Change Up Your Workouts to Maximize BenefitBy Paul Briand, Journalist & Baby Boomer Expert
I’ve been thinking how best to confuse my memory – my muscle memory. My brain memory gets confused enough, thank you very much.
It seems over the years I’ve developed quite a bit of muscle memory without even knowing it. In case you didn’t know, there are two kinds of muscle memory – fine and gross.
The fine muscle memories I have developed include touch typing and the fingering required to play the guitar. Fine motor skills even play a role in such mundane activities as combing your hair and brushing your teeth.
Gross motor skills are those actions that require large body parts and large body movements such as those required in exercise.
Good golfers – and I’m not one of them – say the key to hitting consistently good golf shots is the muscle memory that comes from constantly repeating the elements of a good swing of a golf club.
But when it comes to the workouts I use to control my weight and maintain muscle, flexibility, and balance, apparently I don’t want to remember too much of a good thing.
What my physical therapist daughter tells me – along with my gym rat friends and endurance athletes – is that with repetitive exercise, the body can become too accustomed to what you’re doing, thus reducing the effectiveness of a workout.
So it becomes a matter of getting over that plateau that our body has reached.
If I go for a four-mile run twice a week, for example, and I trot along at a consistent 9-minute mile pace, I’m doing my body some good but I’m not maximizing how my body could benefit more from that same mileage.
The key is to diversify. Television infomercials and websites promote all kinds of routines to mix up and confuse muscle memory for the sake of a better workout.
For my run, on occasion, I could find a track. There, I could do some fast laps, then some slow laps, run intervals. Or maybe carry that over to the treadmill – vary the speed, vary the incline.
If I go for a one-mile swim and crawl through lap after lap after lap at about the same pace, I’m not getting as good a workout as I could if I varied the pace and varied the strokes. I could do four laps at a very fast crawl, then do two slower laps using the breaststroke, and continue that kind of variety throughout the entire time in the pool.
But all this can be a challenge for someone like me who tries as hard as he can not be confused, and who finds comfort in repetition and routine.
Yet I know I’ve plateaued. And the fact that I’m still fighting the battle of the Baby Boomer bulge has nothing – nothing, I say – to do with having chips and salsa as my primary food group.
I need to concentrate on confusing my body on purpose, without confusing myself.
About the Author
Paul Briand spent 33 years in newspaper journalism. Based in New Hampshire, he now writes about issues of interest to Baby Boomers.