Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The sun is out - the birds are singing and I feel like I want to break into song. Happy by Pharrell Williams comes to mind first off... but you don't want to hear me sing.

  So while Pharrell has produced a wonderfully popular song that has stayed on the top 40 for quite a while - it started to bug me last night. Yes - it is very repetitive. And the funny thing is that I was talking to my ballet students about the virtues of being repetitive! What can repetition do for us? In a song it is pleasant for a short time and then after a while it just starts to grind on my nerves. BUT - in motor-skill development repetition is wonderful. Why do we do it? To create muscle memory!

What is muscle memory? It's training our muscles right? Wrong! We are really training our brain! Of course you know that as everything you do is managed by your brain. Here is the interesting part - while you are training your brain to respond in a certain manner you are also rewiring your brain. You are creating new neural pathways and stimulating brain activity. This happens in physical exercise (you have to think about it to do it well) and it happens when you do something like Sudoku. By creating new neural pathways you are also fighting brain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. So get out there and be repetitively active!

The saddest news I have for you is that research has found that it generally takes about 10,000 hours of practice to reach mastery of a skill. I am sure that is why you may want to start very early in life learning physical skills. If you want to check out more information about muscle memory I have two websites for you to visit - one from lifehacker and one from Sports n' Science.

Now go back and crank up Pharrell and dance - only 9,999 hours and 56 minutes still to go to reach mastery!!!