Remain Strong Even After a Workout Hiatus Thanks to Muscle Memory

The hardest part of working out is quite possibly sticking to the routine. Breaks – planned or unplanned – happen to everyone, even the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts. Still, the body has a great way to adapt and is capable of springing right back into the swing of things when you start sweating again. The main reason behind it is your muscle memory.

Essentially, muscle memory is the connection that develops between your brain and your body as you learn a new move. Remember what it was like to first figure out how to do difficult poses in yoga class or even ride a bike? Muscle memory ensures that we aren’t re-learning those mechanics each and every time we engage in those activities. Instead, our body builds upon these motions and improves each time we repeat them. Here’s the science behind this phenomenon: Neural pathways move from the brain through the spinal cord and out into your arms and legs. Your muscles learn how to coordinate tasks better over time so that it almost becomes subconscious. You’re going to make a pretty rapid improvement at first—not just from your muscles getting bigger, but because you have neurons going to those muscles to learn a new movement, and the process allows your body to adapt to this new stress.

Perhaps one of the best rewards of training your muscle memory is that you will not need to reset your learning experience or start over in a sequence even if you take long breaks. That’s because the movement skills that your brain and body have learned stay within your neuromuscular vocabulary. For example, if you do a lot of squats, take a break and then, after some time, start doing them again, your body will acclimate at a faster rate and the movement quality will remain the same. You may not be able to squat the same amount of weight right away because they haven’t been exposed to that weight in a while, but the body knows the movement and will be able to perform it with the same efficiency as before.

Because of this innate knowledge within your body, you are able to get back into shape quicker. In a healthy body, those connections can wake up, and whether it’s been six months or 10 years, science proves that they’ll go back to what you already created. One interesting study found that memory can last for 15 years within one’s body. So, while it’s not an excuse to skip your workouts, have peace of mind that your wonderfully designed body continues to learn even in rest and will be ready for those motions whenever your mood is.

Coral Talavera
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Coral Talavera is the Chief Editor at Work Well Daily and Managing Partner at DCE Clarity, where she's served as a Marketing and Business Strategy Consultant for more than 12 years. As an editor, she and her team developed WWD to channel their passion for wellness and search for balanced lifestyles (and its sister company IDF, focused on architecture, design, and creativity from around the globe). She's a passionate writer, the wife of a musician, homeschooling mother of two, volunteer, and overall optimist.

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