The director of FLEX Studio, Heather Thomas Shalabi, breaks down intelligent movement—the fastest route to reaching your fitness goals

If you find yourself repeatedly falling short of your fitness goals or struggling to hit a target you’ve set for yourself (despite having a more-than-reasonable time frame), you might have been approaching exercise the wrong way.

“Peak performance comes from intelligence,” says Flex Studio’s director and co-founder, Heather Thomas Shalabi. “It’s about putting thought behind your physical training.”

Below, she shares her thoughts on “intelligent movement”—the most energy efficient way to build and tone muscle—and how to incorporate it into your fitness routine.

What exactly is intelligent movement?

Intelligent movement is a new direction fitness has taken among athletes, coaches, trainers and high performers in the industry. They've basically realised that peak performance comes not only from rigorous application and physical dedication but also intelligence.

Is it a specific fitness discipline?

Not exactly. Rather, it’s an overall approach to one’s body. It's about channelling one’s intellectual capacity into the body to achieve specific goals. That’s something that Pilates and yoga have always known and done, traditionally.

However, any serious athlete will attest that superior physical performance in any sport requires extreme mental focus and a deep connection to the body.

How does it work?

Intelligent movement revolves around neural training and using the mind to direct the nervous system to create efficiency in muscular patterning. As you might know, the nervous system is responsible for motor control. Strictly speaking, a muscle cannot be educated or trained.

So there's no such thing as muscle memory?

It’s an easy-to-remember term that gives you a good idea of the concept without having to get into too much detail. In reality, only the nervous system is capable of being educated.

Tapping into previously established neural pathways, or “memories,” to direct motor control through focused concentration is what speeds performance and elicits precisely controlled movements.

See also: 3 Myths Debunked By Personal Trainers

The more focused concentration one has on a specific movement pattern, the more likely we can increase the number and frequency of nerve impulses reaching the muscles required to perform a certain movement—which determines the strength of muscle contraction. This is critical for improving and rehabilitating movement patterns in the quickest amount of time.

Where or when have you encountered “unintelligent” movement in your years of teaching?

Almost every day at any studio or gym! Most people, especially when they start out, are not in tune with their bodies. They are usually unaware of inefficient movement patterns, or physical shortcomings that need to be worked on.

Posture is a perfect example of this. Often, those new to Pilates aren’t aware of their spinal imbalances, lower extremity misalignments and such. They just know that their neck hurts.

See also: Fivelements To Open Wellness Centre In Causeway Bay

How can this be corrected?

Through the process of learning how to move correctly. Once guided by an instructor, people begin to visualise what they want their bodies to do, even if they’re not yet able to make their bodies cooperate accordingly. What’s important is that one begins to take a conscious approach to correct these imbalances.

Through time, practice, and concentration, you begin to train the body to change old habits, whether it’s an incorrect movement or faulty posture.

Heather Thomas Shalabi is the co-founder and director of Flex Studio Hong Kong, with locations in Central and One Island South.

See also: The Rise And Rise Of Classical Pilates

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.