Floor-play for Strength and Mobility

Remember the feeling of complete abandon rolling down a grassy hill as a kid? I love the memory of those moments – full of glee, completely carefree. Put me at the top of a hill and prompt me to roll down today, I might think twice about injury, or even if I would know how to actually roll effortlessly to the bottom. Not that we have lots of opportunities to roll down hills, but moving effortlessly enhances so many other activities like playing on the floor with children or puppies, gardening, kayaking, tent camping, beach combing, and more.
Here’s where Floor-play Friday comes in. I’m so excited about my new Friday morning routine. This is one of my workout at home days, and I want to use the time filling in some of the gaps I don’t fill at the gym. One of my goals when I started working out at Hybrid was to increase my mobility. I read an article about a “sit down, stand up test” study that gauges our longevity by measuring our ability to move from the floor to a standing position. The premise is that as we move from a cross-legged seated position to a standing position, we assess our musculoskeletal fitness and deduct a point for each time we use a limb to assist. The fewer assists, the higher the score. The higher the score, the more mobility we have. And finally, the more nimble we are, the better we age and insure our autonomy in our later years. So one thing I check on Floor-play Friday is how nimble I am by taking into account my flexibility, balance, motor coordination, and muscle power.
The test is simple, if you’d like to try: From a standing position, lower yourself to the floor into a cross legged seated position without using your hands, arms, or knees to slow your descent. Then stand back up without using your hands, arms, knees to boost you, if possible.
The moment of truth…how is your get up and go? You might find that over the years you have adopted a way of getting up and down that compensates for an injury or imbalance. The good news is with a little practice and simple awareness you can probably increase your score by one or two points right out of the gate. I would guess that many of us have gained points since we started Hybrid, and if you are looking to gain a few more, my top four exercises for this are the squat, the plank, forward lunges, and the superman. Lucky for us, we do those at the gym. But what else can we do on Floor-play Friday to help us ace this test?
As an infant, it took us about a year to master the get up and go. We first learned to sit up, and then to crawl, and finally to walk. Breaking down our movements into deliberate, simple sequences we can master this again with strength and fluidity. I break down Floor-play into two categories: a planned, controlled sequence and a free form session.
The controlled sequence is the Turkish Get Up. In this exercise we move from floor to standing while balancing a weight overhead. It is total body exercise that improves mobility, stability, balance, and flexibility. I do a few on each side (I notice one side is more challenging than the other), and feel my entire core muscles firing throughout.


My free form session includes natural ground movements with little to no impact, but great benefits. I make up my own movements combined from Floor-play sessions I’ve done in other workout classes that include rolling, rocking, stretching, arching, lunging, squatting, engaging everything from toes to fingertips, creating a sequence connecting one movement to the next from sitting to standing and back again with fluidity. I notice my hip flexors opening, my core stabilizing, and an ease of getting up and down from the floor. Rotating my knees from side to side while on my back provides a gentle flex of the spine and feels like a massage of my lower back. I might rock from a child’s pose to a cobra, and roll back up to a squat, and then move forward on to a knee and reach one arm up to the ceiling. Floor-play is about following pleasure cues; I do what feels good for my spine, my joints, and my muscles, and in the end my senses are awakened, my spine is supple, and I have a vitality to bring to my day.
I’m pretty sure if I do this for a year, I’ll master the toddler’s sit, crawl, walk, sequence like a boss, and I will be ready to roll down a grassy hill. And hopefully I’ll be nearing a perfect 10 on my get up and go score. Who’s with me?

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