Predict Your Future with Your Library of Priors

by Marty Larson, Founder, Uncommon Age.  Originally published in the Stillwater Gazette.

The weekend warrior sits at a desk all week, and then puts pedal to the metal on the weekends, and ends up getting hurt.  We usually think he/she gets hurt because they don’t have the strength or aren’t “in shape” enough to pull off what they attempted.  And while this might be the case, a more likely scenario is that they didn’t own the movement skill they attempted, so their brain applied the brakes.  

There has been a lot more talk about the brain and nervous system in the last couple of years.  When I first opened Uncommon Age, we called it a neural training center, and nobody knew what that meant.  Today, people are getting on board with the idea that the brain or nervous system is in charge, and we need to address that in order to make changes, whether it be performance, pain relief, aging well or anything else.  

Bayesian Logic: Your Body’s Ability to Predict the Future

Our nervous system takes all of our past experiences and skill sets and compares them to what is happening at present.  If something is unpredictable or unfamiliar, our brain goes on alert and we go into a threat response.   We will most likely experience pain or weakness as a response to something our brain perceives as dangerous.  Sometimes we get hurt. And quite often that injury is actually a better situation than what might have happened if our nervous system had allowed us to go even further into whatever we were doing.  The nervous system is there to protect you, not annoy you and keep you from doing what you want to do.

Bayesian logic is a branch of logic applied to decision making.  Simply put, it means we use the knowledge of prior events to predict future events.  For survival, our brains like to be able to predict what is going to happen.  For example, say you step off the curb and roll your ankle:  if you’ve seen or experienced that turning and rolling quite a few times prior to that instance, you are much less likely to get hurt because of that past experience and knowledge base.  In other words, if your ankle moves well because you’ve been working on foot and ankle mobility, you are much less likely to go down in a puddle. Conversely, if your ankle has not been in that position since you were a kid, because you wear hard shoes and rarely work on ankle mobility, chances are something’s going to give.  I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who report back to me that they didn’t get hurt when they fell, rolled, slipped, etc. because we’ve been developing good movement skills, giving them a huge library of priors.

Speaking of ankles, just as a reference, the architecture of the ankle is prone to stiffness because it is always inherently seeking stability.  So we have to work on ankle mobility because our brain and body are programmed that way.  Ankles need a lot of mobility to function well, even though they seek stability.  

Develop Your Movement Map

We can’t underestimate the power of one accident to take us down and pull us away from working on our goals.  As I’ve mentioned before, injury is a huge reason people aren’t able to reach their fitness and health goals.  Developing a good “movement map” and library of priors is instrumental for both performance enhancement and pain relief.   We want the precision of our brain’s ability to predict a movement to go up.  Ideally it is an educational experience that is coupled with real life experiences.  

So as you consider your fitness goals for 2016, you might want to ask yourself how well you move and how injury resistant you are.  If prior events help predict future events, give your brain the library it needs so you can be as strong and injury resistant as possible.