Motor Amnesia: Getting Down
My three-year-old niece has the physical skills that a lot of adults don’t. She knows how to get down. That is, she can drop to the ground, roll over, and then spring to her feet with the same effort that most adults take for a mere breath. I mean, she doesn’t just get down, she drops down kamikaze-style, making the grownups around her cringe as though she just shattered herself.
She doesn’t hurt herself, of course, just simply entertaining herself. This basic activity — fundamental patterns of play — is something many adults have forgotten how to do. We all probably know adults who’d have difficulty easing themselves onto the ground without looking like awkward land mammals, much less rolling and then springing back onto their feet.
I see adults spending hours in health clubs doing specialized exercises on fancy equipment (and that’s good), but most probably still can’t get on the ground comfortably, should they need to. Heaven forbid, but: what if there’s a fire in the building and you must get down and crawl? What if some lunatic opens fire in a shopping center parking lot? What if you just want to play with your 3-year-old niece?
If you’ve been regularly intimate with the ground through exercise, play, or work, then I hope you keep it up (it’s a skill worth having for the rest of your life, if not for emergency then for fundamental fitness). But if you haven’t been getting on the ground and getting up regularly, then I encourage you to start now. Here are basic instructions to get going:
PHASE ONE Just find a spot on the floor of your living room (with carpet or rug, of course, but try not to use a soft mat, if you can). Just get down on the ground on all four, and then maneuver back up. Keep your knees aligned with your feet as best as you can (don’t let your knees twist from side to side). Other than knee alignment, use whatever means you want in order to stand all the way back up, and don’t worry about your overall technique — after all, your body is not dumb, so don’t let the fitness gurus and personal trainers tell you that you must demonstrate perfectbiomechanics for something as fundamental as getting up from the ground. When you’re comfortable with getting down and getting up, then you can repeat this action for repetitions — it doesn’t matter how many, just do as many as you can. You’ll be limited by either muscular endurance, or by cardio-respiratory endurance, or both.
PHASE TWO Now, when you’re on the ground, stretch out on your stomach. Then use your arms to push back up onto all four limbs, and then stand up like before. Again, when comfortable with the movement, repeat this for reps.
PHASE THREE Next, inoculate your body to the ground further by rolling onto your back, then roll again onto your stomach, and then get up. Roll all the way to one direction for one full rep back onto your feet, then to the other for the next. Repeat this for reps, alternating the direction that you roll.
Now, this may sound pretty easy for those who are fit and athletic, but I know there are a good number of us out there who don’t think in terms of getting on the ground as a part of our daily routine, and therefor this fundamental movement can be challenging, and a decent exercise. In fact, even for those who are fit and athletic, give this a try for high-speedrepetitions: do 20 (or even 30) in as little time as you can. You will find that this elevates heart rate and works your muscles in ways you’re not used to.