After graduating from college with a kinesiology degree, I went to work at a gym and became a trainer. With years under my belt of meeting and training a variety of people from many walks of life, I’ve learned that everyone has the same exact two goals. The first will be be no surprise and it’s probably why you are reading this article right now: people want to look better. From a 16 year old high school junior to a 65 year old grandmother, everyone has a perceived way they should look. Looking good is the primary reason we all sweat, bleed, and cry as we put our bodies through hell in the gym. I’m in full favor of this goal because it gets people motivated and moving. But don’t put this down and run off to the gym yet! The second goal is just as important: people want to be capable. Some people want to be capable of finishing a marathon in under four hours while others want to be capable of running on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes. Others want to be capable of bench pressing while still others just want to be able to lean over and pick up a nickel without pain. Once you are in the gym and moving, the fun part of finding out what you can do- or, rather, what you are capable of - starts!!!

In my experience, I have seen that with some work, everyone is capable of eventually moving, moving well, and moving often. Today you might not deadlift like Arnold Schwarzenegger, swing a golf club like Tiger, shoot a basketball like Kobe, or hit a tennis ball like Federer. That’s okay, you can still work towards improving your capabilities. We all need to start somewhere.

Now that you believe in yourself and your ability to improve through movement, what should you do in the gym? Is your answer: “Machines! They are so easy!”? Yes, I agree that some machines require simple common sense. Others have pictures that show you what to do. And still others might have a barcode that you can scan with your smartphone and receive detailed instructions in the palm of your hand. This sounds so simple and there is no need for help from a trainer. But trust me, this is not the answer. Your body works as a whole and moves in multiple directions. Machines don’t train the whole body; rather they train just one part and only allow you to move in one direction. Having a higher-level, holistic training regime is critical to building your capabilities, and managing your movement is a key element of this.

There are three ways we can move: forward/backward, laterally, and rotationally. Practicing movements in these directions keeps your body functional, but this training doesn’t make you look sexy right away and it might hurt your knee to do a lateral lunge at first. Let’s leave this to the side for now and instead investigate the ever-popular cardio equipment. As some of us realize quickly, doing all the cardio in the world is not going to build muscle. It gets you super sweaty and tired, but is that the look you are going for? Maybe it’s time to think about lifting weights in order to build lean muscle mass. But you might lift weights and find that you are growing muscles, but you aren’t getting cut like Brad Pitt. So what do you do now, if you find that you aren’t getting the results you want? Where do you start?

Find help! Find help from someone that has created a movement assessment and cares about your movement quality. Most likely, you do this assessment and find there are things you need to work on, which you already knew. But maybe you find other things that yuou are really good at and you have a higher starting point than all the other movements. Over time, you progress and find that you are increasingly capable. Maybe you only want to be capable of one big goal, but often there are smaller capabilities that are more important. The bigger goal may be to gain muscle and look sexier. The smaller capabilities include being able to throw a ball to your grandchildren, carry groceries up and down stairs with ease, or pick up a heavy box after sitting at your desk for more than eight hours.

Your movement ability is like your retirement fund, if you forget to contribute to it, you will regret the consequences later. The more time and effort you put into your movement quality, the longer you will have to enjoy these abilities. Your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will think of you as a superhero with all you can do.

Don’t look at your ability to move as something you can take for granted. Find your movement retirement specialist! Then, if you move well and move often, you will find that you will both look great and become much more capable.

Jack Ryan