Nicole: Hi and welcome to the Pain Free podcast with me Nicole Parsons and my guest today is …
Mike: Mike Turner, very pleased to be here.
Nicole: Lovely, really lovely to have you here, Mike.
Mike: Thank you.
Nicole: I’m actually really looking forward to today. Mike has been one of my longest term clients, she’s been with The Egoscue Method and myself, as a client, for the last 13 to 14 years, starting his journey in about 2005.
Mike: Well, seems like ages ago now.
Nicole: Yeah, it seems like ages ago and also kind of five minutes ago. I think it’ll be lovely just to find out a little bit, for people to hear a little bit about the beginning of your journey and kind of what brought you to Egoscue in the first place. So it was when I was working at the Windsor Leisure Centre and you were a member at the Windsor Leisure Centre and what was it that initially interested you in Egoscue or thought, “I might like to have a go at that?”
Mike: Well, how I discovered Egoscue, gosh, that’s a long story. The initial issue had been I had long term sciatica problem. I didn’t even know what sciatica was. But I knew I had been suffering for several years with a pain in my right leg and it was becoming a real nuisance. I couldn’t sit down for more than an hour without having to get up and move around and it was very painful. It was only when I was getting changed in the changing room one day and I was making exclamations, I went forward to tie my shoes and somebody said, “Oh, that’s sciatica.” So I looked it up and went to see a physiotherapist who said, “Oh yeah, I can fix that.”
And after six weeks, she said, “Ah, it’s obviously more than I thought. Go and see a surgeon. Don’t bother about seeing anybody else first. Here’s the best person, I know what it is. Just call your doctor, say you want a referral and go and see him.” So to cut a very long story short, he said, “Yes, you’ve got a problem.” I had a bit of my disc that was sticking out and pressing the sciatic nerve. He said, “Yes, I can do a little operation on that, fix it up straight away, but your back is completely shot. So I’ll see you again in five years’ time.” So I had the operation and it was very, very successful, completely eradicated the problem.
However, although this was a very nice surgeon, I didn’t want to have to see them again in five years’ time. And because I was a regular member at the Windsor Leisure Centre and I’d seen Nicole working as a PT with a personal trainer with other people within the facility and I also knew she did this thing called Egoscue, whatever that was. But I knew it was to do with posture alignment and I felt that this was something that could help me. So we had a chat and we started working on some exercises, excuse me, and I could immediately see the benefit of that and hence, it became my way of life to actually follow this program. And I must say, it’s been very, very successful.
Nicole: It’s been a great journey Mike and I think the thing that you’ve really highlighted to me, is that you’ve really taken Egoscue on without knowing of what is this Egoscue word but knowing that there was something in posture alignment that might be helpful. And then you’ve actually taken this and made it a way of life and that with Egoscue, rather than it being a quick fix or a, you know, let’s just get my back better. What I see is you have always been very, very active physically with training in the gym, with gym functional training, but also a very active life, busy, arts gallery that you run with your … or ran with your wife and just lots of activities.
So it was bringing it in to keep everything, all this engagement in life, making sure that your body was there to support you, to be able to do everything that you wanted to do in this lovely full, full life. So what have been the back … So you knew you had a back pain issue, you knew that it was sciatica and you were really looking at this from a preventative perspective. What has it been about Egoscue that has motivated you to keep it going as part of your life? What are the benefits that you find on a long term basis? So we’ve been through an initial therapy process that has reset your body, reduced and relieved the pain, but then there’s something that was interesting to keep you going on for 14 years.
Mike: Well, I think the interesting thing, I mean, why have I continued doing this? To start off with, even when I had the sciatica problem I still was a regular gym member. And in fact, the exercise wasn’t the issue. It was more the rest of my life was the issue, in terms of body positioning. I had done yoga in the past, so I knew all about yoga. I feel I’m aware of my body and what I need to do and through yoga exercises and the breathing exercises that you use in Yoga. And although I don’t meditate, I feel I follow a sort of meditative path. But for me, the whole thing about Egoscue is it has to be part of your life. You can’t do it as a gym exercise, it’s got to be pretty much a fundamental philosophy. I think, fortunately for me, I am the sort of person who’s quite good at self motivation.
