Random Fit: Rocking Out About the Nervous System

Posted by National Academy of Sports Medicine
As it turns out, watching those Saturday morning cartoons as a kid taught us more than we could have ever imagined about the body.
In this episode of “Random Fit,” NASM Master Instructors Ken Miller and Wendy Batts, explain how one of Ken’s favorite 1970’s childhood cartoons, - “Schoolhouse Rock!” – pertains to movement and exercise principles still used today.
 
Exercise through cartoons? There’s no need to be nervous when it comes to this system!
 

 

 
TRANSCRIPT:
 
Wendy Batts:
Hello, everybody, welcome to another episode of random fit. I am Wendy Batts and I'm here with my co host and friend, I guess I should say friend and co host, Mr. Ken. Ken Miller, how are you?
 
Ken Miller:
I'm well Wendy, how are you doing?
 
Wendy Batts:
I'm doing great. Thanks for asking. Today is gonna be an interesting podcast. And I am so glad that you're a part of this because there's a lot of information I learned from this, like what the information that you provided. And like I said, you provided because I did not know much about this. But the topic for today we are discussing Schoolhouse Rock. So Ken, what is it? And why are we talking about it?

Ken Miller:
Well, yeah, so if you're listening or watching this podcast on when we're talking about Schoolhouse Rock, the thing about Schoolhouse Rock is that it was something that I grew up with being a child of the 70s one of the things that we used to do is we used to get up early Saturday more Of course, you don't get up early during the week, you get up early on the weekends when you're a kid at least that's what my kids wind up doing these days. But we would get up and you know, with our you know, with the TV, only having 12 channels Saturday morning, we had three choices of ABC, CBS and NBC on which channels to watch for our Saturday morning cartoons. Well, our choice in the morning was ABC and on the ABC they had Schoolhouse Rock. And if you're listening and you know what I'm talking about, you'll you'll you'll understand and you'll kind of hopefully grin a little bit when you think about and you think about Schoolhouse Rock, the things that you learn from that basically it's a it's a cartoon short, talking about grammar, for those of you that listen to interjection or Conjunction Junction, science and economics, you know, history and math multiplication tables, and you know, just you know, when I was a bill I was only a bill sitting here on Capitol Hill. So I learned a lot you know, with with when it came to Schoolhouse Rock, but one of the things that comes up is the nervous system when they talked about anatomy and or human anatomy to talk about the bones. They talked about the nervous system, when it when it came to the sciences. So when when it comes to this podcast on random fit, I thought what could be more random than bringing up Schoolhouse Rock and growing up Saturday mornings watching the superfriends making my peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast because you know what my parents like to sleep in. So that's what we would do, we would make our breakfast peanut butter and jelly sandwich sit in front of the TV in our pajamas, watching superfriends. And during the commercial break, we would watch Schoolhouse Rock and, and one of the things that brought me back was, especially when it comes to what I do today working with people and exercise and fitness is the nervous system. And I think think back to Wow, I was exposed to this stuff when I was 567 years old or however long I watch cartoons.

Wendy Batts:
So that says a lot about you and me because when I was younger I would get up like you said there was a certain time I would get up and watch the Smurfs the snorkels, I don't know if I'm aging myself, I would then we had these barstools with a big round bottom, and I would sit in between them with my cousins and my sister. And we would act like truck drivers because that's what I wanted to be when I grew old was to be a truck driver. And at one point, marry Kenny Rogers. So that's how awful how inexperienced I was, when it came to that. However, the show that that I would think about when it came to anything human limit size would be slim goodbody. And for those of you guys that don't know who he is, he is a man that would wear this tight, tight, tight outfit that actually had the nerves and the muscles and all that. So that's actually how I learned my anatomy at a young age but did not wake up to Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings, I was the Smurf girl. Well, I watched my share of Smurfs too. But you know, to your point what I actually researched it and you know, the first episode was launched in January, it was actually January 6 1973. And they had 64 episodes. And the to your point, it was a bunch of small films that taught educational material around all different topics, as you mentioned, and so I found it fascinating. And then I started looking up links and I'm like, No, I have a five You're old. And I think he would love it because it's very musical, it's animated. And it really does talk about some of the stuff that I would love to be able to teach my son, especially with what I do. And so if you're new to anatomy, you get stressed out about it. And maybe Schoolhouse Rock is for you.

