Have you ever been in the gym and thought your body was in a certain position only to look in the mirror to discover that it wasn’t? Or maybe you were convinced that you were squatting to parallel when your workout buddy told you that you were only doing partial reps. I encounter both surprise and confusion when my clients experience this disconnect, when they think they are doing X and I tell them that they’re not. I call this the perception-reality gap and it happens more often than you might think.
One of my clients, Jackie, routinely proves the existence of this phenomenon because she swears that she’s blazing through her set of lunges only to discover, when looking at the video I’ve taken of her, that she’s moving at a painfully slow pace. She’s incredulous when confronted with the evidence because it feels fast to her. The way that she perceives the movement has become her reality.
Another example: a senior client has feet that love to turn out and knees that relish staying bent (there are physiological reasons for this that I won’t go into). This is his default standing position, which has become his reality, and now he has trouble perceiving what straight feels like. Same goes for his feet. When I ask him to stand with his feet parallel he says that they feel pigeon-toed. The perception-reality gap strikes again.
Sometimes my verbal cues work: “Keep pigeon-toed while sideshuffling.” I’ve also had moderate success demonstrating to clients the difference between what they’re doing and what I want them to do. Likewise, I might intentionally put them into the “wrong” position and then guide them to the “right” position, alternating between the two until the difference becomes obvious.
However, the best way that I’ve found to close the gap is to provide video feedback to my clients. Nothing beats the power of seeing oneself in action because the footage doesn’t lie. I love watching the aha moments, like when Jackie sees herself lunging and says, “God that’s slow, just like you were telling me. I don’t have a single fast-twitch fiber in my body!”
Video feedback is employed in sports training programs for athletes all the time so why not for exercisers too (whose outcomes and safety depend on sound mechanics)?
If you don’t have the benefit of a workout partner, coach, or trainer then set up your smartphone near your workout space and hit record. You’ll likely be amazed at what you see. The more feedback you can give yourself the bigger the improvements you’ll be able to make. And if you can’t exactly tell what’s wrong (even if you know something doesn’t look right) then ask a trainer to review the video and give you pointers. We love helping people who are genuinely interested in improving and we’re trained to analyze movement, so we see things that you are likely to miss.
If you are interested in having me critique your form, please email one of your videos to [email protected] and I’d be happy to provide some technical feedback.
Keep on Movin’