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Intention: Why do you move?

Currently your movement might be to flush your mind of all the crazy from day 3,107 of sheltering in place. For me, lately, it has been because I have been overindulging in the BEST tasting cinnamon rolls EVER from Whole Foods. Wait? Is two a day overindulging?(enter whatever emoji you choose here)


Movement is a beautiful privilege. It's full of variation and possibilities. It involves many layers and factors which would indicate that it's more than just joints, bones and connective tissue. Movement is dynamic. It's based on your intent or plan in that moment. It's about how you interact with real world environments that are fast moving and sometimes chaotic, which means that sometimes your movement may come across a little "messy."


Let's assume that the first layer to movement is PAIN. Similar to how facial expressions can provide others with feedback on how you feel pertaining to a conversation you might be having: "Gina, I'm concerned with the amount of cinnamon rolls you have been inhaling" (Gina's face: the dance of the caterpillars begins) or a particular unfavored task being performed; PAIN provides the quickest expression for us to understand that something needs to change. It's important to point out here that pain is totally normal, super weird, complex and 100% multidimensional. Usually when someone feels pain their first thought is "something is damaged" but more often than not studies have shown that pain has more to do with sensitivity (past experiences, biases and expectations) than tissue damage.


Where does pain come from? Pain is a message about a possible threat generated by the nervous system when it detects potential danger. You could think of the nervous system as a protective alarm system, and what your unique nervous system deems as potential danger is largely dependent on its sensitivity settings. Some may be hypersensitive, associating pain as a mechanical issue or damage; whereas others might be more desensitize or set on a lower setting. We can view these threats as what we can tolerate which can change day by day, week to week, month after month. After the nervous system sends the message of "danger Will Robinson, D A N G E R" to the brain, the brain has the job of processing this information by determining if the threat is real and how to proceed. For example, someone steals your cinnamon roll mid-bite vs being punched in the face for stealing the cinnamon roll. The threats here are both very real and painful but also very different.


The brain is bombarded with receiving information all day long, so how the brain decides to respond depends on a number of things such as past experiences, habits, ideas/biases, current environment, the environment you're moving into, emotional connections, the list goes on. It could respond with immediate intense discomfort, excessive tension or a weakened motor output keeping you from accepting anymore stress to that area. But again, depending on the circumstances, it could also respond like this: you're running through the woods being chased by a bear. You trip and fall twisting your ankle. The fact that you're being chased by a hungry bear that wants to eat you (probably because you smell like tasty cinnamon rolls) your brain will likely not respond by sending immediate pain sensations to that area in that current environment. It will wait and respond with the appropriate protection once you are safe. Maybe that means you are able to run on what ends up being a broken ankle for another mile to get to safety. Pretty RAD right?! Not the broken ankle of course but how adaptable the human body is.


My intention is not to make this a Pain Science conversation. That subject is a fantastic one, but it requires its very own long and complicated conversation. I mention the above to quickly highlight how the nervous system (A) does not recognize individual muscles, (B) generates movement based on the environment and past experience and (C) is a highly aware and complex alarm system. Understanding now as we do that the nervous system essentially influences everything, we circle back to the question: What is your intention when you move?


Remember! The nervous system is a protective alarm system that wants to keep you safe, so it will only produced the amount of force as it currently accepts stress. Your movement intention or plan is directionally based. You can view this directional base as a template that your nervous system refers back to. The more you have to think about how to pick something up from the floor vs not giving it any thought, the more inefficient and exhausting it can become. For example: your intention is to bend over and pick up a book but you recently hurt your low back. Maybe you are no longer in pain but because of your recent experience you skip stooping down to grab the book or reaching diagonally for it or really any other scenario you can imagine you would have done before your injury. Instead you go into full prep mode! You start with placing your hand on the wall or by grabbing onto a piece of furniture next to you. Next you take a breath in, clench your jaw, brace your core, likely are having thoughts of "this is going to hurt" and then squat down with caution to perform the task. You might be thinking: "Does the process matter if the task was complete?" Sure your nervous system, working along side your current tolerances, allowed the book to be picked up but in an inefficient manner and humans are capable of so much more! Fun fact: did you know that a conscious mind can process 50 bits of information per second while a subconscious mind can process process 50 MILLION BITS per second!?


Considering what we know up to this point, if I haven't lost you yet, we could probably all agree that this type of preplanning movement or consciously influenced movement would not be very efficient day in day out for the long haul. To move as efficiently as possible in real world, fast moving, unpredictable environments, I bet you're starting to ask: How can we change the template by moving more subconsciously? Improving or creating better quality or less "messy" movement with all of our subsystem friends cooperating with one another. Because if they are all cooperating and working together, then ideally we should be able to accept a lot more stress right?


If you are HURRAY! Now go treat yo'self with a cinnamon roll. If you aren't don't worry. I made half of this shit up anyway.






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