I developed a passion for neuroscience when I was 11 years old. I was inspired by a man who attended my childhood church who wore a prothetic arm. At the end of it were two metal hooks/pincers for his hand. I wanted to design an artificial limb that looked like a hand, could detect hold and cold objects and whose motion could be controlled by the brain of the wearer. It was a project that I remember as if were yesterday because it embodied a core value that my family promulgates: be of service to your community. This early exploration of the nervous system and it's interaction with the muscular system and the rest of the body lead to my life-long fascination with the nervous system.
Fast forward to my early 20s. While studying neuroscience, I got a job as a personal trainer. It was a good job. Paid more than minimum wage and the hours were flexible and mostly determined by my efforts. As the years went by and in spite of my success as a trainer, I found myself increasingly disillusioned by the lack of basic scientific or rationally based methodology being taught to personal trains like me. I was tired and skeptical of the efficacy of counting repetitions, counting calories, repeating catch phrases/myths (light weights an high reps for women, spinning can't make your legs get big, passive stretching prevents injury and DOMS, etc.) and learning newest weakly substantiated fads. I began to buy into the prevailing culture that relegated exercise to a weight and body composition altering tool. I felt my enthusiasm dwindle as the aggressive, bootcamp mentality began to dominate the psyche of the personal training ethos. I could no longer see how my job could make a meaningful change in my community. Was I really be of service to my community?
Then, I met Tom Purvis. Through his Resistance Training Specialist (RTS) program, I found a community of like-minded professionals who took an objective, physics-based approach to designing exercise. No more mythes or unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of one exercise vs another. Pure rational, reproducible analysis. It was like finding a long lost relative! Within months, I met Greg Roskopf, the founder of Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) and learned MAT. Among other things, MAT gave me a tool to see how well the nervous system orchestrates muscular contraction. It helps me collect information so that I can see if there is an issue with the tissue that I can help resolve.
But I was still missing a critical piece. I had a scientific way of designing exercise (RTS), and tools to determine and enhance the movement and control of the body (MAT), but I still did not see how my job could be of service to my community.
My next inspiration and exploration was instigated my experience at RTS and brought to fruition by my experience at MAT. I wanted to understand why and how MAT works. So, I returned to my neuroscience roots and hit the books. This was the beginning of a 10 year journey that has completely restored, energized, evolved, and fortified my passion for exercise. From my exploration of hundreds of papers, articles, textbooks, and quantifiable experience, I know that exercise, when applied under the proper conditions, can help us be dignified, compassionate, resilient , confident, loving, vibrant, strong, flexible, and wise human beings. In addition, this process of exercise can foster positive changes in body composition, changes in sugar metabolism, positive changes in hormone levels, decreased physical pain and stiffness, increased range of motion, increased strength and endurance - the list goes on. I'd call that healthy. I have implemented these findings in my practice and would be delighted to share them with you.
I am sure that some of those who are reading this may be thinking, "What about nutrition. That plays a huge role in this." I completely agree. It is one of many conditions that must be addressed to give this exercise process the best chance of succeeding. Since most of us spend most of our time with our clients exercising (from MAT, to Yoga, to powerlifting, etc.), I try to limit our exploration to the factors that we can influence while we are with our clients. We will see that if we get this right, our efforts will transfer to all aspects of our client's lives.
The process of exercise, when strategically implemented, and when the exercise experience is fully explored, we can help people get what they want from their body and mind. We can serve our community by helping to foster dignified, compassionate, strong people. You may be curious about what these attributes look like or feel like when doing a squat, warrior 2, or a plank and why it even matters. Come join me at a Force and the Nervous System course. We will explore a ton of topics and their applications. For example, we'll explore how excitation coupling of muscle contractions influences brain chemistry and the mechanisms behind how what you think about as you exercise affects your brain. And perhaps my favorite question that we will attempt to answer is, "Why do we have such large and complex brains?" What I propose may be surprising, but it is also liberating and has great utility. Hope to see you soon.