Born to Walk with James Earls (LBP 047)

James Earls joins me to talk about his book Born to Walk. We discuss how the whole body walks, and some of the different schools of thought that have looked at walking in “parts” instead. This brings to light how we are seduced into seeing anatomy with the same eye that we look at the manmade world around us, and how biological systems don’t follow the same rules as solid objects. In our conversation James also illuminates how ground reaction force works, the essentialness of efficiency in our evolution, the debate about whether or not walking is controlled falling, fascial wrappings as hydraulic amplifiers and oh so much more.




Conversation highlights

  • Some of the schools of thought on walking that look at it in parts: Jacqueline Perry talks about the locomotor portion and passenger portion of walking, Serge Gracovetsky has his spinal engine theory that says we basically don’t need legs to walk.
  • It’s all working together- In order to get the bigger picture James needed to weave these ideas together.
  • How does the whole body move?
  • Different styles of walking- museum walking (with one or two steps and a stop_ makes us more tired because we don’t get to use any of the energy we create with each step. Whereas with a long continuous walk we don’t feel the fatigue the same way because we get to use the energy the system is creating.
  • Movement exploration- reach back with one leg and touch toe behind- feel the leg swing forward again. Keeping same position drop head forward and do same thing- the leg doesn’t come forward again with the same efficiency, recoil, and speed. This is because we lose some of the tension of the anterior tissue. The whole body is continuous.
  • We have all these different catapult-like mechanisms.
  • Lorimer Moseley says we are bioplastic. It’s like neuroplasticity but the whole body can do that in different ways.
  • We are seduced into seeing anatomy with the same eye as seeing machines.
  • Our world has gone into trying to understand the detail of the part. It’s an inside out strategy rather than outside in.
  • Going into natural world a lot things don’t fit the same rules.
  • It doesn’t work, because we are not solid.
  • Born mid 16th century Robert Hooke challenged Newton. He drew one of the first very detailed pictures of a flea which alluded to some of the elastic mechanisms. Hooke’s law- length of the spring is correlation to the load placed on it.
  • Ground reaction force- the body is a tensegrity structure. Ground reaction force is variable- concrete floor vs beach sand. One gives a lot of energy back vs dispersed energy.
  • We have evolved to make walking incredibly energy efficient- why is efficiency important?
  • The debate as to whether or not walking is controlled falling- how are we like trampolines
  • How walking takes advantage of tensegrity’s elastic properties.
  • Fascial wrappings are hydraulic amplifiers.
  • James gives some universal principles/movement experiments to try out in your walking.


James Earls Born to Walk

James Earls Kinesis UK

Jacqueline Perry gait analysis

Serge Gracovetsky spinal engine theory

Lorimer Moseley on bioplasticity

Hooke's Law

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