If you are reading this, you are probably an athlete of some variety. And don’t sell yourself short, because athletes come in all shapes and sizes and if you are participating in any sort of regular training, you should definitely consider yourself one. More importantly, the question you should be asking yourself is whether you are working out just to say you did a workout or if you’re building quality in your movement practice. This post will examine what quality movement entails and will provide you with some resources to determine whether you are truly living a fit life of quality movement.
What Is Quality?
As anyone who has ever read and digested Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance can attest, this is a pretty big question. For all intents and purposes here we'll limit it to the ol' Miriam-Webster:
Quality: The standard of something as measured against other things of similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.
So first I'd like to point out that although this is (loosely) technically a yoga blog, I am not here to tell you that yoga is of higher quality than other modalities of exercise. Instead, I'd like to discuss quality as a "fitness onion" that we'll peel in ever-deepening layers. The onion can be applied to anything that you love doing, from yoga to CrossFit to swimming. Let's peel that sexy onion.
Are You Devoting Yourself To Quality in Your Life As A Whole?
The bachelor’s degree of movement
Beginning on the broadest possible scope, this encompasses everything. Are you devoting yourself to eating right and getting enough sleep? Do you budget exercise into your busy schedule? Do you create at least some sort of focal point for what you are trying to accomplish? Do you understand the fundamentals of exercise and how your body works?
Asking these broad-stroke questions is an excellent first step in truly taking your health seriously. Consider this the Bachelor's Degree level of your fitness career: you're looking at everything from the wide view and trying to parse out where you are going with your goals.
As anyone who has started integrating exercising regularly will attest (and there is extensive research to back this up cite cite cite) creating quality exercise and dietary routines will result in a higher quality of life in virtually all other aspects ranging from sexual performance to mental dexterity to staving off depression and anxiety. I won't dwell on this, but the top layer of the onion is the foundation for everything else you will do in your fitness journey.
Are You Digging Deeper?
Welcome to your masters level studies
If your bachelor's degree was where you were 'figuring it all out', this is where you begin to specialize, and this is where quality starts to take shape. Say for argument's sake that you really love CrossFit, you've struggled to get your strength to a decent level but you can finally hang. You're seeing some results, you're learning about what you're capable of and you're ready to move forward. What now?
At this point, you're also beginning to realize that the variety of factors you had dabbled in above are beginning to take a more cohesive shape. You begin to notice that the more sleep you get and the better you eat, the faster you recover and the more results you begin to see. You also begin to identify weak areas and elements of your strength practice that need improvement. You begin to set quantifiable goals, whether it's a skill or a specific benchmark. You also-- most importantly-- begin to realize what works, what doesn't, what hurts you and what your body will and will not do.
This is the stage for most people when their innate competitive nature and their need for 'more' begins to take shape. This is also where the necessity for quality takes precedence of arbitrary movement. Anyone can walk into the gym or yoga studio and do a bucketload of poorly executed squats, or a hundred elbow-massacring chaturangas. It takes a real interest in quality to see where the rubber meets the road and to start taking it seriously enough to make sure you're doing it right.
The Center Of The Onion: Quality Movement
Your Movement Ph.D
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
Hunter S. Thompson
Alright, you've completed your masters in movement quality. Now what? The only direction to go is deeper. You've become a high-level CrossFitter: you compete when it's that time of year, you're a paleo junkie and you religiously practice all of Kelly Starrett's mobility protocols to keep the machine working.
Or maybe you don't.
This is where the unsavory detour happens for most folks. Quality in the execution of movement is truly crucial when you're starting to take your fitness really seriously, and this rule is universal for all modalities of exercise. CrossFit is the perfect example for this topic since it encompasses a broad range of challenging skills. It also presents a lot of movements that can be extremely dangerous if not executed properly. For this reason, it is essential to keep quality in the forefront of your vision.
It's here where it becomes truly important to examine the well-being of your practice, whether you're a high-level athlete, an accomplished Ashtanga yoga practitioner or, again, a common CrossFitter. If you truly take your movement practice seriously, you owe it to yourself to do some research and to FIX THE MACHINE when something hurts or is not functioning properly.
To Be Continued...