I was thinking the other day about human movement patterns and how they change over time. I have been to many lectures throughout my career: Grey Cooke, Alwyn Cosgrove, Al Vermeil, and the list goes on. All of the lectures were geared to fitness professionals, so we could learn and apply our new knowledge to our clients or athletes. The common denominator in most of the lectures was about getting your client to feel better/move better through different training protocols, or insight into how the body responds to those training protocols. The main goal of a strength coach is to get our athletes to move more efficiently and prevent injury. In my mind, that should be the goal for everyone, especially the population of people who no longer play a sport on a regular basis and now work full time.
Our bodies are designed to move in all 3 plains of motion (frontal, sagittal and transverse), but as we get older we tend to only move in one plain most of the time due to a decrease in activity level. Let me break this down a different way, so everybody has a clear picture of what happens to our body as we age in the USA.
Culture plays an important role into our movement patterns. People all across the world move differently when growing up in different cultures and regions. An example of this is NYC, where I live now. NYC is a commuter city and we walk constantly here. It’s not conducive to have a car in Manhattan. It’s much easier to walk than to drive. So, when friends visit and complain that their legs are tired from all the walking we do, I have to remember that New Yorkers are accustomed to walking ten, twenty, and even thirty blocks or ride their bikes to work. This can be very overwhelming and tiring for someone not from NYC.
Every living being on earth has movement patterns. Do you know what yours typically are? Understanding your movement patterns is the first step in addressing any pain or asymmetries in your body (tight hips, tight back, poor ankle mobility). Most kids start playing as soon as they can walk. Have you ever watched kids at a playground? They do just about everything the body can do: running, jumping, skipping, hopping, climbing, sliding, reaching, tumbling and falling. Kids are pliable and play in all 3 planes of motion (frontal, sagittal and transverse). When you play a sport, there are specific patterns to the sport. Most sports are played in all 3 planes of motion which is great for the body. If you played a sport in high school or college, do remember how good your body felt? How does your body feel now? If you have never been an active person, you probably do not know how your body is supposed to feel. For some of you who continue to be active I’m sure you feel great, but how about the people who just go to work and come home day after day. How do their bodies feel? I’m sure they’re not feeling their best.
Throughout life your movement patterns change do to lifestyle preferences: types of jobs, where you live, injuries and motivation. Over 60% of Americans are obese, which is very sad for a country which has more gyms and personal trainers than any other country in the world. There are also a plethora of reasons why people who have been sedentary for a long time decide to start exercising. One reason is for health purposes. How many people do you know who started an exercise regimen because the doctor told them to? If you get to the point where your doctor says exercise or you will have to take these pills for the rest of your life or possibly you are on your way to heart failure, the culprit is your lack of movement and poor eating habits.
Pain can be caused by weakness or muscle imbalances from lack of movement or only moving in one plane of motion (sagittal). If you work a desk job and are not active or your only activity is running, you’re still only moving in one plane of motion (sagittal). It’s imperative we use the body the way it was designed, which is to move in all 3 planes of motion. It’s important to choose different activities to encompass all planes of motion. If all you do is go to spin class and run on the treadmill, you’re only moving in one plane of motion: straight ahead. It’s great you’re exercising, but there are two planes of motion you’re ignoring. My advice is to take a hard look at your own movement patterns and see what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. We should all strive to move like we are on the playground again. Not only will it be fun, but it will also be different, which is the perfect stimulus you need to reset the movement patterns your body already has programmed into itself.