You Have To Crawl Before You Can Walk

We have all heard that expression used in a number of different ways – attending to small work details to build towards larger ones, a golfer practicing his putting before hitting the driving range, and then literally, a baby learning to crawl before he can walk.

Last night, I participated in an activity for the Varsity Sports HOT 100 hosted by Our Place Studio in Covington, LA.  The series of full body exercises was done outside at Hubie Gallagher Park in Covington during a very pleasant late-summer evening. The series of exercises that Liz and Monica, our instructors, put us through are part of the MovNat program.  MovNat is fitness through natural human movement abilities.  Some of the most fun exercises we did were in the crawling series – crab, bear, and gorilla-type movements. And yes, even the naturals sounds by all those species were encouraged.  Made me feel like a kid again.

bear crawl

My young son recently turned one year old and his walking locomotion is in full stride.  But first he had to learn to crawl before he went vertical. Right arm, left leg and vice versa, continuously scooting all over our home. But he did not start out that way. From a prone position, he would throw both arms forward and then pull both legs forward a few inches to get all over the house. After a while, I think he realized it wasn’t the most efficient way to move. So in order to help him learn how to crawl, my daughter (four and a half years his elder) and I began crawling around in hopes that he would model our movements. And soon enough, he did.

The next step after his crawling was to pull himself up to a standing position. Once he felt more comfortable standing, he would hold my hand and take a few steps. But on his own, he is still most steady in a crawling position – all fours on the ground, wide base, moving in an alternating method.

So what if we didn’t learn to crawl before walking? What if we continued to throw both arms forward while lying in a prone position? The American Academy of Pediatrics says it is no big deal. As long as he is using both arms and legs equally and is coordinating both sides of his body, there is no reason to be alarmed. But I think that learning to crawl using alternating leg and arm motion, our nerve pathways begin to develop the correct firing timing for eventual walking sooner. Our muscles strengthen, our bones harden, and our ligaments and tendons solidify so that walking becomes more steady and efficient.

Try crawling around your home next time you have to go from one end to the other and see what body parts are really working. Think of it as functional training. Put yourself in the shoes of a toddler and really feel the earliest form of natural human locomotion. Just be sure those shoes are flat, flexible, and light. But shoe talk is for another blog post.