The Value of Having a Movement Practice
This post has two goals: defining Movement Practice, and describing the lessons I have learned through my own Movement Practices that have made me a better clinician.
I wanted to write on this topic because I have seen recent campaigns by both the APTA and CPTA to re-brand physical therapists as movement specialists. In order to be a true "Movement Specialist," I think you need to have a Movement Practice of your own. Knowing, doing, and teaching movement are all equally important parts of being a Movement Specialist. It is really hard to label yourself as Movement Specialist if the "Doing" part is missing. Having a Movement Practice and learning new movement practices will make you a better clinician for many reasons, including reminding you what it's like to be a beginner and student again.
What is a movement practice?
There is no consensus definition for what is a "Movement Practice," so I'm going to make up my own. I think a movement practice moves beyond exercise, and is any situation where a person is moving their bodies with purpose, and is mindful and attentive to their performance. Reflection on the quality of performance, and planning future practice sessions with the goal of refining and improving their movements are equally important. Yoga, pilates, feldenkrais, dance, martial arts, soccer, football, crossfit, weightlifting, running, biking, swimming, gymnastics, and even walking can all be considered movement practices.
How does having a Movement Practice make you a better clinician?
Some of my most pivotal experiences as a clinician have come during my own movement practices. My first experience was learning different running styles in an attempt to make myself a faster, more efficient runner. I explored Pose running, Chi running, Barefoot running, Natural running, along with trying to piece together my own running style based on the research. It was a long process with a lot of ups and downs to learn what running style clicked the best with my mind and body. I had multiple instances where I felt like it was so easy, but then the next day ran like I had no control over my legs. Learning how to run differently and to refine your running technique is similar to what we are asking our patients and clients to do when we ask them to walk different, stand different, or squat different.
Lessons I learned:
1. Learning how to change how you do something that you've been doing for a long time is difficult, and I need to be patient with my clients and patients when I ask them to do something different.
2. Really paying attention to how you move, with something that seems as natural as running or walking, instead of just tuning out, is the biggest difference between exercise and a movement practice
3. The learning curve when learning to move differently is not linear, it's more like a roller coaster with ups and downs. Expect this, and educate our patients and clients to expect the same thing. It will save them a lot of frustration and doubt.
My second experience was my experience was at San Francisco Crossfit when I started to learn all the different movements for the first time, including olympic lifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics. Learning how to deadlift, snatch, clean and jerk, and kip was challenging, and a constant roller coaster of excitement and frustration. When I became a coach and started to learn how to teach other people how to do these same movements, it was like I was starting all over again. I could do the movements with some basic proficiency, but teaching other people was a whole new ballgame.
Lessons I learned:
1. Learning the basics of a new movement does not need to be complicated, but actually mastering a movement takes years.
2. Being a beginner again is a great, but humbling experience. Taking the beginner mindset and being open to learning is critical when you start anything new.
3. Knowing, doing, and teaching a movement are different skill sets that all require a different level of understanding.
4. There are a lot of different types of movement out there, and the more you can expose yourself to, the more you will start to see commonalities and differences between movements.