How to upgrade your movement skills with baby steps
The curse of being an overachiever
Most of us come to the wonderful world of movement and body alignment because we're tired of knee pain when we go up and down stairs, we're embarrassed that we leak pee when we sneeze, or we're afraid that our pelvic organs are going to continue their downward descent.
The situation has reached an intolerable level and we want it fixed now. Actually, we want it fixed yesterday.
We're also used to catching on to things quickly. We're quick studies as a friend of mine likes to say.
Plus, we live in a microwave world. We're used to results happening quickly.
So we dive in enthusiastically, gobble up information and, sweet overachievers that we are, we try to do everything all at once.
Are you changing everything all at once?
Maybe you heard that sitting on the floor is better than sitting on the couch, so you gave up your couch cold turkey.
Maybe you've jumped on the minimalist shoes wagon and made the switch from regular shoes to minimalist shoes in one fell swoop. Screw transitioning, who has time for that?
Maybe you realized you've been walking like a duck and decided to force your feet to be perfectly straight all. of. the. time. because it's better for your hips, knees and ankles.
Maybe you started walking 3 miles a day after years of walking no further than your door to your car.
After all, if moving better has the potential to do so many wonderful things for your body, why not do all the things all at once?
The sooner you do all the things, the faster you'll get results, right?
Too much of a good thing is still too much
While it may seem like a great idea to clean house and fix everything all at once, your body may feel differently. After all, it's spent decades practicing, and adapting to, your current movement habits.
An overnight change from turned out feet to straight feet might cause a protest in the form of an achey knee or sore calves.
"My knee never bothered me before I started doing this. What am I doing wrong?!"
Understandably, new aches or pains can cause concern and worry that you're doing something wrong and have messed up your body even more than it already was.
But what if the only thing that's wrong is you did too much, too soon?
Maybe your body needed more than a day (or two or three) to adjust to changing the thing you've been doing for decades.
Your body is not a light switch.
Bodies take time to change.
I know, no one wants to hear this. We want it all fixed yesterday, but bodies don't work like that.
Bodies require us to slow down, to pay attention, to notice, to be with.
The problem with trying to do all the things all at once:
You develop new aches and pains.
Remember, too much of a good thing is still too much. Your body needs time to adjust. Doing too much, too soon can cause problems. Learn from my mistakes. Going slow and steady will get you where you want to go far more quickly than doing too much, too soon.
You get overwhelmed.
Changing movement and alignment habits is a lot of brain work. Trying to change everything all at once is a recipe for overwhelm. Don't do it.
You get frustrated with not doing it "right".
Learning something new takes time and practice. Lots of practice. It's messy, humbling and ego bruising. Expecting yourself to get it all "right", right away will only lead to frustration.
If your goal is "perfection" vs. steady progress, you'll quickly realize that you fall short. Combine this with overwhelm and frustration and it's easy to see why you might be tempted to throw in the towel. Why would you continue doing something you think you suck at?
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Baby steps are your best friend.
Here are 4 tips that will help you make steady progress with changing your movement habits.
1. Pick just one thing to focus on each day.
Maybe one day your focus is to sit without tucking your pelvis.
Maybe the next you practice standing at your kitchen countertop without leaning your pelvis against it. With practice, these will become your new normal.
2. Chunk it down.
Instead of trying to change something all at once, make a more gradual shift over time. Remember those turned out feet? Move them closer to straight bit by bit, over days, or weeks.
Have a pelvis that drifts forward over your toes? Back it up bit by bit, over days, or weeks. It doesn't have to be all or nothing!
3. Stay curious.
Self talk matters. You can get down on yourself or you can be your best ally.
Instead of "Damnit! I'm thrusting my ribs AGAIN! Why am I always rib thrusting?!" what about "Huh, look at that, when I lift my arm to take the plates out of the cupboard my ribs thrust. That's interesting. I wonder what it would be like to do that movement without thrusting my ribs?"
4. Notice what's different.
In your quest to reach your Everything Is Now Better destination, it's easy to miss the Progress Is Happening signs along the way.
Signs like being able to sit on the floor comfortably for a whole five minutes or finally getting your knee caps to move up and down at long last. when a couple weeks before you only lasted a minute before your back said enough. Notice them and celebrate them.
Yes, baby steps can be a blow to your sweet overachiever ego.
It's ok, do it anyway, your body will thank you and you'll reap the rewards of consistent, steady improvement.
Patience, persistence and practice are what will see you through. Those are what will get you closer to your destination, bit by bit.
Go easy, my friend.