Territories Vs. Fences in Self Regulation

The edge of your yard is marked by a fence; an imaginary line drawn by humans. Birds, foxes, deer, squirrels, bees, and weeds have no sense of these boundaries.  They come and go based on less-visible edges drawn needs around food, safety, competition and reproduction. These realities of survival shape their boundaries every day.  Contrary to common perception we are Nature and Mother Nature doesn’t work in straight lines. Like the natural boundaries of plants and animals your stress-tolerance is like a territory in the wild. The boundaries shrink or expand based on how you  manage the survival physiology that drives much of your behavior. 

A term coined by Dr. Daniel Seigel, Window of Tolerance defines the terrain where you can manage stress well. The upper boundary marks your threat response in the sympathetic nervous system and the lower edge marks your rest and repair response in the parasympathetic nervous system.

When you’re living in the window, you experience a range of conditions in the nervous systems including focused arousal, flow state, rested readiness, learning, passive attention, sex, deep sleep, and recovery. Ideally,  this range is as broad as possible. This means you can recover deeply and respond well to challenges without losing access to the resources of your higher brain.

The higher the upper edge, the more emotional and physical strain we can handle without anxiety. The lower the bottom edge, the richer our garden of resources for creating and repairing systems and the harder it is for us to stagnate in depression. It’s common to go over the edges into the margins of dysregulation. With practice, you can read your state using cues in your physiology to navigate the edge, and widen our territory. You can learn from the edge, and adapt to reality. If you become complacent your territory shrinks.


The inability to read your body’s cues at the upper edge of the window is like an elk who can’t smell a predator in the wind making it vulnerable to the coming threat. If instead you use your senses, you’ll notice the danger, and move to better territory. This is done by regulating breath and body mechanics to migrate back to tolerance. Miss the cues and get eaten by panic. If you become chronic in avoiding our physiology at this edge, you narrow your territory and become hypervigilant even when no danger is present. You see wolves everywhere and even the most luscious grass is unsatisfying. 

Ignore your physiology in the lower margins of our window of tolerance and important cues about depletion and depression will be missed.This is similar to how birds tend to their nests. Expand this lower edge by recovering intentionally to nourish our stores. Deactivating practices like deep sleep, yoga nidra, meditation, restorative breath, or forest bathing immerse you in supple, intelligent states of repair. This widens your tolerance to stress by helping you stash away resources in our territory for future use.

Checking out isn’t an option. All of nature lives by these simple rules; attend to the body’s needs, engage with survival and recovery to make yourself resilient and capable. If we ignore the edges by rarely exercising or not nourishing our bodies well, the edges of our window of tolerance start creeping inward. Our range of responsiveness narrows to stress and opportunity. 

If you are reading and regulating state well, you know when to recover and when to add strain. You’re likely sleeping deeply, breathing intentionally to create regulated and efficient energy systems, eating real food, moving and recovering well, and your territory is vast. A sharp word, spilled coffee, and unexpected opportunities are easy to manage. Ignore the cues and disengage with your own physiology, and you will pay the price set by Nature’s law.

Chronic stress is really chronic mismanaged physiology, and the lifestyle diseases that prosper in humanity are the result. Culturally, we are being devoured by narrow windows of stress tolerance; like birds without a nest, waiting for someone to bring us a worm. Increased vulnerability to stress is not because the stress is too much. We become vulnerable when we forget to claim the territory of tolerance in our physiology.

Exercise as a Stress Management Tool

Stress is everywhere. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is. What you do, or don’t do, in response to stress is the key. It is unmanaged stress where the issue lies.

By nature, our body is designed to survive and to do so in the most efficient way possible; to use the least amount of energy. If our body is not energy efficient, in times of low energy availability, there will be a problem.

Exercise includes all forms of physical activity from going for a brisk walk to a structured training session and even manual labor. There is no denying that exercise is a stressor. It is stress that triggers the body to adapt. Your body’s primary function is survival. By stressing the tissues, organs, and systems of the body through exercise, they adapt by getting stronger and more efficient so the next time they are stressed they can respond in the most energy-efficient manner possible.

