Like Your Mother, Muscles Remember Everything (and a giveaway inside!)

The only thing this Yogi the Bear and I have in common is our love of “piiiic-i-nic baskets.” (God knows I’m not “smaaaaarter than the aaaaaaverage bear.”)

Yeah…I’m more like this Yogi the bear:

Post PT and pre-Advil this morning, I was feeling pretty darn sore in my knees and quads. That’s not unusual for a PT day. But this pain and fatigue was different because today I did…

…drum roll…

10 minutes on the elliptical!

I mostly stayed on levels 1 and 2, although I did do a 2-minute burst at level 6.

It felt like an hour.

Oh how quickly my muscles forgot,’ I thought as I huffed and sweated through the last agonizing minute.

Or did they? It seems that muscles might not forget, or at least they don’t forget for very long.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported Sunday on a study that suggests muscle memory may last…

get this…


No More Gym? Don’t Worry, Your Muscles Remember”: Muscles actually have a memory of their former strength — and that memory may last indefinitely, University of Oslo physiologist Kristian Gundersen tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. Gundersen’s team just released a study that has good news for those of us who used to be fit.

The study challenges the idea that muscles go back to their starting condition when you stop strength training.“Our findings suggest that there are permanent structural changes in the muscle,” says Gundersen. “We don’t know if they’re really permanent, but they’re very long-lasting in animals, at least.”

The researchers put mice through strength training on their hind legs. Building muscle generates new muscle nuclei, which Gundersen calls the “small factories that will produce new muscle.” Then the researchers took the mice off their training regimen. Gundersen observed their nuclei directly with specialized microcameras, and found that although the mice lost muscle mass, they still maintained the muscle nuclei. Those nuclei give the muscle a head start when training resumes.

I’ve been slowly resuming my strength training regimen since surgery 9 weeks ago. My arms are doing pretty well. It only took them a few weeks to get comfortable with the old routine again. Same with my calves. I’m back to holding a 15-pound weight when I do calf lifts on the step. My abs are resisting a little, but those exercises are a little harder to do given the limitations I still have with my knee.

It’s the large muscles – my quads and hamstrings – that are complaining the most. But getting them back in full working order is the most important thing I can do for my arthritic knees. (See “Strong Quadriceps Protect Women’s Knees from Pain”)

I’m a HUGE proponent of strength training, particularly for women. It’s not enough that we sweat our way through hours of walking, running, ellipticals, stair-steppers, biking, whatever your cardio of choice is. We also need to engage in resistance training. Nothing big. Twenty minutes 2-3 times a week will suffice. The best part is that you don’t need the go to a gym! I don’t. I do it in my home with some hand weights, Thera-Band, a couple of weighted balls, an exercise ball and my own body weight (push-ups, anyone?)

This article is a good place to start if you’re not sure how or why to begin: “Strength Training For Women” (From the Women’s Heart Foundation).

To celebrate the memory of muscles, I’m giving away a used copy (Not my copy. I could never part with it.) of my very favorite strength training book, “The Body Sculpting Bible for Women: Featuring the 14-Day Body Sculpting Workout” by Hugo A. Rivera, James C. Villepigue and James Villepigue.

Leave a comment, or if you prefer or cannot leave a comment because of Blogger’s “technical” difficulties with Firefox and Safari (grrr….), send an email to to throw your name in the hat. I’ll draw a winner this Saturday (Aug. 28).

Now go pick up a couple of soup cans and work those biceps!

9 thoughts on “Like Your Mother, Muscles Remember Everything (and a giveaway inside!)

  1. This was great news for me! I have spent much of the summer trying to heal an achilles tendon injury, and I have been moving pretty slow. I think it has also slowed down my weight loss. I'm now getting ready to begin a modified exercise routine, and I'm so glad to hear that my muscles will remember that they once worked harder than they have the past few months. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Congrats on lasting for 10 minutes on the elliptical!!! You are coming back strong, my friend! I had to laugh at the “it felt like an hour” as that's how my time on the elliptical ALWAYS feels to me.

    Glad to hear that about the muscle memory! I love what strength training has done for my muscles and body shape.

  3. I found this blog very interesting as I completed my first post-op 5K run this morning and I think that study has merit! It's been 7 months (not to mention 12 pounds) since my knee surgery. Once OK'ed to run again, it only took about 5 runs to get back up to 5K, albeit slow. Strenth training is something I must start to incorporate now though, staring at my 50th birthday around the corner and a recent diagnosis of osteopenia. Your story is inspirational! Keep up the great work! Kimberly

  4. I just read somewhere else about that study, and I find it so encouraging, since I say I am working out to have a healthier 'old age.' Which, some days, seems to have already arrived LOL!

    Three cheers for 10 minutes on the eliptical! And you are right. I can do some of the strength training I need to do at home on the days i can't get to the gym. I just have to re-establish the habit.

    As usual, great post. I love your writing, Lynn .

  5. I did track and field and played soccer from my kindergarden days up to the age of 16, then i didnt really do much until I was 24. But I can get in shape rather quickly. After one week starting a new workout I have the endurance to work out for over 2 hours without problems. I will definitely sign up my children for sports team at a young age.

  6. Wonderful to see how you are recuperating from your surgery and the decication and love you give your body.
    It is always great to hear about how you workout at home, gives me no reason to believe I have to belong to a gym.
    Slow and steady wins the race, thanks for the post Lynn!

  7. Ha! I just posted the same article from NPR on my blog and thought of you. You're a rock star and you'll be back to your bad self in no time. Love ya!

  8. One elliptical step at a time, Lynn! You're doing so well with a consistent and moderate exercise plan – it's causing me to reconsider my “I do curves 3x a week and walk to the trolley daily” routine. I need more, but feel intimidated and overwhelmed when thinking about how to add more to my life (2 jobs, 2 teenagers, 2 much volunteering, heh.)

    Keep up the great progress – it's inspiring!

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