The Body Whisperer

The Body Whisperer |

“In every case, the remedy is to take action. Get clear about exactly what it is that you need to learn and exactly what you need to do to learn it. Being clear kills fear. Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world.”
(Miguel de Cervantes)

I recently met a body whisperer. He seemed to know me better than I know myself. Well, not so much me, but my body.

I first spoke with James FitzGerald at the Paleo f(x) conference in Austin, Texas. I was instantly drawn to his talk on aligning fitness practices with long-term lifestyle goals. I knew I had to learn more when he said, “If you want to hike trails at 90 years old, box jumps are probably not the best exercise for you.”

Since meeting in Austin, we had some conference calls and collaborated on a few blog posts. Working with James on these small projects motivated me to visit his headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona to undergo a personalized fitness assessment.

Matt Gersper & James FitzGerald - The Body Whisperer |

The Fitness Guru

In 2007, James earned the title “Fittest on Earth” for winning the inaugural CrossFit Games. He is the founder of OPEX Fitness (formerly OPT), a fitness company that offers individualized training and coaching education to members worldwide. He has 20+ years of experience as a coach and practitioner – with a lifelong focus on refining energy system work, teaching nutritional and lifestyle balancing techniques, and advocating best practices for training of other coaches.

It’s clear that James is a fitness guru, but I didn’t know he was a body whisperer.

The Body Whisperer

We began the assessment in his sparse, but comfortable office. No desk… only a small wall shelf acting as stand-up desk, full bookcases, chair and sofa.

James began with a detailed interview process. He asked me about my daily schedule. How I worked. How I exercised. What I ate, when I ate, and where I ate. What was important to me? Why was it important? What did I plan to do with the rest of my life? Why?

He was probing to understand who I am in the same way a horse whisperer uses specific communication techniques to develop rapport with horses. He said, “our goal as fitness advisors is to meet you where you are,” and build from there.

Next, James guided me to the examination room. Wearing only my gym shorts, I stood in front of a wall with a body-sized grid so he could identify differences between my left and right sides. He also asked me to do basic movements to see my body in action, including squats, planks, hip extenders and lunges. This is similar to a horse whisperer’s focus on the animal’s behavior under natural conditions.

I was amazed. James seemed to have an instinctive, almost mystical knowledge of my body. His primary takeaways from our session were:

  • What my body is about: creativity
  • What my body wants: movement
  • Areas for improvement: sleepy left glute & unbalanced body fat
  • Prescription: personalized program


James discovered the gluteal muscles (butt muscles) on my left side are not working. He said they are “sleepy” and need to be reactivated. During the examination, he showed me the physical manifestation of the problem. Because my left “ass” is sleepy, the rest of my body has been compensating for it.

  • My right shoulder is pulling, so it’s lower than my left
  • My right arm hangs closer to my body than my left arm
  • There are lines below my right shoulder blade, indicating my body is straining to the right
  • My right foot is turned out and I have “very active” feet

Matt Gersper OPEX Assessment Aug '15 - The Body Whisperer |

He said that if we don’t take care of this, I won’t be “hiking trails when I’m 90 years old.” My body is out of alignment, which will ultimately cause injuries and setbacks.

Unbalanced Body Fat

James measured my body fat by taking caliper measurements from seven fat-storing zones. Two of my seven measurements, my abdomen and suprailiac (love handles), were twice as much as the other five. James said none of my measurements pose a health risk, but it would be good to bring the two around my middle in line with the rest.

Personalized Program

James makes recommendations to fix the problems, and then begin a forward-looking fitness program that matches who I am, what I enjoy, and how I want to live my life. He keeps the long-term view in mind. He knows I want to be hiking trails, paddle boarding and lifting my wife’s suitcase when I’m 90.

He calls his recommendations “prescriptions.” Here are mine:

  • Wake up my left-ass with physical therapy and targeted exercises
  • Reduce my middle body fat with nutrition – add morning protein to my diet and increase water intake slowly until 90 ounces per day
  • Build “balanced strength” with a creative exercise program: single arm and single leg focus on strength work, core work without upper work or lower work, focus on movement

Through his assessment, James helped me get to know my body and myself better. I’m excited to put my new knowledge into action with his prescriptions!

I will share an update on my progress in the next few months. In the meantime, let me know if you’ve ever met someone who changed what you knew about yourself? You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below, or by email.

Image via Unsplash



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