Basic exercise commandments:*
Whatever exercise you are performing, figure out what joints you are using to accomplish the task. See if you can make it any more efficient by getting rid movement in other areas. For instance, your shoulders don't lift your leg.
Periodically, when you are working out by yourself, check in with your body by doing some isolation work, such as shoulder rolls, arm circle, and neck rotations. See how things feel, and observe if you are able to isolate these movements without using the rest of your body.
When you are stretching, ask yourself, “what am I stretching?” and “am I using any unnecessary muscles to do this?” (such as shoulders, neck, pelvis, etc.).
As counterproductive as it seems, explore the quality of movement by occasionally performing a set slowly. See if you can control all aspects of the exercise. Doing this will allow you to check for quality and efficiency, as well as increase demand on the eccentric portion of the movement.
Explore walking forwards, backwards, sideways, and around things. Play with context and obstacles to enrich your training experience.
In order to relax your shoulders, shrug your shoulders up by your ears (see what that feels like) and let them come down. Feel the difference and see which way feels better.
Work on balance by grounding your foot. If you can feel your foot on the ground, you will feel stability in your hip, into your pelvis, and into your abdominals. This comes from grounding the center of your foot (middle of heel, big toe, and pinkie toe).
After a workout, take the time to not only do mobility work, but breathe by inhaling through the nose for a count of 4, and out the mouth for a count of 6 or 8. The long exhale out the mouth calms the nervous system, will activate the deep abdominals, and allow you to leave feeling calm and relaxed.
If you alter your perspective to view your exercises as skills to be improved, the quality of the movements will change, as will the way you experience the movements.
*I put this together for a client I worked with for a month while he was visiting the area. He asked for a write-up of my basic philosophy he could implement during his workouts. After writing this, I realized these are my basic exercise commandments I use with every single client, regarding of age or ability.