Should You Use Static Stretching to Improve Flexibility?

Should You Use Static Stretching to Improve Flexibility?

Your thigh bone’s connected to your… shoulder bone!

Flexibility: For such an important aspect of being a dancer you can count the number of articles I’ve written about stretching on one hand:

Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings So Much
Stretches You need to stop doing Volume 1
Stretches You Need to Stop Doing Volume 2
5 Productive Stretches for Dancers
Hip Flexor “Stretching” for the Hypermobile

Three of them are related to NOT stretching so much, and, if you read the other two, you’ll also see that they aren’t really pro-stretching either.

One could get the sense that I don’t like stretching. That sense would be correct.

But I also recognize that it is a necessary part of being a dancer, particularly if your style requires flexibility, and that makes me very, very confused. And intrigued!

I am leary of articles on the web that say, “Do this awesome stretch and your life will be complete!”, because:

a) I don’t know if their claims are true based on other peoples’ successful experiences, or if their claims are based on “this stretch stretches this muscle and this muscle is tight so stretching it must be good”

b) My own experience tells me that stretching stuff that feels tight can make things feel worse, and that stretching is NOT the only thing contributing to flexibility gains, and finally…

c) Limitations in flexibility must be considered on an individual basis, not based on one population (dancers, football players, desk-sitter-down-ats), because of the inherent variations between each person in that group.

That’s why I don’t post a lot of articles about the “best” stretches and exercises for improving X, Y or Z, for a particular ailment, performance enhancement, or population.

It’s also why creating Dance Stronger was really, really difficult. In fact,  I hope I made it very clear that  Dance Stronger is meant to be a self exploration through movement and strength training, a suggestion to experiment and question what you’ve been told about dance training, and a philosophy for success in dance, NOT a “do this stuff because I said so without using your brain” kind of training program.

I haven’t deliberately “stretched” for 4 few years, and I’m still “flexible”… WTF?

A few days ago I tried out my splits, just for fun, and guess what… I’ve still got it! On one leg anyway.

Aside from yoga (which I don’t consider “stretching”), and some silliness I was subjected to in several dance “warm-ups”, which would have been rude not to do (such is dance etiquette…), I have not deliberately set aside time to work on improving my flexibility with static stretching since 2012.

This may be N=1, but I think a lot of my smart colleagues will agree: Quantity of stretching is not the only factor related to improving flexibility. 

If that statement makes your brain hurt, I am NOT saying that stretching won’t help you become more flexible, but that it is not the only part of developing and maintaining flexibility. If it were, 4 years of not stretching should have meant I lost some flexibility. Just one exception negates the “rule” (but I know I’m not the only one).

This is important information for dancers: We know that the excessive stretching used to achieve the degree of mobility and ligament laxity synonymous with success as a dancer can cause trouble for their bodies, but if we can reduce the amount of stress on their systems by reducing the amount of stretching they do while still maintaining requisite flexibility, we could help dancers perform better with less pain and greater longevity.

But could our egos handle that? (if it challenges your ego, you’re probably moving closer to the truth..)

This blog post is an expression of my quest for the “truth” about stretching. I may not have the answers for you today, but if you check in with me in 10 years, maybe I’ll have something more enlightening to share.

Before we continue, let me state my biases, my opinions, and that which I am ignorant of:

  •  I don’t know much about helping people become more flexible with static stretching.
  • Most of what I know about stretching is what NOT to do (which goes a long way…)
  • I am biased towards not stretching because I was injured while overstretching, but this doesn’t mean it won’t help certain people who could benefit from more tissue length; I am aware of this bias and do my best not to let my own stories impact the exercises I choose for my clients.
  • I believe that dancers can develop amazing flexibility and learn to manage it safely and effectively, but this takes movement honesty, the ability to tune-in to one’s body, and self-respect: things you aren’t generally taught about stretching in dance class.

That last point is, to me, is the most important part. Follow any stretching program consistently and progressively from a place of honesty, awareness, and respect for you body’s limits, and you’ll probably get flexible safely. Is there a “best” stretching program? Doubt it. But there is a “best” intention and mindset for stretching.

