Maintaining strength, dexterity, endurance and flexibility once you have worked hard to achieve it, is as important as having achieved it in the first place. Don’t assume once you’re fit you’ll stay fit and strong. You stay fit and strong by being fit and strong not by thinking that once you were.
If you don’t PLAN to keep those reserves topped up, they will begin to ebb away. This may happen so insidiously that it goes unnoticed until aches and pains or strains and weakness, rear their ugly heads to announce the decline’s arrival.
The approach to take is to live a life where all these facets of your health (strength dexterity endurance and flexibility) are stimulated repeatedly, as part of your daily life. Not a tick box routine of working through 5 – 10 exercises once a day, only to then forget what your body needs, how it thrives and flourishes, for the rest of the day.
Reflect on the evolutionary journey of the human race. We evolved by repeatedly scrambling over rocks and fallen trees, ducking under branches, reaching-dragging-pushing-pulling for all manner of tasks, for survival. This was inevitably followed by the essential need to squat to the ground to make tools, prepare food, to eat drink and socialise.
Not considering your body as a complex dynamic living entity that requires routine sustenance respect and investment, can lead to you inadvertently taking your body for granted. Consider your car for a moment, where you chose to ignore low fuel reserves, wear on tyres, routine services and warning lights flashing on the dashboard. If you did, the likelihood is your car would start to let you down. Most people wouldn’t treat their car like this but so many would treat their body in exactly this way. Then they’d wonder why it was their body was starting to let them down.
The health and exercise industries have “technicalised” and “2 dimensionalised” what should be normal, spontaneous intuitive, 3 dimensional human movement. It’s no wonder those who dislike the gym or a regimented exercise class environment, find their mind glazing over at the very thought. This artificial replacement of what should be an instinctive move to live, live to move innate sense of purpose, can be disengaging and demotivating to those for whom this does not resonate. This is because it is disconnected, the polar opposite of the evolutionary journey the human race has travelled along, for the last 200,000 years.
So what does that mean for us today? What do we need do to, day in and day out to keep the engine running for a strong, supple, primed and ready to go, body?
First of all, keep it simple. Think in terms of your large joints (shoulders, hips and knees) and the largest, widest, broadest, deepest positions you can reach them into.
For example lifting your legs up and over a fallen tree trunk, carrying or pulling something behind your back, reaching and balancing on one leg, ducking low under an imaginary branch. Keep your movements: Large. Wide. Broad. Deep. These are just examples and are by no means exhaustive but they give you an idea of the 3 dimensional living I’m alluding to. Also consider how you can challenge your balance. In your daily life, look for real life obstacles to navigate over and under and through. Don’t always take the easy smooth straight route or path.
Your heart rate and breathing rate will proportionally increase with the effort of using your limbs and moving your body in an-all-that-it-is-to-be-human fashion. Start all the movements small and pain free, until you become more attuned to the movement, as well as stronger and fitter and more confident. Breathe, move slowly, connect with your body and its message to you; “do less, do more, take a break, keep going…” It’s not only what it’s telling you that’s important, it’s that you’re listening and responding appropriately. I’m not advocating forcing your body beyond its reserves and abilities and abusing your most valuable commodity, your health. Think the movement through, build the movement up, perform the movement and keep on keeping on with the movement.
Mime scrambling over a log
Scramble left and scrabble right
Scramble forwards and backwards
Duck underneath a tree bough
Transfer your weight left and right
Keep your bum low and bend your knees within a comfortable range
Maintain your shoulders over your knee
Having emptied your watering can, walk with the can held behind your back
Lengthen your spine and walk tall
Stand on one leg and imagine you’re swimming breast stoke (!!)
Reach your arms and leg far and wide
Challenge your balance
Change your swimming leg…
So don’t take your body for granted. Choose a different path for your life, your health, your body. Learn to understand how your body works, respect how precious it is and give it what it needs to thrive. Choose to maintain long term strength and fitness simply and easily by making life your gym.
Move your body effectively and efficiently with every move, every action, every day.