Cementing The Gains

Myelin and neurons and skills, oh my!

As described in my last post, I burst through a performance plateau this week and am now shooting at a much higher level.  My biggest fear this morning was that it was all a fluke, and that today I would revert back to my previous performance level.  Nope.  I had an intense two hour practice session today and I continued performing at a much higher level.  Now it’s time to focus on reinforcing the gains so that I don’t revert back to my old self…but how?

In order to understand how to hold the gains, you must first understand what’s actually going on in your body.  Ultimately, our brain is the computer running the show, and in order to hold on to a complex activity (or skill) the neurons in our brain must grow a fatty substance called myelin.  When we are completing complex tasks (like making cut shots, planning and running routes, etc.), certain very specific neurons in our brain start firing, and the myelin substance wraps around and reinforces the neurons so that we can complete the tasks more efficiently and accurately.  Over time, the myelin creates a “superhighway” in our brain that is very specific to the task that we practice.  This is how we learn.  There’s a great explanation of this process provided by Daniel Coyle, author of the fantastic book The Talent Code.

My plan over the next couple of weeks is to repeat my intensively focused practice sessions daily to make sure I “hardwire” the improvements into my brain.  This is my opportunity to make the improvements stick.  No more slacking around!

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