Whether we are focused on improving your physical health, mental health, or emotional health, we must appreciate the interconnectedness of each of these components, and regularly seek to improve each. Moving well and often, eating to provide nourishment for our bodies, ensuring we get enough sleep every night, managing our stress, and fostering relationships that help create a supportive and loving environment are essential components of a balanced and healthy life. There are many ways to improve overall health and well-being. Movement plays a vital role in not only improving physical health, but also can help improve mental and emotional well-being. Having a dedicated movement practice, whether it’s weightlifting, yoga, hiking, running, spartan races, or whatever else floats your boat, is imperative to continuing on the path towards improving your physical, mental, and emotional health.
In committing to a movement practice, we can provide ourselves with a means of regular feedback about how our bodies are feeling and functioning. A good movement practice can help you to constantly assess and reassess what is going on in your body, and address whatever is going on proactively. Sometimes we have areas in our bodies where we experience chronic ongoing symptoms. Other times, we just have a weird ache or pain that goes away on its own in a day or two. Either way, a movement practice can help us to stay on top of addressing the things that need addressing. Without having a regular means of checking in on our physical bodies, the sensations we are feeling any given day (soreness, tightness, fatigue, pain, etc.) can far more easily be ignored. If we ignore our symptoms for too long, they can sometimes become chronic; these dysfunctions can be addressed proactively and preventatively. More often than not, we wait until our bodies are screaming at us to pay attention (pain) before we decide to intervene. First and foremost, people come to see me in order to resolve pain. Since I’m deeply rooted in coaching movement practices, I try to highlight the importance of having a movement practice as part of the healing process. A good movement practice helps us to take a proactive approach to minimizing the likelihood of injuries or pain, creates more resiliency, and helps coerce the nervous system into feeling safe again.
While it is great if we can optimize neuromuscular function while you are in the clinic, what I care about more is how are the treatments translating to everyday life. Are you able to walk up and down your stairs without pain anymore? Are you able to play an entire 18 rounds of golf without your knee giving you issues? Are you strong and mobile enough to be able to throw your daughter up on your shoulders and carry her around Disneyland without falling apart? THAT is what I care about, and no amount of therapeutic intervention will resolve your symptoms in the long term if you aren’t regularly building up resiliency and strength. Committing to a movement practice that is appropriate for you not only reduces the likelihood of needing a therapeutic intervention, but also helps to reinforce the functional capacity of therapy. Training often does not provide the specificity necessary to fully address or resolve symptoms, while therapy often does not take the process far enough long in order for full integration to take place. Combining both is the best and most thorough way to heal and progress forward.
In addition to providing regular feedback about how our bodies and nervous systems are functioning, improving movement capacity and quality can also often be the primary driver in alleviating your pain or movement dysfunction. Something like yoga can prove to be incredibly helpful for a person who has a very hard time staying in a meditative present state of mind, or someone who suffers from a lack of flexibility. Something like functional strength training for a young hyper-mobile athlete who continues to experience injury after injury due to instability and weakness will boost their resiliency and performance. Tissue-specific manual therapy and mobility work to a professional bodybuilder, who is constantly pushing the envelope with their training intensity and volume, will help to keep them from getting too muscle bound or stiff. Even just some basic foundational training and regular cardio and stretching can go a long way in helping a regular desk jockey or super busy mother of 4 to maintain their overall health.
While it is imperative for each of us to make moving better and more often a part of our lives, it must be noted that not all movement practices are appropriate for all people. If you are using movement as a means of working to resolve any sort of pain or movement difficulty, if your symptoms are not improving, or perhaps even getting worse, chances are that the movement practice you’re currently partaking in is not the best one for you. If there’s something that you love doing, but you know that it continues to create dysfunction in your body, try seeing what else you can supplement with it. Sometimes we end up giving up our greatest passions even when we don’t need to. Sometimes we just need to figure out a better strategy to allow for better long-term adaptation.
An appropriately applied movement practice can be the difference between performing at your best and staying resilient during difficult times in your life, or becoming a victim of chronic pain, injuries, and lagging performance. Having a dedicated movement practice is a vital component of living a healthy lifestyle. It provides a means of continually assessing and reassessing how your body is feeling, moving, and functioning, allows for a proactive approach to minimizing the likelihood of injuries or pain, and can often be the primary driver in alleviating your pain or movement dysfunction. Seek different forms of therapy as needed, but don’t wait until you get injured, or start to experience severe or chronic pain before you take action. Choose a movement practice you love, and just as importantly, one that provides you with the benefits that your body needs. Your body will thank you, and your overall quality of life and ability to perform at a high level will improve tremendously.