July 02, 2006

Working Out

I went to the YMCA today and I had a long talk with one of my new friends there. He's been working at the Y for a while as a trainer for a few years now and he wants to open up his own business, focusing on the functional aspect of physical therapy and body building as opposed to the form aspect. He is a very smart guy and our talk made me realize that I don't know much about exercise. Not on a scientific level, at least... in my anatomy class, we spent a few months on the insertions and articulations of muscles and joints, but I haven't committed much of it to memory. My focus had been on studying the dysfunctioning body, but this doesn't make much sense unless I already have a strong understanding of the expertly functioning one.

An important component of exercising is doing it in a "proprioceptive-enriched environment." Proprioception is a part of our sense of touch. It adds context to our movements and allows us to recognize what position our body is in without looking at it. Our cerebellum coordinates our movements based on proprioceptive information we receive from muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs. Our brains learn to recruit muscles for certain actions, like running or dribbling a ball. Yet it is funny that we don't call professional athletes "smart!" They are in fact, cerebellar geniuses.

After about an hour of conversation, I started to exercise with a great awareness of what I was doing. A lot of machines in the YMCA activate specific muscles located on a chart posted on the machine... without incorporating stabilizing and synergystic muscles. While these machines make it easy for people like me to workout different muscles, they also have a big flaw, according to Mr. FunctionalFitness. Since they isolated muscles, they provided an inappropriate context for activity. It is better to work out with free weights, as long as you know what you're doing. I guess that's where the knowledge of a trainer comes in.

I did some workouts on the Freemotion machines. I haven't been to the gym in a while, so I think I'll be stiff in a couple of days, but I enjoyed it a lot too. I think a lot of things have worked out just fine.

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