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Re-Wilding your body

Re-wilding your body

It looks like we’re doing modern dance.

Post #3 in the What I Did Last Summer series.

As I’ve mentioned, this summer I was ever-so-fortunate enough to have been invited on a backpacking trip on a portion of the John Muir Trail. We’d been planning it for 10 months, and a trip like this, without children, with so many cool people, seemed so unlikely to actually come together, that we were all a little nervous. Would the trip live up to our expectations? Would something go wrong? Would our bodies be able to keep the promises our mouths had made?

We needn’t have worried. It was amazing. In fact, the word I’ve been tossing around in reference to that trip is “charmed.”

re-wilding your body

I’ll title this “Calf stretch near water”

It wasn’t without challenges, but we were able to overcome and the trip was all the more satisfying for them.

It would seem like a backpacking trip is about as close to “natural movement” as we can get these days. Lots and lots of walking, plenty of getting up and down off the ground, lifting, squatting…  Just a more natural lifestyle, period.  No WiFi, electricity, cars, phones, or any other distractions besides the company of your friends and the desire to move forward. The stress that you leave behind is immeasurable. The noise alone… having nothing but a splashing stream and birdsong with your breakfast? Peace. (After you turn off the loudest backpacking stove on the planet, that is.)

So we should all go backpacking to de-stress, right?

re-wilding your body

“Psoas on sleeping bag”

Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Personal preferences aside, lots of folks aren’t physically prepared for a backpacking trip. It may be natural movement, but if it’s not what you do every day, it’s not normal for you, and therefore your body might not be able to just jump in and hike, squat, lift, etc. without suffering some consequences.

I’m not just talking about fitness. Your muscles or your heart can be very “strong” and yet still not ready for this particular set of tasks. You might be capable of running a marathon, but pounding down a rocky trail for 4 miles and 3,000 (vertical) feet could still bust your knee. Especially with 40 pounds of gear on your back. (That part? The pack? Maybe not so natural. If we were hunting and gathering we wouldn’t need to carry a bear box and 18 pounds of food. And if we were allowed to build fires we might not need the stove and fuel. Then there’s the water filter, first aid kit, camera, and extra socks. I’m not leaving my sleeping bag behind, though.) Our bodies can do what we train them to do, so if you want to go backpacking, you practice carrying heavier loads and going up and down steep terrain and maybe you even train your lungs to try to get more oxygen. If, however, you’re loading all these new skills onto a body that is stiff and tight, or maybe hyper-mobile (or, most likely, a combination of the two), you’re doing inadvertent damage. The damage might not even be noticeable in the short term, but it’s there and affecting your body daily.

So before you even start the training to be able to climb the mountain (hint: at 14,000 feet it doesn’t matter how much training you did… you’re gasping), you need to get your body ready. Natural movement is FANTASTIC, but our bodies are so un-natural at this point that you need a “pre-training program.”  Restorative Exercise™ is that program. It will help get your body back to the point at which it can begin to move naturally. This can take years, but I’m not suggesting you stop everything until you’re perfect. We’ve gotta live, right?  However, every little bit helps.  So of course the intrepid backpacking team did a little Restorative Exercise™ along the way. (We also did it because I thought it would be really fun to have some exercise photos with such an amazing backdrop. And, we’d brought along our personal professional photographer. Thanks, Jote!!)

 

"Sunlight on Piriformis"

“Sunlight on Piriformis”

I saw this Ted Talk the other day about how changing just one (seemingly) little thing within an ecosystem can have far-reaching, and quite surprising, effects. We need to protect our livestock? Take away one predator, and not just prey populations but even the path of the river (and a hundred other things) changes. The speaker was a proponent of trying to re-introduce, or at least protect, some of the things we’ve removed from environments, in order to “re-wild” the earth, and allow the so-carefully-balanced ecosystems to return to previous, healthier,  states.

It’s the same with our bodies. Taking away one simple movement, in the name of convenience, or being “more civilized,” can (will) have a huge impact on our health. No more squatting, because we have toilets, tables and chairs? Now our glutes are underdeveloped, which affects our sacrum, which affects our lateral hip musculature, which affects the rotation of our femurs, which affects… everything else. In order to find our way back to healthier, more pain-free, less injury-prone bodies, we need to re-introduce a few key  movements, and let them work their magic on the rest of our body’s ecosystem. Not just 20 squats a day, but starting with the ability to squat in alignment. Not just walking 5 miles a day, but looking at the correct gait pattern. Re-wilding our bodies can start with a calf stretch. Who knows where that might lead? Less tension in a shoulder? No more pain in your back?

re-wilding your body

Seriously. This could be
performance art.

So introduce a new movement to your body today. You don’t have to start with a backpacking trip. Even something tiny, like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, will challenge your muscles.  Or maybe you’re ready for something bigger, like laying on the floor to read to your kids, instead of lounging on the couch. Then, a next step could be to buy one of Katy’s Alignment Snacks to learn how to stretch just one part of your body. Work on that for a while and really let it become part of your body’s knowledge before moving on. You could really go crazy and get one-on-one help  from a Restorative Exercise Specialist™ near you.

Maybe a 4-month backpacking trip isn’t your idea of bliss, but it’s hard to argue with wanting a healthier body. Re-wilding doesn’t have to mean giving up *all* of your creature comforts. Start small, and reap the benefits.

re-wilding your body

 

 

 

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