AEQ AND SPORTS
A common cause for joint problems that athletes have, are sensory-motor amnesia (SMA) and an increased muscle tone that distorts correct and fluid pelvis and torso movement.
From the day of our birth onwards, we learn to coordinate our muscles functioning during movement. This synchronicity is evolutionarily conditioned. At birth, everyone is assigned a certain potential, and the child constantly learns to control the muscles when moving and thus progresses within its capabilities. But his muscular strength is still developing, so with will and effort, he can’t achieve more than he would like.
Better coordination enables increased efficiency, which is a pleasurable sensation. Conversely, less effective movement due to poor coordination creates an uncomfortable feeling, and if it lasts longer, it becomes painful. The child also follows the principle of pleasant learning, especially because it is communicated to him by the environment. If the movement is uncomfortable, he wants to either change or discontinue some activity.
It’s been a year since my last blog post. For a good reason though. I really didn’t know what to write about. Training, nutrition, racing? Nobody cares. There are thousands of cyclists who do the same thing like me, day after day.
In the past year, you got to know me a little better. A small inside look into my life, suffering, battling eating disorder, positive test, trying to return to cycling.
But you only got what I wanted you to see, know. There’s more. And up until this summer, I didn’t know what it was. I had no answers, but so many questions.
Why I get to have so much injustice, bad luck, bullying. Why I can’t talk to other people, feel so uncomfortable being around others. Why I struggle to express myself in a genuine way, express my feelings, emotions.
Throughout all these years things got so bad, I couldn’t ask anyone for help. I dealt with everything alone. Even when it comes to cycling I was a “one man team”.
When looking for a reason for lack of motivation to run, it is necessary to understand the role of the invested-received relationship, which is implanted deep within our limbic system.
The relationship between what you invested and received defines an action or decision’s effectiveness and determines our relationship to the outcome. In the past and the development of the human species, a high enough efficiency was necessary to make it possible to survive. Evolution and entropy erase inefficient systems and elevate more efficient ones. The effectiveness of movement was key to survival. Therefore, more effective movement is felt as pleasant and good, while the inefficient movement is felt as uncomfortable and painful. As a child grows up, he learns to be tidy and thus improves his efficiency. When he is effective enough to cope with current demands and burdens, curiosity drives him forward.
In the treatment and reduction of the probability of recurrence of injury in the AEQ method, the rule is that the movement must first be normalized, then optimized, and finally improved. The injury alone, caused by sports, shows inconsistency, maladaptation and inefficiency in movement that would be optimal for this sport. Let’s mention a well-known alpine skier who went on active AEQ method therapy sessions due to unbearable pain in his knee. The only way he could tie his shoes was by kneeling, a position from which he couldn’t stand up from without help, but the pain still hasn’t stopped him from taking a leap down Petelinji greben. Sadly, I have far too many patients like this. They can lift up to 200kg in weights but can’t put their sock on without pain.
With injuries like these, especially recurring ones, there is always an abnormal moving pattern accompanying it and the torso and limbs aren’t connected when moving. A teacher of the AEQ method first figures out the current state of motor intelligence and integrity.
Consciousness is usually directed to reaching a certain goal no matter the cost, rather than going faster toward the goal using conscious learning, better feeling, and consciously improved movement, as the AEQ method teaches.
If we refresh our memory: the AEQ method and breathing are about dealing with the causes of chronic pain and illnesses, which result from permanently raised muscle tone and a change in posture and movement of a person. These conditions also strongly influence breathing processes, which are especially susceptible to body influences and emotional stress. Learning is more efficient if we internalize it. Every jogger should pay attention not only to physical fitness but also on his mind’s mindfulness over the body. In the AEQ method, we call this control over the body or being conscious of oneself. It’s important to detect movement changes, which makes pinning the cause of pain or preventing even minor injuries easier.
We consciously check both posture and the way we sit, as well as walking and running. Some movements that we constantly perform unconsciously and automatically should also be observed and corrected. Then again, other moves are done actively – during sports and exercise or doing manual labor (behind a manufacturing belt or long hours behind an office computer, …).
Nasal breathing moisturizes and heats the air, prevents the drying of the mucous membrane, removes many pathogens, and raises nitric oxide in one’s blood.
Competition is not a time for an athlete to focus on how well he breathes, but he should be completely focused on the competition.
