Neal Dakmak is the owner of DAKMAK Performance, a private fitness and training facility located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. DAKMAK works with clients across all lifestyles - college athletes, people with physical limitations such as amputees or chronic pain, people who exercise regularly, and people who haven’t exercised in years. Neal sets himself apart by bringing a deeply intuitive approach to training and a real, genuine desire to help people feel better and live a more fulfilling life. You can follow Neal on Instagram and at DakmakTraining.com
For years I was looking for the perfect program, for myself of course, but even more for my clients. I developed a strong understanding and appreciation of the body through weightlifting and functional training but I always felt like there was something missing. The first big step to finding that missing piece came through a “mind-muscle connection” when my brain understood exactly what my muscles were attempting to do during a variety of movements. So many of the people I work with are really just getting to know their bodies. Age is irrelevant, whether they are in their twenties or retired, and it’s extremely important to help them feel at one with their body. As I developed my understanding while working with so many different people, I became confident that if I could help someone find strength in their core and connect their brain to their actions, I could help them improve their quality of life. When I first learned about Reflexive Performance Reset, RPR, I found myself in a state of total information overload and didn’t really understand how it would fit into my program but, as everyone involved with RPR has said, you can’t really get it until you’ve experience it.
The First Moment: Getting RPR’ed
I was first introduced to RPR about a year ago by my buddy, Chad King, but I wasn’t really ready to open my mind to it. My focus was centered on my business and my clients. At the time I just wasn’t truly interested in learning something new but Chad believed in it, and I trusted his opinion, so I really listened as he explained RPR. He taught me how to perform “wake up drills” by demonstrating them on me. Chad learned RPR early on, before the focus was on teaching people to do the wake up drills on themselves. Like I said, I wasn’t really ready to open my mind to it but by the end of our first session together it was clear to me that RPR was going to be a key to growing myself and my business. This was something I could see becoming a regular part of my program, allowing me to help people further. This was going to open up an entire new world for DAKMAK Performance.
After that one session I felt so relaxed. And so ready. I sustained the feeling by continuing to perform the drills on myself daily. A month later a RPR Level 1 clinic was being held in Dallas, only a six-hour drive from my house. No question, I’m there. During that trip I met some incredible like-minded individuals. The 1-2-3 lens we learn in Level 1 put structure to so much of what I believed and lived. The clinic gave me the knowledge and confidence to bring it back to DAKMAK and interlace it into my own program. This was EXACTLY what I needed to push forward and really appreciate the benefits of RPR.
The Second Moment: Back to DAKMAK
Once I introduced RPR into our program, by implementing the wake up drills, we immediately started seeing clients grasp the concept. They were able to experience improvements in breathing and movements within a short time – all without fully understanding much about the mechanics of what they were doing. It was truly an eye opener to improving my training program and business model.
Any trainer will tell you that in our world timing is everything. Some of the things we’ve worked on for months or even years are able to improve instantly when everything comes together. And it really is everything – from mindset to training to recovery. RPR was helping me improve MY system of training and time management. It has allowed me to do MORE GOOD in LESS TIME. We can provide our clients with more value, proficiency in their training, and an overall peace of mind knowing that we care about more than just getting them in and out the door!
The Third Moment: Walking without a Cane in 6 days
Only a few weeks after implementing RPR I was confident we could help people change their lives much quicker than we previously thought. That led me to the third moment that really drove it all home.
While out one night I came across a guy I knew from elementary and high school, Jonathan Drummond. At first I didn’t recognize him since he walked with a cane, had a drag-to gait, and looked nothing like the person I knew in school. I learned Jonathan had been shot 13 years ago, not long after we last saw each other, and had been in constant pain and forced to walk with a cane ever since the accident. His doctors didn’t have an answer as to why he’d been unable to regain his walking ability. He felt abandoned by the medical system and was out of other ideas. I had already experienced some remarkable results with RPR and Jonathan was ready to try anything, so we decided to work together to see if RPR was the miracle he was waiting for.
Each session began with RPR which helped to loosen him up, get him ready to work, and also helped to clear his mind so he could focus and adapt to his body changing. Next, we used the Sand Dune Stepper to stretch out his hips, help with balance, and to develop the range of motion in his feet and stride. At the end of each session, he would walk without his cane knowing he was in a safe environment. We both learned through a bit of trial and error and our training was as much about me pushing myself as it was about him. It wasn’t easy, but his strength and mindset helped him progress rapidly. His courage during his training inspired me and carried me forward as well. I genuinely believe that without RPR Jonathan’s results would have been drawn-out and much more laborious before seeing positive results.
Jonathan’s body has reacted very well to RPR sessions. During his first visit his body was extremely tight, as if protecting itself. After RPR, even before any other exercise, his body began to move more fluidly and he was more relaxed. After such fantastic results using RPR and the Sand Dune we performed a full session in a heated pool - to see if we could increase blood flow and muscle movement - and it worked exceedingly well! We witnessed immediate improvements and he was able to increase his momentum when walking. After six days of training together, Jonathan was able to walk across the gym without a cane, something he hasn’t been able to do since his injury.
One of the big challenges we face as trainers is helping people take their mind off focusing on pain or discomfort and reestablishing a better connection between their mind and what they are asking of their body. In Jonathan’s case, that meant overcoming fear and pain that’s been constant for almost half his life and trying something completely new. That takes confidence and hope like no other.
Each time we work together Jonathan has made improvements. His body is relearning coordination, balance, and movement without pain. Simple things such as moving from sitting to standing are now a more natural sequence rather than an awkward struggle. For him this has been a very fast and very emotional experience. And it’s been that way for me as well. I’m such a passionate person that sometimes it has become overwhelming. I’ve cried during sessions with Jonathan, had to walk out and calm myself, and it’s because I care so deeply and I’m so moved to see someone improve their quality of life to this extent. Not that caring is a bad thing, but RPR has helped me grow in this way as well. It can be painful or difficult to care so deeply about someone’s progress, but going back to the 1-2-3 lens, I know I need to take care of myself first in order to help someone else. When I take care of myself, I can give back to people the way I have always dreamed of doing.
Confidence is the biggest key in my world. RPR is a huge catalyst for the confidence I have in myself and is something I’m lucky to have the opportunity to share with other people. This wider lens that 1-2-3 provided me reflects the experiences I’ve had in such a short period and I really could not be happier.
I can’t wait to learn and share more!