I’m actually a bit of an evangelist for the Egoscue Program, but people I talk to about it and who do make initial contact, often fall by the wayside and I can … even people I do talk to, who I think could benefit, I can see they are not really going to benefit because they don’t look at these things on a long term basis. They want a quick fix and although this will fix you quite quickly, you’ll lapse back if you don’t keep at it. So for me, the benefit is that I both do the Egoscue, which is the sort of posture alignment part and gets everything in the right place.
But I also try and follow an exercise program that keeps the core strength going. And so once you’ve got everything in the right place, it will stay there. And I mean, it’s taken years to get to that point and so the fact that it’s been 15 years doesn’t surprise me. I’m hoping, in another 15 years I will still be as good as I am now and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be, as long as you keep the program up. So I think my advice to anybody who wants to engage in Egoscue, is certainly check it out and see what it can do for you. But also, get your mind around the fact that this is going to be part of your life and it’s not a big deal.
I mean I do my program maybe three times a week, four times a week, so I don’t do it every day, I do it in short bursts. I mean some … I might do a half hour program or something or an hour or an hour and a half depending on the time. And it’s quite easy to do really if you fit it into your regime. Fortunately, when I was self employed and also now I’m retired, I was able to give myself an hour a day to do it. For somebody who’s got a busy life, it might be more difficult. But for me, and this sort of comes onto one’s personal philosophy on well being is you have a limited time on this planet and you’ve only got this body to live it in, so you better well look after it is my view.
Nicole: I think that’s absolutely perfect Mike. That is … you’ve really encapsulated how to look after our body in this 21st century environment. Yes, you will get results quickly with pain relief with Egoscue and what I see that you have seen, is that this is your self care for your musculoskeletal system. This is the way that you found to keep your body aligned, healthy and supporting you and absolutely, you’re on a maintenance program now. So this is kind of a … and you’ve taken it on wholeheartedly as a lifelong maintenance program. So after going through the initial therapy process of doing your exercises every single day, and taking yourself from understanding how your posture is out of balance, knowing which exercises you need to do to reset your body and getting to the point where your body is reset and I mean your photos speak for themselves, Mike.
If we look back to those initial photos and your … the alignment that you had then, you had quite a strong, what’s called kyphosis in your upper back, which I know you know, but what that means is that there was a strong rounding in your upper back, which was putting a huge amount of pressure on, through the spine and on and on your lower back. And when I take your photos for your maintenance session now, you are straight through the plumb line, your shoulder blades are coming together at the back and really, you do have a one posture and that’s not a miracle. That’s because you have been consistent and you have worked at it. But I would venture, would we even be able to say that it’s enjoyable?
Mike: Oh, definitely. I still follow Yoga. I do a yoga class every week and it’s interesting how because obviously the link between Yoga and Egoscue is very strong, that I feel I can do most of the stuff that’s thrown at me there and I can certainly see that a lot of my postures have really, really improved. So yeah, I’ve sort of forgotten the question, I sort of went off on a bit of a tangent.
Nicole: Yeah, sure, just saying is it … it’s become part of your life and you’ve seen the benefits in relieving your symptoms and then being able to do more in the rest of your life. The question was, is it enjoyable? Is it something … I suppose a different way to put it is, do you find doing your Egoscue exercises a chore?
Mike: Well I suppose the desired answer is, “No, it’s fine. It was fine.” But the reality is-
Nicole: I would love the honest answer, yeah.
Mike: Well, the reality is that it’s not unpleasurable The thing … my view on doing this, is it’s not that I find there’s a discomfort or there’s an annoyance or just time taken when you could be doing something else. It’s very much a focused activity and you know the end result is going to be a good result. So from that point of view, it’s pleasurable. It’s almost like going on a long cycle ride or something like that, you’re putting lots of effort into it. But you see lovely scenery, you have the wind in your face and you enjoy it and you feel great afterwards. So I think that’s a long term thing, I don’t feel it gives me a buzz doing it, but-
Nicole: They’re not exciting exercises, are they Mike?
Mike: No, but a lot of it is quite relaxing. Some of it is quite strenuous, but I think it’s the bigger picture, which is where you see the benefits, then you get the pleasure from it. Because the fact that I can go on a long car journey and I don’t have to get out of every hour and walk around for 20 minutes is great. So that’s the pleasurable thing and just the fact that I feel my body is as good as it could be for my age. So that’s another great thing.
Nicole: Do you mind divulging your age Mike? I know it’s-
Mike: No, I’m 66.
Nicole: I was going to say, I know we shouldn’t ask ladies, but …
Mike: There’s one thing I’d like to say actually, which … and again, I think this is because I’m the sort of person that I’ve been doing the program long enough. I understand it, I understand what it can do for me and I could see the benefits if I do, do it because about five years ago, so 10 years after my first back problem and operation, there was an incident. I don’t know what it was, but all of a sudden I had exactly the same back thing back again. In fact, it was much worse this time and I could hardly walk, I had to walk with a stick. So I went and saw … unfortunately my nice back surgeon had moved on. So I went to another back surgeon who said, “Ah yes, that looks like exactly the same thing again.” Did MRI scans, this, that and the other and so said, “Well, I’ll see you in 10 days’ time when I’ve got all this information back.”
Anyway, so in that 10 days I thought, right, well I’m going to do a focused Egoscue. So every single day, in fact, twice a day actually, I was following the program that Nicole had given me. And in 10 days’ time, I walked into the surgeon’s office and said, “Well, have you got my results?” And he couldn’t believe it. Compared when, the first time when I hobbled in on a stick. So he said, “Well actually, I can see that there is a shadow on the MRI scan, which shows where this disc problem is, but it doesn’t look quite as bad and I don’t want to operate because I don’t particularly want to have to go into the same place again because it only just deteriorates the whole bloody situation there. So just carry on doing what you’re doing.” Well, within another 10 day I was right as rain. So I made another appointment to come and see Nicole and just changed the program a bit and haven’t had any recurrence since then, so it’s great.
Nicole: And that’s what I love Mike, about your story, is that it’s not about sort of this miracle cure that suddenly you were fixed and that nothing ever happened to you ever again in the whole of your life. It’s highlighting the fact that this is a system and just my correct and just to clarify that, when you had the back issue, you actually just did the exercises that you already had from me. I believe you only came and you came to see me after the initial 10 day period, where you had already resolved your own back issue with the Egoscue exercises, your understanding of your body, your understanding of the exercises and then came to me to say, “Well, I just need a bit of a checkup and should we just make sure I’m on track?” For me, that is … as a therapist and also the whole point of this process is self-empowerment. The fact that you don’t need me Mike, is actually the whole point.
That over this … the initial period, where we got you pain free and you really learnt about the method and the exercises that are right for your body. Since then, you’ve sort of been coming once every three months, six months, sometimes once a year, depending on where you’re at. And I know that when I’m not seeing you, I feel completely confident that you are managing your body, that you are … and you’ve had other little sort of discomforts and things come up. But you’ve just said, “Okay, I’ll either increase the frequency, I’m on maintenance program, I’m doing it three times a week, I’m feeling some kind of discomfort, I will then do it every day. Oh, and it works itself through.” So is this self empowerment and you really having control of the process and me taking this very much backseat of just being here, just for reference and consultation. To retake your photos, check you’re on track, reassess things and make some little tweaks here and there.
But that’s really all I’m doing. That’s really what I’ve done over the last sort of at least 10 years I would say. And it’s just a absolute ringing indictment of how you have taken this on and really understand it as a fundamental principle and this long term way of life, that if you do the exercises today, like brushing your teeth, you feel better in that moment after you’ve done them. And also this long term plan that you know that if you brush your teeth every day already, on a regular basis, that in 10 years time, in 20 years time, in 30 years time you are still going to have that health. And I see that you are as healthy today, at 66, that you were, if not more healthy than you were when I met you, 13, 14 years ago. The fact that this is underpinning all of the activities you want to take on.
Mike: Yeah, I’m an engineer by career and so I have a very logical view of things and I’m always very skeptical about any instant fixes. So when Egoscue was presented to me, I had thought, not too sure about this. But I did know about yoga, I did know about Pilates, I had done both of those. I did know about the Alexander Technique and it struck me that there seemed to be a combination of all of those things. So I thought, well, actually, there’s a sound basis for this.
But you’re absolutely right, I think … my view on this is it’s something you just have to follow and the benefit is a course, that you are getting feedback all the time from your body to say, “Yeah, this is good.” So if you do feel a tweak or something, then it’s now, “Oh, okay, I need to do something.” I can’t say I’m without back pain forever and ever and ever because of some of the things I do. At the end of the day, I do feel a bit creaky in my back. But if I do three or four different exercises from my extensive knowledge now, of The Egoscue Program, that it can fix it up and the next day I’m up and bounding around, as good as ever, so that’s great.
Nicole: Yeah and it is, it’s that it’s taking it on as a life skill, isn’t it? We’re not taught about our body at school or anywhere else in our life. We’re not taught about how our musculoskeletal system works and then we’re not, we’re also not taught about our individual body. So with the Egoscue system it is so much this process for education of saying, “Well, this is how the system works. There’s eight load bearing joints and they are beholden to gravity and when they are correctly aligned, we are pain free and we have an amazing system that works beautifully in a strong, functional, flexible and I’m pain free.”
And once you start to understand how the system works and how your body works and you’ve got the exercises, then this is just a life skill that you’re taking, that you’re taking through life. I suppose the other thing that occurs to me is that we don’t do anything that wastes our time. There’s that instant feedback and there’s that instant benefit and feeling within your body that it feels better, which is … I think that’s the other motivating factor for sort of doing these on an ongoing basis. And you’ve been very active and I know that even six years ago, 10 years ago, you were doing things in the gym that people 10, 20 years your junior were not able to do from a functional perspective.
So we’re not talking about you lifting heavy weights, we’re talking about functional movements and functional training that you’ve done over the years. So also The Egoscue Method is a, or postural alignment is a foundation. You’ve mentioned that your Yoga poses, you could get more out of your yoga poses. So when you have that foundation of postural alignment, whatever movement system you put on top of that, you will get more benefit from, because your body is in a good loading position, your muscles are balanced and engaging as they should do. So it’s just priming yourself for then doing all the fun stuff that I love doing.
Mike: That’s right, well it’s interesting this thing and again, I suppose about how we use our bodies today than how they were used 5,000 years ago because I can put my body in some, what modern people might say is strange positions, i.e. just squatting down, working, that I feel totally comfortable with. But other people of similar ages can’t squat at all, they can’t stand up in a cross legged position, et cetera, et cetera, which is … I’m not criticizing them, but I’m just saying this is the benefit for me that because my body does have this freedom of movement it just makes life so much easier.
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely and you’re absolutely … That’s a really lovely point, that looking at your contemporaries, your peers across your age group, if you look generally, across society, there is a huge amount more dysfunction and pain and symptoms and it gets correlated with age. So we think, well once we get to 60 plus, then we must expect that we’re going to have more pain symptoms of what is going to break down. I think what I’m hearing … and what I’m hearing from you, which just there’s … it feels really true and honest. That you’re not saying that you never have an ache or pain or your muscles are not stiff. But if we look at your contemporaries, the level of stiffness or anything that you feel in your body is quite significantly different, which allows you to do all the wonderful things you do. And just be lovely to hear a little bit, Mike because I know that because you’ve got such a full life. So I’ve seen you go from running a wonderful, very busy and successful … is art gallery the right term?
Mike: Yeah, art gallery is fine. I’ll accept that.
Nicole: Which I frequented often, to retiring and moving into this next phase of your life. And that was one of the other reasons why I was really looking forward to having you on this podcast because you are a wonderful example of what I would call eldership. And we’ve spoken about this and I clarified the fact that I wasn’t calling you old, than what I mean by eldership is that in our society today, we don’t tend to take the wisdom of people who have life experience. And that doesn’t mean you need to be old. You can be an elder and be in your 20s, 30s, 40s. But I see you as a wonderful example of an elder, who has transitioned through life.
And not saying that it’s been … we’re not making a rose tinted view here. Obviously life has its ups and downs and you’ve had it all sorts of experiences in your life. However, what I see that is very consistent, is that you are continually engaged in life. Your attitude and outlook is always very positive and also realistic. So I don’t see you saying, “Oh, everything’s just wonderful all the time.” But even when life throws you lemons or a curve ball, you approach it with a head on realism and practicality that I find incredibly inspiring and refreshing. And it’d be lovely just to hear a little bit about your transition into retirement and the very full life that you have and just a little bit about your philosophy on that.
Mike: Well, my philosophy on life, gosh.
Nicole: Small question Mike.
Mike: Yeah, I have to sort of go back in time here a little bit because well, first of all, my career has been as an electronics engineer and then although I’ve done 1,001 other things. I think this has, I have this sort of mind that looks for detail and understanding. Second to that is that I did have a major wobbly in my life, in my early thirties and it put me in a very poor mental position. I took to running because I felt when I was out running I could really focus on what was going on around me and just being part of the moment and exercising and seeing and just being myself. Today of course, that’s now marketed as mindfulness, but this was well, 30 years, 40 years ago and I don’t think anybody had come up with that term at the time. But that’s what I did and I thought, “I’m okay. My life is not great and I don’t think much of some of the people that have put me in this position.
However, there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m as good as anybody else. And let’s face it, we’re all made at the same stuff. So why should anybody be any better than I am?” So that’s a very arrogant attitude to have, but that was the foundation for my value structure. So when I found in my employed life that things I felt it could be better for myself. I didn’t hesitate to leave my job and to set up a business with my wife, Jacqueline, and we ran that business for nearly 25 years and absolutely loved it. Great thing was that we had our own roles within the business and so we could work quite well together, which people find difficult sometimes. So we were together 24/7. We had our home life together, we had our work life together, and one of the key things that we felt important, was to get some regular exercise.
And so we started going to the gym and we started swimming and then we started gyming. So our routine for the day, was to jump out of bed, cycle to the gym, ridiculously only five minutes away. Spend an hour at the gym, come home, have breakfast, open the shop at 10:00. That was our routine in life, so when it came to retiring, I must say, I was more keen to retire than Jacqueline because I felt I had a list of things that I wanted to do whilst I was fit and healthy and despite following the Egoscue program, one knows that this isn’t necessarily going to last forever, so let’s get in there quickly. The great thing for both my wife and I was that we didn’t mind being in each other’s company. I know for some retirees this is sometimes a challenge because one person has predominantly been at home and the other person is suddenly there 24/7 and they can’t quite understand how to work together.
Nicole: So big transition, yeah?
Mike: That was a really positive thing. The other thing goes back to my just general view on life, which is why be miserable? Throughout my sort of gainful employment career, I absolutely loved every second of my life because I was really interested in what I was doing. And when I got bored, I said, right, I want to do something else and I did do something else. I was fortunate to work within the same company, but they responded to my request to do something else in quite challenging ways sometimes. But I always took up the challenge and I was always very pleased. So I think I’ve always liked change, so when we retired and I could take out my list of things I wanted to do, it was just, this is brilliant, I can just get on with this.
Now, interestingly enough, I see less of Jacqueline now, my wife, than I did when we were working together, but that’s okay. I think this … I’m definitely a half full person, so although things, they’re not constantly perfect, you just look at the challenge ahead, figure out what you’re going to do and just get on with it. And you can just work through all of these things. I think being physically active is very important. I think that just keeps your head clear, really and helps you think through things. I think, as an engineer, I look for solutions and so when a challenge places itself in front of you, sort of relationship, emotional, financial, whatever, it’s like, “Well, what’s the solution to this?”
What is the solution you want? I think, sadly, a lot of people don’t think about that, they don’t actually face up to situations and they don’t think what the positive outcome is and then work towards it. Sometimes they do the run away method and I think I’ve been guilty of the run away methodology of problem solution in the past. But I know that it doesn’t work, so I’ve learned from that and so you just have to address these things. I’d feel myself very much a Peter Pan Character, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up and so, age is a strange thing. People say it’s just a number, I definitely don’t feel like the 66 year old person and I don’t even think about that actually. I just think I’m me, I do the things I like to do. I don’t mind being different from people, I just enjoy life and life is very enjoyable.
