Happy New Year! As a new year begins, full of big ideas and new possibilities, many of us will make big pronouncements about things we want to do, things we want to achieve. This will be THE year!!!
Whether you’ve got big dreams or small ones, New Year’s resolutions are all about about changing habits and shifting patterns. And you’ve probably heard that it takes about 3 months for an action to become a habit. Three months isn’t really that long. So why is it so challenging for any of us to stick to those resolutions that we feel SO SURE we’ll be able to achieve?
For the most part, those resolutions we can’t seem to keep are more about things we think we SHOULD do. They’re not really about things that have serious meaning to us on any deep level. And without a sense of real meaning, it’s much harder for the brain to create the conditions that make real, sustainable change possible.
Creating potential for new possibilities is exciting. In terms of movement and physical health, it can make the difference between mobility and lack of mobility. It can be the difference between moving with pain or without. It can mean the difference between moving well enough, or performing at the top of your game. And if you are truly motivated to find more freedom, space, potential, support, and strength within your own body – it’s within your reach! But you’re not going to get it by doing things the same old way you’ve been doing them for years.
If you want to create change that will truly impact the way you move and live in your body, you have to engage your brain in the process. Mindful practice is key. Don’t just throw on the boom-chukka music and go to town. You have to pay attention to how you move. Here are a few tips to make the most of your brain’s ability to adapt and create new patterning in your movement:
- Set yourself up for success:When you are motivated, relaxed, engaged and alert, your brain can more easily create the conditions necessary for change. Mindless repetition, movement that has no meaning, or distractions all signal to the brain that the activity you are performing is unimportant, and therefore not something that need be remembered. The more focused an attentive you are to your movement, the more likely the brain is to begin to change patterns in the desired way.
- Integrate the parts:Things that fire together, wire together! The brain links things together. The more parts that are linked together as you perform a given activity, the stronger the “links” to that particular pattern, and the more easily and reliably you will be able to access that pattern in the future. Do you like what you’re doing? How does it feel, physically? What is your mental picture or perception of the movement? The more sensory, intellectual, emotional and other information is linked around a new pathway, the more likely that pattern is to become an efficient, and reliable pattern for the future.
- Notice what you feel. Any initial change will be temporary. First, your brain records the change. Then it decides whether the change should be permanent or not. Typically, it only becomes permanent if the change seems new or interesting enough, or if the outcome of the behaviour is important. (There’s that meaningful movement thing again. “When I do this… my back pain subsides!” or “when I do this, my legs are much freer, and that feels great! – and I noticed a huge change in my split times on the last few runs, maybe I could actually WIN that race!!) Use your sensory awareness to imprint the feeling of what you’ve changed, so you can find it, and recognize it, in the future. Then practice it.
- Mentally rehearse the desired movement. Use imagery, see the movement in your mind’s eye, feel it in your bones. Change starts in the brain, and mental repetition helps to get the process going.
- Positive repetition is key. When you’ve made a connection, repeat only as long as you are able to reproduce the “good” pattern. When old patterns start to take over to support a heavy load, then you are only reinforcing old patterns not forging new ones. Forget mindless reps just to tone a muscle. If the muscle tone you have is supporting a bad pattern, it’s time to make different choices. Keep reinforcing the positive movement pattern, only adding more repetitions, or more load, or more range of motion when you can do the first stage reliably and with ease. Stage your progressions the same way. This is not the time for no pain, no gain! Lots of positive repetition is important – but only as your brain and body together are ready to handle it. Be kind and give yourself time.
- Move it or lose it! It is just as easy to create negative patterns as to create positive ones. As you seek to make change, create as many opportunities to reinforce the new patterning as possible. Your positive connections reinforce the new patterns, and weaken the “white noise” of unconscious negative patterning.
- Seek out people who share the same values. There are more than enough people who will tell you that the only way to get results in your body is to push hard. I’ll agree that it does require time and attention. It will require commitment to the process. And if you’re looking to build strength, effort will be required. But that effort is about building on a strong foundation. Throwing more muscle at problem isn’t always the answer. Keep your goals in mind. If the goal is better movement, but your strategy is taking you further away from positive patterning and functional movement, then what on earth is the point? Work out with people who understand what you’re going for and cheer you on, challenging you to create the best possible conditions for YOU to make the changes that are really important to YOU.
The coolest part about making this kind of change is that a new relationship with the body begins to unfold. When we pay attention to our movement – the “work” of it changes. Struggle dissolves and a new ease emerges. We can still work at intensity – but there is a flow that evolves into a new kind of pleasure and joy in the process.
I’ve spent the greater part of my life working with my body in one way or another, and I’ve dedicated my career to helping others move well too. Of all the kinds of training I’ve seen and done – working mindfully, seeking great connections and creating ease in movement is by far the most satisfying on every level. What about you? What are your goals? Leave a comment below!