In part three of our series focusing on tips for runners, we take a look at the brain power behind running and the importance of practicing correct technique.
The Olympic Games are a display of talent, determination and a lifetime of practise. We have all heard how “practise makes perfect” either from a coach, tutor or parent. Research has backed this up again and again; how we can take difficult tricks or movements and make it second nature by deliberate practicse. But how does this happen? And what does it mean for you?
Our brain soaks up new ideas, images, body movements and activities, constantly at work, consciously and subconsciously. Although it takes a little longer the older we get to turn a new skill consciously into second nature, we are changing how our brains are wired and what new pathways it creates.
Long-term studies have discussed how malleable and evolving our brains are, known as neuroplasticity.
This effectively means that in order to perform any given task, such as riding a bike, we activate various cortexes of our brain, which co-ordinate the complex sequence of actions involving our motor function, visual and audio processing, balance nerve skills and more.
At first, we put one foot on the pedal, push off and start pedaling, which might feel stiff and awkward. We sway and turn in every direction while trying to go forward, mostly likely we fall over. But as we practise, we get balance and our pedals find a rhythm; it gets smoother and feels more natural and comfortable.
Our persistent practise is actually training the brain to optimise this set of co-ordinated movements, through a process called myelination. Meaning the body send signals to the brain’s neurons (cellular makeup of the brain) which pass the signal (nerve impulse) to the next neuron in the chain, until it reaches the right cortex and the signal gets processed.
The brain then sends the processed signal back and an action or reaction occurs. These impulses happen at unimaginably fast speeds, which is why you can roll out of the way before the tree comes crashing down on you from behind.
Science has found that the speed and strength of the signal impulses are determined by the thickness of the sheath of myelin that covers the neuron. You can even increase the speed by causing the impulse to jump across the myelin sheath to the next open spot on the axon, instead of going along the whole neuron, this is myelination. The faster these signals travel the easier it is for us to do our task more naturally and more precisely.
Now we know that we need to layer-up our myelin, how do we do that?
Well, myelin is produced naturally, especially as information-soaking children, generated with the brain learning new information along a pathway. The older we get, yes the slower it builds up and the more effort is required. That’s where precise practise comes in. When we consistently practice our skill, we trigger a pattern of neural impulses that generate myelin. However, this must be done as precisely as well as frequently, hence “practise makes perfect”.
When we are adjusting a client’s running technique, we are adjusting current movement patterns in order to reduce force on overloaded muscles, engage bigger muscles, stabilise joints, align limbs, improve speed and reduce energy wastage.
We tap in to the brain’s neuroplasticity and using precise movement forms, drills, cues as well as visual and verbal feedback, we are layering-up our myelin to retrain the brain’s neuron pathways for running technique. Taking it from consciousness to second-nature. Leaving the client pain free, with reduced injury risk, and a faster and better runner.
Therefore, improving your performance means practising things correctly, is just as important as practising frequently, to become a master of your chosen activity.
The Advance Running School offers one-on-one coaching sessions over 12 weeks, focused on retraining the brain’s neural pathways to change poor gait movement patterns via verbal and visual coaching. Kate uses muscle conditioning drills and corrective technique coaching cues to alter the brain’s default. Thereby, encouraging key muscles and the core to activate, condition and implement better muscle movement patterns. Therefore, encouraging stability, correct muscle engagement and reduced overload or poor excessive motions. For more information, visit advancewellness.co.nz