Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Contemplating the Squat

Each morning, shortly after waking and with hot coffee(black) in hand, I go out on my balcony and
do some gentle mobility work, Slow stretches, if you will. By the time I finish my coffee I am working on my deep squat position.

At first I shift from side to side, twisting each leg out as far as it can go, making a few circles with my hips, then twisting it inward. More circles. Shift weight to that side, and twist the other bent knee, And circle hips. And repeat.

Gradually I work my way to a wide squat stance with both heels down, knees out, spine straight and vertical. Just as I would be if I were weight lifting and holding a heavy barbell or kettlebell.

Then, the hard part. The looking-inward part. All the big adjustments in position have been made, but there's so much more. My heel is on the floor, but is the heel weighted? Is the weight on the outside edge of the heel, toward the front? With barely perceptible movement, change muscle tension to get it just right. What about the other heel? My knees are OK, but am I tensing the hip muscles that will hold them there when I start moving?

So much to think about with hips. Are they tucking under? Bad. Next I might cue myself in terms of pushing them forward, or back, which changes the weight distribution on the foot. It goes on... then I stand, squat back down, and do it again.

A process of mindfulness that is constantly being learned and refined, and is too involved to consciously repeat while doing a squat while weight lifting. A process I repeat early every morning, often in the dark, by myself. Coffee helps. Years of yoga help too, although I no longer practice.

I try to impart this to my training clients without success. Their goals are not about achieving Zen perfection in the squat, and the hurried pace of a sixty minute workouts impedes such deliberation. I hope they stick with weight training long enough to discover this process, with whatever guidance I give them, that they try yoga, not an extreme form, but one that leaves room for introspection, and that they look within as they stretch, instead of out at their phones or the rest of gym.

Maybe someday they'll even do squat drills outside before breakfast.