instructor in the small town that the facility was in. We didn’t have a physiotherapist so that was how I was drawn to Rolfing. I had a lot of doctors referring people for rehabilitation and that’s what I did a lot of.

Bill: You said you had a soft heart for chronic pain, did you ever have to deal with any?

Judee: Yes, actually for about 8 years.

Bill: What was it?

Judee: I fell as a teenager and I did some structural damage to my cervical spine. I’m very happy to say that the Rolfing has made me almost completely free of pain except for the little bit of permanent damage that had happened.

Bill: So were you on a horse or mountain climbing or? Or wind surfing?

Judee: I was on the ice. I wasn’t actually having fun at the time. It was just one of those things that just happened.

Bill: Was it scary? Did you have the fear of paralysis? Or was it just painful?

Judee: It wasn’t as severe as paralysis, I don’t believe. At the time I wasn’t comfortable with the professionals who tried to help me and I wasn’t, no matter how many times I asked, given much information about it. I spent all of those years looking for help. That’s one reason why I was so involved in the weight training. When I became serious, the weight training was the one thing that helped me maintain the pain level. With tightening, the extra stimulation, and certainly the lower mobility decreased the amount of pain that I experienced. I didn’t honestly realize that that was what I was doing until I had exposure to Rolfing, even though knowing may not have convinced me to give up something that was working.

Bill: So if you had received some Rolfing earlier after your accident you wouldn’t have…

Judee: I may not have become so serious about weight training. It was definitely a tool for me to deal with the pain and to help maintain my structure that had lost a lot of its integrity. It was a pretty heavy fix-it job for a while. And I recognize that now. But I am thankful for it. I’m not sure that I would have come in contact with Rolfing had I not had something like that happen. I’m very thankful to the instructors and the Rolfers that I’ve been lucky enough to come in contact with and have worked with me. They have completely influenced how I see life and weight training.

I also train horses on a regular basis and am very involved in the activities around the ranch, which my weight training has allowed me to be successful at. My height now is 5’5″. I weigh approximately 125 lbs. At my heaviest cut weight, I weighed 130 lbs. At 125 lbs I’m really fortunate to have the strength that I do, so that I can give the sessions that I do. I can do Rolfing sessions in a much more effective way. I don’t use all strength-you know I was very fortunate that one of my instructors was able to teach me the difference between my own personal strength and the power I have access to. When you work on people it is possible for your own body to begin to break down. I’m sure that’s probably why Ida believed in people having enough weight to do this type of work. Weight training has helped me not break down to this point, and I do choose to maintain and improve my own structure as well. I will maintain the strength that I need in order to fulfill the requirements for this work. It’s very interesting to know that other Rolfers deal with this weight training issue as well.

Bill: Did you ever have a body that was astonishingly cut?

Judee: Yes I did. Actually the Rolfing has allowed me to feel much more comfortable with my whole body. If I had received Rolfing sessions while I was training, I might have felt more comfortable about competing.

Bill: I have done Rolfing sessions with weightlifters immediately after they worked out to create length in a particular body part, a long muscle rather than a bulky one with no loss of range of motion. Do you do that?

Judee: I sure do. It’s exactly what it is. To me it was always amazing. I had always heard that the competitive bodybuilders didn’t have the range of motion. They were not able to maintain flexibility. And yet some of the competitive weightlifters that I learned from and I spent time with were twice as flexible as I was. And I thought myself quite flexible. In my training I spend time allowing the whole muscle to benefit from the weight training instead just part gaining and the other part being left behind. So its very beneficial and a win, win situation. I know that my system has a tendency to stay overcharged; I quite often carry a lot more energy in my system than what I need. And I find that the weight training helps me or allows me to release that so that I can find that balance. Not everyone has that. Our world is very much externally oriented. For a lot of people it takes a lot more effort to really connect with that intrinsic ability. My work comes in by allowing people to use the weightlifting as a tool, if it’s their tool of choice, in order to be more aware of the intrinsic ability as well as the external ability that they have. And that comes from really having understanding of the extrinsic and then working hard at understanding the intrinsic and then experience extremes and come to center. I know how to hit extremes. I guess that’s where I’m recognizing that I have the ability to be in the center and I know when I’m in balance with both. I also believe that unless you find where lack of balance is, can you really know where balance is?

One of the things that really keeps grabbing my attention, as far as the thoughts about weightlifting and Rolfing, is the whole idea of bridging. As Rolfers, do we share with people-clients-the ability to use whichever tool they choose in a healthy, growing way? I hope we allow anyone else that doesn’t have weight training or exercise in their background to find proper uses for the tools that they choose. I’m not capable of telling someone that they should not be weight training. That’s just not in my constitution. I don’t really believe in telling anyone that they shouldn’t be doing anything. So if the weight training is not really helping them, I hope I can help them see that. But I can allow them to still use that tool in a way that’s going to benefit them instead of detract from them.

Bill: I think even the people who are against weight training would say the same thing in our community. How do you break through with people, and I’ve had-and this happens more with women than men-I’ve had clients who were so into what they could do in weight training that they didn’t care, in a way, that it wasn’t good for them. The feelings of being able to squat with more than your own body weight was just such a high for them that they were willing to live with the negative consequences.

Judee: I remember that feeling. You know, it’s ego isn’t it? It’s not caring about the temple that you live in, so that you can really get that pump on. We call it pumping up. It is very real-it’s a high. It’s an endorphin high. You go flying around for hours after a heavy workout. And when it comes to something like that, I ask a lot of questions; I allow people to find answers about how and why they are doing that. Where it comes from. It’s a symptom. It’s a symptom of a deep belief or a deep misunderstanding. If I can help them understand the disease so to speak, if I can help them gain access to that, then the symptom is dealt with along with the disease if the person chooses to change. I believe that everyone that comes for Rolfing whether they’re extreme about their habits or not, knows there’s more to the process than where they are. To appeal to the real person and to get past the ego would be the goal. Ego is also symptom of something. And I do Rolfing. Rolfing can help a client gain in a lot of areas. But if you can allow a person to find that overall well-being on a consistent basis, they’re not as apt to look for that high-that real powerful feeling that comes from something that may not be good for them. I really believe that if a person has more balance and may feel really good all the time, they’re not looking for those real high highs or ending up with those real lows.

Bill: And that’s been your experience too?

Judee: That has been my experience. I’ve had a few clients that are very extreme about their exercise and every once in a while I say, “I’d really like to go the gym with you.” I really like to see how they are doing, or maybe see if I can give any information that may make the workout more effective or easier. I participate with them a certain amount away from my office. If that’s not something that I am able to do, I probably accept that that was where they were at the time and keep planting seeds.

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