How does the brain play into personal training?

by Tony Rhine, Personal Trainer

What is applied neurology?  How do you “work on someone’s brain”?

Well, if you think about it, the brain does three main things: It gets input, either from our bodies or from our external environment.  It interprets that input, and makes a decision about what to do with it. Then it gives us an output. A “good” output could be you lifting a lot of weight, and a “bad” output could be your brain giving you back pain.  “Good” outputs are available because our the brain feels safe enough to allow us to do whatever it is we want. “Bad” outputs are usually because it feels threatened and it wants you to change your behavior. So on a really basic level, my job is to figure out where a problem might lie for someone in either the input, the integration, or the output and help them fix that.  A lot of times in fitness, people are very focused on outputs, like how much weight you can lift or how high you can jump, but the other two pieces get ignored. So that’s really what I’m doing with neurology,

That’s fine and well, but how does that relate to me hitting my goals?

On a really basic level, everyone just wants to get better output from their brain.  If you want to lose weight, you want your metabolism to change. Your brain controls that output.  If you want to get stronger or faster, your brain also controls that output. If you want to get out of pain, your brain also controls that output.  It might seem repetitive, but a biomechanical model for training is becoming outdated and people are realizing they need individualized attention for their specific needs to be able to be at their best.  So, we got straight to the brain, because it's the software that runs the hardware, and is the safest and most efficient way to achieve desired results.

Does this involve psychology of any sort?

Absolutely.  People live roughly around 90% of their life on habits.  Those habits make us what we are, and we compensate or thrive based on what we do consistently.  I always let people know up front, the most important thing I can help with is behavior change. I’ll promise coaching before I promise results.  No one can really get results by training a few times a week, they have to change their habits. So we look on an individual level to do that in a way that’s non threatening and manageable for people.  That might look like just showing up for sessions for the first 6 months, because starting any new habit is extremely difficult. So while people may think something like that is small, it’s actually a major step in the right direction and really valuable.  Ultimately, my job is to help people change their behavior so they can become who they want and do what they want!