Fitness: Are Your Expectations in Line with Your Effort?
While this may sound harsh, most of us train with mediocrity in mind. We don’t mean to. We really want to be doing the best for our brain and body. But the reality is, when it comes right down to it, we just don’t want to think that hard. We would rather have someone do it for us, figure out what we need, and how to do it. Oh, and then if we know, we may or may not do the specific drills that can lead us to excellence. Harsh or not, that is the how the human nervous system is designed. We only want to expend just enough energy to get by, anything else requires quite a bit of mental and emotional energy.
Just like anything, the fitness industry wants to simplify things for us so that we can understand it in a sound bite. Words like “core” and “functional movement” are the buzzwords of the day and make us feel like we are doing the right things. Being the skeptic I am, I don’t like being “told or sold.” Instead, I want to understand the why and the how before I throw my time and resources behind anything. So a bit of Neuro 101 for you…and again, why you should care.
Wikipedia defines the cerebellum as: “The human cerebellum does not initiate movement, but contributes to coordination, precision, and accurate timing: it receives input from sensory systems of the spinal cord and from other parts of the brain, and integrates these inputs to fine-tune motor activity.”
So let’s talk cerebellum. It is responsible for Accuracy, Balance, and Coordination. That means that if you’ve been spending a ton of time on a wobble board thinking you are working on your balance, you may have been ignoring your vestibular system (see last month’s column) and your cerebellum. So rather than consistently working your ankle for better balance, perhaps you should be talking to the one in charge, your vestibular system or your cerebellum.
Caveman posture (rounded forward shoulders) is seen in folks who train almost exclusively in the sagittal plane (think of a squat, riding a bike, running and walking). These are all movements done in the sagittal plane. All of these activities are great, but if you don’t also train with rotation and side bending (lateral flexion), you aren’t sufficiently activating your brain. The lack of activation from these multiplanar movements stimulates different parts of the brain and balance system, specifically the cerebellum.
We train our clients with a host of specific drills designed to activate the cerebellum and the vestibular system, thus improving balance and coordination. It doesn’t matter if you are an elite athlete or a desk jockey, optimization is always needed as adaptation to stress and life’s events never stops.
When we train with specificity, we get optimized results. Conversely, when we train for generalities, you get watered down results. Of course movement in general is always needed. That goes without saying. But if you add in tailored and specific movements, thus providing great brain food, you get the ultimate win from your fitness workout.
As you look at where you are spending your hard earned money, time, and other resources, ask yourself what you are getting better at with your current activities. By syncing up our efforts with our expectations, we are honest with ourselves, and not left wondering why we keep fighting the same fights, whether it be pain, weight gain, or our strength or conditioning goals. As Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”