Ken Miller:
You know, when you when, when I, again, it's been decades, since I watched these as a young boy, me and my brothers would sit in front of the TV set watching. But as I started watching the the episode on the nervous system, and I think about it today, it's like, these guys were genius. When it came to target, you know, you're talking about the nervous system to a bunch of kids. But again, you know, now they look about it, think about it, and I look at and I watched watch it a couple times now it's like, Man, these guys had a great way of like you're saying when they put it to music, they had song to it. And it was mean is accurate, right? Talking about the nervous is the first thing you talk about is, you know that the central nervous system, right? We don't mean to tell you we call it the CNS, but the central nervous system consisting of the brain and the spine, and looking at kick. Yeah, I learned that in college, I learned that and biology in high school, but when it can't comes to Okay, well, how does that relate to exercise and how I teach it today? It's like, well, when I'm when I'm talking to my clients and looking at Okay, how do we create movement? And more specifically, if we're talking about personal training, how do we create optimized movement? How do we how do we move well, and when it comes to moving the muscles, well, what what controls the muscles, it's the nervous system. So when we when we think about Okay, all movements gonna start up here, up in your noggin up in the brain works down the spine, and then out into the periphery into your arms and your legs when it comes to movement. But you know, when when I think about my clients and how I want them to teach or understand it was understand movement and moving well, especially moving well with resistance, whether they're picking up a dumbbell, moving a viper, or standing on the cortex or whatever the the implement may be. It's, it's all about having good coordination and what what controls coordination. It's the central nervous system. And, and when you teach exercise, you have to look at not just the muscles and how they look. And because that's what everybody wants to look at, right? But it's how, what, where do we start when it comes to controlling movement?

Wendy Batts:
Well, we always talk about, you know, you know, good information, and it's going to lead to good information out. And when I watched the episode on the nervous system, I found it fascinating because they were talking about using a telegram. And you know, for those of you guys that are youngsters, I was like what is the actual definition of a telegram because again, for me, it would be, you know, getting something in the mail, or someone delivered me a telegram or singing telegram, they're dressed as something and they're like that about it, and they can do something. And then inside is like a letter or a note or, you know, a certificate of something that is a telegram when somebody hands you something and you read it, well, you know, the definition, it's basically now you know, you can actually get it hand handed to you or, or through a wire. And basically, it's the way of communicating, it's the way that we use to communicate. But as soon as I looked at telegram what ended up coming up not the old school telegram, like I just talked about was it was talking about this cross platform where it's cloud based instant messaging software that's out there today. And I'm like, that's technically not the telegram that I'm talking about. But, But to your point, you know, if you think about it, you get this external information, and we have to be able to interpret it in order to make things happen. And I thought it was fantastic because we teach our clients you know, you put your hand on the stove, it takes a second and you realize how hot it is knee jerk back, well, that is your nerves telling your brain This is hot, you need to move your hand off of it or you're going to get yourself in trouble. And I think you know, that example when we're talking about the this you know, central nervous system. We often like you said, we focus so much on movement patterns and muscles, but if your nervous system in your brain can't comprehend what we're trying to get it to do, we're really not going to have the outcomes that we're hoping for.

Ken Miller:
Right? And you know, again, with with the nervous system, we do have to you know, like that example that you gave up, you know, touching the stove, it's even faster than that as far as if I if I put my hand on a hot stove, and if I have to think about pulling my hand off of that, so it's done. The damage is done right. So what we are talking about is just you know, the, you know, reflexes and looking at what we're really trying to do with with training when the and i and i and i love it when you say it's like you want to train at the speed of life. It is about reflexes because, you know, if I, if I go back to when, you know earlier in my career I used to, I used to take part in a sit and be fit, you know, this, this fall prevention program for seniors, you know, silver sneakers, and might also be called. But one of the things we used to do is, you know, we would depend on a chair we would have, we'd have a chair nearby where they're standing, standing next to it, or in front of it, something to hold. But we, but when you depend on, let's say, a crutch, like a chair being in front of you, you really deny having to put demand on the nervous system, right? Because how much reflex Do you need, if I if there's something that I'm constantly holding on to when it comes to taking a step or trying to balance on one leg, we're not really challenging the nervous system from that standpoint, and therefore, we're not challenging our reflexes and our ability to take in information. Again, we're talking about the peripheral nervous system, take in from taking information and being able to reflectively respond and react to what's happening in the environment. So when when I think about, you know, fall prevention programs, a lot of it right now is just being able to, okay, how well can I send sim for where sense information of where my body is at right now. And can I quickly detect, and figure out when I'm in trouble so that I know how to react and like you say, when the like imbues basically move at the speed of life. So when it comes to all that, where we are talking about the nervous system, and, and a lot of times, as personal trainers or strength coaches, we don't work that aspect of training to where we are placing demand on the nervous system.

