Movement As Medicine: Work In & Through, You Don’t Have To Workout

Man doing pushup
By Guest Author
Posted by: Mike Schwartz

I know. Crazy. What coach tells you NOT to work out? This guy. Seriously, have you ever had that moment where you just can’t get the job done? No matter how hard you try, your body just won’t meet you where you need to be? I often see this as a sign of overtraining. There’s this weird stigma that’s been publicized in the media. It’s all about how hard you work, how many calories you burn and how many steps you get in that measures your fitness. Well, that kind of thinking runs many of us right into the ground and sometimes into irreversible burnout. It’s the “fit looking, sick person” dilemma and my goal here today is to help you avoid that. 

We’re programmed to take on a lot, however, we only have a certain amount of bandwidth. Depending on the day, you may undergo a lot more strain than you think. The accumulation of all the practicing of your instrument you’re doing plus the daily stressors such as work demands, personal relationships and any exercise you put yourself through all add up. Many folks have no idea just how much they’re taking on. We simply just don’t have enough bandwidth to do all the things we try to do. We hit that wall.

What Can We Do?

Moving smarter and understanding how to use movement as medicine is a truly valuable skill to learn. We’ve talked about the research-supported connection between mental wellbeing and physical exercise, but it’s all about what kind of work we’re putting on our body to give that proper adaptation to progress. We can do harm if we’re not adapting to the situation we find ourselves in. We want to exercise, literally – acute stress, small doses… rather than over reaching our limits for the sake of a step count or PR. 

Here are 3 failsafe ways to work in, not out right from home. And hey, you may still get a good little sweat on!

#1. Walking Meditation 

Research shows that when we keep our Heart Rate between 50-60% of our max during exercise, we tend to promote recovery. That said, activities that keep us moving with lower intensity like this can actually help us perform our best in the long run. One easy way to do this is to get outside (without distractions like a phone or podcast) and just take in nature. When you catch yourself going through the process of all the things you want to do later that day or what the boss really meant in the morning meeting, just come back to focusing on your movement and your breath. In through the nose, out through your mouth. See if you can match each breath with 4 paces. Do this for a good 10-20 minute walk and you’ll give yourself a double dose of awesome, mind and body! It’s similar to how I teach my drummers to play with more control through breathing mechanics. When we breath through the mouth, hurried or worse yet – hold our breath, we set the stage for the fight or flight response. So many parts of our lives are enhanced when we pay attention to our breathwork. Keep it chill and practice while you’re  walking. 

#2. Energizer Squats

Okay folks, this is a fun one! For me, the coach anyway… More often than not when I first teach “Anatomical Breathwork” to someone who’s unfamiliar with it, it tends to throw them for a loop. It’s completely the opposite of what most people are taught in a gym setting, and for good reason! In the gym, you tend to have a bunch of weight you’re trying to move around, right? The body’s job in that case to support itself so your ribcage doesn’t collapse under the pressure of that load! For that reason in a squat for instance, you’d inhale as you bend your knees and exhale (sometimes quite forcefully) as you come back up to the top of the movement. 

However, in the times when you’re moving less than 60% of your 1 repetition maximum, such as with bodyweight squats, you can utilize “Anatomical Breathing”. 

Inverse the breathing mechanics so that you exhale as you bend your knees and inhale as you come back up to the top of the motion. It down-regulates your nervous system because you’re actually utilizing your breath for energy. You also tend to move slower when you match movement to your breath. Sneaky, eh?! 

Try it out at home with body weight squats and see how many more you can do without feeling the burn. You might be surprised. We’re making a little game of it on instagram this week with our 10 “E” Squats in 10 Days Challenge. Post a video of you doing 10 Energizer Squats for 10 days straight with the #10ESquatChallenge and tag a new nominee each day. Be sure to tag us too @wearemusicfit,  we’d love to share your wins with our community!

#3 Eustress Pushups

This is one drill that quells the haters out there that think you can’t build muscle without weights. Fact: Volume training promotes muscle growth. That’s straight from the National Strength And Conditioning Association (NSCA), one way in particular will help you build strength without pushing your body over the edge. It’s called the “Eustress Protocol”.
Here’s how the Eustress protocol will help you get fit without taxing your body. 

