Movement Mondays! Take a load off (or on)

The physical expression that is your body is the sum total of loads experienced by your cells.
— Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA

I've been studying for an advanced Restorative Exercise course and part of the studying is re-reading Move Your DNA by my biomechanics teacher, Katy Bowman. As a result, I can't help thinking about the way we move (and don't move) our body and a whole lot about loads. 

Our family forest walk the other day had me thinking about loads as my five year old son wanted to be carried. While part of me gets frustrated when he asks to be picked up, the movementgeek/bodynerd/mama in me overrides and I pick him up for the closeness and cuddles (that I know won't last forever), strength building and the opportunity to play around with varied load profiles.

What are loads and why should I care?

No matter what you are doing or how you are doing it, the multitude of joint configurations, all the ways we can stand, sit and move affect the way our body experiences loads. Loads are the ways that your body experiences forces like gravity, external stimulus and muscle movement. 

Throughout our lifetime, those loads large and small, creates the shape of our body down to the cellular level. Postural habits, running a marathon, sitting at desk for 20 years, all those activities and "non-activities" such as sitting and sleeping create loads and those loads can potentially create strain and stress over time.

To help support the ways that your body experiences loads in the body is the way that you carry it. Which means that alignment matters. A lot. Let's say that you have a habit of standing with your pelvis shifted forward which brings the weight of your body in the front of your feet. This very common stance unnecessarily loads the small bones and muscles in your forefeet, puts pressure on your knees, tucks your pelvis, affecting your pelvic floor among other things.

Now imagine that you shifted your pelvis, bringing it back so that it is aligned over your heels. From a load perspective, the sum total of the weight of your body hasn't changed but now simply by shifting your pelvis back allows your leg bones down to your heels to bear the load in a more structurally sound way, taking it off of your knees, feet and pelvic floor. Same body, better load down to the cellular level.

Another common standing position is to stand with one hip cocked out to the side and weight on that leg. This loads your hip joint and ligaments surrounding the joint, making for a repetitive strain injury and degeneration over time. Or what do you do when you carry something heavy, like the laundry basket lift from a previous Movement Monday. Often we use other body parts to passively help hold the load by resting it onThe weight of the basket of laundry hasn't changed, but now your lower back and other parts are taking the bulk of the load instead of using the strength of your arms and core to carry the basket. 

Now that you have a better idea of how loads are being placed on the body all the time and in countless ways, you can apply that knowledge to your movement and alignment choices. On the walk with my son, I thought it would be fun while I held him to play around with all the different movement nutrients while holding him. Movement nutrients meaning, how many ways can I carry him that load my body in different, unique and supportive ways. And when we hold our little ones, we aren't the only ones getting the movement nutrients, they are too. Each position they are held in creates a load profile to different parts, which is a great perspective to keep in mind when transporting your kids. Passive sitting in a stroller, or active movement for both of you in your arms? Which one will provide a healthier load? When you do carry little ones, be sure to switch up the ways you carry them for the health of both your bodies.

In Move Your DNA and in this blog post Katy explains loads to your body with pumpkins as an example. I'm going to use my kid. 

This way of holding a floppy almost 40 pounds was a great strength builder, it didn't last for too long. I was taking on pretty much all of his weight and while he enjoyed some cloud gazing in this position, my arms and core were working hard.

Piggybacks are our go-to carrying position. I remember when he was around two years old, it felt like a lot of work to hold him for a long time. But it was around that time that I really committed to building more functional strength in my body (holding those fancy yoga poses didn't quite cut it). Those two year old legs and attention could only take him so far on walks, and I wasn't cutting out my forest walks with my dog so I carried him. And I got stronger. And now I can easily piggyback him for a long time without feeling tired. I've adapted my body over time to carry his load in this way. But now that he is five, the long piggybacks don't happen quite as much... unless he doesn't eat enough and has a low blood sugar meltdown. But that is an other story...

And of course the ol' kid on shoulders load. This one is a fun one and I only recommend it if you have good core strength and stability. In this position you can really see that it isn't just the adult doing the work, but the kid also work on their balance and core strength with each step as well. 

Each way of holding him created a different load profile in both of our bodies. By switching up the way I carry him, the more varied movement and loads our bodies get to experience. Approaching your movement and lifestyle choices to create movement nutrients, those healthy loads to the body. Moving in a variety of ways more often, and being mindful of how you move goes a long way to keep your body sustainable, mobile and healthy. Happy loading, happy moving and have a great week everyone!