There are only good reasons for starting or changing an exercise regimen. One of the most common reasons people give me for starting or changing their exercise routines is being tired of feeling the same old way.
Perhaps you have been enduring some pain from a previous or existing injury or a chronic ailment. Maybe your doctor told you to start exercising more in order to improve lab markers such as your sugar- or lipid levels. Or, you want to look and feel great!
Starting an exercise regimen can feel like a large task. Kind of like building a house, or going on a large trip. Where to start?
With the plans. At the beginning.
Steven often poses a question concerning big projects: How do you eat an elephant?
The answer? One bite at a time.
Before you try to burn a single calorie, lift a weight, start a run, it is imperative that your body is prepared to move well. To move properly.
Our Kinesiology professor once pointed something out to us in class:
*"Your body is designed for both mobility and stability. If you look at your joints in a series, relative mobility and stability alternate."
If you look at your ankles, hips, shoulders and wrists as you move them, you could say that each is fairly mobile when compared with other joints. There are also parts of your neck that are more mobile than others.
If you look at your knee and elbow, they only really move back and forth in one direction each. Aside from the occasional forward fold, you can also say that your lower back does not move much, and you would be right. (That forward fold ideally comes, mostly, from the hips).
The above statements concern themselves with the way things were intended, how your joints were designed.
From the time of our birth, we had to learn how to use our muscles to move our joints in various combinations in order to move our bodies.
Later in life, though, our individual histories of movement habits dictate how our joints are actually used. This includes our own awareness of our movement and our body's position in space (proprioception), or lack thereof. When was the last time you actually thought about how you were walking, while you strolled down the street?
Everything we do while we are moving, affects our movement patterns. Eventually, our most frequent movements become automated and our muscles remember these patterns as important. This does not necessarily make these movement patterns good for us.
Activities such as phone use, spending time at a computer, sitting down, even driving for long periods, affect the memory, and therefore the tension, in our various groups of muscles that are intended to move us.
However, muscles also act like the suspension cables on a bridge by playing a major supporting role to our skeleton in our posture. Sometimes, they can get too tense and can fail to move us properly. Sometimes, muscles can fall asleep on the job, letting other muscles do their jobs for them. These are two major contributors to bad movement, and also pain.
For example, that is why your hamstrings can get tight after you have been driving for a while. Maybe the discomfort even travels into your low back. Perhaps working at a computer, writing, or playing on your phone also cause you to have stiffness in your neck, leading to pain in the front and/or back of your shoulder. All of these things can change the way you move.
If you experience any of these or other muscle-tension-related sources of discomfort, why would you then put yourself through something physically intense and risk further injury?
What to do? Give up? Just don't move it? No way. That only sets you up for failure.
Luckily, our muscles have a memory of how to move properly; we just have to remind our muscles how to do it.
Sometimes our muscles get bunched up with their neighbors and need to be reminded to separate. Sometimes they are just inactive.
*Most of us deal with a combination of acute and chronic movement patterns that are out of tune. Acute, poor movement patterns can often be fixed in a matter of minutes.Chronic movement maladies take repeated sessions of movement prep and good resistance exercise movements to correct.
*Get your individual joints moving properly, then move them together properly. Sounds simple. But not always so simple in execution. It is not quite like learning to walk all over again or remembering how to ride a bike. These movement maladies require cues and an external observer who is trained to see these things.
Luckily for you, though, even one hour spent with the right trainer or physical therapist, the exposure, can yield you a rich path of learning on your own by doing the exercises they prescribe to improve your movement. "Check-up sessions" are a great way for you to know you are on the right track. And most trainers will be grateful for the extra work. Everyone in this industry needs more work.
Movement prep is one reset button you need for tight muscles and the alarm clock you need for sleeping muscles. Massages can also help with tight muscles. At some point, though, your stiffness or pain may be so severe that you need more advanced attention, as in consulting with a physical therapist or orthopedist. Tight and/or inactive individual muscles can lead to tight joints, which are comprised of numerous muscles, all of which can be affected by dysfunction at the joint in which they participate.
But enough of the philosophizing already! What is movement prep and how do I do it?
The two biggest factors that dictate your movement prep are your existing movement maladies and the activity you are about to do. The former has been detailed above.
For the latter, your warm-up should simply mimic the activity you are about to do. If you are asking your shoulders to lift something over your head, can they first do so in an optimal manner without anything in your hands? How do I know what moving my shoulder optimally feels like or looks like? Leave that to the pro's.
As you see, there is still so much you can discover about yourself.Check back in with us next week to learn more on the Specifics of Movement Prep!
P.S. The good times keep on rolling. A junior from my alma mater, the University of Miami, reached out to us about an internship for this coming summer. It is an honor to not only be recognized for what we are doing, but to have others want to participate in it. That's why we do what we do! Just thought I would share this positive note with you to end the article on an extra positive. Now it's time to get back to finding more opportunities for more people to shine!