How to Move and Feel Good Doing It
Feeling better and living pain free usually revolves around one simple concept; better movement. Movement is the key to optimal function, joint and tissue health, neurologic function, and a better overall mindset. However, getting out and moving is unfortunately put on the back burner nowadays with our sedentary lifestyles and busy work schedules. Below I’ve provided 10 tips that I feel will help you with moving and feeling better for the long haul!
If you’re going to start somewhere, why not start with just getting out and moving. The point of this list isn’t to give you a particular set of workouts or movements.Rather, to solidify the idea that movement is everything. Our joints and tissues crave movement to keep them properly lubricated and hydrated.
So, sitting on the couch every weekend is only doing you a disservice. Instead, focus on being active in any way you can, be it walking, hiking, climbing, playing with your kids, or anything else that gets you up and moving around! Better movement isn’t always about pushing yourself and getting in an exhaustive workout. It’s about counteracting your sedentary lifestyle.
Our cells and tissues rebuild and recycle all the time, so if you’re constantly in poor postures, sitting for most of the day, your cells are going to adapt to that. This in turn will limit your physical capabilities. It’s super important to keep your body moving whenever possible!
Whether you’re just getting into movement practice or exercise, or you’ve been taking part in some sort of physical activity for years, it’s important to start slow. There’s no need to rush into things, especially when it comes to moving better. As I’ll talk about below, strive for quality over quantity. Moving is all about doing what feels good to you as an individual. You shouldn’t be comparing yourself to someone else and their capabilities. Instead you should be focusing on what you can accomplish on a day-to-day basis. If this means simply getting out and walking for 10 minutes, then great! Start somewhere, start slow, and build up from there.
Another important concept as it relates to starting slow, is moving in a pain-free manner. The whole point of moving to feel better is to teach your brain and your body new ways to do things. If you’re working out, running, or whatever else you might be trying out, it should be as pain-free as possible. The goal here is to let you body adapt to new stressors, so if those stressors are painful, that’s what it will adapt to. Take things easy, let your body process this new information and adapt to it, then continue. Making this simple is so much easier in the grand scheme of things!
Have Goals In Mind
Goals are what motivate us to improve. If you don’t have at least one goal in mind when it comes to feeling better and getting out of pain, then what’s the point of doing anything in the first place?! Think of something you hope to accomplish as it relates to your health. Write it down, and do everything you can to accomplish that goal. It’s fine to start small with goals too.
If you are simply looking to feel better, than maybe make a goal of getting your pain down from 8/10 to 4/10. Once you reach that goal, make a new one of getting down to 2/10, and so forth. Creating realistic goals helps to keep your motivation high, which will in turn help you to continuing progressing. The more you progress at your own pace, the better you’ll feel, and the more you’re going to want to keep at it!
Get Good At The Basics
As I’ve already mentioned, I always encourage people to strive for quality over quantity. If you don’t own a movement, progressing that movement by increasing the difficulty will only set you up for failure or injury. If your goal is to go faster or heavier with an activity, then earn it. An example I’ll give is the hip hinge movement pattern. You can find some examples of the hip hinge pattern by searching my Youtube channel, but the important concept to consider here is how someone might progress this pattern.
The hip hinge is the basic structure of a deadlift, so in the case of quality over quantity, you should be a master at the hip hinge pattern before you decide to add heavy load and make it a deadlift. Pavel Tsatsouline, the godfather of kettlebell training, calls this concept “greasing the groove.” In other words, you should have a basic foundational pattern down so well that it’s engraved in your brain. The same can be applied to running, biking, skiing, or any other activity. Get good at the basics, then progress from there!
To build off the last concept, the basics are great, but eventually you need to progress. While our bodies love movement, they can adapt quite easily to certain stimuli. If you are trying to get stronger, and you only lift 10 pounds every time you workout, you’re not going to get very far. While any sort of movement is key to feeling better, if you want to keep creating new goals for yourself, you’re going to need to progress your activity. That might mean going for longer walks, picking up hiking or running, beginning a workout program, or developing new skills and hobbies. Whatever it may be, try to continue to better yourself.