However, dose matters. Too little stress and your body won’t get sufficient stimulus to adapt positively. Too much stress and your body will adapt in ways that may not be of your choosing. Your heart may pump faster as a result of chronically elevated stress hormones and your blood vessels constrict causing blood pressure to rise. Respiration may increase causing respiratory alkalosis and your liver may excrete more glucose to prepare you for the flight or fight that never comes putting you at risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

Once upon a time, stress was associated with physical activity. Humans worked the land and traveled the plains, kids ran around playing hide and seek or play fighting and we occasionally found ourselves facing off or running from predators or enemies.

We may have experienced high levels of acute stress and the resultant fight, flight, freeze responses, but importantly, we also experienced physical activity along with it. All of these activities involved an elevation of our heart rate, increased respiration, the release of stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine and afterward, a release of those feel-good endorphins. 

Importantly, our bodies got to express movement and physical exertion associated with the stress response.

Today, we experience the same physiological responses; elevated heart rate, increased respiratory rate and the release of stress hormones, often without physical activity. Instead of playing hide and seek, we play video games or scroll social media. Instead of working the land, we sit at a desk under fluorescent lights. Instead of facing off with predators, we engage in Twitter arguments.

We get the same physiological fight, flight, freeze responses as our ancestors, but critically without the same expression of movement and physical exertion.   

There are consequences to this lack of physical activity; disease, dysregulation and physical and mental ill-health.

Personally, if I sit in a classroom or office all day, by the evening I am restless, irritated and I feel mentally exhausted. Do that for a few days and I feel mentally and physically spent. I will crave physical activity and movement. It’s in my nature as it is in yours.

When you exercise, you get the all-important physical activity your body needs to help it process and deal with the physiological responses to stress; the things nature gave you to protect and serve you on the understanding that you would continue to maintain a high level of physical activity.

Generally speaking, we no longer move as much as we once did, so we have to rely on more formal methods of physical activity like structured training sessions as well as being mindful of getting as much regular daily movement as we can.

The SH//FT General Human Preparedness (GHP) program is one way you can use exercise to stave off the negative effects of stress from work, relationships…. life.

The GHP program is specifically designed to give you just the right dose of stress to stimulate the adaptations you need to develop and maintain a solid foundation of fitness; to be a generally prepared human.

While structured training sessions are a fantastic way to manage stress, that’s not all there is. Brisk walking is an often overlooked simple form of exercise that can have a dramatic effect on how you think and feel.

The physiological benefits are many. Brisk walking can,

  • -improve cardiac health.
  • -prevent weight gain.
  • -reduce risk of cancer and chronic disease.
  • -improve endurance, circulation, and posture.


Psychologically, brisk walks can,

  • -increase creative output.
  • -boost joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence.
  • -reduce rumination of negative experiences.
  • -improve memory and prevent the deterioration of brain tissue as we age.
  • -relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Brisk walking has the added bonus of getting you outside and off your butt, along with opening up your field of view and getting you into natural light; proven ways of improving relaxation and regulating your circadian rhythm.

Some of the most successful and famous people in the world were known to take long walks at least once a day. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and polymath conducted his lectures while walking the grounds of his school in Athens. Charles Darwin even had a gravel track installed in the grounds of his home. He would walk laps of the track, the number of which depending on the difficulty of the problem he was grappling with.

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

~ Thomas Jefferson


Whether your exercise takes the form of a session of Yoga, slamming iron or simply going for a brisk walk it is essential to your health and well-being. You will experience stress whether you like it or not and one of the keys to managing your stress is regular exercise. Get your heart pumping, breathe a bit more and move your body each and every day in order to manage the stress of modern life. It’s in your nature.

Unnatural Naturalness

The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness. I mean it is a combination of both.
I mean here is natural instinct and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony.
Not if you have one to the extreme, you’ll be very unscientific.
If you have another to the extreme, you become, all of a sudden, a mechanical man
No longer a human being.
It is a successful combination of both.

-Bruce Lee

The greatest superpower and the greatest weakness of humankind is our tremendous capacity for adaptation. Humans can get accustomed to and find a workaround for damn near anything. Our ability to accept the normalcy of any situation and fall into a rhythm of habit and automaticity is a double-edged blade that if not carefully wielded mostly cuts ourselves.

On one hand, our capacity for auto-coping can be a positive trait. Could you imagine every time you had to make some slight change in behavior you had to have an accompanying conscious thought? Not very energy efficient. On the other hand, so much of we do is without direct input from our conscious mind that it can be quite easy to arrive at “how did I get here?” moments. This is a fundamental disconnection from the concept of action and consequence.

