First Published, 10th September, 2013
I like to move. However, my movement ability is limited. I have been learning different ways of training for just over two years, which in the grand scheme of my life is nothing. I don’t have a specific “background” in anything. I don’t think that being a gymnast until the age of eight really counts. When I started learning about the body, how it works and what it can do, I was starting from zero. I had no base. I had no muscle, or strength, or mobility.
I could still remember doing cartwheels and handstands as a child. I remember the amount of freedom I had in that little body. But I stopped doing it and then I couldn’t do it. I thought I could always do the splits because I could do the splits. But again I lost it. As I got older I thought that because I stopped gymnastics as a child I would never be able to move like that again. I blamed this on my adult body. How stupid.
Although my knowledge of any kind of exercise was limited, I started to grasp the concept that if I did certain things my body would change. If I did squats, eventually the weight would increase. If I got used to being upside down I wouldn’t get dizzy. One day I might even manage a pull up… Simplistic thinking, but it was a start.
I was lucky enough to meet some people who are incredibly strong, skilled and talented. They became really important friends and I started to train with them. Despite the fact that I could barely do anything the had the patience to teach me things that they themselves used in their own training. And that is how I was introduced to Ido Portal.
At first I didn’t understand any of what I was learning, I couldn’t put it into context. I was more interested in thrashing my body through Crossfit. Who cares about form as long as I feel like I’m dying at the end of the workout… There are many Crossfitters who are amazing athletes but I was not one of them. And one day I woke up and thought what the hell is the point of doing burpees? I’m so bored of swinging a kettlebell… Who cares if I can do a crappy handstand with an arched back and shakey arms against a wall when my friends can hold freestanding handstands?
It was a year ago almost exactly when I fully changed direction with my training. I started to understand a bit more about MOVEMENT. I started to learn more of Ido’s movements and drills. So of course when I saw that he was coming to London in September I booked my place to get the “in person experience”.
I attended the Ido Portal Movement X Weekend, at Crossfit Performance360 in Crystal Palace, London. It was a small box and there were twenty five of us on the course. Ido was accompanied by Odelia Goldschmidt and John Sapinoso. And so it began.
Ido started to by talking about his method and how he views movement. He presented himself with a real intensity that I can only compare to strong black coffee, and all eyes were on him. We all sat down to listen and lesson number 1, to sit means to squat. The emphasis on the importance of squats began straight away. And as the day progressed we continued working through a variety of movements and drills with detailed explanations, finally placing everything into context for me. There were plenty of elements that revealed major weaknesses for me, for example, the push-up variations to prepare and strengthen fingers, hands and wrists. I managed to accumulate more time than I ever have in a set of chest to wall holds. But it turned out that my body line needed adjusting because my shoulders were so closed. I was stronger pulling than I was pushing, strength in flexibility was lacking and thanks to a tendon injury I’d lost all stability on rings.
We did a lot of partner work, which enabled us to not only learn the movement but to learn how to cue the movement. I definitely think it’s important to be able to look at somebody else and see whether things need to be tweaked or corrected. Having that awareness improves awareness in your own body. We also learnt different ways of interacting with each other through movement. This combined reacting, processing and responding to a problem that had to be solved through moving our bodies. We had to bend, twist, drop, lunge, squat and we didn’t stop moving.
Hanging. If we can’t hang how can we pull? We neglect many areas of a movement, assuming a movement is only one thing. For example, a pull up is just pulling up with the arms. That’s too simplistic and not really correct. The inability to break a movement down can result in never achieving something or compensating with another part of the body. A detailed mobility routine and some loaded progressive stretching led us onto bent arm strength. Pulling and pushing on boxes, bars and rings. Enough to make me feel like my arms were about to fall off.
We finished with locomotion. Watching Ido demonstrate was inspiring. To see someone make it look so effortless and beautiful. This is another way to assess physical strengths and weaknesses. It’s also one of the most creative ways of moving. Although we walk on two legs, we have four limbs. We are designed for quadrupedal movement. We have the ability to crawl and rotate and twist and pull and push and move in waves. We can change the speed and the direction and the height and the plane of motion. This forces you to think and move in ways you didn’t know your body could. We were “playing with the floor”.
Incorporating as many different ways of moving to develop the body optimally was conveyed so well over the two days. And by the end of the weekend although my body was exhausted, I felt like I had a new motivation and perspective on my training. It’s made me realise what I’m capable of but also what I want to aim for. I want my body to be as able as possible. Ido, Odelia and John were so inspiring and amazing teachers. It’s been an incredible experience and I have to say thank you so much for this.
I got started with my training on the journey home.