Make Moving Fun
The theme of this whole discussion is movement, but if you’re not having fun, then you’re only going to see exercise and physical activity as chores. Take the opportunity to enjoy yourself, have fun with friends and loved ones, and do something you find rewarding. I don’t think this one needs much more explanation.
I’ve noticed on many occasions while working with patients that diet can be put on the back burner during the rehab phase. This drives me crazy, and is the exact opposite of being productive towards our goals. When we’re learning new things, stressing our brain and body, and trying to adapt to the changes ahead, we should be fueling all that in the most efficient way possible. If you’re trying to make a change in your life, but you’re still swinging through the drive-thru on the way home from work, what’s the point?
As your brain changes to accommodate all the new found freedom that your body is experiencing, you should be focusing on giving it clean, usable fuel. This means cutting out the refined sugar, eating healthier carbs, increasing your healthy fat consumption, and simply eating in a way that makes you feel good. I don’t have some magic diet to talk about here, instead I think it’s most beneficial to follow the theme of this discussion and keep it simple. We’re in the business of feeling better now, so why not do all we can?!
Recovery is the key to progression. I tell all my patients this, and it without a doubt holds true. If you’re pushing yourself to the limits nonstop, not letting your brain and body catch up to the changes you’re throwing at them, you’ll never reach those ultimate goals you’ve set for yourself. Take the time to make recovery an important part of the process.
What do I mean by this?
It’s easy really; get more sleep and take some mental breaks. You should without a doubt be striving for a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep every night. If this means getting to bed earlier or sleeping in a little later, do it. I know this can be difficult, especially with kids and other commitments, but sleep is the only time of day that our brain and body have to rebuild and learn from the previous day, so allowing ourselves as much time to do that is key.
Taking mental breaks can be as simple or as time-consuming as you want to make it. The idea here is to actually do it. Shutting things down for even a small amount of time during the day can reap tremendous rewards. Turn off the electronics, find a quiet space, and let your mind wander. I like to recommend the app Headspace to patients of mine. It’s an awesome way to meditate for 10 minutes a day, which is usually pretty easy for people to think about incorporating into their routine.
Create A Better Mindset
If it hasn’t been clear already through some of the things I’ve talked about, then let’s spell it out here and talk through it; the brain is the target for all of these changes we’re trying to make. When it comes to feeling better and getting out of pain, your brain is where change needs to occur.
It may seem like all this exercise and physical activity is improving range of motion, strength, stability, and everything else joint and tissue related, but it’s your brain that’s letting those changes happen. Your brain is the driving force behind all the things that happen in your body. So, it would only make sense to optimize it on all fronts, which includes your mindset.
Eventually if we add too many things into that cup, it’s going to overflow. That overflow is pain, and everything being added into that cup, such as poor movement, work stress, lack of sleep, poor attitudes, and so on, are leading to that pain we feel. If we can find a way to limit or take away from the things that fill up that cup, then we can limit or take away the pain.
Our mindset is just another thing that could contribute to that overflow, so why not try to improve that as much as possible? I think that all the previously listed steps are a great start to having a better mindset, but it’s really up to you and what you want to put into this mentally. Have a positive outlook on your progress.
Enjoy the small victories, and don’t let each and every little setback get to you. The more work you put into this, the better the outcomes. Believe in that.
If you get anything out of reading this, it should be that nothing you’re going to do to get out of pain will be easy. Now I know that may be a somber way to end this, but I want to be practical here. If feeling better was easy, you wouldn’t be reading this.
The whole process of getting yourself right can be long and strenuous, but it’s the follow through that will make you successful. You may have ups and downs in your endeavours. It may take longer to reach your goals than you had originally hoped, but keeping at it is what will give you the best chance at feeling good and moving well.
Take into account each and every step you’ve read up to this point. Implement them to the best of your ability, know that you are not fragile and that you can improve. Know you’ll get there!