Gary Ward on how to REALLY wake your body up, starting with the feet.

Plus, what does nobody-ever-moved-me-it is mean?!

Hi everyone,

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Gary Ward, an absolute pioneer in the world of movement. Gary is known for breaking the mould of anatomical thinking and for his creation of the Flow Motion Model®. I personally came across Gary whilst watching Rangan Chatterjay’s Dr in the House on the BBC, and I was amazed at how like magic, he helped one of Rangan’s clients, a bodybuilder, who had been in terrible back pain for years. I felt it was a very poignant moment when this middle-aged guy with bulging biceps, told Gary how he had been attacked as a teenager and had his jaw shattered and wired up. He didn’t see the connection to his back pain, but Gary immediately pieced the puzzle together, and well, watch for yourself the results.

Bare Soled Girl: Could you explain what your new online programme “Wake Your Feet Up” is all about, and why it’s relevant to every body?

Gary Ward: Very simply everybody has a body… and underneath it all, they are all the same. We all have the same number of bones, each of which are the same shape and are all intended to move in the same way. I choose to focus on the movement of the bones as I believe that is where the biggest bang for your buck is when working with your anatomy. If bones do the right thing, then muscles and soft tissue all begin to fall into line. They have to. Working on the muscles alone often, sadly, has very little positive impact on the bones and joints. Bones and joints form linear pathways of communication where bone A, meets bone B, which meets bone C and onto D etc. This means that indirectly Bone A has a sequential impact on bone D.

I created Wake Your Feet Up as I truly believe that in the grand scheme of things the feet are the forgotten body part – we really do not give them enough credit for enabling our whole body to function well and secondly, advice and coaching for what to do with our feet when they are uncomfortable is very minimal indeed.

Your feet, when stood upright, are the only structure connecting you to the outside world, they have 26 bones in them, linked together by 33 joints. That’s already A-Z and beyond covered in the previous conversation about joint sequences and pathways before we even get above the ankle – and not enough is being done about it. So as your feet stand awkwardly on the ground, they dictate and influence how the rest of your body is able to stand too. If the left foot is different to the right foot, your left leg will be different to your right leg and this will be noticeable at the level of your pelvis which will of course impact on your spine.

So my Wake Your Feet Up programme is genuinely your first chance to re-educate your feet to move in the way that they are supposed to as informed by the very shape of the bones themselves. Your foot sounds complicated with all of those joints but in essence, it should only be able to make two shapes, one where the arch lowers and becomes more mobile, and the other where the arch rises; and becomes more rigid. What’s important is that you are able to create BOTH of those shapes and experience both of those mobile-rigid properties for a HEALTHY foot.

Far too much focus is placed on us having strong and stable feet, Wake Your Feet Up doesn’t seek to restrict the foot’s movement through stability, moreover, it aims to promote its movement potential and feed that movement all the way up and through the rest of the body. I like to think of it as ‘permission’ when you get your feet moving again, it gives your body permission to move well again too. No more fighting with the upper body if what’s holding it back is your feet.

Wake Your Feet Up takes you on a journey of self-assessment, guided by me, to help you see which foot motions you are missing and how to restore them through a simple practice of movement and finally integrate those foot motions into the whole body. If you can improve your foot’s access to each of its two shapes, you improve access to the movement in your legs (via the knee), through the hips and pelvis and on up into the spine all the way up to the skull.

Partnered with its big brother, my Wake Your Body Up programme, you get to cover a lot of bases and begin to better understand the parts of your body that may well be contributing to your loudest physical complaints. Often the things you need to be working on are not shouting at all, and we are unaware of them, and so the programmes are designed to help you bump into those places yourself and you can begin to take ownership of your own body. After all, the healing takes place within you and the truth is nobody else can fix you (especially if they are only treating the discomforts and not seeking the causes). My goal is to help you shine a light on your dark spaces and through useful, thoughtful and effective movements, begin to restore your own physical potential.

Bare Soled Girl: What would you consider a good daily movement prescription, apart from waking our body/feet up?

Gary: This is an interesting question to ask me. In my opinion, there are no bad movement prescriptions… only bad bodies! What I mean by this is that any movement is beneficial providing your body can physically tolerate it. The sad truth is that most of us cannot move our bodies well and yet we continue to strive to achieve and sustain our choice of movement practices within the limitations of our own body, we do this by working harder and harder to get better at them. Unfortunately, without addressing the fundamental movements that our bodies are capable of, the harder you work at getting stronger with movement limitations in place the more likely you are to run into discomforts.

So the baseline for me is to simply get your body moving well so that you can go on to enjoy whatever modality of movement you are keen to pursue. With more movement awareness in your bodies, things will get easier, more comfortable and ultimately it comes with less risk of getting hurt. We arrive at this place through a practice of movement. A journey into ourselves that helps us know the movements our bodies are capable of, to understand these movements and hopefully begin to reintroduce them back into our bodies.

I think of it as practising movement (within)…. Rather than blindly following a movement practice (guided from without).

BSG: What can we do with our children to help ensure as much of their body stays as ’woken up’ as possible, considering many kids are more sedentary in the wake of screens? Are there any games incorporating what you do?

