What is muscle memory, you ask? Well, think of it this way: you work out often and you work hard to achieve a healthy, strong body head to toe. But then you get sick, or you have to travel to a destination with no gym in sight. Now what? If you’re worried that you will fall out of shape in an instant, we’ve got good news. Thanks to muscle memory, your body will remember exactly what to do when you do resume physical activity. And if you know how to use muscle memory to your advantage, you can actually get fit faster than ever before.
So again, exactly what is muscle memory? And no, it’s not a tiny memory chip stored in your muscles. As Women’s Health tells it, according to William Kraemer, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, “muscle memory stems from your body’s learning not just how to perform a task, but also how to break down muscle tissue and then repair and rebuild it. That physiological knowledge lets you come back from injury, surgery, and even pregnancy faster, easier, and often better than before.” In short, if you train your muscles to function properly, they will remember that proper function forever. Here are 5 ways that muscle memory is awesome and is about to be your body’s BFF.
Read Related: Best Post Workout Food: 10 Foods to Help Muscle Recovery
1. You’ll Recover From Pregnancy Faster
Pregnancy can take a major toll on your body. Your skin stretches, your muscles expand, your weight increases (and then decreases), and after you have the baby, you’re probably sleep deprived and hormonal. Needless to say, maintaining the same level of intensity with your workout routine during and after pregnancy can be tough, and getting back into the fitness frame of mind can be really tough. Luckily, even if you forget what it’s like to break a solid sweat, your body remembers. After a long pregnancy and post-baby break, your muscles will snap back into shape faster than you would imagine thanks to muscle memory. That doesn’t mean the weight will just fall off (we wish). Of course you’ll have to work hard at it, but you won’t be starting from square one; you’ll have a nice foundation to get you back into fighting form.
2. You’ll be Able to Train More Efficiently in the Future
Speaking of fighting form, when you are training for a big race or fitness competition, you clock in a lot of hours and miles as you gradually prepare your body to compete. When you want to train for another event in the future, do you need to start from scratch with your training? Not exactly. According to science journalist and lifelong competitive runner Alex Hutchinson in a piece for Runners World, because of muscle memory, “your muscles themselves are also changed by training, in a way that makes it easier to regain fitness than it was to gain it in the first place.” In short, it will be easier to train, and train more efficiently in the future after you’ve conditioned your muscles the first time.
3. You Won’t Stress when You (and Your Body) Take a Vacation
Sometimes you want to push your body and challenge yourself in order to achieve results and get in shape. But never forget the importance of recovery as well. Your body needs a break so it can heal, refuel and rest to prevent injury and maximize performance. And the good news is that some time off won’t totally reverse all the hard work you put in. Your muscles won’t forget what they are capable of and they won’t forget how to perform when you do go back to your workout.
4. You’ll be Able to Maintain Muscle Later in Life
When we work out we often focus on the moment, and the immediate results, rather than the long-term benefits. But a strong and healthy body has serious benefits for your future well-being in addition to your current state. And those benefits last thanks to muscle memory. As Women’s Health reports, according to Lee Hong, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology and neuroscience at Indiana University at Bloomington, working out regularly now is “like a health savings account…the earlier you start and the more you build, the better off you’ll be later in life.”
5. It will Sharpen Your Focus
We all know that getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. When you sleep your body rests, recovers and muscles are restored and strengthened. But that’s not all. When you sleep you also give your muscles a chance to commit the actions of that day to memory, for future use. By giving your body a chance to maximize muscle memory as you sleep, you’ll be able to react faster and focus better the next day. As Fitness reports, according to James B. Maas, PhD, professor of psychology at Cornell University and coauthor of the forthcoming Sleep—At Last!, “sleep plays a major role in muscle memory, which sharpens your focus and reduces reaction time.” Which explains why when you are well rested you feel sharper and stronger.