“You can’t do what you won’t until you know what you’re doing.”  Moshe Feldenkrais

That said, I have witnessed some wicked cool instant mobility improvements that were completely unrelated to stretching:

The dancer who’s “hamstring flexibility” was related to a breathing issue. Her active straight leg raise improved bilaterally after 5 minutes spent helping her feel a few full exhalations, getting her ribs into ZOA. It was cool. Her instinct might have been to stretch her hamstrings, but that may have actually made her more tight. Whether this was a core stabilization, air pressure, joint position, or nervous system adaptation, I have no clue. But it worked, and we didn’t stretch, so I’m into that.

The girl who’s toe touch was related to a knee internal rotation deficit. A friend of mine who, for 15 years was not able to touch her toes, bent down to touch the floor effortlessly after being taught a movement to improve her knee extension and internal rotation (Anatomy in Motion amazingness, and a can of worms I will not open right now…). It wasn’t her hamstrings that needed stretching, she had been stretching those for 15 years with no improvements! I still don’t quite know how to explain her drastic increase in range of motion, but it had something to do with the inability to internally rotate and extend her knees fully causing her to feel extra tension and her brain perceiving this to be an unsafe range to move into.

 

The dancer who improved her back-bend with developmental kinesiology. You guessed it, we didn’t stretch, but we drilled a DNS– inspired exercise integrating a reciprocal hip flexion/extension pattern with core and shoulder stability (variation of oblique sitting). In fact, when she got up to try her backbend, her increase in range caught her by surprise and she almost fell over.

DNS

Something kinda sorta like this…

So while I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know much about stretching, I know we can do less of it. I know stretching has it’s place but I don’t know how much and when are most optimal .And in what ratios? At what time? For how long? How little can we do for maximum results? Where’s the sweet spot?

I know you can increase flexibility and mobility without stretching, but I also know that stretching has to be a part of dance training- classical dance training anyway, to achieve the requisite lines and meet a certain standard (if you care about standards and expectations).

Stretching Myth: Static stretching is the gold standard for improving flexibility

Let’s get clear about one thing: Static stretching definitely can improve flexibility. I’m sure it has it’s place… I just don’t know for sure what that looks like, and I encourage the people reading this who have more experience and smartz than I to chime in.

It seems that, on our quest for flexibility, many of us will reach a point of diminishing returns after which stretching ceases to be beneficial and can actually make things suck.

As per the theme of this blog post (and my life in general), I can tell you more about when stretching is not warranted and what I don’t know than what I actually do. So many Nassim Taleb quotes apply:

“The sucker’s trap is when you focus on what you know and what others don’t know, rather than the reverse.”

or,

“It remains the case that you know what is wrong with a lot more confidence than you know what is right.”

And this one in particular makes me feel better on days my brain is not cooperating:

“I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand.”

Stretching: A world I don’t understand…

At what point does stretching lose efficacy?

  • You feel bones start to bump into each other, like when you’re doing the splits but you feel a crunchy block in your lower back.
  • You no longer feel muscles stretching, but ligaments, joint capsule, and other passive structures loading.
  • You actually strain a muscle from overstretching (duh)
  • You have a chronic tendonitis or tendonopathy
  • If you are dehydrated
  • You have to hold your breath and make a squishy face to “survive” a stretch
  • Your pain symptoms or feelings of tightness are exacerbated after stretching

While most of these might seem like “duh, of course”, many of us still try to stretch away our problems! I’m guilty of it, and my guess is that you’re guilty of it, too (or at least you were at some point…).

To be completely honest: I am the girl who stretched bone into bone and thought the feeling of impingement was productive (pain=part of being a dancer was the mindset I was taught). I am the girl who tried to stretch away chronic hamstring tendonitis and then strained her hamstring stretching it in warm-up. And I am the girl who sat in the splits cold for several minutes before class, never quite exhaling fully, with complete disrespect for my ligamentous integrity. Also, I didn’t like water. Screw that stuff!

No movement honesty. No awareness. No respect.

Don’t do what I did.

#SimpsonsChallenge 4: Don’t Do What Donny Don’t Does. Please tell me at least one of you appreciates this!

What Factors Could Affect Flexibility, if not Quantity of Stretching?