Eustress is the opposite of distress, which is the most common form of stress in popular exercise literature. However, keeping in the theme of not wanting to stress your body out, distress is not always a great choice. Enter: Eustress. This works brilliantly for increasing the amount of exercise we can do in a given time (volume). We keep our exertion low so as to not stress the system and gradually over time, we build in more volume and raise the baseline of the amount of work we can do before it’s too much exertion. Basically, if you wanna do 25 pushups, Eustress Protocol would suggest you do 2-3 pushups at a time with as much rest as you need. A good point of reference is nasal breathing. If you catch yourself gasping for air, you’re no longer in Eustress. Be mindful of your breath and make sure you can breathe through the nose the whole time. Try our Eustress Push-up Ladder drill for your next Zoom party. Aim to complete 20 pushups, but break it up into sets of 2-3 with as much rest as you need to keep your heart rate below 65% max. Don’t have a Heart Rate monitor? Focus on maintaining nasal breathing through the whole drill. 

All three of these drills are staples in The Music Fit Method Movement Coach course, so if you’re interested in learning more about how to optimize your physical and mental performance both on and off the stage, or uh, these days – on and off the Livestream. Apply to the program on a Unison Benevolent Fund Karma Scholarship here

Want more? Learn The ABC’s Of Artistry: With DJ Z-Trip

We had a really great conversation with DJ Z-Trip last week on the Music Fit Podcast. We dove into how he’s able to know when to push and when to pull back and how prioritizing his health has helped him navigate the industry and become the legendary pioneer that many credit for popularizing DJ “mash-ups”. Over the span of his 30 year career he’s pretty much seen it all and shares some strategies that have helped him maintain an awareness and agency over his body and resulted in longevity at the elite level. It’s a really rad conversation. Check it out here: 067: “Learn The ABCs Of Artistry” with DJ Z-Trip by The Music Fit Podcast

Lastly, we’re keeping the doors open until midnight tonight for any musicians that would like to become a certified Music Fit Movement Coach. No training background required. We made this cert for musicians and we still have a few Karma Scholarships available for Unison Members, because financial hardship shouldn’t prevent those that want to improve their lives and the lives of others around them from doing so. Class starts tomorrow, Monday February 22 at 2:07 MST. We’d love to see you there! Get in touch if you’re interested!

About Music Fit Collective  

We’ll keep it simple. We’re empowering 10,000 musicians by 2022 to live well so they can keep on sharing their gift with the world. When was the last time you saw a super healthy musician? Right? Unicorns. We tame unicorns.

We are a network of musician-first health and wellness professionals, specializing in movement, nutrition and mindset for the very unique lifestyle demands of the creative. Based in the Foothills of the Great Canadian Rockies, we serve as a launch pad with international reach to help you connect with the professional services you need to bring your “Eh” game (see what we did there…) both on and off the stage. We offer in house musician wellness certification, education, services and we only partner with those that speak to the same vibe of personal and professional development and world-class service. Wanna learn more? Wanna help?

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About The Author – Mike Schwartz, Ba., Cert IV, CPT, HLC, Pn

Mike Schwartz is a musician-first fitness professional, author and educator. A.K.A “The Rock Doctor” he has contributed to Canadian Musician Magazine, appeared on Rick Barker’s “The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast” and since authoring his 2017 publication “The Musician’s Guide To Surviving The Rock Star Lifestyle”, he’s been the driving force behind musician wellness and a key figure at Canadian Music Week, Australian Music Week, BreakOut West, Abbey Road Institute, Studios 301, Folk Music Ontario and the Canadian Country Music Awards.

When he’s not coaching musicians, you’ll likely catch Mike making like Fergie up in the gym workin’ on his fitness, writing, or making music. With the mountains and the ocean in mind, he enjoys travel and culture and is grateful to spend time with loved ones and his 4-legged best friend, Darwin The Pooch.

Contact Mike at