How to Practice NOT Getting Hurt

A friend of mine was working on rebuilding a home in New Orleans this past winter. As he was working, the roof collapsed. What saved him from potential horrific injury is the fact that he had practiced what would happen in case of such an event. He had rehearsed jumping down between the studs into the basement in case something like this ever occurred. Wow.

This is my third column in a three part series talking about the parallels I see in Charles Duhigg’s book, Faster, Smarter, Better to our health and well being. He writes about probability, prediction, and what this means with regard to habit formation. And while he is writing within a different context, the relation to pain and performance is huge.

Up Your Prediction Skills

I’ve written about the Bayesian Theory before. It’s typically used with regard to economics and statistics and is about predictions. It is using the knowledge of prior events to predict future events. In the world of neurology, one might use it as a way to explain pain and performance.

By envisioning and practicing multiple outcomes, we better prepare ourselves for unexpected events. And as much as we don’t want to admit it, life is often times dictated by unexpected events. So the real nugget is preparing for the unforeseen occasion so it isn’t unfamiliar.

When we practice movement skills, we up the predictability to the brain. If it’s seen the movement or reaction before, we move reflexively thereby avoid potential injury. Injury is the number one reason we get sidelined from reaching our long term goals.

Pain Lives in the Brain

Pain is a useful signal to which we’re wired to pay attention. It’s important to remember that sometimes, just because we have pain, it doesn’t mean we always have injury. Pain often means that our central nervous system is talking to us for some reason. And while pain can be worrisome and scary, it can be handy for giving us information to change something.

Working on our movement patterns is one of the fastest ways to address our pain. The more skills we own, the safer our brain feels. So it doesn’t need to get our attention quite so loudly. The added benefit of good movement is that we get better at predicting the unexpected, as mentioned above. So whether it is a roof, or ice on the sidewalk, or a glass falling off the counter, when we are used to moving well, we respond better and quicker. It’s not just about strength.

Better prediction skills makes the brain happy, which helps out with relation to pain signals. Lack of good movement is perceived as a threat to the brain. We all know what it is like to sit for extended periods of time. We typically get sore and achy. So if we can put a different spin on our pain, rather than just thinking about getting rid of it, we can think about fixing our movement patterns to alleviate it.

Get Better at Forecasting

Better forecasting makes for better decisions. This is true in almost any part of our lives. If your brain can anticipate what lies ahead, it doesn’t spend all of its time trying to come up with a context by which to make sense of things. That means more time to respond, less time deciding.

Being injury resistant isn’t just about strength or the core, it’s about agility, which comes from expecting the unexpected, which is, at its core, practiced movement.