Let’s say you’ve taken static stretching to it’s maximum potential and you’ve hit a flexibility plateau. You’ve hit a wall and are beginning to believe you’re no longer working with a tissue extensibility issue. Let’s assume your hydration status is great. And let’s also forget for now that being super bendy isn’t always advantageous if you also value force production (strength and power) and proprioception (body’s position sensing ability).

These are likely to be the two main factors that are limiting your flexibility:

  • Static joint position: A habitual posture you can’t get out of, joints compressing to provide support and proprioception to your body and you don’t want to leave that “happy place”.
  • Nervous system putting on the the brakes. Your brain perceives something might be unsafe to move into and adds extra tension at rest as a protective measure. You can’t just “stretch away” this type of increased muscle tone.

Either stuff gets compressed, stuck short, and you can’t move out of or go further into that position because it feels unsafe,

OR

Stuff is already stretched out, stuck long, and under high tension, so you can’t move out of or go further into that position because it feels unsafe.

Which leads us to a very important myth we need to stop perpetuating: “If it feels tight, stretch it.” 

What if you are stuck in a position due to compression, for example, your lower back is stuck in a mad degree of extension and you can’t bend to touch your toes.

“Stretching harder” will probably place additional load on other areas, maybe the  hamstrings or upper back, because your lower back is stuck and can’t flex forwards. It may be stuck for a very useful reason: Bones are very stable and reassuring for those of us who can’t sense where we are in space. That doesn’t make it a good long-term strategy.

In this same story, if your hamstrings are already stuck long from overstretching them, then any additional stretch on them will be perceived as “danger”, and Mr. Brain may tell them to tighten up to protect themselves from getting even longer.

In this example, the lower back needs to be given an experience that allows it to leave end-range compression in a way that feels safe and useful, and the hamstrings need an experience that gives them no option but to contract so they can get out of end range length.

This “experience” does not often need to be a static stretch. Think outside the box…

It can be a breathing exercise, a “core” exercise, PNF,  or muscle energy. It can be meditation or inner-work to let go of limiting beliefs affecting movement and alignment. It can be any movement that gives the experience of something different, to explore something that was missing, in a safe way. In Anatomy in Motion, sometimes this means momentarily bringing a joint into the very end range it is stuck in to teach it how to get out of it, but it can also mean giving it the experience of the complete opposite motion that it is stuck in. Both can work, but it depends on the person, their history, they way their unique brains and bodies react.

As I bring this post to and end, sorry if you were expecting a stretching routine. I don’t feel that I can ethically do that.

But I DO encourage you to try something different. Try not stretching. Try something else. Try the opposite of what you’re currently doing.

If you want some ideas, structure, and an approach to dance training that doesn’t emphasize stretching, I encourage you to check out Dance Stronger. It’s not a “how to” guide, exactly, but a “think-for yourself, you-may-find-my suggestions-useful, how-to-NOT” guide to enhance your dancing through supplemental strategies outside the classroom.

Read the first two chapters free. Discover the secrets to ruining a dance career, fast! 😉 And MORE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anatomy in Motion: Bet You Can’t Take it Just Once!

Anatomy in Motion: Bet You Can’t Take it Just Once!

Read THIS BLOG POST  if you want a bit more background on what Anatomy in Motion is, and my experience with the course the first time around.

Yep, I did it again.

I got #shiftphased for a second time. In other words, I spent last week studying the human body in motion with Gary Ward and Chris Sritharan of Anatomy in Motion at the beautiful Integrated Exercise Therapy facility in Bridgehampton New York.

Anatomy in motion

Although this is actually suspension phase…

Why did I do it again?

Some things in life are so good you have to repeat them. In fact, I plan on taking it again.

AiM is not a model for fixing people’s pain or movement. Through the Flow Motion Model we are not learning how to heal people, but how to help facilitate their own process of “letting go”; providing the body experiences to reclaim what it is currently missing- What it can’t do or won’t do, and trusting that it will be able to heal itself if given the option.

Inevitably, by immersing ourselves in a process of exploring new ways to interact with ourselves and others, our class let go of a lot of shit in New York last week.

People’s bodies changed as they experienced movements their systems were being denied. Other’s made decisions to completely change the way they practice with clients. It was an honour to witness these transformations.

