I’m starting a new thing: shorter blog titles. (The subtitle idea was getting old. It was so 2012). Regardless of the New Year and the new title format, I still have some unfinished business on the topic of muscle memory. And actually this works out well. The first of January is the time when people make “resolutions” to do something better than the year before. But we have reached the midway point of the month, so most of those efforts have already been abandoned and forgotten. Perfect.
I am going to give you some quick ideas about how to build good muscle memory. These things are easy to do – so you might not fall off the bandwagon as quickly as you did with your New Year’s resolutions.
Here’s the analogy to keep in mind: think of a party line.

party line

Do people even know what that is anymore? I do. My parent’s house actually still has one. In the old days, when phones were first coming out, it was too much trouble to run multiple phone lines, so several houses would often share the same line.

Party line 2

This means that you have to take turns. Only one person can use the phone at a time. If one household on the party line is constantly talking on the phone, nobody else ever gets a chance to use it.

Muscles kind of work like that. Depending on our daily activities, we tend to use just a few of them over and over again. The phone lines leading to those muscles are constantly busy. This means that the other muscles are never going to get a chance to “talk”. The health of your joints depends on the balance of forces. Essentially this means that all the houses on the party line have to get a chance to use the phone.

Party line 3
These days, people tend to spend multiple hours in the same position, doing the same tasks over and over again. It isn’t surprising that certain muscle groups become overused and others are neglected.
Does the position below look familiar?


Think about what this does to your body. You don’t need a master’s degree in Kinesiology to know that this isn’t good. Follow the suggestions below to get you thinking about the new muscle memories that you need to create in order to balance yourself out this year:

Figure out what you are doing wrong: Stand in front of a full length mirror. Close your eyes. Drop your hands to your sides and stand perfectly still. Hold this pose for about 10 seconds. Without changing positions, open your eyes and check your body alignment.
– Does your head lean to one side?
– Do your shoulders droop forward?
– Does your belly stick out?
– Is one shoulder higher than the other?
– Are your hips rotated?
– Are your knees bent, straight or hyperextended?
– Do your toes point out or in?

Fix it: While still looking at your reflection, try to correct your stance. Center your balance, stand up straight, shoulders back and even, chin up, hips square, toes and knee caps pointing straight ahead. Hold this perfect posture while you take 5 slow, deep breaths. Memorize how this feels, and repeat it on a regular basis. Remember that you have to practice in order to build muscle memories.

What do you do all day? Are you sitting at a desk? Standing at a work station? Lifting heavy boxes? Driving? Every time you repeat a motion, your body engrains that movement pattern more deeply in your muscle memory. But you want to be able to do more than just that motion, right? Well, you better start allowing those other muscles to get in on the conversation.

Do the opposite: If you spend all day hunched up at a computer desk, then you need to give yourself some “spread eagle” time each day. (Lay on your floor and stare at your celling. Breathe a few long slow breaths and try to stretch out your arms and legs as far as possible. While you are down there, check for cobwebs in the corners.) If you are standing all day and your lower back gets tight and tired, then sit on your floor and hug one knee at a time up to your chest. You get the idea. Do something different. I don’t really care what it is – as long as you have some variety of movement. Spend some quality time using your other muscles…maybe now is the time to pick up badminton or bowling or left handed crochet. Think about it.

This is was sort of a common sense post. No rocket science here. But even so, I think the concept of the party line can be an important reminder to help prevent overuse injuries. Maybe this series of posts about muscle memory can serve as a good impetus to prompt a mid-January resolution: Do lots of things this year. Don’t get stuck in a rut; don’t plug up the part line. Get out and do some new activities. Trust me; your joints will thank you.
Walk well.

Pictures from: