Practicing predictable yoga shapes or conventional strength-building exercises certainly has its benefits. But have you noticed that sometimes life throws you less-than-typical physical challenges? Such as oddly shaped things to move? Or atypical places you’ve got to reach? As I mentioned in my previous post, this is what recently happened while my partner and I packed up our house for a cross-country move.

During our two week moving period, I was forced to wake up dormant parts of my body. While moving furniture, packing heavy items and trying to carry as much as my arms could bear, I was confronted with quick, awkward and varied movements demands. Which meant I needed to stray beyond my regular practice and condition my muscles to effectively execute these uncommon tasks. This supplemental training helped me avoid pain, strain and injury.

Even if moving physical locations is not in your foreseeable future, the following three practices are ways of preparing your body for those unexpected (and sometimes awkward) movements we humans make on the fly. Each of these addresses the three most vulnerable body parts I mentioned last week. Practicing these slowly and mindfully now will allow for integration. So later when your long list of things to-do is rushing through your mind the body will recall how you trained it and utilize its muscle memory for the most effective movements.

The most beneficial habit I found when moving was being able to actively recruit my core muscles with my breath. Weaving in bracing concepts like Tubular Core will further enhance the effectiveness of the following practices.

1. Protecting Your Back While Moving

When it comes to preserving your back you may have to call on surrounding support from the shoulders, gluteal muscles and even the legs. When lifting those big bulky items, moving through a hip-hinge pattern and bending deep into the knees may be necessary for keeping back pain away. However, I found that stationary objects like cabinets and walls required side bending as the only way to reach or move certain things.

When you’re moving fast and thinking slow, the core’s ability to support your back in many ranges is your best defense against that elusive back pain. Whether my back was neutral, curling or bending, being able to contract and release the core in an organized fashion was beyond beneficial: it was critical.

Find your “Core Stability Exerise” here:

2. Powering Up the Grip and Strength of Your Hands

Grasping and moving different shaped objects showed me a common phenomena amongst aging adults; our grip can become more dominant in certain digits than others. To my surprise carrying those full moving boxes, heavy mirrors and furniture pieces caused my hands to cramp up — particularly from my ring and pinky fingers up toward my wrists. If I ignored my hands, my shoulders and neck paid the price in compensation.

This is because we develop muscles closest to our midline first, then expand our muscle control laterally (outward) as we begin manipulating objects with precision in our world. What develops first commonly diminishes as we integrate the other parts.

Try this: open your hand and outstretch your fingers. Try to touch ONLY the pinky finger towards you palm. You’ll notice that the other digits can’t help but assist it. Whereas most of us can successfully isolate the index finger in the same task. Again, the body knows what it is exposed to the most.

Get your baby ninja grip back with this tutorial, “Wrist Strengthening Exercise”.

3. Fix Your Achy Feet

As one would imagine, the bottoms of my feet echoed the work I’d put them through. Regularly rolling my feet in the evening addressed my tired soles, but I noticed the source of my feet stiffness was especially stemming from my toes.

“Rocking Seza” to stretch your soles

Akin to the sensation of finally letting go of the heavy grocery bag handle, by the end of the first moving day I knew I was over-compensating, oddly with my toes. Gripping here and gripping there, trying to help my body find a little extra “oomph” I had exhausted the tiny musculature of my toes.

I sometimes see this come up when our balance is being tested…a telltale sign that the feet are compensating for something…maybe in the legs, the pelvis or the core. If you see white knuckles in your toes when you pose, try simply lifting the toes and seeing if you can instead find stability up the chain.

To strengthen and stretch your own toes in preparation for the unexpected, try this simple exercise I call “Rocking Seza”

Having this body awareness and the tools to train for those awkward physical tasks allowed me to reserve my thought process for all of the other taxing motions of moving. It allowed me to savor the last few days in our home, relish our memories that had been unburied and organize boxed items without being bogged down with the stresses of pain. Moving is a symbol of transformation and it is our conscious participation in that transformation which writes the quality of the chapters that are both closing and opening.

Liked this article? Read Self Care for Purveyors of Self Care

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Mélanie Ouellet

Thank you for generously giving us these exercises to prevent injuries.
They are very relevant at this time of the year.

Maria del carmen restrepo

Preparing our body for akward movements is very important in order to prevent injuries. Retraining our brain and our muscles to avoid those injuries is the best way to keep ourselves healthy and out of pain. Very interesting article. Thanks for those videos, very practical.

