Most fitness instructors stress the importance of warming up the body by stimulating blood flow before exercise. My high school gym teachers dedicated almost half of each class to doing warm-ups. I assume they did this just in case we repeatedly dropped from a standing position into a full split during dodge ball. Makes perfect sense. However, after my first neuro-fitness experience with Shane Sauer, trainer and owner of Matrix Personalized Fitness, I learned a completely new method of warm up exercises.
Before starting my hour of brain-based exercise, Shane and I discussed my personal fitness goal: getting back into a daily habit of running. Running had always helped reduce whatever stress I was undergoing throughout my 20s. Now that I’ve recently turned 30, my preferred method of reducing stress is to try a lot of every newly released flavor of Smartfood Popcorn... I currently love Jalapeño Ranch, but I chose not to share that out loud. Specializing in rehabilitative training, Shane also wanted to address any injuries and any areas of pain or discomfort. I have to count my lucky stars since the only injury I’ve ever sustained was a tiny, super lame, no-cast-necessary foot fracture. As far as discomfort goes, terrible posture is the biggest culprit. I blame it on having flat feet and a general lack of cute shoes that also serve an orthopedic function.
Shane began my training session by having me walk back and forth across the fitness studio while he recorded my “normal” gait on video. Of course, I tried to walk a little taller, a little more graceful and a little more America’s Next Top Model-ish than I normally would have. (A handsome young man I’d just met was recording me!) Shane then asked me to walk, but this time while counting backwards in increments of seven. I majored in communications partially to avoid doing math or dealing with science. Ever again. So I focused on counting down in increments of five in my head, then subtracting two more out loud, while trying to walk in a straight line. My fierce catwalk went “auf wiedersehen.”
In between this test and the next, I did several stretches trying to touch my toes and seeing how far I could reach. I also did several arm swings back and forth, trying to extend further and further with each swing. Just to make it clear, I’m not flexible, I’m the best at not being flexible and I’m related to the best people who aren’t flexible. Ask anybody.
I then went through a series of tests called “structure assessments,” involving sensory, balance, vision, hearing and the ol’ olfactory. Not to toot my own horn (beep-beep), but my sense of smell is on point. Most of the scent test was food related and I can probably smell chocolate, vanilla or whatever’s cooking from a mile away in the pouring rain. Since my prescription glasses are strong enough to make some people nauseous, I may have had a leg up on the vision test. On a side note, the Brock String Exercise, a test for blurred vision that doubled as an optical illusion, is something that I’m definitely bringing out at the next party.
Shane and I then participated in another brain-ercise comprised of throwing a tennis ball back and forth, covered in various letters of the alphabet. Before catching the ball we each had to call out the clearest visible letter. I got surprisingly into this and I have a feeling that I called out the letters too aggressively in the end. After this exercise, I tried the same previous toe touch and arm swing stretches. I could touch my toes and swing my arms surprisingly further than before. I was informed that I didn’t just become more flexible in the past ten minutes, it was my brain finding a better way for my body to stretch.
At the end of our session, Shane had me walk back and forth across the room one more time. Then he played a before and after video. Having never before watched myself just simply walking, I saw that my left shoulder noticeably tilted to the side. I’ve had a droopy shoulder, for who knows how long, and no one has ever told me? Let the Facebook un-friending begin. We then concluded the session by watching the final video of me walking. My shoulders looked much more even. It’s not like I’m going to submit that video to Wilhelmina models, but I’ve kind of gotten a big head lately over my newly symmetrical shoulders.
Neuro-fitness taught me that warming up the brain before exercising is equally as important as warming up the body. It makes sense if you really think about it.
Matrix Personalized Fitness
4372 Post Road, East Greenwich