Posted by: drbinder | October 22, 2011

Olympic Advice

The Olympian is a top achievement of human excellence and capability.  The incredible strength, unmatched endurance, and unthinkable speeds are all a result of a convictional relentlessness neither you or I will ever know.  Some of these athletes do it inside of a 40 hour work week, some even have children at home.

Of course Mother Nature has a big say in who competes on the world’s stage, but these finely tuned athletes got there because they were on a mission.  Dedication and Will Power are their greatest strength.

I think the gymnasts are among the most impressive.  Bursting in to high speeds and launching themselves into the air completing 3 full rotations, a twist, reverse direction, and then stick the landing. Or the coordination to launch from bar to bar, while their brain calculates the distance from the floor, the speed of their body in the air, and the exact moment at which to un-tuck so that their hands can be positioned to grab hold and do it again.  Amazing!

They have crazy skills, but how do their bodies know how to do such things?

When you learn a sport (or any) pattern of movement, a specific pathway of neurons controlling that pattern is connected from muscle to brain and back again.  The path starts with all of your five senses.  Your brain captures everything it sees, what it hears, smells, feels and tastes, so it remembers exactly when it’s supposed to perform the learned task.  The path also includes information on joint position, which the brain controls by contracting and relaxing muscles.  This data is transmitted to the Sensory Cortex, from which a response is assembled in a complex neural network containing dozens of integration centers.  The response is sent from the Motor Cortex down the last leg of the pathway causing muscular contractions, and the appropriate sports movement is achieved.   This programing is also how you are capable of walking down the street without having to pay attention to every step.

In fact, it’s not only a pathway, it’s a neural construction site.  With consistency and devoted training to a particular activity, your body builds more pathways.   Your overall ability to transmit neural information to your muscles is enhanced.  This results in more strengthspeed and control.

If you have ever done any weight training, or even constant heavy lifting at work, you have probably noticed that your body gets stronger with constant exposure.  You adapt to the job.  If you ask an exercise physiologist, they will tell you that any initial strength adaptations are completely neurological. In the first 6 months of training all strength gains are a result of increased connections between your nerves and muscles, and not because more muscle fibers are made.

Getting to the Point…How Do You Get Olympic Proprioception!-that joint sense mentioned above

Take any standing house hold activity.  Brushing your teeth, washing a dish, or filling a glass with water.  Usually pretty easy.  Now do it standing on one foot! Why you ask? Well, how often do you stand on one foot?

In this task you will increase your overall balance and stability by improving your joint sense.   It promotes the formation of neuron pathways in your brain, increases neuro-muscular connections, and enhances the nerve fibers in your joints!  As with any training, these neurological adaptation will strengthen the connection to your stabilization muscles adding control and stabilization to your joints.

Tuning up your nerve system will ultimately decrease the risk of injuries like pulled muscles, sprained ligaments, and “thrown backs”.  These minor ailments can turn in to chronic physical illness and eventually abnormal postures will emerge…

If that’s to easy…try it with your eyes closed!  Be careful though, taking out the visual input can causes a loss of balance, but it can also strengthen your joint sense exponentially.  Caution-If you do not perform daily high intensity exercise, and if you are not in overall peak athletic condition, I highly recommend NOT closing your eyes while standing on one foot.

So how often do you stand on one foot? 50% of the time that you are walking!

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