I'll introduce myself in a moment, but first let's talk about you.
I'm Going to Make Some Guesses About You
You want to take control of your life — not be controlled by arthritis, stress, injuries, previous trauma, or pain.
You don’t want to spend 45 min slogging away on an elliptical.
You're smart and love the outdoor lifestyle.
MOUNTAINS AND SEA, PLEASE!
You’re different, unconventional. Maybe even a little wild or rebellious.
You own your sh*t – you take command of building a better life.
If this sounds like you, welcome home. You’ve found a great community in this little pocket of the internet.
Beyond Exercises is a movement rooted in one idea: You can escape pain, but not without changes in attitude that lead to clarity, confidence, and connection for integrated well-being — and that’s true not only for your body or arthritis pain, but also your health, relationships, energy and attention.
This opens two questions:
How can we make smarter science-based decisions about our fitness, well-being, and life?
How can we align our daily behaviors and habits with the lifestyle we
Beyond Exercises explores the answers to these two critical questions.
Along the journey, we take interesting forays into topics like neuroscience, mind-body recovery strategies, neuroeconomics, lifestyle design, financial independence, and any other topic that jumps into this curiosity playground.
We swap stories and ideas about outdoor experiences, fitness, mindfulness, wellness, productivity, personal development and stoic philosophy.
Each of these conversations are portals into a larger framework of making smarter choices and building a better life. If you’re intrigued, explore our blog and podcast. Better yet, download our free book, Escape Pain & Play Outdoors, and join our free online community of 4,000+ subscribers.
And if you’d like to meet me — Morgan Fielder, the writer and instigator —
Hey there! I'm Morgan. I like exercise and eating, mostly outdoors with friends if possible.
When I graduated from the US Naval Academy and 4 years of competitive Div 1 NCAA track, cross country, and rugby, I did what society expected: I went to war.
But fighting and driving warships off the coasts of the horn of Africa, the middle east, pacific, and Mediterranean was my job and super cool. I loved my shipmates; I had a blast everyday leading sailors and being part of something bigger than myself.
I didn’t/couldn’t workout much or eat decently — the ship tended to roll, pitch, and yaw, so treadmills were tricky, and the navy apparently only had a contract with Otis Spunkmeyer — but I was young and fierce and coped via endurance. Life was awesome. Except for one teeny-tiny little problem: I lacked freedom from pain.
Sleep when you’re dead!
Work hard, party hard.
I have a high pain tolerance.
I need sleep, but, it’s Taco Tuesday!
Does anyone actually watch an entire movie without falling asleep?
My endurance coping mechanisms built as a kid solitarily running the mountains of Idaho were supplemented with endurance only well-being activities like marathons, 18 hour work days, & restrictive eating that led to knee surgery, recurrent stress fractures, insomnia, and muscle loss.
The war wasn’t what I expected.
My soul-mate led marine snipers and I drove warships, thus, we were never together for 4 years.
Back-to-back ship deployments were pedestrian compared to his experiences as a Marine officer in Bagdad, Fallujah and Ramadi.
The first casualty of the entire Iraq war was a roommate of my then-boyfriend, environmental exposure resulted in brain cancer and devastating auto-immune diseases in close friends, and well-being and nature was almost a bad word within the ranks.
I lacked any clarity about my purpose, confidence in my body, and connection to like minded people who thrived climbing mountains - literally or figuratively. CYA was everywhere and optimism was hard to find.
What we expected...
What actually happened...
But my college sweetheart proposed under Mt Vesuvius at dawn during the Mt Etna volcanic eruption that diverted us together. It was unbelievably romantic and meaningful.
I felt lucky with my release from active duty and my husband and I finally started living our life together in the same apartment and Surprise! Within 2 months of living together I was pregnant.
Panic erupts for parents bearing children conceived out of the stress of war. Well, that’s not fair. All parents panic. But, apparently birth control doesn't work unless you take it every day.
Endurance strategies dominated my life again with two baby girls under 3 while I earned my doctorate of physical therapy.
Self medication. Lots and many kinds of self medications.
It was hard times. Shocking, eh?
Life right after the military.
