Being able to negotiate the world around us shouldn’t be taken for granted, despite living in an apparently safe, manufactured world scape.
Having the skills and aptitude to jump over something or out the way of something, skip, catch yourself if you trip, balance over partially submerged kerbstone during a rain storm – are all just a few examples of physical aptitudes we may encounter.
More to the point, my point here, it is incredibly rewarding, fun and a bit challenging to train for just such events, whether they are made up scenarios or practice for actual routine events.
I like to take myself off into the bush every now and again. Weekly if I can. Far from a walk in a park, a bush walk can throw an abundance of physical challenges apart from just walking.
Often times there’s a short climb up a rock face, a balance walk over a log laid over a creek, slippy trip hazard tree roots popping up when least expected.
Now, even if you never take yourself off on a bush walk, moving your body the way it is designed IS a daily or at least a weekly preoccupation. Got kids? Grandkids? A garden?
All these have a side of physicality that you can prepare yourself for. Is it not better to be prepared rather than at the mercy of inability?
Here’s just a short video example of:
practicing landing after a jump or a trip
crawling for when you have to get down low
Just three activities to demonstrate how real world agility and strength can be really quite different to most gym exercises.
Got questions? Fancy trying a natural movement training session?
At FitStrong I help people get fitter, stronger and more mobile. Not just for the sake of it though, but to become better more useful versions of ourselves.
We work on the skills that lead towards our goals, building confidence, competence and physical autonomy without an emphasis on ‘busting a gut’ or ‘smashing out sessions’. I like to consider training as nourishing our bodies rather than punishing it.
If you know that you need to move better and stronger, why not book in for a chat about what you need and how I can help.
Here’s just one example of working on reactive strength, in this case – balance.
Unlike throwing something, another great power movement, there is nothing quite like the feeling of momentarily being free from gravity and floating in the air before gently, smoothly and effortlessly landing again.
The landing is what in fact is the most important element of training jumping. Whether you are leaping over a puddle, jumping over broken glass on the pavement or jumping off a rock on bush walk, the landing should be well prepared for.
The ability to precisely land where you want, to absorb and disperse the impact and react to any changes make jumping not about the jump, the distance, but the landing to mitigate risk potential.
Luck favours the prepared
Much like there are numerous ways to jump off a surface there are also various ways to land. Whether it’s onto one leg, both legs, a staggered landing, into a crawl, a tumble, a climbing position, down onto a new surface or up.
For the purposes of this, I’ll stick to, well, sticking the landing.
Got ay ideas or questions? I’d love to hear from you.
Last week I re-introduced metabolic training with MovNat Metabolic, their new online program. Here’s that post.
I’ve finished week 1 and was surprised at how the use of such various natural movements and equipments pushed me a bit. 30 seconds of effort always seems longer than 30 seconds of rest! Odd that, hey?!
I never got to the point of sharing my breakfast with the floor, but I definitely had to focus on maintaining my nasal breathing in the latter rounds when the efforts work on a continuous flow, or combo of the sessions movements. It felt a bit like a a last minute dash to get all the yard work done before dinner on a cold day.
It was cold mind you (which helps for this kind of training) but I followed up this particular session with a good 5km walk. It too felt great. The recovery benefits of a walk post training are lengthy and worthy of a good conversation at some stage soon. But a combination of gentle movement to untangle the fatigued muscles, pumping the blood around the body and the behind the scenes lymphatic system stimulation really aids in recovery. Much more so than plopping down in front of Netflix with a protein shake.
Todays movements include the side step up, vertical jumps up & down, push press, side swings on pull up bar and the tripod get up. A fine collection of contextual movements.
Did you know I provide online coaching? If this kind of training tickles your fancy, I would be more than happy to chat about working together.
Let’s kick this off by stating that all movement is good, so long as it doesn’t hurt. No, pain is not weakness leaving the body. It’s a signal to stop doing what you’re doing. The fitness world is a packed arena full of good movement from yoga, pilates, barbells, kettlebells, calisthenics, walking, running etc etc. It’s all good. Moving is good. Feeling good is good.
But here’s a question, is what you are doing now going to serve you when you are both out of your exercise modality and when you will be old(er)?
It’s great to be flexible, but are you strong? It’s awesome to be strong, but can you get to the floor and play with the kids or grandkids?
It’s mighty fine to have an exercise habit but are you useful?
This is something I’ve been acknowledging for a while now after the realisation that some people are great in the gym but, well, kind of suck at life usefulness. A bold and cheeky statement, but a truism all the same. It is oh so very important to go to the gym, develop strength, mobility and to go for a good walk or run, but I believe we are missing the boat somewhat by not using our exercise time for a higher purpose. Life.
Life is not just going to the gym (#gymislife) as many will propose. Life is living well, with great function until the day we die. Doing the housework without getting out of breath. Tidying up the garden without putting your back out. Playing with the kids without limitations. Having the confidence to go for a good bush walk, climbing over boulders and jumping over creeks. And as we age, still being able to do all of this as well as dress ourselves and climb the stairs with an armful of groceries.
Note, I made no reference to doomsday preparation or the zombie apocalypse. I’m talking about real-world, purposeful exercise.
