I remember the first reformer class I attended as a client. There were four of us, but one lady in particular stands out in my memory, she was wearing jeans (with some stretch but not jeggings, real pockets and zippers and all). I kept waiting for her to go change, or talk about how she forgot her workout pants…. but neither happened. She moved through the repertoire with ease . Even in the standing exercises she easily squatted, flat footed butt back and shins near parallel….. not inhibited in the slightest by her “normal clothes”. She made me pause, perhaps not immediately but throughout the next few months, to reconsider what I qualify as “exercise”.
I instantly fell in love with the reformer that day. I went in expecting a typical “workout” or what I considered a “workout” at that time. I was immediately disapointed by not getting sweaty and not elevating my heart rate drastically. But I instantly felt the improvement in my posture throughout the day, my limbs felt lengthened, tight spots (like my inner thighs and hamstrings) were more relaxed, and true core muscles were awakened. Small inticate movements highlighted my weaknesses and took my compensation techniques out of the equation. The focused task of coordinating movement with my breath was taxing in the moment but allowed my mind to focus fully and toss my perpetual “To Do” lists aside. I left with the sensation that my mental RESET button had finally been pressed.
In my initial assessments my clients and I discuss how often they would like to workout. My next question is always about what they classify as “exercise”. It always involves getting sweaty and out of breath…. More often than not what these clients really need is to focus on releasing before loading anything. Short and weak muscles are causing compensations in their movement patterns that are on a path to destruction if they bound into a celebrity app workout program. What they really need to do is set aside time to release these muscles. More often than not they have no problem intigrating 3 days of cardio or strength training into their life but the stretching and release work is ALWAYS the first to be skipped. Why? Why do we value sweaty, painful exercise so much more than taking the time to improve our alignment and coordinating our systems to function properly and effectively.
As a Kinesiologist/trainer I have struggled with building the confidence to tell clients that we are going to move slowly and build progressively. I am learning to get over the fear that they will go elsewhere to find someone who will slam them with an ass kicking workout regardless of what their body actually needs. They are always pleasantly impressed that the feeling is still the same even with a lower intensity, take out compensation strategies, take out momentum…… and its hard to move properly. With knowledge and practice, my confidence is growing and as I continue to learn new techniques and practices I am happy to be able to help them and myself rethink how we define exercise. And I am happy to say I often do a workout in jeans these days.
One of my best friends (a long time runner) admitted to me that since having two kids (in two years) she doesn’t have any energy left at the end of the day to exercise. She said she feels like she has been working out all day… well she has! So with mindful movement and proper form hopefully we can feel less destroyed at the end of a busy day with toddlers and babies and strengthened and lengthened instead.
Here are a few ideas to rethink how we view exercise and can integrate proper movement and form into our daily lives.
- Taking dishes out of the dishwasher, supplement a proper squat
- Squatting to pick up our children, (that should add about ten thousand squats to your day if your baby is anything like mine!)
- Getting up and down off of the floor to play with your kids (a techinque could be: kneeling to lunge to split stance squat and you are up!)
- Crawling on the floor (say what.. but any of you with little kids know that at some points in time its easier to crawl along the floor to grab that diaper instead of get up and walk two feet… so just crawl mindfully)
- Sitting down to a chair/coach, getting off the chair or coach…. squat, squat, squat (be mindful of how you do it now)
- Even breastfeeding, try squeezing between your shoulder blades while you breastfeed… resist the urge to round forward
- Changing a diaper (check your form, are you rounding your shoulders, why not bend your knees, stick your butt out, lengthen your spine).