Brain first, Muscles later
Do you ever feel like you can’t figure out your right from your left when you begin your workout? That’s because you weren’t prepared to start your movement. Training the Nervous System before engaging in your exercise of choice is a key component of a warm-up and preparing the body to take on increased load be that weight training or a cardiac response. In relation to stretching, “You pull that muscle and it’s not a very nice feeling, all that tension on your muscle. But if you’ve already stretched, you’ve accommodated that in a certain limb. The discomfort is now expected; it becomes more manageable, and you allow yourself to settle into it”, says David Behm, a research professor at the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.
This is also apparent in our warm up, preparing for the movements we’re about to perform. If you connect physically and mentally that you are going to start using certain muscle groups, already similarly exercising those muscles will allow for you to achieve your goals that much more efficiently and effectively versus not feeling prepared or going into “cold”. The same goes for injuries. If you injure your right leg in a snowboarding accident, your best bet for rebounding quickly and minimizing strength loss is to still train the left leg. “The central nervous system’s ability to signal that muscle would still be high. Roughly put, the nervous system grows dull without use, too. But if you keep the lines of communication open and sharp, you won’t have to rebuild that network from scratch. Yes, your muscles will still need rebuilding, but you will be able to recruit those fast-twitch motor units, enabling you to more quickly jump back into training and activities”, says Behm.
The last part of training the nervous system we’ll talk about here is your subconscious mind. Self talk before, during, and after your workout will determine the results you gain from your movement of choice. If you walk into the gym saying to yourself “I’m tired, I don’t want to do this, I’m not strong enough” how do you think you’re going to do in your workout? Not very well.. Whereas if you walked in and during your warm up you said things like “I don’t feel great today but I’m happy to be here and I’m going to give it my all in this workout, I’m strong and capable, I can do this”, you’re probably going to have a great workout and feel really good about yourself. You might even inspire the classmate beside you to give it their all as well!
Your body responds to what your mind tells it to do.