Updated: Oct 9, 2018
The more you repeat certain body positions, expressions or even thought patterns, the more you get stuck with them. You only have to look at wrinkles to see the proof of how repetitive expressions, create wrinkles on the face. It's the same with your body and your mind.
Remember when you were little and your mum told you to stop making 'that face' or you'll get STUCK that way? Well, it's got some truth to it!
Our modern lifestyle leads us to repeat certain positions. We have dominant or preferred hands, sit with our legs crossed one way, drive with only one foot, stand a certain way, walk our dog on one side, carry a child on one side of the body more... the list can go on. Sitting is the main damaging posture that many of us spend far too long in, resulting in big problems in our body.
Repetition is not good for the body or the brain
When it comes to posture, exercise habits and daily movement (or lack of), the more you load specific tissue, the more effective you get in that position and the harder it becomes to change it. The issue with repeated positions is that each time you repeat them, you are re-modelling your soft tissue and bones (yes your bones can change based on the mechanic stresses imposed on them ie bunions.) The more time you spend each day, month and year in a certain position, the more your body will adapt to it, and remodel your soft tissue, cells, bones and muscles to accommodate. Your body is smart and it attempts to make you more efficient at the things you do the most. For example if you spend a lot of time hunched forward at a desk, your body lays down more thickened tissue at the back of the neck to help support you in this position. The thicker this tissue gets, the less movement it has and the more stuck we become. It's the exact same principle we use in traditional weight training. If you overload a muscle, it will grow to become stronger. While this may be a desirable effect in some cases for training purposes, it's not desirable for posture, or for global body efficiency.
Patterns of habit or repetition can be hard to change
You can teach an old dog new tricks, but you must be prepared to put in some hard yards to overcome habits. It can be hard work to chip away at changing chronically stuck areas as your body will always choose the path of least resistance. Patience is required and remember "It won't happen overnight, but it will happen!" (Thanks Pantene for that one)
When we create positive change in the body by providing pain relief, loosening off tight tissue, or structural integration work that shifts posture, clients often ask us how long it will last. The answer is really that it depends on so many factors. Changing a pattern of pain or poor posture largely depends on how active we are in reversing the factors that led to the pain in the first place. A pattern may take years of repetition until it starts to change the soft tissue and structure of the body, and one session is merely a starting place.
When we provide new stimulus to a stuck area that has lacked variety, we are upgrading proprioception or 'sensation' of that area. The more we upgrade proprioception to a stuck area with touch, variety of movement, vibration or whatever therapy fits, the more we can grow out of repetition, into increased awareness and ability in that area. It's like chipping back at the layers so that the new cycle becomes more movement, resilience and variety, rather than more stuck!
Variety is the solution
As long as you can start to be mindful of ways to change the way you think, move or load certain parts of your body, then you can start to navigate ways to create change. Finding small ways to instill variety into your daily life is powerful for creating a resilient body and brain. Every single time you work to change the load, the angle, or the speed of your movement, it paves the way for long term change. Training with variety makes you strong in a range of positions and able to be strong for whatever is thrown at you.
Ideas to add variety to your movement in life or in the gym:
brush your teeth with your non dominant hand
find creative ways to change your sitting patterns
break up periods on sitting with variable movements (any movement is good!)
move faster or slower than you normally would when you train
decrease or increase your range of movement when training
Change your stance, grip or the direction you drive your weight or hips in training
walk a different route than you normally do
Wear different shoes and train barefoot on different surfaces for strong, resilient feet
Find different ways to move your whole body
Break your repetitive mold with variety, and you'll live happily ever after!