Trust (noun): firm belief in the reliability, assurance, ability, or strength of someone or something.

We place trust in many things. We trust that the sun will rise, that our car won’t explode when we turn the ignition, or that a coworker will be at work to help with an ongoing project. Placing trust in other people or in things that we use daily from backpacks to chairs to light switches takes a certain weight off of our shoulders. We are free to do more because we rely on other pieces of our life to take care of themselves. I listened to a podcast recently which cited that social trust has measurable health outcomes. Having a high level of social trust is associated with lower anxiety, lower blood pressure, and greater feelings of happiness.

A lack of trust, on the other hand, can be a serious thing. Anxiety increases, blood pressure goes up, and ultimately, behavior changes. If we didn’t trust the brakes on our car to function properly, we would find another mode of transportation. If we didn’t trust a coworker to perform what was expected, we might do more work ourselves. If we didn’t trust our neighbors not to break into our home every time we left, we would act differently.

Ask yourself this: do you trust your body? Do you trust your body’s ability to stand up? To walk? To run? To jump? To do a backflip? Where trust ends, behavior also comes to an end. Where trust exists, so too does movement freedom.

I have written previously about motor choice, about the ability to make a shape with your body and then transition to another shape. Having a high degree of motor choice by extension means we also have a high degree of trust in our body’s ability to assume those shapes. And not just assume those shapes, but to do so without getting injured. And that extension of trust can apply to all movement tasks such as participating in sports or lifting heavy objects or playing with children. Trust is the ultimate factor that determines what we do. Without it we become guarded. Our movement becomes less. And that cycle potentially continues on a downward spiral unless we intervene.

How does one go about building trust? The answer is to practice moving variably with intention.

1)       Stretch frequently. Explore end ranges of motion in all of your joints as creatively as you can get there. Moving with control in an unloaded environment has a very low degree of risk and allows you to build trust in yourself.

2)       Lift things. Some of them should be light, some of them should be heavy. Move the lighter things around with you as you move. Explore different shapes while holding those things and build trust that you can become long and strong. Lift the heavy things smaller distances at a time. As load goes up, freedom of motion should go down but we can build strength by lifting heavy things. Building strength builds trust.

3)       Move at different speeds. Move quickly. Move slowly. Move like an alligator. Change directions. Practicing traveling at different speeds challenges our metabolism to adapt to become better at switching which fuel source it is using at any given time. It also asks our neuromuscular system to be able to become more resilient to changing mechanical demands.

Research shows that focused practice is different than rote repetition. There will be some adaptation to repetition by itself but those gains plateau pretty quickly. In order to improve, we must practice. In this case, I insist that we must move with the intention to get better in order to do so. In order to increase flexibility, to gain strength, to develop metabolic and tissue resiliency, we must practice. That is how we build trust. Move well.