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Toddler Conditioning

Starting Over At Square One

We like to use the term “toddler conditioning” in reference to beginner adult fitness training, which means that we’re starting over again at square one. The word “toddler” refers to the second year of life, from 12 to 24 months, or the time period when a child begins walking tentatively and unsteadily—“toddling.” The young child who is learning to walk or "toddle” learns a great deal by trial and error, slowly developing motor skills needed to walk upright. This is the intermediate step between crawling, lying, sitting and standing unsupported on two legs.

Much of a toddler’s progress revolves around a stable squatting posture, with both feet flat on the ground but with knees and hips fully flexed and the buttocks near the heels. If you watch toddlers, you’ll see how effortlessly they assume this squatting position. This effortless ability to squat seems to be lost as we age. As adults, especially in this country, we tend to lose elasticity and flexibility by neglecting to practice this most basic position. We tend to bend over from the waist without pushing our hips back and keeping our backs straight.

Consider this real-life implication of losing the ability to get up from a squatting position. Ever notice how difficult it is for many people to get out of a car using a fluid motion? This applies to not only the overweight but also many normal-weight people. The individual swings the car door open with his or her forearm or elbow and then pulls one leg out and then the other. This movement takes much more room than is allotted in the average parking stall, and the vehicle parked in the next stall often suffers the consequences of this struggle to get in and out of a car in the form of door dings. Maybe there is some an association between the rise in body work performed on door dings and our noticeable widespread inability to get up from the ground in a fluid motion!

Why join a gym or health club when simply exiting your vehicle is a physically taxing activity? We think you could spend your time much more efficiently by “getting in shape to get in shape.” So when you do jump in your car to drive to the gym, your workout will start in the club—not exiting your car in the parking lot.

Toddler conditioning helps you relearn what really should be second nature. You learn to squat all over again using your body the way nature intended—as a unit. When you can squat properly and then progress to performing one-legged drills (for example, performing a one-legged squat, starting by rising from a chair using one leg) assisted if necessary, you can then progress to using some resistance, whether it be bands or light weights.

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