Even a superhero can get crooked.

I was observing a new participant in our Small Group Training last week (I’ll call her RH) as she speed-walked towards me. (No running for her yet – not until she gains the strength she needs to stabilize her knees.)  I offered a suggestion for altering her gate just slightly, to lessen the force she was driving into the pavement with every step. We also talked about her athletic history and I explained how those early years of patterned movement were still evident in her gate.

Next time around I was again observing and as she approached she was smiling and laughing; “don’t watch me walk, Louise!” I get it. She wasn’t expecting the scrutiny. We laughed and I assured her I was just working to to lessen the pain in her knees so that she can be as active as she’d like to be. She had come to me with a common complaint; “every time I start to work out I get hurt”. Well – we can’t have that.

Our exchange reminded me of a habit I have; I’m constantly watching people move. And not just at the studio – almost anywhere I happen to be. I started young. I remember watching the Olympics with my Mom when I was little and wondering how the figure skaters and gymnasts made those tricks happen. (I only ever achieved a waltz jump and the cartwheel and both of those were entirely without grace.)

I was fortunate to have an instructor at the Baltimore School of Massage who taught we could help our clients more if we observed them moving. We would learn even more from how they use their body everyday, than we would by only talking to them about their pain. Since then, the best instructors I’ve learned with – in both bodywork and fitness – observe movement as part of an ongoing assessment process. It’s not simply about doing a movement (or an exercise) – it’s about efficiency and ease.

You know how sometimes once you see something, you can’t “un-see” it? Seems that applies to hearing, too. RH came back this week and told me she’s not been able to stop thinking about walking differently. And her knees are feeling better already. I knew that when I watched her walk through the door, but here’s where it gets better; her workouts this week were so much better. She wasn’t as inhibited by pain or the constant fear of pain that might come. She had some confidence – and that opens all kinds of possibility. We’ve got work to do (and movement to pattern), but we’re onto something.

Small things done consistently create big changes. Rock on, RH.

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