Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Muscle Memory

I had my first workout with Marlon on Thursday, my first with him since late 2004 or maybe 2005. I walked in feeling very confident, knowing what I needed and having asked for it. I was clear about my goals, and Marlon is very goal-oriented, for himself and for his clients. I was already warmed up when I arrived, since I'd walked on the elliptical for 30 minutes back at my "home gym." Marlon was finishing up with his previous client so he said I should use the foam roller, a torture device by lying on which you can "massage" your own muscles.

I laid the side of my right leg on it and rolled and it hurt. I expected that and grit my teeth for a few rolls back and forth, then did the left side, which hurt even more. I expected that too - the left side is the damaged side from the wreck. I rolled that only a couple times. Then I did my usual stretches to kill the next few minutes until Marlon got to me.

Marlon placed the roller against my buttocks and had me lean back onto it to roll up and down my back. I rolled up (toward my shoulders) and then down, and Marlon said, "You look excited about working out." I said, "I feel scared" and burst into tears. Marlon sat in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and instead of saying "Everything is going to be okay," he said, "I'm scared too. It's been a long time since we worked together, and you've had this really traumatic thing happen to your body." Indeed, how I felt was that this burst of emotion was about the car wreck, unleashed first by the pressure on my IT band (the muscle that runs over the hip and down the outside of the leg), then on my low back, the parts of my body most impacted, in both senses of the word, by the car accident.

I thought about whether my outburst was due to outside reasons, like being tired, or being frustrated that my body isn't as strong now as it has been in the past. But I really think that it is because the body holds emotions of which we are not aware, and holds onto memory in a physical way. We say "muscle memory" to describe the unconscious way that once we've learned something, we just know how to do it without thinking about it - like swimming, or balancing on a bicycle, or the footwork in a dance step. I think that my left leg and low back hold the memory of the accident and fear about getting injured, and the pressure brought all that to the forefront suddenly and overwhelmingly.

Separate from that, the tears made me realize that when I see someone doing something stupid in a car, like cutting through lanes or merging aggressively or thoughtlessly, I do not immediately feel annoyance. My first feeling is fear and my first thought is, "You do not have my permission to hurt me." I often assume that they will merge into me, or that they can't or won't see the car I'm driving. It is why I am a much more cautious driver than I used to be: I do not believe that drivers are always conscious that their cars cannot be in the same place as my car.

Anyway, Marlon and I got through it. He reassured me that he would not let me hurt myself, and would teach me how not to hurt myself when we are not together. He knows me well enough to know that I have a tendency to run with what he teaches me with a little too much, how to put it?, enthusiasm.

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