Muscle Memory

Muscle Memory

I played tennis for the first time in a couple years this morning. Well, I should say, “My wife and I knocked tennis balls around at 6:30 this morning.” I didn’t actually play a full match…or even a set or a game.

I haven’t actually played tennis for quite some time — back when a friend and I played every Tuesday night. It didn’t matter if it was 100 degrees out or 25 degrees out…Tuesday nights, unless it rained, we played tennis.

Letting Things Slip

It’s easy to let routines slip: going to a weekly juggling club, tennis on Tuesday nights, and other routines that come and go in my life. There have even been a few times I didn’t write fiction as much.

These things always come back, though — and when they do, it’s important to not be discouraged.

This is where a lot of people let things slip for good. When things come back, the memory of doing something with regularity often shouts:

REMEMBER WHEN WE USED TO DO THIS?! REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE GOOD AT THIS THING?!

And because we were once at least better at something we’ve let slip — maybe even good or great — it’s easy to think, “Man, I stink at this and was kidding myself that I could get back to it.”

Muscle Memory

I used to juggle at least 4 hours a day. When I take a long break from juggling and get back to it, I get frustrated. Juggling numbers is harder; moves that were almost automatic seem like they are now fighting against rusted joints. But something wonderful always happens: in time, things come back. Muscles remember how to juggle 5 things well enough that I get some good runs with 6 (and believe, “I can do 7 again!”). More than that, though, my mind cuts loose — and I start doing things I’ve never even thought of before.

In a short time, I’m not only back to where I was when I stopped, but…I’m better — even after a break. My mind is no longer locked into whatever pattern it was in when I stopped.

Muscles remember; my mind, acting like a muscle itself, tells my muscles to do things I never dreamed I could do when I juggled at least 4 hours a day.

Back to the Tennis Court

I won’t say with any degree of confidence that I’m ready for the old Tuesday night tennis matches. But there were moments this morning when I thought, “Don’t chase that shot down,” only to have my legs keep moving and then: my mind and body working as one to send a shot I thought was impossible to reach back into play.

It’s more than a just reminder that tennis is a thing I do. This morning was a reminder that anything I’ve let fall to the side, for whatever reasons, should never leave me thinking, “Who am I kidding…those days are done…”

All that needs to be done is pick things back up and do something long enough for muscles to remember what to do. (And not let your brain get in the way!)