Muscle Memory

T’is amazing thing this ‘muscle memory’.

Take me for example:-

Longer ago than I care to profess, I used to be a very competitive swimmer. This was the case from a fresh 9 year old, right through my teens when I finally gave up to start socializing and find out what I’d been missing out on all these years training every day, usually twice a day.

Basically I’d gotten bored with that lifestyle and was curious about what everyone else was up to.

So over the next decade or more I rarely did anything more than a couple of laps in a pool perhaps whilst on holiday in Mexico or simply just dip to cool down. Swimming bored me and I really didn’t appreciate the worth of jumping into a pool – to do what; swim a couple of thousand meters for a warm up?!

However, just recently, having taken on more and more endurance events in my chosen field of running, I was enticed by the lure of Ironman coming to my hometown and felt excited and compelled to compete.

So there it was – I just needed that something to turn me back onto swimming again.

So quite literally over the last few weeks since signing up, I’ve taken to the local pool 3-4 times each week. Now admittedly I lacked any kind of endurance at all the first few dips, but by ‘n large, the technique was still there. I hadn’t swam more than 20 laps over the last decade, but here I was 5 or 6 sessions back into it and the laps / kms were rapidly beginning to grow. My return to the pool has been quite remarkable and my development rapid.

Why? Well aside from being insanely fit from the hundreds and hundreds of miles I run, my years and years spent doing lap after lap after lap formed a very definitive ‘memory’. The term ‘muscle memory’ is thrown around, but the reality is that the memory is within the brain. Once a move or motion has been repeated with good form (this point is vital as there is little point in remembering how to do something bad!) sufficiently  as I had probably covering a good 20-25+ kms each week for many a year, much of this training stays with you.

Bottom line, learn to do something well and repeat, repeat, repeat. A long-term layoff will result in atrophy as far as muscle and tendons are concerned, but it’ll be a lot quicker coming back than starting afresh.

As for Ironman, what the hell have I let myself in for?