At the very beginning of this year, Katy wrote an article: Focus Your Movement Resolution. She did that because she thinks a lot of people gravitate toward resolutions at the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. So, let Katy share with you how to make those resolutions more focused - and therefore more helpful and effective.
(times are approximate)
00:03:15 - Get Stronger Doing Half of an Exercise – (Jump to section)
00:07:15 - Resolve to Place Your Walk Well – (Jump to section)
00:10:45 - Get a Grip – (Jump to section)
00:13:00 - (Bonus Stack!) - (Jump to section)
00:13:45 - Personal Life Report - (Jump to section)
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
Focus Your Movement Resolution
This is the Move Your DNA podcast, a show where movement science meets your everyday life. I’m Katy Bowman - biomechanist, author, y estudiante! All bodies are welcome here. Let’s get movin'.
Friends! It is a few weeks into 2023. This is my end-of-the-year report as far as nutritious movement goes. I have moved twice in the last few months, and I don't mean moved my body twice. I mean, I have moved homes twice in the last few months. I have created a bunch of new instructional videos. There will be more on that soon. My new book on alignment is almost to the printer. It's coming out in May! I’ve written a short stack of new blog posts and articles. One of the most fun to create was titled "The Pumpkin Spice Workout". And it features a few exercises presented in animated Gifs or gifs (I'm not sure which one it is) for easy following and also has a whole lotta pumpkins in it. And no - No lattes were harmed during the creation of this article.
Other recent articles on my website include: all the exercises in my annual exercise advent, one to help you make sure your kids' clothes are movement ready, one on how to travel well, and then one with some very effective half-dome exercises. You can use that half-dome for more than just the calf stretch. And P.S. If you don’t already get these articles in your inbox, you should! Go sign up for my newsletter at nutritiousmovement.com then you’ll always be in the loop.
At the very beginning of this year, I wrote an article: Focus Your Movement Resolution. And I did that because I think a lot of people gravitate toward resolutions at the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. I do. But the stuff at the top of most peoples' list of things that they'd like to change about their life is usually pretty vague. And vagueness doesn’t stick or help.
So, I'm gonna share with you here what I put into that article to help you make those resolutions more focused - and therefore more helpful and effective.
So as I said, I’m a fan of making regular resolutions that address areas of my life where I’d like to see change, and I’m also a fan of being specific and methodical. My resolutions (which you can actually hear in the previous podcast episode if you missed it) are few and also narrow in on what I want to do and how I want to do it.
“Move more” or “get more exercise” is one of the top three items on most resolution lists. But resolutions are notoriously hard to stick to, and I suspect that’s because they tend to be vague and uninspiring. Movement is crucial, so if you’ve got the resolve, I want to help it stick. So here are some ways you might want to focus your intentions beyond “move more”.
Adjusting my seat. Okay. Here's one way.
So, in general, in order to get stronger, you have to regularly give your muscles a load to carry that’s heavier or more than those muscles are used to. This could mean lifting something heavy. But that’s not the only way to improve strength: you can also lower a heavy thing.
So, imagine picking up a heavy rock off the ground. Right? It's in your hands. Now curl your arms - bend your elbows - to bring that heavy rock towards your chest. So inside your upper arms is a muscle group called your biceps. When those muscles contract, as they get shorter, so they're carrying the heavy load toward you, it's called a concentric contraction. Right? The muscles are generating force but they're also getting shorter in order to pull the boulder toward you. It's a boulder. It started out as a rock now it's a heavy boulder. Now, when you lower that same rock/boulder, when you lower it slowly, your biceps have to work to control the descent of the arms. So if you just keep holding the rock but just let your arms sort of flop down, no work is really necessary in the arms. But if you lower that rock slowly, the biceps are still contracting but they're getting longer, as they contract. And that's a type of muscle contraction called an eccentric contraction. Concentric - muscles are getting shorter. Eccentric contraction - muscles are getting longer. Generating force in both cases.
So there's been some recent research on these eccentric contractions that were showing that a group - they were doing things for just their triceps - they were only doing the lowering phase of an exercise but they saw the same strength improvements when compared to those doing both the up and down part of the exercise. So this is good news if you’ve been wanting to work on practical body strength moves like a pull-up, or using your abdominals to from a lying position curl yourself up off the floor, or using your legs to just stand up or rise from the ground or to rise from something low like a short box, but you feel like your current body strength is too big a barrier.
So what you can do is you can focus your "move more" resolve by making 2023 the year of the eccentric. Create a short workout that’s mostly the lowering-down part of a handful of moves. Because lower-downs tend to be easier, and the cool thing is that your ability to do the “up” part will improve as well.
So, if you go to nutritiousmovement.com/focus-your-movement-resolution (with dashes in between each word) you can see a photo of me lowering myself from a pull-up bar. So you want to pay attention to the setup. I've got a chair behind me. So this is a key to how I am able to just do the lowering part of the pull-up exercise. I start, I'm up on the chair. Get myself - I start my pull-up already pulled up. Then I step off the chair and then all I have to do is ask that my muscles slowly carry my weight back down. So they're getting longer but they're still doing it slowly and therefore they are still contracting. And I had mentioned this as some new research, but this is a very old understanding about how to use eccentrics - the eccentric phase of an exercise - to get stronger. But it is really nice when you're trying to work around an injury or when the strength gap is just too big that you feel like you can't make any progress.
So I will be writing a little bit more about that - (another reason to sign up for the newsletter that will drop right to you) - an example of more exercises and how you would set up to just do the eccentric phase.
So that's one way that you might want to focus your resolution to "Move More". Here's another way:
So I can’t say this enough times: You can radically change your life with a daily walk. I just can't say this enough times. You can radically change your life with a daily walk. That is not an audio glitch. I said that twice. That's how important this bit of information I have for you is.
And still, I know that what I just said sounds dull to so many people. We all know it needs to be done, but that sort of “take a daily walk” exercise recommendation turns everyone into a teenager. They're like "ugh, so boooring, I can’t, don’t want to, leave me alone, I just want to hang out with my BPF" (which is, of course, their Best Phone Forever).
Walking isn’t only great for those body parts that get dynamic when you do it. Walking is something your brain and mental health can also benefit from. So, research has shown that brisk walking can be a simple and cost-effective way to improve specific aspects of academic achievement. Or enhancing cognitive control. This research is done in preadolescent childhood, but it's likely for us adults as well. If you want to improve your cognition, focus, creativity, and mood, you and your family or friends can take a 20-minute walk BEFORE sitting down to desk work. So it's not just taking a walk. It's the fact that you take it before you sit down.
So if a walk for walking’s sake isn’t your jam, do not resolve to walk more. Instead, resolve to place a walk in your day so that it makes the rest of your day better. So are you feeling particularly stressed right now? (Did I just mention that I moved houses twice?) You can start the morning with a 15-minute lap or two around the block. And you can use this time to tune into nature. You could listen to your own breath. Most importantly in addition to the walk, what you're doing is you're prioritizing yourself before things or people start fighting (or pinging the phone!) for your attention.
Do you want to feel less distracted at school or work? Walk all or part way to feed the brain some movement before letting it gorge on sitting down. Or dedicate a short portion of a lunch break to striding around taking deep breaths.
If you're having trouble getting screen-free conversation time with a kid in your life? Invite them on an after-dinner scroll-free stroll. And that goes for both of you. You don't need to pull out your phone either.
The point here is that you’re not making a general, bland movement or “go for more walks” resolution. Instead, you’re thinking about the changes you’d like to see in your life beyond the musculoskeletal. Better focus, better mental well-being, creativity, connection with loved ones, feeling like your life is more than just “go to work” repeat, repeat, repeat. And use a walk to give those intentions a boost.
Alright. Here's one more:
So, raise your hands if you can’t be on your hands and knees 1) at all or 2) for more than a few minutes. So in exercise classes all over, including the ones that I teach, people are needing to bail out of exercises for their arms, shoulders, and core because their hands and wrists can’t take it.
Just as the feet’s need for movement has been off the radar for most, the hands’ need for movement is also rarely addressed. Instead, we keep trying to move AROUND the fact that these parts we depend upon can’t be put upon at all. This year things will be different: put “hands” on the top of your move-more list.
So, instead of “move more,” focus on this very important yet neglected body part by setting up your workout routine and/or your day to nourish this body part better. So that means:
- Create a hanging station in your house so every time you walk by it you’re reminded to nourish your hands and wrists with a little movement.
- Get down onto your hands and knees, if only briefly, a few times a day so they grow stronger in their ability to support you. Meaning if you're in an exercise class and that's the only time you get onto your hands and knees, the distribution, the dosage, of getting on your hands and knees is too low and it's too infrequent. Right? Spend some time getting down onto your hands and knees when you're not in exercise class so it's not a rare occurrence that you do 3 or 4 times a week for 2 minutes. You need to do it with frequency. And then finally:
- Stretch your hands daily. Another way that you could work on this more direct exercise movement resolution. Tight hands are weak hands. So you can work on hand strength by doing simple stretches and hand exercises. I have a few videos on my YouTube channel at nutritiousmovement.com/youtube. You can also look to that same "Focus Your Resolutions" blog post. I'll link it here in the show notes and there's a video of hand exercises that you can do right now that you can find there.
