Slow Down and Zoom In...

I have been writing a lot about taking TIME for yourself and your body.  I talked about investigating pain with curiosity (time consuming), showing up to tune into your body each day (schedule that!), and most recently I wrote about taking time for artistic expression and research (only flows when you make space for it). Writing weekly is also a space in which I slow down, take time, and form ways to articulate how and why I work, train and prioritize things the way that I do. I find though that taking un-rushed time to do things, especially things that are not fitness-related, is in fact a really helpful habit to cultivate in service of a stronger, more focused and more nuanced training practice. 

As a teacher, I find that when teaching a movement class it can be very hard to guide students through details of the complex movements I ask them to do.  I was discussing this recently with a fellow aerial instructor: you (the teacher) can offer every verbal cue you have, for every detail you remember, but it's up to the student to follow the cues. Teachers can only get students so far. Teachers are like the flashlight to show you what to put attention on to, but they can't zoom in to the details of your body in a group class. The thing is, big movements are the sum of small detailed movements.  Maybe you just don't know how to follow detail cues, so how do you learn to work on details?

Let's talk about FRC CARs

In Functional Range Conditioning ® (FRC), a foundational recommended practice are Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) for each major joint in the body. Essentially this means make isolated joint circles while maintaining tension in the rest of the body. FRC Founder Dr. Andreo Spina defines CARs as: "Active, rotational movements at the outer limits of articular motion."  It's very hard to make an isolated joint rotation or a full end-range joint rotation without tension in the rest of the body, and that's why this specification is key to usefulness of these exercises. 

Why are articulate, end-range joint rotations important?

If the teacher of your group class is like a flashlight, think of CARs like your microscope for seeing how well your body is moving. CARs are your lens through which to zoom in on the details of how and where your body is moving in smooth coordination and where there are hiccups and blocks.

*Important (and maybe not quite obvious enough not to mention)*: A joint is where two bones meet. A good CAR is the slow, controlled articular training of the muscles that promote healthy movement between bones. The focus in CARs is to keep the bones organized and only move one joint through its fullest range of motion. The focus is *not* to make a big circle in space if it is at the expense of your bones' organization.

When you wake up in the morning, maybe there is a general sense of stiffness that is hard to break down and understand. Perhaps there are achy areas but it's hard to know what the culprits really are. Ida Rolf is famous for having said about pain/discomfort, "Where you think it is, it ain't." CARs are helpful way to take the onus off of finding and and identifying discomfort, and instead put your focus on the something more positive: working towards freedom of articulate movement. 

No matter what your level of fitness or mobility, CARs are low-stress (to the nervous system) way to learn about where you have ease of coordination and where you need to put your training/activity focus. 

After the Microscope

Once you have identified your sticky spots, you have useful information for how you choose to spend your training time. This can be very helpful when you are setting goals. Whether the goal is to do a handstand, a square split or 10 pull ups, you'll need to know how all of your bones are moving in relationship to one another so that you can most productively work towards that goal. I recently saw an Instagram post that spoke to this well:


If you aren't mobile enough to do the movement or skill, you will struggle much longer to improve at that movement or skill.

CARs are a great tool for assessing your mobility on the day to day (and throughout the day), so that you can best prepare yourself for training and classes. The more you practice isolations, the more specifically you will learn to feel nuance, the more control you will gain over detailed movement, and the more you will get from your teachers in class. 

Moral of the Story:

Slow down. Zoom in. Practice being your own microscope. Becoming more at home in your body will bring you so much more benefit from your classes and training pursuits.  What would you learn about yourself if you just slowed down and practiced listening to subtlety?

Next Week: Holding Still as a Skill: Isometrics and Irradiation