(Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post for the guys at Original Strength, so the references are to pressing reset in particular. Pressing reset, in Original Strength terms, is using the developmental sequence to re-tap into how we originally learned to move in order to restore movement. However, the concepts I talk about below apply to any type of mobility or movement practice. Enjoy!)
Once you’ve been pressing reset for a while, things just start to click. Until they don’t. Something that felt smooth and connected one day might feel awkward and disconnected the next. So what gives? How often do we need to press reset before the movement “sticks”? In my practice and coaching experience, the amount of pressing reset someone needs to do tracks right along with the effects of their modern lifestyle and environment.
If we were to press reset and then spend most of our time moving like humans (i.e. squatting/locomoting/throwing/etc.), our “reset” would likely be maintained. To keep with the computer analogy, we are running fully updated and integrated software and hardware so we don’t experience frozen screens or bugs that require us to press reset as often.
However, most of us don’t do these things as often as our genes expect. Our modern lifestyle in many ways disconnects our minds and bodies rather than ties them together. For me, this is a part of why Original Strength is so powerful – it gives us an entry point (THE first entry point for all humans!) into movement and the mind-body connection.
What else can we learn by critically analyzing our modern environment through the OS lens? If we know the importance of sensory integration for motor output (i.e. being able to get a lot of rich information to the brain so we can make better movement decisions), and that by breathing, stimulating the vestibular system, and crossing the midline we can reset this system, what simple modifications can we make to our daily environments and habits to keep our software running smoothly, for longer? That way, not only are we taking positive action by restoring our original operating system, we’re also doing our best to avoid spam and viruses along the way.
Eliminating the Negative
This concept isn’t a new one. Those of you familiar with Gray Cook and the Functional Movement Screen will recognize this concept from Gray’s work. Much of his time spent working with professional athletes is not prescribing MORE corrective exercise and movement, but identifying potential red flags and eliminating exercises that aren’t getting us anywhere.
That’s the same concept I want to use now, only applied to our daily standard of living through the OS lens. In particular, three things jump to the forefront of my mind. Let’s call them the 3 S’s.
Screens – Screens have become ubiquitous in our culture. Computers, smart phones, tablets, televisions, you name it. While this technology enables us to do amazing things, it also keeps our eyes and vision tied to one point for most of the day – straight ahead. Our bodies our built so that the eyes lead movement, followed by the head, and then the body. By locking our eyes/heads into one location with very little tracking or subsequent movement, we allow our reflexes to atrophy.
Action: I won’t suggest that you try to completely eliminate screens from your life as that’s not reasonable for most of us. However, simply taking breaks from looking at your screen to do some neck nods and re-integrate your eye/head movement will go a long way towards maintaining this connection. Try installing a simple program such as TimeOut (Mac) or Workrave (Windows) which gives you preprogrammed breaks whenever you’re on your computer for an extended period of time. Use the 15s breaks to look around and the longer breaks to do some resets or get up and walk around and connect with those around you.
Shoes – Our hands and feet are how we interact with and manipulate our environment. As such, they have a high concentration of muscles, bones, nerves, and proprioceptors that allow us to sense and react to a world with changing conditions…until we put shoes on. Shoes create a “one size fits all” sensory signal and reduce the complexity and richness of the proprioceptive feedback from that region. It gets increasingly difficult for our brains to organize automatic “reflexive strength” if we deprive it of information about our current position in the world. How much dexterity do you have in your hands when you put gloves on? Apply that concept to your feet and you’ll see we have a ton of room to grow here.
Side note: If you’re a strength coach, try this: if you have someone who has trouble balancing in a squat, try having them remove their shoes and do the exact same movement. It might throw them off for the first couple of repetitions, but as they gain a better sense of where they are automatically, you’ll see their form improve without any feedback from you. Pretty cool.
Action: Ease into barefoot. It will take time to recondition the muscles in your feet just as it would if you had your arm in a cast for a while. An easy first step is to go barefoot when at home or during your warm ups and resets in locations where you aren’t concerned about injuring your feet. If you haven’t tried rockbacks while barefoot yet, you are missing out!
Sofas – …and chairs…and anything that promotes sitting in the “disembodied head” posture. This is a term I coined to describe positions where the head moves but doesn’t dictate any reaction in the body, or when the head and body are completely disconnected from each other. When we are sitting in sofas or chairs, we allow the shape of the furniture to passively keep us in a position instead of actively using our vestibular system and reflexive stability to keep our eyes on the vertical horizon. That sounds like some detraining to me. Note: this does not include sitting on the ground which is a very active and reflexive movement…yes I just called sitting a movement, because it is! Which takes us to our action step.
Action: Sit on the floor as much as possible, and use as little assistance as possible. Change positions often. You will feel how much more “active” this position is – you are constantly shifting your weight slightly in order to stay balanced and in control. As with shoes, it is wise to ease into this practice. In the beginning, it may be very challenging or uncomfortable. Work within what your current capabilities are and they will expand. Force yourself outside of them and you tend to stagnate or degrade them.
What about you? What things do you notice about your environment and routines that could be dulling your reflexive strength? Is there a simple change you can make to clear the path for better movement?