I observed as one class-mate experienced his frontal plane for the first time in who knows how long.

I saw my friend fully extend her knees post double ACL surgeries for the first time in 15 years, and effortlessly bend down to touch her toes, something she hadn’t been able to do since before her injuries.

And I saw another class-mate left speechless, with a huge grin on his face, as he reclaimed sagittal plane spinal motion.

In six days, bodies changed, paradigms shifted, life paths altered. These are things I can’t describe with words. But I’ll try.

aim 2016 2

What is Anatomy in Motion?

Inner pages of the book, What the foot?To get a full appreciation of the philosophy AiM is built upon, I’d recommend reading Gary’s book, What the Foot.

Here’s my “Spark Notes” version, for what it’s worth:

AiM is a model for looking at human motion as it occurs in the gait cycle (the Flow Motion Model).

Gait is walking, and walking is hopefully what you spend most of your time as a human being doing. Or not doing…

Which each full cycle through your right and left side in gait, each joint in your body has the opportunity to perform all of it’s potential movement in three dimensions, which takes between just 0.6 to 0.8 seconds. Doesn’t that blow your mind a little? That you can take two steps and every one of your joints will have moved in all planes of motion that it possess.

What does this mean for you? That one second is a precious bit of time. Just one rep can be an opportunity to heal, or not.

Less than a second can be used to experience optimal movement variance- Tappable potential. With each step you can heal, or you can feed a repetitive pattern that could lead to sub-optimal system adaptability and a skewed ratio of the two “p” words we love: Pain and performance. 

Optimal joint motion through the human gait cycle lets you “walk it off”, and walk things in.

Sub-optimal movement, missing movement, and even missing entire planes of movement, makes performing well challenging, and pain common.

This is the beauty of AiM: It teaches us how to heal through the simplicity of the most fundamental thing we do as humans beings. Walking!

I’d like to use today’s blog post to share some takeaways from my second time through AiM’s six day “finding center” immersion course- The course that makes me feel OK about not having a formal education in biomechanics stuff, because it only means is I have less noise to unlearn (a serious challenge for many clinicians learning this material).

No headaches this time!

I don’t generally get headaches, but when I do it’s because I’ve been thinking too much. The night I launched Dance Stronger in September 2015, for example, I had a massive headache.

Last November when i took the course in Toronto for the first time I developed a headache by the end of day 2 which persisted throughout the 4 subsequent days.

A note to future attendees: It helps very much to start the course being able to name the bones of the foot. Other bones in the body, too, but the foot in particular was my sticking point, a body part we don’t spend enough time learning about in school.

As a fine-arts major with minimal formal education in anatomy, bio-mechanics, or anything “sciency”, anything related to fitness, training, (read anything I’m currently doing with my life), I am not ashamed to say that I have major gaps in my knowledge base. I often find myself in situations where I am the underdog, the least intelligent person in the room, and with no choice but to rise to the challenge (hopefully…).

A note for the dancers:  For dancers transitioning into new careers, your lack of formal education need not stop you from diving into something new. Skills and character traits you acquire as a dancer are absolutely transferable to any career path in huge ways. 

My first time through AiM I didn’t know what the talus bone was. To be honest, I didn’t know what any of the foot bones were.

This meant I was simultaneously learning the 26 moving bones, 2 non-moving bones, and 33 joints interactions of the foot, while being asked to appreciate the 3 dimensional movement potential of the rear foot, forefoot, and toes through each phase of the gait cycle as it relates to the rest of the body.

“What does the rear foot do in relation to the pelvis in the frontal plane during the shock absorption phase of gait?” Wait… What’s the rear-foot? What’s the frontal plane??

Enter headache city. Somehow I made it out alive, and even wanting more.

But enough about my educational short-comings.

While the AiM course material is badass and can help people change the way they move and feel in insanely short periods of time, the number one reason to take this course is simply to learn from Gary and Chris in person- Two of the most patient, generous, intelligent, and honest individuals I’ve met. Being in the same room as them guarantees you level up in one way or another through osmosis (unless you’re a podiatrist… Just kidding. Mostly).

