March 2010 Archives

Memory consolidation


Sleep is good for muscle memory. Specifically, REM sleep has been associated with consolidation of non-declarative (muscle) memories.

I first heard of this when I was learning to do a Mohawk turn when ice skating, and it came back to me last night as I was deciding whether to finish watching Craig Ferguson or pack it in for the night. I packed it in.

This morning I found a few discussions of this phenomenon on the web, including one regarding speed skating, and another in Wikipedia.

I learned from these entries that, surprisingly, a good sleep can allow you to perform better than your performance during practice the previous day. According to the model advanced by the speed skating reference above, after you repeatedly activate a nerve pathway by practicing a movement over and over, the nerve cells grow additional synapses and receptors, and also synthesize more neurotransmitter to move the signal between them. This growth takes time (hours), but after this delay there is a performance gain. There is apparently some debate as to whether time alone is enough for this effect, or whether REM is essential.

Sorry Craig, but if I've been practicing new skills on the unicycle earlier in the day, I'll be sleeping through your monolog.



I don't freemount yet, so I still steady myself against objects like cars and trees before I shove off and start riding. The act of steadying usually involves putting my palm on a horizontal surface, and that flexion (or extension, not sure which) of my wrist causes a mild but annoying daily ache. And yes I still occasionally take a dive off the front that has me extending my arms to ward off a face plant, so that contributes to the wrist issue too. In the past I have worn leather gloves to protect against abrasion, but nothing to support my wrists. Which is dumb because when I bought the unicycle I made sure I got some unicycle-specific gloves with wrist support. Last night I finally gave them a try.

The gloves are Kris Holm Grey Pulse gloves from, $36. I have no affiliation with either the manufacturer or retailer. I got them because the reviews suggested they were appropriate for unicycling, and I knew I needed something. I hadn't worn them up to this point because I thought my biggest problem would be high-siding off the front and scuffing up my palms, and my old leather work gloves were fine for that. But when my wrists started aching I realized that it was time to pull on the Kris Holms.

The part of the glove over the hand and fingers is similar to newer style stretch work gloves with abrasion resistant palms and fingers that you can pick up at building stores. So why not just get the work gloves from the hardware? The big deal about the Kris Holms is that they have integrated wrist support. The gloves have a long, maybe 12" x 3" band of stretch fabric attached to the wrist of the glove that you wrap around your wrist like an ace-bandage and that fastens securely with velcro. A plastic plate, roughly 2" x 3" embedded in this band is positioned behind your wrist to resist wrist over-extension (or is it over-flexion?).

Last night was the first time I used them so I can't provide a rigorous review, but they were comfortable enough that I'll use them again. I felt the wrist support resisting the over extension, yet there was no pain or digging in from that plastic plate. I use XL gloves, and the XL version of this particular glove fits a bit too small, but it will do. It has to because they don't come any bigger.

So far so good. I think I hear my wrists thanking me.

Crossing the chalkline in my path

29 March 2010

If someone drew a chalk line across the path I was riding, I'd fall off trying to ride over it. I noticed this last week when I was trying to stay on the unicycle past the big ash tree, maybe 10 feet away from my starting point. There was a crack in the pavement, or maybe just a blacker strip where I had done a small repair, and I UPDd every time I got to it.

Looking out, not down, helped some. Thinking about riding through that strip also helped. But I think the cure was to move my focus away from the strip altogether and set a goal further down the driveway. It's like something I learned when first motorcycling...if you obsess about an obstacle or pothole in the road you will surely hit it.

Sunday i was having trouble with the transition from driveway to street, which involves about an inch or two of drop, and transition from heading slightly downhill to slightly uphill. Sure there was some bumpiness that required a bit of balance, but really it was just another chalkline across my path. I used all of my new visualization skills to cross that line and I wish I could report unqualified success, but instead I'll note that my wrist still hurts from catching myself after pitching over the top when the wheel hit the crack. Next time it went fine, and the time after that too. Like so much about unicycle, its about reps, building confidence and setting new objectives. But down the road I know there's another transition of concrete sidewalk to asphalt driveway that has my number. Maybe I'll cross that line tomorrow. If I can get out of the driveway.

Hips forward


28 March 2010

Today I could usually get to the end of the driveway, take a hard right and head down the street. My furthest distance so far is to the edge of the yard one house from the end of the block. I did it today both on the road and down the sidewalk. Its slightly downhill, and the asphalt street has more whoops and debris than the sidewalk. The sidewalk though has that fireplug just daring my knees to get too close.

Sometimes the wheel has a mind of its own and heads left at the end of the driveway instead of right and so I go upstream past Tom's apartment. Who am I to argue? Actually it seems like a slight uphill is more controllable than the downstream run.

Yesterday I realized that I exert way more energy than it should to just get down the road and back. All this core work keeping the wheel under me is more strenuous than I expected. A half hour and I'm feeling it. That's a good thing, though. I hope its worth 20 lbs. over the summer.

Ok so what about the hips? Well, there's this thing when I am riding where I move my butt under me and all of the sudden I feel like I'm really on top of the wheel. I'm faster, smoother, feeling balanced, but I also feel a bit precariously perched like I won't be able to adjust enough if I hit a rock, dip or dog. When I'm going over the whoops in the road I kind of buckle at the belly just to make sure I can either do forward or backward adjustments. But if I mentally focus on gently rotating my hips forward I can get myself back to that fast/balanced feeling and pretty quickly recover from the whoop.

Then of course just when I think I've made progress I have an abrupt, unplanned dismount.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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