If you work on the eccentric “lower down” pull-ups that I was mentioning before, you would also be working on your grip strength! So it's not necessarily that you need to work on so many separate exercises. You're just looking to find the small handful of exercises, if you will, that meets multiple needs.
All right, so, these are just a few ways to focus your intentions to move more. You can probably think of other ways that make movement more relevant and interesting to you and your life. Just use the principle outlined above to guide you.
And finally, here’s a little more from my personal life report.
I am currently immersed in studying Spanish. Estoy estudiando Espanol. One of the best features of the course that I am following was this: at the beginning of the course, I was asked to come up with the reason why I was studying Spanish. And my first reasons were more rejected for not being very specific: I can be a better global citizen, or so I can connect with more people…they were things like that. And while these were some of the reasons I had, they were, again, pretty superficial and didn’t require that I dig very deep into my own motivations. It took me an hour to explore myself really when I came up with what was truly my motivation: I grew up in a community that was mostly Spanish-speaking. More people in my hometown spoke Spanish than not, and yet I could not communicate with them. As someone that connects to people primarily through speaking, being placed in these situations left me with a sense of shame. And to say it another way: I have been ashamed that I can’t speak Spanish for a long time. And this created a feeling that made it harder to me to learn. Speaking with others is how we learn to speak, but to engage with my stumbling Spanish would require me to reveal my lack of fluency, so it's best to avoid people or situations altogether, right? So even now, after choosing to spend multiple months in a country where everyone but me speaks fluent Spanish while I study in Spanish, I have to keep overriding the tendency to avoid interactions.
So it goes like this in my mind: I want to speak Spanish, but it’s so hard, and embarrassing, and I hate looking inept and struggling in front of people and also I’m making everyone mad because I can’t do this and they hate me for being dumb and I’m sorry to be a burden on you, nice person at the store or post office or school by simply being my privileged self that can only speak one language and and and and and and. So you can see how quickly one could decide to not do the things. As most of us, I hate hanging out with any of these feelings. So simply going through the process of discovering this - asking myself that question - has helped me recognize barriers inside myself that I didn’t even know were there. Seeing these things deep inside ... it casts light on them that just dries them up a little bit.
So, I'm sharing this personal story because in taking myself to this place of learning something new, to speak Spanish, something that I feel does actually makes me a better global citizen, more able to connect with more people and participate more fully in different aspects of my life and work, that also makes my brain and mind healthier - I want to back out multiple times a day. And I thought, just this morning before I stepped in to record this episode, that this might be how some of you, listening, are feeling when it comes to developing more fluency around movement.
So, here’s your assignment. It’s the same assignment given to me at the beginning of that Spanish course: Why are you here studying movement? Get through those Ms. America answers until you get to the bits that you didn’t know were there. And even better - write out your answers and/or talk them out loud with someone who’s a good listener and keen prober. This process will help you on your journey to moving more, not only this new year but also beyond.
Also to clarify, I’m not saying I’m studying Spanish to get rid of the shame any more than I’d say one could exercise off any shame (or whatever other feeling they might be having ) that surrounds movement. It’s just that recognizing some of what surrounds our intentions or resolutions in this case is helpful. Old shame about being a kid that couldn’t connect with so many people around me has been keeping me from doing the thing I’d like to do: connect with the people around me. Maybe there’s something surrounding movement that might be getting in the way of you connecting with your body in the way you’d like to.
HI, WELCOME TO KATY’S NEW PSYCHOLOGY PODCAST. Yeah, I'm just kidding about that. So a question:
¿Por qué quieres estudiar movimiento?
Why do you want to study movement? I mean I think at least I think that’s what I just said. I'm not sure.
Anyway, ask yourself that question now. Why do you want to study movement? Think about it. Write about it. Talk about it. Be about it.
Hasta la próxima, amigos. Ah no - Amigos, hasta la proxima!
Hi! My name is Michelle from Rochester, Minnesota. This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully, you find the information in this podcast informative and helpful. But it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such. Our theme music is performed by Dan MacCormack. This podcast is produced by Brock Armstrong. And the transcripts are done by Annette Yen. Find out more about Katy, her books, and her movement programs at NutritiousMovement.com.
KATY: SINGS song in Spanish!!!!