So, by now, you’ve probably seen a bunch of people around Arena Fitness doing corrective exercises or taking a movement screen. You may have even done it yourself. And if you haven’t, I strongly and super enthusiastically encourage you to get screened yourself. But there’s no easy way to say this: don’t be upset, horrified, or depressed if your score isn’t perfect or even REMOTELY close to perfect.
Seems kinda weird, doesn’t it?
One of the things the Fitness Industrial Complex seems to get wrong is the emphasis on a) losing weight and b) losing weight fast. In order to sell more and more copies of its magazines, DVD products, and weight loss schemes, we are told that not only can we lose weight or get a six pack FAST, we also need to do it in whatever format du jour has taken the Fitness Industry by storm. What the Fitness Industrial Machine does NOT emphasize are the basic, functional movements that are important in being a physical human being.
Surely by now you’ve seen the countless articles that talk about how dangerous sitting is for your health. Despite the emphasis on going back to the “roots” of humanity to devise a better way to decide what to put (and what not to put) in your mouth, we’ve seemed to totally ignore the fact that human beings are meant to move their entire bodies, not just their fingers on a keyboard. If you sit a lot (and easy money says you do), your abililty to move functionally is going to be limited.
Now, that’s not necessarily going to be reflected in your abillity to do certain exercises or play sports. The best way to understand this is by thinking about a car. A car can be out of alignment, or its engine can be non-optimal, or it can be riding on threadbare tires, but you can still make a car to turn right. Its ability to do so without breaking down or somehow getting in an accident may be greatly reduced, but you can still drive a car that’s seriously out of alignment (shout out to my high school friend Bryan and his old family van for proving this time and time again).
Stay with me here: the same goes for your body.
A little about me, first. When Joe first approached me about doing a functional movement screen, I was just starting to come out of two or so years of pretty deep depression caused by tendonitis in my shoulder. I had gone from a group fitness junkie rocking out two-a-days and teaching Zumba to not even wanting to step foot in the gym. But at the beginning of 2014, I was feeling physically well enough again to think about getting back into gear on my fitness journey. I said, sure, why not. I’m always up to help try things out. I had taken movement screens before and I knew what to expect. But what made it even more appealing was the prospect of the screen leading to corrective exercises that could “fix” my body.
Not unsurprisingly, my FMS score was the lowest out of everyone who works at Arena Fitness. I scored a 10. Equally unsurprisingly, my shoulder mobility was atrocious. Joe walked me through my correctives and I tried not to focus on how remedial the whole thing felt.
The next six or so weeks, I trained with Joe on both correctives and in semi-private sessions. I swallowed my pride and retaught my brain how to use my upper body. It was regression in the extreme. Overhead press? Nope. Burpees? Hahahahaha. Bicep curls with the 4 pound weights focusing on my core and glutes like I’ve never focused on them before. Lat pulldowns with minimal weight to make sure that I focused on pulling my shoulder blades down and back, or step ups with baby weights, where my cue was to imagine holding a “piece of paper” between my arm and my side.
I’ve never sweat so much in my life.
I did my correctives diligently three times a week, and I’m not kidding when I say that the thoracic spine mobility exercises singlehandedly improved the quality of my life.
In two months, I had jumped from a 10 to a 14. And not only that, but my progression on my FMS score was reflected in my progression on the mat. I was pain free in a shoulder that used to hurt every time I sat down, which was all the time, thanks graduate school. And not only that, but I could do squat thrusts again! I could row! I COULD EVEN OVERHEAD PRESS!!!!! Everything was coming up Madeleine.
And then it all fell apart.
The final diagnosis was an ankle sprain, a foot sprain, and a probable hairline fracture, but after 6 weeks in a walking boot, I happened on something even more troubling: my FMS score was an 11.
Here’s the thing about your FMS score: it represents your body as it is at that moment, not as you want it to be, and definitely not how it was as a teenager. My score may have been 11, but my issues were vastly different than what they were when I had intially scored a 10. I had imbalances in different areas, and the places I had been working (my overhead squat pattern, my shoulder mobility) showed continued signs of improvement. However, my lower body was not the same, and suddenly, I was showing issues and imbalances in places that I’ve never had problems with.
Even as I wobble violently and almost fall over every time I stand on my left leg or get into a split stance, I know that regression isn’t the enemy. It’s not a sign that my fitness journey has taken a long walk over a steep cliff. Regression probably isn’t even a fair word to use to describe what I’ve been doing while training around this injury. It’s also not a fair word to use describe your correctives if you’re normally out kicking butt and taking names with the Arena Fitness Racing Team. You’re just putting the work in to make those activities easier, to reduce pain, to prevent injuries, and to optimize your performance.
Sometimes you appear to take a step back, but sometimes you have to change a tire to be able to keep going. So don’t freak out if your score doesn’t reflect you as a shiny, happy, adventure racer or as a Spartan Sport badass. Think of it as an opportunity to soup out body and really open up on your fitness journey.