Article – Myelin: The Gatekeeper to Developing Any Skill
I have a question for you. Have you ever heard the phrase muscle memory? I certainly have. In fact, I’ve used that very phrase many times over the last 20+ years of coaching health and fitness with my clients. I couldn’t tell you where I heard it in the first place. I imagine a coach somewhere along the way probably said it. Now, here’s another question. If our muscles have memory, where does that memory come from? Now we’re heading in a direction that is quite fascinating to me! Most recently I finished an excellent book and in it author Daniel Coyle discusses some of the most recent research directed toward answering that question. The book discusses skill development in all of its neurophysiological and practical glory. Whether that skill is playing an instrument, learning a new exercise, or improving our talent in the kitchen there is one universal component to mastery. The answer is myelin.
So what is myelin you ask? Simply, it is the insulating layer that covers nerve fibers. Much like rubber lining around a copper wire makes the electrical signal stronger and faster by preventing electrical energy from “leaking out”, so too does myelin around nerve fibers. Until more recently myelin was more or less overlooked as having any real purpose except to protect our nerves and improve nerve conductivity. Neurologists were aware of certain autoimmune diseases that attacked myelin but most research well into the 1980’s was primarily focused on changes to neurons and synapses rather than towards myelin itself.
It was not until around 2000 that myelin started to get more attention. A new and powerful technology called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allowed neurologists to measure and map myelin inside living subjects. What they found was incredible as they saw links between myelin deficiencies and a variety of disorders, including dyslexia, autism, attention deficit disorder and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
As many researchers focused their attention with the new technology on myelin’s link to disease and disorders, another group began to form that placed their focus on normal and high-functioning individuals. The findings started to get exciting as these pioneering researchers discovered that there was a direct proportional relationship between hours of practice and the amount of myelin present. Still other researchers such as Dr. Douglas Fields, director of the Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, uncovered the mechanism by which these myelin increases happened. I’ll give you the simpler version. Certain supporter cells are stimulated to wrap more myelin around a nerve fiber when it fires. The more the nerve fires, the more myelin wraps around it. The more myelin wraps around it, the faster the signal travels.2 Imagine myelin as the transformer of narrow alleys into broad, lightning-fast superhighways.
Let’s get practical now. The key to developing your own healthy layering of myelin is practice. I’m not just talking about any kind of practice though. No, instead I’m referring to very deliberate practice, complete with lots of mistakes. Imagine a skill that you now have and that you feel really good about yourself for having. Now think back to when you didn’t have that skill. How did you go from no skill to amazing talent? You practiced. And when you practiced you probably blocked out other distractions, you positioned time and did so regularly enough to create improvement, and you were passionate about what you were practicing. This last part is a real key. Many of us with the best of intentions seek to change something but we stumble and give up as soon as we’re not able to improve to our liking in some made-up time frame of our own creation.
A prime tenet of skill acquisition and therefore myelinating of our nerve fibers is to make mistakes, regroup, and try again. We cannot be afraid to fail because it is the constant firing of the nerves involved with whatever we are trying to learn that stimulate the supporter cells to lay down more myelin. So the next time you find yourself really frustrated with learning something, an exercise, a new song, a habit, ask yourself if you’re really invested in change. If you find that you’re not, re-evaluate your “why” and come at your goal differently. And if you’re answer is yes, simply embrace your mistakes, learn from them and keep on keeping on. You will achieve success simply by sticking to this formula.
1 – Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born: It’s Grown, Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009. Print.
2 – Ishibashi T, Dakin KA, Stevens B, Lee PR, Kozlov SV, Stewart CL, Fields RD (2006)
Astrocytes promote myelination in response to electrical impulses
Neuron Mar 16, 49(6), 823-32
Venture into BodyBasics on a Tuesday or Thursday at 5:30 a.m. and you will see our October client spotlight, Tami Ivy, exercising her tail off while listening to her favorite hard rock over the speakers. Her morning workouts started over 4 years ago after first checking us out online one day and then stopping in. She was looking for another layer of accountability and an educated approach to her exercise program. Motivation was not her concern and she loved exercise. She simply wanted someone else on her side, a coach who would keep her focused and take care of the exercise programming and planning part.
Working with a trainer was not something new to Tami. But what she came to appreciate right away with her trainers at BodyBasics versus her prior experiences was how customized the approach and attention to her body mechanics was. That combined with the personality of the gym; small, friendly, and fun are why she continues to train at BodyBasics. She values having her workouts targeted precisely to stretch her physical limits.
Tami’s goals walking into the door of the studio were two-part. In the short term she wanted to lose some weight and be a stronger cyclist. In the long term she was most interested in aging well and doing everything she could to ensure that as she aged she would still be able to remain active and do all the things that she enjoys. Well, she is right on track with both her short and long term goals. To date she is maintaining a very healthy weight after losing right around 30 lbs. of fat. And her strength is through the roof. Most recently she dead-lifted 155 pounds for a set of 4! Additionally she recently attempted and accomplished riding from the base of Mt. Lemon all the way to Summerhaven! Her current goals reflect her personality quite well. She wants to continue to improve her fitness levels and be challenged during every session. Tami, you’re a rock star! We are all amazed at what you do in a given session. Thank you for continuing to call BodyBasics your fitness home.
