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CHICAGO — Hitting the mat to help you perform better. It’s not a workout. M.A.T. is a muscle activation technique that will take away pain and enhance output.

Look at her run: Janice Niederriter has competed in six marathons and countless 5k races. But after years of running, this 54-year-old’s body was breaking down.

“I was having a lot of trouble running,” Niederriter says.

Not only was Niederriter in pain, she started tripping on the course. And that had her really falling behind in her goals.

“Turns out I couldn’t straighten my right knee all the way, so I was dragging my right foot when I was running, which was causing me to trip,” says Niederriter.

That is until Niederriter came to training specialist Scott McWilliam to experience MAT.

But after hitting a few trouble spots, reactivating the critical structures involved in movement and stimulating the brain to work each and every muscle like a well-oiled machine, Niederriter is like a new woman: better and faster.

Niederriter said, “The big things he changed in me were getting my knee to straighten so that my running, I wasn’t tripping, I was running much more efficiently,” Niederriter says. “And he also, and I’m not sure exactly how he did this, expanded my rib cage so that my breathing was better. In a ten-mile race I probably took about three minutes off my time.”

Skepticism is pretty typical when McWilliam first talks about MAT. So I decided to have him demonstrate the muscle activation technique on me. First, an assessment.

It didn’t take long to realize one side was tighter. And that was precisely the side where chronic knee pain has plagued my racing. So a few adjustments and shockingly I was more balanced and better able to stretch on both sides

“When we’re pushing in different positions, it’s emphasizing different muscles. We are able to locate and draw out muscular imbalances, which can lead to our biggest problem which is compensation. As we know, if these muscular imbalances aren’t addressed, it can lead to pain, uneven joint wear and tear and the most important thing it leaves you very vulnerable to injury,” McWilliam says.

In one short session, improvement. Regular clients say that’s just the first step!

“It’s something that’s hard to explain, and I think people can be skeptical about it and I don’t think they should because it really makes a big difference,” Niederriter says.

“If we can improve the communication between the brain and the muscle through exercise, it’s a good day, says McWilliam.

The process works better for people who have not had major injuries or surgery. And can take longer depending on age and fitness level. But it can benefit anyone from young people trying to prevent long term overuse injury to older people simply trying to improve balance. The cost: about $85 to $150 per session.

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Also, you can reach Scott McWilliam, the muscle activation technique trainer we featured, at