Of what I consider the key elements of a healthy, sustainable, physically active lifestyle, building a foundation is undoubtedly number one. The many benefits of building (and maintaining) a solid base include:
- promoting and strengthening body symmetry and alignment
- dramatic improvements in balance and coordination
- injury prevention
- exercise adherence and retention
If you stop reading here, this is the takeaway: you will be more willing to continue exercise and living a healthy lifestyle if you are relatively pain-free, feel stronger and well balanced, can move with ease regardless of age, and avoid injury. All of this is possible — and everyone is capable of this— through building a sound foundational base.
The foundation is consistently built upon (many of times from the ground up) and is comprised of two distinct disciplines: physical and mental.
The physical side is predominantly the application of training, which slowly becomes a lifestyle through consistency. In practice, this training generally consists of slow, controlled movements, with the focus aiming to improve body symmetry (upper/lower half, and left/right sides). During these low-impact movements, attention is focused on balance, muscle contraction and lengthening, and controlled breathing. As respiratory function and body awareness improve, so will alignment and posture — alleviating or eliminating pain, and helping to prevent your body from injury (specifically muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments). Though the physical side is quite obviously required for success, the foundation isn’t necessarily built solely on these strengthening movements.
A solid mental mindset is also required, allowing you to understand, and accept, that taking your time — going slow — is the best chance of prolonged success. Though we all want some degree of instant gratification, at some point the initial indulgence usually disappears because of a lack of interest, injury or burn out. We are then left to repeat the vicious cycle until relief has been met yet again (multiplied by infinity, or until we have given up and moved on). Having a base to revert back to when we fail is the differentiating factor to success — helping facilitate a truly motivated, active, and healthy lifestyle for the long haul.
The above picture shows one of thousands of movements that you can incorporate creatively to your own routines. In the photo, I am focusing on body alignment (specifically my shoulders and hips), balance (the majority of body weight is on the front foot), lengthening the spine (instead of keeping it compressed while sitting or standing lazily), and controlling my breathing rate and depth. Though just an example, the idea here is to promote balance, symmetry and coordination. If you can find ways to constantly incorporate foundation building movements and activities similar to this, then you’ll be well ahead of the curve.