Back into it
Like many others I tentatively returned to the gym in recent weeks following the indulgence of the Christmas break.
The beautiful Queensland mornings help, though the first trip back to exercise is always a hurdle.
I’ve found that the trick is simply to begin, no matter how gentle the first workout, & sooner or later your creaking body parts begin to remember that they can actually do stuff.
Home on the range
When I was a teenager I could often birdie long par-5 holes on the golf course without analysing anything at all – just grip it & rip it, and schlep it down the middle.
How? Practice, practice, practice!
In those days we thought nothing of playing 54 holes in a day, and on practice days we’d smash balls on the driving range until we’d worn all our golf gloves out, then we’d carry on until our hands were blistered, and then we’d hit the putting greens.
We used to have a saying: ‘a golfer’s half hour’, which basically meant ‘see you at dusk’.
These days I only play a few times a year at best – most often at Gold Coast during the Wealth Retreat week – but it’s a small consolation to find that after a while I can can still hit them sort of OK.
The muscles eventually seem to remember what to do; what used to be known as muscle memory.
It’d be a totally different matter if I tried to play left-handed, no doubt, but for all the rustiness the act of striking a golf ball isn’t a totally unfamiliar one, even after all those intervening years.
Practice can make perfect
Today scientists prefer to talk of procedural or motor learning, and neural pathways.
The science doesn’t necessarily matter; you know it’s real because you experience it yourself every time you tie a shoelace, switch from driving an automatic to a manual without thinking, or touch-type on your keyboard.
It’s important to practice good habits, because bad habits can become encoded too (hence it’s hard ‘to teach an old dog new tricks’).
The good news is that you can learn a lot quite quickly, even if truly mastering a skill can take a lifetime.
3 tips to improve muscle memory
You can use this concept for more than simply gym training or playing golf, of course, and positive habits can be formed & encoded across many aspects of your life.
Here are 3 simple tips for improving your results:
(i) Practice good habits – muscle memory doesn’t differentiate between good & bad habits, which is why it can make sense to use a coach to get you started, to ensure you’re practising the right things;
(ii) Incremental improvements – if you start off trying to box like a professional, lift heavy free weights, or trade foreign exchange contracts like an experienced market pro, you’ll probably crash & burn. Don’t try to run before you can walk, be patient, & make incremental changes; and
(iii) Little & often – while your pathways can ‘remember’ patterns for years, muscle memory is at its most effective through regular repetition & reinforcement, while new lessons can be retained for several months (but perhaps not permanently).
There’s an old adage that says ‘learn slow; forget slow‘, and this sums up perfectly how you can train your brain to repeat good habits.
Now let’s see you flex those muscles!