Last weekend I attended a 3-Day workshop, Essentials of Elite Performance, conducted by Dr. Eric Cobb, the founder of Z-Health. Typically I do not have sufficient attention span for three days of anything. But this workshop captivated my attention and the weekend flew by.
I was casually introduced to Z-Health by my Functional Neurologist, Dr. Freddys Garcia, last year as I was struggling with box jumps. He walked me through a couple of drills, that seemed totally unrelated to box jumps. What he was doing was helping me to “rewire” my brain, to permit me to overcome fear. My fear, not my physical ability, is what was keeping me from succeeding on box jumps.
The entire premise of Z-Health is to focus on the brain to overcome barriers to physical performance. Typically sports and fitness regimens focus on the more physical aspects of joints, muscle and bone. But Z-Health goes directly to the neurological master of these parts, the brain and nervous system.
I was invited to attend by Dr. G, since he knew that I was at an impasse regarding my current CrossFit gains. When I arrived at class, there was an interesting cross-section of attendees. The mix included professional dancers, chiropractors, gym owners, physical therapists, occupational therapists, personal trainers, yoga and pilates instructors, massage therapists, and me, the lone, fossilized CrossFit athlete.
Within the first ten minutes of the first day, we discussed the concept of Minimum Effective Dose for medicine. This was a segue into the fact that exercise is similar to a drug, in that it too has a law of diminishing returns. At a certain point it doesn’t matter how hard you push or how long, the stress has outrun the benefit and it’s time to change our “prescription”. This certainly resonated with me. This is why I was there.
The day began with an overview of the brain and how our modern lifestyle has impeded our brain in regards to physical well-being. Our posture is abysmal as we hunch over our desks to stare at our computer screens. As I rode the subway to the hotel every morning, I observed hundreds of commuters with rounded backs, staring at their smartphones. This posture aggravates a great deal of our body, so we focused some time to demonstrate how we can overcome these effects within our own bodies.
We started with several drills that provide the most immediate payback regarding strength and range of motion (ROM). With every drill we Assess, Test and Reassess. As an example, bend over to reach for your toes. Perhaps your fingertips are five inches from your toes. Then perform a sample drill, such as a stretch of the foot. Then reassess the reach for your toes, and now perhaps you are within one inch. That is progress. That drill has immediate payback.
The quick payback drills typically have something in common; they target areas with many joints. These joints are likely compacted from our modern daily lifestyle, thus blocking effective communication between various parts of the body and the brain. And the parts are not a one to one correspondence. For example you don’t tweak a foot, to improve a foot, you may actually tweak a foot to improve a shoulder.
High joint areas that may have a quick payback are the feet, hands & wrists, and the thoracic spine. By manipulating these areas with certain drills, that you can perform yourself, you can experience increased range of motion and release inhibited strength. This is not to suggest that tweaking a joint adds muscle or strength, only that it permits the body to manifest the strength that exists.
The course is designed as an introduction to the in depth Z-Health course offerings. This was a well-crafted buffet, where one can sample the wares from R-Phase (Think R for Rehab), I-Phase (I for Integration) and S-Phase (S for Skills, that is Sports Skills). Though we all knew we were being “pitched” for the follow-on courses, no one seemed to mind, because the concepts were so exciting and the teaching was so beneficial.
How beneficial? Well by the end of day three, I was doing foot moves and skill work that I hadn’t performed since high school. That’s 44 years ago friend. I found the weekend to be quite fascinating and I look forward to incorporating what I have learned into my fitness routine. In follow-up posts I’ll provide overviews of the three phases mentioned above. I think you’ll enjoy a summary of what I learned.
Stay Defiant! Stay Well!