I am a New Yorker, born and raised. When I found natural movement, I immediately felt at a disadvantage for lack of access to the tree climbing paradise I lusted over on instagram
. It was this world of strong, capable and barefoot people running through the woods, jumping over streams and carrying stones. Natural movement appeared like an elite club for those living on the edge of society. That wasn't the hand I was dealt. There is nothing but buildings, concrete and cars for as far as the eye can see where I live. People that look like me must not do this sort of thing
, I thought.
This is toxic thinking. It comes from a mindset of scarcity. With a scarcity mindset, what you have will never be enough and those with more become the enemy. I know now that if you want something, figure out how to get it and if it does not exist yet, build it. With this new lens, opportunities for movement appeared everywhere I looked. Traffic lights morphed into tall sturdy trees. Scaffolds became smooth branches to climb. In business this is referred to as the opportunity mindset. In movement circles this is can be called parkour vision.
The terrain may be different, but the application of ideas is the same. Here is how I approach things.
-What fundamental tasks did we evolve to do as humans?
-Which of those movements have been outsourced or eliminated by civilized urban dwelling?
-How can I still gain that movement nutrition in my daily life?
With that said, here are a few avenues for exploration to add more movement into your day in the urban jungle. By no means is this a complete and comprehensive list. We are all different in terms of culture, gender, age, philosophies on movement etc. which eliminate the validity of blanket statements (in my opinion). I'll spare the tangent for another time. These are just some boxes to check. Principles are more versatile than techniques so adapt to a city near you.
1. Train surfing.
Follow this rule : when riding the subway, sitting down or holding on to anything is forbidden. Proprioception is understanding where ones body is in space. Challenge your balance and proprioception first by simply staying upright on a moving train. Play with the variables (close your eyes, stand on one foot, keep your hands in your pockets, etc.) and have fun. What variables can you add and what do you learn in the process?
It is the most fundamental human pattern that has turned into a form of 'exercise' in this modern sedentary age. With an urban landscape where everything is located within a few miles, walking is one of the best modes of transport. Stack your life (as Katy Bowman calls it) by creating reasons to walk. Schedule to get the groceries and carry them home (bring your own bags, please), walk with your significant other to see the sunset, or simply eliminate or minimize the use of things that outsource you're walking. Can you maneuver between bodies, buildings and traffic? What new skills must you acquire to become more efficient?
3. Get comfortable with the floor.
This isn't exclusive to living in a city, but it is generally useful advice. Move your laptop onto the floor and cycle through different sitting, kneeling and squatting positions in your apartment. How many ways can you change your orientation fluidly (laying on your stomach, crawling on all fours, standing, laying on your back etc.)? How many times can you squat to rest throughout the day?
Every time you pass a scaffolding (on that walk you are taking) reach up and hang. Hang until the light changes and it is safe to cross the street. It sounds simple, but how often does your daily life force you to grip your bodyweight or even put your arms over head? I think everyone should have this ability. Hanging is the prerequisite to climbing. When you become stronger and more confident at both hanging and crawling, see how many ways you can replicate crawling movements as you climb.
5. Repurposing the environment for play.
Play is one of the most difficult words to define for its broad and varied applications. At a young age, play creates an environment to hone evolutionary skills necessary for survival (playing tag, hide and go seek, catch, roughhousing etc.) in the form of games. As we get older, play can be tinkering or taking alternative approaches to accomplish a task. Do things with your non-dominant hand. How many different ways can you get up from the floor? How many ways can you climb over a bench? Give yourself a task and see how many ways you can complete it.
Any other ways you add movement into your day, leave some suggestions in the comments below.