Strength has several shades of meaning, we all have such different lifestyles, but no matter how old we are, or which goals we have, physical strength is important to withstand the aging process. As we get older, if we do not up-keep it, we run the risk of loosing full mobility, getting injured more easily or even leaves us more susceptible to certain diseases.
We need physical strength to do simple day to day activities such as walking, opening the door or cooking. We shape these daily tasks around what we think we can accomplish within our capacities, both mentally and physically. That's why is crucial to empower movement with real expectations and an open mind. You CAN change how strong you are, and whether you’re an athlete or not, there are several roads towards increasing it.
Mind to Move programs have an integral approach, that means that all your body capabilities are important and connected during your sessions. Flexibility and mobility are always attached to your level of strength and will be encouraged to improve it from the center to the periphery and from small to big (muscles and movements). Body weight, springs resistance or light weights challenges you to find solutions to carry or lift in a safer way. But this does not mean that a heavy lift is out of the possibilities, as a matter of fact, my view is that if you can improve your body performance through mind/body systems, you will apply them anywhere. At the gym, or in the supermarket, your posture as you move, breathe and mindset will be shaped by your own physical achieved wisdom.
The following tips are for all the Mind to Move clients and anyone that is spending time in the weight room or practicing any kind of mind & body discipline. These are just general points, but maybe one or all can give you a different experience as you continue with your own routine or want to try a new one.
Take any chance you have to assess your strength
New sauce jar to open? Choosing a car or a basket on the supermarket? Pulling up or pushing away your chair? Carrying your backpack always on the same side? There are so many easy ways to assess your strength efficiency in daily tasks. Find those opportunities and check how many times you avoid using or overusing a specific area in your body. In Neurokinetic Therapy there is the saying: "He who works, he who hurts. " This is about noticing and that's a good place to start if you don't have any specific goal related with strength. Challenge your weaker side every chance you have. Simply crossing legs in the opposite side you feel natural or holding your bag in your hand instead of your shoulder sometimes it's an easy way to start to question or notice abilities.
Be sure you're breathing as your effort increases
There are so many breathing techniques for alethic performance, but what they have in common is that you want to avoid holding your breath in a hard physical effort. The National Academy of Sports Medicine states that to properly breathe during strength training you should inhale on the eccentric phase and exhale during the concentric phase. In other words, exhale while you’re doing the hardest work, and inhale as you’re coming back to your starting position. Pilates and Yoga are also in agreement that the most important is that you inhale by the nose at all times. The exhalation could be nose or mouth but as slow as possible to let the vacuum effect in your contraction and an optimal release. This is a very important point to dig deeper, but for now I just leave you an external link if you want to know more about the importance of nasal breathing:
Wrap your bones with your muscles
This is a key image if you have some level of hyper-mobility in some joints. Think of your bones as the wooden framework of a house—they provide the structure and platform for other things to attach onto. Much like how nails and screws hold the framework of a house together, our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia hold our bones together. This network of tissue surrounds our bone structure, and dictates our movement. Stronger muscles surrounding a hypermobile joint, will distribute the force protecting it from ligament injuries, pain or fatigue.
Don't forget the small muscles
Hands-wrists, feet-ankles... They are often points that are forgotten until joint pain appears. The foot contains so-called intrinsic muscles, which connect all the bones within, including the ankle. Extrinsic muscles attach the feet to the lower leg, which connects to the knees, hips, back, neck, and beyond. When any of these muscles are weak, it throws off your biomechanics. The hands, wrists, and forearms should be prioritized too, now more than ever with so many hours spent carrying a phone or working with a PC. If you spend at least 5-10 min. of your workout in them, you will feel more efficiency and enjoyment during your practice.
Find a doable challenge and change it often
Present consistent stimulus to your muscles, so that they can break down, rebuild, and adapt to the increased demand. If there is zero or minimal stimulus to your muscles, that is what they will accustom and even shrink so that they do as little as required. This is known as muscle atrophy, and people who lead sedentary lifestyles can be at risk. As automation can improve several aspects of our lives, it also can make us absolutely lazy to use our body. A small effort as mixing ingredients for waffles with your arm, using the stairs instead of the elevator or sitting on the carpet instead of the couch; could have big impact in your biomechanics.
Motivation is key
Plan out the pathways to your goals. The clearer the pathway, the better direction you will have to achieving what you set out to accomplish. Guidance and consistency are essential components that will often help you towards your goals. But something more powerful has to be your motivation. Progress takes a deep personal need to want to be better than you were yesterday. If you have that passion to succeed, then nothing will stand in your way. From squeeze all the juice of a lemon with you bare hand or lift 100 Kg , there is no greater drive to succeed than the motivation within.