Foundations: Building Resilience

Patient:  “I feel great!”

[Long pause… furrowed brow]

Patient:  “What do I do now?”

Bill:  “Establish a foundation of resilience, and then build resistance.”

Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as the ability to become strong, healthy, and more successful again after something bad happens. It also includes the ability of something to return to its original shape is pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc. I think when we consider the goal of making your comeback to the gym or whatever your desired level of activity may be, these definitions fit our purpose well.

Whether we’re coming back from an injury or if we’re trying to recapture our health after a prolonged layoff from sports or the gym, it’s inevitable that we will lose some of the physical qualities that made movement or exercise enjoyable. What was once easy now seems much more difficult. Thankfully, in many cases, we can recoup these qualities and regain our resilience once more.

We can divide resilience into three components:  variability, adaptability, and recoverability. These components are foundation upon which you will not only regain the ability to move well but begin to improve your resistance to the physical and psychological challenges of exercise and daily activities.


Variability represents your ability to change. Of the common signs associated with any form of lost capabilities is the loss of variability of the many systems in our body that keep us healthy. For instance, high blood pressure represents a lack of variability or perhaps a better descriptor is its opposite, rigidity in the cardiovascular system. Instead of blood pressure fluctuating or changing as it should with activity and rest, it remains high all the time.

Our movement system may become more rigid resulting in discomfort or pain, but our entire health may be compromised by our inability to change. Humans are designed to be movers and how well we move on the outside may very well represent how healthy we are on the inside. Therefore, our first goal is to “unlock” your system and restore your movement variability.

Adaptability represents your ability to adjust to new conditions or new demands. Once your system is capable of change and effective movement, your goal is to enhance your resilience by improving your capacity, strength, and power. Capacity development allows you to resist fatigue. Fatigue can alter the way we move and make tasks seem more difficult than they should be. Strength enhances our ability to move ourselves easily and increases our tolerance to all stressors. Power may be our more coveted ability. It improves our ability to move efficiently, decisively, and quickly. This provides not only elements of athleticism to walk, run, or jump that we may desire to regain, but it also adds a protective effect against potential injury or pain.

Recoverability represents your ability to consistently restore energy; rebuild, protect, and transform your body; and easily rebound from increased stress. Low energy levels reduce your ability to stay motivated and to make good decisions including those that affect your health. Energy is restored through effective rest and sleep strategies. A properly structured nutritional program will not only transform your body to support the maintenance of essential muscle and reduce body fat, but it will also protect your body against potential sources of degeneration and disease. Stress is cumulative. Physical and psychological stressors add up and may cause your body to respond negatively by reducing your ability to move well or move comfortably. Learning self-regulation strategies reduces the overall impact of all stressors and makes it easier to bounce back when you’re feeling overwhelmed as we all do at times.

Resilience represents our foundation for success upon which we can structure all other qualities. It is step one.

More to come.

Check out this TED talk from Daniel Wolpert as he describes the true purpose for our brains.



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