When an active person repeatedly trains movement, often of the same activity, in an effort to stimulate the mind’s adaptation process, the outcome is to induce physiological changes which attain increased levels of accuracy through repetition.
Or ~ just do it again, dammit, until you get it Right.
I learned tonight that, apparently, I have good muscle memory ~ one of my many questionable skills is remembering certain body movements to be performed in limited settings, to a very small audience. Tonight, my muscle memory reminded me why I go to the YMCA in downtown Oakland ~ and that your heart is your body's largest muscle.
The Step class taught by Brooke is half an hour of near-death intensity ~ and it's the beginner class. Unlike most people, I do not get that "endorphin high" after working out ~ if I walk into the gym in a cranky mood, chances are that after wards I will still be cranky, but sweaty. No, the actual physical exertion of the workout is not what cheers me up or motivates me. At the Downtown Oakland Y, it's the members that put me in the best mood ~ the little old ladies who go to the Step class in sweaters; the middle-aged large women who get sassy, sporting rhinestone-studded headbands and bright green sports bras; the straight men who brave potential humiliation of their first Step class because they know it's damn good work-out; the couples who try out the class together; and the kids who occasionally wander into the class and kick all our butts on their first try (hey, that "around the world move" is tricky!).
The thing with Brooke's class at the Downtown Y is that we all look pretty ridiculous ~ and yet the absolute best part of the class is the cool-down period, when Brooke makes us do some pretty stripper-like moves, and the little old ladies in the class giggle....then shimmy on along with us ~ thank god they now have frosted glass so no one in the lobby can see us. Tonight, the one guy in the class and the middle-aged non-English-speaking older woman, sashayed their hips and seductively wiggled their shoulders to their heart's content ~ and the endorphins I don't get from working out, well they winked at me during the cool-down period and actually forced a smile out of me. I remembered that it's the people at the Y that make me so damn happy to work out.
And tonight's class reminded me of dance lessons I used to take with, and then help give to, Visually Impaired People (VIP's!) at the rec center at Lake Merritt. Apparently, I cannot count so any time I take dance lessons I cannot follow the counting shouted out by the instructor ~ I have to just watch and "feel it out" and then just do it enough times so that my body simply remembers the moves. Dance instructors hate that, let me tell you. So a couple of years ago, somehow I got good enough to be asked to perform with the VIPs in a full-on performance. In front of an audience. People who would pay good money to watch us. To watch me. ~ Temporarily forgetting my extreme stage fright and general fear of "being looked at," not to mention my OCD perfectionist streak, I said Yes. I performed a Samba and a Waltz with blind dancers, so I had to "back lead" and know both sets of steps ~ leader and follower. One of my dance partners was a natural ~ a brilliant dancer; my other partner was like me, sorta awkward, and he was pretty big so it took a lot of strength to really back-lead him. We practiced our dances for WEEKS -- just doing it over and over and over and over, and then some more ~ until I could do it with my eyes closed. Get it?
The night of the performance, I thought I was going to collapse from the stage fright, right before we went on. But just as the music started, my right foot knew what to do on its own, then my left, then the rest followed. It was freakin' amazing ~ and I only noticed the crowd after we were finished. Although I loved the experience, I doubt I'll ever want to perform again ~ but the muscle memory stayed with me.
Not just the dancing.
Not just overcoming the fear or the stage fright.
But the fact that if you do something over and over and over again, and then again, you eventually get it Right.
And tonight, I needed to be reminded of that ~ not just physical muscle memory, but the emotional muscle memory your heart builds and retains, even when you aren't thinking about it ~ and there could be no one better to help me do that, than the guy in powder blue basketball shorts stomping through the step routine, or the older woman in the pink knit sweater who smiled into the mirror as she wiggled her hips, or my own stumbling image whizzing through the ridiculous moves . . . . . . . .with a giddy grin on my face.