Updated: Jan 27, 2022
I remember, many years ago, running the Toronto marathon. The route took us down a road for several kilometers before turning around and coming back on the same road. This meant that when us average runners were on our way out, we had a front row seat to watch the elite runners on their way back. As I thudded down the pavement, feeling my heart pounding and the effort in my body, I was amazed by a man running towards me who looked as though the laws of gravity didn't apply to him. He bounded like a deer. He landed lightly on each foot and sprung back in a way that looked effortless as his long legs moved fluidly through a long stride. It was mesmerizing. I've never seen anyone run like that in person before. He ran his full marathon in less time than it took me to do my half.
So what is it that makes some people so good at movement?
I think it's a few things. First, good movement is efficient. The human body needs energy to move. When a movement uses less energy overall, there is more energy available to the body to keep moving. Imagine sprinting for a moment. If you sprint with your arms wide to the sides, not only would you feel awkward, but you would not be able to generate the same amount of speed that you could if your arms were close to the body. Efficient movement is less taxing on the energy of the body, but it's also less taxing on the tissues themselves. The more efficiently you move, the longer you are able to do it for without pain or tiring out the tissues or cardiovascular system.
Good movement is also coordinated. Imagine an adult who has never been on ice skates before playing hockey. I bet you imagine some jerky movements, some delayed responses in their body to react to where the puck is or maybe you envision a visual distraction watching that adult. Next, imagine a professional figure skater. Their movement is fluid and looks as though every part of their body is contributing to each movement. There is an element to the movement of a figure skater that is pleasing to the eye. If you think of the body as a symphony, each instrument section is doing their part in harmony with the whole. No one instrument is too loud and every instrument is on the same beat. (Concept credit to Todd Hargrove)
Good movement is interactive with the environment. Gravity is always present, and good movement uses gravity to press away in one area so that other areas can feel light. Good movement is like a conversation with gravity. There is some back and forth to the discussion and the more subtly that back and forth happens, the more graceful the movement looks. Interacting with gravity well sees the mover balanced at all times.
Good movement is controlled. Controlled can mean slow and steady, and with more practice can happen at explosive speed too. A basketball player is constantly shifting their weight from foot to foot, interacting with gravity and can stop and change direction very quickly to avoid their opponent. The best movers are in control of their body at all times. I love watching dancers or gymnasts do a dance/routine with a smile on their face, their toes pointed, every arm movement is intentional...and when they finish the only thing that gives away the immense effort of their performance is their ribcage powerfully moving air in and out of their lungs to meet their body's demand for energy.
So good movement is efficient, coordinated, interacts with the environment and is controlled. Good movement is beautiful to watch. Good movement feels good in the body.
What do you think of my list? What does good movement mean to you?