Wendy Batts:
Yes. And so those of you guys that are just joining us, we're talking about rocking out about the nervous system, in it really kind of came out of Schoolhouse Rock when Ken was a little boy. And I think it I mean, because the nervous system is so important. And we talked about the central nervous system, and then can kind of blend it into the peripheral nervous system. And so just to kind of take a step back, when you're thinking about the peripheral nervous system, you're really thinking about your five senses. And so it's basically you know, when you're thinking about that, then you want to be able to think about how your body's going to react to different situations. And I think that's one of the most important things, why we do modality training, while we have you stand on one leg or stand on these crazy, you know, pieces of equipment and do things is because it's unstable, your body doesn't know how to react, and we're trying to teach it to react quickly. Because we know that it's not something stable. And so therefore, we're going to get more out of our workout. And we're also going to get more out of our everyday life in an unpredictable environments, because you just never know when you're going to step off a curb that you didn't know was there. And so you get what you train for. So if you train and unstable environments, your your body's going to be able to react. So when we're talking about peripheral nerves, we're trying to think about outside of the brain and your spinal cord. Everything else is basically basically that it's your, it's your delivery unit where you're delivering the messages, if you will. So you're seeing what's happening in your body is able being able to react to it.

Ken Miller:
Right? I remember when, you know, one of the one of the things I was tasked with when I was still working as a strength coach, the softball coach says, Hey, we need to work on their reflexes or their their responses, their ability to respond. And of course, when it's softball, you know, it's like, there's the ball, go get it, and throw it to where it needs to go. But I would do a drill where I would point right or left, right, everybody's lined up, and they're in front of me. And I would point right or left. But what I would do is I would say if I if I yell out a vegetable, or if I yell out a fruit, okay, you're going to go into that respective direction, right? You're going to listen to what I say, forget where I'm pointing, forget what your eyes are telling you. Think about what your ears are telling you and go with that. So when I would say, carrot, they would go right, if I said Apple, they would go left. But what I might do is I point the opposite direction. Right? So that's, that was one way that I wouldn't mess with the nervous system and the ability to Yeah, I don't know, you ever do anything like that?

Wendy Batts:
When I do. I usually I mean, I've done that. And I'll look like I'm going to I'm going to say left and I throw it right, you know, and they have to catch it. They have to you know, they never know what I'm going to call out. So I do I do call outs and and reverse of what I mean to see how their body reacts to that and how their brain can process that. Because again, your five senses, you know that it plays such a strong role in your movement. And if you don't believe me, try standing on one leg and doing something as simple as a bicep curl. But then close your eyes and not having you know your ability to See, and just taking that one cents away, it can totally change the demand that you're you know, that you have to do now in order to execute that one exercise. Or if you've ever done this, I don't know if anyone has ever done this, but you close your eyes and you walk straight. And then you walk back, and then you turn left and walk and then eat, you know, and you think you're walking specific lines, and all of a sudden, you end up on the other side of the room getting ready to hit yourself, like getting ready to run into a wall when you thought you were still mid center of the room. And it's it's amazing how much especially sight plays a part of, of how we we are so used to moving and I mean, it's important. And so it's just anything that you can take away and challenge yourself, you're going to get a lot out of it. And but it does put a big demand on that nervous system for sure.

