You are watching a sporting event and you see one of the participants “roll” their ankle; you flinch with sympathy. You see someone smile, you feel the need to smile back or at least consider smiling. You wave at a baby and if the baby knows how, he or she will likely wave back even if you are a complete stranger.
What causes these phenomena?
MIRROR NEURONS: Mirror Neurons are a special class of brain cells that fire not only when someone performs an action but also when someone observes someone else making the same movement.
Many teams of scientists are have studied Mirror Neurons related to empathy, sympathy, socialization and rehabilitation all of which are controversial studies involving the treatment of mental illness, autism and brain injuries. The studies that are not controversial, involve the Mirror Neuron Theory as it relates to learning movement in any age of healthy individuals.
Based on the work of Lulu Sweigard and Mabel Todd who were pioneers in mixing the fields of neurology and kinesiology in physical education and dance, the Mirror Neuron Theory states that mirror neurons respond similarly to watching and doing a movement. Think about every time you raise your hand to give a numerical cue during your classes, like signaling “one more rep”, inevitably someone else in your class will also raise their hand thanks to their Mirror Neurons.
What does this mean for you as a fitness professional?
Demonstrating every movement more than one time in your group exercise classes while your class attempts it, even if you think they already know the exercise or sequence so that even your “Motor Morons” can take advantage of their Mirror Neurons, will lead to a greater success rate among your participants.
Of course you already know that class isn’t about you and that you are a coach versus a performer, just be sure you give your participants the opportunity to watch you do the action while simultaneously doing the action a few times before you switch to coach mode and watch your participants succeed!