Mountain Grit: Training for the long haul


The Simple 7 Buckets: Suppleness-Stability, Speed, Skills, Strength, Stamina, Specificity, Spirit

“Do I change ME, or do I change my environment?” Environment drives movement, and movement drives function. Shrink our movement sphere, shrink our function. Fortunately, we have the outdoors. Although our daily routines are temporarily upset, this may be an opportune time for some ‘bucket work’.

Bucket #1a
Suppleness and Stability

Let’s call this the ‘baby bucket’, our ground game, that neurodevelopmental sequence of movements that we had learned by the time we were 9-16 months old. That’s right! As babies, we flailed our arms and legs, rolled over, supported our head and neck, pressed up, rolled over and back, grasped stuff, sat on the ground and in all-fours, crawled, knelt, squatted, climbed, stood, then walked. We were prepped and ready to leap, hop, jump, run, throw, play sport, labor and compete. We linked the shoulder girdle to the pelvic girdle [trunk stability] first, then proceeded to develop the necessary skills to explore and play. Suppleness was just there. No stretching, teaching or coaching. We simply grew and played. For decades, we moved automatically as ‘needed’, AND never noticed that these underlying skills were slipping. Why? Because physical tasks were engineered out of our daily lives, and we just went with it. So unless our daily routines require a wide variety of movements and positions including a ‘ground game’ [see next column for Bucket 1b], it’s in our best interest to create and choose opportunities to preserve them, or work to ‘earn’ them back.

Building on the last column, any progress? 

YES [1 point]:  I did it automatically with ease    NO: I struggled, felt pain, had to think too much 

PLEASE, do NOT self-inflict pain or injury just to prove you can do it.  


1.         breath deeply and diaphragmatically, while moving in good posture and alignment

2.         raise both arms overhead comfortably

3.         rotate my torso and arch my spine

4.         look over my shoulder without turning my entire body

5.         put my pants on standing up

6.         touch my toes with only a slight bend in the knees

7.         settle into a deep squat position with my heels down for 30 secs

8.         crawl on my belly or all-4s  

Scoring for Bucket #1a:


GREEN:            8          holding your own, and denying the slide.

YELLOW:          4-7       some kinks in the chain;  have started to slide, reverse course now. 

RED:                0-3       multiple kinks in the chain;  it’s never too late to start the re-learning

 journey;  be sure to EASE* back in.

*Just like a rusty bike that’s been sitting outdoors, do I immediately take it out on the trail for a rough ride?  No, I lube it up, work the oil into the movable parts, check the tires and the brakes, and test it out, before I hit the trail.

Why should I care?

·       Posture affects breathing and gait.

·       The trunk, controlled by the brain, houses our vital organs and functions, and is ground zero for movement integrity.   Think of the ‘guy wires’ on a sailboat mast, evenly taut to withstand gale winds whipping the sail.  A stable trunk acts in a similar fashion, a base for efficient movement of the limbs for labor, sport and recreation.   

·       Crawling and rolling indicate how our trunk syncs with the shoulder and hip girdles.

·       A stable trunk (not stiff or locked up) knitted to mobile joints (not hyper-flexible) IS vital to movement freedom and longevity. 

  • Our bones move where our muscles and fascia pull them.  The more time spent seated, hunched and slumped, the more likely we creep there.  “Our body adapts to what it does or doesn’t do.”   

Common Sense Solutions:           

At HOME, do physical labor, chores, tasks, in and outdoors.   Engage the ground with pets and kids.  If down-sizing, make an effort to KEEP typical physical tasks, like climbing stairs and ladders.   Regular training and mountain hiking can fill this gap. 

At WORK, and stuck to a chair-screen?  Frequently stand up, walk around, take stairs, stretch, reach, arch, bend and rotate away from the seated position.  Doing hard physical labor daily?   LESS is more.  Soft tissue work [foam rolling] and stretching at the end of the day can enhance resilience and durability. 

At PLAY, get outdoors.  Hike, bike, ski, paddle, fly fish, and DO whatever gets your juices flowing.  Put a competition on your calendar, and train for it. 

In TRAINing, fix what needs fixing.  Consider a DAILY practice of breathing, bending, and rotating into and out of positions that are ignored.  Try tai chi, yoga, martial arts and mind-body blends.

The ‘mountain lifestyle’ vintage vehicle requires DAILY and more targeted maintenance.  Strive towards keeping the 7 buckets full, large and robust enough to support living YOUR Big Sky life for the long haul.

In closing, ponder this:  

“We are only as free as the environments we can move in, with confidence and competence.”  

Next up on GRIT:   Bucket #1b – the Ground Game

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