Let’s say you’ve had an injury or surgery that required physical therapy. You were a model student and went to all the sessions, did the less-than-fun homework, and followed the doctor’s and therapist’s instructions to a T. And, hurray! You completed physical therapy and were discharged!
Except, maybe not. You still can’t quite go up and down stairs as smoothly as you used to. Or your peripheral vision is off and driving doesn’t feel safe. Or lifting the clean dishes up to the cabinet feels like a real strain. You’re functional, but not really back to normal living. Is that just the way it is now?
This is what Trent McEntire calls the movement gap: the gap between where medical interventions and therapies end and where true quality of life is restored. And this is where Pilates in Holland comes in.
Like we talked about in the last blog, the brain gets input from more than just our body (proprioception). It also relies on our vestibular and vision systems. Together, this sensory input creates a loop that we use all day, every day: sense, decide, act (SDA). I sense my feet are on uneven pavement, I decide to level that out, I step both feet up onto the sidewalk. Unfortunately, we can often ignore our inner ears and eyes, creating imbalanced sensory input. This can leave us with that gap from functional to better quality of life.
An example from Mandy is her spinal rotation. Rotating to the right feels organized and easy, but it’s tighter and more strained to the left. When she does eye exercises, her eyes are quick to tire out when looking to the left side. Even when looking up, her left eye feels like it wants to drift toward the center. However, after doing some of those eye ranges of motion, the movement to her left is entirely different; much smoother and organized. And it all stemmed from that sensory imbalance.
We need to correct that imbalance, just like with misalignments or muscle weaknesses. We need to apply that to the senses, to raise awareness of the senses. Because the brain is plastic, we can change what’s going on in the eyes and inner ear for better input. How? Thorough activities like the BrainSpeed ball, the VOR (vestibular-ocular reflex) charts, and integrating eye and head movement into our exercise.
We tend to think of stronger muscles and bone density (proprioception) as the only things we need to work on. It’s completely common now, but think back a hundred or so years. Exercising your muscles wasn’t a thing. Until it was. Improving your sensory input wasn’t a thing until it is. Because now we know that better sensory input = better movement.
Our actions are the result of electrical impulses sent along a sequence of nerve fibers. Groups of neurons are connected to each other by synapses. When we do something, our brain sends a signal through the chain of neurons to our muscles. We access this through BrainSpeed and VOR games. Every time you catch the orange ball, say the letter or number, and throw it back. You are sensing, deciding, and taking action. The SDA loop.
When you look at a BrainSpeed chart, you see (sense) the green dot on the left side of the line and decide on a vegetable. This is the INPUT to the brain. The OUTPUT is the action: the signals that move the muscles where and how we want. When you make a move, an impulse travels down those fibers triggering others in the sequence to fire. It’s when you say “carrot” while tapping the left leg.
Really, the circuit, the epicenter of it all, IS the movement. Without these “wires,” there would be no control over our strength and timing of a movement. So a slow, weak circuit means a slow, unreliable movement. A fast, organized circuit means a fast, smooth movement. “Muscle memory” is actually circuit memory. Our skills are all in our wires. And all of this is being reinforced in just a split second in that SDA loop, strengthening those muscles AND the brain/muscle pathways.
The more we develop a circuit, the less we’re aware that we’re using it, and we begin to think it’s a “natural” skill we’ve always had. In fact, it becomes so automatic, it’s no longer processed in our conscious mind, leaving our brains space to take in other input. However, three essential qualities are needed: attention, hunger, and focus. That is, you have to want it and you have to work at it, and not just anywhere, but at the edge of ability where you will make some mistakes and be a little uncomfortable.
This is how the Pilates in Holland teachers bridge the movement gap: by working on building new, strong circuits… in the hope that you can soon forget about them. 😉 They collaborate with clients who are willing to work outside their comfort zone to get back to the best quality of life possible.
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle