Journey to Movement

Ahh how stoic I look in on of my favorite positions… the squat!

Everyone has a different journey to health. Physical and mental health are so incredibly linked that when you to get fit physically you often become mentally happier by default. On the other hand when you try to become happier mentally, it’s hard not to pick up some sort of physical practice along the way.

When I first began to enter the world of health and fitness, it was simply to benefit my mental well-being. I was in college in Richmond, VA at the time and would go on long walks through the city. I was literally ‘walking it off’ in regards to the poor disposition I had about the future and life in general. Some days, after I got back, I would do push-ups on the living room floor and pull-ups off a ladder that led up to a loft in my bedroom.

Eventually I was dragged to the gym by a friend. We lifted weights for a bit and then played basketball until my lungs hurt. But the thing that stuck with me about that work out the most was that I realized I was weak. Around the same time, my girlfriend took me to a yoga class, and again I realized that I was weak. The weight room showed me that I lacked some serious strength and yoga class, while physically challenging, made me see that I didn’t even have the mental strength to sit in silence and not move for five minutes. After these realizations, I started lifting weights three days per week, and going to yoga once maybe twice a week. I used You-tube videos, online articles, and watched other more experienced ‘movers’, in the gym or yoga class, to figure out what the hell I was ‘supposed’ to do with my body.

This continued and I made a lot mistakes, but I loved it. Lifting made me feel like a king no matter what the weight was on the bar. It was pure euphoria and gave me a reason to get out of the house and do something with my day. Yoga kept me humble. No matter how strong I started to feel in the weight room, yoga showed me that I still had no real control over my own body and that my mind had enormous amounts of negative self-talk that needed to be addressed.

Not to mention, I was smoking cigarettes at the time. I would chase a session at the gym with a cigarette and try and cover up the smell when it came time for yoga class. Like I said, I started this journey into the world of health to fix my mind, not my body. I had plenty of ‘bad’ habits that I didn’t shake right away. I don’t regret it but I also don’t recommend tobacco for your post work-out shake. Unless of course you are some sort of shaman who uses it to get in touch with God, then by all means.

I stayed in this middle ground of loving to move my body, but still holding on to some bad habits and eventually I got injured. It was inevitable, I was self-educating and although my body and mind were changing for the better, I treated exercise like a drug. While this is not inherently bad, it can lead to some over-training type symptoms if you’re not careful. Now that I was injured though, I was pissed. Movement was providing a needed mental relief, and I felt like I was starting from square one again.

I started researching more than ever. I basically went down the rabbit hole of anything as it related to health, training, recovery, and nutrition. Being at a university, I could easily access scholarly articles. I looked at studies, began to teach myself basic anatomy and bio-mechanics. I perused internet forums and tried to find articles about joint health, preventing injury, and rehab techniques. I wanted to hear the good and the bad of every training method I could find and what others experiences were. I needed to separate fact from myth and determine how the human body was ‘supposed’ to move. I quit smoking, scrapped my entire lifting routine, kept my yoga practice and began to focus on mobility and body control.

It made sense to me that if you can’t control your own bodyweight in a given position what gives you the right to control an external weight in addition to your bodyweight? I started with the squat, I rebuilt my squat completely. I didn’t just do air squats and call it a day; I owned the squat. Feet together, feet apart, toes in, toes out. ‘Good’ form and ‘bad’. I made sure I could go back and forth from sitting on the floor to squatting with no help from my upper body. Go ahead and try, it’s harder than you think. I even went so far as to make sure I could do a pistol squat on a Bosu ball for good measure.

Looking back it was an awesome journey. In addition to the squat I educated myself in a variety of different mobility, rehab and training techniques for the entire body. I went through a period of running and trying to increase my Vo2 max. I started practicing Ashtanga yoga and found a place to wrestle with my mind. I bought gymnastics rings and really learned what it means to have body control. I discovered movement culture and had my perception completely altered about what a ‘work-out’ could be. I even started lifting again this time with knowledge of how to actually get strong. I learned a lot and am still learning and constantly researching my latest questions about the body and the mind.

You could say I am fully in the ‘game’ now. In attempt to become happier through movement I discovered a true interest and passion in it. Even if I don’t make it to the gym I find ways to move my body. Whether it’s sitting in a squat instead of on a couch, or going on walks through the woods and hanging from trees I make sure to get some sort of movement in daily.

I am still not quite sure how the body is supposed’ to move. It seems to be capable to adapt and become adept at nearly anything if done intelligently with some basic knowledge of bio-mechanics. But I do know that the body is supposed to move.

The mind and the body are inextricably linked, if you want to move one of the two in a given direction, the other is sure to follow.

-Will