I want to share some of the most beautiful, wise, and hilarious things that Gary and Chris conveyed, and while these were communicated in the context of teaching a room of clinicians, trainers, and bodyworkers, they apply to anyone who takes a vested interest in how to optimize the way their bodies (and lives) perform.

Ready?

ON MOVEMENT AND BEHAVIOUR

AiM doesn’t just teach anatomy, it teaches a metaphor applicable on every level of our lives. We can’t look at how someone moves or holds themselves without wondering what behaviours brought them into being. Any trouble that appears in our body will also show itself at some other level in our lives. The same laws of motion we apply to anatomy and biomechanics also can apply to our relationships, experiences, and interactions in nearly every domain.

The big (complicated) questions: Why do things hurt? Why do we adapt a particular posture or way of moving, even if it is less desirous long term? Why do we adopt “dysfunctional” patterns?

The big (simple) answer: Because they are serving us.

Pain serves simply as information we can use to help us change and create new opportunities. Inefficient movement presents in our bodies as a result of us bravely coping with an internal or external stressor, sometimes expressed as pain. This is a beautiful way of thinking!

May we be grateful for the signals and strategies our bodies lend us that allow us to cope and keep on keeping-on despite our duress. But may we also be wise enough to notice them and adjust accordingly.

To paraphrase and blend the verbiage of Gary and Chris:

Why do people move or hold themselves the way they do? Because it serves them! It’s not something to get down about. They are using their most “balanced”, available point.

Other good stuff they said:

“We can’t change the way you move until we can change the value you get from it” ~GW  (as mentioned above, we do things with our bodies because they serve us, but that doesn’t mean this is the most efficient way of doing things in the long term. We need a “pattern interrupt” and a superior reward from a new, more sustainable habit)

“You ground your own bones, you striated your own muscles” ~CS (on taking self-ownership and acknowledging our formative behaviours)

“Are you working with it or working on it? If you’re working on it, the CNS will whoop your ass every time”.  ~CS (on meeting your body where it’s at, choosing new words for your experience, and practicing non-attachment)

“We can move anything without moving IT, by moving everything else” ~GW (on the illusory strategies we use to keep us in motion. For example, to keep my head level on the horizon, I don’t need to move it, but everything else in my body can move around it to create the illusion of neck movement)

ON THE SUBJECTIVE SIDE OF THINGS…

A huge part of the course is appreciating the art of the self-check-in, which we did everyday as a class.

Subjective, yes, but often all that really matters to the people we are trying to help is their subjective experience.

Objective measures can and should change if they are causing trouble, but if our clients and patients don’t feel different in their own bodies, objective results aren’t meaningful enough. In AiM we are taught to appreciate both: The subjective check-in, and the observation and re-testing of “objective” movement (if assessing movement quality can even be objective… I don’t think it can be, not 100%, given the body’s ability to disguise movement and non-movement as each-other).

In checking in, we were encouraged to change the words we used to describe our experiences. “It hurts” and “it feels tight” were not good enough. Why? They don’t tell us anything useful to work with!

Gary gave me further context later:

The word “pain” gives us nothing. No info. No size of area. Duration of time. Good pain. Bad pain. A stretch pain. A compressive pain. The term is insufficient for understanding what’s going on.

From this we can see the importance of digging a bit deeper into our clients’ experience of their own movement quality. Subjective, but hugely important, for them to learn about themselves and also for us to guide them through their process.

Some more good stuff on the insufficiencies of “pain” and “tightness”:

“Pain is an external description of ‘how I am’” ~GW (’nuff said)

“Pain is (a) bullshit (word)” ~GW (on empowering people to find better ways to describe how movements feel. This is not to invalidate someone’s experience of pain, but to understand that pain can be present for many reasons. There are many more useful words that we could use and encourage our clients to use to describe the experience of movement. “it hurts” on it’s own does not give us enough information. Don’t kill me for this, Gary…)

“Tight is bullshit” ~CS (in response to students who only could find the word “tight” to describe movement. It is an insufficient term, like “it hurts”, because “tight” is an ambiguous feeling, not a quality of movement. It’s an easy answer. Find another word, another quality, and you’ll open up new ways of experiencing your body’s truth in a non-limiting way).

