As all Animal Flow Level 1 Workshop attendees know we talk a lot about how beneficial the ground was as a teacher in our early days figuring out how to become an upright walking bi-pedal human being. Only the mix of gravity and the constant 24/7 feedback from the ground allowed us to develop such rich proprioceptive awareness.
Some here know, in my „previous career“ I used to make a living as a professional skateboarder, getting beaten up by the ground for a living, but also living a dream.
Nowadays my priorities have shifted and I hardly make time to go skate anymore, I just keep finding more other things in live that I find worth exploring, learning and experiencing. After all skateboarding was number 1 pretty much throughout my twenties.
Based on what I know about movement practice, and what I feel as a result, of the last few years spending most of my „training time“ using my own bodyweight and the contact to the ground, I want to share the following experience.
Just recently I entered a vert-skateboarding competition. The setting was promising: at a location I knew I like a lot, i knew there would be great old friends, I knew the competition would be on a ramp that I like a loot (if the ramp sucks its only half the fun) – so I figured, why not have a nice day at the park with some friends and skate the comp (it happened to be one stop of the German Championship series), while just having some fun.
The comp was in June and so far I did not have a single skate in 2018 (not that I had many more sessions in 2017, or 2016…), except for the occasional cruising around with my daughter on my cruiser board – so I thought at least having a session the weekend before the comp would be good just to touch base with my board.
To make a long story a bit shorter, turned out that I won the masters division of the competition – having rad fun and just an overall great feeling connecting to my board and the ramp.
There were many moments where I could feel my body doing things that were just happening as if on auto pilot – for example: mid air during one trick I saw my front foot move a few centimeters around on the board to be ready for the trick on the next wall (all along at the same time thinking how cool is this happening without actually consciously doing this), all this happening while being 6 meters up in the air kicking and catching my board, rolling away with it.
It seemed that my body had a really easy time dipping into many patterns that I had grooved in over thousands of practice sessions over a decade ago (still fascinates me while writing this post!).
Of course there are factors such as talent playing into how well I was able to re-connect these patterns from such a long time ago. However, I am 100% convinced that without the ground based movement practice that I do, I would be far far away from performing any trick on a vert ramp after all these years of completely neglecting doing this one specific skill – Vert Skateboarding.
Not only when skating I can feel the benefits of movement practices such as Animal Flow.
From around 2004 to 2009 I used to go out and almost obsessively practice the golf swing and -game after my active pro skateboarder time, wanting to become as good as possible. Managing to get my playing handicap down to -7.8 in those years, back then I felt I would need to keep up the regular practice as much as possible to stay confident in the golf game (which is considered the second hardest sport right after pole-vault) and trust in my swing. From todays perspective again I don’t create too many opportunities for the time consuming sport of golf, but I still manage to play half my rounds pretty close to my playing handicap and sometimes below, which currently is at around -8.7.
To me my performance on the Golf course is the perfect example of how helpful and beneficial ground based bodyweight practice is. I can hardly think of many other sports that require such precise spacial awareness on joint positioning while hinging, rotating, redirecting, accelerating rotation to the max and extending through a tiny ball with a club face that goes around 100 miles / hour. And just half a centimeter off the „sweet spot“ will make a person go furiously throw the club in the next water hazard or stay almost frozen like in the follow through position with a deeply satisfied feeling and watch the ball until its very last bounce.
Back to what we preach in our Animal Flow level 1 Workshops, strangely enough after having acquired the skill of being an upright walking human being most of us hardly ever get back to the ground, which leads to the deterioration of the well balanced, highly communicating finely tuned organism that we are – sad but true, and with consequences.
If you are not doing any movement practice, here are some real bad news: from a pure biological perspective there is nothing we can do against atrophy from aging. Muscle mass will melt away along with a deteriorating balance system plus a fading sense of coordination and spacial awareness. While there is nothing we can do against atrophy, we can practice balance and coordination far longer. Point being: the better our balance and coordination when aging, the less likely we are to have any sort of falling accident which is so common and very often fatal for elderly people.
Not everyone likes being on the ground, we have literally grown away from it. No one really ever likes feeling embarrassed or not being able to perform something as seemingly easy as an Underswitch, so it is on us coaches to inspire and teach these ground based movement practices to our students, clients and groups in ways so that everyone has his/her right entry level to something obviously hugely beneficial.
This post is only to highlight the physical benefits of movement practices, not even speaking of the growing number of studies and research showing what kind of effects physical movement has on our brains and emotions – I guess that topic will be a future post here.
So if you are a coach and you are reading this – get your movement cert, join me in one of my coming Animal Flow Workshops! Berlin is coming up next week – last minute Sign up here!
You’re not a coach but want to learn some more about movement practice, well… look for a certified coach or / and get your copy of the Animal Flow DVD 2.0 🙂