You have just walked into a room. You do not know the room. You scan the room. A man is in it. You don’t know him. He says to you, “If you buy me a glass of milk, I’ll tell you the next chapter of your life”.
You reply, “Okay”.
He gives you a few pieces of metal and some paper.
You analyse this visually and tactilely (by touch), sending multiple signals through your peripheral nerves (nerves outside of the spinal cord) to your spinal cord (nerve tract located within your vertebrae), then up to the brain. From here the visual and tactile signals are transferred into ‘readable’ material via several association cortices (parts of the brain); this coupled with some memory retrieval through past experience, allows your brain to quickly identify this as money.
He says, “So go”.
From here, you analyse the environment. You scan the room. There’s no milk but there is a rectangle piece of wood with a steel circular prominence. Again, your brain quickly identifies this as a door, and from past experience understands that if the circular prominence is turned with the action of supination at the forearm (right hand turn would be clockwise) and a slight force forward (or backward – always the opposite to what you pick first) you’ll be able to pass through it.
While you are quickly identifying the door, you are simultaneously thinking “how the hell did I get here, where am I, what if I can’t find any milk, why on Earth does this guy want milk”, the list goes on.
You brush these thoughts aside, after all, you have a door to walk through. Without effort, you cross the 5-metre room in a few seconds. Did you hear what I just said (read what I just wrote)?! You put together a series of movements without effort. Flexion and extension at the toes, ankles, knees, hips, elbows and shoulders, stabilised the trunk, head and neck…and so much more. Easily 100 muscles & 100 bones moving in a beautiful arrangement to result in a smooth, rhythmical walk, and you didn’t break a sweat.
Why and how is this possible?
Through repetition, practice, repetition, action and lastly repetition.
This masterpiece we live in (our body & brain) is designed to move…and move well. But it takes practice, it takes action, and it takes repetition.
Consider a newborn child. She transforms from a sack of bones and muscle with some fat that could not raise her head, or finger for that matter, to a child that at the age of approximately 15 months is doing literally hundreds of flawless movements that resemble squats and deadlifts daily. Not to mention, climbing on and off a couch that is at her shoulder height 20 times a day. 15 months of repetition to go from a completely immobile sack of bones to an almost flawless mover in the crawl, squat, deadlift, walk, run and jump, all without a single yoga, pilates, powerlifting, athletics or Crossfit class.
Back to the milk.
You exit the door. You scan the environment. It’s busy, but you are able to see a series of symbols on a building, “S.H.O.P.”. Shop! I know this word! Quickly you think “Where am I?” and “I hope this shop sells milk”.
Zoom! “What was that?!” Zoom! Zoom! 2 more! Enormous blocks of shining metal and plastic are zooming past at over 60km/h. You quickly gather that they are cars and that this is a very busy street. “How am I going to get beyond this line of rapidly moving metal?”, you consider.
“Uh-huh! White lines on the road! A zebra crossing! Cars have to stop for pedestrians who walk on them! That’s how I’ll get past the cars”.
You begin to cross at the crossing. Within seconds over 40 humans are stopped and cursing that they have had to stop for you.
You can almost smell the milk.
You enter the shop. You scan the shop. You identify the big box-shaped thing that keeps things cold. It has bright light and a soft-drink brand labelled across it.
You open the fridge…MILK!!
It’s the first time in your life you’ve pumped your fist at the sight of milk. You make your way to the counter. You see the shopkeeper, he sees you, walks over and says something in a language you don’t understand. You place the milk bottle and the money on the counter. The man takes the amount of coins and paper that he considers fair. He turns around and while you are still collecting your money off the counter he comes back with a glass. You’re excited and he sees you’re excited, which makes him smile. You gesture with the money as if to say, “how much?”. He pushes the glass into your hand and gestures no charge. You both exchange gratuities in your own languages and you both go your own way happier.
You’re back outside, but this time you already know how to get past the moving metal and you waste no time going back to the room where this all began. You see the future-telling, milk-loving man. You walk to him as proud as you’ve ever walked to someone. You pour the milk into the glass with all the beauty seen in a Cadbury advertisement and hand it to the man.
He says, “Thank you”. And drinks the milk. He appears satisfied. He speaks again, “I can also tell you what happens to you when you die if you do one more thing, and you don’t even have to move your feet”. You accept.
He says, “Touch your toes”.
You reply, “I can’t”.
To make a long analogy on movement and repetition even longer, and to offer some guided perspective on this situation. You have just moved your entire body, rhythmically, through a semi-complicated maze; analysed safety; deciphered signage; passed speeding metal without effort; negotiated metal and paper for milk (+ a free glass); had a positive human interaction; returned, and you are then asked to move your upper body downward and you are unable. WHAT?!
How is this possible?!
Here is the next chapter of your life for those that can relate to this scenario and those who wish to have a better grasp on human movement…REPETITION.
Imagine if you’d spent the same amount of time trying to touch your toes as you have spent purchasing items (including the endless hours online browsing). You would be 100% mobile, coordinated and efficient in this movement…you would likely not even consider the task as a task. If the same number of hours was applied to movement exploration as TV/device use, your movement potential would be limitless.
This is not said to insult or to make you regret previous time spent; this is said to open your eyes to the possibilities you have in the future.
Let’s get moving…