Getting It Right
Don’t you just hate it when that trainer nags you to correct something about the way you are exercising? Your posture isn’t just so or your feet are out of position or yada yada…something isn’t just perfect. After all, you are trying hard. You resent paying to get criticized, and you aren’t trying out for the Olympics.
If this is you, maybe this blog will help you understand the WHY of nagging corrections, which we try to minimize at CBF, but are sometimes necessary.
Back in the 1960′s, exercise scientists identified three stages when learning a complex physical movement. The first was the cognitive stage – where you really have to concentrate to get your muscles to do the major shape of the movement. The second is the associative stage – you are starting to get it and are able to refine the details of the movement with less mental effort. The third is the automatic stage – you know the exercise well and can perform it consistently.
Now jump to the present. With new technology, neuroscience has been able to observe exactly what is going on in the brain as new motor skills are learned.
In the Bend library you’ll find an excellent book on exercise science for the lay person with the unlikely title Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero. The author is E. Paul Zehr, PhD, a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology at the U. of Victoria and an accomplished martial artist. (If you want details about what is discussed below, read it. The call number is 613.7. Check the section entitled “Teaching an Old Bat New Tricks” on page 113.)
Here’s what Zehr explains so well. As an exercise is learned, different parts of the brain are involved in a predictable sequence as you progress through the three stages. In the first stage, it’s the cerebral cortex as you slowly figure out what motor units are required to do the exercise. In the second stage, the movement starts to get coordinated and coordinated via the basal ganglia. This second stage is where the nagging and corrections become important because of what happens in the third.
In the third, the movement no longer requires conscious effort because it resides, much like a read-only computer program, in the cerebellum – in other words, it’s become automatic. If you’ve practiced and learned the exercise incorrectly, it will be very difficult to reprogram yourself to do it the right way.
You might think, so what? If I sweat that’s good enough. I still feel good.
It’s great to sweat and feel good. However, most exercises and equipment in the Younger Games are included to condition specific muscles and joint complexes. If the exercise isn’t practiced and learned correctly, it might either be ineffective or, worse, unsafe.
Remember that nagging voice is your friend, trying to help you get all the performance bugs out of the movement program that you’re putting into your cerebellum – for a long time.