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Applied Neurology in Fitness: Annie Forest's Holistic Coaching Approach


"How do we as movement professionals, respect the fact it's not just a meat puppet?"

--Annie Forest owner of Forest Coaching & Studios


In the ever-evolving landscape of fitness, there emerges a new paradigm that considers not just the physical but also the neurological and emotional aspects of health. This balanced approach is exemplified by Annie Forest, an innovative coach based in Madison, Wisconsin, who integrates applied neurology with physical fitness training. Annie elaborates on her holistic coaching methods and shares her journey from traditional fitness to a more comprehensive model that prioritizes the well-being of older adults.


Understanding the Holistic Approach

Annie's coaching practice focuses on integrating applied neurology with physical fitness. This approach is particularly beneficial for those who have experienced physical limitations or neurological shifts, such as stroke survivors. Annie emphasizes the importance of creating a complete map of the body, using various sensory systems to help clients operate their bodies efficiently. “Your brain is super plastic,” Annie noted, emphasizing that the brain's capacity to adapt and learn can be harnessed at any age to improve movement and stability.


The Importance of Neurological Safety

Annie highlights the significance of considering neurological and emotional safety as the baseline for all movement coaching. This approach differentiates her practice from traditional fitness coaching, where the primary focus might be on physical capabilities alone. “We consider neurological and limbic or emotional safety as the baseline for all movement coaching,” Annie explains. This ensures that clients not only feel safe mentally but also that their nervous system is adequately prepared for the movements they engage in.


Assessing and Enhancing Movement

Annie's method includes a comprehensive assessment protocol that examines traditional movement patterns and delves into neurological aspects, such as visual tracking and vestibular system functionality. She uses tools like Z Health, a protocol that integrates neurology into movement practice, to identify and address discrepancies in movement. For example, gait analysis is used to see how well a person can integrate movement. Annie describes how the nervous system's response can be gauged by observing changes in gait after performing specific exercises like squats. Improvements in range of motion or strength indicate a positive response from the nervous system, while deterioration suggests the need for adjustment.


Addressing Fear of Falling

Fear of falling is a significant factor in the risk of falls, particularly among older adults. Annie tackles this by training clients' reaction systems in a controlled, safe environment. She uses techniques to simulate unpredictable situations, thereby improving clients' ability to integrate sensory information and respond appropriately. “We rebuild a library of priors around moving toward the ground safely,” Annie says, which helps clients feel more confident and less fearful in their movements.


Workshops and Community Outreach

Annie's dedication to enhancing fitness for older adults extends beyond one-on-one coaching sessions. She offers workshops on topics like pain relief, hypermobility, and vision and vestibular training. These workshops provide valuable insights on how to integrate these specialized training methods with functional and corrective movements.


One notable workshop is the “Brain and Balance” session for the Second Act Fit Pro community. This workshop dives deep into assessing and improving balance without relying solely on traditional methods like standing on one leg. It also covers how to integrate brain training with functional movement training, offering a holistic approach to improving stability and preventing falls.


Creating an Inviting Environment

Annie has transformed her fitness studio into a welcoming and safe space. By incorporating elements like plush seating, a lending library, string lights, and plenty of plants, Annie aims to make her clients feel at ease, moving away from the traditional, often intimidating, gym environment.


Annie Forest’s innovative approach to fitness, particularly for older adults, is a refreshing departure from conventional methods. By integrating applied neurology, considering emotional safety, and fostering a supportive environment, Annie helps her clients reclaim their bodies and enhance their quality of life.


Second Act Fit Pros Workshop with Annie

On June 17th, 2024 at 10am PT, Annie will be hosting“Balance & The BRAIN” session for the Second Act Fit Pro community. This workshop dives deep into assessing and improving balance without relying solely on traditional methods like standing on one leg. It also covers how to integrate brain training with functional movement training, offering a holistic approach to improving stability and preventing falls. You can sign up for the event on the Events page. All Second Act Fit Pro community members have access recorded workshop sessions. Learn more here about becoming a member of the Second Act Fit Pro community.



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