For those who’ve known me a while, know my training has taken quite a turn in the last few years. I used to be an avid lifter of heavyweights, and while I still do appreciate it, (getting strong feels amazing!) I see movement with a very different perspective now.
A while back, I listened to an Iron Culture Podcast episode on The History of Lifting. Eric Helms and Omar Isuf talked with Dominic Morais and Ben Pollack, Ph.D. holders in physical culture and sport studies, about how lifting has evolved since the 1700s. It was very interesting and I highly recommend listening. (many good nuggets but too much to type out here!) But, essentially what really resonated with me was how specialized the different cultures of physical movement have become over the years.
Personally, I used to identify with the subculture of powerlifting. But after getting injured in 2016, I felt at a loss of identity and started to take to yoga for movement therapy. The more I got into yoga over the last few years, the more my perspective has changed (again) to see movement as movement. I don’t want to just belong to one sport. For example, getting on a yoga mat can sometimes feel restrictive due to wanting to bring in elements from outside of yoga. I want to find ways to connect different sports and activities.
It’s easy to put movement into boxes to make sense of it, and so we can be part of a social community… AKA, tribalism. As creatures of habit, once we find a sport or mode of movement we like, we then specialize in it so we can progress. While this is an obvious course of action for skill development, (hey, progressive overload!) the path can be limiting and dangerous if we stick to the same, repetitive movement patterns without smart programming, in other words, switching things up.
As I mentioned, these days I find myself not wanting to fit perfectly into a box. I appreciate pulling my training from many different subcultures and blending them together, e.g powerlifting, yoga, bodybuilding, gymnastics, dancing, sprinting, etc. I don’t know what to call it, maybe experimental movement? Ido Portal‘s Movement Culture is probably the closest thing I can relate to. Not only is following a discipline of sport a turn-off but also following a strict program is boring to me. It’s taken years to really get to this point, but I definitely feel I can intuit my programming. I apply my knowledge of the principles of periodization & programming to regulate my training based on what I need on a given day, week, month, etc. while still making sure I am progressing to my standards.
There are pros and cons I have found to this style of training. One thing to take into consideration if you choose to blend methods of movement is that without specialization, progress can be slow. However, for me, I am less focused on plowing through a fitness program to achieve a particular goal. My generalized focus takes my long term health into account to prevent injuries. It also promotes being mindful to experience what is happening in my body when moving and enjoying the process. Actually, it has been very rewarding to explore my abilities by exposing my weaknesses on a much broader scale. So if you can be at peace with a slower rate of progress, you may find appreciation in a more functional and holistic approach.
An unexpected perk of shifting my perspective on movement is how drastically it expanded my proprioception. I love the saying, The most damaging phrase in the language is “We’ve always done it this way!” My kinesthetic knowledge used to solely be derived from being an athlete in a variety of sports growing up. So while I did intuitively know how to move my body in space before, stepping into a wider spectrum of training has broadened my understanding of how the body works on a deeper level. Being self-aware about what the body is actually doing, compared to just doing what you are told in a fitness class or by a sports coach makes a world of difference. We have to constantly self-experiment, analyze, acquire new knowledge and adapt.
I believe curiosity to be foundational to becoming a better practitioner of movement. We should continually question what type of movement(s) we do, how they feel for us, and why we are doing them. The most important thing is finding what feels like home to you in each phase of your journey. We get hung up these days thinking movement is supposed to be this one way, or it is just what the “fit” people do. Or it something that we have to/should do out of fear of becoming obese or dysfunctional. However, I see movement so much bigger; it’s a form of creativity, intelligence, expression, and play. It’s a deeper exploration of Self. Movement is what you make of it and should feel accessible to everyone because we were made for it.
If you choose to listen to the podcast I mentioned earlier, you too can learn more about how physical movement has been shaped on a macro-level by religion, nationalism, social classes, revolutions, etc. to understand how it has become what it is today. And it will continue to largely change with time. But on a micro-level, whatever method of movement you choose to partake in, however generalized or specialized it may be, know it will continue to evolve as you do. So be open to learning, growing, and enjoying the journey.
Stay curious, stay creative, stay hungry, and stay strong. 🧠💪🏻💜