You know that however long it’s been since you last rode a bicycle, the minute you hop on one now you can ride without toppling over? Or how you can stay away from a pool for years, but then hit the beach one random summer and you don’t drown?
Or how about when watching The Biggest Loser, if there’s a former football player, soccer star (or, like they’re promoting for the next season, a former Olympian wrestler), you can sit there and predict, “Once they get into their groove, they’re going to lose weight like crazy because that old athlete will come out of them!”
And how do we explain middle-aged women winning gold medals, and the onslaught of adults tackling marathons, triathlons and road races?
In walks the explanation of: Muscle memory.
As a kid, when you learned to ride a bike—or swim, ice skate, dance—you probably did it so often that it was like second nature to you. You immersed yourself in it. Practiced. Spent all your free time engaged in it. Deep within, your body has stored the motions needed to perform the task successfully. It might be part of the reason that The 10,000 Hour Rule could be valid.
The 10,000 Hour Rule basically says that in order to become an expert at any given task, whether it be music, engineering, painting or athletics, you need to practice/train/focus on that task for 10,000 (usually about 10 years for the dedicated person).
Seems daunting. But, the point here is that every hour you spend working out right now—-running, stretching, pushing around your bodyweight—is training your body for the future. If you are training correctly it will only make you better at the task you are doing.
The flip side of course is that because our bodies adapt to the challenge at hand, they become so efficient at it that it becomes too easy. If you fail to increase your time, frequency or intensity, you will stagnate (that oh so wonderful plateau!).
That’s why it’s important it keep your body guessing. If you jog, say, adding in speed work, slow distance runs, or hills will wake up your body enough to re-rev it’s pistons. And these changes not just wake up your body, but your mind as well. You have to focus more at what you are doing, paying more attention to your form, surroundings and effort. It sharpens your body and mind.
Keep at it. Each hour you do, you are transforming into an expert athlete!