After training and less difficult exercises or other regular activities, you should breathe through your nose.
Our consciousness often uses an exaggeration in the movement to redirect emotional energy towards movement, with which we do not fix the relationships that burden us. Artificial pleasure is born, which brings us to the emergency lane.
As beings with free will, we almost always have the choice to slow down, fix ourselves up, and raise our “soma” though better cooperation, understanding, and respect between the body and consciousness.
Due to lack of time and a too-large focus on technology and being addicted to it, we are getting worse in understanding ourselves. We are becoming more and more dependent on professionals or applications from which we expect to tell us what is wrong with us.
Sadly, such a program or device that could measure or show what and how we feel ourselves in our own body doesn’t exist.
Consequently, the possibility that sports are making our lives worse in the long term is far greater than we could ever imagine. Thus, it is not an unexpected result of a study in which they followed 60 runners for a year – they found that 39 of them developed 55 injuries.
How to find out – with a quality connection within ourselves and accept feelings and insights even when they are inconsistent with our plans and desires.
To become better, we need to exit our comfort zone and go beyond our current abilities, but not always and not at any cost.
The fact is that athletes find it increasingly difficult to progress and remain unharmed due to their reduced ability to concentrate, as today’s workouts take place too much by force. What’s missing is paying attention to motor intelligence. An athlete should train accordingly for a natural increase in strength and speed, without unwanted side effects and understanding of the equal importance of emotional stability and intelligence for healthy progression towards a set goal.
There are multiple reasons for the state of disconnect between the mind and body. Man’s upright posture raised the head above everything else. The human brain is extraordinary, and the most complex thing known to man created by nature. A human’s ability to understand and thing surprises and inspires us.
Who is the ego? Ego allows us to change our surroundings to fulfill our needs and wishes or changes us to suit the environment.
Life has been long and increasingly alienated from the body and the natural laws and rules by which the body must function. That’s why we constantly face more and more obstacles in a shorter period, which creates a larger need for the ego to intervene – that’s how the ego takes the main role in the body-subconscious-conscious system.
Ego is the state of our consciousness that occurs when an obstacle is in our way, and it allows us to defeat or avoid it. Then we direct consciousness to a constricted state and change the mind’s functioning to direct the body’s functioning and create the appropriate pressure and movement needed to regulate the imbalance and increase homeostasis – thus perceiving a sense of satisfaction and state that we are okay.
The ego itself is neither good nor bad. It is necessary to regulate the environment’s attitude and provide the necessary conditions for life, satisfying needs, solving problems, and fulfilling desires.
The point of the story is that no matter how strong the effort put in the wrong direction is, it will not bring the desired or planned results.
With too many unwanted results, injuries, rapid mood swings, chronic fatigue, and an emotional inability to deal with disordered interpersonal relationships, we need to honestly ask and look for answers to why we exercise or train this way.
A well-known tale talks about a master, who, during a talk with a student, picks up a brick and starts polishing it. When the student asks him what he is doing, the master replies, “I am making myself a mirror.”
The point of the story is that no matter how strong the effort put in the wrong direction is,it will not bring the desired or planned results.
Determining the correct path of our exercise
Exercise is directing time and effort to change the current state and solve a problem, fulfill a need or a wish to, for example, feel better, be better or gain more abilities that we will need to reach a certain goal. So, it is important to use the limited energy we have for exercise as efficiently as possible. Otherwise, we are losing both time and energy, which increases our lives’ inefficiency.
GOOD PERFORMANCE IN SPORTS
As an experienced cyclist and a long-time owner of a bicycle shop, I have often observed the consequences of the wrong approach to sports and the wrong motive for success in sports with my clients. Most of the time, the runner wanted to buy a bike to relieve the knees and tendons, as he was advised – a friend, an orthopedist, a physiotherapist… – to ride a bike at least a few days a week instead of running. Simultaneously, the runner says that he has had more and more pain and injuries in recent years. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a level of results that suits his ambition or plan. He usually bought a road bike to keep fit. Subsequently, most switched from running to cycling; there was less running, more cycling. The attitude towards the body, however, remained unchanged.
Tendon and knee problems were slowly being replaced by hip, back, and arm problems.
Every runner should master conscious movement and the things happening inside his body.
This means that he should constantly observe and learn to feel and understand changes while moving. That would help him pinpoint the cause of pain or injury and prevent it while getting a better result.
The body’s normal functioning demands our consciousness to check posture and how we sit, running, and walking. Some moves that we constantly perform unconsciously and automatically should also be observed and corrected. Again, we perform other movements actively – in sports and recreation or work (behind the conveyor belt, several hours of sitting at the computer, long drive…) – these require more of our energy, and more energy means more responsibility, which requires more attention. However, we can all see that more energy in athletes does not increase the attention to what they perform with this energy.
The cause of losing top form
By increasing our body’s abilities the use of automatization increases as well, and with increased automatization our control over movement begins to decrease. Less control over movement decreases the feeling and control over our muscles and our body’s proprioception. That’s why the subconscious control over our muscles and their long term rigidity is increasing. This increases fatigue, a feeling of weakness and poorer coordination of movements as well as cooperation between agonists and antagonists.
The central nervous system (CNS) controls movement by using signals which it receives from muscles.
When we move, our brains constantly receive information about our body’s current state and surroundings. Based on this information, commands are created, which travel to the muscles via the motor part of our nervous system. This sensory-motor feedback loop allows us to move our body and perform the desired/needed movement. We learn to perform moves with more complexity and efficiency (mainly through playing) by investing our time and attention. Gradually we develop motor intelligence, which is dependent on the surroundings we live in and the habits that we gain and develop through the demands of our environment.
A person living in an environment where disorder is high (wilderness), the possibility of multitasking is lower, and dependence on one’s own body for survival is high will have significantly higher motor intelligence and flexibility. His joints are less worn and suffer from less chronic pain, unlike a person who lives in a tidy environment (city) and is torn between multiple tasks but doesn’t have to fight for survival.
To achieve a goal, the athlete will undergo the most difficult training, the consequences of which will be pain or uncomfortable bodily sensations. The balance between exercise and training will collapse and the effort he put in is followed by inefficiency. That happens because of his belief, that pain is only confirmation for the effectiveness of his training and not to warn him about the dangers of his actions.
What is pain and what is it telling us
The online Oxford dictionary defines pain as a “highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury”, and lists as its second meaning “mental suffering or distress”. Since pain can result from both physical and mental discomfort, it is clear that both body and mind are susceptible to it. Pain takes many forms. Scratch. Blow. Contusion. Illness. Sleeping disorder. Threat. Stomach pain. Hand or leg numbness. Pain can be severe or mild, but we always know it is there – and it is usually trying to tell us something.
Sometimes the message is clear. If we have stomach ache during the week but not on weekends, maybe we should change our job.
Everyone should master sensing the movement of their body. This means that he should observe and learn to change the changes that happen to him during movement on a daily basis and consciously change them. This would make it easier to determine the cause of the pain, even prevent it, all of which would lead to better movement.
Movement that we constantly perform and will eventually become subconscious and automated, has to be regularly monitored and corrected. The same goes for movement that is actively performed – during sports and exercise or during work (behind a manufacturing belt, sitting behind a computer for hours, long drives…) – require more of our energy and attention. Regular conscious observation of movement is very important for maintaining and increasing efficiency. Such movement awareness as well as its control allow our moves to be fluid, elegant and performed with the least effort possible. If there is less effort, there is more movement – we are talking about rationality or the rule less for more. The energy input is smaller, the effect is greater. Most importantly, such a movement gives us more pleasure, and therefore we prefer to perform it.
When reading a review of a new car that just arrived on the market, I observed an obvious and worrying trend. While technology in cars has been constantly advancing over the past 50 years, the efficiency of movement and self-awareness of people has steadily deteriorated. Human efficiency and reliability are becoming inversely proportional to the efficiency and reliability of the car.
Half a century ago people, even in their old age, could move relatively effortlessly and efficiency, while medical help was mostly required due to work related injuries. Cars back then were loud, unreliable and expensive, and the person who owned it also needed to know how to maintain it. Operating the vehicle required more practice, knowledge, experience, feeling and thinking, while back pain, neck, lower back pain, and shoulder pain, less sciatica, and headaches were less known and less discussed. Today it is just the opposite. Cars have become more reliable, but at the same time their housing is airtight and, as a rule, a non-expert cannot interfere with it. Consumption and noise are lower, the comfort and equipment of the vehicle is increasing. Operating the vehicle requires decreasingly less knowledge, feeling, practice and thinking. Meanwhile, older people are becoming clumsier, more rigid and slower. They move without softness, and often the impression is that even without pleasure. Muscle aches have become a constant companion.
We are learning from the birth on how to engage muscles correctly and democratically when moving. A democratic application of a muscle means that a muscle works in harmony with other muscles in a move and according to strength and lever assigned by the evolution. A child is improving quality of control of the muscles by learning how to move. Better knowledge about the motion and gaining the skills can only be the result of learning how to move, and the learning enables a child increasingly better control of the movement potential given to him at birth. However, a child has only limited muscle strength so he does not have other options but to discover and perfect the correct democratic use of his muscles to be able to perform the moves. Better coordination of large number of muscles used in a movement enables better efficiency, which we sense as a pleasant movement (pleasure).
On the contrary, less efficient movement, deriving from poor coordination, is perceived as unpleasant and, if it lasts for a long time, as painful feeling (pain). As seen in observations, a child learning new moves obviously follows a principle: when it is a pleasant motion, he continues exploring and developing in same direction, but when it is unpleasant and painful, he wants to change and end the activity.
Think about how you would walk if a bee stung you on your left foot. Would you burden both legs the same or would you ‘’take care’’ of your left leg by overburdening the right?
Injury always influences established movement patterns: in order to avoid pain we alter our movement because we don’t want to burden the painful areas of our body. We call that favoring an injured area. This leads to bad posture, the consequence of which is loss of free mobility, or in other words, faster aging. At this point we can decide whether to persist in adjusted – wrong – movement or begin with exercising and endure the pain. But not every exercise will bring relief.
It is commonly known that movement strengthens the current movement pattern. This means that exercising after an injury strengthens the wrong pattern movement that developed as a result of the injury.
Sports: order, rules and orderliness
The meaning of order, rules and orderliness can be better understood by comparing sports similar to one another, such as running on the long track and speed walking.
Injuries that athletes get when running are common and expected. Runners finish their careers way to early and commonly suffer from pain even when they aren’t running. The condition of a speed walker is usually better.
Rules of running do not require good control over the execution of movements, but the movement is regulated by the route from start to finish, correct start, effort, endurance and strength. Most believe that running doesn’t even require special training. The runner spends most of his time and attention to speed and endurance. This increases primarily by consolidating better pain tolerance as an integral part of training and matches. There is not enough conscious improvement of skills and increase of knowledge. Professionalism is limited to blood and urine control.
But when we observe speed walking we notice a different approach: there is more rules regarding the athlete’s movement, learning how to move and constant control over walking.
The body’s structure, the shape of the pelvis, and the state of the strongest central muscles tell us that the body’s movement originates from the center of the body and spreads towards the periphery.
In clinical somatics, movement irregularities in the periphery (neck, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet…) are solved by working and learning the correct movements in the center of the body (hips, back, abdomen, and torso as a whole). Only when the control and feeling in the center of the body change do we focus on the periphery and eliminate the irregularity. All of these properly learned movements, however, must slowly transition into a movement pattern.
Usually, after changes in the center of the body and a better understanding of proper movement, most seemingly unsolvable problems on the periphery are significantly reduced or even disappear.
Several muscles participate in the movement simultaneously, and the sensory-motor system is responsible for it, which is based on the cooperation (synergy) of agonist and antagonist muscles.
The agonist is the muscle that contracts (shortens) when moving, while the antagonist is the one that relaxes (expands).
Normalno in učinkovito gibanje telesa zahteva skladno sodelovanje med napenjanjem agonista ter sproščanjem antagonista. Ko sklenemo izvesti določen gib, tudi če ga bomo napravili nezavedno, običajno kontroliramo mišice, potrebne za izvedbo giba. Obenem del možganov (mali možgani), kjer poteka koordinacija, poskrbi, da se antagonisti sprostijo. Povezanosti med mišicami, ki se krčijo, in med onimi, ki se sproščajo oziroma skladno s prvimi podaljšujejo, se učimo od vsega začetka našega življenja. Skozi gibanje se naučimo usklajevati motorne vzorce na način, ki nam omogoča uporabo najmanjšega potrebnega napora in največjo učinkovitost.
Accepting/giving, opening/closing, expanding/shrinking are all words that can be compared to breathing – inhale/exhale.
The purpose of breathing is to exchange gasses between air and blood in our lungs as efficiently as we can. The oxygen that comes from the air, which the most important substance for a human, thus becomes accessible to all body cells, and in the presence of oxygen, the cells release the energy that the cells need to function.
From the moment you decide to change to the moment you feel the change, there is a period of progression.
You swing between the old and new, despite knowing, understanding, and feeling that the old doesn’t suit you anymore, disturbs you, or even harms you. And despite that, you’re still swinging between what once was and what you wish to be or wish to have. Progression is needed if we wish to survive. When I explain to a client how to solve problems with the AEQ method®, I often hear, “I’ve known a lot about this for a long time, but it hasn’t helped me so far.” To which I then ask, “Do you actually understand and comprehend this and actively deal with pain and problems?”
There is a big difference between knowing what needs to be done and learning from both successes and failures. We need to take our time and deal with change; conscious actions are required.
The main purpose of learning better muscle control is to achieve mastery. Muscle control involves much more than improving the ability to contract them. It includes increasing the ability to relax (expand) muscles, which is just as important as contracting them. It allows better selective control over the muscles and, consequently, the development and improvement of selective muscle use, which are important for performing the movement in a more appropriate way (agonists/antagonists).
That way, we increase the efficiency of energy usage on two different levels. On the first one, the energy is diverted towards agonists so that they can contract muscles. In contrast, energy diverted to the second level frees the muscles that were supposed to expand for movement to occur. That way, we increase the efficiency of converting energy into labor and, thus, lower entropy.
Plantar fasciitis is recognized as a stabbing pain on the bottom of a foot, near the heel, and can spread to the foot arch and the toes. It is caused by an injury of the plantar fascia, a connective band of tissue that runs from the heel bone to the toes and supports the foot arch. The causes of inflammation are frequent walking, running and standing on a hard surface, sports (volleyball, handball, football, athletics), shortened tibia, inflexible Achilles tendon, flat foot. Problems develop gradually, usually on one foot only. The pain is often the worst with the first few steps after awakening, although it can also be triggered by long periods of standing or rising from sitting. The pain is usually worse after exercise, not during it. Damage to the plantar fascia leads to inflammation of adjacent tissues and eventually to the formation of the heel spur and heel calcification. If not thoroughly repaired, these can develop into chronic problems. Due to the changed mechanics of walking, pain in the foot is compounded by issues with knees, hips and spine.
Knee injuries, cartilage degeneration and meniscus injuries are common and frequent injuries.
Especially active sporty people are prone to these injuries. Many of my clients decided to take up learning of the AEQ method because of their knee problems. Furthermore, I’ve noticed the majority of my clients have the same cause for recurring knee problems and pain: severely tight, tense muscles of the center of the body, the core. The core is the part that ties rib cage with legs, it is strong and stable. However, the core muscles seem to be unable to relax. The primary function of the core is to move the rib cage and pelvis in all directions with about the same efficiency. Thus, muscles need to be able to contract as well as relax, and at the same time, be able to move the torso coherently and efficiently. Focus just on strengthening the muscles and effort-based progress is the main drawback of the modern way of life, training and rehabilitation. The latter approach is logical when considering a human being as a machine; it also gives good short-term results. However, ever more significant muscle contraction and feeling of stiff movement are the long-term results.
What is herniated disc (spinal disc herniation)?
The intervertebral disc consists of a jelly-like center (nucleus pulposus) and an outer fibrous ring. After puberty, because the disc is not vascularized and therefore has more reduced ability to regenerate, degenerative changes begin to occur. First degenerative changes appear with the loss of water, as a consequence, the height of the intervertebral discs is reduced, and cracks in the rubbery outer ring may occur. A herniated disc occurs when some of the nuclei push out through a tear in the outer ring and presses on the nerve; it is also called a slipped disc or ruptured disc (spinal disc herniation).The intervertebral disc consists of a jelly-like center (nucleus pulposus) and an outer fibrous ring. After puberty, because the disc is not vascularized and therefore has more reduced ability to regenerate, degenerative changes begin to occur. First degenerative changes appear with the loss of water, as a consequence, the height of the intervertebral discs is reduced, and cracks in the rubbery outer ring may occur. A herniated disc occurs when some of the nuclei push out through a tear in the outer ring and presses on the nerve; it is also called a slipped disc or ruptured disc (spinal disc herniation).