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                                                  There is no such thing as a free lunch. All adaptations come with a cost.

For the last 20 years as a manual therapist, coach, and teacher it has been remarkable to bear close witness to the incredible power of human adaptability. I have worked with elite military personnel who had so much compounding movement dysfunction it was a wonder how they could operate at such a high level and accomplish missions with the highest of stakes. On the other end of the spectrum and much earlier in my career, I performed therapy with obese clients with such an array of metabolic problems that I wondered how they even walked into my office that day. It’s truly amazing what the human body can get accustomed to and keep moving forward.

Over the course of my career then I began to take notice of a simple and indelible fact; Nature finds a way. That the solving of problems to propagate forward motion (literally and figuratively) is what the entire system is designed to do and most of that adaptation happens without our conscious knowledge or input. Our physiology is constantly shifting in accordance with the messages we send; consciously or not. Even if you didn’t do that thing “on-purpose” every choice, every behavior compounds towards an adaptive tipping point that can suddenly seem as though, “it came out of nowhere”. There is in effect, no NOT ADAPTING.

Whether or not an adaptation or a set of adaptations is positive is simply a matter of temporality. All adaptations have their origin in one simple idea — a problem needs to be solved. I suppose it’s possible to say that an adaptation is largely positive if it solves the problem at hand but then the question becomes, how many more problems does it create as a consequence? Coping mechanisms, by example, are psychological adaptations that help protect us from psychological stress — some are good, like the development of a sense of humor, and some not so good like compulsive behavioral disorders. What’s the difference? The number of additional problems that are potentially created downstream.

So then, it behooves us to develop an awareness of the direction our adaptive “choices” are taking us and to answer the question — is this where I want to go? It’s like navigating a ship with a heading, there are checkpoints charted along the way to be sure the ship stays on course. The principle of adaptive checkpoints is applicable to nearly infinite layers of the human experience but easiest to see and feel in the realm of the physical. In human performance, a vast array of metrics are used to determine these checkpoints; on the performance side force, speed, acceleration, and agility are used and on the “recovery” side resting heart rate and heart rate variability let athletes and coaches know if they are on the right track.

While these checkpoints can be incredibly helpful it’s important that we do not get stuck on the checkpoints and the droll minutia of data analytics. We currently live in a cultural climate where we can measure more than ever before. The upside to this kind of data collection is that we can quantify if we are making meaningful changes. Conversely, though it’s a serious mistake to think that our means of data collection are free from flaw and the failure to realize that any data, however accurate the collection itself — still has to pass through the psychological filter of the human reading it. It is very important to realize that “science” is a process of investigation, discovery, and validation and does not represent the whole TRUTH as it were. Only Mother Nature and Father Time hold all of the cards.

Over time the combination of internal feel and external checkpoints can flow together into what is commonly referred to as — awareness. Learning to broadly apply this understanding, I would argue, is the deepest of practices the end of which is seen only in death. “Feel” is in effect, the sum of all sensory input flowing through our filter. Learning to feel deeply is important if we are to contribute to the trajectory of our adaptation(s) but not without some data to corroborate our internal narrative. The subjective and objective dance of adaptability metrics creates an elegant system of checks and balances that can help us achieve more significant levels of awareness into how our own behavior shapes our reality.

Adaptation is not a law of Nature it is THE law of Nature. The question here is what is your level of participation in your own adaptation? Living a life of conscious adaptation means actively participating in the trajectory of your own development, but not so much that you become “a mechanical man, no longer a human being.” Instead, learning to ride the crests and troughs can yield a beautifully imperfect state of natural unnaturalness.

Symptoms as Signals, Discomfort as Doorway

Disclaimer; certain conditions require medications, talk to a doctor about your options.

Symptoms are uncomfortable by nature, designed to make us pay attention. They are signals from an intelligent, self-sensing, self-healing body and learning to listen can help us truly heal and perform better than ever.

Let’s say you eat a berry that causes you to vomit. Rather than learn not to pick that kind again, the Western approach tends to treat symptoms as problems to be fixed or talked through. If we could, we would create a pill that makes us able to eat the berry without vomiting rather than live without something we feel entitled to enjoy, or we would go to talk therapy to understand what it is about our past that makes us unable to enjoy the berry. In the end, the fruit is still toxic, and we should probably pick something else.

