Video feedback can help someone to see what they are doing, but is more meaningful when used to help them to them understand what they are feeling.
The use of video feedback is widespread these days, and certainly it can be exceptionally helpful in engaging athletes or patients in their own process. People are fascinated to see themselves, and to have their movement explained to them.
How will you leverage that interest to facilitate change and motor learning?
The traditional approach in physiotherapy and many modes of health, fitness and sports training is highly cognitive. We show a person their movement on video, and then use it to give them things to think about. The process happens in the head, the good old “mind over matter” approach. This person often seeks external feedback to determine how well they are performing the technique or drill.
There is an alternative, however, which is to encourage embodiment of that new information. The person sees the movement on video and this helps them to understand your explanation. This is basic engagement. To gain full benefit, we use visual feedback not only for the person to understand what they are doing, but to understand what they are feeling.
For example, a coach came to speak to me after my lecture at the England Athletics National Conference. He was interested in finding ways to get his athletes to initiate a technical movement from the correct body area, and although the athletes had a better understanding of what he was talking about after seeing themselves on video, they couldn’t use this information to actually change their movement. They are stuck at level one – seeing and understanding. Level two involves translating that knowledge to feeling, which more deeply makes the connection between their experience of their movement and the outcome of the technique. How do we do that?
Firstly, shift the goal from outcome to process, i.e. remove the focus on success or failure and direct it towards exploration. It is extremely difficult to feel anything when our focus is on “getting it right”.
Understand that although we assume that we can sense ourselves directly, in reality, most of us exist in our heads and are not well connected to our bodies. We must sometimes be helped to “learn how to feel”.
In the case of this coach, my advice was this: Slow the drill and ask the athlete to find out where the movement feels as though it begins. Question and challenge their initial responses, as they often don’t know how to feel, so they tell you what should be happening, instead of what is actually happening. This is normal, so keep the pressure off and guide their awareness to a specific body part to simplify and focus the awareness. What do they notice there? It may not even be the target area – start with something that will be easy to feel, and once this is achieved, build on it by guiding their awareness to another area. Encourage them where appropriate to use their hands on their own bodies to feel motion more directly. These are all steps towards learning to feel.
Once you have achieved this, you can reintroduce the video. When it feels like this, what does it look like on video? How does that compare with the original technique and sensation? Don’t be afraid to flip between old and new – comparison is a wonderful tool for learning.
Now the penny really drops. A link has been made between feeling and outcome.
So, when using visual aids, why not explore the possibilities of linking them to awareness initiation. It does take practice to develop the skills involved, but the rewards can be exceptional.