I’m sure you’ve heard it before…
“Do A, B, C, D for the next 4-6 weeks and it should get better.”
“If you train like this, over and over again, you’ll get good.”
But how can one be sure? The problem is, if you take this approach you can’t. Every individual person, their body, and nervous system is completely unique.
How unique are you really?
Imagine everything that has ever contributed to how the person functions today:
- Genes, how they developed to birth
- Every environmental factor when growing up
- Every type of training they’ve had
- Their current lifestyle
- Every single injury that they have ever endured
- Remember a broken bone that grew back completely changes it’s relationship to the nervous system
- A head trauma from falling off a bike or in a car accident knocks around a few brain cells… Kidding… well, kind of. (Neurons do actually burst in those cases which triggers a cascade of lacking input)
- A piercing, a tattoo, are all some kind of “trauma” that changes proprioceptive input.
- Try for example, rubbing a scar, does it feel the same as the unscarred skin next to it? No? Now imagine that that little patch of skin is giving less information to the brain about that area of the body. Hm, we have a hole don’t we?
- Each vestibular system is unique
- Each visual system and proprioceptive system is unique
So a bazillion things contribute to making each athlete unique. Seems pretty overwhelming and now kind of naïve to prescribe the same rehabilitation/training program to everyone and expecting it to work every time.
Baselining is not testing
Yea, we hear you, “We do baselining first, create an individualised program for each client/athlete, and then we do a reassessment after 4-6 weeks.”
That’s a good start, but what we’re asking you is, how do you really KNOW if each exercise is going to have a positive effect on this person. The baselining is really to see where the person is at right now, not testing to see if what your prescribing is actually going to work.
Four to six weeks seems like an awful long time to wait to see if something is going work.
A lot of people believe that, “No pain, no gain,” “You have to suck it up at the beginning to see results,” or “You might not see results until XY weeks in.”
Doesn’t that seem counter intuitive though? If you feel like you can’t “keep it together” during a workout, isn’t your body going into threat/survival mode? Survival trumps performance any day. However, you do need the right amount of stress. What if we can know in that very moment if there is a positive adaptation to change? It’s actually pretty simple.
Good input / good stress = better performance. Here’s a couple examples to make things clearer.
This neuro stuff looks like a bunch of hocus pocus
Let’s first use a non-neuro example to put it more into perspective:
Problem: Volleyball player has difficult contacting the ball fully with their hand when hitting.
Possible solution: Coach has them practice the arm swing and hitting a stationary ball, just to feel the correct contact.
Retest: See if the player now has better contact when hitting.
Adjust: If successful, repeat. If unsuccessful or mediocre, find new drill.
The problem is we get really attached to drills that we may have learned, that may have worked on others, or on ourselves before. Instead of throwing out the drill and digging to find one that really clicks with the athlete, it’s easy for us to fall into saying, “Just keep trying and you’ll get it.”
Ready to dive into a neuro example now? Sometimes it can seem like magic, like the video in our first blog article, but here’s a simple example with a simple neurological loop explained.
Problem: A figure skater has problems stabilising on her left leg.
Possible neuro correlations: (1) Under active cerebellum on the same side*, or (2) Under active frontal cortex on the opposite side
Try: Momentary activation of left cerebellum by doing figure eights with the left hand**
Retest: If better, repeat. If the same or worse, try (2).
* The cerebellum is responsible for accuracy, balance and error correction on the same side of the body
** The left cerebellum can be activated by doing complex, non-linear movements on the left side
At first glance, it might seem like magic because the result is immediate and profound. However, if we know that the athlete has a left cerebellum deficit, and we can activate it by doing hand figure eights, the overall activation of the left cerebellum will transfer over and make the athlete feel more stable skating along on her left leg. How cool is that? However, we have to test in that moment, to see if it Is indeed the solution for that particular athlete
In conclusion, what we are saying is that the right neurological input will immediately produce a positive strength, mobility, or stability output. We can only know for sure if something positively affects the athlete if we test it, otherwise, we are only guessing and potentially wasting time and being less effective than we can be.