In our upcoming blogs, we are turning our focus to applying the NeuFit®´Method to fitness training and achieving higher performance. When making the transition from rehab to training, it’s helpful to keep in mind that there are more similarities than differences between the two.
Ultimately, rehab is about finding areas where the brain is blocking the body’s pent-up potential, using neurological stimulation to clear these blocks, and reinforcing these areas to match the functional capacity of the rest of the body.
Simply put, rehab focuses on uncovering the body’s weak links and bringing them up to meet the baseline functional capacity of the body. With many patients, it’s possible to reach this baseline relatively quickly.
Meanwhile, training is the process of taking the baseline functional capacity of the entire system and raising it over time.
Given their fundamental similarities, there’s quite a bit of overlap between effective rehab and effective fitness training. In both cases, the primary objective is to load the tissues of the body at the edge of their current capabilities, stimulating them to adapt and come back stronger. And whether someone is healing from an injury or working to raise their overall fitness level, the goals are similar from a neurological perspective: improving strength, speed, endurance, range of motion, coordination, and overall functional capacity.
From a neurological perspective, the transition from rehab to fitness training is less like leaping across a chasm and more like walking up a gradual hill. At NeuFit, we don’t decide rehab is “complete” when patients reach a certain milestone. Instead, we assess their progress on a continuum, steadily raising the level of difficulty as their overall functional capacity increases.
THE KEYS TO EFFECTIVE TRAINING
When it comes to training, the NeuFit Method minimizes the risk of injury and raises overall functional capacity by emphasizing two primary elements of training:
- Building nervous system resilience or developing physical and psychological capacity to handle increasing levels of challenge without being thrown off course.
- Enhancing the quality of neurological stimulation to optimize the processes of remodeling, repair, and growth at the physiological level.
How exactly do we address these aspects of training? It starts with understanding the general hierarchy of the nervous system. Knowing how the nervous system works gives us the tools to build resilience, provide the optimal level of nervous system stimulation, and help people raise their fitness levels and boost their health over the long term.
THE HIERARCHY OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
The nervous system is divided into three states: para-sympathetic, sympathetic, and frozen.
In a parasympathetic state, also known as “rest-and-digest” or “feed-and-breed,” the nervous system distributes energy and other resources to activities that promote the body’s long-term repair and growth processes. In this state, blood pressure is under control, and the organs associated with digestion, elimination, and reproduction have plenty of energy to function optimally.
When there’s an increase in stress or challenge, the para- sympathetic nervous system gets overwhelmed, and the sympathetic nervous system takes over. This is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response, which is a major part of the brain’s survival mechanism.
Whenever the brain perceives danger, the sympathetic nervous system automatically kicks in. This is how our bodies mobilize energy to meet immediate challenges, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and moving energy from the visceral organs out to the major muscles, fueling them to fight an attacker or flee from danger.
When the sympathetic nervous system gets overwhelmed, the nervous system reverts back into a parasympathetic state. In these situations, we go to the opposite side of the parasympathetic system, into what’s known as the freeze response. What does this look like? Fainting is the most extreme freeze response, e.g., when someone passes out before they go on stage or when they see a needle during a medical procedure.
The freeze response kicks in when the brain perceives a serious and immediate threat to survival, seeing no other choice but to shut down, feign death, and hope to wake up on the other side.
WHAT DOES OPTIMAL NERVOUS SYSTEM FUNCTION LOOK LIKE?
Given the hierarchy of the nervous system, what does optimal nervous system function look like?
When it comes to nervous system health, the goal is to shift between states of (sympathetic) high activity and (para-sympathetic) rest and recovery as often as necessary to reach our health and fitness targets.
When there’s a problem at the level of the nervous system, it’s not because any of the states are inherently unhealthy. Problems come up when we get locked in any one state for too long.
Spending too much time in a sympathetic-dominant state, for example, leads to the production of stress hormones that can cause long-term health problems. However, excessive parasympathetic nervous system activity can be harmful, too. Why? If we never step outside our comfort zones or challenge our bodies, then we take away the opportunity to grow and improve. As a result, our bodies end up weakening over time.
Here’s the bottom line: during periods of high output and immediate challenge, we want the body to move into a sympathetic-dominant state. During periods of recovery and regeneration, the aim is to be in a parasympathetic-dominant state, where the body channels resources toward replenishment and long-term growth.
In next week’s blog, we’ll explore optimal nervous system function further.
Let’s charge forward to better outcomes together!