Ken Miller:
Right. Yeah, even one thing? I mean, again, it doesn't have to be, you know, and I think the examples that we're both given are very low cost, right? Basically, it's free, right? It's like, I'll say something I'll point out, I'll signal something else with my answer or whatever. But it doesn't cost anything even something like you bring up your eyes. One, one thing I used to do is tell tell the tell the players you know, close your right eye and Do this drill, close your left eye and Do this drill. So you're just like that scale dude, I'd be like, you know, give me an eyepatch or something because I've been weak with one or the other. I look like i've you know, got something something going on. That is not good. What's wrong with your face. Bell's Palsy going on? Yeah, something but man, it's not. It's not good. But you know it to another example is when you get up on stage, this is one of the ones that was on Schoolhouse Rock that I thought was fantastic is when you get up on stage, and you get nervous, like people's necks get read, or they start blushing and you know, they're scared, they get that nervous feeling and you start sweating. That's, that's something that your body is doing. Because you're trying to get over your fears and doing something that you have to do. And so really challenging yourself in that aspect, I think is important. But you know, we've got it when we're talking about the peripheral nervous system, like I said, your senses and kind of the outside touch, you also have to also think about your autonomic nervous system. And so again, it's very, very important. But the this system controls all of your internal organs such so your heart, your blood vessels, your lungs, your stomach, your intestines, your glands. So anything that you can think about that you're not telling yourself, okay, heartbeat, heartbeat, breathe in, you know, your body automatically does it hence its name. And you have to work everything out to play nicely together. And so I've said this multiple times and multiple podcasts, your brain is like a computer and you want to always input really good information. And you want to train it in different environments, and you want to treat it like it is your one and only like central system and your computer in order to do whatever you need it to do to execute your work or you know, you want your printer attached. You want this attached, everything comes from your computer. So just program good information in and your body is going to be able to stay healthy Move, move better, feel better perform better. It just don't forget the nervous system.

Wendy Batts:
Yeah, forget it.

Ken Miller:
Yeah, and the one thing about, you know, the audit the things you you're not controlling things, you're like you said, one of the things you're not thinking about, right, you don't have to think about Breathe in, breathe out, you have to think about your heartbeat going. But there's a lot that we can do physically to control how active those those those things are. So if I, if I want to control my brain, if I'm very if I find myself very excited, right? So if I'm nervous about recording this podcast, which which I'm not, you know, I'm very comfortable talking with you, Wendy, in our in our viewers out there, our listeners, but if I'm nervous about like you said, getting on stage and I can control the level of anxiety my might experience by by now consciously thinking about my breath, I'm not gonna think about my digestion or, you know, digesting my breakfast for that morning, but I can control how excited I am when you think about the that your heart rate and your respiration through respiration and through breathing techniques, not just taking deep breaths, but even slower breaths. So even though we have to think about breathing, that is something that you can control. So when I'm when I'm working with a client, and they're trying to and I'm trying to give them information, so if this client's an athlete, I want them to be able to learn to under excited conditions, their heart rates up, they're excited, they got a lot of a lot of things going on physiologically, but one of the things that I want them to do is okay if the coach has to give you information and take advantage of a 32nd timeout. Now's the time for you to control your breath. Listen to the words that I'm saying. Because we're going to start in 30 seconds, and this is how I want you to execute the next set of exercises. So we, you know, if you understand what's happening with your client or your athlete in this example, then you know, now we, we can figure out how to manage that their current state or their current physiological state, you know, what's going on with their heart rate, how excited because if they're breathing hard, and they're heavy, and the only thing they're thinking about is getting that last little ounce of air, they're not listening to what I'm saying, right? So the coach is saying, hey, I need you to get the ball and go down the court and, you know, run this play, pass it to number five, or whatever, if you're just worried about breathing, and you're all excited, that information is not coming through. So if you understand what their situation is, from a nervous system standpoint, you can you can manage that. And then, you know, use that as a as an opportunity as to manage the training environment so that when they do practice, or when they do play, they're in a better position, because they they're self taught on how to control where they are physiologically.

