Vail Daily column: The body is one piece
I have been an aficionado of horology for years. Horology is simply the art and science of measuring time.
Clocks and watches of all types have peaked my curiosity since childhood. Collecting watches is a frivolous hobby that is exciting and frustrating at the same time. In my small collection, I have an old Omega Seamaster from the ’60s that recently stopped ticking. The watch seems to have a problem with the drive train, the mainspring power is not reaching the balance or a number of other reasons — dirt or debris in the drive train, a binding second hand, bent teeth, or poor lubrication. The important consideration is that the movement will have to be disassembled and diagnostics will have to be used to fix the problem. A failure of the smallest, most seemingly trivial moving part of the watch can cause the entire system to fail. Some watches, by the way, have an excess of 100 moving parts that manage the time.
DRIVER OF HUMAN MOVEMENT
Last week, I tore, or badly strained, the muscle in the back of my left leg. The hamstrings are a critical, powerful, and overly important driver of all human movements. It’s always a blessing and a curse the handful of times I have injured myself in the pursuit of fitness or athletic excellence. What is the confirming lesson in the process of this nagging injury?
The body and the way it ought to work is just like the intricate movement of a fine Swiss watch. The smallest mechanical failure of the least significant part can ruin the entire system. Case in point — there’s not a whole lot of authentic fitness movements that you can execute effectively in the presence of an injured tissue or joint in the body. The body is one piece. Try performing pull-ups, lunges, squats, or pushups with an injured hamstring. It’s difficult, if not impossible because your body isn’t a box of random parts that are used only when needed.
Here’s where it gets fuzzy. I could sit on a Nautilus strength training machine, such as the millions of these that decorate gyms across the country, and grind away sparring my leg injury. These machines purposely isolate muscles and create convenience at the expense of authentic movement. These machine-based exercise programs promote patterns of movement dysfunction which lead to injury in the first place. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I did injury myself exercising the way God authentically designed us to. Injuries still occur in a perfect, controlled sensory rich environment. This, is not the point. I don’t care what you do, accidents still happen even in the safest settings. I digress.
First of all, what is authentic movement? Simply, a natural primitive movement execution that mankind didn’t invent that doesn’t discriminate against specific joints or muscle groups. Crawling, rolling, climbing, getting up off of the floor, yoga, squatting, bending, twisting, pushing and pulling objects to name a few. If you can learn to perform these activities in the wild without coaching, then it’s likely as authentic as it gets.
What are un-authentic movement patterns? Cycling, exercise machines, pilates reformers and as much as I hate to admit it, skiing is very un-authentic. Skiing is one of my biggest passions by the way, so I’m not knocking it.
Un-authentic movements are synonymous with a car. A car is clearly a magnificent invention that creates invaluable luxury and convenience. When a segment of a car breaks down, it doesn’t necessarily derail the system entirely. You can drive a motor vehicle for thousands of miles on a bad alignment, without problems at all. The complications arise when you realize you’ve cut your tire life in half, damaged the CV joints and wore out the suspension bushings.
Un-authentic fitness exercises that are performed on man-made machines break down your body the same way a poor alignment breaks down the suspension on your car. You will likely be fine for years, but at some point the convenience the machine brings will cost you dearly! Here’s what I know: Most people can survive quite well practicing un-authentic movement patterns. But if you attempt to create, and maintain fitness on these practices alone, then it’s only a matter of time before you break down. I have witnessed enough trainees who exclusively ski, ride a bike or push the spring around on the reformer who have severe fitness limitations.
For example, I have witnessed three women in the past year who aggressively practice pilates on a reformer with a qualified instructor, yet they can’t stand up from the ground in a half kneeling position. I hope these women never slip on ice in a parking lot late in the evening without assistance. Furthermore, in the past three months, I have witnessed two cyclists who are locked so rigidly, they can’t even touch their knees as they attempt to bend over.
DIVERSIFY YOUR FITNESS PROGRAM
Un-authentic movement patterns aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, some of the best exercise strategies to correct pain and dysfunction are performed using bands, reformers and cables. The bigger point I’m making is that un-authentic movement patterns should never make up the exclusive cornerstone in your fitness program.
When in doubt, realize that there isn’t a better fitness teacher than the natural environment in which you have to move authentically. Try climbing for once. Go to a yoga class that you know has been eluding you for years. Lift something heavy off of the floor. Your cycling and skiing will thank you for it. Have a great week!
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.