89. Yin and Yang

Running tip #89

One sure fire way to improve is to run with different-paced training partners.  On your hard days, find someone faster than you to push you and on your easy days run with someone considerably slower to ensure you truly run easy on those important recovery days.  Most of us tend to get into a rut running the same pace with the same set of friends, falling into the same conversations on the same 50-minute loop.  Though this routine can be relaxing because of the non-thinking element, you may find it a bit TOO relaxing.   There is such a thing called muscle memory.  Whatever you practice (even if it is just a one-time event, like hitting a single golf ball at a driving range … or playing a piano chord for the first time) you store the memory of that action in your muscles – as well as your brain.  As the saying goes, “It’s like riding a bike” because once you learn, you can never UN-learn how to ride a bike.


Lifehacker explains better than I how muscle memory works:

“If you’re practicing a song on the piano over and over again, the idea is that you’ll continue to improve. “Practice makes perfect” can be an accurate phrase because the more you do something, you build up that procedural memory and your brain can quickly instruct your muscles to carry it out. That muscle memory doesn’t judge whether you’re doing good or bad, however, so if you practice a song poorly for hours on end you’re going to be really good at making the same mistakes over and over again. This is not only bad because you’ve wasted your time learning to be bad or mediocre at a task and may see all this work as a failure, but because you didn’t necessarily have to fail at all. When you repeat mistakes again and again, you build a muscle memory with those mistakes.”

So, in order to run fast(er) you must stop practicing slow or mediocre running; instead, find occasions to practice fast running so that your muscles store that memory.  And the best way to run fast is to find a fast friend – let’s call this friend, Yin – and stick with him/her as long as you can … maybe just for 1/2 the workout at first … but over time you will be able to complete the whole thing.

Do NOT run with Yin the day after; find a slow friend (Yang, of course) to make some long-lasting, jogging memories.



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