As Time Goes By—Old muscles remember what young muscles once did

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by Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN, ACSM
Your Personal Trainer

It was 1959. I was ten years old. Saturday mornings would find me at the Berkeley Iceland ice skating rink having fun with my friends. In those days, there was live music played by an organist. My family couldn’t afford lessons so I just skated . . . and I loved it. I later found out that Dick Button and Peggy Fleming were among those who graced the ice there.

The best part about ice skating back then was seeing who could be the first one back on the ice after the Great Zamboni had cleared it.  Another thing I later found out was that Berkeley Iceland was owned by Frank Zamboni—he invented the now iconic machine.

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Fast forward to 2011.  At 62 years old, I hadn’t skated for 25 years and there I was back on the ice feeling pretty shaky but still vertical, skirting the wall around the rink, avoiding those speeding five year olds!  We were visiting our son in Virginia for Thanksgiving and there was an ice rink nearby.  That sparked an interest and I decided to see about starting again.   I bought myself a new pair of skates for Christmas and found a quiet time to get started and so I did.

I knew about muscle memory.  Your body can remember how to do something you taught it to do years ago but as I discovered, it doesn’t do it right away!  Through those intervening years, I have been an avid runner and recent race walker.  Each sport or activity you engage in uses different muscles.  Race walking in particular pushes off your toe.  That is the last thing you want to do on ice skates if you wish to stay vertical and avoid the “triple klutz” followed by an immediate sudden stop—on your face!

I decided to take a lesson on the basic moves to refresh my muscles’ (and my brain’s) old memories of ice skating.  I knew I was fit and had the endurance to skate.  I needed some finesse.  It didn’t take me long to begin to feel that old glide again as I ventured away from the security of the wall and found myself, well, skating again.

I skate in the morning on a week-day when I have a day off work.  It’s a quiet time, like gliding into a snow globe and being enveloped in peace, a delightful respite in this sometimes too busy world.  I thought I would be the oldest one there but on my first day I met a woman who is about to turn 80.  She is beautiful and graceful as she skates smoothly around, sometimes backwards, sometimes balanced on one leg.  I told her I want to be like her when I grow up!

Do you want to know what the best time to skate still is?   It’s right after the Zamboni is finished, when the ice is a placid lake just waiting for the first skater.  The music last week was Strauss waltzes.  I think they were written for ice skaters.  We have the ice to ourselves for a delicious hour-and-a-half.  We range in age from 20 to 80-plus and we skate until the last second when the Great Zamboni once again emerges, foraging forward, grumbling and growling, seemingly chasing us as we reluctantly skate to the edge of the ice and step off.

My muscles remember and so do I.  It’s fun to go back to something that was so enjoyable and is again.  We all have muscle memory.  No matter how old you are or how long it’s been, try something old and make it new again.  You may surprise yourself!

Yours in fitness,

Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM