INdependence or INTERdependence?

As my home country Finland is celebrating its 100th day of independence today, I am also reflecting what independence means. My thoughts wonder to the amazing human body and movement, as they often do, and I ponder what the concept of independence would mean for the body in motion.

Independence, by definition, means the ability to self-govern and the freedom or liberty to make decisions that concern oneself. This is in fact what truly makes a nation, a country that is recognized by other countries as independent and the right to be treated as such. In order to gain such state many nations have gone through a painful and long process, such a war or political unrest where many people have paid a high price for the freedom they sought or defended. “Freedom is not free.”, someone once said. Independence is the most valued jewel of any nation.

But, then I also started thinking about the word ‘interdependence’, that, by definition, means a state of being dependent on each other, whether people, things or countries. As much as we value our independence, we really can’t function without each other either.

The body really is a beautiful example of interdependence, each body part doing its own job, but at the same time being truly dependent on each other. There is no competition, but a built-in objective to make the whole body successful by supporting one another. This is best demonstrated when a body part is NOT doing optimal job and the other parts are suffering as a result.

The interconnected joints are a great example of this, attached by the skeletal as well as the soft tissue structures. A joint that has a limited function for a reason or another will influence the joints around it, below and above.

Have you noticed how certain joints ‘complain’ more than the others? Maybe you hear more whining from the knee and the low back that from the rest of the body. We tend to make a mistake of directing all the attention to the ‘complainers’, such as the knee and the low back and forget that these joints might be in pain because their team-mates are not doing what they are supposed to do. Maybe the knee is not the actual problem and the reasons for disfunction is found in the ankle or higher up in the hip.

Interdependence means inability to function without the support from the team. In movement, success can only be found through interdependence with our team mates. It is a humble and vulnerable position that is natural for the body but often less natural or comfortable for us in many other ways. Humans are not easily admitting their dependence on each other and maybe even more so, on their Creator. Often our prideful stance leads to broken relationships with our fellow humans, but more importantly, it keeps us far from our God.

Miracle of movement

Psalm 19 starts with amazing words: "Heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim His handiwork." 

It's easy to see why the author wrote about the skies; the clouds, the colors, the stars, the Sun and the Moon. Just by looking up you can be convinced that God exists and that He is full of glory. But whether you believe in God or not, you will be impressed by turning your eyes to heaven and taking in the view.

Some other parts of creation don't express the miraculous quite as obvious as the skies although they might represent just as amazing characteristics of God's handiwork. There are infinite examples of this but what strikes me in my profession, is the miracle of movement, human movement in particular. It doesn't impress us often as much as watching the Northern Lights cross the night sky in the middle of winter, but in essence the intelligence, wisdom and creativity behind a simple movement in our everyday lives is just as amazing, if not more. After all, creating the nature and the animals made the Universe 'good' according to God, but only after creating the human being did it become 'very good' in His mind. 

You only have to study the human foot and it's role in movement and realize that just the anatomy and its interaction with the ground is truly spectacular. And if we cross from the 'hardware' -parts to the 'software' -functions and understand even a little bit of about the nervous system and the its governing of the movement, we should be just as amazed as when watching a heavenly body, a planet, appear on the sky. 

Thank you for the gift of movement! 




Every day - my way or the High(er) way?

I must admit that disciplining my body for the physical gains of exercise is much easier for me than to discipline my body (and the mind of course) to maintain my spiritual habits of prayer and reading the scripture.

I acknowledge the benefits of physical exercise and I do feel it in my life when I am in shape. But to be completely honest, the benefits of the morning prayer and the Word, carry into the day and the life overall so much more intensely.

You would think that we would automatically and easily choose the way we KNOW and experience to be the better one. But then again, I am reminded of my own rebellion that goes ahead making decision based on emotions, instant gratification and on many selfish and even unconscious motives.

In exercise we make the decisions often the same way though. We choose the hard workout based on how it makes us feel afterwards, not necessarily based on a strategic and logical choice. Sometimes we choose to go easy when the moment would demand a harder effort. Either or, often our choices are not based on discipline and self-control.

The same certainly goes with the spiritual habits. I try hard when I should just submit instead and I get lazy when I need the self control the most.

I made a conscious choice to give my life to Jesus 16 years ago. Maybe I thought it was the only choice I had to make regarding the life of a believer. I was wrong; the ‘same’ choice is made every single day and sometimes even more frequently. The choice to submit my life to God ONCE might not bring forth the good fruits in long term, because the next morning I wake up – it might be my way again and not His. I am thankful that God has new grace for me every morning.

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. 1 Cor 9:27

Tommi the Trainer

"Information is not knowledge."

As coaches and responsible professionals, we should be learning new things and studying our field constantly. The world, and particularly the internet, is full of information today; some of it is useful and much of it is useless. Either or, this massive amount of information is in front of us, easily accessible wherever you are. Countless people are sharing their material and ideas with different motivations and goals in mind. The world is overflowing with information!

Albert Einstein said: “Information is not knowledge.”  A simple and powerful truth indeed.

If you want to play with words and concepts little further, you could say: “Information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom.”

There is a gap between information and knowledge and before it is matured into wisdom, there most likely needs to be some time, experience and application, before it slowly ferments into wisdom.

Let’s expand. “Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom and wisdom is nothing without love.”

Why love? Because wisdom can create a lot of things, but can we really responsibly utilize our wisdom for the good of our fellow beings without loving them? I don’t mean romantic love here, but the kind of unselfish love Jesus demonstrated to us, as in “loving your neighbor as yourself”. King Solomon is told to have been the wisest man ever and somehow he still managed to make it all about himself by living in pure pleasure.

Can we add anything? “Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is nothing without love and love is useless without action.” In itself, I think the concept of love encompasses more than just the emotion and the idea of love, but also the action of love, the compassion. However, in today’s feeling-based society we might easily forget that love has arms and legs, if it weren’t reminded of it. Feeling sorry for the hungry and sick does not help them. A physical action is required in order to reach out with love.

I think all of these concepts, and of course the action, are required from a coach. Successful coaching requires a lot of constant studying, a loving servant’s attitude and plenty of action in order to deliver the message and the training that the athlete needs.   

Proverbs 3 promises us true wisdom and guidance as we trust in the Lord, and even refreshment and healing to our physical bodies. Thank you Jesus, I need it.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
  And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
  And He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
  Fear the L
ORD and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your body
  And refreshment to your bones.

Be strong and courageous!!


Who do I look up to?

People always look for role models and idols to look up to. We follow athletes, coaches, pastors and even politicians and watch if they live up to the standards that our role model or idol should look and act like. Maybe we paint the picture in our heads of what kind of a people we would like to be and then try to search for someone who could be our role model and lead us ahead. 

And then what happens...?

Well, we find out that the person we looked up to wasn't quite the perfect person we thought they were. Great role models are hard to find and perfect ones pretty much impossible. Those who consistently and faithfully prove to be examples that we want to imitate and follow. In fact, we will never find a human being who would not disappoint us some way at some point or time. Even the great 'human heroes' of the bible, such as Moses or David, seriously fell short in different areas of their lives.

I believe that the whole human kind needs a role model and even more than that, a redeemer and a saviour. We can not be rescued by a another human being because we have too many limitations and short comings ourselves. That is why God sent His Son to come and rescue us and to set us free. We can look up to Him and follow Him with confidence that he will never forsake us. 

Jesus has given His life so we could have true life in walking with Him. Jesus went beyond of what my imaginary role model would do with his life. He voluntarily died so even the people who hated or ignored Him, such as myself, would have an everlasting life and never perish. He gave this all as a free gift that I can choose to either receive or to deny. 

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20

I look up to Jesus.

Tommi the Trainer

Physical - Mental - Spiritual = 3-Dimensional

Physical training has a science behind it. We know a lot about the body and its systems based on the research and all kind of studies about human physiology, anatomy, biomechanics etc. We have narrowed it down to the cellular level and even smaller if possible. Still new findings are made constantly and our scientific understading of the human body increases continuously.

At the same time, we have also learned a tremendous amount about the human mind and intellect. We already apply it regularly to physical training, especially in the elite level. Most of the sports at the elite level are actually said to be more mental than physical. Thus, our interest towards improving human performance through the mind is growing still.  

A lot of people would stop here. They say: "We have the body and we have the mind and that is all that there is to the human being." But is that true? Isn't there another dimension still above the body and the mind? Or is it because this "spiritual dimension" is so much harder to grasp and understand, that we just leave it alone and don't even go there?

In his letter to Timothy, Apostle Paul writes (1 Tim. 4:8): "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

Paul is saying that the spiritual dimension, that he calls godliness, has benefit not only in this life but also in the life to come. In addition to that, it has value for ALL things, not just some things. So, the so called spiritual training and conditioning could benefit us now and forever and in every single thing that we do or are part of. That is comprehensive I would say, even more so that the physical training that is so dear to me.

We can not explain the spiritual dimension by science, but just because it is often unexplainable and uncontrollable to human mind as well as invisible to the human eye, it doesn't mean that it does not exist.

May the joy of the Lord be your strength!

Tommi the Trainer

Are you a weapon, made in the fire?

Have you had periods of trials in your life? Times when you feel like giving up and maybe actually given up?I have. For the longest time I blamed the devil or myself or someone else for the fiery trials. I thought I was on the wrong path. I didn't think that if I was in the will of God, I would go through such defeats in life.

But maybe it was God himself who allowed these seemingly unfair, continuous and very humbling times in my life? In the midst of the storm nothing makes sense and the confusion often takes over, but it does not mean He is not in control over my life.

The Isaiah 54:16 gives us something to reflect upon. "Behold, I have created a smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose."

Sometimes I forget that God himself created "the smith" who brings fire on my life and makes me go through hot circumstances. He uses the one who wants to harm me for good, in order to make me a "weapon for a specific purpose". Sometimes the difficult times are the training that we need in order to arise as men and women, the weapons, that God created us for.

If I let God take full control of my life, even my hardships will result in an overwhelming victory. Good News!

Be strong and courageous!

Tommi the Trainer

Playing the "neutral card" and not taking sides.

"So when the Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather than a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying: 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourself." Matthew 27:24

When the going got tough, Pilate turned away from what he knew was right and just. He wanted to save himself from humiliation, embarrasment, crowd's anger and maybe even from potential physical danger. He silenced the voice inside of him and decided to play the "neutral card", thinking he was not taking sides. After all, he did was his hands and declared his own innocence, even he knew he was sentencing this man to his death.

How many times have I turned away when I should have acted? How many times have I decided to please people instead of speaking the truth? How many times have I crucified Jesus by washing my hands of the situation that I would't be able "to gain anything from" like Pilate did?

Not playing sides is very tempting. I could just navigate life avoiding any inconvenience or contradiction by turning away every time when doing the right thing would be seemingly too hard. However, that would be like Pilate trying to save his soul clean by splashing some water on his hands. Did he really believe that a would clear his conscience or did he suffer from that awful guilt of knowing he was wrong? 

Despite the fact that I have many times turned away from Him, Jesus has not turned away from me. He has washed and cleansed me anyway despite my many betrayals. That is the kind of love that does not look for it's own gain.

Tommi The Trainer

PS:  "All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

Learning lessons from our physical bodies: Humility

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..." Romans 12:3-6

What if the body parts would decide to compete who is the best and the most important? What if there was a full scale rivalry going on during physical activity?

Would the right leg want to go to a different direction with the left? Would the lungs decide to go on strike when the rest of the body needed a lot of oxygen? 

Pick any team in the sport or in the corporate world or even in a church and you will have trouble finding a team that works in unity and harmony like the human body. There is no rivalry or competition. Even if one part or system is empasized or honored, the rest of the body will still graciously support each other and rejoice for the common success. In truth, there are no solo-missions within the body but everything is for the team, not just on paper but also in reality.

The true functionality within mankind could only be found through unselfishness and humility. Anyone, who sincerely examines their heart knows that this goal is not possible with human strength and effort. Only in Christ, with the transformational power of God, I can get closer to being a true servant, less interested in me and more interested in You.     

Tommi The Trainer

Ankylosing Spondylitis & Amazing grace!

My journey and work of physical training and conditioning could have easily become just an extension of my own "weight lifting" -hobby without the ankylosing spondylitis. AS is an auto-immune condition that affects the spine, joints, eyes and unpredictably pretty much any body part. My condition started as frequent iritis, then became semi-chronic sacro-iliac inflammation, lower back pain and migrating muscle inflammation. It gave me a gift of empathy for others in pain and also a refreshed appreciation of just being able to move.

I learned that walking is not a less of a miracle than squatting a full rack of weights. Through the experience of ankylosing spondylitis my own exercise became a necessity even more than a passion and I gained a new perspective to life in general. I know now that the abundant grace of God will prevail and strengthen me even in the midst of sickness and adversity. But even more than just sustaining me, He is willing to heal, and in my case has already done so.

I look at the pain of a person differently through my own experience. Pain makes you consumed by your own situation, it makes you fearful of the future and it very often steals your joy and peace in the present time as well. At the same time, it helps you develop a new perspective, makes you cry out for God more and certainly shifts your priorities around. A lot of times the end result, learning lesson if you will, depends on our own response and attitude at the time of crisis and struggle.

In my work I aim to prevent pain with correct exercises and sometimes can even ease some discomfort that is already there, but as the Word says, God Almighty is the one who heals:

"Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases..."
Psalm 103:2-3

Tommi The Trainer