Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moving Naturally: Play Your Way to Fitness

I am a 50 year old wanna-be athlete with a falling apart body and a determination not to feel so old. I am trying everything possible to hold my body together to not only run, but to run fast. I love the idea of running and my history as a runner (not meaning being a real fast guy-but as someone who has continuously competed for over 35 years). Unfortunately doctors told me to give it up over 20 years ago and my body seems to want to agree, but I refuse. Things don't often work right and running is usually not fun, but it is what I do.

I have not yet found the magic formula to keep me running, but I am willing to explore all avenues. However as I sit and contemplate this aging body and its refusal to run efficiently, I think back to when I was young and the outdoors was my world. I liked to run, but I liked to do a lot of other things too. I played. I climbed trees. I swam at the beach. I wrestled the other guys in the neighborhood. I ran through the woods jumping over downed trees. I played the current sport of the season: football, baseball, street hockey or whatever with all the neighborhood kids. I was constantly moving and at play. Indoors was not fun (well unless we were tearing apart the house)!

Nowadays, I find I avoid other movements because it may throw out my back and hips or throw off my balance and keep me from running. I have been thinking that maybe I have it all wrong. Sure I have been willing to try new adventures through the years: I was a triathlete back when no one really knew what a triathlon was (1983). I picked up the biking and swimming on my own and my third triathlon was an Ironman distance race. I got into bicycle racing for a few years. I also picked up kickbiking almost 10 years ago, and even tried snowshoe racing this winter (even though I had bought my racing snowshoes about 10 years ago). You might notice a problem with all my activity. It is all straight ahead repetitive motioned movement. While I may have developed a great cardiovascular system and competed with great endurance, I really am not athletic in my movement patterns. I try to go one direction as fast as I can, but there are so many more movement patterns in being an athlete. I no longer "know" those patterns.

As I view the Z-Health S-Phase DVDs on perfecting precise athletic movements, I realize how little I know about movement. I also realize how little I do to move athletically or functionally in all directions.

I have been reminded after reading some posts on Matt Metzgar's blog, about movement and play. I also recall when I started this blog over a year ago after my participation on a thread on called "Aging and Feeling Good While Running"' It was a great thread (I am TDF). With all the advice given, one thing was clear, get back to "playing". Hey, young guys, if you want to know what it will feel like in a few years when you hit 50, read that thread, there is some good stuff in there.

While Z-Health has you working on precise drills to move athletically, another interesting movement idea out there comes from (Move Naturally). MovNat sums up there basic philosophy with, "MovNat trains you to become a well-rounded natural athlete, ready for a wide range of practical actions in various kinds of situations." You don't work out in the gym, you work outdoors in nature (Men's Health article here). Another article.

The 12 key movements of MovNat are:
Walking on all fours

(I liked to jump as a kid. I would climb up in a tree and jump down from as high as I could. I remember the numb feeling in my legs when I would do this. I sometimes wonder if those jumps could be part of the problem with my hips.)

Here is a MovNat video showing these movements outdoors in nature. It sort of reminds me of a grown up kid outdoors playing. It looks like fun and I would love to have a backyard like that to play in! It also reminds me a bit of doing Parkour (free running) but out of the city.

I was also interested in one of Matt Metzgar's posts on quadrupedal movement enough to see what it was. Here is a video. I am curious as to how it would feel on my back and hips. I have the sneaking suspicion that it might feel very good as it is a natural movement. Now, I need to find a place to go play. My neighbors might think I am certifiably nuts.

The point is that maybe my body is breaking down because I have always been so sport specific and as I got out of college and into the real world (or was I leaving the real world), I stopped playing in all the various ways that I did when I was younger and running around wild. The answer may be to get out there and move in all ways possible. I will have to try to incorporate these ideas in my workouts and my daily life. I posted a previous MovNat video on barefoot running here.


Matt Metzgar said...


Glad I can provide some ideas. I just did some quadrupedal movement earlier tonight. It somehow seems to lock the spine in the proper position if you do it right. As you say, doing these indirect and playful moves may be more effective than direct work.

Chris said...


I think you would like this interview I just posted:

There is an interview with Erwan LeCorre on the blog too

Jim Hansen said...

I liked the video on the Exuberant-Animal page (through the link on your interview). It looks fun. As a teacher of elementary school students, my brain is already searching for ways to apply some of this "play" into my classroom. It looks fun, active, is trust and relationship building, and it gets kids out of their seats.
I look forward to finding out more.