When we think about fitness, key buzzwords instantly start to swirl in our minds. From brand names to junk phrases, we swim in a never ending stream of online guides, videos, gurus and random instagram posts. It can be tough to avoid this over information and it's easy to be sucked into buying yet another tool designed to revolutionize our training style. What is going on in fitness that is actually worth focusing on?
One thing that is always worth investing in is education. Many of us are working on broadening our intellectual boundaries and as a result are now more knowledgable than ever before. Most fitness experts concentrate on the body, but what about our minds? Movement starts in the brain. When we experience the connection between the brain and the body, we can become movement experts. This is what Ground Control is about.
The terms "core" and ”alignment" have been over used and their meaning diluted. Let us dig deep into the world of process & physiology, and replace them with more meaningful definitions: "integrated stability system of the spine" and "joint centration". Do these terms intimidate you? They shouldn’t. The main concepts are easy to understand, and even easier to practise.
Here are two critical things that I have discovered over the last decade as a strength coach and chiropractic doctor. The most important fitness tool that we need is our body; and what's worth focusing on is, actually, focus. When you add mass-practice, a reasonable level of motivation, as well as a basic understanding of neuroplasticity and the way our brains process pain, we now have a program worth talking about. There is a way to effectively bring these process-oriented concepts into a simple and effective method of programming, or if you will, re-programming of our minds and therefore our bodies; I call it Ground Control.
Ground Control is a concept in movement. It is a different way to meditate, in positions of stability. I sometimes describe it as “functional meditation” or as a “no-movement” movement. It's certainly not new; I came up with it by combining what I learned from studying DNS (dynamic neuromuscular stabilization), infant movement development patterns, as well as neuroplastictity (how the brain can change itself). It started as a special strength program that I developed for elite athletes (Chinese national speed skating team) I was working with in 2009. I eventually started using it on myself and my worst-case patients to fight chronic pain. The best thing about it is that anyone can do it, anytime, no matter their physical condition, and that everyone can benefit from it. As a rehab practise, it helps reduce chronic pain significantly; in many of my patients it brought them back to their pre-injury state of well-being. As a pre-hab practise for high level athletes, it helps elevate performance by indentifying poor movement patterns and strenghtening imbalances. Let me explain how it works.
Human infants have been developing similarly throughout history, all over the world - learning to roll over, then crawling, then standing up and finally walking. Infants all have the exact same movement patterns; sitting upright with no slouching, resting in deep squat positions, standing tall with no forward head position. They are developing, without trying, in a state of constant learning. As we get older, this “window to effortless learning” eventually gets shut off in our brain, and that’s when issues arise. Depending on what unpleasant situations we’re faced with (both physical or emotional), protective movement patterns emerge, resulting in muscle inhibitions and improper joint centration. Eventually, injuries start to show up. Finally, over time, pain (real or referred) appears in different areas of the body. Ground Control helps re-open that door to effortless learning, so that we can reprogram our brains, thanks to neuroplasticity. Strangely enough though, to get better at moving, we have to re-learn how not to move.
During a one hour class, my students and I will hold 3 or 4 of the 6 basic infant movement pattern positions for long periods of time, usually 5 to 20 mins each. These positions seem extremely simple at first, but after a short period of time, students start to notice deep burning in parts of their body, as well as their brain telling them to move or twitch or stop because there is discomfort… This is where it gets interesting. In order to regain our proper infant movement patterns, we have to re-learn how to use the least amount of effort to hold ourselves up (or in a squat, or on all fours). This will re-program our brains into using the proper segmental stabilizer muscles in all of our normal, other daily movements and activities. I like to cal Ground Control “functional meditation” because during the practise, if we concentrate on our body’s reaction to holding positions for a long time, we realize that the pain we feel is actually only a projection coming from a processing error in the brain. And once we have realized this, the pain actually disappears and is replaced with the underlying, dormant, correct movement pattern that we instinctively learned as infants.
Ground Control yields impressive results, and is quite simple when you think about it. Though it certainly isn’t easy. Curious to experience it for yourself? Join us at MVMTLAB on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday mornings at 7:30am!