Wendy Batts:
Yeah, and I mean, that also rolls into, you know, heart, health, the cardio, everything that you need. I mean, our body is one system, and we need to train it, we sometimes think of everything independently. But cardio is going to play a big role, you're going to help, you know, help heart, your heart, your breathing, like you said, lung capacity. So all of it is super, super important. And, you know, I was, like I said, when you said let's talk about the nervous system, like how are we going to do this, and you brought this up, I was like, that's great. And those of you guys that are joining us, and we're actually talking about rocking out with the nervous system, and just just so important, you know, it is because it's more than just muscles, a store that more than just movement. And, you know, I think I think for me, I mean, the big takeaway is, you know, the more you can challenge yourself in different environments, the more you work on, you know, taking away senses, and really challenging your body, when you're not looking at something or you're not feeling something and you're able to, like you said, hear what I'm saying, even though I'm pointing in a different direction, you can your body can learn to adapt to so many different environments, and especially being, you know, a weekend player, you know, like, I like to go out and do a lot of different sports and like, play with my kid and do things, the more that I can change, you know, I challenge myself out of my comfort level, the better I feel afterwards, and I'm getting a ton more out of whatever it is I'm doing physically, because my body knows how to adapt to that.

Ken Miller:
Right? And when when I'm first working with with a new client, you know, and and chime in anytime, when the but when you're working with a new client, sometimes they just want to, hey, how much weight can I lift? Or how long can I go? Or how long should I go on the cardio? piece of equipment? Or? Or how many reps? should i do? Should I do 15? Or should I do eight heavy reps? Well, the thing is, you know, when it comes to getting used to exercise and getting used to movement, your nervous system is being challenged plenty enough. So when we talk about strength gains, and performance gains, it's not especially in the beginning of a program. It's not about the muscles, the muscles are doing what they're doing. But a lot of the change and a lot of the calories you're going to spend is because you're making changes from from a neurological standpoint. So as as you go from, let's say, bench pressing 50 pounds, but then within the first month, you're now benching 100 pounds, you've doubled your strength. Well guess what, it's not that the muscles doubled up in their size, right? It's the nervous system that got more efficient at what they're supposed to do. So you're managing the the, as we, as we call it, the central nervous system, your brain, your spinal, your spinal cord, we're more efficient at delivering information to the extremities. So, you know, my takeaway here, when it comes to the nervous system, just know that your nervous system is playing a huge role. As far as you learning new movements, or even getting command at more advanced movements in that way, if you're messing with the nervous system and messing with, when I say messing with I'm saying challenging and using, you know, more neurologically demanding exercises as a variable, you're you're actually challenging yourself in intensities that that don't have to do with putting on more weight or, or moving faster. It's just another way of changing intensity without changing intensity.

Wendy Batts:
Right. And that's one of the things as a trainer we really focus on, and people will say if their foot turned out well, my foots always turned out or that's what's comfortable, or I like doing that or well i don't think that you know, this is just how I walk or how I move and it's like well because your body's going to take the path of least resistance. And if you've got muscles that are overactive and other other ones that are you know, not doing what they're supposed to To do and all of a sudden, you're not in ideal alignment where you're moving properly, your brain is just going to be like, Oh, yeah, so that's, that's how we move. But it takes four to six weeks to retrain that and like to your point, slowing things down taking, you know, doing more repetitions really focusing on movement patterns, training your brain and your nerves and your muscles and everything to work the way they're supposed to. Like you said, Your point your your amount of load that you can live, your strength, your power output will, it will increase tremendously, because you're going to, like you said, you're more efficient not only up here, but also when your movement.

Ken Miller:
Right, so that is what I took away from Schoolhouse Rock at the age of eight years old, is, you know, I could be stronger if I just challenge you know, the nervous system. So that 2 million years I'd be able to bring Schoolhouse Rock back.

Wendy Batts:
iI appreciate you introducing it to me because I missed out I apparently I was not an ABC girl, I was watching some other channel. And so I again, I love these because you know, you open my eyes up to some things I didn't know about. But having a little one, I think you know, he's gonna love the music. And if he can get, you know, some more information without me trying to explain it. I think it's just more more tools for my toolbox. I love it.

Ken Miller:
And it's a cartoon. So we're going to print out a cartoon like this episode of "Random Fit," please come back again and listen to what we have to present to you guys in the future or we've got a healthy library of topics that we've discussed on this show. So again, Wendy, thank you so much for this time that we had together. And if you if you if you want to hear something from us as far as the topic goes on random fit, like follow subscribe, and let us know what we can do to make your fitness journey and education that much more entertaining. So until next time, take care and be well."
 

 

Topics: Podcast, Random Fit

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