It’s a good thing for me that lots of the gym regulars recognize me, because I ONE exercise I like to do at least once a week that I cannot do alone. Physically impossible.
I take that back. I can do the physical part quite well alone, but the main key of the exercise is that it works my brain. It helps to strengthen and build new neural connections. And THAT PART means I need help. Since I don’t have a workout partner, I end up smiling charmingly at one of the people sitting on a bench resting, and asking them in my most charming way if they wouldn’t mind resting while helping me out. It normally only takes a time or two and somebody’s willing to give it a go.
You’d think by now I wouldn’t have to ask; I technically have a stable full of trained assistance. Still.
So what is this magical exercise and why do I need help (especially since I don’t ask for help when using an Olympic bar)? Start with any unilateral exercise (one arm bench press, step up, step up to press, lunge, press, shoulder raise.. you get it… ANY ONE ARMED OR ONE LEGGED EXERCISE). Now get your
slave, scantily clad assistant, volunteer to stand behind you.
Without saying a word (and this key), they will tell you which arm/leg to use by gently tapping your body. Tap your left shoulder, you use your left arm. Tap your right hip, you use your right leg. In the beginning stick to a single move- shoulder press is a great one to start. Unstable bench press is a nasty but effective second step. But later, try going for a combo: a step to press with one leg and one arm. Encourage your partner to mix it up as much as possible. Four reps on one leg? Sure. Both arms? That will throw you!
About 8 to 10 reps in, you will probably notice your vision getting darker, and your mind locking in on a tight focus. It might almost hurt your head.
What you’re doing is exercising your brain. You’re challenging your brain to build new connections between sense, thought and movement. The exercise you’re doing with your muscles is likely less than half of the entire challenge that your brain is getting. And by removing the visual cue from the process, you are really focusing in parts of the brain that get little direct stimulation.
This building new brain connections will carry one. You will probably dream about it, though you may not remember. The connections will grow. And you will be proactively fighting mental aging by doing something physical.
Next time you’re working out, give a try. Then let me know how it made you feel. Does your brain feel better for it?