By: Tiffany Morales 

As I lay in my tub staring at my freshly pedicured feet, I think back to how much work they did for me earlier today. This morning, we did the first instructional video on Foot Care. I went into the Dynamic Balance studio thinking this would be a piece of cake compared to other shoots, like Pull Ups. How hard could it be?

We began with Towel Curls, a foot strengthening exercise. Within 30 seconds Mark had pointed out *gasp* a maladaptation! When I lowered my foot to grab the towel, my toes weren’t actually curling, they were collapsing. My toe knuckles were bending backwards, instead of flexing and rounding to make a smooth arch. While filming we like to highlight such flaws, as it allows us to capture any “a-ha” moments or candid displays of naivete. 

The “curl” command from my brain all the way down to my toes had been compromised since living with sciatica for 10 years. The human body is incredible and will adapt to perform activities in the most efficient way, even if it is not optimal for your musculoskeletal system. As a result, you can end up with serious strength and balance deficiencies along the corresponding Kinetic Chain. My maladaptive “flattening” pattern developed as a way to save energy and avoid recruitment of underused muscles. Nerve irritation from the bulging discs in my low back made engaging my left leg unfavorable and weak along my sciatic nerve. So although the root of my chronic pain was at my lower back, it caused limitations all the way down my legs’ Kinetic Chain 

Back to my bath, I strive to curl my toes the right way, the way Mark had instructed me to. I grappled between the familiar and novel; ditching the old ingrained pattern wasn’t going to be easy. I’m reminded of a scene in “Kill Bill” where Uma Thurman’s character The Bride has escaped from the hospital after waking up from a coma. She lifts herself into the truck using only her upper body, then she throws her inoperative legs into the back seat. Here is where we see the protagonist dive into a deep concentration, determined, orderinging herself to: “Wiggle your big toe.” 

Time passes by and thirteen hours later we see her big toe flicker back and forth subtly. The Bride then says to herself, “hard part is over.” She has crossed the first obstacle – waking up a dormant pathway like finding a previously traversed trail that has grown over. It helps to relate my struggles to this scene. The sheer determination is infectious.

During our shoot, you can see a similar flash of my toes curling under my foot. In some instances, we may feel shame when our flaws are pointed out. But that isn’t the point. The point is to bring these flaws into our awareness and practice, practice, practice in order to unlearn and then rewire new movement patterns. Parallel to how it was portrayed in the movie, this process can take hours. Granted, that’s based off of movie magic. You don’t get to see all that hunting and pecking, the frustrated sighs, furrowed brow or clenched teeth. Struggling for subtle changes has no place in an action flick.

That’s why homework is so important in a program. If you are trying, you are progressing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Essentially, the process is breaking down hardened patterns that have developed over countless hours of maladaptive habits. These don’t just go away after a few sets. They stick around until a new pattern is well-established over a similar amount of time. We must be diligent with practicing and integrating into daily life in order to build better habits.

The Bride’s patience and relentless desire to wiggle her toe is what I try to access while practicing to curl my toes the correct way. She relentlessly worked but I’m not on a revenge mission to kill assassins who destroyed my life. Instead, I approach rehabilitation with a proactive attitude on days when I am feeling up to it. Sometimes the body just doesn’t want to do the work and it needs a break. I’ve found that perfectionism hinders my progress. So if I can be an opportunist and practice whenever I can, say a few reps while relaxing in a tub that counts as homework time. 

This stuff doesn’t just happen on its own. You have to work hard for it. Commit yourself to developing new habits. How do you invoke change? I’d love to hear. I’ll be sprinkling in some practice throughout the day, like when I find myself bored in the tub.