Nicole: Absolutely Mike, and you are one of the youngest people that I know and that’s what really shines through, is that … And I do actually think you might be getting younger and one of the things with the transition into retirement, is I really did see you … I’ve seen you enjoy everything in your life, whatever phase it has been. But there was definitely kind of a blossoming and I think you’ve just explained to me why, was there was this list of things that you really wanted to do and you were like, “Great, now this is my time. I can get into these things.” And I’ve seen an even more engaged, in joy … engaged and enjoyable attitude coming, that I’ve seen through you.
So what I see that’s really helpful is that you seem to have a really strong sense of self. And as you said, you’ve been through some difficulties in your life and made a firm decision of I’m going to live my life wholeheartedly and fully and for me and look at what I want to do and then go and create it. And that’s what I’ve seen you do in lots of different aspects of your life is just you’ve said, “Well, what would I love to do? Okay, well does that look possible? I’m not sure. Okay, let’s see what the solution is.” And I think that would be the kind of how I’d sum it up, is that looking at it and saying the question is, “What is the solution?” It doesn’t matter what the question is.
Mike: I think when I talk to some of my peers, they do say they don’t know what to do on a day by day basis. Now, I find that absolutely astonishing because I’ve got more than enough to do. In fact, my poor old list of things I want to do, it’s probably got maybe one tick on it because every day there’s something else that comes up, and you think, “Oh yeah, that’s interesting.” This is a not so good thing about me because I think I’m a bit of a butterfly in these things. In that I find it quite easy to be distracted by something else that looks new and interesting, which is why I’ve always, from a working point of view, other than when we had our own business, I’ve always changed my job every three years. But today, I see that as a good thing because I have my projects that I’m working on and each one of those I try and spend a decent amount of time on. But constantly people are presenting new opportunities to do things and it’s like, “Oh, actually, that sounds quite interesting.” And that’s great. Yeah, it just keeps mind and spirit going.
Nicole: It does, and I would actually see … I just see you as someone who’s very creative. So that butterfly thing is actually just that you are full ideas, and you’re very good at creating things, but you’re good at creating them. You’re not necessarily the person who then implements them for the next 20 years. You create something, you work with it and then you move on to the next thing and that is just the creative nature. So I do think it’s a really positive thing and I think it’s, you know yourself and you understand how you work and you understand how you engage with things and you flow with that. Yeah, absolutely.
Mike: I think I’ve told you about my philosophy on life. There’s things I would suggest to others, who are finding things challenging is what you just said is know yourself and that is a very difficult thing to do that. I think that if you do follow things like yoga, things like Egoscue, fairly simple things that just help your mind become a bit more focused and believe in yourself, then I think that can really bring along some self motivation and then you can start to move forward. It doesn’t matter what your hobby is going to be, but just enjoy it and get on with it.
Nicole: Absolutely, absolutely. The other thing that I do see with you, Mike, that also can be very helpful, is balance. So the schedule that you have, you volunteer at the Bike Hub Charity and you’re looking at doing another project, volunteering. You have a very well engaged family social structure. You do all of your exercise, you make time for your Egoscue exercises, you make time and you also have time in your schedule to make sure you’re doing things for you.
So there’s this balance that I see across your life that it is very full, but you are enjoying every aspect of it and you’re making sure there’s space for everything. No one thing takes everything else over, so I would actually say that, another thing that’s very inspiring about you is knowing who you are, following your own path. And as you said, not being worried about being different from other people, just being who you are and doing what you want to do for the joy of it, for the sheer joy. I want to do that because I enjoy it and then having that balance across life. I do genuinely find you an inspiration Mike, so …
Mike: Thank you very much.
Nicole: It’s been really lovely to speak to you today and thank you so much for sharing your journey with Egoscue and a little bit about your journey with life. I really do believe and hope that people will find that there’ll be something there that they can find for themselves that is going to be inspirational and helpful.
Mike: Good. Well, thank you very much. It’s been very enjoyable talking about myself.
Nicole: Our favorite subject.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so thank you again.
Nicole: Yeah, you’re welcome.