Mairi's MovementWise Journey

#3: The Mountains are My Rehab

MovementWise Journeys: The Mountains are My Rehab
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As you know I live in the mountains. My view from my living room window is of the Mont Blanc Massif. I can read the weather by the clouds that sit upon the top of the glacier opposite my house. The seasons change before my eyes with the trees shedding their summer coats going from green to brown to bare in a matter of weeks. When the snow falls it covers the nooks and crannies of the rocks and boulders above the treeline and clings to the trees below. When it melts the rivers fill up and the pounding sound of the water in the river rushing through the village interrupts our sleep. For months I had been virtually stuck inside the four walls of my house venturing out to walk the dogs around the park. Over the winter, between my knee operations, the paths were slippy with ice, so I walked the minimum distance creeping along like a crab terrified of falling.

My back garden, Mont Blanc Massif

After my op, I returned from Scotland on crutches, my knee still sore and bandaged, and I sat in the garden looking out at the mountains feeling the spring sunshine on my face. The snow was melting and I was, as the season, ready for change.

My Stairway to Heaven

Little by little I got up and moving. Soon I was walking around the park. The path is rough and stony, so I had to walk strong and tall to avoid tripping. Up through the woods for the first time, I picked my way upstairs formed by the roots of the trees. Boulders became steps for me to develop my thigh muscles. Small streams had to be jumped without me soaking my climbing boots. The lake at the top was my freezing cold hydrotherapy pool.

Walking downhill was even more of a challenge. The slippy, rocky paths were nerve-wracking, but I learned to walk “like a sumo wrestler in a nappy” – my legs apart, knees bent, centre of gravity over my feet, looking forward not down.

I learned that if I walked looking forward my peripheral vision did a lot of my route planning as my brain could process which path to take before my feet got there.

A Natural Playground

I had no need for a gym. Of treadmills, step machines, weights or balance boards. I had nature with rocks and rivers, tree roots and boulders, slippy moss and slimy stones. I had to learn to balance on my feet as I walked down steep paths and gained confidence as I did so. I remember calling Tania after a really challenging walk up a twisty, woody path and down a steep, stony one on the other side. I was so pleased with myself for achieving it. On my own.

Taking a pause to appreciate how far I’ve come

I have learned that rehab is literally everywhere. No-one is ever far from a river or sea to swim in, a hill to climb, or a wood to explore. But rehab is also gardening, walking our dogs, raking the leaves, clearing the snow. It is climbing the ladder to fix the trellis, bending to weed a flower bed, squatting to chat to a child or pat a dog. It is quite literally, everywhere. Mine just happens to be the mountains.

MovementWise Journey Insights

Tania Cotton

Founder of MovementWise

When Mairi made the commitment to embark on her MovementWise Journey, she was very clear right from the word GO that she did not want to go to the gym, she wanted the mountains to be her ‘rehab’.

A gym can provide a familiar space within which to develop new movement skills, habits and training routines. A safe place with reassuring sounds and supervision where you can use equipment to build strength, endurance and flexibility. But what about adaptability? And what about joy? It’s not just if you move, it’s also how you move and why that is important. And the WHY is what will keep you doing it for years to come. For Mairi, she wanted to be able to ski with her family,  go hiking in the mountains walks with her dogs and to do yoga again in the outdoors!

If you want to become more physically robust, mentally resilient and resistant to pain injury and disease, the more you get out and move in different environments, the more durable and adaptable you are likely to become.

Nature offers interesting movement opportunities in abundance, not to mention great photo opportunities! Whether getting outside into your local park or into a national park to enjoy the rain or sunshine, listen to the birds, walk amongst the trees and interact with natural obstacles; being outside in the REAL world. It can challenge you to move beyond your comfort zone and experience how ‘perfectly rehearsed’ and predictable movement patterns you have learnt in the gym, can be transformed into a broader set of skills that enable you to problem solve ‘on our feet’.

Tania, my MovementWise guide, hiking with me and my dogs

The challenge is to move beyond your ‘analytical mind’ into your ‘feeling mind’, and to allow your body to respond to natures unpredictable challenges without over thinking it. When you feel how your body can instinctively adapt to different terrain and conditions, you will begin to trust the wisdom within your body again.

Are there movement challenges that cause you to become fearful of falling or afraid to move? Different environments challenge us in different ways – walking on ice or down a slope covered in loose gravel or up an uneven flight of steep steps.  With a little guided mastery, you can be surprised to discover just how much you are capable of. When Mairi learnt to use her bottom muscles to walk confidently down steep slippery slopes – walking ‘like a sumo wrestler with a nappy on’ – she transformed her fear of falling into feeling strong, balanced and invincible!

I have worked with people all over the world, from those who live in remote rural communities in Africa to those who live in big European cities; and we have had enormous fun creatively using inside and outside spaces to turn harmful habits into healthy ones. You too can become fitter, stronger and more confident to move meaningfully and purposefully through life – because ‘rehab’ is everywhere!

Watch our Films and Be Inspired to be Movementwise!

Meet Tania Cotton

Tania Cotton avatar

Tania Cotton is a Movement Analyst and Chartered Physiotherapist with over 25 years' experience helping people overcome pain, injury and disease to lead a happy and fulfilling life. After 12 years as a consultant for the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre in Geneva, Tania began making films on health and human performance to show people what is possible and to inspire them to take action.

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