Exertion-recuperation, or How I think about endurance


The squirrel pushes its lower legs into the ground, and extending its front legs out, springs in curved pathways across the ground to the tree.

I – anthropomorphic – find it cartoon-like and funny.

The squirrel could be stressed, though.

This bounce could be for joy; it could be for efficiency.

It could be that the ground is hot or sharp.

It could be showing off to its pals.


The runner’s run was neither funny, stressed or efficient.

The ground was not hot or sharp, and they showed-off to no one. What to say of what I saw.

The runner’s spine tilts slightly sideways in the transition from landing to pushing off.

It is a sideways spatial-stress that accommodates forces through muscular-skeletal connections of the body moving. The patterns of these forces through the body go that way, into the lateral flexion of the spine moving sideways one way, and then the other. Then back again, in the rhythm of the run.

This spinal sideways movement has little to do with the forward trajectory of running.

In everyday language, I’d call it a waggle. Everyday language helps me see my seeing, hear my judgements, and learn what I might be perceiving qualitatively, spatially, spinally. I have another language, though, from which to draw, the Laban/Bartenieff Movement System.


Kinesphere is defined as the maximum reach-space all around the body. Your personal space, as an imagined ‘sphere’ is revealed by movement. The space of the body that also shows change in the Kinesphere is called the Innersphere. Beyond the Kinesphere as you can show it in movement (gesturing, leaning, reaching, leaping, tilting and so forth) is the General space, or other people’s Kinespheres. Of course, you can perceive far beyond the edges of your Kinesphere, and ‘project’ your movement beyond, too. But as a concept to observe where movement happens, what pathways, reach-space, zones and levels are used, it’s handy.

I watch spatial pulls in the Kinesphere appear in long or shorter rhythms. They insist up and forward, or insist sideways in spite of travelling forward. These spatial pulls insist on showing me the side-ways waggle that opens up my awareness of the space to the sides of the runner, and a corresponding qualitative inference. The space poured into by the spine for a small duration corresponds with the exertion of a forward, or sagittal, trajectory. The organisation of the body and space, the body with space, the body as space produces questions of exertion and recuperation in movement observation.

Movement observation

I see spatial emphasis, or spatial stress, or the movements of the body in space, everywhere in life and in specific patterns in the Kinesphere. Directions of travel and locomotion are obvious. Micro-directional pulls in a mover’s personal space are something more complex, although we all perceive them all the time. These spatial pulls are what tell you someone is about to stand up. They’re what tell you someone is preparing, or hesitating, or yearning. I point them out to think with them. What are the repercussions of such a category distinction?

I assume neither the squirrel, nor the runner are particularly consciously aware of their Kinesphere. They just get on with the task in hand, or the task in whole body, or the task in a context of gravity, base of support and intention.

The insistence of spatial pulls in oppositional forces in the Kinesphere is an overlapping rhythm of exertion and recuperation. The squirrel bares down to go up, or with more precision, down and back to go up and forward. It lands and in landing can leap again. I see the leap because of the landing, not because of the leap.

The runner tilts sideways and down to pull diagonally away. The need of micro recuperation for an insistence of a direction of travel is apparent in the changing and reiterated spatial pulls of the Kinesphere. The language of Kinesphere helps me see how recuperation in another, and not necessarily opposite, direction appears in order to renew the spatial pull. This lateral condensing of the spine as the runner runs looks habitual, as habitual as springing in arcs. The rhythm of the runner’s spine appears easy for them. If I tried to copy it, it would be another coordination and sequencing of my kinetic chains altogether.

In your movement, there are small subtle pulls, sometimes full shifts of weight, sometimes with elevation. There might be short rhythms that renew the sense of spatial pull producing a direction of travel with tidal overlaps for that endurance. The tidal nature of this exertion and recuperation may not be in equal proportion, or same body part. It will be unique to you, what organises you, what grips you. What you figured out, by configuring in.


Even choosing to see movement as phrases with initiation and resolution is to shape in language phenomena that could restrict it through such subdivision. What is sought here is not reduction but liberation through selection and differentiation. Patterns or rhythms of spatial stress, or emphases in the Kinesphere, understood as exertion and recuperation, helps me to understand movement in motion, not as static position.

Exertion, that is doing anything whether it looks tiring or not, and recuperation, that is any recovery or rest, is a category distinction I return to because I find it both useful and funny. I exert in narrowing my body towards a keyboard, spine relatively still, body ball-like as I type. I recuperate in fragments: a little glimpse out of the window beyond as the moving tree catches my attention, willingly. I notice a recuperative deeper breath. But if I were to watch the tree for longer, or deep breath for the rest of the day, these too would become an exertion. Exertion-recuperation’s use is not in attempting to agree with myself as to what I perceive as exertion or as recuperation as a definitive answer, but as a temporary, partial understanding. Exertion-recuperation is a useful contrivance because of how and when that distinction falls apart.

It becomes obvious that what I perceive as recuperation – the landing of the squirrel, or tilting the spine to the right – immediately becomes the exertion for which a recuperation is found – like leaping, or running.

Movement and meaning

In looking, I look to see what is there. I try not to fill in what isn’t there, leaping from observation to diagnosis or prescription. I am, after all, sharing a Sunday afternoon in a park, passing by in public space. Uncalled-for insistence on movement rehabilitation or assumptions of dysfunctionality are risky. They risk the kind of alarming body fascism that insists on a normative understand of ‘the human’ as a bipedal majority that glosses over and dismisses other ways of moving, of organising the body in space that produce unique qualities and spatial pulls, as incorrect, less-than, deviant, inefficient, problematic. The runner might be working with some ongoing injury that prevents spinal rotation in which lateral condensing appears as the only possible movement for which running might appear. This not to say that exploring cross-lateral connectivity might make the runner’s run feel easier. But we’d have to work together for me to know this, and ultimately, the runner running would want to explore their habits and patterns in the first place. It’s none of my business if the runner simply wants to run their way. Projecting diagnoses is not my work – from the bicycle I view from, it’s mere speculation, bemusement, vague concern. I am not a physiotherapist. I’m someone who stares at the squirrel, watching the poetics of space through an upper-lower push-pull coordination that underlies leaping. I’m someone who will take in the rhythm of breathing, noticing if it changes, rather than waiting for it to change.

What is meaningful to me is not the same as what is meaningful to the mover. Movement observation cannot conflate these. This arrogance can produce the kind of wincing irritation of being told ‘those muscles are too weak’, and feeling reduced to a muscular-skeletal collection of imbalances. Sure, pain can be alleviated through different coordination. Pain can be prevented through certain efficiencies, just as meaningful communication can be refined through more conscious awareness of Kinesphere in which moving with another to co-shape shared space can be a profound process of ongoing arrival. Dialogue is never only about words. But assumptions of movement, or lurches to problem-solving, undermine the complexity of being in space, as space.

What is the space of what you do?

What are the pulls in your space, how often do they shift? Where do you emphasise over and over again?

Runner: what would happen if you found your Kinesphere as multi-directional?

Squirrel: do you leap for joy?

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