Lifestyle Basics: Moving

“A Moving Hinge Never Rusts”

We live in a culture that is well aware that we are supposed to “get exercise” in order to stay healthy. We idealize professional athletes and dancers and see all sorts of incredible feats of physicality in our entertainment. While this can be inspiring and remarkable, it can also set the bar a bit high, in terms of maintaining a comfortable and healthy experience of being in our bodies. The Chinese have long differentiated between “peak” fitness, and “foundation” fitness:

Peak Fitness is a goal that we push to achieve, perhaps training up for a race, event, (or even a beach vacation!). By it’s very definition, it is not sustainable in the long-term.
Foundation Fitness is a state that we cultivate regularly and consistently. This sets the basis for longevity and healthy function of not only the skeletal muscles and the cardiovascular system, but for healthy joints, digestion, elimination, and sleep.

It is important to understand that we will do different activities to support each of these goals. Rigorous boot camp style classes might be great for stimulating peak levels of fitness, but actually detrimental to our joints! Many professional athletes live out their retirement bouncing between the orthopedic surgeon and the physical therapist, dealing with the permanent injuries sustained during their training. Many of the patients we see in the wellness center were pushing towards peak fitness without laying a solid foundation first.

So what does foundation fitness look like? At it’s most basic, it is about 3 things:
1. “Moving the Hinges”
2. Paying Attention
3. Persisting

Moving the Hinges is really about discovering what a comfortable, smooth full range of motion is for ALL YOUR JOINTS, on a daily basis. A moving hinge never rusts. Gentle, thorough motion in the hinged parts of our skeletons pumps our synovial fluid, lubricating the joints, and is great preventive medicine. If you find a strong restriction, consider acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic care to address it.

Paying Attention is about spending time listening to feedback from the body during exercise. Pounding out 30 minutes on the treadmill, while listening to music, watching TV, and reading a magazine does not qualify! There is an automatic feedback loop of learning and healing when we are mindfully moving, not just ignoring our bodies while a clock ticks down. During these times of mindful movement, we gain valuable insight about what areas of our bodies feel good, and what areas feel jammed, painful, or stagnant. Feeling our bodies, naturally helps us adapt and fix what might be compromised.

Persisting is about doing Foundation exercise as a life-long commitment. No one complains about having to buy gas or change the oil in their car, but for some reason they have problems doing something regularly to keep their bodies working well. Foundation training is not something we do and then get over with before we move on to Peak. Just like you don’t throw away the foundation of a house when you build the house itself, you don’t stop moving the hinges and paying attention when you are training for something more challenging.

We are not suggesting that we don’t pursue Peak fitness. It can be tremendously interesting, fun, and motivating to train hard for a period of time, and we can make real gains towards many of our long-term health goals in this kind of scenario. We would, however, strongly advise that we approach the idea of fitness with the question, “fit for what?” When we understand our goal, we can build whatever kind of Peak fitness aspiration on the Foundation that we regularly maintain.

The Chinese developed the movement systems of Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong (“chee gong”) as the pinnacles of Foundation Fitness. These gentle, rhythmic, mindful movement sets are an unparalleled method of developing body intelligence, stimulating healthy circulation, and supporting healthy joint function. There are numerous classes in the area. Check one out!