My Muscle Memory Has Faded Away

One of the presents Santa gave me this year (after a couple of not so subtle hints) was a Rubik’s Cube.

I used to have a Rubik’s Cube a few years ago and had spent a full week memorizing how to solve it. After thousands of attempts, I finally got to the point where I was able to solve it in about two and a half minutes. I never bothered to try and learn any of the speed methods, I was content with simply being able to solve it The world record is 4.22 seconds, as seen in the video below. It looks like the kind of convention I would go to.

I would routinely keep solving the cube a few times a day, just to make sure I did not forget how to do so. I then got to the point where I could go a week, and then a month or so without solving it, but still be able to pick it up and solve it. It seemed to have become part of my muscle memory, and sometimes it felt like my hands knew what to do more than my brain did.

But then I lost my cube a couple of years ago, and I was curious if my muscle memory was still intact.

Hence the many hints to Santa Claus.

Well, I am sorry to report that my muscle memory, just like my regular muscles, has faded away.

I didn’t remember how to solve even the most basic steps in the process.

So it was literally back to square one.

I’ve been following the instructions and repeating them over and over, and I’ve got about half the steps memorized at this point. But it seems to be taking longer for me to remember the steps compared to the first time I did so.

So I guess the lesson is that if you want to keep your muscle memory in top shape, you’ve got to work it just like your regular muscles.

And in case you are interested, there are some amazing videos of people solving the Rubik’s Cube. Here are some of my favorites. If I start to feel kind of special that I can solve the cube, these videos will certainly put me in my place.

A seven-year od solving it, blindfolded:

Solving three cubes, while juggling!

World record, with your feet:

28 thoughts on “My Muscle Memory Has Faded Away

  1. There was a third-grade student in one of my classes who could do solve the Rubik’s Cube in less than one minute. He was brilliant, receiving admission to Stanford after the completion of his junior year in high school.

    What I find particularly interesting is your experiments on yourself with the Rubik’s cube. It makes me wonder how much of this applies to other types of learning.

    The videos are mind blowing.

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    1. Wow – it’s amazing how early you can spot genius. I’m a big believer in doing things over and over until it becomes a habit. It seems to have worked again with my newest Rubik’s Cube. And those videos are incredible.

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  2. Once I realised that sudoku was simply deductive , like Cluedo, (my kids stopped playing Cluedo with me, even when I let them win) I was hooked. Since retirement, I finish most of the puzzles in the Mail (the only reason I ever buy a daily paper is when I’m out of puzzles – not the general knowledge ones; I don’t follow sport, or soaps operas).
    I even tackle cryptic crossword, although I don’t always understand the answer when I have it.
    When I was working, I thought that most of these puzzles were too hard for me, but I realise now that my mind, and my time, were too occupied with other things to give them my full attention.
    Emboldened by this, I cracked a lot of those wooden and metal puzzles I didn’t spend time on in my younger days,. but I’ve never mastered the Rubik cube – too much thinking ahead required (the reason I’m no good at chess).
    I now have your problem with these three dimensional puzzles. I stopped practicing them, and I’d have to start again to solve them.
    It’s the same with piano. After much practice I once learned to play Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag (not very well) and for years after my hands would go to the chords automatically. Not any more. Having access to a piano recently, I find nothing comes naturally – or easily. Not even the scales.

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    1. I am a fan of Sudoku puzzles as well, but I’ve never heard of Cluedo – I’ll have to look into it. I know what you mean with the piano; I used to play a little bit, and years later, without ever having touched a piano, a few notes from a tune would seem to come out of my hands when I touched a piano again.

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  3. I attempted to enforce my will upon a Rubik’s Cube the first time one fell into my sticky hands. One side. One Color. Happy with achieving 1/6th of my goal. Of Muscle Memory. It’s there. Testosterone Replacement Therapy helps. But, we don’t need that stuff. Amazing kids. Fun post, Jim.

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    1. my fingers are kind of sore after spending hours with the cube over the past couple of days. And the videos are amazing. Now that I’ve figured it out again, I can get back to my blogging duties – so be on the look out for a string of comments on your blog 🙂

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  4. I’m not so impress with the one using the feet but the rest… wow. The blindfolded kid has a very good memory (and more) it’s obvious he memorized it but it takes more than that to make it…wow

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