ON TEACHING

Still going strong on my #Simpsonschallenge. I hope at least 3 of you appreciate this…

Gary and Chris are incredible teachers who inspire me to become better at communicating with my own clients.

They are impeccable with their choice of words. They make sure no one is left behind. They meet each group of students where they’re currently at, and so each course is slightly different in delivery. They don’t try to “blow minds” (although it happens anyway) but wish for us to simply understand.

Their teaching style is to create an experience for the class to discover the material in themselves, knowing that you can’t teach people things, they have to learn it for themselves, when they’re ready. This is rare and refreshing.

 

Here’s what I mean:

 “We don’t want to feed you information you haven’t experienced” ~CS (on why it’s important for us to feel the model in our own bodies as part of the learning process. Or, to quote Gary from the September 2015 course in Toronto “Let’s not just BELIEVE shit, that’s why the world’s a f&@!cking mess.”)

“Movement is in spheres. No axis of rotation. But we have to break it down in three planes to teach it”. ~CS (on discussing the limitations of talking about triplanar movement- It’s something to be felt, witnessed, and understood, not just talked about)

“The noise is in the words, not the action” ~GW (following from above, words make things complicated. Wars are waged over choice of words)

ON MUSCLES

For an anatomy course,very little time was dedicated to actually talking about muscle function. In gait, muscles react to joint action (one of Gary’s rules of movement: Joints act, muscles react). Rather than look at muscles and what they “do” concentrically to move our bodies, we looked first at joint actions to appreciate which muscles must decelerate them to allow them to safely occur, and most importantly, we felt it in our own bodies.

For example, if you put your arms overhead and bend backwards, the abdominal muscles should load up eccentrically (lengthen) to slow the movement into spinal extension before your spine bumps into itself, and you should experience stretch across your abs. Compressive pain with backbending can be related to abs not being able to lengthen under load to safely allow this joint action. Flips the core training paradigm upside down to think this way (and I encourage you to do so!).

To paraphrase Gary:

It’s important to know muscles really, really well so that you can stop thinking in terms of what they do, and start looking at how the body moves.

A few other things that was said about muscles:

 “Muscles aren’t designed to pronate the foot” ~GW (They are designed to decelerate pronation. Due to the shape of the calcaneous, gravity pronates our feet for us and getting out from pronation becomes the common challenge).

“Muscles are managers” ~GW (on the role muscles play in the moving body as managers of our center of mass. Muscles essentially manage freedom of movement in the joints, allowing joints to approach their end range before safely returning back to a restful center. Restricted or hypermobile joints will influence how it will be managed by the muscles.)

ON FEET

Gary knows his feet. Just don’t call him the “foot guy” or he’ll flip his shit.

 “Fashion will always fuck us up” ~GW (on the foot’s function as a mobile adapter in flip flops, high-heels, and even pointe shoes. He is suggesting fashion will always limit us unless we learn to override and counter the imbalance it inflicts upon us. We can, however, organize ourselves better to enjoy fashion, because life is too short not to!)

“Supporting forefoot varus versus encouraging ‘neutral” ~GW (on what orthotics generally are built to do, versus what movement and wedging can do).

“Create an experience inside the foot.” ~GW (on the purpose of foot mobilizations)

Orthorics vs. "floorthotics": Creative AiM foot wedging strategies with one of my clients

Orthorics vs. “floorthotics”: Creative AiM foot wedging strategies with one of my clients

ON GAIT

AiM is a course centered around the motion of every joint in the body in every plane of movement as it should ideally happen at each moment in the gait cycle. So yeah, we talked a bit about gait.

Here are the most memorable gait-related quotes:

“Every condition presents in the gait cycle because they are either stuck in it or can’t get into it” ~GW (on “diagnosis” of forefoot varus, scoliosis, and other “syndromes”. Yes, there is a scoliotic moment in gait, and it’s normal!).

