Make The Most Of It

There are a number of day-to-day tasks that many of us have to do.

It does not matter if it is cleaning around the house, laundry, weeding/gardening, or mowing the lawn. When it comes down to it, you are moving.

Remember what you have to work on in the movement patterns that apply, and practice while you are working on those mundane tasks. The more you reinforce the proper pattern, the easier it is to keep good form.

The Weakest Link

Your body has several chains of muscles, tendons, and joints that enable you to move. And just like any other chain, the weakest link is where your movement chains will break.

The conventional wisdom is to isolate that weak link with exercises that force it to get stronger. Unfortunately, this is not usually the best practice. Isolation should only be used in the case of atrophy or poor neuromuscular control. Once that control has been reestablished, the real work begins.

What most individuals actually need is to restore the timing and balance of the entire chain. This cannot be done with isolation exercises. Instead, multi-joint movements need to be employed and worked on with a focus of the proper engagement of the weaker links. Many exercises will need to be done at a high volume and lower intensities, and some will need to be regressed to allow for the weaker links to take part. You are trying to get better, and often need to take a step back before you can move forward.

It Won’t Fix Itself

We are so used to our bodies repairing themselves that we usually take it for granted. Unfortunately, the nervous system that we have in place is there for survival in the present and near-future. This short-term focus lets us function with injury.

The trade-off that we make is that our bodies compensate in ways that are often detrimental to our long-term health. If we do not reset our movement patterns after an injury, the compensatory movements will become habitual and lead to dysfunction. Any dysfunction will lead to weakness and increase the probability of further injury.

For a lifetime of pain-free movement, we have to work on restoring and then maintaining a functional range of motion and neuromuscular firing patterns. This is the under-the-radar effort that lets professional athletes return to competition at their previous levels of excellence. In fact, there are often cases where the athlete learns to move even better than before through their diligent effort, deeper understanding, and increased control.

It’s Not Just An Exercise

I see it in gyms and in my neighborhood; when people are out shopping or doing yard work. People, even those in the gym who clearly know how to move properly, make bad decisions when it comes to their movements.

That squat form that you work so hard on should be applied when you pick something up off of the ground. Ditto for lunge form when it comes to going up stairs.

These are not just exercises. They are movement patterns that protect your joints and muscles from injury while giving you the most efficiency, strength and stability. Your training is practice for the demands of everyday life, but that only works if your body makes the same movements that it uses when you are working out.

Eureka!

There are those moments when you gain a sudden insight into what you are doing.

They can happen at random, but more often than not, they happen during a process or practice that is done regularly. It can happen when you have been struggling to figure out a problem; turning it over in your mind again and again. Suddenly, something clicks and you know what you have to do.

That can also happen within your physical training. I see it with clients every so often, where they suddenly understand that some part of their body needs to be doing something different to make that movement pattern or exercise easier.

When that happens, try to break away from your normal routine and spend extra time on what you have just discovered. It takes weeks or even months to completely reprogram a movement pattern within your nervous system (the same goes for breaking a bad habit). The more time you spend on it while the insight is fresh in your mind, the better the chance that it takes hold.

The Cultivation Of Perception

Many of us take our awareness for granted, but perception is a skill that can be improved through practice. It is very much a prerequisite for complex movements, and is one of the first steps needed for the mastery of any fine motor skill. It is also a necessary component of correcting movement patterns that have become dysfunctional, and a major hurdle for may who undergo the rehabilitation process.

You can practice awareness, not only of what is going on around you, but also of what is occurring in your body as you move and exercise. While normally subconscious, you can slowly increase your conscious knowledge of the alignment, engagement and spacial location of the joints and muscles; which wellness professionals and personal trainers have termed proprioception.

When you do practice, make sure to treat it like any other skill. Start with paying attention to one internal mechanism at a time, and expand your awareness as it becomes easier to maintain. The best for beginners would be core-engagement or the location of your center of gravity over your feet. As your skill develops, so will the control you have over your body. Training will feel easier, as your structural alignment and firing patterns will align properly with the demands of the exercise; and any sport-specific movements will yield more consistent results.

Stand Up For Yourself: Part 2

A good number of exercise routines call for seated exercises, and more than half of the machines in a gym have you sitting. This is on top of the fact that most of us sit for a good part of the day. This stems from the mindset that isolated muscles can be worked harder than muscles integrated into functional groups, which is incorrect.

Instead, try to stand for as many exercise of your routine as you can. The more of your body that is working, the better off you will be. You will improve coordination and balance, and increase the challenge of your routine.

A Modern Trap: Pain Management Versus Movement Correction

No one wants to be uncomfortable, and no one wants to be in pain.

Modern pharmaceuticals companies would have us taking painkillers and anti inflammatories like they were vitamins. There are a number of legitimate reasons to take them, however, daily exercise and activity are not among them.

Pain is your body signaling to your conscious brain that it is damaged. Inflammation is your body’s attempt to limit motion so that it can rebuild itself more quickly. In short, these are natural responses to conditions that your body may find itself in. By masking the symptoms of overuse or incorrect movement, you do yourself no favor. By covering up a small problem, instead of fixing it, you open the door to a major injury and the possibility of surgery.

Instead, examine your activities and performance from the previous few days. Does your pain happen to coincide with a some of the movements that you performed? If so, it is time to review those movement patterns to find the probable cause of your discomfort. Fix the problem, and the symptoms will disappear.

Now It’s Personal

Actually, it always has been. When it comes to your body, that is. That’s the reason that some of the things that work for you don’t work for everybody.

Physical training is so much more than just pushing weights around. Training your body not only keeps you healthy and maintains your freedom to move, it gives you a deeper understanding of your self and greater awareness of the world around you.

While many people share a common set of goals, there is no holy grail routine or program that will work for everyone. This is what many of the business models in the fitness industry fail to understand. You are unique. Your training should not be the same as that of the person standing next to you. Your body excels at things that their body will struggle with, and vice versa.

Look to improve exercises and progressions that you struggle with, replace or modify any that cause pain, and understand that your day-to-day activities impact your ability and freedom to move.

Train Like You Mean It

One of the things I learned back when I trained martial art was that every repetition matters.

Anyone that has had to break a bad habit knows; it is much easier to establish a new practice than break out of an old one. From the warm-up through the last drill, your body is constantly adjusting the timing and balance that a particular movement requires. In short, you are constantly reinforcing habits, regardless of their benefit or lack thereof.

So whether you are preparing for a competition or getting some light work in on what was supposed to be an off-day, make sure that you are using proper form and technique every time. That is the difference that gives consistency when it counts.