What I would like to share with you today, next week and the week after, is information from a wonder and unexpected resource I discovered along my own movement journey.
It is a book called, ‘Dynamic Aging’, by Katy Bowman (LINK). Buy it! read it. Share it.
The book is the evidence that you can start to reorganise your movement life (at 60 or later) and work your way back into a functional level of mobility and fitness that might be better than you’ve ever experienced; or haven’t experienced since you were in your 20s!
The book chronicles, in a humorous and very honest way, the journey of a group of ladies who call themselves “the Goldeners”. These ladies make step-by-step choices to radically alter their movement profile, or movement practice, and regain their mobility.
And they really are AMAZING women
The reason I spruik this book to anyone who’ll listen is because the story of the Goldeners is such a powerful statement of what the body can achieve (even if you’re a late starter) that it alone can shift a mindset. You don’t have to be 60 years of age to feel the message. Trust me, I heard it loud and clear at 40!
And if you can shift a mindset then you might just be prepared to start shifting your body.
And if that happens then the cascade of benefits you WILL feel from the movement choices you will start to make from following the simple practices in this book will be a positive step towards enjoying a happy, mobile life.
There’s a lot in ‘Dynamic Aging’, as there is in all of Katy’s work (In particular ‘Move your DNA’ (LINK); a game changer in the world of movement training but more on that later), but here are a couple of ‘take homes’ I’d like you to think about.
How robust is your body? How much does it know? Your body knows how to drive a car. It learned that movement pattern long ago. The same with walking and running. What about falling?
Right now, if you stumbled, could you recover?
What if you fell?
For the young and old falls are a big deal. For older citizens a fall resulting in a broken hip could be an impossible recovery.
If you fell over, right now, what would you do? What would you do first? Which arm would you extend first? Which way would you point your fingers as you reached for the floor? Would you try and ‘catch’ your fall or do something else?
Falls scare us mentally because we cannot really imagine them. And we can’t imagine them because we never practice them.
Without an understanding of what to do when we fall most people extend their arms; nice and stiff. Palms and fingers spread wide ready to ‘catch’ the fall. All of these options are wrong and can lead to broken arms, elbows or worse.
Falling is a move. It’s a movement skill. Like walking. Or running. Driving a car or swinging a tennis racket. You can learn to fall in 360 degrees and in three dimensional space. Forwards, backwards and sideways. From height and while you’re in control or not! The more this skill is practiced the less thought goes into executing the movement. Until there is no thought. Just unconscious bone saving responses from your body when things go sideways … literally!
And how about this. Did you know that the fear of falling is itself a risk factor in falling!
If you’re afraid of falling then the answer is usually sit more or move less. That’s the logic. And while you’re at it, how about we remove all of the trip hazards and obstacles just in case.
So you remove the rugs. Level out the floor. Engineer some ramps.
Now I understand why this is done and oftentimes needs to be done. But once you remove the obstacles from your domestic life you must also acknowledge that with the obstacles and trip hazards go the physical adaptations you need to deal with them.
The absence of things to negotiate will cause you to change the way you move. Which is the same as saying that you will limit your movement. De-condition. And then ‘hey presto’, your gait reduces and your ability to raise your hip and foot gets lower and less responsive.
Add to this picture the reality that you don’t live solely in your home. Or at least I hope not. You visit the shops. You visit a friend. You do not live in an obstacle free world but because of the hazard-free space you’ve created for yourself suddenly you’re not as ready to respond to spontaneous and unexpected demands: there’s an uneven rise on the path that you try to step over: fall.
Over time, without practicing how to negotiate and navigate obstacles, you lose the physical competency to move. A fear of falling and the ‘move less’ safely solution is a self-perpetuating de-conditioning spiral. And with so much helpful technology available to us the physical act of moving from point A to B might not even require you to move much at all. And then you can’t!
In general, a person who has limited mobility at 60, 70 or 80 is not a person who cannot move. It is a person who hasn’t. For a very long time.
And then there’s this guy!
Falling is skill. It’s a very useful skill that only takes a few minutes to learn the basics of but might mean a lifetime of confidence and safety. In a sport like gymnastics, parkour or martial arts, falling is the first thing you learn!
Learning to fall and roll is so necessary and useful that it surprises me how few people know how to do it. Any sports person participating in football, netball or even riding a horse, benefits from knowing how to respond to a situation where the descent that is not in your control.
And for seniors, knowing how to fall might just save a hip!
Katy’s book addresses mobility, gait, falling and much more and I highly recommend it. I made my dad read it and he changed many of his exercise practices immediately.
Books like ‘Dynamic Aging’ and ‘Move Your DNA’ and engaging in movement training teaches you that whole body exercise is not about six-packs and ultra-marathons (these are pleasant side effects), it’s about self-efficacy, independence and self-preservation!
Damien Norris is the senior whole-body movement coach at The Wilding Project, Perth Western Australia. Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to fall, roll and recover with grace and style.
Programs at Olympic & The Wilding Project like Rewilding, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Workplace Athletes and in Active Agers all begin with controlled descent! i.e., Falling. It is never too late to start moving.