“Everyone is stuck in a moment in time” ~GW (same idea as above, you can get stuck in a particular moment of the gait cycle and it can become problematic. I just like how romantic this sounds)

“Assessing gait will not show you what’s wrong, it will show you what’s missing” ~CS (“what’s missing”… Rather than looking for what IS happening- dysfunction, pain, sloppy movement- we need to be seeing what’s not there so we can give them back that experience)

“In gait, muscles never shorten first” ~GW (as per his second big rule of movement: Muscles must lengthen before they contract)

“If you can’t straighten and internally rotate your knee, you’ll have no ability to supinate.” GW (on the knee’s role in creating a rigid lever in the supinating phases of gait, which sadly, many of us never experience. If you can’t internally rotate the knee, you can’t extend it. Full knee internal rotattion, which looks like a femur rotating externally beyond the external rotation of the tibia. If you can’t IR and extend the knee, you can’t create a rigid lever through toe off, extend the hip, load the hip flexors, and go about running and jumping effortlessly, pain and strain-free. Bridgehampton 2016 was deemed the “knee course” because it seemed like everyone in the room had a knee extension/rotation issue).

ON ASSESSING PEOPLE IN MOVEMENT

AiM provides some useful ideas for assessing our clients and patients, but something I respect about their approach is that they don’t tell us exactly how we should do it (which would infuriate other folks who need to be told what to do, rely on protocol, algorithms, and evidence to take action). The most important part of assessing is to be able to see what’s missing from their bodies and extrapolate how providing a safe experience to give it back could create a desirous change in their system.

What is beautiful is that the tools we already have to assess fit nicely with AiM philosophy if we can see what’s missing from a person’s system. AiM shows us a simple and useful movement exploration to take our people through, but I’ve also used NKT and PRI testing to guide and integrate AiM movements (and improve re-test outcome). Every movement is an assessment. You can use a simple half-kneeling drill, look for “what’s missing”, and re-integrated it with an AiM movement.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking to be told exactly how to do something step by step, and become paralyzed without a strict formula, this might not be the course for you. But if you’re creative and like tinkering with options, I think you’ll appreciate the freedom AiM brings you.

Some ideas to ponder:

“It’s not ‘what’s wrong with them?’, it’s ‘how are they managing their mass?’” ~CS (as per Gary’s rule of movement: Everything revolves around center, and their function will be dictated by how they manage their center of mass around their perceived center).

“It’s important to be able to assess things in isolation, but contextualizing it is what we need to do better” ~CS (on looking at structures of the body in relationship with the rest of it. Sure, we need to know what the hips are doing, but to get the complete picture, it needs to be put into context of what the hips are doing relative to the ribcage, skull, scaps, and the rest of it. If someone comes to see you for help with their hips, for example, the hip assessment can’t be focused only on the hips, but the relationship their hips have with the rest of their bodies. This resonated with me in a huge way, as it is something I am currently struggling with).

“If something appears neutral, but nothing else is, the neutral thing could be the problem!” ~GW (all or nothing: Either everything is neutral, or nothing is)

“You can’t be hypermobile everywhere” ~GW (same thought as above: Everything has to balance out. Even congenitally hypermobile folks have non-moving bits that are the glue holding them together despite the illusion of them being bendy everywhere)

“A fused joint is a new ‘optimal center'” ~GW (as an answer to a question about how joint fusions affect the gait cycle and their implication for training and rehab. A fused joint isn’t “bad”, it just creates a new perceived center for them to work with. Unfortunately, we label fusions and other limiting conditions as just that: Limitations! A simple change in language- “limiting” to “optimal”, can change the relationship people have with fusions, and both patient and practitioner see how to work with their new center, not on it, fight it, or resent it. Getting comfortable with the ‘new normal’ and managing the inevitable compensations).

“If things don’t go right, go left” ~CS (on what to do if your strategy isn’t working. It always comes down to one of two choices. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?)

when nothing goes right

The actual view from the coffee shop I’m writing this blog post in 🙂

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Conclusions?

If asked for one single take-away, I don’t think I could find the words (that’s why this blog post is over 3000 words long).

I feel fortunate to have this blog as a medium to share the AiM philosophy, and am looking forward to seeing what come out as I work to revise and create new chapters for Dance Stronger. AiM was hugely influential in the creation of this resource the first time through, and it will certainly become a larger part of it moving forwards.

(PS Dance Stronger is 100% available by donation, so no excuses not to check it out and see what I’m talking about).