Welcome New and Returning Clients
The greatest compliment we can receive is a referral from one of our clients or allied health network!
Renee Agresti referred by Dr. Griffin
Kathy Coyne: referred by Debbie Clelland
Chantal Johnson referred by Linsday Liffengren and Jason Hayes
Terence Hickman referred by OV Outpatient Physical Therapy
Shout outs are about us voicing victories we witness you all having at BodyBasics. What you don’t know is that we start every Wednesday staff meeting with our shout outs. After doing this for quite some time and realizing how many incredible experiences are being shared, We thought it would be excellent to position a place within our newsletter to share also with all of you. We’ll keep it to our top 5 each month.
Andy Vall – for his wonderful attitude and infectious curiosity when it comes to doing his exercise program!
Mike Liebert – for requesting videos of his exercises to take overseas with him while vacationing for a month!
Mo Goldman – for running in the Saguaro National Park 8-miler in early September and placing 72nd overall out of over 800 runners!
Michael Cummins – for successfully ascending multiple flights of stairs without experiencing uncomfortable lower back pain afterwards, a first in years!
Lynn Helsith – for being steadfast about doing her home exercises, so much so that her hips are the most aligned that her NMT, the amazing Patty Trout, has seen in years!
Thanks to all our BodyBasics family who contributed to our supply drive. Pat and Kathy are now well stocked for the school year!
4th Annual Shoes for Kids Drive
Again this year we are collecting shoes for the kids at Ochoa Community Magnet School. The school is in need of athletic type shoes in sizes T5 – Adult size 10 and socks.
Shoes will be collected at BodyBasics thru the month of October. Our goal is 200 pairs of shoes!
Golf Class Saturday October 24th
Is back pain ruining your golf game? Are you losing club-head speed? Is the fun being sucked out of your game?
If so, join us and learn strategies to decrease pain, increase muscle coordination, increase distance, decrease scores and BRING THE JOY BACK TO YOUR GAME!
October 24TH 10:30-12:00 Cost: $25.00
RSVP by calling 520-498-0359, class will be held at BodyBasics.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since we moved to our new location and 15 years serving Tucson! We would love to see you and share memories. Any Desert Dawgs Bootcampers out there? Who trained at the original location?
Enjoy some good food, drinks as we celebrate this achievement.
November 7th Time 4-6pm at BodyBasics
Recipe – Skinny Chicken Enchiladas
We served these to our friends at OV Outpatient Physical Therapy and the staff loved them! Tasty and Healthy. Enjoy!
- 1 lb. Chicken Breasts
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can corn, drained
- 16 oz fresh salsa
- 1/4 cup water, optional
- 12 small corn tortillas
- Javier’s green enchilada sauce
- 5 Tomatillo’s
- 5 Jalepeno peppers
- 1 Serrano Pepper
- 1 Tsp beef bouillon
- 14 oz green enchilada sauce
- 1 cup shredded light cheddar cheese
- 1 avocado diced
- 1/4 cup crema (see notes)
- fresh cilantro chopped
- 1/4 cup Cotija cheese for topping
- Put the first 5 ingredients in a Crockpot. If your salsa is not very saucy be sure to include the 1/4 cup water or more if necessary. Cook on high for about 3 hours or longer on low setting) until chicken is cooked through. Use 2 forks to shred the chicken and mix everything together.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Soften corn tortillas in the microwave, 3 at a time, for about 25 seconds. Cover bottom of pan with Javier’s Enchilada Sauce. Fill tortilla’s with a few tablespoons of filling, roll once and place seam side down. Continue for all tortillas. Be sure to pack tortillas tightly next to each other so that they don’t come apart. Cover tortillas with remaining enchilada sauce.
- Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Remove from oven and drizzle with crema. Sprinkle with avocado pieces, fresh Cilantro and Cotija cheese crumbles.
For Javier’s Green enchilada sauce, put Tomatillo’s, Jalepeno’s and Serrano Pepper into stock pot with 4 cups water and bring to boil. Let boil for 15 minutes. Skim out Tomatillo’s, Jalepenos and Serrano peppers and put into blender with 1 cup water from stock pot. Add 1 tsp beef bouillon and 14 oz canned green enchilada sauce. Blend until smooth.
For the Crema, combine 3 Tbsp sour cream and 2 Tbsp whole cream. Whisk together until smooth and creamy.
Servings per recipe: 6 2 enchiladas per serving. Calories: 357.6
Total Fat: 11.1g, Sodium 258.4g, Total Carbs: 38.4g, Dietary Fiber: 8.7g, Protein: 28.5g
Recipe by Pinch of Yum
Video – Wall Sit
Chris, Kris, Amber, Maureen, Mike, Myrya, Mary, Ric