Your Body is Resilient – Make sure your brain knows that

We’ve all heard of the placebo effect right? Incredibly effective. It can be defined as a beneficial health outcome resulting from a person’s anticipation that an intervention will help. (source NCCIH)

Well have you heard of the nocebo effect? A person’s belief that something can negatively effect them can lead to it actually harming them.

Part of the sales pitch I’ve used as a personal training is to identify weakness in someone’s movement. Inactive or overactive muscles, imbalances. Etc. It’s effective to show someone that you can identify an issue and make it better through coaching.

I’m still fine with that. But I have learned to curb that language with, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you or that this is natural and very normal and the result of being an evolved bipedal primate with a heavy brain. We can work on these things and they won’t get in our way, and we can probably improve them a bit.

But it seems increasingly common to hear people talk in a way that scares people away from movement. “Don’t let your spine move. Don’t let your back round. Watch out for pelvic tilt. Don’t let your hips shift.” And actually, these are good pieces of advice. Usually. But I think we’re creating a paradox. Let’s see, step 1) encouraging people to lift weights to get stronger, step 2) tell them how their form is terrible and if they don’t fix it they could get hurt. Do you see how some people might start to not challenge themselves and in fact create pain and problems simply by expecting them?

I want my clients to feel resilient. I want them to know their body is amazing. I want them to have great form and understand that great form is different for everyone. And your great form today may be different than the great form you have a year from now.

It comes down to this. Don’t let someone tell you how dangerous something is, if they haven’t also earned the right to encourage you to do something harder than you think your are capable of. Listen to your body, and believe that it is resilient. Yes, absolutely work on form and technique, but be careful of those who are quick to point out every little issue and tell you they know how to fix you. Some of the most popular Instagram accounts are scaring people away, by trying to help. Even if they are an expert, I wouldn’t hire them for my gym. Because I want my people to be fearless and resilient AND smart, not afraid every-time they touch a weight.

One last term for you: Pain Avoidance Syndrome. When people are so afraid of doing something because they might get hurt, they actually stop doing the things that make them stronger and as a result – they get hurt. They become weaker than they would have been if they just did the work. I have seen this first hand, dozens of times.

Stay in the trenches friends, find someone who can help you navigate these things. A lifting partner, a coach, a good physical therapist, whatever. But stay in the game and believe you are strong – and you will be.

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