Rebecca

I enjoyed Baylea’s article. In the past two years, I have been training my left hand to do skilled activities like using a fork or pen and I have noticed that the flexion in my middle finger is less than in my right. I was curious about Baylea’s grip strengthening move with the Alpha ball so I gave it a try. It woke my ring and pinky finger. Circumducting my shoulder while coordinating the movement of my fingers was insightful. I often carry bags for miles so I find this exercise to be particularly useful.

Sunee

After what feels like 1000 moves in my lifetime, I hope I never have to move again but if I do, I’ll be ready (and to help out friends when the call comes). I had no idea about the digit dominance and now I am fascinated. Can’t wait to start working on creating more digit balance.

Kila Divina

This post is exactly what I need! I will use some of the techniques outlined in your videos to prepare myself now for moving in a couple months. Core stability is incredibly important to stabilize the back when lifting heavy objects, especially in strange positions we may not be used to. I never even thought of using the therapy balls to explore and strengthen grip, thank you for the great tip!

Randy

Really appreciate the video for grip strength because for me the finger that loses grip first when rock climbing or doing heavy farmer carries is my pinky finger. The second video presents a great way to increase the capacity of every digit in the hand while going through circumduction of the shoulder which is something that will benefit my tight shoulders! 2 for 1. Great value, thank you

Sharon

Great post! My daughter is moving next weekend so I’ve sent her the link. I love the Grip and Strength tip. I often get cramped fingers when I have to pack.

diana

great article! mid-ytu training i injured my shoulder i have to step back from fulfilling the course material being in class has been a great way to id and access all other areas!

Colleen Flaherty

As a strength coach, my mindset is also on helping people prepare their bodies for whatever life will throw at them! I love this article because it is so approachable and simple. To me, Baylea nailed the top 3 morst important body factors to moving odd objects that will keep you safe, and sane! through the stressful act of moving. So many times we forget that moving cabinets, dressers, and mirrors mean we are internally or externally rotating our shoulders, then (death) gripping them, as we lift and go down/up stairs! Wowza! Who is training for that?! The more we… Read more »

Laurence CF

Thanks a lot for this post. I had a big move recently and completely adhere to your experience. I believe back is so obvious and we feel it so much if we don’t use it correctly that we tend to pay attention in special circumstances like big moves. But I had no clue about fingers strength and grip, I didn’t pay attention and yes I felt it badly. Thanks for your clarity and explanations that make so much sense!

Margaret Rose Gagnon

Wow!!! Huge discrepancy in strength and i had absolutely no idea. Thank you for this blog post and video.

Candice

If this can help get rid of digit weakness, I’ll try anything! Your videos give great clarity to the movements, especially how you connected breaths with movement of the spine. Thank you for explaining and demonstrating the connectedness of the body as the contraction moves up the chain from the fingers in effort to see where we need to work on our grip strength. Can’t wait to try these out with clients who’s grip strength is the weakest link!

christina

Thank you for sharing the movements with us!

Karine

So interesting to try that pinky move towards the palm! How lazy it has become from not being used as much as the other fingers…! I knew that the middle and ring fingers were structurally connected and therefore hard to move separately, but I the pinky has no excuse! Thanks for shining a light on the importance of flexing, strengthening and mobilizing even the tiniest muscles, as they participate in the vast array of our daily movements.

Liselotte Frandsen

This is a great reminder that movement is not just happening in the controlled environment of the fitness center. Life is movement.

Myriam Goulet

Those are great moves! I will certainly use them in my next warm up. Thanks for the share!

Allison Sorokin

Great blog post! All of these practices make so much sense. I have moved myself and my friends way more times than I’d like to count. Everything said here is spot on. I love “This is because we develop muscles closest to our midline first, then expand our muscle control laterally (outward) as we begin manipulating objects with precision in our world. What develops first commonly diminishes as we integrate the other parts.” – It makes sense but I never thought about it. I cannot wait to work on the ball circles focusing on the digits. Thanks!!

Clare Kelley

Grip strength is so important!

Madi

This is what a “functional” movement practice is all about. It’s the context, the “why” behind Sitting (or Rocking) Seza, core strength exercises, and hip hinge mobilization. Great, relatable article! I am curious what you think of the notion (that I’ve heard, at least) that because grip strength is an indicator of biological aging (or health marker), you can “inhibit” biological aging by increasing grip strength?

kaoline

Thank you for the helpful advice. Many of people never think about preparing for the moving. To tell the truth, I’ve never thought about it. But it sensible to do so. In addition to that, it your advice gave me the hint about how we can connect our practice with daily life.