From the moment we are conceived our bodies deal with load. Load can be defined as the forces which act on our bodies. Whether these forces are from the womb juices surrounding us as a developing ball of tissue in the womb, or the force we have to generate to achieve our last breath we are constantly dealing with and overcoming loads.
Our bodies are dynamically orienting to load at all times. This process of orientation to internal and external forces is a critical harmonic that keeps us vital and healthy.
Babies and infants have a natural fascination and proclivity to movement. I remember watching the graceful “tai chi” like movement of my daughters as they grew. The combination of the “close environment”; their mother’s body and the surfaces and environment they find themselves in; coupled with the desire to satisfy their needs, prompts infants to develop a boggling array of movements that becomes the movement alphabet.
It is critical to remember two things:
- The backdrop of all this development is negotiating load in the gravity field.
- Movement and loading is always holistically oriented and involves multiple sensory inputs and motivations coupled with movement outputs.
Back to load… Every single tissue in our bodies responds to loads. Muscles grow and develop in response to load. Fascias with their force transferring and form maintaining function, require load cartilage. Bone is nourished and strengthened with load. Synovial fluid is encouraged to flow with loading. The blood pumping heart needs load to grow and develop. Nervous tissue is dynamic and nourished mobilised and revitalised by load. There is no tissue our substance in the body that isn’t dynamically and magnificently improved and assisted by movement and dealing with load.
There is a brilliant saying by Tim Gabbett; an expert in load and its importance in the fields of performance and sport. He says: “It is not the load that damages us but the load we are not prepared for”. This is a vital concept for all to grasp. Our bodies are only as powerful as the forces they can absorb, make sense of, and disperse. Consider that your knee must deal with 3-5 times your body weight in load while jogging down a hill. For some this equates to over half a ton with each footfall. The muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and fascias under the direction of our nervous system orient to this load; in a symphony of brilliance; so that we don’t shatter our bones and break. This feat is awe inspiring but requires all these tissues to be primed and ready to accept and deal with these loads. This preparation for athletes is training. Remember that an octogenarian gogo walking down the stairs is having to negotiate load too. But unlike the athlete primed to perfection, she has suffered the ravages of a hard life and aging, including a steady loss of muscle mass and bone density. This coupled with fear and demotivation leads to profound fragility.
Every movement matters
To prevent this loss of quality of life and to add life to our and gogos years, we have to embrace the idea that every movement matters. From the pain killing rhythmic knee extensions to alleviate the stickiness of aging knees or the stabilising isometric to decrease the ache in your neck to the totally engaged focus of a tricky tree climb, even to the raking of leaves in the garden. Any and every single movement kickstarts a symphony of wellbeing in one’s body. Interestingly load management is a critical force in healing too. Many years ago, rest was considered the vital ingredient in healing. It still is; however only rest within the broader context of loading that matters. Most sprains and strains do better with early loading protocols. The same is true for most pain syndromes. Load coupled with judicious rest and recovery is the musculoskeletal panacea. By starting slowly and persistently working toward our load limits; many times a week over many weeks and many months and many years – we will become fitter, stronger and more capacious. Our ability to deal with life’s ups and downs will improve. Our mental focus and cognitive acuity will improve. Our pain will decrease. We will reclaim our sense of vitality and autonomy.
Move every day
Try move every joint in multiple directions
Do what you enjoy
Be curious and attentive to the work you do
Keep it simple
Load it or lose it
I will explore further the concepts of loading as it pertains to stretching, strength and cardiovascular training in a further article.