Gary: I get asked about children a lot. We can think of them as caged or free-range. Are your children caged? Or are they free to roam and explore their own movement potential? When I was a kid, I was booted out into the great outdoors and had sport pretty much every night of the week. Sure I wanted to sit and play computer games and watch TV, and this is where life is really all about balance. Too much sitting and gaming is naturally going to have a physical impact on the children of today (I’d like to caveat this with the idea that I am not anti-sitting like many schools of thought). For me I don’t think it’s about an exercise routine for kids, there are definitely movement games you can play that get body parts moving in different ways but surely exploring the outdoors, running, jumping, riding bikes and climbing are key factors to their physical development. It has long been said that there are six-movement types to explore: Push; pull; twist; squat; lunge and walk/run. These all occur in different dimensions and angles and within combinations of each. For what it’s worth, my kid’s rock climb, do gymnastics, dance, run and play a variety of sports. Since the day the way were born I gently mobilised their feet and ensured all the joints were moving and now they use wedges and movement if things need sorting out. Because of the intensity they operate at, occasionally things go south, but that’s life and to think otherwise is simply foolish. Movement variety and movement availability is key for kids and adults alike.

BSG: Please explain what you mean by nobody-ever-moved-me-it is?

Gary: I created this phrase in my book “What The Foot?” as a way of explaining that the lady (Miss.Trainers) in the case study, despite her incredible amount of discomfort and associated problems, actually didn’t have any problems. And yet she had a myriad of labels, syndromes and issues which meant that she couldn’t stand for very long in nice shoes and only wore trainers everywhere she went – even to a black-tie dinner! Working with her was great fun. She couldn’t move her spine, which meant she couldn’t move her pelvis, which meant her legs were stuck in a single position, in fact, she overused her hips and shoulders just to get from A to B. Her feet were stiff and all movement availability had been stripped from her. The result was lots of pain and a life in trainers.

It took one session, the case study in the book isn’t exaggerated in any way. We simply began to reintroduce the spinal movements she was missing and fed this down into the pelvic movements she was missing which enabled her to have more movement choice in her legs and feet and stop overusing her hips and shoulders (because she now had other things she can use instead). Her overall body simply needed to be reminded of how to move. I joked with her, you don’t have plantar fasciitis, or arthritis or lumbago or any condition for that matter – you have “nobody -ever-moved-me-it is”. So this means no therapist invited her to move her body parts properly, instead they offered off the shelf solutions and localised treatments of sore muscles and stiff joints until they ran out of options. I often say we don’t think of things as, say, a back problem, we think of things as a whole-body problem. Something somewhere is contributing to that problem. It either moves too much or it moves too little and we need to teach it to do exactly what it is supposed to do. We do that using movement itself to restore the movements that you are currently unable to access ☺

BSG: What workouts/ programmes/ exercises do you think are best for preventing it in the first place?

Gary: I think this is a similar answer to question 2. The solution to nobody-ever-moved-me-itis is to start moving the body parts you don’t normally move! I designed my programmes with one thing in mind: to enable people to take ownership of their own body. We all have the same physical structures hiding underneath our varied exteriors. Our spines, hips, shoulders, hips and feet ALL move in the same way as each other. This movement is dictated by the shapes of the bones and is, therefore, something we can all set about checking within ourselves, discovering our own limitations and begin to restore our more optimal movement patterns. Some people just stick to this way of looking after their body once they get in touch with it, others do it so they can enjoy their chosen sport, activity, practice alongside it. I’m quite the purist when it comes to being able to move your body well – but should add-in that I too enjoy the pursuits of rock climbing, weightlifting, bodyweight training, skiing, the odd game of football or tennis and occasionally yoga too. All of these I enjoy more and more when my body is thriving in its own movement potential. It’s often astounding how many great “movers” there are, athletes we work with who physically cannot access a movement (or several) in their own body. We forget. We abandon. We compensate and reorganise. We simply lose connection with or awareness of a variety of movements that should be available in our own body. The organisation of our bodies to survive this problem is incredibly intuitive but does lead to limitations, postural change and altered movement behaviours. Doing your exercises more and harder isn’t what is going to bring these movements back. The goal is to restore the lost movements in order to re-optimise your body once again.

BSG: What footwear do you and your family wear?

Gary: This is a bit like the sitting statement. I’m not about to pick and choose sides between footwear. I have personally enjoyed wearing some barefoot shoes and despised others while also enjoying the comfort of a normal shoe. I do realise that the place for a comfortable pair of shoes is rarely the sports shoe store. Those heavily designed shoes do not seem to have taken into account the foot’s actual movement potential!? So here’s the thing, with no pressure on anybody needing to do the right thing, we simply wear shoes that we find comfortable and which do not impede our foot’s ability to move. So I veto wide heels, angles cut into the forefoot, abnormal foot rockers, shock absorption and anti-pronation devices. You may or may not have guessed it but what’s most important for me is that your foot is able to MOVE, if it can’t you might benefit from a shoe that props it up… but when it can move you may find yourself in a position to dominate the shoe, rather than have the shoe dominate you. Your internal and external environment must also play a balancing act in your body. If the shoe (external environment) overpowers your foot (internal environment) you are going to reduce your movement potential and begin to bypass necessary movements. And yet if you can regenerate access to those movements and are able to enjoy those movements in the shoe (whether barefoot or not) you begin to dominate that shoe. It should be said that even lightweight barefoot shoes can have an adverse effect on your anatomy. They sadly don’t all tick the box of enabling your foot to operate as if it were barefoot. So really, comfort is the only way forwards in this conversation – that and maximising your own potential for movement in each and every part of your body.

Subscribe now

Review and Links

I have taken both programmes and put simply, I find them incredible. For the price of a couple of fitness classes, you will introduce awareness and movement to your body you never thought possible. I encourage any of you in a lot of pain, with niggly pains, or those wanting to up their mind-body connection to give these programmes a go.

Gary’s Website is here.

His Instagram (which is jammed with super informative videos and posts is here.

You’ll find the Wake Your Body up Programme for the incredible price of £14.49 here, and the Wake Your Feet up Programme for £14.99 here.

Foot wedges are an important component of the Wake Your Feet up Programme, but don’t worry, they are only a tenner! (£10).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles