What UPS and good movement have in common

UPS TruckEfficiency.

This afternoon while I was out walking the dog I saw a UPS truck come rumbling by. It slowed at the intersection, and my brain immediately thought, “it’s either going to go straight or turn right here, because they plan their routes to minimize left turns.”  Two things became immediately clear, first, I really am a geek, and second, I’ve seen too many UPS whiteboard commercials.

UPS has long had a special place in my heart, dating back to my undergrad days when we had a really cute UPS driver that used to deliver packages at the the student union where I worked. 2:15 I’d be downstairs – without fail. Since that time my fondness for UPS has gone from crushes on the drivers to admiration and respect for the efficiency of their operations. And, I love the left-hand-turn bit of trivia; with 95,000 trucks on the road each day, even little changes can have a big impact. With that many trucks on the road each day, you can imagine that they have collected a lot of data about their drivers, routes, delivery rates, etc. Several years ago UPS realized that they could use this data to significantly reduce gallons of fuel used and time in transit if they minimized left turns. So, they implemented routing software to eliminate left turns where practical – cutting 28.5 million miles off their delivery routes AND reducing CO2 emissions by 31,500 metric tons per year.

Now, that is efficient!

So, is high quality movement. Efficient movement uses the least amount of energy to get a job done right. You can think of it as, “just the right thing, at just the right time, with just the right amount of energy.”

As a movement coach, what do I look for:

  • Speed. The speed should not only be appropriate to the task, but also be relatively consistent. Abrupt speed changes for no obvious reason usually something is wrong. I was in a martial arts class this past weekend, and the speed of movement would abruptly change based upon how comfortable the students were with what they were doing. They typically slowed WAY down right before they hit the floor.
  • Going in the right direction. Sounds obvious, but this is a biggie – particularly with walking and running. When you watch the best runners run, their heads are essentially on a single horizontal plane and their arms more or less go back and forth. You don’t see them bobbing up and down and you don’t see a lot of trunk rotation and arms crossing across their bodies. Since your goal is to go forward, go forward. This doesn’t mean stick-straight arms pointing straight ahead, but don’t let the momentum of your arms rotate your trunk, either.
  • Quiet. When we are moving efficiently, our bodies are appropriately absorbing the force of our activity. Someone who walks or runs loudly isn’t rolling through their foot like they could, so their feet slap down to the ground. The same thing applies to rolling, martial arts, jumping, etc.
  • Smooth. This is a bit of an ambiguous term, but all I can say is that I know it when I see it. You, do, too. Someone who looks like a natural looks very smooth, fluid, and graceful. I look for the un-smooth pieces and help my athletes smooth them out.
  • Excess Tension. Many people instinctively tense up when trying out something new. Sometimes it’s appropriate, but most of the time it’s unnecessary. Most people start by scrunching up your face, or tensing up their hands when they don’t need to.
  • Breathing. Many people forget to breathe when trying something new, which then causes their body to get quickly out of whack. They end up quickly behind the 8 ball from an efficiency standpoint.

I care a great deal about efficient movement, because not only does it look insanely cool, but because when you are moving efficiently you have more energy left in the day to do the things that really matter to you. Wasting energy just getting from Point A to Point B is, well, inefficient.

What can you do?

Become of aware of where your movement inefficiencies lie.  Just pay attention and listen (literally) to how you move. Once you become aware of it, you will likely try to self-correct – some of which you will be able to do on your own, some of it perhaps not.

If you aren’t able to fix it and want help, drop me a note. We can either set up an appointment to meet, or I can point you towards products I recommend. If we chat, then I’ll make sure the product is the right one (I’ll even do that for free if you use my affiliate link so I make a few dollars to buy coffee for the day).

Product shortcut guide:

Quick Start: 6 drills that work wonders on 80-90% of clients.

R-Phase: 160 drills. That can be a bit daunting for many people, but if you are serious about movement efficiency, you’re gonna want this. It comes with a written program so it’s not more than a few minutes a day – I promise.

Neural Warm Up 1: This is a follow-along DVD that is a subset of the R-Phase drills. It’s a perfect replacement for your daily pre-training stretching and warm-up.

Breaking down movement is one of my favorite things to do, so over the next few weeks I’ll put up some video examples of good and bad movement. Then, you can see for yourself exactly what I’m talking about. (If you want to be sure you get those posts, sign up over on the right to have them sent to you by email.)

Oh, and that the UPS truck I saw earlier today – it turned right.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottfeldstein/


  1. says

    That UPS thing is an urban legend. I’ve worked there for some time and it’s just not true. Not sure how that started. We will be implementing some new systems next year with actual GPS as well as turn by turn directions. Will let you know what happens then:)

    Train with Purpose,

    Sandy Sommer RKC

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