Taking it in Doses

Mushrooms!When I started my Master’s degree in physiotherapy this September, I thought it was inevitable that l I would have to make some severe compromises in the amount of daily movement I was getting. I mentally prepared myself for the chair to rob me of my hip function, for my training sessions to become shortened and rushed, for the meagre skill-set I had begun to develop to slowly degrade as I sat reading about all the movement I wasn’t doing.

I am delighted to report that I was wrong.

The nice thing about being a physiotherapy student is that the faculty are somewhat aware of the destructive powers of being bound to a chair all day and give us fairly generous breaks in the mid-morning, as well as a substantial lunchtime. While some of my classmates have found in themselves the good sense to use this time to advance their studies, I quickly recognized it as the perfect opportunity to go outside and play.

As it happens there is a quiet little courtyard behind our building. A few planter boxes scattered around the grassy space contain young trees (one bearing the most unfortunate-looking apples I have ever laid eyes upon), and a smooth asphalt path connects the back doors of the surrounding buildings, separating the courtyard into several distinct grassy patches. October even brought scattered mushrooms poking up through the fallen leaves (though only in one particular section of the yard, oddly enough). The courtyard finally catches some sun at noon, which helps to take the chill out of the autumn air. It’s here that I spend my breaks, serving teacups, jumping around, and falling out of one handstand after another. Often, I have the place all to myself, though students and staff pass through every few minutes on their way from one building to another. Sometimes a friend will join me, but by and large I spend my time here in silence and solitude.

These frequent movement breaks have practical benefits too, for sure. Breaking up those big doses of sitting does wonders to keep me focused for the rest of the day, when the chair once more demands that my ass be present. The amount of extra practice I’ve been able to accrue has been substantial as well (just like I talked about in “Greasing the Groove”). It’s not enough movement to break me down or compromise my recovery (quite the opposite, really), but it adds those consistent little doses of volume that reminds my body that it needs to adapt, that my intention to build the physical foundation for the handstand extends beyond the two formal training sessions in the gym each week.

I now dread the oncoming winter, with all its cold dampness, but at this point I’m convinced I’m going to have to either bundle up or find an indoor practice space. There’s no way I could revert back to spending that time in a dusty, dark computer lab or hunched over my class notes (sitting in general is out of the question at this point). The more I move, the more I find myself craving movement. I remember reading a post on Ido Portal’s Facebook page that said “upgrade your passion into an OBSESSION”, and I think I’m starting to see what he meant.

Obsessions aside, fitting a little movement into your day might be easier than you think. Movement in our culture is ruled by the fitness paradigm, which tells us we have to get our movement all at once for it to count. While that may be true for developing fitness, you might be surprised just how much you can benefit from making movement a regular part of your day, taking it in little doses here and there.

Finding an hour to work out can be tricky. Finding a handful of five-minute breaks here and there to spend in a squat, open up your hips, or hang from a bar? That’s a bit easier, and it’s a hell of a lot better than doing nothing.

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The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

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