A person newly motivated is going to be eager to get involved in their chosen exercise or sport. After all, we all  want to experience the fun and the reward of doing that activity as soon and as much as possible.

But what I wish I had understood early in my sports life was that the body needs to be prepared to with general kind of strength and capability before it can safely handle the specific kind of strength and intensity of my chosen sport.

I first was attracted to competitive swimming in high school and then to triathlon in my university years. Though I seemed to make rapid progress in my first year, by the second or third year I got severely injured in both. I learned only later in life that one of the primary reasons I got injured so severely, so young, was that my joints were not properly prepared to take the loading that such specific and intense training for swimming and running required. I was mentally eager to work hard, but my body was not ready to go that hard. It had not been prepared.

I didn’t realize back then that I would been far more successful if I had been patient and had first gone through a process of building general capabilities and strength, where I made sure my foundation for movement was in place. Fortunately, I did heal up some years later and learn to move my body better. Now I am patient and careful, and it brings me great benefit while pursuing much more difficult training.

What is this foundation? We should be strong and capable in what ways?

There seems to be a consensus that there are seven or eight fundamental human movements – what we might call our Movement Foundation – that compose just about every activity in normal life:

  • Pulling – pulling something toward your body (or pulling the body toward something)
  • Pushing – pushing something away from the body (or pushing your body away from something)
  • Squatting – upright, as if to pick up a heavy object from the ground
  • Lunging – a long step forward and then lowering down, rising back up
  • Hinging – bending over to touch the ground, then straightening back up
  • Rotating – holding an object and turning the torso
  • Anti-rotation – moving the hips or shoulders while torso resists turning
  • Walking

Note: You can do an internet search on fundamental movements to check this list and get a more detailed description of each of these.

Every action in every sport we can think of uses some or all of these fundamental movements. But even before we consider their sports value, just about every thing we’d like to do in life requires one or more of these. Getting out of bed. Putting on your clothes. Sitting down onto a toilet and standing back up again. Lifting grocery bags from the car. Pulling weeds in the garden. Picking the baby up out of the crib and placing her on the changing table. Opening a heavy sliding door. Tying your shoe laces. Washing the car. Etc, etc.

Can you do each of these fundamental movements in the full range of motion, with your entire body weight? Can you do it with more load, as if wearing a backpack, carrying a child, or moving a heavy or resisting object?

If you cannot do one or some of these fully, with your own body weight or a bit more load, then you will almost certainly experience some restriction in the activities of daily life. You will almost certainly experience limitations if not injury in your sport. If you are deficient in one or more of these, there is a much greater risk of injury when getting involved in very specialized training, as I unfortunately experienced.

But if you are capable of moving your body through the full range of motion on each of these, and are strong in each of these – able to handle your own body weight and more – then you are in a much better position to begin the specialized training of your chosen sport.


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