Believe me when I say I love kettlebell swings and presses. Like as much as Thor loves Beer, I love Kettlebell training. But while the kettlebell swing does develop strong, snappy hips, it’s not the best preparation for jumping over things. It’ll help a lot, but will not develop the ankles and feet for take off and landing as well as propulsing the body through space. The kettlebell press teaches great pressing mechanics but not necessarily the pressing ability to push over the top of a wall, branch or throwing a heavy object. Pressing a weight will help, but it’s not complete.
Yes, strength training with weights from kettlebells to barbells is fantastic but maybe they lack some reality or context to the real world.
Here’s a fun challengeto contextualise your training
If you train 3 times a week for example, how about taking one of the sessions and adding context. By that I mean converting each exercise or movement on your list and making them real world applications of that movement. This session wouldn’t mean a max out type session, but the execution of purpose behind each movement.
To demonstrate, here are some ideas.
There are no reasons ‘not’ to practice traditional strength movements. They are great at develop specific strengths. What I would love to see more of is the practice of using these traditional lifts with a flare of real-world applications.
A greater use of our time spent in the gym would be in helping others. Be that assisting the elderly, disabled, volunteering to help maintain our green spaces putting your hand up when people ask for help on social media. We’ve almost gotten to a stage when meeting new people is fearful. Eye contact is dwindling or shielded behind our smart devices.
As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats put it, ‘There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met’.
Train to be strong, useful to yourself, your family and community.
I would love to hear from you if you already train / exercise / workout this way. Likewise, if you’d be interested in learning more and how to apply this concept to your own training, just get in touch.
I really am a terrible person but I just can’t help myself laughing out loud, a literal lol when I watch one of those videos with people slipping, falling, crashing their bike on a straight road and of course cats slipping off the kitchen counter.
It is an innate human thing to do – laugh at someone else’s expense. This very natural response is called Schadenfreude. ‘Schadenfreude is when we laugh at someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude comes from the two German words, Schaden and Freude, harm and joy’. Psychology Today It’s our built in response to avoid fear or pain. Simple hey!?
Personally I’d rather not fuel someone else’s avoidance of feel fear or anxiety by not tripping, falling, slipping, to the best of my abilities anyway.
Another failing of mine are my feet. My big size 46 feet. I used to torture them by squeezing them into tight, rigid cycling shoes. I wore these specialised shoes for 20-25 hours+ a week for a few years when I raced full-time in the 90s’. The firmness of the shoe helps not waste energy pushing into the pedals but can and does result in pathetically weak feet and ankles if no other training is carried out.
Apart from neurological conditions, weak feet and ankles are leading causes of trips, falls and knee pains.
While my feet are better now than right after I hung up my bike and stiff shoes (because of knee problems), they have suffered anyway. I tend to train in the gym barefoot or in socks which has helped me immensely. No more orthotics for me. However, I noticed for ages how my bush walks took their toll on my feet and ankles despite wearing expensive barefoot style shoes. Cramps, aches and occasional plantar fascia inflammation all made walking less enjoyable. Until…
Until I discovered balance training.
In 2016 we had some renovation work done on our house. One length of hardwood removed nearly ended up in the builders skip. This piece of 5m, 8cm x 20cm chunk of hardware made me immediately think ‘balance exercises’ in the gym. I was mostly thinking of adding this for my senior gym members as part of fall-prevention training.
Sadly I didn’t action this right away. Thinking people would label me as mad as a fish I wasn’t brave enough to unleash the beam. Until…
… Until I finally attended the level 1 Certification with MovNat in January 2020. The curriculum includes many aspects of natural human movement. The preparation manual included many movements to practice including balance. I didn’t really think much about the effort of walking along a length of timber until I realised how inefficient I was. Not wanting to flunk my cert because I couldn’t balance walk, I put in much practice. Pretty much daily I spent a minute here and there walking forward, backwards, shuffling sideways, duck-walking along the timber and other really quite fun moves. This was between November 2019 and January 2020 and during this time I was still doing my weekly off-road walks that I’ve always done. Very rough paths, loose stones and rocks and bits of trees etc.
I can honestly say my body had an epiphany earlier in the year. Were I normally have to focus on where I’m placing my feet to avoid an ouchy, it’s as if my feet just all-of-sudden intuitively knew where to go. These past 6 months of ongoing off-road walking have been fantastic. More relaxed, faster when I need to be and so much more efficient with fewer trips or stumbles if any at all. Best of all, my feet and ankles simply do not give me any negative feedback afterwards. No tight ankles. No big toe pain. No plantar fascia pains. My feet have learned how to be feet again it seems.
Doing more readinghas supported my thoughts that balance training effectively fine tunes the feet and ankles and their reflexive strength and endurance.
I do still daily walks on my cheap ol homemade balance beam that was saved from the builder and I have all my clients routinely walking and working on some 2x4s from Bunnings. At $5 each these have been great investments. A lot cheaper than recovering from a painful fall or trip. I’m not saying a trip or fall will never happen, cause hey, ‘life happens’, but luck favours the prepared.
If you spend your day in hard soled shoes and complain of sore feet and ankles, I really do recommend you call over to your local hardware store and pick up a length of 2×4… or check out the builders skip in your suburbs.
Here are a couple of videos of simple balance drills, starting with one not needing any equipment at all, just the floor beneath you.
And if you can get hold of a 2×4 or similar, here are some great exercises to practice.