Learning to trust that those symptoms are signals helps us detect problems earlier, heal the root cause of illness and trauma, and make leaps in our performance. If we suppress these internal messages, we can exacerbate underlying problems and narrow our options over time. 


Medicating Our Way Out

Anxiety is a natural response to stress. This deep psycho-emotional mechanism is a signal that our stress response is firing and should be listened to. The medications prescribed for anxiety can keep us from flipping our lid, but don’t teach us the skill of calming ourselves down. 

Medication can fail, cause side effects, and dull our senses. We start to miss important cues and can’t feel the edge until we’re right on it. When we use the voluntary breath to calm anxiety, we gain situational awareness and agency over our bodies. 

Breath research shows voluntary breath to be our most effective intrinsic tool to master the nervous system. With breath, we rewire our brains to better assess the needs creating the symptom, and solve problems creatively. With practice, we become in tune with our bodies to know where we are on a spectrum of arousal, gaining abilities to navigate our state before anxiety can grip us. 

Our collective anxiety is stemming from issues we can solve if we regulate through it. Imagine what we can do if we face these problems as self-regulated masters of our bodies? We can be calm, smart, creative, active participants in changing our healthcare, policing practices, and economic options. But not if we’re numbing and narrowing options in reactivity to it all. 


Talk Therapy

Psychology is great for excavating material from the past and understanding things about ourselves and the world. Talk therapy alone, however, can leave us stuck in the story, justifying our discomfort. We analyze ourselves for having symptoms and miss the process of healing in the body, where the symptoms live. 

The body holds our memories of suffering and can be an uncomfortable place. When traumatic memories surface, the body recalls how it survived and goes into fight, flight, or freeze reactions. The past is suddenly present. This makes associated places, smells, and situations difficult to move through in daily life. When the survival mechanisms start their process, we tend to stay reactive and run from the body to the mind to talk about it. We’ve practiced rationalizing the pain. That’s the moment to stop fondling the analysis and breathe into the body’s reactions. We can participate with physiology through breath and embodied practices to regulate state. This trains the body to restore resources when activated by the trauma. Instead of repeated reactivation and self-judgment, we carve empowered associations with the triggers. 

Getting the brain reconnected to the body in this way allows us to learn from experiences without feeling victimized by them. We can bring in the mind’s analysis once we’ve resolved the physiology in the moment. Through this approach, we shift from asking ‘why did this happen to me’ to ‘how did this happen for me?’


Trusting the Signals

Rather than dull the symptoms, sensitivity should be the goal. The more we can engage with our internal cues, the more we can fine-tune the instrument of the body. Rather than a numbing dependency, the side effects of sensitive responsiveness to signals are presence, learning, and adaptation. With practice, you create lifestyle changes to meet your unique needs. You build confidence and trust in the body that helps widen your tolerance to stress.

We are self-sensing and have bodies that heal, minds that recover. Healing requires active participation with techniques that guide us into the body, not away from it. The moment a symptom disrupts life, we can breathe. Take ownership of the body and agency over options. Pain is not the same as suffering, and the messages inside the pain can guide us toward actions that will help us feel better and optimize our lives. 




Understanding the Past Pt. 1

Freedom exists in those willing to understand it. 


Currently we struggle deeply to witness our history, and tell it through the lens of all those who experienced it. This creates a separation of not only facts but an inability to understand empathy. Empathy is humanity’s greatest solution, and even the greatest war fighters and generals need to understand empathy or they risk losing the ability to understand their enemies and potentially, their next moves. We avoid the painful facts of our history for its counterpart, suffering. 

Modern life has created some rather fantastic ways of being whatever it is we may want to though! With an internet filled with more education and research than any one person could ever digest in a lifetime. A social experience that provides an opportunity to share and listen to anyone, anywhere in the world. The ability to move to the opposite side of the planet and still stay connected to our families. We can create and shop for any sort of food choice we may have in most parts of the world. Modern medicines that have wiped out plagues, and disease that ravaged society. Advances that could not have even been dreamed of. So why do we struggle so hard? 