The Great Recession resulted in our family relocating to the exciting, neon filled streets near Yongsang Army Garrison smack dab in the middle of downtown Seoul, Korea.
We spent the next three years working, travelling, and eating across Asia. I ran marathons and my husband kicked ass in cage fights while getting a graduate degree at Oxford, we snorkelled in Thailand, explored the family sauna Jimjilbangs, pulled the girls on scooters through the gates of Kyoto, hiked and skied Korean mountains … you get the idea.
We were set. Two smart, beautiful daughters that now slept through the night, great careers that were not in the military, and an exciting life overseas!
My trips to the gym at 4:30 a.m. to train for marathons before work, and self medication resulted in horrible recovery and sleep patterns. I was so broken that I bought special “negative” shoes for the foot pain, a $1000 mattress pad for my back pain, and did every stretch imaginable to mitigate knee pain.
When we returned to the U.S. in 2013, my symptoms faded but I had a terrifying thought: I might be in pain again. I couldn’t go back to the doctors. I wanted sustainable, long-term freedom. But how?
I wanted wellness independence: the ability to escape vague symptoms, chronic pain, a softening midline, irritability, and insomnia.
So I tried harder. More exercise. More meds. More striving. Whatever it was that wasn't working, I just tried to do it harder.
We moved back to the surf town with the yoga vibe and chickens at the kids public school - - perfect for 6 a.m. power yoga. Crossfit classes at 6 pm with the whole family were gruelling, but fulfilling.
Full time and per diem physical therapy jobs. I struggled with coaching other equally tired moms in crossfit at 6 am who just couldn't lose the weight.
The sun and fun of southern California for three years was followed by a family move to a cute German village. I was hired to help American soldiers stationed there with body pain problems and help to pass military fitness tests.
Let me be clear: I’m not a victim. I wanted freedom, but as a type A achiever, "less is more" wasn't in my vocabulary.
One thing I noticed across the board with my patients that experienced chronic arthritic and body pain was a lack of sleep quality and duration, high levels of stress and anxiety, and no concept of relaxation.
The mountains call...Again and again....
It was uncanny and persistent and nobody in the medical establishment was worried about it.
I got into the profession to serve people and help them with physical pain, but I often felt ineffective and frustrated.
But on weekends we flew down the slopes of the Austrian Alps, savoured wine and cheese through France, frolicked in tulip gardens near Amsterdam, hiked the glorious single track Swiss Jungfrau, and ate 2 scoops a day of Italian gelato when visiting Tuscany.
One of our adventures took us to a sleepy resort near the Russian border in Finland. For the first time in my life I slowed down at a Finish sauna cabin and I've never felt better. I’m embarrassed to say it, but it took me until I was 38 years old to learn how to relax.
My eyes were opened and I dove headfirst into the literature around sauna use and well-being and longevity. The results were incredible in the nascent research and it took me down the road of lesser known strategies to improve not only health but chronic pain.
Finland: 5 million people, 2 million saunas. One must bike around between sauna sessions.
It hit me that mind-body downregulation training or “Integrated Recovery” is just as important as the training, constantly hard-charging lifestyle with work and family, losing sleep, and doing more to be “better”.
It's mind-body-soul. Holistic without the bullshit.
Thanks to “Integrated Recovery”, I lived with more space and freedom. I have learned how sometimes it's not what we do but rather what we don't do that changes us.
I eat and workout intuitively. Exercise nourishes, doesn't punish. My head hits the pillow and I fall asleep. I take time for what really matters. The flywheel started spinning.
I made many mistakes, but over time, I've created systems. I have integrated my experience living and working around the world and connected the best of Eastern philosophy, Western medicine, neuroeconomic behaviour shaping, fitness and nutrition research, and neuroscience to create tiny habits and use easy tools for sustainable wellness that doesn't require placebos or pills.
On this website, Beyond Exercises, I want to show you how I did this — and help you do the same. Join 4,000+ people who get free email updates.
Welcome to an online community filled with people who struggle with body pain but who are experiencing outdoor freedom. I’m glad you’re here.
P.S. Download my free book, Escape Pain & Play Outside.