Every action we take repeatedly grooves neural pathways in our brains. This is how our movement patterns become habituated.
How you walk is a habit. How you hold a pen, throw a ball, swing a tennis racquet, squat, cut your food. How you stand is a habit. How you sit at your computer is a habit.
The body adapts to how it’s used.
Most habits form pretty quickly once we get the hang of the movement.
This is necessary. If your brain expended the energy to think about every nuance each time you took a step, you’d get nothing else done. Once you learned how to walk, you stopped thinking about it.
That’s the definition of habit: a thing you do without thinking about it.
Where this becomes a problem is when the movement pattern is dysfunctional or causing injury, or not getting you the result you want.
As it turns out, habits are extremely difficult to break. Much harder than they are to create.
If you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, the pattern of it has created a deep groove. Even if the effect of how you’re moving is painful, the movement pattern itself is comfortable to your body. It’s comfortable in the sense of being familiar — it’s what you know.
When you suddenly do something different, it can feel strange. You might even say it feels “wrong” or uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels painful.
It may be. There can certainly be actual physical discomfort when we do something new. That’s because we are using muscles in a different way, moving the body in a different way than we are used to. We are carving new neural pathways.
That said, it’s important to distinguish between uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
When I get stuck in the same patterns in flying trapeze or trampoline practice, my coaches will often suggest I do something different — anything different. Just to shake it up. Inevitably, whatever I do feels wrong in my body. It feels strange.
Over the years I’ve learned a simple truth:
If it feels wrong, it’s probably right.
This doesn’t mean that the new thing I did is necessarily the “correct” way; what it means is that feeling like something is “wrong” means I did something different. That was the objective:
If you want to break a habit, you need to do something different. You have to start to break the established neural groove.
Different may feel wrong. But different isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just different. Unfamiliar.
It takes a long time to groove new neural pathways — one trainer told me it takes 500–800 reps to eliminate the old movement pattern.
Obviously, this isn’t just limited to physical activities. We develop habits in every area of our lives.
If you want to change any habit, you have to be willing to do something different, to disrupt your established patterns.
Be prepared that this may feel wrong at first. And that’s a sign of progress.
Change often feels strange
Is it real discomfort or