Is your body cheating on you?

I have been reading a lot about some of the latest advances in understanding the brain and Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the concepts that interests me seems to explain why dementia seems to be so much faster and more brutal in the people who developed and used their minds the most. Research says that this concept is ‘cognitive compensation’ – that when the brain is used to working hard and solving difficult challenges, it finds work-arounds that disguise a lot of the early symptoms and copes for so much longer. And it struck me that the body does the same – that muscles and compensating movements and loading kick-in to get us over the line physically too.

Being an athlete can actually work against us

This issue of compensating is clearly a battle at every stage – other muscles and body systems stepping in and getting us through. It can stop us from spotting the issue early and dealing with it.

It can also be a big challenge in rehabilitation.

We have to stay so focused on the process

When the challenge from the physio is to build up to a certain number of reps and sets, this can become an all-consuming challenge.  And having been so pathetic for so long during the injury, every fibre of our mind and body wants to achieve this and start to return to the person we used to be.

But compensation can kick in so easily! And quietly…

So we really need to ensure that we totally understand the correct form and ways to check that the right muscles and movement are activating. We need to check every rep and be really honest on when the compensation is setting in. And this is why it is really useful to have regular checks from a physio, or starting to work with a Personal Trainer with a Corrective Exercise qualification and focus.

Quality not quantity

Compensated reps are empty reps. So whilst we need to ‘control the inner chimp’ (Dr Steve Peter’s book and philosophy of the Chimp Paradox) about not hitting the headline goal – we need quality reps, followed in such a way that they are pattern forming for our nervous system, muscles (helping ‘muscle memory’) and movement patterns. And if we cannot do it, this is really useful medical information that we can develop a plan to address. But only if we surface the issue and work with it.

Good luck!

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