I’ve been changing up my morning exercise routine, over the past week, after realizing that the exercises I’ve been doing have not been strenghtening my whole system. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing “weight lifting” exercises, which isolate certain muscles. That’s how I was taught to lift, both when I was an active athlete and later in life when I hit the gym regularly.
In the process of isolating muscles, however, I’ve realized that I’ve produced a kind of “lop-sided” fitness which actually undermines my whole structure. If a handful of muscles are stronger than others, and they don’t have strength through their full range of motion, it actually makes it easier for me to injure myself and be in more pain. Because the stronger muscles will be taking over and pulling more weight, while the less strong ones — including my tendons and ligaments — will be unevenly stressed.
Also, I’ve noticed that the weights I’ve been using, while not terribly heavy, have actually been stressing my joints. Part of the problem is form. I have a tendency to stoop, which is not good. I need to keep mindful of my alignment. But the thing that comes to mind — in no small part as a result of reading crossfit information which talks about how life is not a controlled situation, and you can never tell just how you’re going to be physically tested in life — is that doing simple movements with light weights should NOT be painful and stressful to me.
Something is lacking, here, and that is full-range fitness.
So, I’m expanding my exercises to incorporate full-range motion. Not just curls, but curls and stretches. Not just presses, but extensions, too. I have stopped limiting my movement to “the exercise” itself, and I’m completing the motion that I begin, to come full-circle.
It’s hard to explain in words, but basically, if I hold weights and stretch out my arms in one direction, I complete the full range of motion to bring the weight back – under very conscious control.
Instead of doing linear exercises:
I’m doing full-spectrum exercises
Another aspect of this, is that I move much more slowly than I am accustomed to. Slow movement has always made me NUTS — I can’t stand it! But you know what? I need the practice at impulse control. And I need the practice at mindfulness. I also need to build some really quality muscle, to support my joints. That is done quite well by slow lifting. Also, slow lifting cuts down on wear and tear on your joints. Between the mindfulness and the measured motion, by the time I’m done with my workout in the morning, I’ve gotten some good practice at paying very close attention to what I’m doing. And that sets the stage for the rest of my day.
This is a new thing for me, but it’s long overdue. And it not only represents a shift in my workout, but a shift in my approach to life, as well. Whatever I start, I complete. I don’t just go in one direction, I complete the circle. I also move much more slowly than before, where I can feel every motion, and I am mindful of every movement. It’s not just a change to my exercise routine. It’s actually a change to my way of relating to the rest of my life.
Speaking of the rest of my life, I’ve gotta run – I’ve got full-range activities to attend to.