By Vic Verdier, MovNat Master Instructor
The 60s were the Golden Age of the automobile industry in Detroit. In 1964, well before the first oil crisis, Ford asked David Ash to design the first version of the iconic Ford Mustang. Fifty-seven years later, avid collectors still enjoy those wonderful cars because, with proper care and maintenance, they are still powerful and fun. The analogy with the human machine unfortunately ends here because, if you are a Baby Boomer or an older member of the Generation X, you might have realized around your 50th birthday that your body has been used and abused in many different ways and probably not been maintained optimally. You might have even started to experience discomfort, limitations and sometimes even pain; something no one accepts with joy and enthusiasm.
People feel the effect of time as they wake up in the morning. They are pushed to believe that it is how their body will be from now on, their “new normal”, the daily aching, popping and cracking body that is only a very pale reflection of their long-gone physical glory. Like the old castles you find all over Europe, it might still look good from a distance, but it will never stop falling apart on the inside.
I am here to tell you that nothing can be further from the truth. Aging Movnatters can simply apply the 7 following rules. Simply? Yes, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. And the longer you wait, the harder it is to slow down or even reverse the effects of the aging process.
Rule Number 1: “Old is a state of mind, not a number”
Even if the human body is the most complex “machine” we can imagine, machines “rust” when unused for any length of time. It’s important to stay active as we age. Inactivity very often creates limitations in our movements. Humans need to move as often as possible, not only to keep their body in good shape, but also to keep their mind active, positive and happy. Feeling old is just a perception and a state of mind. In other words, it’s a habit that we learn but that we can also un-learn, and you probably know some examples of 50- or 60-year-old people who have more energy than a Tasmanian devil and are way more active than people 20 years younger. They are not the exception. They are what we would all be like if we didn’t persuade ourselves that older people are not supposed to move anymore.
Rule Number 2: “Daily movement is your friend”
If movement is so important for us, it is essential as we age, to move every day, and if possible, to move in different ways. We can crawl, run, jump, climb, balance, lift and carry, the possibilities are endless. However, if you haven’t moved for a while, the key is a safe and reasonable progression. Don’t start jumping and vaulting if you haven’t even walked in a long time. Learn a new skill or a new variation every day. Start with some ground movements, or some balancing skills. Build a base of strength before considering more advanced climbing techniques. Mix and match. Don’t be afraid of being afraid. It’s a natural process if you haven’t moved for a while. Our brain forgets how to move efficiently, and we have to learn or re-learn the movement patterns that are the foundations of the MovNat curriculum.
Rule Number 3: “Spend time on the ground”
As we talk about foundational movements, there are few skills as essential as ground movements, such as sitting, kneeling, squatting, rolling, and the crawling components of MovNat. These natural movements creates not only the mobility and strength that all human beings need, but it also helps the brain catalog a library of micro-movements that can be used as the basic components of any new skill. For instance, a squat is not just a squat. It’s also something we use when we jump, when we balance, when we climb, etc. In that aspect, MovNat helps us as we age, to improve the mobility of our body and the neuroplasticity of our brain. So, instead of thinking that crawling is something dirty, something that only kids and soldiers in boot camp do, crawling should be for anyone who doesn’t want to feel the effects of age on their body. We should spend more time on the ground, for our health and longevity.
Rule Number 4: “Be strong by nature”
Next to our ability to move, strength is one of the most important physical qualities that one can have. As we age and our hormonal balance shifts, we tend to lose a bit of muscle mass, shrinking like a mushroom in a sauna. It’s important for our health to keep our skeletal muscles active. Lifting and carrying are the obvious MovNat skills we can use, but they are not the only ones. Most climbing skills develop upper body strength, while lower body strength and power can be improved with the safe and progressive practice of sprinting and jumping. Everything is good in moderation and with common sense. Start with learning the tenets of efficient running techniques at moderate pace before sprinting, the same way that you need to practice safe landing techniques before doing any jumping.
Rule Number 5: “Learn to fall and not to fall”
We all need a balanced life. We also need balance in life. Many aging people are scared of falling, and rightly so, as any fall has the potential to be a negative life-changing experience. Fall avoidance is easily practiced through a daily dose of MovNat balancing skills. Firstly, spending time barefoot or in minimal shoes strengthen the feet. Secondly, walking on uneven surfaces forces the ankles to work in many different planes, creating stability in a very mobile joint. Lastly, there are many skills in the MovNat curriculum that can be practiced on a 2×4 board at home and that help to build the vestibular system of a rollercoaster tester.
The other side of the coin is to get comfortable with falling. There are break-fall techniques that everyone should learn in order to safely fall in any position and on any surface. They not only reduce the risk of injury, but they also help anyone to become less afraid of the fall itself.
Rule Number 6: “Don’t be afraid of having fun”
One of the things that sometimes stops aging people moving is peer pressure. It’s important to be comfortable with looking a bit weird in public. Unfortunately, in the Western world, most people will point at you for moving, playing and working on being in shape and staying healthy, but they will not say anything if you spend all day sitting in front of your TV or computer, eating bad food, and being overweight and unhealthy. It’s often seen as the norm.
I know it requires a bit of courage in the beginning to go to a park and crawl or climb on obstacles, while people around start questioning your mental health and the immediate safety of their toddlers. It requires even more courage to start playing with friends and having fun. It’s not serious and not at all what people expect from a grown-up, but who cares? And who said you have to train in public anyway.
Rule Number 7: “MovNat is a lifestyle choice”
Finally, and it’s probably the most important rule of all, MovNat is not just about moving. It’s about living a healthy life based on Natural Movement® and common sense. I like to use the acronym SEEDS:
- Sleep: no one can really thrive without proper rest and recovery, for the body but also the brain. The right amount of quality sleep, at the right time, is essential for anyone, and even more so for the aging population.
- Exercise: we shouldn’t have to think about exercising, as it should be a natural component of our day. Every movement we do is part of our mindful training. Every time we walk, sit, stand, etc., it should be done as efficiently as possible.
- Environment: Nature is in our DNA. Even though we spend a lot of time in our artificial environments, immersing ourselves in nature as often as possible is regenerative.
- Diet: proper nutrition is not just about weight and body composition. First and foremost, it is about bringing the proper nutrients to our body. It’s all about quality, quantity and timing.
- Stress: chronic daily stress is the silent killer and any aging MovNatter needs to pay very close attention to their levels of stress. This is where learning and practicing proper breathing techniques is extremely beneficial.
These seven rules are pretty simple and should help anyone to use MovNat as their main tool to improve their health, their movement and their longevity. It’s not about being the strongest, fastest, or the most athletic. It’s about maintaining our body and mind in the right trajectory in order to limit the potential damage of the aging process and to thrive for the many years to come.
About the Author
Vic Verdier is a MovNat Master Instructor and the creator of the MovNat Combatives and Aquatics certification courses. You can find him at VicVerdierCoaching.com, where he helps men over age 40 live a better, stronger, more vibrant life.
Note: Vic is teaching several MovNat Elements workshops in the USA this Spring and Summer. Click here to find an Elements Workshop near you.
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