Muscle Memory is an Amazing Thing
This morning, I was given a strong lesson on the effects of muscle memory. Oh, sure, it’s one I’ve gotten a billion times over the course of my life, but today’s instruction was particularly protracted and painful. I should know better, and I understand the concept: the more you do a particular action, the more your body gets used to that particular action, and adapts itself to it, making it easier. It’s the premise that golfers use to perfect their swings and choose those ridiculously stupid outfits, and how athletes of every stripe perfect the movements they need to excel, from hurdles to throwing a ball. Muscle memory is great, usually.
It’s less great when you are working out to improve strength and fitness, however. It is important to challenge your body in those circumstances, to force it to actually work and work hard. If you get too used to an action, it becomes less difficult to perform it, your heart rate doesn’t get as high and you aren’t burning as much fat. So muscle memory can sometimes become your enemy. The tough thing, however, is how stealthily it appears, and how quickly it can develop.
My harsh lesson came at the hands of, who else, Bob Harper. After doing his Inside Out Method workout plan for a while, Lady Aravan and I switched to a mix of other things. Since my Lady had pulled a muscle in her shoulder, we spent last week focusing mostly on straight cardio (or as much as we could – a lot of strength moves in Bob’s cardio DVD, for example). Then we took 3 days off. On Wednesday, it was back to Bob’s cardio, then Jillian’s workout that we did Saturday. So, today, we decided to do Bob’s strength DVD (Pure Burn). It had been nearly two weeks since we did it, but I felt good about my ability to perform it, having done it 2 or 3 times a week for 3 or more weeks. No sweat, right?
Ha. Ha ha.
It felt like the very first time all over again. I started with 15s, thinking it was time to move up from the 10s. Yeah. That lasted through the first exercise, and they were just squats. In no time I was whimpering, literally. I’ve never faced such difficulty doing a row, let along a good 3 minutes of them. It was a brutal drubbing of a workout. I actually let out a moan of despair when the Suppination Extensions started. I’d forgotten – FORGOTTEN! – about them. I grabbed the 5s from Lady Aravan for those, but she was already down to 3s at that point.
I did have one small victory: during Iso Arms, when you just hold the weight in front of you for a while then shift to the side, I stuck with the 10s. I moaned and cried and bitched enough that Lady Aravan told me to go to a lighter weight. I stubbornly stuck through it, dropping my arm once or twice, but I felt like I gave it everything I had. By the end, I was a mess. It took me a solid minute to get into my cooldown stretch after I collapsed from the mutant Mountain Climbers hybrid thing he makes you do at the end. My arms were shot. My whole body felt like quivering goo. All because my muscles weren’t used to those particular actions anymore. Thanks for the lesson, Muscle Memory! I’m sure I’ll forget it all again when I get into the groove, but I have no doubt you’ll be happy to provide a refresher.