One of the most detailed accounts of American History was done on what is truly the last frontier, The Great Plains, many of the Indigenous Peoples that lived there, and the culture of The Comanche Indians. This was broken down even further to the final stand of its half breed leader Quannah Parker; the son of Cynthia Ann Parker. The Comanche (Quahadi) were the last of what is considered one of the greatest warrior cultures this continent or planet had to offer. The importance here is in an almost impossibility to living that was done on purpose by a culture of human beings. This is all documented with one of the most detailed bibliographies I’ve ever seen in S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon

The Comanche have never been matched in terms of ability on a horse, their ability to hunt off horseback, fight off that horse and they were still brutally good on foot. They were thriving in a world that demanded survival, and although they are considered as barbaric in some respects as the Mongols and Ghengis Khan, what they were capable of in covering ground, fighting, environmental exposure, and ability to thrive in a world European settlers had no idea how to navigate was unheard of and feared. They would be the final solution in the genocide of The Native American people. A hard fact we struggle to teach today by breezing through our poor decisions as a nation. Many of the ideas and ways of life could easily have been learned about and progressed on for environmental issues, and even health, something that is now showing us lessons we needed to learn. 

Our current educational system is one that totes intellectualism as the foundation of a society that grows more bankrupt by the second in not only it’s own financial debt, but its denial of cultural dismissal. Men and women immortalized for monopolizing a system we become indebted to through consumerism and our own misunderstanding of responsibility. We have a system that has weight on a medical establishment that has nothing to do with health care and everything to do with the business of addiction. Well meaning people jump into Medical school ready to help people suffering, and are beaten to a pulp by the business of medicine. We’ve sacrificed our health, as comfort and convenience erode at our ability to understand basic physiological problems that show up in our inability to simply sleep without a narcotic or alcohol, or basic human movement. Things as simple as going for a daily walk to improve basic aerobic function can’t be met. Our desire for now, and more has exceeded our ability to listen and learn. 

Education should never stop, and it should not be met with restrictions as to which direction we choose to go. The idea of a certificate meaning I’m creditable, is laughable, and yet we all get in line. Our education is one of specialization and laudation of institutions. Human beings are generalists, and damn good ones. The ability to critically think without the ability to move or function at our highest potential is the equivalent of a gun with no ammunition. It certainly is scary, and shouldn’t be pointed at anyone, but ultimately worthless, and all bark. Not to mention those of us who don’t know that it is an empty gun becoming obedient to the system and person yielding that unloaded weapon. 

Today the lack of skin-in-the-game for the intellectual is astounding. We hold professionals on pedestals that they couldn’t lift themselves on, nor survive a single day of hard labor at the bottom floor of their own industries on, and yet they suffer as many do today from diseases that are the byproduct of simply not moving enough, and sticking too much in their mouths; anxiety, depression, obesity, metabolic disorders all directly related to the inactivity of the modern “genius”. We are a culture of save me, and zero responsibility, and a little more than 100 years ago most people refused to let anything or anyone “cure them” of their way of life. 



The Evolution of SH//FT

SH//FT was born out of decades of experience in the field of human performance.  While in search of best practices in training and recovery we found that at a fundamental level people are disconnected from the forces of nature that determine the outcomes they desire.  Over the years our approach evolved from focusing on athletic performance alone to the broader process that applies to the evolution of anybody looking to improve their own quality of life; the process of stress and adaptation.  

If we ultimately wish to harness this process it is essential that we become connected to the way we experience stress and whether or not we benefit from our behavior as a result.  At SH//FT our purpose is to help you uncover the tools given to you by Nature and take the reigns of our ability to make stress into our superpower.


“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor Frankl


This powerful quote from Viktor Frankl inspired the central piece of our logo.  The // in the SH//FT represents the space between stimulus and response.  The place where we can choose how stress affects us.  Where we can choose how to take part in our own evolution. 

Our progression through CrossFit Endurance, then PowerSpeedEndurance and the Art of Breath has led to the culmination of a lifestyle and a philosophy that transcends sport and performance.

In the realm of human performance cycles of stress and outcome are more obvious and arrive faster.  This presents a unique opportunity to see how a large variety of people and more importantly patterns shift our reactions to the stressors we encounter; planned or not.

Over time our experience has been distilled to bring a unified approach to the optimized human and help you on your journey to be the best you possible.  Underlying the best practices in this realm was the principle of connection.  

At SH//FT our purpose is to help you discover how you connect to your own internal resources and leverage them to enhance performance and live a healthier and happier life.