Select Page

Are you having a hard time connecting to your body? Do you feel like no matter what you do it aches, or holds weight, or feels sluggish? By recognizing and seeking out fundamental movement patterns in your day-to-day you can decrease pain, feel your best, and increase energy. At Elm City Coach, we have identified 8 Fundamental Movement Patterns. This blog introduces them.

Balancing

Download our FREE introduction to the balancing pattern Here.

The importance of balance gets a lot of press. And why not? Everybody wants it: work-life balance, nutritional balance, a balanced relationship, fall prevention… It even represents mental states in our language: “on a tightrope”, “a fine line”, “walking on eggshells”, “toe the line”. We respond to and learn from our environment through movement and play and balance is a great example.

When I am balanced, I am connected to myself. I am centered. I feel simultaneously grounded and free. There is a sense of clarity and calm that allows me to move about the world as I need: to be flexible, strong, agile, mobile, present, and confident. It is empowering. And it’s where success starts.

Being in balance requires engagement and proper use of the breath. Breath is really the foundation, breath and posture. Additionally, we can’t be so relaxed that we topple over, but we can’t be so tense that movement cannot occur. We need balance in balance.

Take a moment to bring awareness to your breath. Don’t try to alter it, just become conscious of it. And your head, what’s going on there? Does it feel free and clear, light? Or does it feel congested and heavy? In a moment I’d like you to set your phone, or some sort of timer for 3 minutes. (If you don’t think you have time for 3 minutes, then set your time for 5.) You’re going to close your eyes and breathe for 3 minutes (or 5 if you’re too busy), noticing your breath and repeating, in your head, the mantra: I am (on the inhale). At peace (on the exhale).

Begin.

3 minutes, or 5, may not be long enough to center yourself. You may need 10 or 20. The more often you sit in meditation the easier it’s going to be to notice when your state has changed. But chances are, if you’re new to this, 3 was enough to slow you down for a moment. And that’s where you want to be when you are in balance, relaxed in control, not fighting, coming in and out of stillness, because it’s a misconception that being in balance means constant equality or stillness. It simply isn’t the case. Trees sway in the wind otherwise they snap. Relationships require give and take otherwise they are dull and monotonous. Balance ebbs and flows around a grounded center. Ground yourself so that you can flow. Practice your movement this way. Practice balance this way.

I thought maybe I’d share some statistics about falls in older American’s, but it’s not hard to find that information if you’re interested. Here are a couple links for your reference –

Balance training is beneficial for all of us, not just those at risk for falling, and fall prevention requires more than just balance training: flexibility, strength, and coordination are all important. Training fundamental movement patterns is really about being mindful of your body in space. And balance training is brilliant for that. For all of us.

So, because it’s easy to think we’re beyond needing to practice balancing, I invite you to try this little test:

Stand on one foot without holding on to anything. If you can stand for 0:60 seconds you have normal balance. Less than 0:30 and your balance needs to be addressed.

Don’t forget both sides.

To test your dynamic (moving) balance try walking a line heel-to-toe for 25 yards without losing balance.

Note: you don’t have to fall to lose balance, you simply have to waver to be “out of balance”.

To train your balance, try walking on a 2”x4” for 8’-16’ without stepping off. You can get a 2”x4” from Home Depot for less than $4.00.

Let us know how you did in the comments below!

Reaching

Download our FREE introduction to the reaching pattern Here.

When we think about the hundreds of different training options available: MovNat, FRC, Strong First…the list goes on…and they’re mostly catering to people who want to train like professional athletes. I’m not going to argue the purpose in that. I’m simply presenting an alternative method for you, who want to train like regular folk with every day problems: joint pain that prevents you from walking up and down the stairs without compensation, fatigue that prevents you from playing with your kids gleefully, anxiety that prevents you from asking for your just desserts in the office. Maybe they aren’t glamorous goals, but they’re your goals and they’re worthy of a training system designed not only to teach you how to move this body you were given, but how to recognize the same movement patterns in your every day life so you don’t have to join multiple gyms and go out of your way to get in a “workout”.

I’ve identified eight Fundamental Movement Patterns that we perform, and should therefore practice, every day. Through a combination of my study of Personal Training, child development, MovNat, George Hebert’s Method Naturelle, as well as my own movement practice I produced a training plan that not only supports every day life but is actually contained within it.

This is the first in a series of eight blog posts designed to help you make life your training center. In each section we’ll talk about a different movement pattern that you can seek out and practice. Today, we’re discussing Reaching.

The shoulder joint is a complex structure mostly because it isn’t just one joint at all. It is actually a combination of joints that, when working together optimally, create smooth, multidirectional movement. The shoulder blade (scapula) should glide up, down, in, and around while the upper arm rotates in its socket. Not to mention the collar bone (clavicle) which spins in its position to allow greater ranges of motion. The shoulder is supported by muscles as opposed to ligaments. Because if it were supported by ligaments, which are not nearly as plastic as muscles, our movement would be greatly restricted. If any muscle or group of muscles fails to do its duty the whole system starts to break down: other muscles pull more than they’re designed, compensation occurs, and the longer it goes on the harder it is to tell what’s gone wrong because there might now be more than one problem.

Having a strong, healthy shoulder is of great importance, but our current lifestyle does not require all the different capabilities of the shoulder. For example, when was the last time you climbed a tree to pick fruit? The act of reaching up overhead to grasp something is not uncommon, we need glassware from the top shelf, books are occasionally hard to reach, even one’s hair needs to be washed, but it is rare to find oneself supporting her body weight from one arm while reaching up over head with the other.

As children, climbing trees and monkey bars was not uncommon. Reaching up over head and supporting bodyweight for an adult who isn’t trained as a Ninja Warrior might seem absurd or impossible but if you had been supporting your bodyweight by hanging as you grew, your upper body strength to weight ratio would be appropriate. To jump into it now would indeed be absurd, but resources exist to help you get going intelligently.

Of course there are other, less strenuous ways, to practice the act of reaching, and done repetitively with increasing levels of intensity, in new situations, with different loads one can indeed train the shoulder complex to do its job.

Go out of your way to practice these patterns in different environments. Don’t worry about how heavy you can work them, just get as much variation as possible. As Katy Bowman says,

“We are often caught up in more — more weight, more reps — of a single movement pattern instead of establishing more motor programs and increasing the use of more parts.”

Try the following activities with a sense of purpose and start training your reach:

Shaking someone’s hand

Opening a door

Taking off a shirt, coat, or sweater

Getting an object from the back seat while in the front

Washing your hair

Washing your child or pet in the tub

Washing windows or floors or dusting

Weeding

Picking fruit

Mopping, vacuuming, or sweeping

Pruning bushes or trimming trees

Painting

Placing luggage overhead

All of these movement patterns are performed with different levels of intensity and they are all expressions of reaching.

Try this: see how many times in a day you find yourself reaching. Do you reach equally with both hands? Let us know what you find in the comments below.

Marannie Rawls Philippe is the Founder and Programming Director at Elm City Coach, a personal training studio dedicated to bringing it’s clients lives into greater balance by connecting them deeper body, mind, and soul. Elm City Coach offers Private Personal Training, Small Group Training, and Health Coaching.