Remembrance of the Things Past

| Thursday, March 17, 2016 | |
[The title of the post is brazen copy of the title of Marcel Proust's book]

It is one of those middle-of-the-week days when you are overworked and underslept. With red and blurred eyes you look at everything but mostly see nothing. You question the very purpose of working your butts off everyday. You curse yourself for missing your morning workout. Once more.

I find myself in this situation today. Again.

I enter the office campus. Wearily.

I walk past the buildings and people. Absent-mindedly.

I make my way towards the cafeteria in building 16 for the breakfast.  The humble idlis manage to give me some energy and sense of purpose. I suddenly remember the pending work in the lab. After we shifted to the latest state-of-the-art smart building 18 in last January, I rarely visit the lab in the building 16. On a side note, art must have gone for a world travel when they named the buildings. Such fancy and modern buildings and all they could do was to number them from 11 to 18!

With hurried steps, I enter the lift and reach out to press the floor button. The silver circular buttons flash their shining smiles at me. I press the button for 5th floor and instantly realize that the lab is on 3rd floor. What just happened?

Well, if you are wondering what is going on, I do not intend to take you on my office tour. Unless you are interested, of course. But that will have to wait.

For more than three years, I used to work from 5th floor of building 16. My hand subconsciously reached for the 5th floor – the index finger pressing the button, the thumb pointing sideways, the remaining fingers half curled. I have pressed that button regularly for many days on the trot. Today my hand simply remembered it and repeated it.

What is interesting in this whole episode (if I have not bored you to death till now) is the role of the muscle memory. The prolonged and regular repetition of the motor action results into the muscles retaining the memory of the action. So even if you do not do it for a few days, your muscles will automatically perform the action next time the opportunity comes.

Now this has some profound implications on your training and running. Thus this post J You can effectively train for months and develop that muscle memory. In fact you do not have to develop it. It is automatic. Each aspect of your training contributes to the muscle memory – be it warm-up, cool-down, speed workout, fartlek, tempo run or a long run. Thru these enduring training sessions, the body builds the muscle memory which helps you run without consciously thinking about your running in a race.

It also implies that if you do wrong exercises repeatedly, your muscles will remember the wrong form and it will be really hard to correct the form later. After all, banishing the painful memories is even more difficult. How many of those we carry each moment of our life!  That is what Marcel Proust meant when he wrote: ”[…]he would expunge them entirely from his memory if that were possible. In short, make an effort to get the right form and posture for all the exercises and avoid those terrifying memories.

Another upside of the muscle memory is that you can regain your speed or endurance quite quickly after a long injury layoff or break if you have trained well for a lengthier stretch of time.  Your muscles already know it. All it takes is confidence and self-belief on your part.

So go on, train well, and let your muscles propel you to a strong finish in a race and more importantly build happy memories to savor forever.

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