The man was in a wheelchair, his shoulders hunched and his wrists twisted from a muscular disability, as Jason Colleran worked on him, pressing his fingers onto the man’s muscle attachment tissues in the hopes of elongating them and helping the muscles to contract.
Through the walls you could hear a faint thumping from the hip-hop music blaring in the adjacent gym, where five NFL hopefuls were working on agility training.
They’d soon be in the therapy room too, to undergo sessions of Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) with Colleran.
Colleran’s not a magical healer; he doesn’t clap and rub his palms together like Mr. Miyagi and fix the Karate Kid’s swept leg.
MAT—developed in the 1990s by an exercise scientist named Greg Roskopf—is a method of identifying, evaluating, and correcting limited range of motion and muscle imbalance. Colleran, as one of only a handful of certified MAT specialists in the Atlanta area, says he can find dysfunctional muscles and activate them. And then he’ll make a plan for strengthening them.
MAT devotees believe it can improve muscle function, eliminate chronic pain, restore motion to joints, and increase performance.
Colleran first became interested in MAT after his professional baseball career was brought to an abrupt halt by a hamstring tear. Now he rehabs and trains a wide range of clients—from a nine-year-old aspiring gymnast to Charles Barkley—at Elite Edge Training Center in Chamblee.
I’m not currently injured, but I figured I’d try MAT as more of a preventive therapy, given that I’ve signed up for a few races over the next several months.
Colleran watched me walk, then had me sit on an exam table and twist my torso one way, then another, then my ankles—all in an effort to evaluate how well I could move and contract my muscles.
Then he had me lie down, straighten my legs and attempt to sweep my left leg to the left while he applied opposing pressure on that foot. I couldn’t get very far. This showed that some muscles in that leg were “shut off.”
So Colleran, using his fingertips, applied firm (but not particularly painful) pressure to the tissues between the muscles in my leg and hip. And then we tried the same sweeping motion again.
This time, surprisingly, I was able to push through the force of his hand and bring my leg out to the left side.
After several repetitions of this process on various muscles in my legs and hips, I was sent on my way. Two days later I went for my weekly nine-mile run.
I felt light on my feet, pain-free, and managed to beat my typical per-mile pace by more than a minute (and, in come cases, it looked like three minutes—but that’s because my tracking app was misbehaving).
Did MAT deserve the credit? I can’t say for certain. But what I can say is that, as my next race approaches, I just might have to visit Colleran for a little more miracle work.