I’ve been learning about doing our physical training from the point of view of making and keeping the brain comfortable and happy. Maybe you think that your brain already is happy; you’re smiling all the time and cracking up your friends with You Tube videos of your grand baby dancing up a storm to a new song. Or, maybe you feel really fortunate that you live in our area rather than other troublesome hotspots in the world and have no worries by comparison.
But, that’s not what I’m talking about. Your brain, at it’s most basic level, is there for one reason. It’s called “your survival right this minute.” Survival is dependent on your brain’s ability to make predictions about your external and internal environments. It operates mostly below the radar screen so you’re mostly not so aware of it. It doesn’t care if you’re staring down a lion on the Serengeti Plains or walking to Trader Joe’s.
For the most part your brain will predict and prepare for worst case scenarios. It’s programmed to do that even though our world here is relatively safe. Your brain receives billions of signals to help make predictions to keep you safe every single day mainly through three systems. If the systems aren’t computing so well, predictions can be far off the mark and your brain will go into a huff.
Good predictions have to be based on good information. Warren Ellis said, ” I try not to get involved in the business of prediction. It’s a quick way to look like an idiot.” Who the heck is Warren Ellis? Who cares? But if your brain makes predictions based on faulty information, it will look like an idiot, too.
Where does your brain get it’s predictive information? Remember I mentioned three systems earlier? I was referring to the eyes (visual system), the inner ear (balance system), and neural signals from movement (proprioceptive system).
So, I’m going to ask you these three questions. “How’s your vision?” I’m not just talking about passing the RMV eye test. “How’s your balance?” I’m not just talking about single leg balancing on the Bosu Ball. “How well do you move?” I’m not just talking about running on a treadmill.
Oh ya, and a fourth question: “How well does your brain coordinate all these signals to make good predictions?”(Always more questions).
What’s this got to do with your physical training? Well, I’m glad you asked. If your brain isn’t receiving good information and feels threatened in its effort to keep you alive because it can’t make good predictions, it will shut you down. HA! That’s pretty mean!
It isn’t really mean, it’s just the way it is. If your brain can’t predict what’s happening around you with a great level of clarity and precision, it will stop you any way it can. It’s quite inventive really. The ol’ brain will create pain, decrease your joint range of motion, decrease your strength level, activate a headache, cause anxiety. It has many curious methods to accomplish its mission.
So imagine if, as part of our exercise training, we spent time to develop our visual system after we stare all day at the computer screen? What if we learned subtleties of movement to move better, not just faster and harder? What if we interacted with the balance system in such a way that created better signaling and sensory integration?
Wow! I think we might just move a whole lot better. We might just get a whole lot stronger. We might just feel more well balanced. And, our brains might just be a whole lot happier.
Not really. There’s tons more to come.
Take a look at a cool and funny TED Talk with Lorimer Moseley asking whether we actually experience pain or is it merely an illusion? What’s the brain got to do with it?
Why Things Hurt
Please click the image to view the video.