Guest post by Mel Fiala, CAT(C)
We live in a society where most of us understand and operate our electronic technologies better than our own bodies. This is our norm, we don’t question physical inability because we don’t realize that there is an issue. We have the luxury of having everything we need literally at our fingertips—a click away. But your fingers don’t even contain any muscles… and your body has over 600. What if you understand them, use them, OWN them. Imagine how much power you would have at your fingertips!
‘Natural’ and ‘Functional’ movement is our birthright. It is not a fancy new innovative way of working out or training. The human body is a remarkably perfect movement machine. We are born with every muscle, bone and joint we need to move in a fluid, deliberate and healthy way. If we take the time to understand how it works and take care and ownership of our well-oiled machine it can become a liberating, energizing and empowering experience.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that movement is reserved for athletes, sports or working out. But the world of high performance and professional sport is filled with bodies that move in inefficient ways. Understanding the way your core muscles work to support your body and the way your limbs move around your core is the first step to owning the way your body moves. For example, similar movement principles can be applied whether you’re reaching for a book high up on a shelf or performing a layup in basketball, whether you’re standing at the sink doing dishes or standing in first position in ballet. Natural, functional and healthy movement is about ownership, understanding and capability—and you don’t have to be an athlete to take ownership of your body!.
Enter ‘Magnetize.’ It is a concept that breaks down and marries the basic steps to activate and stabilize the foundation of movement.
It is a model that I created for a conditioning workshop, I further refined it on the soccer field with professional athletes, and eventually named it with the assistance of an energetic group of young acrobats. Its diverse pathway to conception demonstrates its versatility and adaptability to all movements and physical activities. When you boil it down, we all have bodies made up of the same building blocks. It is from these building blocks we can move naturally — functionally — without any bells and whistles.
The concept of magnetize revolves around the idea of understanding how your core muscles set the foundation for all other movements. This is done by accessing and differentiating your stabilizing muscles (pelvic floor, glutes, abdominals, obliques, etc.) from your movement muscles (quads, hamstrings, biceps… there are too many to name). This is done by imagining all the parts of your core ‘container’ activating, while pulling towards your center without yielding — like a magnet.
So we break down the concept of the ‘core’ (cue your eye roll, please! Core is both an overused and a misunderstood concept) Here is how to magnetize in five steps:
First, pull in your diamond. Imagine a diamond shape on the lower part of your abdomen, each point represented by an anatomical landmark: your pubic bone, your two hip bones and your belly button. Try to pull those four points towards each other as if they are magnets. This will help access the lower part of your whole abdominals which wrap around your ‘core container’ like a can of soup.
Second, stop your pee. This is the same muscle that is activated when you perform a Kegel exercise. This helps access your pelvic floor and stabilize the bottom part of the ‘core container’.
Third, squeeze your butt cheeks. Activate your glutes to help stabilize your legs and protect your knees. This will help access the other bottom and back part of the ‘core container’.
Fourth, knit your ribcage. Starting from the back (where your ribs attach to your spine), pull each rib down onto the top of your ‘core container’. This should allow your ribcage and shoulders to stack over your hips.
Finally, BREATHE! Don’t forget your diaphragm, it is your principal breathing muscle as well as being the top portion of your ‘core container’. Breathing will help you relax and integrate the muscles you’ve magnetized.
You can break down this method and practice each part on its own, get familiar with how your body reacts when you engage it in that way, and then put them all together. When they work together, when you magnetize, your core muscles are functioning in a stable and healthy way. This stability translates into better posture, healthier movement, and injury prevention.
Bringing this concept to my patients and clients has allowed me to empower them to do just that! Healthy bodies that have better posture, more whole-istic rehabilitation and of course, fewer injuries. Your body belongs to you, goes everywhere you go and you spend your whole life in it. Why should you depend on a health care practitioner or trainer to tell you what to do with it. Not only have I seen individual patients move healthier when they own this knowledge but I have seen improvements across groups I have worked with. In the dance company I currently work with, no single dancer has suffered from a knee injury since we have implemented the concept of magnetize across all dance classes. This was over three years ago and in a demographic that is notorious for knee injuries (girls and young women aged 11 to 21).
Magnetize is a concept that can help you understand your core and set the foundation for healthy movement. But it is just beginning to scratch the surface! Get to know how your body works and feels, observe how your legs and arms move around your ‘core container’ with and without magnetizing. Observe your alignment in the mirror when you magnetize: do your knees, feet or shoulders shift or change in any way? Those limbs of yours are also an important part of your well-oiled machine. When you magnetize, your stabilizing muscles are taking on their designated role (i.e., to stabilize) and the rest of your body and limbs are free to do the movements they were originally and perfectly designed to do.
Love, own and understand how your body works and it will take care of you. Movement is your birthright--MAGNETIZE!
About the author: From the locker rooms of national and professional soccer and hockey to the rehearsal studios of the National Ballet of Canada, Mel Fiala has spent most of her career on field and in the clinic working with a number of professional and elite level athletes. Her career is rich in variety and has enabled a diverse repertoire of experiences which are reflected in her holistic approach to movement and rehabilitation. She currently works in the heart of Ottawa at her private practice located within KV Dance Studio, where she delights in the unique environment of working with ballerinas, acrobats and patients from all walks of life.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.