When it comes down to it, our brains can be just plain lazy. The brain will always seek the path of least resistance which works both to our benefit and disadvantage. It works to our advantage by allowing us to quickly recognize patterns and act accordingly. This is very helpful in split-second decisions and also whenever we need to go on autopilot. However, it can be a road block when we are trying to break a pattern or bad habit.
At the Rausch Physical Therapy & Sports Performance Lab that I work at, I see many people come through the doors with poor movement patterns that they adopted at a very formative age in life. The brain has become so accustomed to these poor movement patterns, that it is now all that it knows.
Breaking these patterns can prove quite difficult as the brain is not one to embrace change for something it has done for so long. I see this come up a lot in running gaits where people were taught how to run a certain way many years ago and have just kept with it. However, recent research has shown us that there are more efficient ways to run that can also lead to less injuries.
So this begs the question on how to break these bad motor patterns and establish new motor pathways in the brain? One of the best ways I have found is thanks to Podcast #59 by the Gait Guys talking about the motor pathways as it applies to running. Their suggestion was to change the run gait drastically in order to “wake up the brain” to a new pattern. When something is drastically changed, it becomes a new task that the brain must learn, so it pays attention.
One way that we get the brain to pay attention is by cutting the upper body out of the running equation in order to retrain the lower body. When the upper body is restricted by crossing the arms or running with your arms above your head, the brain recognizes this as a new pattern that it must work to learn. This allows the opportunity to retrain the lower body into healthier, more efficient motor patterns.
When using a technique like this, I recommend doing it in a controlled environment such as in an Alter-G treadmill where you will not have to worry as much about balance and coordination.
Always in Stride,