Oh our cheating bodies.. tuning into movement speed to prevent injury
Our bodies cheat with speed when we lack stability, control, strength, stamina.
Today while on the mat in yoga, I was reminded of a lesson I used to teach my physical therapy patients all the time. It's one that often created an A-ha! Moment for them, particularly my super-fit, athletic patients, because they just couldn't believe that they were weak with whatever exercise I had them doing. Typically, it was one they thought was WAY too easy, and I was personally insulting them by asking them to waste their time in such a way.
What happened today was this- one of the last movements we did was a slow descent of our bodies from standing with our heels raised into a basic toe balance. Both feet were on the floor and our hands at our hearts as we folded our bodies like an accordion to a simple squatting position remaining balanced on the balls of our feet… nothing too crazy.
The overall movement was fairly easy, but let me tell you, eeeevvveeryone practically zipped on down to the final balance pose despite the instructor's cues to move like a slug.
Maybe we were all just happy to let gravity help us make our way to corpse pose since it was the end of the class, but I'm pretty certain that wasn't all of it.
Even as mindful as I was of my speed, I felt my control slip about 3/4 of the way down causing me to glide right into the balance pose much faster than I intended.
Now I knew going into today's practice that I was feeling depleted in general and my core wasn't going to play nice… I did some running intervals last week that irritated my SI joints just below my low back. This typically causes a cascade of muscular compensations, including completely shutting down my deep core stabilizers.
So, I made adjustments throughout the practice to keep myself safe. Yet, I was still a little surprised to see how much trouble I had controlling such a simple movement. (Which also highlighted the need to ask for help! Even with my expertise, I can't always treat myself).
A-Ha! Thus, my reminder of the education I used to provide on at least a daily basis that I thought you ladies would totally appreciate.
Our bodies cheat with SPEED. We do it when we're tired, weak, lack control or stability, and when we're plain uncomfortable (probably from one of those underlying causes).
Our brains are wired for efficiency. We tell it to go from standing to squatting, and it'll get us there, by golly. However, proper motor activation patterns may be sacrificed just to get the job done with the least energy expended as possible. Why have 10 muscles activate, if we can get the job done with only 5, right?
If we don't tell our brain to slow the heck down so we can pay attention to HOW we move, then our technique suffers putting us at risk of injury.
I seriously could do an entire day's workshop on this topic, so I'll spare you too much of the science while I geek out over here privately.
Just know this:
If an exercise feels easier at a faster speed versus a slow speed- you've got work to do.
If you cannot maintain proper form when you're moving at a slow, controlled speed, then what you're doing is too hard and risk of injury is present relative to the complexity of the move. Adjust your resistance, move to less weight, or adopt a modification to the exercise or pose, particularly if it's a higher level activity.
When we just listen to what our bodies are telling us through these silent cues, we are able to make better choices for ourselves that really do move us forward to our goals so much faster.
While this lesson is applied to our neuromuscular system and movement, I think it's also a great concept to apply to the bigger things in our lives that we rush through.
What things do you find yourself speeding through just to get from A to Z? What would you learn about yourself if you slowed down until you felt safe?