If you took me out to dinner, bought me a meal complete with a walnut salad and seared tuna to tell me that while I was quarantining during a global pandemic, the best thing for me to do would be to work out; I would’ve thrown my sparkling water on your shirt and said ‘how dare you.’
So, I get it. A workout during such a stressful time makes me nauseous, and I bet it makes you scoff too. However, when our bodies are maxed out with stress, there is something profoundly impactful to move and allow ourselves to get into our bodies. It allows us to feel so present with our physical experience that the endorphins flow and the racing thoughts slow.
Movement can be very life-giving, and it is up to us to train our brains (neurologically) and our bodies (physically) how to move in a functional way.
Think of the way a baby moves and learns to walk. It is the beauty of the growing human experience, to hit these functional milestones. It is a learning process that takes time, intention, and strength. Babies develop their functional movement from the ground up. From rolling to crawling, lifting to standing, and eventually walking, babies develop their strength as they move through this natural undertaking. This is something that we need to maintain in order to continue to move in this world within our physical potential.
Watch the way a baby picks up a toy and observe the way they stand up after laying down. These movements are functional and helpful to observe. These fresh and functional movement patterns most likely have not accrued imbalances and dysfunctions. There is more to learn from your 1 year old than you think!
Below are a few of these movements we learn as we develop and move in our everyday lives. The key is knowing proper form and breathing as we move through these exercises. These aren’t just basic movements, they are functional movements that help us stay more balanced and reduce our risk of injury. As you binge your Netflix show of choice, cuddle your cat, or hop on the floor with your kids, feel free to incorporate these simple and functional movements that require only your body weight.
Ways We Can Incorporate Functional Body Weight Movements
Movements to Try
- Classic crawl – positioned on all fours, keep your chin tucked. Imagine a wooden stick your height that is resting on the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and right near your tailbone. Crawl as you maintain this form.
- Deadlift – stand in a sumo stance (feet wider than shoulder width apart and turned slightly out). As you lower yourself, allow your arms to drop between your legs. Bend forward slightly until your arms are just above your knee as you maintain a natural curve in your lower back.
- Push-up – Lie face down and imagine the same wooden stick mentioned in the classic crawl. Keep your elbows by your side and push yourself from the ground as you maintain the stability of the wooden stick. Lower yourself to the floor.
- Wall push-up – stand two feet away from the wall. Put your hands on the wall and perform the above exercise away from the wall.
- Perform a pull-up or a chin-up on stairs, a pull-up bar, or a door frame.
Focus on Breathing
When you perform these movements, breathe through your nose if possible. If you need to exhale through your mouth, tighten your lips to encourage tension. As another general rule of thumb, inhale on the extension (think of yourself winding back to throw a ball) and exhale on the flexion (think of yourself throwing the ball).
Making Workouts More Dynamic
When working out, consider the tempo with which you perform the exercise. You could make your workouts more dynamic and effective by changing the tempo. For example, when performing a squat, you could count 1 second on the dissension and 5 seconds on the ascension.
Adversely, you could perform 5 seconds on the dissension and 1 second on the descension. You could also squat down and when you stand up pause a quarter of the way up, then half of the way up, then three quarters of the way up, and into a full extension. This dynamic difference is called either an eccentric, concentric, or isometric focus. Rotating your workout with either of these focuses can allow you to build muscle more efficiently and encourage you to not grow tired of the same workout.
Movement is really important for our well being and energizing for our day-to-day functioning. While it can be difficult to muster up the energy to even begin a workout, especially during this time, there are ways you can invite yourself into this and teach your body and brain how helpful it is.
If you find yourself stressed by the idea of a workout regimen, consider this as an invite to get on the floor and move your body in whatever way you feel helpful. If you can incorporate these movements in a free form with no specific amount of reps or time, you are off to an amazing rhythm.