Our culture doesn’t allow us many opportunities to move which has led many people to become separated from their bodies. Conversely, fitness has created many compartments, restrictions, and expectations surrounding how and why adults “should” move – mechanical movement for cosmetic reasons. So we end up with 2 big groups of people: those who simply don’t move much and those who treat their body like it were a machine.
In either case, a few months ago I began starting out class with a simple set of my own 4 “rules” to help my students enter a more adaptive state of mind for their movement practice.
They aren’t really rules per se, it’s more like mindfulness training. I encourage people to consider class as an opportunity to learn more about themselves, to connect, and to move like a human. These rules are meant to set the stage for that experience.
1. Love and Respect Your Body. In the world of fitness there’s this pervasive mentality that you have to abuse yourself to see results. This leads people to think fitness is about pushing your body to extreme limits regularly. It’s a trickle down byproduct of the overemphasis we place on organized sports and elite athletes. All the Gatorade / Under Armour / Nike / Adidas commercials glamorize this ideal and create an unrealistic picture that people aspire to. I want create an atmosphere centered on taking care of your body, not tearing it down; an expectation that you move well before you move intensely.
2. Have Fun and Make Mistakes. I have seen too many classes where everyone is so walled off from one another. No one talking, no one smiling, everyone scared of connecting. Why so serious? We’re all is so damn concerned with opinions and social norms and being “grown ups” that we deprive ourselves of the freedom to explore moving our bodies. The reality is no one is keeping score and no one is judging you. This introvert’s advice: come out of your bubble. Take a chance to see yourself a different way, and grow.
3. Observe, Imitate, Explore. Just because we move together doesn’t mean we have to move identically. Movement (and therefore, fitness) should be a personally-defined experience, after all no one should know your body better than you. As a teacher, I expose my students to a diverse array of movements and empower them to build their own practice. There are guiding principles of movement, but not a lot of concrete rules. Take the chance to explore and you may just come across a lot of unexpected goodness.
4. Keep Calm and Trust the Process. The distinction I’m trying to highlight is between an outcome-focus and a process-focus. Historically, we are a culture of people driven by the pursuit of outcomes – linear progression towards a finite goal. In fitness, many people are trying to make it from point A to B as quickly as possible before that vacation, wedding, reunion, race, etc…This attitude isn’t inherently wrong, but it creates some pressure to rush and cut corners. On the road to our goals are the occurrences, lessons, and experiences that shape us. The process is where the transformation occurs. Have your goals but keep in mind that there is a wealth to learn along the way. Slow down and let progress come, organically. The road may take longer the but changes will run much deeper.
These are my rules of mindful movement. I understand it’s not an easy shift to make, evidenced by the somewhat puzzled looks I get from newcomers. Yet, if you can come to operate from a more mindful space you’ll soon see there’s a lot more to all of this than calorie burning, thigh gap, and 6-pack abs.
And I’ll leave you now to discover for yourself just what I mean. Move well, friends.
Kellen Milad is a personal trainer and movement coach at INVIVO. A passionate teacher and a lifelong student, he earned his Masters degree in counseling psychology from the University of Wisconsin. Afterwards, he chose to dedicate his life to helping people align their physical and mental health through fitness. Since entering the industry in 2008, Kellen has acquired several advanced certifications and amassed a wide breadth of experience as both a personal trainer and instructor. He advocates a holistic approach to training that immerses his clients in a wide array of movements to develop body awareness, strength, mobility, and coordination. You can read more about Kellen on his website.